3 Oct 2010

Druids given religious status

10:51 am on 3 October 2010

The pagan Druid belief system is being granted official recognition as a religion in Britain.

The UK Charity Commission has decided that Druidry's worship of natural spirits offers a coherent moral framework, and so deserves the benefits of charitable status.

Druidry is one the first known spiritual practices in Britain, and druids existed in Celtic societies elsewhere in Europe as well.

The Druid Network's charitable status entitles it to tax breaks, but the organisation says it does not earn enough to benefit from this.

The commission says the network's work in promoting druidry as a religion is in the public interest.

The chairman of the trustees of the Druid Network, Phil Ryder, told the BBC that the organisation only applied because it was legally obliged to do so, nevertheless, he said, it is nice to have official recognition.

The organisation asks £10 for membership, and Mr Ryder said that meant it had to apply for charitable status, because the Inland Revenue want to know what you're doing with the money.

Senior druid King Arthur Pendragon said he would not be seeking charitable status for his own order - the Loyal Arthurian Warband - as it was a political wing and therefore had no need to be recognised as a charity.

Druidry's followers are not restricted to one god or creator, but worship the spirit they believe inhabits the earth and forces of nature such as thunder, the BBC reports.

Druids also worship the spirits of places, such as mountains and rivers, with rituals focused particularly on the turning of the seasons.