Ancient Order of Druids
When Julius Caesar marched his legions of soldiers into Gaul, he was fascinated at the level of influence the eccentric bearded magicians had on the barbarian hordes he was conquering. In some instances, armies that had lined up to battle each other would suddenly sheath their swords and walk away if the Arch Druid had sensed a bad omen. Julius Caesar was appaled that the kings would surrender his authority to one of the "white robed magicians." Who were these mysterious old magicians and did they really have the power to control the elements?
The Druids are one of the oldest sects and keepers of ancient knowledge. Most scholars believe the early British monks were enlightend by the Phoenician sailors that had established colonies in Britain and Gaul while trading copper in the area. The Phoenicians were a trading nation, well versed in the art of navigation. Phoenician magi were instructed in the ancient Mysteries by the Egyptians, in turn they spread their sacred knowledge around the mediterranean. It is known they shared their knowledge with the Chaldeans and the Greeks, making it very likely they would have enlightened the Britains as well.
There are several different explanations as to the origins of the word "Druid." One is derived from Irish word "Drui" which means "the men of the oak trees." Others draw upon the Gaelic word "Druidh" which translates to "a wise man" or "sorcerer."
Both of these meanings very accurately describe the Druids. The druids were certainly wise sorcerers, and they did live among the oak trees. Besides living in seclusion in the forest, the oak tree was worshipped by the druids as a symbol for the Supreme Deity. Everything that grew on the oak tree was considered sacred and rendered for medicinal purposes, especially mistletoe.
The Druids were considered to have a deep understanding of nature. They were said to have studied geography, physical science, astrology and theology. Their knowledge of medicine was advanced for their day and they were even known to have performed surgical procedures.
The Druids were far from evil magicians that lived in the trees and cast spells on unsuspecting travelers. Much to the contrary, the Druids were probably the most organized of all the Mystery Schools, and their influence spread from the Isles of Britain to the woods and plains of Gaul. At its peak, the sect had a vast structure that was headed by four Arch-Druids; two in Britain and two in Gaul.
The common denominator of the ancient mysteries was the allegories of the sun's annual death and ressurection, but the Druid more than just a follower of a pagan sun-god. The Druids had a system of degrees of initiation that seemed to mirror the Egyptian Mysteries.
There were three ranks in the Mystery School of the Druids. The lowest rank was the Ovate, or subordinate instructor, for even at the lowest level, the druid was still a teacher. Before entry, the initiate was expected to have general knowledge of medicine and astronomy. Those with experience in poetry and music were a plus. The Ovate wore robes of green, a symbol of learning.
The second rank of the sect was the Bard or "teacher of wisdom." After spending years getting to the degree of the Bard, the initiate was tested even further. The Bard was to memorize over twenty thousand verses of druidic poetry and learn musical instruments such as the harp, which, oddly enough, was strung together with strands of human hair. The Bards wore robes of sky-blue to signify harmony and peace.
The third and rank of the Duidic Order was that of the Druid, or the superior instructor. This rank was highly sought after and rarely achieved. The Druids appointments were to see to the religious needs of the people to which he was assigned. The Druid dressed in garbs of white to symbolize his purity and also the to symbolize the sun.
The highest ranking was the Arch Druid, which would be comparable to the Pope in Christianity. The Arch Druids were the spiritual heads of the Druidic organization. Arch Druids were patriarchs between the gods and men. The Arch Druids had six different degrees within their level, they also wore white robes but with a different colored sash to depict their specific degree. The Arch Druids carried golden scepters and wore wreaths of oak around their heads.
Druids lived in abstinence, studied the natural sciences, and preserved the orders secrets. Few Druids actually married, and most lived in monasteries like the Buddhist monks in the far east. At retirement, many Druids went out into nature and lived in caves and small shacks, where they prayed, meditated, and emerged from time to time to perform their religious duties.
The Druids believed in three worlds and the soul could transmigrate from one to the other. There was the world we live in, in which good and evil are balanced and man can choose between them. There is a world below this one, a world of misery, and a world above this world, a world of happiness.
In this world, man had three primary duties: to collect the essence of all being into his soul, to acquire knowledge of all things, and to acquire the power to conquer evil. They believed when man died he would go to a type of hell where he was purged from his sins, and then if he hadn't overcome the inherent evil of his own nature while on earth, then he would be reincarnated to earth, sometimes many times until the soul learned life's lessons.
In order to become part of the Druidic order, the candidate had to be from a decent family and be of high moral character. They were secretly tested until their superiors were sure they showed great strength of character. When the candidate was initiated into the Order of Druids, he took a vow of secrecy and was given rite of initiation deep in a forest or in a dark cave.
It was in this seclusion that they were instructed in the secrets of the universe, the personalities of the gods, the laws of nature, occult medicine, the mysteries of the celestial bodies, and the rudiments of magic and sorcery.
Like the Mystery Schools of the Egyptians, Chaldeans, and Greeks, the Druid's evolved around the sun. Initiation ceremonies only took place on one of the two solstices. Like in freemasonry the candidate was put in a coffin and ritualistically brought back to life. Their sun god was called "Hu," and just like Osiris, Bacchus, and Mithras, he was murdered and brought back to life. They celebrated the sun's "birth" every year on December 25th.
It was when Christianity began to spread, did the Christians choose this same date to be the birth of their God, and also named on day of the week after the worship of the sun, Sunday, to entice the pagans into Christianity.
Very few successfully passed through all three degrees of the Druidic Mysteries. The final test the initiate was laid in a boat and pushed out to sea. Many didn't survive the ordeal, but those few who did were considered to have been "born again" and were allowed to learn the secrets the Druids passed down since antiquity.