Reblog – How Druidry Relates to the Environment

This is a reblog from my latest offering for this month’s Moon Books’ Blog – please note that in my opening sentence, I say “perhaps” with regard to Druidry taking the environment into deep consideration in the spirituality.  I am aware that those of other faiths hold it as dear as I do, but I am speaking from what I have seen and experienced within the pagan community in general…  For me as it is for many, many Druids, the environment is at the heart of everything that we do.

This article first appeared on The Druid Network’s website which I submitted few years ago.  The website is currently undergoing an overhaul, but there are still many articles on there to inspire!

Awen blessings!

Druidry, perhaps more than any other strand of Paganism in the wide weave of spiritual traditions, takes the environment into consideration on so many levels.  Druidry – most commonly believed to be from the old Irish words dru and wid meaning “oak knower”, or even the  Proto-European deru and  weid “oak-seeker” acknowledges this communion with nature in the very roots (pardon the pun) of the word.  Heathenry – one from the heaths, or Wicca (most commonly believed to be from the Saxon wicce, to bend or shape, as a willow branch can be bent or shaped into something quite beautiful) have similar nature-orientated origins, however, the communication between the natural environment and the Druid of utmost importance in the path.

How do Druids view their environment?  Many, if not most Druids are animistic, believing in the essential spirit of everything, whether it be rock or tree, raindrop, beetle, horse or the sea.  There is a sense of consciousness in everything.  When I use the word consciousness, I don’t mean in the scientific sense of the last two centuries, where it was used to differentiate between humans and other animals and also “non-sentient” beings.  Consciousness, to me, is a part of the greater whole web of life, where threads are woven together, separate but still connected.  It is what makes something what it is – whether it is the rose, a cloud or the moon.  It is its own inherent identity, or, more poetically, its own song that makes it what it is.

With that sense of consciousness in all things, it is much harder for the Druid to disregard any aspect of the environment.  No longer are wildflowers plucked for their beauty, to die within days on our dining room table.  No longer is it an option to squash the spider in the living room who seeking warmth from the coming winter. Our entire perception is changed once we view the environment both as having its own consciousness and as we do so conscientiously.  We gain both a greater and broader view of the web of existence, at the same time as finding our own place within it.  How wonderful is that?

That world view brings with it a responsibility.  No longer are we allowed to remain ignorant in the ways of our own environment. If we are to view it as a whole, then we must truly see every part that we also play within it.  If the whole of nature has a spirit, then issues arise such as the taking of a life for food.  Many within Druidry are vegetarian, if not vegan, and yet there are still many others who eat the flesh of an animal. Some do so, claiming that ethically raised and slaughtered animals for food are perfectly acceptable to put on our plates. In my own vision of Druidry, the damage caused to the environment by the raising of animals for food does not allow that luxury of thinking.  It takes much more energy and resources to raise animals for food than it does to plant in the same amount of land a sustainable, organic crop for food.  In giving up animal meat and animal products for both food and other commodities, we are caring more for our environment and also, at the same time, sacrificing our ignorance of the weighty issues behind such matters to become fully aware.  We must accept responsibility for our part.

The word environment has many meanings, however. Our immediate response to the word is the natural environment – nature.  There are many other environments, however – little worlds created by human consciousness. We have our work environment, our home environment, our villages, communities and cities.  There is the issue of human to human interaction as well as interaction with nature (though as humans are a part of nature, I realise that I am contradicting myself in some ways, but please bear with me).  Our own sense of self, or self-awareness, creates a thorny path through which we must navigate carefully, in order not to injure ourselves or others.  Unless one lives as a  hermit, the Druid will have interaction with other human beings, some Druids, some not.  As with the Druid relationship with nature, sensing the inherent consciousness within it, Druidry teaches us that same sense of consciousness in human interactions.  I admit – it is a lot easier for some people to respect an old oak tree than most human beings, however to be fully aware of our relationship with others we must act with a certain sense of honour, that same sense of honour, in fact, that we give to nature. We may not like some human beings, much in the same way we may not like broccoli, but we still acknowledge and respect their place in the wider web.

So how do we relate to our environment?  Within Druidry, there is a beautiful Welsh word, awen.  Various meanings range from flowing water to divine inspiration.  I prefer the inspirational route, however, this is not an “out of the blue” inspirational experience, but one that is crafted through time and dedication to one’s environment to develop a rapport with both nature and inspiration itself, until they both work hand in hand.  To the Druid, inspiration lies all around us in the environment, whichever environment that may be.

The word – inspiration – to inspire, breathe in.  Breathing in must, of course, be followed by breathing out – exhalation.  Breathing is the most primitive and simplest way we relate to our environment, and the most effective way of remembering that we are a part of it.  The air that we breathe is also the air our ancestors breathed 50, 100, 1000 years ago.  It is also the air that the willow, alders and yew trees exhaled 50, 100 or 1000 years ago.  The wasp breathes in the same air, the grasses and wildflowers exhaling into the deepening twilight.  We can relate to our environment by simply remembering how to breathe, what we breathe and how it is all connected.  From that, we literally gain inspiration, as well as being inspired by it.  The inspired Druid then exhales that inspiration, whether it be a song to the darkening skies before a thunderstorm, giving thanks before partaking in a meal, writing a symphony, throwing paint at a wall or dancing in the light of the moon.  This establishes a communication between the Druid and the environment – speaking to each other, even if it is without words.

We relate to our environment though inspiration, and we are all related, as the Native American proverb says.  It isn’t simply communication with our environment, but a soul-deep sense of relativity – we are all related.  By being related, this instills within us a sense of responsibility, of caring for the environment, whichever one it may be.  If we see that we are related to the badgers living in the brown-land area soon to be re-developed, then we also see that we must take action to ensure that they are safe.  If we see that we are related to the food that we eat, we will ensure that we eat organically and, if possible, grow our own food as much as we can to develop that relationship even further. If we see that we are related to our neighbour next door, we are more likely to establish an honourable connection to them and the rest of the community. It creates a sense of caring for the environment and all within it, and it is no easy task.

The challenge that faces the Druid is to see clearly these relationships, and to act honourably in all regards.  If this challenge is accepted, then the worldview is broadened considerably, as is the environment.  The web of life will shimmer with inspiration along every thread.  May it do so for you, all my relations.


4 thoughts on “Reblog – How Druidry Relates to the Environment

  1. Love this! This year I have been getting more centered on my path, which has always centered around Nature and Druidry. I love how you have related the importance of the environment with my chosen path

  2. Just a couple of comments. As a Druid, my spirituality is based through my environment (read the land). It is the land that facilitates relationships with other than human communities, therefore, as you rightly point out, I have to consider my impact on the land and the environment.Therefore, I consider the land to be a living entity and as such, this colours my approach to it.

    With regards to food consumption. Again, I agree and it is my experience, that a lot of Druids and pagans are vegetarian and vegan. I have the upmost respect for that choice and do not wish in any way to sound negative towards it. However, observation of nature shows us that apart from phytoplankton and the process of photosynthesis, life has to consume life to survive. Many people base their choice of foodstuffs on how they perceive the sentience of the prey animals (more recently, again as you have pointed out, this is coupled with questions on the methods used to produce the produce and again, this is quite right). I am what may be disparingly described as a part time vegetarian, i.e. I tend to avoid meat for several days of the week. But I do not avoid it altogether. I see meat consumption in the natural world and it is a process that is not, and never has been, one that is human derived. For me, to avoid meat would be going against what I see as the natural state. I also happen to believe that ingestion of any foodstuffs create a link between us and the life we need to consume to survive, which throws up a different set of considerations.. (Just to re-iterate, I am not suggesting that vegetarianism and veganism are wrong, It is a positive ethical choice as far as I am concerned and I applaude anyone with the conviction to follow such an action.)

    • Indeed – I don’t dictate to others how they should eat, or act – I simply try to live my own life and provide and example of alternative ways of living. And yes, I would agree that humans have evolved to eat meat – but the difference is, it should be meat that they kill themselves – I think the distancing in the killing process of eating meat is what is wrong with the consumption of it. I have no qualms against people hunting their own meat if that is what they choose to do. In my own personal path, however, the need to eat meat is simply not necessary – I can get by on a vegetarian and vegan diet with easy access to all sorts of foods from farmer’s markets, supermarkets, online etc. As you stated, the link in our food is what is so important to many Druids. For vegetarians and vegans, we can easily be distanced from our food simply by shopping in a supermarket! It’s all about relationship, isn’t it? Awen blessings.

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