I was recently pointed at an article in the Telegraph about how Druidry has just been recognized as a religion in the UK.
The article ran with headline “Druidry recognised as religion in Britain for first time” and subhead “Druidry has been recognised as an official religion in Britain for the first time, thousands of years after its adherents first worshipped in the country” and the text of the article starts out like this:
The Druid Network has been given charitable status by the Charity Commission for England and Wales, the quango that decides what counts as a genuine faith as well as regulating fundraising bodies.
It guarantees the modern group, set up in 2003, valuable tax breaks but also grants the ancient religion equal status to more mainstream denominations.
So there seem to be two things there: some kind of formal recognition of “Druidry” as a religion, and then specific granting of some tax benefits to a particular small (250 people) organization under the aegis of this newly recognized religion.
But… it is kind of sad that the article (and all the other ones I could Google on the story) just seem to take on faith that Druidry as practiced by these people (and the other few thousand who claim it) bears some connection to the “ancient religion” who’s adherents first worshipped “thousands of years” ago. Because that part is bunk. Modern Druidry is a made-up thing based on some (later proved incorrect) Romantic ideas about what the old school druids were.
Here’s the British Museum‘s comment, but you can find a ton of confirmation with a bit of research:
Modern Druids have no direct connection to the Druids of the Iron Age. Many of our popular ideas about the Druids are based on the misunderstandings and misconceptions of scholars 200 years ago. These ideas have been superceded by later study and discoveries. In particular, there is no link between the Iron Age Druids and the people who built and worshipped at Stonehenge, Wiltshire. This ancient monument was part of a religion that ended before the Iron Age began.
Good on the Druid Network for getting their religion recognized–I consider it as valid as all the others2–but boo to the “journalists” who would rather write the lovely sounding “thousands of years” headings than actually, you know, inform people. While the practices and beliefs of modern day Druids may well be commendable it would be a shame if getting this recognition just reinforced in the general public the faulty idea that there are directly connected historical roots to those practices and beliefs.
- Yes, I know that what the Charity Commission recognizes and what’s on the Census are two different things, but let me have the joke, OK?(back)
- Which, if you’ve been paying attention, you will know isn’t actually saying much.(back)