Children of Ben Dudlach
Times change. What once was the way everyone did things eventually becomes the barbaric or forgotten past. Cealtanach culture is slower to change than most, being fundamentally traditionalist, but even it changes under pressure. The pressures it faces today are the increasing raids of the Stormhir and the rising of the keeps of the Mersurien. Already the Bretonach are a shadow of their former strength and everyday the Cuimranach find more and more cause to treat and trade with their neighbors. The comparatively isolated Gaeltanach and Eiranach cling more firmly to the past, but even they can see the writing on the wall.
Broadly speaking the “Old Ways” are aspects of Cealtanach culture that are fading from practice. This encompasses many things from language, to food, to beliefs and rituals. More narrowly the “Old Ways” refer to Druidic practices now maintained by only three schools within the Druidic Order ( Inchfraholm, Caernagall, and Avalon.
Some of the cultural practices that are fading include:
Sacrificial Warriors – It used to be common to consecrate infants to be trained as lifelong warriors bound to the land by ancient rituals, such as the Children of Ben Dudlach. This practice has been replaced with Fiannas which are more like voluntary mercenary companies and have a very poor reputation.
Human Sacrifice – Though the Cealtanach peoples always practiced a voluntary form of human sacrifice and only on rare occasions, it has almost entirely ceased. It is regarded as barbaric by the Mersurien and the Stormhir.
Head Hunting – It was once common for warriors to take the heads of their opponents as trophies and put them on stakes outside their homes, both as a warning to enemies and because they were talismans to keep away evil creatures. Bardic songs tell of trophy heads screaming to warn a hero of an enemy’s approach. Now only a few clans engage in this practice openly, though more than a few clans still do it secretly.
Some of the Druidic practices now thought of as the “Old Ways” include:
Tree Talismans – Different types of trees, it is known, have different properties and it is possible even to draw mystical power from them if you know how. Or at least, that is what the Druids used to teach. It is still common for people to put Rowan branches over their lintel to ward off evil magic, and some superstitious Warriors might keep a piece of jewelry made of Aspen on their person, but most proud Warriors prefer Gold these days. It is rumored that once any person with sufficient knowledge, not just Druids could work powerful spells with a simple talisman made from the right kind of wood.
Tree Burials – Druids, being Clanless do not have a family to build a cairn for them. Druids nowadays claim that they receive a vision telling them when it is time for them to return to the earth and they simply wander into the woods alone and disappear. Some claim they vanish into Faery, but most believe they are eaten by wild beasts. A very few Druids receive the ancient Tree Burial where they are somehow embedded in the roots of an ancient and powerful tree and become spiritually one with it. In this way, it is believed powerful Druids could live for hundreds of years beyond their mortal span – as a tree.
Ogham Wands – The use of Ogham is now mainly confined to the Eiranach clans and there for mundane purposes. Once, though, Ogham was used by Druids and Bards everywhere as the very marks of ritual power and purpose, and manipulating these markings could bend the laws of nature in fabulous ways. The most common and well known method of using Ogham was in marking specially prepared wands to create an instrument for channeling the energy of the land. Some of these wands still exist and are often kept as family heirlooms. They are now mere antiques. Curiosities, without real power.