Yesterday, I was surprised by a comment on the blog by William. Now, I don’t get a ton of comments about the blog – either openly or privately – so getting one is always a nice surprise, but William posed a question to me, which I have to openly admit, is a really tough one to answer.
What defines or maybe a better wording is what are the essentials that make one a “druid”? What is the tie/beliefs or tenets that connects all druids and are unique to those calling themselves druids? Or is there such a thing?
This is a really tough question to answer, for a whole lot of reasons. Probably the most recognizable issue is something that William noted in his question.
Get too general and it encompasses other paths….. try to narrow it down and it seems to exclude too much.
Complicating it even more, is that not all Druids follow similar Spiritual Paths. For instance, I am a Pagan, Polytheist with bits of Animistic philosophy thrown in for good measure. There are Druids that follow a Christian Path, those that fully embrace Buddhist philosophy and principles into their Druidry. And I haven’t started to delve into the various type of Druid orders that are out there.
So where to start? Well, I could make this completely about how I see things, except that my own perspective would fall into the narrow thought process that William noted above – thus excluding a lot of other Paths and beliefs held by those that embrace Druidry at their core. When I start trying to figure things out, I tend to go into my old academic mode…I went to the bookshelf and pulled a group of books I thought might help build something of a core perspective to work from. Yes, this is my default mode. Seriously.
There is no ‘sacred text’ or the equivalent of a bible in Druidism, and there is no universally agreed set of beliefs amongst Druids. Rather than it being founded upon doctrine, it urges followers to learn from their own experience of being in the world. Despite this lack of doctrine, there are a number of ideas and beliefs that most Druids hold in common, and that help to define the nature of Druidry today. … Druids share a belief in the fundamentally spiritual nature of life. … the greatest characteristic of most modern-day Druids is their tolerance of diversity. …One of the unwritten tenets of Druidism is that none of us has the monopoly on truth, and that diversity is both healthy and natural. they also believe that the world we see is not the one that exists. –Philip Carr-Gomm, “What Do Druids Believe?” ISBN 1-86207-864-5
Within a spiritual tradition where there are so many different views it is almost impossible to find an all-encompassing definition. …In many ways, Druidry is even more complex than Paganism or another broad spirituality, such as Hinduism. Its is truly a polytheistic faith, within which can be found space and honor for any deity or any concept of deity, together with their priests, devotees and philosophers. There are many within the tradition who call themselves Christian, while some assert that Druidry is not a religion at all, not even necessarily a spirituality, but simply a philosophy of living. –Emma Restall Orr, “Thorson’s Principles of Druidry” ISBN 0-7225-3674-7
Rather than being an organized religion, Druidry offers a personal individual life path that can become part of a modern urban existence as easily as a rural life. It connects us instinctively to the life-giving energies of the earth beneath the pavement, and the sky above the highest office building. Druidry has the same reverence for the ancestors, love of nature, and awareness of the life force flowing through plants, insects, animals, and humans alike that characterize the indigenous culture of Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. So in a world that daily gets smaller with the advances of technology and faster travel, people of all cultural backgrounds can find kinship within Druidic ritual and celebrations of the passing year. –Cassandra Eason, “The Modern Day Druidess” ISBN 0-8065-2637-8
So, working from these three quotes, there are a lot of directions and conclusions one can make. But in Emma Restall Orr’s quote, the notation that it is nearly impossible to find an over-arching definition of exactly what a Druid is seems to be the wisest choice of understanding here. Druidry is essentially about the individual experience, which will be completely unique from person to person. No two perspectives will be completely the same. Similar, yes – but not completely the same. But all of this is not all of what William asked. William asked for me own perspective. And for that, I will have to take a few steps backwards.
My perspective of Paganism is one of individual experience. For me to understand something, I need to experience it. That has been the case for nearly anything throughout my Life. I went to an all-boys Catholic school in my last two years of high school. Topics and perspectives were taught as infallible writ. Questioning any aspect was particularly frowned upon, and you were regarded with suspicion from that point on. All for the crime of being inquisitive enough to try and understand what was being relayed through a lens of individual experience and thought. From there, I wandered into the camp of the southern Baptists, where individual experience is described in terms of collective group perspectives. For someone seeking something that embraced the idea of individual experience, this was an off-putting environment. Eventually, I found myself within Wicca, where everything was seemingly compartmentalized into the males do this, and the females do that. Granted, this was likely some of the doing of the tradition I was a part of…but I moved on as quickly as I could. (I had been involved in Wicca earlier, but that experience was far different for a lot of other reasons) When I finally rolled across Druidry, I was not expecting the full embrace of what I came across. I had passed Druidry by several times, mostly with the thought – “I just don’t look good in white.”
What I found was a path that I would describe as a framework upon which I could hang and frame my own Spirituality, my own understanding of the world around me, and the world beyond. However it wound up looking like did not matter. It was mine. I could decorate as I felt it should. I could set what felt right to me, without judgment. But what exactly makes a Druid? What exactly does a Druid believe? What are the principles that bind all Druids together, regardless of their chosen direction? I think a lot of that is encompassed in what is termed as “The Druid’s Prayer”
Grant, O Gods, Thy Protection;
And in protection, strength;
And in strength, understanding;
And in understanding, knowledge;
And in knowledge, the knowledge of justice;
And in the knowledge of justice, the love of it;
And in that love, the love of all existences;
And in the love of all existences, the love of the the Earth our mother, and all goodness.
Now, this is the version that I personally utilize. Some replace “O Gods” and “the Earth our mother” with what feels right to them. All Druids, in my experience (which is admittedly limited), believe in the points of providing Protection to those in their communities, lending their Strength to those that need it, trying to understand a perspective before making choices, continuing to broaden their Knowledge, seeking Justice where it is needed, believing in the need for Justice found through Love of all things, which brings diversity, and the love/connection with Nature (that is to say, that mankind is part of Nature, not separate from Nature).
So, what makes a Druid a Druid? Well, an attachment and affinity for those concepts, mapped against every individuals own unique experience and connection to everything around them. is there a hardcore definition that can be found and utilized? Most likely not. But if you are looking for something that might connection all Druids together, the above “Druid’s Prayer” may just be the keystone you are seeking.
…and just to muddy the waters a bit more…the “Druid’s Prayer” can easily be applied to any other Pagan Path, should the adherent choose it for their own Path. Maybe, deep down inside, we are all Druids….but only if you want to be. Your Path is your own to define. #TwoQuid