My Top 5 Book Recommendations for the Beginner Druid

One of the hardest questions when beginning down the path of studying Druidry- or any branch of neopaganism for that matter is “Where do I start?” For the vast majority of us, finding a group to practice and learn with is difficult if not impossible, and so the internet and books are where we end up getting much of our information. What follows are my top five book recommendations for the Druid just starting out on their path.

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5. Living Druidry by Emma Restall Orr: Beautifully written, raw, real and poetic, I could talk about how much I love this book for days. For me, this was one of the books that inspired me to begin my study of Druidry. This book isn’t necessarily a book of basics. It doesn’t lay things out in simple easy-to-follow graphics and sections, but almost feels a little bit more like a memoir with Druidic concepts unfolding naturally as she tells story after story about her own practice. It offers a perspective I find severely lacking in other books on the topic, and if you want a feel for how Druidry can be without diving right into more technical books, this is one I will always recommend.

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4. The Bardic Book of Becoming: an Introduction to Modern Druidry by Ivan McBeth: Again, this book seems as much a memoir as it is a guide to Druidry. A little more structured than Living Druidry is, McBeth breaks down the very basics of modern Druidry and offers thought-provoking questions and activities along the way. The way the book is worded makes it seem as though he was setting it up specifically for The Green Mountain School of Druidry’s learning courses, as he hints at specifics from within the tradition he co-founded. Still, it is a beautifully written and easy read that introduces various elements of the modern Druid practice without being too wordy or dense.

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3. Druidcraft: The Magic of Wicca & Druidry by Phillip Carr-Gomm: For those coming to Druidry from Wicca, or having learned a bit about Wicca, this book makes things seem a little more familiar. The book is structured as though you are living and studying in a forest school. Each chapter contains a bard’s tale, a colloquy between a Druid and their student in this forest school of Druidry, a practical portion, and historical information for further study and understanding. It is creative and for me, gave me a small sense of belonging to a group of Druids without physically being able to join one at the time of reading it.

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2. The Druidry Handbook: Spiritual Practice Rooted in the Living Earth by John Michael Greer: This was one of the first books I read on the topic of Druidry, and it is one I most often refer to. Unlike the other books I’ve listed so far, The Druidry Handbook tends to take on a bit more of a scholarly tone. It too was designed to be an introductory year of study: this time for the Ancient Order of Druids in America. It contains a detailed historical section on the various strands of inspiration that make up modern Druidry. Its teachings are broken up into three triads which cover cosmology, the ogham, the Wheel of the Year, the elements, and more. The practical section of the book is comprised of three “paths” which it recommends one follow and weave into their working practice. I enjoyed the way this book was structured and the fact it was packed full of information and resources without feeling too dense or lofty.

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1. The Earth Path- Grounding your Spirit in the Rhythms of Nature by Starhawk: My number one spot is for a book that is actually not about Druidry at all- at least not in a formal sense. It is a beautiful weaving of story, spirituality, and practical action. It starts with simple practices of grounding, observing nature, learning about one’s local environment, developing intimate and strong relationships with the land and its inhabitants. For me, those things are essential to Druidry before spellwork or ritual can even be a thought. It also contains lessons through the elements and practical applications for both living in harmony as part of our natural world as well as more activism-oriented suggestions. It’s a powerful read that I have come back to several times because I find new little truths each time I read it.

And there you have it! I didn’t choose books that delved too in-depth into the mythology or history associated with Druidry; those are things I think need time and interest and aren’t necessary integral to starting out on a Druid path. I wanted books that introduced Druid philosophy and ideas about relationships with the natural world, creativity, kindness, peace, community, not in-depth scholarly texts about the ancient Druids and what they may/may not have believed.

Happy reading, and forest blessings,
Rachel

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Thinking About: My Neo-Paganism

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Today, I was forwarded an article by Sarah Anne Lawless, titled “For Sale: Neopganism ‘As Is'”. It’s a powerful read, and I do recommend you head over and give it a look if you haven’t seen it floating about the good ol’ neopagan / witchy online community already. I won’t expound too much upon the details within the article. This is meant to be a response to it, not a review or criticism of it. In this poignant work of prose, Sarah Anne Lawless calls attention to the misinformation, lack of consistency, and abuse facing the community at-large.

Some of the information presented: about the origins of the religious and spiritual movements I have been / currently am a part of, about some of the abuse within the community, about the incorrect ‘historical’ information that is often given in widely published books on the topic, was not foreign to me. I spent a great deal of time in my under-grad applying my newly-acquired skills of research to that which was near and dear to my heart: my spirituality.  Some of the information was new, and I admit I was a little heart-broken to hear so many stories of abuse and manipulation associated with something that has brought me so much joy, learning, and purpose in life.

With the negativity floating about in the rest of the world and with as entrenched into the neo-pagan community as these issues seem, it feels very easy to become dejected and hopeless. I don’t want to let that get me down; I want to use it as a motivation for change.

My response to this article is not to review it and dissect it, but to acknowledge that there are real problems that I as a young adult within the community, as a blogger, as a person capable of speaking out about these things want to work to change- and must change if I want the neo-pagan community to be a safe place in the future for myself, for my friends, and for the future generations.

I wanted this post to be a promise to myself, to those who follow this blog, and those affected by my actions within the community:

This is a promise that I will be one-hundred percent honest in the historical context of my spiritual traditions. That I will not willing spread mis-information, and work to correct it should I accidentally do so. That my study will be not of just mass-produced books touting appropriation and misinformation as “ancient tradition” but tempered with actual research, and acknowledgement of what I was inspired by and what is of my own creation. I will not stand for blatantly appropriative behavior in the community. We can share and be inspired by one-another without claiming something as our own.

This is a promise that my neo-paganism is centered in nature-centric and animistic beliefs, and that it honors the past without attempting to claim it. It is a promise that sex and sexuality, while natural, are honored and treated appropriately. I will not stand for sexual abuse in our community. I will not stand for manipulation and abuse of any sort within our community.

This is a promise that my blog and the spaces that I hold on the internet are, and will continue to be safe spaces for people regardless of age, sex, gender, race, etc.

This post stands as an acknowledgement that I am not, and never have been perfect. Humans make mistakes. Well-meaning people spread things without realizing the effect. But this is a promise that I will continue to try and do better in the future.

Let’s make our community better. Let’s get back to the things that matter: personal spiritual growth and caring for one another and our world.

Forest Blessings,
Rachel