Training In Druidry
Druidry as an Individual Path
Although many people attracted to Druidry join a group or order to further their studies or spiritual development, there are many more who simply begin to adopt Druid beliefs and practices because they find that they reflect feelings and beliefs that they already hold about life. When they read or hear about Druidism they experience a feeling of familiarity – as if they knew these ideas already, and they just needed to hear them fully articulated from the ‘outside’ to recognise that they already knew these ‘inside’.
Druidry places great emphasis on respecting each individual’s spiritual integrity, so there are no practices which must be followed in order to be considered a Druid. There is no sense of obligation to always celebrate the eight festivals, for example. Instead, being a Druid or following the way of Druidism, is at heart an attitude of mind that is based broadly upon the beliefs outlined in the article on Beliefs in this section of the website, and that seeks the development and expression of love, creativity and wisdom. How each individual chooses to live from this fundamental attitude towards life is the choice and responsibility of that individual, and no-one else. Some choose to treat Druidism as their religion as well as it reflecting their philosophy of life, others choose to practice a different religion, such as Christianity, Buddhism or Wicca, while still holding to the core beliefs and principles of Druidism, which are compatible with all spiritual paths.
Those who follow Druidry without being affiliated with any particular group, usually build their practice and follow their studies through reading books, browsing information available on the Web, and perhaps through attending workshops or retreats, or participating in online discussion forums. While this approach is appealing since it allows much flexibility, many people find that they need a more structured approach, or sense the need for some sort of guidance in their spiritual practice and studies.
Home Study Courses
If you are seeking a more structured or guided approach, a number of courses and training programmes now exist. Until 1988 the only way that you could follow a course of study in Druidry, or train in it as a spiritual practice, was to find a teacher to learn directly from them. This meant that only a very small number of people followed Druidism. For example there were probably only two teachers who were training people in Britain in the 1970s: Ross Nichols and Thomas Maughan.
To overcome this limitation, the Order of Bards Ovates and Druids, founded by Ross Nichols, began to offer a distance-learning course in Druidism in 1988 and since then over fifteen thousand people from all over the world have taken the first year’s course, which is followed by an optional two further levels of study.
More recently a number of other courses have been developed, often by students of the Order’s course who have wanted to explore or emphasise different aspects of Druidism. Discrimination is needed in choosing a course, since nowadays anyone with a home computer can set up a course and offer it on the internet. The best way to find a course that suits you is to take time to read the introductory material for those courses which appeal to you. If you are using the internet to research a course, find out about the organisation who is offering it, and if they have a message board or internet forum you could browse that for a while too, to pick up the atmosphere, although only certain kinds of people use message boards, and on their own they cannot be taken as completely representative of a group. Commonsense combined with intuition and discrimination should guide you to the course that is just right for you.
The important thing to remember is that following such a course will have an effect on your spiritual and psychological life, so you need to feel comfortable with it, and with being associated with the organisation that offers it. The Order’s course, for example, is not simply a course that works intellectually, but instead it offers a way of developing spiritually, with the guidance of printed and audio teaching materials, and a network of over fifty mentors around the world. Taking such a course will almost certainly have an effect upon your life, so you need to make sure you agree with its aims and objectives.
The great advantage in taking a home learning course is that you can choose the depth of engagement that suits you. You may start with a tentative exploration of the subject, gradually opening yourself to a deeper involvement with the exercises and ideas presented, confident in the knowledge that you can set aside such a course at any time. Attending a workshop or looking for a person to teach you, though, necessitates more of a commitment and therefore requires even more discrimination.
Leaving Home to Seek Teachings – Finding a Druid Teacher
Every learning method has its limitations. Distance learning has many advantages: you can follow a course at your own pace, you can study wherever you are in the world, you can work in the quiet and privacy of your own home without having to travel, and now – with the internet – you can receive the support and advice of fellow students and mentors around the globe.
Even so, some people find that in order to learn they need to make contact with other people – physically, not virtually. They know that they learn best when interacting with others, and in addition there is a tremendous appeal in the idea of finding a spiritual teacher who can directly and personally help us in our quest for wisdom and spiritual development.
Druidry is not a spirituality that is conveyed by ‘gurus’ who require the devotion of disciples who must accept their every word. Instead Druidry is taught by those who are themselves seekers on a path which is being continually developed.
Often distance learning teachings are offered not by an individual but by an ‘order’ – a term derived from the magical orders of the nineteenth century, rather than from the Christian religious orders. The advantage of an order rather than a person being the source of teachings lies in this helping to avoid a personality cult developing around any particular teacher.
Even so, people drawn to teaching roles are not immune from the need for attention, approval and affection, and there is always the possibility that a particular teacher’s unresolved emotional issues will result in their using a teaching role to consciously or unconsciously manipulate or exploit their students. The familiar way of expressing this idea is to caution that their ego might get in the way of their teaching. From a student’s point of view, the only safeguard is their commonsense, intuition and ability to be discriminating.
Unfortunately every spiritual tradition has had teachers who have used their role inappropriately, and Druidism is no exception. For this reason it is important, if you are looking for a teacher, never to abdicate your judgement or your discernment. At the present time there are very few teachers of Druidism, and the likelihood of finding one close to you may well be remote. If you do come across one, ask them lots of questions: how they trained in Druidism, how long they have been studying, what their aims and intentions are, and more. Listen carefully to their replies and be cautious if you sense pomposity, evasion, fantasy or delusion. A spiritual teacher should display the characteristics of naturalness, humility, and humour as well as qualities of depth, seriousness and integrity.
Rather than finding an individual Druid teacher to learn from, you are more likely to be able to find a group who follows Druidry, which is either affiliated to a Druid order or which functions independently. Here you are likely to find a strong sense of community, and a group of people who each have something to teach you about Druidism. Sometimes one or more members of the group will have a strong personality which attracts new members who may place them on a pedestal for a while. Over time, though, the star-struck newcomer will usually become aware of the weaknesses as well as the strengths of any dominant personality in the group, and will then come to appreciate that following the Druid path depends upon our becoming more self-reliant rather than less so.
The School of Nature
Whether you learn from a course, a teacher, or a group, there is one other source of learning that it is vital to also drawn upon. Druidry is based upon a love of Nature – to such an extent that it is sometimes called a Nature or Earth Religion. Druids view Nature as a perpetual source of physical and spiritual nourishment, which can teach us as well as inspire us, and bring us calm and refreshment.
What we learn from the natural world may be intellectual – gained from the observation of animals, plants, and the weather for example, or it may be subtler – the kind of learning that deepens the soul and which cannot be rationally explained, that comes from sleeping out under the stars, meditating in a cave or contemplating a river or the ocean. Both kinds of learning are needed in following the Druid way, and any training in Druidry needs to be firmly grounded within this wider school of Nature.
As the author John Michael Greer writes: "In the final analysis, Druidry isn't about orders, teachers, and books. It's about each person's experience of living nature, and if the orders and books and teachers get in the way of that, set them aside, go out beneath the open sky, and find the Druidry that works for you. Ultimately, that's what matters."
Bearing this in mind, if you would like to know more, click below:
Explore the significance of the Druid seasonal celebrations
Explore the practice of meditation in Druidry and listen to sample meditations
Explore the significance of sacred animals in the Druid tradition