Modern Druidism is one of the Neo-Pagan family of religions, which includes Wicca and recreations of Egyptian, Greek, Norse, Roman and other ancient Pagan religions. Druidism is a reconstruction of the beliefs and practices of the ancient Celtic priesthood-professional class. The ancient Druids performed the functions of modern day priests, teachers, ambassadors, astronomers, genealogists, musicians, theologians, poets and judges; they also were specialists in healing and divination. They underwent lengthy training: some sources say 20 years. Druids led all public rituals, which were normally held within fenced groves of sacred trees. Most appear to have been male; it is not known whether female Druids were considered equal to their male counterparts, or whether they were restricted to special responsibilities.

Druidism and other Neo-Pagan religions are currently experiencing a rapid growth. Many people are attempting to rediscover their roots, their ancestral heritage. For many people in North America, their ancestors can be traced back to Celtic countries.

Many academics believe that the ancestors of the Celts were the Proto-Indo European culture who lived near the Black Sea circa 4000 BCE. Some migrated in a South-Westerly direction to create the cultures of Thrace and Greece; others moved North-West to form the Baltic, Celtic, Germanic and Slavic cultures. Evidence of a Proto-Celtic Unetice or Urnfield culture has been found in what is now Slovakia circa 1000 BCE. This evolved into a group of loosely linked tribes which formed the Celtic culture circa 800 BCE. By 450 BCE they had expanded into Spain; by 400 BCE they were in Northern Italy, and by 270 BCE, they had migrated into Galatia (central Turkey). By 200 BCE, they had occupied the British Isles, Brittany, much of modern France, Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and Switzerland, North West Spain, and their isolated Galatia settlement in Turkey.

Although the Celts had a written language, it was rarely used. Their religious and philosophical beliefs were preserved in an oral tradition. Little of their early history remains. Most of our information comes from Greek and Roman writers, who may well have been heavily biased (the Celts invaded Rome in 390 BCE and Greece in 279 BCE). Other data comes from the codification (and modification) of Celtic myth cycles by Christian monks. The latter included the Ulster Cycle, the Fenian Cycle, the Cycle of Kings, the Invasion Races Cycle from Ireland, and The Mabinogion from Wales. Unfortunately, much Celtic history and religion has been lost or distorted by an overlay of Christianity.

After the invasions by Rome, the Druids were converted to Christianity, through persuasion or genocide. The descendants of the Druids maintained Christian and ancient Roman and Greek knowledge intact while the rest of Europe descended into the Dark Ages. The Christian Church adsorbed much of Celtic religion: Pagan Gods and Goddesses became Christian saints; sacred springs and wells were preserved and associated with saints; many temple sites became the location of cathedrals. By the 7th Century CE, Druidism itself was destroyed or continued deeply underground throughout most of the formerly Celtic lands. There is some evidence that Pagan religion did survive in isolated areas of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania into the 20th Century.

Myths about Druids

Beliefs and Practices:

Beliefs and practices of the ancient Celts are being pieced together by modern Druids. Because so much information has been lost, this is not an easy task. Some findings are:

Seasonal Days of Celebration

Druids, past and present, celebrate a series of fire-festivals, on the first of each of four months. Each would start at sunset and last for three days. Great bonfires would be built on the hilltops. Cattle would be driven between two bonfires to assure their fertility; couples would jump over a bonfire or run between two bonfires as well. The festivals are:

There were occasional references in ancient literature to:

However, these do not appear to be major seasonal days of celebration for the ancient Druids.

Modern Druidic Movements

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Book References

Internet References

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