In any discussion of Druids, history is bound to come up. Unfortunately, we know very little about the ancient Druids, and much of the material we do have is from sources that are anything but objective (most notably, Julius Caesar). This much we do know: the original Druids died out with the coming of Christianity. We can trace the Druid revival back about 300 years, which means Druids were absent from the world for at least a thousand years.
During one of the Gorsedd discussions, John Michael Greer said something I’ve heard before, though perhaps not in these exact words. He said that Paganism in general and Druidry in particular are not “revived” religions or even “reconstructed” religions. Rather, they are indigenous religions of modern Anglo-American industrial society. I think that’s right.
In The Triumph of the Moon, his fabulous work on the real history of British witchcraft, University of Bristol history professor Ronald Hutton said “while drawing heavily upon ancient ideas and images, [Paganism] was essentially a modern development especially well suited to the resolution of modern needs by applying selected old concepts and practices in a new way.” It’s a reaction to the environmental and commercial excesses of the Industrial Revolution that continue to this day. It’s a reaction to our disconnection with the land and separation from families and communities. It’s also a reaction to both male-dominated misogynistic religions and soul-denying hyper-rational scientific materialism.
What that means in practical terms is that we’re still very much in the process of figuring out what it means to be a Druid, Wiccan, or other Pagan, and the best way (or, more properly, the best ways) to go about doing it. When I asked John Michael Greer for his recommendation on books to help develop spirituality, his answer was simply “practice.”
Think about it: we’re developing – through trial and error, mostly – the practices and wisdom that future generations will build on, that they will use to take their practices even higher and deeper. What exciting times we live in!