Neo-Pagan Meanderings

012I came to Druidry through neo-Paganism, mainly Wicca-inspired at first, but later went a more informal and non-traditional way. I wanted to explore and experiment, not get tied down to any specific tradition or doctrine.

Modern Paganism I’d say comes in two parts: ancestral tradition and reverence for nature (it gets more complicated than that, but that’s the general picture). On the one hand, there is a sense of recovering ancestral pre-Christian religion that somehow still exists within us. On the other hand, these ancestral religions represent being closer to nature, and give us a link to our own image of the “noble savage” – a native one rather than one appropriated from another culture.

I was drawn to the “native” traditions of the Celts and Norse, but couldn’t restrict myself to them, since my sense of ancestry and cultural heritage was broad. Western Culture has a strong Christian element that I couldn’t ignore, and much of our philosophy and politics has found its way in from the Mediterranean. If I were to “honour my ancestors” I would have to be inclusive and recognise the multiple sources that have affected my ancestry, both biological and cultural.

But my real interest was “nature-based spirituality”, so I only recognised the spiritual value of something if I felt it would connect me to nature. I searched a wide variety of sources, but I had no special interest in formal religion, gurus, spiritual celebrities or progression through graded initiations. My spirituality was far too anarchic and “organic”; I wanted to connect directly to the spirit of nature, not follow artificial spiritualities with their arbitrary systems. I wanted to contact with nature in a quiet and private way. I felt I was developing a Celtic- or Nordic-flavoured Taoism with hunter-gatherer aspirations (but not quite a luddite – I still used the Internet a lot, lol).

Things like chakras, the kabbalah, methods of meditation, ritual, divination and all sorts of spiritual theories and theologies were “human inventions”. I have to admit, they were never far away, since my curious intellect always liked to play with these interesting “toys”, and let’s face it, we’ve come a long way since the Stone Age, and can’t do away with the many technologies and philosophies accrued along the way. Many “human inventions” are very useful, and even essential to a modern lifestyle.

I think you can see why Ecopsychology just seems so logical for me: it’s modern and yet is a way to contact our deepest roots. We can’t regress, but we can integrate the deepest ecological parts of us with the more modern, technologically inclined parts. And we need to. I have a tattoo of the Celtic god Cernunnos, holding a horned serpent in one hand and in the other a torc, symbols of nature and of human artifice, respectively. He holds them both, mastering both qualities and synthesising them without rejecting one or the other.  This has been a dominant theme throughout my neo-Pagan journey.

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New Year, New Direction

I started this blog for a couple of reasons. I felt I needed something where I could share my thoughts, but not with so much depth as The Grove of Quotes. Also it was made to accompany me through my work through OBOD‘s Druid grade (third and final grade that I started a little over two years ago). Now I’m coming to the end of the course I can reflect a little on where this blog has been and where it will go.

This blog has helped me express some thoughts I encountered in the course, sharing ideas on learning and creating languages, sharing other creative endeavours such as art and stories, and so on. And I shall carry on, but my focus will be changing. The course is ending, but the process of becoming a Druid is just starting. I have aquired the tools, now it’s the time to apply them in my life. For that reason “druid in training” is still apt.

In the new year I’ll be starting a course in Ecopsychology (Mika has just finished it) and we’ll be do more activities combining art with ecopsychological insight (Ecoart workshops). We’ll also be working with CEN (as mentioned in a previous post) and continuing our development of a sustainable ecological project, and so taking my druidry into action.

Happy New Year!

The Mysteries

Mysteries, esotericism, the occult: these words bring up images of secret orders, with strange rituals and sharing their secrets only to the select few. Historically this has been true, and is still true today. I’m sure most of us have heard of the Freemasons, for example. But information that was esoteric in the past isn’t so much now, and the content in many modern day “mystery schools” is out in the open. I’ve been told by a Wiccan that most, if not all the information of Alexandrian and Gardenarian traditions, is out there already, and as a member of  druid order (OBOD) I can see that a lot of the information isn’t necessarily esoteric, but the structure by which it is presented is; it is meant to guide you through certain information along a certain way, instead of having to wade through the chaos trying to make sense of things by yourself (though this also has its virtues).

There are many subjects that are “esoteric” to me, and there are people with specialised knowledge in which I am not trained. Quantum physics for example, is an esoteric subject for me, though I understand or know of some ideas from it. Through the ages there have always been people with specialised knowledge and those without. I rely on the “esoteric” knowledge of builders, plumbers and electricians to fix what I can’t. School, colleges and universities are “esoteric” organisation, sharing their knowledge with the fortunate few (though in recent centuries education has become more open, not to just an elite class).

What really makes these subjects esoteric for me is my own willingness, ability and necessity to understand these things. There is nothing barring my way from understanding them except my own limits. And it is much the same for anybody. The “exoteric” information is simply data that the general public can understand, whilst “esoteric” information is what we don’t. And the boundary between exoteric and esoteric is always changing as the understanding of the general public changes.

If I want to understand something, I will. If I am able to understand it, I will. If I need to understand something, I will. And these three things, more often than not, should coincide. A year and a half ago the world of linguistics was very unknown for me, but I have since waded into the subject and understand more than I thought I would have. Though there still remain things I have a lot to learn about.

All “esoteric” information is out there, in plain sight. What “hides” or limits  it, rather than secret orders (thought we might assume there are some), is simply my own need, want and ability to understand certain information. “Know thyself”, at the heart of esotericism, is something that no one can hide from you, except yourself.

Druid Academia

I’ve been thinking… I’ve got to do more to become a druid. I mean, they were the intellectual elite of their day, and though I can’t go and sit in a sacred grove to be taught traditional druid lore (cos it’s extinct) by a druid of old, I can take up the closest equivalent: university.

It’ll be so easy; I’ll get a degree, or doctorate, or whatever you get from universities, wear a long white robe, grow a long white beard, and that’ll be it, I’ll be a proper modern day druid! Oxford or Cambridge, here I come (either one of those two, I’m not fussy…)

Or maybe I should sit in a grove and visualise a Druid of Old teaching me for ten or so years? Okay, silly suggestion, just considering my options.

Alright, silliness aside, if modern druids don’t have to go to university to tick off the academic box in the “I’m a Real Druid” list, where does education fit in to modern druidry? Does it really take a correspondence course, or is there more?

Very important questions, but I think I’ll leave them for another day. There’s a nice comfy bed calling to me.

Good night.

Low Church Druidry

It’s a no frills Druidry, a “my whole life is a ritual” Druidry. It’s “hold the bells and whistles” Druidry (sort of).

It’s like the Low Church rather than the High Church, more like Protestantism than Catholicism, or more like philosophical Taoism than religious Taoism – if I’m to name any precedents.

It’s not that I don’t do ritual, I do, but I see the whole of life as a living, breathing ritual, which makes formal, scripted ritual a bit superfluous. Although, I must say, sometimes it’s fun to suspend disbelief and just let imagination mingle with the world through symbolic actions and objects. But that’s art, something I can do through writing stories and drawing pictures.

Okay, sometimes I do indulge in “bells and whistles” Druidry, I can’t deny it has its fun and creative side, but the symbols are just symbols, signposts to something else, that’s all. There’s a living, breathing reality that they represent, where my druidry is getting to grips with the grit of life.

The Modern Druid

I think some while ago I said I’d say something about what a Modern Druid is, when the Ancient Druids are extinct.

Modern Druidry has several faces with different approaches to their own style of Druidry: some are in the form of mystery schools, some as Mason-like lodges, some emphasise more shamanic or pagan paths, others are quite eclectic, and there are some that aren’t spiritual or religious paths but are part of the cultural traditions of the modern Celtic countries. But they all are very modern creations, the earliest of which appeared in the 1700’s Druid Revival. If you search on the Internet you’ll find lots of different groups and organisations all with “druidic” interests.

I am a member of OBOD, currently in the Druid grade, and this is a way of formalizing my Druidry. I am guided through three grades: Bard, Ovate and Druid, each of which concentrates on certain druidic subjects and reflect well the structure of my own journey, even from before joining OBOD. I feel its graded structure reflects something of what I have been through, so it feels very natural.

Through being a Bard I began my journey of self-discovery and creativity. Through being an Ovate I learnt of my connection to nature, and gained insights into myself and the world around me. Through being a Druid I am learning of a sense of responsibility and service to the world, to humanity and Gaia.

This is a very brief view into Modern Druidry, the three grades of Bard, Ovate and Druid, and my own journey, so I shall revisit this in the future, especially as I advance through OBOD’s Druid grade.