Some time ago, way back in 2011, Alison Leigh Lilly posted a “30 days of Druidry” challenge on her blog: 30 prompts for 30 days about Druidry. I always meant to take up that challenge, but never got round to it.
Now I know I don’t have the time or the inclination to post every day for the next 30 days, but I still like the idea of the challenge as a reflective exercise. So instead, I’m going to try 30 weeks of Druidry, with one post a week coming out on Sundays for the next 30 weeks (that’s the next 7 months basically!). So, without further preamble, week 1.
I was raised Catholic, but it didn’t stick. That’s the short answer. The real answer is that I always experienced wonder awe and what I now know as a sense of the Sacred in nature. As a child, I was happier walking across fields of long grass, scurrying in woods, climbing trees, scrumping for apples and finding mushrooms than I was anywhere else.
Churches, with their dull stone and dark interiors, were not where I connected with “God”. That said, the internalised fear and guilt of Catholicism certainly had a hold on me, and I definitely believed in it. At one point in my life I was certain I was going to be a priest, at another I spent a year living in a monastery. Thankfully, meeting my partner (at a Catholic youth retreat no less) put paid to that nonsense.
Not that it was all bad, of course. The religion gave me a sense of the beauty of ritual, music and liturgy. It took me to some amazing places around the world I wouldn’t have had a chance to visit otherwise, and it gave me guidance when I needed it. But it wasn’t right for me in the long term. I began to disagree with the church on issues like abortion, women priests, LGBT rights etc. – then I went and did a Theology degree. Few people come out of one of those with their faith intact.
There I learned the complicated, messy, political, and all too human history of institutions, texts and doctrines I had been told were Divine Truth. And there I read science, philosophy, critiques of religion, and the “new atheists”. So I became an atheist, and it was like removing a huge weight from my back, or like throwing open the curtains and windows on a clear, breezy day.
But while atheism was intellectually refreshing (and I still think it is most likely pretty close to being right), it was spiritually unsatisfying. Something still said there must be more, that the feelings of the sacred I had and have in nature meant something. So I did the whole searching thing, found a book on Paganism, and from there found Druidry.
Why Druidry and not, say Wicca? Well, my family is Irish and I like the Celtic connection to the ancient Druids. And in my exploration, Druidry seemed the most obviously nature-centred of the modern Pagan paths. The very name “Druid” comes from the words for oak – “Duir” and knowledge “Wid”: Oak-knowers! The romantic idea of the forest sage knowing the wisdom of the trees may be a heavily glossed fantasy of what a Druid was or is, but it is still an ideal worth holding on to.
I explored OBOD and ADF, working my way through the first level of training in each of their courses, and then spent a few years dabbling, reading, getting out into nature whenever I could, and stumbling along my own Druid path. Then I had an experience that I cannot, or perhaps will not, describe, that basically told me to get serious or quit. So I joined Druid College UK, where I am currently studying as a First Year apprentice.
The more I move in the circles of Druidry, the more I become simultaneously frustrated by the human issues that inevitably come up in any group situation, but also inspired by the virtues Druidry encourages: living lives of Truth, Honour and Service, loving nature and allowing that love to inspire our ethics, standing side by side with Pagan Druids, Christian Druids, Buddhist Druids, Atheist Druids, male Druids, female Druids, non-binary and LGBT Druids, and still all being Druid, not in spite of our differences, but in glorious celebration of them.
Why Druidry? Because the song of Druidry is the song of my soul, the poetry of my connection to that which is greater than ourselves, the language through which I can speak of and to the Sacred. I’m not a Druid – not yet anyway. But I think I’ve found a path that is slowly leading me to becoming one.