First as a raven on whose ancient wings
Scarcely a feather lingered, then you seemed
A weasel moving on from stone to stone
And now at last you wear a human shape
A thin grey man half lost in gathering night
~ “Fergus and the Druid” by William Butler Yeats
Shaman. Sage. Poet. Priest. Healer. Wanderer. Philosopher. Teacher. Conjurer. Druid.
In pre-Christianized Celtic Britain, long before the tales of King Arthur and Merlin, there existed a priesthood known as the Druids. Much of what we know about the Druids was written by the dictator of the Roman republic, Julius Caesar, after his invasion of Britain.
According to the writings of Julius Caesar, the Druids “know much about the stars and celestial motions, and about the size of the earth and universe, and about the essential nature of things, and about the powers and authority of’ the immortal gods; and these things they teach to their pupils.”
He also writes that the Druids were concerned with “divine worship, the due performance of sacrifices, private or public, and the interpretation of ritual questions” and that their belief system dictated that “the souls do not perish, but after death pass from one to another“, believing that debts incurred during one lifetime could be repaid in the next.
The Druids were known for communing with nature, holding such things as Oak trees and Mistletoe sacred, and creating shrines in groves or near springs. As healers, their knowledge of herbs and their uses, blended with their reverence to nature, led them to hold plants in high esteem.
Herbal lore suggests that the Druids held to a 13 part system of plant usage:
1. The use of plants as food (Wheat, Bean)
2. The use of plants as drink, elixir, or tonic (Heather, Burdock, Dandelion)
3. The use of plants as clothing (Flax, Woad)
4. The use of plants as a means of altered consciousness (Mugwort)
5. The use of plants in medicine (Mistletoe, Vervain, Selago, Samolus)
6. The use of plants for annointing (Primrose, Vervain)
7. The use of plants in rituals (Garlic, Clove)
8. The use of plants in lincense (Agrimony, Juniper)
9. The use of plants in lustration (ritual cleansing) (Agrimony)
10. The use of plants in spells (Fern)
11. The use of plants in charms and talismans (Betony, Mandrake)
12. The use of plants in offerings (Meadowsweet, Vervain)
13. The use of plants for divination (Yarrow)
Not much is known of the Druids after the 2nd century, leading scholars to believe that the Druids either were absorbed into another system of belief or that their meetings and teachings became more clandestine. I would like to think it was more the latter. There are still those that hold to a Druidic system of belief and practice, such as The Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids. (http://www.druidry.org/
And since I like to think that the Druids carried on their mysterious way of life far after the Romans left Britain and their accounts were left to scholarly hypotheses, I envisioned a soap that paid homage to the Druids long after the last written word of their existence…and so was birthed DRUID 3rd Century Soap, with Juniper, Lavender, and Cedarwood.