Christian History Project. This site contains the text of 12 volumes on the history of mankind over the last 2,000 years written from a 'collectively-denominational' Christian perspective.

Celtic Druids |
Unlike today

Celtic Druids is drawn from Chapter Five, beginning on page 146, of Volume Two, A Pinch of Incense of the twelve-volume historical series The Christians: Their First Two Thousand Years. If you would like to order this book please visit www.TheChristians.info.

The Gallic rituals of human sacrifice claimed both criminals and innocents

Celtic Druids - Unlike today’s, the old Druids served their gods with fire, blood and dagger

Celtic Druids – Unlike today’s, the old Druids served their gods with fire, blood and dagger
Human sacrifice was a central part of the cult of Druidism. “When they attempt divination upon important matters they practice a strange and incredible custom, for they kill a man by a knife-stab in the region above the midriff, and after his fall they foretell the future by the convulsions of his limbs and the pouring of his blood, wrote Diodorus Siculus in 8 B.C., describing Druidic worship.

What passes for Druidism in the twenty-first century–a peaceful “spirituality” of environmentalism, crafts, and costume, blended in the woods by weekend worshipers–has almost nothing in common with the ancient cult whose name it takes.

Contemporary Druidic lore is so entangled in myth, legend, and fantasy that separating out the truth is almost impossible. Most probably, however, Druidism originated as early as the second century b.c. among the Celtic peoples of what is now Ireland. The Romans found the cult already well established in Gaul, and nearly all the written history of the ancient Druids comes from Roman sources, chief among them Julius Caesar. As conqueror, Caesar was unswervingly prejudiced in favor of his own culture–yet his chief informant on the details, Divitiacus, was apparently a Druid himself, and he remained unrefuted in the ancient accounts.

“In public, as in private life, they observe an ordinance of sacrifices,” Caesar writes. “(They) use figures of immense size, whose limbs, woven out of twigs, they fill with living men and set on fire, and the men perish in a sheet of flame.” The victims were often thieves or robbers, Caesar allows, “but when the supply of such fails, they resort to the execution even of the innocent.”

The Greek author Diodorus Siculus, writing in about 8 b.c., describes other bloody Druidic sacrifices: “When they attempt divination upon important matters, they practice a strange and incredible custom, for they kill a man by a knife-stab in the region above the midriff, and after his fall, they foretell the future by the convulsions of his limbs and the pouring of his blood.”

Whatever their barbarisms, Caesar also reports that the Druid priests in Gaul were of “definite account and dignity,” serving as authorities in ritualistic and religious matters and even as judges. “In fact, it is they who decide almost all disputes, public and private; and if any crime has been committed, or murder done, or there is any dispute about succession or boundaries, they also decide it, determining rewards and penalties.”

While Rome tolerated native religions, it did not, however, tolerate local rule, except under strict Roman oversight. Hence Druidic law, and with it Druidism itself, was almost completely suppressed, and Druidic human sacrifice prohibited, though it persisted secretly for many years.

In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, a flood of romantic books and dramas revived interest in a fanciful and harmless Druidism that is further elaborated in modern-day gatherings, including those at the mysterious Stonehenge site in Britain, whose inhabitants were also Druidic. There can be no doubt, though, that some latter-day adherents–and those who adapt darker Druidic lore to role-playing games like “Dungeons and Dragons”–enjoy the delicious shudder that comes with whispering of those forbidden practices at Druidic gatherings long ago.

This is the end of the Celtic Druids category article drawn from Chapter Five, beginning on page 146, of Volume Two, A Pinch of Incense. To continue reading more about Celtic Druids from The Christians, Their First Two Thousand Years we suggest experiencing the rest of the book, complete with hundreds of magnificent illustrations, by ordering it at www.TheChristians.info