Frequently Asked Questions about Neopagan Druidism

(Version 3.1)

Copyright © 1983, 2005 c.e., Isaac Bonewits

What is Neopagan Druidism?

Neopagan Druidism is a family of religions, philosophies and ways of life, rooted in ancient soil yet reaching for the stars. Like other new religions throughout history, we are responding to the crises of our times — philosophical, environmental and spiritual. Like many other members of what has come to call itself the “Neopagan” community, we are polytheistic Nature worshipers, attempting to revive the best aspects of the Paleopagan (original) faiths of our predecessors within a modern scientific, artistic, ecological, and wholistic context, taking nondogmatic, pluralistic approachs. Like our namesakes, the original Druids, we’re people who believe in excellence — physically, intellectually, artistically, and spiritually.

What’s the Difference Between Druidism and Druidry?

Those of us who emphasize the social and religious roles of ancient and modern Druids as clergy and community leaders, tend to favor the “-ism” ending. Those who prefer to stress the solitary and mystical/philosophical side of the Druid paths, tend to prefer the “-ry” version. Many Neopagan Druids use both terms, depending upon the moment they’re asked.

What Do Neopagan Druids Do?

We’re designing and performing powerful magical and religious ceremonies to change ourselves and the world we live in, including regular public worship of the Old Gods and Goddesses, as well as rites of passage (weddings, child blessings, etc.). We’re adapting the polytheologies and customs of both the Indo-European (especially the Celtic) Paleopagans and the Neopagan traditions that have been created over the last fifty years. We’re researching and expanding sound modern scholarship (instead of romantic fantasies) about the ancient Celts, as well as (in A.D.F.) the Norse, Slavs, Balts, Greeks, Romans, Vedics, and other Indo-European peoples, in order to reconstruct as much as possible of what the Old Religions of pre-Christian Europe really were. We’re working on the development of genuine skills in composition and presentation in the musical, dramatic, graphic, textile, and other arts. We’re creating non-sexist, non-racist, organic, flexible and publically-accessible religions to practice as ways of life and to hand on to our grandchildren. We’re integrating ecological awareness, alternate healing arts, and psychic development into our daily activities. We’re holding regional festivals to help ourselves meet, study, pray, and play with other like-minded folks. Some of us are actively preparing for the time when Neopagan religions will be part of the mainstream global culture, with large congregations meeting at temples and sacred groves throughout the Western world. Together, we’re sparking the next major phase in the evolution of Neopaganism and planting seeds for generations to come.

Are Neopagan Druids Real Druids?

Organizationally, our denominations are as real as those of any other religious movement. A.D.F., Keltria, and O.B.O.D. are all legally registered as nonprofit organizations with their respective local and national governments, and have received recognition of their tax-exempt status. Appropriate legal and tax status in other nations is being obtained as needed.

Historically, there are no “real” Druids left. The Paleopagan Druids were wiped out centuries ago and only fragments of their traditions survived, despite the claims of some would-be con-artists.

Spiritually, we believe that we are following the paths once trod by our namesakes and that no other name is nobler or more suited to our modern intentions — and that makes us real as far as we’re concerned!

Are Neopagan Druid Groups Cults?"

Not hardly. The only dogma promulgated by any group so far has been the “Doctrine of Archdruidic Fallibility,” requiring the members of A.D.F. to accept that their Archdruid makes mistakes — not a problem with their first one (myself). Members of Neopagan Druid groups are encouraged to (politely) argue with their leadership, to form their own opinions and special interest groups, and to communicate as much as possible with both “insiders” and “outsiders.” People without a sense of humor and proportion are discouraged from seeking leadership positions. Nepotism is discouraged, financial records are open, everyone is accountable to everyone else, and the leadership generally winds up poorer, not richer, than the average member. So what more do you want?

You might find it interesting to score the Neopagan Druid movements with my Cult Danger Evaluation Frame.

What About Other Druid Groups?

Neopagan Druids maintain friendly relations with the fraternal or “Mesopagan” Druid orders in England and elsewhere, as well as with other Neopagan and Druidic groups. They encourage their members to investigate these other organizations and to learn as much as they can about alternate paths of Druidism. They will, however, expose groups and individuals they believe to be fraudulent or dangerous, even though such vigilance may be controversial.

But What if I’m Not Irish?

You don’t have to be. Despite A.D.F.’s Irish name and their use of the Celtic term for clergy (“druids”), their members come from a wide variety of ancestries, including European, Asian, Native American, and African. Their members honor Celtic, Germanic, Lithuanian, Polish, Greek and other Indo-European deities, ancestors and nature spirits, as well as local land spirits. If you’re sincerely interested in any of the old I-E cultures and its metaphysics, arts, and customs, then you’re welcome in A.D.F.

Similarly, though Keltria and O.B.O.D. focus their attention on Celtic and Celtic/British traditions, respectively, both are interested in Native American studies and welcome members of any ancestry to their ranks. In general, Neopagan Druids have no time or sympathy for racist nonsense or cultural bigotry.

Is Neopagan Druidism Wiccan?

The Wiccan (“Neopagan Witchcraft”) movement includes the vast majority of the hundreds of thousands (millions?) of people involved in Neopaganism in North America. Many Neopagan Druids have been or still are followers of Wicca, including a sizable proportion of the older Neopagan Druid leadership. There is no serious contradiction between the paths, especially since, as polytheists, we are free to worship many deities in many ways.

The primary differences between Neopagan Druidism (in A.D.F.) and Wicca are these: Druidism is polytheistic, large-group oriented, and public. Wicca is duotheistic, small-group oriented, and private. Nonetheless, the two religions have far more in common than they have separating them (see What Neopagans Believe for details). Wiccan covens can (and do) function as special interest groups within larger Druid groves, along with bardic, healing, ecological, divinitory, and other groups. It is not unusual for small gatherings of Neopagan Druids to use Wiccan liturgical techniques, nor for large public Wiccan rites to borrow Neopagan Druidic methods.

Aren’t Druids All Men?

No. Despite the stereotypes of the ancient Druids as having been long-bearded patriarchs, and the misogynist ravings of Monroe’s 21 Lessons of Hogwash, you didn’t have to be a man to be a Paleopagan Druid. After all, it would have been hard to pass on membership in a social class without babies, huh? Certainly, you don’t need to be male to be a Neopagan Druid (though the emphatically “fraternal” branches of Mesopagan Druids still segregate their members by gender). Half of the membership of A.D.F., Keltria, and O.B.O.D. are female and women hold half of the positions of power in all three organizations. Neopagan Druids have deliberately chosen to make gender and affectional preferences irrelevant to participation in their activities. As worshippers of the Earth Mother, we can do no less.

Didn’t the Ancient Druids Do Human Sacrifice?

Yes, it’s probably true. But then, so did the clergy of almost every other religion in human history, including the monotheistic ones. In fact, the (Un-)Holy Inquisition probably managed to kill more innocent people in an average year than the Paleopagan Druids did in a century! Nonetheless, Neopagan Druids have never practiced human or animal sacrifice in our rituals. Instead we offer the Goddesses and Gods flowers, fruits, wine, incense, music, song, drama, prayer, and — most important of all — our love and our dedication. The deities seem to find it more than sufficient.

What Are the Druid Holidays?

Most Neopagan Druids celebrate the turning of the Wheel of the Year by observing eight High Days: the two solstices and the two equinoxes, as well as the four halfway points between (which were originally the great fire festivals of our European predecessors). Due to our calendrical researches, the “purists” among us sometimes celebrate the Fire Festivals a few days after other Neopagans do. Some groves also celebrate the various phases of the moon, or the beginnings and endings of various hunting, fishing, and agricultural seasons.

Because Neopagan Druidism (in A.D.F.) is focussed so much on public service, local groves in the USA may also celebrate holidays from the secular and mainstream calendars, such as Bring Back the Snakes Day on March 17th, the Festival of the Goddess of Liberty on the 4th of July, or the Feast of the Turkey God in late November.

To find out more about Neopagan Druidism, read the other pages about it on this website, and visit the webpages maintained by A.D.F., Keltria and O.B.O.D.

Copyright © 1983, 2005 c.e., Isaac Bonewits. This text file may be freely distributed on the Net, provided that no editing is done, the version number is retained, and everything in this notice box is included. If you would like to be on one or more of Isaac Bonewits’ emailing lists, click here to get subscription information.

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