Druid Tools – the Druid Egg
The Druid egg is probably one of my most favourite things of all time. Not only as a tool, but just in general. I have a few stone and crystal eggs and wish I had more – one of my little obsessions. I don’t know what it is about them. Maybe the geometry of them speaks to me. Maybe it’s the symbolism. Maybe its the age of their material that melds well with an old soul. Whatever it is, they fascinate the holy hell out of me.
Not a widely used tool by many modern Druids, for me, the Druid egg still has purpose. I find it helpful for grounding. I also use it during meditation as a means to focus. Like other Druid tools, the egg itself has no power or energy of its own. Being stone, it’s also not likely to take on or absorb other energy, because stone is inert for the most part.
But stone is also alive and has wisdom to share if you listen and have enough patience, because it’s not fast. Stone is slow and steady. At its most basic, if nothing else, it reminds us we’re playing a long game as promoters of peace and arbiters of justice. It reminds us we should not get caught up in fads and fast-fading pop culture ideas of what those things mean.
Historical references for the Druid egg
Like other Druid tools, the composition and use of the Druid egg of old was never written down. There are some historical observations, though of those who saw one, no one mentions seeing their creation.
The most famous observational record is from the Roman scientific writer and naturalist, Pliny the Elder, in his Historia Naturalis (Natural History). Pliny devoted three paragraphs to his speculations about this tool.
If you’re interested, you can find an electronic version of the Historia Naturalis papers in the original Latin on the University of Chicago website’s section on Roman texts. Passage 29, sections 52-54 are where Pliny makes his speculations about the Druid egg.
Druid egg creation according to Pliny the Elder
Pliny’s record of Druid egg creation, like so many other stories about anything connected with Druids, is fantastical. From what I understand, a Druid told Pliny the story of how they made the eggs and then handed him one to look at. The story sounds like mythology to me. Or let’s be real – they might have just made it up to yank his chain and make themselves sound more magical to scare the shit out of Rome, so they would fear them and leave them alone.
So the story goes, they said, in the summer during a certain day in the lunar cycle (though don’t state which), a pile of snakes entwine themselves into a ball. And this ball is held together by body secretions and snake spit which he called anguinum. For what it’s worth, the Latin word anguinum just means “snake’s egg”. Not a very good description of spit and secretions.
Anyway, Pliny says the Druids told him the snakes throw this anguinum up into the air and it needs to be caught in a cloak. No idea why, but it can’t touch the ground. And then as soon as you have it in the cloak, you jump on a horse and ride like hell away from the pile of snakes that chase you until they’re cut off by a stream they can’t cross. Then you’re home free. And the test for the authenticity of this substance? If you throw it in a river and it floats against the current, it’s real.
Pliny’s description of how a Druid egg looks says: “I myself, however, have seen one of these eggs; it was round, and about as large as a smallish apple; the shell was cartilaginous and pocked like the arms of a polypus.”
What the heck was the Druid egg made from?
Nobody knows. But taking Pliny’s eye witness description of their being round, encased in cartilage and pocked with something like octopus suckers? A few things come to mind.
Stuart Piggott in his work on Druids suggested the Druid egg was empty Whelk egg casing. Which would definitely float, but they were so common in Europe, even to being used as food, Pliny would have known them.
In 1939, Othenio Abel suggested the egg might have been a fossilised sea urchin. Which probably would have floated, looked like it was made out of cartilage, and also had what appeared to be suckers on it. If you have a look at one of these things, they really do seem to fit Pliny’s description. With Pliny being such a naturalist, though, I find it difficult to believe he wouldn’t recognise an urchin for what it was. Maybe this was all they were, but he was so terrified by the Druids’ reputation, he wasn’t thinking clearly. Who knows?
Other contenders are unopened geodes or septarian concretions.
Geodes have fantastic internal structures when you split them open, but there’s no description of that. Pliny only describes something that’s round like an apple and nothing about any internal crystalline formation. It would have simply looked like a boring stone, which you’d think he would have described differently.
Concretions are awesome all by themselves. Masses of mineral matter that form around something in the centre like a leaf or a shell, the thing that holds it together, the “cement”, is different from the surrounding rock.
Septarian concretions are a special type of these, striking in their formation for the angular cavities or cracks, called septaria (from the Latin word septum meaning”partition”) that give them the appearance of having dragon scales. They’re sometimes referred to as Dragonstones. People used to think they were dragon eggs when they found them washed up on beaches. Looking at the image on the right here, you can see how someone might mistake it for something that came out of the south end of a dragon.
If I had to take a guess? While the fossilised urchin does tend to fit the description, I lean toward their being septarian concretions or geodes. Being composed of mineral matter, the Druids may have used the natural resonance properties of these to focus energy. But like everyone else, I’m only guessing.
What is the Druid egg for?
In antiquity, the Druid egg was “said to ensure success in law-suits and a favorable reception with princes” according to Pliny. It had apparently given an unfair advantage to a Gallic Vocontian chief who carried one during a legal battle. The specifics of its day-to-day use in a Druid’s life has been diluted through several thousand years of oral tradition, but we do still have an idea.
For a modern Druid, use of the egg is for developing single-mindedness. Not in the bad way, but to be used with purpose. For this reason, a Druid egg is most often stone. Why? Stones contain old wisdom and are good at waiting. Using their natural attribute of not leaping into the future can help you stay grounded in the present. It can help you remain balanced and by extension, help you bring balance to situations you’re in.
Like the construction material of other Druid tools, it may take time to find what you need. Keep your eyes and ears open until you come across a stone that “speaks to you”. In the same way that wood from a particular tree might give itself to you to make a staff or wand, you’ll know a stone is meant for you when you come across it. It will “tell” you.
Keeping the stone in the natural shape you found it is perfectly correct. So is carving your stone – make it smooth, round, oval or egg-shaped. Really it doesn’t matter as long as it feels correct for you. If it’s small enough to carry in your pocket, then it’s portable enough to take anywhere.
How do you use a Druid egg?
Meditation is a good use for a Druid egg. Hold it up and study it whenever you want to concentrate. When you have a lot on your mind and can’t seem to centre yourself, put all your focus on the egg until all other distractions drop away. This can leave your mind clear for a single purpose like divining or to become more expansive in meditation. This is a good use of the property of single-mindedness.
As arbiters for peace, we always want to make decisions that are just. Holding your egg during disputes you can harness that single mindedness to help you keep focus on what’s important to achieve a fair outcome. And even for only yourself, holding your Druid egg when you must make a just decision on your own can keep you grounded.
Eggs and serpents are ancient symbols of fertility, new life and the possibility of eternal rebirth. The festival of the Spring Equinox in Druidry is Alban Eilir, which means ‘The Light of the Earth’. It’s the time of balance and the sun returning to the world is life-giving, much like the egg. So at the Equinox, we see the egg protected by the hare, the symbol of Alban Eilir – this is echoed in the giving of Easter eggs by the Easter bunny.
Thinking of it this way, the fantastical account from Pliny makes more sense from a mythological standpoint. It may very well have been the Druids’ aim to explain one of their more important world views to him rather than providing a how-to instruction for creating a Druid egg.
For a more colourful demonstration of some of these Druid tools in action, check out my book, The Seer. This fantasy story about a Druid in the fictional realm of Edenshire in 4th-century Britain is waiting for you at Amazon!
[**Keep an eye out for further articles in this series on Traditional Druid Tools]