A key principle in druidry is Awen, which means poetic/divine inspiration–the inspiration to bring forth creative efforts into the world. Many artists seek their inspiration in the natural world, through which Awen flows. It is Awen that gives us poetry, music, theater, dance, art, and other forms of creative expression. It is this creative expression that we celebrate as druids–but this is often at odds with much of American society.
In our society, the term “Starving Artist’ is an unfortunate reality. Those who are driven–to dance, to paint, to sing, to play instruments, or to put their creative pursuits out for others to enjoy–are often met with apathy, misunderstanding, or a general lack of value in their work. Most artists cannot afford to support themselves with their talents; this is especially true of the innovators, those who try to break out of the box and really do something unique. Many of my artist friends who are professional artists lament the fact that people just won’t pay for a nice painting (yet they’ll go to Target or Walmart and pay nearly as much for some reproduced print), they won’t go to local shows, and they generally don’t understand the value of original one-of-a-kind work. People seem to find their entertainment in mass-produced forms, not forms created by individual artists. So while Hollywood is alive and well and producing movies, independent filmmakers can’t even get 10 people to come to a showing. Art has become just another commodity in our consumerist culture.
Or even worse, we have others through which much Awen flows, but whom have been stifled their whole life–the boy who wants to dance, but is forced not to by a machismo father; the girl who wants to paint but her parents know that she can’t make a living doing so; the man who learns to play his guitar in front of others but works three jobs and has no time to do so; or the woman who writes beautifully but continues to suffer rejection after rejection at the hands of publishers. Our culture doesn’t support creativity; and we certainly don’t value it. Even in my own university writing classes, when I encourage creativity using open-ended projects, my students are often flabbergasted about choosing their own topic, doing their own research, in whatever media they think is appropriate. They are more concerned with pleasing me, as their professor, than they are with genuinely producing something creative, interesting, and fulfilling. Of course, throughout their lives, they are punished for being “different,” taught only to understand and value what is on a test, and any creativity they have is squashed long before they enter higher education.
This all changes if we take away modern forms of entertainment. When you go to a druid retreat in the mountains, where there is no phone, no TV, no smartphones or internet….suddenly the creatives become the cornerstone of the community. All gather around the circle to hear storytellers weave their tales, musicians play their songs, and others share their creative pursuits.
Awen and those creative people through which Awen flows are the people who bring life and culture to our world–for what is living without music, art, crafts, theater, dance, creative writing and other forms of creative work? I truly believe that creativity is the most important gift that we, as humans, have to share with the world.