Over at my regular blog, I’ve been contemplating the place of the Druid as someone who undertakes to have a foot in both camps, wherever there are two things that seem in opposition to each other. My initial theme was of nature and civilization, but the issues of introvert and extrovert working certainly come into play here too. (Read here if you want to see where I’ve already been with this.)
There is a service aspect to Druidry – as a ritual celebrant, teacher, or bard, a fair amount of extroversion is called for. You need to be willing to get up there in public and draw a lot of attention, be the focus and make your voice carry. There’s a huge performance aspect to ritual work, and if you have one of those big circles of over a hundred people – not unusual in open rituals – you need projections skills, a larger than life presence and a capacity for a bit of theatre. Go into that as anything other than a total extrovert, and not only will you have a hard time, but the odds of doing the job well are slim.
To teach, or to lead in any way requires a lot of engaging with people. It’s not enough to get up front for an hour and lecture, either, people will seek you out to talk, question, explore. Sometimes the media seek you out too. Call yourself a Druid in public and people will expect you to act like one, offering ideas, opinions, wisdom and insight, being willing to lead a thing or run a thing. If you are neither able nor willing to do those things, then it might be safer to self identify as a student of Druidry, and keep your head below the parapet a while longer.
However, Druidry is not all about the big public show. What are you going to say, in the circle, or at the podium? What are you going to teach? If all you do is cheery extrovert play in public spaces, you won’t have any content. You might be able to manage the surface of a public Druid but will have no depth or content to back it up with. Enter the introvert side of the equation.
Druids learn by listening. Not just to each other, but to the wind and the birds, the land, the ancestors, the spirits of place. Meditation, contemplation, and an ever deepening relationship with the natural world are key parts of this. That all calls for quality time alone. You need to sit silently, walk quietly, step away from human concerns. You may need to go hermit-like to the cave to meditate, or disappear into the wilderness now and then. You can’t teach others about nature religion if you don’t know what nature is. You can’t share a path based on self awareness, conscious choice and honourable behaviour, without first searching your own soul. The thread of introverted work is critically important.
In practice, most dedicated Druids will spend time shifting between the two. Many will have a preference, but both are necessary. If you come to understand deep mystery, it’s not enough to do that for yourself, you have to bring it back and try to share it. That’s a vital difference between a service-oriented path like Druidry and a quest for personal enlightenment. If all you want is personal enlightenment, you can walk the inward path of the introvert, and never need to find any means to share that. I’m sure that path has many names, but Druidry isn’t one of them.
There’s a balancing act in this way of working. That’s why I like the mythic image of the man with one foot on a goat and the other on a well. It’s a precarious place to stand, but often necessary. Doing the aspect of the work that does not come naturally may make hefty demands, but if you enter a path with a service aspect, you expect this. The demands will stretch and develop you, allowing you to go further and do more. The questions of students will stimulate your own learning. Everything feeds into everything else.
It is important to remember that the ideas of introvert and extrovert are human constructs. They are tidy ways of thinking about human nature. However, human nature, like the rest of nature, is not innately tidy. Technically, tomatoes are fruits, and a koala bear is not a bear. Technically. When we name and classify, we do so for our own convenience but nature was not designed to make life easy for biologists and psychologists.
In a spiritual life, balance is so often hard wired into what we’re trying to do. Inner peace is all about balance. Stare at any religious system long enough and you’ll see that same pattern – how to live a balanced, and functional life. The most innately introverted person still needs times of human engagement. The wildest extrovert equally needs to pause and reflect now and then. There’s a lot to be said for watching out for differences between what is actually your nature, and what you’ve taken from your culture and internalised. We like our labels. They tell us where we fit. The only trouble is that none of them fit.
I for one am an applause-hungry extrovert who craves attention at least a couple of times a week, whilst holding a deep need for regular periods of solitude and silence. I am both an extrovert and introvert, or neither, or something else, depending on how you choose to look at it. I think in practice, most of us are, and need to be.