October 20, 2013

Hollis man starting a school to train people in druid priesthood

Druid College, set to open in Hollis next month, will teach Earth-spirituality connection.

By Leslie Bridgers lbridgers@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

HOLLIS — Kevin Emmons is a happily married software systems administrator who lives in the house where he was raised.

click image to enlarge

Kevin Emmons of Hollis, a druid, meditates. Modern druids believe in the divinity of nature.

Gordon Chibroski/ Staff Photographer

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Kevin Emmons, left, of Hollis, a druid, cloaks a participant in smoke from a burning bundle of sage during a weaving in the woods in Casco on Sept. 28.

Photo courtesy of Michael Eric Berube

Additional Photos Below

He’s also Snowhawke, a druid priest, who says he can experience God through a coffee mug and find divine inspiration in a leaf.

“Everything has a story,” said Emmons, a 47-year-old man with a slight build and bright eyes.

His starts in Hollis.

When Emmons was growing up, the brown cape by the Bar Mills hydrostation was a Christian home. Next month, it will become the Maine campus of Druid College, a program of study developed by Emmons and his colleague James Lawer, who began holding classes this weekend in his apartment in New York City.

Emmons, who started to question Christianity in high school and dabbled in Eastern religions as a young adult, first discovered druidism –which he and many druids today prefer to call druidry – when he bought a book for his wife by Emma Restall Orr, a prominent author and priest in the religion. Orr, who lives in England, happened to hold a lecture in Portland soon after and Emmons’ wife asked him to go with her. Five minutes into the talk, he said, he knew he had found a tradition that fit him.

Modern druidry – a set of pagan beliefs – doesn’t aim to re-create the rituals of the ancient Celtic religion but, rather, is inspired by it.

“We only know so much about what actually happened,” said Helen Berger, an expert in contemporary paganism and the resident scholar at Brandeis University’s Women’s Studies Research Center.

Furthermore, some of the practices associated with ancient druidism, such as animal sacrifices, “are things that modern day pagans would abhor,” she said.

“Many are vegetarians. They wouldn’t even eat chicken for dinner,” said Berger.

But the general objective of ancient druids was to preserve their heritage – as poets, teachers and healers.

Modern druids try to fill the same roles within their communities, as keepers of their culture, Emmons said.

Protecting nature, then, is paramount. And nature includes everything, Emmons said, from a human being to a hydrostation.

Berger said the divinity of nature, the interconnection of all things and an obligation to care for them are at the core of all pagan religions, whose popularity has been on the rise.

Americans’ generally increased interest in spirituality and popular television shows such as “Charmed” and “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” helped spur interest in paganism in the late 1990s, she said.

That rate of increase has slowed in recent years as “we’ve moved on to vampires,” Berger said, referring to the popular culture trend.

But the pagan population is still growing. Based on the American Religious Identification Survey and her own research, Berger estimates there are about 1.5 million pagans in the United States today and that just under 60,000 of them are druids, about double the number in 2008.

She said about 72 of those live in Maine.

Emmons said he knows only about a dozen. Including him and his wife, there are four members of his grove – the druid equivalent of a congregation.

Ten students have enrolled as members of the first class at Druid College, a three-year program that consists of weekend-long gatherings every other month.

Class time may be spent on anything from meditations to a presentation on permaculture, a more natural and sustainable method of agriculture, Emmons said.

Tuition is $500 per year, mostly to cover the cost of travel for Lawer to come from New York. People who can’t afford it won’t pay at all.

After two years, students can state their dedication to the community – the true meaning of priesthood in this religion.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

Kevin Emmons, right, of Hollis, plays the guitar as participants join hands and chant at the weaving in Casco.

Photo courtesy of Michael Eric Berube

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The fire glows at a gathering of druids.

Photo courtesy of Michael Eric Berube

 


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