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Druids (Old Irish. Galli - "white-skinned") - tribes of Indo-European origin who lived in Central and Western Europe from the beginning of the 3rd millennium AD.
The word "druid" comes from the Greek "drus" - "oak" and the Indo-European "wid" - "know, know". This point of view has been popular with many researchers since ancient times. Even Pliny (an ancient Roman writer) pointed out the connection between the mentioned terms (clearly traced in the Greek "druidai" and the Latin "druidae" or "druides" and confirmed by the fact that the sanctuaries of the Druids were located in sacred oak groves). However, modern linguists argue that the etymology of the word "druid" should be considered based on the meaning of consonant words in the Celtic languages. They believe that the word "druides" used by the Gauls, as well as the Irish "drui", came from "dru wid es" - "very learned." Oak was named differently ("dervo" in Gaulish, "daur" in Irish, "derw" in Welsh, and "derv" in Breton), so this word can hardly be considered the basis of the term "druid".
Druids were in charge only of matters of religion and healing; they did not interfere in politics. Misconception. Only the druids-diviners or vastes (OE faith; Gaulish vatis, vates), who specialized in divination and conducting magical rituals, and also practiced various methods of healing (surgery, herbal medicine, magical effects) had nothing to do with the country's political life. ). But the rest of the druids participated in the political life of the state quite actively. Theologians, who also supervised the government, dealt with issues of education, religion and justice. Various diplomatic tasks (negotiating, concluding armistices and alliances with neighboring states) were entrusted to the court musicians of the fili (fili; from welet, wel - "to see," "seer"). They were the creators, performers and keepers of poems, studied history and genealogy, and were in charge of teaching. At the same time, a clear line was drawn between a bard - an ordinary songwriter (who could become without any training, just having a good ear and voice) and a philid, a magician and fortuneteller, who was well versed in traditions and history (to acquire this title, a person had to learn more than one year).
The rites of the Druids took place in oak groves, as this tree was considered sacred. In the magical rites of the Druids, not only the oak appeared (symbolizing the Axis of the World and was considered a plant beloved by the Supreme Deity (God manifested his positive attitude towards the sacred tree in the form of lightning, often striking tall oak trees)), but also everything that grew on the sacred tree ( and was, according to the ancient Celts, a gift from Heaven), in particular mistletoe. Moreover, it was believed that it grows only on the branches of an oak, although in fact this bush parasitizes on other trees - both deciduous (poplars, birches, willows) and conifers (larch, fir, pines). In addition, according to the Druids, the oak was the personification of the masculine principle, and the mistletoe growing on it symbolized the feminine principle. Since the proximity of these two plants is not so common, the priests spent a lot of time and energy looking for a suitable tree. If the search was crowned with success - on the 6th lunar day, a solemn ceremony of cutting the mistletoe was carried out (and for this only a sickle made of gold was used, and the priest, dressed in white, had to cut the sacred plant only with his left hand), followed by a sacrifice (under a tree, with which they cut off the mistletoe, killed 2 white bulls). The mistletoe collected in this way was considered a panacea for all diseases and a powerful antidote. In addition, it was used in various fortune-telling and drawing lots. Ash and hawthorn were also revered as sacred trees by the Druids. In addition, the division of trees into "forest nobility" (oak, apple, yew and walnut) and "forest slaves" (elm, willow) was traced.
Druids are priests who appeared in Europe long before the Celts. There is no consensus on this matter. Some researchers believe that the Druids are the overthrown kings who became priests (although, according to historians, it was the representatives of the Druid caste who could both overthrow and enthrone the ruler of the Celts). Others are of the opinion that bards and phylids, druids and soothsayers are representatives of the same priestly class, which manifested themselves in different ways in one era or another (however, it should be borne in mind that in legends and written sources they are all mentioned at the same time and, therefore , existed in parallel). Still others believe that the Druids are representatives of the Proto-Indo-European priesthood, while the origin of the Philids is Indo-European (but in this case, the existence of another priestly class in parallel with the order of Druids - the Gutuaters (the so-called "experts in prayer"), who, although they appeared in the Celtic lands before the Druids, but they could not boast of the authority or orderliness of the organization).
Druids are priests of the ancient Celts who lived in fusion with nature and were at a low level of technological development. This is not true. Modern researchers believe that the Celts, who were one of the largest peoples of Europe in the second half of the 1st millennium BC. e. in many industries (metalworking, pottery, etc.) they were not only not inferior, but also superior to the Romans. In addition, the Celts have achieved considerable success in the field of trade, the development of crafts, urban planning and architecture.
The rites of the Druids and the way of life of the society ruled by them were harmonious and ideal. An idea of this kind was expressed by Stoic philosophers, who contrasted a civilized society, which was experiencing a period of decline and decay, with the image of another social formation - living a serene and happy life, filled with kindness and philanthropy, in harmonious merging with nature. Ammianus Marcellinus (ancient Greek historian) mentioned that the activities of the Philids and Druids contributed to the education of the population and the development of "laudable sciences".
However, the life of the "noble barbarians" (which included both the mythical Hyperboreans and the real-life Celts and Scythians) was not at all so serene. Firstly, during the sacrifices, the Druids killed not only white bulls under the sacred oak. According to their beliefs, the gods hear people's requests best when human sacrifices are made. Therefore, to appease the heavenly patrons, people were killed, not limited to only foreign captives or criminals - sometimes local residents also became victims. Moreover, the more serious danger threatened the Celts, the higher was the social position of a person who was sacrificed to the gods. For example, the so-called. The "man from Lindow", whose body is well preserved in the Lindow peat bogs near the village of Mobberley (UK, Cheshire), belonged to a noble family (as can be seen from the evenly developed muscles and manicure). And, judging by the wounds (a broken skull, a slit throat, a broken rib and a stranglehold on the neck) and mistletoe pollen found on the body, the man was killed during a ritual sacrifice. In addition, some historians (in particular, Pliny the Elder) mention that the ancient Celts not only sacrificed people, but also ate human flesh. Modern researchers believe that human bones (most likely sacrificed people) found in a cave near the city of Alveston (Great Britain), which were split in a certain way (apparently, in order to extract the bone marrow), were found in a cave near the city of Alveston (Great Britain) to confirm the mentioned accusations of cannibalism.
But archaeologists have not yet found evidence of another method of sacrifice (described by Caesar) - the burning of people in a huge humanoid effigy. Secondly, the druids, although they themselves did not participate in hostilities, and could stop the battle by their mere appearance on the battlefield, prepared young aristocrats (and ordinary citizens) by no means for a peaceful and calm life. The main goal of the younger generation was mastering the skill of fighting and gaining the readiness to die in battle. And finally, the character traits of the Celts (greed, frivolity, vanity) mentioned by ancient historians are in no way associated with a harmonious and balanced disposition of members of an ideal society.
Information about the secret knowledge of the Druids can be found in the written sources of the ancient Celts and Romans. The fact is that the training was carried out exclusively in oral form, moreover, even in the time of Caesar, ancient authors (for example, the Greek writer-historian Lucian) mentioned that the Celtic priests forbid writing anything from the system of knowledge, the owners and keepers of which they were. This was explained, firstly, by the reluctance of the druids to profane knowledge, and secondly, by the desire to improve the memory of students (which will not be as tenacious when a person relies on notes).
Druids were a closed caste, took a vow of celibacy and lived in forests, far from society. No, the ranks of druids were replenished not at the expense of their direct heirs, but according to the instructions of the gods received by the Celtic magicians and soothsayers. And they were not always fenced off from society, although they performed rituals in sacred oak groves. The Druids, unlike the rest of the Celts, were exempted from paying taxes and military service, did not depend on state authorities (they themselves elected the Supreme Druid and maintained clear discipline and hierarchy within the organization). But they perfectly assimilated with society: they started families, owned property, moved freely around the country, held significant positions (judges, diplomats, etc.).
Women appeared among the Druids quite late - initially, only men were included in this class. This point of view is based on the fact that the written sources mentioning the Druidesses date back to the 3rd century AD. (when the druids really went through a period of decline). However, there is also a directly opposite opinion - initially the caste of priests, soothsayers and filids was formed mainly of women. The aforementioned hypothesis is formulated on the basis that, firstly, in the ancient Welsh and Irish legends, Druides (bandrui) and women-philids (banfile) are mentioned. And, secondly, in the society of the ancient Celts, women from ancient times enjoyed considerable respect, moreover, they participated in battles on an equal basis with men (until the 7th century A.D., any representative of the fair sex who owned an estate could be involved in military service ).
Druids wore white robes. The color of the clothing of the Druids indicated at what stage of training a representative of this class was. For the first 7 years, disciples (ovats) who comprehended the sacred texts wore green clothes. If they continued their studies and passed into the category of filids, the color of their clothes changed to sky blue (a symbol of harmony, truth). The time of white robes after successfully completing the third stage of training came for the druid-priests, who wore a wreath of oak leaves on their heads or a high conical cap made of gold.
The ideas of the Druids laid the foundation for the philosophy of the Pythagoreans. Ancient authors adhered to this point of view. Moreover, some of them (for example, Hippolytus of Rome, an early Christian author and martyr) believed that Pythagorean philosophy was handed down to the Druids by a servant of Pythagoras named Zamolkisis. Others (for example, Clement of Alexandria, Christian preacher, founder of the theological school in Alexandria) held the opposite point of view, arguing that Pythagoras studied with the Druids (as well as Persian magicians, Egyptian soothsayers, etc.) and subsequently expounded the ideas he learned from them. in his teaching. However, modern researchers believe that the commonality of these two philosophies takes place only at first glance. With a deeper study, for example, the ideas about the immortality of the soul, it is noticeable that, unlike the Pythagoreans, the Druids did not believe in reincarnation (i.e. the transmigration of the souls of the dead into the bodies of people, animals or plants) and in the circle of rebirths in order to atone for sins ... The ancient Celts professed the idea of a happy life for the soul of the deceased (and retaining the appearance, familiar to those around him during a person's life) in a different, happier world. Therefore, today scientists assume that the aforementioned philosophical systems did not generate one another, however, most likely, there was a certain more ancient concept, on the basis of which they were formed.
The Druids fought the Christians fiercely. In some legends, you can indeed find a mention of the struggle of the Druids with the first representatives of Christianity (for example, with St. Patrick). However, a considerable number of them assimilated from the new religions, because monasteries in Ireland have long been centers of education and preservation of the cultural heritage of previous generations (in particular, many songs, hymns and legends). And they were most often erected next to oak groves or near a free-standing oak (a plant sacred to the Celts).
In addition, like many other peoples of the world who replaced polytheism with Christianity, the Celts assimilated sacred holidays dedicated to pagan gods with Christian ones. For example, Samhain (November 1) denoting the beginning of the new year (it was believed that it was on this day that the inhabitants of the underworld appeared to people) is celebrated as All Saints Day, and the "Jack Lantern" made for Halloween (October 31) is an ancient Celtic symbol, designed to scare away the evil spirits that appear on earth during the Day of the Dead (or Day of Death). The spring festival of Imbolc, dedicated to the fertility goddess Brigitte (1 February), has been renamed the Feast of St. Brigitte. Beltane (May 1), dedicated to the god Bel, became the feast of St. John, etc.
Even some pagan deities were Christianized. For example, in the regions where the three-faced god of the ancient Celts was revered (most often Luga ("Shining"), identified with the Sun, was depicted as such), Christian painters depicted the Holy Trinity not in the form of canonical figures of God the Father, God the Son and the Holy Spirit (a dove ), but in the form of a man with three faces.