- Category: Following the Path
Being Druid Today
by John Michael Greer
The original Druids, the priestly caste of ancient Celtic peoples in Britain, Ireland, and Gaul, went extinct more than a millennium ago. Very little information about them survived the centuries: a few scrappy second- and third-hand references in Greek and Roman texts, a few stories in Irish legends written down centuries after the coming of Christianity, and the ambiguous testimony of archaeology. Despite generations of hard work by scholars and archaeologists, the honest answer to most questions about the ancient Druids is still “we don’t know.”
For 300 years, though, the meager heritage of the ancient Druids has inspired people to follow a Druid path themselves. The historical setting of the Druid Revival makes it easy to understand why: the time of modern Druidry’s emergence also saw the Industrial Revolution, and the triumph of an ideology that sees nature purely as a source of raw materials and a place to dump waste.
From the dawn of the eighteenth century on, those who set out to craft a spirituality and a way of life in harmony with nature, found in the ancient Druids a potent symbol of their hopes. The image of a priest-hood of nature, worshipping in oak groves and stone circles beneath the open sky, inspired pioneering Druids such as John Toland and William Stukeley to propose a nature-centered Druidry profoundly relevant to the modern age. The result was the Druid Revival — a movement of nature spirituality which has flourished now for 300 years. This movement is inspired by the ancient Druids but draws freely on many spiritual traditions from around the world, united by a passionate reverence for the living Earth and a tradition of tolerance within which Druids of many different paths can work and worship together in peace. This vision of Druidry still guides many Druids today, and has deep roots in the cultural imagination of the Western world.