Ok, this is really hard to say. I am not a Druid. Not me. Not really.
Isaac was the Druid. He was a Druid his entire adult life, and a Famous Druid at that, what with the RDNA and the NRDNA and The HDNA and the SDNA, founding ADF and all that. A veritable alphabet soup of a Druid was my late, beloved husband. Me, I was along for the ride.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I adore the Druids. The ADF people are amazing. I know if a ritual is being done by an ADF grove, it will be amazing, and will be worth attending. (Over my many years of Pagan wanderings, I have attended many sad little rituals. Sometimes they have been very grand but still sad little rituals. I would say, “You know who you are,” but, sadly, you probably don’t.) ADF also values scholarship, with a strong streak of “let’s get this right.” I find that sexy. Maybe that’s why I fell for the founder so hard.
Before I ever met Isaac, I was introduced to his work as a magician through his iconic work, Real Magic. In Chicago back in the day (1980s-90s), we called ourselves Magicians. We were definitely Pagan, but we tended to work with the Greco-Roman, Egyptian, Mesopotamian all-around-the-Mediterranean deities, all in a magico-religious context. The Celtic deities, not so much. I would venture to say, really, not at all. I was a bit put off, in fact, by some of the Celtic-focused folks I met, because they did not seem to have a clear grasp of their Gods. You know those books that were so popular for awhile (maybe they still are): Celtic Wicca, Norse Wicca, Whatever Wicca? They were pretty much the exact same book, but with the names of the Gods changed. That’s kinda how I felt about the Celtic Tradition Witches/Wiccans that I met.
(Before you go crazy on me, I am sure Chicago was crawling with Celtic Reconstructionist scholars plus RNDA, proto-ADF and ADF practitioners in those days. Those weren’t the people I was meeting.)
I think it’s because we were focused on a Pagan expression of the Western Mysteries, or the Western Esoteric Tradition, or however you like to describe the current. Everyone (my crowd, not necessarily your crowd) was at least familiar with the Golden Dawn, Aleister Crowley and Dion Fortune, not to mention Franz Bardon, Francis Barrett and Eliphas Levi. We were in the lineage (intellectual if not initiatory lineage) of classical Western European thought, which included a strong sense of the Classics, Greek and Roman.
Studying the classic myths (Edith Hamilton was required reading in 9th grade English) gave one the idea that stories about the Gods were coherent, that they had a beginning, middle and end. I could tell you stories about the Greek Gods, but the Celtic Gods confused me. There were cattle-rustling stories, there were attributes to the Gods, but not the kind of linear tales to which I was accustomed.
(I came later to understand that Hamilton was not concerned about religion, but with giving summaries of ancient plays and other literary works that draw upon mythology. To use a crude analogy, I shall explain the history and practice of Christianity to you by summarizing Ben-Hur.)
Of course, in my years of being consort to the ArchDruid, I’ve expanded my understanding of Celtic deity, and extended my comfort zone to Deities with attributes rather than dramas. Without a doubt working with Isaac at the end of his life gave me insights into Brigdet as healer. She came to me memorably during a ritual in our living room presided over by ADF’s current ArchDruid and other ADF clergy. She was there. She couldn’t help him as much as we wanted ( I’m sure all the magic done extended his life, but nothing could save it), but She was there for him.
So, though I sought out Isaac because of his work on magic, what I found was not a magician but a priest. His true calling was Priest, a role that elevated and transformed him. Just to see him in a Bardic circle singing his Hymn to Bridget or Hymn to the Morrigan would give me chills. He gave himself to his Goddesses and Gods.
But in all the years we were together, I did not participate in many Druid rituals with him. We were not a formal part of any group. Though we had our private magics and devotions, I was rarely able to travel with him, so I pretty much gave up my own public priesthood. The few times we did Druid ritual together, I would joke that he needed to poke me in the ribs when I was supposed to do something, so I could come up with something appropriate. (I’m a good enough improviser that I doubt many people ever knew I didn’t feel as if I knew what I was doing.)
Now, after Isaac’s passing, I feel a little uncomfortable with the Druid mantle on me. People invite me to do workshops on Druidism, or to lead Druid rituals. I can talk about Isaac and his Druidism, and I can participate in Druid rites, but there are many others out there far, far better qualified than I to lead either. I honor their skills and knowledge.
I went to a Bardic Circle last night in Greensboro, the first Bardic I’ve been to without him. I decided to sing the Hymn to Bridget in phonetic Irish. He always sang it at Bardics. He would sing the Irish verse, then (if I was able to be there) we’d sing the English together, then we’d sing the two languages together for a third verse. I remember his clear, strong voice and the look on his face when he sang. I doubt if I will ever sing it with the strength and confidence he did. I’m not much of a singer. I hope, however, to grow to do so with the devotion he did. I will sing it in his memory and in Her honor. That much of a Druid I can be.
This post made me cry. Thank you. I too feel as if I’m not really a druid from time to time. But it keeps calling me back. One day it will all jell together. I can feel it, but I’m not quite there yet.
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