I believe most of us have a particular connection to a being or a presence in the material world. It may be misappropriation to describe it as such, but for want of a better term I will call this a totem. For some, it might be a certain animal, a bird for instance, for others it is tied to a certain element: water, earth, air or fire. For me, I’m fairly certain that I am ‘tied’ to the trees. Nomen est omen, apparently: both my first name (the Linden) and my last name (literally Beechwood) derive from the names of trees. When I was very little and not even aware of being a namesake of the trees, I always felt very much at home in the woods or playing around a solitary tree or copse and often sought the presence of these tame suburban trees by myself. In all of my years as a seeker, it would have made sense to seek out the movement whose very name is connected with the lore of trees and the natural world at large. But I never crossed paths with Druidry in my own country, although it does indeed exist, and only encountered it in many years of reading and the short while I have been writing in the international blogosphere. Over the past weeks, I have been reading two separate introductions to Druidism.
Way of the Druid – The Renaissance of a Celtic Religion and its Relevance for Today by Graeme K. Talboys
‘Way of the Druid’ is a comprehensive introduction to Druidry. Structured in a chronological way, the author takes you from the origins of the Celtic people through prehistory and historical times, through the revival and re-invention of Druidry in the early modern age, towards its relevance and practice today. During this journey, a wide range of subjects are covered, with an emphasis on metaphysics, cosmology and ethics. Considering the scope and variety of topics covered, the book is remarkable concise and accessible.
The author does not glorify the past and acknowledges the Celts were a tribal people, who did indeed also have traditions and views we, as post-modern people, regard as less desirable. I found that refreshing: in a lot of Pagan literature there is a fair share of idealising the past. This book does nothing of the sort: it rather seeks for a universal common ground and aims to preserve what was good in the Celtic cultures by making these concepts accessible and applicable to post-modern life. Pivotal is the understanding that we live in a society in which there is a clear division between the sacred and the profane, whereas in the Celtic culture the division between science, law, religion and cosmology was non-existent. Towards the end of the book, the book becomes more hands-on and presents you with an overview of the ritual and the practice of contemporary Druids. I consider this book an excellent introduction for a serious reader who is interested in Druidry but not yet ready to commit to a course, or a good starting point for those who prefer a solitary practice.
I am weary and wary of organised spirituality these days and shy away from even naming my experience of the divine. I do not know yet whether I will walk further along the Way of the Druid. This book has left me with a taste for more, though.