The ancient pagan tradition of druidry, best known in England for its robed followers who celebrate the summer solstice at Stonehenge, has been officially recognised as a religion in Britain.
For decades, British Druids have been dressing up in long robes and worshipping nature and have generally been seen as mild eccentrics to be more or less ignored. But from October 2010 onwards British druids can proudly say they’re adherents of an officially recognized religion. The move will give druidry and druids legal and financial rights previously denied to them.
Although druidry has a tiny number of followers its pagan practices have been accepted as a religion as defined under British charity law. Druids can now receive tax breaks on donations and other privileges enjoyed by mainstream religions such as the Churches of England and Scotland.
Emme Restall Orr on the druidry.org website describes druidry like this:
“It’s an attitude, an understanding, an exquisitely simple and natural philosophy of living. For a great many it is a rich and ancient religion, a mystical spirituality. For others it’s simply a guiding way of life. It is absolutely open and free for anyone to discover.”
Druids are described as follows on the site:
“[since] Druidry was a natural earth religion as opposed to a revealed religion such as Christianity or Islam, we can see that the Druids probably acted not as mediators of divinity, but as directors of ritual, guiding and containing the rites.”
Druidry has a long history in Britain and in other Celtic societies in Europe. Druids worship nature and believe in spirits that live in mountains and rivers. They do not believe in a single god or creator, rather they believe in forging a “sacred” relationship with nature.
In pre-Christian times the ancient Celtic Druids were religious leaders and judges. In contemporary Britain there are several different Druid “orders” and an estimated total of 10,000 adherents.
The British Druid Network has campaigned for some years to be given official religious status and has had to convince the Charity Commission that druidry is a serious faith in a supernatural entity and a belief with a consistent moral framework.
Druid Adrian Rooke commented that Druidry is attracting more members as people reject monotheistic religions in a search for spiritual alternatives.