The Role of the Modern Druid


Druidry is a religion, it is a spirituality, it is a way. But more importantly it is a relationship – a relationship with Nature, with the Universe. In this post I want to look again at Druidry – how there are differences and similarities between the ancient Druids and those today, but also how both are based on a relationship with the world around us. A modern Druid author named Greywind writes in his book, The Voice Within The Wind, about nine roles of a Druid. By using the lens of the Bard/ Ovate/ Druid distinctions, we can look at those nine roles and see what a modern day Druid might be like, especially from a naturalistic perspective.

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Ancient Druids were made up of three groups. The first of these was the Bard. In Greywinds book, he identifies two strands of Druidism that could be said to be the roles of the Bard. First, Druidry is based in Celtic culture, language, mythology and history. The role of an ancient Bard was to act as a historian and lore keeper, to tell stories, make music, recite poetry to remind people of their history and culture, to inspire and to entertain. Today, modern Druids can study ancient Celtic culture in order to inform their beliefs and actions as Druids, but they can also go further. Bards can become modern historians and genealogists, reminding everyone of the collective histories (not just the celtic parts) of their family/ local area/ nation (and even of the Earth/ Universe through the epic of Cosmic Evolution). This will help to give people a grounding, a context within which to see themselves and live their lives and perhaps to inspire them to live in better ways.

The second Bardic strand identified by Greywind was Art. The Celtic people’s produced a lot of Art, especially sacred art. Bards were very creative and created stories, music and poetry to help spread their messages. Today we can take this further – Bards can write books, make films, be orators/ public speakers, take photographs, act on stage and do performing arts, alongside the traditional Bardic arts, in order to entertain and to point people towards Awen – towards the magic we experience in the miracles of Nature.

The next group in Ancient Druidry was the Ovate. There are three strands that could be said to be the preserve of the Ovate. The first of these was healing. Ovates were the healers of the ancient Celtic world, not just physical healing but also spiritual healing – keeping balance and looking after the relationships between the human and “more than human” worlds. Regarding physical healing, they would have been experts in Herbalism. Today, modern Ovates could learn Herbalism once again, as well as First Aid in order to help to heal people. Some may even wish to become Doctors.

A second Ovate strand is Metaphysics. The ancient Druids believed in a cosmos made up of land, sea and sky, but also of supernatural elements like the Otherworld. From a naturalistic point of view, a modern Druid may choose not to believe in the existence of the Otherworld if there is no scientific evidence. However, knowing about the Cosmos and the world around us is surely a modern Ovate role. Ovates would study Astronomy to know about the universe, as well as becoming scientists and naturalists to know about the world around them, giving them a deep sense of awe and wonder at the universe and a closer relationship with the natural world. Alongside this, Ovates could study Bushcraft, to know how to survive in the wild, to learn more about nature and to awaken or sharpen their primitive instincts.

The third Ovate strand is Seership. Ancient Ovates were Shamans, experts at divination and contacting the Otherworld for wisdom and healing. While there may be some benefit to using Tarot Cards to try to view situations differently, or to using drumming techniques to alter states of consciousness, a Modern Ovate would not necessarily have to believe in the supernatural. There are modern ways of “divination” such as learning to predict the weather based on watching clouds and nature that an Ovate could study i.e. studying nature and its patterns in order to be able to predict things. Another aspect of Shamanism includes helping people with non-physical healing…some would call this the spiritual aspects of their souls, others psychological or mental health. By studying psychology and skills like counselling, Ovates can do a similar job in looking after the holistic health of a person, both physical and spiritual/ psychological. Part of this role must also include healing people’s relationship with nature – healing the rift between the human and “more than human world.” by adopting a naturalistic form of Animism which saw the “spirits of a place” as the living beings themselves – insects, animals, plants, trees, microorganisms, an Ovate would seek to heal our relationship with them, teaching humans to respect and look after them.

A group of druids from the Sylvan Grove of the...The final group of Druidry was the Druids themselves. There are four strands identified by Greywind that I feel represent the role of the Druid. The first is Ritual. Ancient Druids would conduct the important spiritual rituals of the tribes, especially at the times of the Festivals. Today, we do not necessarily know the exact rituals that were followed, but we can make our own that are meaningful to us, whether elaborate or simple, and modern day Druids can oversee these rituals. Modern Druids can celebrate the eight festivals and invite others to do the same, in order to help increase everyone’s awareness of the changes in nature – be they agricultural/ seasonal or solar – and simply to have fun. Druids could also celebrate the lunar cycle.

The second Druid strand is Natural Philosophy. Ancient Druids would study both the inner and outer world – the physical as well as the spiritual and would seek to learn from observation of nature in order to understand and create their philosophies for life and living. Modern Druids can do the same – studying Philosophy to discover the wisdom of the past but more importantly studying nature and the way the world works now to find the best ways to live. Looking for wisdom in the sciences e.g. seeing how evolution and Gaia theory teaches that we all have a common ancestor, are all kin, are all interconnected, and then building our lives and our ethics upon that understanding.

The third Druid strand is Teaching. Ancient Druids would teach their people through various methods about their culture, laws, the universe and nature. Modern druids can do the same – through a variety of means. We can learn, and then teach others what we have learned so that we can all live better lives in relationship with the natural world. Some Druids may choose to have a career as a teacher.

The fourth and final Druid strand is Service. The Druid class in ancient Celtic cultures was very important, highly respected and occupied many of the most important roles in society – whether that be judges, teachers, peacemakers, political advisors, philosophers or ritualists. Druids were there to give a service to society around them. Modern Druids can follow this same path – not sitting back, but getting active in society, whether that’s learning about law, how to help people become more peaceful and solve conflicts or giving advice, and helping or holding to account those in politics. Druids were a class who believed in getting involved in their world and trying to make it a better place. Those who aspire to be modern Druids must do the same.

I believe that as Naturalistic Pantheists, we can take on a modern role of a Druid and fulfill these roles in our own lives.

Sabbath Manifesto

shabbat pictureOne of the religions that has always inspired me and has a host of wonderful religious practices is Judaism. One of their primary practices, and probably the reason for the survival of their culture during 2000 years of Christian persecution, is Shabbat, the Sabbath. The Sabbath, beginning at sunset on Friday evening and ending at Sunset on Saturday evening, is the most sacred day of the week for the Jewish people. On this day, the whole family gathers for a special meal, candles are lit, prayers are said and a special meal is eaten. They are forbidden from doing any work on this day as it is a day of rest. It is a time for religious practices, for spending time with friends and family and for celebration.

As a Naturalistic Pantheist, I strongly believe that we can learn from this practice and adopt it to our own needs. In fact, there is already a movement called the “digital sabbath” or “secular sabbath” growing in popularity. With internet addiction becoming a growing problem and our materialist, ever connected, consumer culture wreaking havoc on our social lives and on the environment, perhaps a “Pantheist Sabbath” once a week could do wonders for our relationships, our personal lives and the environment.

But how would it work? The Sabbath Manifesto project has set out 10 guidelines for a modern Sabbath, whether secular or religious. These are –

  • Avoid Technology
  • Connect with Loved Ones
  • Nurture your Health
  • Get Outside
  • Avoid Commerce
  • Light Candles
  • Drink Wine
  • Eat Bread
  • Find Silence
  • Give Back

Using these guidelines, I believe that Naturalistic Pantheists can create their own “Shabbat” celebrations, perhaps weekly or perhaps on full and dark moons? And we can take time out to both give ourselves, and Mother Nature, a rest. What do you think?

Go Vegan?

fruit and veg pictureI’ve been a Vegetarian for 10 months now. As a Pantheist, I believe all life is interconnected, all life is kin and all life deserves respect. Pantheism means to be reverent toward and hold nature sacred. Some may argue that we should eat meat because the animal kingdom includes meat eating – but it does so because some animals do not know any different and have no other options for meeting their dietary needs. For humans this is not the case – we can make a choice! It is possible to live a full and healthy life on either a vegetarian or vegan diet. In fact, its much healthier than eating a meat based diet. Having been a Vegetarian for almost a year, I am considering going Vegan now as I research and learn more about the cruelty inflicted upon animals in the egg and dairy industries. I want to ensure that my life fits in with my values and I do all I can to show respect and reverence to Mother Nature.

Below is a video about Veganism. Have a watch and then consider whether how your life choices are guided by your values.

Contemplative Practices

As Pantheists, one of the key religious practices open to us, is Contemplation. Contemplative practices help to quiet the mind in order to develop deeper concentration and insight. They help us to develop ourselves spiritually and to awaken in us an awareness of the interconnectedness of all life. They help us to cultivate a more compassionate and peaceful approach to life. They help us to reduce stress, improve focus and channel our creativity.

The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society has created a tree outlining many possible contemplative practices. Why don’t you try cultivating one this week?

contemplative practices tree

Celebrating Lughnasadh

Happy Lughnasadh everyone!

Lughnasadh/ Lammas is one of the four ancient Celtic Fire Festivals and is held on 1st August every year. It celebrated the beginning of Autumn, the first harvest festival and the firstfruits (primarily the grains although some wild berries are out at this time.) Being an agricultural community, on Lughnasadh, the Celtic farmers would cut the first grains of the season and the families would make loaves of bread. In Irish mythology, the festival was said to have been started by Lugh, the many-skilled sun god, as a funeral feast and sporting competition in commemoration of his foster mother, Tailtiu, who died of exhaustion after clearing the plains of Ireland for agriculture. The festival evolved into a great tribal assembly where legal agreements were made, political problems were discussed and huge olympic-style sporting contests were held. It was also one of two festivals where hand-fastings were traditionally held. Lughnasadh is a time to be grateful for the food on our table and to remember that the hot days of summer are coming to an end as we approach the cold half of the year. It is a time to begin reaping what has been sown and it’s traditional to celebrate this time by making corn dollies, baking bread and having bonfires on hilltops. As Naturalistic Pantheist, we celebrate this time to attune ourselves to the changing seasons and to remember the ever turning cycle of the year.

Prayer for the Grain

Fields of gold,
waves of grain,
the summer comes to a close.
The harvest is ready,
ripe for threshing,
as the sun fades into autumn.
Flour will be milled,
bread will be baked,
and we shall eat f
or another winter.

Below is a song celebrating Lughnasadh/ Lammas…

 

The 3 Why’s of Ritual

I wanted to look at the subject of Ritual. Is there any point to it? Can it bring value to our lives as Naturalistic Pantheists? Ritual is a major part of most religions, but the question is why?

I would like to suggest that there are three reasons why ritual is important, whether or not we believe in anything supernatural about it – it reminds us to stop and be aware of the world around us, it has an effect on us internally and it helps us to connect to something bigger than ourselves.

1) Awareness

How many of us think about all the plants and animals around us when we walk down the street? How many of us eat a meal without thinking about the fact that something had to die so that we could eat and live? Many of the spiritual practices of the worlds religions have at their core, the practice of Mindfulness. They call to us to take time out, amidst the hustle and bustle of everyday life, to forget the baggage and distractions, and to stop, to be, to focus, to listen. They call us to be mindful and aware of the world around us, to be aware of other people and of nature. They put the important things in life at the centre of our attention – the sacred things, and give us the chance to focus on them.

2) Change

Ritual is a powerful tool. It effects us in a way that mere intellectual thought and debate never can – it taps into our psyche in a very strong way because it allows us to experience something. Experience can have a very powerful influence on our thinking and behaviour and is a key factor in forming who we become. The ritual experience can change us at a deep level, it can help us to form and ingrain habits and to build character so that we can become the type of people we wish to be.

3) Connection

There is something “more” to life, there is something “bigger than ourselves”. That thing is nature, it is the universe. Through ritual we can come to realise that, to realise that there is more to life than “my ego.” Ritual helps to teach us to be humble, to be reverent and respectful and to celebrate life. It teaches us that we are just one part of a greater and awesome whole. And it can help us connect to that whole, to honour our relationship with it, in a way we couldn’t do otherwise.

Naturalistic Pantheism and Druidry

Druidry is both an ancient and modern spiritual path that appeals to me more than most others. I am currently studying a lot about this path and how it might fit into a Naturalistic Pantheist worldview. I will be writing about my thoughts and discoveries more in upcoming posts.

So what is Druidry?

The most common interpretation of the word “Druid” itself  is that it comes from two ancient British words, “dru” meaning “oak” and “wid” meaning “wisdom.” So, the word implies somone who is wise in the ways of nature.

Little is known about the ancient Druids because they were forbidden to write things down. What little is known is recorded either centuries later or by their enemies. After Christianity conquered Britain and Europe, the Druid tradition died out. However, in the 18th Century it enjoyed a renaissance and has continued until this day. They were the priestly cast of the ancient Celtic world. They were split into three types – Bard (poets, storytellers, musicians), Ovates (healers and seers) and Druids (judges, priests, teachers, political advisors). It would take 20 years to study to become a full Druid beginning with learning the Bardic arts and progressing from there.

While ancient Druids were probably animistic, polytheistic and probably pantheistic, modern Druidry is non dogmatic on such issues, allowing a range of views and beliefs. However there are some principles of Druidry around which all Druids can unite and seek to foster within themselves –

  • Love of the Land, the Earth, the Wild ~ reverence for Nature.

  • Love of Peace ~ Druids were traditionally peace-makers.

  • Love of Beauty ~ The Druid path cultivates the Bard, the Artist Within, and fosters creativity.

  • Love of Justice ~ Druids were judges and law-makers. Traditionally Druids are interested in restorative, not punitive, justice.

  • Love of Story and Myth ~ Druidry recognises and uses the power of mythology and stories.

  • Love of History and Reverence for the Ancestors ~ Druidry recognizes the forming power of the Past.

  • Love of Trees ~ Druids today plant trees and Sacred Groves, and study treelore.

  • Love of Stones ~ Druids today build stone circles and collect stones.

  • Love of Truth ~ Druid Philosophy is a quest for Wisdom.

  • Love of Animals ~ Druidry sees animals as sacred, and teaches sacred animal lore.

  • Love of the Body ~ Druidry sees the body and sexuality as sacred.

  • Love of the Sun, Moon, Stars, and Sky ~ Druid Starlore, embodied in the old stories and in the stone circles, teaches a love for the Universe.

  • Love of Each Other ~ Druidry fosters the magic of relationships, of community.

  • Love of Life ~ Druidry encourages celebration and full commitment to life. It is not a spirituality that wants us to escape from life.

The brilliant video below explains Druid Spirituality very well….

For more information on Druidry, check out these sites –

http://www.druidry.org/ – Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids

http://druidnetwork.org/ – The Druid Network

http://www.druidcircle.org – The New Order of Druids