From the Second Epistle of Robert Larson, (Isaac Bonewit's mentor) and perhaps the true founder of Neopagan Druidism.
Robert offered this parable of his own creation, to counsel tolerance and variation among warring branches of the Reformed Druids during their ideological and structural conflicts of 1976;
I will now relate this incredibly ancient Druid fable
which I have just written.
To make his rock even more beautiful he fell to rubbing and buffing it until it bore a bright polish.
Every day he would rub and buff it till it almost outshone the sun, so bright it was.
The people who lived nearby would often come to see the rock and say what a wonderful, bright rock it was.
Now eventually the Druid died and went to the Sidhe hills as all good Druids do. But the wind and rain did not die.
Slowly it was that the rock lost its polish, but lose it it did. No longer did the people come to see the rock, now neither wonderful nor bright, for of what interest is a mere rock, except to a geologist?
The second of the Druids went to his land and looked at his rock and thought what a wonderful statue his rock would make.
So he took a hammer and chisel and carved a statue of his god out of it. Paint he put on his statue, and gold and jewels also, until it looked exactly like his idea of his god. And the people who lived both near and far came to marvel at the statue and worship at it, saying such things as "You could swear that it's alive, that it's being." To which the Druid would reply, "It is."
Eventually the second Druid too died and went to the Sidhe hills where all good Druids go...
Eventually the second Druid too died and went to the Sidhe hills where all good Druids go. But the wind and rain did not die, nor did human nature change. Thieves came and stripped the statue of its gold and its jewels. Wind and rain completed the destruction, until the statue once again resembled nothing so much as a rock.
And the people stopped coming to marvel and to worship, for, after all, who wants to worship a rock after he's had the most wonderful statue in the world?
The Third Druid went to his land and looked at his rock. Then he climbed upon it and looked about him, liking what he saw.
He planted flowers, trees and bushes about the rock and lichen on it. Every day he would herd his cows and sheep on the land about the rock, sitting on or resting against it.
As time went by, the flowers, the bushes and trees grew and the lichen covered the rock, giving the Druid an even more beautiful view and a softer seat to watch his herds from.
So beautiful did the Druid's land become, that people came from far and near to sit with him and watch the deer and fox play and the flowers bloom, for it was said to be the most beautiful and peaceful place in the world.
The time came when the third Druid died and went to the Sidhe hills where all good Druids go.
But the flowers did not stop growing, nor did the bushes and trees and lichen.
And so it remains to this day.
Beannachtai na Mathar libh. Siochain Robert, ArchDruid, Berkeley Grove 28 Mean Samhraidh, 14 y.r.
(July 2nd, 1976 c.e.)
The Sidhe (Shee), sometimes also known as The Good People and the Tuatha De Danaan, are a race descended of the old agricultural gods of the Earth who have retreated from this Earth to a different dimension of space and time than our own, believed to be living under mounds and fairy raths and cairns, and also the land of "Tír na nÓg" a mythical island to the west of Ireland. Throughout the ages the Sidhe have been in contact with mortals giving protection, healing and even teaching some of their skills to mortals - Smithcraft or the working of metals being one such skill. Cuillen (Culann) is one such sidhe smith who has been told of in the legends of Cúchulainn and the later legends of Fionn mac Cumhail. The Gaelic word sí or síog refers to these otherworldly beings now called fairies.This race of beings who has powers beyond those of mankind, they move quickly through the air and may change their shape at will. Many refer to the Sidhe as simply "the gentry", on account of their tall, noble appearance and silvery sweet speech. It is thought that good Druids and folk of the spirits may join with them in their Sidhe lands after their mortal life is concluded...Down through the ages the Sidhe have been in contact with mortals giving protection, healing and even teaching some of their skills to mortals - Smithcraft or the working of metals being one such skill. Cuillen (Culann) is one such sidhe smith who has been told of in the legends of Cúchulainn and the later legends of Fionn mac Cumhail.
The Gaelic word sí or síog refers to these otherworldly beings now called fairies.
A Multiplicity of Druids;
In 1966, Robert Larson, an ordained priest of the original Carleton Grove group moved to Berkeley, California, where he and Isaac Bonewits founded a small Druidic group with connections to various wiccan covens, and groups which practiced ceremonial magic. This became known as the Berkeley Grove.
In the mid 1970s, Bonewits sought to recast the RDNA as a Neo-Pagan organization, but this met with resistance from several Druids from the Carleton Grove. Several groves subsequently broke off to form "Branches" of Reformed Druidism and in 1976, a new order formed called the New RDNA (NRDNA), which organized under a Council of Arch-Druids, specifically to have a national body more responsive than the Council of Dalon Ap Landu. Some NRDNA groves wanted to restrict membership to Neo-Pagans, and experiment with changes to ritual and the structure of their groves; these became the Schismatic Druids of North America (SDNA). Groves not participating in these changes or schisms were, by default, considered the RDNA. The definition of "Reformed Druidism" stretched to include these variants, not just the RDNA, but the NRDNA, SDNA, and independent folks who just believed in the Basic Tenets.
Arise Oh Ár nDraíocht Féin (ADF);
Many members of the SDNA groves left in the 1980s to form the Ár nDraíocht Féin (ADF), taking a few lessons from Reformed Druidism with them—notably the Waters of Life, an RDNA invention. Currently, in most RDNA and NRDNA groves, members can belong to any or no religion; and due to the emphasis on Grove autonomy, and resulting Grove diversity, there is now little to distinguish between RDNA and NRDNA. Today Ár nDraíocht Féin has groves present across the United States, in Canada, and in other countries.
On the Reform of Neo Druidry in North America;
Until 1983, except for a few fraternal Druid organizations with branches in the USA, Reformed Druidism was really the only publicly known type of neo-druidism in America. ADF provided a training program for Neo-Pagan Druids interested in Indo-European religious concepts, a strong central church-like structure, a liturgical formula, and a great number of council and rules. Over the years, many aspiring Druids joined ADF, borrowed some ideas and produced dozens of new groups of their own. Henge of Kelria was the largest off-shoot, when this group split off for reasons of protest over training programs, charges of ineptitude, and a preference for only Celtic sources of inspiration.
Similarly, the Order of Whiteoak borrowed material from ADF, RDNA, and Keltra, but produced primarily a core of material based on their own research.
Saltem Accurata Et Maxime Iocosa;
While Reformed Druids are considered the least organized and most playful Druids, their literature is perhaps the more extensively produced and archived of any modern Druid group in America. Reformed Druidic literature has been an almost entirely open literature, unlike many fraternal or mystical Druid organizations that restrict material to initiates.
It is however quite possible and common for members to participate actively in a Grove or a conference for years without having read more than a few dozen pages of their literature, as the oral and living traditions are also quite vital and nuanced.
It is notably non-dogmatic, eclectic, leaning towards philosophic rather than magic in focus, and often written "tongue-in-cheek", with authors tending to poke fun at themselves.
Are American Druids different from British Druids?
Whilst many might bundle American and British Druidry together under the general heading of 'Neo-Druidism' in fact these are two separate lines of Druidry. There is ofcourse a shared love of nature, an open attitude towards spirituality, a social focus, and a curiosity about the practices of the ancient Celts, but there are a distinctive differences between the two bodies of Druidism:
The British Druid,
British Druid Orders can trace a formal lineage back to the founding of the Ancient Order of Druids in 1781, although much earlier records attest to their existence in Ancient Britain, Ireland and Europe such as the written records of Julius Ceasar and etc. Indeed Roman author Diogenes ( 3rd century CE ) considered the Druids as one of the ancient world's wisest philosophers, along with the Magi of Persia, the Chaldeans (the priesthood of the Babylonians) and the Gymnosophists (an Hindu sect which preceded the Yogis), all of whom were skilled in mathematics, physics, logic, and philosophy.
Many British Orders such as the British Druid Order and OBOD use the emblem of Awen invented by the 18th century Druid Edward Williams, aka Iolo Morganwg, although some use other symbols such as the Pendragon, the Red Dragon Rampant of King Arthurs Loyal Arthurian Warband Order of Druids.
The modern British lineage of Druid organisations was initially founded as an organized secret society to compete with the Freemasons in their social works and their spiritual orientations, although subsequent diversification of orientation and purpose has seen divergence of stated aims and practises of various groups.
The American Druid,
American Druid Orders can trace themselves back to the founding of the Reformed Druids of North America in 1963. The RDNA is an American Neo-Druidic organization formed at Carleton College (The Carleton Grove), Northfield, Minnesota as a humorous protest against the college's required attendance of religious services. In creating an effective vehicle to challenge the establishment requirements, the founders unwittingly fostered an environment for spiritual exploration. For many new Druids the movement came to represent a valuable part of their spiritual lives and the demand for Druid services continued even after the college requirement disappeared.
The American symbol is a Druid sigil most often rendered as a circle with two vertical lines through it, and is also similar to the "circle with a dot in the middle" emblem, which is a Masonic sun symbol for God, flanked by two vertical lines, which represent the two Saint Johns, whose festivals are St. John the Baptist on the summer solstice and St. John on the winter solstice. It first became associated with Druidism in modern times by the founder of the Reformed Druids of North America, David Fisher, in 1963 c.e.. He claimed that it was a symbol of Druidism in general and the Earth Mother in particular. Some think he may have gotten the design from a hasty glance at a picture in Piggott’s book The Druids, which showed the foundations of an old Roman-Celtic temple. Others think he may have gotten it from some Mesopagan Druid organization to which he may have belonged. However, with the two lines running horizontally, the Druid Sigil is known to electricians as the sign for a female plug/socket, and with the lines diagonal, it’s an old alchemical sign for oil, both concepts that could lead to some fruitful meditations.
There are perhaps 40 groves and protogroves of the RDNA, NRDNA and RDG, with 180 priests and priestesses.
More details of Reformed Druids of North America here
(www.rdna.info and www.reformed-druids.org )
ADF here ( http://www.adf.org/core/index.html )
Keltria here ( www.keltria.org )