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A Druid is a member of an ancient Celtic religion that covered the role of priest, scholar and judge for the Celtic people. The Celts lived in Britain, Ireland and Western Europe until around the 5th Century, A.D., by which time most had either disappeared or had been converted to Christianity. Typically, a Druid oversaw religious activities, performed rituals, and also acted as a tribal historian by preserving the histories of the Druid’s tribe through stories and oral tradition. Also assuming the role of judge, a Druid would advise the leaders of the tribe on political matters, make laws and settle disputes.
The religion practiced by the Druids was simply known as Druidism and was polytheistic, meaning that many gods were worshiped rather than just one. These gods could either be elemental, representing fire, for example, or be associated with a particular human action or trade such as metallurgy or fishing. A Druid typically practiced the art of divination, which is an attempt to predict the future through physical events, and believed that the human soul would live on through a new human body upon death. There were no written sets of religious beliefs for a Druid since this figure relied solely on oral tradition for passing on information through generations.
Because of the main use of oral tradition for keeping histories of the Celtic people by the Druids, there remains little physical evidence that they even existed. Julius Caesar, who gave the first living account of the Druids, wrote some of the only written text referring to Druidism. In his writings, he discussed some of the religious aspects of the culture such as the belief in the indestructibility of the human soul and their penchant for bloody rituals.
There are still groups today throughout the world that practice a religion that is based upon ancient Druidism (known as neo-Druidism) by holding festivals, usually between changes of the seasons. These revivals began slowly in the 17th Century when some historians and other figures “rediscovered” Druidism and began new orders of the religion. Some of the more prominent Druid festivals occur at Stonehenge upon the summer and winter solstices, even though it is no longer widely believed that the ancient monument, located in southwestern England, was build by Druids.
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