First off, let me just say that I tend to refer to what I practice as Druidism. Some people will discuss differences between “Druidry” and “Druidism” – one as a philosophy and the other as a religion. I ascribe to the latter, but the word choice doesn’t really matter. I just wanted to clear that up from the start.
I was recently introduced to a blog called Feral Druidry. The author, Seillean Ioho, is unlike me in several ways. He* is from the Midwest, and I from the North East. He is more interested in revival Druidism whereas I lean more towards reconstructionism**. He’s of OBOD and I’m in ADF. He is less comfortable with Celtic cultures whereas I have embraced them – past and present. He seems more interested in solitary practices whereas I work with a grove as well as on my own. What do we share in common besides the name? What unites us in some way?
Seillean and Alison Leigh Lilly both wrote about the archetype of the Druid in their respective blogs. There is power in that image. It is what called me to Druidism in the first place.
Eight or nine years ago, a friend and I dappled with Wicca. Her interest would wane but my involvement in Paganism would grow and flourish. Originally, it was nature who called me to Paganism. I will always be on an Earth-Centered path. From my childhood upwards, I’ve always been in love with the natural world. I hugged and played in the trees. I sympathized for the plants and animals and argued with a Catholic priest that they have souls. My mother used to say I must have been a Native American in a previous life *** because of how I would pretend to be an animal and dance around the house.
Yet I was not called by my Cree ancestors. As interested as I’ve always been, it was not for me. I looked elsewhere. The Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians seemed too urban. Witchcraft… Now that held my attention, and still does… A person of power… yet on the edges. An outcast in much of history. A woman scorned. No, that was not for me either though there is perfect validity in that practice. Much of it overlaps with what I do.
Enter the Druid, that mysterious, mythologized figure from our ancient past… He or she is of the trees. The Druid knows their language and worships in nature. They channel the divine world. The Druid, a priest shrouded in the mists of Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, Brittany, The Isle of Mann, Gaul… Those priests and priestesses of the Ancient Celts who met Caesar and other ancient historians and warlords. The Druids… The fathers and mothers of Merlin.
Did I mention my childhood adoration of Arthurian legend?
Much of my original understanding of Druids was romanticized. Turns out they weren’t just a bunch of tree-hugging dirt worshippers. But then again… that’s not all I do either, is it? Sure it’s a huge part of what I do, but the more I read about Druids, the more I realized I had in common with them. They were the learned people. They studied for years and years to become the judges, historians, teachers, and, yes, priests of their people – a people with a dynamic culture of art, bard-craft, and warrior skill. The Druids themselves could be multitalented. And there I was, a young woman in college – learning to serve my people. An artist, a writer, a priestess devoted to the Gods within my own home.
At first, the solitary, woodland mystique drew me to the Ancient Wise. As I grow in skill and erudition, my understanding of their history improves. I found a home for both my love of nature and culture. I can be a champion of the forest and an artist, teacher, and tribeswoman. Somehow, the two can intertwine in a balanced harmony – like a spiraling knot.
So here I am: an American mutt drawn to the romance of Celtic myth, legend, and culture – especially of Ireland – and the call of the Ancient Wise – the Druids. In reality, they were not perfect. They were not a bunch of pacifists as some would tell you. They were arguably not environmentalists. Yet they came from an animistic people who knew that there was a balance to be kept. As many modern Celts embrace the need to defend and spiritualize the wilds, so do I. So, in a roundabout way, that’s why I have embraced Druidism – a modern Druidism with room for the magic, the lone walks in the forests, the books, and the blogs.
* Seillean, if I have your gender wrong, I apologize profusely. Let me know and I’ll correct it right away.
** I am not a strict Celtic Reconstructionist – hence my membership with ADF. I prefer a balance, but when the cards are on the table, I will always lean heavily towards CR.
*** I have Cree ancestors, actually…