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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. Frank

    That's nice that they are gaining rights. But I don't think they should be promoting Stonehenge. They have no idea what Stonehenge is actually for and yet they dance around it and perform rituals in it. Rather careless, if you ask me.

    "Britain recognized Druidry, a neo-pagan belief system that believes nature is its supreme being,"

    That's pantheism. Druidry is polytheistic. Or least it's supposed to be. Neo-Paganism is a mushy grab bag at this point. A lot of these Neo-Pagan beliefs have nothing to do with the ancient practices.

    October 2, 2010 at 4:47 pm |
    • Angie

      @Frank "Neo-Paganism is a mushy grab bag at this point. A lot of these Neo-Pagan beliefs have nothing to do with the ancient practices."

      And exactly how is that different than Christianity? I think today's Christians would be appalled if they had to live the Old Testament life.

      October 3, 2010 at 7:30 am |
    • Gumby

      Angie – right on.

      Actually, Christians today couldn't live the life of the early days of their own religion. They have modified and twisted their god to suit their changing agenda through the centuries, just like every other mainstream cult.

      October 3, 2010 at 8:45 am |
  2. Jeff

    Sow plz.

    October 2, 2010 at 4:46 pm |
  3. wakka wakka

    Druids have been around for thousands of years, this move will bring back a near extinct religion – fyi they do not believe in god nor satan lol they believe in nature and several nature gods ... I.e. Rain god, light god, moon god.... U idiots know nothing ... Wow

    October 2, 2010 at 4:45 pm |
  4. content_pessimest

    Liberal appeasement monkies in government.

    October 2, 2010 at 4:44 pm |
  5. American

    Go Green!

    October 2, 2010 at 4:42 pm |
  6. American

    Build their worship center next door the the Mosque at Ground Zero.

    October 2, 2010 at 4:41 pm |
  7. Nispers

    Acceptance of the Druid religion is one step closer for the Christian world to accept the fact their practices are BASED off of Pagan/Druid ceremonies. And there have been many scientific studies into this fact, even done so at the expense of the Christian organizations. As Christians we cannot bash something that is part of our history. If you cannot believe this, then look at how the Native tribes in the South Americas incorporated their beliefs into the Catholic religion. There's tons of evidence showing how the Pagan faiths were adopted and merged into the Catholic stories. So be at peace with the religion of our ancestors, it's part of us.

    October 2, 2010 at 4:41 pm |
    • Frank

      Scientific studies? Lol.

      October 2, 2010 at 5:05 pm |
    • Anon.

      @Frank. Yes, scientific. Jesus wasn't born in December, as has been proven by looking at star constellations mentioned at his time of birth (it's actually late summer/early autumn, August, if I remember right). This means that saying he was born in December was to try to be in conjunction with the Pagan's winter ceremonies of Yule in order to more easily convert more to christianity. It's brilliant–misleading as hell, but smart nonetheless.

      October 2, 2010 at 6:15 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @Anon

      Frank is the protector of the faith! He corrects all morals and is all wise. Except he has no proof for his conspiracy theories or gods. LOL

      October 2, 2010 at 7:33 pm |
    • Frank

      I see the troll, David Johnson, has decided to 'grace' us with his appearance.

      October 2, 2010 at 7:40 pm |
    • Leo

      Frank, it doesn't mean that the scientific studies supported the veracity of any religion. That's not what they're saying. However, historical analysis (not "scientific studies... come on, that's stupid) has shown that many Christian traditions and beliefs were probably developed, borrowed, or directly taken from various pagan religions.

      That doesn't mean ANY of them are true. It just means that Christianity is a "derivative" religion. It's not special, inspired, or divinely revealed. It's like an outfit made from hand-me-down clothes that have been taken from several different people, some of them modified, hemmed, or tailored, and then presented to some poor sucker as a "new" set of clothes.

      October 3, 2010 at 5:23 pm |
  8. captain dangerous

    sounds like satan worship!

    October 2, 2010 at 4:40 pm |
    • scion101

      How is it Satan worship? Druidism is historically nature worship, and unlike Satan I know that nature exists.

      October 2, 2010 at 4:46 pm |
    • capnmike

      there isn't any satan

      October 2, 2010 at 4:48 pm |
    • Frank

      I'm not going to get into whether Satan is a personal being or not and I'm certainly not saying that Pagans worship the Devil, but there are negative disembodied ent!ties out there (as there are positive ones and ones in the middle). Almost all cultures recognized them and had names for them. It's not something unique to the Abrahamic religions by any means.

      October 2, 2010 at 5:04 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @Frank

      You said, "there are negative disembodied ent!ties out there (as there are positive ones and ones in the middle). Almost all cultures recognized them and had names for them. It's not something unique to the Abrahamic religions by any means."

      Prove that there are negative, or positive or neutral disembodied enti ties out there. Just because you say a thing does not make it so. You have made the extraordinary claim. Where is your evidence?

      Man loves to make up gods. But not any particular god. Just gods in general. The fact they like to make up gods, isn't evidence that any one of them really exists.

      October 2, 2010 at 7:31 pm |
    • Gumby

      Satan doesn't exist. Now what?

      October 3, 2010 at 8:39 am |
  9. donna

    As far as fairytales are concerned, I would rather see people worshipping everything around us as holy, rather than being involved with the Holy Soap Opera that is Christianity – complete with its cast of All-in-the-Family type characters:

    Heaven / Father / Mother / Son / Angels / Hell / Demons / Satan

    It's incredibly odd that so many people will believe in such nonsense, just because they are told it's true.

    October 2, 2010 at 4:39 pm |
  10. AwesomeBob

    lol, the world just got a little crazier...

    October 2, 2010 at 4:38 pm |
  11. John

    Tax breaks for religion is kind of stupid. Religion is escapism. It's a fairy tale. People waste away their lives believing it and encouraging others to believe it. It's like getting a lobotomy. You have to lose your mind to believe it. It might create weak humble creatures that tell heartwarming stories, but as for the advancement of our species it does little. It's sad more than it's uplifting. Why not tax exempt game makers and game shows? That's escapism too. There're many game makers that make educational games. Why not tax exempt them? There're many people that help others in a variety of ways through work and leisure, but they don't get tax exempted. The whole tax exempt scheme is just that, a scheme.

    Finding the answers to life whether it's through philosophy or science or religion is all part of the same truth seeking behavior. But tax exempting just some of it is not honest and complete. Finish the job by tax exempting them all.

    October 2, 2010 at 4:38 pm |
    • Truth

      I could not have said it better. It's saddening that this many morons inhabit this planet. The day I believe in any god will be the day I believe in the tooth fairy. I lost my baby teeth a while ago. I group you retards ( yes I said retards bc I'm tired of pc talk) in with Michael Vick haters and morons who support Sarh retard palin. That is all.

      October 3, 2010 at 4:08 am |
    • matthew q

      I wonder if the battle cry for tax-exempt status has evolved from the US's separation of church and state clause. Yet curoiusly, many members of the church want prayer in public schools, the Ten Commandments on courtroom walls, nativity scenes in capitol buildings, etc. I say pay your taxes, then you can display your dogma.

      October 3, 2010 at 12:02 pm |
  12. Enoch

    Oh, honestly, when will these nutjobs just go away? Christians, Jews, Muslims, and now Druids! If these people are that willing to be buffaloed, I offer myself as their god. Let them worship me! Thanks for the frankincense and gold. You can leave out the myrrh next time.

    October 2, 2010 at 4:35 pm |
  13. Jay

    1 800 D R U I D I A

    October 2, 2010 at 4:35 pm |
  14. yahsdaughter

    what is written in the word of Yahweh (God, the father of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) is...anything that is not of Him is of the darkness..so choose this day who you shall serve.
    If your a follower of the way ..believes that Yahushua (Jesus) is the son of God and died at calvary and rose again 3 days later and sits at the right hand of His father today and lives in obedience to His word....then you are of the father and not of the darkness of this world....for the father is the light(almighty) that cast out the darkness (s.a.tan)

    October 2, 2010 at 4:35 pm |
    • Enoch

      I mean, I believe he sits to the right of his father, but not all the time. Doesn't he have like errands and stuff to do? And what about naps? I'd say that I believe he sits next to his father about, hmm, 3-4 hours a day tops. During meals. With the TV on.

      October 2, 2010 at 4:37 pm |
    • capnmike

      What a bunch of nonsense!

      October 2, 2010 at 4:49 pm |
    • Intellectual

      Sigh. Qouting books of fiction doesn't make the words any more real.

      October 2, 2010 at 4:50 pm |
    • Athenaeus

      LOL... so true. Apparently, what makes it "really true" is having millions of people citing works of fiction and/or unverifiable early human history together and at the same time. Logic, reason, tolerance, and truth haven't a chance against that kind of circularly psuedo-reasoned constantly reinforced delusional power.

      October 2, 2010 at 5:59 pm |
    • odubhain

      I'm wondering how you would distinguish Yahweh from Satan since they are both powerful spiritual beings capable of fooling and befuddling the average human? I'm serious. Outside of some things written in a book, how would you discern one from the other? According to that book, Satan is the Great Deceiver and Prince of Lies, so how would you know him from Yahweh if he wanted to fool you? You couldn't, so better get to work being a Druid so you'll be able to recognize truth from lies. 🙂

      October 2, 2010 at 7:12 pm |
    • Leah

      So THAT'S where the phrase "my way or the highway" originated! Good to know.

      October 2, 2010 at 8:21 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      Odubhain,

      Do you have a conscience? To acknowledge and participate in a good or evil deed….
      You can listen to your voice, or the voice of evil, or the voice of Truth. You think of an idea….should I do it or shouldn’t I? you ponder. The voice of evil says…go ahead…it won’t hurt you or anyone…. you ponder… but what if this happens or that happens [because it could, you acknowledge]…then your conscience tells you…don’t do that because it could hurt your neighbor and even yourself in the long run. Then you choose…..

      So you see, evil is powerful but you have a brain and conscience…that’s two against one; you should come out on the side of Good if you really want to….

      October 2, 2010 at 8:49 pm |
    • Tell_Me

      CatholicMom,

      A conscience only reflects your estimation of 'good' and 'evil' as you see it, based on facts that you have been taught or have observed, and your reason and logic concerning them. For example, Christians, Pagans, Atheists and many others have no qualms about eating pork; but Muslims and Jews would have a serious attack of 'conscience' if they did so.

      October 3, 2010 at 12:22 am |
    • Gumby

      Empty-headed babble.

      October 3, 2010 at 8:34 am |
  15. Enlighten

    That only applies to PC users. My Mac automatically reset's to 2013.

    October 2, 2010 at 4:35 pm |
  16. Anthony

    Big Deal.

    My religion, known as Dingly-Dangism isn't recognized, and its the best religion there is...

    October 2, 2010 at 4:34 pm |
    • capnmike

      Tell us, O enlightened one, what's involved!

      October 2, 2010 at 4:51 pm |
    • Jonny

      I think it involves the laying on of hands ... as a start.

      October 3, 2010 at 3:06 am |
    • Felix Lenoel

      Another mess, their past is gross! killing like all religions. This week a 95 year old man told me that he is going straight to heaven. I ask him if the animals, bird, plants and all life on earth go to, he told me no it's only for people. Now how insane is that! I am glad that I am attuned to nature, and certainly no killing. I do not endorse any religions and I am sorry to say that It's a pity to see people needing religions to survive, open your eye and feel all life around you. Without the chain of life on earth people will not even exist.

      October 3, 2010 at 7:53 pm |
  17. Allen

    Can the Druids build a Druidry temple near Ground Zero?
    Can the Church of Scientology build a Scientology temple near Ground Zero?
    I say Ban all religions from building near Ground Zero. Tha way you also ban those violent Islamists from erecting the stinkin mosque near Ground Zero. Better there be a red light district than a mosque.

    October 2, 2010 at 4:32 pm |
    • Rick

      The Scientologists already have a center in Manhattan, run by John "I Smell Puthy" Carmichael. Why would they need another one, especially with their declining figures?

      October 2, 2010 at 5:32 pm |
    • Karmageddon

      It's interesting that people swarm out to attack Scientology when the article doesn't even mention it.

      As to claims that the Scientology religion is shrinking, I can't reconcile that with all the new buildings our members and churches contribute to buying, refurbishing to standards that win awards and photo spreads, and then populating with staff and members.

      We also field from dozens to hundreds of volunteers to fly to most any natural or man-made disaster to help calm things down and restore people's ability to function and rebuild for themselves.

      But the most revelatory story in reading comment sections is watching the haters that come out of the wall–on nearly any story–to randomly attack the ideas and intellect of others who post. Differences of opinion are part of the free marketplace of ideas.

      But insults and derision shouldn't be part of anyone's psyche.

      October 3, 2010 at 4:02 pm |
  18. Daneen

    Religious tolerance is a major issue in the world today. I'm glad when ANY one takes the time to acknowledge the rights of others to worship (in a peaceful manner) as they see fit. No one has to agree with the beliefs, if they choose not to. But those that do, have the right to without persecution.

    October 2, 2010 at 4:31 pm |
    • Gumby

      But do religions have the right to gain favored and protected status, such as financial perks like tax-exempt status? NO. But it keeps happening. WHY? Why should deluded religious cults receive preferential financial and legal treatment from governments in this day and age?

      October 3, 2010 at 8:33 am |
  19. Sean

    I wonder if these guys play world of warcraft.

    October 2, 2010 at 4:30 pm |
    • Daemonaquila

      Well, lots of Christians play World of Warcraft, so I guess that makes Christians pretty whacked. Dude, religions aren't to blame when a game or a book or a movie borrows their name for something entirely different.

      October 3, 2010 at 1:08 pm |
  20. a jew...

    I don't get it ... how the hell do they know what the beliefs were before Christianity ? Is there a Druid book ? the only way people know they existed is because of the Romans and of the Greeks that were their true enemies and the only ones to record history and rituals of that time. So fact is there is no way that they know exactly what was done that long ago for sure , thus making their religion very new and fake.

    October 2, 2010 at 4:29 pm |
    • Kat

      Wait... how do Native Americans know what their history/beliefs are if they didn't write them down. I'm pretty sure they didn't have a book either. That's incredibly simple. Stories and beliefs have been handed down for generations long before there was the written/mass produced word. Just because there might not have been a book as wide known as some other religions doesn't make their religion any less real.

      October 2, 2010 at 4:37 pm |
    • Zoe

      Um...it's called written history. There was, believe it or not, written history way before Christ came onto the scene.

      October 2, 2010 at 4:39 pm |
    • Ana

      Actually, they DO have some archaeological evidence for this pre-Christian paganism of ancient Britain. It's s shame that Druidism ( or some form of it ) is the actual history of the British Isles, yet they are only just NOW getting official recognition from the governemnt ? Since I'm an atheist myself, I really don't care what they worship. However, it's only fair they should be recognized along with Christianity, Judaism and, of course, Islam.

      October 2, 2010 at 4:43 pm |
    • Big Joe

      Good deal of celtic lore was ultimately written down and has survived.

      October 2, 2010 at 4:44 pm |
    • Sean

      @ a jew: you are an Idiot, it is called oral history that was practised long before the romans arrived. They mearly recorded and wrote about that which had been in existance for quite some time.

      October 2, 2010 at 4:49 pm |
    • capnmike

      What's the difference? It's all made-up stuff and fairytales anyway. All religion is nothing but a fairytale and a hoax.

      October 2, 2010 at 4:52 pm |
    • CalgarySandy

      Why don`t you try reading the history of the modern Pagan movement before you shoot your bigoted mouth off. Christianity has few good sources either; which you would know if you took some time to learn it.

      October 2, 2010 at 4:54 pm |
    • Frank

      No one knows when Druidry started. Hardly anything is known about it so neo-Druids have to pull a lot of it from other sources. Plus it's been romanticized as you can see from what the Druid Network says. Ancient Pagans were just as nasty and warlike as any other group.

      October 2, 2010 at 4:58 pm |
    • educated moderator

      Actually there are hundreds of actual records about how the Christian empire negotiated the faith to gain followers from the established Pagans. Keep studying folks.

      October 2, 2010 at 5:56 pm |
    • Gumby

      News flash... ALL religions are fake. Do you really think the Christianity or Judaism of today is the same as it was when the religions first began? When Christianity first started, there was no agreed-upon concept of the divinity of Jesus, even. The divinity of Jesus was formalized into the canon around 325 CE. Jesus became divine because a committee of old men employed by a king said so. And the religion of the ancient Hebrews was centered around a god cobbled together from the desired traits of various polytheistic gods of that time and area of the world. It's all fake. All of it.

      October 3, 2010 at 8:30 am |
    • Leo

      You almost make me embarrassed for my Jewish heritage... I hope I'm not related to you, because you're an idiot. Stop telling people you're Jewish. You shame the rest of us with your boldfaced stupidity.

      Christianity only really invaded the British isles with the Norman Invasion in the 11th century. Trust me, there were plenty of written records for the Celts and the other people of the British Isles before the battle of Hastings in 1066, and they had very strong religious and cultural traditions WITHOUT the Judeo-Christian terrorists who tried to trample their centuries of traditions.

      The Druids had a system of sacred writing, books WERE kept, and traditions passed down. How IGNORANT of you to think that the only civilization was brought at the hands of the Judeo-Christians. That's as bad as pretending that thousands of years of Chinese dynasties did not exist because they weren't part of Judeo-Christian history. IGNORANCE! So ridiculous. And what of the Mayans and Aztecs of the Western hemisphere? They had complex civilizations with written words, calendars, systems of math and commerce... all without invading Christian armies.

      Oh, the self-absorbed ignorance of the modern westerner... it's sickening.

      October 3, 2010 at 5:12 pm |
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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.