On tour and by email people ask me questions about the role of ancient High Kings and Druids, especially regarding the creation and enforcement of law as well as teaching of religion and faith.
Today, we are used to the laws and lifestyle of land ownership. If we want to live somewhere we either have to “buy” a house and some land or pay a fee as rent to use a person’s house and/or land. We also know that, at least, native Americans were and are still disconnected to the idea that land can be “owned”.
Before the Normans came to Ireland the land was administered by what are called Brehon Laws that were enforced with a respect for the goddesses who “owned” and cared for the lands. Us mortals were regarded as mere stewards. To be more correct, the men usually being the stewards while the women lived to care, nurture and nourish in the mortal image of the goddesses.
The head of a family was the man, the farmer, hunter and gatherer and then amongst the men in a village would be one man with wisdom and ability for farming, hunting and healing above all others. Such a man would have been regarded as having a special relationship with the “goddess” above all others. He would have also been regarded as being called to the serve the goddess through guiding and leading others. These would have been the first druids.
The druids then became an “order” that could only be entered into by passing a series of education and tests so that the “order” would be of a duplicated wisdom. The first example of this is said to have been the learning of the Ogham language that is a synthesis of symbols inspired by different species of trees and their properties. Together this is known as the “wisdom of the trees”.
Before the Normans arrived in Ireland, it is said that kings were those chosen to be stewards of the land and the people who use it while the druids were the chosen protectors. It is also said that the “goddesses” chose their “kings” through arrangements prepared by the druids, the “spiritual leaders”, or you may say guides.
There were …….
kings of tribes, being a bunch of families
kings of clans, being a bunch of tribes
kings of regions, being the clans within certain land boundaries
High King of Ireland, administering above all regional kings,
Each king had a guiding druid who was the consultant of tribes, clans, region or country laws of the goddess, collectively known as Brehon Laws while the king administered and enforced these laws. The kings also made and enforced judgments after consultation with the druids, who’s decision is said to have been of the goddess.
This started to change with the arrival of monks from the “Holy Land” arriving in Wales, and then into Ireland, who told their stories of Jesus and teachers before him. For some, the teachings of Jesus and his disciples seemed to be of a higher order than they belonged to so the laws they created became a mirror to the laws brought by these wise men from the Holy Land. Seasonal rituals and traditions changed, for one, along with changing laws over the stewardship of land. Metal technology had also advanced and many laws became related to the symbol of the sword more than the symbols of nature.
When the Normans arrived the concept of land “ownership” was created along with metal currency issued in exchange for service or goods, and this became the culture. This started with the king being the “owner” of all land, and not a god or goddess. Land was rented to Barons and Bishops. Bishops were the educated people of an order ruled by Rome and the Barons were of the military might. Bishops were handed the lands and communities of the monastic sites while the Barons were handed the lands of the the clans and tribes who had not entered the monastic culture. The Barons and Bishops rented land to the people.
The monastic people paid Bishops a tithe and tribes and clan people paid Barons rent. The collected money would include profit so that not all of it was passed to the king. The Barons and Bishops would keep some of the loot to pay for their servants, maintain property and maintain their indulgence in exotic imports, the best horses, and legendary sexual freedoms. The king was also summoned to pay a tithe to Rome from their rent collections, a practice that continued until Henry VIII.
History then moves on to include how Barons fought to become land owners instead of tenants, Bishops and their clergy became celibate so they did not produce heirs that would fight to own the church lands tithed by Rome and much more ……
Today, with our focus on sustainable living to balance our use of earth’s resources and to become stewards and guests of our planet rather than regard ourselves as owners it does seem to be a time to reflect on how druids ruled.