Pursuing the Salmon of Wisdom

The Sacred in Folk Botanical Knowledge Revival among Modern Druids


  • Kimberly D. Kirner California State University Northridge




folk knowledge, Druids, pagan, ethnobotany, local ecological knowledge, sustainability


I investigate the relationship between the revival of practical folk knowledge and the construction of a spiritual-magical worldview within the context of a Western religious movement, Druidry. Ethnographic and survey research were conducted over a two-year period (N=164). I ?rst explain how the construction, transmission, and use of knowledge are treated as sacred acts and how learning about other beings is a path to spiritual development. I discuss this form of contemporary animism as simultaneously a code of ethics, an epistemology aligned with the production of traditional ecological knowledge, and a spiritual ontology. I then describe the primary ways in which Druids interact with and generate knowledge about plants, drawing from both Western science and spiritual practices. Finally, I explore the challenges arising from attempts to live animist ethics within the context of Western capitalism and a still-forming religious tradition, and the potential or promise of greater sustainability in doing so.

Author Biography

  • Kimberly D. Kirner, California State University Northridge
    Kimberly Kirner, PhD, is a cultural anthropologist specializing in environmental anthropology, applied cognitive anthropology, and medical anthropology. She is interested in understanding interrelationships between cognition, emotion, and decision-making; the construction of identity and community; landscape and worldview; and the way cultural systems of knowledge interact with policy and large-scale systems to impact human behavior. An Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology at California State University Northridge, she teaches Visions of the Sacred, an introductory class on magic, witchcraft, and religion, and a variety of upper division and graduate courses in theory, methodology, and applied anthropology. Her research has focused on the political ecology of the American West rangelands; the cultural modeling of health care-seeking behavior in minority religious traditions; and the relationship between ritual, belief, and sustainable behaviors in Pagan traditions. In addition to her academic work, Kimberly has worked as an applied anthropologist in program design, evaluation, and fund development for the non-profit and government sectors.






How to Cite

Kirner, K. D. (2016). Pursuing the Salmon of Wisdom: The Sacred in Folk Botanical Knowledge Revival among Modern Druids. Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture, 9(4), 448-482. https://doi.org/10.1558/jsrnc.v9i4.25814