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

Friday, December 18, 2015

So WHY is it the LONGEST NIGHT ?


And, there ya' go. 

The dashed line is the path of an average city in the US (or the UK) as it circles the North Pole at the December Solstice. Just look at how much time we spend in the dark compared to the light! The whole rest of the year the margin of the Earth's day/night boundary (formally known as the Earth's "terminator") falls inside the Arctic Circle, which in our diagram here is marked as the heavy-black circle encompassing the central dot which represents the North Pole. 

compare with June Solstice shown at bottom of page. )

The modernized name is actually the "December Solstice"
since it's only the "winter..." solstice for us in the Northern Hemisphere.
For folks in Argentina, South Africa or Australia, it's their "Summer" solstice.

W A S S A I L  !
With Yuletide blessings to you and yours
The 2015 Yule Solstice stick... broken at 11:48 PM Eastern...

With Yuletide blessings to all.

occurs at 11:48 PM Eastern Standard Time
Monday, Dec. 21st, 2015

Here’s a trove of Book of Sassafras 

YULETIDE goodies from days of yore…

"Bah- humbug?" - No way... 
Yes, Christians should keep
"the Christ in Christmas", 
belongs to everybody!

The three faces of the Spirit of the Yule and
the Fractal Mystery of the Twelve Nights
between Solstice Eve and New Years Eve...

The oldest records of Yuletide may be from
England of the Dark Ages, not Germany...

Don't overlook these basic themes when creating
ritual celebrations for the December Solstice...

 Yes, it's true, you can hear the year turn...

Looking for  D R U I D  - ish 
Y U L E T I D E   T U N E S  ?
Check these out:
by Steeleye Span 

on their holiday album



((  * For comparison, here's the JUNE Solstice...

Wednesday, December 9, 2015


I don’t like it but I’m significantly stupider than I was five years ago….

It’s not Alzheimer’s, nor have I had a stroke and ended up with aphasia or other related condition. It it is a neurological condition and was something that came on rather suddenly and occurred as a direct outcome of the fact, well, that I’m still alive…

In the spring of 2012 I was diagnosed with cancer (it’s called “CLL”, a common form of Leukemia) and had my first three rounds of chemotherapy that autumn. I remained ok until the spring of 2015 when I had to have another round of chemo. Right after my first round is when things had started to change. Within a month or two I could articulate a difference in my cognitive experience of life that I eventually discovered is described by others as “Chemo Brain”. Chemo Brain has a clinical name* but it is not yet a formally recognized disorder by the medical establishment (probably under duress by their lawyers). Chemotherapy is vastly more sophisticated, improved and more effective now than it was even 20 or 30 years ago. Far fewer patients are sickened or face losing their hair; and far more folks are living productive lives in spite of their conditions. Many cancers that were a death sentence then have now been moved into the category of “manageable”. The chemo that I get is very effective yet does not make me feel fatigued or nauseous and it doesn’t cause hair-loss. For a person with the diagnosis of cancer, things could be so much more difficult; I consider myself extremely fortunate.


Through my whole life I’ve operated on a tight pattern of reflex that would be instantly recognizable by artists and other highly creative individuals. I was always discovering new ideas and perspectives and immediately found myself compelled to carry-through with these ideas to some creative end. For me that meant creating artwork, or later in my life, written word to capture and convey these stimuli to others in unique or instructive ways. When I say “compelled” I mean it; it was never a matter of bootstrapping myself into figuring out how I could “get” myself to do the next thing. No, they crowded at the edges of my perception, all simultaneously clamoring for my attention, drawing me into their gravitational fields of excitement and promise. For me, creativity was a compulsion, not  a “choice”.

Before I started chemo, it was as if I was a healthy frog on a staircase of six-inch high steps. I happened to be a frog who could jump six inches high so I had no trouble merrily hopping along and continually ascending the staircase. After my chemo started, the small but significant difference became evident - - it was clearly as if my frog-self could now only jump to a height a quarter inch short of six inches - - and that tiny change has made all the difference in the world…

My ever robust creativity-as-a-compulsion dynamo was broken. My productivity cycle spun down to a crawl. Everything was just a tiny bit harder to do. Tiny, but oh so a meaningful of a difference. This was not simply a change in the quantity of the output of my writings, diagrams and drawings… this struck directly at the core of my self-definition. I was no… longer… “me”.

These small cognitive after-effects of chemotherapy have been a very dramatic change in my life. Oddly enough, I’m now realizing that I have been becoming acclimatized to this increasingly less-new chemo-brain “dullness” and the memory of what it was to be “that other ('me') person” whom I’d been for the whole previous history of my life has already begun to fade significantly. As a consequence the urgency is diminished but it is no less distressing in retrospect.

SO... If you've noticed that I've been recycling more and posting less - it's got a lot to do with this stuff, but I promise I'll keep trying, er, "doing".


Sunday, October 11, 2015

A Gallery of MY ARTWORK

"Asleep Beneath the Stone"  (c) 1975 earrach

Much more on my

"The Last Druid"  (c) 1977 earrach

"The Enchantment" (c) 1972 earrach

"Dolmen in the Rain" (c) 1978  earrach

"Math and Goewin" (c) 1978 earrach

"Issac Bonewits in the Nemeton at Wellspring" (c) 2005 earrach


More of these images can be found on my

Saturday, September 12, 2015


1.) Calling the September Equinox "MABON" is totally BOGUS...
Just in case you haven’t already heard, the word / name "Mabon" has nothing to do with the Autumnal Equinox, or Autumn, or any calendar date whatsoever. It has never, ever, been related to the Autumnal Equinox or any other Pagan calendar date before a point in the 1970's when it was first erroneously associated with it by one (one) Wiccan group on the West Coast of the US. Not even one good mythic or lore-related reason for them pinning the character's name to the date ever seems to surface. So, for those of us who care about such things, it's just plain stupid, but we're stuck with it. If you've always used it because your old Wiccan high priestess called it that, or because of your early reliance on Llewellyn books, for the sake of ADF's reputation and your own, please consider ditching the usage and tell your friends.

2.) What IS the primary date of the SEPTEMBER EQUINOX ?
(...Not what you’ll read in Pagan books!)

Well, if you happen to have your cheat sheet (see fig.1,) you are in for some big surprises...

Yes, I don't know if I've found one 'pagan' reference book yet that lists the correct general date for the September Equinox !!! Even if they include it in a range of possible dates, rarely does ANY source infer that the 23rd of September is the principal date for the Autumnal Equinox and the other is an occasional variant.

It simply does NOT FALL ON THE 20th, 
nor the 21st, or 25th - - those are just plain wrong:
it usually falls on September 23rd and occasionally on the 22nd.

The year to year variance in the date and time of the equinoxes and solstices is actually due to our wonderfully efficient Gregorian Calendar correcting itself. Bobbing around the natural year's fixing points like a puppy pacing from one extreme to the other on a very short leash, the corrections are achieved through the application of an extra day every four years or so ("leap years") and the occasional extra day thrown-in on certain century-turning years.



Article 4: Calendar

1.)     The High Days of the ADF calendar are the eight Neopagan High Days which are the solstices, equinoxes, and points equally between them. For legal purposes, these High Days occur on:

a. Cross-Quarter =                 November 1st
b. Solstice =                             December 21st
c. Cross-Quarter =                 February 1st
d. Equinox =                             March 21st
e. Cross-Quarter =                 May 1st
f.  Solstice =                             June 21st
g. Cross-Quarter =                 August 1st
h. Equinox =                             September 21st

2.) For ceremonial purposes, local congregations shall celebrate each of the eight High Days within one week prior to or after the aforementioned dates, or at some other time determined by Board-established policy.

3.) The ceremonial year of ADF shall begin on the first day of November and end on the thirty-first day of October in each civil year. ”


More September Equinox fun HERE... 

USNO Website 
- the US official standard data site for astronomers and calendar makers.

- "Fig.1" which I created for an article in the mid 1990's, was derived from a sample of 22 years' data from both the USNO and the Observers' Handbook from the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada.

- Text and table & images originally are from The Druids Almanac and docs linked to it, (c) Earrach.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Remembering the SUN at the June Solstice

For a number of good reasons, we need to be a little more careful with our thinking than we often are. The words we choose for one thing can unwittingly limit or even exclude another. Such is the case when understanding the relationship of "Sun", "Earth", "Earth Mother", and "Mother Nature". Let's consider the implications in the following:

So, yes... 

The MOTHER is not the EARTH,
The MOTHER is not the "Blue Marble"...

The MOTHER...  is  LIFE
The MOTHER...  is  NATURE.

This, for us specifically, is a terribly important distinction.

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 generally. 

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 continually fixated on their shallow promises of the "Next"...

Turn around, I bid you now... 
and forsake those shadows, 
embracing the sunrise as
the True Light of All Life 
reaches its annual summit, 
high in the skies over
our beautiful world....

- Earrach (c) 2015
photo (c.2006)  by Lassair
SUMMER SOLSTICE 2017 occurs at 
12:24 AM Eastern, WEDNESDAY JUNE 21st


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

"The (Neopagan) Solar Apostasy"


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



Is the Sun conscious? Is it "divine"?

Summer Solstice sunrise 2015 at the Tor over Fairview 

( our holy hill in the Pittsburgh south suburbs ). 

Photo and video by Lassair.

All hail the Invincible Sun !!


Saturday, May 2, 2015


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".


- EARRACH of Pittsburgh


Sunday, March 22, 2015

When the Pattern Instructs the Pattern-Maker

At first, I wrote them down this way:


Conversation with the
GODS and other SPIRITS

Celebration of

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

Why, it's arguably 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"(1.) 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.


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

(1.) 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",  the non-historical spelling - is the 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.



FUZZY LOGIC solves the endless dispute over “when” a season begins or ends !

BREAK A STICK in half at the sacred moment and nab some big Mojo? see:

The DRUIDS’ ALMANAC – lots more related fun stuff here:

EASTER "FAKELORE"  debunking internet Ishtar-Easter B.S., thanks Ian !
T'WAS JUST A WEE BUNN! (remembering the 2004 Easter Bunny Massacre)

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