Excerpts from Steel Bars, Sacred Waters

Replica of Belgae house

by Heather Awen:

“Proto-Celtic *soito meaning “sorcery” is a Celto-Germanic word. Its proto-German equivalent *seida became Old Norse seidR. Both words stem from a proto-Indo-European word meaning “string, rope” and in other Indo-European languages it keeps that meaning. Only in the Celtic and Germanic languages did it become sorcery, so we can guess that binding things with string or tying knots is a magical tradition that could go back 4,000 years.”

“The ritual uses another Scottish greeting for the new moon in the core practice. When reading or saying it, imagine everyone you love having this same moon shining on them. The Queen of the Night provides light for the poor, so visualize it guiding, blessing and protecting everyone who is suffering. Include yourself as an act of self compassion. You could include a white candle and/or white or silver new crescent moon.

Glory to thee forever
Thou bright moon, this night;
Thyself art ever
The glorious lamp of the poor.
Queen of the night.” ”

“King Gwenddolau ap Ceidio in Cumbria was a Pagan whose Druid was Myrddin. (Read the entry on Myrddin.) In the summer of 573 they would have marched by the Pagan shrines at an abandoned Roman fort, heading to the battle of Arderydd. Their enemy was the Christian King Peredur ap Elifer who ruled Ebrauc (and possibly Deifr (“Land of Rivers”) which would become the Anglian kingdom Deira). During the battle 300 men died, including Gwenddolau. Myrddin was driven mad. Not only had he killed his sister’s son, his sister was married to the powerful Rhydderch of Alt Clut. Myrddin disappeared into the woods.

“To the south was the kingdom of Rheged with the old Roman city Carlisle. The lands of the Novantae, the Anavionenses and the Carvetii formed the three major regions of Rheged. In the late 6th century Rheged was still trading for Mediterranean luxury goods and its king was the most powerful of the Men of the Old North. Called the Lord of Luguvalium, King Urien’s name comes from urbgen “born in the city.” Urien was one of Y Bedydd, the Baptized. The mother of his heroic son Owain is the Goddess Modron. (Read the entry about Modron.)”

“Every thought, every movement, every event – they’re all vibration, all part of The Song. Remember how everything is interconnected. This is a symphony with billions and billions of musicians from faraway galaxies to the mitochondria in your body’s cells. The sun’s song is reflected by the moon. The moon’s song gave the Earth a slower day, more stable weather and tides that move the oceans. From the ocean, water rises into clouds and rain falls on the land. The trees grow and hold on to the fertile topsoil. The trees communicate underground through the “Wood Wide Web,” their roots sending chemical messages to other trees and plants.

“Animals breathe in the oxygen a green plant releases. We return the gift to them, exhaling the carbon dioxide they need. Sometimes I look at a plant and exhale thinking “red.” Red, the color of my blood. It is a gift of love, acknowledging we need each other. I inhale with the thought “green,” feasting on the results of chlorophyll. Back and forth we exchange The Song of life. You can do this through a window or holding the image of any nearby plants outside. If you cannot see grass or shrubbery outside or find visualization difficult, hold the intention of plants in your mind.”

Belinos, Belenos “bright, dazzling”
Pronounced: “beh-LEY-noss” “BEY-leh-noss”

“Belinos was a widely popular God in Gaul, northern Italy, the Alps, and Slovakia. Belinos was possibly worshiped by more Celtic peoples than any other deity. Sometimes he is shown with a female figure thought to be the Goddess Belisama. In Slovakia there was still a cult to a God named Belin in the 19th century. An ancient stone carving depicted two human forms with lines radiating from their heads. The Slavic people called it Belin, “the rock,” or “triple faced,” showing that some version of the much-loved Celtic deity, probably merged with other influences, survived that long.

“Belinos was especially popular in northeastern Gaul, Austria, and farther east. Worship of him has not been found in Britian, but “the King of the Britons” was Cynobellini, a name that contains beli and appears on coins. Belinos’ name is also found in some place and personal names, like the second half of Llewellyn (probably “Lugus-Belinos”). Belinos appears to be a solar God, but Celtic Gods are usually wise, generous, brave defenders and healers, skilled in every art, and all-round perfect chieftains. They are whatever is needed to help their tribe/worshipers: warriors are poets; kings are shoe-makers.

“It’s currently believed that Belinos became confused by scholars with a Celtic name for the Greek/Roman God Apollo, Belenos. We only know Belenos from the northestern Italian city of Aquileia. Belinos was also worshipped there, but like everywhere in the Celtic world, Belinos was never named with Apollo in any inscription or shrine. In modern times scholars began “correcting” Belinos to the wrong name Belenos. Reviews of the original evidence very recently found the mistake. We can expect more accurate information about deities as Celtic studies continue. If someone has a strong relationship with Belenos, they may be worshiping Apollo by his Celtic name. Apollo’s cult began in southern Gaul during the 5th century BCE, making him a regional Celtic deity.”

“The Tuatha De Danann meet the Fir Bolg, Fir Gálioin and Fir Domnann, which may actually be historical tribes coming from Gaul or Britain: the Belgae, the Laigin and Dumnonii. (Dumnonii means “People of the deity of the deep or earth,” with Domnu sometimes considered a Goddess of deep waters or soil – the Celtic Otherworld.)”

“The ancestor cult involving horses was a pre-Roman Celtic religion for a long time…. To bond a Celtic Pagan group, members can bring a human head or skull object that represents their own ancestors. Heads might show range of styles: Day of the Dead skulls, old ceramic doll heads, abstracted skulls carved into wood, papier-mache heads, rocks that appear to have faces, etc. A tall, narrow shelving unit for the heads can serve as the pillar. Paintings, drawings, photographs, or statues of horses, the guides, go around the pillar. Perhaps decorate with colorful striped or plaid fabrics, organic if possible. (Even at Hallstatt the Celts were excellent weavers, and Celtic cloaks later became expensive luxury items in the Roman Empire.) During the ritual offerings to the group’s ancestors need to be made, like metal, ceramic or glass jewelry and art, handwoven fabric, daggers, small cauldrons of honeyed ale or butter, and poetry, songs or stories about them. Enjoy a feast on wooden, ceramic or recycled paper plates and be certain to break, bend or tear all the dishes and utensils before burying them.”

“This new proto-Fennic word became the root of Celtic words for pigs and boars, including the Gaulish swine God Moccus. The Celtic cult animal the boar probably came with the word. In the Mabinogi’s oldest tale, Culhwch and Olwen, the name Culhwch directly comes from that word for pig, while his father’s name, Cilydd, directly descends from a Balto-Fennic word for boar. The boar and pig appear in medieval mythology and much earlier Celtic art. Boar were the second most popular animal on battle horns and helmets, with birds being first. A Celtic man buried in the Balkans wearing a robe with boar tusks hanging as the fringe is thought to have been a priest.”

“Imagine Tailtiu, a tall and muscular woman with a bronze tan and sun-streaked hair. She is large and sturdy, like a giant, with shapely hips and breasts. Meditate on her love and power shining to you. If you grew up in farmland, remember what you can of the crops growing taller. If you or someone else you grew up with had a garden try to recall seeing the different vines and leaves. Think of all of the good meals you have ever had and thank her. Feel her immense wealth. All that you’ve eaten came from her. The crops grown to feed the animals came from her fields. Recognize how sacred she is. Even if your feast is not what you would choose, she is still here, and there are other meals to come. Thank her many times for without her you never would have grown or even had a body. You may have come from the womb of one mother, but Tailtiu is the foster-mother who gives you every meal.”

stag for heather
Stag by Alexandra Rena

“Obviously the Celtic Pagans never felt that the two were at odds. There was no choice between deities and community, because the deities (and ancestors and land spirits) are part of Pagan community. The deities are devoted to the community and they know better than us alone how to take care of it. Whatever humans need for a healthy, happy, safe life, the deities want us to have. Health care. Freedom of religion. Protection from violence. Arts. Education. Clean air. Friendship. Biodiversity. If you are devoted to the deities, you are devoted to what humans need. And because humans need the environment, humans are nature, and many deities are rivers, mountains and protectors of forests, choosing between devoting your life to the deities or the environment is not even possible. Of course if you care about the deities you care about the environment.”

“You’re trying to describe Queen Maeve. Find words that start with the same sound that are related to Maeve. Queen, Connaught, killed, course, came, considering, etc. You may end up with something like:

Maeve, the Queen of Connaught came forth, considering the best course of action.
A conflict with Ulster would cause much killing.
Could she control her men?
Yes, with cunning, courage and comeliness, she could,
Yes, clever Maeve could.

“You can make offerings for the deities with papier-mâché or beaded jewelry. The Celtic people made beautiful, multicolored glass beads, often with dot or eye designs on them. They usually broke their offerings, including the dishes used at feasts, so they’d be sacred. The words sacrifice and sacred are related. In Indo-European languages there’s often a difference between holy and sacred. Something sacred is just for the deities and other honored spirits. It’s not for mortal use, so it’s killed, set aside or broken so mortals cannot enjoy it…. If you make something for a deity, you do not have to break it. You can just put it on the shrine, so it is theirs. Make sure you do not use it. You already gave it away…. And do not worry about not being able to make swords and fancy glass beads. Celtic people made sacrifices of everyday items like cooking pots and hair pins, not just swords and jewelry. They just never used the sacrifice again because it is sacred, belonging to the deities.”

“Worshipping the Irish deities we know about from Christian monks, deities spread across the island, is certainly not Folkish. Why would a tribe in Munster worship Boann? Would they know of Macha or the Morrigan or Lugh? … A Gaelic polytheist worshipping the modern pantheon of Tuatha De Danann would seem Universalist to a Gaelic Pagan 2,300 years ago.”

“If you have history of trauma (and just being in prison could cause that), it can help to try a different breath. When we hold our breath in, this can stimulate a fear response. I would suggest anyone with PTSD or severe anxiety to not hold after they inhale. Instead you would have a cycle like this: “Inhale slowly for the count of four, exhale slowly for the count of six, hold for the count of four and repeat.”…. Being able to physiologically control your fight, flight or freeze system is powerful magic that most people would benefit from learning. You’re stopping a flood of hormones so you can stay present and keep your wits about you.”

“Truth, knowledge and nature still illuminate the darkness. However, we’re in a different time and society. The truths that people struggle with today are different. The knowledge we need is different. The planet of which we are a part is different. All three of those new problems are of course connected. Celtic Paganism, including Celtic Reconstructionist Paganism, is not about pretending we’re in another time and place. We’re not dressing up playing make believe about a fictional better past. That’s not how the ancient Celtic Pagans thought or lived. They were always changing, adapting to meet the here and now. Learning new truths about nature was the Druid’s goal. We are traditional. We’re just not stagnant.”

Book open, showing art by Guy Gondron and Alexandra Rena. Quarters are to show the book’s large size.

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