Overview of Modern Druid Groups: Capsule Histories
2020 note: I wrote this this over 15 years ago. Some information here may be outdated.
OBOD (1964, revived 1988)
The Order of Bards Ovates and Druids is derived from the Ancient Druid Order (AKA British Circle of the Universal Bond), believed to have been founded in 1717. Ross Nichols split from the ADO to form the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druid in 1964.
The Order went inactive after Nichols’s death in 1974 and was revived in 1988 by Philip Carr-Gomm, who still serves as Chief of the Order. It is one of the largest Druid groups today with over 7,000 members worldwide.
The British Druid Order was founded in 1979 by Wiccan High Priest, Philip Shallcrass, who became convinced that Druidry was the native British version of shamanism. Shallcrass also became a member of OBOD in the early 90s and he was joined as Joint Chief of the Order by OBOD Druid Emma Restall Orr in 1995. They parted company in 2001 and Shallcrass remains the Chief of the Order.
AODA (1912, revived 2003)
The history of the Ancient Order of Druids in America starts with the Ancient Archaeological Order of Druids (1874), which changed its name to the Ancient Masonic Order of Druids (1886). A charter for an American branch, the Ancient Order of Masonic Druids in America was obtained in 1912. This group separated from Masonry and changed its name to the Ancient Order of Druids in America in 1976. The Order went inactive in the 1990s and was revitalized by John Michael Greer in 2003.
Around the time that OBOD was being created, some students at Carleton College in Northfield, MN USA, in 1963 objected to a college policy of mandatory attendance of religious services, so they protested by creating a outlandish religious group, the Reformed Druids of North America, and attending its services regularly. The requirement was soon withdrawn, but members continued to participate in the group in order to explore world faiths and personal paths. As they graduated, they started groups in other states. By the 1980s there were about 10 groves scattered across the country and now there are some 40 or so groves and protogroves.
Ar nDraiocht Fein was founded by Isaac Bonewits in 1983. Bonewits was a member of RDNA who also had ties with other Neo-pagan groups. He had a vision of molding the Reform Druids into a Neo-pagan group that could have scholarly rigor in its training and theology, but most of the other RDNA members were not interested in his proposal. Ultimately, Bonewits created ADF in his own image of what a Neo-pagan Druid group should be. A fuller account of the formation of ADF can be found in Margot Adler’s Drawing Down the Moon or The Reformed Druids of North America’s A Reformed Druid Anthology.
The Henge of Keltria (1985 or 1987, disbanded in 2017)
The Henge of Keltria was founded in 1985 or 1987 (I’ve seen both dates given in Keltrian materials) by Tony Taylor and Pat Taylor in response to “theological differences, administrative goals, and other perceived shortcomings of ADF.” The founders were seeking a more Celtic-centered path than ADF’s Indo-European-centered path. (1)
2020 note: The Henge of Keltria was disbanded as 501c3 organization in 2017. The blog post about this is at: http://www.keltria.org/Blog1/2017/11/01/samhain-blessings-and-the-transformation-of-keltria/ (accessed 17 June 2020). The blog also contains much of the information herein about the Henge of Keltria.
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.
- Topaz Owl. “A Druid Alone.” Henge Happenings Vol. 42. Published 1999. Accessed July 16, 2004. <http://www.keltria.org/hengehap/HH42/HH42-ADA.htm>.