Druids and Sacrifice
As modern individuals walking a Druid path, we are faced with a primary obstacle: How do we construct a way of worship which complements the path already inscribed within our hearts? There are no “Grand Grimoires” of the Druids (or the Wiccans, for that matter!). Little, if anything, exists in ‘ancient written records’ as to the beliefs and practices of the Druids. What records do exist were generally written by outsiders (such as Caesar, Strabos, and Deodorus) – beyond that, zip, zero — nothing. We therefore must go to the origins — the people and cultures which defined the faith of the Druids. By so doing, we may gain enough understanding to construct some semblance of the Druid’s religion.
It is neither practical nor advisable to attempt to recreate the ways of the Druids identically in minute detail (besides, human sacrifices are so inconvenient!) Yes, there is enough evidence that we can say that the ancient Celts did practice one form or another of human sacrifice. There is a great deal of evidence that these sacrifices were voluntary in nature. These were intermediaries, in their deaths they took the petitions of their people directly before the Gods of their clan. Modern pagan clergy takes on this role today (obviously without the death requirement) as intermediaries between the Gods and their grove/coven/kindred. It is generally accepted in modern pagan culture that the greatest pagan principle is to harm none.
Most groups include the self as part of the ‘none’ we are to avoid harming. Taking the life of another or yourself is quite a large ‘harm’, and probably is the most often-used reasoning behind the discontinuance of sacrifice. Actually, blood sacrifices were discontinued long before the tenet of ‘harm none’ was ever placed on paper. There are no authenticated evidences of Druid sacrifice beyond about the first century CE, while the tenet of ‘harm none’ is usually accepted as dating from the late 19th – early 20th centuries (generally attributed to Gerald Gardener, Doreen Valiente, or Aleister Crowley). Today, our sacrifices are herbs, incense, flowers, oils – all wonderfully acceptable to the Gods. Those other supposedly ‘dire’ sacrifices are best suited for cheap horror flicks.
To follow a Druid path in the modern age, it is not necessary to reconstruct any of the ‘exact’ rites of our ancient predecessors. It is equally important to follow our own hearts, as well as the spirit of those ancient cultures. Modern elements and the fancies of our imaginations can be just as appropriate to a ritual than the most arcane sounding lines found in some dusty old tome. What we must not do, however, is try to claim ancient unbroken lineage for something we made up yesterday (this has caused some authors no end of trouble in the past!). An ancient source does not make something more authentic. Although there are those who still insist that the only correct way is the most ancient one possible: intact, with no changes; if it comes from the heart, the Gods know.