Interview With a Druid
What follows is an informal interview with a practitioner of Britain's ancient native religion of Druidry.
Would you introduce yourself to readers, please?
Sure. I'm 47, divorced with two great kids, and am a self-employed landscape gardener. My first real job - I'd had paper rounds before then - was in the Parks and Gardens department for the council (on Merseyside.) When I got to my mid-thirties I went to college part-time to take a business course, and then I went self-employed. Hard work, but it's worth the extra responsibility for the freedom and self-reliance.
I live on Wirral, which is perfect for me. I'm a home-owner; an ordinary three-bedroomed house with a garden. I'm redecorating now; my hands are splattered with paint.
Do your clients know you're a Druid?
Not really. A couple do, and they're totally ok with it. But mostly I keep my life outside of work private. It's easier that way. My professional life and personal life are separate, and I want it to stay that way. People get all kinds of stupid, lurid ideas in their heads and it's easier to just not feed that.
So how did you become interested in Druidry?
In a way, it's been with me all my life. I mean, since a boy I've enjoyed being in the woods and reading about heroes from myths and legends. And I always loved the King Arthur stories, as soon as I first heard them.
But I wasn't born into a pagan household, if that's what you mean. I'm really sceptical about such stories anyway. Tall tales - you know, about aunty who turns out to be a witch, or an ancient family tradition kept secret through the centuries. I don't buy it. Maybe I'm wrong, and a flood of people will leave comments to tell me I'm wrong. That's ok. I'd like to see them find evidence that a court of law would accept, though!
My parents were sort-of Christians. I mean, they mostly believed it but never went to church or anything like that. It was more a case of what was already familiar to them, what they'd been raised with, than something they'd really given much thought to. But they were good people, you know? Hard-working, decent types.
Right, anyway, as a teenager I read heaps of books by people like Doreen Valiente and Sybil Leek, and bought Prediction magazine every month. And I read everything in my local library about witchcraft and got into that for a long time. I wasn't part of a coven or anything. I worked by myself. I tried meeting other witches, hoping to learn something from them, but they left me cold in one way or another. I didn't fit in.
And then I got interested in Shinto and Buddhism, and took up judo - which I still practise. Meditation, too. Calmness of mind.
From there I got into Druidry.
What does Druidry mean to you?
There's a standing joke amongst Druids which says that if you ask ten Druids to define Druidry, you'll get eleven different answers. And it's true. Druidry is a very individual path and we don't all see it in the same way.
Most people, if you mention Druids, think of the white-robed Druids at Stonehenge at the summer solstice. Well, I've never once been to that. I don't want to. I've been to Stonehenge on the autumn equinox, and that was more my thing. But really I much prefer other places where the crowds don't go. And I've never worn a white robe either, and probably never will. Can't see the point. I'd feel ridiculous, like I was in fancy dress. All to our own, always - but I'm not into the new age fashion thing, all crystals and junk bought in a new age shop. And I'm not the only one who feels that way, not at all.
So how do you view your Druidry?
For me, it began as a way of expressing my own feelings about spirituality through my songs. I play guitar, an old Spanish acoustic which was given to me years ago. I began a correspondence course on Druidry but then I quickly realised the same information was available in books which were much cheaper than the course. And so I just followed my own learning process, going wherever my own reading took me.
My shamanic totem animal is a hawk. It's a long story... One I'll decline to tell.
I celebrate the solstices and equinoxes each year, because for me it's a way of evaluating what I've achieved during each quarter year. It's a way of touching base, of being aware of the passage of time, and of the cyclical nature of time.
Do you believe in life after death?
In reincarnation? Sure. At least I hope that's right, but who knows? I think it's true. I've had some pretty amazing experiences... And I can remember three of my past lives. They came to me as dreams but much more vivid than ordinary dreams, even the really vivid ones.
I was a farmer in one, probably sometime around the eighteenth century. I can remember walking through the farmyard over cobbles; I was hungry and tired, and I was going home after working in the fields.
Then I was a small boy, filthy in just a few rags, crouching in a doorway, in a city somewhere Eastern. I was hiding from my father; I wanted to run away but didn't know where to go. I was so thin! And very scared. I kept peering up the narrow, crowded passage around people's legs to see if my father was coming. I was shaking! And then the door I was pressed against opened, and a kind old man came out. He was a scholar of some kind, a religious man, and I knew I'd be safe with him.
The third one is back in England. I remember a hot summer's day, looking through windows and wishing my work was done so I could go outside. I was some kind of farm labourer again, this time making cider, turning the cider press. I could smell the apples! But it was hot and sticky work, and I was longing to be done with it.
I guess most people would just say they're vivid dreams, and in a sence they were, but so real. Maybe I'm mistaken. I accept that. But they were so... I could smell and feel everything, and it was exactly like I was really there.
Last Words for our Readers?
Druidry, for me, is about carrying your awareness of your own spirituality into the world and sharing it through music, poetry, and through my gardening.
We're lucky here on the Wirral as there are several pretty special places where the energies are strong and can be easily tapped into, which the general public don't know about. That suits me fine; it keeps the "spiritual tourists" away. I can practise in solitude, in peace and quiet, which was the ancient Druid way. And this land is steeped in Celtic history. But you know that anyway, don't you.
To me, spirituality is a person's own individual awareness of their inner self, their real core personality, freed of inhibitions and psychological blocks which make them less the full person that they could be. It's about enjoying being alive. Celebrating life through my songs.
...Like your namesake?
Sure. That's why I took this name, to carry on the tradition.
© 2010 Adele Cosgrove-Bray