“The songs of our ancestors are also the songs of our children” ― Philip Carr-Gomm, Chosen Chief of OBOD
The welsh word, Awen means “poetic inspiration" and it is at the heart of my pagan tradition; Druidry. Yes, I am a Druid.
People often say to me, how can you possibly be a Druid in the twenty- first century? They believe that Druidry was something practiced by a Celtic priesthood two thousand years ago as if there is an unbridgeable chasm between the “real Druids” who lived so long ago and the “fake” Druids who have lived from the Revival period onwards. Click here for a video on what I am saying.
Druidry does not live only in the past. It originates outside of linear time. If the source of our religious practice resides only in the past, then every passing moment takes us further away from the source. My Druidry is alive and “becoming” along with me. The memories of the Ancient Druids exist in the bone ladder, the ancestors or in the prehensions outside of our conscious awareness. Modern Druids had to recreate our practices and often create something new. Our religion stays alive with the flowing motion of inspiration that is Awen.
Awen is the magical bird of mystery, the inspirational muse of creative artists in general that inspires, prose, poetry, song. Awen is the color in the painting, the beauty in the voice, the music in the poem. Awen floats on the heart that loves, for Awen is god’s lure. For Awen to exist, there must be relationship. We cannot be inspired unless we are open, and we cannot be open unless we have established a relationship, whether that is with the sound of thunder, the dancing branches of the trees or the lure of the Goddess. We are relational and Awen is the invitation. Awen holds our memories and calls us to our best self to build on what we are. Awen is co-creator. Awen is an awareness, not just on a physical and mental level but on a soul- deep level; it is an awareness of the entirety of existence, of Gaia, of life itself. Awen brings us the “knowing”. Awen helps us see the threads of the web that connect us all. It is the deep well of inspiration that we drink from, to nurture our souls and our world and to give back in joy, in reverence, in wild abandon and in solemn ceremony. I sing the Awen as a mediation. It is sung or chanted in the manner of the OM but the sound is stretched to three syllables, sounding like ah-oo-wen. The sound of the chanted Awen is described as an awenydd. It is said that a ceremony/church service/ritual is only started when the awenydd has arrived. To translate this into Process Thought, Awen is the lure. When I am with Awen, I am in the presence of God.
Alfred North Whitehead said that God is poet of the world. As a Druid, I might say that God is the great Bard. I see this poet-God in the shinning brow of Taliesin. I feel this God in nwyfre or vital force in the universe. This Process God dances with me in the forest and sings with my flute.
My branch of paganism involves polytheism. Alfred North Whitehead said that "It is as true to say that God is one and the World many, as that the World is one and God many.” That is how I experience God as both one and many. I struggle to find words for this mystery. Rather I allow my mystical side to experience it like an ebb and flow, a beating heart, even the vibrato in a voice…I feel God filling the “in- between”, the liminal spaces and creating with me, in me, through me, into the many and diverse. But then we become one. As Whitehead said, “The many become one, and are increased by one”. This is my dance with God and Goddess.
My polytheism embraces the Primordial Nature of Goddess in her many and diverse manifestations, as well as the Consequent Nature of God as he lovingly feels the world.
Druidry is an earth-based religion. Our religion is founded on the sacredness of the earth. We know that we are connected to every living things on this planet as Nwyfre vibrates through us all like a silver thread weaving us together in a magical web of life.
I belong to an order of Druids based in Sussex England- the Order of Bards Ovates and Druids. Click here for more on this. Our lessons are called Gwersi, and we use the term Druid generally but within Druidry we are divided into three nonhierarchical grades:
Bards- poets, musicians, storytellers and artists Ovates- magical arts, healers, mystics, and shamans Druids- leaders, judges, priests, and teachers
We study each grade for many years as there is much to learn and intuit. It takes time to open to intentionally feel the Awen. As Obod Druids, we may choose to find our niche, or we may study all three. The Druid approach is that all three are necessary and no one grade is elevated above another. There is balance. I have studied all three and would find it difficult to settle on just one. That too is my hope for Process Thought. We need scholars, poets, artists and mystics. We need academics, musicians and shamans. As Dr. John Cobb taught me, Process is not fragmented. There must be balance and wholeness. As a Druid, there is a place for me in Process Thought. I feel that I have found my home.
Druids Prayer Grant, O Great Spirit, Thy Protection; And in protection, strength; And in strength, understanding; And in understanding, knowledge; And in knowledge, the knowledge of justice; And in the knowledge of justice, the love of it; And in that love, the love of all existences; And in the love of all existences, the love of the Goddess, the God all goodness.
Short Essays on Paganism
Paganism is one of seventeen rivers of faith recognized and highlighted by the Harvard Pluralism Project. The links are to essays provide by the project.
I spent some time with this from Open Horizons this morning. I love what you wrote at the end on Paganism in your essay on Bjork. You quoted my favorite Whitehead quote. When I first read that quote, I smiled and felt that I was in the right place. With your article, I feel understood and part of this Whiteheadian family. I have always been welcomed warmly.
Still, I also feel like no one understands who I am and how my spirituality is expressed. Often Christianity is so dominant that there is a forgetting that it is possible to be something different. My spiritual practice is deep and mystical but we only speak of religion in rational, logical and scholarly terms. So often in the process world we stay locked in our heads, divorced from our bodies and feelings. We talk about saving the earth in systematic ways as if the earth was still something to be manipulated. But if we step back and "feel" the earth...allow and flow with her...we can tap into our bone ladder and connections to each other and the ancestors. Don't get me wrong, we do need to take action but we are leaving an entire half of ourselves behind. Planting seeds is prayer. Watering the garden is prayer, walking in nature is prayer. Trees talk to us in our breath. We don't listen.
The rhythms and cycles of nature take us on a journey. We feel different in our bodies in these seasons as we spiral through coming back around again and again yet finding ourselves different each spring or winter in our concresence. These feelings have no place in academia but they should in a Whiteheadian group. Art, music and poetry are the tools to help us tap into our right brain where we can "feel" the mystery.
Americans have a soft spot for animals but we handle that conflict (killing and eating animals) in a way similar to many other problems. We put it out of view. We go to grocery stores and buy our meat in packages so we never have to see death. We hide all death from view, even our own beloved dead. I could write pages on the death industry as I give presentations and speak out about it. We have lost our elder wisdom. Elders taught us how to die, and in that, how to live. Grocery stores are barriers between us and our true nature. Modern cemeteries and funeral homes are barriers between us and our true nature. Even reading what other people thought is a barrier.....what thoughts do we have? We have the bone ladder, the ancestors...we can feel the ancient knowledge. Pagans know this. We need to get out of our heads and "feel" the cycles of the earth so that we can tear down the barriers.
Please don't misunderstand me about the academic aspect of Process. I love it. But it can't stand alone if we are to actually practice Process. It needs to be balanced with feeling....it needs to be integrated into a whole.
You write about Bjork. I like her. But she is unaffected by Christian thought so she has not had to peel back the layers of the baggage attached to Christianity. Christianity has come through so many years, people, manipulations and it's a little dirty....it needs to be dusted off for those who practice it. For American pagans, we have to deconstruct and then rebuild. For Bjork, she just taps into her paganism without the extra work. There is a big difference between the cultures in paganism. American pagans are quite often culturally Christian in the worst way....the dust and the dirt....colonialism, judgment among others.
Yes, I am a Druid. I hope these comments, plus what I wrote above, can explain some of the reasons.