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PostSubject: Bits of Druid Culture   Mon Sep 21, 2009 3:43 pm

Great mystery surrounds the Druids, the priestly caste of Celts in Gaul (modern day France) and Britain, who served as judges, teachers, healers and soothsayers. Greeks and Romans writing between the second century BC and the fourth century AD reported the little we know about them.

The Roman writer Pliny recorded the Druid ritual of harvesting mistletoe from the oak, their sacred tree. On the sixth day of the new moon, a white robed priest would climb an oak and cut mistletoe from it wit h a gold sickle. Caught before it touched the ground, the mistletoe was used in a fertility ritual. Echoes of this rite survive in English speaking countries in the Christmas custom of kissing under hanging sprigs of mistletoe.

Druidism was a form of nature worship, and only initiates who studied their craft for as long as 20 years knew its deepest secrets. Rites were held in sacred groves and forests, where Druids were thought to practice magic powers - changing the weather, appearing in animal form, fore telling the future and becoming invisible. By using a 'serpents egg' or crystal ball, they were said to disperse death hexes. The wizard Merlin of Arthurian legend may have been a Druid.

Julius Caesar reported that anyone suffering from a serious disease, or about to face the perils of battle, would offer, or vow to offer a human sacrifice, which would be carried out by the Druids. One method was for victims to be burned alive in huge wicker baskets. Usually criminals were chosen for sacrifice . But the Romans had long ago banned the practice of human sacrifice in their homeland, and considered it barbarous when they discovered it among the Druids. When Roman troops invaded the Druid's religious center on the Celtic island fortress of Mona (today's Anglesey), off the coast of Wales, in AD 60 they slaughtered all the Druid priests they could find and also destroyed their sacred oak groves.

The Druids New Year Feast of Samhain, when supernatural spirits were said to roam the earth, it thought to be the origin of today's Halloween. And the superstition of saying, "touch wood" for good luck may be a relic from the Druids reverence for sacred trees. Modern Druid groups, although not related to the ancient, still celebrated seasonal Pagan festivals all over the world.

There, in a gloomy hollow glen, she found
A little cottage built of sticks and weeds,
In homely wise, and walled with sods around,
In which a witch did dwell in loathly weeds
And willfull want, all careless of her needs;
So choosing solitary to abide,
Far from all neighbors, that her devilish deeds
And hellish arts from people she might hide,
And hurt, far off, unknown, whomever she envied.

Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene,
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