Back in the first post – Why Paganism? – I did my best to address one of the many questions I get from my non-Pagan friends. My second question, is one that I get from quite a few of my Pagan friends, as well as my non-Pagan ones. Why did I choose a path of Druidry? And why specifically did I choose the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids? As I stated before, the “Elevator Speech” does not quite answer these questions – at least not to a point where I feel I have been able to relate my perspective.
A few years back, I always felt that this question was self-evident, particularly in evidence with how I approach my understanding of Paganism. But over the last few months, I have started to realize that many of my friends that ask are not always aware of the personal Path that lead me to the doorstep of Druidry. So when I look for a spot to start my answer, its typically been my experience to start somewhere around the beginning, which transports us back to 1987 in Fort Worth, Texas at Carswell Air Force Base.
I had been conversing with several folks over some of the local Bulletin Board Systems (BBSs), and had been discussing spirituality and religion with quite a few of the folks. It was here that I first encountered a Pagan, which led to meeting more over the BBSs in the local area. Soon I had quite a few to discuss information with, and I began meeting some of these folks for Friday night gatherings at local establishments for long, protracted conversations. I distinctly remember closing down the Pig and Whistle Pub in Fort Worth several times with a group of folks, and the extremely detailed conversations that occurred over a few pints. This was where I encountered my first full-fledged conversations on topics such as reincarnation theory, animism, polytheism, shamanism, symbology and many, many good-spirited debates on comparative religion. There were quite a few very heated discussions that took place, but at the end of the night, we all laughed and hugged one another as we returned to our own homes. There were many times that I felt completely out of my depth in some of the conversations.
However, over time, I became familiar and comfortable with Wicca – and began borrowing books from one of my friends. I read every book cover to cover – and discovered even more concepts and topics that left me scratching my head. Theosophy, the Ordo Templi Orientis, Thelemic mysticism, Kabbalah, Gnosticism….each new concept made my head swim as I learned a little more – but Wicca felt like home. A love of Nature, a connection with the Gods and Goddesses, finding connections with the environment…but there was one nagging constant that I did not enjoy. Ritual.
My upbringing is that of a Catholic, despite the fact that my parents were never all that religious. I know many people who find the Catholic Mass to be a ritual of immense beauty. I am not one of those people. And my dislike for ritual bled over into my time within Wicca. I learned to tolerate the entire aspect of ritual. When rituals were finished, I listened to people gush over how they felt so much more connected to the Gods and their environment after this particular ritual or that particular moment when this Quarter was called or that God or Goddess was invoked. And the entire time, I felt myself thinking how the ritual was not really that necessary – the Gods and Goddesses were always there, the Spirits of the Land (not the term I was using at that time) were easily found – you just had to open yourself to what was there and allow yourself to experience that moment. I constantly volunteered to leave the offerings for the Spirits of the Land after ritual, since it gave me the chance to steal away from everyone else long enough to leave the offering somewhere – and allow myself a moment to open up without interruption. Its really odd, even now – twenty-plus years down the road – I still get strange looks from other Pagans when I note how little use I have for formal ritual.
In late 1990, I was sent overseas to Germany, and for all intents and purposes completely separated from my coven-mates. And for the first time, I experienced the concept of being completely separated from others where my faith was concerned. I encountered a few Pagan folks during my time at Sembach Air Base, but no one I truly clicked with. Near the base housing I was living at, there were woods – not more than one-hundred and fifty feet from my front door. I walked all throughout those woods for hours on end. I even explored all over my local area, trying to find Pagan shrines that may have still been standing. And in a very strong way, I felt like I was back home. Back in the forested areas I had walked in as a younger “me” – but now even more aware of how I fit into the world around me. I could walk away in silence, and listen to the wind whispering through the trees, hear the call of birds and animals in the quiet woods, and I felt so alive. It was during this time, that I realized that Wicca was not a very good fit for me. The emphasis was on rituals and spell-work, both of which were of little use or value to me. So I stepped over to calling myself a “Pagan” figuring that I would never find a moniker or label or Path that completely fit who I am. And I also began to realize that a label or a name for my Path was no longer important to me. I was (and continue to be) happy with being myself.
Eventually, I would make it back to the United States, separate from the United States military, and live my life within the DFW area. I made another attempt at Wicca with another local DFW tradition, but after my year-and-a-day training period was over – I thanked them for their time and moved on. In time, my own personal studies brought me to the path of Druidry.
Druidry, as I have come to understand and relate to the concept, is a way of living one’s life in conjunction with the sacredness of Nature. Through my understanding of Animism (which is literally quite minute by my own admission), the path of Druidry allows me a framework in which I can weave my own conceptualization of the connectedness of everything. The idea that the framework of Druidry is malleable, allows me to mold it to my own personal needs. While there are ritual elements to Druidry, the importance of those elements is left up to me, not placed in front of me as dogma. And the allowance of personal de-emphasis on ritual and re-emphasis on personal experience is one of the reasons I choose the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids (OBOD) over that of Ar nDraíocht Féin (ADF).
So, why Druidry? Because the world around me is alive! I feel the Gods and Goddesses everywhere around me. I am not their focal point – in fact, I would need to achieve their attention through forms of ritual, but I can perceive that they are there. The Spirits of the Land are far easier to work with – in my opinion. Not only are they there, but they are also interested in human kind. Sometimes for the wrong reasons. We – human beings – spend a lot of time trying to destroy the environment that we live in. We try to dominate and use the environment for our own selfish purposes. We sometimes choose not to live in harmony with the Land around us. And it is this point that will lead me down the road to my third – and final – part of this series of posts. I will attempt to answer the question of “Why not Christianity?”….
Thanks for reading – if you got this far!