Tuesday, 18 August 2009

More on the Christian Druid

Here is a passage from What is Druidry (first published as Principles of Druidry) by Emma Restall Orr . It is available at www.whatisdruidry.org


The Christian Angle

A significant proportion of Druids do not identify themselves as primarily Pagan. There are those who declare Druidry is not a spirituality or religion, and many hold that it is a path of mysticism, a wisdom school, within which one can hold any religious belief. This allows for Druids who are purely searching through the mind, without an acknowledgement of spirit other that as life force energy. A good number of these non-pagans blend the philosophies of Druidry with those of Christianity.

For a Druid Christian, the Earth and all creation is an expression of the deity as presence, and therefore deeply sacred. While there are Christians who acknowledge this without moving into Druidry, others find that the philosophy significantly strengthens and broadens their faith. Deepening the acceptance, within the framework of Christianity, of the power and Beauty of the divine gift of the physical, there is opened up also the respect for sexuality, for birth, our genetic inheritance and with it reverence for our ancestors. The Earth, its flora and fauna, humanity and all creation become an altar to God. In an age when environmentalism, the importance of family and community, interest in folk traditions and natural medicine are all increasing, the point at which Druidry and Christianity meet becomes clearer.

The openness of the Druidic language, which allows for any colour and mixture of god and ceremony within its essential philosophy, invites the Christian to relate his own imagery into Druidry. There are many points of meeting; for instance, the Mabon. The sacred child, the sun reborn in the darkness of Midwinter, is comfortably woven with the birth of Jesus. The importance of divine sacrifice is also shared, acknowledged in Druidry at the harvest with the death of the corn god, the cycle of decay and regeneration through the seasons of the year, and the process of dying to the self in the mystical journey to inner peace.

Christians within Druidry come from many different churches, from the simplicity of Quakerism to the highly ritualistic, from the focus on Jesus to the honouring of a thousand saints, and each interacts with the Druid philosophy in a different way, each creating a different Druidic practice. Some strands of Christianity are easily plaited with Druidry, such as those where particular saints act as spirit guardians at, for example, healing springs.

There are some Druid orders who only accept Christians into their membership, while others would accept non-pagans. The vast majority, however, are not restrictive in this way and, indeed, many Druids actively work on the borders where the traditions meet, bridging the gaps and addressing the issues where misunderstandings have arisen. Interfaith conferences held over the last five years have inspired an increasing tolerance and understanding, not only at the border points but also more deeply within each tradition.

A number of those who blend the two do so from a point outside the Christian Church, although remaining within its faith. These Christians or Christic Druids retain a clear understanding of the Christian deity, honouring Jesus Christ as the saviour, the key and the gateway in whichever way they are most accustomed to or inspired by, yet stepping away from the structure of the religion which they regard as political.

For the wider Pagan and polytheistic Druid community, these Christic Druids are acknowledged and respected simply as revering another of the numerous gods.

Some Christians within Druidry describe themselves as of the Celtic Church.

The concept that a unified and peaceful Celtic Christianity existed in these islands long before the arrival of Roman Catholicism is one that was contrived in the sixteenth century by those seeking to justify the Reformation. The Protestant reformers claimed that the older church, which had been overwhelmed by Rome, was a simpler and purer form of Christianity, and therefore by rejecting Catholicism they were simply embracing an older native version of the faith.

It is understood now that this was a political argument with no foundation. The Christianity that did reach Britain and Ireland from the fifth century CE and before the spread of the Holy Roman Empire was a chaotic and fractious affair, filled with evangelical fervour and a horror of Paganism, of nature and sexuality. The idea that many Druids and Pagans were naturally and easily drawn to the faith because it resembled their own is an extension of the myth of the purer, peaceful Celtic Church. The conversion of kings took place as an acknowledgement of a more powerful god of battle, not a move to a god of love.

For those eager to find inspiration within Christianity and through the earliest texts, the tale of the Celtic saints, men and women who struggled and succeeded in finding peace and harmony in this era of intense violence and uncertainty, are a rich source of inspiration.

The notion of Celtic Christianity is nowadays an issue quite separate from the imaginary ideal of a romantic pre-Catholicism. For many it is that part of the liberal Church which stands on the borderline with Druidry and Earth spirituality, acknowledging the history of these islands, bringing to the fore the saints whose faith influenced our ancestors, honouring the power and beauty of the land and seas.


Monday, 17 August 2009

The Druid Christian

I have been pondering on whether my term for there being a 'Christian Druid' was inaccurate and, as I have come from a mainly Christian upbringing, so perhaps the term 'Druid Christian' would be more helpful.

But I hate labels, even though they help to form an identity around who or what you are. It is like having a coat hanger upon which you can hang all your favourite bits and pieces so that they don't get all scrumpled up and dusty at the bottom of the wardrobe.

To all those who have commented on my previous blogs about Christian Druidry I give a big thank you. I really ought to sort some stuff out and try and build a proper framework around the subject - as I have probably implied, it would not be Druidry as such, nor Paganism but fairly general and holistic view of a practical natural spirituality.

We all want identity, we all want hope, we all want security; some of us need the 'spiritual'. But the 'spiritual' has to be real to us. It has to be real, authentic, trustworthy, boundary-less and true to our soul. It may well have to be kept private if we are not in a secure place of sharing. I find it hard work, mentally and physically, to embrace a lifestyle that I perceive would be true to my spirituality. Some people may find it easy to walk their chosen path, but I don't. But that spurs me on to learn more and to try and incorporate something practical in my daily lifestyle.

It is a place of mystery when art, poetry, music, writing, nature and the desire for the 'other' meet and explore in creative playfulness. It is a place of unknowing where the unexpected may happen. It is a place of prayer when you reach out from within into the space of the otherness. It is a place of slowing down, when the time of our world meet that of the earth. It is a place where fear of darkness or the unkown lessens. It is a place where your inner soul finds strength and belonging.

I don't know what to write
I want to explore with words
I want to touch the cool leaves
I want to run through the fields
I want to sense prayers that call
to the unseen and receive the
gifts of the mysterious.

I want.
How unfortunate a phrase
typical of our unsustainability.

I am what I write
I am exploring with words
I am touching the cool leaves
I am running through the fields
I am sensing prayers that call
to the unseen and receiving the
gifts of the mysterious.


Sunday, 16 August 2009

Summer Path

A warm summers morning with high cloud and a mostly blue sky sees me walking along a wide footpath between two hedges. This may once have been an old trackway, now it is a place that allows nature to bear its precious goods. Between the corn fields this old trackway is warm with a gentle breeze floating over the closely trimmed hedgerows. Shadows of tall grasses and herbs ripple over the grass upon which I am sitting. There are bees on the purple knapweed, and many white butterflies dancing around the flowers - yarrow, clover, and so much more.

I've met hardly anyone on my walk today but in the space of perhaps just ten minutes of my sitting here two separate couples have walked by, one single person and a group of about 5 cyclists. And then no-one else. Who is this person sitting with a notebook on the grass in the middle of nowhere they must wonder.

The wind whispers around me, cars hum in the distance and flies buzz here and there. It is peaceful. Blackberries are turning from red to black. Tall hogweed stems reach upwards, now brown and dying, holding their fragile seedheads above the surrounding grasses. These strong verticles are reflected in the vapour trails that cross the sky above me.

Today my mind feels bogged down, dull, heavy and struggling to think about anything clearly. I hope the fresh air and the exercise will free some creative energy. I need something.

There is a huge richness around me that looks so easy and natural to nature. Yet it has to have a place to thrive and grow creatively. Creativity needs a place in which to grow, to be nurtured and to be fruitful. The fields around me are so managed with almost enforced ecosystems, and yet this broad pathway is a place of freedom and refuge for the plants and insect life to do what they need to do. All too often I feel as though i am not able to grow and flourish as much as I could. I know that is a negative thought, but it gets to me at times and I always seem to struggle with it.

This pathway is a beautiful place to be. The path is well worn and it looks as though it may be mown one in the spring or so. There are occasional gaps in the hedges where I can look outwards into the surrounding fields and countryside. It can be too easy for me to concentrate my view in the near and tangible. There is so much to look at and be stimulated by at whatever is close to hand, but sometimes I must look outwards - beyond the comfort zone - into the outer environment. I step aside from the path temporarily and walk into the field. It is bounded by bright red poppies, invisible from the path. The harvest has passed through this field year but it will be back another time. It is place where birds (pigeons and crows) fly with freedom - way from the boundaries of the hedgerow. I walk onwards, slowly. Soon my path will end, but it will open out into another path with new things to look at and new views and experiences.

I am writing this later in the evening at the top of the garden as the light fades. I feel more rejuvenated and responsive now. Being outside has really cleared my mind before another week of being chained to the computer at work.

Thank you for my walk.
Thank you for the freedom
For the flight of the butterflies
and the lightness of the post-combine straw.
Thank you for the breeze
That holds the smell of the sweetpeas
the flight of the bees
and the whispering leaves.
Thank you for the path
that took hold of my burden
and took me on a journey.
Thank you for my family
for the delight they bring.
May my mind find clarity
when words fail to appear.
May I know my path
and the joy it brings.
And for the other things
that are known by you
I ask for blessings
wisdom, truth and wisdom.

Thank you for this day.


Climate Change

I think that the phrase "Global Warming" is not a good phrase to use and I would much rather talk about "Climate Change". Whether or not man is responsible for the various manifestations that are perceived to come from the change in climate may be open to scientific debate but, to a deep ecologist, there can be no removal of the effects of man's activities on the environment from the impact this may have. Can the earth continue to self-regulate itself purely to the advantage of mankind? I believe that even small changes in a local microclimate can change the wider macroclimate. There are no closed systems in the natural cycles and rhythms of the development and running of the earth. Perhaps the earth is doing 'her own thing' irrespective of man's activities, but does that absolve us from any responsibility for our actions...? Have we evolved to such an extend that we can exist separately and independently from the natural world?

Garden thoughts

I'm out in the garden on a warmish August evening. We've yet again moved things around and the garden table and chairs have moved to the top of the garden by the summer house. We wanted to put up our family tent and the only way we could do it was to move the trampoline to where the table was, move the table to the top patio, move the tomatoes there to where the trampoline was earlier on in the year and then put the tent up on the lawn - and it only just fitted!

From this new place for the table I am now sitting: hidden from view from the house and our neighbours but still able to look out over the top of the garden.

I'd like to live outside in the garden more but it takes a bit of effort and it isn't always practical around the family but like all things it just needs a bit of re-visioning.

The garden, like last year, is full of growth. With a wet summer around us the garden seems full of vigour and creativity. The earth that seems so cold and bare in the winter is bearing huge amounts of greenery. I'm not sure if the tomatoes will ripen, but I'll certainly get many jars of chutney off them nevertheless. I've already got about eight jars of runner bean chutney which I am looking forward to tasting in the autumn. The garden has never been a place to explore artistic creativity but I hope to gradually change that by accumulating a few odds and ends and adding a bit of alternative interest here and there. Not quite sure yet what though.

The mint and lavender were covered with bees, flies and butterflies today. I'm now watching 2 female blackbirds on a fence just a few yards away. One looks like a juvenile, both seem to be wary of me but not unduly concerned as I tap away at my keyboard.

Is God a plant?

I've just finished reading 'The Voice of the Earth - an exploration of ecopsychology' by Theodore Roszak (Phanes Press, 2001). A big juicy book that delved into the realm of psychology, ecology and an exploration of ideas into how we came into existence on this earth and where we might be going.

To be honest, much of the book was too deep for me and difficult to absorb in many places. I have often said that the subject of ecopsychology interests me, but the book did reveal how I only understand it at a very superficial level. Without a deeper and more technical understanding of Freud, Jung and psychology in general I just have to take what bits I can understand and see how it adds to my awareness of an ecological self. I am, though, glad I read the book as it was quite enlightening in parts. And odd bits of it will sink into my thoughts and writings anyway.

It is a big question - does our mind exist solely within us or is does it somehow have a wider field of operation? Is there a wider creative 'mind' that belongs in the universe? And do the two minds have any interraction?

When I look at the plant life around me, and then consider the fact that throughout the whole of creation humans have only occupied a small timeframe of existence in Gaia, then I wonder how human-like that cosmological creative spirit might be. Does a humancentric idea of "God" reinforce the ecological separation that we face in our lives - the paternalistic industrialisation of society, consumerism of desirables, ecological unsustainability, financial greed and political and social instability? Is God a plant? A bizarre question indeed but, at a superficial level, if the world has a creator God then it must surely have some 'plant' characteristics. After all, we humans have only appeared on the earth in the last tiny fraction of the time it has existed.

I know I keep struggling with all this God stuff and keep looking for ways to help me frame an understanding. Sometimes I think I have I have it all sorted but then something will happen or someone will say something that gets me questioning again. Should I bother thinking about it? Is it ultimately all a waste of time? No, I think not. I have my time here on this green planet and I should respect both as a gift to me. When I look around me all the things I see people believe, I don't see one set of people who have obviously got it right at the expense of all the others. I see people who do amazing things because of their deep beliefs - whatever their religion. If my belief system can empower me to do value things in my life, then that is a place I want to be in.

My mind seems very much attuned to the ecology and presence of plants. I'm not an animals person, nor an insect person, and nor at times a human person. But stick me amongst plants and I feel very much at home. They inhabit a very different world to the one in which we live and one that I can only observe from the outside. I admire people who know a lot about the folklore of plants and have learnt to work with them.

When I awake my ecological self and take my mind of the busyness of work, family and all that is going on around me, I feel a deep sense of peace and belonging in the journey that I am walking. It feels like a return to home, but also to a place of deep mystery, challenge and unknowing. At times it may feel like a refuge, but at times it feels like entering a den of lions.

How do you bring about global change and environmental respect to diverse cultures where there is little awareness of a personal responsibility to the environment? I don't know whether we have the ability to do that. With so many people striving to work, repay mortgages, own cars, shop more, compete for jobs, seek western affluence, satisfy personal 'wants', fit into business, political and social structures etc, there may be little time for more 'earthly' needs - whatever they may be.

Not sure if this is all very coherent.... I just wanted to jot down a few things.