“In ancient times, the Druids were members of a professional class in which their society’s religious and spiritual life was embodied. They were the philosophers, scientists, theologians, and intellectuals of their culture, and the holders of the philosophical, scientific, and religious knowledge of their age. The nearest modern equivalent, then, would be professors in universities or colleges, medical doctors, lawyers and judges, school teachers and so on. One could say that such people are the real “Druids” of our time. The ancient Druids brought all of these practices together into a single structure, unified by religious commitment. If you imagine what it would be like if your doctor, lawyer or teacher was also a priest, and the hospital, law court, and college was also a temple, then you have an idea what Druidry was like for ancient Celtic people.” Brendan Cathbad Myers, The Mysteries of Druidry
How can I claim to be a Druid when they and their traditions are effectively extinct? We’re only left with fragments of folklore, second hand myths written by Christian monks, vague archeology and biased reports by Romans and Greeks. What comes after those are fanciful theories and imaginative speculation. We are left with a ragged patchwork that’s 5% fact and 95% fiction (not actual figures). Some modern Druids can be seen to be attempting to faithfully reconstruct the tradition and culture of what ancient Druids were, some are guided by whatever fantasies takes their fancy, whilst others consciously embrace Druidry as a viable spiritual path, whether fact or fiction. Put me in the third category.
I’m not interested in the fact or fiction of what Druids were, I’m more interested in what Druidry can do in the world today. I’m not adverse to a fictional image of Druidry if it helps my purpose. In this context I’ll introduce my theory, which isn’t a description of what Druids were, but is an image, a symbol that can inspire the role of Druidry in today’s world. I’m a myth maker, and myths are symbols that help inform our attitude towards and behavior within the world. And Druidry, as I envision it, can be a useful tool to direct human attitude and behavior towards a healthy relationship with each other, with the living Earth and with the expression of our souls.
My theory starts with fragmented tribes violently competing with one another and making humans and nature suffer. Does that sound familiar? From this, individuals specialised in spirituality, education and politics from many different tribes, speaking different languages, practicing different religions with different pantheons, came together to create a system that would help organize and guide the balance between the various tribes and the natural world within which they exist. Through their spiritual, educational and political expertise they built a system to do just that. A system that was not limited to a single region, tribe, culture, language, pantheon, religion or nation; but one that transcended the boundaries of human identity to create a common understanding to work together.
My interest in Druidry is mainly about what their function and role was within society and how that image can inspire the role of Druidry today. In my mind I have an image of a triangle, made up of three functions which are, if you haven’t guessed by now, spirituality, education and politics. A sort of triangular spectrum not too dissimilar to the chart of soil types; sand, sediment and clay, one at each point, and in between some substances somewhere in between, with the centre being a mixture of all three. They were not three separate functions, taken up by specialised individuals, but rather a holistic system where they complemented one another and were familiar to all Druids. For Druidry to be a viable movement in today’s world, there needs to be an image of Druid roles today that are not confined solely to the spiritual like many of today’s Neo-Druid groups.
This is the first post of a series. I will take each of the “functions” and put into detail how a modern Druid might approach them and work with them, and in true Druidic fashion each one will be accompanied by a triad of quotes. There will also be a last section, after the three functions, describing a very important aspect of modern Druid tradition which is the context for, not just Druidry, but the whole of human existence.