Overview of Modern Druid Groups: Ethics and Conclusion
2020 note: I wrote this this over 15 years ago. Some information may be outdated.
When my study group explored ethics in neo-Pagan religions, we found that there were several types of ethic principles. Some of these included virtues-based ethical principles, in which people are encouraged to develop good habits of character, duty-based ethical principles in which people are obligated by the Divine or by societal custom to behave in a certain way, and consequentialist ethical principles in which people are motivated by the consequences of their actions. Most ethical systems combine two of more of these types, with one type predominating. Most Druid groups that have either stated or implied ethical statements or ethical concerns seems to have predominately virtues-based sets of ethical principles, with some duty-based sets of principles.
In the document, “Ethics and Values in Druidism,” The Order says:
Druidry asks us, above all, to open ourselves to the inspiration and beauty of Nature and Art, through its love of creativity. By nourishing ourselves with contact with the natural world and with art of every kind, and by holding to the core beliefs of Druidism, the following qualities emerge naturally as values that can form the basis of ethical decisions and behaviour:
- Taking responsibility and feeling empowered — We are encouraged to take responsibility for our own thoughts and actions first within our own lives and then with others for our communities and the community of all life.
- Being an integral part of the “circle of all beings” — engaging oneself with the world at large and valuing community.
- The power of trust — trusting that life is “fundamentally good” and “that there is meaning and purpose to existence.”
- Integrity — Druids strive for inner wholeness and completion and to act authentically and honestly from that inner integrity.
- The value of the opposite — appreciating the contrasts and polarities in life.
- Being of value to others and the world — being a force for good and healing to the world.(1)
Each of the revised Bardic Grade lessons also includes triad that often describes desirable traits for a Druid to cultivate. While these examples of triads are not found in the Bardic grade lessons, they are quite similar to those given in the lessons: (2)
- Three things are becoming a person: knowledge, good deeds, and gentleness.
- Three things without which there can be nothing good: truth, valor, and generosity.
- The three manifestations of the true human are: civility, generosity, and compassion.
OBOD has also embraced Erynn Laurie’s collection of Celtic virtues as well: the virtues of truth, honor, justice, loyalty, courage, community, hospitality, strength, and gentleness. (3)
I could find no discussion of ethics per se in the materials by the British Druid Order. Former Joint Chief Emma Restall Orr does have some essays on ethics in Druidry posted on the Druid Network web site.
The curricula for the First and Second Degree emphasize service to the Earth and to nature and service to each other, development and sharing of knowledge. (4)
RDNA does not advocate any particular ethical or moral stance outside of “Nature is good.” Each person is free to develop his or her own ethical stances through thought, meditation, introspection, and/or from other faith paths. (5)
The statement of “What do Neo-pagan Druids Believe”:
We believe that ethics and morality should be based upon joy, love, self-esteem, mutual respect, the avoidance of actual harm to ourselves and others, and the increase of public benefit. (6)
Nine pagan virtues are discussed in the Dedicant’s program: wisdom, piety, vision, courage, integrity, perseverance, hospitality, moderation and fertility.(7) ADF’s statement on what neo-Pagan Druids believe also contain ethical concepts concerning equality of the sexes, communitarian duties, duties to maintain the environment, protecting the rights of themselves and others, ecological activism and awareness as sacred duties, and living lives consistent with stated beliefs.
Henge of Keltria
The Henge of Keltria By-Laws details its organizational ethics:
As an organization, the Henge of Keltria does not discriminate on the basis of age, race, color, national origin, sex or sexual preference. The Henge of Keltria prohibits blood sacrifice and the “torture, mutilation, enslavement or abuse” of any sentient creature. Henge members should keep confidential the names, addresses, and other personal information of other members except when permission is given or the person is deemed a public threat. Ordained and lay clergy are to follow codes of professional ethics for similar secular and religious professionals. Sexual coercion or manipulation is prohibited. Firearms or explosives are prohibited at Keltrian ritual. The use of illegal psychoactive substances in ritual is prohibited. Bigotry, slander, perjury or other forms of harassment leveled against members or other member of the Neo-pagan community is not to be tolerated. Keltrians must abide by their initiatory oaths and not reveal oathbound materials to non-initiates. (8)
The statement of beliefs also add that “we believe that all life is sacred and should neither be harmed nor taken without deliberation or regard” and “we believe that morality is a matter of personal conviction based upon self-respect and respect for others.” Other possible ethical guidelines or concerns that may be discussed as part of their oathbound materials are not discussed on the Keltrian web site or in publicly available materials.
So, as you can see, there is a great variety of modern Druid groups with differing aims and practices. I hope I have helped you become aware of some of the similarities and differences between groups. Each group has its own unique outlook and unique strengths and contributions to share.
One could almost say that there is a Druid group for every seeker, provided that the seeker wishes to experience his or her spirituality through intimate interaction with nature. If you are interesting in exploring a Druid path, there are resources listed below you can explore. I also urge you to visit the web sites for the organizations I have talked about today; for they will give you far more information than I could include.
If you have more information or have comments about what is on these pages, please contact me.
2020 note: URLs in the footnotes are from 2004. Those that still go to the same or similar information as before have active links. Whenever possible, I added revised or new links to similar information for each of these organizations at the end of the footnote. The Henge of Keltria has disbanded since I wrote this, but revised information is still available online.
- The Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids. “Ethics & Values in Druidism” n.d. Accessed March 23, 2005. <http://www.druidry.org/druid-way/what-druidry/ethics-values-druidry>. Further application and discussion of these and other ethical values can be found in the sections, “Druidry & Politics” <http://www.druidry.org/library/archive-library/druidry-politics> and “How Beautiful Are They — Some Thoughts on Ethics in Celtic and European Mythology.” 2020: “Ethics in Druidry,” and “Druidry & Politics.”
- John F. Wright. “A Compilation of Triads.” Published 1995. Accessed July 27, 2004.
- Erynn Rowan Laurie. “The Truth Against the World: Ethics and Modern Celtic Paganism.” n.d. Accessed July 27, 2004. <http://www.seanet.com/~inisglas/ethics.html>.
- The Ancient Order of Druids in America. “Frequently Asked Questions.” n.d. Accessed July 16, 2004. <http://aoda.org/faq.html>; “AODA Study Program.” n.d. Accessed December 10, 2014. <http://aoda.org/curric.html>. 2020: These URLs redirect to current information and may vary from what is in the article.
- Michael Scharding. “Less is More a.k.a Summaries of Reformed Druidism.” n.d. Accessed July 27, 2004. <http://www.rdna.info/lessismore.html>
- Ár nDraíocht Féin. “What Do Neo-pagan Druids Believe?” Published 2003. Accessed December 10, 2014. <http://www.adf.org/about/beliefs.html>.
- Michael J. Dangler. “The Nine Pagan Virtues.” Published February, 2003. Accessed July 27, 2004. <http://www.chronarchy.com/mjournal/virtues/>.
- Henge of Keltria. The Henge of Keltria By-Laws. 2003–2004 Edition. Published 2003. Ethical concerns are also summarized in “The Henge: An Introduction to Keltrian Druidism.” (second edition, 1998) 3–4.
- Searles O’Dubhain and Topaz Owl. “A Collection of Druidic Triads.” Published 1999. Accessed July 27, 2004. <http://summerlands.com/crossroads/library/triads.htm>. Searles O’Dubhain. “A Druid’s Code.” n.d. Accessed July 27, 2004. <http:/summerlands.com/crossroads/library/a_druids_code.htm>.
References and Resources
Druidry and Druids in General
Adler, Margot. Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshippers, and Other Pagans in America Today. Beacon Press, 1987. Descriptions of the Reformed Druids of North America and Ar ’nDraiocht Fein.
Bond, Lawrence and Ellen Evert Hopman, Being a Pagan: Druids, Wiccans, and Witches Today. Destiny Books, 2001. This is a slightly revised edition of People of the Earth: The New Pagans Speak Out. Interviews with Isaac Bonewits of ADF and Tony and Sable Taylor of the Henge of Keltria.
Carr-Gomm, Philip. The Rebirth of Druidry: Ancient Earth Wisdom for Today. Element Books, 2003. This is a revised edition of The Druid Renaissance: The Voice of Druidry Today. (London: Thorson’s, 1996.) Essays on various aspects of British and Continental Druid groups and Druidry.
The Druid Network homepage: http://www.druidnetwork.org/.
Greer, John Michael. “ADF and OBOD.” <https://www.adf.org/about/basics/adf-and-obod.html>. Written in 2004. A in-depth discussion on the differences between these two organizations by a person who is a member of both.
Hutton, Ronald. Witches, Druids and King Arthur. Hambledon & London, 2003. Chapter on modern British Druid groups.
Modern Druid Groups
Ancient Order of Druids in America
Web site: http://www.aoda.org/
Ar nDraiocht Fein
Web site: http://www.adf.org/
British Druid Order
Web site: http://www.britishdruidorder.org.uk/
British Druid Order. Druidry: Re-Kindling the Sacred Fire.
Orr, Emma Restall. Ritual: A Druid’s Guide to Life, Love & Inspiration. London: Thorson’s, 2000.
________. Druid Priestess. 2d ed. London: Thorson’s, 2001. The first edition was printed under the title, Spirits of the Sacred Grove: The World of a Druid Priestess.
________. Thorson’s Principles of Druidry. London: Thorson’s, 1999.
Shallcrass, Philip. Druidry: A Practical and Inspirational Guide. London: Judy Piatkus Ltd, 2000.
Henge of Keltria
Web site: http://www.keltria.org/Blog1/.
Henge of Keltria. The Book of Ritual. 4th ed. n.p., 1997.
Henge of Keltria. The Henge of Keltria By-Laws. 2003-2004 edition. n.p., 2003. This has since been revised and the 2016 edition is the latest.
Henge of Keltria. “The Henge: An Introduction to Keltrian Druidism.” Second edition. n.p., 1998.
Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids
Web site: http://www.druidry.org/
Carr-Gomm, Philip. The Rebirth of Druidry: Ancient Earth Wisdom for Today. Element Books, 2003. This is a revised edition of The Druid Renaissance: The Voice of Druidry Today. (London: Thorson’s, 1996.)
________. In the Grove of the Druids: The Druid Teachings of Ross Nichols. Watkins, Publishing, 2004.
________. The Druid Way. London: HarperCollins, 1993.
Nichols, Ross. The Book of Druidry. Philip Carr-Gomm and John Matthews, eds. Reprint edition. London: Thorson’s, 1992.
Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids. The Book of Ritual. Lewes, Sussex: Oak Tree Press, 2001. (Generally unavailable to non-members.)
Worthington, Cairistiona (Christine). Druids: A Beginner’s Guide. Hodder, 1999.
Reformed Druids of North America
Some Other Modern Druid Groups (a sampling)
The Order of the White Oak — https://www.facebook.com/groups/whiteoakdruids/
Druid Order of the Yew — https://druidnetwork.org/about-the-druid-network/the-order-of-the-yew/
The Druid Clan of Dana — http://www.fellowshipofisis.com/druidclanofdana.html
The Green Mountain Druid Order — https://greenmountaindruidorder.org/
The Avalon Druid Order — https://www.avalondruidorder.org/
Reformed Druids of Gaia — https://reformed-druids.org/
Anglesey Druid Order — https://www.angleseydruidorder.co.uk/about
Kredenn Geltiek Hollvedel — http://druidisme.org/
- Class notes compiled and used at Sacred Space Conference on July 10, 2004.
- Expanded class notes posted July 27, 2004.
- Resources section revised on October 6, 2004.
- The Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids updated its web site in early 2005 with revised and additional information. Several parts of this article were revised in March 2005 to reflect those changes. Also, the Resources section was revised at the same time.
- Section on ethics and resources section updated with additional information from the Henge of Keltria on June 6, 2005.
- Information on ADF training updated in February 6, 2006. Revised capsule history of the BDO.
- Added link to The Order of the Whiteoak to the resources section.
- Added link to The New Order of Druids to the resources section.
- Revised links to content on The Summerlands Web site.
- Revised ADF core order of ritual to current guidelines on February 19, 2008.
- Updated some links, added more Druid organizations, and added annotations, June–September 2020.