A Newsletter of the Reformed Druids of North America
Winter Solstice, Year 41
(December 15th, 2003)
Volume 19, Number 8
|CONTENTS OF THIS ISSUE:
ule, Winter Solstice is one of the four minor Druid High Days. It is associated with the Holly and the Mistletoe, prosperity and purification. The hanging of mistletoe over doorways harks back to its protective function as the All-Heal. Sprits that bring disease will not pass under it. All mistletoe use and customs are carry overs from Pagan, most notably Druidic traditions.
Though kissing under the mistletoe can't be traced back farther than the 17th century, it is probably much older. It reflects the herb's Paleo-Druidic attributes of protection, fertility, and prosperity.
Pliny the Elder, in his Natural History, gives us the best description of a Paleopagan Druid ceremony, that of cutting the Mistletoe. According to Stuart Piggot, the ceremonial mistletoe must be cut from an oak tree. The time of the ritual was set by the Moon as in Pliny's description.
"The time of the rite was the sixth day of the new moon, after preparations had been made for a feast and a sacrifice of two white bulls. A Druid in a white robe climbed the tree and cut with a golden sickle the branch of mistletoe, which was caught as it fell on a white cloak. The bulls were then sacrificed and all present ate of them."
The golden sickle is a puzzle, a pure gold will not hold an edge sharp and tough enough to cut through the woody stem of the mistletoe. Gilded, or simply polished bronze, are more likely materials. Though Pliny was allowed to witness the ritual, he probably could not approach the Druid or examine the sickle.
Nor would he have been able to talk to a Gaulish Druid without an interpreter. The ceremony was recorded in Roman Gaul. Gold may have been a description of a color, or a quoting of hearsay. Elsewhere in his book Pliny writes of the ritual necessity of gathering the mistletoe left handed, after fasting, and of the Celts plucking Selago without using an iron knife, barefoot and with the right hand through the left sleeve of a white tunic, but these were private rites, not public ceremonies. There is no mention in them of the presence of a Druid.
--Emmon Bodfish, reprinted from A Druid Missal-Any, Yule 1986
News of the Groves
For the Full Grove Directory
Carleton Grove: News from Minnesota
Carleton sneaks on silently, nearly unseen (despite her best efforts). Winter blooms upon us, snow falls. And the their is a great departure from the body of many students.
Nothing is, as yet, planned for Yule which will probably be held privately, with most of the Druids off campus. However, we look forward to the return of the student body, and of my co-ArchDruid, Corwin Troost, from his self-imposed exile in Japan.
I am still looking for contributions for a collection of myth's about Dalon
Ap Landu. It only takes a minute to write a myth and it can be about what ever
you want it to be about (so long as it's about Dalon Ap Landu). You can email
those to me, or questions, at
Akita Grove: News from Japan
A simple New Year's card arrived at Mike's with the following message from Brother Pat: "All is well in the snowy lands of Akita. We were glad you had a chance to visit this year, and we may be visiting NC next March, and will definitely stop by in DC if we can get a connecting flight. Taiyo is growing strong, but seems to have a cold, perhaps because the sun is growing weaker in this season? We are to busy to write much, but try to read the Missalany in our spare time.
Blessings to everybody over there.
Bamboo Grove: News from Delaware
Reflections on Yule:
Whenever I do celebrate Yule (aka when I'm not frantically caught up in the chaos of the holiday plans of relatives and family and significant others' families, etc!) I tend to look for a simple way to celebrate the rebirth of the Sun King. My oldest memory of doing so was a simple red "log" candle, placed on a simple rectangular piece of thick, clear glass. I lit the three or four evenly spaced out candles on the log, and watched the tiny flames grow...the Sun King's reassurance to me that he was being nurtured for now, growing in strength, and would be ready to return for the New Year.
This year, while I was running errands and idly getting some early holiday shopping done, I stopped by the "SALE" area of the local Target store (I'm fresh out of college aka broke, and Target is fast becoming my favorite store because it has great stuff that I always buy anyway!). Anyhow, I'd passed that section a few times but something drew me in this one last time. I saw an oil lamp that was in the form of a clear glass globe. Inside was a bit of an evergreen branch, three small pine cones, some "snow", and a bit of cinnamon, I believe.
It completely complemented the idea of what Yule means to me...a time to celebrate the joy and hope of the New Year even in the midst of darkness and cold. The pine cones represent the seeds and potential of what is to come in the New Year, as well as the potent life force of the Sun King himself. The cinnamon is that bit of fire, a spark that will never go out within my soul even through the darkest times and coldest nights. The evergreen branch reminds me that even through the snow (the Time of Sleep) there is life...wild animals and flora quietly biding their time, waiting to be awakened, to unfurl their leaves once more. And so this simple candle holds promise for the future to me, which is a precious gift at this particular time in my life especially.
Although my ex-boyfriend/roommate has moved out with his snakes (sadly, one of his snakes we both cared for has passed on despite all our efforts) I have not had to "give away" any of the other Grove members; the Grove has managed to stay together through some minor financial miracles and I am grateful for that.
We are 9 members strong: myself (the only Human, and the Caretaker/Scribe);Archdruid (Bamboo plant); Muses: guinea pigs (Panda, Rygel); mice (Rascal, Spud, Lucky, as well as Cricket, who left this Earth so prematurely); rough green snake (Karma); and last but definitely not least, cat (Leo).
~*~A Big Announcement~*~
I suppose the biggest Grove News would be that I (Caretaker/Scribe of the Bamboo Grove) will soon be engaged to a wonderful and loving soul! He is in the Air Force Reserves, and his squadron is actively serving right now, which means a lot of chaotic work and such as of right now...not much dormancy! But Yule is the season of hope and of planting new dreams for the new year; my hope is that these dreams will take root, nestling into the fertile soil that lies beneath the cold frost, to burst into fruition in the spring and summer months ahead.
Blessings of Love and Light,
BrightMirage (Bard of the Reform, XLI)
Digitalis Grove: News from D.C.
Rumors abound that the ARDA 2 may make a debut in time for my birthday in Jan. according to Mark; but I will simply patiently wait and see if this comes true.
I missed a chance to attend a conference on Druidism in Alexandria in November, and Korean and Japanese matters have taken precedence over Celtic ones. And yet, every morning and evening I go out to walk the dog and stare up at the motions of the sun and moon, the falling leaves, and movement of birds and think on things. This and long commuting mediation and RDNAtalk discussion seems to be the whole of my Druidism lately. I also read from "Wisdom: Daily Reflections for a New Age" by Reynold Feldman.
As Christmas season approaches, and DC puts up the enormous Tree, Menorah and
yule log, I will get into the spirit and try to enjoy the holiday in the most
Druidic way possible; chatting with my friends. Happy Holidays to everyone.
Dravidia Grove: News from Maryland
Sorry been off for a while, here we go..
A lot of weather changes going on here, and also got the chance to see the lunar eclipse about 2 weeks ago. School is rough, and so is work. In April we will be moving to Indiana due to my youngest daughter going blind, it will be difficult for her to adapt at 11 yrs old, and a major change in my life since i have lived in MD all my life... We have had a lot of rain, and I have spent a lot of time reading some of my new books. The funny thing is just when you think you have completed the works of one particular author, he goes and writes another book. Well just a few more to add to my collection again.
Rowan-Oak Grove, MOCC: News from Oklahoma
rowan-oak grove will be having a feast and ritual burning of the yule log for yule 2003. the samhain/day of the dead costume party and convocation went off without a hitch. among the decisions voted on were the confirmation of all board of directors members and their offices within the grove.
m.s. white raven- arch druidess
bro valens- arch druid
sis m.s. white tigress- druid in training and co hps
bro marson- head of the guardians of the planet
(environmental protection team)
sis tsarah- head of corn maiden society (handles decoration of grove, feast preparations etc)
bro werebear - secratary/treasurer and gaurdian of the planet, (also scribe for our newsletter more on that later)
sis marrissa- novice ovate and corn maiden
sis alice- summoner
absent officers were bro jeremy who is in training at mocc furthering his knighthood training this office is basically open until he either returns to tulsa or someone else cleet certified wants to take on heading up our security and bro marson who was ill
bro werebear suggested the name talking leaves for the rowan-oak grove newsletter and this was ratified by vote. he will be posting at our online grove site the guardian of the planet articles and has as well as being the scribe and editor an article in talking leaves.
the samhain convocation was our biggest in the 25 year history of the grove community. we had 15 of our now 38 members in the offline grove community present and our normal attendance for classes and rites it between 8 and 10 of the active membership. of our active members (around 25 now) 2/3 are inner court or holding a secular position within the grove. so this made it a double blessing as most were present for all 3 days of the celebration.
our wishes for a happy and blessed yule season to all our druid miscell-any
friends. stacey we really appreciate you!
The Grove of the Ancient Oaks, MOCC: News from Utah
I have had in the past not much to mention. Our Grove had seamed to grow dormant for what felt like ages. I am happy to report that we are up and running again. We plan to have a grand party the night before Yule and do a comfortable indoor ceremony seeing as how it will most likely be 14 degrees outside. I am not sure what else you would like to know... so if there is anything else don't hesitate to send me an e-mail asking for more.
With Blessings from the Gods and Goddess'
The Grove of the Ancient Oaks
Nemeton Awenyddion: News from Cohasset, CA
Well, things have been transforming a lot here. Had Ceinlys, one of our closest members move to our area and she's sure been a help. Our online classes are going well and I just took on three more students in our Seekers Class, and including our first level class of eight, I think I'm going to stop offering more Seekers classes for a little while so I can work on other things, writing, harping, fiddling, and art. For our Alban Gwyddion/Yule we will be doing the regular indoor ritual, there's usually snow on the ground here by that time. Probably decorate a Yule log and name it Llew before we put it in the wood-stove incubator, and then an all night vigil and drink mead til dawn, play music and hold the general Bardagh circle.
Changes have been plentiful, as part of the letting go of the old year before Samhain I went through a separation and am now single again. Enjoying the winter holidays with our members/kindred has been most enjoyable. We're in the midst of planning a Calon Mai/Beltain celebration for this next year with camping and the usual gathering space open for non-members to come as well.
Blessings and Happy Yuletide to all!
Ysgawen Rhiannon Am Nemeton Awenyddion
Poison Oak Grove, News from California
Publisher of "A Druid Missal-Any"
From the mess-ill-anyous file: one of the drawbacks of getting a fictitious business name is that one starts getting all kinds of junk mail, applications for credit cards, small business loans, health insurance, ad nauseum. I don't know how this happened frankly. I sent the proper forms to the Oakland Tribune for the announcement to be posted for the required four weeks in the classified section. (Is the Trib selling the names of poor unsuspecting people merely trying to set up their own businesses?) The most interesting was the "A Druid Massal Any" pen sample. It's amusing to me how the Missal-Any's name has already been morphed by some poor drone paid to solicite business from a bought mailing list. Too bad the name was misspelled-a "true" Missal-Any pen would have been a nifty thing to have. It reminds me of years ago when Emmon had box matches made for Live Oak Grove, R.D.N.A. The person fulfilling the order must have misread the application and put R.O.N.A. We still have those R.O.N.A. matches.
Many apologies to the readers who might have sent in articles or subscription
checks and have had their mail returned. When I filled out the forms for the
post office box I put on the card Poison Oak Grove, RDNA, NRDNA, Reformed Druids
of North America, even Live Oak Grove, but not A Druid Missal-Any, which is the
name I requested readers send mail to! I will remedy this oversight as soon as I
get back from holiday in the Trinity Alps.
We Get Letters!
From one of our subscribers: Speaking of the missal-any... I've got a sad but also hilarious story for you! Last week, my "hard copy" came in the mail, with the (blank) address sheet all ripped and torn, and stamped "damaged in the postal service." When I opened it, I found not the Missal-any but a newsletter from a local church (not my church). I made a mental note to drop you a line asking for a replacement copy, and then started thinking of the implications. What did they think when it seemed that their church was sending out Druid documents?!?!?!? Wish I could have heard the conversation when they reported it to their minister! Unless someone had opened it, they wouldn't have known to make the substitution; what I thought had happened
From Senator Barbara Boxer, CA, concerning Sudden Oak Death:
For a decade, the majestic oak trees of California have been under attack by a disease known as "Sudden Oak Death." For almost as long, I have been working in the U.S. Senate to provide funding so that we may better understand this disease, fight its spread and protect this wonderful symbol of California.
I am pleased to let you know that the United States Senate has approved a request I made earlier this year for a total of $5.7 million for research to stop the spread of Sudden Oak Death Syndrome, which has killed countless oak trees in Northern California. The funding comes from both the Agriculture Appropriations bill and the Interior Appropriations bill.
Sudden Oak Death was first discovered in Marin County in 1994. It has since killed many trees in California and threatens to change the landscape of California. There has been some good news in recent months, as scientists have discovered a new treatment that may slow the spread of the disease. We need to continue to expand research in pursuit of knowledge that will enable us to slow the spread of this disease, and that will lead us to find ways to prevent it from killing this significant symbol of California.
If you have questions or ideas about saving California's oaks or any other federal matter, I encourage you to send your message to http://boxer.senate.gov/contact/webform.cfm
United States Senator
More Ramblings From Gandalf
By Gandalf, Amon Sul Grove
Many of us who study the ways of the Ancients are of the belief that their practices should be given consideration, but that modern day observances need to be tempered by the knowledge that has been accumulated in recent times (As opposed to the strict re-constructionists who try to replicate previous practices with as much accuracy as possible). Reconstructionism is particularly difficult when dealing with a culture that didn't leave much in the way of a written history, especially when what little was created has been actively destroyed by both the Romans and Christians.
I think that it is safe to say that most members of this list are focused on developing a perspective of religion that works for them on a personal level. I consider the RDNA to be one of the truly "big tent" religious organizations (If, for the sake of discussion, you will allow me to refer to our loose confederation of Groves and individual practitioners as an "organization").
For me, it was initially a struggle against my Christian upbringing. It was such a relief to be able to say: I am not a Christian. I do not want to be a Christian. It is all right not to be a Christian. I will not burn in Hell if I am not a Christian.
The preceding was the result of a realization that I could not accept any of the major tenets of Christianity: Jehovah is not the "one true God". Jesus was not his only begotten son, born of a virgin. There will be no Anti-Christ or Rapture.
Yeshua (if he existed at all) may have just been some poor old sod who was in the right place at the wrong time. There was a civil disturbance/riot in Jerusalem just before Passover (probably a protest against the Roman occupation/collaboration of the Sanhedrin). When it was time to "round up the usual suspects", Yeshua, as an outside agitator, would have been an easy target, especially if the story about the incident at the Synagogue is true. The moneychangers would have been renting their space from the Sanhedrin and paying protection money to the Roman army, only to be attacked by some lunatic. Business was probably off for several days. When the decision was made to make an example of someone, once again, Yeshua would have been an easy target (Barabbas was, by all accounts, a local boy).
Surviving crucifixion happened on occasion. Considering the fact that the accounts indicate that Yeshua was taken down early because of Passover, he might very well have been in a state of shock that resembled death. The entire Jesus mythology may have sprang from random events.
If Jesus was not literally the son of Jehovah, sent to redeem the world from its sins, then Christianity has probably been a huge mistake. Quo Vadis? Since I do believe that there is something that constitutes God, the study of which could be beneficial, Atheism was not a viable option. I soon realized that earth-based religions are what I am best suited to. For years I was a generic Pagan (My reasons for not being able to embrace WICCA are best kept for another essay). Although I am part American Indian, I do not look the part and I would feel out of place at a powwow. (When in the woods I often feel more Indian than Druid but I do not consider the traditions to be incompatible). My studies would eventually lead me to an exploration of Pre-Christian Celtic religious practices and a conclusion that I am most comfortable within that framework. I consider returning to the religion of my pre-Christian ancestors to be an effort to correct a fifteen hundred year old mistake. It is my sincere hope that others will come to the same conclusion. If Jesus was not literally the son of Jehovah, sent to redeem the world from its sins, then Christianity has probably been a huge mistake. Quo Vadis? Since I do believe that there is something that constitutes God, the study of which could be beneficial, Atheism was not a viable option. I soon realized that earth-based religions are what I am best suited to. For years I was a generic Pagan (My reasons for not being able to embrace WICCA are best kept for another essay). Although I am part American Indian, I do not look the part and I would feel out of place at a powwow. (When in the woods I often feel more Indian than Druid but I do not consider the traditions to be incompatible). My studies would eventually lead me to an exploration of Pre-Christian Celtic religious practices and a conclusion that I am most comfortable within that framework. I consider returning to the religion of my pre-Christian ancestors to be an effort to correct a fifteen hundred year old mistake. It is my sincere hope that others will come to the same conclusion.
Whiskey and Whiskers: What Makes Druids Hairy?
By Mike, Digitalis Grove
During a five-day camping weekend at the beginning of November, I decided to do what most men do when they are roughing it, forget about shaving and bathing everyday. When I woke up and prepared to return to work the next week, after showering I made one of those quiet heroic decisions, to put down the razor, hold my chin up high and look like the unkempt heathen that I am for a few nerve-wracking weeks. I'd like to share my insights and reflections into this mysterious process after a month of fretting before the mirror and other obsessive thoughts about these wiry tubes protruding from my face. I should warn you in advance that I've never taken a women's studies class or read anthropology, but why let ignorance stop a fun essay and stepping on a few toes?!
So, what really are my reasons for this rather small apparent act of rebellion against the norms of society? It certainly is not because it makes me look good; I'm simply not handsome material. I have a decent goatee, but it is a bit heartbreakingly scruffy on the cheeks; which has given me a lot of empathy for balding men, who ask why they have been blighted with balding, and the disturbing semi-nudity of scalp skin showing through thinning hair. The beard does feel nice, and has sensitized my face to the wind, and provides endless hours of fun of scratching, stroking and chewing. I've noticed many people unconsciously imitate this behavior when I do it, just as some people check for zits on their own face when they see a pockmarked teenager, or when one yawn triggers a whole room. Beards and facial hair runs in my family, mostly in the male members, but I have little fear so far of thinning at the temples (although my grove is currently overgrown), since that is apparently passed down from the mother's side. More than likely, I am probably compensating for something buried in my subconscious, as likely are most attempts at grooming and beautification. But what is it, and how deeply embedded is it in our consciousness?
Possibly, the motivation may be the same innate rebellious and questioning streak that led me into Druidism? Turning the question around; why should I not grow a beard? Why had I adopted the daily ritual of scraping a sharp piece of metal over my sensitive face, and indeed paying money for all these accoutrements, and possibly losing a liter of blood over the last 15 years? What condition or reality was I trying to avoid? Intractable life processes, including hair, hold their own lessons and mysteries. Scales, feathers, hair, nails and skin are all different forms of keratin protein growths on the body. Indeed, one hair after another will eventually fill out a head of hair, as does learning from multiple sources and experiences. Growing a beard, or any hair on your body, is both an exercise in doing nothing (because hair grows in lots of places, whether you want it or not) and also the inevitable grooming and maintenance (to keep others from forcefully trimming you.). In ancient days, people could roughly trim their hair, but due to technological difficulties in having effective shaving tools, most men in Europe and America grew some form of beard until the 19th or 20th century, except if they were rich or in a special institution; such as the military (for practical reasons) or priesthood (due to associations with sexuality maturity and balding habits discussed below). Then, with the growing awareness and constant commercial advertisement of self-cleanliness, mentioned by Brother Eric last year, "modern man" threw off their beards for the clean-shaven look that bespoke their discipline, conformity and delicacy.
Now, there are many natural actions in society that are either expressly forbidden, or (when allowed) are highly regulated by customs and standards; such as sex (ok in marriage), murder (ok in war), drugs (ok with doctor's permission), lying (ok in politics), theft (ok in taxes and public development) and of course hearing voices in your head (ok in an established church). There are probably some good reasons for these restrictions, and the most interesting stories in cultures tend to revolve around exploring those boundaries of appropriateness.
Before we examine the restrictions, let's ponder why we have those facial hairs in the first place? Druidism has taught me that change is a constant in this life, not only in the way that my body changes throughout my life, but how human bodies have changed over generations and eons. Some say we used to have a lot more hair than we do now... or did we? In fact, we have just as many hair follicles per inch of skin as a chimpanzee, although these tend to be short, thin, single strands that don't thicken and proliferate. We also have developed more advanced sweat glands. We were once famously categorized as "the naked ape" by an author in the 1970s who examined humans from the view point and terminology of those animal behaviorists who make those nature TV programs. Humans are also noteworthy among animals for their willful resistance to evolve physically, choosing instead to use tools, wear clothing and adopt social customs to survive drought, war, famine, pestilence, blizzards, etc. which would have killed weaker members of our society (including myself) and forced us to physically evolve into many new species, if we were only as intelligent as, say, cats or dogs. We likely dropped most of our chimpanzee-like thickened pelt about a million years ago in Africa, because of two theories: ocean and dirty homes.
Water and Earth are home to most of the animals on this planet, with a clever few able to know the mysteries of both environments. Apparently, a critical population of Homo Sapiens lived for a few hundred thousand years by the ocean and nearby river deltas of East Africa; and as any swimmer knows, hair causes considerable drag from friction; meaning lots of drownings. From the same period (I like to call it the Age of Sea Monkeys), we also gained partially-webbed fingers, bigger feet, a taste for salt, and down-turned noses to keep out water. In addition, since early humans lived in huts, tents, caves or lean-tos for a weeks or years at a time, that could lead to a lot of annoying skin parasites that love to hide in hair and animals hides (from 500,000 years ago). Being one with the Earth, does not mean one must be dirty, as most animals demonstrate by cleaning themselves. Trying to groom all that hair would have taken an enormous amount of time; and that time was better spent on other activities. Then much much later, really only 20,000-45,000 years ago, people began to weave (based on the discovery of needles), enabling them to move into and stay put in temperate climates (instead of seasonally migrating north and south) where they kept their remaining hair; while those remaining in warmer Africa (and possible later emigrations to Asia, Pacific and America) continued to lose hair. Humans apparently liked this semi-aquatic phase, because over 75% of human population still live within 10 miles of the ocean or a major river, possibly bringing about the appearances of powerful maritime and riverine deities in the developing polytheistic religions among the descendents of a tree-scrambling mammal.
In addition, during that period, being less hairy, itchy and crawling with lice became a desirable trait in choosing a mate, a trait that continues to this day. Personality and eloquence became a desirable trait only with the discovery of language about 250,000 years ago. Groin and underarm hair keep the blood warm at these working joints (that's our best guess, besides indicating mating maturity), while remaining hair on the arms and lower legs kept those active members warm when they stuck out of the clothing and unscratched by bushes and branches. Hair on the fingers disappeared as an inconvenience when handling tools. Mono-brows only finally disappeared in the 1960s. You'd think that children, spending much of the day running about, would need more hair, but perhaps more common predators kept them close to the home hearth (invention of fire was 1 million years ago), more on kids later. That much seems pretty understandable. But remaining body hair is not about practicality, but triggered by gender hormones of adolescence.
Which brings us to gender variations. So why do men generally have more developed hair on their lower face? It is possible that longer scalp hair was used in small handcraft activities, in addition to protecting the valuable brain from heat strokes and cold weather. Neither female or male primates are especially hairy on their heads, or bodies, but the solution may reside in the two types of mating habits found among primates; monogamous and polygamous. The females and males among the lemurs and smaller "primitive" monkeys tend to be about the same body size, less aggressive, vegetarian-inclined, nearly interchangeable in coloration, and rather faithfully monogamous pairs. (Does this sound familiar to a Golden Age myth? That break was over 30 million years ago.) One theory is that the males among the larger primates (like baboons, gorillas, chimps, and humans) tend to be about 30% larger, prefer to gather many females around them (conducive to building societies?), occasionally eat meat, and have strange traits that set them apart from the females (larger noses, bigger teeth, greater upper body strength, different color hair, exaggerated sexual organs, etc.) Doesn't make this right or desirable, but it is what they tend towards.
Another theory claims that perhaps the females are just 30% smaller than the norm; and this may be a reverse survival trait (along with other secondary female characteristics), to keep violent roaming males from confusing them with other alpha-males, ambushing the women and killing them during periods of ferocious raids. This is the reason it similar to why it is harder to hit an annoying 5 year old than an annoying 15 year old. Nature has stayed our hand because they are just cuter and look more immature, therefore not a threat. Well, the violence obviously still happened for other reasons, due to the strong libido and lack of self-control, especially among these male primates, but perhaps it was less often. I think it would have been smarter for the females to get bigger than the male to protect their young children when a new male took over the group and killed off those which were unrelated to him; but perhaps males selected smaller females that were easier to control? How many men like to date taller women, hmmm?
With our obvious physical differences, and a tendency for men to corral women and children when socially permissible, the growth of a beard indicated that the male child was now considered "sexually mature," and needing to be separated from the females. That "growth spurt" after an usually long childhood, was probably to get big enough to survive this dangerous transition period. Anthropologists could go into this in more detail about tribal sex segregation; but the important thing is to realize the symbolic association of a beard with a place in the male hierarchy. When people lived only 30 or 40 years old, beards at age 15 to 18 were actually a "mid-life" phenomenon. Many Celtic stories abound with stories of fast growing children (probably a story tool to keep the story moving after miraculous births and until the interesting issues of adulthood can begin again), and young warriors who achieve enviable levels of fame and prowess before even having any facial growth. In modern society for several centuries, possibly for accounting ease, we now legally mature at the same chronological age (16 for driving, 18 for marriage, work, voting, and contracts, 21 for drinking, 25 for insurance, ect.) irregardless of actual physical or emotional maturity; with all the predictable problems for early and late bloomers. I remember at age 12-14 anxiously waiting for my first stubble, and then just as anxiously shaving it completely off, because I would some how not "fit in." One guy in my high school actually grew a rather nice beard, but the teachers vigorously disapproved, as if he was somehow trying to refuse their authority and move "a step ahead." Perhaps males want to continue to be submissive to other dominant males by continuing to shave and cut their hair, to seem less aggressive and mature, conversely growing your hair out was a sign of rebellion, especially since the 1960s ("Hey, hippy, cut your hair and get a real job,") while shaving your head is customary for entering many religious orders, a sign of penitence, mourning and militaries as a sign of rebirth or new beginnings.
However, in some religions and societies where gender differences are heightened and polarized, along dualistic lines, (i.e. 2/3 of the world), usually grossly in favor of male superiority, growing a beard is almost mandatory to avoid societal accusations of effeminacy. A common punishment in such cultures is to shave or yank out the hairs in their beard. Another symbolism of beards, as with accumulating wrinkles, is as an artistic short-hand for increasing age, with really old men with long beards being a sign of wisdom and experience (like Father Time or Jehovah in Renaissance paintings). Some men however do get confused and think their beard (rather than the transient social constructions) inherently gives them their social dominance and virility, and become superstitiously in awe of its power; even swearing oaths by it. Many kings (and queens) in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia wore fake beards, especially during their young years. Some tribal women tattoo beards and mustaches on themselves, such as the Ainu women of Northern Japan (who are the hairiest people in the world next to cab drivers) and in New Zealand, I believe.
Even in polytheistic circles, like modern Paganism, there is a greater emphasis now of equality of gender in social roles (although priests can get a bit high and mighty), there remains definite exaggerated differentiation of male and female traits in deities worshipped; most so among duotheistic Wiccans, perhaps. However, as we know, real maturity is actually about the ability to care about the needs of others in the community, weigh both sides of an issue, and responsibly follow the orderly rules of society without constant oversight. Such a point may not occur until the 30s, or never, in some cases, although we may adopt the physical trappings of adulthood. Druids are, among all the world's priests, most likely to be portrayed in literature and art as wise, long-bearded males; and this propaganda perhaps lingers in our sub-consciousness because we know so little else about them beyond shallow surface observations.
Thus, in conclusion, there is a long history of reasons leading to our current state of hairiness. The encouraging factors for modern Druids to become hairier are powerful associated images of rebellion, exaggerated focus on male/female deities, an affinity for emulating wild life, time spent outdoors in cold weather, desire for wisdom, a general noticed proclivity for multiple partners, usual distraction by studies from personal grooming, and compensating for something we have no doubt not listed yet. So if these theories are correct, we may have an understanding of why so many young males in Druidic circles tend to grow beards and enjoy being generally shaggy. (And I'd add that many of the female Druids also tend to let all their hairs grow out, at least in college).
That's all for my arm-chair philosophy this season. Have a nice yule-tide and perhaps you'll pester your co-workers why Santa Claus is usually depicted as a long bearded older male, when St. Nicolas was probably a shaven orthodox bishop.
-Mike the Furry One
Preserving Sacred Places
A Little Druid Takes on the Feds
By Julie Ann
Some people are just born lucky. I'm not one of them. Many of you, through the RDNAwebchat, have gotten to know me more through my misadventures than anything else. From the now infamous Sister Suzanne of Catholic School days past, to my supernatural freeloading ghost "housemate" named Walter, to my run-in this summer with a particularly disagreeable pack of ticked-off prairie chickens.
No, I'm not a lucky gal.
But eventually, all that bad luck building up has to erupt into something. Good or bad, sooner or later, she's gonna blow.
This September, it finally happened. I guess I need to give you a little background here. My brother, Mark, and I are tight. Out of all my siblings, he and I have always been the closest. Don't tell the others that, though. We're a team... the dynamic duo. Lewis and Clark... Bob and Doug Mackenzie (for those of you old enough to remember Second City Television). That's Mark and I. Mark and I had been talking for a while about doing a Boundary Waters trip together. For those of you unfamiliar with the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, it is millions of acres of nothing but pure wilderness, nestled in the north woods of Minnesota. No roads, no houses, nothing for miles on end. Last chance for a latte is in Duluth. We set September 12th of this year as the date we would go in.
However, I can't speak for Mark... or any of the other characters in this story as it unfolds. I can only speak for myself. If you want Mark's side of this, you'll have to ask him. If you want Don the Fed's side of this story... I can get you his number. Stacy, a State staff archaeologist, is currently out "in the field", so you'll have to wait a while until she gets back.
This is my story alone.
Once we pitched camp, several miles into the Boundary Waters, we decided to do some hardcore bushwhacking to the next lake north of us. We were really out in the toolies. Once you get off of the portage routes, there are no trails; so you have to blaze your own. The scary thing about the Boundary Waters is depending on what direction you take, you can be walking in a place where no one has ever walked before. It's that desolate. It's really easy to get turned around up there. Because it doesn't get "traveled," the scrub grows pretty thick. What we were crawling through was unbelievable. Mark was the one who spotted the exposed Canadian Shield rock off in the distance (think large sheets of exposed rock). It would've been easier walking over hot coals than trying to crawl through what we were, so we squeezed and dragged ourselves over to the Shield. Walking the Shield was a whole lot easier. We were on the Shield for about ten minutes when we saw the first circles. A couple of little stone circles, about two feet in diameter. My first thought was "campfire rings." But these circles each had a center stone. And the rocks weren't scorched. These weren't campfire rings.
I don't know why we didn't think more of it at the time, but for some reason, we didn't. We continued walking, and a few minutes later we found a larger cluster of these stone circles. Each, again, had a center stone. None were scorched. Ok... now it had our collective attention. We continued walking to see what would happen. Along the way, we found more and more clusters of stone circles. Most were approximately two feet in diameter, but a couple got up to eight feet or so. All had center stones. No scorching. All I can vouch for is what was going through my mind at that time; we found something. We found something big.
Then Mark stopped dead in his tracks. For those of you who know me personally, you know I'm a runt... so Mark was eclipsing the view for me. I walked around him, and my lower jaw hit the ground.
We were standing just outside the outer edge of a mammoth-sized stone circle. Boulders... boulders, folks. A perfect circle with a center stone. But that wasn't all. Neatly stacked on top of some of these boulders were more rocks, some were four stones high. Rocks don't do that by themselves, folks. These were cairns.
Mark slowly turned and looked at me. And for as long as I live, I'll never forget the expression on his face. Sheer terror. Last time I saw that look on Mark's face was back when Mark was in high school. When Dad found the beer in the trunk of the car that Mark had forgotten to remove the night before. His eyes were as big as saucers, and he said in almost a whisper "Is this like the Blair Witch Project, or what?" Leave it to my brother... that got me laughing. (Sigh) I love him dearly. When I finally composed myself, I said, "This is sacred ground. It's Ojibwe something-or-other, I'm not exactly sure what. But this is most definitely holy ground. Tread lightly, and disturb nothing."
That was when the camera came out. There was no way I was going to walk away from this without some sort of proof. We didn't touch the stones. I made sure of that. I wasn't exactly sure what it was that we were looking at; but as a Druid, I understand the significance behind circles. You don't break the circle. That is bad juju.
We continued to walk the site, taking pictures as we went, trying to get an idea of the scale of this place. Keeping in mind that the circles were in clusters, we estimated the site to cover 2 - 3 acres. We found hundreds of circles up there.
When we finally canoed, crawled, and portaged our way out of the Boundary Waters, we discussed what it is, exactly, that should be done with this. Do we sell the photos to The National Enquirer? Do we bury this as a family secret and take it to our graves? Do we seek out assistance in finding out what it was that we found out there? What do we do? It was unanimously agreed that we wanted to know just what it was we found out there. But then what? What happens to the site? Nothing could shake me from "This is sacred ground and it needs to be protected." But... there's also a lot to be gained from its study. What legacy in stone did the ancients leave for us to uncover? Where is the happy medium here? I was elected, mostly by default, to be the "family spokesperson" for the site. I then brought it up on the RDNAwebchat to get ideas as to what I should do with this. Norm Nelson (bless your heart, I love ya Norm) suggested that I take the photos to the State Historical Museum.
When I got to the Museum, they looked at the photos for all of about two minutes and decided this was way over their heads, and referred me to the State Archaeologist's office. So I went down there. You could tell they didn't believe a word I said. I even got the "If I had a dollar for every person who came in here SWEARING that they found an Indian burial mound on their property, that turned out to be a garbage heap from the 1940's that grass just grew over..." speech. Seriously. That's what they told me. Ok, fine... so I pulled out the photos. Dead silence. What followed can only be described as the Great Inquisition. They kept me down there the entire afternoon grilling me with questions.
"Did you see bottles or cans or wrappers laying around?" "No." "Did you see tent poles or rope?" "No." "Did you see saws or tools, or anything that may have been left behind by loggers?" "No." "Did you see old steel traps or chains, like trappers would use?" "No." "Did you see any old log cabins, or foundations from buildings from old homesteaders?" "No." "Were you by a portage or a trail or a campsite?" "No."
This went on, literally, all afternoon.
Then they finally pulled out the maps. "Can you show us exactly where you were?"
SCREECH! went the brakes. Now it was my turn to ask the questions...
"Why do you NEED to know EXACTLY where it is?"
"What exactly would you do if you DID know the location?"
"How do I know you won't ransack the site?"
"How do I know you won't go souvenir hunting?"
"How do I know this won't wind up as the topic of someone's doctoral thesis?"
"How do I know this site won't become public knowledge, and you guys put a flipping admission gate on the front of it and make it a god*&$%#! attraction?"
"This is sacred ground...and it needs to stay that way!"
So now we're at an impasse. The State Archaeologists realized they had a legitimate site on their hands, but I was not about to put an X on the map for them to tromp all over it. And I'm no closer to finding out what it is we found out there. I don't mean to make it sound like it was hostile, because it wasn't. It most definitely wasn't hostile. We were talking and laughing and joking around... but neither side was budging, either.
Enter the Fed...
Because the Boundary Waters is federally protected land, the State Archaeologists were required to get the Feds involved. Apparently, from what I gathered, the idea was that this site has most certainly already been found and researched and documented. The State could side step me, by just calling up the Feds and asking them to send down everything they had on the site.
The Feds had no idea what they were talking about. Nothing like this has ever been found up there. Nothing like this has ever been found in Minnesota PERIOD! After hearing what the State guys had to say about this site, the Feds' interest was a little more than aroused.
In a move that surprised me, probably as much as it surprised the State guys, the Feds opted to bump the State Archaeologists and take over control of the site. They can do that.. it's federal land.
But they still don't have that all-important X on the map.
It was time for a family meeting. Don, one of the Feds, wanted to meet with me that weekend, to discuss the site and see the photos. While it was unsaid, I knew I was going to be asked to put an X on the map.
Since family meetings are hard to arrange on short notice, we did this via the telephone. We had to discuss our priorities. What is it we want to achieve? Our objectives boiled down to two: find out what it is that we found up there, and ensure that the site will be protected.
With this under my belt, I hopped in the Jeep and headed north.
I met Don the Fed at a class he was teaching on flint knapping. I guess this is what archaeologists do with their Saturdays to earn extra income. I walked into the classroom and asked for Don. Don strolled over and politely introduced himself. Then I told him who I was. While still shaking my hand, he smiled while he gave me the once up-and-down glance and said "Well, youre the right size for a Voyageur." (Fateful words, those, but I'll get to that later) That was a compliment. The Voyageurs were, even by standards of the day, runts. They had to be small to fit in the canoes, but they were unbelievably tough. These tiny men, who probably weighed no more than 130 pounds toted 180+ pound packs across miles of wilderness, blazing trails as they went. I fully expected that I would be sizing up the Feds... I had no idea that I would be sized-up myself. Apparently... I passed. Don wasn't anything like I'd expect for an archaeologist... much less a Fed. I guess what I was expecting was the "king of the nerds" who spent all his days buried in basement archives pouring over decaying documents and papyri; someone who perpetually smelled of dust and mold. Don, instead, was a big man; very tall, extremely muscular. Long graying hair pulled back in a ponytail. I'd put him about mid-fifties... and from the weathered look about his face, you could tell he spent most of his time "in the field."
So while Don taught the class, and while I was learning to make my very first arrowhead, we got our chance to talk. With others around and within listening distance, we had to keep the discussion vague. After the class, Don offered to buy me dinner while we got to the meat and bones of this site. Over dinner, Don poured over the photos and was stunned speechless. I went over and over how we came to find the site, how bloody inaccessible it is to get to, and everything we saw while out there. Then came the same questions the State guys asked (cans, wrappers, bottles, rope, tent poles, saws, tools, traps, chains, log cabins, foundations from old buildings, and distance from portages, trails, and campsites, etc, etc, etc ad infinitum).
Then came the million-dollar question. Don pulled a map from his backpack, and said, "Can we discuss the precise location?" Which was when I leaned back in my chair, crossed my arms, and said "Before we get to the X on the map, we have a few things we need to discuss." Don laughed a booming laugh, and reached back into his backpack and pulled out a notepad and pen. Still laughing, he said, "Something told me you were going to do this." Which was when I laughed and said "Yeah, well... something told me you were going to ask for an X on the map." Don, grinning from ear to ear, simply said "Touche"
He uncapped he pen, resettled himself in his chair, and with a heavy sigh gave me a long hard look. Finally, he said, "Look, I'm going to be up front with you. Probably a little too up front. We want this site. We want it bad. So what do you want for the X on the map?" I took a deep breath and began...
"We want to be kept in the loop every step of the way. We want to know what it is that we found out there."
"Done... what else do you want?"
"We want the Feds to take full responsibility for ensuring that this site is protected. The location can never be made public knowledge. No one will write a thesis paper on this site. It won't appear on any websites or books. We want this site to vanish. Study it; learn from it what we can. But then all documentation on this site has to be buried under so much beaurocratic red tape, that effectively, it vanishes from the face of the planet. This is unbelievably important to me, and is an absolute deal breaker. This is non-negotiable."
Don looked at me for a second on this last one. He was studying me. He finally said, "Why is this so important to you?"
"Because... this is sacred ground. How would you feel if someone strolled into your church, synagogue, or mosque and ransacked it? You'd be horrified, wouldn't you?" Don just nodded, and I continued, "Well... this is a people's church. Show some respect." Don was silent. I noticed his eyes left my face, and landed on the gold Celtic cross I wear around my neck. I wear the Celtic cross as a symbol of my attachment to my heritage; I'm a Celt... a Belgae Celt to be precise. Most people assume it means I'm Christian. It's a common mistake. And I could tell from Don staring at my cross, it was a mistake he was currently making. It's a Celtic cross, not a crucifix folks. So... assuming that I'm Christian... he finally said "But they aren't your gods." I said back "No... they aren't my gods. But that doesn't negate them."
Don leaned back in his chair, and grinned from ear to ear. Here was a (what he was assuming to be) little Catholic girl not only acknowledging other gods, but demanding proper respect be shown to them. (That right there should've told him that I'm not a Catholic)
After a VERY long pause, Don leaned across the table and said "Julie Ann... I'm half Ojibwe."
Now it was my turn to be stunned into silence.
It was Don's people, his ancestors, who built this site. No wonder he took such an active interest in it. No wonder he was so insistent on being the one who talked to me. No wonder he would've traded his first-born for access to this site, and was readily agreeing to all our demands. This was his heritage. This was his birthright.
We sat there in silence, just staring at each other. Here is a man who has a vested interest in protecting this site every bit as much as I do. Actually, even more than I do.
Finally, I had a friend among the Feds.
After an agonizingly long silence, I finally piped up "Before we continue on with how we're going to protect the site, can I ask you something?" He nodded, so I continued, "After we got home from the Boundary Waters, I had to make an offering. I mean we really felt like we were tapped, for some reason known only to the gods. They led us there. We were meant to find it. I owed a huge debt of thanks, and I repay my debts.. but I wasn't sure what to offer. I didn't want to offend with my ignorance, but I couldn't let it slide without making an offering. So I burned two entire sage bushes and a pile of myrrh.. was this appropriate?"
This put Don (who was still assuming that I'm Catholic) completely over the edge. He burst out laughing. Once he pulled himself together, he finally said, "Technically, tobacco would've been the appropriate offering." Then he leaned over the table, and grinning from ear to ear he whispered "But I'm sure the Great Spirit was touched by your thoughtfulness, regardless of what you offered."
Although it never came up in conversation after that, I'm pretty sure Don has figured out at this point that I'm not Christian, and that Celtic cross has no religious implications attached to it what so ever.
Once promises were made, and the discussion complete, Don got his X on the map. And the business of the expedition began.
From here I was passed to Brian, another Fed, who would be the one acting as expedition leader. My brother Mark and I were instantly asked to be on the team. They needed guides out to the site. Even with an X on the map, the Boundary Waters is a huge chunk of land. Guides are necessary. We know the best routes, we know the best portages, we know the best campsites, we know the most direct route in, and we know the general boundary to the site. Due to his family obligations, Mark had to bow out. That left me. There was no way I WASN'T going to go. Still leery about any Feds other than Don, I was going to go along to make sure they didn't booger up the site. (Insert a mental picture for yourself of a snarling pit bull with a sigil around its neck)
The expedition was set for October 23rd - 25th. With winter approaching Minnesota fast, this was only going to be a quick in and out expedition to map out the outer boundary, take photos, start the paperwork, and get a general "feel" for the site. Brian and Lee were the Feds on the team. Stacy is with the State who was granted permission on to the team, as a representative from the State. And lastly, I rounded out the expedition, as "Sacajewea and Sherpa-extraordinaire."
Brian secured a cabin for us close to where we would be pushing off into the Boundary Waters; for the night before we went in, and for the night when we came out. I had to fill out the paperwork to become a Federal volunteer. It left a bad taste in my mouth, but the Feds were claiming me as a Federal employee in case an issue of liability came up. Which, actually, was very nice. If I got mauled by a bear, the Feds would be footing the bill. If I wrenched an ankle while bouldering during a portage, the Feds would be footing the bill. If I threw my back out while hauling the canoe, the Feds would be footing the bill. If a poacher decided I looked an awful lot like a deer or a moose, and took a shot at me, it would be an assault on a Federal employee. Well, I didn't get mauled. I didn't get shot at. I didn't wrench an ankle, or throw out my back. But I did get a lovely Federal Forest Services Volunteer patch that I can sew onto something.
The morning we were going into the Boundary Waters, we woke up to discover it had snowed during the night and was still snowing. Remember me telling you that I'm not a lucky gal? Yeah.
For the duration of the expedition, at no point in time was it not snowing, sleeting, or raining.
It was going to be a hard day. Long, hard, bitterly cold, and very wet.
I had no problem guiding our merry band of damp outdoor enthusiasts out to the site. It took several hours worth of canoeing, portaging, hauling, and with the sun behind overcast skies, periodic compass checkingEut really we got out there in record time. We went in stripped down to bare essentials, so we were traveling light. And the archaeologists got a kick out of watching me sing Sinatra's "Swinging On A Star" over and over, as my little "zen-thing" that I do while I'm in "the pain cave" ("the pain cave" is where you zone out from this world, to block the physical pain of carrying a 40-pound canoe and a 20-pound daypack for a mile over a brutal portage. I completely blank out and sing "Swinging On A Star" over and over, for the duration of the portage. That's just how I handle "the pain cave") There were four portages in, and four portages out. I think they all know "Swinging On A Star" by heart now.
Once out at the site, the circles were brutally hard to find. The large circles were unmistakable; but the snow-covered smaller circles, the vast majority of them, were indistinguishable from the mounds of reindeer moss that is prolific throughout the area. If you are unfamiliar with reindeer moss, they're like big fluffy pom-pom tufts of moss. So all we could really do was walk the perimeter of the site, snap some photos, and start the paperwork. We couldn't look for artifacts in the snow. They explained that they needed "historical garbage" to use in conjunction with this site to help determine the makers. Right now, all we have are rocks. What we need are arrowheads, flint knapping shards, beads, broken bits of pottery, and the like. With the absence of "historical garbage" on the record they have to maintain that the site is "of unknown origins" Which is just fine with me. I don't want people coming out here and boogering with the site. Off the record, however, they seem pretty set on this being Ojibwe Vision Quest Circles.
The reason this site is so important is because Vision Quest circles have never been found in Minnesota beforeEuch less four acres of them. Our early estimate of 2-3 acres was bumped up to 4 after the expedition.
Stacy, however, is still my ace in the hole. Stacy can date the lichen at the site. It will take her months to do so, but she can date the lichen. Once we have a ballpark date on the lichen, we'll know who the makers were. For example, if the lichen comes back 300 years old, well duh... that's Ojibwe.
For the sake of site preservation I truly hope we DON't find any "historical garbage" out there. I would be tickled pick if this site had to be listed as "of unknown origins." Stacy can still date the site; we don't need the "historical garbage" So I'm very content to let her date it, and leave it at that. However, that brings me back to "what legacy in stone did the ancients leave for us to uncover." So...the site needs further study.
With the October expedition completely awash due to the snow cover, the expeditions have been set to resume in the spring. I've been asked, again, by both the State and the Feds to go along as "Sacajewea and Sherpa-extraordinaire." And, it's within compliance of my agreement with Don to keep us in the loop every step of the way.
So, I guess if you were hoping for a big resolution at the end of this installment, you're going to be disappointed. I'll have no new news to share with you until spring when the expeditions resume, or when Stacy dates the lichen.
My story doesn't end there, though. Since the expedition, some things have come to pass. Allow me to refresh your memory on a few things I stated early on. Don made a comment about me being "the right size for a Voyageur" and I made the comment that those turned out to be fateful words. I also mentioned that while talking to Don, I had made the comment that I couldn't shake the feeling that we've somehow been tapped; that we were led there, that we were meant to find this site. The time is now for me to clarify these things.
Winter is now in full swing in Minnesota, and now that I'm effectively grounded for the winter, I turn my hobbies to more "indoor tasks" One of them is I'm the family genealogist. I've been working my patrilineal side for years. Since I came back from the expedition, my mother has asked me to start working the matrilineal side of the family. I've been putting that side off for years because there isn't much information for me to really start from. However, she gave me what she had, and I began to work it. The job was further hindered by the fact that she really only had the women's names. Which wouldn't be a problem, but once you get into the 1800's, when women really were little more than property, it's hard to track women down. One name in particular I had trouble with: Elizabeth Wells Gibbs. Before the age of 20 or so, she simply didn't seem to exist. I tracked her down to having lived in Beltrami County, Minnesota. Not being overly familiar with that county, way in the northern part of the state, I pulled out my atlas. It turns out that the Red Lake Indian Reservation occupies a solid third of that county. Then I hit pay dirt. I found out why Elizabeth didn't "exist" before she was 20 or so years old. Her name wasn't Elizabeth.
Elizabeth Wells was the name given to her by a court to make the recording of her marriage "prettier" Her real name was Nokezhigoke. Elizabeth belonged to the Red Lake Chippewa band of the Ojibwe. I had no idea I was part Ojibwe. My grandmother was darker-skinned, but many "white" folks have darker complexions. I have a couple of aunts who are "questionable" but they certainly pass for white. As for me hell when it comes to "passing for white" blonde hair and blue eyes are the only things that trumps my red hair and green eyes. But that is my PATRILINEAL Celtic blood speaking. I had no idea I was part Ojibwe... and I'm thrilled to find out that I am! I told Don that we were led there; that we were "tapped" for some reason. Don wanted this site because it was part of his heritage, his birthright. His ancestors built this site... and so did mine. Perhaps divine intervention did play a part in our discovery. Perhaps the ancients did lead a lost son and daughter home.
Don's comment on me being "the right size for a Voyageur" also turned out to be rather fateful. So how did Elizabeth / Nokezhigoke come to marry a white man? She lived on a reservation; and in the mid-1800's, white folks didn't have a whole lot of business being on a reservation. Not to stir up bad history, but let's face facts... there was no love lost there... on either side. Further digging led me to the Northwest Fur Company. In around 1850, The Northwest Fur Company dropped an outpost on the Red Lake Reservation to trade with the Ojibwe there. Only the fur traders had unhindered access and granted safe passage through the reservation at that point in time. I found out that my great great great grandfather was a Voyageur. Well I'll be dipped... Don was right.
In my life, I've been a great many things: daughter, sister, friend, wife, Druid, and Celt... now I get to be these things too.
Before I found out I was part Ojibwe, I was just a little Druid standing firm on my belief in protecting the sanctity of sacred places. And I was prepared to protect it with all the ferocity I could muster. But I had no idea when this journey began that it would become a personal one. Many things happened out on Shield rock. Many things lost, have now been found.
Maybe I'm lucky after all...
Yours in the Mother,
Note: If you noticed I was intentionally evasive on the location of the site... you're right... I am. I mean no disrespect; and while I don't worry about the Druids, all it takes is one idiot to learn the location of the site. One idiot can destroy the site. One idiot can pillage the site. One idiot can desecrate the site. I cannot, in good conscious, make the site's location public knowledge. I hope all of you understand and respect my decision.
Stay tuned as the expeditions resume next spring / summer. Updates to come...
YULE GIFT IDEAS
Traditional Crafts of Ireland
By David Shaw-Smith
The turn of the spinning wheel, the harnessed horses pulling the plow, the knock of the cooper's hammer, the scything of the summer's cornall these were once familiar sights and sounds in and around Irish homesteads. They echo the history of crafts that may go back 3,000 years into Ireland's past.
In this book, time stands still as we meet the skilled practitioners of more than forty traditional Irish crafts, from woodcarvers, thatchers, goldsmiths, and potters to glassblowers of the world-famous Waterford crystal, crios weavers from the Aran Islands, and the makers of items as varied as harps and quilts, baskets and curraghs, drystone walls and Irish lace.
David Shaw-Smith has traveled the length and breadth of Ireland and its islands to assemble this record, documenting the crafts in their natural surroundings before they disappear completely. His superb color photographs include both poetic images of the finished craft pieces and informative sequences explaining the production process. They are accompanied by Sally Shaw-Smith's evocative drawings and by texts from some of Ireland's finest historians and craft writers.
A magnificent testament to the centuries-old traditions of a vibrant land, the book is both a chronicle of times past and a celebration of an enduring culture, and will appeal to anyone connected with the Emerald Isle or who has ever visited it. It is the culmination of a forty-year project, the first fruits of which were seen in David Shaw-Smith's earlier book, Ireland's Traditional Crafts, published in the 1980s.
David Shaw-Smith is a Dublin-born independent film producer. His films on traditional Irish crafts have been seen all over the world and have received many awards, including the Golden Harp. His research and photographs on traditional crafts are scheduled to become part of the Irish National Archives.
ISBN 0-500-51142-X, 677 illustrations, 621 in color · 256 pages, US$40.00
Treasures of the Boyne Valley
By Peter Harbison
The River Boyne flows from west to east through the rich limestone land of Co. Meath, about 30 miles north of Dublin. Its combination of fertile soil and navigable access to the sea has ensured that it has been inhabited continuously from the end of the Ice Age. It is one of the most historic regional areas, not just in Ireland, but in all of north-west Europe.
Peter Harbison's book discusses the history of the Boyne Valley, the landscape, the peoples who have left their imprint on the region since pre-history, the houses and monuments, the battle sites and all the other aspects that make it such a rich source of interest.
The highlight of the book is of course the three great Stone Age burial sites at Dowth, Knowth and Newgrange, all at least as old as the Egyptian pyramids, and the latter,one of the wonders of Europe. But Harbison also deals deftly with other matters: with the Battle of the Boyne (1690), so crucial for later Irish history; with writers like Mary Lavin, Francis Ledwidge and Lord Dunsany who lived in and wrote about the region; with the houses, churches and monastic settlements.
The book is richly illustrated with original landscape photography by Tom Kelly, himself a resident of the valley, and with historic prints.
Hardback, 192 pages, Publisher: Gill & Macmillan; ISBN: 0717134989, US$40.00
Legendary Ireland: A Journey through Celtic Places and Myths
By Eithne Massey
This beautiful book visits twenty-eight richly atmospheric sties and tells the mythological stories associated with them. Woven into these landscapes are tales of love and betrayal, greed and courage, passion and revenge, featuring the famous characters of Celtic lore, such as Cú Chulainn the children of Lír and Queen Maeve.
The historical and archaeological facts, and the folk traditions of each ancient site are explored. Some are famous such as Tara and Newgrange; others are less well known but equally captivating such as the Béara Pennisula in Cork.
In a world where many have lost touch with the land and their past, the legendary Irish landscape still survives and the stories are never quite over as long as there are people to tell them.
Hardback, 240 pages, publisher: O'Brien Press, ISBN 0-86278-766-1, US$30.00
WITNESS THE WINTER SOLSTICE
SUNRISE AND SUNSET AT THE
Sunrise @ 7:00 a.m., Sunset @ 3:30 p.m.
Sunday & Monday--Dec. 21 & 22, 2003
Members of the general public are invited to join Dr. Judith Young of the U.Mass. Amherst Dept. of Astronomy to watch the Sun rise and set over the tall standing stones in the U.Mass. Sunwheel for the winter solstice. This is when the Sun is at its most southerly position in rising and setting, at its lowest noon-time altitude, and when days are shortest. Sunrise and sunset gatherings will be held on BOTH SUNDAY AND MONDAY, Dec. 21 & 22, 2003. Visitors for the winter solstice sunrise viewing should arrive at 7:00 a.m. and visitors for the sunset viewing should arrive by 3:30 p.m. The sky will be particularly beautiful at sunrise both mornings, since the waning crescent Moon will rise just before the Sun, and Jupiter will be high in the south. For those interested in learning about the sky, there will be a presentation which will include the cause of the seasons, the Sun's path in the sky, the phases of the Moon, and the story of the U.Mass. Sunwheel. Bring your family, your questions, your camera, your curiosity, and DRESS WARMLY. A $3 donation is requested to help cover the cost of additional stonework for the Sunwheel.
The calendars list Dec. 22, 2003 as the day of the winter solstice, with the exact instant of solstice being 2:04 a.m. Eastern Standard Time. The word solstice means 'standstill', and refers to the fact that the rising and setting location of the Sun stays relatively fixed on the horizon for a 2-week period around solstice, with Dec. 22 in the middle. Should rain cause the Sunwheel events to be cancelled, you can visit the Sunwheel on your own for another week and still see the Sun rise and set over the tall standing stones.
The U.Mass. Sunwheel is located south of Alumni Stadium, just off Rocky Hill Road. It can be reached from the center of Amherst, following Amity St. to the west. After crossing University Dr. at the light, continue on Rocky Hill Rd. for about 1/4 mile, and make your first right, on to Stadium Dr., and park. All visitors should wear warm clothing, suitable for standing still on frozen or soggy ground, and you may wish to bring a folding chair and/or blanket.
For more information, see http://www.umass.edu/sunwheel
Dr. Judith S. Young
Professor, Dept. of Astronomy
620 GRC Tower B
University of Massachusetts
Amherst, MA 01003
Celtic Studies Course!
There is a new Celtic studies course being offered at the UC Santa Cruz Extension campus in Cupertino.
The Story of the Celts in Ireland X479 History (1)
This course attempts to answer some intriguing questions about the Celts of Ireland, a people often associated with fairy tales, folklore and fancy jewelry. The questions will take us back in time to discover a heritage that some call "Celtic Magic." A few obvious questions include the following: Who were the Celts anyway? Was Brigid a goddess, an abbess, or both? Were the Druids a secret society? Where is the land of eternal youth? For answers, we will investigate Celtic spirituality before and after Saint Patrick. We will listen to stories of mystery and imagination in literature, as well as decipher patterns of Celtic art in metal work, illuminated manuscripts and sculptured stone crosses. From a variety of sources, we will fashion a mental tapestry of how Celts on the fringe of Europe imagined the other world while maintaining a harmony with nature. Throughout the course, we will explore the roots of contemporary recordings from artists of Celtic music.
MICHAEL DONNELLAN, Ph.D., hails originally from the west of Ireland. He has taught at several San Francisco Peninsula colleges as well as at educational institutions in the Midwest and on the East coast.
Fee: $195 ($215 if registering after February 7). Enrollment limited. 5 meetings: Saturdays, 10:30 am-12:30 pm, February 21-March 20. UCSC Extension, 10420 Bubb Rd.
EDP 033W11 (use this EDP code to enroll)
For more information call (831) 427-6695 or email:
Stephanie Dekking firstname.lastname@example.org
|A Druid Missal-Any|
Yule, Winter Solstice, when the Sun enters Capricorn, will occur on Saturday, December 21, at 11:40 p.m. Pacific Standard Time.
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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