------------------------------------
- a collection of essays on Neodruidic Studies
- a journal of Post-Reconstructionist Neopaganism

Check out The DRUIDS' ALMANAC for 2015...

SUMMER SOLSTICE 2015 occurs at 12:38 PM Eastern, SUNDAY JUNE 21st

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Remembering the SUN at the June Solstice


As we prepare for our Summer Solstice events, let us reflect on the role the Sun plays in our lives and how little attention it is given in Neopaganism. Far too often some ADF Groves, other Druid groups and Wiccans defer to celebrating the lore of some ancient mythic characters in their June Solstice rites with little or no actual acknowledgement of the Real Sun and our absolute dependence on It.

Regardless of what your group has planned for the Solstice, this year please consider at least personally exploring and remembering the role of the Sun in our existence and the history of Humanity, for it has only been some two thousand years or so that most of our ancestors have spent their lives draped in the darkness of their own shadows, enslaved by doctrines cursing This Life, while fixated on shallow promises of the Next.

Turn around, turn around, I bid you now; forsake those shadows and let us embrace the sunrise as true Light of All Life reaches its annual summit high in the skies over this beautiful world.

- Earrach (c) 2015
photo (c.2006)  by Lassair
SUMMER SOLSTICE 2015 occurs at 
12:38 PM Eastern, SUNDAY JUNE 21st


SEASONAL READING:

"Why Not the Sun?" 
- my standard essay on the Sun and Neodruidic practice. 

=====================================================
"The (Neopagan) Solar Apostasy"

======================================================

"What's a SOLSTICE ? (vs. Equinox, etc.)"



Summer Solstice sunrise 2015 at the Tor over Fairview 

(our holy hill in the Pittsburgh south suburbs). 
Photo and video by Lassair.


video



All hail the Invincible Sun !!

Saturday, May 2, 2015

My very best BELTANE BLESSING



There she is in the 1993 Beltane photos, back when I barely knew her. It was the Beltane of 1993 and I had been earnestly working on developing some kind of Neopagan community in our area since the late 1980’s. A small group of us had already begun a tradition of annual Beltane picnics, doing our best to drag whatever local paganfolk we could find, out into the open long enough for them to share and socialize and get a sense of themselves as being part of an actual community. By 1989 I had been self publishing a community newsletter and by September 1992 had officially established Sassafras Grove ADF as Pittsburgh’s branch of Ár nDraíocht Féin, the International Neopagan Druidic organization started by Isaac Bonewits in the 1980’s.

Diana had been to the Beltane picnic and a couple subsequent Sassafras/ADF rites but it wasn't until Valentines Day that we had our first official date. We still consider that our anniversary. We were cohabiting by the mid-late 90's and we bought our house together in September of 2002.  

Every year Beltane seems like an anniversary to us as well. Di and I both look back fondly on those early Beltanes and that beautiful grove in the woods where for so many years we brought in the May with love, passion and hard work. 

This year? Not so romantic. Perhaps some of you know that I've been ill, and great leaping Morris-Men, I've just had to spend Beltane in hospital (where I am writing this now). I had been diagnosed and first treated for CLL (a common form of Leukemia) in 2012. The first chemo treatments at the end of 2012 worked very well and I only had my first relapse now this February of 2015.

I cannot begin to adequately describe how wonderful Diana has been throughout this journey, how constant, hard working and dedicated a companion and caregiver she has been. I am so incredibly lucky to have her. I hope for all of you that when the time comes that you end up having someone to fulfill these roles for you anywhere as well as I have been blessed by having Diana in my life.

SO, there I was Friday, sitting-out a perfect Mayday "in the dugout" (I could do worse; the view from my hospital window actually is spectacular; what a beautiful day!) and, in she comes, and my heart skips a beat; I'm so glad to see her and, well, to me she looks just so "wonderful". I'm 61 now (Di's's 4 years younger) and one's aesthetic assessment of things does change in this period of life but honestly, regardless, to me she's one of those women who actually does get better with age... simply "wonderfuller and wonderfuller".




Bright BELTANE BLESSINGS to all !

- EARRACH of Pittsburgh

 

Sunday, March 22, 2015

When the Pattern Instructs the Pattern-Maker


At first, I wrote them down this way:

"THREE PARTS TO OUR NEODRUIDIC SPIRITUALITY"  


Conversation with the
GODS and other SPIRITS

Celebration of
LIFE and the LIVING

Reverence for
the DEAD

Recognizing them then as a set of sacred three,
I felt compelled to arrange them as a triskelion... 


which immediately begged the question of 
an implied hierarchy, i.e., were I to proceed,
which of the three goes above the other two?

Now, there are the anarchists, contrarians and others who will reject anything to do with hierarchical arrangements as implicitly "wrong" and may (or may not) have a well thought out rationale behind the reflex, but when, as I have all my life, one works with creating geometric diagrams for the use of revealing or clarifying the componentry of a system, sometimes I've found what I can only describe as a "mystery-teaching" arises that operates along the lines of numerical and/or spatial principles on the page which themselves begin to first challenge and then instruct the artist, opening further levels of meaning and hidden principles as the artist progress through the piece.

The making of mandalas may be the work of a teacher, one seeking to convey complex ideas more simply, yet we see that, in-process, the teacher-as-artist resumes the role of student, if, instead of pounding square pegs through round holes, we agree to listen to the wisdom of number, sequence, form and beauty. 

This is not artifice; these are the ways of Nature. 

Here is what the process made me (-taught me to) choose this time:


To me, this is the business of Our Druidism.


Saturday, March 14, 2015

OSTARA – OSTSHMARRA!

HAPPY EASTER !



Ostara (1884) by Johannes Gehrts
The word EASTER is just as
pagan a word as YULE.

Why, it's arguably an even "more" pagan than the word Yule.

So, why should we rob the power of that fact
by continuing to use the (non-historical*) word
"Ostara" instead?

It's time to stop.
It's time to start saying "Easter"
the same way we say "Yule".

Per the one authoritative ancient source we have, the Venerable Bede's 
de Temporum Ratione, written around 730 C.E., in a chapter titled "The English Months" we are told that "Eostre" ( Eastre in Anglo-Saxon), the name of a goddess, was given in the pagan Dark Ages to what we count as March and April. It bears consideration that Bede reckons the equinox itself as falling on the "12th calends of April" (= March 21st) which is consistent with modern astronomical standards (March 20th if not 21st). This parallels Bede, elsewhere in the same work providing also our earliest detailed ancient source on the word "Yule" (guili) as being their name for the turning of the year at the December Solstice. The details do seem to specify the December Solstice itself as being referred-to as "Yule" as well as being the name of month bridging the end December into January.

Now, yes, there have been challenges to the reliability of Bede's ethnographic and linguistic assertions but the matter is far from settled to the complete exclusion of Bede's material (Hutton, 1996; Shaw 2011).

Only Christians speaking English or German use the word "Easter" for the celebration of Christ's resurrection. ALL the other languages use some variant of "Pascha". For all we know, the Dark-Ages missionaries from the British-Isles who Christianized the continent brought the custom of using the old pagan name with them from England.

SO NEOPAGANS SHOULD BE FREE TO CONSIDER
THE TIME OF THE MARCH EQUINOX AS THEIR "EASTER"

and not have to worry about it being any more suspect on a scholarly basis than the dozens of assumptions made by reconstructionists on far less substantive grounds.

((Yesss, let's not have me take to task, say, the scholarly rigor we and they apply in our cocksure elevation of every single character in the Irish and Welsh corpus to divinity, eh? Ok, enough of that for now; just back off on my man Bede.))


Again, please, just reflect on how well this has been working for us with "Yule" and how continuing the "ostara" word-usage just robs us of the validity and power of the ultimately familiar word Easter.



Wishing you and yours 
a Blessed Eastertide,


- Earrach

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The Venerable Bede on the origin of Easter:


“Eosturmonath has a name now translated as ‘Paschal Month’, and which was once called after a goddess of theirs called Eostre, in whose honour feasts were celebrated in that month. They now designate the Paschal season by her name, calling the joys of the new rite by the time-honoured name of the old observance.”

Wallace, Faith. Bede: The Reckoning of Time. Liverpool, UK: Liverpool University Press, 1999. pp 53, 54

----------------------------------------------
* "OSTARA"  - is a form found everywhere these days in Wiccan literature 
but actually found nowhere in the ancient record. The word Ostara was first suggested in the 1835 by Jacob Grimm of the Brothers Grimm as his speculation of how it -may- have been spelled in ancient Germany. Bede's citation (De Temporum Ratione, 730 C.E.) of the name Ostre or Eastre seem to be the oldest historical mention to be found, yet neither he nor any other historical source give the "ostara" spelling.
-----------------------------------
Professor RONALD HUTTON on Bede's references to Easte:
"There remains, however, the problem of why the Germanic-speaking areas of Europe, in sharp contrast to the others, did not derive their name for this celebration from the Passover, but from a term which is rendered into modern German as Ostern and modern English as Easter. On the face of it, the issue ought to have been solved by Bede in the early eighth century, as part of his work on the calendar mentioned earlier. He declared that the name had derived from that of a goddess, Eostre, after whom the month in which Easter fell had been dubbed the ‘Eostur’-month. This passage has been so often quoted without any inspection or criticism that it is necessary to stress that it is subject to all the reservations lodged by Tille against Bede’s assertions concerning the ‘Mother Night’, cited in the section dealing with Christmas. It falls into that category of interpretations which Bede admitted to be his own, rather than generally agreed or proven fact. A number of German scholars cast doubt upon its utility during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, although not with sufficient evidence to disprove it in turn. Two facts do seem to emerge from the discussion. One is that versions of the name given by Bede were used widely among speakers of Germanic languages during or shortly after his time; thus the Christian festival was known as Ostarstuopha in the Main valley during the eighth and ninth centuries. The other is that the Anglo-Saxon eastre, signifying both the festival and the season of spring, is associated with a set of words in various Indo-European languages, signifying dawn and also goddesses who personifed that event, such as the Greek Eos, the Roman Aurora, and the Indian Ushas. It is therefore quite possible to argue that Bede’s Eostre was a Germanic dawn-deity who was venerated, appropriately, at this season of opening and new beginnings. It is equally valid, however, to suggest that the Anglo-Saxon ‘Estor-monath’ simply meant ‘the month of opening’ or ‘the month of beginnings’, and that Bede mistakenly connected it with a goddess who either never existed at all, or was never associated with a particular season but merely, like Eos and Aurora, with the dawn itself. 


With the removal of this shadowy deity from the canon of historical certainty, there evaporates any reliable evidence for a pre-Christian festival in the British Isles during the time which became March and April. It may be that there was none, the ancient inhabitants being wholly taken up with ploughing, sowing, and caring for young livestock. Alternatively, some of the later Easter rites and customs may echo practices which attended old feasts of which we have now lost sight. Of one thing alone it is possible to be confident; that, although the timing of the feast of the Resurrection was dictated by historical accident, it could not have fallen at a more appropriate point of the European calendar, when so much in nature conduced to a mood of celebration and renewal."

Hutton, Ronald (1996). Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain (pp. 180-181). Oxford University Press.

RELEVANT LINKS:

WHAT ARE YOU DOING FOR EASTRE?

http://thebookofsassafras.blogspot.com/2012/03/what-are-you-doing-for-eastre.html  
FUZZY LOGIC solves the endless dispute over “when” a season begins or ends !
http://thebookofsassafras.blogspot.com/2013/05/fuzzy-logic-and-wheel-of-year.html

BREAK A STICK in half at the sacred moment and nab some big Mojo? see:
http://thebookofsassafras.blogspot.com/2013/12/the-power-of-impending-moment.html

The DRUIDS’ ALMANAC – lots more related fun stuff here:
http://thebookofsassafras.blogspot.com/p/my-annual-druids-almanac.html

EASTER "FAKELORE"  debunking internet Ishtar-Easter B.S., thanks Ian !
http://intothemound.blogspot.com/2014/04/easter-fakelore.html 
T'WAS JUST A WEE BUNN! (remembering the 2004 Easter Bunny Massacre)
http://thebookofsassafras.blogspot.com/p/twas-just-wee.html 


Solstice/Equinox Terminator Square  (c) 1994, 2004 Earrach 



Wednesday, January 28, 2015

HAIL BRIGID, HAIL BRIGANTIA !

Who was Brigid to the Pre-Christian Celts? Sometimes it seems that there's nothing available but hearsay, and none of that can clearly be shown to predate the monastic scribes of the last 1200 years. Is there any "hard" evidence to reveal her to us? We have no dazzling Gundestrup or Reims-ish icons from Ireland or Britain to compare and review here, no Scythian or Roman craftsmen to fossilise a swarm of cross-cultural clues for us…

None but one;  the Romano Celtic shrine to Brigantia from Northern Britain…

Brigantia shrine from Birrens, Dunfriesshire

Above is an 1800 year old artifact bearing an image which we should cherish and hold central to our quests for understanding Her. Yet, somehow, it remains largely overlooked. Yes, the iconography here is almost completely Roman, calling her Brigantia and portraying her as a sovereignty goddess with a full set of the attributes of Minerva: the spear and shield and the Aegis on her breastplate, and in her hand, the orb as a symbol of her universal rulership. You may recall having seen this particular icon, but honestly, just how often? Why so infrequently?

The Minerval aspect of Brigid accounts for or at least informs many of the bits of lore we have from Irish and the Scots. The protectress function not only sees her as a guide and guardian of armies and nations but figures equally well in her inspiration to mothers and house keepers as foster mother, blesser of the home-hearth and protector of door, wall and roof. As inspiratrix she guides the creative with her flame of wisdom. As the emblem of the soul of the nation of Ireland to this day and more anciently of Britain, there is little question of her function as a goddess of sovereignty.

But, as usual, instead we are plastered (wattle and daubed?) with the same couple of fragments of Brigid-lore from the Irish hero tales, the sources for which only rarely exceed the first thousand years before our time. Younger yet, the remaining body of lore attributed to Her is actually booty from raids made by the wishful-thinking upon the lore and folkways attributed to the quasi-historical Christian saint bearing her name. I must confess I often have pillaged therein myself, particularly in the wonderful appendices to Campbell’s Carmina Gaedelica. That material, as beautiful and evocative as it is, bears its unshakable Iron Age pedigree only in that it was field-collected from Scottish folk traditions alive in the years stretching from the time of Charles Dickens through the reign of Queen Victoria. Yes, back when Lady Gregory carried her tablets me down from Ben Bulben, summing up for us the three primary aspects of Brigid as to forever more officially be parroted as.. 
“Poetry, Healing, and Smithcraft”... 

Quite simply: 
a Goddess of the Hearth 
and the Sanctity of Fire...

There seems to be a significant number of references to the quasi-historical saint, or dearly hoped-for “Celtic Goddess”, which indicate an association with fire, and in particular, sacred fires, and a strong and potentially very old set of household hearth-customs, the common ground there being specifically fire-based prayers and ritual activity. Again I will admit to falling back on my own intuition and syncretic tendencies (and some 25 years of ritual experience with Her) and I continually emerge with the conclusion that a primary component of Brigid’s identity was foused on the sanctity and utter indispensability of fire and as such it brought Her veneration to a central, veritably axial, role in every home, first then and foremost as a Goddess of the Hearth.

--------------------------------------------- 



Protectress and Sovereign:  
Brigid / Brigantia - the syncretic Romano Celtic figure, often displayed with the hallmarks of Minerva (Spear, Shield, Aegis and Orb of Brigantia); St. Brigid is even today held to be the “patron saint” (matron) and figurehead of Ireland.

Flame-Tender / Home Hearth-blesser

Healer (Brigid of the Wells; flame upon the waters )

Muse / Initiatrix (Brigid of the poets)

Foster-Mother  (Brigid of the Milkmaid and Wet-Nurse) 
St Brigid, held to be Christ’s “foster mother”; Brigid as nurse who weans the Solar Infant: hence linking with the Imbolc milk-themes…The cosmic Child of Promise, born at Yuletide, is now given-over into fosterage

Candlemas, Feb.2nd, an annual blessing of the church’s candles, held upon the
“Feast of the Purification”: honoring the ‘re-churching’ of Mary, 40 days after the defilement of childbirth, women were only then ritually cleansed and allowed to re-enter the temple. Itself being adjacent to of the feast of St.Blaise, furthers the holy-flame motif;  a Feb. 3rd Christian fire-ritual of blessing the throat with crossed burning candles (Blaise healed a boy who was dying of a fish-bone stuck in his throat).



The Sass-Trad BRIGANTIA RITE:  
A SEASONAL MYSTERY...

THEME: 
The Symbolic Formula:  From INFANCY, through WEANING, to FOSTERAGE
THEN, Yule Solc = Nativity and Vernal Eqx = Coming of Age...
THEREFORE, the Feb XQ = “from Infancy, through Weaning, to Fosterage”
Narrative Exgesis:
The Old World celebration of the Winter Crossquarter, the Calends of February has held much spiritual significance over the centuries. Throughout these various manifestations there runs a set of recurrent themes:
- The Deepest Deep of Winter  -yet, if the Sun shows his face today, the worst of winter may be yet to come; a persistent tradition a thousand years older than our pitiful “Punxsutawney Phil”.
- The Flame:  the Need Fire, the New Fire, the Sacred Fire of the protectress Brigid: Tender of the Hearth; Keeper of the Flame.
- Purification:  Februare (Latin), meaning “to expiate” or purify: the Roman precursor of the Christians’ Lent: to prepare for the coming cycle of life; to extinguish the old and worn-out and to start anew...
- Weaning:  In her traditional role of foster-mother, Brigid receives the divine solar infant, given over into Her care by the Dark Mother of Yuletide.    
Prepare yourself for the work of the Goddess Brigid’s invincible purifying fire:  review the aspects of your life and self that need the assistance and purification She can bring to you.  Remember; this is the Rite of Weaning, through which we may find the first steps of a new independence and self reliance, and, with our hearts transformed by Her fire, we may find our way out of the dark storms of winter and into a new cycle of growth...

LITURGICAL ENACTMENT:    
(at 2015, a now 25 year old Neopagan tradition in our community...)

(T1) & (T2) Standard Opening Phases of the Rite 
                              ( "T1" etc.= "Tiers" in the ADF liturgical format**)
Gateway Opening & Gatekeeper
Invocation to In Dagda
In Dagda is entreated to hold the way open
Invocation of the Kindred Spirits
(T3) / Offeratory Phase of the Rite:
NINEFOLD INVOCATION to BRIGHDE
Nine Aspects by nine women (or 3 women do 3 aspects each)
Recite aspect; light one of nine candles from previous flame
THE MYSTERY, enacted... 
The flame of the Goddess is given to the people:
Priest on one knee, diagonally at far-end of the area, amid the Folk
Priest sings Isaac’s Hymn to Brigid, extending unlit candle...
Veiled/masked priestess slowly approaches with altar flame and lights his candle
Priest places the Flame of Brighde among the grove’s standard hallows
PRAISE OFFERINGS
The wand is passed: individual offerings are made before the Priestess of Brighde...
SUMMARY OFFERING and Piacular Appeal
THE OMEN is taken
The ashes of the burned Yule-greens are scryed...
(T4) / Receptory Phase of the Rite
Induction of Receptivity
CALL FOR THE BLESSINGS
The Emblems of Blessing are distributed to the assembly
The Waters
The Flame
The Guided Imagery by the priest:  We open to and are rectified by the Flame of Brighde...
             (T5) / Standard Recessional Phase of the Rite  

=============================================================== 

The guided meditation in the Receptory phase of the rite (T4) wherein 
we embrace the Flame of Brigid  ( used in our local rites since the early 1990's )

(( an MP3 recording, with brief intro, of the 
following can be accessed HERE... ))

Her image comes before us now,
woven from the very fabric of night....
She is clothed in the deepest sap­phire blue
and, amongst the folds of her robes,
glow the lights of a million stars.

Slowly, She reaches into her robe. . .  and. . .  Her hand emerges –
now bearing a pure, white flame... danc­ing over Her palm.
Her arm, bearing the flame, stretches out toward us now –
and we can feel the warmth of its light, flickering before us.

Slowly, She fades 

back - into the darkness, 

and all that remains

is the flame. 

It burns steadily, it burns brighter, and gradually. . . 

it overcomes all things to us; and becomes all things to us.
It is the new fire; the pure fire - the burning star, alone in the darkness.
It is the gathering light of the Invincible Sun.
          
Before its brightness no stain, no shadow, no doubt  can endure.
It is the light which we seek;
It is the light which we now embrace. . .
  
      To this light we now release our sorrows -
      To this light we now release our fears -

      To this light we now release all negativities -

And we watch as they meet the light  and are consumed...
In the light they are consumed and annihilated; utterly,
and we are free. . .

And now for a few minutes,
let us abide in that freedom,
   and when we are ready - return.




- Earrach of Pittsburgh