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The Basics

The Study of Druidism isn't as simple as talking to one individual, reading one book, joining one Druidic group, or taking a class in religion. There isn't one complete picture of Druidic beliefs and structure, but many small pieces of a collage consisting of many pictures. Druidism can be compared to a piece of art in which it's only judge is how it is perceived by each individual. Where one will see a Picasso, another will see a Rembrandt. It is all how one perceives the information they are given and how they choose to focus on what they have perceived.
Rarely will one find two Druids which believe 100% in the same way as another. Much diversity in Druid structure in modern groups comes from the time period of which they have chosen to relate to.  Typically there are three time periods which are focused on: Post-Roman invasion; Roman invasion time period; and Pre-Roman time period. Individual Druids and Druid organizations often focus on and make priority of specific areas of Druidism such as: history; poetry; nature; astronomy; ritual; or any number of areas. This does not mean that one group or any individual is better than another, it is the way Druids manage to create the best in all areas so when information is needed there is someone knowledgeable to call upon. It is NOT required for a singular Druid to have ALL knowledge, but to have some knowledge in most areas and a primary focus in at least one area.

The Druid stronghold was in Great Britain although the origination is traceable to Ireland. It is also noted that the Druids can be placed all across Europe and possible in some parts of Africa and Asia. We are told in various literature that the Druids were held as teachers in many of these areas including Rome and Egypt. It is written that the Druids also held positions of Priests and Judges throughout Germania and Gaul.

Druid organizations typically consist of three major groups; Bard, Ovate (Ofydd), and Druid (Derwydd). Some groups consider these to be separate areas of "profession," while others consider them to be "steps." In the Story of Taliesin, the Bard receives three gifts from the Cauldron of Inspiration brewed by the goddess Ceridwen: poetry, prophecy and shape-shifting. These gifts being Bard, Ovate and Druid respectively.

The Bards were the historians and keepers of traditions and used poetry in the form of "song-spell" and poetry to memorize this information. In Ireland, they trained for 12 years learning grammar, hundreds of stories, poems, philosophy, the Ogham tree-alphabet. A basic understanding of how Bards used their "trade" is to look at Homers Iliad and Odyssey, which were originally passed down by oral tradition.

The Ovate, or Ofydd conducts prophecy and divination, the healing arts and awareness of the Otherworld. Learning the power of seeing and envisioning, the Ovate seeks understanding through study of herbs, plants and the physical healing energies of the earth. The Ovates worked with the processes of death and regeneration. They were the native healers of the Celts. They specialized in divination, conversing with the ancestors, and prophesizing the future.

The Druid, or Derwydd, conducts rituals, oversees legal matters and is a teacher. The Druid uses all abilities to inspire the diversity of nature and relationships, creating bridges between cultures, traditions and peoples, between spirit and form, deity and seeker, knowing and not-knowing. The Druid is the peace maker and initiator. The Druids formed the professional class in Celtic society. They performed the functions of modern day priests, teachers, ambassadors, astronomers, genealogists, philosophers, musicians, theologians, scientists, poets and judges. They underwent lengthy training: some sources say 20 years.

The Druids had more that the three specializations than the more familiar druid, ovate, and bard, whhich include: Sencha; historian, analyst Brithem; judge, arbitrator, ambassador Scelaige; keeper of myths and epics Cainte; master of magical chants, blessings, curses, invocations, execrations, banishments Liaig; doctor who uses plants, magic and surgery Cruitre; harpist who uses music as magic, master of the "Three Noble Strains" of music: music that invokes laughter, tears, and sleep. Deoghbaire; cup bearer who knows the properties of intoxicating and hallucinogenic substances Faith; diviner Bard; popular poet and singer Fili; sacred poet and diviner

Then there were the Fianna who were later considered the Warriors of Druidism. Joining a band of Fianna was an acceptable way for people to "drop out" of society for a short time to resolve the developmental tasks of maturity. (similar to emancipation.) It was not treated as an escape or a mandatory rite of passage, but functioned as an alternative environment for maturation. The Fianna were made up of members from many different tribes who traveled in bands of thousands across the country protecting the land from invaders. They traveled by horses and used long swords reaching 3 feet in length, barbed spears, short swords, and slings. The Fianna's task was the defense of the coast, but partook of steeling from tribes to survive. They had a system of look-outs and signals posted on top of cliffs and at fords and passes of importance. One form of signaling each other was with silent motions such as what baseball players use to signal what type of pitch. However the signals used by the fianna relied on a swipe across the nose or arm like that of the ogham. (see ogham and visualize the use of fingers as lines and the nose or arm as the base line.) Signals were passed by relays of runners or by beacons at night. Therefore the Fianna were alerted very quickly of any encroachments and could defend the land straightaway.

The Fianna consisted mainly of adolescents with a few exceptions, such as the chieftain, and were obligated to give a certain number of their days in service to their chieftain after which they could return to home or other endeavers. The Fianna motto is "Truth in our hearts. Strength in our hands. Consistency in our tongues." Their war cry is 'Diord Fionn'. When a new member enters the Fianna assurances are given by the parents that they will not retaliate or expect compensation if the child is killed. The Fianna promises that the family will not be held accountable foe what the child or the Fianna do. A prospective Fianna must be well versed as a poet in the twelve books of bardic literature, to be considered.

Conn Cétchathach was high king of Ireland established the Fianna. The Fianna comprised of many clans, but only two clans were dominant for the supreme leadership - Clan Baiscne of Leinster and Clan Morna of Connacht. The Fianna was under the leadership of the Fianna captain known as righfhéinnidh or fiannuigeach. The two clans became rivals and during the leadership of Cumhaill, a chieftain of Clan Baiscne, was killed in war against the Clan Morna. Goll, chieftain of Clan Morna, ruled the Fianna until Finn, son of Cumhaill, was made cheiftan by the high king, Cormac Mac Airt who was the son of Art and grandson of Conn Cétchathach. The other clans include the Bruidhean Chaorthainn ("Hostel of the Rowan Trees"), the Mican-Smoil and Clan O'Navnan (Navin), Clan Ronain, and clans from Leinster, Ulster and Munster.

In Druidism, there is no separation between men and women. It was a matriarchal society. Lineage was passed down through the mother, women fought in battles, owned property, and could divorce without damage or loss. There have been attempts to separate Druid men and women, by name variations. One group claimed that Druids were men and wiccans were women. Another claimed Druids were men and Druidds were women (a separation of one letter and sound). However, both men and women were known by one word. "Druid." Some prime examples of well known druid women include: Scathach-A warrior queen who trained Cu Chullain. The Isle of skye is named after her.

Cerridwen- The powerful sorceress/Goddess who ruled Caer Arianrhod. Boudicca- a female chieftain of the Iceni tribe. She led a revolt of Celtic tribes against the Romans in 61 BCE. Her patron was the Andrasta, a goddess of ravens and of battles.

Morrigan- Queen Maeve of Cruachan, led an army against the province of Ulster, to establish equality in her marriage.

Banbhuana- a female Druid and the daughter of Deargdhualach. Mogh Roith, a great Irish Druid, was taught by her.

Asa- who took the name Ni-Asa, which eventually became "Nessa", became mother to King Conchobar. Her son kept her name instead of his father's name, "Conchobar Mac Nessa", or "Conor, son of Nessa".

The Druids believe in Balance. That balance could be in opposition or in harmony. The Druids believe that everything has a purpose and reason. They seek Knowledge in every aspect of creation whether it be universal, earthbound, or in another realm. They believe in Justice but also understand that one can not be held accountable for that which he does not know. They believe in basic Truth, but understand that truth is relative and one mans truth is not always the same as another's. They believe in Wisdom, to gain wisdom one must experience and gain knowledge. They believe Peace is a result of all these. They believe Magic can be utilized by Understanding all of those.

The Druids used oral teachings as they believed it would imbed the information into the mind, allowing it to be accessed at Will. Poetry, Music, and Triads were often used as it would combine the powers of the mind making the information more memorable to the user. Is it not easier to remember a song than what your 6th grade history teacher told you about the 8th president? The oral tradition also prevented others from obtaining information they should not have.

The Druids believe in an Eternal life, an Unending cycle. It was for this reason they did not fear dying. Druidic doctrine of the immortality of the soul was so strong that Celtic warriors would enter battle and fight without fear of death, a phenomenon that puzzled Roman historians and Roman military strategists. It is believed that the body dies, yet the soul continues in the otherworld till it is reborn in a new body. Notice how, under normal circumstances, one reaches old age with wrinkles, typically no teeth, and often incontinent, with none or little hair. Supposedly when he dies he sees a white light. When we are born we see a white light as we proceed through the birth canal, and we are born with no teeth, little to no hair, in a sense incontinent and with wrinkles. Furthermore, science proves this. Our bodies are made up of energy and energy doesn't die, it simply changes form.

The Druids honored, respected and called upon Deities. These deities are often referred to as gods or goddesses, ancients, nature spirits, ancestors and a few other terms, but to the Druids, they are ones that have obtained unsurpassable knowledge and wisdom. The tribe of Danu or "Tuatha de Danaan" are often called the faery folk. It is believed that they are the earth deities which remain in this realm to oversee humankind. They are the guardians and protectors of earth and the possessors of all magic.

Morally and ethically, the Druids believe that each individual is Responsible for their own actions. For each action there is a reaction, which could be a consequence or a reward. The individual seeks to benefit the entire group by using their given talents to the best of their ability. The word of the Druid was to be respected and not argued with. However, one was to hold their own truths and beliefs with a steadfast heart and hand. Everything was designed to be questioned including authority when it didn't seem logical or reasonable. The basic rule to ones own actions, was that you could do as you please as long as it wasn’t unjustifiable or anyone else's business. They lived by the creed of justice, honor, and fair play, each person is responsible for their own conduct, and not determined by fate or the will of gods.