Books on Druidry in France

I was surprised to find so many books on Druidry, across several bookstores, while on my recent trip to France. They were clearly more focused on the Celtic traditions in ancient Gaul (which now comprises parts of France) than on the modern practices of Druidry today, though I was still happy to see them at all given the complexities of religion in the country.

These are a clear encouragement for me to improve my ability to read French, which has overall focused more on menus and train schedules!

What continues to puzzle me, however, is how Druidry has been embraced in various forms in the British Isles and the U.S., yet somehow is not readily locatable at all in France. Mind you, I was able to find this nice selection of books that seem to infer a modern practice of Druidry exists someplace there, though I was not able to unearth it whatsoever.

Does anybody know any practicing Druids (Druides) in France? If so, do any of them know enough English to help me understand this phenomenon?

Rural Provence

The rugged beauty that is in rural Provence is striking in its power and energy and life, even when it seems it may be barren of it at first glance.

The hills . . .

The rock formations . . .

The spectacular lavender . . .

and of course, the nearly single-lane roads . . .

I was in Provence once before, 13 years ago, and it is everything I remember, yet even more. Perhaps it is because I now have a deeper respect for the landscape that appears to suffer under the heaviness of the dry sun, all while managing to not only persist, but to thrive.

It is richer than I recalled, and feel strangely drawn to it.

Braiding Sweetgrass: Beginnings with Aha! Moments

One of my book discussion groups, the one internal to AODA members (all are welcome to join!!), is reading Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass. Not having heard of it before we started, I was not prepared for how incredibly thoughtful it is, both from a nature spirituality aspect as well as related to its intentionality related to expressing things that have been lost, and continue to be lost, with the active and subtle erosion of indigenous cultures in the continental United States.

Unlike reading most books after the first chapter section (this one being 59 pages long), I am really not sure where or how Kimmerer’s book is developing, so I cannot provide an overview of the book or the meaning I will make of it. However, I am more surprised in the smaller chunks than I ever expected, and find myself gasping at times due to how the author has a way of challenging conventionality through animistic spirituality common in indigenous, native cultures in ways that are surprising, eye-opening, invigorating, and thought-provoking.

I will share four aha! moments I experienced along the way thus far. These are not intended to stand alone and are all within various contexts of the author’s life and meaning-making as she reflects upon her own scientific progress (career) while trying to grok how her indigenous roots present new opportunities for understanding the world around her.

I feel her pain when facing the supposed objective approach contemporary science takes to the study of things, a (post)positive one that allows only for its own ways of making sense of the world to the exclusion of others:

In the old times, our elders say, the trees talked to each other. They’d stand in their own council and craft a plan. But scientists decided long ago that plants were deaf and mute, locked in isolation without communication. The possibility of conversation was summarily dismissed. Science pretends to be purely rational, completely neutral, a system of knowledge- making in which the observation is independent of the observer. And yet the conclusion was drawn that plants cannot communicate because they lack the mechanisms that animals use to speak. The potentials for plants were seen purely through the lens of animal capacity (p. 19).

Who am I to pretend I have the owner’s manual to the earth and how all living things on it live and interact with complex networks?

Likewise, when we start to realize that meaning making and reality can happen in ways beyond my own understanding, not everything can (or should) be owned. Private property is important in many ways, though that often happens within the context of power relations. True, it is often intended in a way to protect individual freedoms, it is helpful to notice that the notion of individual is something that implications far beyond my wanting to keep my stuff for myself.

“These berries belong to me,” she said, “not to you. I don’t want to see you kids eating my berries.” I knew the difference: In the fields behind my house, the berries belongs to themselves. At this lady’s roadside stand, she sold them for sixty cents a quart (p. 25).

When we develop land, we often see it as a commodity to be exploited, rather than a home to many living things, many aspects of an ecosystem that happily lived in harmony of sorts since before humans came and carved up things as mine or yours. Why doesn’t the deer or owl or tree have rights to live in that forest when we determine something more to our liking should be there instead, regardless of the impact of that small, human decision?

It follows, in a logic thrown upside down, that:

The questions scientists raised were not “Who are you?” but “What is it?” No one asked plants “What can you tell us?” The primary question was “How does it work?” The botany I was taught was reductionist, mechanistic, and strictly objective. Plants were reduced to objects; they were no longer subjects. The way botany was conceived and taught didn’t seem to leave much room for a person who thought the way I did. The only way I could make sense of it was to conclude that the things I had always believed about plants must not be true after all (p. 42).

It makes me think that those who own the truth or the ability to name things and their characteristics are defaulted a very great power indeed.

That is the opposite of many indigenous or native traditions, ones that seek to live in networks with the world in a way that some sense of balance was accepted and encouraged.

I remember the words of Bill Tall Bull, a Cheyenne elder. As a young person, I spoke to him with a heavy heart, lamenting that I had no native language with which to speak to the plants and the places that I love. “They love to hear the old language,” he said, “it’s true.” “But,” he said with fingers on his lips, “You don’t have to speak it here.” “If you speak it here,” he said, patting his chest, “They will hear you” (p. 59).

What has happened to our notion of living with, something that descended into a more confrontational pull and take with the world (people, animals, plants, and the natural world itself) around us?

The Awen Symbol is now VA Approved

As a seemingly inclusive nod toward the practice of religious and spiritual practices, the Awen symbol that often depicts Druidry, is now an approved image for Government-furnished headstones or markers  per the Veteran’s Administration (VA). First reported via Circle Sanctuary’s Lady Liberty League, this  information is now on the official U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs website.

While this is now #65 of the symbols that have been approved, it is even more than that — it is an official United States acknowledgement that Druidry is a real practice. While those of us who are members of The Druid Network or the Ancient Order of Druids in America (AODA) or even the Reformed Druids of North America (RDNA) may not be surprised given how our members seemingly increase as the threats to the stability of the environment are pushed to the breaking point, it is satisfying to be in a country where religious expression is free and protected and even officially approved for public cemeteries.

I wonder how many Druids who are not associated with the military will use this action as an encouragement to do the same when our time comes?

Plans for PantheaCon 2017

I took the plunge and bought my flights for PantheaCon 2017 next month. Will be my first time at this gathering (or any large, formal, pagan gathering), so expect to have more to share about it. Not sure where to begin, between fears and hesitations and uncertainties, but that is what being a Druid is all about — listen to and embrace the energies in nature to help us face the simpler human issues that we (far too often) create for ourselves.

Onward to PantheaCon!