Dabbling and getting real

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I’ll admit it, I’m a dabbler. Like so many people who come from one very rigid, organised and structured religion (in my case Catholicism) and somehow find their way to the free-flowing streams of Paganism, I’ve been tentatively hovering around the edges for the better part of a decade now without really commiting.

Now, edges are great. I’m in love with liminal spaces and liminal times, with the boundaries between the realms. Seashores, riverbanks, woodland margins, these things are at the heart of my Druidry. But there comes a time when “liminal” can become “lazy”, when initial hesitation becomes inertia. Once you’ve stuck your toe in the water, eventually it’s time to dive in and swim, or walk away.

In his excellent book The Path of Paganism, which I am currently reading (review coming soon!), Druid writer John Beckett talks about his own “get serious or move on” moment, after eight years of dabbling in Paganism. That defining moment led him to where he is today, as one of the most active, eloquent and thoughtful Druids I know.

Recently, I’ve had a similar sort of experience. While working through the Cernunnos ritual in John’s book, I had what can only be described as a religious experience. I know, I know. I’m the sceptical (read cynical) non-theist who’s the last person to talk about having religious experiences, but there it is. I won’t go into details, not least because one of the classic hallmarks of religious experience (per William James, 1901) is “ineffability”, the inability to fully describe it in words. I had a crack at using a bit of Bardistry to portray it in my “Encounter” poem, but it falls short.

What I took from that, though, was a sense that it was time to stop dabbling. Stop reading *about* Druidry and start learning to *be* Druid, in the real world, not just in my head.

Get real, or give up.

Quite what that looks like, I’m not sure yet. It will no doubt be a challenge, a long process, and a lot of hard (though I hope rewarding) work. I fear it may mean edging out of my introvert shell and actually (gasp) talking to actual people.

I must confess (and it feels like a confession, with all the attendant sense of shame and guilt) that the Bardic course with OBOD left me (ironically) uninspired. And ADF are great, but they feel alien, not rooted in the traditions of Druidry here in this land. So where does that leave my Druidry?

I have some potentially interesting developments coming up, details of which I won’t share until they’re finalised, but I think it is time for me to find, or create, my place, as a Druid, as a Pagan, as an animist, in this rich, complicated, painful, messy and beautiful world.

I will still forever love the liminal, but it’s time to get real.

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4 Responses to Dabbling and getting real

  1. Have you looked into the British Druid Order? I recommend them if you want something focused more on the British landscape and more practical bardic elements. Or there is the free New Order of Druids course which is more focused on psychology and Ireland.

    • Ryan C. says:

      I have had a poke around the BDO website. I might actually have a chance to talk to Phillip Shallcrass at Druid Camp soon, so that could be one possible direction to take. Thanks!

  2. Interesting that you found the OBOD Bardic course uninspiring. If I’m honest, that’s why I still haven’t done the summary necessary to continue on to the Ovate course. Not that I didn’t learn a lot, I did and it was occasionally eye opening. So much of what they’ve done is just wonderful and yet… meh. Something about it doesn’t quite match my experience of the numinous – of the sacred other I’ve encountered rarely but that is impossible to forget, much less describe. It will be interesting to follow your efforts as you try to “get real”

    • Ryan C. says:

      Yeah, I’m stuck at the review writing stage too. Just can’t seem to find the motivation to get it done. I definitely learned a lot from the OBOD stuff, but as you say there was just something about it that I can’t quite put my finger on that wasn’t quite right for me. I know that the course and the Order have transformed a lot of people’s lives, and I’m very happy for them, but it doesn’t feel like *my* Druidry.

      More time in Nature, I think, is probably the next step. When in doubt, consult your nearest tree!

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