Mysteries of Druidry

Mysteries of Druidry

Celtic Mysticism, Theory and Practice

by Brendan Cathbad Myers, Ph.D.

What do Paleopagan Irish Druids really believe in?  If I am to understand Brendan Cathbad Myers, Ph.D. — the author of The Mysteries of Druids — right, it seems to be the wonders of the natural world.  As well as the supernatural world!

“The core of Celtic Druidry is the relationship between people and the sacred landscapes which surround them,” proclaims this book — but first things first.  What is a Druid?  Apparently, the mysterious priesthood of the ancient Celtic people, explains the text.  “The nearest modern equivalent, then, would be professors in universities or colleges, medical doctors, lawyers and judges, school teachers and so on…If you imagine what it would be like if your doctor, lawyer or teacher was also a priest, and the hospital, law court, and college was also a temple, then you have an idea of what Druidry was like for ancient Celtic people,” Myers writes.

Chapter one, titled “Questions and Answers,” aptly defines who were the Celts; the history of the Celtic people; and even the status of women in the Celtic world (quite elevated).  The author then goes on to discuss mysterious realms in the Celtic world such as Tir Na n-Og, the Otherworld, known also as the “Land of Youth.”  As the Winter Solstice recently passed in my corner of the world, I was fascinated to see photos of and read about Newgrange (Brugh Na Boinne), a Neolithic passage mound.  More than 5,000 year old, it is truly an engineering and spiritual marvel.  The long passage is lined up so that sunlight enters the center chamber on only one day out of the year, and that is on the morning of the Winter Solstice, symbolically bringing together the realms of Heaven, Earth and Underworld.

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Myers also instructs on a Celtic-based meditation called “Peaceful Abiding,” which he describes as a “simple form of meditation, for it requires no particular training in theology, metaphysics, psychology or philosophy.”  The exercise’s goal is simply for peacefully inhibiting this world, essential for the nature-loving Druid.  Many symbols of Druidry are discussed, such as the apple branch or Brighid’s Cross (often displayed on the Celtic cross-quarter day Imbolc, a fire festival which celebrates the arrival of springtime).

Speaking of fire, and Brighid (a fire deity, according to this book), the Celts often celebrated important days with bonfires, and fire was also used as a scrying device or divination tool.  Related to fire, trees were so magical to the Druids that they had their own alphabet, the Ogham.  The 20 trees of the Ogham were also used for divination.

All in all, this is a fascinating book; scholarly but written in a down-to-earth manner.  The photographs and drawings illustrate the subject manner nicely.  If one cannot travel to Ireland to see these natural and man-made wonders in person, it certainly is the next best thing.

The Mysteries of Druidry
by Brendan Cathbad Myers, Ph.D.
New Page Books, 2006
237 pp., $15.99

Review by Diane Saarinen

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