A Newsletter of the Reformed Druids of North America
Yule, Year 42
(December 23rd, 2004)
Volume 20, Number 8
|CONTENTS OF THIS ISSUE:
Yule Essay: Ogham
ule begins Winter, Geimredh, season of the Bard. The File and Bards, like the troubadours who followed them, practiced their art "from Samain until summer" as in the old poem of Forgoll, the Bard, who tells King Mongan a story each night from his wise repertory. And, as Keatings explains, commenting on the Old Irish, the winter practices of the File, lodging from house to house in exchange for their songs and stories, had become such a great burden for Ireland, that a king had the idea of banishing them:
"It is by Aodh son of Ainmire that a great assembly of Drom Ceat was convened where there was a gathering of the nobles and ecclesiastics(?) of Ireland. Aodh had three reasons to convene this assembly, the first of them being to banish the File and Bards because they constituted a heavy burden and were hard to govern."
At this time, Keatings adds, almost a third of the well-born men in Ireland belonged in some way to the Bardic class. "And from Samhain to Beltaine, they lodged at the homes of the nobles of Ireland." The project failed because Conchobar, to show his Druid orthodoxy and generosity, gathers up the File and Bards and maintains them for seven years, and also sends Cuchulainn to meet them. (It is not, in the light of this, accidental that we have more verse remaining about Conchobar than about any other Pre-Christian Irish king.)
The tradition continued after the Christianization. A folklorist whom the Rees quote recalled that
"Just until recently, the Irish story tellers, heritors of the Bards, also did not exercise their art during the summer. In order to feel at ease, it had to be winter and night had to have fallen."
The patron god of Bards and story tellers is Ogmios, Champion of Strength and Eloquence. Lucian, writing in the second century, equates him with Roman Hercules, but notes these differences. First, Ogmios is portrayed as an old man, white haired, but still powerful. The Gauls, he learned through his native acquaintance, associate eloquence with the old champion, and not with Hermes, whom they see as too young and callow. On one of the temples or art works then extant, Ogmios, he says, is pictured leading a joyful band of men, attached to him by thin chains which link their ears to the tip of his tongue, a striking visual portrait of persuasive ability. The Irish god Ogma or Oghma, is clearly the same divine persona, though Prof. MacCana feels that the name may be a borrowing instead of a genuine cognate. But the figure appears, often qualified by the title "Grainainech" of-the-Sun-like-Countenance, and The Honey-Mouthed, both in Ireland and Wales as on the Continent. He is also known as "trenfher," champion, or literally the "heavy man." In insular traditions he is not only the patron of eloquent speech, but the inventor of writing, in the old Irish system of Ogham letters. This is a system of writing made up of bars of varying lengths place above and below a central line. It is of uncertain origin, but clearly designed for carving on stone, or at the end of square pillars.
It continued in use into the Early Middle Ages. MacCana believes it probably evolved out of an earlier set of magical symbols, perhaps some of the same ones that gave rise to the Norse Runes.
As Ogam came into use after the Celts were exposed to the Latin alphabet, MacCana contends it may have evolved thus: "seeing the utility of the Sound=Letter system of Latin script, the Gauls may have let the magic symbol whose name contained the sound stand for that sound in all words." Other scholars, such as Prof. Rhys, and Charles Squire, believe Ogam was the indigenous script of Ireland. They stress that it more closely resembles a binary or trinary code, akin to the bars and lines of the I Ching, than the picture writing of sound diagrams from which Mediterranean and hence all Western systems of letters evolved.
Most Ogam inscriptions are found in Ireland and Scotland, where the Romans never came. (Druidism is full of these riddles.)
Being in this way the God of Writing, it may not be an accident that Oghma is one of the very few Celtic gods for whom we have written records of his worship, i.e. prayers. Two "defixiones," inscribed tablets, were found in France on which Ogmios is beseeched to avenge the author and wreck a curse on certain individuals. In Irish sources, he is also the Champion in this sense of judge and avenger, and to him binding oaths are made. He is invoked as "the god who binds" the binding power of words and oaths, the spell-binding power of eloquence, so graphically portrayed by the thin golden chains by which he leads his listeners, in the scene described by Lucian. This ability to persuade, convince, and enchant with words was highly regarded in Celtic society, and a part of the training of Bard, Filidh, and Druid alike. LeRoux speculates that the "magic of Ogam" that Cuchulainn used in the Tain Bo Cuailnge to stop, single handed, the advance of the Connaught army, was not supernatural magic, but persuasion, or eloquent diplomacy and playing for time.
Thus, Oghma is the one to invoke in negotiations, when eloquent speech and persuasive ability are needed.
Oghmic Incantation Here is an incantation to an Oghma like figure of "Sun-like Countenance" from the Scottish oral folk tradition. The Preceptor has used it and gives testimony of its utility.
The litigant went at morning dawn to a place where three streams met. And as the rising sun gilded the mountain crests, the man placed his two palms edgeways together and filled them with water from the junction of the streams. Dipping his face into this improvised basin, he fervently repeated the prayer,
Ionnlaidh mise m'aodann
'S na naodh gatha greine,
Mar a dh'ionnlaid Moire a Mac
Am bainne brac na breine.
Gaol a bhi 'na m'aodann,
Caomh a bhi 'na m'ghnuis,
Caora meala 'na mo theanga,
M'anail mar an tuis.
Is dubh am bail ud thall,
Is dubh daoine th'ann;
Is mis an eala bhan,
Banruinu os an ceann.
Falbhaidh mi an ainme Dhe,
An riochd feidh, an riochd each,
An riochd nathrach, an riochd righ:
Is treasa lion fin na le gach neach.
I will wash my face
In the nine rays of the sun,
As Mary washed her Son*
In the rich fermented milk.
Love be in my countenance,
Benevolence in my mind,
Dew of honey in my tongue,
My breath as the incense.
Black is yonder town,
Black are those therein,
I am the white swan,
Queen above them.
I will travel in the name of God, In likeness of deer, in likeness of horse,
In likeness of serpent, in likeness of king:
Stronger will it be with me than with all persons.
*A later introjection which does not rhyme.
By Emmon Bodfish, reprinted from A Druid Missal-Any, Yule 1985
News of the Groves
For the Full Grove Directory
Carleton Grove: News from Minnesota
The grove here at Carleton is mostly silent these days, empty not only of animals and seasonal plants, but also of students. Before leaving for the term, we had a sweat and a fun anonymous sealed message distribution day. We also got a mysterious letter asking for the attendance of "The Chief Druid" of the grove at a store opening in London. All goes well, except that our exorcism of the White House seems to have had only limited effect.
Stephen Crimmins has completed his editing of the second edition of Druid
Chronicles (Evolved) and is reviewing Richard Shelton's "Carleton Druid
Digitalis Grove: News from D.C.
Mike has decided, failing the acquisition of a cushy Federal job by April, to relocate to South Korea next summer and teach English there from July 2005-July 2006, perhaps longer on the EPIK program. He invites you to join him, if you're interested in working in the same city with him.
After finishing ARDA 2's third and last volume with Stacey (NRDNA Magazines
1976-2004), Mike wishes to go out on new adventures overseas where the cooking
is better, and Republicans are scarce. He will study local religion and get a
better feel for North-east Asian politics on the side. Most likely, a new Grove
will be established, the first in Korea; much like the Akita and Shikoku Grove
were established during his stay in Japan from 1996-2000.
Rowan-Oak Grove: News from Tulsa, OK
With the arch-druidess finally getting her financial life back under control we were able to turn our attention once again to the needs of the grove. the decision was made to start a culdee sect study group within the grove since so many members were christo pagan, and were interested in exploring this aspect of druidism. showings at our rituals have been almost nil unless the arch-druidess was putting on a feast anyway so for the time being we are exploring other avenues. for the past two saturdays our culdee group has been doing studies from a antique bible reading for the home study group book given to me by my erstwhile mentor myrddin a maeglin and we pick apart the scriptures going back to the hebrew, arramaic or greek to find the connotations found in the origional languages. everyone has remarked that doing so has given them a new perspective on what was really written. we have also discussed the evolution of the early church history, both in rome and in the british isles and how the two christian sects differed enormously and the influence of the druids on both. this has been an interesting class and will probably evolve into a full seminar for our students seeking the priesthood. AS for yule itself while nothing specific is planned we might try learning some of the older pagan carols and do a bit of caroling- if anyone actually shows the interest in doing it. the change over to sis crystal as vp of the board of directors, sis erika as head of corn maiden society helped enormously, bro velderonne and bro thomas are alternating as our summoners and everyone else retained former positions in the board of directers. sis m.s. sylver catt was raised to eldership at samhain, she heads our wagner grove and has more than earned this elevation. secretary bro m.c. werebear and the arch-druidess m.s. white raven have joined a peace activist group and have become involved in helping to end the war in our own small fashion. oops gotta run, got a member online who is trying to stop someone from oding. back into counselor mode.
healing light and peace
m.s. white raven
Dravidia Grove: News from Indiana
It is once again that time of study and that is what i have been doing with my time. I did manage to see a few raccoons out back last night. There were a total of 5 of them playing around the yard. The weather has not turned too cold yet, but it is cold enough to put a damper on your outdoor plans. We had a fantastic Samhain, and a few good scares by hiding under the pile of leaves in the front yard. Have some really good video shots of it that went back to England with my Brother-in-law.
Enjoy the changing of the leaves.
Canine Grove: News from Oregon
I am still a wandering Druid wannabe in the watery clutches of western Oregon. I foresee a damp solitary ritual out in the woods begging the sun king to hurry up and return! Also, this diehard single woman finally consented to a proposal of marriage after forty five years of happily traipsing about on this planet on her various errant adventures. (Besides, who can say no to getting hitched at the Church of Elvis?!)
Bindi, somewhere in the vicinity of Portland, OR
Sierra Madrone Grove: News from California
We at the Sierra Madrone Grove are planning two events to mark our "Season of Sleep". We are planning a large public Yule Gathering to be held Dec 17th at the Unitarian Universalist Church on Sierra Dr in Sacramento. The Event will start at 7:00 pm. We will also be holding a private Hogmanay Celebration on Dec 31 to mark the New Year.
Sean mac Dhomhnuill
Sierra Madrone Grove
Sunset Proto-Grove: News from California
It is the season of sleep. Every day now, I go to work in the dark and come home in the dark. I only really see the sun on the weekends. This really brings the seasons true self out for me. It's these months when I dont really get to see the beauty of our earth daily, that make the spring so wondrous. I concentrate now on catching up on projects in the house. Updating scrapbooks, decorating for Yule, continuing to try and fill the empty spaces still present in our new home, in an effort to bring the 'cozy' feeling into every room. Cooking more hot meals now. A roast in the oven, a stew simmering on the stove...baking.
The cozy feeling I search to create for my family, is much like a warm nurturing womb in the dark season. And in the spring we open the windows. Dust, clean, sort, store, sell. Opening the house to the newly emerging season and the light.
Lovely the circle of life.
"...Now I see the secret of the making of the best persons,
It is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth."
Best Wishes to all-
Poison Oak Grove, News from California
Publisher of "A Druid Missal-Any"
Our Samhain Social was celebrated this year in the ArchDruidess' new house.
We sent a place for those who have gone on before, putting on that plate a bit
of everything from our feast. When dessert time came and everyone got a piece of
the AD's specialty, persimmon pudding, our Server, who was seated next to the
"empty" place setting proclaimed, "I don't know who is sitting there, but he
sure wants that cake!" Later that night the AD set the plate outside for the
spirits. In the morning everything was still there, except for the persimmon
Call to the Morrigan
By Morag NicBride, Server, Poison Oak Grove
Asking help of gods has always been an uncertain business: how do you know when you are answered, or even heard? Who is listening, and what allows one cry to be heeded, and not another?
And what happens to one's system of rational thought when it seems a call has been answered, not by the modern accepted version of God, but by something much older and more dangerous?
At a grove service in early June, I made a request for help. My neighborhood, a small, quiet Oakland street near San Leandro, was under siege from a band of young men who had attached themselves to the household directly across the street from my home. They were present day and night, in and out in clusters, glaring at anyone who looked at them, loud at late hours, their friends and associates visiting in a steady parade of arrogance.
For two years, the situation had been increasing. Weekends, especially three-day holiday weekends, had ceased to be times of relaxation and pleasure. When the tenant was gone, as she frequently was over the weekend, people came in carloads, blocking my driveway and loitering on the sidewalk, talking loudly, bringing their laundry, stashing items in an unlocked car on the property. Drugs and petty prostitution were part of the mix; my partner of 16 years had been offered both. It embarrassed and offended him to think that these people regarded him as a potential customer. The father of one of the young men, the most belligerent and aggressive of the lot, would come over himself to participate in the activities.
Our little block was marked territory, nearly a gang zone, although the young men, mostly in their early twenties, were not a gang. Calling the police was dicey, as it was never clear whether or not the tenant had given her permission for the crowd to be at her house. The owner was more or less hoping everything would go away, apparently unaware of the Oakland statute that allows the police to evict tenants who have become a severe nuisance, and that he could be liable for a hefty fine upwards of $12,000. When I mentioned it to him, he still didn't want to do anything.
Useless to describe the irresponsibility and indifference of the tenant herself; she is a good-natured individual who is hard to dislike, but she really does not care what her neighbors must endure. Nothing changed until it began to affect her directly.
The last episode in this silly drama had occurred on the Memorial Day weekend.
At a subsequent grove gathering, after consulting with my Arch-Druidess, I called upon the Morrigan. I asked them for help in protecting my home and neighborhood, not for any punishment for or revenge upon the people involved. As I spoke aloud, great vultures circled low over the trees of the grove, continuing their flight until I finished my request. I am not making this up; they did not begin circling until I began my request, and they did not long remain after I was finished. I recall seeing two, but am not sure how many were actually there.
The next long weekend was July 4, and, as expected, the tenant of the problem house departed with instructions to the homeowners left, right, and across the street (me) that "no one" was to be in the house. Leaving it in our hands, was, of course, a convenient way to be sure that nothing really would be done, because we were concerned about retaliation, among other things. The big, bluff middle-aged man on one side was reluctant to call police, because he did not want to see young African-American men in jail, but he was not afraid to let them know that he was ready to make the call.
Late on a weekend night, the party began. Cars slipped by and people disappeared into the house, but no lights were on. Quiet or not, there was a lot of traffic for a house that was supposed to have "no one" in it. I am not sure that it was our call which initiated the visit by the police. They had to have been very close by. We called the Oakland non-emergency number to ask what we should do, as we knew that the tenant was not home, not to ask for police intervention, but while we were on the phone, the patrol cars arrived.
My partner and I stayed inside, peering out the window of a darkened room; there were at least five patrol cars, and a helicopter circling above. The racket was frightening; later, neighbors from down the street collected on the sidewalk in front of my house to watch after danger of gunfire had passed.
The Morrigan is said to fly shrieking overhead, in the form of a raven, or carrion crow, and to call up a danse macabre of dead warriors to stoke the fury of battle; indeed it seemed so that night. There were fifteen or so people in that tiny house, and those that were not immediately arrested attempted to flee. Three, a man and two women, hid under the car of the neighbor to the left of the raided house. Others jumped fences and fled through yards. It is my understanding that all were apprehended, including a person who was on probation, and most certainly faced a much longer jail term than he had before.
It was well after midnight before the last of those arrested had either been taken away or released. The house was locked up again. We managed to get some sleep; I learned from the neighbor whose car had played temporary "donjon" that she was none too pleased with the action, as she was imprisoned in her house for most of it, but she was not surprised that it happened.
There was more to come; Sunday night, even after the ruckus, we saw one of the miscreants come to the door of the house, and go in. I called the police; they came, and, this time, unleashed a police dog when the people inside refused to come out. Two young men were wrestled out of the house and onto the ground. One was let go, and the other taken to jail. The one released had a key, which, we found later, he had made on the sly when he had had one of the tenant's keys in his possession.
To say that quiet and contentment ruled afterwards would be wishful thinking, but things are definitely more peaceful, and far less confrontational.
Was this juxtaposition of ancient lore and modern action actual cause and affect?
As I stated earlier, perhaps the call to the Morrigan gave me and my partner and, as a result, others, courage to finally act; we were not the only people who called out the law, or stood up to the belligerent crowd in the months that followed.
Literature concerning the Morrigan warns of residual violence, and disquiet and physical threat continued to plague the woman who lives in the house. She did not really want everyone to go away, nor did her son, both of them giving lip service to the idea while allowing some of the people hauled out of their house by force to return. As of today, the arrogance and overbearing invasive nature of the her visitors has by and large ended, as if the events of the summer caused them to understand that they did not have free rein on the street. Whatever they may say, their behavior has changed. The most threatening and troublesome individuals are gone, some for good. Nonetheless, it is clear to us that she profits by the activity in her home, and has used the hands-off attitude of our neighborhood to quietly continue other ugly goings-on, for which there will no doubt be another kind of reckoning, only not just now.
The Morrigan is too powerful and unpredictable a force to call upon for anything less than full battle. Don't ask for their help unless you mean it, or, in a more familiar phrase, be careful what you wish for; you may get it. Also, as the matter began to finally wind down over the weeks, I had the very strong feeling that it was best to look for help elsewhere in the pantheon of Celtic deities, should there be a need. It was and is time for gentler influences.
In psychological, and maybe karmic, terms, it might be said that my neighbors and I got ourselves charged up to take on the problem, and had to deal with the fallout. We fielded it the best we could for the time, and, because of our own unacknowledged fears and hidden intent, we got what we asked for.
Or the Morrigan did what I asked of them, and left the pieces to fall as they might.
Comments on the nature of the Morrigan and some of their symbols:
The Morrigan, also Morrigu, is a triune deity, composed of the three goddesses, Badb, Macha, and Nemain. Together they are so powerful that it is considered wiser to invoke them separately, as their collective energy can turn violent.
"Morrigan" is translated by two separate sources as "great queen", and "phantom queen".
Among the animals associated with the Morrigan are the carrion crow and the raven.
Carrion crows do not inhabit the West, and I thought that they might be a European bird. To my surprise, they are well-known in the south and middle parts of the United States, but by other names: turkey buzzard, or vulture. The California species is slightly different in appearance, but they were indeed the birds which flew over the grove.
These big, black birds have an unsavory reputation because of their eating habits, but they are wonderful flyers. Vultures most likely evolved from eagles and hawks, and the former, at least, are not beyond dining on carrion themselves. It is also good to recall that the carrion eaters keep things clean for the rest of the world.
Locally, there is a large flock which roosts in the tall trees around and about San Leandro. I have seen them circling high in the air directly above St. Leander's Catholic Church, and once I saw them perched, broad-shouldered and ominous, atop the eucalyptus trees situated directly next to San Leandro city hall. From all appearances, they stay there regularly. The raven is one of my favorite birds. Intelligent, clever, resourceful, and playful, it is a figure in the folklore of many cultures.
Many ravens roost in the trees around my house and along the streets in this community. Right now, as it is nearly winter, they are not as plentiful as in the summer and early fall, when the pickings are better. They are huge birds, which we often do not realize, because from a distance, it is easy to mistake them for crows, which are much smaller, and have a more raucous cry. The raven makes a low croak, and there is language in it.
One such is the double word "croak-croak" which means "here I am". I have heard a raven give such a call when it has made a kill, or has got hold of some other food, perhaps calling its mate to share the meal. As I was leaving my door for work one day, a raven took flight from my front yard. Its wingspan was nearly as wide as the span of my arms, and it had a body as large as that of a big hawk. I have also seen them close at hand, begging for food with great birdly charm, in the Grand Canyon. They stand as tall as my knee, and have beaks three inches long. The head boatman on one of my Grand Canyon river trips pointed out an aerial squabble between a gathering of ravens and a raptor, which was getting the worst of the fight. He claimed to have seen ravens harass hawks and eagles for the sheer fun of it.
My favorite raven prank happened during one breakfast on that same trip. The cook had set up the food on long tables, as usual, including a platter of English muffins. One of our winged camp followers was hopping about on the rocks behind the tables, ignored by every one. As we sat about the camp eating, we saw the bird launch itself into the air, swooping in a wide arc overhead, the pale round circle of an English muffin dangling from its talons.
Plants associated with the Morrigan are henbane and nightshade. Nightshade is common in this area, and, if the berry is ripe, it is quite edible and very tasty, sweet, with an intense tomato flavor. I would not recommend trying it unless you are very sure.
The Druids, Peter Berresford Ellis
Celtic Myth and Magick, Edain McCoy
National Audubon Society Web site, www.audubon.org
The Heart of the Spiral:
A Story in Two Parts
By Brian Jeffries
(Editor's Note: occasionally we at A Druid Missal-Any receive worthy submissions of fiction of a Druish nature from RDNA members. Previously we published The Soul of Juliana Spring by Irony Sade of Hemlock Splinters Grove. This one was submitted by a member of the RDNAtalk conference, who not long ago was asking questions on the conference for his research on the Druid's favorite tree, the oak. Little did I know it was for this intriguing story!)
I drink from the flowing phenomenal well
My thirst for experience deep
I hunger for secrets the ages foretell
The secrets that they did not keep
Story and style are written in stone
A burial mound shows the place
The point of an arrow, an altar, a throne
Illuming the ways of our race
To tell about time is the simplest thing
The way of a spiral, an uncoiling spring
Bedrock to capstone , the key is in place
A conscious revival, a memory trace
To those who remember, I leave it with you
Retelling's the way it can last
A crystal portrayal - the best we can do
Inspiring future through past
More than twenty thousand years ago, Stone Age Europeans worshipped the immortal Great Goddess, who was personified as the wild, primitive woman in her threefold aspects of beautiful maiden, motherly matron, and wise old crone. It was She who presided over all acts of creation and destruction. Represented as Earth Mother, Moon Goddess, and Sea Goddess, She had countless other titles.
Gradually, the early nomadic hunter-gatherers turned to agriculture, and among the farmers were those who observed the cycles of the heavens and the seasonal changes of the land and sea. They became able to predict natural events, and thus were considered to be valuable members of society. These were the druids, who came to be the educated class among the warriors, farmers, craftsmen, slaves, and eventually, metal smiths. The science of the druids crossed over into the realm of magic, rituals of which were performed on hilltops in groves of oak trees.
Twisted and split and blasted by bolts
Yet stately serene grew the dark sacred oaks
On top and defiant of wind and of weather
Their deep diving roots held the mountains together
Among the several different types of druids were the ollaves, or master poets, who were the keepers of myth, history, genealogy, and the Spirit of Poetry, which reincarnated down through the ages. For them, the Goddess as Muse was the ultimate source of all inspiration.
Her symbol, the spiral, is a fundamental design of nature, and for humankind, it represents life, death, and rebirth through the Immortal Spirit.
This is the tale of Dylan O'Cleary; family man, athlete, adventurer, and natural landscaper, who was given a mysterious book for his research on oak trees, leading him to the very heart of the spiral.
The Heart of the Spiral: A Tale of Poetic Rebirth
In the sea-womb's mist
Lies the Isle of the West
Gray Spiral Castle
Upon its mount rests
In his sleeping chamber within ancient stone walls, the Master Poet stirred, his blue-gray eyes focusing into wakefulness. Gesturing to the hooded figure waiting by the chamber door he queried: "Apprentice, how long have I slumbered?"
"It is the early twenty-first century after Christ, Master. This is a time of great change for the Mother of All Living and consequently for poetry as well."
"A change for the better it surely must be," yawned the Master, "for upon my last awakening I found both to be held in small regard. Once again, it seems that She has a task for us to perform in the Realm of the Living. Tell me now," he directed, arising and stretching, "who and what has awakened me from my dreams?"
Peering into a large crystal pyramid set atop an oaken pedestal, the Apprentice replied, "A man named Dylan recites from `The Song of Amergin', Master."
I am a stag:
of seven tines
"So. The Celtic calendar-alphabet within which is contained the Name of the Creator. This is an incantation of great power. Apprentice, where dwells this man?"
I am a hawk:
above the cliff
"In the Land of the Lightning Bolt, on the western shore of the Southern Sea."
I am a hill of poetry
"This Dylan is a simple man who finds joy in the experiences of the natural world, and who has had little formal training in poetry and myth."
I am a wave of the sea
"Think you that such a one would be suitable for our purpose, Apprentice?"
I am a tear :
The sun lets fall
"Perhaps I do, Master, for it is plain that he feels the magic present in the verse that he reads, although he is ignorant as to its meaning."
I am a wizard:
Who but I
Sets the cool head
Aflame with smoke?
"What text does this man recite from?", queried the Master.
"`The White Goddess' by Robert Graves," came the reply.
I am a breaker:
"Ah!, Graves is it!" exclaimed the Master. "`The White Goddess' is his excellent history of poetic myth and a guide to the foundations of language. Its influence should serve well to facilitate our work with this `man of the natural world'."
Invoke, People of the Sea, invoke the poet,
That he may compose a spell for you.
For I, the Druid, who set out letters in Ogham form,
I, who part combatants,
I will approach the ring fort of the Sidhe
to seek a cunning poet that together
we may concoct incantations.
I am a wind of the sea
* * *
As he finished reading the last line of the three thousand year old poem, the hair rose on the back of Dylan's neck. A rush of energy coursed up his spine and he was flooded with an ecstatic feeling he had never before felt. "Wow! Incredible!," exclaimed Dylan to himself.
"This poem, what's it called? `The Song of Amergin', Why is it affecting me this way? These ancient words mean little to me, but I can't stop the feeling that I've known them before in other times, other places."
Late into the moonlit night he read on in wonder, and finally, with the sea sounds outside the window lulling him, he slept.
When Dylan awoke the next morning, the sun had been up for an hour. Rubbing the sleep from his blue eyes, he went outside to look for his wife, Dana. He found her pruning plants among the array of green hues in the garden. After a morning kiss, Dylan took her hand and they sat down beneath an oak tree's gently bobbing branches, where he related to her his experience of the previous night. "The feeling that I've known that ancient poem before is accompanied by the equally unlikely notion that Robert Graves, in the year of my birth, wrote `The White Goddess' specifically for me to study," he said wonderingly.
"Maybe it does all have a meaning," replied Dana. "In my studies of the metaphysical, I've read that there are no coincidences or intuitions without some reason, and that it's wise to heed them when they occur."
"Honey, as you know," answered Dylan, "I've always been skeptical of accounts of magic and mysticism, but from the words of a long-dead bard, my imagination has been given a tremendous charge of energy, and I have to know what it's all about."
"You had better read on then, and hope for some clues." she advised, turning back to her task.
That night, after a long day of planting oak trees and arranging a landscape with Dana, Dylan relaxed in a chair with a spiral notebook in his lap, regarding the pen in his hand. In the twenty-five years that had passed since finishing school, he had used this instrument of power mostly for the writing of checks and the filling out of bills. Seldom did he even write to his kin, many of whom lived far away. A medieval Welsh Triad from the book came into his mind:
Three things that enrich the poet:
A store of ancient verse
The ecstatic feeling returned in a rush and his pen found the paper. Considering some of his life's elements, and weaving in knowledge gained from the book, he wrote:
Youthful sun beckons a new season's shoots
Winter leaves carpet the old oak tree's roots
Song of the Earth flowing upward in prayer
Bass note of thunder rolls down through the air
Melody strong let the new day begin
A summoning call to the druid within
A summoning call to the druid within
Old oaks and thunder bestir memories
Of dark forests ancient with tall sacred trees
Acorns and seedlings are what they have been
The groves will return like the druid within
The groves will return like the druid within
Sylvan cathedral a sacrifice burns
In thanks to Earth spirits as the great year wheel turns
Hooded forms chanting as magic begins
To call 'cross the ages to the druid within
To call 'cross the ages to the druid within
* * *
As they turned away from the image within the crystal, the Master Poet, with an amused look on his weathered face, asked, "What say you about these lines, Apprentice?"
"It may be that we attempt to turn base metal to gold, Master," he replied, "though rhyme and meter are passable."
"Because of his connection with the oak tree, gained by his diligent propagation and conservation of its species, this Dylan has unknowingly tapped the ancient power of druid magic. Therein lies the key to his journey, and it will enable him to express the essence of the realms he has mastered in the language of poetry," replied the Master.
* * *
Later, reading into the early morning hours, with Dana and their two young
children long asleep, Dylan encountered the thirteenth century poem entitled:
`The Tale of Taliesin.'
Primary Chief Bard am I to Elphin
And my original country is the region
of the summer stars
I have been winged by the genius
of the splendid crozier
I have obtained the muse from the
Cauldron of Cerridwen
I have been in an uneasy chair
above Spiral Castle
And the whirling round without motion
between the elements
I shall be until the day of doom upon
the face of the earth
I was originally little Gwion
And at length I am Taliesin
Taliesin! The power in that name and in the antique verse was so intense that Dylan could only shake his head and blow through pursed lips as poetic ecstacy once again coursed through him. "What is the story and meaning behind these lines? Why do I feel their words so strongly, as if I knew them well? How does the Muse inspire?" he asked himself in amazement. From his love of the sea and his long experience as a surfer, he was able to relate to the words:
...the whirling round without motion between the elements.
This was a fair description of surfing within the vortex of a curling wave - a barrel ride, which also happened to be an ecstatic experience. Too, the lines brought to mind the eye of a hurricane; the calm within the heart of that mighty elemental force beloved of wave riders. The pen in Dylan's hand moved toward the notebook, and words flowed:
Daughter of the Sun and Earth
Scirocco has been given birth
Libya's dunes feel her growing desire
Whose shape shifting sands are the fuel of her fire
She whirls on so lightly down through the Sudan
To the Ivory Coast and Liberia's span
There as two passionate lovers they meet
The white capped Poseidon embraces her feet
Above them are flying her bright cirrus tresses
Far down below his blue face she caresses
God of the sea and her most willing slave
He joins in the dance of the wind and the wave
Westward she flies! - A scirocco no longer
Unfurling her beauty, her love growing stronger
The Lesser Antilles receives her clear eye
She spins a pirouette from the sea to the sky
Seeking a path in her amorous quest
With great pomp and majesty she waltzes northwest
Yes , I call her the Dancer - the one I long for
Her ranks roll in rhythm upon the wild shore
Sirens' sweet singing - I too am the slave
For I must dance the dance of the wind and the wave
My dance is my prayer in our aqueous bliss
To the whirling White Goddess - please spare me death's kiss
* * *
Stroking his thin, grizzled beard, the Master looked at the Apprentice and asked, "Wouldn't you say that he has hit upon a worthy topic here?"
"As you know, Master, I have a particular fondness for sea rhymes, and although it lacks technical sophistication, his passion lends it a certain grace," came the grudging answer, as the image faded from the crystal.
* * *
To be continued
Iron Age Cornish Hill Fort For Sale
A hill fort in Cornwall, south-west England, will go on sale next month. Lescudjack Hill Fort, the area's largest Iron Age settlement, is to be auctioned by Fulfords Estate Agents in Penzance on 2 December. The guide price of £28,000 includes a 2.5 acre area of land off Pendennis Road, Penzance, with stunning views over Penzance to Mount's Bay and the Mousehole Peninsula. Historians and schools have raised concerns about the sale. Local author and historian Ian Addicoat said: "Clearly it is imperative that such an historic and important site is maintained and preserved correctly. I think if there were any plans to develop such an important site there would be an outcry, and I would be very surprised if the planners would allow it. I hope whoever takes it on appreciates its history and considers allowing it to be used as an amenity. I'm not sure the public is aware of its significance. They probably think it's a field with a nice view. But historians are certainly aware of what it represents."
In 2002, children from Penzance Infants School made the hill fort their summer project, and 30 children delivered a 500-name petition to the Mayor of Penzance calling for improvements to the site. Headteacher Nikki Owen said: "It took us some time to track down the owner of the site, who turns out to be somebody in Newlyn. It is very disappointing that it is being sold off. I only hope that any future owner will develop it as a public amenity and show its historic significance."
The site, which is believed to date to around 300 BCE, has never been properly excavated. Historian Craig Weatherhill, who mentioned Lescudjack in his book Belerion, said: "Some 15 to 20 years ago there was a proposal to do a hefty excavation but it came to nothing. It has never really been dug properly. I would be delighted if local historical groups are successful, because they would have the well-being of the site at heart."
Source: Western Morning News (15 November 2004)
A new Theory about Stonehenge
(Editor's Note: As we know, the Druids DID NOT build Stonehenge, but it does not cease to fascinate those associated with Druidism, harkening back perhaps to our Indo-European megalithic-building roots. Most probably it is because it is ingrained even in our minds due to faulty yet earnest research in the 18th century. One mystery loves another. For that reason I include this article.) For more than 20 years, Derbyshire carpenter Gordon Pipes has been striving to find an answer to a 4,000-year-old question that still confounds archaeologists; namely: How, without roads or wheels, did Neolithic man transport 80 sarsen stones, each weighing an average of 30 tons, 20 miles from the Marlborough Downs to Salisbury Plain to construct Stonehenge? The site also comprises 98 blue stones, each weighing six tons, from the Preseli Mountains in Wales. The question of how these were conveyed over land - it is agreed they must have been ferried in boats along the Severn Estuary and River Avon - is also unanswered. But Pipes is convinced he has found the solution. "In terms of Stonehenge, theories that one stone could have been dragged a mile a day by 700 men using rope and wooden rollers seemed as viable to me as alien involvement. The rollers wouldn't have taken the weight and the physical effort required would have been super-human," he explains. "It occurred to me that a megalith could be picked up, moved a short distance, put down and moved again.
Further research suggested this would be quicker, require less manpower and negate the need for muscle power. Also, the initial inertia the body experiences when attempting to drag large stones, is all but nullified."
Called stone rowing, the procedure involves laying down a number of logs - the number determined by the weight of the stone - in a parallel formation. Resting on supports, the logs are positioned just above the ground. Some are then used to support the stone, while the rest act as a continuous fulcrum for wooden oars, or levers, inserted underneath the stone. By pressing down on the levers, the stone rises two inches clear of the support logs, and when the levers are moved sideways, the stone moves forward.
Pipes tested his theory in his garden. "Four of us carried out this experiment using a four-ton concrete block, four logs and four levers," he explains. "We were able to move the block between six and 12 inches at a time with ease. I then set up a ramp and discovered that the method also worked uphill when using more levers and incorporating a break mechanism."
Mike Pitts, editor of British Archaeology, suggested that, "Few archaeologists ever consider practical issues like moving stones. Gordon's ideas fascinate because they come from an understanding of lifting and moving things, rather than from theories dreamt up at a desk. And while he doesn't underestimate the difficulties facing the Stonehenge builders, neither does he come up with impossibly complicated solutions. It's the first time that someone has come up with anything really sensible for a long time."
Pipes is planning further experiments on Salisbury Plain next summer, including an attempt to move a 40-ton block.
Source: The Guardian
The Last of the Celts
By March Tanner
From Read Ireland:
Hardback; 37.00 Euro / 45.00 USD / 25.00 UK; 390 pages
A cultural tour spanning the Celtic world from the Outer Hebrides of Scotland to Brittany, and from Cape Breton to Patagonia, this book sets out to find out what has happened to the Celtic peoples in a world where pressure to conform to Anglo-American culture has grown ever stronger. Taking the form of a journey that starts in the wilds of north-west Scotland, before proceeding through western Wales, the Isle of Man, troubled Northern Ireland, the western seaboard of the Irish Republic and The French region of Brittany, the author weaves solid historical research into the language, religion, music and customs of the peoples concerned with first-hand encounters with a host of priests, ministers, government officials, cultural activists, musicians and writers. The author finds talk of a Celtic revival much misplaced, for while the term \"Celtic\" is banded around as never more, largely to suit the needs of commerce and tourism, the fragile cultures the word actually refers to in the north-west of Britain, Ireland and France are closer than ever before to extinction. As the author discovers on his journey, the tide is going out at different speeds in different places. While Welsh culture and language are (relatively) robust, the rich culture of the Bretons is heading for almost certain oblivion in a decade or two at most, as relentless, centuries-long pressure to be French reaches its climax. Nor are the prospects much brighter for the small Celtic communities in the New World. As the author travels from Cape Breton in Canada to Patagonia in Argentina, he finds the once sturdy communities of Gaelic and Welsh speakers facing exactly the same threats of assimilation and ultimate disappearance. It is a development that impoverishes as all.
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The Avalon Mystery School
January 15, 2005
The Avalon Mystery School presents a series of six monthly classes on the
Arts of Sacred Magic with Mara Freeman. Discover; The basics of Western Magic as
taught in the Avalonian Branch, How to open your psychic and spiritual centers
to contact innerworld beings Guides, Teachers and Guardians, The Three Arts of
Meditation, Vision Journey and Ritual whys and hows, Ways to forge a strong
connection to Self and Spirit that will transform your life. Our Mission: The
goal of the Mysteries is the conscious realization of the self as connected with
all beings, visible and invisible, on the great Tree of Life, and ultimately
with the Source of All. From this understanding comes the power to mediate
spiritual energies into the physical plane for healing both ourselves and our
world. 10AM-4PM in a beautiful secluded location in Ben Lomond, CA. $60 per
class or $300 to register for series. Please call 1-800-694-1957 or e-mail
email@example.com for more details. To learn more about the Avalon Mystery
School, visit us at
Festival of Brigit: Goddess of the Growing Light
January 29, 2005
Mara Freeman hosts Festival of Brigit: Goddess of the Growing Light at the
Unitarian Universalist Church, 490 Aguajito Rd, Carmel, CA, from 10:00am-
5:00pm. This weekend is the traditional time of the Celtic festival of Brigit,
the powerful Goddess of Fire who brought the gift of the sun's growing light and
the abundance of earth to her people, and later became the most beloved and
powerful of Irish saints. Revered as a woman of wisdom and inspiration, Brigit
was also a healer, keeper of the sacred fire, guardian of holy wells, and the
muse of poets and visionaries. We will bring our sleeping winter senses to the
radiance of this Sun Goddess, and waken to the luminous world of Celtic magic by
entering into her Mysteries through: Listening to the old stories, poetry and
lore about Brigit from different Celtic lands -- Practicing ritual and
meditations that will open the gates to her temple of wisdom -- Working with the
Three Fires of this Triple Goddess: Fire in the Head, Fire in the Hearth and
Fire in the Forge -- Weaving Brigit's Crosses, symbols of the sun and ancient
talismans of protection -- Celebrating the ascending Light of the Year through
song and circle dance. And like our Scottish and Irish ancestors did every year,
we will once again perform the lovely ancient ceremonies that welcome back this
goddess of the early spring who brings the promise of renewal. We will return to
the world with gifts for the soul and the power to call upon these ancient
teachings to fire the glow of spirit and beauty in our own lives. Cost: $80.
Announcing Canada's first
NATIONAL PAGAN CONFERENCE
Theme: Past, Present and Future.
Place: Edmonton, Alberta, U of Alberta campus.
When: May 20-23, 2005
Special guest: Kevin Marron (author of Witches, Pagans, and Magic in the New Age. Toronto: Seal Books, 1989) His book was a ground-breaking piece on our presence and culture.
Agenda: There will be panels on the various Pagan paths, on Paganism in the various regions of Canada, as well as on the various subjects that concern us - interacting with the mainstream community, forming "churches" and getting marrying rights, Pagan parenting, how are we living our beliefs environmentally, Pagan chaplaincy, etc.
Hopefully this will be an annual event, with the second one held in some entirely other part of the country (Maritimes?)
There will be more announcements as information becomes confirmed and available. (Costs - to be determined soon.)
We are looking for suggestions for panels or talks, and looking for participants.
An open discussion list for all things about the conference other than actual
planning can be found at
|A Druid Missal-Any|
Yule, Winter Solstice, Sunstop, when the Sun reaches its lowest point in the sky as it travels along the celestial equator, will occur this year on Tuesday, December 21, at 4:42 a.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