Why the Druid Remembrance Ritual?
I am not certain what I think of war.
Oh, I have views on it, but they fluctuate. I am at heart a pacifist. As a boy with (as I only knew later in life) Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome the chances of me winning a school fight were remote. I bruise easily and cut nearly as easily. I never picked fights anyway but that doesn’t stop you getting on the other side of them. So, instinctively, I became a pacifist.
Politically I find I don’t agree with war mongering, from Thatcher and the Falkland’s through to Blair and Iraq , Afghanistan , and now our eyes are again on the Middle East. But it’s easy to be once removed, either by decision making or being in a different country. Economically I’d close down most military spending as there are better things to spend the nation’s money on.
But what if we were to be invaded? Don’t I want protection, from a local police officer through a secret service, up to trained military personnel, all who would protect my body, my family, my communities, my rights, my humanity and my Britishness?
What happens if, regardless of what I and others think, we end up in an armed conflict? Not the stereotypical ‘both sides press a red button then we wait two minutes for the bang’ type. The type with guns, tanks, bayonets, artillery, blood, guts, death at your bare hands? Do I want protecting from them? In the heat of battle and with the fear of injury and the stink of death I would probably cry out for it, but I don’t know.
I am of a generation who can remember elders saying things along the lines of “I fought in a war for the likes of you” when we did something hippyish, avant-garde, non-conformist, radical or just plain unconventional. This type of comment could have been aimed at long haired wierdos (me) or even shaven headed skins (not me). This simplistic response from people who came back from Word War 2 hides layers of complexity however.
They did, indeed, fight for the likes of me. That is for future generations, and for those generations to express themselves as they see fit. Freedom of speech and activity is sustained because of their efforts. We live the lives we lead now, with the advances we take advantage of and the luxuries we enjoy because we fought to keep the British land free of (in that instance) Hitler and the Nazi’s. Would we express Druidry at all today? Would Hitler have invaded even if we hadn’t jumped into the conflict at all?
Put me back then and I wouldn’t have volunteered. I would have fought shy of conscription. I might have become a contentious observer. I don’t honestly know. How can I? Does that diminish the cost of the lives of the men and women who did die in WWII? I would not want it to.
There is a saying which I will paraphrase that says “the cost of even one life is an affront to God”. I believe that, but I also understand that lives are lost regardless. It is this idea that is central to my thoughts now. I do not BLAME anyone. I do not celebrate war. However, I do commemorate the fallen.
Next year (2014), as is patently obvious by simple mathematics, it will be 100 years from the start of the Great War. This was the war to end all wars. But it didn’t It got relabelled WWI because it didn’t. And we had WW2, Suez , Egypt / Palestine , Falklands, Desert Storm, Vietnam , El Salvador/Honduras, Iraq, Afghanistan – the list goes on.
1914 – This was a watershed. It was liminal point in both history and technology, where we commenced (whether you agree with the reasons behind Britain ’s involvement in the Great War or not) to fight the first modern battle with ancient ideas and inappropriate technology. This was a main reason for the dramatic and exorbitant loss of life.
It was a war that heralded a greater revulsion or opposition to such conflict, which had not been seen in the UK before through our ‘proud’ military past and our Empire forging. But it did not stop the endless killing for 4 years.
To me, and my limited thinking, those who lost their lives in that conflict are those who first ‘fought in a war for the likes of me’ whether they knew it or not. I honour their commitment and sacrifice. Druidry has taught me that that there is always a journey and a sacrifice. Isn’t that a description of monumental events like the Great War? Moreover it is signally true for all those who left these shores never to return alive. It is true for those who survived and who were left behind.
I would envisage Orders, and Groves , and organisations and bodies, and networks and all manner of pagans, individuals, and collectives to be there, with banners and flags. I want us, yes, to say ‘never again’ but to realistically and pragmatically look back to those who died with thanks if we can manage it, but with sorrow if we cannot. I see this opportunity as a point where modern druids can evidence their own growing maturity and publicly show the nation what and who we are.
A druid ritual will be devised to be enacted on the day. There will be requirements for people to take part, from calling for peace, through the calling of the quarters, the casting of the sacred space, readings, music and poetry and much more.
There will be two presiders, a priest and priestess, to be announced in due course [currently Emma Restall Orr & Geoff Boswell].
We are hoping that Druid Orders, groves, groups, individuals and other organisations will attend and would ask your help in achieving this. I hope for a united druid event in the spirit that the Druid Forum was originally set up for by the BDO and OBOD way back when. Interfaith cooperation and attendance is also earnestly sought. We’d like flags and banners and all sorts of colour and spectacle there. I had thought of approaching the media as this is an occasion for druidry to show it has matured and can take its place with vigour, respect and responsibility in the modern age. It is not an occasion to celebrate warfare. We honour the fallen. We had hoped to help raise a modest sum for the Peace Pledge Union (White Poppies), and maybe Animal Aid (Purple Poppies).
A ritual will need to be written and devised, with participants approached or nominated, with contributions suggested, commissioned and accepted, so any thoughts or ideas would be welcome.
We would like:
An order/grove/group of 4 to 6 people to call peace,
An order/grove/group of 4 people to open and another to close the quarters,
A ‘bugler’ or similar for the last post
Readers, speakers and contributors (and their contributions)
Musicians and Singers (and their contributions)
Dancers(and their contributions)
We are specifically asking you for your personal and ‘professional’ support as this will be a first for modern druidry, certainly in the UK, and we have the opportunity to represent ourselves to the wider world. I most certainly wish for OBOD, the BDO, the Pagan Federation, and The Druid Network to be represented at the event, along with one and all.
We hope to see as many druids – and others – as we can get there, carrying those banners and flags, all with the intent of honouring the fallen of the Great War. If you have any offers for the eisteddfod section then please contact us. If you fancy taking one of the roles mentioned above then again please contact us.
We will have a collection on the day for the Peace Pledge Union (white poppies).