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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. Eddie

    I'm a modern day Druid. Any bush will do.

    October 2, 2010 at 9:11 pm |
  2. sheetiron

    Were not saying that all practioners of witchcraft are Satanic, but that all witchcraft gets its power from Satan. There is a difference. A subtle difference yes, but its still a difference.

    October 2, 2010 at 9:05 pm |
    • Thorrsman

      The Wiccans, and those who practice other forms of magic, hold no belief in this Supreme Image of Evil that was created by the Church to keep their followers fearful. Such a being does not exist, and is not recognized by any Pagan faith, whether they perform "magic" or not.

      October 2, 2010 at 9:47 pm |
    • sheetiron

      They cannot believe in him all they want, thats irrelevant. He exists despite their lack of belief.

      October 3, 2010 at 7:49 am |
    • Daemonaquila

      Ah, yes – it's time for you to dis the fantasy of the Druids because they don't believe in YOUR fantasy pantheon, but of course your own fantasy pantheon exists and they're just deluded followers of your own fantasy... Takes a Christian bigot to come up with that "logic."

      October 3, 2010 at 1:32 pm |
  3. shecky

    druidic folk have at least as much correct data on the functioning of life as do any other current 'theism' .probably more, as they relate in a systemic way to what is around them, ignoring standards that apply only to individuals placed higher than 'self' and relation to 'surroundings'. i still find it funny tho to 'worship' the moon or rain, as they will continue regardless of this 'worship'

    October 2, 2010 at 8:59 pm |
  4. Solrac

    Call me old fashion, i know times have changed but God remains the same. Repent for the kingdom of god is at hand. 2 Peter 3:9 The lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is long suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
    Don't be fooled sin is still sin. Abominations are still the same. You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free. Repent!

    October 2, 2010 at 8:58 pm |
    • shecky

      hmm, if "god' remains the same then what are you saying .... he is all? 'all' does include change in my mind but 'all' also includes things YOU would call evil. i am content to realize that results are on a sliding scale that my humanity interprets as positive or negative to my survival. i would much rather understand 'all' than waste time worshiping it. worship has produced results where? (feel free to ignore war, hate, dispute, intolerance etc as that is your personal bent. include only the provably 'good' things)

      October 2, 2010 at 9:06 pm |
    • Eddie

      Maybe you missed the fact that Druidic religions predate the coming of Christ, by hundreds if not thousands of years.

      The Druids were almost completely killed off my Saint Patrick and others that were misguided into believing that anyone that does not believe in Christ must be tortured into submission or tortured to death.

      October 2, 2010 at 9:14 pm |
    • shecky

      currently, the only foothold 'theism' has on reality is 'intelligent design' i am not here to prove its verity or lack of. assume intelligent design exists. it still leaves you with very extended periods of time lacking any way to knowably communicate with 'designer' or to exchange thought with 'designer'. anyone willing to devote so much energy to 'worship' a designer that just lets u roll with it so to speak, deserves to be unbelievable and unsupportable. he/she/it shows his power through lack of realizing it ... yea ... ok. its an example of ignorance of purpose more than anything, and not on the part of humans. you 'believers' have been howling at this designer for aeons. he/she/it hasn't responded to you. this is provable on nearly infinite levels. worldwide hunger when food is abundant is one example. if you 'believed' with every erg you had in this ideal, no one would go hungry, anywhere. you fail.your belief is lacking, and if he lets you into 'heaven' he fails to realize your lack of worth. you ARE 0% better than those who do not believe.a system approach to human need can solve the entire dilemma in short order. your lack of acceptance of others merely adds to the trauma.please do the right thing, never kill and die of starvation, never lie and get thrown into prison by your elected majority.

      October 2, 2010 at 9:20 pm |
    • Frank

      "The Druids were almost completely killed off my Saint Patrick"

      Try the pre-Christian Romans.

      October 2, 2010 at 9:25 pm |
  5. Carlos

    Druidry sounds no less dumb than believing a virgin gave birth to a child who created wine for water, pulled an endless supply of fish and bread from a basket, and resurrected after he died.

    October 2, 2010 at 8:54 pm |
  6. Sighko Sis

    Not very different from any religion I've ever seen. Maybe not as bent on destroying people of other religions. Anyway, I hope that they're tax exempt.

    October 2, 2010 at 8:41 pm |
  7. matt

    I'd rather be a Druid than a member of any Abrahamic religion. Yes, that includes Islam for you folks who insist that the ancestors of Muslims never participated in the covenant with your god. They are still the descendants of Abraham.

    October 2, 2010 at 8:34 pm |
  8. mightyfudge

    Makes more sense than Mormonism or Scientology, just to name a few...

    October 2, 2010 at 8:31 pm |
  9. fayemisi

    Now it's time for the British to recognize Ifa, a religion practiced by many immigrants from Nigeria and Benin.

    October 2, 2010 at 8:27 pm |
  10. shecky

    'What I 'think' about it doesn't really matter. It's just the path that I resonate to the most."
    now THAT i can relate to. now when people who figure out what they resonate to realize just how little relevance that resonance has to others occupying a different portion of the available area to inhabit available to all, and chose to do so in a way that neither inhibits others resonance, nor promotes their own resonance to the exclusion of others, we will all be getting somewhere. at least we who resonate and realize that resonance is our own, will be able to then concentrate on areas that can be improved to the benefit of all. religion is so unimportant in a collective sense. eating daily is very important in a collective sense. realizing that monetary economies impede the ability of all to eat when resources say that in fact there IS enough food for all, suggests a direction. druids have part of it right, so do christians, atheists,satanists,muslims,bhuddists etc etc etc. work on the parts that arent right and place a relevance value on religion that relates to your connection to others who share your reality.

    October 2, 2010 at 8:21 pm |
  11. observer900

    I'd like to deduct the expenses of my next spell, but alas, I am American, not British.

    October 2, 2010 at 8:18 pm |
    • shecky

      @observer900 i am american myself. i too would like to be able to ignore tax by rewarding processes that include all humans (and other life) in their ability to continue life. i find that donating money to a religious cause is tax deductible, but less than economical. i understand that ministers and priests have to eat exactly (on avg) as much food as I do, and exactly as much as an uneducated member (on avg) of what is referred to as the third world requires. i further understand that all the members of humanity have many similarities in calorie requirements as do theologians, and i do on occasion wonder why the lawmaking governmental body that claims it represents me fails so often on this one area of investigation. the humans engage in politics claim to be religious law abiding citizens, and claim to believe in human rights, but they somehow place an arbitrary definition of jurisdiction around what they call my country. i understand that the ability to create enough food for each existing member of humanity is on this planet and i question its restriction. humans involved in government are required in my arbitrary 'country' to show provable connections to 'religion' or else the other members of humanity limited by my 'countries' arbitrary jurisdiction boundary that are involved with 'religion' will not do the regionally labelled process of 'voting' in accordance with said governmental humans' desire to be 'in power'. this makes me realize there is a system approach being used to collect 'votes' and part of this system includes people in a position to be called 'religious' by the masses. all i ask is that whoever is 'in power' utilize this same systems approach to each and every action they take, and to include all relevant data in the analysis of this apparent system. this is obviously too much to ask, as each politician is evidently unaware that in fact there is a system approach to life on this planet. they tend to include data from a variety of sources pertinent to the issue at hand, but still far from all data. somehow, this ignorance of data resonates with humans who resonate with 'established religion' and makes me want to tear up my vote. so now i am forced to ask 'god' if there is any way short of ignoring data that i can fit in. 'god' replies, nope.

      October 2, 2010 at 8:54 pm |
  12. Random

    Might as well.
    A frigging HUGE umbrella for tax freedom. Yea religion...

    October 2, 2010 at 8:17 pm |
  13. JC

    I weep for some of you. The world as I left it is not what I imagined. You worship things...money, technology, war...and you hurt and chastise each other for the gain of...what? You judge each other, you turn a blind eye to human wrongs and a deaf ear to cries for help. You have forgotten the simple lessons, the Golden Rules, and have chosen yet to listen to false prophets on the television, the radio, the Internet who esteem themselves to know better than the inherent goodness in your own heart.

    I say this, and please hear me well: You are all my children...and I love you more than you could ever know. Follow my example alone and choose to love and accept what you do not understand rather than shun and cast it away. Trust in me, for I have a plan that involves all of you equally...even these Druids :). They are some of my oldest friends and serve a purpose. Do not judge them. Accept the good they do and save your energy to move forward my words of peace, love and acceptance. Trust that I will judge those who are not living their lives in my light.

    Remember that you only all have each other in this mortal life, and how you treat your fellow man and woman is ultimately the path to eternal life.

    I am here and among you. Let your good actions sing my way, and you will change the world with me.

    October 2, 2010 at 8:17 pm |
    • Frank

      That was actually pretty beautiful.
      Oh, and I'm obviously going to Hell. Oopsies.

      October 2, 2010 at 8:22 pm |
    • shecky

      @JC if i could follow your well intended example alone i would, however, it ignores certain realities that i have quite provably demonstrated time and again. i think your example is wonderfull in many regards, and in certain others shows lack of foresight. can you come back to wee lil earth and give us a current update? this would be greatly appreciated by all, espescially the other big religions that totally dont believe in you, they missed out somehow.

      October 2, 2010 at 8:28 pm |
    • shecky

      many of the realities i am forced to endure include things that through direct or tacit approval, your stated believers perpetrate and reward. I would like to see them burn, and I am certain you can make this happen.

      October 2, 2010 at 8:30 pm |
  14. shecky

    the bible is a book. i have several varieties on hand. i also have the book of mormon and battlefield earth. next to them i have a cheaply printed copy of the laws of relativity. on my other shelf i have the laws of thermodynamics, and one on quantum theory that blows my mind. they all try to portray reality. in various cases, one or the other(or even more than one) provides relevant data. ignoring any of them is still ignoring. they are mutualy exclusive works in most cases, and to be honest, the bible and the book of mormon are often uninformative.

    October 2, 2010 at 8:05 pm |
  15. Jack

    So nature is your supreme being? Righhhht. So are you really going to turn your will and your life over to a tree? And will you get your ten commandments from a squirl?

    1. Thou shalt have no other squirl before me.
    2. Thou shalt not take the name of the squirl, thy god in vain.
    3. Thou shalt not make any graven images of the squirl.
    4. Thou shalt keep the squirl's day holy... and bring him nuts!
    5. Thou shalt honor thy squirls that begotten thee.
    6. Thou shalt not kill thy squirl.
    7. Thou shalt not steal thy neighbor's nuts!
    8. Thou shalt not commit adultery with thy neibhor's squirl.
    9. Thou shall not bear false witness against thy neighbor's squirl.
    10. Thou shall not covet thy neighbor's nuts!

    I'm poking fun at this to show how insane the idea of worshipping nature is.

    October 2, 2010 at 8:01 pm |
    • Frank

      Well, the New Age/Pagan/Pantheist/depopulation freaks/whatever already have theirs:

      "Maintain humanity under five hundred million in perpetual balance with nature

      Guide reproduction wisely, improving fitness and diversity

      Unite humanity with a living new language

      Rule passion, faith, tradition, and all things with tempered reason

      Protect people and nations with fair laws and just courts

      Let all nations rule internally, resolving external disputes in a world court

      Avoid petty laws an useless officials

      Balance personal rights with social duties

      Prize truth, beauty, love...seeking harmony with the infinite

      Be not a cancer on earth...leave room for nature... "

      – The Georgia Guidestones

      October 2, 2010 at 8:06 pm |
    • Thorrsman

      @Frank. Never heard of that, don't live it or believe it. I rather doubt many Pagans have or do. Definitely sounds like some outgrowth of the old Zero Population Movement geared towards those who rebel against the beliefs of their parents without knowing why.

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

      That's exactly what it is.
      The Georgia Guidestones are a group of standing stones modeled after Stonehenge (it's actually bigger than Stonehenge) outside of Elberton, Ga. Just a bunch of weirdness. Apparently no one knows the real point of it.
      "The statement, "Let these be Guidestones to an Age of Reason" is carved on each side of the capstone in four dead languages: Sanskrit, Egyptian Hieroglyphics, Babylonian Cuneiform, and Classical Greek. The four major granite slabs that radiate out from the central stone contain the ten commandments of the New Age of Reason.

      The commandments are presented in the eight languages which are spoken by two-thirds of Mankind: English, Russian, Hebrew, Arabic, Hindi, Chinese, Spanish, and Swahili."

      October 2, 2010 at 8:25 pm |
    • Eddie

      Tangible evidence proves that nature gives and supports life. That cannot be said about GOD.

      October 2, 2010 at 9:17 pm |
    • Bekah

      Christians worship a zombie (who happens to be his dad and some spirit thing at the same exact time, though he talks to his dad, go figure) that they all symbolically eat cannabalistically every Sunday and are allowed respect. Yet we don't allow Druids to have respect b/c your petty, outdated holy book says other religions are evil? Face it, EVERY religion thinks all other religions are wrong. That's generally the idea. Every religion is equally silly.

      To those arguing with the Christians, why bother? They can never look past the rules drilled into their heads. They'll just keep throwing Bible quotes at you as if they actually matter to someone that doesn't worship the Bible. They will never accept you and never think of you as something other than demonic. As for the Christians, why are you arguing with us? If we're all damned to hell, didn't your God say that was OUR CHOICE? Your God supposedly created free will, allow us the free will to choose what we worship.

      October 3, 2010 at 4:03 pm |
  16. shecky

    the realization that it is perfectly okay to say 'i don't know" makes religion irrelevant. it is fun to watch however, and in very limited cases watching can be fun and educational.

    October 2, 2010 at 8:01 pm |
  17. GodIsForImbeciles

    Just what the world needs:

    MORE TINKERBELL!

    October 2, 2010 at 7:55 pm |
  18. shecky

    face it, these druids reported in the article have not stated any inclination to sacrifice you , or you to their god, nor to steal your food , nor to increase their average number of 'meaningful stares at your wife'. they are as decent as any other person who has chosen to be non violent. give credit where credit is due, and place your relevance value on results. if they wanna look at the moon in worship, fine. i look at the moon as a very beautiful addition to the visible night sky. carry on and place a relevance value to your pontificating that aligns with results of your pontificating.

    October 2, 2010 at 7:54 pm |
  19. asakchhamawi

    This religion almost seems like a branch of hindu religion. Signifying each naturals forces with god's name and animal sacrifice is common in polytheism.

    October 2, 2010 at 7:43 pm |
    • Thorrsman

      Yes their beliefs sound Polytheistic, unlike the Pantheistic beliefs of the Wiccans. However, it seems unlikely that the proto-religion that gave rise to Hinduism extended an influence as far as the British Isles.

      October 2, 2010 at 8:01 pm |
  20. mar live

    all christains need to look at world history and know you are a continuation of the roman empire.you can deny its true all you want but you are truely roman.

    October 2, 2010 at 7:43 pm |
    • Frank

      Your point? Latin is were it's at. 😛

      October 2, 2010 at 7:47 pm |
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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.