Past the Hill of the Three Oaks, beyond the Recreation Center, sits a collection of large rocks in a circle. This site is known as the Druid Circle, and its origins provide an interesting insight into the nature of the college.
The story begins in the early 1960s, when Carleton students were required to attend weekly religious services in the chapel or face disciplinary consequences. In response to this policy, in the spring of 1963 a group of students organized a new religious organization called the Reformed Druids of North America. They gathered every Saturday at either the Druid Circle or the Hill of Three Oaks to share thoughts, reflections, and whiskey.
The group never intended to mock religion, but instead wanted to create an environment that was welcoming to all students and all religious beliefs. Although it started as a protest against a mandatory church attendance policy, the Druids soon became a search for spirituality in nature.
The group quickly gained popularity and even acquired an advisor. The students tried to turn in their mandatory “chapel slips” to get approval of their Druid meetings. That approach put the dean of students in a difficult situation. If the dean signed the slips, then he was approving the meetings. If he did not, then he risked charges of religious bigotry. So the dean simply ignored the request. The following year, Carleton changed its religious attendance policy.
When the founding students graduated, they founded new groves of the Reformed Druids of North America in various cities. Today, a few thousand reformed Druids are believed to exist around the country, and the Druids are still at Carleton College.