The Pelegian Heresy

EXCERPT: The Pelegian Heresy

A Possible Druidic Survival?

— Brendan Myers

Photo of Brendan Myers

Brendan Myers

Allow me to introduce to you an unorthodox form of early Christianity, which I think everyone who practices modern Druidry should get to know: The Pelegian Heresy. Named for its chief promoter, a British philosopher named Pelagius, it grew in popularity in Britain during the fourth and fifth centuries, around the same time that Roman Christianity was spreading there. I’ve no doubt that it was a form of Christianity, and not a form of Paganism, but there is some evidence which suggests that it inherited some of the teachings of the Druids. Pelagius’ opponents described his teachings as “full of Irish porridge”, and accused him of attempting to revive “the natural philosophy of the Druids”. This of course is not unequivocal proof of paganism, but it certainly suggests the possibility. Pelagius’ use of triads, in the old Druidic fashion, to explain some of his core teachings is also not definitive proof, but it is another potential indicator. A stronger way to detect the pre-christian thinking in the Pelagian world view is by looking at which of its teachings most enraged the Catholic bishops from the continent. Here’s one that stands out:

“In the year of our lord 394, Arcadius, son of Theodosius, forty-third in line from Augustus, became joint-emperor with his brother Honorius, and ruled for 13 years. In his time, the Briton Pelagius spread far and wide his noxious and abominable teaching that man had no need of God’s grace...”1

I think one cannot stress enough the enormous importance of the idea that ‘man had no need of God’s grace’. It is the idea that it’s possible to achieve salvation, however defined, by means of one’s own effort, and without direct assistance from God. This is an affirmation of spiritual freedom, and also enormous personal responsibility. A few fragments of Pelagius’ own letters to his friends have survived history, and with them we can learn a little bit of his mind with them. Here’s a place where Pelagius specifically rejects the claim that we human beings are too weak to achieve salvation on our own:

Continued...

[This excerpt is from a three-page article was published in Keltria: Journal of Druidism and Celtic Magick, Issue #41.  It is available in its entirety to members of the Henge of Keltria via the Members Home page.  It is available to non-members of the Henge via Mag Cloud.]


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Solitary practice: A full moon rite to Manannan

Solitary practice: A full moon rite to Manannan

by Jenne Micale

Photo of Jenne Micale

Jenne Micale

Connecting with your Gods – whether it be your matron or patron, the Gods of the season or whomever you wish to work with at the time – is an important part of Druidic practice. And as a special blessing for solitaries, much of this connection must be made on your own time, rather than with a grove. Grove rituals augment your personal practice but cannot replace it; solitary work provides the spiritual depth and skill development that group ritual draws on.

In my experience, one of the best ways to foster such connection is to have a designated time and ritual to connect with your matron or patron. I have a vigil ritual I perform every 20 days in honor of my matron Brighid, as part of Ord Brighideach. For Manannan, my patron, I do a divination and/or trance-themed rite on the full moon.

“Why the full moon?” you may ask. “Isn't that Wiccan?” The reason I honor Manannan on the full moon is two-fold; first, and most importantly, He requested it. The second concerns his role as sea god; the moon is the puller of the tides, both oceanic and spiritual. Traditionally – and yes, the Wiccans are right about this part – it's an opportune time for magic and divination. Unlike Wicca, however, my full moon rite does not center around a moon/mother goddess, but on the god of the sea and liminality. Granted, one could conceivably honor Manannan on the dark moon as well, but the ritual would have a far different tenor; whereas the full moon is the time of peak flood-tide, the dark moon marks the deepest ebb.

The ritual below can be inserted into the typical Keltrian ritual structure, with the honoring of direction, opening of the Gates and honoring of the Gods, Nature Spirits and Ancestors. Much of the language is co-opted and occasionally reformulated from Alexander Carmichael’s [amazon_link id="0940262509" target="_blank" ]Carmina Gadelica[/amazon_link], that indispensable book of Scottish lore. I did use some from Kenneth Hurlstone Jackson’s compendium [amazon_link id="0140442472" target="_blank" ]A Celtic Miscellany: Translations from the Celtic Literature (Penguin Classics)[/amazon_link]. If I marked it, it’s borrowed from elsewhere. The working/trance invocation — the one that mentions the crane bag — is my own. The salt-water and sage purifications aren’t all that different from other Pagan traditions, probably; feel free to substitute whatever form of purification you feel comfortable with. Feel free to share with whoever is interested; it’s for public use.

Invocation (combination of 11th and 9th century Irish verse from A Celtic Miscellany):

The ocean is full, the sea is in flood, lovely is the home of the ships. The sandy wind has made eddies. The rudder is swift upon the wide sea…. Look before you at the glorious sea, home of creatures, dwelling of seals; wanton and splendid, it has taken of flood tide. Manannan, Lord of the Sea, of wave and of magic, of travel and journeys, of wisdom and truth, I honor you on this night.

Salt water blessing:

I cleanse myself with the salt and the water, with the waters of the sea, the realm of Mac Lir.

Anoint and sing, from the Carmina Gadelica:

A wavelet for thy form
A wavelet for thy voice
A wavelet for thy sweet speech
A wavelet for thy luck
A wavelet for thy good
A wavelet for thy health
A wavelet for thy throat
A wavelet for thy pluck
A wavelet for thy graciousness
Nine waves for thy graciousness.
May the spirit satisfy me with the water of grace.

Cleanse with smoke:

I cleanse myself with the flame and the herb, so that all that is ill is washed from me.

Waft and sing, from the Carmina Gadelica:

Ward from me every distress and danger
Encompass my course over the ocean of truth
I pray thee, place thy pure light before me
O Mananann on this very night
O Mananann on this very night
Be thyself the guiding star above me
May you light every reef and shoal
Pilot my boat on the crest of the wave
To the restful haven of the waveless sea
To the restful haven of the waveless sea

The working; use divination, scrying or trance. Sing:

May Manannan grant me
A glimpse of the crane bag
A glimpse of the mysteries
In the bag of secrets.
A glimpse of the Apple Isle
And its cup of truth
The isles of the Otherworld
And the swine at its feast.
Rattle the silver bough
To laugh, cry or sleep
To lead me on my journey
And to bring me home.

The divination/trance follows; use whatever you’re called to.

The return.

Ground and sing (from the Carmina Gadelica):

Bless to me, O Manannan
The earth beneath my foot,
Bless to me, O Manannan
The path whereon I go;
Bless to me, O Manannan
The thing of my desire
Bless to me, O Manannan
Bless me to my rest.
Bless to me the thing
Whereon is set my mind
Bless to me the thing
Whereon is set my love
Bless to me the thing
Whereon is set my hope
O Thou Lord of the Wave
May I be blessed in your eye.

Close with the standard Keltrian ritual format.

Celtic knotwork bar

Mother of Waters: Boann and River Goddesses

The Druid's Path

Mother of Waters: Boann and River Goddesses

by Jenne Micale

Photo of Jenne Micale

Jenne Micale

The mighty Susquehanna courses through the land where I live. Sometimes placid, brown-faced and slow, sometimes she roars to the drumming of the downpour, tearing away streets, homes, livelihoods, lives. She has many moods and many tributaries, fertilizing the farm fields with her floods, drawing human communities to her banks in the days of water transportation.

I especially honor Boann of the Susquehanna in early springtime when – in a normal year – the ice cracks and breaks, freeing her flow from winter’s prison. It’s a treacherous, exciting time, one that can often lead to ice jams that flood neighborhoods.

Rivers are goddesses in Celtic tradition, which is why I refer to the Susquehanna with a female pronoun. It’s an old association, with roots that span Indo-European cultures. Witness, for example, some of the river goddesses of India: Yamuna, Ganga of the Ganges, and Sarasvati, whose river dried up in ancient times but who lingers as the matron of the arts and learning. Goddesses were connected with rivers and springs in both Gaul and the British Isles, which were often the site of healing shrines: Sequana of the Seine, Coventina, Sabrina of the Severn, Brigantia of the Brent, and Sinann of the Shannon, to name a few. James Joyce’s Anna Livia Plurabelle, the personification of the River Liffey in Finnegan’s Wake, is a modern example.

Worshiped today as the Earth Mother, Danu may have originally been a river goddess, linked to streams such as the Danube, Don, Dneiper and others (Rees, 53). Sanskrit literature includes a river goddess of the same name (MacKillop 9), who is the mother of the serpent Vrtra, the adversary of Indra who holds back the waters of heaven (Rees 53).

The river goddess most prominent in Keltrian lore is Boann or Boand, the great lady of the Boyne, considered in some circles to be the Ganges of Ireland. In my own practice, I view Boann as the goddess of all rivers, albeit in localized forms; I invoke Boann of the Susquehanna and Boann of the Chenango, for example. She is the goddess not only of the physical river, but of the celestial river above, the Milky Way and the wheel of time.

Boann’s name is frequently assumed to be derived from Bo Finn, or “White Cow”; an alternate translation would be “Great Cow” (Rua 24) or “She who has white cows.” In some tales, however, her name is also given as Eithne, “sweet nut meat,” perhaps a reference to the hazelnuts that grow around the Well of Segais; Patricia Monaghan believes Boann to be the same as Eithne who is the daughter of the Fomhoire Balor, and who lay with Cian and conceived Lugh (183). Boann has a sister – the goddess of childbirth Bébinn – and even a dog, Debilla (MacKillop 13).

Akin to the connection between rivers and goddesses, the connection of cows with water also has cross-cultural roots.  A Vedic hymn describes Danu laying down with her son “like a cow with her calf” (Rig Veda 150). The Rig Veda, one of the oldest texts in the Indo-European tradition, consistently refers to  the waters released by the storm-god Indra as cows (151), who may be synonymous with the “seven rivers” (161).

In Ceisiwr Serith’s reconstructed Proto-Indo-European pantheon, the ur-deity that becomes Boann is the cow goddess Gwouwinda, a “completely benevolent character” who functions as a wife, mother and bestower of abundance upon her worshippers (67).  Cow-goddesses in other cultures include the Roman Juno; the Greek Hera with her epithet of Bopis, or cow-eyed; and, of course, the many bovine goddesses of India, including the spirits of the waters, the aforementioned Danu and Sarasvati herself (67-68). As one Vedic  hymn states: “Your inexhaustible breast, Sarasvati, that flows with the food of life, that you use to nourish all that one could wish for, freely giving treasure and wealth and beautiful gifts – bring that here for us to suck” (RV, 81). The goddess gives both water and milk, the substance of life itself, the sustenance that becomes fertility and wealth.

For Aedh Rua, Boann isn’t just the goddess of the river; she is the goddess of the moon, who is allegedly referred to as a cow in Irish folk-speech (24). Rua also suggests that she is the river of heaven: the Milky Way, or the “Way of the White Cow.”  In Irish, that equates to Bealach na Bó Finne (Ellis). Interestingly, this also recalls the Greek myth of the Milky Way as milk from Hera’s breasts that spilled as she nursed Heracles.

Tales of the river

In Irish myth, Boann is the wife of Elcmar or Nechtan, who are sometimes believed to be synonymous with Nuada; both the names Nechtan and Nuada are believed to be connected with the Gaulish Nodens. Scholar Jaan Puhvel also links Nechtan linguistically with the Roman Neptunus, the Indo-Iranian Napat and ultimately with the Vedic Apam Napat, the “Offspring of the Waters” who contains a sacred, hidden fire (277-280).

Photo of Anna Livia Plurabelle

Anna Livia Plurabelle

While her husband is away, Boann lays with the Dagda and conceives Aonghus Mag Og, the Young Son associated with love and springtime. To conceal her adultery, she – or, in some versions of the tale, the Dagda -- stops time, making nine months appear as a single day.  His birth thus concealed, Aonghus is given to his half-brother Midhir to raise.

Boann and Sinann, the goddess of the River Shannon and daughter or granddaughter of the sea-god Lir, share an identical myth. The goddess goes to the forbidden well of knowledge and circumambulates it widdershins, whether to gain its power for herself or to cleanse herself of the adultery that conceived Aonghus. Offended, the waters rise up and pursue her. She flees to the sea – giving up her physical body in the process, and becoming the goddess of the newly created river. Interestingly, the creation of the river through death has echoes yet again in India, where Yami -- the twin sister of the death god Yama and the first woman – ultimately becomes the Yamuna.

Boann in particular is believed to be the mother of many of the world’s prominent rivers, with her stream passing underground at various locations and ultimately returning to her source at Nechtan’s well (Puhvel 279). Her interaction with the well isn’t just an act of transgression; like the Vedic Indra, Boann “releases the water for all people – a fact which is acknowledged in most poetic texts, since it is Boand, not Nechtan, who is remembered as the source and patroness of the fertile imagination of poets,” according to Caitlin and John Matthews (17). She is the source of inspiration in other ways as well, since she is believed to be the mother by Dagda’s harper Uaithne of the three strains of music : lamentation, joy and sleep (Matthews 327).

Plucking the strings of my harp, I sing to honor the Mother of Waters both above and below, she who bestows abundance and wisdom hard-won:

White cow
White river
Flower of wisdom
Mother of love
White moon
White foam
Mother of the Waters

 

 BIBLIOGRAPHY

  • Ellis, Peter Berresford. “Early Irish Astrology: An Historical Argument.” First published in Réalta vol 3 no.3 1996. Retrieved March 10, 2012 from http://www.radical- astrology.com/irish/miscellany/ellis.html.
  • MacKillop, James. Myths and Legends of the Celts. New York: Penguin Books, 2005.
  • Matthews, Caitlin and John. The Encyclopedia of Celtic Wisdom. Rockport, Mass.: Element, 1994.
  • Monaghan, Patricia. The Red-Haired Girl from the Bog: The Landscape of Celtic Myth and Spirit. Novato, CA: New World Library, 2003.
  • Puhvel, Jaan. Comparative Mythology. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987.
  • Rees, Alwayn and Brinley. Celtic Heritage: Ancient tradition in Ireland and Wales. London: Thames and Hudson, 1978.
  • The Rig Veda. Trans. Wendy Doniger O’Flaherty. New York: Penguin Books, 1981.
  • Rua, Aedh. Celtic Flame: An Insider’s Guide to Irish Pagan Tradition. New York: iUniverse, 2008.
  • Serith, Ceisiwr. Deep Ancestors: Practicing the Religion of the Proto-Indo-Europeans. Tucson: ADF Publishing, 2007.

Note: You can hear me sing the chant above on my album, The Twisted Book, available at
 www.kwannon.net.

 

Prayer for Self-Knowledge

Prayer for Self-Knowledge

by Autumn Rose

(Deity name), my (Matron/Patron), You who guide, inspire and support me, I ask You to help me to know myself.  As with all beings, it is my duty to perfect myself.  I am enjoined to increase my virtues and strengths and to correct  my faults and weaknesses day to day, year to year, life to life.  I ask You to show me the hidden places of my soul.   Reveal to me my secret faults, fears and motivations, that my efforts at self-improvement may proceed rom a foundation of reality, not of illusion.

So be it.

 

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Let Yourself Be Moved

Let Yourself Be Moved

by Jenne Micale

Photo of Jenne Micale

Jenne Micale

Hail to thee, oh Danu of the Earth. Hail to thee, Green Dragon of the land….

The snow eddies before my windshield, as my car pulls into the road. And the words come, as they do each morning before dawn.

Sitting here, inside and nearly noon, it’s nearly impossible to remember the exact words of the litany, even though I recite them each morning on the way to work. They are born of a moment and for a moment: a call to the Kindreds, all the Tuatha de Danann whose names I can recall, with a final prayer to patrons Manannan and Brighid to guide and protect me and all those I love. And the last words, in Gaelic: Bitheadh e mar sin, Bitheadh e mar sin, Bitheadh e mar sin.

Prayers  -- simple spoken words, sometimes accompanied with ritual action – are an integral part of my personal spiritual practice, weaving me into the round of the day. There is the morning prayer, and the prayer for Brighid and Manannan’s blessings before I sleep. The “water prayer,” the one I make before stepping into the shower, as the water is heating up: Blessed be thou creature of water, may thou heal and strengthen my body, mind and soul. The prayer to Brighid of the hearth, whose candle I light every time I’m in the kitchen: Hail to thee, oh Brighid of brightness. I keep your vigil always in my heart.

There are garden prayers, spontaneously uttered as I head out to weed. The prayer I make when I leave offerings on the sacred stone beneath one of our oaks. The incense-offering I make to the Hindu gods at their altar before I do yoga, a practice which honors them.  The prayers I make to Aine, the Sun, and Midhir, the Moon, when I see them sail across the sky. The prayers I offer to nature spirits as animals cross my path, to the spirit of the stream as I cross the creek-bridge on the way home.

I pray an awe-full lot. It’s a spiritual habit, sprung from gratitude.

There seems to be a resistance to prayer overall in modern Pagan faiths. It seems too Christian, redolent of the stereotypical child at the side of the bed with folded hands. It can seem trivial, grasping: Oh Lord, please help me win the lottery! Or self-abnegating: Oh magnificent Lord, take pity on this poor sinner…. Perhaps it can seem beyond reach; the words do not come, or when they do, they fall way short of inspirational literature. And perhaps it seems too boring; isn’t prayer better couched in the language of spells, with ritual implements and color-coded candles, with requests timed precisely to the phase of the moon?

Prayers, however, are the offerings of the heart. They are the kind words you give to those you love in the spiritual realm: Gods and Goddesses, nature spirits, beloved dead. As with all friends, you can ask them for aid when you need it – keeping in mind that a relationship needs to be more than just gift-giving and solicitation. Prayer is also a way to be a friend to the Kindreds, offering them praise, thanks and kind words for the beauties of everyday life.

Prayers are thread weaving you into the tapestry of both the sacred and daily life.  Dawn always comes, but it’s no less a miracle; a prayer puts you in the mindset of gratitude and honoring, making the day’s start something a tad more meaningful than the prelude to rush hour.  A moment of prayer is both intensely private and cosmic in scope: the glue that binds you, as an individual, to the cosmos.

While some may disagree, I find the best prayers come unscripted and from the heart: the halting words of a dear friend expressing emotion, rather than photocopying a well-known poem from a book. The poem can make a good offering, too, if it’s done in the right spirit, but it’s no more precious than your own words, however inelegant.  The heart is all.

Let yourself be moved by the beauty of the dawn, the song of the birds, the warmth of the kitchen – and as you are moved, open your mouth to speak. Bitheadh e mar sin, Bitheadh e mar sin, Bitheadh e mar sin.

If you’d like to explore Pagan prayer in books, I recommend Ceisiwr Serith’s [amazon_link id="1578632552" target="_blank" ] A Book of Pagan Prayer[/amazon_link] and [amazon_link id="1578634849" target="_blank" ]A Pagan Ritual Prayer Book[/amazon_link], Alexander Carmichael’s [amazon_link id="1148336095" target="_blank" ]Carmina Gadelica: Hymns and Incantations[/amazon_link], and Judy Harrow’s [amazon_link id="0806523921" target="_blank" ]Devoted to You: Honoring Deity in Wiccan Practice[/amazon_link]. Don’t be put off by the last title; the book is a compendium of four essays on spiritual practice, including one on Brighid by Alexei Kondratiev, author of [amazon_link id="0806525029" target="_blank" ]The Apple Branch[/amazon_link]. Get inspired!

 

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The Mistletoe Rite

The Mistletoe Rite

by Karl Schlotterbeck

Photo of Karl Schlotterveck

Karl Schlotterbeck

The mistletoe rite has special significance to Keltrians, partly because of the reverence our ancestors had for mistletoe itself, and partly because the Mistletoe Rite is probably the ritual we most celebrate and is also a point of contact with the public. In addition, the Mistletoe Rite represents and enactment of many Keltrian principles. Thus, it is important that anyone with an interest in Keltrian belief and practice, as well as members have as thorough and understanding of it as possible.

The ritual is explained in detail in the Book of Ritual. Nevertheless, because of the significance of this rite, we will examine some of the most important of its aspects.

The significance of the Mistletoe to the ancient Druids is certainly legendary, through its meaning, because nothing was written, is open to conjecture. Of course, there is the “historical” report about Druids cutting the mistletoe with a golden sickle, catching it in a white cloth and making a sacrifice -- all on the “sixth night of the moon.” Since this would have meant in olden days that the fist night of the moon was the first visible crescent (the visible “new moon” as opposed to the astronomical misnomer of new moon which now refers to the conjunction of sun and moon during the “dark of the moon”). Thus, the sixth night of the moon would most likely have been about the first quarter, when the moon was half dark and half light as its cycle was moving toward increasing light (or waxing).

Modern writers have noted Mistletoe’s medicinal uses (which can be explored in most any herbal reference). Others have suggested that it had more symbolic significance since it did not seem to be rooted in the earth, seemed to appear out of nowhere and who’s berries were associated with fertility (though they are toxic). The fertility aspect of mistletoe survives to this day in our winter holiday tradition of kissing under the mistletoe.

Keltrians and the Mistletoe Rite

The focus in the Keltrian Mistletoe Rite is on healing and communion. Then, if we place these purposes within the context of Keltrian traditions, we will see more clearly the meaning of the elements as well as their order. In summary, during the Mistletoe Rite, we consecrate the space, open the veil, meditatively create our symbolic grove of tree-beings, and invite the presence of ancestors, nature spirits and gods and goddesses.

Since the Book of Ritual explains the specifics of each of the elements of the ritual, we will primarily concern ourselves here with the meaning of the various elements. Naturally, proper preparation of the ritual tools, controlling intrusions (like the ringing of a telephone) and selection of the ritual space itself are all part of the preparation. They are “setting the stage” for the celebration and the consensual use of the participants attention and energy for a common cause (healing and communion). When done properly, there will have been a gathering of people who create a timeless and boundless “space” into which is invited those of the Other World whom we revere for the purpose of sharing in feasting and fellowship.

The Rite

In the Mistletoe Rite, celebrants gather to create a timeless and boundless “space” into which are invited past, present and future Druids, the assistance of Manannan Mac Lir, the ancestors, nature spirits and gods and goddesses for a sharing of healing energy as well as feasting. During that time, we have joined consciously with the Other World and those beings share in our world as we do in theirs. Thus, they partake in our songs and food.

The ritual itself is laid out in detail in the Book of Ritual. Some flexibility is certainly permissible in the ritual, however, since it is an organic living thing and its flow of energy may best be served in various ways at different times. Indeed, one may note a discrepancy between the Outline for Mistletoe Rite and the following text in the Book of Ritual. Be that as it may, there are some significant routines and changes should be made only after considering what the original part was intended to do and the spiritual/psychic effect of the change. First of all the veil is parted before the Triads are invoked. (We would not invite someone in without opening the door to ease their entry.)

The Mistletoe Rite begins with the Processional which includes anointing with the oil with blessings of mind, body and spirit. This act alone has several meanings. First, it acknowledges right in the beginning that we are of a triune nature, it honors the Celtic focus on the skull, it begins to bring us into a state of togetherness as well as the first benchmark that we are leaving the ordinary world. The tri-line is a connection with early mysteries since its origin is uncertain.

Marking Sacred Time and Space. Keltrian Druidism takes an approach different from most other traditions in terms of time and space. Many traditions create a circle to contain energy, to banish negative influences, to protect the activity or to otherwise set a boundary between the inner ritual space and the outer (profane) world. Keltrian tradition, however, “universalizes”  sacred space. To do this, Druids, Bards and Seers of the past, present and future are invited to the place of the ritual (into the Otherworldly Tree), making all time now.

In addition, the powers and gifts of the directions are also invoked into the Otherworldly Tree to make all space here. In this way, the Otherworldly Tree becomes the focal point of all time and all space and is symbolically planted in the Hill of Usneach which was considered the ancient Druidic Center of Ireland.

Announcement of Rite. A simple announcement of the nature of the rite may be said, followed by an optional song.

Tree Meditation. The tree meditation is explained more fully in the Correspondence Course.   It helps to move the consciousness of those gathered from their everyday worlds into the sacred space which has just been created.

Parting the Veil. Having brought ourselves into the sacred space, the designated Seer acts to part the veil which normally separates this world from the Otherworld. Generally, a sea shell is the ritual tool used to request of Manannan assistance in parting the veil between the worlds so that we may have more conscious communion. Manannan is considered guard of the veil and in mythology often helps humankind. The optional Manannan chant/song can be sung here.

Triad Invocations. With ourselves gathered at the center of time and space, and the veil between the worlds thinned,    celebrants make specific invitations to the ancestors, spirits of nature and gods and goddesses -- in that order.

A bowl of water is presented and the ancestors invited to enter into it so we may have a physical medium to realize their presence. The celebrant who has invoked the ancestors then anoints the brow of all present with the water into which the ancestors have been called. Optionally, an ancestor chant or song may be sung here.

Similarly, nature spirits are invoked into the cauldron of earth which is then used to anoint the brow of each participant.  Optionally, a nature spirit chant or song may be sung here.

In the same manner, one of the celebrants then invokes the gods and goddesses into the cauldron of burning incense who’s blessing is then disbursed by wafting the incense toward the brow of each person. Optionally, a gods and goddesses chant or song may be sung here.

In this way, with the ancestral waters, earth of the nature spirits and scent of the gods all on our brow, our physical selves are given a sense of real participation and connection with those of the Other world.

A note is due here about ritual protocol. Celebrants who invoke those from the Otherworld (Manannan, ancestors, nature spirits, gods and goddesses) are expected to exercise a respectful manner which we would give any visitor invited into our space: the speaker identifies her or himself -- using their given or magical name -- the way we would if we make a telephone call. After all, the beings invoked during the rite are not servants to do our bidding, but respected guests invited to share the evening with us. This process is more fully explained in the correspondence course invocation lesson.

Explanation of the Rite. Two celebrants (called D1 and D2 in the Book of Ritual) engage in a ritual dialogue which helps to further explain the purposes of the evening’s rite as commemoration of the ancient gathering of the mistletoe at the sixth night of the moon.

Consecration and Blessing. Three drops of mistletoe tincture are put into the two chalices which are then blessed with the sickle and branch and pronounced “the waters of health.” These chalices are then passed sunrise for all who wishes to do so to drink. Generally two chalices are prepared, one with mead and the other with water. Each is equally consecrated.

Feasting. First the drinks are gathered and, using the sickle and branch, a blessing is asked of the ancestors to help us grow in wisdom. In the same way, the food items are gathered together and, again using sickle and branch, the blessings of the nature spirits are asked to bring the celebrants sustenance. A plate and cup of libation offerings are prepared and then all eat as a community, sharing of each other’s bounty. Those of the Otherworld take this opportunity to share in our world’s pleasures as well.

As the celebrants feast, there is often much levity, sometimes songs, stories or poetry or, in more serious moments, theological discussions.

Closing. When deemed appropriate by the primary celebrants, an announcement is made that the closing is drawing near and it is time to bid farewell to those whom we have invited. In closing, all things are done in reverse order. Thus, the gods and goddesses are first thanked by the one who invited them. The nature spirits are thanked by the one who invited them. The ancestors are thanked by the one who invited them.

The one who invoked Manannan to part the veil once more steps forward, thanks him and asks that the veil be returned.

Participants are returned from their tree consciousness created by the tree meditation to human consciousness through a reversal of the tree meditation by the one who lead it in the beginning.

Finally comes the announcement of the closing which includes a statement that time and space will resume their normal course. This may be followed by a song.

The Ritual Process

Over all, one should be aware of the progression of actions within the ritual leading more and more deeply into that boundless, timeless space of gathering and Otherworld connection and, when finished, an orderly return to ordinary consciousness, having been refreshed and renewed through the communion with each other and those on the Other Side of the veil.

  • Processional and Announcement
    • Creation of sacred Time and Space
      • Tree Meditation
        • Parting the Veil
          • Triad Invocations
            • Consecration and Blessing
            • Feasting
            • Thanking the Triads
          • Closing the veil
        • Reversal of Tree Meditation
      • Announcement of Closing

Keltrian Druid Sigil

Druidism: The Druid and the Littlest Unitarian

By Tony Taylor & Wren Taylor

Photo of Wren & Tony Taylor

Wren & Tony Taylor

The small, dark haired girl eyed me owlishly. Her mother stood directly behind her with her hands resting lightly on the child’s shoulders. She explained that her daughter’s classmates told her that Druids were evil, and if she ever met one, surely she would be sacrificed to Satan in an instant. This is the reason that she brought the child to my presentation. The woman wanted her daughter to see for herself that people who follow a different religious path are nice, normal people, with jobs and kids.

I received an invitation to speak at a Unitarian church in suburban Minneapolis. The congregation was interested in learning more about paganism in general and more specifically Druidism. Dressed in a sport coat and tie, I focused on our similarities rather than our differences, and continued that theme into the question and answer period. The queries were intelligent and pointed.

As the end of the session neared, a gentleman said that I made my point regarding similarities; however, he was more interested in the differences. In a space that was just more than a heartbeat, I blurted out, “Dominion over the Earth.”  That’s when the fun began.

Relationship to Nature.

Druids of all types develop a personal relationship with the Earth. Understanding the three Celtic Worlds of Earth, Sea, and Sky is fundamental to Keltrian Druidism.  Also, developing a close relationship with all creatures, seen and unseen is important to many Druids. Within Druidism, nature is not separate from man nor was it given to man for his domination nor even stewardship. Nature is not something to be subdued nor overcome; people are a part of nature and need to live in harmony with it.

Archdruid Karl summarized it extremely well.  “One of the essential differences between mainstream Christianity and Druidry is traditional Christianity’s vision of self-fulfilling alienation: in alienating itself from the world, it also alienates humankind not only from direct contact with Divinity, but also from the natural world and from themselves as well. In that unnecessary chasm, “redemption” occurs only within a narrowly defined relationship with their nominally singular god and that god’s exclusive chosen people (or church). Thus, mainstream Christianity lives out a mythos of exile along with hope for only a partial redemption. It can never be whole because the wholeness of each human being is not admissible. It is a distortion of an ancient myth of incarnation that should result in ever-widening circles of soul-expansion that lead not only to a higher state, but a deeper one as well – roots growing not only into the heavens, but deeply into the earth as well.”

The connection that Druids have with the earth and all its creatures is a defining characteristic of Druidism.

Relationship to Divinity

Christians and Keltrian Druids have complex views of divinity.  Many Christians believe in one God; however, polytheism underlies much of Christian thought when describing the Trinity.  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are often viewed and treated as individual entities. Druids embrace a wide range of perceptions regarding deity from monotheism to polytheism and even panpolytheism. Others hold the concept that individual gods and goddesses are aspects of or manifestations of a single, unifying, unmanifest deity.

One key difference is Keltrian Druids are not told what they must believe; rather, if they follow the ritual formula, they are practicing Keltrian Ritual. In Keltrian Druid practice, the individual is free to experience the gods and goddesses in a way that suits his or her sensibilities. The idea is that deity is flexible.  We do not dictate dogma.

Relationship to Life

Keltrian Druid belief #4 states, “We believe that all life is sacred and should neither be harmed nor taken without deliberation or regard.”  Druid practice encourages us to live life in its fullness and develop our spiritual relationships with this world, the Otherworld, and everything in our universe.  Animals and plants are not resources to be exploited nor dominated.  Rather, we seek cooperation with them.

As mentioned previously, man is not separate from the world.  Keltrian Druids interact with the divine and its endless aspects and manifestations in the natural world. We are not dependent upon external redemption nor a Messiah for salvation.  Each individual must cultivate their own growth and evolution through the development of personal, social, and spiritual relationships with all life and with all spiritual entities. Life is a wonderful thing.  It should not be filled with terror, pain, and suffering.

Wisdom

 

Photo of Wren Taylor

Wren Taylor

One of the key goals of Druid life is the mastery of wisdom. A Christian approach to viewing the world usually limits perception to two options such as yes/no, good/bad, black/white.  To gain wisdom, Keltrian Druidism encourages practitioners to employ triads in problem solving.  The Druid looks for alternate ways to understand the Earth, her inhabitants and the universe.  There is always a third perspective to consider and understand; sometimes there are more.  Certainly there are some techniques that can be used to simplify the process. For example, how does a particular issue affect Mind, Body, and Spirit?  Employing the specialized disciplines of the Bard, Seer, and Druid, how do these perspectives enhance the understanding of a particular issue?  A dualistic view of a situation or question creates argument and righteousness.  A triadic view creates discussion. compromise and creative solutions.

As an exercise, try to balance a playing card on the tips of two fingers extended in a peace sign. It can be done, but it is unstable.  Now add a third so that your fingers resemble the legs of a three-legged stool. The card is now stable.  This demonstrates thinking in triads. Referring to the black/white example of dualistic thinking, the third leg of the stool - the triad - is not grey.  Grey merely continues on the same line, the same path.  The triad is pink, or sunset. Perhaps it’s a coffee pot. It needs to be a totally different perspective.  This is difficult to master; however, you will succeed with practice.

Religion Evolves

Druidic religion changes; the beliefs, practices, and relationships of modern Keltrian Druids would be unfamiliar to Druids of a hundred years ago and alien to the Druids of the ancient past.  Druids adapt to a changing environment as the relationships between them and the spirits around them evolve.  Codifying beliefs into creeds in response to millennia-old heresies is not in the Druidic playbook.

Texts are not sacred because they were handed down by the divine; rather, they are sacred if they produce the effect of making our spiritual relationships with others stronger. Likewise, a place becomes sacred when its effect is to foster stronger or better-defined spiritual relationships with others.

For example, although my relationship with trees is significantly different from  an ancient Druid’s, we both would have a profound experience encountering a giant sequoia for the first time.  The way in which we experience such an encounter may be very different, but the importance and the impact of the experience would significant for both of us.

The Henge and Keltrian Druids adapt to new discoveries and scholarship. If recognized experts agree on an aspect of a new discovery, which affects our practice, we embrace it.

Cyclical Time

Most Druids see time as cyclical. It is a world without end; there is no “end of days” nor a linear creation of all. Was there a “big bang” which started it all? Probably. Could it have been the aftermath of another universe, which collapsed into a singularity to start the cycle of our universe? Quite possibly. All things come into existence, have a life, and then cease to exist only to nourish the birth (and become part of) of something new.

Three Foundations in Keltrian Druidism

Keltrian Druidism is a complex set of beliefs and practices. Individuals are free to interpret the information gleened from the required reading and come to their own conclusions as long as they are in direct support of the three foundations of Keltrian Druidism:

  • Honor the Ancestors.
  • Revere the Nature Spirits
  • Worship the Gods and Goddesses of our Tribe.

In my preparation to speak with the Unitarians so many years ago, I focused upon the similarities of our traditions. How were Druids the same as other traditions the Unitarians would know and understand? Persecution exists today, but twenty years ago the atmosphere was extremely hostile. We wanted to demonstrate that we were not all that different. We merely had a different perception of the universe and our relationship to it.

During my visit I grew in my understanding of the differences between Druids and other religions and learned much of what makes those differences important.  And the little Unitarian learned that Druids may be a little different, but they don’t have two heads and really aren’t very scary.

 

A TREATISE ON NATURAL LAW: PART II

By Autumn Rose 

Autumn Rose

Autumn Rose

In Part I of this treatise we reviewed a sampling of law codes representing societies around the world and covering almost 4000 years of history.  From this review we discovered that all the codes prohibited a uniform set of destructive acts.  All punished violations of those prohibitions with greater or lesser severity.  All regulated commerce, the use and transfer of property, and sexual conduct and marriage.  All of them assumed the existence of a Deity or Deities, and all attempted to be fair in formulating and applying the law, with one exception: Until recent centuries no law code recognized the equality of all human beings, and modern codes still struggle with the concept.

Given the uniformity of the concerns expressed in legal codes in all times and places, it seems logical that those concerns must have a single source, and equally logical that that source must be humanity’s shared social nature.  But what is the source of our social nature?  The thesis of this work is that we are part and parcel of the larger natural world, that we respond to the same imperatives operating in the rest of Nature, and that those imperatives are the source of our social nature.  What, then, are these imperatives -- these “natural laws” in which human social law is embedded?

The most fundamental natural laws are those of mathematics, physics and chemistry.  These laws govern all matter, both organic and inorganic -- but our concern here is with the organic, with life.  What we are seeking are the laws (in addition to mathematics, physics and chemistry) that apply to all life, both animal and vegetable, and from the simplest to the most complex -- including us.  In the course of this search we will speak of groups and individuals, groups being anything other than individuals - e.g., species, ecosystems, kin groups, communities, nations, and so on.

The first and most basic law of life is simple: Survive! This imperative applies to both individuals and to groups.  For individuals, of course, survival is ultimately a lost cause.  Most lifeforms live only for a season or less, and even among more complex species individuals rarely survive beyond their useful life.  At its simplest, “useful life” refers to the ability to procreate. In socially organized species it includes as well the ability to contribute work for the good of the group, which ability diminishes with an individual’s age.  But however hopeless their quest for survival may ultimately be, individuals are programmed to extend their lives as much as possible and frequently fight hard to do so.   The impulse to survive is undoubtedly the strongest biological impulse.

What are the methods of survival?  We have mentioned procreation, which is the chief means by which groups survive --and then there is acquisition.  There can be no survival without nourishment, shelter from the elements and protection from danger, and means must be found to acquire these necessities.  For plants, acquisition is almost entirely a passive process.  A plant can stretch roots down into the ground and leaves up into the air to collect nutrients, but it cannot relocate under its own power from the place where it is rooted.  If that place does not supply its needs, it probably will not survive to reproduce.  Animals, with their power of locomotion, can venture abroad in search of sustenance and safety.

And what are the methods by which lifeforms acquire what they need?  By competition and cooperation.  We sometimes hear the expression “It’s a jungle out there,” which is based on the premise that life in the wild is a state of unbridled and brutal competition.  There is competition, of course, but also a great deal of cooperation occurring in Nature.  Some of it is unintentional.  A honey bee probably has no plans to assist a plant with its reproduction, but it does so anyway in the course of flitting from flower to flower to feed.  Plants likewise probably have no idea that the oxygen they expire enables animals to breathe, and we have only recently understood that the carbon dioxide animals exhale helps to support plant life.  In the more complex forms of animal life, however, at least some cooperative acts may be consciously chosen.  We used to believe that all non-human behavior was instinctive, but studies in the past few decades have revealed that more animal behavior than we imagined is learned, either from parents or from individual experience.  Do wolf packs organize themselves to run down their prey in a certain way because they are genetically programmed to do so, or because they remember that that’s the most efficient way to do it?   Whatever the answer, there is no question that animal groups in the wild practice cooperation. On the other hand, such groups usually have an alpha male, a position that has to be competed for. This is only one example of how competition and cooperation both contribute to a group‘s survival.

It hardly needs saying that we find innumerable examples of both in human society.  Each has its positive and negative applications.  Competition among individuals has the positive effect of elevating the ablest among us to useful positions, but when it goes awry it can be destructive, as in the case of war.  And cooperation loses its usefulness when it becomes mere mindless conformism. Ironically, social groups sometimes organize (cooperate) for the purpose of competing.  War is one example of that.  Politics is another, and team sports another still.  It often happens that an individual may be in conflict (competition) with the very group or groups on which he is dependent.  When an individual’s personal interest conflicts with the interests of those around him, or with the common good, he may commit acts that are disruptive of life in his vicinity, sometimes even criminal.  Obviously the interplay of competition and cooperation in human society is complex --more complex, perhaps, than elsewhere in Nature.  Nevertheless, it is an expression of the same impulses that operate in the rest of Nature.

But what is the connection between these natural impulses and the legal codes we cited in Part I?  To answer that, we will return to a consideration of our fundamental imperative, survival.  Like individuals, groups seek to survive, and the most cursory examination reveals that social groups regard a measure of order as essential to that survival.   Order brings with it an expectation of predictability and safety, which produce in turn a sense of security --and the more secure an individual feels, the less likely he is to disrupt the social order.

Repeatedly in human society, instances occur where cooperation is desirable but absent, and other instances occur where competition is undesirable but present.  Both situations are destructive of order and need to be remedied, and manmade laws have been the answer for thousands of years.  So societies have a goal, survival; a strategy, the maintenance of order; and a tactic, laws that maximize cooperation and minimize the harmful kinds of competition.

One question remains: Is the human desire for order really a reflection of Nature?

Contemplating such natural phenomena as hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, we may well wonder if Nature and order have anything to do with each other.  But then there are those previously mentioned laws of mathematics, physics and chemistry.  Even hurricanes and earthquakes and the like unfold according to these most fundamental of natural laws.

We began Part I of these reflections by citing the will of the Gods and Goddesses, and we will finish here by doing the same.  In view of the undeniable truth of the observation that concludes the previous paragraph, we may fairly say that the Gods and Goddesses of Nature do indeed ordain order --but not too much of it.  (And even in this we humans reflect Nature at large.)

Hotfoot from the Gods:

Resistance and Ritual

By Jenne Micale 

Jenne Micale

Jenne Micale

“I hope Brighid isn't angry at me,” I fret.

My husband smirks. “No, Brighid is laughing her ass off,” he replies.

It's Meán Geimhridh, and yet again I've swallowed my inherent dislike of snow and darkness to organize an appropriately solemn rite, one that has us pondering our blessings, rolling around on the metaphysical floor in abject gratitude and making fervent vows to repair the inherent brokenness of human culture. No sublimation of guilt there, no, not at all.

And the mishap happens, right on cue – just as it does virtually every midwinter, in one form or another.

This time, it's the mysterious chimney damper, which floods the entire house with woodsmoke. Then there was the year the candle flame shot up four inches high, refused to be doused and cracked the glass; I had to drown it in the sink after the rite. Then there was the time I set my sleeve on fire during the ceremony and a fellow priestess patted it out.

While I've had my share of ritual faux pas, I usually put on a meaningful ceremony for the Kindreds and the Druids in attendance. Meán Geimhridh, however, eludes me every year.

Oddly enough, it's the unsuccessful rituals that offer the deepest lessons. One-time failures can point to gaps in the planning process, the organizer's knowledge and skill, or the ability to adapt to changing circumstances. Repeated failures, however, are signposts of another type, pointing the way to truths that the group or the individual priest or priestess refuse to face.

Repeated failures needn't involve an actual holy day, in the case of Meán Geimhridh, although that's fairly common. They can involve practices such as meditation, daily worship, even particular types of spellwork. Addressing the situation comes down to a few simple questions: What am I resisting, or refusing to see? What really turns me off, whether it's rational or not?

In my case, I've long had a marked resistance to the winter solstice. In part, it's the connection with what we know as Christmas traditions: gift-giving, greenery, silly music, feasting. The winter holiday is all shiny joy, something that I tend to interpret as shallow. Instead, I'm trying to steer us back into the darkness in all its Gothic glory and atone for the commercialism of the season. Coupled with that is a thirst for something ecstatic: drawing us outside the boundaries of our own beings, to drink at the well of cosmic truth.

No matter which way I slice it, Meán Geimhridh -- Yule, Winternights, whatever name you choose -- is as sweet as a slice of fruitcake, which makes perfect sense.

Merriment -- the gathering of loved ones, gifting, feasting, song -- truly is key to the meaning of solstice. In winter's depths, a community requires some levity to survive. Laughter lightens the darkest night. Companions warm the cold road. You don't survive the winter alone by denying loved ones, silliness, or cake in favor of a dour utilitarianism. By the same token, you can't just ecstatically trance the winter away; you need planning and grounding in the cold realities of the storehouse, whether that's finances in a down economy or the actual food in your root cellar.

Solstice is a dance between survival and celebration, seriousness and joy. After all the preparations for winter's rule, the balance starts to tip on the darkest night. Yes, the coldest months are ahead -- but so is the light.

Celebration is a kind of ecstasy -- the kind that draws you out of yourself, cracking a smile from ear to ear as a loved one rips through colored paper. Solstice is a liminal time when we forget our rules: the social rules of master and servant, the eggshell-walking boundaries of family life and power dynamics, the rules of diets and propriety. We act like children, rejoicing in food, fun, ridiculous songs.

Which is why Brighid laughs at me in this season and sets my sleeves on fire, “You're so damned serious. Lighten up!”