A Newsletter of the Reformed Druids of North America
Winter Solstice Y.R. 39
(Dec. 2nd, 2001)
Volume 17, Number 8
|CONTENTS OF THIS ISSUE:
ule, Winter Solstice, the Shortest Day of the Year, is one of the minor High Days of the Druid calendar. Though there is an association with trees at each of the High Days, none of them so strongly evokes the image of the tree than Yule with the tradition of Christmas or Yule tree, a latter-day symbol of pagan tree-worship. The Yule tree as we know it is a German custom brought to England in 1840 by Prince Albert, prince consort of Queen Victoria. Perhaps a parallel to the May-pole in the Summer half of the year (see A Druid-Missal-Any Beltaine 2001), which also was a tree cut down for a particular celebration and placed as the center of ritual, the Yule tree harkens back to an older tradition and can perhaps be traced back to the ancient Druids and other pre-Christian Indo-European practices.
In southern Europe there was the midwinter custom pertaining to the celebration of the god Phrygian god Attis that is very reminiscent of cutting down the Yule tree and decorating its branches. Certain priests of the Attis called dendrophori, meaning "tree-bearers," annually selected a pine tree (pinus silva) from the sacred grove to carry the effigy of the god into His Roman temple. The dendrophori were charged with the duty of setting up and decorating the tree upon which the god was presented for sacrifice. The pine tree stood for a promise of eternal life because being an evergreen it kept its vital appearance even in winter. The boughs did not wither and die, and signified the continuing presence of life.
In Celtic culture there is also archeological evidence of ritual involving trees. At two large sacred circular enclosures, the Goloring near Koblenz and the Goldberg in Southern Germany, that date from the sixth century B.C., a huge central post was erected, possibly imitative of a living tree. Similar pre-Roman ritual activity can be observed at the La Tene site of Bliesebruck where over one hundred .sacred pits filled with votive objects had been planted with tree trunks or living trees. In the Rhineland, one of the four regions of the Celtic World, the great scanctuary at Pesch contained many temples and ancillary buildings grouped around a sacred tree.
There are legendary tales of royal halls with a living tree in the center of the building, and trees may have been used this way, as in the Old Manor House at Knaresborough in North Yorkshire and the hall of Huntingfield in Suffolk. Positioning the tree in the center of a building as a source of good luck and protection for gods and men is confirmed by the custom in Germany, continuing as late as the 19th century, of having a guardian or lucky tree beside a house. Does bringing the tree inside symbolize bringing the luck inside? Symbolic offerings were made to the tree, and ale poured over its roots at festivals, as in the case of a huge birch tree that stood on a mound beside a farm house in western Norway until it fell in 1874. Adam of Bremen, wrote of a huge tree that stood beside a temple in Uppsala, the holy center in Sweden, that remained green summer and winter (signaling perhaps an evergreen), but no one knew what kind of tree it was. The existence of sacred trees in Germany is the pre-Christian era is borne out by reference to their destruction by early Christian missionaries such as St. Boniface.
Memories of sacred trees at holy places can consistently be found in Irish literature, where a number of sacred trees are mentioned. The sacred tree, in Old Irish b¨¬le, was apparently a usual feature of the site where the inauguration of the kings of each tribe or confederation took place, the sacred center of the tribal territory.
Sacred trees are found mentioned in pagan texts of early Ireland, most notably in the Rennes Dindshenchas ("History of Places"). Holy trees were particularly associated with sacral kingship and the inauguration rites surrounding the election of a new king. Five special trees are mentioned in the Dindshenchas marking the sacred ritual and assembly centers of Ireland: "The Tree of Ross and the Tree of Mugna and the Ancient Tree of Datha and the branching Tree of Uisnech and the Ancient Tree of Tortu."* Three of these trees are recorded as ash trees, while the Tree of Ross was a yew (an evergreen), and the Tree of Mugna was an oak, although it was not an ordinary one as it bore three crops of different fruits each year: "apples, goodly, marvelous, and nuts round, blood-red, and acorns, brown and ridgy" (together which symbolize the fruits of the Otherworld). It too appears to be an evergreen: "Its leaves were upon it always," as with the tree at Uppsala described by Adam of Bremen.
A characteristic of the Otherworld tree in Irish tradition is that it bears blossoms and fruit of gold and silver, which the more modern Christmas tree is reminiscent of.
This Winter Solstice when you go out to purchase your Yule tree, preferably a live one, keep in mind that you are maintaining the pagan tradition of honoring the tree and making it the focus of the modern day tribal assembly of home. During this time when all seems dead and asleep the pine or fir Yule tree remains green, symbolizing the promise of life that is to return.
*"The Prose Tales in the Rennes Dindshenchas," ed. W. Stokes, Rev Celt 15 (1894) and 16 (1895)
News of the Groves
For a list of groves. For the Full Grove Directory
Carleton Grove: News from Minnesota
Warm salutations from campus. Things here are getting hectic, as 9th week comes to a close and finals bear down on the hapless Carleton students. In September we had a weekend of celebration, reflection and meditation.
There was a sweatlodge in the Small Grove. The lodge is a place for physical and spiritual purification, and a time to center and focus yourself. To prepare for it, we spent the day cooking, baking, chopping wood, and setting up the lodge. All were welcome to participate in the lodge and/or to help with preparations.
Samhain was splendid. A cool night, a clear sky, a bonfire and the talking
stick--everything we could want. Good turnout and good ritual. And the god died,
as planned. All according to schedule.
Monument Grove: News from DC
Our grove is doing fine. Mike's in a new house and preparing for Yule. Did you know that in front of the White House there is the tasteless National Christmas Tree? http://www.apollonius.net/christmastrees.html. Ok, did you know that they have this god-awfully chunky "National Menorah." Well, now did you know there is 10' deep pit, 20' long, 10' wide, filled with the huge "National Yule-Logs." That's right. And my, isn't toasty from 20' away! Very elemental and pleasing.
Sent off druid-care-packages to Ehren in Carleton, Irony in Tonga, Nozomi in Japan, and Ian in Antarctica. Let's see how D.C. postal efficiency works on those!
As Brother Ian from Down Under so wisely stated; it's about time we all lighten up and admit something:
English is a Celtic Language
Now before you linguists begin a howling, yes, English is technically a Germanic language. But, it is now a language spoken natively by Dravidians, Tamils, Singaporeans, Nigerians, Israelites, and Irishmen; few of whom would claim to be ethnically or culturally Germanic. Each culture has taken the language (which is a tool) and used it to buy potatoes or rice (as Sister Joan put it) and imbued it with their cultural heritage.
Now, I studied Scots Gadhlig for one year in Scotland, and I'm one of the
registered 85,456 speakers in 1991 Scottish Census; so I have no desire to drop
these languages (70% of the world's 6,000 languages may be gone by 2100), since
the heart can speak a bit differently through either language. Every language
colors the thoughts communicating them, but I'd anger many a Welshman by saying
he's just a Sassenach because he doesn't have the Cyrmaeg any more. All Celts
today (and in the past too, probably) have at least two languages to bear and to
disseminate their cultures, and I'd like to look on it as a positive thing to
keep both. As a friend told me, when you learn a new tongue you grow a new soul,
and it never hurts to have a spare one, eh?
Ice Floe Grove: News from Antarctica
"Where did all the real Celts go? Long time passing."
I couldn't be farther away from Ireland (or my native Belgium) but my thoughts fly to that distant land, and I 'd like to write a little about it.The RDNA is not exclusively Celtic (we're not, but we all have our favorite traditions), but most other Druid groups are definitely in the Celtophilessection. The problem as I see it, is that people study ancient Celts, butignore the modern Celts.
We appear to be in a love-hate relationship with traditions. We love ancientCeltic Traditions but not modern Celtic traditions with hundreds of years of shaping by Celts (yes, under Christian and alcoholic influence). Certainly,age sometimes empowers the survival and attractiveness of some beliefs beyond their practical usage (i.e. "fossilization"). For me, the age of the tradition is just one pointer on its feasibility; but it's applicability, wisdom, timing and associations must also be taken into account. As an example, we don't do ritualistic murder anymore. As Mortus said in his/her essay on Death and Sacrifice in Samhain's issue, the RDNA dropped human sacrifice when our mores and perceptions on the issue had changed, even though livestock (deadstock?) is cheaper now than ever before in history.
Irish and country folk of Europe still carry out several life-affirming (and life-denying) activities that may or may not have continuity from pagan times, often under the guise of various saints, despite the otherworldly orientation of monotheism in general. You know this, already. It's hard totell whether or not these traditions were carry-overs from a bygone organized religion or rather, perhaps, simply natural developments from working daily with (or against) Nature's mysteries on the farm and forest. But the Celts are still here, but they're mostly speaking English nowadays, so no complaining about the difficulty of translating "Old Irish," just go next door and talk to McPherson and start or revive traditions.
How many American Neo-Pagans can explain the Dail of Ireland, name seven living Irish poets or dramatists? Talk about the devolution process's effect on Celtic nationalism? Explain the economic situation of the Welsh economies? What about Brittany's (ahem, not Ms. Spears) engulfment by France or Galicia by Spain which we don't hear about because most of us don't read French or Spanish after High school? Mad cow and foot-and-mouth disease's (I've got that I suppose) role in the devastation of the crofting culture? I'm not calling upon you to march the streets of Dublin with placards, but ifyou feel such a connection to these ancient Druids; how about helping their grandchildren continue the living culture?
Enough ranting. Happy Holidays, I'll tell you if I see Santa or his evil twin
brother, who lives on the south pole and also gives coal and credit card bills
(how do YOU think Santa supports his philanthropy?) Oh, it's still cold here,
enough even for a hothead like me. Next year, I should work in the Amazon!
Akita Grove: News from Northern Japan
We had Samhain on a mountain nearby. We made a big fire, danced and asked the gods questions. We used info from Sister Stacey's article. It helped.
I am the judge of Bardic contest. I want to have your songs! See songs & rules at http://www.geocities.com/mikerdna/bard.html and send them to me at email@example.com This contest is over at Beltane 2002, but I send out new songs every few weeks for you enjoy.
Hazel Nut Grove: News from California
ArchDruid Stephen Abbott has returned from exile! He is currently looking for
a pagan household in which to live in Sacramento. If you know of any looking for
a room mate with an incredible library of 8,000 Druid, Celtic, and pagan books,
and a very nice iguana named Iggy, please contact
A Druid Missal-Any and the
information will be forwarded on.
White Rabbit Grove: News from Wisconsin
Hi, I'm Katya Whiterabbit (CL78:Olin), the dolt who mislaid the Carleton Archives in 1978. I made the Third Order and discovered the depths of my own personal Chaos, one could say. I was swept during the next decades between the Scylla and Charybdis of Sufism and Anthroposophy. In the mid eighties,having washed up in Wisconsin and gone back to grad school, I reaffirmed my fundamental Druidness, but without the impetus to conduct actual services.
Though randomly asked for Druid bibliographies by the curious, solitary Druidity seemed a waste of my elevation to Third Order. Happily the nineties brought the Internet to me and mine. But imagine my dismay to find the Usenet overrun with costume-loving Celtic Revivalists! Thus began my campaign to advocate for the RDNA way of being among them. Yes, it is I who am known as "healingline" in the posts of alt.religion.druid.
My small business, you see, is called The Healing Line. I have certifications in Thought Field Therapy and distance Reiki, as well as decades of nutritional expertise and other esoteric miscellany to offer the public over the phone. On the side I deal in collectible tablewares, a very highbrow form of recycling. So my Web presence projects me, the public utility, as my ministry, rather than a grove per se.
A seed I sowed back in 1978, before the rest of me blew away in the wind, was The Order of Lugh. Reading about the recently invented "side order" of Hephasteus reminded me. OL is also a non-hierarchic one, like Diancecht, and is meant for artists and craftsmen. At the appropriate spot in the Service, the dedicant commits a work of his or her own hands to the flames, as a token of dedication of all one's works to the Mother and her glories. If it is accepted (and it is highly recommended to work in a flammable medium), you're in. My token, with which I made myself Matriarch of Lugh, was a hand-calligraphed copy of the Order of Lugh Liturgy. Perhaps Lugh of the Long Hand, Master of All Arts, also bestowed on me the confusion from whichI was reborn after a cycle of years.
Another copy of the Lugh Liturgy was in the box with the Archives when they were lost. But anyhow, there's nothing very tricky about answering the call of Lugh, if any others in congregations that actually hold services would like to join me.
Peace, peace, peace,
Part-Three of the ARDA for the Lugh ceremony
|Baccharis Grove: News from California
Publisher of "A Druid Missal-Any"
The community association where the Grove site is located held a meeting in November to discuss with the local residents the guidelines for the woodlands to be turned over to the Orinda Park and Recreation Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving open space. Emmon, founder of A Druid Missal-Any and Third Order Druid, who passed away two years ago, had established a trust to preserve the land as a recreation area or wilderness area. The guidelines were set up to protect the ecological values of the area, encourage use by local residents, provide safe access, prevent hazards to the surrounding property and develop revenue for maintenance and other Foundation projects
There are also plans to have a memorial plaque to Emmon on the land so hikers passing by might think of him and who gifted the land to stay preserved as a natural wildlife habitat.
Swamp Grove: News from Florida
The Swamp was alive with Druidry and revelry on Samhain. It was actually dry enough to have a celebration, and we certainly did just that. It was the first time that we had gathered for an observance since Solstice last December. We are planning to have some new pictures made of ourselves frolicking and capering, (well perhaps not so much capering) giving ourselves to wild abandon and using magic beans. We have consecrated a new circle area because the gators and swamp have claimed the old one for three months out of the year, the new area is relatively dry all year round.
Creeks-Called-Rivers Grove: News from Ohio
White Land Dinner: This dinner occurs on the evening of the first day during which snow completely covers the grass. Or as close as we can get. This is an indoor feast, usually accented by complaints from those Druids in the grove who wish they lived farther south. Around Dec 15th.
Feast of Coloured Paper: This feast pretty much comes when everyone
else is doing Christmas. Well, a day or two before or after, usually, to allow
us to do the Christmas thing with our families. Anyway, it's a time that we make
it special point to let each other know that we appreciate each other. Around
Big Ash Grove: News from Michigan
The Grove Formerly Known As "Grove of One"
Grove of One has folded and been replaced by Big Ash Grove. The Archdruid's ritual name is Iggy. The ELDAR Tree CD-Rom project is on hold, but the "Big Ash Codex" of rituals is in progress for solitary Druids. The Grove's New Email is firstname.lastname@example.org
Corn Grove: News from Iowa
May the Mother bless and keep you this year and all years!
Not much to report--Corn Grove seems to have gone dormant, not inappropriately considering the season!
I've been devoting too much time to a song writers workshop, but I expect to be passing leadership of that on to some other fool as soon as possible. Not that it hasn't been successful--we started with 16 participants and the very next month had 29, and people are writing songs, which is GREAT. I just did not realize that this was going to be taking up so much of my time and energy! And it's not that I'm unwilling to "sacrifice" my time for what I believe in...but I'm also sacrificing my son's time and my husband's time,and that's not mine to do.
Otherwise, just grooving along quietly and trying to stay off as many radar
screens as possible. I hope to have some time this winter to refocus anddive in
to my own heart a bit, and see about figuring out how to satisfy some things in
me that the mundane world makes very difficult. Getting out of the music
business may be a start (the ultimate sacrifice for me!). Ugh.
Mojo Grove: News from Down There
The Protogrove we've been working on is on hold for a short while, but we got
enough members of both human and nonhuman species (mainly dog) to make a go at
it. We humans routinely get out voted on such things as where the next gathering
will take place(the woods) and what sort of activities will be engaged in (the
hunt) and sheer pandemonium usually rules. But the exhilaration of letting the
dogs lead the way puts the human members in close touch with nature in a way
that is indescribably wonderful. We still haven't gotten around to name.
Dravidia Grove: News from Out There
The Grove is doing well, have been contacted by a new member from online who lives in Essex area. She actually seems closer to Monument Grove, but since she seems to be a Christian based Druid, I have decided to help get her started on the right path.
Also, as a note... Saturday, I realized the very essence of nature and life all over again. Here is what happened. My wife has recently had a Heart Attack, she is well recovered now, but I have taken to smoking outside instead of inside around her. While outside on my front porch a squirrel came down the tree in my front yard, and proceeded to walk up my sidewalk to the base of my porch steps. I moved around a little to let the squirrel know I was there in case it chose a different course of direction. It still proceeded to move toward me. It climbed the first two of three stairs and stopped, my toes were on the top step and it reached out and touched my shoes and commenced to tap me on the foot several times. I looked at the squirrel in amazement, since it is not every day a squirrel will walk up and try to get your attention.
I called to my wife since the front door was open and she came to the door. She then told me that she had been filling a bowl on the front porch with sunflower seeds. The bowl was empty, and the squirrel was asking me to refill it. I grabbed a handful and placed them on the steps where it started eating a couple and then started taking every 2 out of 3 seeds and hidingthem in the grass in the front yard. In the mean time, my wife had finished filling the squirrel's bowl and it mad a point of finishing the ones on the steps before proceed to eat the ones in the bowl. Definitely a enlightening and humbling experience the Great Mother bestowed upon me Saturday, and it is one that I will not forget in my lifetime...
Golden Oak Grove:News from Minnesota
The weather here is snowy and looks to be perfect snowman temps for the next few days, it's our first snowfall this year but I'm all but certain it's here to stay as I do live in Minnesota and we should of had snow on the ground already by Nov 9th but didn't...Years like this it usually ends up being very snowy and near Solstice gets extremely frigid...
As for winter plans, I'm not a big fan of winter but I do have some more generalized plans for the season like braving the cold to make a snow-dragon or a snow-gargoyle depending on how much snow we actually get...If ya mix cornstarch with a bit of water and add in paste or gel frosting dyes you can actually paint your snow creatures, add more water , put it in a spray bottle and it really gets interesting (specially when it starts to melt hehe)
This next week I'll be getting the house in order for decorating and a place to put the tree, I'm excited as in this house with such high ceilings we can have a huge one , last year the kids were disapointed as we had a sweet yet poor little tree that resembled the one off of Charlie Brown's Christmas...
Poor little thing drooped under the weight of even the tiniest ornaments and we had to hang the topper from the ceiling on a cord as to not completely crush the little tree...
Cute and memorable but I'm looking forward to a big one this year...In years past when we've had bigger trees I string them with two separate twists of twinkle lights...The first set being a mix of blue and green lights that are kept to the inside of the tree...those are lit up until Solstice eve, then the other set of Amber and Pink get lit on Solstice Day, those lights are more to the outside of the tree...It makes it nice and helps the kids with understanding the different light symbologies, the soft glow of the tree approaching solstice is perfect for stories and such, then solstice morn it' s all ablaze with bright sunny lights...
We also have two tree toppers, the first being a garden mask that I made that has golden acorn antlers , the second being a copper lantern in the shape of the sun, it has a very youthful male face on one side and the face of a womyn on the other...
So we sorta get to cover the baby sun god and (as my kids say) the sunshine-momahn Brigid, a little bit of a bend but hey that's why I'm Pagan...
A couple of years ago my eldest son, then 12, had some friends over during our holiday time for treats and such...Well two of his buddies were afraid of my tree , they said it had a scary head on top of it and that all the celestial decorations were bizarre , they were from Baptist-Christian families...
His little Jewish friend was very interested in all of it and had no problem understanding it, he even brought his mother into see our tree because he was so thrilled that they weren't the only ones with different beliefs, the mother was just as interested as her son...
The little Mexican boys were so cute , they knew what it all meant even though they said that their main families were catholic, that they had other family in Mexico that celebrated the dark of the year and the solstice, that their aunty puts a bull skull with lights inside on a shelf above her tree and feeds it wine , it was no big deal to them...
And the African American boy said that he thought it was kinda freaky but that his granny down in Louisiana used to do some freaky stuff for the holidays so he knew it was all cool...
I just find the different traditions surrounding this time of year (specially) very interesting...
Mulberry Grove: News from Arizona
"Beating around the mulberry bush."
Greetings global brothers and sisters,
To make this short and sweet, here's my entry. I'm having a very difficult time at the moment with local law enforcement. I have a court date set for February 26, 2002, precisely one month before my birthday. For almost no reason at all, they will probably take away or suspend my license. I don'teven have a job right now! I am majoring in English at Pima Community College here in Tucson, Arizona. My heritage oddly enough happens to be almost pure Celtic with a little Potowatomis Native American. This is strange to me, as life usually is, because at the moment I happen to live in the middle of no less than five Mulberry trees, and no less than five ethnic groups (French, German, Welsh, Scots-Irish, and Potowatomis) make me up (how else do you say that?).
I have not yet been indoctrinated into any Henge or mystic circle, but I do welcome any Druids, or Wiccans, to Tucson with open heart and mind. I hope that you will pray/chant/whatever you do for my victory in the legal arena, as I have no familial support, and am not rich, being a full time student. I am so sick and tired of being a scapegoat on a motorcycle, and of putting up with the way(s) that local law enforcement treats long-term residents of this city of Tucson. I have nothing against them, while they seem to have everything against me.
Right now I'm painting (yes, painting, not scribbling with markers and
pencils) a map of France in acrylics for my first French class (French 101).I
noticed that the nation of France is shaped like a five-pointed star, which is
also interesting, and there seems to be a dog or a demon or something that
extends from the northwest portion of the map. Weird. Weird as life really.
Druid Heart Spirit Grove: News from California
Up here in the mountains, the brighter seasons come late, but winter always comes early. The grove's site is peaceful. I've been seeing and hearing a lot of ravens, and owls around the grove lately. We'll do our winter solstice in the snow this year, if there is any covering the earth up hereby then, we'll get to have a large fire. Looking forward to a nice peaceful winter, time to do all the Druid arts and crafts and get-togethers for potluck feasts. We are going to gather for staff making, and Ogham carving,and bell branch making (hopefully!). Other than these things we are going to keep it simple for this dark season, time for me to keep writing and painting.
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To the Council of Dalon Ap Landu:
As Third Order Druid active in the Reform I propose the following additions to the enactment of the Samhain Special Order of Worship. For Groves fortunate to have altars, after the Second Reply the altar fire is extinguished, and all Third Order Druid exchange their red ribbons to white. This makes sense as the next lines to be recited by the officiating Druid are:
"Lo we are as wraiths; our fire is turned to ashes, and darkness walks the land."
After the Second Chant the fire is then relit, thus reproducing the extinguishing of the house fires in Ireland and Scotland at Samhain, and then relighting them from the ceremonial bonfire. The bonfire was lit by friction, and that is something we could work on devising to relight the fire in the future.
"Lo we are as wraiths; our fire is turned to ashes, and darkness walks theland."
where it makes sense that the is fire out, and then relight it after it theSecond Chant is said, thus parroting the extinguishing the house fires inIreland and Scotland at Samhain, and then relighting them from theceremonial bonfire. The bonfire was lit by friction and I suppose that issomething we could work on devising to relight the fire. We made of abundle of kindling and short pieces of work wrapped up in waxed paper.Though we used water to douse the fire (just enough to totally extinguishthe fire but not to drown it and cause a pool of water in the altar), thewaxed paper worked to great efficiency in lighting the new one until thewood took.
Hot Tub Healing
by Pat Haneke & Nozomi Kibou, Akita Grove
In the Fall Equinox issue we gave you our Shugyo service, which relies on cold pounding water to purify from above; so we'd like to balance that by stressing the warm waters bubbling to heal you from below. Japan is well known for its plentiful (over 14,000) natural onsens (i.e. thermal spas) due to the volcanic nature of the islands. Many were discovered by shivering hunters during the winter in the mountains, where they had melt through the heavy snows, providing a refuge for wild animals (especially snow-monkeys). Myths often state that the hunter was led there by an injured animal seeking to have their wounds healed by the waters.
According to my research, many onsens are located in nearly-inaccessible rustic locations of great scenic beauty, often requiring hours-long hikes from nearby roads. Most of these have been deepened and lined with natural stones, bamboo screens, hand-built changing areas. The best are open to thes ky year round ("rotenburos") and sometimes are mixed bathing, especially late at night (if you're lucky). Many romantic movies pivot on a humorous rendez-vous that occurs there. Onsens are still one of the top five destinations for travel-crazy Japanese, indeed dozens of books and studies have been written on their bathing customs. After all, "cleanliness is next to godliness," which is why the Japanese are such a sacred people? Their public bathing houses ("sentos") yet remain in the poorer sections of the cities, and artificially heated "onsens" (with bowling alleys and recreational sports) are built in the midst of sprawling urban centers. Nozomi says that entire offices or companies will stay at the traditional inns for weekend retreats; drinking, eating, bathing, rough-housing, drinking, singing, having a short business meeting, more drinking, etc.
Now, the Celts were also big fans of spas, springs and natural wells, when they could find them. Specific deities (e.g. Grannos, Suliva), were assigned to each one, and offerings were thrown into the pool for those seeking healing or similar blessings. These holy wells of "Saints," who offering healing and good fortune, continue to attract Catholic pilgrims to this day, and this phenomenon is well documented in bookstores. Many famous springs, such as Baths, were expanded and commercially developed by the Roman conquerors.
According to Mike, back in the misty 70s, the NRDNA Berkeley Grove's very own
Order of Dian Cecht (apparently, a substitution for the Order ofGrannos) would
hold regular healing seminars and workshops followed by, you guessed it, hot-tub
healing. So, to revive an older custom, I give you our version in simplistic
format; which of course may be done in a warm bathtub.I defer to those women out
there, who have raised functional bathing to aromatic tactilely pleasurable
ritualistic experience, and ask that each expand it in their own way. It could
be an hour-long and suitably womb-like.
By Sine Ceolbhinn, D.C. Grove
Strangely enough, Christmas is one of the few times of the year that we feel like singing with our neighbours outside of a karaoke bar. Easter songs? A few. Groundhog Day songs? Not likely. We all want to sing, but trip over the uncomfortable lyrics, right? I decided to but together a little list ofsongs that a pagan could use in company with their monotheistic friends.
A few hours of scanning the internet has given me a collection of popular
songs that didn't dwell on babies in food troughs, righteous crowns, deceased
people with bird wings, and ecstatic shepherds hearing voices in the dark (won't
even go there). I prefer my own improbable stories (grin). Just change
"Christmas" to "Yule time" and most are okay. Santa Claus is rather unavoidable,
but he's nearly pagan, and so I let him slide. Many ofthe songs on the list
below have on-line free music-files and lyrics at:http://www.chebucto.ns.ca/~ai251/xcarol.html
Now, I was going to make a list of filkable songs, but surprise, somebody's gone ahead and re-done most of the Christmas songs in a Neo-Pagan flavor. Isn't it great that people do all the work for us? You could spent weeks studying the solstice. Enjoy!!
Various Winter Customs
By Eric, ex-Akita Grove
I enjoyed the Samhain activities in the last issue, and spent four hours
searching for good customs to complement the next issue. It's a simple list of
what I plan to do, because I'm not much of a writer.
|Nov 23: Divining the best presents
after a hearty Thanksgiving meal by asking relatives and the gods..
Dec 1st: Cleaning out the house thoroughly. Any remaining dust is "Not mine, please ignore it."
Dec 2nd: Light "advent candles" or Yule Candles marking down the Solstice Sun's arrival.
Dec 15th Decorating the House. Holly, Mistletoe, tree setup, bunting, Yule-logs, front lawn dØ¸or. Mail out blessings (Christmas cards) to friends and curses to enemies.
Dec 19th: Donate 10% of December Paycheck to charities closest to my house. And carry small presents to distribute to beggars and muggers in NYC.
Dec 20th: Wassailing and Caroling. Nothing more than Trick or Treating for the winter, fun to do with the Christians.
Dec 21st: Vigiling in the Grove. Spend the longest night of the year in the grove with a fire, several blankets and some friends to encourage the sun to make a come back.
Dec 21st: Mari Lwyd in Wales (Lair Bhan in Ireland). The Welsh visited houses with a draped horse skull, interrogated their neighbours with strange questions, and got free booze if the homeowner couldn't come up with decent answers. I think Barney's head on a stick would be fine and appreciated.
Dec 22nd: Namahage. In akita, drunken barefoot men in demon masks, straw clothing, flaming torches (my that's dangerous sounding) would burst into pre-decided homes "surprising" a family at dinner and terrorizing the bejezus out of small kids. The father would ransom their children's lives with more booze, and the demons would bless the house to protect it from fires and further burglar intrusions. Very similar to German house visits by Father Christmas (Weihnachtsmann or Julknap) and his point man, the "Black Moor" (Knecht Ruprecht). Don't you pity my neighbours?
Dec 23rd Celebrate the Emperor of Japan's Birthday (he is the descendent of the Sun Goddess after all)
Dec 24th: Presents and Party
Dec 25th: Hanging out sheaves of corn or bird seed AFTER Christmas for the all-winter birds.
Dec 26th: Divination by dropping a handful of pine-needles into a bowl and rohrscharching
Dec 26th: Boxing. Put away boxes and decorations. As for the Tree: Put the tree in a safe spot in the yard (needles still on) away from the house. Allow to thoroughly dry and use it to light Beltane fire. WHOOSH! What a sight!
Dec 27th: Return presents and buy discounted goods at stores for next year! A gift of the gods!
Dec 30th: New Year Resolutions. Adding thanks for last year's completed ones and a tweak from everyone in the room for not finishing the last ones.
Dec 31st: Fireworks, all-night parties are fine to continue.
Jan 1st: Sleep to Noon. Pray to Braciaca for forgiveness and mercy.
Jan 6t: "Epiphany." Credit card bills arrive. Holidays are officially over.
Christmas Plants & Picking the Yule Log
By Mairi Ceolbhinn, D.C. Grove
Druids love and respect their plants and truly wish them to return to full vitality in the spring. Without plants, how'd we do our sacrifices? What we' d eat? What'd we wear? It's nice to know that in the depths of winter, when the days are shortest, that some plants are doing rather well. We wish to celebrate this with Christmas trees and such and bring their blessings into our homes. See also the site. http://www.circlesanctuary.org/pholidays/SolsticePlanningGuide.html
Mistletoe, as we all know, was considered sacred, by our ancient Siblings and has remained such throughout the years. Its Gaelic name still means "all healing," although I'm not sure how to use it safely, since it is rather poisonous. Perhaps, it is by its poison, that it fends off winter's blight, and manages to bloom around the solstice? Its persistent fertility is therefore an established trait that gives us that great custom of "kissing under the sprig of mistletoe" which would happen in a night of partying and debauchery. That age-old theme of commemorating the death of the "old Sun" and birth of the "new Sun" is now popularly incorporated into the images of "Old Man Time and Baby New Year" doing a tag-team on January 1st every year.
Holly berries, like Mistletoe, bloom amidst the snow as if to defy winter and encourage the return to life. Its green boughs were of course common decorations on buildings, holy places and public buildings during the winter festival, and this tradition has fortunately continued to this very day. Even the Japanese, Mike Scharding says, have a "kadomatsu" placed in front of the door at New Year's Eve.
Yule Log Tradition:
Not to be morbid, but a sacrifice is necessary to rekindle the life of the dying sun (no, I'm not pro-Aztec, which sounds like a marketable drug), and it seems the Yule Log has filled that role for several centuries. "Yule" comes from "hweol," meaning "wheel," which is a frequent European symbol for the Sun. So you're basically giving the Sun a good-needed torching to warm it up.
According to various sources, it is widely agreed that the hearth of the Celtic House was the home of a protective spirit, and (for practical and symbolic reasons) the fire was rarely allowed to die out except once or twice a year during the big fire holidays. Special prayers were and are still spoken before leaving the banked fire of turf for the night in rural areas. Much magic also went on around the fire during cooking, story telling, and entertaining of guests. The hearth was basically the pre-modern "Home Entertainment Center." If you've ever noticed, televisions also send comforting relaxing flickers of light into a darkened room while you stare blankly?
Now, back in those days, people had access to common forests surrounding their village. The choice of the wood varied greatly among locales, but one good size tree would provide several logs for a neighborhood. But under no circumstances, should you steal one from a neighbor's private land (and no buying one at a parking lot, good religion is do-it-yourself). I've not heard of any special methods of cutting a tree down, but a short ceremony, and posting a few days advance notice for malevolent or uninterested spirits to depart, would certainly be in order. (No, that Golden Sickle is no more effective that a haddock, get a good steel axe.) Angry spirits will make the tree conk you on the head; so be forewarned.
Once cut down, a goodly size log was the festooned and regally dragged back to town through the streets. As the Log entered the house, some cultures would give it a hearty drink of oil, salt and mulled wine, with a song perhaps. In more recent times, it was burned on Christmas Eve (which is close enough to the Solstice), with music, activities and frolicking. To kindle the fire, splinters from last year's logs (saved by the eldest daughter) were used to get the substrate of dry logs going, since those yule-logs are hard to burn by themselves. Guests were encouraged to toss sprigs of holly on the fire to take away bad luck. The way it burned would prognosticate the future.
Splinters of the log and cinders were taken home to protect against fires, lightning and tax-collectors at their home. Now the Yule Log tradition, widespread since the 12th century, nearly died out with the change to pot-belly stoves and grills in the late 19th Century. The tradition still survives in sizeable pockets today in the country-side today. For fire sensitive areas, a smaller log-shaped cake now decorates the dinning room table. I've tried this custom for a few years in my little BBQ next to my house (sneaking one from the River Creek National Park), and saved some ashes, and no disasters have yet befallen my home (well, except the Pentagon in Virginian Commonwealth, but that's the workplace, perhaps the White House and the "Mystic District" of Washington, D.C. were spared because of their National Yule Log?).
For me a Christmas tree is just another elaboration on "bringing the greenery in," and it certainly is a younger tradition than the Yule Log, perhaps a merger of pagan Nordic tree worship and perhaps the 13th century morality plays' "Tree of Life" (from the Garden of Eden) which was often the only stage prop, and conveniently performed around the Solstice. Perhaps, the inability to have a Yule Log burning and urbanization led to the soaring popularity of the Christmas tree in the 19th century? So go get your plants!
The Wood Song
Taught to Mike by Sam Adams
You don't have to live in a forest to have a Yule log, just a saw, a car, and a nearby park with some dead or fallen wood. But what kind of wood do you want? Here's a song that's been around awhile and should help you.
Oaken logs will warm you well, That are old and dry;
Holly logs will burn like wax, You may burn them green;
Pear logs and apple logs, They will scent your room.
Massive Iron Age Hillfort Unearthed
Assembled by Stacey from below listed sources.
English Heritage archaeologists announced that they have finally discovered a long-lost massive prehistoric fortress. Traces of the sophisticated complex on precipitous Roulston Scar, near Thirsk in North Yorkshire (England), have been recorded over the centuries, but it is only now to be given its proper place in the schedule of ancient monuments. Suspicions that a hill fort existed in the area date back to the mid-19th Century, when an Ordnance Survey team mapped a stretch 670ft long of "tell-tale" Iron Age earthworks, but they were later confused with medieval boundary ditches and deleted.
A combination of global positioning technology by mappers' satellites and "good old-fashioned legwork" revealed the true nature and the awesome scale of the fort. The survey revealed that the fort was enclosed by a two-metre-deep trench and a four-metre-high "box rampart," fronted by a timber palisade and topped by a defended walkway; only two entrances were detected, adding to the site's impregnability.
"We were shocked to discover such a huge complex," said Alastair Oswald, archaeological field investigator for English Heritage. Preliminary examinations of the remains suggest it was more than twice the size of most other prehistoric strongholds. Built of timber palisades and girdled by a 1.3 mile circuit of ramparts, 60 per cent of which are cut out of solid limestone, the fort has been provisionally dated at 400BC.
As well as its defensive function, archaeologists think it may have been a "statement of power," possibly housing the Iron Age equivalent of a regional assembly. "Such a large fort would have taken a vast amount of timber and labour to build, which poses many more intriguing questions," said Mr Oswald. The fortress must have taken several years--and more than 10,000 cubic metres of earth and rock, and 3,000 trees--to build, but nobody seems to have lived there for any length of time. Most hillforts were more akin to fortified villages or walled towns, often with substantial permanent populations. The evidence so far from Roulston Scar suggest it never was a permanent settlement. Significantly, the stronghold faces what was in Iron Age times the territory of the Brigantes tribe, on the border between the Brigantes and their neighbours, the Parisii. One possibility is that the fortress was built by the Parisian king or paramount chieftain to impress, deter or intimidate their Brigantian neighbours.
Roulston's colourful history has been one reason for the fort's elusiveness; the famous White Horse of Kilburn, carved in the chalk, obliterated a stretch of rampart with its head. Richard Darn, for English Heritage, said: "The Victorian schoolmaster who carved the horse created a fake prehistoric monument by destroying part of a real one, which he didn't know was there." The site was also damaged during the second world war, when defensive works were dug in the main area, which has been the base of the Yorkshire Glider Club for 80 years. So many German gliding enthusiasts had used the grassy hilltop in the 1920s and 1930s that it was seen as a possible Nazi invasion site.
Sources: BBC News (1 November 2001 http://news.bbc.co.uk/), The Guardian, The Independent, The Times (2 November 2001 http://www.guardian.co.uk/ or http://www.independent.co.uk/ or http://www.thetimes.co.uk/)
Gifts for Yule
California Oak Foundation:
Acorns and Eat'em: A How-to Vegetarian Cookbook by Suellen Ocean. Contains complete acorn leaching instructions, nutritional information, and 35 acorn recipes. Paperback $10.95.
Native Oaks of California Poster. Designed by Good Nature Publishing, the "botanically correct" renderings are bordered by drawings of each species' leaf and acorn. Also shows locator maps. Full-color; 24" x 36". $15.99.
Oak Leaf Pillar Candle. Hand-poured 100% beeswax, and embossed with a beautiful oak leaf design, this long-burning candle has natural golden color and subtle honey scent. Decorative gift box. 4" tall, 3" diameter. $14.50.
To order Mail orders to:
Credit card orders: Tue-Fri 10am-4pm (PST)
Because one bat can devour 600 mosquitoes or other insects in just one hour, installing a Bat Conservatory nearby can protect you and your family from insect bites and greatly reduce the need for environmentally hazardous mosquito repellents. Made of Western Red Cedar sawmill trim, this handsome slatted shelter provides respite for approximately 40 bats.
Measurements: 24.5"H x 16"W x 5.25"D. USA.
Available from the Real Goods Catalog. You can order online at
How to Stay Alive in the Woods
Could you survive if stranded in the woods? Bradford Angier's classic survival handbook will tell you how to find food, water, warmth and shelter.
Includes making fire, orienteering and safety tips.
Great reading, full of valuable information.
Elliot Landes Penmakers,
Elliot Landes is a designer / woodworker. Landes designs and produces
various writing instruments, desk accessories, and Judaica in his studio in
Winters, California. He makes his work available through craft galleries and
other outlets that offer fine writing accessories.
Landes grew up in Oakland, California and studied at Hebrew University in
Jerusalem for two years, followed by studies in product design at the
California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland, where he received his B.A.
in 1975. He began woodturning in college, and conceived the idea of turning
wood writing instruments in his last year of college.
Today Landes produces more than three dozen types of writing instruments and desk accessories.
Elliot Landes Woodworking
Sundial Watches and Jewelry
Sundials use the angle or altitude of the sun to mark the passing hours, and these change with latitude and season. In the heroic age of exploration, the Explorer sundial was developed to adjust for latitude and this dial was favored by early navigators and traveling merchants. Shepherd's Watch¥ç offers: four models of Explorer sundials (available in pewter $30 and $35, and in silver, $90).
|The nocturnal dial was first
used by navigators in the 16th century who needed to tell the time by the
position of the stars. It is actually quite simple to use. The North Star is
sighted through the center hole and the pointer arm is aligned with the two
"pointer" stars at the end of the scoop in the Big Dipper constellation,
also known as Ursa Major. Shepherd's Watch¥ç offers: available in pewter,
$25 and $30, and in silver, $90).
Software Games: "The Mystery of the Druids":
Sounds fun, but is it good for the Druids?
Despite Mike Scharding's initial reservations, it is actually great fun! The conversations are non-linear, amazingly enjoyable, witty, and have a tantalizingly dire undertone. The 3-D graphics and amazing audio-visual backdrops are beautifully rendered with tiny minor details that add palpable authenticity. Your sidekicks feed you reasonably correct historical Celtic information.
The game takes about 45 hours (in total) to complete or 10 decent gaming sessions. There are 16 brain-wrackers that require you to carefully search and touch EVERY nook to insure you get all the items. There are only a few places in the game where you can die, so don't worry too much, you can save often and replay favor. parts. Mike, who bought the game (and wrote this review), occasionally cheated, and built a cheat page http://www.geocities.com/mikerdna/cheat.html
However, it is definitely not positive PR for the Druids, as it represents these modern "gentlemen's clubs" as sinister, murderous people bent on taking over the world. While Mike is interested in taking over the world too (on a part-time basis), he does object to the murderous bit. For the more activistic members, you may wish to protest the merchandization of Druidism. But there are good Druids involved in the plot, too. It should be jolly good rollicking fun for your PC-owning friends in the seasonal holidays ($45 or $1 per hour). Don't get it for your mother.
Scotland Yard Detective Brent Halligan is assigned to work on a series of London murders possibly linked to a druidic order. With the help of anthropologist Melanie Turner, the two must thwart the plans of this order by travelling back to 1000 AD and prevent a druidic rite that will have drastic effects in the future from taking place.
http://www.mysteryofthedruids.com/english/index.php3 You can buy it here
This is America! There is also a free downloadable English demo version, which allows you to question the gardener and solve some puzzles and sneak into the courtyard of Lord Sinclair. Go to http://www.mysteryofthedruids.com/english/index.php3
Oak Death Fighters get $1 Million Grant
By Richard Halstead, Marin Independent Journal, Nov. 16, 2001
Scientists searching for clues to stem the sudden oak death epidemic
plaguing Marin and nine other California counties will receive $1 million
from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation in San Francisco.
"That's really good news," said Matteo Garbelotto, a forest pathologist with the University of California at Berkeley who has done much of the pioneering research on the scourge. Government red tape has prevented researchers from getting the money they need to purchase necessary lab equipment, Garbelotto said.
The best thing about the grant is that the Moore Foundation--founded by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore in 2000--allowed researchers to determine how they would spend the money, said Susan Frankel, a U.S. Forest Service scientist.
Word of the grant was probably the brightest news to emerge from yesterday's fourth annual meeting of the California Oak Mortality Task Force, the group of government officials and scientists formed to organize the state's response to the disease. Nearly 100 people turned out for the meeting at the Community Center in Petaluma.
In July, Gov. Gray Davis approved $3.6 million in state funds to respond to sudden oak death. The funding is in question, however, due to the subsequent economic free-fall. On Wednesday, Davis proposed $2.24 billion in cuts to the current state budget.
"We haven't got word from the governor's office yet as to whether or not we'll have to take a cut," said Mark Stanley, an assistant deputy director of the California Department of Forestry and the task force's chairman.
Stanley said that the federal government is still moving forward with plans to impose a national quarantine on the movement of disease hosts from infected areas. But any action is several months away, said Carolyn Pizzo, a U.S. Department of Agriculture official.
Marin County Agricultural Commissioner Stacy Carlsen said he has yet to receive any funding for enforcement of state regulations adopted in May aimed at preventing the spread of the disease. Carlsen said he needs money to hire a full-time employee, who could devote all his time to enforcing the regulations.
"I need a person," Carlsen said. "I'm shouldering this whole thing with my existing staff."
Gov. Davis allocated $266,000 in his current budget to the 10 agricultural commissioners who preside in areas where sudden oak death infestations have been identified. Carlsen estimates the commissioners, who are charged with the bulk of the enforcement responsibility, need $800,000.
|Problems in interpreting the
regulations and standardizing their enforcement throughout the 10 counties
have also emerged, officials said. The commissioners are scheduled to meet
Dec. 13 in an effort to develop a more uniform approach, Carlsen said.
"We do have a problem right now with high-risk material moving from infected counties to uninfected counties," said Monterey County Agriculture Commissioner Eric Lauritzen.
Alan Kanaskie, a forest pathologist with the Oregon Department of Forestry, said California waited a long time before adopting the regulations.
"I think they should have done that right away," said Kanaskie, who detailed Oregon's efforts to eradicate the disease from nine sites in his state. After discovering the disease there in July, Oregon officials immediately quarantined the area and are in the process of clearing it of all trees and plants that host the sudden oak death pathogen.
Because the disease appeared in Oregon in isolated spots, Kanaskie speculated that birds, most likely pigeons, or insects might be spreading it.
Researchers yesterday said they now believe that green waste--vegetative matter under four inches in diameter--poses the greatest risk of spreading the disease's spores.
Under the current regulations, Marin residents who chop down a dead or dying tree are supposed to get a permit before moving it off their property, Carlsen said. But Carlsen said he has no problems with people transporting wood to local composters, such as Redwood Landfill and the Marin Recovery Center.
Shipping wood outside of Marin, particularly to uninfected counties, is forbidden, however, without government approval, Carlsen said.
Garbelotto said that preliminary tests indicate that heating infected wood--to 131 degrees Fahrenheit for up to at least one hour--kills the sudden oak death pathogen, a kind of brown algae of the genus Phythophthora. If done under proper conditions, composting should be safe, he said. Results from additional tests are expected soon.
"We should know for sure in a week," Garbelotto said.
Other research results announced yesterday indicate that the disease reduces the density of the wood it infects, making its use as lumber impractical.
The meeting concluded with some hopeful news. A controlled burn conducted in an area of Marin affected by sudden oak death in September indicates that the disease may not make wildland fires significantly more dangerous, as feared, said Mike Swezy, a vegetation specialist with the Marin Municipal Water District.
Interesting Reindeer Fact
According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, while both male and female reindeer grow antlers in the summer each year, male reindeer drop their antlers at the beginning of winter, usually late November to mid-December. Female reindeer retain their antlers till after they give birth in the spring. Therefore, according to every historical rendition depicting Santa's reindeer, every single one of them, from Rudolph to Blitzen, had to be a female. We should've known...only women would be able to drag a fat man in a red velvet suit all around the world in one night and not get lost.
|A Druid Missal-Any|
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P.O. Box 5003
Berkeley, CA 94705
Yule, Winter Solstice, when the Sun enters Capricorn, will occur on December 21, 2000 at 11:22 a.m. PST. Yule services will be held on Saturday, Dec. 22 at Solar Noon. Please call for carpool arrangements (510) 654-6896. For the social observance of Yule we will be going immediately after the service to AD's house. Regular Druid services will be held at Solar Noon on January 13 and 27. Please call the above number to confirm.
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A Druid Missal-Any is an RDNA publication that began in 1983 by Emmon Bodfish and ran until 1991. This newsletter was re-established by his student Samhain 2000, Day 1 of Geamhradh Year 38