Druidism



I. Profile Report

  1. Name: Druids; also Celtic Pagans, Neopagan Druidism
  2. Founder: Druidism is not really a movement with a single founder but more a collection of the beliefs of various ancient European religions. Nonetheless, thereare a few references to some men who began to take an interest in the Druid practices. One in particular was Edward Williams, who in the 18th century Welshified his name to ToloMorganwg and through some old manuscripts based an entire literature on the history, beliefs and practices of the Druids. On September 23, 1792 he actually led a ceremony in London which has persisted and is performed even today in a Welsh Festival by some neo-Druidic types. Thus, by a very long stretch,when considering texts he wrote and practices that persisted somewhat even until modern times, one could perhaps attribute a very broadly defined title of founder to this gentleman. A modern version of Druidism, A Druid Fellowship or ADF, was started by P.E.I.(Isaac) Bonewits. He is considered an "author, editor, teacher, polytheologian, activist, priest and bard.
  3. Date of Birth: This information was not given but is obviously sometime in the mid to late 18th century for Morganwg and the 20th century for Bonewits
  4. Birth Place: Morganwg worked in London, and though "Welshified" the likelihood is that he was also born there. This information is not given for Bonewits.
  5. Year Founded: Not specific. However, Celtic ancestry can be traced as far back as "circa 4000 BCE." Their presence had not filtered into all those nations now considered Druidic until around 200BCE If we use the Morganwg-as-founder premise, however, a somewhat altered and more modern form of Druidic practice more like what we know today would place its founding date to that of the "first" ceremony performed in 1792. No date is given for the founding of ADF, but Bonewits"has been a Neopagan Druid for nearly twenty years." A further group, The Order of Bards Ovates and Druids, claims to trace its origins to 1717, but gives little specifics about the surrounding circumstances.
  6. How/Why?: As described above, Morganwg performed a ceremony. This was conducted on the day of the autumnal equinox on Primrose Hill in London. Morganwg made a circle of stones described as a "maen gorsedd" or altar. The group then performed some vague ceremony of placing swords, and for whatever reason the ceremony became an "immense success." No specific information on this for the modern movement but it seems to be driven by a recent emphasis on nature and spirituality that is becoming popularized in our culture. The ADF Homepage describes it as an attempt to "revive the best aspects of the Paleopagan faiths of our ancestors within a modern scientific, artistic, ecological, and wholistic context."
  7. Sacred Texts: Apparently, although the Celts had a written language , their religious an philosophical beliefs were preserved in oral form because written records were distrusted and undermined the power of memory which the Druids cherished. There was, however, some myth preserved my the Christian Monks, though this was probably modified. These "Celtic Myth cycles" included the Ulster Cycle, the Fenian Cycle, the Cycle of Kings, the Invasion Cycle and the Mabinogion. These are probably the closest equivalent of "sacred texts." Many have attempted to "rewrite the texts" so to speak, including both Morganwg and many neo-Druids, but these are for the most part simply idiosyncratic versions of a history of the Druids and there believed practices.
  8. Cult or Sect: The group would be classified as a cult, especially in America because of its origin of importation. It is also in tension with general society due to its paganistic associations. It is, however, very loosely organized and its classification as a group at all is somewhat haphazard. Modern Druidism, at least, is probably more of a loosely and ill-defined movement of which one can partake without ever really coming into contact with another Druid.
  9. Beliefs: The Druids stem from ancients of the "professional" classes and included magician, poets, counselors, shamans, philosophers, judge, doctor, diviner, clerical scholar, etc. The Druids believed in establishing and cultivating a close relationship with nature. These relationships aided them in tuning into the spiritual world and the essence of the earth which they used in their intellectual pursuits. They consider themselves "polytheistic nature worshipers" and are in pursuit of knowledge, wisdom and excellence -- "physically, intellectually, artistically, and spiritually" through the beliefs and gods of their Celtic ancestors. The Druids believed in the immortal soul which could survive either through incarnation or was transported to the underworld. The modern movement, in particular, is founded on a belief in the supremacy and power of nature and spirituality.
  10. Size of Group: The group definition seems to be very broad and inclusive. I saw no numbers but from the extensive openness of the group I would think it would be very difficult to estimate an accurate number. There is one note on the specific group ADF the they have now more than 400 members. However, they also note this makes them the "largest Neopagan Druid organization in the world." Thus that is far from an accurate estimate of the number involved in the movement more broadly defined as simply Druidism
  11. Remarks: The information of Druidism is obviously quite sparse and, especially with reference to the World Wide Web, extremely repetitive. Furthermore, the information provided on the web concentrated almost entirely on the modern Druidic movement. Information provided on the history of the Druids was rarely consistent across all sites. Nonetheless, the most difficult obstacle in uncovering information of this group is that, quite simply, very little is known about them. In addition, the Druids are highly romanticized in our culture. Much of what we think we know is simply conjecture, or has been derived from fiction. Evidently, the best way to learn what little information can be accessed about the Druid faith is not through the Internet but through good old fashioned books, articles and other "ancient" materials of reference.


II. Links to Druidic Sites

  1. Order of Bards Ovates and Druids.
    Unofficial Homepage/commercial organization. This website contains a little of the "history" of the Driudic people. It has some interesting information and like many of the sites contains a sort of assumption of questions one would naturally ask about the organization and their answers. This organization, however, seems much more of a commercial venture and concentrates more on how to purchase and follow a "course" of study and where to send your check than on a thorough discussion of Druidism.
    http://www.raccoon.com/~aiko/obod.html
  2. Solitary Practitioner's Basic Druidism FAQ.[size 30K]
    Unofficial Homepage. This link is much more informative. There is again the familiar question and answer format. However, this site delves much more into the details of Druidism and its emphasis is on the practices, beliefs and histories of the organization. There are sections on Holy Days, Gods, some questionable ancient monuments, basic beliefs, and how some of this relates to the modern day revival of and interest in Druidism.
    http://www.reed.edu/~kday/druid.html
  3. A Druid Fellowship (ADF).[size 1K]
    Unofficial Homepage. This page gives a small introduction, and while it does not have some of the historical information, it does have lots of other links. ADF is probably the best known of the modern movements within Druidism, and this cite should definitely be consulted, especially in reference to the modernity of the movement.
    http://www.adf.org/
  4. Celtic Druidism.
    This site was actually derived from clicking on several links starting with "Descriptions of 35 Religions,Faith Groups, and Ethical Systems," (http://www.kosone.com/people/ocrt/var_rel.htm). Clicking straight to it will save a lot of hassle, however, and it has some very good material again on history, beliefs and practice, holy days, gods, etc. It also has a pretty good reference page as well with a bibliography and some Internet links.
    http://www.kosone.com/people/ocrt/druid.htm



III. Selected References

Books:

Chadwick, Nora K., 1966
The Druids, by Nora K. Chadwick Cardiff, Wales U. P.

Davies, Edward.,1809.
The Mythology and Rites of the British Druids, Ascertained by National Documents. London: Printed for J. Booth.

Ellis, Peter Berresford., 1994.
The Druids/Peter Berresford Ellis. London: Constable.

Kendrick, T.D., 1927.
The Druids, A Study in Keltic Prehistory. New York: R. V. Coleman.

Own, A.L., 1962.
The Famous Druids. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Piggott, Stuart. 1975.
The Druids/Stuart Piggott. London: Thames and Hudson.

Rutherford, Ward., 1978.
The Druids and Their Heritage. London: New York: gordon and Cremonesi.

Spence, Lewis., 1971.
The History and Origins of Druidism. Hew York: Samuel Weiser.

Wright, Dudley., 1974.
Druidism: The ancient Faith of Britain. Totowa, N.J.: Rowman and Littlefield.

Articles:

Adler, margot., 1980.
"Drawing Down the Moon." Christianity Today. 24:35.

Bowman, Marion., 1993.
"Reinventing the Celts." Religion 23:147-56.

Humphrys, Geoffry., 1994.
"Stonehenge -- June's Flashpoint." Contemporary Review 264: 309-310.

Wernick, Robert., 1988.
"What Were Druid Like, and Was Lindow Man One?" Smithosonian 18: 146-184.




Prepared by Lori Linkous
New Religious Movements student, Spring 1996