There are some moments in our lives that are special, and deserve to be marked with specific ceremony. Births, marriages, deaths, coming of age or reaching a certain year, dedicating oneself to a new path. These are Rites of Passage, marking the start of a new chapter or the ending of an old one.
Druidry, unsurprisingly, has rituals for all of these Rites of Passage. The joy of Druidry is that there is no set liturgy, so each Druid is free to craft, create, and recreate rituals for themselves or their families, friends and communities, rather than having to simply recite an existing rite. Are some Druidic marriage rites too heterocentric? Write your own, or take elements you like, discard that which you don’t and rework it.
While Pagan marriage is still illegal in England due to institutional religious discrimination, most Druid groups and Orders include celebrants willing to perform Rites of Passage rituals, and all Druids I’ve ever met are more than happy to perform same-gender and LGBT inclusive ceremonies.
In our nominally Christian, mostly secular society, there aren’t many Rites of Passage ceremonies for most people to choose from. Families get their child baptised because that’s just what you do, despite never going to church themselves. People get married and buried in Christian ceremonies because of a desire to cling to some nebulous concept of tradition rather than as an expression of genuine faith.
What Druidry, Paganism and other nature-centred paths can offer is an alternative to either the dogmatic formality of Christian ceremony, with its vows to God and in many cases, it’s frankly outdated patriarchal ideals (in traditional CoE and Catholic weddings, the bride has to vow to “obey” the groom – he of course makes no such vow to her); and to the spiritually absent governmental form-filling of purely secular events.
Being able to craft your own Rites of Passage, either yourself or with the guidance of a more experienced Druid, is a great gift and allows for real personal expression and celebration.
What new Rites of Passage could we create in modern Druidry? I can imagine a Druidry with rituals to mark coming out as LGBT+, ceremonies for gender transition, declarations of new names and pronouns, rites to bond chosen family together, rituals for adoption of children or animals, rites of connection to a specific place, initiations into particular paths or crafts, and so much more.
Druidry is never static as our lives are never static. Rites of Passage are by definition rituals of movement, of change, and so they too should move and change and grow and flourish in infinite diversity.
[Prompt from Alison Leigh Lilly’s 30 Days of Druidry]