Almost a year ago, I felt called to start blogging about Druidry. The exercises and rituals I had been performing as I progressed through OBOD’s Bardic grade had awakened something. I began to hear the call of the Children of Llŷr; they wanted me to remind people that they, and the other Great Families, remain with us.
Before I could begin that task, another presence began to speak, with a message that needed to be delivered urgently. This was Gwyn ap Nudd, of whom I had until recently known very little. This has changed; he is now the God with whom I have my strongest relationship – along with the Great Sage, Equal of Heaven, and, increasingly, Arianrhod.
Gwyn’s message was this: we humans have come to dominate the world, and to exploit it, to such a degree that we are endangering the other two of the Three Peoples of the Earth: along with humanity, these are the Forest People and the Shining People. Gwyn is the Lord of the Forest; he is the King of the Tylwyth Teg. For many long centuries, humans have disregarded the rights of the other Peoples, but we have now reached a tipping point. Led by Gwyn ap Nudd, the Forests and the Tylwyth Teg are fighting back. If we do not change our ways willingly, Gwyn is willing to eradicate us, as his father eradicated the Coraniaid. However, he does not desire this; it would be better for us to ask for his protection, and to live in a way that is in balance with nature. If we do this, he will be merciful.
When I wrote his message in this blog, I anticipated that he was referring to the crisis of climate change – which is real, and terrifying in its implications. However, in the months since then, we have seen him act more rapidly with the twin attacks of the COVID-19 coronavirus, and the vast plague of locusts that are devastating large parts of Africa and the Middle East. I’m going to be talking more about the virus here, but we mustn’t forget that – now driven from the headlines of the world’s media – millions of people are seeing their harvests destroyed by locust swarms, and this will have terrible consequences.
If you’ve read my About page, you know that I live in Beijing. For the last couple of months, there have been strict controls on, and monitoring of, movement. I spend much of my time in my apartment, since the work I do can’t be done under in the current situation, and it’s best to avoid too much exposure to other people. That said, it isn’t the zombie apocalypse. We can move around; shops and some restaurants, etc, are open. There are no significant shortages in the shops. It’s not like Wuhan, here. The trends are, in fact, encouraging, and it seems that, for us, the end is now in sight.
In China, that is. Elsewhere, the impact of the virus is only beginning to be felt. Europe, as I write, is falling into crisis. The UK, and the US, haven’t yet begun to feel the full impact of what’s coming. In all likelihood it will be the autumn of 2020 before anything resembling normal life returns.
Whether the virus emerged from the abuse of animals in an illegal wildlife market, or whether it escaped from a biological warfare lab, or whether it was something entirely different, the result is the same: the natural world is striking back at humanity.
It is important for us to understand that none of that even matters. What matters is that for twenty years, since China joined the WTO, perhaps even thirty years, since the end of the Cold War, the process of globalization has been spreading its roots across the globe. Many people who read this may not even have any memories of the world before cheap products, sourced in developing countries, and shipped by plane or vast container ships to the consumer markets of the West. Some, myself included, will remember what the world used to be like. I was a child in the 1970s; I remember a time when things were much more expensive, and much more local. We didn’t have today’s connectivity. But, we did have stronger communities. We did have a lot more wildlife.
We now need to be asking whether that connectivity will survive. The coronavirus has taken an axe to the roots of globalisation.
It has already closed the ‘Factory of the World’. China’s factories, which over the past twenty years have come to supply a vast percentage of what the world economy consumes, have shut their doors. Some will re-open soon; some will re-open eventually; many have closed for ever. It doesn’t matter.
All around the world, the just-in-time economy, which depends on parts and services from other countries arriving at just the right moment to be used, is shuddering to a halt. The economic consequences are only just beginning to be felt, but they will affect people throughout the West, who lose their jobs for lack of parts to assemble. It will affect millions who discover the supermarkets are out of stock of important goods, and that the pharmacies can’t get important medicines.
As Western countries go into lockdown, the same will happen there. Factories and shops will close down, and many will never reopen. Already, quietly, the discussion has started about how vulnerable outsourcing and just-in-time delivery have made us – and about how, once the immediate threat of the virus has passed, economies will need to be redesigned; more local, more resilient.
I don’t know how all of this will play out. I hope that few more people die; I hope that as few people as possible are hurt by the economic consequences.
But this I do know: Gwyn ap Nudd has struck down the economic systems that have been growing out of control for many decades now. The data is already out: in China, and in Italy, pollution levels have plummeted. Gwyn’s war aims are already being achieved.
As the pandemic runs its course, the discussion about the future shape of the economy, and the way we live, will become louder. It is by no means certain that whatever emerges will be less rapacious, or less ecologically damaging, that the current system. It is already time for Druids to be contributing to this. We need to be seeding people’s minds that, devastating and tragic though the virus is, there may be a silver lining, if we can learn the right lessons. We need to submit to Gwyn’s mercy, join his forces, and make the case to friends, family, colleagues, and to everyone that we can, that we can and should take this opportunity to change direction, and to restore balance to our relationship with the natural world.
That, in turn, needs a discussion about the role of Druids in contemporary society; that’s for a future post.