They were also the spiritual specialists and the traditional leaders of the sacrifices among the Celts. The role that was later filled and replaced by the Christian priests, the philosophers, the scientists, the brehons, the poets, the story-tellers, the historians, and the political advisors was once filled by Druids in Celtic society. The fact that there were personal and family spiritual practices among the Celts as individuals and families in no way invalidates what we know about the spiritual role of Druids in Celtic society. Such personal and family practices continue today within Celtic cultures even with or in spite of them also having an organized group of Christian churches and priesthoods in their midst.
The Gaulish form of the name was probably druis, the Old Irish was drai. The modern forms in Irish and Scots Gaelic, drui and draoi, mean "sorcerer.
Goidels and Gauls were allied by race and language and religion, and it would be strange if they did not both possess a similar priesthood. Moreover, the Goidels had been a continental people, and Druidism was presumably flourishing among them then.
Why did it not influence kindred Celtic tribes without Druids, ex hypothesi, at that time? This may have been because Britain had been less open to foreign influences than Gaul, and its Druids, unaffected by these, were thought to be more powerful than those of Gaul.
Pliny, on the other hand, seems to think that Druidism passed over into Britain from Gaul. Reinach-support on different grounds the theory that the Druids were a pre-Celtic priesthood, accepted by the Celtic conquerors. It was accepted by the Goidels, but not by the Brythons. Hence in Britain there were Brythons without Druids, aborigines under the sway of Druidism, and Goidels who combined Aryan polytheism with Druidism.
Our knowledge of Brythonic religion is too scanty for us to prove that the Druids had or had not sway over them, but the presumption is that they had. Nor is there any historical evidence to show that the Druids were originally a non-Celtic priesthood.
Everywhere they appear as the supreme and dominant priesthood of the Celts, and the priests of a conquered people could hardly have obtained such power over the conquerors. The relation of the Celts to the Druids is quite different from that of conquerors, who occasionally resort to the medicine-men of the conquered folk because they have stronger magic or greater influence with the autochthonous gods.
The Celts did not resort to the Druids occasionally; ex hypothesi they accepted them completely, were dominated by them in every department of life, while their own priests, if they had any, accepted this order of things without a murmur.
All this is incredible. Gomme supports the theory that the Druids were a pre-Celtic priesthood, because, in his opinion, much of their belief in magic as well as their use of human sacrifice and the redemption of one life by another, is opposed to "Aryan sentiment.
These views are supported by a comparison of the position of the Druids relatively to the Celts p. As already seen, it was no mere occasional service which the Druids rendered to the Celts, and it is this which makes it difficult to credit this theory. Had the Celtic house-father been priest and judge in his own clan, would he so readily have surrendered his rights to a foreign and conquered priesthood?
On the other hand, kings and chiefs among the Celts probably retained some priestly functions, derived from the time when the offices of the priest-king had not been differentiated. If, further, Aryan sentiment was so opposed to Druidic customs, why did Aryan Celts so readily accept the Druids?
In this case the receiver is as bad as the thief.
Gomme clings to the belief that the Aryans were people of a comparatively high civilisation, who had discarded, if they ever possessed, a savage "past.
Reinach, as we have seen, thinks that the Celts had no images, because these were prohibited by their priests.
This prohibition was pre-Celtic in Gaul, since there are no Neolithic images, though there are great megalithic structures, suggesting the existence of a great religious aristocracy. This aristocracy imposed itself on the Celts. Reinach then argues that the Celts accepted Druidism en bloc, as the Romans accepted Oriental cults and the Greeks the native Pelasgic cults.
But neither Romans nor Greeks abandoned their own faith. Were the Celts a people without priests and without religion? We know that they must have accepted many local cults, but that they adopted the whole aboriginal faith and its priests en bloc is not credible.
Reinach also holds that when the Celts appear in history Druidism was in its decline; the Celt, or at least the military caste among the Celts, was reasserting itself.
If the military caste rebelled against them, this does not prove that they were a foreign body. Such a strife is seen wherever priest and soldier form separate castes, each desiring to rule, as in Egypt. They merely describe Druidism as a general Celtic institution, or as they knew it in Gaul or Britain, and few of them have any personal knowledge of it.
There is no reason to believe that Druids did not exist wherever there were Celts. The Celts had priests called gutuatri attached to certain temples, their name perhaps meaning "the speakers," those who spoke to the gods.
Names beginning with the name of a god and ending in gnatos, "accustomed to," "beloved of," occur in inscriptions, and may denote persons consecrated from their youth to the service of a grove or temple.
On the other hand, the names may mean no more than that those bearing them were devoted to the cult of one particular god. Our supposition that the gutuatri were a class of Druids is supported by classical evidence, which tends to show that the Druids were a great inclusive priesthood with different classes possessing different functions--priestly, prophetic, magical, medical, legal, and poetical.
Druid and diviner were also closely connected, since the Druids studied nature and moral philosophy, and the diviners were also students of nature, according to Strabo and Timagenes.The Ancient Order of Druids (AOD) is a fraternal organisation founded in London, England, in that still operates to this day.
It is the earliest known English group to be founded based upon the iconography of the ancient druids, who were priest-like figures in Iron Age Celtic paganism. Most modern Druids connect the origin of their religion to the ancient Celtic people. However, historical data is scarce.
The Druids may well have been active in Britain and perhaps in northern Europe before the advent of the Celts.
If one considers that the role of Druids and Brahmins within their respective societies was very similar, as postulated and supported in Myles Dillon's book, _Celts and Aryans_, I think that we can better see how Druids fit into ancient Celtic society and .
Inspired by these positive images of the ancient Druids, 17th and 18th century scholars saw them as 'noble savages' - an elite who were the guardians of an indigenous religion which was the precursor of Christianity.
In ancient Celtic society the Druids and Druidesses composed an intellectual elite, whose knowledge and training placed them as priests of the Celtic religion. Their training normally lasted over twenty years and consisted of the memorization of literature, poetry, history, and Celtic law as well as astronomy.
The Druids and Druidesses 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.