Thursday, May 01, 2008
My Connection to Druidism and What I Learned From the Course
The study of Druidism was one I took on initially because of my grandmother. Maud Elizabeth Toward Jemison was from Great Britain and moved to Canada in 1900 to live on her own. She was a very tall and beautiful woman and although she had no formal education beyond the basic schooling of her time she was well learned and very intelligent. She married my grandfather, Thomas Melville Jemison, in 1909 and moved from Canada to Spokane, Washington. She never spoke much about her history but would often speak of the old ways. Nana, as I called her, definitely appreciated the natural life and kept a special garden. The thing that always amazed me was that she just seemed to know things that others did not. She kept to herself most of the time but has abilities I never saw with others. When asked she would just answer “they are the old ways.” I never understood what she was speaking of until I started learning about my heritage and this is what brought me to the study of Druidism.
Because the Druids used an oral history it is very hard to follow the migration of the clan or group over the early years of history. History states that the Galatians in Asia were the peoples later know as the Celts and it is know that they practiced human sacrifice at a central shrine Druneneton (oak-sanctuary.) Despite this indication of veneration for the oak, there is no evidence the Druids existed among the Galatians. Although it is thought by Diodorus that the learned men of Galatia were what were later called Druids He did not call them by name but used the term philosophers and told of them being able to do many things to include being versed in the divine things. He states in battle they stood between the two waring parties to try to gain peace and were also able to place spells on wild animals. The latter history of the Druids is much easier to pick up after the travels of the Celts to what is now The British Isles and this is where we find the truth and the fantasy of what the Druid is to many peoples. In his introduction to The Druids, Peter Berresford Ellis quotes the French anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss who said: “There are no final truths; the scientific mind does not so much provide the right answers as ask the right questions.” And as Peter Ellis points out to understand Druid history and practices, many correct questions must be asked.
I find my self thinking of Gandalf the Wizard in the Tolkien novels or Merlin of Arthurian legend when I think of the Druids. This of course is the romantic notion of the learned old man who helps people to learn right from wrong and gives tales to bring understanding. It is the idea that there is a back and white to all events and with understanding it is possible to find a correct answer. When I study my family history I can see the connection the people of Ireland, Scotland, and Wales had with the old beliefs. I can see the elder or Druid standing up at time of battle or at a time when a reading of law must be given. I also can see the poets, musicians, seers, and diviners that were traveling the lands. It is said that what is called Celtic Christianity has many hold-over ideas of Druid practices. The ideas were taken as part of the church holidays and practices when the Romans were in control of what is now the British Isles. During the 18th Century there was resurgence in the Druid ideals and the romantic notions of the 19th Century perpetuated this.
There is of course other sides to the Druids and as archeological findings show a more complete history with evidence of their early history we will have a better picture of the early life of these peoples. It seems that each year more is found and a truer picture is unfolding of how they lived, their beliefs, and what was actually taught to others. As scientific processes advance so does out understanding of peoples of long ago. I have also studied this part of the culture of the Druid and the Celtic Peoples.
There are many Groves, as organizations of Druids are called, now in many countries. Several groups offer the training in song, story, and practices necessary to advance through the profession of Druid training. Total training can take many years to advance and have knowledge of all the gifts.
The Druids were leaders of society and the left many ideas for others to follow. I have often wondered if the abilities of peoples who came to what is now North American did not bring many of the teachings given to them by the Druids of old. The healing, the ability to tell a good story while teaching, the way of living off the land, etc. Some of the early settlers were thought of as not being part of the city mainstream but their ability to live, teach, and help others in many ways show a special training that was received at some point in their lives in the old country. One does not need to be a scholar to learn if taught properly in a manner that can be understood by all.
The class was a pleasure to take and has led me to other areas to continue my study of Druid history and practices. I found that each lesson built on the one before it and gave time to fully understand a concept before a new one was offered. Because of my heritage I will take the information that was given in the class and continue my studies.
Simon James. , The World of the Celts, Thames and Hudson, , page 41
Gerhard Herm, The Celts, St Martins Press, page 56
Peter Berresford Ellis, The Druids, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co page 11
Rev. Sharon J. Mayer