It is this second-to-last question that I want to address today (I'll leave the rest for another time). The question of why I have felt such a sudden and strong pull towards Druidry is perhaps all the more confusing because I first started my explorations into magic and mysticism through witchcraft. I have always been reluctant to jump from one spiritual path to another--to become a "window-shopper" of religions or to approach religions with a buffet-style pick-and-choose attitude. I believe that spiritual traditions have an integrity and internal consistency of their own, and that it is often more fruitful to explore a single tradition deeply, than to abandon any belief or practice that seems, on the surface, to be difficult or unappealing. Why, then, have I changed the focus and structure of my path to reflect that of modern Druidry, rather than continuing to identify my work as "witchcraft"? Why Druidry? Why not Wicca?
I'm not sure exactly why I feel more drawn to Druidry than to Wicca, though both I think are equally open to Christian or Christo-pagan perspectives. When I first became interested in the Craft and more occult topics, I began my explorations with witchcraft, and I often heard people talk about how it felt like "coming home." I often envied that feeling because, in some ways, it never quite felt that way to me. Then, on a whim one day, I picked up a book about Druidry--a collection of essays under the title The Rebirth of Druidry, edited by Philip Carr-Gomm. Many of the essays sparked my interest, but the one that really spoke to something deep within me that I hadn't known before was the one titled, "Druids and Witches: History, Archetype and Identity," by Dr. Christina Oakley. In this essay, Oakley explores the roots of the archetypal identities that shape that Druidic and Wiccan movements, and explore why they "feel" so different even though they share a lot in common.
I am the daughter of Earth and Water,
And the nursling of the Sky:
I pass through the pores of the ocean and shores;
I change, but I cannot die.
- Shelley, from "The Cloud"
One difference that I realized has always been important to me is how I consider myself in relation to the rest of society. The history--both the literal history and the idealized tradition--of Druidry is based on the idea that the Druids were not only priests, but the scholars, judges, advisers, poets and historians of their societies. They were integral to the healthy functioning of their community, and their wisdom was respected, celebrated and utilized openly. On the other hand, the dominant narrative about historical identity for most modern Witches and Wiccans is the story of the Witch Trials. Although we now know that many women who were killed were in no way associated with witchcraft, there is still the general idea at the heart of many witchcraft traditions that wisdom and power--especially that of women--is feared and rejected by society, that this is "just how it is" because society "can't handle it." The identity archetype of the "witch" remains the young seductress or old wise-woman living on the outskirts of the village, ostracized and misunderstood even when the community does covertly desire her or utilize her wisdom and influence. Personally, I was never comfortable with this latter archetype--I did not see it as something desirable and I never truly thought it was inevitable. While I could relate to and appreciate those in history who had been persecuted, and I know that the struggle for equality, integrity and acceptance is on-going, I could not bring myself to identify with that archetype. The ideal that spoke deeply to me was of the community in which spirituality and "wild wisdom" was integrated in a healthy and sacred way--and, even if this is not yet fully realized or even realistic, it is the ideal that rests at the heart of Druidry, even though modern Druids are just as likely to be bitter, anarchist or counterculture as any Witch these days. In the end, I felt that Druidry incorporated both: the revolutionary, and the stability of the leadership that a community needs once the revolution is over--just as it incorporates both solar and lunar cosmologies, and just as it is just as comfortable with private rites by moonlight, or large, joyful rituals by day in the light of the public eye.
Another thing that became clear to me as I read Oakley's essay, and the other essays in the book, was the different spiritual focus that Druidry incorporated. Wicca is highly and unabashedly agricultural. That is certainly okay, but I found that it did not speak to my personal situation and the root of my own spirituality as I had known it all my life. I have never been very good with or inspired by handicrafts, home-making and farming--although I adore animals, plants and nature and feel very strongly connected to them in a slightly different way. My personality treads the line between (and integrates both) the more philosophical and ecstatic traditions. I am not a farmer, but an artist at heart, with all of the risks and uncertainty that both philosophy and creativity involve. What I experience in nature is not the tamed farmlands and their warm sustaining embrace that the agriculturist knows, but the wild thralls and deep ponderings of the poet, the dangers of the dark woods and the mysteries of the ocean meeting the horizon, who often seem utterly unconcerned with the merely human. Druidry incorporates both, and individuals within Druidry are just as likely to be stuffy old professors of forgotten languages and obscure alchemical systems, or wild-haired and wide-eyed beatnik artists, as they are to be Martha-Stewarts brimming with the light of goddess worship.
In short, though, it's really just that I feel more at home. Every time I discover a new book on Druidry, I snatch it up and feel that thrill of familiarity. I still consider it a craft, and a form of nature spirituality, but I also feel that it opens up opportunities for me--both in terms of art and philosophy, and in how I conceive of my role within society--that Wicca never quite helped me to access. It's a personal calling, really... Maybe someday I'll understand it better than I do now.