Amanda Thomas

Amanda Thomas | STANDING IN THREE WORLDS

Amanda Thomas is an ADF Druid as well as the Grove Organizer for the Ad Astra Protogrove. She also serves on the Topeka Interfaith Council. Blogger, mother, wife, and explorer.

So, you say you're a Druid (part 1)

November 16, 2011

There is a small, but growing, minority in Topeka that knows what a Druid is and what we stand for. My religion is an important part of my life, and defines me in ways that even I don’t completely comprehend. The majority of Topekans have probably never heard of Druids (let alone know that we are an Internal Revenue Code section 501(c)(3) recognized church), so I thought I should provide answers to some questions people may have.

As many other members of my generation would probably do, I asked my Facebook friends: “If you could ask any question about Druidry, what would it be?” Forty or so questions later, and still counting, I now realize this might have to be tackled in several posts instead of one. I’ll probably intersperse them with things that affect Paganism and Druidry in society today, but a basic understanding of what those two terms mean might be helpful for the reader of future posts.

Druidry is a small part of the larger umbrella of religions called Pagan (or Neo-Pagan). Pagan religions are often extremely hard to define, and even some religions that I would consider Pagan would be rather upset by my using that description for them. What I would include under the umbrella would be faiths such as Wicca (which has many different “denominations”, for lack of a better word), various reconstruction faiths such as Asatru (the ancient Norse and Northern traditions), Hellimos (Greek Tradition), the various Celtic Reconstructionists, Vodoun, Santería, and so many more that it is impossible to list them all. Each group has their own ways to worship, just as different Christian denominations practice their faiths differently.

So how is my Druid faith different from these other kinds of Paganism? Many forms of Wicca are mystery faiths, though not all are. Mystery faiths are those where secret information and teachings are passed on through an oral tradition only to those who have been initiated. Wicca is also a rather new religion and many of its various sects are based on the religion of Gerald Gardner (1884-1964). Reconstructionists tend to use archeology and ancient texts to try recreating the older religions from before the invasion of Christianity. Druids fall somewhere in between Wicca and the reconstructionists. We are creating a new religion based on the practices and beliefs of the older faiths of the Indo-Europeans. There are certain aspects of the druids of old that we don’t want to bring back, such as human and animal sacrifice, so we are not true reconstructionists. Our rituals are always open to the public, so we are about as far from a mystery tradition as you can get.

The next question might be why did I choose to be a Druid instead of a follower of Wicca, or Asatru? Truth is, I did try the Wiccan faith for a time. I found a great deal of value in that practice, but it wasn’t the best fit for me. There were parts of it that just didn’t seem to be what I needed, and when I found Ár nDraíocht Féin (ADF), it was like finding myself. There was a scholarly aspect that called to me, and sparked my desire for more. ADF follows Orthopraxy and not Orthodoxy. That means we follow a certain way to worship (the Core Order of Ritual) and do not require everyone to believe the same things about the nature of the world both physical and spiritual. There are members who are agnostic, hard line polytheists, "squishy" polytheists, and everything in between. Some view the Gods as nothing more than archetypes, while others are firmly convinced that the Gods are full beings separate from human consciousness. The wiggle room that allowed me to explore my views on the Divinities was something I found very refreshing.

 Another draw for me was the nine virtues. The nine virtues are what our morality is based on. They are Piety, Wisdom, Hospitality, Fertility, Perseverance, Vision, Courage, Integrity, and Moderation. These words challenge me to be a better person and affect my religious practice as well. Hospitality features in how I do ritual. Piety affects my daily devotions and prayers. Wisdom calls me toward compassion, and perseverance calls me to continue to do the right thing even when it gets hard or emotionally draining. Fertility asks me to grow not just my own faith path, but to support others on theirs. My vision pushes me forward toward greater deeds and courage allows me to step out and do what needs doing to make that vision become reality. Moderation insures that I don’t burn out on any part of this. 

I will leave this here and come back to some of the other questions that my wonderful Facebook friends have given me another time. I hope that you, dear reader, will ask questions as well. Mine is a minority faith, so most people don’t know much about it. Learning about each others' faiths can deepen our own. I await your replies.