Duty and Service: The Life of a Druid

triskele-2For me, Druidry is about living a life in service. Many people confuse the word service with subservient: being beneath someone else in a lower position, lowering yourself for others. Service has nothing to do with this, and everything to do with using your skills, wit and intelligence to benefit the world around you. Relationship is at the heart of Druidry, and service to Druidry requires good relationship. There is equality, a give and take, in order to maintain a sustainable relationship. We work to serve the whole: the ecosystem, our community, our families, our ancestors, our gods, our planet. Our work in Druidry is not just for ourselves.

To work in service requires an open heart, a sense of duty and discipline. Too often, when things are rough, people can lay aside their spiritual practice feeling that they need to just in order to survive, or that they simply can’t be bothered. When we do so, we are stating that the theory and foundation of our religion or spirituality is just that: a theory. It’s not something that needs to manifest. When something just remains a thought, a theory, then it is completely intangible, and unable to create change in the world. At these points in time, when we are stretched to our limits, when we are in pain, when the world seems to be crumbling around us, this is when we need our Druidry the most. We make not feel like doing ritual, but this may be exactly what we need. We may not want to meditate, but again, that may be just what clears up our thoughts in order to proceed, to find the way forward. This is where discipline kicks in, as well a duty. When we just don’t feel like it, we can remember our ancestors, remember their struggles, their fears, their failings, and know that we can do better, we can give back for all that we have received. With relationship at the heart of Druidry, we must learn what we owe to the world, and not forget this very important concept. Only then will we truly understand the concept of duty, and manifest it in the world, living a life in service.

I am blessed in so many aspects of my life. That is not to say that my lady Brighid does not throw me onto her anvil every now and then, and pound the heck out of me, stretching me and re-forging me anew. But in service to Her, I work with the gifts that she provides me, with the challenges that lie before me, and see them as opportunities to re-forge relationships, or to understand why they don’t work and walk away. I learn where I can be of service, where my skills and talents lie, and then use them to the best of my ability, living my truth. Above all else, Brighid keeps reminding me to live my truth.

In the midst of despair, when all seems dark, I stop and take a look around. I see the blackbird, singing in my garden at sunset, listening to his call that takes me beyond this world and into the Otherworld. I see the deer eating the birdseed that falls from my feeder. I watch the clouds turn from white to gold and then deepest pinks and orange, a wash of colour that delights the eye and feeds the soul. I remember to look for and see the beauty in the world, in the small things and the large. I remember that I am part of an ecosystem, and that I have duty to give back. This gives my life meaning, and is also the meaning of life.

As a Druid, I walk a life of service. This service provides my life with meaning. I owe it to the land that nourishes me to protect it, to give back for my many blessings. I owe it to my ancestors, without whom I would not be here today. I owe it to my gods, who provide me with such deep inspiration that words cannot even come close to projecting my relationship with them. Knowing what I owe, I walk the path of service in perfect freedom, for freedom is found when we release our self-centred perspective, and take the whole of nature into our hearts and souls. We are nature.

It’s not just for ourselves. It’s for all existence.

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Duty

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.