Recently I wrote a blog post about self-governance, and mentioned that another word that we need to reclaim in Druidry and Paganism in general is “duty”.
The concept of duty can go against the grain of some the Pagans and Druids out there who feel that it compromises their expressions of freedom. Duty seems to allude to the fact that we MUST do something, and being told to do anything can make many a pagan balk. However, duty is central to my Druidry, and there are many things that I must do to maintain my focus on a path and journey of honourable relationship and discovery.
As a Pagan and Druid who seeks a deep, sustainable, meaningful and honourable relationship with the land and the world around me, the concept of giving back for all that I have received is key. That giving back is my duty, my obligation to see that sustainability is kept, otherwise the whole thing might fall apart. I see it as my duty to recycle, to reduce my consumption of material goods, to be vegan, to organise litter clear-ups, to promote environmental activism, equality and rights for both human and non-human animals. I see it as my duty to act as priest for my community, to serve them in the best way that I can, whether that is as ritualist or celebrant, author or dance director, eternal student of nature and life. All of these I see as part of my dedication to my community, my gods and my ancestors. But it goes deeper than that. That is simply the work and the life path’s that I have chosen to embark on to live in a more meaningful, inspired and honourable way.
There aren’t really words to describe the depth of my duty towards my Druidry. It is something that is lived, is felt deep within the heart and deep within the gut. It is expressed dancing in the wind and collecting wild mushrooms. It is writing letters to the local council against the proposed housing development that will eradicate delicate and endangered species. It is a dedication to learning all about where I live, from where my water comes from to how I generate my own electricity. It is about learning to run with the deer on the heath and sing with the bees in the thick clumps of heather. It is about not settling for “good enough” or resting on your laurels. It is about constantly learning, experiencing and awakening.
Duty is tied with responsibility – the ability to respond. In keeping with the previous blog’s message of self-governance, we can use this to help us respond to situations better, more efficiently and with more compassion.
Duty is described in the dictionary as something that one is expected or required to do by moral or legal obligation. Indeed, my morality dictates my duty, however, the legality side is guided by my morals (and not the other way around). It is my civic duty to report abuse, or stop when I witness a car crash, yet I would do this regardless of whether there was legal obligation. Often duty is considered as something we are “forced” to do, yet I can think of no other way to be in the world. I am not being forced by anyone do live the way I do. I choose to live my life in service and in constant awe of the power of nature.
The nature and etymology of word duty is long and complicated. From Anglo-French deute and Old French deu, it means what is owed, due, proper and just. Go back further to the Latin, and we have debitus, the past participle of debere, which means debt, or to owe something. This ties in nicely with what I stated earlier, in the giving back for all that I have received in my life. I cannot simply take and take without giving anything back. Look at what that has already done to the world.
And so, duty is not a bad word in my vocabulary. It fits in my world view of being of service. It is about sustainable and honourable relationship within the cycles of life. We are never distanced from nature or life, but ever dancing within the wheels of time and the tides of life and death, entwined in each other’s arms and lives like Celtic knotwork. There is no separation, no Other. When we realise that, we realise our duty.