What mud and whose blood?

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Update:

The British Druid Order have issued a Statement on Racism that makes clear that “the BDO wants to add its voice in condemning all manifestations of racism and to clearly state that as an organisation it does not and will not tolerate any form of racism or racial abuse within its membership or affiliates. We stand with all groups, even where we may disagree with them on other issues, that are targeted by racist, fascist and neo-Nazi organisations, whether inside and outside of Paganism.”.

You can read the full statement on the BDO website.

Thanks to everyone on the BDO Facebook group for some wise and illuminating discussion on this topic.

In case you’ve been hiding under a rock (and the way 2017 is going, I don’t blame you if you are…is there room for one more under there?), you will no doubt have seen that hundreds of actual bloody Nazis and white supremacists have descended on Charlottesville, USA, brandishing flaming torches and shouting racist slogans.

One of the slogans they used is “blood and soil”. This is a Nazi slogan. The website Quartz explains:

Though a German expression decades before Hitler came to power, “Blood and Soil” was popularized by the prominent Nazi theorist Richard Walther Darré in 1930, three years before he became Hitler’s minister of food and agriculture. Darré maintained that the preservation of the Nordic race was inextricably tied to Germany’s agrarian population. The idea painted farmers as national heroes who protected the purity of Germany. Under Darré, and with Hitler’s support, the Nazi Party embraced “Blood and Soil” as one of its chief ideologies.

Amongst all the other hate, this slogan stood out for me because I recently heard something similar closer to home, even within the Druid community.

The phrase “mud and blood” was used by a fairly prominent former Druid on a podcast interview a few weeks ago, and the phrase has cropped up in discussion online. New Directions in Celtic Studies, a 2000 book by Amy Hale and Philip Peyton, cites the British Druid Order as stating:

We draw inspiration from the sacred land and from our ancestry; from the mud and blood of Britain, whose myths and mysteries are the wellspring of our tradition. (The Druid’s Voice, Summer 1997 – emphasis added).

Now, I know the BDO, and I know damn well they are not racists by any stretch of the imagination, and I’m not accusing anyone in Druidry of being so.

But the language above is problematic. It’s easy to see how these sentiments about the centrality of land and ancestry could be twisted to fit a racialist ideology and foment hatred against people of other lands and other ancestry.

As for the phrase itself, there’s not a huge linguistic leap from “mud and blood” to “blood and soil”.

Think for a moment about the implications: is Druidry only for people living in the British Isles, or who descend from “ethnic” British people (whatever that means)?

Now, my ancestry for the past couple of thousand years is mostly Irish. Family genealogy and family legend has it that we’re descended from a line of minor kings/chiefs who held court at what is now the Rock of Cashel.

Does that make me somehow more of a Druid, or more entitled to practice Druidry? Of course not. And it certainly doesn’t make me a better Druid (I’m a bit rubbish at it for the most part). Other bits of my ancestry contain large chunks of Polish and Spanish, anyway, and if I was really serious about following the faith of my ancestors (for at least the last few centuries) I’d be a Catholic.

What even is the “blood” of Britain anyway? What does that mean? The British Isles have been settled by the Beaker People, the Celts, the Romans, the Saxons, the Normans, the Vikings and immigrants from all over the British Empire. As a country, as a set of islands, we’re a glorious mix of all sorts of cultural and genetic influences, and I think that makes us more vibrant and diverse as a result.

Where do you draw the line at determining ancestry? If you go back far enough, we’re all descended from a very small group of humans who lived in the Rift Valley in what is now Kenya. We’re all related, and we’re all kin. Every one of us has ancestors from all over the place.

And as for the “mud” part, well, sure, Druidry was originally a Celtic thing. But the Celts weren’t only from Britain; they lived everywhere from Ireland in the West to Turkey in the East, and travelled, settled, traded, and inter-married wherever they went. Not to mention that I know a good few American Druids who seem to have no problem practicing Druidry without having ever set foot in the “mud” of Britain.

Druidry, as I see it, is at its core a connection to Nature. Nature is everywhere, and is not exclusively found in one place, or by one set of people. Druidry connects you, whoever you are, to the land beneath your feet, wherever that is.

As someone I met at Druid Camp explained in a Facebook post:

The land is always the land, it has many people who will walk on it over long periods of time.

The land doesn’t belong to us. We belong to the land.

Druidry does not belong to us. Druidry belongs to the land.

At a time when racists and white supremacists chanting “blood and soil” are literally murdering people in the street, and being defended by the President of the USA in doing so, it is so important that we take care with our language and how we present Druidry.

Neo-Nazis have already infiltrated Heathenry and stolen their symbols and their religion to further their agenda of hate (I know a lot of Heathens are fighting back, and good on them), and I’ve seen attempts made by sites like Stormfront to infiltrate Druidry too.

Maybe we need to quit talking about “mud and blood”, and state openly that Druidry is for everyone, open and inclusive to all who walk on this one Earth we all share and all hold dear.

Of course, we’re not racists. But that isn’t enough. We must be anti-racist as well.

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2 Responses to What mud and whose blood?

  1. Dear wonderful writer.
    Whilst I get your point, by excluding certain terminology because of another’s missuse, in my opinion, it actually strengthens their claim on such terms.
    Context is everything.
    Debate with those who appal you is vital if we are to maintain peace and love. My ancestors of Ancient Pouis, probably much like yours were a real mix of kind and cruel. Prince Tsilio and his brethren refused to lift a sword and successfully encouraged Celtic Christianity (entirely different to Catholicism) amongst a broad part of the rural folk of that land and yet others of his line, had no problem having the eyes and genitals removed of close relatives for looking at their wives in the wrong way.
    Even though our ancestors were very much about the grass or soil beneath their feet and the blood that pumped through their veins, they also invited the Saxons over and allied with them as they were better neighbour’s than those of the other britannic kingdoms.
    Ofcourse using terms without knowledge and context is dangerous but our real strength is in our words not fists and so I think it’s wrong to avoid terminology because of another’s missuse.
    I would agree though that druidry should be about the mud and grass beneath everyone’s feet and the blood that pumps through all creatures not the spilling of it. The only way that these people will win is if we shut up and let them.

    • Ryan C. says:

      Hi and thanks for dropping by! I did respond to your comment on Facebook, but for the sake of transparency, I thought I’d reproduce my response here too:

      “You make a good point about who can claim such terms, and I do see the argument for standing by phrases that mean something different to us, even if they are also used by racists.

      Where we disagree I expect is the idea of “debate with those who appall you”. I can debate with people who disagree with me, but I won’t debate with Nazis, for instance. Some things are too appalling to debate, and must be resisted instead.”

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