By Tony Taylor & Wren Taylor
The small, dark haired girl eyed me owlishly. Her mother stood directly behind her with her hands resting lightly on the child’s shoulders. She explained that her daughter’s classmates told her that Druids were evil, and if she ever met one, surely she would be sacrificed to Satan in an instant. This is the reason that she brought the child to my presentation. The woman wanted her daughter to see for herself that people who follow a different religious path are nice, normal people, with jobs and kids.
I received an invitation to speak at a Unitarian church in suburban Minneapolis. The congregation was interested in learning more about paganism in general and more specifically Druidism. Dressed in a sport coat and tie, I focused on our similarities rather than our differences, and continued that theme into the question and answer period. The queries were intelligent and pointed.
As the end of the session neared, a gentleman said that I made my point regarding similarities; however, he was more interested in the differences. In a space that was just more than a heartbeat, I blurted out, “Dominion over the Earth.” That’s when the fun began.
Relationship to Nature.
Druids of all types develop a personal relationship with the Earth. Understanding the three Celtic Worlds of Earth, Sea, and Sky is fundamental to Keltrian Druidism. Also, developing a close relationship with all creatures, seen and unseen is important to many Druids. Within Druidism, nature is not separate from man nor was it given to man for his domination nor even stewardship. Nature is not something to be subdued nor overcome; people are a part of nature and need to live in harmony with it.
Archdruid Karl summarized it extremely well. “One of the essential differences between mainstream Christianity and Druidry is traditional Christianity’s vision of self-fulfilling alienation: in alienating itself from the world, it also alienates humankind not only from direct contact with Divinity, but also from the natural world and from themselves as well. In that unnecessary chasm, “redemption” occurs only within a narrowly defined relationship with their nominally singular god and that god’s exclusive chosen people (or church). Thus, mainstream Christianity lives out a mythos of exile along with hope for only a partial redemption. It can never be whole because the wholeness of each human being is not admissible. It is a distortion of an ancient myth of incarnation that should result in ever-widening circles of soul-expansion that lead not only to a higher state, but a deeper one as well – roots growing not only into the heavens, but deeply into the earth as well.”
The connection that Druids have with the earth and all its creatures is a defining characteristic of Druidism.
Relationship to Divinity
Christians and Keltrian Druids have complex views of divinity. Many Christians believe in one God; however, polytheism underlies much of Christian thought when describing the Trinity. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are often viewed and treated as individual entities. Druids embrace a wide range of perceptions regarding deity from monotheism to polytheism and even panpolytheism. Others hold the concept that individual gods and goddesses are aspects of or manifestations of a single, unifying, unmanifest deity.
One key difference is Keltrian Druids are not told what they must believe; rather, if they follow the ritual formula, they are practicing Keltrian Ritual. In Keltrian Druid practice, the individual is free to experience the gods and goddesses in a way that suits his or her sensibilities. The idea is that deity is flexible. We do not dictate dogma.
Relationship to Life
Keltrian Druid belief #4 states, “We believe that all life is sacred and should neither be harmed nor taken without deliberation or regard.” Druid practice encourages us to live life in its fullness and develop our spiritual relationships with this world, the Otherworld, and everything in our universe. Animals and plants are not resources to be exploited nor dominated. Rather, we seek cooperation with them.
As mentioned previously, man is not separate from the world. Keltrian Druids interact with the divine and its endless aspects and manifestations in the natural world. We are not dependent upon external redemption nor a Messiah for salvation. Each individual must cultivate their own growth and evolution through the development of personal, social, and spiritual relationships with all life and with all spiritual entities. Life is a wonderful thing. It should not be filled with terror, pain, and suffering.
One of the key goals of Druid life is the mastery of wisdom. A Christian approach to viewing the world usually limits perception to two options such as yes/no, good/bad, black/white. To gain wisdom, Keltrian Druidism encourages practitioners to employ triads in problem solving. The Druid looks for alternate ways to understand the Earth, her inhabitants and the universe. There is always a third perspective to consider and understand; sometimes there are more. Certainly there are some techniques that can be used to simplify the process. For example, how does a particular issue affect Mind, Body, and Spirit? Employing the specialized disciplines of the Bard, Seer, and Druid, how do these perspectives enhance the understanding of a particular issue? A dualistic view of a situation or question creates argument and righteousness. A triadic view creates discussion. compromise and creative solutions.
As an exercise, try to balance a playing card on the tips of two fingers extended in a peace sign. It can be done, but it is unstable. Now add a third so that your fingers resemble the legs of a three-legged stool. The card is now stable. This demonstrates thinking in triads. Referring to the black/white example of dualistic thinking, the third leg of the stool - the triad - is not grey. Grey merely continues on the same line, the same path. The triad is pink, or sunset. Perhaps it’s a coffee pot. It needs to be a totally different perspective. This is difficult to master; however, you will succeed with practice.
Druidic religion changes; the beliefs, practices, and relationships of modern Keltrian Druids would be unfamiliar to Druids of a hundred years ago and alien to the Druids of the ancient past. Druids adapt to a changing environment as the relationships between them and the spirits around them evolve. Codifying beliefs into creeds in response to millennia-old heresies is not in the Druidic playbook.
Texts are not sacred because they were handed down by the divine; rather, they are sacred if they produce the effect of making our spiritual relationships with others stronger. Likewise, a place becomes sacred when its effect is to foster stronger or better-defined spiritual relationships with others.
For example, although my relationship with trees is significantly different from an ancient Druid’s, we both would have a profound experience encountering a giant sequoia for the first time. The way in which we experience such an encounter may be very different, but the importance and the impact of the experience would significant for both of us.
The Henge and Keltrian Druids adapt to new discoveries and scholarship. If recognized experts agree on an aspect of a new discovery, which affects our practice, we embrace it.
Most Druids see time as cyclical. It is a world without end; there is no “end of days” nor a linear creation of all. Was there a “big bang” which started it all? Probably. Could it have been the aftermath of another universe, which collapsed into a singularity to start the cycle of our universe? Quite possibly. All things come into existence, have a life, and then cease to exist only to nourish the birth (and become part of) of something new.
Three Foundations in Keltrian Druidism
Keltrian Druidism is a complex set of beliefs and practices. Individuals are free to interpret the information gleened from the required reading and come to their own conclusions as long as they are in direct support of the three foundations of Keltrian Druidism:
- Honor the Ancestors.
- Revere the Nature Spirits
- Worship the Gods and Goddesses of our Tribe.
In my preparation to speak with the Unitarians so many years ago, I focused upon the similarities of our traditions. How were Druids the same as other traditions the Unitarians would know and understand? Persecution exists today, but twenty years ago the atmosphere was extremely hostile. We wanted to demonstrate that we were not all that different. We merely had a different perception of the universe and our relationship to it.
During my visit I grew in my understanding of the differences between Druids and other religions and learned much of what makes those differences important. And the little Unitarian learned that Druids may be a little different, but they don’t have two heads and really aren’t very scary.