About TopazOwl

TopazOwl has been a member of Keltria since 1991. She was Secretary of the Henge from 1997 through 2003, and President from 2003 through 2009. She is a Ring of the Oak Initiate, and is the Founder/Chief Druid of Garrán an Eich Órbhuí (Grove of the Golden Horse), a Keltrian Grove located near Syracuse, NY. She is a published author and poet, a horse whisperer and farmer, a dancer and a student of martial arts. She is the owner of Black Horse Spirit, offering spiritual counseling, shamanic healing, and equine-assisted learning/psychotherapy. She teaches equine management, riding, driving, and showmanship, and has raised and trained Percheron Sport Horses for 24 years. She was appointed Trustee in 2009 and elected to that position again in 2010. She was reelected Trustee in 2013 and again in 2016.

The Sacred Celtic Horse

The Sacred Celtic Horse

by Topaz Owl

I suppose I should be flattered at the number of times I have found this article plagiarized on the web somewhere. Instead, I am only angry and disappointed -- especially when those who have stolen it think tacking a few ill-written paragraphs on the end of my article will disguise it somehow. I have brought it to rest in this place where so many of my other Celtic-themed writings live, in it's original publication form, so that there can no longer be any question who wrote it, and when.

-- TopazOwl, Ring of the Oak Druid, Henge of Keltria, author and copyright holder.

The Bard’s Path: Storm


by C. L. McGinley

Let me be the compass
With which to chart your journey
Through the darkness of this night;
Without the shining stars to guide you,
Set your course by me.

Let me be the beacon
That helps you navigate the storm.
Where the horizon glimmers hope,
Winds of change lose the power
To blow you from your heading.

Let me be the hand that lifts you
From the depths of your despair,
From the surging sea that threatens
To engulf you in cold and fear.
I do not hope to save you from the torrent,
Only to buoy you from the swell of this tsunami
To the blessed relief of smoother seas.

Review: Forbidden Science

Edited by J. Douglas Kenyon

Reviewed by C. Leigh McGinley

This book is a collection of articles from “Atlantis Rising,” a bi-monthly journal by the editor. The articles cover everything from aliens to ESP to physics to paranormal phenomena. Alternative medicine and astronomy are also included. These are theories and postulations that are not accepted by mainstream science, and in some instances even challenge the status quo.

For instance, in the article entitled, “Is the Big Bang Dead? A Maverick Astronomer Challenges Reigning Theory on the Origins of the Universe,” the author, Amy Acheson, asserts that an astronomer in the 1960s, Halton Arp, made a discovery about galaxies concerning how they are born and how they progress. Instead of being celebrated because of his discoveries, he was systematically drummed out of astronomy. They denied him telescope time and they censured him until he finally gave up and retired. The problem was that the direction of Halton Arp’s discoveries revealed a major flaw in the currently accepted theories of the origins of the universe.

In the section entitled “The ET Factor,” there are two articles that discuss alien technology making its way into our lives. The first article proclaims that the government participated in a cover-up and gave alien technology to certain companies to figure out how it worked -- companies that consequently sold the technology as their own inventions, thus making billions of dollars. For instance, the author alleges that Bell Laboratories did not invent the transistor, as it has been portrayed in history, but that Bell was actually given part of the downed alien spacecraft from the Roswell, NM site. It is assumed that all the technology discovered at Roswell has not been released yet, and the second article explores a small computer company’s claim that the government is blocking them from exploiting the technology from Roswell.

There is an interesting section called “Medicine of Another Kind,” wherein the article “The Malady in Heart Medicine: a Doctor Shatters the Myths Behind Popular Treatments for Heart Disease” by Cynthia Logan discusses Dr. Charles McGee, who wrote a book called Heart Frauds: Uncovering the Biggest Health Scams in History. Dr. McGee alleges that many Americans undergo unwarranted heart procedures under pressure that amounts to scare tactics from their attending physicians -- in other words, “Have this procedure or you will die.”  He asserts that the tests we use for detecting heart disease are highly inaccurate and the interpretation of the results varies radically, depending on the doctor. For instance, he claims that cholesterol isn’t the number one factor causing heart disease, nor is it an indicator of subsequent heart disease.

There is also an article about one of my favorite people, Dr. Masaru Emoto, and his pioneering work with water crystals. Dr. Emoto has done extensive testing of the emotional reaction of water crystals to words, music, phrases, and concentrated energy such as prayer from humans.

Overall, I found the book to be an interesting read. They broke the biggest technical aspects down into layperson's terms rather well and made it fairly understandable for those of us who aren’t scientists. Many of the theories presented are very plausible and the articles seem very well-researched. There are even websites given for further research. This book has something for everyone, including conspiracy theorists! Recommended for those with an inquisitive nature.

    • [amazon_link id="1591430828" target="_blank" ]Forbidden Science: From Ancient Technologies to Free Energy[/amazon_link]
    • Paperback: 336 pages
    • Publisher: Bear & Company (February 22, 2008)
    • ISBN-10: 1591430828
    • ISBN-13: 978-1591430827

From Garrán an Eich Órbhuí – Imbolc 2011

At the beginning of October, TopazOwl, founder of Garrán an Eich Órbhuí, received an official-looking envelope in the mail addressed to “Rev. C. Leigh McGinley.”  When she opened it, she found an embossed invitation from the Chancellor and President of Syracuse University to the celebration of the Installation of the New Dean of Hendricks Chapel at the University, being held over October 25th and 26th. Since Druids are rarely (if ever) invited in their clergy capacity to the installation of Deans of colleges, this seemed a momentous occasion, and she decided that she should accept.

It was a special occasion on many counts. Reverend Tiffany Steinwert would be the 6th Dean of Hendricks Chapel since opening its doors in September 1930, and its first female Dean. And though Tiffany is a Methodist minister, she is very accepting and even embracing of the Pagan community in the greater Syracuse area. Hendricks Chapel itself has a history of serving all faiths, and there is a Pagan chaplain on campus, but this is the first time Pagan clergy from the surrounding community have been asked to attend such a prestigious event at the University. Needless to say, we were very excited.

The event was very nicely organized. There was a formal procession into the Chapel that consisted of the Chancellor, University Deans and former Deans of Hendricks in their various scholar gowns, and the invited Clergy in all their varied religious regalia. There were Christian clergy of every denomination, along with Hindu priests, Buddhist monks, Wiccan high priestesses, Druids, Islamic Imam, and Rabbis of several sects. It was a colorful group, seated front and center (a place of honor) in the Chapel for the ceremony.

The Deans, Chancellor, and Chaplains took their places on the altar/stage. The ceremony was opened with a Native American Thanksgiving prayer by Regina Jones of the Oneida Nation. The Reverend Kevin Agee of the Hopps Memorial CME Church gave the Invocation, and Jikyo Bonnie Shoultz, the Buddhist Chaplain of Hendricks Chapel, welcomed us all to the event. There were greetings from representatives of the Board of Trustees, the University Faculty, and the Students, along with stirring musical tributes performed by both the Hendricks Chapel Choir and the Syracuse University Black Celestial Chorale Ensemble. Tanweer Haq, Assistant Islamic Advisor and Counselor of Hendricks Chapel, gave the Benediction.

Rev. Tiffany Steinwert addressing the Gathering of Clergy at Hendricks Chapel

The response from Reverend Tiffany Steinwert was eloquent and warm, and it was easy to see why the University had chosen her for the position. She thanked everyone, and spoke of unity between faiths and working together. Topaz-Owl remarked, “Reverend Tiffany’s exact words are lost on me now, but I remember at one point she turned to the multi-faith clergy seated there before her, and with an inclination of her head, indicated and spoke of her “fellow clergy” -- and at that moment I felt so proud to be there representing the Henge of Keltria, so gratified to at last be recognized as an equal among the clergy of all those other recognized faiths.”

Fellow Druids Skip Ellison of ADF and TopazOwl attending the installation of the Dean.

After the Installation of the Dean, the University held a reception in another building where flavored waters, juices, and soft drinks were served along with several different kinds of hors d'oeuvres. The new Dean of Hendricks Chapel was at the door to greet everyone with a friendly handshake and a warm smile. TopazOwl remembers, “When I introduced myself as Reverend C. Leigh McGinley, Druid, Henge of Keltria, Reverend Tiffany’s smile got even brighter and she said that they had received the best response to the event from the Pagan community, and that she was so glad I had come. She also offered the use of Hendricks Chapel for any Keltrian religious services or rituals.”

Our Grove was honored that our Chief Druid was given the opportunity to represent Keltrian Druids in our local community. We feel that the more of these events we can attend, the better it will be for Druids (and Pagans in general) concerning our desire to be accepted as a valid part of the religious community and society at large.

The Fawn

Lessons to an Aging Druidess from the Natural World

By C. L. McGinley

Photo of C.L. McGinley

C.L. McGinley

Two summers ago, I journeyed to Boston by train to attend a week-long intensive that resulted in certification in Harner Method Shamanic Counseling. It was a fascinating and sometimes grueling 5 days of shamanic journeying and self-evaluation. On the final day of the seminar, I met a new spirit on my culminating journey – a woman named Morning Glory, who was accompanied by three animal spirits: a doe, a yearling doe, and a doe fawn. I touched noses with all three deer, establishing a bond, and Morning Glory told me she was to be my teacher for a time. She admonished me to return to her as soon as possible, for she had many things to teach me.

Life being what it is, I did not get a chance to return to that glade in the deep woods where I had met the woman and her deer (a place I had accessed from the Upper World, much to my surprise at the time). I did journey, but it was for other people and animals. I once received a message on a journey for another (several months later) -- a message through my spirit horse, who told me that Morning Glory wanted me to come to visit her. I said that I would, and fully intended to, but other things kept getting in the way and I did not find the time.

I was busy building my shamanic life & wellness coaching business, you see, and I was working in the Otherworld to find lost dogs and help people heal in body, mind, and spirit. I had no time for journeys to Spirit for myself. On the physical plane, I traveled to an equestrian trade show on Memorial Day weekend with my good friend, Ravendancer, to promote my business in person and give a presentation. The day after my return home, I received a phone call from a young man. He told me he had a fawn that he wanted to bring to me. I am a licensed wildlife rehabilitator, so I asked pertinent questions and found out that he and his buddy saw a doe dead on the side of the road who had obviously been hit by a car. On closer inspection, they discovered a small fawn standing by the body, and so they picked the fawn up and took it home. They were told by neighbors that, without a license, they could be arrested for even having the fawn, and so they wanted to bring the fawn to me. I agreed that they could bring the fawn to me, and I went out to the barn to prepare an empty stall between two of my horses.

I was not prepared for this fawn, as much as I tried to be. Oh, I had everything I could possibly need for her comfort: goat milk replacer, hay bedding, a heat lamp for warmth, baby wipes, three different sizes of bottles and nipples. Still, I was not prepared. When the boys brought the little deer to me, I determined immediately that she was a doe fawn, but she could not have weighed over 5 pounds, and I estimated that she was not two days old yet, because she still had her umbilical stump. I had never seen such a tiny fawn before. I removed the fawn from the car and I carried her, kicking and bleating, into the barn and then into the stall I had fixed up for her. I placed her carefully on the loose hay bedding and sat down to be at eye-level with her. We were left alone, she and I, and we looked into each others’ eyes, each assessing the other – and I was not prepared for the sorrow I saw there in those big, brown, long-lashed eyes. It came to me then that her name was Deirdre, for her sadness was palpable. The loss of her mother, and the witnessing thereof, had affected her deeply.

And it came to me quick as a flash as my heart went out to the little creature that this fawn was sent to me by Morning Glory, and was perhaps even the physical manifestation of the spirit fawn with which I had touched noses in the Spirit World. I did not know if the plan was to send her to me even as I met her in the Spirit World. I only knew that with the arrival of this fawn, Spirit was at work in my life once again. Our connection was instant and powerful. From the moment we locked eyes, I became Deirdre’s mother and she, my child.

Deidre in her pink coat

She trusted me implicitly, because, well, she already knew me. For my part, I groomed her and fed her the bottle every 4 hours like clockwork, getting up at least twice a night for the first month and a half. It amazed even me that I could do that, that I could get myself out of bed and go out in the cold night to feed a tiny baby that was not really mine. I was surprised that it wasn’t some chemical instinct that drove me, a result of oxcytocin letdown or other maternal hormone. No, it was the knowledge that I was the only mommy she had now, and the love I felt for this small, helpless baby from the start. That was what drove me to sleep in fitful bursts of 2.5 to 3 hours at a time, to mix formula and heat bottles to just the right temperature in the microwave, and to spend most of my waking time sitting on a mounting block or on the floor in a stall in the barn, snuggling and playing kissy-face with a doe fawn that wore a little pink dog jacket sized for a Chihuahua as insulation against the chilly spring evenings.

After a rough and scary two weeks of scours (diarrhea), I finally got her on a very expensive fawn replacer formula (instead of the goat formula) that I ordered online, and adjusted it so that she could tolerate it. She never did tolerate even the fawn formula full-strength. But fawn formula wasn’t the only thing she ate. From the first week, she experimented with just about everything green or brown from the earth. Her “playpen” was my fenced garden yard, where lovely raised-bed garden boxes beckoned with such fawn-ish delights as peas and beans and red chard, where trees shaded the well area in the heat of the day, providing a cool hiding place. Her favorite things to eat were fallen leaves from all kinds of trees: willow, aspen, oak, alder, ash. Grape and rose leaves were a favorite as well, and for some reason, she loved geranium petals.

She learned the meaning of the word “no” fairly quickly, as most toddlers do when they get into trouble. She got on well with all the other animals, taking a liking to the dog and to Alf, the old horse, especially. One of her favorite things was breakfast with Mommy on the terrace, and she shared bits of cantaloupe from a fork with delicate grace. She soon had the run of the house, and discovered that bottles could be had on the terrace, in the kitchen, or in the barn – wherever the Mommy was. She started to understand going outside to do her business.

Her sadness began to evaporate. Her legs grew strong and agile. She played and jumped about like a goat, and bleated in loud complaint like one as well. And one of the things she complained about loudest was restraint.

This brings me to what Deirdre has been teaching me. For all the basic life lessons I have taught her, she has taught me much more, things both precious and profound.

She has taught me that love is a bond that cannot be broken, but that holding someone against his or her will breaks trust and frays the bond – and that restoring that trust may take some time. Deirdre and I traveled from barn to garden yard each day, and on that short journey, there were a great deal of scary things that instinct told her to run away from. I realized that in the wild, she would run away from, not toward, her mother at the first sign of trouble. It made sense in the wild: the fawn would hide in the woods or tall grass while mother led the predator away from her. However, it would be dangerous at my farm, where roads and traffic and farm vehicles were always a danger, and should she run in the wrong direction – well, I didn’t want to think about it. So I bought a small dog harness and walked her on a retractable lead from barn to garden, where she could then be turned loose to play within the safety of the fence. This worked wonderfully for a few months, but as she grew older and stronger, she began to fight the restraint, and got herself in quite a tangle a few times. She began to fear and resent the harness, until eventually, I couldn’t even get near her with it. She once got all four feet and her neck caught in the harness and immobilized herself. Filled with terror at not being able to move, she let out the most heart-wrenching sound I have ever heard from an animal. It was a sound of desperation, and of finality –it was a death cry. I hope to never hear such a sound again, for it broke my heart. She would approach me with fear after that, fear that remained and caused conflict within her for days.

Photo of Deirdre the deer at 4 months

Deidre - 4 months old

I tried an adjustable dog halter. It was not feared like the harness, and she was easier to control, but she still fought it with all of her heart, and threw herself on the ground like a drama queen when I asked her to wear it. I realized that fawns were not like foals, who eventually got used to the idea of being lead around by a halter. Deirdre, after six months, is still not used to such things. Her spirit is wild and free, and restraint does not work with her. As Mommy, I am able to guide her where I want her to go with a push from behind, and now she has her own turnout behind the barn and I don’t have to lead her anywhere. Consequently, she follows me everywhere.

So she has taught me that sometimes protection and prison are the same, depending on how you look at it.

She has taught me that fear is a dangerous thing – sometimes more dangerous than the thing we fear. It can make us do foolish things that might jeopardize our safety. For this reason, children of any species still need boundaries for their own safety, until they develop the wisdom to understand and reason.

She has taught me that gentle and quiet does not mean weak or ineffective. Ask my cat, Moby. One day he decided he had had enough of Deirdre licking his face while they were in the garden, and he swatted at her face with one clawed paw. Her immediate reaction to his threat was to strike at him rapidly with both front hooves. He reacted the only way he could: he ran! This was no helpless fawn!

More than anything, she has taught me how to be a real mother, and to know what it is to have someone depend on me for everything – food, shelter, warmth, love. I’ve had baby animals before, especially foals, but this was different somehow. The bond the others had was with their natural mother first, and then with me. This fawn thinks that I am her mother. She has taught me a capacity for love and an infinite patience that I never knew I had. She has taught me that I have more strengths than I ever knew, and that some of them are the quiet, unassuming kind. She has opened my heart and my soul to the healing power of love. She has saved me.

I do not know what the future will bring for Deirdre. I do not know if she has the savvy to be turned out in the wild; after all, she has never really been wild – and yet I have seen her instincts kick in at the most crucial of times. I do not know if she will decide one day to leave here and live the life of a doe, or if she will stay protected for the rest of her life. When she is old enough, I will let her decide, because I love her.

But I thank Morning Glory every day for sending me Deirdre. Those lessons she promised to teach me are still being learned, every day, through the doe fawn, and I am guessing that there are more to come. There is one thing I know for certain, though: I have never been so blessed.

From the President, Beltaine 2009

President Topaz Owl

This is my final “From the President.” That thought hit me like a ton of bricks

President Topaz Owl

President Topaz Owl

today. I have served as your President for six years, and according to the Bylaws, I have reached the end of my 3-term limit. Previous to my three terms as President, I served three terms as Secretary of the Henge. That is 12 years in service to you, the good Members of the Henge, as well as my Grove, my Champions, and the Gods of My People. As a small part of my service as President, I made a valiant effort to piqué interest and spark thought by these little presidential articles, and at times I may have even succeeded.

I will not be running for any other secular office. Truth be known, I need a break from public life. I have things I need to focus on in my personal life and practice that have gone too long untended. I realize that some of my own spiritual evolution has been put on hold (albeit quite willingly) while I focused on the collective Spirit of my People and the evolution of this marvelous thing we call Keltrian Druidism. But I am now ready to retire from service to a quiet forest, field, or stream and hope to renew my own balance in the solitude that ensues. I need a sabbatical, if you will pardon the expression, for I am world-weary and wish to be relieved of the administrative tasks of the Henge in order to focus on more “Otherworldly” endeavors.

Six years ago, when I was elected President at the Gathering of the Keltrian Tribe in Minnesota, I was a reluctant leader entrusted with the stewardship of the cattle of the Keltrian people. Those cattle came to me in the form of a wind chime of Holstein cows, but the humorous form of delivery belied the seriousness of the gesture. Our ancestors counted wealth against cattle, so much so that the standard of currency in ancient Irish society was “one milch cow,” and all other things were compared to this in value. Since those cows came into my keeping, I have guided and guarded the wealth of this Tribe to the best of my ability. Our treasures, as I have said before, lie not in worldly things, but in the relationships we develop (both human and otherwise), in the spirit of friendship and brotherhood (or sisterhood), in our ability to learn from each other and grow as both human beings and Druids, and the experiences we share as we travel this path of faith together.

I have worked diligently, if often quietly and behind the scenes, to keep the “cattle” of this Tribe whole, healthy, and fit to pass on in June to the next President of the Henge -- with my blessings. I think my successor will find our “cattle” sassy, strong, and pleasing to both the eye and the spirit.

Thank you, my friends, for having allowed me the opportunity to be part of your journey, and for being part of mine. I have only best wishes and warmest regards for all of you. May you always have truth in your hearts, strength in your arms, and honesty in your speech.

Blessed Beltaine,
The Topaz Owl

From the President – Imbolc 2009

President Topaz Owl

President Topaz Owl

The glitz and glitter of Yule have passed, the wheel has turned us through another secular New Year celebration, and now we enter into the long, cold dark in earnest (especially those of us in the north). Imbolc happens in the deepest dark of the coldest time, and sometimes it is only our faith that the sun does indeed return that carries us through to spring. As we light the candles for our Imbolc celebration and huddle before the cozy fire while the wild North wind whips snow around our homes and Jack Frost pries at the windows with icy fingers, we will reflect on the gifts we have been given lately, and begin to devise a plan for putting those gifts to good use in the coming year.

I must share the best gift I was given recently, a gift that came from the Gods on the last day of 2008. It was a close encounter with a Peregrine Falcon in the heart of the city.

On New Year's Eve day, I went to a small Italian market downtown to get a special Italian cheese. The snow was falling swiftly, and the roads were becoming treacherous.

As I started the truck to leave the store, I saw something dark drop swiftly out of the sky in front of the truck and into the fenced small front yard of the house where I was parked. I knew it was a bird of prey of some sort, and I waited to see what kind it might be. It rolled around for a bit under a bush, but the pigeon it had targeted escaped. It then hopped up out of the snow and onto a nearby stockade-type fence, where I saw it was a beautiful (and quite large) peregrine falcon!


Hawk in the City

The bird sat there for a very long time (probably disappointed to have missed his dinner), and I sat there, too, staring at it while it stared back at me. I marveled over seeing this rare bird in the heart of the city, of all places, on this residential street in a snowstorm. I wondered: what were the chances of my being in that very place at that most opportune of times? (Of course, as a Druid, I understand that it was no chance encounter.) I finally got out of the truck with my cell phone camera and took his picture, because I knew no one was going to believe what I was seeing with my own eyes. The bird was not afraid of me, and let me get within feet of him. There was the click of a connection between us, and then he flew off.

Since the encounter, I have been pondering what sort of omen this falcon might be. The peregrine is on the endangered species list, so this sighting was all the more special for that reason. I am certain that this marvelously opportunistic bird, with his impeccable timing, his unwavering patience, and his amazing agility and gracefulness, has a lesson for me. Is it his extremely adaptable nature that I am meant to take away from this? His intense focus and acute mental perception? Or shall I lean more toward the indigenous belief that he is associated with past life recall and so teaches how to delve into oneself without fear? Perhaps just the fact that you won’t find him in the popular animal totem books because he is so rare is a key to unlocking his message.

Yes, he was a very special gift from the Gods, the meaning of which I am still unraveling -- and yet I am certain of its value. I find that to be true of most Divine gifts, don’t you? This leads me to consider what a gift the Dark Time of the Year is to all of us! It is this darkness which allows us the time and inclination to go within and unravel the clues that are provided, clues to the Mysteries that make up both our universe and ourselves.

Brighid’s Fiery Blessings upon All
- The Topaz Owl