Everyone has their own opinion of what it is to be a Druid, but each of them also shares a few things in common within the framework of the Way of the Druid. If you could distill these characteristics down into a few principles shared by all Druids, you would probably come up with something the Black Mountain Druid Order calls the Four Sacred Pillars.
These Four Sacred Pillars are:
- Reverence for Nature and our Ancestors. This means that Druids hold Nature, in all her forms, to be sacred. Druids recognize that we are not separate from nature. What we do to the web of life, we do to ourselves. We treat all life forms as sacred brothers and sisters on a journey together. Does this mean that Druids “worship” nature? That would depend on what you mean by the word “worship.” Personally, I do not like the word because of the negative power dynamics it invokes. I prefer the word “revere” because it indicates respect without suggesting dominance. From this perspective, we are partners with nature and its creatures. Think of the respect you may hold for an honored elder grandmother or grandfather, and you’ll gain an understanding of the difference between “reverence” and “worship.” While you may hold respect, and even reverence, for an elderly relative, you probably wouldn’t worship them! Likewise, a healthy and emotionally secure Ancestor would not want or require “worship,” but communion. Such a communion would involve common reverence for each other, and for the divine in each.
- Respect for diversity and individuality. This pillar recognizes the right of the individual to self-determination. While the path I walk is right for me, it may not be the right one for you. By respecting your right to determine your own individual path, I honor the diversity in the Universe, and in you. By expressing tolerance, I allow you the freedom to be who you are, and ask that you grant me the same freedom. The Wiccan Rede expresses this idea as, “An it harm none, do what ye will.” In the Black Mountain Druid Order , this idea is expressed in primum non nocere, “First do no harm.” Imagine what a different world we could create in the world if we could all simply agree not to harm each other, in spite of our differences! Note also that this respect for diversity does not imply tolerance of intolerance. My intolerance of another’s intolerance is not intolerance itself; it is justice. Our Order strives for social justice, and one of the principles of social justice is to proactively challenge intolerance whenever we see it so that all people have an equal chance at happiness and growth.
- Service to the Grove, to the community, and to the world. One of the aspects of recognizing our part in the web of life is the realization that we are all interconnected. If I work for the good of my own Grove, my own community, and the world, I ultimately benefit myself by improving living conditions for all. Conversely, if I act in a way that harms my community, I ultimately harm myself. This is similar to another Wiccan principle, the Threefold Law, which states that whatever you send out returns to you threefold. This has been expressed in Christianity in the idea that “what you sow, you reap.” In the Way of the Druid, the idea is expressed in terms of balance. If you act in a way that unbalances nature, nature acts to correct that balance. Druids actively work for social and environmental change so that ultimately life improves for all. In doing so, we restore balance to nature and to the world.
- Spiritual and personal growth. As a spiritual path, the Way of the Druid offers many opportunities for learning and self-improvement. A goal of the Way of the Druid is to always seek the imbas or awen. “Imbas” is a Gaelic word roughly translated as “divine inspiration” or “spiritual strength.” Its Welsh counterpart is “Awen.” The imbas is the means by which we seek the beauty of the world around us. It is also the inspiration that leads us to seek visions and to walk in the Otherworld. From a Druid’s perspective, knowledge and inspiration go hand-in-hand. Where knowledge meets inspiration, there is wisdom. So the imbas can guide us to wisdom when we seek it in knowledge and in truth.
The Four Sacred Pillars may be summarized succinctly as, “Reverence, Respect, Service and Growth.”