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The Druid's Gem

This article was written by Tadhg MacCrossan on May 15, 2002
posted under Druidism

Pliny the Elder, in his Natural History, mentions the Druids manufacturing an object called the ovum anguinum, or "snakeís egg," which in Gaulish would have been called ouion natracos. In British and Irish tradition it was known as the snakeís gem, or Druidís gem.

The Druidís gem was a round bead about one to one and a half inches in diameter, decorated with spirals or swirls. It was sometimes made out of ceramic (in Scotland), sometimes glass (reported in Wales, Scotland and Cornwall) and, as in ancient Gaul, sometimes out of empty whelk egg cases or despined sea urchin shells. According to Pliny, a Gaulish man who was also a Roman citizen wore an ovum anguinum to court for good luck, but lost his case because the Roman magistrate was prejudiced against him for wearing a Celtic charm.

The snake which dwells in the Underworld is said to have been the origin of these charms. Mythically, Underworld snakes are always guardians of sacred treasures (such as the salmon in Irish tradition, Fafnir in the Volsunga Saga, and the snake in the garden of Eden). The snake as guardian of an Underworld mystery and/or treasure is a theme which goes back to a source common to both Indo-Europeans and Semites.

A few years ago, my youngest son was arguing with his friend about the age of Honey, our wild golden retriever. His friend insisted that Honey was five, because the dog had been alive that many years. Said Gabe, "Sometimes Honey is really one, like when he chews our shoes; sometimes he's 89, like when he pretends he's too old to listen when you... read this article
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