“Druidry…is not only about scholarship, ritual and magic; it is also about connecting with the land and the Earth Mother who birthed and sustains us. Druidry cannot be divorced from nature, nor should it be” – Michael J. Dangler.
The first book on Paganism I ever read, by Joyce and River Higginbotham, describes Pagan religions as “Earth-Centred”. This was one of the main things that appealed to me about Paganism, and Druidry in particular. Druidry is explicitly a nature-focused path. The word “Druid” may derive from Celtic words for Oak, Duir, and Knowledge, wid, meaning that “Druid” can loosely translate as “oak-knower”, one who carries the wisdom of the oak and, by extension, the wild.
Druidry takes inspiration from the natural world; an old Druidic triad speaks of three candles that illuminate all darkness: nature, truth and knowledge.
As an Earth-based path, Druidry does not seek to transcend the world, but to engage with it as it really is. “Nature” as a concept can easily become a symbol of some pristine wilderness out there somewhere, and not the litter-strewn pavements, overgrown vacant lots, city parks and back gardens we pass by every day. It is easy to forget that all this is nature too, that we are also nature, and that all of it is sacred. As Joanna van der Hoeven writes in Paganism 101: ” I am a part of the collective world. I am a part of the landscape, along with the plants and animals, the spirits of place, the furniture. I am not opposed to nature. I am nature. I cannot be separate from it”.
Many Druids hold to an animistic philosophy: that consciousness, or personhood, exists in all things. John Halstead writes: “Animism posits a world full of persons: human persons, yes, but also hedgehog persons, salmon persons, rock persons, mushroom persons…and yes, tree persons.”
For the animist, a person is “a being that exists in relationship”. For the Druid, we are in relationship with the Earth, with nature, every moment of our lives. If Druidry is to be really about “loving nature and allowing that love to inspire us to live our lives accordingly” (van der Hoeven), then that worldview comes with responsibility.
As humans are part of the ecosystem, and as human consumption is causing ecological damage, those of us who walk Earth-based paths have a responsibility to work towards healing the Earth, and so doing, healing ourselves. We can do this by changing how we live, by taking less and giving more back. Following Canadian ecologist David Suzuki‘s “Nature Challenge”, ten steps we can do to make our lives greener such as recycling, choosing energy-efficient appliances, using public transport rather than driving where possible and reducing meat consumption, is a good place to begin. The Druidry Handbook extends this to twenty steps to a more natural life, and while I’m not at all 20 yet, it is a good thing to aim for.
Druids can also work politically to protect the Earth. While some feel that Druidry should not be political, I would argue that as the ancient Druids were known to be advisors to chiefs and kings, and could stop wars, it is incumbent on those of us who claim the name today to do what we can to stand in that heritage. We may not advise kings, but we can write to our elected representatives to encourage them to support environmental legislation. We can vote for parties and candidates with sound ecological policies. We can join or support protest movements and campaigns, like Druids Against Fracking and the Warriors’ Call, who are on the front lines defending Albion from fracking right now. We can donate to environmental charities such as Greenpeace or the Woodland Trust, with our time or our money (or both).
One movement I want to highlight is Mission Lifeforce, a “growing international movement of Earth Protectors” based on a legal document, the Earth Protectors Trust Fund Document, who are collectively working to create and pass an international law making Ecocide (defined as loss or damage to, or destruction of ecosystem(s) of a given territory(ies), such that peaceful enjoyment by the inhabitants has been or will be severely diminished.”) an international crime. I saw Jojo Mehta from Mission Lifeforce speak at Druid Camp last year and was inspired by her dedication, belief and optimism that one day this law will be passed and the Earth can be legally protected.
As Druids, as Pagans, as people of the land, we do not just connect with the Earth in ritual and meditation, we live within the web of nature, the global ecosystem known as Gaia, and we can all try, in our own small way, to help make our little corner of nature that bit greener, that bit more safe for all persons, human and non-human alike.
Dangler, M. The ADF Dedicant Path Through the Wheel of the Year. Garanus, 2010.
Greenfield, T. (ed.) Paganism 101: an introduction to Paganism by 101 Pagans. Moon Books, 2014.
Greer, J.M. The Druidry Handbook: spiritual practice rooted in the living earth. Weiser, 2006.
Halstead, J. “Do trees have rights? Toward an ecological politics”, Gods and Radicals, 2018 [https://godsandradicals.org/2018/01/30/do-trees-have-rights-toward-an-ecological-politics/]
Higginbotham, J. and Higginbotham, R. Paganism: an introduction to Earth-centered religions”. Llewellyn, 2008.
Mission Lifeforce [https://www.missionlifeforce.org/]
Suzuki, D. The David Suzuki Reader: a lifetime of ideas from a leading activist and thinker. Greystone, 2014.