Fake Druidry and Ogreld   10 comments

I’m a fake Druid.  So is everyone else who names Druidry as the path they walk. And I’ve come to love it.

In a guest essay on the ADF website, J. M. Greer notes,

The very last of the ancient Druids went extinct in the ninth century, and the surviving scraps of their teachings and lore are so fragmentary, diffuse, and contradictory that they don’t form anything like a workable system. All modern Druid groups—OBOD, ADF, and everyone else—were invented in the last three centuries by people who used some mix of scholarly writings, personal spiritual insight, speculation, and sheer fantasy as raw material for their concoctions.

Thus if “real Druidry” is defined as the sort that was practiced by Druids in Celtic countries before the arrival of Christianity, all modern Druids practice fake Druidry. That can’t be avoided, since “real Druidry” hasn’t existed anywhere for more than a millennium. What differentiates one modern Druid tradition from another is the particular kind of “fake Druidry” each practices.

Of course, Greer writes here as an outsider might see it, to try on a truth many still feel uncomfortable to admit.  As Archdruid of AODA, he obviously doesn’t habitually dwell on his particular flavor of Druidry as “fake.”  And when I practice my Druidry, it doesn’t feel like a “concoction” at all.  It coheres, because like anything used — steps, coins, dishes, skin, planets — the edges get smoothed, a few chips and dents show up, and everything takes on that “lived-in” look, that patina that makes antiques look antique, that gives worry-stones their shine, and faces their habitual smile or frown lines.  I make an offering at an altar, I join my Druid brothers and sisters at a festival, I sit for an hour in moonlight meditating, and whether a group of people 300 years ago rediscovered things most traditional peoples have long known doesn’t really concern me.  Clearly, the moment itself offers me better things to do.

Greer continues:

The Druid community has on occasion been racked by squabbles between traditions, caused as often as not by simple misunderstandings that could have been quickly cleared up by people familiar with more than their own tradition. Since none of us have any right to claim possession of the One Genuine Real Live Druidry, a willingness to share the world with other Druid traditions, and to participate with them in celebrating the cycles of nature and the miracle of the living Earth, is a virtue that may well be worth cultivating by Druids of all kinds.

Ah, “One Genuine Real Live Druidry” — Ogreld, I’ll call it. My new tradition, founded right now as you’re reading this.  Here we go … unlike every other practice and belief on the planet, Ogreld sprang into existence full-grown and perfect, without parents or kin.  To get that essential temporal edge over other faiths and practices, Ogreld is the original “source faith” of humanity, practiced when people first became human. In fact, to top it off, it was Ogreld that made them human.  Now we’re cooking!  … This is faking with a vengeance.  “I’m faker than you are.  Na-na-na-na-na!”

In the Egyptian afterlife, the human heart is weighed against the feather of Maat, who personifies truth and justice.  The Wise among us understand that whether I acknowledge three elements of earth, water and air, or four elements of earth, air, fire and water, or a god whose elements are bread and wine, my rituals will still work in accordance with the reverence and love I bring to them, and the holy presences that empower them.  Whether I have helped or hurt the earth and its inhabitants will matter a lot more than the color of my robes, the rank I’ve achieved, or the number of gods I pray to.   The only real Druidry is a “path with heart,” a way of walking the earth that wisely honors all paths with heart.  I’m busy faking that wisdom, practicing till I get it “righter” than before.  Insofar as faking is doing something, it’s generally better than not doing anything at all.  So yes, I’m a fake Druid.  Have you met any other kind?!

10 responses to “Fake Druidry and Ogreld

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  1. “Thus if “real Druidry” is defined as the sort that was practiced by Druids in Celtic countries before the arrival of Christianity, all modern Druids practice fake Druidry.”

    “If,” for all its diminutive appearance, is in my opinion the largest word in the English language. ‘Real Druids’ didn’t just descend from the ether – in continuing with Greer’s logic and definition, his ‘real Druids’ must have either faked it, or learned from someone else who faked it. Happily, I define ‘real Druidry’ differently.

    Thank you for this post – I found my roots actually reaching a little deeper after reading it 🙂

  2. Thanks for your comment, Fallingleaf. I love your observation about “if” — and maybe we can make “why” the second largest word in the English language. The only way “original real” Druids got their Druidry is by trial and error, divine revelation and messing around and pure serendipity. We have the very wise expression “fake it till you make it,” and your comments suggest a t-shirt: “Real Druids fake it.” “Fake” is a put-down just like “loser” — one of those words meant to hurt rather than to guide and enlighten. Sure, no one wants to buy a “fake,” if a certain brand is their goal, but in matters like spirituality, it seems to me there’s only what works and what doesn’t, what tends to close the heart and what opens it. That’s the quality that more and more is becoming my preferred standard. Thanks. –ADW

  3. Fantastic article! Thank you!

  4. What we call ‘Druids’ today wasn’t even a term that existed in the time of the ‘real’ Druids. I see Druidry as a new growth that honors the Ancestors while forging our own, new path.

    • Sencha, thanks for your comment. The term actually did exist, though it’s not clear in detail who it referred to. Ancient Roman writers uses the Latin word druides, which they asserted came from a native Celtic Gaulish word, and also druidae. Greek writers used δρυΐδης (druides), a nearly identical form. We don’t have a word from the Celtic languages of the period, though of course later forms appeared, some of them borrowings from Latin, and some new forms, like Welsh derwydd.

      Contemporary Druidry certainly is a “new growth” on several old stocks. And even if all of Druidry were to disappear, as I’ve noted in previous posts, along with practicing Druids more experienced and skilled than I am, we could reconstruct it, as you suggest in your comment, by honoring the Ancestors, listening to the land, walking the world, and striving to live in balance with it. That’s how other “earth-based” paths got started, and that’s how contemporary Druidry can work just fine, whether practiced 2000 years ago — or right now. –ADW

      • Yes, the word itself existed, but the ‘Druids’ were of many specialties and walks of life. Their particular vocations were what they called themselves.
        And I agree…all paths had to start somewhere. And modern Druidry is starting here and now. 🙂

  5. Druidism is a complex system, the deities of druidism don’t need belief to exist and there is no dogmatic practices – different tribes had different deities. Our language does not use terms in past or present terms! Its a cultural clash with modern society and people who see everything from a modern christian-world perspective. Celtic-Christianity (really a Gnostic branch) has aspects of Druidism. It is often confused with British and American Druidism which is not connected to Irish Druidism. Really depends how you define the term fake.

    • Seanmoiri, thanks for you comment. You make a number of generalizations here. There’s evidence that the gods do need our attention, commitment and belief — otherwise, why would they seek out priests and priestesses? Some Druid groups do in fact tend toward dogma, though I’m thankful they’re not characteristic of the majority. Not sure what you mean by “Our language does not use terms in past or present terms” — what language are you talking about? Do you mean Druidism is in a culture clash with modern society? Yep, sure is — though fortunately Druidism is also part of modern society and has some keys to healthier, saner ways to live.

      Not sure what you mean by the Gnostic branch of Celtic-Christianity or its connections with Druidism — many streams feed contemporary Druid practice, right? As for definitions of “fake,” J. M. Greer defines it clearly, and I cite him in the post — no Druid group today preserves an unchanging ancient Druidry (no different from any other spiritual or religious group on the planet) — and I and others assert that’s a good thing! What is it that “depends on how you define the term fake”? I appreciate your engagement but I’m unclear what you mean.

      • Hi, thank you for your response,

        My language is Gaelic, since i am a Celtic person, also called Irish. Druidism, or what we do know of it, is only recorded first hand (by that i mean vernacular not classically) here in Ireland.

        Many books were written by Celtic Christians (who took over the ‘institution’ of druidism) and while we would love more information we do in fact have many references to Druidist’s in their different forms, as it/they are also a social order, one that is carried on here today in Ireland, as the roles are also secular.

        Druids tend to follow an ethos rather than a dogma due to the former tribal nature of our country. They have some pan-Celtic deities and some unique to certain areas.

        There are, traditionally, no Priesthood ever recorded here, they are always refereed to as philosophers and the ‘intelligentsia’ for want of a better term that at times overseen or headed rituals.

        This is not a criticism of your personal beliefs but just an observation of the Irish form and how it has changed in different countries (i have a great interest in druidology). You are correct, there are no ancient lines handed down since Druidism is a social structure it was that which was passed on, since there was no unifying Doctrine or Dogma what would they hand down? However my clan honored the three Collas with the ritual being recorded while Tuirgen is the transmigration of the soul, to name just two concepts out of many that are of ‘druidic’ origin.

        I can’t tell you what the American J. M. Greer thinks nor do i want to regurgitate what he writes, i can only speak as one Celtic person about his personal indigenous ‘religion’ and how Druidist’s/people interact with the local deities in real life here.

        What i mean is that the deities of the elements do not need belief in order for them to exist, nor do they need faith, they existed before we even came onto the earth, we are born and surround by them and gain consciousness of their presence, in other words they are in a state of existence/being before we become aware of them. However the folk religion Creideamh-sidhe is an exception to this.

        If these things are native traditions, the deities, like our local river goddess Liffey, is still here as a living goddess – then how is that fake? Fake implies that the goddess is made up, then how is a ritual to that goddess fake if it is done with a sincere and genuine heart? It would imply that the person is fake and is just going through the motions.

        sorry about the length of my reply! Beannacht

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