What is Druidry?
What is the purpose of religion in general?
It is difficult to define what a Druid, or Druidry, is without first agreeing on the general role religion plays in our lives. Without this shared understanding, it is too difficult to express what it is at the heart of being Druid. Instead, the dialogue becomes one of comparing details of religious dress, speech, and pose. Those details are cultural demonstrations of a religion, but they are not the heart of a religion. The heart of being Druid grows from its purpose as a religion.
Many of us who are now pagan were introduced into a mainstream religion at a time when we were deeply engrossed in the sensual world around us. We were affected by our experiences on a physical level, not yet having made the connection that those experiences were supposed to be spiritually or intellectually meaningful. We went through those experiences only for the moment. Then we forgot them or swept them aside, along with the religions we dismissed as flawed.
As adult pagans, we find that our beliefs fall far outside those spread by mainstream religions: our gods and goddesses don't demand our sacrifices; we have more than one deity at any one time; we're expected to celebrate as creatures of nature. It's understandable then that those of us outside the mainstream religion lack a common language. Our English is good, but beyond that, our symbolic communication is shaky. In fact, most of us are making it up as we go along. We explore our understandings, redefine our beliefs, and question the foundations on which our "traditions" are based. The variety and diversity of thinking is powerful. But in order to understand each other, we need to have a common "symbology" so that we can both agree and disagree.
So here's a stab at defining the general purpose that religion plays in our lives: At its best, at its finest, religion is a tool for awakening the spirit. Religion creates a common language for spiritual understanding.
Let's assume that Religion is our guide to living larger, to gaining greater spiritual awareness. The more physically complete, the more spiritually aware, the more intellectually productive we become, the greater the chances that we become the living expression of our religion. Unlike the religions that are codified and mummified, this enables our systems of belief to remain dynamic and animate.
What is at the heart of being Druid?
In many ways we are shaping this path according to the spiritual needs of our times while incorporating the lessons buried in the Celtic myths from centuries past. The following are what we've found and some of what we choose to expand on:
Each initiated Druid is a leader. Each of us is wholly responsible to and for ourselves. As we mature and grow, as our learnings expand our spirits, we take on the responsibility for others as well. But always, we are leaders within a Druid order and responsible for ourselves.
Certainly there are those that rise to leadership in every religious community, but that is primarily as a result of the person's character, and not a direct result of following the teachings of their religion. Druids, on the other hand, have traditionally been trained to lead.
Today, many Druid orders have rings of learning, such as Birch, Yew, and Oak. We also have paths of learning, Ovate, Bard, and Clergy. But those rings and paths reflect the lessons we choose to integrate into our lives. Never is there a question of our leadership. Once a Druid, it simply becomes a question of where and how one leads.
Connectivity and Inclusiveness
Druids believe that all things are connected. Because everything is connected, there is not anything to gain from erecting walls or boundaries around celebrants. Our rituals reflect this by being inclusive, public, and community oriented. We don't prevent participation based on the spiritual beliefs a person holds. For that matter, political, economic, sexual and ethnic practices are a source of diversity and an opportunity for learning. Our gods and goddesses reflect the diversity and immensity of our belief in the connectedness of everything.
In terms of ritual, we celebrate outdoors as often as possible. We call upon the spirits of nature, of our ancestors, of our gods and goddesses. If there are others who wish to participate, they are welcomed as well. We come and go freely, taking care of our physical needs and those of our families.
We don't follow any hierarchical rules except as dictated by the ritual itself. For example, there aren't any deities left outside our space as marked by a circle. We let things flow freely, based on our belief that everything is connected. We believe that cutting off the flow of energy or spirit sets up blockages and power structures that damage the whole.
Each person and entity and spirit is equally sacred. It is not the space that we consider sacred, but the participants and their actions.
We are taught that hospitality is a reflection of the largesse of spirit. It is also necessary for us to be aware of our impact on others because of our connectedness. From acting on a concern for the comfort of another, we learn to value generosity over wealth or status. For example, you will rarely see a Druid who withholds their best drink or food when entertaining. The same can be said for not withholding their best stories, best jokes, or best ideas.
We teach and learn the value of shaping the future through our actions in the present. If there is withholding in the present, there is deception and hoarding in the future. Maybe this is why Druids fostered so many Celtic children. Their fosterage created a strong level of connectivity between peoples which prevented hierarchical relationships of power from developing. It's hard to war with someone who has shared something of value with you.
Honor shapes the way that we perform our responsibilities and duties. To a Druid, honor is something we strive to earn as well as to practice through our actions. Honor is tied into the issue of hospitality and also how that is performed. We learn to honor our families, our communities, our paths, ourselves. Put another way, we learn to revere existence as a conscious act.
In all—leadership, connectivity and inclusiveness, hospitality and honor—these may not sound like very religious until you realize our training leads us deeper and deeper into the mystery and into the sacred. Our gods and goddesses lead us gently as we bump blindly against strange objects in our learnings; our histories and stories explain to us what we've gone through as a humanity and how it will shape our futures; and while we experience the discomforts of ongoing spiritual growth and self-awareness we let the sensual world soothe us.
If we are here to enrich others, then what path provides the necessary lessons to stretch our spirits?
Original Source: Stone Dragon Press