Version 2.05 (Last updated 7-31-03)
By Daven (Member, Ord Draiochta na Uisnech)
On first meeting a Druid, many Wiccans feel a bond – a commonality must exist. Normally the Wiccan will start talking about The Goddess, their Circle and so on and be somewhat lost when the Druid starts talking about the Triune Thought, the Triskel and Honor or other relevant terms who’s meaning may not be immediately clear.
I feel that the confusion stems from misunderstandings and misconceptions. This article will attempt to explain some of these concepts that may confuse the Wiccan.
The Rede/The Law of Returns
Of all the differences that a Wiccan has with Druidism this is probably the most prevalent. In Druidism, there is no “rede”. In fact, the only people that the Rede pertains to are those who ascribe to it, it is unique to Wiccans and some kinds of Witchcraft.
Most Wiccans profess some version of the familiar “an it harm none, do as you will” or another. They are truly shocked, confused and/or even irate when the Druid goes “That’s nice.” and disagrees that this moral guideline has anything to do with them. Some may even accuse the Druid of lacking morals.
Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the moral concepts within The Law of Returns and the Rede, when boiled out of their archaic language, permeate Druidism. Normally Druids call this the Celtic Virtues. Generally these virtues are described as Honor, Loyalty, Hospitality, Honesty, Justice and Courage. These six principals permeate the entire body of Druidic thought and ritual.
Briefly stated the virtue of Honor requires one to adhere to their oaths and do the right thing, even if it will ultimately hurt others or oneself in the process. A Druid is obligated to remain true to friends, family and leaders thus exhibiting the virtue of Loyalty. Hospitality demands that a Druid be a good host when guests are under one’s roof. Honesty insists that one tell the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth to yourself, your gods and your people. Justice desires the Druid understands everyone has an inherent worth and that an assault to that worth demands recompense in one form or another. Courage for the Druid does not always wear a public face; it is standing-strong-in-the-face-of-adversity, alone or with companions. Sometimes Courage is getting up and going about a daily routine when pain has worn one down without complaint or demur.
Outside of the scope of these six virtues, anything goes. Understand that the virtue of Justice demands that one consider the actions one is going to take before they are taken, since any harm to the inherent worth of another will demand that recompense be paid. It also covers many things like “The Law of Threefold Return”. Justice, by necessity, is just. For actions that harm others, you must pay a price, and actions that promote good thing will pay good back to you. That’s Just. It acknowledges the divine in each and every person. It assures a truly committed society they don’t have to fear a knife in the back, or a burglary. It makes sure that even enemies can sit down in a room together and be civil to one another.
It must be understood that the concept of Threefold Return came from Eastern Philosophy and is most closely associated with the Hindu and Buddhist concept of ‘Karma’. There has never been anything similar to this concept in European thought.
These virtues do not preclude arguments or conflict. On the contrary, the Celts were some of the most combat-obsessed people we know. From myths we know Celts practiced blood feuds, had clan conflicts, wars. The individual Celt was proud, and fierce demands were made that independence was a supreme right. What the Celtic Virtues ensured were the continual functioning of an isolated tribal society.
Think about these concepts when applied to the current government. What if all leaders were truly loyal to those who swore loyalty to them? What if all those who swore loyalty to a leader were coerced by society to be faithful to that oath? What if a guest under someone’s roof were guaranteed food and shelter? What if Justice was truly Just, not simply expedient or so concerned with the criminal’s rights that crimes were un-recompensed?
This is the ethical standard of most modern Druids. Because it is not summed up in a couplet or long poem does not mean it’s nonexistent. It is merely expressed in a different fashion.
Calling Quarters and Magic
Wiccan magic is concerned with projecting the willpower of the caster into the universe, normally through natural energy flows. Part of this magick and ritual is calling on the four quarters of the world, North, South, East and West. Generally there are classical Hermetic elements associated with those quarters, Air, Earth, Fire and Water. These elements give power and energy to the ritual and generally boost the “feel” of the ritual. Druidry is votive in nature, meaning that a critical component of the spirituality and magic is the relationship one has with the Gods, for they are never ordered or commanded, but they are petitioned as friends and companions.
Under very specific circumstances Druids occasionally used the same structure of calling upon the Natural World. Even then it’s vastly different from “standard” Wiccan practices. In Druidic rituals the Land, Sea and Sky are called upon.
Each of the Three Realms has specific attributes and very definite associations with them. If I were to ask a Wiccan where the Gods lived, many would not be able to tell me, for the Elemental Quarters hold no answer. But ask a Druid who also uses and understands the Three Realms in a cosmological sense, and the immediate answer will be “The Sky”.
Each Realm is associated with a time of life, a stage of development and a mental quality, as well as having several other associations, ranging from Magical to the Time of day.
The Sea is the time before time, when we are not born. All life comes from the Sea. It is where we go at death; it is the source of Dreams and Inspiration. It is the realm that is traveled over to get anyplace when coming from or going to Ireland.
The Land is the here-now. It is this moment, life, and creation, all that is around us. It is fertility, conscious thought, the Universe. All science fits into the realm of the Land, for it is all concerned with the physical realm.
The Sky is the dwelling place of the Gods, the super-conscious, logic and thought. It is where logical ideas come from, and it is a place we hope to gain eventually, to become one with the Gods. It is also where Divine Inspiration comes from.
Every single one of the associations for the elements in the classic Hermetic elemental structure exist in Druidic belief and practice within the three Realms. They are not broken out into separate aspects or spheres as they are in Wiccan beliefs and practices. There are no elementals, deva of the elementals, rulers of the elements or realms in Druidic belief or practice. The realms have no spirits, no consciousness of mystical places, and certainly no angels associated with them because the realms simply are all encompassing. For Druids, it would be like trying to reduce the entire universe down to one human consciousness.
Which brings us to Druidic magic. It’s different in some very fundamental ways from Wiccan Magick.
In Wiccan magick, a Circle is cast, the Quarters are called, the Gods are (preferably) asked to bless the work, energy is raised and the spell is cast. After a while, the Wiccan will send that energy off with their desire “tacked on” to it. The intention being that the energy will work to bring their desire to pass.
A Druid, by contrast, is not raising energy. The Druid will invoke the Realms, invite the Gods to the ritual, possibly invoke the Hallows and Provinces (depending on the ritual structure the Druid uses) and then ask the Gods to do them a favor. For this, the Druid will offer food, service of body and/or mind to the Gods, a literal sacrifice to them. In one ritual to help me with a job, I dedicated a blood donation to the Red Cross to Lugh (for his Spear) and used that as my sacrifice to him for a favor I needed. In the same ritual, I baked the Dagda some bread and offered it to him and then gave it to the birds. It depends entirely on what you are willing to give and what the Gods want in return.
In this case, the reasoning is that as a druid, we are members of the Land. Things that could happen in the future belong to the Sky, where the Gods live. Therefore, it’s easier for the Gods to make certain things come to pass than it is for us, since we are busy dealing with the now. So, asking the Gods to make an action more likely to happen is an efficient use of your energy. Nothing is free. The Gods will demand and have a right to demand a price from those who need something. If we want the object of the ritual, it makes sense for us to pay the price demanded in order to get it.
As my teacher pointed out to me, the Gods are reasonable. They won’t demand anything that would decimate us to provide. If they did, it could be a test to see how strongly you are committed to gaining what you want. For example if a Druid was casting a spell to gain a new job, and barely had enough money to feed himself and his family, I doubt the Gods would demand gold from that Druid, mainly because the Druid probably doesn’t have the means to gain the Gold. They may demand a feast for themselves, which the Druid and his family would also share.
It should also be mentioned that witchcraft is a collection of granny-tales and native superstition, sometimes based in fact, but quite often based in protecting oneself from the Elves and Faery. A Druid doesn’t try to protect themselves from the realms of the Faery, but rather strives to come to a partnership with those forces, so that they are working with the Druid, not against them. The High Magick in Wiccan practice is generally also influenced from other sources, most notably the Kabala of Judaism and the Ceremonial and Hermetic Magick of the Middle Ages. Druidic magic, rather than being “Do Steps A, B, C, D and E, in order to get outcome 78”, is more of a give and take between working partners, a quid pro quo system of cause and effect.
Sacred Space and the Circle
Along with Magic, a concept that often confuses Wiccans when dealing with the Druid is the lack of a Circle in ritual. They point out that Stonehenge and other places similar to it are in a Circle, mounds are circular in shape, many Griannes are circular, and so too are the Celtic forts or duns. So why don’t Druids use Circles?
It’s because the creation of the Sacred Space is much different to a Druid. Since we are part of the Land, and the Land is everywhere and includes everything we see, touch, smell and taste, all that we interact with is sacred already. How can we, at the beginning of the ritual, sanctify that which is already sacred? Creating a “Sacred Space” is therefore redundant.
The Circle for a Druid is not for containment, as the Druid him/herself will become the container for the energy channeled into the ritual. It is simply an area that is set aside as a doorway through which other beings and ancestors can travel if they so choose.
The closest a Druid will come to this Wiccan ritual is to invoke the Ancient Provinces of Ireland. In this, once the Realms are invoked and the Gods invited, a Druid would call upon the Provinces of Ulster, Leinster, Munster and Connacht as well as the Center of Usinech. The Druid will call upon the qualities associated with those provinces and use them to help in rituals. This is about as close to “calling the quarters” as Druidism gets. Each Order may use different processes in this case, and different representations. Most Druids stick with only invoking the Land, Sea and Sky.
Another reason Druids do not use a Circle is that a Circle excludes as well as includes. When a Circle is cast, the primary purpose is to contain the energy raised by the chanting, dancing, singing and other energy raising activities. Additionally, it protects the people inside the Circle from external antithetical influences, and in some cases it is designed to protect those outside the Circle from what is going on inside. The twin purposes of a Circle, containment and protection, would cut the Druid off from the very forces he wished to invoke for the ritual. Thus, most Druidic traditions discard the Wiccan concept of artificially designated “sacred spaces” altogether.
The Gods and Goddesses
One of the major differences that Wiccans need time to understand is Druidism is not duo-theistic, but polytheistic. Duo-theism sees One God and One Goddess, both of which contain all the qualities possible within them selves, including attributes that could be assigned to the other sex. In this view, Kali is the same Goddess as Rhiannon who is the same Goddess as Sif who is the same Goddess as Athena and Artemis and Demeter and Bast and Ma’at and the Corn Woman and so on and so forth. While an individual Wiccan may have certain deities they are more comfortable working with in a ritual, most groups or traditions call upon a genera-Goddess.
In Druidism, the Gods and Goddesses are separate individuals. Each has his/her own personality, desires, jobs, spheres of influence and flaws. Lugh tends to be arrogant, The Dagda overconfident, and so on. There is also no Maiden-Mother-Crone equivalent deity in Druidic practice. This also restricts the Druid to the Celtic Pantheon, although there is some choice as to which Celtic pantheon Irish, Welsh or Gaulish.
Shoving all the Gods together in one divine lump would be analogous to saying that I am the same as you, after all, we are both human. You have the same wants, the same needs, the same drives, the same hobbies, the same thoughts and opinions simply because we have the same general shape. To a Druid, this is not only incomprehensible, but also laughable to the point of idiocy since the Gods are not cardboard cutouts of each other. It’s asking for a lot of trouble from the Gods for a human to tell Them what They will and will not be.
I feel this is probably the greatest sticking point for most Wiccans during their initial encounter with Druidism. But it can be overcome through the study of mythology.
The Book of Shadows and Mythology
Druids have no Book of Shadows. We may, as individuals, have a journal of our growth as people and as Druids, a place where we put down our thoughts and feelings on different topics. It’s our Journal, and it’s up to the individual to keep up to date.
When a Druid first joins an order or group, s/he may be given a ritual book, outlining the ritual structure or framework for the rituals the group uses, or a list of rites do to by rote for each of the holidays that are to be celebrated. This book of ritual structure and liturgy is about all they are given. Much of the spiritual path they will have to discover on their own.
Now, this does not mean that they have to eat hemlock to discover that it’s poisonous. On the contrary, each Druid is encouraged to read and study the body of work that is available on different topics and not to take anything on faith or because their mentor says so. Studying is a requirement, not just an activity.
The student Druid is expected to read mythology, to read books on subjects such as the Ogham, divination, ritual structure, to study the whys and wherefores of the practice. Along with that they will, in some cases, be required to write articles on what they have found out, even if every other Druid in existence has already discovered and published the same piece of information. The student will still be expected to try to find it on his or her own. There is nothing like the thrill of discovery to ensure an idea remains in the student’s mind. As one Druidic student put it, “Druidism is the only religion with homework.”
It has been stated in the past that mythology is the key to Druidism, and that can be true. Not only are there clues and hints as to the actual history of Ireland, but also there are statements as to a Deity’s personality, likes and dislikes, what will please one or anger another. In addition, hidden in the myths is a wealth of information on the beliefs of modern Druids. What qualities do the Land, Sea and Sky have, where the places of power are located in Ireland, how can one divine the future from the flights of birds and other such gems.
Without this reading and study, these gems will be hidden from the student, and in all honesty the student who is unwilling to do the work will probably be dismissed from the ranks of the Druids. But, in addition to this study, Druidism is a way of life. It is something that will be reflected in every action and every thing the Druid does. You may not be able to say that someone is a Druid, but once you know you will never mistake it for anything else.
Unfortunately, there are no “one-book-and-I’m-a-Druid” books out there, although some have attempted to write some. True Druidism is a compilation of many different books, not all of them directly related to Druidism, each of them providing a part of the puzzle. It’s the gathering of those pieces and putting them together into a whole that is the quest and hallmark of the modern Druid.
In this section I wish to make one thing clear, I am Wiccan myself as well as being a Druid. I have very few illusions about Wicca and I’m simply stating what I know to be the only conclusion one can come to based on current facts. I am not trying to put Wicca down nor am I glossing over facts.
Gerald Gardner created Wicca. He didn’t create it in its present form, for like every living thing, Wicca outgrew what he thought it was and changed to something not readily recognizable by him. Does this invalidate Wicca? Not at all. Does the fact that a radio was invented invalidate the walkie-talkie?
Wicca has a history that can only be traced back to the 1950’s or so. Some scholars place the actual dates of Wicca’s invention earlier, some later, but most agree that it was in the mid 1950’s. This ultimately means that Wicca is not centuries old, going back to the Paleolithic caveman as some have claimed. No religion that we currently have goes back that far. As society changes, so too does it’s religious institutions.
While Gardner pulled from multiple sources to make Wicca, he did pull a few elements from the Celtic practices based on what was believed at the time. But Wicca is not Celtic. Ian MacAnTsaoir and Dawn O’Laoghaire covered this particular point in detail in their essay “Why Wicca is not Celtic“. 
Druidism has a documented history going back to the late 1600’s and the Gentleman’s Clubs and Societies of the time. John Tolland organized the first “Druid” Society in Europe, the Universal Druid Bond. From there, groups kept joining and splitting off, being created and dying, each with a kernel of Tolland’s to start their particular brand of Druidism. The most recognizable group that is a direct line descendant of the UDB is the Order of Bards Ovates and Druids, or the OBOD. The OBOD and the Ancient Order of Druids stayed in existence through WWI and WWII and continue to the present.
In 1963 in Minnesota, the Reformed Druids of North America was formed, starting the first Druidic group on the American continent. With the focus shifting from a Fraternal order (which, admittedly, the descendants of the UDB grew out of) to being a scholarly order, modern Druidism was born. From humble beginnings as a protest against the requirement of Carleton College that there be religious services held for many school events with mandatory attendance, many new groups sprang into existence. The ADF (Arn Draiocht Fein) started in the 1970’s and spawned many splinter groups, The Henge of Keltria being the most famous and successful so far.
Modern Druids have a verifiable history that has been documented and well researched. Druids do not claim straight-line descent from the Celts for that would be dishonest. We are not trying to claim that the way we worship now is the way that the Ancient Celts worshiped.
Tools do tend to be important to the Modern Druid. But, the tools aren’t used the same way a Wiccan would use them.
The tools that are important to me are the Staff, Cauldron, Spear, Sword and Stone. Other Druids may disagree with this list. I have heard of other tool lists and certainly each Order will have their own valid ideas concerning what tools are necessary. Also, it should be noted, that a Druid could do a ritual without any tools at all except the mind.
These tools are not important in and of themselves, they are important for what they represent. For Wiccans, each tool is consecrated and identified as personal. Only the owner should touch/handle an athame for example because it is infused with their personal energies and another person handling the blade could contaminate that energy.
When a Druid sanctifies a sword for example, it is a representation of the Sword of Nuada. Any other Druid with physical access to it can use that Sword in theory. The athame is exclusively the Wiccan’s the sword is Nuada’s and it is He who grants His permission for Druidic use.
The Spear previously mentioned is the Spear of Lugh, the Cauldron the Cauldron of the Dagda, and the Stone is representative of the Stone of Fal. Each of these were treasures that the Tuatha de’ Dannan brought with them from their cities when they came to Ireland from the North, and are each very magickal artifacts.
The Staff is representative of a Tree, and a Tree connects the three realms, namely the Sea (represented by the water table) Land (Earth it rests in and on) and Sky (the air). As such, it reminds us to do the same thing, and to try to keep those connections in mind. This is why trees are revered in Druidism, although not worshiped.
As a part of this, the Pentagram or Pentacle do not appear anywhere in Druidic practice, at least not those practices that do not have a heavy dose of Wicca in them. The two main symbols of Druidism are the Triskel and the symbol of Awen /|\. Both these symbols have threes contained within them, representing triune thought, in that everything comes in threes, Good-Bad-Indifferent, Land-Sea-Sky, Mind-Body-Spirit, and so on. The Triskel reminds us that it’s important to bring those three qualities, whatever qualities they may be, together into one and in that point where they connect, become balanced in the center. This triune thought is central to Druidic thought.
One last component that may make many Wiccans do a double take is Divination. For the most part, Tarot cards are not used in modern Druidic practice. Now, that is not to say that Druids don’t use Tarot to divine the future, because they do. It is saying that Tarot cards are not taught as a divinatory tool per se. Other means of divination are stressed and the Tarot only taught after those initial means of divination are mastered.
The tools most Druids use in forecasting the future are Ogham script, watching nature, and divining by scrying into water, smoke or even the fire. In most schools, Ogham is taught as one of the primary means of divination. Each of the 20 letters of the Ogham alphabet (there are several different and conflicting sets of Ogham letters that scholars have identified; none yet know which is more authentic than others) have a relationship to a tree, and in each case, that tree has a personality that can tell us a lot about what the Letter is saying. While interpretation may differ from FUThARK (Germanic rune script) superficially, the results and the spreads are the same.
In watching nature, the Druid simply sits outside and watches. They will watch the clouds, the flights of birds, the patterns water skimmers make on the lake, the sound of the crickets chirping, listen to the birds of the Gods and so on. Each of these will tell the Druid certain things from which he can extract information.
It must also be mentioned that in some cases, the Divination of a Druid comes from searching the mythology. By Druidic belief, things move in cycles, in circles. Actions in the past can and do repeat themselves in the present and in the future. By looking into the history or the myth, one may be able to extract what could happen next and make informed guesses and predictions on what should happen next based on what happened before. It is an intuitive leap to a possible new outcome based on understanding of the stories that we study.
Groves vs. Covens
The basic structure of Wicca is the Coven; the basic structure of a Druidic group is the Grove. Each has similarities in that there are attendees, leaders, watchers and guardians. Each person in the group has a role, and each has a specialty, even though ideally, everyone present has the same skills.
In contrast to a Coven, however, a Druidic Grove usually has a connection to a larger Order. Whereas a Coven will normally only be connected to another Coven if it “hived off” from it, a Druid Grove is part of a larger overall structure. A central organization, like the ADF’s, is a larger umbrella group that directs all the Groves that call themselves part of the ADF. They have the final decision regarding who is or is not a member of their order, who may or may not study with their order and so on. Because of this, all Druids who are part of that order are members of the umbrella organization. Thus an ADF Druid from Lyon France could travel to Sydney Australia and worship with an ADF Grove there, and vice-versa as long as the language is not an issue. He could also travel to the United States and worship in any Grove in the States.
That also means that there is one office of information for the Order, one spokesman for the Order, and that the Head of the Order (sometimes referred to as an Arch Druid) can speak on behalf of the entire organization. The Head can also make rules, collect fees, give degrees and ordinations and so on. Most Druidic organizations like this are 501(c)(3) certified, which makes them a church in every legal sense of the word in the United States.
Each Grove, while not totally autonomous, does have it’s own teachers and leaders who are authorized to act on behalf of the Order in local matters. While the local Druid head of the Grove may speak out on taking down a monument in the local city, a statement on matters of national importance (like the Presidential Election) or world importance (like the Pope’s apology) would come from the Head of the Order.
Solitary Druids do exist. While these Druids have every right to call him/herself a Druid, s/he should only speak for him/herself and not try to make all-encompassing statements. Solitary Druids are free to follow their own conscience concerning their beliefs and practices. Many Solitary Druids eventually become members of an Order to get a grounding in the basics of a style of Druidism, and from there may move on to develop their own form of Druidism. This is assuming that they are not already affiliated with a specific order. This is how the Ord Draiochta na Uisnech developed.
These differences are key to understanding the dichotomy between Wicca and Druidism. This document does not claim one is better, more right, more ancient or any thing else than the other. Instead, it is trying to explain the things that a Wiccan may not necessarily understand about Druidism. It is hoped it will help foster understanding and amicable relations between the two groups. Its goal is to affect an understanding that while we are both Pagan religions, Wicca is not Druidism and Druidism is not Wicca. Both have their strengths and weaknesses. Both are critical components to modern Neo-Paganism and both have a lot to learn from each other.
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© 2003 Daven, all rights reserved.
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About the author: Daven is a practicing Wiccan of 12 years, having studied for a significant portion of his life. Daven recently joined the Ord Draiochta na Uisnech to continue his Druidic studies, ceasing to be a Solitary Druid. To read more of his articles and thoughts on Druidism and Wicca, please go to http://davensjournal.com
Originally posted 2012-05-22 16:15:27. Republished by Blog Post Promoter