Archive for the 'Celtic Reconstructionism' Category

Dec 25 2012

A Celtic Creation Story: (a reconstructed Gaelic creation myth) By Iain MacAnTsaoir

Triangulum galaxy

Triangulum galaxy

Pic: http://www.telegraph.co.uk

I. Long long ago, back before the coming together of the worlds, there was nothing but the Void (1). Over the eons of eternity past, the Void longed in it’s slumber. The longing within the Void caused It to ponder the emptiness of the chaos about, and even more did the Void long deeply for companionship solitude of oneness(2). So intense was the longing that eventually the Void dropped from slumber into a deep sleep, and while there, the Void received a vision.

In this vision it was relayed how all the things that should be, could be, and the beauty of it brought joy to the very heart of the Void (3). Alive with a joy radiating from a newly blazing heartfire (4), the great Void awoke with a wondrous war cry (5). “ABU” was the roar, as the Void stretched out in nine waves (6) against the dark chaos around..

II. So great was the love that the Great Void felt for what had been seen that the Void divided, and from within there emerged two children (7), Danu and Donn (8)(9). Stepping out from nothingness into somethingness, Danu and Donn looked about. Then turning back to the center from where they emerged, they espied each other in the mirror of the shining Void. Instantly the sacred flame of the center ignited in their own hearts as well and they became locked in a loving embrace from which they could not be moved. (10)

III. In time their embrace brought forth children. Amongst the children were three sons, Briain, Iuchar, and Iucharba, who were giants amongst the children. None of these children could not find room for their lives as they were bound between their interlocked parents. One of the children, Briain, looked about him and declared that the end of he and his siblings would surely come soon, if Danu and Donn were not parted. Hard it was for he and these two other brothers who were with him, as they contemplated their idea. But as they saw no other chance of survival, they did speak amongst themselves concerning what they felt they should do. In the end a mothers love for her son, and he for her won out, and Briain decided to take it upon himself to slay his father.

IV. Thus he did with an abandon born of desperation. So great was his fury that he did not stop with one cut. Yea, he did cut his father thrice three times, so all that was left was in nine parts (11). Taken aback at what She had seen, Danu stood motionless, for the horror of what She had witnessed. In a flash the horror gave way to dread, and then to sorrow. The sorrow started Danu to crying, and the tears swelled in a flood. So great was the flood that it immediately swept away Briain, Iuchar, and Iucharba, who became known as the Three Landless Princes, and the rest of the first children. Hence did Danu become known as the “Waters of Heaven” Celestial_Sensation
Celestial Sensation Pic Acid Blues

(12) Out and away these did ride the tide of tears to where those tears accumulated as the seas. There, to this day the siblings live, as the Fomorraig of the Sea. (13)(14)

V. Not only were the Fomorraig washed away, but so to were the parts of Donn. These each came to rest, one part in each wave that had echoed out when the Void first awoke. The Crown of Donn became the skies; his brain the clouds; His face the sun; his mind the moon; his breath the wind; His blood mixed with the tears of Danu and became the seas, His flesh the soil; and his bones the stones. Of His seed two remained, one red and one white, and these fell into the soils that was the flesh of Donn.(14A)

VI. Danu looked down from afar and saw the seeds, and did recognize her beloved within one of them; the red acorn seed of the Oak tree. Again she cried Her tears, sorrow for the distance between them, joy that he would again be, and mostly adoration for him who She loves. Thus there again started from the sullen heavens, a trickle of water. First one drop, then another and another, Her essence rained down in torrents upon the dead world. The divine Waters from Heaven flooded downwards and soaked into the parched soils, the seeds and soils moistened in the rains of Her love, and life began to spring forth from the seeds, and then all across the Land. The first life on the earth being the Nemedians, the people of the soils and sands and divers places, kindred of the next children of the Divine Waters, but also different from Them. There they lived on a plain in the Northern parts of the World, that plain being called the Plain of Adoration. The people who lived were called Nemed for sacred was the place of their being. From this one People, two Peoples eventually emerged, the Fir Bolg of the lands, and the Tuatha De Dannan of the skies who did bring culture and laws, but this is much later and the great deeds of their own are told of them.

VII. In the soil fertilized by the tears of Danu, the red acorn also took root, and grew into a marvelous tree which was called Bile Magh Adhair. The Divine Waters from Heaven, nurtured and cherished the greater tree which became the sacred Oak tree(15), and it became a king amongst the peoples, and amongst them He became known as Eochaidh. The other seed became his brother, who himself became a priest, for noble was his heritage, though imperfect was he in the gnarled Yew. (16)17)

 

Oak Tree

Oak Tree

Picture Source

VIII. Recognizing His beloved, now His Mother, afar off, the Oak seed did stretch upward, striving to again be with Her. Up he pushed himself so that He could caress Her face with his limbs, and dry Her tears with his leaves. Perfect in the arts was Eochaidh, a fitting craftsman, a fearless and cunning warrior, and a master in the hidden arts (18). Nurtured by the Waters of Heaven, the Oak did grow many berries, which then fell and grew into wondrous shining beings. These include Oengus Mac Og, the Rowan

which is a delight to the Tuath De Dannan, and the Bride Herself who is the Fire in the Heart of Women. Yet in all of this perfection he saw his people around him slip into lethargy, into stagnation, into a condition of living rot because there was no death in those days. Thus the world around them was used to excess, and so it withered from depletion. And so to did the People wither and become sickly, yet never to die.).

IX. Donn, seeing the lingering desolation about him, counselled with his brother the priest about what could be done. Finn had no answer but prepared a journey for Himself, an Imrama across the waves to see what the other lands there were, and if some answer for their trials might be found there. Across the waves Finn then travelled  but no where did He see a newness, in life the world was dead. Thus upon his return, he proclaimed that there should be a time of death, so that there could be renewal; that the ancient magic would again be worked and that Donn would die, His body renewing the world, with His spirit going to the Sea to there build a new land for those who would come during their resting time.

X. Donn would have none of it, as he would not see his brother become stained by fingal, kin-killing, and he would not be even more separated as he was from his Beloved. Finn pressed the matter, supported by the Peoples. In a great rush the two did combat there on the Plain. Great was the battle, and the feats were beyond compare. Eventually though, as two bulls plowing the whole day, exhaustion overcame them. First to feel the pangs was Finn, who in the moment of weakness, found Himself impaled on the blades of Donn. Thus did Finn go off to scout beyond the nine waves. Seeing His brother dead at His feet, Donn was overcome with anger and pain, and for the mighty victory, joy and pride. So much pain and pride did the mighty warrior Donn feel that His heart burst apart, even so did His whole being. Donn then fell from the Plain into the seas, and the parts of His body did again go to renew the world, while His Spirit went to build His house in the Sea. (19)

 

XI. At the death of Donn the three mighty roots of the Oak did delve deep and grow in strength and girth, a dun each. Thus was the third realm created, and so did the spirit of Donn go to be there, to dwell in his house Tech Duinn, where all Gaels go at their death. Yet in all three realms was Donn, as the wondrous World Tree, which amongst the Gael is called the Bile. This is the Oak whose red acorns are yet a delight to the Tuatha De Dannan, and whose parts have yielded sustenance and protection to mortals (20). Even to this day, great is the love between the White Cow of Heaven and the Dark Bull of the Otherworld; and by their love do they continue the cosmos.
Celtic Oak

Celtic Oak  Pic Source

 

XII. The brother of Donn, Finn who did go and see into the abyss, and who did battle with his brother for the renewal of the cosmos, never did leave the service of His King. Because He did first explore those unknown places, He knows the pathways, thus does Finn guard the portals to that Other land, and with His Finnians and hounds collect the souls of the newly dead in a Great Hunt. Thus do humans to this day find the Yew tree in graveyards, and bury black dogs in graveyards as well. These that the hound Bran who delivers death and his master Finn find the beloved departed before they tarry long. When the souls are found, those who are worthy are announced by the howls of Finns hounds, and are guided with honours as they are safely delivered to the doors of Tech Duinn. There they become charges of Donn, compatriots of the Daoine, and Donn shall again deliver these His children to the gates of world of mortals in their time as children of the Land.(21) Those that receive not the howl remain doomed to roam as the Slough. But the tales of the Fhianna are yet other stories.

You can find a prelude to this creation story in our academic section Here

Wishing You and Yours  A very Merry Christmas

With Much Love From

Gary, Ruthie and All at The Celtic Myth Podshow :) xxx

 

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Nov 08 2012

Oíche Shamhna Feast – An Introduction to Iron Age Irish Food

Authentic Celtic Cooking

Authentic Celtic Cooking

Pic: Celtic Myth Podshow

As the rush of glowing pumpkin lit faces, ghosties and ghoulies fades into the darkness along our streets and the veil thins even further as the true date of Samhain this year (the cross-quarter day in 2012) , being the 7th November, approached we are proud to be able to bring you a wonderful guest blog about the real food that our ancestors would have eaten during this Holiday Season. Blackbird O’Connell from the “My Mommy The Pagan Warrior” blog has put a superb article together and allowed us to bring it to you. Over to Blackbird:-

As a Págánacht practitioner, each holy day is a time to reflect on our ancestors and what their lives may have been like when they sat around their hearth or bonfire and celebrated their sacred times of the season. The Iron Age Irish (700 BCE – 400 CE) didn’t have the luxuries of the modern kitchen with the ceramic top stove and built in microwaves. Much of their time was spent out amongst the rest of their tribes, partaking in a three day festival of celebration and preparation for the new season. In the time of Samhain, preparation was particularly important because they were at the end of the harvest period and entering the winter where food needed to be stored and cattle slaughtered for meat that would be salted and kept to sustain them through the winter.

Today, we do have the many modern luxuries afforded us by the technology we are blessed to have. There are some that may choose to celebrate this time in the way the ancestors did by breaking out their hearth fire and their cauldrons to cook. I have all the respect in the world for that practice and hope to one day be able to do it myself, but as a practical pagan in a modern world, that isn’t always feasible. My modern conveniences make my busy life much easier and I love my slow cooker, microwave, grill, and stove, so what can I do to truly connect to this time of year in a way my ancestors did? The simple answer? Food.

Food and festivity have always gone hand in hand. If you read of such legends as Bricriu’s Feast, The Funeral Feast of Lugh for Tailtu, and The Feast at Conan’s House, there were large banquets containing lavish amounts of pork, shellfish and, especially during Samhain celebrations, beef which were common ways to celebrate this season. As we know from such legends as the Táin Bó Cúailnge (Cattle Raid of Cooley) your wealth could easily be measured in cattle. It was cattle that sustained the tribes through out the year, but not quite for the meat. Cattle gave milk, which also led to various cheeses and curd (white meats) to the ancestors.
Irish Cattle

Irish Cattle

Pic: Irish Cattle Breeding Federation

It was during the preparation for the dark times of winter that more beef was eaten because only small herds of cattle could be kept heated and alive for the re-emergence of spring into the light half of the year months later. Because of this, beef can easily be chosen as the focal point of this Irish pagan’s particular feast. Any modern preparation could work from broiling to braising to barbecuing. As Oíche Shamhna is a fire festival, barbecuing is my choice of preparation though more traditional would have been working with a cauldron over an open flame, so perhaps a modern pot on a stove or slow cooker. If you are not a fan of beef, other heavily utilized meats were pork, goat and mutton or, if you prefer white meat, chickens or game birds would work as well.

While inland communities would focus more on land roaming meat sources, those on the coast would have access to fish and shellfish and, if you are like me, no party is complete without shrimp cocktail. Of course, the cocktail sauce is a modern twist I might avoid for continuity’s sake, but I’m sure you understand the sentiment. In this case, prawns, mussels, oysters and clams would also be a great main dish for this family or tribal gathering. For fish, selections like mackerel or even cod would work well. Salmon, which as we know from the legend of Finn and the Salmon of Knowledge, was a magical fish and as such (and the fact that it is rather tasty) is my first choice for an oceanic main dish.

What Vegetables?

In regards to vegetation, my search for vegetables available to the Irish of the time has left me with the most questions and the least amount of choices. Cabbage was used in the Iron Age as were onions and parsnips, introduced by the Romans in Britain, seaweed, leeks and edible fungus like mushrooms. There were some root vegetables as well such as wild carrots and leefy greens like dandelion greens. Potatoes and maize (corn) were a New World introductions and though particularly potatoes became a staple of Irish cuisine starting in the late 1600s, they would not have been available to our Iron Age counterparts.

Red Apples

Red Apples

Pic: Soda Head

Onto sweeter vegetation, apples were very important fruits in the Brehon Laws and their significance to the Samhain period has been passed to us here in the USA with the practice of Snap Apple and bobbing for apples as traditional Halloween games. Also wild berries of the season would have been part of a complete diet such as blackberries, strawberries and possibly raspberries, as well as rowan, bilberries and elderberries.

Moving on to breads, we know that wheat, barley and oats were cultivated and as such bread would be common place at a meal. Though bannock, or what is now known as fry bread, has been claimed to originate with the Scots, with the Scottish/Irish immigration history, there is a reasonable assumption that a type of flat stone cooked bread such as bannock would have been made in Ireland during this age as well. Bannock would include flour made from the aforementioned cereals, water, and possibly lard. I have seen other recipes that call for milk, eggs or even a leavening agent which would be viable Iron Age ingredients. From there, one could go sweet adding various berries or savory with salt and herbs. If you wanted baking powder/soda would be a modern leavener as well as healthier oil alternatives are options, but for me, it’s a special occasion so a little lard makes it even more special. Let’s face it, our Irish ancestors were carnivores through and through. Butter and, especially, honey would be time appropriate and yummy additions to your bread, as well.

You can’t forget the Mead!

Speaking of honey, I will move on with a proper beverage for an Iron Age feast. What feast wouldn’t be complete without mead? As the Brehon Laws on “Bee-judgments” tells us Irish Celtic people did have knowledge of beekeeping, honey would have been available and honey wine (also known as mead) was a common preparation for drinking. Different variations of mead were common such as adding herbs to make a spiced version or adding fruit to make a sweet variation. In a modern world, one can walk to most specialty wine stores and buy mead, pick up some home made from the local brewer, at a Renaissance or Harvest Faire, or even make it yourself. One quick recipe for mead that I have tried consisted of honey, water, spices and Vodka (or Everclear). Wines would have been a luxury as they would have been imported and Ale would be another drink of choice though didn’t keep well without refrigeration. If drinking alcohol is not your thing there are non-alcoholic mead recipes or there is always simply milk to stay within time period tradition.

While there may not have been a distinction between a main dish and a dessert, there were plenty of puddings one could create. Blood pudding from the animals they feasted from was common and would sometimes be salted and kept through the winter. Other varieties of pudding would include more sweet versions like tansy pudding made with breadcrumbs, tansy leaves and honey. Aside from puddings, mixing of berries and nuts with honey and cream or making fruit bread would be a time appropriate meal ender as well.
Fruit Bread

Fruit Bread

Pic: Vegan About Town

There are many different options when cooking with your ancestry in mind. Just keep the ingredients as close to time specific as possible and get creative. Have fun coming up with new recipes and don’t forget to include the family in the cooking. It is, after all, a feast for the family and tribe in celebration of the harvest and preparation of the coming of Winter.

Go mbeannaí Mórrígan thú!

Blackbird O’Connell

Sources/Further reading –

http://www.nyu.edu/gsas/dept/anthro/programs/csho/Content/Facultycvandinfo/Crabtree/Ritual%20Feasting.pdf

http://www.ravensgard.org/prdunham/irishfood.html

http://www.foodtimeline.org/foodireland.html

http://www.enotes.com/food-encyclopedia/ireland

http://www.novelguide.com/a/discover/aneu_02/aneu_02_00153.html

http://home.comcast.net/~osoono/ethnicdoughs/frybread/frybread.htm

http://books.google.com/books?id=ANTSvKj1AZEC&pg=PA256&lpg=PA256&dq=honey+iron+age+ireland&source=bl&ots=I9SP1xJFfo&sig=yS0b8t9gvBB_SLb4nTMdcr8DujU&hl=en&ei=aO22TOfwHZKasAOx8MyyCQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=1&ved=0CBYQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=honey%20iron%20age%20ireland&f=false

http://www.libraryireland.com/SocialHistoryAncientIreland/III-XVII-7.php

http:// http://www.wildflowersofireland.net/

 

Thanks to Blackbird for this superb article! Follow her blog for more information about her and her work at My Mommy the Pagan Warrior!

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You can also now download a Celtic Myth Podshow App from the iTunes store. This is the most convenient and reliable way to access the Celtic Myth Podshow on your iPhone or iPod Touch. You’re always connected to the latest episode, and our App users have access to exclusive bonus content, just touch and play! To find out more visit the iTunes Store or our Description Page.

 

You can now also find an Android version of the App which works identically to the iPhone version. You can find it on Handster at http://www.handster.com/celtic_myth.html or by using the QR code opposite. It’s also found on the Opera Marketplace as well as AppBrain in the US.

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Jun 25 2012

Russell Crowe Visits Scottish Fort


Educational Visit
Pic: The Clanranald Trust
You may remember a news post in the past about Russell Crowe  giving a prop Battering Ram from the set of The Robin Hood movie to the Charity  The Clanranald Trust. Well this weekend he is visiting  Duncarron Fort which is being built by the trust to help educate people on Scottish History. 

The BBC reports :

The actor is a friend of the trust’s chief executive Charlie Allan, after the pair met on the set of Gladiator.

Crowe announced his visit on Twitter saying:

“First time in Scotland, special.”

The star said he had  “Scottish heritage”   in his family.

He is expected to arrive at the fort later, tour the site and meet those working on the project.

The Clanranald Trust is creating a motte and bailey, typical of a Scottish clan chief’s residence, where people will eventually be able to to experience the atmosphere of an authentic medieval working community.
The charity also provides extras for film battle scenes and the hope is that the site at Duncarron may be used as a filming location in the future.
Crowe has been supporting the trust’s work since meeting Mr Allan while filming Gladiator.

In 2009 he gifted a battering ram used as a prop on the set of Robin Hood to the fort project.

Last month he used Twitter to urge his 200,000 followers to support the work being done at Duncarron.

Work began to create the medieval village at Duncarron in 2008He also tweeted a “shout out” to First Minister Alex Salmond and other government ministers to thank them for backing the trust.
He said:

“Clanranald educating folks on Scottish history, also focus on helping the long-term unemployed and the criminal reform service, tough jobs.”

As part of a joint project between the trust and North Lanarkshire Council offenders on community service orders have helped with building and labouring work at the fort.
Chief executive, Mr Allan, who starred alongside Crowe in Gladiator and Robin Hood, said:

“Russell has always been interested in what we are doing “He is the only guy on the planet I look up to. He is pleasant, generous and a great laugh.”

He added:

“His ongoing interest, support and encouragement in our project means an awful lot to us.”

To Find out more about this exciting project visit http://www.clanranald.org

Source

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You can also now download a Celtic Myth Podshow App from the iTunes store. This is the most convenient and reliable way to access the Celtic Myth Podshow on your iPhone or iPod Touch. You’re always connected to the latest episode, and our App users have access to exclusive bonus content, just touch and play! To find out more visit the iTunes Store or our Descripition Page.

You can now also find an Android version of the App which works identically to the iPhone version. You can find it on Appbrain at http://www.appbrain.com/app/celtic-myth-show/tv.wizzard.android.celticmythpodshow841 or by using the QR code opposite.

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Originally posted 2011-06-05 11:22:12. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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Apr 05 2012

The Advantages of Ancient Celtic Cast-Iron Cookware


Classic 4 Gallon Pot
Pic: OLX Classifieds
Cast iron cookware has been around us ever since the dark ages of course. They used it back then because they didn’t have anything else. These days, when people have great choices in all kinds of modern kitchen ware however, when you see people choosing cookware, cast iron still comes up near the top of the list often. With cookware, cast iron is just something that cannot be improved upon for variety of reasons. To begin with, it’s a heavy enough surface that it will heat evenly, even if a tiny gas burner is all that’s heating up the dish.

Certainly it’s a little slow, and it takes a little more energy than thinner and more modern cookware to heat; but once it’s ready, there’s quite nothing like cast iron for certain kinds of foods that we’ve all really come to love – fried hamburgers, omelets cooked with flavor, and seared and browned steak. With cast iron ware, you find it everywhere. You’ll find it at every kitchen ware department, and you also find it at a few camping stores. Taking care of cast iron though is a different matter – it’s the product of a different age, and it needs a certain amount of user care. And that’s something that might be in short supply to someone in today’s world of intelligently designed minimal-care equipment.

A particular problem with the kind of cooking you would prefer to do with cast iron cookware is that it tends to build up grease on the surface. The great thing with iron though is that you can subject it to almost any kind of punishment – all manner of cleaning. Use fine-grained sandpaper attached to a power tool to sand the surface to perfection. If you don’t want anything quite so crude, try soaking your cookware in water mixed with a bit of vinegar overnight. You’d be surprised how well it loosens up grease buildup.

Here is a cool trick to try with cookware. Cast iron takes any kind of beating. You could leave it in your oven, and turn on the self-cleaning cycle. Your oven will certainly clean itself, and it will clean the iron pan inside too.

Each time you put your cast iron pan through anything that rough though, you will strip it of its smooth oiled surface that gives it its non-stick qualities. Every time you give your pan a thorough cleaning like that, you’ll need to build the non-stick surface up from scratch, in a process that’s called seasoning. To season your iron pan, coat it with bacon grease all over, inside and out, and heat it up in your oven for a short time. Once you wipe it off, you should have a nicely seasoned article of kitchen ware that will do great with any kind of deliciously fried foods.

Information and reviews on the hottest new home appliances in your kitchen

Author: Olga Fogleman
Article Source: EzineArticles.com
News of Solar Power and Alternative Engery

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You can also now download a Celtic Myth Podshow App from the iTunes store. This is the most convenient and reliable way to access the Celtic Myth Podshow on your iPhone or iPod Touch. You’re always connected to the latest episode, and our App users have access to exclusive bonus content, just touch and play! To find out more visit the iTunes Store or our Description Page.

 

You can now also find an Android version of the App which works identically to the iPhone version. You can find it on Handster at http://www.handster.com/celtic_myth.html or by using the QR code opposite. It’s als found on the Opera Marketplace as well as AppBrain in the US.

If you come to the site and listen or listen from one of our players – have you considered subscribing? It’s easy and you automatically get the episodes on your computer when they come out. If you’re unsure about the whole RSS/Subscribing thing take a look at our Help page.

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Feb 29 2012

Lugus: The Many-Gifted Lord by Alexei Kondratiev


An image of Lugh/Lugus, from the website
Pic: http://users.frii.com/asacat/dr.htm
[Originally published in An Tríbhís Mhór: The IMBAS Journal of Celtic Reconstructionism #1, Lúnasa 1997.] Copyright © 1997 Alexei Kondratiev. All Rights Reserved.
May be reposted as long as the above attribution and copyright notice are retained.

Of all the divinities known to have been worshipped in the Celtic world, the god whom the Continental Celts called Lugus and the Irish called Lúgh is one of the best documented and best understood. The sheer volume and widespread range of evidence related to him testifies to the importance of this god in Celtic tradition.

The evidence includes: iconography from the pre-Roman period; toponymy; iconography and epigraphy from the period of Roman occupation; testimony of Greek and Roman writers; literary traditions of the Insular Celts in the Middle Ages; modern folk narratives in Celtic languages; and ritual practices of conservative rural Celtic-speaking communities.

Each of these bodies of evidence provides only fragmentary information; yet when all are taken together and interpreted in the light each can shed on the other, a detailed and consistent picture emerges, which can direct us with a high degree of certainty to an understanding of what the worship of Lugus/Lúgh entails.

Continuity of Indo-European Heritage

Beginning around 500 BCE, and following on the sudden expansion of both wealth and territory it had experienced in the Early Iron Age, the Celtic world entered into a period of comfort and self-confidence where it took great interest in the cultures and artistic expressions of its neighbours and borrowed freely from them, yet always adapted such borrowings to native Celtic tastes and values. This blend of innovation and tradition gave rise to the unique La Tène style of Celtic art, and doubtless had repercussions at all levels of Celtic culture, particularly in the realm of religion. A whole vocabulary of religious symbols of Oriental origin began to be depicted on art objects during this period, suggesting a renewed interest in religious ideas as a result of exposure to foreign traditions, although there does not seem to have been any break with the fundamental Indo-European heritage.

Many of these imported symbols, as well as some other new ones of native origin, are found in association with one particular god whose sudden and widespread rise to prominence must have been one of the most important events in La Tène religion. This god is shown together with birds; horses; the Oriental Tree of Life motif; dogs or wolves; and twin serpents. But the imagery most intimately connected to him is the mistletoe leaf or berry. Most often the mistletoe leaves are shown at either side of his head, like horns or ears; but sometimes the symbolism is reversed, and the god’s head appears as the berry of a mistletoe plant. During the 300′s the mistletoe-leaf motif combines with that of the twin serpents (portrayed as facing S’s) into a new motif archaeologists call the “palmette”. This shape, crowning the god’s head or attached to some animal figure, is common (especially on coins) until ca. 200 BCE. Thereafter the twin serpents appear alone in what is still clearly a glyph representing this particular divinity. The fact that representations of the god and of his symbols appear most frequently on objects related to formal aristocratic banquets (such as the famous wine flagons from the Basse-Yutz burial in the Rhineland) strongly suggests that he was in some way associated with sacral kingship.[1]

Lugh, the Roman Mercury?

Because the Iron Age Celts did not use writing in religious contexts, we have no direct evidence of this god’s name. Toponymy, however, gives us a very strong clue. The name Lugudunon was given to a very large number of sites (Lyons, Loudun, Laon, Liegnitz, probably Leiden, etc.) from the later Iron Age. In Old Celtic dunon means “fort” (the word has modern cognates in Irish dún “fort” and Welsh din(as) “city”), but the Lugu- element can only be explained by a proper name. We have no dedications to a god by that name at those sites, yet the existence of mythological figures named Lúgh and Lleu in the later literary tradition of the Insular Celts makes it clear that a similar figure bearing the name Lugus must have existed in the Iron Age. In fact, a famous dedication to the Lugoues by the shoemakers’ guild of Uxama (Osma) in Spain; another inscription mentioning the Lugoues from Avenches in Switzerland;[2] and dedications to Lugubus Arquienobus from Orense and Lugo in Galicia (northwest Spain)[3] all indicate that the name Lugus was indeed known. Interestingly, in all these cases the name is given in the plural, as though it referred to a group of divinities rather than to a single god. We shall have some suggestions later as to why this may have been the case.

Why, if Lugus had played such an important role in Iron Age Celtic religion, was his name so little used in the period of Roman occupation that followed? Most scholars agree that it was the result of a successful interpretatio Romana, an identification of the Celtic god with a figure from the official Roman cult. In De Bello Gallico, VI, 17, Julius Caesar, commenting on Celtic society and culture even as he was crushing the life out of it, stated that “Mercury” was the most popular Celtic god, the creator of all arts and crafts, the protector of travelers, and a great patron of trade and wealth.

He was following the common Roman practice of forcing foreign religions into the categories and terminology of Roman state religion (in the same passage he uses the name “Minerva” to refer to a goddess obviously related to Irish Brigit, and known independently by native Celtic names), and in this case the identification certainly struck a chord in the conquered Celtic population, as dedications and representations of “Mercury” began to proliferate in the Romanized Celtic world and retained their preeminence right to the period of Christianization. Well over 400 dedications to “Mercury” or one of his common native titles have been found: his importance in Gaul and Britain far exceeded anything that the role of Mercury in Roman religion could have warranted. Clearly “Mercury” was the new, “modern” disguise of Lugus, and because the two names were seen to be precisely equivalent the native one was virtually never used in the Latin of official inscriptions.

Roman Classical Attributes

While Romano-Celtic images of “Mercury” often depicted him with his well-known Classical attributes — the winged cap (reminiscent of the earlier mistletoe crown), the caduceus (echoing the ubiquitous Iron Age twin serpents), the bag of money, the cockerel, the ram, the tortoise shell, etc. — many representations of him diverged considerably from Graeco-Roman canons. Some statues (e.g. the one from Lezoux) show him not as the usual clean-shaven ephebos but as a bearded old man wrapped in a Celtic shawl.[4] We will, however, single out three of these purely native traits as particularly important: his association with heights; his tendency to have multiple (usually triple) forms; and his role as sovereign protector, with warrior attributes.

Celtic “Mercury” is unambiguously linked with the high places of each tribal territory in which he was worshipped. Montmartre in Paris, the Puy-de-Dôme in the Auvergne, the Mont de Sène in the land of the Ædui — to name just a few out of scores of possible examples — were all originally Mercurii montes. Shrines crowned these heights, and one conventional depiction of “Mercury” was to have him sitting on a mountain.[5] The Aruerni commissioned (for a fabulous price) the Greek sculptor Xenodorus to make a gigantic statue of “Mercury” seated atop their sacred mountain, the Puy-de-Dôme: it was one of the famous sights of Roman Gaul.[6] Clearly the location of a temple to “Mercury” on a high place was of theological importance.

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Jan 20 2011

Oak Tree in Lore and Myth

: The Great Oak, Sherwood Forest Pic Source Among the sacred trees in many legends, the mighty oak stands noble and tall as The Tree of Life. The oak tree in lore and myth represents great symbolic meanings to the pantheons of mythology, to the druids, the faeries, and many cultures around the world.

Druids

Within the sacred circle of stones in an oak grove, the Druids conducted their secret rituals. The mistletoe that grew high in the oak was sent from Heaven by the god who chose the tree as sacred. They were priests of the god. They cut the mistletoe with the golden sickle during the ceremony. Anything that grew on the sacred tree was especially revered.

The Oak Grove was their major meeting place, where they held their rituals, for it provided protection and power for their magick and spells.

In Anglesea on Mona’s Isle in Wales there stands the “Holy Groves” of the Druids. It is an ancient sacred sight. In AD 60 the Roman general Gaius Suetonius Paulinus, determined to break the power of the Celtic druids, attacked the island, destroying the shrine and the sacred groves — remnants of the sacred oaks can still be found there.

The oak represented doorways to other realms — it was believed to provide protection and shelter when passing through to other realms. It was considered the giver of great powers and was most exalted of all trees by the Druids. Their most spiritual places were in oak groves.

Faeries

In Greek mythology Dryads, faerie-like creatures, lived in Oak trees. Dryads are actually tree nymphs. They are very shy except when around Artemis the goddess who was a friend to most nymphs. Dryads are very long lived and very attached to their homes. The Hamadryad, an advanced form of the species, would die if their tree died.

Oak trees are safe havens for many types of faeries. They love their homes and the fruit of the Oak, the acorns. They use acorns for decoration, wear the caps of the acorn for hats, and use the leaves for celebrations in autumn. Hundreds of faeries live in the oldest Oaks. Faeries can be found in every Oak tree.

Robin Hood

Legends tell us of Sherwood Forest, Robin Hood’s famous hideout in Nottinghamshire, England.
Since the end of the Ice Age, Sherwood has been densely forested. Among the trees stands the majestic and legendary The Great Oak of Sherwood Forest, which is 800 to 1000 years old.

The forest is now just a small part of the original Royal Forest that was used for hunting. Many old oaks still exist in the forest, especially in the area known as the Dukeries.

A portion of the forest was opened as a country park to the public in 1969. Each year the Robin Hood Festival recreates the medieval atmosphere wherein one finds Robin Hood, Maid Marian, and all the famous characters that live in legends. Jousters, people in medieval attire, a recreation of an encampment of the time, court jesters, musicians, alchemists, and others that populated the Robin Hood legend can be found strolling among the ancient oaks.

Common Beliefs

If two acorns are dropped in the same bowl of water, a couple can divine their future plans. If the acorns float together, they will marry — if the acorns drift apart, the couple will drift apart.

Carrying an acorn at all times will prevent old age from coming on, prevent illness, increase fertility and strengthen sexual potency.

Carry a small piece of oak for good luck.

Oak Apples (galls) on an Oak tree are made by a worm. The person who finds the worm will be assured of riches and prosperity.

Essence of the oak flower will prevent despondency and despair.

In German lore, it was believed that children came from an ancient hollow Oak tree.

To plant an acorn after the sun goes down will ensure fortune in the near future.

Oak fires draw illnesses away.

Tie two twigs together with red thread, like a cross, to guard against evil.

Place acorns on window sills to guard against harm and lightning.

Catch a falling oak leaf and you will be free from colds all winter.

If acorns are gathered by the light of the full moon, good faerie talismans can be made of them.
*******
Image Credits:
Robin Hood Major Oak
Author:Galli
Wikipedia Public Domain

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Robin_Hood_Major_Oak.jpg

Source

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Jun 15 2010

The Irish Storytelling Tradition (1)


Liz Whittaker Telling Stories for Medieval Day at Cardigan Castle 2008.
Pic: Jacob Whittaker
We would like to thank The Irish and Cultural Society of The Garden City Area for allowing us to share this interesting article with our readers.

Good Patrick of Macha stood at the end of his mission. He had built seven hundred churches and ordained three thousand priests. Ireland was a Christian land, free of stone idols, specters and snakes. Before him stood Oisin, the last of the Fenian warriors, bent, broken and old. St. Patrick asked him to relate


, “the ancient tales the tales of Ireland’c men and women, mountains and rivers. Brogan, Patrick’s scribe, took them down in the thousands. Then Patrick recoiled from the pleasure he took in pagan things. He poured forth his worry to his guardian angels. Fear not, they told him, listen to the tales, record them in the very words of their tellers for they will prove a delight to good people until the end of time.
(Irish Folk Tales,
edited by Heniy Glassie)

Many years later, one of those “good people” was Patrick Breslin. “My father took me to see Neil Duffy, the ‘shanachie,’ or local storyteller,” recalls Patrick in his article “ Ireland ’s Shanachies Are Gone Now, But Their Legends Live On.” He was only eleven years old but he remembers seeing an old man, white haired and stiff jointed who searched him with a stem glance and he knew that this was a special occasion, that “respect was being paid.” He says that there were others there that night, though he only remembers them as dark shapes when they crossed before the hearth. He does remember clearly, however, Neil Duffy, leaning back against the pillows and talking slowly of the high kings of Ireland, of the heroes of the Fionn MacCumhaill cycles, of St. Patrick’s miracles and of the doings of the fairy people. Looking into that man’s eyes and hearing his voice, he got the feeling that thousands of years of Irish history, story, culture and tradition were within his grasp.

Those two wonderful images, in many ways, give us a good idea of the longevity and intimacy of the Irish storytelling tradition. It is one that goes back thousands of years, for we do know that there were twelve levels of storytelling and that one had to move through these various levels before one could “tell” for the chieftain of the clan. And although we know that Ireland is thought of, primarily, as a Catholic country, its traditions and stories are a blend of pagan and Christian influences.

St. Patrick, expressing a desire to hear the ancient tales, is a very powerful image. So, too, is the image of the shanachie being given a very special place in the community and being listened to with great reverence and respect. The shanachie, not only in the Irish storytelling tradition but in the traditions of cultures around the world, is the instrument by which has been carried through the ages the theories, explanations, and the images of our world and how it functions.

In the years when printed books, magazines and newspapers were rare and neither radio nor television had been invented, the people of Ireland , like those in other lands, had to provide their own entertainment. In Ireland , conversation, music, singing, dancing and sports filled their lives, and storytelling, especially in areas where the Irish language was spoken, was extremely popular. A good storyteller, a large repertoire of tales stored in his/her memory (in general women storytellers were less numerous than men), seated by the fireside in an honored place was assured of an attentive audience on winter nights.

The primary setting for storytelling was the fireside. The man of the house had the right and the duty to tell the first story and he would be followed by other tellers. According to folklorist Sean O’Sullivan, storytelling in the day time was said to be unlucky, but many men have described how they learned their tales while haymaking or digging potatoes. Stories were told also by fishermen waiting for their time to haul in their nets and women passed the nights telling stories to each other. In crowded wake-houses, tales were told to attentive groups in quiet corners or to a smaller general audience when those who had attended earlier left for home. Lodging houses were great centers for storytelling and the new stories that were brought home by travelers were eagerly awaited by all. Traveling seasonal laborers (spailpini) also spread folk tales from one area to another.

After the Famine of 1845-47, thousands of homeless people had to take to the roads seeking food and shelter, and even in the early decades of the present century, individual remnants of these wanderers were still to be met within rural areas of Ireland . If one of these wanderers had the reputation of being a good storyteller, he/she was assured of a hearty welcome and a house would fill up quickly at the coming of a shanachie. Nights would be passed listening to the tales brought by the traveler and they would be learned almost as quickly as they were told. Listeners would follow the teller to the next parish to hear him tell the same stories again.

As there are thousands of tales of various kinds throughout the world, it became necessary to categorize them. Antli Aarne, a Finn, published in Helsinki in 1910 a list of “international” tales and proposed a definite ordinal number and a title as a label on each type of tale. In 1929, Aarne and the American folklorist Steth Thompson brought out an expanded edition in English of Aarne’s work entitled The Types of the Folktale. This register is usually referred to as Aarne Thompson. Many countries, including Ireland , have now issued catalogues of their own folktales. The Irish catalog, entitled the Types of the Irish Folktale (O’Suilleabhain and Christiansen), was published in 1963. The Irish catalog listed about 43,000 versions of seven hundred or so “international” tale-types which had been found in the oral currency or in print in Ireland up to the end of 1956. Since that time, this large number of versions has been added to considerably and recorded.

(Written by Jim Hawkins, February 2000)
© Irish Cultural Society of the Garden City Area

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Jun 06 2010

The Brehon Laws

Pic: http://www.savenewgrange.org/

Our thanks to the Irish Cutural Society of the Garden city Area, for allowing us to publish this informative article here.

The beginning of the 17th Century saw English law and rule prevail in Ireland and the Irish laws outlawed and declared barbarous. These “barbarous” laws had been what had kept the English from implanting its feudal system in Ireland and from completing its conquest of Ireland for four centuries.

These ancient “barbarous” laws of Ireland have since been recognized as the most advanced system of jurisprudence in the ancient world, a system under which the doctrine of the equality of man was understood and under which a deeply humane and cultured society flourished.

These ancient Irish laws have come to be called The Brehon Laws from the Irish term “Brehon” which was applied to the official lawgiver. They were transmitted orally and with extreme accuracy from generation to generation by a special class of professional jurists called Brithem (judge in early Gaelic). These laws are of great antiquity and may antedate the coming of the Celts to Ireland. St. Patrick is credited with codifying these laws in the 5th Century. His efforts fill five volumes and are known as the Senchus Mor. its ordinances are named C’ain Padraic after St. Patrick. These five volumes which have come down to us, however, are only a small portion of the old Irish laws which covered almost every relationship and every fine shade of relationship, social and moral, between man and man.

While the Brehon, or lawgiver, administered the law, the aggregate wisdom of nine leading representatives was necessary to originate a law or to abolish it. The nine needed for the making of a law were the chief, poet, historian, landowner, bishop, professor of literature, professor of law, a noble, and a lay vicar. Impartiality is the salient characteristic of all the laws for all the ranks. The king himself was bound by law to do justice to his meanest subject. The king’s rights are acknowledged but his duties are also enumerated. The democracy of these laws is shown in dozens of ways. For example, a king carrying building material to his castle had the same and only the same claim for right of way as the miller carrying material to build his mill; the poorest man in the land could compel payment of a debt from a noble or could levy a distress upon the king himself; the man who stole the needle of a poor embroidery woman was compelled to pay a far higher fine than the man who stole the queen’s needle.

The Brehon Law was based on an individual’s identity, defined in terms of clan and personal wealth. Honor was evaluated in terms of personal wealth and each person’s wealth or honor price reflected his legal status in the community. In the sight of the law, the bishop, king, chief poet, and public hospitaller (person who owned and operated guest houses for no fee) were in the same rank and a like fine or honor price was payable for the killing of any of the four. The Irish law expected most from those who had received the most from God. For example, a member of the clergy might be fined double that of a lay person for the same offense. For certain offenses, lay people of rank were deprived of half their honor price for the first offense and all their honor price for the third offense. Clerics, on the other hand, would not only lose all their honor price for the first offense, but would be degraded as well. An ordinary cleric could, by doing penance and suffering punishment, win back his grade; a cleric of higher rank, such as a bishop, however, not only lost his honor price and was degraded for the first offense, but he could never again regain his position.

The Brehon Law applied to all areas of life and reflects the values of the people. In education, the rule was “instruction without reservation, correctness without harshness are due from the master to the pupil.” The master was also expected to feed and clothe his student. The student, in turn, was indebted to his instructor whom he was expected to support in his old age if the instructor was incapacitated or had no clan to care for him. Under the law, anyone who insulted or assaulted a student was guilty of insult or assault to the teacher. It was, therefore, to the teacher that a fine was paid. It was also the law that a student pay to his teacher the first fee earned by him when he graduated into a profession. Even though the mass of the people was not educated, all, including women, who desired an education could get one under the law.

While women in the Western World have been emancipated for less than a century, women in ancient Ireland were nearly on an equal footing with men. They were queens in their own right and led troops into battle. Women always held a place of respect in Celtic society and were accorded their rights as well. It took English law and civilization “to put women in their place.” Ironically, the stamping out of the Brehon Laws, and with them the rights of women, was finally accomplished under Queen Elizabeth of England.

In ancient Ireland, under Brehon Law, the lowest clansman stood on an equal footing with his chieftain. For example, it is recorded that when several Irish Kings visited Richard II in Dublin, the Irish kings sat down to dinner with their minstrels and entire retinue as was their custom. The English were appalled by such a display of egalitarianism and soon rearranged things so that the Irish royalty ate separately from the rest of their attendants. The Irish gave in to this demand of the English in order to be courteous guests even though it went very much against their inclination and custom.

It should not be surprising that it was in this race of Gaels, where the equality of man was so well understood and practiced, that woman stood emancipated from the remotest time. Indeed, women in ancient Ireland were often eligible for the professions, and for rank and fame. They were druidesses, poets, physicians, sages, and lawgivers. Bridget was not only the name of the ancient Irish goddess who represented poetry and wisdom, and of the later saint who helped to spread Christianity throughout Ireland, but was also the name of an Irish lawgiver, Brigid Brethra, or Brigid of the Judgments, who lived about the time of Christ. It is this Brigid who is responsible for granting the right to women to inherit the land from their fathers in the absence of sons.

Under Brehon Law women were equal to men with regard to education and property. After marriage, the woman was a partner with, and not the property of, her husband. She remained the sole owner of property that had been hers prior to marriage. Property jointly owned by her and her husband could not be sold without her approval and consent. A married woman retained the right to pursue a case at law as well as recover for debt in her own person. In certain cases of legal separation for good cause, the wife not only took with her all of the marriage portion and gifts, but an amount over and above that for damages.

Because of their equality, or near equality, with men in other realms, women warriors frequently felt it was their duty to take up arms and march into battle with their brothers or husbands. Beginning with the warrior Queen of the Milesians, the Book of Invasions lists several women leaders. In the Ulster cycle of tales the noblest warrior of Ulster, Cuchulainn, was taught the art of war by a woman warrior named Aoive, and fought his greatest battles against the forces of Queen Maeve of Connacht.

It was only in 697 that women were exempted from warfare. The law exempting them is known as the Cain Adanman after St. Adanman, who, at his mother’s behest, fought for this exemption. It seems that St. Adanman’s mother, Ronait, was appalled by the barbarity she witnessed of one woman with an iron sickle savagely tearing apart another woman in battle.

Even though women were exempted from warfare in 697, this warrior tradition persisted into the sixteenth century in the person of Grania Uaile (Grace O’Malley). She was an Irish sea-queen, pirate, who was, if one can believe the accounts written by Sir Richard Bingham in 1593, “the nurse of all rebellions for the last forty years.” While the English managed to stamp out the Brehon Law by the sixteenth century, the memory of these laws survived into the nineteenth century and showed itself in the Land League and the people’s claims. It is not surprising then that the Brehon Law has excited the wonder and admiration not only of laymen, but of eminent jurists deeply versed in ancient and modern law codes. It is under this ancient, just and beautiful judicial structure that men and women lived in equality and democracy in Ireland. The sense of justice and fair play expressed by the Brehon Law is, and always has been, a source of pride to the Irish as well as a strong part of their heritage.

(written by Loretta Wilson & originally printed in 1989)

© Irish Cultural Society of the Garden City Area

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Jun 05 2010

Celtic Reconstructionist Alexei Kondratiev crosses the veil

Alexei Kondratiev

Pic: Wild Hunt

The wonderful Wild Hunt blog again brings us news of an extremely sad event for Celtic Reconstructionists and others who knew and valued the renowned scholar, Alexei Kondratiev. We quote from Jason below but also urge you to go to his site where many fine memorials have been written by those who actually knew Alexei.

Alexei Kondratiev 1949 – 2010

Word has come to us that noted Celtic scholar, linguist, and author Alexei Kondratiev passed away last night due to an apparent heart attack. His writings on Celtic religion and spirituality, which included the ground-breaking book “The Apple Branch: A Path to Celtic Ritual”, were highly influential on both Celtic-oriented Druidic groups and the nascent Celtic Reconstructionist movement. He was a passionate defender of Celtic language and culture, and regularly advocated that Pagan religions that drew from Celtic culture should immerse themselves in the living Celtic languages and communities.

“For those of us who speak only English, the treasure-trove of the Celtic consciousness is still behind a locked door. But the key to unlock the door is there, within our grasp. Anyone of us can, at any moment, decide to fit the key to the lock and be on the other side.”

In addition to his insightful writings, Kondratiev was fluent in all six extant Celtic languages, and conducted classes on the Irish language at the Irish Arts Center in New York since 1985. Kondratiev was also an officer in the Celtic League American Branch, a board member of the now-dormant group Imbas (which hosts many of his online writings), and co-led the Protean Mnemosynides Coven with his partner Len Rosenberg (Black Lotus). He even wrote a comic-book about a Druid that immersed the character within Celtic culture. His wide-ranging and influential participation in the modern Pagan movement can not be adequately measured, but suffice to say he had a huge impact on many individuals, myself included.

“The battle is not over yet. The six Celtic languages are still alive, if not well. In them are stored, as on a disk, several millennia of a people’s unique experience, waiting to be given a new dynamic expression by that generation who will dare to break the colonial shackles of fear and self-doubt. Now more than ever do we need the devil-may-care valour of the Celtic warrior. Now more than ever do we need the druidic clarity of vision, the bardic ability to draw resources from the unlimited potential of the Otherworld. We must, as they did, have the imagination to give flesh to life-giving myth, and the will to work its pattern into our existence. Time is indeed short. Everyone of us who has felt the beauty of the Celtic world-vision must act, each in our individual ways, now, before it is too late. Gwnewch rywbeth!! Do something!!”

All honor to Alexei Kondratiev, may his journey to the Otherworld reunite him with his ancestors, and provide him communion with his gods. My deepest condolences to his partner, Len, his family, friends, and co-religionists.

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