In his excellent book, Stalking the Goddess, Mark Carter makes some interesting points about Celtic religion. (You’re going to be hearing a lot about Mark). The Celts didn’t have a name for their religion so far as we know. Why would they? It was their religion, the religion, it didn’t need naming. To call it Druidry, he points out, is like calling Christianity Priestism. Celt itself is a word that comes from the outside too. There’s the Greek word Keltoi, which I think the Romans took up to describe some of their ‘barbarian’ neighbours, designating others as Germanic. The divisions are arbitrary.
Often names come from the outside. We don’t need them. We are the people, this is our earth, this is our religion, you only need names when there’s something to distinguish yourself from. As Alan Pilbeam points out when writing about countryside history, inside the village, it’s just the village. The name other people give it will tell you a lot more about what the place is like. I live in the area that was once Slime Bridge. Nice.
Druidry is not the word for ancient Celtic religion. Is it the word to
describe a modern religion? I’m going to say no. Druidry is not A Religion. For many people, what they practice as a Druid is effectively a religion, but that’s not the same as A Religion. We have polytheists, monotheists, duotheists, animists, pantheists and non-theists amongst the modern Druid ranks. No amount of mental wriggling will enable you to call that A Religion. It’s lots of religions.
It’s also worth noting that our culture is totally different. Modern Druids are not one people in one society with one land and one religion. We are scattered across diverse communities and walk amongst people of widely different beliefs. We live in very different places, too. It no longer makes sense to say ‘we are the people and this is our religion’ because the context that worked in no longer exists. There is a great deal about Celtic religion we can never replicate because we do not have social context in which it functioned. A religion is not a tag on to a society. It both informs, and is informed by everything else. Without Celtic life and Celtic social structures, we are doing something else. That’s fine, but we need to recognise it.
I think it helps to consider Druidry as a doing term. Druidry is that which Druids do. This in turn allows us to focus on the commonality and not get bogged down in what it means that some of us believe in individual, personified deities and some of us don’t. Druidry is service. It is study. It is using your creativity for the good of your land and tribe (whoever they are). It is teaching and enabling other people, planting trees, honouring the natural world. Druidry is turning up when you are needed and doing the things you are called on to do. That might be celebrant work, or helping other people find the words they need, or writing stroppy letters to the press, or any number of other things. It’s not belief that makes a Druid, but the doing. It’s also wider reaching than the Druid or Pagan communities. It’s being a voice for the environment at a local planning session. It is protest for human rights and social justice.
Often where your Druidry is most needed is not in the company of other Druids, but out in the rest of the world. The company of Druids is more a place to share ideas, and draw inspiration. We do not need to do Druidry for other Druids very often. Rites of passage maybe, support in hard times, but mostly if a person is doing Druidry, they don’t need another Druid to do it for them. The (im)moral support can be nice though.