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The Celtic Villager

Posted: 20 Jun 2010, 06:23
by ravenfolk
As I have been reading and researching druids, the most common description I have been coming across is;
Druids were teachers, healers, judges, poets, and priests. A leader class among the Celtic people.
My question is what did the common people, the people of the community practice in relation the the teachings of these leaders? Surely not every person became a Druid (leader), or belonged to what seems like the ruling class of the Celts. :thinking:
How much of what is taught in druidism is meant for the common man/woman and how much is geared more towards becoming a Druid (teacher,judge, priest of leader)? I guess I kind of have this image of a person joining an order much like joining a monastary or convent. I do understand the concept that druidism is seen as a type of spiritual philosophy. I guess maybe my question is coming from a historical perspective at this moment. I would love to hear what you might have to share concerning this query.


Re: The Celtic Villager

Posted: 20 Jun 2010, 13:22
by Corwen
Modern Druidry is inspired by what we know of Ancient Druids (which isn't a huge amount), by Celtic folk belief and custom, by early medieval literary sources such as the Mabinogion, the Cauldron of Poesy etc, by the fairly long heritage of revival Druidry dating back around 300 years, and most importantly by the contemporary spirituality of people involved in Druidry.

So it is a far cry from what Ancient Druids would have believed and practised, not completely unrelated to it, but very different. Druidry is no longer a path for just a few (though there are paths within it for those who have a call to be leaders or teachers) like it was 2000 years ago.

To answer your question from a historical perspective, the tribal religions of the Ancient Celts were most likely presided over by Druids as well as by cultic priests. The philosophy of the Druids would have been an extension of that of the common people, so we can be fairly sure that if the Druids taught reincarnation and the transmigration of souls then this is what everyone would have assumed was true- as in India today.

Re: The Celtic Villager

Posted: 20 Jun 2010, 20:29
by ravenfolk
Thanks Corwen. Your response pretty much clarified what I was thinking. :salute:


Re: The Celtic Villager

Posted: 18 Dec 2010, 07:17
by echoe
I had a different understanding from my books (I swear I'm going to end up getting into my snowy garage to get the books I'm referencing.

At least in the French Celts, the druids were a separate class, yes, but they weren't necessarily the leaders. The Celts were a very democratic society, all voting for the leader with much discussion. The Druids were sought out for opinions, for perspectives, for specialized medical needs, and for spiritual guidance. It was similar, believe it or not, to what Aex Haley came across when he went to Africa in search of his "Roots." The priest mentally kept the records of all who had been in the tribes historically, which the druids were supposed to do, and also kept the information of medicines passed down, and in the case of druids, it's also supposed that they kept engineering and architectural knowledge that was verbally passed down, and sacred to the point of not being put in writing.

When Celts met, and they did often, with leaders, they each had opportunities to speak their minds towards a subject, druids often attended the meetings in order to understand the wants of the tribe and to help settle arguments. They were also judges in that sense. If there was an argument over property, it was settled by the druid of that tribe like Solomon of the bible. Only children who chose to become druids were accepted into apprenticeship, they had to learn to memorize the history of the ancestors and the engineering etc, and yes, some kids gave up after a few years.

Being a leader or chieftan of a tribe was not necessarily a familial passing on to the next inheritor, but sometimes it was, as people tend to be a lot like their parents. Sons and daughters were recognized to have the same measure of level-headedness or fierceness needed for battle, for protection and for leadership. But the leaders of each tribe also relied upon the advice of druids. It was a healthy balance as neither was completely in power, but each was supposed to offer a perspective to help balance the whole.

Druids could be women or men, but were not necessarily celibate, as monks or nuns. Some were in partnerships, some were not, but non-partnership did not denote celibacy either. Sexual activity was regarded as healthy, spiritual and part of nature. Men and women were both allowed to speak at tribal meetings. The druid meetings were however not usually tribal, but private and among druids only. When the druid meetings were for the whole clan, it was usually a festival such as seasonal, or for a preparation of battle or things of that nature. Druids were often seen (as generals) at the backs of battles, above the tribes at war, so that morale could be boosted and so that the druid could advise on better war moves. So in that sense, a druid was a soldier too, only more of a general, and not at the front lines.

I did read in the Caesar writings that there were human sacrifices made, but I'd have to wonder if that was Caesar trying to scare everyone, or if it was true. They also sacrificed pregnant mares, and other animals.

They did teach children and others about simple medicinal techniques, like which plant would ease a toothache (willow leaf) or things of that nature. They also taught about deities and each tribe tended to worship one or more particular deities more than the other.

Re: The Celtic Villager

Posted: 19 Dec 2010, 02:08
by wolf560
echoe wrote: The Celts were a very democratic society, all voting for the leader with much discussion. The Druids were sought out for opinions, for perspectives, for specialized medical needs, and for spiritual guidance.

Being a leader or chieftan of a tribe was not necessarily a familial passing on to the next inheritor, but sometimes it was, as people tend to be a lot like their parents.
Good points..!!!

Druids were supposed to only advise, and the Gauls essentially elected their war leaders.

Cathbath (or Cathbad) the Druid was said to either usurped or cursed the Ulster throne and the King who sat upon it. It appears in doing so he actually saved the kingdom from an invading army. Some of the stories did not paint Cathbad in a very good light because he essentially stepped over the approved "Druidic advisory line".

Many Celtic tribes would elect a "Brennas" (War Captain or War Duke) to lead the armies into battle. "Brennus" led both the 280 BCE sack of Delphi and the 325 BCE sack of Rome. The two were 50 years apart so they have to be title rather than the same person. Put "King Arthur" into that mold and you get not a 'King' but a War Duke elected by the Britons to lead their forces against the invading Saxons. Nennius calls him the Dux Bellorum (Duke of Battles) but the truth is no one knows for sure.

Sources; ... t_djvu.txt

Re: The Celtic Villager

Posted: 23 Dec 2010, 11:08
by echoe
also, each person had a god that they personally worshipped more. they could seek out the druid to ask questions about that god, and the druid was supposed to know about all of them. The druids themselves also had specialized fields. Some concentrated on the engineering, some on history, some on medicines, etc.

The "common" people, well, they farmed, they traded, they did metal work, they did all kinds of work themselves. They did learn from others, leaders, parents, and druids, general knowledge was passed down through familes and generations, but not specialized knowledge. Some Celts hired themselves out as mercenaries, some traveled far and wide trading, others were even diplomats who negotiated terms with other tribes. Those diplomats were required to take at least one druid with them.

There are some really excellent books on Celtic and Druidic history. I'm hoping others will add to the list of books to look at!

I can't believe my brain is working tonight!

Re: The Celtic Villager

Posted: 25 Dec 2010, 23:02
by Lily
Maybe we should distinguish between rite and everyday faith. the former would have been presided over by professionals. Not everyone would even attend, perhaps these sorts of things happened fairly centralized, and a villager who did not live near any tribal leader's house/ritual structure/grove/whatever would at most attend the local bonfires.

Everyday acts of faith - visiting a well and saying a prayer before drawing water - THAT would have been the celtic villager.

We are all learning here as members of OBOD and getting some of the tools that might have been those of the official "clerics", but just as much we are hearing the stories that the villagers might have known and the simple rites that they would have performed... I also believe that there are those that, while learning within the OBOD course, or on other pagan paths they have chosen, are comfortable in standing back and being part of the "congregation" at rites, thus being the "villagers".

Re: The Celtic Villager

Posted: 26 Dec 2010, 18:14
by wolf560
Lily wrote:Rites and everyday faith.

Everyday acts of faith - visiting a well and saying a prayer before drawing water
Yes, "Rites" and "Faith" are very very different.... and in the same vein; very much alike.

Some rites are things of great importance (the eight spokes of the wheel) while others are not only more personal but occurring in a more chaotic fashion. These rites would have been for births, burials, naming ceremonies, and the like. "Professionals" (Ovates or Filidh) would have either been part of the village or travelling "Aes Dana" that would have done these "rites".

One of the greatest punishments that existed back then was not death or incarceration but rather the expulsion from the village and the cutting off of access to the public rituals. I believe that what we call "the fine line between rites and faith" were actually closer than we see now. Even amongst those we call "Pagans" do not approach the nature of life among the "Celtic Villagers" back then.

It was likely an all-encompassing feeling of being part of the Land, Sea, & Sky... a part of the world that surrounds and envelopes every living thing in eyesight and beyond.

I believe that, back then, the "Celtic Villagers" were not stupid or ignorant. That they attended these "rites & rituals" every few months and that they would have remembered how the rituals went and what words and actions were spoken and done. What Deities were called and how they were called, and maybe even roughly what time or month it would occur. We "assume" that they were stupid savages that wandered in like cattle to the ritual when called by the leaders.

I give them the honor, the respect, and the wisdom that I feel they deserve by saying that they probably chanted along with the rites leaders. That they knew what they were doing (and when and WHY for that matter).

I believe that they were then, by definition, capable of understanding the differences and possibly even capable of performing some of the rituals. After the disappearance of the Druids in the day to day life of the "Celtic Villager".... I further believe that it is those very Celtic Villagers that are responsible for keeping the memory alive.

They told their children and so on down the line of the great importance of those rites and the intelligent people that led them. The Skalds , Bards, and Seannachies all contributed to this with stories of ancient battles and great kings and of course the Tuatha de Danann. The Irish Schools of Medicine were counted among the very finest in the world from the 6th to nearly the 16th century. Some now say that the teachings of the Druids lay hidden amongst these very Colleges.

These "Villagers" and the Irish Monks that followed them are at least partially responsible for the memory surviving to this day. Memory of the belief system we now study and try to gain an understanding of.

I think we have a lot to be thankful for, and at least some of it belongs to the simple "Celtic Villager" and the stories they told their children at the hearthfire on a cold wintery night.

Nollaigh Shona one and all...!!!
Happy Christmas everyone..!!!

Re: The Celtic Villager

Posted: 26 Dec 2010, 19:56
by Huathe
Mark, I hope you and your family had a wonderful Christmas. Mine went well.