When I received my original packet from OBOD, it came with a beautiful sheet of paper suitable for framing that describes what a Druid is in the OBOD tradition. It begins by saying “Druidry encourages us to love widely and deeply. It fosters: love of the land, the earth, the wild – reverence for nature.”
This has pretty much been my belief for most of my life, although I was raised Roman Catholic by my parents. I’ve always been a child of nature. I was most at peace when I was romping through the woods with my friends. I spent hours in a tree in my backyard as a child, until that tree was split in half by lightning strike. Even now I love wandering through the woods, although I’m smart enough not to go out by myself; the world we live in is not one in which I can go wandering through the woods by myself.
The description of a Druid’s beliefs goes on to list 13 different items; 13 facets of a Druid’s belief. When I first read them I realized how very much they resonated with me, and as I’m rereading them now that hasn’t changed; in fact that resonance has only gotten stronger. I thought that I might touch on a few of them, and discuss why they touch me so deeply.
The first facet of Druidry, or Druid belief, is the Love of Peace. It talks about how Druids were traditionally peacemakers, and how each Druid ceremony begins with peace to the quarters (not a quarter calling as in traditional witchcraft) and that there is a Druids Peace Prayer (which I have posted previously) and that Druids plant peace groves. I am at heart a rather peaceful person. I don’t go out of my way to argue with people, although I know that my temper and my need to be correct often gets in the way of that. I am working very hard on both of those things, both in my professional life and my personal life. I think it would be beneficial to me to adopt the Druids love of peace; I believe it would make me a much happier person.
Love of Beauty is the next facet of Druidry that this piece of paper lists. This facet is one of the most important ones to me, for it is the facet that has most to do with the Artist Within, with creativity and with the Bard. The way I express my creativity is predominantly through writing. I would call myself a Bard, although I do not pretend to be on the level of Taliesin, or even on the level of Dave Smith – Chief Pendragon of the order. Writing is in my bones, in my breath, in the beat of my heart, and that is how I know that I am at heart a Bard. I intend to continue writing, to continue becoming the best Bard that I can, and to wear that title proudly.
I will only briefly mention the Love of Justice, which is the next facet listed. It tells us that the Druids were judges and lawmakers, but that traditionally Druids were interested in restorative not punitive justice. I mention this only because I have noticed a tendency and myself to seek justice where it is needed, I think I need a great deal more balance in how I approach that desire for justice.
Another facet that really touches my heart is the Love of Story and Myth. It says very simply that Druidry recognizes and uses the power of mythology and stories. Many people who do not understand, or do not wish to understand, religions other than their own believe that those who follow a path – spiritual or religious – which uses mythology actually believe that mythology to the fact. This is not how I understand it, and is not how I understand Druidry uses mythology. Myths are simply stories used to teach; the Bible is nothing more than mythology for Christians, although they take it as fact. The myths of the Celts, including Cerridwen and Taliesin and Lugh, the Oak and Holly Kings, the Horned Man, Cernunnos – and many many more – are not taken as factual history. Instead they are understood to be teaching tales to describe great imagination the way things were done so that future generations could follow those ways. Modern advances do not require us to live as our ancestors did, but that does not mean we should not understand how they lived, and it is in mythology and stories that we learn those things.
That leads me to the next facet, the Love of History and Reverence for the Ancestors. This states very simply that Druids recognize the forming power of the past, that we are formed by those who have come before us. It does not mean that because our parents were assholes we will be, but that we should learn from the lessons of the past. We are thinking creatures, we know that our parents were assholes, or were not assholes. We are capable of taking our past and changing it into a better future. This reaches further than our own parents as well, for as Druids we accept and honor all of those who came before us for without them we would not exist.
I’m going to combine three of the facets that this piece of paper lists because they seem linked in some way; those three are the Love of Trees, Love of Stones and the Love of Animals. Druids are often called tree huggers derisively, but it is very true that the Druids find great wisdom in tree lore, and keep sacred groves in which they use specific trees to create a place of sanctity and of power. Druids also built and continue to build stone circles (of which Stonehenge is an example) and work with stones and crystals of all types. Both of these make a great deal of sense if you consider that hundreds of years ago they did not have the weather channel to ask how the weather was for that day, for the coming week, for the coming season. They did not have modern drugs to deal with ailments, and so they used what they had available; trees and plants and stones and crystals provided relief for a great number of concerns. Druids also see animals as sacred beings, and teach animal lore. Their reverence for life alone explains how Druids see animals as being sacred, and their use of animal lore is no different than their use of plant and tree lore or stone floor, they are using knowledge gained over centuries that has served them well. I am very interested in the Ogham, in the Druids Animal Oracle, and in using the knowledge of trees and plants, of stones and crystals, and of the animals of the earth in ways that make sense for my life.
Love of Truth is the next facet listed, and says that Druid Philosophy is a quest for Wisdom. Wisdom and intelligence are two totally different things, because a wise man may not score 1600 on his SAT, but the man who did score highly on such tests may not be very wise. Wisdom and truth are learned through experience not from books, so I believe that this tenet or facet is telling us that in order to find wisdom, to find the truth we must experience the world and not simply read about it.
Another facet that feels very important to me is Love of the Sun, Moon, Stars and Sky. The Druids used the sun, the moon and the stars for timekeeping, and wove tales about the heavenly bodies into their mythology so that future generations would be able to do the same. As long as I can remember, I have loved gazing at the sky – especially at night. I once thought that I could be an astronomer, but there was way too much science involved for me. Although it is very difficult in our modern world to keep time by the moon and sun and stars, I try very hard at least to honor that passage of time. I believe that is the lesson that Druidry today wishes us to learn, that it is not absolutely necessary to use the sun, the moon, and the stars so long as you honor their passing.
This list mentions Love of the Body as another facet of Druidry and says that Druidry sees the body and sexuality as sacred. What this does not mean is that sex is used as a tool for Druidry. What I believe it to mean is first that the body is sacred, that you should not do anything to your body that you would not do to the earth. I believe sexuality is mentioned to remind us that any sexual act is a union of two bodies, of two souls and should not be undertaken lightly.
Somewhat similar to this but not exactly the same is the Love of Each Other. This states that Druidry fosters the magic of relationship and of community. While many Druids are notoriously solitary in their study and in their practice, this does not mean that we should be hermits. I have learned this lesson myself, because I have a tendency to shut myself away from the world when things become difficult. (I will note that as I dictated this part I felt my eyes tearing up and a tightness in my throat, an indication that this is touching a nerve.) When I attempted to step out of that box in a big way, and attend the East Coast gathering this past fall, it was much too large a step. I have made great efforts to begin with baby steps instead. I am forcing myself to leave the house more regularly, to make friends, to do things with other people. Ever since I moved here 18 years ago, I have slowly allowed Jason to become the absolute center of my world, when instead I should have been that center. I did not make friends that were not our friends, I did not do things that he did not also do, I did not go anywhere that he was not also going. I did myself a great disservice in this, but I am working very hard – albeit very slowly – to undo that damage.
The final facet of Druidry listed here is the Love of Life. It tells us that Druidry encourages celebration and full commitment to life, that it is not a spirituality that wants us to escape from it. Too many spiritualities and religions encourage their adherence to use that spirituality or religion to escape from the life around them. This creates an unhealthy duality in those people’s lives, one which creates a balancing act that can never be completely balanced. Druidry on the other hand encourages us to live, to experience the world around us, to reflect on it. Druidry does not teach us that our actions are wrong, only that they have consequences, and in doing so allows us to learn organically rather than through dogma.
I started this post intending only to list and briefly discuss my feelings about the tenets, or facets, of Druidry. It ended up being something much more introspective for me. This exercise has shown me the areas in which I need to work on myself, and on my connection with the world around me; it has also shown me what is most important to me, and to my personal and spiritual growth.