Posted by: Philip Carr-Gomm | March 5, 2014

Can You Combine Druidry & Christianity?

Barcombe Mills East Sussex. Photo: Mark Kingston

Barcombe Mills East Sussex. Photo: Mark Kingston

In 1989 I gave a talk at the first Christians & Druids conference, held at Prinknash Abbey in Gloucestershire. You can read it here. Twenty-five years later, at Imbolc, I found myself at another Christians & Druids (and Pagans) meeting, this time convened at the Ammerdown Centre, near Radstock in Somerset.

Philip Shallcrass, of the British Druid Order, has posted Part One of a great three part detailed account of this event here – thank you Philip!

The event was organised by the Ammerdown Centre with funding and support from the Church of England, and brought together Druids and Pagans in dialogue with Christian priests and laity. I learned a huge amount from the presentations and informal conversations. I met Pagans who happily married their beliefs with Christianity, such as OBOD member and author Annie Heppenstall whose books you can read about here, and heard the extraordinary story of The Forest Church from four of its members. Read more about this in the essay below, which is based on the talk I gave at the meeting, elaborated after that stimulating weekend of discussion!

DRUIDRY & CHRISTIANITY – CAN THESE TWO STREAMS OF SPIRITUAL TRADITION INFORM EACH OTHER AND EVEN PERHAPS BE COMBINED IN ONE PATH OR PRACTICE?

There are at least three reasons why the topic addressed in this article will yield no fruit – according to the skeptics. First, syncretism – the combining of traditions – is a bad idea. Second, the theologies of the two paths are too at variance. Christianity, for example, requires the centrality of the figure of Christ, whereas in Druidry he holds little or no significance. Thirdly, Christianity has proved such an oppressive and destructive force, no good will come from Druids going to bed with the Devil. (Or conversely, if you are a Christian, Paganism has been ‘diabolical’ and modern Pagans refuse the saving grace of Christ, and therefore any attempt at meeting is doomed to failure).
If I believed these arguments, this article would end here, but I don’t – and hence this essay, and my motive for attending various ‘Christians & Druids/Pagans’ conferences over the years… Read more


Responses

  1. It seems to me, from my somewhat undisciplined study of history, that Christianity bears a false burden of consistency. I’m pretty sure that if you took any modern Western Christian, of any persuasion, and put them in a time machine and sent them back to, say, Spain in 1500, or Britain in 1000, or Alexandria in 500, in all cases they’d be considered bizarrely heretic, and no Christian at all.

    Equally, if you were to take any modern Western Christian, of any persuasion, and put them in the same time machine and push them forward 500 years, or 1000 years, or 1500 years, they would be equally ill-at-ease with the nature of Christianity in that time, and those Christians with them.

    There is no single “Christianity.” There has never been such a thing.

    Nor, of course, is there any such thing as a single Druidry.

    So any “incompatibilities” that exist between the two could be very easily erased by time.

    One issue that is going to be forced upon the human race in the next millennium is some higher level of ecological awareness and responsibility. Druidry is already well-positioned, at least in principle, Christianity not so much — which means that Christianity is going to have to change, or die off. My money would be on change, which seems to be the normal strategy of the Church, apart from the brittle fundamentalist strains. As it changes, it will necessarily become more congruent with the ecological concerns of modern Druidry, because both are being driven by a common reality.

  2. In principle I totally agree that any Christians with their modern day beliefs can meld with ‘The Druids’. I am sure that there are devout pagans who disagree with the Christian message. However, I do not see these pagans standing outside the suburban church on a Sunday morning holding banners and telling the congregation they are blind.
    In November 2013 I attended Witchfest International in Croydon UK. I had made the trip from Italy mainly to hear the lectures of Prof Ronald Hutton and Tuillen Penry. and others These lectures are spiritual, educational, harmless and in all cases offer no offence to anybody. However, later that day when I left the venue where the fest was held, on my way to the car park I was accosted by people with banners who called themselves Christians shouting at me that I was possessed by evil and that there was only one god. Like our tolerant pagan ancestors these “shoutings” mean nothing. Believe what you want to believe (after all you might be right). My view is that a belief is like a male having a penis. It is good to have one, be proud of it, but don’t get it out in public and wave it in peoples faces, as some monotheistic religions tend to do.
    Personally, I welcome all who wish to discuss their opinions. In most cases they are not so different from mine, it’s just that they have a different slant. Nobody needs banners crosses, or in the extreme, kit bags of dynamite, to put their point across. I think in all religions there are those who see the bigger picture. Realistically, we are all of the same mind ‘here and there’. It is the extremists who need to be educated about the belief.

  3. Reblogged this on A Piney Walk About.

  4. I think that there can be a certain amount of theological closing between Christians and Druids, but only if the historical validation used by most of the montheist religions is viewed and acted upon by it’s proponents in the same way as todays Druids have grasped the “actual” history of Druidry, as disclosed by the likes of Prof Ron Hutton. My experience with Druidry suggests that it is now more a religion of change through both practical acknowledgement of its history and the increasing amounts of information being provided by the scientific and technological communities into the “reality” of our universe.
    As for the Christian fundamentalists claiming exclusivity for their God, my own response has always been based upon the biological principle that all expressions of life forms do not start and stop with one example.

  5. A thoughtful and informative article. Thank you Philip.

  6. Yes, thoughtful and informative!… and it seems it would very much depend on the overall context and circumstances, etc, as to if, when or how someone would consider bringing both paths together in one ceremony. (I have never tried combining the two in one ritual, as I haven’t found the need to do that, i.e, as clients wanted either one or the other). But certain ‘themes’ are similar to many spiritual paths, and have been, throughout the centuries, but they aren’t necessarily identical (in my view). Given what you have said (& having had a Universalist (Unitarian) mother, and so on!), it was v interesting for me to read here of the broader Universalist history re: Obod (beyond just Ross et al), of which I was not aware. For me, though, druidry (today) is ‘enough’ in many ways; it has taken me some time to carefully think about this, and of course we all have our own journey(s) to work out; while I have had familiarity with (CofE) Xianity (earlier in my life), my rel w/it has changed quite profoundly since.

    But re: combining both of these in one ceremony: perhaps at certain times/occasions/locations, things like incorporating certain musical chants or other specific art symbols, and so on, could be done, in the right circumstances/time, but, again, I have not done that nor felt the need to, i.e, as in my earlier work, clients usually knew exactly what they wished and we worked together on the ceremonies, et Certain themes might be able to be carefully brought together or included in some way, for some (esp re: some of the history/place lore, for ex), a creative re-working. But while I can see how many appreciate both paths (and I do, too, in some ways) — but Druidry, for me, is a uniquely complete way of Life – every single day – an underlying daily philosophy as much as a profound spiritual path, connecting our ‘roots with the stars’…so to speak… and it also offers (for me) an underlying cyclic Unity, Joy, and a celebration of Nature and affirmation of Life.

    But it’s always been *music* at the beginning….and at the end’ for me! It can be The Great Connector among any group… or, those of other paths, ie., yrs ago, I’ll never forget attending my first (genuine) Native American powwow, for example, the connection with the earth combined with the chanting and drumming was incredible to experience, and was a life-altering event for me at the time. (As a Celtic scholar, medieval historian, and astronomer/astrologer, etc., naturally, I have (long) gravitated towards druidry, and when I found Obod some yrs ago, it felt like coming ‘Home’ again.)

    As all spiritual paths have their own strengths/views and are undergoing such profound change(s) at this particular time in history, perhaps the druidic ‘Awen’ should be a lodestar to all — i.e, ‘Awen’ = ‘anew’!, helping provide a guideline for further evolution of spiritual paths, whether druidry, or otherwise… and people should focus on whatever path(s) they find best for them. We can all continue to celebrate – in many ways! /|\

  7. Excellent article. I’ve come to Druidry via a Quaker and Sufi pathway and there are so many overlaps, so many places where the words are different but the meaning is the same. As you say, religions too need to undergo a process of decay and rebirth.

  8. What you said was very interesting, Philip but somehow a little disturbing for me. I think it may be quite wise to study compared religions and to make it clear that people who have different spiritual paths from ours are not ours enemies; on the contrary, there is a part of this spirituality that we all actually share. So, we can hold workshops together, share rituals at times, declare that theres not only one Truth and that tolerance and open mind are a must

    But I admit I find it difficult to understand how one can be a Druid and a Christian at the same time.

    I am a druid. I am a pagan. But Ive been brought up in christianism. Then, Ive been studying compared religions for a while (christianism,pantheism, animism, syncretisms, in Africa, West Indies, North America, Europ). I think that some texts in the Bible have a poetic / wise /epic/ symbolical value. They are worth being read and meditated. I have a great tenderness for the figure of Christ and I agree with most of what Jesus is supposed to have said. Moreover, I assume that our druidry today has been necessarily, consciously or not, influenced by centuries of Christian culture.

    But, as the first commentary puts it, it is not untrue that our Divine is more immanent and the Christian one transcendant, isnot it? (I m sorry if I sound awkward, but as you have very likely guessed, my english is not fluent, specially when it comes to so serious matters!). I dont want to polarise the differences of these two viewpoints (the Transcendantalists had a vision of the Divine which , sometimes, might be immanent, sometimes might be transcendant and I love Thoreau all the time!) but as far as our relation to the Earth Mother is concerned, and generally speaking , our relation to the Feminine, and our relation to our body , our relations to animals (remember Genesis), our relation to sin and guilt, its much easier for me to see how close we are to American Indian spirituality than to Christianity.

    And its also true that, for Christians, the figure of Christ is essential as it might hardly become essential to people whose religion/spirituality is natural.

    Im very glad to see that the reconciliation between christianism and paganism is possible (and I guess Im relieved not to fear to be burned alive as a witch). I think its a very good idea for a Christian to get interested in Druidry and for a Druid to be interested in christianism (its my case), but, even if I dont mind at all, I dont really understand how its possible to be truly both Christian and druid

    Thank you for your posts, Philip and blessings!

    Dominique

    _____

  9. Hello Dominique and thank you for your comments. Can I just check if you have read the full article? Some people have been commenting, particularly on Facebook, in response to the title of the post, but haven’t read the complete article by following the link. Once I know I can comment in more detail ! :)

  10. On my opinion, all religions and beliefs are just different languages of Light and its interpretations through the ages.
    All they are born by GNOSIS – the direct experience and knowledge of the Divine, adopted by one or more Еnlightened. The translation of the Light is always been manifested through the eyes of these persons – as the different sides of a diamond – differently reflecting the entire spectrum of the light. Sadly, because later many revelations have been reformulated so as to limit and to give power over people, instead of bringing them an inspiration to seek their personal experiences of the Divine.
    If I was Oneness, I would enjoy the variety of my reflections in my children. I would enjoy the whole spectrum of radiance of the sparks emitted from me – if it drives them to be happy, loving my creation – i.e. identical to me.
    The continuity of the archetypical images and symbols of different religions , the continuity of the seasonal sacred festivals all over the world and their respective rituals are clear proofs of their common source.
    Lets allow the different languages of the Light – so maybe It will better know Itself !


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