Wizards in History:
DruidsIn the harsh environment of Northwestern Europe came a different type of wizard from the Middle Eastern biblical mages of antiquity. Desiring to tame or at least temper the ferocity of their environment, these wizards became students of nature; ritualists of flora and fauna. These wizards, known as Druids among the Celts, Picts, and Gauls, and Spae-workers and Vitki among the Norse and Teutons, wielded ritual magic geared toward the taming of the elemental forces of nature to ensure the continuation of their race. Many of them were master healers, skilled in the knowledge of herbalism and of magical healing ritual. Unlike the biblical wizards such as Aaron, Samuel, Solomon, and Jesus, whose purpose was to lead masses of people, the druids and their ilk shied away from leadership roles, performing a more supportive or "staff" role in the organization of their tribal culture. Also unlike the great biblical wizards, quite often druids and spae-workers were female instead of male. Indeed, druidic magic relied heavily upon the feminine energies of the Earth and Nature, rather than the masculine energies of pure Spirit employed by Elisha and Solomon.
Bards, (known as Skaldr among the Norse and Teutons) were wizards skilled in the use of magic through music and poetic form. As entertainers, they were superb; as wizards, they employed the magic of the spoken word, rhyme, tempo, cadence, and melody to weave their powerful spells. A bard had to know three things: how to make people laugh, how to make people cry, and how to put them to sleep (often to escape from persecution).
Among the Norse, spae-workers were classified by the gender of the magic involved. Galdr-workers invoked the masculine, outward, proactive energies, symbolized by the runes, and most often were men, although there were female runic vitkis as well. Seith (Seidhr)-workers invoked the feminine, receptive energies of nature, and was involved in shamanic travel (astral projection), shape-shifting, and soothsaying. Females were most likely to be seith-workers, although a few males also practiced the art. It is rumored that Odhinn taught Freyja the arts of Galdr, and she taught him the arts of Seith. In order to do this, each one had to ritually "become" the other gender for a period of time to be able to grasp the mysteries. For the uninitiated and unenlightened, this was considered to be a point of derision, against nature, and thus spae-workers were often shunned and feared, or made jest of.
Druidic magic was very ritualistic and heavily steeped in ceremony. Rituals were performed at specific ceremonies, especially those having to do with the lunar and solar cycles. The changing of the seasons was an especially important ritual period for the druids, as was the middle point of each season. For a society heavily based on agriculture and hunting, their magic was geared towards the planting, harvest, and hunting cycles, seen in the festivals of Imbolc (Disting), Lammas (Loaf-Fest), Yule (Jul), Eostre (Ostara), Samhain (Winternights), Beltane (Walpurgis), Mabon, and Midsummer (Litha). Minor rituals were held at the new and full moons, and at important events during the year (birthing and death rituals, etc.) The new and full moon rituals occurred roughly every 14 days. The new moon ritual was considered the "inbreath" cycle of nature, when the energies flowed back into the Earth. The full moon ritual worked with the "outbreath" cycle, when the energies flowed from the earth back to the spirit. The two-week period of time involved for each cycle was called a "fortnight," (14 nights), and to this day, this is still a time reference used by the British.
Believing (correctly) that the Earth had meridians of power on its surface called "ley lines" or dragon currents, the Druids used massive standing stones known as dolmans (flat table rocks) and menhirs (vertical stones) embedded in the earth as points of energy concentration. This is not unlike the process of acupuncture used for ridding the human body of disease and ailment.
Druids were also schooled in practical magic. They employed magical herbalism on a regular basis, as well as work with magical symbols such as runes and oghams (pronounced OY-ams), carved on wood or stone. The oghams and runes functioned as alphabets as well, because the druids believed that the true essence of magic was carried by the word; the essence of thought transmitted through language. Each one of the oghams represented a tree energy, which could be tapped upon by the druid by the use of focussed concentration.
A mistaken belief is that the druids regularly practiced human sacrifice, preying upon the weak, women, and children. This unfortunate fable was spread during the Christianization of Europe when the missionaries sought to demonize any existing religions so that their own, Christianity, would have no rivals. During this process, the sacred dolmans and menhirs were defiled, mutilated, and often destroyed, the ancient gods turned into demons of horrific countenance and deed, and the druids and bards were killed as emissaries of Satan, often employing the Roman method of crucifixion. The following is an excerpt from William Butler Yeats' tragic and horrifying recounting of the crucifixion of one of these wizards: "The Crucifixion of the Outcast (1898)." The "outcast," a bardic wizard, is being crucified for having dared to complain about the conditions of the guest quarters at the local monastery to the abbot.
. . . So then they went away, but the beggars stayed on, sitting round the cross. But when the sun was sinking, they also got up to go, for the air was getting chilly. And as soon as they had gone a little way, the wolves, who had been showing themselves on the edge of a neighboring coppice, came nearer, and the birds wheeled closer and closer. "Stay, outcasts, yet a little while," the crucified one called in a weak voice to the beggars, "and keep the birds and beasts from me." But the beggars were angry that he had called them outcasts, so they threw stones and mud at him, and one that had a child held it up before his eyes and said that he was its father, and cursed him, and thereupon they left him. Then the wolves gathered at the foot of the cross, and the birds flew lower and lower. And presently the birds lighted all at once upon his head and arms and shoulders and began to peck at him, and the wolves began to eat his feet. "Outcasts," he moaned, "have you all turned against the outcast?"
Even in ancient times the Celtic druids knew of the coming of Yesu (Jesus). A reading from the ancient Celtic Triads is:
The Lord our God is one.
How the Druidic wizards knew the consecrated name so long beforehand (predating Jesus' appearance on earth by more than 500 years) is indeed a mystery in itself. The name "Yesu" was incorporated in the Druidic Trinity as the Godhead. In Britain the name Jesus never assumed its Greek or Latin form. It was always the pure Celtic "Yesu;" it never changed.
With the Christianization of Northern Europe, gradually the druidic tradition died out as an exoteric religious force. Eventually realizing that violent action was not enough to overcome the ancient traditions in England, Ireland, and mainland Germany and Scandinavia, Christianity resorted to incorporating many of the druidic rites and festivals into its own frame of references. Thus the Druidic fertility ritual of Eostre became the Christian ritual of rebirth and renewal of Easter, and the rebirth of the God at the Winter solstice became the Christian celebration of Jesus' birth. Imbolc became Candlemas, Samhain became All Hallows (and thusly Hallowe'en), and Midsummer and Lammas were all but forgotten. Esotericists and wizards didn't forget the old ways, though, and they were kept alive through their secret studies and traditions, quietly passing them down from father to son, mother to daughter, grandparent to grandchild, becoming as much a part of their reality as the new structure that had been forcibly superimposed on them.