First published by, January 2014

Well it’s a new year, a new start, with all the hopes that it brings fresh in our minds. Of course, in various places around the world the new year starts at an entirely different time – a reminder that not everyone sees things in the same way or does things in the same way either.

Unfortunately, as the Europeanised countries enter another year, that transition has been marred by violence and war in many places around the globe. In many cases this has been religious in nature – between members of one religion against another, but also internal conflict between two or more factions within a single religion. Most of us are already aware of what those conflicts are, although some are less heavily publicised than others, so I won’t waste time discussing them.

What I would like to point out is that all of the major religions of the world advocate peaceful living. It has been suggested by some that both modern and ancient Paganism is inherently violent, just as the same accusation has been levelled against Islam. In both cases this is not the case, although it is entirely true that Pagans and Muslims have often been involved in violence and war over the course of history.

A history of violence can also be found in Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism etc. despite the fact that all of these religions do not advocate violence or killing as a way of life. As a Pagan Druid I have chosen to follow a particular set of beliefs – I would describe myself as a Celtic Pantheist (although strictly I am a Henotheist) and a Gnostic. Much as this is my path of choice, I am well aware that my choice is no more valid or correct than anybody else’s and hence the idea of inflicting violence upon someone else due to their differing views seems ridiculous.

Some Druids are far more eclectic than I am and I might not personally favour their beliefs or practices, however that does not mean I do not respect their right to interpret ‘being a Druid’ in their own unique way. The same thinking I extend to all other religions and spiritual paths – something I think that spiritually minded people the world over should benefit from. Druidry and Buddhism do not prohibit people from including aspects of other spiritualities unlike some others that are strictly anti-syncretic.

In truth, all religions I know of are to some extent syncretic in that they have been influenced at some point by other religions. Unfortunately dogmatic, blind followers often fail to realise this truth and sometimes also adhere to dogmatic corruptions that enable them to justify terrible acts that go against the core teachings of their own faith. As a modern Druid I feel that tolerance and love is a key part of my own path, just as it should also be in all spiritual paths. If we are ever going to see peace in the world we all need to return to the real fundamentals of our faiths, not fundamentalism as misguided dogmatism. One can only hope that collectively we will all find the grace to do just that.