What Makes a Druid?

For some people, the only druids are those who existed before the Romans wiped them out. For others it’s a term very much here and now, and available to anyone who claims it.  There are many who feel that to be a Druid is to hold a position of respect within your community, to act as a priest, and to have some years of training and experience behind you.

I’m just going to throw open some questions and hope people pile in with their answers. So far as I am concerned, there are no wrong answers here, but it’s interesting to share. Don’t feel obliged to answer all of them, either. Do as you will!

What defines a druid? Action? Belief? Role within a community? Relationship with the land, or the gods? Or something else?

Would it be better or worse if the title of Druid could be formally bestowed in a way everyone found recognisable?

What makes you able or unable to use the word ‘Druid’ (assuming it relates at all to what you’re doing, of course!)

What does ‘Druid’ mean to you?

10 thoughts on “What Makes a Druid?”

  1. This question comes up every once in awhile and it is good to ask. What makes a Druid? What qualifies one as a Druid? Should there be qualifications at all?

    For my two cents, woth:

    Druids throughout the ages seem to have some things in common: service, love of nature, a sense of connection, belief in the immortality of the soul, education, high standards with regard to personal ethics (a sense and an idea of honour), in tune with their time’s needs and culture, and an affinity to the culture/philosophy that Druids are associated with.

    The Druids of old served their communities in a variety of ways and were the “learned ones” of society. They trained for many years and were the spiritual as well as political advisors to their leaders and people. They connected people to goods, services, to the Divine, etc. They were involved in the legal system. They taught that the soul was immortal and were very in tune with Nature, the Otherworld, etc. They served in accordance to the needs and culture of their time.

    The Revivalist Druids were also educated for the most part. Not as Druids per se, but they were educated to some higher degree (professors, university graduates, etc.). Some were also teachers. They also provided service and connection to their communities. In a time when social services were scant, Druid Orders often provided funding to the needy or assisted where they saw a need. They too believed in the immortality of the soul and also tried to connect in their own way to nature. They served in accordance to what culture and needs were like in their time.

    Druids today are similar as well. Many serve in some sort of way, whether it be in an environmental sense, service to the Divine in their own way or helping animals or people in need. Some teach others or operate Groves. Most are educated to some degree and modern Druid organizations offer plenty of training opportunities for those who wish to learn more. They connect with other people and do what they can to connect with nature. Many believe in the immortality of the soul and also follow similar philosophies (with varying degrees of agreement of course!)

    No two Druids are the same or have the same philosophies or beliefs, but there are some similarities that seem to be unique to Druids which is where we can start with finding answers to the questions that come up about what makes a druid.

    Looking forward to seeing other opinions! :^)

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  2. Druids seem to me to be society-orientated. They seem gregarious. I see them as a group before I see them as a faith – not denying their faith in any way but it is expressed through their group-ness. Are they perhaps shamans or hedge-riders who gather in packs…? (slightly tongue in cheek)

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  3. Which leads me on to suggest that a druid on their own still has their faith … though without the grove, is a druid is a hedgewitch perhaps!

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  4. Brilliant analysis Athelia, thanks for that. Jay, you are reading my mind I think. What is a druid without a community? Without a grove? Something else…. and a bit confused.

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  5. I read online that the UK finally recognized them as a religion and I was surprised it hadn’t already been done.

    When we toured the UK I did a little research and found it a very interesting and solid faith.

    Thanks for sharing.

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    1. The Charities Commission recognized The Druid Network as a religious charity that is eligible for tax breaks, etc. It does not apply to other Druid groups in the UK at this time.

      While it does open a possible door for other Druid groups to claim similar status in the UK, it does not mean that Druidry has officially been recognized as a religion in the UK. I’m very pleased that the Druid Network obtained this status after many years of hard work. :^)

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  6. There is no legal definition of religion in UK law, its all a bit haphazard, but the recognition of a druid charity as a legal charity does of course have some interesting implicaitons and is about as close to actually recognised as I think its possible to get!

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  7. “For some people, the only druids are those who existed before the Romans wiped them out.”

    While that pertains to those Druids who were on the Isle of Mona before the Roman assault led by Suetonius, and in other territories Rome conquered, where Druidry was outlawed…. Rome never conquered Ireland. (Despite the TV series Roar.)

    Patrick quite peaceably converted Ireland, and the Celtic Church proceeded to quite peaceably convert all Britain north of the Thames, and a great deal of north Europe, before running head-on into the Roman Catholic Church again, whose Augustine was converting Britain south of the Thames. Ecclesiastic differences (like the date of Easter) had to be resolved at the Council of Whitby; the Celtic Church’s practice of private confession was actually adopted by the whole Roman Catholic Church, in place of the previously public confession; and the churches were reunited. But then the scene shifts to Ireland, as Patrick’s biography is retroactively improved to meet Rome’s standards. Patrick has been suspected of having been too friendly with the Druids, which will not do. So, generations after his death, as Rome arrives to read the official hagiography, it newly announces that he fought great battles against the Satanic Druids to spread Christianity. This meets with Rome’s approval.

    Mind you, the earlier history said quite clearly that when Patrick arrived, Druids rose to greet him courteously, two Druids gave him their own house to live in, and another gave him a carriage (chariot) for travel. Ohhh, great battles. Among his converts, many were Druids or of that class, and being learned, made as good priests and leaders of the new religion as of the old. The whole social order remained, excepting only that Patrick (a former slave) insisted on the outlawing of slavery. Centuries later, the Brehonic laws (Druidic laws) continued to have effect, specifying even what the Druidic privileges were, up until they were overturned in the Conquest by England.

    What were the Druids? They were the learned classes, the aes dana. Sometimes priests, sometimes teachers or scholars, sometimes healers or herbalists, sometimes lawyers or judges (Brehons), sometimes historians or heralds or poets (Bards or Fili).

    Columba (Columcille), a great-great-grandson of Niall of the Nine Hostages, was a student of the Bard Gemman, and used his Bardic training in his missionary work abroad — though he famously remarked, “Christ is my Druid.” His one return from exile back to Ireland was to successfully argue in defense of the Bards’ legal privileges, then at risk — and receive their many kisses on his blushing cheeks.

    The fact is, Druidic history is intermingled with Christian history.

    Nowhere is this more true than in Britain north of the Thames, where Christianity was established and churches founded by missionaries of the Celtic Church — who were themselves very likely Druids holding Christian beliefs, as noted above.

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  8. Any true druid is faithful to the earth and all she gives. We lean more to the veggie diet than meat. Or at least I do anyway. Not all of us prefer sky-clad, but the simple wearing of black while doing a ritual. When thinking of Druids, I think of the old ways magic was practiced. The mastery of the elements, being one with nature and totally immune to man made things.

    I wish we had the old ways of learning now for the younger ones. You didn’t have to worry about being labels, you were just seasoned or not.

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