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The Lilting Druids

Updated on May 20, 2015

What is A Druid?

The Druids were an upper class section of society in ancient Ireland and Britain. They were highly educated and would be comparable in some ways to the class of academics nowadays. Their learning meant that the Druidic class would cover a broad range of professions, many centering around public speaking and healing. These are some primary types of Druids:

The imagined image of a robed Druid
The imagined image of a robed Druid | Source


Brehon's

Essentially a Brehon was a lawyer and a judge. A Brehon would learn off all the old traditional laws which were documented as poetry and act as a physical reference book for the ancient courts. They also interpreted the laws and decided if they required updating as civilisation progressed or times of hardship arrived.

Bard's

Not so strictly a druid, but they were of the same archetype. Druids were the masters of language and ideas, and being a largely oral tradition they required many linguistic tricks in order to remember large amounts of linguistic information, a Brehon could expect twenty years of study before being allowed to cast judgement on a case.

The main linguistic device would have been poetry which would assist a druid via rhyme and rhythm to internalize large quantities of language. They so became the main storytellers, historians or bards of society.

Healers

Lastly they would have assumed the shamanistic role that tribal healers occupy. They would be essentially spiritual physicians, using herbal knowledge and religious sentiments to cure people with physical or psychological ailments. This is the archetype they are most famous for, the mysterious Celtic priests.

An ancient celtic burial site known as a dolmen
An ancient celtic burial site known as a dolmen

What is Lilting?

Lilting is an old style of Irish and Scottish singing that would be used to tell a story in high king courtrooms. It is very ornate and would sound like a cross between an Indian singer and improvised jazz scatting.

As mentioned Druidism was an oral tradition, and so committing narratives to memory would involve lyrical devices. Poetry and music would have been the great techniques of orators, for an audience would become more entranced by a rhythmically sung story than a monotone recollection of one.

Lilting would be like a priest standing at the head of church about to deliver a sermon and beginning to sing the bibles passages as opposed to speaking them. The reflections of this practice have been rediscovered in the Amazonian rainforests by the American tourist demographic who have begun travelling to shamans in Peru and Brazil seeking ayahuasca experiences. Usually a Peruvian shaman would supervise the experience and sing ancient songs at key moments of the cerebral journey.

Why Would A Society Need Druids?

The Druids were all purpose vehicles of knowledge. They were in essence the internet of the Celtic people, the place where everyone would turn to for information. Their unique position as doctors, poets and lawgiver meant that they had incomparable control over how their societies viewed the world.

Language is an incredibly powerful tool, and it seems that a Druid in the Celtic lands was in essence a master of language. Your thought are linguistic, and so those who control your language control how you think.

This became the great downfall of the Druids, as the Romans arrived with their well written Christian doctrine. The Druids were individual sources of tradition, and the Romans could easily criticize an individual to discredit the individuals stories. When you are presented with a book it seems objective and perhaps more impersonal, so one cannot criticize the writer.

The Druidic ability to adapt knowledge to changing times gave way to the absolutes provided by the authority of the Roman Vatican, and soon the Druids began to fade out of history. What we know of the Druids now are only sketchy facts told by their opposition. The missing pieces we have filled in with our imaginations.

Celtic Revival

Beginning in the 18th Century after a period known as The Enlightenment, people began to research into the indigenous history of Celtic lands. They discovered many of these shadows of history and had to fill in the missing pieces with artistic imagination, basing their ideals of the time known as Romanticism as the filling substance.

This led to our current interpretation of the Druids and of course the modern revival of the culture in neo-druidism. The individualized men and women of the world are archetypes of the nostalgia that modern life has left us, where wishing we were less ensnared by technology and more connected to the organic earth seems to be symbolically fulfilled when we dress ourselves in ancient costumes and walk around the hills of Glastonbury, Stonehenge or Newgrange.

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