“While the cunning folk (Witches) worked alone or in small groups, and were the local wise people and healers in rural communities, the Druids were an organized elite, exempt from warfare and paying taxes, and they acted as judges, teachers, philosophers and advisors to chieftains, kings and queens. They appear very different to the image that we hold of Witches, until we examine them in more detail.”
— Philip Carr-Gomm, Druidcraft: The Magic of Wicca and Druidry, Thorsons, 2002
rom the writings of the earliest historians of the period, we have come to know that Druidry as an ancient practice was divided into three areas of specialization: Bard, Ovate and Druid. The Druids were priests, teachers, philosophers, and in many cases, as experts in the law, would preside as judges and mediators. The Bards were poets, musicians, storytellers, keepers of lore and myth; they were enchanters, as easilly able to bewitch as to entertain. But of these specializations, it was the Ovates—the seers and diviners, healers and herbalists—that are most akin to what we would describe as “witches.”
With the coming of Christianity to Western Europe around the sixth century C.E., the Druids had been assimilated as part of the professional elite in the new social order. Their assimilation was both professional and religious; they were compelled to embrace the new faith and apply their expertise toward building a society ruled by the church. On the other hand, the Bardic profession continued to flourish, although its religious emphasis (being pre-Christian) became somewhat diminished. Bardic schools continued to exist in Ireland, Scotland and Wales even into the seventeenth century. By contrast, however, the Ovates seemed to disappear from all record.
What this suggests, however, is not that the Ovatic stream died off. Rather, that it went underground. The teachings though less formal than before, became passed from generation to generation in a largely oral tradition. Evidence suggests that over the generations that came after them, the Ovates eventually became known, in close-knit circles, as “cunning folk,” or “Wicca,” meaning “wise ones.” It is from this meaning that the modern usage of the term “Wicca” finds its place in contemporary Paganism.
In the same chapter of the book Druidcraft as is quoted above, author Philip Carr Gomm goes on to say, “When the two worlds of Witchcraft and Druidry are brought together, we find at the place of their meeting the figure of the ‘Ovate-Witch’ who presides over a knowledge of the mysteries of Life and Death, whose cauldron offers the wisdom that is known in Druidry as ‘Bright Knowledge.'”
It is easy to see then where the harmony between Wicca and Druidry lies; for indeed Wicca owes it’s origins to Druidry, and Druidry, in no small way owes it’s survival to the Wicca, who in generations before them were the Ovates of the ancient world. It was these “wise ones” who passed on their teachings through the generations, keeping their folk magick alive long enough to be re-discovered, revived and re-invented by scholars and visionaries like Gerald Gardner and Ross Nichols.
A modern embrace of Druidry and Wicca together as a way of life might involve a study of folk magick and metaphysics, respecting certain ceremonial rites and liturgies of worship, while also exploring the disciplines of philosophy, sciences and the arts, and culminate in an endless pursuit of knowledge, both spiritual and scientific. At the core of Celtic spirituality is the belief that all things are connected. It is a concept expressed in the earliest examples of Celtic art and literature, and remains a part of our spiritual heritage. It is profoundly at the heart of what we mean by “the harmony of Wicca and Druidry”; that each tradition compliments and enriches the other, and can powerfully elevate and brighten the life of any Pagan.
In The Druidcraft Fellowship, we seek that enrichment through scholarship and well-founded liturgical expression that brings into our worship a marriage of the best aspects of both traditions. It is that which both illuminates the past and shapes our understanding of how to build a better future for the Earth and all the creatures who live upon Her.
Thank You for reading. Blessed Be!