Since the earliest of Christian
times the Druids have been identified as wizards, seers and soothsayers. In the pre-Christian Celtic society they
formed the intellectual class comprised of philosophers, judges, educators, historians, doctors, seers, astronomers, and astrologers. The earliest
surviving Classical references to Druids dates back to the early 2nd century
The name "Druid" is unique to the Celtic people. Other cultures had other
names for their clergy and expected different duties from them.
Druids were not an ethnic or cultural group in, or of, themselves but were
part of a larger society in which they participated. In the pre-christian era of the Celtic culture the
Druids were members of a professional class within their culture and the Celtic Nations of Western Europe and
the British Isles.
The Roman historians wrote the only first-hand accounts of the ancient
Druids that we have. Even though the Romans are usually understood as "hostile witnesses", they were often
impressed and in awe of the Druids' philosophical wisdom.
They wrote that their grasp of mathematical, scientific, and astronomical knowledge had placed the Druids
together with the ancient world's wisest philosophers, along side the Magi of Persia, the Chaldeans (the priesthood
of the Babylonians) and the Gymnosophists (a Hindu sect which preceded the Yogis). The Roman author Strabo recorded
how the intellectual caste of the Celts was subdivided into three distinct sub-casts. Each had their own
The cultivation of literature and learning in Celtic history was the
responsibility of a specific class of people namely the bards, the filidh (Irish) vates (Latin) and the
Druids. The later had the highest status within the group.
The Druids were responsible for enforcing legal decisions and
officiating at alleged sacrifices. They conducted their own very elaborate system of learning and
Julius Caesar commented that it would take 20+ years to learn the knowledge of the Druids. They passed their
knowledge from the elders to the "neophytes" in a vocal manner and NO written
documentation has ever been found! This was said to be done to thus protect the "secrecy of their
The filidh (vates) are essentially a sub division and their "class"
specialization was of divination. This was the art of discovering future events through by the use of "super
The bards were the class that dealt with literature and on many occasions
were referred to as "the singers of praise poetry", following the heroic traditions of the Celtic
This is the first page, of many, discussing the druids and there part in
Celtic society. Follow the links, found within this page, to even more detailed
Their druid positions vary as a druid is not always a priest but a priest WAS always a
Druid! The Druids are any of those members of a Celtic society who had what we
would today view as a College education. The most educated of the druids were the doctors, priests, and heralds. It
was these occupations that required the most memorization and skill for their practices.
The ancient megaliths and stone circles, such as
Stonehenge, have often been associated with the Druids. Lurid tales of "religious" ceremonies involving human
sacrifice, presided over by a strange class of mystical priests, have come down to us. Often, these stories take
place inside one of the stone circles, or "temples." While we don't know about the human sacrifices, we do know
that the megalithic structures were constructed long before the first reports about the Druids ever came to public
Who were the Druids, anyway? In this month's article, John Michell gives us an
intriguing view of these mysterious people.
The question of who invaded Britain in prehistoric times, and when
these incursions took place, was much debated by earlier generations of scholars. Bloody battles were often
imagined in which one race virtually exterminated another and then populated the country
Mysterious "Beaker folk" were said to have arrived in the third
millennium B.C. introducing metalwork and burying their chiefs in barrow tombs along with their favorite
beakers. After them came the Celts; around 600 B.C. which was the accepted date for their appearance in
Britain, although that time period is now coming under question.
The nature of these invasions and their supposed dates are all now bring disputed.
Archaeological science, earlier in this century, was much concerned with racial types. It was fashionable to argue
that successive invaders prevailed because they were of superior stock to the natives.
At the root of these theories was Darwin's theory of evolution and belief in
progress. The influence of such theories has now waned and scholars are more inclined to regard social changes as
being produced by migrations of culture at least as much as that of warfare. In ancient times, as today, new
ideas spread quickly enough around the world without ANY violence. Nor is there any more certainty about the date
of the Celts' arrival.
One can speak of Celtic culture and languages, but there is no single Celtic race.
Celtic speakers vary in appearance from short and swarthy to tall and fair. Evidence of Celtic culture appears in
Britain from the second millennium B.C. It is now even being suggested that the earliest Celtic priesthood could
have been responsible for theStonehengetemple which was built in about 2000 B.C.
Celtic society in Britain preserved many features from the previous order,
including shrines and feast days. Its calendar combined lunar and solar cycles, as in megalithic times. The social
structure was similar to that advocated by Plato, based on a religious cosmology and democratic idealism. Each
tribe even had its own territory with fixed borders, and that land, held by the tribe as a whole, consisted of
forest and wilderness, common lands and agricultural holdings.
Under a complicated system of land tenure, everyone's rights and obligations were
carefully defined. Some of the land was worked in common for the chieftain, the priests, and the old, poor, and
sick tribes folk. The rest was apportioned as family farms.
Grazing and foraging rights were shared on the common lands. Much of the tribal
business was conducted at annual assemblies where land disputes were decided, petty offenders were tried, and
chiefs and officials, both male and female, were appointed by popular vote.
A great many old farmsteads in Britain, today, are on Celtic sites. During his
raid on Celtic Britain in 55 B.C., Julius Caesar commented on its high population and numerous farms and cattle.
The unifying bond between all the Celtic tribes was their common priesthood, the Druids.
Their efforts preserved common culture, religion, history, laws, scholarship, and
science. They had paramount authority over every tribal chief and, since their office was sacred, they could move
where they wanted. settling disputes and stopping battles by compelling the rival parties to
They managed the higher legal system and the courts of appeal, and their colleges
in Britain were famous throughout the Continent. Up to twenty years of oral instruction and memorizing was required
of a pupil before being admitted into their order. Minstrels and bards were educated by the Druids for similar
Knowledge of the Druids comes directly from classical writers of their time. They
were compared to the learned priesthoods of antiquity, the Indian Brahmins, the Pythagoreans, and the Chaldean
astronomers of Babylon. Caesar wrote that they
"know much about the stars and celestial motions, and about the size of the earth
and universe, and about the essential nature of things, and about the powers and authority of the immortal
gods; and these things they teach to their pupils."
They also taught the traditional doctrine of the soul's immortality.
They must have professed detailed knowledge of the workings of reincarnation, for one writer said that they allowed
debts incurred in one lifetime to be repaid in the next.
A significant remark of Caesar's was that Druidism originated in Britain, which
was its stronghold. Indeed, it has all the appearance of a native religion, being deeply rooted in the primeval
Its myths and heroic legends are related to the ancient holy places of Britain,
and they may largely have been adapted from much earlier traditions. In Celtic, as in all previous times, the same
holy wells and nature shrines were visited on certain days for their spiritual virtues. The overall pattern of life
was scarcely changed.
In the course of time, society became more structured and elaborate and the Druid
laws more rigid. However, the beginning of the Celtic period in Britain was evidently not marked by any major
break in tradition.
Nor was there any great shift in population. The British today, even in the
so-called "Celtic lands", are predominantly of native Mesolithic ancestry. The Druids' religion and science also
has the appearance of belonging to a much earlier Britain. Their knowledge of astronomy may have descended from the
priests of megalithic times - together with the spiritual secrets of the landscape.
Yet there is an obvious difference between the Celtic Druids and the megalithic
priests before them. The Druids abandoned the great stone temples and reverted to the old natural shrines, the
springs and groves where they held their rituals. A religious reformation is here implied. It is characteristic of
state priesthoods that their spiritual powers wane as their temporal authority grows; and the less confidence they
inspire, the more tributes and sacrifices they demand of the people In its latter days the rule of the megalithic
priesthood probably became so onerous that it was overthrown.
Whether as a native development or prompted by outside influences, a spiritual
revival seems to have occurred in Britain in about 2000 B.C. with the building of the cosmic temple of Stonehenge
and the first evidences of Celtic culture. Stonehenge is a unique a symbol of a new revelation. The tendency in
modern scholarship is to see it once more as the temple of the Druids, If so, it proclaims the high ideals on which
Druidism in Britain was founded