The Order of the White Oak

I have been a member of the Ancient Order of Druids in America since this summer, but there are no other druids in that order anywhere nearby. For us, it has been very important to find other druids, because of the children.

barackobamareadingChildren really enjoy ritual, and they get a lot out of it; but my wife and I don’t have much experience in that area. A community of druids who really know how to do rituals would be very valuable for the kids. Also, religious community is, I think, even more important for children than for adults. Children learn primarily by imitation, at least in the first dozen years, and it’s great if they have more examples than just their parents. We want them to learn, too, that religion is something done proudly in public, as part of one’s identity, not kept to oneself at home. A religious community is ideal for that.

So we cast around for other druids. A web search brought us to Ellen Evert Hopman, a well-known herbalist and author living nearby. As it happened, she was in the process of incorporating an order of druids, the Order of the White Oak. The Order has been around in one incarnation or another since 1997, but this is the first time it’s been given by-laws and a firm organizational structure. One thing we think is quite good about the Order of the White Oak is its focus on public service, and actively promoting the values of druidry — peace and environmentalism chief among these. You can find its web site here.

We also joined Ellen’s grove, Waters of Life Grove, named after the lovely little stream that flows past her ritual space among the oaks. We’ve done a couple of rituals together now, rituals which were very meaningful for the children and everything we could have asked for. I’ll be writing more about them soon, once the holiday rush has past.

Ellen has proven to be a valuable teacher. I’ve already posted her recipe for relief from colds and flu, and she has many deeper teachings as well, depths which we’re only beginning to plumb. She is firmly in the Reconstructionist camp of druidry, which fits well with our own predispositions. She also has a lot of personal experience with Native Americans, something we value highly. Plus the kids love her!

Comments

  1. When you speak of Druid communities, are you talking about communities of people who either are, or are aspiring to be, Druids? Or are you talking about a community of Celt-oriented people who follow religious leadership and guidance from a Druid?

  2. Jeff Lilly says:

    Excellent question!

    Frankly, we’d have settled for either. In point of fact, I believe that the “Druid movement” up till now has consisted entirely of people of the former type — people aspiring to be Druids. This has, no doubt, contributed to the growth and success of “orders” of Druidry, in which aspirants join in order to learn skills and arcane knowledge. However, in “ancient” Druidism, there were plenty of people of the latter type, obviously. I suspect that if modern Druidism continues to grow, there will be more people who seek guidance from Druids, but don’t necessarily feel the need to become one themselves. I don’t think Druid studies are necessarily everyone’s cup of tea.

  3. Thank you for your clarification :-) To what degree are the Druid and Celtic Reconstruction movements related?

    I like the point you make about how children learn by emulation, and that this is one reason why it’s important to raise them with contact to a strong community…it’s definitely food for thought, when thinking about how to take modern revivals of ancient religions forward.

  4. Jeff Lilly says:

    I’m afraid I don’t know the answer to your question about the relationship between Druidism and the Celtic Reconstruction movement. I do know that there are two main thrusts of Druidry — the “revivalists” and the “reconstructionists”.

    The revivalists are followers of the Druid tradition that started in Britain in the 18th century, and their practice is based on the perceptions and innovations of that time; and there is probably little relationship between their practice and the practice of the actual ancient Druids, although that is of course not to say that it isn’t a valid practice in its own right. The Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids is revivalist.

    The reconstructionists try to recreate actual ancient Druid practice, which is quite difficult, but has its own rewards. The Order of the White Oak is reconstructionist. I don’t know if that’s what you mean by “Celtic Reconstruction”…?

  5. Greetings,

    What an interesting conversation!… Especially as it is rare that I find anyone who foresees a need for a Druid community that includes non-clergy members. It is a need we have foreseen in our budding Order, though, and working to respond to that need certainly is an interesting process.

    I know of Ellen by reputation and of course by her writings, and we hope, as we continue to grow, to work cooperatively with the Order of White Oak on world and regional issues. Perhaps one day we will meet during such an endeavour. In any case I wish you well in your explorations and have no doubt that you are in good hands!

    Bendithion Afallon,
    Morgaine

  6. Ah, I might add one other comment… I would say there are three branches to modern Druidry: revivalist, reconstructionist, and folkloric (if we might use this to avoid the much abused term “hereditary”). I have met, studied, worked with, and know people who learned their Druid practices from family members or Druid teachers unaffiliated with any revivalist or reconstructionist groups or Orders. These folks are mostly older and make no special claims to “royal lineages”, nor are they much interested in that idea. They respect the wisdoms they were taught, find them to be effective and profound templates for living a deeply spiritual life, and follow their paths simply and fully, every day.

    I have been blessed to know people from all three branches and found (as one will find anywhere) that in each there are some people who walk their talk and many people who don’t or cannot. I guess that is just part of being human. In any case, I thought I would say a word on behalf of my own mentors.

    Thanks for listening!

  7. Jeff Lilly says:

    Thanks for coming by, Morgaine! I am glad to learn about the Avalon Druid Order; I hadn’t heard of it before (not surprising, considering how new I am at this). I am very interested to hear more about folkloric druidry, since I don’t think I’ve heard of it before. In which branch would you place the ADO? Or do you think it is in its own category, or some combination?

    Are you aware that the Order of the White Oak has an email group for people curious about our activities? If you are interested, drop me a line. Some seeds for cooperative service might be germinated there.

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