Tag Archives: environment

A Philosophy of Druidry and Sustainability – Embracing Sustainability as Part of Earth-Centered Paths

This month, I’ll have been walking a forest/druidic path for seven years. This experience includes founding a druid grove, being active in two druid orders, attending multiple druid and larger neo-pagan gatherings,

Sprouting lettuce for spring planting

Sprouting lettuce for spring planting

mentoring others, and so forth. And based on those experiences, I’ve come to see the importance of weaving in magical traditions with more practical action, of embracing sustainability and more earth-centered living as a fundamental part of my druid path. If sustainability is a goal of modern druidry, and if druidry seeks to embrace the idea of earth centeredness, then investigating the idea of being “deeply rooted in the living earth” and “embracing sustainability” is worthy of consideration.  In this post, I’ll talk about some of my own philosophy and experiences in making the shift towards sustainability with the hopes that this information can help others who want to make similar sustainable shifts also do so.

 

For druids, nature is the canvas on which we paint our spirituality. We layer mythology, experiences in the natural world, observations, and engage in esoteric practices that allow us to interact with the land. We revere nature, her spirits, her deities, and we enjoy nothing better than being out in wild spaces communing with nature. As part of this work, of course, druids think about these natural spaces–if the world is a sacred place, how do we conserve it? How do we preserve it?  The task seems so enormous, it can be overwhelming. Can we, as druids, become leaders of sustainability in our communities?  I would say, yes, we can, and we are already starting to do so.  We just need to keep pushing in this direction–and understand what resources we have and what areas we might draw upon to give us a better idea of how “embracing sustainability” can be done.

 

The druidic principles and philosophies, combined with more modern writings on the druid tradition published in the last 60 or so years, provide us an excellent grounding, especially from a spiritual side, to address sustainability.  Yet, we are still left wondering how to operate in the 21st century where we are facing a period unlike any other in human history: where environmental destruction is rampant, industrialization is declining, and humanity is largely turning a blind eye to the effects of our own greed. Where the power to make change, at least on a large-scale level, continues to be concentrated into the hands of those for whom change is not in their best economic interests. So how do we respond as druids? Where might we go for more information?

 

Tracing the roots of today’s Druidry reveals some powerful practices that can help us embrace a sustainability mindset, but also areas where we might need to go beyond our own history for additional guidance. Druidry, at least the Revival Druidry that I practice, draws its inspiration primarily from two sources: ancient Celtic traditions, mythology and teachings and the Druid Revival period in the 18th and 19th centuries. The Ancient Celts never faced the kinds of ecological challenges that we faced today, but they did live rooted in the land in ways that we can embrace. The Druid Revival, the second source of much druidic philosophy today, developed around the same time that industrialization did. The impact of the industrial revolution at the time had yet to be realized–and, I suspect, some of the reason that the druidic tradition grew in the first place was to build community and restore a connection to the land while in such an industrialized and challenging time.  Even so, when reading these early revival works (and the Druid Revival Reader is a great place to understand this history further) the Revival Druids’ primary emphasis was on the esoteric side, specifically in building and creating lodge practices.  These practices are powerful, they give us much in terms of working principles, philosophies, and ethics, but they don’t necessarily tell us directly how to live sustainable lives.  So we have roots of sustainability within these traditions, but not necessarily overt principles–this is where other movements can help guide our path.

 

Since druidry itself does not have an explicit tradition emphasizing sustainability, one way of embracing sustainability is to connect to other nature-based movements that clearly align with our principles and that can teach us the skills to become more sustainable.  And druids do this kind of work often–we draw upon many traditions to create our individual spiritual paths.

 

Some of these other sources of inspiration and tradition can be found in the permaculture and deep ecology movements.  I’ve spent a lot of time on this blog talking about permaculture; when I read Gaia’s Garden: A Home-Scale Guide to Permaculture, I felt it was one of the most druidic books I had ever read. And it didn’t use the word “druid” once; it had no meditation, ritualistic, or other esoteric practices. But what it did resonated with me deeply.  It asked me to observe, to use patterns in nature, and to completely re-see my interaction with the world and to question every interaction with nature that I had (and these were things I was already doing in AODA druidry, just in a slightly different way).  This book, which I read about three years ago, radically shifted my worldview. Other principles, like Deep Ecology, can provide us an ethical frameworks for understanding the world paired with specific actions and techniques for making real change. Deep ecology includes principles like “re-earthing”, which asks us to expand our connection to nature and expand our own idea of identity to closely align with other life.  Philosophical principles, like those espoused by Blackstone’s Philosophy and the Environmental Crisis and other environmental philosophers can also give us some insight. The nice thing is that most of these principles completely align with druidry, but in this case, they are more closely linked to ecological action and present us new resources and ways of deepening our understanding of sustainability. I have found in my own practice that by aligning with these movements, I was able to bring the physical and the spiritual in harmony; I was able to develop a more complete philosophy of living, growing, interacting, and respecting our living world. I’ll be looking at some of these principles in more detail upcoming blog posts this year and continue to further articulate the embracing sustainability druidic philosophy that I am describing here.

 

Growing your own food as a sustainable practice!

Growing your own food as a sustainable practice!

Embracing sustainability as part of druidic practice is obviously compatible with the broader movement of druidry. When we think about common definitions of magic, and ways of working magic, one of the basic principles is that magical practices should also have a physical component. In my own emphasis on sustainable living, I’ve found that the real magic happens when we combine physical action with spiritual approaches.  If I’m doing some spiritual healing of the land, which I find myself often called to do, physical healing of the land in any capacity enriches that magical practice (and this might be something as simple as picking up garbage or throwing a few native seed balls into an abandoned lot).

 

To show how the shift to embracing sustainability can happen, I’ll use myself as a case study, to demonstrate my own evolution in thinking on these issues.  I became a druid about seven years ago.  I had lost my close friend, my Anam Cara, and I had a spiritual awakening and found druidry as part of my grieving process.  I joined the Ancient Order of Druids in America and began working through the 1st degree curriculum. As part of that curriculum, I was asked to make three lifestyle changes to minimize my impact on the living earth, to spend time each week in direct observation and meditation in nature, to celebrate the wheel of the year and the turning seasons, and so forth. I appreciated these connections, and I did these things joyfully. But my emphasis was on more esoteric and spiritual matters–divination, spiritual crafting, embracing the bardic arts, ritual work, etc.  Looking back, I feel like I gave sustainability lip service, I did my part to recycle, visit the farmer’s market, read about ecology, use public transportation and limit my trips, and yet I didn’t really embrace it as a life philosophy.  I was still firmly rooted within consumer culture, critical but not yet very active. The AODA 1st degree Curriculum began that awakening process, it planted the seeds, but it was up to me to continue to push forward.

 

As time passed, my spiritual senses awakened, and I started realizing that I could sense the dissonance between my lifestyle and my spiritual practices.  I could sense, physically and spiritually, the destruction of the land and the lack of respect. It was like I needed several years of incubation before really  coming to an understanding about what my druidry really meant, what my druidry really needed to be. Druidry became not a religion or spiritual practice that I did only once in a while but as something I lived EVERY minute of every day.  And when I made that shift,  I had to change my interaction with the world.  At that point, I worked slowly but determinedly (as permaculture emphasizes small, slow, sustainable solutions) to more fully integrate sustainability as a spiritual practice. This has lead me to radically shifting my eating, my daily living, my hobbies, and in co-founding a local permaculture group to build community and bring others together to share and grow. So for me, druidry, ultimately, is a “this is what I do” religion/spiritual path.  When people ask me about who I am as a druid, I talk about my actions and how they are in harmony with my beliefs.  I try to treat the earth as sacred through every one of my daily actions. I also believe that part of this path leads to reskilling,  spending time with others who are enacting sustainable practices,  learning all that I can,  and teaching anytime I am able.

 

How can we approach this seemingly enormous task of preserving the sacredness of all life and enacting druidry?  I would argue we can do so through embracing sustainability as both a philosophical orientation and a practice of direct action.So if embracing sustainability is something that you are building (or want to build into your own druidic or earth-centered spiritual path), there are a lot of resources out there to get you started. I’ve blogged extensively about sustainability on this blog, for example:  ten tips to get started reducing your impact on the planetbooks to read, ways of seeing/thinking, going localvore, six principles for local eating, and much more!  Meadows, Randers, and Meadows discuss in their closing of The Limits to Growth (30 year update), when they say that they are continually demoralized by trying to enact sustainable change at the national and international levels, but always energized by what was occurring a the local level in smaller communities. (For readers interested in this phenomenon,  John Michael Greer had a great explanation of the governance issues with the disconnect between national decision makers and local community empowerment last month in his Archdruid Report Blog). In fact, I would recommend any of John Michael Greer’s books on peak oil (such as the Long Descent) to educate yourself further on these issues.

 

I’d like to conclude with some questions that might aid us in considering the role of sustainability more fully in druidry.  Can we, as druids, put the preserving of wild spaces at the forefront of our efforts?  Can we, as druids, engage in more substantial discussions about  to minimize our impact on the planet?  Is sustainability one of our core values of druidry?   Should it be?  I think for many it is, but I also wonder if we can do more–if we can embed sustainability more fully into our training program/druid order curricula, if we can more fully discuss it at our gatherings, if we make it a strong presence in our groves, and and if we can have more discussions of sustainability in our blogs and online interactions.

 

Sustainability and change isn’t just about the big events, the government structures, the online petitions. Sustainability is about about each and every action we take, each decision we make, and how we integrate sustainable practices into our daily lives in ways that are meaningful, powerful, and spiritually significant.

Druidry and the Land

I’ve added a number of permanent pages on the blog–I hope you’ll check them out:

About Druidry: An introduction to druidry, as I see it!  I cover the basics of druidry as a spiritual and life path today as well as important concepts and symbols within druidry.  This is just a basic introduction–you can learn much more through the Ancient Order of Druids in America or the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids!

About the Land: Spiritual Healing of the Land.  This is an article that I wrote for Touchstone (the OBOD’s journal) on healing the land and walking the Ovate path.  It is the foundation of everything that I’m trying to do here in this blog, and I thought it was important to share.  It talks about my own journey with land healing as well as general tips for land healing and an animistic / druidic perspective.

Druidry and the Environment: A Q&A where I discuss my perspective on the relationship between Druidry and the environment.  I firmly believe that anyone who walks a druidic path (or other earth-based, pagan path) has more than just a passing interest in what happens to our earth and non-human persons.  I am saddened when I see/hear fellow pagans not taking environmental issues seriously. This also talks a bit about my own spiritual path.

About the Druid: A very short discussion of who I am as a druid! Although really, the three links above speak volumes about who I am :).

Druidry and the Environment

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.

7. What sort of things would you like to do but don’t?

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… ☺.