Reflections on “Living Druidry: Magical spirituality for the wild soul,” Emma Restall Orr

LivingDruidryI realised that in my studies of Paganism, I’d read quite a bit on Wicca, Shinto and general Paganism, but little on Druidry. As Druidry is a major branch of Paganism yet one I don’t know so much about, I thought I’d investigate this path further. So I read Living Druidry: Magical spirituality for the wild soul by Emma Restall Orr as a start.

Initially, I had some issues with this book. Although it’s been promoted by its publishers as something of an instructional guide to Druidry, that is not what it is at all. Rather than getting cleanly laid-out chapters on the Whats and Hows of Druidry, I instead got a series of personal mini essays on what it is to be a Druid, interspersed with italicised, present-tense accounts of Druidic experiences. This made me very frustrated, as I felt that I wasn’t getting a clear understanding of Druidry at all.

But Living Druidry demonstrates that perseverance and re-reading can sometimes yield rewards. After my first unsuccessful read-through, I decided to give it another go. This time round, without prior expectations of it being an instructional text, I found I understood its messages a lot more.

Orr views Druidry as a shamanic form of Paganism, in which deepening one’s connection with nature in all its forms is the prime focus. Living Druidry is less about how one achieves this, and more about the philosophies surrounding such a lifestyle. In fact, I found this book to be an interesting exploration of what spirituality itself is, rather than specifically Druidry. Some of the messages of this book I found that resonated with me in particularly include:

  • Psychology can sometimes be overly dismissive of the spiritual experience
  • “Faith” is not necessary in order to be spiritual (“Instead of faith, what the tradition teaches is trust.”)
  • Druidry encourages “child-like” simplicity in one’s worldview
  • Historical practices in Paganism are not necessary to validate practices now
  • All of nature is sacred and beautiful – including viruses – and there are no dual forces of good and evil
  • It’s natural to feel guilty or selfish about spending time at one’s altar, but it is important for individual spiritual well-being
  • The ideas of “fertility” and “creation” are much broader than the archetype of male-female union

The book’s style reflects the spiritual lifestyle it promotes – personal, flowing, and contemplative, with no absolutes. Orr’s writing is pleasant and simple, with a lot of consideration for the diversity that exists in Druidry. But while Orr is undoubtedly a philosopher, I’m not so sure that she is an “instructor.” Living Druidry gave me a lot of food for thought, but not so much a clear idea of exactly what Druidry is. But I suspect that is Orr’s intention – she doesn’t want to give an absolute definition of Druidry, but let us find our own path.

One aspect of Living Druidry that I didn’t find very useful, even in the second reading, were the italicised accounts that read like journal entries, which break up the chapters. I’m not sure why Orr included them exactly – they are not given any context which means it’s hard to understand what they’re about, and they disrupt the otherwise gentle flow of the text. My advice to readers who find them distracting is to ignore them completely – I don’t think they really add anything to the messages in the book.

Although Living Druidry presents a very interesting interpretation of the Druidic path, I got the overall impression that it does not give us the whole story; it focuses mainly on personal experiences rather than analysing historical forms of Druidry or Shamanism in other cultures. I feel that if one wants to know more about Druidry, Living Druidry makes an interesting read on the subject, but you’ll probably want to read more conventional texts of a more historical/anthropological/instructional nature in order to get a more complete idea.

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