Liminal Druidry

As Jay pointed out yesterday, druidry is very much about community, and making sense of being a solitary druid is tricky. It doesn’t mean you have to be part of a working group to be a druid, but most druids have some point of connection with others through orders and networking groups at the very least. Druids who work alone tend to keep in touch with other druids. Connection is one of those core druid concepts. There are a great many druid groups out there, so finding a place to connect isn’t that hard.

But imagine you found yourself in the middle of nowhere, with no internet, no pagan folk around you, no convenient druid-next-door. What defines a druid then? How do you hold that sense of druid space until the next druid turns up to make a community again? We are of course in relationship with everything else too, in community with all of existence, and that is important even if you are the only druid in the village.

What makes a solitary druid different from, say, a hedgewitch? I think it comes down to where we stand. The work of the druid involves walking the liminal places, going through life with one foot in each world, one foot on a goat, one foot on a well…

For many spiritual people, the work of the priest or celebrant involves mediating between the ‘mundane’ and the ‘spiritual’ and that’s as true for druids. However we relate to ideas of spirit and deity, we stand between the world as consensus draws it and the world as we understand it, and we have to mediate between the two. We also have to walk with one foot in the wilderness and one foot in civilization. A druid is called both to nature, and to culture, needs to honour both and mediate between the two. To be a druid is to be both reasoned and emotional in a culture that tries to treat the two as wholly different and incompatible. It is to embrace science and belief when the majority see these two as opposing forces that cannot be reconciled.

The druid’s work is about peace and reconciliation, bringing back together things this very polarised western culture has tried to separate. Human and nature, male and female, science and faith, heart and mind, mind and body, freedom and responsibility. Whether we walk alone or work together, we can still travel the liminal places, exploring the inbetweens where mainstream culture does not dare to tread, and showing, through our deeds and words, that there is no great divide between anything.

I shall go forth, neither clothed nor unclothed, neither walking nor riding… it’s a riddle that crops up in old stories. The story solution involves the character heading off in their underwear, with one foot in the stirrup and the other hopping along the ground. A bit literal, but an amusing image. But it makes me think of Godiva, naked on horseback clothed only by her hair, and Llew Llaw Gyffes with one foot on a well and the other on a goat. It’s the cunning person on the edge of the village, between the people and the wild. Never quite one thing or the other, never quite belonging, but not an outcast, never entirely comfortable, always unsettling. There is, I think, space enough to be a solitary druid, this way.

7 thoughts on “Liminal Druidry”

  1. This post speaks strongly of human to human relationship, which is important but perhaps no more so than human to otherthanhuman relationship. You are never alone. I know you know that. And indeed I too am the only druid in my village. 🙂

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  2. Beautifully put, Brynneth. The liminality of Druidry – as you say, between wilderness and culture – and its relationship to peacemaking and reconciliation… all that, yes!

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  3. You have place a story idea in my head. Not really about being a druid. I have no experience with that, and don’t know much about it. But about being ‘between’

    I am glad you’ve found a path to follow that gives you the peace and balance you’ve been searching for. 🙂

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  4. Ahhh but riding the hedge, the edge, the boundary, is what a Hedgewitch is – as I see it. A kind of native shaman (shaman being a term appropriated from other cultures, I am not comfortable with it) but a hedge-rider is on the cusp of things, the point of balance, we walk at the turn of the day and night, at the turn of the season, to seek in the Otherworld help for this world and to make it work we must work in this world. Not so different to Druidry perhaps. The deeper you go into any tradition, the less need there is for words and definitions. If we could write down all we experienced, there’d be no need to go seeking …

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  5. As I mentioned yesterday:

    “Druids throughout the ages seem to have some things in common: service, love of nature, a sense of connection, belief in the immortality of the soul, education, high standards with regard to personal ethics (a sense and an idea of honour), in tune with their time’s needs and culture, and an affinity to the culture/philosophy that Druids are associated with.”

    This can apply to a Druid involved in a Druid community or alone. Before I started up a Grove, I spent over 10 years as a solitary Druid because there were very few Druids around. For seven of those years, I had no access to the internet and thus was very much alone both in my locale and outside of it.

    How could I call myself a Druid with no other Druids around? If a tree falls in the forest and no is around to hear it, does it still make a sound?

    Below is how I fulfilled the commonalities:

    1. Service – The Path of Service that I follow is tri-fold:

    a. Service to the Gods – building relationships with the Gods, celebrating the turning of the seasons, feast days, etc.

    b. Service to the Community – Even though I was not involved in the Pagan community, I was still very much serving my Community: the community at large. I’ve been volunteering for various causes since I was 12 years old. I worked with a friend of mine to help teens get off the streets and find ways to live in their own without needing to live on the streets, I volunteered at school, etc. I now work in the field as a Volunteer Coordinator at a nursing home.

    c. Service to Self – This may seem selfish, but it means that I try to keep myself healthy, keep the relationships with the ones that matter in my life healthy, work hard to earn a living and reap the rewards of helping others through my work, keep my mind sharp by endeavouring to learn new things all the time, etc. When I was starting out on my own as a Druid, I studied on my own from books and from Nature.

    2. Love of Nature – As a teenager (I was 15 when I started on this path and am 35 now), I took it upon myself to “adopt” a natural area that was near my parents’ home. I picked up litter, meditated and cared for the land as best as I could. I befriended the spirits of the place and soon felt that it was my second home. I also cared for plants of my own and learned what I could about the ecosystem. We now recycle 85% of our household waste and I do not use toxic substances in my home or garden.

    3. A sense of connection – While I had no real connections with other Druids, I did forge connections with Nature, the Kindreds, etc. I forged connections with other people in many other ways (service, friendship, etc.)

    4. Belief in the Immortality of the Soul – I used to get into lots of trouble in Catholic school because of my specific beliefs on this subject when I was a little kid. I’d always ask my teachers: “If the soul is immortal, why does it only get the span of one human lifetime to perfect itself and then it either goes to Heaven or Hell? An immortal being has eternity to grow, learn and perfect itself. Why does God only give it 80 years on average? It doesn’t make sense!”

    5. Education – I was educated like many other kids in my locale, but I took it upon myself to study what I could of Druidry when I was in my mid-teens and beyond, because I felt that irresistible pull toward becoming a Druid when I first started reading about the Celts. I am currently attending university and studying psychology because that is an area of interest for me and I like to help people. I was not able to attend university when I got out of high school because I couldn’t afford it. I’ve worked since I was 13 and now have the equity and enough money to pay for a course at a time. It’s a long haul, but it’s worth it!

    6. High standards with regard to personal ethics (a sense and an idea of honour) – One thing people have always been able to say about me is that I stick to my ethics and don’t bend them to fit in or become a part of the Status Quo. I have a special interest in Brehon Law and the Celtic wisdom texts and studied as much as I could. (Still do!) I live by my own standard of Ethics the best that I can.

    7. In tune with their time’s needs and culture – I was very fortunate to go to a school that was small, democratic and offered self-directed learning. We were entirely responsible for our education and had to account for every hour toward the completion of a 5 credit or 3 credit course (25 hours per credit). Our teachers taught us the value of being informed citizens and we learned the value of democracy first hand. The students ran the school and every week, there would be a General Meeting where everything from participating in a fundraiser to buying a new bus for the school were discussed and voted upon by the students and teachers. (Students outnumbered the teachers, so our vote counted for a lot!) The meetings were run strictly using Robert’s Rules of Order. A different set of students would serve as Chair and Secretary for the meeting. No teachers ever ran the meetings. Thanks to the school, I got very involved in my community and knew what was happening around the world.

    8. An affinity to the culture/philosophy that Druids are associated with – I had wanted to know of my family heritage when I was 15 and my Mum brought home books on the Celts for me to read. Reading of the Druids, I felt that call and that irresistible pull. I couldn’t learn enough about the Celts, their culture, their beliefs and their legends. Most of all, I couldn’t learn enough about their spirituality and the role of the Druids in their society. I kept thinking “If only Druids were still around today… that is what I would do with my life!” A year later, I did find out about modern Druids and I started on my path becoming a Modern Druid.

    Isn’t being a solitary Druid the same as being a Hedge-Witch? In my case, no. I am not one who practices an abundance of magic and I very strongly believe in the path that I have chosen for myself as a Druid. I’ve worked incredibly hard to get to where I am, to learn what I’ve learned and am very focused on continuing to learn because “Seeking the Truth Against the World” is also a common value for many Druids.

    For me, it means to seek Truth, whatever it may be, for oneself. I teach that way as well: I provide the framework of base knowledge and my students have to take that, learn on their own and forge their own personal belief system and practice as a Modern Druid. They cannot just take my words as Truth, they have to take them and find their own Truth Against the World!

    One other saying I hold true to: “Truth in our hearts, Strength in our arms and what we say we fulfill”. (Oisin’s words about how the Fianna lived when questioned by St. Patrick just before his death)

    Druidry is more than just community or any one of the things mentioned above by themselves. It is intrinsic to each Druid. Each Druid has their own way of practicing their faith or philosophy (or both!), but there is a common thread that is significant to Druids. I’ve mentioned my points above, but I know there are others that I’ve missed!

    After all, if there were no commonalities that distinguished a Druid from a Hedgewitch or a Wiccan or a member of the Order of the Golden Dawn, etc. , then we wouldn’t be Druids. We’d just be following another path entirely. There is something that makes us different and makes us who we are. That something is very strong, but also hard to pin down.

    Just my two cents again. :^)

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  6. Very interesting stuff, Athelia, thanks for that – I don’t want to suggest that a druid is a hedgewitch, by the way! There are many differences. DIfferent paths for different folks, is all, we end up the same in the end. I was kind of playing in the middle a bit, to provoke thought 🙂 I am not a magic-sort of person, It is more about thought and action for me. I’m not a witch, I’m not an anything, I can;t find a label that fits at all. Druidry inspires me but I shy away from the very structures that help others find a comfort.

    A lot of what you said about Truth is very similar to what I found in Quakerism, actually. They spoke of the Light, the Truth within every person – whether that person knew it or not. So if you met someone you didn’t like, you spoke to the Light within – you could still connect with that person.

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