Wednesday 12 June 2013

The Druids - the last laugh?

Whether the Druids were actively pursued from the Gallic psyche or if they were gradually usurped by new Roman administrations, one thing is fairly certain - by the end of the 1st-century AD the idea of the Druid had ceased to be - despite all of the Druid-era Gallic deities still being worshipped in one way or another. In that way we know Druids were not important to the day-to-day worshipping in Gallic temples. So maybe - more than anything - they were victims of technology? Say what? Well, an increasingly literate Gallic and British population meant fewer people were reliant on each village having a 'wise' man. There's some suggestion the influence of the Druid-caste in Celtic Gaul was already in decline by the 1st-century BC, at the same time the Gallic populous were urbanising and actively reading and writing. The degree of Gallic literacy was not underestimated by Julius Caesar - during the Gallic Wars he relied on coded missives passed through enemy lines in the fear that anything written or Greek or Latin would be recognised immediately. So was it the pen that ended the Druids? If it was, history gives the Druids one last laugh at the Romans who replaced them.

After all, what happened when the Roman Empire declined and fewer people were able to read and write? Well, they turned to village priests again, both for spiritual and intellectual guidance. One religion may have replaced another, but the tasks of a village priest in France and England returned to what they had been prior to the arrival of the Romans.

And what's more - here we are again. We all have the Internet and don't need to ask a village priest for advice again - and guess, what? We're seeing that same decline in the role of the Church in western culture. It's another example of that little paradox - 'if you wait around long enough it all happens again'. The modern day decline in western religion might actually have the same cause as the decline of Druidism  2000-years ago - when religion becomes a purely spiritual adventure rather than an intellectual one - the roles of religious leaders always seem to change, and for some that means the end to a way of life. It did then, and it might now. For more on the Druids, you can read "Vagabond", available from Amazon, just follow the links

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