Lately I’ve been poking around on the website of the Druid Order of Whiteoak. I found the following useful list of “Basic Facts about Druids”, compiled by Druid and author Ellen Evert Hopman, in the Samhain 2007 issue of their periodical, EOLAS, which is archived online.
1. Dietary restrictions – none unless the individual Druid is under a geas (spiritual/magical prohibition) to not eat a certain food
2. Holidays; all Druids celebrate the major Fire Festivals which are Samhain (may be celebrated October/31/November 1 to November 11/12), Imbolc (May be celebrated February 1/2 to February 15 approximately, depending on the time of the annual thaw and when the local sheep are lactating). Beltaine (May be celebrated the last week of April to the first week of May) and Lughnasad (May be celebrated any time from the last week of July to the second week of August depending on when the harvest is ready). Some Druids celebrate the Solstices and Equinoxes as well.
3. Tools; common tools include a staff, a sickle (a curved reaping hook), crystals for healing work, one or more cauldrons, a bell-branch (a tree branch with bells attached), a wand, and one or more containers for sacramental drinks and offerings.
4. Ritual space: the ideal ritual space will have a fire, a water source such as a stream, lake, pond, the ocean, or a cauldron of water, and a tree. Sometimes one or more large rocks are used to mark a sacred circle. Circles of trees are special places for Druids or one old tree might become a ritual focus.
5. On formal ritual occasions a Druid will likely want to wear a ritual robe, a kilt, or other Celtic garb.
6. Druids may worship alone or in a “Grove”, which is the term for a congregation of Druids.
7. Modern Druids offer fruits, vegetables, herbs, poetry, music, song, artwork and crafts to their Gods. Living animals are not harmed in any way.
8. Burial customs: a Druid may be buried by any means he or she has chosen either by internment in the ground or by cremation. American Druid Orders have voted for the “Awen” symbol to be placed on military markers and graves. Most Druids believe in reincarnation.
9. Common symbols that Druids may wear include the Triskel or Triskellion which is an ancient triple spiral design, oak leaves and acorns, the tri-line “Awen” sumbol, and the “Druid Sigil which is a circle with two lines through it.
10. Deities: Druids may be polytheist, monotheist, duo-theist, deist, pantheist, animist, pan-entheist, or any combination of the above. Most Druids pick a PatronGod or Patroness Goddess to work with. Some deities that Druids work with include; Brighid, Lugh, The Daghda, The Morrigan, Anu, Danu, Diancecht, Miach, Airmid, Goibniu, and many others… Druids believe in the inherent divinity of nature, and by extension the inherent sacredness of all natural features, plants, trees, animals, and people. Druids believe in the Otherworld and seek to form a close familiarity with the Spirits and departed ancestors from that realm of existence.
11. Some Druids sing or recite prayers in Gaelic or in other Celtic languages.
12. Druids may be male or female.
13. Druids perform divinations using Ogham sticks, Ogham stones, and by other methods.
14. Most Druids have a profound respect for and love of; history, intellectual growth, artistic creativity, and the pursuit of truth and justice.
This is actually a fairly good summary of my approach to Druidry, in many ways.
1. I don’t practice any dietary restrictions (except in trying to lose weight, alas). They are not necessary to a Druid except for personal magical or physical reasons, in my opinion.
2. I observe the four fire festivals along with the solstices and equinoxes; the former come principally from Celtic cultures, the latter principally from Revival Druid practice, though now they are known collectively as “the Wheel of the Year”.
3. I have a staff, a cauldron, a wand, and quite a few cups and goblets for ritual work. I also like rocks (not just crystals; rocks).
4. I incorporate fire, water, and at least a symbolic tree in my ritual work.
5. I have a white robe, ’cause everybody knows Druids Wear White Robes. (This, at least, may be true of both the Revival and the Ancients, since the Druids’ equivalents in other ancient cultures wore white for ritual purity.)
6. I am a solitary, but my Order has Groves.
7. I have no problem with animal sacrifice, actually, but since I am not, say, a farm-bred person who knows how to slaughter animals humanely and efficiently, I would never offer an animal myself. My preferred offerings are incense, lights, and beverages, at this point.
8. I do believe in reincarnation/rebirth.
9. My Order’s logo includes the Awen symbol.
10. I am a polytheist/animist who honors gods and goddesses (though not any of those she mentioned), ancestors, and the spirits of nature.
11. Okay, this is not something I do. Yet. Since the deities I honor were worshipped by the Continental Celts under Roman influence, I have considered learning Latin as a sacred language. (There are more texts on Latin than on Gaulish.)
12. Last time I checked, I was female.
13. I have used Ogham for divination; I made a set of cards using green half-sized index cards. (Some Druids don’t do lots of handicrafts.) I also use Tarot, lately the DruidCraft Tarot.
14. And yes, I have a “profound respect for and love of” those things she mentioned. At least, I hope it is profound.
There are, however, some things that are true of my Druidry specifically, that I don’t think are generally true.
- I came out of Anglican Christianity, and I still approach a number of Christian saints, canonical and otherwise, as honored ancestors and guides (for example, Julian of Norwich).
- I have taken refuge as a Buddhist; I revere the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, and I regard my deities as Dharma protectors in the making.
- I am peculiarly uninterested in Ireland, things Irish, the Gaelic language, or anything related, except insofar as it might illuminate British and Continental Celtic pagan religion.
- I look to both the Druid Revival of the eighteenth century and what is known about the ancient Druids for inspiration, and to some extent to the Reform as well–to the RDNA and its descendants such as ADF and Keltria.
It’s a good thing that there are so many things contemporary Druids have in common; Hopman’s list gives me hope for the Druid presence in Neopaganism. It’s also a good thing that there is room in Druidry for wild variation and the following of Awen, the inner light and breath of inspiration.