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Druids, Brahmins, Y-DNA

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  • Druids, Brahmins, Y-DNA

    I’m curious if there have been any studies on the possible persistence of Druid Y-DNA in Irish families whose traditional occupations mirror the functions ascribed to the Druids. And if so, if the cultures of similar DNA groups outside of Ireland could provide a perspective on the possible roles and beliefs of the Druids.

    Like almost everyone, upon first seeing the Cernunnos panel of the Gundestrup Cauldron I was struck by its similarity to the Pashupati seal from the Indus Valley. And I was not surprised to discover that for the last 200 years (at least) there have been endless books and essays speculating on the possible connections between Vedic and Celtic cultures. However there are so many unknowns – for example the Indus Valley script is undeciphered, and the Druids wrote nothing down – that much of what has been written is best described as fantasy. And what is known seems very complex – Indian religion has an intricate history, it’s not exactly clear who the Celts were, symbols and artifacts are subject to very different interpretations, etc. It’s a vast topic.

    Of course in India the role of Brahmin is passed down along the male line, and the Y-DNA of modern Brahmin families has been studied. R1a1 is particularly common. The Roman poet Ausonius seems to suggest that being a Druid ran in families as well.

    The Romans tried their best to kill all the Druids in Britain, but in Ireland, with the advent of Christianity, it would seem that there was a softer displacement. One might guess that if the Druids were indeed dynastic and now out of work– yet with a large amount of expertise in their families – that they would rebrand themselves to fit in with the new Christian society.

    The Druids seem to have dealt, among other things, in healing, the law, and the transmission of lore. The only related surname I can think of off the top of my head is Baird (Bard), and a glance at the Baird Y-DNA Project reveals, to my untrained eye, a lot of strange DNA. There’s actually a lot of R1a, as well as some other odd haplogroups. In medieval Ireland there were apparently “intellectual” families who had various hereditary specialties such as medicine (Dunleavy, O’Cassidy, Shields,...) and law (MacEagan, O’Davoren, MacClancy,…), but this is simply what I gleaned from Wikipedia.

    Do some Irish families have whispered traditions amongst themselves that they were Druids in the distant past? I’ve personally never heard of such a thing. Has anyone compiled a list of possible “Druid” surnames and searched for any unusual genetic signatures they might have in common?

    Amidst all the conjecture surrounding the Druids, it would seem that genetics has the potential to provide at least some kind of scientific data point. Whether someone could use that to stitch together a shared path of custom and belief with the Indus Valley seems like a lifetime of work, but genetics could be a useful bit of information for the puzzle…

    Thanks in advance for any pointers on the current state of research in this area.

  • #2
    Condensed version:

    An obvious conjecture is that the Druids were predominantly R1a.

    R1a occurs in only 2.5% of the Irish population, but in about 50% of people with the Baird surname.

    It’s interesting that R1a is 20 times more likely to be present in a surname associated with a function of the Druids (bard).

    Calculate the TMRCA for a Baird and an R1a1 Brahmin – you will get a date when the Druids and Brahmins diverged and an estimate of how old those belief systems are.

    All conjecture of course – I’m interested to learn who might have explored this already.


    • #3
      Intriguing post, I think there is a lot of conjecture when it comes to ancient Ireland and until we have some ancient DNA we will never know. It would be interesting to find out if the ancient Irish had haplogroups other than L21 and its subclades.