Universal Life Church Druid Course Essay

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The name itself conjures up images of strange folk in long robes mumbling unintelligible incantations in a forest grove. In some ways, that image is correct. Yet in others it is profoundly lacking.

The druids were the educated professional class of the Celts. The doctors, ambassadors, historians, singers of songs and cup bearers of potions. They were, in essence, the Ph.D.s of their society. The professional class.

The ancient Romans knew this, as evidenced in the quote from Diogenese the Cynic in Lesson 1.

Some of their ways seem strange, and are even ridiculed by the “modern scientific” sorts. Such as augury. Yet today folks get advanced degrees in such fields as animal behaviour and learn how to determine what caused a death at autopsy. I see little different between those old Druids and their modern counterparts. So a Druid observes birds flying ahead of an approaching army. The flock is not energetic, nor very alert. One is killed and the entrails examined.

At this point the “modern” person would say “it is all stuff and nonsense”. After all, what can be learned from looking at the entrails of a bird? Yet, in times past, ancient armies fed on the land as they marched. A thin bird with low body fat, and empty crop, perhaps a pustule or two of infection. An observant eye will now be able to report that the approaching army will be weak from lack of foods to forage on the approach. They are likely ill (many diseases pass from birds to humans, such as the flu). They, too may be lacking in energy and vigor. Even a prediction of victory in battle that “the signs augur well!” can be made.

This is not “stuff and nonsense”, this is a well educated mind observing the world in a professional capacity and making valid predictions.

Unfortunately, much of what is known of Druids comes from those who destroyed much of their culture. The Romans (and to a lesser extent, the Germans). This is then filtered through “modern” biases and misconceptions and we are left with bad stereotypes and poor insights.

This study of the Druids clears much of that away. (While still shining a light on the ways in which history has been unkind to their memory).

Often we have heard that the Celts had no written language, that everything was oral. Yes, the Druids had a great memory and much was learned by memory. Yet they had a script. They did write. The ‘tree writing’ of Ogham Script.


One of the mysteries of the Druids is the belief in an afterlife, the permanence of the soul and a life after this one. This is reflected in the same idea in Christianity. Similar too to the Egyptian ideals of an afterlife. Which begs the question: Who learned this from whom?

Classical history places Egyptology at the start of civilization, writing, and culture. They have a rich religious tradition that is, by default, also placed first. Yet recent genetic testing has shown Ramessis had a genetic type ( R1b haplogroup) found in Celts. Further, it is known that there were Celtic mercenary armies hired by Egypt from time to time. These folks met. Who learned what from whom?

The ancient Greek writings speak of Celts. They talk of Egypt, too. Solon reports that he was told by an Egyptian Priest, during one visit to ancient Egypt; “Solon, oh Solon. You Greeks are such children, having no science that is truly old and hoary with age. Many have been the destructions of mankind”. (This from the writings of Plato repeating the story supposedly heard as a child). This implies that the peoples of that ancient time had been around for prior cycles of civilization. So any of them might have been the precursor for the following rebirth of societies. The wisdom of the Druids might well have preceded that of Egypt, and helped to bring it into being after the last of those ‘many destructions’.

More recently, in Gobekli Tepe a stone ring (several of them) with carved animals was found. It is dated to about 12,000 years ago.


The Celt are shown, by their genetic markers, to have originated in a region from Turkey over through Thrace (that had many redheads) and into Austria / Czech / Bavaria. Only later were the Celts of central Europe, northern Italy, and southern Germany / France converted into Romans and Germans and other tribes. It is likely that some precursor wisdom of the ages was being passed down from Celtic Druid to Celtic Druid throughout that entire area for longer than there were pyramids in Egypt.

But those things are lost to time.

What we know now, comes from more recent history. Yet even here there are hints of a more ancient root, such as the reflections of some aspects of Hinduism. The connections of all things living and to the world at large. The circle of the calendar and time and of life. The deep understanding of how the sun, moon, and stars connect to the earth and to humanity. (Recent investigations have shown a series of cycles of weather related to lunar tidal cycles. Some of short 19 year duration (Metonic lunar cycle) and some of longer 1800 year length as the lunar orbit changes shape.

This paper details such lunar tidal cycles:


So when the Druids were tracking the moon and lunar stages, sometimes over centuries, it was not from superstition, it was a deep understanding of just how the world worked. Stonehenge is a giant astronomical observatory. It allows the tracking of not just the 19 year lunar cycle, but the eclipse cycle and quite possibly even longer weather cycles. ( Or present warming is not due to carbon dioxide, but due to exactly that kind of long duration lunar tidal cycle. A warming cycle ended in 1998 and the next 40 years will be moving back to colder – see the graphs in the cited paper.)

So can we say for certain that the Druids were doing something similar? I think that depends on how much strength you require for the word ‘certain’. There is very strong evidence, including a copper cone with the Metonic cycle on it in pictures of the moon. There is evidence for the celebration of the Druid / Celtic holidays of the solstices and equinox at places such as Stonehenge. The winter solstice, or Yule, lines up with the main entry to Stonehenge. The archeological evidence is for major gatherings there, then.

While Lesson 6 is somewhat unsure about the Druid connection to Stonehenge (repeating the dominant belief of the modern culture), the structure is clearly built to do just the kind of astronomical observation needed to order the Druid festival days and understand the connection of heavens and earth. While ti predates “modern Druids” and even the “historic Druids”, it is just about the right age for the ancients of the Celts, spreading out from Anatolia over western Europe. Even Ceasar recognized that the Druids were great teachers of navigation and the stars, sending his navigators to school at the Druid facilities in England. Which, by the way, were styled as housing thousands of students at a time. There is a clear historical record of just that kind of significant skill and teaching that would justify a giant instrument for study of the stars and sky. Nor was Stonehenge the only one. Marden Henge and Durrington Walls are only 2 of several. These were not just fun places to hang out. They were the big business of mass higher education for navigators, and much of the ancient world sent their students to school there.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/King_Arthur’s_Round_Table,_Cumbria Has this quote:

They were built as the primary fulcrum structures within sprawling “open air universities”. At these ancient schools the “brightest and the best” of gifted children were taught the astronomical and navigational arts. The concept of a horizontal-top henge wall was for creating an artificial horizon, similar to what one would see from a ship on the vast featureless oceans. Students situated within the henge, primarily at its centre, could become very familiar with the star, planet, sun and moon rise and set positions or cycles, by using the top of the henge embankments as the target region for 360-degree observation onto the ever moving and changing stellar display. This is consistent with what Julius Caesar said concerning the great schools of Britain run by the Druids of his time.

‘They do not think it proper to commit these utterances to writing, although in all other matters and in their public and private accounts they make use of Greek characters. I believe that they have adopted the practice for two reasons- that they do not wish the rule to become common property, nor those who learn the rule to rely on writing and so neglect the cultivation of memory; and, in fact, it does usually happen that the assistance of writing tends to relax the diligence of the student and the action of memory…They also lecture on the stars in their motion, the magnitude of the Earth and its divisions, on natural history, on the power and government of God; and instruct the youth in these subjects’ (see De Ballo Gallico, VII, 15, 16.).

The late era Druidic schools that Julius Caesar commented about, undoubtedly, had a pedigree back to similar schools maintained during the Neolithic and Bronze Ages*. British historian, Isabel Hill Elder, commenting on the Druidic schools, writes:

‘The students at these colleges numbered at times sixty thousand of the youth and young nobility of Britain and Gaul. Caesar comments on the fact that the Gauls sent their youth to Britain to be educated…It required twenty years to master the complete circle of Druidic knowledge. Natural philosophy, astronomy, mathematics, geometry, medicine, jurisprudence, poetry and oratory were all proposed and taught-natural philosophy and astronomy with severe exactitude’ (Elder refers to Strabo I IV, page 197. Caesars Comm. Lib V. Sueotonius, V Calegula. E. Campion, Accounts of Ireland, pg. 18.).

End Quoted material.

So we know what those henge were used for. Teaching the skys and navigation. Calendar making and observation. Measuring the earth and sky.

Unto today:

We carry that Druid history with us to this day. The 12 days of Christmas started as the 12 day Yule log. Samhain has become Halloween. Even Easter. The new beginning. Complete with fertility symbols of bunny rabbits and eggs.

The Druids never really left us. They are just hiding a bit below the surface where the Romans will not notice them. Perhaps with our resurrected respect for the planet and other life on it, starting to reemerge; at least, just a bit. A rediscovery of some older ways, long lost but never really gone.

The Celtic Druid method of learning has much to recommend it too. Starting as a Bard. Learning the presentation arts, as well as the history of the culture. Music and stories both. The Ovate as the seer and diviner. Moving into application of healing arts and understanding the nature and uses of all the medicinal plants. Coming not just to sing about their world, but to use it for good. Then the Druid ( I was especially tickled to realize that Derwydd was the name used in Bewitched from time to time. A nice modern cultural echo.) The point where mastery and understanding arrived and a deeper sense applied to society and life, and how to solve those ills.

While my musical skill is limited, my understanding of medicinal plants is fairly good and I think I have a good set of skills for a modern Derwydd. With a bit of practice.

We see other echoes of the old Druidic ways in the modern world. Women Warriors. Somehow alien to many folks of middle eastern origin. Not quite accepted by those from a Roman point of view. Celts have always accepted free and strong women at all levels of the social order. From the Fianna to the Clan Queen, calling a nation to battle. Owning their own property and choosing who they will. In oh so many ways our “modern” society is just finally reclaiming those ancient roots. The Celtic spirit and Druidic wisdom working the long path back to the surface.

In the modern Libertarian ethos we find an echo of the Druid term of honor: If it harms no one, do what you will. I ought to be free to do what I desire, provided it does not harm another. The two can hardly be told apart. The cultural influence of the ancient Druids echos throughout modern culture and law from France and the UK, to their colonial influences around the globe.

Writing and Symbols:

The Ogham method of writing shares the combining of the symbol with the denotative or surface meaning of the letter, but also a connotative deeper emotional and spiritual connection, with the writing systems of other ancient peoples. The oldest core “letters” of Chinese are held sacred. Similarly the Egyptian Hieroglyphics were both letters, and held deeper meanings as symbols. Even the Hebrew letters are used in Kabbalah as carriers of deeper powers and meanings.

This method of ‘overlay’ of both a surface, and a deeper meaning is something we have largely lost in modern societies. Something we would do well to re-learn.

There are many old writing systems. From the ancient hieroglyphics of the proto-Sumarians and Hittites to the futhark of the Nordics. There are even forms using knots in ropes and threads. Information can be encoded in many ways and in any type of marks.

In Ogham, we have a writing system well suited to the edges of stones, to sticks, and to simple carving with a sharp hammer stone into a wall of rocks. (It isn’t much use to write on a stone with a pen. In very short order the ink will be gone). The straight lines are easy to incise and the script is compact. While it make take a bit more time to make the many strokes of the more complex letters, it is time well spent for the durability and the range of materials suited to the writing. There was no paper back then, nor even much in the way of flat rocks in most places. The writing system was well suited to the available materials of the day.

But in some ways even more important; the ability to encode spiritual messages and connections with a single letter and make some kinds of messages very fast to write (even if to our present non-spiritual academics it is opaque).

So, as a hypothetical example, we could write the Ogham equivalent of “EO”. Meaningless to linear translation, but shouting “Enduring speech, discovery and abundance” in symbology. One can only wonder how many “undecipherable” Ogham enscriptions are “undecipherable” simply because they were never ciphered. Simply stating their deeper symbolic meaning without a ‘top text’ at all.


I find it curious that the number 3 is so frequent a symbol of importance. Three spirits in Christianity. Three solar alignments in Druidry. (Winter solstice, the equinox, summer solstice). Even Tesla was fascinated by the number 3, only living in hotel rooms with a number with 3 in it; and on one occasion proclaiming that people would be amazed if they only recognized the power and importance of the number 3. Three fundamental particles in matter in nature. (Proton, Neutron, Electron).

Perhaps that is one of the more important bits of lost wisdom yet to be recovered. Just what all are the meanings of 3 and how does it shape our reality. Mother, Father, Child. Time, Space, People. Life, Death, Spirit.

Or lives and destinies are some how wrapped up in threes.

Mystery Tradition & The World:

In Lesson 12 there is an assertion that there is some “possibility” of a “mystery tradition” involving the natural sciences of the earth. Things such as the size and the world, and the physics of it. I would assert we can see that ancient knowledge in the way they measured things and the way that they watched the stars.

Looking around Stonehenge, other Henges, and the ancient world at large, we find a common old unit of measure. Variously the ‘rod’, the ‘perch’, or the ‘pole’. They are all the same measure. Similarly, the common story that the ‘foot’ measure had something to do with the size of the foot of the king or some collection of men is shown not to be correct as there is remarkable similarity between the various feet of ancient times. A ‘foot’ ruler was found in ancient Greece ( the ‘Minoan foot’) that is just a few millimeters different from the modern English foot. From:


Somewhere along the line I was trying to find out how they properly located things on the planet, that led to geo – metrology, that lead to the fact that the Greeks and Egyptians had a measure named a ‘foot’ (pous) that is almost the same as the English foot. (Within a couple of mm 304.8 for the Engish, 304 mm for the Minoan, 308.4 for the Attic, 300 for the Egyptian and Phoenician, etc.)

This lead me to the factoid that if you take the earth’s equatorial circumference in ‘feet’ (English) as 131479724.6 (from the wiki metric number, converted) and divide it by 360 x 1000 (call it 60 minutes x 60 seconds x 100 or call it 360 degrees x 1000) you get: 365.2214573

Gee, that looks familiar, I think… Dividing by ‘tropical year days’ of 365.2422 gives 99.994% agreement. Hmmmm….

The ancient foot of Minos (which culture has not been fully connected to any other) is nearly identical and inside the limits of error of those days with the English foot. The old Greek foot being only 3.6 mm off from the English, or a bit over 1/10 th of an inch. That much ‘error’ can simply be due to the observed ruler being used, abused, and buried in the dirt for a few thousand years.

Which comes back to the ‘rod’. A fine rod of length can be made by watching a star transit a fixed unit of arc of a circle. A pendulum is made such that the pendulum swings a fixed number of times (and a ’round number’ at that in the old Celtic counting system based on 20) as a star transits a natural subdivision of a circle. One that can be marked using simple geometry.


Gee, that looks useful… Our very small arc of 1 7/8 degrees took 450 seconds. So this pendulum would only take 100 swings to have a “match”, and it would be far less sensitive to the exact size of the swing, varying in the 1/1000 place if you increase the arc to 10 degrees. So if we ‘go large’ to increase our precision and accuracy, the “rod” works very well.

I could easily see our paleo-astronomer counting 450 a few times, and with less than stellar repeatability, wondering if maybe counting 100 would be easier, then finding that (with the same distance of swing, but a far smaller arc) his repeatability and ease of determination became much easier. Then it would just be a matter of calibrating his yard to the rod. Below we will see how this might be meaningful…

There are other combinations of swing count and arc length that also yield the ‘rod’ pendulum.

So it looks very much as though part of what the old Druids did was to create physical time and distance standards from a study of the sky. We find the ‘artifacts’ of that study in widespread places around the globe. Places influenced by the old Celt and the students who had been sent to study from them.

So from my point of view, there is sufficient evidence to turn that “possibly” into an assertion of truth. We know that part of the tradition of the Druids was the study of the sky and stars; and the evidence in the dirt is that they used that knowing to create units of measure for space and time. Units still in use to this day in some parts of the world. (Metric? Just say no! Support your local Druid…)

By the time the historical accounts from the Romans were made, the Celtic roots of Northern Italy, Czech, and even Galatia in Turkey (from the same root as Gaul) were largely receding into the mists of time. That those ‘other Celts’ had had their own Druids seems likely to me. In that light, it ought to be no surprise that the most ancient units of measure from that part of Europe are nearly identical with the later unit from Celtic, Druidic England and Ireland.

The Druid is both a mystic with connections to nature, and a technician, applying those insights. From the stars to the units of measure, making the measuring of things holy in itself.

Let a 1000 blossoms grow:

From the Celtic diaspora of recent times, we now have elements of Celtic culture spread over all continents (and many islands) of the globe. From the “western” doctrine that in a free society people ought to be free to attain they best that they can, through to the way the liturgy can change as the need and desire arises.

Druids, Celts, and freedom to explore this life in a myriad of forms; joined all three. And gone global.

We are all connected in this experiment of life. From microbe to tree and grove, to human. Each of us experiences a unique aspect of it. A shared yet not shared being. So there must also be the shared and unshared understanding and ceremony or ritual. Life is a process of discovery, in all it’s myriad forms.

“Any technology, sufficiently advanced, is indistinguishable from magic.” also implies that any magic might well have a technology behind it that is simply not understood or recognized. To heal a person by giving them a bit of a plant, or putting a bit of cheese on a wound would be magic to some; yet only in the last few hundred years have we come to understand that the cheese produces penicillin and that many plants make specific medicinal compounds. A Druid who knows the full cycles of the lunar tidal process (that can run out to the 60 year Pacific Decadal Oscillation and even to longer cycles) would be seen to be ‘controlling the weather’ when they pronounce “This will be a cold year, and cold will prevail for a lifetime to come.” Perhaps they would even think it magic. Does it really matter? Are the two really any different “for all practical purposes”?

This extends even into the spiritual. A bizarre test was done that showed that people, by thinking, could change which sub-atomic process happened. Worse, it is now established in quantum mechanics that the path a ‘particle’ takes is determined by a person viewing it. This is called “The two slit experiment”. A light source that emits one photon is set up. There is a shield with two slits in it. The photon can only go through one of them. Yet if the photon is not observed by someone, it is shown to go through both. Once it is decided to observe that photon, it THEN goes through only one of the slits. Even if it has already passed the slits when the decision is taken to observe it. This means that “something” from the decision to observe traveled back in time to before the observation and determined that only one path would be taken. That is the best physics we have. Yet if time travel and changing the past are not “magic”, I don’t know what is… We are all possessed of that particular bit of magic by physics. A strange thought in deed.


So what might be the power of words? Of invocations? Of a room full of people ‘perceiving’ together? When one mind can change the path and past of a particle, can change time and history. When we know that the basis of reality is a technology (quantum mechanics) that acts in ways that are, at their core, ‘indistinguishable from magic’?

So a Druid ‘practices magic’. So do we all. Every time we look at something and determine what path the light to it took, in the past.

Compared to that, knowing what plants to use for which result, seeing ‘other worlds’, helping another with “positive thinking”; all of those are small magic in comparison to the magic of reality. Perhaps this is part of why Druids thought even one nay-sayer could break the energy of the grove?

The Resurgence:

The Lessons 14 and 15 show that in modern times, many folks are turning back to the ancient understandings. Though much has been lost to the ravages of time and Roman armies, the culture of a people preserves a great deal indirectly.

As various groups have formed, they are rediscovering, or in some cases, recreating, the understandings and truths first known by the ancient Druids. Since that ancient knowledge was first created by someone, it seems perfectly acceptable to me that a new ‘someone’ would do the work to recreate it now.

Truth has no expiration date. Understanding does not expire; if forgotten, it can be re-found. Life does not depend upon a past long gone, but exists in the present, here and now. That means we, too, can find a new Druidry amid the same natural eternal truths.

So many of us do just that.

Some in formal groups.

Some alone.

On Triads and Hebrew:

There is a curious ‘Hebrew echo’ in many things Celtic. As best I have been able to find, the Celts derived in a very very distant past from the Levant, near the Hebrews. If not one of the ‘lost tribes’, at a minimum they are cousins. From echos in religion, where Bel and Baal are remarkably similar, to echos in culture where ancient Celtic myth has a derivation from a group of folks from a boat, with a patriarch with a name that sounds a lot like Noah, to echoes in the structure of the language where many words in old-Celtic are cognate with old-Hebrew words; there seems a bit of a link.

For some folks to assert that the triads echo Hebrew, so must be new, just indicates they are ignorant of the many other, older link. Things that reach back to the common origin of Celts in the northern range of the Levant.

A study of the few written triads, with that connection in mind, is likely to yield a better understanding of that ancient connection, and the path that leads from there and then, to here and now.

Of time and space:

The Coligny calendar is interesting, but I think reliance on it misses a point. The calendar is derived from the sun and moon. It is not a primary source, but a reflection of the primary sources. The solar year and lunar year do not synchronize. This is an artifact of celestial mechanics. They can never be truly synchronized, as each is slowly changing due to their own dependencies on orbital mechanics that drift. The moon is slowly becoming further from the Earth, so the orbital period changes. The orbit of the Earth slowly changes as well. The degree to which it is circular, or not; the elevation above the plain of obliquity, and the precession of the equinoxes all conspire to make them two cycles that wander relative to each other.

In my opinion, part of the job of the master Druid was to keep the two calendars (lunar and solar) and periodically align them. To set the dates of festivals and keep the calendar from getting ‘out of sync’. (The Romans did a much worse job of it, resulting in weeks of error over time. The Celtic approach, as it is tied to the solstices and equinox, never drifts far).

So, in my opinion, reliance on an artificial calendar may be ‘close enough’ for most festive purposes; for real Druidry, one ought to keep an eye on the stars, the moon, and the night sky. A proper Druid creates their calendar from the sky. “As above, so below.”

In that context, the Coligny calendar is useful for ‘day to day’ things. Yet a Master Druid ought to be able to create the calendar anew, as needed, and synchronize it to the heavens as desired.

Scrying or Quantum Mechanics?:

One other peculiar thing about Quantum Mechanics is that it says that all ‘particles’ are really ‘wave functions’ and that they all extend to infinity in all directions. That the ‘wave function’ has higher interactions ‘nearby’ and ‘now’, but that they extend to all of space and time (thus the ‘two slit experiment’ ability to ‘communicate’ back in time from an observer decision).

The implication of this is that all the particles in a human brain are also ‘connected’ to all of space and time in some way. Though more weakly with greater distance in space and time. This, then, implies that there is nothing at all to prevent seeing things removed from yourself, here and now. In fact, the results of various Q.M. experiments essentially demand it. We simply must be connected to other times and places. Q.M. clearly demonstrates it. (“Quantum Entanglement” of particles has been demonstrated to exist.)

So what does scrying do? Is it ‘magic’, or simply learning to access the Q.M. truth at the center of our existence? Is looking into a crystal or still water simply a way to more easily connect to the rest of time and space? I find it fascinating that the more advanced our physics becomes, the more it support what our oldest wisdoms claimed to do.

To the extent that there is a real physical underlayment to such things as Keek-Stanes, some of the necessary rituals might well indicate just how such a process functions. To the extent one practices with such an art, the mechanism may be the least interesting aspect. How it works, what to do, impact on living persons. Another interesting triad.

In Conclusion:

The Druids were not just one type, or own role, in their society. They were a class of rolls. From bards and singers to medicine makers and philosophers. Their skills ranged from the poetic, to the technical, and legal / political and on to the mystic.

A person may gain mastery of any one of those and be, to some degree, a Druid. It is a never ending pursuit to attain mastery of all of them! So almost by definition a Druid is a person ‘in the process of becoming’ of growing in personal spirituality and wisdom.

What brought me to Druidism? Why this course? At some core level I felt a connection with the bits of Druid Wisdom that surface in our modern world. As a ULC minister, my first thoughts were to see what ULC had to offer to help me on my path of discovery. I wanted a way to pull things together just a bit more and put a ‘wrapper’ around many of the diverse bits of information. A way to pull some of the threads into a unified tapestry of understanding.

But every journey begins with a single step. This program may have started with one such step, but now I have walked a very long ways down that path. It may take the rest of my life to complete my journey, but there is now a long bit of path behind me…

This concludes my thesis on Druids.

Thank you for your time, and I hope you find this effort worth the reading.

Edward Michael Smith

ULC ordained and D.D. holder since about 1973 (Then living in Davis, California)