Dedication, Devotion and Duty

Mar 26th, 2014 | By | Category: Articles


joannaSpring has sprung, and everything, myself included, seems to be go going throttle.  My garden is awash in a sea of yellow daffodils and forsythia, contrasted by the purples and pinks of grape hyacinths, hellebore and crocuses.  The birds are singing their heart out, the owls are very active at night and the air is tingling with the anticipation of warm summer days to come.

And yet I must remind myself to slow down, to savour the moment, to remember my intention for this year; to take a step back and focus on studying, learning and personal development.  Speaking engagements and workshops are kept to a minimum, and I’ve learned to say “no” in order to keep to my resolution.  My third book for Moon Books, a guide for solitary Druid, is in its proofing stages, and after that is done I shall be able to work on a long neglected fourth project; a pagan fiction centred around Avalon.  My focus is set, my path is determined.

As I walked a turf labyrinth with three lovely sister souls before the spring equinox this year, three words kept thrumming through my veins and in my head as I made my way to the centre.  Dedication. Devotion. Duty.  I felt them vibrate in my very soul, the words reminding me of what it means to be a Druid, even when you’re a Druid that’s taking a year off from ceremonial work and other engagements.

These three things are central to my personal Druidry.  Without them, I cannot rightly call myself a Druid.

Dedication – this word has so many slightly varying meanings and applications.  I am dedicated to my gods, to my path, to the land where I live, to my family and to my community.  The word, dedicate comes from the latin dedicare – to declare, to devote, to indicate and consecrate.  I declare to all my spiritual path in the usage of the word Druid.  I indicate my intentions to follow that path through my words and, more importantly, my actions.  The world to me is consecrate – there is no unsacred place. Through how I live my life; I demonstrate my dedication to being a Druid.  Everything that I do reflects my Druid worldview.  I am utterly dedicated to this life path, feeling it stir my passion and fill me with awen.

In our society today, dedication can seem a bit off-putting.  If someone is dedicated to a cause, they may sometimes appear a bit too outside of the status quo.  It can have connotations of fanaticism (another word that’s meaning has changed since its original latin origin).  If I tell someone that I am dedicated to my gods, whether they are pagan or not, I can get some pretty odd looks. A lot of people may think that when I say this, I am giving over my entire life to another.  This is not the case – this is using the inspiration from the gods, from the land, from the land, sea and sky to guide me to living a harmonious, more holistic life utterly attuned with nature.  If I gave my life over to my gods I would not be able to function.  I have free will. I am dedicated to them and their teachings through the natural cycles, but dedication does not equal submission.

Devotion is intrinsically related to dedication.  From the latin devovere, it means to vow formally.  Taking my dedication to Druidry, I make a formal declaration with my devotion.  It is linked to words such as temple and consecration – and being a devotee of Nemetona this has especially strong meaning for me.  Every act that I do either ritually or in everyday life can show my devotion to my path.  Being as aware as I can, I can live with my actions being full of intent – from washing the dishes to writing this blog.  Each act, if done with devotion, can be dedicated to the life path.  In doing acts with devotion, it means we walk our talk.

Again, if I publically declare my devotion I may get some odd looks. I don’t mind – I’m used to it, all things considered.  My devotion to my life path is what keeps me going even through the darkest nights of the soul.  When I see the death and destruction, the ignorant and not so ignorant devaluing of the natural world, the carelessness with which some people lead their lives – devotion is what keeps me from crumbling under, keeps from saying “sod it then”.  My devotion to the gods and to the ancestors of future generations to come keeps me on the straight and narrow, when I may otherwise be tempted to slack off on some duties, in my lifestyle and in the choices I make.

Duty is another word that can send people running. I often relate the word to that of discipline – yet another word that has gotten a bad reputation in my view.  Taken from the word due, duty is closely related to that which we owe, to that which we have a responsibility. A former teacher of mine, Emma Restall Orr, once described responsibility as the ability to respond, and that message I have taken to heart.  Duty means to act when we are able to act.  It means relegating any passivity to the dark and dusty corners of the mind, and enabling us to say and do what we feel is right.  As a Druid, I work to make the world a better place, a more harmonious union with the natural world, taking my inspiration from it.  It is my duty, my ability to act and respond to the world in ways that I feel are honourable in order for the balance to be upheld.

The gods, the land and the ancestors guide me in this duty, in this obligation to live a life more attuned with nature and to find the balance between being a human and being a part of the whole.  As a homo sapien sapien, the being who is aware that it is aware, I am obligated to act accordingly. I only wish the rest of the world, with its armies and corrupt politicians, polluting industries and other travesties could remind themselves of our own species label.  We no longer act with awareness; if we did we would not be destroying this planet or fighting wars with no meaning.  We would not segregate ourselves by race and class, gender or any other means.  If we lived with a sense of duty to the world, perhaps our species’ moral compass in general would be better off.

Duty to me is also to live in service – it is the debt that we owe for being alive. We are not alive by ourselves; other beings brought us into existence, forces beyond our control.  By the mere fact of being alive I am in service to that which both brought me into existence as well as that which maintains my existence.  I am obliged to my family for raising me, for providing me with love and comfort, protection and security. I am bound by ties of blood to care for my family when they are in need. Equally so, I am obliged to the environment for providing me with food and water, air and sunlight, and I should care for it as it has provided for me.  I live in reciprocity – that is central to my life.  Whether it is in daily offerings, working for my local community, providing instruction, ritual space or other services for those in the pagan community, caring for the land where I live, caring for the planet as whole – in all these I perform my duty.

And so, in my year of study and reflection, of pondering philosophy and ecology, of finding where I fit in the world – these three words keep ringing in my head.  They are, to me, what it means to be a Druid. To me, they reflect what it means to walk the talk, to live with intention and respect, honour and integrity. They are not words to be feared, or words to be taken lightly – they are words to guide us when we might falter, to uphold our beliefs and to make this world a better place.

To me, these three words are sacred.

Joanna van der Hoeven is a Druid, the Director of a Belly Dance Company, a Marketing Officer for a music company and an author. She was born in Canada and moved to the UK in 1998. Her philosophy on life is simple – live it. Fully and as aware as you can. Don’t go with the flow. Be the flow itself. She lives in East Anglia, UK. To find out about Joanna’s book or to purchase online click on the image below…

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