In ancient Keltia, the Druid Order consisted of learned men, those educated in Bardic Arts: cosmology, native history, legendary history of heroes and spirituality, penal laws and punishments, geography, healing, botanical medicine, astronomy, astrology and magic…
–Joshua Free explains in the preface to Pheryllt.
It is no wonder the Bardd is viewed as transmitter or catalyst of awen, the essence, divine spark or spirit of inspiration that the Greeks termed gnosis. It is to the ‘ebb and flow’ of the ‘awen field‘ that the poetic genius of Bards is attributed.
Diverse facets of knowledge, from practical magic, to the Bardic Arts, to Celtic history or even philosophies assimilated from cultures that Druids encountered throughout Europe, all appear in Douglas Monroe‘s works under the premise of being referenced from the Book of Pheryllt – or more accurately the Books of Fferyllt, a collective body of knowledge (what is literally called the Body of the Dragon in his preface to the 21 Lessons of Merlyn).
Following the lead of Monroe‘s citations, other cycles of Welsh material are also incorporated into the Book of Pheryllt, namely the Cad Goddeu (or Battle of the Trees) and the Gorchan of Maeldrew and both are contained in Volume I of the Books of Pheryllt. The three do not overlap or necessarily pertain to practical methodology in the sense the Seeker is left with when examining the “grimoire” portions of Douglas Monroe’s Lost Books of Merlyn. The “cantos” depicted on page 252 from that text are actually derived from a cycle of Norse mythology titled: Fridthjof’s Saga.
“The Druids believed in books more ancient than the flood. They styled them the ‘Books of Pheryllt’ and the writings of Hu.”
– Ignatius Donnelly, ‘Atlantis’
“Oxford is old, even in England… its foundations date from Alfred, and even from Arthur, if, as is alleged, the Pheryllt of the Druids had a seminary there.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson, English Traits
According to Douglas Monroe a manuscript known as the ‘Book of Pheryllt‘ from the 16th century collection is attributed to a modern antiquarian Bard: Llywelyn Sion of Glamorgan, Wales. It is purportedly moved from the library of Owen Morgan “Morian” to the private collection of the Albion Lodge of the ‘United Ancient Order of Druids of Oxford‘ before coming into Monroe’s possession. Barddas, also by Llywelyn Sion, strongly influenced work of Douglas Monroe, neodruidism and the National Welsh Eisteddfod. In addition to Monroe‘s work, Barddas is highly recommended as a companion to the Pheryllt.
“It became rapidly clear that to give the ‘Body of the Dragon’ its true justice, given the many diverse subjects and scattered references from Douglas Monroe’s trilogy and the mysterious manner which Bards conceal knowledge, that my facsimile of the Pheryllt material required more than one volume to be complete.”
— Joshua Free
ADDITIONAL EDITOR’S NOTES: The reader will quickly find that much of the herbal lore, formulas and Ogham knowledge is held back from the first volume in order to establish proper roots of doctrine and tradition. As a debut volume it was important for it to carry integrity of authentic Welsh Bardism; not simply one more ‘book of shadows‘ on the market overrun by incense blends and notes for self-guided visualizations. How long it will take to bring this venture to its completion is another matter altogether. It has already taken years to muster the spiritual courage and mental fortitude to even consider such a feat, even though I am well versed in Douglas Monroe‘s specific brand of Druidry and have written extensively on the topic in previous books…
“–Ac yna yr ordeinodd hi drwy gelfyddydd llyfrau Pheryllt I ferwi pair o Awen.”
“–So she (Ceridwen) took to the crafts of the Book of Pheryllt to boil a cauldron of Awen.”
– from the ‘Hanes Taliesen’, Peniarth MS
We have been given little in classical literature or even antiquarian druidism to satisfy hunger for Pheryllt (pronounced FAIR-ee-llt or VAIR-ult) research, and even less to support an in-depth critique of their founder, a figure named Pharaon (FAR-ah-on), and translated by some scholars to mean ‘higher powers‘. Perhaps it is ‘Druid Craft’ to call down ‘higher powers’ to conjure inspiration and magic – perhaps that is what Ceridwen is doing in the famous reference above. In either case, it has spawned an entire branch of modern druid methodology and a natural universalist philosophy even if only in spirit…
The Druids were historically a learned group of men and women made popular during the “ancient” Celtic times. They formed their own communities in Keltia, what we more commonly know as Ireland, Britain and Gaul (now France). Their counsel and wisdom was sought out by many different groups of people and societies, particularly when some mediation was required.
With much unhappiness I can easily say that the majority of the public texts involving the ancient Druids was documented or based on documents of the ancient Romans, who were notoriously the archenemy of the Druids. With this in mind, there is not much we can take for granted (or at the very least, unbiased) from these Roman accounts. After all, if we were responsible for preserving the memory of our enemies, how might we go about coloring this with our attitudes?
It is well known that the Druids held the Oak Tree as sacred, as well as the herb referred to as “mistletoe.” Both herbs make frequent appearances in Druidic rituals. It has become fairly well propagated knowledge, as well, that human sacrifices played some prominent role in their tradition as well. With the coming of Christianity, Druidism faced its final days with the ‘fall of the elves’ and the donation of the Roman Empire by Emperor Constantine to the establishment of the “Vatican” Catholic Church. The ‘End of Days’ for the Druids appeared to have come about in the sixth century, when it disappeared for a time…
…but here we are now in the 20th century, going into the 21st [We are, of course, now in the 21st century at the time of printing. -Ed.] Druidism and neopaganism has begun to once again play a significant role in modern culture. It appears to have made a reappearance in the public’s eye sometime in the 1400’s and 1500’s, when Druidism was being studied by medieval historians and the first ‘books’ were written on the topic (post-Romana) explaining what was found from these studies. Lost manuscripts were being discovered in obscure places and many ancient writings were being deciphered by ‘antiquarians’.
In the 1600’s and 1700’s, colleges and universities in Europe were beginning to study this revived interest in the Druids more academically. Lost books containing ceremonies and rituals in varying European languages became the subject of interpretation among people from all walks of life. By the late 1800’s and beginning of the 1900’s, the word was spreading quickly about the revivalist traditions and systems of Druidry – and looking back we can see the period where the majority of what we academically learned about the Druids became solidified in public consciousness was during this time. What had begun as the uncovering of a myth was developing into a historical natural living religion.
English, Welsh and Irish nationalist founded a new order of Druids for modern times, calling themselves the “Ancient Order of Druids.” They set our to revive their own practical interpretation of the ancient Druid tradition – even reclaiming Stonehenge in the name of the Druids and observing public ceremonies there as often as possible. Soon after, because of tourism, Stonehenge began to show increasing signs of damage and the landowners decided to begin charging an entrance fee in order to offset maintenance costs. When the AOD showed up and refuse to pay, they were arrested accordingly for misconduct.
In the 1930’s the name of the revival changed to the “Ancient Order of Druid Hermeticists” – a membership that was composed of ex-AOD members by eighty percent. The AODH devised their own newsletter magazine titled Pendragon. By 1955 only one of the original five chapters of the AODH still existed – they even claimed to be the sole survivors practicing of the original Ancient Order of Druids (AOD)…