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Posts Tagged ‘Lugh’

Oh my gods, I got so behind. Between planning for the Spring Equinox, and everyone getting sick, this ended up on the back burner. I’m home sick today. It’s my turn with what my daughter brought home from school, so I decided to be a bit productive with my studies. Might as well, right?

So, back to Oidhe Cloinne Tuireann. Today we read a bit about Lugh, specifically how he was fostered by the god Manannán mac Lir.  Lugh arrives at Tara with several of his foster brothers, and is armed with some of his foster father’s treasures – namely the horse Aonbharr, who was famously swift, Manannán’s armor, breastplate, helmet, and sword. These objects sound magical, as they promise protection and strength above and beyond normal accouterments of war.

In Ireland, fosterage was a tradition by which children were raised by another in the clan. The purpose could have been to strengthen bonds between family, and Lugh’s arrival at Tara with some of Manannán’s greatest treasures, as well as his own sons, suggests a great love and respect. I think this was important for Lugh due to his heritage. Lugh was half of the Tuath Dé Danann, and half of the Fomorians. To have Manannán for a foster father must have instilled a great trust in Lugh.

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Last weekend, we celebrated Lughnasadh with friends from Northern Rivers Protogrove and Muin Mound Grove at the latter’s annual Lugh Games. There was friendly competition, feasting, swimming, singing around a fire, and a lovely ritual. My husband was crowned the champion of the games! It was a wonderful time.

Today, I celebrated Lughnasadh with my family. Having already participated in a large, formal ritual, today was about our household customs.  I hope my readers had a blessed Lughnasadh.  May the season be fruitful for everyone!

One of our traditions is to gather wild grass gone to seed on Lughnasadh. It’s the closest we have to wheat near our home and it acts as a centerpiece on our dinner table. Come Imbolc, our Druid group will use the grass to make Brighid crosses. Gathering it was a wonderful excuse to spend some time outside on this lovely Lughnasadh day! Photo by Weretoad, 2014.

Although it’s a small harvest, I’m proud of it!, especially the potatoes. I only dug around a corner in one of my potato bins and was pleasantly surprised! Huzzah for harvest!  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

We set our table for a homemade dinner of salad, roasted veggies, seitan, corn on the cob, red wine, and my first attempt at “wheat sheaf” bread. Everything was delicious, and much of it came from local farms or our own patio garden!  We made offerings to Lugh and Tailtiu.  After dinner, I used some of the cornhusks to make corn dollies.  I can’t wait to share that tradition with Bee.   Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

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I wanted to make an offering for Lugh that reflected his association with lightning as well as the seasonal association with grain. The lightning aspect was important to me because the lore shows him as a champion of justice. He strikes down those who do not reciprocate hospitality and goodwill. I prayed to him last year, asking for justice. He has been good to us, so I took out my sewing supplies and did my best to make this quilt and appliqué piece. May it please him!

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Since the last couple weeks have been bitter cold or too snowy to safely walk in the forest, I stayed close to home and gave some thought to the tree nearest me.

I recently started an exploration of the ash tree in my front yard.  Of course, I will continue to visit the forest regularly, but it seems silly to do so at the expense of the Nature Spirits around my own home!  There must be an equal, if not greater, attention placed on the nature in my immediate vicinity.  It is part of my home.  The tree provides shade to myself and some of my garden.  It is a home to birds we enjoy watching from our windows.  I must come to a better understanding of the ash tree!

Ash trees predominantly grow in the temperate regions of the Eastern US (Brockman 254).  They grow well in “disturbed” land, and archaeologists have noted their presence near Celtic settlements (Nova).   For modern folk, it’s often considered an ornamental but it apparently has expansive roots that are very competitive with other trees (Blamires 97).  Ash was one of the nine woods used to start the sacred Bealtaine fires (Freeman 84).

In Norse mythology, Yggdrasil is an ash tree, thus it is of extreme cultural and cosmological importance.  The tree was even used to create the first man in that mythology ( Ellison 22). In Celtic lore, the ash could refer to weaving, particularly the weaver’s beam, but also warrior spears (Ellison 21).  There is acheological evidence showing that ancient Celts used ash for their spears more than other woods (Blamires 98).  To me, this suggests that the ogham symbol could be used for offensive type magic.  Blamires makes a connection between the ash spears and Lugh’s famous spear from Gorias that he used to defeat Balor (99), but also goes on to connect it to magical wands and, as a result, the magician’s will.  Personally, I find that there are other trees better related to sorcery and magical will, in particular the oak with its rich spiritual connotations, etymological connection to the Druids, and strength.  (As a novice to these matters, I will maintain an opened mind and welcome any thoughts on the matter!)  However, I do find his thoughts on looking to ash when you need to take action intriguing .  He states that we all experience moments of spiritual inertia, and the ashen spear can act as a motivation for us – “checking the peace,” as he says (100).  In contemplating this idea, I’m reminded of Norse mythology again, and Odin hanging from Yggdrasil – an act of sacrifice to obtain runic knowledge.  There is the suggestion of pushing oneself to reach new levels.  With regards to the weaver’s beam, Cuchulain uses it as “a poetic allusion to a spear” (101).  Brighid’s son Ruadan is also killed by a spear in the Second Battle of Mag Tured.  The text once more connects spears with weavers’ beams (101).  I’m not entirely sure what to make of this, except that it can be used to make very practice items – so perhaps it could be considered a wood of the craftsman too?

Ash has some magical properties.  In Scotland, people swear oaths on the wood of ash, oak, and thorns (Freeman 84).    Pins were also placed in the trees and used to remove warts with the charm “ashen tree, ashen tree, pray buy these warts off of me” (Ellison 22).  The sap has been used for bladder stones, and the leaves and bark have laxative properties (Blamires 98).  It was common for people to visit sacred ash trees and pray for healing for their children.  In Ireland, young ash trees were split to create a threshold of sorts.  Children were passed through this to promote healing.  Mara Freeman explains this was used to heal infant hernia, while attaching some baby hair to the ash was said to prevent whooping cough (84).

It is difficult to be 100% about the species of ash where I live.  Green, black, and white are similar, but I am leaning towards the later.  I observed the leaves and seed pods in the summer and fall, but I will have to pay special attention to them this year.  In the meantime, I try to look and say hello when I’m out.  It warmed up a little, so I took Bee with me.  We mad offerings to the local spirits, including the ash tree, and enjoyed its company.

Bee relaxing in the snow next to the ash tree. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

Works Cited

Blamires, Steve.  Celtic Tree Mysteries: Secrets of the Ogham.  St. Paul: Llewellyn Publications, 1997.

Brockman, C. Frank.  Trees of North America: A guide to Field Identification. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2001.

Ellison, Roert Lee “Skip.”  Ogham: The Secret Language of the Druids.  Tucson: Ár nDraíocht Féin Publishing, 2007.

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

Ghosts of Murdered Kings.  Edward Hart Dir.  NOVA, 2013.

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I’ve decided to try and reinvigorate my spiritual practice by joining the Three Cranes Grove and their “Yule Along”.  They came up with a Norse-inspired schedule but have invited others to experiment with their own hearth cultures.  So as I prepare for my normal Winter Solstice celebration, I’m also preparing for several days worth of spiritual work.  It will likely consist of a lot of offerings and prayers.  If possible, I will meditate.  My plan is to work with my husband to set aside some time each night for quiet contemplation and togetherness.  No tv, no video games, no movies, no social networking.  Thankfully, this falls during my holiday vacation so I will have more free time throughout the day!

As I gear up, I am going to make sure I have enough offerings.  I’m also going to add some seasonal decor to my altar in the form of evergreen boughs.  Finally, I am planning my family Solstice meal.  This year, I’m preparing to make a quiche.  Weretoad has expressed an interest in making pecan pie – one of my favorites!  I also want to start some new Solstice traditions that Bee can enjoy for years to come – family games, story telling, and maybe some singing.

Here is the rough draft of my schedule:

12/19 Greeting the winter wanderer – I am going to make offerings to Manannán mac Lir as the gatekeeper, tidy up the home, and mentally prepare myself

12/20 Mother’s night/Solstice vigil (which I can totally do because it happens on a WEEKEND!) – Call my mother, make offerings to my ancestors, especially my ancestral mothers, take a relaxing shower (since I’m a mother), and get ready for vigil

12/21 Solstice Day – family gathering with feasting and honoring Angus

12/22 Nature Spirits – take a walk outside and give offerings

12/23 Feast of Fools – not sure what to do here yet…  Thoughts from fellow ADFers who have done the Yule Along before?

12/24 House spirits – offerings and tidying up

12/25 Spirit of hospitality and gifting – offerings to An Dagda and time with family

12/26 Celebrations of winter/snow – another walk outside and offerings made to An Cailleach

12/27 Celebration of the evergreen – special offerings to the evergreen trees

12/28 God/desses of the household (Brighid) – offerings made at her shrine in my kitchen, meditation if possible

12/29 Shining ones – offerings at the main altar

12/30 Bringing in the boar (Lugh – deities/spirits concerning oaths) – offerings made

12/31 Twelfth Night — Resolutions, divination, remembrances, gratitudes – a celebration with friends

1/1 New Year’s Day — Returning the home to regular time, putting evergreens back outside, cleaning the home, and thanking the gatekeeper

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You may have noticed a distinct lack of this topic recently.  I will honestly admit that I stopped running for a couple weeks.  At first it was because we had family things going on.  We went away, celebrated Lughnasadh…  Not to mention, it was incredibly hot.  Staying in the shade was more desirable…  Then I didn’t feel well for a couple days.  By then, making excuses was all too easy.

Last night, Weretoad and I got back into the game.  We set a time and stuck to it.  At first I felt like I wouldn’t be able to finish.  I felt a cramp.  I felt winded.  But then I told myself I could and that I would feel amazing when I accomplished my goal.  I prayed to Lugh for strength and endurance.  Suddenly, everything felt good.  The cramp went away.  We were running faster!  Before we knew it, our run was over.  I’m so glad we finished!

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“Balor Archery Target” painted and photographed by Weretoad, 2012

We spent Saturday with my grove mates to celebrate Lughnasadh.  It was wonderful to see them after staying with my family for the Summer Solstice.  We held our traditional Lughnasadh games!  They were more low-key and less structured this year. We had other activities planned this year and the heat was oppressive this weekend.  We spent a lot of time, including our business meeting, just floating around the pool.  The games we did have included archery, spear throwing, and Kubb.  Because nobody was really keeping track, we didn’t declare a champion this year.  Instead, everyone who participated charged a wreath which was given as an offering during ritual.

This year included a special women-only ceremony for one of our younger members, Dragonfly.  We welcomed her to womanhood and shared our words of wisdom and wishes for her.  It was very lovely and well-planned.  I know that, if I have a child, I would very much like for them to have a coming of age ceremony. I know I would have liked something like that.  What I liked best was that it was very personal and not connected to a spiritual mandate of some sort.  It was all linked to physical changes and her life.

“Artisan Showcase” – Photo by Grey Catsidhe

In addition to games, our Senior Druid felt it important for the artisans to show their work as well.  We did not compete – simply shared some of our recent work.  Painting, sewing, ceramics, sculpture, drawing, photography, and jewelry making were all represented!

One of my more recent dolls – “Dryad.”  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2012.
One of my “Wee Greenman Pins.”  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2012.
“Lughnasadh Altar” – Photo by Grey Catsidhe 2012

Our ritual was held in the shade of several trees behind our hosts’ home.  As the sun set, the air became less stifling and we focused on the cooling waters our bodies and lands so crave.  At the same time, we acknowledged the searing truth that is high summer and the lessons it teaches.   We praised Lugh as champion – as the many-skilled one who inspires us to reach for our goals and work hard each day.  We thanked the Nature Spirits for the harvest.

After that – we feasted!

It was a good day with wonderful people. I’m looking forward to the Autumn Equinox already!

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