Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Druids

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.


Kass said...

Whenever I think of the Druids, I hear Joan Sutherland singing Casta Diva from Norma. Wish I knew more about the Druids, other than that they figure in this opera when Norma's lover is seized by them and they are both burned by them.

June Calender said...

I knew just what you mean, Kass. I love Bellini's music and saw a DVD of Sutherland in the role -- BRAVA! Mostly we don't care if opera stories have any resemblance to fact.

Anonymous said...

Today, we might associate the Celts with some basketball team in Boston, but at one time they were spread across Europe. A great deal of linguistic, artifact and genetic material points to their origins around what is today Modern Switzerland. Why do I mention the Celts?

Their 'priests' or holy men were what some call Druids today. The word Celt originated from the Greek Keltoi. The Romans called them Galli. A tribe of them broke off and settled the land known as Galatia in Roman times.

Just sign me obsessed with the subject. I too once walked inside the standing stones, touched them and even leaned on one of them. One of these days, I will have to dig out the photos. Years later when we visited Sarum again, they were enclosed. I understand the stones are now open to the public again. Wonderul place. Dianne

June Calender said...

Thank you, Diane. The book did say that the apparent center of the pre-Roman Celts was the area where the Rhine and Rhone and Danube rivers have their source, which would be the Alps, i.e., Switzerland. I'm happy to hear that Saram is open again.


Excellent post. Another good book to put on my to-read list. Have always had a fascination with the Druids but have not been satisfied with the books that I have found on the subject.

Also, thought I would mention this blog as it seems like one you might enjoy.

Thanks -- barbara

sewinggeek said...

I sent this on to my husband as he has been reading on this topic and I thought he would enjoy it. Thanks. This is a book I want to read someday.