The Ancient Druids, Bards, and Ovates

We will be talking about the Senodruides (Ancient Gaulish Druids), Senobardoi (Ancient Gaulish Bardoi), and the Senouâtîs (Ancient Gaulish Uâtîs). The understandings we have comes from Greek and Roman classical writers along with the study of the Senogalatis.

What they where not

  • They were not Wizards
  • They were not Shamans
  • They are not connected to Witchcraft
  • They are not connected to the Occult
  • It is not a secret school passed down thru the ages
  • They are not connected to Freemasons
  • There is no secret language or archaic alphabet
  • They are not from Atlantis
  • They are not connected to other Groups from around the world (They might share similar themes but they are not the same)

The word Druid

It is thought that Sotion of Alexandria and Aritotile could be the first to talk about the Druids dating to around the 3rd century BCE. This comes from the work of Diogenes Laertius, “Vitæ”, intro.,1,5, a Greek writer from the 3rd century CE. In the writings of Diogenes Laertius, he references older sources like those from Epicurus, Solon of Athens, and Periander of Corinth, along with Quoting Aristotle and Sotion of Alexandria. Keep in mind: Aristotle’s work, Magicus, was not written by him but by an Anonymous Greek writer in 200 BCE. So it could be that the Druids captured the mind of the classical writers in the 4th or even 5th century BCE.

The etymology is not agreed on by Linguists, but they do agree that it is of Celtic origins. There are many theories of where the word Druid comes from; here are a few:

Pliny the Elder and Strabo think it was a cognate of a Greek word meaning an ‘Oak’ (Drus).

Mrs. Chadwick suggests it could have originated in a nickname derived from the oak forests – which Pliny associated with them, so the word could mean something like ‘Backwoodsmen’.

Other leading etymologists seem to think the word derives from the root words (Dru)-(Wid) Dru – Meaning Oak Knowledge and Wid – Meaning ‘to Know – to see’ (like vid in the Vedas)

A close meaning of the word Druid: ”Those whose Knowledge is Great” Or ”Oak Knowledge”

Gaulish Dru its = One who knows Drus (The Gaulish World Tree)

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Let’s take a side trip into the forest for a moment

There is more than a bit of speculation that The Druides originated in the food-gathering age. (i.e.,The Hunter-Gatherer Era)

Before farming, agriculture, and domestication of animals – people relied only on the foraging of berries, insects, and nuts, hunting and fishing of wild game – traveling far and wide constantly.

Early Europeans learned of many things in the forest. Learning what trees served the needs of the people. Knowing what lives in/on or near certain trees and plants, such as the different insects and mushrooms that grow around them. They learned the most useful and hardiest of the trees was the Oak. We can envision early people coming across the forest seeking shelter in its thick canopies. Learning from the Oak as if it was their teacher and provider. Learning to gather the acorns and making bread (along with countless other things) from the acorn – as Pliny mentions. It was easy to gather nourishment in hard times.

Publius Ovidius Naso wrote it was the first food given to humans when they dropped from the great tree of the sky god Jove/Jupiter.

Strabo also speaks of the Celts of Iberia, as acorn bread was a staple to their diet.

The oak was more than just food! They learned to harvest the wood for fires, make dwellings, and for tools. The veneration of this mighty tree came with a group of people (the wise ones of the oak). To have knowledge of the trees was to have wisdom and survival skills. That was a lot in those times – to understand something like this meant the survival of your clan or tribe, and I can see it as something people looked up to. Using these references – we could say the druids were the intellectual people the tribe relied upon for survival, teaching them Oak knowledge.

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The Functions In Gaulish Society

We can not be sure with 100% accuracy how the Senodruides, Senobardoi, and Senouâtîs fit within the Gaulish structure. Yet, we know of their importance in it, and we can piece together much.

The Senogalatis also had Uelitâ, a type of seer and type of priest called Gutuater (Master of Voice); they most likely were elected religious officials.


The source for Timagenes, Strabo, and Diodorus. Poseidonios wandered around Gaulish society absorbing the roles and functions of the Druids as a Caste within the society. They served as Intellectuals a learned class within Gaulish society.

Starbo states

Among all the Gallic peoples, there are three sets of men who are held in exceptional honor: the Bards, the Vates, and the Druids. The Bards are singers and poets; the Vates, diviners and natural philosophers; while the Druids, in addition to natural philosophy, as well as study moral philosophy.

Now, Caesar does not mention the Bards and Vates he refers to all as the Druids. Is he including them all as Druids? Is he not mentioning them because he is only focused on the Druids? Does he not truly understand?

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Bardos (Singular) Bardoi (Plural) comes from the PIE root *gʷr̥H meaning “to favor,” meaning “the one who praises.”

Diodorus Siculus, Strabo, and Ammianus Marcellinus all mention the Bard.

Diodorus Siculus says among them [the Gauls] composers of verses whom they call Bards; they sing to instruments similar to a lyre, applaud some, while they vituperate others.

Strabo states they are singers and poets.

Ammianus Marcellinus states that attention to the gentler arts became commoner, a study introduced by the Bards. It was the custom of the Bards to celebrate the brave deeds of their famous men in epic verse accompanied by the sweet strain of the lyre​.

The Bardoi were the keepers of lore, singers of the songs, and the shapers of the verse. They would praise and shame those in their words.

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Uātis (Singular) Uātīs (Plural) comes from the PIE root *weh₂t – meaning “to be excited,” meaning “the mantic one.”

Ammianus Marcellinus does not mention them by name, using the Word Euhsges instead. Euhages strove to explain the high mysteries of nature.

Strabo claims the Vates, diviners, and natural philosophers.

Diodorus Siculus says they have soothsayers of great renown that tell the future by the flights of birds and by observing the entrails of people. In times of peace and war, these seers have authority.

The Uātīs were the diviners and readers of omens. They would have been a crucial part of the functions of public rites.

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Drūið (Singular) Drūides (Plural) coming from the PIE roots *derwo – meaning “tree, strong” and *weid – “to see, to know, meaning “One who knows Drus” or “strong knower.”

Caesar says Druids have the highest authority. They
are concerned with divine worship, the due performance of sacrifices, public and private, and the interpretation of ritual.
The people obey the decisions and judgments of the Druids. As it is they that decide all disputes public and private.

Cicero says that he knew of a Druid called Divitiacus. He claimed to have knowledge of nature. He made predictions by augury and conjecture.

Diodorus Siculus says the Druids are philosophers and theologians that are held with much honor.

Diogenes Laertius says the Druids make their pronouncements by means of riddles and dark sayings, teaching that the gods must be worshipped, and no evil is done, and manly behavior maintained.

Strabo says they are the most just of men and that they studied natural and moral philosophy. He mentions none would sacrifice without a Druid present.

Ammianus Marcellinus says they are men of the greatest talent saying they were uplifted by searching into secret and sublime things.

Pomponius Mela says they have teachers of wisdom called Druids. They profess to know the size and shape of the world, the movements of the heavens and of the stars, and the will of the gods.

Pliny says the Druids are called Magicians.

The Druides held essential functions within the fabric of the worldview. You can read more here The Real Druis Part 1 – Basics

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While we don’t have elaborate documentation on the beliefs of the Druids. We do have a few details to go by based on the early writings – hinting at a few things.

They taught that one should Honor the Gods, Do no evil, and Hold your behavior. That the soul was eternal, and that there is another life, and that Fire and water created and destroyed the universe and the soul.
That we are descended from the underworld. We count the days by night.
More to come on all this.

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  1. woodenbreath says:

    Thanks for this useful compendium. Do you think that the role of druids changed over the time?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Of course, Now, Obviously, a different path was created because of the dying off of the Senodruides (ancient Druides). And what we see today in the greater Druid community has little to do with the Senodruides and the culture they were in. But thankfully, we can start to put the pieces together to reconnect to the old ways, but in this day. Bringing to light a Gaulish worldview as best we can.


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