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. ;)