Archive for 9 November 2020

Two Questions, Two Strategies — Keep Talking!

Much of Druidry involves us in conversations. The teachings we’ve inherited point us towards potentially profound interactions with other living things in the world. Talking with trees is a perfectly normal activity for many Druids. And Druid or not, many of us know the deep connections we can experience with animals.

[Insert your favorite dog or cat or other pet picture here. You have one in your memory superior to anything I can supply.]

At the same time, we’re often occupied with exploring our inner worlds as well, engaging with everything that seems to shape our cosmos from inside out. Over 2000 years ago the old Roman-African playwright Terence wrote in one of his plays “I’m a person — nothing human is alien to me”, a line that since then has become famous on its own. With Druid sensibility, we may delete one word, change another, and simply say “I’m a Druid — nothing is alien to me”.

Barnacles. Frans Van Heerden /

This doesn’t mean we love everything with a puppy love. Maybe dogs can — hence that expression — and genetic research points to genes that cause a genetic defect in people [Williams-Beuren Syndrome] but that make dogs hypersocial and capable of bonding with almost anything.

Now such affirmations (about Druids and puppies, too) are useful, because they can help keep us focused on what we’re doing, and why. We may find in them a definition of “doing Druidry”: enlarging our stock of wisdom and ability to live wisely and well in this marvelous and challenging world. With divinations either formal or gained through life experience, we ask ourselves, or get asked by our lives, two “big” questions: what’s my greatest talent or strength, and what’s my greatest weakness?

In some ways these aren’t “questions” in the usual sense. Much of our time in school rubs our faces in early answers to them. Of course, they’re mostly other people’s answers — teachers’ answers, and our families’ answers too. If they aren’t too disheartening or downright wrong — or sometimes if they are — we may take them and make them our own answers. “I’m good at X and not good at Y”. It’s even possible to live much of our lives without ever questioning those early assessments of “who we are”.

Druidry and Christianity have been talking for centuries. Study the Druid Revival, and it’s not an exaggeration to say that Christianity led to a rebirth of Druidry. For such things like strengths and weaknesses, a tradition like Christianity offers clear rules as a response, in particular its two great commandments. In the blogpost title above I call them “strategies”, because the word “commandment” often carries baggage with it. You can ignore or break a commandment, but a strategy is simply a strategy: you can try it out or not. Often, if you’re just easy with it, you may find it useful on a later spiral without any need for strain. You use it when it fits, and don’t worry about it when it doesn’t. Upaya, Buddhists call it — wise or skilful application of means. In shorthand Christian form, six words: love God and love your neighbor.

But what if you don’t believe in God, and you don’t know your neighbor?

It can be useful (“skilful means”, again) to recast such over-familiar things in new forms. Spirals, circling till we find a place to stand or sit. A Druidic version: cherish and value the living spirit that manifests in all things. And a visit to online Druid forums shows that most Druids do (if we can trust the sample size and generalize from it), in so many varying and fascinating ways. But what of the un-pretty and the less than appealing? I don’t have to “love” leeches and ticks, bacteria and viruses, but I can marvel at the ecological niche they manage to find and fill, the suppleness of their means of survival. The world abounds with life.

The corollary can be the harder strategy of the two, even in recast form: cherish the living spirit that manifests in other humans as much as you cherish it in yourself. Which becomes an amazing spiritual barometer, at least for me: my strength and my weakness revealed, linked, each circling the other like twin planets, like the yin and yang of a whole energy field.

How I treat others mirrors how I treat myself. John Donne, updated and Druidized: nobody’s an island, whole and complete, separate from other people. Each of us, peninsulas though we are, all jut out from a mainland into the ocean. If I think my “stuff”, bad and good, doesn’t feed into the common experience, I only have to recall how a colleague of mine liked to say, “Just try swimming in the non-peeing end of the swimming pool”.

Marius Venter /

One of the great gifts of Druidry is that it offers daily tasks and activities that are small enough they don’t feel overwhelming. I can sit under that tree. I can study this flower. I can read an old poem (or write a new one), practice a musical instrument, record my dreams, work with a divination system, garden, honor the spirit of the place I live, cook, paint, photograph, create beauty, and so on. Over time these crafts and disciplines and practices build into larger components of a spiritual life. Small spirals open naturally into larger ones, at their own pace. Love my cat or dog, and I’ve taken steps toward loving a difficult neighbor or family member. Love my cat or dog, and I may find things in myself I can release, live easier with, see differently, transmute. Love wisely, and I strengthen what was weak. And I can start to do this by sitting under a tree …

What are your questions and strategies? Naming them, getting them down in words, can be a gift you give yourself.

Visit a gathering of images of the human and planetary experience in places like the Photos of the Week in The Atlantic, and you soon discover the world is simply too large to swallow whole. We can’t “know it all”, or even “feel it all” in order make much of a sensible statement about it, but we can choose a part to cherish and honor and connect to, from which to view and understand the whole, precisely because everything is linked. It’s because things are linked that healing is possible. We might call that a form of Druid recognition, or humility before the awesomeness of the cosmos.

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Posted 9 November 2020 by adruidway in Druidry

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