Tuesday, March 3, 2015

History of Neopaganism and Druidry - Part 9

Discuss the origins of the Druidic revival in 18th and 19th century England, naming its key players and describing their contributions.

                In the 18th century, the world saw a rebirth in spirituality in the form of a Druid Revival. The British and Irish interest in all things Celtic lead to this rebirth. Many writers and scholars began to take an interest in the mysterious monuments that can be found throughout Ireland, England, and Scotland. Those interested in this rebirth searched for stories and information that could be gleamed through such ancient writers such as Diogenes Larrtius, Caesar, Diodorus Siculus, Pliny and others. Much of the work that sparked this interest came about because of the writer and historian John Aubrey, born in 1626. He is most noted for “Monumenta Britannica” which contains his findings that the earthworks and great stones placed about a field in Wiltshire were the site of a prehistoric temple. (Witcombe, John Aubrey) Interestingly enough, the original title for the manuscript was “Templa Druidum”, though the manuscript was not published. It was give to Aubrey’s heirs who then donated it to the Bodleian Library at Oxford (Bruckner).

John Toland was a scholar and writer as well who received his master’s degree in theology from the University of Edinburgh. Among his writings was Socinianism Truly Stated, by a pantheist. This was a term, which he derived from his translation of the word ‘pantheismus’ into English. Toland become a very vocal pantheist, which defined as “… those who believe in no other eternal being but the universe” (The Temple of Nature). These two gentlemen, Aubrey and Toland, are credited with the formation of The Ancient Druid Order in 1717.

Dr. William Stukeley, a scholar of scared history, was inspired by John Aubrey’s findings. Stukeley focused much of his work on the stone circles and earthworks which lead him to make claims that sites, such as Stonehenge and Avebury, were the religious sites of ancient Druids.  Stukeley wrote about this in his books Stonehenge, a Temple Restored to the British Druids and Abury, a Temple of the British Druids. It was his belief as well that “… the entire prehistoric landscape was laid out in a sacred pattern with centres at Stonehenge and Avebury” (Witcombe, Dr. William Stukely). These beliefs helped create an air of mystery and romance that sparked the Druid revival.

                The Ancient Order of Druids was “… inaugurated on the 29th November 1781” by Henry Hurley (AOD).  Many of these previous Druid Orders seemed to be centered on creating forms of brotherhoods or ‘fraternityies’ based in art, scholarship, and anthropological studies. This would change when Iolo Marganwg (aka Edward Williams) became involved with to the scene. Morganwg claimed he was “… one of the last imitates (initiates?) of a surviving group of druids who were descended from those found in the Iron Age…” (Wikipedia Foundation). Because of this assertion, he believed that he was practicing a form of the religion that the ancient druids had. Morganwag claimed that there were three classes within the druid religion; those of the Bards, Ovates, and Druids. This proclamation can be seen as the seed for the creation of the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids (OBOD) in 1964.

19th (20th? 1909 is part of the 20th century) century would see this interest in the idea of ancient Druids grow further. In 1909 George Watson McGregor Reid founded the Druid Order of Ancient Druid Order. This Order became known for “…promoting Druidism as a spiritual path that could unite followers of many faiths, and the group that he led, the Ancient Druid Order, became a vehicle for conveying many of the ideas that had been expressed by groups such as the Theosophical Society and the Order of the Golden Dawn…” (The Order of Bards Ovates & Druids) Later in 1912 the American branch of the AOD was formed called Ancient Order of Druids in America (AODA). (AODA)
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