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Ellis, Peter Berresford.  A Brief History of the Druids. New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers,

2003.

Each Summer Solstice the news media releases a handful of articles on a modern group of Druids worshipping near Stonehenge.  The photos are of regular looking people wearing long white robes and sometimes white head coverings that look more akin to Egyptian head dresses.  They stand in a circle and perform their ritual to the Gods.  One has to ask whether what they are doing is historically accurate or not.  To answer such questions, Peter Berresford Ellis’ book, A Brief History of the Druids, is an excellent starting point.

Ellis’ book is earnest in admitting that he does not know everything about the Druids.  In fact, there is very little in which he could possibly know in our modern times.  Relying on archaeology, linguistics, history, and lore, Ellis explains what is and isn’t known about this mysterious group of people while debunking several myths at the same time.  The book is organized in such a way that he starts with a generalized introduction and then narrows the topic down chapter by chapter.

He begins by describing what is generally thought about the Druids.  Most of our perceptions are shaped by the reports of foreigners such as Caesar and Pliny and are therefore often full of anti-Celtic propaganda (11).  Much of the remaining evidence comes from Christianized Celts.  Everything else must be surmised through linguistics and archaeology for the Druids left no literature of their own due to a taboo against writing (13).  It is therefore difficult to fully understand the Druids.  Everything examined must be taken with a proverbial grain of salt.

Having provided a few disclaimers, Ellis explores the world of the Celts beginning with what little is known of their origins.  These people lived “north of the Alps … from Ireland and Britain in the west, as far east as the central plains of what is now Turkey” (23).    They are defined as Celts based on the similarities of the languages they used which survive today as modern Irish, Manx, Scottish Gaelic, Welsh, Cornish, and Breton (25).  The Celts, Ellis explains, lived in a society divided by classes: workers, artisans, warriors, and the Druids who represented the highest level of academia in Celtic society (29).

So what of the Druids themselves and where do they come from?  Ellis first delves into the etymology of the word Druid to come to various possibilities.  The first is that the word Druid means “oak knowledge” as drus is Greek for “an oak” and wid means “to know” (37).  Another meaning could be “immersed in knowledge” due to the similarities found between old Celtic and Sanskrit words for water and dew.  Either way, the Druids are already connected with knowledge, trees, and water – three very important things in both ancient and modern Druidry.  However the Druids evolved, they came to be the priestly class who oversaw religious, judicial, medical, political, scientific, and educational matters of the Celtic people.  According to the Greeks and Romans, the Druids were divided into three subclasses: Druids, Vates, and Bards.  The Druids were basically the teachers, philosophers, and scientists.  Meanwhile, the Vates focused more on nature and divination and the Bards were historians, musicians, and poets (51).  This special class of intellectuals, which was made up of both men and women (91) held a lot of power – so much so that not even a king was allowed to speak before a Druid (75).

No discussion of the Druids would be complete without a chapter or two dedicated to their religion and rituals.  So many of the ancient texts refer to them as performing mysterious rites and worshipping various deities that we know religion played a large role in the life of a Druid.  Ellis explains that the Celts were polytheists although several modern men have tried to mold the Druids into proto-Christians who worshiped a single God (114).  There are actually over three hundred known Celtic deities, and several are localized meaning that they are associated with only one place (114).  There are a few Gods who were known in many places.  Ellis provides brief descriptions of some of the better known deities such as Danu, Dagda, Bel, Cernunos, Nuada, Lugh, Taranis, Ogma, and the Mórrígán.  Although the explanations are short, they are fitting for a work dedicated to the Druids rather than the Gods.  There is the possibility that the sudden deluge of Celtic Gods and mythology could confuse and overwhelm a novice, but I’ve found that further reading will help to better familiarize the curious mind.

In dissecting the wisdom of the Druids, Ellis breaks the chapter down topic by topic so that we are given an in-depth look at what we know of their skill in various areas such as magic, astrology, and medicine.  I found this section of the book to be the driest, possibly because I am most interested in the Druids’ function as priests rather than judges and astronomers.  However the section should not be overlooked as it truly shows the rich knowledge of the Druids. They were not simply a barbarian people as the Romans were so fond of thinking.  The Celts and their Druids were very well versed in science and enjoyed many accomplishments.  Anyone of Celtic background should feel a sense of pride when reading about such feats.

A Brief History of the Druids should be essential reading material for anyone aspiring to the knowledge of the Druids.  It first provides a good historical background of the people we in ADF are hoping to emulate and also grounds us in our practice by providing the context for our rituals.  Ellis’ discussions of holy wells, trees, divination, and fire in connection to the landscape, festivals, and mythology help to make sense of our liturgical practices.  A good understanding of why a person practices what he or she does is essential for a truly spiritual, intelligent, and introspective human being. Aspiring Druids should hope to be all three of those things.

The book ends with a discussion on the Druidic revival that has been going on for a few hundred years.  It is an interesting although lacking explanation of modern Druidry.  I say that because Ellis focuses on the romantic Druidic groups and only briefly mentions the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids, one of the largest Druidic groups today.  There is no reference to Ár nDraíocht Féin or even Celtic Reconstructionists.  This is too bad because he leaves the unknowing reader under the impression that many modern Druidic groups rely on poor research to create their traditions.  He ends the book by reminding the reader that many Celtic countries are forgetting their language and losing their social customs which is truly sad.  He bemoans the fact that many modern Druids are more concerned with the esoteric aspects of Druidry and not the cultural.  I believe that this is a legitimate concern, however, once more, by failing to explore Ár nDraíocht Féin or Celtic Reconstructionism he is overlooking groups who do require learning about the cultures and at least a minimal amount of language study.  Although students of Druidry must be aware of the historical realities of their Druidic homelands, I feel that the pessimistic ending spoiled what was otherwise a very well-written, informative book.

 

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The Autumn Equinox is a harvest holiday that is also known as Mabon to many Pagans (Ellison 187).  It is generally celebrated around the actual equinox date, usually September 21st.  Although it was not an especially important time to the ancient Celts, there are traditions throughout the British Isles and Ireland.  According to Mara Freeman, there was a special ceremony surrounding the cutting of the last sheaf.  This was then transformed into a female doll that could represent any number of things, from the Cailleach to a young Goddess, depending on the region.  It would then be hung in a barn, home, or saved for Imbolc festivities (Freeman, 260).

Mabon is also a time of year for feasting and food preparation as people prepare for the winter months.   Specific foods, such as corn and nuts, are being harvested, and wine making is especially important (Ellison 188).

In many ways, this holiday seems like a Pagan version of Thanksgiving without the convoluted history between Europeans and Native Americans.  In years past, I didn’t anticipate it as wholly as Samhain or Winter Solstice.  In fact, I rarely thought much about it on the actual holiday.  Yet now that I’ve read more about the Autumn Equinox it makes more sense to me than the American Thanksgiving which seems more about the beginning of the Christmas season now than celebrating the bounty of the earth.  Mabon’s purpose, it seems, is to remind Pagans to stop, think about where their food comes from, and thank the Earth Mother.

 

How I Celebrated in 2007

 

Once again, I joined the members of Muin Mound to celebrate a holiday.  This particular holiday, the Autumn Equinox, has never attracted me in the way that others have, but it is important to celebrate the end of the harvest and the preparation for colder times.

The ritual was lead by the senior Druid, Dennis.  This is the second ritual I’ve seen him lead.  I’ve found him to be very humble and he never seems as if he is on a power trip.  He always organizes the rituals quite well.  He knows the structure and he encouragingly helps to remind people when it’s their turn to present an offering or call to a particular spirit or kindred.

The patrons of the rite were the Welsh Mabon and Madron, Mabon’s mother.  I know very little about them as I work with Irish deities, so it was very interesting to learn.  The gatekeeper was Manannan Mac Lir.  I stumbled my way through some of the chants, but I’m starting to form a firm grasp on the ritual format, the chants Muin Mound uses, and the appropriate responses during the rite.  I’m becoming confident!  I did, however, forget to bring a sacrifice.  I felt bad, but recalled that I had already made an offering to my shrine earlier in the day.  I didn’t do anything of note in the ritual except participate in the toast and boast.

I cannot remember the exact omens drawn.  I know Dennis used runes and that the overall message was that we need to contribute to the whole community, not just to the grove or even just the Pagan community.  It was a good omen and something I believe we need to do more of.

Whenever I’m at Muin Mound, I definitely feel the presence of nature spirits.  They seem to love the grove.  I feel the Gods and ancestors as well, but the nature spirits really make themselves known.  The deity I felt most was Brighid, and I also sensed the Dagda.  I felt Brighid standing mostly to my right, and the Dagda to my left.  Brighid urged me to keep an eye on a little boy as he played dangerously close to the fire.  She would have been upset with me if I let him hurt himself.

 

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Lughnasadh

As July ends, numerous Pagans are mentally, spiritually, and in some cases physically preparing for Lughnasadh.  On or around August first, many of us stop to remember the bounty of the summer and give thanks.  Some of us stop and remember the holiday’s namesake – Lugh.

Lughnasadh is a feast in honor of Lugh and his foster mother, Tailtiu (Freeman 237).  She cleared forests in what is now County Meath so that the land could be cultivated.  Tailtiu died doing so, thus Lugh promised to honor her memory with a celebration of games and trade (237).  Lughnasadh festivals were therefore characterized by competitive games (Myers 44).  It is also the traditional end of summer and beginning of autumn (Ellison 145) and was thus the festival of the first harvest (148).  At this time of the year, Irish tribes would gather to compete in games, sell their crops, and sell and display their crafts (149).  Lughnasadh is a time of revelry, socialization, and community.  It was important for busy families to take a break from what was otherwise a season of hard work to laugh and enjoy their bounty.

Lughnasadh, while it is a holiday I celebrate, has never been something I look forward to with vast anticipation like Samhain, Yule, or Beltaine.  It is an important day to me, however, and I always put aside time to honor Lugh and his foster mother.  This year I am planning to attend the local Irish and Renaissance Festivals.   In various places, I have read that festivals of their nature are akin to what Lughnasadh festivals would have been like.  I find it as no coincidence that such huge gatherings of trade, athletics, and celebration occur at this time of year.  Attending such things around Lughnasadh has become an annual tradition for me and is likely to continue for the rest of my healthy life.

In the future, I would like for Lughnasadh to become a bigger holiday to me – perhaps one I look forward to with the excitement I associate with Samhain and the like.  If I have a family, I would like Lughnasadh to be a full-day celebration of summer’s end and autumn’s beginning.  I would want us to decorate our family altars and tables with local crops such as beans, summer squash, and blueberries.  I would like us to attend local rituals as well as do something intimate as a family.  I would like us to visit Renaissance or Irish festivals to really feel the community involved in such a feast.

 

How I Celebrated in 2007

The holiday celebrated in this ritual was Lughnasadh.  The ritual was lead by myself and the only other person attending was my boyfriend, Ron.  We performed the ritual in my back yard by the oak tree we planted in April.  It was not so deep into the forest that we would be eaten alive by mosquitoes, and wasn’t close enough to the house to distract us.  We decided to celebrate Lughnasadh on the traditional day of August 1, 2007, a Wednesday, in the evening at about 8 pm.

Ron and I honored the deities Lugh and his foster-mother Tailtiu.  I felt it was right and made sense considering the history and mythology surrounding Lughnasadh.  I called on Manannan Mac Lir as the Gatekeeper.

I felt that the ritual went well for the most part.  I have been studying the structure of ADF rituals for awhile now and felt that I had a handle on what I was doing for the most part.  I had to focus myself before the ritual and organize my thoughts beforehand, so performing these rites is not yet second nature.  I was also a bit nervous because I was performing the rite in front of Ron and, even though he is my understanding boyfriend, I didn’t want to look silly or clumsy in front of him. I’m confident that the more I do them, the more comfortable I’ll feel.

There was one glitch but luckily it happened at the very beginning of the ritual rather than in the midst of it.  I was trying to open a bottle of Guinness to prepare some offerings, and realized that I’d need a bottle opener to do it.  I had to run back to the house to get the utensil before the rite could continue.  It was certainly a lesson well learned!  I was prepared in every other way, so one little set back didn’t hurt too much, I’m sure.

In terms of what I felt, I was pretty nervous about leading the ritual.  I think that muffled any other feelings I would have had.  It also didn’t help that Ron was visibly and audibly uncomfortable with the bugs during the ritual.  I certainly felt the weight of the ceremony, and felt that Lugh was happy with my honoring him, but I didn’t feel the buzz I usually experience at a ritual at the Grove or in my own daily devotionals.  Again, I feel that it will come with practice.  I just need to become more comfortable doing it on my own and in front of others.

I regret to say no omens were taken.  I thought a lot about including that in my rite, as it’s such a traditional part of ADF, and it feels right in terms of what ancient Pagans would have done.  However, in the end, I felt that I was too out of practice with the tarot cards to use them that night.  I know next to nothing about the rune set I own.  It would have been hard to see the results anyway.  We weren’t using a bonfire, but a little candle, after all.  Perhaps down the road at my next ritual.  I would greatly like to learn the ogham.

In many ways, my Lughnasadh ritual was more of a learning experience and less of a spiritual one.  There are ups and downs to that, of course, but in the long run it will serve as an essential stepping stone in my spiritual life.  The more confident I can become performing these rites, the more natural I will feel, and thus the more open to spirit I will be.

 

 

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Summer Solstice

The Summer Solstice, or Midsummer, occurs this year on June 21st.  Day light will be at its longest and summer, as the ancients saw it, will be half-way through.  The energy of the season will be at its peak (Ellison, 176).  Many modern Pagans refer to the holiday as Litha and feel that the sun, having reached its apex, diminishes in power to be reborn at Yule.   The solstice did not have the importance to the Celts that Beltaine did.    In fact, it seemed to be more important to the Norse.  Midsummer was “sacred to the Norse God Balder the beautiful, and to Thor, God of thunder and protector from giants, and his consort Sif, she of the ‘golden hair’” (177).

Although not as sacred, the solstice was still marked as a significant time to the Celts.  The energy of the sun was noted, and various solar symbols would occur throughout the land usually in the form of bonfires.  Cornwall, for instance, was dotted with bonfires that were danced around and jumped over (Freeman, 170).  In Wales, the tradition of rolling a flaming wheel down a hill was developed.  According to custom, “if the flames went out [before reaching the bottom of the hill], there would be a poor harvest ahead, but if it continued to burn vigorously, cheers broke out because this guaranteed an excellent yield” (171).

In Ireland, Midsummer gained otherworldly associations similar to Beltaine and Samhain.  It was believed that the faery folk would join in the revelries and dance around bonfires atop hills.  The Goddess Àine, sometimes considered to be a faery queen, is said to have appeared in County Limerick to celebrate this solar holiday (Freeman, 172).

Midsummer also has strong, herbal associations.  According to Mara Freeman, “Midsummer was the traditional time to cull magical plants and healing herbs, which were at their most potent at this time of the year” (174).  There was also the custom of creating “Airmid’s mantel” – “a large piece of cloth with the outline of a human body stitched on it.  On this outline are placed pictures of the herbs that are beneficial for each part of the body” (Ellison 179).  This tradition is derived from the story of Airmid’s cloak, and the murder of Míach.

Unlike his father, Dían Cécht (a physician God), Míach was able to heal Núada.   Núada’s hand had been cut off in battle and needed a replacement in order to lead the Tuatha Dé Danann.   Dían Cécht grew so jealous and furious with his healer son’s success that he killed Míach.   Míach’s sister, Airmid, discovered that from out of Míach’s grave every herb known to man grew.  She harvested and separated them on her cloak according to their uses.   Dían Cécht, ever the proud and jealous healer, mixed the herbs, confusing the meanings Airmid had given to them (Freeman, 178).

I look forward to celebrating the Summer Solstice, though perhaps not as much as I looked forward to Beltaine since the Pagan community, as a whole, fills May with so much festivity.  Midsummer is a time for faeries and enjoying the season at its peak.  The flowers are blooming and there is green everywhere.  When I think of nature spirits, I think of them as predominantly spring and summer beings.  I do imagine there being autumn and winter nature spirits too, but I don’t feel that they are as abundant, reflecting the state of life during those seasons.  During summer, however, I imagine every plant having at least one nature spirit out protecting it and even dancing around it at times. That belief easily segues into the story about Airmid and herbs.  It is a time of year when the plant life, as well as the sun, is at its peak.  The flowers are just beginning to bloom, many of the herbs are ready to be harvested, and crops are starting to bulge with veggies and fruits.  The summer solstice is a time to celebrate nature and its abundance.

When I start a family, I hope to teach my children to look for signs of summer.  .  June has always been associated with roses.  When mum’s rose bushes start to bud, they should know that the summer solstice is upon us.  I would also like to take special time during this holiday to teach any children I have about herbs and their various properties.  What better time than when the children can help me harvest and learn the herbs through touch, feel, smell, and taste?

The Summer Solstice is a special time of year – a time of solar power and an explosion of nature.  It is sacred in that nature is ripening its offspring, and in that nature reflects the teachings of the Great Ones.

 

How I Celebrated in 2007

On Saturday June 23 2007, I went to Muin Mound Grove to celebrate the Summer Solstice.  It was lead by Dennis Skinner, a Senior Druid.  Various visitors and Folk of the Grove volunteered to fill in certain positions needed to complete the ritual.  There were a large number of people who attended – I estimate over twenty!

The ritual began with a processional chant that we sung as we entered the nemeton.  The place of worship was truly magical.  Before we entered the nemeton, we could already see the glimmer of torch light through the trees.  As we entered, we were sprinkled with water and purified with incense.  We walked clockwise around the bonfire midst the grove of trees, chanting all the while.

Dennis had explained that the ritual would honor Norse deities, which was fine.  I’m more in tune to Celtic deities, but I have Germanic ancestors and I’d never done anything Norse in ritual before.  The ritual structure seemed to remain the same.  The deities honored were Tyr and Sunna, a sun Goddess.  The gate keeper was Heimdall.

The more I attend the grove, the more comfortable I become with the ritual.  At first it seemed really formal, but I’m beginning to realize that there is a lot of room for spontaneity, improvisation, and personal expression – all things that are important to me in ritual.  At the same time, I’m starting to appreciate a ritual structure.  I realize the value of it in that it makes people feel comfortable as they know what to expect, it gives a plan to follow, and keeps everyone on the same page.  I felt truly at home.

Some people who had never volunteered to take part in the ceremony were helping out.  One man was making an offering to the ancestors.  He mumbled that he had never done this before and seemed very nervous, but everyone was truly supportive of him.  Others who have often stepped forward to welcome the Kindreds went through it easily, but it wasn’t scripted as I once thought.  They said things that were very personal and, perhaps, spontaneous.  There was feeling behind what they said, and the environment seemed to respond.

Though I still feel very new to the grove, I stepped forward with an offering of herbs I cut from my garden to dry three days before the ritual.  The Solstice is associated with herbs, and I thought it appropriate.  I hadn’t planned on what to say, but thanked the Kindreds for the beauty and life that filled my gardens.

The only part of the ritual that made everyone feel uncomfortable was when the Senior Druid’s cloak caught on fire for an instant.  Phoenix, too, had been dangerously close to catching her cloak on fire.  Luckily, Tyr, one of the patrons, was there to protect us.

The Senior Druid used runes to divine the sentiments of the Kindreds.  I cannot remember the exact runes drawn, but it was all very positive, or in the form of advice.  The ancestors told us that they are with us always, and the nature spirits warned us to take better care of the environment.  I do know that, for the Gods, Tyr’s rune was drawn.  It means justice.

Overall, I was very pleased and moved by the ritual.  I felt very much a part of it and the energies at work.  It is wonderful to be forming a bond with this community.

 

 

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Beltaine

Beltaine is a Celtic holiday traditionally celebrated around May 1st.  It is a day to celebrate the return of fertility to the Earth as well as the beginning of summer.  In regards to the etymology of the word, linguists are fairly certain that the “-tain” refers to the word tene, meaning “fire”.  The “bel-” is less certain among linguists.  Some believe it refers to the Gaulish God Belenos or that it derives from the word bel – “brilliant” (Freeman 135).

Beltaine is one of the most important holidays in the Celtic year.  It is associated with specific events, invasions, and monsters that appear on Beltaine in Celtic myth (Ellison 129).  According to Mara Freeman, “events that mark the end of an old order and the beginning of a new frequently take place at Beltaine” (136).  For example, the invasion of the Tuatha Dé Danann of Ireland occurred on a Beltaine, as did the invasion of the Míl, the ancestors of the Irish who conquered the old Gods (136).

Beltaine is also associated with fire, as is implied by the name.  The druids would gather on hills to create grand bonfires which would help to purify the community and their livestock for the summer (Freeman 137).  In fact, Beltaine was the day the cattle were brought to pasture in the fields until the beginning of winter on Samhain (Ellison 129).  The cattle would be driven between two such bonfires to ensure their health and fertility for the coming year.

This holiday is also associated with love and fertility.  Couples or whole groups of people would go off into the forests or fields to “bring in the May”, or have sex.  It was believed that, in doing so, the fertility of the couple would be transferred to the Earth and aid in the upcoming harvest (Ellison 130).

Having been a practicing Pagan for several years now, I’ve been exposed to a few Beltaines and, as I grow and learn about the path I am on, I have come to love and anticipate this holiday.  Many groups in my area dance the May Pole for Beltaine, a traditional fertility ritual.  It, along with bringing in the May with my partner, has become something I look forward to every year.

Folk customs aside, the transition of the natural year has always been most noticeable around May 1st.  The trees are budding, the ground is moist and filling out with green life, the song birds have returned, and wild flowers paint the land with color.  It is such a joyous time of the year for me.

In the future, if I have a family, I would love for my children to anticipate Beltaine as much as I do, although they probably won’t understand its full meaning until adolescence.  I would love to give them tenfold of what I have experienced so far: ample feasts, dancing, singing, flower gathering, and love-focused rituals.  I would like Beltaine to take a higher precedence over Valentine’s Day for my own family, as Beltaine is less focused on material gifts and more on love and growth.  It is a positive holiday – one of my favorites.

 

How I Celebrated in 2007

On the 28th of April, 2007, I attended the Beltaine ritual at Muin Mound in Syracuse.  It was my first experience at a Druid ritual.  The ceremony began at 7 PM.

The Beltaine ritual was lead by Skip Ellison.  I think he did a wonderful job.  He was both welcoming and powerful seeming.  Everyone in the grove was also very welcoming.  It felt like a big family!  Skip’s daughter also took on an important role by leading the songs and chants as the bard.  Two other girls also did a lot to invoke the three Kindreds and make offerings.  Everyone else (about ten or so people) participated in minor ways such as singing, chanting, making offerings, and participating in the “toast and boast.”  I was amazed at the amount of group participation that occurred.

The gatekeeper for the ceremony was Manannan Mac Lir.  The deities honored were Angus the Young God and a Goddess I wasn’t familiar with called “Flower Face.”  Angus was celebrated because of his summer ties with love and fertility, while “Flower Face” is also associated with love as well as new growth.

Skip’s method of divination was ogham stones.  If I recall correctly, he drew three different discs – one for each kindred.  One was ivy, and one was oak.  I cannot remember the third!  I do remember that the oak was an omen for the Gods.  Skip said it was a very good message.

Before the actual ritual, we performed a May pole dance.  The beautiful May pole was made using the previous year’s Yule tree.  Skip explained that it’s part of how they keep in tune with the cycle of the year.  Each Yule, they get a Yule tree.  Come Beltaine, part of the old Yule tree is added to the Beltaine pole. When the pole has been danced, it is placed in the grove to give fertility to the Earth all summer long.  Come Samhain, the beginning of sleep and rest for nature, the May pole is burned to represent the death of the green until spring.  I thought it was really beautiful and I would love to start such a tradition with my own family some day.  So, we danced the pole and leant our energy to the land for a good, fertile growing season.

As stated, I really liked the grove and the ritual.  I felt it was structured very well.  I liked the emphasis on the Gods as well as the ancestors and nature spirits.  I felt like I was really honoring the Gods rather than abstract concepts. I liked all of the offerings people gave.  I was really impressed when one member offered a song on a flute!  Being my first time, I did not make a special offering.  I hope to next time.

I had trouble with chants and responses.  I could hum along with the melody, and pick up some.  I was really confused when we invoked water, earth, and sky.  Everyone began to chant something I didn’t know.  Eventually I realized that they were referring to the three great fears of the Celt.  They were asking that the sky not fall, the earth not open up, and that the sea not swallow them.

When we got to the “Toast and Boast” part of the ritual, I thanked the Gods for the wonderful community I found to worship with.  I explained that when I started out on my spiritual path, I was alone.  Now I have a wonderful mate who worships with me, Pagan friends, and I celebrated Beltaine with two different groups!

I really enjoyed the ritual.  I felt a lot of energy there.  I especially felt Manannan’s presence.  It felt like tickles down my back.  I just knew he was there with us.  I definitely plan to go to the grove again.

 

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The Spring Equinox

The end of March is hardly how I imagine spring.  Never the less, the Spring Equinox generally falls around March 21st every year (Freeman 71).  In Upstate New York, snow can cling to existence until mid April.  It is chilly, mucky, and gray – hardly what one considers spring-like weather.  Yet I’ve grown to shrug off this more cynical approach that many of my fellow Upstate New Yorkers have adopted.  If one takes the time to look there are signs of spring everywhere.  There are tiny buds starting to form at the ends of branches.  Some birds may start to return.  There may be periods of rain rather than snow.  These occurrences justify a celebration to many Neo Pagans.

Our European ancestors may have seen the signs of spring sooner than we do now but, historically, there is no evidence that our Celtic ancestors celebrated the Spring Equinox.  This time of year seems to have been more significant to our Anglo-Saxon ancestors (Ellison 169).  Eostre is the Anglo-Saxon Goddess of the season and eggs, hares/rabbits, and new growth are sacred to her.  Many of the traditions associated with her feast have been transferred to the Christian celebration of Easter.  The Easter Bunny and colored eggs are obvious examples.

I grew up celebrating Easter with my Catholic family.  While Christian mythology is fascinating in its own right, I was (as most children seem to be) more enamored with the bunnies and eggs.  As with the Winter Solstice, the Spring Equinox has become easy to celebrate simply because many of the traditions are the same.  As I become more and more involved with my Irish hearth culture, the Spring Equinox gives me the opportunity to meditate on my often overlooked Germanic blood.

While the Spring Equinox is admittedly not my favorite holiday, it is fun to watch children dye and hunt for eggs.  I hope to continue that tradition with my own family one day.  However I don’t want the celebration of the season to degrade into the materialistic façade of modern, secularized Easter.   I would much rather use the egg as an opportunity to learn about life cycles and healthy food, and the holiday as a whole as an excuse to go on a nature walk to hunt for signs of spring.

 

How I Celebrated in 2008

I celebrated the Spring Equinox, also known as Ostara, with Muin Mound on Saturday, March 22nd, 2008.  My boyfriend and I arrived a half an hour or so before the ritual started so we were able to relax while the ritual space was prepared in the house.  Thirteen to fifteen other people were there to celebrate the coming of spring.  I felt exhausted after a long day spent in Syracuse, but once the ritual neared, I felt myself buzzing with anticipation.

We processed out into the ritual space.  Some duties had been handed out prior, but the Senior Druid forgot to ask for volunteers to make offerings to the Earth, Sea, and Sky.  I volunteered to honor the Sea during the ritual and sprinkled salt water from a large sea shell around the ritual space while chanting “May the seas not rise up and drown us.”  The practice draws from Celtic lore and belief, and I really like that it’s included in the ritual.

We honored the Goddess Eostre and the God Oisin.  I had been under the impression that Oisin was a Celtic hero and that Eostre was a Teutonic Goddess.  I wasn’t sure how connected this was and will have to do further research.

When it came time to make offerings, several people offered colored eggs.  Someone eventually offered a candle which she lit from the flames of the central candle.  She placed it in the offering bowl in the middle of the many colored eggs.  It was a really beautiful site.  I offered a ring that I had bought myself in Salem a few years ago.  It had two angels/fairies holding a pentacle and was significant to me when I was Wiccan.  It was still significant to me because it represented where I came from on my Pagan path.  It also represented my recent reconciliation with Wicca after having felt some negative feelings towards the movement for a year or so.  Giving the ring was my way of thanking the Kindreds for helping me to learn some much-needed lessons.

After the offerings were given, an omen was taken through the use of Ogham.  The Arch Druid, Skip, read the omens and said they were positive, however I cannot recall what the particular sigils were.

I enjoyed this ritual.  During the potluck I realized that I was slowly becoming a part of the grove.  I was recognized, though everyone didn’t always remember my name. It has nearly been a year since I started to attend Muin Mound for the holidays and I think that I would like to become an official part of the grove.

 

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Oath Ring

When I performed my oath rite as part of ADF’s Dedicant Program, I decided to wear a ring as a sign of my commitment to the Kindreds.  I found a lovely silver spiral ring and used that.  It weakened and broke.  I decided to replace it with a spiraly ring that had belonged to my mother.  I performed a ritual to renew my oath and transfer the energy from the first ring to the next.  Life goes on.

Today I discovered that the ring from my mother, my second oath ring, is starting to break.  This saddens me because it is doubly special.  I have decided to take it off in an effort to preserve it as I love having a trinket from my mum’s girlhood.

I am now seeking a more solid oath ring.

I like this “I am of Ireland” ring but I’m not sure if it’s the most appropriate.  I am very proud of my Irish heritage, but I’ve never even been there…  To say I am of it…  I don’t know…

I also like these Druidic triad rings but I can’t seem to choose just one and I’m not sure about wearing three rings at once.  Two on one finger seems like enough!  lol

In the end I’ll probably go with a nice spiral or Celtic knot.  It seems to be what I love most.

( For My LJ Friends: http://adfcatprints.blogspot.com/ )

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