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grail hermit


There are three definite sources of information that are used as reference by modern Celtic scholars and researchers that tell us about the Druids. The first is the early recorded descriptions from the ancient Greeks and Romans. Then there is the poetry and folklore of the ancient Celtic world. And finally, the druidism romantic revival that began in the eighteenth century and continues to this day. All of the above are collaborated or dismissed by archaeology in various ways. Which brings us back to the original question: Who were the Druids?

The best place to find the answer is in written descriptions and tales from before the turn of the century. But one thing must be remembered before beginning this journey - None of the source literature about Druids was written by Druids. The simple reason for this is that the teaching of Druid knowledge and procedure was stringently an oral tradition. Nothing was recorded in written form. The Ogham which is often referred to as a druidic alphabet, was really a mnemonic tool used as keys to recall the vast amount of poetry, genealogies and lore the Druids (and Bards) were trained to remember.

The Druids were not a religion, but a caste. Their main concerns were philosophy and knowledge. They studied for up to twenty years to be initiated and accepted as a Druid. They were the law-givers, often mediating between two opposing parties. They were the holders of Celtic lore and tradition. They had to have a diverse knowledge of many different arts and skills - hence the long training period they underwent.

They were male and female. They dealt with magic and mystery and sought spiritual enlightenment. They were not an organized order, (as evidenced by the differing accounts from Wales, Ireland and Scotland), but all held a similar philosophy and position in society. Whether they carried out human sacrifice or not is not clear and could just be the anti-propaganda set in place by Julius Caesar trying to justify his (illegal) invasion of Gaul.

They did not just worship trees, but all living things. True, trees held a special place, but they also revered the sun, moon and stars. They were practitioners of herb lore and science. There is still so little that we really know about the Druids, not least because most of the original material is still not translated and remains unpublished, but we do know that they were men and women of great dedication, focus and knowledge - striving to unlock the mysteries of the universe.

See an image of The Druid's Universe by Chris Down, here.

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Painting by Miranda Gray © Arthurian Tarot Pack

You will find credits and links to the generous souls who have provided the Celtic art, music, poetry and reference material free on the Web, as well as a bibliography of the books and publications that make up a large part of my library and have been a rich resource for these pages in the Credits list.

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