Solitary Druids

When I first came to Druidry some fifteen years ago, it seemed very much a collective activity. Groves, orders, networks, study groups, circles… it was more likely that any given Druid would be a member of multiple groups than that they would be solitary. Seven years ago when I found myself obliged not to be an active member of a group, a friend joked that the name for a solitary Druid, is a hedge witch.

There are good reasons for wanting to be part of something. Being part of something is a pretty basic human need for most of us. We went to groves and orders to learn what it is that modern Druids do. There were fewer books back then. We gathered together because the history of modern Druidry has been one of gathering together for key festivals to do Druid things. There’s affirmation to be had in doing something you call Druidry with a bunch of other people who are also inclined to call it Druidry.

There’s also power to be had. A big group is a power base. To be an Archdruid, you need to be in charge of an Order. To be a Very Important Druid you need people who follow you round and do the Druidry in the way that you say it should be done. Good leadership can be a very good thing indeed, but the desire for power always has the potential to corrupt.

I know of a large number of Druids who have the knowledge and the skill set to lead, but mostly aren’t. I know a lot of Druids who are out there quietly walking their own paths and not wanting the limitations and responsibilities that group membership involves. When I asked, some time ago, what’s happening in Druidry, why it seems to have gone so quiet, people talked to me about their solitary work.

Clearly we have not all become hedge witches.

The Druidry we had grew out of modern reconstruction. It grew from a desire for alternative religion, but also from ego and a yearning to ponce around in white robes wearing fake beards. It came from Ross Nichols and Gerald Gardner agreeing on a wheel of the year. It brought us a style of ritual that owes to the western occult tradition. You could be a bard without having done a single bardic performance. You could be a Druid without being able to identify trees.

To go further, deeper, into Druidry it may be necessary to take off the costumes and set aside the props and the desire to be important. I think it is necessary to give up our ideas about nature in favour of direct personal experience. Seasonal ritual becomes less important than a lived experience of the seasons.

I feel increasingly that Druidry is going underground, into quietness and contemplation, into personal experience and exploration. Perhaps at some point in the future it will turn out that seeds were germinating and something new and alive will spring up, but maybe it won’t, and that’s fine too.

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

15 responses to “Solitary Druids

  • garycohenblog

    Hi. I am at the beginning of the Ovate grade studies. I am aware that a lot of my studies are for my personal development but I also ask how can I serve my community in some way? I enjoy my studies and how it adds to my experience in the world. However what will I do with my title of Ovate? What will I do if I go on to achieve the title of Druid? I ask this in relation to how I will interact with my community. A vicar ‘tends his flock’ but as a Druid living in a city among many non druids how do I use my knowledge for the benefit of others? I guess I am in a position where I can as I am already earning a living as a Therapist but this is within an organisation of non Druids. So I do not have any face to face contact with other Druids however I feel I can still try to apply Druid ethics to life and in my service to others.

  • Yvonne Ryves

    As someone who came to Druidry via Shamanism I am used to being solitary. Shamanism does not worship anyone but connects with everything and ritual has a purpose that is determined by the task in hand. Community is where I serve but I am apart. Some who work with shamanism have the robes, the tools and the followers, for me all I need is myself and my relationship with my guides and allies, all else is smoke and mirrors. I bring all of this to my work and training as an Ovate and here also I am solitary as I was throughout Bard. I don’t think this makes what I do any less but I am not influenced or bound b6 what others expect of me, only what the spirits call for. I too have never become a hedge witch Nimue, there is a world of difference.

  • manonbicycle

    I never quite know if I should call myself a druid. I’ve never been a member of a grove and I’m not really into ritual. I’d feel self conscious prancing about in a public forest alone and prancing about in the small living room of my terraced house doesn’t seem right.

    I love being in the natural world and I’m inspired by much of the Celtic tradition, particularly The Grail Quest. At home I do a sort of simple puja with incense, candle , mindfulness bell, awen chants and meditation.

    Maybe I’m an eclectic solitary Druid.

  • Wrycrow

    I’m mostly solitary. I meet up with classmates at Druid College a few times a year, and have been going to Druid Camp the past couple of years, but otherwise have no regular group/grove/order I do Druid things with. As an introvert, that suits me fine.

    I think that membership of formal groups of all kinds is reducing nowadays, probably due to a mix of people being increasingly time-poor to commit to membership, and a general distrust of institutions. In my view, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I reckon Druidry in future will look more informal and loosely-alighned than the major Orders, but they in turn are different from the Revival Druid lodges, which are different from the Celtic Druids. Change and growth are part of life.

  • krakatoa

    Thanks for your interesting post, Nimue. I do have the impression that it becomes more and more trendy to talk openly about Paganism. You may look at the many entries in social media networks nowadays. Also, online magazines are full of headlines like “Witchcraft is a perfect religion for liberal millenials” (Quartz) or “Millennial Madness: Paganism on Rise in Colleges and Among Young.” (New American). Talking about Paganism has become more frequent, more open, and in some cases more exhibitionistic – up to a level one could be worried about the substance of spirituality. For many, Paganism has become a lifestyle, individuals (solitary beliefers) more and more connect via social media to show, how cool their new lifestyle is. In fact, this is not a retreat behind hedges but a coming out, if not a showing off. For me it looks like the “membership” in formal groups has been replaced by “membership” in social networks. I do not want to judge on this trend, but we are all subject of change of societies – be it with or without belief systems.

    • Nimue Brown

      that’s an interesting line of thought, and the inevitable downside of anything becoming more visible. A ‘silly’ period may be inevitable while we’re seen as trendy, but this too shall pass, no doubt.

  • Jen - Liminal Luminous

    Hmmm, this seems to be triggering some thoughts in me, but I can’t quite articulate what it is. Probably because I don’t feel like I can claim the Druid title… you know, what with being Christian and all, but I’ve been around this argument in the past…..I’ve always been quite solitary in my practice… Sorry Nimue, I wanted to let you know this is a good article, even if I can’t quite figure out my response to it!

  • K. J.

    I am glad I found this post from 2018 because it resonates in many ways with where I am now. Though I started off with ties to ADF and AODA, I increasingly feel as though my path is meant to be more individual and self-created than the requirements of any particular Order. Versions of Druidry that strongly depend on ancient Brythonic/Irish culture resonate least with me, as I’m drawn to a more universalist, contemplative Pagan spirituality. (I’m also a South Asian-American without any Celtic roots). Yet, I still appreciate Druidic meditations and love of Nature, while admiring Wiccan theology and ancient Greek philosophy. So I’m wondering, where do I go from here?? (I tentatively consider Wicca, but don’t care too much for magick, elaborate rituals, or witchcraft). I’m reading a little about Contemplative Wicca and its mysticism, and ancient Greek philosophies.

    I’m trying to create a contemplative tradition for myself that would involve meditation, quiet prayer, interaction with Nature, ethical philosophy, service to others, and devotion to the God and Goddess as aspects of Divine Source. Please let me know if you have any thoughts on how to do this, or resources to read dear Nimue!

  • Julian Rolfe

    I think you become more spiritual being solitary, more in tune, no distractions, not just joining in and following, ….

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