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)
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How Donald Trump is slouching towards the Republican nomination

There was supposed to be a ceiling above which Trump’s popular support could not climb.

In America, you can judge a crowd by its merchandise. Outside the Connecticut Convention Centre in Hartford, frail old men and brawny moms are selling “your Trump 45 football jerseys”, “your hats”, “your campaign buttons”. But the hottest item is a T-shirt bearing the slogan “Hillary sucks . . . but not like Monica!” and, on the back: “Trump that bitch!” Inside, beyond the checkpoint manned by the Transportation Security Administration and the secret service (“Good!” the man next to me says, when he sees the agents), is a family whose three kids, two of them girls, are wearing the Monica shirt.

Other people are content with the shirts they arrived in (“Waterboarding – baptising terrorists with freedom” and “If you don’t BLEED red, white and blue, take your bitch ass home!”). There are 80 chairs penned off for the elderly but everyone else is standing: guys in motorcycle and military gear, their arms folded; aspiring deal-makers, suited, on cellphones; giggling high-school fatsos, dressed fresh from the couch, grabbing M&M’s and Doritos from the movie-theatre-style concession stands. So many baseball hats; deep, bellicose chants of “Build the wall!” and “USA!”. (And, to the same rhythm, “Don-ald J!”)

A grizzled man in camouflage pants and combat boots, whose T-shirt – “Connecticut Militia III%” – confirms him as a member of the “patriot” movement, is talking to a zealous young girl in a short skirt, who came in dancing to “Uptown Girl”.

“Yeah, we were there for Operation American Spring,” he says. “Louis Farrakhan’s rally of hate . . .”

“And you’re a veteran?” she asks. “Thank you so much!”

Three hours will pass. A retired US marine will take the rostrum to growl, “God bless America – hoo-rah!”; “Uptown Girl” will play many more times (much like his speeches, Donald J’s playlist consists of a few items, repeated endlessly), before Trump finally looms in and asks the crowd: “Is this the greatest place on Earth?”

There was supposed to be a ceiling above which Trump’s popular support could not climb. Only a minority within a minority of Americans, it was assumed, could possibly be stupid enough to think a Trump presidency was a good idea. He won New Hampshire and South Carolina with over 30 per cent of the Republican vote, then took almost 46 per cent in Nevada. When he cleaned up on Super Tuesday in March, he was just shy of 50 per cent in Massachusetts; a week later, he took 47 per cent of the votes in Mississippi.

His rivals, who are useless individually, were meant to co-operate with each other and the national party to deny him the nomination. But Trump won four out of the five key states being contested on “Super-Duper Tuesday” on 15 March. Then, as talk turned to persuading and co-opting his delegates behind the scenes, Trump won New York with 60 per cent.

Now, the campaign is trying to present Trump as more “presidential”. According to his new manager, Paul Manafort, this requires him to appear in “more formal settings” – without, of course, diluting “the unique magic of Trump”. But whether or not he can resist denouncing the GOP and the “corrupt” primary system, and alluding to violence if he is baulked at at the convention, the new Trump will be much the same as the old.

Back in Hartford: “The Republicans wanna play cute with us, right? If I don’t make it, you’re gonna have millions of people that don’t vote for a Republican. They’re not gonna vote at all,” says Trump. “Hopefully that’s all, OK? Hopefully that’s all, but they’re very, very angry.”

This anger, which can supposedly be turned on anyone who gets in the way, has mainly been vented, so far, on the protesters who disrupt Trump’s rallies. “We’re not gonna be the dummies that lose all of our jobs now. We’re gonna be the smart ones. Oh, do you have one over there? There’s one of the dummies . . .”

There is a frenzied fluttering of Trump placards, off to his right. “Get ’em out! . . . Don’t hurt ’em – see how nice I am? . . . They really impede freedom of speech and it’s a disgrace. But the good news is, folks, it won’t be long. We’re just not taking it and it won’t be long.”

It is their removal by police, at Trump’s ostentatious behest, that causes the disruption, rather than the scarcely audible protesters. He seems to realise this, suddenly: “We should just let ’em . . . I’ll talk right over them, there’s no problem!” But it’s impossible to leave the protesters where they are, because it would not be safe. His crowd is too vicious.

Exit Trump, after exactly half an hour, inclusive of the many interruptions. His people seem uplifted but, out on the street, they are ambushed by a large counter-demonstration, with a booming drum and warlike banners and standards (“Black Lives Matter”; an image of the Virgin of Guadalupe, holding aloft Trump’s severed head). Here is the rest of the world, the real American world: young people, beautiful people, more female than male, every shade of skin colour. “F*** Donald Trump!” they chant.

After a horrified split-second, the Trump crowd, massively more numerous, rallies with “USA!” and – perplexingly, since one of the main themes of the speech it has just heard was the lack of jobs in Connecticut – “Get a job!” The two sides then mingle, unobstructed by police. Slanging matches break out that seem in every instance to humiliate the Trump supporter. “Go to college!” one demands. “Man, I am in college, I’m doin’ lovely!”

There is no violence, only this: some black boys are dancing, with liquid moves, to the sound of the drum. Four young Trump guys counter by stripping to their waists and jouncing around madly, their skin greenish-yellow under the street lights, screaming about the building of the wall. There was no alcohol inside; they’re drunk on whatever it is – the elixir of fascism, the unique magic of Trump. It’s a hyper but not at all happy drunk.

As with every other moment of the Trump campaign so far, it would have been merely some grade of the cringeworthy – the embarrassing, the revolting, the pitiful – were Trump not slouching closer and closer, with each of these moments, to his nomination. 

This article first appeared in the 28 April 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The new fascism