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.