Proof and Faith

Yesterday I read with interest a blog post by my friend and Druid author Kristoffer Hughes and it got me pondering my own relationship with Celtica and Druidry. The original blog post is here. 

I too was originally drawn to Druidry through its connection with the ‘Celtic’ world. It seems to me these days that it’s so hard to say things like ‘Celtic’ because there is always the person waiting on the sidelines to ask exactly what you mean by Celtic, that there was no Celtic race, that it was a culture, that the perception that the Welsh, Irish, Breton, and Cornish are the inheritors of this Celticity is wrong, and that there is just as much ‘Celtic’ DNA in the English as there is anywhere else. In fact I’ve recently read an article that suggests that the Irish are more Spanish than ‘Celtic’… That the Druids never wrote anything down so how can I call myself a Druid? Etc etc. So open your mouth and say the word Celtic at your peril! But I’m going to say it anyway, as it was this that was a big contributing factor that drew me to Druidry in the beginning.

It is also the Brythonic Deities that have always made my blood pump harder. Another historical hot potato that one. Mention the Mabinogion and the Gods from that wonderful book of tales, or the themes from the poetry of Myrddin or Taliesin, and once more you may find yourself being cornered to produce evidence that the ancient Druids even knew the name of Gwydion, Blodeuwedd, Rhiannon, and that is as difficult as proving that Jesus actually existed.

So already if I say something like ‘I am a modern day Druid who seeks to follow in the footsteps of my ancient ancestors and revere the Gods of this magnificent and magical island in the form of Rhiannon of the Horses, Blodeuwedd the Lady of the Night Sky and the Spring Meadow, Mryddin of the Druid Way’, there are many ready to question that, as much as they might question how someone can be a Christian Druid, or A Buddhist Druid, they ask how I can be a modern Pagan Druid.

My answer? I can’t prove it, nobody can, but I don’t need a history book to confirm my inner connection has that validity – I guess the person asking the question might but not me. See I have something that I’ve noticed some people find quite hard to say let alone admit. I have a faith. At some point I had to let go of searching for an accurate history of Druidry, and begin a deeper, less intellectual but more intuitive, quest.

I have never wished, nor needed, to find my personal spiritual connection to my Path through history books. If I did there are far easier options for a Pagan to follow than Druidry! My connection comes from our songs, our stories, our folklore. When I hear these old myths spoken by a master storyteller, they draw me into an inner experience, and it is there that I meet my Gods. Then, when I return, I find their same faces in the trees, in the mounds of the Hollow Hills, in the cry of the Owl, or the thunderous pounding of hoofs.

I love archaeology and history, and if I wanted to know the history of a site these would be the people I would ask, but if I wanted to know the local folklore, the stories and myths that were told about a certain hill or woodland copse, I wouldn’t necessarily go to a historian, for those I would seek a local Bard, a storyteller, a poet. No proof necessary, just take me on that journey.

16 Comments

  1. Rachel Schmidt January 31, 2012 at 12:49 pm - Reply

    You’re absolutely right! I’ve had the exact same problems with people in the recent past. Thanks for posting. 🙂

    Blessings,
    Brenna

  2. paganbran January 31, 2012 at 1:20 pm - Reply

    Lovely blog post. I agree with you. It seems when someone is a part of a faith or belief system or religion or what-have-you, non-believers ask “What’s your proof to validate your belief?” We don’t NEED proof! While there are those who take stories and what-not literally, there are those (like me) who take the stories not literally, but as an allegorical/metaphorical “tool” to aid us on our own inner spiritual journey. Science and history may say “Well, that never/can’t happen,” and that’s okay, because as long as I find beauty and inspiration in a tale or a god or goddess, and it helps me grow spiritually and find peace within me, I will use it, I will pray or worship it.

  3. Jo H (@druidsgarden) January 31, 2012 at 1:48 pm - Reply

    This sums it up beautifully for me as well – I know there is something more when I see the Moon glowing on a clear Winter’s night, when I walk in a wood in the Spring or when I see a waterfall tumbling or the sea crashing against the rocks – there is this connection to the land and my ancestors that resonates through me and I feel something that I can only describe as truly magical

    The fact that the old tales can’t be proved but somehow have lasted through the ages is IMHO their strength not their weakness – they capture the mystery and ethereal but still it remains just out of reach, if that makes any sense?

  4. thistleinavalon January 31, 2012 at 2:44 pm - Reply

    Wonderful post – glad a friend recommended this to me. Much of what is in the Bible cannot be proven, yet Christians revere it as fact. We have no single book to look toward in Paganism. The study of history and archeology is helpful, but ultimately we must intuit if we are on the right path.

  5. Shaun William Hayes January 31, 2012 at 2:47 pm - Reply

    The fact that they are not easily pinned down is actually part of the charm, the attraction, as they fit into the whole otherworldly element that is never objective. We have to make the difficult first step or two into that world. But whether metaphor or spirit or fey, wow what a trigger it sets off within us, filling that great void that so many feel they lost in childhood.

    Someone said if god didn’t exist we would have to have created him/her/it, and the same I think is true of the celtic idea and pantheon. Those who went before made a better job of it than we could and the important thing is it gives a us poetic language, texture and reference to enable us to approach the real magic, which for me is the land itself.

    If you can feel her coursing through your veins, hear the roar of the dragons fiery breath, and see the mists of Avalon parting to reveal . . . . . then you are a celt and this land is yours and all the celtic gods are yours and hurrah for that.

    whoops

    Shaun.

  6. Vermillion January 31, 2012 at 3:04 pm - Reply

    I LOVE this entry. Thanks for writing it Damh 🙂

  7. Cinaed January 31, 2012 at 3:48 pm - Reply

    See, that’s what bards are for: to put into lyric that which we feel, but cannot always express. Thank you!

  8. John Willmott January 31, 2012 at 4:38 pm - Reply

    Through my life the best source of stories I have found are from the farmers. Ever since I was 6 years old i have visited ancient sites and today, 55 years later, its not different to then. You ask the farmer for permission “well, why d’ya wanna see a bunch of ol’ stanes for?” and I reply “well I heard (and off i go with a fragment of story, sometimes made up or from another site) and the farmer replies “funny you should say that ’cause my father used to say (tells a story), my mother used to say (another story) and then what happened to my grandfather when (yet another story)”.

    When people come to me bragging about the pHds in folklore its a challenge to contain myself from laughing, trying to respect their journey and pride in it. I do ask them who they talked to and farmers never come into it. They just read papers and books of other people who read papers and books as reference for what they wrote. Of course this keeps language up to date and bends interpretation

    … but to me the family farmer is often the real druid under the cap and wellies, who may put on a white cloak, white lab coat thingy, when the health and clip board safety inspectors come around.

  9. Rosaleen Dawn Bellchamber January 31, 2012 at 5:29 pm - Reply

    Well said!
    For some, intellectual inquest is their path of devotion. And fair enough.

    For many of us, inspiration is the wellspring of our devotions. To paraphrase (or steal) an idea from our Christian friends: we are more about the ‘spirit’ of the ‘law, rather than the ‘letter.’

    No matter how devoted you are, no matter how much work you do, or how much of yourself you poor into your spiritual path – or for how long – there will always be someone – somewhere who will gleefully tell you you’re doing it wrong.

    No matter. The inspiration you feel, the sense of connection, the palpable buzz of energy that tells you that something is happening, the cunningly crafted spell the got the job done, and the outpouring of art and song all confirm that you are, in fact, doing something right. 🙂

    Besides, when Cerridwen calls, does one just tell her that she is merely a medeival literary construct? Yikes!

  10. Ross January 31, 2012 at 5:39 pm - Reply

    For me, it’s enough to go with what I feel in my heart, feel the power in certain places I’ve been. I know what and who I am (and being a ‘jock’ helps too!)

  11. Lucius Svartwulf January 31, 2012 at 7:38 pm - Reply

    Thank you for saying this. And you’re right. Sometimes it’s not what you can prove.

    It’s about what you believe and have faith in.

  12. CelticDruid February 2, 2012 at 10:46 pm - Reply

    Very well put. I myself am finding my family roots lay in Scotland and am close to finding where my immediate ancestors came from. But as for a link to druidry I haven’t found nor do I need that link to be in my family. It doesn’t change me or what I believe. The same way you could offer conclusive proof that Jesus never existed and that would change most christians beliefs.

    As for the Celts, it is said that they travelled from as far away as Greece and their influence is widespread across europe. No one is quite sure when the druids emerged within this culture.

  13. Knitterstone Clee February 3, 2012 at 10:52 am - Reply

    Fabulous Damh, tell it like it is! Stories are powerful, they do not need proof. its how they make you feel thats important.

  14. forfedha February 4, 2012 at 9:22 am - Reply

    This posting made my heart sing. Thanks for writing it, Damh

  15. Druid News « Druid Life February 5, 2012 at 9:53 am - Reply

    […] This week has seen a lot of drama within the druid community, with a debate sprawling across forums, facebook, blogs and probably other places too. The initial gist of it revolved around how much Celtic inspiration you need to have any right to call yourself a druid, but this developed a second debate about who has the right to assert what about druidry. The case for Celtic druidry was made passionately by Welsh Druid Kris Hughes on his blog –  http://www.kristofferhughes.co.uk/1/post/2012/01/dilute-to-taste.html He has some very valuable points to make about identity and the relationship between druidry and the Celts, although some of us – me included, do not agree with his interpretation of history.  My favourite response so far is http://bloodandbone.wordpress.com/2012/02/01/cultural-dilution-in-druidry/ which tackles much of the emotional complexity other druids may feel in facing Kris’s words. I also recommend taking a look at Bish – http://www.rosher.me.uk/wordpress/?p=776 and Red http://theanimistscraft.wordpress.com/2012/02/01/druidry-ancient-and-modern and also Damh the Bard – reflecting on his own relationship with druidry and celtica http://damh.wordpress.com/2012/01/31/proof-and-faith […]

  16. The Blog of Baphomet February 9, 2012 at 6:24 pm - Reply

    We are creatures of history and, as such, your Druidry Damh grows out of the same story as those original Druids! Follow the connections back, not necessarily of identification as a specific cultural group, or of ritual or even folklore. Of course modern Druidry is also connected to the history of Christianity in this island. We emerge from that story too and Druidry as it exists now, builds on the spirituality of that period. But it’s a new spiritual form, it exists because it is trying to go beyond that has been achieved by any of the belief systems that went before. Druidry is a sapling born of a long line of acorns, but the point is that it is reaching upwards to the future. The past not about validation of the present, it’s the vital compost, the rich soil which supports new growth.

    Thank you for your excellent blog 🙂

    Julian Vayne

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