Monday, October 1, 2012

Druidism - Religious Beliefs of Ancient Celtic people



    Druidism is the religious beliefs and practices of the ancient Celtic peoples of Western Europe prior to Christianity. 
Along with belief in one main God the Druids also worshiped a number of lesser divinities such as the Gods of: sun, animals, war, fertility, the river, smith craft and sovereignty, as Pagans did. They also worshiped some Gods similar to those of the Greeks and Romans under different names. But unlike the Greeks and Romans they did not have clearly defined images to represent the object of their worship and they did not meet in temples or any other form of building to hold their rites.

Instead, Druids had a sacred place consisting of a circle of stones, usually near a stream, under a grove or situated near a widespread oak. They met in woods and glens because they held a high respect for nature, believing that their spirits emerged from the tides, the sea, light, wind, the sun and the oak tree.

Similar to Pagans, the Druids held animal sacrifices in order to please the Gods. However, the Druids also sacrificed humans as well.
After a first century BC visit to Britain, the Romans came back with horrific stories about the Celts, they said the native Celts believe that the gods delight in the slaughter of prisoners and criminals, and when the supply of captives runs short, they sacrifice even the innocent.  Some sources suggest that the human sacrifices were voluntary. The First-century historian Pliny the Elder went further, suggesting the Celts practiced ritual cannibalism, eating their enemies' flesh as a source of spiritual and physical strength.

They participated in two main festivals each year. The first one was named Beltane (Fire God) and the second one was named Samhin (Fire of peace), celebrated on hallow’s Eve.

The Druids had strong beliefs the idea of death. As Pagans, they did not believe in Heaven or Hell. Rather they believed in re-incarnation of the soul into another form. They held a principal doctrine stating that the soul was immortal and passed at death from one person to another, thus they did not fear idea of death.

By nature, Druids were watchful and mindful of different aspects of life. They possessed a comprehensive knowledge on such things as poetry, architecture, literature, mythology, languages and folklore. In this fashion, they were incredibly learned, having gone through a rigorous education and were able to provide cultural and intellectual impute to their communities for the mutual benefit of all.

It is believed that there were three classes in Druidism who were an important cohesive force skilled in areas which most people were not. Of these three classes, the first are said to be the Ovates or Vates, who are said to be the philosophers and seers; the Bards, who are the storytellers, singers, historians; and Druids, who are the priests and judges.

The Ovates worked with the processes of death and regeneration. They were the native healers of the Celts. They specialized in divination, conversing with the ancestors, and prophesying the future. Bards were "the keepers of tradition, of the memory of the tribe - they were the custodians of the sacredness of the Word.

The Druids and Druidism formed the professional class in Celtic society. Druids possessed both political and legal powers and responsibilities to their communities and tribes. They were also capable of magical powers such as divination, prophesying, controlling the weather, levitation, shape-shifting and they possessed healing abilities.

Druidism which was a form of Celtic polytheism was declined in the Roman Empire period, by the emperor Claudius in 54 CE. It persisted somewhat longer in Britain and Ireland, where it gradually disappeared during Characterization, over the 5th to 6th centuries.

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