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Black Elk

Is Druidry a Spiritual Teaching or a Culture?

Published by Philip Carr-Gomm

Here, perhaps, is a key to understanding the nature of Druidry today: it is not, in my understanding, a specific stream of spiritual teaching, but instead a heritage, a culture, with very interesting – at times eccentric and often unclear – characteristics quite unlike, though related to, other cultures.

Let me clarify the statement that it is not ‘a specific stream of spiritual teaching’ because this statement could easily be misunderstood. Critics of the modern Druid movement point to the fact that it is ‘made up’ – that very little is known of the original Druid practise or teachings. Defenders of the movement point to the fact that modern Druidry has over two centuries of recorded history, and that anyway someone has always ‘made it up’, and that making stuff up recently may even be preferable to making it up a long time ago when the world was a very different place. Nevertheless, even the staunchest defender will have the odd sleepless night when they worry about the fact that Druids today cannot fall back upon a heritage of spiritual teachings that have been transmitted and elaborated upon over many centuries. Instead we have, for example, the ideas of Morganwg the forger from the 18th century, which have indeed created a heritage of several centuries, but one which today only informs a minority of what is believed and practised by most Druids, and which some feel to be an embarrassment.

The spiritual teachings that have evolved in Druidry over the last two centuries have been the result of individuals informing their knowledge of folklore, mythology, the old tales and history with their experience of other religions such as Christianity, particularly during the Revival period, and more recently psychology, Wicca, Buddhism and so on.

Individual teachers will have their biases but no one teacher can, or should, claim that they are teaching ‘true’, ‘ancient’ or the only kind of Druidry worth studying.

Spiritual ideas and methods are at the heart of Druidry, but they have evolved from many sources including the Western Mystery Tradition, Jungian psychology, Wicca, even Native American, Buddhist and Shamanic teachings. This is a good thing – modern Druidry is part of the Perennial Wisdom Tradition, and benefits from the understandings of modern psychology, and religious and indigenous teachings from around the world. But what makes it NOT an eclectic New Age hotch-potch is the fact that Druidry today is more than the sum of the various spiritual ideas and practices that have evolved over the last two hundred years. It is a specific culture, a particular heritage with its own history and traditions which we can delineate and which speaks to many people today.

Philip Carr-Gomm
2013