Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Being Druid: not an analysis, just a ramble.

I'm giving in to an "urge" today. I don't believe that I'll ever know what "druidism" really was, and suspect that no one will, but the study of what little we have about them gives rise to some thoughts which I find difficult to dismiss. As the title says, this is an unsupportable ramble and thereby not much like most of the posts that manifest here.

As you will understand as you read the ramble, it accidently and awkwardly occurs just after Memorial Day. This requires me, in all honesty, to type a few words about people who go to war. I have nothing against the average GI Joe who serves his/our country as a soldier. One of my commonest charities is the Paralyzed Veterans of America. I do honor their personal commitment to what they have been told is the right thing to do, and admire their courage and sacrifice, even though I wish that none of it were so. I do NOT honor the administrators who make the decisions to kill people. And that group is legion, both "friend" and "enemy". They represent often the worst people in the world. Terrorist leaders are in that number, but we have had our own share of violent almost cavalier politicians.

So, God Bless the courageous little guy, forced by "culture" and programming and sense of duty to give up everything truly important, and The Devil take the others.

As I say, reading the following will make clearer why I felt it necessary to say these things.

So, why Druids?

That's why.

When you read a lot about ancient times, it's possible that you begin to think thoughts like: "what would MY life have been like back then?" When I meditate upon things like the paintings above, I say: horrific. Glad I was born in 20th century America. If body type would have been the same, there is no way I could have escaped the military and the violent attempt to kill lots of people.

Or, WAS there? And with this question I believe that I know why there were druids.

Intelligent people must have existed in every age and most of them had no desire to have various parts of their anatomies sawed off while otherwise wasting everything else in life. {I don't know how women coped in all this, and I apologize to the ladies for composing this essay around what I believe some men did}.

If I had been an intelligent, albeit ignorant, young man in those days, not looking for violence, killing and "brutal theft and glory", but rather fascinated with the creation around me [in fact being who I am today], what could I do?

I could walk away. I could remove myself from the dominions of the Insane Men, and try to live somehow out of their influence. Insane Men. I'm serious about the label. These were the power men, ubiquitous everywhere in these societies; making up excuses for killing their territorial "neighbors" rather than counseling with them, and not thinking at all about cooperating when troubles in one or the other microsociety arose. Problems? Kill your neighbors and take what you want. Even the Old Testament is rife with these non-spiritual atrocities.

But going it alone is very hard --- doubtless much harder then than now, other than it might have been easier to get distance from the Insane Men in a less populated world. A "shaman" or a "healer" might go off to the nearby woods and regularly re-emerge or be visited by members of the Insane Men's society and "make a living" doing so, but the shaman must have something to offer, and that something somehow making him a bit of an untouchable. i.e. too valuable as he is to force him into the military or even wallow at court.

It would be an awfully talented loner to pull that off.

So you go in search of others like yourself. If you're lucky, you hear the rumors of some "odd people" who live apart and are said to have powers the rest of us do not have. They do not fight, and do not covet land, but they "know things". And you find and join that band. {doubtless with a thorough probationary period where you demonstrate what your personality/ heart actually is like}.

If you are in an ancient urbanized area, you might find these individuals in an allied but not state-controlled "temple" or monastery. You might become a Magi, a Yogi, a Lama. The Insane Men who rule your geography tolerate your independence [and refusal to join the military or the servant class] because you have something that you seem to offer them which makes it worth it. That then is the trick: what uniquely do you possess that can't be forcefully stolen?

If you are in the ancient British Isles, or some similar "small villages and baronies-type locale", you might retreat to the forests and "away". Still, the "practical issue" is the same: what do you have to offer the Insane Men?

Finally, here is where the circumstances meld harmoniously to allow a solution to the dilemma of the non-insane man. What he, and the band of brothers that constitute his society have always wanted to do is: 1). Live in Peace; 2). Enjoy Life and the Creation; 3). Explore the World; 4). Learn it's wonders; 5). Strive for answers to the Big Questions.

And that's what they do. --- ALL of them. Yogis, Magi, Lamas, Monks, Druids. They learn. They develop "techniques" and applications. They dream dreams, some of them appealing in strange ways to even the Insane Men.

When I began my studies of the druids with Henry Rowlands' Mona Antiqua Restaurata,  an Archaeological Discourse on the Antiquities of the Isle of Anglesey, the Ancient Seat of the Druids {1723}, Rowlands told me something which has rung solidly true through all my subsequent readings, whether of druidism or other "cults" of peace-loving questing men: that was that the druids deliberately isolated themselves from the Insane Men, pursued Peace, intensely studied Nature, set themselves up in three "layers" of activities ["colleges"], and then created a brilliant "service" to lessen the violence of the Insane Men.

What was the service? The druids had plenty to offer once their colleges came somewhat to maturity {calendar-fixing, dreams of a tolerable afterlife [the picture above is a chambered burial site on Angelsey oriented to the Sun], healings, plant knowledge, some materials-working knowledge, and who knows what else, possibly including some psi talents a la the Buddhists}. But that wasn't the brilliant ploy. They offered the Insane Men the members of the third {lowest} college: the "Beirdd" [the other colleges had the names "Offwyr" and "Drudau" --- these are spelled many ways].

These "Bards" were the "historian-singers", the rememberers of "political history". The colleges allowed each Insane Man the services of one Bard/Beirrd. And what was the result? That Beirrd could occasionally stop a war. He did this by "remembering" what had transpire between the two Insane Men  or their insane fathers in the past. He sung the Sagas, and included in them were the "understandings" between the families of the two combatants. Doubtless the other militaristic clown's Beirrd was doing the same AND AGREEING. [do we really think that the two "King's Druids" never collaborated to mold a peace?] And many times these recitations did end a dispute, doubtless after some face-saving compromise. The brilliance of the Beirrd concept was the foundation of Diplomacy vs mindless War.

And, a primary rule of all this: the King's Druid was off-limits as to violence by the opposite side.

Don't involve us in your insanity in any way other than trying to stop it.

This strategy kept a region of insulation between the druidical colleges and the realms of violent power. The intelligence non-violent men had succeeded in finding a way to live peaceful explorative lives in a community of like-minded people. As they watched the distressing waste going on "outside", they at least did what they could to mitigate some of it, while preserving their own lives. Buddhists, Lamas, Monks, probably even Pythagoreans, Eleusians, Delphosians et al were doing the same.

It is ironic that what the history books talk about is entirely the actions of the Insane Men. As off-target as that is, I believe that it was a necessary consequence of what people like the druids had to do. To remain uniquely valuable, groups like the druids had to keep their special knowledge from the Insane Men. That meant secrecy. That meant only VERY gradual being let in on the knowledge. And, with groups that did not have their own material fortress, that probably meant no permanently written down [i.e. steal-able] information. The druids solved this by Beirrds and others dedicated to song and recitations.

But without the writings, there is no history to write about later. So, we future persons get the impression that what was really important in the past were the killings of large numbers of people by insane men. How many "inventions" leaked ultimately into greater society from the magi, monks, and druids? What REALLY made the world progress? War or Study?

There is the old legend of the Language of the Birds. The legend says that he who can understand the Language of the Birds receives all Knowledge and Wisdom. In a way, for those times, I believe that this is precisely true. I think that it is true because the Language of the Birds is a metaphor. It is a metaphor for the close attentive study of Nature. Understanding the Language of the Birds, understanding Nature, is the Path taken by the Druids. Here lies Knowledge. Here lies Wisdom. Here lies the understanding of the Cycles of Life and their Harmonies.

Here lies, ultimately, Peace.

I have no doubt that even druids occasionally screwed this up. Surely some lost their way, sold out to power, strove for "position", got too big to maintain perspective nor community. Stonehenge and Avebury, rather than being the pinnacles of Druidism [or whatever pre-druidic "colleges" built them], may well have been symbols that noble ideas had lost their way. Grossness and the too-intimate interface with the world of the insane manifesting in an "arm's race" to see who could build the biggest temple? Give me the forested grove instead.

The prime deity in the druidical pantheon seems to have been Lugh.

LIGHT. That seems exactly the correct choice.

Till the next time, my friends:  LIGHT and Peace.


  1. Nice ramble, Professor. ;) There's another guy who rambles nicely about Celtic mythology by the name of Robin Williamson. His CDs are difficult to find but he's surely one of the great bardic incarnations, if such can be said in this day and age. In his "Gems of Celtic Story: Three", there is a great recapturing of the story of Lugh Lamhfada at the gates of Tara, where he enumerates his skills to the gate guards there. Besides being a warrior, which he surely was considered, he was also listed as a carpenter, sorcerer, blacksmith, physician, poet, etc. It seems in this capacity he brought the light of many endeavors to the table.

    1. Thanks. Maybe I can find something about RWilliamson.

      The studious druids, in my vision, would collectively have depth knowledge of animal life, maybe even "stock" breeding, plant life, including calendar wisdom for growing and water and fertilization, geology/mineralogy, with clay-making, metal-smelting, color-paint production, herbal remedies, "political medicine" {i.e. poisons--- that's what the Buddhists called it}, crude chemistry, brewing, woodworking, music, math/geometry, astronomy... etc etc. In fact they were the prime reservoir of protoscience and available technology.

      All of that seems unavoidable to me --- it is what we modern academic watered-down druids do. The question for me that I'll never be able to answer is: did they also gain some psi abilities? In a previous post I noted an illusion to dowsing which may well have a psi component. The Eastern druids [the lamas, yogis et al] claim a large number of such psi achievements. Did the druids attain any?

      A third area, and the most romantic of all, is: was there knowledge of the folkloric entities, like the Little People, the Siddhe, the Kelpies, the Merpeople et al? If so, how much and how often, and was it "helpful" or informative? I remain intrigued by the possibility due to the symmetry of druidical locations and these tales/beliefs in Faerie [including the "use" of the old fort and mound structures in both legendary narrative spaces].

  2. Thanks for Sharing such great images and beautiful writing. Great Post.

  3. The Professor wrote: "Intelligent people must have existed in every age and most of them had no desire to have various parts of their anatomies sawed off while otherwise wasting everything else in life. {I don't know how women coped in all this, and I apologize to the ladies for composing this essay around what I believe some men did}." - - -

    Up until the beginning of the 20th. century women were dying in high numbers from complications of pregnancy and childbirth. My small New England town's 'old section' cemetery tells the story well. Tombstones with the husband and under his name serial wives and babies who preceeded him in death.

    In the past maybe some women were able to escape society's traps (marriage, pregnancy) by becoming shamanas or wisewomen but that was dangerous if you did't have a knack for using herbs or telling good stories. With the advent of Christianity women might have turned to the nunnery for freedom from marriage & pregnancy. And transitioning from pagan goddess worship to BVM worship wouldn't have been that great of a stretch, imo.

    ~ Susan

    1. yep.... we've a really embarrassing history on this. What I was most wondering was whether the more wise men who left the Violent Playground of the Insane Men had enough enlightenment to let the similarly-minded ladies into that club, even if they [the ladies] weren't part of the interface Beirrd group, and therefore no "outsider writer" saw and wrote about them? That is at least a fantasy that I have: that the enlightened druidical-type men [unlike groups like Buddhist monks who had all-male monasteries] welcomed women into their communities and, hopefully, the Offwyr and Drudau colleges if any specific woman wished to pursue those sorts of lifepaths. I realize that there is no evidence for any of this, but there is also no evidence against the concept.... so I allow myself the "fully love and empower everybody" fantasy.

  4. Professor - That would have been wonderful if there were significant roles for women amongst the Druids. It is frustrating that we just don't know as much as we'd like to about pagan societies in Britain and Europe. Archeology trods on but the results are slow.

    Fantasy author Marion Zimmer Bradley's 'The Mists of Avalon' presented empowered pagan women, set during the Arthurian era, in a way of life that was dying out as Christianity prozelytized across Britain. It was refreshing to read a Morgaine who was not an evil, jealous whorish woman (which most Arthurian stories present her as).

    My undergraduate degree was a B.A. in History and a minor in Psychology. I learned to see back into history with a masculine gaze because I was reading overwhelmingly about men and their interests. Even powerful ruling monarchs, such as half-sisters Mary I and Elizabeth I, lived their lives and governed with the negative influence of their father Henry, who had no use for either of them because they weren't sons. He even selfishly mucked up the religious aspect pitting sister against sister.

    I can only hope that younger, post-feminist women today have a sober look at history and realize we should take nothing for granted. But so many don't have perspective because of lack of knowledge regarding history. Not that long ago I was speaking with a 20-something woman who was doing my hair and she happen to mention something about - "oh yeah, well when women were slaves until the Civil War"....Sure enough she thought blacks and women (of all races) were slaves! Our schools in the U.S. seem to be failing our society. All students need history classes, not just technical/trade classes for work placements.

    Enjoy your weekend, Prof!

    ~ Susan



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