Dana: The Primal Enlivening

This essay was originally written as part of my work on the New Order of Druids‘ Bardic course.

As a died-in-the-wool agnostic, talk of gods and goddesses tends to make my eyes roll and I know that that’s bad. For one thing, it’s patronising to those who do believe, and the position of not knowing demands that you accept that you don’t know and therefore shouldn’t write things off too lightly.

I have always found it hard to engage with the idea of an active, external deity; I find the idea slightly too far-fetched. I am also aware that, from a logical point of view, something that can hide itself from our view or exist beyond our perceptions is not, therefore, perceivable so the argument of “where’s the proof?” feels weak from an epistemological perspective. I have never been one to worship or devote myself to a great big Someone-in-the-sky and I have never felt that that was a prerequisite to druidry. Compared to Wicca, where practitioner often declare their devotion to the gods, I feel that a druid is more likely to declare alliance. We are independent from the gods, but we are also broadly working to the same goals.

As an Earth goddess[1], Dana represents the land itself, and that is something I can engage with in a spiritual sense. A Wikipedia browse brought me to Dôn, a Welsh parallel to Dana, an important ancestor figure in Welsh mythology, and that is the feeling I get most strongly from Dana. The Earth is the mother of use all.

We’re All Just Borrowing Our Atoms

Every molecule in our body comes from something we have eaten, or have drank, or have breathed in. You are what you eat, and what you eat came from the Earth. The world persists and we pass through it (or it passes through us I feel like in the grand scheme of things, it’s the Earth that takes seniority here). Dana, the mother of us all, is an embodiment of that idea: the Earth feeds us, sustains us, and it’s to the Earth we all return. Continue reading “Dana: The Primal Enlivening”

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Into the Well of Beauty

This essay was originally written as part of my work on the New Order of Druids‘ Bardic course.

I find it hard to venerate the sacred or the divine, being perfectly honest. Part of that is the “let things be things” attitude that is part of who I am. Venerating and respecting, however, are separate things.

We talk about the whole world around us having personality; we animate almost everything: Architecture can be aggressive, eccentric, or welcoming. Colours are warm or cool. Flavours are hearty or indifferent. A cheap and fruity rosé might even be called flirty. I have known a car called Penelope. Humans layer meaning on everything as a way of interacting with it.

Animism is something that has always interested me. I was recently in Kyoto, where Shinto practices live on, and there was something both fascinating and comforting in seeing shrines, that I first though were bus shelters, maintained and looked after in recognition of the local kami. Whether guardian spirits existed in a ‘material’ sense is, in a way, irrelevant; people created links with the landscape. I remember reading a story of a man in Oakland, USA, who placed a statue of Buddha that he bought in a local hardware store on a street corner to dissuade people from dumping rubbish there, and over time it turned into a bustling, cared-for, and dedicated shrine. Everybody knows the shrine isn’t ancient, but by changing what the space meant, they behaved differently around it. Continue reading “Into the Well of Beauty”

A is for Air, Awen & Authenticity

This is part of my ABC of Druidry series as part of the YouTube Pagan Challenge 2018. The views are largely my own, although I have tried to bring in the views of others where relevant (with references).

Air

The element of air is strongly associated with the intellect in druidry. It represents the detached ego, rather than the firey id. It fills the space between us and our problems, even if we almost never notice it’s there, and I honestly think it’s most useful when we remember it.

Because of its detachment, breathing exercises are a fairly standard entry point to mindfulness meditation; focusing on your own breath is an intensely personal experience. As part of my mental health first aid training, one of the first things we were taught were a couple of methods to calm yourself down when things are getting too much. Continue reading “A is for Air, Awen & Authenticity”

Myth Work I: The Second Battle of Magh Tuireadh

This essay was originally written as part of my work on the New Order of Druids‘ Bardic course.

The Tuatha Dé Danann and the Formorians

The Tuatha Dé Danann are the main deities of Irish mythology representing growth and civilised thought, and their rivals, the Fomorians, represent chaos and destruction. In simple terms, the Tuatha Dé Danann represent order and tradition and “home”, while the Fomorians are invaders and captors.

Bres and Lugh

Bres, granted sovereignty and protected by seven warriors “if his own misdeeds should give cause” represents royal lineage and hereditary power; yet his conception was a haphazard tryst between two lovers who did not ever know one another’s names. He was named by his father even before he was born, and thus his fate was sealed – he represents order born of chaos. His rein is unpopular and he takes tributes and demands payment. He reflects on this, acknowledging that his own injustice and arrogance leading to his downfall, but chooses to continue his path. Continue reading “Myth Work I: The Second Battle of Magh Tuireadh”

The Nine Strands: Exploring the Druid Identity

This essay was originally written as part of my work on the New Order of Druids‘ Bardic course.

Ancient Celtic Practices

We know relatively little of early Celtic society and religion. Tacticus in his Annals XIV recorded that a druid stronghold on Anglesey was ransacked and colonised (in Cross, 2009). Groves were demolished and he mentioned “a pious duty to slake the alters with captive blood”. Lucan wrote of Julius Caesar visiting a grove near Marseilles “heaped with hideous offerings”. While there is likely an element of Roman propaganda and desire to denigrate the ‘savages’ in order to justify their actions, the consistency between the records indicates that sacrifice and divination using entrails may have been used. This is a very notably difference between ancient and modern druid practice. Diodorus Siculus wrote of Gaulish tribes using the death throes of human beings as a form of divination (Diodorus Siculus, n.d.).
Continue reading “The Nine Strands: Exploring the Druid Identity”

The Silver Branch

This essay was originally written as part of my work on the New Order of Druids‘ Bardic course.

What circumstances have drawn me to become interested in Druidic spirituality?

I have always been interested in spirituality, but never found a path that felt right. I, as a child, found tales of fairies fascinating. Later, ghosts and ghouls became my focus. The dead world of ancient Egypt and the rites and ritual to prepare for eternity called to me. The idea of being consciously close to something beyond the everyday has always fascinated me. Now, as a teacher by profession, a writer for recreation and a hippy by reputation, Druidry feels like a natural path to follow.

In my teens I, like many, experimented with touches of Wicca and bought tarot cards and rune stones. A few ‘surely’ coincidental experiences led me to never fully abandon notions that things could be more than what seemed immediate. At the same time, I approached all paths with open scepticism and dismissed those that projected ideas as facts. Christianity feels too ‘worshipful’, gender-politics and hellfire aside; Wicca felt, to me, too focussed on asking the ethereal for favours because you lit them a nice candle and Buddhism either too alien (culturally and spiritually) or too clinical (Western secularised Buddhism for middle-class people). Druidry allows for agnosticism, and I think embraces it; it is not about praying for intervention, or kowtowing to the unknowable. For me, it is about riding through the now and making choices that one thinks right to leave a good now for those who follow. While there is an association with Pagan religions (for example the Wheel of the Year is shared by many Wiccan and Druidic orders), there seems to be a peaceful coexistence and broad acceptance of diverse beliefs.

Continue reading “The Silver Branch”