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Letters is a series on Bishop In The Grove that allows readers to initiate the dialogue. Submit your letter on the Letters page, and it may be chosen to be included in a future post. This first post in the series is centered around bringing Druidry and Druidism into balance.

Balance, by Kevin Makice (Flickr)

“You’ve talked before about wanting a balance between your revival Druidry and reform Druidism. Is this still something you’re trying to balance? How do you do it, practically – any examples?

– From someone trying to walk a similar path :)”

This question comes at an interesting time — both for me and for the community of bloggers I read. There’s a good bit of this v.s. that going on in conversations across the web, and I’m not quite sure how to make sense of it.

Just yesterday I witness an innocuous Facebook post unleash a somewhat heated debate about intellectual paganism v.s. non-intellectual paganism, an argument that seemed to suffer from a lack of agreement about terms and definitions. And there are blog post cropping up in every corner of the web about whether Paganism is reputable, or silly.

So when I read the question — how am I trying to balance these two streams of thought and tradition — I can’t help but notice how different that language sounds.

I’m an ADF Druid. I have been for a couple of years now. I’m also a member of OBOD, and (technically) a student in the Bardic grade. But I haven’t attended to my OBOD studies in a long time. The materials sit on my bookshelf, mostly untouched. So, mostly I’m ADF.

ADF Druidism is a religious path, and OBOD Druidry a philosophical one (to speak in very broad, general terms). In a way, I’ve been very much devoted to the development of a personal religion, one that is based in ADF principles. But then there are moments when I find myself asking, 

Yes, but what does it all of what I’m doing mean?

And in that moment, I feel that my Druidism has once again become Druidry.

To give you an example:

This morning I was at my home shrine, lighting a piece of charcoal. I lit the charcoal with a lighter that contains in it the flame of Kildare, passed on to me ceremonially during a CUUPS gathering. While the fire set the coal to sizzle, I spoke in my mind,

This is the flame of Kildare. May it burn brightly and may it…

I stopped myself.

I was going to say something invoking the Goddess, Brighid, but then I wondered if this particular style of invocation was something that the ancestors would have done. I literally stopped the movement of my own inspiration in order to evaluate if what I was doing was historically accurate in relationship to my hearth culture.

The intellectual, inquisitive, +1 for scholarship side of my Druidism got the best of me in that moment.

The next thing I thought was,

Who cares?! What am I doing right now, and what does it mean to me?

I find that Druidry, OBOD style, places a greater emphasis on personal experience and personal revelation than ADF does (broadly speaking). The “what does it mean to me” question is central to Druidry, but not so much to Druidism.

Druidism even has the term “unverified personal gnosis” to denote the things you “know” but that cannot be verified. The very idea that inner knowing needs to be “verified” smacks of intellectual elitism, even if the term is being used to keep people from making claims about their unbroken Druid lineage.

I’ve witnessed many conversations on the ADF lists where members display concern about whether they’re “getting it right,” and I worry sometimes that the standard we use to judge our work, the standard of scholarship and historical accuracy that ADF holds up so strongly, can lead us to overlook the simple, meaningful, unscholarly needs of the heart.

But with all of that said, I still am committed to the religious tradition. It’s a choice I’m making, and it serves me.

I balance my Druidism with my Druidry, first, by acknowledging that the two needn’t be mutually exclusive. Philosophy, after all, is an intellectual pursuit; one which can inform the way one engages in their religious practice.

So in your question — a very good question — I take note of the word “balance.”  It seems key here. I believe in bringing into balance the mind (critical thinking) with the heart (intuitive knowing); integrating and harmonizing the parts of ourself that seem to be discordant. The mind and the heart should be in dialogue, just as I think ADF Druidism should be in dialogue with OBOD Druidry.

Thank you for the letter, and for initiating this dialogue on Bishop In The Grove. 

Now I turn to you, my thoughtful readership.

If you are a Druid, one who has been exposed to ADF and OBOD, how do you bring them into balance? Or, do you?

If you aren’t a Druid but have had experience with holding the tension between multiple traditions, how does that approach affect your spiritual life?

This has been a challenging week.

My post on Monday transformed this blog into a dynamic, charged space. The reactions and responses to my account of the PPD ritual covered the whole spectrum of human emotion, and reading them took me on quite a ride.

Today, I’d like to simply offer my heartfelt thanks to everyone who visited the blog this week, especially to those of you who were willing to share your perspectives and voice your concerns. Having dialogue around matters of religious identity — which is what we did by discussing the multiple meanings of a circle and the role of inclusivity in Pagan communities — can be challenging. It’s easy to project onto each others our own doubts, troubles, or insecurities. Sometimes we do it without realizing.

I know I’m capable of this.

Digital writing, and the community it creates, provides us each the platform to share our perspectives, but there’s a risk in doing that. You never know if someone’s going to pounce or praise, if your words will be understood in context or taken to mean something completely different. All of what you’ve presented about yourself in the past, which for me is a lot on this blog, can be used to better interpret your meaning or to point out a perceived flaw in your logic.

It can get really messy, really fast.

But I believe in taking the risk.

I believe (and I’m not to trying to get preachy here) that by sharing our understandings in a respectful, open way we each become agents of positive change in the community. By working to respect one another with our words, holding back the snark for just a moment, we foster a safe space for one another to question, to grow, to be shown a new way of thinking.

Perhaps it seems I’m being overly sensitive when I consider these things. But consider that our words, these little bits of text we casually throw onto the screen, are bite sized bits of magickal intent. If we are careless with them, harm can be done. If we’re careful, compassionate, and thoughtful, our words can initiate the most brilliant changes in the lives of others.

Words are that powerful.

This brings me back to the new feature on Bishop In The Grove: Letters.

Photo by Christine and David Schmitt, Flickr

I created Letters as a way of allowing my readership to direct the conversation of this blog. My approach to writing has always been to start with something personal, to reflect on what it means to me, and then to see if there’s a way to translate that personal experience for the greater community. Most of the time I offer up questions, because I don’t have all the answers. And, I trust in the idea of a collective wisdom.

I discovered this morning that the first Letters contact form was on the blog was broken, so if you’ve already sent a letter in I’m afraid I haven’t received it. I apologize for this, and I encourage you to re-send your letter.

If you have not yet participated in Letters, please consider visiting the page and sharing a bit about yourself. Your letter can be a testimony about an experience you’ve had, a question about Paganism that you’re having a hard time answering, or anything that you think would be appropriate for discussion in the “community forum” that arrises within the comment section of this blog. I promise I’ll do my best to present your letter in a respectful, kind, and considerate fashion.

I do hope to hear from you, and again — thank you to all who visit this site and bring it to life.

Bright blessings.

[P.S. Thanks for sharing these newly independent BITG posts on your social networks!]