I found the ’30 Days of Druidry’ meme while poking through the archives of other druidry blogs. I have been struggling with solidifying my own thoughts about many of these topics, so I thought I would use it as a foundation to guide my process of narrowing down what exactly I believe. They will be on no particular schedule, and I may or may not skip around or alter some of the topics to suit my needs.
For my purposes, I tend to use capital Druid/ry/ism for the actual ancient people and lowercase druid/ry/ism for modern neo-druidry. And since this is mainly for my benefit, it might ramble a lot. I am sharing in order to help anyone who may be lurking the internet thinking about the same questions, and so that some generous visitors might share some of their own wisdom with me.
These are only my thoughts. I am quite non-theistic. While I whole-heartedly respect and support theist pagans, please understand that I am writing about everything in the context of my own beliefs where any god(s) that may exist are irrelevant to my life and how I view the world. I think one of the best things about modern druidry is the general openness and variation in the community, of which I’m a tiny part.
Sometimes using the term ‘druid’ makes me uncomfortable. Primarily, I don’t want to culturally appropriate something that’s not mine in a way that is disrespectful, especially to people who are no longer around to defend themselves. There are also arguments that neo-druidry can’t resemble ancient Druidry, so we should find some other umbrella to fall under.
The main thing that we know about the ancient Druids is that we don’t know that much about them. Mostly we have Greek and Roman writing (that could be propaganda or fictitious) and some archeological findings. If Druids had persisted in history in some fashion, likely they would have had to adapt over time. After all, despite many theological tenants that have stayed consistent, the modern Catholic lives differently than an ancient one.
Perhaps Druids would object to my beliefs and to Neo-druidry as a whole, but if they existed now they would have partaken in the development of western philosophy. We might then have better language to use to describe a lot of the ideas that Neo-druidry is trying to fill in. We might be able to join whatever modern religion(s) grew out of those lands, rather than trying to fill in the gaps. And while we do have many words to describe things common in druidry (like animism, reincarnation, nature-loving, and I’m sure those more educated in philosophy know better ones), but we’ve kind of given new meaning to the terms to fill in a space in our collective ideas.
However, as it stands, there are no modern druids descended directly through all the oral traditions of those ancient people. Of course, the “Celts” is a catch-all for a diverse people and culture who were spread throughout many different areas, who likely had slightly different ideas about a lot of important matters. My impression from reading about the Celts (which could be wrong), is that they were adaptive and resourceful.
I also personally think that nothing is inherently sacred. That is, first we are only human and I don’t believe that there is a deity who gives everything meaning, or a being that created humanity with a goal in mind that we are bound to attain. I think that we evolved out of nature, and our propensity for philosophy and labeling is a function of our nature.
Second, I think that as soon as we nail down ideas and forbid anyone to play with them, they lose any usefulness for us. It is one thing to have a definition (like “Humanism” or “Orthodox Christianity”) to point to for purposes of identity and discussion. Yet more important is using those ideas as a basis for new ones, or being able to evaluate how suitable they are, what premises they’re based on, how we can apply them to life, and so on. I would venture that every advanced civilization probably thinks that it’s come up with 90% of what humans will achieve or think, but every few decades we break those limitations beyond what anyone at the time imagined. We point out that fundamental assumptions that were held don’t have to be the absolute truth, or we find new meaning to fill into gaps.
For me, this is one of the best parts of being human, the ability to think and learn and breathe new ideas and share them with everyone.
So when I take the word “druid”, I do it with the best intentions and utmost respect. I use the word because it gives me a jumping off point to use with others. We all have a different idea of druidry, either in history as a curiosity, or some archetype used in gaming or books, or as other practitioners who know it as their own unique practice or something separate developing alongside their own path. That’ s why I think I can use the terms ‘druid’ and ‘druidry’.
But why should I use it to identify myself?
It calls me to find some sort of structure. Perhaps especially because of the controversy over the term, it makes me want to really nail down what it means to myself. If I left it at “non-theistic nature-lover” I might just settle into that and not do so much introspection on what things actually mean to me, instead focusing on just experiencing nature and things. That does have its place, but I feel more fulfilled every time I am able to pin down something that is important to me in words. (Case in point, this multi-year struggle to write this.)
It helps me find other people interested in the same things. It makes me feel good. It’s like naming the type of person that I really want to be, even if it’s a nebulous picture. It forms a mental frame that I can work to fill in with meaning. And, really, the process of developing and feeling the push to keep connecting, reflecting and learning is what is important to me in my spirituality. Part of why I left the ideas I was raised with is that I didn’t feel like I was developing or growing, when thinking through new ideas or revising old ones was actively discouraged and sometimes seen as blasphemous.
So what makes up the parts of druidry for me?
Nothing here is necessarily exclusive to just druidry, but this is how it seems to me from my own experiences.
Calling towards inner fulfillment, finding meaning without basing it on a holy book or something that already exists. It means reassessing the assumptions about the world that I was raised with, or that exist in society. Some ideas I reaffirm and some I alter or discard. It means that even when reading/discussing within druidry, thinking about it myself rather than just absorbing the words. It’s about thinking and listening instead of just ‘being right’ and ‘knowing’ already what everything means.
Connecting and Living It
I can’t just go to a building once a week and talk about trees, rivers and animals, though that would be fun! Druidry calls me to get out into the dirt, to walk without focusing on a to-do list, to notice what’s around me (even if it’s an urban landscape with squirrels and sparrows). It’s learning about other living beings and non-living systems, reflecting on what I could learn from them, and generally not forgetting all the wonderful (or gross, gritty or scary) things out there as I go through daily life. It’s naming this connection as important in my life, and living up to that. This is still something I struggle with, as I move further into a big city and find it hard to physically explore often with my chronic leg pain.
Being Equal with the World
Humans are not dominant over nature, nor somehow separate from it. I am an animal, a mammal, made of fluids and hair and organs, an amazing legacy of natural selection and history. We are also not lesser than nature, something flawed that needs to return to what is natural (or some non-worldly holiness). Fore sure, humanity as a whole needs to work on our relationship with the environment and other creatures, but we can start by rejecting that there is a dichotomy between ourselves and what’s around us.
It’s recognizing that sacredness doesn’t have to come from something outside of our universe, or something special that humans do better than other things (though the concept of the sacred is human, as far as we can tell). I recognize that others in druidry work with gods or spirits or other things, and that is no less valid, just different from my own views. However, commonly even in working with various gods, I think that as a community we don’t separate ourselves from the natural world.
Always striving to become better, to assess myself and my relationship with the world, to think about ethical living and put it into practice. This is an area of continual struggle and reassessment. Sometimes it’s painful, but it’s always good for me. During the times in my life when I’ve shied away from looking deeply at myself, particularly where I might be lacking, life seems to drain into a more empty, superficial experience. Looking in the mirror may get hard, but it also heals, and over time I feel like I am becoming more of myself, rather than hiding parts of me from each other.