A Druid Order is a group that offers a defined philosophy and a way of doing druidry derived from it. There are many, many Druid Orders out there. Some have membership in the thousands and include many groves within the organisation, others are very small. If you are looking for a place to start in Druidry, the Orders can be both tempting, and disorientating.
So I thought I’d blog more from the perspective of how to look an Order over to see if it’s the right place for you. I may come back another day and share what I know about some of the specific ones, possibly.
Do you need to be in an Order? No. Orders provide network, support, they will likely offer some teaching, and a way of doing things. If you crave structure, Orders are likely to be more your thing, if you like to improvise and hate anyone telling you what to do, membership of an Order probably isn’t the way to go.
Some Orders are international – OBOD teaches by post and you can access it from anywhere. Many have an online presence. However, I’d recommend that the first port of call is to see who is active in your geographical area. Nothing beats being able to connect with real people, in real circles and share real mead. You may find there’s no one locally who suits you, of course. You may find another Order really speaks and that you want to sign up with them and be the person who starts your local grove.
Geography considered, the next thing to look at is philosophy. What does the Order put first? The Reformed Druids of North America have one tenet – Nature is Good. Simple on the surface but very complicated when you start thinking about it. ADF have a strong ethos of service and offering public ritual. OBOD focus on teaching and have specific ways of doing ritual. The Loyal Arthurian Warband is all about eco protesting and action. Smaller Orders will all have their own focus. Being part of a wider Druid context, all Orders are going to be Druidy, but it’s a big umbrella to be stood under, and there can be vast amounts of uncommon ground!
If you don’t like an Order’s philosophy, you are not going to be a happy or productive member, so best not to go there, even if they do turn out to run the best parties.
The final thing I would recommend exploring before you sign up, is the structure. Who runs the Order? How did they get the job? How much say do you get as an individual member? How autonomous are groves? How tight are the rules and requirements and what happens if you don’t stick with them? What are you being asked to sign up to, at what cost, and how readily can you leave? Answering these questions will tell you a lot about the nature of the organisation and whether you will fit. There are no right answers (usually) only the ones that will work for you. For example, many Orders are run by the charismatic and enthusiastic person who founded them, and will only exist for so long as that person continues to lead. Others are democratic, electing elders or a chief for terms of office. Some are a loose configuration of likeminded folk, others are rigidly structured with grades and promotion opportunities. There are all shades.
There are of course also ‘Orders’ that consist of one ‘Archdruid’ and their dog, and are designed to extract money and/or ego boosts from whoever signs up. I spent a couple of years looking after the Druid Network’s directory, and although I ran into the odd ‘witchwar’ and the odd self important nutter, the overwhelming majority of Orders and their leaders I encountered seemed like lovely people with a genuine intention to do some good Druidic work, on their own terms. Not all of it would suit everyone, but that’s fine, that’s why we don’t have The Big One Church of Druidry for Everyone. Be cautious, because there are idiots and predators out there, and because you need to find a place you actually fit, if you’re making a commitment on this scale. If you don’t find ‘home’ I wouldn’t recommend rushing out to set up your own Druid Order – for a start it’s a lot of work, but look round for like minded souls, and if it turns out that there are more of you than a one Archdruid and his dog scenario, it is a thing to consider. I get the impression that’s where most of the Orders we now have, started.