What does it mean to be a Druid today? A lot of the time, when asked, people seem to think of Druids as long bearded men in white robes cutting mistletoe with sickles under the full moon. I’ve never had this image of a Druid. The only Druids I knew about when I was growing up were the ones in my Forgotten Realms and Dungeons & Dragons fantasy books. They didn’t fit the old, beardy image – these were the folk who felt a rapport with the natural world, that cared for it and respected it and worked with it to make the realms a better place. As far as I’m concerned, this was a pretty good introduction to Druidry.
Though these Druids had some pretty supernatural powers, able to call lightning and smite down their foes, or turn themselves into eagles or wolves or other animals, still it was that sense of wanting to leave the so called “civilised world” behind in favour of communing with nature – that sense of ease found in the forest and not in the cities. I empathised with these Druids who hated going within city walls, longing for the woods and the green. It wasn’t their powers that impressed me, it was their very sense of self – a sense of attunement and belonging to the natural world.
Though many modern-day Druids do live in cities, as I once did (not out of choice) it is in this rapport with nature that is the underlying factor in our religion, our spirituality or our philosophy. Our hearts are freer – they soar while standing on a cliff’s edge, or at the shoreline, or deep within a great wood. We hear the song of life around us, that beckons the soul to true expression – to simply be.
The Druid takes inspiration from the natural world around her – she takes delight in a cold winter’s morning as she watches the foxes scamper and chase each other across a field newly covered with snow. She feels the heat and passion as she hears or sees the rutting deer in the cold autumn months. She finds pure joy in the flight of the butterfly searching for nectar in the warm summer sunshine. She finds the thrill of the hunt as she watches a cat stalking its prey. She takes wing with the hawk as it soars across a cloudy sky, finding thermals in ever increasing spirals that reflect the spirals of life.
This may all sound wonderful, and true – but also a bit airy-fairy to some. Being a Druid is also about taking on responsibility for one’s actions, as well as for one’s environment. No longer can one be ignorant about either – it is waking up and making a commitment to understand to the best of our abilities in everything that we do and say. It is learning behavioural patterns in our own selves as well as in those animals that share our environment. It is learning from the cycles of nature, the seasons, the tides and times of life. Knowing when to break free, when to retreat, when to shout aloud and when to keep quiet.
Being a Druid is about making life choices in everything – from vigilant recycling to knowing where our tap water comes from. It is about making a relationship with everything, from the food we eat to the badgers that have been de-homed for the new housing complex. It is a huge sacrifice – giving up ignorance and opening our eyes to the world, and seeing what we can do to make it a better place.
We may wear robes, we may wear wellies – but we are still Druids. We may not smite our foes with lightning, but we fight to protect those of the natural world that humans would harm. We live and we learn through awen, through inspiration from nature. We may not achieve the same status as a 20th level D&D Druid, but we gain something much more important – a real magic in our lives that we can live with and honour each and every day.