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The Passing of St. Brigid of Kildare. Smithsonian American Art Museum (CC0)

Bandrui And Banflaith The Druidesses Of Yore

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A woman's face, dubbed Hilda, was reconstructed from an ancient skull housed in The University of Edinburgh's Anatomical Museum. Hilda lived between 55 BC and 400 AD and was of Celtic origin. She was probably more than 60 years old when she died, nearly double the life expectancy of the time, as a female's life expectancy in her era was roughly 31 years. Having a long life during the Iron Age indicates a privileged background. Hilda's was one of the six ‘Druids of the Hebrides’ skulls presented to the Edinburgh Phrenological Society in 1833. Therefore, Hilda was most likely a female druid.

The wax model of 60 year-old “Druid of the Hebrides” produced by Karen Flemming. ( University of Dundee )

The wax model of 60 year-old “Druid of the Hebrides” produced by Karen Flemming. ( University of Dundee )

Druids’ Role In Society

Poets and prophets, astrologers and astronomers, seers, magicians, and diviners were usually comprised of druids. It was the druid who remembered the tribal histories and genealogies. Druids were also the ones who memorized the laws. They served as diplomats, lawyers, judges, herbalists, healers, and battle magicians. Among them were also satirists, sacred singers, storytellers, nobility children's teachers, ritualists, astronomers, philosophers, natural scientists, and mathematicians. Being a druid meant serving a whole tribe. No king or queen could function without the assistance of a druid, because the druid knew the laws and precedents upon which the ruler could not pass judgement.

Druid and warriors ( Erica Guilane-Nachez/ Adobe Stock)

Druid and warriors ( Erica Guilane-Nachez/ Adobe Stock)

Female druids, or druidesses, are referred to by a variety of terms. Bandrui (woman-druid) is mentioned in Medieval Irish folklore. Conchobor Mac Nessa, the king of Ulster in Irish mythology's Ulster Cycle, was most likely named after his mother, Nessa, rather than his father. Nessa was a druidess. Scathach, a legendary Scottish warrior woman and martial arts instructor who trained the legendary Ulster hero Cú Chulainn in the arts of combat, is explicitly referred to as a flaith (prophetess) as well as a druid. There are also the banflaith (sometimes banfili), or women poets, most notably Fedelm, a female prophet and banflaith in the Ulster Cycle. She appears in the great epic Táin Bó Cuailnge (colloquially known as The Cattle Raid of Cooley or the Táin).


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Martini Fisher is an Ancient Historian and author of many books, including Time Maps:Australia, Early Sea Voyages and Invasions | Check out

Top Image: The Passing of St. Brigid of Kildare. Smithsonian American Art Museum (CC0)

By Martini Fisher

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Martini Fisher comes from a family of history and culture buffs. She graduated from Macquarie University, Australia, with a degree in Ancient History. Although her interest in history is diverse, Martini is especially interested in  mythologies, folklores and ancient funerary... Read More

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