Druidic

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LORE

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Druids were members of a highly respected order in ancient Celtic cultures. Even if they left no written account of themselves and their practices, they are known from contemporary sources, the importance of their role in ancient Gaul and the British isles having been made very clear even to foreign observers.

Lorekeepers, healers, religious leaders, diviners, legal authorities, and political advisors to Celtic chieftains and nobles, they had many functions and were most certainly of great importance in these ancient societies. Nevertheless, they are still shrouded in mysteries, and a lot of the information we possess about them has been tainted one way or the other by Roman or later Christian influences.

Medieval Christian depictions of the druids and their practices often placed them in the negative roles of mystics and sorcerers that resisted the spread of Christianity. This perception of the druids as archetypical pagans had a lot of impact on their presentation in popular media, to the point where druidism is often perceived as a form of European shamanism akin to indigenous spirituality, overlooking their differences and nuances. On the other hand, neopagan druidic faith is a modern religious phenomenon that also influenced the popular depiction of ancient druids.

Created in opposition to Christianity, this spirituality evolved from a romanticised representation of iron age druidry, and often includes a strong reverence of the natural world and environmentalist values, with oak trees having an especially sacred status.

This idea of the druids as animistic tree worshippers explains why their fantasy counterparts have grown to be so different from the lorekeepers and priests of ancient Gaul. The popular figure of the druid in fiction is much closer to the animal speaking, herb scholar, and recluse Radagast the Brown from Tolkien’s work. There is very little in common between the shapeshifting hermit druids of Dungeon and Dragons and the Celtic druids that were often described as philosopher-priests.

Characters

In fantasy, druids are often portrayed as wise and knowledgeable hermits, well-learned natural scholars that have herbs and concoctions for many purposes. Their relationship with society is complex, as they may occupy an important spiritual role for their community, but may feel closer to the wild, its inhabitants, and its spirits than any tribe or clan. Some druids can even see themselves as wardens of nature, bulwark standing between the destroying force of civilization and the fragile stability of the forest. This tension between nature and society can be a rich aspect to explore for any druid player, causing conflicts and moral dilemmas to the character, and putting them at odds with more industrious and expansionist ambitions.

While the archetypal druid may be an old and soft-spoken sage worried by balance and continuity, there is also a terrifying and ruthless aspect to the natural world that can breed a very different take on such characters. Nature isn’t only about trees, peaceful lakes, verdant plains, and gentle beasts. Predation knows no pity, and its violence has nothing to envy to the ravages of war. In the eyes of the hunter, the prey is nothing but meat, or maybe practice for the young ones. A more feral druid could see the world in a similar fashion, with little place for empathy and consideration for those they consider weak or dangerous. This kind of druid may perceive civilization as a force that corrupts everything it touches with its comfort and luxury, seeing city dwellers as nothing more than domesticated cattle, made soft and dull by their lifestyle.

Likewise, the elements can be a terrifying aspect of nature. Little matches the destructive power of wildfires, thunderstorms, earthquakes, and floods. Druids can revere these forces, trying to understand the meaning behind these catastrophes, or trying to appease them to protect the ones they love. A druid could even serve as a vehicle for these ravaging forces, spreading the wrath of nature where it is deemed necessary. In a similar way, rot, decay, and disease can be seen as part of the natural cycle, bringing with them much more sinister and grotesque druids that serve this aspect of life, rejoicing in the birth of maggots and the countless fungus that feed on a carcass.

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Costumes

In LARP, druids should focus on clothing and accessories that reinforce the theme of their character as nature worshippers. Some may opt for brown, green, or pale togas and hooded robes, the simple and modest attire of an acetic that lives in harmony with the wild. Some may prefer more practical clothing akin to those of rangers and hunters, warm cloaks, sturdy tunics, and pants best suited for long treks through the forest. Simpler, more basic clothing like loincloths, hides, furs, and the rudimentary attires of hunter-gatherers could also be used by druids coming from isolated tribes, barbarian backgrounds, or choosing to bring themselves closer to the natural world by leaving behind the technology of more urbanized societies.

No matter the basic clothes chosen for the character, the key for a great druid costume are in the accessories. Wooden bracelets and necklaces, dried herbs, small bones, feathers, potions, deer antlers, and various mystical tokens and symbols should be visible on the druid’s clothes and body. Pouches and bags are also quite important, as any spellcaster, healer, or diviner needs tools for their trade, and space to carry various vials and pots to mix herbs and remedies. Said accessories can even be decorated with themed patterns and engravings, such a Celtic symbols, knotwork, trees, and leaves added right on the leather of a belt on the top of a pouch.

In terms of weapons, the most traditional druid character would certainly carry a sturdy oak staff or walking stick, as well as a sickle, an herbalist tool that can be used for self-defense if needed. However, more aggressive druids would prefer to be armed with more dangerous or intimidating weapons. Large clubs like the Irish shillelagh can be wielded with devastating effects in battle, and even matched with a shield or wooden buckler for aggressive skirmish tactics. Stone age weapons like axes and spears are also very appropriate for a druid coming from an isolated tribe. Lastly, bows may be used for sustenance hunting by nature dwellers and turned against the enemies of the forest if needed.