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A Modern Druid's Perspective
Updated: 1 hour 29 min ago
About a year and a half ago, we began a bardic night for our grove community members. Inspired by the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids (OBOD), I wanted to hone my own story telling skills and style as well as to be challenged to learn the old tales, new songs for ritual, and poetry about and for the Kindred. It was also a way to get folks together outside of our ritual setting to fellowship and build stronger relationships.
Sharing something is not compulsory, but sharing is open to those who may want to get up and do so. Having a theme usually helps inspire folks to bring something, but as we have had regular (monthly) gatherings, more and more are finding things to bring and share with the group. Especially rewarding is that the children of the Grove are becoming more and more involved and excited. From just coloring, playing and otherwise ignoring the adults, they now bring their books to read (or be read) and listen interestedly in some of the stories. It’s great to see them encouraged in their reading and learning about the Gods and Kindred and sharing them with their friends at school.
As rewarding as it is for the children – it is also a lot of fun for us adults! This is a great way for people who want to pursue Bardic abilities to have a safe place to share stories, music, and poetry with their Groves, Kindreds, Circles or Covens.
Setting up an Eisteddfod or Bardic time is easy:
- Choose a date, time and place. Night or day, around a fire or in a cozy living room.
- Select a theme. This is optional, but really helps others to find something. Set it around the upcoming high day, cultural event, pantheon, or other significance.
- The host or facilitator should prepare at least a story, poem, or song or two. This way there is some content for the event.
- Try to alternate the pieces and presenters to keep a variety of interesting items.
- Encourage children to participate in some way.
- Learn new songs, chants, music for rituals and fun time
- Refreshments: potluck or light snacks
- Public or private? This depends on where it is held and how big you want it. I don’t recommend fully public invitations when held at private homes. But hosting an eisteddfod at a festival or Pagan Pride event could be a lot of fun.
These are just a few ideas. It all depends on who attends and the needs of your group. Enjoy your experiences and learn some great songs and stories.
The modern English word druid comes from the old Irish druí (“druid, sorcerer”) and early Welsh dryw (“seer”). Based on all available forms, the hypothetical proto-Celtic word may then be reconstructed as *dru-wid-s meaning “oak-knower”. The two elements go back to the Proto-Indo-European roots *deru- and *weid- “to see”.
While “paganism” is the more commonly used umbrella term for practices other than Judeo-Christian-Islamic religions, many organizations prefer to use other nomenclature for their specific practices. Among these are Heathen, Witch, Faerie, Wiccan, and Druid.
Today, “Druid” has evolved to mean more than when it was applied to a Celtic Priestly class ancient days. Coming from its proto-Indo European origins, it has been assimilated into our language and used in English to encompass a broader practice. With the growth of Neo-Paganism and Heathenry in the U.S., Europe, and other areas of the world, the term is applied to a number of uses from Celtic Reconstruction to a form of Celtic or Druid Wicca. All a wide range of modern practices developed from interpretation of information derived from these archeological findings and writings.
The ancient priests of Celtic Britain, Ireland, Gaul, Galicia (northern Spain), Scotland, and other Celtic regions were known as Druids. Since they did not leave written records of their religious practices, very little is actually known about the Druid Priests and Priestesses. We are left
with accounts written by conquerors, Christian monks, and trying to untangle the mysteries and clues that may have been hidden in the myths, legends, and practices passed on through generations. Since nothing is actually left behind by the Druids themselves, what we have today is the best we can put together from the pieces uncovered by scholars and archeologists.
The Druid Priest/esses were revered people who were vital to the societies and clans. They were fully integrated and part of the fabric of their society. They farmed, fought, played and lived much as others, except they were also called and trained to be the spiritual leaders of their clans. The progression of Christianity and conquest of Rome northward drove the Druids (and their Germanic and other counterparts throughout Europe) underground or they were destroyed by their conquerors. Much was lost as a result and traditions were carefully passed on in secret or disguised in other forms.
The modern movement of Paganism in the late 20th Century inspired a revival of Druidry. Orders were formed in the United States, Britain and around the world. Common elements of these organizations include:
- Dedication to scholarly study
- Relationship with the “Kindred” – defined as:
- Nature and other spirit beings
- A polytheistic view of Gods and Goddesses
- A spiritual practice synonymous with daily life
- Applying an understanding of ancient practices to modern sensibilities (Druidry is a living practice that adapts to the conditions of its people).
- Bardic practices of music, story, poetry, dance, and drama.
- Community involvement.
These elements really drew me to Ar nDraocht Fein (ADF) and my practice. Having been drawn to spirituality all my life, these aspects really resonated with me and help me to define Druidry today – regardless of hearth pantheon. As an international organization that was formed and is based in the US, it recognizes the multi-cultural heritage of people today. Because of this, early founders of ADF developed a religious practice that celebrates the common traits of Indo-European spirituality while respecting the practices and pantheons of cultures world-wide.
I’m pleased that the Grove to which I belong and co-organize is not cultural specific so that we may enjoy the nuances and cultural blessings of our members. I can practice traditions from my Dutch/Germanic heritage and heed the call of the Gods and Goddesses from Valhalla. We are even blessed to have a member who celebrates her Aztec heritage and brings us to a connection with the land on which we live now.
ADF is a wonderful fit for me because it does not limit its Druidry to Celtic practices or pantheon. Today, one can be a “druid” and be linked to a Greek, Germanic, Celtic, Roman, Vedic or other pantheon that calls to you either through lineage (heritage) or other interest. I encourage you to seek the guidance and wisdom of the Kindred and practice “druidry” however you may choose to call it.
Children are a wonderful part of life. Being a child is something every living being has in common whether a human or animal. Being a child is also something that should be a wonderful and exciting experience for all. Sadly it isn’t always so, but if we can, we should strive to make the world of a child we know to be as safe, secure and happy as possible so they can become people of integrity.
Recently the San Diego Black Hat Society held a potluck dinner and collected new stuffed animals for the Polinsky Children’s Center. Polinsky’s is a place where battered and abused children can find a safe respite. Often they escape their situation with the clothes (or pajamas) on their back. The Black Hat Society collects these new toys to give to children so they can have something to call their own and have a sense of comfort in their situation.
While at the dinner, we were blessed with the laughter and energy of two very happy and loving girls aged 5 and 8. When explaining why the toys were collected, their eyes grew large with sadness at the thought that somewhere a child doesn’t know love. It was a joy to see them excited to be part of this experience and eager to send loving energy into the toys for those needy children.
These two are also excited to help during ritual and now feel left out if they are not asked to participate. This is what prompted me to write about children for the PBP. The Grove and Circle in which we are active believe strongly in a family practice. One where all members participate in some way and learn. While not all events are interesting or appropriate for all ages, most of the events are ones the children enjoy being a part of.
Some groups create rituals just for children. Having them create, research, and facilitate ritual on their own is a rewarding learning experience. Including them in ritual with adults is also an exciting experience for them as well as for us grown-ups. Even a role as small as leading the group in a “Hail the Kindred (or deity of occasion)”, “So mote it be”, “So say we all”, etc. is an experience that makes them feel valued and integral to the group.
- At an upcoming ritual, see how the children attending can be involved. Make the tasks age appropriate and to their ability within the ritual.
- Select something uncomplicated they can do. Anointing with oil, passing out the cups or elements, holding an incense stick and walking around the circle, blessing upon entering the ritual setting, singing, or tending the fire (just kidding about the fire!).
- Explain to them what to do and why it’s done (attend them if necessary)
- Encourage them along the way. Children are always looking for approval when they do things well.
- Don’t be impatient. Their assistance may add a bit of time to the ritual. Allow it to be part of the ritual. However in a very larger group setting, make the tasks appropriate to the size of the group. Such as having them hold the blessing bowl while an adult anoints for example.
- Thank them for a job well done.
Their presence and activity in ritual brings a vigor, innocence and wonder that can really infuse the rite with energy. We can learn valuable things from them – Children naturally are curious and exploratory. Their wonder and amazement at the world around them are things we should keep in our lives.
“Well, if you want to sing out, sing out
And if you want to be free, be free
‘Cause there’s a million things to be
You know that there are” – Cat Stevens
A blot (pronounced “bloat” not “blot” as in a stain) is a ritual sacrifice held by those who follow the paths of their Northern European ancestors. Blots are the most common rituals performed by those of the Asatru path.
Blot – “blessing” or “sacrifice”; one of the basic types of heathen religious ritual, at which an offering is made directly to one or several deities. – Our Troth: Second Edition, Vol. 2 2007.
The Northern/Asatru concept of relationship between humans and the Gods is important to understand when learning of their practices. It is believed we are not just worshippers of the Gods but spiritually and physically related to them. This means that our relationships with the Gods are those of exchange and interaction.
As a sacrificial ritual, the purpose of a blot is not just to kill an animal nor to bribe a deity to get something. In ancient times, when societies were more agricultural and clan based, the ritual sacrifice of an animal was an act of care after which a feast was prepared from the animal. Now most rituals involve mead, beer, juice, or other such offering as the sacrifice. As we share food, drink, and time with our friends and family, so can a blot be the sharing and celebrating of time with our Gods and Goddesses.
Blots range from very simple and performed alone to part of a larger ritual or event. It depends on the reason of the blot and those who are involved. The basic elements of a blot are:
- The hallowing or blessing of the offering
- The sharing of the offering among the folk in honor of the God/dess
- Pouring the remaining onto the earth as a libation
Although this may seem very simple to those used to more involved ceremonial rituals, a blot is quite powerful and meaningful. Once blessed, the offering is no longer just a horn (or cup) of mead (or whatever used) – it is a consecrated element to the God/dess of the occasion. As the horn is passed around the gathered folk, each toasts to the deity and then takes a drink. It is a very engaging experience.
You may be asking your screen at this point “Hey you are ‘A Modern Druid’, why are you writing about a blot?” Good question. My personal use and idea of the term “druid” will be explained in a later post (when I come to “D”). For the development of my interest in this lore and practice here is why.
I am of Dutch heritage. As the first US born of my maternal Dutch family and a combination of Dutch-Danish-Irish from the paternal side, there is a very strong connection to the Northern European mainland heritage. The call of my Frisian and Lower Germanic ancestors who inhabited the Netherlands and Jute-lands is very strong within me.
What I have discovered since joining ADF (Ar nDraiocht Fein) is that it encourages the common practices of the Indo-European people and creates a place where we, as their descendants of integration in this new land, can adapt and continue our worship with a modern day effect. I love the directness of a blot and that it reminds me of having a bit of time with someone I love and care about. When I meet with my friends and family, I don’t always have to give them something just to hang out with them. I give them something because I care about them and find that I want to do it when I do.
A blot is an amazing experience when done with others. Listening to others praise and lift the Gods with their voices is an exhilarating act. When the group echoes the “hail” after the praise, it unites us in fellowship with the Gods as a Kindred.
Hail Woden/Odin. Hail Freyja! for inspiration and for watching over me.