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ORIGINS We see the first evidence of spiritual practice in Europe 25,000 years ago, when candidates for initiation would crawl into caves; after being initiated in the belly of Mother Earth, they were reborn into the light of day. Twenty thousand years later, in around 000 !"E, we can see the sa#e practice of see$ing rebirth within the Earth% great #ounds were built, in which initiates would sit in dar$ness awaiting the ti#e of their rebirth. SOCIETAL ROLE AND TRAINING &ne of the few things that both the 'reco()o#an and the vernacular *rish sources agree on about the druids is that they played an i#portant part in pagan "eltic society. They were one of the two #ost i#portant social groups in the region +alongside thee,uites, or noblesand were responsible for worship and sacrifices, divination, and /udicial procedure in 'aulish, !ritish and *rish society. They were also e0e#pt fro# #ilitary service and fro# the pay#ent of ta0es, and that they had the power to e0co##unicate people fro# religious festivals, #a$ing the# social outcasts. 1ruids2 instruction was secret, and was carried on in caves and forests. 1ruidic lore consisted of a large nu#ber of verses learned by heart; it could ta$e up to twenty years to co#plete the course of study. There is no historic evidence during the period when 1ruidis# was flourishing to suggest that 1ruids were other than #ale. 3ll instruction was co##unicated orally, but for ordinary purposes, "aesar reports, the 'auls had a written language in which they used 'ree$ characters. *n this he probably draws on earlier writers; by the ti#e of "aesar, 'aulish inscriptions had #oved fro# the 'ree$ script to the 4atin script.