St. George and the Druid

Apr 23rd, 2018 | By | Category: Articles
Jennifer Uzzell, St. George and the Druid

St. George and the Dragon, Paolo Uccello. Mid Fifteenth Century

Today is St. George’s day, and also marks the birth of a new royal. I have been watching the responses to this on social media during the day and reflecting on how I feel about this most controversial of saint’s days.

The fact that the celebration is based on the celebration of a Christian saint who was certainly not English, never visited England and may not have been real is really not the issue for me. While I consider myself a Druid first and foremost (although what exactly that term means is itself somewhat difficult to tie down) but I certainly have no problem with Christianity or, on occasion, participating in Christian ritual and liturgy. Besides, I have always had quite a bit of time for the theory that ties the legend of St George to the god Mithras. The question of weather this is a religious celebration or not is a tricky one. While it is, certainly, historically, a celebration of a Christian saint, most people today would not necessarily see it in that way, viewing it instead as a celebration of all things ‘English’…whatever that means. Using the definition of ‘religion’ or more accurately ‘religioning’ that I suggested in my last blog, I would argue that what most people who celebrate the day are doing could best be described as religioning, but I suspect that most would reject that description out of hand. But that is, perhaps, besides the point.

I have been watching the reactions to St George’s day on social media and what I have seen falls broadly into two categories. Either (less commonly in my particular ‘bubble’) the flag waving nationalism that asserts the greatness and general superiority of England and the English, defined in more or less inclusive terms; or a rejection of this, along with the suggestion that ‘Englishness’ with its negative and colonial connotations is not something we should be celebrating at all.

After due consideration, and following some interesting discussions at a Druid gathering I attended last weekend, I find myself rejecting both of these extremes. I feel drawn, and perhaps today is an appropriate time to do so, to celebrate the land n which I live and which I call home. I feel a deep love for, and pride in my land; and here I wish to draw a clear distinction between the land, as a living entity that bore me; the land that is woven together out of a thousand thousand stories of all the people, human and otherwise, that have lived and died on her; and the country. The country, defined as a nation state, is something in which I struggle to take pride at the moment. The nation values the needs and desires of the rich and the corporate over the needs of the ordinary people. Austerity and ‘welfare reform’ are resulting in real suffering and, sometimes, in death. People who should be welcomed are excluded and treated as strangers and corporations, on a tiny island seek to blast fuel out of the living rock. The country does this, and the land weeps. And so, today, I do not celebrate my country, lost as it is; but I do celebrate my land.  To me, it is an important distinction. It is easy to feel helpless and powerless. To watch the weak downtrodden and the rich and powerful act unjustly, apparently with impunity and to feel we can do nothing. I have been feeling this a lot recently. However, what we can all do, and must do, is to act to make the area immediately around us, the circle of our friends and family, our towns, cities and villages; even our neighbourhoods,  our local ecosystems of plants animals and trees as safe, just and joyful as we can. Every tiny victory is significant. Everything we do to make our worlds a tiny bit better counts. Every time we bear witness to injustice and refuse to do so in silence the world becomes better; and the more of us who do it the better it becomes. There is a wonderful quotation that I have printed out and next to my desk at work. It goes like this:

Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world’s grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work; but neither are you free to abandon it.’

It is often, incorrectly, attributed to the Jewish Talmud but at the end of the day it does not really matter where or who it comes from, its power is the same, and it has kept me going through many difficult days.

So this is my St. George’s day celebration, to express my love for the land and to work in however small a way towards a day when the nation is worthy of the land that bears it.

And what of the dragon? Since I can remember I have felt sorry for the dragon. I tend to see dragons as lines and flows of energy within the land; something we should be seeking to honour and reconnect with rather than to slay for our own convenience. I cannot help feeling that a world where St. George and the dragon put aside their differences and sat down for a chat over a nice cup of tea and biscuits would be a much better world to live in…and you can’t get much more English than that.

As I drove into work today, I heard Ralph McTell’s ‘England’ on the radio, and it pretty much sums up everything I think I am trying to say. You can listen to it here.

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One Comment to “St. George and the Druid”

  1. Hazel Uzzell says:

    Very well expressed and touched many chords with me.

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