Here I will attempt what is probably an impossible task, but nonetheless I feel compelled to
try. Here goes.
A Reformed Druid is one who simply believes that “Nature is good.” Now, we get in to trouble
as soon as we use the word believes. Other words or phrases like, “adheres to the idea of”
or “leans in the direction of the idea that” or “subscribes to the ideal that,” may well be more
accurate, but the bottom line is basically the idea that ones spirituality can be found and
based upon the manifestations of nature.
“Nature is good,” therefore, is the first characteristic of the Reformed Druid. Beyond that
anything goes. No, really, anything goes. This is because of the whole history of the
movement. The first Reformed Druids came together because of a rule at Carelton College in
Minnesota that required attendance at religious services. The rule was broad enough that this
group of precocious students decided to bend the rule for their own purposes. In that bending,
the Reformed Druid movement was born.
So, the second characteristic of Reformed Druids is that “they bend, or remake the rules to
Historically, Reformed Druids have avoided a lot of formal organization. The vast majority of
them are solitary practitioners. A few hundred are gathered in small congregations, called
Groves, of three or more individuals. The original group, the Reformed Druids of North
America (RDNA), has no central headquarters, no national organizational structure, no one to legislate
rules. In fact, local Groves make up their own rules and traditions as they go along. To be
sure, there are some traditions, an order of worship, and other loose rules, that many Groves
abide by, but it’s all optional – there is no central body (anymore anyway) around to assure
that every organization within the RDNA follows exactly the same path.
A few larger groups within the Reform have a more pronounced structure, but even these
larger more organized groups are self-defined, and they pretty much do what they want to, or
just simply “make it up as they go.”
That’s the third characteristic of a Reformed Druid: one who makes it up as he goes – and
decides for himself what traditions, or none, he will follow.
Now to be sure, there are a few groups out there who attempt to define a Reformed Druid
based upon their own agenda. Usually these definitions crop up in attempts to point out how
this group or that group isn’t of the Reform, but such exercises are anti-Druidic, since they
violate the very principles the Reform was founded upon. Even this essay I am writing now,
violates those principles, so I am attempting to thread carefully here, knowing that I walk upon
a steep, slippery, winding, twisting, road with deep chasms on either side.
The best that can be said then, for Reformed Druids collectively is that they are largely, “a
non-prophet, ir-religious, dis-organization.”
Anyone can be a Reformed Druid. “How do I join?” “You just did!” affirms Michael Scharding
on his popular website that explores most things Reformed Druidic. The simple matter of
affirming that “Nature is good,” allows you to enter into the fellowship of Reformed Druidry.
After that, you have a lot of choices, or none, depending on your own desires and comfort
level. Groups also can join the Reform en masse – there’s no rule against it anywhere in A
Reformed Druid Anthology (ARDA) (a collection of Reformed Druid documents, traditions,
essays, etc., some of which are mutually exclusive and or contradictory, maintained by Druid
Scharding). Schisms are aplenty within the Reform, usually precipitated by arguments over
the ARDA (and some Druids just love to argue). The best way to avoid such fights is to simply
not participate. Since there’s no authority, no active Council of Dalon ap Landou, such arguments
carry no real weight anyway. Ignore your detractors and do whatever the hell you want – your
word is as good as anyone’s.
No one can kick you out of the Reform. Leaving is your decision and yours alone. Likewise
you are free to form any group you wish, no one can stop you. So long as “Nature is good” (or
groovy, or wonderful, or some other adjective for goodness) you can do whatever you want –
you are still a Reformed Druid. You don’t have to be Celtic, you don’t have to be Neo-Pagan
(the RDNA traditionally allows you to be a practicing Catholic, Buddhist, Jew, Fundy, anything,
and maintain your status as a Druid). (Note: Other groups within the Reform do have some
“have to’s” and “can’t be’s”, but traditional Reformed Druidism eschews all that).
I believe that there are a lot of Reformed Druids who do not even know they are Reformed
Druids. I would be a good example. Since the late ‘60s, my own personal spirituality has been
nature oriented. At first I thought I was simply, a witch, but in actually researching Witchcraft
and Wicca, found the pieces didn’t all fit. There were too many requirements. Rosicrucianism
likewise was too cumbersome, and neo-Paganism was too broad an umbrella. I briefly
belonged to the Church of All Worlds (CAW), but found they had their own issues, and they
were bogged down in over organization. I likened a lot of these groups to tables: very
beautiful and ingeniously designed and organized, but, unlike the tree they were crafted from,
they were dead. It’s better to have organism (and multiple orgasms!) then to have organization.
It was in the late summer of 1995 that I met my first Reformed Druid, at the unlikely venue of a
New Age Renaissance Faire in San Jose CA. He kind of gave me a brief overview of what Reformed Druidism was all about. That and subsequent research into the Reform, eventually led me to declare myself a Reformed Druid.
I’m a people person. I don’t personally function well as a solitary, so after searching locally (at
the time I was living in Santa Cruz CA) and not finding anyone, a CAW friend of mine and I
dreamed up the Order of the Mithril Star (OMS), and loosely based it on a melding of CAW and
Reformed Druids of North America (RDNA). To be sure much of it is our own interpretation,
and that interpretation has itself evolved and morphed over the years, but OMS is still an
accurate reflection of what Reformed Druidry is all about. I think probably more so than even
some of the RDNA schisms.
This later has got us into trouble with both CAW people and NRDNA (New Reformed Druids
of North America – a schism group). In the case of CAW, they find us objectionable as
competition (a point now moot – as CAW has ceased to exist in any organized way at all). In
the case of the NRDNA folks, they find us objectionable because of the CAW stuff.
Well, you can’t please everyone can you?
And, why do you have to?
Most of us left our parents religions (in my case the two most guilt ridden of the major faiths)
because we wanted to get beyond all the rules: the mores, the dietary laws, the have to’s and
can’t do’s. Reformed Druidry promises a better way – a spirituality defined by your own ideals,
and elastic enough to adapt as your ideals morph and evolve.
If we wanted a lot of “have to’s,” “can’t do’s”, and “this is the way it HAS to be done’s,” we
could have all saved ourselves a lot of trouble and we would have been better off staying in
our parents religions.
So, the spirit of Reformed Druidism is best defined by this phrase:
“We’re doing religion the old fashioned way: we’re making it up as we go!”