Pagan Paths

Profundity, profanity and frivolity; the business of serious thinking and joyous expression through the wisdom and traditions of the Celts in the company of Kristoffer Hughes, Head of the Anglesey Druid Order.

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Community Spirit

There was a time that Druids were considered quirky, on the edge, peculiar, just a little quaint and queer, but maybe innocent enough. To some we were considered lunatic fringe, hippies, strange folk in long gowns, whereas in the last few years the perception has swung more from lunatic fringe to maybe just a little fringe. Here in Wales things have changed even more. Druids have long been associated with Wales, and each August the Druids of the Gorsedd of Bards of the Isle of Britain take to their ceremonial function within the National Eisteddfod of Wales. Druids are familiar, we know what they look like, sound like, and we are quite accustomed to them. 

However the cultural Druids of the Gorsedd are different to Pagan Druids, but we do share several things in common - a common birth, from the imagination of the Romantic revivalists, a love of land, a love of language and heritage, a love of creative expression, and the love of Awen. Tell someone in Wales that you are a Druid and the likelihood is the response will be - "Oh so you sing then?". And yet the perception can be quite different just across that invisible line that divides England and Wales. But, Wales' association with Druids has made it easier to be a Druid in Wales, and for the ordinary Welsh person to adapt to the new Pagan Druids that are sweeping the nation. 


Druidry in Wales is accepted openly and I might even add with some fondness. The Anglesey Druid Order has fared rather well, here on our little island that floats in the gracefully in the Celtic sea. But it hasn't come easy, and has also come at a price. We have had to work at it, and work hard. It has been simultaneously exhilarating and exhausting. 

For the past few years, the Order has been involved with Cadw (Welsh National Heritage), and the open archaeology days that they host at Bryn Celli Ddu, one of our most stunning ancient monuments. We have been fortunate to have the opportunity to set up a stall at the open day and generally chat to ordinary folk about Druidry today, and the bridge that connects us to the past, and to the ancestors that built our ancient monuments. It is remarkable how many local folk only vaguely knew of the monument, but had no idea of its significance, it warms one's heart to watch people fall in love with a place, to be intrigued and enchanted by the mysteries of the past. It is even more magical to watch them realize that these monuments were built by their ancestors, thousands of years ago, and that essentially we are still the same people. We are the sum totality of the people of the stones. 


Many of us have actively taken part in the community archaeology program, also operated by Cadw, seeing us on our hands and knees unearthing mysteries of our ancestors. Oh and there is magic here, we are accustomed to visiting these old, old places, and maybe doing ritual there, but it is another thing entirely to uncover further treasures. With backs and knees screaming their objection to being thrust into weird positions for several hours, the mind, spirit and hear are rewarded with the discovery of ancestral treasure, stones and artifacts seeing the light of day after millennia in the dark, soft earth. It is a delightful thing to be involved in. 

This year we discovered a Bronze Age Cairn, and there is a possibility that remnants of our ancestors will be found within it. It was a humbling experience to chat to one of the Cadw officers about such discoveries and the complex, and ethically bewildering matter of retention or reburial. As it happens, Cadw rebury any bone fragments discovered, which is likely to be a minute amount in the acidic soil of Anglesey which breaks down bones rather quickly. This gives us a chance to discover and learn about our ancestors but to also return them to the land they loved. 

The Anglesey Druids Order have hosted the dawn ceremony at Bryn Celli Ddu for several years. Unlike the large Solstice gatherings at Stonehenge and Avebury, at Bryn Celli Ddu, people come because the Druids are holding ritual, and that is a pretty amazing thing, but something that comes with responsibility. We have to mindful of numbers, and that the numbers do not overwhelm Bryn Celli Ddu, so far, we have managed it well, and with the next 5 years seeing the Solstice fall on a weekday, the numbers will no doubt filter themselves. We have a responsibility to the community, and to the public that come and observe the ceremonies. We have a duty to the gods and the spirits of that place, to honour it as best as we can, to inform and educate the public. It has been tricky getting the balance, but we are getting there. It feels good. 


I sometimes have to step back from all of this, and try and see how far we have come and what we have achieved as Druids. But by the Gods it has been hard work at times, to try and dispel the myths, the pre-conceived ideas that people have of what Druids are and what we do. There have been times during the last 15 years that I almost felt like giving up, that it was too much, too stressful. But we hung in there, to serve our Gods and our community, and the last few years have seen massive changes in perception and acceptance. 

Today, we are perceived as a part of the community, not just something on the edge of it, by interacting with us, and also taking a chance in getting to know us, people are transformed by an informed relationship. It is incredible to watch people come to the realization that we are actually quite ordinary people who have an extraordinary function, and that what we do, and why we do it genuinely comes from a place of awe and love. 

As Druids we may not be representatives of the masses, and our function is not the same as the ancient Druids, it can't be, we live in different times. However, we are members of a community, spiritual and secular, and I for one value that. To a degree this blog post is me tapping myself on the back, and I do so unapologetically, but I also tap the other hard working Druids of the Anglesey Druid Order who have done so much, for so long to help us integrate into island life and its community.

The sun may not have shone brightly at the dawn of the Solstice, but our hearts shone brightly with Awen and also with a little pride that people kinda like us Druids.

We are their Druids, we are still here.  

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Kristoffer Hughes is Head of the Anglesey Druid Order in North Wales. He is an award winning author and a frequent speaker and workshop leader throughout the United Kingdom, Europe and the USA. He works professionally for Her Majesty's Coroner. He has studied with the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids and is its 13th Mount Haemus Scholar. He is a native Welsh speaker, born to a Welsh family in the mountains of Snowdonia. He currently writes for Llewellyn Worldwide specializing in Celtic studies and death and bereavement.


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