Druids Part 3: Druid Religion


Druid magicIn the preface to his book, Irish Druids and Old Irish Religions, James Bonwick stated about the Druids, “They were, doubtless, neither so grandly wise, nor so low in reputation, as represented by tradition. Their ethical lessons must have assuredly prepared the way for Christian missions.” (First published in 1894)

According to Bonwick, early Christian writers believed the Druids possessed a literature. Some of these writers claimed St. Patrick burned 180 Druid books, setting off a book burning spree by his converted followers that eradicated Druid manuscripts. Truth or legend?

Archaeological evidence proves Celts used a written language for everyday matters. Yet, Julius Caesar states the Druids studied up to 20 years, memorizing huge quantities of poetry (knowledge) rather than writing it down. But why?

One source quotes Caesar: “I believe they practice this oral tradition for two reasons: first, so that the common crowd does not gain access to their secrets and second, to improve the faculty of memory.”

However, Peter Berresford Ellis, in his book A Brief History of The Druids, suggests the answer lies in the Druidic concept of Truth as a supreme authority. They believed the Word held magic power, that all Words, and even the earth itself were founded upon the Truth. Ellis says, “Truth was the Word and the Word was sacred and divine and not to be profaned.” Thus, it violated Druid beliefs to write down sacred knowledge.

We should also keep in mind that Caesar was writing about the Gaulish Druids of Europe, not Irish Druids. Had the Irish broken away from that ancient taboo against recording their teachings? We don’t know. But if this was the case, they may well have possessed the books that St. Patrick reportedly burned. If so, what a tragic loss!

The Druid belief in the sacred Word bears a striking resemblance to this passage from the New Testament: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John 1:1. Is this similarity mere coincidence? Maybe not if we remember that many cultures, including the Jews and early Christians, were influenced by the pre-historic Indo-Europeans, from whom the Celts and Druids sprang. Fascinating, isn’t it, how interconnected we all are through our long ago ancestors. But I’m drifting here. Back to Druid religion.

Although Romans claimed the Druids practiced human sacrifice, no Celtic insular writings back this up. Keep in mind that the Romans sought to undermine all “barbarian” groups they conquered. Their writings were often intended to vilify Druids because they were spiritual leaders who wielded great power among the Celts. Therefore, while it’s possible the Druids did practice human sacrifice, we can’t know that for certain.

(NOTE: one reader informs me there is proof of some ritual sacrifices among the Druids. She suggests this source: http://www.connellodonovan.com/lindow.html .)

Whether or not there were female Druids has also been disputed. Considering the Celtic attitude toward women, it seems certain some would serve as Druids. If women could be warriors, why not priests? My sources bear out this conclusion.

Both classical and indigenous writers refer to the role of the “prophetess,” a diviner of future events, but this term came from the Greeks and Romans. Other indigenous texts call such women Druidesses or Vates. In his book War, Women and Druids, Eyewitness Reports and Early Accounts of the Ancient Celts, Philip Freeman says: “. . . that of the few individual Druids known from antiquity, some are women.” In a later chapter he sites three passages from a 4th century collection of (Roman) imperial biographies, which mention Gaulish (Celtic) women called “Dryades,” meaning Druidesses. That’s good enough for me!

Sadly, no record exists of the original Celtic creation myths. However, Irish mythologyDanu of the Tuatha De Danann does speak of Danu, the mother goddess, and her children, the Tuatha Dé Danaan. Danu’s name relates to the Danube River, whose headwaters spring from the area where early Celtic tribes evolved. As in other countries, the concept of a sacred river flowing from a divine source existed in Ireland. Irish bards believed wisdom, knowledge and poetry sprang forth at the river’s edge. The worship of sacred springs and wells also traces back to this belief in waters from heaven.

Despite the Druids’ belief in Truth as the wellhead of existence, the ancient Irish also worshipped a large pantheon of hero gods and goddesses. I don’t have the time or space to go into all the old hero legends here. If you’d like to learn more about them, and about Druid ceremonies, astrological work and views of nature, I recommend the following sources.

Books:

A Brief History of The Druids by Peter Berresford Ellis

Irish Druids and Old Irish Religions by James Bonwick

The Celtic Druids’ Year, Seasonal Cycles of the Ancient Celts by John King

War, Women and Druids, Eyewitness Reports and Early Accounts of the Ancient Celts

by Philip Freeman **This book is a little gem!

Websites:

Gods and goddesses in Celtic lands

Celtic Gods and Goddesses **A lovely site!

Druid Beliefs and Values

Remember, I love hearing from you! Whether it’s Druids or some other hint of magic, do you try to add that extra bit of “something more” to your stories? Do you find these differences help you answer some questions, or that these legends and special abilities bring up more questions? I’m interested to know!

Watch for the fourth and final post in this series, which will focus on modern day Druids.

Not too late for Father’s Day!


Any dads out there who love action packed westerns? How about western romance lovers? Lovers of all things Irish, especially dashes of magic powers? Darlin’ Druid (Volume 1, Texas Druids series) fills the bill on all counts. Just $2.99 on Amazon and Barnes & Noble! It also has eight 5-star reviews posted on Amazon, two from men. Try the free sample and see if it’s for you – or your dad.

This electronic book is viewable on Kindle devices as well as PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad, Blackberry and Android. Or as a NookBook from B&N.

Purchase on Amazon: Darlin’ Druid

Purchase on B&N: Darlin’ Druid

Great Site for Indie Authors


If you are an indie (self-published) author, or a reader looking for indie authors to try, I recommend you visit: https://sites.google.com/site/1500authors/home

This site is hosted by author Marti Talbot. I met her on Amazon’s Meet Our Authors Forum. Desiring to help fellow authors, Marti created this welcoming site where we can list our books under various categories. My book Darlin’ Druid is listed under romances. For each listed book, you will find a cover image, a brief book blurb and a link to purchase the book. The book list is growing rapidly.

I hope you will check out Marti’s site and look over the listed books. You might find some real gems.

Another 5-Star Review for Six Cats In My Kitchen!


Tracy Smith‘s review

Jun 11, 11

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Read in June, 2011

A memoir filled with love, laughter, and “Six Cats in my Kitchen. ”
Lyn Horner weaves her very personal tale telling us about her life as a total lover of cats and a wonderul wife and mother. She and husband, Ken, have raised two children, Danny and Carrie, and have had throughout their lives as high as six cats living with them at one time. Follow their story as Lyn takes you from period to period throughout their life and which kitty was occupying their time and hearts at that particular time. Blending into the mix are also their personal struggles with medical issues, care for their aging parents, employment and relocation events, and, of course, a lot of cat food and vet bills. Six cats in the kitchen are just the tip of the iceburg in this charming tale.

Being a huge animal lover, I knew that I would love this story, and I definitely wasn’t disappointed. Lyn brings this story to the page with so much warmth and laughter that you really feel like you know her by the story’s end. I love the way she used a timeline of cats to share her life with us. I absolutely enjoyed every moment of it!!

This book was provided to me by it’s wonderful author for my honest review.

Druids Part 1: Druid Origins


UntitledSince 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.”

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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.

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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 Druid origins. If you would like to read more, you might try the following resources:

Books:

The Celtic Realms, The History and The Culture of The Celtic Peoples From Pre-History to the Norman Invasion by Myles Dillon & Nora Chadwick

Irish Druids and Old Irish Religions by James Bonwick

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

Web sites:

History of the Celtic 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?

Druids Part 2: Druids and Celtic Culture, Revised


Book of kells artBefore delving into Druid beliefs and practices, it’s important to know a little about the Celtic culture. Unfortunately, knowledge about the Celts who first settled in the British Isles is sketchy. Some of it comes from classical authors and from ancient Irish literature. Little firsthand information exists.

“The Celtic settlement of Britain and Ireland is deduced mainly from archaeological and linguistic considerations. The only direct historical source for the identification of an insular people with the Celts is Caesar’s report of the migration of Belgic tribes to Britain, but the inhabitants of both islands were regarded by the Romans as closely related to the Gauls (Celts of France).” ̴ ̴ quoted from the International World History Project

Since my research has dealt mainly with Irish Druids and Celtic Ireland, I won’t be discussing the Druids of Britain. Suffice it to say that they and their Celtic brethren were invaded and brought under Roman rule during the time of Julius Caesar. Except, that is, for the tribes in Scotland and Wales.

According to a 1996 article in British Archaeology, written by Richard Warner, there is archaeological evidence of a Roman presence in Ireland. However, that doesn’t mean Hibernia – the Latin name for Ireland – was actually conquered by Rome. Rather, the “invaders” apparently assimilated into Ireland’s Celtic culture.

Information about early Irish society comes from legendary sagas, annals, genealogies and ancient law-tracts. The law-tracts are invaluable because they are unique in the existing history of western Europe. The customs of law they preserve open a window into the distant Celtic past.

According to one source, there were two politically powerful groups in old Ireland. One group, the tuathas (tribes) were warriors. It appears from ancient tales such as the epic Táin Bó Cúailnge (The Cattle Raid of Cooley) that both men and women served as warriors. They raided cattle and fought to defend their land.

The second group, the Aes Dana (men of art) wielded power through magic and art. Magic, real or pretense, exerts power over believers, while art influences many people. The Aes Dana belonged to no tribes. They included bards (wandering poets/musicians), filí (household poets and historians), druids (druí in old Irish) and various artisans. Their positions may have been hereditary, but in some cases they could move into a higher ranking role. Children of druids were not necessarily druids.

As members of the Aes Dana, the druids of Ireland were given special privileges. Along with the filí, the druids were often supported by aristocrats and chieftains who required their service. For this reason many druids and filí lived in one place, unlike the wandering bards.

The social hierarchy within a tuath (tribe) consisted of a king, warrior aristocracy, and freemen farmers. Druids were recruited from the warrior class but ranked higher. Celtic families were patriarchal. Most engaged in mixed farming, living on single family farms. In areas of rough terrain or poor climate, cattle raising became more important than crop farming. During times of strife, families might seek refuge in hill forts, but warfare often consisted of single challenges and combat, rather than massed battles.

The Irish tradition of storytelling reveals a link to their Celtic past. The Celts greatly valued music, poetry and oral recitation of ancient heroic tales. They are also well known for their La Tène art. Dating from around 500 B.C., the La Tène period was distinguished by beautiful, intricate designs and knot patterns. One of the finest examples of La Tène art is the Book of Kells. Created by Irish monks ca. 800, this illuminated manuscript, containing the four Gospels of the New Testament, is lavishly decorated with human figures, animals, mythic beasts and Christian symbols, intertwined by Celtic knot designs. It is considered to be Ireland’s greatest national treasure.

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Book Sources:

The Celtic Realms, The History and The Culture of The Celtic Peoples From Pre-History to the Norman Invasion by Myles Dillon & Nora Chadwick

The Celtic Druids’ Year, Seasonal Cycles of the Ancient Celts by John King

The Book of Kells

Web sites:

“Yes, the Romans did invade Ireland” — British Archaeology, no 14, May 1996, by Richard Warner

Celts — International World History Project

Wikipedia: The Book of Kells