Druidism/Druidry

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Druids in History

The early Druids were members of the Celtic priestly class. They were responsible for religious matters, but also held a civic role. Julius Caesar wrote in his Commentaries, "T]hey have opinions to give on almost all disputes involving tribes or individuals, and if any crime is committed, any murder done, or if there is contention about a will or the boundaries of some property, they are the people who investigate the matter and establish rewards and punishments.

Any individual or community that refuses to abide by their decision is excluded from the sacrifices, which is held to be the most serious punishment possible. Those thus excommuni­cated are viewed as impious criminals, they are deserted by their friends and no one will visit them or talk to them to avoid the risk of contagion from them. They are deprived of all rights in court, and they forfeit all claim to honors."

Scholars have found linguistic evidence that female Druids existed as well. In part, this was likely due to the fact that Celtic women held a much higher social status than their Greek or Roman counterparts, and so writers like Plutarch, Dio Cassius, and Tacitus wrote about the baffling societal role of these Celtic women. 

Author Peter Berresford Ellis writes in his book The Druids, "[W]omen not only played a co-equal role in the activities of the Druids, but their very position in Celtic society was highly advanced compared to their position in other European societies.

Changes in patriarchal society were taking place, however, and the prominent role of Celtic women was given a coup de grace by the coming of Roman Christianity. Even so, in the early years of what we define as the Celtic Church, their role was still a prominent one, as the evidence of the vast numbers of female Celtic saints compared with the number of such women in other societies demonstrates."

Neopagan Druids

When most people hear the word Druid today, they think of old men with long beards, wearing robes and frolicking around Stonehenge. However, the modern Druid movement is a bit different from that. One of the biggest Neopagan Druid groups out there is Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship (ADF). According to their website, “Neopagan Druidry is a group of religions, philosophies and ways of life, rooted in ancient soil yet reaching for the stars.”

Although the word Druid conjures up visions of Celtic Reconstructionism to many people, ADF welcomes members of any religious path within the Indo-European spectrum. ADF says, “We're researching and interpreting sound modern scholarship (rather than romantic fantasies) about the ancient Indo-European Pagans - the Celts, Norse, Slavs, Balts, Greeks, Romans, Persians, Vedics, and others.”

ADF Groves

ADF was founded by Isaac Bonewits, and is divided into semi-autonomous local groups known as groves. Although Bonewits retired from ADF in 1996, and passed away in 2010, his writings and ideals remain as part of the ADF tradition. Although ADF accepts membership applications from everyone, allowing them to become a Dedicant, a significant amount of work is required to advance to the title of Druid.

Over sixty ADF groves exist in the United States and beyond.

The Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids

In addition to Ár nDraíocht Féin, there are a number of other Druid groups in existence. The Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids (OBOD) says, “As a spiritual way or philosophy, Modern Druidism began to develop about three hundred years ago during a period known as the ‘Druid Revival’. It was inspired by the accounts of ancient Druids, and drew on the work of historical researchers, folklorists and early literature. In this way Druidry’s heritage stretches far back into the past.” OBOD was formed in England in the 1960s by Ross Nichols, in a protest against the election of a new Druid Chief in his group.

Druidry and Wicca

Although there has been a significant revival in interest in things Celtic among Wiccans and Pagans, it’s important to remember that Druidism is not Wicca.

Although some Wiccans are also Druids – because there are some overlapping similarities between the two belief systems and therefore the groups are not mutually exclusive – most Druids are not Wiccan.

In addition to the above mentioned groups, and other Druidic traditions, there are also solitary practitioners who self-identify as Druids. Seamus mac Owain, a Druid from Columbia, SC, says, "There's not a lot of written material about the Druids, so much of what we do is based upon Celtic myth and legend, as well as scholarly information that has been provided by anthropologists, historians, and so forth. We use this as a basis for rite, ritual, and practice."

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