The Indo-Europeans, or Aryans, were an advanced culture that seeded or otherwise influenced many of the high cultures that are still thriving today. In the early twentieth century, a French scholar noted a pattern found widespread in Aryan societies. Georges Dumezil’s “tripartite hypothesis” asserts that Indo-European cultures from India to Greece and Rome over to Ireland functioned under a three-tiered caste system. There are some peculiarities and differences by individual culture; however the general model is found repeated neatly across the spectrum. Virtually all cultures with an Aryan origin or influence appear to have built their society around a worker or peasant caste ruled by the warrior and a kingly-priesthood castes. In many cases, each caste can be further sub-divided to account for specific roles. The slave caste was often not counted as one of the three, thereby resulting in four castes in practice.
Although there were distinct differences in how castes manifested in the various cultures which developed from the Aryan wellspring, there were certain features shared among them. The main tiers of most Indo-European societies are most generically described as worker, warrior, and priest-king castes respectively. The worker caste defines the labor force of a society, which is the general public. Aryan societies seemed to place an emphasis on individual freedom and autonomy; the higher castes, in theory, were oathed to the service of the body of their culture, the general public. Thus, the higher castes ruled but were also dedicated to the well-being of the wider tribe and the common man was guaranteed basic human rights. The slave tier was often comprised of captives taken in war, but who sometimes could purchase their own freedom.
There seems to be some variation on the matter of birth versus merit among various Indo-European cultures. Status most often seems to be a matter of both birth and achievement, and someone of low birth may achieve high status due to ability. The role of the priesthood was generally equal in both prestige and power as that of the king himself. Indeed, the sacral king often performed priestly duties such as public ritual and sacrifice. In some cases, a priest-king ruled in conjunction with a military leader or war-lord of the warrior caste. Whereas the king hailed from a god-seeded bloodline, the military chief won his position by merit. However, the role of the king was not guaranteed by birth. Rather, the council chose the successor from among members of the royal family, so their own personal worth as an individual was taken into account.
In this milieu, a priest caste functioned in more than a merely religious context. Indeed, religion as we know it today, an ideology freely chosen by the individual from a veritable buffet of options, did not exist. Religiosity was one of many layers woven together to form the tapestry of an ethno-cultural society. Thus, the priesthood was not restricted only to the sphere of religion. Spirituality was nested in conjunction with other cultural elements which created a cohesive worldview that was in harmony with tribe, self, and nature. One could say that the Aryans functioned under a “dharmic principle”. Indeed, the European branch we know today as the Balts retained a concept called “darna” which is very similar to the Hindu doctrine of dharma. It is believed that the English word “harmony” originates from the same Indo-European root as “dharma”. We find this root again in the word “harvest”, which demonstrates the idea that living in accord with nature (harmony) results in a bountiful reward.
Under this holistic way of being, this harmonious spiritual Weltanschauung (worldview) layered all other aspects of life. Therefore, disciplines that we view as unrelated to religion, such as science and the arts, were also housed in the wheelhouse of the priest caste. This is why we imagine druidic figures as wizard-like alchemists, poets, bards, and so on. Indeed, the word “wizard” derives from the Anglo-Saxon for “one who is wise”. It is arguable that the very word “druid” shares this etymological origin. Thus, the priesthood caste encompassed the intellectual elite, an intelligentsia more than a religious order as we think of it today.
We know that Celtic society educated children from the commoner caste, both boys and girls. While certain trades might be better suited for each gender, both sexes were educated and trained for a career. Evidence arises across the Indo-European landscape that demonstrates that women were sometimes found performing roles typically considered masculine. In the Celtic world, both girls and boys could be chosen as students to train as Druids. Within the druidic class, individuals would likely specialize in a particular field such as medicine or music.
It is often said that we know very little about the Druids, but I have found this to be untrue. When we pair Greco-Roman accounts (although they are not without biased agenda) with Celtic myth and legend, the bardic tradition, folklore, and folk beliefs and customs that were retained even after Christianization, we get a fairly cohesive picture of the beliefs of the Celts. In addition, comparative analysis allows us to look at the corresponding priesthood castes of other Aryan societies to glean some insight. Other disciplines, such as the field of archaeology, have shed more light on this area as well, as they have developed and advanced in recent years. And, although the great druidic schools were dismantled by the Romans, strong strains of druidic thought clearly lived on for many centuries, carried by sole bardic figures or even within the walls of the Celtic church cloisters themselves.
So, for example, when the Roman sources all mention that the Druids taught the transmigration of the soul, but no actual teachings about reincarnation remain, how can we know what the Druids believed? Clues have been preserved in the folklore. For example, the Scottish version of Cinderella says that the girl’s mother reincarnated as a calf to look after her. This tale is simplistic and childlike; however, we can look to other Indo-European cultures that kept philosophies on reincarnation vibrant to understand the general concept. The Scottish “Cinderella” is a wonderful example of an ancient Aryan link, because it not only depicts reincarnation, but it also draws a relationship between the mother and cows. Being consumers of dairy, Aryan cultures retained a great respect for the cow as a life-giving animal. Hindus today often say that the cow is seen as a sort of primal mother due to the nurturing nourishment that her milk provides. Stories from the folk tradition such as this demonstrate the ancient cultural link between Indo-European mytho-linguistic culture groups and tell us that it is permissible to inform our understanding by engaging in cross-cultural analysis between related cultures. There is zero mythic or linguistic relationship between indigenous European ethno-culture and the Hebrew mythos recorded in the Jewish Bible.
We know that one sub-set of the Druid class were the Bards. And Bards continued to study music, write songs, and perform as minstrels well after the Druids were disbanded. The Romans recorded that the role of the Bards specifically was to sing praises about the great deeds of cultural heroes. It is interesting to note that some of the medieval ballads that have been passed down to us possess hints at a living pagan worldview if one knows how to interpret them. Two instances that I have previously discussed are the ballads about Thomas the Rhymer and Robin Hood. Both figures are believed to have lived roughly in the border region of Scotland/England. Thomas the Rhymer is confirmed in the historical record to have lived in the 13th century, though his ballad was not written down until the 18th century (it survived via oral transmission until it was preserved on the page). The earliest document that survives of Robin Hood’s ballad is dated to the 15th century, but there are references to him in literary works as early as the 13th century. These two figures demonstrate that the adventures of great men were still being hailed by Bards in a living practice throughout the middle ages. Thomas the Rhymer’s tale contains traces of shamanic trance, an overt goddess who takes him on a journey to the Otherworld, and the imparting of supernatural gifts. When viewed carefully, Robin Hood’s ballads contain severe criticism of the worldview and institutions of the Norman overlords, remnants of goddess worship, strong elements of indigenous Teutonic worldview, and Robin’s character has been argued to have been amalgamated with pagan deities.
Moving into the Renaissance, we see that elements of indigenous European spiritual worldview appear again and again in the high art of painters, sculptors, poets, and playwrights. Shakespeare’s plays are peppered with pagan elements from Queen Mab’s appearance in “Romeo and Juliet” to the “three weird sisters” (embodying both witches and the Fates) in Macbeth. Indeed, A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream is nothing but a romp through the pagan Otherworld and overt celebration of the Fairy Faith for which the British Isles are so famous. The religious art of European Renaissance painters depict playful cherubs that are found nowhere in the Hebrew Bible. This era is also known for representing Jesus Christ with a countenance that appears much more Nordic than Middle Eastern. In fact, the most famous depictions of the Jewish Messiah during this period are more reminiscent of the Norse god Baldr than a descendant of King David. Of course, the breakdown of the chokehold of Judeo-Christianity over the European populace allowed the restoration of our cultural output to thrive and the celebration of our own ethnic cultural roots flourished throughout subsequent generations and artistic movements.
Essentially, what we see is that even without the druidic schools and cultural institutions, the cream continued to rise to the top in ways reminiscent of the roles played by the Druids themselves. But, it was not only pure artistic skill that caused ballads to endure and high art to resonate. These Bards and artists tapped into the folk-soul of the European ethnos. The cultural unconscious lives outside of us while encompassing all of us. Those who have the internal propensity to reach the tier of the Druids may possess all the talent in the world but their work will not resonate unless they draw from the repository of ethnic memory. The combination of skilled talent with activated blood-memory which taps into the folk-soul allows for the creation of artistic output that transcends time. This is the art that stirs us on a psycho-spiritual level. These are the ballads that were passed down for 800 years. And this is the literature of our great-great-great-grandfathers, which we still read today. These were created by individuals who were our own Druid class operating unconsciously while asserting their skill set in their celebration of our shared cultural inheritance.
It is arguable that one form of cultural chokehold was traded for another as events unfolded in the 20th century, wielding a decisive blow to the European ethno-nationalist cause. Today our music is produced by merchants who are motivated not only by profit but also by an agenda to subvert Western culture. Fields that were once the epitome of refined culture, such as literature, drama, visual art, and poetry have been bastardized and decayed beyond all recognition by these same shadowy forces lurking behind the curtain. It is time for Western men and woman to dig down deep into their souls and challenge themselves. Will we allow those who despise the very soul of our folk to dictate our cultural output? Or will we force ourselves to grow, to train, to develop our own talent or otherwise support folkish talent when we see it?
Western culture is not yet lost. But we must fight assertively. And fighting on the cultural front is a way to touch more and more of our lost folk when words, imagery, and song breaks through the barriers of cultural conditioning to speak directly to soul of an individual on a psycho-spiritual level. We can do this. Druids move among us still. We must all reach, and we must all strive. We must each use our god-seeded talents. And, we must remind ourselves to starve the beast who would devour us by restricting our monetary contribution to its lifeblood and instead allocate funds to support our own Druid tier as it struggles to re-emerge in a hostile environment.
We can do this. We have done it before and we can do it again. This is all hands on deck. But if you love something, you will fight for it. Never forget that the Druids opposed Rome until the last. As we have seen, the most formidable opponent on the planet could not silence their song. The Bardic soul resides in any one of us who chooses to sing. And, by the gods, sing with everything you’ve got.
Benoist, Alain de. View from the Right, Volume I: Heritage and Foundations. London: Arktos Media, 2017.
Celts, The Religion of the Ancient. J. A. MacCulloch . Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1911.
Dumezil, Georges. Mithra-Varuna. New York: Zone Books, 1988.
Ellis, Peter Berresford. The Celtic Dawn: A History of Pan Celticism. London: Constable, 1993.
Littleton, Jeannine Davis-Kimball and C. Scott. “Warrior Women of the Eurasian Steppes.” Archaeology 50.1 (1997): 44–48.
This is interesting. However, I do not understand why one would want to bring back a tiered system of society which is not indigenous to Europe anyway. I understand that the Indo-Europeans were invaders to Europe spread over three such waves from the late neolithic to the bronze age. Minoan Crete seems to have been the last outpost and flowering of the extant old European civilization. The archaeological evidence seems to point towards a much more peaceful old European society prior to the Kurgan invasions from the Steppe. It also appears to be female centred based around agriculture as opposed to the Indo-European male centred, pastoralism. Evidenced by the advent of male deities taking presidence over Goddesses. In Great Britain the DNA evidence suggests, on average, that a current English person has about 40% Indo-European DNA and the remaining 60% made up of ENF (Early Neolithic Farmers) and Western Hunter Gatherer DNA. The ENF are apparently a combination of WHG and Natufian DNA. The Natufians originate from the Levant.
As far as I am concerned I am more interested in focusing on my ENF/WHG heritage and not my Indo-European one whose societal structure is not especially attractive.
I also believe that the Druids did not stand and fight with their underlings but retreated and gathered on Mona where they did make a stand according to Roman historians. The tribes were left to fight alone or assimilate I believe.
This author writes well; it would be interesting to see if she has studied the pre Indo-European indigenous civilization of what Gimbutas termed Old Europe.
“Enough with the indo-europeans already!” The Folk Soul flows through you so eloquently. Don’t stop ;D
Writers such as Barry Cunliffe and Robin Melrose (among others) believe the Druidic priesthood is not native to the (IE) Celts but goes back to at least the Bronze age and possibly even the Neolithic.
A small bibliography for such a subject. And where are the primary sources?