LONDON (RNS) Druidry, the pagan worship that has been practiced on these shores for thousands of years, on Friday (Oct. 1) gained recognition by the British government as an official religion after a four-year legal battle.
The Charity Commission, established by Parliament to regulate charities in England and Wales, released a Sept. 21 decision that the worship by druids of spirits in the natural world could be viewed as a “religious activity.”
The decision means druidry, often derided by some as the province of mystic crackpots, now has the status of a genuine faith in Britain, alongside more conventional religions such as Christianity, Judaism and Islam.
In pragmatic terms, it also means the druids now qualify for valuable tax breaks, in the same way as the other, more established faiths.
The Charity Commission’s 21-page decision concluded that the Druid Network is “established for exclusively charitable purposes for the advancement of religion for the public benefit.”
Commission officials estimate that current members in the Druid Network total about 350 (each paying about $15 a year in dues), although the BBC claimed in a report seven years ago that the ancient faith was practiced by as many as 10,000 worshippers across the land.
Druidry in Britain lists eight major festivals a year, including worshipping of the summer solstice amid the ancient stone monoliths at Stonehenge.
Phil Ryder, chairman of trustees for the Druid Network, told The Daily Telegraph newspaper in London that winning official recognition had taken four years, “a long and at times frustrating process.”
One major complication, he explained, was that the Charity Commission at the start “had no understanding of our beliefs and practices, and examined us on every aspect of them.”