One of the many reasons why people join organizations
and movements is to gain a sense of belonging, of having a family
of others who share their worldview. To this end, most groups
use certain images as signs of membership. These shared symbols
of identity help to create the psychological, social and psychic
connections so necessary for effective group action. Provided
that these images are used as positive signs of inclusion, rather
than as negative signs of exclusion, they can only be of benefit
So what are some of the symbols of being a
Mesopagan or Neopagan Druid? The most obvious ones are the Druid
Sigil, the Awen, organizational logos, the
use of white clothing and various signs of rank.
The Druid Sigil
The Druid Sigil
is most often rendered as a circle with two vertical lines passing
through it (see left). Frequently this is drawn, painted, embroidered,
etc. as a wreath of leaves with two staves (or spears for the
warrior types) passing through (see right). Twenty years back,
a ceremonial tabbard was made with a tree in full leaf on the
front and the Sigil on the back with its wreath and stavewood
matching. I always thought it would be nice to have more vestments
that followed this pattern, changing the leaf colors or tree
species for each season.
Where did the
Druid Sigil come from? Nobody knows for sure. It first became
associated with Druidism in modern times by the founder of the
Reformed Druids of North America, David
Fisher, in 1963 c.e.. He claimed that it was a symbol of Druidism
in general and the Earth Mother in particular. Some think he
may have gotten the design from a hasty glance at a picture in
Piggotts book The Druids, which showed the foundations
of an old Roman-Celtic temple. Others think he may have gotten
it from some Mesopagan Druid organization to which he may have
belonged. However, with the two lines running horizontally, the
Druid Sigil is known to electricians as the sign for a female
plug/socket, and with the lines diagonal, its an old alchemical
sign for oil, both concepts that could lead to some fruitful
Regardless of its historical origins, I think
that it is a quintessentially female symbol and is thus psychologically
powerful. For political and metaphysical reasons, I think its
important for members of a religion that many folks erroneously
assume is male-dominated to have a constant reminder of
the eternal power of the female force(s) of Nature. As a magical
sign, Ive used the Druid Sigil for over thirty years as
both a blessing symbol and as a banishing sign. From a magical
point of view, it is fully as powerful as a pentagram, Seal of
Solomon or cross, and meditation upon it will provide many insights.
The silver Druid Sigil on the left was made from my design by
Merlin of Amulets by
Merlin and may be ordered from him
[along with other Isaac Bonewits designs].
While the Reformed Druids of North America
and their immediate offshoots have kept the Druid Sigil as their
primary organizational symbol, and many members of Ár
nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship (ADF) use
it as well, other Neopagan and Mesopagan Druid groups have altered
it or ignored it completely.
Mesopagan Druids have as their most common symbol the Awen
or three bars of light, shown here (left) in the
simplest form. The word awen means inspiration
in Middle Welsh, and in Mesopagan Druidism it represents the
primal sound and light caused by the Supreme Being
pronouncing His name to create the universe. Mesopagan
Druids have a great deal of metaphysical theory based on this
and related triplicities most of it coming from the early
Unitarian preacher and prolific forger of ancient manuscripts,
Iolo Morganwyg (who pretty
much created Mesopagan Druidry to begin with). The
Order of Bards Ovates and Druids places the Awen inside a
set of three circles (right), representing Iolos three
stages of existence. As you can see, some people
use the Awen with and some without the three dots symbolizing
the Supreme Being (and some with a single dot).
The word awen is used by
some modern Druids as a Celtic equivalent to the Sanscrit word
aum, intoning it when doing trancework, thusly:
ADF logo was inspired by the badge
for the Scottish clan of MacEwen (shown here on the left), which
depicts new branches sprouting from an oak tree stump. The original
(1983) ADF logo (right) was drawn by the well-known Neopagan,
science fiction and fantasy artist Nybor, based on my vague description.
It had one thin shoot with five leaves rising from the stump,
and no letters around it or in the bottom three loops. The symbolism
of ADFs logo is obviously that of survival and revival
indeed, the MacEwen clan motto is, Reviresco,
which is Latin for We (re)grow green. The axe marks
in Nybors original rendition made it clear that the tree
of Druidism, like that of the MacEwen clan, was reviving after
having been deliberately chopped down. Nybor added the interlacing
to show that, although ADF is a Pan-Indo-European tradition,
we have Celtic roots.
The lettering was added, originally with Letraset
American Uncial (their only Celtic face at the time) early on,
just in time for the first ADF t-shirts. In 1986 or so, I scanned
the ADF logo into a Macintosh computer and converted it to an
Adobe Illustrator file. I then added the lettering now used (Zapf
Chancery), deciding to forgo the previous overtly Celtic font
in favor of one with a generic European feel, since we were already
receiving complaints that ADF was too Irish.
In 1993, I
edited the logo again to make the version now being used, with
a slightly thicker trunk rising from the stump and a total of
twenty-five leaves. Every ten years or so, I think the logo should
be updated to add more leaves and branches. Eventually, we should
have a healthy, full-grown oak tree with offspring growing all
The ADF logo usually appears only in black
and white, although several colored versions of it have been
done (such as the one on the right). Usually the heavy lines
of the roots, stump and branch are black or dark brown, with
the outside stump lines fading into dark green on the horizontal
line, which in turn fades into dark blue as it rises into the
circle. The oak leaves are green, the inside above-ground sky
is blue, and the inside below-ground area is light brown.
a Neopagan Druid organization that branched off from ADF, has
kept the Druid Sigil as a wreath and added the Awen in the center
(as shown left). Various local groves of ADF (and Keltria?) have
done variations of the Sigil with additional symbols added (Mugwort
Grove, ADF, for example, uses the Sigil with a large sprig of
mugwort leaf in the center).
Beannaithe ag Draoithe - Blessed by Druids
Ellen Evert Hopman of the Order of the Whiteoak (Ord Na Darach
Gile), this symbol, designed by J.
Craig Melia, is meant to function as a Druidic equivalent
to the Kosher marks used in Judaism. The Triskellion is an ancient
symbol and can be found throughout Europe, from Greece to Ireland.
The variation used here, which incorporates the spiral into the
design, is found throughout Celtic lands. This design was developed
by consensus from Druids of several Orders, in the US, Canada,
England, Ireland and other countries. We offer it freely as a
gift to anyone who wants to use it. It is a logo that means blessed
by Druids and can be used on foods, medicines, religious
statues, and on any item which has been Druidically blessed.
This particular idea, though nice, doesnt seem to have
At one time,
wearing white berets was an identifying symbol for ADF members.
The story behind the white berets is this: When we first
started having local grove meetings in the New York City area,
we were meeting in coffeehouses in Greenwich Village. Since many
of the folks at the early gatherings knew about ADF only through
the mails, and had never met me or each other, we needed some
sort of identification signal to help us find our fellow Druids.
Since I was wearing a white beret at the time (along with a lot
of other white clothing), I suggested that the others do the
same. Red, brown, black, and other colors of berets were and
are still worn in the Village, but white ones were and are fairly
rare. This enabled us to find each other easily.
Later, when I sent out a mailing to midwest
ADF members about plans for an upcoming Pagan Spirit Gathering,
I suggested that those who were going to attend PSG could also
wear white berets. Some did so, and more did at subsequent festivals.
With anywhere from 100 to 500 people at the average Pagan festival,
this easily visible symbol came in handy. Then we found out that
the Ku Klux Klan was using white berets as an identifying symbol
for its members! The Mother Grove immediately decided
to abandon the use of them, for fear that our folks would be
confused with theirs. In some ways this was a pity, for the hats
were an easy symbol that could be spotted from a distance, and
the ADF t-shirts never caught on the same way.
How historically authentic
was this custom? Not very. A few people have pointed out that
the ancient Celts usually wore no headgear at all, and the only
headcovering examples we have at all seem to be the hoods of
capes and warriors helmets. We do know, on the other hand,
that the color white was associated with the Paleopagan clergy.
This is one reason why I tend to wear white clothing (with various
colors of decoration) as my public and private clergy garb,
a habit some other Neopagan Druids have picked up. Theres
no particular reason why ones Druid hat should
be a beret, I just thought that it looked appropriately ancient
and was a way of honoring my Breton and Gaulish ancestors. Perhaps
someone else will come up with a different sort of hat for Druids
to wear preferably something with a brim that will keep
the sun out of our eyes during long rituals!
Long white robes have been popular for Mesopagan
and Neopagan Druids for a long time. The British Mesopagan Druids
wear robes with vaguely Egyptian hoods, apparently because of
Masonic associations of the Druids and the Egyptians with Atlantis,
and therefore with each other. When they go to Stonehenge to
celebrate the Summer Solstice, some of them wear solid white,
blue or green robes to signify who among them are the Druids,
Bards or Ovates (diviners) respectively. Also popular with Mesopagan
Druids are various crowns, breastplates, rings and other ceremonial
tools, many of which are taken from the (very obsolete) scholarship
of the early antiquarians, including miss-identified
items that are really pre-Celtic.
Signs of Druidical Rank
of the RDNA, perhaps in imitation of the stylish garb shown on
Dr. Maughan (above right), stole the idea of using
ribbons to indicate who was a Druid of the Third (clergy) Order.
Originally these were given to new clergy in sets of two
a red ribbon for the Summer Half of the Year and a white one
for the Winter Half. Later, as higher orders were
invented, many of them used differently colored ribbons to indicate
membership. The big advantage to defining ribbons as minimal
clergy gear was that they could be carried in a pocket and quickly
draped around ones neck over normal school clothing, should
either security or lack of sewing skills be a problem, yet they
looked nice over elaborate robes as well.
signs of rank among the Neopagan Druids? While Im not too
sure its a good idea to encourage them, they seem to be a universal
human need. The idea I originally came up with for ADF was to
use narrow bands of interlace or similar designs (Celtic, Norse,
Slavic, Greek, etc) climbing up the sleeves and hems of our robes.
I suggested that we use the colors associated with the old Indo-European castes: black/brown/green
for First Circle members, red/blue for Second, white (with green
and blue outlining) for Third, with perhaps silver and gold colored
threads for Fourth and Fifth Circle members (none of whom exist
yet). The magnificient white robe that Karen Dougherty embroidered
for me uses this color coding combined with symbols for the Three
Worlds of Land, Sea, and Sky, plus lunar and solar symbols. This
system wasnt used very much, but many of our members came
up with their own, often stunning, ceremonial costumes based
on their own research and artistic skills.
One idea that
never caught on in ADF was for only those intending to work their
way into the Third or inner Circles to wear full length white
robes, and for others to wear tunics or other premedieval garb.
Apparently this made the others feel like second-class citizens,
so we dropped it. However, I still advise that hoods on white
robes should not completely cover the face, especially in groves
south of the Mason-Dixon line in the USA.
And lest you think that ADF Druids wear only
white, heres a picture of Ian Corrigan and myself at Starwood
a few years ago (Im the little guy on the right).