Monday, July 1, 2013

Mysterious Monday: Druids

Well, I’m back from Connecticut, and settling back into life in Florida once more, albeit with an insanely busy summer ahead. One part of my busy-ness is Camp NaNoWriMo, which starts today and carries on until July 31st. During those thirty-one days, our goal is to write fifty thousand words, just as in the November NaNo.

One of my personal goals for the month will be to finish my WIP, Quantum Kiss. Another goal will be to get deep into my Western paranormal romance, Druid (temporary title). With that on my mind, I thought it might be fun to explore the druids in this week’s Mysterious Monday. I was right, and I was also very, very wrong. Druids are so steeped in legend and myth that you might as well research the unicorn for facts. Mind, you’ll probably find out more about the unicorn that is actual fact than you will about druids.

Druid, by Edli on DeviantArt

One thing that makes finding information on druids so difficult is that their learning was all done in secret, the wisdom passed down to students who had to memorize the knowledge—nothing was written down anywhere that we know of.

It is odd, therefore, that we have such definite ideas in our heads about what they looked like and some of their more blood-thirsty practices. Most of us, when we think of druids, think of an old man with a long, flowing white beard; actually Dumbledore from the Harry Potter movies is a great example of our preconceptions. At least as far as looks go.

Another notion many of us think of when we hear the word “druid” is the wicker man, full of victims who will be burnt as offerings to the Celtic gods. While human sacrifice may indeed have been practiced, just as it was in many primitive societies, there is no proof that the druids were any more or less blood-thirsty than any other religion at that time. Sacrifices were made to the gods to try to win their favor; the more important the sacrifice, the more likely the god would listen, so it is very possible that humans were sacrificed when the stakes were high.

Druids are associated with oak and mistletoe—both of which are important in old Celtic religions. Oak is one of the strongest trees and grows for many years, while mistletoe is an herb used for healing of many ills. Druids were said to practice and teach in springs and groves, sometimes in caves.

Druids are most closely associated with the countries of Britain, Ireland, and France (at the time, named Gaul). They are purported to have lived and worshipped from around 800 B.C. until around 45 A.D.; not necessarily coincidentally, the latter date is around the time of some of the Roman invasions of Britain.

Julius Caesar wrote about the druids, and it is from him that we learn that these priests were very wise, involved in the teaching of bards and minstrels, as well as the settling of disputes. Druids were so well respected that they could actually stand between two armies and stop the fighting. They had a very civilized and forward-thinking system of law, but it did have a mystic edge to it, in that they believed so strongly in the immortality of the soul, that a debt from one life could be paid in the next one.

Personally, when I think of druids, I think of a Merlin-esque figure (from the movie Excalibur, not the recent show on BBC). I think of a man steeped in learning, in the ways of the natural world as well as the metaphysical one—yes, the Merlin of Excalibur fame fits the profile, but he was once a young man, learning the ways of the druid. What about you? What do you think of when you think of druids?

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