Through the Irish Pagan School mailing list, Mike asked:
“One question if I may. What is the difference between Druidism and Paganism? As I’m sure you know there are unlimited resources online and allot of it is quite confusing and contradictory. I’ve been doing some reading for a year and a half or so and it can get a bit overwhelming. As with everything I read on the web I believe only about a quarter of it.”
Basically though, Paganism is a sort of umbrella term, with a fairly common set of guidelines or practices as explained in the articles above (as well as in many of videos on YouTube – Here!).
Under that umbrella – and sometimes, a little off to the side coz they stubbornly don’t want to be under your silly umbrella, they’d rather get wet thank you very much – sit many different types or paths of Paganism, and Druidism is one of those.
So, most modern Druids are Pagan (there are some who would argue, and that’s grand, there’s even some ‘Christian Druids’), but not all modern Pagans are Druids.
As above, we are differentiating this between modern or Neo Druidism, and the ancient spiritual practices of these Celtic Isles and Continental Europe.
To see what was said about the ancient Druids, Click Here.
In the 1800s CE, ‘Druid Revivalists’ began to practice… something they said was Druidism. These were British upper class dudes, for the most part; sometimes well meaning, but also incredibly ignorant about factual history by modern standards.
And some of them just plain made shit up, probably to inflate their own egos and reputation. Some of that shit is still being practiced as ‘ancient’ parts of festivals and seasonal celebrations for the tourists in Wales.
We’re looking at you, Iolo Morganwg (Edward Williams).
The Difference Between Druidism and Paganism NOW.
When modern Paganism started to gain popularity (probably in the 60s first, then rising in the 70s with Alex Sanders’ media notoriety), the difference between Druidism and Paganism began to clarify, as more people began to practice and publish specifically on each path.
Today, the Druid Network provides a list of “some commonalities [of belief/practice] that many Druids can agree on”, given more or less as follows:
- Truth – maintaining a level of integrity in their every day lives, and seeking the Truth for oneself.
- Meditation, ritual practice and communion with Nature.
- Polytheism – the worship of/belief in multiple deities, usually of the same Pantheon (and most often what they lump together as ‘Celtic’).
- Rituals are open to all who wish to attend, and anyone is welcome to train as a Druid.
- Magical workings (spells, etc.) are not the primary focus of Druidry.
- Many Druids honour Nature and do their best to stay ecologically aware and sound in their practices.
- They say only four Festivals, which they list as “Samhain, Imbolc, Beltane and Lughnassadh”, are ‘Celtic’, and many Druids just celebrate those. (You can find out more about actual Irish Pagan Holidays and Festivals – Here.)
- Service of their Gods, Community and their own needs through community service, ecological awareness, keeping one’s life in balance and maintaining a respectful spiritual practice.
If you’ve checked out my general Pagan Practice info (more links above), you’ll notice that actually, there’s not a HUGE difference between Druidism and Paganism.
Neo Druids have just taken a basic Pagan Practice, and made sure that everything is ‘Celtic’ – or what they deem as such.
In modern Druidism groups and organisations, there are often high levels of misunderstanding or appropriation of the native source lore and traditions, unfortunately, and the ethics can truly leave a lot to be desired.
Yes, even in some particular Irish ‘Druid’ groups, but most often seen from those who are outside the culture.
If you want to Practice Druidism…
You can of course get involved with one of the Druid Groups that a quick google will bring up. For the reasons outlined above, please be careful, if that is your choice.
(My book, A Practical Guide to Pagan Priesthood, will give you a very good grounding in what to expect from leadership when involved with such groups, and what is truly NOT acceptable. Please do educate yourself!)
Alternatively, as you’ve learned here, there is very little practical difference between what we just call authentic Irish Paganism, and what is being billed as Druidry or Druidism in other places.
Feel free to take a couple of the free classes, or the Introduction courses, over at the Irish Pagan School, to get your learning from a genuine native Community Service based source!