I’m an English Druid, this soil very much part of my psyche, and the rivers of my home feel like part of my blood. A sense of connection to the land itself is absolutely intrinsic to my Druidry, and if asked to explain what I do ‘priest of the land’ is a description I feel comfortable with. The landscape of the British Isles can seem to be hardwired into what the word ‘Druid’ means. Tara and Stonehenge, Avebury, Glastonbury, Anglesey… these settings evoke Druidry. Orders from beyond these shores claim Welsh, Irish and Avalonian influences even though they are far from the ‘motherland’. You could be forgiven for thinking that to be a Druid is to be a priest, very specifically, of this landscape, and that to live beyond these shores means having your work cut out. I don’t think that’s the case at all.
I’ve been to America twice. The first time, I remember those early views of the landscape as I flew in over the east coast and the absolute sense of enormity. Looking at maps gives a person no sense at all of how huge America is. England has been densely populated for a very long time. We don’t have much in the way of untouched landscapes, but America does. The sense of wildness, and vastness, struck me.
A few days after that landing, I was on a beach, attempting a bardic initiation. Planning it from the comfort of home, I’d rather arrogantly imagined it would be easy. I knew from the moment my feet touched soil that I had a very steep learning curve ahead of me. This was not my land. It was not in my bones, and my ancestors were not part of it. I did not have the rivers in my blood. I had never heard the voices of the spirits of place. The sense of being a small thing in a big place and totally out of my depth, was educational to say the least. I was lucky, though, the beach was used to people, and welcoming enough, tolerant of a lone Druid from another place who had not got sufficient time to really learn to feel any of it properly.
To be a priest of the land, is to be the priest of the specific bit of land you are engaging with. I’d say as a general rule it’s probably wherever you can walk to from where you live. You may find there’s a core, that you really belong to, a wider landscape where you feel passably at home and a point somewhere beyond that where it all starts to get a bit alien.
Every landscape has spirits. Every land has power, sacredness and a need for service. What your landscape may not have, is stories. One of the things that makes the iconic places of the British Isles seem so powerful, is the number and richness of the stories attached to them. However, most of the UK is not in the Isle of Avalon and doesn’t have a stone circle or other mythic place in easy walking distance. I spent a decade in a more industrial landscape where stories of place where few, and I found engaging with the land hard work. I grew up in a place rich with story.
It is through stories that we connect to the land. If your landscape doesn’t have the kind of mythic, powerful tales to make it equivalent to Stonehenge, the answer is simple: Make them up. Invent them. All stories were made up by people, either out of pure imagination, or based on shreds of history, or weaving the two together in ways absolutely designed to give future historians nasty headaches. If your landscape does not have myths, then the greatest service you can perform, is to invent a few. Getting into the details of how to do that would need another blog in its own right, at the very least, but I wanted to seed the idea, because I think it’s a very important one.
Druidry is an international movement. No one outside the UK should ever feel that their landscape is somehow less important, or that their connection to the land less meaningful. Wherever your land is, that’s where you are a Druid. And in truth, there is no definite historical connection between the ancient Druids and most of the UK sites associated with them, although I think a pretty decent case can be made for Anglesey. It’s just stories. Future Druids, wherever you happen to be, can have stories of Druidry in your landscape, if you create them. Listen to the land, and the stories will come, because that’s very much in the nature of stories. They turn up when you’re paying attention, and sometimes when you aren’t as well.
Anyone interested in exploring the subject of modern Druidry’s relationship with ancestry, I’d like to point you at my book Druidry and Ancestors.
I also blog most days at www.druidlife.wordpress.com
By Nimue Brown