Overview of Modern Druid Groups: Membership and Training
2020 note: I wrote this this over 15 years ago. Some information here may be outdated.
How does one become a member and what can members hope to learn in each of these organizations? I will cover first membership and then any training offered.
One becomes a member by taking the Bardic Grade course. This has a flat fee (approximately US$300, which covers printing and mailing of a considerable amount of material); several people may share the course for a nominal additional fee (approximately $30 per additional person). Once you have started the course, you are a member of OBOD for life.
Initiation into each grade is available and encouraged, but not required. OBOD regards “initiation” as a beginning and when people commence any of the grade courses, they are sent a solitary initiation ritual which they encouraged to perform at the beginning of their studies, but may do the ritual at any time during their studies or not at all. Whether they perform the ritual or not, they are still considered by the Order to be initiates of that grade.
Individual groves/seed groups decide if membership is required for ritual or meeting participation. Non-members may attend OBOD camps accompanied by members/officers or if invited.
OBOD has three grades: Bards, Ovates and Druids. Each grade is taught by correspondence course and through interaction with a tutor that is assigned to members. To advance to the next grade, a member must present a review of the course to his or her tutor who assesses the member’s readiness to move to the next grade. Each grade theoretically takes one year to complete, but personally, I think if you can finish a grade in one year, you have lots of time on your hands. Most people take several years to complete a grade.
The Bardic grade introduces the member to basic skills and traditions used in OBOD druidry, such as seasonal rituals, creation of ritual space, interaction with the four elements, basic meditation techniques, self-assessment and self-analysis through interacting with the myth of the Gwion Bach’s transformation into Taliesin. It also fosters developing creativity and contact with awen and encourages the member to share his or her talents to the community.
An initiate into the Ovate grade works with developing seership through work on the healing and divinatory skills of the Druids. A study of sacred sites and trees, animals and plants is also conducted.
The Druid grade initiate works with deepening his or her understanding and experience of Druid philosophy and magical practice with an emphasis on service to the tradition. This grade’s work includes multi-layered exploration of Arthurian and Grail myths.
Anyone may join BDO by sending in an application form found on its web site. A voluntary donation is requested, but no fee is required.
Membership is not required to attend Gorseddau and other BDO-sponsored activities, but members may be given priority when space is limited.
The Order recognizes the three traditional areas of Druidic practice, those of Bard, Ovate and Druid, but does not normally offer initiation into any of these areas. The BDO offers guidance to help people find their own sources of inspiration and seeks to pass on its tradition through hands-on teaching and direct personal experience. BDO seems to do its training through Gorseddau, camps, talks, workshops, nature walks and other types of experiential gatherings and through informal master-apprenticeship or mentor/protégé relationships. (2)
In the Ancient Order of Druids in America, commencing training and membership is synonymous. Self-initiation as a candidate is an integral part of membership.
Membership is fee-based. There is a life-time membership fee for initial enrollment and for each degree. The lifetime membership fee for enrollment to the status of “Candidate” is US$50. For the First Degree (Druid Apprentice), the fee is US$100, for the Second Degree (Druid Companion), US$100, and for the Third Degree (Druid Adept), US$50. (3)
The AODA web site summarizes its training program as follows: (4)
A new member starts as a candidate, undergoes the candidate initiation, and follows the first-degree study program for at least one year. The program is more fully described at http://aoda.org/aoda-membership/curriculum-requirements/first-degree-curriculum-details/  and consists of four parts done simultaneously: the Earth Path of nature awareness and service to the living Earth, the Sun Path of seasonal celebration, the Moon Path of meditation, as well as study in one of seven “spirals”— poetry, music, divination, healing, magic, sacred geometry, and Earth mysteries. At the present time, these studies are done on a self-study basis due to a lack of trained second and third degree members to mentor a candidate.
After two more years and the completion of a more extensive course of study, Druid Apprentices may apply for initiation into the degree of Druid Companion (described at http://aoda.org/aoda-membership/curriculum-requirements/second-degree-curriculum-details/). The Second Degree training consists of five Paths and three Spirals. The Earth Path comprises the disciplines of nature awareness, seasonal ritual, and meditation central to the First Degree, which are continued in the Second. The Water Path embraces the arts of spiritual guidance and instruction. The Fire Path consists of the arts of ritual design and performance. The Air Path encompasses the scholarly arts and Druid history and traditions. The Spirit Path, finally, extends into the fields of comparative religion and nature spirituality.
In addition, each aspirant must study two of the seven Spirals outlined in the First Degree curriculum , in addition to the one studied in preparation for the First Degree, and one additional art, craft, or discipline not included in the seven Spirals, gaining a basic level of competence in each of these subjects.
A minimum of three years of membership as a Druid Companion and the completion of an individually designed program of advanced Druid training and practice is normally required before a member may be proposed for the Third Degree. The Third Degree is for the Druid who wishes to go further and create a uniquely personal path as a Druid Adept. It has no fixed curriculum in the normal sense, as “each aspirant to this Degree must go beyond the ordinary and blaze a new trail through the Druid forest.” (2020 note: current requirements are found at http://aoda.org/aoda-membership/curriculum-requirements/).
Members of ADF who have completed the Dedicant’s Program or members of OBOD, who have completed certain grades may apply for “transfer credit.” The details may be found at http://aoda.org/aoda-membership/curriculum-requirements/transfer-credit-program/. 
Membership is open to all; you are member if you say you are. Membership in RDNA is not fee-based, but some groves/groups might have membership dues. There are no formal teachings.
According to The Druid Chronicles (Reformed) [PDF 248K], Members of the “first order” become so by partaking the waters of life at a ritual and by accepting the tenets of reformed Druidism. To become a “second order,” one must understand the nature of Reformed Druid ritual and tenets and pledge service to the Earth Mother. To become a third order priest or priestess, one sit a overnight outdoor vigil and know how to lead a Reformed Druid ritual. Within the RDNA there are “Higher Orders,” from the Fourth to the Tenth, that are “reserved for outstanding insight and dedication over a period of time.” It is unclear if any of these “Higher Orders” are still active or not. (5)
One may become a member by paying yearly dues ($15/year [in 2004]).
ADF offers two training systems. The Dedicant’s Program is a year-long program that introduces members to the basics of ADF druidism. It includes such things as developing meditation skills, recommended readings, consideration of ethical and philosophical issues, etc. It includes: (6)
- Written discussions of the dedicant’s understanding of each of the nine virtues.
- Short essays on each of the eight High Days including a discussion of the meaning of each feast.
- Short book reviews on one Indo-European studies title, one preferred ethnic study title and one modern Paganism title.
- Developing a home shrine and describing it in writing and with photographs and describing future plans for it.
- Writing an essay on the dedicant’s understanding of the “two powers” meditation for grounding and centering.
- Weekly journal entries or an essay detailing experiences in meditation, trance or other mental discipline for at least a five month period.
- An account of the dedicant’s efforts to work with nature, honor the Earth, and understand the impact of the dedicant’s lifestyle choices on the environment/local ecosystem and how she or he could make a difference to the environment on a local level.
- A brief account of each High Day ritual attended or performed by the Dedicant during the training period .
- The text of the Dedicant’s Oath Rite and a brief evaluation of the rite.
- One essay describing the Dedicant’s understanding of and relationship to each of the Three Kindreds: the Spirits of Nature, the Ancestors and the Gods.
- A brief account of the efforts of the Dedicant to develop and explore a personal (or Grove-centered) spiritual practice, drawn from a specific culture or combination of cultures.
The next level contains the various area-specific study programs for different guilds and special interest groups. ADF plans to combine these study programs into a comprehensive advanced study program in the future.
Henge of Keltria
Membership is by paying yearly dues (sliding scale $15–$35/year). Members may vote at the annual meeting for Board of Directors members and for officers.
Initiation is not required for membership, but Keltrian Druidism is an initiatory tradition; so full training is only available to those who wish to dedicate themselves on a path towards initiation.
A member who wishes to pursue initiation may become a Dedicant, which involves committing him/herself to the study of Druidism and undergoing a dedication ceremony. The dedicant then commences a study course with a mentor or is involved with the training system of a Grove. During this period, dedicants may be called upon to take on lesser roles in public rituals. Initiation of a dedicant requires the approval from a member of the Ring of Oak.
The Henge of Keltria has three levels of achievement, called Rings. The three Rings are the Ring of Birch, the Ring of Yew and the Ring of Oak. The Ring of Oak has three tiers, Hawthorne, Rowan and Mistletoe. Advancement is based on time, study and service.
Upon initiation, the dedicant is admitted into the Ring of Birch, where he or she is expected to study the “required areas” and serve the Grove in a capacity commensurate with his or her station. This level is considered a student level. When a Druid of the Birch has completed the time, educational and service requirement, she or he may be advanced to the Ring of the Yew by a member of the Ring of the Yew or Oak. A member of this ring must remain there for at least 13 lunations.
Members of the Ring of the Yew are expected to continue their studies and serving in all ritual capacities. The members of this ring are considered lay clergy or “Druid deacon.” A member of this ring must remain there for at least three lunar years. A Ring of Yew member must under go clerical training and demonstrate their skills by acting as clergy and conducting rituals over a period of time. If, after lunar three years, the person has met the necessary service and training requirements, she may apply for advancement to the Ring of Oak.
A Druid of the Oak may break away from his or her mother grove and start a new grove or champion other groves. A member of this ring may also be legally ordained as ministers in the Henge of Keltria.
A new Druid of the Oak finds him or herself in the tier of hawthorne. At this point, the druid chooses one of three disciplines, Bard, Seer or Priest and focuses study in the chosen area of specialization which continuing general studies. He or she is expected to act as clergy, teach grove leadership material and mentor Ring of Yew members on preparation for the clergy. A Hawthorne tier member should also begin attending philosophical/theological round tables and debates.
After three lunar years, a Druid may be advanced to the tier of Rowan, if she or he has performed his or her service to the grove or Henge adequately and is approved by two members of the Rowan or Mistletoe tiers. As a member of the tier of the Rowan, the Druid should be acting as primary clergy, continuing studies in his or her specialty, teaching advanced courses and actively participating in theological discussions.
Three members of the tier of Mistletoe must endorse advancement of the Druid to the tier of Mistletoe. At this level, the Druid no longer needs to be actively conducting ritual, but overseeing other acting clergy. A Druid at this level is expected to devote him/herself to the service of one of the triads, either Ancestors, Nature Spirits or the Gods or to all three.
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.
- This section is compiled from the following sources:
The Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids. “Frequently Asked Questions About the Course.” Accessed July 16, 2004. <http://www.obod.co.uk/intro/faq.htm>; The Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids. “Frequently Asked Questions.” Accessed July 16, 2004. <http://www.druidry.org/obod/intro/faq.html>. 2020: the current information for the courses and the accompanying FAQ can be found at “Joining the Order and Taking the Course.”
- The British Druid Order. “About the BDO.” n.d. Accessed July 16, 2004. <http://www.druidorder.demon.co.uk/bdo_intro.htm> and “Membership of the BDO.” n.d. Accessed July 16, 2004. <http://www.druidorder.demon.co.uk/bdo_membership.htm> 2020: “About the British Druid Order,” and “About Registration and Membership.” The BDO now has online courses.
- The Ancient Order of Druids in America. “Becoming a Member.” n.d. Accessed July 16, 2004. <http://www.aoda.org/member.htm> 2020: “Becoming a Member.”
- The Ancient Order of Druids in America. “Frequently Asked Questions.” n.d. Accessed July 16, 2004. \<http://www.aoda.org/FAQ.htm#Howdoes>; “First Degree Curriculum.” n.d. Accessed July 16, 2004. <http://www.aoda.org/about/curric1.htm>; “Second Degree Curriculum.” n.d. Accessed July 16, 2004. <http://www.aoda.org/about/curric2.htm>; and “Third Degree Curriculum Details.” n.d. Accessed July 16, 2004. <http://www.aoda.org/about/curric3.htm> 2020: “Frequently Asked Questions,” Accessed July 9, 2020; “First Degree Curriculum,” n.d. Accessed July 9, 2020; “Second Degree Curriculum.” n.d. Accessed July 9, 2020; and “Third Degree Curriculum Details,” n.d. Accessed July 9, 2020.
- The Reformed Druids of North America. A Reformed Druid Anthology, Part One: The the Chronicles of the Foundation. Drynemeton Press, 1996. Available in PDF format [242K].
- Dangler, Michael J. “ADF Dedicant Program.” Updated January, 2004. Accessed July 16, 2004 <http://www.chronarchy.com/mjournal/>
- Henge of Keltria. By-Laws. 2003–2004 Edition. Published 2003.