As I mention in my ‘About’ page, I am an atheist who is interested in Druidry and hopefully soon to begin training with the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids (OBOD). Now I know this may seem like a contradiction in terms here, and I am setting myself up for getting flack from both sides, so I thought I might explain what I mean by Druidry and why it interests me.
I’m not talking about trying to re-create what the ancient Celtic Druids did or believed. What we know about them, from secondhand Roman sources, could be written on the back of an envelope and it seems they may have been involved in some pretty nasty stuff that nobody would want to see revived (Wicker Man, anyone?). But from about the 1700s, there has been a loosely affiliated movement of ‘Revival Druidry‘ which is inspired by the Druids as archetypal wise men and women of the forest and has, over the years, come to take the form of various different Druid groups and orders. What most of these have in common is a reverence of nature as the focal point of their philosophy. They celebrate the changing seasons, reflect on our place in the great web of life, practice meditation and also have a great love for art, music and creativity.
Some of these Druid Orders are distinctly religious, Pagan and polytheistic (such as ADF). Others, including OBOD and AODA, are non-dogmatic and open to people of all faiths and none. OBOD-style Druidry can be seen as a spirituality, a philosophy or simply a way of life and requires no particular religious beliefs to take part in. The OBOD website states:
all members are encouraged to believe and practice only those things which they feel are true and right for themselves. There is no dogma in Druidry, which instead is characterised by the qualities of tolerance and an appreciation of diversity. For this reason people with widely differing approaches are members, from Pagans and Wiccans to Christians and Buddhists, and to those with no particular philosophy or religion.
There is even a thriving sub-forum on their discussion board for ‘skeptical Druids’ and there seems to be more than one atheist Druid out there, which is reassuring to say the least! I think it is possible to take the good stuff from Druidry and not have to buy into any New-Age woo, and I hope to take this approach in my own training. There are some areas where I am concerned as an atheist. Many Druids do believe in gods, spirits, magic and all manner of things which I regard as unscientific and untrue. If I were to call myself a Druid, would I be providing a cover for the real weird beliefs? I don’t honestly know and that might be the point at which I diverge from Druidry-as-practice and just call myself an atheist who is interested in Druidry-as-philosophy.
The training course itself is split into three grades, that of Bard, Ovate and finally Druid and should take between 3 and 5 years to complete, so it should keep me busy for a long while to come! I will be blogging my thoughts and experiences as I go, and I’m sure I will end up changing my mind many times!