My Vision of Neopagan Druidism 4.0 or Useful Words and Phrases for the Interdimensional Traveler

A.D.F. and Keltria, along with other offshoots
of Neopagan Druidism, have developed in unexpected ways, diverging
from my original vision as they have grown. I still think it
worthwhile, however, to describe what that original vision was
and how it has grown in my own mind over the years. Hence, the
minor renaming of this essay from “The Vision(s)” to
“My Vision.” You will still, of course, find many within
the Neopagan Druid community who would agree with most of the
following, so I will retain the plural pronouns for much of this.

What makes the Neopagan Druidism that I envision
different from other Neopagan as well as other Druidic traditions
— and how is it similar to those that have gone before? To a
great extent, both the differences and the similarities are rooted
in my vision of the past, the present, and the future. That vision
leads me to express it much of it in terms of a commitment to
achieving excellence.

Excellence in Scholarship

The Earth Mother and the other Goddesses and
Gods do not need us to tell lies on their behalf, nor can we
understand the ways of our Paleopagan predecessors by indulging
in romantic fantasies, no matter how “politically correct”
or emotionally satisfying they might be. So we should promote
no tall tales of universal matriarchies, of Stonehenge being
built by Druid magic, nor of the ancient Druids originally having
been shamanic crystal-masters from Atlantis. We need not whitewash
the occasional barbarism of our predecessors, nor exaggerate
it. We should use real archeology, real history and real comparative
mythology — and be willing to change our opinions when new information
becomes available, even if it damages our favorite theories.
This approach is rare in the history of both Druidic revivals
and the Neopagan community, but is vital if we are to avoid the
sorts of doctrinal traps that conservative monotheisms so often
fall prey to, which force them to suppress new learning which
contradicts their dogmas.

Artistic Excellence

The Gods and Goddesses deserve the very best
that we can give them, so we should encourage each other to develop
our creative skills to the highest levels that each can attain.
Our bards, painters, woodcarvers, needleworkers, smiths, and
liturgists should be among the best in the Neopagan community,
just as those of the Mesopagan Druid orders have been among their
esoteric communities.

Excellence in Leadership

Good leadership is vital for any healthy,
growing religion. To that end Neopagan Druid groups should create
leadership training programs equal in difficulty and superior
in results to anything done by the world’s other religions. Unlike
many alternate religions, we should be willing to spend the necessary
years becoming clergy, bards, diviners, teachers, or other sorts
of religious leaders. We don’t have to assume that every member
of our communities will have a genuine vocation to a leadership
role, though it’s likely that a high proportion will for the
first few decades. Instead we can expect that eventually the
vast majority of our people will be Neopagan laity.

Spiritual Excellence for All

Nonetheless, everyone should be expected to
communicate with the Goddesses and Gods in her or his own way
— spiritual growth should never be a monopoly of those called
“leaders.” Every lover of the Earth needs to learn
how to contact the divine fire within, how to talk with trees,
and how to unleash the power of magic to save the Earth.

Liturgical Excellence

Excellence in religious ritual is rooted in
these other forms of excellence. Sound scholarship (especially
historical and mythological), beautiful art, genuinely competent
clergy and bards, and people who are ready, willing, and able
to channel divine energies are all crucial to creating the powerful
religious and magical ceremonies that we and the Earth so desperately

The Future of Neopaganism

I believe that Neopaganism is becoming a mainstream
religious movement, with hundreds of thousands (and someday millions)
of members, and that this is A Good Thing, both for the individuals
involved and for the survival of the Earth Mother. Neopaganism
is riding the crest of the “baby boom.” Many people
who grew up in the 1960’s and 70’s are discovering us at about
the same time that they are realizing both the desperate state
of our planet and the eternal relevance of our youthful ideals.
Membership in the Neopagan community is growing at a geometric
rate, both through word of mouth and the many do-it-yourself
books now available, giving us an ever-greater impact on the
mainstream culture as a whole.

Many, if not most, of these Neopagans want
publically accessible worship, teaching, counseling, and healing.
Before 2020 c.e., I expect to see Neopagan temples and/or sacred
groves throughout North America and Europe, many of them staffed
by full-time paid professional clergy. They’ll provide the full
range of needed services to the Neopagan community, with no more
“corruption” than the Unitarians, the Buddhists, or
the Taoists usually experience. I foresee globally televised
Samhain rites at Stonehenge, and Beltane ceremonies attended
by thousands in every major city. Neopagan clergy will take part
as equals in international religious conferences with clergy
from other faiths. Our children will be able to wear Pagan religious
emblems to school as easily as others now wear Jewish, Christian
or Islamic ones.

I see talented and well-trained Neopagan clergy
leading tens of thousands of people in effective magical and
mundane actions to save endangered species, stop polluters, and
preserve wilderness. I see our healers saving thousands of lives
and our bards inspiring millions through music, video, and drama
in other media not yet invented. I see Neopaganism as a mass
movement, changing social, political, and environmental attitudes
around the world and stopping the death-mongers in their tracks.

Small Groups versus Large?

This vision is very different from that of
most previous Neopagan traditions, as well as most previous Druidic
movements, who have focussed on small esoteric groups as their
ideal. Those small groups will always be an essential part of
both the Druidic and the Neopagan religious communities, operating
both within and apart from larger organizations, just as their
equivalents have throughout human history. As I see it, the future
of both Neopaganism and Druidism will require a wide variety
of different group sizes, structures, and ritual styles. To lose
any of the currently existing approaches risks impoverishing
our spiritual “gene pool.” So Neopagan Druids have
no need to “replace” other Neopagan or Druidic traditions,
even though we think that we have some unique and wonderful things
to share with the world.

If Neopagan Druids are going to have large
congregations with inclusive ceremonies and other services, how
do we integrate those people who have needs for smaller, perhaps
exclusive, groups? Imagine a Druid grove twenty years from now,
with three to four hundred people as regular attendees. Such
a grove might include several closed lunar circles (i.e., “covens”),
healing circles, bardic groups, an ecology action committee,
a scholarly group, perhaps a lodge-type group of Druidic ceremonial
magicians, artistic and craft guilds, a liturgical committee,
a grounds-keeping committee, etc., all with overlapping membership
and all joining together for major events. They would have to
work out their own etiquette, internal membership requirements,
etc., but the emphasis would be on fellowship and cooperation,
rather than on exclusivity and competition.

Public Paganism

Such sharing requires “going public,”
something that many Neopagan traditions have been reluctant to
do, though most Druidic groups have done so throughout their
histories. Granted, it may remain necessary for another decade
or two for some Neopagans to remain in hiding wherever hatred
and fear are rampant. Even for those of us in publically-oriented
Neopagan groups, it will take courage and caution for some of
us to safely “come from the shadows.” Yet if we can
follow the lessons learned by the civil rights movements of our
generation, we can eventually exercise our full freedom to practice
our beliefs. Accepting and encouraging our community’s growth
while avoiding missionary fever will be a vital tool in achieving
that task.

To have publically accessible ritual, lecture,
counseling, and performance locations, Neopagan Druids will need
to have our own real estate. That means that money is going to
have to be collected, spent, and administered carefully. We need
to learn about ethical fund raising methods, safe and ethical
investment techniques, laws and procedures for buying real estate,
mortgages and loans, health and building codes, zoning laws,
and a host of other mundane details that every mainstream congregation
deals with on a regular basis. Arguing that “property is
theft,” and “nobody can own the Earth,” may be
perfectly correct politically or spiritually, but from an economic
point of view these objections simply mean that those objecting
will never have a safe, beautiful, and dependable location in
which to practice their religion. Other liberal religious traditions,
such as the Unitarian Universalists, manage to handle all of
these annoying financial details without betraying their ideals
(many of which are the same as ours), so why can’t we?

Professional Clergy

The U.U.’s also manage to pay their ministers
a living wage (at least in some congregations), without feeling
that they are “selling spirituality.” If we have congregations
the size that I’m talking about, can we really expect our clergy
to work part-time, for free? Most clergy with large congregations
work 40-60 hour weeks — should they also be required to hold
down mundane jobs? If we do pay our priests and priestesses,
how do we decide their salaries? Should there be a flat rate
nationwide or one that varies with local economic factors? Should
Druid clergy be paid a salary equal to the average income of
the other members of their congregation? Or should congregations
be able to compete for the clergy they consider best qualified
by offering higher salaries along with other benefits? What about
medical, dental, and life insurance? Should lodging and utilities
for the priest/ess and his/her family be considered part of,
or in addition to, his/her salary? All these details must be
considered and wisely decided.

Druidic Colleges

As mentioned earlier, being a professional
clergyperson requires a great deal of specialized training in
dozens of areas. Some Neopagan Druid groups may provide that
training at long-distance, using the students’ local resources,
while others might prefer a system of correspondence courses,
or one-on-one mentoring. But we are going to eventually need
to set up real Druidic Colleges, with classrooms, scientific
labs, art studios, and all the other facilities of an accredited
academic institution. To get that accreditation, we are also
going to have to hire faculty with real degrees from mainstream
colleges and universities. Fortunately, we have a lot of genuinely
talented and degreed people in Neopaganism, some of whom might
be willing to take a cut in potential earnings just for the sake
of being able to participate in such an endeavor. But they will
still need a living wage, we will still need to buy or rent real
estate to house our Colleges, and all the problems and issues
I’ve mentioned in the last few paragraphs will combine with those
of academic customs and civil laws. Obviously, we’re looking
at something that’s still twenty years in the future, but it
will soon be time to start raising money and doing the necessary
legal research.

Druid Real Estate the Easy Way

One approach to solving our temple and seminary
needs that I’ve long thought about, is to purchase old bankrupt
church colleges out in rural areas. That would give Neopagan
Druids inexpensive land that is properly zoned, with buildings
already in place (though probably in need of repairs) to be used
as classrooms, dormitories for live-in students and faculty,
church buildings that can be converted to Druidic temples, grounds
to plant sacred groves on, and office space in which to set up
group headquarters. We could gradually phase in full-year teaching
by starting out with week-long and month-long residencies for
Druids studying particular arts and sciences. In the summer,
we’d have places for festivals and other gatherings. In short,
we could put many of Neopagan Druidism’s most important activities
in a few locations.

Paganizing the Mainstream by Mainstreaming Paganism

If Neopaganism is ever going to become more
than just the hobby of thousands of exclusive cliques, Neopagan
Druids are going to have to drag it — no doubt kicking and screaming
— into the mainstream religious arena. There we can have a hundred
times the influence that we’ve had so far, and make a pretty
good effort at saving the Earth. The hard part will be learning
to separate the wheat from the chaff in mainstream religious
organizational structures and operating procedures, avoiding
“Second Wave” tyranny and corruption while keeping
our “Third Wave” ideals. I think it can be done. But
first we are going to have to start thinking and talking about
all the issues involved, both spiritual and mundane, without
sweeping any of them under the rug because they’re not “politically
correct” or “spiritually evolved.” The Earth Mother’s
survival is too important to be subordinated to ideological purity
or countercultural naivete.

I believe that Druidism has an important role
to play in the future of Neopaganism and the survival of the
Earth. Already, other Neopagan traditions are imitating Neopagan
Druid training programs, our liturgical techniques, and our emphases
on the arts. If we can attract enough people who are willing
to dedicate their time, energy, and money to achieving these
goals, this vision can be manifested. We can save the Earth Mother,
create a global culture of prosperity and freedom, and usher
in a genuine “New Age.”

Achieving such grand goals is going to require
the Neopagan community in general, and Neopagan Druids in particular,
to begin wrestling with many difficult social, political, economic,
and spiritual issues — most of which we’ve been avoiding for
the last thirty years. Becoming a Neopagan Druid means supporting
and working towards this vision and beginning the wrestling process.
Together we can do it. But we’re going to need as many co-conspirators
as possible. If this vision excites you, share it with your friends
and family. Then become part of Druidism’s future by joining
a Neopagan Druid group or by starting your own.

The rest is up to you!

Copyright 1983, 1999 c.e., Isaac Bonewits.
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