Yes, the title is solid and stern, as is the towering oak. I have wanted to write this little article for some time but at the same time a little nervous about speaking my mind on the subject. I do not want to offend those reading, but I feel a strong pull to say what I have to say (maybe that is Ogmios).
I am looking at the Druis (Ancient Druid of Gaul) without looking to a modern-day thought on the matter, taking it from the view that none of the Imperialistic, Occultist ideas have invaded the DRUIDIC thoughts have even emerged. I have become very sick of the commercialized view of the Druis that has been happening for the last 100 years, even more so nowadays. These ideas focus on nonsense and never focusing on what we have, and what we have is tremendous and pure beauty and evolving off of that to recreate greatness should be the aim. Instead, we take something so sacred and commercialize it with our modern western imperialistic ideas. What I am about to talk about goes against the main narrative of the Druis, and I know ideas that we are told we believe, and when someone comes along and says different, it is hard to relate or reorient the self in that direction. Remember, many thought the world was flat. I know many of you will start to throw stones my way, and that is fine as I need those stones for the foundation of Druidobessus, so throw them my way I will only build with them.
Now, this is not a jab at contemporary Druidry well maybe it is a little.
Anyways I will move on to the main topic before I say things that are not needed.
The Druis were not necessarily priests, But thinkers and knowers. There are always attempts to equate Druis to other classes like Brahmin, Shamans, and others similar, and there might be some truths to that, but honestly, very little.
Let us break this down into a straightforward understanding.
They functioned mainly in Gaulish Regions as they were more Pan-Gaulish than Pan-Celtic. They were Philosophers teaching philosophical ideas much like Orphaic and Pythagorean ideas. The central philosophical belief of the Druis is that of metempsychosis/transmigration of the soul and the cycles of rebirth. Life to Death to rebirth was KEY to there approach to there teachings also how to live was an essential teaching.
We are given laws from the Druis written down by Diogenes Laertius.
I. The gods must be worshipped.
II. No evil done.
III. Exercise valor
These laws were created so that the people could escape the cycle of rebirth and join the Deuoi.
Let us cycle back to the idea of Orphic Mysteries and Pythagorean ideas. Now I do not think that Pythagoras gave the Druis these ideas. The Druis had their ideas of metempsychosis/transmigration of the soul very similar to the other. It is possible that this was a philosophical idea within the greater PIE culture, a philosophy that manifested itself in multiple IE cultural branches. This is why a Greek philosopher would seem similar to a Druis cause they descended from the same root culture.
Most of our first records on the Druis put them in line with a Philosopher; these are the Greek texts. Some Examples below, you can read my other articles for more of these.
The Druids, in addition to natural philosophy, also study moral philosophy.
Druids, men of greater talent, members of the intimate fellowship of the Pythagorean faith.
Teachers of wisdom called Druids.
Souls are eternal, and that there is another life.
Well, not like what the word Priest brings to the mind that would be more like a Uatis (Vate). A Druits was in intune with the language of the Gods and could intellectualize the actions of the gods as they could speak the language of the Deuoi which they used various forms of divination to connect with them, like bird migration, knowing the moment of the things around them, etc. They were more like Mediators and Arbiters of the Deuoi.
I also believe they were similar to what we call (Funeral celebrants)
“They make their pronouncements through riddles and dark sayings” – Diodorus.
This could be suggesting they used few words hinting at things and leaving the rest to be understood that sounds like a Philosopher.
Dark sayings could apply that they helped lay the dead to rest as the Druis knowledge was vast concerning the otherworld. So I assume folks trusted in a Druits to send them safely into the world beyond the grave. I will get into more on this in another article.
They tried to get rid of personal religions and make them more public and united—a way to unite in beliefs and against Rome.
They could ban people from celebrations, rituals, meetings, and other similar things. This is all to help civilize the tribes of Gaul, especially at a time of Roman dominance. It was likely that each tribe or Region had a Druis or maybe a few that would speak to the Deuoi for the people and guide in ritual and funerary services for the people. A Druis might not have taken part in the religion as I can see a Druis not being part of the Cultural norm. However, when you are a thinker, you are always looking for answers and sperate from others.
Now I’m not claiming the ultimate authority on the Druis. I am claiming a understanding that it not shrouded in a occultist high fantastical thought.
When we use English words to try and describe things, things get lost in translation. A Druis does not equal a priest, judge, philosopher, or whatever; it equals one who knows Drus a Druis is a Druis.
So yeah, pretty simple.
This little article is Part 1 of 5 on The Real Druis. I will go into each of the above in more depth.
Part 2 – The Real Druits, Hearing the Deuoi
Part 3 – The Real Druits, Thinking into the Well
Part 4 – The Real Druits, The Tame and Untamed
Part 5 – The Real Druits, Darkness to Light
Most of my thoughts on this have been inspired by various things, mainly Studies from these scholars.
Miranda Aldhouse Green
Nora K Chadwick
The greater Gaulish Community
The Image above is based from a Carnutes Coin with some of the Druidobessus Inscrîbatus.