Welcome to Tursan Tuesdays, where I take you on a journey through the Celtic world.
Druids. They are one of the reasons I am so fascinated by the Celts. The mysticism and legendry surrounding them holds undeniable allure for me. In fact, the characters Gandalf and Merlin were based on this venerable order of the Celts.
Some believe that the druids were originally separate from the Celtic people, only merging with them as the Celts migrated northward. They believe these “proto-druids” came from the west and built the stone circles.
True? Who knows…
What we do know is the role of the druid was vast and complex. Comprised of holy men and women, the order of the druids were the guardians of wisdom and knowledge. They were poets, seers, teachers, philosophers, diviners, mages and judges. They advised Kings, and were a grounding force in society. They were also the guardians of heritage and keepers of the history of their people, as well as of ancient magical lore.
Some things you may not know:
- Uid, the root word in Druid, means Knowledge.
- The Celts held a reverence for the Oak Tree.
- The Irish word Drui means ‘oak.’
So, Druid was “one who has knowledge of the oak.” The Druids even displayed attributes of the great Oak Tree; they stood firm, acted as a shelter for the people, were connected with ancient tradition, and possessed the gnarled wisdom of age and experience.
There are three levels of training that must be accomplished before one could become a full Druid priest or priestess. It could take up to twenty years to master all three levels and become a full-fledged Druid.
The first, and longest, level is that of the Bard. Bards were poets who immersed themselves in the sacred power of the word. They believed the Truth was enshrined in the Word and the Word was so sacred it could never be written. They were often skilled in the arts of music in order to have the emotional accompaniment for their sagas and as a way to influence the emotions of their audience. Because the written word was forbidden, Bards had to memorize thousands of tales, poems and histories. Such being the case, it took twelve years to become a Bard.
The second level to becoming a proper Druid is the Ovate. Ovates, or prophets if you prefer, were very much allied with the natural world. They were herbalists and healers, possessing a strong knowledge of animal and tree lore. It is said they were also able to shape change and move between the temporal and spiritual worlds. It follows then that they were quite skilled in the art of divination. This they could accomplish by either interpreting the stars and planets, the flight of birds, or the meaning of dreams.
The third and final level of training needed in order to enter the Order of the Druid was one of the same name. Being a Druid meant that one had mastered the bardic and ovate teachings, continued to study them, finally becoming a philosopher and teacher, especially of astronomy and the natural sciences. A Druid could marry and have children, he or she acted as judges in both civil and religious matters, were subordinate to a head druid (direct adviser to the King), and were exempt from military service and payment of taxes.
Interestingly enough, though the Druid was exempt from military service, due to their considerable secular authority he or she had the ability to stop battles, even entire wars.
So talk to me! What do you think of the Druid? What do you think it would have been like to be a Druid priest or priestess, say, back in ancient Britain during the times of Arthur? Do you think they built stone circles, such as Stonehenge?