Signposts:  My First Look at Druidry

Being Pagan means we are always learning.  As soon as I think I grasp something that I feel comfortable with I learn about something new.  Although I’m not as green as I was when I started this path I’m also certainly no expert in any part of it.  The amount of information and the number of paths to choose from is frankly overwhelming yet somehow still exhilarating.  There is always more to learn.

A friend of mine recommended a book on Druidry to me – The Druidry Handbook: Spiritual Practice Rooted in the Living Earth by John Michael Greer, a Druid in the Ancient Order of Druids in America (AODA).

I found it to be a fascinating and enlightening read.

The book is divided into three parts.  The first provides a rich and honest discussion about the history of the Druid movement.  The second provides a look into Druid philosophy.  The third offers a practical guide to those interested in following a Druid path.  Greer explains that reading the book front to back isn’t for everyone – for those simply interested in a history of Druids could stop at the end of part one, and those familiar with the history could simply start with part three.  I chose to read it through – my knowledge of Druidry was limited to the sections I read in other books and the limited number of them I’ve met.  Greer also provides an extended reading list at the end of each part with a brief description of how it is relevant to the topic.
One of the first things I immediately noticed was how matter-of-fact the content is presented – in a plain way without over embellishment.  Somehow, Greer comes across as someone simply having a conversation with the reader.  He has a wonderful way with words which he uses to effectively illustrate his points.  I also appreciated his sense of humor.  The book brings a sense of levity to counter some of the more difficult discussions.

In the first part of the book, Greer cleverly dances not around sensitive topics but head first into them.  He talks about controversial aspects of Druid history, for example, in an unapologetic way – pointing out what may be historical inaccuracies yet acknowledging the historical perspectives they require.  This was refreshing.  Like some more recent books on Wicca, he discusses Druid acceptance of their more recent history and the assertion that longevity isn’t akin to validity.

The second part of the book covers Druid philosophy.  Here Greer describes key aspects and provides definitions of important terms.  The discussion of ternaries was insightful and timely to me.  It is interesting that we often face the same issues of duality throughout our planet’s history.  Obviously this is just as true today.

The third part is broken down into The Earth Path, The Sun Path, and the Moon Path.  Each section teaches a particular aspect of Druidry for a new initiate to follow.  Basic natural awareness coupled with study of the local plant and animal life, as well as its natural history, are covered in the Earth Path.  How to open and close a Druid Grove and some basic ways to celebrate the seasonal holidays are included in the Sun Path.   Finally, the Moon Path section covers Druid meditation, from how it can differ from other paths to techniques such as color breathing.

The Druid path presented by Greer in his book gave me quite a bit to think about.  I practice many things described in the book and tend to live the kind of life he describes already.
Like most Pagans, I place a lot of value on the Earth and it’s cycles.  I volunteer my time with local conservation groups and use public transportation as a way to relieve stress while putting less of a burden on the environment.  My family recycles everything we can and we try our hands at gardening (my wife has a way with plants that I envy).
I also practice polytheism.  I find it makes sense to me on both a spiritual and mental level.  I find that the different deities I work with have very different personalities and I develop individual relationships with them.  To some Pagans deities are simply different aspects of ‘the One’, stating that these aspects are reflections of us.  While this may be the case, I only know what I’ve experienced.  This book touches on that and closely echoes my feelings when discussing the existence of the Gods and Goddesses.  Greer states:

“Experience, not belief, is central to Druid spirituality, and so it actually doesn’t matter that much to Druidry whether gods are objectively real individual divine beings, aspects or manifestations of some overarching unity, archetypal functions within the human mind, or something else entirely. What matters is that they do certain things, embody certain energies, and appear in certain ways.”

The discussion in the book about simplifying life was also relevant, as I have taken great steps over the past few years to reduce the clutter, both in physical and material things and in my digital online life.

Druidry seems similar to other paths, both Pagan on non-Pagan, in many aspects.  Concepts of nonduality, the practice of meditation, acknowledging Deities in our lives, for example, all have homes in other practices as well.  The signpost for me is that looking at other Pagan traditions and what they practice can provide a different perspective to our own paths.  Many of the beliefs may be similar but a different emphasis on one aspect over another can alter our perceptions just enough to more completely understand something we thought we already knew.