The History of Druidry

A Druid was a member of a priestly class in Britain, Ireland and Gaul.   Very little can be verified as they left no written records themselves.  Classical writers such as Julius Caesar and Diodorus Siculus paint a picture of Druids as scholars and religious leaders who functioned in a similar way to Hindu Brahmin.  Classical writers talk of Druids officiating at sacrifices but ancient Irish literature makes no mention of this. Historians used to say that Druids couldn’t have used Stonehenge and other circles around Britain because they were the priests of the Celts and Celts only arrived in 500 BCE and circles were built before 1400 BCE .  But in the 60’s some historians changed their minds realizing that the origin of the so-called Celtic tribes was more complicated than they thought and suggested instead that Proto-Celts were probably in Britain as early as 2,000 BCE while the monuments were still being built.

druid temple

Nathaniel Whittoc (1791-1850)-‘Druids sacrificing to the sun in their temple’

Pomponius Mela who wrote around 47 AD says that the Druid’s instruction was secret and was carried on in caves and forests.  Druidic lore consisted of a large number of verses learned by heart and Caesar remarked that it could take up to twenty years to complete the course of study

Classical writers recorded the Druid’s belief in the immortality of the soul and reincarnation

“One of their dogmas has come to common knowledge, namely, that souls are eternal and that there is another life in the infernal regions, and this has been permitted manifestly because it makes the multitude readier for war. And it is for this reason too that they burn or bury, with their dead, things appropriate to them in life.” (Pomponius Mela, Factorum et dictorum libri, II.6.10)

“A lesson which they take particular pains to inculcate is that the soul does not perish, but after death passes from one body to another…” (Caesar, Conquest of Gaul, V.16.5)

Pomponius Mela observed that “in times past they even used to defer the completion of business and the payment of debts until their arrival in another world.”!

Diogenes recorded that Druids make their pronouncements by means of riddles and dark sayings, teaching that the gods must be worshipped, and no evil done, and manly behaviour maintained. (Diogenes laertius, Vitae, I.5)

The Druids valued piety, non-malfeasance, and honour, among their ethical teachings

Druids worshipped a three-fold deity Teutatis ‘Father of the Tribe’ Esus ‘Lord’ and Taranis  ‘Thunderer’

18th  century Druid revivalists identified Esus with Jesus and believed that the Druids were awaiting the birth of Christ and in an award winning essay ‘The Ancient British Church’ by the Rev John Pryce we read

‘In this distant corner of the earth…a people who only conveyed to the Roman mind the idea of untamed fierceness was being prepared for the Lord.                                      Forecasting the whole from the beginning and at length bringing the work to a head the Divine Logos unveiled himself to them in the person of Christ, as the realization of their searching instincts and the fulfilment of their highest hopes.  It would be difficult to conceive of Christianity being preached to any people for the first time under more favourable conditions.  There was hardly a feature in their national character in which it would not find a chord answering and vibrating to its touch…Theirs was not the sceptical mind of the Greek, nor the worn out civilisation of the Roman…but a religious, impulsive imagination…To a people whose sense of future existence was so absorbing…the preaching of Jesus and the Resurrection would appeal with irresistable force.    There was no violent divorce between that of the new teaching and that of their own Druids, nor were they called upon so much to reverse their ancient faith as to lay it down for a fuller and more perfect revelation’

The earliest written reference to the Druid’s is from 300 BCE from a source now lost but quoted by Diogenes

‘Some say that the study of philosophy originated with the barbarians. In that among the Persians there existed the Magi, and among the Babylonians or Assyrians the Chaldaei, among the Indians the Gymnosophistae, and among the Celts and Gauls men who were called Druids and Semnothei, as Aristotle relates in his book on Magic, and Sotion in the twenty-third book of his Succession of Philosophers.’   —Diogenes Laertius , Vitae, Introduction, Section 1

18th Century scholars in Europe rediscovered the Druids and began to reclaim their Celtic heritage

William Stukeley (1687 – 1765), the antiquarian who pioneered the archaeological investigation of the pre-historic monuments Avebury and Stonehenge, formed a Druid Society in London

avebury engraving

Engraved by Mc. Gahey.  This engraving accompanied the December 1830 issue of the “Youth’s Instructor and Guardian”, the article being entitled Druidical Temple, Avebury (With an Engraving).

At the time of the Revival Freemasonry became interested in Druidry and organisations such as the Ancient and Archaeological Order of Druids were set up – later joined by Winston Churchill

The Ancient Druid Order was set up in the early 20th century by George Watson MacGregor Reid to promote Druidry as a spiritual path that could unite followers of many faiths.

The Order of Bards Ovates and Druids was founded in Britain 50 years ago by historian and poet Ross Nichols aided by writer and founder of the Tolkien Society Vera Chapman

OBOD grew out of the Ancient Druid Order which had in turn developed out of the Druid Revival beginning about 300 years ago

OBOD is not a religious order but perhaps more akin to a ‘mystery school’

It is open to followers of all faiths and none

There are over 100 groups operating around the world under the umbrella of OBOD

The Family of Lugh is part of the OBOD community


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