WHAT IS A DRUID? by Philip Carr-Gomm'Often when the combatants are ranged face to face, and swords are drawn and spears bristling, these men come between the armies and stay the battle, just aswild beasts are sometimes held spellbound. Thus even among the most savagebarbarians anger yields to wisdom, and Mars is shamed before the Muses.' Diodorus Siculus Histories c.8 BCE In ancient times a Druid was a philosopher, teacher, counsellor and magician, theword probably meaning ‘A Forest Sage’ or ‘Strong Seer’. In modern times, a Druid is someone who follows Druidry as their chosen spiritual path, or who has entered the Druid level of training in a Druid Order.The reason we tend to visualise the Druid as an old man in our imagination is partly due, perhaps, to a realisation that by the time one has undertaken thetraining of Bard and Ovate one is bound to be ancient! We cannot be sure of theexact time it took, but Caesar mentions that some spent as long as twenty years intheir education at Druid colleges. But this is really little different to the time young people now take to complete their education, and Caesar’s account is reminiscent of the situation of monastic schools in Europe and as far afield as Tibet, whereyoung people would go or be sent for a complete education: free from the burdenof taxation or military service and “instigated by such advantages, many resort totheir school even of their own accord, whilst others are sent by their parents and relations.” Commentators point out that ‘twenty years’ could have been a figure of speech to denote a long duration of time, or that it might have actually been 19years, since the Druids almost certainly used the Metonic Cycle, a method of reckoning based on the nineteen-year eclipse cycle. If the Bard was the poet and musician, the preserver of lore, the inspirer and entertainer, and the Ovate was the doctor, detective, diviner and seer, what wasthe Druid? Their functions, simply stated, were to act as advisor to rulers, as judge, as teacher, and as an authority in matters of worship and ceremony. The picture this paints is of mature wisdom, of official position and privilege, and of roles which involved decision-making, direction and the imparting of knowledgeand wise counsel.We tend to think of the Druid as a sort of priest - but this is not borne out by theevidence. The classical texts refer to them more as philosophers than priests. At first this appears confusing since we know they presided at ceremonies, but if weunderstand that Druidry was a natural, earth religion as opposed to a revealed religion, such as Christianity or Islam, we can see that the Druids probably acted not as mediators of Divinity, but as directors of ritual, guiding and containing therites.