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HomeDruid, My Articles Druidism today

Druidism today


(Originally published in “The Druid’s Arch”, the Official Newsletter of the Ord DraĆ­ochta Na Uisnech in the Beltane 2003 issue, Volume 1, Issue 1.)

Well, here it is, Beltane again. Once more we stand on the threshold of the transition between Winter and Summer. “The Long Dark Tea-time of the Soul” as one author put it, is now at an end, and we are moving back into the light. All around us, the Earth has been waking and changing. The plants have been pushing up through the soil, renewing their life, the birds have mated and even now, the chicks are starting to grow. The wild things are leaving the protection of their parents and starting to move around on their own, renewing the LIFE that is this planet.

How are we, as Druids, responding to this? We may feel it in our bones, we may feel the quickening pulse of the Land, we may feel compelled to sing at odd times. Many of us may be forced by something deep inside ourselves to clean the house and air it out, letting the newness that is Spring and Summer come in. Soon we will be hearing the lazy buzz of the bees and the Katydids and remembering the lethargy that comes when the heat climbs into the triple digits. We may remember to take shorter showers, conserve water and to try to make sure that others have the same resources that we have.

But I think our time may be truly better spent taking the time to consider a few things.

When was the last time you opened up your head and aired it out? When did you last clean out your body? When did you consider all sides of an issue before you acted? This is a unique time to do all these things and a unique time to consider a balance of viewpoints.

I’m going to talk to you today about balance. All else you can find in other works and in other places. Finding information on the ancientness of Beltane and the fertility rites is no big deal these days of the Internet, but finding balance is, and it is one of the critical things that many Druids fail to think of as a necessary component of their life, or, they may feel they are in balance when they are not.

True balance is not oscillating between extremes. Manic Depression is not balance. Balance is not the *averaging* of emotions between the two extremes, it is the state between them.

What does balance mean, exactly? Dictionary.com gives this definition:

balĀ·ance noun

  1. A weighing device, especially one consisting of a rigid beam horizontally suspended by a low-friction support at its center, with identical weighing pans hung at either end, one of which holds an unknown weight while the effective weight in the other is increased by known amounts until the beam is level and motionless.
  2. A state of equilibrium or parity characterized by cancellation of all forces by equal opposing forces.
  3. The power or means to decide.
    1. A state of bodily equilibrium: thrown off balance by a gust of wind.
    2. The ability to maintain bodily equilibrium: Gymnasts must have good balance.
  4. A stable mental or psychological state; emotional stability.
  5. A harmonious or satisfying arrangement or proportion of parts or elements, as in a design.
  6. An influence or force tending to produce equilibrium; counterpoise.
  7. The difference in magnitude between opposing forces or influences.
  8. Accounting. a) Equality of totals in the debit and credit sides of an account. b) The difference between such totals, either on the credit or the debit side.
  9. Something that is left over; a remainder.
  10. Chemistry. Equality of mass and net electric charge of reacting species on each side of an equation.
  11. Mathematics. Equality with respect to the net number of reduced symbolic quantities on each side of an equation.
  12. A balance wheel.

Looked at from a metaphysical standpoint, I think that all these definitions apply except for the first and last three. We are not talking about a physical object that is used to weigh things.

But “a state of equilibrium” is a good start. It is important for a Druid to have that state of equilibrium, that togetherness, that centeredness to be able to judge things effectively. The Druids of today need to be that rock that others can look to and judge their own actions against. I have heard it said in past times that the Druids never made a decision in haste, and I think one reason for that is to simply give pause to the leaders they were to counsel.

The Celts were a passionate people. They made war for some of the most trivial (to us) reasons. The Tain Bo’ Cuailnge calmly asserts thousands of men were slaughtered for a herd of cattle? Please. A war between nations simply because this cow gives sweeter milk that this other one? Because of that passion, the Druid had to be patient and balanced. For example, while the warriors were calling up on the leader to go out and slaughter this tribe because this woman of the tribe was prettier than the women of our tribe, the leader could look to the Druid for counsel and see the Druid standing there, balanced, waiting to hear what was really motivating this action. To give the Chief pause to think through this action before he took it. After all, you cannot un-swing a sword.

I think that this pause was one of the main duties of the Druid. “To keep his head when all around him were loosing theirs.”

“The power or means to decide.” Well, this one should be obvious. The Druids held enormous influence over the people they ministered to, especially the leaders. They had the power to inflame passions and emotions through the music and stories they told, they had the power of life and death over even the gods (as in the case of Rhiannon of the Birds and Pryderi) by their laws, and power over even the afterlife by the spiritual and magickal aspects of the Druid. In the hands of some men, this would be critically dangerous.

This was a power that could easily be abused, used in ways that would make all other uses of this power seem trivial by comparison. The mis-spoken word to the village gossip could ruin a person’s reputation and any chance that they could have an honorable marriage to someone. So the Druid of old had to decide, all the time, if he would utter the right word, or the wrong word. He had to decide what he could say, and what was too much. He had to decide which counsel to offer his chief, and what comfort to bring to the new widow. All this was in his power, and he could not abrogate that responsibility. As Mark Twain once said, “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between the lightning and the lightning bug.”

So, the Druid had the power to decide what to say, who to say it to, when to say it, and more importantly how to say it. He also was able to decide how much to say. As you may know, the best lie in the world is to tell the truth to a certain point and then to shut up.

“Bodily equilibrium” could mean as they say, that one must be able to walk a tightrope and to not fall down, but also it can mean that one must be able to use their body as it was intended to be used by the Gods. It’s not enough to be able to chew meat, since we have the canines and incisors for that, but one must also be able to chew the greens, to clean out the body with it’s roughage. One must be able to stand on one foot for a time with the eyes closed, but one must also be able to run, jump, throw and shout with the same body. Let’s face it, this is the only body you have.

So, health of the body is a form of balance too. And despite my words above, I am NOT an advocate of purging the body with things like Mercury and syrup of Ipecac. One should, however, cease to take in poisons that cause the body to function in less than peak performance.

About a year ago, I was a smoker. At my peak, I was smoking two packs of cigarettes a day, and enjoying every nicotine-laced puff. I soothed my conscience with the thought that I was smoking the lights, and therefore not taking in as much nicotine as the 100s I had been smoking. When my wife and I quit for good, because of health issues, it was somewhat hard. I had to habitually deny myself those paper cylinders and say “no” each time one of my triggers showed itself.

Finally, simply because I wanted to, about 6 months after quitting, I had a cigarette. I picked up a co-worker’s ultra-light cigarette and lit up. I was anticipating the feeling I used to get when that nicotine hit my system, the dizzy and slightly high feeling from a good nicotine buzz. What I did not anticipate was the nausea that would come with it. I was sick to my stomach, tired, run down, and lethargic for the rest of the day, somewhere around 7 hours. I felt horrible. It felt like I was suffering from a flu. I had a slight fever and I constantly felt like I would throw up. It was horrible. Add to that the fact that it tasted like I was eating ashes out of the ashtray. It was the single worst experience of my life so far and this was an ultra-light, not nearly as strong as a light!

These are the kinds of poisons I’m talking about. Now, while it is effectively impossible to cut all the poisons out of our lives, it’s possible to cut many out. Cut down on salt, drink filtered water instead of tap water, don’t smoke, intake a moderate amount of meat, especially pork, drink a moderate amount of milk instead of a gallon a day, use margarine instead of butter, walk around your office building a couple times during your lunch hour instead of sitting there, drink a gallon of water a day, in other words, do all that good stuff your doctor always bugs you about. Treat your body as the temple it is and bodily balance will return to you.

(As an aside, and because my wife will insist, I’m most guilty of this. I don’t eat vegetables, I don’t exercise, I don’t drink enough water and this is one major area I have to work on. So I have said it and I realize that I’m a hypocrite by saying that it’s something we need to work on.)

“Emotional stability”. Let’s face it, Druids are talkers. We talk for a living and many people seek our counsel on many different things. On a list that I’m a member of, we discuss politics all the time and look at how it relates to us as Druids. We take scenarios and look at them as though we were Druids advising the leaders of today. And we come to some conclusions.

Because of this, everyone has to keep a level head. It does not matter that the propaganda machine of the presidency has told us that the enemy of the day is evil incarnate and we must hate them and kill every last one of them. We are expected to remain calm and look at things from the other side. We are also expected to be able to see things from the perspective of who is being effected by our decisions.

For instance, we may take the tragedy of September 11th as a situation that is under discussion. We decide that while it was a tragedy, there was some justification in the actions taken against us. That those actions by themselves are not excusable, but they do serve to show us that we are not as innocent as others would like us to believe, that we created enemies and victimized them first as well.

And we may look at the decision to go to war, and decide that it is a horrible thing to contemplate, and that we should not go to war at all. We must be able to see that without going to war, the plant that manufactures the bombs that will be dropped may have to lay off workers because they don’t have the business that a war would bring to them. We have to be able to see beyond the immediate situation to see more of the whole and how it fits together.

We must remain calm. With others looking to the Druids as examples of how to behave more and more, we can’t go off half-cocked and start a flame war because of a misunderstood position or a position that we find abhorrent. We must, as a group, be able to step back from the volatile situation we are debating and realize that the person we are talking with has emotions and motivations, and we MUST be able to see their side of things. How can we understand ourselves if we cannot understand our fellow human beings? We have to be able to see their motivations and their point of view, so that when our words carry weight, we are not acting from an emotional situation, but from a rational one. After all, most of those we will be advising operate from an emotional position we can’t afford. We must be able to examine ourselves from the same rational stance to understand our internal motivations so that they do not creep in, demanding that *I* am right and you are not. Others must be able to see why we have taken a particular stance in a rational way. We must be able to show steps “A”, “B”, and “C” to show why we have taken the position we profess. It does not help an already volatile situation to say “because” when someone asks “why”.

“A satisfying arrangement of elements as in a design.” I don’t think there is anything as beautiful as seeing something aesthetically pleasing. Seeing a poem written out, each line in place, rhyming (or not as the case may be), saying what it is supposed to say, invoking the emotions it should invoke. Making an amulet, seeing it complete, and somehow knowing that this item is RIGHT, because it looks good, well, that’s magick.

Setting up the worship area, laying out the tools to be used, drawing out the symbols with the Staff, all those make changes that speak to our visceral selves, and get us closer to the primitive person. Why do you think that the Japanese spend so much time learning how to arrange flowers correctly? Beauty is not only it’s own reward, but a way of maintaining balance within oneself.

“A counter force producing equilibrium.” When two forces come into conflict with each other, the point where they meet can be a source of great power. I remember reading “Dune” by Frank Herbert and coming across the passage “The Reverend Mother must combine the seductive wiles of a courtesan with the untouchable majesty of a virgin goddess, holding these attributes in tension so long as the powers of her youth endure. For when youth and beauty have gone, she will find that the place-between, once occupied by tension, has become a well spring of cunning and resourcefulness.” (p 21 & 22)

A counter force like that is necessary to keep the hot-headed warriors in check, since they can easily get out of hand. Along with that we must know when we it is time to loose those hotheads to do as they must. That is the true source of wisdom, that knowing, that timing of the when and how, and being able to understand that sometimes it’s necessary to remove obstacles.

When the leader of a group takes the position of anger, the Druid, as advisor, must take a position of calmness to help the leader remain balanced. If the leader takes a position of peace and pacifism, the Druid should be able to rationally show the leader the anger the people feel and why that needs to be taken into account before a course of action is determined. Yet, in the final analysis the Druid must give way to and support the chosen path of the leader, rallying the people to it.

This is the function of the Druid, as the power behind the throne, as Chief Advisor, as a tool of the Chief to get a feel for the people.

“An equal total between the debts and credits.” There will be times in everyone’s life when someone offends the Druid. As part of balancing the forces out, one must pay them back the offense, so that it is not hanging around the Druid’s neck forever. But, as part of that, the Druid must be able to let that offense go as soon as it is paid off. Ultimately, the “ledger” should read 0 when things are done. An offense of an insult against the Druid should probably be passed off since it was a spur of the moment thing, but the offense of harm to the Druid and those under the Druid’s care should probably be paid back by all means necessary, such as reporting them to the police and taking legal action.

This is completely right and proper. One of the functions of the Druids in the past was as those who enforced the honor prices of the injured. They were the arbitrators of who was worth how many cows and they saw to the payment of the same. If someone refused to pay, they were nething (or nothing) and were subsequently banished from the tribe for the good of all. After all, if someone didn’t care that he raped your wife, could you trust him to watch your back in combat?

By maintaining this balance of offenses, one could say that we are enforcing karmatic debts, and that by doing so, we are not going to be compelled to see them again in another lifetime. But as honorable people, we must also keep in mind that this applies to good actions as well as bad. Someone who helps us in a time of need should be paid back in similar coin when the tables are turned. And if you help someone out in a time of need, it is your right to call upon that help when you need it.

As my sister pointed out to me at one time, if I help my family out and gain blessings from the Gods for that, it’s unfair to refuse to accept help from my family and deny them the same blessings for them helping me out.

“Something left over.” There will always be something left. If it is gratitude, magickal energy, a feeling of being owed or what have you, there will always be something left. For instance, this article will be left by my trying to balance out a debt I owe to Kenn. He taught me quite a bit of what I know Druidism when I started on this path, and so now our scales are balanced, but this article is the remainder.

But in this, this remainder, people will look at it and say “Daven is really wise and knows a lot.” Let me tell you all something right now, you know this too. Any one of you could have said this, and one day you will. I just had the words to say it.

I do want to add that writing this article was a joy and a chore. It was a joy in that my humble thoughts and my feelings are valued, but it was a chore trying to quantify something that should not have to be explained. Putting down into words something that should ultimately be felt is one of the most difficult prospects one ever faces. I know these things in my heart, and they are as it should be, but trying to express them is a difficult proposition.

And to Douglas Monroe, I have to say this: Balance is one of the greatest and hardest things a Druid can undertake. You may feel that it is bad to be balanced because one is stagnant at that point, and that is certainly your right. But have you ever stood on a ball and tried to remain on there for more than a few moments? One must constantly move and adjust by minute increments to remain on the ball, and that is not stagnant at all.

Originally posted 2015-04-29 06:37:32. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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