Epona, Macha, Rhiannon & the Horse, Head & Hero Cult

Album_Caranda_par_Moreau_37434
Epona from the Album Caranda per Moreau

For Epona’s Day, I’m sharing quite a bit from Steel Bars, Sacred Waters. If you would like information about the widely popular Dies Equeunu/ the Alci, Celtic funeral practices, to read the beautiful Epona ritual by Viducus Brigantici filius and learn more about the Folly Lane complex, check out the book. It’s less expensive here and all the profits go to sending copies to prisoners! Thank you!

Heads, Horses and Heroes: the Ancestor Cult

The Celtic Bronze and Iron Age religions focused a lot on death and rebirth. A stag cult with antlers probably symbolized the natural, never-ending cycle of life of everything. Roman records say that Gaulish Druids taught that after death comes rebirth in the Ancestor Paradise and then perhaps human reincarnation, continuing until everything is destroyed in fire and water. There is also a cult of important tribal ancestors.

In Southern Gaul life-sized statues of men in geometric-design armor sitting cross-legged on the ground began being made in the 7th century BCE. Over the next few centuries they became more realistic looking. They often sat in a row. Similar statues of at least four women were also recovered. Many scholars believe these statues depicted actual heroes or politically important ancestors.

As the Southern Gauls built oppida (walled urban centers usually on high land), they often included Greek columns, the ancestor-hero statues, along with images of horses and human heads. Space to display human skulls was included. Sometimes this shrine stood at the gates; at other places it was in the public center. The human head was a large part of the native Celtic religion.

Art of horses with pillars of male human heads were part of Celtic religion since the Bronze Age and into the Iron Age transition. Horses may have been guides home to the Ancestor Realm. Epona had a funerary aspect and it is the horse of Gwyn ap Nudd that is anxious to get the fallen heroes on the battlefield.

These seated warrior statues (often old and moved from another place), horse art, pillar and skull shrines were a central part of these Gaulish communities. The nobles kept the embalmed heads or skulls of their own deceased ancestors there. By displaying their own ancestors’ heads with the real or mythical ancestor of the community, they showed that they were the rightful heirs.

This cult was abandoned in the late Iron Age. Gaulish tribes migrated east and dynasties fought. The ancestor-hero statues were all destroyed, probably by rival Gauls. Later, the Roman Empire would not tolerate cults of tribal ancestors, because they kept Gaulish people from viewing themselves politically as Roman citizens. Some oppida probably were named after ancestor heroes which we assume are deities.

Continuing the Hero and Horse Cult Today

The ancestor cult involving horses was a pre-Roman Celtic religion for a long time. We can replicate the horse and head shrine, including images of our own dead heroes, those people who influenced us or had virtues or skills we desire and respect. At the horse and head shrine we can make offerings and pray for guidance from our heroines and heroes; serve others as a spirit worker communicating with ancestors; meditate on the mysteries of death and rebirth; or worship deities associated with those mysteries like Epona, Ataegina, Erecura, Gwyn ap Nudd, Arawn, Cernunnos, Sucellos, Nantosuelta, etc.

To bond a Celtic Pagan Circle, 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, abstract 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 organic colorful striped or plaid fabrics, made from linen or wool if possible. (Even at Hallstatt the Celts were excellent weavers, the northwestern Iberian Celts invented new patterns used today, and Celtic cloaks from Britain became expensive luxury items in the Roman Empire.)

During a group ancestors ritual it’s important to make offerings like metal, ceramic or glass jewelry and art, handwoven fabric, daggers, small cauldrons of honeyed ale or grass fed butter (Kerry Gold butter is often with the fancy cheese in American grocery stores), and poetry, songs or stories about them. In Gaul offerings to the dead were often wrapped in expensive fabrics. The designs on metal are thought to originate from fabric. If you can knit with organic yarn (there’s cotton for vegans) or string glass beads into wildly colorful necklaces, you have perfect offerings!

In southwest Britain a point was made to destroy all the items used in a heroic ancestor feast, as seen in the Folly’s Lane complex. Enjoy a feast on wooden, ceramic or recycled paper plates and be certain the break, bend or tear all the dishes and utensils before burying them. You can find some beautiful inexpensive plates and bowls at second-hand shops. Do not use plastic, as it adds endocrine disruptors to the water supply.

Whenever the group meets, the shrine should be presented with offerings with feasts held when the year changes in November and May (and the night of June 23rd or daytime June 24th if you follow a Welsh tradition). New members can add their ancestor skull then. Leaving members should take theirs, unless they contributed a lot and still want to be remembered. (If the person or group cannot decide, use divination.)

Sometimes communities form around the values or skills of a common hero, dead or mythical. Marxists have Marx while Buddhists have the Buddha. The ancestor-hero joins people together. Humans are wired by evolution to want to belong. Cooperation, communication and collaboration has allowed us to survive and it’s a genetic desire to “fit in” and have a group home. Even if people do not share recent common ancestors, they can find a home with symbolic ancestors who represent the community’s virtues.

I once had a large mobile of Social Justice ancestors including Dorothy Day, Joe Strummer, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Malcolm X, Harriet Tubman, Oscar Wilde, Bob Marley, Paula Allen Gunn, Dr Rev Martin Luther King Jr, Joe Hill, and a long list of farmers in Asia, radicals in England like the Diggers, lots of people from Central America and Haiti, early feminists, indigenous leaders, deep ecologists and slaves who led rebellions or were maroons, among others. It was the focus of a Samhain ritual I led in Sojourner Truth Park on the Hudson River. We called on hundreds of ancestors for support, guidance, wisdom and courage.

Although our culture has a genre of storytelling called “magical realism,” it is unknown in indigenous cultures. Magical realism is simply reality in traditional stories. The Celtic peoples accepted shapeshifting and monsters in their ancestor-hero stories. The Gauls were great followers of the Greek hero demi-God Hercules and the Gaelic tradition continued with Cu Chulainn and Fionn mac Cumail. Characters from books and movies are possible ancestor-heroes just as much as “real” dead people.

For many of us, especially women, environmentalists, people with disabilities and polytheists, that’s good news, because there are not very many well-known, dead people who probably share our vision for the future. We’re being the ancestors who are needed now. How many female polytheist, animist, ecologically minded, creative, disabled, NeuroDiverse, courageous, honest, generous, intersectional feminist Solutionaries have passed over who left impressive legacies for me to honor? Not a lot, but there are many people who shaped the world so someone like me may proudly exist. I can honor them as well as the characters in the comic books, mythology and sci fi/fantasy novels I devoured as a child who also helped me form my values.

A Few Important Celtic Horse Goddesses

Epona “Divine Mare” Pronounced: EP-oh-nah

Epona is the protector of horses, ponies, mules and donkeys. She probably began as a native Celtic Goddess, but she also became a Goddess of the Roman cavalry whose worship spread among Gaulish, Germanic, and Illyrian horsemen. The earliest statues of Epona are found in Italy, Romania, England and Bulgaria. Later She appears in Gaul, especially northern, central and eastern Gaul. Epona is the protector of the Roman Imperial Horse Guard. Associated with many Roman deities, She is also linked to the Germanic Goddesses of the parade ground, the Campestres. Many works of art and inscriptions to Her are from outlying posts of the Roman Empire, especially at the well defended borders of Western Europe.

In Gaul, statues of Epona usually depict Her riding sidesaddle or walking with a horse usually to the right (sun wise), holding offerings of baskets of fruit or a cornucopia. Imperial statues show her seated facing forward between two horses who look at Her or eat apples or wheat. The Romans mass produced cult items. Statues of Epona were made from molds out of bronze, or the less expensive pipe clay. They were often kept in stables and barns and decorated with fresh roses. Epona was also very popular with the farming and mining Celtiberians in the mountains of northeastern Spain. To the Gauls, She appears to be associated with abundance (owning horses was a sign of wealth), while in Rome Her cult was strong with the cavalry and their family members who honored Her as their patron. Some images suggest She led the dead to the Afterlife. A rustic Italian calendar marks December 18 as Epona’s Day, but if anywhere else used that festival date is unknown.

Rhiannon “Great Queen” Pronounced: Hree-ANN-on

In the Mabinogi, Rhiannon is associated with sovereignty, horses, birds and being the wronged wife. Unlike the traditional women of Welsh medieval society, Rhiannon boldly chooses and courts Pwyll, King of Dyfed (pronounced Duv-ed) herself.

Pwyll (pronounced Pooy-ll) is now also called the King of Annwn, perhaps hinting at an earlier belief in His divinity. He purposely sits on an Otherworldly mound named Gorsedd Arberth where a noble will either be attacked or have a vision. Pwyll sees Rhiannon riding side saddle on a pale horse. She is so beautiful dressed in gold (perhaps a solar symbol) that even with a veil over Her face, He’s determined to meet Her. None of His men can catch Her, so Pwyll rides out himself. Her horse walks slowly and yet he can’t reach Her. Finally He calls for Her to stop. Boldly showing Her face (scandalous behavior when the Mabinogi  was written), She makes the witty reply it would have been better for him and his horse if he’d just asked in the first place.

This is an important lesson about the Sovereignty Goddess. You cannot catch Her; you must ask Her to stop. She follows Her will. The Gaelic Aine is a good example.

Rhiannon explains that Her father has promised Her to another man named Gwawl but She wants to marry Pwyll. Pwyll doesn’t handle the fiancé situation very wisely, much to Her frustration. However, due to Her plan, they are married.

When Her child is born on May 1st (Calan Mai), He is mysteriously stolen and She is falsely accused of killing Her baby. As punishment, She is forced to carry people up and down the hill to the palace like a horse while telling them Her sad tale. (This is the popular French court theme “The Wronged Wife” which is added to Branwen’s legend as well.)

Meanwhile, elsewhere in Dyfed, a man who lost a foal every May 1st to a monster, waited in his barn to stop the theft. Much to his surprise, a male infant mysteriously appeared as he protected the newborn foal. (This is probably from the famous Celtic version of the Indo-European young horse brother Gods, the Alci and Dies Equeunu. The earliest myths about Irish hero demi-God Cu Chulainn have Him born with a colt, too.)

This man (whose name is related to “thunder” and Taranus) and his wife raise this remarkable child as their own while Rhiannon continues her punishment. After seven years watching the boy excel at an astounding rate, the kind foster-family bring Her son to the King, recognizing they must be related. She named Her son Pryderi (pronounced Prud-ERRY), meaning “anxiety” or “care” when she announced that her “pryderi” has been returned to Her.

Eventually Pwyll dies in battle and Rhiannon is widowed. She is courted by Manawydan, the rightful King of Britain who is wise and respected. While She had to be sharp tongued with Pwyll, Manawydan enjoys Her keen wit. Their marriage goes well until Rhiannon and Her son are captured and imprisoned by allies of the rejected suitor of her youth. Manawydan smartly negotiates their release and the tale ends happily.

Her name may come from Rigantona, a Celtic Goddess whose name is either “Great Queen” or “Divine Queen.”

The Mabinogi used many popular medieval folk tale themes that were popular with French and other nobles. Celtic deity names, often very similar to those in the Irish Mythological Cycle, are found throughout the Mabinogi but the context may be wrong. However, Rhiannon breaks many rules for women in that time period, especially by choosing Her own husband, speaking directly and showing Her face, which link Her to Gaelic horse Goddesses Macha, the Morrigan and Aine.

Macha Pronunciation: MAH-kuh

“The remarkable, spirited one unbound, Loosened the hair on top of her head. Without a fierce shout driving her, She came to the racing, to the games… Though swift the horses of the chief, Among the tribes strongly apportioned, The woman was swifter, without effort; The horses of the king were too slow.” – From The Metrical Dindshenchas (place lore)

Probably the oldest of the Horse Goddesses, Macha is an important Goddess of Sovereignty, especially of Ulster. Her many roles show her ageless power. There are four mythological women or Goddesses named Macha in Irish literature. Emain Macha (pronounced EH-vin MA-cha), a real place where the ruler of Ulster lived, is named for Her. Horses and crows and ravens are Her symbols, much like Her sisters the Morrigan and Badb. The three Goddesses worked magic together against the Fir Bolg. The severed heads of the Fir Bolg were called Macha’s acorn crop. Macha was Nuada’s wife when two were killed in the Second Battle of Moytura by Balor‘s deathly eye. Macha doesn’t stay dead and Nuada isn’t dead either. When composing these tales the Christian monks made everyone a mortal. 

Macha first appears as the wife of Nemed (“sacred one” or “sanctuary”). Macha and Nemed both derive from pre-Bronze Age Celto-Germanic root words, hers for horse, his to sacred groves. Nemed cleared a plain where Macha died that He named after Her. Some say she died of prophetic heartbreak, seeing how the land would be destroyed by the battles told in Tain Bo Cualigne (“The Brown Bull of Cooley”). There were Lughnasa-style festivals held at Emain Macha, the royal center of Ulster. Macha doesn’t stay dead.

Next is the story for which She’s most famous. It sets up Ulster for its lack of warriors in Tain Bo Cualigne (“The Brown Bull of Cooley”). Macha now is an Otherworldly beautiful young woman who silently enters the home of Crunnchu, a wealthy farming widower, and begins caring for the house. She cleans it in a clockwise (deiseil pronounced JEH-shel) direction before going to his bed. Crunnchu watches his land flourish as Macha grows bigger with child. Macha is a fertility and prosperity Goddess. Her husband goes to the assembly, but Macha warns him not to mention her name. Watching the King’s horses race, Crunnchu accidentally says his wife can run faster. The King wants to see this and demands that Macha come to his court. To make sure She’ll arrive, the King puts Crunnchu in prison.

Macha now is nine months pregnant. She asks to give birth first, telling the King and all assembled “A mother bore each one of you.” No one showed compassion and they threatened to kill Her husband. Macha loosened her hair and ran the race, reaching the pole before the King’s horses. Macha then gave birth to twins. (They are considered to be the Gaelic version of Dies Equeunu/ the Alci.)

With Her dying breath Macha cursed the cruel men of Ulster to be as vulnerable and weak as women in childbirth during the five days and four nights whenever they would need their strength the most. For nine generations her curse would last, causing Cu Chulainn to fight alone in Tain Bo Cualigne (“The Brown Bull of Cooley”). Her role as Sovereignty Goddess is clear – when treated well things flourish, when abused the people are cursed. Macha still refuses to stay dead.

Last Macha is Macha Mongruad or “Macha of the Red Mane.” Now She is a warrior queen who is challenged by the five sons of Dithorba. Their father wants to be King and claims that Macha is unfit because She is a woman. While the five brothers eat, She appears looking like a hag and a leper, which Gaelic Sovereignty Goddesses often do to test men. Still they desire her. She lures them one at a time into the woods and has sex with each. Macha forces them to build the rath (a circular earthen enclosure) that today is still named Emain Macha. Emain Macha means the twins of Macha. Her tomb is in Armagh (Ard Macha) on the top of a tall hill. But she’s still not dead.

August 1st Ritual for Macha

Lughnasa-type festivities occurred at Emain Macha in late July and early August. If you feel a connection to Macha or Ulster, make Her the focus of your first fruits ritual.

 

Bibliography

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

Daimler, Morgan, Pagan Portals: Irish Paganism: Reconstructing Irish Polytheism. Moon Books (2015)

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)

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

Haussler, Ralph, From tomb to temple: on the role of hero cults in local religions in Gaul and Britain in the Iron Age and the Roman period, Celtic Religion Across Time and Space, Junta de Comunidades de Castilla-La Mancha (2010)

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

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

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

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

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

Viducus Brigantici filius, Deo Mercurio, http://www.deomercurio.be/en/

Celtic Festival of Aine

Aine “shining” Pronounced: AWN-yuh

“She was, and perhaps still is, worshipped on Midsummer Eve by the peasantry, who carried torches of hay and straw, tied on poles and lighted, round her hill at night. Afterwards they dispersed themselves among their cultivated fields and pastures, waving the torches over the crops and the cattle to bring luck and increase for the following year.” – T. W. Rolleston, Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race (1911)

Aine is often considered the Gaelic Goddess of the summer sun. According to Lebor Gabála Érenn (pronounced LEV-ar GA-vah-la ER-inn, in English “The Book of the Taking of Ireland”) Her father is the Dagda and Brigid is Her sister. Other sources say She is the daughter or wife of Manannan Mac Lir or the daughter of Egobail and has sisters named Aillen and Fennen.

However, mythology and folklore tell us that She is much more. Living in a hill like the other Tuatha De Danann, She resides in Limerick within Cnoc Aine (also called Knockainey), seven miles from Cnoc Greine (“Hill of Grian, Hill of the sun”). Grain may be another aspect of Aine or her sister. Some modern Gaelic polytheists believe Aine is the bright summer sun an ghrian mhór and Grain is the pale winter sun an ghrian bheag. The Gaels divided the year into the light half and the dark half, so it fits the cosmology even if there’s no evidence to support the belief.

Although Grain and Grainne mean different things, Grian may have parts of Her mythology hidden in the typical, medieval European love triangle of a young woman, the older king whom she is to marry and the beautiful young man loyal to the king that she loves. The 16th century Tóraigheacht Dhiarmada agus Ghráinne (The Pursuit of Diarmuid and Gráinne) from the Fenian Cycle may contain parts from the 10th century. Ageing Fianna leader Fionn mac Cumhaill is set to marry Grainne, the beautiful daughter of the High King of Ireland Cormac mac Airt against her wishes. It becomes a love triangle when Grainne decides she wants the best Fianna warrior, Diarmuid Ua Duibhne, the foster son of God Aengus mac Og. The solar connection is that the chase for Grainne and Diarmuid lasted one year and a day. Every night they slept in a different cave, like the sun hiding at night. Aside from deities’ help, the solar year and the caves, it was a very popular story in Europe, and Ireland has a few versions.

Aine still was honored with a fire rite to bless the fertility of the land in the mid-19th century. Her heat could bless or scorch the fields and She was called upon for prosperity and protection of the cattle and crops. Aine was sometimes honored on Midsummer’s Eve, June 24. The sun appears to be stopped in the sky during the three days of a solstice, so many cultures celebrate when the sun begins to move again. This is usually December 25 and June 24, known to Christians as Christmas and St John the Baptist Day.

Aine is also associated with the long, social festival held around August 1st, too. Most Pagans think that it is only under the name Lughnasa which this holiday was celebrated, but in Ulster the deity honored was the 6,000 year old Celto-Germanic horse and Sovereignty Goddess Macha, in Leinster it was Brig, and around Limerick Aine is the focus.

Aine is the Sovereignty Goddess of Munster, the southern province of Ireland, and the divine ancestor of many powerful families in the region. Through Aine, they found a way to claim rightful rulership of the land. Often Celtic Sovereignty Goddesses are also horse Goddesses. One of Aine’s names is Lair Derg (“Red Mare”).

In one of Aine’s legends, a King of Munster killed Her father and then raped Her. She sucked the flesh off of his ear and cursed him with Her magic. Thus began the battle of Magh Mucrama. Of course that king could no longer be king because Aine had blemished him. Celtic Sovereignty Goddesses will dispose of an unworthy ruler, often in brutal ways.

Later stories depict Her as a Fairy Queen who takes many mortal lovers and gave birth to several half human, half fairy children. For this reason, some modern Gaelic polytheists consider Aine a Goddess of love.

On the evening of June 24, celebrate the Festival of Aine as the regal solar Goddess. It is through Her power that all food grows. Whatever you eat, Aine was necessary for their lives. (If the plants were grown with artificial lights, they evolved under Aine’s gaze.) The food other animals ate came from the energy of the sun, too. Basically you would have no energy for growth and renewal of cells without Aine. You’d be dead.

Aine also provides the important vitamin D. When humans living far from the equator experienced the prolonged darkness of winter, they lost weight from dwindling food supplies. The fat released its stored vitamin D; otherwise people would not have had the necessary vitamin. (Evolution is amazing!)

In a time when people are choosing solar power both passive and active, Aine is Queen over these changes. Solar cookers are cheap, easy to make and rarely need to be replaced, making them very popular in sunny places. In some parts of Africa solar cookers purify water and cook meals at a price much more affordable than solar panels which break and keep people dependent on foreign aid. I remember when my parents built our far off the grid Vermont home by themselves; it was positioned to receive as much full sunlight as possible. A lot of ancient cultures built homes for passive solar heat, with the south side (in the Northern hemisphere) long and facing full sun.

There are a lot of reasons to thank Aine. In the great uncertainty of Climate Change Chaos, honoring Her may take the form of a ceremony to help farmers dealing with flood, drought, forest fires and extreme heat or unusual cold. You don’t need to be at a farm to do this. Most crops are coated in pesticides which among other problems are endocrine disruptors, so standing near a huge field of corn that might have been sprayed the day before your ritual isn’t a smart idea.

If you have a garden, including a plot at the organic community garden or pots of herbs on a patio or balcony, this could be a wonderful place for your evening rite. If you grow no food or don’t have the privacy you’d like, maybe a pleasant acquaintance with organic farm or garden would be fine with you “visualizing the growth of crops” or “celebrating the Midsummer in an old Irish way” (because Americans tend to like “Irish” and understand “visualization” better than “ritual”) at their land. A medicinal marijuana or hemp field (they don’t need pesticides) might make it more personal for some people.

A house plant is just as good if you remember what you’re celebrating: the life-giving power of the sun. Your house plant knows Aine. Through the simple meditation of exhaling to the plant so it may enjoy your carbon dioxide and inhaling mindfully the oxygen from plants, the two of you can deeply connect. If you want a visualization or mantra, think of the exhale being red and say “red” silently because your breath is connected to your blood. Inhale thinking “green” or imaging green, the magickal alchemy of photosynthesis. Of course, you could do this at the edge of a field or garden to form a relationship with the green world.

Every ceremony needs an intention. If you are involved with solar power, you might honor Aine for that reason, including if you sell solar systems. Farmers were concerned with profits as much as food in the 19th century, so Aine is not going to be offended if in your solar power rite to celebrate Her you ask for increase in customers. If you are honestly trying to get more reliant on solar power, honoring Aine’s power and asking Her for panels and batteries is appropriate. Like all magick, it just has to really be something about which you feel passionate. If you want to focus on solar energy but don’t see yourself having solar power at home (you rent or live with grey skies or in the shadows of mountains), buying batteries with a solar charger or radio that is powered by the sun is a good service offering to Aine. Each little divestment from fossil fuels does matter. Huge lifestyle changes often don’t last. But choosing a small step and asking for the deities to bless it, especially during a rite traditionally about growth, is an excellent way to sustainably make personal changes. You feel good and want to try another step towards your goal. (Most groups fall apart when instead of realistic success they focus on a building too soon.)

Your libation might be solar tea. Tea bags and water in a glass jar in the sun all afternoon make sun tea. Look online for more details. The glass jars could be empty Snapple jars from which you removed the sunlight-blocking label and washed. Used mayonnaise and pasta sauce jars usually need a good soak in water with a lot of baking soda before washing to remove the smells and tastes, so start cleaning those now. Fill with baking soda and water a few times if needed. Solar tea honors the power of Aine.

Yellow flowers are traditional in most northern European summer solstice festivals. St John’s wort is said to be strongest today. It’s a powerful plant for mild depression (internal capsules or tinctures), neurological pain (4-6 weeks of a jar filled with the plant, especially flowers, and organic olive oil sealed without air bubbles – air will cause mold – and then strained makes a massage oil for neuropathic pain) and magickal good fortune and protection. It’s often put on altars today, and then kept all year hanging with the flowers facing down as it dries. The plant has a lot of folklore. If you buy it dry, make sure that it’s a responsible, organic company that loves plants and maintains ecosystems. You want a strong life force.

Other yellow flowers can definitely be added to your altar. A bouquet may be an offering for Aine. Flowers in the hair are traditional in many places. Please never buy flowers from a florist. The flower industry uses insane levels of pesticides that go against the values of any nature-based ritual or desire for healthy reproductive organs, hormones and metabolisms of all animals including humans. I heard a MD doctor mention that the Seine River, sacred home of Sequana, is “pure estrogen by now” due to pesticide run-off from farms.

Farmers markets sometimes sell organic flowers. A Mennonite farm used to charge people $1 to pick wildflowers by their roadside pie stand. When picking any wild plant, only take 10% of plants, so if you find a field of daisies (day’s eye) or day lilies, don’t take tons. They’re genitals of plants and needed for reproduction and important to the ecosystem. (Invasive species are a different matter, but an invasive species cannot invade a healthy ecosystem. If you go through the hard work of digging up the invasive species, plant the native plants that were destroyed by “progress” including forest flowers and bushes. Fill the ecosystem gaps that allowed an invasive species in the ecosystem.)

Although fire is traditional, I wouldn’t recommend one unless in a safe fire pit. There are forest fires raging across the world and 80% of American states are in droughts. This isn’t damp, cool Ireland in June. Beeswax candles actually clean toxins from the air and make a fine Aine festival fire. Outdoors, keep the candles protected from wind and have a couple jugs of water ready. (I am a big fan of having a fire extinguisher ready at all rites involving fire.)

People moved in a circle, definitely clockwise if like all other Irish processions around hills. Then they blessed the fields of crops and cattle. You should circle the garden or around your altar clockwise, the direction the sun moves. This could be meditative, carrying a beeswax candle in a tall glass jar, or dancing. Careful dancing in the field or around your houseplant while asking for Aine to protect crops until the harvest is over – that’s a fine idea. If you are in a garden, stand in one place and dance with your torso, arms and head. You don’t want to crush a plant.

Most importantly, focus on the power of Aine and make an offering. Organic flowers, using batteries charged by the sun, sun tea, food in season like certain berries, homemade breads (the end result of the grains growing), organic dairy (She blesses the cattle) and second hand or Fair Trade yellow glass beads, second hand yellow “semi-precious” stones like sunstone, pyrite (fool’s gold) or citrine, and even jewelry or items made from gold metal are good offerings. Glass or metal charms of the sun without toxic metals like lead (pewter ingredients can be dangerous) from local artisans or an artist’s destash would also be great for decorations and offerings.

A papier mache sun is really easy since it is basically a ball shape. Old torn newspaper and glue made of flour and water (a bit of children’s white paste can be added) over crumbled newspaper in a round shape, then when very dry painted yellow (milk paints are best) is pretty basic. Adding cones of crumbled newspapers and maybe wire with masking tape can turn the ball into shining rays. Yellow fabric, especially with embroidery of solar images, would be a good altar cloth. Using corn meal or another grain you could make larger solar crosses – a circle with an equal armed cross inside. (Seeds could be a problem for a farm or garden – barley seeds and flax seeds, my regular offering, grow in 3 days where they’re scattered! You may want to grind your own or buy organic flour.)

There’s a lot of environmentally responsible ways to have Pagan rituals. Remember that the planet is very different now. What the ancients made have had a lot of, we probably don’t. Many grains are gone, along with other species in this, the 6th major extinction. We can’t afford to make mistakes they made because we know better and we live in a much more fragile situation. A sun “mosaic” of bottle caps nailed to repurposed wood from a broken chair could be beautiful and not add to factories and landfills. Although slaves were common in every agricultural society (except perhaps the Indus civilization), your rituals don’t need child labor, sweatshops and unsafe work environments. The ritual focuses on the safe growth of crops/solar energy. We don’t want the growth of sweatshops, pesticides or mining.

Rituals in general were simple. For people in our society that can sound boring or vague. Just ask yourself if your ritual ideas match the ritual’s intention. Use mind maps to gather information and brainstorm actions. Sometimes they work better than lists. (I received a letter from a prisoner who found that the mind maps instructions in Steel Bars, Sacred Waters helped them learn about deities.) I know that pesticides, human rights violations and pollution are never part of my rituals’ intentions. I can’t imagine using plastics to honor Frey, God of This World, for example. There’s no deity that could support GMOs, which destroy fertility. Offering GMO food to Ceres or Isis or Dionysus is an insult. They’d rather you make a service offering that helps or protects the fertility of the land.

Beeswax candles and organic food do cost more than petroleum product candles and pesticide coated foods, but rituals were something people took seriously. They save for them. Poor Brazilians or Haitians will save in order to get a nice offering for the Orixas or lwas. Something handmade that took time has great value. Whittle a bird or spin wool – you have a meaningful offering. For glass beads, something that ancient Celtic people highly valued, I often get destash from Etsy vendors. String them on hemp jewelry twine or the metal from an old spiral bound notebook and you have a grand offering.

The elements of this ritual – plants, sun, yellow, fire, cattle, clockwise movement in the beginning, prayers for Aine to bless and protect food, hopes for a good harvest, paying attention to the seasons, moving through fields, offering, praise and prayers for Aine – can become as creative as your imagination allows. I feel that rituals based on agriculture rites are completely changed when they become about “growing prosperity in your life” or “reaping the harvest of your personal dreams” while totally ignoring the importance of the original rite. People used magickal charms and personal divination in everyday life, so seamlessly that scholars have to rethink the difference between magick and religion. There’s nothing wrong with focusing on your needs and desires. They matter.

But the deity or ancestors or land spirits being honored matter most because they are the reason for the festival. Without Them… well, no us. Obviously no festival. And the best way to know a deity is to know Them physically. Their nature, geography, the process of those jobs of which They are patrons. Sweat and ache like the smith. Pick grapes and make wine. Milk a goat. Ride a ferry across a lake or sea. Turn off all lights and electric noise and hear the Wild Hunt. Tend a fire. Cook on a fire. Churn butter. Blow glass. Weave. Most of these things are work but without distractions you can often reach a meditative state. Many people garden for the connection to soil and life, having their bodies in motion and being calmed. Knitting and basket weaving are meditative. Tools and fire require mindfulness for safety. You can best understand a deity if you understand what They meant hundreds or thousands of years ago.

Tribal and community rituals shouldn’t be changed to meet only the needs of the individual just because our society changed in some unhealthy ways. The lie of the rugged individual who can be anything they want if they just try, the denial of the many shared concerns that connect us to people we might not like in our neighborhood and the legacies of oppression and modern bigotry – rituals from people who understood their vulnerable dependence on the land and water and sky, their vulnerable dependence on a community can help us.

We need the same things as they did and it’s important to put the most important things first in a ritual. There are deities of commerce like Mercury, the most honored deity in Roman Gaul by choice. All aspects of people’s lives were covered by the year’s rituals. To turn them into “I want this” rituals I see in most Pagan books disgusts me. The personal growth and good fortune comes from honoring the deity. Once They’re paying attention to you, your life WILL change. More often than not, it’ll be in ways that involve social justice, deep healing (including releasing lies you tell yourself) and the environment. The deities have need of us. The more we become who we honestly are, the more we are sharing the gifts They sent into the world via our birth.

Dearest Aine, Queen of summertime’s life, May everyone be protected from heat stroke, drought, flooding and wildfire and may all have plenty of healthy foods! May I be part of that!

Excerpts from Steel Bars, Sacred Waters

GallischeHoeve
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.”

IMG_20180613_204814_hdr_kindlephoto-551813585
Book open, showing art by Guy Gondron and Alexandra Rena. Quarters are to show the book’s large size.

Steel Bars, Sacred Waters: Celtic Paganism for Prisoners

testbookcover (1)
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.

Steel Bars Sacred Waters
Book with 4 quarters to show large size

Gullveig Press does not endorse any WordPress ads.