Druidry In An Uncommon Place… October 6, 2010

Druidry In An Uncommon Place…

Druidry is now an official religion in Britain:

Druidry, an ancient Celtic belief that worships deities who take their forms in nature, has been given the official status of a ‘religion’ in Britain. It is a form of neo-paganism, along with Wicca, Voodoo and Shamanism. Surprisingly enough the belief system is already provided with tax-exempt religious group status in the US.

… Neo-pagans seek to communicate with spirits, but witchcraft is not satanic because its believers don’t recognize the Satan of Christianity, Judaism or Islam.

Umm… right. I don’t understand how anyone could call Satan silly … and then turn right around to talk to “spirits.”

Still, it made me think of this picture I took during a recent visit to Lynchburg, Virginia.

It appears that the local Druid Grove of the Seven Hills, ADF has adopted a street… right next to Thomas Road. Which is where Jerry Falwell’s original Thomas Road Baptist Church still remains. The church is about a one minute walk away from the sign.

Gotta love that placement.

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  • Sven

    Begs the question, “What did they do to earn the town’s name in “Lynchburg”?”
    My guess is that they used to have their Druid problem under control…

  • I prefer to think of druids as “That AD&D class I never play”.

  • Roxane

    I had a brief flirtation with Wicca. I had my little altar, and my cauldron, and my bell, book, and two candles–green for the Goddess and red for the God, or was it the other way around? I can’t begin to describe how silly I felt, even in the privacy of my own home. I can’t imagine that I would have felt any better as a Druid.

  • Peregrine

    Umm… right. I don’t understand how anyone could call Satan silly … and then turn right around to talk to “spirits.”

    To be fair, they didn’t say Satan was silly. They just don’t recognize the Abrahamic notion of Satan as part of their own mythology.

  • I must say I think those Druids are really not as…. exhausting as members of other religions. You can actually talk to them and they accept that you don’t believe. With that I can deal so much better than with ‘But God said so!’

  • Vanessa

    I was going to say the same thing as Peregrine.

  • It’s a conspiracy; they’re rich businessmen in disguise trying to evade taxes.

    Or they’re just ignorant dolts.

    Occam’s Razor.


  • MikeW

    Are there any neighboring streets that need to be adopted by atheists? 🙂

  • Cindy

    First…@Sven: I believe you mean raises the question, not begs the question.
    Two…I’ve always wondered why more people in England didn’t adopt Druidism. If I weren’t an atheist, it would be my religion of choice since it’s the religion of my ancestors…not that silly Jesus religion that the Roman conquerors forced on my forebears.

  • pirmas407

    I actually enjoy being a druid, in 3.5 you got ‘Call Lightning’, which could do a great deal of damage for such a low-level spell.

  • Rich Wilson

    I used to be a pagan. Pretty harmless IMO. I think most people have some silly belief or other. We just don’t have the perspective to know what it is.

  • I actually think that’s pretty cool. I mean, I don’t believe in it, but I’m honestly surprised it wasn’ t recognized there before. I mean, isn’t that roughly the area where it evolved centuries ago, in northern Europe? I’d think it would be some kind of heritage thing.

  • Miko

    Why are druids adopting a street anyway? Shouldn’t they be doing something with more nature and less concrete?

    And druids in D&D 3.5E were the most over-powered class imaginable.

  • Oana

    I kinda-sorta support neo-paganism.

    Why? It’s a passive religion. They don’t proselytize, they don’t preach. and the Reede is something they take to heart, unlike the christians and the Golden Rule.

    They tend to be ok people, really.

    And of course one must consider atheist wicca, for instance, where the God and Goddess are merely symbols. to me that’s just awesome, and neo-paganism in general fascinates me more than other religions do.

    I DID in fact get a lot of influence from wicca(ot being my main area of interest), and it DID make me a… “nicer” person, for the lack of a better term. Not that I wasn’t nice, or that atheism meant I was a d**k( lol stereotypes are bad, i know), but i did let myself be influenced.

    The belief in itself is silly, but i have to admit that they’re better than christians(btw i’m writing from a country where it may not be like in the US, but religious tolerance on part of the christians leaves much to be desired.)

    i wonder if i should leave links here… i think i will, because i hate it when other people talk about something then they do not link for refference.


    … i think my nonsensical rant/ rambling/ thing is over. thanks for trying to ignore my incoherency.

  • April

    I’ve always wondered why more people in England didn’t adopt Druidism. If I weren’t an atheist, it would be my religion of choice since it’s the religion of my ancestors…not that silly Jesus religion that the Roman conquerors forced on my forebears.

    I know people that have become ancient religion followers (i.e. Celtic or Hellenistic), and go on and on about the evils of the contemporary world…blah blah blah….but why? Why is an ANCIENT religion any better than contemporary religions? I just don’t get it. The pre-Christians sliced up animals and read their fortunes in their entrails. They sacrificed virgins and basically did all sorts of nasty controlling things in the name of their “gods.” So why embrace the religion simply because it’s pre-Christian?

    Also, these same people still worship the consumer gods of Wal-Mart and the mall. They still use modern conveniences like cell phones and automobiles. All the while going on and on about how humanity needs to be erased so we can start over. Meh.

  • April

    Also, Celtic Romano-Brit DNA is just as prevalent in those of British Isles descent as that of Anglo-Saxon DNA.

    The Romans, Saxons, Vikings, and Normans may have been invaders, but they’re our ancestors as well. I’m not arguing for Christian loyalty or anything, but I’m so sick of this “ancient is better” mentality. We are where we are and who we are because of our history. Embrace it and move on.

  • A small correction Hemant. “Druidry is now an official religion in Britain” for charitable purposes. The Charity Commission has recognised them and the Druid Network’s charitable status entitles it to tax breaks in UK law. Shame they don’t get enough of an income to pay tax. 😉

    It does make me wonder what criteria there are for recognising a religion though. I mean we have an official state religion so Protestant Christianity is in but surely that excludes all the others. Sadly not. Perhaps one day all religions will be given equal status in the eyes of the law. i.e. none.

  • The media has taken this story and run with it. What actually happened was that ‘The Druid Network’ has been recognised as a ‘religious charity’. Their definition of Druidry as a religion does not speak for all who call themselves Druids. In many Druid groups, it is possible to be a Druid and also a member of any religion or none, and you can even be an atheist Druid.

    Whilst I think that all the talk about ‘spirits’ and ‘gods’ is total nonsense, the basic ideas of Druidry (nature is good, so let’s celebrate life) are considerably better than the approach of most religions, and totally compatible with an atheist/humanist outlook as well. Even the more ostensibly ‘religious’ ritual aspects can be really just an excuse to dress up and have a good time!

    Although this new ruling seems to codify the beliefs of Druids, many do not fit that definition and are happy to see Druidry as a philosophical approach rather than a religious one.

  • Iggy

    All things considered, these guys make up a tolerable subsection of society. They don’t protest military funerals, they don’t say nature hates LGBT people, and they don’t stop you to demand you pray to a tree.

    Our constitution gives free reign to practice any fairytale that they wish, and honestly I would rather the evangelicals switch to this generally passive way of being.. on second thought, that might not be that great of an idea; Trees soon would hate the gays.

  • I think the main reason people don’t take druidism very seriously in the UK is that we’ve all read the Asterix books as children, so we think of druids as ancient guys who made magic potion to help their big-nosed friends fight big-nosed idiot Romans.

  • I heard about this on BBC radio, and I think it’s great. It was funny to hear a frightened Christian lady (I think she held an official position in some sort of Christian organisation) complaining about it and talking the religion down.

    As has been noted, the guy didn’t call Satan silly. I’d imagine pagans and druids are generally far more tolerant of others’ (non)beliefs than Christians are.

  • R9

    Paganism looks pretty harmless to me. We might find it silly\irrational but well, they’re not obliged to give a toss about that.

  • “The form of druidry that is practised by the Druid Network fulfils the four criteria for a religion in charity law and therefore is a religion. However, that isn’t to say that every form of druidry would meet those four criteria.” So it’s not all Druidic practice that’s recogniesed, though if you look at the Druid Network’s FAQs, there fairly loose with what it means to be a Druid.



    I think though some Neo-pagans (a.k.a Druids) believe in some sort of super natural entities (read: Gods & Goddesses) the rest just enjoy the ritual of recognizing the seasons changing and this limited time on this planet we call lives are passing too. Very little of this can be refuted as being true as it has such a strong base in science. Adding a bit of ritual and meaning to well documented atrological occurences does not seem to offensive to me and adds at least as much value and enrichment to society as a tailgating party. Being they don’t prothletize, and I have yet to see them infuse any supernatural beliefs into domestic or foreign policy decision making, as freethinkers we would be WAY out of line to attempt to refuse people their rights to enjoy these fairly scientifically based rituals.

  • cypressgreen

    Good for them. It’s like the atheist billboards that say, “We’re here…and we’re people just like you. We just aren’t christian.”

  • Lauren

    I actually had a Chemistry teacher in high school that was a Druid.

  • muggle

    Gotta love that placement.

    Naw, just got to love America where two such opposites get to exist side by side. Freedom!

    Wicca/Pagan/whatever-you’re-calling-your-pathetic-attempt-to-go-back-in-time-this-week is so far pretty harmless but I’ve got to agree with April. It wasn’t truly benign and the modern people who call themselves such are just silly gooses playing at something because they don’t have the balls to rebel against Christianity without some other silly nonsense. It’s no coincidence that it’s something that fundy Christians will consider witchcraft whether they recognize Satan or not.

    But still need convincing that were they to gain the power the Christians currently hold they be as bad or worse? Heck, with books (it’s kind of like believing Anton LaVey invented Satanism in the 1960’s), rent “The Beastmaster” and “Willow” to see the bad ways these could go.

    Yeah, I know fiction and fiction that plays make believe ancient magic was real. That’s kind of my point. Those are two of my favorite movies but that’s because I don’t believe the bullshit and they aren’t trying to spread it but just spin a good yarn.

    What we’d have to beware of would be any wackos really taking that shit literally rather than these Christine O’Donnell types playing at magik like little kids. And what happens when they outgrow it like her and replace it with the new obsession or take it too literally instead of all this nature worship. I think it’s actually pretty scary that defunct religions are being revived.

  • Aaron

    Funny, they don’t look Druish.

  • TychaBrahe

    Neo-pagans go quite a bit beyond not saying nature hates GLBTQ people. Ever heard of the Radical Faeries?

  • Peregrine

    Is it safe to Google that at work? Or should I wait until I get home?

  • Arctic Ape

    Paganism isn’t more appreciated in Europe because it can’t really be considered a cultural heritage thing any more. There was a long interruption in tradition, and frankly, we don’t even know much about what the “old people” actually believed. It’s all been forgotten, and the few surviving religious traditions have become christianized or secularized.

    So if you want to be a Pagan, you basically have to accept “Ancient Wisdom” that someone quite obviously made up quite recently. That wouldn’t be much of a problem for most people, but the sheer foreignness of this wisdom is a serious obstacle for wider acceptance.

  • Serenity

    I guess I’ll be the first pagan to respond.
    Let me first say that paganism is so diverse that I couldn’t even try to give you some sort of reference, say like the bible for christianity, but for the most part pagans are pretty awesome, we do attract our weirdos though. However, just like there are really conservative christians, we also have some very conservative pagans that don’t like gays, force their beliefs on anyone that they can..and think everyone should be vegan oddly enough…But on a whole they do not represent the pagan community as a whole. Yes, there is something about celebrating something that is older or that has roots in something older, but mostly paganism and its ideas are very new because there is only so much that we know about past pagan cultures. The pagans that are actually trying to practice the real ancient pagan beliefs are called Reconstructionalists. Basically, the reconstructionalist version of Druidry (which is new, and anyone that says otherwise is deluded) would be Celtic Reconstructionalism.

    This is getting kind of long-winded.. so i’m just going to say that personal beliefs about deity(s), gods, goddesses, and various spirits vary widely throughout the pagan community so much so that I have never heard two people having the same exact ideas about any of these “beings” if you will.

    Me personally, I think human created gods(etc) in order to explain the world around them and to explain their own existence. I am much more interested in learning about these different things to figure out why they appeal to me and if they shed light on me as a person or just a culture that I am interested in. My sense of happiness and well-being does not hinge on whether or not these things or tangibly real because thats not important to me. To me they are real as a mental and social construct and I find the things people come up with sometimes horrible but almost always interesting.
    Well, I thought I wasn’t going to be anymore long-winded.. 🙂

  • Ali

    Hi there, folks. I happen to be a Pagan Druid, so I thought I’d share some details on this news, having spent the past week doing research into the details of the case and interviews with those involved.

    The most impressive and interesting aspect of The Druid Network gaining religious charity status from the Charity Commission is that, in the course of establishing that Druidry could in fact be a “religion” as understood in English Charity Law, they helped to completely transform what the word “religion” means. It is no longer restricted to a belief in a supernatural or transcendent deity, for instance, but nor has it merely been expanded to included “many gods.” Many of the Druids in TDN are pantheists, animists and some are even atheists, as Finbarr mentioned above.

    What that means for you folks, as atheists, is that someday an atheist organization might actually be able to qualify for “religious” charitable status under British law. As the law stands at the moment, this isn’t true yet. But the history of English Charity Law stretching back four hundred years is one of increasing expansion and inclusion of non-monotheistic, non-Abrahamic faiths. This decision by the CC is just another step in the direction of inclusivity, and it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that one day the CC will recognize secularist, humanist and atheist charities under this same law (as long as they are functioning “for public benefit”). I think that’s good news for everyone, regardless of their religion or lack thereof.

    To address a few of the misperceptions about Druidry as relatively “ancient” or not – many Druids seek wisdom and inspiration in the natural world. The word “Druid” itself may come from ancient Gaelic words meaning “tree wisdom” or “oak wisdom.” If you imagine the tradition of Druidry as a huge, ancient oak tree, metaphorically, then the idea is that although the tree itself may be incredibly old, yet every spring it puts forth new leaves and is, in some ways, always new and changing, responding to the surrounding environment, changing with the seasons. What does this mean literally for people practicing Druidry today? It means that we happen to believe that our ancestors had a bit more common sense than we have today in some ways, that they were paying more careful attention to the world around us and valuing that world in all its physical, sensuous and sensory beauty, instead of worrying over imaginary gods living up in the clouds and handing out holy books. You might think of Druidry as science + awe/love for the world and the beings in it. We have no holy text, and we do not subscribe to any “ancient wisdom” handed down intact (or made up in the 1950s). Instead, we try to follow the ancient example of our ancestors by listening to the wisdom of our senses, our experiences and our minds, which are as ancient as evolution and the earth itself. It is true that some of us have gods and goddesses, although for many of us this is like having a favorite musician or a favorite character in a novel – we are inspired by stories, poetry, music and art, and can draw guidance and lessons from them, without necessarily needing to take them as literal fact.

    Of course, I can only speak for myself and my approach to Druidry. Others will differ. But it’s important not to dismiss people who are different from you out of hand just because on the face of it they may seem “silly” or misguided. It’s nice to see commenters here speaking up in favor of Druidry and Paganism as “harmless.” It would be nice to hear a smidge more respect, but honestly, if “harmless” is the best we can get, I’ll take it. 😉

  • Rollingforest

    Hey, highway clean up signs are a good way to advertize your group. The Dems in my area have been doing it for years.This is especially important if you are in the minority and have local papers who sometimes “forget” to list your notices in the events section.

  • Umm… right. I don’t understand how anyone could call Satan silly … and then turn right around to talk to “spirits.”

    I don’t think they’re calling Satan silly. It seems they’re just trying to reinforce the point that they have nothing to do with Satan or Satanism, since so many uninformed people automatically equate the two. It’s much the same way we have to frequently tell others we don’t believe in Satan any more than we believe in god(s) because some presume if we don’t worship God we must worship Satan.

  • Arctic Ape

    Thanks for insight, Serenity and Ali. I didn’t want to imply that Paganism (or even Druidism) is monolithic. I also shouldn’t have implied that all Paganism is reconstructionist. My point was that Paganism is quite exotic in modern European culture, and while the reconstructionist angle certainly helps its acceptance, it won’t too easily become mainstream.

    On the other hand, Christianity and religion in general seems to be falling off mainstream. It may be that, in the long run, Paganism will be more successfull in Europe than Abrahamic religion.

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