History of Modern Druidism
The Ancient Order of Druids was founded in 1781 at the King's Arms Tavern, Poland and Oxford Streets, London, England. The moving force in its formation was a gentleman named Henry Hurle. The Lodge started by Henry Hurle began chartering "Junior Primitive Lodges" just two years after its own institution: As the parent Lodge, Hurle's first Lodge was thereafter known as the Grand Lodge of the Ancient Order of Druids. The Ancient Order of Druids stated that the society was, "Established to promote harmony and good fellowship."
The Ancient Order of Druids came to America with the first Grove of Druids instituted in the City of New York in 1830. Gradually the Order branched out in different parts of the States. Early on, a rival United Ancient Order of Druids was organized, and the two branches eventually consolidated under the name of the United Ancient Order of Druids. In 1860, California Grove No. 1 was instituted at old Hangtown (now known as Placerville) under the leadership of the founder of California Druidism, P.N.G.A. (Past Noble Grand Arch) Frederick Seig. California Grove No. 1 of Druids is no longer active today. A Druidic monument honoring P.N.G.A. Frederick Sieg adorns the main street of Placerville.
The UAOD (United Ancient Order of Druids) of California is a non-political non-denominational fraternal benefit society. The California Druids were formed as a brotherhood united to assist the families of miners injured or killed in the gold fields of the Sierra Nevada. It spread statewide and became a booming organization. Over 200 local Groves have been chartered over the years and membership approached 15,000 in the early years of the 20th century. As with most fraternal organizations membership has dwindled over the last half century. The ritual and ceremonies were based loosely on ancient Druidic myths. Our mission is to promote knowledge, unity and peace. Currently there are 13 Groves (community lodges) plus the Grand Grove in California. The farthest south is Bakersfield and the farthest north is Point Arena. Each Grove normally meets one or two times per month to take care of business obligations and put on dinners or fundraisers. Statewide, the Druids sponsor a scholarship program giving out $20,000 a year. Local community involvement varies depending on local Grove abilities and community needs.
In California the Druidic family is composed of three separate bodies: Groves, being the Brotherhood, Circles, known as the Sisterhood, and the Chapters, known as the Fun Branch. A member of the brotherhood branch can in due time join the sisterhood. However, a member of the sisterhood cannot join the brotherhood branch. Both members of the brotherhood and the sisterhood are eligible to join the Chapter branch. All three branches of the Druidic Fraternity claim a root in antiquity and each branch has its own moral precepts.
The term "Grove" derives from the oak groves in which the original Druids reputedly met. In these forest grove edifices in which they kindled their alter fires, the tops were never covered and the Ancient Druids used the sky or heaven as their roof. The state lodge is called a Grand Grove, Interestingly, the term Grove is not used outside the United States: Foreign countries refer to their local organizations as "Lodges".
The guiding virtues of the Grove are Justice, Morality, and Brotherly Love. The motto of the Druids the world over is "United to Assist" (Integritas Pro Rupe Nobis). The aim of the Druids is Unity, Peace and Concord. The guiding virtues of the Circle Branch are the Seven Star Points: Honor, Truth, Justice, Faith, Hope, Love, and Benevolence. The principles of virtue of the Chapter Branch are Equity, Integrity, and Obedience. In addition to our mottos the California druids place belief in the seven precepts of Merlin, one of Druidism's early teachers.
The Seven Precepts of Merlin
- Labor diligently to acquire knowledge, -for it is power
- When in authority decide reasonably, -for thine authority may cease
- Bear with fortitude the ills of life, -remembering that no mortal sorrow is perpetual
- Love virtue, -for it bringeth peace
- Abhor vice, -for it bringeth evil upon all
- Obey those in authority in all just things, -that virtue may be exalted
- Cultivate the social virtues, -so shalt thou be beloved by all men