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The Druids- A Brief Cultural History


by Christopher M. Nixon

The group of people known as the Druids, their practices, beliefs, and lives are shrouded in a great deal of mystery and misconception. Many people are fascinated by Druidism, and the tales of clandestine powerful wizards-quietly working their magick under the velvet cloak of night. Thus the truth is often overlooked, and not well understood. But who were they? Where did they come from? To truly understand them, it is imperative to examine what linguistic studies have taught us about their origins.

Virtually all languages spoken today and throughout time- save for Finnish- stem from early forms of dialect called Proto Indo-European (PIE) Languages. Though it is impossible to discern the exact date that these first forms of communication were created, Latin, Sanskrit, and Greek all owe their origins to this early form of dialect. These PIE's as they are called and the people who spoke them influenced culture and society the world over as they spread from their origins in the area that is now Southern Russia. It was these early tribes of people that we know as The Celts. They first appeared as migrants from the Eastern Mediterranean to Britain in two waves- the first around 2300B.C., and the next around 2000B.C. From their ranks, arose the Druids.

People such as Max Mueller- the creator of "The Science of Religion" during the 1880's, (Which later became what we now know as the field of Comparative Religion), were pioneers in discovering so much about how the Celtic and Druidic culture spread throughout Europe. Georges Dumezil's extensive research, which resulted similarly in the birth of Dumezilian Comparative Mythology, achieved similar ends. These men's work paved the way to later research by countless others who realized these early people served as key influences in the political and social development of Europe and other world cultures via language and religious custom- among these were the Romans, Christianity, and both Witchcraft and Wicca.

The Druids established themselves as a spiritual class of healers, teachers, and rulers. They were a group that observed and worshipped the patterns and elements of nature around them, viewing these patterns as reflections of themselves and Man's world. Ritual practices and beliefs were constructed that sought to bring Man into a closer harmony with nature, and build a relationship that assisted Him in living daily life, with everything
from herbalism and holistic medicine, to rites that celebrated birth, death, and marital unions.

For centuries, they flourished and were revered and respected by the Celtic peoples, as well as other races and groups later on, such as the Jews and early Romans. The Druids were viewed by their own people as the equivalent of a clergy, or ruling class. There existed within their ranks a hierarchy as well, consisting of the following: The Arch-Druid- the wisest or eldest ranking Druid in a particular Grove- or group- equivalent to a
king. The Druids, who were equivalent to the clergy class. Sacrificers- the name being somewhat of a misnomer- who were of a warrior-type class. The Bards, the equivalent of an artist or trade class, and new initiates or followers, who were like serfs and assisted with the menial or mundane duties of the order. The garments and robes they wore reflected their status: Gold, White, Red, Blue, and Brown/Black respectively. They possessed a very sophisticated system of order for their peoples' time, and it is this type of order that is reflected in many of their rituals and workings.

The Druids are responsible for many occult systems and religious symbolisms used today by practitioners of many beliefs and traditions- among them Christianity, Judaism, and Wicca. Among them are the uses of the number three, and of tripods or trinities as evidenced by one of the Druids' chief symbols, The Triscale, a swirling image of three lines coming together to a circle in balance. Also the use of the trees and their different energies and properties in folk magic practices that survive even to this day, as well as countless other ideologies on polarity, balance, meditation, and macro/microcosmic cycles within life. They have contributed immensely to the foundation of society in Europe, and the world over.



Sources
· Bonewits, Issac, Real Magic, Samuel Weiser, Inc., 1991
· Bonewits, Issac, The Druids, Lecture given in Belleville, NJ, 10/15/99
· Monroe, Douglas, The 21 Lessons of Merlyn, Llewellyn Publications, 1997
· Monroe, Douglas, The Lost Books of Merlyn, Llewellyn Publications, 1998
· Nichols, Ross, The Book of Druidry, Harper Collins Publishers, 1990