I joined the Druid Network recently, and I am working my way through one of their free online courses - Polytheist Druidry, which you can find here. In the lessons there are some written excersises which you have to answer, as I will be doing that here. (I have a notebook, but found that I'd not left enough space for my answers, so I'll be writing them here. The answers are quite personal, and as such may not be accurate compared to acadmeic sourses and writing. If you want accurate information, then academic sources are a better reference.
LESSON ONE: EARLY INSULAR CELTS
What are the popular images (good and bad) associated with the Celtic countries and peoples? What feelings do these images evoke for you?
I decided to make a list of associations that came to me as I thought on this question, and explain why they came to mind, and what I think about them.
The first is Gandalf or a Merlin type figure, or a wizard. Of course, Merlin features quite a lot in Arthurian legends and is what comes to mind when you think of a Druid. I remember as a child being frightened of magic and anything to do with witches and wizards, but that was because I was condictioned to through media and Christian upbringing. They no longer have that fear association for me, and my view of them is a positive one. Of course, when you think of Gandalf, you can't help but think of Saruman, who seeks knowledge and power only for his own gain, and destorys much to do so. It is worth bearing in mind that knowledge and power can be corrupted just as much as it can be used in a positive way.
Human sacrifice. This is a common assumption made about Celtic countries because of the writings of the Greeks and Romans on the subject. We do know that the Romans in particular, were conquerors so it is reasonable to consider it inaccurate. It is difficult to know if it took place or not, since writings by the Celts themselves were scarce before they were Christiainzed. It is something that disgusts me, but there has always been violence in the world, and every culture as some form of it.
Irish terrorissm. Ok, a more modern issue, but does have strong associations with the Irish people of today and it comes to mind because people have a tendency to be 'proud' of their heritiage. It is negative because it is a form of nationalism and ruins the lives of people who get caught up in it.
Drinking alcohol. It is a negative assocation and a modern one because it is used as marketing in regards to St. Patrick's day. I prefer the Welsh and Scottish take on Celtic culture Arthurian Legends and the remnants of it that remains in England and it is no doubt influnced by my dislike of drinking and terrorism.
I have always been fascinated by the life and legends of Boudica, a figure I consider representing feminine freedom and power, and a figurehead against opression.
Stone circles are an important symbolism of the Celts, even if the Celts may or may not have built them. It is probably one of the best reperesentations of the Wheel of the Year, the cycles of the seasons, the movement of the moon and the posistioning of the sun in the sky at the solstices and equinoxes that I can think of.
The Celts and Druids are a source of secret knowledge and this intrigues me.
False Savagrey. As the Roman writings on the Celts and Druids were heavily baised, and the love of war and conquouring of the Romans, Slavery and the brutality of the Colosseum has been heavily documented, I can't help but feel that the Romans use the appearance of order and civilization to hide their own savergery and chaos. It seems that they projected their own negative elements onto other peoples to justify destroying them, like a form of collective cultural and political narcissism.
Trees, particularly oaks are a strong associaion with Celts and Druids, as is all native European plant and animal life. I love oaks.
As there were male and female druids, equality among the sexes is a strong image that comes to mind, as does fairness and justice in society.
You can't talk about the Druids and Celts without mentioning Celtic knotwork art. There are many examples of this in the clip art and design of the site's layout.
The various suriving languages of Welsh, Gaelic, Manx, Cornish and others also come to mind. I have a liking for preserving languages and unique dialects.