As archetypal and romantic figures, the Ancient Druids tantalize us. They stand as shadowy figures on the cusp of recorded history, obscured by the mists (which they were said to conjure with their weather magic). Resonating with our longing for natural magic, power, wisdom, and learning, they are immensely charismatic. They awaken an instinct in us to reach back through history to a time of simplicity and connection. We feel that what they have to offer is very nearly within our grasp...
Most of us are aware of a yearning to "Otherness:" an insistent pull to an ephemeral "something," which could make us dissatisfied with the world of the five senses. We feel instinctively that, "There is more than this." And, in our urge for connection to that mysterious "something," we start to look around. Some look up, some look down; many look away from their everyday lives.
Modern Druids do look up and down but, most importantly, we look around, to see the green world—the timeless stones, the witnessing trees, the myriad of life forms. We know that its beauty, its magic, and its unpredictability within the reassuring ongoing cycle of the seasons have lessons for us.
Our lives can be immeasurably enriched by the wisdom enshrined in the land itself. It is available here and now, and so we set out to embrace and celebrate life fully and with simplicity and joy. Living with reference to the natural year, to the magic of budding, flowering, fruiting; to the mythic year, through legend and folktale; to the cosmic cycles—years, ages, and aeons; and to the dance of the planets adds a new dimension to life. Modern Druids, like the trees themselves, are firmly rooted in the earth. Like our ancient forebears, we live with our heads in the stars.
And Druidry, wherever we happen to live, is accessible to all. Although Britain is acknowledged as its traditional home, students went for training in the Druid colleges and then returned to their native lands. The lessons of Druidry, absorbed through the Celtic current, can be adapted to any part of the world. And, at a time when many of us feel dislocated and far from our ancestral territory, this can be very healing. Druidry reveres the continuity of man interacting with the landscape—that is, it reveres the ancestors. And this means ancestors not only in the literal sense (your blood relations) but also ancestors of location and ancestors of spirit.
The Druidic "system" can be viewed as a philosophy and life path, or as a religion. And, as the former, it can complement and support any student’s spiritual path, without compromising the integrity of his or her religious beliefs.
The secrets of Druidry are open secrets, for it is a personal and experiential path. Practitioners don’t believe in Druidry; instead, they have the knowledge that comes from their experiences, of interacting with the landscape and with visiting nature through the alternate reality of the imagination. It is here, in the Mind’s Eye, that the unseen impulses of the world, the inner magic of creation, our place in the world and our right action, can be explored through the wisdom teachings of mythology and legend.
So how do you awaken your inner Druid? The key is an awareness of the tension between the Everyday and the Otherworldly; between interaction with the world and inner musing and visioning. Between talking to the tree spirits and litter-picking, if you will! You become a Druid by being a Druid, by acting as "You the Druid" would act: with integrity and with a right understanding of your place in the world.
And, yes, there are guidelines—my book, The Path of Druidry: Walking the Ancient Green Way, provides a structured course. In it, I’ve drawn from three main sources: from the Greek and Roman commentators, from the findings of archaeology, and from the lessons from the Celtic mythological tales to produce exercises that resonate with the "Druidic Current" of our times.
But, as a brief introduction, why not whisper in the ear of your sleeping inner Druid now? Why not "play pretend" as you did when you were a child and focus your own daydream?
Give yourself five minutes of leisure without distractions. Settle in a chair. Tell your mind that you’re allowing yourself a few minutes off to daydream, that you are completely in charge and looking forward to a pleasant experience. No need even to close your eyes; just let them relax. Breathe regularly and think of beautiful green woodland. It’s such a wonderfully wholesome, refreshing image that it makes you smile, and that smile relaxes all your muscles. Remember your favorite tree (almost everyone has one from childhood) and say hello to it for the first time in years. If you don't have one, then make one up, as green and flourishing as your imagination will allow. Through the woodland, the light is filtered and green. It feels magical; the light sparkles off the leaves and, although this is the world that you know (and usually take for granted) on this occasion you look more deeply. You can almost see the energy fields of the trees touching each other, the waves of energy pulsing from the sun, and you imagine the same energy like an invisible cocoon around you. The buzzing of insects and singing of the birds fill your ears. And you simply stand and enjoy the moment. Then, in response to the leaves rustling, or the sun appearing from behind a cloud, you simply say, "Hello," and, "Thank you."
And then you say, "Goodbye."
And that’s all. The image fades quite naturally, so let it go, leaving you relaxed.
So what have you achieved?
Well, at the very least, you have made space for what is important—taking a moment out of your busy day for relaxation. You have put yourself in the context of the natural world, and imagined the essence of life behind the reality that we see. You have said hello—the first step in making a relationship with anything or anyone. And you have shown gratitude—perhaps the most effective aid to magical work that we can ever use. You feel refreshed.
And, who knows, within you, the Druid might just be stirring!
Penny Billington is a Druid teacher, speaker and author. She is an active member of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids and has edited the Order's magazine, Touchstone, for nineteen years. She regularly facilitates ...