Tuesday, July 18, 2006

What are the Druids and how are they related to Wicca?

Merry Meet!

As you read about magick and the mystical arts and the Craft, you will read about the Druids. What are the Druids and how do they relate to us, the modern witches and covens of today. No one is really sure about who the Druids are. There are some who say they were some sort of ruling class, some where after the chief or king but above the ordinary citizenry. They were the wise men and women who formed the basic legal system, made decisions about crime and punishment, advised kings when and when not to make war, alliances, marry and crown heirs. They functioned also as the leaders of religion, presiding over marriages, divorces, births, funerals, coronations and religious feasts, sports, and rites.

We know this very small bit not from Druids themselves, but from the invaders of Europe, namely the Romans under people like Julius Caesar. In Julius Caesar's Commentaries, he wrote that the Druids were blood thirsty, savage men( ignoring of course the roles of women in the Druidic culture) who sacrificed humans in large quantities and ate human flesh and burned people alive in their wickerman festivals before Samhain. And following largely in this same vein, writers like Pliny the elder spoke of some elements of Druid religion, like the veneration of trees and the worship of the moon and the sun and the use of mistletoe and some meanings of the varying woods. But this is all we really know, and we should have some skepticism about histories that were not written by the people themselves either through art or written language.

Did the Druids write their own history? I'm afraid the Druids themselves wrote very little about their work and their religion or their knowledge. Most of the Druid's knowledge was oral history, told from one Druid to another, taught from generation to generation and handed down as legacy of sorts. It is thought, because no one really knows for sure, they were a culture who believed in leading strenuous lives of hard work and play. If things were written down, then no one need learn things and memorize them, they could look it up anytime. So just as there were people who did wondrous athletic feats, so too were there people who memorized millions of words of poetry and formulas and spells. This is fantastic in and of themselves, but imagine now, the death of the group of people! It would be the death of all that learning.

And that is what happened, and just all invaders do, they bring their pantheons of Gods and Goddesses to replace the native Gods. Now, does that mean the Druid religion and their magical practices are lost forever? No, but you can never call it "Druid" again. There were people who remembered little bits, a spell here, a practice there, maybe even a ritual or two and keep it in their hearts, teaching their family, celebrating with others, adding to the parts they have forgotten with some new bit they thought would enhance the rite and make it respectful and memorable for them in their time. And over time, the faith system of the conquerors become absorbed by the conquered, that is why we see Greek and Roman spirits and imagery of European Wicca and Native American imagery in North America and we are now seein Christian imagery in the Craft, as we have come to call it.

There are reasons for everything under the sun. There may be a reason why we don't know must about the Druids. It may be that it was simply their time to go away from us. Perhaps it was some divine way of teaching us to appreciate the Craft we have and to help it grow as we see fit, just as the ones who remembered a few spells worked hard to learn more. And we have to appreciate others. I have to thank myPagan and Wiccan brothers and sisters for writing those wonderful books I studied and read and learned from and thank other Christian Wicces for coming out of the broom closet and telling me that I was not alone.

And finally, thanks to all of those ancient Craft traditions who went before us all and suffered for their Craft and taught us to never take learning for granted.

Blessings be

Aslinn Dhan