The term ‘druid’ refers to a member of the learned class among the ancient Celts. These people acted as priests, teachers as well as judges.
The earliest-known records of the Druids come from the 3rd century BCE. Their name might have come from a Celtic word that means “knower of the oak tree.” Very little is known for certain regarding the Druids, who kept absolutely no records of their own.
According to Julius Caesar, who is the main source of information regarding the Druids, there were two groups of men in Gaul who were held in honour: the Druids and the noblemen (equites). Caesar said that the Druids took charge of public as well as private sacrifices. Many young men consulted the Druids for instruction.
They judged that all public and private quarrels. Druids decreed penalties. If anyone did not obey their decree, he was barred from sacrifice, which was considered as the gravest of punishments.
One Druid was made the chief and upon his death, another was appointed. If, however, a number were equal in merit, the Druids voted. Although they often resorted to armed violence.
Once a year, the Druids came together at a sacred place in the territory of the Carnutes. This was believed to be the centre of all Gaul. Here, all legal disputes were submitted to the judgment of the Druids.
When Did Druidism Begin?
When exactly druidism began is not known. Cunliffe, who is an emeritus professor of European archaeology at the University of Oxford, notes that the earliest written reference to druids goes back approximately 2 400 years. While druidism certainly goes back much earlier than this, how far back is not known.
Ancient druidism continued up until about 1 200 years ago, slowly being supplanted by Christianity. There is a renewal movement of modern-day druids; however, Cunliffe, together with other scholars, is cautious to highlight that there is a gap of nearly a millennium between the demise of the ancient druids as well as the appearance of this revival group.
Today, people often associate Stonehenge with druidism. However, Stonehenge was built mainly between 5 000 and 4 000 years ago while the initial written reference to the druids goes back to around 2 400 years ago. So, again, there is a break in time. The question of druidism existed when Stonehenge was built, and if so in what form, is an open one.
The Formation Of The Universal Bond
In 1912, a group of radical socialists established the Druidic order of the Universal Bond in order to campaign for peace as well as fellowship between the world’s different religious faiths and social justice. These were the individuals who held public ceremonies at Stonehenge at the summer solstice until 1985. They still do so in off-peak seasons.
From the 1980s the image of the Druid has become a rallying-point for significant numbers of British people who are looking for a sense of reunion with the natural world as well as with the ancient people of the islands. It can act as an antidote to the twin prevailing modern deprivations of feeling cut off from nature and from the past.