I’ve just started reading Blood and Mistletoe by Ronald Hutton, tracing the perception of the druids through history – which is probably easier than trying to figure out what they actually were. We are given various descriptions from Greek and Roman authors with motives of their own to describe the druids the way they did – can’t be relied on for accuracy. They are vilified or romanticised, depending on who is writing.
The image (or images) of the druid, though invented, adapted or exagerrated, have proven to be a useful resource for propoganda through history and also to become the basis of a whole movement for which may emphasise their social, cultural, spiritual, religious, magical, shamanic or political functions.
The druids are many things to many people, but using historic persons in this was is no new thing – the Jesus of the Roman Catholics is different from the Baptist Jesus is different from the Lutheran Jesus; the Buddha emerging in the West has diverged in some ways from his traditional portrayals in the East. Their personalities and roles are adapted to the needs and wants of the people, and yet they are the basis of legitimacy for their respective cultures and religions.
In this context, I think it’s significant that one of the central concepts of modern Druidry is “Awen” or Inspiration, something that just about all druid groups after the Druid Revival share. It is described as a divine source of creativity, but not only that, I think it symbolises modern Druidry itself as something creative and versatile, that the nature of those ancient druids is determined by the use of their image. As I read through Blood and Mistletoe, I shall reasses the various images and my own of them and share my thoughts here. It’s certainly a good read, and I’m only on the second chapter.