Potatoes

all-natural-1866415_960_720There is real magic in the real world, and today I experienced some of it.

When we eat, how much do we think about where our food comes from? How much are we aware of the cycle of growth and harvest?

Some months ago, I got some old potatoes that were starting to sprout. I kept them in the kitchen in a box and waited. I waited until they had put out greenish-white tendrils, like tentacles reaching out to probe the strange world of the dark box they were in.

Then I buried them in a large pot, covering them with earth and hope. As shoots began to grow, I covered them up again with more earth, a process known as “earthing up”, until the pot was full. This took weeks. And I waited.

Eventually, sprouts emerged once again, no doubt expecting to be buried, and perhaps surprised to be allowed the freedom to reach for the sun. And I waited.

They grew leggy and started to flower, delicate purple and white blooms that were not showy, but were a sign that the “earlies” were ready. So I dug out the plants, taking care not to damage their roots too much, and to keep the original potato intact, and I harvested the first crop of tiny white new potatoes, each one no bigger than a marble (and lovely with butter and chives).

And then I put the plants back in the pot, earthed them up with compost, and now I am waiting again, for the flowers to finish and the final harvest at the end of summer.

From a mouldy old spud, delicious new life and growth and wonder. There’s nothing quite like growing your own food to connect you to the earth and the cycle of the seasons.

And so much of this process was waiting. I think in our modern society, we have become accustomed to having what we want instantly, at the click of a button or as we drive through a “fast food” joint (it may be fast, but it ain’t food). Growing crops means slowing down, it means care and tending, and it means waiting. You can’t have your potatoes now if they’re not in season.

I think there’s an analogy to be made here to the Druid journey. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of wanting to “be a Druid” now, without appreciating the hard work, time and waiting that goes into the process to become a Druid. And it’s a trap I’ve fallen into myself.  It’s worth taking stock, as I come to the end of the Bardic course with OBOD and look to the next stage in the journey, and realising that nothing in nature happens instantly. The wheel turns and we turn with it.

And, like the potatoes, so much of our growth goes unseen and un-noticed until afterwards. We grow underground, in the deep and silence of the subconscious. Like a potato, Druidry is not (in my opinion) a showy thing. It’s a thing of earth and soil, mud and rain and sunlight, of green growing things.

I’m not a Druid. Not yet, anyway. But I can be a potato.

 

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Truth to power

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The classical authors tell us that one of the roles of the ancient Druids was to act as advisors to kings and chieftains, steering their decisions and offering words of wisdom in times of political trouble.

Those of us who take on the name of Druid in any sense today should feel empowered and inspired to live up to this ancient role. Of course, we don’t have the ear of those in power, but we still have a right and a responsibility in a democratic society to speak our mind, and have our voices heard.

If you’re angry, upset, or shaken by the recent UK election result, and the pending “deal” between the Conservatives and the DUP, a party of homophobic sectarian Christian fundamentalists supported by terrorist groups (and if you’re not angry, as they say, you’re not paying attention), you can step into the role of the ancient Druids and speak truth to power.

Protest. Resist. And write to your MP. You can find their address online via They Work for You.

By writing your words down and sending them to your representative, you can offer advice, voice your concerns and most importantly of all, show them that the people are watching them.

And never feel that you can’t make a difference. The greatest trick of illiberal anti-democratic governments is to make you feel powerless. You are not. People making their voices heard is the only thing that ever creates change. We have the power.

So, when the political establishment is collapsing, and far-right groups are on the ascendancy, ask yourself what would the Druids do?

Christian Druidry?

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There’s been an *interesting* discussion on various Facebook groups recently about whether Christianity and Druidry are compatible.

Putting aside that fact that the original post linked to a neo-Nazi site (yep, Nazi Christian Druids are apparently a thing now. Welcome to 2017 folks), the question itself is worth considering.

On the one hand, the fact that there are good, intelligent, wise people who identify as Christian Druids means that, at least for them, the two are compatible. OBOD is explicitly open to people of all faiths and none, and has a whole section on its site about Christianity and Druidry. And of course the founding figures of the 18th-19th century Druid Revival period, such as Iolo Morganwg and William Stukely, were themselves Christians, as was Ross Nichols who founded OBOD.

And there’s some beautiful Christian writings that seem to echo Druidic ideals. Christian scribes preserved much of Pagan myth and poetry, and Celtic Christians often wrote of the Divine within nature. St Francis, too, seems almost Druidic at times. The image above this post is of St Finbarr’s chapel at Gougane Barra, also the site of an ancient healing well and sacred lake.

There’s already a great deal of Christian influence in at least some strands of modern Druidry. And you could argue that since western society has been Christian for nigh-on a thousand years, and Christianity is built into our laws, our calendar year and our social rituals (especially in Britain where we have a state church), we all swim around in a Christian milleu which we can’t avoid.

Other Druids take a different approach, such as ADF, who are explicitly Pagan and practice Druidry as a polytheistic religion, and deliberately depart from the Christian influences of the Druid Revival.

The Druid Network takes a nuanced view, and states:

Holding a pluralistic perspective, it is possible that a Druid might find value in and respect the teachings of the Christian religion and its heritage within Britain, including that of the Culdee or Celtic Christian Church. However, the Druid does not acknowledge deity to be existent outside of Nature, for nothing is beyond Nature: the Druidic understanding is of Nature as All, in a process of perpetual self-creating. This is not Christianity.

At the same time, it is possible for a Christian to respect the teachings of Druidry and to perceive the whole of Nature as created by his one god, and thus profoundly sacred. However, the Christian god is supernatural, ie. transcendant of Nature. This is not Druidry.

FWIW, this definition matches my viewpoint pretty closely.

In the end, as Druidry has no dogma, this question is one every Druid, or Druidically-inclined person, has to answer for themselves. So, are Christianity and Druidry compatible for me?

Well, no. I was raised in a pretty strict Catholic household, and there’s no doubt that the church I knew would not see any room for compatibility with Pagan “devil worship”. On the face of it, I see too much difference between Christianity and Druidry to ever see a way of reconciling the two without losing the essential core of one or the other.

I do not believe in a creator God. I see the universe as nature’s unfolding, its self-revelation to itself. There is no room in my understanding for  supernatural deity sitting apart from the cosmos.

I do not believe in original sin, or hell, or the need for a torturous blood sacrifice to redeem us from our deserved punishment. In fact, I reject those doctrines as morally repugnant.

I believe Jesus (if he existed) was an inspired teacher and philosopher, but not that he was the son of a god.

I can’t see how you could reconcile Druidry’s plurality with the command to “have no other gods before me”.

And I am wary, perhaps suspicious even, of any attempts to bring Christian moral constructs (especially with regard to LGBT rights etc) into Druidry.

So, speaking just for me, I don’t see my Druidry as compatible with the Christianity I know from experience. My Druidry is a deliberate turning away from a religion of churches, books, priests, popes and laws, to the wild wisdom of trees and rivers, stars and stones, fur and feather.

That others have a different view is up to them, and I have no issue with people believing in God and Jesus if it helps them live well. I’m far more interested in whether your belief inspires your life than whether it is the same as mine. And Druidry is big enough for all sorts of beliefs and interpretations, from atheist Druids to Buddhist Druids to Christian Druids to polytheistic and Pagan Druids.

This isn’t to erase our differences, though. As Druid writer John Beckett points out,  those differences are important. The God of Christianity is not the Goddess of modern Paganism, is not the many gods of polytheism, is not the Great Mystery that I seek to approach.

But we can all be Druids, as long as we acknowledge that within those differences is the simple fact that we are all human, all on this earth for a brief time.

But not the Nazi Druids. They can fuck off.