Druids and the Church

Druidry and Christianity have a very interesting sort of relationship. There are folks who do both, and most of the folks who only do one find this a bit perplexing. And no, I have no idea really how it works, but so long as it does work for people, then fair enough.

Churches have a very strong physical presence in a lot of communities. They are a hub point for activity, as well as the focal point of worship and religion. Contemporary druids do not, usually, have anything comparable. There aren’t enough of us, we don’t have the financial backing, and there is the whole issue of liking to do it in the trees. Groves are good for rituals, but less good for playgroups, jumble sales, coffee mornings and all the other social glue that holds church communities together.

I’ll freely admit that every now and then I get an attack of building-envy. Churches tend to have very good acoustics too, they are fabulous places to sing. Often they have interesting windows and art work to explore. In rural places, churches are often where the local history, archaeology and myth wind up. If you want to find out about a place, poking around in the church will give you a good place to start. Then there’s the graveyard – frequently a wildlife haven and full of ancestors – ancestors of place, if not bone or tradition.

If you’re getting the idea that I love churches, you’d be right. But the trouble is Christianity doesn’t speak to me and never did. I am very fond of many lovely Christian people, and I have a lot of respect for what they do, but I’m never going to be going that way.

The trouble is, being a Druid, by definition involves having a community to be a Druid for. Which is fine and dandy if there are plenty of pagans about. But what do you do if you are the only pagan in the village, or your part of town? The private, solitary aspects of Druidry you can do anywhere, but the community aspect means people.

When I was in Redditch, I had a good relationship both with the nearest vicar, and my son’s school (which was a faith school). We were entirely open about the paganism. I’ve sung in the church (because I love mediaeval music) and supported church events. It depends a lot on the nature of your vicar, but many have an attitude that the church exists for the community, first and foremost. Being openly pagan, non-confrontational and interested in giving service, I found it easy enough to find a place.

My new home, unshockingly, turns out to have a church in viable walking distance (this being the UK, I’d be hard pushed to live somewhere this wasn’t true of). It’s a significant hub of local life. I love the graveyard, and have snuck into the building when no one else is about. Empty churches can be very lovely places to meditate on a rainy day. In time, I’ll start offering all the things I’ve given in other places – music, harvest loaf making, help with practical things. All the community and craft aspects. If the community I’m in turns out to be light on pagans, and more Christians, then to serve, as a Druid, I need to find ways to serve within a Christian-defined context. It can be done.

4 thoughts on “Druids and the Church”

  1. You might be glad to know That a lot of druids in ADF are pushing for permanent buildings. With the recent passing of Issac Bonewits, there is a renewed desire to see his vision of such places come to light.

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  2. Of course the Irish transition was relatively seamless: despite later revisionist tales of Patrick’s “battles” with the Druids, he was received peaceably, and the conversions were peaceful; Druids, being learned people, made as good priests and leaders in the new faith as in the old. It was the Celtic Church that converted Britain north of the Thames; Rome’s Augustine only converted south of there. So Druids have their place in the history of English churches.

    The creed, which is the part you feel no wish to adopt, is the most abstract, the least physical part of the church. But it is possible for a Jew, a Muslim, a Hindu, a Buddhist, or an Atheist, to attend a Christian church; for a Catholic to attend Protestant services, and vice versa; and thus surely for a Druid or Wiccan, for the sake of community, or (say) to accompany a family member who is a communicant. If you are actually contributing to that community, I should think this would be welcomed by others. Why would you feel conflicted yourself?

    Your very presence, as yourself, being who you are, as a person of good character, is testimony to the quality of your life’s philosophy. If it is then known, however briefly and without detail or any evangelizing whatsoever, that you are a Druid, then everyone who has known you knows one good example of what Druids are like — one good example to hold up against any smear or negative stereotype. This you accomplish merely by being there at church.

    For further argument, I suggest you read what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., told Nichelle Nichols when she was about to quit the role of Lt. Uhura on Star Trek.

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    1. From H. Rider Haggard’s novel Love Eternal:

      … Who has not felt that atmosphere standing alone at nightfall in one of our ancient English churches that embody in baptism, marriage and burial the hopes, the desires, and the fears of unnumbered generations?

      For remember, that in a majority of instances, long before the Cross rose above these sites, they had been the sacred places of faith after faith. Sun-worshippers, Nature-worshippers, Druids, votaries of Jove and Venus, servants of Odin, Thor and Friga, early Christians who were half one thing and half another, all have here bowed their brows to earth in adoration of God as they understood Him, and in these hallowed spots lies mingled the dust of every one of them.

      So why feel uncomfortable on that terrain now? Your co-religionists trod it long before. You share it with them, as well.

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