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|| THE DRUIDS EXAMINED
standing charismatically within the Stonehenge horseshoe became a
compelling magnet for many a psychological misfit and lonely crank..."
--The Druids by Stuart Piggot (not Peter Ellis, as one viewer insisted), PG 23
Even though Wiccans make up the majority of the Neopagan movement, I feel I should also mention the ancient Druids and the modern "Neodruids". No doubt you have heard of the Druids. Druids are often confused with Satanism and Wicca. Perhaps one reason is Satanists have claimed some kind of link to the Druids and used titles like "Druid" when conferring degrees of membership in some Satanic groups. The one man show calling himself "The Continental Association For Satan’s Hope" of the 1980's claimed a connection to the Druids of ancient Britain that was just as phony as the rest of their claims.
Some Wiccan groups too, confer the title Druid upon reaching a certain level. Gavin and Yvonne Frost, for instance, used to claim they were "Arch-Druids". But Wicca actually has no connection at all to the Druids of ancient Britain. The religion of the Druids has little resemblance to Wicca or Satanism, from what little we know of it. . There are also groups calling themselves "Druidic Wiccans", combining romantic ideas of Druidism (along with lots of imagination and borrowing from other sources) with Wicca. This will only further confuse the two.
Wicca was created (and is still being created) in the first part of the 20th century A.D., whereas the Druids actually existed in ancient times. So while Wicca pretends to be an ancient religion, Druidism was...but has been long since abandoned.
Today there is a flood of psuedo-Celtic occult malarkey on the market. There are books about Merlin, Druids, Arthur and the Holy Grail, none of which are based in reality.The Book The 21 Lessons of Merlin could have no more been written by Merlin than Soupy Sales. But Lewellyn, the culprit responsible for a good portion of these Celtic forgeries, continues to crank it out.
There is really not that much known about the actual words said in the rituals of Druids, and what we do know about their rituals from contemporary sources is not very flattering. These so-called "Celtic wisdom" books are neither. Most of the material is simply made up or borrowed from other occult sources, such as European occultism, New Age, and Wicca. In 1988 Lewellyn published a book called The Celtic Tree Oracle: A System of divination by Colin and Liz Murray. The book makes the bold assertion that Druids used the Ogham alphabet for magic inscriptions and fortunetelling dating from 600 B.C. The truth is, no one knows if the Druids used Ogahm for fortunetelling and magic, and if so, how it was done, and there is no actual evidence it existed prior to the 4th Century A.D..
Commenting on that book, Peter Berresford Ellis says this on speculating about Celtic culture
"...one can only do so from a basis of what is known, and not from what one would wish to know. There is simply no evidence that Ogham was used prior to the third or fourth centuries A.D. as much as one would like to find records from 600 B.C." [ SOURCE The Druids, pg 279]
Ogham is in fact, a gift of Christian missionaries to the Druids of the British Isles, who were illiterate. Some Druids on the European continent seem to have used the Greek alphabet. We have few records about the Druids, because the Celts abandoned the Druid religion.
In fact, all one has to do is slap a Celtic label on anything to suddenly make it Pagan. Author Peter Berrresford Ellis once attended a lecture billed as "Celtic Astrology", only to find out it was about Crop Circles. After the lecture, the presenter admitted he called it "Celtic" just to get a bigger audience.
The very word "Celtic" conjures up images of a carefree time before Christianity, with an esoteric wisdom stretching back to the dawn of time. There are lots of companies wanting to cash in on doe eyed Celitphiles with cash, and these companies crank out all kinds of books, spell kits, CD’s, and even Tarot decks to satisfy the demand. Most of what is called "Celtic tradition" should be called "American imagination".
The British, among others, have romanticized the Druids, and this certainly does not help things. Much of the writings of Druids from the 1700's on or so ranges from theory and speculation, to outright forgery. An example of this type of romanticizing in it’s most extreme form is a spurious apocryphal "missing" 29th chapter to the book of Acts which says in verse 13.
"And it shall come to pass that certain of the Druids came unto Paul privately, and showed by their rites and ceremonies that they were descended from Jews which escaped from bondage in the land of Egypt, and the Apostle believed these things, and he gave them the kiss of peace."
This is so obviously a fake, and anyone could see why. Paul would have never embraced the Druid worship of Pagan gods and human sacrifice, and the work is no doubt the product of 19th century "British Israelite" types desperate to establish a link between the Celts and the Israelites. I have to wonder what the forger of this verse was thinking when he wrote it when he wrote of how Paul saw a similarity between the Jews and the Druids. Was it the human sacrifice, or the worship of oak trees that convinced him??? No one with any common sense takes this forgery seriously.
So Who Were The Druids Really?
The Druids served three functions in Celt society; as teachers of traditions, as lawgivers and settlers of disputes, and as calender makers. It is possible the stories of the legendary sorcerer Merlin is based on an actual 8th century B.C. Druid. (AR)
Like Wiccans, Druids are often confused with Satanists. And of course, the Druidism of today, like Wicca, involves some history revision as well. What we know about Druids is sketchy, and mostly from the pre-Christian (i.e. Pagan) sources. Since the Druids were illiterate until Christian missionaries educated them in Ireland, they left no written record.
We do have some accounts of the Druids from contemporary sources. These descriptions come from the Romans and the Greeks. Because of romanticizing of Celt/Druid culture by modern writers, much of these writings are being dismissed. The general take of the Celts by the Romans and Greeks seem to be that the Celts were tough, fearless, illiterate, usually drunk, and had considered human life cheap. They were said to be formidable foes in battle. Sometimes one Celt soldier would throw himself on the spear of an enemy, sacrificing himself so another Celt could kill the enemy.
The Druids were the Priestly cast of the Celtic peoples. We usually think of Druids as being located in the British Isles, but they also inhabited Gaul, and could just as easily be identified with the French. In fact the Celtic territory stretched all the way to modern day Turkey and the Ukraine at it’s height, around 475 B.C. We know little about the Druids, because they were illiterate. It wasn’t until the arrival of Christian missionaries that the Celts developed an alphabet. It was a primitive script, consisting of marks made on a straight line.
They did seem to possess the ability to make calenders, like many primitive people at that time did. The Aztecs and Mayans for instance, made even better Calendars than the Druids, left no written record, and were even more bloodthirsty in their sacrifices. Druid traditions were transmitted orally. What little bit of information we do have on the Druids was preserved by the Christian missionary, St. Patrick. Ironically, Patrick is considered somewhat of a villain by Neodruid types nowadays. Had it not been for Patrick, we would know of even less of the Druids.
The word Celt can mean many different things. It can mean a group of peoples who spoken the Celtic Language or their descendants. It can mean the people of prehistoric Europe who shared some common cultural traits. The term 'Celtic nations' usually describes Wales, Ireland, Scotland, Cornwall, the Isle of Man and England, but France and Spain were Celtic as well. The British Isles today are populated mostly of decedents from Celtic people, according to modern DNA tests.
Did The Druids Build Stonehenge?
The Druids were the ancient priests and priestesses and the judicial class of the ancient Celts. Stonehenge was already ancient when the Druid religion came along. That is not to say it wasn’t built by Celts, but that the Druid religion probably didn’t exist yet when it was built. In ancient times the Celts probably practiced a religion when knowledge of the sun’s position was important, since they did not understand the sun was basically just a big ball of fire, not a god.
Commenting on Stonehenge, Ronald Hutton says,
"To sum it up, it is clear that at particular times and places in British and Irish prehistory the cardinal points of the sun, and particularly the winter solstice, had considerable ritual importance. None the less, the vast majority of prehistoric monuments do not relate to any of them, so that no overall or enduring pattern of cult can be detected. Furthermore, a considerable gulf separates all these monuments from the pre-Roman British Iron Age, not one of the temples yet has been found to have possessed a significant solar alignment." [Stations of the Sun by Ronald Hutton, page 5]
There is also much evidence to suggest Greek influence of Stonehenge in it’s building. Did the Druids build Stonehenge? It’s very unlikely they would have had the knowledge or skills to do so. In any case, Stonehenge was not part of a wide spread solar cult.
There is also no evidence to suggest the Druids actually performed any religious rituals there. This is due in part by a book published around 1742 by Dr. William Stuckley. Stuckley based this idea from an unpublished manuscript he read by another historian named Aubrey(?) But Stuckley took Aubrey’s mere suggestion and ran with it as though it were fact. Commenting on a Stonhenge/Druid connection, author and historian Sturat Piggot said:
" The association of the monument and the priesthood has become so established a piece of English folklore that it is forgotten that it’s origins lie no earlier than the late seventeenth century..." (The Druids, Page 88)
There were of course, many legends surrounding the monument at Salisbury. One unlikely legend was that Merlin no less had transported the stones from Ireland by magic as a memorial to slain English nobles. (Op cite Pg 88) . The legends of Druids using Stonehenge are simply one of may legends about the stones. More than likely, the cite was abandoned by the time the Celts began practicing Druidism. The eye witness accounts of Caesar and Strabo make no mention of Stonehenge being used by the Druids. Nor do the later writings of St. Patrick mention a connection between the Druids and Stonehenge. Nevertheless, if you see a book or website about the Druids, it will probably have a picture of Stonehenge on it. What is even less unlikely is a connection to Wicca and Stonehenge since Wicca didn’t exist until 1939 A.D. at the very earliest in a "proto-Wicca" form.
The Druid Religion
Ancient Druidism involved the worship and veneration of heads or skulls, fire worship, worship of oak trees, and human sacrifice. It was barbaric, uncivilized, and far from containing anything scientific or progressive as modern Neodruids would have you think. Skulls seem to have been a particular fascination for the Druids, as it was for primitive "headhunter" tribes in the rainforest and elsewhere. It wasn’t uncommon for Celt building to have depictions of human skulls and skeletons displayed. At Roquepertuse in France, a Celtic sanctuary dating from the 3rd Century B.C. was discovered with niches in the pillars with actual human skulls still in them. The threshold of a Celt building dating from before 123 B.C. was discovered at Entremont, Provence, and is decorated with carvings depicted severed human heads and also contains niches for actual human skulls.(1) Here is an eyewitness description of the barbaric headhunting practices of the ancient Celts:
"They cut of the heads of enemies slain in battle and attach them to the necks of their horses. The blood-stained spoils they hand over to their attendants and carry off as booty, while striking up a paean and singing a song of victory; and they nail up these first fruits upon their houses, just as do those who lay low wild animals in certain kinds of hunting. They embalm in cedar oil the heads of the most distinguished enemies, and preserve them carefully in a chest, and display them with pride to strangers, saying that for this head one of their ancestors, or his father, or the man himself, refused the offer of a large sum of money. They say that some of them boast that they refused the weight of the head in gold; thus displaying what is only a barbarous kind of magnanimity, for it is not a sign of nobility to refrain from selling the proofs of one's valour. It is rather true that it is bestial to continue one's hostility against a slain fellow man."
(from Diodorus Siculus, History 1st. Century A.D.)
The First British Rock Idols
When we hear about British rock idols today, we might think about Def Leppard or The Beatles (or someone more recent if you're not as ancient as I am). The Celts had a different kind of rock idol in Druid times. They didn't have any hits and you couldn't get an autograph from one. Large stones seem to have been particularly fascinating for the Druids. There are many accounts of the Druids holding large stones to be objects of worship. Herodian noted that at a Druid sun temple of Emasa near Tyre, "There is no image, as among the Greeks and Romans, to represent the gods, but an exceeding large stone, round at the bottom, and terminating in a point, of conical form, and black color" An account of a a Druid temple called Magh-slecht was named so from an idol worshiped there, named Crom-cruiath. It was described in an old manuscript as "A stone capped with gold, about which stand twelve other rough stones." Like many primitive people, the Celts worshiped stones in a form of animism, believing they were gods. They weren't, they were just stones.
Some later writers balked at the idea of Druids worshiping stone idols because the practice seems so ignorant and primitive...although may other cultures from that era did. The earliest eyewitness accounts have this to be the case. There have been many large standing stones found throughout the British Iles which remain to this day.
There were also carved images worshiped by the Celts as well. There were some later writers who attempted to make the Druids into something they weren't, and claimed the Druids had no idols. French writer Jean Reynauld , for instance, claimed the Gauls (Celts) had no graven images of any sort. Certainly this contradicts discoveries to the contrary, including a bowl with Cernunnos on it discovered in France. A description of Celt idol worship is recorded in Folly of Pilgrimage about a wooden idol carved and painted like a woman, kept in the house of the O'Herleby family in Barleyvourney, Cork County.
People desperate to be cured of illness sometimes sent for it, not unlike how people of today fall for quack cancer cures. Richardson noted that the superstitous cult would sacrficed live sheep to the idol. In Neal Park, Mayo County, Ireland were discovered two idols, one carevd like a lion, the other like a goat. This is what Celtic "magic" is about; idol worship, animal sacrifices to wooden images, and worship of rocks. No slick glossy books from Llewellyn, no tarot cards, no meditating with crystals.
Much is written by later writers about the Druids and serpent worship, but like most think about the Druids, isn't true. Apparently this story arose due to the legend of St. Patrick driving all the snakes out of Ireland. This story is just folklore, and shouldn't be taken seriously. Patrick never mentions driving the snakes out of Ireland in his surviving writings, and it's just simply a legend.
It is true thre are no snakes in Ireland, not even today, but this is because Ireland has a climate too cold for snakes. The story about St. Patrick and the snakes arose probably to explain why there were no snakes in Ireland. Later writers who romanticized the Druids claimed that snakes were a symbol of the Druidic religion, and that the story arose symbolizing St. Patrick's triumph over Paganism. Oblong glass spheres supposedly worn by Druids were turned into "crystals shaped like serpent's eggs" by writers. It's possible Druids in other countries knew about snakes, but not in Ireland.
The Druids were associated with trees more than anything, not snakes. The Irish Druids probably had no idea what a snake even was! So neither the story about St. Patrick driving out the snakes, is true, nor the idea that the story was created as "Christian propaganda" to symbolize St. Patrick's defeat of Druid power true either.
Fire, Trees, and Severed Heads
The Celtic headhunters venerated the image of the severed head as a continuing source of spiritual power. Severed heads were venerated by the Celts like an idol. The Druids believed the head was where the soul was located, so the head of an enemy killed in battle was even more lucky.
Fire was considered sacred by the Druids, and on certain Druid holidays, only the Druids themselves, not the common folk, were allowed to make fire. The Druids charged the people money for fire on these "holy nights". Anyone caught making fire on their own was put to death. Some of these superstitions about fire carried over into modern times. Since having fire could literally mean the difference between life and death sometimes, the people were at the Druid’s mercy. During the middle ages, it has been noted that superstitious people believed a person taking fire from someone’s house on the summer equinox would get power over the family inside. The belief grew out of this superstition that if someone requested fire from someone’s house on that night, they must have been a witch. So it was the carryover of this superstition from Pagan times that got people accused of witchcraft. There is no belief in the Christian faith about taking fire from someone’s house giving power over that household.
Like many ancient cultures, the Celts practiced ritual murder as well. Methods of human sacrifice also include strangling and ritual drowning as well, and also burning the victims alive. The Romans were also guilty of this practice, but at the time they conquered the British Isles, the practice had been outlawed within the Empire. The Romans seem to have been genuinely horrified by the things they witness the Celts do. The ancient Celts seemed to treat life cheap. People could be executed in a most cruel manner just for the purpose of fortune telling! Their method involved the ritual murder of a victim chosen in advance. The death throes were interpreted by the superstitious Druids as omens of the future.
Trees were also thought to have certain magical powers. Druids are traditionally associated with oak trees. However some to think the rowan tree may have been utilized more by Druids than the oak. A few historians think that the word Druid itself could be derived from "knowledge of the tree". Use of trees in magic is found in all cultures, and among all primitive peoples.
Mistletoe growing on an oak tree seemed to be of particular importance to Druids. The superstitious Druids though mistletoe growing on oak trees sacred, because it seldom grows on them. A detailed account of a Druid ceremony involving harvesting mistletoe comes from the Roman historian Pliny. It seems the ceremony would take place after someone spotted mistletoe growing on the side of an oak tree, apparently determined to be a "magic" occurrence by the superstitious Druids. Then a time for the ritual would be chosen, six days after the new moon. A feast was made, and also the sacrifice of two white bulls. A Druid in a white robe climbed up the oak tree and cut the mistletoe with a golden sickle (more likely, it was bronze). The mistletoe fell onto a white cloak.(2) Neodruids and Wiccans are quick to claim the use of mistletoe and evergreens in decoration at Christmas time is a carryover from Druid times.
They even claim that kissing under the mistletoe is the remnants of an ancient Druid fertility custom. But the Druids harvested the mistletoe growing on oak whenever during the year they happened to find it. It wasn’t an annual thing. Also, the practice of decorating houses and churches with mistletoe at Christmas time didn’t come into vogue in England until the 17th century. The kissing part came a century later, and was not an ancient custom. Hopefully mouthwash was invented somewhere in between. Why did Christians use evergreens to decorate their houses and churches during the Christmas season? Ronald Hutton notes "Certainly there appears to have been no sense in this period that either plant [holly or mistletoe] was chosen for arcane properties. It was the custom to fill buildings with greenery for any celebrations.."and ivy, holly, mistletoe, and cedar happened to be the only thing green during the winter. So there you have it!. The real explanations for these things is not always so mystical. People just wanted a little greenery. It’s the same reason we have potted plants.
The Druids practiced ritualistic drowning of victims, the practice of which has been found depicted on Celtic water pots. A method of execution involving fire was to haul the victim (usually a condemned prisoner) up in a large wicker basket and then the basket was set on fire, burning the victim alive. Another variation was to build a giant hollow statue of a man made out of wicker and then burn the victims inside alive, as in the 1970's horror movie The Wicker Man.. The statue was large enough to contain several victims, and included both human and animal sacrifices. Both Strabo and Caesar wrote accounts of this practice, so there can be no doubt it actually happened.
The Druid methods of human sacrifice seemed to horrify even the Romans, who set out to put an end to the practice...although in reality they were probably just as cruel as the Celts were. Officially at the time of the British conquest, human sacrifice had been outlawed in Rome, but barbaric practices of the gladiators continues, and cases of human sacrifice were recorded later on anyway. So it was a case of the pot calling the cauldron black! It seemed if there was any killing going on, the Romans wanted to be doing it.
The ancient Celts held a triune deity as their primary god (a god, not a "triple goddess")[need name of triple god. And wasn’t there a triple goddess?]. It is believed they had a view of an afterlife known as the "transmigration of souls" which means they believed at death a person’s soul went into the body of a living person. This is not the same thing as reincarnation, which teaches a person’s soul enters a newborn baby or a newborn animal. Caesar wrote that the Druids believed at death the soul did not die but "pass from one to another". Roman historian Strabo wrote that Druids believed the soul usually did not die with the body, but sometimes "fire and water may prevail" .
By historian Mela’s account, Druids also believed in an afterlife "in the infernal regions". So Druidism, like all the ancient Pagan religions, had no clear definition of the afterlife, nor did they promise a happy afterlife. Death was must have been a terrifying event for the Druid, fearing a life in the infernal regions, or being put into the body of a slave.
The practice of human sacrifice seems to have been abandoned, or else pretty rare by the time of St. Patrick, because it isn't mentioned in any of his writings that have survived. For the most part, the Druids of today have practically no resemblance to the Druids of ancient Britain, and they have not at this writing resurrected the ancient Druid practice of human sacrifice, nor seem to have any plans to do so, thank goodness.
The Romans Enter The Picture
The various Celtic people were the dominant people in what is now Western and Central Europe. These Celts were eventually conquered by the Roamn Empire. When the Romans arrived on the shores of England, the Druids were shouting magic spells and curses to stop them...which didn't work. It seems they have something in common with modern Druids, because their spells don't work either!
Through the centuries, Germanic invaders pushed the Celts further west. The Germanic tribes had been pushed out from the Russian Steppes by barbarian tribes such as the Mongols and Huns. The German speaking tribes conquered what is today Britain, Spain, and France after the fall of the Roman Empire.
Modern day Neodruids celebrate the same eight holidays as do other Neopagans, but give them different names. The holidays the ancient Druids observed on the other hand, are actually quite different. Even though the Druids were considered expert calendar makers, they did not figure the first days of seasons as equinoxes and solcitices. On doing research on the origins of the Druids, Ronald Hutton discovered that the idea of the equinoxes and solctiices marking the first day of a new season did not come about until around the 19th century in the U.S.A. .The first day of spring was celebrated somewhere around February 2nd, not March 30th. New Years Day was celebrated In January 1st like the Greeks and Romans.
The first day of the Celtic New Year was not Nov. 1st. Samhain was probably celebrated around the end of October, however, just as modern Neopagan groups do. There is evidence Yule was celebrated in October by the Celts. The holidays weren’t universal, and not on a precise calendar as Neopagans would have us believe.
There have been groups calling themselves "Druid" for a couple of hundred years now. Originally, these groups did this sort of like a historical re-enactment, not unlike the Renaissance festivals or Civil War re-enactments of today. However, there have been those types that did it with the intent of re-creating an ancient Pagan religion. No doubt, some of both kinds of Neodruid find there way into the other’s camp. Here are some of those groups and individuals :
Welsh Bard Group A stone mason named from Glamorganshire named Edward Williams born in 1747 created this group He created much of the misinformation surrounding the Druids. In 1770 he created the Welsh Bard Group. Edwards is best known by the name Iolo Morganwg or Iolo Glamorgan. Edwards forged documents claiming an unbroken link to the ancient Druids. Because of faulty scholarship, he got away with it with for a long time, even after his death. In fact, it wouldn’t be until the late 20th Century that Edwards lies were realized. Sadly, many Wiccan/Neopagan/Druid groups still rely on the false inforamtion supplied by Edwards to substantiate many of their claims about being part of an ancient religion!
Owen Morgan Somehow in his mind he was able to reconcile his Methodist upbringing to become a Neodruid. Of course, to do this, he had to equate the Welsh Pagan Talesin (mistaken for a god) with Jesus Christ! Like Edward Williams, he invented history when none could be found. He published several books, and wrote them in a style that made them read like they could have been written a hundred years earlier. The books had no date on them...no doubt to cloud their true age. In 1878 he held a ceremony that included prayers to the Hindu goddess of evil, Kali!
The Universal Bond claimed to have been in existence since 1717. They claim their group was formed from a meeting of Druids during that year. 1717 was the same year the Grand Lodge was organized, so it may be the group was trying to claim a link with Freemasonry as well. The group was never able to provide documentaion of it’s claims, which is typical of occult groups.
The Druid Hermeticists were indeed serious occultists, not merely intent on reciting Welsh poetry. This group combined the romantic version of Druid history with the offcult teachings of Hermeticism. The group held rituals at Stonehenge since before WWI.
Because of the sight seerers and vandals that the Stonehenge ceremonies attracted, the Druids dawn performances were closed to the public by 1964. In the 1980's, the British government decided to close the monument on the days of the solstices and equinoxes to help preserve the site. This of course caused an uproar among Druid groups.
P.E.I. Bonewitz Around 1985, a druid organization headed by P.E.I. Bonewitz featured a newsletter with the slogan "Bring back the snakes, Ireland was better off Pagan!" Bonewitz's website (it seems every occultnik is on the Internet nowadays) has a deep hatred for what he calls "the religous reich". His webpage is decorated with a Christian cross colored like an American flag, with the arms curved to resemble a swashtika. indicating his dislike (if not hatred) of Christians. He calls Satanists "fundamentalist Christians", and has a claims to have a disbelief in a devil...just like Wiccans. Ancient Celts on the other hand actually did believe in evil spirits and devil-like entities, as did all ancient Pagans.
Bonewitz's website has a lot of blather on role playing games, which will give you an idea of the type of person attracted to the new Druidism (think the fat comic book guy from "The Simpsons"). Bonewitz practices a sex yoga called "Kundalini" also do many Wiccans. His book "Real Magic" includes things about auras, "psi", and the usual New Age stuff which in fact isn’t "real magic" at all. When I saw his website, there was a picture of the Buddhist goddess Kwan Yin on it. His pantheon seems to include gods and goddesses from around the world and from a variety of religions, so in many respects, Bonewitz's Druidism is very similar to most Wiccan groups indeed. It is an amalgam of occult beliefs, Eastern religions, and draws on Celtic mythology, inventing what is needed.
Bonewitz's webpage tells all about his personal sexual preferences, which is probably a lot more than anybody needed or wanted to know. Bonewitz, married and divorced four times, is involved and promotes the polygamous lifestyle. His group has ties with the rest of the Neopagan/Wiccan community, in particular, the Frost's Church of Wicca (who’s members are also said to be polygamous). Many occultists from Gardner to Crowley, have been involved in sexual practices which were outside the norm. These types have a hate for Christianity, yet at the same time, they have a fascination abut it. So instead of simply doing their own thing, they criticize Christians and Christianity every chance they get.
Solitary Druids Just as there are solitary Wiccans, there also solitary Druids. The number of solitary Druids would be hard to count. One such person told me he practiced "Herbology, Candle Magick, Sex Magick and Astrology I also read Runes and make Bind-Rune Stones--they capture power that you transfer into them for release during times of spiritual ebbing or illness." He also practices Chickisaw Indian magic and is claims he can communicate with the spirit of a dead cousin. So this person’s Druidism is a hodge podge of many occult pracices, not only Neodruidism. In this respect, the solitary Druid mentioned sounds like most solitary Wiccans; they borrow from whatever occult practices they think will give them power.
The Hard Stuff
To find out who the Druids are, we have to look at the Celts. "Celt" is pronounced with a hard "C" (i.e. sounds like "kelt"). The pronunciation Celt with a soft "c" (i.e sounds like "selt") should only be used for sports teams like the Boston Celtics.
Why Did The Druid Religion Fade Away?
Neodruids and various Neopagans would have us think Christian soldiers went marauding from one Celtic village to the next, brandishing swords spouting "Accept Christianity or die, Druids!". If you don’t believe me, just look on the Internet, and you’ll see webpage after webpage with words and ideas to that effect. The truth is, another group of Pagans, the Romans, had dealt Druidism it’s death blow centuries before. The invasion of England by the Romans itself must have greatly shaken the faith of the Celtic people of the power of the Druids. The spells and curses the Druids threw on the Romans didn’t work, and this alone no doubt caused them to loose faith in the Druids. The Romans did indeed allow Druidism to exist, but they greatly weakened it. As already mentioned, they didn’t like the barbaric practices of Druidism, so they greatly curtailed it and introduced their own Roman gods like Zeus and Hercules.
Hercules became quite popular in Ancient Britain, and a hill with the image of Hercules (known as "The Rude Man") can been seen carved into a chalk hill in England to this day. When Christianity came along, the Celts were outgrowing Druidism, and neither it nor Roman paganism could compete with Christianity. Christians did not cause mass executions of Druids, but instead allowed them to live as free men. The same cannot be said of the Druids. The Druids did indeed kill Christians en mass during Christianity’s first attempts to come to the British Isles.
The Christian Church aimed their missionary efforts at the kings of the British Isles. If they were successful in converting a king, this could also mean the kingdom would follow, in a sort of domino effect. But it might also mean the Pagan subjects would rise up and kill the king. Such was the case on more than one occasion. You won’t read about the slaughter of Christians by Druids in most modern books on Wicca or Neodruidism because the authors of such books want to white wash the subject.
Druidism had no real promise of a happy after life, while Christianity promises eternal life. Christianity was a simple religion, compared to Roman and Celtic Paganism with their hundreds of gods and goddesses. Christianity also brought about a much more civilized way of living, despite what Neopagans think. Husbands had to treated their wives better. Despite what modern day Neopagan and feminist authors write, women actually had more freedom and more rights when Christianity came along! Masters had to treat their servants and slaves humanely. We will look at this a little more in the next chapter. It was just plain better, begorrah! Druidism couldn’t compete, and the Celts started to convert.
Neodruids seem to blame Christianity solely for the demise of Druidism. Druidism was already in decline when Christianity came along thanks to another group of Pagans, the Romans as already mentioned. In fact, a good bit of what we know about the Druids and the Celts is because Christians decided to put it into writing. When an expedition of Christian missionaries arrived in England under the guidance of St. Augustine in 497 A.D., they found that the Christian church was already established there!`
St. Patrick And The Druids
Much of what we know about the Druids was preserved to us through St. Patrick. Patrick was born of Briton-Roman birth in what today is Wales. He was captured by marauders and forced to live a life of slavery by Irish Celts. It must have been a terrifying ordeal to live a life at the hands of Celts as a slave. Eventually he escaped and managed to return to his family in England, who were no doubt overjoyed at his return.
In a dream, Patrick recieved a vision that he was to return to the Irish and bring them the Christian faith. Patrick had many run ins with the Druids wo wanted to kill him, but Patrick always managed to survive. Patrick won many converts to Christ, and became well beloved by the Celtic people just as he is by the modern day Irish. He is not the villain Neopagan authors portray him to be.
There are two documents that Patrick wrote that survived. There is also a lot of legend passed down orally about St. Patrick that can be dismissed. One such story is Patrick chalenging Druids to a contest to prove who’s books were true. So the story goes, he challenged the Druids into throwing their books into a lake while he threw in his Bible. The Druid’s books sank while St. Patrick’s copy of the Bible floated. The story is unlikely if for no other reason than the Druids were illiterate and didn’t have books!
Rowan Williams, the leader (?) of the Anglican Communion, disappointed and outraged many Anglicans world wide when he joined one of these Neo-Druid groups. T.V. and Newspapers had a field day with the story of the "Archdruid of Canterbury". Even though the Druid group is a non-religious type, it is till disappointing to see not only a clergyman, but the leader of 57 million Christians world-wide no less, take on the title "Druid". Hopefully he will re-consider this decision, especially in the current flux the Anglican Communion is in. No Christian anywhere should join one of these groups.
1. The Druids of ancient Britain and Gaul were a real group, and there are eye witnesses to validate it. Unlike Wicca, Druidism was an actual ancient Pagan religion practiced in Europe in ancient times.
2. The Druids practiced human sacrifice. Life was cheap to the ancient Celts. Druids were feared by the ancient Celts, who thought they had magical powers, and also feared being murdered by them.
3. The Druids tried to throw curses on the invading Romans, but failed to repel the attack because in reality they had no powers. The Romans decimated the power of the Druids centuries before the Christians came along. No doubt the Celts began to lose faith in the Druid’s claim to magic powers when they could not repel the Roman conquest of Britain.
4. The Druid cult was alrady in decline when Christianity came to Britain.
5. The Neodruids of today, however, have no direct link to the Druids of ancient times.
Modern day Druid groups have no direct connection to the Druids of the past.
6. Druids were considered barbaric by the Romans, although the Romans were just as bad. The Druids engaged in human sacrifice and fortune telling by ritual murder. During the throes of death, the superstitions Druids would take the spastic movements as signs of the future.
7. Neodruid groups have no link to the ancient Druids and are hostile towards Christians. Likewise they too have no magical powers.
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