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The Definition of Druidry and its Practice
(as used by The Druid Network)

Druidry was the native spiritual tradition of the peoples who inhabited the islands of Britain and Ireland, spreading through much of Europe. Though many  consider it to have been a religion or political force that came to  Britain with the influx of culture concurrent with the Iron Age, it is  increasingly understood, and within the Network acknowledged, to be of  an older indigenous if ever-evolving religious tradition sourced within  these islands.

As an ancient pagan religion, Druidry is based on  the reverential, sacred and honourable relationship between the people  and the land. In its personal expression, modern Druidry is the  spiritual interaction between an individual and the spirits of nature,  including those of landscape and ancestry, together with the  continuities of spiritual, literary and cultural heritage.

Druidic practice is also based on honour for the ancestors, considered sacred.  In ancestral stories, in human nature and life’s patterns, in the long  river of history, in poetry and music, the Druid finds the divine  inspiration known as awen, the force that flows into his/her own sacred creativity of living, allowing depths of understanding and wisdom.

Druidic practice seeks too to understand the patterns of nature outside  humanity, within our environment, honouring the powers of nature as  wholly sacred. All life is deemed to be unconditionally sacred, bearing  its own intrinsic validity and purpose.

Those who practise  Druidry do so through a deep spiritual connection perceived and  experienced with this land and culture, either directly (as residents)  or through links and empathies of ancestry, literature, art, history,  heritage, philosophy and mythology. So does Druidry continue to grow,  not only in Britain, but also all around the world.

Though many  shy away from the word ‘Religion’ with its connotations of political  monotheism and authority, preferring the word spirituality, Druidry is a religion. Its practitioners revere their deities, most often perceived  as the most powerful forces of nature (such as thunder, sun and earth),  spirits of place (such as mountains and rivers), and divine guides of a  people (such as Brighid, Rhiannon and Bran).

Druidry cannot be  defined by or limited to the reverence of one deity or a pantheon. Thus  while many within Druidry honour what are known as the Celtic named and  mythologized deities, others honour Christian, Saxon, Nordic or  Classical Pagan gods. Yet again there are those who honour animistic and conceptual forms of deity. These differences do not divide or dilute  the tradition, however, for such differences are integral parts of the  traditions essential nature.

The spirits of a place bring the  richness of ecological diversity, encouraging us to experience the  wealth of different ecosystems, from moorland to meadows, mountains to  wetlands. So does reverence for life and nature engender a diversity of  practice in those expressing devotion and seeking to live in sacred  relationship with the spirits of a place. Thus is locality another  factor that brings diversity to the tradition.

Ancestral lineage, local history and heritage add diversity in the same way. Generations  of miners, fishermen or travellers, personal tragedy or wealth, close  family or solitude; all are factors that affect our spiritual seeking  and expression. As Druidry guides us to honour and learn from our  ancestry and our path of life, so is this diversity also a defining  factor in Druidic practice, as is acceptance and indeed celebration of  this diversity.

Coherence is brought to Druidry upon the  spiritual foundations of its reverence for nature. Based on reverence  and respect for life itself, and the practice of seeking honourable  relationship with all, Druidry guides us to live with truth and  responsibility.

While sacrifice is a core notion within most  world spiritual traditions, within Druidry it is confused by historical  accounts of the killing of both human and animal victims. No such  practice is deemed acceptable within modern Druidry. What is sacrificed  within the tradition today is that which we value most highly in life  and hold to with most passion: time, security, certainty, comfort,  convenience, ignorance, and the like. Indeed, most Druidic sacrifice is  expressed through work that benefits the wider community and the planet  as a whole, such as environmental volunteering, ethical consumerism,  spiritual education, dissemination of information, caring for family and community (notably children, the sick, the elderly and dying) and  creative expression.

Although there are groups within the  tradition who value their privacy, Druidry is not an occult tradition. A good part of its practice is openly celebrated. Increasingly there are  many within the tradition that share its essential tenets through public ritual in ceremonies marking the seasonal festivals that are open and  free to all; examples include the gorseddau at Avebury and Stonehenge.

Common Practice and Beliefs within Druidry

Introduction

Those who practice Druidry do so through a deep spiritual connection  perceived and experienced within the land and its culture. Many, when  they first find Druidry, describe the feeling as 'coming home'; they  have rediscovered a connection with the land, its people, history,  heritage and culture. This is more than mere interest; imbued with  wonder, gratitude, respect and a sense of the perpetual flow of time, it inspires a devotional commitment, an acknowledgment of the sacred and a recognition of deity (male, female and non-gendered gods) within these  currents of nature. This is the foundation of Druid practice.

The issue as to whether modern Druidry has any clear link back to pre-Roman Britain is debated. Historically Druidry was essentially an oral  tradition and no texts are available written by our pre-Roman ancestors. However, the religious and spiritual traditions survived in folklore,  through poetry and mythologies, within the development of  British/western philosophy and the bardic colleges. A good deal was  incorporated into Christianity when it came to these lands, particularly surviving in rural churches where Paganism continued side by side with  the new religion. In the eighteenth century a resurgence of Druidry led  to academic scrutiny of Classical and Mediaeval texts and a good deal of todays common Druidic practice is based on interpretation of that  material. This scrutiny continues today and Druids use this as a link to their ancestral past. As a religion today, Druidry is ever evolving. So common practice is gained through Druids coming together and sharing  their experiences, rituals and celebrations.

Diversity

Many come to Druidry because of its diversity. Freedom of expression and  personal connection to deity is, for them, of paramount importance.  Connection to the divine is gained through experience, neither through  belief nor through reciting prayers that are essentially anothers  understanding or vision. As a polytheistic religion, individuals devote  themselves to and revere deities who express different aspects of nature and ancestry. For example, Cerridwen is a goddess of the dark, the  waning moon, the cauldron of potential; Brighid is a goddess of fire,  light and assertive action. The rituals and practice of Druids honouring one or other of these as their principal deity would differ  accordingly.

Druids take their inspiration from Nature. Within the British Isles we have a  huge diversity of landscape and this is reflected in the practice of  individuals and local groups or Groves. If a Druid is inspired by their  local north sea coast, his gods and religious focus would be different  from a Druid inspired by the rolling hills and woodlands of the  Cotswolds, or the open moors of Devon. Similarly a Druid grove  celebrating the festival of midwinter in an urban garden in Kent will  look and feel very different from a grove celebrating in the Highlands  of Scotland, were most of its members are dependent on rural or  agricultural livelihoods: winter means something very different to both  groves. All these individuals and groves are equally honouring (and  seeking relationship with) Nature.

Druids are inspired too by their ancestors. To a Druid, ancestry is not a  vague concept, but a gathering of individuals, each with their strengths and weaknesses, their own stories of success and failure. The diversity of druidry is further expressed through the fact that each  person has a different line of ancestors, and a different relationship  with those people: this may manifest through a religious practice that  focuses on a certain temple or landscape, myth or poet, skill or  occupation. Again, such practice may appear significantly distinct, say, if we were to observe a farmer, a blacksmith, a writer or healer. As  Druids, all are honouring their ancestors, nonetheless, by using the  skills inherited and so expressing the spiritual devotion, gratitude and reverence required of the Druid.

The reverence for nature that is integral to Druidry also provides a  morality or ethical base that is common to all Druids. Like any moral  code, whether religious or secular, it is interpreted with slight  differences. However, honour, respect, truth and justice are of primary  importance and constitute the basis of all Druid practice. This doesn’t  dilute Druidry, but brings to it a richness that is welcomed and  celebrated. Thus, paradoxically, diversity is both a strength and a  cohesive element of Druid practice.

There are further elements of Druid practice and ritual that are common to all within the tradition and these we shall explore.

Major Festivals

Most adherents of modern Druidry celebrate eight major festivals and these  can be further subdivided into the Solar Festivals and Celtic Fire  Festivals, which may also be known as agricultural, pastoral, seasonal  or cross quarter festivals. Some Groves and individuals only work with  the Solar and some only with the Fire Festivals. Placed around the  course of the year, they occur every 5-7 weeks, and generally Druids  will at this time make ritual, giving offerings.

The purpose of the festivals is to ensure two things:

  • The Druid is always spiritually awake to the cycles of nature, the seasons, the tides of growth and decay, together with the gifts the gods offer  at these times.
  • The Druid attunes his own soul to the cycle of nature around him, working  with the seasons internally, spiritually, instead of pushing against  them and risking stress, depression, exhaustion, complacency and so on.

Being in harmony with natures cycles ensures spiritual health, appreciation,  inspired creativity and vibrant community, through reverential  relationship with the gods, ancestors and spirits of place.

Druids will also make ritual at various phases of the moon, though which phase is most important to any individual Druid will depend on their own  nature. Some Druids will regularly meet with their grove at the dark or  new moon, others preferring the full moon, and some acknowledge the  quarter moons. This practice encourages and facilitates the Druid's  attunement with the lunar cycle, increasing awareness as to its impact  on his own nature and the natural world around him, increasing health,  well being and relationships.

Rites of Passage

It is also common within Druid practice to celebrate important points  along lifes path, and it is at such times that we acknowledge the  growth, change and release that are integral to an individual’s path.  Some points that may be celebrated are:

  • Childrens Rites - the welcoming of newborn babies, naming ceremonies, starting  school and their successes are all important points that may be  celebrated within the community.
  • Weddings, often called Handfastings.
  • Rites of Passing that may include funerals, memorials or honouring of the dead.
  • Rites of Separation - acceptance and release are important. Breakdown of any relationship should be acknowledged.
  • Rites of Elderhood - these occur for men and women between the ages of 55 -  70, acknowledging their changing place in society with retirement,  menopause or the arrival of grandchildren.
  • Dedication - for some it is important that they declare their dedication publicly. This may be a dedication to their God(s), their work, their community  or any other important areas of focus.

At such rituals, it is common practice for Druids to honour the gods, the  landscape, the ancestors, the community and nature in general. The Grove or gathering acknowledges the part played by each of these entities;  they are thanked, offerings made and celebrations shared.

Public Gorseddau

Traditionally gatherings of Bards, these are now generally understood as public  ritual for those studying the tradition, and those wishing to share in a wider community of Druidry. They are held throughout the country and  indeed the world. They are usually held on the weekend closest to the  actual date of the festivals mentioned previously.

Free and open to all they are a gathering to celebrate the festival and to  perform rites of passage. Space will also be included in the celebration for the poetry, song, music and other creativity that is such an  important part of Druidry. While not all Druids regularly attend Gorsedd Rites, all Druids will acknowledge the importance and validity of such  gatherings and rituals.

Grove Practice

A Grove is a group of people who come together to honour deity, land,  culture, heritage, ancestry and each other within the Druid tradition.  Essentially they are run by Druids local to an area, and because they  take their inspiration from the locality, each is consequently and  appropriately different.

How the Grove is run entirely rests on those who facilitate it; theirs is  the time, energy and inspiration that enables it to be. Because of the  limits on their time and energy, some Grove leaders choose to limit the  number of members, and once this level is reached they can’t accept more applicants, although they are usually happy for people to approach them for advice on Druidry. In practice, when a grove has reached its limit  of members, usually someone will leave to form a new Grove and so  Druidry continues to grow.

There are some Groves who choose to be closed to new members. These Groves  are usually comprised of close friends who are studying together a  particular area of Druidry and do not have time to facilitate an open  Grove or facilitate the learning of newcomers to the tradition. Again  these Groves are willing to give help and assistance to anybody who  approaches them; this may be in the form of individual teaching offered, or by directing the enquirer to another local Grove or to organisations like The Druid Network who can offer a high level of assistance.

As said previously, all Groves are different, but again there is  identifiable commonality of practice. The celebration of the year's  cycle of festivals, moon phase rituals and the rites of passage  mentioned previously are in some form universally celebrated.

Private Practice

Druidry cannot be considered a religion that is practiced only at certain times or festivals. Because it is essentially a celebration of life, all time not spent at public celebration could be considered as private  practice. However, it is the depth of that practice that will differ and this will depend not only on an individual's commitment to Druidry but  also the Druid’s personal life. There are those within the tradition  that have the time to immerse themselves fully and there are many others with work and family commitments that make time and opportunity  limited.

However, life is cyclical and circumstances change, therefore the depth of  private practice supports this. mother whose life is wrapped around  the bringing up of children will usually return to committed Druidic  work once the children are more independent, until that time remaining  content as a part of the Druid community if not a student of the  mythology, theology and deeper practice.

Common Beliefs

A Druid’s practice is aimed at seeking to understand and achieve sacred  relationship with nature and thus the gods. Belief implies blind faith  and that is not the Druid way. Experience of sacred connection, wonder  and understanding are the foundation stones of the tradition, not  reliance of blind faith in something that one has not personally  experienced or perceived.

All Druids, however, seek to connect with the same source - nature - and  that source provides some common areas of understanding if not belief.  The following points are therefore presented as statements of common  Druidic understanding.

  • Nature is considered to be unconditionally sacred and an expression or manifestation of deity and divinity.
  • Everything exists as an interconnected web.

Although everything is interconnected, for many people that connection is not  felt. They stand apart from the natural world and in many cases consider themselves superior to it. A Druid seeks to re-connect, use their  senses and seek to develop them, open their spirit to the spirit that  flows around them, to connect with that flow, that divine source. In  other words, experience of the web is essential for honourable living.

All Druids honour the powers of nature, as environment (the Three Worlds of land, sea and sky), as ancestors (of our blood, of our history and  land, of our mythology), as heritage and wisdom, and through reverence  for the sacred and for deity.

What does this mean? In terms of an integrated system of belief and practice, Druids would be expected to :

  • Respect the natural world (non-human), care for the environment, to study nature (from trees to winds).
  • Respect human nature, work on their own intellectual and emotional development, care for the community, family and colleagues.
  • Respect our history, learn about our heritage, ancestors, their stories, languages, ways of life.
  • Respect the gods, the forces of nature that influence our worlds.

All these are religious tasks, performed not just as a way of serving the  gods, ancestors or community, but as a way of connecting with the gods,  seeking religiously meaningful and, at times, ecstatic union.

Because the gods are forces of nature and heritage, they exist within every  aspect of nature. Instead of reaching to a single abstract concept of  deity (a unique creative supernatural god), Druids find the divine  through study, ritual, music, meditation, prayer, dance. In other words, by singing an old song, learning an old language, sitting by the grave  of an ancestor or within an old stone circle, meditating in the rain,  planting trees or tending the garden, the Druid opens his soul (mind,  consciousness, heart) to connect with the forces of nature (gods)  present and influential within that aspect of nature. He open his soul  to his ancestors and the gods who guided them into sacred relationship,  fulfillment and peace.

This is religious practice (seeking connection with deity, the sacred powers of existence) and is found within all Druidry, throughout the world
Text taken from The Druid Network

There is a colour leaflet available from the Druid Network which gives you  the background to Druidry Click the Image to download (pdf File requires Adobe Reader)

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