D is for Druid. The Druids were the priestly and intellectual class of the Celtic peoples in the ancient world, equivalent to the Brahmins of India and to the flamens of ancient Roman religion. They were priests, sacrificers, poets, diviners, lawyers, judges, astrologer/astronomers, experts in every theoretical discipline. While they may have been a kind of caste, such as the Brahmins were in India, those distinctions, and the druidic role, passed out of Celtic cultures as Christianity took root there, and perhaps even earlier, under pagan Roman hegemony.
D is for Druid. In the eighteenth century in England, a number of men who were looking for spiritual alternatives got together and took for themselves the name of Druid. They were interested in the prehistoric monuments of England, although they didn’t know just how old they were; they believed them to have been built by the ancient druids, which we now know is not the case. They were concerned about the increasing industrialization of England, about pollution, factory labor, and the displacement of populations from the land. They were repelled by the dogmatic positions then current in the Church of England and in other Christian sects in the country. With little firm knowledge of the pre-Christian past, with a distinct tendency to read all religion and spirituality through the Christian lens, still they identified themselves with the priests and intellectuals of that long-gone pagan era and with the values they imagined there–reverence for the land, freedom of opinion, and creative fervor. They organized themselves on the model of the fraternal lodges, such as the Masons, which were then becoming public and writing down their charters for the first time.
D is for Druid. Why am I a druid? Why do I call myself a druid?
I am a druid because I am a member of the Ancient Order of Druids in America. AODA traces its lineage back through the Ancient Order of Druids, a British fraternal order, to the Druid Revival of the eighteenth century.
I call myself a druid because I look for inspiration to those men (and a few women) who created a new form of spiritual practice in eighteenth-century England and Wales and called themselves druids. Even though they didn’t know how much they didn’t know about the ancient Druids of the Celtic peoples, they were inspired by what they knew.
I call myself a druid because I am interested in and inspired by what the ancient Druids thought, believed, and did. I don’t confuse what the Revival Druids thought about the ancient Druids with the facts, any more than I confuse Aristotle’s biology with his philosophy (he was very, very wrong about the female role in reproduction, for one thing).
I call myself a druid because I find meaning in both the Druid Revival’s teachings, which were the product of early industrial Western society and the search for an alternative to that society and its emerging values, and in the ancient Indo-European worldview which the Celtic cultures and their druids shared with other cultures across Europe and in Asia.
I don’t call myself a Celtic Reconstructionist because I don’t consider the practices of the ancient Druids normative for my practice. They are informative, but not normative; instructive, but not limiting or defining.
I don’t call myself a Witch or a Wiccan because I have never formally studied the Craft or been initiated into a coven, even though I may use some of the tools of the Craft.
I call myself a Buddhist because I have taken refuge and because the Dharma has become my superstructure or metastructure for understanding spiritual experience, and all experience. I call myself an Anglican but not a Christian because I have been formed and am still influenced by the Anglican spiritual tradition, even though Christian doctrine and practice are no longer normative in my life.
I call myself a Druid because Druidry today can include my being Buddhist and my being Anglican, my borrowings from the Craft, my learning from Hellenismos.
I call myself a Druid because it is simply the best short summary of who I am and what my religion is. And the proof that I am one is that I am a member of a Druid Order. One of the things which “druid” has meant for the last two hundred years is “a member of a fraternal order that is descended from the Druid Revival and/or inspired by the ancient druids”. And by that definition, I am a Druid.