Tag Archives: Druidry

World Druidry – The Landmark Study

Reviewed By Dr. Frank Malone

World Druidry book cover

With this extraordinary work, independent scholar Larisa A. White, M.S.Ed., Ph.D. has established an historical place for herself within religious studies. World Druidry: A Globalizing Path of Nature Spirituality (2021) is the first work of social science focusing on Druidry as a contemporary religious movement.

This mixed-methods study presents a comprehensive picture of Druidic practices and beliefs in 32 nations. As Dr. White states, it is “the richest data set on contemporary Druidry the world has yet to see (viii).” Dr. White’s methodology is explained and illustrated throughout the text. The survey instrument is also included in an appendix for future researchers. The book is indexed, and features an extensive glossary for those new to Druidry.

Some of Dr. White’s interesting findings:

  • 92% of druids reported being solitary practitioners.
  • Druids in the United States reported being the most fearful of discrimination and harassment.
  • Druids in Brazil and the United States reported being the most fearful of physical violence.
  • Only half of Druid respondents wear ceremonial apparel.
  • OBOD Druids are the most likely to use visualization as a regular spiritual practice. (This is an influence of English psychologist Philip Carr-Gomm, longtime leader of the order).

As a solitary Druid, I was frankly relieved to see that there are so many of us! Having constructed a stone circle in my back yard, I was also interested to see pictures of other stone circles Druids have built at home. Wildcrafting was a new concept to me, and it was captivating to learn of it and its role in globalization.  Furthermore, it led me to modify part of my daily practice to address local geography.

It is suggested by anecdotal evidence that since the 1990s Druidry has been growing quickly as a world religion.  After discussing the problems involved in making an accurate count, the study gave the following estimates (p. 256): British Isles and Ireland, 4,528 Druids; North America, 53,564 Druids; Oceania 1,207 Druids. (An appendix deals with the issue of population estimates).

Though Druidry is astonishingly diverse, she analyses and discusses the spiritual common core of all of its manifestations, which she sums up as a process of creating and maintaining honorable relationships with self and all others, including spirit and nature beings (p. 253).

This work provides a template for future study and will be of interest to scholars of religion.  This would include sociologists of religion, who could bring in other areas of focus, such as educational levels and political affiliation.  In her study Solitary Pagans (2019), sociologist Dr. Helen A. Berger found Heathens to be the most politically conservative of Pagans. I wonder, given the centrality of nature to Druidry, if the same would be true of Heathen Druids (such as the Norse hearth of Ár nDraíocht Féin).  The book will of course also be of interest to Druids, who are as this study shows, a studious lot (p. 258).

Dr. White movingly concludes by stating,

“I find myself in awe of the inclusiveness of this religious tradition, its wonderous diversity, and its willingness to learn from all cultures and religious traditions, while still maintaining a common core. I feel humbled and honored to count myself as one among this group of inspiring people” (p. 258). I can say that I felt even more proud to be a Druid after reading this work.

Dr. White will be presenting some of her findings at the 2021 Parliament of the World Religions, for which I registered.

Find out more on Larisa White’s website – https://larisa-a-white.com/worlddruidry.html

Cosmic Dancer reviews the Druids

A Legacy of Druids, by Ellen Evert Hopman

A fascinating book that will lead to discussions, a lot of the posts by Druids I don’t agree with (as a Druid myself), but is that not the point of this type of book? To read it and then discuss the points with other readers? I did struggle with the American contributors as I struggled getting to grips with making it more of an organised religion with people being ordained and such but that’s my opinion. I think this is a book that if discussed at local moots would lead to a good night of debate and conversation. A book well worth a read even if it’s just to see if what the contributors were hoping for years ago has come to pass(and some have).All in all I enjoyed it and whether I agree with the pieces or not I respect all those that contributed to it. I do recommend it.

 

Spirituality without Structure, By Nimue Brown

Even though it is only a small book, it contains such a wealth of information and insight that it makes you question yourself, which as a Druid is always a good thing. When you question your belief you stop taking it for granted. I also found myself agreeing with a lot of the content and finding that my belief is not a million miles away from hers.
If you are thinking of leaving the mainstream religions or have left and are in a bit of a panic then this book is for you (it also mentions cake).

 

 

Let’s Talk About Elements and the Pagan Wheel, by Siusaidh Ceanadach

It is mainly aimed at children , but I do feel that adults will enjoy it just as much. Each section has some questions and challenges set for children. A must read for all children, who wish to learn more, I’m sure they will come back to it time and time again.

 

 

 

The Handbook of Urban Druidry, by Brendan Howlin

As an Urban Druid myself I can agree with most of the things that he says in this book. For some Druids the thought of doing “Druidry” in an urban environment can be a bit hard to get their head round, as most are more used to a forest or woodland setting, but this book helps you come to terms and find a way to be a Druid no matter where you are. Lessons and observations are laid out very well and it is not a complicated book that you could get lost in. I did find it useful and it was good to know that another feels the same way about the cityscapes as I do. All in all a good read for those just starting on this path or maybe just want to look at their town and live in the same environment as the author.

 

Paganism and Politics

Mixing religion and politics isn’t comfortable. Every pagan I’ve ever spoken to on the subject has expressed deep discomfort with how various right wing monotheistic politicians use their religion to justify hatred and oppression. Political thinking should be based on human need, above all else, not religious ideology. The trouble is that you can’t separate how someone thinks religiously from how they think the rest of the time. If your beliefs are deeply held, they are your world view.

So I wonder what overtly pagan politics would look like? Imagine we had a sufficiency of pagan politicians to wield influence. How would paganism manifest in government? I like to think we’d hold to our aversion to oppressing folk, that pagans in power would support diversity, starting from a premise that looks a bit like ‘an it harm none, do what you will’. If you aren’t hurting or compromising someone else, what you do really ought to be your own business. Given that paganism is green spirituality, we’d have to have environmental awareness and responsibility at the heart of every policy.

Now, the more I look at things, the more convinced I become that green politics and social justice go hand in hand. War is bad for the environment. Poverty leads to environmental degradation and hunting rare animals for food, or killing them as competition. Social justice means not polluting other people’s drinking water, not using humans as cogs in your machine, not permitting big business to buy land, freedom and political influence at will.

Pagans don’t like being told what to do, so pagan politics would be minimal, avoiding micro-managing people’s lives, encouraging freedom, and responsibility. Many pagans are anarchists – not in a ‘trash the state’ sense, but in thinking that we should all try and take responsibility for ourselves as far as is possible. We believe in freedom of choice, and we don’t believe that’s about picking which brand labels to wear on your clothes. But there’s also a strong ethos of compassion, caring for those in genuine need or distress. We’d have health services that did more to encourage wellbeing in the first place.

Druidry has a somewhat clearer history as a political force. I get the impression it was the political clout of the Druids that inspired the Romans to take them out, when usually they let people get on with their local religions. Druids of old counselled leaders, but did not lead directly themselves. They could go out onto battlefields and halt wars. Traditionally, Druids are peacemakers and negotiators. Druidry is also supposed to be very much about justice. Less the punitive justice currently favoured, more a restorative justice, where the idea is to fix what’s gone wrong, to heal it, resolve, compensate and restore. The kind of justice that enables people to learn, to deal with the broken relationship that underpins wrong behaviour, to rebuild respect, trust and community. Punishment doesn’t really achieve that.

Would I want pagans to rule the world? No. There’s this old thing about what power does to people, and I wouldn’t want to see that happen to us. Politicians become smug and complacent all too easily. It’s better to be on the outside, voicing challenges, trying to keep the people on the inside honest and on track. Pagans can achieve wonderful things in terms of organising events, protests, groups and so forth. We have some tremendous organisations, we might be chaotic, but we can do structure when we need to, and only as much structure as we need (although I can think of one notable exception). But on the other hand, when we gather, we argue. Many a discussion board online testifies to this. For every pagan, there is a unique opinion. We wouldn’t herd naturally into party groups, we don’t have a ‘party line’ just a broad ethos, a tendency to look at the world in certain ways. Pagans are idealists, frequently. In the current climate, few politicians seem to be. But that doesn’t mean we should keep quiet. When politicians say ‘there is no choice’ we need to be there to shout ‘yes there bloody well is’ because there always is. When government tries to feed us restricted visions of the world, short term, suicidal, disrespectful, ill considered money making schemes, we need to make our voices heard. I’d love to see politics get a bit more pagan, without the necessity for pagans to make themselves entirely political.

Wands and letting go

You can spend a lot of money on wands if the inclination takes you, and it’s possible to buy them in all kinds of materials, degrees of craftsmanship, and attendant cost. Mine were all wooden, sourced for the greater part from trees in the area I lived in, and collected to reflect the ogham tree alphabet. There’s a fair bit of uncertainty around tree ogham, it certainly isn’t the only kind of ogham, there’s dispute over which plants are meant by what – like so many things in paganism its roots and uses are uncertain and modern interpretation may be at odds with what our ancestors intended. And also, like so much of modern paganism the point really is what we do now and whether it works for us.

A traditional wand runs, lengthwise from the tip of your longest finger to the crook of your arm. It gives you a very personal length, and one that feels good to hold, wave about, or sit with. Working with a specific wood, knowing the tree – both as an individual and a species, makes wand ownership into a journey and a relationship. They don’t need to be ornately carved. Just smoothing the ends with sandpaper and rubbing them down with vegetable oil will give you something lovely. Keep them dry. As natural things, they are susceptible to mould and will rot.

Wooden wands are tactile, good to hold, to sit with. I like them for meditation. You don’t have to think you are Harry Potter to benefit from meditation with a wand in your hand. They can be grounding, helping you learn about the tree they came from and the wealth of folklore associated with it. Building a wand collection means building a knowledge base with it, adding insight with every new plant explored. It means building relationship with the land you are in, and specific plants. You hold a forest in your hands.

I’m writing this blog post in part as a eulogy. My wands did not survive this winter. I’ve had them years, some of them. I knew the trees they came from, the soil they rooted in. I worked with them, from time to time, over a long while and their presence in my home was one of my overt statements of my Druidry, there for everyone to see.

I said goodbye to them today. It was a sad moment for me, but a necessary one. They did not take kindly to the challenges of this winter. (See previous comments about the importance of keeping wands dry and safe from mould.) There were other issues too. They belonged to a time in my life that I need to let go of and move away from. They were part of a landscape that I’m not a part of any more, and where the trees they came from are still alive, I’m probably never going to visit those trees again. It felt right to let them go. They were part of a living web of connections and relationships. And I loved them. I put time, love, energy and thought into each one, the sourcing, cutting, shaping… they were unique. I left them as an offering alongside an apple tree that came down last autumn. It seemed like a good place. I said goodbye to them, letting go of friends, companions, teachers. It was not easy. But at the moment, nothing is easy. There are a great many things I have to let go of, all of them with stories, history, significance. I picked this one to write about because it’s more recognisably about my Druidry than some of the other items.

Alongside the wands, I’m letting go of most of the other overtly pagan things I have – the ornaments and trappings, the books… some of it I’ll store. Some is leaving. I’ll still have the awen symbol in my skin. Do I need the outward display? Probably not, but I liked the aesthetic, and there was comfort in it. Do I need an altar space in my home? Perhaps not. Amidst the letting go, the stripping back, the being taken apart from outside… I pause to ask sometimes, what of this defines me, or makes me a Druid. What can I let go of and still be myself? What can I give up or stop doing, and still be a Druid? I don’t know. It’s a process.