Those other people who should not be Druids

Sooner or later just about every online discussion group for Druidry seems to get round to the idea of how irritating it is that anyone can call themselves a Druid. Those other people, the ones who do it all wrong and don’t know enough, inspire everything from frustration to full on outrage. If you’ve dabbled in any groups, odds are you’ve seen it. Any idiot can call themselves a Druid. They don’t even have to speak a Celtic language or know mediaeval Welsh mythology. They don’t have to be qualified herbalists either, nor do they need a degree in astro-physics, medical training and diplomatic service experience.

Why are we, as a community, so often obsessed with wanting to hold a boundary that excludes someone else from being able to call themselves a Druid? Why do we care? Am I any less a Druid because Fred at number four thinks that all you need is the right robes and a spangly wand he got off ebay? Am I any less a Druid because the Ancient and Austere Order of Very Serious Druids have not initiated me? Whose approval do I need? And who, come to that, needs my approval? Nobody, I hope.

Anyone can call themselves a Druid. Anyone can call themselves Napoleon Bonaparte as well, come to that. Titles are only as meaningful as we choose to make them. I could declare myself Queen of the Faeries, if I wanted to be pointed at and mocked a lot. I could call myself ArchDruid of somewhere or other if I wanted to. No one can stop me. Mostly what stops me is that I don’t care enough and really can’t be bothered.
Druidry is between you, and your land. You and your Gods, if you have them. You and whatever tribe you serve. It comes down to what we do, not what others think of us.

A frightening amount of time gets wasted in these pointless debates about who isn’t a proper Druid really and how nice it would be if we could have some regulating body. There’s a reason we don’t have a regulating body, and it is simply that there are far too many kinds of Druid and forms of Druidry out there for us ever to satisfactorily agree on who we ‘in’ and who we reject. I fear the truth may be that many people who want to regulate simply want to make everyone else do it their way. You won’t find many people on forums writing to the effect that they fear their Druidry is a bit shabby and lacks the proper intellectual underpinnings and bemoaning the shortage of people to tell them how to do it right. The people who come asking to be taught do not do that, and rightly so.

Amusingly, to make this stick I would have to go out and forcibly convert the Druid community to my way of seeing things and make everyone do what I say. Well, not this week, I’ve got better things to be doing, like looking at the sky and talking to the cat. And anyway, no one would go along with it I tried, which may be as well.

It doesn’t matter who calls themselves what. It matters what we do, whether we do it wholeheartedly and with integrity, whether we are any good, whether it works.

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About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

29 responses to “Those other people who should not be Druids

  • Suzanne Thomas

    aye indeed, especially the “druidry is between you and your Land” that resonates very well, that is what I call “druidry” but now I’m sounding like an episode of Miranda! Such Fun!

  • Graeme K Talboys

    The Ancient and Austere Order of Very Serious Druids will be round later expecting an explanation for your behaviour. In thirty-three parts. With footnotes. And an appropriate ritual.

  • Chris Godwin (@patchshorts)

    Yet another oversimplification of the issue.

    • Nimue Brown

      Write me something that isn’t and I would be delighted to share it here. I’m always open to guest blogs, and if you feel able to discuss the topc in more depth that would be a most welcome inclusion.

  • Highland Hedgewitch

    Ah thank goodness a voice of reason. Though those type of people who insist on such tight rules for what is and what is not a Druid are in all forms of religions. I found them when I was part of the church or on a forum for Hedge Witches.

  • Wendy Stokes

    Many say that if you call yourself a ‘Sufi’ you are not one! Some say if you call yourself a ‘teacher’ you are not one, or if you say you are ‘spiritual’, you are not. When I was at Uni someone who played tennis on Sunday mornings at the local centre or occasional amateur football would be referred to as a ‘sportsperson’. I cannot understand what is so precious about a title but also I think the language is becoming very diluted so that it describes very little in the end. At one time, we had definitions for titles, so that a person who described themselves as a teacher was qualified and had experience of teaching, these days anyone and everyone is a teacher if they would like to be one – a situation that could be misleading but perhaps someone who would like to be a teacher might be far better than one that has all the credentials. So what is a Druid exactly?

  • Symbian

    Thank You Nimue .. VERY MUCH ! Labels are just that .. Labels ! I totally aggree that it is what you attatch to it ! It’s none of my business if you do or do not fulfill the duties of the label you attatch to yourselves ! You should care though ! Enough to try to go through The Training, otherwise it’s just a Shallow Title ! … Well Said Nimue !…Thank You for Posting ! ❤
    Yours AYE ! Symbian.

  • Andrew Smith

    It is the slightly anarchic nature of modern Druidry which is one of its attractions and which encourages personal responsibility, creativity and direct spirituality. We are our own teachers (and, therefore, all Druids), but if we seek someone to guide us then we must judge them by their deeds and lifestyles, not their title. In knowing that anyone can call themselves a Druid, we are reminded to look behind the title at the person.

  • Iodhan Silverbear

    I don’t self identifies as a Druid, far from it actually. I look at Druids as those who might assist my learning, which is what I do when I read this blog among others as well as read books and interact (in the flesh even!) with people. I keep in mind that there is something to learn from everyone but when I seek a Druid a seek a special kind of knowledge. In that way, I feel that I do look beyond the title but I also become frustrated when anyone self identifies without at least some viable knowledge. It’s really about disappointment though (I actually just realized this while typing). When I see or hear of someone who self identifies as a Druid I tend to get excited because my assumption is that this is someone I can learn from (Druids are hard to come across in my neck of the woods). If I invest the time to engage them and they do not represent Druidry in any fundamental way, then I tend to become rather disappointed in the encounter. I think to myself, “Don’t be so trusting, just because they say something doesn’t mean they are something”, etc. Perhaps it is past time that I let it go. Any of the examples I can give are people on facebook groups and let’s face facts, facebook is no place to seek spiritual direction…although there are some nice pictures I can share…Thank you again…I must needs ponder this direction for a bit…

    • Andrew Merton

      This has been a light concern of mine also. You mention your disappointment in discovering that a self-appointed Druid does not relay the information you were expecting from them but I put you this consideration: if you know what they should be telling you then perhaps you know it already? So why were you seeking them out? Wherein lies your disappointment? Is it not an attachment you have to something you expect should be druidic? If everything I know, you know already, then it may seem to you that I don’t know all that much. If there is something I say I feel I know, and it comes to you as something new, then is the responsibility and authority within me or is it within you to establish whether it seems true to you also? This is the hazy and self-trying world we students walk in, I feel….

      • Nimue Brown

        Good points!
        I think there’s an inevitable thing around wanting people to be more than we are, projecting desires onto them – I know I do it, I try to at least notice when I’m doing it so as not to put unfair pressure on others. I have found amazing teachers along the way, but not always in the most obvious places, and I’ve not always chosen to learn the things people set out to teach me, either.

  • Jennifer Tavernier

    Hah Hah Ha! love it! Especially the “those that call themselves spiritual”, or more to the point, TELL you how spiritual they are; and go on and on about it. Ad Nauseum. It’s strange but is the only subject they know how converse about, (They,of themselves), but not any references), and they will always bring the conversation back to it. It begs for the reflex of yawning, or putting finger in throat. lol. …NEXT!?…
    Thank you for reminding me of amusing moments in Resident Manager History! (Still chuckling). (I can pay my rent by burning incense and candles…)

  • Buzzard

    Hail Nimue.

    It really does not matter what you label yourself. You yourself know the truth within in you.
    You only cheat yourself if you portray something that you are truly not.
    We are Druid in our hearts and it does not matter who knows or cares.
    Be at one with your own truth. Be at one with your own nature. Be at one with your Druidry.

    Buzzard /|\

  • Steve Watkins

    *golf clap* Bravo! (And well said too) 🙂

  • Jennifer Tavernier

    Still laughing! I have quite a mix here, but no one really goes on about what they are, they are fine simply being. Do know 2 druids, pagans,wiccans, gnostics, Celtic Bridgets, regular joes, and a catholic and episcopalian. Funny. I seem to get the truly cool here, more interested simply in being, not yelling abut it, and all rub shoulders admirably.

  • What makes a Druid? « Druid Life

    […] on from Those other people who should not be Druids, and the many fascinating and thought-inspiring comments. What makes a Druid? It isn’t the name, […]

  • Sarah Courtney Dean

    Bravo Nimue, so many times when people are saying that you cannot call yourself a Druid or even what gives you the right to do so, they are really saying you are not doing it our way so you are wrong. I am a neo Druid so what I practise is by definition not the same as what the Ancient Druids would have done and rightly so.

  • Helen Wood

    I’ve been told I can’t be a druid because I am a Christian, which is, to me, a bit like being told you can’t be a tree if you’re deciduous. Having been on the receiving end so often, I try not to start judging who can and cannot be a druid – I lapse occasionally into “and you call yourself a druid!” thinking, but I smother it as soon as I can.

    To me, it’s a matter of relationship. I have a friend who has always felt a close affinity with nature, whose spirituality is one of integrity and compassion and whose respect for the land and its spirits has always been part of her life. When she asked me if I thought she could be a druid, I told her I’d been thinking of her as one since we met. Similarly, when I broke the dramatic news to my sister that I planned to become a druid, she replied, “Haven’t you always been one?”

    I’ll admit, the idea of Vegan druids baffles me, but the idea of Christian druids may be as baffling to some of them. In the end, the outdoors makes the broadest of broad churches and I love the diversity, the debate and the sheer exuberant argument and agreement amongst these wild ones I honour as brothers and sisters.

  • Al "still learning" Ward

    Is it because some people need a label in order to feel a part of something, to belong?

  • PombagirasPolly

    you could pretty much take that post and replace the word with Witch, or Wicca, or any of the many variations of the practice in the Modern Pagan Movement.. its seems to be a thing, with i think is tied up with Authority, and Authenticity and mixed up with our very black and white 20th century of understanding and seeing things. . .. . and the need to label everything… *grins*

    *ponders things*

  • Treeshrew

    Well put! As someone who’s been on the receiving end of the ‘you can’t be a druid if…’ nonsense, this post is a breath of fresh air!

  • V

    “Druid” is a word, a noun. Like all nouns it is a label. It has as much meaning as can be inferred from what or whom it is used to describe in common usage.
    If anyone who wants to can call themselves “Druid” and be accepted as having that label, then that is all that is meant by it.

    As I understand the structure of ancient Celtic society, there were a group who “regulated” the use of titles – they were known as Bards, and they held the deciding vote over the reputations of all persons. If you were known as a “Druid” (or “Hero” or anything else for that matter) by Bards, then you would be known as one in any place where those Bards went. Similarly, if you were known as “ignorant pretentious git who likes to call her/himself a Druid”, then you would not get the recognition that you felt you deserved.
    In the modern day, few people ask Druids to mediate important matters of state, however, so it is likely that any debasement of the label does not really matter to anyone in wider society.

    Of course, it is important to note that there was a strong tradition in many heroic cultures of challenging people who claimed a reputation to prove that they were worthy of it. Maybe the whole “point finger and say ‘You are not really a Druid'” thing is the modern counterpart of this behaviour and we should encourage impromptu Druidry contests in honour of that. That certainly seems more “Druidy” to me than the idea of a regulatory body and exams.

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