Druidry brings elements of mythology, legend and history to life. Gives reverence to the past and our ancestors. The worth of their actions maintained where there is importance and relevance in today’s world.
A Druid looks out to what is there - and there we see in the landscape, reminders of the ancestors of place. A patchwork of times and lives who's mark has made life as it is now.
Upon the landscape, the evidence of our rich and vibrant - although often troubled history - stands plain to see, or can be uncovered by knowing how and where to look and listen.
As a Druid today looking to the past we see many things which inspire and enrich our lives in the present.
To know who you are you need to know where you come from.
A belief in the oneness of all things, connected and synchronised, playing out your role in bringing each moment forward.
To a distant past of Pre Roman and early Roman Britain that is known as the “Classical age of Druidry” we have Greek and Roman written evidence of the Druids of this time and of trade routes between these civilisations and Ynys Prydein.
Further into the past we have the megalithic Bronze Age structures that the 18th Century Druid revivalists placed as “Temples of the Druids.” From early in the 1700s up to the 1950s Druidry belonged to masonic type orders who believed to have re-awoken the priesthood of the Druids with the “Classical Renaissance.”
After the Roman occupation of Britain and up until the 18th century, the Christian church maintained the roles that were previously facilitated by Druids, such as record keeping of ownership and rites of passage. Now though, the political control that the church held has passed to Local Government, as the new religion of Science has diminished the fear of God in people.
Yet the knowledge of something that science has not explained still exists- unproven and hopefully never will be - the knowledge of God, Goddess and in their uniting – the Holy child/children.
Druidry accepts these questions are not answered and is willing to pass judgement through experience and exploration. The exploration of that which is outside the physical understanding and therefore unexplained by science.
Since the 1950’s the foundation stone of Druidry has become a conglomerate rock made up of segments formed in many times and places. A sword hammered on the anvil of our celtic heritage. Heated by the fires of the western magical tradition. Blown by the bellows of new-age spirituality.
Within the folds of its blade are held the elements of all world religions and old world spiritualities, philosophies and structured systems of belief that hold keys in the present to the past and the future.
The sword that is drawn from the druid stone is an individual beacon of our personal way of feeling the connection with divinity and the wonders of life.
There is one connection of mistletoe to druidry and it is that of chapter 95 in book 16 of the natural history by Gaius Plinius Secundus and the famous cutting of mistletoe from an oak in southern Gaul. This account of a druid ritual in itself proves that druids held mistletoe as the most sacred and potently magical plant of all. In the same book druids and other plants are mentioned but it is the mistletoe that is held in most reverence.
Pliny did not mention the time of year this ritual takes places, only that it is guided by the moon. The moon being 6 days old following the spring equinox it is in its most northern point in that month and now with the sun also north of the equator the forces strengthen to pull the rising saps. It is this time as both the sun and moon are riding above the equator that triggers the time of new growth and the trees really wake after their winters sleep.
The roots of the trees are deep enough not to be influenced by weather conditions and the surface temperature of the soil. They feel the subterranean changes caused by the positions of the celestial beings. So as likely as any other guess the old new year’s day of the 25th March is as close as any to when this happened.
March 25th is known as “Lady’s Day”. It is the date of the vernal equinox, stated by Caesar in 46BC at the introduction of the Julian calendar. Its date is also the conception of Christ who will be born 9 months later. If in the 1500’s when the Gregorian calendar was first established, the calculations were dated back to 46BC instead of the Council of Nicaea in 325AD we would be hanging up our “kissing bough” and celebrating Christmas on the winter Solstice. It was to unify to date of Easter that the Gregorian calendar was created.
Another slender link to druidry and mistletoe is “Lindow Man”. To some believed to have been ritually sacrificed in a threefold killing, traces of mistletoe pollen were found in his stomach. Proving that his death was a sacrifice will always be argued, but the fact that mistletoe pollen was found places his death at around the vernal equinox.
The oldest calendar still widely used today begins at the equinox, which is the zodiac.
The connection with mistletoe to modern druidry cannot rely on one piece of writing so it is into the realm of story where delving is desired.
At about the same time as Pliny wrote his natural history book a poet called Publius Vergilius Maro (Virgil) was writing a epic tale of the foundation of Rome and the fall of Troy in which the hero Aeneas had to travel to the underworld and back to achieve his goal. To gain access to Hades he was led by the doves of his mother, Aphrodite, to a clearing in a forest where...
They winged their flight aloft then stooping low,
perched upon the double-tree that bares the golden bough.
In this story it was the mistletoe that gave Aeneas the key to enter the Underworld/Otherworld and ensure his safety.
The mistletoe was a gift of summer's light to Persephone.
This passage of poetry comes from the 17th century translation of the Aniead by John Dryden. The Mistletoe foundation has used this translation of the poem in the Tenbury Wells Mistletoe Festival Ceremony to symbolize carrying the light of summer through winter as a shield against the darkness.
We aren’t the first to use this translation. Sir James Frazer was inspired enough to name his book of the study of religion and magic after this description of mistletoe.
The conclusion Frazer came up with in “The Golden Bough.” concerning mistletoe, is that the ancient belief was that the spirit of the tree resides in the mistletoe while the tree stands in winter’s death. With the mistletoe not being of the land or of the sky it cannot be harmed by either realm. There the spirit of the tree is safe from death and can return to the tree in the spring. If so to take the mistletoe at mid winter the tree is in danger of falling to winters grasp.
He speculates that the golden bough could be the branch after it has been cut and dried out because it then turns a golden colour but if you look to the trees in spring the mistletoe is a golden colour, partly due to the starvation of nutrients from the host trees sap through the winter and partly because of the golden coloured flowers. So if the spirit of the tree is in the mistletoe then to cut it at the vernal equinox the spirit of the tree would return to the tree and in no time at all the leaves will appear, as if by magic.
Virgil, the Roman poet, it has been said that he was of Celtic decent and learnt the art of poetry from druidic training in southern Gaul before moving to Roma for further education. If this be true the importance of mistletoe would no doubt be known to him and the mistletoe a magical key to enter the otherworld and return unharmed.
In Celtic legend and folklore there are stories of people from the otherworld allowing the heroes of the tale to pass into their realm. They carry a branch that bares both flower and fruit. ”Cormac Mac Art” is one and “Thomas the Rhymer” another to mention the better known stories. The reward for these heroes is the gift of truth. Thomas became known as True Thomas because he could speak only truth. Cormac gained a cup of truth.
We need not to look into the otherworld to find where it is that this branch grows; it is the Viscum album, the true magical mistletoe that grows proficiently in the orchards of the land of Albion. Is it that Arthur to be healed in Avalon was taken to the All-Heal in the realm of the apple trees?
One of he better known mythological tales where mistletoe plays a major roll is that of "The death of Balder.". The link to the power of mistletoe and the other stories is that after Balder's death the mistletoe guided Hermod's journey to the underworld to ask Hell if she would give them back their shinning god.
The power of the sacred mistletoe is that of protection, truth, the ability to cross boundaries, fertility, peace and healing.
By the magic of the mistletoe "let the all-heel heel all."