Posts Tagged ‘Sidhe’

The Druid’s Parable

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From the Second Epistle in the Book of Apocrypha of Robert Larson, (Isaac Bonewit’s mentor) and perhaps the true founder of Neopagan Druidism.
Robert offered this parable of his own creation, to counsel tolerance and variation among warring branches of the Reformed Druids during their ideological and structural conflicts of 1976;

I will now relate this incredibly ancient Druid fable
which I have just written.

Ahem.

Once in the long ago there were three Druids, and very fine Druids they were, too. It came to pass that each of them inherited a piece of land with a large rock on it.
Now the First of these Druids went to his land and looked at his rock and immediately fell in love with it.
To make his rock even more beautiful he fell to rubbing and buffing it until it bore a bright polish.
Every day he would rub and buff it till it almost outshone the sun, so bright it was.
The people who lived nearby would often come to see the rock and say what a wonderful, bright rock it was.

Now eventually the Druid died and went to the Sidhe hills as all good Druids do. But the wind and rain did not die.
Slowly it was that the rock lost its polish, but lose it it did. No longer did the people come to see the rock, now neither wonderful nor bright, for of what interest is a mere rock, except to a geologist?

The second of the Druids went to his land and looked at his rock and thought what a wonderful statue his rock would make.
So he took a hammer and chisel and carved a statue of his god out of it. Paint he put on his statue, and gold and jewels also, until it looked exactly like his idea of his god. And the people who lived both near and far came to marvel at the statue and worship at it, saying such things as “You could swear that it’s alive, that it’s being.” To which the Druid would reply, “It is.”
Eventually the second Druid too died and went to the Sidhe hills where all good Druids go…

Eventually the second Druid too died and went to the Sidhe hills where all good Druids go. But the wind and rain did not die, nor did human nature change. Thieves came and stripped the statue of its gold and its jewels. Wind and rain completed the destruction, until the statue once again resembled nothing so much as a rock.
And the people stopped coming to marvel and to worship, for, after all, who wants to worship a rock after he’s had the most wonderful statue in the world?

The Third Druid went to his land and looked at his rock. Then he climbed upon it and looked about him, liking what he saw.
He planted flowers, trees and bushes about the rock and lichen on it. Every day he would herd his cows and sheep on the land about the rock, sitting on or resting against it.

As time went by, the flowers, the bushes and trees grew and the lichen covered the rock, giving the Druid an even more beautiful view and a softer seat to watch his herds from.
So beautiful did the Druid’s land become, that people came from far and near to sit with him and watch the deer and fox play and the flowers bloom, for it was said to be the most beautiful and peaceful place in the world.
The time came when the third Druid died and went to the Sidhe hills where all good Druids go.

But the flowers did not stop growing, nor did the bushes and trees and lichen.Still did the deer and fox play in the Druid woods, and still were cows and sheep herded about the rock.

The Druid’s name was forgotten, but some people still came to sit on his rock and look at his woods, for it was yet the most beautiful and peaceful place in the world.

And so it remains to this day.

Beannachtai na Mathar libh. Siochain Robert, ArchDruid, Berkeley Grove 28 Mean Samhraidh, 14 y.r.
(July 2nd, 1976 c.e.)

 A Note on the Sidhe, people of the Faery Hills;

The Sidhe (Shee), sometimes also known as The Good People and the Tuatha De Danaan, are a race descended of the old agricultural gods of the Earth who have retreated from this Earth to a different dimension of space and time than our own, believed to be living under mounds and fairy raths and cairns,  and also the land of “Tír na nÓg” a mythical island to the west of Ireland. Throughout the ages the Sidhe have been in contact with mortals giving protection, healing and even teaching some of their skills to mortals – Smithcraft or the working of metals being one such skill.  Cuillen (Culann) is one such sidhe smith who has been told of in the legends of Cúchulainn and the later legends of Fionn mac Cumhail. The Gaelic word sí or síog refers to these otherworldly beings now called fairies.This race of beings who has powers beyond those of mankind, they move quickly through the air and may change their shape at will. Many refer to the Sidhe as simply “the gentry”, on account of their tall, noble appearance and silvery sweet speech. It  is thought that good Druids and folk of the spirits may join with them in their Sidhe lands after their mortal life is concluded…Down through the ages the Sidhe have been in contact with mortals giving protection, healing and even teaching some of their skills to mortals – Smithcraft or the working of metals being one such skill.  Cuillen (Culann) is one such sidhe smith who has been told of in the legends of Cúchulainn and the later legends of Fionn mac Cumhail.
The Gaelic word sí or síog refers to these otherworldly beings now called fairies.


 A Multiplicity of Druids;
In 1966, Robert Larson, an ordained priest of the original Carleton Grove group moved to Berkeley, California, where he and Isaac Bonewits founded a small Druidic group with connections to various wiccan covens, and groups which practiced ceremonial magic. This became known as the Berkeley Grove.
In the mid 1970s, Bonewits sought to recast the RDNA as a Neo-Pagan organization, but this met with resistance from several Druids from the Carleton Grove. Several groves subsequently broke off to form “Branches” of Reformed Druidism and in 1976, a new order formed called the New RDNA (NRDNA), which organized under a Council of Arch-Druids, specifically to have a national body more responsive than the Council of Dalon Ap Landu. Some NRDNA groves wanted to restrict membership to Neo-Pagans, and experiment with changes to ritual and the structure of their groves; these became the Schismatic Druids of North America (SDNA). Groves not participating in these changes or schisms were, by default, considered the RDNA. The definition of “Reformed Druidism” stretched to include these variants, not just the RDNA, but the NRDNA, SDNA, and independent folks who just believed in the Basic Tenets.

Arise Oh Ár nDraíocht Féin (ADF);
Many members of the SDNA groves left in the 1980s to form the Ár nDraíocht Féin (ADF), taking a few lessons from Reformed Druidism with them—notably the Waters of Life, an RDNA invention. Currently, in most RDNA and NRDNA groves, members can belong to any or no religion; and due to the emphasis on Grove autonomy, and resulting Grove diversity, there is now little to distinguish between RDNA and NRDNA. Today Ár nDraíocht Féin has groves present across the United States, in Canada, and in other countries.

On the Reform of Neo Druidry in North America;
Until 1983, except for a few fraternal Druid organizations with branches in the USA, Reformed Druidism was really the only publicly known type of neo-druidism in America. ADF provided a training program for Neo-Pagan Druids interested in Indo-European religious concepts, a strong central church-like structure, a liturgical formula, and a great number of council and rules. Over the years, many aspiring Druids joined ADF, borrowed some ideas and produced dozens of new groups of their own. Henge of Kelria was the largest off-shoot, when this group split off for reasons of protest over training programs, charges of ineptitude, and a preference for only Celtic sources of inspiration.
Similarly, the Order of Whiteoak borrowed material from ADF, RDNA, and Keltra, but produced primarily a core of material based on their own research.

Saltem Accurata Et Maxime Iocosa;
While Reformed Druids are considered the least organized and most playful Druids, their literature is perhaps the more extensively produced and archived of any modern Druid group in America. Reformed Druidic literature has been an almost entirely open literature, unlike many fraternal or mystical Druid organizations that restrict material to initiates.
It is however quite possible and common for members to participate actively in a Grove or a conference for years without having read more than a few dozen pages of their literature, as the oral and living traditions are also quite vital and nuanced.
It is notably non-dogmatic, eclectic, leaning towards philosophic rather than magic in focus, and often written “tongue-in-cheek”, with authors tending to poke fun at themselves.

Are American Druids different from British Druids?
Whilst many might bundle American and British Druidry together under the general heading of ‘Neo-Druidism’ in fact these are two separate lines of Druidry. There is ofcourse a shared love of nature, an open attitude towards spirituality, a social focus, and a curiosity about the practices of the ancient Celts, but there are a distinctive differences between the two bodies of Druidism:

The British Druid,
British Druid Orders can trace a formal lineage back to the founding of the Ancient Order of Druids in 1781, although much earlier records attest to their existence in Ancient Britain, Ireland and Europe such as the written records of Julius Ceasar and etc. Indeed Roman author Diogenes ( 3rd century CE ) considered the Druids as one of the ancient world’s wisest philosophers, along with the Magi of Persia, the Chaldeans (the priesthood of the Babylonians) and the Gymnosophists (an Hindu sect which preceded the Yogis), all of whom were skilled in mathematics, physics, logic, and philosophy.
Many British Orders such as the British Druid Order and OBOD use the emblem of Awen invented by the 18th century Druid Edward Williams, aka Iolo Morganwg, although some use other symbols such as the Pendragon, the Red Dragon Rampant of King Arthurs Loyal Arthurian Warband Order of Druids.
The modern British lineage of Druid organisations was initially founded as an organized secret society to compete with the Freemasons in their social works and their spiritual orientations, although subsequent diversification of orientation and purpose has seen divergence of stated aims and practises of various groups.

 The American Druid,
American Druid Orders can trace themselves back to the founding of the Reformed Druids of North America in 1963. The RDNA is an American Neo-Druidic organization formed at Carleton College (The Carleton Grove), Northfield, Minnesota as a humorous protest against the college’s required attendance of religious services. In creating an effective vehicle to challenge the establishment requirements, the founders unwittingly fostered an environment for spiritual exploration. For many new Druids the movement came to represent a valuable part of their spiritual lives and the demand for Druid services continued even after the college requirement disappeared.

The American symbol is a Druid sigil most often rendered as a circle with two vertical lines  through it, and is also similar to the “circle with a dot in the middle” emblem, which is a Masonic sun symbol for God, flanked by two vertical lines, which represent the two Saint Johns, whose festivals are St. John the Baptist on the summer solstice and St. John on the winter solstice.  It first became associated with Druidism in modern times by the founder of the Reformed Druids of North America, David Fisher, in 1963 c.e.. He claimed that it was a symbol of Druidism in general and the Earth Mother in particular. Some think he may have gotten the design from a hasty glance at a picture in Piggott’s book The Druids, which showed the foundations of an old Roman-Celtic temple. Others think he may have gotten it from some Mesopagan Druid organization to which he may have belonged. However, with the two lines running horizontally, the Druid Sigil is known to electricians as the sign for a female plug/socket, and with the lines diagonal, it’s an old alchemical sign for oil, both concepts that could lead to some fruitful meditations.
There are perhaps 40 groves and protogroves of the RDNA, NRDNA and RDG, with 180 priests and priestesses.

More details of Reformed Druids of North America here
(www.rdna.info and www.reformed-druids.org )
ADF here ( http://www.adf.org/core/index.html )
Keltria here ( www.keltria.org )

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Beltane Blessing (Beannachadh Bealtain) 30 April-1 May

It is established and steadfast and bright and true,
That from Beltaine eve, Summerland magic leaps through,
And as a cup full of the fullness of natures invocation,
Generous as three times thrice the incantations wisdom to view.

Before the Sky and the Earth and the Sea, they have all called together,
Before the Sun and the Moon and the Stars, they have spoken as one,
By the breath of the Taliesin and of the Ganna Bandruich,
Upon the height of the hill of the many feathered winds,
Of the Eight Lesser Winds and Four Major Winds and a Wind Above all the winds as yet still not hewn,
From the Druids tongue of flames, a roaring fire will be declared here, twice in the runes,
It is a Blaze that will go all around them to the left and to the right,
To purify the night, turning aside adversity and transformed in its shape,
To burst forth the day of flowers, which is certain.

Star light shining bright empowers the Queen of the Faeries this night,
Be also empowered O people of the world lest you melt in her powerful sight,
Be not a ghost all spindled in Wonder exceeding Wonder,
But see the Fairy Host dancing within forest field and river, chanting and singing petitions of hope in the heart,
Each of a hundred-fold Sidhe will go around you and around you,
And they will come upon Him as it is always arranged,
And they will Vanish in the morning light, interwoven with the cool dew and the soft light,
And they will yield away completely, melt into forever the home of the fey.

I do bestow a fishfull sea and fertile lands soon prolific with prosperous harvests,
And green and fruited trees drooping down with the heavy growth of the fruits upon them,
And waxing fleshfull fleeced and round of sheep, goats and cattle amongst the fresh filled pastures roaming,
And delight as the Maidens sweet as wild honey each, and as fair as the lily after spring has spoken.

Joy/As May Queen manifest and with her the Green Man to the Great Rite eternal today,
A Sacred Marriage shall arise among them as in precious Chalice they set Earth’s Athame..
Opening here the secret gates behind the departed darkness of night,
And outside of the brilliance of the brightness of day,
And our flowering ones will lead us in to the Summerlands, the excellent lands, in the most beautiful way.

Be celebrated each and all then in this dance of the May,
As maids skip a ring, A’ conjuring the new Summer in,
Weaving lives, love and laughter, beside and before you, weaving bright welcome gladness all around.

And By the essence of the Oak, of Rowan and of Hawthorn in hedgerow,
By the magical energy within which I turn,
Peace Joy and Abundance to the Sky and to the Earth beneath Sky,
And to all of the peoples upon the Earth on this day
And of the binding of this blessing, I do myself bind it,
To the heart be it binded, a deep blessing from today.

It is established.

c. Celestial Elf 2011.

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On the tradition of Druid Rhetoric and Poetry;
Whilst Druid’s occasionally carried magic wands and stones, in the majority of cases the Druids’ only magic ‘tool’ was their voice and their words…
They were sage advisers and most often called upon to counsel Kings and other social leaders.
Above all else, they were exemplary poets and in Ancient Ireland this position was honored with status and rights surpassing even that of the Kings whom they advised.
The Rosc that such Druid’s wrote(pl Roscanna)is a rhetorical, usually magical, chant, more than just a poem, these are poems that can invoke or topple the Gods and conjure whole nations from thin air.
Intended to be obscure, full of puns, and often set in deliberately ‘pseudo-archaic’ forms intermixed with more modern idioms, these poems were not public proclamations but ‘magic’ spells and prophecy, conceived to draw mystic power from having multiple meanings and ancient obscure diction.
This multi-faceted aspect of the language of Roscanna has the same insistence on ambiguity which one finds in ancient Celtic and Irish art wherein a given figure is not merely a spiral or a face or an animal or a leaf, but is all of them at once in an exquisite gestalt.

So it has been said ~

Of Taliesin;
Taliesin is probably the most famous of the Cynfeirdd, the early Bards.
As such he has assumed an almost mythic status to the extent that two distinct Taliesin’s have emerged: the historic figure of the late sixth century and an entirely mythological figure whose legends were chronicled into the Ystoria Taliesin (Tale of Taliesin) by Elis Gruffydd in the mid sixteenth century.
His name is derived from the proto-Celtic elements talo(forehead) and jes-t-īn-o(bright) and has been interpreted as ‘radiant brow’ possibly referring to his blonde hair, but equally possibly representing the radiance of his gift of poetry, his awen.

Of Ganna Bandruich, the Female Druid;
Whilst most Roman records referred mainly to male Druids, the existence of female Druids is confirmed by the written sources from the Greek and Roman who were fascinated by the role of women in Celtic society.
The Celtic culture as a whole was known to accord equal status and high regard to their women folk in contrast to Roman world where women had no political rights and very limited civil rights, Roman women could not for example own property or inherit land, were kept in seclusion and considered ‘chattel’.

Because the rights of Celtic women were many times better than the rest of Europe, we can make an educated guess that a persons gender mattered little when one wished to study the Druid ways.
All that would be needed is a strong memory and intellect and the desire to learn.
In addition there are references to bandrui in the medieval Irish tales, ban signifiying female and drui for Druid.
Conchobor Mac Nessa’s mother Nessa was a druid, Finn was raised by a female druid and Scathach is explicitly called both a flaith or ‘prophetess’ and a druid and she prophesies about Cú Chulainn.

Of the name Ganna, Dio Cassius mentions that a Druidess named Ganna went on an embassy to Rome and was received by Domitian, younger son of the Roman Emperor Vespasian, this serves as precedent for the name here used..

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On the Beltane Festivals;
Beltane or Beltane is the Gaelic name for the festival that rightly begins on April the 30th or Beltane’s eve and continues on 1st May and is a celebration of purification and fertility.
The name originates from the Celtic god, Bel – the ‘bright one’, and the Gaelic word ‘teine’ meaning fire, giving the name ‘bealttainn’, meaning ‘bright fire’.
Marking the beginning of the Summer season with the lighting of two great bon-fires on Beltane’s eve signifies a time of purification and transition, these fires may be made of the nine sacred woods, Alder, Ash, Birch, Hawthorn, Hazel, Holly, Oak, Rowan and Willow.
Heralding in the season in the hope of a good harvest later in the year, Beltane festivals were accompanied with ritual acts to protect the people from any harm by Otherworldly spirits.

Significantly, as the Goddess (Brigid) moves through her various phases, Beltane sees the womanly aspect of the Summer Goddess banish the Old Crone aspect of the Winter Goddess in readiness for the maternal time and the fruits of nature to follow.

As this is one of the magic turning points of the Sacred Seasons, the veil between worlds is thought to be especially thin, and as a result many of the Fairy Host, the Sidhe and the Tuatha De Danann may be seen crossing between the worlds.
Particularly, the Faery Queen is thought to travel about on this night and if you gaze too long on her enchanted beauty she may whisk you away to live in her Other realms outside of time for an eternity.
The Faery Queen also represents the May Queen, although in practice the honor is usually carried out by young women who are soon to be married.

The May Queen’s role in the Beltane proceedings, along with her May King, mythically a Jack in The Green, the Green Man or Horned God, is to take part in the Great Rite.
This is the Sacred Marriage of the God and Goddess, often reenacted by a symbolic union during which the Athame (magical knife symbolizing male energy) is placed by the King of May into the Chalice (Sacred Cup symbolizing female energy) held by the Queen of the May.
For a more detailed account of how this ritual was enacted in earlier time,
I refer the reader to Marrion Zimmer Bradley’s moving account in her fiction The Mists of Avalon.

Following this union which serves to Open the way to the Summer Lands,
festivities ensue, particularly that of dancing around the May Pole.
The May Pole itself is a symbol of the union of the God and the Goddess, as the red ribbons represent the fertility of the Goddess, the white represent the fertility of the God.
Men begin the weaving by dancing under the upheld ribbon of the first women facing them, accompanied by music, drums beating or chanting. The dancers move forward, stepping alternately over and under each person who’s dancing toward them.
The dance continues until the Maypole is completely wrapped, then the ribbons are tied off and the wreath from the top is tossed to the earth to bring its gathered power into the ground.

Whilst such public festivals are not as widespread as they once were, famously at Padstow in Cornwall there still is held an annual ‘Obby-Oss‘ day, which is believed to be one of the oldest survivng fertility rites in the United Kingdom.
St. Ives and Penzance in Cornwall are now also seeing a revival of similar public festivities.

Other Beltane Lore;
During Medieval times, a man might also propose marriage by leaving a hawthorn branch at the door of his beloved on the first day of May.
If the branch was allowed to remain at her door, it was a signal that the proposal was accepted. If it was replaced with a cauliflower, the proposal was turned down.
Crosses of birch and rowan twigs were hung over doors on the May morning as a blessing and protection, and left until next May day.
Going ‘A-Maying’ meant staying out all night to gather flowering hawthorn, watching the sunrise and making love in the woods, also known as a ‘greenwood marriage’
The dew on the May day morning is believed to have a magical potency – wash your face and body in it and you will remain fair all year.

Blessed Beltane to You ~

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