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October 2nd, 2010
03:47 PM ET

Britain recognizes Druidry as religion for first time, gives it charitable status

CNN's Phil Gast filed this report:

Britain recognized Druidry, an ancient belief that worships deities that take different forms in nature, as a religion for the first time and gave it charitable status on Saturday.

"There is a sufficient belief in a supreme being or entity to constitute a religion for the purposes of charity law," declared the Charity Commission for England and Wales in response to the Druid Network's application.

The decision will give the neo-pagan religion, known for its cloaked worshippers at Stonehenge (above, in 1999) and other sites, tax advantages and is expected to lead to broader acceptance.

"This has been a long hard struggle taking over five years to complete," said the Druid Network, which is based in England, in a statement on its website.

In some ways, Druidry in Britain is catching up to Druids and other neo-pagans in the United States, which already provides tax-exempt status for religious groups, said Marty Laubach, Associate Professor of Sociology at Marshall University.

The British commission noted that Druidry "is animistic and based on a belief that everything has a spiritual dimension." It also said that the religion recognizes deities within nature and conducts worship ceremonies.

The Druid Network, which has about 350 members, sought charitable status for "the advancement of religion for public benefit and no other purpose," the commission said in its ruling.

Druidry has no asserted dogma, the network said in its application. It added that members associate their gods with the moon, fertility, rain, love and other forces.

Druids were members of the learned class among ancient Celts, acting as priests, judges and teachers. They performed human and animal sacrifices and worshiped in forests in western Europe, Britain and Ireland.

Neo-pagan groups are growing in the United States, the 2008 American Religious Identification Survey found.

Such groups include Druids and Wiccans, along with voodoo and other belief systems, Laubach said.

"It's a quintessentially American religion in that it is a highly individualistic religion," Laubach said of neo-paganism.

Marshall, in Huntington, West Virginia, allows students to miss classes to observe pagan and other religious holidays.

Neo-pagans seek to communicate with spirits, but witchcraft is not Satanic because its believers don't recognize the Satan of Christianity, Judaism or Islam, Laubach said.

Many people look at Satanic worshippers and neo-pagans "as a bunch of people dancing in the forest" without realizing the distinction, said Douglas E. Cowan, Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada.

"We often tend to be demonized," said Laubach, a member of the neo-pagan movement, indicating Britain's decision is a "form of legitimacy."

Neo-pagans tend to be sensitive to the environment, with many rituals held outside, said Cowan and Laubach.

"They realize we are part of a living system," said Cowan.

"There is a huge festival movement," Laubach added. "The earth is the mother that supports us."

Britain's Druid Network says public misconceptions about some of its practices persist.

"While sacrifice is a core notion within most spiritual traditions, within Druidry it is confused by historical accounts of the killing of both human and animal victims," the network said in its application to the British commission. "No such practice is deemed acceptable within modern Druidry."

"What is sacrificed within the tradition today," the application says, "is that which we value most highly in life and hold to with most passion: time, security, certainty, comfort, convenience, ignorance and the like."

Modern pagans may not be as restrictive on issues such as sex as other religions "but [their] groups evolve social controls," Cowan said.

"You've got people bringing their kids to events," he said.

Cowan said it's not clear if the growth of Druidry - which he calls nowhere near as influential as the rapid growth of Christian Pentacostalism and Islam - is the rekindling or reinvention of the faith.

Regardless, Druids in Britain, unlike their North American counterparts, don't feel as marginalized by mainstream Christianity, he said.

"They have done the most to bridge the gap between Christian and non-Christian groups in Britain," Cowan said.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Druids • Europe • Paganism • United Kingdom

soundoff (829 Responses)
  1. plastering in auckland

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    July 29, 2012 at 1:36 am |
  2. celestial elf

    Great Post, Thought you might like my King Arthur's Summer Solstice at Stonehenge machinima film http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-wuNE5M01ME Bright Blessings, elf ~

    June 1, 2011 at 5:20 am |
  3. CIRA

    PRAISE THE LORD AND LADY! PRAISE THIS DAY! PRAISE THE PEOPLE OF BRITAIN! I AM SO ELATED I HAVE NO WORDS TO FURTHER EXPRESS MY JOY! A TRUE SMILE IS UPON MY FACE!

    BLESSED BE TO ALL, EVEN THOSE WHO HATE US. YOU WILL BE JUDGED. AND TO MY FELLOW PAGANS! WE ARE ON OUR WAY! THE DAY WOULD COME WHEN WE WOULD BE RECOGNIZED! REJOICE IN THIS DAY!

    October 13, 2010 at 3:11 am |
  4. CIRA

    PRAISE THE LORD AND LADY!!!! PRAISE THIS DAY!!! PRAISE THE PEOPLE OF BRITAIN!!! I AM SO ELATED I HAVE NO WORDS TO FURTHER EXPRESS MY JOY! A TRUE SMILE IS UPON MY FACE!!!!

    BLESSED BE TO ALL, EVEN THOSE WHO HATE US. YOU WILL BE JUDGED. AND TO MY FELLOW PAGANS!!! WE ARE ON OUR WAY!!! THE DAY WOULD COME WHEN WE WOULD BE RECOGNIZED!!! REJOICE IN THIS DAY!!!!

    October 13, 2010 at 3:09 am |
  5. Noneyabusiness

    BLESSED BE THE LORD GOD ALMIGHTY, CREATOR OF HEAVEN AND EARTH, GIVER OF LIFE AND DEFEATOR OF DEATH IN YESHUA CHRIST JESUS WHO IS RISEN AND IS AT THE RIGHT HAND OF THE FATHER. NO GREATER LOVE HAS A FRIEND THAN TO GIVE HIS LIFE FOR A FRIEND. THANK YOU JESUS FOR CONSIDERING US BELIEVERS AS YOU'RE FRIEND. HE WHO BELIEVES IN YESHUA JESUS CHRIST, HAS THE FATHER, HE WHO DOES NOT BELIEVE IN YESHUA JESUS CHRIST DOES NOT HAVE THE FATHER. READ THE WORD OF GOD. YOU CAN HAVE ALL THE FAITH AND HOPE IN THE WORLD, HOWEVER, IF YOU HAVE NOT LOVE, FAITH AND HOPE WILL AVAIL NOTHING. THESE ARE THE WORDS OF OUR LORD AND SAVIOR YESHUA JESUS CHRIST. REPENT BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE, AND WHILE THERE IS YET STILL TIME, ASK JESUS IN TO YOU'RE HEARTS AND ASK FOR FORGIVNESS OF ALL THE SINS OF THE WORLD, FOR HE CAME NOT TO CONDEM THE WORLD, BUT THAT THE WORLD THROUGH HIM MIGHT BE SAVED. I LOVE MY FELLOW MANKIND, SEEK YE FIRST THE KINGDOM OF GOD AND HIS RIGHTOUSNESS AND ALL THINGS SHALL BE ADDED UNTO YOU. FOR GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD THAT HE GAVE HIS ONLY BEGOTTEN SON, THAT WHO SO EVER BELIEVE IN HIM, SHALL NOT PARISH BUT HAVE EVERLASTING LIFE. AMEN. REJOYCE AND BE GLAD FOR OUR REDEMPTION DRAWS NIGH.

    October 11, 2010 at 8:07 pm |
  6. Noneyabusiness

    SO SORRY TO BURST YOU'RE BUBBLE, HOWEVER, NO ONE COMES TO THE FATHER BUT BY YESHUA JESUS CHRIST. HE IS THE WAY THE TRUTH AND THE LIFE. CAN THE CLAY GIVE INSTRUCTION TO THE POTTER? I THINK NOT. REPENT BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE. A GREAT CALAMITY IS COMING TO THE WORLD, IF THEY DO NOT REPENT.

    October 11, 2010 at 7:54 pm |
  7. Noneyabusiness

    Are you kidding me. This only reinforces by belief in the Word of God my Yeshua Jesus Christ the one and only true savior of the world. He is the only possible way to salvation and eternal life period. He is the way the truth and tghe life and NO ONE

    October 11, 2010 at 7:50 pm |
  8. Muneef

    The oath.the swear by that is taken by all country legals and financials afairs not  forgeting that you told the world in your currancy;
    In God we trust? And now you tell us that your majorty are ;
    - agnostics.
    - atheists.
    - seculars.
    - infidels.
    - miscreants.
    - polytheists.
    - pagans.
    What ever else you have ?
    Do not realy understand how in God we trust when you say there is no God to trust or take or make an oath with ?

    October 7, 2010 at 8:12 am |
    • Muneef

      Kindly read Sura 51: 47 to 60
      That's what we are here for and be warned. May God Guide you non believers. amen.

      October 7, 2010 at 11:55 am |
  9. Kemmons

    One more comment...

    On the topic of human and animal sacrifice, Druids today do no such thing. It is totally unethical. The ancient world however was filled with it. Almost all culture around the globe did this. It is just part of the human story and we have evolved. Read the Bible and there are many references to it. For those who don't believe this, read this page for the references: http://www.evilbible.com/Ritual_Human_Sacrifice.htm

    One more thought, I said in the last paragraph, we evolved. Druidry fully supports modern science and evolution. Nature is always evolving. This is undeniable. Scientist have witnessed random mutation right under the microscope. Druids don't deny reality. We embrace it and see it as sacred. Again, we don't g on belief but rather experience, at the same time recognizing that we have a limited human consciousness. So we remain open to possibility.

    October 5, 2010 at 11:25 am |
  10. seeker

    Not a Neopagan or Druid myself but happy they got official recognition.
    Merry Samhain in advance to all those Neopagans and Druids out there.
    Peace & Love!

    October 5, 2010 at 6:50 am |
  11. Michele

    The show of ignorance, and in some cases intolerance, here in the comment section is incredible. And that's just for spelling and grammar.

    October 4, 2010 at 12:29 pm |
  12. Erik

    It´s sad to see how we, as people, argue with each other over who owns the truth, while our reilious leaders sit back and laugh....Jesus, Moses, Mohammed, Budda all said that we should respect each other, and yet, we are all here saying who is right and who is not....I believe that we should stop using Religion as an excuse to force our own beliefs upon other people....Druids are offically a Religion, simply a different way to believe in God´s work, in my opinion...good for them....oh..and on Einstein...the Government used his formulas to make the bomb...which caused him to almost commit suidice...it shows that he had more of a coinscience than most of our leaders....Religious or otherwise....

    October 4, 2010 at 10:12 am |
  13. L

    @thorrsman,
    do not the catholics all worship the same person????

    October 4, 2010 at 10:01 am |
  14. Monento Mori

    the druids DID NOT sacrifice any form of human or animal it was against their religion to harm any living being, however what they did sacrifice was probably more like fruits and berries.

    October 4, 2010 at 9:49 am |
  15. Addie

    wieeered

    October 4, 2010 at 8:39 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.