Sunday, February 16, 2014

[Pagan Blog Project] D is for Druid

A bit late with writing this. I'm in the process of moving and my schedule has been chaotic. Anyway, time to make some people angry!
Well, hopefully not "angry." But I have changed my thoughts about neoDruidry in recent months. A while ago, I was very enthusiastic about joining ADF and becoming a "druid." John Michael Greer's book The Druidry Handbook shaped a lot of that. And while there are other Celtic Recons out there with harsher views of the NeoDruid organizations, mine are more lax I think because of Greer. And I think that's due to his honest admittance to the roots of the NeoDruid movements.

Most of these movements attest to the Druid Revival in the 1700s. While not outright stated in Greer's book, this was the first step away from historical accounts of Druidry and into the fanciful imaginations of those who wanted to get in touch with Mother Nature. Greer writes how part of the starting movement wanted to include pantheism, which is a redflag to me that these early revivalists were "reviving" anything historical, but inventing a spirituality.

But that's the seed of modern neoDruidry. Greer writes: 
But what of the name "Druid" and the imagery that surrounds it? A case can probably be made for finding some other label for the tradition, but there are solid reasons against this. First is the sheer historical fact that the Druids of the Revival took that name, and not another; they were inspired by the ancient Druids and not some other ancient priesthood; and they have been known by that name ever since. For three centuries, the word "Druid" has meant, among other things, a participant in the Revival. Relabeling that movement "British Universalist Post-Anglican Latitudinarian Pantheist Neo-Pythagorean Nature Spirituality" or some other long-winded term is hardly an improvement. (page 37.)
While I disagree that different, more precise name would be a detriment (in fact, I'd say that a better fitting name would save a lot of headaches from those who read about the historical druid class in various Celtic societies), I do agree that the title of "Druid" has been part of the movement since the beginning three hundred-or-so years ago. But I disagree with the continue use of "Revival." The modern NeoDruid movements are not "reviving" anything. At best, they could be said to be "reinventing."

A clear example of how they aren't "reviving" is the pan-Celtic approach. From talking with a Gaulish Recon, I've discovered that the Druids of Gaul were quite different from the Druids of Gael. Not to mention that it is hardly befitting to assume that just because Gaul did something, the Gael mimicked it exactly, and vice-versa. That is the pitfall of pan-Celtic approaches.

Also, it is certainly humbris of Greer in his second argument for the movement being titled "Druid." He writes that "Druids" would be obscure and of no importance to historians if not for the Druid Revival. Perhaps, but I would prefer "obscure" to "misleading."

I don't have focused problems with the neoDruid movement as a whole. I do wish it wouldn't take a name that is rooted in specific cultures but because pretty poetry was written in the 1700s about the position, it's fair game to call their unstructured religious doctrine the same (Greer refers to Druidry having no over-arching structure, but a feel-as-you-go. While a liberating approach to religion, I think the structured historic Druids would be offended.)

My boyfriend's reaction to the word "Druid" and how it was used today was hilariously on-point. He said, "But if it has nothing to do with the historical druids, why call it that?!?" And...I don't know. I do think that the ideas that came out of the Revival are to blame for the confusion. While not an academic Revival by modern day standards, it was an honest attempt (although perhaps also a biased one.) And even the neoDruidry group ADF who is perhaps most academic out of the rest...still operates with the Druid Revival's philosophy at the forefront. 

IN SHORT: I'm not a druid. I don't have the knowledge acquired to call myself one. I wish to uphold the true and living Gaelic culture, and neoDruidry does not fit in that (best to my knowledge.)


  1. I think at least the Druids aren't as bad as the Witches! But then I think making up a new religion, despite the fact that some people tried to pass it off an a revival of an ancient religion, is not a bad thing. Using our imaginations to create something modern, while being inspired by the past, is pretty cool! :)

  2. I'm guessing you mean Wiccans/NeoWiccans? Yeah, unfortunately I would agree that the idea that Wicca and in extension NeoWicca are "revivals" of an ancient "witch" religion is...unfortunate. Most neoDruids I've met are well aware they are not connected to the ancient Druids in anyway other than by name, which is certainly a step up from the misinformed NeoWiccans I run into.

    But yes, the inspired by the past is probably the best way to phrase modern NeoDruidry :)