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





Thursday, May 27, 2010

On the origins of the crossquarter days

So, is there adequate reason to believe that the four so-called "Celtic fire-festivals" (Imbolc; Beltaine; Lughnassadh; and Samhain) are derived from ancient pagan festivals?

The February, May, August, and November crossquarter days, each located very nearly equidistant around the year fall in the middle of each of the year’s solar/astronomical quarters halfway between each solstice and adjacent equinox. The set of names for these we as Neopagans are most familiar with is the set from the old Irish chronicles: Imbolc, Beltaine, Lughnassadh and Samhain ( a few citations for these are found in documents over 1000 years old). Unlike the crossquarter days, the solar "quarter"-days are often uncredited or overtly denied by so called “Celtic Studies” authorities and Neopagan Reconstructionists as being irrelevant to the pagan Celtic calendar.

This system of crossed-quarters on the year's wheel implies that most likely there was in this region of Western Europe 1200 years ago or more:
(a.) a roughly correct knowledge of the number of days in the year;
(b.) a roughly correct knowledge of the definitions and dates of the two annual solstices and the annual equinoxes half way between them.

So when we find the folk calendar of Western Europe and the British Isles in particular further equally subdivided by these four crossquarter days, it becomes hard to deny the astronomical/solar derivation of the crossquarter days from the solstices and equinoxes ("quarter-days") between which they are so symmetrically framed. Yet most Celtic Studies authorities and Celtic Reconstructionists continue to discount the role of the role of solstices and equinoxes in the structure of the Celtic folk-calendar...

Oddly though we do have evidence of the solstices and equinoxes being very important in the concerns of the Christian church of the British Isles and these sources place them as significantly predating the oldest Irish crossquarter feast references, the sole references which the Recon's rely on as being evidence of the feasts' "pagan" derivation. Accurate astronomical knowledge was, at the least, critically important to the early British and "Celtic" Christian church in this period due to their obsessive quest and battle with Rome for fixing the "correct" date for Easter*. The date of Easter cannot be derived without a clear and accurate knowledge of the date of the March Equinox. By the time the 4 equi-distanced crossquarter feasts showed up in the Irish stories, the four quarters of the astronomical year framing them were already old news to the church-fathers of the British Isles and Ireland. Our oldest Irish stories mentioning them are several hundred years younger than our well testified evidence of early Christian calendar-making (quarters-fixing) astronomy.

So, we actually don't have any textural reason to insist that the so-called "celtic fire festival" crossquarters were actually a pagan tradition, since Christian calendar making needs had already framed them in place. For them to be adequately (ancient-) "pagan" we'll need to look for something more than what the Celtic Reconstrucionists have been taking for granted as enough.

All I can offer in defense of the Recons' position is:
"Absence of evidence does not constitute evidence of absence."

- E.
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* see "De Temporum Ratione" (On the Reckoning of Time) by the Venerable Bede, (8th Century CE)

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Religious Devotion

IMO...

Devotional activity is only truly devotional activity when it comes about through an absolute degree of self-motivation. Therefore, the notion that religious devotion requires the subjugation of one’s personhood and as such is an activity for sheep-like fools is basically nonsense and reflects a fundamental lack of understanding of the topic.

No individual can induce another into the “surrender” involved in religious devotion, nor can any other person induce one into a state religious devotion. This is because actual religious devotion is an activity which arises naturally in the person treading these paths, the individual being progressively more likely to arrive at such an outcome through a gradual process of religious discovery.

- E.

Friday, May 21, 2010

SEASONAL MYSTERIES

Found myself typing this to a friend and thought I'd expand upon it a bit...

...To me, the Rites of the Wheel* are primarily for
   the celebration of seasonal mysteries,
   not just being occasional opportunities to call on
   certain deities and pay tribute to them.

Unfortunately I find a good proportion of the ADF groves out there these days are doing just that . It seems that the seasonal content I hold to be fundamental to our Work is held to be secondary or sometimes even virtually irrelevant to the setup many of their high-day rites. Such an outcome is utterly abhorrent to my vision of Our Druidry.

During the years where I was steering the direction of Sassafras I had always seen the Seasonal Mysteries principle as the Grove's primary liturgical mission. In my opinion this has always been what has made Sassafras unique and I’d hope, somehow, they’d recognize it too and strive to keep it going.

- E.



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* In ADF, as in most of Neopaganism, the annual religious calendar is dominated by eight primary celebrations, sometimes referred to as the "Wheel of the Year" or the "Rites of the Wheel". These eight are comprised of a sequence of the two annual solstices and the two equinoxes and the four midpoints between the solstices and their adjacent equinoxes, known as the cross-quarterdays. In ADF these eight are required to be held as open to the public and are to hold to the minimum set of content and sequential process known as the ADF Core Order of Ritual (COoR).

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Some old images, finally postable


MIDSUMMERS EVE  
(c)1978 Earrach



I recently got a slide copier for our digital camera and finally was able to move some of my old 35mm images to digital format. This one is a shot of an illustration I did back in the 1970's. Rendered with colored pencil, chalk and watercolor on black paper, the theme is of an old British all-night hilltop bonfire on the eve of the Summer Solstice. In case you were wondering, yes, the stars are technically correct  ;-)    - e.

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GLASTONBURY TOR
Somerset England, (c) 1980 Earrach


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MORNING MISTS at STONEHENGE  
Wiltshire England, (c) 1980 Earrach


As the Sun came up 
and the 
mist of morning rose, 
the Great Stones bristled
with crows 
and crows 
and crows.

- Earrach






Friday, May 7, 2010

First Entry at TBOS

Ok then, let's see how this works out as a means to posting all my stuff...
Here's some of my SAMPLE TEXT:
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SASS-PAST


We are the ENGINEERS of TRADITION.
We are the authors of Memory…

We are all familiar with George Santayana’s famous quote, 
Those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.” 
Well, in our business we actually seek to reap blessings from exploring the flip side of that principle: by, in degree, repeating the past we hope to learn from it...

So, you ask, why do we do it?  Well, for what it's worth... years ago (1996?) I wrote an essay for our grove’s newsletter I had called "WHY DO WE DRUID?" It's available on the ADF website at: 
- and also there's a slightly improved/further-edited version at:

In this essay I suggest...

1.) For us, Mircea Eliade's  "Reconstructing the Cosmos" is more than a metaphor

2.) Pragmatic spirituality requires a brutal degree of self honesty, perhaps more than some of us can muster.

3.) Dealing with our "real" spiritual needs calls for more than fantasy role playing. Our true needs are about who we really are, not whom we'd like to be or would like to be thought-of as being.

4.) Participating in a ritualized annual cycle, periodically returning to the fundamentals of a religious scheme founded PRIMARILY upon Nature and annual/seasonal-factors is ESSENTIAL to a religious society like ours.