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What is Druidry?

Posted: Sun Dec 19, 2010 11:39 pm
by James Parton

OBOD Member, Alferian defines what modern druidry is, better than anyone I have seen to date.

Nagged by the question: how do you define Druidry to someone who asks you, I returned to Philip Carr-Gomm's book "The Elements of the Druid Tradition." I think, if I recall, this has been reprinted with a slightly different title. Nevertheless, there's no simple definition in Philip's book either and, in fact, he points out that one of the first exercises in the gwersu of the OBOD is to ask the student-bard to free-associate with the word "Druid" in order to answer the question "what is a Druid?"

First of all I came up with a series of points that I elaborated as teachings of modern Druidry more-or-less in the OBOD school. Then I tried to distill it down to a sentence or two.

Here's the long bit....

Druidry teaches...

1) A history of the ancient druids as we can reconstruct it conjecturally from literary and archeological evidence. This includes the history of Irish druidry surviving into the 5th century, the probable persistence of druidic teachings through the time in which it was officially supressed and suplanted by Christianity, and finally druidry's re-emergence in the 18th century. The Druid Revival has continued through various orders, and (as Philip suggests himself) through families and groups who have remained secret. The public face of druidry lies mostly in the druid orders which share much history with modern witchcraft, ceremonial magic, and freemasonry. The reconstruction goes on currently with modern druid groups seeking to adapt to a changing scholarly picture of the Celts and the druids. The adaptation, moreover, includes adapting to modern society, its values, crises, and concerns, particularly environmentalism as a movement.

2) Awen. Druidry teaches that inspiration is paramount. Similar in some ways to the early Christian idea of Gnosis, Awen is the spontaneous emergence of vision and communion with the supernal world of the divine. Individual inspriation may be evaluated in relationship to traditions and to the present values of a community, but in general one person's experience of Awen is not to be considered "more true" than anyone else's, any more than one person's dreams are considered "more true" than anyone else's. The Bardic grade and the druid-bard focusses on the development of her own creativity and inspiration. This teaching is fundamental because it describes a way of living in the world with what William Blake called "four-fold vision" seeing through not only the material eye but also the imagination. The poet alters our perception of reality and the world with image and metaphor. The druid mage does likewise through ritual and spell. But the key is learning to use the imagination's eye, not words alone, as positivist science attempts to do by defining, classifying, and seeking material causes.

3) Love of Nature. Druidry teaches a way of life that embraces and loves the non-human world as much as the human world. The old druidry of legend strikes a chord with those people in the modern world seeking a spiritual path grounded in Nature. Such a path is not that of Christianity, which privileges human beings over all others and the spirit over the body. Nor is is the path of secular materialism based in the Cartesian notion tht the non-human world can be reduced to inanimate mechanisms. Druidry is fundamentally a relationship to the natural world of animals, trees, plants, sea, star, and stone. It cultivates awe and a sense of the numinous in the light of the sun and moon, and the invisible rush of the wind. It acknowledges spirit in all things, not just in human beings, and finds intelligence and wisdom in all creatures. In this respect, it is in accord with much of modern science but goes beyond biology to find life and communion in stones, rivers, and stars -- things science tends to consider "inanimate" and without intelligence.

4) Spirit. The "invisible" world of spirit is embraced as part of nature, not as "supernatural." As in most animisitc cultures and modern esoteric systems, Druidry teaches that there is a world of powers and forms tht cannot be reduced to the positivist-materialist pradigm. it is the work of the druid-bard to express metaphors and imaginings that can in some way offer glimpses of this Otherworld dimension of the Universe. it is the particular work of the ovate-druid to bridge that perceptual gap between the material eye and the eye of divine imagination, the mundane world of survival and the spiritual world of possibility.

5) Sacred Space and Sacred Place. All things are sacred for the druid. Whether this is how the ancient druids thought, we don't really know, but we do see this attitude of reverence in the tribal cultures of other oral cultures such as those of North America and Australia. This includes an understanding of sacred places where spirtual power is very great. Places are valued as inwoven with story and meaning. Place and Time are merged into one concept:. Time is embeded in place: the stone circles that mark the movements of sun and moon, the places where important unique events took place. Ovate druids particularly are taught to cast off the shackles of the abstract notions of Time and Space as separable, notions promulgated by philosphers from Euclid and Descartes to Newton.

6) Reincarnation and Cyclic Time. By contrast to the Newtonian ideas of separate and absolute space and time, Druidry, like many oral cultures, teaches that our close relationship to nature is rooted in the observance and understanding of time as a cycle of seasons, of solar and lunar movements, and a cycle of birth, growth, decay, and death in the natural world as well as in human lives. Along with modern witchcraft, Druidry celebrates eight festivals that mark the natural cycles of change: the solstices and equinoxes, and the four cross-quarter festivals associated with the agricultural cycle of planting and harvest. Such a view of time predates the notion of linear time promulgated by the hebrew and Greek cultures as they adopted alphabetic literacy and a new sense of abstract "historical" time. This idea of linear time extending infinitely forward and backward along a chronology is so ingrained in Western culture that it is difficult to understand any other view of time. But there is evidence that non-literate, oral cultures preserve a unified conception of space-time in which events are not abstracted from the land in which they take place. Events are not accorded "universal" significance, nor are they seen as a manifestationof a universal "Divine Providence." The cyclic view of space-time sees the concept of time on ly in relaton to natural occurances. Within this context of seasons of growth and decay, the supposedly "unique" historical events such as wars, disasters, and political leaders can be understood as recurrent, if somewhat more chaotic, phenomena. Similarly, the cyclic view of space-time accords with a cyclic view of death and rebirth wherein spirits are continually merged back into the humus and reborn in the threes adn animals, and other human forms. This cycle of creativity has no beginning and no end. The emphasis in Druidry is in the here-and-now.

7) Gods and Goddesses. One of the ways in which Druidry differs from modern Wiccan witchcraft is that it does not posit a dual theology of one god and one goddess. Indeed it doesn't posit any single theology at all. Gods and goddesses are treated as heoroes of story and the spriits of place -- of river, rock, well, and tree -- are just as divine as any pantheon of archetypal characters corresponding to social roles or crafts. The Celtic gods and goddesses, such as Lugh, Brigit, Dagda, Boann, Cernunnos, Hu, Taranis, Ogma, Angus Og, Cerridwen, and Arianrhod (among others) are sometimes characters of legend, and sometimes spirits of place. In the case of Lugh and Brigit, these are spirits of knowledge and craft and healing.

There is no simple pantheon and modern Druidry often embraces deities and stories from diverse other pantheons, recognizing the power of myth across cultures. Some modern druids are Celtic reconstructionists, some are pantheists, some are syncretists drawing on Native American or Asian philosophies and deities. I venture to say, however, that most if not all Druids recognize and revere the spirits of the trees, animals, and wilderness places.

8) Ancestors. Druidry's attitude toward time and reincarnation leads to a reverence for ancestors and their accumulated wisdom. The Ancestors of body and spirit persist. They are not buried and forgotten. The belief in transmigration of souls, held by most but not all modern druids, implies that our ancestors may take up new lives in any form, thus further sacralizing all forms of existence. The ovate-druid also is taught to engage the Ancestors and transcend the artifice of linear time.

9) Magic. Though mystical communion, visions, and communication with spirits of nature and the Ancestors are often more central to druid practice than spell-casting, there is nevertheless a history of druid spells and illusions. Magic is generally acknowledge as real and consist of the use of imagination to change the world according to the druid's will. Druid magic tends to be more in accord with nature and nature spirits, rather than with demons or angels, as in the traditons of magic derived from medieaval Christian models. Like Wiccan witchcraft, druidry looks to herbalism for magic and healing, and seeks to work with spirits of all kinds to heal the wounds of the world. The teaching that the supernal world influences and informs the material world is one druidry shares with many modern esoteric schools. Another way of putting it,however, is that the "supernal" dimension lies within the reality of the material world, rather than in some way "beyond" it.

10) Divination, Augury and Healing. In keeping with the above, Druidry teaches that the fabric of spiritual causation and connection can be glimpsed through the use of oracles and various methods of divining from the natural world, such as clouds and the flight of birds or their calls. Divination and augury are the special areas of the ovate druid, just as are healing. In all these cases it is the flow of energies between dimensions that concerns the ovate in this role as shaman bridging the worlds. Ogham, the special tree-signs of Ireland are studied by modern druids for their esoteric uses in divination and meditation. Herbal medicine is central to druid healing, but many modern druids are also interested in Eastern modalities employing life energies (Qi or prana).

11) Ethics. From all this extends an ethics which respects all creatures, values peace and harmony among peoples, tolerates diversity of belief and opinion regarding the spirit world, and yet values justice and law to protect those who might otherwise be exploited and harmed. In modern terms Druidry is most compatible with environmental responsibility and sustainable living. However, many druids to not carry the preference for peace to include non-violence. In ancient druidry the use of violence was the business of the warrior caste, and the druids' main job was to temper this impetuosity with reason and prudence.

That's the long bit, and if you waded through it, you win three nights, all-expenses-paid in the skin of a white bull.

The shorter version, which is much more difficult to articulate in a satisfying way is this:

Druidry is a way of life based in reverence for and communion with nature. It teaches that spirits and intelligence exist everywhere in nature, in animals, trees, stars, and sacred places. It reveres ancestors and the divine imagination, which is to say the individual experience of the divine. Its ethics respect all creatures and value peaceful co-existence, sustainable living, and ecological responsibility.

Shorter still, for cocktail parties:

Druidry is a nature religion of white-robed tree-huggers who like to drink mead.

By sea and star,

Alferian /|\ ... 83&start=0

Christianity can also be fitted into the path of druidry, replacing the pantheons of classic druidry. Both OBOD and NOD welcome those of Christian faith. ... age_id=103

Re: What is Druidry?

Posted: Sun Feb 27, 2011 7:34 pm
by edfrank

Thanks for this post. I had not responded before beyond giving you a Like for the post. I have not gotten started in the group with the study program, but still plan to give it a go.


Re: What is Druidry?

Posted: Sun Feb 27, 2011 8:03 pm
by James Parton

I have found it very rewarding. I am currently on chapter 19 of the Bardic Grade and should graduate to the Ovate Grade sometime in April. The courses are a very self-exploratory thing and really make you look inward at what you believe and what you think may be possible. I mainly participate on the New Order of Druids forum since I am taking my courses through them. I also find less conflict there, practically none, unlike on the OBOD forum. There are a very few, though vocal ones there that seem to have problems with the concept of Christian Druidry.

It has been a real eye-opener for me and nature is a big part of it. I would welcome you to NOD and druidry, my friend.

Re: What is Druidry?

Posted: Mon Feb 28, 2011 7:53 pm
by gnmcmartin



Re: What is Druidry?

Posted: Tue Mar 01, 2011 12:47 am
by James Parton

You Welcome!