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Druids and Druidism - Ancient and Modern

There is a lot of academic debate about the origins of ancient druidism, some feeling it spread west as the Celts themselves migrated over hundreds of years from the eastern steppes into Europe and, eventually, the British Isles (via Spain for the Irish).

On the other hand, at the time of the Roman empire it seems as though the British Isles were the stronghold of the religion, training druids and sending them back to Europe.

So, did the "classic" Druid religion originate in the British Isles and slowly replace the older, bloodier, more pantheistic and less refined religious beliefs the Celts had originally brought to Europe? We don't know.

The druid religion was nature based, what neopagans now call "earth spirituality". It is thought that there were three classes of "clergy", druid, bard and ovate, with differing functions, though it's difficult to pinpoint these differences. Some feel it was a question of degree and level of training. Seership was a highly developed and a very important function.

Druids not only led spiritually, but functioned as arbiters and judges. There is some evidence to suggest that the druid hierarchy spanned Celtic Europe with some archdruids having ultimate jurisdiction over large areas.

Buy Books about the Ancient Druids and Modern Druidism
A Brief History of the Druids
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A Brief History of the Druids
by Peter Berresford Ellis

Celtic historian Ellis looks to archeological and etymological roots in his interpretation of who and what the druids were. His position seems to emphasis their role as lawgivers and administrators, rather than spiritual leaders. One of the very best available books on ancient druidism. Recommended.
The Sacred World of the Celts
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The Sacred World of the Celts: An Illustrated Guide to Celtic Spirituality and Mythology
by Nigel Pennick

This is a lavishly illustrated introduction to the world of the Celts - their history, culture and religious traditions. Pennick has written many books in the field of Celtic studies. If you have little background, you may want to start here.
The Druids
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The Druids
by Stuart Piggott

Piggott's is the classic standard historical work on the druids - no reconstructionism here - he sticks to the known facts, including a fascinating account of the druids from the Renaissance to modern times. An outstanding resource.
World of the Druids
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The World of the Druids
by Miranda J. Aldhouse-Green

Covers the same ground as Piggott's book, in less detail and with lots of photos and illustrations. A lovely introduction to the history of druidism. Includes a directory of present day druidical societies, for those interested in pursuing the modern druid way.
The Druids : Celtic Priests of Nature
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The Druids: Celtic Priests of Nature
by Jean Markale

No list would be complete without Dr. Markale's outstanding contribution to the query "who and what were the druids." Markale is the foremost Celtic scholar in a field of very competent scholars. While not pagan in outlook, his books reflect a deep respect for the culture and lasting impact of the Celts on Western civilization. Highly recomended.
The Mist-Filled Path
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The Mist-Filled Path: Celtic Wisdom for Exiles, Wanderers, and Seekers
by Frank Henderson MacEowen

A personal call to neo pagan spirituality based on Celtic wisdom. Beautifully written, resonates with those seeking an alternate spirituality for our times, rooted in our common heritage. This is the author's own vision, with no claim to historical authenticity, though based in the ancient religions.
Fire in the Head : Shamanism and the Celtic Spirit
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Fire in the Head: Shamanism and the Celtic Spirit
by Tom Cowan

Mr. Cowan has written several books on shamanism, which he here ties to celtic myth. He explores the shamanic roots of druidism, witchcraft and Celtic Christianity. Cowan draws together the shamans and the bards of old Europe and tells their spellbinding stories of shapeshifting and vision work. He cites the celtic myths and poems that evoke a strong connection to the ways of the shaman, and the spiritual importance that the words, story-telling and drumming can have in contemporary society.
Druid Magic
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Druid Magic: The Practice of Celtic Wisdom
by Maya Magee Sutton, et al

This book looks at history through the lens of modern druidic belief (from the 17th century to the present). Valuable for learning what modern neopagan druids believe; questionable on historical accuracy as regards ancient druids and the beginnings of the Christian era in Britain. Reconstructionist.
A Druid's Herbal for the Sacred Earth Year
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A Druid's Herbal for the Sacred Earth Year
by Ellen Evert Hopman

This complete guide to the plant lore of the druids suggests appropriate herbs and rituals to celebrate the eight major festivals of the year, and it includes medicinal and magical uses of herbs for each season.

Ellen Evert Hopman is a master herbalist and homeopath who holds a M.Ed. in Mental Health Counseling. She is vice president of Keltria, the International Druid Fellowship, a professional member of the American Herbalists Guild, and the author of Tree Medicine, Tree Magic, Gifts of the Healing Earth and People of the Earth.
A Circle of Stones
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A Circle of Stones: Journeys and Meditations for Modern Celts
by Erynn Rowan Laurie

Prayers (in Gaelic and English) and suggestions for creating/crafting a Celtic pagan rosary (the circle of stones). This is an interesting idea, especially if you are trying paganism and coming from a background that uses a rosary or set devotional prayers. Many have used this book as inspiration in creating threir own prayers