druids


druids
   Druids were a pre-Aryan group rather like a professional class whose work spanned the religious and the legal. They were the priestly caste of Celtic society and they presided at sacrifices, were responsible for medicine and rituals, and undertook the teaching of magic and tradition. They associated the oak and the mistletoe with their supreme deity. They conducted sacred rituals, performed sacrifices and arbitrated disputes within their jurisdiction. Heroes of Celtic mythology like the Irish Cuchullain, the Welsh Arianrhod and the Scottish queen Scathach, for whom Skye is named, were druids. Stonehenge and Glastonbury are examples of pre-Christian druidic sites which still exercise a strong spiritual pull especially on young people.
   About a quarter of the 100,000 contemporary British pagans (who include shamanists, witches and Odinists) are druids. The present flowering of alternative spiritualities began in the 1960s. Druids emphasize poetry, divination, healing and pre- Christian mythology in their religious practice, often holding love of nature as a central belief. The Council of British Druid Orders was formed in 1988 to combat the ban on pagan celebrations at Stonehenge (which were resumed in 1998). The Council included the British Druid Order (pagan and goddess-oriented), the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids (pagan and Christian mix), the Glastonbury Order of Druids and the London Druid Group, which practises magic. There are thirty-five druid groups in Britain, and over 300 throughout the world.
   PETER CHILDS
   MIKE STORRY

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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