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Modern Druidry

I created a section for Modern Druidry under “Modern Pagan Religions” because although many people may picture Druidry as being essentially Celtic, many modern Druid groups have scopes that go beyond Celtic cultures. For example, Ár nDraíocht Féin (ADF) encompasses all Indo-European traditions and the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids (OBOD) claims to incorporate pre-Celtic and post-Celtic ideas into its programs. In July, 2004, I gave a class comparing and contrasting six modern Druid groups; the notes from that class can be found here.

Carr-Gomm, Philip. The Druid Renaissance: The Voice of Druidry Today. London: Thorsons, 1996.

This contains a series of essays by various authors about modern Druidry, its history and practices. If you are interested in learning more about the many forms of modern Druidry and how it has developed (and is developing), this is a good choice. (SR)

Freeman, Mara. Kindling the Celtic Spirit: Ancient Traditions to Illumine Your Life Throughout the Seasons. New York: HarperSanFrancisco, 2001. Hardback ISBN: 0-06-251685-X; paperback ISBN: 0-06-251686-8.

The books is divided into twelve themed chapters, one for each month. Each chapter contains stories and myths relating to the theme, practical crafts and exercises that help readers immerse themselves in the them, sections on holy places, animals, trees, recipes and a meditation.

I have positive feelings and mixed thoughts about this book. I have found the exercises and meditations very inspiring and very helpful in developing a spiritual understanding of seasonal changes. I do not think that this is a book that will teach the reader much about “ancient” Celtic spiritual practices.

Ms. Freeman seems to have a different definition of “ancient” that I use. For me, the word refers to that which is prior to the fall of the Roman Empire. It seems that very few of the folkways and customs can be documented to date that early. Based on my studies in Celtic cultures so far, I doubt that what is presented here as “ancient” Celtic bears much resemblance to the spiritual practices of the ancient Celts. Kindling the Celtic Spirit seems an amalgamation of what is believed to be remnants of ancient spirituality hidden in relatively recent folk practices and Western Mystery Traditions.

I do have some quibbles with her use of the generic term “Celtic” when she is speaking only of Insular Celts. While she states that her book is only about Insular Celts in her introduction, it would have been less misleading if she had used “insular” before mentions of “Celtic” unless she really was speaking for all of the Celtic peoples. For example, on page 12, she implies that all Iron Age Celts lived in and used circular structures, when such structures are found mostly in British Island and Ireland while continental Iron Age Celts tended to have rectangular structures.

In spite of the historical weaknesses of the book, I do feel that the inspirational value makes it a worthwhile addition to the bookshelf. The reader should use the information given here as a stepping stone to further research in these subjects and the solid, if brief, bibliography provides an excellent starting place. (SR)

Kondratiev, Alexei. The Apple Branch. San Francisco, California, U.S.: Collins Publishers, 1998.

A refreshingly different approach to reconstructing Celtic religions — or more accurately — to constructing a modern pan-Celtic religion based on close observance of what is known of not only ancient Celtic cultures, but also modern Celtic cultures. (SR)

The next three books I will comment on as a group, because they are similar in scope, size, and intended audience.

Orr, Emma Restall. Thorson’s Principles of Druidry. London: Thorsons, 1999

Shallcrass. Philip. Druidry: A Practical and Inspirational Guide. London: Judy Piatkus Ltd, 2000

Worthington, Cairistiona (Christine). Druids: A Beginner’s Guide. Hodder, 1999.

These are all intended to be be short (most are around 100 pages in a small format) introductions to modern Druidry as practiced in two British Druid groups: the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids (OBOD), and the British Druid Order (BDO). Of this writing, Orr and Shallcrass are the joints Chiefs of BDO and have been affiliated with OBOD; Worthington is an officer of OBDO. Yet, each of these books have a different focus and flavor.

Orr's book is very lyrical and emphasizes connecting with the natural world. Shallcrass offers more down-to-earth information about the circle and the ritual year and an introduction to each of the different grades of Bard, Ovate and Druid. Worthington focuses on beginning training of of a Bard.

The three of these books together are a worthy introduction to British forms of modern Druidry. Sadly, Worthington's book can be difficult to find, and Shallcrass's took some effort to find, too. Orr's book (as of August 2001) was in plentiful supply. (SR)

Orr, Emma Restall. Ritual: A Druid’s Guide to Life, Love & Inspiration. London: Thorsons, 2000

Ms. Orr writes very lyrically about the process of creating and developing ritual. I have found much in this book to think about and incorporate into my own practice. This, however, is a book to be savored bit by bit rather than read continuously. (SR)

Sutton, Maya Magee and Nicholas R. Mann. Druid Magic: The Practice of Celtic Wisdom. St. Paul, Minnesota, US: Llewellyn Publications, 2000.

The exercises and information seem to be based on solid historical research and on literary studies. I have found the exercises to be interesting and useful. (SR)

Modern Druid Organizations

Ancient Order of Druids in America (AODA)

Ár nDraíocht Féin (ADF)

British Druid Order (BDO)

The Druid Network

The Henge of Keltria

Reformed Druids of North America (RDNA)

Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids (OBOD)

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