Just me thinking out loud again:
To be honest modern Druidry feels a bit all-over-the-place. You have your formal Druid Colleges and formal Orders on one hand, and on the other you have the very personal amorphous informal solitary path of Druidy where anything is allowed and no previous experience is required since it’s just you. There is however the tacit rule that, much like for Hackerdom, one cannot call one’s self a Druid. The title is given when recognised by others.
So what makes that any different from anything else? Just look again at hackerdom – there are ‘formal colleges’ (MIT, CalTech, etc.) and ‘orders’ (IEEE or W3C), but then there are those who are starting-out, learning to program on their own – with a possibility to contribute more widely through the Open Source movement. But again unanimously, you can’t call yourself a hacker.
In fact, come to think of it – that rule of not being able to ‘self-proclaim’ seems to be at the heart of the concept of a diploma – you’re not conferring upon yourself the title of ‘Bachelor of XYZ’ or ‘Master of XYZ’ – it is the institution you attended which confers it upon you if it deems you to have successfully followed and assimilated its teachings.
Sure, that makes sense. Anyone going around telling others “I’m an expert in ______” will probably be ignored or rejected. Why? Because it’s too easy to call ourselves anything we like. It’s absurd – I can call myself the Grand Poobah of the Order of Ziggleburf – or I can go for something a little more ‘common’ and therefore misleading, like Pastor, Minister, or Father.
So in the end, you gotta ask yourself what the hell does it matter what you call yourself or are called by others? What counts is what you do, and where you pour your time and attention. If someone comes to you because they feel you’re knowledgeable in an area they find interesting and would like you to teach them, the best you can do is teach them to do the same thing you did: figure it out for themselves. But can you confer a title upon them once you feel they’ve gone far enough to walk on their own path? Again, what does it matter?
Who came up with the name Druid? Not the druids. “Druid” comes from ‘Dru-‘ which is a cognate of the English word ‘true’ and also means oak/tree and ‘wid’ which means seer – so a druid is a true seer, or one who knows the truth. How does this tie-in to the Oak? Oak trees are an excellent source of wood – used to make ships and buildings. The Dru-wid might have been ‘that guy who knows which oak will be good for cutting’ – with that kind of mystic reverence others might have had for the druid’s knowledge of such details. A successful dru-wid might be particularly good at choosing the optimal oak trees which were built into legendary long ships? That seems plausible but has absolutely no supporting evidence – I’m just speculating. But it is interesting that ‘dru’ meant in Anglo Saxon, both ‘truth’ and ‘tree’ I can’t really see why other than some kind of idea that a sturdy tree stands in the face of howling winds just as truth stands up to scrutiny?
So perhaps druids today should (they already do don’t they?) keep to Truth – as a point of honour, and especially True sight. That, after all, is what we all seek on our spiritual paths. Everything else feels kind of superfluous to me. But what do I know? Nothing much and Much of Nothing.