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The island of Mona (Gaelic: Ynys Mon), also known as Anglesey, was the center for the lives of druidic Celts. The name “Mona” in Latin is “island of learning,” which was the purpose of the island in the druidic times. The island declined in Celtic importance when the Romans first invaded the island in 60 AD and destroyed large portion of the sacred oak groves as well as other areas of religious importance to the druids.[1]

Geography

Mona is the part of the north west of Wales. Mona is separated by from the rest of Wales and Great Britain by the Menai Strait, which is what causes Mona to be an island. Mona itself has a small island off its coast called “Ynys Gybi” or Holy Island, which is separated by a muddy strait. A large rock sits off the coast called “Ynys Seiriol” Priestholm (modern name: Puffin Island).[2]

Center for Learning

Mona was the greatest center for learning of the Celts. At schools on Mona, the upper classes of Celtic society were taught: druids (spiritual leaders), bards (history keepers and messengers), and ovates (artisan class). Caesar wrote: "Large numbers of young men flock to them for instruction, and they are held in great honor by the people."[3]

Classes

Ovates were the lowest of the three classes taught at Mona. They studied medicine, law, poetry, and music. After completing their studies, they would act as priests, performing sacrifices and studying nature as their duties

The druids had an oral tradition, which explains why there isn’t much of a written history outside of the writings of Romans and other enemies who had written traditions. The majority of their histories were known by the bards who would, in training, be required to memorize the stories of old. After their training, bards would travel, spreading the histories of old as well as any history as it happened.

The druidic class studied to be the social leaders of the Celts. They studied to become spiritual leader and judges over the people. After completing their basic education on Mona, they would then begin to learn deeper druidic practices such as meditative representation.[4]

Sacking of Mona

Romans in Briton

The Romans began invading the island of Great Britain around 50 BCE, but didn’t succeed in conquering the Celts until 50 CE. The Iceni tribe, led by Prasutagus, became a tributary ruler to the Romans. When Prasutagus died, he left the rule of his tribe to the Roman emperor and his [Prasutagus’] two daughters. The Romans, not wishing to share the rule with two women, overthrew the Iceni tribe.[5]

Destroying the Island of Mona

At about the same time that the Romans were subduing the Iceni tribe, the decision was also made that it was time to destroy the druid uprising that was rebelling against Roman authority. The center of the rebellion was situated on Mona, the druidic island of learning. In 61 CE, Suetonius Paulinus crossed the Menai Strait and began to destroy any druidic institution he could find, including druids and their sacred oak groves on the island.

Tacitus wrote, “On the opposite shore stood the Britons, close embodied, and prepared for action. Women were seen running through the ranks in wild disorder; their apparel funeral; their hair loose to the wind, in their hands flaming torches, and their whole appearance resembling the frantic rage of the Furies. The Druids were ranged in order, with hands uplifted, invoking the gods, and pouring forth horrible imprecations. The novelty of the fight struck the Romans with awe and terror. They stood in stupid amazement, as if their limbs were benumbed, riveted to one spot, a mark for the enemy. …

“The Britons perished in the flames, which they themselves had kindled. The island fell, and a garrison was established to retain it in subjection. The religious groves, dedicated to superstition and barbarous rites, were levelled to the ground. In those recesses, the natives [stained] their altars with the blood of their prisoners, and in the entrails of men explored the will of the gods.”[6]

The invasion stopped short of completely crushing the druids because Boudicca, wife of Prasutagus, had raised an army and were ravaging the countryside. The Romans had to retreat to fight Boudicca.

The Romans finally brought Mona into submission in 78 AD when Gnaeus Julius Agricola after an uprising of Celts on Mona destroyed a portion of the Roman army stationed on Mona.

Modern remnants of druids on Mona

There are few remains of the druids on Mona. Because of their oral traditions, there are not many writings on the druids. Most of the writings that exist were written by enemies of the Celts, such as the Romans. Few artifacts exist on the island from the druids, although iron spearheads, slave chains, parts of chariots, and a bronze trumpet were unearthed.

References

  1. Coppens, Philip (January-February 2002). "Anglesey: Druid's island". Frontier Magazine (Amsterdam: Frontier Sciences Foundation) (8.1). http://www.philipcoppens.com/anglesey.html.  (revised edition)
  2. Mona Insvla. Roman-Britain.
  3. ap Dafydd, Llewellyn. Anglesey.
  4. Education of a Druid Priet. About Druidism. DruidO.
  5. Boudicca. University of Northern Carolina.
  6. Tacitus. Tacitus, Annals, Book XIV, Chapters 29-37. Sources of British History. britannia.
This article uses material from the Wikipedia article Mona Island of the Druids, that was deleted or is being discussed for deletion, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Author(s): Richard Keatinge Search for "Mona Island of the Druids" on Google
View Wikipedia's deletion log of "Mona Island of the Druids"
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