Lugodoc's Guide to
In Lugodoc's humble opinion, about a million times more stuff has been
written about the original, real iron-age druids than we will ever
actually know. The only fact
that we know about them for certain is that they were mysterious.
In an attempt to clear some very muddied waters, below I have
collected every surviving word
written down about the druids by the classical writers of chronicals up
to A.D. 350.
Everything written after this date (and even much before it) is pure
speculation. All bold
emphasis is by this author.
330 BC – Aristotle’s Treatise on Magic – Lost,
possibly apocryphal, but referred to by Diogenes Laertius over 550
200 BC - Sotion of Alexandria’s Succession of Philosophers
- Lost, but referred to by Diogenes Laertius over 400 years later.
70 BC – Poseidonius’ Chronicles – Lost, but used by his
pupil Cicero about 30 years later.
50 BC - Julius Caesar’s The Conquest of Gaul, book VI
13. The two privileged classes are the Druids and
the knights. The Druids officiate at the worship of the gods,
regulate public and private sacrifices,
and give rulings on all religious questions. Large numbers
of young men
flock to them for instruction, and they are held in great honour
people. They act as judges in practically all disputes, whether
between tribes or between individuals; when any crime is committed, or
a murder takes place, or a dispute arises about an inheritance or a
boundary, it is they who adjudicate the matter and appoint the
compensation to be paid and received by the parties concerned. Any
individual or tribe failing to accept their award is banned from
part in sacrifice - the heaviest punishment that can be inflicted
a Gaul. Those who are laid under such a ban are regarded as impious
criminals. Everyone shuns them and avoids going near or speaking to
them, for fear of taking some harm by contact with what is unclean; if
they appear as plaintiffs, justice is denied them, and they are
excluded from a share in any honour. All the Druids are under one
whom they hold in the highest respect. On his death, if any one of the
rest is of outstanding merit, he succeeds to the vacant place; if
several have equal claims, the Druids usually decide the election by
voting, though sometimes they actually fight it out. On
date in each year they hold a session in a consecrated spot in the
country of the Carnutes, which is supposed to be the centre of Gaul.
Those who are involved in disputes assemble here from all parts, and
accept the Druids' judgements and awards. The Druidic doctrine is
believed to have been found existing in Britain and thence
imported into Gaul; even today those who want to make a profound study
of it generally go to Britain for the purpose.
14. The Druids are exempt from military service and do not pay
taxes like other citizens. These important privileges are naturally
attractive: many present themselves of their own accord to become
students of Druidism, and others are sent by their parents or
relatives. It is said that these pupils have to memorize a
of verses - so many, that some of them spend twenty years
at their studies. The Druids believe that their religion forbids
to commit their teachings to writing, although for most other
such as public and private accounts, the Gauls use the Greek
alphabet. But I imagine that this rule was originally established for
other reasons - because they did not want their doctrine to become
public property, and in order to prevent their pupils from relying on
the written word and neglecting to train their memories; for it is
usually found that when people have the help of
texts, they are less diligent in learning by heart, and let their
A lesson which they take particular pains to inculcate is that the
soul does not perish,
but after death passes from one body to another; they think that this
is the best incentive to bravery, because it teaches men to disregard
the terrors of death. They also hold long discussions about the
heavenly bodies and their movements, the size of the
universe and of the earth,
the physical constitution of the world, and the power and properties of
the gods; and they instruct the young men in all these
16. As a nation the Gauls are extremely superstitious; and so
persons suffering from serious diseases, as well as those who are
exposed to the perils of battle, offer, or vow to offer, human
sacrifices, for the performance of which they employ Druids. They
believe that the only way of saving a man's life is to propitiate the
god's wrath by rendering another life in its place, and they have
regular state sacrifices of the same kind. Some tribes have colossal
images made of wickerwork,
the limbs of which they fill with living men; they are then set on
fire, and the victims burnt to death. They think that the gods prefer
the execution of men taken in the act of theft or brigandage, or guilty
of some offence; but when they run short of criminals, they do not
hesitate to make up with innocent men.
17. The god they reverence most is Mercury. They have very many
images of him, and regard him as the inventor of all arts the god who
directs men upon their journeys, and their most powerful helper in
trading and getting money. Next to him they reverence Apollo, Mars,
Jupiter, and Minerva, about whom they have much the same ideas as other
nations - that Apollo averts illness, and Minerva teaches the
principles of industries and handicrafts- that Jupiter is king of the
gods, and Mars the lord of war. When they have decided to fight a
battle they generally vow to Mars the booty that they hope to take, and
after a victory they sacrifice the captured animals and collect the
rest of the spoil in one spot. Among many ot the tribes, high piles of
it can be seen on consecrated ground-and it is an almost unknown thing
for anyone to dare, in defiance of religious law, to conceal his booty
at home or to remove anything placed on the piles. Such a crime is
punishable by a terrible death under torture.
18. The Gauls claim all to be descended from Father Dis declaring that
this is the
tradition preserved by the Druids. For this reason they measure periods
not by days but by nights - and in celebrating birthdays, the first of
month, and new year's day, they go on the principle that the day
21. The customs of the Germans are entirely different. They have no
control religious observations and are not much given to sacrifices.
36 BC - Cicero’s De Divinatione
I, XLI, 90: Nor is the
practice of divination disregarded even among uncivilised tribes, if
indeed there are Druids in Gaul - and there are, for I knew one of them
myself, Divitiacus, the Aeduan, your guest and eulogist. He claimed to
have that knowledge of nature which the Greeks call “physiologia”, and
he used to make predictions, sometimes by means of augury and
sometimes by means of conjecture.
8 BC - Diodorus Siculus’Histories
V, 28, 6 The Pythagorean doctrine prevails among them (the Gauls),
teaching that the souls of men are immortal and live again for a fixed
number of years inhabited in another body.
V, 31, 2-5 And there are among them (the Gauls) composers of verses
they call Bards;
these singing to instruments similar to a lyre, applaud some, while
they vituperate others. They have philosophers and theologians who are
held in much honour and
are called Druids ; they have sooth-sayers too of
who tell the future by watching the flights of birds and by
of the entrails of victims; and every one waits upon their
they attempt divination upon important matters they practice a strange
and incredible custom, for they kill a man by a knife-stab in the
region above the midriff, and after his fall they foretell the
by the convulsions of his limbs and the pouring of his blood, a
divination in which they have full confidence, as it is of old
tradition. It is a custom of the Gauls that no one performs a
without the assistance of a philosopher, for they say that
the gods ought only to be made through the mediation of these men, who
are learned in the divine nature and, so to speak, familiar with
and it is through their agency that the blessings of the gods should
properly be sought. It is not only in times of peace, but in war also,
that these seers have authority, and the
incantations of the bards have effect on friends and foes alike. Often
when the combatants are ranged face to face, and swords are drawn and
spears bristling, these men come between the armies and stay the
just as wild beasts are sometimes held spellbound. Thus even among the
most savage barbarians anger yields to wisdom, and Mars is shamed
before the Muses.
AD 10 – Strabo’s Geographies
IV, 4, c. 197, 41 Among
all the Gallic peoples, generally speaking, there are three sets of men
who are held in exceptional honour: the Bards, the Vates, and the
Druids. The Bards are
singers and poets; the Vates, diviners and natural
philosophers; while the Druids, in addition to natural
study also moral philosophy. The Druids are considered the most
men, and on this account they are entrusted with the decision, not
of the private disputes, but of the public disputes as well; so that,
in former times, they even arbitrated cases of war and made the
opponents stop when they were about to line up for battle, and the
murder cases in particular, had been turned over to them for decision.
Further, when there is a big yield (of criminals for sacrifice) from
these cases, there is forthcoming a big yield from the land too, as
they think. However, not only the Druids, but others as well, say that
men's souls, and also the universe, are indestructible, although
fire and water will at some time or other prevail over them.
IV, 4, c. 198, 5 But the Romans put a stop to these customs, as
well as to all those connected with the sacrifices and divinations that
are opposed to our usages. They used to strike
a human being, whom they had devoted to death, in the back with a
sabre, and then divine from his death-struggle. But they
sacrifice without the Druids. We are told of still
other kinds of human
sacrifices; for example, they would shoot victims to death with arrows,
or impale them in the temples, or having devised a colossus of
and wood, throw into the colossus cattle and wild animals of all
and human beings, and then make a burnt offering of the whole thing.
AD 15 – Timagenes - Lost, but quoted by Ammianus Marcellinus
over 300 years later.
AD 25 - Valerius Maximus
II, 6, 10 Having done with the
description of the town (Marseilles), an old custom of the Gauls may
now be mentioned ; for it is said that they lend to each other sums
that are repayable in the next world, so firmly are they convinced
the souls of men are
immortal. And I would call them foolish indeed, if it were not for the
fact that what these trousered barbarians believe is the very
faith of Greek Pythagoras himself.
So far... less than 2,000
contemporary words survive written by people
who might have actually met real druids or met people who had met them.
The earliest half of these words was written by one politician,
and like all politicians he had an
agenda and he lied all the time.
When Julius Caesar invaded Britain in 55 and 54 BC as part of his
invasion of Gaul, he had no interest in pacifying Celtic barbarians or
bringing peace to Western Europe. What he really wanted was to destroy
the Roman republic and make
himself Emperor, and to do that he needed a very big army under
his personal control, and to justify getting one of those he needed to
find somewhere to invade "for the glory of Rome". And to justify that
invasion he needed to present the European Celts as barbaric savages
who needed to be brought under the "Pax Romana" both for the security
of Rome and "for their own good". And to do that he needed to show that
the Celts were a violent, barbarous people.
There are several references to human sacrifice,
but a careful reading suggests that these sacrifices were actually
carried out by the Gauls, that is to say the ordinary Gallic
population, and not specifically by their druid priests.Human sacrifice
seems to have been a common secular practise carried out by ordinary
men. It is stated that the druids were asked to officiate at
these sacrifices, but this does not mean that they were responsible for
them. Strabo says that "they <meaning the iron-age
Celts> would not sacrifice without the druids".
Which suggests that the druids were not performing the sacrifice.
Today in America Christian priests officiate at
executions, but does that make them executioners?
Caesar's description of The Wicker Man is not
substantiated by a single piece of archeological
evidence of any kind, and although Strabo mentions it as well he may
just be copying Caesar. It is probably an outright lie, one of hundreds
told by Caesar to help justify his invasion of Gaul.
Which is a shame, 'cos Lugodoc really digs...
AD 43 - The Claudian Conquest of Britain
Rome conquered new provinces it always installed Roman governers and
client kings to
keep the peace and levy taxes, but it never usually made any effort to
destroy local religions. Even after several rebellions in Judea it
never tried to outlaw the local Jewish religion. And yet, after the
Claudian invasion of Britain in AD 43, The Divine Emperor Claudius
decreed that henceforth through out all Britain, Gaul, and the rest of
The Roman Empire, all druids were outlawed and to be
The great druid stronghold on Anglesey was attacked and
under the command of the local British governer Suetonius Paulinus in
AD 61, and after this the druids ceased to have any official
fled to Ireland or Scotland, which were never conquered by Rome but
were conquered by Roman Christianity a few centuries later. Others
went underground and became wandering poets and storytellers, without
power or status. Their vast wealth of historical and metaphysical
knowledge faded into myth.
So after this, everything is just heresay, rumour and
repetition, and just over another 2,000 words survive from the
following 300 years...
AD 50 - Pomponius Mela’s De Situ Orbis
III, 2, 18 and
19 There still remain traces of atrocious customs no longer practised,
and although they now refrain from outright slaughter yet they still
draw blood from the victims
led to the altar. They have, however, their own kind of eloquence, and
teachers of wisdom called Druids. These profess to know the size
shape of the world, the movements of the heavens and of the stars, and
the will of the gods. They teach many things to the nobles of Gaul in a
course of instruction lasting as long as twenty years, meeting
secret either in a cave or in secluded dales. One of their dogmas
come to common knowledge, namely, that souls are eternal and that there
is another life in the infernal regions, and this has
been permitted manifestly because it makes the multitude readier for
war. And it is for this reason too that they burn or bury with their
dead, things appropriate to them in life, and that in times past they
even used to defer the completion of business and the payment of debts
until their arrival in another world. Indeed, there were some of them
who flung themselves willingly on the funeral piles of their relatives
in order to share the new life with them.
AD 60 - Lucan’s Pharsalia
I, 450-8 And you, O Druids,
now that the clash of battle is stilled, once more have you returned to
your barbarous ceremonies and to the savage usage of your holy rites.
To you alone it is given to know the truth about the gods and deities
of the sky, or else you alone are ignorant of this truth. The innermost
groves of far-off forests are your abodes. And it is you who say
the shades of the dead seek not the silent land of Erebus and the pale
halls of Pluto; rather, you tell us that the same spirit has a body
again elsewhere, and that death, if what you sing is true, is but the
mid-point of long life.
AD 77 – Pliny’s Natural History
XVI, 249 Here we must
mention the awe felt for this plant by the Gauls. The Druids—for so
their magicians are called—held nothing more sacred than the mistletoe
tree that bears it, always supposing that tree to be the oak.
But they choose groves formed of oaks for the sake of the tree
and they never perform any of their rites except in the presence of a
branch of it; so that it seems probable that the priests themselves may
derive their name from the Greek word for that tree. In fact, they
think that everything that grows on it has been sent from heaven and is
a proof that the tree was chosen by the god himself. The mistletoe,
however, is found but rarely upon the oak; and when found, is gathered
with due religious ceremony, if possible on the sixth day of the
moon (for it is by the moon that they measure their months and
years, and also their ages of thirty years).
They choose this day because the moon, though not yet in the middle of
her course, has already considerable influence. They call the mistletoe
by a name meaning, in their language, the all-healing. Having made
preparation for sacrifice and a banquet beneath
the trees, they bring thither two white bulls, whose horns are
then for the first time. Clad in a white robe, the priest
ascends the tree and cuts the mistletoe with a golden sickle,
and it is received by others in a white cloak. Then they kill the
victims, praying that God will render this gift of his propitious to
those to whom he has granted it. They believe that the mistletoe, taken
in drink, imparts fecundity to barren animals, and that it is an
antidote for all poisons. Such are the religious feelings that are
entertained towards trifling things by many peoples.
XXIV, 103 Similar to savin is the plant called selago.
It is gathered without using iron and by passing the right hand
the left sleeve of the tunic, as though in the act of committing a
theft. The clothing must be white, the feet washed and
bare, and an offering of wine and bread made before the gathering. The
Druids of Gaul say that the plant should be carried as a charm against
every kind of evil, and that the smoke of it is good for diseases of
XXIV, 104 The Druids, also, use a certain marsh-plant that they call samolus,
this must be gathered with the left hand,
when fasting, and is a charm against the diseases of cattle. But the
gatherer must not look behind him, nor lay the plant anywhere except in
XXIX, 52 There is also another kind of egg, of much
renown in the Gallic provinces, but ignored by the Greeks. In the
summer, numberless snakes entwine themselves into a ball, held together
by a secretion from their bodies and by their spittle. This is called
anguinum. The Druids say that
hissing serpents throw this up into the
air, and that it must be caught in a cloak, and not allowed to touch
the ground; and that one must instantly take to flight on
horse-back, as the serpents will pursue until some stream cuts them
off. It may be tested, they say, by seeing if it floats against the
current of a river, even though it be set in gold. But as it is the way
of magicians to cast a cunning veil about their frauds, they pretend
that these eggs can only be taken on a certain day of the moon, as
though it rested with mankind to make the moon and the serpents accord
as to the moment of the operation. I myself, however, have seen one of
these eggs; it was round, and about as large as a smallish
apple; the shell was cartalaginous, and peeked like the arms of a
polypus. The Druids esteem it highly. It is said to ensure success
law-suits and a favourable reception with princes ; but this is
because a man of the Vocontii, who was also a Roman knight, kept one of
these eggs in his bosom during a trial, and was put to death by the
Emperor Claudius, as far as I can see, for that reason alone.
XXX, 13 It (magic) flourished in the Gallic provinces, too,
even down to a period within
our memory; for it was in the time of the Emperor Tiberius that a
decree was issued against their Druids and the whole tribe of diviners
and physicians. But why mention all this about a practice that has even
crossed the ocean and penetrated to the utmost parts of the earth ? At
the present day, Britannia is still fascinated by magic,
and performs its rites with so much ceremony that it almost seems as
though it was she who had imparted the cult to the
Persians. To such a degree do peoples throughout the whole world,
although unlike and quite unknown to one another, agree upon this one
point. Therefore we cannot too highly appreciate our debt to the Romans
for having put an end to this monstrous cult, whereby to murder a man
was an act of the greatest devoutness, and to eat his flesh most
AD 78 – Tacitus’ Annals (describing
the invasion of Anglesey in AD 61)
XIV, 30 On the shore stood the opposing army with its dense array of
armed warriors, while between the ranks dashed women in black attire
like the Furies, with hair
dishevelled, waving brands. All around, the Druids, lifting up
hands to heaven and pouring forth dreadful imprecations, scared our
soldiers by the unfamiliar sight, so that, as if their limbs were
paralysed, they stood motion-less and exposed to wounds. Then urged by
their general's appeal and mutual encouragements not to quail before a
troupe of frenzied women, they bore the standards onwards, smote down
all resistance and wrapped the foe in the
flames of his own brands. A force was next set over the conquered, and
their groves, devoted to inhuman superstitions, were destroyed.
deemed it, indeed, a duty to cover their altars with the blood of
captives and to consult their deities through human entrails.
AD 120 – Suetonius’ Claudius
25 He (the Emperor
Claudius) very thoroughly suppressed the barbarous and inhuman religion
of the Druids in Gaul, which in the time of Augustus had merely been
forbidden to Roman citizens.
AD 230 – Diogenes Laertius’ Lives of the Philosophers
1: Some say that the study of philosophy was of barbarian origin. For
the Persians had their Magi, the Babylonians or the Assyrians the
Chaldeans, the Indians their Gymnosophists, while the Kelts and the
Galatae had seers called Druids and Semnotheoi or so
Aristotle says in
the " Magic," and Sotion in the twenty-third book of his " Succession
Vitce, intro 5: Those who think that philosophy is an invention
of the barbarians explain the systems prevailing among each people.
They say that the Gymnosophists and Druids make their
means of riddles and dark sayings, teaching that the gods must
worshipped, and no evil done, and manly behaviour maintained.
AD 235 – Lampridius’ Alexander Severus
LIX, 5. While
he (Alexander Severus) was on his way, a Druidess cried out to
the Gallic tongue, " Go forward, but hope not for victory, nor put
trust in thy soldiers."
AD 250 – Hippolytus’ Philosophumena
I, xxv 1 The
Keltic Druids applied themselves thoroughly to the Pythagorean
philosophy, being urged to this pursuit by Zamolxis, the slave of
Pythagoras, a Thracian by birth, who came to those parts after the
death of Pythagoras, and gave them opportunity of studying the system.
And the Kelts believe in their Druids as seers and prophets because
they can foretell certain events by the Pythagorean reckoning and
calculations. We will not pass over the origins of
their learning in silence, since some have presumed to make distinct
schools of the philosophies of these peoples. Indeed, the Druids
practice the magic arts.
AD 260 - Clement of Alexandria’s Stromala
I, xv, 70, I
Alexander, in his book "On the Pythagorean Symbols," relates that
Pythagoras was a pupil of Nazaratus the Assyrian, and will have it
that, in addition to these, Pythagoras
was a hearer of the Galatae and the Brahmins.
I, xv, 71, 3 1 Thus philosophy, a science of the highest utility,
flourished in antiquity among the barbarians, shedding its light over
the nations. And afterwards it came to Greece. First in its ranks were
the pro-phets of the Egyptians ; and the Chaldeans among the Assyrians
; and the Druids among the Gauls ; and the Samanaeans among the
Bactrians; and the philosophers of the Kelts; and the Magi of the
AD 275 – Vopiscus’ Numerianus
XIV When Diocletian, so
my grandfather told me, was sojourning in a tavern in the land of the
Tongri in Gaul, at the time when he was still of humble rank in the
army, and had occasion to settle the daily account for his keep with a
this woman said to him, " You are far too greedy and far too
economical, O Diocletian." Whereto he replied, jestingly, " I will be
more liberal when I am emperor," to which the druidess answered, "
Diocletian, for when you have killed The Boar, you will indeed be
After this Diocletian coveted the purple and never missed the
chance of killing a boar when out hunting ; but Aurelian, and Probus
and Tacitus, and then Carus, were all emperors before him, so that he
was moved to exclaim, " I kill the boars, but it is always another who
reaps the reward ! " At last, however, he killed the prefect Arrius,
surnamed The Boar, and then the prophecy of the druidess was
and he ascended to the imperial throne.
<editor's note: Diocletian
executed the praetorian prefect Arrius Aper for the murder of his
emperor and son-in-law Numerianus in A.D. 284, so how did Flavius
Vopiscus write this down in A.D. 275? It appears that Vopiscus was only
one of a group of authors of Roman history known as the Scriptores
Historiae Augustae (the writers of Augustan history) who wrote about
the emperors between A.D. 117
(Hadrian) and A.D. 284 (Carinus) and their work is suspected to
have been re-written under Constantine in around A.D. 330. More Roman
AD 280 - Vopiscus’ Awelianus
XLIII, 4 and 5 He
(Asclepiodotus) used to say that on a certain occasion Aurelian
consulted the Gaulish druidesses to find out whether his descendants
would remain in possession of the imperial crown. These women told him
that no name would become more illustrious in the state
annals than that of the line of Claudius. It is true, of course, that
the present Emperor Constantius is of the same stock, and I think that
his descendants will assuredly attain to the glory foretold by the
<editor's note: Constantius
becames Augustus In The West in A.D. 305, so somebody has definitely
been re-writing history!>
AD 350 - Ammianus Marcellinus
XV, 9, 4 According to the
Druids, a part of the population (of Gaul) was indigenous, but some of
the people came from outlying islands and lands beyond the Rhine,
driven from their homes by repeated wars and by the inroads of the sea.
XV, 9, 8 In these regions, as the people gradually became
civilised, attention to the gentler arts became commoner, a study
introduced by the Bards, and the Euhages < sometimes written as ovates - ed>,
and the Druids. It was the custom of the Bards to celebrate the brave
deeds of their famous men in epic verse accompanied by the sweet
strains of the lyre, while the Euhages strove to explain the high
mysteries of nature. Between them came the Druids, men of greater
talent, members of the intimate fellowship of the Pythagorean faith;
they were up-lifted by searchings into secret and sublime things,
with grand contempt for mortal lot they professed the immortality of
... And that is it. Everything written after this has been even wilder
Lugodoc finds it significant that everyone who described the druids
seemed to see what they wanted to see.
The Greek philosophers described
philosophers, both natural and moral. The Roman politician Julius
Caesar described poweful, wealthy judges, law-makers and executioners.
chroniclers described them as mere fortune-tellers, brought in to
suggest Fate had some hand in the blood-soaked succession of Roman
If the written accounts of druids are flimsy then the surviving
evidence, the archaeology, is even weaker.
In spite of accounts of golden sickles, druid's eggs and giant
wicker men, nothing like these items has ever been dug up. Although
there are hundreds of surviving carvings, statues, coins and other
images depicting Celtic warriors, there is not one single definite
image of an iron age Celtic druid. Furthermore, although there are many
examples where the three main sources (history, archaeology and myth)
agree on how warriors looked and behaved, there are almost no examples
of even two of these sources agreeing on anything about druids.
The only object found thought to be
possibly an image of a druid is the Statue from The Sanctuary at
- part of a vast hoard of treasure including many figurines. It is just
possibly a druid holding a druid’s egg, although it has no torc to
denote status or any other kind of possibly druidic attribute. Or it
be a very relaxed charioteer.
Archaeologists have also found several pairs
Spoons – these items are typically Southern British dating from
the first century BC and are
usually about 2 inches long. One is always engraved with a simple
cruciform pattern, the other punctured with a small hole.
Many pairs have been found at ritual sites (for example this pair from
Crosby Ravensworth) as opposed to normal domestic sites, and are
therefore assumed to be of ritual significance. There is no mention of
anything like them anywhere in the histories or the myths.
Another class of object, similarly
identified with iron age ritual sites, is the Grinder
– also typically Southern British. They are typically 2 to 3”
wide, and apparently designed to grind small quantities of something
and to be worn as a pendant. The British Museum has about twenty on
display, and if this many have survived for two thousand years then
many thousands must have been made and been in use. And yet,
again, there is no mention of them anywhere in the writings.
in the first century AD, after the druids started to use Latin to make
inscriptions but before they were outlawed, one group of druids created
the complex, mysterious and extremely expensive Coligny Calendar.
This huge bronze plate (5 ft x 3 ½ ft)
was made in a single piece but then broken up and buried. It covers 5
years and attempts
to reconcile lunar and solar observations. Each
month is 29 or 30 days long and covers exactly one cycle of the moon,
and is divided into a good half (waxing) and a bad half (waning). The
full moon (Atenoux) appears to be in the middle of each month.
Each year has 12 or 13 months.
At least this object agrees with Pliny's comments on the druidic
measurements of time, but it is the only one of its kind ever found.
The Dark Ages
Although the institutions which supported the complex and highly formal
ritual and law of the druids were wiped out in the first century AD,
and the druids themselves had written absolutely nothing down, a
tiny fraction of their vast body of orally recorded history and myth
survived amongst story tellers, and the common Celtic practise of folk
magic carried on.
The myths were eventually written
down in Latin by early Christian
monks, a practise which began in the eighth century AD and carried on
until at least the fourteenth. The folk magic merged with that of
the invading Romans, Angles, Saxons, Danes, Jutes Vikings and Normans
until the thirteenth century, when the Roman Christian Church got nasty
and created The Spanish Inquisition to burn anyone who
practised it, and this carried on for over three hundred years.
During the early medieval period history was not a science, it was an
art, and was hopelessly confused with myth by those who tried to study
it. After the Norman invasion of 1066 the new masters of
Britain needed to justify their right to rule, and in 1135 they
comissioned a monk called Geoffrey of Monmouth to write a
history of Britain. Monmouth's History Of The Kings Of Britain
supposedly covered everything from the fall of Troy in 1240 BC to the
end of the Saxon conquest in AD 689, and although lots of fun it is not
accurate. Arthur is covered in detail, and Merlin the druid is
introduced, but the two never meet. However, the first ever connection
is made between druids and Stonehenge
(or maybe Avebury), as Merlin is credited with having used magic
steal The Giant's Ring from Ireland and bringing it to Britain as a
memorial to the British who died fighting alongside Arthur's dad Uthur
against the Saxons. Monmouth was fascinated by Merlin,
and wrote two more books just about him. We have no idea where he got
his information from, although he does mention "a certain very ancient
book written in the British language" (ie Celtic) that was loaned to
him by Archdeacon Walter. Apart from this one casual mention by
Geoffrey trying to back up his stories no such book is known to exist,
and for all we know he made it up to please his boss.
In 1469 Sir Thomas Mallory MP wrote La Morte
Darthur (The Death
Of Arthur) in which Merlin meets Arthur and becomes his druid. He is
described as having a master called "Bleise" in Northumberland,
suggesting some kind of druid order. When William Caxton printed it in
1485 he said in his own preface that although some people thought
Arthur was a
real king, most others thought he was just a myth.
The Seventeenth Century
During the seventeenth cenury, for the first time, some well educated
aristocrats with time and money to spare began the first attempt at a
rational study of history, trying to knit together the various sources
into a sensible coherent record. These sources included folk-myths,
ancient Greek, Roman, Saxon and Welsh histories kept in latin by monks
and available to the well-educated upper classes, and the ancient and
mysterious features still explorable in the landscape, such as Stonehenge.
One of these first "antiquarians" was John Aubrey,
who "stumbled" across Avebury whilst fox hunting in 1649.
Fascinated by the place, he collected
lore and gossip into his note books and was the first to suggest ten
years later that Stonhenge and Avebury were druid temples. This idea
persisted, even though we now know that Stonehenge was abandoned in
1,900 BC in the bronze age (and Avebury even earlier),
whereas the druids were iron
age Celtic priests, and the iron age did not begin in Europe until at
least 1,100 years later in
around 800 BC. Furthermore, the
literature at the top of this page utterly fails to mention stone
circles of any kind, instead
repeatedly making it clear that the druids worshipped in groves.
It is Lugodoc's personal belief that the druids did build both
these sites, and many others, and that when the first iron age Celts
came to Europe and Britain they found and adopted
the bronze age priests that were already there, and that these were
later identified by classical scholars as the Celts' iron age priests.
The druid religion evolved from practising ritual at megalithic sites
in the bronze age to practising within groves in the iron age. Religion
does evolve. Christ himself never seems to have held meetings in
temples (which he detested), but mostly at parties, on hilltops or in
restaurants. Early Christians used to meet in catacombs.
Now they meet in churches or meeting houses. But they still call
Aubrey raised such popular interest in the stones at Avebury that in
1663 they were visited by King Charles II, and Aubrey completed his
manuscript Monumenta Brittanica in 1690.
This was not actually published until the 1980s, and he died in poverty
Whatever the truth, Aubrey welded druids to Stonehenge in the
consciousness so perfectly that it is now impossible to separate
them ever again.
The Eighteenth Century
One unlikely young man who met Aubrey and adopted his view of
Stonehenge as a druid temple was the Irish revolutionary John
He wrote a book expanding on Aubrey's ideas, but far from romanticising
the Irish druids he saw them as narrow-minded political fascists, in a
satyrical lampoon of the contemprary Irish Christian Church.
Aubrey's work encouraged many others with an education and time to
spare, and in 1723 the Reverend Henry Rowland
published Mona Antiqua Restaura.
This work is not well known, but it did include one of the first known
attempts to imagine what a druid might have looked like. It is complete
rubbish, but it influenced everything
that came afterwards and now we are well and truly stuck with it. Maybe
I'll dress like this when I get older.
Just a little later
but far more famous was William Stukeley.
He was born in 1687, studied medicine and in 1718 he became the first
secretary of the Society of Antiquaries of London. He first visited
Stonehenge a year later and fell in love with it. He published the
results of his travels around Britain in his Itinerarium Curiosum
in 1724, and the results of his excavations at Stonehenge and
Avebury in Stonehenge, a Temple Restored to the British Druids
in 1740, and Abury, a Temple of the British Druids
three years later in 1743. His illustrations were heavily
influenced by, but even wackier than, Rowland's.
Stukeley wasn't just fascinated by druids, he wanted to be one. In 1730
he changed career and was ordained as Vicar of All Saints Church in
Stamford, but he never saw this as a problem. He had the vicarage
garden redesigned as a druid grove complete with a megalithic folly,
and included his ideas of druid philosophy into his sermons. He even
started to sign his letters "Chyndonax, Druid of Mount Haemus."
Neo-druidism had taken off, and after this
everyone was writing about them and trying to grab a piece of the
Meanwhile, political as well as historical
At the end of the seventeenth century a new trend in literature and
philosophy began, and for the first time people began to seriously
divine rights of kings and priests. This process continued through out
the eighteenth century, and so this century is sometimes referred to as
The Age Of Reason, or The Enlightenment.
At the begining of the eighteenth century practical minded people were
begining to create Friendly Societies,
mutual interest societies intended to provide support for their members
in time of need. The 19th century British Cooperative Society had its
origin in these early mutual benefit societies. More theoretically
minded people were also beginning to meet in secret or semi-secret
societies to discuss
philosophy, politics and religion, ideas about human freedom and the
rights of Man, and many of these ideas were, technically, still
illegal, heretical or treason. Although very few people were being
burned at the stake for heresy or hung for treason it still wasn't
really safe, and some precautions were necessary by these early free
thinkers. Meetings were held in private houses or rooms in taverns, and
members were often required to take oaths of secrecy. This was partly
just common sense, and partly copied off the freemasons. Some of these
societies were workers' organisations to lobby for better working
conditions, some were middleclass societies discussing radical
politics, and a few upperclass ones were just sex-clubs like The
Hellfire Club. Freemasonry was a strong inspiration, and somehow
druidry got dragged into the mix.
These radical societies and the changes in political consciousness they
brought about crossed the Atlantic and
were ultimately responsible
for the creation of the world's first secular democracy in the newly
United States Of America on July 4th, 1776.
Just one such society was The Ancient Order Of Druids,
a secret benefit society founded in London in 1781, possibly by
a man called Henry Hurle. It first met in The
Kings Arms Tavern in Poland Steet in Soho, and there is an engraved
wooden plaque on the wall there comemorating this event. It spread
rapidly, forming new lodges all over Britain and was even introduced to
the USA in 1833. The AOD is men-only and still meets on both
sides of the
Atlantic, making it the oldest existing neo-druidic society. However,
it no longer meets in The Kings Arms because that is now a gay bar.
In 1792 a letter appeared in The Gentleman's Magazine
describing an event on Primrose Hill in London, in which a group of men
calling itself the Bards of the Island of Britain performed
what they obviously thought were druidic rituals at the Autumnal
equinox. The author was a Welshman calling himself Iolo Morgannwg
(born Edward Williams). In Wales there had been an annual Eisteddfod
held since 1568, a
Christian music and poetic festival, but Iolo had successfully lobbied
to turn it druidic, and was now doing the same in Britain.
Unfortunately one of his favorite techniques was to fake vast
quantities of ancient druidic knowlege, supposedly written down by the
last druids and somehow passed on in secret for seventeen hundred years
to none other than Eddie (sorry, Iolo) so that it could now be revealed
once more. Iolo actually was a good poet, and much of his excellent
material is still in print in various forms and in use by many modern
druids. Unfortunately it isn't real. Everything that might be real is
at the top of this page, remember?
Also in 1792 the famous proto-socialist Sheridan was
lobbying for parliamentary reform and he created the Society of
Friends of The People
to gather support for wider and fairer elections. Naturally the
authorities didn't like these developments and in 1795 Lord Braxfield
ruled that "to agitate for equal representation of the people in the
House of the People [the House of Commons] was in the circumstances of
itself sedition". The "friend" Thomas Muir got 14 years transportation
and the society dissolved itself.
By the end of the century the number of new semi-secret or friendly
societies questioning the philosophical and political status quo in
Britain were growing, so in 1799 an
parliament was passed outlawing all societies which used oaths
(although the freemasons were, naturally, exempt). Some Essex lodges of
AOD were prosecuted under this new law, which could inflict punishments
up to and including forcible transportation to the colonies.
The Nineteenth Century
Inspite (or maybe even because)
of the English government oppression,
The Ancient Order of Druids continued to grow, spread, split and spawn
groups, and the nineteenth century is littered with them. Neo-druidic
societies were sprouting like mushrooms with names that would make
Monty Python proud, such as The Druid Church Of The Universal Bond, The
Circle Of The Universal Bond, The United Ancient Order Of Druids, The
Ancient Druid Order or even just The Order Of Druids. They mostly came
and went, but the AOD carried on through out the century. By 1815 the
commonly held opinion of what an iron age druid looked like had evolved
into the sorry drag act on the right.
The new laws punishing any societies that took oaths were used, and in 1834
six labourers in Dorset who had formed an early trade union were
banished to Australia for "administering illegal oaths". They became
famous as The Tolpuddle Martyrs (even though they weren't
The 19th century was the Victorian
century in England, and a lot was
happening. Rapidly accelerating developments in science, engineering,
physics, chemistry, astronomy and geology were changing the European
perception of the universe in a way not even the 20th century could
come close to. At the start of the century most people thought that the
universe was enclosed by a sphere a few million miles across with stars
stuck on it containing the Earth and planets and that the whole thing
had been created by God about eight thousand years ago, just for us.
being buried in graveyards that they truly believed would still be in
existence at the end of the world when Christ returned to judge the
living and the dead just a few centuries into the future. But by the
end of the 19th century it was starting to sink in that the uncountable
stars being revealed by the new telescopes were suns like our own, that
the universe was at least hundreds of thousands of of light-years in
size and that mankind had
evolved from animals over millions of years and that the Earth itself
had taken billions of years to form. Mankind had been displaced from
the centre of God's tiny cosy pocket creation to an obscure corner of
huge and old that the first attempts by Christian scientists to get
their heads round the new universe must have been like taking acid.
Old-style Christianity now looked foolish, and the new science looked
The response to this almost hallucinogenic expansion in consciousness
was to look for new ways to explain Mankind's spiritual significance.
Released from silly old Christianity and repelled by scary new science,
people (like Madame Blavatsky's Theosophists or The Hermetic Order Of
The Golden Dawn) imagined weird histories involving ancient
races and hollow Earths, or found spiritualism and talked to the dead,
or founded obscure societies protecting "the Wisdom of the Ancients".
The new druidical societies were just typical examples of these
many attempts to find comfort in a newly rediscovered eternal spiritual
Christian clergymen seemed particularly vulnerable, and for example in
1836 the Reverend D James, curate of Almondbury in Yorkshire, published
a book called The Patriarchal Religion of Britain or a Complete
Manual of Ancient British Druidism,
and he dedicated it to the Ancient Order of Druids lodge in the West
Riding of Yorkshire. His main source was the rubbish of Iolo Mogannwg,
and if he
had tried it 200 years earlier he would have been burnt at the stake.
If there was a common idea behind this explosion in 19th century
neo-druidry, it was that modern Christianity and politics had lost
their way, and that perhaps greater metaphysical truths could be found
in the lore and ritual of the ancients. Christianity had suppressed
truth in many forms for centuries, and when the straight-jacket came
off during The Enlightenment of the 18th century interest turned to the
obscure semi-magical teachings of ancient secret societies, whether
real or imagined. The ancient chronicles recording their reverence for truth
made the druids seem particularly attractive.
The Twentieth Century
After more than a century AOD was still going strong. In 1905
was a huge gathering of AOD at Stonehenge, which included Stonehenge's
owner Sir Edmund Antrobus. By now the whole druid drag act had evolved
into white robes, nemets (silly faux-Egyptian head gear), false
white beards, golden sickles, staffs and cod-masonic symbols.
Neo-druids had become quite cosy and the authorities no longer
felt threatened by them. Even Britain's wartime prime minister-to-be Sir
Churchill was photographed at Blenheim Palace being "installed"
into the Albion Lodge of the Ancient Order of Druids in 1908.
The inexorable march of science and social change and the nostalgic
reaction against it accelerated, not always pleasantly. The Nazis of
the thirties drew some of their support and inspiration from the many
neo-pagan and semi-druidical groups that formed in Germany after their
defeat in The Great War.
After WWII the repeal of the
British witchcraft laws in 1951
(by Sir Winston himself) brought all
sorts of neo-pagan groups out of the woodwork, and some are still
famous such as the Wicca groups created by Gerald Gardner and Ross
Then came the The Sixties and everybody just wanted to Part-ayyy!!!
Stonehenge was a great place to party and the druids couldn't help
getting dragged in.
Philip Ross Nichols left AOD in 1964 to form his own
druid group, The Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids, or OBOD.
This group is still going strong and is one of the most well-known
after AOD itself. It has many prominent members including Philip
Carr-Gomm, Professor Ronald Hutton, Philip Shallcrass and John &
It was now well known that Stonehenge was alligned with the midsummer
solstice, and neo-druids, pagans and hippies swarmed there on June 21st
every year to get high in ever increasing numbers. This process
accelerated during the 1970s until The Stonehenge Free
became an unofficial free party around the stones every year, lasting
up to a fortnight and thronged with tens of thousands of people.
Neo-druids seemed to get on very well with hippies.
By now Stonehenge was no longer in private ownership, but in the
custody of a Quasi-Autonomous Non-Governmental Organisation (QUANGO)
called English Heritage.
In Britain, this was Thatcher's decade. It was as bad as you've
heard, and the reaction happened on the streets. Opposition to greedy,
selfish, un-fettered capitalism was expressed in the "Stop The City"
protests in the financial heart of the city of London, or in the Peace
Women's protests at Greenham Common against American nuclear weapons on
British soil. But the rise in political consciousness didn't stop
people partying - quite the opposite.
And the Stonehenge Free Festival grew year by year.
Naturally, the thought of thousands of people getting high in the sun
and having a good time without any interference from the authorities
was simply unbearable to those in power, and British Prime Minister
Margaret Thatcher responded according to her nature. The unwashed
swarms of hippies and other travellers had to be stopped from
congregating at Stonehenge, and so on June 1st 1985 the
government launched a vicious attack on a convoy of vans and buses in
a field in nearby Cholderton in Wiltshire. The result was The
Battle Of The Beanfield.
This is well documented elsewhere and recommended by Lugodoc for study
by anyone interested in the real history of the twentieth century.
After this, Stonehenge was sealed off with fences and security guards
24/7 to prevent any access at all, except to paying tourists. At every
summer solstice a huge and expensive police operation would be launched
by the Wiltshire Constabulary to prevent anyone getting anywhere near
the stones to party or worship. Or both. The popular response to this
absurd over-reaction by the authorities was the creation of several
brand new neo-druidical organisations.
In June 1986 a previously obscure ex-squaddie, biker and
veteran of the 1970's free festivals legally changed his name by deed
poll to Arthur Uthur Pendragon, declared himself to be the
living incarnation of King Arthur
and dedicated the rest of his life to Stonehenge access, the road
protests that came later in the 90s
and the rights of the people against the government everywhere. He
formed his own neo-druid order, The Loyal Arthurian Warband, or
This order was represented at the meetings of the COBDO, and through
sheer charisma King Arthur became accepted as the nominal arch
druid or senior office-holder of many of the newly formed neo-druidical
appeared in the 80s and 90s.
Wherever he went the cameras followed,
guaranteeing publicity for causes that the government would have
preferred to have been ignored.
The Glastonbury Order of Druids or GOD came into
being in May 1988, headed by Rollo Maughfling. One of
its main functions was to lobby for open access to Stonehenge.
The Secular Order of Druids or SOD was headed by Tim
Sebastian, an old rock and roller who had been in a 70s concept
band called Gryphon and had attended many of the free festivals.
There were even rumours of a (possibly ironic) neo-druidical group
called the Police Lodge Of Druids, or PLOD.
In order to keep some kind of a lid on this chaotic blossoming of
neo-druids the four most venerable neo-druidical orders (AOD, OBOD, SOD
& GOD) formed the Grand Council Of British Druid Orders or COBDO,
which organised quarterly councils with representatives from every
order and lobbied for free access to Stonehenge at the Summer
After more than five years of simmering resentment on all sides Prime
Minister Margaret Thatcher threw more petrol onto the fire in 1989
with a speech to the United Nations
in which she insisted that “nothing can stop the great car economy”.
Elsewhere her transport minister was busy declaring (his actual words) “the
biggest road-building programme since the Romans”.
New roads had been built all over Britain ever since the coming
Romans two thousand years ago, but suddenly something snapped. The
accelerating disappearance of Britain's fields under tarmac started to
produce a reaction. It might be said to have begun with Twyford Down.
Nobody had heard of this obscure hill near Winchester until, in 1992,
the government tried to dig it up to make way for a new motorway
extension to the M3. A small group of travellers, banished from
Stonehenge, set up a permanent camp there to get in the way of the
builders, and this grew into the first Anti-Road Protest of the
many others that took place during the nineties. The protest failed,
and an ancient hill, including iron age remains and medieval plague
pits, was demolished so that the Winchester by-pass could be built for
a few million quid less. The travellers named themselves after one of
the mysterious earthworks on the hill where they had been camped - The
Strange resonances were at work. The Romans had built roads.
outlawed the old iron age druids. The government was now
through ancient sites. They had stopped the partying at Stonehenge
travellers and neo-druids. At the same time Rave
culture found the youth of Britain, taking over where the hippies had
left off and the punks had given up, and the party evicted from
out into every field in Britain.
The Dongas, the travellers, the druids, the road-protesters, the
open-air ravers... everybody got dragged into a huge, fuzzy, protracted
and seemingly endless protest that went on for the whole of the
nineties, against road-building and environmental destruction (such as
at Cradlewell, the M11, Solsbury Hill, and the Newbury bypass) and for
access to Stonehenge and free open-air parties in general.
Every Summer solstice King Arthur would be at Stonehenge,
peacefully asking to be allowed in, so that he could worship there. The
nearest he usually got was the chainlink fence at the Hele stone by the
A344 road that passes the monument. It was sitting there awaiting the
dawn in 1993 that he met a young shaman from Portsmouth called Dylan
exact moment is recorded in the photograph to the left, taken by a
press photographer. Dylan is seated at the left in dreadlocks and
Arthur is next to him in robes. (the man standing on the right is
Barnade, a French neo-druid who arrived with the press buss.) The
became lifelong friends, and at King Arthur's suggestion Dylan returned
home to create The Insular Order of Druids,
or IOD. He
didn't call it the Portsmouth Order of Druids because POD sounds silly.
This is the neo-druidical order that Lugodoc belongs to.
These peaceful protests at the stones were harmless and legal, but
elsewhere at open-air free parties and at road-building sites all over
Britain the authorities were frustrated by their inability to arrest
non-violent demonstrators for standing in the way of Thatcher's
Britain. The government response was The 1994 Criminal Justice and
Public Order Act,
designed to prevent people gathering at road protests or at Stonehenge
by making it an offence for the first time in England to be out in
public in a group of twenty or more people, and just standing around.
The act was designed to criminalise peaceful protest.
The sheer obvious injustice of this act brought further popular support
to the Stonehenge access and road protest movements. The druid orders
and many other peaceful lobbyists for open access to the stones never
gave up. Druid and activist George Firsoff created (almost
single-handedly) the Pagan And Druid Rights And Services
organisation ( or PADRAS), and the Truth and Reconciliation
Commission for Stonehenge and The Stonhenge Peace Process.
He maintained steady pressure on
the authorities for years and proved that, yes, an old hippy can beat a
authorities' will finally broke and, after fifteen years, open access
to Stonehenge was granted in AD 2000.
The Twentyfirst Century
Druids are supposed to be able to tell the future, but Lugodoc has no
idea what happens next.
During the iron age we were priests with the power of
kings. Then we were outlawed for centuries and became just minstrels in
the wilderness. After the dark ages of Rome and Christianity had passed
we re-manifested into eccentric semi-masons, and then at the end of the
twentieth century we found a use as publicity magnets and as the
articulate voice of the people
who cared about the land.
Since we "got Stonehenge back" we haven't really known what to do with
ourselves. The road protests are over, though King Arthur is still
going strong and
Britain is still disappearing under tarmac, only more slowly and with
I think that for inspiration we need to look back to the earliest
Greek accounts of natural and moral philosophers, and to the 18th
century friendly societies where much of The
Enlightenment actually took place. In pubs.
"It is our job to start thinking
where science stops"
Lugodoc's personal page