What is a druid
Druidry is one of the most popular pagan religions because of its reverence for the land, but it isn’t all robes and standing stones. Druidry is a spiritual path that takes a combination of hard work, respect for the land and a sense of style…
What is modern Druidry?
First, what is druidry not? Druidry is not Wicca. It doesn’t have any great connection to witchcraft either. Modern Druidry is also not a recreation of the practices performed by the ancient Druids. Modern Druidry certainly draws inspiration from that source, but we know so little about the ancient Druids that recreating their ways is nigh-on impossible.
Now that we have that out of the way, we can begin to discuss what Druidry really is.
Well, Druidry is often described as a religion, and in some cases this is certainly true, but to simply pigeonhole it as “another religion” is doing it a disservice. Modern Druidry is a philosophy, community position, a learned art and above all else a way of life.
Following the spiritual path of the Druid is a way to gain a keener insight into the world around you, while at the same time serving the land and your community. The Druidic path focuses on your responsilities – you have to serve the land, revere it, earn from it and give back to it.
What do Druids do?
A common image of a Druid is that of a robed man, standing in some place like Stonehenge, performing some kind of eldritch ritual. In some regards this isn’t too far from the truth. Druids do actually use Stonehenge and other similar places in modern rituals to acknowledge certain solar events like Solstices.
But that really is just the smallest piece of the pie.
As well as performing priestly functions, Druids are trained to be artists, storytellers, community advisors and teachers. Through their ways, Druids seek to gain an inherent understanding of reality, which may be expressed through the natural world, mythology and connecting to the divine.
Druidry is also a green path. Druids are like custodians of nature and the land in which they live, learning its lessons and keeping it maintained, like an ever-watchful spiritual gardener.
This respect for the land goes well beyond a simple appreciation of landscape. It is also a respect for the land’s local spirits and Gods. The Druids understand the concept of community. They recognise they live alongside the spirit world and that those local spirits are our neighbours.
We are all one in nature.
What do Druids believe?
Although Druids have a defined outlook and philosophical approach to life, there is no central concept of the divine to which all Druids adhere. So that means that there are no set “Gods of Druidry” and no singular manner in which to worship the divine. Some Druids don’t concern themselves with Gods at all.
Druids often fit themselves into their local pantheon of Gods and spirits, so a British Druid could worship ancient Celtic deities, while an American Druid may honour the divine in the form of the local Native American concept. Alternatively, each individual Druid may simply align themselves with which ever pantheon of Gods they feel the most comfortable with.
A reverence of the ancient European (particularly Celtic) Gods is probably most common in Druidry.
However, most Druids believe in the following things:
- Life itself has a spiritual nature about it.
- Nature is sacred.
- There is more than just the world we see. There also exists a spiritual world around us that we go to when we die, but we may also visit this place for a time in dreams, trances, meditations and other altered states of consciousness.
- Rebirth. The Druid concept of reincarnation holds that the soul may be reborn life after life, and that we exist in the spiritual world between lives.
- The truth of reality is hidden behind our perceptions and can be revealed through study and insight.
Druidry is a nature-based religion. It teaches us to get back in contact with the land and learn of the sacred treasures that lie there. In this way the path teaches that the land itself has valuable lessons we can learn from, and that we can awaken out spiritual selves by forging a connection to the natural world around us. So all of nature becomes a vessel for exploring our spirituality.
For Druids, being at one with nature also means a respect for the heritage and magic of the land that can be found at sacred sites, some made thousands of years ago by our distant ancestors. They connect us to our ancestors and our ancestors’ spiritual practices. Respecting these heritage sites means we better understand the wisdom of the land as it was known to our ancestors.
Druidry also has access to a lore that has been passed down over time – a lore covering nature’s spiritual side. This is the lore of trees, animals and places, often found in old superstitions and local myths and legends.
These things help the Druid develop a spiritual connection to the world around them and this, in turn, creates a relationship of respect with that world.
Becoming a Druid
Walking the Druid path isn’t simple. It takes years of study and hard work.
In modern Druidry there is a series of advancement and the title of “Druid” is reserved only for those that have advanced to the highest level. There are three such stages of advancement, known as Bard, Ovate and Druid.
A Bard is one who has learned the ways and stories of the Druidic path, as well as possibly local and personal tales. A Bard is expected to learn a great myths and legends by heart, so that he can recite them as needed.
It is also common for a Bard to learn different aspect of lore, such as tree lore and animal lore, and in some cases a Bard would even be expected to learn the lineage of his people (either within his Druidic order or his community).
Ovates are masters in herbal lore with insight into the mystical and medicinal properties of various plants. This is not really witchcraft, but the Ovate does recognise that some plants may be utilised for their magical properties.
In this way the Ovate gains a closer understanding of nature and in many ways becomes a healer and apothecary too.
Becoming a Druid means that you have reached the highest rank on the path and may now be regarded as vastly learned in the ways of the land, community and the Other World.
A Druid is considered wise enough to teach others who are on the path and act as an advisor, judge and overseer.
Not all Druidic groups adhere to this structure of advancement, but it is the most common in the British Isles, as laid out by the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids (OBOD). However, practitioners in the U.S. are almost certainly likely to belong to a different group such as Ár nDraíocht Féin (ADF), which uses a different system of advancement whereby a person’s studies are more directed in a particular area, as a member of a Guild.
For those seeking to enter into Druidry, they will have a much easier time than with many of the other Pagan religions. Druids are thankfully quite well organised and have large organizations that a person can contact to find out more. Here are a few to get you going:
1 The British Druid Order, PO Box 1217, Devizes, Wiltshire SN10 4XA
2 The Insular Order of Druids, Membership Secretary, c/o Labyrinth, 2 Victoria Road South, Southsea, Hants PO5 2DF
3 The Order of Bards Ovates and Druids, PO Box 1333, Lewes, East Sussex BN7 3ZG
4 Ár nDraíocht Féin
Druidry is a modern way of life that connects us to the ancient poetic heart of the land. It brings us back in touch with nature and teaches us to use our natural gifts, so that we can better serve ourselves, our community and the land around us.
For further information on Druidry, you may want to check out these useful sources:
The Druid Way, by Philip Carr-Gomm
The Book of Druidry, by Ross Nichols
The Druids: A History, by Ronald Hutton
The Druids, by Stuart Piggot