The Future of Druidism
Article ID: 14191
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Author: Ellen Evert Hopman
Posted: December 12th. 2010
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Three things must be united before good can come of them: thinking well, speaking well and acting well. -- (Ancient Celtic triad)
I begin with the usual caveat: I can only speak from my own perspective on this issue as a Celtic Reconstructionist Druid of Ord na Darach Gile. Each Druid of the twenty-first century will see things through a slightly different lens.
Finding other Druids
In many ways the future is already here. When I began on this path in the very early 1980’s, it took years to find another Druid. Now we are but a quick Google search away from each other. While we do have our own Groves and regional gatherings, Druidism has become a cyber-path where we study, research, communicate, initiate, and do rituals online, a boon to widely scattered memberships spread all over the planet.
We have developed our own Druidic holy places and shrines that exist only online, for example The virtual Shrine of Brighid found at http://shrineofbrighid.com/ , the Temple of Manannán http://www.manannan.net/ and the Shrine of Lugh
In future as our numbers grow it will hopefully be easier for Druid students to find live teachers in their areas. For now the World Wide Web is a critical tool.
Is this a religion or is this a philosophy?
The old English Masonic derived Orders (whose founders were Masons in the 1700’s) will claim that Druidism is merely a philosophy, a stance that has made it possible for old style Masonic Druids to remain Christian, Jewish, Muslim or Hindu while practicing Druid rituals with only a paper-thin veneer of Celtic flavoring. Modern American Druid Orders have for the most part been Pagan from their birth. But over time even the English Orders such as OBOD (the English Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids) are drifting deeper and deeper into the Pagan religious camp.
So what does it mean to be a member of a Druid Pagan religion? A large part is the honoring of the ancient Celtic Gods and Goddesses (we have about four hundred names to choose from) with the proper offerings and seasonally appropriate rites, and as with any great world religion we also have our own values and ethics derived from the ancient wisdom teachings.
One document that modern Celtic Reconstructionist Druids look to for ethical advice is the Audacht Morainn. Written down in the seventh century it was in the oral tradition long before that:
“Darkness yields to light
Sorrow yields to joy
An oaf yields to a sage
A fool yields to a wise man
A serf yields to a free man
Inhospitality yields to hospitality
Niggardliness yields to generosity
Meanness yields to liberality
Impetuosity yields to composure
Turbulence yields to submission
A usurper yields to a true lord
Conflict yields to peace
Falsehood yields to truth.
Tell him, let him be merciful, just, impartial, conscientious, firm,
generous, hospitable, honorable, stable, beneficent, capable, honest,
well-spoken, steady, true-judging.” -- “Testament of Morann” (Translation by Fergus Kelly)
Another wisdom text we turn to is “Instructions of King Cormac”:
Be not too wise, be not too foolish
be not too conceited, nor too diffident
be not too haughty, nor too humble
be not too talkative, nor too silent
be not too hard, nor too feeble
If you be too wise, one will expect too much of you
If you be foolish, you will be deceived
If you be too conceited, you will be thought vexatious
If you be too humble, you will be without honor
If you be too talkative, you will not be heeded
If you be too silent, you will not be regarded
If you be too hard, you will be broken
If you be too feeble, you will be crushed. -- (Translation by Kuno Meyer)
Druids have always been philosophers, but we are much more than that. The ancient Druids studied nature and the heavens, taught the children of the nobility, composed poems, made laws, passed judgments, settled disputes, negotiated peace treaties and mediated between the tribe and its Gods.
As more and more of the general population turn away from established religions and look for ways to honor great Nature, She who has been ravaged almost beyond repair, perhaps the Druids will one day be turned to again as mediators between the Worlds.
Many Druids have become aware of the full Indo-European spectrum of history and religion. The Dharmic paths have many similarities with the ancient Celtic teachings and ways. Offerings to sacred Fire and sacred Water, triple deities, High Gods associated with thunder, lightening and oaks, and Sanskrit words embedded in Celtic languages are just a few of the similarities that point to a common spiritual heritage.
Last October (in 2009) I was honored to present a paper on Celtic Cosmology at the ICCS Conference on Spirituality in Indigenous Cultural and Religious Traditions, in the Washington DC area. The conference was held at a Hindu temple and it was exciting to explore the spread of Harappan and Vedic culture from the East into Western Europe with Hindu scholars.
This October (in 2010) OBOD is sponsoring The One Tree Gathering in Birmingham, UK, at the Shri Venkateswara Hindu Temple. This gathering will also explore the connections between Druidism and the Dharma.
Many Druids are reading the Rig Veda, the Upanishads, the Laws of Manu, the Bhagavad-Gita, the Ashtavakra Gita and other Vedic texts in an effort to learn the ancient philosophy that may have informed the religion of the Druids. In future this kind of mutual exchange between Hindus and Druids should become more frequent.
As with any religion Druids are actively training clergy, developing ritual forms based on actual Celtic precedent, and establishing standards of religious education for lay folk and clergy alike. A major problem is that while the Druid community clamors for public and private religious rites and educated clergy to lead them, they are still not prepared to compensate said clergy for all their years of study and the time required organizing gatherings and rituals.
At this moment in history many Pagans are still in the throes of leaving the religion of their childhood behind and seeking to create their own spiritual path without the intervention of priesthood and without the paying of regular tithes. Yet modern Pagans still want and expect clergy to be there for their life passages such as births, baptisms, hand-fastings, funerals, and seasonal rites.
Pagans want experienced ritual leaders who will offer their homes as a free teaching and ritual space and they also want competent instruction, well written articles and books. There are many generous clergy who labor for years with no compensation and a huge eventual burn out rate as a result.
Pagans will cheerfully spend their money on jewelry, robes, and entertaining regional festivals, yet somehow it is still seem as immoral to pay for clergy and clergy services. In the future this will have to change. Only when Pagans begin to contribute regularly to their religious groups will it be possible to have Pagan hospice services, Pagan cemeteries, Pagan schools and Pagan old age homes. These things are vitally needed.
Isn’t Druidism a Nature Religion?
As a culture we are growing more and more anxious about the state of the Earth. As I write this article a volcano of oil and gas is still spewing from the ocean floor of the Gulf, thanks to the negligence of British Petroleum and other oil related corporations. Every day the Earth grows warmer, more species are lost and cancer rates continue to rise.
Along with ethical and religious scholarship Druidism provides a context for modern Europeans and those of European ancestry to reconnect with their own ancient tribal reverence for nature (indigenous peoples all over the world have never stopped doing this) , within a context where listening to the animals and the winds, to the voices of the fire, trees, and waters is taken seriously.
When we as a people learn to listen once again to the voices of nature we will open our hearts to Her and reconnect with Her creatures as aspects of the divine. If we see the Earth and Her creatures as sacred beings in their own right we will be more likely to work towards their preservation.
The Order of Whiteoak (Ord na Darach Gile) has begun to talk about “Organic Druidism” and “Bio-regional Animism” in a Celtic context. We are looking for ways to engage with and more deeply feel into and support our own bio-regional habitats: forests, deserts, oceans, mountains, streams, lakes and ponds. We are looking for ways to deepen our sense of belonging within the watershed areas in which we live by connecting with the ancient Spirits of Place.
Our ultimate aim is to view ourselves as the custodians of our own little patch of planet, exquisitely aware of the plants, animals and unseen beings that live there. As this awareness becomes more acute, Druids are organizing activities such as tree plantings and trash removal from wild places, and notifying each other of other opportunities for service to the remaining wild.
Druids and Politics
After many years of online debate it has become obvious that Druids represent all political stripes, from Progressive to Liberal to Middle of the Road to Conservative to Ultra Right Wing Libertarian. What is important for the future recognition and acceptance of our religion is that polls include us. The Zogby poll still refuses to include Pagan or Druid or Wiccan as a religious category (despite repeated requests from many) . Some more forward thinking polls are just starting to include Druids and Pagans, which is cheering.
It would be very interesting to finally know what the prevailing political slant of Druids actually is. The main thing is that politicians need to know that we are out there and that we vote.
On a more local level we need to do things in our own communities to gain recognition such as adopting highways and beaches and working to keep them clean, serving food at homeless shelters and donating food-to-food banks. These are just a few examples of community out-reach that will bring good will to our name. We need to make sure that the recipients of our services know who we are, as a way to develop name recognition.
Those who are involved in the arts can use the ancient stories and sacred sites as inspiration, and keep their memory alive for the future. Musicians who play on public stages can make a point of mentioning the Druidic holy days and deities in their songs and stage banter.
Can Druids be Warriors?
Many Druids are serving in the military at this time but throughout history Druids have been known as peacemakers. Roman historians tell us that the moment a Druid stepped on to the battlefield all hostility would cease. This was partly due to respect for the office, and also because harming or killing a Druid was the equivalent of burning down a library. Each Druid carried the laws, precedents and religious teachings within their head.
These days there is a “Druid warrior” movement that seeks to create a modern Fiana, modeled on the tribes of warrior-poets who once roamed the Celtic lands. Trained as Druids these eco-warriors work to develop survival skills, are trained in martial arts, diplomacy, and conservation.
The martial-arts training is crucial because the masters of these ancient disciplines are not trained to attack anyone, rather they exist to aid and protect the defenseless.
Druidic Goals for the Future
Druidism deserves to be recognized as one of the great world religions. Our history, traditions, literature and teachings go back thousands of years. Our clergy and lay folk need to be aware of the rich cultural and ethical legacy we represent.
Anyone who aspires to the title of “Druid” should remember that in ancient times it took twenty years to earn the title. Plunking down twenty-five dollars to join a Druid Order or reading just one or two books does not begin to scratch the surface of what we are and what we can be. (For a list of basic readings about Druids go to www.whiteoakdruids.org and follow the links)
With thanks to Uwe, Niall, Morgan, Coinneach, Caur, Daibhi, Moonwriter, Craig, Eilidh, Caerwyn, and all the members of Whiteoak for their input. May their work be ever blessed.
This piece originally appeared in the Lughnasad 2010 issue of EOLAS magazine, a publication of the Whiteoak Druid Order (Ord na Darach Gile) see back issues at www.whiteoakdruids.org
Copyright: May be reposted as long as all links and words remain intact
Ellen Evert Hopman
Location: Amherst, Massachusetts
Author's Profile: To learn more about Ellen Evert Hopman - Click HERE
Bio: Ellen Evert Hopman is a founding member of The Order of the White Oak (Ord Na Darach Gile, www.whiteoakdruids.org) and an Elder of the Order, a Bard of the Gorsedd of Caer Abiri, and a Druidess of the Druid Clan of Dana.
She was Vice President of The Henge of Keltria, an international Druid Fellowship, for nine years. She has also been at times a member of The Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids and Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship (ADF) .
Hopman has been a teacher of Herbalism since 1983 and of Druidism since 1990. She is a professional member of the American Herbalists Guild. Hopman is a member of the Grey Council of Mages and Sages and has been a professor at
the Grey School of Wizardry.
Her publications include; Priestess of the Forest: A Druid Journey (Llewellyn, February 2008) , The Druid Isle (Llewellyn, April 2010) , Priestess of the Fire Temple - A Druid's Tale (Llewellyn, March 2012)
The Secret Medicines in Your Kitchen (mPowr Publishing, London, October 2012) , A Druid's Herbal for Sacred Tree Medicine (Inner Traditions - Bear and Company, June 2008) , Being a Pagan: Druids, Wiccans, and Witches Today (Destiny Books, 2001) , People of the Earth: The New Pagans Speak Out (Inner Traditions, 1995, currently out of print) , Walking the World in Wonder - A Children's Herbal (Healing Arts Press, 2000) , A Druid's Herbal for the Sacred Earth Year (Destiny Books, 1994) , and Tree Medicine-Tree Magic (Phoenix Publishing, Inc., 1992, currently out of print)
DVD's; Celtic Cosmology, Gifts from the Healing Earth, Vol I and Vol II (herbal healing) , and Pagans - the Wheel of the Year.
Visit her online at: http://www.elleneverthopman.com
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