Someone on the AODA listserv put out a call for people to talk about their connection between druidry and environmentalism. It was a good experience to think, and articulate, my own thoughts on the issue. I thought I’d share the questions–and my answers–here.
1. Describe your spiritual path?
I am an animist druid. I see my spiritual path as being one of closeness and understanding the interconnectivity of all things. My work involves healing of the land, listening to the spirits, and protecting and celebrating all things.
Everything that I do, I do as a druid. I don’t see my life, my career, my artistic pursuits, or anything else as separate. When I go and teach in a classroom or when I sit quietly by the stream, everything is druidic. Because I hold myself up to this standard, it means that I am constantly working to better myself and live up to the principles that define my spiritual beliefs.
2. Describe your connection to the earth on both a physical and a spiritual level.
I am very connected to the land, both on a spiritual and physical level. I am gifted with the ability to sense the land in multiple ways and to interact with spirit guides and spirits of the land that help me better understand this connection. When I see the land suffering, I suffer. Sometimes I reach out and give healing energy. Sometimes, the land heals me. In both cases, we learn and grow from the experience.
3. Did you feel this level of connection to the earth and the environment before you began following your current path?
Yes and no. I have always been connected to the land, especially growing up in the forested mountains. This is where I spent my time, and where I learned my most valuable lessons. Even as a child, I would speak to the trees—and they would speak back. Since becoming a druid about six years ago, I have learned more about this gift and how to use it. My senses have deepened since undergoing druidic training, particularly discursive mediation and energy work.
4. Since starting your current path, how has your view of nature changed.
I think I understand the complexities and interconnectedness much better than I used to. I used to want to protect the land, and have always been an environmentalist. But it wasn’t until I worked closely with healing the land, hearing the stories of the lost and forgotten forests, and sharing these stories with others that I truly understood environmentalism and protection on a spiritual level. With this knowledge, however, comes great responsibility. The desire to protect and preserve has never been stronger.
5. Do you consider an environmentalist?
Yes. Absolutely. I don’t see my environmentalism as separate from my druidic path. I actually find this question kind of silly, because I don’t really think that someone can call themselves a druid, or walk any pagan/earth-based spirituality and not be an environmentalist. Or if they are, they are likely fooling themselves.
6. What pro-environment things do you do (i.e. recycling, etc)
I do everything in my power to reduce my impact on the planet and to give back, locally and internationally. I have made radical lifestyle changes to support this goal.
1) I try to eat a locally-based, vegetarian diet, that reduces my consumption, carbon footprint, and supports local sustainable agriculture.
2) I grow my own food (and have just started doing this, but am learning)
3) I compost and reduce my waste output. We now throw away less than one garbage bag every two weeks (for a family of 2).
4) I make all of my own soaps and detergents from naturally-based materials. I teach others how to make them.
5) I reduce the amount of travel and trips; we own two fuel efficient vehicles (one hybrid, one 40 mpg), I carpool.
6) We have made various home improvements to reduce our overall energy consumption and making our home more efficient.
7) I write letters daily to representatives, local papers, etc. on issues of environmental concern.
8) I use sustainable feminine hygiene products.
9) I shop exclusively at second-hand stores and yard sales and work hard to ensure that if I can purchase it used, I will do so. There are a few things I must buy new, but not that much!
10) For my teaching, I do not use textbooks, but rather make all materials digitally available. I ask students to submit their work digitally to avoid producing excess paper waste (and quite a bit can add up as the semester progresses!)
11) I can my own food and practice other food preservation techniques (root cellaring)
12) I participate in local cleanups and pick up trash in forests.
13) I financially support a number of environmental organizations.
14) I post environmentally-supportive material to my Facebook account and share it with family and friends to help raise awareness on these issues.
15) I will gladly learn, and gladly teach, and work hard to educate others about their own environmental impact.
I would like to live a completely sustainable life. Right now in America, to do this seems to require an inordinate amount of funds (solar power panels, expensive vehicles, etc.). It is also nearly impossible due to cultural conventions and norms (such as the lack of good public transportation, etc.). I wanted to get a car I could convert to a greasecar—the car manufacturers don’t produce cars that allow you to do so. I wanted to install a composing toilet in my house—the township won’t allow it. If you’ve ever read the book, “Everything I do is Illegal: War Stories from the Food Front (found on amazon) you’ll understand what better what I’m talking about. Most of what I feel I can’t do has little to do with me and my desire, and more to do with larger social systems that are in place to encourage and facilitate our unsustainable way of life.
Everything in our culture is geared to be used and thrown away, and while some things are easy, others are way harder. The worst thing is that “green” has become a new consumerist mindset—but it still doesn’t actually solve the problem. As long as we are still buying way more than we need, it doesn’t matter if its green or not.
So I think my limitations have less to do with my own desire and more to do with a larger cultural tradition that is incredibly difficult to escape. At the same time, I’m also aware of my own shortcomings.
8. How does that ideology fit with your spiritually?
I work as hard as I can at what I can, as a druid and human being, and live as ethically as I can (and in my mind, ethics have to do with how we treat the earth and each other). And what I can’t do now, I work to change on a larger level, and support systems of change (like supporting local, sustainable food producers).
9. What role should Druid play in the environmental activism?
The better question is what role shouldn’t druids play? I think we need to lbe the change we want to see in others. I think we need to be at the forefront of this change, and continually push to improve our own lives, and the lives of everyone else on this planet, human or not. In animism, we talk about non-human persons and their rights. This is very applicable here. I don’t want to live at the expense of other lives.
As I said earlier, I am baffled and shocked by those who claim to be following an earth-centered tradition and do nothing to protect it. I couldn’t live with myself without doing something to help—our planet is in pain, and every day with every action, humans cause more of it.
At the very local level, I am currently cleaning up a garbage dump in the forest behind my house. I’m removing and recycling all materials that can, re-purposing what can, and otherwise doing what I can to help. I like this work because it is tangible and I can physically see the difference. But then, I still have another 30 – 40 feet of trash to get through… ☺.