Member of a learned class of priests, teachers, and judges among the ancient Celtic peoples. The Druids instructed young men, oversaw sacrifices, judged quarrels, and decreed penalties; they were exempt from warfare and paid no tribute. They studied ancient verse, natural philosophy, astronomy and religious lore; their principal doctrine was belief in the immortality of the soul and the transmigration of souls. They sometimes practiced human sacrifice to cure gravely ill people or protect warriors in battle. The Druids were suppressed in Gaul by the Romans in the 1st century AD and in Britain a little later. They lost their priestly functions in Ireland after the coming of Christianity but survived as poets, historians, and judges. See also Celtic religion.

This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise.
For the full entry on Druid, visit Britannica.com.

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