The novelist Barbara Erskine writes of her experience
‘When I was a child I set up an altar in woodland at the bottom of the garden. on it I put a little gold cross wedged into a lump of plasticine. Now, many years later, I realise this was a first expression of leanings towards what I now recognise as druidic Christianity, or Christian Druidism.
I came from a Church of England family and went to a school which worshipped daily in the chapel. Faith foundered however when I studied history at university. I encountered for the first time Christianity’s downside: it had been too much mediated by politics, cruelty, misogyny and fundamentalism, caring little for Jesus’s teachings of tolerance and love; it seemed to encourage exploitation of the natural world and it used the heavy hand of guilt rather than love to corral its followers. Like many others I questioned and fell away.
When I discovered Druidry it was a homecoming into a philosophy which encompassed all that I held dear and it brought me into the western spiritual tradition, something which had been part of my soul without my realising it. My world was animistic. I had always prayed to the one God and all the gods, feeling that that expressed my true beliefs even though I was not comfortable with wholesale paganism. The last thing I expected was for my studies and meditations to illumine and rekindle my struggling Christian faith. Or that they would reconcile my certainties about a supernatural world of nature spirits, ghosts and energies which seemed to be unchristian, into a church which included angels and archangels and all the company of heaven.
Druidry acted as a change of focus; a personal reinterpretation; an altered attitude. It shone a beam of light into a monochrome landscape and reminded me of an ancient church where Celtic saints had called blessings onto rain-soaked hills, where St Kevin allowed a blackbird to nest on his hand, where Brighid was both goddess and saint, a church where Our Lady was also the Star of the Sea, a blessed feminine warmth which a more puritan faith had distanced. Ancient prayers took on deeper meanings for me. Now the Benedicite read like a Celtic hymn.
The druidical circle of seasons was there within the liturgy, sacred geometry was there, though forgotten by most, as were the healing energies of stone and stained glass and the mysticism of ancient words.
Historians and theologians may find the belief untenable but I like the idea of long-ago druids segueing neatly with the changing focus of the heavens into a Celtic Christianity. It feels right.
My practice of meditation evolved naturally back into one of regular prayer and though prayer can happen every- and any where I set up a small altar of my own again. In its centre I have a beautiful statue made by a friend, of the Blessed Virgin, not a meek, mild obedient role model, but Queen of Heaven, with crown and royal robes. On her knee is the Christ child. At the four corners of the altar I have put symbols of earth air fire and water. There is a Celtic cross there, and flowers. Sometimes I have incense. Sometimes meditation oils. Sometimes this is the centre of my druid rituals. I use it as a place to pray, to meditate and to listen. Unorthodox? Probably. But it makes perfect sense to me.’