Deeper Reflective Druidries: Localizing


#1

Dear Folks:

After a long period of reflection and consultation with one of my long time peers in the Magical community, I am working on a pilgrimage that will result in materials towards “Wildcrafting Your Own Druidry II: Tools For Druid Comrades.”

This will comprise a third of my next work on Druidries.

Yes, a plural form of druidry. We have more than one biome, more than one modality for sustenance in the Americas. We are not Britain (Little or Great) and need to look not inward first, but outward to where we live and how we do or could live. British druidries will always be there to serve as a point of origin, development and dialog as to what is possible. However, we must begin to grasp how differently it manifests on this side of the Atlantic.

I wish three of my Passed Into Starlight friends who started me on this part of my journey were still here to give counsel, hot tea and point out my flaws and oversights.

They are not. So I am asking my friends and those of you who walk similar roads to help with some of this. Please ask questions!

Here are some of my topic areas-

Druidry Sans Menhirs- We don;'t have menhirs. We should not use the sacred sites of others nor should we seem or intend to seem to borrow their rites. As gently as we should walk on the land, we must step ever more carefully lest we drive away potential allies who have been here 25 thousand plus years.

"Now That I’ve Met the Land, walked the known sacred places, and met the Powers, now what? How DO I Not Infringe? How Do I live an authentic life? How do I work with others?

Food Shed, Biomes and Seasons-Deriving viable seasons from the place I live,with what I have.

What are the best stories we can create and transmit that can serve us and those who will follow us?

Please post responses here.

Yr Ethereal Yttrium Stoat,

Gordon Cooper
Senior Bottle Washer


#2

Given that your “Wildcrafting” article was one of the primary influences on my deciding to join the AODA, I’m glad that you are expanding upon this topic.

I have a few questions:

  • Could you elaborate on how you think American druidries might diverge significantly from British druidries?
  • What could a “cross-cultural” druidry look like (in terms of people of various ancestral backgrounds practicing together)? Is there such a thing or am I kidding myself? :wink:
  • Could American druids take a more active role in healing the damage that has been done to native cultures or is it enough to not do further harm?

(Please note that I realize it may take generations for American druidry to get to a place where these questions have answers.)

I for one have been pondering the whole notion of sacred stories and how I can approach them from both a cross-cultural and historical standpoint. While I believe mythology is important, I also think I need a better understanding of the various people throughout our history who have lived environmentally responsible lives and advocated on behalf of the natural world. And I’m not just referring to the Thoreaus and Leopolds of America; I also mean African-American, Latino and other people of color whose stories aren’t known widely and who are often overlooked as potential role models. Perhaps these people become a source of inspiration for poetry and song?


#3

There is much of interest in this direction you are heading, @nwlorax. I hope you will keep us posted on your work, as it becomes ready to share.

As @mjglover, I have also been meditating extensively on multi-cultural/international Druidry, and what that might look like. I have been pondering how (if at all) it might draw from the wisdom of Celtic Druidry, which inspired the re-invention of this spiritual path, while still allowing it to become truly localized, and thus (at least in my mind) more authentic as a path of connection with nature, and with the Divine. I also share @mjglover’s focus on the puzzle of how to articulate a common core set of beliefs/philosophical principles/practices that could hold such a movement together as a cohesive whole, while at the same time allowing it full freedom to be “wildcrafted.” (This was actually the topic I was planning to propose to work on for my Adept project, though I am technically supposed to wait another year before proposing it or starting work on it.)

I still have a lot of thinking and writing to do on this topic, weaving the hundreds of tangled threads together into a sensible picture in my own mind, before I am ready to share. But thanks for raising the topic, here @nwlorax! I am very interested in the conversations that this topic promises. I was unsure that this line of inquiry would be welcome in AODA, as (at least for me) it has called into question some of the core beliefs and practices and exclusions of AODA ritual traditions. Lots of seed meditation topics in this, to be sure.

As an aside, I wonder if you might speak to this tension, directly: do you feel it is appropriate to pursue questions of this depth and complexity in the public forum? Or is it better placed in one of the more advanced private forums, where questions and challenges related to the the core practices of AODA would be reserved for after people have truly mastered those practices and understand what purposes they can serve? Not so much a matter of secrecy, as one of avoiding confusing beginners, who are only just beginning to explore the traditional AODA ritual practices, in the first place? I just wondered.


#4

I think that one core element, the most human thing of all (aside from making string and swimming) is the Art of Storytelling. This has been split into dozens of specialties, worn down, and largely forgotten, but it is I think the most important thing-how to tell multivalent stories and how to hear them.

Druidry is a clear import, just as much as San Francisco “Chinese Food” or “Brooklyn Pizza”. Damn near anything is a cultural construct. And those shift across time and location.

Most of us haven’t had ancestors here in the Americas for 20 thousand plus years. We are new immigrants by and large. Factor in recent myths-the creation of the nation-state and political parties-and there is much scope for not getting stuff done.

What was 600 years ago was largely sustainable. What we have now isn’t going to work well for the world in a decade, let alone a century or ten thousand years.

This might be our species time to see how we will answer the question about the Fermi Paradox-why if life is common, the Insect Alien Overlords (or the Purple Lizards) haven’t shown up and announced their Galactic Sisterhood of the Travelling Saucers.

People will discuss these topics, either here or elsewhere. Here there is a much better chance to see how the dialog can unfold and what flows from it, than elsewhere where context and timing will be lost.


#5

I agree that storytelling is important but I’m wondering if we’re in a particular period in time where stories are just too ubiquitous to be effective. I think we are drowning in stories and I think the cultural emphasis on discursivity is in fact part of the problem. We basically live in echo chambers (from academia to the sports bar) where we’re constantly repeating back our anthropocentric narratives and focusing on what’s happening “elsewhere” rather than what’s happening “right here.” Many of us don’t have the attention span for “right here.” As you said, “much scope for not getting stuff done.”


#6

I am not sure why you have a problem with Menhirs. They are just tall standing stones and I know of several locations (modern) of standing stones and stone circles here in he US. I happen to believe they are great centering places for those in search of earth energies and inner growth, and I encourage the creation of more of them.

I also see no problem visiting those ancient stone sites in places like the UK. When visited individually or in small groups they can be a most wonderful place to ground and get in touch with the earth, not to mention the spirits of place. The spirits are still there (though they too may have changed over time)and they do appreciate those who approach them respectfully.

When I am traveling rural Europe I often come across old churches or chapels. Though I am not a Christian, I find those places to be wonderful stops along the way to sit in peaceful meditation or to light a candle and send a prayer. I have my gods, goddesses, or spirits in mind, but I am thankful and respectful of the place I am in.

Well there are a few thoughts. If we lived closer I would ask you over for tea, scones, and further discussion.


#7

My main problem with Menhirs is the word. I simply cannot use it without conjuring the image of Obelix and Asterix, the comic-strip Gauls, startling Druid Getafix right out of his oak tree.


#8

From my perspective we no longer have storytelling or discussions.

We drown in blipverts and twits. Not in dialog.

What was regarded as deviant in fact checking and historical research are now swallowed wholesale.


#9

Here is my 2 cents. I have to make a disclaimer in that I’m a Dutchman, and I’ve never been to America. Regardless, as a Druid, a member of the AODA, and an occultist, I do have an opinion on this matter.

I fully and wholly agree that this tradition, that began roughly 300 years ago in the United Kingdom, needs to keep evolving. I mean this in the most biological sense of the word: It is a living tradition, like a species of animal, that must adapt to its local environment to thrive. If Druidry is a worldwide phenomenon, then, like worldwide occurring species of animals, regional variants will and should come into existence eventually. I believe this is healthy and natural. Certainly, what we practice now differs vastly from the initial orders founded in the 1700’s.

However, I believe that two things are of prime importance. The first is that many of us must still be inspired by the Ancient Druids, as they once were in the Britanniae and in Gaul. We became AODA druids because we were attracted to the traditions the Order has right now. The Welsh Gods we invoke are real. They have power and presence, and are very willing to work with us. Our western esoteric symbolism and rituals have a long history and both power and meaning associated with them. For example; the White Stag of Summer has been a fixture throughout European history. We know the Celts saw white stags as messengers, they have appeared on coats of arms (see the badge of Richard the 2nd), and have played a role in mythology for thousands of years. Something like that shouldn’t be blatantly discarded in favor for something local. I feel the exact same way about menhirs, and I am sure many Druids of our Order have already lovingly made entire stone circles, and some probably used our now traditional rituals to enchant them. There is a lot of established lore there. Sure, they were inspired by the menhirs of the Ancient Druids (or whoever built those sites). But the menhirs and stone circles we make, in the now, have a different basis - the last three hundred years of Revival Druidry. These are our menhirs, with our enchantments, and meaning to us.

One of the key features of the AODA is how modular it all is, and how easily symbolism, animals, gods and such can be swapped in and out, or freely chosen. And we should definitely add our local animal species to work with, but I don’t think this should entail ditching our original connections entirely. Even if we’re all using our own animals and gods in daily practice, we can get together from different continents and use our traditional animals and Welsh Revival gods. I believe this would be the best of both worlds, keeping the internal consistency and shared basic knowledge of the Order, but allowing for freedom and adaptation as well.

The second thing that is on my mind, is that many members of the AODA do have European Ancestry. European history, culture, plants, animals, and traditions have all been brought along to the Americas, and they can never be entirely filtered out. And I don’t think one should try. I believe we shouldn’t denounce our common heritage as Druids, that was the thing we initially all fell in love with - we should definitely take up local practice, consult local spirits, and adapt rituals and customs for local use. But stressing individuality over community seems dangerous for the AODA as a whole, to me. Especially in the Era in which we live. A shared knowledge of Ogham, of the SOP, of the basic Druid Revival tales - this can bind us together. And from that point onwards, we can all develop ourselves into different directions, and ‘bring back’ those things we have found that may be of value to us all.

I don’t see a readily available replacement for menhirs and traditional druid lore that would keep the spirit and effects these have. Not without committing gross cultural appropriation, in any case. To me, it feels like denial of what we are and where we came from. The Ancient Druids are but one thread of our heritage. Revival Druidry is another, much thicker thread. And our local cultures could (should?) be just that, another thread in the weave that makes up our Druidry.

Ultimately, I believe the answer here lies in finding a balance between our own traditions, both as the AODA and as Revival Druidry, which we ought to be proud of, and the new lessons our various locales and their cultures have to teach us.


#10

@Brigyn, I respectfully disagree with your insistence that Celtic lore must necessarily form the core of “shared” story framework for modern druids, especially within the United States, where a full 25% of our population has no relationship whatsoever to Europe, and even among those of European descent, many of us have ancestors from European countries that never had a Celtic influence, of any kind. And we also have many reasons for joining the AODA; inspiration by stories of Ancient Druids of Britain/Gaul has had no part whatsoever in my own journey. I am sure that there are others who came for different reasons, as well.

But, to the current discussion of storytelling, and its place in Druidry, I will quote from my own second-degree essay, in which I argued this very point:

The Mabinogion does contain hidden wisdom encoded in story that is both a delight to read and, as a piece of classic literature, is also open to many levels of interpretation. However, the stories of The Mabinogion take place in context of the traditional ways and beliefs of the ancient Celts. And I believe this limits its utility as a general resource for modern druids.
As Lewis Spence points out in his “Druid Teachings and Initiations,” essay in The Druid Revival Reader, contrary to popular belief, Celtic druids are very unlikely to have copied their mythologies from Greeks, Egyptians, Zoroastrians, or any other ancient, foreign culture, simply because mythologies and cultural behavioral norms of peoples are always based upon local cultural values and beliefs. He suggests that druids should spend more time studying the Celtic literature of Britain for clues to what the ancient, druids did and believed. And for modern druids in the British isles, or for druids of Celtic descent, this is absolutely true.

By the same token, as a modern druid living and working in the coastal hills of central California, with no historical or genealogical connections to the British Isles, it is unlikely that I will find a lot of meaningful or useful information for my own druid path by studying the legends and histories of the Celts, alone.

The trouble with culturally embedded wisdom is that only part of it will ever become obvious to those who are not fully acculturated to the society from which the tale was taken. Much can be gained by reading widely in the world repository of myths and legends of all cultures. However, limiting oneself to reading the key mythological cycle(s) of a single culture — to which one does not actually belong — is dangerously limiting as a religious practice. Because of this, I feel that The Mabinogion is only of value to me as a druid in the context of a shelf of books of myths and legends drawn from cultures around the world.

That said, I think that the emphasis on arguing over which sets of stories are the “correct” stories to study, as a Druid, entirely misses the point. I think we need to spend more time cultivating the meta-skills that enable you to draw wisdom from all stories, and find the kinds of general wisdom that transcends culture (and plenty of this does exist). Developing a shared set of reading strategies could also be the glue that holds a group together. It is more work, to be sure, but it also pays off in the discovery of wonderful new tales and storytelling traditions.


#11

I should have clarified. In the UK, there are so many henges and standing stones as to make it easy to visit a site-especially given the differences in land use policies in the UK vs the USA. I have nothing against them, save that they are a ubiquitous feature of UK druidry that is missing entirely out here in the Western USA-and I don’t count Concretehenge or Carhenge as valid list entries.

Books on UK druidry always feature gatherings at Stonehenge, or Avebury or some other prominent monument and this is held as a feature of Druidry intrinsic to its nature. Anchoring our druidry to Stonehenge can work IMHO in a mythic but not iconic fashion.

In the US, we brought nothing similar to megaliths as a part of the immigrant European and other experiences. Nor do we have anything like (Watkins) Ley Line walkways.

As Owen Rowley noted long ago to me, the closest thing that is known to exist in the US are the Sun Wheels, which have been in use by US native tribes for a long time. (The stone spheres of Costa Rica may have served a similar purpose, though no one can be certain of much about them.)

My suggestion is that we should make a concerted effort to support city, county state and federal parks, wilderness areas and the like, and to support sustainable gatherings in these places.


#12

Perhaps part of the reason that the stone circles hold such an attraction to folks traveling and living in the UK is that they have long-since annihilated all of their old-growth forests (or nearly so). I personally have found significantly more power and magic flowing through the heart of the Founders Grove and the old-growth areas of Humboldt Redwoods State Park than in any stone circle I have visited to date (including Avebury, Stonehenge, and Ring of Brodgar on Orkney). Perhaps we need to be thinking less in terms of human-made monuments built upon places of power, and more upon the Natural power of places we have (thankfully) set aside for preservation.

Which is why I proposed to organize a gathering at the Avenue of the Giants.


#13

Yes, exactly!

While I understand that the UK ancestral connection, including the rediscovery and use of Celtic lore, is an important part of Revival Druidry for many practicing druids, my focus has been and continues to be on Druidry’s value as a nature-based spiritual tradition and its capacity to instill ecological consciousness as well as creative capacities in those who practice it. The lore itself is secondary or maybe tertiary. Hence, @nwlorax’s evolving focus on “Druidries,” with the understanding that there is room for more than one form of it.

Cultivating the meta-skills of story listening and storytelling, as @Larisa put it, is key for me. It’s important to me that my Druidry enable me to shape my local community (if not now, then eventually) and to be able to do that, I need to be able to “shapeshift” by telling stories in a way that a wide range of people can hear. There are many avenues for storytelling, from the poetry slam to the elevator speech :wink:, and they don’t require people sitting in a circle around a fire to be effective.

I agree with this also. I pointed out in another thread that there are enough avenues for sacred practice that there really is no need to borrow rituals and sacred spaces from Native Americans (so long as our focus is on actually getting things done rather than the optics of magical practice). What if we wove (subtly or explicitly) Druid ritual into stream cleanups or tree planting activities? The other good thing about focusing on municipal parks is that they often are the most accessible natural areas for the less privileged in our society, particularly those who don’t own their own land.


#14

My last comment. I live in a wooded area with a large variety of trees. I also live close to the redwood grove in which stands the tallest tree in the world and have enjoyed visits to that grove since I was a kid. My interactions with trees is a major part of my practice and my life.

I have also visited close to 200 stone sights in Europe and have had many wonderful experiences with the stones there. Sitting in a small stone circle like Brisworthy on Dartmoor is much like sitting at the base of an ancient redwood. Both have much to offer to the open heart.

While there may not have been stone circles built in the Americas in the past, I do not live in the past, and can see only the positive in including stones in our practice today. The stone circle I have built on my property brings me great joy and a closer connection with the earth from which the stones came.


#15

I have visited your stone circle, @pkford, and I agree that it is a magical place. I am sure that is in no small part due to the fact that it was recently built, with loving hands, and is actively and regularly used as a place of ritual. I actually found that the smaller, less-frequented stone sites I visited in Europe had better energy to them than Stonehenge, which was overrun by disrespectful tourists. Perhaps there is some incidental/unintentional negative magic in having so many millions of disrespectful feet racing in to grab a bit of Instagram magic from a place, without leaving any spiritual energy in return? Just a thought.


#16

Dear Larisa et al:

Thank you for making this point. In reading Nuinn, including some unpublished bits, I understand that he was thinking of Britain as an outpost of Eastern civilizations- a flow of tradition and information from Crete, Egypt and elsewhere. It was only in the late 1970’s that the elements we regard as intrinsically Celtic qua Celtic (aside from Nuinn’s wonderful Arthurian sky-wheel cosmology of Knights) were a central feature of any part of esoteric practice in this hemisphere. Druidry wasn’t on the map. Druid groups started as a way to evade College requirements for religious practice on campus. (RDNA). Even then, it was really hard swimming far against the current for many of us in the 1980’s and beyond to get folks to even look at primary sources (such as they are) rather than pop fiction novels for information.

One tragic consequence of this is that there were groups in the Appalachians and elsewhere who had shreds of information that had been fashioned into interesting group practices at least by the middle 1960’s. Once these groups came into contact with published materials, most quietly re-wrote or dropped out whatever they’d developed since 20 years of successful practice means less than one published book.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I love books. I haunt libraries whenever I have the chance. Books are more efficient than computer screens for retention by about 50%. On the other hand, as someone with a degree in Anthropology, I know that humans do not best share information out through isolating media like the Interwebs.

Telling a story around a fire does several things-

It results in calming down the hominids present.

It can develop into a safe environment for sharing food.

This facilitates telling, respecting and absorbing stories.

These features result in better retention and respect.

I think of AODA as one set of campfires with many others on and beyond the fields we know.

A phrase popped into mind this evening. I hope it has some traction. If not, I am open to suggestions.

Many Druidries-One Earth

Blessings all round,

Gordon


#17

I’m a bit rushed for time right now, but will give this more thought later. However, I do want to make the point that living in the southeastern part of the U.S. I’ve struggled with the four directions and their elements. I believe I’ve mentioned this in another thread. For me, Water is in the south (Gulf of Mexico); Fire in the west (hot areas of desert); Wind in the north (where some of cold fronts come from); and Earth in the east (our Celtic roots; both mine and Druidry). More later…
Brenda


#18

@Brigyn and all: I’ve spent much of the day wrestling (in my mind) the issues brought up in this thread. Then I re-read Brigyn’s discourse and I thought, “Wowzie! He said it better than I ever could.” I find myself agreeing with virtually all thoughts and opinions given by Brigyn. Thanks for such valid insights.

I don’t want AODA to try to be everything to everyone in America. Then we could merely change the name of the order to AOEA, Ancient Order of Everything in America. (That was supposed to be half-funny!) We do need to keep our Celtic roots.

My DNA shows 85% Great Britain, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales. The remainder is Western European and Scandinavian. So for me to attempt to embrace Native American Shamanism, for example, seems ridiculous to me. While I sincerely respect Native American cultures, beliefs, and practices - I would feel … disrespectful? insensitive? uneasy? … if I tried to adopt their ways. If others chose to do so, I respect their choice. It just wouldn’t seem to be the appropriate path for me.

Brenda


#19

Brenda I do not know what you are responding to. The AODA has never claimed a connection to the Vates or their Roman era kin. This is spelled out in many places.

“Celt” as a concept was an arbitrary line for describing hostile non-Roman territories as described by Caesar. In modern times it was only a linguistic category until the last 30 or so years and not ascribed cultural meaning.

AODA is a continuation of Revival Druid thought, seriously enriched and clarified by Ross Nichols-who drew his inspirations from medieval legends of Arturos and his band, and his structure from the Kibbo Kift. Along with Vera Chapman, the Kibbo Kift scribe and Inkling founder.

On this side of the Atlantic we have been influenced by Universalism, Gnosticism and contemplative practices still in use by The Church of England. There’s not much woad in our dyestuff.

No one has proposed adopting anything into our ritual structure from the natives of this hemisphere. Where in this dialog do you find that assertion?

Blessings

Gordon


#20

I had never heard of Kibbo Kift until this post, @nwlorax. A fascinating connection, and one I must explore further. It would be wonderful to see what kind of “family tree” of influences informed the historical development of the AODA. That might provide a very useful study guide for those of us interested in delving deeper into the heritage of our Order.