Celtic Articles

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Collection of various prayers and devotionals towards Gaulish gods and goddesses.  Any prayers that come in multiple languages will indicate that they do.Singular Gods/GoddessesCernunnos (Carnonos)Invocation of Cernunnos (English) – by Ian CorriganDeity of the Week: Cernunnos (German and English) - Birgit ReinartzEponaDeity of the Week: Epona (German and English) - Birgit ReinartzEsusDeity of the Week: Esus (German and English) - Birgit ReinartzMatrons (Dêwâs Matres)Deity of the Week: Matronen (German and English) - Birgit ReinartzGebet zu den Matronen an Mittwinter (German and English) - Birgit ReinartzNodensDeity of the Week: Nodens (German and English) - Birgit ReinartzSucellusDeity of the Week: Sucellus (German and English) - Birgit ReinartzTaranisDeity of the Week: Taranis (German and English) - Birgit ReinartzTeutatesDeity of the Week: Teutates (German and English) - Birgit ReinartzMultiple Deities:Deity of the Week: Sirona and Grannus (German and English) - Birgit ReinartzWhere are the Gods? (COVID-19) (English) - Kristin Hitchcock
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Gaulish focused rituals from various ADF membersSeasonal Rituals and High Day RitesA Solitary Yule - Rev. Michael J Dangler, Three Cranes Grove ADFÎwos Eponâ: Festival of Epona Ritual - Trebomâros Auigani (Trevor Hanson), SolitaryA Children's Yule Rite (Gaulish) - Katherine PezzaMidsummer (Gaulish) - Kirk Thomas, Sonoran Sunrise Grove ADFMediosaminos, a Summer Solstice Rite in Brazil - EndoveliconMittsommer 2018 Ritual (English) - Birgit ReinartzMittsommer 2018 Ritual - Gallische (German) - Birgit ReinartzMittsommer 2018 Ritual - Gallische Herdkultur (German) - Birgit ReinartzLughnassa Ritual 2016 (German) - Birgit ReinartzGrove of the Red Earth Samhain (Acultural-Cernunnos) - Allen GrimSpecialty Rites, Ritual Fragments and Ritual TemplatesWaters Module (Gaulish Celtic) - Rev. Michael J Dangler, Three Cranes Grove ADFHouse Blessing: Anagantios Rite (Celtic Gaulish/Irish) - Rev. Michael J Dangler, Three Cranes Grove ADFMeditational and Devotional RitualsCernunnos Devotional Ritual (Solitary) - Trebomâros Auigani (Trevor Hanson), SolitaryGaranus Meditation - Rev. Michael J Dangler, Three Cranes Grove ADFThe Marriage of Lugus and Rosmertâ - Rev. Michael J Dangler, Three Cranes Grove ADF
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By Trebomâros AuiganiIntroductionWithin ADF, we follow an annual ritual year.  As stated within the Dedicant Program, “High day attended/performed might be celebrated with a local grove, privately, or with another Neopagan group.  At least 4 rituals attended/performed during the training period must be ADF-style.”  “ADF style” refers to the Core Order of Rites (COoR), however, this format provides a fair amount of flexibility for the members to develop their ritual practices.  Below is a list of different seasonal periods (cross-quarter days, solstices, and equinoxes) that were presented in “Gaulish Ritual Primer: Gods, Spirits, and Festivals” on the Gaulish Kin website, however, we are expanding on the information in regards to the holidays presented in the basic ritual primer as well as give alternatives to holidays you can celebrate based on research of holidays practiced by both the Pre-Roman and Post-Roman Gauls.The Coligny CalendarOne thing that people within the Gaulish Polytheism community have run into over the years is that how the Gaulish ritual year looks like will depend on how you look at the calendar.  The Gaulish Polytheism Calendar is primarily based on the Coligny Calendar, which was discovered in 1897 in Coligny, France.  The calendar is not complete, but reconstructing it is fairly easy, except there is no indication on the calendar how it relates to other calendars of the time.  Most of the reconstructions have been based on linguistics, which has developed two different interpretations of how the months should fall.  So for example, if you are looking at December, you will see it as either the month of Giamonios or possibly Dumannios.  Over the years, there has been a lot of disagreement on what month the months fall under and what you might want to call the holiday will depend on how you look at the calendar.  The Gaulish Kin is not taking an official position on which one is the “right one”.  But we are providing the best information we can so you can decide for yourself how you want to honor your gods and the Kindreds.The Gaulish Ritual Year in ADFThe following list is an overview of the ADF ritual year in relation to the Gaulish Kin.  This is a work in progress and we will be adding and expanding on parts as we move through the ritual year.Cross-Quarter Days:November Feast: Samonis (Summer’s End), also known as Centugiamos (Winter’s Beginning) to some, Samonis is the beginning of the winter half of the year. A feast celebrating the end of the year and the cycle of death and rebirth. On this day the ancestors are released from Amdumnos to feast with the living. Deities that can be honored this day include Sucellos and Nantosueltâ with their connection with the afterlife, Cernunnos and Eponâ for their associations with guiding and protecting the spirits of the dead between this world and the Otherworld, and possibly the Dêwâs Matres with their associations with family ancestral wisdom, luck, and fate. February Feast: Usmolgos (also known as Ambivolcos, Ambiuolcia) is a feast celebrating the promise of the spring time, the return of the light from the darkness, and purification from the ill luck of the previous year.  Honored gods of this time of year include Brigandu as flame-keeper and hearth fire goddess, Sulis as the goddess of the sun, and any other god or spirits associated with the home and the prosperity of the household.  This is also a time honor house spirits/gods as well as gods of luck and prosperity.  Given how close Îwos Brigandu is to this date (February 1st), many people celebrate them together as the same holiday. May Feast: Belotenes, the feast of the shining fire. Marking the beginning of the summer half of the year, it is at this feast that the herds and flocks, as well as those who tend them, would be purified and blessed with health and good fortune before being taken to their summer pastures. Associated gods: Belenos for healing and purification; Taranis for protection; Rosmertâ prosperity and good fate; and Lugus for protection while traveling.  Also, given how close Îwos Taranis is to this date (May 13th), many people celebrate them together as the same holiday.August Feast: Oinacos Lugous (also Litu Lugus), the Gatherings of Lugus. The harvest begins, the late summer thunderstorms arrive and the tribe gathers together to buy, sell, trade, and participate in community games and festivities. A feast of physical prowess, mastery of skills, and dedications of oaths in honor of the god Lugus.  Honored gods of this time in addition to Lugus include Rosmertâ, partnered with Lugus and goddess of Fate; Ogmios, god of the spoken and written word as well as curses and bindings; and other gods associated with the harvest and civilization such as Brigantiâ, Taranis, Nantosueltâ, etc.Solstices and Equinoxes:As we stated in Gaulish Ritual Primer: Gods, Spirits, and Festivals, with regards to the cross-quarter days, the Coligny Calendar does not seem to mark the equinoxes, although the summer and winter solstices seem to be clearly marked, depending on how you look at the calendar. Winter Solstice: Dévoriuros, the feast of midwinter plenty.  The harvest is in, the livestock have been slaughtered and it is time to snuggle in and celebrate the bounty of the gods and the promise of renewal against the darkness.  Different people celebrate this festival with different focuses.  One dedication includes the goddess Matroná and her son Maponos, who some feel was born on this day.  Another includes celebrating the return of Sulis, calling her back from Amdumnos.  Also, given how close Eponâlia is to this date (December 18th), many people celebrate them together as the same holiday.Vernal Equinox: Litu Uesonnae, the festival of spring (also Dius Aratri, the Day of the Plough), a day under the tutelage of Ambaxtonos, god of farmers, and Taranis, god of thunder.  We see the thawing of the waters by the fires kindled by Brigantiâ and from the waters, new life emerges.  It is also this time when the land spirits finish their shift.  The spirits of the winter season have made their way back to the Otherworld, being round up by Eponâ, and the spirits of the summertime have come out of their homes.  This is also a time of year where farmers are starting to get ready to plant their seeds and agricultural tools are blessed for a good harvest.  In addition to Ambaxtonos and Taranis, gods honored this time of year may include Sirona and Grannus (both water deities and associated with healing; Sirona’s serpent cult and affiliation with stars is relevant, alongside Grannus’ affiliation with wells); also Nantosueltâ, whose domain is the fertile earth and material wealth.Summer Solstice: Mediosamos, the midpoint of summer and a day of wildfire.  Celebrations include all-night vigils by hilltop bonfires throughout Europe.  Honored gods of this time of year can include various Ouranic (Upper World/heavenly) deities such as Taranis as Sky-Father; Brigantiâ as Keeper of the Sacred Fires and her association with high places; Belenos and his association to healing and possibly light, Sulis, ect.Autumnal Equinox: Litu Uogiami, the festival of autumn (also Diocomrextios, the day for settling all disputes). is also known as the second harvest, due to foraging practices.  This is a day to honor the land spirits as the shift between Samos and Giamos has completed and the summer spirits have gone into their homes, while the winter spirits are out roaming about.  Gods to be honored this day include Nantosueltâ is honored as the provider of material and natural wealth, and perhaps Grannus and Sirona as deities of water.  Cernunnos being a god of bi-directionality and mediator between order and chaos as well as his connection with protection while traveling in the wilds can also be honored at this time.Other holidays that seem to have been celebrated at various times of the year:Febuary 1: Îwos Brigandu (Festival of Brigandu).  Brigandu, also known as Brigantiâ, is a Brythonic deity that had icons and shrines in the northern and western parts of Gaul.  This festival is the celebration of Brigandu rekindling of the world’s hearth-fire to bring forth the end of the winter season.  It is also to bring forth luck and prosperity to the home, purifying the home of ill luck.  Given the closeness of the holiday to Usmolgos in date and theme, some people chose to celebrate them as the same holiday.May 13: Îwos Taranis (Festival of Taranis).  One of the Ides festivals within the Roman Empire, this date is dedicated to the worship of Jupiter and Taranis.  Images of this festival are shown on mosaics and shows a ritual dedicated to invoking the positive powers of the storms after the fields have been planted and before the rain storms of the summer season starts.  This holiday is for blessings of the fields and protection of Taranis.  Appropriate offerings include pure water, mead/beer, burning wood fires, etc.  Given the closeness of the holiday to Belotenes in date and theme, some people chose to celebrate them together.December 1 (or the new moon): Îwos Nechtan (Festival of Nodens).  Nodens was a Brythonic deity that may or may not have been worshiped in the northern and eastern parts of Gaul (minor holiday if he was).  Festival would include healing, renewal, visions (divination), and protection.  Appropriate offerings include coins and offerings to the sea/lakes/rivers.December 18: Îwos Eponâ or Eponalia. The Roman festival of Epona, is a day of observance for her.  Segomâros Widugeni also calls the holiday Îwos Dumanni (Festival of the Darkest Depths).  This is the time of the year when Eponâ wanders the land, accompanied by a retinue of spirits.  Appropriate offerings include horse effigies, dog effigies, items associated with cavalry (bridles, brushes), garlands, and roses.  Given how close it is to the Winter Solstice, some people chose to celebrate this festival for the winter solstice. Sources:Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship. Our Own Druidry: An Introduction to Ár nDraíocht Féin and the Druid Path ADF Publishing. Tucson, 2009Jess (BB).  “New Calendar for Gaulish Polytheism”. Blood Bones Blog, https://thebloodybones.wordpress.com/2015/07/10/new-calendar-of-gaulish-polytheism/Widugeni, Segomâros. “Nemeton Segomâros”.  Polytheist.com: Honoring Many Gods. http://polytheist.com/segomaros/Serith, Ceisiwr. “The Gaulish God Taranis”.  YouTube.com. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=233DWe89JRsAwen, Heather. “Celtic Festival of Nechtan, Nodens, Nuada, Nudd &Llud”.  Gullveig Press: Resources for Pagans in Prisions. https://gullveigpress.wordpress.com/  
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The following information is a basic primer to get people started with Gaulish Polytheism within ADF.  As time goes on, we will modify and add to this information as our Hearths grow and develop.Déví Nemetoni: The Gods of the GroveThe Earth Mother: Danu, the primal goddess, associated with Europe’s principle river, the Danube.  Local river goddesses; where no Celtic name is retrievable, she could simply be addressed as Dévá, Goddess.  In addition, there is the personification of Gaul herself, Litáví.The Gatekeeper: Cernunnos, the liminal psychopomp god, who represents the connection between the lands of the tribe and the wild.The Hearth Goddess: Brigantí, also known as Brigindú.  In Irish lore, she is better known as Brigid, goddess of poetry and craft, but her earliest patronage is the domestic hearth.The Outsiders: Ancenetlí.  Not gods, but significant - these represent forces and powers which have no relationship with the Tribe, sometimes hostile but mainly just indifferent. Trícenetlos: The Three KindredsThe Gods: Déví.  The first children of the goddess Danu.  The Shining Ones, the undying, the givers of goods.The Ancestors: Senistres. The spirits of the blessed dead. While for most of the year they dwell in Andumnos, the otherworld, they can still be called upon to render assistance to their descendants.The Spirits: There are many other miscellaneous spirits, including spirits of a location (genii loci in Latin, brogidéví in Gaulish) and other natural features.  Most familiar to humans, however, are the Cucullátí, represented as small hooded figures with predominate phalluses: these are the spirits of the household, to be propriated with milk or ale. Ivostoves: The High DaysNovember Feast: Samonis, the beginning of the winter half of the year. A feast celebrating the end of the year and the cycle of death and rebirth. On this day the ancestors are released from Amdumnos to feast with the living. A feast dedicated to Sucellos and Nantosuelta, deities of the Otherworld.February Feast: Usmolgos, also known as Ambivolcos.  A feast celebrating Brigantí’s rekindling of the world’s hearth-fire, the promise of spring, the return of the light and the purification of the home. An appropriate time to do the spring cleaning!May Feast: Belotenes, the feast of the shining fire. Marking the beginning of the summer half of the year, it is at this feast that the flocks and those who tend them would be purified before being taken to their summer pastures. A time to celebrate fertility and reproduction.August Feast: Oinacos Lugous, the Gatherings of Lugus. The harvest begins, the late summer thunderstorms arrive and the Tribe gathers together, to buy, sell and show off. A feast of martial and physical prowess.With regard to the quarter days, the calendar of Coligny does not seem to mark the equinoxes, although the summer and winter solstices are clearly marked.Winter Solstice: Dévoriuros, the feast of midwinter plenty.  The harvest is in, the livestock have been slaughtered and it is time to snuggle in and celebrate the bounty of the gods and the promise of renewal against the darkness.  Dedicated to the goddess Matroná and her son Maponos, born on this day.Vernal Equinox: Dius Aratri, the Day of the Plough, a day under the tutelage of Ambaxtonos, god of farmers, and Taranis, god of thunder. Agricultural tools are blessed on this day, and in Northern Europe the equinoctal gales are very much present!Summer Solstice: Mediosamos, the midpoint of summer. A day of wildfire- not the safe hearth fire but the dangerous wildfire. Celebrated by an all-night vigil by a hilltop bonfire throughout Europe.Autumnal Equinox: Diocomrextios, the day for settling all disputes. Contracts would be renewed on this day. A day to celebrate community and the maintenance of good relationships which bind it together Resources:Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship. Our Own Druidry: An Introduction to Ár nDraíocht Féin and the Druid Path, ADF Publishing. Tucson, 2009
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(Originally published in Druid's Progress 12)One of the liveliest Goddesses of our Pagan revival is the Irish/Celtic Brigid. She is honored throughout American Paganism as one of the most popular subjects of worship outside of the Greco-Roman-Egyptian spectrum. She is worshipped as a Goddess of creativity, of artists, healers, poets, and craftspersons. Sometimes the mother, sometimes the maiden, even a crone, she supports a multitude of worshippers.This article will look at the history of the Goddess Brigid, her roots in Celtic Paganism both British and Irish. We will see how she became identified with/as St. Brigid of Kildare and discuss her cult among the folk in medieval and modern times.The Celts regularly formulated triads, perhaps as an expression of extreme potency. Early post-Roman vernacular Irish literature contain many references to triads of female divinity. Many of these Goddesses had a maternal function and were closely identified with the land. Brigid is a prime example of this type of deity which is associated with the sacred number three, the triple aspect of the divine. Brigid is the daughter of Daghda, the God of Great Knowledge. They belong to the Tuatha De Danann, the Tribe of the Goddess Danu. According to Cormac's Glossary, a 10th century compilation from oral tradition, she is said to be 'a Goddess whom poets worshipped' and to have two sisters, also named Brigid who are patrons of healing and smithcraft. She was venerated not only as Brigid, but also as Bride, Briginda, Brigidu, and in North Britain as Briganda, which can be translated as 'High One or Exalted One'. Other titles include; 'Ashless Flame', 'Flame of Two Eternities', and 'Mother of All Wisdom'.The Book of Invasions tells us that Brigid was the wife of Breas and had a son named Ruadan. Legend has it that the Fomoire sent Ruadan to kill Goibniu, the smith. Ruadan was able to wound Goibnui with a spear, but was himself slain in revenge. Brigid came to bewail her son, which was the first time crying and shrieking was heard in Ireland, the first keening.As her name implies, one of the most potent symbols of Brigid is fire. Her triple nature relates to the fire of the hearth and smithy, the flame of life and healing, and the flame of divine inspiration. In many ancient traditions the hearth is connected to the sun, the source of warmth and light. It is the focus of the home and integral to every day functions. As the patroness of filidhact, bardic lore, she guides the flame of inspiration, poetry and divination. Heroes who set off on magical or spiritual tasks would also request protection and guidance from Brigid. Thus she is connected with the three key functions of Indo-European society - bounty, poetry and, through the forge, warfare.Another important symbol of Brigid is water, which in all its forms was venerated in the Celtic world. Sacred springs, many associated with Brigid, were a focus for Celtic cult practices. Spring water symbolically unites the underworld and the upper world by rising out of the darkness of the earth and reflecting the light of the heavens. Hot springs, in particular, provide a link between fire and water, Brigid's key symbols. All springs and wells remain powerful sources of inspiration, healing, and a means of both physical and spiritual purification. Several rivers, most particularly in Munster, bear Brigid's name, reinforcing her connection with the fertility of the land.One legend which connects Brigid with water, tells how a crystal drop from the mantle of Brigid touched the earth and became a deep and clear lake. This was said to be a lake from Tir-Na-Moe 'Land of the Living Heart' and there was healing in it for all weariness and battle wounds.The worship of Brigid continued into the Christian era as one of the most popular saints of the Celts. Historical references to Saint Brigid begin in the seventh century. She was worshipped in an Irish convent at Kildare or Cill Dara, which means the church of the Oak-tree. This was also the site of an ancient temple in which had burned a perpetual flame, an ashless fire, which suggests it was a sort of lamp, perhaps fed by oil, tallow or butter. In later Christian times, when the nuns kept the fire burning using wood, the ashes were said to miraculously vanish. In 1220 A.D., the Archbishop of Dublin decided that the fire-cult was 'pagan' and ordered the flame to be extinguished. After his death the nuns rekindled the flame until the Reformation when the entire convent was suppressed.In Gaelic-speaking Scotland the Goddess was remembered as another saint, St. Brigit of the Isles. To this day she is remembered as patron saint of the family hearth, originally a peat fire that was kept burning in her honor. In the Highlands she was known as the foster-mother of Christ, the mid-wife or aid-woman who comforted Mary.The first day of February, dedicated to Brigid, is known as Imbolg, meaning 'of/in the womb'. Another name connected with this celebration is Oimelc, a Germanic word meaning 'ewes-milk' or 'lactation', which is a direct reference to the birth of young animals in the spring. According to Celtic tradition Imbolg was the first day of spring and stock who had been penned in for the winter were allowed out. Brigid, the guardian-Goddess of domestic animals, is said to have two oxen, Fea and Feimhean and Triath, King of the Swine. These sacred animals would cry out after rapine had been committed in Ireland.On Brigid's Eve in parts of Ireland it was customary for groups of young girls, who were either disguised or clad in white, to go from house to house singing and dancing. The householders would give the girls a gift for Brigid, usually either eggs or money. The leader usually was a girl who would carry a 'brideog', little Brigid, into the fields. The brideog was fashioned from rushes or oats and decorated with colored shells, spring flowers, greenery and ornaments. The best and brightest of ornaments were attached over the heart and called reul-iuil Bride, The 'Guiding Star of Brigid'. In other parts of Ireland, a maiden was chosen to represent Brigid. She would dress in white and wear a crown of rushes and carry a Brigid's Cross.Older women prepared a Brigid's Bed which was made of an oval basket filled with rushes. A straw image was placed in the basket which was put on the hearth. Then the main door was opened and the men said a prayer invoking and asking Brigid to come in for her bed was ready. Brigid was believed to travel with her white milk-cow on her festival and bring blessings to each household. In some areas of Scotland and Ireland offerings of food and grass were left on doorsteps for her cow.There are many other customs connected with Brigid, such as leaving a piece of cloth out doors From sunset to sunrise on the eve of Imbolg to confer on it protective and curative powers. This was known as 'brat Bhride', Brighid's mantle or cloak, and was kept in the house for the following year. It was particularly good for healing sick animals. Also, rushes or straw were left outside the house on Brigit's Eve. At nightfall, a young girl went out, brought the bundle to the door, knocked three times while asking in the name of Brigid to be admitted. Using this material, crosses were woven and then placed in the innerside of the thatched roof to provide protection. Another ancient custom concerned the throwing of a sheaf of oats or cake of bread against the doorstep on the eve of Imbolg to drive away hunger during the coming year. A second cake was often placed outside the window as an offering.The cult of Brigid is very much alive today. She is the patron Goddess of many who honor her in ceremony, song and art. Brigid is a great eternal being who, like the flame of life itself, keeps alight and rekindles hope and inspiration. The sacred power of Brigid can act as a catalyst for us in many ways, awakening creativity, compassion, and skill.
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Tracing the roots of the goddess and saint. The goddess Brigit has been the object of reverence for thousands of years over a wide expanse of Western Europe. Even today, her devotees grow in number, among Neo-pagans and Christians alike. Although the intention of many of these devotees is to restore Brigit to her pre-Christian glory, the image of the goddess that is honored today is, in many ways. very different from the Brigit whom our Pagan ancestors knew. Brigit belongs to a large and diverse group of Celtic mother goddesses. Her mythology and folklore bear unmistakable marks of her membership in this group, but there are many differences that set her apart as well. At least in part, these differences are due to the enthusiasm with which the Christians adopted her into their pantheon as a saint. To understand the more ancient nature of Brigit, we trace her evolution, and that of the other mother goddesses, from a time before the Celts had become a distinct language group. Among the Proto-Indo-European people, the origins of the Celtic mother goddesses can b€ traced to two distinct figures: the transfunctional goddess and the virginal goddess. Of particular interest for our purposes is the inter. action of these goddesses with the principle of kingship. The Transfunctional Goddesses The transfunctional goddesses are first and foremost mother goddesses, embodied in the local rivers and lands through which they flow. As the very sources of life, their primary concerns are with the fertility and abundance of the land and the creatures that dwell there. An example of a transfunctional goddess is the Indic Sarasvati. These goddesses were also sources of knowledge and wisdom. Theirs was the ultimate source of numinous wisdom flowing from the otherworldly well. They were venerated at wells, springs and rivers. These goddesses are referred to as "transfunctional" because they usually transcend Dumezilian function to benefit the society at large. This behavior is in contrast to their male counterparts, who tend to be more class-conscious. One of the results of this transcendence is that many of the goddess that descend from these ancient deities possess three-fold aspects or personae. That triplicity is the result of the individual goddess's reflection in each of the three-fold divisions of traditional Indo-European (IE) society. Examples of these descendant triple goddesses are Brigit, Gwenhwyfar, Macha, and the Morrigan. In terms of the transfunctional goddesses' relationship to kingship, the paramount role of these goddesses is as givers of sovereignty, the validation of the worthiness of a king. Traditionally, the very survival of a people depended upon the fitness of their king, as indicated by acceptance by the goddess of the land. Unlike the concept of sovereignty that was to arise in later Celtic cultures, this ancient predecessor did not involve sexual intercourse between the human male and the sovereignty goddess. For the purposes of this article, this is a key distinction. The Perpetual Virgin The second ancient goddess type I call the perpetual virgin. She is probably best represented in the tales of the Indic goddess Madhavi. In the Mahabharata, Midhavi, is willfully sold by her father to provide royal progeny for four kings. During the tale, she reveals that she is gifted with renewable virginity and thus was suitable to perpetuate the four royal lineages that would have otherwise ended childless. This theme, the salvation and perpetuation of kingships by the carnal intercession of a virgin, is common in the IE family of cultures. In the Celtic world, for reasons that I will explore in a moment, the emphasis on virginity is obscured but the theme is prevalent nonetheless. Medb (from *Medus, the same root as Madhavi) had the same willful role in the continuation of a number of legendary Irish royal lines. The important distinction from the role of the transfunctional goddess above is that the perpetual virgin does not establish sovereignty, but rather provides for salvation of existing kingships. Celtic Hybrids The fragmentary remnants of these two types of goddesses may still be observed in Norse, Roman and Indic mythology. But, somewhere along the road, as the Celts emerged from the mists of time, these female roles became combined. This combination led to a unique new generation of hybrid goddesses with often contradictory attributes. The traditional struggles of chastity versus promiscuity, of asceticism versus sensuality, were recast among the Celtic divinity in terms of sexual power and jealousy. Another important factor in this evolutionary change was the characteristic leveling of divine and human strata among the Celts. As these boundaries blurred, characters emerged who were no longer clearly divine or mortal. Combined with the crossbreeding of goddess roles, these changes yielded a sovereignty myth that, unlike the original, centered on the mating of mortal kings with divine beings. The vast majority of Brigit's lore concerns the granting of fertility prosperity and inspiration. These new hybrid mother goddesses virgins expressed their power by the ability to withhold sexual acceptance of the would-be kings. Validation of kingship became a matter of choosing sexual consorts, a choice usually based upon virtuous behavior of the male. This placed the females in a dominant position that was expressed as overt sexual and martial prowess. In other cases, the virginal goddess's chaste nature, that had originally acted as a deterrent to sexual contact, became replaced by ugliness or shrew-like qualities. As a result, the classic Celtic tale of the sovereignty goddess disguised as a hag attempting to seduce heroes emerged. More often than not the actual mothering roles of these goddesses became incidental to their sexual exploits. Pre-Christian Brigit Brigit is about as close to a pan-Celtic deity as they get. According to Ptolemy, she was the tribal goddess of the Brigantes who resided in north Britain and south Leinster. To the British, she was 'Briganti'. In Romano-British times she was Brigantia ("The High One"). The Irish usually call her Brid (an epithet meaning "Exalted One") and alternate spellings of Bridget, Brigid, Bride and Breed can be found. The Welsh call her Brigantu and among the Gauls she was Brigindo or Bergusia. Her Dame also survives in the river Brent in England and the river Braint in Wales. Her closest classical cognate is Minerva Belisama ("Brightest") and her name was once identical with the Sanskrit feminine adjective brhati ("great" or "lofty"). Like Brigit's famed sanctuary at Kildare there was a temple dedicated to Minerva) with an "eternal flame" in Britain in the 3rd century BCE. Minerva is a goddess of wisdom and the originator of arts and crafts who is often depicted as a warrior woman as is her cognate Athena. Brigit can also been seen, as a cognate of Artemis, who is closer to the virginal Madhavi in character There are a few accounts of Brigit that confirm the broader extent of her pre-Christian character. In Cath Almaine, "The Battle of Allen," Brigit appeared as a battle specter floating over the heads of the army of Leinster, and thus terrified their enemy, the army of Leth Cuinn. Also, in the tale of the Borama, "The Tribute," Mo Ling protected himself from his enemies by praying to Brigit. In Brigit's case, it is abundantly clear that the qualities of mother goddess and goddess of wisdom have been retained through all of these changes. The vast majority of her lore concerns the granting of fertility, prosperity and inspiration. In some tales she is depicted as an equivalent to Danu, the mother of the Gods. As an expression of her transfunctional nature, Brigit is both one goddess and three, sometimes linked with two eponymous sisters. The triple Brigit or three sisters of Brigit are goddesses of poetry, smith-craft and healing. Monastic Whitewashing Despite her obviously substantial role in the minds of the ancient Celts, there are very few references to her in the tales recorded by the monastic scribes. Where she is present, it seems that she has been greatly diminished. In the Lebor Gabala Erenn, ("Book of Invasions of Ireland") all of the female characters are in the background of the tale. Despite that, the sheer volume of folklore that has been passed down to us concerning Brigit lends much greater testimony to her high status. What the monastic writings do relate is that Brigit is the daughter of the Dagda and she was among the Titatha de Danann who migrated to Ireland. She had, at one point, borne a son by Bres (named Ruadan) and three sons by Tuireann. Ruadan was slain during the second battle of Mag Tuired while attempting to kill the God Goibniu. When Brigit came later to the battlefield to bewail her son, it was the first time crying and shrieking were heard in Ireland. Brigit As Christian Saint Brigit is one of the few Pagan deities to make a smooth transition from goddess to Christian Saint. Unlike the usual pattern of overlaying the Pagan deity with a pre-existing Christian icon, Brigit was simply christianized, name and all. She is known in Ireland as St. Brigit (St. Ffraid in Wales) and in popularity is second only to St. Patrick. The tales of St. Brigit make efforts to fabricate a story of a. living human saint but the parallels between the accounts and what we know of the goddess, along with the magical symbolism of the tales, leave no doubt of her true origins. According to the Rennes Dinnsenchus, she was the daughter of a druid, Dubthach, and a woman named Broiseach. She was born around 455 AD at Faughart when her mother was delivering milk into the druid's house. Her mother gave birth as she crossed the threshold of the doorway, thus being born neither in nor outside of the house. She was reportedly raised on the milk of magical otherworldly cows, and as a young girl was said to have presided as a midwife over the birthing of Christ. In the southern Hebrides, Christ is known as Dalta Bride "the foster son of Bride" and she is sometimes called "Mary of the Gaels" by the Irish. In the light of the l-E concept of the perpetual virgin mother of kings, it is not at all surprising that the Celts could easily make such a substitution. There is a great deal of intense fertility goddess symbolism in the tales of her life. Even though she herself was a virgin, she supplied limitless food without her larder ever dwindling. She could provide a lake of milk from her cows, which were milked three times a day, and when she presided over ale brewing at Easter, one measure of her malt made enough ale for her seventeen churches. St. Brigit's feast day takes place on the first day of February, which coincides with the original pagan festival to the goddess Brigit. She is said to travel about the countryside on the eve of this festival to bestow her blessings on the people and their animals. She is recorded as founding her first religious, settlement at Kildare (cill-dara "church of oak"). In this monastery, there was a perpetual fire that was guarded by nineteen virgins and no man could approach her shrine. She reportedly died in her monastery in about 525 AD and the flame was maintained until it was ordered extinguished during the reign of King Henry VIII. Today, a new flame has been kindled at Kildare and it has been passed all around the world. Many pagan folk, including some of our groves, are involved in the effort of devotion to keep-the flame of this mighty goddess alive once more. Bibliography Danaher, Kevin, The Year In Ireland, Irish Calendar Customs, Minneapolis Mercier Press, 1972 Davidson, H. R. Ellis, Myths And Symbols In Pagan Europe, Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1988 Dillon, Myles, The Cycles of the Kings. Dublin: Four Courts Press, 1946 Ellis, Peter Beresford, Dictionary of Celtic Mythology, New York: Oxford University Press, 1992 A Dictionary of Irish Mythology, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987 The Druids, Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1994 Green, Miranda J., ed., The Celtic World, London: Routledge, 1995 Dictionary of Celtic Myth and Legend, London: Thames and Hudson, 1992 Symbol & Image In Celtic Religious Arts, London: Routledge, 1989 Koch, John T and John Carey ed., The Celtic Heroic Age, 2nd ed., Malden, Massachusetts: Celtic Studies Publications 1995 Cathain, Seamas, The Festivals of Brigit, Celtic Goddess & Holy Woman, Dublin; DBA Publications Ltd., 1995 Driscoll, Robert, ed., The Celtic Consciousness, New York: George Braziller, 1981 Pennick, Nige1, Celtic Sacred Landscapes, New York. Thames and Hudson, 1996 Puhvel, Jaan, Comparative Mythology, Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987 Rees, Alwyn and Brinley Rees, Celtic Heritage, Ancient Tradition in Ireland and Wales, London: Thames and Hudson, 1961 Ross, Anne, Druids, Gods & Heroes from Celtic Mythology, 2ad ed., New York: Peter Bedrick Books, 1994 Ross, Anne, Pagan Celtic Britain, 2nd ed., London; Constable, 1992 Sjoestedt, Marie-Louise, Gods and Heroes of the Celts, trans. Myles Dillon, Dublin, Four Courts Press, 1949
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(Originally published in Druid's Progress 12)Of the first fire, she sings - of the first fire of Spring, she sings, Her voice ringing clear in the cold winter air, as she rises and gathers her things.In the first light, she yawns - in the first light of dawn, she yawns, The grove is asleep in Brigit's fair keep and the door fills with mist from the lawns.In her bare feet, she walks - in her bare feet, in the frost, she walks She walks to the well, her buckets to fill, where they've hung strips of colorful cloth.Like water the Spring shall rise - like water, the Spring, she cries, shall rise! When weather is harsh, and the reeds in the marsh bend with the snow and the ice.So sweet is the song of the water - so sweet is the singing of fire and water She pours in the pot all the water she's got to heat for her sons and her daughters.Of the sacred fire, she shouts!The sacred fire's gone out! she shouts, But no one hears through the sleep in their ears, she's the only one up and about.So singing she carries the wood - so singing she carries the load of wood. She might as well sing, she's done everything, yet her people are kind and good.But sometimes the people forget Sometimes the people, says Brigit, forget. So she kindles the flame, and she calls it by name, and it rises and comes to her yet.Of the first fire, she sings - of the first fire burning, she sings - Then she disappears, like the smoke in the air, like the unseen beginnings of Spring.WARNING: Keep water handy. Brigit took this poem quite literally when it was read at Green Man Grove's Imbolc last year - a flame dropped from a candle, ignited a reed dolly that had been offered previously to Her, and caused a hearty conflagration.
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When Cormac mac Airt was king of Ireland, he was a good king and wise, his people prospered and he was greatly loved. And if he was well loved, his children is wife was adored. And if his wife was adored, his children were cherished even moreso.One day, as he walked upon the plain, he saw a youth playing. This youth had shining hair so fine it was like silver, and cheeks red as apples, his eyes flashed and his smile could bring an answering smile from a stone. In his hand he carried an apple branch, and upon it were nine silver apples. As he shook the branch, the sound of bells rang out, so sweet and pure that Cormac stood to listen, and found the cares and weariness of the day lifted from him.So deep his peace and pleasure, he determined to have this branch to bring the same to his people, no matter what the cost. He asked the youth what he would take for this branch, and the youth said that he would have Cormac's wife and son and daughter upon the following day. Well, this shocked and saddened Cormac, for his family were the sun and moon to him, but a bargain is a bargain and he could not take back his word. So Cormac returned to his hall and told the people what had happened. There was much wailing and crying out, for the people were loath to lose their queen and heirs, but Cormac shook the branch for them, and they were contented and set at peace.The next day, the youth came and took Cormac's wife and son and daughter away, and the people began to wail again, but once more Cormac shook the apple branch and the people were quieted. So they continued on for a year. The work went faster, for whenever Cormac shook the branch all fatigue was swept away. There were fewer quarrels, for whenever tempers flared Cormac shook the branch and people calmed.There was peace and prosperity among all the people at Tara, but after a year, Cormac was no longer contented. He missed his family more than the branch could soothe. So one misty Autumn morning he left his high seat and walked away Westward, following the path his family had taken.After a day and a night and a day, Cormac found himself in an unfamiliar land. Bright were the colors, soft the grass, tall the trees, and the sound of birds was like sweet speech to his ears. As he walked, he came to places of wonder. First, he saw a group of men thatching a house with feathers. No sooner had they got one side done, but they saw that they were out of feathers and began to hunt for more. And while they sought more feathers, those of the first half of the roof would blow away, so that the task was never done. Cormac watched, but said nothing, for he could see no sense in this task.Again he journeyed on, until he came to a place where a fire was lit for making charcoal, and a woodsman was dragging up immense trees. He brought one, and laid it on the fire, but in the time it took him to go for the second tree, the first was all consumed, so that he could never sit to warm himself. Once again, Cormac watched a while but said nothing, then journeyed on.Next he came to a barren plain whereon he saw a giant head. Into the skull poured one great stream, and from the eyes and ears and mouth flowed five smaller ones, in all directions. He wondered at this marvel, and traveled on across the plain to where he saw a brightly lit and welcoming house.The door was opened by a fine lady who welcomed him in with the cup of blessing and wash water for his feet. A table was set for feasting, and a grand lord sat in the high seat. On the hearth a pig was roasting, yet it showed no sign of being cooked at all. The lord said to him; "Be welcome to my house, Cormac macAirt, king of Ireland. Come, let me show you a marvel. You see that pig, roasting on the spit? Well it has this quality- that if four truths are told while turning it, it will be fully cooked."The warrior, his wife, a servant each told a tale, and their fourths were cooked, and then Cormac told how he lost his family, and the feast was ready. Then the warrior showed Cormac the golden cup with which he had been greeted and said; "You see this cup, well it has the property that, when three lies are told near it, it will break, and three truths told near it will make it whole again."They demonstrated it's property by means of some nonsense, and when it was said to Cormac; "neither your wife nor your daughter has been unfaithful, nor has your son slept with any woman," it came back together.Then the warrior revealed himself as Manannan macLir and asked whether he and his people had been happy in the last year. Cormac told him truthfully that the people had been contented, peaceful and productive, yet missed their royal family almost as much as Cormac himself had missed them.So Manannan told Cormac that they would soon be with him once more and said; "Many times have I visited your realm, seen and unseen. Many times have I invited you to visit me in mine. Not until now have I prevailed upon you to accept my hospitality."Then through an inner door came the most beautiful sight ever to meet the eyes of Cormac macAirt - his wife and daughter and son, smiling in joy to greet him. Together they laughed and wept and hugged, looked at one another long and deeply to see that all were well, and then they sat at last to the feasting. As the dined, Cormac told of the marvels he had seen while crossing the plane. Manannan explained them; the thatching of feathers were the words of poets, who gain no fame nor give any great thought to their words, so that they are all blown away and the world left unchanged. The log that burned before the man could cook his supper, was the work of those who labor for another's gain, not gaining pride nor sustenance from their efforts. And the great skull was the well of wisdom, flowing into the head and being expressed by the senses.A gracious host was Manannan mac Lir, and the best of companions his wife, and the night passed pleasantly indeed, but as the sky began to pale, Manannan made a gift to Cormac of the apple branch and the cup of truth, and sent the family off to bed. When they awoke, they were once more upon the plane of Tara, and a year had passed since Cormac's leaving. Great was the rejoicing when they returned to the hall. And that is how Cormac mac Airt won the silver branch of soothing from Manannan mac Lir.
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(Originally published in Druid's Progress 11)In Dagda is the eldest, wisest and mightiest of the Tuatha De, for his is every power of all powers. He is called the Excellent God, the Lord of Perfect Knowledge and all Father. His central attribute is the Sacred Fire and, like it, he is always hungry, ready to consume the offerings; he is also a red god. The Dagda is also a phallic deity, his lust matching his hunger. He is the father of many of the Tuatha De but his key function is as Druid of the Gods.It is proper to offer to the Dagda for wisdom, for bounty and for victory in law or judgement. His favorite offerings are oat bannocks or porridge, ale in quantity and butter offered to the fire.The Dagda's symbols are the Cauldron of Bounty, the Harp of the Seasons and the Club that Slays and Revives. The Cauldron is called 'Never Dry', one of the Four Treasures of the Gods. It serves each their favorite food but will not serve a coward or an oath breaker. The Harp is called 'Four Cornered Music' upon which the Dagda plays the seasons' turning. The Dagda's great war-club slays with one end and grants life with the other.The key image of the Dagda begins in a landscape of green hills with a great plain before them. Over the hills comes a man's form, tall and broad. He wears a patch tunic of nine colors and kilt of burnished leather. His mighty arms and legs bear bands of gold and his shoulders a cloak of scarlet fastened with a great brooch. Upon his thick neck is a great torc with bull-head finials. His uncut hair and beard are red and his features broad, with smiling eyes and lips. In his right hand he drags his war club, cutting the turf as he goes. On his back is his harp and under his left arm he bears his cauldron, steaming and boiling all the while.Hymn to the DagdaBy Ian CorriganDagda most honored To you we make sacrifice Oats from our bounty we freely give To Eochaid the All-Father You, the Fire Beneath the Cauldron Hear us, Old Giant God with the Great Staff Ruad Rofessa, Lord of Secret Knowledge Fire of the Sacrifice, great in appetite To you we do honor Excellent God Mate of the Geat Queen Fergus, the Mare's Son Chieftain of Danu, Bountiful Giver Flame in the belly that sustains Life Flame in the loins that continues Life Flame in the eye that comprehends Life Be in us as we are in you Kindle in us as we make our offering Oats of the Stallion we give you Boiled in the Cauldron upon the Sacred Fire O Harper of the Seasons Taker of the Sacrifice Druid of Oak and Hazel Dagda Mor! Great Good God! Accept our Sacrifice!(Abridged from Ian's forthcoming book Celtic Paganism)
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In the season of darkening, the Lord of the House of Death receives the Spirits in his Hall. He is Donn the Dark One, called Cernunnos the Horned One. He is the First Ancestor, the Torc Bearer, The Guardian of the Cauldron of Plenty.Hear us now, Horned One, Dark one, Receiver of the Dead, Granter of Rest, Patron of the Feast in the Land of the Dead. We your children pray you to come in, to let your gaze fall upon this Sacred Ground, to indwell our rite and give us your blessing.We make due offering to you. We give you...(offering made into shaft or offering bowl.)Silver, that you grant the wealth of the Underworld, Source of All Potential.(offering made to the Fire)Oil, that the richness of the Land be renewed as our own lives are renewed.(offering placed at the foot of the Tree)Horn, that the beings who know you may bless us in the Season of Hunting.Be welcome among us, Donn; Dark One, accept our sacrifice!
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Brigid: Flame of Two Eternities Brigit: Behind the Veil Brigit Lights Her Own Rethinking Imbolc Donn Invocation Call to Manannan The Dagda Hymn to the Morrigan Morrigan Invocation Yes Virginia, There May Have Been a Taliesen How Cormac macAirt went to Tir na nOg
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Let us call to Manannan to guide us, lest we be lost in the mists of change:(Conch shell is blown, if available.)Manannan comes, he comes Even to our fire he comes. From beyond the sea's nine waves he comes, From beyond the isle of Donn he comes, Lighting the moonlit path of mist he comes, Showing us hidden gates he comes, Guiding his sacred guests he comes, Leading the longed-for dead he comes, To our calling, to our greeting, to our blessing to our welcome, To the honor of our rite he comes!(Those with bells, if any, ring them)
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© Isaac Bonewits Originally published in Druid's Progress #3Words by Isaac Bonewits, music traditional (Lagan Lad/Quiet Joys)-- for Sally --O Morrigan, we call your nameAcross the dusty years.You speak to us, of blood and lust.You show us all our fears.You are a goddess, old and wise.Of holy power you have no dearth.Beneath your wings: Black, red and white,We learn of death and birth.You walk about, this ancient land,Your hungers raw and clear.You make the crops, grow rich and strong,As well your geese and deer.A flirting maid, a lusty hag,A mother of great girth:Without the touch, of your black wings,We cannot heal the earth.You float upon, a blood red wave,Of swords and spears and knives.Your voice inspires, fear and dread,That you'll cut short our lives.You try the warriors', courage sore,Our inner souls unearth.Without the touch, of your red wings,We cannot know our worth.You fly above, the silver clouds,To Manannan's shining Gate.You lead the dead, along that path,to meet our final fate.The joke's on us, we find within,A land of laughter and of mirth.Without the touch, of your white wings,We cannot have rebirth.
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As the Earth falls into sleep the Queen of Spirits is choosing those who will go to the Cauldron of Rebirth. She is Morrigan, the Great Queen of Phantoms, the Chooser of the Slain. She is the Battle Raven, the Red Woman, Mistress of the Cauldron.Hear us now, Red One, Great Queen, Lady of the Reaping, Cauldron-Witch of Sorcery and Prophecy. We your children pray that you be with us, that you look kindly upon our holy rite, that you come into our Grove and give us your blessing.We give due offering to you. We give you...(Shaft)Precious stone, that the Bones of the Earth may be clothed again in life.(Fire)Whiskey, that the Waters of Life May flow in us and Spirit indwell flesh.(Tree)Feathers, that your raven Eye watch over us in the Season of Sleep.Be welcome among us Morrigan; Great Queen, accept our sacrifice!
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by Suibhne GeiltA feller once said "There are more men of knowledge in the service of men of power than men of power in the service of men of knowledge." Sounds profound, don't it? Well, it isn't. It's a truism, and a mathematical one to boot. If Taliesin, the poet, lived - and let's say he did, he lived in the 6th century, in a place called Powys (I adjure thee, fellow folklorists, get a map. Map, hell, get an atlas.) Scholars think Powys because of a poem Taliesin wrote to the Powys lord, Cynan Garwyn.Taliesin was indeed a man of knowledge. John Morris-Jones and 1for Williams thought that Ta1iesin's poems to the Warlord Urien were the work of a professional bard, a master of the short eulogy, or "praise poem." On the buffet table of literature, praise poetry is the Jordan Almond; it is colorful and faux. You either love it or you find it despicable.In that magical moment of the 6tb century, Taliesin seems to have been the reigning elf who opened up more aesthetic territory than any other Celtic poet of his time. His spiritual children' have been drawing on his work, scarcely realizing it, ever since. For sheer tenacity, and enthusiasm of engagement with the great spectacle of Celtic warmongering, no one is Taliesin's equal.On the other hand, Taliesin mightn't have been one guy. Taliesin might have been the 6th century equivalent of our own esteemed Bardic Guild. Might have been a group of grad students from L'Universite Druidsme. If he/she/it was Urien's P.R. department, they had monopoly status, right up there with the Drexel-Burnham junk bond department, or the First Boston mergers and acquisitions department. Lots of hacks were writing pretty much identical product. To distinguish him/her/ itself from the competition, Taliesin had to resort to extra market devices over and above extreme brownnosing.As a warlord, Urien was good. He was up there with John Wayne and Dirty Harry and Rambo. Urien was no R.E.M.F. Urien led, chucked spears, and everything. How do I know? Taliesin tells me so."If there's an enemy of the hill Urien will make him shudder If there's an enemy in the hollow Urien will pierce him through." What if Urien Were DeadAnd Taliesin is funny. To my mind, (and a lunatic mind it is) the funniest line in Taliesin is from The Battles of Gwallawg "These men can take outhouses by storm." Right. Throw a frag. Blow up an outhouse. I love it. I love it.The work of Taliesin the eulogist was done mostly in the North; Cumberland, Westmoorland and. Galloway (get a map). These places formed the Brythonic or North Cymric kingdom of Rheged, of which Urien was king. Taliesin also penned eulogies to Owain, Urien's son, and to Gwallawg, the Lord of Elfed, near Leeds.Whether these eulogies are actually the work of the 6th century bard has been discussed by scholars.What was the Brythonic language like at the end of the 6th century? Had it lost its 'terminations'? Kenneth Jackson seemed to think so. If not, then the Taliesin poems would have been quite different, and they would have been emended, that is to say "corrected," to their present form at a later date. Trouble is, how could a poem survive linguistic changes without losing its form?The well-defined structure of the Taliesin poems, with a primitive Welsh rhyming system, is proof to scholars that Brythonic did lose its "terminations" very early, and very quickly, and by the time Taliesin was writing. Cymric or Cumbric, the insular branch of the Western (Celtic) dialect of the Indo-European languages as spoken by the people of Cornwall, Wales and Brittany, (Manx, by the way, is of the Goidelic dialect) had already been born. Two poets, Taliesin and Aneirin, were among the first to compose in it. They did so with panache. Hence their enduring fame.These are the salient points about the historical Taliesin. There is a wealth of fascinating information in Meiron Pennar's book Taliesin. Poems. Check it out.Now ain't you glad I've made you privy to the line about the outhouses? And don't you love a good mystery? I know I do.Wait a minute. We ain't through yet.There's another Taliesin.After a seven hundred year snooze, Taliesin resurfaces again. This time he's a poet with supernatural powers and a propensity for the occult akin to the Taliesin of the medieval legend entitled Chwedl Taliesin, an English translation appears in the 'Guest' translation of the Mabinogion. Personally, I'd rather flunk a Wassermann test than read the Mabinogion by Guest'.The Book of Taliesin, a late 13th century manuscript, some of which is connected with neither the eulogist nor the legend, was done as an act of love by the last in a possible series of monks involved in the medieval cult of Taliesin. Now what was that cult all about? My wild guess is that it might have been an abortive push for sainthood.Latin interpolations, such as Lauda, Laudate, Jesu, and several other religious poems contained in that manuscript, point to a religious involvement in the compilation of the book. Marwnad y Fil Felb is an invocation of the saints of the ages. Some of the other poems have secular titles, and appear to have had pre-Christian roots, have been reworked or recreated with a devotional Christian slant.Even though these poems are covers from different periods and by a motley crew of secular and religious authors, what is remarkable is that there is no tampering with the poems of Taliesin the eulogist.Of the Book of Taliesin, the poems now widely accepted on Ifor Williams' formal recommendation, are those to Urien, the elegy on his son Owain, and poems to Cynan Carwyn and to Gwallawg. There does not seem to be any need to challenge this list of the most likely poems of the historical Taliesin.The other poems in the Book of Taliesin have attached themselves to him in some cases because other poets, as actors, have spoken as Taliesin.The following bibliography comes with a caveat emptor. It contains a couple of interestingly garbage works about Taliesin. Moreover, some of the poems, book are very heady, bitchy stuff, but hey, we all read People magazine, don't we?Some Taliesin trivia: 1) Frank Lloyd Wright's design studio was named 'Taliesin Design.', and 2) W.C. Quantrill's horse was not named Taliesin.A Select BibliographyBards and Heroes: Welsh Poetry From Taliesinn to Iolo Goch, Trans. By Carl Lofmark, Felnfach, Lampeter, Dyfed. LLanerch Publishers.Taliesin Poems. ISBN 0947992243, Meiron Pennar, Llanerch, 1988The Mabinogion, ed. and trans. By P.K. Ford, University of California, 1977The Mabinogion, ed. and trans. By Lady Charlotte Guest, Cardiff, John Jones, 1977The Song of Taliesin, ISBN 0855381141, John Matthews, Harper Collins, London, 1991Taliesin: Book One of the Pendragon Cycle, Stephen R. Lawhead, Avon, NY, 1987, ISBN 0-380-70613XThe Mabinogion, By Jeffrey Gantz, Dorset Press, ISBN 0-88029-039-0, New York, NY
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Imbolc marks the midpoint between the winter solstice and spring equinox, and is held as the beginning of spring itself. Certainly the days are growing perceptively longer so that the power of night is moving, however slowly, towards its eventual defeat during summer. In Irish Neopagan tradition, it’s also the feast of the goddess Brigit, and in some reconstructionist circles of her Gallo-Brittonic forms, such as Brigantia or Brigindona, based on the same day’s Feast of St. Brigit, a figure who is more goddess than saint, even in her own medieval vitae.1 While Imbolc is undoubtedly a feast of spring, and a feast celebrating Brigit, there is, I think, a third element to the feast which is sometimes overlooked—it is likely that Imbolc is a feast of purification, and perhaps represents a longer period of purification, analogous to several other Indo-European and even Christian festivals. Moreover, this feast of purification is intimately bound up with the holiday’s other meanings honoring spring and Brigit—that all three are important to understanding the origins of Imbolc. The Etymology of “Imbolc” and the Importance of Milk The etymology of Imbolc has fairly conclusively been tied to the word for milk (Hamp, 106). The etymology in Sanas Cormaic (ca. 900) made this out to be oímelc, “sheep’s milk”, but Eric Hamp has argued that the (complicated) etymology should be *uts-molgo- < *ommolg so that oimelc is a missunderstood spelling for *ommolg. *Molgo- in turn likely comes from the Proto-Indo-European root *Hmelǵ- which meant “to cleanse”, and which is very close to *melg- the root for “milk.” Ultimately, Hamp derives Imbolc from a root meaning both “milk” and purification” (111). Hamp mentions instances in Irish literature wherein milk is a cure for poison darts2, where it is poured into the battlefield furrows of Eremon3, and the odd detail from the story of Suibhne, wherein he drinks milk from a hole made in manure—the implication of originally being that milk would purify even dung. Purification is also an element in sources referencing Imbolc. A poem on the high days, found in manuscripts Rawl. B 512, and Harl. 5280, refers to Imbolc: Fromad cach bíd iar n-urd, issed dlegair i n-Imbulc, díunnach laime is coissi is cinn, is amlaid sin atberim. Tasting every food in order, This is what behoves at Candlemass, Washing of hand and foot and head, It is thus I say. Imbolc (translated here as Candlemass, the English name for the feast of the Purification of the Virgin Mary, which I will cover later) is mentioned as a time of washing, while the other quatrains refer to types of food to be eating. Imbolc has no specific foods mentioned in this poem, though other poems more explicitly mention butter, but the poem’s reference to washing  which may point to the use of milk here not as a foodstuff alone, but as a purifying (here “washing”) element. Brigit, Goddess of Purification? The connection between milk and purification, specifically in the stories associated with St. Brigit, has been discussed elsewhere; Torma points to the Bethu Brigte, the earliest vernacular version of the life of the saint, where milk is used as evidence of Brigit’s purity and power: It should come as no surprise then that a festival associated with purity would come to have an association with Saint Brigit. Of the forty-six miracles in the Bethu Brigte, six of them are concerned with milk. Milk is used a tool to promote the purity of Brigit and to promote her claims by showing her control over such an economically important commodity. For Brigit, as with any saint, purity was an essential part of her personality An example of this can be seen in §5 of Bethu Brigte, when she was nursed by a white cow with red ears due to the impurity of the druid's food. Other saints nourished by mystical kine include Cainneach (Plummer 1910, VSH I, I), Coemgen (Plummer 1910, VSH I,ii) and Enda (Plummer 1910, VSH II, xxii). Brigit—both the goddess and the saint—is also closely tied to fire, which like milk was a purifying agent.4 Sanas Cormaic gives the etymology of her name as Breo Saighead—“fiery arrow”. And while this etymology is wrong5, it is one of many examples wherein Brigit is associated with fire: “In the Lives we read of Brigit having sent a house in which she was staying in flames up to heaven and we hear of a fiery pillar rising over her head. Giraldus Cambrensis ... writes about her ‘perpetual ashless fire watched by twenty nuns, of which no male could enter ...’.” (Ó Catháin, 56) Much of Ó Catháin’s book also details Brigit’s role as an overseer of fecundity of both women and cattle, and the association between human milk and that of livestock as an important foodstuff, the latter being especially important in the long period between harvests. It’s also worth noting that Juno, the Roman goddess who presided Lupercalia (see below), was also closely associated with both cattle and childbirth. The issue of milk as food should be addressed. As MacLeod notes, “the return of fresh milk... would have been extremely important. ... Old food supplies were depleted and new supplies had not yet come” (262). Women and milk were naturally closely associated, not only because of human lactation, but women also largely oversaw the production of butter and cheese (263). The lambs, having only just being born in February were not yet ready for eating, but the ewes lactating would provide food not only for their offspring, but for the tribe. Other Feasts of Purification Hamp points to the Roman month of February, which not coincidently is the same time as Imbolc. February’s etymology, while obscure, is tied to februum, the goatskins used in the purification ceremonies of Lupercalia, celebrated on February 15th. According to Ovid, Juno is the goddess who commanded Romulus and his followers to let goats impregnate the Sabine women to cure their infertility; this is interpreted to whipping the women with goatskins. What Hamp doesn’t mention is that milk played a role in the Lupercalia, which falls in the middle of the month; sacrificial blood on the young men’s foreheads was wiped off using wool soaked in milk (Franklin, 84-86). Finally, Juno—a goddess to whom the cow was sacred, just as Brigit is associated with cattle—was, according to Ovid’s Fasti, originally honored on February 1st (though he says the practice had died out). Moreover, this Juno Sospita has been found depicted wearing a goatskin—februum— on her head (Furtwängler, 227). Lupercalia falls within the month of purification, but it is also a fertility festival—the goat strips were said to have been originally used by Romulus and his men to beat the infertile Sabine women, with the result that their bareness would be reversed. The commandment is attributed to Juno, who was of course, among other attributes, the goddess of childbirth. Ó Catháin also points to a common terminology for both Brigit and Juno, specifically Juno Lucina—Juno of light, and the goddess of childbirth. “Februa was but one of many significant epithets born by Juno... Juno Lucetia was the feminine principle of celestial light... Goddess of light, she was by derivation the goddess of childbirth, Juno Lucina, for the newborn baby was brought into the light and as such Juno Lucina was invoked (8).6 Much like Juno Lucina, Brigit is associated with fire, and even referred to as “Bride boillsge” in Scotland. This is recounted by Carmichael (169): It is said in Ireland that Bride walked before Mary with a lighted candle in each hand when she went up to the Temple for purification. The winds were strong on the Temple heights, and the tapers were unprotected, yet they did not flicker nor fail. From this incident Bride is called 'Bride boillsge,' Bride of brightness. This day is occasionally called 'La Fheill Bride nan Coinnle,' the Feast Day of Bride of the Candles, but more generally 'La Fheill Moire nan Coinnle,' the Feast Day of Mary of the Candles-- Candlemas Day. The close association of a period of purification and a festival of fertility is reflected then both Roman and Irish tradition, with the goddesses of childbirth overseeing the events. There are other festivals of purification that fall at this time. As mentioned above, February was a period of purification in the Roman calendar; and in Christianity, Lent is a similar period of purification. Now, the word Lent itself is interesting, as it comes from the Old English lencten “spring,” the name of the season itself. The Christian period of Lent usually begins in February, counting backwards forty days (minus Sundays) from Easter. Easter is calculated to take place the first full moon after the spring equinox, and it’s hardly controversial to see in the names Lent and Easter pre-Christian Germanic concepts of springtime. Lent had a dual connotation in England—“a season at which flowers, foliage, warmth, and light were all increasing and yet food and fuel would also be at their shortest. The time was admirably suited to a period of self-denial and spiritual doubt” (Hutton, 169). Lent was a period of fasting not just for spiritual reasons, but for very practical reasons—this was the lean time of the year, a fact also noted by MacLeod above. Fasting is a common form of purification, of course, and having a practical, supply-based fasting coincide with a period of purification is highly logical, and may have something to tell us about the nature of Imbolc. Bede also records that February was known to the English as Sol-monath, referring to a feast of cakes offered to their gods, though we don’t know much more than that (Hutton, 140). If we count backwards the same period of time as Lent (forty days, plus seven Sundays) from March 21st7, we arrive at February 3rd—which falls just after Candlemas, February 2nd, and two days after Imbolc. The Christian season of Lent Roman period of Februarius—both periods of purification—take place in the interval. Now, I have not addressed the fact that Imbolc falls a day before Candlemas, which is the Feast of the Purification of the Virgin Mary, though in origin its focus was on the presentation of Jesus in the temple, not the purification of Mary. I don’t believe that Candlemas derives from Imbolc; there are references to it as early as the forth century, largely in sermons given by Eastern Fathers of the Church (Cyril of Jerusalem, John Chrysostom, etc.), where it was celebrated on February 14th, not the 2nd, as Christmas was celebrated on January 6th, not December 25th. It was not a major festival until the sixth century, and not even mentioned in the West until the eighth century. The dating of Candlemas is forty days after Christmas, which follows Mosaic law, which considers a mother unclean for forty days after giving birth. Ultimately, it’s difficult to understand why or how an Irish pagan festival would have traveled to forth century Jerusalem, and be adopted by the Church, which didn’t adopt any other Irish festivals for several centuries afterwards. The simplest explanation is that the origins of the two holidays have little to do with each other. However, it is well known that, given circumstances related in the gospels, Jesus’ birth was likely not set at the winter solstice, but some time in the spring; Clement of Alexandria gives a date around May 20th, while other Church Fathers rejected the notion of celebrating the birthday of God. The celebration of Christmas was placed at the winter solstice by at least 354 CE, and likely before. If the dating of Jesus’ nativity was moved to align with the winter solstice, it’s entirely possible that the Feast of the Purification, while fitting the timeline of Mosaic law, could have been created to compete with popular Pagan festivals like Lupercalia (which, conveniently, fell the day after the Eastern reckoning of the feast); certainly Innocent XII seemed to think so (Walsh, 168-9). Whether it was created to compete with other purification festivals, or naturally grew out of them, doesn’t matter as much as the fact that there were several festivals associated with purification, beginning in February. And finally, I mention the Coligny calendar. It’s mentioned last because there is disagreement about when the calendar begins; if, however, the month of Samonios begins aroundNovember (which would align the calendar with the Irish calendar beginning with Samhain), then the month of Anagantios would align with February. What makes this interesting is that Anagantios is thought to mean “ablutions”—i.e., it is the month of washing and purification, and thus would be parallel to the Roman month of February. While we can’t assume that the Irish and the Gauls had a common calendar, the month of the name of Anagantios adds to the suggestion that this period was one of purification, and perhaps one longer than a single day. Imbolc and Lughnassadh: More Than a Day? The four main feasts of the Celtic calendar—commonly known by their Irish names Samhain, Imbolc, Beltane, and Lughnassadh—when their themes are examined, form a series of corresponding concepts. Samhain is a feast of winter, death, and the ancestors, while Beltane is a feast of summer, sexuality, and fertility. Lughnassadh is associated with marriage, sports, and the harvest, and Imbolc with birth and purification. Lughnassadh was not only a feast celebrated around August 1st, but was actually a period called Lughna Dubh in Ireland and Iuchar in Scotland, lasting around a fortnight, while incorporating other festivals, such as Tailtiu’s Monday, Crom Sunday, the three days dedicated to Aine, all taking place within a period wherein fishing was bad, a contrast with the first fruits of the harvest being celebrated on land (MacNeill, 15-16). If Hamp is right, and Imbolc is analogous to the February period of purification found in Roman and Christian tradition, then perhaps Imbolc, like Lughnassadh, was a period and not a single day. It is currently impossible to prove that the pre-Christian Irish observed Imbolc as such a period, but as we have seen, we have analogous ideas in neighboring cultures, and even a Gaulish month called “purification” which falls around the time of February. Imbolc Today It is worth asking whether this view of Imbolc, historical or not, has a practical application. In other words, does the period of time between the feasts of Imbolc and the spring equinox benefit us as a period of purification, even fasting? Most of us no longer live in a setting wherein the abundance of food is determined by the local growing season (whether this is good or not is another matter), so the need for fasting on a purely physical, preserving-the-food-stores-until-harvest level is no longer relevant. But modern life has its period of excess seen during the winter holidays. Many of us go overboard buying gifts at the holidays, eating and drinking at parties, indulging in various ways on New Year’s Eve. Many of us no doubt make resolutions to lose weight, to pay off those credit cards, to hunker down for the long winter. It is perhaps only natural that we should look at the following period as a time to pull back, to cut our spending and our eating, in order to start over again. For why is a period of purification bound up with a festival of fertility, of spring and birth? In retrospect, the answer seems quite obvious—what is purification, but a type of rebirth? We wash ourselves clean of the past in order to start anew. Rebirth can’t be done in a single day, hence the need for a period of time for purification. This is the heart of the meaning of Imbolc—it is a time to make oneself anew, aided by Brigit, spirit of childbirth and purification (among many, many other things). 1 That Brigit can be identified as the goddess known in Britain as Brigantia is strengthened by the fact that St. Brigit is closely associated with the province of Leinster, which in the time of Ptolemy was inhabited by the Brigantes tribe, whose titular goddess was, of course, Brigantia. Brigit is so closely associated that in the text “The Battle of Allen”, she appears on the battlefield to bring the Leinstermen victory.“ 2 And many early Irish magical charms use butter as a curative agent; cf. Carney, “A Collection of Irish Charms”. 3 Eremon is the mythical first Milesian—i.e. human—king of Ireland; his name is thought to derive from the same origin as Aryaman/Airyaman, the Indo-Iranian embodiment of “Aryan-ness”, i.e. nobility and the ruling class. 4 Fire as a purifying element is of course also found in rites associated with Beltane, such as the driving of cattle between two bonfires to preserve them from disease. 5 In fact, her name derives from *brig- meaning “high”, with the probable sense of “exalted one”. 6 Dionysius of Halicarnassus notes that gifts for newborns where left at the temple to Juno Lucina (Dionysius, 231), and the festival of Matronalia was celebrated here on March 1st (Platner, 289). 7 Using March 21 as a estimate for the equinox; obviously, it does vary. Works Cited Carmichael, Alexander. Carmina Gadelica: Hymns and Incantations Ortha Nan Gaidheal. vol. 1. Edinburgh: T. and A. Constable, 1900. p. 169. URL: http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/celt/cg1/cg1074.htm Dionysius of Halicarnassus. The Roman Antiquities. Vol. II. ed. and trans. Earnest Cary. Loeb Classical Library. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1939. p 321. URL: http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Dionysius_of_Halicarnassus/4A*.html#15.5 Franklin, Alberta Mildred. The Lupercalia. New York: Columbia University Press, 1921. p 84-86. Furtwängler, A. "Ancient Scupltures at Chatsworth House." The Journal of Hellenistic Studies. vol. 21. London: Macmillan, 1901. Hamp, Eric. "Imbolc, Óimelc". Studia Celtica 14/15 (1979-80), 106-113 Hutton, Ronald. The Stations of the Sun: a History of the Ritual Year in Britain. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996. MacLeod, Sharon Paice. "Oenach Aimsire na mBan: Early Irish Seasonal Celebrations, Gender Roles, and Mythological Cycles." Proceedings Of The Harvard Celtic Colloquium, vol. 23. Harvard University Press, 2003. MacNeill, Maire. The Festival of Lughnasa. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1962. Meyer, Kuno. “Quatrains on Beltaine, &c.”. Hibernica Minora. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1894. 48-9 Ó Catháin, Séamas. The Festival of Brigit: Celtic Goddess and Holy Woman. Dublin: DBA Publications, 1995. Ovid. Fasti. Translated by Frazer, James George. Loeb Classical Library Volume. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1931. Platner, Samuel Ball. A Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome. London: Oxford University Press, 1929. p. 289. URL: http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Gazetteer/Places/Europe/Italy/Lazio/Roma/Rome/_Texts/PLATOP*/Aedes_Junonis_Lucinae.html Stokes, Whitley (ed.). Three Irish Glossaries: Cormac's Glossary, O'Davoren's Glossary and a Glossary to the Calendar of Oengus the Culdee. London: Williams and Norgate, 1862. 1-44. Stokes, Whitley (ed.). “The Battle of Allen”. Revue Celtique 24 (1903):41–70.Torma, Thomas. "Milk Symbolism in the 'Bethu Brigte'". The Heroic Age. Issue 7. 2004. Walsh, William S. Curiosities of Popular Customs and of Rites, Ceremonies, Observances, and Miscellaneous Antiquities. Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott Company, 1898.
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