really shouldn't be a need for an apologist-style screed for the existence
of female druids, or Bandrui. Enough information can be readily
gleaned from classical Roman sources and Irish legends that, once one
takes a look, female Druids are obviously there, waving you a hearty
hello (or throwing curses, if you're a Roman). However, modern Druidry
carries a lot of baggage from the old Druid revivals of the 1700s and
1800s-- these were men's groups, akin to America's Elks Club or Lions
Club, that called themselves "Druid" out of a sense of national
British pride, but that had no relationship at all to the historical
Druids. A lot of good things came out of the Druid Revivals of those
years, but the dogma that "Druids Must Be Men" is one that
should be tossed aside as an attitude both unhistorical, sexist, and,
more importantly, useless to modern Druids.
what little information we have about Druids in general, any reference
at all to one single female Druid should be enough to end any arguments
about female Druids.
are eleven references:
Mac Nessa is named after his mother Nessa, who is described as a Bandrui.
was raised by Scathach. In English translations, she's frequently called
a witch, but in Gaelic she's a flaith, or "prophetess"
and a Druid.
Scriptores Histories Augustae, (4th century CE) records that
Roman emperors consulted female Druids.
writer Aelius Lampridius, in Alexander Severus, about the Roman
emperor who reigned from 222-235CE, writes: "Furthermore, as he
went to war, a Druid prophetess cried out in the Gallic tongue, 'Go,
but do not hope for victory, and put no trust in your soldiers.' "
Vopiscus in the 4th century CE, in Numerianus, talks about a
Druidess prophesying to Diocletian, and in Aurelianus about female
Druids counseling the emperor Claudius.
Mac Luchta of Munster visits a Druidess every Samhain who would fortell
the events of the coming year.
story of the fight between the Tuatha de Danaan and the Fomori, The
Second Battle of Moytura, mentions two Druidesses.
The Cattle Raid of Cooley, Mebd, the Queen of Connacht, consults
a Druidess named Fidelma.
Cassius mentions a Druidess named Ganna who went on an embassy to Rome
and was received by Domitian, younger son of the Emperor Vespasian.
a story of Romans encountering a female Druid in Gaul long after the
Gaulish Druids were supposedly wiped out. (I'm still looking for the
Pomponius Mela relates in De Chorographica that nine virgin "priestesses"
who lived on the island of Sena, in Brittany, "knew the future."
the Celts didn't have the same gender divisions that were part of Greek
and Roman culture. Celtic women fought alongside their men. They could
own property, they could divorce, they were the leaders of tribes. They
were poets and scholars and seers. It would be very odd if they were
not Druids as well. It's possible that when describing Druids, people
like Caesar, looking through Roman eyes, simply didn't see female Druids
because it just didn't occur to him that those women standing next to
those men could have the same status.
look for women who have been labeled "witches" in the old
Irish and Welsh stories. If she walks like a Druid and talks like a
Druid, then she's probably a Druid. Remember that the old Irish and
Welsh stories were compiled by Christian monks who would not readily
consider a powerful magician a Druid if she was female.
list compiled by Ed Chapman; information gleaned from Peter Beresford
Ellis's works, from Kenneth R. White at http://www.geocities.com/irishdruid/62.htmand
http://www.digitalmedievalist.com/faqs/bandrui.html There's more. Go
online and type in "Druid, female, classical" and see what
you come up with!)