1000 BCE - 600 CE
Paleodruidism refers specifically to the religion of the classical Celts, during the generally accepted period of 500 BCE - 500 CE. These dates are not set in stone, of course, as there is some debate as to when the Celts emerged as a culture and when the pagan religion was fully subsumed by Christianity. However, this thousand year period is a convenient timeframe. As such, the religion is likely most firmly rooted in the earliest Indo-European beliefs expounded upon by Georges Dumezil.
In practice, there are some significant differences between the Paleodruids and the later Meso- and Neodruids:
Also, there are several misconceptions about the Paleodruids:
It should be pointed out that the Paleodruids did not refer to their religion as "Druidism"--a term which, as far as I can tell, began in the eighteenth century, with the advent of the Mesodruids. The Celts' religion was an extension of their culture, and while there may have been cults to certain gods, no names of these cults survive, unlike the names of the mystery cults of the Greco-Roman world. (Even that, I don't know that the mystery cults referred to themselves by the names we now know them.)
Unfortunately, the paleodruids had a prohibition against the recording of their beliefs, believing that such knowledge must be transfered orally. Hense, there are gaps in our knowledge about their religion, and scholars must rely on "outsider" information (i.e. Greco-Roman writers) and conjectures based on late recordings of Irish and Welsh mythology.
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Mary Jones © 2004