When one hears the word “Druids“, surely his mind goes to a character like Panoramix or to an old man with a long beard, holding a pole, with various bugs and vials in the belt tied. Perhaps the truth is not far from this picture.

The Druids were a glorified caste of Celtic Priests, recognized and acclaimed by the Romans for their powerful magic. In Gaelic, the word “Druids” means “to know Oak”.

The Celts were barbarian tribal people that had spread to Galatia, Britain, Ireland, Europe, Asia Minor, and the Balkans since the 5th century BC. In the 1st century AD, the Romans unleashed a series of repression on the Celts and their religion, eventually replacing them with Christianity.

The teachings and rituals of the Druids were very secretive and passed down from generation to generation. Unfortunately, very little is known about the Druids nowadays, though many of them can only be speculated in ancient times…

If you want to learn more, keep reading! 

Their Position in Celtic Society

The exact role that Druids played in Celtic society has different descriptions, depending on the sources. Diogenes the Cynic notes that the Druids were already an ancient institution in the 4th century BC, in the time of Aristotle. Julius Caesar said that the Druids Galatians were one of the two highest castes together with the Knights, and like them, they were organized under one honorable head. In Ireland, the Druids were the second of the three high castes, lower than the Noble and superior to the landless.

In most of the archives, however, the Druids were the guardians of traditional wisdom dealing with moral philosophy, natural phenomena, and theology! Pretty cool, right?

They were skilled in the art of divination, in the interpretation of omens, in the form of sacrifices, in the making of diaries, in the magical and pharmaceutical powers of the herbs, in the science of astronomy and in poetry. Not bad!

They played an important role in the religious and political life of the Celts. They performed religious ceremonies, acted as mediators between humans and the gods, influenced the moral and spiritual structure of Celtic Society, as well as made political and judicial decisions on various issues. Wow…did they even had time for themselves?

The Galatian Druids

The Galatian Druids were said to have delivered justice and law, though it remains unknown how they did so with the tribal leaders. Irish Druids are described as people of learning and art that included Mantis, Wise, Bard, and Law. 

The Druids of Galatia and Britain are said to have been distinguished from the rest in the Priesthood, including Mantis, Vardus, and the Prophets. They seem to overlap, as the Druids are said to have been able to read the omens and prophecy the future. 

Within the Druids, there were both men and women, as women had an important place in Celtic society.

Some of their Religious Ceremonies

Some trees, plants, and animals are believed to be endowed with sacred and healing powers, and the Druids used them in various religious ceremonies and for therapeutic purposes. Mistletoe believed to be a sign from heaven and they used it to make antidotes to medicine against poisons and treatments for infertility even in animals! The oak was believed to have come from the Sacred Forest, and its foliage was used for ceremonies.

Their religious ceremonies were performed in the Sacred Forests or in oak groves where they served as temples. These were also places of gathering where the Druids made decisions and brought justice to the citizens and criminals. Other meetings took place at river and lake fountains because the Celts worshiped the Water Gods and believed that the water was sacred.

The Druids practiced both animal sacrifice and human sacrifice. Human victims were burned alive in wicker cages, stabbed, punched or hit with arrows. It was the human sacrifice that angered the Romans, which forbade it as barbaric by a decision of the Senate in 97 BC. The only detailed record preserved and mentioned in a Druidic ceremony is that of Pliny the Elder (Roman articulator, scientist, and historian, author of the work “Naturalis Historia”). This ceremony is about the harvest of Mistletoe:

“[…] On the sixth day of the moon, Druid, dressed in a white cloak, climbs onto Mistletoe and with his right hand, with gold scythe cuts Mistletoe. The herb should not fall to the ground, it was harvested in white cloth. Two white bulls were sacrificed and a rich meal was made. […]”

The Art of Divination

For the interpretation of the omen, the Druids observed wild hares or birds such as crows and eagles as they believed that those could predict events. They practiced the art of divination by observing the death spasms and the offspring of their sacrificed victims. 

During their religious celebrations, the Druids interpreted dreams. A man fell asleep with the Druids chanting over his body. When he woke up, the man described the dream and the Druids came up with the interpretation. Written sources refer to their magic, which included herbal amulets, and their belief in a magical egg made from the saliva of angry snakes, which provided success in the trials. 

The Druids believed in the immortality of the soul and in life after death, where some writers assimilated it with the faith of Pythagoras’ Metempsychosis. The dead were burned with all their possessions. At times, relatives committed religious suicides by jumping into the fire and holding the corpses to be together in the Other World. The Celts wrote letters to the dead and promoted loans so that they could be repaid after death. Caesar said that the notion of immortality kept the legendary Celtic courage in battle.

According to Tacitus—one of the most important Latin historians—a black-clad Druid stood in front of the Celtic warriors, screaming at the gods and cursing the Romans. But the Romans were victorious. They killed the Celtic warriors and the Druids and destroyed their sacred groves. This was what put Druidism in permanent decline. Over the course of several generations, the respectable and powerful priesthood of the Druids dropped them so low that they were considered common sorcerers.

Druidism is the second-largest tradition in the world, within Paganism. Its followers reinterpret what we know about Druids, trying to build a spiritual path of dedication, ceremony, and magic…

Legends, healers, mysticism and nature worship compose the image of the Druids, the mystical Order of Celts of the Iron Age, in a mix of imagination and history.

If you enjoyed this article, please let me know!

Have a blessed day!

Written by Lydia Kendall

 

 

54 COMMENTS

  1. A very good article especially informative to me and enlightening to me I always thought druids were old rock formations and never thought about it being so deep

    • Thank you, my bonnie Gwen! We’re happy you found this interesting! Research yields such wonderful results sometimes!

  2. Very informative! I knew some of the Lore but not all
    especially the human sacrifices by burning in wicker cages. Reminds me of Nicholas Cage in the Burning Man (me thinks)
    The mistletoe I knew because of the Christmas use. Somewhere in my foggy brain I forgot where I learned of this

  3. Great article. Very Interesting. Not sure what I think ,but I know more now than I did before. Thanks for taking the time to bring it to us.

  4. I have read the books of a author that writes about druids they were not priest they were mortal, they were nobles,they were taught by family of faires in a different universe to take care of the earth, this is very hard to explain what I have read on these books it would the to much room, that is i read.

  5. Another great article. So enjoy these little snippets of historical legends and stories. Thank you so much for sharing your research info.

  6. Hi Lydia
    Wow this article was very informative I knew a little about the druids as my ancestry spoke of headphones my Fran Bridget McGregor nee McCrae spoke of the past to me as a small child she spoke Gaelic and was little woman with a large family and influence. 16 children and called Bridget the midget as she was only 4 foot 10 inches she was a tough woman and protected her clan regardless of being right or wrong they were hers to protect. Thank you for giving me an insight to new information.

  7. I have always enjoyed the mysteries and magical stories of the Druids. Once when my husband was being admitted to a Catholic hospital for surgery, they asked his religious affiliation and he told them he was a Druid, lol! The admitting nurse said ” Oh please! Can I put that on there? ” He let her! Lol!

  8. Hugely interesting & really not too far removed from the Church & the priests of today. Spirituality is a valued attribute & many people today aspire to reach such a goal via all sorts of means. We, those who believe, even consult the horoscope to foretell the future but as for mistletoe well that is now a Christmas custom where if one kisses someone under the branch of mistletoe then their romantic future is assured!!

  9. As always this article was very informative and will add the the overall experience when reading about the Druids in relationships to early Viking and celts in relationship to the Invading Romans

  10. I very much enjoyed your article. I often mix religions in my stories. I believe the more we talk about difference, the more differences we create. As a multi published author I treasure articles such as yours. Thank you for your input. Know that I shall certainly use what I have learned thanks to you.
    Dee Carey
    on amazon.com “The Fox and the Raven

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here