Warning: Contains material some readers may find offensive.
Cat Treadwell — professional Druid and nature-mystic - gives us a perspective from the English countryside.
The Life of a Druid is a Busy One...
The life of a Druid is a busy one. Travelling to sit with those in need, teaching folk eager to learn, sharing tales and history, preparing to take up arms against ignorant challenge, leading public ritual on significant days…
And that's just last week!
A year ago, after finding myself without a 'proper' job, I made the decision to take my personal practice of Druidry one step further – and become Professional. I'm now registered as self-employed, and work as active Priest, Multifaith Consultant, teacher and general Pagan About Town.
Friends have been telling me to do this for some time, but it's obviously a big step. A Professional Druid? Do we even need those anymore? I've seen the looks, the raised eyebrows. I just smile.
We're in the 21st Century. I'm typing this on an iPad. My robe, cloak and staff are packed away in my hybrid car. The phone rings regularly, the email and Facebook inboxes are always buzzing with messages from both strangers and long-term… friends? Clients? Flock? Congregation? Right there, a problem – a lot of the time, we just don't have the language for what I do. But I do it anyway.
I live in a small village at the top of a hill just outside Derby, in the Midlands, Great Britain. I moved here from London just over five years ago, and now 'commute' as called upon around the UK (and beyond), working hard because yes, there certainly is a call for what I do.
The world may be increasingly secular (at least in outward appearance), but in my experience, people still need a Priest from time to time. To facilitate weddings, funerals, namings and other Rites of Passage. To simply be present, bearing witness at times of crisis. Sometimes just being on the end of that telephone, listening without judgment, and perhaps a little advice.
The fact that I am a Priest of a Pagan Spirituality generally results in curiosity rather than fear (to my intense relief). I understand that this wasn't always the way, nor is it still in many parts of the world. Fortunately, I'm privileged to have encountered mostly people who are keen to ask questions, to learn more about what I do and believe, rather than shout abuse or run away. Children have been particularly articulate in their questions, eager to find out why an apparently grown adult is dressed like that, saying those things, acting that way. 'Wow, is that a real wolfskin? Can I have a go on your drum? What's your stick for – do you use it to hit naughty people?' All real questions. Harry Potter is often a good starting point (thank you, JKR!).
The community that I serve is wider than any historic Druid could imagine. More than my local town or county (or even country), I regularly speak to others many miles away that I have never met, but who have reached out to me. I answer honourably and honestly, working on our shared connection as human beings at its most basic level. Facebook, Twitter, Skype – these are all the tools of our modern world. I'm certainly no Luddite, to reject technology for the sake of it. I simply do my best to use it wisely, as any other double-edged implement.
My Druidry is about relationship, connection; walking my personal spiritual path well, doing the best that I can, and hopefully inspiring and helping others along the way. I learned, and am still learning, from the land around me, its stories, history, flora and fauna. As Paganism is becoming more widely known, I'm very aware that my personal actions represent a much wider group, many of whom will never 'go public' for their own reasons, but who are comforted to know that there are folk like me standing up to be counted.
This blog is intended to stand both alongside and independently from my existing web-writings (druidcat.wordpress.com). For a while now, I've been considering the usefulness of regular 'journal'-style work, reflecting my Druid life outward, with all of its intensity, passion and madness, as both a guide and a story to be told. The most common need that I'm called upon to fulfill is simply reassurance. Yes, there are others like you. Yes, it's OK to believe as you do. There's more things in Heaven and Earth…
Here we go, then. Walk with me – we'll see where the path leads.
We live in turbulent times. The structures that we know are proving unstable, the lives we've been brought up to expect are being shaken. The majority are worried about money, healthcare, employment, education.
Business as usual for humanity, really.
Both individually and as a species, man/womankind has always held, at its core, the urge to understand. Why is life the way it is, what is the point of it, what are we supposed to be doing? We're all Seekers. The current financial crises are good examples of what happens when the answers that we think are fixed and final prove to be subject to human fallibility as much as any other created foundation.
This week, I have been both writing and teaching. My first book is in the process of being released, and there's a good deal of interest in it, I'm pleased to say. However, I certainly can't rest on my laurels – more writing has to be planned, drafted and pitched while the current work is still finding its first readers. Deadlines loom.
I was so surprised the first time someone referred to me as a teacher – but yes, I've been doing that as well, presenting talks on Druidry in Pagan shops, and holding the latest in a series of seasonal day workshops. The Summer Solstice is coming too, so I'm bracing myself for the inevitable calls from the media asking about Stonehenge (I'm not going). Busy days.
As we near this time of balance, as the year reaches its midpoint, I encourage my students to look back at what they've accomplished so far. Has it all gone smoothly? More likely, there've been hiccups, speed-bumps in what appeared to be a clear road. Money worries feature, of course, but also bereavements, illnesses and other such basic – but oh, so crucial – concerns. So, what are we doing about it? How is the rest of the year to be planned now, when the original blueprint may not be entirely accurate anymore? How well do News Year's Resolutions stand up to scrutiny in June? Or in a Pagan sense, how far have you come since Samhain?
My constant question, as you will soon notice, is 'What are you doing?' This is key to my Druidry – the constant challenge, the questioning, the exploration. It's not all about seeking enlightenment, some 'light at the end'. The Solstice is about the sunset as much as the sunrise, the dark and the light.
So I learn as I teach. I come home from telling the stories contained within the history of this land, to find utility bills on the table. The cosmic and the realistic. The past and the future. All part of the dance of life.
Each of us faces challenges day to day, personal and as part of the wider world. But at the core, we need to have personal strength, faith in ourselves, in order to proceed at all. Without motivation, without inspiration, what is the point? Depression is the sickness of our age – we lack hope. The balance has fallen too far one way.
I look deep, into that darkness lurking on the edges, that unknown around the corner, the blank page in front of me.
What am I doing? I'm doing my best. I'm battling the pointless worry, the sucking urge to hide, the weak-willed hope that self-motivated strangers will fix my life and make it better. While I'd love a Lottery win, or for my book to hit the bestseller lists, it's unlikely. So sleeves must be rolled up and challenges faced. I work hard – and here I am.
Where are you, right now? What are you doing? There's still more time before that longest day…how will the rest of your year be moved forward?
Remember – more things in Heaven and Earth. You're not alone.
I look up at the sky as I take the dog out for his evening walk, considering the pink clouds over the hilltop. The sun has set, but the glow remains, keeping the darkness away for a little longer with a beautiful display. The cold wind nips at any exposed skin. The ground is still sodden from recent rain, but the hedgerows are lush with it, green and ripening. A lone bee buzzes lazily past.
I can't help smiling. My land, my home. Children playing nearby, as I used to once, blissfully unconcerned about anything beyond their game of football. Bats beginning to swoop overhead. The last birds of the day call each other home. The streetlights come on, but I ignore them, heading deeper into the darkness of the fields. I feel the earth below, holding me. I know in my heart what is important.
And I step forward.
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