August 2017

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[personal profile] shirebound asked me one of my favorite questions for the ramble meme:

What's it like being an initiated Druid in the 21st century? Is it a blend of ancient/modern beliefs?

I will start by saying that "druid" is about as accurate as "Christian" as far as pinning down precise beliefs and practices. There are many flavors of druidry, and what the term means for me won't mean the same to all people who identify as "druid." Bobby and I are initiated into the Ancient Order of Druids in America. Its then-leader John Michael Greer was giving a talk at the Spoutwood Farm Fairy Festival that we attended annually. Of course, his organizational affiliation caught our eye, and when we looked into it, we discovered that the group's purpose aligned quite well with our beliefs and goals.

Druidry is not a religion. I know of AODA members who are atheist, Christian, Jewish, Pagan ... I even encountered a Mormon druid once! Bobby and I are deist and agnostic, respectively. He was raised Catholic but had no interest in continuing beyond his forced participation as a child. I was raised in an arreligious family: baptized Catholic to appease my Polish-Catholic grandmother, but before I was eighteen, I had entered a Christian church a grand total of four times and always for other people's events. So neither of us had/have much interest in organized religion, besides the fact that our beliefs aren't at all theistic.

Druidry is also not a reenactment or re-creation group--at least not as we practice it in the AODA. I have lost most interest in doing things "costumed." Even in the SCA (a medieval re-creation group I belonged to for a while), my focus shifted quickly from wanting to dress up to wanting to learn and make things while wearing my comfy everydays. I've even lost my drive to dress up for Renaissance Faires. So a group that sought to re-create "ancient druidry"--an oral tradition about which we know almost nothing and most of what we do know comes from the conquering Romans and is therefore a wee bit biased--would not have interested me.

What we did and do have is a commitment to walking as lightly on the Earth as we can and a tendency to look to nature for answers to the kinds of existential questions that bother most humans from time to time. We're also people who--by virtue of holding graduate degrees and both working in education--value education, books, and study as a means of personal improvement and enlightenment. Druidy appealed to us because it emphasizes study and personal growth as a means to connect deeper to and preserve the Earth. It is action-oriented while also expecting that those actions will be based on a growing education in ecology and sustainable living.

After meeting JMG and hearing him speak at Spoutwood, we were both interested in druidry and AODA in particular but, even though it isn't a religion, it felt like a big step for us to commit to something like this, freewheeling agnostic and deist that we are. We read JMG's The Druidry Handbook before making our decision. We both decided in favor of joining and starting the first degree curriculum.

As newcomers, we were expected to complete an initiation, which we did together. We then began our first degree work. We were required to plant a tree; we planted three: the three fruit trees at our house in Maryland. We were also required to make three lifestyle changes so that we "take less from the Earth and give more back." I don't remember precisely what three things we did now. It became something of a habit: We'd start something new, it would get comfortable, so we'd try adding something else. We'd already started making lifestyle changes with the Earth in mind by the time we started practicing druidry, but really, being initiated into AODA was a turning point as far as our seriousness, I see in retrospect. There are also requirements for reading about one's local ecosystem and for spending time outside regularly.

We also observe the Solstices, Equinoxes, and the four Celtic cross-quarter days: Imbolc, Beltaine, Lughnasadh, and Samhain. We do the AODA ritual and meditations on those days, although we're beginning to modify the ceremonies a little since we're not Pagan and shouldn't/can't invoke Pagan deities. Instead, we tend to use seasonal symbols. The ritual, in brief, involves a declaration of peace, a cleansing by the four elements, the recitation of some ritual poetry, a meditation on a seasonal theme, the offering of a local food/plant and drink, and a closing ceremony. I've found that when I can practice the rituals regularly, it helps me feel more connected to the cycles of the Earth, especially the turning of the year. There is a sense of being in the same place while the world around you--while time--has edged forward just a little. As the years have passed, there is also the sense that those repeated rituals layer one upon the other, year after year.

We're also supposed to meditate regularly, but I have to admit that I've never been good at making time for that.

Probably like most spiritual practitioners in the 21st century, we're not always the best adherents to what we're supposed to do. We were initiated years ago! We're both still working on the first degree. Sometimes we miss ceremonies. I'm terrible at meditation. I am not through my reading requirement and am awful at keeping up my journal (in part because I have to read and write so much for other areas of my life). It's hard to make room. One day, I will be able to commit as much as I'd hoped when I decided to embark on this path; I hope to at least complete the first degree.

But one thing where we do not waver--and this is the most important thing, and I believe that most druids, even as motley as we as a group are in belief and practice, would agree--is our commitment to the Earth and to constantly improving in terms of our family's sustainability practices. I may have lapsed for the better part of a year in other areas, at times, but we have never lapsed in those changes we started making as new initiates and have continued making across the better part of a decade. I feel like my heart is druidic but my time is often spent elsewhere. I don't necessarily regret that but hopefully it will someday change.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-05-10 06:17 am (UTC)
ranunculus: (Default)
From: [personal profile] ranunculus
This was a really interesting post. Thank you for sharing.
Some time in the mid-1980's I was initiated as Pagan. I made it through initiation to first level, but no further, and from what I remember, it was an easier accomplishment that what you are asked to do.
From the very first my focus was earth based. It has helped that I have the Ranch. I suspect that if I had been exposed to a Druid tradition that it would have been very, very attractive. Recently I realized that I hadn't been celebrating the turning of the year as I should, and have taken some steps to fix that problem. Meanwhile I've been very, very pro-active in protecting and healing the land.

I was blessed to have the opportunity to have a big impact on the 1,500 acres of Ranch that is a huge part of my life.
- In the late 1990's I was instrumental in creating the strict conservation easement that now covers the Ranch. The conservation easement prohibits housing or even intensive agriculture on most of the Ranch. No vineyards, just open space.
- Shortly after the easement was signed in 2000, I pushed, pulled, talked and plead with various agencies until about 3/4 of a mile of creek was exclusion fenced to keep the cattle out of the creek. Theoretically the fencing would allow vegetation to grow along the creek within 8 years. In some areas it sort of did.
- Around the same time I planned and got about $50K of Federal matching grants for replacing cross-fencing on the Ranch over a 10 year plan. I also went out and found hunters to allow us to finance our part of the fencing. Cross fencing allows us to graze and then rest the grasses in a manner that encourages carbon sequestration.
- About 6 years ago it became clear that the exclusion area was struggling and not able to regrow over the lower half of the exclusion area (not entirely true, but true enough when I began this effort). Again I got grants and the cooperation of multiple agencies to accomplish this task. One day later:
- It was hard to do, but two years ago I refused to let the California Conservation Corps plant on the site. I was sure right, it was an extremely droughty year and the little plants would have had a real struggle. Last year we planted in November and watered all summer. This year we will water again

(no subject)

Date: 2017-05-11 12:32 am (UTC)
independence1776: Drawing of Maglor with a harp on right, words "sing of honor lost" and "Noldolantë" on the left and bottom, respectively (Default)
From: [personal profile] independence1776
Thank you for writing this. (Sounds trite, I know.) It's given me thinky-thoughts, not least is that it's given me a push to learn just a little bit more about my own area.

it helps me feel more connected to the cycles of the Earth, especially the turning of the year. There is a sense of being in the same place while the world around you--while time--has edged forward just a little. As the years have passed, there is also the sense that those repeated rituals layer one upon the other, year after year.

In some ways, Judaism is similar: the holidays are largely tied to the agricultural season… in Israel. (Which are fairly similar time-wise to here, but not an exact match.) But one of the things that attracted me to Judaism when I first started learning was that there's a holiday for trees! It has brought me more of a connection with the world, though I need to figure out some ways to connect me more to the cycle here. It was something Christianity never gave me.

I feel like my heart is druidic but my time is often spent elsewhere. I don't necessarily regret that but hopefully it will someday change.

I hope it does change.

(no subject)

Date: 2017-05-11 08:41 am (UTC)
mithrial: (elrond - rivendell1)
From: [personal profile] mithrial
How interesting to hear of your Druid connections. Care and respect for the earth and all living things is such a vital calling in this age it seems. And how lovely that you and Bobby have found your interests there together.

I have spent many years in the Bardic grade of OBOD, and don't quite know how I would deal with Ovate grade which would be my next step.

I was very interested in your point that "Druidry" is not a religion. I have come across many in this land who would like to make it so, and in fact Emma Restall-Orr did register the BDO as such.

Coming from a background of science, and surrounded by scientists in my family, makes me very wary of the 'pseudo-scientific' and 'magic'. I see magic in the rainbow and knowing that it is made up of millions of tiny water droplets reflecting a spectrum of light. So I don't always fit in with the 'New Age or Pagan', though I love celebrating the wheel of the year.

Lately I have kept away from my OBOD grove, to give myself time to look after my Mother and to think.

I don't think you or Bobby need to worry about taking time to find your way. The best path is often the slowest, and it is all about the journey.

So I will say blessings of the creative spirit of Awen to you both.

/|\ Tia.

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