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Druids: A Very Short Introduction by Barry…

Druids: A Very Short Introduction (2010)

by Barry Cunliffe

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61. Druids : A Very Short Introduction by Barry Cunliffe (2010, 240 pages, read Nov 7-11)

I really like the idea of the "Very Short Introduction" series. Cunliffe has written summaries on the archeology of Celts and on of Europe through AD 1000. He presents some great and complex ideas in his books (whether the ideas are his, or common among many, I can't say). He keeps this one simple, making a point of separating modern Druids from the ancients (any connection is purely one of wishful thinking), and of separating the archeology and ancient written record on the Druids. It's a good summary. He notes that the Celts had a three cultural leaders of sorts - seers who probably filled something like a shaman's or fortune tellers roll, bards who preserved the stories, and the druids who preserved the knowledge. In this logic he connects the Druids with the much more ancient megalithic structures in Europe. In his words, "There can be little doubt that the belief systems evident in the last four centuries or so of the 1st millenium BC—the time of the historical Druids—were the result of a longue duree of development and refinement spanning several millennia. The druidic class, then, were the inheritors of ancient wisdom."

In Ireland, where the Druidic Celts were never conquered, it was Christianity that did the Druids in. In the cultural trivectum, the roll of the Druids was replaced by the clergy. I don't recall what happened to the seers. The bards continued on for some time into the Christianized culture.

(You can find this review on my LT thread here: http://www.librarything.com/topic/138560#3772057 ) ( )
1 vote dchaikin | Dec 24, 2012 |
Packs a lot in a small package - a good overview of the subject for those new to the subject and for some of those not so new. A nice blend of history and archaeology which makes it clear how little we actually know about the early druids. ( )
  gwernin | Dec 11, 2012 |
Another nice very short introduction to European prehistory. I appreciate the scholarly objective approach to this subject that is often romanticized. The idea of druids has often fascinated me but I always knew that my dungeons and dragons version was way off base. Not that this little volume clears up everything necessarily, but it certainly shows that we do not know much about what it really meant to be a druid in the 1st millennium BC. The archealogical evidence is sparse and the literary evidence is mostly propaganda.There is a lot to be said about mystery though. Yet, I agree with Mr. Cunliffe's conclusions wholeheartedly. What is almost more interesting is his chapter on how romantic era Brits were so eager to create a fake druidic history so that the longing for some historical identity could be satisfied. This is very similar to Mr. Cunliffe's work on Celtic history. What we call LARPing and SCA in the US can easily be transposed over 18th and 19th century philanthropic organizations where proper businessmen dressed up like wizards on the weekend and chanted nonsense at each other in order to feel connected to something. ( )
1 vote BenjaminHahn | Mar 1, 2011 |
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Every midsummer solstice hundreds of 'Druids' flock to Stonehenge in the middle of Salisbury Plain to celebrate the midsummer sunrise.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0199539405, Paperback)

The Druids have been known and discussed for at least 2400 years, first by Greek writers and later by the Romans, who came in contact with them in Gaul and Britain. According to these sources, they were a learned caste who officiated in religious ceremonies, taught the ancient wisdoms, and were revered as philosophers. But few figures flit so elusively through history, and the Druids remain enigmatic and puzzling to this day. In this Very Short Introduction, one of the leading authorities on British archaeology, Barry Cunliffe, takes the reader on a fast-paced look at the ever-fascinating story of the Druids, as seen in the context of the times and places in which they practiced. Sifting through the evidence, Cunliffe offers an expert's best guess as to what can be said and what can't be said about the Druids, discussing the origins of the Druids and the evidence for their beliefs and practices, why the nature of the druid caste changed quite dramatically over time, and how successive generations have seen them in very different ways.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:06:18 -0400)

Who were the Druids? What do we know about them? Do they still exist today? The Druids first came into focus in Western Europe - Gaul, Britain, and Ireland - in the second century BC. They are a popular subject; they have been known and discussed for over 2,000 years and few figures flit so elusively through history. They are enigmatic and puzzling, partly because of the lack of knowledge about them has resulted in a wide spectrum of interpretations.… (more)

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