Being a Pamphlet from 1965 by the Reformed Druids of North America
With Editing by Stephen Crimmins, 2003
Reformed Druidism had its beginning at Carleton College in the spring of 1963 as a protest to the college’s requirement that all students attend a certain number of religious services or meetings. One of the ways of fulfilling the requirement was by attending services of one’s own religion. The Reformed Druids of North America proposed to test the degree of freedom permitted under this clause.
Druidism was ideal for this attack. It had a perfect combination of exotic ritual plus some relevance to the so-called Judeo-Christian tradition. If religious credit were granted, the religious requirement could be exposed as totally ineffective. If, on the other hand, credit were denied, the college could be charged with bigotry. The initial attitude of the college was, “If we ignore them they’ll go away.” But the RDNA not only refused to go away, it grew, acquiring an advisor, and becoming a registered college organization.
In June 1964, the religious requirement was repealed. Even though the Druids rejoiced at this triumph, they recognized that their job was not over. For many members the movement had come to represent a valuable part of their spiritual lives. So they saw the importance of continuing the RDNA as a protest against all coerced religion.
Druidism boasts its lack of institutionalized dogma. Each Druid is asked only to adopt these Basic Tenets:
- One of the many ways in which the object of One’s search for religious truth can be found is through Nature: the Earth-mother.
- Nature, being one of the primary concerns in One’s life and struggle, and being one of the objects of creation, is important to One’s spiritual quests. (The phrase “objects of creation” does not necessarily imply a single creator, but it does, in some way, imply an important link between the spiritual and the material realms.)
In Reformed Druidism, the material realm, Nature, is personified as the Earth-mother. The abstract essence of the universe, in opposition to the material world, is referred to as Be’al, thought to be from a word which the ancient Celts applied to an abstract supreme being. The “object of Man’s search” is called “awareness,” and it is defined as “unity with Be’al.”
Druidism itself neither categorically denies nor accepts the validity of any particular faith. This is one of the most important of the principles of Reformed Druidism. It means that anyone may become a Druid without feeling obligated to renounce his present religious beliefs (or non-belief). But it also prevents the Druid from answering the question “Is Druidism itself valid?” The answer to that question must be found on an individual level; and the Druid would say, “It will come with awareness.”
In accord with the Basic Tenets, Reformed Druid worship is directed toward Nature. For this reason, many customs and rituals of the ancient Druids, who were essentially Nature-worshippers, are retained.
Druidic worship is, in so far as possible, held in the out-of-doors; an oak grove, or a hill or other prominence, is ideal. According to ancient Druid custom, the officiating Druids, and others who so wish, may be clad in long white robes; the robe of the Arch-Druid having a distinctive decoration or color. The waters-of-life are usually passed to all present as a symbol of the link Man has with Nature. Incantation and other ancient Celtic ritual is also used; but in “Reformed” Druidism, human sacrifice is out.
In order to focus attention on Nature, various aspects of it retain the names of their corresponding Celtic gods and godesses.
- Dalon Ap Landu the grove
- Grannos healing springs
- Braciaca malt
- Belenos the sun
- Sirona (goddess) rivers
- Taranis thunder and lightning
- Llyr the sea
- Danu (goddess) earth and fertility
Druid festivals correspond to the important dates of the old Druid year as celebrated in Ireland up through World War II. Celebration always begins at sundown the previous evening, and includes bonfires and revelry appropriate to the season.
- Samhain November 1; “Halloween” begins the period of Geimredh.
- Midwinter the winter solstice; day of the “yule log.”
- Oimelc February 1; “Candlemass,” begins the period of Earrach.
- Belatne May 1; “May Day,” begins the period of Samradh
- Midsummer the summer solstice.
- Lughnasadh (Brontroghain) August 1; day for gatherings and feasts, begins the period of Foghamhar.
The phases of the moon are also followed closely. A new venture should be begun only when the moon is waxing, and old one consummated only when it is waning. The night of the full moon is a time of rejoicing; while the night of the new moon is a solemn occasion, calling for vigils and meditation.
Each organization (known as a grove) has three officers: an Arch-Druid, who must be a third order priest or higher, to direct worship; a Preceptor, who must be at least a second order Druid, to handle business matters and a Server, to assist the Arch-Druid.
To become a first order druid, all that may be required is for a person to partake of the waters-of-life, and affirm his acceptance of the Basic Tenets (listed under Principles above).
To become a second order Druid, one must pledge himself to the service of Druidism, as well as have an understanding of basic Druidism.
To become a third order priest, one must dedicate himself to a life of Druidic inquiry, the beginning of which is an all-night, outdoor vigil.
Higher orders of the priesthood (up to tenth) are reserved for outstanding insight and dedication over a period of time. They are similar to academic degrees in that they represent personal achievement, but carry no special authority. Each order of the priesthood is dedicated to one of the eight aspects of Nature mentioned under Ritual.
On a superficial level, it might now seem that the purpose of Reformed Druidism is merely to delve into the strange customs and rituals of the ancient Celts, and to have some fun doing it, and also to serve as a new and different type of protest movement.
But, on deeper examination of the RDNA, it might be said to have two important purposes:
- It offers a reasonable alternative for the person who cannot stomach organized religion, or who feels that it is somehow deficient; and it hopes that its exotic forms of worship will appeal to the rebel.
- In communing with Nature, it seeks to promote a spirit of meditation and introspection, aimed ultimately at awareness of religious truth.