Are all Druids today Fake Druids?
In the Daily Telegraph recently, Tristram Fane-Saunders used an old journalist’s trick to mock someone. He wrote: ‘Self-proclaimed “druids” have been getting their mistletoe in a twist’ about Jez Butterworth’s new TV Series Britannia. He goes on to refer to ‘Another would-be druid called Dennis Andrew’. It’s not hugely rude, but I guess he wouldn’t like having what he identified with put in inverted commas, or to be called a ‘self-proclaimed’ anything. But of course he’s doing it not just to poke fun, but because he doesn’t know enough about Druids. It’s a common mistake that many make, including would-be “writers” like Tristram. No-one would dream of talking about ‘would-be Muslims’ or ‘Self-proclaimed Freemasons’, but they do about Druids – and it’s simply because they are ignorant. They know a little history (Fane has checked out the classical authors) but they usually haven’t got further than the opinions of people like the archaeologist Stuart Piggott, which have been out of date for the last thirty years.
Their logic goes like this: the ancient Druids disappeared around the 5th century. A revival movement arose over a thousand years later, ergo anyone calling themselves a Druid from the 18th century onwards must be a fake, and therefore deserves the condemnation of the inverted comma. I thought I’d ask one of Britain’s foremost historians for his opinion on whether modern-day Druids or Druidry itself was unique in being singled out in this way for accusations of being inauthentic. Professor Ronald Hutton, Head of the School of Humanities and Professor of History at Bristol University, and a Commissioner for English Heritage, responded: “In religion and art, it is fairly common for movements of renewal and revival to appear which are inspired by the remote past. Thus, the Renaissance represented an attempt to revive the art and architecture of the ancient world, over a millennium after it had vanished, and the Pre-Raphaelites to recapture the spirit of medieval painting. In religion, the Reformation is the biggest European example of a convulsion produced by a wish to leap over many centuries to refashion belief and practice using ancient models. The difference here is merely one of familiarity. There were plenty of people around in the sixteenth century who sneered at ‘so-called Protestants’, and in the nineteenth at ‘so-called Pre-Raphaelites’. The inverted commas always depart if people hang around long enough.”
Three hundred years of recorded history of the modern Druid movement seems quite a long time, but I’m sure Prof. Hutton is right – we just have to be patient.
I don’t mind explaining when it comes up in conversation. It gives me a chance to talk about druidry.
Seems like most people identify druids with the wicker man movie. If they really object to me calling myself a druid, I just tell them to think of me as a neo-druid. If they continue to object, I just move on. So….I try not to get mad! I use it as an opportunity to educate!
Very wise Pamela!
Bravo!, excellent response..there will always be haters out there, they are sleeping. Also they are responding to the discomfort of a lack in their perception of self so they strike out.
I know this because I have done it myself..Still only human but I need love too..
I find Ron’s response wonderful, it is exactly that. It must have been a slow news day to write about the topic that is so clearly old hat. Patience is key to good communication. They will get it eventually, just some are slow learners.
Many moons ago In search of my true calling in life I presented myself to Greywolf (BDO)
At one of his Shropshire retreats .
I’ traveled far in my beaten up old Mercedes .
Fresh coffee packed in the boot with a bottle of mead and a fur gilet .
I thought I was all set up ✨
All I asked or searched for was some acceptance & acknowledgment of my true Spiritual nature .
Phillip saw beyond my middle class
Veneer and appalling insecurities
And made me feel as if I had arrived home .
I received a life changing experience & healing .
That I will be forever grateful for ♥️
I am still a studying bard , intend to study for the rest of my life .
A little while later I was invited to the GoodWood
Where I was subjected to total ignorance
Of our kind .
I was having drinks in the officers mess
Just in front of the fake (Foam Henge )
With actors in white robes faking a druid Ritual .
I watched in dismay and listened to the
Vile comments people make about
Druids witches and pagans
It hurt me to the core
I didn’t speak up ,there where many drunk ones of them and one of me i felt such sadness.
I knew that one day each of these individual s would experience some thing in their life to force them to see or face the bigger picture .
I decided to write a monthly column
For the local observer paper
On paganism , astrology , folklore &
To try to educate folk a little more ,it spread to 7 papers along the coast .
I was banned from attending ( I’m a life model)
Art classes at West Dean college
Because of my beliefs .
And have received
Threatening letters in my post box
My therapist advised me to turn to Jesus or I will burn in hell .
All of this just fuels my resolve ,
Makes me proud to be a druid & part of some thing
Alive and real and growing by the numbers
Every minute 🌟
Blessings this Imbolc
Wow Sherry. Sorry to hear about the bad experiences, but lovely to hear how Greywolf welcomed you! Blessings, Philip
Bless you looking forward to April in Bosham 🌟✨🌻
Wow, Sherry, thank you for sharing this. I am so sorry to hear that you had to go through all that! Your resolve to continue is really commendable.
I was born and grew up in Scotland. A tiny place called Mintlaw. My parents and Grandparents called themselfs Pagans, as did the local population at the time. We gathered at the standing stones at Stricken and had many Ritulas in this very ancient place. So, does this make me a Druid ? I have completed the OBOD course and i am currently waiting for my review to be looked over… In 50 years I have spoken to Christians, Catholics, Agnostics, Muslims, the list goes on and not once have I been told that I am fake. I dont argue with folks about my path, i dont readily talk about my faith, but when asked I always say the same thing – I am a spiritual person who has chosen his own path in the world that is not so different from your own but different enough as not to be the same… This tyically get some very odd looking faces but I believe it to be true. I feel that I am a Druid having been brought into the Pagan way of life by my ancestors. The OBOD courses have helped me to understand my path along with many other aspects of my inner self, I also feel that i dont have to justify my belief. Its belief, and that all there is to it…
Right on Markaus! 🙂
I always refer to myself as an aspiring Druid.
Oh that’s a rather nice and humble way of putting it!
In his book ‘Druids: A Very Short Introduction” Sir Barry Cunliffe details what we actually know about the Druids, in terms of actual evidence. In this book he makes the point that certain modern Druid groups are much more closely aligned to this truth than others. I believe OBOD is as close to the truth as is possible. It is also important, I believe, to accept that much of our heritage is written into the actual landscape. Recent archaeological projects like ‘Secrets of the High Woods’ are starting to show that the depth of this information is much greater than we previously thought. When you connect and listen to the landscape, the same ground our ancestors stood upon, you are connecting to their truth in a very real way. The work of OBOD and Philip Carr-Gomm is grounded in this connection and is as authentic as it gets. The work of OBOD and Philip Carr-Gomm should be cherished and protected against all who would seek to damage our beautiful heritage.
Vey good of you to say that Jeremy. And I wasn’t aware that Cunliffe had said that about modern groups.
From Chapter 9: “There is also a widespread belief in the polarity of the deity – the competing but balanced opposites of the male and female components. In professing these values, the neopagans have gone back to some of the essential elements that can be discerned in the belief systems of pre-Roman Celtic Europe and, in particular, of Ireland. This has been a conscious seeking-out and selection of those values and beliefs that satisfy current needs. With growing concerns about the future of the planet, it is likely that this form of paganism will attract increasing numbers of followers. Within this broad neopagan context, a number of groups styling themselves Druids have emerged. One of the largest and most successful of these is the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids which was founded in 1964. Its principal aims are to help the individual develop his/her innate capacities to the full and to respect and care for the natural world. It’s well-organized website begins with the all-embracing statement:” (the chapter continues)
I’m always bemused as to why this is even a ‘thing’. If you put a 1st Century Christian and a 21st Century Christian side by side you’d see dramatic differences in belief and practices, but that doesn’t give you permission to tell the 21st Century Christian they’re fake. By today’s definitions they are real, and that’s what matters.
For my part, I call myself ‘druid’ outside of our community in the same way as any follower of Christ call themselves Christian regardless of denomination – makes it easier to explain and works for me because I’m one who considers Druidry my ‘religion’ (I respect that not everyone does). Then if someone wants more details I say “Well to be more specific I study Druidry through OBOD where I’m in the Ovate grade, which means…..”
You and Prof Hutton are just the most amazing ambassadors for what we believe and practice, thankyou both 💗
Personally following the path back in 1975, I feel I follow the right one for me. I have noticed people who are in “rebel” mode, but thankfully in life, every one of us is different. To be a stong person, one must follow his or her path.
It is for one to know, and for the other to decide ^^
When I’m with people who relate to their beliefs in conversation and I’m asked “do you have a denomination” I simple tell them I’m Druid and 99% of the time they are Silent with their reaction. I find it kind of funny. I’m not sure if they’re afraid of asking questions or respond at all. I just smile!
I am a druid and find that my path has held space for me over the past year when I saw my dear mother pass after looking after her for five years. Walks in the woods and by the sea and the constant affirmations of truth, honour, justice held me steady when I faced dark times and somehow, now, there is a hint of spring in the snow drops and the sun is getting a little higher in the sky. And, so the wheel of the year, of indeed life, turns.
I think the title ‘Druid’ has an air of honour to it, and as I see it as describing one who is a true ‘priest of the land’. I think it’s a shame some folks can’t see the fact that Paganism as a whole is a tradition charged with new and vibrant energy – the modern twists that are a part of it now make for a beautiful patchwork of new and old, weaving out a new tradition.
I for one have an interesting relationship thus far with the term ‘Druid’, and as I am still training, refer to myself as a ‘Druid in training’.
Taking a leaf out of books the great and good of the current Druid movement, I’m strongly considering starting a blog documenting my journey to when I feel I can take ownership of the name…..
Funny this topic should just keep re-emerging. Here’s an excerpt from one of my blogposts on the subject:
I’m a fake Druid. So is everyone else who names Druidry as the path they walk. And I’ve come to love it.
In a guest essay on the ADF website, author, mage and archdruid emeritus of AODA J. M. Greer notes,
“The very last of the ancient Druids went extinct in the ninth century, and the surviving scraps of their teachings and lore are so fragmentary, diffuse, and contradictory that they don’t form anything like a workable system. All modern Druid groups—OBOD, ADF, and everyone else—were invented in the last three centuries by people who used some mix of scholarly writings, personal spiritual insight, speculation, and sheer fantasy as raw material for their concoctions.
Thus if ‘real Druidry’ is defined as the sort that was practiced by Druids in Celtic countries before the arrival of Christianity, all modern Druids practice fake Druidry. That can’t be avoided, since ‘real Druidry’ hasn’t existed anywhere for more than a millennium. What differentiates one modern Druid tradition from another is the particular kind of ‘fake Druidry’ each practices.”
Of course, Greer writes here as an outsider might see it, to try on a truth many still feel uncomfortable to admit. As Archdruid of AODA, he obviously doesn’t habitually dwell on his particular flavor of Druidry as “fake.” And when I practice my Druidry, it doesn’t feel like a “concoction” at all. It coheres, because like anything used — steps, coins, dishes, skin, planets — the edges get smoothed, a few chips and dents show up, and everything takes on that “lived-in” look, that patina that makes antiques look antique, that gives worry-stones their shine, and faces their habitual smile or frown lines. I make an offering at an altar, I join my Druid brothers and sisters at a festival, I sit for an hour in moonlight meditating, and whether a group of people 300 years ago rediscovered things most traditional peoples have long known doesn’t really concern me. Clearly, the moment itself offers me better things to do.
“The Druid community has on occasion been racked by squabbles between traditions, caused as often as not by simple misunderstandings that could have been quickly cleared up by people familiar with more than their own tradition. Since none of us have any right to claim possession of the One Genuine Real Live Druidry, a willingness to share the world with other Druid traditions, and to participate with them in celebrating the cycles of nature and the miracle of the living Earth, is a virtue that may well be worth cultivating by Druids of all kinds.”
Ah, “One Genuine Real Live Druidry” — OGRELD, I’ll call it. My new tradition, founded right now as you’re reading this. Here we go … unlike every other practice and belief on the planet, Ogreld sprang into existence full-grown and perfect, without parents or kin. To get that essential temporal edge over other faiths and practices, OGRELD is the original “source faith” of humanity, practiced when people first became human. In fact, to top it off, it was OGRELD that made them human. Now we’re cooking! … This is faking with a vengeance. “I’m faker than you are. Na-na-na-na-na!”
In the Egyptian afterlife, the human heart is weighed against the feather of Maat, who personifies truth and justice. The Wise among us understand that whether I acknowledge three elements of earth, water and air, or four elements of earth, air, fire and water, or a god whose elements are bread and wine, my rituals will still work in accordance with the reverence and love I bring to them, and the holy presences that empower them. Whether I have helped or hurt the earth and its inhabitants will matter a lot more than the color of my robes, the rank I’ve achieved, or the number of gods I pray to. The only real Druidry is a “path with heart,” a way of walking the earth that wisely honors all paths with heart. I’m busy faking that wisdom, practicing till I get it “righter” than before. Insofar as faking is doing something, it’s generally better than not doing anything at all. So yes, I’m a fake Druid. Have you met any other kind?!
Fabulous post Dean thank you!
I think there is often confusion between the concepts of ‘authentic’ and ‘evolved.’ My former religion – Christianity – has certainly evolved yet the mainstream doesn’t dispute its authenticity. I think Professor Hutton is right, patience is required. Here in the U.S. practicing Buddhism was considered odd or eccentric 40 years or so ago; now it’s ‘cool.’ Our turn will come, but I’m not apt to be around to see it. I’m very grateful for you and OBOD and the good work you do. It has given me peace – and that’s authentic!
I do find it interesting that Druidic paths or other pagan/spiritual ways are often ridiculed. While at the same time here in the US yoga attire and the study of yogic paths have completely taken off in the culture. That evolution you speak of seems to be everywhere at the moment, however there still seems to be some holdovers for an older age. Amazing what is seen now as normal would have been unthinkable in everyday culture 20 years ago, but somehow the alter spiritual paths are still taboo.
Someone ask me a few days ago, what was my spiritual path… And after sharing some enlightening events and encounters in my life…. She kept saying… no that’s not it… And shyly I said I was studying the way of druidry… And she said that’s it.. It is a beautiful way…. This encounter with a Kazakhstan medium … Just met on the beach… For a few hours… Was just magical… What was extraordinary is that she helped me to say it out loud…. Bring it forth..what a gift… I usually do not talk about it because I live in a city in France where the presence of the three monotheistic religions is very strong… And for the many reasons stated in the article and in the comments above I just don’t talk about any spiritual way at all..but be in the love of good, beauty and justice..
To say one is a fake anything is saying a lot about the person making the claim Tristram Fane-Saunders Obviously does not know very much and IMO is a fake journalist to make such a claim I consider myself a Druid n training since I am always learning and adapting Hutton needs to educate Saunders about reality
I find that our path is often ridiculed. It’s easier to pass speculation and less time consuming to deem something fake then to properly educate ones self. It’s not a path that can be learned overnight and so not educated overnight.