Aubrey, John (16261697)
John Aubrey, an antiquarian whose work stands as the fountain
of the modern revival of Druidism, was born into a well-todo
family in Easton Pierse, Wiltshire, England, on March 12,
1626. He entered Trinity College Oxford in 1642 but his stay
was cut short the following year due to an outbreak of smallpox
and the beginning of the civil war that would eventually lead
to the execution of the king. Through the rest of the decade he
studied the megaliths of the country, particularly Stonehenge,
studied law, and worked for his father. His father died in 1652
and he inherited his fathers estates. However, several lawsuits
and an extravagant lifestyle reduced him to poverty over the
During this time Aubrey continued his antiquarian studies
and in 1671 received a commission from the government to
make surveys of antiquarian sites. While collecting a mass of
data, he published none of it, though he shared some of it with
a colleague, Anthony A. Wood, for a volume on the antiquities
of Oxford. The only book he published, Miscellanies, was a collection
of ghost stories and other accounts of the supernatural.
At one point during the reign of Charles II (166085), he composed
an unpublished manuscript on the Wiltshire stone monuments
in which he presented his major thesis that they were
a product of the Druids. At the time, the common wisdom was
that they were of Roman origin, and Aubrey was the first to realize
that they were far older. He expanded upon his beliefs in
an unpublished manuscript, Monumenta Britannica.
Aubrey gained a certain fame in later life. He was a guest of
many of the intellectual elite and at one point was visited by
John Toland, later to be elected the first chief of a revived
Druid Order. Aubrey died in Oxford in 1697.
While Aubrey published little during his life, his manuscripts
were saved and in 1719, his text Perambulation of Surrey
became the basis of Rawlinsons Natural History and Antiquities of
Surrey. A number of his works, including extracts from Monumenta
Britannica, were issued in the nineteenth century.
Within the modern Druid movement, many believe that Aubrey
was more than a gentleman scholar. They have concluded
that he was a Druid himself, that he participated in a Druid
grove that met at Mount Haemus, and that he passed along
some authority to John Toland. There is no hard evidence to
support such belief.
Carr-Gomm, Philip. The Elements of the Druid Tradition.
Shaftesbury, Dorset, UK Element, 1991.
Aubrey, John (16261697)