Druidry of the Peaceful Earth Grove
The Peaceful Earth Druid Grove formed at Samhuinn 2014. There are currently twenty Grove members. We gather eight times a year to celebrate the Druid festivals (roughly every six weeks). Following the traditions of the Ancient Druids, we are a forest Grove and our place of gathering is in an ancient forest on the Isle of Wight, a small and beautiful Island off the South coast of England. A friendly and committed Grove, we are a “closed” Grove which simply means that we do not welcome the curious or occasional attendee. We do welcome new members who share our Druid ethics and path, who wish to further explore their Druidry with us and are happy to commit to regular attendance.
Very little is known about the ancient Druids who were active during the Iron Age predominately in Briton, Ireland and Gaul. Such little that we do know comes from the writings of Romans and Greeks at that time who had their own agendas. While this may or may not cast doubt on the validity of those writings, the sparsity of them is such that they give very little indication of the beliefs and practices of those Druids on which a modern belief could be based. There are those within modern Druidry who do try to do so and they are generally referred to as “Reconstructionists”.
A second group within modern Druidry is referred to as “Revivalists”. This group has its focus on the work of academics and antiquarians which started in the late 17th Century. “These people in Britain - and a little later in several other countries - turned to what little was known about the ancient Druids as a source of inspiration and a basis for a new spirituality founded on nature and personal experience. The time was ripe for such a project; between the rigid dogmatism of Christianity and the equally rigid materialism of the Scientific Revolution, many people felt the need for another option. The Druid Revival provided it.” (Source – AODA) The revivalists past and present search many sources including old writings that still exist from Wales, Ireland and other areas including their myths and fables to find traces of the ancient Druids and their beliefs. There is lively debate within modern Druidry as to whether such writings do contain any such reference and on the degree of invention applied by the originators of those writings and the 17th Century and later revivalists.
So what is the Peaceful Earth Grove Druidry? The Peaceful Earth Druid Grove steps away from reconstructionist and revivalist labels. We see modern Druidry as the successor of an ancient indigenous belief termed Druidry. We will never know the full complexity of that belief. But we believe there is sufficient evidence to indicate that it was at least partly focussed on the Natural World. The Peaceful Earth Grove Druidry retains that focus. We do incorporate aspects of Revivalism related to the seasons, the elements and the ancestors. But we recognise that Groves should not seek to define Druidry for Grove members. For each of us, Druidry is an individual path. The primary purpose of a Grove is to provide a friendly and welcoming gathering where members can celebrate together being a member of the Druid belief irrespective of their personal paths. The Grove must therefore offer common ground. The greater majority within Druidry do share one simple belief; the Natural World is Spiritual and we should live in honourable relationship with that World and in harmony with the seasons. That simple Druid belief is the focus of our Grove.
The revival of Paganism in modern times has resulted in an
awakening of interest in and the worship of ancient Deities and pantheons of
Deities. While modern Druidry professes to “honour and respect” Deity rather
than “worship”, in reality there is little difference in the actual practice.
As stated in the Constitution
of the Druid Network:
“Druidry cannot be defined by or limited to the reverence of one deity or a pantheon. Thus while most within Druidry honour what are known as the Celtic named and mythologized deities, others honour Christian, Saxon, Nordic or Classical Pagan gods. Many honour animistic and conceptual forms of deity.”
But while there are many within Druidry who are polytheistic or monotheistic, there are also atheist and agnostic non-theists. With such a wide range of Deity belief and with belief in Deity being such an intensely personal matter, it would be invidious for a Grove to recognise one or more Deities which may or may not be acceptable to every Grove member. The harmony of the Grove and its openness to all within Druidry must be paramount. For these reasons, the Peaceful Earth Grove does not include any Deity in its ceremonies and focuses on core Druid beliefs. The Grove is dedicated to the Earth Mother, the Sky Father (the Sun), the Spirits (of all Life, of Place, the Elements and the Quarters (East, South, West and North)) and the Ancestors. We leave individual members to develop their relationship with Deity in their own private practice.
Animism is probably the oldest belief of humankind, where everything is seen to have Spirit and consciousness. The Peaceful Earth Grove is an Animistic Grove. We believe that all things, living and non-living have a Spirit and consciousness. We honour and respect all Spirit, be it the Spirit of a living entity or Spirit of Place, Element or Quarter. To the Peaceful Earth Grove, Animism is seen as both a way of life and a way of thought that guides our honourable relationship with all in the Natural World. It defines how we respect and value all things and is at the heart of our Druidry. It allows us to understand that we are a part of Nature, not separate or superior to it.
Shamanism is a practice found in many animistic beliefs
where Shaman are the intermediaries between Spirits and the believers in
Animism. Some Druid Orders teach Druidry as a Shamanistic belief rather than an
Animistic belief. However, the Peaceful Earth Grove sees modern Druidry and
Animism as broader beliefs involving more than the Shamanic contact with
Spirit. As stated in the Constitution of the Druid Network:
Druidic practice seeks to understand the patterns of nature outside humanity, within our environment, honouring the powers of nature as wholly sacred. All life is deemed to be unconditionally sacred, bearing its own intrinsic validity and purpose.
Based on reverence and respect for life itself, and the practice of seeking honourable relationship with all, Druidry guides us to live with truth and responsibility.”
The Peaceful Earth Grove recognises that Shamanism is a valid path and function within Druidry for those who wish to explore it and be properly trained by experienced practitioners. However, the Grove focus is on our honourable relationship with the Natural World which arises from our Animistic belief rather than Shamanic direct contact with Spirit.
However, modern Druidry also presents itself as having no hierarchy. This lack of hierarchy derives from Druidry being primarily an individual practice, with each Druid following their own path in seeking honourable relationship with the Natural World. ‘Hierarchy’ only becomes an issue when Druids gather together in Groves.
The Druidry of the Peaceful Earth Grove follows a different
path to many other Groves and Teaching Orders. Our path is entirely without
hierarchy and recognises Bard, Ovate and Druid as three separate functions
within modern Druidry, all of which are of equal worth and equally worthy of
respect. This interpretation is based on the writings of the Greek geographer
and historian Strabo (62BC to 24AD) who wrote:
“Among all the Gallic peoples, generally speaking, there are three sets of men who are held in exceptional honour; the Bards, the Vates, and the Druids. The Bards are singers and poets; the Vates, diviners and natural philosophers; while the Druids, in addition to natural philosophy, study also moral philosophy.”
Within the Peaceful Earth Grove, all members are referred to as Druids, being followers of the Druid belief. Many of such Druids are also Bards, Ovates and / or Druids (in the ‘priest’ context used by Druid Teaching Orders), depending upon their skills and training gained through private practice, experience in this or other Groves or through Druid Teaching Orders. But first and foremost, all are Druids and all are equal in status within the Grove. Only their Grove roles vary, depending upon their experience in the various functions within Druidry and the needs of the Grove.
Grove membership is in three sections. The Inner, Middle and Outer Grove. The Inner Grove decide Grove policy and conduct the main parts of Grove ritual. The Middle Grove assist the Inner Grove in Grove ritual. All new members join the Outer Grove. Outer Grove members participate in all rituals and are all eligible to join the Middle and Inner Groves when vacancies arise.
The Grove is not affiliated to any national or international Druid Order. We prefer the freedom to express and experience our Druidry in our own way, in harmony with the ever-changing Seasons and in honourable relationship with all in the Natural World. As a Grove and individually, we seek to be:
Inclusive and Empowering - respecting the individuality of each member and respecting their right to discover and uphold what is true for their own self; offering participation to all members in our ceremonies so that they meet their needs as they seek to explore their spirituality with us.
Life Affirming - celebrating the spirituality of all Life and embracing our own spirituality as part of the mysteries of Life.
Nature-based - being aware that as humans we are just one small part of Nature and recognising that everything in the Natural World is of worth and is due reverence.
Caring for the Earth and Caring for all Life - promoting peace and being of service to all in the community of the Natural World; being aware of our ecological footprint and our responsibility as consumers to make ethical and conscious choices as best we can.
Creative - channelling the flow of Awen inspiration through self-expression, the arts and crafts.
Contemporary - whilst drawing inspiration from the past, we recognise that as the World develops and changes, so we as Druids must also grow and evolve our spiritual practise to stay relevant to the needs of the Grove, Druidry and all in the Community of the Natural World both today and tomorrow.
(The Peaceful Earth Druid Grove is indebted to the Dreaming Tree Grove (Western Australia) for their Aims published on the web which very closely mirror our own. In publishing our own Aims, we have retained the Dreaming Tree Grove’s inspirational focus, subject to minor amendment to reflect small differences in emphasis.)