Posts Tagged ‘Celtic’

Blessed Beltane 1 May 2010

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Beltane 2010 is Saturday 1 May 2010 in the Northern Hemisphere

Beltane was an important festival in the Celtic calendar.
The name originates from the Celtic god, Bel meaning the ‘bright one’, and the Gaelic word ‘teine’ meaning fire, giving the name ‘bealtain’, meaning ‘bright fire’.
Beltane, and its counterpart Samhain, divide the year into the two seasons, Winter (Dark) & Summer(Light).
As Samhain is about honoring Death, Beltane, its counter part, is about honoring Life.
It is the time when the Sun is fully released from Winter and rules over Summer & life again.
Beltaine then Signifies The Awakening of New Life & The Start of the Bright part of the year.

This date has long been considered a ‘power point’ of the Zodiac,& is symbolized by the Bull, one of the ‘tetramorph’ figures featured on the Tarot cards, the World and the Wheel of Fortune.
(The other three symbols are the Lion, the Eagle, and the Spirit.)
Astrologers know these four figures as the symbols of the four ‘fixed’ signs of the Zodiac (Taurus, Leo, Scorpio, and Aquarius).
Christians have adopted the same iconography to represent the four gospel-writers….

At Beltane the Pleiades star cluster rises just before sunrise on the morning horizon (Winter (Samhain) begins when the Pleiades rises at sunset).
The Pleiades is a cluster of seven closely placed stars, the ‘Seven Sisters’ in the constellation of Taurus, standing very low in the east-northeast sky for a few minutes before sunrise.


video by paganboynuneaton.

Beltane is one of the three ‘Spirit-Nights’ of the year when the ‘faeries’ may be seen…it is a time of ‘No Time’ when the two worlds intermingle and magic abounds!
The Queen of the Faeries rides out on her white horse on Beltane eve & will try to entice people away to Faeryland…
Legend has it that if you sit beneath a tree on Beltane night, you may see Her,if you hide your face She will pass you by, but if you look at Her, She may take you.

To our ancestors Beltane was the coming of summer and fertility.
Much of ancient Celtic magic was sympathetic, meaning that actions were performed to simulate the desired result.
May was the time to encourage the untamed forces of nature to expand their power and cause crops, animals, and people to grow and reproduce abundantly.
Couplings among unmarried partners, often outdoors or in wooded areas, was one way to encourage this result, but it was considered unlucky to marry at this time of disorder….

For the crops, it is however still a precarious time, as they are very young and tender, susceptible to late frost and early blight…

The lighting of bonfires on ‘Oidhche Bhealtaine’ (the eve of Bealtaine) upon mountains and hills of religious & tribal significance was one of the main activities of the festival.
The lighting of a community Bealtaine fire from which individual hearth fires are then relit was therefore observed as the Druids of each community would create a fire on top of a hill and drive the village’s cattle through the fires to purify them and bringing luck ‘Between the two fires of Beltane’.
People would also pass between the two fires to purify themselves.

When the Druids raised these Beltane fires, they were performing an act of sympathetic magic, as the fires were lit in order to bring the sun’s light down to earth.
When the wood burst into flames, it proclaimed the triumph of light over the dark half of the year.

 

May Day – Beltane Traditions
Beltane is a time of partnerships and fertility.
New couples proclaim their love for each other on this day.
It is also the perfect time to begin new projects.

The Maypole – a phallic pole planted deep in the earth represents the potency and fecundity of the God, its unwinding ribbons symbolize the unwinding of the spiral of life and the union of male and female – the Goddess and God.
It is usually topped by a ring of flowers to represent the fertile Goddess.
(The Puritans banned maypoles during the 17th Century)

Hanging May Boughs of Hawthorn and crosses of Birch and Rowan twigs over doors on the May morning were left until the next May to bless & protect the home.
Hawthorn blossom symbolises female fertility, with its creamy/ white, fragrant flowers.
Hawthorn blossom was also worn during Beltane celebrations, especially by the May Queen.
It is believed to be a potent magical plant and it is considered unlucky to bring the blossom inside the house, apart from on May eve.

Pilgrimages to holy wells are also traditional at this time, and offerings and prayers to the spirits or deities of the wells are usually part of this practice. Crafts such as the making of equal-armed rowan crosses are common, and often part of rituals performed for the blessing and protection of the household and land.

Beltane Cake, baked with eggs. – oatcakes baked with eggs, coated with a custard made of cream, eggs and butter – were cooked over open fires and anyone who chose a misshapen piece or a piece with a black spot referred to as the ‘Beltane Carline’ would be set upon by the others who would attempt to throw them on the fire.
This would be prevented by the rest of the festivalgoers.
The unlucky person would be considered a symbolic sacrifice and referred as being dead for the rest of the evening.

The ‘Obby ‘Oss, at Padstow, Cornwall – still carried on today, consists of a processional dance with the participants wearing animal skins & is believed to be a relic of a Pagan sacred marriage between earth and sky, the dance enacts the fertility god sacrificed for the good of his people.

Going ‘A-Maying’ meant staying out all night to gather flowering hawthorn, watching the sunrise and making love in the woods.

The dew on the May day morning is believed to have a magical potency –
wash your face and body in it and remain fair all year, and guarantee your youth and beauty continues.

Bright Blessings & Happy Beltaine !

On The Mysterious Matter of Mistletoe..

On The Mysterious Matter of Mistletoe;

According to the Ancient Druid traditions, Mistletoe was the most sacred of all plants.

Allegedly from the Anglo-Saxon word ‘Misteltan’ (Tan = twig) & the German Mistel (Mist = dung)…
This is not so awful as at first may seem, because to the Ancient Nature based traditions, excretion & birth were considered almost synonymous in the cycle of life.
Alternately the name Mistletoe may have derived from the Celtic ‘Mil’ioc’, meaning ‘All-Heal‘.

As Mistletoe grew from the Sky on the limbs of the Holy Oak tree (the Oak tree was believed to be a doorway between the worlds), its leaves green throughout winter representing the fertility of the Earth Goddess, its white berries the seed of the Forest God, the Celts believed that Mistletoe held the soul of the Holy Oak & therefore embodied its Sacred fertility.

Because Mistletoe is botanically unique in the Northern Hemisphere (the only highly-evolved flowering plant that is parasitic/roots into trees), it was considered to have miraculous properties that could cure illnesses, antidote poisons, ensure fertility and protect against witchcraft.
{{Modern Herbalists today use European Mistletoe to strengthen the heart and reduce blood pressure, & to relieve pain from headaches caused by high blood pressure. The powdered leaves have also been used in careful treatment of epilepsy.}}

Mistletoe was used by the Druids in a ceremony held five days after the New Moon following the Winter Solstice;
The Druids would cut Mistletoe from the Sacred Oak tree with a magical golden sickle or Bolline representing the life giving Sun.
The branches had to be caught by maidens, on white cloaks, before they touched the ground, otherwise they would discharge their magical energies into the earth.
The Druids then divided the branches into bunches and gave them to the people, calling it All-Heal, and the people hung them over their doorways as a protection, and as a sign of peace and goodwill.

* * * * * * * *

The Norse Traditions explain the meaning of Mistletoe through the story of Balder, son of Frigga, Goddess of love & life.
Balder, called the well-beloved & Holy one, is the ‘God of Goodness’ and represents the spring Sun in Norse tradition (& hence the Sun God).

Frigga, worried on hearing Balder’s prophetic dream that he would be killed, had the four elements, Fire, Water, Air, & Earth, promise that they would not harm her son.
However, Loki (the mischievous God of Fire, who was jealous of Balder), found the only thing that could break
this promise, Mistletoe, because as it grows ‘from the sky’ it was not bound to any of the four realms.
He made an arrow from its wood & gave it to Hoder (the blind god of darkness & ignorance) while the other gods were playfully hurling their weapons against the invulnerable Sun God Balder.
Hoder shot his arrow at Balder’s heart, and he fell dead, thus Hoder fulfilled Loki’s jealous plan, the mind darkened by ignorance accomplished what nothing else could, the death of the God of light.

Balder then traveled to Hel, The Queen of the realm of the Dead.
Whilst Odin, father of the Gods, pleaded with Hel for Balder’s return
(Hel agreed on condition that all living things weep for Balder’s return)
Frigga implored all beings to mourn the Sun God’s death & her tears of grief became the mistletoe’s white berries.

This account may be the origin of Kissing under the Mistletoe,..
As Balder is restored to life, Frigga is so grateful that she reverses the poisonous reputation of the Mistletoe,
making it a symbol of love and promising a kiss to all who pass under it as a pledge of friendship and goodwill.

Symbolically, the Nordic Story of Balder & the Mistletoe, portrays the cycle of life, death & rebirth of nature.
As The Sun God dies with every nightfall, & rises again each New Morning;
Also, He dies With every Winter Solstice, to return Each New Year bringing Light & Life.

* * * * * * * * * *

Mistletoe is still forbidden in most Christian churches because of its Pagan associations;
Although the holiday at Christmas time has always predated Christianity with it’s traditions of Nordic paganism, Celtic fertility rites, and Roman Mithraism, many such earlier Gods ( including Theseus, Perseus, Dionysus, Apollo ) present a mythologic account of the divinities birth, death, and resurrection that was uncomfortably close to the story of Jesus..
Both Martin Luther and John Calvin abhorred Mistletoe for these reasons, & the Puritans refused to acknowledge it.

* * * * * * * * * *

Evidence of Mistletoe’s use in Ancient Britain has been recorded in the following extract from the Roman natural historian Pliny the Elder‘s accounts of his reconnaissance of Britain, on the subject of a Druidic ritual:

The Druids…hold nothing more sacred than the Mistletoe and the tree that bears it, as long as that tree be an Oak….
Mistletoe is very rarely encountered; but when they do find some, they gather it in a solemn ritual….
After preparing for a sacrifice and a feast under the Oak, they hail the Mistletoe as a Cure-All and bring two white bulls there, whose horns have never been bound before.
A priest dressed in a white robe climbs the oak and with a golden sickle cuts the Mistletoe, which is caught in a white cloak….
They believe that a potion prepared from Mistletoe will make sterile animals fertile, and that the plant is an antidote for any poison. ”

(Natural History, XVI, 249-251).

* * * * * * * * * * * *

Holding an influential role across cultures and over time,
The enduring fascination with the magical properties of Misteltoe are further evidenced in two significant books of the Western Literary canon…

In Virgil’s ‘Aeneid
(the most famous book in classical Latin & one of the most famous poems of all time),
The Roman hero, Aeneas, finds the ‘Golden Bough’ on a sacred tree in the grove dedicated to the Goddess Diana,
The prophetess Sibyl instructed Aeneas to pick this Magical Bough ‘from which shone a flickering gleam of gold.
As in the woods in the cold winter the mistletoe … which puts out seed foreign to its tree … stays green with fresh leaves and twines its yellow fruit about the boles…’ before his descent into the Underworld.
Sibyl knew that, with the aid of such magic, Aeneas would be able to undertake his perilous adventure safely.
(‘Aeneid’ VI, 204-209).

Much later in the 20th C, the Very Title of Sir James G. Frazer’s comparative study of mythology and religion,
The Golden Bough‘ (1922), derives from this scene in Virgil’s Aeneid.
According to Frazer, Mistletoe could become a “Golden Bough” because when they die and wither, Mistletoe plants acquire a golden hue.
Naturally enough, as his subject matter explored the roots and meanings behind Religion & Magic, the apparently Alchemical and Transformative powers of the Mistletoe directly referenced the cathartic insights that his study would make available to his readership, & was therefore a good choice.

The ‘Goldenness’ of the Mistletoe was further influenced by the European folklore that Mistletoe plants were thought to have come to earth as lightning strikes a tree in a blaze of Gold and as the agent of life thus linked to the divine creative force, which is a suitably portentous birth for a plant whose home is half way between the heavens and the earth.

Glad tidings for Yule! (mid-winter Solstice 21st December)

In Ancient Northern Europe the mid-winter Solstice (between 20th/23rd of December) was called ‘Earth Mother‘s Night’, and as the shortest day of the year it effectively represents the turning point of the season.

The Romans called this Sostice the Dies Natalis Invicti Solis, the Birthday of the Unconquered Sun.
The Roman midwinter festival of Saturnalia (17-25 December) celebrated Saturnus (god of fertility, harvest and time) & his wife Ops (Mother Earth). Whilst Temples and homes were decorated with stars and suns and evergreens symbolizing life’s continuity, Processions of people with masked or blackened faces symbolizing the dark of winter danced through the streets, which has survived in the custom of ‘Mummer’s Plays‘.
Masters also feasted with their slaves and a ‘King’ was appointed from their number to take charge of the revels
giving rise to the ‘Lord of Misrule‘ of medieval Christmas festivities, which tradition survived into the 17th Century.”

In Northern Europe the winter festival was the Yule (Juul).
As the people thought the Sun stood still for twelve days in the midwinter, plunging Mother Earth and all her growing things into the dark, coldness of death, It was thought that spring could not come without their celebration of midwinter.
During this time the Druids began the tradition of burning the Yule Log to conquer the darkness and to evoke the return of the Sun for the new year, the Suns divine male energy was needed to return and quicken the Earths sacred female energy for the Rebirth of spring.
A Yule Tree was also illuminated with candles, to further this effort to attract the Sun.
Therefore ‘Yule’ is the midwinter festival of light, as the length of daylight progressively increases after the winter solstice.

Along with the Evergreen, the Holly and the Ivy and the Mistletoe are important plants of this season, symbolizing fertility & everlasting life.
Mistletoe, also known as The Golden Bough (& called Allheal, used in folk medicine to cure many ills) was held sacred by the Druids and Norse people, who cut it with a golden sickle (symbolic of the Sun) on the sixth night of the moon.
Both Druids and Romans hung sprigs of mistletoe in their homes and places of celebration to bring good fortune and peace & the Scandinavians would halt and call Truce in battle if they came across mistletoe in their Forests.
In addition, its fertility endowing powers have by tradition created its modern role as a symbol of love (a man should pick a berry when he kisses a woman beneath the mistletoe, when the last berry is gone there should be no more kissing!).

The myth of the Holly King/Oak King probably originated from the Druids to whom these two trees were highly sacred.
The Oak King (Lord of the Waxing Year) kills the Holly King (Lord of the Waning Year) at Yule (Winter Solstice).
The Oak King then reigns until Litha (Summer Solstice) when the two fight again and the Holly King is victorious.
The Holly King is still seen in some representations of the modern Santa Claus.”

The Nordic Yule began in the evening of winter solstice 20th-23rd December, with the sacrifice of a wild pig (boar) to Mother Earth.
This gave strength to Mother Earth (Freja), so that she could give birth to her Son (Balder) on 24th of December who represented both the next generation and most imporatntly, light ie the New Sun (which was also echoed in the Rebirth of the Persian Sun God Mithrais {as well as the Greek Apollo} on 25th December, a significant date later co-opted by the Christian Church…)
The ham as the Yule dish is particularly significant because in ancient times the pig was considered a holy animal and personification of Mother Earth, symbolizing her fertility.
Thus the Yule ham is Mother Earth herself.

Regarding such Sacrifices in these Ancient traditions;
As they held that Divinity was inherent in all creatures as an expression of the God’s powers within nature,
so the most powerful of these rituals was when a God was sacrificed to share their divine energy.
Those who ate of such sacrificial feasts received a part of the Deities divine power,
just as the death of one creature gives life to others.
For the ancient people such traditions were completely normal as they ‘sacrificed’ the seed in spring to earth, where it ‘died’, & later rose again to give life to many new seeds which in turn would both feed many people and beget many more new seeds.
(These principles are similar in theme to the Christian atonement sacrifice of Christ, the ritual of Eucharist and the Ascension)

Be that as it may,
I share with you now Bright Yule Blessings:

Yule Blessings.

Blessings to you from the Earth Mother.
She is the Moon.
She watches over all of us by.
The light that she casts over the blessed earth.
Walk her night lit path
And happiness you will find at every turn.
Blessed be!

Blessings to you from the Sky Father.
He is the Sun. He holds us up
And brings us strength. Carry his sword
To cleave the evil from your path
And you will be unmolested.
Blessed Be!

Blessings to you from the Great Spirit.
It binds us all together:
Man to womyn; beast to beast; all.
We are it and it is us.
Blessed Be!

May you have a wonderful Holiday.
The time has come for the sun to be reborn
He lies in his Mother’s womb waiting…
Awaiting his reappearance on this plane.
Let us all rejoice in his rebirth and ours.
Blessed Be!

(by yusef)

Merry Solstice, er…Happy Yule…

The Tree of Life…

The Tree holds an important place in many ‘Nature~Al’ perspectives of the world, from ancient spiritual & psychological symbolisms of life, wisdom and friendship,
to modern environmental awarenesses that champion the need for a more holistic relationship with the delicately balanced eco systems of the earth our home.

As The Cosmic or World Tree touches the ‘Three Worlds’ of sky, earth & underworld, it thereby links them symbolically & psychologically provides an Axis Mundi or Center of the world, by uniting these realms enabling travel and communication between them.

As The Tree of Life, It also represents both a feminine symbol, bearing sustenance; and a masculine, phallic symbol.
In addition, The Tree of Life represents Eternal Life, because of its ever-expanding branches and because of its seemingly endless cycle of regrowth from seed to towering tree and so on…

Of Magic Trees, some have the ability to speak to certain individuals, usually those gifted with divination.
In particular The Druids were said to be able to consult Oak trees for such divinatory purposes,
(the Christian Bible stories also reference a talking Bush to the visionary Moses)

Such Trees have carried great significance across various world faiths,
including The Yggdrasil or World Ash where, in Norse mythology, Odin discovered wisdom and understanding,
& The Bodhi Tree under which Gautama Siddhartha, the Buddha found enlightenment.
For the Babylonians, The Tree of Life had a magical fruit which could only be picked by the Gods and dire consequences befell any mere mortal who dared to pick them.
Whilst this Babylonian prohibitive/punitive Tree has apparently found its way into the Judeo-Christian legend of Adam and Eve…
In the esoteric Jewish tradition of Kabbalah, the Tree of Life is a mystical symbol used to describe ‘The’ path to ‘God’.

Across cultures and traditions then we see that The Sacred Tree holds an important place in the minds and hearts of mankind, from the purely practical applications of fruit and resources, to the deeply symbolic and spiritual language of interconnectivity and harmonic interdependence, the Tree serves and embodies many significant functions which furnish our lives and spirit’s.

* * * *

The ‘Celtic’ Tree of Life (known in Ireland as the ‘crann bethadh‘) was central to the Celtic tribal life,
they always left a great tree in the middle of any new settlement which demonstrated the integrity of their Celtic traditions.

This Tree of Life represents the wheel of life as witnessed in the cycle of life, death and rebirth (‘rebirth’ in Tir Na Nog the Celtic Afterlife, the Land of Eternal Youth), as well as the Celtic theme of three worlds, that of the upper for Gods, the middle for our physical plane, and the lower as the realm of the fey or faeries (often housed below underground mounds or fairy hills). This symbolism is depicted by the branches that reach to the heavens, the trunk or body in the center, and the roots below, specifically showing that all stages and aspects of life are intrinsically connected through nature.
The Germanic peoples who also worshiped their deities in open forest clearings and believed that a sky god was particularly connected with the oak tree, similarly employed a central tree in their tribal settlements.
All trees in the Celtic perspective have specific powers or serve as the home of fairies or spirits, especially the magical trio of Oak, Ash, and Thorn.
That Chieftains were inaugurated under these Sacred trees with their roots stretching down to the lower world and branches reaching to the upper world, ceremonially endowed them with the magical powers of both the underworld and of the heavens.

Of the many realms that may be reached via these sacred trees,
Legends of the Norse World Tree Yggdrasil (pronounced ig.dre.sil) ((called Irminsul in Germanic mythologies)) describe that around it exist nine worlds.
Yggdrasill is an immense Ash Tree; Ygg’s {Odin’s} horse, was so named because of the notion of the ‘tree’ as the ‘horse’ of the
‘hanged’ on which Odin hung during his self sacrifice for knowledge as described in the Poetic Edda poem Havamal & was often represented by a Cross or a Gallows, however as death did not cary the same finality or distress of modern religious and secular perspectives, these symbols indicated the doorways of change.
The Aesir (Norse gods) go to Yggdrasil daily to hold their courts because the branches of Yggdrasil extend into the heavens, and because the tree is supported by the three roots that reach the Three times…;
Through these paths they could interact with the various realms including the magical sacred creatures that live within Yggdrasil, such as the Wyrm or Dragon, the Eagle, and the Sacred Stag.
The notion of an Eagle sitting on top of the sacred Tree and the World Serpent coiled around its base also has parallels in other cosmologies from Asia, and thereby may be seen to hold psychological significance beyond any narrow micro cultures specific meanings.

Writing of its Shamanic origins Hilda Ellis Davidson comments that the existence of nine worlds around Yggdrasil is mentioned more than once in Old Norse sources, but the identity of the worlds is never stated outright…and speculates that the nine worlds could either exist one above the other or perhaps be grouped around the tree, while the gods are pictured as in the sky, using a Rainbow Bridge (Bifrost) connecting the Tree with the Other Worlds.

* * * *

Of the Christmas Tree..
When the Roman Christian Church decided on a date to celebrate Christ’s birth,
they chose the day of the Pagan Winter Solstice because this was already firmly fixed in the minds of the people,
they thus sought to ‘Christianise’ existing festivals and so both overthrow earlier traditions whilst maintaining the rituals that gave meaning to the indigenous peoples lives.

Some accounts place the earliest Christmas trees in Tallinn capital of Estonia and Riga capital of Latvia,
(both of which resisted Christianity longer than any other European nation and so point towards an earlier Pagan tradition).
The custom of erecting a Pine Tree specifically to celebrate Christmas can more precisely be traced to 16th century Germany, as Ingeborg Weber-Kellermann (Marburg professor of European ethnology) reports of a Bremen guild chronicle of 1570 which states that a Fir Tree was decorated with apples, nuts and paper flowers, & set up for the guild members children to collect the treats on Christmas Day.

By the early 18thC use of Christmas Tree’s had become common in the upper Rhineland of Germany,
but was still regarded as a Protestant custom by the Roman Catholic majority throughout wider Europe.
Robert Chambers in his Book of Days (1832 )asserts that the festivities of Christmas
“originally derived from the Roman Saturnalia, had afterwards been intermingled with the ceremonies observed by the British Druids at the period of winter-solstice, and at a subsequent period became incorporated with the grim mythology of the ancient Saxons“.
However, just as Christmas was established (approximately) over the earlier Pagan Winter Solstice,
so the Christmas Tree was eventually accepted by the Roman Catholic Church as part of the seasons regalia, because it could not prevent its use.
In the early 19thC the custom became popular among the nobility and spread to royal courts as far as Russia.

In Great Britain, the Christmas tree was introduced by George III’s Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz in early 1800’s,
but the custom hadn’t spread much beyond the royal family.
After Queen Victoria’s marriage to her German cousin Prince Albert in 1840, the custom became more popular throughout Great Britain as people emulated the much admired and ‘ideal’ role model family.

* * * *

Regarding the addition of lights and decoration to these Festival Tree’s;
Whilst dried apple’s may have been tied to the Tree as an offering to The Mother Goddess in the hopes of being gifted more fruit in the coming summer,
& Candles may have been lit upon it to represent and summon the return of the (Father’s) Summer Sun
The placing of candles and lights on the Tree also invited and gave home to the associated spirits and faeries that otherwise would be abandoned outside to the hash northern winters.
In this view then, the ancient traditions of decorating and sacralizing a celebratory Tree survives because it meets basic needs outside of our intellectual rationalizations of their purposes,
perhaps embracing deeper psychological or spiritual needs,
But certainly and not least of all….
because we enjoy them.

And in this the blessing of our Nature~Al spirit shines through.

_/\_

Summers End & All Hallows Eve


The most magical night of the year,
All Hallow’s Eve is more important than All Hallows Day itself.
The Celts called this time Samhain (pronounced Sow-in), which means ‘summer’s end’ and this marked the end of the Old and Beginning of the New Year for the Ancient people, as the New day begins at dawn, so the Ancient New Year begins at the darkest time, the turning point.
(The Christian clergy later co-opted Samhain not as a feast for All the dead, but only those hallowed (made holy) by obedience to God – thus creating All Hallow’s Day.)

The Celts were a pastoral people and the end of Summer was significant to them because it was the time of year when their lives changed, the cattle were brought down from summer pastures in the hills and the people gathered into the communal halls for the long winter nights of story-telling, which held a very important role in earlier times….
To commemorate Samhain, the Druids built huge bonfires (from bone-fires ) where the people gathered to honour their deities with burned offerings of crop and creature.
During these celebrations they wore costumes of animal masks, horns & skins.
When the celebration was over they would re-light their home fires from the sacred bonfires as this consecrated fire would protect them during the coming colds and dark of winter.

In the Celtic belief system such turning points as the turning of one year into another, as well as the time between one day and the next, the meeting of sea & shore, were considered as very magical times.
The turning of the year was the most powerful of these times.
This was the time when the ‘Veil Between Worlds’ was at its thinnest.
They also believed that when their beloved people died, they went to a land of eternal youth and happiness called ‘Tir Nan Og’.
At this time they held aFeast for the Dead, as it was believed the dead could return to this land of the living for just one night, to celebrate with their family, tribe, or clan. Thus the great burial mounds were opened up, with lighted torches lining the walls, so the dead could find their way & extra places set at the table for any who had died that year.

The dead were sometimes believed to be dwelling with the Fairy Folk, who lived in the fairy mounds or Sidhe (pronounced Shee) that dotted the countryside.
The Celts did not have demons & devils in their belief system, nor the concept of heaven and hell that the Christian church introduced.
The fairies however, were considered potentially hostile & dangerous to humans because men had taken over their lands.
On this night then, they might trick humans into becoming lost in the ‘fairy mounds’, where they could be trapped forever.
This would seem to be the origin of ‘Trick-Or-Treating’ & possibly of the ‘Jack-O-Lantern’ as well, which was used by people who traveled this night to frighten away spirits or faeries who might otherwise lead one astray.
Set on porches and in windows, the Jack-O-Lantern cast the same spell of protection over the household.
An offering (often food or milk) was left out for the fairies and spirits on the steps of the house or hall, so the homeowner or clan could gain the blessings of the ‘good folk’ for the coming year.

Such Halloween ‘Games’ as we have today clearly devolved from earlier rituals and beliefs..
Divination was practiced at Samhain and thought most likely to succeed at this time because the Ancient New Year’s Eve exists outside of normal time, as the cyclical order of the universe collapses before re-establishing a new cycle, and therefore may be used to view any other point in time.
Young women placed hazel nuts along the front of the fireplace, each to symbolize one of her suitors,
& to find their future husbands they might chant
‘If you love me, pop and fly;
if you hate me, burn and die.’
They might also peel an apple, making sure the peeling comes off in one long strand, reciting,
‘I pare this apple round and round again;
My sweetheart’s name to flourish on the plain:
I fling the unbroken paring o’er my head,
My sweetheart’s letter on the ground to read.’

Bobbing for Apples (sacred fruit to The Celtic people) evokes a Pagan baptism called a ‘Seining’ in which the water-filled tub is a Cauldron of Regeneration, into which the novice’s head is submerged.
That the participant in this game was blindfolded & with their hands tied behind their back also evokes an Ancient initiation ceremony.

There are often two Halloween/Samhain celebrations,
The First, a Halloween party for non-‘Pagan’ friends,
& The Second a more private Samhain gathering held on Halloween night,
At which invisible friends may be present…

.

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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