Most Layonarans have a stereotypical image of druids: druids are nature loving elven defenders of forests and worshippers of Katia. As druids can be quite reclusive, the visibility of druids such as Legodia of the White Horn Forest and Freckled Owl of the Wolfswood Forest certainly lends support to this stereotype. But do not be fooled, druids are an extraordinarily diverse group.
The one thing that druids most certainly do have in common is that they derive power and all of their amazing abilities from nature. Many think that druids control nature. This is not true. Rather than standing outside of nature's energies seeking to dominate them, druids strive for harmony and unity with nature. Many think that this means druids have some supernatural gift, a heightened connection with nature. For all but the most powerful druids this is not true either. Most druids aren't magically engrained into nature. Rather, they are simply more aware of the connections -which everyone shares -to the various ecosystems they find themselves in. This awareness of connectivity allows druids to feel energy coursing through their bodies and spirits. With increasing focus and awareness, druids become able to channel these flows and connections through the force of their well-trained will. During this process, nature's force is channeled toward ritualistically established forms. Some of them are astounding and to most onlookers seem magical. When a druid morphs into a bear or wolf before your eyes for the first time, or when she makes grabbing vines grow miraculously from the earth to snatch up your feet, you will be amazed. Druids can focus weather and materialize thick tree-bark around almost any living thing. They can twist energy into a barrier against magic or suspend a creature in a similar swirling flow. As awareness and focus increases, druids also become more in tune with the fundamental elements which compose all things, living and inanimate. As such, and with great concentration, a druid can transform herself into a pure form of these elements and maintain her mind and spirit.
To druids Layonara is alive. They see the world as a complex whole, an intricate individual entity of which we are all just individual parts. Druidic philosophy asserts that we must all strive to find our function within this system for the sake of our own awareness and joy as well as the balance and health of the world. For many, this entity is represented by The Great Oak. Druids across Layonara bind symbols of the oak to themselves and their sacred areas as an aid to focus and a reminder of their identity. Symbols and poems of the Great Oak also find their way into many of the highly secretive druidic rituals. Outsiders have only glimpsed their practices, so little is known of them. What is known suggests that these rituals range from moonlight harvests to bathing to dancing. Meditation and chanting are crucial druidic practices, which are often oriented around thoughts and words of the Great Oak as well. It is from the Great Oak that the first two treants, the Tree Fathers, were born.
The belief system of spiritual harmony and direct connection with nature predisposes druids to be less attached to the gods than many other Layonarans. You will of course find druids among the ranks of worshipers of Katia, Aeridin, Shindaleria, Ilsare and many others. But a druid is less likely to be a fervent follower than a cleric whose powers derive directly from the blessings of her or his deity. Katia, for example, personifies nature, and as such can give a druid a very powerful and tangible point of will focus. But a druid's strength is not gifted from Katia herself. A common druidic philosophy is that the gods themselves are a product of a confluence of natural forces. They evolved. It is considered blasphemous by many and in some places gives druids a hated outsider status, but to them the gods themselves emerged from nature and are in many ways subordinated to its fundamental flows and connections. Thus, druids are not always worshipers of Katia as is commonly thought, and even those that are may view worship in an entirely different light than others.
It is also a stereotype to assume that all druids have some sort of innate awareness which becomes evident at some point in their life. This may be true for a few, but not for all. There are three primary means by which the druidic awareness and connectivity is established. The first, mentioned previously, is an innate ability. As young children these druids are often drawn to plants and animals, and plants and animals likewise seem drawn to them. It is unknown how this innate ability arrives within an individual, but these druids have a tendency to be the strongest. This is not because they are more gifted than others, but simply because they have had more time to grow accustomed to their talents.
The second means is through cultivation. Offspring of druid and ranger parents are often lovingly encouraged to experiment with nature and revel in its joys. They grow up with animals as friends and the forest as their nursery. They feel the love of their parents channeled through the living and growing things around them and yearn for this love. Some druids have been trained at older ages, but it is much more difficult. When an individual reaches a certain age, she or he is encouraged to view the world through the eyes of an individual in a world of objects to be manipulated rather than a part of an interconnected flow of intensities.
The third means is through a calling. Although, as said above, it is hard for individuals to become druids at later stages of their lives, some nevertheless do. Most of these cases follow traumatic events such as the death of a close loved-one or a near-death experience. In these cases the shell of the person is cracked and new forces come rushing in. Trauma can cause a radical reconfiguration of the substance of a person, and if druidic forces are present during this time then healing can take that form.
The image of the forest-defending elf is also an exceptionally limited view of the diversity of Layonaran druids. Druids can and do come from every race. Related to this, druids can also be intimately associated with a wide variety of habitats. There are deep gnome and dwarf druids who feel most connected to cave ecologies. There are human desert druids and giant mountain druids. There are sea elf ocean druids and dwarven canyon dwelling druids. There are even said to be dark elf and deep dwarf druids who find splendor in the ecosystems of the Deep. The potential diversity is astounding. Likewise, druids don't always find themselves in the roles of defending wilderness territories. Some may be guardians of sacred groves, but others may be wise advisors to monarchs. One druid may be a cunning master of many shapes and another may be a hunter. Many druids wander the lands in search of animals to befriend while others may reside in cities and practice druidic philosophy at every opportunity. Some druids are outlaws, vigilantes, savages, while others are negotiators and pacifists.
Besides their connection to nature, the one thing that unifies this diverse population is the complex, and highly secretive, druidic political order. Each druid has a place within this order, and this place is negotiated and re-established at annual meetings somewhere on Dregar and in more frequent local gatherings. It is said that there is an Arch-Druid, a sort of druidic administrator, who serves as the central unifying agency. His presence in a druid's life is far less tangible than a High-Druid, who may be the representative of a local grove or forest. These posts are more formal in nature than functional, however, as the connectivity between druids and all living things is the true source of all druidic organizing.
Internal Organizational Structure
The internal structure of the Druids is hierarchical and can be very well represented by a tree as detailed here.
- The lower trunk and the roots represent the Great Oak, which is the heart of nature in Layonara. The roots of the Great Oak connect with all their roots in Layonara via the paths of nature and elements. The roots also connect to the ocean and underground druids.
- The higher trunk represents the Arch Druid of Layonara also known as the Hierophant. He or she is the most tuned in to nature and has the responsibility to insure that nature on all of Layonara is being protected. All sects of druids report to the Hierophant via the High Druids of each sect and the High Druids of East, West, Oceans and Underground.
- The trunk splits into four branches, one which represents the High Druid of the West, another represent the High Druid of the East, the third the high Druid of the Ocean, and the last the High Druid of the Underground. These Druids all answer directly to the Hierophant and oversee druid sects in their part of the world. The West Druid controls Mistone, Dragon Isles, and Alindor-and all nearby islands (including The Forsaken Islands). The East Druid controls Dregar, the islands that make up the Rohden Alliance, Belinara, and Voltrex. The Ocean Druid controls the Oceans. The Underground druid controls the caverns and such that are deep underground.
- The two branches representing East and West split further into a total of seven branches. Each branch represents a High Druid of each continent of Layonara, Mistone, Alindor, Dregar, Belinara, Voltrex, the isles that make up Rohden, and the Dragon Isles. These High Druids oversee the sects of druids on the continents and islands nearest those continents.
- These High Druids oversee the sects of druids on the continents and islands nearest those continents. The High Druids on these branches report to the High Druid of the East or West. The Ocean and Underground druids control their own sects and report to the Hierophant as well.
- The seven branches split into more branches, each of these represent each major geographical point on Layonara. There is a druid appointed to each point which is where the effort of that druid is focused. For example, there is a druid of the Silkwood Forest, a druid of the White Horn Forest, a druid of the Hammerbound Peaks, a druid of The Great Desert etc. The druid of a geographical point oversees the sect of druids within that area.
- On each branch there are leaves. Each leaf represents an individual Druid in Layonara. Each individual druid falls under a sect that oversees a geographical point in Layonara and answers to the druid of that location.
Druids are appointed to positions in the hierarchy and may hold that position until such a time as they no longer want it, are promoted, fall from grace, or succumb to death. At which time, another druid is carefully selected to continue that positions duties.
The Hierophant is able to contact an Animal Lord (such as the Bird Lord) at any time through nature and doing so allows her or him to spread messages via the animals or birds at a rapid rate.
An annual meeting is held on each of the six major locations on Layonara. During that meeting druids are shifted from position to position or dismissed entirely. From this annual meeting another meeting is held on Dregar for the East and West branches to plan and socialize. After that meeting the two leaders of each branch then travel to the Great Oak to meet and update the Hierophant.
There are several objectives of the Druids. These are:
- It is every druid's duty and obligation to care for, protect, and nurture nature. Balance and neutrality are at the core of this protection.
- It is a druid's duty and responsibility to protect nature from needless exploitation and willful damage. There is neutrality and balance that comes with this responsibility as the hierarchy of druids knows that nature is needed to gain sustenance and create living environments for humanity.
- Druids are also expected to help teach others in the ways of nature and enable them to learn about the harms of inflicting harm on nature and destroying the balance.
- Balance will supply the means to keep the balance. Always strive for balance in nature.
How to achieve these objectives
In order to accomplish these objectives effectively and efficiently, a part of every druids training is to learn how to be in touch with all of nature and how to hone that connection. A part of this training involves learning how to enter a spiritual relationship with all aspects of nature. It is during this training that druids quickly learn that anything that is unnatural on their body harms their connection to nature. It is due to this connection that druids have their power and wisdom and thus the hierarchy has placed the following rules so that at any time a druid may be contacted via nature or the birds and the Bird Lord.
- A druid may only wear natural clothing, to include wood, leather, fur, silk, feathers, gems and jewelry, or other animal parts. They are not to wear refined material such as metal as that harms the connection with nature.
- Druids may only use natural material for shields.
- Druids may use any ranged weapon that is not refined or that does not use objects that may harm the connection with nature. Such objects may include pulleys, or metal. Acceptable ranged weapons at this time are slings, shortbows, or longbows. Crossbows and their like are not accepted as they harm the connection with nature. Compound longbows are not allowed either due to their refinement process. As a note, Archery is not considered Druidic, but the use of basic bows and simple arrows, such as fishing arrows, does not harm the connection with nature.
- Druids may use any natural weapon that comes from nature and is not processed. Examples include staves, clubs, branches, whips that are not made of metal, sickles since their blades are sharpened stone. They may not use weapons that are not natural or that have been processed or refined except for the following allowance. NWN Note: Mechanically, stone weapons (such as stone bullets for slings) do not exist in-game (IG), the lone exception being a stone dagger. However, the use of metal sickles and sling bullets is allowed, with the caveat that the weapon in question is role-played as being made of stone. Otherwise, the only metal weapon a druid would use is a scimitar, as noted below.
- In part of keeping the balance of nature the hierarchy realizes that a druid may need to fight creatures that are resistant to their normal blunt style weapons. As such the hierarchy has determined that the use of a scimitar should be allowed for the protection of a druid. This is the only processed and refined weapon that is allowed to be used by a druid.
- Druids should be aware of how they use their training in Animal Empathy. Senselessly leading animals into combat or in some way using the skill to disrupt the balance of nature goes against the Druidic ways.