Yesterday’s post evoked some great discussion – both here at this blog and over at the OBOD FB page and my FB page. I’d love to quote a lot from these discussions, but better if you’re interested to go straight there. And now to finish a trio of posts on this question (and then move on!), what does someone mean if they call themselves a Druid in the 21st century?
The first thing to know: there a number of ways in which the term is used. Someone might call themselves a Druid because they feel an affinity for what Druids today believe and stand for, without necessarily having done any training, or being the member of any group. It’s like the way some people call themselves Buddhists or Wiccans or Christians – that doesn’t necessarily imply they have been studying in any depth, or that they belong to a group or attend certain ceremonies or celebrations. They just feel that they are spiritually most aligned to that set of values, and they probably also feel that one day they will get more involved. (A little detail for geeks: some people even drop the ‘a’ and simply call themselves Druid.)
Other people call themselves Druids because it’s their chosen spiritual path or religion – and they are following it, living it every day, perhaps even studying or training in it.
Purists don’t like either of these ways of using the term – they feel it’s a title that has to be earned. In ancient times it took 19 years of training before you could call yourself a Druid, but times have changed. Much of those 19 years were spent in education which we now undertake in school, and today you can work through the levels of training to reach the Druid grade, in the Order of Bards Ovates & Druids, in just over two years if you focus on it.
To make things complicated, there are even people who are Druids who don’t see Druidry as their spiritual path: and that includes people like Her Majesty the Queen and the Archbishop of Canterbury. They have both been initiated into the circle of Druids of the Welsh National Eisteddfod (to be exact: the Queen is an Ovate, a certain kind of Druid). Don’t believe it? Watch the film clip!
Probably most, if not all, Druids in the Eisteddfod don’t follow Druidry as a spiritual path, just as most members of the fraternal Druid order, The Ancient Order of Druids, which is focussed on charitable giving, don’t either.
So to ask if someone is a Druid is only a first step if you really want some useful information. Is the Archbishop of Canterbury a ‘would be’ Druid, a ‘self-proclaimed’ Druid, as The Daily Telegraph recently referred to contemporary Druids, or more accurately an ‘Honorary Druid’? The Telegraph isn’t the worst offender in not getting all this, the hopeless website where I found this photo of Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, being initiated as a Druid captioned it:
‘For the new archbishop of Canterbury was, openly and unashamedly, a pagan druid priest! Almost Beyond Belief: a Druid Priest Becomes Archbishop of Canterbury!’
Hey ho, Fake News reigns!