Tag Archives: druids

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

Book Review – A Druid’s Herbal for the Sacred Earth Year

Book Review – A Druid’s Herbal for the Sacred Earth Year by Ellen Evert Hopman, Rochester, VT: Destiny Books, 1995.

https://www.amazon.com/Druids-Herbal-Sacred-Earth-Year/dp/0892815019/ref=sr_1_1?s=books

I came to review Hopman’s book because of my reading and review of her most recent book, The Sacred Herbs of Samhain: Plants to Contact the Spirits of the Dead and of the manuscript of her yet to be published book, The Sacred Herbs of Spring.  Though this book is 25 years old, what Hopman offers is timeless.  It is a wonderful introduction to the ancient Druid rituals that are still and even more meaningful in this 21st century.

The Druids were the healers and shape-shifters of the Celtic era, the poet-priests and priestesses who could prophesize the future. With their study of divination, magic, astrology, nature, and herbal medicine, their poetry and songs of incantation could raise the winds and fog and could dry up lakes.  The Bards, the story-tellers for the long winters and for such ceremonies as wakes, weddings and baby blessings, had the ability to listen to the voices from the otherworld and provide guidance, instruction, and knowledge, often providing it for the Celtic kings and chieftains.  The Ovates, the keepers of prophesy, were the executioners of prisoners and the criminal outcasts.  The Celts believed in reincarnation and were polytheistic with each deity holding special functions.  Their three tiered world was the water world of the ancestors, the land of the earthy beings and the sky world of the deities.  The months of their calendar and the letters of their alphabet were given the names of trees.

The Druidic herbal medicines were prepared as they are today as teas, salves, tinctures, poultices and syrups, as well as homeopathic dilutions.  The magical uses of the herbs were administered while in a hypnotic state of consciousness and through spells, a state of consciousness that I attain through ecstatic trance.  The herbs for each of the eight spokes of the cycle of the year is the valuable core of the book, each herb presented in a clear succinct manner including its preparations, and its medicinal, homeopathic, and magical uses.  Mistletoe is important for three of the eight spokes of the wheel of the year, the winter solstice or Mean Geimhridh, the summer solstice or Mean Samhraidh, and Lugnasad that falls halfway between the summer solstice and the fall equinox.  Growing up in California where Mistletoe is very prevalent, I often collected it during the summer for our celebration of Christmas.  I now wonder about mistletoe’s role for the Celts with it growing in the warmer latitudes of California and not in New York or Pennsylvania where I have lived for the last 40 years. Hopman though reports that at least one species grows in northern Europe.  Mistletoe’s great sacredness to the Druids may be due to its greater rarity in these cooler climates. Its twigs and leaves are used for strengthening the working of magic, and for their importance in healing, protection and for producing beautiful dreams.  This parasite is one of the 14 herbs sacred to the druids, possibly the most important next to the oak upon which it often grows.  Research has shown that it stimulates the immune system, inhibits some tumors by activating the killer cells, and it is used to temper epilepsy.

From my love for and writings about the Icelandic Edda, I am familiar with the dart of mistletoe that was used to kill Baldr, the gentle and beloved son of Odin.  There was nothing else that would harm him, a promise made to his mother by every other substance.  Then, at the time of Ragnarok, the final battle with the demise of the gods of war, the gentle Baldr is reborn to lead us into a gentle New Age, a hopeful prophesy.

The herbal alchemy of the Druids defines a relationship between the Earth’s herbal forces and those of the celestial spheres, a system that classifies each herb by its planetary affiliations to the Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter or Saturn.  For example, Mars is affiliated with the thorny and prickly plants with a strong acid taste, plants that help with motor nerve, muscle, and left brain problems.  These plants include nettles, hops, garlic and onion.  The sun’s herbs are orange, reddish orange to yellow and are nourished in the warmth of the sun, herbs such as butterbur, borage, motherwort and grapes which are used to help with problems of the heart, circulation, and the spine.

The rituals and celebrations of the Druids take place in the groves of sacred trees such as oak, rowan and hawthorn, rituals that involve repeatedly walking sunwise around the sacred hills, springs, stones, trees and fires, acts that reflect the desire to live in harmony with the cosmos.  Every tree, spring, well, rock, valley, mountain and body of water has its own animating spirits that reveal its sacred relationship with all other flora, fauna and minerals.  At these sacred places poetry, legends and song find their fullest expression.  At these places sacrificial gifts are offered to the deities and fairies to gain their support in providing for a fruitful life.  The twenty-one described herbs used for consecration and purification include Agelica, Asafetida, Basil, Cedar, Juniper, Mistletoe, Sage, and Valerian. Many of the described herbs are also used in funeral rituals and rites and for the journey into the Otherworld, herbs such as Elder and Hawthorn.  For marriage under the Oak the many herbs used include Anise, Apple and Maple.  For bringing peace and prosperity to the home the herbs used include Bay Laurel, Mandrake, and Plantain; and for the rites of passage from birth, for infant naming, and for puberty the herbs used include Ash, Birch, Holly and Rosemary.

These hypnotic and magical rituals beautifully bring alive our need for a harmonious relationship with the Earth and the Cosmos. These rituals are more relevant today than ever because of our separation from our one and only Earth that has occurred over that last several centuries because of our greed, separation that has led to our current battle for survival because of the climate crisis.  I still maintain that there is hope, hope for us to enter the beautiful New Age if we again reconnect with the sacred Earth and the Cosmos, a connection that was very much alive for our ancient hunting and gathering ancestors from the era of the Celts and Druids.

Nicholas E. Brink, PhD

Author of

  • Ecstatic Soul Retrieval (publisher – Inner Traditions / Bear & Co.)
  • Power of Ecstatic Trance
  • Baldr’s Magic
  • Beowulf’s Ecstatic Trance Magic
  • Trance Journeys of the Hunter-Gatherers
  • Grendel and His Mother (publisher – Routledge)

 

Find the book in the usual places or order a signed copy from the author at www.elleneverthopman.com

 

 

 

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.

 

Equality in relationships

For Druids, relationship is central to spirituality.

The best kinds of relationships are rooted in equality. Where there is a power imbalance, it should be rooted in issues of responsibility, not in control. For example, a parent has responsibility for their child as that child learns and grows. But that does not give the parent the right to control their child. One person in a relationship might have more money than the other – and money can be easily used to exert control. As soon as you step into situations of control, you cease to have a relationship of equals.

Some people assume that certain things give them power – money, gender, social status, level of education, and age are probably the most frequent ones. Perceiving certain things as valuable, and then believing that makes you more important, carries with it the implicit assumption that people who have less of this are less important. They are lesser than you and therefore should be ruled by you.

As soon as a person believes that certain things make them more important than others, they have thrown away all scope for true relationship. There can be no scope for respect and equality with such a person. There can be no balance or equal sharing, and there is an inherent disrespect for the person who, for whatever reasons is deemed ‘lesser’. And from experience if such a person sets the benchmark for ‘important’ somewhere and you achieve it, you can be sure either they will move it, or have some other reason to disregard you. It is not about the status signifier, it is actually about the belief that they are more important, which they will justify by whatever means necessary, be it ever so illogical.

If a person seeks to establish themselves as the powerful one in a relationship, it is because they want to be in control and they do not want the other person to be their equal partner in all things. The source of power and authority can so easily then be used to put the other person down. They are not as important because they do not have a proper job, a degree, as much life experience, a car, as much money etc. Putting people down takes power from them. Focusing on these kind of details to justify control shows a total lack of respect for the person you are with.

We’re all different. Each one of us has an array of strengths and weaknesses. In terms of relationship, how much money a person has is far less significant than how much compassion they have, how much magic in their soul. Society encourages outward displays of physical wealth, status symbols and trophies. If we internalise those values and bring them into our relationships, we ruin our chances of good and meaningful connections. Where there is inequality and disrespect, love will not flourish.

There needs also to be an equality of giving. That doesn’t mean that we must give exactly the same things to each other. Balance can be found in other ways. You cook the meal, I wash the dishes. You pay the gas bill, I pay the electric. A sharing of work, responsibility and ownership is essential in good relationship, and that’s not about hours spent in paid employment or money earned. Financial contributions are not the only ones that have an impact. If one person gives and the other does not, that creates a power imbalance. Energy in the relationship only flows one way, until that person has nothing more they can give and either stops, or walks away.

If you want to have power over something and make it do your bidding, get a car, or some other mindless piece of technology that will not be hurt or offended by this. If you want an actual relationship with a human being, there is absolutely no room for any notions of power, control and inequality. If you can’t respect the person you are with, it probably means you shouldn’t be with them, for both your sakes.