Practical Druidry

Today has been busy. I’ve been working on the events surrounding my forthcoming book, updating handfasting ceremonies, planning tomorrow’s workshop, pondering Book 2…

Then I sat down to have a much-needed tea-break, and found this waiting to be watched:  ‘Chaplains: Angels of Mersey‘.

There really isn’t much about religion of any sort on television these days. With the need for equality, the media seems fairly nervous of even mentioning faith issues, for fear of offending somebody – which leaves very little in the way of information about any spiritual path (or the need for spirituality at all).

The stories of these chaplains, practical Priests in their communities, were absolutely inspiring.

I love hearing the tales of working priests. I’ve been almost assaulted in the past by lady vicars wanting to make friends, curious monks, confused academics – all with a story to tell, and eager to hear mine in turn. It’s a listening profession, after all, but with so much give and take, generosity and real heart, I feel quite privileged to be a subject of interest, and am fascinated by them in turn.

A lot of the stories are familiar. In these programmes, I’ve seen an Anglican vicar trying to engage students at a Freshers Fair; a hospital chaplaincy helping in a time of crisis; street pastors busy with Saturday night drunks.

I’ve got my own stories, of course. I’m sure they’d be of great interest to documentary-makers, but I’m only interested in media insofar as it allows me to show the wider public that Pagan Priests exist at all – that we’re there to help if needed. Certainly not to garner ‘fame’ (or notoriety) or pander to egos.

This makes me realize, every time, that my constant question is still there for me as well.

What Am I Doing?

Ultimately, I’m one person, sitting here, tapping away with a sleeping dog beside me, on the afternoon of Good Friday. A relatively quiet day. Yet busy with the list of tasks above, and more besides. Life is certainly interesting right now!

Please note: this is not (and never has been) about publicising myself. It actually occurred that I would probably be happy to give my book away for free to those who expressed interest – although my publisher would scalp me, and probably my bank manager too.

It’s about living as I promised. I’m out there, living my faith in my community (physical and virtual) in order to help others, whether Pagan, Christian, atheist, whatever.  That was my choice, and I stand by it.

However, I’ve noticed that Paganism generally seems to have become a very insular spirituality. While folk do seek others of like mind to meet up and chat, in pubs or at Camps, generally their practise is kept private, at home or in quiet places outside, alone. This may be due to fear of ridicule, actual need for secrecy because of misunderstanding, or just a preference for a solitary mode of worship; I’ve no problem with that at all. Ultimately, any conversation that you have with deity is just the two of you.

But is that doing us, as a faith-based community, a disservice? Is our self-imposed isolation stifling our spirituality, rather than allowing it to flourish in the real world?

I’m not suggesting we get out on the streets with leaflets, or knock on doors with copies of ‘Pagan Dawn.’ I’m asking how you express your faith outside of the safety of your own home/room/head-space. My Druidry lives in the places of darkness and difficulty as well as love and light.

For the last few months, I’ve been asking members of The Druid Network to send stories of any community projects they may be involved in. I’ve had very few replies.

I’ve asked local Pagan Federation members for ideas on meet-ups and events, to help our regional community. Again, virtual silence.

Yet my inbox has messages every day from people asking for information, meetings, events, a need for connection with others. It seems that everyone wants something provided for them as Pagans (Wiccans/Druids/Heathens/etc)… but nobody wants to be the instigator. Nobody is willing to stand up and live their faith publicly, to help others, or even just to inspire by their work or creativity. Apathy is easier than hard work.

Except, of course, for myself and the others who do. Some of whom slowly slide into the background again after a time, fed up of the politics of the wider Pagan world, with its egos and challenges; others who have been called ‘media tarts’ simply for standing up to represent their Paganism.

I have also noticed that those who shout others down, be it with anger or mockery, rarely stand up themselves to do the hard work. It’s easy to put on the appropriate garb and join in at a large gathering, or get vocal behind the veil of an internet group, but when a Priest is called upon to teach, minister a service or provide chaplaincy during a life crisis, those loud voices suddenly go quiet.

I know it’s difficult. Trust me, I know. Public Priesting is not at all for everyone.

But it’s not so difficult to get out and honour yourself and your Gods by quiet actions in the world. An allotment or orchard project to bring pleasure to others and food to your family. Litter-picking as you take the dog for a walk, or the kids to school. Even volunteering to help your local space, be it Neighbourhood Watch, local environmental groups or charity work. Consider how best to connect your faith to your life, and do it. Take responsibility, rise to a self-imposed challenge. Be adventurous, explore – find your own quest!

Both The Druid Network and The Pagan Federation exist because of and for their members. Neither is about hierarchical religion or dogmatic dictat; they’re simply there to help. There are local equivalents – get in touch, make contact, grow that community. If you don’t like it, tell why, instigate change, add your voice to the song.

Paganism is incredibly diverse – that’s one of the reasons I’m attracted to it. I may not understand everyone’s point of view, but I do my best to respect it, and not be afraid to ask to find out more. We all make up a kaleidoscopic picture, each working in their own way to represent themselves and their spirituality. How are you a part of that? How are you moving it forward – and how is it moving you forward?

I love to hear stories of these journeys too.

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3 Comments »

  1. Just to say, that – as a Christian – I’d rather be doorstepped with a copy of Pagan Dawn any day, in preference to what I actually get doorstepped with……. it would lead to a very interesting conversation – hopefully one with learning on both sides.

  2. Gwion said

    “Nobody is willing to stand up and live their faith publicly, to help others, or even just to inspire by their work or creativity.”

    I wonder if you’re being a bit hard on the hidden pagan community here. I can’t really speak on behalf of pagans, only for myself. I have little or no contact with the pagan community, other than through TDN via the internet but I seem to fit some of the descriptions of a druid as discussed there so I’ll answer from that viewpoint. I do fit into your description of “very insular spirituality. … This may be due to .. a preference for a solitary mode of worship; … Ultimately, any conversation that you have with deity is just the two of you.”

    So what’s my point? There was a thread on TDN recently about “what are you doing right now in support of your Druidry, your tribe and your gods?” I would argue that you can’t separate what you’re doing from who you are. It’s not as if you can say “I do this because I am a druid.” It’s not like saying “I go to church on Sunday so I must be a Christian”. Surely if your actions are motivated by the title you give yourself you’ve got it the wrong way round? You live your life, you do what you do and that gives you the title (even if you’re not aware of it.) You can‘t separate your spirituality from who and what you are in every action you take. I’m a druid (perhaps?) because of what I do and believe: I don’t do and believe things because I’m a druid.

    My reading suggests a lot of what I actually do would fit comfortably into the category of druidry. I spent a career teaching Biology and I doubt anyone (and we’re talking thousands of pupils over a nearly 40 year career) escaped from my lessons without realising it wasn’t the mechanics of biology that motivated me but the awe in which I held Nature. I took pupils out on field trips, on D of E training, Ten Tors and similar expeditions to get them into relatively wild country. I spend a lot of my hobby time involved in folk music. I’ve been singing of SIlkies, Elfin Knights, King Orfeo, revenants etc for more than forty years and I love explaining some of the mythology behind the songs I sing. (Did you know you can tell a silkie from a seal because the former have visible ears?). Recently I’ve started writing a bit of my own stuff about the Welsh myths from the Mabinogion etc as well as songs about the Green Man, Bride, Oak/Holly King etc (see the link if you’re foolish enough!). I try to maintain a (small) garden that encourages and supports wildlife, clear up the litter from around my area (particularly any that presents a hazard to wildlife); I’m working with neighbours on a neighbourhood woodland conservation project. I have what a druid would perhaps call altars, with areas of my garden and house set aside – though what to a druid might be recognisable as an altar to the anima loci of my garden or to the ancestors might be, to another visitor, a wilder bit of garden or a shelf with family photos and artefacts on it. I choose not to fly, have the smallest car I can and use it as little as possible, walk where I can and explain the environmental reasons for these choices if I’m asked. But I’ve always done these things.

    My list is not to say “look at what I do” – I think I probably do less than most, I’m inherently both lazy and antisocial. The point I’m trying, rather inadequately, to make is that I don’t do the things I do because I’ve found a label “druid” and am trying to live up to it; I do them because it’s what I enjoy doing and what I’ve always done. I was doing them long before I discovered modern druidry. Everywhere I go I meet other people doing similar things; are they druids, I don’t know. Perhaps there’s a whole world of active druidry out there, it just isn’t calling itself druidry and, I would guess, in a lot of cases doesn’t even know it could call itself druid. It’s only in the last three years, largely due to the internet (things like TDN and latterly your, and others’, blogs), that I’ve realised that what I believe and how I live my life could be broadly classified as druid/pagan – but even knowing that doesn’t change what I am doing, it only labels it. So I think you may be wrong that “Nobody is willing to stand up and live their faith publicly to help others, or even just to inspire by their work or creativity” I think people are living their faith publicly but don’t realise that it’s their faith that they’re living, to them it’s just their lives.

    Not everyone can be a “priest” and not everyone who lives a druid life can stand up and describe how what they do is druid. I am grateful to those, like you, who can explain the labelling on the package – it’s helping me find my way through a mass of information – but I think there are many out there living druid lives, doing druid things, helping people, being creative, honouring nature, the ancestors and the gods, and the reason they’re not answering your question is simply that they’re not thinking of it is an expression of paganism, it’s just what they do naturally in their lives.

    The picture may be rosier than you think!

    • druidcat said

      Wonderful words, Gwion – thank you! And I’m pretty sure you’re right 🙂

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