The gods in Druidry, for those Druids who believe in the gods, are vast. They may be ancestral deities out of myth and legend, the stories of the people from an area that may be carried through time, over oceans and continents and held within the blood of the tribe. They may be gods of wind and rain, of thunder and sunshine and the growing of crops. They may be from a pantheon of gods local to the area, or from thousands of miles away. With such a diverse range of gods, and what it is to be a god in Druidry, how can we celebrate together, or even separately as a tradition under the single banner of Druidry?
I purport that it is with honour that we acknowledge the similarities and differences within the tradition, that which is holding it all together. But what then is honour?
As a noun, honour has several meanings*:
1. personal integrity; allegiance to moral principles
2. a. fame or glory
b. a person or thing that wins this for another: he is an honour to the school
3. ( often plural ) great respect, regard, esteem, etc, or an outward sign of this
4. ( often plural ) high or noble rank
5. a privilege or pleasure: it is an honour to serve you
Let’s being with number one – personal integrity and allegiance to moral principles. Within Druidry, it is widely understood that one does not need to have gods in order to have a moral and ethical code. Druids take their inspiration from the natural world around them, and whether or not they see certain aspects of nature as deity is irrelevant – it is quite possible to be an ethical Druid, or an ethical anything, without a belief in god. What is most meaningful in this, however, is maintaining your personal integrity, your moral principles, without trampling over those of others. So, while an atheist Druid might disagree with a Pagan Druid on the existence of gods, having personal integrity means that you don’t stomp all over someone else’s belief, or lack of belief.
Number two, fame or glory, is an odd wording in my opinion – I would classify it more as an asset rather than fame or glory. However, in Celtic and indeed in religions the world over, one’s reputation is of utmost importance, and perhaps in this context it would work. By walking our walk, instead of just talking out talk, in Druidry we know that honour means accepting the diversity of nature, and human nature, which includes religion and philosophy. What we need to also acknowledge are the assets of others, famous or not. A Druid quietly standing by a fracking site in peaceful protest is just as important as a well-reknowned poet, or author, or activist Druid that is more publicly known. It also implies that those in supposed positions of power should think more on the repercussions of their actions, and how they conduct themselves publicly, though I would like to say that this should apply to each and every individual on the planet.
Great respect, regard and self-esteem tends to overlap with my points for number two, especially with regards to walking our walk.
Number four doesn’t really apply to Druidry, but in our own human nature and society, we still often revert to ranking systems in order to classify people, much as some of us absolutely hate it. We have Chief Executives in companies, and High Judges in the legal system. We have so-called and often self-styled Arch Druids and High Priests and Priestesses in some Pagan traditions. Often there is debate in Druidry over who is even entitled to call themselves a Druid, some believing that this is only an accolade offered to those who have studied for a certain length of time. I personally don’t subscribe to this notion, but there are many who do, who state that one can follow the path of Druidry, without being a Druid per se. This often follows a set of grades that those who follow Druidry study, being that of Bard, Ovate and Druid. It is sometimes, in error, also seen as hierarchal grades in which to achieve status. After spending many years in primary and secondary school systems and indeed, in many other aspects of our society, you can see how many come to this conclusion – you need to get this grade in order to progress to this grade, etc. However, in Druidry many Druids (and note that here I mean all those who follow the path of Druidry) don’t give a tinker’s dam about rank, and treat everyone equally. This again has its roots in honour, and in honouring someone for who they are innately, as opposed to honouring a rank.
Number five, a privilege or pleasure, is a most interesting description. In my Druidry, serving the gods and the community ranks highly. Indeed, it is an honour to call oneself a Druid, as it is an honour to serve that which inspires me – nature. It is also an honour to share that inspiration with the community, with a deep respect for the tradition and for each other.
Honour is also a verb – and again there are many descriptions:
* to hold in respect or esteem
* to show courteous behaviour towards
* to worship
* to confer a distinction upon
* to accept and then pay when due (a cheque, draft, etc)
* to keep (one’s promise); fulfil (a previous agreement)
* to bow or curtsy to (one’s dancing partner)
Again, many of these overlap with the noun descriptives. However, there are some that hold a particular resonance with me, and are perhaps more poignant as a verb than as a noun. To show courteous behaviour towards another is quite important, as a) it is just a nicer way to deal with the world at large, and b) it implies a certain respect for other souls who are sharing this planet with us, whether they are human or non-human. I show equal courteous behaviour to a tree as I would a relative, or a person on the bus – in my mind they are all souls sharing this journey of life. Whilst I maintain boundaries in dealing with people, and indeed, those who refuse act with similar courtesy are then relegated to the outer bounds of my interaction, there is still a basic understanding of human and non-human functioning and a shared existence.
Equating the word honour with the word worship is quite a tricky one. Many atheists would balk at it, with good cause. Many Druids, even those who have a relationship with the gods do not like the term “worship”, as it implies a subservience, at least in today’s society. Its roots in Old English stem from weorthscipe, the worth of something to the person. This perhaps is more meaningful. The gods are worthy of my praise, of my attention, and so I worship deity. This is not however, universally held within the tradition, and can cause problems, most of which are linguistically based.
So, when dealing with the concept of honour, we begin to see how this can create a cohesive bonding in such a varied landscape of paths that all fall under the banner of Druidry. For many, it also comes down to an awareness of the spirit of everything – each thing’s own inherent consciousness, and each thing’s own inherent value, often known as animism. When we realise the worth of something, and not in a financial or in a resource sort of way, but its own inherent worth, we then act with honour in our relationship to it. So, a political Druid who often gets media attention through their behaviour and who you often may roll your eyes at, has his or her own inherent worth. A wasp that is trying to get in your nice cold pint of beer has its own inherent worth. Even the troll who is trying to get a rise out of you on an internet social media forum has its own inherent worth.
In seeing the inherent worth in everything, something even more accepting than tolerance is gained – it is more akin perhaps to an immersion with everything around you, rather than a passive acceptance. The acknowledgement is participatory, instead of passive. Druids, when celebrating together, can acknowledge the beauty and diversity, rather than simply tolerate each other’s beliefs. It is much more meaningful that way, much more poignant. Nature does not tolerate diversity, nature IS diversity.
Therefore, Druids too are diversity.
*taken from dictionary.com