The mysterious Druids studied the art of nature and revered the animistic forces of nature in ancient forest groves and ceremonial stone circles across the British Isles.
Historically, Anglesey and Holy Isle has been closely associated with the Druids and their stone astronomical circles and sacred forest groves.
In AD 60, the Roman general Gaius Suetonius Paulinus, determined to break the power of the Druids, attacked the island using his amphibious Batavian contingent as a surprise vanguard assault and then proceeded to destroy their sacred nature shrines and the Nemeta (Sacred Forest Groves).
But the Romans quickly withdrew after achieving victory as Celtic Queen Boudica launched a widespread revolt across the Celtic Lands causing him to withdraw his army before consolidating his conquest.
The islands of Anglesey and Holy Isle were finally brought into the Roman Empire by Gnaeus Julius Agricola, the Roman governor of Britain, in AD 78.
During the Roman occupation, the area was notable for the mining of copper. The foundations of Caer Gybi, a fort in Holyhead, are Roman, and the present road from Holyhead to Llanfairpwllgwyngyll was originally a Roman road.
After being routed in the holy land of Anglesey and Holy Isle, the Druids dispersed into the Celtic population, many later converting to Christianity while others chose to maintained their cultural lineages and traditional teachings that they share in small groups of Druidic initiates.
Things often have a way of coming full circle and today interest in Druidry is reviving again as young people wake up to the global destruction of the biosphere, which is the direct result of the dominant reductionist and mechanistic cultural paradigm in the West today that alienates people from nature.
The Druidry Revival
Contemporary Druidry has been called one of the fastest growing religions in Western society. But it’s not really a religion, it doesn’t require strict adherence to doctrine and dogma, something that is attractive to a lot of people tired of religious evangelism and fundamentalism.
Unlike many religious orders and secret societies Druids do their rituals in public places where anyone can join and they are open to anyone from any religion or culture.
Druidry is spreading throughout the world today because it is non-political and non-sectarian.
It is different from mainstream religions in that it is about reading from the Book of Nature and developing a relationship to the radiant light of nature through direct connection to the world through the senses.
Druids frown upon abstraction and despite being literate in ancient times, their oral storytelling doctrines prohibited them from writing down their teaching.
They had to be learned through direct experience and building a relationship with the land. Otherwise, they felt people would get caught up in disagreements over abstract ideas and beliefs that were not rooted in personal experience.
Druids understand that all living things are interconnected with lifeforce. In Druidry, this animating spiritual lifeforce is called Nwyfre.
Druids give reverence and honour the natural elements that give us life. In their rituals in nature, they seek guidance and inspiration, what they call Awen, a Celtic word for divine or poetic inspiration.
Awen is often depicted in a symbol of three rays of Light. The rays have a variety of meaning symbolizing the unity of:
1. Mind, body, spirit
2. Land, sea and sky
3. Love, wisdom, truth
Druids were not patriarchal, a woman can be just as much as Druid as a man. Before the Roman conquest and the spread of Christianity, women played a bigger leadership role and were more highly regarded in traditional European village life.
Druidry offers a different way of seeing the world. It is an animistic philosophy that helps people reconnect with nature in the world where the soul-crushing rationalism of the intellect and the obsession with abstraction knowledge is so dominate today.
For those interested in real world experience of the living, breathing intelligence of Planet Earth, Druidry is an attractive way to come together in community to honour all that nature does for us.
Druidry is a community-based belief and value system based on the animistic worldview that all of nature is intelligent and the other living creatures in the web of life are our ancestors.
Animistic beliefs are found in all the world’s religions and many anthropologists argue it is the naturally occurring world religion and the spiritual root of most religious belief systems.
We fundamentally view the world around us based on the technologies that meditate our experience of it.
Animistic cultures are based on oral storytelling that encodes and their traditional knowledge in their local landscape. This allows them to accurately pass down knowledge and culture for thousands of years, something that continues to mystify Western academics.
With the invention of writing, knowledge became more abstract once it was written down in books. Many early books and scriptures were collected from folklore and tradition tales of animistic cultures and were written down by ancient scribes under the direction of powerful King and Emperors and their patriarchal priesthoods.
Today, our experience is increasingly meditated by computers and digital screens with the average person in highly developed countries staring at a screen 10 hours a day.
Developing a connection the “felt presence” of our immediate experience today is a powerful way to unplug, reset and reconnect with the forces of nature that give us life and vitality.
Modern Druidry and the Environment:
In line with indigenous movements, environmental campaigns and rewilding projects around the world, today’s Druids are heavily engaged in raising awareness regarding pollution, fracking, unchecked mining, harmful industrial farming, rewilding forests and establishing more nature reserves to protect the biodiversity of the land.
Maintenance of the natural balance and respect for natural law is a key foundation of Druidry.
The ancient Druids were not only priests but also magicians, doctors, lawmakers, and nature-based philosophers.
For them, time was cylindrical, which means what goes around literally comes around. For actions that go against natural law there are often grave consequences in the long-term for future generations.
That’s why ancient cultures like the Druids focused on leaving a better world for future generations rather than simply consuming all the natural resources as fast as possible and harvesting the world to maximize profit and convenience as the dominant cultural paradigm encourages today.
Perhaps the better future we all know is possible will be rooted once again in the worldview and practices of our past.
Want to learn more about the history of the Druids? I recommend watching these documentaries.
1. The Last Stand Of The Druids In Anglesey
A good documentary film about the Druidic history of Anglesey and the story of the Roman Conquest of the Druids.
2. The Secrets of the Druids
Although they left no writings, the Druids have had a profound impact on modern culture. The Druids of Celtic Britain are remembered as mystical holy men, holding the secrets of nature.
3. The Druids – History, Philosophy, Religion
Using ancient and medieval sources, alongside comparative analysis, the identity and beliefs of the druids take shape, from their organizational practices, to their philosophy and spiritual beliefs.
4. The Celts: The Sacred Groves of the Druids
This episode of The Celts discusses Celtic mythology, legend, and belief, namely the pagan religion, Druidism, and then the introduction of Christian faith to the Irish and Scots.