Should Non-Natives Practice Indigenous Religions?
Seekers in the West hunger to learn from indigenous spiritual teachers, but what are the ...
Druidry is a thriving, nature-based spirituality that has its roots in ancient times. The ancient druids were wise sages, historians, astronomers, diviners, and bards. While their traditions died out over two millennia ago, today’s druids draw upon the wisdom and surviving lore of the ancient druids for inspiration.
As modern druidry honors ancient ancestors, it also focuses on creating a responsive, nature-based spiritual tradition that helps people cultivate their own creative gifts, find healing with and through nature, and explore metaphysical aspects of the spirit of the earth.
Inspired by the ancient druids and their three-fold system, the modern druid path has three distinct expressions: that of the ovate, bard, and druid. Some people focus on one path, but many who take up druidry elect to work within all three branches as they all build upon each other.
The ovate path focuses on deep nature connection, a critical part of every druid’s path.
Ovate practices connect us back to our ancient human ancestors who understood the world of spirit, who had intimate knowledge of nature, and who depended on nature directly to provide their needs. In modern druidry, the path of the ovate includes both physical and metaphysical aspects.
[Read: “Root & Ritual With Becca Piastrelli.”]
Physical ovate expressions can include spending time in nature, building nature knowledge, and learning to work with nature to provide our needs. Ovates may be drawn to organic gardening, permaculture, or other techniques that help heal and regenerate the living earth. Ovates may engage in wild food foraging, bushcraft, herbalism, or other expressions that help them learn how to work with nature to meet their basic needs. These practices involve directly building knowledge of the earth: how to identify plants and trees, how to track animals and learn bird calls, and how to learn to understand their immediate landscape.
Druidry beginners may explore the ovate path by spending daily time in nature: observing, interacting, and meditating with their local ecosystem. Expanding their nature practice, druidry beginners can learn to identify local plants and animals, spiritually connect with nature, and live in honor of the seasons.
All these practices allow druids to move beyond simply appreciating nature to focus on building a reciprocal relationship with the earth.
Metaphysically, ovate work includes connecting deeply with the spirit of nature, the “genus loci,” or spirit of place. For many, this includes working with the spirits of plants or animals through meditation, journeying, and dreams; engaging in rituals or ceremonies to honor the land and encourage abundance; and working with the energies and healing properties of plants and stones. Druids recognize that today our metaphysical practices help create balance and healing for both ourselves and nature. Druids work to offer gratitude for all that nature provides.
Within druidry, a core concept from the Welsh language is awen (pronounced ah-wen), which refers to flowing or divine inspiration. Druids connect with the creative spirit of the divine, found in nature, and channel that creativity into expressive works of all kinds. The awen symbol, which depicts three rays of light, is one of the core symbols of the druid tradition. Awen can include the spark of inspiration when an amazing idea comes to you, and it can also include getting deeply into the flow of a creative practice.
In ancient times, the bard was a storyteller and historian, traveling the countryside collecting tales and weaving songs. In the modern druid tradition, the bardic arts refer to all creative practices that we can cultivate. These include literary arts such as poetry, storytelling, and writing; fine arts, such as painting, sculpture, or drawing; fine crafts such as woodworking, blacksmithing, or bookbinding; and performing arts such as dance, theater, or music.
Druidry beginners often choose to take up a new bardic art or to rekindle their relationship with a bardic art previously set aside. Finding ways to connect with their art practice, both locally and online, can give them a sense of community and an outlet for their creative, sacred expression.
[Read: “16 Affirmations for Nurturing Creativity.”]
For any of these creative practices, the emphasis in druidry is not on producing a perfect creation but on experiencing the joy of expression, the flow of awen, and healing through creative expression. With this emphasis, many people who at one point set aside creative practices are able to return to them as druids. They find this approach a welcome relief after having their creativity stifled by modern cultural pressures.
For druidry beginners, it may be confusing that the path of the druid is just one aspect of the larger druid tradition. This is because “druid” refers to the metaphysical and spiritual aspects of the path, which is where the tradition gets its name. By contrast, the ovate and bard expressions are more concrete.
The path of the druid puts us in connection with the broader metaphysical world and our own spirits. One thing that separates druidry from many other religious traditions is that druids do not all share the same belief system. All druids do believe that nature is sacred and nature is good. Beyond that, druids hold diverse beliefs and can be monotheists, animists, polytheists, or agnostics; they may align themselves with any of the world’s religious traditions.
[Read: “More Than Hybrids: Spiritual Seekers on a Spacious Path.”]
Druids honor the diversity of belief within their tradition and work hard to create spaces that are welcoming to all kinds of beliefs, backgrounds, cultures, bodies, genders, and races. This also means that druidry beginners can retain their existing belief system and use druidry to connect more deeply with nature.
Despite the diversity, many druids share core spiritual practices. Meditation in nature is central; this may include returning to an outdoor place daily to observe seasonal changes and connect with nature. Building an altar or shrine that is the focus of such work is common. Druids celebrate holy days, including the solstices and equinoxes, and frequently the neopagan wheel of the year, which includes the solstices, equinoxes, and the cross-quarter days (Samhain, Beltane, Lughnassadh, and Imbolc). Celebrations for these days may be very elaborate with beautiful altars, ritual foods, and flowing robes, or they may be very simple.
Many druids also use divination for guidance, including the Ogham (a Celtic tree oracle), tarot, or other oracle decks. As the ancient druids often celebrated in stone circles and in groves of oak trees, modern druids may build stone circles and plant groves to use as a focus for their practices.
[Read: “Oracle Decks for Beginners.”]
Those beginning their druid journey may find it useful to learn a divination system, such as the Ogham, take up a practice of regular meditation (ideally in nature), and celebrate the turning wheel of the seasons, as befitting their local ecosystem.
This simple meditation allows you to connect with nature through the elements and offers you a taste of what the druid tradition is about. Many druids work with the four elements as part of their spiritual practice. The four elements have been used since ancient times to represent the whole of creation.
Druidry offers joyful connection to the world around us and within us. This includes connection with nature herself as the source of all life (ovate), connection with our own creative flow and inspiration drawn from nature (bard), and connection with the metaphysical and divine worlds (druid).
Druidry also offers us an ethical response to the ecological crisis of our age. By reconnecting with the living earth, by learning how to live regeneratively upon her, by engaging in our creative gifts, we can engage in deep ecological action. Druids believe that nature connection is one of the things that is most missing in the modern age. By cultivating this connection within ourselves and in our own communities, we can build a brighter future for our descendants.
Many beginners who take up the path of druidry choose to join a druid organization. Most druid organizations are “teaching orders” that welcome members from a diversity of paths and offer courses that help an aspiring druid on their path.
The Ancient Order of Druids in America: www.aoda.org
The AODA welcomes druids of diverse paths to develop a “wildcrafted” approach to their druidry by focusing on developing spiritual and creative practices tied to their local ecosystem.
The Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids: www.druidry.co.uk
One of the largest druid orders in the world, OBOD offers a neopagan approach to druidry and offers a complete year-long course for each of the paths of bard, ovate, and druid.
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