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’ve been following the writing of pagan writer Rhyd Wildermuth for a while, having originally seen his name mentioned by other bloggers. Of late, Rhyd seems to have been undergoing a shift in his thinking, and one of his recent posts – The Fires of Meaning – struck a chord, and helped me to clarify a train of thought about culture, faith, and why contemporary Druidry is seemingly so ineffective in responding to the catastrophe that is facing our society.
Since I expect pushback against some of the ideas I explore here, let’s be very clear from the outset: this is an exploration of how faith in general, and Druidry in particular, can help people cope during the collapse of Western society which is indicated by the scientific evidence available to us. If you believe that Western society is in fact likely to continue much as it is today, you don’t need to read this.
In Welsh Druidry, we believe in reincarnation, and the gradual journey of the soul from Annwn, through untold incarnations in our own world of Abred, until it has become sufficiently wise to leave material incarnation behind and progress to Gwynfyd, the existence of purely spiritual life:
I wrote this as a contribution to a discussion that’s ongoing in the members’ forums of the Druid Network. Those are private, so I thought I might post it here so that a broader audience can read it and contribute their thoughts.
I was recently reading a Substack article by Rod Dreher, a member of the Eastern Orthodox Church, which led me to this piece by David Bentley Hart. Hart talks about a man called Reuben, who he met many years ago in Lancaster, England. I haven’t read anything by Hart before; Dreher, though devout in his Christian faith, has a mystic aspect to his faith which often overlaps the Druidic worldview. Hart has this to say of Reuben:
The Gorsedd of the Bards of the Island of Britain, in public procession with banners:
In contemporary Druidry, we often find a number of Welsh words being used. Examples are Awen, Nwyfre, and Eisteddfod. They aren’t always used correctly, or properly understood. I’m getting ready to start writing a new series of posts about Iolo Morganwg’s achievements, Iolo the Ovate (I’ve already written a series on Iolo the Bard, and will eventually move on to Iolo the Druid). Before I can, though, I want to cover the difference between Gorsedd and Eisteddfod.
Periodically, the OBOD forums I participate in see discussions arise about cultural appropriation.
I’ve already made my position clear on this: it annoys the heck out of me, and I get really angry at people who take elements of Welsh language and culture and casually try to redefine them turn them into something they are not – which most often seems to be a rebranded version of common pagan themes. For example, there are currently a number of people trying to treat Gwyn ap Nudd as a rebranded, touchy-feely, Cernunnos, when the extant body of myth clearly depicts him as quite different.
The folks behind the Balkan Celts blog recently posted a very, very interesting article: The Celtic Buddha.
The post discusses a stucco head discovered at an archaeological site in eastern Afghanistan. It represents a Celtic man, and is believed to have been sculpted from life – in other words, the artist knew a Celtic man who was on-site. In Afghanistan, possibly in the late Hellenistic age (when the area was conquered and settled by the armies of Alexander the Great), or possibly later, in the early Christian era.
The English word ‘Druid’ is derived from the Gallo-Brythonic word which has come down to modern Welsh as ‘Derwydd’. In turn, this is a compound word, drawing on ‘derw-‘, relating to the oak, and ‘-wydd’ (root word ‘Gwydd’), relating to ‘seer’ or ‘knowledge’.
An alternative word – ‘Gwŷdd’ – however, is also the Welsh word for a loom. This connection is worth exploring further.
In Barddas, Iolo Morganwg devotes a section to his theological views. There is quite a lot more on this theme in Barddas, but I think this excerpt covers the key points. Not all contemporary Druids believe this, but I do. I want to post Iolo’s words here to set the tone for a discussion of the soul’s journey, and of reincarnation, in Druidry as I understand it.