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This introduction offers rough sketches of the topics it touches on. On other pages of this website, in articles, on social networks and in the many diverse activities of the IDG, you will find the different aspects of Druidry, and Galizan Druidry in particular, drawn out in more detail.
What is it?
Druidry (‘Druidism’) is a native European religion[*] that has its origins in the beliefs, ethics and way of life of the Celtic peoples.
The first known written reference to Druidry goes back to the 4th Century BCE, though its roots — referred to as the Primordial Tradition — are very much older. We believe the cradle of Druidry lies in the land called Callaecia (which corresponds to Galiza and the North of Portugal).
It is called Druidry because it was Druids that made up the priestly and intellectual class of that society.
In ancient days they were the judges, the philosophers, theologists, sometimes also the healers and very often the administrators of the diverse clans, acting as authentic links of union and cohesion between all of the Celtic communities.
They were highly prestigious figures, charged with carrying out their society’s research, education and the performance of religious rites and ceremonies. All of the Druids and, by extension, all of the Celtic peoples, shared a common morality, a cosmology, cultural celebrations, a sense of justice, and very similar, if not identical, styles of living together in community.
In spite of its persecution, since the 1st Century BCE, Druidry maintained itself alive for centuries in many different territories with a Celtic legacy, camouflaged by other names or under euphemisms such as “pre-roman” or “pagan”, though it was, throughout this period, losing its former uniformity and organisation. However, against the whims and winds of history and the breaking of the lines of cultural transmission, Druidry has experienced a rebirth since the 18th Century CE.
Diverse currents exist contributing to modern Druidry, each adapted to the historical heritage, local reality or necessities of its clan. The Pan-Galizan Druidic Fellowship (IDG, introduced >here<) draws upon the indigenous religious, spiritual, cultural and philosophical expressions of the Galizan territory for its modern rites, practices, values and beliefs. It tries to do in such a way that avoids anachronisms, with the objective of making this Druidic belief relevant to present day Druidists (believers). Modern Druidry learns from the past, to act well today with an eye on the future.
The Galizan Druidic Tradition’s general vision differs very little form Pan-Celtic Druidry and can be briefly summarised as:
- Honour and respect for our Ancestors, all those who came before us and their wisdom, for without them we would not be as we are nor would we be at all. The IDG defends the history, culture, and memory of the Land and the People that shelter and sustain it.
- Honour, respect and reverence towards Nature, for it is the All which embraces us and includes us. We are an inseparable part of it. The IDG is fundamentally Pantheistic and Environmentalist.
- Recognition and acceptance of the complexity of this Nature and of the Cosmos, that still shrouds mysteries like the transcendence of all life, reincarnation, the universal connection and presence of the All in the Particular and the Particular in the All. The IDG is Monist.
- Acceptance of the diverse manifestations of this complexity, whether it be in symbolic form or real, through diverse means, objects and beings in the forms called Imbás or Awen (inspiration) which is normally represented in a tripartite form. The IDG is Animist.
- Honour and Respect to the Deities of our tradition; they are the scions of Nature and its complexity, teachers for whosoever wishes to learn. The IDG is Polytheist.
- Observance of the Druidic Calendar, or Wheel of the Year, and attention to the teachings and recommendations of recognised Druids (Durvates). The IDG is an organisation legally established and clearly structured, with rules, clear normatives and a public presence.
All of this can be summarised even further into three basic premises:
– Honour to our Ancestors
– Reverence to the land and to Nature
– Learn from the Deities
Druidry did not arrive at these points via revelations, nor sacred books, nor apparitions or miracles. Nor does Druidry believe in sin, punishments nor universal salvation. Druidic praxis is based in three axes: Responsibility, Honour and Commitment.
Through these and through our experiences and reflections as individuals and groups, we try to understand together, with open minds, ordering our knowledge into logical forms, more and more of the all that surrounds us.
Just this alone constitutes and illuminates a lesson and a crucial project: the importance of recognising our limitations though, that in itself then presents itself as a challenge to rise to, an obstacle to transcend.
For this reason in Druidry we do not proselytise. Each and every human being should arrive at their own conclusions after embarking on their own journey of spiritual discovery. In Druidry, we can provide responses to the questions of non-believers, should they be presented to us, but the IDG completely rejects any type of attempt to convert others. Druidry, in its religious form, expounds its opinions, its ideas, but it does not try to convince.
Beyond this, there are a series of ethical principles accepted by the majority of Druidists in the world with the following or similar names. These are the Nine Commitments:
Commitment to Nature — Commitment to Humanity — Commitment to Peace — Commitment to Roots — Commitment to Liberty — Commitment to Independence — Commitment to Spirituality — Commitment to Knowledge — Commitment to the Truth
These Nine Commitments are complemented by the Nine Celtic Virtues: Honourability, Justice, Loyalty, Bravery, Generosity, Hospitality, Humility, Knowledge and Eloquence.
The IDG places prime importance on responsibility and harmony. Although we face responsibility as individuals, the solitary path must find equilibrium with the experience of the community.
Here you have an element of the focus of Galizan Druidry: the equilibrium between the liberty of the individual Druidist and the responsibility and commitment with the clan; the balance between the individual and their singularity and their contribution to the collective, as it is.
The collective is better off with the union of strong and complementary individuals, people with their own ideas and diverse and original proposals, working together in unison with honour and meaning towards common ends.
As a practical day-to-day guide we draw upon the Nine Rules of Druidic Demeanour. They are simple recommendations, based in a Celtic logic, as to where to begin in making our world a better place.
What Druidry is not: For us Druidry is not simply a philosophy, spiritual path, lifestyle or way of understanding culture. It is all of these things, clearly, but it is much more. It is principally a religion (in the broad sense of the word; see below), where the IDG is an organised religious entity which makes autonomous religious interpretations.
We do not consider our Caminho (Path) to be the only possible one and we fully respect the visions of other groups and organisations, but all these things aforementioned here and now, are the focus of the IDG.
Druidry is not a passive nor contemplative religion. It never was, for it it is always linked with the interests and dignity of its People, of its Community.
Our involvement is with the defence of that which we consider correct (the Nine Druidic Commitments), always through peaceful but active methods (through the Nine Virtues). We value a “hands on deck” attitude in the betterment of our world rather than an emphasis on mere theory and debate with no further involvement. In this we believe that there are a series of values and ideas worth sharing without that then turning that into proselytising nor imposition of any kind.
It is true that Druidry can be a little confusing for someone who begins to know it, for many of the elements and concepts in it may not be as clear as in other religious or belief systems. They can be ambiguous, complementary or even self-contradictory (in appearance).
The fact is that the majority of us grew up in a society where the divine was spoken of as merciful, loving and demanding: demanding that its believers subject themselves to its laws in exchange for concessions of help and support. In contrast, it is our belief that we must cross through a gate, a door, a process which requires great sacrifice, tearing down the old walls that hold us back from understanding what this world of ours is and what our place in it is. Although the Deities may reach out to us with good intentions, their tender touch brings those walls tumbling down and this can leave us feeling strange and disconcerted. Our understanding of the Deities and our understanding of ourselves takes time but eventually sense and meaning, in their fullest forms, fall into place.
Rites and Celebrations
The IDG celebrates diverse rites of passage and religious services by petition of the clan, but there does also exist the observance of the Celtic calendar (the Wheel of the Year) and all of its accompanying festivities. There are four main dates:
- Magusto (Samhain): 31st October-1st November. Festival for the Deities Berobreo, Bandua and Cale. The celebration of the New Year, of our Ancestors, of harvest, regroupment and reflection.
- Entroido (Imbolc): 1st – 2nd February. Festival of the Goddess Brigantia, of the triumph over winter and the passing into spring. Hope and happiness.
- Maios (Beltaine): 1 Maio. Festival of the God Bel. The grandiosity of Nature in the spring. Power, life and energy.
- Seitura (Lughnasadh): 1st – 2nd August. Festival of the God Lugus. The Splender of the Summer. celebration of the harvests. Plenitude and calm, plan-making and rationality.
These celebrations can be complemented with four more minor ones not having any fixed association with Deities, where the solstices are more relevant than the equinoxes: Winter Solstice-Noite Nai/Mothernight (21st-22nd December and the night of the 24th); Spring Equinox-Alvorada da Terra/Dawn of the Land; Summer Solstice-Noite dos Lumes/Night of the Fires (21st-22nd June and the night of the 23rd); Autumn Equinox-Festa das Fachas/Torchlight Festival (21st-22nd September).
We also observe the 25th of July as the popular celebration of the Dia da Terra (the Day of Galiza) as well as some other historical or symbolic (non religious) dates that we mark when the moment arrives.
Druidic religious activities do not necessarily require temples or similar types of buildings, in fact they often just take place in Nature. We seek shelter in harsh weather conditions and, even then, we always try to ensure the presence of some natural elements.
It is true that throughout Europe there existed (and continue to exist) Druidic temples, but these were places to come together in the practical style indicated above: locations that easily facilitated the assembling of the clan or places that simply made sense for logistical reasons. In fact, they were quite diverse in form and size.
Unfortunately, the IDG still does not have its own sacred site or centre for public access but we are working towards this with a little bit of help…
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[*] The current concept of “religion” is merely a western construct that began in the 17th Century and took final concrete form as late as the 19th Century, a residue of Christian supremacism. However, in our current world and context, the word “religion” is generally perceived as a grouping of beliefs with a surrounding community at least minimally organised, stable and with a clear will to continuity and this is exactly what the IDG is.
Because true tradition does not emanate from the past, nor is it in the present, nor do we glimpse it in the future; it is not a servant of time.
Tradition is the everlasting soul of Galiza that lives in its people’s instincts and the granite entrails of our land.
Tradition is not history. Tradition is eternity.
A.D.R. Castelao (1944)
Translation: Paris Xácia Ceive, whom we thank.