I wrote an article for Steampunk Canada this week about Steampunk Druids (here http://www.steampunkcanada.ca/apps/blog/show/19252985-steampunk-druids ) and Tom did an illustration for it. We talked about it before hand, considering that the target audience was Steampunks, and that we couldn’t assume the readers would have complex ideas about who Druids are. And so we plumbed for the blindingly obvious icon, the old beardy guy with the robes.
I gather from reading Ronald Hutton that this image owes a lot to a mistake about some statues of Greek philosophers, and is nothing to do with ancient Druids. However, if you need to conjure up a quick image of Druidry, our beardy friend is currently the chap for the job.
Now, I’d be prepared to bet that that vast majority of Druids out there look nothing like this. Arthur Pendragon is trending this way, but he’s the only one I can think of. (Do self identify if you fit the archetype though, I’d love to know!). I’m about as far from looking like this as its possible to get. There’s the whole being female issue, for a start. Which means I am unlikely to ever have a long and lustrous beard of my own. This may be as well! I’m also still young enough to have brown hair, there’s not much silver in the mix. Lastly, I do not wear robes much. I might do it for comic effect, I don’t mind dressing up for celebrant robes, but I’m… shall we say ‘buxom’ and putting me in white robes makes me look far too much like a refrigerator. It’s not a style I enjoy. Also, it shows the stains too readily!
When it comes to book covers, most Druid authors tend to resort to that reliable old chestnut – sometimes literally. The tree. Nothing says Druidry, apparently, like some trees. There’s of course Stonehenge, which has associations, but also says ‘hippy’ and probably doesn’t work if you’re in another country anyway.
So here’s my question. What does a Druid look like? If we were going to replace the beardy chap with the white hair, what would we want instead? This is not a hypothetical question. I’m married to an artist. I have books, fiction and non-fiction, with Druids in and I’ve just started talking in public about the possibility of The Secret Order of Steampunk Druids. I think Druid imagery is going to feature in my future.
I know from publishers that aside from the beardy guy, there aren’t iconic Druid images out there. We all know what witches look like. They’ve got pointy hats and five pointed stars, cats, broomsticks, cauldrons, magic wands… combine two or three elements, throw in some cleavage, you’ve got a witch. It’s not currently possible to do the same things for Druids.
What do we look like?
What do we want to look like?
Everything starts somewhere, after all. I think here is as good a place as any.