Druids of Earth Mother is a gentle protest against organized religion. We’re not really anarchists, just simplists. Perhaps we are a bit un-ambitious on the world-domination scene?
Describing what the DEM is and does takes only a few moments, which many find surprising. So surprising, that good Arch Druids seem to spend a great deal of their time repeatedly explaining what Druidism is not to their new members. In a Taoist or protean sense, what is not there can make something useful (like a doorway in a wall) or an un-carved block of wood. Many folks are rather surprised that the DEM doesn’t require or practice a lot of definitions, external distinguishing practices or personal life micro-managing that other religions do. The more one studies the religious activities of the world, the more one realizes the diversity of possibilities and the revolutionary stretchiness of the term “religion”.
As you will remember, Druids are often members of other religions while practicing Druidism, so if such things are necessary to them, they are often already being provided by their other mainstream or fringe religions, so there is no need for inclusion of such a practice in their Druidism.
You may notice exceptions among each individual or grove to these rules of thumb. So after any paragraph you could add, “…unless you really think it is necessary in your grove, you are moderate about it, and it doesn’t hurt anyone.”
Many other types of Druid organizations (e.g. ADF) are more “developed” in our “weak” areas, possibly due to their Druidism being the members’ primary religion, the need to portray themselves as a “serious” group, and necessities of being a legally recognized tax-exempt organization. However, as with many Neopagan groups, those Druid groups still tend to be less so in a particular category than many “mainstream religions”.
The name Druid can be a bit deceiving. While a few trappings, the calendar and the outdoor nature celebration are derived from Celtic customs, in fact, any inspirational source is okay, and about 66% of members choose a Celtic focus. You need not be of Celtic ethnicity to join, and most are not. Racism is not welcome or approved.
Not a Religion.
Ok, we ourselves are rather split on this one. Some say it’s a religion and follow it as such. Some say it’s a philosophy or outlook or practice that is complementary to nearly any other religious outlook. Some say some rather silly things. Others ignore the question as unimportant and not tending towards edification.
Well, actually, about 40% of us are Neo-Pagans, especially the active ones, and we do resemble Neopaganism very closely (which came after our founding), but most of us don’t define ourselves, or the entire Reform, as such. We generally do include Neo-paganism among our many possible sources of inspiration. The New RDNA and RDG, however, are more firmly in the Neo-Pagan camp. As a rule, Druids are mischievously difficult to pin down. It’s quite possible to have groves or individuals with atheist, Christian, Buddhist, Shinto, or Judaic orientations, among an infinitude of possibilities.
No Established Dogma
We don’t take anybody too seriously, especially ourselves. We really like Nature, think alot, and sometimes share our thoughts in writing, but agreement is not expected or intended. We do have Two Basic Tenets and a handful of customs that are widespread; the calendar for example.
No Required Ritual
Attendance is unnecessary to maintain a self-identity as a Reformed Druid, in principle, although a grove may require a certain number of meetings for grove membership. Members of some Groves occasionally meet on the 8 festivals and the moons, but we are split on whether ritual is more distracting to Druidism or if Druidism is more distracting to ritual… Regardless, we recognize that a lack of ritual can become a ritual, in and of itself! There are ways to get together other than liturgies, but liturgies do occur and are important to many.
No Strong Priesthood
Sure we’ve got priests, but no established common seminary program (including this pamphlet), just a period of observation and loose mentoring, and a traditional pattern of ordination. Non-priests can lead services or activities of their own devising. The DEM has generally hobbled its own priests, for their own good. Members can certainly approach the divine without the aid of priests too. While some due earned respect may accumulate for an industrious and experienced priest, there is no tradition of servitude or unquestioning following in the Reform.
No Membership Requirements
We’re not exclusive, such that any person of any background can join, if they respect the other members. There is no official excommunication or defrocking; Nature knows Her own. Groves and Branches have the right to determine who can join their local groups, although openness is common.
No Cross-Membership Restrictions
You can simultaneously belong to other groups, so that even if other groups don’t like you being part of Druidism, we have no disagreement with you belonging to other groups.
No National Organization
We used to have one, but it wasn’t useful, so it’s mostly defunct, except in the sense that its continued existence prevents the establishment of a replacement. A lot of the action happens locally, although we may consult with other groves and members via online and person correspondence. There are no national conventions or meet-ups.
When nature is so wonderful, why hide inside a building? Some folk may own property that they share, but few Groves have had a corporate ownership of facilities or funds. Most groves have a handful of sites, sometimes rotated by season or availability or purpose of meeting.
No Money or Fees
It’s sad, but we’re always in the red, relying on generosity to pay for the sacramental whiskey and such. Most fees that I have seen are quite nominal and are for feast costs, mailings or site usage. Groves may require a fee, but none is normal.
No Regular Publications
No official monthly journals and such, you’re on your own. There is A Reformed Druid Anthology of past writings, but since there’s no money in it, few publish much. Mike is currently publishing the free newsletter The Druid Inquirer eight times a year. RDG publishes The Druid’s Egg. But that’s it.
We’re not secretive, but how do you effectively advertise a lack of something? People generally find us, stay for awhile, and move on when they’re ready. That’s cool. Groves rarely grow bigger than 10 members, growth is just not a high priority.
Occasionally somebody dresses up in medieval clothes, but casual clothes are cool. Homemade ritual gear is impressive, though. Dress appropriately for the weather, and local tastes.
No Bad Stuff
Well, we’ve succeeded, so far, at least. Like the vast majority of Neo-Pagans; we don’t do blood/animal/human sacrifice (although we occasionally offer a carrot or zuchinni) because we are “Reformed” and we think that’s yucky. Likewise, we don’t do such un-cool things like brainwashing (who wants a clean mind?), orgies (which is obviously a fast way to get STDs), take money/property, or abuse our members (who’d want to be in such a group?). We treat our members with respect, and they freely come and go. If you hear of such things going on, we would be concerned, and if it’s illegal then such a person should be reported to the authorities. I have devoted a section of UWP to dealing with this area, hopefully preventatively.