What makes Druidry unique?
Modern Druidry, Neo-Druidry or Celtic Paganism is not an endeavor to recreate Druidry as it was in ancient times as that is largely impossible given that the role of the Druid has been replaced by the modern judge, teacher or doctor. Followers of Druidry are simply using old knowledge to inspire a modern philosophy of living. Many philosophical idealisms and ways of living in harmony in the world have stood the tests of time; the indigenous roots of truth that are just as relevant today as they were in the past. One of the most striking characteristics of Druidry is the degree to which it is free of dogma. In this way it manages to offer a spiritual path, and a way of being in the world that avoids many of the problems of sectarianism. There is no ‘sacred text’ in Druidry and there is no universally agreed set of beliefs amongst Druids. Despite this, there are a number of ideas and beliefs that most followers of this path hold in common, and that help to define its nature. We use historical evidence to emulate what the Druids may have practiced. Surprisingly, there are many idealisms that separate Druidry from other new age or pagan belief structures. More on that under “Primary Beliefs”.
For many, nature or the universe is an all encompassing term for a higher power. Druids may practice animism, pantheism, naturalism or humanism. There are just as many modern Druids that are polytheists, monotheists, duotheists or atheists. For many, we are all apart of a web of life physically, spiritually or consciously and our essence (our spirit) may continue on to another plane or it may not. There really is no end to the variances in belief amongst Druids and that’s one of the reasons many of us love it. Druids celebrate the four Celtic seasonal celebrations tied into the natural ebb and flow of our circular year. Within these festivals, certain deities are recognized, for some, literally and for others allegorically. Druids may also celebrate the solstice and equinoxes as well as follow the moon’s cycles and astrological events more closely.
What we have most in common is a reverence for the universe, nature, the earth, its inhabitants and its protection. We’d like to leave our world in a better place for our grandchildren and their grandchildren and within that believe in harming none unless necessary for survival. We encourage balance in the way we intermingle with that which is still “wild” on this planet and finding answers to societal problems with balance in mind. We aim to manifest wisdom, balance, truth, creativity and love in our lives. Druids are usually tolerant, open minded and passionate about individual liberty and human rights. Druidry values the mystery of our existence as well as science and finds deep value in entertaining both, the creative mind fluidly while also remaining passionately tethered to facts and evidence for the betterment of the world. We honor and respect the negative as well as the positive powers at work in our lives as there is an understanding that you can’t have one without the other.
Fostering a sense of community amongst ourselves is important and many groups have distinct and unique practices. Group ritual ranges from full liturgical attire amongst ancient standing stones, to casual athletic wear in the woods or backyard bonfire amongst friends. We generally aim to commune with nature or deities when possible, commune with ancestors when possible, find creative ways to discover our inner most primal and true selves with our valuable time here as well as become comfortable with our mental and physical bodies. Many Druids are naturists for that very reason but regardless, we focus on loving with all that we are, in all the ways we can, in this vast celebration of existence we are all apart of.
Connection to Nature
By celebrating the eight seasonal celebrations and focusing on time as circular rather than linear, we find a deep sense of reverence for nature as well as inspiration and reserves of strength to last a lifetime.
Respect for Animals and Living Things
When we extend our respect and sometimes even friendship to other species, we add much deeper meaning to our lives and possibly even theirs.
Tolerance and Nonjudgement
When we make a conscious choice to accept others for exactly who they are and lead by example instead of trying to change people, we leave more space in our lives for mutual love and respect to grow.
Equal Male and Female Presence
When we cultivate and appreciate only half of a population’s gifts, everyone suffers in various ways.
By valuing education, cultivating knowledge, and respecting the wisdom of our ancestors, we find the true salvation of our world.
Only when we put the time and effort into developing our individual and unique creativity and talents, do we discover our true potential.
The meaning of life is arguably simply one of a “celebration” of existing at all, and what better way to honor that than by celebrating in all the various ways we can.
Through learning to need less by valuing experiences over material possessions, we discover the things that are truly important during our valuable time here, enjoying our lives in a much deeper and more meaningful way.
We often use historical evidence to emulate what the Druids may have practiced. Using a corroboration of historical information, archaeology, first hand quotes and mythology gives us somewhat of an accurate picture. The four Celtic festivals were celebrated as well as life and days being recognized in a circular pattern verses the modern linear version. The Druids undoubtedly placed high value on personal development via the arts and creativity such as poetry and musical abilities. They cultivated and perfected their memory, ability to write and tell stories as well as aimed to be knowledgeable in general. They would have used ogham, ogham sticks or wands and developed their ability to predict the future or at least anticipate how events would play out. They likely attempted to use the movement of animals and especially birds to predict how events would unfold as well. They may have also “talked” to animals, plants or trees and the spirit therein in general to gain insight. Druids likely had rich knowledge on naturally healing herbs, plants and trees as well as how to use them. Trees were venerated in general and sacred wood was used for ritual purposes. The sacred circle was important as was moving clockwise in ritual which likely involved a specific set of steps or chants. There was a belief in the realms of “earth, sea and sky” as well as Otherworlds.
Water had the power to heal and fire was used to cleanse.
There was a reverence for triplism in general and they worked with 3, 9, and 27 parts of everything. Reciprocity between the spirits of the land was critical work among the Druids as was making offerings and venturing to the Otherworld in induced trance to ask ancestors, gods or goddesses for answers and guidance. We know of course the Druids spoke the Celtic language and many people choose to work with the language today, at least during ritual. Justice, fairness and truth in regards to law issues was especially important to the Druids and they oversaw all legal matters. Animals were respected and valued for their unique attributes. Druids read the signs of the sun, moon, stars, seasons, animal migration and plant growth among countless other natural patterns. Meditation and path working was undoubtedly practiced as was witnessing, performing or organizing oaths and ceremonies of life or coming of age events. Elders and ancestral knowledge was highly valued and passed down through the generations. The old knowledge would have been screened and synchronized with the new through experimentation, evaluation and experience. Ancestors were revered in general and their good deeds were heralded for millennia. Finally, it was important to value our overall personhood, health, cleanliness, physical form and to have reason to be proud of one’s self in general by doing good deeds and being a valuable resource for society and for our families.
The idea that the Druids were connected to the standing stones or other neolithic and mesolithic structures is debated. The reason for this assumption is because of the claim of their studying of the movement of the stars, moon and heavenly bodies and the structures being aligned to these or rare celestial events. One of the most recently built burial mounds dubbed the Black Forest Stonehenge was completed around 600 BC leading many to think that the Druids were at minimum around to know the meaning of the structures their forebears created and they may have assimilated to using them. Key word, “may have” as there is again no real proof they used them but no proof they didn’t. There simply wasn’t an identifiable “Celtic” culture in archaeological terms when most of the structures were built. From a genetic standpoint however, at minimum, the descendants of the builders survived to meet and mingle with Druids and Celts. The purpose of the stones are also debated with a wide range of beliefs based around local folklore. What we do have that was definitely indigenous Celtic and possibly Druidic are the numerous carvings, iconography and structures dated to the time period between approx. 300 BC and 1200 CE give or take a couple hundred years in each direction.
Our world is such a rich landscape of traditions, languages, stories and music! In the Druidry community you will find a deep respect for the living Celtic nations as they’ve evolved as well as respect for other cultures in general. Being a Druid doesn’t mean one needs to identify as Irish, Scottish, Manx or any other Celtic nation as that is reserved for those that were born there. Many people do however have ancestry in the modern Celtic fringe that often draws them to Druidry but interestingly enough, the expanse of ancient Celtic culture was once the entirety of central Europe, from Spain and Portugal to India as well as all of the British Isles. The Celtic culture and related Druid and polytheistic spiritual framework was once indigenous throughout most of Europe and the British Isles. These various people across the landscape had an identifiable similar culture but were also considered separate tribes and entities. Undoubtedly, there were quarrels between them but they also had to be somewhat peaceful as there is archaeological proof of vast trade networks across Europe as well as to and fro between Europe and the British Isles. The role of Bard, a historically Druid type role was maintained in Ireland at least through the 1800s. However, it wasnt until the Celtic Romantic Period that Druidry as a complete spiritual and philosophical framework based somewhat on the ancient Druids was created. This traditional role was not carried on in an unbroken lineage, but was instead recreated and for that reason, anyone is welcome into the community of all walks of life! I address this because while it is a cultural role, its not in the same realm as say a Native American medicine man because the generational memory (the information being passed on from elder/teacher to student or to son/daughter in an unbroken lineage) going back hundreds/thousands of years is simply not there. Its not a role that can be appropriated.
In much the same way Buddhism is immersed in Indian culture, Druidry is immersed in Celtic culture. It’s not exactly known where Celtic culture specifically began or when, although there are many ideas. Many scholars believe that these belief systems developed in the same area and spread out throughout Europe in various form. There is speculation and reason to believe that Druidry is one of several branches of spiritualities and ways of life that are part of the same indigenous, agricultural, pastoral, polytheistic earth worship tree of thought so to speak. Speaking of Buddhism, there is reason to belief that Celtic and European nations most definitely share a common origin with cultures that emerged in India thousands of years ago, which gave birth to the ‘Dharmic religions’ like Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism. There are parallels and connections, from language development to symbolism, practices and deities to that of ancient Indian belief and their sacred text, The Vedas. There is an intrinsic value in building one’s life around an ancient cross-cultural framework that meets our basic needs and enriches our lives. We celebrate indigenous connections as well as modern Celtic autonomy.