Having some tough days caring for Mother here lately, so I've been slow to finish this ... sorry for that. But, here goes part three, ready or not. It may take several sit-downs at this computer but we'll see how life permits. Wild druidical speculations: commence!!
Not-so-speculation #1: despite the ancient sources talking of "hyperborea" [a la Mercator's map above], to believe that they were NOT talking about Britain is the height of foolishness. Maybe you could include some other northern lands within that term, but the main thrust of the idea of Hyperborea refers to Britain.
I'd like to say a word about Caesar. "I come to both praise and bury him". The "burial" is to say that most of Caesar's legitimately primary-source comments about druids seem to be about whatever version of that existed in Gaul, and not in Britain. AND Caesar shows a snippy propensity for toss-off slurs about his Gaulish enemies here and there. LOTS of confusion is apparently deliberately included by Caesar, and others, when they talk of the Gauls and the Celts/Britons.
The "praise" is because when you exert some minimal common sense, you can get a fair amount of useful information out of him and his cronies. And THIS is what I think that you can clearly see: 1). druids were important and radically different from the Gaulish or British petty tyrants that they offered service too. They accompanied these tyrants, but did not fight. They were historian-counsellors. They were present at executions of "criminals" but weren't the ones doing the executing. Rather they were overseeing the interpretation of the law. Caesar almost deliberately squishes the druids and the regular Gaullic thugs together to smear the entire culture.
2). Druids rather had their own entirely separate "government" both in philosophy and substance. Critically reading these ancient references to the Druids, we see an advanced way of living and governance centered in Britain and extending across the Channel into Armorica and further into Gaul. It probably degrades as it gets further from the source. Its center is in "an island" as far as Caesar knows. He's not talking about Britain nor Ireland; nothing that big. He is probably referring to Man or Iona or Mona [Anglesey]. Our formerly referenced Henry Rowlands was probably correct about his beloved Mona being the major site of the Druid college.
In central Britain proper, the druids apparently had a parallel governmental structure alongside the competing [with each other] petty tyrants [and later the Roman occupiers themselves]. This system of governance is intriguing to say the least as it seems to indicate various [lets call them] "dioceses", which operated in different areas and had cycling responsibilities for managing the big ritual celebratory get-togethers at places like Stonehenge, which are mentioned by the ancients and doubtless were held on famous dates of the so-called "Celtic Calendar". The contrast between "normal" governments warring against one another over everything and these dioceses sharing celebratory comings-together is striking. Our point here is that no matter who built the megaliths, the druids "used" the sites for celebrations and rituals. What's true at Stonehenge would in some way be true of Rholdrwyg.
Caesar et al credit the real druids with much "high knowledge". The phrasing of this is quite flattering in contrast to other smeared together comments which seem aimed at degrading the Gaullish enemy.
In fact, the ancient testimony, brief as it is, is actually quite supportive of the idea that these druids knew a great deal of sophisticated things beyond what Rome or Greece knew, and maybe were surprisingly the source for some of the more esoteric knowledge and philosophy of the more mysterious "cults" of the Greco-Roman area, such as Pythagoras, Delos, Delphi etc. In our own age, when a Gerald Hawkins comes up with his astronomical interpretations of Stonehenge and a hoard of archaeoastronomers follow rapidly after, Hawkins et al are perfectly in tune with these old druidical references which academia poo-poos or even forgot.
The ancient builders were curious about the skies and built simple objects to investigate what might be going on. There was plenty of spiritual motivation to do so. And they found that the skies "behaved". So they built celebratory structures to serve as calendric focal locations. This was a big successful deal. Whether the original builders were the same guys genetically as the 500bc-to-500ad druid guys is completely irrelevant. The information was too important not to get passed on. People knew what Stonehenge "did" for century after century. Same would be true of any important megalithic site.
So another guy showed up in my library of "Forbidden Books" [maybe I should quit reading these things; academics would say it's bad for my health]. His name was Godfrey Higgins. He's taken a lot of abuse for his writings on the druids. A lot of that is justified in my reading. Higgins seems to hate religion in general and specifically priesthoods. Well, many times he has reason to, but his rants on druidical sacrifices and blood lust are far over the line, and derive mainly from highly debatable comments by Caesar. Even modern anthropologists now recognize that there is no good evidence anywhere for human sacrifices [depending upon how you choose to interpret The Lindow Man find]. [which itself has no direct connections to "druids" by the way; just to "authorities" of that age].
But where Higgins IS inspiring [though still over-the-top], is when he ranges the literature and even the globe looking for insights on early mystery cults and sophisticated visions of what this existence was all about. Whether one takes any specific thing from him or not, what he has done is ploughed the forgotten paths and set out connections and possibilities. The vision which emerges is a segment of humanity actively engaged in the pursuit of the Truth whatever it would turn out to be. And finding things out. And this should surprise none of us. Only their SUCCESS at both finding out such things and creating a "privileged" study environment within a violent political world is stunning, and, actually, uplifting.
This has been hitting me in the face for a long time. How many "Druid's Circles" [like the one above at Kenmore, Ireland] do I need to see overtly labeled to get the picture?? Here are time-after-time the remains of humanity's great attempt at the "Dance" with Nature to try to find the Truth. The Merry Maidens in some sense DO remember that Dance. Stonehenge in some sense IS the "Giants Dance". The Rholdrwyg stones in a way DO dance to the Sun's flight. And all across the planet, from references in the Bible to the mountaintop Medicine Wheel of the Native Americans, the people have used the stones to mark the Dance, and with it all the rest of the Cycle of Nature.
Here is an old stone find from Mona/Anglesey at the heart of Henry Rowlands' Druidical College. What did this Old Druid know specifically? Can we ever know??
We may have a little more knowledge than we think. And, of all people, it seems that it is Caesar and his ancient buddies who tell us. Here are some of the things that their enemies [Caesar, Diodorus, Greek and Roman fragments in general] said of them:
1). THEY were the teachers/educators of that world. The Gauls even sent their people TO Britain to be taught by them.
2). They taught by memory and by poetry with music; i.e. they imbedded much of their information and wisdom in songs.
3). They set down principles of politics [history of geographical areas] and law, and would give counsel to adjudicate disputes.
4). They were expert in "cosmology", which included matters of the movements of the heavens, and speculations upon the nature of the objects of the heavens.
5). This "cosmology" also included study of the nature of the Earth, and of the "Orders of Nature" of which I take them to mean at a minimum the plants, animals, and all living things constituting the Cycle of Life.
6). They applied the knowledge learned where possible, and were masters of medicine as a result.
7). They practiced the divining arts, attempted to know things via numbers [a la the Pythagoreans] and "ciphers" which may indicate symbols [a la the ogam runic letters].
It is not hard to see all three orders of the college in these descriptors [though doubtless many more specific "knowings", and doings, could have been mentioned had these Roman era commentators made a better study.] Beirrd/Bards are there clearly. The Offwyr/studiers of the Natural World are there clearly. And even the mysterious Druid/high college of study of the divine world --- the "philosophers" --- show appropriately shadowy.
And, although it might not be as significant as it seems to me, I feel that you can see someone else in these descriptors as well: Lugh. The Romans say that the number one god of the druids was Mercury. Apollo was second. Mercury was the bringer of knowledge, craft, intellectual "light". Mercury was also the god of the "arts", that is the "forbidden arts", the craft of divination and the probing of the spirit world. And in Britain, the name was Lugh.
Lugh is the "Master of all Skills". He has/brings skills of music, poetry, history, and therefore political counsel. "Lugios" means "An Oath, A Contract". This part of Lugh is the Beirrd.
Lugh has/brings skills of craftsmanship, smithwork upon the things and metals of the Earth. This is the applied knowledge aspect of the Offwyr.
And Lugh is the Master of Sorcery. "Sorcery" is the accomplishment of actions or knowledge by means other than the normal ways of the natural physical world. Lugh brings "para"normal ways to the Druids. He gives divinatory arts.
And so Lugh, their chief god, IS the college of the druids all in one.
At Rholdrwyg, as at Stonehenge, Avebury, Boscawen-un, Castlerigg, the druids used the circles to learn knowledge, to "remember" some of it structured in silent stony design, to celebrate the knowing and the wisdom, to meditate upon the mysteries remaining. The ancient writers said that the druids above all else taught "silence"... whether here in the circle-of-stones, or back in the living presence of the oak groves.
And that's another thing. Druids.... Oaken sacred groves.... Faeries of the Oaken sacred groves.... Dryads.... Oaken sacred groves.... Dryads... Druids... Dryads... Druids.... Is some of this stuff lying about for centuries just like paranormal in-jokes to see just how dense we are??
Who did the druids get some of their nature knowledge and wisdom from? Did Lugh have to deliver it all personally? Lugh... a beautiful god-hero. Lugh... sometimes just a bringer of a Ball-of-light. Ball of Light in the forest.... Jack o'Lantern.... Faerie Lightball... now wait a minute there!!! Whose gotten pixy-led Out Proctor now?!
I have certainly not figured out what Rholdrwyg was for. We all knew that all I could do was explore and try to leave the wonderful possibilities open. My heart tells me to try VERY hard NOT to toss some of these possibilities aside. Even though my mind will not yet say "yes" to the vision that they paint, that vision, that possible ancient reality, seems too important to let slip away. The artist above captures some of the heart of that vision. Rholdrwyg: luminous, mysterious, full of the power of the heavens and the Great Dance.