I'm coming in late to this thread and just wanted to say I enjoyed reading it, particularly the background details on Gardner and Nichols as you bring them to life again by including a little of those.
In the paragraph:
Philip Peter Ross Nichols, Cambridge Scholar, historian, teacher, author and naturist founded the Order of Bards Ovates and Druids in 1964 as a breakaway faction from the Ancient Druid Order. Nichols introduced a renewed interest in Celtic mythology to Druidry. He arranged the teachings into three grades (Bard, Ovate and Druid) in accordance with classical accounts and (in concert with Gardner) revived the four fire festivals (Beltane, Lughnasadh, Samhain and Imbolc which had not been previously celebrated along with the Solstices and Equinoxes.
I think that it's fair to point out that he was reviving the notion of celebration of these festivals within his new organization- OBOD
as distinct from reviving them generally
. These festivals are still celebrated in Ireland as they have been from time immemorial. Not in entirely the same ways as the ancient past, but there is an unbroken line of traditional celebration of these Celtic calendar festival times - with modern and ancient celebrations from pilgrimages to sacred places, ancestor memorials, well veneration,fires, Imbolc /St Brighid's day customs, parties, arts and crafts, ritual circuits on holy mountains, wells, "stations" etc.
by Corvin on Mon Mar 02, 2009 7:51 pm
attila of nazareth wrote:
Our common voice is a cacophony of ideas and practices none of which would be recognizable to one of our Druid ancestors.
they wouldn’t understand the awen? grey spirits? gods? ‘tis only the language that has changed magic is what it is ~ timeless. i think the language and perceptions should change as they are part of the transient nature of things.
Yes. Beyond the changes of the landscape, politics, and time, doesn't magic still abound? We have Awen, Nwyfre so we are consciousness... we have connection to the sky, we need air and are stardust... we have connection to the land and sea, for we are water and minerals also. So it seems we are magic ourselves, in the forever connected change. If magic exists, we ourselves are magic...
I think the statement by Art rings very true - re: Cacophany of voices and practices which would not be recognizable to a Druid of the past. While of course we can say we still have 'magic' or a perception of it, or entitle it "spirituality" if one prefers, we do not have the same ideas about it, about cosmology, natural order, liminality, magical practice and druidic training as in the past. We do not have a training environment which continues imparting knowledge from long times past. We do not have a common framework between druidic orders-practices today, other than perhaps, a common "internal" one within
an order (where for example, there may be some standardization of rituals, or festival celebrations, or philosophical concepts or visualization practices etc), but it would be far from what the druids of former times practiced, or how they were organised, or how important their role was in their times.
Further, while I agree with the points you both make - Attila and Corvin, regarding the same influences are on us now as in the past, I think some of the concepts of modern druidry are very modern and would not be understood even in terms of common languages with those from earlier periods - such as cases of adoption of old words for relatively modern concepts
eg. the word nwyfre. Though not a student of Welsh or neopaganism, my understanding of the word is that it has been co-opted into modern day druidry as a synonym for "life-force" or something implying a universal force or power (would that be correct? I have to ask for info on its use by those who use it) but in older Welsh language, it refers to the sky or "heavens", cognate with Old Irish nem? (welsh linguists/Middle Welsh folks is that right?)
Ditto the way ogham is perceived in much modern druidry as a divination system based on groupings of trees and plants. This isn't borne our in Irish tradition or literature regarding ogham. Though in myth yes, indeed there is a reference to a druid using ogam inscribed yew sticks to divine the whereabouts of a missing woman (Story of Etain and Midir), it's not clear that ogham (ogam is Old Irish spelling) is an essential ingredient to that divinatory practice, although certainly as mnemonic or cryptic language inscription it could have been used. Also it does not comprise an alphabet of trees, though the largest common theme of letter names is indeed trees, but not all letters have tree names - some are qualities, colours, implements, soil, happenings like "wounding", metals or chemicals perhaps inferred in some names, A sound, emotional states like "fear" or "embarrassment", etc. Yet the common misperception that these are all tree names is the generally held and taught scheme in modern druidry, from what I've seen over the years.
These are just examples of how we use terminology and traditional lore out of context with its original or earlier ancestral forms and I think that's always important to recognise and acknowledge - So while it's absolutely correct that we do have the same things influencing our lives as in the ancient past - birth, death, relationships, needs for sustenance, shelter, security and income, awareness of the world around us - land, sea and sky and other lands, concepts of life after death or spiritual beliefs, I think that these things are expressed very differently in our time than in theirs in terms of a "re-interpretation" of druidry as a personal rather than organised standardized practice, and further, that we have created - through novel ideas but also through misperception, mistranslation or rewriting of existing information - a modern jargon and 'dogma' (there's that word everybody hates!)to some degree in modern day paganism that differs substantially from the meanings or interpretations of former times from which it was adopted. That statement is not a negative indictment of modern druidry or paganism, but a simple statement of fact because we are not able to follow an unbroken line of knowledge from ancient to modern times - we have fragments of the jigsaw but not the big picture, and while there is a fair bit of information around in terms of folklore, history, languages, tradition etc, not everyone has access to that, so gap-filling, re-creation and reinterpretation is natural, as are adoption and definition of language terminology and of course the development of a new vocabulary through natural cohesion of common means of phraseology etc (Ritual stock phrases and the like) as ideas spread further and wider in an internet age.
I think though it's always good to know what comes from where and when, so that if something has a defined meaning already, and that has a length of history and context that exists, then there's no need to re-write it or re-define it (incorrectly), we simply need to be aware of it and utilize it. We can build on it and add more to it, but buildings with strong foundations are more solid than those without!
Thanks for the interesting discussion Art and contributors thereafter. It's very interesting in our times, now that we have the benefit of a few hundred years of resurged interest in paganism(s), to see how it is developing in a modern age as a "Contemporary Western Paganism".
I would say many Wiccan eyebrows raise at some points! I think Donata will be after you with her broomstick shortly! (just make sure she returns the family silver!
regards to all,