How being a Druid affects my life?

How life is circular not linear and how being a Druid inspires a sense of we, not us and them

There are three main teachings that work through my life.

Circles. When I first began looking into Druidry and Paganism I found them everywhere, and in a society that more and more seems to view life as linear (you are born, you live you die) the philosophy of the circle made so much more sense to me. Druids see Nature, and life, as a circle, or a wheel. The planets revolve around the Sun - the horizon is a circle, the seasons move through Spring, Summer Autumn and Winter, and then Spring returns again, our ancestors built their temples in circles.

So instead of viewing life as birth/life/death/afterlife, many Druids have the added dimension of ‘rebirth’, be that into another human body, or an animal, plant, or even into the elements of Earth, Air, Fire or Water. So when people die, there is the old tradition of the ‘Summerlands’, a place of rest and reflection where we stay for a while before rebirth. Where we meditate on the life just lived, learning our lessons, seeking patterns, before we return.

Let’s consider a day, any day. I see the sunrise, feel its warmth at noon, then watch the colours change as the Sun sets, and the darkness of night draws in, but I know the Sun will rise again with the coming of the dawn.

Now let’s consider a year, any year. I see the year awakening, just like the daily sunrise, in Spring. I feel the warmth of Summer at the noon of the year, watch the year setting during Autumn, then feel the darkness and cold of the Winter months, but I know that Spring will return.

Now let’s consider a life, any life. After my own birth I was as a child, like the sunrise and Spring. I grew to maturity and strength, just as the Sun does at noon and Summer, then the ‘Autumn’ of life begins as a time of maturity and wisdom. The Winter of age comes and as the snow falls on the land, so it falls on my hair turning it white, the weight of age bends my body, and as I fall to the earth, so my Spirit makes that journey to the Isles of the Blessed. But just like the sunrise, and the Spring, I know I will be reborn – Nature has shown me this.

Awen. The word Awen is a Welsh word that means ‘flowing spirit’ or ‘divine inspiration’. It is the name given to the contents of the Cauldron of Inspiration of Celtic myth, a container that later became the Holy Grail. It is said that whoever tastes just three drops from this cauldron will be blessed with the gift of prophesy, and be able to see into the past, present, and future. The great poets of Celtic myth tasted this brew, Taliesin, Merlin, Amergin, all received this divine ‘Fire in the Head’. It is also the quest of the modern Bard to taste it.

Because Druidry is a nature-based spirituality, it is nature herself that I seek communion with. I feel the Awen flow through me when I see a beautiful sunrise, or during a dramatic storm, when I’m walking the moors or the Downs and feel the elements up close, when I see a soaring buzzard, or hear the roaring of the deer in the rut. For me it is these moments of connection that inspire me, and I feel at my closest to my Gods. The result is often a poem, song, or story that expresses this feeling, a tradition not only found in Druidry, but in other traditions such as Sufism.

Spirits of the Land. When I travelled into the more remote areas of this land I come across people who still related to the land as animists. The rock on the hill, the one with the cup marks, I found the family who leave a little milk in that cup for the Faerie Folk, maybe as an offering to ask for a good harvest, or maybe as a gift to ask them to keep away from their crops or animals, as the Faerie are not always the nice gossamer winged ‘little people’ of our childhood fairy tales. These ‘Faerie’ are the Spirits of the Land.

One of the things that Druidry has brought me is that it has opened my eyes to these Spirits. I can no longer see myself, or my species, as the dominant animal on the planet. For years that is how we acted which has resulted in the environmental mess in which we now find ourselves. Shifting from an ‘us and them’ approach to simply a ‘we’ has had a deep effect on all areas of my life.

Humans are just another animal, an intelligent ape, the same spark of life pumps the heart of a mouse that pumps our own hearts. The deeper I went into the Druid tradition, the more this became the reality I saw, and this changed the relationship I had with the world around me. The physical aspects of nature, the plants, trees, and animals once more became living aspects of my Gods. But it goes deeper than that. Even the inanimate objects suddenly became imbued with life. The rivers, streams and oceans, the rock and stones, the air, the soil, and fire, all came to life for me in that instant. This is not just religious belief either, research in quantum physics is now showing that matter has different vibrations – something that mystics have somehow known for centuries.

These three basic philosophies are not ‘commandments’, but they are choices I make, for a way of being within nature as a part of the whole.

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)
Photo: Getty Images
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Autumn Statement 2015: George Osborne abandons his target

How will George Osborne close the deficit after his U-Turns? Answer: he won't, of course. 

“Good governments U-Turn, and U-Turn frequently.” That’s Andrew Adonis’ maxim, and George Osborne borrowed heavily from him today, delivering two big U-Turns, on tax credits and on police funding. There will be no cuts to tax credits or to the police.

The Office for Budget Responsibility estimates that, in total, the government gave away £6.2 billion next year, more than half of which is the reverse to tax credits.

Osborne claims that he will still deliver his planned £12bn reduction in welfare. But, as I’ve written before, without cutting tax credits, it’s difficult to see how you can get £12bn out of the welfare bill. Here’s the OBR’s chart of welfare spending:

The government has already promised to protect child benefit and pension spending – in fact, it actually increased pensioner spending today. So all that’s left is tax credits. If the government is not going to cut them, where’s the £12bn come from?

A bit of clever accounting today got Osborne out of his hole. The Universal Credit, once it comes in in full, will replace tax credits anyway, allowing him to describe his U-Turn as a delay, not a full retreat. But the reality – as the Treasury has admitted privately for some time – is that the Universal Credit will never be wholly implemented. The pilot schemes – one of which, in Hammersmith, I have visited myself – are little more than Potemkin set-ups. Iain Duncan Smith’s Universal Credit will never be rolled out in full. The savings from switching from tax credits to Universal Credit will never materialise.

The £12bn is smaller, too, than it was this time last week. Instead of cutting £12bn from the welfare budget by 2017-8, the government will instead cut £12bn by the end of the parliament – a much smaller task.

That’s not to say that the cuts to departmental spending and welfare will be painless – far from it. Employment Support Allowance – what used to be called incapacity benefit and severe disablement benefit – will be cut down to the level of Jobseekers’ Allowance, while the government will erect further hurdles to claimants. Cuts to departmental spending will mean a further reduction in the numbers of public sector workers.  But it will be some way short of the reductions in welfare spending required to hit Osborne’s deficit reduction timetable.

So, where’s the money coming from? The answer is nowhere. What we'll instead get is five more years of the same: increasing household debt, austerity largely concentrated on the poorest, and yet more borrowing. As the last five years proved, the Conservatives don’t need to close the deficit to be re-elected. In fact, it may be that having the need to “finish the job” as a stick to beat Labour with actually helped the Tories in May. They have neither an economic imperative nor a political one to close the deficit. 

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.