Celtic Druids According to Julius Caesar (50 BCE)

Gaul at the start of the Roman war.
The Gallic Wars were waged between 58 and 50 BC by the Roman general Julius Caesar against the peoples of Gaul. The Wars culminated in the decisive Battle of Alesia in 52 BC, in which a complete Roman victory resulted in the expansion of the Roman Republic over the whole of Gaul.
The tribes of Gaul (unlike Germany) were becoming urbanized and so were fairly wealthy constituting what is known to archeologists as the La Tène culture. They had numerous luxury goods ranging from bracelets to beads. Most had contact with Roman merchants and some, such as the Aedui, who were governed by republics, had enjoyed stable political alliances with Rome in the past. Consequently, many towns existed which made  Roman conquest easier. Though the Romans considered the Gauls to be barbarians, their cities mirrored those of the Mediterranean. They struck coins and traded extensively with Rome, providing iron, grain, and many slaves.
Photo from:  https://about-history.com/the-history-of-gaul-and-its-people
Map showing the major and minor tribes of Gaul. The Carnutes tribe mentioned in the text were a minor tribe in the center of Gaul. Map from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carnutes

Druids Introduced by Julius Caesar in His Book: Gallic War Book 6, Chapter 13

(May 5, 2024) The following is copied straight from the book:

Throughout all Gaul there are two orders of those men who are of any rank and dignity: for the commoners are held almost in the condition of slaves, and dare to undertake nothing by itself, and is admitted to no deliberation. The greater part, when they are pressed either by debt, or the large amount of their tributes, or the oppression of the more powerful, give themselves up in vassalage to the nobles, who possess over them the same rights without exception as masters over their slaves. 

But of these two orders, one is that of the Druids (Latin Druidum), the other that of the knights. The former are engaged in things sacred (divinus), conduct the public and the private sacrifices, and interpret all matters of religion (religones). To these a large number of the young men resort for the purpose of instruction (disciplinae), and they [the Druids] are in great honor among them. For they determine respecting almost all controversies, public and private; and if any crime has been perpetrated, if murder has been committed, if there be any dispute about an inheritance, if any about boundaries, these same persons decide it; they decree rewards and punishments;

if any one, either in a private or public capacity, has not submitted to their decision, they exclude him from the sacrifices. This among them is the most heavy punishment. Those who have been thus excluded are esteemed in the number of the impious and the criminal: all shun them, and avoid their society and conversation, lest they receive some evil from their contact; nor is justice administered to them when seeking it, nor is any dignity bestowed on them. 

Over all these Druids one presides, who possesses supreme authority among them. Upon his death, if any individual among the rest is pre-eminent in dignity, he succeeds; but, if there are many equal, the election is made by the suffrages of the Druids; sometimes they even contend for the presidency with arms. These assemble at a fixed period of the year in a consecrated place in the territories of the Carnutes, which is reckoned the central region of the whole of Gaul. 

Hither go all who have disputes assembling from every part, to hear their decrees and determinations. This institution (disciplina) is supposed to have been devised in Britain, and to have been brought over from it into Gaul; and now those who desire to gain a more accurate knowledge of that system generally proceed thither (to Britain) for the purpose of studying it. 

Comment

Here Caesar starts out by justifying his war by stating most Gauls were actually oppressed and so secretly welcomed the Roman conquest. After this he goes on the introduce the Druid class of priests and then indicates that their most revered legal or divination school is in Britain. This also implies they spoke the same language.

References

C. Julius Caesar. Caesar's Gallic War. Translator. W. A. McDevitte. Translator. W. S. Bohn. 1st Edition. New York. Harper & Brothers. 1869. Harper's New Classical Library. Online at:https://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.02.0001%3Abook%3D6%3Achapter%3D13

Julius Caesar. Caesar's Gallic War: Interlinear Translation (1893 first edition). Worldside Press 1952 edition

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gallic_Wars

The war with Roman legion movements shown by the dark red arrows. 
The Romans respected and feared the Gallic tribes. In 390 BC, the Gauls had sacked Rome. In 121 BC, Rome conquered a group of southern Gauls, and established the province of Transalpine Gaul. Only 50 years before the Gallic Wars in 109 BC, the Gauls invaded Italy again but this time Rome was and saved by Gaius Marius (uncle and father figure to Julius Caesar) after several bloody and costly battles. Around 63 BC, when a Roman client state, the Gallic Arverni, conspired with the Gallic Sequani and the Germanic Suebi nations east of the Rhine to attack the Gallic Aedui, a strong Roman ally, but Rome kept out of the conflict. The Sequani and the Arverni defeated the Aedui in 63 BC at the Battle of Magetobriga
The Helvetii tribe had come under increased pressure from Germanic tribes to the north and the east and began planning for a migration around 61 BCE. They intended to travel across Gaul to the southwest corner of modern France around the ancient port of Narbo. They would have passed through lands of the Aedui (a Roman ally) and end up in the loosely controlled Roman province of Transalpine Gaul. As word of the migration spread, the neighboring tribes and Rome grew concerned. Rome sent ambassadors to several tribes to convince them not to join the Helvetii. Concern grew in Rome that the Germanic tribes would fill in the lands vacated by the Helvetii. The Romans much preferred the Gauls to the Germanic tribes as neighbors.
On March 28 in 58 BC, the Helvetii began their migration, bringing along all their peoples and livestock. They burned their villages and stores to ensure the migration could not be reversed. Upon reaching Transalpine Gaul, where Caesar was governor, they asked permission to cross the Roman lands. Caesar played for time so Rome could gather its legions and ultimately denied their request. Significantly, the Helvetii did not then cross into Romans lands. Whether they were undecided or came up with other plans is unknown. In any case Caesar attacked as they starting moving north away from the border.
Caesar marched north to the river Saône (tributary of the Rhone), where he caught the Helvetii in the middle of crossing. Some three-quarters had crossed; he slaughtered those who had not. Caesar then crossed the river in one day using a pontoon bridge. He followed the Helvetii, but chose not to engage in combat, waiting for ideal conditions. The Gauls attempted to negotiate, but Caesar's terms were draconian (likely on purpose, as he may have used it as another delaying tactic). Caesar's supplies ran thin on 20 June, forcing him to travel towards allied territory in Bibracte. While his army had easily crossed the Saône, his supply train still had not. The Helvetii could now outmaneuver the Romans and had time to pick up Boii and Tulingi allies. They used this moment to attack Caesar's rearguard.
In the ensuing Battle of Bibracte, the Gauls and Romans fought for the better part of the day. After a hotly contested battle, the Romans eventually gained victory.  Caesar's army rested for three days to tend to the wounded. They then gave chase to the Helvetii, who surrendered. Caesar ordered them back on their lands to provide a buffer between Rome and the even more feared Germanic tribes.
Bibracte, then the commercial hub of the Gallic Aedui tribe, would again play a crucial role during the Gallic uprising of 52 BC. Vercingetorix himself met with other Gallic leaders there to plot the rebellion against Caesar and the Romans.  This revolt happened because Caesar did not stop this war now that the thread was past. Instead he expanded it against other neutral Gallic tribes in order to gain wealth and prestige. 

Gallic War Book 6, Chapter 14: Bards, Writing, Reincarnation, Nature, and Night-Sky Studies

(May 5, 2024)

The Druids do not go to war, nor pay tribute together with the rest; they have an exemption from military service and a dispensation in all matters. Induced by such great advantages, many embrace this profession of their own accord, and [many] are sent to it by their parents and relations. 

They are sent there to learn by heart a great number of verses; accordingly some remain in the course of training twenty years. Nor do they regard it lawful to commit these to writing, though in almost all other matters, in their public and private transactions, they use Greek (Graecis) characters

That practice they seem to me to have adopted for two reasons; because they neither desire their doctrines to be divulged among the mass of the people, nor those who learn, to devote themselves the less to the efforts of memory, relying on writing; since it generally occurs to most men, that, in their dependence on writing, they relax their diligence in learning thoroughly, and their employment of the memory. 

They wish to inculcate this as one of their leading tenets, that souls (animas) do not become extinct, but pass after death from one body to another, and they think that men by this tenet are in a great degree excited to valor, the fear of death being disregarded. They likewise discuss and impart to the youth many things respecting the stars and their motion, respecting the extent of the world and of our earth, respecting the nature of things, respecting the power and the majesty of the immortal gods. 

Chapter 15

The other order is that of the knights. These, when there is occasion and any war occurs (which before Caesar's arrival was for the most part wont to happen every year, as either they on their part were inflecting injuries or repelling those which others inflected on them), are all engaged in war. And those of them most distinguished by birth and resources, have the greatest number of vassals and dependents about them. They acknowledge this sort of influence and power only.

Comment

Chapter 16 indicates:

References

C. Julius Caesar. Caesar's Gallic War. Translator. W. A. McDevitte. Translator. W. S. Bohn. 1st Edition. New York. Harper & Brothers. 1869. Harper's New Classical Library. Online at:https://www.perseus.tufts.edu/hopper/text?doc=Perseus%3Atext%3A1999.02.0001%3Abook%3D6%3Achapter%3D13

No runic text indicates Druids were involved in sacrifices to appease the gods. This is not to say criminals were not killed, just that such killings were not a part of the Druid religion.

Gallic War Book 6, Chapter 16: Druid Sacrifices?

(May 5, 2024)

The nation of all the Gauls is extremely devoted to superstitious rites; and on that account they who are troubled with unusually severe diseases, and they who are engaged in battles and dangers, either sacrifice men as victims, or vow that they will sacrifice them, and employ the Druids as the performers of those sacrifices; because they think that unless the life of a man be offered for the life of a man, the mind of the immortal gods can not be rendered propitious, and they have sacrifices of that kind ordained for national purposes. Others have figures of vast size, the limbs of which formed of osiers they fill with living men, which being set on fire, the men perish enveloped in the flames. They consider that the oblation of such as have been taken in theft, or in robbery, or any other offense, is more acceptable to the immortal gods; but when a supply of that class is wanting, they have recourse to the oblation of even the innocent.

Comment

Here Caesar is demonizing the Gauls. While archaeological texts from France have yet to be translated no runic Druid text anywhere implies that sacrifices outside of normal food sacrifices or thanksgiving offerings were even considered.

These bronze figurines were found in Umbria, Italy and date to about 500 BCE. They are now at the British Museum with number 0704.962. They were acquired by the museum in 1814 from a collector.  The female figurine has been interpreted as Minerva (Roman Thu, Athena) but this is incorrect.  If this pair are deities they would be the connective deities, the goddess Ayu (Artemis) and god Hu in his storm form.
Online at: https://www.britishmuseum.org/collection/object/G_1814-0704-962

Gallic War Book 6, Chapter 17: Gaulish Deities

(May 5, 2024)

They (Druids) worship as their divinity, Mercury (Mercurium) in particular, and have many images of him, and regard him as the inventor of all arts, they consider him the guide of their journeys and marches, and believe him to have great influence over the acquisition of gain and mercantile transactions. Next to him they worship Apollo (Apollinum), and Mars (Martim), and Jupiter (Jovem), and Minerva (Minervan); respecting these deities they have for the most part the same belief as other nations: that Apollo averts diseases, that Minerva imparts the invention of manufactures, that Jupiter possesses the sovereignty of the heavenly powers; that Mars presides over wars. 

To him (Mars), when they have determined to engage in battle, they commonly vow those things which they shall take in war. When they have conquered, they sacrifice whatever captured animals may have survived the conflict, and collect the other things into one place. In many states you may see piles of these things heaped up in their consecrated spots; nor does it often happen that any one, disregarding the sanctity of the case, dares either to secrete in his house the things captured, or take away those deposited; and the most severe punishment, with torture, has been established for such a deed.

Comment

The few deities that Caesar mentions indicate that the Druids he encountered were using a mix of Indo-European and ancient Druid deities just like the Romans. Caesar gives them their Roman names however, so we do not really know what the Celtic Druids actually called them.

By the classical era both Greek and Roman cultures no longer believed in reincarnation except in special cases. Her Hercules captures Cerberus, the guard dog to the gates of the underworld, allowing at least one spirit (Theseus) to come back to the living before Cerberus was returned to its place.

Gallic War Book 6, Chapter 18: Gauls Descended from God Dis

(May 5, 2024)

All the Gauls assert that they are descended from the god Dis, and say that this tradition has been handed down by the Druids. 

For that reason they compute the divisions of every season, not by the number of days, but of nights; they keep birthdays and the beginnings of months and years in such an order that the day follows the night. 

Among the other usages of their life, they differ in this from almost all other nations, that they do not permit their children to approach them openly until they are grown up so as to be able to bear the service of war; and they regard it as indecorous for a son of boyish age to stand in public in the presence of his father.

Comment

The pre-classical Romans has a god called "Dis Pater" meaning "Father Dis." In 249 BC and 207 BC, the Roman Senate under senator Lucius Catellius ordained special festivals to appease Dis Pater and Proserpina (Greek Persephone). Dis was the god which brought the souls out of the underworld up to the earth plane to be reborn, that is, to be revealed by the goddess Asher (Greek Demeter, Roman Luna). He later would be confused with Pluto as the god of the underworld when the idea of reincarnation fell out of favor during the classical era. In classical era Greek and Roman myths, souls only returned from the dead in a few special cases aided by Herakles or Orpheus. 

The god Dis is epithet for the Druid life manifestation god Yahu. The word "Dis"  comes from the Druid-Akkadian word Du with a Latin noun ending (declension) /s/. The Druid-Akkadian dictionary entry is:

D [Akkadian] manifested-life-forms, life manifester (noun), to manifest life, to form life (verb) - Invisible “platonic” life forms need to be filled and stuffed with matter in order to be  manifested on earth. First the life manifester triggers this filling which is then revealed by the complementary feminine power (goddess Asher). Life-Manifester also seems to be an epithet for the god Yahu.