Many of the first time visitors to this site are just curious or perhaps are looking
for material to support an essay. The site stats tell us the search questions that
people have typed into Google or Yahoo in order to have been directed to our site.
Usually they ask simple questions. Unfortunately when it comes to the contentious
subject of the Druids there are few simple answers.
People who have proclaimed themselves to be experts on the Druids, or even to be
Druids themselves can barely agree about anything.
In recent decades the approach taken by most historians has been to identify the
modern Druids as Neo (new) Druids and proclaim us to be the product of romantic new
age invention. They usually classify the ancient Druids as being distinctly an Iron
age phenomenon of Celtic society probably evolving in India. These assertions are
rarely challenged and have become so convenient that when the evidence points in
another direction it is easier not to mention it.
The problem for historians is that most Druid activity either happened in Pre-history
or in historic times in secret for fear of persecution.
As for the people gathering under the title ‘druid’ today, there is a huge variety
of views on what a druid was, is or should be.
Druids are the priests of the native spiritual tradition ‘the old religion’ of the
peoples who inhabited the islands of Britain and Ireland, spreading through much
of Europe. It is increasingly understood, and within the Druid community acknowledged,
to be of an older indigenous if ever-evolving religious tradition sourced within
As an ancient pagan religion, our belief is based on the reverential,
sacred and honourable relationship between the people and the land. In its personal
expression, it is the spiritual interaction between an individual and the spirits
of nature, including those of landscape and ancestry, together with the continuities
of spiritual, literary and cultural heritage.
Our practice is also based on honour
for the ancestors, considered sacred. In ancestral stories, in human nature and life’s
patterns, in the long river of history, in poetry and music, the Druid finds the
divine inspiration known as awen, the force that flows into his/her own sacred creativity
of living, allowing depths of understanding and wisdom.
Our practice seeks too to
understand the patterns of nature outside humanity, within our environment, honouring
the powers of nature as wholly sacred. All life is deemed to be unconditionally sacred,
bearing its own intrinsic validity and purpose.
Those who practise Druidry do so through
a deep spiritual connection perceived and experienced with this land and culture,
either directly (as residents) or through links and empathies of ancestry, literature,
art, history, heritage, philosophy and mythology. So does Druidry continue to grow,
not only in Britain, but also all around the world.
Though many shy away from the
word ‘religion’ with its connotations of political monotheism and authority, preferring
the word spirituality, Druids are priests of a religion. Its practitioners revere
their deities, most often perceived as the most powerful forces of nature (such as
thunder, sun and earth), spirits of place (such as mountains and rivers), and divine
Druidry cannot be defined by or limited to the reverence of one deity or a
pantheon. Thus while many within Druidry honour what are known as the Celtic named
and mythologized deities, others honour Saxon, Nordic or Classical Pagan gods. Yet
again there are those who honour animistic and conceptual forms of deity. These differences
do not divide or dilute the tradition, however, for such differences are integral
parts of the tradition’s essential nature.
Coherence is brought to Druidry upon the
spiritual foundations of its reverence for nature. Based on reverence and respect
for life itself, and the practice of seeking honourable relationship with all, Druidry
guides us to live with truth and responsibility
Telling our story
Like other Indigenous traditions around the world Druids have found it difficult
to overcome the colonisers assertions that their sacred spirits and gods are ‘demonic’,
their ancestral stories are ‘myths’, their rites and celebrations are ‘devil worship’
and their ways are ‘primitive’. Their story is best told and interpreted by themselves,
not by members of other religions, archaeologists and historians.
We cannot begin to tell you our story without your acceptance that in almost every
book, documentary and web site you will be given a slightly or vastly different account.
We believe that some of the Druid traditions and wisdom of today represents both
a survival and revival of traditions and beliefs that may stretch back to the neolithic
period of our prehistory and way beyond that. Our common roots weave together with
those of the ancestors of all races and share common understanding with the great
philosophers, healers and teachers of every great faith.
The Classical Accounts
Nearly all ‘scholarly experts’ on the subject of the Druids start their analysis
of our story by making reference to the classical accounts and look no further. These
classical writings by Greek and Roman observers are coloured by their own perspectives
and agenda’s. Even so, they are interesting and describe the late Iron Age period.
If you do not limit your enquiries to references to Druids, but include the whole
‘Druid led’ Celtic society then you can learn a lot more. A culture is served by
a priesthood that reflects its values and beliefs. If you lack references to the
priesthood, then study the culture.
Please note that the Ancient Greeks who are remembered by history as the finest philosophers
of all time, seemed to like the Druids and referred to our ancestors in their time
in a very complementary way.
The Romans by contrast were generally trying to portray us as a frightening foe of
such unspeakable brutality as to justify their trying to wipe us out. Nowhere do
any of these classical accounts suggest that the Druid tradition (already spread
across all of northern Europe and with the heart of learning in Briton and Ireland
and merged into elite positions in the tribal class system) was created in the previous
250 years or that it originated in India.
What does the name ‘Druid’ mean and did Druids build Stonehenge?
The word ‘Druid’ is likely of a Celtic origin with an early Indo European genesis.
It is speculated that the word Druid means ‘Oak Wisdom’. This no more dates the philosophy,
beliefs and traditions of the Druids than it would date the origins of the modern
British by our adoption of the word ‘Nintendo’.
You will often hear ‘experts’ pronouncing confidently that Druids had no connection
with Stonehenge. They are usually very smug about this after Stonehenge was dated
to around 2400BC, whilst the first Celts arrived no earlier than 1500 BC. By their
reasoning the Druids were Celtic simply based on the assumption that they came into
existence at the time when the Romans decided to right about them, making the Druids
‘Celts’ and we now know that Celts were not in Britain in time to build Stonehenge.
The logic would seem sound unless you dare to test the assumptions upon which it
There was already a very sophisticated spiritual process in Britain long before the
Celts arrived and we now know that when the Celts did arrive they did not kill the
natives but lived alongside them and eventually merged. Around 70% of white British
people today have DNA from pre Celtic mothers. Clearly there were sufficient survivors
of this merger of cultures for knowledge to have been passed on also.
We believe that the ancient Druids retained knowledge and beliefs that had built
up in layers over time as ancient peoples met and adapted to new ideas whilst still
valuing the best of the old. The Druids may have started out in India or Egypt, Britain
or Ireland. It doesn’t matter. It is the combination of tributaries running together
that make a river and define it. A river has many origins, each of its tributaries
is like an ancestor.
Only if no knowledge ever passed from the indigenous people who built Stonehenge
to the incoming people we now call the Celts would it be impossible for Druids to
have an ancestral link with Stonehenge.
The Value of Scholarly analysis
Some scholars argue that little can be learned about the Druids from the thousands
of words written about them by contemporary accounts of classical sources, whilst
others derive all of their ‘expert’ analysis from these alone. Given the often patronising
dismissal of our current Druid religion by some academics should you consider us
somehow less substantial or legitimate than other perhaps more mainstream religions?
It is interesting to note that scholars applying the same criteria (of dismissing
any non contemporary evidence of weak provenance) to one of the worlds most popular
and widespread religions of today are even more dismissive of them. No Druid would
attempt to ridicule another's religion or beliefs , however we come out rather better
than Christianity when under such scrutiny:
“When the Church mythologists established their system, they collected all the writings
they could find and managed them as they pleased. It is a matter altogether of uncertainty
to us whether such of the writings as now appear under the name of the Old and New
Testaments are in the same state in which those collectors say they found them, or
whether they added, altered, abridged or dressed them up.” -Thomas Paine (The Age
“The world has been for a long time engaged in writing lives of Jesus... The library
of such books has grown since then. But when we come to examine them, one startling
fact confronts us: all of these books relate to a personage concerning whom there
does not exist a single scrap of contemporary information -- not one! By accepted
tradition he was born in the reign of Augustus, the great literary age of the nation
of which he was a subject. In the Augustan age historians flourished; poets, orators,
critics and travelers abounded. Yet not one mentions the name of Jesus Christ, much
less any incident in his life. “
-Moncure D. Conway [1832 - 1907] (Modern Thought)
“All four gospels are anonymous texts. The familiar attributions of the Gospels to
Matthew, Mark, Luke and John come from the mid-second century and later and we have
no good historical reason to accept these attributions.”
-Steve Mason, professor of classics, history and religious studies at York University
in Toronto (Bible Review, Feb. 2000, p. 36)
Again, we are not necessarily agreeing with what is said above, spiritual people
will look for and find other forms of evidence for their beliefs. These analysis
of Christianity merely show that Druid religion is not to be considered less than
others just by taking the analysis of such strict scholarly method as truth. In fact
we can consider ourselves blessed by having even the less favourable accounts of
Caesar, for we can at least establish beyond doubt our existence in more than legend.
The value of the oral tradition
Druids were capable of writing in Greek letters, or using a simple form of writing
known as Ogham, it was not permitted however to commit Druid lore to writing. Instead
much of Druid wisdom had to be learned and retained in memory. This could take up
to 20 years of study. This also meant that many stories told by our ancestors were
only written down from around 500 AD onwards. Scholars of course will not tap into
this vast and beautiful resource.
In a predominantly Christian European society it is commonplace for academics to
play down the cultural and spiritual value of this material which rightly should
be seen as one of the cultural and spiritual wonders of the world. To illustrate
that a prejudice is at work here I would like to refer you to the existence of another
great tradition, carried orally until written down in the 4th to 6th centuries AD,
the Rig Veda. It is recognised by the UN as a world cultural treasure and by academics
as fine and genuine, and no one disputes that it is based on a telling that dates
to around 1500 BC at least.
The conditions exactly that apply to the Celtic materials, yet these go unrecognised.