Archive for the ‘Ritual’ Category

Rituals for Yule


SUPPLIES: Yule log (oak or pine) with white, red and black candles on it (set it in the fireplace), chalice of wine, small piece of paper and pencil for each person.
The altar is adorned with evergreens such as pine, rosemary, bay, juniper and cedar, and the same can be laid to mark the Circle.

 
~* Ritual for Yule *~
After casting the circle the Priestess should say:”Since the beginning of time, we have gathered in this season to
celebrate the rebirth of the Sun.
On the Winter Solstice, the darkest of nights,
The Goddess becomes the Great Mother and once again
gives birth to the Sun and the new yearly cycle,
Bringing new light and hope to all on Earth.
On the longest night of winter,
and the dark night of our souls,
there springs the new spark of hope,
the Sacred Fire,
the Light of the World.
We gather tonight to await the new light.
On this night, the Maiden, who is also Mother
and Crone, prepares to welcome the Sun.
Let’s now prepare to welcome the new light within.”

~Invocation to the Goddess and God:
(Priest) “I light this fire in your honor Mother Goddess
You have created life from death, warmth from cold
The Sun lives once again, the time of light is waxing.
We invite you, Great Mother, to our circle
Bring us new light, the light of your glorious Son.”

(Priestess light the white candle on the Yule log and say):
“I come to you as Maiden
Young and free, fresh as springtime
Yet within me a yearning stirs to create and share
and so I become…

(Light the red candle) The Mother
I bring forth the fruit of my creativity
Yet an ancient prophet once told me, as I stood with my son,
A sword shall pierce through thy own heart also
And I knew that I must become…

(Light the black candle) The Crone
The ancient wise one, Lady of Darkness
We three – in – one who brought forth that special child
as long ago, also anointed him for burial-
A bright light that grew and was sacrificed to be reborn
as a new light.”

(Priest) “Ancient God of the forest, we welcome you
Return from the shadows, O Lord of Light.
The wheel has turned. We call you back to warm us.
Great God of the Sun
I welcome your return
May you shine brightly upon the Earth.”

~Consecration of the Yule Log
(Priestess) “Yule is the end of the old solar year and the beginning
of the new one. Traditionally, the end of the year is a time
to look back and reflect. It is a time to look ahead
to the future, to make plans and set goals.”

On your piece of paper, write something you hope to accomplish during the coming year.
When you are finished, attach the slip of paper to the Yule Log.

Priest picks up the chalice and says:
“We toast the new year (sprinkles wine on the log) and in token
of its promise, we consecrate this sacred wood as a focus for the
energies through which we accomplish our tasks and manifest our
desires during the coming cycle.”

~All drink from the chalice.

(Priestess) “You who have died are now reborn. Lend us your light throughthe winter months as we await the spring. 
Let us now light the Yule Log.
Once having burned with the Yule fire, 

these candles will contain the luck of the log 
throughout the coming year.”
(remember to save a small piece of the log for next Yule 

or save the ashes or the candles.)

~Priest and Priestess light the Yule log together.

~Closing:
(Priestess – extinguishing the God taper)
“Thank you Bright Lord
for the light you have brought to us this night
May we carry it within us throughout the coming year.”

(Priest – extinguishing the Goddess taper)
“Thank you most gracious Lady
for your freshness of spirit, your nurturing care
your infinite wisdom
Live within us throughout the coming year.
So mote it be.”

~Close the circle the way you usually do.~

My thanks to The White Goddess for this ritual.

~* A Solitary Yule Invocation *~

Morning light will flood the chamber
– winter solstice sun.

 
Energy unfolding,

Saturn’s rule has just begun.

 
Crystals formed of ice and frost
freeze field and forest green.

 
While Mighty Oak and Holly
Fight for favours from our Queen.

 
The Great Wheel brings conception,
birth, and death as days of yore.

 
Each bonfire on a leyline
honours what has gone before.

 
Seven planets, seven spheres,
seven gates swing open.

 
I lift my arms and call the charge
the incantation spoken!

 
I conjure water spirits,
Pour forth the sacred winds
come hither, O great fire!
The magick now begins!

 
Solar vapors, starry heavens
clouds and earth and waves
unite in your perfection
on this shortest solstice day!

 
I hold the key of secrets
and the phantoms will avail
the crossroads shimmer open
as the rod connects to grail.

 
Seven planets, seven spheres,
seven gates swing open.

 
I list my arms and call the charge
the incantation spoken!

 
Beribboned Yule logs burning
each spark a blessing brings.

 
Red and green, the sacred blood
of past and future kings.

 
Mistletoe and bayberry,
winter’s leaves and resin.

 
Spice and myrrh and evergreen
connect the Earth to heaven.

 
Through scented smoke and sacred prayer
I manifest good will.

 
Bring peace and joy to hearth and home
and every wish fulfill.

 
Seven planets, seven spheres
seven gates swing open

I lift my arms and call the charge
the incantation spoken!

 
Author Unknown ~
May The Sun Shine Upon Your Life
~ * Blessed Yule To You * ~
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The Song Of Amergin, A Samhain Story


King Arthur having recovered Bran The Blessed’s  talking Head, will bring this head to a Samhain gathering where Bran will recite The Song of Amergin to the assembled gathering.

On The Song of Amergin, 
The Song of Amergin is an ancient Celtic poem
which speaks of the origin of the Universe, the nature of the Gods and the path to Wisdom.
Taken from The Irish Book of Invasions first written down in the early medieval period, this poem is attributed to Amergin (Irish;Amhairghin) chief Bard and Druid of the Milesians.


Long after the magical Tuatha Dé Danann, the Faerie Clan who were considered as Gods, had established their kingdom in ancient Ireland or Éire, a new
invasion took place and the first
Gaelic people arrived.
The Tuatha Dé Danann’s High King, The Dagda, invoked his powers to repel the strangers, he sank their ships and prayed to the winds to keep them out.
They landed however and Amergin sang a poem of thanks, aligning himself with the powers of the Land. Through his Awen (poetic inspiration) he became the elements and the Cosmos, charging them with his flowing spirit and limitless understanding, he overcame all obstacles and his people took guardianship of the Land.

& How Graves Reveals A Dolmen Stone Alphabet;
Robert Graves has said that ‘English poetic education should really begin not with Canterbury Tales, not with the Odyssey, not even with Genesis, but with the Song of Amergin
By answering a series of  riddles in an ancient Welsh ‘Book of Taliesin‘, Robert Graves first uncovered ‘The Battle of the Trees’. This was a poetic ‘battle’ apparently charged with the purpose of preserving the hidden Druidic knowledge of a secret tree alphabet or Ogham, from the uninitiated during a time of cultural upheaval as the newly arrived Christianity sought to replace the earlier pagan and Druid traditions.
Then considering its Irish poetic counterpart ‘The Song of Amergin’, Graves discovered the use of a similar alphabet that also operated as an ancient Celtic calendar.  

By strictly adhering to the poem’s structure, Graves worked out the proper sequence of the Irish alphabet, which was then comprised of 13 consonants and five vowels. (It is only later that it grew to 15 consonants).
The clue to the arrangement of this alphabet is found in Amergin’s reference to the dolmen,’ says Graves. “It is an alphabet that bests explains itself when built up as a dolmen of consonants with a threshold of vowels.

Dec 24-Jan. 20 B
I am a stag of the seven tines, (Birch/Beth) 

Jan. 21—Feb. 17 L
I am a wide flood on a plain, (Rowan/Luis)

Feb. 18—Mar. 17 N
I am a wind on the deep waters, (Ash/Nion)

Mar. 18-Apr. 14 F
I am a shining tear of the sun, (Alder/Fearn)


Apr. 15-May 12 S sun,
I am a hawk on a cliff, (Willow/Saille)

May 13-Jun. 9 H
I am fair among flowers, (Hawthorn/Uath)

Jun. 10-July 7 D
I am a god who sets the head afire with smoke, (Oak/Duir)

July 8-Aug. 4 T
I am a battle-waging spear, (Holly/Tinne)

Aug. 5-Sept 1 C
I am a salmon in the pool, (Hazel/Coll)

Sept. 2-Sept. 29 M
I am a hill of poetry, (Vine/Muin)

Sept. 30-Oct. 27 G
I am a ruthless boar, (Ivy/Gort)

Oct. 28-Nov. 24 NG
I am a threatening noise of the sea, (Reed/Ngetal)

Nov. 25-Dec. 22 R
I am a wave of the sea, (Elder/Ruis)

Dec. 23
Who but I knows the secrets of the unhewn dolmen?

Poem by Amergin, Translation From The White Goddess, by Robert Graves.

http://player.soundcloud.com/player.swf?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F24924435  The Song Of Amergin by celestialelff

Graves maintains that the architectural structure of the Dolmen with its horizontal capstone resting above two upright stone pillars, served as teaching tool for Druid priests on which the Irish alphabet was superimposed in sequential form on three separate slabs.
So for example starting upwards from the bottom left of the first stone are the letters B, L, N, and F. On the capstone from left to rights are the letters S, H, D, T and C. Descending downwards on the right pillar are the remaining consonants, M, G, NG, and R. Hidden below this stone formation thus reflecting the Celtic belief, ‘As above, so below,’ are placed the threshold of vowels, A, O, U, E and I.

Thus this alphabet Dolmen may serve as a calendar, with one post for Spring, another for Autumn, the lintel for Summer, the threshold for New Year’s Day.    
                                           

                                                                                   

                                     

                                                                             

                                                                                 

Of Graves Dolmen Ogham, Merlin and Stonehenge;
Graves’ revelation of the dolmen being used as teaching model for the Irish alphabet makes the myth of Merlin transporting the stones of Stonehenge from Ireland to Salisbury enormously intriguing.
Perhaps the stones he ferried were more of a stone alphabet like runes. If so, there is a strong possibility of a similar alphabet in use at Stonehenge and this might also explain the legend of Merlin’s alleged role in its construction..

William Blake. Jersualem.

                                                                                                        
Taking Grave’s analysis of the Song of Amergin a step further, the final riddle, ‘Who but I knows the secrets of the unhewn dolmen?’ raises questions about whether Stonehenge could be ‘read’ like a book.
Graves suggests that much like Braille, the dolmen’s dimples, indented grooves and angles are an essential part of reading the alphabet and hence the stone.

example 1. Ogham stone.

example 2. Ogham text.

                                                                    
”If one Dolmen can be used as a teaching tool on which the Irish alphabet was placed, could not an entire circle of stones tell a tale?
If it were possible, we can surmise that it could be a revelatory, almighty epic”. ( Munya Andrews )

                                                                     

                                                                         
Of Bran The Blessed;
Brân the Blessed (Bendigeidfran, the ‘Blessed Raven’) was a central figure in The Mabinogion, counted as Britain’s greatest champion before King Arthur and one of the ‘Three Blessed Kings of Britain’ according to the ancient Triads.
He was also Guardian of a magical Cauldron of Knowledge and Rebirth from the Goddess Cerridwen.
There is an ancient Celtic tradition about Cauldrons of rebirth, into which wounded, dead or dying soldiers were plunged, and came out healed and reborn.

Several scholars have also noted similarities between Brân and the Arthurian character of the Fisher King, keeper of the Holy Grail which also bestowed health, healing of wounds and disease upon its bearers. Further conjecture suggests that Cerridwen’s cauldron is in in fact the Holy Grail for which King Arthur spent his life searching as noted in Taliesin’ poem, the ‘Spoils of the Annwfn
                                                                               
                              
Following a conflict over Bran’s sister Branwen,(the White Raven) after her wedding to the Irish King Matholwch (the Bear), Bran offers him reconciliation in the form of his Cauldron. However Matholwch mistreats Branwen in Ireland and she sends word for Bran to rescue her. On their arrival the Irish offer peace but actually plot treachery and a vicious battle breaks out.

The result of the battle was very catastrophic, every Irish citizen but five pregnant women lay dead, and of the mighty armies of Bran, only seven men survived.

                                                                            
These men were instructed by the mortally wounded Bran to decapitate him and bear his head to Caer-Lundein (London) to bury it at Gwynfryn, the ‘White Mount’ (where the Tower of London now stands) to protect the Isle.
On their return voyage the men chanced to enter the Otherworld and for seven years the seven survivors (symbolic of the seven planets that regularly descend into the Underworld and then rise from it) stayed in Harlech, entertained by Bran’s head which taught them everything he had learned from the Goddess’ Cauldron, passing on his wisdom for all future generations.
That Bran, the Raven’s severed head was also capable of prophecy connects him with the ancient Celtic practice of augury, divination through bird flight.

The group set off again and land to spend a further 80 years outside of time, in a castle on Ynys Gwales, Grassholm Island off Dyfed, where they feasted in blissful forgetfulness and joy.
Eventually they take the head to the Gwynfryn, the ‘White Mount’ thought to be the location where the Tower of London now stands, and buried it facing France to ward off invasion.

According to the Welsh Triads, as long as Bran’s head remained in The White Tower facing France to ward off Saxon invasion, Britain would be safe from invasion, which it was for many generations before it was dug up by the pious King Arthur. ‘Arthur disclosed the head of Bran the Blessed from the White Hill since he did not desire that this island should be guarded by anyone’s strength but his own’ – Welsh Triads.

King Arthur had declared that he needed no talisman to protect his own country and dug up Bran’s head as proof that he could perform the requirements himself.
Sadly, he did not succeed and internal political conflict led to his death and to the increase of Saxon settlements in Britain.

King Arthur Pendragon. 2011.

More recently and following the ancient prophecies and the Celtic belief in reincarnation, the returned King Arthur has reburied a symbolic Ravens skull at The White Mount, Tower Of London, in an effort to resurrect the protective power of Bran in these troubled times.

                                                                               

                                                                          

A footnote upon Samhain;
The night of Samhain (pr; SOW-in, SAH-vin, or SAM-hayne) marks one of the two great gates of the year; Beltane and
Samhain being the doorways that divide the year into Light and Dark.
Samhain  itself is a Gaelic word signifying the end of summer and begins at sunset October 31.
This is believed by many to be a magical time when the boundaries between the worlds of the living and dead become thinner, allowing spirits and other supernatural entities to pass between them.

Traditionally, Samhain was a time to take stock of the herds and grain
supplies, to decide which animals would be slaughtered
for the people and livestock to survive the winter. Bonfires played a large part in the festivities celebrated down
through the last several centuries, and villagers were said to have cast the bones of the slaughtered cattle on the flames hence the name ‘bone fires’, some say these bones should then be ‘read’ for their prophetic powers.
With the community bonfire ablaze, the villagers extinguished all other fires.
Each family then solemnly lit its hearth from the common flame, thus
bonding the families of the village together.
The pagan Romans also identified Samhain with their own feast of the
dead, the Lemuria,(observed in the days leading up to May 13).With Christianization, the festival in November (not the Roman
festival in May) became All Hallows’ Day on November 1 followed by All
Souls’ Day, on November 2.
Over time, the night of October 31
came to be called All Hallow’s Eve, and the remnants festival dedicated
to the dead eventually morphed into the secular holiday known as
Halloween.

                                                                                  
However, historian and author Ronald Hutton points out that while medieval Irish authors do attribute a historical pagan significance to the Beltane
festival, they are silent in this respect in regard to Samhain,
apparently because no evidence of pagan ritual as a Northern European festival of the dead had survived into the
Christian period. According to Hutton, most of the popular myths about the origins of Halloween can be traced
back to two nineteenth century British authors: Sir John Rhys and Sir James Frazer (The Golden Bough) who speculated about connections between Halloween and
pagan Celtic rituals, but provided no valid evidence to back up their
claims. At the time they were writing, modern folk customs were
typically seen as remnants of prehistoric religious rituals which
survived among the common, uneducated country folk long after their
original purpose had died out.

Whilst historian Nicholas Rogers notes
that ‘some folklorists have detected its origins in the Roman
feast of Pomona, the goddess of fruits and seeds, or in the festival of the dead called Parentalia, by contrast Mr. Hutton claims it is more typically linked to and derived from the Catholic holidays of All Saints and All Souls Day. This festival began on All Hallows Eve (hallow is an archaic English word for
‘saint’) the last night of October, included a Church mass for the dead, torchlight processions and bonfires.
Objectively, Mr. Hutton does include the evidence for both of these latter in the earlier festivals.
Ronald Hutton, The Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britian, Oxford University Press, 1996 (See the following
chapters: 35. Samhain, 36. Saints and Souls, 37. The Modern
Hallowe’en)


The ‘Surviving’ Samhain and Halloween Tradition;
Conjecture over other aspects of this festival and following extrapolations from Beltane, the other great turning point in the Celtic world, supports many peoples views that a commemoration of the deceased could indeed have been an ancient tradition as the people saw nature fall to decay so thoughts naturally turned to loved ones also passed away. Many customs were also established, such as the approaching time of darkness being regarded with suspicion and a need for protection by bonefires and charms. Gatherings were held and still are, feasts and gifts were shared, blessings were given and invoked and the presence of spirits traveling between worlds is felt, these traditions inform our belief and practice today.

In such a view, offerings may be made to welcome specific ancestors and a community’s beloved dead home, songs, poetry and dances can performed to entertain them.

The opening of door or window to the west lit with a candle or lamp is thought to aid their passage home and conversely candle lanterns carved with fearsome faces are placed in windows to ward off any unwelcome evil spirits abroad on this otherworldly night.

The custom of wearing costumes and masks, fancy dress or disguise has developed at this time and been considered an attempt to copy the spirits or to placate them. Such ‘Guising’ has been a part of Christmas and New Years Eve customs in Britain and
other parts of Europe since medieval times. By the nineteenth century
the practice had also become a feature of Halloween in Scotland and Ireland.
The practice of Trick-or-treating apparently originates in the late medieval practice of ‘Souling‘, when poor folk would go door to door on Hallowmas (November 1), receiving food in return for prayers for the dead on All Souls’ Day.

Sacred Samhain and Happy Hallowmas,
By Stone and Star
Celestial Elf ~

From Community To Individual and Back Again; On The Seasonal Festival ~

Ronald Hutton’s The Stations of The Sun, A Review;

                                                                        
At the outset I had hoped for a more ‘traditionally’ pagan account of the ancient seasonal festivals, their origins and meanings.
I was initially surprised and eventually delighted to find however that although this work is more of an Academic compote of facts and dates and included ongoing assessment of earlier authors often unfounded but sometimes inspirational conjecture than I had anticipated (of Sir James Frazer et al) nevertheless this is a very enjoyable, remarkably researched and admirably objective book-collection of essays.

That much of this morass concerns the developments and impacts of constantly changing traditions due to Christian Reformation and Counter Reformation (certainly comedic at this distance in time), the ongoing process a seminal crucible (reminding me of both grail and cauldron) proved revealing, as the general view of folk traditions and their origins seems to usually favor the more arcane sources, this book by contrast documents only definite evidence, largely that of written records, of church, kirk and council across the land.

Toasting The Yule Log

With a nod to the Scandinavian Yuil, as well as the Roman Kalendae, we embark on an exploration of the traditions of Christmastide, the Twelve Days, the Rites of Celebration, Purification and of Charity which included the remarkable Clementing, Elementing and Souling, even Thomasing, Gooding, Mumping and Corning (as well as more) regional begging customs, by which means the poor would recant rhymes for contribution of food for a feast of their own.
 

A Heaving

Similar appeals for reward included the Hocktide ‘heaving’ at Easter, in which gangs of men assaulted women for favor and groups of women also pursued and caught men for same, at its best a raising up on a lifted chair as proxy ‘Lord’ to commemorate the ascent of Easter, the surrogate released upon a reward of money or a kiss, at its worst a mere grasping by hands and throwing upwards as an occasion for assault and robbery.
The ongoing exposition of numerous social customs of this kind, both dazzle the mind with their quantity, as well as provides a clear insight into how poverty was communally accepted, dealt with by innovative appeals to the community at large and that these were often ‘sanctioned’ by inclusion of some short Christian phrase in the introductory verse or chant.

Medieval Carolers Singing

The author traces the development of such customs and portrays their eventual descent into more high spirited, reckless and even angry demands for assistance that could be met with threats and violence if not accepted.
Once national schools were established and later a more centralized protection for the poor was introduced, such earlier community traditions dissipated further, demonstrating the authors argument throughout this book of the movement from a community sharing seasonal rituals and traditions including those aspects of display that were geared to earn rewards, to the de-socialization of such community into a society characterized by its more insular and private approach to seasons and their festivals or traditions.

A Solitary Witch

The Christianization of earlier traditions also has its place in this book, as for example the feast marking the end of winter and start of the summer months ahead at February 1st, Imbolc (the etymology of its name relating to ewes milk and thus new life) initially dedicated to the Irish goddess Brigid, but who was later morphed into the Christian St Bride.
This is an important theme of both this book and of the mythological psycho-social developments of these Isles. Most surprisingly the often claimed genesis or inception of many Christian traditions in the pre Christian, infact seems to have increasingly worked in reverse. As religious conflicts in the land over changing orthodoxies developed, the Catholic tradition with its wealth of near magical rituals was vigorously being uprooted from the public and community sphere of practice by the ascent of the puritan Protestant, the ensuing personal spiritual void resulted in many cases in the earlier magical Catholic rituals being carried on privately at home and eventually (d)evolving into allegedly ancient ‘survivalist’ ‘folk-traditions’. Conversely, some of the Christianized traditions do appear to have had earlier sources such as the Rogationtide and Pentecost processions, at which time the people marched en mass around the crop fields, singing hymns at chosen stop points as the church ministers blessed the crops.

Beating The Bounds

The book does feature ancient  tradition where evidence has supported this, such as for example the affirmation of the Beltane as an accepted fire festival in certain regions of Northern Europe and the outlaying regions of the British Isles (unlike the later Samhain, for which evidence of a major ‘Celtic’ fire festival is less apparent). With greater detail due to the weight of evidence available however, Hutton explores the cultural progress towards our more modern current perspectives, for example plotting the development of the ‘May‘ (which unsurprisingly did have ancient antecedents in the delight of Spring returned) as people initially adorned self and home with garlands and greenery, which in time became a tradition of young women selling garlands, later children took over this role, and in their turn both to manage the unruly and the revenue these were eventually taken over by schools and local institutions. By contrast, the Mummers Plays with their essentially Christian derived themes of battle, death and resurrection, were more officially sanctioned groups from the outset and had less to do with earlier pre Christian traditions.

Group of Mummers

                                                                     

Raising The May Pole

Despite growing religious and institutional involvement in previously communal activities and traditions, the populace applied themselves with great enthusiasm to any occasion of social bonding, often at some cost to the societies they lived in (other than merely of money or means) such as the many community Maypoles stolen by rival villages and towns resulting in pitched battles between the two, the anarchic Saturnalia of Misrule as witnessed at the Shrovetide street ‘foot-ball’ games played across whole towns which could involve thousands of people and provided an occasion for licensed misrule resulting in damage to property and individual (although less violent than the serious riot and rebellion which was reserved for the Summer games as a time more suited for battle on the streets or field).

 The Church Ales or festivals also developed their Abbots of Unreason and a myriad practices of inversion and nonsense (Samuel Butler now we know where your inspiration came from).
 Charting how an apparently arcane ‘folk tradition’ once also considered a surviving pagan fertility rite had originated in high social circles of the Royal Courts and devolved into the rural communities, Hutton’s’ research into the Morris dancers is fascinating for its explanation of how we may create ‘new’ ancient traditions.

Modern Jack in The Green, Hastings

Perhaps my favorite exposition in this work is that of the origins and evolution of The Jack in the Green, identified as a ‘survival’ of an ancient pagan fertility rite by the Frazerite Lady Raglan of the Folklore society in 1939, established on her view linking the dancing Green-Man in May day processions with the foliage faces on church walls. This was a lineage unresolved till 1979 Roy Judges study revealed the true origins to be somewhat less arcane, and linked them to a more traditional social ritual evolved as so many traditional customs of display were, to celebrate the new season with a display deigned to garner reward.
To explain, during the17thC, London milkmaids danced the streets on May Day with their pails covered in flowers which symbolized the Springs new growth and so presented the promise of new grass for the cattle thus promising fresh milk, cream and butter. These displays earned them money as reward and therefore can be seen to serve a double purpose, of advertising their wares, as well a gathering much needed financial support after a lengthy winter without much income. They later left the pails for lighter wooden frames similarly covered in flowers and greenery, and later still were imitated in their greenery attired frames and street dancing display by the London Chimney sweeps whose claim for sympathy at this time was based on the end of winter cold meaning no more fires or work for them till next fall.

May Day Jack In The Green

Hutton surmises this work with a number of provocative and insightful observations, for example that the notion of a distinctive ‘Celtic’ ritual year with four festivals at the quarter days and an opening at Samhain, is a scholastic construction of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries which should now be considerably revised or even abandoned altogether.
Whilst the debt to a medieval, magical Catholicism seems to be growing apparent in my reading of serious studies of the origin of neo-pagan traditions, Hutton’s final words over the changing Christian influence upon the traditional festivals of the year are revelatory.
He establishes that soon as the system of salvation through ritual was scrapped at the Reformation, the merry making began to be regarded as a liability by the social and religious elites….thus the
evolution of a religious ideology …(had) produced a society imbued with a general taste for ceremony and acted as a means to endorsement of secular festivity.
In other words, Merry England was inspired by the fires of hell

Finally that ‘the rhythms of the British year are timeless and impose certain patterns on the calendar customs’, to celebrate spring, to make merry in summer and draw close at fall, despite government and mass media atomization of community, seems a fair conclusion.
Overall this book suggests to me that whilst certain traditions may not have an established ancient provenance, nevertheless because people are increasingly applying such meanings to the seasons cycles as an inherent pagan response to nature itself, we may now be seeing a further reversal of the community oriented neglect of seasonal festivals and a resurgence of a more nature based community oriented society at large.

Not a book for the exclusively poetic or mythologically minded, but if read in the objective manner with which it is presented, this book provides a wealth of insight and understanding into the seasonal festivities as they have evolved in these British Isles and the influence they bear on modern pagan perspectives, Recommended.


Happy Reading,  
Celestial Elf ~

On Wicca and the Christian Heritage: Ritual, sex and magic.


Five Star Book Review;
Joanne Overend’s
Wicca and the Christian Heritage: Ritual, sex and magic.

Warning, this is a very academic work steeped in a breathtaking complexity of reference and cross reference that launches the reader into an unexpected examination of the conflicts between the Christian Churches..
However, quickly (in an academic sort of way) the text becomes imbued with the intrigue and mystery of the ‘episcopanes vagantes’ or wandering Bishops, as in a ripping-yarn-like-account they set about creating offshoots and unauthorized new lines of religious movements and churches.

The ensuing revealed history is fascinating as it presents the developments of their heterodox churches with increasingly less attachment to either the Protestant or the Catholic churches, the former regarding the latter as practitioners in witchery via their priest-craft of mass and transubstantiation etc, the Anglican church’s endeavors to assert an apostasy direct from ancient Jerusalem via Joseph of Arimathea’s mission to Glastonbury thus sidestepping the subsequent Papal Creed and Catholic church of Rome in favor of a more natural form of Christianity….

The author then examines in some detail the definition of Ritual and its meanings within the old Catholic tradition, the new Anglican church (with its claim to older traditions than the Catholic), the Catholic v Protestant dichotomy between Ritual as The Spiritual Experience which transforms lives v Protestant prioritization of Understanding as the primary factor of a spiritual life.
Against this background, the new Wiccan claims to be ”The” ‘Old’ Religion, their founders Christian associations, that for example Crowley was brought up among Brethren, that Gardeners involvement with Spiritualist churches, the interest in The Golden Dawn and the Rosicrucians, as well as claimed descent from the even older ones of Egyptian mystery religions, sets the pathway to consider Wicca in terms of its defining aspects of ritual and practice.
Ritual is revealingly portrayed across the diversity of traditions in addition to a thoughtful, non salacious handling of the aspect of sexual control, rebellion and practice across the diverse traditions.

Specifically the comparison of the Catholic medieval condemnation of witchcraft (comprised of unorthodox and elderly single women, herbalists, Jewish and other culturally excluded people and groups) the later comparison by Protestants of Catholics themselves with this same group based on their magical rituals, and the subsequent development of Wiccans and others who practice various forms of ritual, along with the lines of inception by which the latter have come to create their new/old traditions is fascinating.

Strongly Recommended for any who wish to ‘Understand’ the origins of the new/old traditions of Wicca and Paganism, but not essential for those who prioritize experiential spirituality over cognitive reconciliation.

Stag Signs & their Co-Efficient Varietals~

“Horned Stag Run Through the Wood”

Horned stag run through the wood
The woods of gold and green
Lead us down the ancient path
To mysteries unseen

Horned stag run through the wood
The wood both new and old
Teach us of the ancient ways
Your wisdom to unfold.

(anon)

* * *

Many have heard of the Stag of Ritual and lore,
His wild & ‘Pagan’ derived ritualistic antics giving rise to the pre marital ‘Stag-Night’ perhaps..

But as with all signs, the story is a little more complex than of simple worship/petition of a life providing entity
(many early Northern Indo-European tribes subsisted on Deer and hunting, not unlike the traditional Laplanders today, before the advent of agriculture and tribal invasion of gentler climes )

In Celtic mythology, the Stag symbolizes Cernunnos or Herne the horned God, and the Celtic Underworld
(& as the Celtic people across Northern Europe embraced All of Life&Death as a Sacred Cycle, this was not considered a negative or fearful realm).
The Stag is also associated with the Druid’s Horned God of Fertility, Hu Gadarn , who was often represented with the head of a Stag & possibly through this link, also with The Green Man, the Celtic guardian of knowledge.

Interestingly, the Christian Theocracy,
although itself derived from earlier sources
(& historically keen to displace earlier forms of spirituality by denigrating them to the role of demonic or etc, aka the many local gods and tutelary spirits that were respectfully acknowledged by even the Roman invaders, who became ‘exiled’ as wicked fairies, evil imps and other assorted outcasts under the rising tide of ‘Church’ led and arguably Solipsistic Mono Theism …)
has developed a tradition of portraying their fallen angel as a ‘horned’ demon,
And of shunning association with pagan traditions such as those involving any with horns and the (formerly) ‘Sacred Stag’….

The Ancient traditions placed Antlers and the wearer of them, the ‘horned’ One in a very different context;
Whilst Deer represented the Pagan Symbol of Gentleness,
The Stag was naturally the masculine counterpart of The Deer, in his role as leader and protector of his herd (flock).
In this context, Antlers themselves represented the God in all wild creatures who give of themselves to serve the life of their people…
For the hunters and Celtic people, this giving literally meant sustenance,
But it also symbolized a whole way of life that valued social cohesion & mutual support above all.

However,
Early Medieval Christian traditions,
Contrasting with their later orthodoxy,
Regarded The White Stag as a symbol of Christ, along with the also ‘giving’ Lamb, and the more otherworldy Unicorn.

Todays Stag led point then, perhaps my Unicorns horn of contention….
All meaning is open to negotiation and will likely change according to the context it is applied to.
This does not mean that concepts and their symbols are valueless,
On the contrary,
We are more brightly empowered if we are able to understand concepts in multi contexts.
Against a meta narrative then…

Freedom from ‘Idea~Ollogy’

Considering Druid~ery Roles & ness ness


All these thoughts of Nature and of the ‘Old Ways’ has led me to reflect on the roles that Druids held in days of yore.
Therefore I now lay out the general roles and orders of Druids as lived in ancient times….

Both Male & Female, the equally balanced gender power relations of the Druids was one of the main reasons that the might of Rome sought to destroy them as this undermined their own patriarchal military societal structures.

Whilst the tradition of Hedge~Druidry wherein they travelled unattached to any land or court, did exist across ancient Europe, the extent to which such practitioners were self taught or only partly schooled is not certain.
But to carry any information or skills of worth it is likely that they had collected sufficient insight and learning to make their way from community to community mutually rewarding, and so may be a moot point.

The Druid more formally underwent various training periods at differing levels in dedicated universities, to learn the content, meaning and practice of augury &divination, of ceremony & ritual, lasting anywhere from 6 to 20 years, plus…..
and whilst Julius Caesar has stated that the training of a Druid took 20 years, it would be reasonable to assume that the work was ongoing as layer upon lore was added to the tales and the teachings..

They were then as now organized into three groups with specific functions and training.
Of the Druidic organizations that exist today there may be many variations on the themes laid out below.

The Bard
The Bards were the first level of training and kept the oral tradition by remembering hundreds of stories, histories and epic poems and songs that were used to teach the people.
This Bard also learned the skills of music too, as this communicative tool would be readily understandable by all even the uneducated, and was likely also important in aspects of ritual that they might need to practice later in their training.
They also studied Already Ancient (and it is believed, world wide) philosophies, bringing these skills to their counseling.

The Ovate
Ovates, being he second degree of study, took the philosophic role to greater heights as the Shaman interpreters of The Mysteries of death and the key Druidic tenet of rebirth.
They divined the future and consulted with the dead, developing an Oracular relationship with Nature and working outside of time itself, which has fed into many of the Druids otherworld & fairyland associations.
Supporting this relationship with Nature, they studied tree lore & herbalism and were also known as magical healers.

The Druid
Finally, acting as ‘High Priests’ and philosophers for the whole culture,
the Druid would synthesize both disciplines of Bard and Ovate.
Fulfilling the elevated social roles of judiciary, teachers, healers and ritual leaders,
they were Guardians of the knowledge & the Gatekeepers of the Other-world/realms & the Divine Order.

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