As recent posts have suggested, I’ve been thinking about the topic of suffering – and how Druidry deals with suffering. It’s something we all need to be thinking about, to be honest. We’re entering a time of major change. We’ve known for decades that climate change, resource depletion, and debt posed catastrophic threats to our way of life, and we have completely failed to prepare. Life is already hard for too many people; the unpalatable truth is that it will soon get much worse.
I would love, truly and genuinely, to be wrong about this; of course I would. Unfortunately, I see no reason to believe that this is likely. As I wrote in a recent post, all of the available data indicates that within a few years we are going to experience what was once considered to be the worst-case scenario: social and economic collapse. The reports supporting this keep coming:
It’s horrifying to consider what this will mean in reality: shortages of goods, turning into more and more things becoming unavailable. Power shortages, and massive price increases. Logistical chains becoming unstable, and hugely more costly, due to rising energy costs. Infrastructure such as motorways, railways, and seaports being lost to rising seas and temperatures. We know now that this will happen within the next couple of decades; the pandemic is just accelerating the process.
It won’t happen all at the same time everywhere. Unfortunately for most of the people who are likely to read this, we – the West, and particularly the English-speaking countries – are going to be hit hard and early. We exhausted most of our own reserves of natural resources a long time ago, and we depend on production in other countries. Similarly, we exported a very large amount of our manufacturing a generation or two ago; even if we tried to bring manufacturing home now, we’ve lost the skills and know-how.
We are at the end of the global supply chains. Those chains are breaking down under the pressures of rising energy costs and disruption caused by the pandemic. The effects are already being seen in our shops, and in our health care:
- NHS stops some blood tests due to vial shortages.
- Health board asks people not to attend A&E due to ‘very high levels’ of demand
Worse, there’s a rising risk that the countries we depend on for our supplies might simply choose not to deal with us any more: we are simply too much trouble. The West has made opponents of Russia and China who, in response, have established an increasingly tightly integrated market space from the South China Sea to the Baltic and the Balkans – one from which we are excluded. African countries are increasingly preferring to integrate with Asia as well, because the West has been unable to shake off its colonial attitudes.
NATO’s defeat in Afghanistan means that ‘Western’ influence has been pushed back to the Mediterranean, and it may well be pushed back further: I expect numerous EU member countries to reject US leadership in coming years, preferring to join the bloc developing to the east.
This is likely to mean that we in the Anglophone West face collapse sooner than the rest of the world; we’re just that much more complex, and more dependent on supplies from elsewhere.
As people face the loss of homes, jobs, lifestyles, even security, we are going to see an epidemic of mental health problems. In fact, it’s already emerging, and we are already unable to cope: Strain on mental health care leaves 8m people without help, say NHS leaders.
“Why is this happening?”
Expect to hear that question being asked more and more frequently. The UK and the US are post-Christian countries now, and I don’t expect the mainstream churches to be able to provide convincing answers. “Why does God allow such suffering?“
Bardism – Welsh Druidry – does answer that question. It isn’t an easy answer, but it provides a framework for understanding, acceptance, and perhaps even for hope.
I’ve been saying here for a long time that we need to be getting this message out there. Iolo Morganwg’s Druidry was intended to be the basis for community and shared belief, not for individual gratification. Iolo knew all about suffering, after all: he was suicidal as his literary career faced failure; his business ventures failed and he was jailed for bankruptcy; he faced the humiliation of being unable to provide for his wife and family; he was hounded by the government for his religious and political beliefs; he lost a beloved child. All of this fed into the Druidry that he developed, and it’s just as valid as any other system, because it works.
By chance – or perhaps not – it was recently suggested to me that I train as a chaplain. That’s a hard, demanding role, and I honestly have little enthusiasm for the idea. And yet, if Druidry is to fulfil its potential, it needs people to be taking it to those who are suffering; those who desperately need meaning. I put the question to the Oracles: Iolo’s Coelbren y Beirdd, and the I Ching. I received one of the clearest and strongest responses I’ve ever had from divination: an unequivocal You Must Do It.
So, I’ve signed up. It’s going to be hard, I think – but the message from the Oracle was quite clear: this is going to be needed.
The National Health Service here in Wales has a training course for chaplains. It’s not the one I will be taking, but there is an excellent manual online here: Spiritual Care Volunteers: A Training Resource (PDF). I would really recommend reading it. How does your Druidry fit with this? Would it provide answers to the questions the people in the case studies ask? What would you say to them? You may need the answers sooner than you would wish.