Purveyor of Bollocks to the Crowned Heads of Europe
Thursday, 20 September 2012
Would you buy a used car from a Druid?
In a strange way, this post follows on from yesterday's photo. Melvyn bloody Bragg has just had a load of experts banging on about Druidism on his show, and one of them was Bath's own Barry Cunliffe.
The net conclusion of the three-quarters of an hour long R4 programme was that we don't really know much about Druids.
My hero - John Aubrey - was spliced nicely in during the last 15 minutes, because he was the first to take a scientific approach to the study of all things Druidic, and produced many drawings of ancient sites, together with basic topographical surveys. I have a copy of all of them.
I thought that - rather like the dragon - Druids had been domesticated and assimilated by Christians about 1500 years ago, but what I learned from one of the experts was that the British Druids were all but wiped out on the isle of Anglesea by 20,000 Roman troops. Because almost everything that is known about the oral tradition of Druids comes from the written one of Julius Caesar, my excuse for not knowing this is because it seemed to be only briefly mentioned in chronicles, due to the fact that Boudica was busy sacking London when it occurred.
Evidently the entire population of Anglesea formed a welcoming party for the Romans on the shore, and slung curse after curse at them as they were picked off by the more solid weaponry of the superstitious troops. It must have been like the final scene in Lord of the Rings.
Over the years, the gaps in my knowledge of Druidism have been filled by the study of Asterix The Gaul annuals, and judging from the appearance of the current (and self-appointed) Arch Druid, Getafix was his childhood role-model as well.
Any claims to authenticity that are made by modern Druids date back no further than the 17th century, when there was a bit of a revival of the cult which lasted until William Stukely - an English parson and amateur Antiquarian - went a little mad and proclaimed himself a Druid in the early 18th. Somebody turned up to an Eisteddfod around 1680 something, calling himself by a name which he was not christened with, and because nobody knew who this bloke was at the time, they had to take him seriously.
It has become a tradition for a load of bearded men (and women) to turn up to the Eisteddfod every year since, adding a bit of local colour (white) to the pageant hosted by the very un-Welsh Prince of Wales, when the entire country reaffirms it's indifference to self-rule by singing to Prince Charles in a language he does not understand.
Modern Druids always remind me of Morris Dancers and transvestites. I just cannot take any of them seriously.