…ritual as a spiritual practice, a medium of communication, a language of words and actions that allows us to express our perception of spirit, of our world as sacred, and to interact with that world. Ritual is an effective way of affirming the positive, of processing and creating change, or strengthening our connection with the world around us and our consciousness of ourselves as spirit beings. Ritual is a dance of our spirit’s creativity as we manifest our reality and celebrate its beauty. –Emma Restall Orr, p. 10, “Ritual: A Guide to Life, Love & Inspiration”
“Gosh don’t you Pagans just do rituals at the drop of a hat? Like more than the Catholics?”
::sigh:: I run across this from time to time, where folks think that being a Pagan, specifically being a Druid, is all about rituals. Sure, rituals are a part of Paganism and Druidry. Read the above quote from Restall Orr again. Ritual is more than just a series of motions and words. Its more than a reenactment of some aspect of mythology. Its more than just a celebration of a point in time of a season. However, there is certainly more to Druidry than ritual.
I can hear folks right now – “What? Ritual is the quintessential element of what Druidry as I practice it is.” However, before we get to the gnashing of teeth and rending of clothing, I will say that I agree with that statement. Ritual certainly is the quintessential element of Druidry as they practice it. And there is not a thing wrong with that.
When people hear the words “Druid” or “Druidry” they get hung up on some iconic imagery, along with some notions as to what is the center of one’s own approach to Druidry. Old men with long, white beards, wearing white hooded robes that are ankle length, and carrying a sickle to cut mistletoe from trees. All of that is wrapped in a constant need to do ritual at a moment’s notice. Much of that iconic imagery comes from the writings of historians such as Tacitus, along with the imaginative minds of Hollywood. And certainly Druidry can be all of that. But it is so much more. So very much more.
From my own perspective, Druidry is a framework upon which I hang my own ideas and experiences of the world around me. Currently, I am working within the Order of the Bards, Ovates, and Druids. As such, I learn from the knowledge pool provided to me here, I utilize the ritual framework that I have been taught in most of my ritual workings, but the experiences I have are still my own.
I have talked extensively about how ritual, while a part of my life, is not the be-all, end-all of my Spirituality. Being outdoors is a primary aspect. I live in a fairly rural aspect of north Texas. There are farms all around me. I drive eleven miles to work on a Farm-to-Market road that bisects three different diary farms. I see the cycles of the season every single day. The young calves on their uber shaky legs, sometimes just a few hours after birth. A few weeks later, these little calves are near the fence line, full of excitement and energy, ready to race my truck as I drive past. Having the chance to see this on display keeps me grounded to the perception of the Wheel of the Year, as well as the Wheel of Life. Those experiences remind me of who I am, what I perceive about the world around me, and how I am connected to all of it.
Certainly, ritual plays a role through the Wheel of the Year for me. Each is a doorway that reminds me that the Wheel of the Year is going through smaller changes that I don’t always readily perceive. Some of the rituals mark a passage of a moment in time for me. However, were the rituals not there, my Druidry would still exist within me. That’s because my Druidry is a part of my everyday life.
I work in data. Ninety-five percent of my work comes from designing reports and gathering data points to explain or provide some defense of a perspective that my leadership may want. I provide data collected into groupings that creates information on race, gender, and age of the populace of the college I work for. But even while I provide those aggregate numbers, I am cognizant that each single number is a person with their own unique story as to why they are taking classes at the college. My Druidry is about connectivity and experience, and I can have neither of those when I bring data points to cold, heartless aggregates that remove those beautiful, unique stories. To keep myself from being carried off in the cold, rushing water of those aggregates, I ground myself through that constant reminder of what each data point represents.
Where I live, I am on the edge of the southern plains, the ancestral Summer-home of the Comanche peoples, among others. I open myself to feeling both the Spirits of Ancestors that are here, as well as the Spirits of Place and the Gods Themselves. Ancestrally, my people are Germanic, not First Nations. But I have a strong relationship with Coyote and Crow, mostly because of where I live, not of who I am. I have no desire to do the rituals of the First Nations people or to even try and imitate their dress. I am me. They are them. We have some intersection between one another, but not to where I feel a need to be them. And yes, I believe that the Gods are each unique, singular entities.
As you can see, my concept and perception of Druidry is my own – and I haven’t even scratched the surface with this blog post. Druidry does have the element of ritual associated with it, but as you can see from the picture – white robes just ain’t my idea of comfort. Druidry is about an exploration of yourself, within a framework that you have chosen for yourself. Your approach is up to you. What you add to that framework is the stuff that works for you. You decide what elements are important to you, and embrace those full on. Not big into ritual? Learn the ritual framework, and only use it when you need to. Love ritual? Learn the framework and utilize to whatever frequency calls to you. Don’t like white robes? Wear some other color that appeals to you. Don’t like ritual clothing? Wear a t-shirt, shorts and flip-flops to ritual. Whatever you feel comfortable with (if nude is your thing, make sure everyone else is ok with your choice of no clothing – if you are in a group setting).
The idea of working with your Druidry is to find something that empowers you and helps you grow in the manner that works for you, whatever that looks like. The only empirical maxim that I feel a need to provide is this – be flexible and open about other perspectives, even when those are antithetical to your own approach. The only approach that should be challenged is the one that intentionally harms others. Just sayin’.