PREFACE TO ‘THE DRUID SOURCE BOOK’ edited by JOHN MATTHEWS
The songs of our ancestors are also the songs of our children
It is natural to think that Druidry is something that existed in the distant past, and that some people have tried to re-create it in more recent times from the scattered remnants that can be found in literature and the inferences that can be drawn from linguistic and archaeological research. But this way of thinking is only meaningful to those who choose to deny the reality of the Spirit. If we believe that the spiritual world exists, then we will also believe that the source of any spiritual tradition lies in that world, rather than in the physical world of effects. Accepting this idea completely changes our relationship to literary source material: instead of seeing it as primary and causal, we see it as secondary and as a reflection of a hidden, primary source.
In the collection that follows, John Matthews has skilfully gathered together and introduced a selection of material relating to Druidry that, if we accept the argument just presented, is secondary rather than primary. As such, this collection will prove invaluable to any student of Druidry. But what of the primary sources? These, by definition, could not have been presented in any book, because they can only be found in places where we must set books aside – in places where both this world and the Otherworld are strongly present – by sacred springs and holy wells, by the sea-shore or in stone circles, beside great trees or strong mountains. When we open ourselves to these places, to the beauty and the splendour of the natural world, we discover the sources of inspiration for the Druid tradition. The elements speak to us, the ancestors speak to us, all of nature speaks to us – if we will hear her. We plunge into a realm of paradox in which the outer world leads us to the inner world, and in which that inner world teaches us to be fully present to the outer world. We discover that in responding to a call that we believed was from the past, we are in fact responding to a call that comes to us from the future. Druidry lives there in the future as an ideal, as a full flowering of our potential to live in complete harmony with nature and spirit.
If the source of Druidry lies in the future, as potential, and not in the past, as something dead and gone, then each of us is empowered to attempt to connect with that potential and express it as best as we can. If we succeed, we are blessed with Awen, inspiration. One of the goals of the Druid is to receive Awen (from the Welsh, meaning literally ‘flowing spirit’), and contemporary Druidry teaches many ways in which we can try to do this. As we receive Awen, hopefully it can flow through us to inspire others. This was and still is the task of the Bard – to be inspired to create and to perform in ways that bring inspiration to others. The Bard teaches us that Art as well as Nature is a primary source of spiritual nourishment, and as such the Bardic tradition forms an integral part of the wider tradition of Druidry.
If Druidry exists in the spiritual, archetypal world, and if it exists as potential and ideal in this realm, then each generation must attempt to connect with and express this ideal, potential, or archetype as best it can. Rather than the sources of Druidry moving ever further from us as we move forward in time, the reverse is actually the case – as we move forward in time our increased knowledge of the world and the psyche can enable us to more adequately reflect and express the ideals and images of Druidry that exist so potently in the spiritual realm.
This understanding can help us to make sense of much of the source material presented here. Without it, it may be hard to understand why there is such a revival of interest in Druidry today. With it, we can see how each generation has been intrigued by the ideas associated with Druidry, and how it has attempted to research and articulate its findings. And as we read, we can sense the outlines forming of a landscape, a Being, a tapestry, that is our heritage, a heritage of spiritual tradition that has existed for millennia and which is now being reclaimed so that the gift of its past can meet the potential of its future in the magic of this present moment.