Tag Archives: Brynneth Nimue

What Makes a Druid?

For some people, the only druids are those who existed before the Romans wiped them out. For others it’s a term very much here and now, and available to anyone who claims it.  There are many who feel that to be a Druid is to hold a position of respect within your community, to act as a priest, and to have some years of training and experience behind you.

I’m just going to throw open some questions and hope people pile in with their answers. So far as I am concerned, there are no wrong answers here, but it’s interesting to share. Don’t feel obliged to answer all of them, either. Do as you will!

What defines a druid? Action? Belief? Role within a community? Relationship with the land, or the gods? Or something else?

Would it be better or worse if the title of Druid could be formally bestowed in a way everyone found recognisable?

What makes you able or unable to use the word ‘Druid’ (assuming it relates at all to what you’re doing, of course!)

What does ‘Druid’ mean to you?

Help!

Being a good natured, well meaning chap, James likes to be helpful. We’ve had a fair few interesting discussions around this, as he’s learned about the issue. Like most children, James started out with play helping – and frequently that’s entirely unhelpful. I wondered about letting him do that, but opted to very gently suggest that helping in an actually helpful way would be more use. He turned out to be totally open to this. Since then he’s become really good at responding to requests for help, and asking what help is needed rather than assuming he knows.

It’s very easy, when trying to help, to end up swamping, disempowering or depressing the person you meant to assist. It’s an easy time to accidentally patronise, or make the recipient feel that they’re not doing well enough as it is. “Is there anything I can do to help?” is much better than “Let me do that for you.” Or worse yet, “I can do that properly.” How we offer help shows our respect, or lack thereof for people.

If a person needs help because they are in difficulty, it means pretty much by definition that they have lost control of something. That might be through ill health, misfortune, injury, job loss, or any number of small or vast setbacks. The one thing a person in crisis needs more than anything else, is not to lose more autonomy. Genuine help means not taking more power from that person. It’s always easier to see the solutions to other people’s problems than our own, but rushing in with too much enthusiasm can do more harm than good. ‘Help’ that denies a person choices, or disempowers them in any way, is not useful.

If you want to help, with anything or anyone, then begin by asking what you can do. Don’t assume you know what they need, or even that you know what the problem is without checking. Ask what the other person needs, how you can support them, what they would like. Be willing to listen. Unless they are in a coma or otherwise totally unable to act on their own behalf, don’t act for them without consent, that can add to distress. Give a distressed person as much time as you can to speak for themselves and make their own choices. It’s not just a matter of fixing whatever the short term issues are, consider their longer term needs, dignity and sense of self.

If we rush in too fast, we can cause more harm than good. It’s so easy to railroad a person who is already in distress. The loss of control that goes with crisis creates fear, anxiety, and can make a person feel they do not know how to cope. Coming in and rushing someone can increase the feeling of lost control and make it harder for them to make good choices. To give true aid, it must be offered on the terms of the one who needs it, not on the terms of the ‘helper’ or what we do can easily make a bad situation worse.

No Curses

Lots of people associate paganism, especially witchcraft, with curses. One of the most commonly asked questions I get from non-pagans is ‘do you do curses?’ (It comes along with queries about dancing naked and sacrificing virgins.) Traditionally, curses have been a part of paganism – cunning folk did it and so did our ancient ancestors. However, in today’s ethical climate, it’s not a comfortable issue.

Wishing ill on people, no matter what they’ve done to you, is unethical. It’s not something I have ever done, nor would I consider doing it. There’s a secondary issue that it’s not good to be filled up with hatred and a hunger for revenge. Thirdly, many pagan folk believe in ideas like karma, and the wiccan notion of threefold return- what we do comes back to us. So in thought as well as deed, it’s not ok to send malevolence to another.

So what do you do, when conventional justice does not seem available? I think we all have moments when someone drives us to despair or rage, and we have no viable scope for responding. What do you wish for, or pray for? So below, partly for my own amusement, partly for yours, are some entirely ethical, but not remotely nice responses for when you don’t have any other options.

Wish them self knowledge and the chance to fully understand who they are and how others perceive them.

Wish them learning opportunities, and the chance to understand the impact of their actions.

Wish them the opportunity to share in what they have given you.

Wish them a conscience.

If you can’t tackle a person directly about wrongs committed, sometimes it helps to imagine them in front of you (when no one else is around to think you are crazy) and say aloud all the things you wish them to hear and understand. It’s a good way of venting and getting it out of your head and heart.

Above all else, wish for poetic justice, and imagine what form that would take. I’m going to come back on the poetic justice issue because it’s such an interesting one, both from a writing and a druidic perspective.

Druid Charity Status

The Druid Network has charity status – not registered yet, but rubber stamped as fulfilling the requirements for registration, so pretty much there. This is very big news. It makes tdn the first recognised Druid charity in the UK and the first pagan group to be registered under the 2006 Act. It’s taken years and a lot of very wonderful people have fought very hard to make this possible – dealing with a system that had been set up to handle religions shaped more like Christianity than not.

The Druid Network having achieved charitable status will bring all kinds of benefits to the organisation, enhancing credibility and creating opportunities to promote and support Druidry. This is all good. It also means that any other pagan charity is going to have a much better chance of getting charitable status. No other Druid group is going to have to prove that Druidry is a valid religion. Other pagan groups will be able to use the tdn case to help express their own. The process that has got tdn charitable status has helped create understanding of nature based religion, modern polytheism, and things that are not remotely like Christianity. As this is a legal definition of tdn as a religious charity, it will have all kinds of wider legal implications too.

It’s an awe inspiring thing to have seen happen. I’ve been in a position to watch from the sidelines through the later part of the process. The work that has gone into making this happen, has been colossal. It’s wonderful to see paganism being taken seriously, and I think this bodes well for our future. 

I know there are a significant number of pagans who are wary about contact with officialdom. For some, part of the attraction of paganism is precisely that we aren’t tied up in state structures and officialdom. However, for pagans to have the same rights as other folks and the freedom to live and worship on our own terms, we have to engage with the system. It’s vitally important that we do that without compromising the individual choice and responsibility inherent in paganism. To define ourselves without becoming dogmatic, and engage with authority without becoming authoritarian or hierarchical is going to be a challenge. The systems we deal with are based on assumptions that are totally unlike paganism.

One of the things that charitable status for the Druid Network shows is that we can engage and be heard, without having to become something other than we are. That gives me hope.