You may have felt this
You’re an aspiring druid, so you’re out in the middle of Nature – a park, say, in the early evening. You’ve rested the palm of your hand on a tree. Your eyes are closed, your head is bowed, and you’re feeling really connected to every living thing around you. You may be saying something, words of thanks, or a heart-felt apology for how we’ve behaved towards Mother Earth these past hundred millennia… and you’re interrupted by a rustle a little way off.
You see another person coming toward you. They’re walking their dog and haven’t seen you yet but they will very soon. What do you do? You change your posture and pretend that you’re only leaning on the tree because you’re taking a breather from a hard jog. You may even grab your foot behind your back and pretend to stretch a muscle. Your heart is racing after all, so pretending to be out of breath isn’t that difficult.
“G’d’evening” you bumble.
As soon as they leave, you try to shrug-off that feeling, and ‘get back to it’ but you just can’t – the moment is tarnished. You’re suddenly too self-conscious and know it’ll take a while to get back to where you were – and besides, it’s getting late, and there’s supper to prepare and…
Why did we go through all that fakery? It’s not that we feared persecution. Thankfully, we’re in the twenty-first century. It was embarrassment. We felt foolish for that split second. I mean, we were doing that ritual while we had a ‘smart phone’ in our pocket – we’re in the time of science so speaking to a tree is just silly. Right?
We feel silly because we don’t believe in that ‘nonsense’ – and we know others don’t either. The dog-walker probably doesn’t believe in ‘gods’ or ‘spirits’ or ‘magic’.
And in that moment we wonder if we can really consider ourselves druids.
Many will fall away from this path of spiritual practice because of moments like these. I think that’s a pity because you don’t need to believe in magic, or any of that ‘stuff’, to be a druid.
You can be a druid and not believe in magic or spirits or have any ‘animist’ beliefs. It’s not quite Religious Naturalism, which is quite materialistic and more strictly ‘science-based’ than druidry, but it’s also not really ‘pantheistic’ either.
The inevitable thing about druidry, if you stick to it, is that you will end-up feeling ‘that sense of connection’ to nature. You’ll hear other druids talk of ‘Awen’ which can mean that very heady sensation of ‘being in the zone’ or ‘going with the flow’ (they do call it the ‘flow’ of Awen after all), or ‘being in tune’ with the way things are happening around you at that moment. That sensation has many names (like Taoism’s ‘wu wei’ or Buddhism’s ‘Samadhi’, or Psychology’s ‘Flow’). So you can rest assured that whatever ‘they’ call it, whatever ‘their’ belief, your experience is the same whatever your belief.
You practice rituals above-all for a psychological effect – the ‘reminder’ or personal oath you’ve made toward Nature in all its ferocious glory. It doesn’t have to get ‘mystical’ or whatnot – you’re doing it for an effect of renewal – your sense of determination to continue caring for the wellbeing of Earth (that sounds animist doesn’t it? Ok, how about ‘ecological balance’?).
‘Talking to a tree’, when you think about it, really isn’t that silly. You know full-well that it can’t hear you, nor would you expect it to. You’re doing it for you. It’s the same way we humans spontaneously swear at a failing maching, like our aging car “C’mon ya rusted bucket of bolts!” (you, being a druid, of course don’t have a car, right? Right?).
Next time someone catches a glimpse of you talking to a tree, you can take respite feeling that what you’re doing is no more ‘silly’ than when a Jew prays at the wailing wall in Jerusalem.