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A Druid Alone
A Column for Solitary Keltrians
Age of Aquarius
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A Druid Alone
A Column for Solitary Keltrians
by The Topaz Owl
A Keltrian who has begun to work from the Book of Ritual recently asked this question:
“Why call the Ancestors into water? Nature Spirits into earth and the Gods into smoke make sense to me, but I am missing a link on the Ancestors into water.”
The cauldrons are more properly known as the Cauldron of Land, the Cauldron of Sea, and the Cauldron of Sky (the three Celtic realms). The Nature Spirits are associated and live in the realm of Land (as do we). The Gods are associated with the realm of Sky. The Ancestors are traditionally associated with the realm of Sea, because the Sea is frequently associated with islands in or under the Sea, where the ancestors live — the Isle of Avalon, the House of Donn, etc. There is the water connection; the water is representative of the Sea. In the Celtic Immrama, or Voyages, which can be seen as a sort of map of the Otherworld, we find such distinguished figures as Bran and Maelduin travelling the Sea, where they come to many islands and places of wonder. It is traditional in the Celtic lore for the Land of the Dead to be over the waves or under the waves to the Southwest.
Both the Underworld of Sea and the Upperworld of Sky are known collectively as the Otherworld (because they are “other” than this world).
The Gods are not called into smoke, actually...the incense in the cauldron of Sky is only a reminder of the air or Sky that exists within the cauldron, air that can’t really be seen but can be felt in the form of wind, and “seen” and even smelled especially when it carries something like smoke — and it’s better than an “empty” cauldron of air. :-)
You must imagine that our world (the Celtic world) is composed of the three realms. There is first the sacred Bile’, or the World Tree, or the sacred Center — which is what the Bell Branch represents (among other things, but we won’t get into that right now). It is what connects all the realms. When we call the past, present, and future to join with the Bile’, and then the directions to the center into the Bile’, we are effectively bringing all times and all places to center. (Hence we say, “All times are now, all places are here.”) Imagine if you will that the Gods exist in the leaves and branches of this World Tree, that the Realm of Sky tops the tree, the Upperworld. Then imagine that the Ancestors (our roots) are at the root system or base of the World Tree, in the Underworld, and that the Sea of the Underworld surrounds and supports the entire system rather like a bowl of water. Then of course the realm of Land is at the trunk of the tree, where you and I live and where all the creatures of this world and the present, both seen and unseen, exist with us.
It may help to visualize this by looking at the diagram of the Celtic Cosmos below.
The Bile’ or World Tree carries the sacred fire from the center of the earth to the sky realm and the sacred fire from the sun between the worlds, up and down. This is one reason for the practice of “planting the World Tree” in ritual close to the sacred fire at Center. (Think that over for a possible ancient relationship — trees burn. Our spirits are the fire within, the life force. The shamans of many traditions “ride” the trunk of the world tree either down or up to the Sea realm or the Sky realm respectively. That is why you sometimes hear the expression “riding the ridgepole” — the Center Bile’ or ridgepole of the shaman’s home.)
So the essence of Keltrian ritual is bringing all worlds or realms and all times to the Center, or Uisneach, which is where we stand, instead of one or all of us travelling to one or more realms as the individual shaman or Druid would do. We ask Manannan, who is the keeper of the Veil and is often also the patron of the Seer (for obvious reasons), to make this possible by opening the Veil between the worlds as well. It is in this manner that we can communicate at once with the Gods, the Nature Spirits, and the Ancestors. One may think of the three cauldrons as temporary “containers” and as physical representations of what is essentially spirit, for the essence of the Ancestors, the Nature Spirits, and the Gods as we ask them to join us in the sacred space for ritual.
To better understand how the associations in Keltrian ritual reflect the Celtic cosmology, and indeed to understand the worldview of the Celts in general, I recommend the excellent book by Alwin and Brinley Rees: Celtic Heritage: Ancient Tradition in Ireland and Wales, Thames & Hudson, reprint 1989 (ISBN: 0-500-27039-2.).
All questions for possible inclusion in this column may be sent by [See Web Page for Contact method - Webmaster], or by regular mail to TopazOwl in care of the Henge of Keltria.
The Topaz Owl