England - Druidry


Druidry, recently recognised as an official religion for the first time in England, is generally focussed on the worship and respect of nature and the promotion of harmony within it. It is usually put into the same bracket as Wicca or witchcraft. It was denied as a formal religion for centuries because some viewed it simply as a spiritual state or attitude that could be adopted by people of any religion. While this remains partly true, it has been ruled that the belief system warrants an official religious status.

This religion originates from tales of the times of the ancient Iron Age Celtic Druids. However, a formal investigation into its background shows that druidism actually displays no traceable link to the ancient Celts. This is a major finding as, for a long time, the entire supposition was that the Celtic culture had given rise to this intriguing belief system.

Image of a vintage engraving showing the The Massacre of the Druids and the landing of Julis Ceasar (small panel at the bottom of the main picture), engraving from 1854
Vintage engraving showing the The Massacre
of the Druids and the landing of Julis Ceasar
(small panel at the bottom of the main picture),
engraving from 1854

In the first part of the 1900’s, druidry was based very much on the idea of a brotherhood, and organisations were formed amongst the druids that were considered to be formal fraternities. These groups emulated the Freemasons, and used the age-old romanticised image of English druids and bards as the symbols of what made spirituality truly British. Some groups remained cultural; a kind of excuse for a structured fraternity. Other groups took the movement more seriously, even joining other major movements of the time, such as naturism. As the years went on, druidry evolved. Each organisation or group adopted slightly varying practices, setting them apart and making this a dynamic, fluid belief system. In the past few decades, efforts have been made to formalise druidic practices and align them more with the ancient paganism from which they come. However, because so little is known about Iron Age druids, this has been challenging.

When studying druidism, various courses are covered. These include:

• The elements (fire, water, air and earth)
• The life cycle
• Death
• Celtic mythology
• Self-transformation
• Treelore
• Herbalism
• Stonelore

Nobody is required to convert from their current religion to become a druid. There are three subdivisions, according to the ancient druids:

1. Bards – these ones specialise in using the art of symbolism in their language and imagination. In ancient times, the bards were expected to memorise all of the legends of druidry as well as the history and genetic lines of the people. They focused on improving their memories to astounding degrees.
2. Ovates – these students focused on rituals, herbalism, meditating with ancestors, switching from one world to the next and trees.
3. Druid – the focus of druids was on the lore of gods and goddesses. They also specialised in stones and alignments, and spent much time trying to find their special calling (e.g. as a teacher).

Because this religion has been such a fluid one, changing on almost an individual level, it is difficult (if not impossible) to define. However, some of the core beliefs of druidry (although not shared by all druids) include:

• Honouring the ancestors
• Respecting the land
• Venerating nature in general
• The idea that, within nature (even inanimate objects), there exist souls
• Some druids worship multiple gods and goddesses
• Reincarnation (but, because they believe that even trees and soil have a soul, a person can be reincarnated into any other natural form)
• Ancestor worship

The religion of druidry is characterised by various ceremonies, which are held in sacred places, such as Stonehenge and Glastonbury. These rituals are marked by tradition. Special robes are worn and altars are built. There are also various druidic festivals held throughout the year.

Being recognised as a formal religion not only gives druidism an official status of respect, but also grants it certain tax breaks as well as the dignity of being considered part of more commonly accepted religions (such as Christianity, Judaism, Islam and Hinduism, for example).

For more information, please view: http://www.druidry.org/