Druidry Ancient and Modern

It’s an interesting conundrum for modern Druids – how do we relate to the ancient Druids? We know just enough about historical Druidry for it to be a tantalising thing, mostly out of reach. If you want to dig into the history side, I recommend starting with Ronald Hutton and Graeme Talboys. We don’t know much (Ronald Hutton’s Blood and Mistletoe is a solid look at what we don’t know.) There’s a lot we can infer and take inspiration from (Graeme Talboys, Way of the Druid is great for this.)

So here we are, modern Druids, not directly connected to the historical ones, not doing what they did and unable to know what they thought or felt. It might not seem like an especially credible place to start from. 

We do know broadly what the Druids of old reputedly did – that they were historians, healers, seers, scientists, teachers, advisors, peace makers, philosophers, wisdom keepers. As modern Druids we can take up those notions and run with them in whatever ways make sense to us. It isn’t ancient Druidry, but it holds connections with the past. The ancient Druids would not be doing now what they did then, even assuming we had an unbroken tradition. By working in the areas they worked in we hold some connection to them.

Religions change over time. The Christianity we see today is not indicative of what Christians were doing a few hundred years ago. What happens is that all religions take their inspiration from previous versions of that religion and from other religions and adapt to the times. It is in the nature of religions to change but it’s also in the nature of religious people to see continuity, tradition and coherence in their religions. 

I see core values in what little we have about ancient Druidry. I try to reflect those ideas in my own way of being in the world. At this point, I’m primarily interested in living a conscious and deliberate life based as much as possible on choice. I’m interested in justice, inspiration, community, wildness and wonder. When I started out I was much more interested in the idea of Druid as priest, and being on a path towards priesthood. As I’ve gone along I’ve become more interested in the idea of Druidry as a path that has no particular destination. I’ve put down most of the more priestly roles, and I’m much more of a lay-druid at this point. I figure that the existence of a priesthood implies the existence of a laity, even though we don’t know much at all about how that might have worked historically.

At this point, most of my Druidry is experimental. When blogging I don’t reliably take the time to talk about how what I’m doing relates to how I think about Druidry, much less to make a case for how it relates to historical Druidry. Some of that is about producing blogs that aren’t too repetitive, long or ponderous. Some of it is me trusting that anyone serious about Druidry will put in the time to look at the historical stuff, and will figure out for themselves how they want to handle that. Other lay-druids, casual readers, people from a broader Pagan background etc can just saunter in and take what they like from any of this.

Most of the Druid folk I connect with are doing parallel things, walking their own paths and sharing what they experience. As a community we used to be more interested in orders, arch druids, groves, structures… but I’m seeing a lot of people being ever less interested in authority and more curious about exploring things on their own terms.

(With thanks to Mickle Bear for the prompt)

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, polyamourous animist, ant-fash, anti-capitalist, bisexual steampunk. 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

5 responses to “Druidry Ancient and Modern

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