Sunday, January 17, 2010

When Druids Meet

(originally posted years ago to alt.religion.druid and now edited for this blog)

When Druids meet, how do they recognize one another?

The answer to this question has many answers because there are many ways that a person can be a Druid.  In one of the few references available to us on this subject from antiquity, _The Colloquy of the Two Sages_, we can discover that some of these many ways are as follows:
1. Druids recognize one another through inquiry and by detailing the truth of the inner *nature* that caused them to seek to become Druids.
2. Druids recognize one another through inquiry and by providing the *traditions* of the studies that formed them into Druids.
3. Druids recognize one another through inquiry and by describing their *rank* of attainment in their chosen specialties of DraĆ­ocht.
4. Druids recognize one another through inquiry and by itemizing the *skills* in the art of Druids that they practice as Druids.
5.Druids recognize one another through inquiry and by outlining the *goals* that they've set for themselves as Druids.
6. Druids recognize one another through inquiry and by detailing their *accomplishments* in their life as Druids.
7. Druids recognize one another through inquiry and by tracing the Druidic *lineage* of their teachers.
8. Druids recognize one another through inquiry and by performing *prophecy* that is inspired through imbas.
9. Druids recognize one another through inquiry and by *acknowledging truth* when they see it..

These nine points of being a Druid are clearly provided to us from the Druids of the past. I think they ably provide us with three questions that we each need to answer:
1. Can we ignore these nine points of being a Druid when we seek to be Druids ourselves?
2. Can we afford to ignore discovering them in others who say they are Druids?
3. Can we demonstrate them to the world through the truth of our own actions?

When we look for Druids among us or within ourselves, will we find the requisite nature, tradition, rank, skill, goals, accomplishments, lineage, prophecy and truth that is the mark of a Druid?  Will we be able to ask and answer the three questions of seeking, discovering and demonstrating? When Druids meet, the knowledge of tradition, experience and inquiry are each validated through the harmony of respect, openness and imbas.

(the following in answer to questions about the above lists; mainly from Erynn Laurie)

1. One would assume from this that they trade life stories?

I think what is meant here is that Druids tell one another what it was that set them on the Druid Way and describe this epiphany of choice in such a way that other Druids can identify and synchronize with it.

2. IE Talking about what they learned?

This is basically the curricula of the Druidic schools in which they've studied.

3. This strikes me as bragging.

Wouldn't you want to know the degrees that a person has as well as their experience if they were going to be your doctor or discuss other professional matters with you in a professional specialty.  Wouldn't you want to know the qualifications of your lawyer, your clergy or your doctor?

4. More bragging, but it can be done with some humility.

This might be considered itemizing their areas of specialty or it could be just an understanding of the techniques or systems that they use. In medicine, this might be reflected in asking a person if they specialized in surgery before you contracted with them for an operation.  You might want to know if your doctor practices holistic medicine vs. heavy use of drug therapies, etc.

5. Okay, this one I can see. It's like what clergy do when they get together.

I think everyone shares such goals and dreams with other people with whom they think they might like to establish a professional relationship. It's a matter of getting together with like minds who share a common dream and pulling together in the same direction.

6. Strikes me as bragging again. But once again, it can be done with some humility.

I see this more as stating the details of one's resume to fill out the overall picture and credibility of one's experience.

7. Too much like the Wiccan "you aren't a *real* Wiccan because you weren't initiated by so-and-so".

Actually, this list and process is very useful in evaluating where a person is coming from. If the teacher, school or group is already well known, the evaluation of the individual's practice as a Druid might be better understood against that background. Knowing a person is a member of Keltria, ADF or OBOD might suggest something about their overall belief structure and practice.

1. It makes me wonder if some of these nine can be used in this day and age. I can trace my Druidic lineage through about 5 people, but not any further. And what is to say that the first Druid I can trace my lineage back to was any more qualified to be called a Druid than I am? I think some intelligence needs to be exercised in using these as 'measuring sticks' for themselves and others.

If I already know the Druids of a person's lineage, I have a pretty good idea about whether or not they have credibility as a Druid through their connection to them (or to their path, group or school).

It is my hope that Druids everywhere consider intelligence to be a great measuring
stick, along with truth, intuition and awareness. Credentials are important.

2. Like I say, we need to exercise common sense. I don't object to this being used, but sense needs to be exercised.

I think that using the various ways that I've listed of evaluating anyone's claims are sensible.  What we are talking about here are credentials that are similar to what would be on any resume.

3. We probably could, but I don't think it would matter to a majority of humanity. Some of the populace would be in(t)eres(t)ed in how *real* we are, if we are ordained, and so on, but most I don't think would care. It could be demonstrated, but once again, we would look like Catholic Priests who are more concerned with proving ourselves to each other, and society, to be concerned with taking care of our "flocks". I would actually like to see some kind of measuring stick for Druids and Wiccans as well as Witches to denote who is serious about their path, and who is qualified to teach and preach, and to separate the fluff-bunnies out, but as long as there is no central authority to any of our paths, this may be a pipe dream.

It is a major focus of my work as a Druid to effectively establish credentials and other clear-cut ways of defining who and what we are as Druids. It's my great hope that much of the confusion and hoopla associated with the many who *claim* to be Druids (but who are actually something else) can be eliminated through these (and similar) efforts. That's why some of us in The Summerlands are working toward the establishment of a Druid Seminary. I suspect that is also why OBOD, Keltria and ADF have improved (and continue to improve) their training courses.  I also think that's why the Druid College of Avalon is being established. I think that we can establish centers of credibility and authority without having to have one central authority.  If we do this, I think we will be emulating the ways that the ancient Druids also established and maintained their own centers of learning and authority.

When we look at the Druid traditions, I don't think one can be too far apart from others. We can differ in terms of what we embrace in the tradition in regard to degree and point of focus.  Regarding centers of credibility and authority, anything can be misused or become off-centered.  That is why most workable systems and groups have some form of checks and balances as well as some way of self-evaluating and regulating.  How this can or is being done is worthy of another thread and further discussion. I hope that some of the more successful Druids, groups or schools out there will share what their experiences have been?

The idea behind having certification is to provide an easy means of determining credentials and capability, even relative authority.  They are not the "be all and end all" of Druidic society.  They are ways for the general public to get a grasp on what we are all about in a fairly uniform and consistent manner however. A feature of such groups should be their ability to recognize individuals who have obtained the necessary standards of excellence on their own as well as through divine inspiration.  Here (and also in the case of those who attend regular schools and training) there should be a criteria that establishes what a Druid (no matter the specialty) actually is.  That same yardstick can measure the conventional as well as the unique.  In fact, that is one reason I started this thread (to attempt to place some marks of reference on that stick). The Inis Glas Hedge School that Erynn and Lorax established and taught is an excellent example of a knowledge base that would serve as such a yardstick for traditional knowledge and some of the experiential knowledge that a Druid should be expected to have.

In ancient Ireland, an ollamh was established and recognized through a process of education, examination and installation involving other sages and ollamhs, as well as kings and chieftains. I see no reason  why we should not expect our own efforts at education and achievement to measured and established by a similar process with schools, boards and governmental recognition today.  That is how the university system works in much of the world. That's the way that I think it should work among us as well. Perhaps the members of any such board should come from the schools, the leadership of government and from those who are independently acknowledge experts in the field on some rotating basis? That way, we might minimize any one group gaining a control over the process in a restrictive manner?  How to do this in balance and fairness is a discussion and an outcome that I eagerly await.

I generally agree that there should be a list of general warning signs (about cults and false traditions) but do reserve the right to find wisdom in even the most unusual and controversial of places. This does not mean that I endorse the unusual or the controversial (or even the outright wrong) but it does mean that I think such sources can inspire us to go beyond them into realms of truth that would otherwise be ignored. Every knowledge must be evaluated and substantiated through careful research and thorough investigation.  Wisdom is found almost as often from failure as it is through success. Perhaps we should attempt to refine the list of warnings while we are also attempting to develop and produce a list of affirmations for Druids and their like?



  1. Hi Searles, do you know if anyone has copies of the Inis Glas tapes that might still be recoverable?

  2. I think that tapes don't survive like they should since folks have discarded them in favor of solid state memories.There might be hard copies somewhere but I've never seen them

  3. very interesting reading. i think that it would help to have standards of some kind, although there may well be variations in what people think or believe regarding that. one book which i thought was quite helpful here in some respects was emma restall orr's living with honor. this attempts to define some kind of standard for principles and belief, which is different from training, knowledge or experience but is quite useful; the definition of principles and standards. i have also recently come across lora o'brien's youtube channel and have just registered with the irish school of paganism. i am interested in all of their courses and some are free, some are not but i think this might be a good place for learning for those who need to improve their knowledge. i was just wondering, does anyone else know of this school and in particular, what opinion do you have of the ogham and divination courses or indeed the other courses? are they worth the money? i can find no trace of inas glas anywhere on the internet.