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Who is a Druid in the 21st century?

January 24th, 2018

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!

Archbishop Rowan Williams at his Druid initiation at the Welsh National Eisteddfod

14 Responses to “Who is a Druid in the 21st century?”

  1. What I am or am nought I fairly well keep to myself. According to the perceptions others have of me, I am whatever they need me to be, christen, pagan, muslem, druid priest. It is the connection that matters. I was once a hindu for one who was reaching out. I know enought to be able to show proper respect, No I am nought pretending, that is nought respectful, I do nought claim to be these but know the languages well enough to be trusted with a connection..of sameness. The world is so full of beautiful travelers who only wish brief company upon their journey. But alas haters will be haters and though I know this language well I no longer speak it, but I do understand…

  2. I actually like labels such as ‘Druid’ ‘Pagan’ ‘Witch’ or even ‘Pagan Druid’, and find them useful at the early stage im on in the path. I think finding a label that works for you helps to delineate where you start and where you end as it were, which I think in turn fosters a respect for diversity of others, and the labels (if any) that they find to help in the journey to defining themselves.

    I’m wondering what the history is of the way that the distinct branches of Druidry as a spiritual path and Druidry as a cultural celebration is…..?

  3. This spurs me on to do the ovate course now,I’ve spent two years on the bardic grade (yes I took my time) ,when you sit or lay back and listen to the audio course its like being in the company of an old friend or feel a sense of being home .

  4. I feel for myself that I naturally grew into the Bardic phase as a young man. Poetry and songs were leading me as so it does today.
    I became drawn to the wonder of Shamanic journeying and began to study and do a solo venture which was very eye opening and interesting so I did drumming and rattling, which I understand as the Ovate.
    I did read and listen to the OBOD material and seemed to fall away as health issues arose.
    However, I have felt the strong and very much living essence of Awen in my life.
    I hesitate calling myself Druid, though in my spiritual walk and beliefs I seem to fall fairly deep into what my ancestors were in their beliefs and practices centuries ago.
    I am drawn heavily into the Mother Earth and Nature for my healing needs and choose to live in natural surroundings.
    My heart and dreams are filled with the mystical Spirit guides and animals and drumming is always a desire,
    To feel the pulse of the universe and the world I live in.

    I greatly appreciate the affirmation I receive when following your messages.
    For this I am thankful.

  5. I think you are underestimating the effect of the druidic tradition in Cymru. In fact to enter the orsedd in the Eisteddfod has different routes including training and examination, It follows the traditions begun by the people who tried to follow a druidic path here – many things are embedded in our culture. for instance our national anthem is a song by a druid and is an anthem that does not contain calls to violence etc. It is counted as a great honour to be invited to be an ?honourery druid and it is not given lightly. It is the only way we can do so that is not a part of the British Empire way. I usually find what you write interesting but respectfully have to say am not happy this time.

    • Thank you for this information Olwen. I had understood that the majority of members of the Eisteddfod are Christian,usually Methodist, and that the activities of the Eisteddfod are entirely focused on the cultural,and that members would not pursue what one might call a magical or spiritual path based upon a Druidry. But thank you for correcting this impression. Do you have any idea how many members of the Eisteddfod follow druidry as a spiritual way, a sense of a percentage perhaps? Just so you know, I wasn’t trying to be disrespectful – there is a huge place for cultural work as opposed to spiritual/esoteric work, it’s just that they’re different, but of course nothing is as black and white as we like to make things!

  6. Do the Druids of today think Druidry will outlive
    the Tolkein & Dungeon and Dragons Era as it coverges with the Kali Yuga Technology wave?

  7. One last tid bit. There is a novel called “The Druid”. Imagine that. The author Leonard Mosley was ex-CIA. He lived off the west coast of Florida on Sannibel Island. I read an article in the 90’s that said a number of ex-CIA retire to Sannibel Island. Sannibel, is shaped slightly like a boomerang. It’s claim to fame in the environmentalist struggles was it’s beaches were a gold mine of Conch shells. Soon the tourist walked off with so many shells the beaches began to deteriorate. “The Druid” is about a Welchman who was a Druid and a double agent in betwixt Germany and England during WWII. If I remember right there is a sub story about a Welch community in Patagonia that held an Eisteddfod.

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