Philip Carr-Gomm,
The Elements of the Druid Tradition
(Element, 1991)

The Druid Way
(Element, 1993)

When I first became involved in Celtic art and spiritual traditions there was little in print on either topic. As the interest in things Celtic has grown, more and more books have been published, with the experience and knowledge of the authors varying widely.

Philip Carr-Gomm is well grounded in Celtic spiritual tradition, having studied and lived it for many years. He is the author of the two books reviewed here, the editor and a contributor to a book of essays on various Celtic topics by a variety of authors called The Druid Renaissance, an author of the beautiful Druid Animal Oracle, and the current Chosen Chief of the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids (OBOD).

His book on The Elements of the Druid Tradition is an excellent introduction to and summary of Druidry. In the first part he acquaints us with the history of the Druids: the ancient ones who have lent their name to those that follow, the eighteenth century Druid Revival (which is often overlooked but has colored our perceptions of Druids and Druidry), and some of the modern variants. It's interesting to learn more of the context in which our current fascination with things Celtic has grown.

In the second part of the book Carr-Gomm discusses aspects of modern Druid practice, such as the distinct roles of Bards, Ovates and Druids, the cycle of the year, and some of the Celtic lore and practices that have survived and been revived, including the lore of trees and stone circles. While these chapters may be of particular interest to people curious about OBOD, most of the topics covered are relevant to other Celtic-related paths, and Carr-Gomm's book pulls together knowledge from many areas and traditions to enrich and ground individual approaches.

Exercises after each chapter offer ways to relate the chapter's content to our own lives and paths.

I wish to note here that Carr-Gomm's, and OBOD's, practice of Druidry is explicitly NOT religious. It is, rather, an approach to spiritual knowledge and the sacred that many find helpful, no matter what their beliefs and practices. Members of OBOD include Christians, pagans, agnostics, atheists, and many people following less easily identifiable paths.

The Druid Way is a more personal book than The Elements of the Druid Tradition. In some ways it reminds me of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance in the way the author uses a journey in the physical world to ground and frame explorations of spiritual, psychological, cultural, and other matters. In The Druid Way Carr-Gomm takes a walking tour of part of Britain, following ancient paths and ley-lines, and visiting traditional sacred sites. In the preface he says that "Central to Druidry is the idea that we should 'listen to the land,'" and the land itself aids him in integrating things that we often see as dissimilar, or even opposing each other. Carr-Gomm builds connections between spirituality and psychology, between the self and others, and between past ways of wisdom and modern knowledge. Even if one does not agree with all aspects of his approach, I think his discussions raise some interesting questions and ideas to contemplate, and with a gentle and grounded tone.

I recommend both these books to anyone interested in Druidry itself, particularly The Elements of the Druid Tradition. People with a broader interest in Celtic spiritual tradition and practice will also find much of interest here.

[ by Amanda Fisher ]

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