Druids, Celts and "The Learn"
Guest Post: Exploring the Celtic Way of Life by Tony Halker
My Guest Post at The Writing Greyhound
I have imagined and written about a time, hundreds or a thousand years before the Romans threatened the Celts of Britain, about their civilisation, values, order, myths and relationships; about emerging hidden art and sounds we may call music. It is impossible not to be in awe of peoples who thousands of years ago mixed metals in exact proportions to refine the properties they needed to harness, to make agricultural implements and weapons, then being able to repeat the formula time and time again. They did these things without the benefits of chemical analysis. Perhaps an ingot would ring or sing when hit in a certain way with stone, telling them whether they had achieved the right mix for their purpose.
We talk of the Celtic nations today, but before the Romans came much of Britain and Europe were peopled by the Celts and their Druid Priests' class. We have romanticised who and what they were, the legacies they gifted us. We can walk the places they did and see remnants and beauty they created as gifts to the Goddess Nature. In folklore, the Druids seem to imbue who and what we were before the Roman invasion and therefore what we are now. Their society did not use writing, so we have very few hard facts about what they valued and revered or from where they came. Most of what we think we know is either Roman propaganda or what we glean from wonderful artefacts often found hidden in the UK landscape and indeed all over Europe. Celtic Druid cultural remnants, values and genes are in many of us, yet we often rely on the words of their enemies to define them. Celts were in their own time originally seen as outsiders, people on the fringes of what considered itself the “civilised” world: Greek and Roman civilisations. The colonial marketing machines of those civilisations wanted to define the Celts as savages at their fringes to be brought under Roman “guidance”.
My fiction is set long before the coming of the Roman Empire. At a later date, it is clear that the Celts were a threat to Roman expansion in terms of culture, military prowess, organisation and the extent of their own linked civilisation through Europe. In later times the powerful Celtic remnants were on the fringes in England, Wales and Ireland. No civilisation and culture suddenly appears or disappears, even when it seems that way in the archaeological record. Foundations are laid, tribes develop, technologies become important, power structures organise peoples who prosper and spread. I envisage Druids as a learned warrior and craft priest caste, providing balance to tribal clan power. The Druids exercised influence through, knowledge, learning, connections with the Deities of nature and monopolies of valuable trade. I like to imagine their lives in our landscape because we know so few facts and can use folklore and landscape to invent these peoples from the nano information we really do have; the canvas on which to reinvent them is almost blank, but a few items of beauty and enigma are there to look at and enrich the imagination. Folklore passed down the ages and festivals still sung, danced and celebrated also inform our view.
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