June 6th, 2011

Druids Part I: Druid Origins

By Lyn Horner
Click here for Part 2 or Part 3 of the four-part Druid series.

Since publishing my book Darlin’ Druid, I’ve been asked more than once if there really are Druids in Texas. The simple answer is yes. There are modern-day Druids, not only in Texas, but in many parts of the U.S. and around the world.

Hoping to satisfy everyone’s curiosity, I decided to write a series of blogs that includes some of my research. This first installment deals with Druid origins. Much of this information comes from The Druids – A Brief Cultural History by Christopher M. Nixon. I will also include other sources you might find interesting.

Mr. Nixon tells us: “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.”

 

Linguistic studies show that nearly all languages except for Finnish spring from early Proto Indo-European (PIE) dialects. Latin, Sanskrit and Greek all stem from PIE dialects. These dialects were spoken by prehistoric people known as Indo-Europeans. According to another source, many groups of people, including Celts, Indians (as in India) and Persians stem from the Indo-Europeans. The beginning of their culture may date from between 4300 to 7000 B.C.E. – or even earlier. These early tribes of people probably originated in a region of Asia now known as Southern Russia.

The people we call Celts left their Asian homeland and spread across Europe. Celts from the Eastern Mediterranean first migrated to Britain around 2300B.C. A second such migration took place about 300 years later.

The Celtic people gave rise to the Druids, a special class of wise healers, teachers and spiritual leaders. The Druids viewed seasonal patterns and elements in nature, and related these phenomena to Man’s place in the world. They created rituals and beliefs meant to improve human lives through herbalism, holistic medicine and spiritual rites celebrating birth, death, and marriage. In later times, Druids came to be respected by other races and groups such as the Jews and early Romans.

Nixon lists the Druid hierarchy as follows:

  • Arch-Druid – wisest or eldest Druid within a Grove (group); equivalent to a king; wore gold robes.
  • The Druids — equivalent to the clergy class; wore white robes.
  • Sacrificers – a warrior-type class; wore red robes.
  • The Bards – an artist or trade class; wore blue robes.
  • New initiates or followers – like serfs, did menial or mundane tasks; wore brown or black robe.

 

 Druids are classified as having shamanistic beliefs similar to the American Indian. Shamanism is a magical practice in which the shaman, or priest, attempts to identify and use natural forces, animals and spirits. Druids are responsible for many occult systems. Some of their sacred symbolism has been adopted by religions such as Christianity, Judaism and Wicca. For example, they believed in the power of the number three, and in tripods or trinities, as seen in a well known Druidic symbol, The Triscale, a swirling pattern of three lines meeting to form a balanced circle. They also believed trees possessed magical properties and sought to employ their energies, a practice that survives today in folk magic. I will delve further into Druid religious beliefs in future posts.

This is just a summary of the Druid origins. If you’d like to read more, you might try the following resources:

Books:

The Druids by Peter Berrisford Ellis
In Search of Ancient Ireland by Carmel Mccaffrey and Leo Eaton
The Lore of the Bard, A Guide to the Celtic & Druid Mysteries by Arthur Rowan
The Celtic Realms, The History and The Culture of Peoples from Pre-History to the Norman Invasion by myles Dillon & Nora Chadwick
Irish Druids and Old Irish Religions by James Bonwick

Web sites:

History of the Celtric Druids
Druids In History
Druids.Celts
Brehon Law, Everything Celtic, The Druids (a lovely website)
Time Line of Druids In Ireland

Do you have any resources that you go to for historical research, particularly on the Celts?

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