Hermit Tradition

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Hermit Tradition

A tradition from the hermit prospective side by side to a "Druid" can certainly be a disowner at the time of writting. Specifically when attempting to verify or investigate any linkage between the two. Of course the first stumbling block is the sources available. However the question really hinges on whether this can actually be verified as a druid tradition associated, or indeed is it relative or relevant. Yet oral tradition could be more rewarding preserved in literature.

The difficulty with using literature within the modern context of scholarship, unless its been recorded by a recognised and accepted scholar it could be considered to be faulty. Even so within the Humanistic school derived out of France under the leadership of Levi Stuass. It's generally recognised there are two ways of processing and disseminating information. These being the 'Bricolage', defined as the do it yourself and improviser. Indeed is this relevant to oral tradition where knowledge is built on its previous generation experiences creating a tradition. In turn they do likewise and pass this on the next. Transference of such knowledge is then governed by cultural social constraints held within any society.

The alternative method is that of academics' dealing with abstract models, theories and concepts. These then become tested and verified by scholars within its community. However unlike the social restraints of the bricolae, specific rules apply to the scholar's work, which have to be adhered to. Subsequently both approach although valid from each perspective come into conflict with each other. Basically what could become apparent is dependant on the labelling and category human beings slot into, with the approach followed dictates the method and outcome.

Returning to the hermitic tradition; the classical sources specifically those from the earliest Greek sources prior to 2nd century BC has nothing on record concerning any hermit tradition being a cultural norm. Of course after that period one does learn from Caesar that a particular tribal group named 'Ketio' had druids which he recognised as priests within its society. Nonetheless there is no indication that a hermit tradition is evident.

Yet the 3rd century AD becomes more enlightening as there is a movement centred in Egypt and North Africa commonly referred to the "Desert Fathers". These were individuals both male and female who wished to serve their deity in solidarity contemplation. Indeed such isolation from society had its own set of challenges for anyone who may choose such isolation. For a start they are often shunned by society social norms in their quest and were open to abuse and harassment. Therefore a structure was taught which took the middle road between the two. This in turn allowed an organised approach that looked after their spiritual and social requirements. Often associated to monks (Greek for 'one who dwelt alone') into Brother and sisterhoods. Indeed Augustine of Hippo philosophy and approach has in some ways been credited to affect and later promote the ideal both in North Africa and when taking up residence in Rome and Milan. Indeed one may recall the Augustine Rule and monesteries which later became established.

Many Europeans were also attracted to this ideal as it became diseminated indeed some also travelled to North Africa and Egypt. The link between the Franks, Britain and Ireland soon had the ideas transferred across the watery divide. Indeed within the 6th century there was a large amount of individual pilgrimages being undertaken in both directions. For example Columblius, from Ireland made his way across Europe into Switzerland. Likewise Wilfred and Williboard had dealings in Frisha. What does become apparent is a secular hermit tradition develops which has links traceable to the desert teachings. However one gets the impression these ideas for isolation become adjusted to each societies needs.

Astrocelt 2004

Last updated April 14, 2005


Freeman, M.P., 'The Earliest Greek sources on the Celts' in Etudes Celtiques, 1996 Vol. 32 pp 11-48

Green, P. Monastic life, Leicester 1992