Posts Tagged ‘Stag’

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 /|\ ~

Advertisements

The Tree of Life…

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * *

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

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

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

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

* * * *

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

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

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

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

* * * *

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

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

_/\_

Stag Signs & their Co-Efficient Varietals~

“Horned Stag Run Through the Wood”

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

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

(anon)

* * *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Freedom from ‘Idea~Ollogy’

%d bloggers like this: