Druidism 101: An Outline for Presentations

Introduction

As I am writing this, we are in the midst of the largest COVID-19 outbreaks in the US.  There are a lot of emotions going around right now and not all of them are healthy or productive.  However, news came out of the United Kingdom this week regarding the approval of a vaccine that they are going to start issuing next week to the British population.  It will not be long until the US starts to do the same which means there is a light at the end of this tunnel.  With that, I recently had discussions with members in our local Pagan community who wanted to start having Pagan get-togethers at a local Pagan shop once enough of the population was inoculated and we can start to have public gatherings safely again.  They talked about having a General Pagan 101 class, a Wiccan 101 class, etc.  I was thinking of hosting a monthly Druidism get-together called, Druids and Coffee anyways once things were safe and the suggestion came up to add a Druidism session to their lineup.  Nothing is definite at this point with that, but I was able to put together a fairly detailed outline of the presentation and I thought I would put it up for others if they were interested in checking it out or using it. 

The general outline of the presentation is from another Druid presentation outline I found online a while ago (don’t remember exactly where I found it), but the details of the information in the presentation is from my own research on the topic. I do present a list of resources at the end, all of which I used for the information in the presentation (plus some other suggested books I know are good for the topic).  Also, some of the notes are more detailed but I never intended to read it word-for-word.  The information is there in case people ask questions and I have something in front of me to have a deeper and more in-depth conversation. It also helps keep me on track in regards to the presentation. If this outline speaks to you, feel free to use it as you see fit. Modify it, add resources, etc. if you need to for your local groups. I will be using it from time-to-time if I have to and all I have on my person is my smart phone…. 🙂

So with that, here is my Druidism 101 presentation outline.

Druidism 101

Who Were the Druids?

  • Religious specialist and intellectual caste of the Celts
  • Specific roles varied from region to region, but they were primarily specialist priest, teachers, judges, advisors, philosophers, seers, healers, and possibly bards
  • Given that they were ritual specialist, Caesar says that no ritual could be performed without a Druid present.  They made sure the rituals were performed properly (which is connected to IE cosmological theology).
  • Name derives from IE root meaning ‘deep seeing/knowledge/wisdom’
  • Included both men and women (at least, so we believe based on the Celtic stories and Classical Sources)

What Happened to Them?

  • The Celts once inhabited a vast range, from Turkey to Spain and from Italy to Scotland.
  • By the time of the height of the Roman Empire, Celtic culture was going through social/political changes, adopting elements from both Greek and Roman social structures.  Caesar took advantage of this and expanded Roman influence throughout Western Europe, driving independent Celtic areas to the boundaries of the continent (Brittany, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and Iberian Galicia).
  • The Romans saw the Druids as being instigators of rebellion against their rule and systematically suppressed/eradicated them.
  • The Druids in the free Celtic regions continues until later with the introduction of Christianity.  Due to social/political pressure from the Catholic Church and the countries on the mainland continent, the Druids were demonized and marginalized further into obscurity.
  • There is some evidence that Druids possibly lingered on until the 7th century CE but not after that.

What do we really know about the ancient Druid and Celtic Religion?

  • Most of what we have about the ancient Druids and Celtic religion are from Classical sources, comparative analysis of Indo-European culture, physical remains of burials, buildings, artifacts, and writings from later Christian sources (for as reliable as that can be).
  • Classical Sources: There have been various writers from the Classical World that have written about the Druids.  Our primary sources for these writings include the Greek geographer Strabo; Julius Caesar; the historians Pliny the Elder, Tacitus, and Diodorus Siculus; and various other authors like Diogenes Laertius and Lucan.
  1. Strabo the Geographer: In his work, Geographies, Strabo talked about the Druids being one of three groups held in honor.  The other two were bards and vates (diviners).  He also said that Druids were natural philosophers, known for their sound judgment and wise counsel.  They were specifically called upon for the proper execution of sacrifices, judging murder cases, and arbitrating conflicts between different parties.  He also stated that the Druids taught that both the world and the souls of men are indestructible.
  2. Julius Caesar: In his Gallic Wars, we get some of the most detailed information regarding the Druids, even though it was through Caesars’s perspective of their traditions.  He stated that among the Gauls, there were two types of men of importance, the Druids, and the knights (equites).  Druids were connected with the worship of the gods, looked after public and private sacrifice, and explained/discussed religious matters.  They are able to decide nearly all private and public disputes and passed judgment on criminal and murder cases.  They presided over land disputes and had the power to decide who was allowed to come to sacrificial rituals.  He also stated that there was a Chief Druid, who was the highest authority among them.  Once a year, they would all gather at Carnutus in central Gaul to have large gatherings to handle legal issues and discuss religious matters.  Caesar also reinstated what others had said regarding the Celts superstitious beliefs and the immortality of the soul.  He stated that the Druids taught that the Celts were descended from Dis (Roman god of Underworld) and that the Druids seemed to have originated in Britain.
  3. Pliny the Elder: In his work, The Natural History, Book XXX, Pliny’s main focus regarding the Druids seem to focus on their creation and use of magical charms.  He also mentioned that Druids focused on divination and medicine, whose teachings seemed to have originated in what is now Britain.
  4. Tacitus: In his Histories and Annals, he specifically talked about what he called the Celts superstitious behavior which included not looting foreign temples out of fear of reprimand from the god who lived there, the barbarous behavior involved in some of their divination practices (reading the entrails of humans vs animals like everyone else) and he gives an account of the Roman invasion and destruction of the Island of Anglesey in northern Wales.
  5. Pomponius Mela: In his work, De Situ Orbis, Mela states that the Druids taught wisdom, knew the size and shape of the Earth, the movement of the heavens and stars, and the will of the gods.  He stated Druid learning could last up to 20 years and that they promoted a doctrine of the immortality of the soul, living a new life in the infernal regions,  He also talked about funerary practices that sound similar to German/Norse practices of needed items in the Afterlife being buried/burnt with the deceased, including human servants and spouses.
  6. Diogenes Laertius: In his work Vitae, he stated that the Druids taught that all men should honor the gods, do no evil, and maintain “manly” behavior (courage, integrity, honor, etc).
  7. Other Sources: Most other sources made passing references to the superstitious beliefs of the Celts, how their practices had been outlawed by the Romans, and that the Druids were the instigators/source for this.  Some sources also compared the Druids to the Pythagorean philosophers of Greece and the Magi from Persia.  Other than that, if we move away from the Druids and focus on various references of aspects of the Celtic Religion, such as how temples were operated and such, we get a wider picture of what was going on with Ancient Celtic Religion and how Druids associated with that.
Druids and Other Religious Officials
  • Most large settlements had temples (Nemeton) located on the highest spots in the settlement.  They also were located towards the center of the settlement.  We also have shrines located in remote locations away from settlements.  Structurally, there was little difference between these structures and the buildings around them, other than most of them seemed to have an outer perimeter wall built around a central building.
  • Various references talk about caretakers and priest at temples (used Roman words curator and flamen) but they also referenced Gutuater (Gaulish: Master of Voice), which was a title given to members of the temple and seemed to be in charge of organizing and facilitating ceremonies.
  • Another title includes Vergobret (Gaulish: Chief Magistrate) who was a member of the tribe who presided over votive ceremonies.  It is unclear if this person was a priest or a community leader (elder).
  • When looking at information regarding temples, especially the larger ones that were dedicated to healing deities, we fine some references that temples would have at least one druid residing there.
  • Some literary references from later periods would talk about Druids living at remote shrines.
Writings of Druids during the Early Christian Era

Our primary sources for Druids in the early Christian Era comes from sources from primarily Ireland.

  • Irish: Irish sources that have Druid references include the Mythological Cycle, (Leabhar Gabhála: Book of Invasions and Dinnshenchas: History of Places), Fionn Cycle, A hero cycle that focused on a war band located in the providences of Leinster and Munster, Ulster Cycle, which includes the Táin Bó Cuailnge (Cattle Raid of Cooley) as well as other stories that center around Ulster, and the stories of the Saints which includes the stories of St. Patrick and St. Brigid.
  • Stories show Druids and seers (Filidh: FEE-lee) shared many duties including prophecy, divination, advisors to kings/chieftains, etc: Druids were more politically influential and were portrayed as having immense supernatural powers.
  • As Christianity grew in influence, the influence of the Druids declines.  The Filidh were not as affected by this and took on many of the duties that the Druids had that the Christian clergy did not.
  • The Mythological Cycle references Druids/Druid powers with various invasions including the Partholón, who had three Druids (names translated to intelligence, knowledge, and enquiry) and the Tuatha Dé Danann were highly associate with the magic of druids.
  • Stories of the Saints presented Druids as rivals and antagonist towards Christian clergy.  Many of the themes in the stories revolved around the central plot that the Druid’s end was inevitable against the new Christian religion and that all efforts by the local Chieftains to keep the Old Ways would lead to their ruin.
  • (Methods used by these Stories still used today by political groups to marginalize rivals for dominance and control.)
  • Welsh/Brittany: We don’t see much direct references to Druids with early Christian Welsh literature.  Much of the literature talks about prophets/Bards and various other magical practitioners/witches.
  • Mythologies originally compiled in the 11th century CE and include two collections, the White book of Rhydderch and the Red Book of Hengest, both of which include the Four Branches of the Mabinogi to varying degrees, as well as the Tales of Culhwech and Olwen (romantic tale of a young hero who must win a series of challenges to marry his love) and the Arthurian Tales which is similar to the hero tales in Ireland with the wondering warrior band fighting giants and monsters.
  • Much of the stories involve knights or kings having interactions with beings of the Otherworld and these beings being the source of magical interactions.
  • These stories were written several hundreds of years after the region became Christianized, so stories about Christian Saints overcoming Pagan wizards was not really a focus.
  • Other Celtic Regions: Don’t have much outside of Ireland and Wales for early Christian Era.  Gaul has no surviving mythologies and much of the folklore that was recorded in the 1800s is in the French Archives (also all in French).  Iberian Galician folklore is also kept regional and is written in Galician or Portuguese/Spanish.  The Galatians in modern Turkey from the historical records do not mention Druids at all and they did not seem to be part of the Galatian society.

The History of the Druid Revival

Earliest evidence of the Druid Revival started around the end of the 15th century and beginning of the 16th century in Germany: (Briefly go through and don’t spend too much time here)

  • 1492 CE, German monk and occultist, Johannes Trithemius was fascinated with the ancient druids and declared himself a druid and his Abby a druid sanctuary.  He did this by collecting what information he had about the Druids from classical sources and used Greek philosophy to “fill the gaps”
  • Around the same time, a Dominican Friar, Giovanni Nanni (also known as Annius of Viterbo) collected information regarding the ancient Druids from Classical writers and created a historical outline of Northwest Europe from the time of Noah’s flood to the beginning of the known historical sources.
  • By the early 1500s, both Trithemius’s and Nanni’s works had become popular in both Germany and France and around 1556 CE, French scholar Jean Picard brought their work together, adjusting their ideas to be consistent and unified.
  • In 1526 CE, interest in Druids started to come up in Scotland because of the writings of a Scottish priest, Hector Boece, who associated the Druids with ancient Neolithic stone circles.
  • By the mid-1500s, the Welsh had gathered their national history and included Druids in it.  This sparked interest in Druids with among the Welsh and writers such as Sir John Price and Humphrey Llwyd made the connections with Druids and the Welsh Bards and the Druids on Anglesey.
  • By 1577 CE, writers in England started writing about Druids and British history, but there was much resistance among English audiences.

Movement picked up in England and France in the 17th century (1600s): (Briefly go through and don’t spend too much time here)

  • By 1609 CE, the popularity of the Druids had grown quite a bit, but people were turned off by the more negative elements such as the idea of human sacrifice.  Apologist became popular at that time, white-washing the parts of Druid history that were not popular, writing them off as Pro-Roman propaganda against the Celts and Druids.
  • In England, writers such as William Harrison and John Selden promoted Druidism in relation to Evangelical Protestant ideologies and the Elizabethan English state.  With this reframing, by the mid-1600s, writers were promoting the Druids as this noble savages with evolved philosophy that was in line with Christian ideology.  Writers openly bragged that the Druids originated in Britain (which is stated in Caesars work) and being the champions of Christianity.
  • By the late 1600s, British colleges and the Royal Acadamy were promoting Druids as images of British heritage and excellence.
  • By the end of the 17th century, Druids had become a vivid part of British heritage by being connected to the physical remains of Britain’s ancient past (megalithic stone circles specifically).

Evolution of the Druid in the 18th century (1700s)

  • The newly updated and revised Camden’s Britannia, which included information on the Druids, was published around the same time as England and Scotland unified, forming what is known now as Great Britain.
  • National identities were being redone at this time and the Druid became a symbol of a shared common heritage between England, Scotland, and Wales.
  • Growth in new methods of research, specifically linguistics (known as philology at the time), folk studies, and ancient manuscripts/myths added to the evolution of the idea of the Druid in relation to ancient religious figures, philosophers, and proto-scientist.
  • William Stukeley: Probably the first recognizable figure of the early developments of what would become the Druid Movement in Britain.
  1. Stukeley was a scholar and was at the forefront of the early developments of the British archeological studies in the early 1700s, until he became a clergyman with the Church of England in 1720.
  2. He was always fascinated with the nature of the universe, studying science, religion, medicine, etc.  He became fascinated with druids and megaliths for the same reasons.
  3. He was a deist and a Neoplatonist who welcomed being called a Druid by his peers.
  4. Moved to Lincolnshire in 1726 after a fall out with his peers in London and continued his own studies on Druidism and megalithic circles.
  5. Stukeley published two books in the 1740s, which became highly popular and founded many technical terms that became used in British archeology.
  6. He died in 1765, but his work inspired others and lead to the formation of the first Druid groups.
  • Oct. 5th 1772, The Druidical Society was established in Anglesey, England and was the first official Druid group in Britain.  This group was a social club that was dedicated to the social and economic improvement of the area.  The group grew in popularity and developed hierarchal structures, uniforms, and had public events used to raise funds to help out local charities and hospitals.  Group officially dissolved in 1844, liquidating all assets and donating the funds to the charities and hospitals they had been helping for years.
  • Other groups developed around this time including The Society of the Druids of Cardigan in 1779, which focused on writing and poetry, the Ancient Order of Druids in 1781, which is the parent organization of most modern druid groups (and is still around today), and the Gorsedd of the Bards of Britain, which founded and host the Welsh Eisteddfod held in Wales every year.

Moving into the 19th century (1800s), the Druid revival in Britain continued to dominate the imagination of both people fascinated with British history and academic scholars.

  • We saw the growth of Druid Orders in Britain as well as their expansion into the Americas, Australia, and on mainland Europe during the 1800s.
  • The relationship between Druidism and the Welsh national identity solidified during the early 1800s being mainly influenced by the work of Iolo Morgangwg (Edward Williams).
  • Iolo Morgangwg (yolo mor-GAN-ug): The main figure in the development of Welsh Druidism/Bardic revivalism in Wales
  1. Born as Edward Williams in 1747 in Glamorgan, Wales.  He inherited poor health from his mother.  Father was a tradesman.
  2. In 1770, his mother died and he threw himself into his work.  He moved to London in 1773 and got involved with the Welsh national movement organizations.  It was also at this time that he became addicted to his medications, which was said to impair his discernment.
  3. In 1777, he moved back to Glamorgan to start a family, but by 1787, his career fell apart and went to jail for his financial debts.
  4. 1788, he was asked to assist with Welsh material in some publications by friends in London.  Being a pacifist, he was turned off by the honor society warrior stories from the middle ages, so he decided to create forgeries that reflected what he thought the Welsh ideal should be and sent them in to be published.
  5. 1791, Williams moved back to London to continue his work with his forgeries and at that point, he took up the pen name, Iolo Morgangwg.
  6. Much of Iolo’s work reflected William Stukeley’s work showing the bards/druids to be high minded teachers, believing in the one true god.  He also propagated the Romans as being brutal invaders, the early Christian Church blended with the older druid traditions, and that the Welsh medieval stories held true druid teachings.
  7. In 1792, Iolo began to put together the foundations for a Welsh National Bardic college.  He moved back to Glamorgan in 1795 and continued to work on his forgeries while developing his Bardic College.
  8. In the early 1800s, Iolo succeeded in the establishment of his Bardic school, called the Gorsedd of the Bards of Britain in Glamorgan.  They started the National Eisteddfod.
  9. Iolo’s health started to decline in 1823 and in 1826, he died due to health complications.
  • After Iolo’s death, his son Taliesin (tal-EE-esten), worked to promote his father’s teachings of Druidism and the Bardic traditions, with the promotion and administration of the Eisteddfod Gathering.  Scholars pointed out issues with the rituals and beliefs the event promoted, but Taliesin dug in his heels and held firm to his and the organization’s beliefs.
  • In the 1850s, India was brought into the British Empire and people started to compare Druidism with Hinduism.
  • In 1874, the Ancient and Archeological Order of Druids (AAOD) was formed by Robert Little in England.  In 1886, the group had a schism and the off shoot became known as the Ancient Masonic Order of Druids (AMOD)
  • By the late 1800s, both the Welsh and the Scots worked to associate with their own culture heritage in relation to English rule.  The Welsh firmly held onto the idea of the Druids, which made the English be more antagonistic towards them.  Many of the structural beliefs started to fall apart and by the beginning of the 20th century (1900s), most people had moved onto a new evolutionary view of the world, biology, linguistics. etc.

In the 20th century (1900s), scholarly and social changes forced Druidism to make some new adaptations.

  • Despite the academic dismantling of many of the principle beliefs regarding the origins of Druidism, by the 1920s and 1930s most people didn’t seem to care anymore what the origin of these groups was.  They had grown into their own in their own right.
  • AOD had a massive growth in membership with finally dropping the older system structures left over from the Victorian Era and UAOD opened membership up to women and children, becoming a family focused group.
  • Branches of these Orders and others continued in the Americas as well as other countries to have a strong collaborative attitude towards group’s goals: lead to establishment of the International Grand Lodge of Druidism (IGLD) in 1913.
  • IGLD worked with various Druid orders including helping German Druids escape Nazi persecution in the 1930s.
  • In 1938, the Ancient Order of Druids Hermetists (AODH) was founded that blended the teachings of the AOD and Hermetic mystical teachings.
  • AODH founder died in 1946 and group was renamed Druid Universal Bond later that year.
  • In 1963 in the Northfield, MN, (US), the Reform Druids of North America was founded at Carleton College by a group of students who were required to attend religious services.  This group grew in popularity and as the members graduated from college, they started new groves in cities that they relocated to.
  • In 1964, DUB leader died with no established successor.  Two people rose up for leadership position: Thomas Maughan and Ross Nicolas.  Schism happened.  Maughan became leader of DUB and Nicolas started the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids (OBOD).  OBOD reflected the philosophy of its founder: Druids as scientist and philosophers, graphing the principles of the Bible and the writings of Iolo to fill the gaps.
  • OBOD lasted until 1975, when Nicolas died and disappeared until 1988 and then reemerged with a new leader (and a student of Nicolas), Philip Carr-Gomm.
  • In 1976, the AMOD changed their name to the Ancient Order of Druids in America (AODA)
  • In 1979, The British Druid Order was founded by Philip Shallcrass and Emma Restall Orr
  • In 1983, an ex-member of the Reformed Druids of North America founded a new Druid association called Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship (ADF) in Glouster, OH (US) through a combination of peer pressure from interested friends and acquaintances and out of reaction to things he saw as problematic with other Druid groups at that time.  ADF grew and has become one of the largest Druid Organizations in the world, primarily located in the US and Canada.
  • In the 1980s, the DUB public festivals at Stonehenge was shut down by British government due to uncontrolled festivals and crowds.  After that, group went into isolation and seclusion.
Paleo-Paganism, Meso-Paganism, and Neo-Paganism:
  • Paleo-Paganism: Paleo-Paganism/Paleopaganism is a term that references any religious group or community that still practices their indigenous and tribal religious systems and customs.  These groups can include, but are not limited to the Aboriginal people of Australia, the cultural practices of Oceanic peoples like the Hmong, Native American tribes, Japanese Shinto, Taoist practices in China, and some branches of Hinduism.  Characteristics of these religious groups include animistic worldviews, polytheistic devotions, ancestral veneration/worship, strong family associations, tribalistic loyalties (especially of blood relations), certain prejudices against outsider groups, strong and clear gender roles, clear marriage/family customs, clear and in some cases strict prejudges in regards to non-heterosexual practices, etc.
  • Meso-Paganism: Meso-paganism/Mesopaganism is a term that references a variety of movements (organized and non-organized) that happened in Europe between the 1600s and the 20th century.  These movements attempted to recreate and revive/continue their founders views on what they felt were the “best practices” from Paleopagan communities while blending them with various western practices and philosophies that were rooted in the Abrahamic traditions, Zoroastrianism, early Buddhism, European, Asian, and African folk practices (Voodoo, Santeria, Sikhism, ect), social organizations like Freemasonry, magical orders such as the Golden Dawn, and British/French/American nationalism.  Mesopagan traditions that came out of this time period include most orthodox traditions of Wicca, Odinism, most family witchcraft traditions, and most British Druid Orders.
  • Neo-Paganism: Neo-paganism/Neopaganism is a term that references a variety of movements (organized and non-organized) that started in Europe and the Americas in the 1960s.  These movements, much like the Mesopaganism movements, attempted to recreate and revive/continue their founders views on what they felt were the best practices from Paleopagan communities while combining them with various western practices and philosophies.  Where they differ however, is that the Neopagan movement adopted a neo-liberal position in regards to a sense of inclusion, humanism, and pluralistic ideals, while actively rejecting any sense of monotheism, dualism, and non-theistic views that were openly embraced by Mesopagan groups.  Neopagan group’s core views revolve around the idea of multiplicity of gods of all genders, views of gods being both immanent and transcendent, environmental awareness, and a willingness to perform magical practices.  They also actively reject racism, sexism, homophobia, etc.  Examples of Neopagan groups include Church of All Worlds, most non-orthodox/eclectic Wiccan traditions, and Druid traditions such as the Reformed Druids of North America and Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship (ADF).
  • Pagan Reconstructionism (maybe???): This group found its first expressions in the 1960s, but seemed to really pick up steam in the 1980s and 1990s.  Some argue that Reconstructionism is just methodology towards authenticity and is a branch of Neopaganism, but many Reconstructionist disassociate themselves with Neopagans for various reasons.  Many Reconstructionist fully reject Mesopaganism and feel that many Neopagans are still too closely associated with them.  They prefer to be called polytheist, not pagan.  Many have a tendency to focus on just one cultural area (usually associated with their personal ancestry) and Reconstructionism has had problems with racial identity politics (racism).  Reconstructionist traditions include Norse Reconstructionist Heathenism, Celtic Reconstructionism, and Lithuanian Folk polytheism.

What Do Modern Druids Believe?

Specific beliefs of Druids and Druid groups will vary from group to group, however some common themes are:

  1. Acceptance of the inherent divinity of the natural world/within the natural world: This position expresses itself in a variety of ways from animist belief that the cosmos is empowered by possibly an infinite number of spirit forms to a pantheistic view that the natural world has a spiritual essence (Mother Earth) in itself worthy of worship.  This also expresses itself in forms of environmentalism and conservation, gaining knowledge of trees, herbs, etc.
  2. Rejection of any concept of divinely prescribed laws for human behavior: This includes religious dogma that leads to the concept of sin and salvation.  In its place, we find morals, virtues to strive towards, ethics, and personal freedom to live our lives.
  3. To Draw Out and Enhance the Divinity Within:  If you accept that Divinity exists in all things, then you must acknowledge the divinity within yourself.  Through meditation and ritual, we invoke spirits and the gods in order to manifest or empower the divine nature within to manifest change in our lives and integrate ourselves with the divine, the cosmos, and with ourselves.
  4. Development of ritual and magical skills and abolishing the distinction between religion and magic: Religious ceremony and magical ceremony when looking at what they do has little to no distinction between them.  Magical acts such as divination and charm casting, are parts of larger rituals, where they interact with the rest of the ritual in order to establish some form of communion with the divine.
  5. Affinity for the Bardic and performance arts as well as the creative performance of ritual: The distinction between set and spontaneous prayer in ritual as well as the importance of each of these is something that has been debated among pagans, but there is a strong tendency towards spontaneous prayer over set prayers.  Many people feel that spontaneous prayer is more authentic or directly inspired by the Divine.  We also believe that prayer comes in many forms such as words, gestures, singing, dancing, etc.  Utilizing all these methods are important.
  6. Love of knowledge and wisdom and a respect for scholarly research: Not everyone who is a Druid is an academic or a scholar.  However there is a respect for the discipline that goes into it, as well as the information that comes out of it.  These people make sure that our base information from folklore, mythology, and ancestral customs are as accurate as possible in order to grow our traditions from.  There is also the view that the lore we have inherited is a window or a guide towards spiritual revelation and transformation/growth, not a doctrine of subjugation.
Some Modern Druid Groups
Ancient Order of Druids (AOD)
  • The AOD identifies as a fraternal, benevolent society whose main aimis to raise money for local and national charities.
  • Order was founded on November 29th, 1781 at the Kings Arms Tavern in London West End.
  • No clear records were kept of its founding other than the date, location, and the name of the founder, Hurle.  First attempts to write history of AOD in 1830s in Druid Magazine, but none of those direct sources survived.  Only 2nd and 3rd sources collected in the early 20th century.
  • Group seemed to have grown organically and adapted to the changing social and political environments that it lived through.
  • First Schism with the AOD was in 1790 in reaction to political views with the War with France (AOD was anti-violence and politically neutral.  Schism group was not)
  • Second schism was in 1843, with the establishment of the Untied Ancient Order of Druids.  They were almost identical, except in operation function.  Both groups worked side-by-side through the 1800s promoting many of the same ideals.
  • Third schism happened in 1858 with the establishment of the Order of Druids.
  • 1888, AOD restructured and shut down the original Lodge in London.  AOD was run by an International Board of Management, which helped facilitate new growth in Britain and overseas.
  • AOD continued public events, particularly at Megalithic sites like Stonehenge until the 1950s.
  • As of 2000, AOD was still running strong in Britain, Australia, the US, and on the mainland of Europe.
Ancient Order of Druids in America (AODA)
  • The core principles of AODA Druidry is to honor the past, respond to the present, and, through nature-based spiritual practice, offer tools to shape the future. These principles, as described in their curriculum and are woven through all three degrees of their coursework.
  • Founded in 1876, originally an American branch of the Ancient Masonic Order of Druids.
  • Is an initiatory order grown out of the Druid Revival, and thus presents Druidism as a spiritual framework applicable to any religion
  • There are three degrees of initiation – Druid Apprentice, Druid Companion, and Druid Adept
  • AODA rituals are derived from the British Revivalists
  • Each degree requires completion of a curriculum of tasks, all of which are available on the AODA web site.  Recognition of the completion of a degree requires a monetary payment.
  • To join AODO there is a $50 lifetime membership fee.  Each degree requires further fees; $100 for the first two and $50 for the third.  Therefore to reach the highest degree of initiation in AODO will cost you $300 in total.
Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids (OBOD)
  • Grew out of a schism within the Druid Universal Bond.  Its founder, Ross Nichols instilled in new organization the views of druids being scientist and philosophers, graphing the principles of the Bible and the writings of Iolo to fill the gaps.
  • Nichols was also friends with Gerald Gardiner and adopted many of Gardiner’s Wiccan elements into the Order, including the Wheel of the Year and the calling to the quarters.
  • Presents Druidry as a mystery tradition which can be applied to any religion.
  • There are three “grades” which must be taken in succession; Bardic, Ovate, and Druid.
  • Bardic course $343 for the text version, $383 for the audio version, or $540 for both.  Presumably the material for the other two grades is about the same, for a minimum of about a $1,000 total investment to become a ‘Druid’.
  • Has a ritual framework which is deliberately inclusive of all religions and for which the primary purpose is to celebrate the changing of the seasons.
  • No annual fees for membership
Reformed Druids of North America (RDNA)
  • Formed in 1963 by students at Carlton College in Northfield MN as a quasi-religious Mesopagan protest on campus because the college required attendance at religious services.
  • After two years, the campus repealed the religious service requirement.  However, many of those involved realized that they had actually created something that enriched their lives and their gatherings remained popular.
  • As their members graduated and moved onto Grad School, they continued by creating new Groves at the new universities.
  • Each branch did their own thing, loosely connected by a shared identity.  As of 2006, there were two main branches: the Reformed Druids of North America (RDNA), and the New Reformed Druids of North America (NRDNA).
  • RDNA spawned numerous other groups, including Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship (ADF)
Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship (ADF)
  • ADF was formed in 1983 by Isaac Bonewits, ex member of RDNA
  • Specifically rejects the writings of the Revivalists, and has tried to reconstruct a Neo-Pagan Druidic tradition based on the best available research into Indo-European religious beliefs and practices.
  • Unlike the other organizations, ADF is a church with initiatory order elements.
  • As a church, ADF has a clergy training program, provides a framework for liturgy called the Core Order of Ritual (COoR), and requires that ADF groves offer public High Day ceremonies.
  • ADF provides members with various study programs of study, including the Dedicant Path, the Initiates Path, The Clergy Training Program, and several other focused study programs including Guild Study Programs, Kin Study Programs, etc. (free with membership)
  • ADF is a registered non-profit organization which provides significant transparency into its operations on its website, including its financial reports, and is largely democratic in nature.
  • ADF has spawned at least one spin-off of its own, the Henge of Keltria which was explicitly Celtic in focus (no longer in operation)
Resources:
On Ancient Druids/Celts:
  1. Celts and the Classical World by David Rankin
  2. The World of the Druids by Miranda Green
  3. The Ancient Celts by Berry Cunliffe
  4. Celtic Heritage: Ancient Tradition in Ireland and Wales by Alwyn and Brinley Rees
On Modern Druid/Pagan Movement:
  1. Blood and Mistletoe: The History of the Druids in Britain by Ronald Hutton
  2. Essential Guide to Druidism by Isaac Bonewits
  3. Her Hidden Children: The Rise of Wicca and Paganism in America by Chas Clifton
  4. The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft by Ronald Hutton

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