No, the Druids did not build Stonehenge and we don't know if they performed rites there -- but I wonder how could they resist? I had the good luck to see it way back in the early '60s before it was fenced in, to walk around inside the circle of standing stones. That was awesome long before the word degenerated to teen slang. Mysteries remain but I have just learned that much is known about the Druids, who apparently came to England some time after Stonehenge was erected.
Some books remain in my to-read bookcase a long time. Finally I read Peter Berresford Ellis' studious The Druids. And I'm awed again. Ellis begins by discussing the Celts as a vast group who seem to have their origin the same place as the Indian people who became the Hindus. They spread from Asia Minor all across Europe to Ireland and perhaps even went to Iceland before the Vikings did. Their society was remarkably sophisticated for people living during 1000 years before the Roman era. Says Ellis, they elected their leaders, women were treated very nearly as equals of men, they had a code of law that emphasized truth as the supreme ideal, they had myths, bards, judges, a warrior class that conquered Rome in 450BC, and they had the upper class, the intelligentsia which was analogous to the Brahman class in India -- the Druids.
Apparently Ellis's understanding of the Druids is not the only view, but he makes a well researched case [the book gets downright overloaded with references frequently] and I buy his point of view. When one understands the ideas, philosophy, social structures of what we think of as primitive peoples, humility is the only reasonable response. We've come light years in terms of technology and understanding of the physical sciences but our societies have not advanced very much and for very long periods regressed ... given many things in current politics we seem not to have advanced at all. We're very busy trying to understand robotics and much else that is expected to make us more enlightened but history is very little studied, both recent and ancient history. Those who do not understand history are bound to repeat past mistakes, as those who are wiser than I observed.
ELDER MUSIC: Drinking Songs 3 - This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge an...
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