Posts Tagged ‘King Arthur’

Blood and Mistletoe :

Very enjoyable scholarly assessment of the historical perspectives on and contingent development of more modern Druids.
Hutton portrays the origins and alternating fortunes of the Druid, how they have been reimagined, reinterpreted, and reinvented to portray them as patriots, scientists, philosophers and priests, or alternately as corrupt, bloodthirsty and ignorant, fomenters of rebellion, or forefathers of Christian Religion and along the way how they have become either by example or exclusion, guardians of tradition.
Such an extensive work merits a repeated reading, here is a brief review of the many areas that he explores.

These figures dressed in cucullus found on a shrine on Hadrians wall.
The Druids may have worn similar attire

Setting out with an exposition of the ancient literary references such as that of Pliny, Julius Caesar and etc which cast doubt over the Druid’s roles and presented the conquering forces of Rome as that of civilizing a savage and cruel religion, Hutton thoughtfully presents a fascinating and objective assessment of their actual value as historical documents and reveals the many influencing factors at play in them…


Following a period of little interest, the historical threads pick up in the late medieval period, as Hutton explores how subsequent notions of Druids were formed and employed in the service of national prestige and also the reverse engineering of their alleged role in supporting Christianities apparently literal historical accuracy and ensuing spiritual eminence.

At the end of the 15thc the new Humanist movement in scholarship with its aims to recover and build upon the knowledge of the classical ancient world, gave rise to a concurrent celebration of the indigenous peoples as honorable ancestors with a culture of some merit and in this context increasingly presented the Druids as the nearest thing that Europe had had to scientists and philosophers.

Despite the lack of evidence, the German Humanist Conrad Celtes claimed that the Druids had fled there across the Rhine to escape the Romans and hide in German forests, which along with the fact that the Rhineland had been part of the Roman province of Gaul, established their reclamation as of a shared Gallic ancestry.
Basing their accounts on Caesar’s comments of the Druids as meeting at Carnute where the Druids of Gaul had met each year, Symphorien Champier seems to have made the case for the druids as French noble ancestors, and in 1585 the French author Taillepied was the first author in any language to devote a book to them.
In this new favorable view, which deftly set aside Caesar’s comments about sacrifice as an unimportant fringe activity, the popularity of Druids rose to the extent that by the early 16thC the Druid and Christian cult had been united with claims of the cathedral of Dreux being founded by them following a prediction they had made over a coming saviour and by 1552 Rabelais could refer to them as ‘familiar beloved figures’.

They also appeared in a book published in Paris 1526 ‘Scotorum Historiae’ about Scotland written by the Scottish Hector Boece who nationalistically claimed the Druids main meeting place as the Isle of Man and thus shifted their central locus From Germany and France to Scotland.
Whilst the Scots were taking advantage of this new pro-Druid perspective, the Irish already had Druids built into their national literature via Irish sagas and saints’ lives recorded by Christian monks where Druids are accorded high social status until the coming of Christianity when the role of the Druid in Irish society was rapidly reduced to that of a sorcerer who could be consulted to cast spells or practice healing magic and their standing declined accordingly , and the Welsh who claimed direct descent and therefore unbroken lineage from the ancient Britons themselves.
The English annexed these various views into their own greater history with a view to establishing cultural supremacy of the whole archipelago, with which they could rival the French.

Tudor England however during late 16thC and early 17thC saw, rather than an ongoing rise in the popularity of Druids, a decline based on a number of factors including that the Irish writers presented the Druids as main opponents of their Roman Catholic Saints, the Welsh were co-opting them from the Scottish, and the English at this time did not wish to associate with the Welsh, plus identification of Druids with the poorly regarded Scottish and French may have been a further deterrent in and of itself.

Following this decline of favor, a resurgence of interest was slow but steady and backed with good credentials.
John Aubrey (1626–1697) was an English antiquary, natural philosopher and writer best known as author of the short biographical pieces ‘Brief Lives’. He was also a pioneer archaeologist, who recorded (often for the first time) numerous megalithic and other field monuments in southern England, and is particularly noted as the discoverer of the Avebury henge monument. He presented his findings about Avebury to the Royal Society of London in 1663 (The Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge) .
In 1722 Edmund Gibson‘s published his enlarged edition of ‘Britannica’ which established a credible orthodoxy of interpretations of Britain’s megalithic monuments as the holy places of its prehistoric inhabitants.


Then the antiquarian Anglican vicar William Stukeley (1687–1765) who proclaimed himself a ‘Druid’, wrote a number of popular books in which he claimed that prehistoric megaliths like Stonehenge and Avebury were temples built by the Druids.


Stukeley had been inspired by Issac Newtons interest in the cosmological significance of numbers and measurements in ancient Hebrew architecture, particularly the Temple of Solomon which was a subject of wider interest at this time) as representation of the cosmos. Stukeley’s view was that these were all in their turn inspired by ancient Egyptians and early Druids, which furthered the growing impression of Druids as nature priests and worthy ancestors devoted to God.


Promoting the view of a powerful relationship between Christianity and Neoplatonism, Druids at this period were claimed to have been both subscribers to, or creators of Plato‘s philosophy of reincarnation, and the original discoverers of literacy, science and philosophy which they allegedly taught to the Greeks, their religion was thus held to have prefigured that of Christianity and all the alleged Druid symbolism was identified as coded references to the one greater faith that would come.


Soon after the publication and spread of Stukeley’s writings, other people also began to self-describe themselves as ‘Druids’ and form societies: the earliest of these was the Druidic Society, founded on the Welsh island of Anglesey in 1772. Largely revolving around ensuring the continued financial success of business on the island, it attracted many of Anglesey’s wealthy inhabitants and donated much of its proceeds to charity, but was disbanded in 1844.
A similar Welsh group was the Society of the Druids of Cardigan, founded circa 1779, largely by a group of friends who wished to attend ‘literary picnics’ together.

The third British group to call itself Druidic was English rather than Welsh, and was known as the Ancient Order of Druids. Founded in 1781 and influenced by Freemasonry, its origins have remained somewhat unknown, but it subsequently spread in popularity from its base in London across much of Britain and even abroad, with new lodges being founded, all of which were under the control of the central Grand Lodge in London. The Order was not religious in structure, and instead acted as somewhat of a social club, particularly for men with a common interest in music. In 1833 it suffered a schism, as a large number of dissenting lodges, unhappy at the management of the Order, formed their own United Ancient Order of Druids, and both groups would go on to grow in popularity throughout the rest of the century.


The wider British society began to accept the claims for a Druidic role in Biblical times, that they were either noble and inspired forerunners of the Patriarchal fathers of Judaism before Christianity, or alternately that they shared a similar view of Religion and were therefore very ready to embrace ‘the word’ (of Christ) when it arrived in Britain, either way the Druids Prehistoric and specifically Biblical associations seemed assured.
William Stukeley can be seen then as the man who did most to persuade the English that the Druids had been the builders of England’s spectacular prehistoric monuments which inturn secured their role in the British imagination as a whole as wise and worthy ancestors.

We also learn of the remarkable and imaginative Welshman Iolo Morganwg (Edward Williams 1747–1826), an influential Welsh antiquarian, poet, collector, and literary forger who began to perpetuate the claim that he was one of the last initiates of a surviving group of Druids who were descended from those found in the Iron Age, centered around his home county of Glamorgan. He subsequently organized the performing of Neo-Druidic rituals on Primrose Hill with some of his followers, whom he categorized as either Bards or Ovates, with he himself being the only one actually categorized as a Druid. He practiced a form of religion which he believed the ancient Druids had had, which involved the worship of a singular monotheistic deity as well as the acceptance of reincarnation. Widely considered a leading collector and expert on medieval Welsh literature in his day, he asserted that he had found and translated various ancient medieval and ancient welsh bards texts (which have become standards of subsequent neo Druidical tradition) although after his death it was revealed that he had forged a large number of these manuscripts including the Druidical Triads such as
The Three Triumphs of the Bardic order; Learning, Reason & Peace…
The Three Unities Of The Cosmos; God, Truth and Liberty.

He presented Roman Catholicism as the corrupted form of the teachings which had prevailed earlier and so set about a call for revival of the ancient ways by creating the kind of Druid literary evidence which was lacking historically but that he felt should have existed.
Despite the false nature of their origins, his literary contribution has significantly influenced the Welsh Gorsedds , the Gorsedd Beirdd Ynys Prydain itself was founded in 1792 by him along with much of its rituals.


By the 1860’s whilst druids had dominated the perceptions of the ancient Britons, portrayed varyingly as savages or heroes, they had become central to Britain’s story of its own prehistory.
Yet, although previously exemplified among the Pre-Raephelites and Romantic Poets, the artistic movement now began its Gothic phase and this prioritized the dark gloomy aspects of nature and existential despair over the earlier romantic immanence and delight of nature and in the Druids.
Further in this downplaying development was the arising of a more critical scholarship in part following on such luminaries as Charles Darwin whose Origin Of The Species decisively removed the stamp of literal authenticity from the Bible as a historical record of early times and in so doing also removed the need for people to identify their Druidical ancestors as related to that story.
Archaeological and Geological Science now replaced theological perspectives and in this light the origins of the many megalithic structures came under a sustained barrage of academia, which found little or no direct evidence for the Druids at these sites.

The rise of late Georgian and early Victorian Britain as a technological and industrial force displaced quaint ruritanian ideologies further, as the culture realigned itself with the earlier Empirical Roman culture, justifying their world wide land and resources grab and subjugation of wider world peoples as a spiritual mission to Civilize and Christianize them for their own good.
In this context the nature Druids were portrayed once again as forlorn savages easily identified with some of the tribes people now discovered around the world and whilst the latter were held to be less evolved morally or culturally, so these sweeping and disparaging generalizations were applied retrospectively to the formerly applauded Druids.
With a view to why the contemporary writers of note had not taken up the Druid cause, Hutton explains how they had apparently become such a standard trope that they did not hold any novel appeal, although less erudite literature salaciously celebrated this fall from grace with imaginative and avid accounts of the atrocities that it was suspected the Druids had carried out, both satisfying the repressions of the age and reinforcing their view of themselves and their culture as superior.

Yet at the end of this period the rise of clubs and societies which also include freemasonry as well as social clubs, brought about an increasing number of new, Druid fraternities, which at start seemed more to be about song and community, but as time wore on and they grew in membership, stature and influence, becoming increasingly akin to benevolent societies, designed to provide assistance to their membership in times of need.


We are then introduced to George Watson MacGregor Reid (1862?-1946), another remarkable and colorful character, this time Scottish, who held a philosophy based on his view of a Universal Bond and who led ‘The Druid Order‘. The Church of the Universal Bond was a religious group founded in Britain in the early twentieth century by MacGregor Reid, promoting socialist revolution, anti-imperialism and sun worship.
Initially aligned with Zoroastrianism, by 1912, MacGregor Reid was becoming more attracted to Druidry, especially as Stonehenge was at the time being seen as a solar temple.


His church began holding rituals there and their worship was permitted to continue when the site was given to the state in 1918. He and his group are first recorded there in June 1912. During the succeeding two summers they clashed with the owner and the police, because of their wish to hold rites in the circle and their disinclination to pay the recently imposed admission fee.

Although only commanding around 50 adherents in its early days, the church was instrumental in forming the link in the popular imagination between Stonehenge and Druids despite the efforts of archaeologists to discourage it. In 1924, the Office of Works permitted the church to scatter the ashes of cremated former members at Stonehenge, which drew significant protests from the Society of Antiquaries, the Wiltshire Archaeological Society, the Royal Archaeological Institute and famous archaeologists such as O. G. S. Crawford. The outcry persuaded the government to withdraw permission and in 1932 the Church officially moved its rites from the monument to Normanton Gorse nearby.
MacGregor Reid thereby made the name of Druid into both a vehicle and metaphor for English Cultural radicalism, and founded the enduring tradition which through succession continues unbroken to this day
(perhaps with the current day protests over access and admissions fees to Stonehenge of King Arthur Pendragon).


After the Second World War, MacGregor Reid’s son Robert took over leadership of the church and it was able to regain midsummer access to Stonehenge throughout the 1950s, 60s and 70s, to the dismay of many leading archaeologists.
When Thomas Maughan was elected chief in 1964, some senior members and the Order’s Maenarch left to form the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids.


The growing Stonehenge free festival caused the monument to be closed at midsummer in 1985 and the Church faded into obscurity but has maintained a presence at the re-opened solstice festivities since 2000.

Despite the kind of mysterious and magickal account which one might have hoped for in such a book as this, perhaps a ‘history’ written by Iolo Morganwg would have served such a purpose better, this study provides the most objective and thorough account yet written of the little we know about the ancient Druids and their subsequent reinvention and revival to this day. Throughout the book Hutton’s prose is informed by many personal and some humorous details which furnish a much more engaging presentation than either a work of speculative conjecture or one of chronological charting might have done.
Suggesting then that the Druids displacement from the national imagination has occurred because of the earlier success integrating them into established structures of thought against which later artistic, religious and scientific developments defined themselves by contrasting orientation, ethics and methodologies, this book also portrays the far reaching influence of three very imaginative men, William Stukeley, Iolo Morganwg and George Watson MacGregor, ranging from classic English eccentrics to reactionary rogues who between them have created and characterized the nature of a Druid as we think of them today.

(Green Man by Miranda Mott)

~ Highly Recommended ~
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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 ~

On A Modern Druid’s Education

Having an interest in The Druids, Nature and the Ancient Ways, I have from time to time been asked whether I could recommend any books for beginners or others to get a sense of what modern Druidry may entail…


The role of Druids in Celtic society was a broad and influential one that included Teachers, Healers , Bardic-Poets, Musicians, Shaman, Priests, Astrologers, Historians, Judges and Advisers to Kings.
Following the etymology of the name Druid, dru as ‘oak’ or ‘doorway’ and wid as ‘to see’ or ‘wisdom’, the name means ‘oak-wisdom’, although Irish druí and Welsh dryw could also refer to the wren, connected with an association of that bird with augury bird in Irish and Welsh tradition, thus the Druid is someone wise in the ways of nature, the seen and unseen.
Inspired by these traditions and the pre-Christian Celtic folktales, legends and mythologies which valued the spiritual within nature, some modern Druids commit to a guardianship of our environment and planet, to practise the ideals of the sacred and the spiritual by honoring the natural world.

In the past, a Druid’s education may have taken anywhere from 12 to 20 years, beginning around the age of five or soon after any person was deemed gifted by the divine, it began with a study of the tales and traditions, included Poetry, Nature and Law and continued with Communication and Music, a set of skills not unfamiliar to the teachings of similar cultural leaders in the classical antiquity of ancient Greece and Rome..

Today some Neo Druid and Reconstructionist Druid groups offer an education in these traditional subjects, giving tutored instruction progressing from the training of a Bard, moving through the Ovate grade to culminate in the ultimate achievement of becoming a Druid. Such tuition is naturally embellished by their own school of thought and necessarily funded by subscription to pay for the tutors guidance and support. But because there is no single sacred text or surviving body of doctrine upon which to base such teaching, whilst some of the books and course material used may be widely available from libraries and shops, others may be exclusive and available only from the organization involved..

Not all Druids today however believe the same things, or in the same routes of learning.
Some believe that the spirit is led by higher powers along its path to the gods, to apprehend the spirits and faerie folk, to travel the inner paths to the other-worlds, and to manifest healing and wisdom upon the earth.

Many who have not followed any formalized training nevertheless do also have powerful skills, and for them the distinction between the roles or formal acknowledgement of achievement is less important than the insight and abilities themselves.
The difference between these two approaches to Druidry could be considered the same as that between a college education and a vocational apprenticeship. In learning to practice such wisdom intuitively, they have learned the secret of setting aside worldly concerns and by embracing all that life has to offer have discovered the many truths transcending all.
Bringing this inner light back to the people, interacting with all things respectfully and as an act of devotion, this is the sign of a true Druid.

Central to modern Druidic belief is a love of nature combined with a pragmatic understanding that spiritual insight be expressed by responsible action in our daily life, shared with and on behalf of the community for its greater good.


To support an understanding of how we may continue to honor the ancestral spirits and follow the traditional paths of wisdom,
I have gathered here a short reading list for any who may wish to add an academic or historical basis to their insights and practice of Druidry.

However I would mention that whilst rooted in the traditional Druidic lore of yore, this list also establishes a clear link between reflection on the ancient paths and action in this modern world.


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Introductory;


”The Trials of Arthur” Arthur Pendragon and CJ Stone.

Detailing the return of England’s Ancient Leader, King Arthur.A Hearty and Heartfelt account full of derring do and of Down To Earth Druidry, following the path of Action and introducing the aims of the Loyal Arthurian Warband Order of Druids,The L.A.W. Arthur has risen to meet the challenges before him with delight and good humor, Recommended.
Reading Level: Standard


”The Apple Branch;A Path to Celtic Ritual” Alexei Kondratiev

Nicely written introduction to Celtic-inspired rituals and ceremonies. The author has done a lot of research and understands Celtic society and culture. It could be argued that Kondratiev’s NeoWiccan background throws things off a bit – but it’s still worth reading, because Kondratiev manages to avoid a lot of the overly-romanticized fluff that appears in many of the books purporting to be about Celtic Paganism.
Reading Level: Intermediate

”The Stations of the Sun” Ronald Hutton

Comprehensive and engaging, this colourful study covers the whole sweep of ritual history from the earliest written records to the present day. From May Day revels and Midsummer fires, to Harvest Home and Hallowe’en, to the twelve days of Christmas, Ronald Hutton takes us on a fascinating journey through the ritual year in Britain. He challenges many common assumptions about the customs of the past, and debunks many myths surrounding festivals of the present, to illuminate the history of the calendar year we live by today.
Reading Level: Advanced

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Historical;

”The Celts: A Very Short Introduction” Barry Cunliffe.

The Celts have long been a subject of fascination, speculation, and misunderstanding. From the ancient Romans to the present day, their real nature has been obscured by a tangled web of preconceived ideas and stereotypes.Cunliffe seeks to reveal this fascinating people using an impressive range of evidence, and exploring subjects such as trade, migration, and the evolution of Celtic traditions. Along the way, he exposes the way in which society’s needs have shaped our visions of the Celts, and examines such colorful characters as St. Patrick, Cu Chulainn, and Boudica.
Reading Level: Standard

”A Brief History of the Druids” Peter Beresford Ellis.

Contrary to the portrayal of them that we see in a lot of New Age books, the Druids were not a bunch of tree-hugging “get in touch with your feelings” peaceful clerics. They were in fact the intellectual social class of the Celts -Judges, Bards, Astronomers, Physicians and Philosophers. Although there is no written first-hand record of their activities, Ellis delves into the writings of contemporaries from other societies such as Pliny the Elder and Julius Caesar, whose Commentaries whilst politically partisan, do include frequent first hand references to the people he encountered in the British Isles.
Reading Level: Intermediate


“Women of the Celts” Jean Markale

Jean Markale takes an in-depth look at the society of the early Celtic tribes, and focuses on the role of women within that societal framework. There’s not a lot of information on Celtic mythology – but there’s a treasure trove of background on Celtic society, sociological theory, sexual standards, and economics. He also discusses legal issues that permitted the women of the Celts so much more freedom than their counterparts in other regions of the world, particularly the patriachalist Rome.
Reading Level: Advanced

”Blood and Mistletoe: The History of the Druids in Britain” Ronald Hutton

This book is, quite simply, a tour de force. Interpretations of Druidry through the ages, treated to scrupulous scholarly dissection, in a masterly fashion. From Caesar, a truly machiavellian author, onwards, a succession of agenda-laden activists, scholars and authors have fashioned an image of druids for the popular imagination to suit the political and cultural points they are making. By examining all these written sources in the context of the social, economic, political standpoint of the various authors, a magnificent tapestry is gradually woven of English history and the men who have affected it; with. always, the misty figure of the druid just glimpsed to colour the narrative. Through the chapters we run – through the ages, and the gamut of emotional responses to the term druid; from disgust and vilification for a blood-soaked and savage priesthood to awe and wonder at the disseminators of the mystical wisdom of nature, pausing in admiration for them as radical freedom fighters along the way.
Reading Level: Graduate

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Poetical;

”The Mabinogi and Other Medieval Welsh Tales”

There are numerous translations available of The Mabinogion, which is the Welsh mythic cycle. However, Patrick Ford’s is one of the best. Many modern translations of the work are heavily influenced by a blend of Victorian romance, French Arthurian tales and New Age imagery. Ford leaves all of that out, and offers a faithful yet eminently readable version of the four tales of the Mabinogi, as well as three other stories from the myth cycle of the early Welsh legends. This is a primary source of Celtic legend and myth, so if you’re interested in the exploits of the gods and goddesses, as well as the mortals and demigods of folklore, this is a great resource to use.
Reading Level: Standard

”Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” Burton Raffel (Translator), Neil D. Isaacs

One of the greatest works of the Middle Ages, in a marvelous new verse translation Composed in the fourteenth century, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is as beloved as it is venerable, combining the hallmarks of medieval romance-pageantry, chivalry, and courtly love-with the charm of fairy tales and heroic sagas. Blending Celtic myth and Christian faith, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is a Middle English masterpiece of magic, chivalry, and seduction.
Reading Level: Standard

”Taliesin: The Last Celtic Shaman” John Matthews

Taliesin, Chief Bard of Britain and Celtic shaman, was an historical figure who lived in Wales during the latter half of the sixth century. Encoded within his work are the ancestral beliefs of the Celtic and pre-Celtic peoples. In addition, his verse is established as a direct precursor to the Arthurian legends – and Taliesin himself, shaman and shapeshifter, is said to be the direct forebear to Merlin. Matthews sheds new light on the poems of Taliesin and on the vast body of allusion, story and myth that grew from his body of work and shamanic practice. This book reveals Druidic prophecy, methods of divination and the rites, rituals and beliefs that were essential to Celtic spiritual practice. It also features Taliesin’s works as keys to the Arthurian legends.
Reading Level: Intermediate


”The Bardic Handbook The Complete Manual for the 21st Century Bard” Kevan Manwaring

This complete manual for the Twenty-First-Century Bard contains all you need to know to start you on the Bardic Path. Here you will find inspiration and instruction, whether you want to dedicate yourself to the Way of Awen, or simply wish to improve your public-speaking skills and be able to express yourself with confidence. Learn how to enchant an audience with gramarye, through poetry, storytelling and songcraft, and how to use the magic of words to bless, honour, heal and celebrate your identity, community and heritage.With an easy-to-follow 12 month self-study programme and week-by-week exercises and mini-lessons about bardic lore, this book will lead you along the Way of Awen.
Reading Level: Advanced

”The White Goddess: a Historical Grammar of Poetic Myth” Robert Graves

This labyrinthine and extraordinary book-length essay on the nature of poetic myth-making, was the outcome of Graves’s vast reading and curious research into strange territories of folklore, mythology, religion and magic. Erudite and impassioned, it is a scholar-poet’s quest for the meaning of European myths, a polemic about the relations between man and woman, and also an intensely personal document in which Graves explored the sources of his own inspiration and, as he believed, all true poetry.
Reading Level: Graduate


”Shakespeare and the Goddess of Complete Being” Ted Hughes

Might best be compared to Robert Graves’ book The White Goddess in terms of its scope and intent, it is a rich book filled with what I would call poetic as well as literary insights (like Graves’ work). The section where Hughes breaks down Shakespeare’s language showing how within each contrasting set of phrases he was communicating both to the rabble on the floor and the intellectuals in the gods is stunning. A worthwhile read for anyone who loves to spend time at the juncture between myth, literature and poetry, remarkable.
Reading Level: Graduate

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Spiritual;

”Way of the Peaceful Warrior” Dan Millman

You’ve learned body control and even some mind control, but your heart has not yet opened. Your goal should not be invulnerability, but vulnerability – to the world, to life, and therefore, to the Presence you felt. I’ve tried to show you by example that a warrior’s life is not about imagined perfection or victory; it is about love. Love is the warrior’s sword; wherever it cuts, it gives life, not death.’ This is a book I would give to anyone to read for pleasure and to those following the path of the spiritual warrior. It demonstrates that the true essence of a champion is indeed the culmination of a strong body, mind, as well as spirit.
Reading Level: Standard

”The Complete Illuminated Books William Blake” John Commander (Foreword by), David Bindman (Introduction)

In his Illuminated Books Blake combined text and imagery on a single page in a way that had not been done since the Middle Ages. For Blake, religion and politics, intellect and emotion, mind and body were both unified and in conflict with each other. There is no comparison with reading books such as Jerusalem, America, and Songs of Innocence and of Experience in Blake’s own medium, infused with his sublime and exhilarating colors. Tiny figures and forms dance among the lines of the text, flames appear to burn up the page, and dense passages of Biblical-sounding text are brought to a jarring halt by startling images of death, destruction, and liberation.Blake often spoke of Albion, England’s great, mythological past, ruled by Druids. To quote Peter Ackroyd: “All his life, Blake was entranced and persuaded by the idea of a deeply spiritual past, and he continually alluded to the possibility of ancient lore and arcane myths that could be employed to reveal previously hidden truths.”
Reading Level: Intermediate


”Sun of gOd: Discover the Self-Organizing Consciousness That Underlies Everything” by Gregory Sams.
“Sun of gOd presents a perfectly outrageous hypothesis: The sun is a conscious, living organism residing in a thriving galactic community, thinking stellar thoughts that span the entire universe. Surely this is nonsense. Except that the more you read the more a conscious universe begins to make sense. Gregory Sams’ book is a clearly written and persuasively reasoned argument to think about the sun in a radically new and refreshing way.” -Dean Radin, PhD, Senior Scientist, Institute of Noetic Sciences
Reading Level: Advanced


”Living With Honour: A Pagan Ethics” Emma Restall Orr

Living With Honour is a provocative and uncompromising exploration of how Paganism can provide the philosophical guidance to live honorably in a twenty-first Western society. Part One explores the history of Paganism, its undercurrents of anarchy, heresy, environmentalism and animism, finding its place within the history of Western philosophy. Part Two addresses key moral issues from that animistic perspective, beginning with the foundation of human relationships and attitudes towards the Other. It book explores how we value life, and firstly human life, looking at dying, suicide and euthanasia, birth, abortion and IVF. It then examines the human abuse of nonhuman animals, discussing sentience, personhood and inherent value. Finally, it focuses on current global crises, exploring need as opposed to desire.’This is an excellent pioneering work, erudite, courageous and imaginative, that provides a new kind of ethics, linked to a newly appeared complex of religions, which are founded on some very old human truths.’ Professor Ronald Hutton, world expert on paganism and author of The Triumph of the Moon and many other studies.
Reading Level: Advanced


”The Sacred and The Profane: The Nature of Religion” Mircea Eliade

In the “Sacred and the Profane”, Mircea Eliade describes two fundamentally different modes of experience: the traditional and the modern. Traditional man or “homo religious” is open to experiencing the world as sacred. Modern man however, is closed to these kinds of experiences. For him the world is experienced only as profane. It is the burden of the book to show in what these fundamentally opposed experiences consist. Traditional man often expresses this opposition as real vs. unreal or pseudoreal and he seeks as much as possible to live his life within the sacred, to saturate himself in reality. According to Eliade the sacred becomes known to man because it manifests itself as different from the profane world. This manifestation of the sacred Eliade calls “hierophany”. For Eliade this is a fundamental concept in the study of the sacred and his book returns to it again and again.The “Sacred and the Profane” is divided into four chapters dealing with space, time, nature, and man. To these is appended a “Chronological Survey Of the History of Religions as a Branch of Knowledge.”
Reading Level: Graduate

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Environmental;


”Copse: Cartoon Book of Tree Protesting” Kate Evans

The rise of the environmental direct action movement in Britain in the 1990s is documented nowhere as well as it is here. Kate Evans was at most of the major protests, and tells her own story, but also uses interviews with more than 50 others who were there too. All the warmth, the drive, the integrity and drama of these extraordinary events is told with a disarming honesty and and involving humanity. It becomes clear that these were no heroes of the mass-media’s ‘eco-warrior’ stories; these were simply people with a will to affect the things that affect them, and who realised that morals and motivation are enough.The book does much to break down the barrier of spectator and participant, making you realise the ordinariness of the campaigners, and also encouraging you with a comprehensive ‘how to’ section at the back and a massive list of relevant contactsIf you want to understand what it’s all been about, this book is as accessible as it is comprehensive.
Reading Level: Standard

“Small is Beautiful” E.F. Schumacher.

Small Is Beautiful: Economics As If People Mattered is a collection of essays by British economist E. F. Schumacher. The phrase “Small Is Beautiful” is often used to champion small, appropriate technologies that are believed to empower people more, in contrast with phrases such as “bigger is better”. The point of this book is to assault what is meant by progress and try and understand what has gone wrong when we live in almost obscene wealth while large parts of the planet barely get by. This book is a call to arms, to understand things we all seem to have forgotten: what is value? what actually matters in life? should the means always justify the ends? what is work for? and who put all these economists in charge?
The Times Literary Supplement ranked Small Is Beautiful among the 100 most influential books published since World War II.
Reading Level: Intermediate


”This Borrowed Earth” Robert Emmet Herna.

Lessons from the Fifteen Worst Environmental Disasters around the WorldOver the last century mankind has irrevocably damaged the environment through the unscrupulous greed of big business and our own willful ignorance. Here are the strikingly poignant accounts of disasters whose names live in infamy: Chernobyl, Bhopal, Exxon Valdez, Three Mile Island, Love Canal, Minamata, and others. And with these, the extraordinary and inspirational stories of the countless men and women who fought bravely to protect the communities and environments at risk.
Reading Level: Intermediate

”No Logo” Naomi Klein.

In the last decade, No Logo has become a cultural manifesto for the critics of unfettered capitalism worldwide. As the world faces a second economic depression, No Logo’s analysis of our corporate and branded world is as timely and powerful as ever. Klein also looks at the workers who keep these companies running, most of whom never share in any of the great rewards. The president of Borders, when asked whether the bookstore chain could pay its clerks a “living wage” wrote that “while the concept is romantically appealing, it ignores the practicalities and realities of our business environment”. Those clerks should probably just be grateful they’re not stuck in an Asian sweatshop, making pennies an hour to produce Nike sneakers or other must-have fashion items.

Throughout the four parts (“No Space”, “No Choice”, “No Jobs”, and “No Logo”), Klein writes about issues such as sweatshops in the Americas and Asia, culture jamming, corporate censorship, and Reclaim the Streets.

Reading Level: Advanced

”Landscape and Memory” Simon Schama.

An extraordinary survey of European attitudes to and conceptualizations of nature over the course of the last 500 years or so, and how our ideas of nature have shaped how we interact with it. In a wide sweep of history that encompassess as unlikely a set of figures as Varus, a Roman general responsible for a catastrophic lost battle in the Black Forest and a 19th century French founder of the concept of “eco-rambling”, Schama has produced a stunning work that seeks to answer the central question: is our view of nature ruled by the mind, or by magical human interpretations? There are few books that could match this pyrotechnic display of learning and exposition of aesthetic views of nature that have shaped warfare,politics,religion and modern ecology. It is impossible to view today’s environmentalism before reading this provocative and insightful book the same way as when one puts it down. Reasonably scholarly but still quite readable.
Reading Level: Graduate

Come forth into the light of things, let Nature be your teacher.

William Wordsworth. ~


Compiled by Celestial Elf /|\

The Life and Times of a Modern-day King

The Trials of Arthur:Five Star Book Review;
Arthur Pendragon and Christopher James’

The Trials of Arthur: The Life and Times of a Modern-day King.

Brilliant Book detailing the return of England’s Ancient Leader, King Arthur in person.

Providing an account of his early life as John Timothy Rothwell, his progression from Biker Gang to British Army and subsequent return to the highways and byways as King John, so named by his friends because he held parties in the ruined castle at Odiham known as King Johns Castle.

As circumstances continued to present inescapable similarities of events and of personal identity, and following his Druid belief in reincarnation, he officially changed his name to became Arthur Pendragon on 11 June 1986.
Following his new calling, his campaigns on behalf of the people of Great Britain against injustice done to them such as in The Poll Tax, and on behalf of the natural sites of Great Britain such as most famously, Stonehenge, have lead to his arrest over 30 times.
Taking his responsibilities to heart however, no such inconvenience be it obstruction by the Law or by adverse weather has slowed down Arthur’s actions on behalf of the people and the land.
For example of his dedication, he has stood vigil in all weathers fair and foul at Stonehenge to protest against and raise awareness of the British Governments control over the ancient religious site (in the form of English Heritage ) who have restricted access throughout the year and charge an entrance fee to enter this scared site.
His actions have to some extent proved successful as now Stonehenge is made available for all people to celebrate the Solstices.

Rightly earned then and as if an apparition from medieval times, Arthur was crowned ‘Raised Druid King of Britain’ by representatives from 5 druid orders on 3 January 1998 on the ancient Coronation Stone at Kingston Upon Thames. The small group of robed characters stepped magically past the everyday streets of a thriving shopping center in the town as Arthur climbed upon the Stone, all the bustle of the 20th C and its busy life providing an unlikely backdrop for this remarkable event.

A very Hearty and Heartfelt account full of derring do and of Down To Earth Druidry, following the path of Action.
Wether real or no, King Arthur has risen to meet the challenges before him with delight and good humor, Recommended.

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