Posts Tagged ‘Graves’

Gwydion Caer Wydion

Gwydion Caer Wydion

Gwydion (Goo-Eed-Yon), Caer Wydion the Celtic Bard born of the trees, at ‘the Castle of Gwydion’ which was the traditional Welsh name for the Milky Way ie under the Sky above ~

Gwydion is a Celtic Bard, Sorcerer and Trickster of Welsh mythology, appearing most prominently in the Fourth Branch of the Mabinogi, the Welsh Triads and the 14th century medieval Welsh book of poetry The Book of Taliesin by the Bard Taliesin, whose name means Radiant Brow.
Here we hear Gwydion recite a verse from the Cad Goddeu – the Battle of the Trees, found in the The Book of Taliesin which tells the story of a battle fought between Gwydion and Bran. Gwydion enchants the trees to fight as part of his army, which he is empowered to do as he is himself ‘Born Of Trees’ which is the meaning of his name.

In the section of the poem narrated here, Gwydion is declaring his magical lineage and shared spiritual existence with the underlaying forces below and beyond nature, he is a poetic shaman of the highest order.

Before I assumed a consistent form,
I have been a sword,
Narrow variegated,
I will believe it when it appears.
I have been a door in the air,
I have been a shinning star,
I have been a word among letters,
I have been a book originally.
I have been the light of lanterns,
A year and a half.
 
I have been a course,
I have been an eagle,
I have been a corricle in the seas,
I have been compliant in the banquet,
I have been a drop in a shower,
I have been a sword in the grasp of a hand,
I have been a shield in battle,
I have been a string in a harp,
Disguissed for nine years in water –
In foam.
I have been sponge in the fire,
I have been wood, in the covert,
There is nothing in which I have not been.
 
Neither of mother or father, when I was made,
Was my blood or my body.
Nine formed faculties.,
Of the fruit of fruits, of fruit God made me,
Of primroses and blossoms,
Of thyme hill,
Of the flowers of trees and shrubs,
Of Earth, of an earthly course,
When I was formed.
 
Of the flower of nettles,
Of the water of the ninth wave.
 
I was enchanted by Math,
Before I became Immortal,
I know the star knowledge,
Of the stars before the Earth was made.
c. Taliesin from the Cad Goddeu.
 

On the Power Of Trees; Mytho Poetic Beings Rooted in the Here and Reaching Hereafter;
In many mythologies Trees are embued with far reaching powers that are infact commensurate with their actual influence over the nature and wildlife of their environs. The mythologies have explored these connections further than the mere material, as can be seen in the words for Oak and Door in Irish and Welsh being related (dair — the same word for both in Irish — derwen and drws, and even English “door”, Norse dyrr and Greek thura), implying perhaps a view of the Oak as door to the Otherworld. In addittion also consider the Norse World Tree Yggdrassil.

The original poem is fragmented and full of riddles which has given rise to a wide range of interpretation and speculation. Most famous of these is Robert Graves remarkable mytho-poetical study ‘The White Goddess’.

On The Excellence of the Poetic Word; Druid Rhetoric and Shaman Transormations;
We see many details about Gwydion exisiting as diverse beings in this poem, as shapechange itself is a well known device of Druids, Bards and Shamen. Joan Halifax, in ‘Shaman: the Wounded Healer’ (1982), says: “To the heavens, to the well at the end of the world, to the depths of the Underworld, to the bottoms of spirit-filled lakes and seas, around the earth, to the moon and sun, to distant stars and back again does the shaman-bird travel. All the cosmos is accessible when the art of transformation has been mastered.” (p. 24)
Thus the Shamanic technique of flight which encompassess many transformations is often expressed, evoked and even facilitated via the Bardic power of the word, the hypnotically chanted word, the alliterative or allegorical poem, and the very wings of the song. As such, i’m sure that many will easily recognise, tales, poems and songs do indeed hold a transformative power over our individual awareness and ensuing spiritual essence, empowering changed perceptions and consequently lives and worlds..

Of the Battle of the Trees itself;
The Battle of the Trees originated when Amaethon stole a dog, a lapwing, and a roebuck from Arawn, the god of the Underworld (called Annwn). Robert Graves, who speculated that Bran and Arawn were names for the same Underworld god, wrote that the battle was probably not meant as a physical one but rather a struggle of wits and scholarship. Gwydion’s forces could only be defeated if the name of his companion, Lady Achren was guessed (her name meant “Trees”), and Arawn’s host could only be defeated if Bran’s name were guessed (which Gwydion did).
The trees who fought in the battle were also part of the Druidic alphabet known as Ogham, where each sound is represented by a pattern of notches and a particular tree. Each tree had a meaning and significance of its own, which was why Gwydion was able to win the battle: he guessed Bran’s name by the Alder branch Bran was carrying–the alder being one of Bran’s prime symbols.

Blessed Be By Star And Stone *~

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The Triumph Of The Moon; A Review ~

Intrigued by Ronald Hutton’s assertion that “Wicca” (meaning the wiseones) is the first all British religion given to the world, I approached his book The Triumph of the Moon as my first serious study of Wicca and Witchcraft with an objective attitude and without any preconceived perspectives on the matter. As anyone who has read any Hutton will already know, his books are academic, copiously referenced and invariably not a light read.

 

Art by Alexis Mackenzie

Of The Origins of Modern Perspectives 
On Witchcraft, Wicca and Paganism In Britain;
Restricting his research to Great Britain, the book opens with an exploration of prevailing attitudes towards Paganism in the late 19th – early 20thC, asserting that Wiccan belief and practice owe much to the scholars, novelists and poets who resurrected Pan and the Goddess in the Victorian and Edwardian culture, and identifying the four key perspectives of the period;
First, a belief that all Pagans, both of European prehistory and of contemporary tribal peoples represented a religious expression of humanity’s ignorance and savagery.
Second, that derived from the religion and culture of Ancient Greece and Rome, the Pagans were noble and admirable people but essentially remained inferior to Christianity in their ethics and spiritual values.
Third, that some writers considered Paganism superior to Christianity, being a life affirming and joyous alternative approach to religion which respects all of nature and seeks to integrate our lives with it.
Fourth, that a number of thinkers, writers and poets with connections to the Romantic movement such as Shelley, Leigh Hunt and Thomas Love Peacock, considered Paganism a remnant of a great universal religion of the distant past, elements of which were to be found in all the major religions practice by civilized humanity, from which contemporary NeoPaganism is descended.

Hutton then explored in greater depth the various strands of Romantic literary Paganism, the Frazerian Anthropology, Folklorism, Freemasonry, Theosophy, the revival of Ritual Magic and of Ceremonial magic, Thelema, and Woodcraft Chivalry, among others.
I found his research into the varieties of ‘Cunning Folk’ and other groups including ‘The Toadmen’ (still around in 1938) and a Masonic styled secret society called ‘The Horseman’s Word’ in the 19th century to be particularly enjoyable and informative reading.
To introduce them briefly, the ‘Cunning Folk’ were professional or semi-professional practitioners of magic active from at least the fifteenth up until the early twentieth century who practiced folk magic – also known as “low magic” – although often combined this with elements of “high” or ceremonial magic. In earlier times, the witch’s power to harm people, livestock, and crops was greatly feared: for this reason country people consulted with the ‘Cunning Men’ and ‘Wise Women’ who had the power to negate their spells with counter-magic.  Cunning-folk practitioners were also consulted for love spells, to find lost property or missing persons, exorcise ghosts and banish evil spirits.
Ronald Hutton suggests that the ‘Cunning Craft’, rather than dying out, had changed character by being subsequently absorbed into other magical currents.
The decline of the cunning craft in Britain was not however indicative of other European nations: in Italy for example, cunning practitioners continued operating right into the early twenty-first century.

Nevertheless, the author portrays that through the increasing interest in ancient Paganism and survival of traditional magical practices like charms during the 19thC, there came about in the 20thC what amounts to a new religion.

Laurie Lipton. The Black Sun

Of The Rise of Modern Wicca, 
Witchcraft and Paganism in Britain;
The second half of this book traces in greater depth the modern history of that new religion, of Paganism and Wicca, with particular focus on Gardnerian and Alexandrian traditions of Wicca and examines the personalities involved in launching modern pagan witchcraft, including Gerald Gardner, Sanders, Valiente, the Crowthers, Pickingill and others.
Hutton says that Wicca was introduced by Gerald Gardener in the mid to late 1950’s shortly after Britain repealed their anti-witchcraft laws. Gardener had claimed that he became acquainted with a group of Rosicrucian actors who introduced him to an ancient surviving craft and that Dorothy Clutterbuck, their priestess, initiated him into their coven.
However, Hutton also argues that Wicca’s origins go well beyond Gardener claiming that Gardener was influenced not only by Ancient Hinduism following his period of civil service in India, but also a diverse collection of sources including 17th and 18th century fraternal organizations, 19th century esoteric societies including the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, the Ordo Templi Orientis  and Freemasonry from whom he borrowed Wicca’s ritual structure, initiations, handshakes and passwords. The author makes clear that Gardener also derived inspiration and some practices from the Occultist Aleister Crowley and Romantic literary authors including Yeats, Frazer and Graves as well as the Back-To-Nature movement.

Despite Gardener’s claimed introduction to an older craft group – which Hutton points out is contested, and because of Gardener’s own subsequent gathering of sources and resources such as The Book Of Shadows, his forming of Covens and publicizing of his new organization, Gardener is nevertheless portrayed as the founding father of modern Wicca.
Whilst this early NeoPaganism may appear a socially or politically subversive movement, particularly because of its secrecy and the reversal of cultural norms such as that some aspects of ritual were to be carried out naked, the point is made that at this stage the movement was not of a socially minded reactionary nature at all. Several of its founding figures were deeply conservative (and politically Conservative), and their quarrel was not with social and economic status quo, but rather against the unnaturalness and destruction of traditional patterns of life and societies deep involvement with nature that characterized the rising industrial modernity.

On the one hand then Hutton appears to make the argument that early modern Pagan Witchcraft did not stem from any unbroken lines of succession and does not represent a survival of ancient forms of indigenous religious practice, but equivocally he also states that various forms of earlier practice such as the Cunning Craft, Wise Women and others had been subsumed and evolved into the new forms of neo Paganism and Wicca…



Of the Modern World View 
& American Feminist  Remodeling of Paganism and Wicca;
Moving on to consider the more recent developments in Wicca and Paganism, Hutton presents the modern world phenomenon of Witchcraft and of Paganism as having developed in Great Britain and been exported to USA where they were taken up by feminist pagans who massively popularized the concepts as well as imbued them with a more socialistic communal minded orientation. After this socialization the author says  a “new and improved” Wicca made the jump back across the pond to England in the early 1980’s, that Paganism and Wicca have returned with greater prominence and popularity to Great Britain in large part via the books of such authors as Starhawk, Z. Budapest and others who have provided a number of self initiation and guide books for the growing number of solitary practitioners or hedge witches. Hutton portrays then the development of an essentially a politically conservative religious movement evolving into a liberal/progressive movement prioritization feminist issues, promoting a progressive social policy, and advocating self-help/group therapies. The author rounds out his voluminous research with an interesting personal account of what in his view the principle precepts of modern Paganism and Wicca entail.

 

Of the Authors Conjectural Conclusions 
And Their Ultimate Uncertainty;
Despite the apparent academic objectivity of Ronald Hutton’s research which I have thoroughly enjoyed in a number of his studies, I found in this work an ambivalence and lack of clear resolution on a number of occasions. Mr Hutton seems to present an evidence based case as far as it would go and then implies the ensuing conjecture without the definitive evidence for the the implied conclusions, a practice which he points out in others as imaginative if academically erroneous. I find myself further intrigued by such deft footwork from an academic author and because of these misgivings I have looked about for other reviewers opinions. Of the many such reviews that I found among those who were not too overwhelmed, like myself, by all the cross references and closely written and basically bewildering panoramic scope of fine details, some appear to see the wood through the trees, claiming that the authors main pitch in this work, that Wicca and NeoPaganism do not carry any unbroken lineage to antiquity, are partisan perspectives that the author has impelled his evidence to support. These views of Ronald Hutton as expressed in The Triumph Of The Moon have then provoked a certain amount of debate from both sides of the camp so to speak. In response to such perspectives, Hutton frequently hints that there is more to this story, but states that without definitive evidence we cannot be sure and then proceeds present to his own conjectured conclusion almost as a definitive orthodoxy.

 

 

Of The Debate over Authorial Objectivity in 
The Triumph Of The Moon;
For a balanced review of The Triumph Of The Moon,  I have include a few quotes here from a well argued case against Ronald Hutton’s conjecture that there is no ancient lineage of Witchcraft or Paganism in Britain, from the author of the website ‘e g r e g o r e s‘ under the title of
The Recantations of Ronald Hutton;
”In Triumph of the Moon, Ronald Hutton triumphantly claimed that the whole notion of the Old Religion had been “swept away” by a “tidal wave” of research…Hutton had spent a decade studying the question of the relationship between modern Paganism and ancient forms of religion…Hutton had reached the conclusion that no such relationship existed whatsoever, and that no one could be taken seriously who believed otherwise, explicitly including anyone who so much as “suggest[ed] that there might be some truth” in the notion of the Old Religion.
The only problem was that the whole time Hutton had, now by his own admission, been systematically ignoring “certain types of ancient religion” which just so happened to be precisely the ones which most “closely resembled [modern] Paganism, had certainly influenced it, and had certain linear connections with it”! And why did he ignore the one place he should have been looking all along? Because it was “in every sense marginal to my own preoccupations.”
Hutton was by his own admission preoccupied then with his own proposition that “the paganism of today has virtually nothing in common with that of the past except the name.”

 

 

In Conclusion;
As I have previously held no particular view over the ancient lineage claims for Witchcraft, Wicca and Paganism in Great Britain, and their authenticity or lack thereof, and because I have followed a largely intuitive path similar perhaps to that of a Hedge-Druid in my relative independence of groups and traditions as regards my own awareness of Pagan and nature reverencing issues and of what I shall term Supernature and its apprehension in daily life, I have found this volume to be informative, enjoyable and unexpectedly provocative. That there ensues some degree of partisan prejudice was almost to be expected, as the wider public may still hold various oppositional perspectives based on an until recently dominant Christian cultural ideology and its ensuing misinformation against Paganism and Witchcraft in particular. That such views should apparently inform an objective academic in his choice of how to handle his subject matter is not a question that I am well enough equipped to consider. I would surmise however by saying that I have learned a lot by reading this work, both within the tome itself and further by becoming aware of sensible and informed dissent without.

For all of these reasons I recommend this study to any who would consider the origins and developments of Witchcraft, Wicca and Paganism in modern Britain today, with the caveat that there may indeed be more to this story than meets the eye or is presented here.

So Mote It Be ~

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 ~

Taliesin’s Battle Of The Trees

I have set Taliesin’s Battle Of The Trees within two other pieces, firstly Tacitus’ report of the Roman invasion of the Druid island of Angelsey, followed by another poem from those by Taliesin which had been mixed in with The Battle of The Trees in a method of concealment to hide the poems meaning from those without understanding.

The Battle Of The Trees / Cad Goddeu ;

The tops of the beech tree have sprouted of late,
are changed and renewed from their withered state.

When the beech prospers, through spells and litanies,
the oak tops entangle, there is hope for the trees.

I have plundered the fern, through all secrets I spy.
Old Math ap Mathonwy knew no more than I.

For with nine sorts of faculty God has gifted me,
I am fruit of fruits gathered from nine sorts of tree–

Plum, quince, whortle, mulberry, raspberry, pear,
Black cherry and white, with the sorb in me share.

From my seat at Caer Fefynedd (Kire Fev-Un-eThh), a city that is strong,
I watched the trees and green things hastening along.

Retreating from happiness they would fein be set
In forms of the chief letters of the alphabet.

Wayfarers wander, warriors are dismayed,
at the renewal of conflicts such as Gwydion made.

Under the root of the tongue, a fight most dread,
and another raging, behind, in the head.

The alders in the front line began the affray.
Will and rowan tree were tardy in array.

The holly, dark green, made a resolute stand;
He is armed with many spear points wounding the hand.

With foot beat of the swift oak heaven and earth rung;
“Stout Guardian of the Door”, his name in every tongue.

Great was the gorse in battle, and the ivy at his prime;
The hazel was arbiter at this charmed time.

Uncouth and savage was the fir, cruel the ash tree–
Turns not aside a foot breadth, straight at the heart runs he.

The birch, though very noble, armed himself but late;
A sign not of cowardice but of high estate.

The heath gave consolation to the tail spent folk
The long enduring poplars in battle much broke.

Some of them were cast away on the field of fright
Because of holes torn in them by the enemy’s might.

Very wrathful was the vine whose henchmen are the elms;
I exalt him mightily to rulers of realms.

Strong chieftains were the blackthorn with his ill fruit,
The unbeloved whitethorn who wears the same suit.

The swift pursuing reed, the broom with his broad,
And the furse but ill-behaved until he is subdued.

The dower scattering yew stood glum at the fight’s fringe,
With the elder slow to burn amid fires that singe.

And the blessed wild apple laughing in pride
And the Borchan of Maeldrew, by the rock slide.

In shelter linger privet and woodbine,
Inexperienced in warfare, and the courtly pine.

But I, although slighted because I was not big,
Fought, trees, in your array on the field of Goddeu Brig.

translation from Robert Graves book The White Goddess;

The Book of Taliesin dates from the 14th C. and collected 56 of the oldest poems in Welsh, those attributed to the 6th C. poet Taliesin would have been composed in the Cumbric dialect of the north. The manuscript preserves a few hymns, a small collection of elegies and also enigmatic poems such as The Battle of Trees and The Spoils of Annwfn, in which the poet claims to have sailed to another world with King Arthur and his warriors.

The Battle of the Trees poem itself, whilst currently “pied” with approximately four other poems, is set during a war between Arawn King of Annwfn or the Underworld, and Amaethon a ploughman. This war is prompted by the latter’s theft of three magical creatures from the underworld, a dog who was the guardian of the secret, a white roebuck who hides the secret, and a lapwing who disguises the secret.
Regarding the secret powers possessed by these otherwordly creatures, it is said in the Triads:
there are three primary essentials of genius;
an eye that can see nature, a heart that can feel nature, and a boldness that dares follow it.

Druids taught in Triads or groups of three, which embodied the traditional Laws, Customs, and Wisdoms, of the ancient Celtic people, such as “Truth in heart, strength in arm, honesty in speech.” or “Three things not easily restrained, the flow of a torrent, the flight of an arrow, and the tongue of a fool.”

The poem famously details the legendary Gwydion‘s account of the trees of the forest which he enchanted to fight as his army against Arawan.
Within the ranks of Arawn’s forces were a number of mighty warriors, and one of these was invincible as long as his name remained a secret.
Gwydion the enchanter rightly guessed the secret name and won the battle saying these words:

Sure-hoofed my spurred horse,
On your shield Alder sprigs,
Bran is your name, Bran of the branches.

Sure-hoofed my horse of war,
On your hand are sprigs of Alder,
Bran you are, by the branch you bear.

However as Robert Graves explores in his book ‘The White Goddess’ the poem is particularly notable for its striking and enigmatic symbolism and the wide variety of interpretations this has occasioned.
Graves suggests that the trees in this poem correspond to the ancient Ogham alphabet, in which each alphabetic character represents a specific musical note, seasonal cycle, mythological tale and deity.
This method of association was a teaching aid in the letters and the trees associated with each, and its use in this poem was a poetic plea for the continuance of the use and teaching of this alphabet;
”This alphabet utilized thirteen consantants and five vowels. The consantants form the thirteen months of the annual cycle, while the vowels set forth the five year cycle of this Celtic calender. The letters/trees within the poem are not set in their proper order, I believe, in a further attempt to “encode” the information given in the poem so that only a person versed in this alphabet could utilize it.” Robert Graves.
Each tree had a meaning and significance of its own, and Gwydion guessed Bran’s name by the Alder branch Bran carried, the Alder being one of Bran’s prime symbols.

Graves thus argued that the original poet had concealed Druidic secrets about an older matriarchal Celtic religion for fear of censure from Christian authorities, that Arawn and Bran were names for the same underworld god and that the battle was probably not physical but rather a struggle of wits and scholarship: Gwydion’s forces could only be defeated if the name of his companion, Lady Achren (“Trees”), was guessed, and Arawn’s host only if Bran’s name was guessed.


Blessed Be /|\ ~

The White Goddess

Whilst some have disputed Graves historical inaccuracies in The White Goddess, im not reading this for its historical account, but rather for its mytho-poetical inventiveness and inspiration, of which I would say that it delivers handsomely.

The attempt to reconcile the Ancient Hebrew, Greek and Celtic civilizations with an Aegean/Tuath De Danaan Diaspora is fascinating and demands that the reader have a fairly wide background in cultural and mythological studies.

Speculating on the Cad Goddeu, The Battle of the Trees, a medieval Welsh poem from the Book of Taliesin, that the trees that fought in the battle in which each tree had a meaning and significance of its own. Graves argues that the original poet had concealed Druidic secrets about an older matriarchal Celtic religion for fear of censure from Christian authorities and that the ‘battle’ was probably not physical but rather a struggle of wits and scholarship. They did this he claims by employing the secret sign language called Ogham, in this case the Tree Ogham in which each tree holds a representative symbol, sound, meaning, set of mythologies and etc..

The particular poem and its meanings is he claims further concealed by the device of being ‘pied’ or mixed up with a further four poems, only those in the know would be able to correctly untangle and decipher their original order.

However and due to the excessive overloading of references and origins, at times it seems that Graves has almost become one of his ancient Cambrian Awenyddion’ the magical minstrel poets who disguised their wisdom under the pretence of being possessed by spirits, as they did not deliver the answer to what is required in any connected manner…”but the person who skillfully observes them will find after many preambles…and incoherent though ornamented speeches, the desired explanation conveyed in some turn of word”

He could not have described his own method more perfectly, persist and you will find his meanings become clearer.

Nevertheless, despite the erratic, over-rich and often obscure prose, his reconciliation of the Tree Ogham Alphabet with the calender of the Year, the stations of both sun and moon, is an inspiring and potentially convincing demonstration of how the ancient mythographers (may have)created meaning and managed the seasonal and social rituals of their times.

Reaching further, his exposition and extrapolation of Biblical and earlier mythologies and their themes is remarkable.

I value and recommend this work to any more serious and patient reader (who is preferably well read mytho-historically) for its hidden gems, its tremendous scope and its imaginative-inspirational qualities.

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