Reciprocity and Druidry

Getting something for nothing is always a nice surprise. However, it is not always honourable.

Our Celtic ancestors took the idea of reciprocity and made it into their worldview. They gave back for what they had. In the Brehon laws, crimes had a price that had to be paid to the victim or to the victim’s family. Personal responsibility and recompense were regarded very highly in society.

In today’s day and age, these ideas have lapsed somewhat, even in pagan society. With the internet offering so much information for free (apart from broadband and electricity fees) we can gain a huge amount of information in a relatively short time with no expense other than our time. We can take in huge amounts of information and give nothing in return. Why should we, if it is all there and waiting for us, for free?

Take for instance The Druid Network. This is the website that really inspired me a decade ago to take up the path of Druidry, for in its pages and articles I found a deep resonance from like-minded people who shared their visions of Druidry. Since then the website has expanded immensely, yet is still a veritable font of information. All the articles are available for viewing for free, there are free courses offered through various members, books and cd reviews – you name it. All there, ready and waiting, and all free.

You can become a member of The Druid Network for £10 a year. Many, many people’s first question is “Yes, that’s nice, but what’s in it for me?” to which all of the above may not seem enough. Indeed, it could be a growing trend within paganism – people offering to become involved only if there is some personal benefit to them in the bargain. It would sometimes appear that being a part of something, or doing work for the sake of doing work, or in service to your path, is not quite enough these days.

Becoming a member of TDN now allows you to not only be a part of this great organisation and help to fund its continuing presence on the web, but also allows you to join a Druid only social network site, as well as receiving quarterly newsletters with info and articles written by other members. When I joined TDN all those years ago, there was a fledgling forum where people could discuss ideas, where members could talk to each other and share in their life’s journey and experience. To see it evolve into what it is today is quite remarkable. Yet for many, it is not enough.

This is where it all falls down for me, where I cannot understand some people’s viewpoint in that sites like TDN don’t offer enough to warrant a £10 a year membership. I find it astonishing that people can download all the articles and find celebrants, rituals, etc for free yet still do not want to contribute in any way. Nevermind that TDN now offer a brilliant social network site – what I don’t understand is why people just don’t want to give back.

Sites like TDN are reliant on the contributions from the Druid community. This is not only in monetary forms, but also in the shape of articles, ritual ideas, essays, etc. After reading all the articles on the site many, many moons ago, I felt motivated to write my own articles from what I had learned and from my own personal application and experience of the same, thereby giving back to the site that had provided me with so much (and still does to this day). However, long periods of time go by (sometimes years) before new material is submitted by its members. The numbers of members in TDN has grown considerably since TDN’s successful work in receiving charitable status as a religious network was achieved. Yet the input from members is sadly not in line with the growing numbers. Why should this be?

Any organisation is only as good as its members are – input is necessary for any network, pagan or otherwise, to survive. The TDN website underwent a couple of years of stagnation before the charity status decision due to lack of input from its members. No new articles had been written, no rituals, no info. Since the decision, there still hasn’t been that much new input from the growing membership. Even now, getting information for the quarterly newsletter can be like pulling teeth.

With so many members it should be easy to keep a wonderful site like TDN vibrant, fresh and informative. I appreciate that some members may be incredibly busy – however I also am aware that apathy exists within the pagan community that needs to be addressed. My words may seem harsh, but they are somewhat intended to be. I think that we as a pagan community need to stop sitting back and being fed information and start contributing to the community. Perhaps it is a product of our society, where it is so easy to just sit down in front of passive screen entertainment every evening and soak up information. What I suggest is that we get off our butts and start contributing, start giving back for all that we have received. Whether this is by joining TDN, writing articles for them, volunteering to be one of the website co-ordinators – it doesn’t matter. What does matter is that we take the idea of reciprocity seriously in our lives.

Organisations such as TDN are only as good as its members. TDN offers financial help for members who are looking for funding for Druid projects. Everything that they do is by volunteers – there is no paid staff, no hierarchies either. The number of people contributing and working for their Druidry and for TDN is severely disproportionate to the amount of people who are benefitting from this organisation. This isn’t right, in my opinion.

We cannot simply take and take without giving back. This is the reason why the world is in such a mess today. Our society and culture is one of greed, a greed that is not based out necessity. Ideas of reciprocity are left by the wayside. If we use TDN’s website, we should find a way to give back, whether that is financially, creatively or by volunteering. We apply the ideas of reciprocity in other aspects of our Druid lives – daily offerings and rituals, for instance. Why should we not apply that same idea to the teaching that we receive, the gifts that we are given for free in some cases? Why must we always feel that we need to acquire something in return?

It is our very act of giving that is the reward; it is the flow of awen. If we do not give, the awen cannot flow. It is that simple.

This article was written purely from my own personal viewpoint, and has had no input or sanction from TDN at the time of writing. All viewpoints are my own, and not necessarily those of TDN.

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