Patheos is running a summer series on the Future of Faith in America. They’re saving the best for last – the Pagan channel will be up August 26. In advance of that feature, our Managing Editor Jason Mankey asked us to kick off August with a post on why we still are what we are.
Jason’s request is particularly appropriate for me. When I write on the future of religion (I’m a Pagan – religion is far more than faith) I’m going to be concentrating on polytheism. My theology, my cosmology, and my devotions are unquestionably polytheistic. But if you ask me to self-identify, I’m almost certain to answer “I’m a Druid.”
Druidry put me firmly on my Pagan path. Like so many of us, I came into Paganism through Wicca. I really wanted to be a witch, but as a religion, Wicca just didn’t work for me. Part of that was the difficulty of working on my own – things might have been different if I had found a good local coven to study with. Still, much of Wiccan theology doesn’t speak to me.
When I read my first book on Druidry I knew I had found a home – this was who I am and what I’m supposed to be. I stopped trying to be a Wiccan and started being a Druid and the rest fell into place… with a lot of time and effort.
Druidry provides a connection to my ancestors. Yes, my immediate ancestors were all Christians (as far as I know), but my heritage is not in the Middle East – it’s in the British Isles. While we don’t know much about the ancient Druids, we do know they were the priests (and more) of the ancient Celtic peoples. I have no direct lineage to them, but I feel the same call of the Gods and land as they did. Druidry is part of my heritage, a part I’m proud to help re-establish for the modern world.
The Gods call who They call. You need not have Celtic ancestors to practice Druidry, and having Celtic ancestors is no guarantee Druidry will be a good fit for you. But for me, it was important to find something that felt like it was mine. Druidry is mine.
Druidry connects me to my modern Pagan heritage. The modern Pagan movement did not begin with Gerald Gardner and Wicca nor with Aleister Crowley and the Golden Dawn. It’s been going on since the power of the Church began waning with the Enlightenment. OBOD founder Ross Nichols claimed our modern Druid lineage begins with the founding of the Circle of the Universal Bond in 1717. Historian Ronald Hutton says there’s no evidence of that, but there is plenty of evidence that the Gorsedd of the Bards of Britain was founded by 1792. And there were people calling themselves Druids and doing what they thought Druids should do long before that.
These early revival Druids were not Pagans, but the work they did and the orders they formed led directly to the Druidry I practice today. They are worthy of our honor.
I grew up with the woods quite literally 20 feet outside my back door. They were a place of wonder and magic, a place of refuge and safety for a bookish little kid growing up in an environment where he didn’t belong. And they still are.
I don’t love Nature because I’m a Druid – I’m a Druid because I love Nature.
Druidry is open to many practices. The earliest revival Druids were Christians in a thoroughly Christian society. But they were, by and large, Christians of a rather liberal persuasion. That liberal, questioning, accepting perspective continues in modern Druidry. At the 2012 East Coast Gathering, OBOD Chosen Chief Philip Carr-Gomm said there are Pagan Druids, Christian Druids, Buddhist Druids, atheist Druids, and Spiritual But Not Religious Druids and he was very happy with that. When asked if Druidry is a religion, Philip responded “it’s up to you.”
Not all Druid orders are this open – Ár nDraíocht Féin (ADF) is an intentionally Pagan church. But their foundational documents make it clear that “everyone is expected to communicate with the Goddesses and Gods in her or his own way.”
I’m a polytheist, but I’m still a Druid because Druidry teaches spiritual techniques that are helpful to anyone with an interest in Celtic lore and a love of Nature.
Druidry has given me a community. I’ve attended a large OBOD gathering every year for the past six years: the House of Danu Gorsedd in 2009 and 2010, the East Coast Gathering in 2011 through 2014 (and I’m booked again for 2015), and the Gulf Coast Gathering earlier this year. I’ve attended the ADF Texas Imbolc Retreat the past two years. These gatherings have been wonderful times of fellowship, learning, and ritual.
And I’ve made close friends, friends that thanks to our common interests and social media, I can stay connected with year-round and not just for the four days each year we’re in the same location.
I belong to many religious movements: Pagan, polytheist, Unitarian Universalist. I serve or have served in many capacities: congregational President, chapter Coordinating Officer, national Vice President, Worship Committee member. I’m a writer, a speaker, a teacher, a priest.
But if you ask me to pick one primary religious identity, my heart and my head both say the same thing: I’m a Druid.