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A short introduction to Druids

  • Jul 15, 2010
Druids have fascinated popular imagination for over two thousand years. In recent years, they have enjoyed revived interest due largely to the emergence of various New Age and earth-based spiritual and religious movements. And yet, despite all the fascination with them, we still don't know much about who they were and what sorts of beliefs and practices they were involved in. This is primarily due to the fact that the pagan societies within which Druids operated did not leave any written records. Hence, all that we know about Druids stems from the physical archeological evidence they left behind, and the writings of outsiders.

This very short introduction tries to shed more light on Druids for the modern reader. It presents a fascinating history of the ancient world within which Druids operated. It shatters a few myths about Druids and reconfirms some other long held beliefs. In particular, even though it is unclear whether Druids themselves conducted human sacrifices, it is fairly well established that those were common in ancient pagan societies and that Druids at the very least condoned them. The book also gives a nice overview of the revival of the interest in Druids that started with the European romanticism roughly in the nineteenth century. Most of our images of Druids can actually be traced to that period, and it is amusing to note that many of the purportedly Druidic practices that some neopagan groups engage in were actually invented in this period.

Unfortunately, even after reading this book one will not learn much that is new about Druids. This is by no means the fault of the author as it is just the consequence of the scant evidence the Druids left behind. The book is actually a very interesting read and sheds a lot of light on the ancient pagan world, but a lot of ideas that we have about that society are still highly speculative. If you bear these caveats in mind you can still enjoy reading this book and get a lot out of food for thought out of it.

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Bojan Tunguz ()
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I am a benevolent rascal. I love lounging in bed on a Sunday morning. Rainy days make me melancholy, but in a good kind of way. I am an incorrigible chocoholic. I hate Mondays, but I get over it by Wednesday. … more
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About this book


The Druids have been known and discussed for at least 2400 years, first by Greek writers and later by the Romans, who came in contact with them in Gaul and Britain. According to these sources, they were a learned caste who officiated in religious ceremonies, taught the ancient wisdoms, and were revered as philosophers. But few figures flit so elusively through history, and the Druids remain enigmatic and puzzling to this day. In this Very Short Introduction, one of the leading authorities on British archaeology, Barry Cunliffe, takes the reader on a fast-paced look at the ever-fascinating story of the Druids, as seen in the context of the times and places in which they practiced. Sifting through the evidence, Cunliffe offers an expert's best guess as to what can be said and what can't be said about the Druids, discussing the origins of the Druids and the evidence for their beliefs and practices, why the nature of the druid caste changed quite dramatically over time, and how successive generations have seen them in very different ways.
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ISBN-10: 0199539405
ISBN-13: 978-0199539406
Author: Barry Cunliffe
Genre: Religion & Spirituality
Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
Date Published: July 2010
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