Sunday, February 19, 2017

What is a Druid?

I am currently reading The Rebirth of Druidry by Philip Carr-Gomm, and read this passage in the preface which really spoke to me:
A Welsh triad lists the responsibilities of a Bard that might give us some insight:
'The duties of a Bard are to study and acquire knowledge; teach others; make peace and put an end to all suffering. To do otherwise is unbecoming of a Bard.'
The Druid tradition, shaped by a fierce sense of social consciousness, has always championed these three charges. As students, philosophers, historians, and keepers of the folk memory, Druids and Bards were and are the intellectually curious people of their times. I love the controversy over whether Druids studied with Pythagoras or Pythagoras studied with Druids. I hope we never resolve it. Nor, for that matter, the intriguing suggestion that some aspects of Druidry might have come from Buddhism or that Jesus may have studied with Druids in Glastonbury! What these controversies tell us is that Druids have always been in the mainstream of human thought and culture. They were never isolated in Celtic or proto-Celtic ghettoes wallowing in their purely Celtic obsessions.

Indeed, the Celts themselves lived on the main roads and riverways of Old Europe, and engaged in farflung trades of iron, salt, tools, jewellery, weapons and, we may assume, ideas: stories, songs and riddles. Whitman not withstanding, Druids have never been solely solitary nor savage (except perhaps in their equally strong need for the wildness of nature). Druids were in the thick of their communities, they were the backbone of their cultures. They studied, learned, acquired wisdom and taught others, including kings and chieftains. The essays in this book are part of that long, noble tradition.
This passage speaks to me because it conjures up an archetype to which I aspire.