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Druid Sacrifice Facts

In 54 BC, fresh from conquering Gaul, Julius Caesar lands on the Kentish coast at the head of his battle-hardened legions, the first Romans in Britain. He writes dispatches back to Rome, describing an island dominated by powerful shaman priests who lead their people in gruesome spectacles of human sacrifice. In one ritual, he portrays Druids herding prisoners into wicker cages shaped like giant men, and watch them burn alive.

In 54 BC, fresh from conquering Gaul, Julius Caesar lands on the Kentish coast at the head of his battle-hardened legions, the first Romans in Britain. He writes dispatches back to Rome, describing an island dominated by powerful shaman priests who lead their people in gruesome spectacles of human sacrifice. In one ritual, he portrays Druids herding prisoners into wicker cages shaped like giant men, and watch them burn alive. (View larger version)

Photograph by Kirsten McTernan / Change Productions

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  • The Druids did not commit any of their beliefs or traditions to text. Much of what we know about them comes from Julius Caesar who came into contact with the Druids when he conquered Gaul and visited Britain. According to Caesar, the Druids believed writing dulls the mind and relaxes “their diligence in learning thoroughly.” He claims it took twenty years of training for the Druids to memorize all their verses.

  • Britain was thought to be the heartland of the Druid religion. Caesar writes that “this institution is supposed to have been devised in Britain, and to have been brought over from it into Gaul; and now those who desire to gain a more accurate knowledge of that system generally proceed thither for the purpose of studying it.”

  • Roman texts accuse the Druids of performing human sacrifice. According to Caesar, the Druids believed that “the Gods delight in the slaughter of prisoners and criminals, and when the supply of captives runs short, they sacrifice even the innocent”. Tacitus claims the Druids “deemed it a pious duty to cover their altars with the blood of captives and to consult their deities through human entrails.” Diodorus Siculus claims that the Druids, “choose a person for death and stab him or her in the chest above the diaphragm. By the convulsion of the victim’s limbs and the spurting of blood, they foretell the future.”

  • Roman texts describe Druids as priests, philosophers, judges and soothsayers who convened with the gods, and prophesied the future. Druids were also extremely powerful political advisers who had influence over the decisions of kings and chiefs. It is because the Romans were fearful of this power, most historians agree, that the Romans wished to wipe out the Druids.

  • A burial unearthed in Essex, southern England dates from between AD40 and AD60. The grave contained the earliest known medical kit found in Britain and a set of bronze and copper rods thought by some to be used in divination. Pliny the Elder describes druids as “seers and healers”, so the presence of medical equipment and divination rods has led archaeologists to conclude that this man, dubbed the Stanway Healer, may have been a Druid.

  • At Ribemont-sur-Ancre, a Celtic religious site in northern France has been unearthed containing hundreds of headless bodies, along with the articulated bones of up to 250 people. The Celts are known to have removed the heads of their enemies, and it is believed that this was a ‘trophy site’ where the local tribe displayed the bodies and weapons of their vanquished enemies as a deterrent to potential attackers.

  • The well preserved body of a man aged approximately 25 found in a bog in northern England and dating to the mid 1st century AD has been dubbed Lindow Man. Archaeologists believe he was a high status individual as his fingernails are well manicured, and his body shows no signs of scarring. And he also suffered a violent death. He was struck on the head by a blunt object, his throat was cut, and he was found with a garrotte around his neck. His stomach was also found to contain mistletoe pollen, and according to Pliny the Elder, mistletoe was sacred to the Druids. This has led some archaeologists to conclude that he was groomed and then killed in a ritual sacrifice undertaken by the Druids.

  • In a cave at Alveston near Bristol, hundreds of fragments of human bone have been found. In total the remains of up to 150 people may be interred there. Forensic analysis suggests that these people met violent deaths in the mid 1st century AD, and archaeologists believe they may have been the victims of a large sacrificial event.

  • One bone, a human femur, found in the cave may provide evidence of ritual cannibalism. It has been split longitudinally, and forensic analysis proves that this must have been done deliberately to extract the marrow. Pliny the Elder writes that the Druids believed that, “human sacrifice was considered an act pleasing to the gods and eating the victim was thought to be beneficial to one’s health”.

  • Archaeologists believe the Druids did perform human sacrifice, but only during times of crisis. The killing of Lindow Man and the victims in the Alveston cave which date from the time of the Roman invasion may have been sacrificed by Druids in an attempt to win the favor of the gods and turn them against the Roman invaders.

  • In 60AD, the Roman governor of Britain launched a campaign against the Druid stronghold of Anglesey with a force of approximately 10,000 men. According to Tacitus, a Roman historian, the Roman troops, “smote down all resistance” and destroyed the Druids’ sacred groves. Before long, all England and Wales were under Roman control.
1 comments
ROMAIN GROUAZEL-KRAUSS
ROMAIN GROUAZEL-KRAUSS

It will be interested to know the DNA and haplogroup of these Druids: anyone know of a genetic study on the?