Never in human history have guardians and protectors of the earth been more needed than now. In a world where the pollution of the water table is secondary to the profits that can be made from extracting natural gas from beneath the earth’s surface; where mining companies can save money by paying huge fines rather than rehabilitate the land they have destroyed with open cut mining practices, where old growth forests and untouched rainforests are cleared and the habitats of endangered and threatened species are lost to meet the demand for cheap timber and palm oil, now, more than ever, Mother Earth needs her Druids.
The Druids held many roles in Ancient Society. Druids were the nature priests and sages of Celtic Society. They were advisors, magistrates and physicians. They were poets, scholars and historians. So integral to the Ancient Peoples lives, were the Druids that their duties, far too numerous and important to be carried out by any one person, were distributed among three classes, Druids, Vates and Bards. The Druids were the ‘high priests and priestesses’ of the tribe. It was the role of the Druid to be an advisor, administrator, a judge and ambassador for their tribe. The Druid would also oversee important ceremonies and rituals. Vates were the seers and diviners among the Druids. They were trained to recognise omens and foretell events.
Being more accessible to the people, they were also the healers, surgeons and herbalists who worked with nature to ensure their people remained healthy both in spirit and in body. The also wrote the sacred songs and stories so essential to the peoples secular and spiritual lives. They were the watchers, the protectors of the druid traditions, rituals and the people. Bards were responsible for memorising and performing the poems and songs that would extol the heroic deeds of the tribe’s kings, warriors and history. They were the keepers of the tribe’s genealogy. Without their stories, sometimes turned into songs, the people would quickly lose their tribal history, accounts of significant deeds and traditions.
The more we look into the history and roles of the Ancient Druids, the less likely it seems they were the blood thirsty sorcerers, sacrificing innocent victims to their pagan gods that the scribes and historians of the day, would have us believe.
Druidry in the Modern Age is just as spiritual and nature centred as ever it was in Ancient Times. It is a spiritual pathway that connects us at the deepest levels with the earth and with nature. It is a way of life that encourages inner development and spiritual journeying as much as it connects us with the ‘real’ natural world around us. It is a way of viewing our place in the world, not as masters or owners, but as a part of something much greater; a small piece of a vast web of life that is interconnected and symbiotic.
Like the greatest of rivers on earth are fed by many smaller streams and creeks, Modern Druidry is fed by many and varied sources. I do not believe that the Druidry we experience today is a traditional practice from ancient times. Between the Roman occupation and early Christian influence, it is very unlikely that original Driudry survived unbroken over such a long period of time.
That is not to say we do not have access to some historical records of Ancient Druidry. Both Roman scribes and even some early Christians have written about Druids, and some of these written records still survive today and speak to those who take the time, and make the effort, to seek it out. This information however, must be viewed in the context in which it was written.
Neither the Romans nor the early Christian Church could be considered to be particularly friendly toward Druids or their nature based religion. There are lessons about Druidry to be learned from the ancient Celtic stories. There is a lot of lore and teachings encoded in the oral traditions of these people who stood side by side with the Druids of the ancient world. The songs and stories were used to pass on the knowledge and cultural practises among the Celts from one generation to the next.
This lore is still available to us today, in the same form, locked away in the stories that have survived from ancient times. Written down for the first time in the 6th century, the Welsh story of Ceridwen and Gwion, is not simply a retelling of the myth of the birth of an enlightened bard, it offers guidelines on how we can grow spiritually and develop our gifts and creativity. This wisdom is just as available to us now as it was when it existed only in its oral form, perhaps a thousand years before it was committed to paper.
Read the rest of Druidry For The Modern Age in Sage Magazine – Issue 3