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Posts Tagged ‘history’

I’ve talked about my feelings about St. Patrick’s Day in the past, as well as my reasons for celebrating it as Irish Heritage Day instead. I’ve also shared, and will share again, Morgan Daimler’s excellent post on what we do know about St. Patrick, his history, snakes, etc. Each year, I continue to see the same inaccurate histories repeated about Ireland, St. Patrick, Druids, etc. Some people, apparently, even refuse to attend Irish Heritage festivals because of it! My goodness. So, instead of wasting energy gnashing your teeth about bunk history, here are some ways to celebrate Irish Heritage Day that will promote actual Irish history and cultural preservation. Before I begin, I want to remind everyone that I’m an American polytheist and a descendant of Irish immigrants. I will never attempt to represent people who actually live in Ireland, speak Irish, etc. I’m working hard to learn the old ways from Irish sources, so this is important to me, and I gather it’s important to many Irish pagans as well.

  1. Attend an Irish Heritage festival! Yes! Go! Listen to traditional music, watch or even partake in step dancing, and rub elbows with others who are proud of, or curious about, their heritage. (Just, you know… try not to get distracted by the plastic Paddy nonsense. It misrepresents Irish culture, and a lot of it is bad for the environment anyway. Also, try to avoid perpetuating drunken stereotypes.)
  2. If you can’t attend a festival, do listen to traditional music. There is plenty to stream online. And if you ever get the chance, buy CDs from bands who are keeping the old music alive and well. Play them for your families and at your gatherings. With time, you and your loved ones will learn to sing along. Perhaps it will inspire instrumental or dance lessons!
  3. Read a book about Irish history. Not modern Pagan practice. History. Learn about ancient history, yes, but also read about modern history. I’m no expert. It’s a work in progress, but we should not embrace Irish lore, symbolism, etc without grasping the fact that the Irish culture is still alive! Learn about what makes them who they are today so that you can inform your practice from a place of integrity and respect. If sitting down to read a book is not your thing, there are many podcasts dedicated to Irish history.
  4. Read or listen to Irish lore. Check out Lora O’Brien’s “Learn the Lore” challenge on Irish Pagan School. I can’t say enough about it! I’m so grateful that she is sharing and making so much available to people all over the world.
  5. Speaking of Lora O’Brien, she posted this to her FB in 2017:
    If you want to celebrate your Irish heritage today, please educate yourself. What can you learn about the reality of Ireland today?

    Try the Magdalene Laundries. Mother and Baby ‘Homes’ all over the country, and nearly 800 dead bodies in Tuam. The 8th Amendment. The Black and Tans. Treatment of political prisoners in the North. The Hunger Strikes. The Irish homeless crisis. Mental health crisis. There’s more, but…

    Instead of spending your cash and time drinking and ‘celebrating’ today, could ya donate that cash to Irish activist causes, and use that time to learn some real history.

    Happy Paddy’s Day.

    If you are able, research some of those causes, or others, and donate. I’m currently exploring some of the environmental organizations in Ireland. When I was blessed with the ability to visit in 2011, my favorite memories are of the time I spent along the River Boyne. It was gorgeous, and I long to go back and explore more of the natural wonders in Ireland. Since it inspired and moved me, perhaps that is a cause worthy of donation. What moves you?

  6. Cook an authentic Irish dish. I really enjoy exploring recipes from “Irish Traditional Cooking” by Darina Allen. I do have to alter things a bit to make them vegetarian, but I really appreciate all the extra information about the recipes and their cultural context, including how some things used to be made. Even while I don’t use meat, I think it’s important to understand traditional ingredients and why they were used.

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    I made (vegan) white soda bread today using a recipe from the book I linked and a basic, homemade vegan “buttermilk.” I think I used too much flour when I flattened it out… But I made it! I’ll offer some to my ancestors and the Good Folk. Photo by Grey Catsidhe (2019).

  7. Study the Irish language! I try to do a lesson each night using Duolingo. Like other Celtic languages, Irish (Gaeilge) needs to be preserved. Studying the language has helped me better understand how to pronounce important names, locations, and concepts within my religious practice, and it’s deepened my connection to my ancestors. Think of every lesson as an offering.
  8. Share stories with the young people in your life. Whether it’s fairy lore, mythology, tales of Ireland’s heroes (legendary or historic), or your own ancestral immigration stories, tell them to the children. As I cleaned my ancestral shrine today, I showed my daughter one of the few photos I have of my great, great, great grandmother, Mary, from County Mayo. It’s a treasure, given to me from my grandfather shortly before he passed away. My daughter was very interested, which made me so happy.

I hope you take time today to have fun, yes, but also be respectful, learn something, and promote the preservation of actual Irish history, lore, and culture.

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As one last hurrah before our summer vacation ends, my family took a day-trip to Oswego, NY, to see the Draken Harald Hårfagre.  It’s a modern viking ship that traveled from Norway, down the St. Lawrence River, through some of the Great Lakes, and is now going to move through the Erie Canal, heading to New York City. The crew stressed that it’s a modern viking ship, based on historical evidence and craftsmanship, but also equipped with modern navigation technology, bathrooms, and diesel engines.  Its 21st century conveniences don’t detract from its magnificence, and the people on board have weathered Atlantic storms and maneuvered around icebergs.  They have a lot of respect for their Viking Age predecessors.  We’ve been following their voyage via Facebook and their website with great interest.  My husband has been especially interested in it since he has Norwegian ancestry and has always been drawn to Norse culture.

Of course, the front of the ship had a remarkable dragon head! Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016

The red sails were down, but the mast was still impressive! Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016.

The ship was obviously built by skilled craftsmen. A lot of detail, inspired by Viking culture, covered the skip. These beautiful carvings were on the front of the ship leading up to the dragon head. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016.

One of the coolest features, in my opinion, was the inclusion of these beautifully carved ravens - Odin's ravens - near the navigational tools. The guide explained that not only do they represent the God's corvids, they also harken back to how vikings actually navigated with ravens. Photo by Weretoad, 2016.

One of the coolest features, in my opinion, was the inclusion of these beautifully carved ravens – Odin’s ravens – near the navigational tools. The guide explained that not only do they represent the God’s corvids, they also harken back to how vikings actually navigated with ravens. Photo by Weretoad, 2016.

 

If you live in NY State and want to see the Draken, she’ll be stopping in Little Falls soon before making her way to New York City. It’s $10 per adult to board, and the short tour is worth it, in my opinion. You’ll be able to get up close and look at all the craftsmanship, smell the pine pitch covering the ropes, see the effort and passion that’s gone into the voyage, and meet with Odin’s ravens. A truly powerful experience.

 

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In case you haven’t been following the news, Ireland has all but officially just became the first nation to legalize same-sex marriage by popular vote!  And wow – by 70%!  I am very proud to have Irish heritage today.

It’s especially fascinating for me to see this after having recently finished reading Angela’s Ashes, a memoir by Frank McCourt.  While I’m normally more interested in ancient and medieval Ériu, I’ve been trying to learn more about modern Ireland.  There’s so much to wade through, but I feel that it’s important for me to better understand all of my ancestors, not just the pre-Christian ones.  McCourt’s story takes place in the early 1900’s, right up until after World War II.  It highlights an Irish family’s struggles with poverty and addiction, as well as Frank’s own coming-of-age.  Also evident are the deep wounds of English occupation, animosity between Catholics and Protestants, and religious-oriented sexual repression and guilt.  Included is a small peek into a generation’s perception on homosexuals within Ireland.  The whole story is very depressing, but an incredible page-turner.  Part of this is due to McCourt’s wry humor which translates well through his childhood point-of-view.  As I read, I couldn’t help but think of my ancestors.  The book opened with Frank’s parents moving to New York to escape Ireland’s poverty.  They came around the same time as some of my ancestors before returning to Ireland to seek help from their families.

Bullet holes from the Easter Rising at the GPO in Dublin.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2011.

Bullet holes from the Easter Rising at the GPO in Dublin. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2011.

When I visited Ireland a few years ago, I saw many reminders of where the country had been.  Not just the magnificent megalithic monuments that I was mostly interested in – but monuments to honor victims of the Great Famine and scars from events like the Easter Rising.  To see a nation, once the site of so much animosity, come together to honor love makes my heart swell.  Today, I can see and appreciate just how much Ireland has grown.  I can only understand it so much as an American removed from Ireland by a couple generations… but I am still so proud.  It’s not a perfect country, of course, but it is quite different from the one my ancestors left decades ago.

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A grovie recently brought a documentary on Hulu to my attention.  It’s called “The Celts” and you’re able to watch it free online!  With six fifty minute episodes, I decided to give it a go while marathon nursing my little one (growth spurt, I guess?).  Narrated by John Morgan, it spans Celtic history from that civilization’s cradle to modern times.  Because I am, admittedly, new to the Druid scene, I can’t claim this is the most accurate documentary ever made about the Celts.  I will say, however, that nothing struck me as contrary to the historical reading I’ve been doing.  There were even some fascinating tidbits that matched up with what others who have been studying longer have shared with me.  For example, I learned a lot about the salt mines in the Hallstatt region – something Michael Dangler brought to my attention in past musings about the Celts, modern Druids, and natural resources.

The documentary also asks some compelling questions such as who are the Celts?  What does it mean to be Celtic?  This question is explored in the final installment – the episode I thought would be least interesting considering it was about the modern era*.  There is no fluffiness about this series.  It teeters between respecting modern Druidic practices in Celtic nations as revivals of national pride – a way to celebration cultural and linguistic heritage in a modern way – and as anachronistic nonsense that continues to confuse modern folk about the historical facts.  Also questioned are kitschy elements that so many modern folk, especially the diaspora who make pilgrimages back to the old country, think represent the Celtic identity.  The conclusions are that defining “Celticness” is difficult to do outside of the usual reliance on linguistic groups alone.  I think all modern Druids and Gaelic polytheists who live outside of Celtic nations should check that episode out and think on it.

The best part of this production are the visuals.  Not only were there the usual views of seaside cliffs, standing stones, and rolling green hills.  I was able to delve into the aforementioned salt mines, visit a people in China who are believed to be descended from an ancient Celtic people, and examine a wide variety of artifacts in exquisite detail.  Although the music was a bit odd at times, I think they were going for a Celtic sound that wasn’t obviously Irish.  Otherwise, I enjoyed hearing different examples of Celtic languages spoken.  The episodes about modern Celts also feature some very interesting stories about how those languages were suppressed – something we should not forget about when we go to honor our ancestors in ritual!  I also really enjoyed seeing a carnyx for the first time.  I had read about them in history books and saw them illustrated upon photos of artifacts in books.  The Gundestrup Cauldron  features some, for example.  This show included a man who reconstructs and plays them.  I had read of their sound and the belief that they brought fear into enemies.  To hear one was truly wonderful!  I don’t know why I never looked them up for more detail, but here’s a start**.

I definitely recommend this documentary.  I believe it would be very accessible to people who are new to Celtic studies and Druidism, and after ten years of learning, I also got a lot out of it.  I’m sure old hats would enjoy it just as much for all the beautiful footage!

 

*This is, of course, something I want to study more to have a better understanding and appreciation for my ancestors and the hearth culture I’ve embraced.  It’s just sometimes difficult to get into because there are so many political and imperialistic aspects to wrap my head around.  I’m more intrinsically motivated to learn about the ancient Celts, their religious practices, and their customs.  I’m trying to learn more about Christian and modern Ireland in baby steps.

** Now how cool would it be for a Druid grove to have one during Lughnasadh games?

 

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I think I see some new growth…  Here’s hoping!  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2012

 

My husband’s birthday was a couple weekends ago so we went away to visit our family and celebrate.  I had recently brought in some of my potted herbs since the frost is becoming more intense each evening.  Upon returning, I found that my bee balm, once flourishing and green, had been practically sucked dry by aphids!  Ugh!  I was very sad and tried to remove the pests but a majority of the plant has died.  I always feel awful when this happens.  Why didn’t I do a thorough examination of the plant before brining it in?

I grew my bee balm from seeds purchased from Alchemy Works.  I had been wanting to grow some for a few years.  My grandmother introduced me to the plant when I was very young so there’s a huge nostalgic draw.  She has them in her garden and used the blossoms in her pressed flower works.  They are a lovely bright red and look stunning in art.  As the name hints, they’re a favorite of pollinators.  I’m always striving to improve my garden and make it more hospitable to bees, butterflies, and humming birds.  Finally, as a tea drinker, I was attracted to bee balm’s  history in Colonial America.  Following the tea taxes, Colonials took to brewing bee balm, nicknamed “Oswego Tea,” as a substitute.  Apparently it is very similar tasting.  I was hoping to try some soon but…  Alas.

However, as you might be able to see in the photo I took, there is some small growth.  I’m very hopeful the plant can bounce back.  I need to create a good spray of garlic and cayenne peppers to combat the aphids… especially before the hubbub of the holiday season!  I’ll have to see if I can fit that in between baking rolls and cooking cranberry sauce.

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Our turnips for Samhain this year!  Photo by Weretoad, 2012.

Carved pumpkins are a ubiquitous tradition here in America.  It’s no wonder really – pumpkins have been growing here for generations!  In Ireland, turnips were mostly used as Samhain decorations.  There’s not a lot of evidence that this is an ancient practice.  Writings on the subject of ancient Samhain in general are actually surprisingly scarce.  Much of what we know is based on Medieval manuscripts, the modern Catholic festival of All Hallows Eve, and conjecture.  There are several theories about the purpose of the Jack-o-Lantern.  Much of it seems to revolve around protecting a home from the more nasty spirits that are wandering this realm – both fairies, a goblin-like creature called the Puca, and violent, angry dead.  Mara Freeman suggest it may have something to do with “the early Celts’ veneration of the head, which they considered the seat of the soul” (312).  This tradition came to America thanks to the Irish immigrants who, despite moving to a new land, could not give up their favorite holiday customs.  (It’s actually quite amazing how much of an impact Irish immigrants have had on America!)  Turnips were, of course, set aside for the pumpkin.  In reality, it’s much easier to carve a pumpkin than a turnip.  What’s more, they grow to large sizes so designs can become quite complex and visible from far away!

Although Weretoad and I continue to carve pumpkins each year, turnips entered our tradition a few Samhains ago.  It was important to me to try my hand at this traditional practice and recall the old customs of my Irish ancestors.    I encourage my readers to give it a try as well!

Choose some large turnips that sit on a flat surface.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2012.
Turnips are tough root vegetables so you’ll need a sharp knife to cut the top off.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2012.

 

The trickiest part by far is scooping out the insides.  Indeed, the density of turnips is what keeps most people from attempting this at all!  Although the vegetable matter is tougher than a pumpkin, carving a turnip only requires a little extra elbow grease.  The easiest way to do it is to use a sturdy, thick spoon that has no danger of bending.  Scoop it out bit by bit!  Photo by Weretoad, 2012.
Don’t forget to scoop some of the lid.  Even large turnips are still small compared to most pumpkins.  A tea light can quickly burn the turnip lid so you want to try your best to prevent that.  Also note the tub in the background.  Not wanting to be wasteful, we kept the turnip guts to add to a dinner.  They mix well with mashed potatoes.

Finally, use a small but sharp knife to carve a face or other design into your turnip.  I’ve found that traditional skull designs work well.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2012.

 

Each one has its own personality!  Photo by Weretoad, 2012.

As always, don’t leave your turnip lanterns unattended unless sing LED lights.  Once more, due to their small size, these turnips can cook from the inside!  I find they work best lit for small periods of time – during your Samhain ritual or dinner, for example.   Happy carving!

References:

Freeman, Mara.  Kindling the Celtic Spirit.  Harper Collins, San Francisco: 2001.

Hutton, Ronald.  The Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain.  Oxford University Press, Oxford: 1996.

 

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I’m very excited to say that I passed Magic 1 which is a research heavy course part of the ADF Initiatory track.  Its purpose is to give students a greater understanding of the history of magic.  I read way more books than I actually used as references in my paper, but there’s still so much more to learn!  Same as with the Dedicant Program, I’ll be sharing my essays as they pass.  They will be archived in the Druidic Studies section.

Magic 1

By Grey Catsidhe

1)    Discuss the importance of the action of the magico-religious function as it is seen within the context of the general Indo-European culture (minimum 100 words).

The importance and action of the magico-religious function in Indo-European society depends on the culture and time period studied.  This is because magic’s role, and indeed its relationship to religion, was not static in history.

In ancient Greece and Rome, the actions and role of the sorcerer were different from those of the priest involved with the state religion.  While healing, love and weather charms were permissible, there were strict laws against the malignant magic practiced in secrecy, such as anything involving poison (Graf 46-47).    The sorcerer practiced at night and in relative privacy, whereas the established, approved religious practices were held in the day or at least for the public (77).  The sorcerer was usually someone on the fringe of society (22) and was seen as dangerously intimate with the divine world (83-84).  He was knowledgeable of the Otherworld and feared for it.

The separation between magic and religion in other Indo-European societies is not as clear.  Many of the socially unacceptable forms of magic in the Mediterranean world are found often in Celtic literature.  For example, the Druids, the religious leaders in Celtic communities, interacted with Gods and sidhe (Spense 89) – beings that some interpret to be the dead (80).  Funeral rites aside, only the sorcerers of Greece and Rome dared seek contact with the departed (Graf 197).  The Romans would sometimes refer to a Druid as a magus (Spense 36) – a pejorative word in much of Rome (Graf 21).  Yet the Druids also had a reputation of practicing magic that would have been more acceptable to Romans such as charms to control the weather (13).

While the perception of magic changes from culture to culture, it is clear that its function in the religious world involves boundaries.  Those who practice magic cross or determine the boundaries of what is socially acceptable, divine, powerful, and taboo.  Sorcerers often dare to test the boundaries of society in order to bring about change.  Whether that is positive or negative is culturally relative.

 

2) Discuss your understanding of the evolution of the magician from early to late periods within one Indo-European culture (minimum 300 words).

Since the dawn of civilization, individuals have taken on the role of the magician.  Research on cave paintings, such as those found in Lascaux, France, have lead many to believe that the art has a magico-religious purpose – possibly related to hunting and/or fertility magic (Janson 6).   Humans have basic needs and magic has always been one way to obtain them.  Some individuals, either through genuine talent, charisma, or a mixture of both, became specialists, and every Indo-European society had a special group of such people.

As human civilization grew and changed, certain magical practices became elevated.  For the ancient Celts, that practice was Druidism.  We know little of its practitioners because they committed very little to writing (Ellis 14).  Once more looking to such sites as the Lascaux caves, we can make the assumption that Druidism, like all Pagan religions, grew out of something far older and even less understood.  The Druids grew into a specialized, intelligent, and privileged class of people, much like the Brahmin of Hindu culture (29).  They were likely elevated because their cunning enabled the rest of their society to flourish (39).   Although our knowledge on this social class is limited, Druids did practice magic.  There is evidence of wand usage due to stories of a silver branch that could grant access to the Other World (Spence 28).  There is also evidence that the Druids practiced shape shifting (59), oversaw public sacrifices (70), used trance (96-98), and determined the will of the Gods through such practices as augury (102) and “omen sticks” (106).

As explained by Fritz Graf in Magic in the Ancient World, the Romans saw magicians as outsiders and referred to them in Latin as magus.  Although we must be careful when viewing the Celts through the lens of their conquerors, it is perhaps telling that the Romans used the word magi (the plural form of magus) when referring to Druids (Spense 36).  While it is true that the Romans desired to conquer the Celts, the Druids must have had some practices that seemed reprehensible to the Romans such as cursing and working with the dead.  Shortly after conquering the Gualish Celts, the Romans suppressed Druidism (Kondratiev 19) probably because some of its practices resembled magical traditions already outlawed in Roman society and thus undermined Roman control.  Although the Romans distinguished a division between acceptable and unacceptable magic, such distinctions are less obvious in the Celtic world.  The only evidence we have for magical societal divisions are accounts by Romans such as Diodorus Siculus who observed that Druids must be in attendance at a sacrifice, hinting that they were somehow necessary to commune with the Gods (Ellis 52).

The Druids flourished longer in Ireland but were soon absorbed into Irish Christianity.  Many of the old Gods were Christianized and the magic of the Druids was transferred to the new priestly class in the name of Christ (Ellis 250).  Interestingly, these same priests enabled us to learn more about their Pagan predecessors by finally putting the old tales into writing.  Although Christianized, we do find examples of how the Druids were seen retrospectively.  In “The Second Battle of Mag Tuired,” for instance, we learn that four wizards/poets/Druids (depending on the translation) taught the Gods of the Irish – the Tuatha De Dannan – magic.  Indeed, even the Gods had Druids!  Through this lore, we learn that the Christian Irish, at least, saw the Druids as specialists in magic.   While Christianity began to take its foothold in Ireland, true practitioners of the old beliefs were pushed further and further to the sidelines as the years marched by.  “Bardic schools,” which have existed on and off in Celtic lands since the coming of Christianity, have been argued to be influenced by Pagan ideas. Its teachers taught such practices as poetic incantations, divination, and leech craft (Ellis 159).  These were eventually suppressed and replaced with even more secretive “hedge schools” (160).  Just as in Rome, magicians became those practicing outside the religious status quo.

Celtic Christianity had some differences from its Roman counterpart, such as the celebration of Easter and the ideas of free will and conscience (Kondratiev  30-32).  These differences were undoubtedly colored by old local traditions and Druidic philosophy.  Eventually, pressure from Rome would do away with these beliefs.  Those who practiced a very Celtic form of Christianity became the outsiders and were eventually suppressed like their Pagan ancestors.

Although the Christian priests remain the dominant “magicians” in what is or once was Celtic territory, Druidic magicians have been slowly making a comeback in different forms (251-281).  The evolving tradition, while undoubtedly different from the original, can arguably be classified as a counterculture.  Thus the modern Druid remains an outsider – seen as many to be subversive and potentially dabbling in things that make the rest of society uncomfortable – and is thus what many in our Roman-influenced world would consider a magician.

 

3) Compare and Contrast the culturally institutionalized position of the magician within at least two Indo-European cultures (300 words minimum).

 

Although all Indo-European societies had magicians, they were treated differently depending on the culture in consideration.  In Rome, magicians were often outsiders who threatened the status quo set by the priests or, at the very least, performed the least desirable religious functions.  Among the Celts, magicians were among the most powerful people in their societies.

In the Roman world, magic could be used for “positive” means such as finding love and manipulating the weather (Graf 1).  Although herbalism was occasionally suspect, healing was also an acceptable form of magic (46).  Everything else, especially anything secretive that could cause harm to an individual’s body or property, was deemed illegal (42).  Books on magic and divination were often outlawed (4).  Anyone suspected of using poisons or curses was labeled a maleficus  – a practitioner of evil (55).

There was a distinction between the state sanctioned priests – who worked in public – and the unscrupulous, surreptitious magicians.  While the priests had the obvious function of working with the Gods on behalf of the laypeople, magicians sought what the Romans felt to be an abnormally intimate relationship with the deities.  As a result, magicians were thought to have a dangerous knowledge of and/or power over the Gods.  Such knowledge and skill were feared in Rome (Graf 83).

The magi (magicians) weren’t always forced to be so secretive.  There were times when they acted as soothsayers for the aristocrats of Roman society (Graf 196).  Even when less tolerated, many people sought magicians because of their skilled reputation in working with the dead (197), a taboo act.  Such transactions served a dual purpose in that they allowed the magician to further his or her intimacy with a spirit or deity while a customer did not have to get his or her hands dirty.

In the Celtic world, the Druids were magicians and priests – as well as poets, historians, judges, and doctors (Ellis 158).  Obviously they were the intellectuals of their world.  Claiming Druidic status meant spending at least twenty years studying (55).  Their knowledge gave them power which afforded them many privileges such as the right to own land (Spenser 151) and speak before kings (Ellis 75).

According to Jean Markale, a Druid was akin to a “medicine man” or “shaman” (31).  Druids performed divination, healing, and trance work on behalf of the community.  The lore also indicates that Druids were very much concerned with traveling to the Otherworld and working with the dead.  There are various myths which describe bringing warriors back from the dead, and there were spells associated with such practices (Spence, 31).  The Druids also practiced magic to bring death to an enemy (37) and thus protect the community.

Along with obtaining wisdom through study, protecting and serving the community seem chief among the Druid’s tasks.  It seems that he or she was to examine and uphold the balance of nature.  It was the Druid who bestowed heroes and kings with geas, or sacred prohibitions.  These were in place to keep the peace between the divine and human worlds (Spence, 59).  Druids also had the duty of determining the next king through trance.  By wrapping him or herself in the hide of a freshly slaughtered bull, the Druid would meditate on the next ruler (96).  Once more, the Druid’s magic influenced the whole tribe.  Not only was the Druid’s work accepted by the population, it seems that it was necessary to maintain societal norms.

 

4) Identify the terms used within one Indo-European language to identify ‘magic’ and ‘magician’ examining what these terms indicate about the position of the magician and the practice of his or her art (100 words minimum).

The ancient Celts called their class of priests and magicians “Druids.”  The meaning of this word has been a matter of debate.  The most widely held belief seems to be that the word comes from druidae.  According to Peter Berresford Ellis, Pliny the Elder “believed that it was cognate with the Greek drus, ‘an oak’” (37).  Some more contemporary Celtic scholars think it derives from roots dru, again signifying the oak, and wid which means “to know” or “to see,” possibly making Druid mean “oak knowledge” (37) harking back to the days when the Druids would have been responsible for helping their people locate acorns to harvest for food (39).    If so, the word implies an intimate relationship between the Druids and the natural word with regards to the survival of the tribe.

Medieval Irish terms for three classes of Druids shed further light on the matter.  Bard was the title given to poets and musicians.  Fáith, fáidh, or filí referred to the prophets (70), who were responsible for divination and sacrifice (51).  The druí were the magicians (70).  Despite this distinction, there is evidence for the bards also practicing magic, including curses (CR FAQ).  These classes may indicate that the Druids specialized in specific forms of magical work.

Irish lore also speaks of sorcerers, using the word corrguinech, who practice magic, or corrguine (Ellis 248).  Linguistically, there does not seem to be a major link to the Druids, implying that there existed others outside the order who practiced magic.  Indeed, magic specific to Druids seems to include an adjectival word, druidechta/draoichta, or “druidic”.  Thus the ceo druidechta was the Druidic fog and the slat an draoichta was the Druidic wand (248-249).

To the Romans, the Druids were referred to in Latin as magus which translates to magician (Spence 36).  According to Fritz Graf, the word originates from Persia.  There, the magi were the learned men and priests (20-21).  However, by the 5th century, the meaning of magi and magus changed into something more negative and secretive (21).  It became associated with barbarism (24) which tells us much about how the Romans saw Druids.

Works Cited

Davies, Penelope J., Denny, Walter B., Hofrichter, Frima F., Jacobs, Joseph, Roberts,

Ann M., Simon, David L.  Janson’s History of Art: The Western Tradition.  7th ed.

New Jersey: Pearson Education inc., 2007.  Print.

Ellis, Peter Berresford.  A Brief History of the Druids. 1994.  New York: Carroll & Graf

Publishers, 2002.  Print.

Graf, Fritz.  Magic in the Ancient World.  1994.  Trans. Franklin Philip.  Cambridge,

Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1997.  Print.

Kondratiev, Alexei.  Celtic Rituals: An Authentic Guide to Ancient Celtic Spirituality.

Collins Press, 1998.  Print.

Markale, Jean.  The Celts: Uncovering the Mythic and Historic Origins of Western

Culture.  1976.  Rochester, Vermont: Inner Traditions International, 1993.

Print.

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