A book of conversations with prominent Druids from across Britain, the USA and other countries whose voices describe the basic beliefs, practices and struggles of the emerging Druid faith. Conducted in person and online in the late 20th century, these collected conversations provide a historic window into the movers and shakers of the modern Druid world.
REVIEWS & ENDORSEMENTS
Review in “Green Egg” Samhain 2016 edition
A Legacy of Druids By Ellen Evert Hopman, along with a forward by Phillip Carr-Gomm. This book is a compilation of interviews done by Ms. Hopman with prominent Druids over the course of the last twenty years. Interviewees include Phillip Carr-Gomm, Isaac Bonewits, and Arthur Uther Pendragon, along with Practitioners in Spirit such as Olivia Robertson and Susan Henssler ,as well as many scholars such as Ronald Hutton.
This book shows a unique perspective of the history and development of Modern Druidry. This is indeed a must-read book by anyone following the Druid path, as well as anyone interested in Magickal history. One of my personal favorite quotes from the book is by an Anishinaabe, Elder of the Ojibwa:
“It is time for the old Earth spirituality of the Europeans to start coming back. We are in real trouble if it doesn’t. People really need to start turning to their own ancestors for help. This is what needs to happen. Some people will be afraid of this. Why else would they burn everyone over there? If you’re following the lead of the Old Ones and people are afraid or critical of you, you know you are doing something right”.
Once again, I give Legacy of Druids my highest recommendation and certainly hope there is a second edition coming, re-interviewing the same people who are available.
~ Green Egg Magazine
At first, I was leery about a book of interviews that were conducted two decades ago. However, once I started seeing this glimpse into the past lives of these spiritual folk, I was fascinated. Not only does Ms. Hopman have interviews of several leaders of the Druid path that have since passed beyond the veil, she includes several follow-ups to the predictions therein. While everyone is aware of the maxim that hindsight is 20/20, these interviews show that truth in sharp detail. Several of the interviews offer unique perspectives from paths divergent from the most popular Druid paths, showing a greater variety of belief systems then I was aware of. It truly expanded my understanding of the possibilities. I especially enjoyed the descriptions of each interviewees' early spiritual education, and their visions of what the Druid path could be in the future. If I had any criticism of the book, it would be that it might have more updates on the interviewees, indicating where they were twenty years later, and if any of their views or paths had changed.
~ Christy Nicholas, author of Legacy of Hunger
A Legacy of Druids
By Ellen Everet Hopman
Book review by Ulchabhán
Normally I am not drawn to reading collectives of interviews - mainly because it is not easy to provide a cohesive narrative and I tend to get lost with a lot of the back and forth views. However – Ms. Hopman’s book was a very pleasant surprise and an engaging and informative read.
Each conversation should be taken in the context of the time of each individual’s practice as well as the particular connection of their varied developed practices. I liked that Ms. Hopman put an obvious amount of thought into trying to organize the insights shared into approachable topics of interest.
While it is apparent from the well-researched variety of individuals who have been active in the Druid community over the decades that there is a great deal of diversity in what really constitutes “Druidism” – as a practicing Druid I felt a sense of underlying cohesiveness. As I read through each discussion - I enjoyed once again reviewing my own developed thoughts on what brought me on this journey. Each interview had its own flavor and presented a constantly morphing intellectual and spiritual case for all the threads that have woven our experiences into the truly rich and evolving Path I still walk with Joy and Gratitude.
This book should be considered part of any library touching on the Fire, Music and Connection of being a Druid. This is one I will return to many times to catch the layers of meaning more fully.
Walk with Wisdom, Strength and Gratitude
Henge of Keltria
~ Ulchabhán, The Henge of Keltria
A Legacy of Druids: Conversations with Druid leaders of Britain, the USA and Canada, past and present, Ellen Evert Hopman, Moon Books
Well-known Druid Ellen Evert Hopman’s most recent offering is a collection of clever interviews she conducted with some of the preeminent scholars, practitioners, artists and musicians connected to the modern Druidic faith and its legacy. It certainly fulfils its criterion as a series of conversations - the book is easy reading and rather engaging, and in many instances feels as if you’re sitting at a table with the author and her chosen interviewee sipping hot beverages. Her choice of questions, though usually all starting at a basic origin query, divert into some interesting, detailed, and at times surprising territory. It’s all rather affable, but minor disagreements about philosophy and practice still crop up within - sometimes seemingly out of nowhere - and it’s fun to watch the sparks fly politely on the page.
Interestingly, all of the interviews appear to have occurred during the year 1996, so the book acts as much as an anthropological study as it does a snapshot in time. Each interview shows in many ways not only just how forward-thinking and optimistic things were two decades ago, but considering the topics in question, just how timeless the shared experience of nature’s power can truly be. Well worth a spot on the shelf.
~ The Witches Almanac
Review in “Oak Leaves” journal of the ADF Druid Order
This book is a new look at interviews that were done in the late 1990's with the leaders of some of the Druid organizations, and other prominent members of the Druid community. Included in the book are interviews with several ADF members, including our founder, Rev. Isaac Bonewits, as well as Archdruid Emeritus, Rev. John Adelmann (Fox), Ceisiwr Serith, and Rev. Bryan Perrin. In these interviews, we learn some of the history of the individuals, what they feel had been accomplished at that point in time, and what they wanted to see for the future.
I feel it is important to know where our church, along with other Druid organizations, comes from. This book gives us part of that history in a very easy to read format. I found the most interesting part was looking at what the individuals felt would happen in their future, and comparing that with what has happened. I see some of the advances talked about have happened, just not on the scale that was hoped for. And other "wishes" are still to be realized in the future.
Overall, I would definitely recommend this book as a good resource for modern Druid history, and consider it a great addition to any library, including university libraries. Any student of comparative religion should read it to get a "Druid" perspective!
Rev. Robert ''Skip''Ellison is an Archdruid Emeritus of ADF He was elected Archdruid in 2001 and served
for nine years, until 2010. He is also past Senior Druid of Muin Mound Grove, one of ADF's oldest Groves.
Review of Legacy of Druids: Conversations with Druid leaders of Britain, the USA and Canada, past and present by Ellen Evert Hopman (2016) Moon Books.
Paperback £14.99 || $25.95
Apr 29, 2016
e-book £6.99 || $9.99
Apr 29, 2016
Full disclosure: I was, to my amazement then and now, interviewed for this book. That is not why I like it, though I confess it is why I wanted to read it in the first place.
Why Review Legacy of Druids on Brigit’s Sparkling Flame?
I wouldn’t normally review a book like this on BSF as it isn’t actually about Brigit. However, there are two reasons to:
1) it contains an early interview of me (September 3, 1996) which discusses my own spiritual path, and of course that involves the origin of the Daughters of the Flame in 1993 and its workings till 1996 (pp 29-39).
2) More generally, it is fascinating from a historical perspective for Neo-Pagans generally, particularly but not exclusively those who identify as Druids or follow a Celtic-based path. Many Brigidines of course are in that number.
It is a little weird reading the me of twenty-odd years ago. I notice I have mellowed. I want to correct two things I said in the book, and then I can forget me for the rest of this review:
1) I was not able to carry through with my intention (a mere year ago) to stop producing the Daughters of the Flame newsletter. It is too central to the group. On, in less labour-intensive form, it goes.
2) I say at one point, “On the way to the monastery I passed a high school called Saint Brigit's. I had been into a couple of churches with shrines to St. Brigit, in Melbourne and elsewhere, and I found myself praying to Her as Goddess more pointedly than I had in the past. When I passed the school I said to my companion that I wondered what the students would think if they knew their school was named after a Pagan Goddess? (pg 32)”
I no longer think that is a fair question. Though Brigit to me, and to most NeoPagans, is a goddess as well as a saint, I believe now that historically this was not likely the case, that it is a much more recent fusion. I won’t get into the argument for that here, just say that I would not ask that question in the same way, now.
Brigit in Legacy of Druids
Apart from my interview (pg 29-39), Brigit is mentioned a couple of times by other interviewees. Lady Olivia Roberston has an amusing reference to the “silliest poem” used by Ross Nicholls (progenitor of the Order of Bards Ovates and Druids) in honour of Brigit in his early Imbolc rituals.
“It rather went like this ... ‘Ah, sure now, we invoke the golden-haired blue-eyed Brighid, the sweet Brighid who gives us the good cow’s milk.’ This ghastly image ... ”
Synopsis: A thoughtful, chatty book—reading it is like visiting, mead in hand and cross-legged on the forest floor, or sipping tea and nibbling dainties in an overstuffed chair, one fascinating person after another as they reflect, through their spiritual history, opinion, and advice, an exciting time in the evolution of modern Druidry and Celtic Neo-Paganism. Far from giving a single self-praising paean, the subject is pondered with care, scepticism, and occasional grumpiness from a multitude of viewpoints.
Druidism is a way of life. For some it is a religion. But either way, it is a belief system that honors the natural world in its many manifestations, a system that can work with other religious beliefs or stand just as well on its own ... No one’s perception of it is quite the same.
TopazOwl (pg. 102)
The interviews for Legacy of Druids were done twenty and more years ago, in pubs, at gatherings, through letters and email. One might expect they would be a little stale after so long, perhaps no longer relevant, but this isn’t so. Indeed, with updated information tucked around the interviews where needed, they are an absorbing read, all the more so with the advantage of hindsight. They are fuelled by stories of each subject’s spiritual path, their vision and practice, their concerns and hopes for the movement, and by their diverse perceptions of the history and meaning of Druidry. Hopman, herself a modern Druid, and therefore versed in much of the history and many of the issues of the movement, asks brief, broad questions and allows the interviewee to take flight.
The text is broken into four sections: “Druidry of the Spirit”, “Druidry and Politics”, “Scholars and Writers”, and “Musicians, Artists and Poets”, with introductory materials by Hopman, John Matthews (1996), and Philip Carr-Gomm (2015). Carr-Gomm’s “Failed Predictions, Hopes and Fears” and “The Core Issues” give a useful overview for those (like me) who are not intimately acquainted with modern Druidry. Some of his comments seem a touch anti-Celtic Reconstructionist, which is unfortunate, but this is not a theme of the book.
Elsewhere, Ronald Hutton gives a comparison of UK and American NeoPaganism, and, in greater detail, of British Druids and Wiccans, including in his observations the “interesting ironies”—or inconsistencies—found in each path.
Erynn Rowan Laurie covers a lot of ground in her interview, offering many elements of belief and practice gleaned from the study of the ancient Celts which can be employed in our own practice. Although she is in the “Scholars and Writers” section, her views on the spiritual and social practice of poetry, her call to live out Celtic values like strength, honesty, and strong community relationships, and her final behest that we “Pursue the Salmon of Wisdom” (pg 215) struck strong chords in me in terms of my own spiritual practice.
Idealism, hope, humour, and contemplation fill the book. I think the greatest value for me is the opportunity to see the unfolding of each individual’s spiritual path—the seeds in their young lives that led them to grow in the ways they have, and the fruits that are born of those seeds. The unselfconscious innocence of these stories is moving and often inspiring. It is fascinating to peek into the heads of such a broad array of practitioners, from the most practical to the utterly fey, to learn what they are reacting to both in the greater world and within modern Druidry and NeoPaganism, and how they and their companions have helped to shape those paths. The unique voice of each subject, expressing their intentions, their paths, how they have structured their groups and why, kept me absorbed long after I had intended to stop reading each night. They base their practice on received spirit communications, on meditations and dreams, on the teachings of friends and family, on knuckle-biting scholarly research, or on a combination of these. Some don’t identify strictly as druids, but follow a Celtic-inspired path. Portrayals of meetings between modern Druids and Catholics, of Druid groups splitting off from or working together with others, and so on lend the juice of gossip to the mix.
I am intrigued, too, to see how various practitioners conceive of the history and meaning of Druidry, and what they choose to focus on within that understanding. Some of the ideas of ancient times and lineages read like whole cloth pseudo-history, where other histories seem grounded to greater and lesser degrees in evidence-based scholarship. I can’t help squirming when I read occasional assertions of what long dead people believed and how they behaved when I am pretty sure we can’t possibly know. But of course it’s not the purpose of this book to define for the reader the True History of Druidism. It is to learn the beliefs of modern Druids, and their views of their history are as individual and informative as their religious beliefs.
Just as definitions of Druidry vary, ideas of who is a Celt, or who is entitled to follow such a path, are disparate. For instance, Kaledon Naddair in his rough and righteous rant warns against the misguided appropriation of Celtic culture: “ ... the only people that have an automatic entitlement to the riches of the Keltic cultural tradition are Kelts! Kelts by race, birth, language and cultural upbringing in Keltic homelands! (pg 198)” Equally firm about the need to steer away from cultural appropriation and support the struggles of Celtic peoples is Erynn Rowan Laurie. “Respect for modern Celtic communities and languages [is] essential. The Celtic people are still under siege in all their remaining lands. Languages are dying, as are traditional practices, songs and stories. Going about trying to recreate something 2000 years old while ignoring the plight of those people’s descendants is nothing short of arrogant and disrespectful (pg 204)”. However, her view of who might legitimately follow a Celtic Pagan path differs from Naddair. “I think that inclusiveness is important. We can’t rely on genealogy or geography to determine who is ‘Celtic’. The historical Celts roamed all over Europe, and lands beyond. Anyone worthy might be taken into the tribe through marriage or adoption (pg 205)”.
In the end, I’m not sure what percentage of what is represented here is very closely linked to the ancient Celtic world-view—or what little we actually understand of it—though of course this varies from interview to interview. But what it does undoubtedly contain is a modern world-view that is lively, thoughtful, and filled with insights, which does indeed have elements of the ancestors’ ways, or at the very least a reverence for those ancestors, a reverence for the earth we are born of, and a joie de vivre that must ensure its continuation into the future. How we may see modern Druidry in another twenty years is a tantalizing question indeed.
I am delighted to have read this book. It is interesting, it is useful, and it helps to set a framework to our endeavours and remind us of what we are as Celtic-inspired NeoPagans: what we aspire to, what our responsibility is to ourselves and to our world. If our practice as NeoPagans of any stripe does what so many of these practitioners are in part attempting to do—change our relationship to self and others and shift our impact on the earth and her children for the better—then it is far more than a self-rooted exercise, however pleasant or helpful, it is a gift of healing to the world. For it to be such, we need to live up to the ideals we put forward in interviews like these, and leave factionalism and self-interest behind.
~ Brigit’s Sparkling Flame
A Legacy of Druids by Ellen Evert Hopman is a capsule held in time, with interviews by Druids from all over the world that were taken twenty years ago. It is interesting to hear their stories, especially from those people I know now, and whose perceptions have changed with the passage of time.
It's not a book on how to be a Druid, but rather a conversation with an entire room full of them. You get to "work the room" so to speak in this volume, finding so many different personalities, histories and visions for the future. The foreward by Philip Carr-Gomm was perhaps the most interesting for me, and which coincided with my perception of Druidry as it is today. That this should be so is obvious; as a nature-based tradition, Druidry is always evolving, and here was have the proof that this is so.
Dynamics, schisms, traits, perspectives of different Druid traditions, with a lot of American vs British is reflected in the interviewees' words. That these perceptions and their individual predictions for the future have changed over the last twenty years is, I think, a very good thing. With the popularity of the internet, dialogue has opened across vast oceans, with views being shared, references, academia, experiential gnosis and more. The divide between the two has lessened greatly, to the benefit of all.
Of course, I did not agree or resonate with the words of every Druid (or Druid friendly person) interviewed. Like being at a party, there are some people you want to hang out with and others that you don't. But all of it is informative, in its raw, unedited state. You get real flavour of who that person was at that time, and what Druidry meant to them at that particular point in time.
A very interesting, and original work. I would love to see a modern version of this done, with as many of the same people in the original work, as well as new voices! Joanna VanderHoeven
~ Joanna VanderHoeven
This book offers a fascinating glimpse into the spiritual lives and philosophies of a diverse group following the Druidic path. Though the interviews were conducted twenty years ago, the predictions and evaluations offer unique perspective, especially when the author updates their comments with recent happenings. ~ Christy Nicholas, author of Legacy of Hunger
A Legacy of Druids is a fascinating selection of interviews with a variety of Druids in the late 20th century. Each gives the reader a different insight into opinions and viewpoints which have shaped modern Druidism and as such is essential reading for anyone either interested in Druidism as a religion or interested in Paganism as a modern cultural movement. ~ Morgan Daimler, author of Where the Hawthorn Grows and Pagan Portals The Morrigan
This book is a valuable resource for anyone interested in the history of modern Druidism. Hearing the stories of Druid leaders and artists from twenty years ago, shows us how much has been done, and how much more we still need to do! I will definitely be recommending this book for ADF’s Dedicant coursework in the modern Paganism section! ~ Rev. Robert Lee (Skip) Ellison, Ár nDraíocht Féin (ADF), Archdruid Emeritus and author of The Solitary Druid: Walking the Path of Wisdom and Spirit.
A thoughtful, chatty book—reading it is like visiting, mead in hand and cross-legged on the forest floor, or sipping tea and nibbling dainties in an overstuffed chair, one fascinating person after another as they reflect, through their spiritual history, opinion, and advice, an exciting time in the evolution of modern Druidry and Celtic Neo-Paganism. Far from giving a single self-praising paean, the subject is pondered with care, scepticism, and occasional grumpiness from a multitude of viewpoints. ~ Mael Brigde, Daughters of the Flame, Brigit’s Sparkling Flame
A key tenet of Druidry is its connection to story, of land and people. The voices gathered in this collection are a pleasure to hear, as wisdom is passed on from one tribal generation to the next. We have no physical campfire, but I could certainly imagine one as the pages turned, hand to hand and heart to heart. ~ Cat Treadwell, Druid Priest and author of Facing the Darkness and A Druid's Tale
"Ellen Evert Hopman’s interviews capture a moment in Druid history, in an array of influential voices from the time. Some of those voices have continued to define Druidry as it continues to evolve, some are less familiar to modern readers. For anyone interested in the evolution of modern Druidry, our recent history, and traditions, this is a must read." ~ Nimue Brown
This extraordinary assembly of Druids reveals the paths leading to our native, spiritual heritage, without fear or favour. Deep and true! ~ Caitlín Matthews, author of Celtic Visions, past-presider of OBOD.
This lovely book allows one to experience the true path of Druidry. The interviews present a picture that breaks away from the impersonal textbooks and gives an insight into the personal connection and dedication to the sacred path. A heart warming connection to our global community. ~ Wally Dean Phillips, The Chosen Chief of the Secular Order of Druids
This is a wonderful book for anyone who is either a druidic student or contemplating the druid’s path. This book consists of interviews held in or about 1996 with many of the leaders of many traditions in Druidry. There is the distinct feeling of sitting in on campfire conversations with the people who have been instrumental building neo-pagan Druidry. I appreciate that the conversations are 20 years old and that the author has given a bit of information to not only let us know where the interviewees were in their paths at that time, but what they are doing now. Several of the interviewees have died in the intervening years, so this book is an illumination into their thought processes and personalities as well as their contributions that really is not available elsewhere. I will definitely be recommending this book to my students. ~ Linda Sager Kazalski, Grove Organizer, Three Branch River Protogrove, ADF
Ellen Evert Hopman brings us a magnificent tour-de-force of Druidic wisdom, knowledge and views from the Elders of Druidry in this fascinating collection of interviews. Captured two decades ago, at a critical time in the formation of our everyday Druidic practices, we see the wide range of opinions, beliefs, political and religious views that provides the background to Modern Druidry as it exists today. In the Legends of the Druids, Ms. Hopman has answered all of our questions about where our modern tradition has come from and also gives us valuable guidance as we find our way amongst the well-trodden paths of some of our most well-known Druid Leaders. ~ Gary & Ruth Colcombe, Celtic Myth Podshow
Ellen Evert Hopman brings her sharp, inquisitive focus to modern Druidry in this collection of in-depth interviews with some of the greatest contributors to the Druid movement in the late 20th century. A Legacy of Druids is a valuable contribution to the keeping of the Celtic branch of NeoPagan history. ~ Diana Rajchel, author of Divorcing a Real Witch
If you want to know what a wet Druid or a dry Druid are and how they are still relevant today, this is the book for you. By the way did I mention that it is fascinating, readable and a must have for any Druid’s bookshelf ? ~ Brendan Howlin, author of the Handbook of Urban Druidry and Druid tutor.
"Ellen Evert Hopman has managed to devise a book comprising a collection of ‘The Voice’s of Modern Druidism, both past and present’.
‘A Legacy of Druid’s’, weaves together encapsulating, succinct views of Druidry, from historically, to practically and spiritually; from some of today’s most renowned, authoritative names on the subject.
Including: Philip Carr-Gomm; Lady Olivia Robertson; John Matthews; Arthur Uther Pendragon; Dr. Ronald Hutton; and Isaac Bonewits; to name but a few, modern day Druids sharing their knowledge and thoughts, both experiential and spiritual, via personal interview’s conducted by Hopman.
Though the interviews are from a time gone by, (1996), the kaleidoscope of information and viewpoints within give the book it’s organic flair. Hopman, has adopted a very natural approach, in that all interviews have been kept pure, raw, and unedited, making the book an unusual though satisfying experience, as the reader feels immersed in the same sense as that of listening to a radio show or podcast."
~ Dorn Simon-Sinnott
Reading A Legacy of Druids is akin to attending the best Celtic Festival ever. Imagine being given the opportunity to go back twenty years in time to sit around the hearth fire with the elders and storytellers from many varied Celtic paths, discussing their personal spiritual journeys and esteemed valuations for the future of Druidry. A treasure trove of past wisdom though it is, A Legacy of Druids also highlights the truism that the more things change, the more they stay the same, providing both a foundation to the current landscape of Druidry and valuable insight into the continued maturation of modern Druidry. The time is ripe for Paganism to take stock of its roots and honour the pioneers who helped forge the current Pagan climate. Thanks to Ellen for having the foresight to gather this invaluable information those many years ago. ~ Tiffany Lazic, RP, Psychotherapist, Spiritual Director, and author of The Great Work: Self-Knowledge and Healing Through the Wheel of the Year.