April 20, 2014
Druids: an apology
Now Playing: "Easter Everywhere" side 2

After wrapping up my walk-through of last year's Breaking Convention, the last couple of months have been spent primarily on the anthropological/psychedelic fringe, which continues to offer stimulating food for thought; some of it 3000 years old, but still digestable. As readers of Psychedelia may have noted, I make use of Carlo Ginzburg's research into the history of witch-craft and related phenomena in the spiritual underground, not least so because Ginzburg opens a door for questions regarding long-running pagan traditions that otherwise have been avoided by branch anthropologists.

A thorough reading of Ginzburg's "Ecstasies" yielded some 25 pages of handwritten notes, which have contributed to an essay which I soon will finalize. While Ginzburg is primarily interested in tracing the history and rites of the witches, I found his use book eminently useful when looking into a different question, namely the existence or non-existence of a (West) European tradition of shamanism. I address this in Psychedelia, but the topic lends itself well for expansion. No matter which side one chooses, it is a vital matter--if there has never been a Euro-shamanism, why not? Why would Europe differ from the rest of the world? On the other hand, if there was a Euro-shamanism in pre-history, where did it go? How come we see no traces of it? Or do we?

Attractive, beautifully marbled meat for the intellectual carnivore. The witches tie into this question most decidedly, as do another group which prompts me to post this. I realized recently that I had failed to address the issue of Druids altogether in the Psychedelia book, and I would have to call this an oversight. Reading up on current research in the Druid case offered a certain comfort, since it's obvious that almost nothing is truly known about this class of priests or sorcerers, and that a substantial part of what people 'know' about Druids is in fact just popular folklore and myths invented in more recent times. The best source, still today, is Julius Caesar's De Bello Gallico (also a main source for the great Asterix comic books), where Druids of Northwestern France are described and discussed. Some doubt has been cast on Caesar's stories, but as an archeologist smartly pointed out recently, Caesar was unable to fictionalize much, since several Roman senators accompanied him in the field, writing their own accounts.

What little is actually known about Druids will be discussed in my upcoming essay. I do believe they have a place in the puzzle of pre-Greek European shamanism that I'm piecing together, but it is unlikely to be something that turns the table on the whole map. Until that time, my apologies to the Druids and their heirs for not giving them a paragraph or two in the 2012 work. 

Posted by Patrick at Lysergia at 19:54 MEST
Updated: April 20, 2014 19:59 MEST

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