Druid Lectio Divina

by Druid monastic Julie Bond
Order of the Sacred Nemeton

I have tried to keep to the framework of the four stages of lectio divina. These are;

Lectio (reading),
Meditatio (meditation),
Oratio (prayer),
Contemplatio (contemplation).

At the beginning it is a good idea to spend a set amount of time on each stage, five minutes is a good idea to start with for each stage, as this is easiest to time with a clock or watch.

The four stages can flow together smoothly once you get used to the method; particularly I find stages two and three can swirl together.

Lectio Divina was first put into four stages by Guigo II, a Carthusian, in the twelth century. He wrote ‘The Ladder Of Four Rungs’, setting out the four stages.

From ‘The Ladder of Four Rungs’:
‘Reading is busily looking on Holy Scripture with all one’s will and wit.
Meditation is a studious insearching to know what was before concealed through desiring proper skill.
Prayer is a devout desiring of the heart to get what is good and avoid what is evil. Contemplation is a lifting up of the heart to God, tasting somewhat of the heavenly sweetness and savour.’

A simple way to express this could be;
‘Reading seeks, meditation finds, prayer asks, contemplation feels.’

Or, another way of seeing the four stages is as;  Read, Reflect, Respond, Rest.

Some people have seen a link with the Jungian psychological principles;
Sensing – (Read)
Thinking – (Meditate)
Intuiting – (Pray)
Feeling – (Contemplate)

‘Reading puts, as it were, whole food into your mouth;
Meditation chews it and breaks it down;
Prayer finds its savour;
Contemplation is the sweetness that so delights and savours.’

In the Christian practice of lectio divina there is a lot of emphasis on coming to the word to be nourished, to be fed; coming to the word looking for nourishment. Christians, of course, use The Bible for lectio as this they see as God’s word.

In developing a Druid/Pagan version of lectio divina I took the physical creation to be the Gods’ words, and so worked with physical objects such as stones, shells, leaves, and twigs, as the  ‘words’ of creation’s ‘text’.

Lectio can be seen as a moving from conversation to communion.

Stage of Lectio: Looking at the object, not forming any thoughts about it yet, sharing space with it, being aware of it. ‘A quieting of the heart’. Begin with calming and  centering. Try to keep the mind clear of particular thoughts about the object, (that comes in the next stage). Keep exploring the object with the physical senses.

Stage of Meditation: This stage is exploring the object, now allowing discursive, descriptive thoughts to arise; examining the object.  (For the early Christian monastics ‘meditation’ meant repeating the words of scripture until they were inscribed on the memory.) Meditation was not so much ‘remembering’ more ‘thinking about’. ‘Re-membering’, a ‘bringing back together,’ I would put more in the ‘contemplation’ stage.

Stage of Prayer: This stage is about what you feel drawn to say to the Gods about the object; any prayer that arises as you examine the object.  It can be thanks-giving, petitionary, any kind of prayer which you feel called to bring. The ‘prayer’ stage is our ‘response’ to what is ‘said’ to us, what we ‘hear’. Let our hearts speak to the Gods. At times this was seen as being more devotional and less petitionary.

Stage of Contemplation: Almost a return to a similar place as the beginning of lectio, but at a further turn of the spiral. Contemplation = peace, rest. Don’t get too hung up on technical stuff about contemplation. Rest with the object; let its presence ‘soak’ into you.  Contemplation can be seen as resting in the presence of the Gods. It is a  feeling of ‘deep calling to deep’. Become aware of yourself and the object as parts of a great oneness, your edges softening, a feeling of peace, perhaps even a feeling of having arrived at the ‘centre of time and space’.

The  whole interaction is itself seen as being transformative.

You can have periods of mental silence within all these stages; there is no need to be rushing or struggling to come up with prayers/thoughts etc. This mental silence can help to bring a feeling of ‘spaciousness’.

At the close of a session of lectio you can put the object back into the natural world if you are outside and have picked it up there. The feeling is that it returns to the natural world filled with your prayer. It is there to work with again at sometime, if you wish. It is also there for anyone else to work with too. There are so many of these ‘words’, we will never exhaust the text of creation. There is always more to learn about it, ourselves, and each other.

I have often done this type of lectio outside and simply picked up something nearby to work with. It doesn’t have to be anything stunning to look at; things like small twigs, stones, pieces of bark, withered leaves, will all work well. It can be really amazing what comes up when working with seemingly ‘insignificant’ things.

Working with this form of lectio regularly can bring a strengthening of the feeling of being within the holy book of creation, particularly when out in the natural world.

A view of a landscape could also be used for this type of lectio. This can be very powerful as one can feel oneself as part of that landscape.

Another way Christians use lectio is to imagine themselves as a character in a Bible story/parable (Ignatian method). A Druid/Pagan version could be to imagine being the object or landscape.

Suggested Reading

‘Lectio Divina’ by Basil Pennington

Look up ‘Lectio Divina’ on YouTube  (particularly those explanations given by monastics as Lectio was developed within the monastic traditions)