Ancestors Articles

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(Repaganized from the Carmina Gadelica)You go home this night to your home of winter, To your home of fall, of spring, of summer, You go home this night to the Turning House, To your pleasant rest in the Land of Joy.Rest you, rest, and away with sorrow, Rest this night in the Mother's Breast, Rest you, rest, and away with sorrow, Rest, O beloved, with the Mother's Kiss.In the Many Colored Land; In the Land of the Dead; In the Plain of Joy; In the Land Beneath the Wave; In the Land of Youth; In the Land of the Ever-Living; In the Revolving Castle, the House of Donn.Rest in seven lights, beloved, Rest in seven joys, beloved, Rest in seven sleeps, beloved, In the Grove of the Cauldron, Morrigan's Shrine.The shadow of death is on your face, beloved But the Cauldron of Rebirth awaits you, The threefold turning of your Fate, When your rest has given you your peace.So rest in the calm of all calms, Rest in the wisdom of all wisdoms, Rest in the love of all loves, Rest in the Lord of Life and Death, Rest in the Lady of Life and Death, Til the Season
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info-manager's picture
We call to our Beloved Dead, the blessed Ancestors, to join our feast and receive due offering.Come to the Gates, honored ones; hear our call, we your children who remember. We offer you our worship, our reverence and our love.You who fill the empty womb, you who cause the seed to spring to spring, you who fill the breast with milk, receive now these offerings, made in your honor:Apples, the Fruit of Life and Death. Pork, the flesh of the Sacred Sow. Hazel nuts, concentrated meat of wisdom. We offer these...(some of each offering made to the shaft)To the ancient heroes of the Pagan World; those men and women who did the bidding of the Gods for the good of the folk.(offering made)To the honored Dead of the passed year; those women and men of our folk who inspired and guided our whole world.(offerings made)To our own Beloved Dead, Grandmothers-and-Fathers, family and friends who have gone ahead, we honor you and grieve for you. (offering made)To all of you we give these fruits and meats that you may feast in joy in the Land of the Dead.
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info-manager's picture
(Originally published in Druid's Progress 11)We hear your whispered voices speaking words of wisdom into our unconscious minds. Your whispers awaken our dreams, our hearts, our desires. You who are our ancestors who once walked upon the earth and were part of our shared life eternal, we praise you with all that is sacred in our lives.You who planted the seed of knowledge, you who sought inner peace, you who claimed your love for the Gods and Goddesses of old, we give you honor and praise your name.Grandmother, without you I would not be here. Grandfather, without you I would not be here. People that have come before and gone ahead, without you I would not be here.I give you honor and praise your name. We ask you for guidance, for you have the power of knowledge. You have been born in us, part of our being. We draw upon your strength so that we may move ever forward. Your footsteps, we follow as all children will. You are our family and with all the love in my being, I give you honor and call your names.Ancestors, I praise you with the earth in my palm. I praise you with the fire in my heart. I praise you with my breath as I give offerings to your greatness. I praise you with the blood and water of life within my body. I call forth for you with honor for all eternity.
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Ian Corrigan's picture
What is known about the afterlife beliefs of the Celtic peoples is sketchy and often contradictory. The classical authors are unanimous in declaring that the Celts held an unshakable belief in a happy life after death. It made them fearless in battle and was so strong that debts were said sometimes to be deferred until the next life. While this belief in personal survival is well attested, there is much less agreement on the details of the fate of the dead.Several classical authors say that the Druids taught the transmigration of souls. In that doctrine of reincarnation, spirits may be reborn into any of nature's forms - human, animal, or even inanimate things. That doctrine is supported by evidence from the tales. We find humans becoming pools of water, their own descendants, or sacred animals. Fintan, last survivor of the first folk, lived successive lives as a man, a stag, and an eagle. The two great Bulls of Erin, the Brown and the White, began their existence as a pair of swineherders and underwent rebirth until they reached their exalted state as sacred bulls. In Welsh tales, the wizard Gwydion undergoes a series of animals lives, and the Irish tale of Edain depicts transformations or rebirths in human, insect, ant inanimate forms.If we assume that these tales reflect a doctrine of the fate of souls, then we might conclude that human spirits can be reborn, and into non-human as well as human forms. A non- human rebirth was clearly not always a punishment. Rebirth as an animal could involve increase in honor or spiritual authority. Mortal humanity was only one of the many kinds of beings who kept the World Order whole.Of course, these tales may also be interpreted in a mythological, initiatory, or shamanic way. They may represent the magical journey of a particular individual rather than remnants of Pagan afterlife belief. So while the tales strongly suggest a belief in reincarnation and transmigration among the Celts, they fall short of proving that it was a broad, general doctrine.When we look at the archeological remains of Celtic burials, one thing becomes clear: the Celts, at some periods at least, expected their afterlife to be very similar to the tribal life they left behind. Chieftains both male and female, were buried either whole or after cremation, with chariots, jewelry, weapons, drinking equipment and food. They clearly expected to retain both their status and their obligations. The tales also support this model. When various heroes are transported to the Otherworld, they find a land of perpetual feasting, horse racing and revelry, not unlike the Vikings' Valhalla. These tales give little evidence of an expected reincarnation of any sort. However, it is unclear that the beings met in these journeys are actually mortal spirits and not "sidhe-folk" of some stranger kind.The destruction of Celtic Paganism by the rise of Christianity is nowhere more evidenced than in afterlife beliefs. Still, as moderns working to revive the Old Ways, we need to formulate some sort of more or less coherent attitude toward death, the afterlife, and the place that the Ancestors hold in our worship. A speculative reconstruction of a Celtic afterlife doctrine might be expressed thus:For almost everyone, the afterlife will be an improved version of this one. The soul is guided by proper ritual, and by the King of the Dead, to Tir na Marbh, Land of the Dead, where they dwell happily. This land is a lovely and joyous place, where the songs of the Goddess' birds ease pain and sorrows where feasting and entertainment are the order of the day. The magical Boar and Stag are hunted, and the Mead of Poetry flows freely. Many tales tell that the souls of the newly dead linger, as shades, in the living world until Samhain eve. Then Donn, the King of the Dead, winds his horn and calls all souls to his House, Teach Duinn, and then west across the Sea to Tir na Marbh.While we find no doctrine of universal reincarnation among the Celts, it is clear that Spirits are often born into flesh for various reasons. For some, the Way of return is their fate. Those chosen by the Powers for some destiny, or who choose rebirth themselves, or are placed under a geas by a magician, may return to the mortal world to work out their path. We may know a series of rebirths until our specific destinies are fulfilled.There is no evidence, at this time, that the Celts believed in a process of regular reincarnation leading to movement up any sort of spiritual ladder or stairway. Spirits came into flesh to aid their foik, to do the Gods' work, etc.All Indo-European peoples seem to have practiced, in various ways, a Cult Of the Dead. This seems to have included veneration of the generations immediately passed, as well as more broadly important cultural figures. The Grandmothers and Grandfathers must be respected and given proper offerings if the clan's prosperity is to thrive. The Graeco-Roman Cult of Heroes was probably present in some form, remembered in Celtic countries in their active Christian Cult of Saints.All over the Aryan world it was known that by great deeds of martial, magical, or other sorts, an individual could become more like one of the Powers. This is the mark of the Hero (a word we will use both for men and for women). He or she must display in their nature and action one of the archetypes by which the tribe lives. The blacksmith, the bard, the warrior, the ruler, in fact all traditional professions, have magical power. When a mortal fills the traditional image of a skill especially well and when her deeds do very well for her folk, she may become a hero.In a very real way, such a person makes a sacrifice of themselves for their folk. Often, the Hero must give up many of the potentials of common life, take on terrible risk and pain, even die young. Most of us hope to be left in peace by the Powers, to offer to Them, and to be blessed in return, without being singled out for a great "destiny." So we can only be humble and grateful to those who give themselves to let the Light and Shadow show through their lives. When such folk die, their may become Noble Spirits - guests at the feasting table of the Shining Ones. They gain insight and wisdom and the ability, to aid ~ living tribes folk in some of the same ways as the God/desses themselves. In effect, these great mortals become Powers themselves, able to bless in return for the gifts of the sacrifices.
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MeghanM's picture
As far back as I can remember I was fascinated with stories, especially those about my family. My Irish cousin Maureen told me that one person in every generation is called to remember the family. I met her in 1993 during my first trip to Ireland when I stayed with her family for a week. During that time I listened to my father and her husband, Tom, talk. Late into the night I sat at their kitchen table, sipping tea with cream, and absorbing the stories. Each time I visit Maureen we talk about family. It's intrinsic to our relationship and I credit her for igniting my passion for genealogy and research. Even though we live quite far away our kinship is clear. Family is very important. The ancestors deserve our remembrance. I honor them by discovering their names, birth places, and occupations. I piece together their stories for my descendants. Even if I never have children, there are many, many cousins out there who may appreciate my effort. If they do not, research simply for the sake of honor is a very good thing. I want to share a method of genealogical research that I have found to be useful so that you might feel this ancestral connection as well. First, gather all information that you and any family you can approach might have. Once family stories, names, dates, etc. are lost, they are gone forever. Second, take what you have and use it to search the internet. This is a step that is useful for gathering possible leads. I caution you not to take any information you find outside a primary source (like county records) as certainty. I made that mistake, and it had some interesting consequences. One night, early on in my research, I discovered that one of my mother's ancestors is a descendant of Charlemagne. After gloating until dawn I started to wonder where my distant relations found their information. I soon realized that any given person in the western world could be a descendent of Charlemagne; he lived many centuries ago and was in the ruling class (making his genetic fitness much more than that of the average serf). I was quite put out, since I spent an entire night cruising Rootsweb and entering data into genealogical software. My pride was a gushing wound. After I got over my snit I realized that there had to be information from more reliable sources. I gathered the information that I was fairly certain about and started writing to historical societies. Historical societies have given me the most valuable information - copies of primary documents and stories gathered by very distant cousins. You will end up with more questions than answers no matter how prolific your family was. Unless you live near the places that have the records you're looking for you will be expected to pay for copies and postage. If you are concerned with the price call up the source in question and ask before you send away for information. Remember, a self addressed and stamped envelope is appreciated. If you cannot afford to request documentation directly from the source, it can be extremely useful to see if distant cousins have provided sources for their information. Websites put up by people you never realized existed, but share your genetic material, will provide useful information if you take my hubris into consideration. Email people. Ask them how they found their information and if they'd be willing to share copies of primary source material. Besides these resources, some public libraries have subscriptions to online paid genealogy services. This is a great way to explore those databases without paying exorbitant fees. Researching genealogy is fun. It's a passion of mine. I cannot imagine not having and sharing the stories I've discovered. Through my research I found that one relation was kidnapped by Indians and survived to escape. Another was purported to play the fiddle for George Washington. My tenth great grandfather was the pastor of the first church in Queens, New York. One of his descendants wrote the poem The Night Before Christmas and an uncle from that line started the first Methodist Church in Ohio. My father's paternal grandmother was a distributor of poitín (Irish potato liquor) during Prohibition and his maternal grandfather was a prisoner of war during World War One (Canadian RAF). My Welsh family was among the first Quakers to come to the colonies. I may or may not be related to Charlemagne, but that doesn't matter. I understand how I've come to be where I am at the moment and why veneration of the ancestors is appropriate. By uncovering their lives I give them their due respect and love. It is in part because of them; their choices, their courage, their fortitude and adventuring spirit that I have the opportunities that are mine. It is my duty to assure that they are remembered. Note: For online research I suggest starting with rootsweb.com. This site is easy to work with. There are many other ways to successfully navigate genealogy online but that's the easiest way to start. Please do not automatically take out an expensive subscription to a pay site. Get involved on forums, check out bulletin boards on your common family names, research newspaper archives and look for census and military records. Above all, be creative. Here are some other sites that you can explore. This list is not inclusive of all potentially useful resources. Further Resources http://www.cyndislist.com/ (General) https://www.familysearch.org/ (General, run by the Latter Day Saints) http://www.genealogytoolbox.com/ (General) https://www.archives.com/ (General) http://www.genuki.org.uk/index.php (UK/Ireland Resource) https://www.jewishgen.org/ (Jewish Resource) https://www.ngsgenealogy.org/ (National Genealogical Society of America) https://shsmo.org/research/guides/genealogy/nativeam.shtml (Native American Resource) http://usgenweb.org (US GenWeb Project)
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none's picture
In ADF, one of the three Kindreds we worship is the Ancestors. This includes our relatives and other honored dead, such as close friends and even the great heroes of old. The following articles relate to the Ancestors:Ancestors Invocation (Jennifer Ellison)Ancestors Invocation (Ian Corrigan)The Death SongBeginning Genealogical ResearchSeeking the Wisdom of the Ancestors: A Form of Indo-European DivinationTaking the Waters - The Ancestors and the Nature SpiritsThe Afterlife, The Heroes, and The Dead
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Member-1133's picture
Since our inception in 1997, the 6th Night Grove has used the waters from the Yellow Spring, a local landmark in our area, as the waters for our Sacred Well. These waters are stored in an airtight container between our rites, and poured into our cauldron at the beginning of each ritual.These waters are used for asperging during the purification of members during the rite, and it is to these waters that we offer silver, in honor of the World Below and to all the Mighty Dead.The Yellow Spring was first "discovered" by the white settlers in this area around 1800. Within a short time, people were flocking to this spring for its curative powers, and a dam was created at the base of the gorge to collect its waters. People would bath in the waters collected, and also drink the waters. The village of Yellow Springs soon grew to accommodate this influx of visitors to the spring, and a hotel and tavern were built to serve the stagecoach line passing through the new village. Unfortunately, as has so often become the case in our modern world, the waters of the spring have become polluted by pesticides and herbicides entering the water table, to the point that no longer can the water be safely drank.For those who have never had the opportunity to visit this site, the name given it is actually a misnomer. The waters flowing year round from the spring are high in iron oxides, and a more proper name would have been "Ochre Spring." The entire rock face from which the spring emerges is stained red, from the millennia of accumulated iron pigments. The first time I saw the spring, in the early 1970's, the one phrase that sprung immediately to my mind was "The blood of the Mother." Later, it was at the spring that I would attend my first Wiccan rite, held by a local coven in the area. As my spiritual path grew and changed over time, it was only natural that the spring would continue to be a place of power for me, and that our ADF Grove would come to consider it the Source and the Center of our connection to the Nature Spirits.As our Grove began to grow, it soon became a rite of passage for new Grove members to visit the spring and make offerings there. Twice a year, at Samhain and Beltaine, we would go and collect new waters to be added to what remained of the waters collected before. The water within our Sacred Well has become highly charged, being used in every ritual for more than three years. The trove of silver and other precious gifts offered to our cauldron throughout the Sacred Year would be made to the waters in a natural cave half way down the cliff side, where the spring waters collect. From the womb/mouth of the Mother the waters are taken. To the mouth/womb of the Mother the gifts are returned.In the fall of 1998 some of our Grove members were preparing to attend the Lughnassadh festival, hosted by Shining Lakes Grove, in Michigan. I thought it would be a grand idea to take some of the spring's waters to present to the Arch Druid, and to mix with the waters of their Grove. The waters were carefully collected in a glass bottle, and stored for transport in the chest we use to carry our Grove's ritual items. When the time came for me to present the water to the Arch Druid, I was distraught to discover that the bottle had shattered in transport. Not just broken, mind you, but shattered into tiny pieces!At first, we didn't take much heed of this omen. We continued to take the waters of the spring for our Grove's use without further incident. Then, on an occasion when I had sent another member of the Grove alone to collect some of the water, the same type of incident occurred. She had carefully collected the water in a glass bottle, making proper offering at the spring as she did so, but had left the bottle in her car during the day while at work. When she returned to her car that afternoon, the bottle was once again shattered, where it had been wholly intact and safe that morning.At this point, I was becoming rightly concerned. I made a trip alone to the spring, with the specific intent of asking the spirits there what offense we might have unintentionally made. I began my trek at the great white oak tree, over 300 years old, which stands above a waterfall in the nature preserve where the spring is now located. A poem of death is engraved on a stone at the oak tree's base, in memorial to the daughter of the man who had donated the land to the local college as a nature preserve. As I wandered down the shaded path to the spring, my mind kept going over the words of that poem, and my heart was filled with a great longing to better understand the nature of this sacred place, and the peoples who had first known its great power.As I approached the place where stone steps lead down to the spring, the rush of the waters soft in my ears, I happened to glance to my left. There, off the side of the marked trail, a small Adena burial mound is located. No more than five feet high at its crest, unmarked, with no path leading to it, most people walk by this feature without ever knowing it is there, or else consider it a natural feature, and not one created by the hands of men.I had known of this mound. I knew it was there, and I also knew it had never been excavated. I had considered myself to be well versed in the ancient Native American culture of this area, spending a good part of my youth reading every book I could get my hands on regarding the Mound Builder culture of the Ohio Valley. I had made a point of visiting all of the large conical mounds built by these ancient peoples, which dot the sacred landscape of this part of the country. Yet, how many times had I silently walked past this small, unassuming mound of earth, intent solely on my destination of the spring?I stopped in my tracks, and silently asked myself, "Whose bones lie beneath this mound of earth, so close to such a place of power?" Certainly, the ancient Native Americans considered this spring to be as magical as we "moderns" do. They would have seen it not only as a place of free flowing fresh water when all others were frozen in the harsh winter, but also as a source of ochre for dyeing and body paint in magical workings. For one to have their bones interred here, so close to the spring that its waters music could always be heard in the ears, this person must be one of great importance and great power indeed!I pushed my way through the brambles surrounding the mound. I placed my hands upon it, and I asked the spirit of the Ancestor within to know my heart, to know that I was on a quest of understanding. I asked that the spirit would grant our Grove access to the waters of the ochre spring, and help us to understand the true magic of it. I made a small offering of tobacco, all I had to give, and left the mound with a sense of awe at the unfolding sweep of time, the great history of this mystical place swirling about me.I bathed that day in the waters of the spring, and left knowing that the magic there is well protected. As we modern Pagans seek to reconnect with the sacredness of our local lands, its springs and rivers, its mountains and valleys, we would be wise to remember that there was a culture here before us who knew the true power of these places. Long before our ancestors crossed these lands, a people dwelt here who practiced a strong magic of the Earth.Our Grove now makes it a regular part of our Samhain and Beltaine water gathering to stop and make offerings to the Guardian of the Spring. We ask that we would be welcomed here in this land, and that the transgressions of our ancestors be slowly forgiven, as the scars of the Earth are slowly healed. We ask that we may be a part of that healing, and add our voices to the many that call for an end to the pollution of our natural resources. As the ancient Pagans of Europe made it a part of their religions to adopt the local deities of the new lands they moved into, so must we new Pagans now seek to understand the powers of those who were here in this land before us, and the spirits of the land who were ancient long before our peoples came to this place. We must respect the Earth, and keep it sacred in their honor. As we say in our Ancestor invocation "To all those whose bones lie in this land, whose hearts are tied to it, whose memory holds it."I am happy to say we have had no more troubles in taking the waters of the spring. I believe that we have taken the first small step in a dialogue that will be ongoing. We have offered a pipe of peace, and it has, for the time being, been accepted. The eyes of the Ancestors are upon us. They ask if we will truly walk the Way of the Earth. The Guardian of the Spring asks if we will now guard it well, for all generations yet to come. As Our Druidry grows in this land, let us all take heed of what the Ancestors ask of us. The Mother's blood is our own life source. Will we take the waters with respect? Will we hold them sacred?
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CeisiwrSerith's picture
In the Irish tale Serglige Con Culainn a ritual is described in which a white bull is killed. A man eats his fill of its meat, drinks its broth, and goes to sleep after a prayer is spoken over him by four druids. While he sleeps he has a dream of the man who will become king (MacCana, pp. 91-92). In a similar story told in Togail Bruidne Da Derga, we are further told that the prayer was "an incantation of truth," and that the man will die if he lies about what he dreams (Gantz, p. 65).These two stories contain most of the essential elements of a form of divination that may be found across a wide swath of the Indo-European domain, from Iceland to India. This article will present the evidence for this technique and attempt to reconstruct its original form.In another Irish tale, the Life of St. Berach, four Druids lie on rowan hurdles that are covered with the hides of sacrificed bulls. They drink new ale, call on the gods, and wait for a revelation.Other Celtic sources provide numerous examples. For instance, Scottish folklore prescribes that a seer be wrapped in the skin of freshly killed cattle. He is then to be taken to an isolated wild place to await his answer (Nagy, p. 138). In a version from the Western Islands, from 1703 (related in Davidson, p. 143), a man is wrapped in a cow's hide and left in a wild place overnight. "Invisible friends" come to him to tell him what he wants to know.A more complete example that is late (post 1200), but still recognizable, is the Welsh "The Dream of Rhonabwy," from The Mabinogion. The title character, while on a search for a renegade prince, is put up for the night in a pathetic excuse for a hall. It is warmed with a fire of chaff which throws up smoke and chokes everyone. A hag serves Rhonabwy and his two men a dinner of barley bread, cheese, and watery milk. When it is time to sleep, they are given a pile of straw and sticks, infested with fleas. Rhonabwy understandably can't sleep, and goes to the far end of the hall, where there is a yellow oxskin on a platform. He lies down on that, and has a dream in which a youth dressed in yellow and green takes him to King Arthur's court. A parody, to be sure, but parodies must be based on something or they are simply not funny.The Germanic realm provides more fragmentary versions. In the Mariu Saga (13th. cent.) a man sits on the hide of a freshly skinned (and presumably freshly killed) ox, with squares drawn around it. The devil comes to him to reveal the future (Davidson, p. 143). A divination described in the Icelandic Saga of Erik the Red involves a hood and a platform (Buchholz, p. 32). According to German folklore, those who went to a crossroads between eleven and midnight on Christmas or New Year's Eve and sat on an animal hide would learn the future.So far the examples come from Christian era sources. That makes the Roman evidence all the more important. In The Aeneid (7.80 ff.) Latinus, troubled by omens, goes to the oracle of Faunus for advice. At this oracle, at a fountain deep in the woods, the priest performs divination by sleeping on the hides of sacrificed sheep. Spirits come to him, including both the gods and the dead.Ovid describes a similar ritual (Fasti 4.649-7). King Numa sacrifices two sheep in a sacred grove, one to Faunus and one to Sleep. The hides are laid on the ground and he is sprinkled with water and wine, and puts two beech wreaths on his head. He wraps himself in the fleeces, prays, and then dreams. Faunus appears to him in his sleep with an oracle. Before the ritual he must abstain from sex, meat, and the wearing of rings.In the Zoroastrian Arda Wiraz Namag (Prologue 1-3, in Flattery, pp. 14-16; also in Boyd, pp. 84-89 [Boyd spells it Arda Viraz Namag]), Wiraz is chosen by lot, as the most righteous of men, to conduct a divination to ask the departed souls whether Zoroastrianism is the true religion. In a thirty-step wide place, he washes himself and puts on a new garment. He lays a new blanket on some boards and, sitting on it, performs the dron ritual (a bread offering modeled on a sacrifice.) He honors the dead and eats food, presumably the dron. He then drinks three cups of a mixture of wine and the drug mang. He says grace and falls asleep. While he sleeps priests chant prayers over him. In his sleep, he is taken on a tour of the land of the dead.Finally, the Chandogya Upanishad (5.2, in Hume) preserves a complete ritual of this type, to be performed on the night of the full moon. The celebrant is to mix "all sorts of herbs with sour milk and honey." He is then to make four offerings of ghee into a fire, to "the chiefest and best," "the most excellent," "the firm basis," and "the abode." Crawling away from the fire, he takes up the herb, milk, and honey mixture in his hands and prays over it for preeminence and unity with everything. From the cup he then drinks four sips, praying to Savitr, god of magic and the sun when it is not in the sky, as he does so. He cleans the cup and lies down to the west of the fire on a skin or the ground. If he sees a vision of a woman, his ritual has been successful.When the details of these examples—Celtic, Germanic, Italic, and Indo-Iranian—are considered together, there is clearly a pattern to which each has made modifications. The form of the proto-ritual seems to have been that a milk-giving animal was sacrificed and its meat was most likely eaten by the diviner. (Consuming the majority of a sacrifice is a standard part of Indo- European sacrificial ritual.) The diviner also consumed a sacred drink, either the animal's broth, a substitutionary drink, or an intoxicating beverage. He then lay down on the animal's skin, which was most likely put on a low wooden platform. Prayers were said over him by priests (the ritual is public rather than private), and then he slept. A vision came to him in his sleep from the ancestors.The public nature is important. The ritual may be to determine the next king, or to find proof for Zoroastrianism, or the determine the significance of omens. The public nature may be indicated in the Scottish example by the fact that the seer is wrapped up in the hide first and must then carried to the site of the divination. That the ritual described in the Chandogya Upanishad is not public is easily explained by the fact that Upanishadic Hinduism replaced corporate sacrifice with individual mysticism.The being(s) to whom the sacrifice is made is only rarely mentioned. In The Aeneid and Fasti it is Faunus (and Sleep), in the Chandogya Upanishad it is Savitr, and in the Arda Wiraz Namag the offering is made to the departed souls.The beings that the vision comes from is more often given. In one Irish version it comes from demons, in the Scottish from "invisible friends," in the Icelandic from the devil. The Irish and Icelandic versions are obviously Christianized, and the source given for the vision indicates that the ritual was not considered properly Christian. In The Aeneid the revelation comes from gods and the dead, in the Chandogya Upanishad from a woman, and in the Arda Wiraz Namag from the souls of the dead. Rhonabwy's vision is of King Arthur's court, and thus of the past.Leaving aside the Christianized versions, I would like to suggest that the knowledge sought is intended to come from the ancestors. This is clear in The Aeneid (not only do the dead appear to Latinus, but Faunus is his father) and the Arda Wiraz Namag, and implied in "Rhonabwy." Since Savitr is god of the sun when it is not in the sky, it may be implied in the Chandogya Upanishad as well; he comes from the Underworld.The major variation is the absence of sacrifice in some versions. This is easily explained by their cultural contexts. In both Iran and India animal sacrifice (particularly of cattle) came to be seen as abhorrent. These traditions have therefore replaced animal sacrifice in this ritual in the same way they replaced it in others, with bread (Iran) and dairy products (India). And of course the later versions from Celtic and Germanic sources occur in a culture in which sacrifice is out of the question. In these versions the sacrificed animal has been reduced to a hide.An interesting secondary detail is the wooden platform, which appears in Ireland, Wales, and Iran, and possibly in Iceland. This may be a liminal device — the seer is lifted up, but not high, putting him neither on the ground nor truly in the air.Some of the Celtic and Germanic examples, and one of the Roman, prescribe wrapping in the hide, rather than merely lying on it. In this way the seer is identified with the sacrificial animal; he is in its skin. This may be intended either as a liminal device—between human and animal, life and death —or so that by this identification with the sacrifice the seer might go with the animal to its intended divine target.The seer, identified with the dead animal, goes where it goes, to the ancestors. And from them the seer acquires knowledge to benefit the community.That the second explanation was the original one is indicated by other details. In most versions, the sacrifice is consumed in some way, eating being a common form of identification. Compare, for instance, the horse sacrifice mentioned by Gerald of Wales (102), in which a king being inaugurated must not only have intercourse with a mare who represents the land, but must also eat her flesh, a double identification.Before ending this article, I would like to discuss some side questions. The first involves the nature of the Gaulish god Ogmios. Palmer (p. 164) holds that the identification of the Ogmios with Hercules rested on the Gaulish god being represented with the skin of a sacrificial animal, which was confused with the lion skin Hercules was usually depicted wearing. I would like to suggest that it was the skin used in just the sort of oracular ritual I have been discussing. This would fit in better with other classical descriptions of Ogmios, and with the usual equation of him with the Irish Oghma, than would seeing him as a Gaulish from of Hercules. If Brunaux is right (p. 72) in describing him as a god who carries off the dead, the divinatory ritual discussed here becomes even more appropriate to him. An interesting nondivinatory parallel comes an element of the Vedic funeral ritual as given in the Asvalayana Grhya Sutra 4.3.20-27 (in Panikkar, p. 606). A goat or cow is sacrificed and its pieces are put on or next to the corresponding part of the corpse — heart on heart, limbs on limbs, etc. The corpse is finally covered with the animal's skin.Now this is clearly primarily an example of equating the dead person and the sacrifice. That, however, makes it all the more interesting. The dead man, covered with the skin of the sacrifice, is conveyed to the land of the dead. And he is presumably on top of a cremation pyre. Is this latter the source of the elevated platform? And could the divinatory ritual as a whole be an attempt to go to the land of the dead in the same way that dead men do?The possibility of a connection between divination and funeral ritual is also raised by the famous funeral described by Ibn Fadlan (CE 921) (summarized, for example, by Sayers, pp. 173-174). He describes a funeral of the Rus, a Germanic people living in what is now Russia. The relevant portions are that a slave who is going to accompany her master into death drinks an intoxicating beverage and is later lifted over a "doorframe" and tells those attending of what she sees in the land of the dead. The dead man lies in a ship, and after the rest of the ritual is performed the ship is set on fire. Since it requires approximately twenty-one square meters of wood to effectively cremate a human body (Barber, pp. 379-380), unless accelerants were used a pyre must have been erected, either around the ship or inside it, making a platform for the dead man.I tentatively put forward the suggestion that this funeral ritual may also be a parallel. If so, the elements have been separated. It is not the dead man (obviously) who performs the ritual; his role is to lie in his boat on a pyre, perhaps a substitute for the platform found in the divination ritual. The roles of drinking the intoxicating beverage and observing the land of the dead fall to the slave who is about to be killed to accompany her master. Such elements as ritual intercourse and human sacrifice make me hesitant to put too much emphasis on this as a parallel. It is clear, though, that an investigation of Indo-European funeral rites is may lead to the origin of the divination ritual.Funerals are themselves liminal rites, and there are strong elements of liminality throughout the Celtic and Germanic traditions. The ritual may be performed at a crossroads, or new ale consumed, or it is specified that the hide must be from a freshly slain animal. These tend to be lacking in the other traditions, and even some Celtic and Germanic examples, which leads me to believe that, while liminality was not a crucial element of the original ritual, it either was part of it, or has migrated into the ritual from other ritual practice.Whatever the origin of the ritual, its clear presence in separated but complete form in both the two Irish sources and the Indo-Iranian sphere point toward a shared common Indo-European heritage. The seer, identified with the dead animal, goes where it goes, to the ancestors. 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