Cat Treadwell — professional Druid and nature-mystic - gives us a perspective from the English countryside.
Inspiration is at the core of my Paganism, through my chosen path as Druid. This path might just be a label to some, but it's the one that suits me best. It might not be exactly as our ancestors practiced... but I think there's a good chance there'd be common ground and understanding.
Because as human beings, don't we all wish to be inspired? From that 'light bulb' moment, the 'Eureka!' cry is sought after by any number of magical methods. From chewing the end of a pencil, to small prayers as you stare out of an office window, to the blinking cursor on a computer screen... Inspiration is to be sought. Inspiration is valued.
But inspiration cannot be held or imprisoned. Even such cunning contemporary hunting tricks don't always work. Our ancestors knew that the Muses were capricious - if it's not the right time, they won't come out to play with you. On another day, though, when you're angry, low or just not in the mood, there's an idea, bouncing away inside your head, refusing to be banished until it's finally expressed... somehow.
Generally speaking, inspiration refers to creativity - whatever form that may take. Writing (in my case), painting or drawing, music, dance... so many different options. And the slightly less 'artsy' ones as well: gardening, cooking, decorating. If you feel that connection to the Universe, the ones that makes your heart sing and your mind go 'YES!' then you're on the right track.
We all know this (I hope). So why does that make it a specifically Pagan thing? Or even a Druid thing?
Well... it's isn't, not exclusively. It's a human thing. Potentially other species, too - when you see a raven rolling in the snow, a dog or horse running purely for joy, I'd be prepared to say that's an inspired act. The moment is right - let's do it!
But in Druid terms, Inspiration is regarded specifically as sacred to the path itself. Many believe that our personal practice cannot be true or sincere if you do not feel that connection as you undertake your rite, no matter how big or small.
I think, as Pagans, we can all understand what this means. Have you ever stood in a ritual circle, watching as another person simply speaks the words? Their heart isn't in it, for whatever reason - they're just going through the motions. I've always felt this to be a little sad, and unnecessary. The honorable thing would be to step back, take a break from this one, figure out why the connection isn't working today - then return when you're able to fully be present and take part.
We seek deep feeling in our practice, whether private or public. We seek relationship, connection with our Gods or our ancestors, the spirits of our homelands - whomever we choose to honor in our work. Even those others taking part in the ritual with us, or our families in other parts of the house while we work. Our intentions affect those around - so if we are inspired, this radiates out to inspire others in turn. A Witch might call that an effective spell-working; a psychiatrist might just say it's a catchy mood. Whatever it is, it's familiar to all of us.
And you know, too, that it doesn't have to be deep and meaningful. Meaning can resonate with laughter as well as formality.
So today, I share my inspiration with you all. A little piece of doggerel that I was compelled to write this morning - as shallow or deep as you wish it to be.
Be inspired in your workings, my friends. What are you creating and sharing today?
I consider inspiration: what it means and how it’s key
To so much of our own heritage, to my own Druidry.
A tricky word, it holds so much, and yet hides so much too
Inspiration doesn’t rhyme well, so the old bards thought that through!
Inspiration is a joy because it tells us what to do…
It doesn’t really, does it? It’s a bit more of a guide
An incitement, an incentive – a sneak peak to look inside.
To go just a little deeper, really forage and explore
To ask ourselves those questions, to find what we’re looking for.
We call out to the Awen, those three rays that reach so far
From deep inside our tiny minds, out to the furthest star.
Go back through time, through stories, through the blood that holds our land
Inspiration is our joy because it helps us understand.
Well, no, that’s not quite true, is it? It’s as much a mystery
As any of those spirit paths, down which we hope to see.
Small words can only touch the song, the greater melody
And yet how potent is the tale, what is and what can be.
Inspiration is my joy because it sings TO and OF me.
('Awen' image taken from the Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids website. Used with grateful thanks)