Druidry is, among other things, a philosophy. The classical writers described the ancient Celtic Druids as philosophers more often than they described them as priests, and they were often linked with Greek philosophers like Pythagoras. Philosophy is a Greek word, meaning “love of wisdom”, and Druidry is certainly a path that loves wisdom. Love of wisdom is even part of the Druid’s Prayer used at most Druidic rituals.
Druidry is also a path of mysticism. Mysticism is also a Greek word, derived from terms meaning both “conceal” and “initiate”, with connections to ideas of experience and mystery. As an initiatory path (at least in the Order of which I am a member) Druidry conceals and reveals. There are no “occult secrets” in Druidry but there are mysteries.
While the philosopher seeks meaning through knowledge, the mystic seeks meaning through experience. In the study of religion, philosophy questions and analyses the concept of the divine, while mysticism seeks direct union with it.
The two often combine, of course, in philosophical/mystical positions like the via negativa and apophatic theology, which speaks in mystical terms about a philosophical position – that the divine is ultimately not only unknown but unknowable.
The word Druid itself contains the seeds of both the mystical way and the path of philosophy. It derives from the proto-Indo-European words “Dru”, meaning “oak”, and “Wid” meaning knowledge. The Druid is one with the knowledge of the oak, or more poetically, one with wild wisdom. The knowledge of philosophy and the wildness of the oak unite in the word Druid.
The Druid gathers knowledge, wisdom and understanding. The Druid seeks mystical experience.
In both cases, Druidry leads to a greater awareness of our place in the interconnected web of being, our relationships with all other beings, and our responsibility to act in harmony with the sacred.
[Prompt from Alison Leigh Lilly’s 30 Days of Druidry]