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Druidism
Founder: Unknown

Overview:
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 Druid.

  1. 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 tree-alphabet.
     

  2. 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 future.
     

  3. 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 festivals are:

  • 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.

Cult Beliefs:

  • 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.
     

  • The Druids 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.

 

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