Filidh: Seers and Poets

A special class among the Celtic druids was the filidh, the poet-seers, who also acted as composers, councilors, diviners, and healers. Where the druids functioned as high priests and judges, the filidh were more accessible to the people.

There is also evidence of further specialties within the ranks of the filidh. In addition to their duties as repositories of sacred songs and stories, they composed, divined the future, and even entertained with riddles and political satire.

The filidh kept their high status in Celtic society, even as their ancient religion faded away. The filidh continued to command respect after Christianity was firmly established in Ireland, even into the Renaissance.

A fili made his (or her — female filidh were not unheard of) living composing heroic songs or satires or performing divination for his patrons; patrons who neglected to pay might even be satirized themselves. The satire of the filidh was not looked upon as simple social commentary — it was potent magic that could cause all sorts of misfortune for the recipient of the fili's withering songs.

According to ancient sources, divination was one of the most important roles of a druid. They give many examples of divination styles, especially augury, interpreting the flight of birds or the movement of animals. Some writers also mention a form of divination involving reading omens into the entrails of freshly sacrificed animal — and, occasionally, human — victims.

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