Political Druids?

“Vote for the future you want to see. Vote for what matters most to you. Vote like lives depend on it – because they do” – Nimue Brown.

I was inspired by Nimue Brown’s excellent post at Druid Life on Druidry and Politics (which you should go and read right now…I’ll wait), to re-share my thoughts on the more political dimensions of Druidry, which I originally posted back in 2016 on my previous blog, Endless Erring. So here it is, slightly edited for clarity:

There’s been some discussion on various Druid groups online since *the election* [Note: this referred at the time to Trump’s election in the USA, but is, sadly, still relevant to the election here in the UK right now] about how much Druids, or Druidry, should be involved in politics, with some suggesting a position of neutral detachment is the only appropriate one to take.

As I have mentioned before, I do think that Druidry has an inherently political dimension. While I am a passionate advocate of the separation of religion from governmental policy-making, it is impossible to separate our deepest held beliefs from our political opinions. The two are intertwined.

Looking at the ancient Druids, from whom we take inspiration if not direct continuity, their role was a political one. They were advisors to powerful chiefs and leaders and adjudicators on matters of law, trade and military strategy. We of course cannot go back to that today, nor would I want to. But we can take a thread of inspiration from the ancients and apply it to our Druidry today. Every time we lobby our elected representatives, whether through voting, writing campaigns, protest marches, direct action, we are acting in the spirit of the ancient Druids, offering our advice to those who lead.

The Druid’s Prayer, a staple in modern Druidry since Iolo Morganwg, talks about “the knowledge of justice”, “the love of it” and “the love of all existences”. At a plain reading this is a clarion call for a Druidry that is engaged in the social-political process, that is involved in issues of social and ecological justice. Iolo himself was a radical reformer, and he was well aware of the political dimensions of his Druidry.

Another Druid saying talks about “the truth against the world”, suggesting that Druids have a responsibility to stand up for the truth even when it isn’t popular. This is similar to the idea of “speaking truth to power”. In a political world where pathological liars are elected into high office, and which journalists are describing as a “post-truth” society, then it is all the more important that we take this call seriously, that we stand up for the truth against the world. This includes the scientific truth of climate change, and the social truth of oppressed minorities.

My issue with the idea of detached neutrality is that Druids are only “true neutral” in Dungeons and Dragons. Modern Druidry is not a spirituality, religion or philosophy that seeks to escape from the world, or be apart from it. Druidry is a roll-your-sleeves-up, get-stuck-in, this-world-centred lifeway that emphasises the sacredness of this earth, this life, this humanity.

This is not a worldview that says let’s all go and meditate on a mountaintop and disconnect from society. This is a worldview that asks for engagement with the world around us. In modern society, this social engagement is called politics.

To be neutral in the face of a resurgent tide of fascism, racism, sexism, environmental destruction and evil is to condone it. It is to say that you don’t care about minorities, you don’t care about the planet, you don’t care about war or hatred. This does not sound like the Druidry I know and love.

Edmund Burke said “for evil to triumph it is only necessary for good men to do nothing”.

Those of us moderns who are arrogant enough to claim any part of the ancient title of Druid need also to accept the responsibilities that come with that, and stand for truth, for justice and for “the love of all existences”.

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