The modern English word druid comes from the old Irish druí (“druid, sorcerer”) and early Welsh dryw (“seer”). Based on all available forms, the hypothetical proto-Celtic word may then be reconstructed as *dru-wid-s meaning “oak-knower”. The two elements go back to the Proto-Indo-European roots *deru- and *weid- “to see”.
While “paganism” is the more commonly used umbrella term for practices other than Judeo-Christian-Islamic religions, many organizations prefer to use other nomenclature for their specific practices. Among these are Heathen, Witch, Faerie, Wiccan, and Druid.
Today, “Druid” has evolved to mean more than when it was applied to a Celtic Priestly class ancient days. Coming from its proto-Indo European origins, it has been assimilated into our language and used in English to encompass a broader practice. With the growth of Neo-Paganism and Heathenry in the U.S., Europe, and other areas of the world, the term is applied to a number of uses from Celtic Reconstruction to a form of Celtic or Druid Wicca. All a wide range of modern practices developed from interpretation of information derived from these archeological findings and writings.
The ancient priests of Celtic Britain, Ireland, Gaul, Galicia (northern Spain), Scotland, and other Celtic regions were known as Druids. Since they did not leave written records of their religious practices, very little is actually known about the Druid Priests and Priestesses. We are left
with accounts written by conquerors, Christian monks, and trying to untangle the mysteries and clues that may have been hidden in the myths, legends, and practices passed on through generations. Since nothing is actually left behind by the Druids themselves, what we have today is the best we can put together from the pieces uncovered by scholars and archeologists.
The Druid Priest/esses were revered people who were vital to the societies and clans. They were fully integrated and part of the fabric of their society. They farmed, fought, played and lived much as others, except they were also called and trained to be the spiritual leaders of their clans. The progression of Christianity and conquest of Rome northward drove the Druids (and their Germanic and other counterparts throughout Europe) underground or they were destroyed by their conquerors. Much was lost as a result and traditions were carefully passed on in secret or disguised in other forms.
The modern movement of Paganism in the late 20th Century inspired a revival of Druidry. Orders were formed in the United States, Britain and around the world. Common elements of these organizations include:
- Dedication to scholarly study
- Relationship with the “Kindred” – defined as:
- Nature and other spirit beings
- A polytheistic view of Gods and Goddesses
- A spiritual practice synonymous with daily life
- Applying an understanding of ancient practices to modern sensibilities (Druidry is a living practice that adapts to the conditions of its people).
- Bardic practices of music, story, poetry, dance, and drama.
- Community involvement.
These elements really drew me to Ar nDraocht Fein (ADF) and my practice. Having been drawn to spirituality all my life, these aspects really resonated with me and help me to define Druidry today – regardless of hearth pantheon. As an international organization that was formed and is based in the US, it recognizes the multi-cultural heritage of people today. Because of this, early founders of ADF developed a religious practice that celebrates the common traits of Indo-European spirituality while respecting the practices and pantheons of cultures world-wide.
I’m pleased that the Grove to which I belong and co-organize is not cultural specific so that we may enjoy the nuances and cultural blessings of our members. I can practice traditions from my Dutch/Germanic heritage and heed the call of the Gods and Goddesses from Valhalla. We are even blessed to have a member who celebrates her Aztec heritage and brings us to a connection with the land on which we live now.
ADF is a wonderful fit for me because it does not limit its Druidry to Celtic practices or pantheon. Today, one can be a “druid” and be linked to a Greek, Germanic, Celtic, Roman, Vedic or other pantheon that calls to you either through lineage (heritage) or other interest. I encourage you to seek the guidance and wisdom of the Kindred and practice “druidry” however you may choose to call it.