Plucking the Web: Strands for Reflection   5 comments

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tree swallows sunning themselves — mid-April 2019

In a comment to John Beckett’s blogpost of March 28, Gordon Cooper covers several topics and throws out material very rich for reflection and experimentation.

Cooper first addresses the development of modern polytheism:

How can polytheists who honor non-Indo-European gods replicate the successes that Druidry has had?

I would suggest that the success OBOD has had and continues to have is rooted in some fairly simple and old fashioned tools — a correspondence course, mentors, and lots of engagement by the members. The first time I went to the OBOD Lughnasad gathering at the Vale of the White Horse, I was deeply impressed by the amount and quality of work I saw. One person learned ceramics, built a hand-painted and fired series of tiled walls on her properties with elemental dragon meditations she’d realized. Others had voluminous scrapbooks filled with meditations, plant studies, ritual walks, etc. Their other secret weapon is Philip. He’s an international treasure for all druids, at least in my experience.

The combination of well-thought-out instructional materials and mentors, together with a dedicated and generous leader, and the developing nature of most strands of Druidry as supportive and inspirational practices, have proven its value yet again. If the non-European gods have means of access to power in this realm, through their priests and their own natures as deities, can they inspire and help manifest similar supports for their devotees and adherents?

And yes, much of modern Druidry and Paganism in general finds a priceless resource in books. Cooper continues:

If a group chooses to start from Nuinn’s [Ross Nichols, founder of OBOD] druidry, as it seems to be articulated in “The Cosmic Shape” it is possible to arrive at a non-IE druidry by treating this as an embodied expression in ritual, artistic and land-based practices that manifests over time and space differently in each era and place. I strongly encourage reading the entirely of ‘Cosmic Shape” as one point of departure.

Cooper next tackles a particular source-text — Iolo Morganwg’s Barddas (link to complete text at Sacred Texts).

Moving to the Barddas as a possible base, regardless of how one considers the authenticity of Iolo’s writing, his notions around ritual, nature study and the sciences, poetry and justice are values that I think can be applied to many circumstances and cultures. Besides, anyone borrowing from an Egregore that includes Iolo, William Blake and a French Spy-cum-Mesmerist alchemist is likely to be in for an artistic and interesting ride.

All of us have experience with egregores of groups we’ve joined, been born into, or witnessed from outside as they variously manifested their energies. Political parties, churches, families, clubs, sports teams, other special-interest groups and so on are non-magical examples. Consciously-created and energized egregores deployed magically are potentially just “more so” — stronger, more durable, more capable of great (and also terrible) things. The principle at work is “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts”. Magic as an amplifier simply magnifies that whole.

Cooper then goes on to suggest provocatively, in a quick paragraph, one way to develop a valid Paganism or Druidry that grows organically from wherever we find ourselves, one that need not worry over cultural appropriation or validity:

I’m working on a very small group-focused practice that’s designed from the ground-up to be derived from the local biome and skills of the folks living there. It is being field tested in Bremerton [Washington state] now with the Delsarte Home Circle. It incorporates Ecopsychology, poetics, local kami, nature studies, personalized and group moving meditations and other meditation forms along with a customized ritual calendar derived from the specific region. It is appropriation-free and includes classical Spiritualist training. If interested, please contact me for details.

On the issue of Pagan or Druid chaplains, Cooper also speaks from (local) experience:

I’d say that Pagan chaplains in hospital systems are likely to find themselves in an ethical bind from time to time, as they’d be called on to engaged with YWYH on behalf of ill or dying patients in hospitals or elsewhere.

The VA Chaplains don’t serve or acknowledge the validity of druids and witches, at least at the Seattle VA. This isn’t going to happen with the current staff, and as I receive all of my medical services there, I am not inclined to fight an uphill and contentious battle.

Not all of us are called to fight outwardly — a misconception activists of all stripes are especially prone to. Following your own path is often powerful enough — the patient persistent effort of being a genuine self in a world of delusion and false directions is a forceful life stance, an essential kind of witness both to others and oneself, with consequences we often do not see. Not all music is scored as trumpet fanfare. Some of us are strings, oboes, flutes, drums, or the rests and silences between notes.

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5 responses to “Plucking the Web: Strands for Reflection

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  1. In my experience, another reason OBOD is so successful is that they don’t tout themselves as a religion, rather as a way of life. And that leaves the door open to people of any religion or no religion at all to still practice Druidry through OBOD. I consider myself a Christian Druid, and sometimes I feel a little looked down on by Pagan Druids. There aren’t many of us out there, but we exist. My tutor knows I am in the minority, but she has reminded me over and over again that OBOD is not a religion in and of itself and welcomes people from all faiths or no faiths at all. And it is that inclusiveness that makes OBOD stand out from so many other groups.

    • disabledhikernh, thanks for your comment. It’s interesting at OBOD Gatherings to talk with members whose personal connection to the Order ranges from philosophy to practice to way of life to religion, without the OBOD organization ever bothering to categorize itself as just one of those overlapping things.

      And since Christian(ized) Druids were very likely those who managed to preserve most of the Druid material that survived and got recopied in monasteries, and the Pagan Druids got themselves exterminated or exiled, we owe a great deal to the Christian Druids of the past! (And yes, OBOD doesn’t focus on being a Pagan church like ADF does, as it announces on its homepage — https://www.adf.org.)

  2. This post is actually something of a relief to me. Gordon Cooper thoughtfully addresses some of the things I struggled with most often as I started on this way, some of which still come around for a visit now and again. Going to read this again.

    • Steve, thanks for your comment. It’s always good to see connections helping others working with some of the same perspectives and issues and challenges along the way. Let us know more, when and if it seems appropriate — and possibly useful to others, too!

  3. To briefly sum up from my earlier comment, the things I struggled with and which resonate most revolve around the non Indoor-European druid practice, locally grown so to speak, which Gordon Cooper touches on.

    For me, this all got started with genealogy. About ten years ago I was sitting at the computer, frustrated with dead ends when out of the blue, “Learn about druids.” Who said that? Anyway, nothing to lose but time so I had a look at druids. It was eye opening to say the least. Reading websites, joined a couple orders, looked into correspondence courses, learned about ancient Celtic gods, met a couple ancient ancestors with a lot to say about druids past and present. Then a head on collision with a massive boulder in the path followed by a series of encounters that left me shaken to the core and required to become a solitary druid by using my mind and spirit to learn from the land I live on. It has been an interesting journey so far.

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