Being a Reconstructionist Druid; a Contradiction in Terms

Mar 30th, 2013 | By | Category: Morgan Daimler

morgan daimlerNothing is more useful in paganism or can cause more confusion than labels, and both of those apply in equal measure to the word “Druid”. Labels, of course, serve an important purpose in connecting to people’s schema and helping to give an instant understanding of what you’re talking about or trying to convey; they create a common ground, although sometimes definitions differ and discussion is required to get on the same page.¬†

The best words to describe my spirituality are probably p√°g√°nacht and heathen since the first is specific to Irish reconstruction and the second is general for an eclectic Norse/Germanic spirituality. I don’t mix the two together but rather follow them both separately; four holidays for one, four for the other and I am dedicated to a deity in each pantheon. Maybe not the ideal solution in some people’s eyes but it works for me. However, I like having nice single words to use as descriptors in a conversation because sometimes precision is a virtue. When I’m asked what my religion is or what path I follow and my answer is a paragraph long explanation it tends to put people off, but a nice simple answer can open up further conversation and a more detailed follow up explanation. So instead of starting off with “I’m an Irish recon. and heathen who practices witchcraft and acts as clergy for my community.” I generally tell people I am a Druid.¬†

Druid is a highly controversial term in reconstruction because many people feel the old¬†Druids are dead and gone beyond being brought back. Most modern Celtic Reconstructionist groups have adapted or use different words relating to priest or leader to take the place of Druid for those who fill that role within that group. Although there are now a few groups of Reconstructionist Druids who are comfortable using the word, most reconstructionists are adamantly against its use in a modern context. The ancient Druids were the educated class of their society, the doctors, lawyers, advisors, priests,¬†seers, and elite musicians, so there is some weight to the argument that re-creating them as they were is impossible. In modern usage¬†the word has come to denote a practitioner of a religion, Druidism, although¬†I personally don’t see it as describing a religion but as a title for a position within a religion, like priestess or imam. That’s what it was always supposed to mean, and it was only after the Druids were separated from Celtic paganism during the revival period in the 18th century that it took on an -ism of it’s own. Or a -ry depending on whether you fall into the Druidism or Druidry camp. I think those trying to reconstruct Celtic paganism should include the clergy (not everyone agrees with me) and go back more to the old model of Druids and lay people all practicing Celtic polytheism, but it may be that too much time has passed with Druidism being it’s own religion for that to ever happen. Things change and evolve…and that may be a whole other blog post topic.¬†

So, having said that, why do I use the word Druid? Why call myself a Druid when I practice Irish reconstruction and I know how controversial the word is? It would certainly be easier in some contexts not to call myself a Druid. Part of the answer is that I feel that it is the best word I know to describe what I do in a public setting, as someone who acts as clergy to a larger community. Part of the answer is that I belong to a Druid Order and have earned the title through that Order. And it is the single word that best encompasses what I do and believe, even with the misconceptions and vagueness around the term, to use when talking to someone who is not a reconstructionist. Realistically most of the people I talk to about religion have no idea what reconstructionism is, but everyone has some idea of what a Druid is. It gives me something to work with, a place to start and build on. So I use it because it does describe who I am and what I do and because it is an effective way to talk about my spirituality. Controversy and all. 

morgan daimlerMorgan Daimler is a blogger, poet, teacher of esoteric subjects, Druid, dedicant of Macha, and wandering priestess of Odin.

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