Under the Spell of the Druids

Historical facts about the Druids are few, yet this very lack of tangible evidence has allowed their image to be reworked and appropriated by the English, Irish, Scots and Welsh for over 500 years. Ronald Hutton examines the modern history of an ancient order.

The word ‘Druid’ was one given to experts in magical and religious practice by the peoples speaking Celtic languages who inhabited northwestern Europe around 2,000 years ago. That is all that can definitely be said about it. Those who have tried to say more have relied on two different groups of sources. The smaller, but more famous of those groups consists of the writings of ancient Greeks and Romans. These have the virtue of being the work of people who lived when Druids still existed. Their problem is that almost all relied on secondhand information of unknown quality, much of it very old even by their time. Moreover, none wrote more than a few sentences about Druids.

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