THE Druids were a remarkable brotherhood of priests, teachers, and judges who ruled over the ancient Celts of Gaul and Britain. Their power was such that the chiefs bent humbly before them, and yielded to their decisions not only in matters of religion, but in all sorts of disagreements. Even in cases of crime, they were the judges, and from their decision there was no appeal. Whoever refused to obey them was shut out from the benefits of the sacrifices until he came to terms of humility and obedience. They themselves did not go to war, but their influence was so great in arousing the people to warfare that enemies hated them even more bitterly than they did those who met them in battle. Even the Romans dreaded them, and after the Roman rule was established in Britain, every possible vestige of Druid sway was destroyed. It is possible, though by no means certain, that Stonehenge and other similar ruins are the remains of ancient Druidical temples.
The Druids taught the immortality of the soul, but in the form of transmigration. They had a great reverence for the oak tree, and even more for the mistletoe growing upon it. It is said that when such a mistletoe had been discovered, one priest stood on a white cloth under the tree to receive the plant, while a second cut it with a golden knife. Both must wear spotless robes of white.
From a temple concealed by the dark grove of trees in the background of this picture, white-robed priests advance with slow and stately steps. In front a sacrificial fire burns upon an altar before which two worshipers prostrate themselves in prayer.