Active Druidry

Like many, my Druidry is a founded in a deep and magic connection with Nature, understanding that I am part of Nature and living in a way that puts my relationship with Nature at the centre of all that I do. This relationship is of course one that strives to honour Nature as sacred.

I do this through the three core areas of Druidry. Bardic arts help me express my thoughts, Ovate mysteries help me understand and shape my thoughts and Druidic leadership helps me act in confidence in my reverence of the sacred.

Encompassing these three aspects of Druidry in both the protection and celebration of the sacred is vital aspect of what it means to be a Druid for me. This means that I feel that my Druidry requires me to act outwardly as well as inwardly.

We often choose to celebrate Nature and the Gods through rituals, ceremonies and daily meditative practices in as we live our Druidry. These help honour and strengthen our relationship with our gods and goddesses but I increasingly wonder how this fits with a world that is under rising pressure from human activity, activity that demonstrates the opposite of an honourable relationship with Nature.

While we honour our gods and Nature in our rituals, our fellow humans including many of us, are causing devastation to Her that is as far from honouring Her as it is possible to be – i.e. our actions are sometimes out of line with our intentions.

My Christian (and Muslim) friends put their beliefs into practice where I live, through homelessness work and support for the poor. Their ethos is more human centred and their ostensible focus on poverty fits nicely with that. Sometimes this work is done under a Christian banner in order to convert people to their faith, an objective that doesn’t sit comfortably with many of us especially if it is the main reason for the work. However, not doing this work under a Christian (or other) banner would lead to questions about why they were not helping the poor!

While there is significant work undertaken by Christians and Muslims, and acknowledging that Druidry is tiny in comparison, I struggle to understand why there seems to be little local action being taken in the name of Paganism or Druidry. Many, if not most, Druids and Pagans that I know volunteer or support good causes but rarely do we organise in the way members of other religions do.

I was outside the High Court a few months ago with an activist from The Warriors’ Call and other fellow anti-fracking campaigners fighting for the right to protest when this concern prompted me to reach out to others about the lack of organised action being taken or supported by Druid orders.

Others have recently spoken out calling for a more active expression of our beliefs and values such as John Halstead who stated: “there is nothing more truly spiritual than a radically activist life”.

While radically activist is one end of a spectrum of action that some are not comfortable with, the other end is generally warmly embraced as it might include anything from supporting community groups to do litter picks through to responding to public consultations by local councils.

I know there are many people involved in Druidry who are active in their community or are activists of some description, yet I haven’t found action to be at the forefront of most of our main orders. I belong to two orders. OBOD is primarily a spiritual teaching order and one that has a great focus on the finer side of bardic arts, roles that it does very well, and the Order of the Yew is described as the dark heart of The Druid Network. There are other orders too, such as the British Druid Order which has a real shamanic and magical feel to it. But there is little focus in those orders on getting out there, making a statement and campaigning in a way that honours the sacredness of Nature.

The Order of the Yew might be the dark heart of The Druid Network but where is the bright light? Where is its counterpart, an Order of the Oak, to champion active Druidry and to be the shining light of Druidry?

I have started this debate about the need for more support for action by Druids on a number of forums. While there was some concern about “activism” from a few people, it is word that seems to have some antibodies for a few people, there was good support for the underlying principle of more organised actions and a greater focus on active Druidry.

This is a debate that needs to carry on and the questions that I am continuing to ask are should we be more organised and active in our expression of Druidry and how can we do this. Is it through working with existing orders, is it through a new order with this focus on active Druidry, or should we not change what is there?

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Going vegan on World Environment Day?

In a piece in the Ecologist, George Monbiot, Kerry McCarthy, Dale Vince and Jonathan Bartley have challenged environmentalists to go vegan on World Environment Day (today 5th June).

They are backing calls by the Vegan Society to “Plate up for the Planet”.

There are some interesting facts about diet quoted such as: “[Food from animals is] a hugely inefficient food choice, giving us only 12 calories back for every 100 we feed to animals. With a vegan diet, we’re cutting our food emissions by up to 50 percent, halving our land use, and if we all opted for vegan we could feed 3 billion more people.”

I’ve been vegetarian for 30 years but have never seriously tried to be vegan. Perhaps I might give it a go this week.

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To Know, to Will, to Dare and to Keep Silent

When I penned my piece on the four ingredients of magic I had forgotten this four part instruction on magic, set out as the power of the sphinx by Eliphas Levi: “To Know, to Will, to Dare and to Keep Silent”.

This is from Lévi’s final work, The Great Secret:

“The great secret of magic, the unique and incommunicable Arcana, has for its purpose the placing of supernatural power at the service of the human will in some way.

“To attain such an achievement it is necessary to KNOW what has to be done, to WILL what is required, to DARE what must be attempted and to KEEP SILENT with discernment.”

I had expressed them as clarity of thought (to know), clarity of intention (to dare), clarity of will (to will), and release (to keep silent).

While ritual may enhance the first three requirements and ensuring the correct symbolism is essential in the rituals, I remain sure that the four steps are at the core of magic.

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Activism antibodies and speaking out

Words count. They really do. And of course they are at the heart of magic, so I was wrong to use the word ‘activism’ in my last blog post when alternatives are available, as they say, better alternatives at that. I have had dozens of very positive responses to my initial suggestion but there have been a few people who dislike it.

For some people, activism means marches, people chained to railings, arrests, kettling, angry shouting and chanting. For me though, activism is much wider and more encompassing, it includes letter writing, responding to consultations, picking up litter, volunteering for a charity and so on. It also means speaking out against injustice.

Perhaps a better word is ‘action’? Druids in action sounds good to me. I hope that it has fewer antibodies!

The other criticism that my suggestion got was around speaking out. I’m running a new blog “A Druid Voice” as a deliberate attempt to speak out but you will notice that it is call “A” Druid Voice, meaning that it is just my own voice and not that of other Druids. I do say that I speak on behalf of the land, sea and sky etc. Maybe that is a little presumptuous? It would certainly not be true if I called for more fracking, for example, but I don’t do that. I do hope people can appreciate why I do think it important to speak out on behalf of those who have no voice of their own but I would never speak out on behalf of someone who didn’t want me to.

So what happens when a Druid speaks out on an issue? What if the Druid is speaking on behalf of an order or grove? Does the public associate all Druids with that message? I believe not, I believe that most people can recognise that someone speaking on behalf of a subset of people, especially if that subset is one person, speak purely for that subset.

I could speak out as a person and no one would think that I represent the views of all people.

I could speak out as a Green Party member (if I was one) and no one would think that I represent the views of all Green Party members. The Green Party asks speakers to state that views are there own where they diverge from party policy, a helpful clarification in my mind.

I could speak out as the head of a Christian group and no one would think that I represent the views of all Christians. In fact I may not be representing that entire group either unless I specifically say so.

The only problem that I can see is that Druidry is a minority religion and people may not know that opinions differ and that there are various orders. That said, they will never know unless they hear from us!

I see no problem speaking out an I do hope that more of us do it.

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Order of the Oak

Standing outside the High Court last week with an activist from The Warriors’ Call  and other fellow anti-fracking campaigners fighting for the right to protest, a thought entered my mind. Our Druid orders are focused on teaching, arts and spirituality and while the bardic arts go some way to giving a voice to Druidry there is very little focused on making our voices heard on the more gritty issues of life, very little on activism, very little on community work such as helping the homeless and very little on protecting Nature through non violent direct action (NVDA – anything from letter writing to protests).

I find this strange. John Halstead states: “there is nothing more truly spiritual than a radically activist life” and I know there are many people involved in Druidry who are activists yet this is not explicit in our orders. Mark Boyle recently called for people to “resist, revolt, rewild” as a replacement Mnemonic for the three Rs of reduce, reuse, recycle – Boyle’s Rs are more active, more out there.

I belong to two orders. OBOD is primarily a spiritual teaching order and one that has a great focus on the finer side of bardic arts, roles that it does very well, and the Order of the Yew is described as the dark heart of The Druid Network. There are other orders too, such as the British Druid Order which has a real shamanic and magical feel to it. But there is no order focused on getting out there, making a statement and campaigning for what is right for Nature.

We do have The Warriors’ Call, a Pagan group of activists that do tremendous work on the fracking front line. I’m proud to identify as a member (there is no membership card or subscription…) but the group is Pagan rather than specifically Druid and it is focused on direct action against fracking rather than activism in its widest sense.

I therefore wondered if we need an order focused on speaking out and activism, one that:

  • helps us network and organise
  • supports and encourages community action, such as working with the homeless
  • provides a voice on environmental and social justice issues
  • is able to bring Druid ritual to action
  • provides a bit of identity to those of us on the front line
  • gives some structure to the work many of us do

Druidry to me is a deep connection with nature, it is protecting that which is sacred, it is speaking out through Bardic arts, using the magic of the Ovate and standing as a Druid. Encompassing the three aspects of Druidry in the protection and celebration of the sacred leads me to activism in all its guises.

Inspired by the Order of the Yew being the dark heart of The Druid Network, maybe an order focused on being heard should be the Order of the Oak? An internet search suggests that there isn’t an Order of the Oak (maybe I’m wrong – tell me if I am) which seems strange given the connection between Druidry and the oak.

I would welcome your thoughts on this!

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Dark magic: Brexit, Trump and Facebook and the cyber battle field

For the past few years I have been blogging here about manipulation of behaviour through messaging, particularly by corporations, media and government. Some of you may have thought that I was a bit of a conspiracy theorist but today’s headline article in the Guardian uncovers a level of manipulation that destroys any semblance of democracy through the use of selectively targeted micro messaging to direct the will of the electorate. Micro targetting  based on millions of profiles harvested from Facebook with a group involving Russia, Breitbart, Bannon and so on.

I wish this was some cranky conspiracy theory or a plot from a Dan Brown novel – it is neither.

The use of Facebook to manipulate behaviour was known but this article shows just how far the “psychographical messaging” has come, driven by right wing money to further their ideals using “high-level political skills that makes House of Cards look like The Great British Bake Off”. Brexit and Trump were delivered by “cyberwarfare for elections”. Those quotes are from the Guardian article…

The use of this manipulation has been growing over the past 10 years, coinciding with the rise in Facebook but also the shifting of politics to the right (and left) and the rise in teenage mental health problems. While links with the former are obvious, I also wonder what impact this manipulation has had on our teenagers who, in the words of a school teacher friend of mine, are suffering an epidemic of mental health problems.

So what to do in the face of such strong and dark magic that so neatly harnesses the power of Facebook using minds and money many magnitudes greater than our own? How do we defeat the Facebook Fuckers, or the FF as I think I’ll call them?

We can fight it: Use social media with our own messages to try to counteract the impact of the FF’s dark ones. We won’t match FF resources or skills but we can match their passion. We also have light on our side – we can expose them. Honing our political messages of hope, ecology and fairness – filling them with the right emotional messages to chime with others. Sharing messages that resonate with us too.

Don’t unfriend anyone: They may be racists, trolls, hate-fuelled nasties who post Brietbart’s rubbish but these are the people that we need to reach out to. Our closed circle of friends are probably like us, aware and compassionate. There are circles out there which need to hear our messages and they won’t receive them if we won’t talk to them.

Protect ourselves: The FF have strength beyond our means. They mustn’t be allowed to get under our skin. Question everything, every source – especially that information that seems more emotional than factual. Check their facts in science journals – if their ‘facts’ are from sources that are not mainstream then they might not be true. Meditate, ground yourself, walk in nature, walk in town, hug a tree – do whatever it takes to connect with the real world rather than the cyber battle field.

Talk truth to power: Speak out, make your voice heard, attend a demonstration, write to your local paper, sign a petition, start a blog. Drown the FF’s messages with truth.

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Clarity of Thought, Clarity of Intention, Clarity of Energy and Release

At the core of magic seems to be intention but intention needs to be preceded by thought, succeeded by will power or energy before being cast into action by release.

There are three clarities that are needed, thought, intention and energy: clarity of though, clarity of intention and clarity of energy.

Remember too that magic only influences outcomes a little, it does not cause earthquakes. A lot of magic can make more of a difference than a little magic. Look at the magic of advertising, look at how the sigils and enchantments that corporations use at scale, repeated over and over again have a bigger impact than the magic of a solitary mage. “I’d like to teach the world to sing” or at least make everyone buy and drink Coke. Individual tests on psi by Radin show about 5% to 10% influence. If that level is repeated for other types of personal magic then I’m happy but it only influences the chance of something happening, it doesn’t ensure that it does.

So what of those clarities?

Clarity of thought: Understanding what you want to achieve or change is the first essential step. Understanding why you want to do that, what the confounding factors are and what the implications are, are required to achieve a piece of magic successfully. I say successfully as it is quite easy to go wrong as the classic example of a spell to give one more free time ending up with the person getting sacked shows – it achieved the goal.

Clarity of intention: Knowing what you want to do and wanting to do it are different. Wanting to achieve of change something. Desiring an outcome. Focused on a goal. Wanting to heal someone. These are intentions. When you decide to provide healing to someone sick, that is intention. When you decide to transmit a thought to others, that is intention. The intention needs to last through the next stage, the one that is probably the hardest.

Clarity of will power or energy: Putting it out there… this is the most diverse part. In its simplest form I was taught to heal by channelling energy down through my body, into my hands and into the person I was healing. A ritual or spell is also about bringing forth energy to deliver an intention and make a change. The chaos magicians talk about their eclectic approach to magic – doing stuff that works for them. For example, if sigils are effective for you, do sigils.

It is not always just the ritual or spell, the channelling of energy or the drawing of shapes though. Often practical actions need to be taken. If you want to move to a particular job then you need to write the application form for it and send it to the new boss!

Create the conditions for the intention to be effected – whatever those conditions may be and however they best work for you. At its simplest level this is clarity of energy.

Release: When we have done the thinking, know the intention and have put energy into it happening, we need to let go and leave the web of magic do its work. Continued focus on a spell hampers its progress. Some will not work even if the process is followed properly but most will fail if they are not released.

 

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