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Thread: A Question On Animals In Druidry

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    A Question On Animals In Druidry

    I'm really hoping to get answers from reconstructionists here. I was looking up the truth behind the whole spirit animal thing that occasionally pop-ups when discussing new-age or neo-pagan spirituality and I came upon this link...

    https://answers.yahoo.com/question/i...1131051AAY6Ow8

    Now aside from Indigenous people being outraged (justifiably so) about continuing misconceptions related their spiritual traditions there was one post that was of particular interest. Foedadea/Boo made a post that addressed a supposed practices of ancient Druids. Five posts down is where you'll find it. Is there any truth to this according to what reliable sources are available, or is this a new interpretation?

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    sea witch thalassa's Avatar
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    Re: A Question On Animals In Druidry

    I don't think you can get a good recon answer to this (I'm not a recon, but I'm married to a one-time Druid with some recon tendencies, though he'd just call himself "druidish" now). Historic evidence can't tell you what people actually thought or believed unless it was written down as such (and even then you need to take it with a grain of salt, because people have lots of biases--gender, culture, religion, class, etc...and information is preserved through out the time somewhat haphazardly). Historians and archaeologists can only hypothesize at the significance/symbolism/role of something on the basis of what they find, the context in which they find it, etc. For example, you could hypothesize that an extinct culture was matriarchal if only the women were depicted and buried as rulers, priests, etc, and grave goods were the most expensive/lavish in female burials...but you could be wrong too--perhaps the culture thought that women required payment to reach the afterlife, and high profile wives were buried with the rank of their husbands, to ensure a better position in the afterlife, while men (being more perfect and superior) had a much simpler ceremony because they didn't need to buy their way in, as they had a greater inherent worth (I'm not saying this exists anywhere, I'm just saying that there are multiple ways to interpret evidence).

    Its really hard to say what actual Druids did in ancient times when it comes to something like what did they believe about the symbolism of animals and their religious role. We can extrapolate a combination of factors--archaeology from various Celtic groups (in which case--which Celts? ...since they are mostly a group on the basis of a shared language), existing mythos and folk tradition (in which case, how corrupted is it by history?), extant cultures living in similar manners (in which case, how similar can we determine these two cultures actually are?), etc...and come up with any number of answers...none of which can ever really be verified. At some point, its going to come down to UPG (though hopefully researched and well thought out UPG). I don't think it is unreasonable to suggest that people looked to the natural world for inspiration or power and that such actions may have included rituals to take on some of the attributes of the natural world for a specific role or purpose...but reasonable, with or without evidence (and I couldn't tell you if there is or not), doesn't mean its accurate.
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    Member Tiger Phoenix's Avatar
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    Re: A Question On Animals In Druidry

    I am a practicing Druid and in my world there is a Tiger that wants to become a Phoenix. It seems from many conversations with friends I have a great love of Tigers. I love felines. From the domestic cat, to the Lynks, the Cougar, the Lion and finally the Tiger. I believe it is my animal. I give generously to the WWF.

    "The World Wild Life Fund"

    I have created a servitor friend. Tiz the Tiger. I will share pictures some day. You are what you believe. You are what you create. Do you doubt the power of my words?


    Who would of thought that "Cecile the Lion" would of had so much influence on this Earth?



    Choose your animal and become your animal.

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    Bronze Member Munin-Hugin's Avatar
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    Re: A Question On Animals In Druidry

    I can't answer for Celtic belief on such, but I can give a little information regarding things I've found about their pseudo-relations, the Nordic peoples. The reason I mention a relationship between the two is because of just how far travelling both Celtic and Nordic peoples were, and a number of similarities between the two with regards to society and art. In my anthropology classes, it was quite common to come across the term "nordo-celtic" because of this. Anyhow ... I know of at least three Nordic animal cults that had existed. It was thought that through channeling certain animals (through rage, shamanic ritual, and/or certain herbs), the individual would actually "become" the animal, drawing upon it's power, ferocity, and experience.

    The most commonly known one, and the one that is the most disputed, would be the berserkergang. The disputed point of this is where the word came from. Some claim that it was from "bare-sark" which simply means "bare of shirt", while other's state it is from "baer-sark" or "bear shirt". We'll stick with the latter for the same of this. Through the donning of the animal's skin, wearing it's teeth and claws, and decorating oneself with bits of it's bones, that it would allow that person to become a bear. They would rage, bite their shields, foam at the mouth, and be practically unstoppable, until the effect wore off and they would be as helpless as babies until they recovered.

    Similar to the Bear and closely connected to it, were the ulfhéðnar, which were pretty much the same thing except with wolves. These were also connected strongly to Odin, and were thought of as his mightiest chosen warriors.

    Lastly, I recall a mention of a group that worshiped cats, though at the moment the name has eluded me.

    The thing is, there are just as many variants of shamanic practice as there are different groups in each religion in each area of the world. In a way, I second what Tiger said. Go with what feels right to you, and follow through with it. That way, you can't go wrong.

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    Member sionnach's Avatar
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    Re: A Question On Animals In Druidry

    I have been trying to understand Celtic pre-Christian beliefs and find there is little we know about druids other than from people who knew very little about druids. There is evidence they existed and they appeared to have been a special group of people who kept the knowledge for the tribe/clan. It is only in Ireland that much of their knowledge was preserved enough to have finally been written down long after druids no longer existed. Proisnias Mac Cana in his book on Celtic mythology suggests that the filidh who may have been a separate class from the druids became the ones how continued further and appear to be where much of the information continued but through an oral tradition. From all that I have read there is no account for spirit animal but I agree there was considerable respect and symbolism of animals in Celtic pre-Christian beliefs considering the zoomorphism expressed in the ancient tales and the connection of gods/goddesses/heros with animals. Here I was thinking of Oisin whose mother was saar a deer. As long as saar did not lick him he would be human if she does he would be a deer. Saar cannot resist to lick him on the forehead so he as a tuft of fur on his forehead. Goddesses wire connect with animals such as the raven also.

    None of this can be equated with our modern concept of spirit animal however but it does show the connection that the pre-Christian Irish had with nature and animals. There is also a clear relationship between the natural world and the female deities. Of course none of this was written down by the Druids but the concepts did not come from the imported Christian beliefs either so I think it is reasonable to believe there was this strong connection to animals even without spirit animals. I also personally think that the Irish did not just become Christian identical to the imported beliefs but blended the two together to make it acceptable to the general population. I personally think this respect was continued beyond especially with the amount of Zoomorphic animal represented in art including the artistic work such as the book of Kells as an example (this is from what I have found from the sources have influenced me).

    I would like to know where the concept of spirit animals started. I remember enjoying the books of Ted Andrews but there is a difference between symbolic interpretation with nature - encounters with animals having a meaning to your life - and a Concept there is a spirit animal that one is connected with. I wonder if anyone knows where this concept began.

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    Member SonoftheWaters's Avatar
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    Re: A Question On Animals In Druidry

    Quote Originally Posted by sionnach View Post
    I have been trying to understand Celtic pre-Christian beliefs and find there is little we know about druids other than from people who knew very little about druids. There is evidence they existed and they appeared to have been a special group of people who kept the knowledge for the tribe/clan. It is only in Ireland that much of their knowledge was preserved enough to have finally been written down long after druids no longer existed. Proisnias Mac Cana in his book on Celtic mythology suggests that the filidh who may have been a separate class from the druids became the ones how continued further and appear to be where much of the information continued but through an oral tradition. From all that I have read there is no account for spirit animal but I agree there was considerable respect and symbolism of animals in Celtic pre-Christian beliefs considering the zoomorphism expressed in the ancient tales and the connection of gods/goddesses/heros with animals. Here I was thinking of Oisin whose mother was saar a deer. As long as saar did not lick him he would be human if she does he would be a deer. Saar cannot resist to lick him on the forehead so he as a tuft of fur on his forehead. Goddesses wire connect with animals such as the raven also.

    None of this can be equated with our modern concept of spirit animal however but it does show the connection that the pre-Christian Irish had with nature and animals. There is also a clear relationship between the natural world and the female deities. Of course none of this was written down by the Druids but the concepts did not come from the imported Christian beliefs either so I think it is reasonable to believe there was this strong connection to animals even without spirit animals. I also personally think that the Irish did not just become Christian identical to the imported beliefs but blended the two together to make it acceptable to the general population. I personally think this respect was continued beyond especially with the amount of Zoomorphic animal represented in art including the artistic work such as the book of Kells as an example (this is from what I have found from the sources have influenced me).

    I would like to know where the concept of spirit animals started. I remember enjoying the books of Ted Andrews but there is a difference between symbolic interpretation with nature - encounters with animals having a meaning to your life - and a Concept there is a spirit animal that one is connected with. I wonder if anyone knows where this concept began.
    I have studied Druidism for 20 years now(LOL had to count that and yes it's been 20 this year). There are several versions of Druids as well that make things a little harder to decipher. The Mileson Druids actually lasted until the 1400's before completely dropping off the radar and picking back up around the 1600's and the current Neo-Druids of today started in the 1700's in secret. While the Mileson Druids would not write anything down without a very good reason but they could read and write. This was proven by a Druid that was taken captive by the Romans and upon learning a written language that he didn't considered secrete (Latin) became a prominent poet and writer in Rome. The Mileson Druids used Runes and the Ogham with the Ogham being more secrete then the Runes, before the Mileson Druids you had the Tuatha de Dannan Druids (the path I "attempt" to follow) who manly used the Ogham. However, if I keep going I will write a book.

    To get to the question; the Druids saw animals as companions but they were not spirit guides as you find in Shamanism. The Druids saw animals as the symbol of a spirit and a form a spirit could take. There are stories of ancient Druids change into animals for several reasons, first was to learn lessons that only living as these animals could give, in this you have some cross over concepts between Native American faiths and the Celtic faiths. Secondly to extend ones life. There are other reason but again I would end up writing a book.

    Spirit Animals are manly a Shamanic concept. I start my non-Abrahamic studies in Shamanism and the concept of Spirit totems, animals, guides play a big part in the faith.

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    Re: A Question On Animals In Druidry

    Where is the evidence that the Druids lasted beyond the shift to Christianity? I have looked for evidence of this and never have I found any. Because the Kings sided with Christianity it is hard to believe that they could have continued ( not that it would be nice to find such evidence. It does seem clear that the Irish who were more insulated from the continental events preserved the beliefs and rituals longer than those closer to the continental Europe who lost most of their beliefs and rituals. It is clear to me at least that the beliefs were incorporated as much as possible into the developing Christian faith allowing for a smooth transition. Their are comment from those monks like Gildas complains that the people of Ireland continue veneration of objects nature and to see the divine in nature. We also do not know if the druid could turn into animals, there are stories of goddesses changing into animals and people also not necessarily by their wish. If there are sources for the other to be true I would be very interested in reading them.

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    Member SonoftheWaters's Avatar
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    Re: A Question On Animals In Druidry

    Quote Originally Posted by sionnach View Post
    Where is the evidence that the Druids lasted beyond the shift to Christianity? I have looked for evidence of this and never have I found any. Because the Kings sided with Christianity it is hard to believe that they could have continued ( not that it would be nice to find such evidence. It does seem clear that the Irish who were more insulated from the continental events preserved the beliefs and rituals longer than those closer to the continental Europe who lost most of their beliefs and rituals. It is clear to me at least that the beliefs were incorporated as much as possible into the developing Christian faith allowing for a smooth transition. Their are comment from those monks like Gildas complains that the people of Ireland continue veneration of objects nature and to see the divine in nature. We also do not know if the druid could turn into animals, there are stories of goddesses changing into animals and people also not necessarily by their wish. If there are sources for the other to be true I would be very interested in reading them.
    Most of the evidence is hidden in Folklore, there are several stories that go into late 1300 to early 1400's. You will general only find these reference in universities but they do exist.

    I just finished reading Celtic Myths and legends by Peter Ellis about six months ago and he makes several references to the material. Though I do wish I still had my reference material to give I unfortunately lost the last of it in my divorce. I will eventually rebuild but a good starting point would be with Ellis books. Caitlin and John Matthews also have several good ones that can be used as references. Though for the best material you need access into the historical documents not available to the general public. There are still several manuscripts that survived that speak of the traditional ways still being practice. Though it was in secret, with the last openly Druidic practitioner dying in the 1300s from some of the lore that I have found.


    Edit: (Since I forgot to include this) The greatest reference, that I can point to for Druids having the ability to shape shift is in Ellis book I mentioned before. Since I just finished reading it, it is still fresh in my mind. Several stories make references to the heroes being able to take animal shape with the assistance of a druid wand or a Druid. These were not gods that were doing this but druids.
    Last edited by SonoftheWaters; 14 Aug 2015 at 20:38.

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    Re: A Question On Animals In Druidry

    Quote Originally Posted by SonoftheWaters View Post


    Most of the evidence is hidden in Folklore, there are several stories that go into late 1300 to early 1400's. You will general only find these reference in universities but they do exist.

    I just finished reading Celtic Myths and legends by Peter Ellis about six months ago and he makes several references to the material. Though I do wish I still had my reference material to give I unfortunately lost the last of it in my divorce. I will eventually rebuild but a good starting point would be with Ellis books. Caitlin and John Matthews also have several good ones that can be used as references. Though for the best material you need access into the historical documents not available to the general public. There are still several manuscripts that survived that speak of the traditional ways still being practice. Though it was in secret, with the last openly Druidic practitioner dying in the 1300s from some of the lore that I have found.


    Edit: (Since I forgot to include this) The greatest reference, that I can point to for Druids having the ability to shape shift is in Ellis book I mentioned before. Since I just finished reading it, it is still fresh in my mind. Several stories make references to the heroes being able to take animal shape with the assistance of a druid wand or a Druid. These were not gods that were doing this but druids.
    I will have to re-read her book. But the way I understood it as in the welsh literature it was not the Druid changing but the druids changing other people. Of course why cant one druid change another druid so I will concede and agree with you. My concern is again about how little we knew about the druids. I do not like the word shamanism but it does not seem to go away and there is I think evidence that the Celtic people just as the Norse, Germanic and Sami (who were in close contact with the Norse) could use altered conscious states which were seen as a religious act and thus transform themselves in this altered state. Not sure they could actually change physically into an animal but I was not there to know so we can always believe.

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    Member SonoftheWaters's Avatar
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    Re: A Question On Animals In Druidry

    Quote Originally Posted by sionnach View Post
    I will have to re-read her book. But the way I understood it as in the welsh literature it was not the Druid changing but the druids changing other people. Of course why cant one druid change another druid so I will concede and agree with you. My concern is again about how little we knew about the druids. I do not like the word shamanism but it does not seem to go away and there is I think evidence that the Celtic people just as the Norse, Germanic and Sami (who were in close contact with the Norse) could use altered conscious states which were seen as a religious act and thus transform themselves in this altered state. Not sure they could actually change physically into an animal but I was not there to know so we can always believe.
    The actual physical change of shape verses a mental change would be a matter on personal belief at least tell someone actually physically change for the world to prove it is possible. Though I wouldn't want to be that person could you imagine all the experiments that he would have to endure. Though I do see a lot of correlation between native American beliefs and druids in the folklore and see how they would have a very shamanistic view point.

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