John Aubrey, founder of Druid Renaissance?

John Aubrey FRS (12 March 1626 – 7 June 1697) was an English antiquary, natural philosopher and writer.

John Aubrey

He was a pioneer archaeologist, who recorded (often for the first time) numerous megalithic and other field monuments in southern England, and who is particularly noted as the discoverer of the Avebury henge monument. The Aubrey holes at Stonehenge are named after him.

Respected by fellow scientists as a great Mathematician, He was also a pioneer folklorist, collecting together a miscellany of material on customs, traditions and beliefs under the title “Remaines of Gentilisme and Judaisme”. He set out compiling county histories of both Wiltshire and Surrey. His “Interpretation of Villare Anglicanum” was the first attempt to compile a full-length study of English place-names. 

Aubrey was a non political Royalist, who enjoyed the scientific innovations characteristic of the period, whilst deploring the banning of traditions and the destruction of ancient buildings brought about by Cromwell’s civil war and religious change. Whilst he drank the King’s health in Herefordshire, he also attended meetings in London of the republican Rota Club with equal enthusiasm.

The Monumenta Britannica was Aubrey’s principal collection of archaeological material, written over some thirty years between about 1663 and 1693. It falls into four parts. The first part “Templa Druidum” is a discussion of neolithic “druidic” temples, notably Avebury and Stonehenge.

Although, not a Druid himself, his works and research (which may not all stand the test of time) sparked a renewed interest and soon after modern Druidry came into existence.

Stonehenge July 1887

Stonehenge remains a principle site connected with Druids and had extensive repairs done in the early twentieth century. Without works of John Aubrey, though, its importance may never have come to light.

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