Some novel characteristics about the druid society included sometimes being led by females. Leading females were sometimes referred to as “Goddesses”. There were occasions in some tribes in which the leaders would engage in ritualized contests, that would result in moving up in power and importance in the tribe. These could be fights to the death.
It appears that the druid philosophy or religion was completely communicated through oral tradition – not a single ancient druid document from the pre-Christian era exists, according to online sources. Song cycles, prayers, instruction in magic and divination were only taught face to face. Because the societies that druids served had written language, this oral tradition apparently served to maintain the secrecy of the teachings. Advanced students were taught at a special school on an island off the coast of Wales. Reportedly, the schooling could take 20 years.
One of the few first had reporters on druids, though he had his own prejudices, is actually the Roman Emperor, Julius Caesar. In “De Bello Galico”, he writes: “…the main objective of all [druid] education is, in their opinion, to imbue their scholars with a firm belief in the indestructibility of the human soul, which… merely passes from one tenement to another… which robs death of all its terrors…”
Central to druid values is the natural world, and in particular sacred groves of trees, in which their most important ceremonies were held. The sun, moon, and even the shapes of clouds and the flight paths of birds were looked to for signs and interpretations to divine the future.
Some controversial reports claim that in their most grisly, druids offered human sacrifices, and read the future by the ways in which the blood ran, or the way the victim convulsed, after a sacrificial knife is plunged into his chest.
According to Lesson Six, this is unconfirmed myth. It is suggested that these notions exist because of prejudices against the druids by the Christian church, which “banned paganism and anyone practicing any of the old rituals.”
Central to druid views is the sacredness and healing power of trees, particularly oak, ash, and thorn. And example of this comes in paper Lesson 8, attributed to druidy.org.
“Approaching a tree we approach a sacred being who can teach us about love and about endless giving. S/he is one of millions of beings who provide our air, our homes, our fuel, our books.. Working with the spirit of the tree can bring us renewed energy, powerful inspiration, deep communion.”
Rev. James D. Connor
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