The idea of common origins
The One Tree project has arisen out of the exciting conclusions reached by linguists and other researchers that the cultures of western Europe and India represent the two extremes of the distribution of what was originally one single language and culture, known as Proto-Indo-European. Opionions vary as to the geographical location of this original source – with most of academia currently favouring a point of origin 8 – 11,000 years ago either in Anatolia (modern-day Turkey) or further north in the Kurgan region that includes territory now in Ukraine, Russia and Kazakhstahn. A less popular theory posits a point of origin in the area now forming part of northwest India.
Wherever in reality our languages and aspects of our cultures emerged, the fact that they seem to have a single point of origin is a tremendously exciting idea that in itself has had a chequered history – being co-opted by the Nazis in their attempts to justify the idea of an Aryan master-race, and later being invoked as the origin of the downfall of an imagined matriarchal society in Europe.
Recent research, however, most notably by linguists, allows us to contemplate the theory of common Indo-European origins with a renewed scholarly rigour free of the contamination of political agendas.
In the One Tree Project we are particularly interested in the connections between the Celtic or Druid and the Dharmic traditions. Ever since Dion Chrystosom, in the first century CE, commented on the similarities between the Druids and the Brahmins, scholars have been alert to these apparent similarities, but what basis does this perception have in fact?
More research is needed, which is why the project aims to create a scholarship fund to encourage study papers, a book, or postgraduate research in this field. In the meanwhile we must content ourselves with glimpses of the similarities that exist, of which a few are mentioned here:
a) Language – “The very name Druid is composed of two Celtic word roots which have parallels in Sanskrit. Indeed, the root vid for knowledge, which also emerges in the Sanskrit word Veda, demonstrates the similarity. The Celtic root dru which means ‘immersion’ also appears in Sanskrit. So a Druid was one ‘immersed in knowledge.” Peter Beresford-Ellis. See further connections here.
b) Organisation – of society and of villages is reputedly similar, as are the historical roles of Brahmin and Druid.
c) Sacred geography – See ‘Celtic Heritage’ by Alwyn & Brinley Rees
d) Numbers – See ‘Celtic Heritage’ by Alwyn & Brinley Rees
e) Astrology – “Celtic cosmology is a parallel to Vedic cosmology. Ancient Celtic astrologers used a similar system based on twenty-seven lunar mansions, called nakshatras in Vedic Sanskrit. Like the Hindu Soma, King Ailill of Connacht, Ireland, had a circular palace constructed with twenty-seven windows through which he could gaze on his twenty-seven ‘star wives.’ There survives the famous first century bce Celtic calendar (the Coligny Calendar) which, as soon as it was first discovered in 1897, was seen to have parallels to Vedic calendrical computations.’ Early Irish Astrology: An Historical Argument by Peter Berresford Ellis
f) Laws – The Old Druid Brehon laws of Ireland and the ancient Indian laws of Manu apparently share many similarities.
g) Art – For a long time the Gundestrop Cauldron has been hailed as one of the most beautiful examples of Celtic art, made in Thrace but found in Denmark. It is now considered possible that the image of the horned god is that of Pasupati, a Shiva prototype, found in the early Indus Valley civilization. Certainly a seal from the ancient city of Mohenjodaro in the Indus Valley looks remarkably like the scene depicted on the cauldron.
h) Story – See ‘Celtic Heritage’ by Alwyn & Brinley Rees, and see this BBC article.
i) Poetry – See here.
j) Myth – See here.
k) Music – “It appears that both the early Irish Celts and the Vedic Hindus believed that the gods are particularly fond of music; poet-singers sing and praise the gods with the intention that the gods may be pleased and may grant gifts. Both cultures value music, sound and vibration highly – in early Ireland, particularly vocal music, poetic incantations and harp music; Vedic music is mainly vocal, consisting of singing samans, recitations, etc. While an acknowledgement of the spiritual power of music is almost universal in ancient traditions, musicologists have examined some of these issues, and suggest close correspondences between these particular cultures.” Dr Karen Ralls. Read more here.
l) Ritual practice – Druids and Brahmins both make offerings to a ritual fire.
m) Doctrine – the classical writers state that the Druids taught the doctrine of the transmigration of souls – a form of reincarnation taught in the Dharmic religions.
n) Sacred Groves – in both India and the Celtic lands sacred groves were, and still are, used as temples in Nature. See here for the Druid perspective. For the Indian perspective see here.
For balance see the paper Druids and Brahmins: A Case of Mistaken Identity? by Catherine Robinson
For further information see the section on this website: Druidism and the Ancient Religions of India – and see the essays in this section’s submenu on Druidry and Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. Also see this site on Proto-Indo-European Religion.
And see ‘Why the Indo-Eurpean debate matters – and matters deeply’.
The Druid – Seer of Dharma
“It is worth remembering that the key Buddhist term, Dharma, is etymologically directly related to that of Druid, which can thus be translated as “Dharma seer” Etymological details on this are given in Dr Ernest Klein, A Comprehensive Etymological Dictionary Of The English Language, Elsevier, 1971: Dharma in Sanskrit, meaning law, right, justice, is related to Latin Firm, firm, steadfast, stable, strong, dharna – a mode of obtaining justice by fasting while sitting at one’s debtor’s door, exactly as practiced in Druidry; these come from the speculative IE root *dher, to hold, support, whence also therapy, throne, Darius “he who holds the Good”, confirm, affirm, and many other words in many other languages. The Celtic term for the oak tree was dru, in the etymological sense of the tree which endures, which supports, which outlasts the storm. Endurance, duration, durable, during, all come from Latin durus, hard, literally meaning as “hard as wood” from an IE base “derew, *drew *dru, meaning tree, wood, whence also comes Greek drus, meaning oak, tree, dromos meaning forest, wood, dendro – Greek combining form meaning tree; old Irish dru, wood, wooden, daru – wood, Old English tree, treow, meaning tree, wood. From a related root comes also the Old English word truth, trust. So too comes Old Irish dron, firm, Welsh Derwen, oak, Lithuanian derva – resinous wood, Russian droma, thicket, primeval forest, Old Irish daur, oak tree; Armenian tram – firm, Avestan Persian dauru, dru- meaning wood, Hittite taru – tree, wood Ancient Greek drumos, oakwood, Albanian dru – wood, tree, pole, drusk – oak, and also the Greek Dryades, meaning wood spirits, female Goddesses who inhabit trees. The basic sound cluster and conceptual clusters evidenced in these primeval roots in the Indo European language cluster, seem to indicate that early ancestral peoples of all Indo European tribes equated trees, woods and forests with the primaly enduring ultimate truth, relying as they did on wood for warmth, fire, light, shelter, houses, many foods, utensils, carts, wheels etc. So too the related metaphysical concepts of justice and truth and right were expressed with similar sounds. The way that sounds have physical correlates as well as metaphysical correlates goes back to the metaphor forming capacity of the human mind; so wood, being hard, comes also to denote metaphysical things which are likewise hard and enduring. The Druid is by definition one who sees, knows and works with both realities – physical and metaphysical. See Klein’s Dictionary under “dure”, “tree”, “truth”, “Druid”, “Dharma”, for the exact details of these etymologies. It was Pliny who first suggested that “Druid” came from the “knower of the oak” but this was a Roman trivialisation (possibly without realising it); the evidence points to “Druid” as having a far deeper meaning, i.e. the knower of the Dharma (cosmic law) represented by the oak, the knower of the cosmic tree of truth, the knower or seer of the ultimate body of wisdom behind the universe, which manifests to mankind as the tree of life. As a “seer of Dharma, Cosmic truth, the Druid is thus phenomenologically equivalent to a “Buddha” which is as it should be.”
An excerpt from Druidry & Transpersonal History, the eleventh Mount Haemus Award lecture by Thomas Clough Daffern.
See here for an account of the second One Tree gathering.
See here for an article and photos about the One Tree Gathering 2018.
And see the videos below of Philip Carr-Gomm talking in Nagpur in 2009 on the theory of a common origin, a Samhain-Diwali festival in Ulster, and a Celtic Raga played on two harps by one man – the Italian harpist Vincenzo Vitello