Druids, Trees, Etc

Karl Davies karl at daviesand.com
Tue Dec 21 10:58:42 EST 1999

Who were the Druids?  Popular folklore tells us they were ancient Celtic
wise men.  They wore long robes and had long, flowing beards.  Merlin,
the famous magician of King Arthur’s court, was reputedly a Druid.  They
are credited with having built Stonehenge and other megalithic monuments
throughout Great Britain and Europe.

Other sources tell us Druids were really into trees.  Their ceremonies
were conducted in the open air, often in oak groves.  The word Druid is
apparently derived from the ancient Celtic word for oak--deru.  Other
trees were also very important to them, including hazel, walnut, willow,
yew, ash and birch.  Tree symbolism was used in their religious and
philosophical teachings.

According to the Romans, the Druids were a nefarious lot who performed
human sacrifices, and had enormous control over the widespread Celtic
tribes in Western Europe and Great Britain.  But can you trust the
accounts of Romans describing any peoples they were in the process of

What do the Druids have to say about themselves?  Unfortunately, we
don’t know much because the Romans and Christians were very efficient
colonizers and proselytizers.  And the Druids didn’t keep written
records.  All their knowledge and traditions were apparently carried
down orally.

Years ago I read a book by someone who claimed that in fact the Druid
lineage was still intact, and that he was a real, modern day Druid.
I’ve lost the book and can’t remember the title, but I think it may have
been the one called Druids by Pigott, which is listed in an online
bibliography on Druids, reference cited below.

According to the author of this book, Druids were the repositories and
transmitters of Celtic culture, and all its knowledge and wisdom.
Perhaps more importantly for the Romans, Druids were the system of
communication between Celtic villages and towns.  They traveled a lot
and provided what little unity existed among all the widespread Celtic
tribes--something the Romans would have wanted to eliminate.

They had religious, medicinal, astronomical, and historical knowledge.
It took decades to absorb it all and become a full-fledged Druid.  Their
ceremonies were keyed to natural cycles throughout the year.  At this
time of year ceremonies centered on the mistletoe, a plant that produces
its fruit in winter--when everything else appears dead.  Since the
Druids believed in reincarnation, this phenomenon was symbolic and very

Below are some links to web sites with information on Druids and what
they believed.  You can find more information with any search engine.
If there are any real, live Druids on this newsgroup, perhaps they could
point us to other sources of information and inspiration!  Meanwhile,
Happy Solstice!

The Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids
(Check out the Graphical Mystery Tour!)

Druidic Books

The Celts: Part I - Druids and Sacred Trees*

The Magic of Mistletoe

Karl Davies, Practicing Forester

Northeastern Forestry Reformation List Server

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