This month I’ve had tea with three of the loveliest Pagans in all of the British Isles*. And they all happen to have connections with modern druidry, of various kinds.
From Scotland, two lovely ladies, starting with Roquelaire. I was much impressed that she managed to chat to me with a baby on her arm! Roquelaire has been involved with druid orders in the past, and that gave us a jumping-off point to talk about druid groups, community, and how we connect with it (and where we don’t). Given that we both work with Brighid (although in very different ways), we talked about her a lot – which led us into a chat about faith and doubt. What does it mean for a deity to be interested in, and involved in the life of, a human being? What kind of faith and doubt does that experience lead to, for us? We also talked about what kinds of service and devotion our primary goddesses ask from us. As this is something I’m just learning about and beginning to experience, it was interesting to compare notes with another polytheist on the subject. We ended on the subject of land and environment – my love of the city and its liminal spaces, Roquelaire’s connection with her part of the Scottish countryside. It was lovely to ‘meet’ Roquelaire, and we signed off saying we would do the chatting thing again soon.
Then I had a cuppa with Potia the hearth druid, who’s also up in a Scottish-ly direction. We ‘clicked’ on lots of levels – deities, ritual, labelling our practice, and autism and disability (she has autistic children). We compared our devotional practices, which are not dissimilar, and are both deity-focused, although in different ways. My readers will have heard me complain before about the conflation of ‘my’ Cailleach with the Scottish Cailleach, but Potia’s relationship with the Scottish Cailleach made a lot of sense to me. I don’t think Bhearra and the Scottish lady are the same being, but I could see the overlaps more clearly as a result of talking to someone who honours the Scottish Cailleach. We both honour mothers of the land, who embody the wildness of the landscapes of Scotland and Ireland. It was a privilege to get a glimpse of the Scottish counterpart of my Lady, through Potia’s vivid descriptions of her. Land and community were both central topics of discussion again, too. The form of community, and whether it has to be in person, was a very interesting idea that we ended with. Potia was delightful to talk to!
Finally, today I had a lovely chat with Nimue Brown. We also talked about labels and terminology. Nimue shared with me her useful perspective on this – she says that almost everyone who uses the term ‘druid’ has some discomfort over it, and that many people have decided that, despite the discomfort, the word is still useful. This got us talking about terminology – from the highly awkward ‘Gaelic reconstructionist’, to the sort-of-close-enough ‘modern druid’ – which we concluded really means something like ‘name we agree to use so that we can recognise other people who also like to play in the woods’!
Nimue and I also touched on a number of not-specifically-druidic subjects that intersect with our spirituality, including writing. Death came up – not too surprisingly, given Nimue’s spiritual interest in the ancestors. (I absolutely love Nimue’s land-focused, spatial approach to the ancestors. They aren’t just an idea to her, but are encountered through the earth. Which makes sense, and is something I need to do a lot more work with.) We talked about how death isn’t dealt with very well in our society, and she introduced me to the concept of Death Cafes, which I’ve since looked up – spaces where death is openly discussed over coffee. This is a fascinating idea that I hope to explore further. We also talked about community, and formal ritual, and how it doesn’t suit everyone, especially when they’re doing spiritual work alone (“Why am I talking to a Bear in the North?!”). It was lovely to talk to Nimue, too, especially given how long I’ve enjoyed her blog.
Thank you to all three of the Pagans who shared an hour of their time with me – you’re all fantastic, fascinating people. It’s such an honour to talk face-to-face with people who I usually only encounter through words on a screen. I was also interested to see how many common themes came up in all the chats, especially land and local landscape, finding and working with community, and the trouble with labels. Some variation on the subject of ‘What is a druid?’ came up in all three of these discussions, and I wonder how far that reflects a concern that many/all druid-path Pagans have. It’s fascinating to hear about the points of connection between druid-path types, and the huge diversity among us too.
Would anyone else like to do a Pagan Tea Time over Skype sometime? I’m extending it into March, as I’ve enjoyed it so much. If you have an hour to spare on an afternoon or evening (UK time – which is morning or afternoon in North America), and can use either Skype or another chat program, either video chat or text chat, then I’d love to meet you!
.*Not having met ALL the Pagans here, this is an approximate estimate. But I believe it.