Exploring what Ronald Hutton thinks about druidry?

The British Druid Order Forums BDO Public Forum Exploring what Ronald Hutton thinks about druidry?

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      This is from a
      on the book Blood and Mistletoe: The History of the Druids in Britain
      by Ronald Hutton

      “Hutton does not shirk from dealing with the limited and contradictory evidence for ‘original’ druids but that is not his focus. It is druidry as a historical phenomenon that interests him; he accepts that druids are essentially modern creatures, products of the renewed interest in the classical ancient world that characterised the incipient nation-states of the early modern period. As such they make what Hutton calls ‘a wonderful subject for a student of modernity’ (p. 48),

      Blood and Mistletoe meticulously records five centuries of contradictory and self-serving speculation, most of it now rejected. It is an object lesson in how much history is the plaything of the historians, and just how wrong they can be.

      So, when were the druids and when do the druids end? can we get some dates please?


        So look, as I go along looking at Hutton’s book Blood and Mistletoe, do correct if you think I am wrong. I don’t want to pull a lot of quotes from his book, but more treat it like a nutshell. He starts off with talking about how druids were the seers and priests of ancient tribes. Now I buy that, and I feel that probably there is no reason to think that the druids ran around calling themselves druids. Key thought, is that they were the ancient priest and seers of Celtic tribes. And Hutton goes on to suggest that the seers and priest may have had some unique views. Ok, makes sense to me. So if you go with this, and get past the whole idea of calling these priest and seers druids, then these seers and priest could have been around for a long time in the British isles, and been there for a long time after christianity. At least that is my theory. What do you think.


          I finished reading this book 2 days ago and found it very interesting. The conclusion seemed to me to be that societies view on what druids were depends far more on the society at the time then any reality about what/who druids may have been originally. So rather than druids describing a distinct historical group it is a word used to define a current societies view of the ancient past. The druids described by the ancient Romans may be as illusionary in a way as Iolo’s triads, based on a different societies opinions – in the Roman’s case a different culture, in Iolo’s case a different time. There may well never have been a distinct group of people who have ever fitted any of the descriptions given of “the druids”. It could be they were the tribes leaders – so nowadays that might be the equivalent of Boris Johnson, the Queen or maybe our local town counsellors . Or they may have been the communities spiritual leaders – so the Arch Bishop of Canterbury perhaps. I think that is what I found most interesting about the book, the way the term druid has changed and evolved – so our current spiritual nature respecting meaning of druidry bears little resemblence to the society leads role, or the barbaric human sacrificers, or any of the other roles that have been taken through history under the name of druid.
          If we want an answer to what the religious leaders (one way to define druids) were like or what they did in ancient Briton pre Roman invasion the honest answer has to be that we really don’t have a clue!


            Ok, so in the first chapter hutton describes his first evidence of druids. And these are druids in Europe, But I believe that druidry originated from the tuatha de Danann. Hutton does make a point that the first use of the something like druid name comes from the greeks. However, the danube river is in Europe, and it makes sense that the tuatha de danann were living along the river, and still do, like the elves of Rivendell. Also, I think that the druids were in the UK much earlier than 200BC. The druids go back way beyond Stonehenge in the UK , because the druids are people who are friends of the Tuatha de Danann. And in contrast to what many modern contemporary druids think, I believe that the druids helped in building Stonehenge. It is historians total lack of understanding of the faerie tribes, I guess because the historians’ mums told them that there were no such things as faeries when they were young, so that they could block out and repress their memories of the little red hat faery who visited them at night at grandmums house in the country, that make historians views of the druids so un-magical.

            “It is reasonably certain that people who were called (something like) Druids were in existence by 200 BCE, because they were apparently mentioned in two Greek books of about that date: a history of philosophy by Sotion of Alexandria and a treatise on magic, commonly but wrongly attributed to Aristotle. Both are lost, but they were quoted over four centuries later by Diogenes Laertius, whose work does survive.2 If he cited them accurately, one or both of them said that among a list of wise or holy men of foreign peoples were the Druidas of the Keltois and Galatais. The former term, the origin of the modern word ‘Celts’, was used vaguely for the tribes north and west of the Alps. The latter name may indicate the Galatians, a people who had cut their way through the Balkans to settle in Asia Minor, or the Gauls, the inhabitants of what are now France, Belgium and Germany west of the Rhine. So, we can be fairly (though not absolutely) sure that there were Druids around by 200 BCE, but not of where they were or what they were doing.” (Hutton, Ronald. Blood and Mistletoe: The History of the Druids in Britain (Kindle Locations 252-261). Yale University Press. Kindle Edition.]


              Druid is just a word – the definition of the word is what we choose to give it – and in the case of the word druid there is not one definition. If you consider them as spiritual tribal leaders of Celtic tribes then you cannot really have them involved in the building of Stonehenge -as this we know was built earlier than what we choose to define Celtic as. Were there spiritual leaders involved in the decision to build stone henge – almost certainly – but we shouldn’t call then druids if we define druid as Celtic spiritual leaders! Would the organisers of stone henge have held similar view on the nature of the world and the spiritual as the spiritual leaders of the Celtic(by modern definition) tribes – who knows. It seems likely given the link to the evidence of the importance of heavenly objects – but two groups could see celestial objects as important but have VERY different spiritual paths.


                Be of good cheer, and happy lunasa, there is great inspiration and empowerment in druidry, and there is great interrelationship with nature and the fellowship of druids, just like the early celtic knotwork jewelry that by the end of the third millennium BC goldworking had become well established in Ireland and Britain together with a highly productive copper and bronzeworking industry. Jennifer, I think your review of the book was right on target, and summed it up excellently. What I found interesting in the introduction of the book was how much hutton seems to have influenced the modern druid leaders in 1991. Hutton met them at a conference in 1991

                It was at Tim’s conference that I properly got to know Philip Carr-Gomm, Emma Restall Orr, John Michell, Rollo Maughfling, Philip Shallcrass and other people who feature prominently in the history (to date) of modern Druidry.

                Hutton, Ronald. Blood and Mistletoe: The History of the Druids in Britain (Kindle Locations 212-214). Yale University Press. Kindle Edition.

                And his description of them is

                Contemporary Druidry is not the central spiritual tradition of my own life; it is not even my favourite one among those which make up the current range of Britain’s ‘alternative’ spiritualities. Still, I find its tenets attractive and exciting, because they are deeply concerned with two phenomena, the natural history and prehistory of Britain, which are old and enduring loves of my own. Few things can divide people more effectively, of course, than common enthusiasms; but the Druids with whom I have dealt have been so remarkably lacking in dogmatism, let alone fundamentalism, that a serious clash has never developed.

                Hutton, Ronald. Blood and Mistletoe: The History of the Druids in Britain (Kindle Locations 224-228). Yale University Press. Kindle Edition.


                  Dear Jennifer, I think that the word druid, really is a good way to describe the druids because I feel that it is so much associated with the word oak, and I feel druids can communicate with the oak tree, and that it is a most magical tree, and I also think of it as the world tree to climb up and down to different levels of the celtic otherworld. Whether you want to see druidry from the historical and philosophical view or the celtic otherworld view, makes all the difference. Druids, like me see druidry as having an interrelationship with the celtic otherworld, and we travel up and down the world tree, meeting the faeries, and the celtic gods and goddesses, the gods of the Tuatha de Danann, whose mother goddesss is dana, from the river Danube. So, to me and other druids like me, and there are many, we see druidry as a timeless world, and history does not play the main role in it. As for Stonehenge, and other henges, these did much more than tell you where the planets were, they were built along ley lines and used to raise huge cones of power by the druids, also, not only would earth energy be raised, but also energy from the stars and planets where drawn down. And the henges were used as places of portal to other dimensions. The faery world is in a dimension right next to us, and takes up the same space as you are in now. Happy Lunasa, William

                  david poole

                    You are developing some very good reading habits William. The Druids and Witches, Druids and King Arthur are also worth considering. These books are interesting in that we get to see more of an attempt to tie historical Druids in with modern practices in a chain of development, although they can’t be exactly the same. By Tim do you mean Tim Sebastian? The different threads do start to come together once you do the further reading. Ronald is doing a very difficult job with considerable grace. In one of his essays, he describes how much trouble he had trying to write about paganism and witchcraft, how much disdain there was within academic and other circles and how the subject was looked down upon. By continuing to write and talk about these subjects he is performing a valuable service which cannot be underestimated. Rebel Druids in The Druids covers a bit more of contemporary Druidry, if rebel is the appropriate term it seems somewhat overdramatic. Druids Witches and King Arthur goes into contemporary Druidry in a later chapter, painting a picture of several of the figures who you mention.


                      Hi David, this Tim Sebastian guy is really interesting and he had his own group of druids and I think he fought for the right for druids to use Stonehenge for ceremonies. I also think Sebastian had some wild ideas about druidry with his group the secular druids. I need to check it out more. I think Hutton is great, and I am really enjoying reading his book, I just hope that druids can always see the love and joy and wonder of druidry, and not get too tied up in worrying about all the historical facts or even arguing over should you wear a white robe or green robe when gathering mistletoe. I love the whole king authur stories and remember that started in England, went to France, and then came back to England with the Normans. I think Henry 8 even had a son named authur who died, but life was short back before antibiotics. I would make it clear that I am sure many druids did practice extreme sanitary living conditions and took baths, if for nothing else than to purify themselves before ceremonies and they did use lots of perfumes. By Henry the 8th time they basically lived in a castle until the toilets filled up with poop, and then moved on to the next castle, leaving the servants to clean out the poop pits. /but in my way of thinking, the druids were friends with the tuatha de danann and the tuatha are very clean faeries, so the druids would be all sweet smelling and prim and proper. But I love authur, and these stories were written in the 11th century, so I even think druidry was going strong at that time. it just would have taken time for the church to get full control of peoples minds and souls, and guess what, they still have not conquered the druid spirit in us. But I think it is easy for druids to get discouraged about the many wonderful connections druids have to nature if druids just fixate on history or philosophy. I mean both are really interesting, but at some point I am not sure they are worth arguing over, and just become too dogmatic for the modern druid. I think thinking about how to grow vervain or save the oak forest may be a better use of our time as druids. And I do believe that the bards have saved many of the authentic druid stories, the Mabinogion is a treasure trove for druids, and I am so glad we have it, we are really lucky to have it, I feel it is like our holy bible, but just inspired by the faeries instead of the abrahamic god, and least we are not told that we are going to hell if we don’t believe everything in the Mabinogion, which is one of the real problems I have with christianity. I hate it when people tell me I have to follow everything in the Bible, I just don’t see how this is possible, and the Bible at many times just seems to contradict itself. And one of the good things that the modern druid leaders all thought, I think, is that people should be able to believe what they want to believe, but of course, as organizations grow, some people try to turn free thought into dogma, and solidify the organizations teachings. The Mabinogion, lets us know that it is alright to believe in faeries and Celtic Gods and goddesses, and learn from them as friends and guides, and not stern school teachers, trying to beat history and English into us at the end of a paddle on our butts, or the threat of eternal punishment in the pit. I like the idea of druids as counter-culture to the mindless industrialized android tax accounting suit wearing expensive car driving million dollar house owning in debt up to their necks to keep up with their rich pear group not respecting the living consciousness of trees and plants people. And I do think it is cool that prince Charles is a druid, I once saw him on the beeb talking to plants saying grow, grow, grow plant, and I think he meant it, and everyone love the queen Elizabeth,and my mother was a big fan of her, and I really miss elizbeth’s mum, who was Scottish. so I wish Queen Elizabeth and Prince Charles a happy Lunasa, and I hope you have a most wondrous Lunasa too, David, Best William


                        Arthur Tudor was Henry VIII’s elder brother and heir to the throne, he died in 1502 and thus Henry became the heir and inherited the throne, it was for this reason that he married Catherine of Aragon, his brother’s widow, and this provided one of the main pretexts for Henry’s attempts to have his marriage to Catherine annulled – he never actually sought a divorce. Henry’s only (surviving) son and heir was Edward VI (1537 – 1553), by Henry’s third wife Jayne Seymour who died owning to postnatal complications.

                        Under Henry VII, the Cornish rebellion of 1497 ended in defeat for the Cornish, who had rebelled against the taxes imposed on them for wars against the Scots and in violation of their ancient legal rights.

                        Under Henry VIII, the great monastic centres were destroyed, including Glasney College, and this means that whatever manuscripts, and important cultural materials for the Cornish language that may have been held there were destroyed for ever, hence, perhaps, the reason why Cornish literature is so meagre in comparison with the Welsh literature of the period. In 1536, any vestiges of Welsh independence vanished with the “Act of Union” an act that was passed without any Welsh say on the matter in the English Parliament. Apart from that, the Welsh language and remaining Welsh laws were robbed of any legal status, which created a subordination of Welsh language and culture which, in many ways, persisted until the 20th century. During the 1530s Bishop Rowland Lee conducted a campaign in Wales of “law and order” in Wales that was actually a campaign of terror and thousands of Welsh people received summary “justice” and were lynched.

                        Under Edward VI, one of the harshest campaigns ever launched against the Scots was conducted and Edinburgh was ransacked. In 1549 the Western Rebellion in Cornwall and Devon, one of the reasons for which was that the new book of Common Prayer was only in English and not in Cornish, ended in the massacre of thousands of Cornish people and dealt a severe death blow to the ancient Celtic tongue in the West. When the rebellions of 1549 were crushed, which included reprisals and the killing of unarmed prisoners, an estimated 10% of the Cornish population were left dead – their language, ancient rights, culture and right to self-determination in tatters. The Provost Marshal, Sir Anthony Kingston, sent armed death squads into Cornwall that targeted ordinary people with beatings, murder, evictions and other horrendous acts that would be considered war crimes and genocide by today’s standards.

                        Forgive me for not being a big fan of the House of Tudor, the greatest irony of which was that the Tudor line of the dynasty was of Welsh origin.


                          Thanks Dowrgi, Three was a lot of that I was not aware of, and some of it refreshed my memory, I do remember the Henry the 7th was welsh, and he landed in Wales when he took the throne, kind of by luck if I remember right, or at least the stupidity of the reigning king to get in the fight. The reigning king should have stayed in the rear with the gear. Also, Henry the 7th did put kingdom on sound financial grounds, which Henry the 8th quickly blew in spending on all kinds of things like the field of gold, thus he went looking for the church money. Well, it is all part of god’s plan, right Dowrgi. and the catholics were kind of running the country from Rome. To me it all seems like a monty python skit, in its weirdness of events, the other thing that I find like a monty python skit is the battle of culloden, when the British arrived with guns and the Scotts just had a few guns and pointy sticks and targes, now this had worked in the past for the Scotts, but now that the British had guns, the brave Scotts no longer stood a chance. I mean you know there must have been some Scotts at that battle who went, Sargent McGrath, they have guns and all we have is pointy sticks, maybe we should rethink this thing. I will tell you Dowgri, I am very glad that the welsh culture did not get destroyed completely, and that we still have the welsh language, I am sorry about the Cornish, but I think there is still a Cornish language that is spoken by some. that must be a beautiful place you live in and I hope you get out and enjoy the beauty of Cornwall on this Lunasa day. You know since I have become a druid history seems to be more alive, and I enjoy history and poetry more, and this is just one of the many perks of being a druid, for as druids our lives are more full of awen and imagination and life.
                          Happy Lunasa William


                            Henry VII didn’t land in Wales, he was born in Wales. He took the crown from Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth, which ended the thirty-odd years of civil, dynastic wars known as the Wars of the Roses.

                            As for Culloden, it’s complicated. There were actually Scots and Irish units on the British government side too. The whole thing was a disaster from start to finish and you have to question the military prowess on the Stuart side, I mean, charging with a poorly equipped, minority (slight) force against a highly-disciplined and well-armed professional army. Of course, Bonnie Prince Charlie just cleared off back to Italy and the Scots Highlanders paid the price for his ambitions. To be honest, I’ve never understood why he has been so romanticised, he was certainly no Robert the Bruce or William Wallace for sure.

                            but I think there is still a Cornish language that is spoken some

                            Yn certan, yma tus lyes py a gews Kernewek hedhyu. My a aswon nebes geryow ynweth.

                            Dave TheDruid-3X3

                              IMO: All you need is the Essential Guide to Druidism by Isaac Bonewits.

                              I also liked “What Is Druidry” by Bobcat.

                              I might have a peek at Mr.Hutton’s Book but I prefer what is written by Bobcat and Bonewits.


                              david poole

                                @dave I just looked for Isaac Bonewit’s book it was at least £64.25 for the paperback and around £325.00 for the hardback, outrageously expensive on Amazon. Bobcat’s books are quite good I admit.

                                Jen Bottom

                                  Reading through this discussion there seem to be three strands.
                                  1. Who were the druids based on archeological records and first hand sources.

                                  As far as I am aware, we don’t have much in the archeological record, and the sources were mostly produced by the romans, or others who may have been writing with the view of dis-crediting the tribes they were waging war against.

                                  That doesn’t mean they have no value, but it’s important to keep this in mind.

                                  2. Folklore and myth from areas that still posess, (or posessed at the time of writing) a Celtic language.

                                  Again we have to be careful how we utilise these sources, because they were written after the Iron Age Celts no longer existed in their pre-roman form, and there is sometimes a christian lens at play.

                                  3. UPG.

                                  UPG is great, but everyone has to remember that their UPG is not going to be someone else’ss.

                                  It’s very individual.

                                  For example I concentrate on Brythonic myth and archeology, so for me the statements about Druids coming from Irish deities and beings is not true.

                                  That doesn’t mean it’s not valid though, it’s just not my personal truth.

                                  Also, what someone decides is or is not a Druid, may depend on how much of a CR (Celtic reconstruction) angle they take.

                                  For example, you might say no one can call themselves a Druid, unless they work for a leader in the capacity of being their lawyer, judge on cases involving them, are their healer, or help them with divination.

                                  So to sum up, it really depends on who you’re talking to and what rules they are using to define ‘druid’.

                                  You could even use the meaning of the word (based on what we define that as today) to define what a Druid is.

                                  Peace and best wishes,

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