Druid 2013 took place on Saturday 14 September in Wolverhampton. This was the second Druid Forum event with the first being eleven years previously. I was at the first Druid Forum although I had to leave early to travel back home so missed some of it but even so that event inspired myself and a dear friend to start up a druid conference in Glasgow called DruidCon. We ran DruidCon for five years before deciding, for various reasons, that it was time to pass the baton on. So I had high expectations for this second Druid Forum. Expectations which were met and surpassed.
I expected to be able to listen to great speakers on a range of topics. I expected to be able to meet up with people I hadn’t seen for a while and meet face to face some I only knew via the internet. I expected to have a very enjoyable day and I did.
What I didn’t expect was that the various speakers would re-invigorate my feelings about Druidry.
Others have already written reviews of the day:
Druid 2013 by Léithin Cluan
Druid 2013 by Eilidh Nic Sidheag
And I highly recommend you read them both, two different but overall positive reactions to Druid 2013.
I have in the last few years questioned whether druidry is my path. I stopped using the label of Druid to describe myself a long time ago and I still don’t think I’m ready to take that label back up but I had also stopped using the term druidry to describe my path. This included a time when I questioned my membership to the Druid Network. I did decide to renew on that occasion but the following year I let my membership lapse a while before renewing.
I have taken great pride in being a member of Brython walking a path of reconnection strongly influenced by reconstructionist ideas. Brython was a community, predominately held online with a few face to face meetings, but one by one most of that community has moved away. In my opinion Brython as a community is no more and I find that I have a deep need to be part of a wider spiritual community. Being part of Brython has literally changed my life, without it I may never have met my dearest love Neil Pitchford aka Red Raven. The Druid Network also plays a part in our story but that tale is perhaps for anther time suffice it to say that I will always consider myself to be part of Brython even though the active side of that community has faded into the mists somewhat.
So with doubts and uncertainties I returned to the Druid Network and to wandering in the forest of druidry, still not really sure that I was walking a Druid path. I began to take a more active interest in things of druidry once more but still not really feeling at home. Neil and I had also talked about trying to become more involved in the Druid Network as a team. Then came Druid 2013 and luckily Neil and I were able to attend.
Druid 2013 was inspiring and re-invigorating for me. Four speakers in particular deeply affected me. These were Philip Shallcrass, Emma Restall-Orr, Phil Ryder and Professor Ron Hutton.
Philip Shallcrass spoke abut his journey with druidry and the British Druid Order of which he is founder. He spoke of his hopes that one day when someone speaks of modern Druids they automatically include shamanic techniques among the practices of a Druid. He also spoke of his belief that sound is something that crosses the boundaries between worlds. Singing is and always has been an integral part of my personal practice and this reinforced a more recently formed belief that music, particularly live music crosses over the boundaries between worlds carrying as it does the emotions of the performer at that time.
The things from Emma’s talk that have stayed with me the most are her talking of her understanding of what Love is deepening over the years, of druidry being in her words “a religion of change”. My understanding of what she said is that druidry is deeply rooted in the land and environment the individual lives and works in and because it is about connections and relationships as well it must change from person to person, from place to place, from season to season. She also mentioned sound, if I remember correctly but I can’t remember the exact context. Her talk brought tears to my eyes, it spoke to me deeply and yet I can’t fully remember what she said beyond those two main aspects.
Phil Ryder spoke of his journey with the Druid Network and how he came to be involved in getting the Druid Network recognised by the Charity Commision of England and Wales as a charity advancing the cause of religion. He also spoke about his current involvement with the Interfaith Network of the UK on behalf of the Druid Network. The aspect of his talk that deeply affected me was that all of this came about by one simple and seemingly unrelated decision he made to drive his wife to a Druid Network Groves day several years ago. Driving his wife there meant that he felt he might as well attend the Groves day and to do that he had to join the Druid Network. From such a simple decision life changing events occurred.
Lastly Professor Ron Hutton spoke about what he called the real history of druidry as opposed to the mythical one. This was deeply inspiring. One of the first revivalist Druid Orders, the Ancient Order of Druids was founded in 1781 by one Henry Hurle, in essence a builder. This new order was dedicated to encouraging musical skills and performances in its member and was open to male members of all walks of life. It was in essence about forming a community. Ron went on to talk about the first use of what is now known as the Druid’s Prayer by Iolo Morganwg. This took place in Wales at a time Iolo was not popular with the authorities and he was, if I remember correctly, warned that holding his gathering would not be a good idea. He and his group of radical souls went ahead anyway with a ring of cavalry soldiers around them threatening to run them down. Ron explained it something like this:
“Grant, O God, Thy protection;” – meaning literally protection from the soldiers standing about them
“And in protection, strength;” – literally the strength to keep going when threatened
“And in strength, understanding;
And in understanding, knowledge;
And in knowledge, the knowledge of justice;
And in the knowledge of justice, the love of it;” – so that this small group may be treated justly
“And in that love, the love of all existences;” – even the love of those soldiers threatening them
“And in the love of all existences, the love of God.
God and all goodness.”
And from what Ron told us at that point the soldiers left in shame at threatening such a peaceful group. Ron also told us of the members of the of the Universal Druid Bond an order with the ideals of peace at its heart, traveled to Libya to stand with a group of Muslims engaging in peaceful protest over the actions of colonizers which were destroying their peaceful way of life. The thirteen members of that order of druids died with those peaceful protesters in the desert. Most of Ron’s talk was focused on British druidry but in the question and answer session he also mentioned that members of German Druid Orders had died in concentration camps, again for having the courage of their convictions. This history of people who wanted to create communities that crossed social boundaries (opening up to women as well came a little later but it did come and before many other areas were opening to women too I believe), these people who loved peace so much that they risked and even gave their lives, is incredibly inspiring. They would almost certainly have been Christian but they were among the radicals of their times with deeply held convictions. Modern Pagan druidry owes a great deal to these ancestors and we should not forget it.
Key ideas that came out of the day for me are:
- the need for community involvement and action within druidry;
- the role that peace and peaceful protest has played in druidry (and can again);
- the power of music to cross boundaries between worlds;
- the profound impact a simple decision can make on your life and the lives of many others;
- and druidry as a path focused on developing relationships with the environment about us and because of that a path that is unique to each of us, a path of change.
I said earlier that Druid 2013 has re-invigorated my feelings on Druidry. It is more accurate to say Druid 2013 has re-invigorated my druidry. And for that I offer my deepest thanks to Geoff Boswell and his team for organising and hosting a spectacular day, to the speakers for sharing their thoughts, experiences and knowledge and to those in the wider druid community that attended and made it such a special day especially those I had the pleasure of spending a bit of time talking with during the breaks.