Cat Treadwell — professional Druid and nature-mystic - gives us a perspective from the English countryside.
Upon this Stage
It's almost Solstice time - Summer here in the U.K. Which means, inevitably, that there's simultaneous water-limiting hosepipe bans in one part of the country, and flooding in another.
You may wonder why the British talk so much about the weather? Because it's a force unto itself. But we're a Nature-based spirituality on this page, so we can get away with it, right?
Anyway. With the Summer Solstice comes the inevitably publicity around Stonehenge, and the many thousands of people who go there to watch the sunrise. I've never been to that huge free-for-all, but have often been asked about it (this was last year). It's an event that people associate with Druids, after all.
Sunset at Stonehenge, Beltane 2011 © Peacock Pix
This week, the first call came in. From an international television station, asking if it would be possible to follow a Druid couple around for three days, to then condense the footage into a 20-minute show. The aim? To demonstrate that Druids weren't so strange after all, to debunk public perceptions, and show how 'normal' we are.
Media folk are often surprised when they get turned down. In today's world, it appears that everyone wants their '15 minutes of fame', and would jump at the chance to put their regular lives on hold to be filmed and displayed (generally with no preparation or remuneration).
I told the (very polite and interested) journalist that I doubted three days from my life would make very good television. Despite identifying as a 'professional' Druid, my life has the same non-events as everyone else, day-to-day: laundry, walking the dog, working, cleaning the house. Admittedly the work can be quite unique, but that's not something that I would wish to be filmed anyway.
Three days of filming a writer at work would be hilarious. Sponsored by coffee and heavily bleeped out. Anyway, I'm not fond of being filmed. It's too intrusive.
What struck me afterwards, however, is that assumption that I wanted to be represented in such a way. Either with the tag 'Druid' or 'normal' - or somewhere in between.
Again, perhaps it's a fault of the media age, but life cannot honestly be packaged easily into labelled boxes. Where it makes for good or bad TV, our lives are each so varied and different, evolving quickly with everyday events and changes that any footage, photographs or interviews are almost immediately irrelevant. 'Slices of life' indeed.
Whenever I'm interviewed (preferably live, so as to be unedited), I try my best to inspire, to give an indication of the variety of experience that Druidry holds. Paganism as a whole is a wonderful mix of paths, beliefs and practices - Druidry is just one, but in itself contains yet more worlds to explore.
Each of us views life differently. Our experiences are all different. We are each the sum total of our ancestral bloodline, our spiritual and physical makeup. We ARE all unique and special. Contrary to what Hollywood would have us believe, this means that if any individual life were to be accurately filmed and portrayed, it would take a while. Say, the length of that lifetime. And even then, you'd miss bits.
It's difficult for others to understand just how experiential Druidry (and Paganism) is. Capturing it in a photograph gives an idea. Showing us at work is actually more helpful than detrimental, these days - while not 'normal' (nor wishing to be!), we represent ourselves well to others, to show that there are people out there doing this, and it's OK to explore it. Giving that tacit permission is often the most powerful act that can result from media tarting.
Many people have a certain idea of Druids. Stonehenge may feature. But if we don't act to rework those key images, those associations, they will continue. One of the reasons that I do stand up publicly is to represent myself and others on this path as accurately as I can. I'm sure we've all seen those who're just in it for the brief fame and 'being on TV', but their words lack sincerity, ringing hollow. Packaged and mass-marketed.
Each of our lives is our own separate movie. We may not remember the beginning, nor be quite ready for the end yet, but we're the star. This doesn't mean it's all about us - it means we have responsibility to make it a story worth remembering. Are you the hero or the villain - or both? If you watched your life over, would you be proud?
As a wiser man than I said, all the world's a stage. We can make the decision to live it, bravely exploring, or sit passively by, apathetic and hopeless. We can live with honour and truth, riding the highs and lows, but knowing that we truly are doing our best, for ourselves, our loved ones, Gods and ancestors. That's a part of Druidry that is both simplest and most difficult to capture... ultimately, it has to be experienced.
Also this week, I received a portrait of myself and my partner, painted by a member of our Order. Taken mostly from photographs, he worked hard to capture us physically, but also magically, incorporating spells into the image to bring out deeper aspects of us and our relationship, who we truly are. The ancient technology of brush, oil and canvas does more in this way than any HD film.
We come to a turning point in the year, my friends. Where do you stand? What are you doing? What does this snapshot of life show?
When we come here again, at the Winter Solstice, will you look back on this chapter with pride and satisfaction? If not, there's still time for change...
Solstice Blessings x
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