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  • Topic: Celts, Gaul, Pliny the Elder
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Who were the Druids?
The stereotypical image of a Druid is one of a thoughtful philosopher and magician, schooled in the lore of the traditions, and in charge of the education of the chieftains as well as those who sought to obtain knowledge considered obscure by the rest of society. They were knowers of truth, able to manipulate that truth as well as inform others of it. Druids not only influenced society religiously, they also influenced it socially i.e. they took on the parts of teachers, judges, magicians, craftsmen, advisors, priests, and masters of ceremonies, and in doing so, were greatly respected in society. The Role of Druids

Caesar remarked that Druidism originated in Britain and that students would travel there for instruction, information and advice on astronomy, the ‘essential nature of things', and the power and authority of the Gods- both local and pan-Celtic deities. Their religion forbade them to write down what was being taught, as stated by Athelia Nihtscada: Druids of the past sought to preserve knowledge through passing their traditions to their students. Unfortunately, they did not feel it prudent to write any of this knowledge down lest the knowledge fall into the wrong hands or lose power, leaving us having to piece together what little we do know from other writers through the ages. Because Nihtscada is a woman born with Celtic roots, and was initiated into the Druidic tradition herself, this modern source is quite reliable. She is also a public speaker with a deep interest in her Celtic heritage. Her aim therefore, was to provide readers with accurate information about the Celts, much of which corresponds with information provided by the Romans. Instead of writing, information was communicated and learnt through verse. In fact, there were so many verses that the druids spent about 20 years studying them, learning about oral literature of sacred songs, prayers, incantations, divination and magic. Despite this however, not one verse has survived, nor are there any pure Druidic legends as all of them have been subjected to Christian or Roman interpretation. Master of Ceremonies

Druids, as masters of ceremonies, are renowned for administering animal, and sometimes even human sacrifices, as told by the Romans. Pliny the Elder describes one Druidic ceremony in his Naturalis Historia (XVI, 95): "Anything growing on those trees [oaks] they regard as sent from heaven and a sign that this tree has been chosen by the gods themselves. Mistletoe is, however, very rarely found, and when found, it is gathered with great ceremony and especially on the sixth day of the moon... They prepare a ritual sacrifice and feast under the tree, and lead up two white bulls whose horns are bound for the first time on this occasion. A priest attired in a white vestment ascends the tree and with a golden pruning hook cuts the mistletoe which is caught in a white cloth. Then next they sacrifice the bulls praying that the gods will make their gifts propitious to those to whom they have given it. They believe that if given in drink the mistletoe will give fecundity to any barren animal, and that it is predominant against all poisons." Pliny the Elder was a Roman scholar and as a result, may have been prejudiced against Celts, however not to the extent of Julius Caesar. Because this extract was from Natural History, a writing which was produced after extensive study, this source is probably quite reliable as the aim was to provide accurate information to the readers. Pliny also lived from AD23-AD79, a time in which the Celts also existed, increasing the reliability of this source. Skilled Craftsmen

Druids had knowledge of bronze, iron, and other metals, which was passed on to the Celtic people. Celtic coins often featured pictures of horses, boars and ears of wheat. Many other Celtic artefacts found in graves or bogs also feature natural motifs of animals, people, nature and Gods. Techniques such...
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