So I awake from the dream too early, startled by the too-loud close of the bedroom door as Miss gives up the night-time marking marathon and finally comes to bed. Opening my eyes I wonder where everyone has gone… all the druids who were there pointing out each others inconsistencies, but mostly all looking at me and laughing. Don’t you have those dreams? Oh. There’s a meaning behind this one, methinks…
A lovely Druid and author, Kris Hughes, recently posted on Facebook, and then re-posted into the public domain, a most interesting and provocative battle-cry and it’s caused me to attempt to lay down some words. Whether these words see the light of day depends on how I feel about them once they’re written! Oh… you’re reading them? I guess I came to some conclusion then.
Kris’s basic premise is that Druidry (and by association many who claim the name Druid) has become so ‘inclusive of path’ that it is at risk of losing coherence. Through such a loss, the reclamation of Druidry as a British Celtic cultural heritage is damaged and those who seek to assume the mantle of Druid as modern aspects of that heritage are offered insult. Further, that the incorporation of ‘alien’ deities into the Celtic-Romano-British pantheon, alongside generic loveiness and Gaia-themed ecology is to wreak mix-and-match hippy spirituality and offer yet more insult to those gods and godesses that form the bedrock of pre-Christian Britain. (I’ve checked with Kris that I’ve summarised his far longer and more beautifully worded post correctly).
And all of a sudden you can see the cauldron in which that dream was blended! Ha. I’m not Welsh, I’m not hard core polytheist, and I’m monoglot English. Even though (I admit it) I do have a tendency to hug trees, why do I claim the word Druid? My blood is potentially very not Celtic in contemporary terms. Ignoring for now the arguments about what Celtic means, and who if anyone the Keltoi were, and the nearness of at least south Wales, my entire bloodline centred around a few Suffolk villages – for at least the past five hundred years and up until my father and mother moved to Bristol in the 60’s. Before that it’s likely my blood originated in the south of France. But I’m a Bristol boy, and I’ve lived in the area of the Dubunni tribe all of my life. I love the tales of the Mabinogion, of the family of Don and the mythology of the lands of the people, and I can find at least as many life lessons in the tale of Taliesin as may lie in the parables of the bible, but they are not ‘my’ gods, ‘my’ lands or ‘my’ people.
So if working with the Welsh pantheon and “being immersed in the Celtic cultural continuum” is at the heart of Druidry I’ve possibly walked into the wrong monolith. But I don’t think that was the core message Kris was presenting. I don’t pretend to know what the Druids of old did, and my drive is not to reconstruct what was or what night have been. My core Druidry is bound up in developing relationship with deity (I’ll come to that), with the wholly living landscape around me, with the blood that brought me here to this point, and with the stories and songs of enspirited and sacred places and spaces.
The landscape most ‘home’ to me is quite small. Even as a westcountryman I find Stonehenge and Glastonbury too far away to bond with. Perhaps a fifteen mile circle could be drawn around Stroud slightly to the north of my home, taking in the surge of the Severn Bore, the Forest of Dean, Uley Bury, Crickley Hill, Hetty Pegler… well, those are some of the known spaces… others are not listed on the pagan map, but call out as I walk through and in and with them. The drench of dappled sunlight through oak, hazel and beech trees filled with birdsong at dawn… the burble of an ancient spring as she fills the small stream that drifts along the meadows under a hilltop where buzzards fly… the song of the evening wind that takes the flames from my small fire and paints transient pictures in the air… the lightning that presages a thunderous rainstorm. Yes, I have no problem being called a tree hugger.
And deity does not call without listening, unless I be truly mad. And if I am, well it is a harmless and most engrossing madness. Interaction with the gods that be has to be a two way transaction, otherwise there is no point. They have been called so many names over the years… Sulis to one, Minerva to another… Hafren to one, Sabrina to another, and Nodens and Severn… I have only infrequently sought to ask for or apply names to my own gods – I have no need, for they are never in error as to whom I address nor they I. Perhaps that comes of seldom… performing… group ritual. Only I need articulate, and there is no need even of articulation. In group work I might perforce need to ensure all were on the same hymn (a-ha) sheet and then I might draw upon shared names. Other times they come on the wind, in the rain, within a rainbow puddled pavement.
Ultimately I am, if Druid, a Druid of these times and of this place. At school I was rubbish at history and rubbish at languages, and I would not wish to strangle with tangential concentration my faith – for faith it is (I cannot prove anything to you any more than a Christian, Muslim or Atheist). I am alive to my presence, and to those that deign to make themselves known… alive to the changing, ever-changing, never-changing song of the ‘verse, and responsive to the inner need to celebrate this land, those who stand behind me in this land and the lands of my blood, and the call that says we are here now, in this moment, and it is best we get on with delighting in it. For that is our purpose.
Whew, sorry Kris, I think I lost my train of thought. You’ve put such thoughts into my head, and indeed (thank you) you’ve raised a challenge within me to walk more fully in the footsteps I see before me… to be less distracted by the pressing needs of inconsequentiality and to listen more to the gently voice so easily drowned out by the mainstream avalanche of clutching needful nonsense that besets us all. I remain, to my mind, druid, and I believe I’ll post this waffle after all.