I just finished reading The Druid Revival Reader edited by John Michael Greer, and in the introduction to the essay selection by Ross Nichols (the founder of OBOD), Greer explains Nichols’s take on what modern Druidry’s role should play in our lives:
“Relating to nature through archaic tools of poetry, vision, and myth, Nichols proposed, was not simply a luxury of the past that present-day romantics might choose to imitate. It was a crucial necessity in a society that desperately needed a more meaningful connection with the natural world that sustains human life. The mythic vision that could create that connection need not come intact from the past, he argued, and in some sense could not do so; though roots in the past experience of a people were essential, so was the creative freedom to adapt traditional images to the needs of a new time.”
(John Michael Greer, The Druid Revival Reader p 190-191)
I definitely feel that Nichols had a sense of what spiritual traditions need to be doing for us in the present. Instead of attempting to uphold an ancient tradition for ancient tradition’s sake, I think he recognized the need for a spiritual philosophy that actively helped us connect to nature in a modern day context (because ultimately it will help us begin to help the world and help each other, and that’s what I think is the most important part of any spiritual practice), and that while the philosophy might have “roots in the past experience,” the adaptation to modern times of those traditions is an important step I think some people overlook. Indeed, I believe a few people have even become vehemently (and violently) opposed to the idea that people call themselves or their practice Druid(ic), because, as they believe, they’re not upholding to the actual ancient traditions of the ancient druids.
While I’d love to learn more about the ancient druidic philosophies, I feel Nichols had it right when he mentioned “the creative freedom to adapt traditional images to the needs of a new time.” Modern day people have different problems and needs than those of the past, and if our spirituality didn’t naturally evolve with the needs of the present, in my opinion it’s not worth it.
According to Nichol’s biography Journeys of the Soul written by Philip Carr-Gomm, Nichols used to sign his letters with “Peace to all beings.” I think this simple phrase really reflects the idea Nichols found most important in modern Druidry: this is about everyone, not just us. It’s about helping each other and bringing about a better world. What could be better than that?