Since Christian times, Druids have been associated with magic and mysticism, occasionally with darker forces. Even earlier in Celtic society they were the intellectual elite, studying philosophy, acting as judges, educators, historians, doctors, seers, astronomers, and astrologers. History records their presence as early as the 2nd century.
The word Druidae is of Celtic origin. The name Druid is assumed by many to derive from the Greek work drus, meaning "an oak." This tree was considered sacred, central to knowledge and magical attainment. It, along with the Rowan tree were often central to druidic rituals and rites. Druid was a title given to those possessing "oak wisdom".
Some believe Druids originally belonged to a pre-Celtic population in Britain and Ireland that eventually spread into the Roman empire. There is great debate surrounding their appearance. Pictures have shown them barefoot dressed in a knee-length tunic and a hooded cloak. Often holding a staff in one hand with a book and sprig of mistletoe in the other. Often they have a pouch around their middle for money and other tools of their trade.
At specific times of the year, such as Samhain, there would be huge ritual celebrations that included sacrifices, there are some scholars who believe these included human as well animal and plant. There was certainly sexual ritual, often involving virgins whose newly found fertility was considered good luck when it came to the harvest, magic, the moon, and the mysteries of life.
Their influence was as much social as religious. The Druids linked the Celtic peoples with their numerous gods, the lunar calendar and the sacred natural order. Little of their practices remain intact in readable form. Their sacred songs, prayers, incantations and traditional rules of divination and magic have disappeared except for those that have experienced altering forms of Christian reinterpretation.
The lore of the druids, Stonehenge's incredible mystery, and the fascinating histories of Ireland's very early legends are fascinating fodder for the writer It is sad that so much truth has been lost, but there is great opportunity for imagination in the mystic romance of early Irish and Celtic history. The Druids are an integral aspect of that as they are still such a source of wonder and awe to many, and writers have often dipped an imaginary quill into the font of Druidic legend, each to add their own magical touch.
Have a Happy St. Paddy's Day!