Wednesday night (5th December) took a slightly different turn for me than I had expected, hence the title. I had already enjoyed the Nottingham University’s 3 hour lecture on ‘Paganism in Medieval Britain’ which was open to the public (that’s how I got in) and so, I was prepared to attend Nottingham’s Empyrean Pagan Interest Group; as they were having something never done before: a question panel with representatives of the many pagan paths.
Logging on to Les Booky Farce I discovered that the Druid representative (Druid Network) had taken ill and wouldn’t be able to attend. I was a little disappointed to be honest, but still wanted to go and see what was being asked of the Pagans of Nottingham and what they had to say for themselves.
Five minutes later, as I was putting my washing on the radiators, I get a telephone call:
Empyrean MC: Hello Locksley, are you well?
ME: Yeah, thanks, you ok?
EMC: I need to ask a favour…
ME: Well, I don’t do anal,
EMC: Damn, that’s why I rang.
ME: What can I do you for?
EMC: I’m missing a Druid for the panel tonight, would you mind filling in?
ME: (Long Pause and a giddying sense of panic and nausea) Errrrr, yeah, ok.
So, instead of going to a night of debate and watching people give their views, I went to a night where I was included in the evening’s proceedings. Representing not only Druids, but the Grove of the Corieltauvi and OBOD, no pressure.
I was sat on the stage with four more representatives (a community leader and Dragon Magic practitioner, a witch of the Craft and runner of the Empyrean group, and lastly, a member of the Golden Dawn and former organiser of the Scottish esoteric network: The Source). When asked to introduce myself, I explained Modern Druidry was a spirituality based on finding peace with one’s self, peace in the world and peace with Spirit. We were asked a series of questions- well, a few, but we kept talking and running off on tangents which was interesting in itself.
Q1: ‘What will happen on winter solstice 2012?’
A: The Sun will rise, the day will dawn, then life will carry on. The Druid stance on the subject of the end of the Mayan Calendar (not THE END OF THE FRACKING WORLD!) was on par with what everyone else had already said: Nothing will happen because when you look past the hype associated with the supposed Mayan Prophecy, it is simply the end of their calendar. Not unlike the ending of our yearly calendars as opposed to one that began approximately Five-Thousand, or so, years ago and will keep running until the Winter Solstice this year. It was even discussed that should there be a great spiritual awakening, would Pagans accept these newly awakened individuals?
We gave an individual answer and mine was that should they want to approach Druidry (specifically, the OBOD version), we are taught in the Bardic Grade to examine and get to know ourselves before we could move onto subjects we might not yet be ready for (divination, magic, clairvoyance, etc). I gave a brief explanation of the three grades and what each entails. If the newly spiritually awoken wanted to pursue Druidry then that is their choice, we wouldn’t actively seek to convert them. I also took this thread into talking about if Winter Solstice 2012 (WS2012!- I should design a T-shirt) did lead to people thinking about their spiritual welfare prompted by the Mayan Calendar, then that would be a self-fulfilling prophecy, so who knows? The New Age ‘Shift in consciousness’ could happen… buy my crystals for £75 each and claim your part in the ‘Ascension’ and free WS2012! T-shirt.
Q2: ‘Can we have interfaith worship?’
A: Yes. At least, I believe we can and indeed do. In regard to different Pagan belief structures, yes; because we do it all the time. How many of us practice in a group? And if so, how many of that group all believe the same thing and follow the same gods? Pagans are an eclectic bunch at best and one of our strengths is that we share the commonality that other beliefs are valid. When in a group celebration, we are often encouraged to follow a similar format with other Pagan groups: i.e. we come together, cast a circle, call on the directional quarters and elements, but we are free (more or less) to call and venerate any deity (if any) we wish. I accept there are circles who may want to call on specific deities and spirits and that is fine. What I’m on about are those groups who come together from different Pagan backgrounds in order to celebrate. Druids and Witches, Heathens and Wiccans can come together to make a circle and honour deities, ancestors and the like.
Originally, I took the question the other way, in which I assumed it meant could different belief structures be combined, such as Pagan and Christian? In which case, the answer is yes yet again. I used the example of Voo-Doo, the combination of African tribal belief and Roman Catholicism to say how different systems can incorporate one another. Of course in OBOD, we can even say how you don’t have to be a Pagan to be a Druid, as there are those who follow the spiritual tenets of Druidry, yet claim Christianity, Buddhism, even Taoist religious paths. This is also helped when our Druid’s prayer is non-deity specific and the Prayer for Peace can be directed at our own selves as well as any deity. Our practices can also be adapted to allow for other belief structures.
Q3: ‘Would the UK be better if the State religion (Christianity) was replaced by Paganism?’
A: It was discussed that even if it was, which path? The Panel felt it was important that the understanding of Paganism was one of being an ‘umbrella’ term describing many different paths that come under that particular label. There was even talk about Prince Charles being Pagan (or not) and wanting to be a ‘Defender of Faiths’ when it will be his turn to be King.
Unfortunately, I didn’t get to voice my opinion as we then had headed into break-time. My feelings were the Druid answer would go something like this:
If the state religion was to be replaced, it couldn’t be by one religion alone (even if you were to have a Pagan dominant religion, wouldn’t that in turn become seen as oppressive later as time went on?) so it would indeed have to be a multi-faith one. This could only work if you replaced the Governmental houses with equal representation of every religion and spirituality that Great Britain was home to. This way more compromise and less misunderstanding of different religions could be made. However, Human Nature being what it is…
We did get to discuss Japan where the state and religion are entwined through Shinto, the closest thing they have to a ‘Pagan’ belief-set. Other religions are practised, but Shinto is dominant because it is seen as a way of life. Even to the point that as well as the weather report, they also have a daily tree blossom report too.
Q4: ‘Is divinity separate or part of the physical world?’
A: Depends on your point of view. After covering much ground about how everything is energy and whether or not there was an afterlife, were soul and spirit separate entities? I gave the two examples Druidry has on the subject: In OBOD, we have the Abred, based on Iolo Morganwg’s model of divinity. It consists of three concentric circles, each representing a level of spiritual being. The First is the physical plane (our world), where the soul must learn from hardship and effort. The second is the realm of spirit where the soul can move to it’s next phase and move beyond our senses, but should it have not discovered it’s potential, it will be confined back to the physical realm. The third and last stage is that of Divinity, once our soul has found it’s potential in the physical and learned all it can from everything the realm of spirit has to offer, then it connects with the divine and becomes one with all things. Yes, I even admitted this was made up, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not a good system. There may be truth in it and who’s not to say everything we know about divinity isn’t made up in the first place?
I compared this with the glimpses of classical Druidry. In that it was Druids who taught about transmigration of souls, and that the Otherworld (in Welsh, this was known as Annwn, the same name Iolo Morganwg gave for the physical realm in his model) was considered parallel to our world and every now and then the two worlds meshed. It was with these examples I gave the answer that the Divine was part of physical existence as it was part of everything, whether or not this was sentient or part of a ‘Great Plan’ was another question entirely.
So, that was my evening. I hope I represented Druidry in a positive light, though looking back on it I suppose I should have said that Modern Druidry is about finding peace in one’s self, unity with the world around us and the quest for truth.
For me, the most interesting point raised was on interfaith fellowship, as I sincerely believe that for spirituality to evolve for the future, it cannot be under any one religious banner. It must be an acceptance that even though we believe in something, there are different points of view to what, or whom, that something is.
PS: Many thanks to Leithin Cluan for her notes from the evening, allowing me to put the Q&A’s in the right order. 😉