Druidism is one of the pagan family of religions, which includes Wicca
and recreations of Egyptian, Greek, Norse, Roman and other ancient pagan
religions. Some present-day Druids attempt to reconstruct of the beliefs and
practices of ancient Druidism. Others modern-day followers of Druidism work
directly with the spirits of place, of the gods and of their ancestors to create
a new Druidism.
Within ancient Druidism, there were
three specialties. A general categorization of the three different
grades accords the arts to the bards, the skills of prophecy and divination to
the Ovates and philosophical, teaching, counseling and judicial tasks to the
The Bards were the keepers
of tradition of the memory of the tribe. They were the custodians of the
sacredness of the Word." In Ireland, they trained for 12 years
learning grammar, hundreds of stories, poems, philosophy, the Ogham
The Ovates worked with the processes
of death and regeneration. They were the native healers of the Celts using
curative powers of herbs. They
specialized in divination, conversing with the ancestors, and prophesizing
The Druids formed the
professional class in Celtic society. They performed the functions of modern
day priests, teachers, ambassadors, astronomers, genealogists, philosophers,
musicians, theologians, scientists, poets and judges. They underwent lengthy
training, some sources say 20 years. Druids led all public rituals, which
were normally held within fenced groves of sacred trees. In their role as
priests, they acted not as mediators between God and man, but as
directors of ritual, as shamans guiding and containing the rites.
Since ancient Druidism was an oral
tradition, they did not have a set of scriptures as Christianity does. "Some Druidic "teachings
survived in the Bardic colleges in Wales, Ireland and
Scotland which remained active until the 17th century, in medieval manuscripts,
and in oral tradition, folklore and ritual."
The Roman Catholic church adsorbed much
of Celtic religion and many pagan gods and goddesses became Roman Catholic saints;
sacred springs and wells were preserved and associated with saints; many pagan
temple sites became the location of cathedrals. By the 7th Century A.D.,
Druidism itself was destroyed or continued deeply underground throughout most of
the formerly Celtic lands.
Many historians believed that the
ancient Druids performed human sacrifices. All of these references can be traced
back to the writings of one individual, Julius Caesar.
"The whole nation of the Gauls is greatly devoted to ritual observances, and
for that reason those who are smitten with the more grievous maladies and who
are engaged in the perils of battle either sacrifice human victims or vow so to
do, employing the druids as ministers for such sacrifices. They believe, in
effect, that, unless for a man's life a man's life be paid, the majesty of the
immortal gods may not be appeased; and in public, as in private life they
observe an ordinance of sacrifices of the same kind. Others use figures of
immense size whose limbs, woven out of twigs, they fill with living men and set
on fire, and the men perish in a sheet of flame. They believe that the execution
of those who have been caught in the act of theft or robbery or some crime is
more pleasing to the immortal gods; but when the supply of such fails they
resort to the execution even of the innocent."
The Druids used people as sacrifices, they were flogged,
tortured, and sexually molested before they were killed by having their hearts
torn out while they were still alive. Their sexual organs were cut off,
conserved and used in black rites. Sometimes they were skinned and the skin was
used in different rites. They were known for their extreme cruelty and barbarity
in their magic.
The Druids are credited with having
constructed Stonehenge, the complex of standing stones in South Central England.
Stonehenge I ("Old Stonehenge"), which was composed of the 56 "Aubrey" holes,
was constructed circa 3500 B.C.. The current formation was completed circa 1500
B.C.. This was almost a millennium before the start of Celtic civilization. The
Druids may have preceded the Celts in England. Thus, either the Druids or their
forerunners might have been responsible for the finishing of Stonehenge and
other monuments. There is no historical proof that they were or were not
involved. Even if they did not actually construct these monuments, they may well
have performed rituals there, and understood its astronomical meanings and uses.
Ireland now has countless wells and
springs dedicated to the Christian Saint Bridget. She was obviously
descended from the Celtic goddess Brigid/Brigit.
Finding the cult
of Brigit impossible to eradicate, the Catholic church
canonized her as a saint, calling her Bridget or Bride. The
sacred ownership of the various pagan holy sites were simply translated from
goddess Brigid to St. Bridget after the area was Christianized.
Druids, past and present, celebrate a
series of fire-festivals, on the first of each of four months. Each would start
at sunset and last for three days. Great bonfires would be built on the
hilltops. Cattle would be driven between two bonfires to assure their fertility;
couples would jump over a bonfire or run between two bonfires as well. The
Samhain (or Samhuinn) Literally the
"end of warm season". November 1 marked the combined Feast of the
Dead and New Year's Day for the Celtic calendar. It is a time when the veil
between our reality and that of the Otherworld is most easily penetrated.
This fire festival was later adopted by the Christians as All Soul's Eve,
and later became the secular holiday Halloween.
Imbolc (or Brighid) Literally
"in the belly". February 1 marked The Return of Light. This is the
date when the first stirrings of life were noticeable and when the land
might first be plowable. This has been secularized as Groundhog Day.
Beltaine (or Bealteinne). May 1 was
the celebration of The Fires of Bel. This was the peak of blossom season,
when domesticated animals bear their young. This is still celebrated today
as May Day. Youths dance around the May pole in what is obviously a
reconstruction of an earlier fertility ritual.
Lughnasad (or Lughnasadh, Lammas).
August 1 was The Feast of Lugh, named after the God of Light. A time for
celebration and the harvest.
They believed there were many goddesses and
gods. Some of the more famous are: Arawn, Brigid, Cernunnos,
Cerridwen, Danu, Herne, Lugh, Morgan, Rhiannon and Taranis.
They believed the dead were transported
to the Otherworld by the god Bile. Life continued in this
location much as it had before death. After the person died in the Otherworld, their soul lives again in
another human body. At every birth, the Celts mourned the death of a person
in the Otherworld which made the new birth possible.
used many divination techniques to foretell the future: meditation, study of
the flight of birds, interpreting dreams, and interpreting the pattern of
sticks thrown to the ground.