11218713_170828129925944_5605764732332069242_nAh the druids. For most, the very name conjures images of white-robed, long bearded pale guys with a “special” relationship with nature and a penchant for speaking in riddles and cryptic messages. Dark druids who chant around purple bonfires at midnight and sacrifice babies on an altar of antlers and bone…. Okay, I totally ripped that last one from a D&D game I played once, but lets face facts, it was meant to be allegorical. Druids get a bad rap overall and I totally don’t think that is fair. What follows are a series of theories based on new(ish) archeological research and speculation by people smarter than me, because the fact of the matter is: Nobody actually knows who the druids were because very little of their rituals were ever written or described in petroglyphs.

The current theory is that Druids were basically soothsayers: Men who learned as much as they could about the natural world. The first real signs of druids were dated back as far as 200 BCE. Most of what we know of the druids come from a few scattered Greco-Roman accounts describing various encounters with the strangely enigmatic religion. As an aside and interesting historical note: Julius Caesar, as a General intent on conquering Britain and Gaul, was the first individual to describe them in writing. Lot of folks dispute Caesar’s account, however, as he was attempting to slaughter his way through Gaul and Britain at the time. And like most indigenous peoples, they didn’t so much enjoy that part. It was a thing.

So, all that said. Here is what we think we know. Druids were, among other things, learned men. Doctors, poets, lawmakers and religious leaders. They had a knowledge of the natural world that was second to none. Stonehenge (which if you haven’t heard of it, you are a bad person and should feel ashamed) and Seahenge (which you probably DON’T know about but totally should) were built by these ancient peoples as part of what we believe to be a religious ceremony. Stonehenge is unique because the stones themselves come hundreds of miles away and are, literally, massive. Still working out how Bronze Age cultists without modern technology made that happen. Even WITH modern technology, it is nearly impossible. Seahenge is unique as it is surrounded by a series of inverted trees. Yeah, you heard me. INVERTED TREES. Some guys cut down whole trees, dug great ruddy holes and planted them into the earth… UPSIDE DOWN.

The fact of the matter is, there are sites like this all over Britain. But, as most henges tended to be made of wood, they didn’t survived the intervening 5000 years. Stonehenge did cuz, well, stone. Seahenge did because it was originally placed in a slat marsh which preserved much of the original features of the site. Some historians speculate that the henges were used for astronomical purposes: To track the stars. Some theorise that the early Celts and druids believed them to be portals to the underworld, their own version of the afterlife. Fact of the matter is, without an oral or written history, we may never know for sure. But clearly these guys knew, or thought they knew, something we didn’t. Who am I to judge? All they did was plant trees upside down: Catholics commit ritualistic (hopefully symbolic) cannibalism and hematophagy on a weekly basis. But whatever knowledge Druids had is lost to the ages. If I were to compare druids to a modern group, I’d have to go with Jesuit missionaries. Love ’em or hate ’em, the Jesuits are learned, spiritual, poetic, and have an uncanny adherence to ancient doctrine.