The Druid’s Vow

The Druid’s Vow is a common aspect of many British Druid rituals.  The words for those that are unfamiliar with them are:

We swear by peace and love to stand
Heart to heart, and hand in hand;
Mark! O Spirit, and hear us now,
Confirming this, our sacred vow.

In my experience of OBOD influenced rituals it is usually said three times with participants often holding hands.

The Druid’s Vow is one of those pieces of not quite doctrine that many British Druids seem to use without  really thinking deeply about what they are saying.  I’ve been guilty of doing that myself in the past.

The words of what is now known as the Druid’s Vow first appeared in 1956 in a Universal Bond ritual that took place on Tower Hill in London (Hutton, R. The Druids, p187).

I presume that as Ross Nichols was a member of the Universal Bond before he formed the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids that he adopted this verse into his Order’s rituals. I’m also assuming that when the OBOD distance programme was developed Philip Carr-Gomm naturally included this verse in the rituals that were presented to members.

Over the years I’ve witnessed a number of online discussions about the use of that verse.  There are many for whom using the words “we swear” and “sacred vow” are just not possible unless they are in a group where they know all present and really do feel able to swear to stand in peace and love with them. There are others who will use the words if they are among people they know but only meaning it for that brief moment.

I’ve used the words in the past without thinking about them.  At rituals in the last year or two I have mostly used them when I feel able to at least say that for that moment I stand in peace and love with those present.  I have also been at rituals in the last year where I have felt unable to use those words now that I think more about them and attempt to mean what I say.  There have been occasions that for personal reasons I have not felt very peaceful during the ritual that was taking place, others where there were so many people I didn’t know present that I felt unable to use the words and remained silent instead at that part of the ritual.

Today while doing the washing up (I find that’s a good time for thinking of other things) I suddenly realised that changing the word “swear” to “seek” would totally alter the meaning of that verse and make it more accessible for me and hopefully many others. And I’ll also be talking to plural spirits which is an alteration I have heard before.

From now on I think I’ll be using this version of the Druid’s Vow:

We seek by peace and love to stand
Heart to heart, and hand in hand;
Mark! O Spirits, and hear us now,
Confirming this, our sacred vow.

Thoughts from Peace One Day

I was blessed in having a truly peaceful day on Saturday 21st.

It was a late start to the day as the children were at their dad’s for the weekend. We had a cooked breakfast at a local Morrisons before heading out to Loch Lonmond. There we spent time looking round the grounds and house of a venue we hope to use in the future. The grounds are wonderful. The main house is on the east side of Loch Lomond with views over the loch and out towards the hills including Ben Lomond, one one side is a private golf course and the rest is surrounded with gardens and woodland. The gardens have the most wonderful old trees, oaks, yews, birch and beech are abundant with rowan and hawthorn well represented to as well as more unusual (to me) species of trees. We wandered and absorbed the beauty and peace of this place for a while before returning home.

After doing some chores we sat down to mediate on Peace. As sitting mediation is not something we do very often we found ourselves stretching and moving after about half an hour. We sat quietly and talked about peace for a while longer.

My mind was not still while meditating and continually drifted from idea to idea although I kept trying to focus the drifts on the topic of peace. When I opened my eyes I saw outside my front room window in the whitebeam tree a figure of the green man. My logical self will tell you that as I didn’t have my glasses on that was my mind interpreting the shapes of colour and light I could see to a green man figure. My spiritual self says it doesn’t matter, I felt his presence there anyway which is a very unusual thing for me.

We followed our peaceful time with a trip round the local supermarket to get the weekly shopping done (actually a very peaceful time to do that chore) then had dinner and watched TV for a bit before bed.

The main thought that struck me from the mediation was this: Peace is not still.

Peace – part 2

Recently I started thinking more about peace and wrote in Peace – part 1 about the reading I had done into peace and some of its meanings.

I ended with a couple of questions:

“And what about inner peace and feeling peaceful? What did those things really mean to me?”

I’ve been continuing to think about these questions and I feel now that I am close enough to an understanding of what these things are to me to write about them here.

The first sentence on the Wikipedia article on Peace is:

“Peace is a state of harmony characterized by the lack of violence, conflict behaviors and the freedom from fear of violence.”

Peace as a state of harmony is something I have been thinking about since I read that.  Harmony is something that I tend to link to music and musically harmony is the simultaneous use of different notes.  I think many will think of harmonious music as being music that sounds pleasing to us, the use of different pitches and instruments blending together to form something we enjoy. So does that mean that peace is a state where different actions take place simultaneously that are pleasing to us? I think this is much closer to what I feel peace is.

But for me there is more to peace than actions taking place that are pleasing.  I have to be able to recognise what actions are taking place around me and form a judgement about whether they are pleasing or not.  In order to recognise what actions are taking place about me I have to be in a position to increase my awareness of myself and my surroundings.  I have to become a bit more “mindful” of the present moment.

I’ve recently read a book called “Zen Druidry” by Joanna van der Hoeven.  I’m not familiar with Zen philosophy but one aspect of what Joanna writes has been of particular benefit for me as I think about peace and that is Mindfulness.  She writes:

“The key to integrating Zen and Druidry lies in the path of mindfulness – living with full attention.”

(Chapter 8, page 60)

She goes on to say:

“In Sanskrit, mindfulness is smriti, which also means recollection, the state of being alert and also retention.”

For me I think being mindful in these ways is also key to being able to recognise peace both within myself and around me more often.

Like many others I live a busy life.  There are days where I seem to hardly have a moment in which to think or feel for myself let alone become aware enough to recognise peace.  For me to be able to recognise what is going around me I need things to quieten down a bit.  If I’m surrounded with all sorts of different sensory input, have a mental list of what I need to do next running through my head and children or work colleagues asking me for things that may or may not be on my mental lists of things to do I can feel a bit like a punchbag.
I’ve realised that the places I find peaceful are places where the level of sensory input is reduced, where the demands I and others place on myself are reduced or even removed for a while.  I need space to be able to recognise what’s going on around me, to judge it and to feel “peace”.

If I can develop a better level of mindfulness then I should be able to make those judgments about actions going on around me more readily and assuming they are generally pleasing actions recognise that there is probably more peace in my life than I realise most of the time.

Developing a better level of mindfulness than I have at the moment though is probably going to take me a while but identifying the challenge is the first step in succeeding.

And in the meantime I have formed the intention to take some time on 21st September to look at what is taking place around me and finding some peace for Peace One Day.

Peace – part 1

Inspired by recent discussions on the Druid Network members site I’ve been thinking about peace and what it really means.  I’m still not sure I have found a completely satisfactory answer to the question “what is peace?” but I am a lot closer to understanding some of the meanings and associations of that simple word than I used to be.

While I’ve been thinking about peace I’ve also been doing a bit of following up on links suggested by others and doing a little reading around the topic too.  Sites I’ve visited in my quest to understand more about peace include:

Campaign Against the Arms Trade
Peace Studies Department at the University of Bradford
Foundation For Peace
Peace Pledge Union
Peace One Day
Wikipedia – Peace
Wikipedia – peace and conflict studies
Wikipedia – International Peace Belt
Wikipedia – Johan Galtung

My first somewhat light-hearted definition for peace came to me one morning while getting ready for work.

If war is


could peace be


Effective communication is something easier said than done in many circumstances as it takes a willingness from all parties involved to listen and speak to the other parties involved.

I still wasn’t happy with this though and I think that was because I was doing what a lot of other places seem to do which is defining peace by what is absent (conflict) rather than what it is in itself.  I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with this approach, far from it, just that I was and still am looking for a broader definition of peace.
I am aware I have really only scratched the surface of this topic but nevertheless here are some of the things that I have found the most helpful in my reading.
The conflict triangle – from the information on Wikipedia this is a concept developed by John Galtung that defines three related types of violence and places them in a triangle. These three types of violence are:
  • direct violence – which I understand to be physical violence
  • structural violence – which I understand to be bureaucracy in any organisation or country that allows physical harm to take place unchallenged
  • cultural violence – which I understand to be a society’s perception that allows physical harm to take place unchallenged.
The UK is far from being a country without these aspects of violence at the current time.  For example, the Church of England, like the Catholic church has recently admitted that it has failed in protecting young people from being abused by some priests.  This strikes me as examples of structural violence but linked to that is cultural violence in that for decades wider society did not want to accept that any priest could be capable of such behaviour.  No-one wanted to admit it could happen so many turned a blind eye and ignored those cries for help that did take place.
In the city I live in, Glasgow, there are still aspects of cultural violence that lead to more sectarian violence between some aspects of Protestant and Catholic communities.  There is a minority of vocal individuals on both side of this divide that seem to believe that expressing their opinions on these matters physically is absolutely fine!
Modern media in the form of internet, newspapers, TV programmes, Twitter and other social networking sites abound with examples of cultural violence towards one group of people or another.  While the UK may not be at war on these physical shores it is, according to these definitions, by no means at peace either.  (I’m not sure if our military forces involvement in situations internationally would be classed as at war or involved in conflict resolution as I am not knowledgeable enough on these areas.)
Reading about the idea of the conflict triangle made me think more deeply about violence, conflict and peace in human societies. As a Pagan though I wanted to be able to expand my understanding of peace beyond the human species.  And what about inner peace and feeling peaceful? What did those things really mean to me?