Labels are lousy at being labels… I felt that toward the end of last year as one religious path seemed almost wholly subsumed beneath a violent and out of control extremist fringe, tainting the path that was walked in peace by the vast majority of adherents to that religion. And I felt it again over the New Year as keyboard warriors took to the battlefields of social media to rant against every Druid who wasn’t doing Druidry as they defined it.
For a time I pondered on the value of a label that is so very open ended. Perhaps such a wide ranging, ambiguous path name holds no value. If it can mean anything does it mean anything at all? Ought I release the gentle grasp I have on the word, and allow it to waft away on the hot air of acrimonious nit-picking and ego?
After all, I am a bloody rubbish Druid. I find deity in the living landscape, in the heat of the Sun on my skin, the stroke of the breeze on it too. I connect to a sense of communion and connection with deity in the woodland, and in music, and in walking meditation and sitting by rivers. I sing with the wind on the hilltop, and dance under the many-faced Moon. But that’s just me being a New Age hippy… Where’s the Druidry?
I am inspired by the natural world, by story and song and poem and image… I am aware of the pressures our world faces and do a little to reduce, mitigate or arbitrate the impact of my life and often that of my community. That may be promoting solar generation, water harvesting, home food production, local purchasing and low carbon transport, but that’s environmentalism… How is it Druidry?
I guess the one definite Druid aspect of anything I do is the work I do for The Druid Network, where I have been a trustee as it moved from an Internet collective of like minded folk espousing Druidry, to a registered charity, to a member of a national UK interfaith organisation, between-times being consulted and opined by governments and councils on matters spiritual and practical. But a lot of that is administration… What makes it Druidry?
Change the question a little. Why is the word Druid so… readily adopted by so many different folk? Folk who seemingly challenge each other for holder of the truth of this non-dogmatic spirituality cum philosophy cum lifestyle… What is it in the core of the Druid story, of the meandering tale of invention and reinvention and adaptation and adoption, that captures our imagination? Each of us in our own fashion, yet still allowing us to share the word – as long, it seems, as we stay away from social media.
One Druid is a vegan low impact homesteader, living off grid and in touch only with those near by. One Druid is an activism protester, holding court in the face of impending ecocide or arboreal vandalism. One Druid is a teacher, one a healer, one a celebrant. Possibly we are all those people, some of the time. Can one be defined by the correspondence course long passed, or knowledge of antiquity, or re-constructionist weekend camps?
Labels are lousy at being labels. I remain “Druid, for a given value of Druid.” And for now I’m managing to avoid most of the social media ego-driven battle cries. I’m comfortable in my own mind as to the relationships I have with deity and landscape and heritage. But right now I’m tired, so tired, of the arguments as to exactly what it is this label means. I think I will just get on with being me.