Druidic Triads

Old Welsh and Irish texts contain what are commonly called “triads”,  little phrases of wisdom and observations. They are popular in modern Druid circles for their succinctness and also for representing a possible link to ancient druidic wisdom.

Modern druidry is nothing if not up-to-date, so I’ve decided to add my own contribution to the Druidic Triads and share them here. And here’s the first:

Three things to percieve the truth: the certainty of the body, the courage to choose and make mistakes, and a flexible mind that expands beyond its own horizons.

In Search for Normal

There are many words that are misused, there are many words that are ambiguous, and there are many word that depend a lot on context for their meaning (who says it, why they say it, how they say it, etc.). One of these words is ‘normal’, and this a word that has always raised my hackles a bit, because it’s usually used in judgement of what people are doing and how they are. It’s a belittling word when used in the negative, and always carries with it a tone of what ‘should be’.

Here’s a few examples that are implicit and explicit in its use:
– natural
– healthy, sane, good
– usual, habitual, common, average
– conventional, general consensus
– acceptable, approved of

What’s normal in Spain isn’t always normal in England, and vice versa. And what’s normal in the natural world can be out of place in human societies, and vice versa. As definitions, they can be quite close, but at times there can be a great chasm between each one. Questions like “Do you think it’s normal?” are meaningless, until they define what they mean by normal.

In the dictionary, the two basic meanings are ‘natural’ and ‘habitual’, which I don’t think should be confused at all, since not everything that is habitual is natural. And in human society, many things that should be natural don’t have regular appearance in our lives. Perhaps my greatest objection is the idea that anything that is concieved of as average or conventional in society is somehow good, healthy or acceptable, where I believe this couldn’t be further from the truth.

In Spanish I can give a bit of leeway, because estar normal (to be habitual) isn’t confused with ser normal (to be natural), but even so, I tend to avoid it if I can, since there still seems to be an implicit social value of what ‘should be’, which doesn’t always coincide with habitual or natural.

One day, a rather eccentric lady and a friend of the family who didn’t see herself as ‘normal’ asked me “But what is normal?” My response was “Normal is whatever is normal for you, especially if it’s what you normally (usually, habitually) do.” After that I abandoned its use and substituted it with healthy or usual, which more or less matches the dictionary examples.

I’m not against the concept of ‘normality’ or the word, but it’s (mis)use makes it virtually senseless, unless it’s use is well defined. In the end, either we use it in a consistent and intelligent way, or we abandon it completely and search for more appropriate alternatives.

It’s (not) normal > I (don’t) like it

It’s (not) normal > It’s (not) usually like that

It’s (not) normal > It’s (not) healthy/good

It’s (not) normal > It’s (not) naturally occurring

It’s (not) normal > It’s (not) generally acceptable

Reflecting on the Druid’s Prayer

In Iolo Morganwg’s Barddas, there are apparently six different versions, and this is the version I learnt going to druid rituals in England and which is traditionally used by the Order of Bards Ovates and Druids. It is addressed here to the “God and Goddess”, though traditionally it was just addressed to “God”, and in fact can be replaced with any other word deemed appropriate.

The form of the Druid’s Prayer is conducive to meditation, one attribute leads to another, and so we are led through a structure that can help us contemplate the connections between each quality and integrate them into our lives. This is my own reflection on the Druid’s Prayer.

Grant, o God and Goddess, thy [sic]* protection
We feel small and helpless, so sometimes it feels good to ask something that is “more-than-self” for a little help, whether that be disembodied entities, another person or the unexplored and undeveloped powers within us.

And in protection, strength;
I think we can remember some time as children wanting to try something new and different, but being too scared to. Then along comes mum, dad or another adult we trust, and with their support we can confront our limits and go beyond them. If we have a sense that we are “protected” in some way, we then have the confidence to go meet our challenges.

And in strength, understanding,
We gained confidence, meet our challenges and go beyond our limits. We experience life directly for ourselves, and so we gain an understanding of life, an insight into how it works and how we work within that.

And in understanding, knowledge;
If understanding is an insight into life, then knowledge is turning that insight into certainty. We have confidence in what we have directly observed, and the strength of knowledge to act on that.

And in knowledge, the knowledge of justice;
Knowledge is not stable, but something that is constantly being adapted and adjusted to new insights. Life always throws up new challenges, and so we gain knowledge of the dynamism of nature, the balance, flow and harmony inherent in the universe that serves as a natural justice. It is this natural justice that governs the natural world.

And in the knowledge of justice, the love of it;
As we come to know this natural justice, you see that things do make sense and that this balance, flow and harmony are what allows and sustains your existence. Gratefulness and love follow.

And in that love, the love of all existences;
We are all interconnected, all lifeforms. We are all part of the natural justice that sustains each living being, and as we see and understand this, our love expands to include all living and non-living things. They express the natural justice we love, so we love them.

And in the love of all existences, the love of God, Goddess and all goodness.
Our vision of life and love are expanded and we come to see nature and the universe in positive terms that express something of our highest ideals and principles. Love is central to many world religions, even if their adherents fall short in practicing it, and here it is given a prominent place in Druidry too.

*some time ago in the history of the English language, “thy” was actually singular, comparable to Spanish tu or French ton/ta, and is appropriate in addressing a single entity, as is the case in the original forms of the Druid’s Prayer. “Your”, which corresponds to Spanish vuestro and French votre, would be more appropriate here, but “thy” was the form I learnt before discovering the grammatical difference and tends to offer a more archaic or poetic feel to the prayer.

Or perhaps we can understand “God and Goddess”, not as two separate entities but as complementary aspects of the same divinity united in its love? Something to think about, anyway. ;)

Transition Between Spaces

Inspired after reading Stepping into ritual space

In many ritualistic traditions, the marking of space and our transition from “outside” to “inside” is structured so that we have a change in attitude. In Druidry and similar traditions, a circle is marked in preparation for magical or celebratory acts.

The dojo in martial arts is considered “different” from the world outside it. You can’t enter with shoes, and in some there is a certain ettiquette that has to be observed upon entering. It marks for me the moment when the work begins and informs my attitude from then on

In Ecopsychology we’re taught to ask “permission” of a natural place, following the non-verbal signals of the body (“natural attractions”) to verify what the place is “telling” us. We can’t just go in as if we own the place and do whatever we want – other beings live here, and they deserve our respect.

I think this transition is important, but I think it’s also important not to create a bubble of it, in that you only live this within that moment or place, and never apply it in your life. In OBOD ritual we’re taught to say “may memory hold what eye and ear have gained”, meaning that whatever we experience “in-circle” becomes integrated into us and we carry that attitude with us to “out-circle”.

Ecothought: the Ego and the Body

You go out into nature and there is a sensation of forgetting oneself, yet remembering something more fundamental. All the “cheats and tricks” you’ve learnt being amongst people (flirting, appeasing, intimidating, deceiving, negotiating , etc.) don’t work the way they “should” do, and questions like Who? become unimportant. These masks just fall away, and for anyone that identifies strongly with these masks, being in nature can be disconcerting, because you can no longer rely on the rules or script of society.

The ego is a social tool, and relies on society and human relationships for its image and structure, and as a social tool it is quite useful, but it does not reveal the entire picture of who or what you are. It is a narrow beam of light that highlights certain details (the ones we want to show), but leaves others very much out of focus.

Out in nature, a crack appears in the ego, the narrow beam of light dims slightly and lets other details appear, details which you may or may not be familiar with, and which you may or may not find agreeable. In society we may come to believe that we are an ego that wears a body, but in nature this becomes reversed and we have space to realise we are a body that carries an ego.

I feel the same doing aikido too. When practicing a technique, I am in physical contact with another person, and cannot rely on my social image to interact with them. In this way I come face-to-face with my own physical limitations, which I cannot overcome by presenting a new image to them, but only by confronting the existence of my body.

The body is our organic contact with reality, and the ego is a social tool. Perhaps we’ve spent more of our lives living in a social mode than the organic, and it’s difficult to change that habit. But the more we spend time with nature, the more the organic reality asserts itself and the social reality is put into perspective.