Some of the most important figures in Celtic society were the Druids. They were experts in a range of disciplines including medicine, the arts, law, and most importantly, magic and spirituality. This is Biróg, the Druidess who helped Cian of the Tuatha Dé Danann and rescued Lugh, who eventually became King.
It is thought that Druids were present in Ireland from the Neolithic period, as megalithic structures like Newgrange would need have needed expert advice from people knowledgeable about astronomy in order to be built.
However, the first written records of Druids are from contemporary Roman sources. Julius Caesar has a detailed account of his dealings with the Druids during his time in Gaul. Medieval Irish monks also wrote in detail about the Druids and the mythology that accompanies them.
The word ‘Druid’ means oak-knower or oak-seer, and it is clear that trees were of great importance to them. They were used as places to meet and perform rituals, and were thought to have magical properties.
Human sacrifice was another, perhaps rarer, custom of the Druids, and was written about by Roman sources. Criminals were most often sacrificed in various manners, and it is thought that the Iron Age bog bodies found in Ireland met their end in this way.
Celtic societies were unusual as women were equals to men, and it was the same for Druids. Female druids were known as Bandrúi and there are examples of them throughout the mythology. Once Christianity arrived, the Druids were fazed out, but the old Pagan customs never truly died out in Ireland. Today there is a renewed interest in the subject as people seek to reconnect with nature and the past.