When you think of Druids, what comes to my mind first and foremost, is nature – that is, how can you make a documentary about Druids without centring around the script the power of trees.
I scripted the docu-drama around a pilgrimage, and the pilgrimage was shot mostly in Shining Cliff woods which is owned by Griff Pioneers. When I was scouting locations, I fell in love with the trees in the woods and how they were bent a shaped by the winds.
Many of the trees in the woods are Oak, Pine and Silver Birch. The Silver Birch is often seen as Trees of May (When we started filming). The Birch twigs are used to light the Beltane fires. Birch is also used to make cradles because if Birch could take away the bad old year as well as fools and criminals, it could also protect new-borns from the disease. And since Birch is the tree of the birth of renewal, what other wood is more suitable for new-borns?
Birch shares with Ash the distinction of being used as a representative of the Cosmic Tree – Axis Mundi. This tree connects the Underworld to Middle Earth and to Heaven. The shaman who climbs Birch uses it as a ladder to the sky to symbolize his ability to visit other worlds.
I digress slightly, what I want to show in the docu-drama is how Druidism draws and develops its spiritual strength in contact with nature, and the spirits that inhabit it.
Trees are the natural supports
Trees are the natural supports that preside over Druidic rituals. By studying the symbols of the trees, Druids can grant them all the virtues that suit them. The trees are venerated in the Druidic tradition because they all have unique energy, they are loaded with hidden resources and magical powers. That’s why Druidism respects and honours them.
The Druids were adept at recognizing the plants’ therapeutic virtues. They established a pharmacopoeia, simple, rich and imaginative. The psychotropic, sedative or hallucinogenic properties of plants had no secrets for them. These plants, used in herbal teas, decoctions, poultices, extracts, macerations and ointments, have fallen into disuse with chemical medicine. But more and more laboratories are starting to take an interest in it once again. Their researchers are biologists and chemists. The Druids were alchemists.
“The trees were particularly mysterious, and they seemed to me the direct incarnations of the incomprehensible meaning of life. That’s why the woods were where I felt closest to its deepest meaning and to its terrifying works.”
CG Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections
In the docu-drama, I want to portray how Druids love trees and often rub shoulders with trees to meditate, perform ceremonies or simply communicate with nature. Most Druids support tree planting and reforestation programs.
The trees and the word ‘Druid.’
Some modern scholars agree with classical Roman, and Greek authors that the most likely origin for “Druid” is from the word oak, combined with the Indo-European root, namely, the translation of the word Druid is “Whoever brings the knowledge of the oak” or “the sage of the oak”. Those who possess the knowledge of the oak possess the knowledge of all the trees.
The Druid is one with “the knowledge of the trees.”
Other researchers suggest that Druid derives from the pre-Indo-European “deru” – meaning firm, strong or stable, combined with the root “weid” – which means to see, creating a term that could translate into “Very clairvoyant”.
When making a docu-drama about Druids, one can feel a new growth inwardly. I read many books and in one paragraph of a text by Philip Carr-Gomm “Druid Mysteries” it reads
“I am strong, a very bright, a knower of magic and enchantment. I am a forest sage. I know the secrets of oak and Wildwood.”
Pulse of Life
Say it many times, with as much inhibition and as much conviction as possible. It is essential to say it out loud because the voice has magical properties. If the exercise works for you, you will have experienced something of what it means to be a Druid – a man or a woman who, even today, can feel the pulse of life under the earth and the trees around him.
“The seven sacred trees of the Druids are Birch, Alder, Willow, Oak, Holly, Hazel, and Apple.” It is said that when they gather in a circle, the whole is the “grove.”
Druids today use a particular method to communicate and remember their wealth of tree knowledge. This is known as Ogham (which means “language” and is pronounced o’ um, or och’um). It consists of twenty-five single lines centred or branched on a central line. The goal is similar but different at the origin of the Nordic runes. The Ogham characters were inscribed on stones and probably on wooden sticks.
Its origins are lost in the mists of time, and most of the existing inscriptions have been dated only in the fifth and sixth centuries, but whether of Celtic or pre-Celtic origin, one can think that they carry in them in some of the oldest wisdom of the Druids.