Druidry derives its name from the magico-religious specialists of Iron Age Western Europe ‘druids’. Druidry is an essential, dynamic nature spirituality flourishing across the globe. It unites a love of the world with a love of creativity. Druidry has the power of an ancient tradition: the love of land, sea and sky – the love of the earth… our home.
What do druids believe?
The natural world is imbued with spirit. Thus it is alive and dynamic. Many Druids are involved in environmentalism, acting to protect areas of natural landscape under threat from development or pollution, because they view the natural world as sacred.
There is no ‘sacred text’ or the equivalent of a bible in Druidism and there is no universally agreed set of beliefs amongst Druids. Despite this, there are a number of ideas and beliefs that most Druids hold in common, and that help to define the nature of Druidism today: Druids share a belief in the fundamentally spiritual nature of life. Some may feel themselves to be animists, pantheists, polytheists, monotheists or duotheists. Others will avoid choosing any one conception of Deity, believing that by its very nature this is unknowable by the mind.
Druidry also draws upon the legends surrounding King Arthur.
In ancient Roman times, Caesar documented some of the roles of the Druids in his time, stating how they were exempt from military service, did not carry weapons and often acted as intermediaries between warring tribes. It was said that they could walk between the two front lines of battle and come through unscathed, for such was their role that none contended with their wish for peace.
Creativity is a core element due to participation of bards as storytellers and musicians.
The primary philosophical posture of Druidism is one of love and respect towards all of life.
Druids search for cosmic belonging.
Druids draw inspiration and spiritual nourishment from nature. They believe the world we see is not the only one that exists. A cornerstone of Druid belief is in the existence of the Otherworld – a realm or realms which exist beyond the reach of the physical senses, but which are nevertheless real. This Otherworld is seen as the place we travel to when we die. But we can also visit it during our lifetime in dreams, in meditation, under hypnosis, or in ‘journeying’, when in a shamanic trance.
It is a universally held belief for three reasons:
1. all religions or spiritualities hold the view that another reality exists beyond the physical world
2. Celtic mythology inspires much of Druidism and is replete with descriptions of this Otherworld.
3. ‘The greatest belief’ of the ancient Druids.. . Druids believed in a process described as reincarnation or metempsychosis (in which a soul lives in a succession of forms, including both human and animal). In between each life in human or animal form the soul rests in the Otherworld.
Death & Rebirth
While a Christian Druid may believe that the soul is only born once on Earth, most Druids adopt the belief of their ancient forebears that the soul undergoes a process of successive reincarnations – either always in human form, or in a variety of forms that might include trees and even rocks as well as animals.
Many Druids share the view reported by Philostratus of Tyana in the second century that the Celts believed that to be born in this world, we have to die in the Otherworld, and conversely, that when we die here, we are born into the Otherworld. For this reason, Druid funerals try to focus on the idea that the soul is experiencing a time of birth, even though we are experiencing that as their death to us.
Woven into much of Druid thinking and all of its practice is the idea or belief that we are all connected in a universe that is essentially benign. Just as the feeling of our being part of the great web of life can come to us as we gaze in awe at the beauty of nature, so the awareness that we will reap the consequences of our actions also comes to us as we observe the processes of sowing and harvesting.
The Seven Gifts
Cormac mac Airt is asked by his grandson Carbre “what were your habits when you were a lad?” Cormac replies as follows:
I was a listener in woods,
I was a gazer at stars,
I was blind where secrets were concerned,
I was silent in a wilderness,
I was talkative among many,
I was mild in the mead-hall,
I was stern in battle,
I was ready to watch,
I was gentle in friendship,
I was a physician of the sick,
I was weak towards the strengthless,
I was strong toward the powerful,
I never was hard lest I be satirised,
I never was feeble lest I should have my hair stripped off,
I was not close lest I should be burdensome,
I was not arrogant though I was wise,
I was not given to promising though I was strong,
I was not venturesome, though I was swift,
I did not deride old people, though I was young,
I was not boastful though I was a good fighter,
I would not speak about anyone in his absence,
I would not reproach, but I would praise,
I would not ask, but I would give,
For it is through these habits that the young become old and kingly warriors.
(Instructions of Cormac, § 7)
The Pagan seasonal cycle is the Wheel of the Year. Almost all Pagans celebrate a cycle of eight festivals spaced every six or seven weeks throughout the year and divide the wheel into eight segments.
- Winter Solstice (Yule)
- Imbolc (Candlemas)
- Spring Equinox (Ostara)
- Beltane (May Eve)
- Summer Solstice (Litha)
- Lughnasadh (Lammas)
- Autumn Equinox (Mabon)
- Samhain (Hallowe’en)
The purpose of celebrating the eight seasonal festivals is to create a pattern or rhythm in our year that allows for a few hours’ pause every six weeks or so in our busy and often stressful routine, so that we can open to the magic of being alive on this earth at this special time. It gives us a chance to fully enter the moment, to connect with the life of the earth and the land around us, and to feel the influence of the season in our bodies, hearts and minds. If we celebrate on our own, it is a time when we can enter into meditation, perhaps reviewing our life since the last festival, thinking forward to the next one, then returning to open ourselves fully to the Here and Now – soaking in the energies of earth and sky, and the trees and plants around us, and radiating our love and blessings to the Earth and all beings.
Adapted from What Do Druids Believe? by Philip Carr-Gomm, Granta, 2006
The salmon is the creature that swims in the streams and the pool, and which represents the goal of every Druid – the Salmon of Wisdom. The salmon is perhaps the most sacred of all creatures in the Druid tradition, and it is known as the Oldest Animal. The fish as a central symbol within a spiritual tradition is ancient and ubiquitous – not only does it appear in Irish and Welsh legend, in the Vedas, in Hinduism and Buddhism, but also in Babylonian and Sumerian mythology. Orpheus was depicted as a fish, and later Christ and the Philosopher’s Stone of the Alchemists. Christian fish symbolism, including the custom of eating fish on a Friday, is believed to derive directly from the Jewish tradition, which in turn probably drew this element from Syrian belief.
The fish and the fisherman were both intimately related symbolically from the earliest days – the first Avatar of Vishnu the Creator was a fish, both the Buddha and Jesus are referred to as fishermen, the Babylonians had a fisher-god and the Fisher King is the central figure in the grail legend.
When the Druid today seeks the Salmon of Wisdom they are connecting not only to a tradition of the ancient Druids, but also to an understanding that is rooted deep in the collective awareness of all humanity.
Raven mediating healing, prophetic knowledge, protection, and initiatory power.
Druids love stones and stone circles; crystal healing, divination, protection stones and earth magik.
The flow of Nwyfre (Life-force) known as Chi’ or Prana in the East
The practice of Druidry was replaced with Christianity by the seventh century, and even though little is known about these ancient sages, groups in Britain who were inspired by the idea of the Druids began to form in the early eighteenth century. Like seeds that have lain dormant for centuries before suddenly flowering again, Druidry began a process of revival, started by scholars in Britain, France and Germany who became fascinated by the subject, and continued today by a small but rapidly growing number of people around the world who are inspired by the tradition, rituals and teachings that have evolved over the last two and a half centuries, which draw upon mythology and folklore whose origins lie in the pre-Christian era.
The Order of Bards Ovates & Druids has grown out of an approach to Druidry that recognizes the universal truths in all religions. This Universalist approach was taken by the founder of the Ancient Druid Order. The contemporary composer Sir John Tavener expresses these ideas in his music, drawing on the inspirations of Orthodox Christianity, Hinduism and Native American traditions to create music that can inspire the follower of any faith. He likes to quote the 12th century Sufi Ibn’Arabi who wrote: ‘Do not attach yourself to any particular creed exclusively so that you disbelieve in all the rest, otherwise you lose much good, nay you will fail to recognise the real truth of the matter. Let your soul be capable of embracing all forms of belief.’