The Druid system was based on an abstract concept called ‘Authority’.
This was not a personal authority over people or worldly matters, but over ‘the self’, & through self, the world around. Authority was accumulated in much the same fashion as ‘experience’ or ‘wisdom’. Slowly & over time, through much dedication. The basic premise being that the more spiritual work (self-awareness, integration & wholeness) performed alongside practical magick techniques within one of the four Elemental Kingdoms: Earth, Water, Air, or Fire, the more that kingdom would ‘respect’ you, & thus you gained ‘authority’ to ‘work with’ (mutual aid being key here) the ‘beings’ of the OtherWorlds.
Each time a student of Druidry successfully completed a ‘Ladder Step-Lesson’, the apprentice was awarded one of the Gleini na Droedh, a glass bead. These were strung on a leather cord & worn in secret as a symbol of their accomplishments. Such beads were also called Naddred – ‘Knowing Man’, or ‘Adder Beads/Snake Eggs’, & thus a Druid was actually known as ‘Serpent or Adder’ priest (A possible hidden meaning behind the tale of St. Patrick driving the Serpents out of Ireland.). Stars – the ‘pentagram/pentacle’ were awarded to ‘star pupils’, as a mark of excellence (a practice still carried out in nursery schools of today), they were known as the Druids Foot, as they wore stars upon the soles of the feet ‘to leave a trail of blessings where ever they went’.
At the inception of their training, each apprentice was dedicated to a particular ‘god-form’ (archetypal powers – totem animals, spirit guides etc.), who then acted directly as an advisor & Otherworld Guide, through the shamanic practice of ‘journeying’ &/or the OBOD practice of ‘guided meditation’. The specific order of scale - steps differed from student to student. The ritual through which the appropriate god-form was initially selected & contacted, is today done as a ‘Main Work’ exercise(s) within the Twrch Trwyth seed group, alongside the exercises offered within the grades of OBOD.
As the apprentice was considered ready, he was taken through a series of three ‘Quests of Mastery’.
They were dealt in the order of ‘past-present-future’. The old Gnostic pattern of ‘root-pattern-destiny’. As each of the Quests concluded, the apprentice underwent an initiation(s), which paved the way for the next level of study.
R.J.. Stewarts states:
‘A candidate for initiation has spent many months or even years learning the astrological & mythical relationships between the Symbols & Spheres, & the meditative concepts have become an integral part of his understanding of shared reality.
The initiate is utterly imbued with the powers & effects of this system.’
This system is based upon the model of the four primal elements, & the student begins to grasp deep patterns of order, relationship, wholeness & integration. The initiation ritual is a dramatic enactment, in which the candidate for the Mysteries expects to enter into a new perception of truth, a new level of consciousness related to the great & beautiful patterns of signs, the elements & planets.
In a scared grove or chamber, the initiation ceremony begins. Each of the numerous actors in this ritual drama performs not a further model of the cosmic order, but a radically disruptive sequence, similar to that found at the close of Merlin’s Prophecies. Not a chaotic or frivolous disorder, but one based upon a perception of reality recapsulated by tradition & enlivened by individual experience & insight.
What effect would such an initiation have upon the candidate?
There is a major concept found in western esoterics: the doctrine of Eneidvaddeu - ‘Constructive Imbalance’.
‘From the Point of Greatest Imbalance, Comes the Point of Greatest Stability.’
The Druids held, unlike the Eastern esoteric systems which stress enlightenment through ‘perfect balance’, the spirit of a man needs opposition – ‘imbalance’ in his life to promote growth.
The Welsh Triads go on to tell us that a Druid must:
Re-stated they reasoned…‘Perfectly Balanced Forces result in a Net Movement Of Zero…& therefore there can be no growth without movement.’
One of the ‘key’ functions of a teacher was to supply/encourage ‘imbalance’ in the proper areas of a student’s life. Therefore there would be movement, & it was in the ‘direction of the weakness (understrength), where it is most needed.’
To Keep Silent – Secrecy
Secrecy was also a key issue for a student of esoteric systems, whether magickal or Druidic, as is standard with any Mystery School.
From the triads.
Three conditions for which a Druid is to be un-seated:
Three things a Bard ought not to reveal
Three Keys of Druidic Mastery
To keep silent
And so the act of breaking a Druidic vow of secrecy was punishable by expulsion from the Order.
The Priesthood purposely cultivated the image of the ‘Primal Mystic’, as ones who left an ‘Otherworld awe’ wherever they appeared, due to the atmosphere of mystic secrecy in which they moved. This was one group who understood all too well the importance of mystique in dealings with the mundane world, for without it, religion becomes a transparent shell – powerless & impotent.
‘There is no better means of intensifying the treasured feeling of individuality, that the possession of a SECRET which the individual is pledged to guard. Such possession had a very powerful formative influence on my character; I consider it the essential factor of my boyhood.’
The people – to use a modern colloquium, ‘Muggles – non-magickal folk’, will always mock at things easy to be understood, for ‘easy come easy go’, attaching no value to something they haven’t had to work for or that appear to themselves as ‘fanciful’ from lack of direct personal experience & gained wisdom. Hence when one works at an exercise in personal discovery & integration, they do not share the experience with outsiders, only with those whom they may have ‘worked’ with, the magician, for that is what a Druid is, one who does ‘magick’ - ‘do not cast your pearls of wisdom before swine, lest they turn & rend you’, to do otherwise than keep ‘silent’/the ‘secret’ begins to thin out the value of their work…It must needs have impostures…
A spirit loves Wisdom & contemplates Truth close at hand, is forced to disguise it, in order to induce the multitude to accept it…
Fictions are necessary to the people – to use an ancient term ‘the sleepers’, & ‘Truth becomes deadly to those who are not strong enough to contemplate it in all its brilliance’…
In fact, what can there be in common between the unaware & ignorant multitude & sublime wisdom?
Truth must be kept secret, & the masses need a teaching proportioned to their imperfect reason. Kept secret means ‘occult’, hidden from apparent view, yet a mystery, mystery meaning ‘a puzzle to be solved’, & anyone may unravel the mystery & discover for themselves ‘the truth’ hidden within it.
The Druids embraced the conceptual feel of the ‘Mystery School’, an institution which also included a Greek & an Egyptian counterpart, as well as the later Culdees & Gnostics.
‘The secret systems of the Druids could be many things to many people, its more mystic aspects, however, being the exclusive domain of the Druids; Bards, & those who studied with or under them.’
Roman Historian Posidonius
A Druidic axiom states:
‘There be Great Power in Silence’.
One of many more that centers on sacred Celtic verses of the theme of ‘silence’ & ‘secrecy’, as a means to magickal & personal empowerment.