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  • 34


     
    Druid Grave Found
    History; Posted on: 2008-02-13 13:34:55 [ Printer friendly / Instant flyer ]
    Rich site yields clues about Celtic faith and medicine

    by Norma Jackson

    A grave site found near what is now Colchester, England, may be the first Druid burial place ever found by archeologists. Dated to between 40 and 60 A.D., the find yielded cremated human remains, a board game, medical tools, religious implements and evidence of a psychedelic drink used for divination.

    Druids were the priestly and intellectual class of Celtic Europe, whose important role led to their eventual extermination by the Romans. The Roman general Gaius Suetonius Paulinus led a successful attack on the Druidical "headquarters" on the island of Mona (today called Anglesey), cutting down the sacred oaken groves where the Druids worshipped. The word Druid comes from the Celtic word for "oak" (surviving in English as "door").

    Druid beliefs and teachings are still obscure, but the new find sheds some light on the role they played in the complex Celtic world. As the new site shows, they practiced surgery and other medical work, as well as astrology and divination. As bards, the Druids served as historians. Intellectual and religious functions have been closely linked throughout the course of white history, well into the modern age.

    The chambered Druid grave is part of a set of five discovered in a gravel quarry. Dating from the early Romaan occupation period, it shows Roman influence.

    Archaelogist Mike Pitts has published a report on the site in the journal British Archaeology. "This person was clearly a specialist and also clearly wealthy and powerful, as indicated by the special grave and its apparent location within the compound of a 'chief.' That would all fit Caesar's Druid," he said. The best descriptions of the Druids come from Julius Caesar, but may have been marred by polemics, such as accusations that the Druids carried out human sacrifices in implements like the famous Wicker Man. In fact, "human sacrifice" was a part of European religion, usually in the sense that convicted criminals were "sacrificed" through execution. The "bog men," bodies found in peat bogs across Western Europe, were clearly sacrificed, probably for legal reasons, while the infamous gladiatorial combats of the Romans began as a form of "human sacrifice."

    The fact that the Druids consumed drugs for religious purposes is confirmed by the remains of artemisia, the key ingredient in absinthe, the "Green Fairy" beverage of lore which was banned in the late 1800s because of its abuse. The presence of divining rods confirms speculation that European pagan religion was highly oriented towards fortune telling and prediction, as survivals of the folk religion show.

    Druids were at the top of the Celtic social order, and so the Druid whose grave was found would have had a close connection with the local ruler, who would have been Cunobelin, King of the Catuvellauni who ruled in what is now Essex. Cunobelin (whose name means "hound of the God Belenus") is known from the work of Roman chroniclers Dio Cassius, and Suetonius (not the general), who called Cunobelin "Britannorum rex" ("king of the Britons"). Cunobelin was called Cymbeline by Shakespeare, who used his name as the title of his famous play.

    Interest in Druidism led to some of the first "nationalist" awareness in the UK. Welshman Iolo Morganwg (Edward Williams, 1747-1826) mixed radical political ideas emanating from the French Revolution with a call for a revival of the suppressed Welsh language. Morganwg helped renew the Druidic Bardic system and carried out a Druidic ceremony on Primrose Hill, London, in 1792, a site still used by neopagan Druids. The Druids also inspired radical nationalist and poet William Blake (17571827) and the Rev. Dr. William Stukeley (16871765), who was one of the first to investigate Avebury, Stonehenge and other ancient sites.
    News Source: Norma Jackson

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