Druids are for life, not just the solstices!
As the winter solstice approaches, once again the newspapers turn their attention to pagans and druids, as regular as hanging up a stocking by the fireplace, the mainstream media notice us as a cash cow to exploit what for many of us, is a living breathing spirituality and practice.
The article below, written by The Times newspaper in 2017, although positive in some respects, reflects only one picture of druidry, a sanitised harmless picture that is suitable for it’s own customer base. This has prompted me to focus on who and what we are.
We teach & practice Druidry as a living indigenous spirituality for the 21st century. We’re one of the more ‘shamanic’ Druid groups that people come across. We are not big on hierarchy, and have been described as having a ‘anarchic’ approach.
We do not feel that anyone has to go to a forest or on top of a mountain to practice their spirituality. Although contact with nature away from human intervention is essential, we are part of nature itself, and on a practical note developing a practice that involves having to cut yourself off from our world can easily lead to simply developing a weekend hobby rather than a truly lived experience.
Many of us are solo practitioners, as well as joining larger groups for the seasonal rituals, thus in everyday practice we tend not to be in groups holding hands and asking for something. By and large – and yes this a generalisation – with an animistic approach, we are never truly alone as we are surrounded by nature and spirits all the time once we learn to see and recognise them. Often, rather than asking for things, when we make a connection, either within, or without, we ask what we can do, or we ask for guidance, we ask how we can be of service. One of the most basic of approaches is to act respectfully, ask what do they need (which must be carried out or negotiated if it is an impossible task) and to thank them for the shared experience.
This can lead to many different paths. It can lead to environmental campaigning or activism. It can lead to storytelling to keep the memories and connections alive.It can lead to people giving up their time voluntarily for charities. It can lead to people surprising themselves and getting into elected positions so that they can have a greater say in how people and nature are treated. It can lead, amongst our hectic lives, to simply living a kinder life.
We are, and we can be “beardy weirdies”, a bunch of old hippies, businessmen, scientists, psychologists and artists. We are men, women, trans, bi, gay and all flavours in between. It matters extremely little what a persons salary or bank balance is, whether this be huge or non-existent. It matters not what your status in this screwed up world is. What matters most in this world today is our passion and spiritual connection. This is not something you can buy or sell. Consumerism and exploitation of nature, “resources” and people are all interlinked. Yes we have courses that cost money to join, this is just a part of what we are about and we believe that increasing connection and respect is the best way that the BDO as a whole can make positive change in these troubled times.
The way that The Times tries to distance people from ’embarrassment’ and ‘stereotypes’ reminded me very clearly of a time a couple of years ago, when I was deep in ritual inside the darkness of a cave in a hillside above a dual carriageway. Drumming, drumming, drumming, and asking what I had to do to increase my connection to spirit. I have no idea how long I was in trance for, but it ended with one clear message for me.
Literally these words…
“Stop giving a fuck what people think”
The original Times article is quoted below –
Another Winter Solstice Heralds Rise of Druidry
Druids are preparing to don their robes at Stonehenge on Thursday to greet another winter solstice, but as well as “beardy weirdies”, there are more and more people from all walks of life who are finding inspiration in the Celtic faith.
A gathering at Glastonbury town hall last weekend, which was attended by businessmen, scientists, Christians, psychologists and artists, shows how druidry is attracting adherents from what is one of Britain’s fastest-growing faith groups: spiritual but not religious (SBNR).
These people are turning to a movement that is rooted in the heritage of these lands and focuses on worshipping nature because they do not want to sign up to any doctrine, says Philip Carr-Gomm, the chief druid of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids.
“You might imagine that we are a bunch of old hippies, and that’s the trouble with the Stonehenge thing. It’s very easy to form a stereotype,” he says. “People who find established religion unsatisfactory have reached out to us.”
A study by Pew Research Center, a US think tank, suggests that 27 per cent of Americans identify as SBNR and the figure is estimated to be about 20 per cent the UK, according to Lois Lee, a research fellow in religious studies at the University of Kent. Carr-Gomm is convinced that such people have swelled the membership of the 12 druid organisations operating in the UK.
The Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids has 22,000 members. “A lot of people would say that they feel closest to nature in a forest or on top of a mountain,” adds Carr-Gomm, a 65-year-old father of four who was introduced to druidry as an 11-year-old and was fascinated by the mythology of the Celtic pagan cult that was effectively wiped out by the coming of Christianity. However, its teaching survived through the old stories being recorded by Christian scribes from the 9th century onwards.
William Stukeley, an antiquarian and an Anglican vicar, was a key figure in the druid revival of the 18th century after claiming that the stone circles at Avebury and Stonehenge were monuments for druidic worship.
Neo-druidry was a product of the Enlightenment. “People began to think, ‘Hang on a minute, our pre-Christian ancestors were not grunting savages. They were philosophers and sages,’ ” Carr-Gomm says.
The movement was boosted by “flower power” in the Sixties and by the decline of Christianity as the prevailing spiritual orthodoxy. John Michell’s 1969 book The New View Over Atlantis popularised the theory of ancient ley lines connecting sacred sites such as Stonehenge. The environmental movement of the 1990s brought another wave of converts, who saw druids as beacons of light in a world under ecological threat and decided that, because trees were a symbol of creation and wisdom, they would worship them.
The chief druid has an aura of wizardry and a splendid beard
Druidism was recognised as an official religion when the Charity Commission accepted the Druid Network’s application for charitable status in 2010. Today thousands of people are signing up to the distance-learning course that Carr-Gomm runs and he has been inundated with requests from non-druids who would like to train as celebrants so that they can conduct a druid wedding, funeral or naming ceremony.
Carr-Gomm occasionally acts as a celebrant and has an aura of wizardry as well as a rather splendid beard. However, he is shy of telling people about his affiliation and has disassociated himself from the main druid events at Stonehenge because he believes that they have become “a magnet for partygoers”. “I think druidry is a bit wacky myself, but then a lot of what’s going on in the world is wacky. Trump is a bit weird. I look at Anglican bishops in their robes and think they are a bit weird. As John Cleese once said, the greatest fear of the English is embarrassment, so I am saddled with that.”
He says that watching practices that were once seen as alternative drift into the mainstream — such as the mindfulness courses now offered on corporate training programmes — encourages him to share his beliefs with strangers.
And when he does, his approach is simple. He talks about “consciousness” and asks people to make a “connection” by closing their eyes and holding hands to feel part of a greater whole. Everyone is encouraged to ask for something in this supplicating pose.
Such druidic practices that anyone could do at home are being promoted by Carr-Gomm in his weekly broadcast on Facebook, which is attracting thousands of viewers.
Among his most enthusiastic followers are Christians, he says. Carr-Gomm often leads joint ceremonies with Peter Owen-Jones, the Anglican priest and TV presenter, while another vicar, the Rev Mark Townsend, identifies as a druid. “Christians are often attracted to our philosophical approach and a love of Celtic poetry and music,” he says.
Awen, the “flowing spirit” of druidry, attracts many artists, musicians and poets who say it helps their creativity. The event at Glastonbury included Simon Emmerson, the founder of Afro Celt Sound System; Martin Glover, the record producer and founder of Killing Joke; Jamie Reid, the punk artist; and Barbara Erskine, the novelist.
“Sometimes you can be writing and a part of you detaches itself and you suddenly say to yourself, ‘Hey, I didn’t even know I knew that.’ That is Awen, and creative people are naturally drawn to it.”
Such ideas are finding approval with SBNRs, says Carr-Gomm. “I’m not sure that we believe anything apart from the fact that there is something more than material objects and some kind of continuity after death, although none of us really knows until we snuff it.”
A magical journey in druidry
● The word “druid” literally means “oak knowledge”. A druid is a “forest sage” or a “steadfast seer”.
● The religion is said to have been founded on mainland Britain about 3,000 years ago.
● Today there are an estimated 250,000 practising druids worldwide.
● The Druid Handbook says: “Druidry means following a spiritual path rooted in the green Earth.” It focuses on inner development and contact with nature.
● Ancient druids were reputed to have used human sacrifices in their ceremonies, but this is disputed by neo-druids, who claim that this was made up by the Romans.
● Druids had a high status in pre-Roman Britain, judging public and private quarrels.
● The Ancient Order of Druids was founded in a London pub in 1781.
● John Lennon sang about druids in the song Mind Games: “Some kinda druid dudes lifting the veil.”