I have been delving into my ancestral story for the last few years. It’s a part of my work with Druidry to do so, as I think it’s one of the most important parts of the path, alongside our relationship with nature, and creative inspiration. I had always known that my family came mostly from the North of England, but we had thought there was also a significant influence from the Irish, Welsh and Scottish parts of the family tree. In doing a DNA test with Ancestry.com, however, I’ve found that these parts of our family tree may be smaller than we had originally thought. Though the percentages change from time to time, it was strikingly clear that the main part of our ancestry was “English” and I’ve been coming to terms with what that means for me spiritually.
It has led me to learn more about the myths and stories of Yorkshire, as well as the Brythonic/Welsh stories that came from that area before it was Anglicised, or during that time of struggle. It has also led me to learn more about Germanic traditions, delving into the mysteries of the Runes and the myths of the Norse people. I heard rumours of the Culdees – Druids who became Christian monks and ran monasteries where people could go to practice peaceful contemplation – but I have found information about this elusive, even though I did find that there were Culdees at York.
I felt simultaneously very interested in these Anglo-Saxon and Norse Germanic traditions I was exploring, as well as a bit sad and confused about my path in Druidry – was this the path I should be following if so much of my heritage was “English” and therefore quite likely mostly Anglo-Saxon/Norse? Was I disregarding my ancestors? Was I taking from Celtic culture something that wasn’t mine to take? With learning about First Nations cultures in Australia I have become wary of taking when I have no right to, or speaking for others when I should not. Should these Celtic traditions be left to people with more Celtic heritage than me, or did my small connections make it a necessary difference? Or! Was this thinking too nationalistic and exclusionary and should we consider instead that Druidry is an open tradition accessible to all to study and learn from, and therefore my heritage was irrelevant?
These thoughts have been turning in my mind. I certainly have leant towards the last sentiment that it is ok for me to practice Druidry, as it is an open tradition, but I should do so with considered respect for those traditions and the people who are native to them and their languages. I also felt I should study Germanic Paganism, or “Heathenism” as a separate and complementary part of my path, seeing them as separate, different, distinct, but often interrelated as neighbouring cultures always are. It has also reawakened my interest in Wicca and Witchcraft, which was how I began in my Pagan studies years ago…
But then… yesterday I got a new book in the mail, “A Handbook of Saxon Sorcery and Magic: Wyrdworking, Runecraft, Divination, and Wortcunning” by Alaric Albertsson. I have been collecting a few books on Germanic traditions and this had sounded interesting, but I was surprised when I opened it up and took a browse through the pages to see an explanation of “Saxon Druids”. I had to double take… What? Saxon Druids? How could this be? In all my years of studying Druidry I had never come across this concept. I had heard that Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship (ADF), one of the major Druidry organisations that offers a study course, allowed students and practitioners to pick a pantheon of deities from any Indo-European tradition, including Norse, justifying this with the idea that Celtic traditions share similarities with Hindu traditions and therefore there must have been some proto IE culture that was shared by them all. This, for me, had not seemed like a fair justification, though I can’t say I looked into it with any detail. I am yet to study with ADF. But this concept of a Saxon Druid is something new to me.
In my excitement to write this blog, I must admit I have not read the book in its entirety yet, but I am intrigued to find out more. Albertsson does not give many sources for his information, but the words used are listed in some Saxon language dictionaries I found online which do show references and sources for the words, so it checks out, and I must say I am excited. He explains that the Saxon words drýmann or drýicge are cognate with the Brythonic drouiz, Manx druaightagh, and Irish drui. In referencing the Anglo-Saxon dictionary online, I can see that drý means “a magician, sorcerer” and is masculine, while drýicge is the feminine of the same meaning. Drýcræft also means “magic, sorcery” or the craft of the drý and drýicge. What a revelation that there were Saxon Druids!
It’s left me reeling a bit to be honest. How is it that I didn’t know this before? Why is this not mentioned in most books on Druidry? Is it because the Romans only spoke of Celtic Druids and not Germanic ones? Or did they and we just don’t popularly know of those texts? Or did the Saxon Druids come about as a result of cultural interaction with Celtic Druids? I can’t answer any of these questions yet. But I’m keen to find out. It often feels like quite a puzzle as we come across these facts. Often texts that have the information we are after are not well known, or perhaps haven’t been translated into modern English, or maybe its just that a Pagan hasn’t come across them and made them accessible to more people. But then sometimes I wonder… was I just missing this all along? Either way, I am excited to know more about this and learn what role the Saxon Druid plays in our understanding of modern Druidry.
I will always be so grateful for what I have learned in looking into Celtic Druidry, particularly the stories and wisdom of Wales and Ireland. I feel I have been at the feet of the Welsh and Irish storytellers and mystics for many years, learning a great deal about the magic and wonder of those paths in Druidry. Such an incredible wealth of knowledge. I won’t ever stop learning about it. But perhaps now it is time for me to also dig deeper and find out more about these Saxon Druids, the people of the drýcræft and find out how they will shape my path as well.
I hope you’ll join me in the journey.
PS: Sadly, due to the heavy rain and flooding over the last few weeks, I was unable to go away on that trip I was hoping to take, that I spoke about in my last blog. It has been rescheduled for sometime next year. I hope I will be able to go then sometime.