A Guide to Alternative Religions

And Their Opponents (Vers. 2.0)

Chapter 5


Elements of the Druid Tradition   by Philip Carr-Gomm,  available at an occult bookstore near you. He also includes addresses for the UK Druid movements, including Kaledon Naddair's College of Druidism and the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids. You can also order this book from:

Celtic Myth and Fantasy, P.O. Box 33284, Minneapolis, MN 55433.

**WebMaster's Note: This book is currently out of print. An excellent book  (and others) by the same author is available through my On-Line Book Store :
The Druid Way (Earth Quest)
 ~ Usually ships in 2-3 days Philip Carr-Gomm / Paperback / Published 1993  Our Price: $12.76 ~ **

Ask for the price and a list of other titles; they have a lot of great stuff on the Celtic mysteries including _Elements of the Celtic Way_ by Caitlin Matthews, another great read for people starting out in this way, though it contains some misinformation and historical fuzziness. A third good book is _The Sacred Cauldron: Secrets of the Druids_ by Tadgh Mac Crossan, Llewellyn Publications. This book, besides providing a lot of good general information, describes the ways of Druidiactos, the modern Druid movement Mac Crossan founded and leads.

Two U.S. Druid movements and addresses:

The Henge of Keltria
P.O. Box 33284
Mpls. MN 55433
Their journal, *Keltria*, may be reached from the same address.

P.O. Box 472143
Garland Texas 75047
Their official journal, *Parios Andumni*, may be reached via
Taranucnos Esugenos, Ed.
2922 South Marvin Ave.
Tucson AZ 85730.


(c) 1984 P. E. I. Bonewits
Reprinted from "The Druids' Progress" #1

As many of you may know (perhaps from reading my book "Real Magic" or Margot Adler's "Drawing Down the Moon"), I've been a priest of the Reformed Druids of North America ("RDNA") since 1969. I've led groves (congregations) in Berkeley and Minneapolis, and founded others elsewhere; published newsletters (both Druidic and general Neo-pagan); and wrote most of, edited and produced "The Druid Chronicles Evolved", (the closest thing to official scriptures the RDNA has). I'm also a priest and elder of the Craft, and I've been a Neo-pagan magician and occultist for nearly twenty years.

I've studied, practiced and written about many different forms of magic and religion over the years, yet always I find myself going back to Druidism. Many people have written to me to tell of similar spiritual histories, of their knowledge that they are meant to walk a Druid path. Yet what can we, who wish to worship and to grow as Neo-pagan Druids, do for fellowship? The Masonic Druids have much to teach us, yet they are not Neo-pagan. The "Druidic" traditions of Wicca are interesting, but they're not really very Druidic. The members of the RDNA have no interest at all in being organized by anyone, nor in recruiting and training would-be Neo-pagan Druids. There doesn't seem to be any organized group of people trying to reconstruct what the Paleopagan Druids actually believed and did, nor trying to apply such knowledge to creating a Neo-pagan religion fit for the Space Age.

What can we do? We can do it ourselves! Thanks to the work of such scholars as Dumezil, Ross, Piggott, Duran and others, we now have a sizable amount of realistic data about Indo-European Paleopaganism and its clergy. But how do we apply this knowledge to creating a modern Neo-pagan religion? What does it mean to be a Druid in the 1980's? Using accurate information as a starting point, how do we create rituals and fellowship, art and music, polytheologies and lifestyles that will give meaning to our lives and those of others?

Well, of course, I have my own vision of Neo-pagan Druidism. I see Druids as artists and intellectuals, magicians and clergy, holders of the highest wisdom their cultures (or subcultures) have to offer. This is what they used to be, and what (with sufficient hard work and dedication) they could be again. A number of people have told me that they share my vision and approve of the ways in which I think it could be accomplished. So, after a great deal of soul-searching, I've decided to try once again to see what I can do to create a form of "reconstructionist" Neo-pagan Druidism.

This is an announcement of, and an invitation for your participation in, the creation of: Ar nDraiocht Fein. The Irish words (pronounced "arn ree- ocht fane") mean "Our own Druidism," and that's what I have in mind -- a brand new form of Druidism, not just Pan-Celtic, but Pan-European. By this latter term, I mean to include all of the European branches of the Indo-European culture and language tree -- Celtic, Germanic, Slavic, Baltic, even the pre-Classical Greek & Roman. Paradoxically, this would resemble the original Paleopagan Druidism far more than any efforts of the last thousand years. It would be based on the best scholarly research available, combined with what has been learned (about art, psychology, small group politics and economics) through the theory and practice of modern Neo-paganism, and my own knowledge of the polytheological and practical details of magical and religious phenomena.

I've already started this project, through the organizing of my notes and the beginning of a new book. The purpose of "The Druid Handbook" will be to enable anyone who has a copy to start up their own Druidic grove, or to practice as a solitary Druid. Everything necessary will be included: history, polytheology, liturgy, legal structures, art and music, calendars and customs, etc.

ADF is an idea I have been wrestling with for years: a Neo-pagan Druid Order whose members would not be ashamed to honestly compare themselves with the original Druids. This requires mature, dedicated and talented people who are willing to invest both time and energy over a long period (remember, the original Druids took up to twenty years each to be fully trained, and they had an intact tradition).

At this point in the birthing process, details are in short supply, but the general outlines are becoming increasingly clear. I can at least give you some specific ideas as to what Ar nDraiocht Fein will and won't be:

ADF will be a Neo-pagan religion based on solid (but imaginative) scholarship in the fields of linguistics, Indo-European studies, comparative religion, archeology, anthropology, Celtic & Norse & Baltic & Slavic studies, history, musicology and polytheology. The scholars we will be basing our research on include Georges Dumezil, Mircea Eliade, Anne Ross, Stuart Piggott, G. S. Littleton, Marie-Louise Sjoestedt, Proinsias MacCana, Myles Dillon, Nora Chadwick, etc. We will not be accepting Lewis Spence, Margaret Murray, Robert Graves, Merlin Stone, H. P. Blavatsky or Iolo Morganwg as scholarly authorities (although some of them may provide poetic inspiration now and then). If we have to fill in gaps in our knowledge with our own imagination, spiritual visions and/or borrowings from non-IE sources, we will go ahead and do so, but always in full awareness of what we are doing (and with full documentation of the process).

ADF will be developing a slow, careful and steady system of training for Druidic clergy, equivalent to that gone through by professional clergy in other religions. We will not be in any hurry to initiate people (though we may create and publish self-dedication rituals for the first level of participation), since an obsession with rank and titles is usually counterproductive to actual spiritual, artistic and scholarly growth. A correspondence course has been suggested and I'm willing to give it serious consideration, once we have the basics figured out.

Although our primary focus will be on the beliefs and practices of our Indo-European ancestors, and on how these can be adapted to modern circumstances, we will not tolerate racism or nonsense about "Aryan blood." The Indo-Europeans were a motley assortment of tribes speaking related languages -- not a "race." All of our ancestors are of mixed blood, and most of the black people in America have (however involuntarily) some European genes. So anybody, regardless of their race or color, who is sincerely interested in participating in ADF will be made welcome. Similarly, the IE peoples are known to have had both male and female clergy, and those tribes influenced by shamanistic practices frequently had clergy who were ambiguous in their gender identification. For these historical reasons, as well as the fact that ADF is a Neo-pagan religion, we will not tolerate sexism nor restrict membership or rank on the basis of gender or affectional preferences. Having said all that, let me add that I have no intentions of letting extremists of any persuasion use ADF for purposes not in keeping with our original goals.

We will have a carefully structured hierarchy, based on actual skills and knowledge obtained and demonstrated, with both upward and downward mobility. The training system will involve the setting of specific standards in all the areas necessary for functioning at the different levels, and these standards will be published in the Handbook and widely disseminated throughout the Neo-pagan media, in order to prevent false claims of rank. Our primary approach is going to be the attainment not just of competency, but of excellence. Democratic safeguards will be built in, but we do not expect everyone in ADF to be qualified for (or even interested in) attaining the rank of clergy. After all, the original Druids were only a small percentage of their Paleopagan communities, and not everyone has (or needs) a clerical vocation. Nor will rank in other Neo-pagan organizations guarantee equivalent rank in ADF, since we have no way of knowing what standards other groups are using, nor how strictly enforced they are.

The Ancient Druids were polytheists rather than mono- or duo-theists; so our main approach will be a pluralistic one. We are not going to promote any One True Right and Only Way of Druidism, merely whatever happens to work for us. This means, among other things, that we intend to maintain friendly relations with as many other Druid organizations as possible, and will encourage our members to investigate these alternate Druid paths.

We are going to take our time putting the whole system together. Based on solid research and a knowledge of the mistakes made by other Neo-pagan groups in the past, we can create something magnificent. But like an oak tree, it will take time to become strong, and we have no intentions of trying to force its growth. Within two to three years we should get the primary seeds plant-ed. Then the results will be up to the individuals who have heard the trees whispering in their ears, and who know that they are meant to walk a Druid way.


(c) 1984 P. E. I. Bonewits
Reprinted from "The Druids' Progress" #1

Here's a brief introduction to the basic beliefs that I expect will characterize most members of ADF (a Neo-pagan Druid organization). These spiritual beliefs are similar to most of those held by other Neopagans (see Margot Adler's book, "Drawing Down the Moon") and the similarities are far more important than whatever specific distinctions of doctrine or ethnic focus there might be between us and other Neopagans. I should also mention that not all Neopagans who consider themselves Druids will necessarily agree with every point of the following list. Nonetheless, these beliefs will be the roots of ADF's polytheology, the source of the spiritual grove we seek to plant.

1) We believe that divinity is both immanent (internal) and transcendent (external). We see the Gods as being able to manifest at any point in space or time, including within human beings, which they might choose, although they may often have their preferences. Often this develops among some Neopagans into pantheism ("the physical world is divine") or panentheism ("the Gods are everywhere"). We tend more towards the latter position.

2) We believe that divinity is as likely to manifest in a female form as it is in a male form, and that therefore women and men are spiritually equal. We insist on a dynamic balance between female and male deities honored and/or invoked at every ceremony, and a strict gender balance in whatever theories of polytheology that we eventually develop. We're "liberals" about women's rights and gay rights, but not "radicals;" that is to say, we're unwilling to subordinate all our other principles in order to promote this particular principle. People who wish to make feminism or gay activism the absolute center of all their spiritual activity will probably be happier in other groups.

3) We believe in a multiplicity of gods and goddesses, all of whom are likely to be worthy of respect, love and worship. Some-times we believe in these divinities as individual and independent entities; sometimes as Jungian "archetypes of the collective unconscious" or "circuits in the psychic Switchboard;" some-times as aspects or faces of one or two major deities (the "High God/dess" and/or "the Goddess and the Horned God"); and sometimes as "all of the above!" We feel that this sort of flexibility leads to pluralism (instead of monism), multi-valued logic systems and an increased tolerance of other people's beliefs and lifestyles. All of these are vital if our species is ever going to learn to live in peace and harmony amid a multiplicity of human cultures.

4) We believe that it is necessary to have a respect and love for Nature as divine in her own right, and to accept ourselves as a part of Nature and not as her "rulers." We tend to accept what has come to be known as "the Gaia hypothesis," that the biosphere of our planet is a living being, who is due all the love and support that we, her children, can give her. This is especially important in our modern era, when 3000 years of monotheistic belief that "mankind is to have dominion over the Earth" have come close to destroying the ability of the biosphere to maintain itself. Many Neo-pagan groups refer to themselves as "Earth religions" and this is a title which we believe Neo-pagan Druidism should proudly claim, and which we should work to earn. Thus we consider ecological awareness and activism to be sacred duties. If the ecology, conservation and anti-nuclear movements are ever to have "chaplains," we should be among them.

5) We believe in accepting the positive aspects of western science and technology, but in maintaining an attitude of wariness towards their supposed ethical neutrality. The overwhelming majority of Neopagans are technophiles, not technophobes. We tend to be better scientifically educated than the general population, and thus we have a religious duty to speak out about the economic, political and ecological uses and abuses of science and technology.

6) We share with most other Neopagans a distaste for monolithic religious organizations and would-be messiahs and gurus. Obviously, this places the founders of Neo-pagan religious traditions in a complex position: they need enough religious authority to focus the organizations they're founding, but not so much as to allow them (or their successors) to become oppressive. Since the pluralistic approach denies the existence of any One True Right and Only Way, and since Neopagans insist upon their own human fallibility, we expect to be able to steer ADF between the Scylla of tyranny and the Charybdis of anarchy.

7) In keeping with this, we believe that healthy religions should have a minimum amount of dogma and a maximum amount of eclectism and flexibility. Neopagans tend to be reluctant to accept any idea without personally investigating both its practicality and its long-range consequences. They are also likely to take useful ideas from almost any source that doesn't run too fast to get away. We intend ADF to be a "reconstructionist" tradition of Druidism, but we know that eventually concepts from nonDruidic sources will be grafted on to our trees. There's no harm in this, as long as we stay aware of what we are doing at every step of the way, and make a legitimate effort to find authentic (and therefore spiritually and esthetically congruent) parallels in genuine Indo- European sources first. As for flexibility, Neo-pagan Druidism is an organic religion, and like all other organisms it can be expected to grow, change and produce offshoots as the years go by.

8) We believe that ethics and morality should be based upon joy, self- love and respect; the avoidance of actual harm to others; and the increase of public benefit. We try to balance out people's needs for personal autonomy and growth, with the necessity of paying attention to the impact of each individual's actions on the lives and welfare of others. The commonest Neo-pagan ethical expression is "If it doesn't hurt anyone, do what you like." Most Neopagans believe in some variant or another of the principle of karma, and state that the results of their actions will always return to them. It's difficult for ordinary humans to successfully commit "offenses against the Gods," short of major crimes such as ecocide or genocide, and our deities are perfectly capable of defending their own honor without any help from mortal busybodies. We see the traditional monotheistic concepts of sin, guilt and divine retribution for thought- crimes as sad misunderstandings of natural growth experiences.

9) We believe that human beings were meant to lead lives filled with joy, love, pleasure, beauty and humor. Most Neopagans are fond of food, drink, music, sex and bad puns, and consider all of these (except possibly the puns) to be sacraments. Although the ancient Druids appear to have had ascetics within their ranks, they also had a sensualist tradition, and the common folk have always preferred the latter. Neo-pagan Druids try to keep these two approaches in balance and harmony with each other by avoiding dualistic extremes. But the bedrock question is, "If your religion doesn't enable you to enjoy life more, why bother?"

10) We believe that with proper training, art, discipline and intent, human minds and hearts are fully capable of performing most of the magic and miracles they are ever likely to need. This is done through the use of what we perceive as natural, divinely granted psychic powers. As with many other Neo-pagan traditions, the conscious practice of magic is a central part of most of our religious rituals. Unlike monotheists, we see no clearcut division between magic and prayer. Neither, however, do we assume an automatic connection between a person's ability to perform "miracles" and either (a) their personal spirituality or (b) the accuracy of their poly/theological opinions.

11) We believe in the importance of celebrating the solar, lunar and other cycles of our lives. Because we see ourselves as a part of Nature, and because we know that repeating patterns can give meaning to our lives, we pay special attention to astronomical and biological cycles. By consciously observing the solstices, equinoxes and the points in between, as well as the phases of the moon, we are not only aligning ourselves with the movements and energy patterns of the external world, but we are also continuing customs that reach back to the original Indo-European peoples and beyond. These customs are human universals, as are the various ceremonies known as "rites of passage" -- celebrations of birth, puberty, personal dedication to a given deity or group, marriage, ordination, death, etc. Together these various sorts of observations help us to find ourselves in space and time -- past, present and future.

12) We believe that people have the ability to solve their current problems, both personal and public, and to create a better world. Hunger, poverty, war and disease are not necessary, nor inevitable. Pain, depression, lack of creative opportunity and mutual oppression are not necessary either. What is necessary is a new spiritual consciousness in which short-sighted greed, power-mongering and violence are seen as absurd, rather than noble. This utopian vision, tempered with common sense, leads us to a strong commitment to personal and global growth, evolution and balance.

13) We believe that people can progress far towards achieving growth, evolution and balance through the carefully planned alteration of their "normal" states of consciousness. Neopagans use both ancient and modern methods of aiding concentration, meditation, reprogramming and ecstasy. We seek to avoid being locked into single-valued, monistic "tunnel realities," and in-stead work on being able to switch worldviews according to their appropriateness for each given situation, while still maintaining a firm spiritual, ethical and practical grounding.

14) We believe that human interdependence implies community service. Neo-pagan Druids are encouraged to use their talents to help others, both inside and outside of the Neo-pagan community. Some of us are active in political, social, ecological and chari-table organizations, while others prefer to work for the public good primarily through spiritual means (and many of us do both). As Neo-pagan Druids we have the right and the obligation to actively oppose (physically and spiritually) those forces which would kill our planet, oppress our fellow human beings, and destroy our freedom of religion. Also, however, we have a constant need to evaluate our own methods and motives, and to make sure that our actions are coming from the depths of our spiritual beings, and not from petty or short-sighted desires for power.

15) We believe that if we are to achieve any of our goals, we must practice what we preach. Neo-pagan Druidism should be a way of life, not merely a weekly or monthly social function. Thus we must always strive to make our lives consistent with our pro-claimed beliefs. In a time when many people are looking for something solid to hang on to in the midst of rapid technological and cultural changes, Neo-pagan Druidism can offer a natural and creative alternative to the repressive structures of mainstream monotheism. But our alternative will not be seen as such unless we can manage to make it a complete lifestyle -- one with con-cern, if not always immediate answers, for the problems of every-day life, as well as the grand cosmic questions.

Obviously, there's a great deal more to Neo-paganism in general and our version of it in particular. The details of Neo-pagan polytheology will take years to develop. The section of the "Druid Handbook" dealing with beliefs will consist of statements with commentaries (and even arguments) about the meanings of the statements. The purpose of this format is multiple: to emphasise that there are no final answers to the great questions of human existence; to express clearly that Neopagans can disagree with each other about subtle details of interpretation, while still remaining members of the same religion; and to allow the belief system to grow and adapt to changing cultural and technological needs. Neo-pagan Druidism is to be a religion of the future, as well as of the present and the past.


(c) 1984 P. E. I. Bonewits
Reprinted from "The Druids' Progress" #1

Throughout all known human history, people who had hidden knowledge (whether of healing, weather prediction, mathematics, or magic) have used their exclusive possession of that knowledge as a source of power, for purposes that were good, bad or weird. The warrior caste has always done its level best to take that knowledge away from the clergy and to put it to political, economic and military use. Today, almost all the hard and soft sciences have become tools for those who wish to control their fellow human beings. The polluters, the exploiters, the oppressors, the conquerers -- whether calling themselves "capitalists" or "communists" -- they are the ones who control nearly all the technology of overt power and a great deal of the tech for covert tyranny.

One of the very few ways we have of defending ourselves and our fellow passengers (human and other) on this Spaceship Earth is through the careful and judicious use of magic. National governments and private enterprises are spending millions of dollars (and rubles and pounds and yen) trying to develop psychic powers into dependable tools for warfare and oppression; while most of us who should be learning precise techniques and careful timing, in order to use magic and the power of the Gods to defend ourselves and our Mother Earth, have been busy being misty-eyed romantics, not wanting to "sully our karma" by trying to do magic that might really work (that is to say, for which we would have to take personal responsibility).

As a result, we have assisted the very forces of oppression which we claim to oppose. We are partly responsible for the poverty, hunger, pollution, disease and early deaths which dominate so much of our planet. Occultists have assisted by being unwilling to put their talents to the test by using them for "mundane" or "lowly-evolved" purposes. Ecologists, Celtic nationalists, and would-be revolutionaries have assisted by being un-willing to use nonmaterialistic technologies to cause changes in the material world (after all, if Freud and Marx didn't mention magic as real, it can't possibly work). The creation of Neo-pagan Druidism may be able to help change those attitudes.

Despite the efforts of liberal Christian clergymen to make us forget the physical and cultural genocide committed by organized Christianity against the peoples of Europe, there is simply no way to ignore the fact that monotheists in power always seek to silence competing voices. We cannot look to the mainstream churches for our physical and spiritual liberation, for they are the ones who took our freedom away in the first place. Marxist atheism is no answer either, for it is also a product of the monotheistic tunnel-reality, and seeks to impose its dogmas and holy scriptures just as strenuously as ever the churches have. Those who want to live in a world of peace, freedom and cultural pluralism, must look beyond the currently available, "respectable" (i.e., monistic) alternatives they have been presented with by the mass media, and consider new alternatives.

Many people think of Neo-paganism in general, or Druidism in particular (if they think of them at all), as just being "odd" religions, with no political implications worth investigating. But I believe that Neo-pagan Druidism has important political ideas which should be considered, especially by those concerned with the survival and revival of the Celtic peoples.

Druidism is political because one of the primary tasks of the clergy has always been to ride herd on the warriors. (This may be one reason why barbarian warriors welcomed the Christian mission-aries, because they perceived (correctly) that the Christian priests would be far more likely to play ball with them than the Druids had been. After all, if the world is ending any day now, why bother controlling your local warriors?) Since the primary threat to life on this planet now comes from out-of- control warriors, it's time we started taking that duty seriously again.

Druidism is political because only a Nature worshipping religion can give people sufficient concern for the environment. Monotheism is a major cause of the current state of the world's ecology. We need a strong public religion that tells the polluters, "No, it's not divinely sanctioned for you to rape the Earth."

Druidism is political because the Druids have always been the preservers of the best of their traditional cultures. The Mesopagan Druids of Brittany and Wales, for example, are directly responsible for assisting the revival of the Cornish language and tradition from the very edge of extinction. The various traditional preservation and independence movements, such as the Celtic, Flemish, Baltic and other related movements in Europe, need religious and cultural leadership based in their own cultures. Druidism can help create an environment in which such leadership can develop.

Druidism is political because it offers a worldview completely different from that of the monotheistic/monistic tyranny that now controls our planet. One of the many things that any religion does is to shape the ways in which people see the world around them. We need a religion that offers people a multitude of options, rather than traditional western either/or, black/white, win/lose choices.

Druidism is political, at the bedrock level, because it can teach people how to use their Gods-given psychic and other talents to change the way things are. Make no mistake, magic works, at least as often as poetry, music or political rallies do. Magic is a form of power that we, the people of the Earth, have avail-able to use, not just for psychological "empowerment" (making ourselves feel better) but to actually control the individuals and institutions responsible for our planet's current mess. If we are unwilling to use magic, then we had might as well resign ourselves and our descendants to either a life of slavery in a homogenized, pasteurized world, or a quick and painful nuclear death. And what excuse will we give to the "Lords of Karma" then?

Some Notes on Indo-European Paleopaganism and its Clergy

(c) 1984 P. E. I. Bonewits
Reprinted from "The Druids' Progress" #1

The term "Pagan" comes from the Latin paganus, which appears to have originally meant "country dweller," "villager," or "hick." The members of the Roman army seem to have used it to mean "civilian." When Christianity took over the Empire and continued it under new management, the word took on the idea of "one who is not a soldier of Christ." Today, the word means "atheist" or "devil worshipper" to many devout monotheists. But those who call themselves Pagan use it differently; as a general term for native, natural and polytheistic religions, and their members.

The following definitions have been coined in recent years in order to keep the various polytheological and historical distinctions clear: "Paleopaganism" refers to the original tribal faiths of Europe, Africa, Asia, the Americas, Oceania and Australia, where and when they were (or are) still practiced as intact belief systems. Of the so-called "Great Religions of the World," Hinduism, Taoism and Shinto fall under this category.

"Mesopaganism" is the word used for those religions founded as attempts to recreate, revive or continue what their founders thought of as the (usually European) Paleopagan ways of their ancestors (or predecessors), but which were heavily influenced (accidentally, deliberately or involuntarily) by the monotheistic and/or dualistic worldviews of Judaism, Christianity and/or Is- lam. Examples of Mesopagan belief systems would include the Masonic Druids, Rosicrucianism, Spiritualism, Crowleyianity, and the many Afro-American faiths (Voudoun, Macumba, etc.).

"Neo-paganism" refers to those religions created since 1940 or so that have attempted to blend what their founders perceived as the best aspects of different types of Paleopaganism with modern "Aquarian Age" ideals, while eliminating as much as possible of the traditional western dualism. The title of this section should now make a great deal more sense. So let's look at the state of Paleopaganism in Europe prior to the arrival of Christianity.

It's important to remember that a lot of history happened in Europe before anyone got around to writing it down. Around 4000 B.C.E. ("Before the Common Era") the tribes that spoke Proto- Indo-European began to migrate away from their original homeland, which was probably the territory around the northwest shores of the Black Sea. Some went southeast and founded the Armenian, Iranian and Indic cultures. Others went south to Anatolia and Palestine, and became known as Hittites and Mitanni. Those who went southwest to the Balkans became Thracians and Greeks. Others who went west and north established the Celtic, Slavic, Germanic, and Baltic cultures.

All this migrating around took many centuries and involved a lot of bloodshed. Previous inhabitants of a given piece of territory had to be persuaded, usually at sword point, to let the newcomers in -- and there went the neighborhood! The pre-Indo- European cultures in Europe (which were not necessarily "peaceful matriarchies") were all still in the late Neolithic ("New Stone Age") cultural era, with only stone axes, spears and knives with which to defend themselves. The invaders had bronze weapons and armor with which to fight, plus bronze axes with which to clear the great forests that covered the continent, bronze plows to till the soil, etc.

The impact of this superior technology can be judged by the fact that, by the time of the Roman Empire, nearly every language spoken in Europe (except Basque, Lappish and Finnish) was a member of the Western branch of Indo-European. Everything west of the Urals was pretty much dominated by a loosely interlinked conglomeration of related cultures, each of which was a mixture of the PIE culture and that of the previous holders of its territory. The largest group of cultures north of the Roman borders was that of the Celts, and the second largest that of the Germans (some scholars consider the Germans to be so closely related culturally to the Celts as to be practically a subset, at least in archeological terms).

Thanks to the work of Georges Dumezil, James Duran and others, we are beginning to have a clear idea of the social, political, magical and religious functions of the priestly "class" in Indo- European Paleopaganism. I use the word "class" deliberately, for the Western Indo-European cultures seem to have been built on the same fundamental social pattern as that with which we are familiar in Vedic India: clergy, warriors, and providers (farmers, craftspeople, traders, herders, etc.). In fact, it appears that a close to exact correspondence can be made between the religious, political and social functions originally performed by a Latin flamen, a Celtic draoi, or a Vedic brahman.

The Indo-European clergy basically included the entire intelligentsia of their cultures: poets, musicians, historians, astronomers, genealogists, judges, diviners, and of course, leaders and supervisors of religious rituals. Officially, they ranked immediately below the local tribal chieftains or "kings" and above the warriors. However, since the kings were quasi-religious figures, usually inaugurated by the clergy, and often dominated by them, it was frequently a tossup as to who was in charge in any given tribe. The clergy were exempt from taxation and military service, and in some cultures are said to have spent decades in specialized training.

They seem to have been responsible for all public religious rituals (private ones were run by the heads of each household). Public ceremonies were most often held in fenced groves of sacred trees. These were usually of birch, yew, and oak (or ash where oaks were rare), depending upon the subset of deities or ancestors being addressed, as well as the specific occasion. Various members of the priestly caste would be responsible for music, recitation of prayers, sacrificing of animals (or occasionally human criminals or prisoners of war), divination from the flames of the ritual fire or the entrails of the sacrificial victim, and other minor ritual duties. Senior members of the caste ("the" Druids, "the" brahmans or "the" flamens as such) would be responsible for making sure that the rites were done exactly according to tradition. Without such supervision, public rituals were generally impossible; thus Caesar's comment that all public Gaulish sacrifices required a Druid to be present.

There are definite indications that the Indo-European clergy held certain polytheological and mystical opinions in common, although only the vaguest outlines are known at this point. There was a belief in reincarnation (with time spent between lives in an Other World very similar to the Earthly one), in the sacred- ness of particular trees, in the continuing relationship between mortals, ancestors and deities, and naturally in the standard laws of magic (see Real Magic). There was an ascetic tradition of the sort that developed into the various types of yoga in India, complete with the Pagan equivalent of monasteries and convents. There was also, I believe, a European "tantric" tradition of sex and drug magic, although it's possible that this was mostly the native shamanic traditions being absorbed and transmuted.

Only the western Celtic clergy (the Druids) seem to have had any sort of organized inter-tribal communications network. Most of the rest of the IE clergy seem to have kept to their own local tribes. Among the Germanic peoples, the priestly class had weakened by the early centuries of the Common Era to the point where the majority of ritual work was done by the heads of households.

We don't know whether or not any but the highest ranking clergy were full-time priests and priestesses. At the height of the Celtic cultures, training for the clergy was said to take twenty years of hard work, which would not have left much time or energy for developing other careers. Among the Scandinavians, there seem to have been priests and priestesses (godar, gydjur) who lived in small temples and occasionally toured the countryside with statues of their patron/matron deities, whom they were considered to be "married" to. In the rest of the Germanic, Slavic and Baltic cultures, however, many of the clergy may have worked part-time, a common custom in many tribal societies.

It's also common for such cultures to have full- or part-time healers, who may use herbs, hypnosis, psychology, massage, magic and other techniques. Frequently they will also have diviners and weather predictors (or controllers). Midwives, almost always female, are also standard and, as mentioned above, there is usually a priestess or priest working at least part-time. What causes confusion, especially when dealing with extinct cultures, is that different tribes combine these offices into different people.

At the opening of the Common Era, European Paleopaganism consisted of three interwoven layers: firstly, the original pre- Indo-European religions (which were of course also the results of several millennia of religious evolution and cultural conquests); secondly, the proto-Indo-European belief system held by the PIE speakers before they began their migrations; and thirdly, the full scale "high religions" of the developed Indo-European cultures. Disentangling these various layers is going to take a very long time, if indeed it will ever be actually possible.

The successful genocide campaigns waged against the Druids and their colleagues are complex enough to warrant a separate discussion. Suffice it to say that by the time of the seventh century C.E., Druidism had been either destroyed or driven completely underground throughout Europe. In parts of Wales and Ireland, fragments of Druidism seem to have survived in disguise through the institutions of the Celtic Church and of the Bards and Poets. Some of these survivals, along with a great deal of speculation and a few outright forgeries, combined to inspire the ("Meso- pagan") Masonic/Rosicrucian Druid fraternities of the 1700's. These groups have perpetuated these fragments (and speculations and forgeries) to this very day, augmenting them with a great deal of folkloric and other research.

These would seem to most Americans to be the only sources of information about Paleopagan Druidism. However, research done by Russian and Eastern European folklorists, anthropologists and musicologists among the Baltic peoples of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia indicates that Paleopagan traditions may have survived in small villages, hidden in the woods and swamps, even into the current century! Some of these villages still had people dressing up in long white robes and going out to sacred groves to do ceremonies, as recently as World War One! Iron Curtin social scientists interviewed the local clergy, recorded the ceremonies and songs, and otherwise made a thorough study of their "quaint traditions" preparatory to turning them all into good Marxists. Ironically enough, some of the oldest "fossils" of preserved Indo-European traditions (along with bits of vocabulary from Proto-German and other early IE tongues) seem to have been kept by Finno-Ugric peoples such as the Cheremis. Most of this re- search has been published in a variety of Soviet academic books and journals, and has never been translated into English. This material, when combined with the Vedic and Old Irish sources, may give us most of the missing links necessary to reconstruct Paleo- pagan European Druidism.

The translation of this material, along with some of the writings of Dumezil (and others) that are not yet in English, is going to be an important part of the research work of ADF for the first few years. And we're going to see if we can get copies of some of the films...

But there are some definite "non-facts" about the ancient Druids that need to be mentioned: There are no real indications that they used stone altars (at Stonehenge or anywhere else); that they were better philosophers than the classical Greeks or Egyptians; that they had anything to do with the mythical continents of Atlantis or Mu; or that they wore gold Masonic regalia or used Rosicrucian passwords. They were not the architects of (a) Stone- henge, (b) the megalithic circles and lines of Northwestern Europe, (c) the Pyramids of Egypt, (d) the Pyramids of the Americas, (e) the statues of Easter Island, or (f) anything other than wooden barns and stone houses. There is no proof that any of them were monotheists, or "Pre-Christian Christians," that they understood or invented either Pythagorean or Gnostic or Cabalistic mysticism; or that they all had long white beards and golden sickles.

Separating the sense from the nonsense, and the probabilities from the absurdities, about the Paleopagan clergy of Europe is going to take a great deal of work. But the results should be worth it, since we will wind up with a much clearer image of the real "Old Religions" than Neopagans have ever had available before. This will have liturgical, philosophical and political consequences, some of which we'll be discussing in future issues of "The Druids' Progress".


These articles have been reprinted from "The Druids' Progress", issue #1, and are copyright 1984 by P. E. I. Bonewits. "DP" is the irregular journal of a Neo-pagan Druid group called "Ar nDraiocht Fein", founded by Bonewits (author of "Real Magic"). For more data, send an S.A.S.E. to: Box 9398, Berkeley, CA, USA 94709. Permission to distribute via BBS's is hereby granted, provided that the entire article, including this notice, is kept intact.



-Where did ADF come from?-

ADF started in 1983 as a network of independent scholars interested in legitimate research about the ancient Druids and their Indo-European colleagues. It quickly grew into a new Neo-pagan tradition (denomination), complete with personal and group worship rituals, artistic endeavors, jokes, songs and chants, and a genuine sense of family. In many ways it was an outgrowth of the Reformed Druids of North America, an anarchistic movement begun by college students in the mid- 1960's, modified by the experiences of the Neo-pagan community since (see Margot Adler's "Drawing Down the Moon" for details). Today, ADF is the largest Neo-pagan Druid organization in the English-speaking world. While there are other Neo-pagan Druid organizations in existence, by far the largest, best organized, most widely spread, and most active is ADF.

-Are you real?-

Organizationally, we're as real as any other religious group. We are registered in the state of Delaware as a Nonprofit Corporation and have received recognition of our tax-exempt status from the IRS. We have almost twenty chartered local congregations (or "groves"), with more on the way in the U.S. and Canada. Appropriate legal and tax status in Canada, Australia and other nations will be obtained as needed.

Historically, there are no "real" Druids left. The Paleo-pagan Druids were wiped out centuries ago and only fragments of their traditions survived. Spiritually, we believe that we are following the paths once trod by our namesakes and that no other name is nobler or more suited to our modern intentions -- and that makes us real as far as we're concerned!

-What about other Druid groups?-

ADF maintains friendly relations with the fraternal ("Meso-pagan" or mixed Christian/Pagan) Druid orders in England and elsewhere, as well as with the handful of other Neo-pagan Druid groups. We encourage our members to investigate these other organizations and to learn as much as they can about alternate paths of Druidism. We are, however, quick to expose groups and individuals we believe to be fraudulent or dangerous, even though such vigilance may be controversial.

-Are you a "cult"?-

Not hardly. The only dogma promulgated so far has been the Doctrine of Archdruidic Fallibility -- requiring the members to accept that everyone in ADF, from the Archdruid on, makes mistakes. Members are encouraged to (politely) argue with the leadership, to form their own opinions and special interest groups, and to communicate as much as possible with both "insiders" and "outsiders." People without a sense of humor and proportion are discouraged from seeking leadership positions. Nepotism is forbidden, financial records are open, everyone is accountable to everyone else, and the members of the Mother Grove are not getting rich. So what more do you want?

-But what if I'm not Irish?-

You don't have to be. Despite the Irish name for our organisation and the use of the Celtic term for clergy ("druids"), our members come from a wide variety of ancestries, including European, Asian, Native American, and African. We have no time or sympathy for racist nonsense or cultural bigotry. Our members honor Celtic, Germanic, Lithuanian, Polish, Greek and other Indo-European deities, ancestors and nature spirits. If you're sincerely interested in any of the old I-E cultures and its metaphysics, arts, and customs, then you're welcome in our ranks.

-Is ADF Wiccan?-

The Wiccan ("Neo-pagan Witchcraft") movement includes the vast majority of the 100,000 to 250,000 people involved in Neo-paganism in North America. About three-quarters of our membership are or have been followers of Wicca, including a sizable number of Wiccan priests and priestesses who are using our Study Program to improve their clergy skills. The primary differences between Druidism and Wicca are these: Druidism is polytheistic, large-group oriented, and public. Wicca is duotheistic, small-group oriented, and private. Nonetheless, the two religions have far more in common than they have separating them (see "What Do Neo-pagan Druids Believe?" for details). Wiccan covens can (and do) function as special interest groups within larger ADF groves, along with bardic, healing, ecological, divinatory, and other groups.

-Are Druids all men?-

Despite the stereotypes of the ancient Druids as having been long- bearded patriarchs, you didn't have to be a man to be a Druid back then and you don't need to be male now. Half of the membership of ADF is female and women hold half of the positions of power in the organization. We have deliberately chosen to make gender and affectional preferences irrelevant to participation in ADF. As worshippers of the Earth Mother, we can do no less. In fact, one of our primary religious symbols, "the Druid Sigil," represents Her.

-Didn't the ancient Druids do human sacrifice?-

Yes, it's true. But then, so did the clergy of almost every other religion in human history, including the monotheistic ones. Neo-pagan Druids are forbidden to practice human or animal sacrifice in our rituals. Instead we offer the Goddesses and Gods flowers, fruits, wine, incense, music, song, drama, prayer, and --most important of all -- our love. The deities seem to find it more than sufficient.

-What are the Druid holidays?-

We celebrate the turning of the Wheel of the Year by observing eight "High Days" -- the solstices and the equinoxes, as well as the halfway points between which were originally the great fire festivals of our European predecessors). Due to our calendrical researches, we often celebrate the Major High Days a few days after other Neopagans do. Some groves also celebrate the various phases of the moon, or the beginnings and endings of various hunting, fishing, and agricultural seasons.

-What exactly is an ADF grove?-

An ADF grove is any group of three or more voting members of ADF over the age of 18, who live in the same general geographical area, who gather together at least twice a month to study and practice Druidism within the context of A'r nDrai'ocht Fe'in, and who are chartered by the Mother Grove (the Board of Directors) of ADF as a local congregation. An ADF grove provides open worship ceremonies for all eight High Days, study groups for various Druidic arts and sciences, fellowship, hard work, and lots of fun. Almost any member of ADF can plant a "protogrove" just by asking. All groves and protogroves are listed in our publications on a regular basis, making it easy for other members to contact you. See "The ADF Grove Organizers' Handbook" for more details, or contact the Registrar.

(c) 1993 c.e. by A.D.F.

Contents may be freely reprinted by Neo-pagan media, including BBS's, provided no editing is done and this copyright notice is included.

For more information about ADF, contact: P.O. Box 516, E. Syracuse, NY, USA 13057.