Pagan Paths - Druidism
29th Dec, 1998
Origins and History
In the pre-Christian era of Celtic culture, the Druids were members of a professional class in their culture. Druids filled the roles of judge, doctor, diviner, mage, mystic, and clerical scholar. In other words, they were the religious clergy and thinkers of their culture. It might take up to twenty years of training to become a Druid.
There are several active Druid organisations today. One of the oldest is The Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids, based in the UK, and founded in 1964, and the Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship, based in the USA. Both of these groups follow a modern, Neo-Pagan Druid Path.
Most who follow a Druid path are polytheistic, with Nature playing a central role in worship (both as a location and a subject of veneration and respect). This is done within a framework of modern scientific, artistic and ecological thought. A central belief is that divinity is both immanent (internal) and transcendent (external), with immanence being of extreme importance. Deities can manifest at any point in space or time, which They might choose.
Druids believe in the importance of celebrating the solar, lunar and other cycles. Various events such as the solstices, equinoxes and the points in between, as well as the phases of the moon are all observed. Other times of spiritual and community importance, such as the "rites of passage" celebrations of birth, puberty, personal dedication to a given deity or group, marriage, ordination, death, are also recognised as important and are celebrated. Many also believe in some sort of afterlife, usually based on the Spiritualist pattern: rest and recovery in a "Summerland" before reincarnating.
Moral Teachings/Practical Ethics
Druids generally believe that ethics and morality should be based upon joy, self-love and mutual respect, the avoidance of actual harm to others, and the increase of public benefit. Each individual must attempt to balance people's needs for personal autonomy and growth with the necessity of paying attention to the impact of each individual's actions on the lives and welfare of others.
Rites of Passage
In the Druid tradition, each of the great "rites of passage" is marked in the calendar by one of the fire-festivals: death, or Parting, is marked by Samhain, 31 October to 2 November, when the old Celtic year ends and there are three days of No-Time before the new year begins. Birth, and consequently Naming, is marked by Imbolc on I/2 February - the time when the snowdrops appear and we can sense the first stirrings of spring. Mating, the Great Rite of making love, is marked by Beltane on 1 May - when the forces of spring are in full flood. Marriage, the formal recognition of having found a long-term partner after the explorations of the spring time of one's life, is marked by Lughnasadh on 1 August, when the Celts sensibly offered the option of year-long trial marriages. If after the year you were still talking to each other, you could formally "ratify" your marriage at the following Lughnasadh.
As with many other Pagan religious traditions, there are no central texts and no single religious book. The original Druids of the ancient Celts relied heavily on oral teaching. Also, while the basic beliefs were the same, as with all Pagan religions there were minor regional variations in belief and practice.
The Place of Women
Modern Druids believes that divinity is as likely to manifest in a female form as it is in a male form, and that the word "Goddess" makes just as much sense as "God." Women and men are spiritually equal, and "masculine" and "feminine" attitudes, values, and roles are of equal importance.
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