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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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.

 

Two Adorations

By Autumn Rose

Autumn Rose

Autumn Rose

EARTH ADORATION

Lady, you were the dream of Earth before the Earth was formed, and you will be the memory of Earth when the Earth no longer exists.  You are the Spirit which indwells the Earth that is.  You are the womb from which all earthly life emerges, and you are the tomb to which the dead of Earth return.  You are the fountain from which we drink, and you are the garden in which we pluck our sustenance.  You are the Maiden, the Mother and the Crone, turning like a wheel from birth to birth, ancient beyond memory, yet ever young.  Praise to you, Lady, Goddess, Queen!

SUN ADORATION

Great Sun, you are the Lord of Worlds; the planets with their moons, the asteroids and the comets are your courtiers.  You are the bright star of the daytime heavens.  You are the heat that rescues from cold and death, and you are the light that rescues from darkness and fear.  You are the blaze of revelation and you are the glow of knowledge.  You are the newborn God, and you are the Champion and Hero.  You are the beloved of Earth, the center of her universe, and from you she does not stray.  You are her husband; your embrace brings her to fruitfulness.  As she is the Mother, so you are the Father of earthly life.  Praise to you, Sun God, Lord and King!

Review: The Seeress of Prevorst

The Seeress of Prevorst: Her Secret Language and Prophecies from the Spirit World, 
by John DeSalvo, Ph.D.

Review by Karl Schlotterbeck, MA, CAS, LP

This is a mixed bag of a book. To be sure, there are interesting sections, particularly those about the life of the Seeress (Frederika Wanner Hauffe) and her physician (Justinus Kerner) who, though initially skeptical, became convinced of her genuineness and took her into his family for the last years of her short life. The Seeress was an interesting character, with her prophecies, visions, communication with spirits, idiosyncratic language and script, beliefs about the world and her strange illness. In addition, there is a chapter on Mesmerism, which was used as a treatment for her illness.

Seeress of Prevorst

Seeress of Prevorst

Some of the interesting features of the story of the Seeress are:

  • Her physical frailty
  • Her descriptions of  the deceased
  • A practice of scrying using a mirror or glass of water
  • Speaking in an unknown language as well as a form of German she hadn’t learned
  • Her tendency to sometimes speak in verse when in a clairvoyant state (as Bards would have done)
  • Her practice of psychometry
  • Her magical use of numbers (each human being having a personal number)
  • Healing with herbs that were used both as medicine and as amulets
  • Diagrams of circles that she used to express some of her prophecies
  • Philosophical statements such as that

o    Soul is the bearer of everything

o    Animals are less isolated from the spiritual world than human beings and more sensitive to the presence of spirits

o    “The world of nature, as seen from within, changes itself thus into a spiritual one. . .”

Despite these interesting features, there is much extraneous material apparently intended to prove the value of séances and spiritualism, including Abraham Lincoln’s séances in the White House. The first chapter of the book is about “The Language of the Spirits” in which DeSalvo asserts the existence of a secret wisdom found in the “Primal Language,” the knowledge of which allowed people throughout history to perform magic or display unusual wisdom. His thesis is full of speculations and leaps of faith that go well beyond logic, rationality and known history. He too often crafts his thesis with questioned possibilities such as “could it be. . .” or “perhaps. . .,” assumes a positive answer, and then goes on to additional speculation as if something has been proved. Thus, he builds one speculation on top of another. It was not convincing to this reader.

Furthermore, he says he does not believe all the stories in the Bible, but then goes on to use numerous Biblical statements as support for his theories. And, where he used Biblical statements as support, he often seemed to make errors in his reading of the Bible, as well as accepting it as historical – even where it is contradicted by well-known history. [For example, he suggests that this Primal Language was possessed by the early Hebrews and taken into Egypt by Jacob; and he accepts the myth that humankind had only one language before the mythical Tower of Babel. The facts of history tell us that the Hebrews did nothing unusual until after their stay in Egypt where Moses (whose name is Egyptian for “child”) apparently absorbed “the wisdom of the Egyptians” along with the monotheism of the pharaoh Ikhnaton. Also, the Tower of Babel myth was invented as a teaching story, which used the by-then ruined temples in Babylon as the foil for their tower story. He also asserts that we are not told why the God of Eden did not want Adam to eat of the Tree of Good and Evil when, in the story, God explains that they (people) “will become like us. . .” (Note here the plural form for deity.) He also claims that Adam and Eve lost their original state of cosmic consciousness when they “willingly” left the presence of God – while the text actually says they were driven out of the Garden by God for having eaten of the Tree.]

Dr. DeSalvo’s naiveté about the history of Egypt is curious as he also authors a website regarding the pyramids of Giza and is the director of “The Great Pyramid of Giza Research Association.”

Among his unsupported and unreferenced claims is that one of Columbus’ motivations for seeking out the New World was related to his presumed Primal Language. Another was that Leonardo da Vinci was a recipient of this mythical secret language who, the author asserts, may have also been the author of a mysterious yet-untranslated manuscript. A final example is when he claims that Carl Jung attributed “the origin of all his ideas” to a series of séances with his cousin. There is no doubt that Jung was deeply interested in “occult” matters, but such a bombastic assertion as this demands its reference. In DeSalvo’s bibliography, there are no books referencing Jung, and several that bear little relevance to the topic.

Although many interesting anecdotes and factoids are scattered throughout the book, it is tainted by its unreliable versions of history, narrow Eurocentric religious perspective, speculation misused as facts, and too many detours for this reader.

Not recommended.

Review: The Spiritual Practices of Rumi

REVIEW: The Spiritual Practices of Rumi:

Radical Techniques for Beholding the Divine

by Will Johnson

Review by Karl Schlotterbeck

Book Cover: The Spiritual Practices of Rumi

In popular writings, Jalaluddin Rumi is often seen as the enigmatic “whirling dervish” and Sufi mystic who, infatuated with his teacher, produced vast amounts of ecstatic poetry, and also gave rise to a sect known for its whirling dances. Some have interpreted his writings as metaphoric references to Allah, while others have suggested a deep human love relationship between Rumi and Shams-i Tabriz. Will Johnson, however, asserts that much of Rumi’s writings refer to a specific practice in which he engaged with his teacher/partner Shams: the simple but profound act of gazing into one another’s eyes.

This concept of the practice of the gaze puts many of Rumi’s verses into a new light for they refer not just to a soft-headed romantic staring, but an open-hearted discipline. Thus, at least some of Rumi’s verses are not just about an infatuation between two mystics but, rather, a practice that, when surrendered to, creates a delicious union and a spiritual otherworldly experience, while awakening sensations in the body.

Again and again Johnson circles back like a spinning dancer to the theme of union. He encourages this practice not just for exploration with a “great friend,” as he calls it, but also with one’s consort (in a Tantric manner), as well as with nature, and even in the city because, as he says, everywhere you look - if you look properly - you will see the face of God. This gazing practice is intended to help us wake up to the fact that union is available and “free for the taking.” Johnson, further, suggests ways to prepare for gazing with the beloved, such as practicing with a candle, with one’s own face in a mirror and breathing practices.

There are some interesting parallels to the Celtic worldview. The physical world and physical body are not to be transcended here, according to Johnson. Rather they are the door that grants entry into the invisible world. As one learns acceptance and surrender, Johnson says that one begins to look not just with the eyes but with the whole body. “Presence is the key that opens divinity’s door,” he says. Also, a few years ago, I presented some workshops on Celtic Spirituality in which I read passages from the writings of John O’Donohue while participants sat looking into one another’s faces. In just a few minutes, many were deeply moved – showing the power of gazing receptively and without judgment into the eyes of another.

Since meditation is so often seen as a solitary practice, and since so many of our human interactions are superficial avoidance of genuine intimacy, I wholeheartedly recommend this book. Because of its meditative nature, and because of its promise of opening the heart and vision to the deeper nature of all around us, it seems especially appropriate for those engaged on the Ovate and Druid paths.

[amazon_link id="1594772002" target="_blank" ]The Spiritual Practices of Rumi: Radical Techniques for Beholding the Divine,[/amazon_link] by Will Johnson; ISBN: 1-59477-200-2; pp 192; Inner Traditions; $14.95.

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