My name is Avery and I’m a member of the Reformed Druids of North America, the oldest druid group native to the United States. I write mostly non-fiction, but I felt compelled by another pagan blogger’s challenge to make June Pagan Values Blogging Month.
I like to keep my mind open to the supernatural, but not so open that my brains fall out– which means I take a lot of religion with skepticism. Yet insofar as the Reformed Druids are a pagan group, I feel like our special brand of paganism is something I should be proud of. In our membership ceremony we honor all aspects of nature both seen and unseen. We give non-human beings the well-deserved dignity of equal treatment with humankind, and we acknowledge, for once in the twists and turns of our lives, our own limitations: “Thou art everywhere, but we worship thee here; Thou art without form, but we worship thee in these forms; Thou hast no need of prayers and sacrifices, yet we offer thee these prayers and sacrifices.” These words seem self-conscious and meek, but when they are said in a ceremony they feel very right to me. Would that in our everyday lives we could recognize our ignorance of the effect our actions have on the living planet that produced our bodies.
Reformed Druidry is about doing more than just “appreciating nature” or “doing something for our environment”. It is recognizing that we are part of nature, and we are part of our environment, despite all our attempts to separate ourselves. This is a form of wisdom known to cultures around the world, when they address other living creatures as people, or welcome animals or plants into their daily lives as equals. It doesn’t involve believing in anything you can’t see– rather, a new druid is asked only to broaden her definition of what’s important to her.
I’ve read a few books that strengthen the philosophical backing for these new pagan values: Graham Harvey’s Animism: Respecting the Living World and David Abram’s The Spell of the Sensuous. Both these writers give examples of how living in a shamanic or animistic community changes one’s perception of reality. Abram, a philosophy professor, talks about how the powerful relationships he had with birds during his time studying in Nepal. Harvey writes about his time living with neopagan groups in Britain, and how he discovered affinities for animals he never realized he had. Both these writers question the language we normally use to describe nature, and the baggage it carries with it. You can think of paganism as dangerous language–with every special term and phrase, it challenges the religious status quo and disturbs those who want a “normal” religion to live a “normal” life with. Reformed Druidry especially, explicitly drawing its inspiration from the non-human planet, upsets our assumption that the Earth is ours for the taking.
When I talk to my friends about my religion, I point out that there’s no need for a leap of faith to believe in what I say, and scientific evidence will neither back me up nor disprove me. Reformed Druidry is a choice: a choice about how to interpret what you already know, and what you will choose to act on.