Druids & Racism
There appears to be a new understanding and awareness of white privilege and the systems that support it. Challenging and needed conversations are happening in families, neighborhoods, and in our Druid communities. We are a part of the change that is happening.
Here is a triad for where we find ourselves now –
I am born in love and bring change
You are my brothers and sisters
We are alive in this time and place together for a reason
We can respect others as we listen and grow. (And it is a simple gift to protect others’ health by wearing masks.)
May the green woods, changing skies, and still waters bless you.
What do Racists Look Like?
Let’s strive to have more diversity in our Seed Groups, Groves, and gatherings. The change can start with us.
Unfortunately, many in the United States find white people wearing traditional ‘Revival Druidry’ white robes evoke the Ku Klux Klan and related active racist groups.
A recent long thread on a Facebook OBOD members group had about 80% of those responding stating they specifically do not wear white robes in the US because of their similarity to uniforms used by racist groups. As Druids we have to consider this issue carefully.
The Challenges of Using ‘Traditional’ Druid Robes in North America
The white robes many of us wear now has nothing to do with what the original Druids, or ancient to modern Celts wore. So since we don’t have decades of blokes showing up and being photographed at big public rituals like in the UK, people in North America really wonder about us when we wear these robes. It can even be hard to explain to those interested in joining our groups.
* The original historic description from Pliny the Elder was that the Druids wore white clothing (not robes), and would likely have been just light colors.
* Subsequent ‘Druid’ robe styles have borrowed heavily from ecclesiactical (church leader) uniforms, themselves mostly of Roman origin.
* Fraternal Druids in the UK still wear the Nemyss (Egyptian head-dress of the Pharaohs), taken from Golden Dawn and other magical orders.
Co-opting of White Robes by Racist Groups
Since the emergence of the second Ku Klux Klan (KKK) in 1915, white robes with or without a hood has developed an association with KKK regalia. The KKK is a white supremacist hate group that mostly wears bleached white robes with pointed head coverings, similar to traditional Druid clothing (white robes with hoods).
* Isaac Bonewits – ADF co-founder relayed that decades ago ADF members started wearing white berets so people could find each other at meetings in public places. But they found out the KKK was also wearing white berets, and – “The Mother Grove immediately decided to abandon the use of them, for fear that our folks would be confused with theirs.”
* I live in the southeast US, and our Grove holds open and public rituals in parks for the seasonal festivals. I have personally had a black child give a scared look when seeing my robe, and I don’t want it to happen again. So unless I am at a Druid only gathering, I will not wear a white robe again at our public rituals.
* KKK Members have also been showing up without hoods, and related groups are sporting white polo shirts. (Look at groups 1, 4, and 5 at this site listing extremist clothing.)
Mis-appropriation of Other Cultures
Most of the clothing suggestions in the next section happen to be found across cultures, but many try to add other elements to their Druid outfits. If you adopt the elements of a culture other than your own- especially as part of a dominant culture over a subjugated culture- this can be exploitation or even a form of desecration. This would be antithetical to the intent of ritual garb. We are post-colonial and rich in the cultures of those that have come to North America, we can be aware and figure this out.
* In some areas if you wear white clothing and a white head covering that could be seen as copying followers of Voudon or related African diaspora traditions.
* If you are of European descent in the US and wear Native American leggings, with a rawhide drum, burning white sage, by a Plains teepee, and doing a sweat lodge with Lakota words for your ‘spiritual’ practice that would be an extreme example of misappropriation. (See the 1993 Declaration of War Against Exploiters of Lakota Spirituality to see how angry one large group of tribes and bands is about this issue.)
* Some have even raised issues of appropriation for those with Celtic heritage (itself a difficult concept) here in the US.
Exerpt from Druid Robes article at Danaan.net- used by permission. Go here for full article.
OBOD member essays on racism at Druidry.org
Learn where active white supremacist and related groups are known to be located, and some visual signs from the ADL, SPL, and others.
List of White Nationalist Organizations- US (Wikipedia)
Southern Poverty Law Center and it’s SPL Hate Map
Anti-Defamation League and it’s ADL H.E.A.T. Map– an interactive map detailing extremist and anti-Semitic incidents around the nation
Hate on Display™ Hate Symbols Database – learn about Celtic knots, solar crosses and other symbols appropriated from our tradition
Decoding the Language of Extremist Clothing (Topic)