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S_Zegarra
09-05-2017, 07:48 AM
Hello!

I'm looking for some primary sources about Druids/Pagan tribes. Specifically about what they wore during rituals, even more specifically concerning body paint and/or animal accessories.

I've found images of people's interpretations of these-however I don't know if any are based in fact or history.

Books, online resources, or even descriptions would all be great, just so long as there is some authenticity to them :)

blacbird
09-05-2017, 08:06 AM
Damn little is actually known about Druids, as far as I can tell. The modern adoption of that term by ooo-eee-ooooo wannabes is an ignorant perversion at best. But probably harmless, which beats the crap out of a lot of other religious beliefs.

caw

M Louise
09-05-2017, 09:55 AM
What blacbird said. There are a few mentions in Greek and Roman accounts of the Celtic Druids but according to historian Ronald Hutton who wrote a very readable and intriguing book called Blood and Mistletoe: The History of the Druids in Britain, even those accounts may have been based on anecdotal sources. What we now believe about the Druids is mostly derived from 18th-century Druidomania and fantasies about ancient magicians. Our ongoing fascination with Druids and other early pagan groups owes a great deal to invention.

Not that this should stop you from inventing a few details yourself for a fictional work, even if they're not authentic.

neandermagnon
09-05-2017, 10:12 AM
Damn little is actually known about Druids, as far as I can tell. The modern adoption of that term by ooo-eee-ooooo wannabes is an ignorant perversion at best. But probably harmless, which beats the crap out of a lot of other religious beliefs.

caw

That's not really fair (calling people "oo ee oo wannabes"). Most serious pagans I've known over the years know that their religion is a reconstruction and not an unbroken tradition or an exact replica of the ancient religions. I realise there are a few that believe, for example, that modern Wicca is a facsimile of pre-Christian Celtic beliefs or whatever, but if they stick around long enough with serious pagans (as opposed to it being just a passing fad they took up for five minutes because it sounded "cool") they get educated and take the whole thing a lot more seriously. Many of them (the serious ones) are very clued up about the actual history of pre-Christian beliefs.

Bear in mind that modern pagans are real people who formed their belief systems for reasons that are a lot deeper than wanting to be like (add any pre-Christian people here). Understand where they're coming from before making judgements.

Back to the OP: "Pagan" is a very vague term which can refer to anything that isn't Islam, Judaism or Christianity (or it's often used to mean any non-mainstream religion, or any pre-Christian religion, etc etc etc), so "pagan tribes" can mean pretty much any group of people who aren't Muslim, Jewish or Christian, anywhere in the world. Probably the reason why you're not pinpointing the info that you need is that you need to be way more specific. Start with one culture. In Europe you have the Vikings, Celts, Saxons, Romans, etc. There are many more than this just in Europe, and each continent has its own huge number of different cultures (more than Europe, as Europe's a very small continent). Druid is a bit more specific - the Gallic/Celtic tribes had druids (remember that the groups I've listed are huge and there will be sub groups within them). I'm not sure if they were the only group that had druids. Around here (southern UK) when people say "druids" we think of the ones that worshipped at Stonehenge. The Celts in England did that before the Saxons came along (i.e. the ancestors of the Welsh, Scottish and Irish before the ancestors of the English displaced them). So now you have a place and time and people, Southern England, Celtic, pre-Saxon. That gives you something more specific to search on, therefore you're more likely to come across historical and archaeological sources. If you can identify an exact date range, even better. Historians and archaeologists tend to classify their info by time and place and the people who lived there.

If you meant druids from some other time and place, then search on that time and place. For pagan, first be specific about which pagans and which time and place. General history books can tell you what people lived where in various regions of the world - even just looking up one specific people (e.g. Vikings) on Wikipedia is a good starting point.

autumnleaf
09-05-2017, 12:38 PM
The Druids/Celts/Gauls left no written records, so we are dependent on 3 main sources to get information about them:
- Writings of the ancient Greeks and Romans at the time. These are useful but biased (the Romans wanted to conquer the Gauls and so had a vested interest in portraying them as barbarous).
- Writings from later eras, based on oral history. For example, Irish monks wrote down legends such as the Táin Bó Cúailnge (The Cattle Raid of Cooley). These show some of the beliefs and customs, but are filtered through time and bias.
- Archaeology. We can learn a lot from material artifacts, for example, whether they buried or cremated their dead. However, there are obvious gaps: organic materials such as animal skins and wood will decay and leave fewer traces than items of stone and metal.


In addition, we can speculate about Druidic beliefs by looking at existing animistic religions. These tend to be influenced strongly by the environment -- the flora and fauna, the climate, the seasons. Bear in mind that the environment may have changed since the era you are writing about. For example, there were no rabbits in prehistoric Britain but there were wolves.


Peter Beresford Ellis has written several books about the Druids and Celts, so he could be a good place to start.

benbenberi
09-05-2017, 05:04 PM
Literary historian Graham Robb, who wrote a fine, fascinating book of historical geography, "The Discovery of France" (https://smile.amazon.com/Discovery-France-Historical-Geography-ebook/dp/B00421BN8Q), has also written a fascinating book called "The Discovery of Middle Earth (https://smile.amazon.com/Discovery-Middle-Earth-Mapping-World/dp/0393349926)" which, despite its title, is actually about Celts and Druids and geography and archaeology in (mainly) France and Spain. He goes pretty far out ahead of sober scholarship with some of it (the 2nd half of the book is basically fiction dressed as fact) but where he sticks to demonstrable facts rather than speculation & logical rabbit holes it's a very interesting read.

AW Admin
09-05-2017, 05:36 PM
Damn little is actually known about Druids, as far as I can tell. The modern adoption of that term by ooo-eee-ooooo wannabes is an ignorant perversion at best. But probably harmless, which beats the crap out of a lot of other religious beliefs.

caw

I don't care what your personal religious or beliefs (or lack thereof) are.

You will respect those of others.
(http://absolutewrite.com/forums/showthread.php?66315-Newbie-Guide!&p=1498432&viewfull=1#post1498432)

AW Admin
09-05-2017, 05:37 PM
What blacbird said. There are a few mentions in Greek and Roman accounts of the Celtic Druids but according to historian Ronald Hutton who wrote a very readable and intriguing book called Blood and Mistletoe: The History of the Druids in Britain, even those accounts may have been based on anecdotal sources. What we now believe about the Druids is mostly derived from 18th-century Druidomania and fantasies about ancient magicians. Our ongoing fascination with Druids and other early pagan groups owes a great deal to invention.

Not that this should stop you from inventing a few details yourself for a fictional work, even if they're not authentic.

Ron Hutton can't read Old Irish or Gaulish; he is not a Celticist, nor is his book well-respected by historians or archaeologists. He relies on nineteenth century translations rather than primary sources.

AW Admin
09-05-2017, 06:07 PM
We do have some written records from the Celts themselves that pre-date the monastic record:

We have thousands of infixes, and some inscriptions (largely of the hic jacet variety) in Gaulish.
And there are some Ogham inscriptions that, while post Roman, are pre-Christian in terms of the earliest monastic presences in Ireland or Man.

We do have a few references to druidic regalia in medieval Irish texts; a feathered cloak is one such reference. It may or may not be accurate.

The best sources for what we know are from archaeologists, and from Celticists who can read the primary documents. Ellis, while he has recently made an effort to study Celtic languages, is not well respected by other Celticists; mostly because he is somewhat careless about distinguishing opinion from fact, and he is careless about primary sources. His more recent publications are better than his earlier ones, but still not terribly reliable (he is very careless about citations).

Some sources for inspiration:
The Druids. Stuart Piggott (Pigott is no longer with us, but he was the leading UK archaeologist with respect to Celtic archaeology). This is outdated in some respects (newer archaeological finds, etc.) but a worth reading.
Druids: A Very Short Introduction. Barry Cunliffe. This isn't his best book, but it's decent and a good starting place.
The Ancient Celts. Barry Cunliffe. This is a good, scholarly book on general background with a fair amount of info on what we know about Celtic religious practices.

I'm willing to answer questions; my Ph.D. is in English, but I am a Celticist by training, and if I don't know the answer, I probably know someone who does.

edutton
09-05-2017, 06:29 PM
Damn little is actually known about Druids, as far as I can tell.

Largely true.

The modern adoption of that term by ooo-eee-ooooo wannabes is an ignorant perversion at best.

I'll just point out that Revival Druidry is a living religious tradition with a close to 300-year history. Does it have much, realistically, to do with the ancient Druids? Probably not - but (believe it or not) we're generally aware of that, and of our actual history, and don't really need people standing on the outside taking potshots at us.

But probably harmless, which beats the crap out of a lot of other religious beliefs.

cawSo, to the OP - no, not a lot is known about the kind of details you're looking for, I'm afraid. But it sounds like Lisa is a good resource for you!

AW Admin
09-05-2017, 06:59 PM
Druid is a bit more specific - the Gallic/Celtic tribes had druids (remember that the groups I've listed are huge and there will be sub groups within them). I'm not sure if they were the only group that had druids. Around here (southern UK) when people say "druids" we think of the ones that worshipped at Stonehenge. The Celts in England did that before the Saxons came along (i.e. the ancestors of the Welsh, Scottish and Irish before the ancestors of the English displaced them).

Stonehenge is Neolithic; we don't know what languages the Neolithic peoples spoke. By the time that we know the people living in the area of Stonehenge were speaking a Celtic language, Stonehenge was no longer, based on the archaeological record, actively used as a major ritual site. Certainly they could see it; but we have no proof that it was actively used by druids.

Stuart Piggott, one of the foremost archaeologists of Britain, writes


“But it should be stressed that there is no evidence for Celtic religious observances having been associated with Stonehenge, nor with any similar monument of the second millennium B. C” (Stuart Piggott The Druids. Thames and Hudson: New York, 1975; repr. 1991. 63).


The Gauls were Celts; they spoke Celtic languages and share a common linguistic ancestor with extant Celtic languages.

I should also note that druids were one member of a priestly class (https://www.digitalmedievalist.com/opinionated-celtic-faqs/druids/) that included druids, bards and poets. The druids appear to have functioned both as priests, officiating at rituals, and as judges. Poets functioned as both oracles and poets, and bards, the lowest members of the class.

hereticdoll
09-05-2017, 07:45 PM
http://www.rdna.info/acalinks1.html

This might have something you are looking for. Otherwise, it might just take some digging. If you can find a couple historians seasoned on the subject, try emailing them your questions. There is a good chance they will respond. Professor Kenneth Harl is supposed to be overall knowledgeable about the history of ancient civilizations.

MAS
09-05-2017, 08:38 PM
You might want to look at books about the bog man. I'm traveling right now, so don't have the book at hand, but I know I have a book detailing the preserved human that was found a number of years ago in England while digging peat. The book that I read speculated that the bog man was not a druid, but rather an upper class member of a druid-led group religious group who was sacrificed by the druids. His stomach contained the remains of burnt bread, and it is speculated that the potential victims were chosen by lot, by being offered pieces of bread, and the one who got the burnt piece was the chosen sacrifice. The book also referenced a child's nursery rhyme that was perhaps a remnant of a memory of the practice. Maybe not what you are looking for, but if you can find info on the bog man, you might find something that you would be able to use.
Just took a quick look at Amazon, and I believe the bog man was "Lindow Man." There was a similar case in Denmark, and to my recollection the Danish bog man's clothing was also preserved, which might be of interest to you.

benbenberi
09-05-2017, 11:15 PM
There are a large number of "bog bodies" -- here's a list of the important ones (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_bog_bodies). They come from a wide range of time, though predominantly Iron Age, and from a variety of boggy places across northern Europe, particularly Germany & Scandinavia. I don't think that any of them, including Lindow Man, have been definitively linked to druids. Some of the British & Irish ones were probably Celtic-speakers, but there's no evidence that druids had anything to do with their deaths. The notion of ritual sacrifice is largely based on a number of Danish bog bodies, and while the evidence is suggestive it's not definitive -- we don't even know what cultures these people belonged to, much less why they were killed or disposed of as they were. The speculation MAS relates is entertaining fiction, no more. But there are plenty of links to the research on Lindow Man here (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lindow_Man), in case you want to look into it.

AW Admin
09-06-2017, 12:51 AM
The best book about bog bodies is Miranda Green's Bodies in the Bog; Thames & Hudson, 2016. Green is a little too free with assertions that aren't substantiated, and while she is an archaeologist, she can't read a Celtic language.

She makes some pretty egregious errors because of that.

The book MAS is referring to is Anne Ross's The Last Druid Prince; Ross is very good on some things; this isn't one of them.

AW Admin
09-06-2017, 12:57 AM
http://www.rdna.info/acalinks1.html

This might have something you are looking for. Otherwise, it might just take some digging. If you can find a couple historians seasoned on the subject, try emailing them your questions. There is a good chance they will respond. Professor Kenneth Harl is supposed to be overall knowledgeable about the history of ancient civilizations.

The RDNA is a Neo Pagan group; I wouldn't use them as a source for actual historic data. At the risk of what I'm sure will be someone complaining about me exploiting my power as Admin, I suggest my own site (http://www.digitalmedievalist.com) as a better resource.

If you want to talk about details of practical applications of ritual, I'd be willing to suggest some active and informed Neo Pagans following a Celtic / druidic path.

S_Zegarra
09-06-2017, 02:19 AM
Wow! I really appreciate all these replies so far. This information is great to help me know which books to work with and which sources are legitimate. I'm going to keep looking through them to see which help me the most.