Druidry and the Ancestors, by Nimue Brown
As the regular reader (I know your name) will know, I picked this book up the other week at The Druid Network Conference. Nearly all books on Druidry seem to have covers showing trees, and while this one is no exception, I absolutely love the artwork that Nimue’s husband Tom has conjured up – a starkly bare tree, clung with ivy and garlanded with a chain of totemic ‘charms’.
Like Nimue’s previous book, Druidry and Meditation, this one is built around very personal perspective. It’s also quite righteously passionate in places, especially where abuse of relationship is concerned. It’s a fascinating read overall and the work has taken me the best part of six weeks to read; mainly because the simple operation of reading the shortest section will provoke questions and internal conversations that fill more hours than a simple book of some two hundred pages has any right to! In every way this book is a course; structured, focused and never dull, it leads one through a study of Druidry where ancestry is the constant theme.
There are no ‘definites’ in this book. Nimue walks through Druid traditions ancient and modern, exposing myth and misunderstanding with the use of academic works such as the oft-quotes and clearly loved Ronald Hutton, but without scorn and with an assertion that all truths are true for a given value of truth (my worlds not hers). Where practices and traditions hold value in themselves, they are held up even as their origins are revealed to be fictional. All history is written by someone with imagination; why should the Druid histories be any different? Ultimately, and quite rightly, Nimue challenges the reader to work it out for him or herself.
The theme of ancestry is of course key to this work, and perhaps most importantly the understanding that we are and will be ancestors ourselves is well used in portraying Druid practice at its best. If we respect and honour our ancestors of mud and blood and tradition (even those for whom a pagan relationship would be ever so hard) then we should live our lives now in such a way as to be worthy of the same respect and honour from our descendants – and those descendants may be of tradition and locality and not of blood, and be equally valid.
Inevitably the issue of pagan remains, so often the subject of contention even in pagan circles, is dealt with. Using alternative narratives, Nimue asks the important questions without telling the reader what the answer is – an excellent and seldom used stratagem that makes one consider (possibly, consider again).
I really enjoyed this book. In short bursts, interspaced with long ponderings! Just to ensure you (Nimue) don’t find me too fawning though, let me remind you of how irritating I find it when honour is spelled without the u. 🙂
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