Fábio Barbosa

On becoming a Bard

I often ask myself what is it that makes Druidry what it is. Or rather, what makes Neo-Druidry such a different path from others, especially considering the many influences it shares with other currents of spirituality. Setting aside for a moment the seminal divide between Revival Druidry and Reconstructionist and/or Polytheist Druidry, which I personally think are often complementary as seen in some individuals’ practice, I prefer to ask what is the finality of being and calling oneself a Druid. What good it is to all beings that you practice this path in particular. And more specifically, how can one manifest in the world certain typical roles of a Druid in our current world, in our jobs, in our daily, overtly connected, ever interrupted lives, much unlike the priestly classes of old.

One of my basic intuitions on what the core of Druidry might be is that a Druid is someone who acknowledges the inherent power of story and poetry. Of a story well told. Many books have been written on the subject, and I might just add a volume of my own to the list, eventually. In fact, in several (Revival) Neo-Druid orders today, the role of the Bard is conflated with the Druid archetype, and their curricula tend to be organised in three degrees, with the Ovate aspect usually appearing somewhere in between. So bardistry appears to be something of tremendous importance for many walking the Druid path, and we are often told to develop our Bardic skills, either through writing or singing, storytelling or crafts, with some drama and psychology thrown in for good measure.

But not all of us consider themselves to be artists. Few of us can actually earn a living from their artistic pursuits, and meanwhile our daily routine goes on with its usual way of convincing us our spirituality is something we do as a side dish of actual life. The hard working, responsible, dull life slowly killing us. And besides, instead of going on to learn a few dozen poems by heart or learning how to play the harp like the “real” Bards, we are advised to practice meditation and visualisation, and practice them daily or as much as often, work with the elements, learn about a couple of myths… And indeed, if one has the time, write some more than usual and perhaps learn a new craft.

What is it that makes the Bardic degree in a tradition like the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids anything different from being a Neophyte in any other Hermetic school of mysteries available today? I mean, members of AMORC also believe in a perennial Order within the world on par with the Order without, receive monographs in the mail and have meditation exercises to learn and practice. The four classical elements and the concept of performing ritual in a circle is taken straight out of ceremonial, Judeo-Christian inspired magic, way before Wicca even existed. And Qaballah? Well, much of the basic philosophy you will learn from Neo-Druidry might drip from the sephiroth of the Tree of Life, but that would be quite an alien framework for the ancient peoples of Northwestern Europe to work with. Even if they were indeed proponents of monism.

Ours is a broken path we keep on mending and rebuilding with blocks of unpredicted sizes and shapes as we stumble upon them on the road. Like most new Nature-based traditions anyway. So what kind of Druidry and what kind of Bardistry is this?

For me, even if you are not an artist, being a Bard today means living life like the best of artists. The artist who acknowledges how powerful and magic words can be. And gestures. And actions. The artist who is aware they are in a constant performance upon the Earth, in and out of stage, 9 to 5 or when commuting, and maybe even asleep. The artist who knows who they are and therefore is not really concerned about the results. Who tells their story unashamed, with assertiveness and a vengeance, regardless of whether it changes altogether the next day. Because it will. The artist is the great I AM who knows they have the authority to retell, refashion, rebuild the world.

To me a Bard is this artist who is greater than life. Who is an Other like the many Goddesses and is unafraid of their otherness. Bards live faithful to themselves and their actual identity, with a constant grip of their abundantly fruitful bodies here on Earth, transparent and ever-flowing like water, free like the roaming wind, intense like burning flames. A Bard will always surrender to the Divine hound in the end of the chase, because the final stroke on their masterpiece will always lie beyond their amazing shapeshifting abilities. A Bard surrenders and lets go with the most ardent of desires.

A Bard is a chameleon, a trickster, a prophet. They glow like the midnight sun. Or a blackstar. Whether they are a Druid or not.