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An Interview with Athelia Nihtscada (Part Two)


Author(s): Scott Douglas Jacobsen

Publication (Outlet/Website): In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal

Publication Date (yyyy/mm/dd): 2015/10/09


An interview with Athelia Nihtscada. She discusses: druidism and its interrelationship with existentialism, psychology, psychotherapy; personal meaning of druidism in the search for the Self; different druid organizations; organizations’ influence in the personal development of druids; research and practices into druidism; druidism practiced apart from the organizations; the upward scale in qualifications for the local and global druids; On Being a Druid Today (2011) and difference between druids in the past and present; and Awen Grove Canada’s orders: first, second, and third. 

Keywords: Athelia Nihtscada, Awen Grove Canada, druid, druidism, existentialism, order, qualifications, psychology, psychotherapy.

An Interview with Athelia Nihtscada (Part Two)[1],[2],[3]

*Please see the footnotes and citation style listing after the interview, respectively.*

5. You remarked on existentialism in reflection upon personal research into psychology and psychotherapy in the article entitled A Bit About Existentialism (2011).[4] You list the five “givens” of existentialism including “Death, Human Limitation,” and “Finiteness, Freedom, Responsibility,” and “Agency, Isolation and Connectedness,” “Meaning vs. Meaninglessness, and Emotions,” “Experience, and Embodiment.”[5] How does druidism interrelate with existentialism, psychology, and psychotherapy?[6]

For me, Druidism is a very cerebral path. It encourages a lot of thought, introspection, and examination of beliefs. It is also about taking responsibility for one’s actions. While we may not always have control over our situations, we always have control over how we respond to them. I’ve adopted the philosophy that “I never lose. I either win or I learn.” I can either play the victim or see the lesson in the situation. I’m done playing the victim and have embraced the power and responsibility of how I respond to situations.

Life is about being aware of one’s limits, understanding the isolation of being an individual and the need to connect with others, and experiencing life as it is. From a psychotherapeutic perspective, these ideas match what is often taught in cognitive behaviour therapy: empowering oneself through changing one’s outlook.

6. Individuation: The Quest for Self (2011) describes the nature of the Self and search for the individual, of the quest for the individual.[7],[8] What does druidism mean in the search for the Self?

Much of the work involved in modern Druidism involves self-development. Abraham Maslow studied and wrote about self-actualization, which is a similar process to Carl Jung’s theory of individuation. Simply put, it is about learning about the different aspects of one’s personality, as well as the general concepts of relationships, interaction with the world, one’s dark side, etc.; and then putting it all together like a puzzle. The result is supposed to be more enlightened and complete person. It does not make one any better or worse than another person; nor does it exclude a person from suffering. It makes a person more well-rounded and prepared to handle these things. If the soul is on its own path of discovery and growth, why not help it along by striving to understand and develop oneself? When one is balanced and aware of self-care, it is easier to serve and care for others.

7. You have past, or present, involvement with numerous druid organizations including Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship (ADF), Awen Grove Canada, Henge of Keltria, Order of Bards Ovates and Druids (OBOD), Reformed Druids of North America (RDNA), The British Druid Order (BDO), The Druid Network (TDN).[9],[10],[11],[12],[13],[14],[15]What have these different organizations taught you?

They have taught me that while there is a certain continuum of commonalities, there are many ways of approaching them. When I started on my path, I did not have the connection to Druids and Druid groups that I have today. I feel that being a member of these groups has shown me the value of different perspectives as well as enabled me to help seekers find the group or path that best fits them, should they want that. At the basic level, I’m providing a service I wish I’d had access to when I started. At a more advanced level, I am broadening my own horizons and knowledge.

8. What does each organization bring to bear in personal development as a druid?

It depends on what one is looking for. For seekers looking for a defined religious structure and want to follow an Indo-European hearth culture (pantheon of Gods and way of practise), I would recommend ADF. If one were looking for a strictly Celtic religious structure, I’d recommend the Henge of Keltria. For those looking for a structured, introspective experience that can become either their religion or philosophy (or both), I would recommend OBOD’s correspondence course. The self-starter who wants to look at various options before committing to a specific group, or one who has a set path but wants to connect with others, might want to start with something like The Druid Network.

9. How do these various organizations interrelate their research and practices into druidism?

Each organization has its own approach to Druidism based on its own history, research and methods of practise that work for them. Many of them seem to incorporate the aspects of service, truth, connection, reverence for nature, the belief in the immortal soul, and honouring the ancestors. These aspects are based on Celtic and Indo-European lore and history.

10. Can one learn druidism apart from the organizations to some level of proficiency, even mastery, or does one require these organizations for self-development in alignment with the core values and practices of druidism?

I believe it is possible, if one is comfortable with self-study and is willing to do the work needed to become known as a Druid. There is a whole line of debate over what constitutes a Druid today, but most will agree that scholarship, service to others in the capacity, and building relationships with other Druids and groups. One must be completely committed to Druidism and “walking the talk” as it were. Others must recognize a person as a Druid in order for one to be called a Druid, in my opinion. Otherwise, they are considered “on the Druid path” until one makes a positive mark and is ‘seen’.

Like a degree from a credible university, joining one of the established groups and completing their training will definitely make it easier to be recognized by others in the Pagan communities.

11. How does one scale upwards in the ranks of knowledge, capabilities, and responsibilities within the local and global druid associations, orders, organizations, and societies – through certifications, positions, requirements, and titles?

For many groups, it’s a matter of completing all of the coursework and being officially recognized. Like most organizations, the more one puts into serving the group, the more one gets out of it. A person can take the courses and get a piece of paper, but rising in the ranks on a social level involves going beyond mere study. It means forging positive relationships, being willing to do the extras like organize an event, serve on a Board or lead a Grove.

12. In On Being a Druid Today (2011), you note the differences between druidism in the past and the present.[16] Also, you describe the different social status, training, and literacy of druids across time.[17] In addition to this, you describe the focus on “service,” “education,” “love of nature,” “connection,” “belief in the immortality of the soul,” and “seeking truth.”[18] If you could update views on this observation and reflection, what seem like the overarching, core differences between druidism of the past and the present?

Per my answer to question 3, looking at what we know of the ancient Druids, the writings of the Revivalist Druids, and what is considered Druidism today, there are a few common threads that appear: truth, service, connection, reverence of nature, ancestor worship and the belief that the soul is immortal and can transmigrate from life to life.

13. You founded Awen Grove Canada.[19] In the website, on the page entitled The Druid Path (2014), you recommended numerous resources for this with general curiosity or genuine interest in becoming a druid.[20],[21],[22],[23],[24],[25],[26],[27] You include some personal commentary and resources too.[28] Awen Grove Canada contains three orders in their course of study: first, second, and third.[29] What does each order implicate in terms of lessons and eventual qualifications?[30]

Awen Grove’s tradition is the one I have founded and I based the “grade” system on the Reformed Druids of North America Order system. It is a work in progress as the tradition grows and changes. I have always held true to the tenet of seeking truth against the world, so I am not the most structured of teachers. I believe in providing the base knowledge and having the student progress from there. Many organizations require seekers to go through each structured grade. In my system, there are certain things one needs to know, but I tailor teaching to each person. Some are completely new to Druidism and need to start from scratch. Others have been practising for many years and may only need to hone certain skills, such as leadership. There are modules that each student must work through because they are the foundations of the tradition itself: self-assessment of beliefs, ethics, path of service, history and comparative spirituality. From there, it is a matter of what the students wants to achieve.

The First Order involves the basic foundations of the tradition, as well as a looking at the history of Druidism through the ages and the common factors, ritual practises, seasonal observances, etc. The Second Order is focused on Service, where students discover the type of service that they are passionate about. The Third Order is focused on Leadership, taking one’s place in the larger community, and starting one’s own Grove.

Appendix I: Footnotes

[1] Please see Nihtscada, A. (2011, July 28). A Bit About Existentialism. Retrieved from

[2] Ibidem.

[3] Ibidem.

[4] Nihtscada opens the essay with the following:

““Know Thyself” was inscribed above the Oracle of Delphi in Ancient Greece and the search for the true nature of oneself was important to Ancient Greek philosophers such as Socrates and Plato… Two-thousand years later, is humanity closer to knowing the nature of their true selves and achieving psychological maturity? Can one attain complete knowledge and acceptance of one’s true Self in a life-time? Dr. Carl Gustav Jung believed that this was possible, but it would take a lot of inner-work to make it so. Jung theorized that a person’s personality is made up of many aspects that, when integrated into the conscious, become the Self, the true centre of being (Feist & Feist, 2006). He called this process “Individuation” or “Self-Realization” and provided criteria that would have to be met in order for this to be achieved (Jung, 1968). In this paper, the process of fulfilling those criteria is examined as well as its practical therapeutic applications.”

Please see Nihtscada, A. (2011, July 28). Individuation: The Quest for Self. Retrieved from

[5] One can find the appropriate reference material for the quote “Man Know Thyself,” which comes from the tradition of ancient Greece, possibly, from the earliest philosopher in the Western tradition within the Milesian school.  A man named Thales of Miletus, along with Anaximander and Anaximenes in the Milesian tradition too. Bear in mind, the Encyclopedia Britannica entry states:

“No writings by Thales survive, and no contemporary sources exist. Thus, his achievements are difficult to assess. Inclusion of his name in the canon of the legendary Seven Wise Men led to his idealization, and numerous acts and sayings, many of them no doubt spurious, were attributed to him, such as “Know thyself” and “Nothing in excess.”

Please see Thales of Miletus. (2015). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved from

[6] Please see Reformed Druids of North America. (2015). Reformed Druids of North America. Retrieved from

[7] Please see The Order of Bards Ovates & Druids. (2015). The Order of Bards Ovates & Druids. Retrieved from

[8] Please see The British Druid Order. (2015). The British Druid Order. Retrieved from

[9] Please see The Druid Network. (2015). The Druid Network. Retrieved from

[10] Please see The Henge of Keltria. (2015). The Henge of Keltria. Retrieved from

[11] Please see Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship. (2015). Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship. Retrieved from

[12] Please see Awen Grove Canada. (2014). Awen Grove Canada. Retrieved from

[13] In About (n.d.), Nihtscada, stated:

“In 2005, Athelia completed the Dedicant Path with ADF and was initiated as a Third Order Druid with the Reformed Druids of North America. Athelia is also a member of the Order of Bards Ovates and Druids, The British Druid Order and the Henge of Keltria. Currently, Athelia serves as the Regional Coordinator for Western Canada (Westview) on behalf of the Druid Network and the Regional Druid of Western Canada for ADF.”

Please see Nihtscada, A. (n.d.). About. Retrieved from

[14] Please see Nihtscada, A. (2011, August 12). On Being a Druid Today. Retrieved from

[15] Please see Nihtscada, A. (2012, July 26). Druid Writer – Athelia Nihtscada Voices on the Path. Retrieved from

[16] Nihtscada, on the differences between druids of the past and the present, states:

“The Druids of old always struck me as being quite in line with their times and up to date on the knowledge and atmosphere of their times. They were very involved with their times because they had to be. They were not trying to “recreate” a history like many of us are today. The ancient Druids lived in a different time than we do. The needs, technology and culture of the people in that time were vastly different from what it is like today. I’m fairly certain that they didn’t just wax philosophically, practise Druidry when they weren’t busy living their lives or doing their jobs, and performing rituals. They were heavily involved with their world: they advised leaders, served their community, healed, taught, negotiated, etc. We live in the 21st Century and our needs and circumstances have changed dramatically since ancient times.”

Please see Nihtscada, A. (2011, August 12). On Being a Druid Today. Retrieved from

[17] Ibidem.

[18] Ibidem.

[19] Please see Awen Grove Canada (2014). Awen Grove Canada.

[20] Please see MacAnTsaoir, I., & O’Laoghaire (1999). Why Wicca Is Not Celtic v.3.0.

[21] Of note, in the article entitled When is a Celt not a Celt: An Irreverent peek into Neopagan views of history (n.d.)., Hautin-Mayer states:

“Many Neopagans and Wiccans feel at odds with written history in general because they consider it to be “patriarchal” and highly biased. And for many people the academic atmosphere often associated with the study of the past can be intimidating. Curious amateurs may feel out of their depth. For these same people, the believe that “mundane” history has little bearing on “us” Neopagans has degenerated into the notion that, because we don’t like the history we have–for whatever reason–we have every right to create a history for ourselves that we do like. Hence we don’t need to document where we really come from and what has really happened to us; we can simply invent a history to suit ourselves. I need not go into detail about how ill-advised such behavior is, but I will say that we ought to consider our history to be a foundation and starting point for all our actions. Even with an unpleasant but honest history, we are in a better position for creating change; without a real history we are lost. There is also a strong bias in certain circles of the Neopagan community against critical thinking. The view is that spiritual matters should not be judged from such a mundane perspective. In our eagerness to embrace alternative belief systems, we are too often uninterested in determining how authentic and accurate these beliefs may be. It is true that much of profound metaphysical significance often cannot be expressed sufficiently in mundane terms. Yet this need not always be the case.”

Please see Hautin-Mayer, M. (n.d.). When is a Celt not a Celt: An Irreverent peek into Neopagan views of history.

[22] With concision, the core aspects of the Celtic spirit come to the fore in Laurie’s article entitled Following a Celtic Path (1995):

“First is reverence for Celtic deities…Second, connection with ancestors and land spirits…Third, poetry as intrinsic to the structure of magick…Fourth, a connection with the past…Fifth, a sense of early Celtic cosmology; doing things in terms of three realms rather than the classical Greek four elements, using Celtic symbols like triskeles and spirals rather than pentagrams, celebrating Celtic holidays rather than (or more deeply than) the holidays of other religions, threes and nines as ritually important, use of a sacred/cosmic tree and well combination. Much of this cosmology has had to be painstakingly reconstructed from fragmentary hints, and it goes back again to the argument that historical research is important to learning about and preserving the Celtic spirit. Sixth, I think that inclusiveness is important…Seventh, respect for women was a definite part of the Celtic spirit…Eighth, an appreciation of the complex and intricate…Ninth, personal responsibility and a deep sense of self are a part of the Celtic spirit.”

Please see Laurie, E.R. (1995). Following A Celtic Path.

[23] Please see Kondratiev, A. (1997). Basic Deity Types.

[24] Please see Laurie, E.R. (1998). The Cauldron of Poesy.

[25] Please see CELT: Corpus of Electronic Texts. (2015). CELT: Corpus of Electronic Texts.

[26] Please see Tuathail, S.A. (1993). Foclóir Draíochta – Dictionary of Druidism.

[27] Please see O’Dubhain, S. (1997). The Elements of the Dúile.

[28] Please see Nihtscada, A. (2014, November 22). The Druid Path; Frequently Asked Questions.

[29] Please see Awen Grove Canada. (2014). Learning About Modern Druidry.

[30] Ibidem.


In-Sight Publishing by Scott Douglas Jacobsen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License. Based on a work at


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