Saturday, 6 March 2010

Disability and the Druid

It’s been a while. It’s a matter of energy. I have limited resources and must use those to best effect. That means that my various blogs get neglected. All of which prompted me to dust off this old piece, buff up the more tarnished bits, and post it here as my own way of saying, “I ATE’NT DEAD”

Amongst the many reasons that people choose to follow a lone, spiritual path is the fact that they are ‘disabled’ (and there’s a whole other discussion there). This often excludes them from any activity that involves travel, mixing with large groups, clambering across fields, drumming, and generally joining in with all the things that able-bodied souls can manage. Indeed, many of the activities of Groves and Orders seem not to be organised with the possibility that some of their members might be unable to cope.

This discrimination is not intentional (I cannot believe it would be done on purpose), but that does not make it any the less objectionable. Nor does it take into account the fact that the ‘disabled’ often hold a very different position in tribal cultures. Ancestral Celts had a highly developed social system that provided pensions for the sick along with medical care, hospitals, and a general obligation to care and provide for those who could not manage it for themselves. But they also recognized that being unable to walk or having problems coping with other people was often compensated for with other gifts.

It is true that becoming or retaining your position as tribal leader involved being physically perfect, but that was not so much discrimination as a recognition of the fact that the king or queen was meant to lead their warriors into battle and fight. This could not be done properly with an arm missing – although there are always notable exceptions to be found in Celtic myth and legend.

However, the true value of those we now call ‘disabled’ was in their contribution to an understanding of the spiritual world. Being confined by a body or mind that does not work in the same way as the majority of people often allows the time and means to explore the worlds from a completely different perspective. Indeed, some cultures regard some forms of ‘disability’ as a gift. My own has certainly allowed me to pursue ideas and activities that would otherwise have been closed to me. And whilst I would rather be without the constant pain and fatigue (to say nothing of the constant battles with the benefits system), I know I am privileged to have been given the opportunity to go wandering in the Forest of my mind, even if the woodland close by where I live is largely closed to me.

If there is a lesson to be learned from this, it is that the major disability faced by the disabled is not that missing leg, mysterious disease, or mental problem. It is a society that is so disinterested in what falls outside the strict norms of its materialistic aims, that it refuses to accommodate the vision and contribution that the ‘disabled’ can undoubtedly make.


Pom said...

Thank you. That's all I need to say because you've quite neatly said the rest. :o)

Graeme K Talboys said...


ShropshirePagan said...

I've got a few friends with debilities/disabilities and yes, lots of pagan groups DO meet in places like the top of a hill - and at the moment I'm empathising because of recovering from a chest infection which is impeding my ability to explore. I do find what books of yours I've read so fare incredibly inspiring though Graeme x

Graeme K Talboys said...

Many thanks, SP. There are some more Druid books in the pipeline. It's just a very long pipeline at present.

Pom said...

Just thought I'd pop by and give a nudge. :o) Missing these posts but I know you've been busy with other endeavors.

A suburban druid said...

Subject close to my heart at the moment as arthritis seems to be eating up one of my knees. I have always been a solitary type, but just occasionally its nice to crawl out of the hedge to play. Not easy when walking is difficult