The Druid's Garden

Spiritual Journeys in Tending the Land, Permaculture, Wildcrafting, and Regenerative Living

Druidry October 26, 2010

Small altar in the woods

Small altar in the woods

The term “Druid” refer to a wide assortment of spiritual paths and practices, all of them rooted in nature-based spirituality. That is, druids seek connection, healing, and strength through their connection to the living earth. Druidry today is inspired by the Ancient Druids who were physicians, astronomers, mathematicians, musicians, poets, philosophers, legislators and judges of the people as well as their educators in the matter of religion and learning.  The term Druid has been agreed upon by many scholars to mean “oak knowledge” or more generally, “deep knowledge.” Modern Druidry draws upon the spirit of these ancient sages and the stories, teachings, and bits of history that are left behind to create nature-based spiritual practices.  The tradition that I follow, the Druid Revival tradition, dates back 350 years and is represented in modern druid orders including the Ancient Order of Druids in America and the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids.

 

Druids today draw upon these ancient traditions and stories to develop a spiritual connection with nature, seek “awen” or divine inspiration, and emphasize a close connection to the living world. Some druids are neo-pagan, while other druids seek to combine a nature-spirituality with other world religions such as Christianity or Buddhism, while still others think of druidry not as a religion but a spiritual path or way of living.  If you ask 5 different druids their definition of druidry, they’ll be likely to give you 15 different answers–and that’s part of the beauty of this path.

 

Some Druid orders are “teaching orders,” including both orders that I belong to.  These orders provide a curriculum that is non-dogmatic and gives a set of individualized practices and/or lessons for spiritual growth.  The goal of these teachings is to orient people with specific concepts, lore, and studies within druidry while also helping them find their own personal spiritual path.

 

Some of the concepts central to druidry are as follows:

 

Respect/Reverence of the Earth: In all of our work, we engage in specific practices that respect and revere the earth. While some druids certainly perform rituals and ceremonies out of respect, we druids are ultimately a pragmatic bunch and also focus our energies on preserving and tending the earth.

 

Knowledge of the Natural World: Today, knowledge of survival, edible wild herbs and plants, how to grow one’s own food or fuel, or how to make acorn bread has been long forgotten in the minds of most individuals. However, as Druids we seek a path of knowledge to learn more about nature in her may ways.  Druids are in a unique position to retain and practice these traditional skills.  In this way, we can continue to embody the literal meaning of the term “Druid.”  If these skills are ever again important, and it is likely that they may be, Druids can once again serve their communities as those with “oak knowledge.”

Stack of stones in the woods

Stack of stones in the woods

 

Awen (pronounced ah-o-en): a Welsh word means the spark of creative or divine inspiration or illumination.  Awen is what sparks an idea and gives it form. Awen is often symbolized by three rays of light.  It is, in the druid tradition, represented by the concept of nywfre.

 

Seasonal Celebrations: Many druids celebrate the Wheel of the Year, while others celebrate the solstices/equinoxes or other meaningful holidays. These holidays bring us in closeness and communion with the land and her ever-changing seasons.  I have a number of posts on these celebrations and seasons.

 

The Number Three and the Triad: Just as Awen is represented as three rays of light, the number three is important to many druids.  Things that come in threes within some druidic traditions include: thinking in tertiaries rather than binaries; the triple aspects of deity; the summer solstice, equinoxes, and winter solstices; the land, sea, and sky;  the fire, well, and tree; or the Bard, Ovate, and Druid.  The “triad” is another concept that connects with the three–these are Welsh proverbs that have three parts. Here’s a PDF of them from Druidic Dawn.

 

Peace:  At the beginning of each of our ceremonies, we declare peace in the quarters (the four directions).  Individually,  OBOD members worldwide in prayers and meditations for peace during each full moon. Druidry is a path of peace; and this is a central philosophy.

 

Meditation:  We include a meditation as part of our ritual and seasonal celebratory practices as well as daily to help us connect with ourselves and nature.  Mediations are frequently on the natural world.

 

Observation: Observation and interaction with nature is another key aspect of druid practice.  In the AODA, we spend at least 15 minutes in nature each week engaging in various observation practices.

 

Trees, particularly the oak: The term Druid has been agreed upon by many scholars to mean “oak knowledge” or more generally, “deep knowledge.” Ells argues that “Oak knowledge” in the early tribal culture of the Celts was very important for survival. Those with “oak knowledge,” the Druids, were those able to help others survive through their extensive knowledge of the use of the Oak tree and other natural resources. The root of the Ancient Celts’ reverence of the Oak tree has a lesson to teach us as modern Druids.  While we are quick to embrace the concepts of a Druid from contemporary cultural sources, we should be wise to remember that every symbol has a unique history and series of knowledge behind it.

 

Symbols, like languages, are born from the material and physical circumstances in which we find ourselves.  When we Druids of today think about what it is we revere, our modern perspective on the value of the Oak and other trees is slightly different than just that of sustenance.  Certainly trees provide to us many things such as wood for our homes and sustenance.  On a global perspective the tree is a symbol of hope to us as a reducer of Carbon Dioxide and as a habitat to endangered species. An oak trees also have roots as deep as they are high—so when you look at an Oak tree, you will only see half the tree.  This is a reminder to us to  work against the superficial—spreading wide and spreading shallow. But without deep roots like the oak, a tree will topple over.  The Oak reminds us that need to put in deep roots, grow deeply and work to gain deep, sustained experiences.  In AODA, candidates are required to plant one tree and tend it well–deepening our connection with the living earth.
We can draw upon the Oak not just as a symbol that we have chosen because it was important to our spiritual past but rather because it remains a valued and important symbol of life and hope in the future survival of our planet and species.

 

Elemental Wheel - Animals in the Druid Tradition (Artwork by yours truly, Dana O'Driscoll)

Elemental Wheel – Animals in the Druid Tradition (Artwork by yours truly, Dana O’Driscoll)

The Elements (Earth, Air, Fire, Water, Spirit): The four elements are present in every thing, and we work with those elements as druids. While these meanings vary to some degree, here are some general features of each of the elements: Air, in the east represented by a hawk, includes knowledge, reason, fairness, objectivity, communication, freedom, new beginnings, and learning; Fire, in the south represented by the stag, represents passion, power, energy, sensuality, drive, creativity, and the inner fire; Water, in the west represented by the salmon, represents emotion, healing, rest, intuition, spirituality, and connection; and finally, Earth, in the north represented by the great bear, represents stability, connection with the earth, the home, and the hearth, prosperity, grounding, and steadfastness.

 

I hope that this short introduction was helpful to you!

For more on Druidry, I highly recommend Phillip Carr Gomm’s What do Druids Believe?  If you are interested in becoming a druid, I suggest reading John Michael Greer’s Druidry Handbook or checking out the Ancient Order of Druids in America or the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids.

 

7 Responses to “Druidry”

  1. juliett13 Says:

    WIllowcrow,
    I love your blog and read it often. I have learned much from your words and inspiration and now I have a problem and thought that you may have some advise. I officially “converted” to Druidism about two years ago. I grew up surrounded by similar teachings as my Stepmother is a Native American Healer and my Father always followed the ways of the Native American and their calling to protect and respect the Circle of Life and balance of the animal world and to love Nature for the wonderful force that she is. I know that there are no Official Groves in my area and that is OK as I have made a beautiful Grove for myself to commune and have found that it works very well for me. But I am feeling lonely and isolated as I simply do not “belong” to an Order. I know that I do not have to be officially a member of an order to be a Druid and practice my faith because what my beliefs and practices offer me in the ways of serenity, peace, joy and self worth are achieved through my own work that I try to accomplish in the animal rights and Nature conservation/protection communities and through my quiet communing within my own self made Grove but a part of me still longs to “belong” and connect with other Druids. My problem is that I am permanently disabled and unable to work and my husband is going back to college as he has been unable to find work so we both are living off my disability income, for now at least, and I can’t possibly afford to pay a monthly due or a one time lump sum to officially join an Order. I was wondering if you know anything about The Ancient Order of Druids in America as they offer membership for a $50 fee per level of learning, and I could save up $50 in about three months or so, but i’m a bit concerned as it sounds, to me, more like a college for Druids then a united Grove or Order so I’m not sure if I’m comfortable with that as I have chosen to learn through a few people that I am comfortable with ( such as you) and am currently saving up for ‘The Handbook of Urban Druidry – Modern Druidry for All’ by Brendan Howlin ( was also wondering if you have heard of this book and how do you feel about it as a learning tool.) So i’m not sure if AODA would be the right fit for me, as i simply dont have the money to pay if they are not a good fit for my needs. I am often asked on social media about my Druidic beliefs, some even doubt that modern day Druids seriously exist as a collective unit, as I am vocal in my opinions and beliefs so I speak of them often and I am very proud to be a Druid and share what I have learned with others who ask me, but I can never say “I am a member of…..Order” as I do not have an official Grove or Order and for some unknown reason, that really bothers me.
    I’m sorry to be so long winded, but I am lost on this subject and in desperate need of guidance by one who might understand what I am going through with this feeling of being alone. Any advise or words of guidance that you can give me would be very, very appreciated.

    Thank You so much for your time in reading this,
    Juliett

    • Willowcrow Says:

      Hi Juliett,

      I’m going to send you a private email as response, ok?

      Dana

      • juliett13 Says:

        Hi Dana, just checking back in and saw that you replied to me here, but I never received your e-mail. I am very interested in hearing what you can tell me and am very grateful that you cared enough to try to help me. Just wish I could have gotten that e-mail. ANy way that you can send it again and I will watch my other and spam folders closely in case it went there last time?

  2. ayapdubois Says:

    Hello Druid bloggers!

    I didn’t know how else to reach you so I thought I’d message you here! After seeing some of the great permaculture content you’ve shared here, I wanted to reach out to you.

    We just put together an infographic on the Principles of Permaculture and how they can make us better gardeners/people in general. Since your blog is all about organic and sustainable gardening and features a lot of great permaculture information, I thought you’d get a kick out of it!

    Let me know at alex@seefit.com if you want to check it out 🙂 You can also delete this comment to clean up the comment roll.

    Cheers,
    Alex Yap-Dubois from Seefit.com

  3. Sarah Fink Says:

    Very great info, to add, The term “Druid” translates dru-tree Id-wisdom. Wisdom of the trees. Knowledge is passed down through priestess to priestess usually with no written text, only oral thus to never sever the pure true knowledge gained, and divination symbols found in sticks. Originals are from hyperbolia area between Iceland and Greenland. On ocassasion there have been male “Druids” but usually each person had a specific,role. Gatherer, poet,storyteller, medicine man, etc. which bards, ovates fall under.


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