I don’t believe in mere coincidence. The gears of chance and synchronicity move us all. So when Nimue Brown (blogger at Druid Life) shared her musings on Steampunk Druids on the very same day that our Faith, Fern & Compass podcast episode on Steampunk Magic aired, it got my attention. I’ve been a fan of Nimue’s writing for quite a while, and every so often I’d caught mentions of her interest in steampunk, especially when it came to her work on the Hopeless Maine comic project. I was absolutely thrilled to discover that I wasn’t the only one out there exploring the overlap between steampunk and Druidry. So I asked her to share some more of her thoughts here. And this awesome guest post you see before you is the result. Enjoy!
Steampunk Druidry for Social Revolution
By Nimue Brown
I’ve been looking for a place to stand for some time now. There’s the whole theory that with the right position and a big enough lever, you could move the world. I’m not interested in moving it, more changing it, but that lever and place to stand metaphor holds up passably. There are so many things wrong out there, from attitudes to the planet to social norms and gender politics, beliefs about money and responses to poverty… I could go on. There is a vast amount that needs to change for us to survive and thrive as a species and not destroy the one planet that is our home.
I love Druidry, and I love the whole mindset that goes with Druidry. However, it’s not for everyone. That’s in many ways the problem with any spiritual approach — it can’t be all embracing, and if it sets out to include everyone, it’s probably going to become vile. Where religion is concerned diversity is important, and about the only available antidote to the poisonous idea of ‘one true way’. I’ve known for a long time that Druidry was not going to be the place to stand in terms of wielding a lever to change the world. I’ve looked at Green politics, too, but the problem there is that far too many people are inherently mistrustful of power, authority, politicians and the systems they work in. Converting a lot more people to Green politics would therefore not necessarily fix much. It would most likely draw in the inherently political, not the innately disenfranchised, and it’s the second set of folks that I’m more interested in.
Then I found Steampunk. There is only one rule in Steampunk, and it is ‘be nice to each other.’ There’s shades in that of ‘an it harm none, do what you will.’ It’s a culture where respect and good manners are very much expected and encouraged, where tolerance and diversity have room to thrive. It creates, for example, a space in which crossdressers and trans folk can wander about in the gender identity/kit of their preference without fear of harassment. Prejudice is not even slightly splendid. There’s a delicious irony here, too, because of course Steampunk invokes the Victorian era, that great heyday of racism, sexism, colonialism, jingoism, classism, oppression, gay bashing and hypocrisy. Steampunk is not really about Victorian era stuff at all, it’s about how a group of people wish it had been. This is the world of the upbeat period novel. More Jules Verne than Charles Dickens, you’ll see the wondrous inventions and no orphans will be going up chimneys.
About two minutes in to exploring Steampunk as a counterculture movement, it dawned on me — this isn’t historical re-enactment. It isn’t about the past. It’s about now, and the kind of society we want to live in, and the ways in which we want the world to work. It’s playful, with room for both the burlesque and the gentile. Anyone who wants a title, can have a title. Anyone more drawn to the ‘punk’ aspect can play it that way. It turns out that there’s room for anyone who wants in, and you don’t even need a pair of goggles.
The surface of Steampunk offers a burgeoning fiction genre, an aesthetic that seems to be catching on all over the place, a music scene — sepiacore (I think that’s how you spell it) and chap hop, and no doubt more to come. There’s a growing arts and crafts movement within the community, and there are going to be inventors, I have no doubt. There probably are already. Steampunk is about innovation in every area of human endeavour, and it’s about doing good stuff, with a social conscience and a sense of humour.
It’s a good place to stand.
I’ve noticed along the way that people bring their other passions to Steampunk. Look around and you’ll see pop culture icons like Boba Fett and K9 appearing in Steampunk form. Anything can be done over to fit. Moving into Steampunk does not therefore require leaving your previous addictions behind. For me, that’s going to mean Druidry. I’m contemplating ideas like revival-revival, because the Druids of the Victorian era were like something out of Monty Python (I’ve read Blood and Mistletoe…). I envisage a mix of the real and the unreal, playful, with scope for satire, and also for heartfelt, soulful stuff. The Secret Order of Steampunk Druids is not going to be even slightly secretive (except, perhaps, about where we’ve hidden the cake). It won’t be remotely orderly. It will be both Steampunk and Druidic, some fondness for both sides are a must.
If you want to join, you will need to invent your own, tea-based initiation rite, or find someone who is offering initiations. I’ll post some suggestions somewhere online eventually. If you don’t know much about Druidry, please give yourself a really big and important title. If you’re a Druid, think up something funny and maybe a bit subversive. The rest of it we’ll have to make up as we go along.
In the meantime, there’s a dominant culture to subvert, rule books to rewrite, and a world to save. I’d like to try doing it by drinking a lot of tea, wearing a silly hat and being excessively polite to people, at least in part.
For anyone interested in more of my ramblings about Druidry and things historical, there is also Druidry and the Ancestors.