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…
We’ve all heard of the Druids, but how much do you really know about them? The classic image of a circle of white-robed wizards who gather at Stonehenge is immediately conjured to mind. Beyond that, there is the image crafted at Hollywood…
…two teenage Druids must prevent the son of Satan from using runestones to bring about the end of the world (Warlock 2: The Armageddon).
…a Druid nanny must sacrifice newborn babies to her sacred tree, which has the powers to protect and heal her (The Guardian).
…a tribe of Druid shamans, who drink orange soda, dominate a tropical island possessing an active volcano that requires an occasional sacrifice (Joe vs. Volcano).
[This blog is based on materials originally appearing in the third edition of “Sorcerer’s Handbook of Merlyn Stone” (1998), written by the present author at age 16, reprinted within “The Lost Books of Merlyn Stone” (2011) and the “Wizardry” anthology.]
Unfortunately there has been a lack of decent materials for the aspiring modern Druids. Most of the books available are rehashes of their questionable history. Fewer resources will relate to the reader something pragmatic and practical for our times – again, unfortunate. However, the Mardukite Truth Seeker Press has recently released the revised and expanded edition of the complete course curriculum in Druidry, now available as THE DRUID COMPLEAT by Joshua Free.
1. There were no human sacrifices related to Druidry in Britain or Ireland. There is some evidence for this on mainland Europe, for example Gaul (now France) — and even then, only in regards to the Gaulic Wars involving Roman prisoners. The Romans, whose tales are used by historians as a bible for learning of the Druids, had encountered and wrote of the Druids of Gaul before they invaded Britain. The accounts are extraordinarily biased and xenophobic in their interpretation.
2. The Druidic histories and lessons were written down. This was one of the many purposes of the Ogham script – in addition to using the ‘tree alphabet’ to arrange ‘forest libraries’ consisting of dried leaves. The Druids also knew how to apply the Ogham to hand signals and gestures giving them a silent ‘sign-language’. Romans sought to destroy all the evidence that the Druids exist-ed and their legions of soldiers were fed with a new-found ‘fire’ when invading the Celts. Julius Caesar once even recounted that the Druids had put up the most resistance to an invasion than any other culture encountered by the Roman Empire.
3. Druidism never was, nor should it be, considered a “religion” in the context that the word is used in contemporary society. It can be better examined as a “fraternity,” “brotherhood,” or “secret society,” with an equally significant Celtic-based “sorority” known as the Motherhood of Avalon. Similar organizations still exist and they share a long lineage of participation with various ‘secret orders’.
The Druids are an interesting archetype. For all of recorded time, there has always been someone or some group claiming to be druidic. In spite of this, or maybe because of it, the hardcore lineage and true sources of practical modern Druidry are difficult to ascertain. In many ways, Druidry can be best described as a niche – it seems to come naturally, and people are naturally inclined or drawn toward it or not…
For the first time since its prestigious underground release in 1996, Joshua Free’s “Druid Compleat“ is finally available in this all-in-one volume, revised, expanded and reformatted to include the complete text from the author’s personal Druidic trilogy, available separately as “Druidry“, “Draconomicon“ and “Book of Elven-Faerie“.