How to speak about Druidry? In my biography I describe it briefly, so I will try to expand on that a little bit here.
Who were the Druids?
Well, in the days of the ancients, the Druids were trained men and women in the service of their tribes and there seems to have been three distinct paths within the Druid schools.
There were Bards who were the record keepers, the story tellers, the musicians; the Ovates who were the shamans, healers and seers; and the Druids, who were the judges, advisers and political animals of the Northern European countries.
They spent as many as twenty years in training starting from a young child, learning the various skills of the Bard, Ovate and Druid, each person would more than likely have been trained in all of the disciplines and then probably, at some point, would have specialised in a particular area.
They were respected as learned philosophers and gathered information from all they met, such as Pythagorus and others of his ilk.
And it was the Druids’ ancestors (not the Druids themselves) that built the many sacred sites across Europe such as Stonehenge, Avebury, standing stones that mark the passage of the stars, and the wheel of the year here on Earth.
Druidry came back into the light of day in the seventeen hundreds, with the likes of William Stukeley, and many gentlemen of the eighteenth century who had a fascination for the ancient monuments left across the landscape and the writings. They were unhappy about the growing industrial revolution and the effect on this green and pleasant land. You only have to read William Blake’s Jerusalem where he mentions the “Dark Satanic Mills” to understand that not everyone was happy with this “progress”.
Those men were mainly Christian in faith but influenced by something more, something that spoke not of the land as just a resource for us to use as we will, but as something to be cherished and nurtured.
They came together with their drawings of stone circles, burial mounds, the ancient writings and a desire to find a better philosophy.
One of the most influential of these men on the Druidry of today is a man named Edward Williams known as Iolo Morganwg, who was both a genius and seriously flawed individual. He had access to many of the most ancient poems and writings and added to them with his own work, which was so good that no one could tell the difference between his work and the originals. He also started new Druid ceremonies for the Solstices and Equinoxes on Primrose Hill in London.
So, what is a Druid today? Well that is a little harder to define.
Today there are many forms of Druidry that have their roots in those first explorations into archeology and philosophy. Everything from what we call “Re-constructionist Druids” who believe that we must keep the practise of Druidry strictly within the bounds of what can be verified by the stories and writings left to us, and archeology, or it is not authentic. Some people think that you can only call yourself a Druid if you have “Celtic” bloodlines and so it goes on.
Many people believe in God/s – deity that are tangible and interact with this world, and some do not. There are also many people who fuse their Christianity, Buddhism or other faiths with Druidry without feeling any contradiction – on the contrary they feel it enhances the depth they feel.
If you sat fifty people who describe themselves as Druids in a room you would get fifty different versions of Druidry. The reason for this is that there is no book handed down from generation to generation that gives details of how to be a Druid.
I truly believe that those ancients knew that if you write something down, you run the risk of misinterpretation. We find it time and again, when ever anything is written down someone will try to use the words in ways they were never originally meant, in order to give validation to some personal agenda.
How many wars have been fought over this kind of behaviour?
I have to say that I come from more of an “Inspirational Druidry” perspective, what that means in practise is I look at the natural world and the universe, then I am influenced by the archeology, stories and writings and try to find out as much as I can about everything that has gone before, across the worlds varying cultures, to find the connections between everything. Finally I use my own feelings, experience of life, and imagination, to create not a religion, but a philosophy/spirituality that works best for me.
One of my good friends went to see the film Avatar recently with her son and his girlfriend. As they were leaving the cinema the son turned to his girlfriend and said, “that really sums up what my Mum and her friends believe”, and to a large degree he is right.
Many spiritualities feel there is an energy connection between everything that exists. It is scientifically proven that everything that exists is made up of vibrating energy, therefore everything can be affected by everything else to a greater or lesser degree.
So consequently, how we behave toward the world, and to each other, must effect how we will be behaved toward.
Am I getting a bit heavy?
I guess what I am trying to say is that we are part of everything, and everything is part of us, and the journey of a Druid is to rediscover this by understanding, firstly their Self, who they are, where they come from, and then to see how they fit into the grander scheme.
Much of this journey requires a dedication to look beyond the obvious and surface levels of life, to look at nature, to see her as a living being, and understand the symbiotic nature of the human relationship to the planet we live on, and do what we can to live in harmony and raise awareness of the plight of our home.
We follow the wheel of the year with eight festivals that tune us in both psychologically and physically to the world around us:
Imbolc (silent b) 1st Feb. which is the first showing of Spring, when hope for the end of Winter is buoyed within us.
Spring Equinox around the 23rd March. The light is equal between day and night, there is a change in the energy and the light, and the warmth of the Sun really begins to enliven the Earth and us.
Beltaine 1st May life is fully bursting, the sap is rising! Flowers are open, everything seems so full of colour and beauty, new life abounds
Summer Solstice around the 21st June. The Sun is at its zenith and rises and falls at the same point for three days.
Lughnasadh, Lammas 1st August. The first cutting of the corn, traditionally a time of marriages and trading.
Autumn Equinox around the 23rd of September. The light is equal between day and night, but after this time the light will be on the wane. The harvest is in, and it’s time to give thanks for the bounty.
Samhuin (halloween) 31st Oct. A time when the veil between the realms of the living and the dead are thin. Time to honour the dead and to use divination for the next few months.
Winter Solstice around the 21st December. The Sun is at its Nadir and rises and falls at its lowest point for three days. After the three days it is the time of the rebirth of the light.
As well as the connection to the Earth and the cycles of the stars, the Druid is trying to go beyond the ordinary by bringing through what we call the “Awen”. This is a Welsh word for flowing spirit, or divine inspiration, opening to the Awen is a quest to draw through the creative and inspirational forces of the universe that are within and without us.
The word is intoned as a chant in one breath thus ‘aah-ooo-en’ a number of times. As you intone in your heart and mind you feel with the “aah” the energy of the upper realms the realms of the Gods and guides etc flowing through you; with the “ooo” you feel the energy of the earth, the ancestors, the Fey and the symbolic realms etc; and with the “en” you bring the energies together within you and send it out into the world.
In connecting with Awen we learn to find it within the wealth of the stories, songs, and other clues, left to us by our near and far off ancestors. By reading the stories, signing the songs, and using tools such as archeology, meditation, experimentation with various shamanic techniques like chanting, drumming, dance, and generally trying to comprehend the anthropological journey that humans have been on for millennia to build a sense of continuity.
Then the task is to bring that knowledge and mould it into a philosophy/way of life that is relevant for this day and age.
There is a centring meditation, or prayer, that many Druids use, especially those of the Druid Order that I belong to which is the “Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids”, and it goes like this:
Grant of God (and Goddess) your protection
and in protection, strength
and in strength, understanding
and in understanding, knowledge
and in knowledge, the knowledge of justice
and in the knowledge of justice the love of it
and in the love of it, the love of all existences
and in the love of all existences, the love of God (of Goddess) and all goodness
For me this encompasses all of the principles of Druidry that I believe in, and it is usually is spoken within the opening of a ceremonial circle and is followed by at least three Awen chants. With these words and the chant ringing through you, you are then in the right space to be as creative and balanced as you can be.