religious faith of ancient Celtic inhabitants of Gaul and
the British Isles from the 2nd century BC until the 2nd
parts of Britain that the Romans did not invade, Druidism
survived until it was supplanted by Christianity two or
three centuries later. This religion included belief in
the immortality of the soul, which at death was believed
to pass into the body of a newborn child. According to Julius
Caesar, drawing on a biased account of the cult written
by Posidonius, a Stoic philosopher and historian, the Druids
believed that they were descended from a supreme being.
ancient accounts assert that the functions of priests, religious
teachers, judges, and civil administrators were performed
by Druids, with supreme power being vested in an archdruid.
Three classes of Druids existed: prophets, bards, and priests.
They were assisted by female prophets or sorcerers, who
did not enjoy the powers and privileges of the Druids.
Druids were well versed in astrology,
magic, and the mysterious
powers of plants and animals; they held the oak tree and
the mistletoe, especially
when the latter grew on oak trees, in great reverence, and
they customarily conducted their rituals in oak forests.
believe that the Druids probably used as altars and temples
the stone monuments known as dolmens that are found throughout
the areas where Druidism flourished. Stonehenge
in England antedates Druidism by many centuries.
Druids led their people in resisting the Roman invasions,
but their power was weakened by the rebelliousness of the
Gallic warriors, who were envious of their political authority.
The superior military strength of the Romans and the subsequent
conversion of many followers of Druidism to Christianity
led to the disappearance of the religion.
Microsoft® Encarta® Online Encyclopedia 2001 http://encarta.msn.com
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