How did I become a Druid?

This week's Faith Column is written by Damh who devotes his first blog to explaining how his interes

Since I was a child I’ve loved Fairy tales - stories of myth, old folk tales of the land, stories of fairies, giants, heroes, and magic. I always felt there were places on this island where another reality was close by, and that doorways existed to these other realms that coexist on the same land as our own, but at a different vibration.

To help discover what you are, you often have to realise what you are not. I remember going to Sunday School as a child. Each week we learned a different quote from the Bible. I was learning about the religion of a land that felt so far away from me. I also thought it strange that the Bible was seen as a spiritual book that contained deep religious meaning, but the old tales of the Gods of this island were just ‘myth’, and most of those weren’t even mentioned at school. I saw around me that some people seemed to have a fear of the unknown held within these old stories – almost as if we shouldn’t look too deeply or we might find something distasteful, or even ‘evil’. But I did look, and I found a place of beauty and wonder, a hidden but well-trodden pathway through a woodland that lead to a clearing in the forest.

There I met Herne, the old Pagan Horned God, I talked with Blodeuwedd the Owl, and she told me her mysteries, I looked to the Sun and found Lugh, and within the crescent Moon I heard the voice of Ceridwen, Goddess of Bards. I learned to love the drama of folk custom, to revere the Spirits of Nature, and to write and sing of that love through my songs and growing interest in the Bardic tradition within Druidry.

People often write of the moment of realisation of their own spirituality as ‘coming home’, and it certainly felt like this for me. The more I explored my new home, this island’s mysteries, the more I found, and the more I fell in love. In a human world that often seems so clinical and separate from nature, the path of Druidry heals that separation. As I looked deeper I didn’t find anything distasteful or ‘evil’ at all, anything but! I found my place within life. I discovered my relationship with the animals, plants and minerals around me, and found that everything I did affected something else, that I was a part of all life, and with that realisation also came responsibility to be more aware of my actions and consumer decisions. The world through the eyes of a Druid is a magical place of wonder and beauty, of colour, and life.

For further information about Druidry click here and for Damh’s personal website click here.

Damh (pronounced Darv) is a modern-day Bard whose spirituality, and love of folk tradition, is expressed through his music, storytelling and poetry. He is an Honorary Bard of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids (OBOD)
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BHS is Theresa May’s big chance to reform capitalism – she’d better take it

Almost everyone is disgusted by the tale of BHS. 

Back in 2013, Theresa May gave a speech that might yet prove significant. In it, she declared: “Believing in free markets doesn’t mean we believe that anything goes.”

Capitalism wasn’t perfect, she continued: 

“Where it’s manifestly failing, where it’s losing public support, where it’s not helping to provide opportunity for all, we have to reform it.”

Three years on and just days into her premiership, May has the chance to be a reformist, thanks to one hell of an example of failing capitalism – BHS. 

The report from the Work and Pensions select committee was damning. Philip Green, the business tycoon, bought BHS and took more out than he put in. In a difficult environment, and without new investment, it began to bleed money. Green’s prize became a liability, and by 2014 he was desperate to get rid of it. He found a willing buyer, Paul Sutton, but the buyer had previously been convicted of fraud. So he sold it to Sutton’s former driver instead, for a quid. Yes, you read that right. He sold it to a crook’s driver for a quid.

This might all sound like a ludicrous but entertaining deal, if it wasn’t for the thousands of hapless BHS workers involved. One year later, the business collapsed, along with their job prospects. Not only that, but Green’s lack of attention to the pension fund meant their dreams of a comfortable retirement were now in jeopardy. 

The report called BHS “the unacceptable face of capitalism”. It concluded: 

"The truth is that a large proportion of those who have got rich or richer off the back of BHS are to blame. Sir Philip Green, Dominic Chappell and their respective directors, advisers and hangers-on are all culpable. 

“The tragedy is that those who have lost out are the ordinary employees and pensioners.”

May appears to agree. Her spokeswoman told journalists the PM would “look carefully” at policies to tackle “corporate irresponsibility”. 

She should take the opportunity.

Attempts to reshape capitalism are almost always blunted in practice. Corporations can make threats of their own. Think of Google’s sweetheart tax deals, banks’ excessive pay. Each time politicians tried to clamp down, there were threats of moving overseas. If the economy weakens in response to Brexit, the power to call the shots should tip more towards these companies. 

But this time, there will be few defenders of the BHS approach.

Firstly, the report's revelations about corporate governance damage many well-known brands, which are tarnished by association. Financial services firms will be just as keen as the public to avoid another BHS. Simon Walker, director general of the Institute of Directors, said that the circumstances of the collapse of BHS were “a blight on the reputation of British business”.

Secondly, the pensions issue will not go away. Neglected by Green until it was too late, the £571m hole in the BHS pension finances is extreme. But Tom McPhail from pensions firm Hargreaves Lansdown has warned there are thousands of other defined benefit schemes struggling with deficits. In the light of BHS, May has an opportunity to take an otherwise dusty issue – protections for workplace pensions - and place it top of the agenda. 

Thirdly, the BHS scandal is wreathed in the kind of opaque company structures loathed by voters on the left and right alike. The report found the Green family used private, offshore companies to direct the flow of money away from BHS, which made it in turn hard to investigate. The report stated: “These arrangements were designed to reduce tax bills. They have also had the effect of reducing levels of corporate transparency.”

BHS may have failed as a company, but its demise has succeeded in uniting the left and right. Trade unionists want more protection for workers; City boys are worried about their reputation; patriots mourn the death of a proud British company. May has a mandate to clean up capitalism - she should seize it.