'It's not about paganism'

The (London) Times, July 20,1999
By Tim Jones

THE Reverend Meirion Lewis, who says he has never seen Druids dancing naked beneath the full moon in an oak grove, yesterday defended the right of Bretons to worship in their own language.

Mr Lewis, the Archdruid of Wales, said it was "sad and tragic" that the French Druids were not officially allowed to chant and espouse their beliefs in their ancient tongue.

Having just returned from Brittany, where he helped the Druids to celebrate their founding, Mr Lewis, a Congregational minister and Archdruid of the Gorsedd of Wales, said language was a fundamental human right.

"It is really an issue of cultural and linguistic freedom and little to do with people worshipping pagan gods and dancing in the nude. I have certainly never encountered such practices in Llanelli."

Pagan practices predate Christianity in Britain by thousands of years. There are an estimated 100,000 active pagans in the country, about a quarter of them Druids. The rest could be classed as witches, Odinists and shamanists. The Pagan Federation says Druid orders draw their inspiration from Celtic traditions and Druids lay particular emphasis on poetry, healing, divination and mythology. There are about 35 Druid groups in Britain and about 300 more worldwide. There are three kinds of Druidic practice: "bard" or poet, "ovate" or prophet and "druid" or celebrant.

The French Druids face many hurdles before becoming British citizens. All applicants must have knowledge of English, Welsh, or Scottish Gaelic. There is no mention of Breton.

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