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Archive for the ‘folklore’ Category

In my early days of Pagan study and worship, it was easiest for me to connect with and understand the Nature Spirits.  I was raised to respect them and even taught by my mother to believe in fairies and unicorns, even if they were part of a different reality than our own.  As time went by, I forged some bonds with deities, but it wasn’t until taking up the Dedicant Program that I was truly able to feel connected to and understand the Three Kindreds of Nature Spirits, Ancestors, and Gods.

While I very much believed in the unseen Nature Spirits as a child, I was more aware and interested in the visible and tangible.  I have always cared deeply for plants and animals and have been an environmentalist from an early age.  As I grew, my animism developed and I came to the realization that there really was more to the natural world than met the eye.  As a child, I was bombarded with the modern myth of fairies – little, beautiful creatures with wings and fairy dust.  I am still very much attracted to this image and often incorporate such creatures into my artwork, but I’ve come to realize that the Spirits of Nature are as varied as people and that they can be perceived by humans as beautiful, silent, loud, mischievous, disgusting, and, perhaps, aggressive. While some are weaker than humans, others are much, much stronger. Studying Irish folklore and mythology has given me a more mature frame of perception in regards to the Nature Spirits.   They are, indeed, the unseen forces of nature that can be creative, like a spirit attached to a garden, or destructive, like the Pooka of Irish lore, and they can come in any guise.  In my own spiritual work, I’ve found that I believe that all beings, even the rocks and trees, have souls, and so I feel that they are also Nature Spirits worthy of respect and, in some cases, veneration.

So how do I perceive the Nature Spirits?  They are the birds and the song that they sing.  They are the rocks in the earth.  They are the drops of rain.  They are the wind rustling the trees.  They are the sequins of sunlight that splash through the forest canopy.  They are the trees, alive and decaying.  They are the dandelions poking up through cement sidewalks.  They are the ferrets cohabiting with me in my bedroom.  They are the unseen creatures that move my things without any explanation. They are the rotting corpses of animals on the streets.  They are the diseases that we get.  They are the unseen forces in the dark.  They are at work outside making the flowers and vegetables grow. They are present within the upper, middle, and lower worlds and represent all the elements.  I believe that my existence is inextricably linked to theirs and so they deserve to be honored and treated with respect, like brothers and sisters who have their own wants, needs, and motivations.  I may not always like what the Nature Spirits have in store, but I’m sure they don’t always agree with me either!  As with human siblings, we have to give and take equally and learn to live in harmony with each other.

I am always trying to stay connected with my brothers and sisters or nature, as well as the Earth Mother, whom I see as a Goddess and mother of all life.  I try to learn about the seen and unseen Nature Spirits, and I try to live in harmony with them through environmentalism and vegetarianism.  I thank them before eating.  I remember them in my rituals and make offerings to them.  I’ve kept in mind that some offerings may be harmful to nature spirits, and so I avoid chocolate and sharp objects left out in the open.  My favorite offerings to give are flowers and birdseed.

I will speak of the Gods next, not because they are less important than the Ancestors, but because my relationship and familiarity with them was the easiest for me to experience next.  Despite my Roman Catholic upbringing, I always had a fascination with mythology from a very early age.  One of my favorite Saturday morning cartoons was a series of animated Greek and Roman myths.  The exploits of Herakles, Castor, Pollox, and Jason mesmerized me and the Gods captivated my imagination.  Visiting museums and seeing statues from Egypt amazed me.  Who were these mysterious beings?  The statues exuded a power.  For me, this power was a calling and made me want to dance. I continually felt the pull of the Old Gods.  The more I read about them and devoted time to them, the more they seemed to “talk” to me. At first, it was difficult to go from monotheism to the duotheism of Wicca.  There was a certain taboo about it and, with it, a certain fear of the unknown.  Gradually, I started to form a relationship with Gods and Goddesses.  First it was the Greek and Egyptian Gods, probably because I was most familiar with them.  I had dreams of Dionysus and Bast.  It was easy as an eclectic Wiccan to worship both at the same time, but it wouldn’t satisfy me for long.

Here I am, a few years later, worshiping the Tuatha de Danann of the Irish.  I don’t know how it happened, and it was probably through my love of Irish music and Arthurian myth, but I was called by the Old Gods of the Green Isle, the home of my ancestors.  As with the Nature Spirits, studying Irish myth and legend has helped me to understand the Tuatha de Danann immensely.  Studying the myths and legends of other cultures has deepened my awareness of many other deities.  My Roman Catholicism and its veneration of various saints helped ease me into polytheism, and I now consider myself a hard polytheist.  I believe that, for the most part, the Gods can reside in any of the three realms and often interact with and interbreed with the Nature Spirits.  Because the Gods are so tied to the land and various natural phenomena, they further sanctify the environment.  Some of the Gods, like the Tuatha de Danann, are local deities and so I’ve come to believe that they mostly live in Ireland.  The same is probably true for other deities as well, such as Aphrodite dwelling primarily on the island of Cyprus.  However, as the Gods are more powerful than humans, I believe that they can interact with humans who are far from their sanctuaries.  While I don’t believe that you have to be Irish to love and worship the Tuatha de Danann, I can’t help but feel that my connection to them is partially due to my blood ties to Ireland.  I feel that it enables an easier connection. I also feel that repeated ritual and interaction with certain deities at an altar or through a talisman can, in some way, create a home away from home for them and that their energy becomes imbibed in foreign places where they are frequently made welcome (such as the powerful seeming statues in museums).  I also think that Gods associated with certain energies, such as arts, can manifest while a person is tapping into those energies.  I believe that the Gods are the most powerful and wise of the Three Kindreds and that they know how to use magic in ways that humans can only dream of.  Like the Nature Spirits, and like human beings, I believe that the Gods are all individual and have their own personalities, faults, and motivations.  Many, like Brighid, Odin, Thor, or Prometheus, have given us different arts and protect humanity.  Others, like the Morrigan or Loki, are a bit harder for me to understand and seem more interested in protecting the land or chaos rather than the tribe.  I don’t consider them evil – they have their place, but they can be hard for humans to relate to. As a former Catholic, it is hard for me not to subjugate myself to the Gods.  I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad thing to do, but I think the Tuatha de Danann, or the Gods of any other Pagan culture, prefer that their followers view them more as kin – incredibly powerful and wise kin – but kin all the same.  I envision them to be a bit like parents, teachers, or tribal leaders.

I try to connect to the Gods in many ways.  The first is through study.  My fascination with mythology and ancient history has eclipsed all other academic interests.  Not only am I learning about other cultures and world history, but I am having fun as it is intrinsically satisfying.  Perhaps it is because through study that I am able to get to know the Gods and the other Kindreds and so my soul becomes happy.  I also connect to the Gods through ritual, meditation, prayer, art, and dance.  In ritual, I am able to express my love for the Gods and honor them for their many blessings.  In meditation, I am able to contemplate and maybe even receive a message from them.  In prayer, I talk to them.  I mostly thank them for any number of things, but there are times when I ask for help as well.  I always ask that Lugh, protector of travelers, and Cernunos, the Gaulish God of animals, protect me or those I love while on the road.  I also pray in thanks before each meal.  I feel that I’m able to connect to the Gods through art and dance because those activities connect me to a very spiritual part of my brain and soul and allow me to open up to the inspiration of the Gods, especially to Brighid.  Dance is especially helpful because it can put me into a trance and open me up in ways similar to meditation.  Another way I show the Gods I care is through service to them and the other Kindreds.  By leading rituals and keeping to my oaths, I am building lifelong relationships with allies who deserve to be honored due to their many positive influences in my life.  I no longer consider myself an eclectic Wiccan duotheist but a hard polytheist, a priestess to the Tuatha de Danann, and a Druid in training with Celtic Reconstructionist tendencies.  I feel that the Tuatha de Danann called me to this.

Finally, ADF has helped me form a closer bond with my ancestors.  When I began to study and practice Paganism, I didn’t consider my ancestors as part of my belief system.  I knew that Native Americans and Shintos highly honored their dead and, in some instances, created altars for them.  The only real emphasis on the ancestors in Wicca was to remember them on Samhain.  There were a few Samhains where, indeed, I felt their presence strongly. Some books recommended that special altars be made, or that places be set aside for the ancestors at a Samhain meal.  I never really did that – at most I threw some bread out for the souls of the dead as an afterthought.  As a whole, it felt that Wicca only honored the ancestors on a certain holiday and forgot about them for the rest of the year.  Because of this, my connection with the ancestors was not considered and not developed until I began my Druidic studies.

A year or so before my calling to Druidry, my Aunt Debbie died of cancer and I felt that I should do something special for her on Samhain.  I made her a bouquet of evergreens as I felt they symbolized never ending life.  I wasn’t sure where her grave stone was (indeed, she had yet to have a stone installed), so I tossed the bouquet into the air and did not look back at where it landed, content to believe she caught it.  I did not even think that throwing it meant the bouquet was trash rather than a gift.  To me, it was the easiest way to make an offering to her.

As I’ve progressed through ADF, I’ve felt a stronger pull to my ancestors.  It feels as if they are happy to be part of my daily practice.  I light a candle for my ancestors as part of my daily ritual.  At larger holidays, more is offered.  I feel like the ancestors really do watch over us.  Whether they are right with us or watching from a distance when they feel it necessary, I do not know.   Celtic lore says that the dead go to the Otherworld, and I do believe in such a place, but I can’t help but feel that they are able to communicate with us in some way, especially around Samhain and Beltaine.   I believe that care and concern do not end at death.  I also believe that some of the dead can get trapped in the world of the living as ghosts.

I would like to honor more of my ancestors on Samhain such as my Grandmother and Grandfather.  Truly, I think of my ancestors every day now, but I feel that the entire day of Samhain should be planned around visiting the graves of relatives.  Honoring ancestors needn’t only be about immediate relatives or even recent friends and relations.  When I visited England a few years ago, I felt very connected to the land.  I was very much aware of a presence linked to my own blood.  As I toured historical landmarks like White Tower, Westminster Abbey, or even Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris or St. Michael’s Mount in Cornwall, I felt as if I was connecting with people from long ago.  I was so aware of the feet that had walked where I was walking, wearing down the stone steps until they were smooth with time.

Today I do my best to honor and remember my ancestors.  I make offerings, verbally thank the ancestors, read their stories, research their land, and anticipate visiting my ancestral homelands.  We are here because of our ancestors and we should not limit our celebration of them to one day in the year.

Because the ancestors are human, it seems that they would have been the easiest for me to connect to.  It may have something to do with my grandfather’s obsessive interest in genealogy.  I’ve had my ancestors pounded into my head since a very young age, so I may have been resistant to thinking any more about them.  I’ve also considered their humanity to be a deterrent, possibly because I’ve viewed them as just mundane humans who died a long time ago. To a younger me, otherworldly beings were infinitely more fascinating.  Having matured, I’ve realized the importance of family and heritage.  I am proud of where I come from.  I often ponder my Irish and Germanic background.  I worship the Tuatha de Danann, but I sometimes feel the pull of my Germanic ancestors.  I sometimes wonder if there is an easy way to integrate the two hearth cultures together to satisfy my gene pool.

The Three Kindreds have many differences, and yet they have many similarities too.  This essay could extend for pages as I contemplate the many ways that they overlap.  Their main similarity, as far as I’m concerned, is that they have made my spiritual path seem whole and balanced.  Honoring the Three Kindreds not only helps me to form bonds with the Gods, but it keeps me connected to the Nature Spirits with whom I cohabit, and helps me to remember my very large, very extended family.  I am grateful to have grown closer to the Nature Spirits, Ancestors, and Gods and hope that my ability to honor, love, and worship them deepens and matures with the years.

 

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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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Witches and Deer

I found a folktale from New York State about a malevolent witch who could turn into a white deer.  It’s very interesting…  

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

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I’ve been reading Magic in the Ancient World  by Fritz Graf.  While I’m not even halfway through, I’m learning a lot about magic in the Mediterranean world.  The concept changed throughout history, but there was always this concept of the “other” – the enemy or the outsiders – practicing malevolent magic.  Unless I am way off base, it seems that beneficial magic (like healing) was hardly considered magic at all because, for some time, magic was considered a practice apart from the official religion – and healing was endorsed (this became complicated when healing magic was differentiated from medical science). People who attempted to control the will of the Gods were argued to be atheists by some because they questioned the power of the Gods.  It’s interesting how concepts change throughout time.

I’m not sure what to assume about the Celts in their many tribes.  We know the Druids and the common folk practiced magic of varying degrees, and yet there is still the concept of the horrible witch – the other apart from the Druid.  She (or he, I suppose) practiced wicked spells and was feared (but usually bested in the end).  Was this a carryover from Christian fear, another way to view deities of death and decay, or did the Celts categorize magic as good and bad; endorsed and prohibited?

Some people have this idea that the witch of ancient times was really once a respected wise woman or man.  That is true for some periods, but not all.  And the witches in the stories are not healers – they are quite the opposite!  Many in our communities today would also ostracize and perhaps even persecute someone who practiced magic for immoral reasons such as stealing another’s property.  Thankfully, it seems most Pagans do not aim for such roles.  A normal person detests the wicked witches in the lore – lore that may be propaganda against the innocent practitioners of folk magic from an older, once endorsed religion.

When we look back at magic and how it has been perceived through the years, it is complicated and depends on the time and the place.  It also depends on who you talk to.  Magical history is not so cut and dry as some would have us believe.

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

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A new book arrived for me in the mail today: Magic in the Ancient World by Fritz Graf.  It’s recommended reading for Magic 1 in ADF’s Initiate Program.  I’ve read many titles about the history and folklore of magic in Europe – mostly focusing on the north-eastern parts.  This latest book focuses on the Mediterranean world.  All I know about magic from Greece and Rome is the mythological side – the famous witches like Circe and Medea.  I’m excited to delve into it… as soon as I finish Celtic Heritage: Ancient Tradition in Ireland and Wales by Rees and Rees towards my Indo-European Mythology class.

I’ve also been reading from my massive art history book every night.  I finished the chapter on the Egyptians a couple nights ago and am about to explore Aegean art.

Aaaaand while doing all of that, I also picked up The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring finally.  I read and immensely enjoyed The Hobbit when I was in fifth or sixth grade, and I always meant to read the trilogy…  I’m loving it so far!

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

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It is well known that Wiccans hold special rituals during the full and new moons.  Many Neo-Pagans and traditional witches observe certain lunar practices.  For example, some spells are thought to be more effective when performed on a specific day of the moon’s cycle.  What did the ancient Druids do and what can/do modern Druids practice?  The moon, with its dramatic and observable changes, has held spiritual significance to many cultures all over the world, yet it is not something Druids within my own tradition seem to actively explore, at least not publicly.  There are a few documented lunar rituals on the ADF website, and our founder, Isaac Bonewits, noted that some groves celebrate the phases of the moon (ADF Q&A).

I’ll begin by looking at the ancient Celts.  As always, it is important to note that we have little information on what the ancient Celts believed due to a limited amount of pre-Christian documentation.  Most of what is known comes from artifacts, the contemporary writing of antagonistic leaders or outsiders, and Christianized Celts.  Details from the last two sources, especially, must be taken with a grain of salt.

Pliny the Elder wrote about the Gaulish Druids.  His work includes the famous piece about Druids harvesting mistletoe on the 6th day of the moon (Ellis, Celts 54).  Jean Markale analyzed the symbolism of the harvest ritual, noting that the sickle used to cut the plant would have been reminiscent of the crescent moon (Markale 131).  Modern Druids from the Henge of Keltria equate this with the first quarter and celebrate the Mistletoe rite on such evenings.  They explain that “mistletoe was known as `all heal,'” and take advantage of such evenings to perform remedial ceremonies.  They have a second lunar ritual, the Vervain Rites.

Our other lunar rite is the Vervain Rite. The time of this rite was also chosen from classical descriptions of ancient Druidic practices. It was written that vervain was gathered when neither sun nor moon were in the sky. This occurs sometime during each night, except when the moon is full. We generally celebrate this around the 3rd quarter. This gives ample time for the rite during the evening hours. It also places this rite opposite the Mistletoe Rite in the lunar cycle. Vervain is said to be of aid in working magic. Thus, the Vervain Rite is our time for working magic. The purpose of magic in a Druidic sense is more like prayer. We work magic to help effect change in our lives. Druidic magic may involve contemplation, meditation, ritual or ecstatic dance (The Henge of Keltria FAQ).

Pliny’s writing aside, there is more evidence that the moon was important to the ancient Celts.  The Welsh Goddess Arianrhod may have been a lunar deity.  Some look to Proto-Celtic linguistics and argue that her name means silver wheel – an obvious reference to the moon (Wikipedia).  Others are less convinced due to the variability of her name (Mary Jones).

Cerridwen is another possible Welsh deity with lunar associations.  Etymologically speaking, her name may mean “bent white one” (Mary Jones), a possible reference to the crescent moon.  When considering the symbolism of her transformations, a lunar link could be possible.

The Coligny Calendar may be the most concrete example we have of lunar observation among the ancient Celtic tribes.

Produced before the Roman conquest of Gaul, this calendar is far more elaborate than the rudimentary Julian calendar and has a highly sophisticated five-year synchronisation of lunation with the solar year (Ellis, Druids 230).

Peter Berresford Ellis also notes that Caesar and Pliny the Elder both commented on how the Gauls measured time according to nights and the moon.

Thus we have strong evidence for the moon as a time piece, but  less on other ritual or magical significance.   I am assuming that Carmina Gadelica  will have more moon lore, albeit Christianized.  The moon continued to play an important role in surviving folk magic which has inspired a plethora of modern magical traditions.  The moon seems central to magical thought and I am hopeful to learn more.

Works Cited
Aranrhod ferch Don.  2009.  Mary Jones’ Celtic Encyclopedia.  10 Aug. 2010        <http://www.maryjones.us/jce/cerridwen.html>.


Arianrhod.  13 April 2010.  Wikipedia.  10 Aug. 2010 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arianrhod>

Berresford, Ellis.  The Celts A History.  New York: Carroll and Graf, 2004.
—.  A Brief History of the Druids.  New York: Carroll and Graf, 2002.
Bonewits, Isaac. “Questions and Answers about ADF.”  Ár nDraíocht Féin.  10 Aug. 2010      <http://www.adf.org/about/basics/qa.html>.

Cerridwen.  2004.  Mary Jones’ Celtic Encyclopedia.  10 Aug. 2010

<http://www.maryjones.us/jce/cerridwen.html>.

Frequently Asked Questions.  The Henge of Keltria.  10 Aug. 2010
Markale, Jean.  The Druids Celtic Priests of Nature.  Rochester: Inner Traditions Int., 1999.
 

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

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I came across a childrens’ book today and, after flipping through it, I couldn’t pass it up for my growing collection of young Pagan literature.  Any parents/educators should be familiar with the hugely successful “Magic Tree House” books.  I see second and third graders reading them all the time.  This book, entitled Leprechauns and Irish Folklore, by Mary Pope Osborne and Natalie Pope Boyce, is “a nonfiction companion to” a fictional book they wrote called Leprechaun in Late Winter.  I read all 109 pages of the companion in an hour or so.

What’s so impressive about this book is how open-minded and scholarly it is.  While the authors don’t discuss the evolution of Lugh to leprechaun, they do briefly discuss the Tuatha De Danann.  There’s a whole chapter devoted to the modern history of Irish folklore.  It features sections about Douglas Hyde and Lady Gregory, for example, and even introduces the subject of British occupation.

Different spirits are discussed, such as the trooping fairies, pookas, and clurichauns.  The authors give examples of how people have/can befriend the good folk, as well as how to defend against them.  All the examples are consistent with the lore and folklore studies I’ve been reading.  The selkies have a section too but are called merrows (or múir ógh for sea maiden).  Speaking of Gaelic, the Irish is pretty accurate as far as I can tell with my novice understanding.  Children reading will learn about the filí and raths for instance.  I love that the authors used actual Irish!

My only real complaint is that the Druids are presented only as “wise men” (73) rather than men and women.  The book sometimes relies too heavily on the more modern idea of diminutive winged fairies but makes up for it by explaining that they can appear however they want.  Otherwise I highly recommend it for Pagan parents, especially those with Irish hearth cultures.    It’s very well written, contains beautiful illustrations and photographs, and even includes a section with further reading and research tips for youngsters to follow!  Rather than calling a belief in fairies nonsensical, the book leaves it up to the reader to decide for him or herself what to believe.  I really appreciated that bit of spiritual tolerance / allowance for magic.

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