The Path of the Druid
The word "Druid" comes to us from another time and place. The Druids are mysterious and shrouded in the mists of ages, a dream of times and place's ancient and forgotten. There are as many dreams concerning the ancient Druids as there are dreamers. Many of these visions are wild and fanciful, even romantic. To some, the dreams are of wise old men, wearing white robes, worshiping beneath an oak tree, or parading around a stone circle at the Summer Solstice. Other dreams are a little more realistic. They were men and women of high intelligence, versed in all the arts and skills of their people. Priests and doctors. Teachers and warriors. The Druids carried all the knowledge and history of the Celtic people. They were advisors to kings and commoner. They were judges and poets. This is who the Druids of old were.
Over the past decade many people have set out on a great voyage to understand. As the understanding grew, the desires changed into recreating and reliving the past of the Druid. People seeking spiritual growth and inner peace began to worship the old way, they sought out the beliefs and practices of the ancient Celt and began to call themselves Druids and their new spiritual path Druidry. Even many of the old Druid orders which have existed for a hundred years or more, began to find the roots of the tree they called Druidry. These orders had functioned for years as fraternal organizations and charities. They eventually began to look to the pagan past for fulfillment and a sense of purpose. As knowledge and understanding of Druidry increased, people flocked to fill the Groves and Orders all across Europe and the United States. Yet, this growth has been both a bane and a blessing.
What has drawn people to this path over the years? It is the mystery or secrets that are now lost? Is it the word "Druid" in and of itself? What kind of image comes to mind when this word is spoken? And more important, what feelings are stirred in the heart, unspeakable and elusive, but real and strong? Many people come into this path seeking understanding and answers to long unanswered questions. They seek understanding of the world and themselves, others are looking for something, they don't know exactly what that something is, all they know is they are looking. Most come into this path with open minds and hearts ready to learn and grow within and without. These are the goals of people walking the Druid path in our day, reaching an understanding the inner universe.
Our modern culture is fascinated with the mysterious past, and the Druid past is shrouded in the mists of a thousand years. Things that are hidden, secret or mysterious must be solved, there must be an answer to the question "Why?" It is the nature of mankind to ask questions. The never-ending quest for knowledge is buried deeply in the human psyche. It was this desire to understand the world that first brought mankind out of the caves and into the brightness of the world. The desire to understand so that survival would be assured. Not much different from modern man, you might say, but there are many differences which must be observed. We are engaging in that same ancient play, the quest for knowledge which can enlighten and empower. Modern man knows the reasons the ancients sought to understand their world, it was a means of survival. What is now different, are the reasons and goals. We have forgotten the reasons why we seek to understand our world. The differences lie in the reasons for understanding. The ancients sought to understand their world by living with it, by becoming one with nature. They understood the importance of all the forces of nature, their survival was dependent upon living with the world, in the right way. We on the other hand, tend toward seeing the world as something that should be controlled and conquered. Modern humans have forgotten something which our ancestors knew, the controllers become the controlled and the conquerors become the conquered.
Many of us who have walked the Druid path, wouldn't change the lessons we've learned or the experiences we've had for all the treasures in the world.
The Quest of a Druid
The quest of a modern Druid is an internal quest, to find the self and understand the connection we share with the rest of the universe.
It is the breath of the spirit that enables us to learn our place in the world. Through the breath of the soul we are able to reach out with our senses and touch the world around us. By interacting with our world we not only add to the knowledge and experience we have collected through our countless lifetimes, but also add to the experience of the whole of creation.
When we open our hearts and allow our spirits to reach out into the world we learn how the universe works. We find within the abstract understanding of our universe that we are connected to it in a vital and beautiful way. An ancient Celt viewed his physical self as existing at the "center" of the world. This view is not based on egotism, or by placing the person ahead of nature. By being at the center one automatically admits that they are connected to everything around them.
The universe exists around us and within us. In order to understand our existence within the universe we need to set aside our linear thought patterns and begin to feel the universe in a different way. Feeling involves using all the senses. Use your senses, feel the changing patterns, feel the life. Watch the animals, smell the myriad scents, and listen to the song of life. Reach out and touch the land, embrace it and allow it to embrace you.
Through ritual and learning we work in two directions at the same time. Delving into the depths of the soul and at the same time working to understand the outer world. Because everything is interconnected we reach understanding of the outer world more easily if we understand the inner world. This is what we work toward as Druids. When we have learned how our own inner universe operates we come to a better understanding of how the world outside and around us exists and functions.
Druid ritual takes many forms, it can be simple or very ceremonial. It can involve one solitary Druid or a whole group of like minded Druids working together to reach a common goal. The learning of a modern Druid attempts to mirror those subjects that our ancient forbears would have studied. We know that Druids filled many roles in ancient Celtic society and our studies attempt to mirror those roles preparing the student of Druidry for a lifetime of growth and service to their tribe. The Druids of old were lawyers, poets, theologians, philosophers, magicians, healers, craftsmen and much more.
Those who walk the path of Modern Druidry call ourselves Druids in honor of those who taught and maintained the knowledge of our Irish ancestors. We understand that we cannot reclaim or recover most that these ancient men and women believed and taught, but we can attempt to mirror their duties in our modern society and build upon the knowledge they did leave us. Druidry needs to be interpreted and made useful and available to modern people. We cannot be the Druids of old, but we can try to be like them and use the knowledge and wisdom left to us for the betterment of our society.
Everyday Celtic scholars, translators, archeaologists and modern druids are rediscovering lost pieces of ancient lore. There are thousands of manuscripts awaiting translation from Gaelic into English. Though all of these documents come from the Christian era, there are tantalizing bits and pieces of ancient knowlege hidden throughout the tales, legal tracts and genealogical records. Finding those bits and pieces of thought and belief and finding ways to incoporate them into modern Druidry is an on going task. The true student of Druidry will be a student for many lifetimes.
And so, we embark upon this noble quest to learn, to discover and to grow.
By Kenneth R. White Copyright 2001 All rights retained by the author