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 

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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]

From the Editor – Keltria Journal #42

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

From the Editor - Tony Taylor

Tony preparing for a handfasting.

Tony preparing for a handfasting.

When I think about spring and summer all sorts of wonderful activities come to mind. Weddings, festivals, conferences, and eisteddfods all contribute to the excitement of these seasons.  The contributions of those who follow the bardic path enhance all these activities and are an important part of Keltria. For example, during Keltrian weddings and handfastings, we often practice the art of storytelling as part of the ceremony. It is great fun and enjoyed by everyone assembled. We weave the usually mundane story of couple’s meeting into a Celtic wonder tale completely blown out of proportion and peppered with innuendo. For example, the bride is the not so-helpless-princess and the groom is a knight who rescues her anyway. The “best woman” and “best man” tell the story then dissolve into an argument as to whether or not the groom is worthy of the bride and vice versa.

With hands on hips, the best man paces back and forth critically eyeing the bride while extolling and exaggerating the virtues of the groom. The groom is subjected to the same scrutiny by the best woman. Each attempts to top the other’s story. These tall tales always contain a bit of truth, as a Celtic boast should. For example, in reality the bride may have cooked a roast beef dinner for her family, but the boast might be that she single-handedly slaughtered the last aurochs when it threatened the tribe. She ate its heart, which gave her the beast’s strength and bravery. Then, she cooked the carcass in a huge cauldron, cast by her own hands, which fed her entire tribe for many days. Ultimately, the dueling duo agree they will allow the wedding to proceed and heartily shake hands.

At gatherings, and particularly at eisteddfod, there is a time and a place for the bards assembled to tell stories and enthrall the audience with their skills. We appreciate the opportunity these events provide us to hone our storytelling abilities.


Cover - Keltria Journal #42

Keltria Journal #42

The theme for this issue of Keltria Journal is storytelling. The authors come from a variety of backgrounds and share different perspectives. We begin with Jenne Micale, who, like many of us, comes from a family that did not speak of their history. She carries us along on her personal journey of discovery.

Isolde Carmondy and Chris Thompson, the Story Archaeologists, lead us through three different tales of the past demonstrating why telling the stories of places (dindshenchas) is important today. They emphasize that tales of time and place provide a connection and continuity, which explains our place in the universe.

Daphne Bishop associates the authors and film makers of today, such as J. K. Rowling, J. R .R. Tolkin, and George Lucas, with ancient storytellers. She challenges us to modernize the ancient Celtic lessons, imbuing them with relevancy to our times, thereby keeping them alive.

Mary Gavan, a professional storyteller, describes the characteristics of an effective raconteur beyond the mere telling of the tale.  If we follow our personal convictions and succeed against all odds, we become the inspiration for the storytellers of the future. However, stories are more than just the content. The successful storyteller captivates the mind, body and the spirit of the audience, creating an aura of wonder.

Finally, in the 1990’s many members of the Henge of Keltria were actively creating new mythology. Inspired by “The Power of Myth” the idea of  “MYTH” (Make Yourself The Hero) Keltrians staged “cattle raids”  at several festivals. The concept was to capture participants’ “cattle icons”, i.e., stuffed toys, by making imaginative plans and implementing them using guile and skill rather than brute force. At the evening’s campfire, tales were told of the day’s exploits in the form of the Celtic boast.

The results were marvelous. Twenty years ago, Beltaine 1993, we published “Cattle Raids”, the first of several stories from “The Book of the Valley”, as an example of how a tale can grow in the telling to become a Celtic wonder tale.  Elements of truth weave through the story but Celtic exaggeration runs rampant.  The story is clearly among the “Best of Twenty Years Ago.” Enjoy.

Send your thoughts and opinions regarding this issue, future themes, or other comments to letterstotheeditor@keltria.org. Be sure to indicate if the letter is publishable.

Note: Keltria Journal Issue #42 is available on the Keltria Member Webpage until Issue #43 releases.

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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Keltria Journal – Birds of Ill Repute

EXCERPT: Birds of Ill Repute:
Grackles and Omens

By Jenne Micale

Jenne Micale

The horde comes in the gray of the dusk, their feathers so black that the light fractures into blue on their heads. Keen eyes gleam yellow as they land under the oaks – one iridescent shadow after another, carpeting the ground in a mass of seething black.

I note the direction: South. Bad news from the South? I think of my ill mother, my harried father who live in that direction, and I ready an arsenal of prayers.

But then I stop. With a determined look, the grackles – almost on cue – start grabbing and flipping up the dead leaves, looking a bit like a high school color guard team. I laugh, remembering the time I had put moth balls under my garden shed to deter groundhogs, only to have the grackles steal them all – and toss them around like balls on the lawn, thinking they were eggs.

Common Grackle

Suddenly, they didn't seem like such bad luck after all – just animals, thinking critters looking for their next meal, as we all are.

The ill-omened Icteridae

When it comes to augury and zoomancy – divination by birds and by animals, respectively.... 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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Keltria Journal: The Visit

EXCERPT - The Visit

By Tony Taylor

Mountain Lion Walking

Mountain Lion on a path

The setting was a suburban, single-family home one mile from downtown Quincy, MA, and eight miles from downtown Boston. This is a densely populated  - or as the locals say, “thickly settled” area and an unlikely place for the wonderful, as in full of wonder, event about to transpire.

The Druids were gathered for a rare ritual. The elevation of a Druid to the Ring of the Oak occurs only after a minimum of seven years of study, experience, and service.  More often than not, it requires twice that many years to be considered for this honor.  The candidate was, as expected, excited as he meditated on his past accomplishments and future challenges.  He wondered what new mystery would be revealed and what new experiences would unfold.  The other Druids focused their minds on providing the ultimate experience for him. Often, the clergy performing the ritual gain their own new insights from the process.  It was an extraordinary and auspicious day.

The Chief Druidess, the Candidate and I....Continued...

[This excerpt is from a two-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.]