David Fisher to the Carleton Grove of the RDNA

13 April 1970


Brothers and Sisters:

I understand from Reverend Brother Shelton that certain aspects of the history of the Druids have been lost. To fill that lamentable gap, I am writing the following epistle.

You should understand first of all that Jan Johnson, author in large part of the Chronicles, because of the style he chose, had of necessity to alter a number of early events. David Frangquist, the second Arch-Druid, codified and printed the Chronicles and added much material, but Johnson is responsible for the main body of material. He was, or is, a Druid of the Second Order, and served at one time as Preceptor. He chose not to fully record, in particular, the origin of the R.D.N.A. in full detail.

Even the Chronicles can not disguise that R.D.N.A. was at least in part understood as a protest movement against the then religious attendance requirement at Carleton. The thought was that if no credit was extended, we could claim religious bigotry on the part of the Administration; if it was extended, on the other hand, we could reveal the frivolous origin of the cult.

For you must understand that whatever Frangquist made out of it, Reformed Druidism was originally the product of an interest of mine in Celtic and Norse mythology, and of Norman Nelson and Howard Cherniack’s interest in setting up a quasi-religious body. It began over a dinner table in April, and I held the first service on May Day. I never claimed any special consecration by a Druid in England, nor did I ever claim a vision or an inspiration. I simply proclaimed the glories of the Earth Mother and held services, constructed largely out of my imagination.

You will not have any of my early meditations; they were never written down. Basically, they upheld a panentheism, a general admonition to practise inwardness, and were originally intended to simply be as general as possible without offending anyone. They only became more intense and serious when I discovered that some of the persons who had come to laugh had found real meaning in the service.

Despite all of this, however, I think that it is to David Franquist, far more than any of the three founders, that #rdnayou owe your continued existence. Howard Cherniack soon lost interest and drifted away, once the requirement was abolished. Norman Nelson was a great lover of ritual and form for itself, but he shared with me a worry lest Druidism become too serious. I do not know what his current attitudes are.

For myself, I can only say that although I no longer hold services, nor am involved in a grove, I consider myself to retain much of the spirit of the original movement. Druidism’s open and flexible character is part of my own theological outlook, which I attempt to incorporate as a Christian theologian. I would not in principle object to holding a service if I were ever at Carleton, for example; it is simply that my spiritual needs are currently being met by something which seems to have more substance and more depth. Indeed, when Druidism began to get “serious”, Norman and I agreed that it would be well worth the trouble if the R.D.N.A. served as a way-station for homo viator, a place to be used for temporary refreshment and nourishment, perhaps, during years when alienation from more conventional forms of religion was greatest, but not as a final resting place. We would have been far more definite in formulating our tenets had we intended the R.D.N.A. to be a self-sufficient religion. The tenets, in fact, as embodied in the Constitution, are the only remaining contribution of Howard Cherniack, and may reflect his lawyer’s desire to frame a deliberately flexible instrument.

Some other marginal notes may be of interest. The higher orders were suggested Norman Nelson (his love of ritual perhaps getting the better of him) and given their names by Frangquist. The reversable chasuble was made and designed by Barbara Beahm, a Second Order Druid. The altar was build of discarded stones near the monument on Monument Hill, and torn down within a day of its building.

There are other sidelights that I could add, but I think this forms the substance of what I had intended to say. If you have the time, I should appreciate hearing from as many of you as care to write to me just what R.D.N.A. means to you. As founder, I feel a certain responsibility for all Druids, and your current ideas would greatly interest me.

Finally, as Patriarch of Grannos, let me mention that any of you who feel especially called to the work of healing, whether in a physical or other sense, and can journey to St. Louis, will, upon due thought, be welcomed by me into the Order of Grannos.


Patriarch of Grannos
13 April 1970

Afterword from the editor

The original of this letter is in the Druid Archives at Carleton College. It has been rendered into HTML, with a few hyperlinks added for references and lightly edited (spelling corrections, fixed obvious typos) by Glenn McDavid, who was Server of the Carleton Grove at the time.


  1. Richard M. Shelton, Arch-Druid of Carleton, 1969-1971.
  2. This refers to a break in the continuity of Carleton Arch-Druids during 1967-68, which is discussed by Michael Scharding in A General History of Reformed Druidism in America, part VIII of A Reformed Druid Anthology. See Chapter Three, page 346. This letter was not in the first edition of ARDA, but was included in the second as “Fisher’s Farewell.” I have added it to this website because of my personal involvement in the RDNA at that time, and also because ARDA 2 is a massive volume that can be difficult to search. As the original D.D.T. (Dean of Druidic Textology— see ARDA) I think this document deserves special attention.
  3. R.D.N.A. and Druids in this letter both refer to the Reformed Druids of North America.
  4. The Druid Chronicles. Currently available as Part I of A Reformed Druid Anthology