Steel Bars, Sacred Waters: Celtic Paganism for Prisoners

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Cover Art by Carl Fairweather, Design by Armi Dee

(This is the Home page because we obviously want you to buy the book. However, below is our blog with all sorts of posts like how the book helped a transwoman who survived rape in prison start her PTSD recovery process, little known Germanic deities, further information on Celtic deities and religious practices, the possible Celtic Festivals of Sulis, Telesphorus, Brigantia, Aine, Neto, Ataegina & Erecura, Mercury/LugAndraste, free resources for prisoners, support and guidance for penpals of prisoners, African Diaspora Religions, Indo-European religious practices, quotes from academic peer-reviewed journals and much more. The Menu has information about supporting incarcerated Pagans- especially donating books on (almost) any topic, Resources for Pagans in Prison, information about Gullveig Press, tips on writing incarcerated Pagans, and Contact. Please explore!)

The first release from Gullveig Press is now available! We’re proud to announce that the Celtic Paganism “all-in-one” book Steel Bars, Sacred Waters: Celtic Paganism for Prisoners has already become a well-loved treasure trove for Pagans on the outside and in prison alike. At 556 pages and 8.5″ x 11″ (21.59 x 27.94 cm) in size, you’ll be reading and rereading these essays, performing these rituals, and admiring the art for quite a long time. (Want to read some of the book just to make sure? Visit here for excerpts and check out our awesome contributors!)

Price for people in prison, Pagan Prison Ministries*, and prisoner rights organizations*: US $7.52 plus shipping and taxes. US $12 in continental USA. Australia US $17.50. BULK RATE: 5 copies for only $46.50 in continental USA! 

Buy a copy for an incarcerated Pagan and receive a free pdf of the book! $12!

Price for people neither in prison nor involved in Pagan Prison Ministries or Activism: $24.00 (and whatever shipping fees and taxes apply; $4 in the continental United States). To order, contact us. ALL PROFITS GO TOWARDS PROVIDING COPIES TO PAGANS IN PRISON. Note: This is a lower price than on Amazon because Amazon takes a large cut. Australia: U.S.$ 30.00 including shipping and taxes. (The shipping and taxes are really high, so we give a discount.)

If you are buying a copy for someone in prison, a Prison Ministry, or to donate to a “free books to prisoners” organization, please contact us. Let us know the address of where you want the book shipped so we can calculate shipping costs and taxes. We will respond by email with the price including shipping and our PayPal account information. Copies for incarcerated persons or established “free books to prisoners” organization will be mailed directly to them once we receive payment. (Either choose a program here or we can choose for you.)

If you would like to share information about ordering Steel Bars, Sacred Waters with people in prison, thank you! Please let them know that they can send a MoneyGram to Gullveig Press, PO Box 126, St. Johnsbury, VT 05819. Continental USA price plus shipping and taxes: $12. Remind them to include their full name, prison ID number, and address.

*For Prison Ministries (and other organizations helping prison in prison), we also need your mailing address for calculating shipping, along with the following information: who you are; what your organization is; what you do involving prisons; what prisons you serve; why you want a copy of Steel Bars, Sacred Waters; and a link to your website, so we can verify that you actually are working with Pagans in prison.

Steel Bars, Sacred Waters: Celtic Paganism for Prisoners

Authored by Heather Awen, Rev Donna DonovanViducus Brigantici filiusErynn Rowan Laurie, Hester Butler-Ehle, Eddie MarssonEmma Restall Orr, Armi Dee

An “all-in-one” pan-Celtic polytheist resource of cosmology, deities, virtues, history, rituals, meditations, magic and the future of Celtic Paganism, rooted in scholarly research.

One of only three full-size books for incarcerated Pagans, Steel Bars, Sacred Waters also fulfills the need for a historically accurate guide to ancient Celtic religions that many have sought.

Highlights include:

  • rituals for 11 traditional holy times and seasonal changes based on Gaelic, Gaulish, Welsh and Manx practices;
  • information about (and invocations for and prayers to) 160 Celtic deities;
  • the Other Life/Otherworld;
  • daily practices for the Celtic Pagan;
  • Celtic virtues and how they can be lived today;
  • exploration of different Celtic cultures through time and space;
  • Iberian Celtic deities never before included in a Pagan book;
  • neglected Gaulish deities;
  • how Celtic tribes adapted Roman religion to existing cults and created new ones;
  • the cultural intermixing between Celts and Greeks, Celts and Germans, Celts and Norse Heathens;
  • the “horse, head and hero” cult;
  • modern and traditional meditations;
  • documented Celtic magic;
  • known teachings of the Druids;
  • ogham divination guide;
  • Celtic mythology in context, with explanations of how political factors from the times they were written affected the versions we have today;
  • proto-Celto-Germanic-Finnish words used by some Indo-Europeans 4,000 years ago and the Gaelic, Germanic and Norse deities, rituals and magic that continued from them;
  • common practices among Celtic peoples worldwide;
  • sacrifice and hospitality;
  • maps of the Celtic world, with cities, tribes, temples, rivers and other places of interest mentioned in the essays on history and deities;
  • The Oran Mor (Song of the World);
  • moon rituals;
  • working with ancestors;
  • animism and land spirits, especially in lands new to Celtic Paganism;
  • the connection between Lugus and Woden;
  • Celts in a multicultural society of many polytheist cults;
  • land, sea and sky cosmology;
  • 5 directions of Ireland cosmology;
  • Gaelic and Welsh mantras;
  • the file (poet-prophet);
  • Celtic heroes and heroines;
  • the Fianna (hunter-warrior band);
  • saining (Scottish purification);
  • devotional polytheism, the community and the environment;
  • root meaning of Norse seidR and its ancient link to Celtic magical religious practices;
  • the king-making ritual;
  • the British Old North, a unique mixture of Britons, Angles, Gaels and Picts, home to “Merlin”, ancient poetry, and Hiberno-Saxon art;
  • pathworking (guided meditations) to different deities;
  • cloud scrying and other forms of divination;
  • the Neolithic roots of the swine cult;
  • instructions for making a St Brigid’s Cross;
  • why Anglo-Saxon and Brythonic magic is so similar;
  • making and working with prayer beads;
  • the role of ritual music and improvising ancient Celtic instruments;
  • Celtic funeral practices;
  • the importance of ecological issues in modern Celtic Paganism;
  • journaling questions about essays;
  • pronunciation of deities’ names and important terms;
  • shrines;
  • the political, legal structure of kingdoms;
  • Fairies;
  • Celtic openness about homosexuality;
  • Celtic astronomy;
  • explanations for why Celtic Paganism cannot be Folkish, racist, homophobic or limited to Ireland and the British Isles;
  • visions of Celtic Paganism’s future;
  • Celtic Paganism and the 12 step program and CBT, DBT and ACT therapies;
  • forming and maintaining a diverse Pagan group;
  • drawing and creative writing exercises;
  • recipes for “make do” crafts including papier mache, print making, and the 6th century paint glair used in medieval manuscripts;
  • around 100 drawings or photographs of archeological finds, depictions of Celtic deities both ancient and modern and Celtic culture;
  • crossword puzzles;
  • resources for incarcerated Pagans;
  • and much more.

Although written for Pagans in prison who are possibly alone with only paper, pencil and tap water, “outside” Pagans are provided with the background information to expand their own practices. A valuable tool for Pagan Prison Ministries, volunteers and penpals, Steel Bars, Sacred Waters was partially shaped by communication with Pagans in prison. Their needs were generally no different than those of frustrated Pagans on the outside seeking an accurate education about the Celts. The main difference was lack of access to books, services and especially the Internet, where so much research is scattered. Both communities needed that research organized, including the recent Iberian, Balkan, Gallo-Roman and Celto-Germanic discoveries. The result is a book that explores the ancient Celtic peoples and their religions from Ireland to Turkey, Portugal to Ukraine, and their role in over 1,000 years of European history. The Celts influenced the cultures with whom they interacted and were changed by those near them – including other Celts.

All profits go to supplying Pagans in prison with copies of the book. The U.S. incarcerates 1% of its population, more than any other nation. Most convictions are connected to addiction. The American prison population is 8-12% Pagan. This means that 1 in 1000 Americans are incarcerated Pagans! Providing low cost, high quality information to Pagans in prison is the goal of Gullveig Press.

Please note: The content by Laurie, Restall Orr and Butler-Ehle have been published elsewhere or are available online.

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Celtic Festival of Dies Equeunu and the Alci

Alci Alexandra Rena
The Alci sketch by Alexandra Rena

This continues my modern Reconstruction-derived practice of interpreting Roman holy days in a Gaulish, Iberian, trans-Alpine Celtic manner. Erudinus is the only ancient Celtic deity for whom we have a Celtic festival date, so for the rest, I’m trying what some ancient Celtic language speaking tribes may have done: match a native deity with a Roman one.

Researchers now tend to believe that the conquered Celtic peoples often chose what parts of Roman religion to take, even choosing the Roman God for the correspondence, which is perhaps why many Celtic Gods are linked to Mars in one inscription and Mercury in another. The official Roman pantheon really doesn’t match the tribal deities of the different Celtic peoples. To the Gauls, Mercury, who was not very popular among most Romans,  was considered far more important than Jupiter. Mercury had the strength of communication, wealth and safe travels. Mars was the protector. Together They met the requirements for a good chieftain. As the Gauls rejected attempts by nobles to unify different tribes and form a permanent empire, a “top God” like Jupiter was not traditional.

Relevant parts of Roman religion was adopted and sometimes a self-conscious nostalgia for their own almost forgotten ways was revitalized. The latter seems to be especially true for the Britons, based on Folly Lane. (What’s that? You don’t know what is at Folly Lane and what it says about how Britons were adapting and reacting to Roman religion? Maybe you should buy a copy of Steel Bars, Sacred Waters and find out! Shameless plug for a great cause!)

On February 27 the Romans held a festival celebrating the birth of the Greek Castor and Pollox, the horse riding sons of Zeus, also known as “dioskouri”. They have a beautiful myth of self sacrifice which is related to the meaning of the astrological sign Gemini, according to East. “Castor was born mortal. Pollux was born immortal. When Castor was slain in battle, Pollux was inconsolable in his grief. He begged Zeus to relieve him of the bonds of immortality and allow him to die along side his brother. Zeus refused. And yet, in his wisdom, Zeus solved Pollux’s pain by granting Castor immortality as well.” Also, according to Brady, “Castor was connected to the morning star and was the horseman; Pollux, the boxer, was connected to the evening star and was associated with darkness.”

Castor and Pollox were very popular with the Gauls. The proto-Indo-European twin “Sons of God” survived not only in Greece and Rome, but in many cultures. They often are associated with a solar or mare (or both) Goddess who may be Their mother, wife, or both. The mother of Castor and Pollox is a mare in some myths and are the companions of the Sun. The Aśvins (“Horsemen”) are Vedic heroes, physicians and perhaps the evening and morning star (Venus) always found with the Sun, whose daughter Sūryā is Their wife. The Lithuanian Dieva Deli (“Sons of God”) travel the sky as horses with Their sister Saules Dukterys (“Daughter of the Sun”) whom They court romantically. The legendary brothers who led the Angles, Jutes and Saxons’ invasion of Britain, Hengist (“stallion”) and Horsa (“horseman”), may also have Their roots here.

It’s very odd that the famous horse riding Celts don’t have any horse twin hero Gods. Of course, the ancient mare Goddess Macha gives birth to twins after being forced to race the King of Ulster’s horses. (A race She won.) The greatest Irish hero Cu Chulainn in His earliest tales was born with a colt. The Mabinogi states that mare Goddess Rhiannon‘s son Pryderi was found as a newborn with a mare who just gave birth to a colt. Although these medieval hints suggest that there were ancient Celtic twin horse hero Gods, until recently Their names were unknown.

Then, an inscription was recovered in Pola de Gordón, León, to Dies Equeunu (pronounced: Dee-ess eh-QUEE-hu-nu), “the sons riding on the horse”. That’s about the clearest title for these deities as you can get! Notice that They ride one horse. More details are found in Iberia and Gaul, but with Their other title, the Alci.

Here’s what Tacitus wrote in Germania: “Among the Nahanarvali is shown a grove, the seat of a prehistoric ritual: a priest presides in female dress; but according to the Roman interpretation the gods recorded in this fashion are Castor and Pollux: that at least is the spirit of the godhead here recognised, whose name is the Alci (nomen Alcis). …they worship these dęities as brothers and as youths.”

There are Gaulish personal names like Alcovindos, meaning “white like the Alci” and place names like Alcobendas near Madrid, meaning “hills of the Alci.” Obviously, the “the sons riding on the horse” have something to do with being white. Guides to the Celtic realm of the dead ride white horses, like the Mabinogi‘s Arawn, Gwyn ap Nudd, and the Gaelic Donn. Gwyn and Fionn mean “white,” so we can pretty safely guess that Their horse is white. If They are associated with the Sun or Venus, white could possibly be connected to radiance. However, we don’t have any evidence linking Them to either.

“Hey! The Alci are German Gods, Heather! Now I doubt your entire blog and book!” No! Wait! Please, there’s fancy linguistic proof! Also, when the Germanic tribes migrated into a Roman Celtic world, the Germanic languages absorbed many Celtic words. And remember that Celtic people over a wide area were naming their children and places after the Alci.

The fancy linguistic proof: Take the Indo-European word Palkio, meaning “divine twins” and do the usual Celtic drop of the first letter “p”.  We get the Celtic “divine twins” – Alkio. Then, the logic goes, the Alci is a Celtic name for the divine twins. This is why we can learn so much about a deity by Their name, which often is a title.

We know that the Romans often were wrong about what tribes were of which culture. Despite their map showing that the Germanic tribes lived north of the Rhine and Gauls lived south of the important trade river, it was never that simple. The Belgae region seems to be Celto-Germanic, a merging of established Gaulish peoples and recent Germanic emigrants. According to Tacitus, in the 1st century CE the People of Ingvi-Frey, the Ingvaeones, had settled the area around and including Denmark. Also, early records of Germanic tribes mention leaders who had Celtic names. A few scholars think that there may have been a Celtic elite who ruled over some of the North Sea tribes. Before Denmark’s coastline drastically changed a few centuries before the German migrations, these Celtic tribes may have made southern Sweden a satellite state. If Celts were worshiping the Alci in Denmark then, the Germanic people may have learned about the Alci then, if Germanic tribes ever did.

Also, we now have a lot of linguistic and physical evidence that during the Bronze Age people in southern Sweden and coastal northern Spain were trading goods and culture. The Scandinavian petroglyphs and Iberian stele of that time depict almost startling exact images of wagons and warriors. Scandinavian amber has been recovered in Greece, increasing the range of the Bronze Age trading region. The Phoenicians built the first city in Iberia in the 9th century BCE on Spain’s Atlantic coast, being the first people to trade in the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic coast. The proto-Celtic Atlantic Seacoast Culture spread from the Straits of Gibraltar to Scotland, but some evidence may show trade with Sweden. This could be another way the Celtic word arrived in a  Germanic language – again, if the Alci ever were worshiped by Germanic tribes.

Prayer to Dies Equeunu for Fast Rescue Heather Awen 

O Dies Equeunu,
Please hear my prayer!
I am in trouble,
I need fast help,
I need the Divine Twins!
Please, quickly ride into this situation,
Stop the crisis,
Save my life, save our lives,
Save us!
Time is of the utmost importance,
Lives are at risk!
Dies Equeunu, you are Gods of heroes
And I need you here now!

 

Bibliography

Brady, Bernadette, Brady’s Book of fixed Stars. Samuel Weiser, Inc. (1998)

Cultraro, Massimo, Evidence of Amber in Bronze Age Sicliy: Local Sources and the Balkan-Mycenaean Connection. Eds. Galanaki, Tomas, Galanakis, Laffineur. Aegaeum 27, Between the Aegean and Baltic Coasts Prehistory Across Borders

Cunliffe, Barry, On the Ocean: The Mediterranean and the Atlantic from Prehistory to AD 1500. Oxford University Press (2017)

Danka, Ignacy Ryszard & Witczak, Krzysztof Tomasz, DEIS EQLTL\LBO The Divinę Twins in Asturia, Dimensions and Categories of Celticity: Studies in Language, Piotr Stalmaszczyk & Maxim Fomin (eds) (2009)

Davies, Sioned, editor and translator, The Mabinogion. Oxford World’s Classics (2007)

East, Sonrisa, Where Alpha Meets Omega: Mythology of the Constellations, Space Exploration & Astrology. (2019)

Fortson, Benjamin W., Indo-european Language and Culture: an introduction— 2nd ed., Wiley-Blackwell (2010)

Gibson, Catriona and John Koch, Beakers into Bronze: Tracing connections between Iberia and the British Isles 2800-800 BC, CELTIC FROM THE WEST 2: Rethinking the Bronze Age and the Arrival of Indo-European in Atlantic Europe, John T. Koch and Barry Cunliffe (eds), Oxbow Books (2013)

Gregory, Lady, Gods and Fighting Men: The Story of the Tuatha De Danann and of the Fianna of Ireland. Public Domain (1905)

Haussler, Ralph, How to identify Celtic religion(s) in Roman Britain and Gaul, Divinidades indigenas em analise, J. d’Encarnacao (ed), (2008)

Haussler, Ralph, Interpretatatio Indigena: Re-Inventing Local Cults in a Global World, Mediterraneo Antico, xv, 1-2 (2012)

Hyllested, Adam, The Precursors of Celtic and Germanic, Proceedings of the 21st Annual UCLA Indo-European Conference (2010)

Koch, John T, Celtic origins reconsidered in the light of the ‘archaeogenetics revolution’ (2018)

Koch, John T, Rock art and Celto-Germanic vocabulary: Shared iconography and words as reflections of Bronze Age contact, Adoranten (2018)

Jones, Mary (ed), Jones’ Celtic Encyclopedia, http://www.maryjones.us/jce/jce_index.html

Ling, Johan & Koch, John, A sea beyond Europe to the north and west. Giving the past a future: Essays in Archaeology and Rock Art Studies in honour of Dr. Phil Gerhard Milstreu, Dodd & Meijer (eds), 2018

Manco, Jean, Ancestral Journeys: The Peopling of Europe from the First Ventures to the Vikings, 2nd ed. Thames & Hudson (2015)

Mierzwick, Tony, Hellenismos: Practicing Greek Polytheism Today. Llewellyn (2018)

Nova Roma, http://www.novaroma.org/nr/Roman_religion

Noyer, Rolf, PIE Dieties and the Sacred, Proto-Indo-European Language and Society

Price MacLeod, Sharon, Celtic Myth and Religion: A Study of Traditional Beliefs with Newly Translated Prayers, Poems and Songs. McFarland Press (2012)

Sacred Texts Celtic, http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/celt/index.htm

Serith, Ceisiwr, Deep Ancestors: Practicing the Religion of the Proto-Indo-Europeans. ADF Druidry (2007)

Sjoestedt, Marie-Louise, translated by Myles Dillon, Celtic Gods and Heroes. Dover (2000)

Swami Achuthanada, The Reign of the Vedic Gods. Relianz Communications Pty Ltd (2018)

Tacitus, Germania

Waddell, John, Equine Cults and Celtic Goddesses, EMANIA Bulletin of the Navan Research Group (2018)

Pagan Holy Days March

Onje Keon Pierce
Tarot Card Oshun’s World by Onje Keon Pierce

About a week before the end of the month, I post the monthly calendar so you have time to copy and mail it to your pen pals in prison. Remember that they need the Guide to the Athens, Julian and other calendars, plus the new moon (not dark moon) and full moon dates found here and here, where the Yoruban, Anglo-Saxon and Athens weekly and monthly calender are. If you want a pen pal, I suggest looking at Black & Pink‘s list for Pagans. For pointers on writing someone in prison, check out here.

If you don’t have a penpal but want to help, we’ll happily send free copies of Steel Bars Sacred Waters: Celtic Paganism for Prisoners to prisoners and books to prisoners organizations if you donate the money! Pagan books are in the Top Five Requested Books and hardest to fill. If you have used paperback books that you don’t need, please consider donating them. There’s a books to prisoners organizations within 200 miles of most people and they’d love those books! Check out your closest one! Literacy rates are low in prison and the average book is read by seven people! Prison, as one man told me, “can be college, if you treat the time that way. You just have to keep getting books, because there’s no classes or training in state prison.”

On with the show!

March Pagan Holy Days

The Anglo-Saxon name for March is Hrethe, a Goddess about whom we know little. Her name may mean “glorious.”

Very ancient Roman rites began on March 1, the birthday of God of war Mars, and lasted the entire month. His priests, the Salii (“leapers”), had many noisy processions in the streets of Rome, beating on 8-sided shields. Performing elaborate dances, they sang a hymn. The few lines we know celebrate the fertilizing power of Mars Gradivus, pointing to a possible early agricultural function.

March 1 is also the Roman Matronalia, Festival to Women, honoring Juno Lucina (Juno “light”). The rites at Her temple were strictly for women. In Juno Lucina’s sacred grove, Vestal Virgins hung offerings of their hair on the eldest tree. In the temple, a sacrifice was made followed by a public banquet. Husbands prayed for their wives’ health and gave them gifts. Women wore their best clothing, later hosted banquets for loved ones. Female friends exchanged gifts, while everyone gave their mothers and daughters presents.

The Roman Festival of Anna Perenna is on March 15 (or the full moon). Depicted as an old woman, Anna Perenna is Goddess of the new year. Her festival was a fertility rite, with people building tents by Her sacred grove, drinking wine, flirting, dancing and singing lewd songs. Couples retired to their tents. Many experienced sex for the first time.

Also on that day was the Mamuralia, more horse races for Mars. Plus the day was also sacred to sky father Jupiter, head of the Roman pantheon.

On the day after the March-April full moon, Athens honored Artemis as protectress of the female bear. Round cakes with a lit candle in the center were offered as symbols of the moon.

The Liberalia on March 17 was the rural fertility festival of Liber who presided over male semen. Throughout Italian farmlands, a cart carried a phallus while a procession sang explicitly sexual songs. The phallus was placed on display for the rest of March.

The same day, Roman young men received the togas that signified that they were now adults. Loved ones cheered.

On the 19th the Orisha of herbalism and the forest Osanyin (Ossain) is celebrated in New Orleans Voodoo.

Held during March 19 to 23, the Roman Greater Quinquatrus was a festival dedicated to Goddess Minerva, who ruled over all the arts. Arts included all the important skills, like medicine, weaving and education. On the first day teachers, students and doctors made sacrifices to Minerva. Ovid instructs: “Cherish her, you who carve and sculpt in stone, or you who paint brightly colored pictures. Minerva is the Goddess of a thousand works. Surely, she is the Goddess of poetry as well.”

March 25 is Lady’s Day, which in parts of Scotland is the day that the Cailleach (“veiled one”), a giantess and hag of winter, renews Herself and becomes young again. In another story, She loses Her battle with Her son Aengus and His true love, spring Goddess Brid, and so winter ends.

On the 25th the Orisha Oshun is honored for Her gifts of love, charity, creativity and abundance.

On March 30 Salus Publica Populi Romani (“Goddess of the public welfare of the Roman people”) was honored. Sacrifices to healers Apollo and Aesculapius were also made. Like Greek Hygieia, Salus held a snake.

 

 

Celtic Festival of Tongoenabiagus & Nabia: Exploring Celtic Iberian Castro Culture & Its Irish & British Shared History

Fonte_do_Ídolo_Braga_kindlephoto-314812406
Fountain of the Idol

As I’ve stated in each post of the series, we know that the Celtic tribes had more power than once thought over how they interpreted the religion of the Romans who conquered them. If they often chose the Roman deity names to match their own deities, altered how Roman style temples were built and had their own ideas about Roman deities, perhaps they used the Roman calender to synchronize festivals for their deities. Even if they didn’t, it is a way for the modern Celtic polytheist to organize festivals today.

On February 21, the 3 day Roman festival the Parentalia ended as the Feralia began. In the original Roman calender, March was the first month, in honor of Mars, God of war, and February was dedicated to purification from the previous year. The Feralia was the final festival to honor the ancestors. Offerings, usually food, were taken to the tombs. The Feralia also honored Jupiter Feretrius. When people sign marriage and other contracts, Jupiter Feretrius is witness. In the Roman Empire, people made an oath that if that if they lied, Jupiter Feretrius should strike them down.

It’s the oath aspect of the festival that concerns this post. Lugus may derive from the word “oath” as in “I swear to curse you if you are my enemy, that’s my oath.” Lugh and Llew both use Magick to deal with enemies, so it’s a strong possibility. It may tell us something about the way Celtic language speakers understood the word “oath.” He may be a God of destiny, with these oaths. (The ancient Celto-Germanic crow Goddess Badb of Irish myth also uses the Crane Stance on Her prophetic curses.)

The 1st century shrine in Braga, Fonte do Ídolo (Fountain of the Idol), isn’t just dedicated to the popular deity Nabia (Pronounced: “NAH-bee-ah”). The God Tongoenabiagus is also named. (Pronounced: “tong-goy-na-BEE-ah-gus” – for me, it’s easier to learn if I break the name into two parts, practice them separately and then altogether.) The Celtic root word for His name is related to making oaths (“I swear”). Considering what we know about Lugus, Jupiter and ancient oath God UllR, it would seem that Tongoenabiagus smites those who break their promises.

There’s quite a lot of talk in Heathenry about the importance of keeping your word which applies to Celtic tribes as well. The entire structure of society was based on oaths. Warriors pledged to follow a chieftain, king or new young cattle raider. Heterosexual couples married, maintaining the patriarchal family. Lesser chieftains and kings pledged themselves to greater ones. Tribes formed loose federations, especially in wartime. Merchants were expected to give and get a fair price for their goods. And humans made oaths to deities and fully expected to have a cursed life if they broke them. Trade was just as important for the 1st century BCE Celt as it was for an 8th century Viking. The Gauls relied on their role of merchants so strongly that they adopted the Roman God of commerce and travel, Mercury, and worshiped Him more than the Romans did. Obviously the Celtic people in pre-Christian Iberia would have needed a deity to witness the promises of their contracts to make sure that the oath would be enforced by a greater power.

In the farthest southwest point of Portugal during the 6th century BCE, a Celtic language inscription written in the Phoenician alphabet praises Lug. His popularity in coastal Iberia (Celtici in the south, Gallaecia and Asturias in the north) and the eastern part of the Meseta and south of the Pyrenees Mountains (Celtiberia) appears to have been active and consistent even after Lugus was forgotten in Gaul. Iberia may even be the original home of Lug.

However, Gallaecia probably relied on a local oath-enforcer, the God Tongoenabiagus. The oath Gods tend to be very high ranking, often the leader of the pantheon. With this in mind, perhaps it makes sense that Tongoenabiagus, who is only mentioned once in the evidence left for archeologists, was included with Nabia, whose followers left behind evidence of many inscriptions and sanctuaries, at Braga in northwestern Portugal.

The gender of Nabia, like a few other Iberian deities, is somewhat confusing. Although linked with Jupiter by the Romans, Nabia was also associated several Goddesses, such as Victoria (Victory, a war Goddess), Juno (Jupiter’s wife and equal, the Queen Goddess), Diana (Goddess of wild forests, hunting and midwives) and others associated with fertility and health. These many Roman Goddesses provide us with a good example of how most Celtic Goddesses were understood by most Celtic language speaking people: capable of any “function.”

It is possible that Nabia was the head of the pantheon for the ferocious Bracari tribe who at one time controlled much of Gallaecia and Asturias. The Romans recorded that the Bracari were one of the fiercest Celtic tribes whose fearless female warriors would rather die than live as slaves. Like many Iberian people, the Bracari relied on selling metal ore and goods. When the Romans attacked, the Bracari’s warriors hid in their iron mine and ambushed Roman troops.

The first encounter between Celts in Iberia and Romans was probably as mercenaries in the Punic War. Phoenicians built the first Atlantic trade port in southern Spain in the 9th century BCE and were involved in the Atlantic Seacoast Culture, so the Celtic association with Carthaginian merchants was very old. We are given an interesting look at these warriors who seem to have been trained in Druid divination.

“Rich Gallaecia sent its youths, wise in the knowledge of divination by the entrails of beasts, by feathers and flames— who, now crying out the barbarian song of their native tongue, now alternately stamping the ground in their rhythmic dances until the ground rang, and accompanying the playing with sonorous caetrae.” (A caetra was a small type of shield used in the region).
– Silius Italicus, Punica

Where there’s trade, there’s transportation of goods. Nabia is the Goddess of fresh water and many important rivers, including the Nabão River in Tomar, the Rivers Navia (which flowed into the southern Bay of Biscay) and Avia, and the Neiva River by the ancient Roman capital of Gallaecia Bracara Augusta, which today is called Braga. She had several sanctuaries, including one with thermal hot springs, which connects Her to health. The Gallaecians understood the healing power of saunas, “taking baths in vapours that rise from heated stones.” (Strabo, III.3.3) The door frames for the inner rooms of saunas were highly decorated, suggesting a ceremonial function, and called pedras formosas (“beauty stones”).

Rivers were an important part of the European transportation system, which makes Nabia important for trade. Her good favor was needed for safe travels to and from the Atlantic coast, where boats could take the Iberian metals north to Gaul and Britain or be exchanged with Carthaginian merchants for wine, glass and pottery. In the Roman Empire, some Gaulish tribes earned their wealth by controlling a river and demanding tribute from those who would travel it. There’s no reason to think that some Celtic tribes in Iberia did not do the same.

With so many people coming together to trade, perhaps Tongoenabiagus was needed to keep merchants honest. The Fountain of the Idol was in a shrine dedicated to just Him and Nabia in the important Roman capital of Gallaecia Bracara Augusta, a center for luxury goods. Celtic cultures often paired a hero chieftain God with a sovereignty Goddess, both of whom had a variety of roles in human society ranging from granter of fertility to psychopomp for the dead. The pairing was not always the same couple and They did not necessarily have to be lovers. Rosmerta is traditionally paired with Mercury, but Her age indicates that She probably was understood to be His mother.

Although historically Gallaecia is as Celtic as Gaul or Ireland, it’s mostly ignored in every pop culture Celtic Paganism book and academic book on different Celtic Reconstructionist reading lists. This is true for all of Iberia. But Galicia has the most information on its native pantheon compared to the rest of Iberia and even the well-known Belgae tribes north of Gaul bordering Germania.

So why don’t we know about Nabia when She’s far more documented than a currently popular Goddess like Nemetona or Don? One reason is that the research has been happening recently and still yields surprises. Also, the Celtic Iberian deities have very few remaining statues (if any). Even without the details of a specific myth, the root word of a deity’s name/ title and Their depiction can tell us a lot about a deity, and we often don’t have either for Iberian deities. (Iberia was home to many different Celtic languages, some of which are only now seriously being studied.) The hundreds of inscriptions are being reexamined and we’re learning important details. The “dying and resurrection” grain God Erudinus also of northwestern Iberia had a festival on June 23 and 24. This is the ONLY date from actual polytheist Celts for an ancient Celtic deity and proves that the Summer Solstice was important to at least some Celtic people. (I believe that medieval Gaelic monks didn’t mention any solar Pagan holidays because they had been replaced by Easter, St John the Baptist Day, St. Martin’s Feast Day and Christmas.)

Another reason I think contributes to the obscurity of Celtic Iberia is simply ethnicity of Celtic Pagans today, which is an almost taboo subject. The truth is that most Celtic polytheists I have met are looking for their pre-Christian ancestral religion. British Pagans often ignore the Angles, Saxons, Jutes and Danish Heathens and focus on the land in a neo-Celtic modern Druid cosmology. Brythonic polytheists mostly focus on the medieval Welsh text the Mabinogi and the inscriptions and temples to the deities of the occupying Gaulish soldiers in the Roman military. (Actual ancient Brythonic deities known today are few because native temples don’t have Latin inscriptions.)

Hughes* in his book The Book of Celtic Magic even invents a nationalist “Celtica” to describe the spirit, myth and traditions of the 6 nations that at least until recently had speakers of Celtic languages, which is odd because the ancients never referred to the inhabitants of Britain or Ireland as Celtic. The concept of a pan-Celtic cultural connection between these nations is very recent and ancient Celticia is a region mostly in modern-day France. The huge Keltoi culture across Europe into Turkey is ignored in his “Celtica” and implies that you must live in the U.K. and Ireland. If you are not there, you can’t feel “Celtica” which evidently exists only in those lands. Modern Saxon Pagans and German Celtoi  Reconstructionists are dismissed by writing like this, much less American Celtic Reconstructionists, which is sad. It is that type of attitude we’re trying to keep out of prison gangs using Paganism as a front – ethnic/national exclusion and cultural misappropriation.

Meanwhile, looking online, Scotland seems to have more Gaelic polytheists than Ireland, where Wicca is the most common Pagan religion. This could be because that much of Celtic mythology is common Irish knowledge woven into place and Catholicism, so it doesn’t feel like an occult (secret) religion. The Farrars, incredibly important English teachers of Wicca, have been based in Ireland for decades. Gaelic is a soon forgotten, difficult subject in school. Also, even in cosmopolitan Dublin and progressive Galway, bookstores have very limited Pagan sections compared to New Age and Buddhism. I hope the books by Lora O’Brien help Gaelic Pagans actually in Ireland, as they are very place-based.

The fascination with Gaelic polytheism mostly comes from the descendants of Irish immigrants. During the Irish Potato Famine the United States received a lot of Irish immigrants. Irish ancestry is the most common ancestry for Caucasian Americans, tied with German heritage. Australia and Canada also have many citizens whose ancestors came from Ireland and Scotland and so they turn to those deities. Even many Gaulish polytheists know from where in France or Germany their ancestors immigrated. As much as we say that ethnicity doesn’t matter in Celtic Pagan Reconstructionism – and it honestly doesn’t matter; anyone can worship Celtic deities in Celtic ways as it was a culture, not carried in DNA – it seems that most people are drawn to deities they think some of their ancestors worshiped. In fact, the only time I have heard someone say that they were Celtiberian was a Latino warrior in a primarily Gaelic ADF Grove.

Bilingual books about the Celtic tribes and their religion in Iberia probably would be popular with many Hispanic Pagans who seek an ancestral connection with ancient European polytheism, based on the pattern we find with other modern Celtic polytheists. I know that a lot of Latinos discover Paganism in prison, often through their devotion to Saint Muerte, but don’t feel like Wiccans or called to the Orisha, and of course are not allowed to be Odinist Heathens. From letters by Latino Pagans who received free copies of Steel Bars, Sacred Waters, I’m told that the ancestral connection with Celtic Paganism gives them a home once they know about it.

Yet Iberia should matter to all Celtic Pagans. Iberia had more Celtic settlements than anywhere else in Western Europe (yes, including France!) and deep cultural and linguistic ties to Ireland, Britain and coastal Gaul since the Neolithic Atlantic Seacoast Culture and the Bronze Age. So the culture of northwestern Iberia shares quite a lot with the most popular form of Celtic polytheism: Gaelic. It is even in important Gaelic mythology, as we’ll soon remember.

800px-Casa_reconstruida_do_castro_de_Santa_Tegra
Rebuilt hut in the oppidum of Santa Tegra, A Guarda, Galicia.

Nabia and Tongoenabiagus came from the Castro Culture, which was very similar to the Celtic tribes of Ireland and Britain. These tribes of the valleys and mountains near the Atlantic ocean were seasonally transhumant cattle-raising pastoralists protected by a warrior elite. That’s how we also describe the ancient Irish: seasonally transhumant cattle-raising pastoralists protected by a warrior elite. Like the Celtic peoples of Britain and Ireland, homes were round huts, unlike the Gauls. The Celtic people of northwest Iberia originally built small hill-forts (called “castros”) that were unoccupied and show no signs of warfare, just like in Britain. A few rounded huts with prominent hearths were available for some type of communal activity.

Two popular theories about the early hill-forts are: one, that they were tribal religious centers or, two, where the tribe’s pastoral animals were seasonally counted so the chieftain could take his share. The chieftain was responsible for sacrifices on behalf of the tribe. As archeology of Iron Age Britain shows that large amounts of animal sacrifices occurred in spring and autumn, coinciding with medieval Gaelic Beltain and Samhain, both ideas could easily be combined into tribal seasonal ceremonies based on the birth and death of cattle.

Casa_cividade_terroso
Family Setting of Cividade de Terroso

Just like in Britain, much bigger hill-forts were later constructed by fertile farmland, for defense and prestige. Some places built oppida (urban trading posts enclosed within intimidating walls), filled with round granaries, square workshops, communitarian halls, shared forges and of course saunas. Some even had fountains, drains and reservoirs, important for a Goddess of water like Nabia. At the same time, the round family hut became a fenced-in cluster of huts with a courtyard in the center, similar to those in coastal Wales when being raided by Irish pirates. Strabo described leather boats on northern Iberian rivers, lakes and coasts which probably were like Irish currachs and Welsh coracles. Bronze Age trade with Britain had long connected the two proto-Celtic lands, but this mostly ended in the early Iron Age. Iberia had iron and didn’t need to trade with Britain any longer. Yet their shared culture obviously continued.

The Celtic style of dress in Iberia was generally like that of other Celts, who all shared a love for fancy designs woven into fabric. Married women wore the same style head wraps as married Gaulish and Germanic women. A large scarf covered the braided hair, with the long ends of the fabric twisted and then wrapped around the head like a brim. (Statues of the Matres show these head wraps.) Every region had variations of the style; Iberians sometimes added a veil to cover the neck. Men wore arm bands and other accessories typical in metal rich Gaul, while women’s jewellery was somewhat influenced by the Mediterranean, especially earrings. Both men and women with power had their own versions of the gold torc neck band. The ends often had empty, large terminals which held little stones, making them rattles. As we know that rattles were sewn on garments in other Celtic regions, the find of torc rattles adds to our awareness that trance-inducing sound was valued by Celts in general.

The Castro Culture not only mined copper, gold, iron, tin and lead; they forged many tools. They were relatively self reliant communities. Breads were made from their own harvests of wheat and millet as well as roasted and ground acorns. Beer and bread came from oats and barley. Like the Britons they grew peas and cabbage and foraged for nutrient rich nettle and watercress. Clothing was made from linen and wool. Cattle provided milk and butter as well as meat along with pigs, sheep and goats. Hunts for wild boar and deer were popular, as in the medieval Welsh Mabinogi and depicted on carved and painted Pictish stones. The deities Epona and Lug were very popular, along with many local deities.

In Gaelic myth, Lugh‘s beloved foster mother is the Fir Bolg noble Tailtiu (pronounced: “TAL-dyoo”) who in one version is said to be a Princess of Galicia. It’s in Her honor that the early harvest festival Lughnasadh is celebrated. Marriage and fostering children were important political tools for gaining allies and ending wars. With Lug so popular in Iberia, could Lugh and Tailtiu be an old remembrance of an Iberian myth of the Celtic hero chieftain God and the sovereignty Goddess who makes the land fertile? Or of marriages used to form bonds between kingdoms that once included the Gallaecia and the insular Celts?

In Lebor Gabála Érenn (our main source for Irish mythology), the last invaders of Ireland are the sons of Mil, the ancestors of the Gaelic-speaking humans. They sailed to Ireland from Galicia, which makes northeastern Iberia home for the Gaels. Of course, this is tangled up with Biblical myth, like the whole Lebor Gabála Érenn and our sources for the ogham alphabet, along with Irish monks’ social commentary on the lack of protection from the Vikings. (Bres is usually a good member of the Tuatha De Danann. The myth about His greed and corrupt leadership seems to be an Irish monk’s creative writing about the current situation in 10th century Ireland. There’s many layers to the myths.)

If you once could not find a reason to learn about the Celts in Iberia, I hope that you now understand how important Iberia is for studying any Celtic language-speaking people’s religion. There’s even a strong Bronze Age connection with Sweden.

800px-Muros_de_San_Cibrao_de_Las
Walls of the oppidum of Lanobri or Lansbri, San Cibrao de Lás, Galicia.

The following prayer is from Steel Bars, Sacred Waters: Celtic Paganism for Prisoners. It is available from Gullveig Press to American incarcerated Pagans and those engaged in prison ministry at no profit to us ($12 for the huge book and shipping and taxes). For other people, if you buy it directly from us, it is less expensive than ordering it from Amazon and we get more profits which go straight to sending copies of the book to people in prison. ($25 covers everything – and it’s at least twice as long as most books!)

1% of Americans are in prison, more than any nation, and approximately 10% of prisoners are Pagan with few if any resources beyond white supremacist groups. This is 1 in 1,000 Americans, so there’s more Pagans in prison than outside of prison. Please donate your used paperbacks to your nearest books-to-prisoners organization. (Find it here.)

Prayer to Tongoenabiagus to Keep Your Word by Heather Awen

A person is only as good as their word,
And mine was often worthless,
Lying to family,
Betraying the trust of others.
I spread fear and doubt,
Made others suffer from my cowardice and greed.
O Tongoenabiagus,
Those broken vows
Those deceitful words
How I wish I could undo
The damage that came from every one.
Please don’t give up on me, Tongoenabiagus.
You see through all my broken promises,
Every con and every scam,
The hurt lovers and people poorer for knowing me,
And still believe I can change my ways.
I can change; I will! I have the courage to admit my mistakes to you, and
Unburdened, I have the courage to become a better person.
I admit them, you know what I have done.
Time to move into responsibility for the words I speak today.
Instead of being crushed by past shame I steady myself, making my vows something on which others can depend.
Truth – I know my limits and I know my strengths.
What I promise matches the reality of who I am and my situation.
I build my honor day by day, and although this is something only I can do,
Tongoenabiagus, I pray for help from you.
Thank you, strong one.

 

* Hughes is a Druid in his own order, not a Reconstructionist or focused on the living Celtic language cultures, so it’s his UPG without him stating this, a quality of the more dangerous types of Pagan books, especially for prisoners with extremely limited access to information. I like sharing UPG, but let’s be sure to call it that. It’s the main flaw in Raven Kaldera’s book for prisoners. Who said Frodi is Frey’s grandfather? Oh, him. Kaldera states as facts his own opinions, which confused many seeking a non-racist, non-homophobic Heathen resource

600px-Trisquel_de_Castromao
Triskelion from the Iron Age hill-fort of Castromao, Celanova, Galicia. Now in the Museo aqueolóxico provincial de Ourense.

Bibliography

Alfayé, Silvia, Contexts of Cult in Hispania Celtica, Cult in Context: Reconsidering Ritual in Archaeology, Barrowclough, D.A., & Malone, C. (eds), Oxbow, Oxford (2007)

Arenas, Jesús Alberto, Celtic divine names in the Iberian Peninsula: towards a territorial analysis, Celtic Religion Across Time and Space, Junta de Comunidades de Castilla-La Mancha (2010)

Ayán Vila, Xurxo M. A Round Iron Age: The Circular House in the Hillforts of the Northwestern Iberian Peninsula, e-Keltoi: Journal of Interdisciplinary Celtic Studies: Vol. 6 , Article 19. (2008)

Cunliffe, Barry, Britain Begins. Oxford University Press (2013)

Cunliffe, Barry, On the Ocean: The Mediterranean and the Atlantic from Prehistory to AD 1500. Oxford University Press (2017)

Davies, Sioned, editor and translator, The Mabinogion. Oxford World’s Classics (2007)

de Milio Carrín, Cristobo, The Widower And The Goddess Or The Closed Door: On the connection between northern and southern Celts (March 2011)

Gibson, Catriona and John Koch, Beakers into Bronze: Tracing connections between Iberia and the British Isles 2800-800 BC, CELTIC FROM THE WEST 2: Rethinking the Bronze Age and the Arrival of Indo-European in Atlantic Europe, John T. Koch and Barry Cunliffe (eds), Oxbow Books (2013)

Giesler, Friedrich, Topos and Reality: Celtic and Germanic Women’s Clothing as mirrored in Roman Art (2017)

Gregory, Lady Augusta, Gods and Fighting Men: The Story of the Tuatha De Danann and of the Fianna of Ireland. J Murray (1904)

Hughes, Kristoffer, The Book of Celtic Magic: Transformative Teachings from the Cauldron of Awen. Llewellyn Publications (2014)

Koch, John T, Celtic origins reconsidered in the light of the ‘archaeogenetics revolution’ (2018)

Koch, John T, Rock art and Celto-Germanic vocabulary: Shared iconography and words as reflections of Bronze Age contact, Adoranten (2018)

McCaffrey, Carmel & Eaton, Leo, In Search of Ancient Ireland. New Amsterdam Books (2002)

Mosenkis, Iurii, Possible Sea Peoples activity in the Lebor Gabála Érenn

Nova Roma, http://www.novaroma.org/nr/Roman_religion

O’Brien, Lora, A Practical Guide to Irish Spirituality (Sli Aon Dhraoi). Wolfpack Publishers (2012)

Pedreño, Juan Carlos Olivares, Celtic Gods of the Iberian Peninsula, Guimarães, Portugal: E-Keltoi: Journal of Interdisciplinary Celtic Studies (2005)

Prosper, Blanca Maria, Celtic and non-Celtic Divinities from Hispania, The Journal of Indo-European Studies, Vol. 43, #1&2 (2015)

Prosper, Blanca-Maria, Universidad de Salamanca, Linguistic Observations of Two Divinities of the Celtic Cantabri

Quintela, Marco V. Garcia, Celtic Elements in Northwestern Spain in Pre-Roman times, e-Keltoi: Journal of Interdisciplinary Celtic Studies: Vol. 6 , Article 10. (2005)

Simón, Francisco Marco, Religion and Religious Practices of the Ancient Celts of the Iberian Peninsula, e-Keltoi: Journal of Interdisciplinary Celtic Studies: Vol. 6, Article 6. (2005)

Tenreiro, Marcial, For a Juridical Ethnoarchaeology of the Bull (and Horse): Sacrifice, Circunvalation & Ordeal in Celtic Iberia, Acts of the 1º International Congress The Horse and The Bull in Prehistory and History (2016)

Wolf, Casey June, The Mythical Pairing of Brig and Bres – Its Origins and Meaning in Cath Maige Tuired, 34 SFU (Surrey) HUM 332 Celtic Mythology with Antone Minard (2015)

Online Index to the Lebor Gabála Érenn (Book of Invasions) based on R.A.S. Macalister’s translations and notes, https://celt.ucc.ie//indexLG.html

 

Gullveig Press does not endorse whatever stuff WordPress is advertising. Odds are you don’t need it and it destroys your ecosystem, countless human workers and the planet in general, so you could use your money more wisely. Maybe buy a copy of Steel Bars, Sacred Waters for a prisoner with no income?

Cantibedonensis: Celtic Iberian Protector of Mountains and Stony Areas

 

Cantibedonensis is a Celtic epithet for Iberian deities when They focus on protecting mountains and stony areas. As several Iberian deities, including ones who are not Celtic, have this epithet, I think you could try it with other deities than the couple examples I mention. *kento– is the Celtic root word for “round, circle” that evolved into the root word for “stone.” It is used for “marble” as well, and probably connected the deities with stone quarries.

I grew up for a while with a small abandoned slate quarry on my family’s land. I studied tadpoles there. My mother hauled loose slate in a wheel barrel for building materials for our home and the beautiful gardens she’d later create. I’m from Vermont, a state known for its stone mines, rocky soil and boulders left behind by glacier stuttering. I like the solid feel below me. I love the amazing array of colors from stones glistening in shallow rivers and the amazing shapes of rocks that emerge from the soil.

A Celtic example is Erbine Iaidi[tanae?] Cantibodone in Idanha, Castello Branco. Caria Cantibidone[—] in Arroncks, Portugal is probably a Lusitanian deity with a Celtic epitaph: “deity of the mountain mine.” I don’t know the gender of Caria, but I would guess female.

Celtic deities in Iberia often seem to have been either known as Gods in some places and Goddesses in others, or perhaps divine heterosexual couples sharing a root word. There’s an idea I have not read anyone put forth, which is that at least some deities go beyond gender. They are the essence, the spirit, the personhood of something that we cannot totally understand. However, Indo-European language started with nouns being active or inactive, like water in a river compared to water in a pot. Eventually, probably due to the fact that young men left with the cattle for summer fields and women stayed home involved in agriculture, weaving, teaching, and continuing/ developing culture, the active nouns became male/moving, while inactive ones became female/home. Today you see this in many Indo-European languages, like French where “the” becomes either “le” and “la”.

This is a continuation of my “hey, let’s explain the key points for Pagans in the paper The Hispano-Celtic Divinity ILVRBEDA, Gold Mining in Western Hispania and the Syntactic Context of Celtiberian arkatobezom ‘Silver Mine’ by Blanca-Maria Prosper” project started with the recent post on the Goddess Ilurbeda.

 

Bibliography

Prosper, Blanca-Maria, The Hispano-Celtic Divinity ILVRBEDA, Gold Mining in Western Hispania and the Syntactic Context of Celtiberian arkatobezom ‘Silver Mine’, DIE SPRACHE 49,1 (2010/2011)

Serith, Ceisiwr, Deep Ancestors: Practicing the Religion of the Proto-Indo-Europeans. ADF Druidry (2007)

Ilurbeda: Celtic Iberian Goddess of the gold mine

Armi Dee
2 Salmon by Armi Dee

In this post I attempt to present the information relevant for Pagans in the paper The Hispano-Celtic Divinity ILVRBEDA, Gold Mining in Western Hispania and the Syntactic Context of Celtiberian arkatobezom ‘Silver Mine’ by Blanca-Maria Prosper (the incredibly prolific – and my favorite – scholar on Celtic Iberian deities). Prosper is at the forefront of Hispanic Celtic linguistics and is known for revisiting the original stone and metal inscriptions others take for granted. Her work, for example, has changed what we know about the Apollo epitaph Belenus which is only found in one city, and was wrongly identified with a completely different God by scholars who did not go to the original inscriptions and altars. This news sadly does not seem to have reached most Pagans, who are studying out dated academic or pop culture books. If we want to truly know our deities, we should at least use Their correct names and other accurate information available to us. I hope to continue to make much this new knowledge available here.

That’s a reason for this blog. The most common complaint of Celtic polytheists is that they can’t find reliable information about Gaulish deities (including the ones brought to Britain) and none of those from Iberia. Steel Bars, Sacred Waters covers about 160 deities and more are still being recovered. Especially for Iberian Celtic studies or the Celto-Germanic connection, this is a very exciting time! It’s interesting to me that recently Gullveig Press has been fulfilling requests mostly from Hispanic incarcerated Pagans for the book lately. It’s their European polytheist ancestors’ deities and religion, which most white supremacist groups forget. I don’t believe ethnicity has anything to do with which deities you are meant to worship, but it’s true that many Pagans are seeking their ancestral pre-Christian indigenous religion. I once had online discussions with a young Portuguese man who hated Portugal because he never learned it had tribal peoples like the Britons or the Norse. His internalized … not racism, but something similar, was very sad. The first inscription to Lugus – Lugh is written in a 6th century Celtic language using Phoenician letters at the farthest southwest corner of Portugal, beyond the Straight of Gibraltar.

The Iberian peninsula was a rich source of metals in the Bronze Age, the Celtic Iron Age and for the Roman Empire. With mining being so important to these peoples (and, indeed, other Celtic peoples and just any culture economically dependent upon mining), it would make sense that there would be deities of these mines. Whether the salt mines in Hallstatt or the tin of Cornwall, Celtic peoples would have been both grateful for the wealth and terrified of dying in the tunnels. Skeletons from Hallstatt show that men had great upper body strength but comparatively weak legs from their work in the mines. The women tended to have lopsided shoulder strength from hauling bags of ore. I had to think through the Goddess Domnu of Cornwall “Goddess of the deep” until the practical needs of the Celtic Cornish miners hit me. Humans are logical. They pray to the deities who are most connected to their identity, which often is their tribal ways, the fertility/protection of the land, their vocation or, as with pregnancy and childbirth, a specific function. Deities of mining, another way the Bronze and Iron Age peoples unknowingly destroyed their ecosystems (the main being clear cutting for farm land), would have to be necessary.

Iberia had a large amount of votive altars dedicated to the Goddess Ilurbeda. Her cult seems to have started in the northern Vetton region, especially the mines in Salamanca. A previous theory was that Her name meant “city of Beda” but there is no known city called Ilurbeda. Also Her altars are found along the Western facade and in a bigger region of central Iberia, particularly between the Ebro and Tejo Valleys. In the west, She’s named with a diversity of local Celtic and Lustianian deities. The rest are often in Celtiberian. There actually are not very many altars or deity names recovered in the Celtiberian region aside from Lugus and Epona. The reason why is not known, but Ilurbeda must have been very important. Strangely, Ilurbeda is (so far) unknown in the neighboring land of the Astures where thousands worked in mines that are now tourist attractions.

The root word *bedo is Celtic for “quarry, mine.” Two Portuguese inscriptions to Ilurbeda were recently found in a gold quarry in Coinbra. Ilurbeda IS Herself the mine, specifically the gold mine. She’s who you sacrificed to when asking Her to share Her riches. She is who you sacrificed to when asking to survive working in the mine. Most likely, there were great community rituals in Ilurbeda’s honor. When the Romans conquered Iberia, they organized the northwestern mines so all free people had to work some time in the mines to help pay the community taxes.

Finding a Celtic word for gold was difficult, as the Gauls adopted the Latin aurum. We have *arganto– for silver; *kanto– for stone and marble; *cassi– for bronze and copper; *isarno– for iron; and a root word for lead. The word “silver” is actually a loan word probably from a Semetic language. The Celtiberians used the word “silaber” for “coins.” They did not mint their own coins and silaber did not refer to silver ore. It was money. *arganto is known as the root word for silver, with three examples being Welsh arian(t), Breton argant, and the name of the Caledonian chieftain Argenticox (“silver limbed”).

A Celtic word for gold, however, was previously unknown. Prosper looks to the Indo-European and Indo-Iranian root word *geluos meaning “yellow” which became the root for gold in many languages, including English. Once Prosper did all the fancy linguistic changes of the Celtic languages, the root word for gold is *iluro-.

Ilurbeda had at least two other functions that helped humans besides being the source of gold. She protected the ore as it moved through the dangerous mountain paths to the east. An altar in Avila connects Her with the protective Roman Lares Viales. Two portable altars of Ilurbeda, good for wagons, were recovered west of the Vetton area. A Celtiberian bronze tablet from the 2nd century CE reads: “For the transportation of the ore along the way of…, leading to Cortonum, let the silver mine be cleared, both in the open air and in covered area. The magistrate has decreed in Cortonum.” This reminds us of the actual daily work and risks involved with this industry which made Iberia (and Gaul) so attractive to the Romans.

Ilurbeda also appears to have had a role in guiding immigrants to find work in the mines. They came not from the south, but from Callaeci from the northwest and from Uxamenses and Clunienses from the east in Celtiberia. Dedications were made to the Goddess. Some of the altars for Ilurbeda in Lusitania seem to be from immigrants looking for jobs. Perhaps some were from the staff, not the actual miners, “asking her to open up and give away her rich secrets,” as Prosper eloquently puts it. The places in Lusitania with these altars coincide with where the gold mines were.

Ilurbeda Today

Today, when we know the human rights violations and ecological damage caused by the mining industry, we may wonder what role Ilurbeda plays. Obviously if you live in any of the regions of Spain or Portugal where She was worshiped or there were gold mines, you can form a deep relationship with Her as place. Perhaps anyone who lives where there were gold mines, like parts of California, may make Ilurbeda offerings and begin prayers, divination and meditations to build a relationship.

Mining for metals not only exploits workers and leaves a huge hole in the bioregion where indigenous flora, fauna and fungi existed in harmonious relationships which now are open for invasive species, it normally leaves deadly toxins in the soil and water. The death toll continues after the mining is done. Also Her mines are mostly empty. A good symbolic sacrifice to Her may be to bury something gold you already own. Show that you are ready to give back.

There’s a great debt we owe these deities. If anything, we should thank Her for Her generosity and explain that we, on behalf of our species, understand the deaths that occurred of many forms of life. We know that Her wealth was not ours to rip away. Our species had temporary insanity which has continued as the norm. We want to be part of the restoration and regeneration of the land, sea and sky upon which we completely depend. As “the rocks dancing” we know there’s no separation between our species and anything else that exists – including our deities. Will She provide guidance? She was there to help humans during one stage of our recent development. There’s no known reason why She would no longer desire a relationship with us.

I’m lucky in that I have always been allergic to all metal. My skin blisters, so I don’t have metal jewellery aside from a few gifts that are kept on my shrines. Like our relationship with crystals, something that was rare but today is a huge collector’s hobby among “spiritual” folks, we need to revisit how what we buy and how “Magick tools” we use affect those beyond us. The only paper I can tolerate has vegetable ink lines, 100% recycled paper and covers made powered by a water mill and recycled metal spiral bindings. I reuse the metal spiral bindings in art, twisting them into large willow trees with long roots. The company is ecojot in Canada and the Jumbo Journal is the perfect size and the sketch pads are great. Although it really is much more important that corporations recycle as they are responsible for the majority of waste, recycling at home and work can be a conscious spell, to build the “hundredth monkey” effect that tips the scales. Your recycling bin could be part of your altar to Ilurbeda.

Ilurbeda could be a protective deity for those who work in transportation. Mail carriers, bus drivers, artisans traveling from festival to festival, crafts fairs to crafts fairs, Ilurbeda watches over those who transport – or She might if you form a relationship with Her. Bicycles, buses, cars and trucks are made of metal. If we don’t ask Her if She wants to bless ways of saving gas like carpools, bicycles and buses, we won’t know how She feels about this. Obviously restoring, upcycling and taking care of our metal possessions is very important. As a child my father hammered used nails straight for his laborer grandfather from Ireland. The cast iron skillet was treated like the most precious object in existence. The family car usually was fixed/ built by my father, sometimes with holes in the floor, but everyone’s trash seemed to be his treasure. I’m very grateful for what the Depression and Dust Bowl taught my family and taught me.

Many people move from home in search of work. Ilorbeda heard those prayers for centuries and I imagine that She’d understand those prayers today. She may be the Goddess of immigration! She may be the bringer of wealth! Unless you honor Her you won’t know.

A lot of people are stuck in dangerous mining jobs. Limited opportunities and the need for food, shelter and clothing means that some places’ entire community is dependant on the mines. I think of the Welsh miners’ strike which lead to the British general strike of the 1970s and hope a deity like Ilurbeda was behind it. Someone has to protect the people who have no other options but to risk their lives in the mines that our society requires.

Does Ilurbeda take care of the working poor, the immigrants in the dangerous jobs no one else will do? I would say yes. Did she help keep my Uncle safe as he drove a delivery truck on the sidewalks of Manhattan, trying to get around double parked cars, treacherous terrain inbetween the towering skyscrapers? I think I’ll make an offering just in case She did.
Bibliography

Prosper, Blanca-Maria, The Hispano-Celtic Divinity ILVRBEDA, Gold Mining in Western Hispania and the Syntactic Context of Celtiberian arkatobezom ‘Silver Mine’, DIE SPRACHE 49,1 (2010/2011)

Brid, Brigantia, Brigid Festivals

Heather Awen copyright, St Brigid well
St Brigid’s Well, Co. Clare, copyright Heather Awen photo.

Last year I covered the Goddess of Britain’s most powerful tribe, Brigantia, and how the Goddess Brig became the Saint Brigid. Also, I shared the story of an incarcerated transwoman’s decision to recover from PTSD due to rape, based on her experience with this simple rite/prayer to Brigantia.

I’m adding some Imblog information and ritual invocations from Steel Bars, Sacred Waters:Celtic Paganism for Prisoners in the hope that you will be inspired to donate $12 so an incarcerated Pagan receives a free copy. Please email us if you would like to spread the knowledge of our deities to the forgotten 1%.

“Imbloc (or Imblog or Oimlec) is covered in the Imbloc Ritual to Brigid. It is Imbloc in Scottish Gaelic, too. Pronounce it “imbolk.” In Welsh it is called Gwyl Ffraed, for Brigid. As it is the end of winter in Ireland (the wet winds are fierce then) and even colder in Scotland, it is a household hearth ritual, not intertribal. The seasonal celebration is gratitude for the longer days and the milk from sheep giving birth.”

Artist and all round good guy Armi Dee worked intently on providing the first visual instruction I’ve ever understood on how to make a Brigid’s Cross. I, Heather Awen, wrote the incantation to charge it in ritual.

“Brigid of the fiery arrow

And the cows who always provide milk,

You who hung your wet cloak on a sunbeam,

And guarded many a family and its animals,

To you I pray.

Your equal armed cross I made

Symbol of the Sun herself

To bring your divine blessings

Into mortal lives.

Hearth Goddess, protect our homes,

Protect our wealth,

Protect our health.

May your blessings of sacred safety

Ever shine into my life through your cross.

May your blessings of sacred safety

Ever shine in our lives through your cross.

Thank you, Exalted Brigid!”

Imbolc Invocation for Making Offerings to Brigid by Heather Awen

“O Goddess,

Mistress of the Flames of Healing, Making, Creating,

Triple daughter of The Dagda

First to keen

And wife of the treacherous Bres

I call to you.

Brigid who is foster mother of the World

Who hears and answers countless prayers

Please join me here

On this, your sacred day.

Let my love for you reach you

Let my love for you reach you

Please may my love for you reach you,

Bright beacon of hope, home and health.

O Brigid, know how much I value you,

Wondrous one who nourishes the World.

Dear compassionate Brigid

Whose fire lights up my spirit

Please accept this offering!”

 

Have a happy Imbolc, Oilmec, Candlemas, St Brid’s Day or whatever you celebrate!

 

 

 

Pagan Holy Days February

Onje Keon Pierce "Oya"
Oya depicted by Onje Keon Pierce

It’s that time again, and February has a lot of festivals, so copy this list and mail it to your pen pal in prison! What? You don’t have a Pagan pen pal in prison who needs someone on the outside with whom to share information, friendship and humor? Why not? It’s so easy and does so much! The right fit may take a few pen pals, but with my guidance, you’ll be safe and prepared! Just start here and then use the category search for blog posts on Resources and Be an Ally to learn more. I get letters asking me about getting a Pagan volunteer in their prison like Buddhists do, and I have to say “I’m sorry; Pagans suck.” I literally write that. (I explain why, just like I do later in this post. Oddly, the most involved and generous Pagans are economically poor ones with disabilities and/or chronic diseases who have experienced loss and being a second class citizen.)

But you don’t have to go to a prison and do all that training – Any book, blog posts or photocopied articles will be shared with ALL the Pagans. You’re going to need to send $5 for them to buy stamps and paper especially if they’re in state prison, but I covered a better way here. (I’ve learned one important thing about prison: If you are going to do crime, make sure it is a federal offense. “Club Fed” offers more than other prisons. Meaning: Federal prison offers crumbs; state prisons offer nothing and private prisons don’t follow the U.S. Constitution! Yikes!)

Remember that your pen pal needs the Guide to the Athens, Julian and other calendars, plus the new moon (not dark moon) and full moon dates found here and here, where the Yoruban, Anglo-Saxon and Athens weekly and monthly calender are.

If you don’t have a penpal but want to help, we’ll happily send free copies of Steel Bars Sacred Waters: Celtic Paganism for Prisoners to prisoners and books to prisoners organizations if you donate the money! Pagan books are in the Top Five Requested Books and hardest to fill. I know us Pagans; half of us border on hoarders and we joke about it. But you know those books you bought that aren’t resources you need or have no new information about a tradition you follow or are from a tradition you found on the search to your actual Pagan religion? There’s a books to prisoners organizations within 200 miles of most people and they’d love those books! Check out your closest one! Call your friends, post on social media that you are doing a Pagan-y book drive, and have folks donate to you. Then you put the books in a box or two and drop them off or mail media rate. Dictionaries and blank journals are also need! Heck, ANY soft cover book almost is needed! Literacy rates are low in prison and the average book is read by seven people! Prison, as one man told me, “is college, if you treat the time that way. You just have to keep getting books, because there’s no classes or training in state prison.”

I think that those of us on the outside are outnumbered by incarcerated Pagans. If you do the math (1 in 100 Americans are in prison – more of the population than any other nation in the world – and 8-12% of them claim a Pagan religion), there’s 1 incarcerated Pagan for every 1,000 Americans! That’s one reason why I think we suck at prison outreach (we’re outnumbered) – The other being that most books, especially Wiccan or Ceremonial Magick, never mention giving to the deities or the world, just taking, and polytheists like Christians would rather donate money more than time to their deities or own “faith community”, so “community service ministry” never reaches the minds of most solitary Pagans, which most of us are. The last reason – the depressing one – is the pettiness of cliques and organizations who won’t work together. Even though tons of Pagans in theory want to do something for people who have nothing in their religion, they put human B.S. first. (That’s why it’s so easy to do it your way – who can say you’re wrong? It’s not the Internet – you’ll be respected and treated well and your opinions valued!) And, yeah, I explain all this after “Pagans suck.” Look, in all the Pagan books you’ve read, how many ever suggested service offerings or ministry to those who can’t pay? Almost none. And I ask these prisoners if they were doing anything positive for strangers when outside? Well, hey, then you know what people on the outside are like, dude.)

If you are scared that you don’t know enough about Paganism to be a resource or guide style pen pal, don’t worry. You have blogs you can copy and paste in narrow margins using the font that takes the least space to make cheap “newsletters.” You can send 4¢ photos of deities, altars and shrines found online. Prison is very visually boring and people study photos together. Art pix are also really popular.

You have access to so much! And you might change someone’s life by caring. A lot of people want someone to care about and my severe illnesses bring that out in the pen pals that want to be allies and get over self pity – i.e. the types of people I value.

On with February!

The Anglo-Saxon month that roughly corresponds with February was called “Sun month” although another source has it called “kale month.” Kale is a very nutritious green which grows successfully in cold climates. “Sun month” obviously refers to the lengthening of the days.

February is named for God Februus of purification. In the earliest Roman calendar, the new year began on March 1, so February originally was for cleansing away the impurities of the last year.

On February 1 the sacred grove of Helernus, Roman God of vegetables, was filled with devotees. As Priests made sacrifices, the public prayed for a good vegetable crop.

Juno Sospita, Goddess of Protection and Fertility, wore goat skin with the head and horns as a helmet. Accompanied by a crow or raven (scavenger birds of the battlefield) or snake, Juno Sospita held a spear and sword. In Her home town Lanuvium on February 1 virgins were blindfolded and led out of town to Juno’s grove. The girls brought barley cakes to feed Juno’s sacred snake. When the snake ate, the town knew that the land and humans would be fertile.

Imbloc is the Gaelic day honoring hearth Goddess Brig. Being cold in Ireland and Scotland, it was a household ritual, focusing on gratitude for longer days and milk from ewes (female sheep) giving birth.

In medieval England ewes still gave birth in early February, celebrated as Ewemeole. Food reserves were low and harvests weren’t for many months, so the milk was vital for survival.

9 days after the full moon of the lunar month in January-February, the Diasi, the largest festival of sky father Zeus, was held in Athens. Pastries shaped like pigs and sheep were offered by the entire population.

Around this time, those people preparing for initiation in the Eleusinian Mysteries spent at least 3 days doing the Mysteries at Agrai, or the Lesser Mysteries.

February 5 is the Roman Februalia, honoring Februus. The home was thoroughly cleaned, then a Priest or member of the household banished anything that might bring harm. Salt and grain were sprinkled around the home. As the mixture was swept outside with a pine bough, the bad spirits were also swept away.

From February 5 to 17 Romans honored Fornax, Goddess of the Ovens, with the Fornacalia. The communal feast was simple, with Her wine offering given from ceramic jugs, not expensive metals. Fornax protected the home from oven fires and the bread from burning. In the past families shared a communal oven, which is the root of the Fornacalia celebration.

The old Swedish month Goe was in our February and March. For one week in Goe, Sweden had its annual Thing of All Swedes (like a parliamentary meeting but all free men were allowed to attend). Along with political and legal affairs, the Thing hosted a great market called The Disting and a Disirblot to honor female ancestors and other powerful women/Goddesses. Offerings for peace were made at the Great Temple in Uppsala.

The 9th is sacred to the Orisha Oya.

February 13 (or the full moon) is the Roman Festival for Faunus, rural God of the wild woodlands. His name means “Kindly One” and He looked after the lonely shepherd. Hunters and farmers also honored Him.

On February 13 the city of Rome was purified by the Amburbium. Chanting and making sacrifices, a procession of solemn worshipers circled the city’s boundaries.

The 6th day of the February-March month of Athens is dedicated to Artemis Elaphebolios (“Shooter of the Deer”).

2 days later Asklepios, the demi-God of healing, was honored in Athens. The Dionysia also began and continued for 6 days. Singing boys and a wooden statue of Dionysus, God of vines, were part of a procession, celebrating His liberation from winter. People went to the theatres for 3 days, enjoying comedies and tragedies.

February 17 was the Quirinalia, a Roman festival celebrating the ancient Sabine (an Italian people) God Quirinus. The Sabines had a fortified settlement near Rome, the Quirinal, named after Quirinus. The settlement was absorbed by Rome and Quirinus joined Jupiter and Mars as Gods of the Roman state. Depicted as a bearded man in the clothes of a Priest and soldier, His wife is Hora and His plant is myrtle.

Parentalia, Rome’s private rites to appease the dead, was held from February 13 to 21. Temples were closed, marriage was not allowed and no altar fires burned. A Vestal Virgin started the Parentalia by pouring a libation to the dead. Families gathered at the family tomb to perform private rituals of offerings. Ovid guides us: “The Dark Shades seek little, they prefer devotion over a costly gift.”
The Feralia was the public end of the Parentalia, held February 21. The dead (“manes”) wandered around the cemetery, enjoying offerings left for them. Temples were still closed so people gave the manes all their attention.

The Feralia also honored God Jupiter Feretrius, the aspect of Jupiter that made certain oaths were kept. He witnessed the signing of contracts and marriages, with those involved asking that He strike them down should they break their vows.
A women’s ritual in honor of Tacita, the Roman Goddess of Silence, was lead by an older woman. The main part involved sewing the mouth of a small, dead fish closed, as the woman said, “We have bound tight hostile tongues and unfriendly mouths.”

After honoring the ancestors, the Cara Cognatio (Roman Festival of Caring Kin) honored the living family and household deities on February 22. Household deities received offerings and the family members made peace and prayed for harmonious relationships.

February 23 is the Roman Festival of Terminus, God of land boundaries.

On the 27th Rome held horse-racing festivals for was God Mars called the Equirria.

Thank you for sharing about Ohio! Celebrate the 3 Pagans volunteering in prisons!

Some of you made my month by sharing the information about how incarcerated Pagans in Ohio cannot receive any of the books specifically for incarcerated Pagans OR receive books from Amazon, which means that they are dependant on the Athens Books To Prisoners volunteer organization. Although no one went to the Athens Books To Prisoners website, at least you spread awareness of the situation.

I have been depressed and filled with dread when I get letters from prisoners asking how to find Pagan volunteers, pen pals, free information for their bigoted Chaplain, discounted or free Pagan resources, or legal help to be able to practice their religion. What can I say besides “Sorry, you don’t matter to other Pagans”? Honestly, I really don’t know what else to say. Sometimes I ask them who they helped when they were on the outside, and write that whatever excuses they had for not being involved are the same ones as Pagans on the outside have. There’s no difference.

I just am so disappointed in the Pagans who blog about activism, social justice and changing society, especially if they’ve complained about how there’s so little for incarcerated Pagans. How did I become point person for everything? Pagan Prison Ministries come and go, without exploring more cost effective and less time consuming ways to serve as teachers.

I applaud the three people who are still serving as Pagan Prison Ministries: CrowMoon who visits about 6 South Carolina prisons, which means she’s driving hours, paying for gas, preparing Wiccan lessons and rituals while staying active in her local Pagan community and writing a 1 sheet newsletter for each Sabbat that is sent for free to prisoners in North Carolina. Shoot, I may have mixed up my Carolinas, but she doesn’t even have a website for donations. Also there’s Alexandria Temple of Universal Metaphysics, one man in Colorado to whom I believe I donated about 75 books about 9 years ago. If that’s him, he’s really shown endurance! And Mother Earth Ministries-ATC, who have consistently been focused on the Pagans in one Tuscan prison. That’s smart: doing what is manageable. Too much activists don’t have sustainable, achievable goals and so they burn out. The more likely that you will have success, the more likely you will enjoy it. It also brings enthusiastic support, because as my long time activist Mom taught me, “Go where the energy is.” (The fastest way for a young organization to crash is by focusing on getting a physical building. Stay manageable and you stay successful.)

These three people deserve a lot of support on all levels. They make me feel less alone and are probably the folks who could give you advice on volunteering. Steel Bars, Sacred Waters: Celtic Paganism for Prisoners has a few pages for potential volunteers which I can share. Dixie Deerman has a rather adversarial, vague Pagan Prisoner Advocate’s Guide that may unnecessarily scare you and heavily promotes her book, but is still a free reference to download at smashwords and more than anyone has provided!

I notice that people seem to feel like there’s nothing they can do to “change the world” but forget that it’s not all on their shoulders. It’s easy to do one action that improves life for your greater community, however you define that, than to despair or call people Hitler on social media. You don’t know what all the other people may be doing, but trust me, there’s lots of us doing. It adds up. Even if it didn’t, it still feels much better to just be creative and find ways to live your values than it does to be angry, afraid or depressed. You’re responsible for what you have contributed and that’s very empowering. In a time of so many feeling helpless, whenever you make a difference, you take back power. It may not be the aspect of oppression you want to transform, but bloom where you are planted. We often don’t know how the deities, ancestors or land spirits need our experiences and skills to be their hands and voices here and now, so please stay open to the call. You’re needed and valued.

I still wish that all the people hanging out at Occupy rallies (a tactic that is outdated) had planted a tree. There are some things you need to consider when choosing what action you will do. First, what’s your goal? Second, what ways can you actually meet that goal? I can’t attend an important governmental meeting about an issue that affects my health because I have severe Mast Cell Activation Syndrome. It would benefit both this cause and further education about the hidden people with disabilities of someone put a poster board torso and head in a seat with my name on it and why I cannot participate in democracy. So that’s what I’m asking the organizers to do, because I don’t want to stay invisible. You can find creative tactics to change the world. Working with allies who share common goals is one important way.

Peace and power,

Heather

 

OHIO book drive! Please share!

The state of Ohio’s prison system now forbids prisoners from receiving books from Amazon (or any publishing company). Steel Bars, Sacred Waters: Celtic Paganism for Prisoners is sent directly from Amazon to prisoners who pay $12 for the book and shipping and taxes. Amazon CreateSpace, now KPD, is the least expensive way to publish and allows the book to be sold on Amazon for free. (Well, Amazon takes 40%, which is why I really wish people would order it directly from Gullveig Press.) I rely totally on book sales and donations (mostly from my mother) to send free copies to books to prisoners organizations, pay for the PO Box, and writing back prisoners with questions. (SSI barely covers my out of pocket medical costs, folks!)

There’s only THREE Pagans in the U.S. volunteering at prisons so the Pagan inmates can have group rituals or any guidance. Getting resources like Pagan books to prisoners is absolutely necessary, but especially in the case of Ohio. NONE of the only three books written for incarcerated Pagans can be ordered by Ohio’s huge prison population.

Please, if you are able to send even ONE book to the books to prisoners organization that focuses on Ohio, that book will be read by at least seven people. If you want to buy a copy or two of my humongous tome so I can send it to the organization, please email me.

When they are released and at your open rituals and festivals, what do you want them to know? What you do or don’t send them determines that.

 

Athens Books to Prisoners
30 1st Street
Athens, Ohio
45701

athensbooks2prisoners@gmail.com

Drop off box: 30 1st Street, Athens West Side

Athens Books to Prisoners is an all volunteer run organization.  We have no paid staff and spend 100% of our donations on postage, packaging supplies, copies, paperback dictionaries, etc.  We receive no grants or outside funding.

MOST NEEDED BOOKS

  • Dictionaries (English, Spanish-English, and Law)
  • Thesauruses
  • Blank journals/notebooks (no staples, no spiral, no hard plastic covers)
  • Magic Cards
  • Dungeons and Dragons
  • Recent College Text Books
  • African, African-American, Latino/a, and Native American history, politics, culture (and other books by and about people of color)
  • GED or basic education materials
  • Urban Fiction
  • Western Novels
  • Sci-Fi/Fantasy Novels
  • Dungeons and Dragons
  • Popular Authors/Titles such as J.K. Rowling, Steven King, James Patterson, David Baldacci, etc.
  • Foreign Language teaching materials (Spanish, French, German, Arabic, Swahili)
  • Yoga and meditation books
  • Paganism, Wicca, Astrology, etc.
  • How-to books (art, carpentry, electronics, crochet, music)
  • Sudoku or other puzzle books
  • Prison issues
  • Radical politics
  • Alternative medicine
  • Addiction and recovery resources
  • HIV resources
  • Women’s health and feminism
  • Queer and Trans resources
  • Sex positive erotica (no nudity)

Do you have a Kroger Card?  If so, you can sign up for the Kroger Community Rewards Program and choose us as the organization your choice.  A portion of the profits from your Kroger purchases will be donated to us!!!  And it really does help out a lot.  To sign up, click this link:

https://www.kroger.com/communityrewards

Sign up your account.
Got to Community Rewards and click edit.
Then copy and post our organization number into the search box:  91546
Click the dot to the left of Athens Books to Prisoners.
Click enroll.

Only Ancient Image of Idunna Found -at Balder’s Funeral! 6th century Germanic Paganism

I posted recently about a lot of the important information an article by Speidel on Burgundian 6th century belt buckles gives us about Germanic mythology and how these deities look. That particular belt buckle from Saint-Maur depicts Balder’s fight on the way to Hel, a forgotten scene from Baldrs Draumar. This post’s buckle from Saint-Quentin is our only ancient portrayal of Idun, and She’s at Balder’s funeral. The Eddas don’t mention Idun attending Balder‘s funeral, so there’s obviously an older, lost piece of the myth that was vital to the story. The belt buckle from Saint-Maur (and other art of the time) gives us fantastic details on how Balder, Loki, Hel and the World Tree were depicted consistently by Germanic tribes from Italy to Denmark in the 6th century, which I hope Heathen storytellers and artists are as excited about as I am! I so want to see modern versions of Loki the birdman and Hela with Her torch!

Idunna and four Gods are depicted on a 6th century buckle found in a limestone sarcophagus from Saint-Quentin, which was beneath the Merovingian collegiate church of Saint-Quentin in northern France. Four winged “angels” hold a wreath formed by a twin-headed snake around a large seated man with a beard and wings. The man was thought to be the Christ – except the Christ never is depicted with a huge erection. This is common for Balder on some other Burgundian belt buckles. No scholar ever tried to explain the penis on the Saint-Quentin belt buckle because if you expect the Christ, there is no explanation. The Burgundians were converted to Christianity by now, but it appears that some wealthy people kept Pagan images. The Frankish belt buckle in the Cottel collection (National Museum of Antiquities in Saint Germain) depicts Balder also seated on a throne, as does a Frankish buckle kept in Köln, but with the addition of the erect penis and weapons.

Fabric hangs beside and between the 4 “angels ‘” legs, their Germanic noble “Prachtmantel“ falling down over their back. The “angels” are actually deities, most of whom we can find in other art. Late German migration era deities were sometimes portrayed with wings. This is especially true with some Eastern European Heathen Germanic belt buckles whose Germanic makers were possibly influenced by the Asian steppes culture that temporarily ruled them. These steppes people are believed to have had shamans who shape-changed into birds of prey for Otherworldly astral travel and possibly brought this concept to Heathen religion. Often on Burgundian Christian buckles the names of the mythical beings depicted are written with the figure. With the Saint-Quentin belt buckle scholars could not easily understand the “words” on the “angels” because none of them thought to consider that the letters were runes. A note was made in 1956 that someone should look into this. Today, looking at the art with a Heathen’s eye, the letters as runes make sense.

In the upper left is the most important God, Tiw, who offers Balder His decorated spear. 3 Tyr runes are across His chest. Tiw has short hair, a beard and an ax. In the lower left corner is Woden, with His typical braid in a knot and perhaps an early Walknuten on His chest of the runes “WWW.” He hands over a large ring, almost definitely Draupnir, which we see Woden with on 5th century bracteates.

The upper right portrays Frey, probably with the rune F on His chest. He has no pupils causing His eyes to look fierce. As on the Rällinge statuette and the Gotlandic Sanda picture stone 166, Frey has a pointed chin beard. In what must be a pre-Gerda myth, Frey gives Balder His slightly curved narrow sword, as seen also on the Saint-Maur buckle and on the Sanda picture stone.

Most spectacular is Idun in the lower right corner. She is shorter than the Gods, unlike Hela who is always tallest. Idun‘s face is wide and Her hair is elaborately styled. She wears a neck band and spreads Her legs, naked thighs exposed. This is as sexy as it gets in the 6th century! This is screaming “fertility Goddess!” Obviously Idun‘s sexuality is tied to the immortality of the deities. Her left hand offers Balder an apple. On one of Her thighs may be the runes ID. Idun‘s sexuality may have been toned down by the Christian Snorri. We know that Her apples don’t actually keep the deities immortal; She does, and that’s why a giant has Loki kidnap Her. (As apple trees were brought north by the Romans, the golden apples of Idunna really do seem to be adopted by Germanic mythology from the Greeks via the Romans.)

Peaceful twin snakes circle the deities on the Lyngby medallion and on the Saint-Quentin buckle, as they do here. There’s a knotwork border with four winged serpents beyond it, thought to be outer edges of Hela‘s realm. The scene has been interpreted as Balder’s funeral, safely in Hel, receiving gifts from the Gods. The gifts don’t appear to just be symbolic of the deities depicted. They are found in myth together, just not this myth.

In the Eddic Skírnismál, Skirnir tries to win the Jotun Goddess Gerda‘s hand in marriage for Frey, offering Her Idun‘s apples, Frey‘s sword and Odin‘s Draupnir. Skirnir recalls Balder‘s funeral when he offers Gerda Draupnir. He also uses a stave carved with runes about infertility or sexual desperation to threaten Gerda, whose name means “enclosed field” where fertility is most desired.

Balder probably needed these gifts from the deities to survive into the next world. During Ragnarok, Balder stays safe, waiting with Nanna (even known in the 6th century) at a banquet in Hel, until the reborn world needs His leadership. Perhaps Balder kept the powers of the deities safe: the spear of the rightful ruler, the Magick sword, the endless prosperity of Draupnir and the apples of immortality. Belt buckles, including the Christian ones, often had a prayer or charm engraved on them to protect the wearer from death. Perhaps belt buckles depicting Balder‘s funeral and His trip to meet the waiting Goddess Hela reassured Burgundian warriors about their ultimate fate, to die and be reborn as Balder‘s companion in the Realm of Ancestors.

The buckles being called Burgundian were mostly cast after the Merovingian Franks took control of Burgundy. But they have the usual themes, images and rectangular design of the Burgundians who settled around Lake Geneva and north of the Jura Mountains.

To read the actual paper, there’s a link on the first post about it. I’m just summing up most of it because it is so invaluable for all those who honor the Germanic deities.

 

Bibliography

Bálint, Csaba, Traces of Germanic mythology from the 6th-7th century Carpathian Basin based on archaeological finds. University of Copenhagen (2014)

Ellis, Hilda Roderick, M.A., PhD., THE ROAD TO HEL A Study of the Conception of the Dead in Old Norse Literature. Idunnas Press (2011)

Ellis Davidson, H. R., The Gods and Myths of Northern Europe. Penguin

The Poetic Edda, Translated with an Introduction and Explanatory Notes by Lee M. Hollander, 2nd Edition Revised, University of Texas (1962)

Snorri Sturluson, The Prose Edda, Jesse L Byock trans. Penguin Classics (2005)

Speidel, Michael P., Burgundian Gods on Sixth-Century Belt Buckles. (2010)