Late in the 16th century, scholars became intrigued by accounts of the Druid priesthood by classical authors. Some stressed the barbaric cruelty of their human sacrifices, but others saw them as virtuous sages; the latter view became increasingly popular. *Aubrey, though regarding Druids as semi-savages, was the first to suggest cautiously that they might have built *Stonehenge; in the 1740s William Stukeley enthusiastically adopted this theory and extended it to other monuments. Soon local historians were claiming that not only megaliths but various natural rock formations were Druids' altars, and these ideas passed into place-names and folklore, especially in Cornwall. The first modern Druidic Order was created in the 18th century; the motive was Welsh patriotism, and the model Freemasonry. There are now nearly twenty. They practise pantheistic nature worship, holding seasonal rituals on Primrose Hill (London) and at prehistoric sites, especially at Midsummer at *Stonehenge. See also *mistletoe, *snakestone.
   ■ Stuart Piggott, The Druids (1968); Miranda Green, Exploring the World of the Druids (1997).

A Dictionary of English folklore. . 2014.

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