My spiritual journey has been long and hectic. I spent nearly twenty years as a Catholic, became agnostic during my early adulthood, and only very recently did I become a Neopagan. But of all the spiritual communities I have been a part of, it is probably the one I have at my local magic shop that has been the most accepting. But even there I stick out. I am the only Druid that I know of in my immediate area, and I have largely created my own practice out of thin air with books as my teachers. Most everyone I talk to about magic self-identifies as a witch, and while they have great advice on the practicalities of magic, I've had to sort out cosmology on my own. This is not a complaint, however: I've come up with a practice that is uniquely my own.
In retrospect, calling myself a "hedge bard" could not have been more fitting. While it mainly refers to my combination of the natural and druidic with poetry, it also has a modern literary reference built in. Hedge Knights, in A Song of Ice and Fire by George RR. Martin, are the classic knight-errant archetype of medieval romance. A knight-errant wanders the country proving their worth by competing in tournaments and showing themselves worthy of their title. While I do no wander, I am a masterless bard and druid, walking their own path towards spiritual enlightenment.
That being said, I have learned a lot from both Wicca and the Celtic Reconstructionist Pagan movement. My methods can be very Wiccan, but my cosmology and beliefs are very Celtic. So I thought I'd take a look at the two biggest pillars of my beliefs, and write a bit about how I view these concepts.
The Irish called it Tir Na Nog. The Welsh called it Avalon. I simply call it the Otherworld. It is the realm of spirits and deities, of unconscious desires and intuitive knowledge. When I meditate, I believe that some part of me accesses the Otherworld. I am able to see and commune with parts of myself long buried, and divine information about myself and my spiritual journey. It is a realm of faeries and wonders, and dangers as well, which is why I take precautions and always make sure to have an offering whenever I do a ritual.
I could not begin to tell you what the geography of the otherworld is like, save that it can be shaped by our minds when we enter. I frequently imagine myself in a druid's grove, or a forest full of trees. another druid might see it as a stone circle, inhabited by the spirits of their ancestors. Someone else might see it as a campfire near a beach. The visualization is part of the person who travels there, and is shaped by them. Or so I believe. It is hard to ever be certain of anything about the Otherworld. I am only certain that it is real.
As for the spirits themselves, I borrow the Wiccan concept of the four elements: earth, air, fire and water. I have taken to greeting these spirits (not calling them, for they are ever-present) when facing the cardinal directions and casting a circle. The casting of a circle is not a Celtic tradition, but it is something that I find defines the ritual space quite well, and helps set the mood for journeying to the Otherworld or manifesting magic. When I finish the ritual, I thank the spirits in attendance with a libation and a prayer, and take up the circle. Libations are an important part of this process, as is thanking the spirits, because I wish for the spirits I greet to be my allies whom I can count on if necessary. Besides, when you are entering a world beyond the material thanking those spirits who are present is only polite.
Inspiration is a gift. I have always believed that. Not all ideas become full artistic works or projects, but a new idea is a blessing from the gods. That is why the druidic concept of the Awen, or divine spiritual inspiration, appeals so much to me. Though as a concept it is more tied to revivalist druids than the reconstructionist movement, I do believe that when I write something that speaks to me, I am channeling the Awen. I believe it was the Awen that guided me down the path of the Druid in the first place, and it is the Awen that guides me when I make a decision about my spirituality.
The written word and poetry is sacred to the druid, and particularly to those of us who call ourselves bards. It is from the poems and tales of bards that we are able to keep mythology alive. These tales are not mere entertainment, but are vehicles for important lessons. They are also our best windo into the world of the ancient Celts and how they lived. And when we create new tales, we acknowledge that the tale is ongoing. We keep the tradition alive not only through our spiritual practice, but through our art. and that is why I am honored to call myself a druid.
So now you know the roots of my belief. There's more things I could write, about the Celtic cosmology of Earth, Sea, and Sky, The ever-evolving layout of my altar, the types of ways I invoke the elemental spirits. But all those are better left to their own posts. These are the two pillars of my belief system, and I simply wished to share them with you. Until my next post, I leave you with this poem:
Let all the world be a holy treasure
to be shared and enjoyed and never hoarded
until the last of us here has boarded
the ship to Avalon,
the world beyond