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Sometimes, as a public Druid, I get frustrated. Because over and over again, I seem to be saying the same thing. 'What's a Druid?' 'What do Druids do?' and so on, and so forth. I suspect we all get this at some point or another, if we're 'out of the broom closet' in any way. We just smile and get on with it as part of life.
But I do worry. Is this because nobody's listening? Am I actually trying to con people into following this mad 'cult' of modern Paganism? And of most concern, am I on the take?
I'm not - but it's easy to see why people would think that.
Spirituality is a deeply personal, heartfelt thing - a state of being, mind, emotion... so much contained in a such a complex state that it's virtually impossible to put into words. Especially, I might add, when someone asks me suddenly to explain my Druidry in two minutes or less.
(Yes, this is me - in the woods near my home)
Death is not a winter activity, it does not come just with the falling of the leaves, but weaves its slow, funereal dance through every day of our lives. Each living breath for us times with a last breath for some other creature. We cut the corn for Lammas, (or at least, these days, someone cuts it and most of us never see it). The death of the corn represents the life of the tribe. And so we’ll dig out the one folk song every Pagan seems familiar with, and honour good old John Barleycorn reincarnating as beer. In celebrating the beer we can slide over the death of corn, and with it our own mortality. Reincarnation for us is really something to guess at, and when we are planted in the ground we do not put up fresh, green stalks of our own.
I’ve long been fascinated by the relationship death has with the four elements. Our methods for relinquishing the dead take us to all four of them, although different cultures favour some more than others, depending mostly on available resources and behaviour of climate. What I’m thinking about here is disposal of the body, not human sacrifice, although there are parallels. We can put the dead into the water. Most usually we’ll do that when at sea, in the absence of other means of disposal, and not wanting the danger of a rotting corpse on a boat. However, I recall reading about some ancient peoples who put their dead, or some of their dead into flowing water, by choice....
Inspiration is at the core of my Paganism, through my chosen path as Druid. This path might just be a label to some, but it's the one that suits me best. It might not be exactly as our ancestors practiced... but I think there's a good chance there'd be common ground and understanding.
Because as human beings, don't we all wish to be inspired? From that 'light bulb' moment, the 'Eureka!' cry is sought after by any number of magical methods. From chewing the end of a pencil, to small prayers as you stare out of an office window, to the blinking cursor on a computer screen... Inspiration is to be sought. Inspiration is valued.
More drama has surfaced within wider Pagan community within recent weeks, particularly within the blogosphere between “polytheists” and “humanists”. I put those terms in quotes to blanket a lot of people under them, and because after all I’ve read regarding either camp, I’m not sure I understand what those terms really mean anymore.
Do you remember when you first stepped onto the Pagan path? Perhaps more years ago than you care to recall, perhaps only recently. But no doubt books and websites were raided for information, ideas, ways to practice, paths to investigate. We truly are blessed with a wealth of information these days, after all.
My quest began before the Internet. My recollection is of picking up 'A Witch's Bible' - that lovely, slightly scary-looking black tome, scavenged easily enough from the shelves of Borders bookstore - and seeing the pictures inside. The photographs from the 1970s of Janet Farrar, beautiful and resplendent in ritual, performing the symbolic Great Rite proudly and publicly. And, of course, very very naked.
Then came that word: 'Priestess'. Not just in Wicca, but everywhere I looked, the goal of all Pagans appeared to be the Priesthood. You were still just learning until you had finally achieved the right to that title. This was just around the time when folks were starting to self-initiate, so the controversy was relatively new.