In November, 2005, I became a member of the international Neo-Pagan religious organization Ár nDraíocht Féin. ADF defines itself as a druidic organization and, in fact, its name is Irish for “Our Own Druidry”. Sometimes ADF seems to have a bit of an identity crisis, as if trying to decide whether it is a Celtic path or if, as it presents itself, it truly does include all Indo-European spiritual cultures.
So far the inclusive identity has always won, and so ADF druids include Pagans from all Indo-European paths: Hellenic, Norse, Irish, Roman, Welsh, Vedic, Slavic and so on. This is why, as a Saxon Pagan, I felt comfortable joining ADF more than six years ago.
However, with or without ADF, I would still identify as a druid. The Celts themselves never used the words “druid” or “druidry”. These came into Modern English from the French language. The Pagan Celts used cognate Gaelic words to describe their priestly-magician caste. Likewise, the Saxons had cognate words for their own druids. In Old English these people were known as the drýes, or drýmenn.
Surviving Old English texts give no reason to believe that the drýes followed a Celtic religion or were of Celtic descent, something that surely would have been mentioned. The drý or drýmann (female, drýicge) was clearly a Saxon druid. We do know that their druidic practices were considered “devilish” by the Christian scribes who mentioned them. One scribe openly described the Saxon druid as ðæt deófles drý (the devil’s druid). We also know that the Saxon druids practiced magic. An Old English text warns, Ðýlæs-ðe se deófol us be dríum máge (lest the devil have power over us by druids), and another, Hí sædon ðæt hío sceolde mid hire drýcræft ða men forbredan (they said that she should overthrow the men with her druid-skills).
“Druid” can mean several things. Today it can refer to any member of Ár nDraíocht Féin, or to at least some members of other modern druidic organizations such as OBOD or AODA. It can also refer to an Irish, Welsh, Scottish or Gallic Pagan who serves his or her community in some way as a priest/magician. And finally, it can refer to a Saxon Pagan who serves his or her community in a similar way.
As a Saxon who has studied and practiced magic for more than forty years, I am proud to be a druid. Proud to be a 21st century drýmann.