The Celtic people have a long history. They have been portrayed in films and other such forms of entertainment many times over. They are seen as a mystery to most. They are shrouded not only in their hooded cloaks but also in mysticism. Since Christian times Druids have been depicted as wizards, sorcerers, and soothsayers. In Pre-Christian times, however, they were revered as philosophers, judges, educators, historians, doctors, seers, astronomers, and astrologers. The word “druidae” is Celtic in origin.
It is said to be derived from the Greek word “drus”, meaning “oak”, and the Sanskrit word, “Vid”, meaning knowledge. The Oak tree was a sacred tree to the Celts. In the Celtic social class the title of “Druid” was given to men and women who possessed the “Oak Knowledge. ”(www. crystalinks. com) The druids emerged when the Celtic people had no choice but to live in harmony with nature simply because they lived in nature. The druids were the religious intelligentsia of their culture. They were the judge, doctor, diviner, mage, mystic, and clerical scholar of their clan.
To become a druid initiates studied for a period of up to 20 years. Writings have shown druids who were capable of powerful magic such as prophesy, control of the weather, healing, levitation, and shape-changing. Druidic training was so harsh that upon completion they were a plethora of knowledge. (crystalinks) Druid magic comes from an intimate relationship with nature and the gods. A druid senses and understands the pattern between all living things and uses this knowledge to communicate with the gods. Druidic magic is actually the giving up of an offering to the gods in return for some gift.
Some examples of druidic magic are aisling, which is believed to be a substance induced vision, immram, or jouney to the otherworld, and firinne the force which draws all of nature together. Firinne, when translated, mean truth and or justice showing that the Celts saw truth and justice as one in the same. (www. druidslife. net) There has been a revival in interest in the druids. People have begun to search for what the druids looked like. Early depictions show them wearing a knee-length tunic and a hooded cloak. They were barefooted and carried a book, mistletoe and a staff.
The chief sources anyone has on the druids originated from Julius Caesar and the Romans. Much information comes from archaeological remains and literature from early monks. Analogies can also be drawn from the Hindu people. One such analogy would be the idea of reincarnation. The Hindu people believed that the atman was merely reborn until it reached it final plateau. The druids believed that clouds were a gathering of souls waiting to be reborn so that they could find the answer to get to the next evolution. (crystalinks) Through archaeological studies scientists have found the remains of votive offerings on lake bottoms and votive pits.
This shows us a great deal about the Celtic religion. Archaeologists have also found Celtic fortresses, habitations, temples, jewelry and tools. These finds show us what life was like, what their technological capeability was, what food they ate, what crafts and trades they practiced, what products they made and traded and where they travelled and how they got there. This is important because in order to fully understand a religion one must also understand the culture with which the religion is synonymous. (crystalink) The Romans were the only eyewitnesses of the ancient druids.
The Romans are generally considered a hostile witness. Roman writings are very seldom unbiased. The Romans were trying to take over the land of the Druids so Roman historians naturally wrote a highly prejudiced account of these people. Nevertheless, the Romans were impressed with the Druids’ understanding of mathematics, astronomy, physics, philosophy, and logic. One Roman author placed the Druids on a list of the ancient world’s wisest philosophers. This list included the Magi of Persia, the Chaldeans, and the Gymnosophists. (crystalinks)
Animals were symbols of the Otherworld to the Druids. A horse was an earth animal therefor it was a symbol of sovereignty. Salmon represented wisdom. For instance Fionn MacCumhall gained supernatural wisdom when he accidentally burned his thumb on a magical salmon cooking on a spit. Crows generally symbolized a coming battle or death. These were not always bad omens. Sometime a crow being present merely meant that a being of the Otherworld was present be it good or evil. Deer indicated the presence of a Holy place. Their antlers represented the branches of the Oak tree.
Boars stood for war or death, but also for the skill of a warrior because of the effort needed to kill one. Serpents are also very prominent among Druidic symbols although not much is known of the symbol. Some believe that serpents simply represented Druids, and that the story of St. Patrick banishing the serpents from Ireland is merely a metaphor the banishing of the Druids from the Island. Cattle represented bounty and fertility. The river Boine is said to spring from the udder of a mythic cow owned by the river goddess Boann. druidslife) One of the problems with practicing Druidism now is that the Druids were subjected to a number of persecutions by many different nations and religions. Much of what the Druids could have taught us have either been censored or lost. The Druids also took up refuge in Ireland for a short while so their practices must have adapted to the new and different environment. A person seeking to worship and practice as the Druid’s would have to sift through a potpourri of different sources to reconstruct a faith.