The Wisdom of the Druids

An interpretation of the wisdom teachings of the Druids


In our article about the Mystery of the Druids published in 2017 we mentioned the simple moral doctrines which these Sages imparted to the common people. The example we gave was the injunction to "worship the gods, to do no evil, and to be valiant in battle." But there were other sayings with a hidden meaning which were specifically intended for those undergoing initiation. We provided a few examples of these esoteric catechisms in our article on Initiates and Initiation which we interpreted to some small extent. In this investigation we shall broaden our enquiry to analyse and interpret those classes of moral instruction which resemble the parables of the New Testament Gospels. Like them, these teachings contain a hidden and symbolical meaning as well as a literal one.

In our customary afterword we tell the true story of the terrible massacre of the Druids that took place in the 5th century A.D. as recorded by several ancient British writers, historians and scholars. It was this tragic event that completed the evil work begun by the Romans after their invasion of 43 A.D. which signalled the end of Druid dominance in Britain. Thereafter, as we told you in our previous article, the remaining members of the Druid Order retreated to the remotest parts of Scotland, Wales and Ireland where their influence persisted until the 12th century.

Wisdom Teachings

In our article on the Mystery of the Druids we quoted some examples of the questions candidates for admission into the Druid Order had to answer. The following catechism is taken from a poem written by the 6th century British Bard Taliesin called Mabgyvreu or 'Elements of Instruction.' Although composed long after the Golden Age of Druid governance in Britain we believe it to be a faithful copy of the teachings imparted by the leaders of the Order to their pupils. The only reason we did not interpret it before is lack of time and space; an omission we are now happy to amend.

"Knowest thou what thou art
In the hour of sleep—
A mere body—a mere soul—
Or a secret retreat of light?"

We said in the aforementioned article that we doubted whether there were any 'initiates' in the well-known modern 'occult' orders or fraternities, who could interpret this enigmatical question and provide the correct answer. You will not be surprised to learn that no self-styled 'initiates' took up our challenge, though plenty of them have written to us over the years, such as a well-known 'chaos' magician who told us that "You people wouldn't know enlightenment if it smacked you in the face." One critic who did comment on the catechism quoted above dismissed it as "theosophical claptrap." When we pointed out that the Theosophical Society was not incorporated until some 1200 years after this verse was written, we heard nothing more from him. His argument—if such it can be called—was that as dreams were nothing more than the "brain winding down" (his words), the questions were meaningless. We mention this to demonstrate how very little is now known about the genuine Occult Sciences, an irony which will not be lost on those readers who have received personal proofs of the reality of reincarnation and know why sleep has often been called 'the little death.' They might answer the questions posed by Taliesin in the way we have done below.

"Yea, Master, I know what I am in the hour of sleep—
A body of flesh from whence my lower self goes forth
While my Higher Self communes with her secret retreat of light."

The Eternal Triangle

One peculiarity of the mystical teachings of the Druids was their fondness for ternary arrangements, that is to describe one thing under three distinct heads or from three distinct aspects, or to bring three distinct subjects or objects under one point of view. In fact the number three runs through the whole religious philosophy of the Druids and informs every system of instruction they presided over. We feel sure that this is due in large part to their recognition of the three main components or principles of man we discussed in the previous part of this article, which may with every justification be called the true 'Eternal Triangle,' to be carefully distinguished from the euphemism of the same name that describes the very inferior triangle known as a ménage à trois!

The same ternary arrangements were a characteristic of the ancient Egyptian language which consisted of three distinct modes of expression and revelation: the Hieroglyphic; the Hieratic or cursive; and the Demotic. The first was the exclusive province of the Hierophant and his immediate circle, the second was employed by the initiated Priesthood and the third by the common people. The significance of this is entirely lost on Egyptologists who believe wrongly that each mode is derived from, and is a development of, the other. Hence, they believe that Hieratic was a development of Hieroglyphic which later evolved into flowing script known as Demotic. This, despite the fact that the word 'Hieratic' is derived from the Greek hieratiká—literally 'priestly' and 'Demotic' from the Greek dēmotikós meaning 'popular.' The loss of this triple key explains why scholars and occultists alike remain unaware that every ancient Egyptian monumental inscription and every text is capable of three interpretations; namely, the literal, corresponding to the Demotic; the hidden or occult, corresponding to the Hieratic; and the Divine or Supreme Wisdom, corresponding to the Hieroglyphic which could be understood only by the Hierophant and his circle of Adepts. As we shall see, the same ternary system prevailed in the oral teachings of the Druids.

Pre-eminent among the many trinities in use among the Druids is their division of their Order into three classes; Bards, Ovates or Vates and Druids. Today the term Bard means generally a musician or singer of some kind, usually of ballads. This provides the clue to the meaning the Druids themselves attached to the word, namely a singer of the mysteries, or teacher. In The Mythology and Rites of the British Druids by Edward Davies (see further reading list in the sidebar) we may read about a great Druid Chief, Cynvelyn, who declaims: "Were I to compose the strain—were I to sing—magic spells would spring." In other words, were he to recite the sacred mysteries, then, magic spells would indeed ensue, for these sublime teachings, as some of our readers will know, liberate the Higher Self from the bonds of matter through a long course of moral, metaphysical and scientific instruction and training. Ovate is the English adaptation of a Greek rendering of the Celtic term wātis, first mentioned in the work of the first century Greek historian, Strabo. Vates is the Latin equivalent of the same word which denotes a soothsayer or prophet. As the Druids were renowned for their knowledge of futurity it is probable that an Ovate fulfilled the function of a seer, while the term Druid simply denoted membership of the Order itself, from the Welsh Derwydd (plural Derwyddon), meaning a seer, magician, sage, etc.

The Druids recognised three priests who attended the Hierophant during the celebration of the mystical rites, each of whom personated one of the gods. This is in perfect conformity with the custom which prevailed in the Eleusinian Mysteries of ancient Greece, making four officers in all, or the sacred quaternary, itself the foundation of the famous Pythagorean Tetractys or mystical Decad. These four were the aforementioned Hierophant, representing the Great Creator; the Torch-Bearer, who represented the Sun; the Herald, who represented Mercury, and the Minister of the Altar, who represented the Moon. The Moon was regarded as the altar of the Sun by the Druids because it reflected the light of that luminary to Earth. Taliesin, after his initiation, describes himself as thrice-born, not twice, as both Christians and Hindus who have been initiated into their respective religions assert. Why thrice? Taliesin's explanation is typically enigmatic. He tells us that he is born once of his natural or human parent, once of Ceridwen—the Mystery Goddess—and lastly of the mystical coracle in which flimsy vessel the candidate for initiation into the Druid Order was cast adrift upon the waters of Cardigan Bay, or a similar stretch of water. This has an allegorical meaning which will not be lost on some of our readers. It must also be mentioned that the cells of the Druids—used for contemplation and other purposes—were generally triangular in form, consisting of two roughly-hewn upright stones capped by a third stone forming a primitive roof.

That both classes of widely separated sages—one in Britain and the other in Egypt—should have adopted the selfsame ternary system points to a common origin. That origin can only have been Atlantis from whence, as we learned in our series of articles about the legacy of the Lost Continent, its civilization and wisdom were carried to the shores of Britain and Egypt, as well as to many other places on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. It has been suggested that as many as three hundred triads were known in the 6th century, but during the 16th century just over one hundred remained extant. Three hundred is probably a gross underestimate of this class of wisdom teachings given that the Druids left almost no written records of any kind. Before we conclude this part of our examination, we would like to remind those readers unfamiliar with the Occult Science of numbers of the importance of the number three. Pythagoras taught that the mystical characteristics of the triad were friendship, peace, justice, prudence, piety, temperance, and virtue; all qualities which, as we have seen, were highly esteemed by the Druids and formed the foundation of their religious beliefs and code of moral instruction. Three was also called wisdom and understanding because it symbolises the trinity of Father-Mother-Son as well as the trinity of the three higher principles in man. All this leads us to the third part of this survey.

Druid Triplets

Among the curious remains of the wisdom teachings of the Druids are to be found a most unusual class of metrical sentences, called tribanau or triplets. Each of these allegorical aphorisms is divided into three short verses, which are again united by the final rhymes. The most singular feature of these versicles is that the sense of the first two verses has no obvious connection with that of the last. But as we learned earlier this was a deliberate device to conceal the hidden or occult meaning of such enigmatical compositions. The first line contains some seemingly trivial remark, suggested by the state of the weather, the season of the year, the accidental meeting of some animal, and so on. To this is frequently subjoined something that savours of deeper reflection; then comes the third line, with some moral precept or a pertinent remark upon men and manners. This is best illustrated by the following three examples from the Bardic literature of the 12th century.

"Snow of the mountain! the bird is ravenous for food
Keen whistles the blast on the headland
In distress, the friend is most valuable."


"It rains without, and here is a shelter
What! the yellow furze, or the rotten hedge!
Creating God! why hast thou formed the slothful."


"The leaf is tossed about by the wind
Alas, how wretched its fate!
It is old! But, this year was it born."

If we carefully study each of these three triplets we find that in spite of the seeming irrelevance, there is a distinct connection between the lines. Ere we do so, we must say a word about the opening line of the first triplet—'snow of the mountain!' This is a common salutation which crops up frequently in Druidical literature that contains definite teachings of all sorts. Snow, as we all know, is white, which symbolically represents purity even today, notwithstanding the attempts of some deeply troubled and misguided individuals to misappropriate this symbolism to bolster their warped 'racial' agendas. Hence, the words 'snow of the mountain' were evidently intended to represent the One Light of Truth in all its purity and sanctity while 'mountain' may well have referred to the Solar Mount of Glory which figures so prominently in the ancient Egyptian religion. If you should think that it is a bit of a leap from Britain to Egypt then you clearly haven't read our article on Egypt in England—an omission you now have the opportunity to amend. We believe that the teachings contained in the Druid triplets originated even further afield and longer ago—in Atlantis as we suggested earlier. Even if they are home-grown—which seems unlikely given the clear connection between the sages of Egypt and the Druids of the British Isles—they prove that mankind has not changed one whit since the days of that great continent, nor ever will, so far as the masses are concerned.

As we mentioned earlier, the Druids left few if any written records of their beliefs or teachings. Hence it seems likely that their disciples had to learn such triplets by heart, in order to memorise certain acute observations on nature, mankind, and the great Laws and Principles of Occult Science. A nation with but a scanty supply of books or manuscripts, whose Teachers, as we know, never wrote down the hidden or occult knowledge, must have benefited from this mode of instruction. Whatever page of nature was presented to the view of the disciples, their Teachers contrived to make of it a page of wisdom. It is for this reason, as well as others, that in several articles we have called Nature the 'greatest book of wisdom ever written.' With this important truth before us, let us now have a closer look at the first of the three triplets we quoted earlier. Here is the whole triplet again:

"Snow of the mountain! the bird is ravenous for food
Keen whistles the blast on the headland
In distress, the friend is most valuable."

The first line suggests want, not necessarily of food; the lack of something or other. This is subtly reinforced by the second clause, which describes a cold and dreary season that distresses man as well as beast. By the association of ideas, these seemingly unconnected lines prompt the thought that 'in distress, the friend is most valuable.' The whole triplet is thus an exhortation to help a friend in need; the most sacred and we may say, most neglected of all social duties; true charity towards all, though, as we said earlier, none of this is obvious on the surface. This obscurity is even more evident in the second of our three examples, which runs:

"It rains without, and here is a shelter
What! the yellow furze, or the rotten hedge!
Creating God! why hast thou formed the slothful."

Let us suppose, if we will, that we are caught in a short, sharp shower because we have neglected to find a suitable shelter from the rain. Our choice lies between 'the yellow furze' or 'the rotten hedge,' neither of which are going to keep us very dry. We are immediately ashamed of our laziness and cry 'what!' in recognition of it. This is a perfect example of the supplementary clause that is frequently subjoined to the first line of these verses that savours of deeper reflection; you will remember we pointed this out earlier. The meaning of the whole triplet is strengthened by the forceful reflection of the final line. 'Creating God! why hast thou formed the slothful.' So here we have another moral lesson drawn from Nature which reproves the indolent and lazy. The attentive reader who has followed us so far should have little difficulty in construing the meaning of our third example, repeated below:

"The leaf is tossed about by the wind
Alas, how wretched its fate!
It is old! But, this year was it born."

Have you worked out what it means? No? Then we will tell you. Each line illustrates in a different manner the brevity and frailty of life on Earth: human, animal and vegetable, neither endure for long. We conclude this part of our examination of the wisdom teachings of the Druids with four further triplets. See what you can make of them on your own, for in this way you will learn most.

"It is the eve of winter—social converse is pleasant
The gale and the storm keep equal pace
To preserve a secret is the part of the skilful."


"Chill and wet is the mountain—cold is the grey ice
Trust in God; he will not deceive thee;
Nor will persevering patience leave thee long in affliction.


"It rains without; the brake is drenched with the shower
The sand of the sea is white with its crown of foam
Patience is the fairest light of man."


"Snow of the mountain! bare is the top of the reed.
The man of discretion cannot associate with the foolish
Where nothing has been learned, there can be no genius."

In all seven examples we see the number three, a sacred and mystical number amongst the Druids. The above manner of writing in triplets, including the peculiar metre we can note in the original, has become obsolete amongst the Welsh. Even in the sixth century the Bards used it no more, and Llywarch Hen, Aneurin and Taliesin seem to have rejected it as too antiquated, too simple and unadorned. It must therefore have been in use by the earliest Druids, and both rhyme and metre may have had a distinct meaning in the original language which is now lost to us. There is an otherworldly flavour in these verses one cannot quite put one's finger on. Something hoary with age and replete with a magical aura quite foreign to any literary form we know today. This, as much as the teachings themselves, lend credence to our view that this form of didactic versification reached these islands long ago from Atlantis.

Sacred stanzas

Beside the triplets we have discussed, there were in use among the Druids certain teachings in the form of stanzas, of six or eight lines each, consisting of detached sentences, connected only by the final rhymes, and each stanza beginning with the words "snow of the mountain," Eiry Mynydd in Welsh. These also contained definite occult, philosophical or moral teachings of all sorts, of which the two following stanzas are representative.

"Snow of the mountain! troublesome is the world!
No man can foretell the accidents to which wealth is exposed.
Arrogance will not arrive at a state of security.
Prosperity often comes after adversity.
Nothing endures but for a season.
To deceive the innocent is utterly disgraceful.
No man will ever thrive by vice.
On God alone let us place our dependence."


"Snow of the mountain! white is the horn of smoke.
The thief is in love with darkness.
Happy is the man who has done no evil.
The froward is easily allured to do mischief.
No good befalls the lascivious person.
An old grudge often ends in a massacre.
A fault is most conspicuous in a prince.
Give less heed to the ear, than to the eye."

These wonderfully succinct moral aphorisms require little if any elucidation; their meaning is clear. That the world is 'troublesome' no one will deny, least of all our regular readers, many of whom have written to us over the years about the difficulties they encountered on the path to the Light. Nor are these teachings inferior to those we find in the Indian Upanishads or the proverbs of the Bible and the Apocrypha. Among the many good things in the first stanza are the truths contained in lines two and three. Do we need to remind you of those rich celebrities whose wealth has been wiped out almost overnight due to some scandal or other which also robbed them of their freedom, and in some cases, their very lives? Is it not also true that behind the mask of arrogant pride, many wealthy people are in a constant state of anxiety lest they lose their ill-gotten gains? We particularly commend the last three lines to any budding politicians among our readers. They may feel very secure in their present positions, not knowing or caring that there is a higher court in which their thoughts and deeds will be weighed in the balance by a Judge from whom there is no appeal.

The second line of the second stanza has an allegorical as well as a literal meaning, and this applies to all the sayings we have analysed so far, or will do later on. 'Froward,' which word is found no less than 24 times in the Bible, is an archaic synonym for someone who is stiff-necked, contrary, perverse and obstinate. Mischief in whatever form is a magnet for such types. On the face of it, the last line of this stanza is a bit of a puzzle. Why should we pay less attention to what we hear rather than what we see? One reason is that actions tell us more about a person's real character than their words. A more subtle reason is that the eyes are said to be the windows of the Soul (Higher Mind in our terminology) and may betray the guilty in ways no amount of speech ever will. This is speculation on our part but not without some foundation in meeting and mixing with many different kinds of personalities over the years.

For we should not lose sight of the fact that the Druids, despite their great wisdom, were not introverted, other-worldly mystics, contemplating their navels for their own salvation, but eminently practical men and women who held the reins of power in the land through their influence over kings and princes whose policies they dictated and directed. It was solely due to their efforts that the British resisted the Roman invaders for so many centuries, as we discussed with you in our previous article on the Mystery of the Druids. Those two imposters—Space and Time—prevent us from quoting further examples of this class of Druid wisdom, but we cannot omit to mention one final stanza attributed to Llevoed, a Welsh Bard who flourished in the tenth century which deals with a subject about which so much nonsense has been written and is being written, namely Equality.

"Amongst the children of the same nursery, equality is seldom found:
the brave will play, whilst his blood is flowing about him:
the submissive will be trampled upon:
the fierce will be avoided:
the discreet is in covenant with prosperity;
to him, God pours forth his bounty."

We have had reason to mention the subject of equality in several previous articles. But it is worth repeating that the politically correct notion that Jack is as good as his master or that Jill is as good as her mistress is one of the most pernicious doctrines ever promulgated among mankind. Please do not confuse equality of opportunity with equality of soul, mind and body. They are not the same thing. Just as there are no two human beings who are physiologically the same—even so-called 'identical' twins having different physical characteristics—so are no two minds the same. Each of us will have different experiences, learn different lessons and be faced with different challenges during a single lifetime. Multiply this by the many thousands of lifetimes each of us has spent on this Earth and you will begin to see the utter impossibility of that 'equality' we hear so much about nowadays. Moreover, each one of us is at a different point in our spiritual evolution, some being very old in this respect, others medium, and the majority young in earthly as well as spiritual experience. Where then, is that 'equality' so-called social scientists and behaviourists prate about so glibly? Clearly, the Druids did not believe in this dangerous dogma as the stanza just quoted demonstrates all too clearly.

Nor do we find any such equality between animals. Tell a submissive sheep, if you can get it to listen, that it is the 'equal' of the leopard who is about to eat it for lunch! Or try to persuade a pigeon it is the equal of the hawk who has it firmly clasped in its razor-sharp talons. No—there is no equality on earth between any animal, man, insect, plant, or even viruses, some being much more intelligent than others and therefore more deadly to man. Shakespeare knew this well when he put the following words into the mouth of Hamlet: "Your worm is your only emperor for diet: we fat all Creatures else to fat us, and we fat ourselves for Maggots..." The only equality that exists in this world is that all living forms must perish, though the life that informed them, departs to dwell in other forms. But as all human beings have a lower mind and body, Higher Mind and Soul—they can be said to be equal in that way. But that is the only way in which they are equal.

We may then say that inequalities are found in the steps of evolution, some being newcomers, others teenagers, some mature, some middle-aged, and the rest a lot of old dotards, like the writer, ready to go straight to heaven and feeling too old and feeble to care one hoot where they go so long as it is not another lifetime on Earth! Thus, no two individuals, even if they should be identical twins, can have the same understanding in every detail of a wise saying, a picture, a piece of fine or bad music. No two men react to pain or pleasure in exactly the same manner. The brute will withstand pain which would kill a highly developed and therefore more sensitive man immediately. All this is a result of the different combinations of Higher Mind, lower mind and body which the wise Druids knew all about and which wisdom they preserved in maxims such as the one under discussion. So the next time you hear someone prattling glibly about 'Equality,' you will know they are talking nonsense. It is utterly impossible on earth. Only in the realm so beautifully described in Vision Six of The Golden Star do equals meet, with benevolent results in the case of that high Heaven and dire results in the Hells depicted in The Book of Sa-Heti by the same author.

Moral aphorisms

In the final part of this survey of the wisdom teachings of the Druids we will examine a few moral aphorisms which are essential for the spiritual wellbeing of every sincere traveller upon the path to the Light. Many need no comment, others require some elucidation, but all are as relevant today as they were when they were first formulated thousands of years ago for the benefit of the kings and princes, nobles and chieftains who maintained peace and prosperity throughout the British Isles and even further afield in Gaul, under the guidance of their wise instructors.

"A noble descent is the most desolate of widows, unless it be wedded to some eminent virtue." Although this was clearly intended for the nobility of the times in which the Druids flourished, it has a deeper and higher meaning which some of our readers will recognise. For there have been many of 'noble descent'—meaning those who come to earth with great spiritual or artistic gifts—who prostituted the heavenly riches entrusted to them or let them go to waste. The parable of the Prodigal Son is an illustration of this truth.

"The leader of the populace is seldom long in office. For the ambitious, the limits of a kingdom are too narrow." How true these words are, and how very up-to-date!

"The blessing of competency is not inferior to that of abundance." Were this excellent maxim followed there would be much more happiness in the world and much less poverty, greed and envy. To have sufficient for one's needs and no more; to be comfortable enough not to have to worry where the next penny is coming from or to have to ask the price of everything, yet not so well-off as to worry about losing what one has, brings contentment and harmony.

"Beware of treating any thing with contempt." This shows practical wisdom as well as compassion. The man or woman who is incapable of recognising their own shortcomings in the things or persons they treat with contempt is a fool who is not as wise or virtuous as they think they are. We would like to leave you with two final maxims which we hope you will cherish and never forget all the days of your life.

"Woe to the land where there is no religion." Do not confuse true religion, such as we have tried to reveal to you in our many articles and stories, and especially in our series on Hermes Trismegistus, with sanctimonious knee-worship, empty prayers and dogmatism. This maxim is complimented by another:

"The man who disbelieves a God, is incapable of reason." Note the use of the article 'a' before God; a God, not simply 'God.' This tells us that the Druids knew of many gods (and goddesses too), just like the ancient Egyptians did, granting them the reverence which is their due, each according to their role and function. Thus they recognised freedom of religion and worship long before it was adopted as a fundamental human right or enshrined in law, whilst at the same time acknowledging only one Supreme Deity from whom all that exists has come forth. Here we must end this brief examination and interpretation of the wisdom teachings of the Druids and hope it has given you plenty of food for thought as well as pleasure. For what greater pleasure can there be than to 'learn the things that are, and understand the nature of them, and know God,' as Hermes Trismegistus taught?

© Copyright Article published 23 May 2021.

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