Poetry: The Plowman’s Wassail

The Plowman’s Wassail

by Steven Posch

[Sung to the tune of Gloucester Wassail. -ed]

Farmer plowing in Fahrenwalde, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany

Farmer plowing

So here's to the plow, boys, so sturdy and strong,
to plow a fine furrow and give us good corn;
our plow, it is made of the white quicken tree:
with a jolly wassail we'll drink to thee.

And here's to the plowman and to his left stone,
to plow a fine furrow, the seed for to sow,
the seed for to sow till it's lovely to see:
with a jolly wassail we'll drink to thee.

And here's to Old Blackie and to his right horn,
to plow a fine furrow and give us good corn,
to give us good corn till it's lovely to see:
with a jolly wassail we'll drink to thee.

And here's to Red Jenkin and to his long tail,
to plow a fine furrow that never shall fail,
that never shall fail till it's lovely to see:
with a jolly wassail we'll drink to thee.

And here's to the furrow so lovely to see,
as yielding an acre as ever shall be,
to yield us good corn till it's lovely to see:
with a jolly wassail we'll drink to thee.

And here's to the seed and so lovely to sow,
so heavy and golden and goodly to grow,
so goodly to grow till it's lovely to see:
with a jolly wassail we'll drink to thee.

And here's to the Sun and so goodly to shine,
to sprout the good seed, so fair and so fine,
so fair and so fine till it's lovely to see:
with a jolly wassail we'll drink to thee.

And here's to the Rain and so goodly to fall,
to grow us good corn, the joy of us all,
the joy of us all till it's lovely to see:
with a jolly wassail we'll drink to thee.

And here's to the Earth that makes us to thrive,
so broad and so bearing and goodly to give,
so goodly to give till it's lovely to see:
with a jolly wassail we'll drink to thee.

So here's to the plow, boys, so sturdy and strong,
to plow a fine furrow and give us good corn;
our plow, it is made of the white quicken tree:
with a jolly wassail we'll drink to thee.


Read Steven's Blog Posts


 Originally published in Keltria: Journal of Druidism and Celtic Magick

Cover of Keltria: Journal of Druidism and Celtic Magick -- Issue #42

Keltria: Journal of Druidism and Celtic Magick -- Issue #43

Keltria: Journal of Druidism and Celtic Magick, Issue #43 -- The Heroes Issue. Is available in its entirety from MagCloud.

Books & Music by Steven Posch

[amazon_enhanced asin="B000F5LBMQ" /][amazon_enhanced asin="B002C758UQ" /][amazon_enhanced asin="1312008458" /]

Poetry: Leborcham Lies to Conchobar

Leborcham Lies to Conchobar

by Jenne Micale

Cracks in the mud - geograph.org.uk - 1271501

"Cracks in the Mud" - Ian Paterson [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Her face -- a riverbed
in high summer, webbed with
grief that cracks as mudflats,
and cattails of hair hang

ragged and gold, yet shot
with tarnish. Skin is bark
sloughing on the hard ground
strained by a drought of joy.

The very image of
the Cailleach, blight's white crone --
spring's bud blasted by
the hard wind of regret!

Leave her to her bleak home
in the leaf litter, man --
a warrior should have
a beauty like sunrise.

Such I tell you, old friend.
with my Druid tongue, I give
the unaccustomed lie
to king stag in his hall.

And why? For the twigs in
my crane bag have always
their alphabet of
truth, although twisted, bent

as winter's brow, as my
own hag hand. But here -- here
is what I do not say,
what I deny you, king:

That love's laughter lights her
hair, her green eye, her bird
of a soul -- firing her
brand, a star in the dark

as his arms, circling, sweep
her from the grass's green bond --
a whirl of air and sun,
desire, dream and sunrise.

No hardship can chip it --
no grief can cage a soul
fledged to freedom in the
blue with its mate soaring.

But see -- the words I twist
do not lie so much, king.
They are but a vision
if she had stayed with you.


Originally published in Keltria: Journal of Druidism and Celtic Magick


Cover of Keltria: Journal of Druidism and Celtic Magick -- Issue #42

Keltria: Journal of Druidism and Celtic Magick -- Issue #43

Keltria: Journal of Druidism and Celtic Magick, Issue #43 -- The Heroes Issue. Is available in its entirety from MagCloud.

Music by Kwannon
(Jenne Micale)

 [amazon_enhanced asin="B00GIWHIXG" /][amazon_enhanced asin="B00G5NOKIY" /][amazon_enhanced asin="B003IOS0NE" /]

EXCERPT – Druidess, Priestess, Poet & Seer: Women’s Historical Roles in Celtic Religion

By Sharynne MacLeod NicMhacha
(Sharon Paice MacLeod)

We have often seen the Victorian image of the white robed druid carrying a golden sickle while gathering mistletoe from an oak tree. Sometimes there are depictions of female druids as well, although the role of women in Celtic pagan religion seems to be less obvious. What roles did women historically fulfill in Celtic religion? While the evidence we have is sparse, there is actually more than we might think to help us decipher women’s roles in Celtic society, and in particular, their sacred spiritual roles.

Rozentals Nave

First of all, how do we know any of ‘what we know’ about Celtic women in religion? Greek and Roman writers were quick to mention the strength, character and relative independence of Gaulish women, especially compared with women in their own cultures. Later, the early medieval Irish law tracts (which are believed to have preserved some fairly old information about Irish society), provide quite a bit of interesting information about the legal status of women (keeping in mind that these may be laws ‘as recorded,’ and not necessarily reflective of women’s status in all cases). Overall, from what we can see, women in Celtic cultures seem to have had more rights than women in some other ancient cultures, although they did not have equal status. However, a lack of complete equality (which is still a factor in our own society), does not necessarily equate with subservience or victimhood, and there must certainly have been empowered women who ‘broke the mold’ despite the official rules.

We know there were historical female rulers and leaders. A Celtic woman named Onomaris from Galatia bravely led her starving people across the Danube several centuries BCE, conquering foes and obstacles and establishing a new homeland. We also know of at least two historical female rulers in Britain during the Roman occupation: the treacherous Cartimandua and the fierce Boadicea.

Although not historical in nature, female leaders and warriors are mentioned in Celtic legends. The female warrior Scáthach was said to run a school where she taught martial arts to men. Queen Medb (later anglicized as Maeve) was a legendary Irish queen, who in....

Continued in Issue #43 of Keltria Journal.


Cover of Keltria: Journal of Druidism and Celtic Magick -- Issue #42

Keltria: Journal of Druidism and Celtic Magick -- Issue #43

Keltria: Journal of Druidism and Celtic Magick, Issue #43 -- The Heroes Issue. Is available in its entirety from MagCloud.

Books & Papers
by Sharon Paice MacLeod

[amazon_enhanced asin="0786464763" /][amazon_enhanced asin="0786471387" /][amazon_enhanced asin="0674055969" /]

Keltria Journal #43 – From the Editor

The following is the complete text of "From the Editor" from Keltria: Journal of Druidism and Celtic Magick, Issue #43 -- The Heroes Issue.  This issue is available in its entirety from MagCloud


From the Editor

Photo of Tony Taylor

Tony Taylor, Editor
Keltria Journal

When I was young, my ideas regarding heroes were ill considered. Micky Mantle and Roger Maris were great ball players, but they really weren’t true heroes. By the time I reached the “age of reason,” I realized that a hero is someone who lives with integrity and teaches with both words and actions – not merely a celebrity.

The character that came the closest to fulfilling my idea of a hero was Paladin of the series “Have Gun Will Travel.” He had a classy, even an aristocratic air; and yet, he was never condescending. He always distinguished right from wrong, and was never mean or spiteful. Snobs and bigots were distasteful to him and he always helped the exploited or downtrodden. Paladin’s religious proclivities were decidedly nebulous, although he demonstrated knowledge and acceptance of all religions. First airing in the late 1950’s, this program’s scripts were conceived long before the era of “political correctness,” and yet Paladin quoted Kahlil Gibran even though I noted Gibran was a personage of the 20th century and not the 19th. The fact that Richard Boone, who played the part, had a physical resemblance to my much-admired grandfather impressed me as well.

When I began on the path of Celtic spirituality and Druidism, I found that many of the Celtic heroes and heroines share characteristics with Paladin. They often displayed their human aspects in that they didn’t always act heroically. When they didn’t it was usually because some sort of geis has been laid upon them. The ancient Celtic heroes’ actions should demonstrate how to act and react to situations with honor.

Read the heroic stories in Celtic mythology, particularly Cú Chulainn’s and Finn’s stories, and consider whether they behave as true heroes or are they acting without honor? Do the gods teach them lessons? Would Paladin be proud of them?

About this issue

Cover -- Keltria: Journal of Druidism and Celtic Magick -- Issue #43

Keltria: Journal of Druidism and Celtic Magick -- Issue #43

Welcome to Issue 43 of Keltria: Journal of Druidism and Celtic Magic. The theme of this issue is Celtic Heroes and Heroines.

I have often read stories of the Bards of old satirizing kings and royalty effectively destroying their reputations. Although clear examples of that skill are few and far between, Jenne Micale draws our attention to the stories of Briciu, an ancient anti-hero. Bricriu may certainly be thought of as the original “jerk” as Jenne shows us in “Just Saying: Satirists as Catalysts and (Anti) Heroes.”

Jenne’s poem, “Leborcham lies to Conchobar,” pairs well with her article illustrating that what may seem to be lies are really truth.

Sharynne MacLeod NicMhacha encourages us to understand the many roles of women in Celtic society in her article, “Druidess, Priestess, Poet & Seer: Women’s Historical Roles in Celtic Religion.” From the treacherous Cartimandua and the fierce warrior Boadicea, to the gentle herbalists, “Druidess, Priestess, Poet & Seer” provides insight to Celtic women and their place in Celtic society.

Cover - Keltria Journal #42

Keltria Journal #42

Steven Posch is a well-known storyteller in the Midwest. I have known him Steven since the mid 1980’s. When I received the interview, “Our Plow, It Is Made of the White Quicken Tree,” I was pleased to include it in this issue. This interview was originally submitted for inclusion with our “Storytelling” issue (#42); however, because the interview is so focused upon Yule and “wassail,” I decided to wait until this issue, which is much closer to Yule. Johnny Deer is Steven’s alter ego and fulfills the role of interviewer. Steven, like Jenne, also has included a poem, “Plowman’s Wassail,” which can be sung to a traditional tune.

Cú Chulainn and Finn are, arguably, the greatest of the Celtic Heroes. Saigh Kym Lambert leads us through a comparison and a contrast between these two heroes in “The Heroes Betwixt and Between.”

Please send your thoughts and opinions regarding this issue, future themes, or other comments to letterstotheeditor@keltria.org.

-tt


Cover of Keltria: Journal of Druidism and Celtic Magick -- Issue #42

Keltria: Journal of Druidism and Celtic Magick -- Issue #42

Keltria: Journal of Druidism and Celtic Magick, Issue #43 -- The Heroes Issue.  Is available in its entirety from MagCloud.

[amazon_enhanced asin="1578632846" /][amazon_enhanced asin="0786464763" /][amazon_enhanced asin="0982726376" /][amazon_enhanced asin="B000F5LBMQ" /][amazon_enhanced asin="0615158005" /][amazon_enhanced asin="190571324X" /]

Excerpt – Cattle Raids – 1

EXCERPT From Keltria Journal - Issue #42

Book of the Valley: Story One -- “Cattle Raids”

— Caillean ap Gwynedd

Tales are woven of love and sorrow, of adventure and magic, a little truth and a little laughter. Great are the deeds done and many of them true, and many more which grow in the telling, and who now may say which is which? Listen, Cymry, and I will tell you tales from the Book of the Valley, tales of the first great Cattle Raid....

Photo of Ewes Lookat at Camera by Lisa Jarvis [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Ewes looking at Camera

Long had the day stretched, and how long exactly is difficult to kin for time spent in the Valley passes not as time passes elsewhere in the world. Fleet had been the warriors and cunning the battles, and many the cattle won and lost and won again. More than cattle alone were traded that day, and upon that hinge will the door of this tale swing shortly. Twilight at last called the Celts to their Tribe fire, there to let the sweat dry from their bodies and the heat to cool from their weapons, and to watch the shadows wage timeless war of their own with the sunlight, winning night with the knowledge that the battle would be lost or won again come morning.

Logs thrown on the past night's embers startled sparks into the darkening skies like fiery bats loosed in hunt for lightning bugs, and the Cymry eagerly settled into their accustomed places to partake of the evening's entertainment. For it is truly spoken that no Celt loves aught so much as a well-crafted story, and so it is told in days past Aonghus Bleidd ap Fainne was beat about the ears by his wife for composing a lusty song celebrating their lovemaking ere the latest lovemaking was quite complete. Any road, the listeners in place and the míd horns full to brimming, the first of the tellers of tales rose to stand in the fire's light.

Iarwain this was, he who it is told was visited by one of the Lords of the far north who traveled from those storm gray lands on a task which is quite a tale in its own right, and who brought rain and thunder to the Valley one summer's afternoon (and other things as well....). And so the first tale was told of the Sun God's love for the Dark Lady, and how the very laws of the Universe were altered for one evening only so that the two (who travel each in hir own...

[Continued in Keltria: Journal of Druidism and Celtic Magick - Issue #42.]

Keltria Journal #42 - Storytelling

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Storyteller, Mythology and the 21st Century

EXCERPT!

Storyteller, Mythology and the 21st Century

— Mary Gavan

Statues of man reading stories to wife and children.

The Story Teller
(Eugene, Oregon)

As a Celtic storyteller, my preference is for triads.  The triad I consider is storyteller – mythology - 21st Century.

Regarding the 21st Century; the media disseminates news of injustice, poverty and war that befall mankind in its search for civilization.  Much less reported are peace, progress and prosperity. Even less reported is the innate goodness of people. Where does the truth of the 21 Century lie?  Which myths are perpetuated?  What events does a storyteller highlight?

Storytellers resemble the media myth makers of the 21st Century.  We both use the same treasure chest of tales, technique and thoughtfulness.  We both carefully craft according to our agenda. The difference lies in the outcome.  In brief, the outcome is the personal story versus the product advertising.  Advertising is backed by substantial money and clout.  Paradoxically, hope for a better future in 21st Century exists where traditional storytelling prevails.

As a storyteller, my art form demands researching, crafting and sharing.  My research is to look into print resources and to listen to ordinary people. As a committed user of public transport, I acknowledge that listening in transit provides wee gems; for example, a Mexican couple recounted the repatriation and respectful burial of their compatriot, Julia Pastrana, after 153 years.

Storytellers listen.   I listen as life unfolds diverse stories afore my eyes and ears.  I listen to the foibles and frustrations of ordinary people for these are the stories I tell.  To paraphrase Chekhov, my stories witness people, not judge them. My work is to find the details necessary for truth telling and craft them into a story so that others can hear the beauty and the angst of humanity and thereby experience the range of their own humanity.

The details of Pastrana’s story came to light in a New York Times article.  In that one article, I saw two interwoven stories:  Firstly, the story of 19th Century Julia Pastrana who, in life and death, toured Europe touted as the ugliest woman until her corpse came...

[Continued in Keltria: Journal of Druidism and Celtic Magick - Issue #42.]

Keltria Journal #42 - Storytelling 

Find out more on MagCloud)

Keltria Journal -Storytelling: Life Viewed Through a Mythic Lens

EXCERPT

Storytelling:  Life Viewed Through a Mythic Lens

by Daphne Bishop

Photo of a Thatched cottage by Irish Sea

Niarbyl - Thatched cottage by Irish Sea Photo by Joseph Mischyshyn via Wikimedia Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license.

At the beginning of [amazon_link id="0500270392" target="_blank" ]Celtic Heritage[/amazon_link], the historians Alwyn Rees and Brinley Rees take us into the southwestern Kerry cottage of a traditional Irish storyteller. They describe him as he relates a series of heroic tales, anecdotes, proverbs, rhymes and riddles. He is a “literary artist,” one who has memorized hundreds and hundreds of tales and yet cannot read or write English. His words draw neighbors and friends who visit continuously, sometimes in groups. They sit by the man’s hearth, listen attentively and never interrupt a story in progress.

A hundred years later, in South Africa’s infamous Robben Island prison, a group of apartheid-era prisoners fights for the right to read, write and study. Among them is Nelson Mandela, who will spend twenty-seven years of his life behind bars. His comrade, Sonny Venkatrathnam, is eventually granted the right to one book. After talking it over with his fellows, he chooses the complete works of William Shakespeare, a volume whose tales reverberate with markedly similar political struggles. The poetic words depict the anguish of injustice and untimely death, but also resonate with transcendent themes of human endeavor and triumph. Throughout the bitter years of imprisonment, Shakespeare’s stories, which were composed centuries earlier and in a very different milieu, provide inspiration, intellectual stimulation and hope.

We live in a society that is disconnected from its stories. We inhabit a world severed from the richness of its cultural heritage. Fairy and folktales, myths and sagas that were once taught in schools and formed part of our cultural currency have been forgotten. While many of the earliest scholars who retrieved, preserved and disseminated these stories, especially the English, dismissed them as superstitious and primitive, some modern critiques have been equally harsh. Myths and fairy tales are reduced to stereotypes or, even worse, are too offensive to teach at all.

Millions of Americans are descendants of the six surviving Celtic cultures, yet how many are familiar with the legacy of epic tales, the songs, poetry and wisdom texts that permeated the culture of their forebears? How many realize the marvelous Celtic antecedents of the Arthurian myths, which are arguably the seminal myths of Western Europe, and continue to be retold and reinvented in ever more fascinating ways?

Continued...

[This excerpt is from a three-plus page article was published in Keltria: Journal of Druidism and Celtic Magick, Issue #42.  It is available in its entirety to members of the Henge of Keltria until the next issue of the Journal is published via the Members Home page.  It is available to the public in both electronic and print form via Mag Cloud.]

Keltria Journal: Sat-Navs and Seanchchaís

EXCERPT: Sat-Navs and Seanchchaís

Finding your way through stories and landscapes

— by Isolde Carmody and Chris Thompson
The Story Archaeologists

Ireland has an international reputation as a nation of writers and storytellers, and it forms a large part of our national identity.  Is this an empty statement of patriotic pride, an outmoded stereotype or a deeply engrained thread of Irish culture and consciousness?  We, the Story Archaeologists, would argue for the last of these options.

From contemporary literature to ancient tradition, the Irish stories are embedded in the Irish landscape.  They are, in a very real way, written into the land itself, and generations of storytellers have read and retold those stories with minute local detail.  When we refer back to descriptions of the types of learning expected of the professional poets, the fili,1 we encounter the term dindshenchas.  The literal meaning of this term is “history” (senchas) of “prominent places” (dind), and it is hard to find a pre-existing English term to convey the concept.  There is a considerable body of explicitly dindshenchas texts, such as The Metrical Dindshenchas edited and translated by E. Gwynn,2 the “Bodleian Dindshenchas” and the “Prose Tales of the Rennes Dindshenchas.”3

However, many tales and poems, from both literary (written) and oral sources, have strong dindshenchas elements to them.  To identify a dindshenchas episode, one need only see whether it answers the questions which St. Patrick repeatedly asks of Oisín and Cailte in the Acallamh na Senórach, “The Colloquy of the Ancients”:4 What is this place called; how did it get that name?

It seems clear that these stories have their origin in a pre-literate oral tradition, although that is, by necessity, unprovable.  We can only build a case for their oral origins through analogy with other cultures.  They have particular resonance with the indigenous Australian stories of the Dream Time, which tell of the shaping of the land and the landscape’s meaning to those who inhabit it.  Some of these stories are demonstrably ancient, with one story from the Queensland area describing a lake which, it has recently been discovered, dried up about 35,000 years ago.5  Unfortunately, we have not yet found such an unequivocally  ancient story from Ireland, but we can postulate and listen to the stories themselves.

What we do have is a written tradition dating back to the 7th century, with later manuscripts containing sagas, poems and legal texts whose language places their literary origin as early as the 8th century.6  Many sagas placed in the mythological cycle, such as Cath Maige Tuired, “The Battle of Moytura”,7 and the Ulster Cycle, such as Táin Bó Cuailgne, “The Cattle Raid of Cooley”8, have many passages in Old Irish (7th - 9th centuries CE).  This includes one of the rémscéla, “pre-stories,” to the Táin Echtrae Nerai, “The Adventures of Nera,”9 which we discuss below.

Continued...

[This excerpt is from a five-page article was published in Keltria: Journal of Druidism and Celtic Magick, Issue #42.  It is available in its entirety to members of the Henge of Keltria until the next issue of the Journal is published via the Members Home page.  It is available to the public in both electronic and print form via Mag Cloud.]

 

Keltria Journal – In the House of No Stories

EXCERPT: In the House of No Stories:

Finding the tales of my ancestors

by Jenne Micale

Photo of Jenne Micale

Jenne Micale

In the elementary school classroom, the teacher pushed primary-color tacks onto the map of the world, one for each of our ancestors. Specks of plastic dotted the usual places: Italy, Ireland, sometimes Africa. Our assignment, she said: Find out where your family is from for a book report and, of course, the ceremony that was thumbtacks-on-the-map.

On the way home, my next door neighbor glowed and crowed of her European mutt heritage: English and Danish and French, and whatever else she remembered to say that day. She chanted the names of her line and recounted her family's history as I kicked leaves on the sidewalk. The neighborhood used to be her family's farm, even though it had since been reduced to one green and white farmhouse in disrepair.

At home, I turned to my parents, who shifted their feet and turned to busy themselves with some mundane task: “Where do I put my thumbtacks on the map?”

Continued...

[This excerpt is from a three-page article was published in Keltria: Journal of Druidism and Celtic Magick, Issue #42.  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 and in print form via Mag Cloud.]


[amazon_image id="190571324X" link="true" target="_blank" size="medium" ]Talking About the Elephant[/amazon_image] [amazon_image id="0982726376" link="true" target="_blank" size="medium" ]To Fly By Night: Craft of the Hedgewitch[/amazon_image] [amazon_image id="B003IOS0NE" link="true" target="_blank" size="medium" ]The Twisted Book[/amazon_image]