Book Review: The Druidry Handbook by John Michael Greer
For many Druids, Greer’s The Druidry Handbook is their first introduction to Modern Druidry. It’s easy to see why. The book has a beautiful, simple cover of Oak Leaves and claims to be a “hands-on manual of traditional British Druid practice” (publisher description). The author is the Grand Archdruid of Ancient Order of Druids of America (AODA). This book serves as the main textbook for the order’s first level of teaching and is a great way to sample the flavor of their Druidry. There are many fantastic elements in this book for those looking to begin their Druid practice regardless of whether they join that particular order.
The first part of the book focuses on brief history of revival Druidry as a spiritual practice. For those who are interested in a reconstructionist viewpoint, this might not be your cup of tea. The author doesn’t go into any great detail about history and is up front with what sources they do or do not use. I personally am always a bit gun shy when Druids use Iolo Morganwg as a source. While you cannot run away from his influence on Druidry, I do wish authors would be more up front with how sketchy his academic methods were. Generally though, this section is interesting and useful.
The second part of the book begins to delve into the practices of Druidry. The author walks beginners through what AODA calls the Earth, Moon, and Sun path. The Earth path is all about living in more harmony with Earth through simple lifestyle choices, tending to nature, and observing how the natural world works. The Moon path works with tuning the skills of self-reflection and meditation. The Sun path follows the seasons and rituals of the year. Each path gives concrete ideas on how you can begin to incorporate their messages and ideas into your every day. The tone is encouraging and simple leaving lots of room for readers to adapt the challenges of change as they need to. However, I felt torn in these sections. The author waffled between allowing for flexibility on practices while also being surprisingly adamant about some specific practices.
Take for instance meditation. The author stresses the importance of discursive meditation. Posture is limited to two options, sitting in a chair being the one most suited to Westerners. Sitting on the ground to meditate was mentioned as being problematic because it cut off the flow of energy from the Earth (so very not my experience!). Meditation was spoken of as a challenge to overcome, an experience that was frustrating at the beginning. I’m much more optimistic than the author on this topic. I believe that anyone can meditate and do so well, even at the beginning. The mindset (optimistic vs. pessimistic) one carries into the experience can be vital to the success of it. Whatever position is comfortable for you is great when starting. We just need more people open to meditation! Why limit the possibilities of beginners?
Despite this complaint, I do think that the book will be very useful for many readers looking to begin their Druid practice. It is a specific flavor of Druidry, a flavor that isn’t really for me personally, but one that will continue to appeal to folks for generations. I also loved that the end of the book featured a course outline for those interested in continuing their studies with AODA. This element and the frankness of the author allows readers to easily tell whether AODA and Druidry is for them. If you read this and are thinking “nah, this Druidry isn’t for me,” I’d suggest reading something from Philip Carr-Gomm or Penny Billington or some nice deep history of Druidry (I’d like to be able to recommend a specific author but history is hard for me to focus on. As of yet I haven’t found one that I can confidently say is yummy to begin with) first before counting all Druidry out.