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Importance of Survival Skills

A day in the life of an ancient Celtic Druid – Philip Freeman


As the sun rises on a
fall morning in 55 BCE, Camma lays two pigeons on the altar
at the center of her village. She offers a prayer to Matrona
mother goddess of the Earth, and Lugus chief of the gods. Then, she wrings the birds’ necks and cuts them open to examine their
entrails for divine messages. Camma is a druid. This means she conducts religious rites, but she also serves as a judge, healer,
and scholar, teaching children and mediating conflict
between Celtic tribes. She began her studies as a child, memorizing the countless details
necessary to perform her many roles, since the druids’ knowledge is considered
too sacred to record in writing. Like many druids, she spent years
studying in Britain. Now, she is a resident Druid
of the Veneti tribe in a small farming village near the
western coast of Gaul, in what is now France. Since returning to Gaul, she has received
many offers of marriage– but she has decided to devote herself
to her work, at least for now. This morning, the omens are troubling. They tell of war and strife, as they often
have in recent months. A neighboring tribe, the Redones, have raided their village and stolen
cattle in broad daylight twice this fall. The children have gathered around
to watch her work. Camma plays her lyre and sings to them. She weaves stories of the powerful kings
who once ruled their land – brave warriors who were slain naked
in combat but who will be reborn, as will all the Celts. When the children go off
to help in the fields, Camma heads across the village to visit
an old woman with an eye infection. On the way to the old woman’s hut, she passes men salting pigs for the
winter food supply and women weaving clothing from dyed wool. She delivers a remedy for the injured eye– it’s made from mistletoe,
a sacred healing plant, but deadly if used incorrectly. From there, Camma visits the chieftain
to discuss the omens. She convinces him to go and talk through
their problems with their neighbors. Accompanied by several warriors, they head through the forest and demand
a meeting outside the Redones’ village walls. The Redones’ representatives bring
their own druid, who Camma recognizes from the annual
gathering in central Gaul where head druids are elected. The chieftains immediately begin to argue
and threaten each other. Camma steps between the opposing sides
to stop them from fighting— they must honor her authority. Finally, the Redones agree to pay
Camma’s tribe several cattle. In spite of this resolution, Camma still
feels uneasy on the long walk home. As they approach the village walls,
a bright streak shoots across the sky— another omen, but of what? Back home, Camma sits among the elders
for her evening meal of porridge, a bit of meat, and a cup of wine. While they were out during the day,
an intercepted parchment arrived. Camma recognizes the writing immediately. Although the druids are forbidden from
recording their knowledge, she and many other young druids
can read Latin. From the message, she learns that the
Romans are drawing closer to their lands. Some of the elders say that the tribe
should flee to the nearby hills and hide, but Camma counsels them to trust
in the gods and remain in their home. Privately, she has her doubts. Should the Romans reach them,
her power to help might be limited. Unlike the other Celtic tribes, Roman legions have no regard for
the druids’ sacred role as peacemakers. Before going to bed, she observes the course of the planets
and consults her charts, trying to make sense of the
meteor she saw earlier. The signs are converging on a larger
threat than their neighbors.

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