Hutton Ronald - Blood and mistletoe

Author : Hutton Ronald
Title : Blood and mistletoe The history of the druids in Britain
Year : 2009

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Introduction. What’s in a name ? Where Druids are concerned, it seems, almost everything. It is very doubtful that anything like as much excitement would subsequently have been attached to these characters of ancient north-western Europe if the Greeks and Romans who wrote about them had simply called them by their own common words for priests or seers. It was the use of a unique native term, translating to modern English as 'Druid', which made them seem special and noteworthy: an order set apart from the rest of their own society and from other religious functionaries of their own time and of others. This put the seal on the indication, in those same ancient texts, that these particular priests and seers had indeed been unusual and distinctive in some way; elevated above their own peoples and unlike the priests of other societies. The world has been trying to make sense of them ever since. Among the modern peoples who have made the ancient Druids into important figures in their imagination are the Irish, Germans, French, Scots, English, Welsh, Americans, Canadians and Australians (more or less in that order). The relationship between each of these and the figure of the Druid would make a full study in itself : the present one confines itself to the three major historic peoples of the island of Britain. It may well be that, collectively, these have thought about Druids, or acted out being Druids, more intensely and for a more sustained period than any of the others. That, at any rate, seems to be what the face of the existing evidence shows; but further research may serve to disprove it. At any rate, it can be confidently asserted that the British relationship with Druids has been a long and complex one, and that a study of it can tell us some interesting things about the changes in British culture during the past half millennium. To focus on this relationship, rather than on the ancient figures themselves as most books concerned with Druids have been wont to do, is not to deny the potential worth of a quest for the Druidry of prehistory. It is certainly not to suggest that archaeology does not have very important things to tell us about the European Iron Age, as about every other period. It may well be, in addition, that at any point excavation could turn up evidence of decisive value for our knowledge of the 'original' Druids. ...

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