Druidry for Beginners – Beliefs

springMy last article in this series was back in November 2015 and this one has been prodding me for a while, but it felt like such a big topic I’ve constantly put it to one side.

Modern Druidry is incredibly diverse when it comes to beliefs. How can I write about it with any real integrity? I also don’t like the word beliefs. I heard Raven Grimassi talking on the Down at the Crossroads podcast a couple of months ago and he summed up my feelings exactly. He said that using the word believe, as in ‘I believe x’ makes him wonder if it’s a trick. The example he gave was if I was to show you a mobile phone and say, “Is this a mobile phone?” you’d probably answer “yes”. But if I was to say “Do you believe this is a mobile phone?” You might wonder why I added that word. Is it really a mobile phone, or are you tricking me? That’s how I see the word too. It’s problematic.

Having said that I also understand that what I think to be How Things Are(tm) might not be true. I like to embrace the principle of uncertainty and if we don’t do that we can end up acting like evangelists preaching the One True Way. That just doesn’t fit with Paganism at all. So if I’m asked what I believe I say, “Well, this is how I see things” or something like that. It fixes it as something I live my life by, yet remains open to the possibilities that there can also be other ways.

So. You may have tried the senses mediation, you are connecting to the Natural World, have created a small home altar, and started your magical journal. Lovely. But what do Druids believe? Philip Carr-Gomm wrote an excellent little book on this and it’s much to broad a topic to cover in a blog post but there are some questions you can ask yourself to enable some direction in this.

When you are next out walking in your favourite place, a place that makes you feel connected, alive, a place outside, somewhere away from the hustle and bustle of human existence, a place where you feel closer to the Great Big Whatever It Is (or They Are). Next time you are there make some time to do the senses meditation, and Just Be.

Be open to the place and your feelings. Be open to spirits of nature, of place, and of your ancestors. Allow yourself to be free, to let go and be open.

Ask yourself these questions:

What am I sensing being closer to?

How does it make me feel?

Can I communicate with it? Does it have a name? What is its nature?

(Close your eyes. Does that feeling become a vision? Do you see a representation within your imagination? What does it look like?)

How can I continue to hold this feeling once I walk away, and go home?

Don’t rush any of this. If it’s too much for one day, just do it over the course of how ever many days it takes. Go back and revisit the place and enjoy the journey. If nothing comes at first, don’t worry, just enjoy the presence of being there, remain open, and allow things to form as they will.

The way you see the Spiritual World is very personal. There are many words like animist, polytheist, monotheist, atheist etc but I would suggest not worrying about labels and definitions just yet. See what emerges from these personal encounters before you do lots of book research. If the Gods really exist (and they do to me) then they exist independently of books and history etc. If we are open to exploring this side of nature, a side that is only really explored by the mystic or the magician, then the pages within ourselves begin to turn, as our Journey continues onward, through the Forest of Druidry.

14 Comments

  1. Ryan C April 25, 2016 at 2:33 pm - Reply

    A very thoughtful post, as always, Damh!

    I try to avoid the word “belief” myself. I think it was Ian Corrigan of ADF who once said something along the lines of beliefs being just opinions that have become over-inflated.

    I like to steal an approach from the scientists, and have “working models” of reality instead that are flexible enough to change with new evidence or new experiences.

    I think a lot of people, even within Paganism, get hung up on definitions and labels, and use them to divide “us” from “them”, “polytheists” from “humanists” or whatever. I appreciate your more personal, experiential approach to finding a connection with the Great Big Whatever It Is (I just call it “the Sacred”) rather than worrying about what to believe.

    I know you title these posts “Druidry for Beginners” but there’s a lot in them we can all learn from, however long we’ve been practicing.

  2. Ann Beirne April 25, 2016 at 4:42 pm - Reply

    I have been learning all about paganism, I have also been reading Emma Restall Orr’s book on druidry and I hope that I am not going to offend anyone but I feel that they are close together. I am a novice still but am willing to learn more and more. I come from the love on all things natural and nature, I love trees hug them and talk with them at every opportunity, I also listen to what they have to say they are very wise and it isn’t always the ancient trees that have this wisdom. I try my best to live in a way that won’t damage this wonderful planet anymore than it has been damaged already and I think this also linked into what I follow, helping to keep our planet protected is upper most in for me.

    We don’t have a lot of open spaces or woodlands where I live but I often find my garden just as much a sanctuary it is a bit on the wild side not all posh lawns and regimented flowerbeds, we grow our own vegetables fruit and herbs, I also grow medicinal herbs and dye plants I would gather the herbs from the wild but as I said not many wild places and I certainly would not gather them from the roadsides.

    Summing up my view of my practices is that both Paganism and Druidry are caring for the natural world and worshipping the God’s and Goddesses that do the same thing and have done so since time began. Perhaps this is a bit simplistic?

  3. Louise Ingram April 25, 2016 at 6:41 pm - Reply

    Lovely post 🙂 I especially like what you say about the Gods and the fact that their existence is independent of books. I’ve been a bit overwhelmed with all of the different Gods and Goddesses, their names and what they can represent, and then trying to see which ones might fit into my life, which does feel counter intuitive. The thought of going out and finding them first on my own terms has a real sense of truth about it. Thank you xx

    PS. Unrelated but I LOVED Philip Carr-Gomm’s talk on the latest edition of Druidcast!

  4. Rachael Gillies April 25, 2016 at 8:41 pm - Reply

    Your blog always focuses my mind on what I feel each and every day without really thinking about it. I am fortunate enough to be off work at the moment with my two children and every day we go to a “green space” and we stop and just stand and listen to nature. To me, nature is god/the goddess/mother earth, I feel at peace. On another note, I got talking to the lady in The Goddess and the Green Man in Glastonbury (my favourite shop) about you. I was having a bit of a bad day, post baby blues, and we connected over you and just chatting to her lifted me up incredibly. Funny how many lives you can touch without even realising the ways in which it can happen

  5. Laura Capshaw April 25, 2016 at 9:42 pm - Reply

    I just love you. I welcome you to my campfire any time you’re in Indiana.

  6. Terri Adrian April 25, 2016 at 11:29 pm - Reply

    thank you, as always, for your thoughtful insights 🙂

  7. Sheryl. April 26, 2016 at 3:18 am - Reply

    I have just started reading your blog and now I want to go back and read all the post. Thank you. I have just been listening to the pod cast this past year but now I listen to the archive almost ever day, I have listened to many of them a number of time. Question, what is the Down at the Crossroads podcast that you mentioned,. ?

    • Damh the Bard April 26, 2016 at 9:03 am - Reply

      Glad you enjoy the blog and podcast, and thanks for the comment. There is a link the the Down at the Crossroads podcast in the article. Just click those words there and you’ll be taken to their site.

      • Sheryl. May 8, 2016 at 8:41 pm - Reply

        Thank you so much.

  8. Bronzewing April 27, 2016 at 2:20 am - Reply

    Having lost a little of the connection to Epona that I had once had via not owning horses any more (though I still love her) I once sat down under a big old tree and said, if there are any Deities who would like to take an interest in me, here I am. Oh boy, did I get one! 😀

  9. Mike April 29, 2016 at 9:20 pm - Reply

    Thanks for your guidance, Dahm the Bard. I ‘believe’ the power of “belief” gets a good going over by Unitarians- Over-Soul, they call it, collective unconscious & all that.
    Consider Caesar beating his ‘belief’ &/or close encounter-hallucination of a “flying cross” into the rites of Mithras and voila! Xtianity!
    Belief empowers chaos magick, it forms egregores in fraternal organizations.However; you don’t have to _believe_ in a ‘Genus Loci.’ for it to exist.
    Yeah, I’m waxing Gnostic here, so I’ll pipe down. See Bronzewing’s post above.

  10. Kathy Zimmerman May 1, 2016 at 7:09 pm - Reply

    Truly, the only time I ever talk about my path is when someone asks, ‘What is it you believe’? And from there on it becomes complicated for me and the questioner. I have known since I was 6 what I believe. The Great Mother spoke to me in scent as a awoke from a brief nap in a shady glade. The woods surrounded my home and I spent every waking hour of freedom in it. I opened my eyes, with my head lying on the lush grass. And for some reason I saw within the grass and could smell the workings of the Mother. I could feel the kinship within me as we were communicating without words. I became drawn to Druidry about 10 years ago, (I am 66 now) because after much research I reasoned that Druids might be the only ones who could understand what happened to me that day in the glade. Much of what I know I cannot put into words. I hope this makes sense to others.

  11. Kevin Grindstaff June 29, 2016 at 12:56 am - Reply

    Hello Dave, we met and had a very nice little chat at Calderafest, 2016. I was the overly large jeweler on merchant’s row. I wanted to share a few things that are a part of how I see the world as I travel the Druidic path. I don’t like beliefs or spiritual activities that are put down in stone. They should be flowing and changing just as nature is always changing. There may be millions of oak trees upon the world but no 2 of them will ever be identical. There are as individual as our fingerprints. I believe that this is what our beliefs are supposed to be like, individual for each of us. I also believe that this is what a lot of the other religions of the world is lacking. There does not seem to be any room for or tolerance for an open mind when every aspect of your religious practices is held to hard and fast traditions that are never allowed to change. I grew up in a protestant faith but decided to make my own way and path through the world. As I looked back I saw those rigid rituals as a way to program free thought and will out of our views of the world. Now, however, I use the OBOD gwers like road maps to a world covered with highways and byways. I can use them to find a destination and then choose from among many ways to get there, even taking side trips along the way. When I get to end it is my plan to make the journey again and again and maybe even use a different way to get there. Always being upon the journey means that I will forever have a goal to work towards.

  12. Dan January 24, 2017 at 6:15 pm - Reply

    Damh, what resonated with me in this post is the connection. How do you keep that feeling once you leave your place of harmony?. It takes a long time. Persistence s the key. I feel inspired and powerful when I become connected. It drives me and helps me to be the man/husband/father I want to be. It challenges my own principle as a human being. As with everything, ups and downs occur but persistence is the key.

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