Druids and cromlechs

The druid, standing in the cromlechs, did not receive abstract knowledge, but experienced there what pulsated in his blood, what pulsed through him inwardly.

Druids and cromlechs

The spiritual development of the Celtic folk soul – Part 7

(To part 6)

Rudolf Steiner made a trip to England in the 1920s and visited the ancient mystery places of the Druids. With his clairvoyant gift he has observed the qualities of the Druid priests in the distant past in Ilkley and Anglesey. These are described in Initiation Science and Star Wisdom [1].

The following is a brief description of his observations.

Druid wisdom was basically an unconscious memory of everything the earth had before the sun and moon split from her. That’s what the Druid priests’ initiation had to do with it: it was a solar initiation and it brought lunar wisdom with it.

The Druids were leaders for their people or tribes, both in religion and medicine. They were all in one.

They perceived in their closed dolmen the spiritual powers of the sun, and were thus the continuators of the great Hibernian mysteries (more on this later [x]) of antiquity. In those dark spaces of the dolmen, the upper part covered with a capstone, it was possible for the trained priest to perceive the spiritual essence of the sunlight. The druid priest, standing before the altar, occupied himself with the inner qualities of the sun and thus the wisdom, which was a force of nature, flowed into him.

We must always keep in mind that we are describing a period when nothing was written down. That came later with the Odin culture that brought the runic script. They did not take up a book to obtain knowledge, but read in the cosmos. The Druids read what the sunlight did to the cromlechs in order to learn the secrets of the universe. That way they could tell the farmers when to reap and when to sow. These impulses were much stronger than the sensory experiences of modern man.

The Druid, standing in the cromlechs, did not receive abstract knowledge, but experienced there what pulsated in his blood, what pulsed through him inwardly. This working into his physical constitution had at the same time a spiritual aspect, and this inwardly being moved was his knowledge. Thus he obtained his solar initiation and thereby gained the ability to understand the lunar forces left behind when the moon split off. And because on the one hand he was able to get to know the solar activity inwardly, it also became clear to him how other qualities of the cosmos, for example the lunar activities, pour themselves out in these solar activities. The sun makes the plant germinate and sprout, and it is bounded therein by the moon, which holds back these sprouting forces. After all, the moon reflects sunlight. It has a limiting effect in the plant because it sends the root forces upwards, causing the plant to grow and to form stem, leaf, flower and fruit.

In daylight, and in summer at its strongest, the Druid priest experienced what the sun revealed to him, but at night he experienced the forces of the moon working beneath him in the plant roots.

This did not give him abstract knowledge, but he experienced the forces of nature in their weaving and working in all their vividness. He saw these forces as elemental beings that grew in the stones, plants and trees. When these forces were held by the gods within the beneficent confines of root, flower, and leaf, normal vegetation unfolded.

However, these elemental beings could also grow to gigantic dimensions and are referred to as ‘Jötuns‘ in Norse mythology. These elemental beings did not stop at the plant: they aspired to go out and grow into giants, frost giants, for instance, that finally spread a devastating expression over the earth in the form of an all-destroying icy frost. The root forces that flowed out from a beneficial existence in the plant eventually became a destructive frost.

Even that which dwelt in the leaf growth could grow into gigantic mist storms which eventually transformed into a destructive fire. Thus the modest flowering power of a plant turned into an all-scorching fire. One could then speak of the products of the adversary of the gods.

In the meteorological processes therefore, one saw the gigantic forces of the elemental beings of the watery and the airy in the form of bubbling hoarfrost and dew. By his solar initiation, the Druid priest read in these processes what he could obtain from the cosmos, and under the urging of this initiation what knowledge he could obtain from the lunar science. All this was clearly connected with the religious and the social. This best exemplifies in the way the Druids dealt with medical science. They observed what happened to the plants when they were confronted with the frost giants, the storm giants and the fire giants, and tried to reproduce these processes in a certain way. They cooked, froze or burned their plants, emulating what happened in nature at large. By utilizing their lunar powers, they could keep the destructive forces of the Jötuns, those giants of storm, frost and fire, within certain limits. From this they then developed their medicines and medicinal herbs, which were based on the reconciliation of the giants with the gods. Every remedy of that time had the reconciling power between gods and giants: in those remedies, the giant forces were restrained to make themselves subservient to the solar power.

All these things may sound very strange to us, but we must bear in mind that at the time when these things took place there was no trace of intellect. This civilization lay over large parts of northern and central Europe some three to three and a half thousand years ago. Then nothing had been written down and there was only the cosmic writing that could be read by the priests. Then later a mystery spread into it that came from the region of the Black Sea and which in Norwegian mythology is referred to as Odin.

The Odin culture is a Mercurian culture, it brought something new in addition to the then sun and moon character, namely an intellectual impulse. Hence it is said that Woden or Odin is the bringer of the runic script; he brought an art of decipherment that man could create for himself for the first time in a primitive, intellectualized way. From that time on, everything received the so-called Odin impulse which was a precursor to the later intellectual civilization.

Now the priests from the sun and moon culture were not in favour of this development, which they regarded as a disease. A person afflicted with the Odin impulse would shut himself in and begin to brood. The Druids didn’t think you should shut yourself up, you should live together in nature! They regarded people who made signs, the runes, as sick, who needed to be healed.


Thus it came to be that the Woden or Odin culture was not understood.

Balder was the son of Odin and also the personification of the intellectuality which was a whole new impulse. The Druids wanted to cure Balder, but had no cure for his “illness.” The Druids believed that this intellectuality could only lead to one thing, namely death. We see in Balder, the god who could not rise from the dead, the forerunner of the later Christ who did rise from the dead. This is because Christ descended to earth directly from the solar sphere, and Balder, the Mercurius being, was only the reflection of Christ personified as sunlight.

So the Druid priest sought his ideas of the religious and the social in the dark cromlechs which gave him his knowledge. He reworked the destructive giants in the  outside world into medicine. Powers that are poisonous on a large scale, become beneficial remedies when applied in small measure and in the right place.

Thus the Druids, through the solar initiation, practiced the primordial wisdom left behind by the lunar beings while they were still on earth. When we talk about humanity from thousands of years ago, we must be aware that a completely different consciousness was then at hand, otherwise the above is not a real sketch of the situation.

Man before the 14th century had a very different constitution. Being awake then did not proceed in the patterns as we know them now: in the logical coherence of progressing events. Nowadays our consciousness can be divided into: waking, dreaming and sleeping, and had its precursor in the later Greek times.

The meteorological qualities, which we now call natural phenomena, had a very different meaning for ancient man. These laws were seen as elemental forces with an essential characteristic. At the borders of trees and plants one saw expanding giants, spiritual beings that ruled over wind and weather, in hail and storm. The whole of nature was one great living whole. We can read these stories about the Jötuns, the giants of frost, rain and wind, in the Norse myths.

Man was also in a way locked within himself, but not as we know it today. People saw images outside themselves, but also not in the way in which we now see mountains, for example. Man felt close to the frost, wind and rain giants, which he saw as root and flower spirits. He felt at one with that, and because he felt so connected there, he did not separate himself from it in his inner life.

In that former consciousness there was still more that distinguished itself. They not only saw in these images their existence in the present, but also saw their pre-earth life. Just as we now see everything in a spatial perspective, they viewed their existence in a temporal perspective; not as in a memory, but as a view in sight. He saw that before his birth he lived in a spiritual world, after which he later descended on earth in a material body. Later on, the natural experience of the outer world was increasingly expressed there. At that time he still knew that he was born of spirit, but he also saw the purely material phenomena in nature, such as the flowers, the mountains, the valleys and the rivers. He felt how his human form was born of the spirit, but that he had descended into a world that had nothing to do with the spiritual: he experienced this as being ostracized from that spiritual world. He experienced that he had fallen from the divine world and had been placed in a nature where his human quintessence did not belong.

It resulted in a sense of guilt, of sin. Thus arose in that person his sense of guilt, his fall into sin. It was nothing but a change of consciousness, but he didn’t understand that. From the ancient Indian cultures it was the wise world teachers, the priests who had undergone an initiation, who brought comfort to man, who spoke like a balm to the hearts.

They knew that the great Sun Spirit was preparing to incarnate on Earth. Thousands of years ago, the human body was not so hardened by the workings of the intellectual forces as it is today. The souls, through patience and practice, could open like a chalice into which the divine world could pour. They could read the coming of Christ from the changes in the ether world, when He poured out His life spirit in the ether world. They called Christ, Righ nan Dul, the King of the Elements.

(To be continued in part 8)


[1] Rudolf SteinerInitiationswissenschaft und Sternenerkenntnis, [Initiation Science and Star Wisdom] GA 228 (1923), (English: rsarchive.org)

[2] Rudolf SteinerDie Tempellegende und die goldene Legende [The temple legend and the golden legend], GA 93 (1904), (English: rsarchive.org)


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Date: October 23, 2021
Author: Benita Kleiberg (Netherlands)
Photo: Pixabay CC0

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