On The Symbols of Druid Identity
Copyright (C) 1985 By Isaac Bonewits
[From The Druid's Progress, Report #3]
One of the many reasons why people join organizations and movements
is to gain a sense of belonging, of having a family of others who share
their worldview. To this end, most groups use certain images as signs
of membership. These shared symbols of identity help to create the
psychological, social and psychic connections so necessary for effective
group action. Provided that these images are used as positive signs of
inclusion, rather than as negative signs of exclusion, they can only be
of benefit to us.
So what are the signs asn symbols of being a Druid, at least in ADF?
The most obvious ones are the ADF Logo, the Druid Sigil, and the use of
white clothin, especially berets.
The official ADF Logo is shown on teh cover of every issue of DP.
SOme folks have asked about the history and symbolism of this design,
and fortunately, its fairly simple. The basic idea comes from the badge
for the Scottish clan of MacEwen, which shows a new branch sprouting
from a tree stump (and which I used ten years ago for a card in my
unpublished neotarot deck). The symbolism is obviously that of survival
and revival. The axe marks in Jim Odbert's magnificient rendition make
it clear that the tree the MacEwen badge is supposed to represent, but
ours is definately an oak. Jim added the touch of interlacing to show
that, although ADF is Pan-Indo-European, "we have Celtic roots."
So far, this has appeared only in black and white, although Pat
Taylor did a wonderful leather carved banner of it for PSG. A colored
version of it is being done for an appliqued cloth banner (on white
Irish linen) by some folks I met at PSG, from whom I hope to hear
soon (please?), so Jim and I have had to begin thinking about appropriate
colors. My first thoughts were these : The heavy lines of the roots,
stump and branch should be black or dark brown, with the outside stump
lines fading into dark green on the horizontal line, which in turn
could fade into dark blue as it rises into the circle. The oak leaves
would naturally be green, the inside above-ground perhaps sky blue,
with the inside belowground light brown. Jim wants to work out a way
to use some of the old Indo-European color associations, especially in
the interlaced knots of the roots. ABout 10% of you have a background
in graphic arts, so if you come up with any additional coloring ideas,
let us know. We'll decide on a standard set of colors to use this
summer (1985) and with luck we may have some iron-on logos for t-shirts
and instant banners by next fall.
In terms of jewelry such as rings, pendants, etc, this design is
complex enough to require photoetching or some such process. I have met
one craftsman who said he would be willing to make pendants out of brass
or bronze sheet for $10-15 each, provided enough (ten or twenty?) people
were interested. If you are, let me know, and I'll tell him to start
making them as soon as we have enough potential orders (but don't send
money yet!) I do expect buttons of the logo to be available far sooner.
A symbol that's far less complex, and thus open to even more creative
variation, is the Druid Sigil, most often rendered as a circle with two
verticle lines passing through it (vertically). Frequently this is
drawn, painted, embroidered, etc. as a wreath of leaves with two staves
(or spears for the warrior types). Several years back, a ceremonial
tabbard was made with a tree in full folliage on the front and the
Sigil on the back with its wreath and stavewood matching vestments that
follow this pattern, using different types of trees for different
ceremonial functions or occasions. Pat Taylor also did a gorgeous
carved leather version of the Sigil for the cover of the notebook in
which she keeps her copies of DP.
As far as jewelry is concerned, currently the Druid Sigil is
available in the form of silver rings, thanks to well known Pagan
jewelers Fred and Jill Buck. These have either 7/8" or 1/2" diameter
circles (for $12 each), in the full range of standard ring sizes. About
a dozen of us are wearing these now, and they do look rather nice. If
you're interested they can be directly ordered from me.
Where did the Druid Sigil come from? Nobody knows for sure. It first
became associated with Druidism in modern times by the founder of the
Reformed Druids of North America, David Fisher, twenty years ago. He
claimed that it was a symbol oof Druidism in general and the Earth
Mother in partiocular. Some think he may have gotten the design from a
picture in Piggott's book 'The Druids', which showed the foundations
of an old Roman-Celtic temple. Others think he may have gotten it from
a Mesopagan Druid organization to which he may have belonged. (on the
other paw, while writing this essay, I happened to be browsing through
a dictionary of alchemical symbols and found one very similar to the
SIgil as the sign for "oil"...)
Regardless of its historical origins, I think that it is a truly
quintessentially female symbol, in both the Freudian and the Jungian
senses, and is thus psychollogically powerful. For political and
metaphysical reasons, I think it's important for members of a religion
that many foks assume is male-dominated to have a constant reminder of
the eternal power of the female forces of Nature. As a magical sign,
I've used the Druid Sigil for over fifteen years as both a blessing
and as a banishing sign. It is fully as powerful as a pentagram, seal
of solomon or cross, and meditation upon it will provide many insights.
I noticed more and more people wearing white berets at Pagan
festivals last year. These have now become an identifying symbol for
ADF members across the country. The story behind the white beret is
When we first started having local grove meetings in the New York
City area, we were meeting in coffeehouses in Greenwich Village. Since
many of the folks at the early gatherings knew about ADF only through
the mails, and had never met me or each other, we needed some sort of
ID signal to help us find our fellow Druids. Since I was wearing a
white beret at the time, I suggested that the others do the same. Red,
brown, black and other colors of berets are still worn in the Village,
but white ones were fairly rare. This made our folks stand out fairly
clearly across a crowded room and enabled us to find each other easily.
Last spring, when I sent out a mailing to midwest members about
our plans for PSG, I suggested that those whow ere going to attend PSG
could also wear white berets. Some did so, and more have done so at
subsequent festivals. With anywhere from 100 to 500 people at the
average Pagan festival, this easily visible symbol has come to be quite
How historically authentic is this custom? Not very. A few people
have pointed out that teh ancient Celts usually wore no headgear at all,
and the only headcovering examples we have at all seem to be the hoods
of capes. We do not know, on the other hand, that the color white was
associated with the Paleopagan clergy. This is one reason why I tend
to wear white clothing (with various colors of decoration) as my
public and private "clergy garb" (a habit others in ADF have also been
picking up). There's no particular reason why one's "Druid hat" should
be a beret, I just think it looks appropriately ancient and is a way
of honoring my Breton and Gaulish ancestors. When I want to focus my
psychic energy on my Irish ancestory, or keep the sun out of my eyes,
I have a white Irish Tweed cap I wear instead. The only real drawback
to wearing a beret, other than it not having a brim, is that to
modern eyes it can look semimilitary. (Yes, several folks are already
working on verses for a "Ballad of the White Berets". We'll publish
the best ones in DP).
What about signs of rank in ADF? Well, I'm not too sure its a good
idea to encourage them, but they seem to be a universal human need.
Perhaps the best idea I've come up with so far (based on a suggestion
from Sally Eaton) is that we could use narrow bands of interlace or
similar designs (Celtic, Norse, SLavic, Greek, etc) climbing up the
sleeves and hems of our robes We could use the colors associated with
the old IE castes: blacl/brown/green for First Circle members, red/blue
for second, white (with green & blue outlining) for third. Perhaps
silver and gold colored threads for fourth and fifth?
One idea I did come up with at the begining of ADF seems not to be
too popular, that was for only those intending to work their way into
the Third oir higehr circles to wear full length white robes, and for
others to wear tunics or other premedieval garb. Apparently this makes
the others feel like second-class citizens, so we'll drop it. However,
I am going to stick with the rule that hoods on robes must not
completely cover the face, especially in groves south of the Mason-
Further ideas for Druid costume and/or identity symbols are very
welcome! SO send them in!
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USA 10960-1022. The Druids Progress is published semiannually (Gods
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