Modern Druids, Authentic Christians

I have just completed Stuart Piggot's 1968 book The Druids. These were the ancient caste of priests and holy men which helped lead the Celtic peoples before the Romans conquered. The latter wiped them out on account of their penchant for human sacrifice and unwillingness to submit to imperial rule. Their last official appearance in British (but not Irish) history was on the shores of Mona (Anglesey), making a last stand against the Roman legion sent across from Chester to wipe them out in 57. Tacitus writes:

“The druids pouring forth dire imprecations with their hands uplifted towards the heavens, struck terror into the soldiers."

Not terror enough- the soldiers still killed them all. So there we have it, an interesting bunch of people dramatically dying on their sacred island at the hands of a different type of pagan.

Yet in the last couple of centuries, any number of groups, orders and societies have sprung up claiming to be the druids con’t. For example, one might join the Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids, Keltria, The South Central Druid Coalition, Adder Oaks Druid Nemeton, British Druid Order, Druids of Albion. The list seems endless. Presumably, new groups form as others break away, before then merging and uniting. What they all have in common, however, is a claim to continue the line of druidism, to have resurrected the ancient group’s beliefs and practices. Piggot makes it clear that this is strictly nonsense, on the grounds that we know so little of the original druids, any claim to resemble them could never be verified or corroborated. These druid groups are essentially products of our own centuries, not of ore-Roman Britain. So come the equinox, white-clad bearded types will appear at Stone Henge and other places of supposed sanctity, and will there chant and invoke, without ever actually knowing if this is what the real druids did. It is not really their fault; the druids wrote nothing down and what we do know came from their enemies’ pens. Yet the whole thing is foolish. Invent a new brand of paganism if you wish, but do not assume that a real druid would recognise or approve of any of it.

We Christians are not always wiser. We assume that our practices and beliefs are authentic continuations or reproductions of the pure Christianity of apostolic vintage. Yet much of modern Christianity I fear the apostles would not only fail to recognise but would actively despise. Those huge megachurches with the smarmy CEOs, sorry, ‘pastors’, the statue-infested idolatry of liturgical devotion, the empty and lifeless liberalism of the social gospel; over each one I think the apostles would baulk and vomit.

May each of us be faithful to Biblical truth, holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict. (Titus 1:9)

Image by Dr. Horst-Dieter Donat from Pixabay