The Druids in Fact, Folklore and Fiction – Part One

For a couple of years now, if mot more, I’ve been around collecting material that will help me with my first attempt at my second novel. A work of historical fiction, it takes place during the reign of emperor Claudius and focuses partly on the terrible clash between the Romans and the Druids.

I’ve long harboured a strong fascination for all things Celtic and the subject of Druidry and the mysterious figures of the Druids is one that holds a special place in my heart.

After reading various books and academic articles written by archaeologists, historians and scholars on Celtic culture, in my online wanderings I stumbled upon this excellent blogpost that sheds light on the topic of Druidry and the role it played within the Celtic society. Well-researched, it offers a concise yet thorough overview on the Celts and their cultural, social and religious beliefs, the role of the Druids themselves, the sacrifices and religious rites they were involved in, the existence of female Druids and how these sage folk disappeared from the historical record and ended up the stuff of legend and folklore.

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The Horror of it All CategoryThe Druids in Fact, Folklore and Fiction – Part One

The Druids were a high-ranking priestly class among the Iron Age Celtic Peoples of Europe, they were at their most influential within Celtic society starting sometime between the 8th and 3rd centuries BCE up until the 1st century CE when the Romans started to prohibit their activities. Little is actually known about the Druids and their practices for they kept no written records themselves, having a purely oral tradition. It is only from a few (probably biased) contemporary snippets of information given by Classical writers that any details can be gleaned, though perhaps also some can be (cautiously) deduced from later Early-Medieval British and Irish histories, myths and folktales, as well as from other surviving folklore that can be reasonably sourced to an ancient Celtic origin. Practically everything we know about the Druids is hugely debatable – and that even includes…

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Book Review: A Brief History of the Celts

 

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With plans to write a historical novel that deals partly with the Celts of the Iron Age, I had to make a serious research into the Celtic society and study its structures and the way it functioned. Ellis’s A Brief History of the Celts provided me with a good and solid material for a start.

The writing is clear, precise and easily understood, making the book accessible for anybody who wishes to become familiar with the topic. Ellis offers details and cites many sources, thus making his work reliable. But he doesn’t get lost in them and that’s positive because it makes the book informative and not heavy and dry. He focuses his efforts on deconstructing the biased myths the Romans perpetuated, shedding light on the true identity of the Celtic peoples.

The Celts were not child-like savages fond of blood and war as the Romans had painted them. They had created a vast civilization with their own beliefs, philosophy and religion that extended all over Europe and not only. What made a great impression on me was the fact that the various Celtic tribes had built an incredible net of communication between them in both Europe and Asia. Something that indicates the close bonds they shared as well as the fact that they were conscious of their identity and common ancestry.

Ellis gives us a glimpse into the various aspects of their world such as their warriors, their philosophy, their intellectual caste of the Druids, the position of women, their cosmology and their literary tradition.

We have only scratched the surface so far. Our knowledge of this civilization grows day by day. What we have discovered until now is stunning, but it’s only the tip. The future surely has a lot more to unearth before our eyes.