Who can be a druid?

Recently I found my self at a party in the north (well, Småland…) and after a while the subject turned to the meaning of the word druid. What does it mean to be a druid? Who decides who can call him/her self a druid? Does the word druid mean anything if it means different things to everyone? Neina recently blogged about all this, and I thought I’d add my two ¢ to the mix.

What does the word mean? This is a tricky question, even though it seems it would mean something like “the wise one” in a literal sense, even though we are not quite sure. But that is a general term if ever there was one. But it still offers an interesting thought. If it means that the person attached to that epithet is wise, that would suggest that you have to earn the title from someone. But who would that be? An election-style grove? Certainly. Given that the grove and/or order in question is anything like reasonable, getting your self chosen to become a druid should be a guarantee that you do hold some wisdom, at least in the eyes of the elders of that grove/order. In addition it could be an application style one as well, since the goal would be the same: screening. Possibly your friends could refer to you as “a wise one” as well, that is; society gives you the title, but needless to say, that is a lot less common these days…

Arhc Druid in Robe

So, it would seem that if you define “druid” as someone who is wise, then you can’t really give your self that title. But at the same time, I do think you could use it as a solitary for instance. That would mean though, that the literal meaning of druid means less to be wise. You can call your own person wise, but in the tradition of Socrates, that would be considered unwise… In the discussions at said party, most seem to hold the position that anyone could call them selves druids, as long as they were true druids. Needlessly to say, there is a flaw or two in that argument. Also they were very keen on separating wicca/witches and druids by saying that wiccans were much more dogmatic, needing paraphernalia and physical altars to do their thing. That is an issue for another day, as I do not agree.

Thinking about it, it doesn’t bother me that people call them selves druids. But, at the same time, the word needs to be defined in other ways. My thoughts on this would be that true persons would know if they can call them selves druids or not, but the world doesn’t work that way. Maybe the simple truth is that it has to be defined through deeds rather than definitions, at least in the solitary sense. If you do x you are a druid. What would x be? Well, I would list a certain respect for nature, connections with the spirits and gods, a will to know and learn etc. But it is still not enough of a definition.

Does this render the word meaningless? Yes, and no. In essence it could be argued that all the words we use are meaningless. They mean what they mean, because we have decided to decipher them in common ways. So to complicate matters further, I think that you can call your self a druid, and also say that someone else is not a druid, provided that you also define what you mean by being or not being a druid. 

Problems will arise in the confrontation between solitaries and grove members. I think the only way to solve that gordian knot, is to add “solitary” or “initiatory” as an epithet to the title.

Thus, in conclusion, I think that anyone can call him/her self a druid, but they need to realise that it is a complicated term, and they need to be ready to answer questions about why they call them selves that. If the answer is simply: “I’m initiated”, then fair cop to you. But if it’s you are a solitary druid, be prepared to talk of your deeds.

Obviously there are other questions surrounding this issue, and not everyone would agree with me. But this is a start. Let’s not forget, that even though the seeds of the neopagan tree are old, the tree it self is actually, at best, only circa a hundred years old. And maybe we need to accept that even if a tree has only one stem, it does have plenty of branches and roots.

/ | \ Thobias

 

Image courtesy of Wikipedia.
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6 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by neina on June 12, 2008 at 11:43 am

    Great post! Same questions as I wrote about, but much easier to follow, more philosophical. Also, looking forward to you post on wicca.

    Floreat!
    neina

    Reply

  2. Interesting… I never realised that this issues of what Druids are, what they do, if they exist, and who makes them Druids was such a confusing issues to anyone. I’ll assume that you’re not being facetious and reply with my own thoughts on the subject.

    Here is what we are taught: Anyone who claims a title like “Druid” or “Priest/ess” is someone whose life is in service to the higher good. If they are only serving their own pleasure then they have a vanity title (i.e. a title without any real authority outside their own egos).

    You gain authority not from your training, but by virtue of your words and deeds. Druids love demonstrations of skills as proof of a person’s claims to titles, and while most modern people hate this idea it is actually the only way you can really know if someone is what they say they are, isn’t it?

    You can be self-taught in the sense of having teachers who are spirit guides or ancestors, etc., you can be taught by an independent (solitary) mentor, or you can be Grove taught. No matter which way you are taught, if you are receiving authentic Druid training what you learn will reflect certain key understandings, beliefs, methods, and skills in common with other Druids — wherever you may find them in the historical timeline. If it doesn’t, it may still have value but it’s not Druidism.

    In general, Druids are natural philosophers and metaphysical scientists whose spirituality is tied to indigenous and Celtic cultural values, worldviews, and belief systems. (See the Celtic lore for clear references to “native Druids” versus “Celtic Druids” in the Isles and Britany). Some would also argue for the time of Arthur, and since there is late Celtic literature to support this idea I won’t argue the point. Early Druidism resembled shamanism in many ways and practice tended to be collective, and integrated with the wider community; later Druidism was more ceremonial in nature and was isolated from the wider community either because the Druids had sequestered themselves in “Colleges” or because they were wandering the hedgerows to avoid persecution. In both cases, the goals remained the same, and the same is true today.

    Toss out all that stuff from Caesar and the classicists. There is plenty of information contained in Celtic literature and the folklore collected from the Isles to tells us the kinds of rituals and magics that the later Celts performed, as well as what they nicked from their predecessors. People who believe what Druids believed and do what Druids did as a way of life (and not a weekend hobby) are Druids. People who do not do these things as a way of life are not Druids.

    As for the term “Druid”, it derives from the proto-Celtic, a root language that is still being reconstructed. Present thinking is that it means “Wood-wise” or “Oak-wise”. Ultimately, we can’t be sure that this term is actually one that originates with the Druids, or one that was applied to them and which they later adopted for convenience sake when corresponding with foreigners or recording things for wider audiences. So the real question in my mind is what did they call themselves if they didn’t call themselves ‘Druids’?

    My vote goes for “The Order of the Wise”.

    Well, hope you enjoyed that. If you were being facetious then no doubt you’re having a good giggle just about now, but hey. It was a good chance to practice reciting some lore, and what Druid would pass that up?

    Bendithion Afallon

    Reply

  3. Posted by Thobias Vemmenby on December 11, 2008 at 4:10 pm

    Hi Morgaine, and welcome.

    No, I am not being facetious these were questions discussed at that time, and I just had to comment on them here. I did not giggle but I do know and agree on most of it, being an initiate my self.

    I retrospect I have to admitt that some of my writing stemmed from being frustrated with some of the other people at said meeting. I felt there was a lot of wicca bashing and feling supperior to other Druids without just cause.

    Thank you for you response though, it was very intressting. I’ve started looking around at your site. Seems intressting. Is it women only?

    Oh, and when you speak of “spiritual midwifery”, is that in a socratesian sense, or do you have a different defenition? Just curious!

    Anyway, may all your Gods and Goddesses bless you and your tribe.

    / | \ Taran MacDuir/Thobias

    Reply

  4. Posted by neina on December 13, 2008 at 12:39 am

    Morgaine,

    Thank you for your resourceful comment! Also, it is very interesting to read on your site.

    To clarify, the discussion, where the question of the concept ‘Druid’ was questioned, was in a philosophical sense: Questioning and comparing different definitions and their respective pros and cons. The discussion was around hypothetical issues, in order to illuminate and clarify where we actually stand.

    As a simple example: I could, philosophically speaking, say that since so many different people, with such different training (or none at all) earn or simply take the title of Druid – does the word Druid itself then still contain any meaning? Or is it rendered meaningLESS when it is used in too many different ways?I can ponder this and discuss this, without myself actually believing that the word IS meaningless. I am just trying to get clarity from as many angles as possible.

    I love the saying “Still confused, but on a higher level”! And to me, that is the core of Druidism: To ever search for more clarity; to strive towards more Truth (but never to claim to have found THE truth); to ever be more Alive and in touch with Reality.

    Brightest Blessings!
    neina

    Reply

  5. Posted by Jeff on May 5, 2009 at 8:40 pm

    This is long after the original post, I know! As I just came across it, though, I wondered if I could add my two cents.

    I’ve been studying Paganism for a few years now, and committed myself to following the Druidic path about 2 years ago. I’ve studied and done ritual with a grove and as a solitary (solitary being my status at the moment.) I feel I’ve learned a lot, and I’ve got a really good sense of what I think being a Druid comprises; but I wouldn’t presume to call myself one anytime soon. I will tell others I’m following the Druidic path, or a student on the Druidic path… but I know I’ve lots more to learn and experience before I would feel at all comfortable naming myself as such.

    I know of others who feel free to name themselves so, and I won’t dispute them outright. However, I’ve noticed also that many of them have a different definition of Druidry than I; less scholarly study and knowledge, and more the general concept of honoring the Earth. I wouldn’t call myself superior to them; I will say our definitions are different, and I’m comfortable with my understanding of it.

    All that said, this was a very well written post, and well thought-out responses! I enjoyed reading this!

    Be well!
    Jeff

    Reply

  6. This blog is basically excellent, I assumed I do know a great deal, but I’m so mistaken, like the previous saying the more you already know, the added you locate out how little you know. Thanks for the info.

    Reply

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