Archive for February, 2012

Looking Forward

This weekend, my partner and I journeyed South(ish) to meet up with my fellow Trustees of The Druid Network at our Annual General Meeting. While wonderful to spend time socially with folk who have become good and true friends over recent years (despite being scattered around the country), it was a time for work, for focused intention and decision. Where would our Druidry take us over the coming year, and where do we see the Network going into the future?

Now as this is a personal blog, I won’t be going into too much detail about the organisation. Visit The Druid Network website for more information; members can see the Minutes and Actions from the meeting.

But suffice to say, my thoughts of recent weeks seemed to coalesce in this organised setting. This year is now starting to really move as the earth around us wakes up to Spring (in this hemisphere at least), and the energy is rising accordingly. A lot of ideas sprang forth as we inspired each other, with shared goals, motivations and awareness of representing a larger number of people.

However, as I call myself ‘Druid’, I cannot possibly represent everyone who does likewise. Nor can any group, however inclusive. This is why the Network appeals to me – each and every person involved, whether they call themselves ‘Druid’ or some other term (if any) brings their own unique individuality to bear as part of a larger whole. A book of many themes, a picture of many colours. Nobody will be told how to practise their own faith. Challenged and questioned, yes, but that comes as part and parcel of the Druid deal!

Both I and my colleagues have to maintain awareness of that larger community, and gauge the needs and restrictions of the wider world that we work within. While our own personal practice may (and should) be individual, Druidry includes an awareness of the currents in which we flow. The world is moving forward and so are we. How are we setting our course within that?

No faith can remain static, or it stagnates. Paganism especially, as a relatively ‘new’ practice (despite its heritage) is still finding its feet, working hard to be recognised in an increasingly secular and cynical world, but also determining practical purpose. It’s all very well to call for ‘world peace’, but how are we helping that? If we spend our lives arguing and complaining, we’re working against our own dream, right there. Loudly proclaiming what we are not doesn’t really help us find what we are.

We have to stand as examples of our faith, our belief, our truth, while constantly challenging it to ensure that it remains relevant as we and the world change and grow. As I’ve said, people are coming to those public Pagan figures more and more often, whether to just shyly ask a question or to outright ask to be helped. Those of us who stand up have to be prepared to deal with whatever comes from that.

So where are the tides of 2012 (and beyond) taking us? More people are becoming interested in what this ‘Druidry’ thing is, as they wake up to the need to question and explore in order to find a little personal meaning in a fast-paced and busy life that seems almost dictated: birth, school, work, marriage, children, death. There’s so much more than that, as we’re all finally realizing. The old systems are failing; those institutions that we relied on so much aren’t giving back what they promised. We’re driven to look deeper.

Druidry doesn’t offer ‘all the answers’. No religion does – or if it does, it may be embroidering the truth just a little (yes, science, I’m looking at you too). The answer is different for every person. A hard concept to grasp, but true.

How do you live your life? That’s up to you. But to live it with awareness of your own needs and those within a wider community, as part of a family, bloodline, group of friends, neighbours, citizens, species, ecosystem… there’s so much more than we are told. We’ve grown afraid, then selfish, insular. It’s time to be brave and step up.

The Druid is an explorer as well. One who knows that if there’s a map, it may be wrong, but that’s ok – we’ve got paper and pen. And this map won’t just be visual: it’ll encompass all the senses, including that mental and spiritual awareness that science hasn’t really explored yet.

The ancient Druids filled so many roles in their communities. Ultimately, us modern Druids do our best for those we serve – both those official ‘members’ and everyone else who comes asking. We do this with awareness of the flows of life, the wider world (geographical, social, political, historical), with our feet on the ground but also between the worlds, known and unknown. Our faith sustains us: in ourselves and those who stand and walk with us, human and non-human, past, present and future.

Ultimately, we are human too, of course. And this thing called ‘Druidry’ means that we recognise our shared humanity, our connection, our similarities and differences. And with that, we chart a course, establish our aims, and move forward. It’s not about ‘quick fixes’, it’s about evolution.

We don’t know what will come, but we’ll ride it, whatever it is, doing our best: to represent, to serve, to bear witness, to guide. To live with honour and truth, as individuals within a larger Universe.

We can’t know it all, but we can learn to laugh and dance (and pause for tears) as we undertake our journies, both alone and together.

That ‘second star to the right’ is closer than we think.

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Interview and Reading

A quick post to let my lovely readers know that I’ve been interviewed by the excellent ‘Divine Community’ podcast on Druidry and my upcoming book!

To hear what I sound like, and with an excerpt from the introduction, please take a listen Divine Community Episode 5.

Exciting times!

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Druidry of the Future

As the rate of technological advancement increases (while basic human understanding follows in its wake), we find ourselves looking increasingly to the future, the ‘what next’. We’re in the 21st Century, after all; doesn’t that milestone mean something?

Instead, we find ourselves caught on one hand with the result of that inevitable implosion of capitalist demand, wondering what happened when our desire for Stuff NOW outweighed our interest in how those were obtained, when our concern for mass media overtook any interest in basic democratic process (‘X-Factor’ versus elections, anyone?). And on the other, that ‘End of the World’ mentality surrounding mis-knowledge of the significance of 2012 as a date of universal significance, as we  combine our inherent search for meaning in life with muddled New Age misunderstanding – and end up running our lives by the fictional astrology of the tabloid press.

Yes, this post is going to challenge.

My constant question is ‘what are you doing?’ and ‘why?’ How often do we challenge ourselves, really? Not just when there’s a major decision to be made, but all the time. Why are you using that cleaning product with the warning on the back ‘Will cause damage to the water table?’ Why wash yourself in something that contains formaldehyde? Why take the media perspective on events in the world as entirely true and unquestionable?

We’ve somehow turned the important questions of everyday modern living into something that’s ‘boring’. Environmentalism is to be sneered at in favour of consumerism (who’s putting that idea out?). Cynicism allows us to shrug and turn away instead of probing more deeply. I’m hopeful that you’re still reading, rather than just rolling your eyes at yet another rant. Bear with me.

There is so much going on in the world today that it’s impossible to truly investigate or understand it all. This is why we have to really prioritise, to figure our where we are and what’s important to us – but in relation to the wider world, that we are part of (like it or not). This is a challenge that we will have to face moving forward, but which we are not trained for. It’s up to us to learn how best to do it

As the world changes, so we are starting to realize that previous ways of living and viewing don’t work anymore, that they don’t aid our understanding. We are looking deeper. But that requires us to take on a level of responsibility and understanding that some folk just aren’t ready (or equipped) to take on. That’s fully understandable – as I said, we can only process so much within our worldview as it evolves and as we grow.

So what is the role of the Druid in all of this? The Priest of the past, the ancient philosopher, law/lore-keeper, storyteller, intermediary… why is this still relevant?

The fact that people are still coming to me (and other ‘public’ Druid folk) in every-increasing numbers indicates that what we do is wanted. Initially yes, it’s often the idea that we have some sort of mystical ‘answer’ as to how to live (we do, but you might not like it, because it requires that you do active work too). But it’s the urge to understand how our spirituality creates a path for active living, connection, relationship, responsibility and understanding through constant challenge and awareness… that’s a big lifestyle change to assimilate. Being curious is an excellent start, though, and I am constantly glad that more and more people are overcoming their apprehensions and simply talking to me (and others who Druid).

But what, then, are we to become, moving forward?

A couple of years ago, I was part of a group that performed a divination ritual for Druidry in the coming years. Believe it or not, we identified the complacency that more Paganism has somehow arrived at, the inevitable shake-ups that will occur (within the Pagan faiths and the wider world) and the need for change to allow us to evolve and remain active and relevant.

That change? To work together.

There’s been a lot of talk recently in the blogosphere about what makes a ‘proper’ Druid. It’s good that folk are talking, but the difficulty for me comes at source. We as humans are drawn to both a need for community to reinforce our beliefs, and individuality – to be ‘special’ and unique. Yes, we all have our own subjective views on life, the universe and everything, and that’s wonderful. However, the challenge is bringing those together to make a cohesive pattern, rather than an argumentative mess.

Division in Druidry (and any other group based on belief) is inevitable. With the inherent urge to challenge, as stated, comes the unavoidable response of Pissing People Off. Not everyone will like what you have to say, or that you’re standing up to say it at all, but in speaking your own truth honourably, after much consideration and debate, not everyone will agree.

In the ancient poem ‘The Spoils of Annwyn’, one of the challenges to be faced by Arthur on his quest (and so the reader who works with the text) is facing down the ‘six thousand who stand atop the walls’ of Caer Goludd, those who prevent him from moving on with their shouts that drown out his words. He who stands up to speak/object most loudly runs the risk of getting his head shot off – the general ‘masses’ don’t understand and fear change or challenge, and so find it easier to settle back down into their comfortable rut (as above). We all know what this feels like.

But the role of the Druid is to continue to stand – and for those others who call themselves thus to stand together, to support each other and those who come to us, those we serve. Divided, we are just little groups (or individuals) talking – no bad thing in itself, as any words these days can have value if enough people listen. Together, however, united in common intention (if not the subtleties of individual practice), we can be recognised and, quite simply, accomplish more.

Not everyone is prepared to do this, and that’s understandable too. But those who do stand up to be recognised against those dissenting masses deserve to be listened to. Question or challenge, certainly, as this increases understanding on both sides. But do NOT dismiss out of hand, take for granted or simply ignore. For you will be left poorer for it.

I speak my words, from the cauldron of Inspiration

By the breath of nine maidens it is kindled

It will not provide the food of a coward, but a sword will be raised, flashing bright.

We move forward to the door, where a lamp is burning.

Save seven, none return.

Who’s with me?

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Faith and Funding

It can take a lot to make someone change their spiritual outlook, their faith – after all, it generally is what constitutes or provides a framework for their view of the world and their place in it. While as a child you accept what you are told as to Why Things Are, with your view of the world formed by the social and familial landscape that you are born into… then as you learn more about the wider world, you (hopefully) begin to ask questions. This can lead to strengthening or lapsing of belief in your worldview, depending on how well such a foundation suits your life as you take more active and personal responsibility in the construction of it.

Changes in faith can be momentous events, perhaps stemming from some form of loss or bereavement, or they can be relatively secretive, creeping up on you until you suddenly have that ‘aha!’ moment, that epiphany, realization that something has irrevocably changed in your personal explanation (and justification) for how the world works. So then what do you do?

Belief evolves – and so it should. Despite the apparent comfort and safety of routine, static = stagnation. As I’ve said before, personal beliefs that guide life should move with that life and the events you experience, otherwise how can it remain relevant and applicable?

Those ‘lightning bolt’ moments can happen anytime. When you’re ready to see, the answer will appear, even if it’s been staring you in the face for ages. But while such changes will hopefully be for the better, that doesn’t mean things will automatically get easier.

When I said my life was changing dramatically over the last month, I wasn’t kidding. I now am working actively as a Druid in my community – and the pace is ramping up. I’m busier than I ever was in a ‘normal’ salaried job, people are more than happy with what I’m doing, and the foundation is being very well set. This throws all of those ideas that this is just a ‘hobby’ very much out of the window!

My worldview has been forced to change. Rather than simply being a ‘spiritual volunteer’, in modern parlance I’m more of a ‘spiritual consultant’. I’ve had to consider insurance, self-promotion, target market, relative value of services. Faith-based actions are having to be quantified in the manner of the society in which I live and work. I may be a Priest, but I have no larger Church to back me up and provide wage and home. Others are watching to see how I do (generally with interest and curiosity, I’m happy to say!).

The most immediately issue, therefore, is survival – and that means money. I’ve always been told that asking about money is rude, and I’m waiting for the first person to suggest that I shouldn’t be charging for what I do (as seems to be the way with some of the more ‘intangible’ Pagans!), but I still have bills to pay, as do we all. Despite what one person once asked, I don’t live on a commune, in some sort of ‘Hobbiton’-style self-sufficient village! So how much do I value, in cash terms, what I do? What value do I place on my spirituality? It’s another challenge, another demand from my lived spiritual life to look deeper, to question its relevance and applicability, as it becomes not just personal but professional.

Ultimately, something that I was taught years ago is the importance of fair energy exchange. This isn’t some sort of cosmic light experiment, nor  sacrifice in the manner of offering up a goat to a deity – but it does mean giving something of value to you in exchange for something of (at least) equal value in return. Professional practitioners of energy healing have often told me how they must receive equal return on their ‘expenditure’, otherwise the healing work doesn’t ‘take’ as well; the value that the healee places on their energy makes it more effective.

So what’s the primary unit of exchange for energy, in this capitalist society? Money, of course. When you think of any monitary service, exchange the financial term for ‘energy’ and see how it sounds. Exchange of cash (energy) is to be expected if you want something of value.

You don’t expect something for nothing – and if you do, that ‘free’ service has no definable value and is therefore worth less. That’s another set of beliefs that has been instilled in us. So as  the ancient Druids may have been paid in food or fuel, I’m reimbursed with money to pay for those same items. Life moves forward.

But now I’m being asked for more information on what it is that I do. Faith-based activities must again be quantified, so their value can be understood. Physical evidence of spiritual activity can be seen… but again, it requires work relative to the anticipated effect. So how do I specify what people ‘get for their money?’

I suppose I’m very aware of the potential for falsehood in working as a public Priest. Consider those American evangelists, asking for donations for prayer and healing (and very clearly living well as a result). There’s a good deal of cynicism now about how much the ancient Christian Church took from those who could ill afford it, with the clergy demanding ever more at the expense of others’ suffering. And yes, I’ve seen ‘alternative’ shops selling glass jewellery and wands as Real Quartz. Is a ritual tool somehow ‘better’ because it cost more? Or does that cost truly reflect the effort put into its creation?

I think that the key word here is ‘equal’. If I provide a bad service, I receive less in return, and thus cannot survive. So far, I am profoundly grateful that this is not the case! But I must therefore be constantly clear in what I am doing, conveying information and often highly experiential knowledge in a manner that can be understood and carried forward by others. I must be strong in my own beliefs if I am to represent them honestly and honourably, and flexible enough that I can continue to be challenged by new perspectives. I can’t get too proud either – no flowery titles, claims of superpowers or secret occult knowledge! My money is very literally where my mouth is (and I’m likewise glad of good friends and colleagues to keep me grounded and true to myself).

So it is that my faith is being challenged as to its increasing relevance with my life, as ‘work’ and ‘belief’ merge ever closer. I truly am living my Druidry all day, every day. Sometimes it wears me out, as I try to do too much – equal energy exchange is therefore also a reminder that I must not give everything that I have to the extent that I suffer. But nor can I travel long distances, to perform large rituals, for nothing. I won’t be able to give ‘complimentary’ books out to all and sundry. Ultimately consider what sort of world we would live in, if we truly expected such things? That honourable, equal energy exchange creates value and satisfaction to both sides of the equation, rather than any expectation that you are owed free goods and services.

I know that the challenges will continue as I move forward and learn, but I know too that I will do my utmost, as an active Druid, trying to help my community to the best of my ability. Spirituality merges with ‘everyday’ life… and isn’t that what we’re all truly seeking?

Let’s work together, to make ‘mundane’ life a little more magical.

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