Modern Druidry and Priesthood

One of the most striking ideas in 20th century Paganism was that we could and perhaps should all be our own priests and priestesses. In many ways this is a wonderful idea: No submitting to someone else’s authority, no dogma, and the equality of all being able to speak to the divine on our own terms.

There are however, downsides. Being a priest or priestess is a lot of work. I’ve sauntered towards it in the past. What I notice is how often I wish there was somewhere I could easily, regularly go and just sit in, where showing up would feel meaningful. Sometimes, finding the ideas, energy and inspiration for maintaining your spiritual practice is hard. Sometimes guidance is needed, or just not having to carry the weight of the whole thing.

Of course historically, the people we tend to think of as Celts were not Druids – Druids were a group within that culture, performing specific roles. A Druid community made up entirely of people doing the Druid priest thing is going to have rather a lot of healers and diviners and all the rest of it, but perhaps not enough people focused on other things. It’s not easy being a Druid if you don’t have someone to be a Druid for. Historically, being a priest meant mediating between the divine and the people, it’s what defines that role. So, if we are all our own priests and priestess, what does that job even involve?

It’s not a question I find easy to answer. The thing about ministering is that we often need it doing for us – to be taught. To be guided through times of crisis. To be inspired and uplifted. To be healed when you need it, to be held and comforted by your path – these are really hard things to do for yourself.

Perhaps the answer is to aspire to be a part time Druid. Right now we need to re-skill and decarbonise, we need growers and makers and doers in all areas of life. To serve the earth or to serve your people or any deity associated with the natural world, I think you have to be considering climate chaos and the need to reduce consumption. We need the equality of having the right to stand as our own priests and priestesses and the right to be our own spiritual authority. That protects us all from dogma, and power gaming and gurus and all the problems that brings. But at the same time, we will all have days when we need ministering to, when we need someone else to be our Druid for a bit.

By not aspiring to be full time, and not aspiring to hold positions of authority, we might be able to have something egalitarian that is also supportive and that shares out all the different kinds of work that needs doing. I think that’s what I can see happening across the community – that full time Druids are rare and few people seem to aspire to that position any more.

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

13 responses to “Modern Druidry and Priesthood

  • druidcat

    I do it. And it is HARD. But needed. I’m very aware that Paganism is finding its way in this new area – and it’s absolutely not about egos or being a guru. It’s about being there when needed for others, as a baseline. I think we all need that from time to time (absolutely including me).

  • potiapitchford

    People often approach those in the public eye and being in the public eye is not an easy place to be or to stay. I like to be needed, to help, in fact recent times have shown me that part of me needs to be needed, but I feel I do my best in the background, supporting, caring and praying.

  • Yvonne Aburrow

    This is also an issue in Wicca. It is also why a lot of people end up joining the Unitarians (UK & Canada) or UUs (in the USA), because they want to be ministered to in a non-dogmatic way. Unfortunately it is very hard to be fully part of two traditions, especially if the other tradition has a lot of Christian roots.

    I think Druid groves and Wiccan covens are good at support, but what do you do if you’re the leader of a grove or coven? That’s the area where we need to develop more support networks. Unitarian and UU ministers have small mutual support groups.

    I like your idea of being part-time and offering mutual support.

  • Sheila Murrey

    As Russell Brand says, “I don’t need some authority to give me a right, I’m taking it.” Thus, I am taking my right to stand as my own spiritual authority, as I exude my beliefs and knowings each day, each moment. For me, no “protection” needed “from dogma, power gaming and gurus,” as Omniscience envelopes me and ALL, (ALLways). I am Yoked. ❤️🦋🌀🎼🙏☯️

  • lornasmithers

    I think it’s slightly unfortunate that the ‘indigenous’ religion of Britain got labelled ‘Druid’ thus associating it specifically with the priestly caste of the Iron Age. Perhaps, if Ross Nichols and others hadn’t called it ‘Druidry’ but ‘Brythonic Polytheism’ or ‘Brythonic Animism’ we wouldn’t have this problem.

    As an awenydd and Brythonic polytheist it certainly doesn’t affect me as I’m able to live a life of service to my gods, land, ancestors, and living communities through practical conservation work and sharing inspiration online and in my locality without thinking I have to priestess for anyone.

  • lornasmithers

    Quick follow up to previous thoughts… as modern Britain is no longer soley a Brythonic culture (only Wales) perhaps ‘British Animism’ or ‘British Paganism’ would be a better name than ‘Druidry’ for a modern spirituality and religion rooted in the land and myths of Britain?

    • Nimue Brown

      Quite possibly. It’s hard to know what to do on that score, it’s a word I’m deeply invested in even though i regularly question what sense it makes to use it or whether I’m ‘proper’ enough to do so.

      • lornasmithers

        Lol the conversations I’ve heard about what makes a ‘proper’ druid over the years… I guess if you’re druiding (connecting yourself and others with nature as a living inspirited whole) you’re likely ‘proper’ enough. I’m struggling to imagine what a ‘proper’ druid looks like – I’m right now seeing an upright woman in white robes with a shiny staff with a golden sickle on top with a well-combed white-grey moustache…

      • Nimue Brown

        I need to work on that moustache… I never could do the white robes though, far too easy to stain 🙂

  • locksley2010

    And let’s not forget that Druid was the name for the intellectual caste of the Celtic people’s. Not all Druids were priests, but priestly duties would have been performed by the gutuatri, or ‘God speaker’s’. These priests may have come under the Druid caste as much as lawyer, astronomer, physician and judge. Of course, how we apply that in the modern age…. perhaps that is the aim of all who connect with the name Druid, or such other suggested variant.

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