Imagine you lived about 2,000 years ago and you were one of the few far and between who had pretty much all the knowledge that was available back then. And don’t even begin to think that wasn’t quite a lot. You knew 350+ stories verbatim, the law (all of it), herbal remedies (all of them), you knew medicine, and how to augur from the flights of birds, from a sheep’s shoulder blade, or the entrails of an ox. You not only new the heavenly bodies, but could also calculate their path, and knew what their relation to the zodiac and to each other meant for you and your tribe. You were a Druid.
And as such, you also knew math.
Not just adding and subtracting, but geometry, sacred geometry. You knew π, and the number you had was pretty close to what we know of it today. And you knew about the Pythagorean theorem, that the three sides (a,b, and c) of a right triangle always follow the formula a2+b2=c2.
Well, if all that knowledge feels like pressure, how about this? You and your fellow Druids apparently mapped out at least Gaul and the British Isles – and I propose also Gallia Cisalpine – using this formula, π, and the angle of the Sun’s rays at the Winter and Summer Solstices, the so-called solstice lines. And when I say “mapped out”, I really mean you founded your tribal centers and built the roads in between them based on this math. You used a triangle with a=11 and b=11 (in Gaul) to represent the slant of the solstice line, and you used these lines together with meridians and latitudes to build a fascinating web of communities all over Western Europe.
Now, if you think all that and the following mesmerizing facts sprang from my own head, you think too high of me. It was the British author Graham Robb who about the details of this scheme underlying the Celtic lands on over 300 pages of enthralling druidic – how should I say – geekiness.
I have read a lot of fascinating books on Druidry in the past five years, but this one book by Graham Robb, ‘The Ancient Paths – Discovering the Lost Maps of Celtic Europe’ has struck a special cord in me.
For example, Robb – who actually did much of his research by biking all over France and Britain – found that there are hundreds of towns in Celtic Europe, from Hungary to the Hadrian’s Wall, which were called Mediolanum back then, and whose names today still refer back to their old ones; Milan in Italy being one of the most famous one of them. Yet, most of these Mediolanums weren’t really important tribal centers. It turns out, they were more there to measure out the lands.
Look at the chart to the right, where within a roughly 28.5 km radius around one Mediolanum, today known as Molliens-Dreuil, several other Mediolanums and additional “middle places” can be found. These Mediolanums were like the geometer’s measuring points we find today in our streets and everywhere.
Well, these are just the measure points for a much bigger matrix. As Robb lays out, Alesia, the big tribal center famed for the battle in which Vercingetorix lost and conceded to Gaius Julius Caesar, not only lies exactly on a Winter Solstice sunset line trajectory from another Mediolanum, today Châteaumeillant, but also exactly on a Winter Solstice sunrise line from the famous Italian Mediolanum, Milan, and further down southeasterly, the Greek Oracle of Delphi. And I mean on an exact line. There are 300 pages about these lines, how they all play together, and how they are all seen as the path of the Sun-God-Hero Herakles (or Hercules), who wandered on a line parallel to the Châteaumeillant-Alesia line. This “Heraklean Line” starts at a point in Portugal at the most Southwestern point of Europe – and follows the a=11 b=7 trajectory northeasterly, going right through Andorra and ending on a mountain pass in the Alps, the Matrona Pass, whence he turned southeasterly back to Greece. History buffs amongst you would say now “Wait a minute, this is exactly the way Hannibal and his elephants took when he marched against the Romans.” Why yes it is, because if the path was good enough for a God, why shouldn’t a general follow it?
Again, there are hundreds of jaw-dropping eye-openers in this book, and I wouldn’t even know where to begin. But here is the real beauty of the book. With what you learn in there, you can map out your own point of interest, as long as it lies in the lands of Celtica. So, for me, there were two facts of great interest so far, facts that are not described in the book per se, but I have found out since. Hallstatt, you know, the little town after which the earlier Celtic culture is named after, lies on the exact same latitude as Alesia, which you will learn to embrace as quasi the axis mundi of the Gauls (if you read the book). And the other learning is still in progress. Because right now, I am trying to measure out where the famous city of Noreia may have been, the center of the Noricum, the Celtic kingdom within which Hallstatt lies, and my home town the Romans named Aquae, near the Celtic town Vindo Bona, the White Castle, today better known as Vienna.
What else this ancient knowledge reveals, I don’t know. But I think it may be much more. So, my advice would be: get the book and geek out with Druidic math!