Druidry: The Debate Continues......

Welcome to UKHIppy2764@2x.png

UKHippy is a long running online community and of likeminded people exploring all interpretations on what it means to be living an alternative lifestyle -- we welcome discussions on everything related to sustainability, the environment, alternative spirituality, music, festivals, politics and more -- membership of this website is free but supported by the community.

  • Continuing on from the debate that started on my previous thread. Feel free to have your say....what do you think? Do people have the right to call themselves Druids? (there a similar thread going on about Buddhism).

    What do we actually know about Druidry and who's got it right? The Romans? The 'Neo-Druids'.

    Looking forward to hearing more of your views and who knows, I might chip in a few lines myself! :D

    AWEN!

  • Anyway.... we really don't know ANYTHING about druids (unless we believe the Romans.... and what have they ever done for US?!). So I don't see the point of calling yourself a druids. Make up a new term, maybe? As for who has the "right".... :shrug: Ain't got a problem with people calling themselves whatever they want, so long as they don't pretend they're actually following an ancient faith....

  • Quote from Atomic

    Ain't got a problem with people calling themselves whatever they want, so long as they don't pretend they're actually following an ancient faith....


    Which of the religions or belief systems doesnt that cover? :D

  • i was thinking the same thing about the ancient druids and how, if nobody knows anything about them, how do the modern 'druids' know what to do when they're doing druidy stuff.

    The trouble with quotes on the internet is that you never know if they are genuine - Abraham Lincoln

  • i guess they can pretty much make anything up and claim it's authentic druidy stuff. personally, i'd go for slaughtering goats and have a harem of druidy slave-chicks. but that's just me - not everyone's quite that spiritual. :whistle:

    The trouble with quotes on the internet is that you never know if they are genuine - Abraham Lincoln

  • I think there are enough accounts of pre-Christian British religion to be able to make educated guesses on many of the practices of our ancestors, especially when combined with archaeological evidence. Not just from the Romans but from ancient texts, the writings of early Celtic-christian monks etc ...


    The roles of priests etc ... in mainstream religions may have been handed down through time, but it's very rare that anything handed down through time doesn't change during that process. If modern druids construct their understanding of that role with reference to historical data and adapt it so it's relevant to modern times, I think they deserve the name. If they decide to use it because they've read a couple of books on druidry and think they're Merlin MK3 then they should run along and play Warhammer ;)

    It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.


    Jiddu Krishnamurti

  • Quote from Zee

    personally, i'd go for slaughtering goats and have a harem of druidy slave-chicks.



    whatever rocks your boat Zee :D
    (weird shit shows up on google images if you put 'chicks' into the search box :eek:)


    Back on topic,if no one knows anything about ancient druids then whos to say that modern druids dont have common ground/common practises with them? I know fuck all about this but themes of connection with the earth and seasons,mysticism and seer-ness etc have been around forever,there are probably only so many belief systems possible as we're all using the limited range of human experience and capability to make sense of our lives and the world/universe..And the reaching back into the past for connection with ancestry of some kind isnt particuary wierd is it? So I'm not sure what the problem is? Claiming superiority over others because of a belief system is dumb and annoying regardless of whether that belief system has a documented evolution or no objective evidence of it existing,because its not the truth or not thats the issue its the attitude..

  • There's a book called the Silver Bough, similar to the Golden Bough but Scottish which is about folk beliefs in Scotland. I'm not sure how reliable it is but there's some mention, I recall that the some of the old order of the druid system continued in Scotland in the form of having a bard at the royal court or something. It wasn't so much the idea of any religious continuation but more the social roles adapted. The book also talks about folk customs which could have routes from pre-Christian beliefs, in fact it's probably quite probable some would. You can't really prove it one way or another though. When a boat landed on St Kilda in the 16th century they had never heard of Jesus or King James VI etc. Customs or superstitions maybe carried on in some form, dying out in the last 200 years I dunno. Modern druids and Wiccan's maybe worship ancient Gods and Goddesses but I don't seem them as a survival of older rituals and belief. They could be influenced by what little we do know about the past and thats cool.

  • There is the Culdee in Scotland - but it's a sort of Celtic/Druidic Christianity, I'm not sure of their history tbh. Seems to have less to do with modern druidry and appears to have older roots, nothing to do with the druidic cultural revival of a few hundred years ago either but I don't think they're linked to the original Culdee of Ireland and Scotland in the Middle Ages. To be honest I haven't really read that much about them, just remember an article of an interview with a member I read a few months ago, got a copy of it somewhere. She's a musician anyhow, harp I think...hmmmm.....need to dig it out.

  • Such as?



    We have the obvious sources, such as Tacitus, Caesar, the Book of Leinster, the Red Book of Hergest etc .. when you take into account cultural similarities between Britain and the rest of Europe it's reasonable to include writers such as Pliny, Pausanius etc ... We can also gain a lot of insights into how deities were constructed by the Pre-Christian Britons by examining inscriptions on offerings at dedicated shrines and examining how the dead were interred and honoured also provides insights into the beliefs of the ancestors. Mythological data has been found to correspond with the historical evidence and, bearing in mind that the traditions in question were oral, can be a great source of insights too. There really is more than you'd think out there.

    It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.


    Jiddu Krishnamurti

  • We have the obvious sources, such as Tacitus, Caesar, the Book of Leinster, the Red Book of Hergest etc ..

    None of these can remotely be described as reliable sources though. At best, they provide hints and clues. Certainly nothing solid enough to allow anyone to claim "I'm a druid". Especially if you're not completing the 20 years of dedicated study that Caesar claimed druids undertook. ;)


    Quote

    when you take into account cultural similarities between Britain and the rest of Europe it's reasonable to include writers such as Pliny, Pausanius etc ... We can also gain a lot of insights into how deities were constructed by the Pre-Christian Britons by examining inscriptions on offerings at dedicated shrines and examining how the dead were interred and honoured also provides insights into the beliefs of the ancestors. Mythological data has been found to correspond with the historical evidence and, bearing in mind that the traditions in question were oral, can be a great source of insights too. There really is more than you'd think out there.

    I wouldn't dispute any of that. But it's a huge leap from such scraps of information to a position where we can state with any certainty what druids believed, how they worshipped, what their place in society was...... and an even bigger leap to a a position where you could actually claim to be a druid.


    If people want to use the term, I don't have any problem with that. But modern druids can't realistically claim to be following the same faith or practices as their ancient namesakes.

  • .... But modern druids can't realistically claim to be following the same faith or practices as their ancient namesakes.


    Do they though? I'm not trying to be deliberately dense, I really don't know any druids, but I would have thought that anyone with a modicum of sense would know that to be the case. You can be inspired by the idea of the ancient druidic practices (whatever they may be), you can even claim that the foundations of your own druidic path has it's roots in the 16/1700s (I mean, that's old enough, you've got a one up on the Mormons in terms of age :p) but no one's really going to say that they practice the same faith (or what have you) as a British druid in 100BC? Are they? :eek:

  • Do they though?

    It varies. I've encountered "druids" with from across the whole spectrum.


    Quote

    but no one's really going to say that they practice the same faith (or what have you) as a British druid in 100BC? Are they? :eek:

    Well yeah, I've met one or two who claim as much.


    Can't say I feel particularly strongly about it though. :shrug:

  • None of these can remotely be described as reliable sources though. At best, they provide hints and clues.


    It's very rare that historical sources can be described as reliable, history is written by the victors after all, but you can look for hints and clues and compare them with archaeological evidence to build a better picture.


    Quote

    Certainly nothing solid enough to allow anyone to claim "I'm a druid". Especially if you're not completing the 20 years of dedicated study that Caesar claimed druids undertook. ;)


    I would say the meaning of the word and how it is used depends on context - for example, the terms bard and ovate are often used to describe people learning specific skills central to the practice fo druidry. However, those terms are not ones that people outside of those circles would understand, so if someone asks what a person is it's simpler to say druid than to explain the basis and meaning of the bardic or ovatic arts. The social meaning of the word druid has become "someone who practices druidry". I would say a person needs a certain level of skill to be able to claim that title and there are many that agree, but there are far more people who use the term as a catch-all (usually because it sounds better than neo-Pagan) and that has changed the generic usage somewhat. When someone says "I'm a druid" these days it can mean anything from "I've studied history and archaeology, build a decent picture of the practices of my ancestors and applied that to my own spirituality" to "I've read a DJ Conway book and I like trees". I'd say it's important to distinguish how someone is using the term, before we berate them for it. If they've done the appropriate study and devoted time and effort to creating something solid and grounded in evidence, we shouldn't treat them as if they were a flaky new-ager.

    It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.


    Jiddu Krishnamurti

  • It's very rare that historical sources can be described as reliable, history is written by the victors after all, but you can look for hints and clues and compare them with archaeological evidence to build a better picture.

    Quite. But that's not a basis for claiming that modern druidry is a true reflection of ancient druidry.


    Quote

    I would say the meaning of the word and how it is used depends on context - for example, the terms bard and ovate are often used to describe people learning specific skills central to the practice fo druidry. However, those terms are not ones that people outside of those circles would understand, so if someone asks what a person is it's simpler to say druid than to explain the basis and meaning of the bardic or ovatic arts. The social meaning of the word druid has become "someone who practices druidry". I would say a person needs a certain level of skill to be able to claim that title and there are many that agree, but there are far more people who use the term as a catch-all (usually because it sounds better than neo-Pagan) and that has changed the generic usage somewhat. When someone says "I'm a druid" these days it can mean anything from "I've studied history and archaeology, build a decent picture of the practices of my ancestors and applied that to my own spirituality" to "I've read a DJ Conway book and I like trees". I'd say it's important to distinguish how someone is using the term, before we berate them for it. If they've done the appropriate study and devoted time and effort to creating something solid and grounded in evidence, we shouldn't treat them as if they were a flaky new-ager.

    Not entirely clear what your point is there. :S

  • Quite. But that's not a basis for claiming that modern druidry is a true reflection of ancient druidry.


    I disagree, we can't say it's a unbroken tradition and we can't say it's exactly the same as ancient druidry, but we can say with some accuracy that it includes beliefs and practices that were central to Pre-Christian British religion. There may not be enough evidence to build a complete and accurate picture, but there is enough to satisfy archaeologists and that should be a sufficient basis for describing those beliefs and practices as a reflection of the more ancient ones.


    Quote

    Not entirely clear what your point is there. :S


    My point is that the meaning of any word changes over time, as does the interpretation of social roles. For example, look at the difference in the meaning of the word "wife" now to its meaning in Victorian times. They're completely different - they describe the same role, but that role is constructed with different expectations and the associated status has changed dramatically. The same could be said for druidry - the term may be used differently because the role has changed. Druids no longer hold a high status in society, so there is no social representation of the role a druid should play in modern society. That makes druidry an individual pursuit, rather than one undertaken as a social role, so there is no relevant social context in which we can locate the meaning of the term "druid". It's a term that is now defined by those who have the most knowledge of the historical meaning and experience of putting that into practice but it's applied differently by different individuals with different levels of knowledge and experience - Emma Restall Orr might describe herself as a druid, but so might a sixteen year old that's read an introductory book on druidry. If we're going to debate the extent to which people should be free to use the term it's important to consider the modern day meaning, how it's applied and how it's used, just as it is with any social construct.

    It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.


    Jiddu Krishnamurti

  • I disagree, we can't say it's a unbroken tradition and we can't say it's exactly the same as ancient druidry, but we can say with some accuracy that it includes beliefs and practices that were central to Pre-Christian British religion. There may not be enough evidence to build a complete and accurate picture, but there is enough to satisfy archaeologists and that should be a sufficient basis for describing those beliefs and practices as a reflection of the more ancient ones.

    I disagree ;)


    There's certainly a basis for arguing that modern druidry incorporates ideas and beliefs that may have been part of ancient druidry.... but that's a million miles from any claim that modern and ancient druidry are remotely the same thing.


    Quote

    My point is that the meaning of any word changes over time

    Yup. Which is why I have no problem with people referring to themselves as druids (but would take issue with any claim that modern druidry and ancient druidry have very much in common).


    Quote

    If we're going to debate the extent to which people should be free to use the term it's important to consider the modern day meaning, how it's applied and how it's used, just as it is with any social construct.

    I haven't suggested that the term shouldn't be freely used. :)

  • You argued that modern druidry is invented and that there isn't sufficient evidence of pre-Christian religion to allow anyone to call themselves a druid. You didn't really distinguish between the use of the term and its relation to ancient druidry, which is why I was pointing out that the meaning of the term in the modern day is different to its meaning in say, the times of Caesar. If the term is used in the modern day to mean "a person who locates the basis of their spiritual beliefs and practices in the practices of pre-Christian Britons,as evidenced by historical, archaeological and linguistic data" then it is reasonable for people to apply that construct to themselves, if they've done their homework.


    I think there is enough data out there to enable people to reconstruct some Pre-Christian beliefs and practices - for example, if you take depictions of a deity showing associations with war, then you find shrines to that deity containing offerings for success in battle and you look at the linguistic basis of the name of the deity and similarity to other deities, bearing the same associations, you can say with some confidence that it's a war deity, whom people made offerings to for success in battle and you can say what form those offerings took, where they were placed, which deity they were addressed to and so, where that deity was worshipped, in different forms. If you then visit that place, leave a similar offering dedicated to the same deity, is that not a practice you share with those who originally worshipped him/her?

    It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.


    Jiddu Krishnamurti

  • You argued that modern druidry is invented and that there isn't sufficient evidence of pre-Christian religion to allow anyone to call themselves a druid. You didn't really distinguish between the use of the term and its relation to ancient druidry

    My bad. Allow me to be more specific. There isn't sufficient evidence of pre-Christian religion to allow anyone to call themselves a druid - assuming that by the use of that term, they are laying claim to being a druid in remotely the same sense as the druids that walked the earth 2000 years ago (give or take ;)).


    Quote

    which is why I was pointing out that the meaning of the term in the modern day is different to its meaning in say, the times of Caesar.

    Yes. It now means something completely different. Which is why, IMHO, calling yourself a druid is a bit of a pointless affectation.


    Quote

    If the term is used in the modern day to mean "a person who locates the basis of their spiritual beliefs and practices in the practices of pre-Christian Britons,as evidenced by historical, archaeological and linguistic data" then it is reasonable for people to apply that construct to themselves, if they've done their homework.

    I would still have some issues with that - not least of which being that the context of our modern lives is so utterly different, that any direct parallel between ancient and modern druidry (or paganism, come to that) seems kinda redundant.


    Quote

    I think there is enough data out there to enable people to reconstruct some Pre-Christian beliefs and practices

    Yes, I entirely agree. What I don't agree with is the idea that we can have any real idea of what druidry entailed. For example - you could know a lot about Christian beliefs and practices without having the remotest idea of what was involved in being a Catholic priest - rituals, dress, place in society, codes of conduct, symbolism, forms of worship, training, rules, requirements.


    Quote

    for example, if you take depictions of a deity showing associations with war, then you find shrines to that deity containing offerings for success in battle and you look at the linguistic basis of the name of the deity and similarity to other deities, bearing the same associations, you can say with some confidence that it's a war deity, whom people made offerings to for success in battle and you can say what form those offerings took, where they were placed, which deity they were addressed to and so, where that deity was worshipped, in different forms. If you then visit that place, leave a similar offering dedicated to the same deity, is that not a practice you share with those who originally worshipped him/her?

    Interesting example. See preceding point. But also, such evidence doesn't tell you what place such worship would have within society, how literally people saw their deity, how integrated worship was into daily life, what forms worship took beyond leaving offerings, what other rituals were associated with those beliefs, how the priest class fitted into the picture.... etc etc etc. So in short, yes, I believe you can draw on ancient beliefs and traditions, but I would extend that to an ability to say "I'm a druid" - with preceding caveats. ;)

    But hey.... people can call themselves whatever they want. Personally, I'd choose a new term for something that clearly differs so fundamentally from the tradition upon which it's loosely modelled, but your mileage may vary. :)

  • Yes. It now means something completely different. Which is why, IMHO, calling yourself a druid is a bit of a pointless affectation.


    I wouldn't agree that it is simply an affectation, I would see it as a term used to denote the reconstruction of what we know about ancient practice in modern times. It can be an affectation, but I would say that anyone who uses it as such clearly doesn't understand the differences between ancient and modern druidry and so, shouldn't be using the term at all.


    Quote

    I would still have some issues with that - not least of which being that the context of our modern lives is so utterly different, that any direct parallel between ancient and modern druidry (or paganism, come to that) seems kinda redundant.


    I agree in as far as social context and meaning is concerned, but I do think that the nature of human relationship with deity doesn't change all that much over time - gods are defined as more wise and powerful than humans, humans seek their blessings/teachings, they make offerings to get them. The only real differences in a human sense is the relative degree to which people choose to interact with their gods and the degree to which they choose bow to them, rather than simply approaching them as respected "trading partners".


    Quote

    Yes, I entirely agree. What I don't agree with is the idea that we can have any real idea of what druidry entailed. For example - you could know a lot about Christian beliefs and practices without having the remotest idea of what was involved in being a Catholic priest - rituals, dress, place in society, codes of conduct, symbolism, forms of worship, training, rules, requirements.


    ... So in short, yes, I believe you can draw on ancient beliefs and traditions, but I would extend that to an ability to say "I'm a druid" - with preceding caveats. ;)


    I think most sensible people who refer to themselves as druids do so on the basis that they and their peers take such caveats as granted.

    It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.


    Jiddu Krishnamurti