February 1, 2008

Spirituality

Why I Am A Pagan

by Emily Fouqette-Hoffman

What do you think when you hear the word ‘pagan’? Many people think of weirdos wandering around the woods in large groups wearing strange masks, taking hallucinogens and sacrificing cats and small children. Or teenage girls wearing all black and casting spells on ex-boyfriends and enemy cliques. One thing that always makes me laugh is that scene from the movie "Dragnet" in which those freaks run around in goat masks and sheep leggings with the giant sign that reads: PAGAN - People Against Goodness And Normalcy.

Of course, when I told one person I was studying Druidry, he asked me if I was going to start sacrificing people. That did not make me laugh so much. I do, however, get an odd amusement out of most people’s opinions. My parents make fun of “tree worshipers,” all in good fun, while others actually think I worship the devil. Many people still see paganism as an evil practice involving blood sacrifice. Yet the truth is that many religions mandated sacrifice in ancient times, including Christianity and Islam.

So what is paganism in its most basic form? It involves the worship of more than one deity, technically classified as polytheism. Of course, there are many other definitions but that is the basic idea behind the word 'pagan'. Hence, does this not make many Christians pagans as well? They worship God and Jesus as separate beings. In addition, there is the worship of the Virgin Mary and various Catholic saints. The saints may not be worshiped as deities exactly, but they are often worshiped nonetheless. In fact, my tutor in Druidry is a Druid who also practices Wicca and is an active Catholic.

Yes, my current form of study is Druidry. There are three levels of Druidry; Bard, Ovate and Druid, yet for the sake of clarity I will just use the term Druid when referring to all three levels. I will define each one in a moment, but first I would like to share why I have chosen this particular spiritual path. I love Druidry because it is open to so many things. Many Druids, like my tutor, also practice Christianity and/or some other form of spiritual practice. Many, myself included, consider the Virgin Mary as another form of the Goddess generally worshiped in Druidry.

But Druidry is not just about worship. There are many ceremonies one can perform that are outlined in the study booklets*, but these are optional, as are all of the practices in Druid studies. Some people choose to worship a God and Goddess exclusively, while others worship gods and/or goddesses from different ancient traditions. And as for the ceremonies, an individual can pick and choose from them at will. Druidry does not come with any rules, only the hope that people will respect any and all people and ideas within the community.

I love the ideals involved in this spiritual tradition, which is why I want to share it with my daughter. The biggest ideal is love for the land, the animals, and the universe. The other ideals include love of beauty, art, music, stories, poetry, myth, history, ancestors, truth, justice, peace, ritual, and simply life in general.

I am currently at the Bardic level I mentioned earlier, which is mostly about learning how to channel creativity. In ancient times, Bards were story tellers who were greatly respected and sought out even by royalty. They were also scribes, musicians, and the genealogists of their region. The Bardic level is also an introduction to the general practices of Druid spirituality**.

The Ovate level of study is more about learning different natural healing techniques and herbalism, as well as the Ogm tree language. Natural philosophy teachings are started at this level as well. And last but not least, Ovates are the main diviners of the Druidry practice, if the person studying this level believes in divination**.

Those at the full Druid level had the most responsibility (they were not above Bards or Ovates so to speak; they had just been instructed in more areas and made different contributions to society). They were teachers, mathematicians, philosophers, and often the counselors and/or judges of their clan. They generally practiced restorative instead of punitive justice**.

The nice thing about the study of Druidry is the fact that you can choose to stop at any level you find suitable. You are free to stop at the first or second level if they best fit your personality, lifestyle or career.

So where am I going with all of this information? Well, once again I love the ideals listed above, as well as the acceptance of everyone’s different ways of practicing. I also love the sense of community my particular Order*** creates. Since people from all over the world practice this spirituality in some form or another, I can meet and talk to so many wonderful people (in camps or gatherings or over the Internet) that I would never have the chance to meet if it weren’t for this Order. I want to raise my daughter a Druid because of the acceptance the religion teaches, as well as the spiritual form of education about the earth and the universe that she would not learn in school. I want to raise my daughter a Druid because of all of the wisdom that can be learned from the wilds of the trees and stars, stones and sky. I want to raise my daughter a Druid because of all of the love that can be learned for everything and everyone around her.

Notes:

*The booklets I refer to are the ones sent to me by the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids of which I am a member, and (as far as I know) is currently the largest organized Druid group in the world. For more information, please go to www.druidry.org.

**All of this information is according to the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids. Since this is where I am receiving my instruction, this is where I get my information about the different levels of this spiritual practice.

***This article is in no way intended to be some sort of advertisement for the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids.



Emily is a 24 year old mother of one. She is currently a stay-at-home mom and wife who does freelance writing. She is also studying Druidry and Gaelic, and working on two historical novels. She lives just outside Seattle in Washington State, and she can be reached via e-mail.