Celtic Festival Calender: Sirona

Sirona by Heather Awen
Sirona by Heather Awen

This is part of a series to match Celtic deities with dates on the Roman calender. After being conquered by the Roman Empire both Romans and Celts found ways to interpret the other’s religion. I would be surprised if there were no Celts who used the Roman calender this way, but even if I’m the first, it’s a convenient way to organize rituals for many important deities.

On August 5th, or almost a week after the new moon in August, Romans honored the Goddess Salus of health, safety and well being. She was given a public sacrifice on Her hill top. Originally Salus seems to have been an agricultural deity – after all, without a good harvest there is poor health and instability. Some of Her imagery comes from the Greek Goddess of health Hygieia, especially the snake She feeds. Sometimes She also holds sheaves of wheat.

Similar imagery was used to depict the popular Gaulish Goddess Sirona. Like Salus, She has a snake, to whom She sometimes feeds eggs, and may hold sheaves of wheat, or a cornucopia, or fruit. All are associated with abundance. It’s important to remember that the Celts at first were hiring Roman artisans to make their statues, so the Celtic deities were envisioned with Roman symbolism. Celtic art was not normally so naturalistic. Earlier statues of deities appear to have been wooden poles with rough carvings of genitalia and faces with glass eyes, probably wearing torcs.

Sirona is rather well known by modern Pagans as a healing Goddess. Her name is pronounced “(t)see-ROE-nah” or “thee-ROE-nah” and sometimes spelled Dirona. It comes from the word stir/dir, meaning “star.” She’s an indigenous Gaulish night time Goddess who had temple spas at hot and mineral springs. She was worshiped both on Her own and with the Gaulish healing God Grannus or the Greek healing God Apollo. Apollo, also the God of the Sun and youth, was actually adopted by the southern Gauls a couple centuries before the Roman conquest, so although the Romans also adopted the foreign cult of Apollo, everyone probably agreed that they belonged together. Sirona’s shrines were widespread in the Gaulish world.

Sirona can also be celebrated with Telesphorus in January and with Apollo or Grannus in July. (Or any day!)

Selected Bibliography

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

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

In Gratitude to Brig & How a Goddess Became a Saint

Heather Awen Photo Brig well
St Brigid’s Well somewhere in central Ireland from a windy roadtrip, copyright Heather Awen photo.

Brig saved my life once. I had been misdiagnosed with a psychiatric disorder and drugged out of my mind. In that state I married a psychologically abusive misogynist and fell apart as his control issues and lies strangled me. While on our honeymoon in Ireland I begged to Brig to cure me and give me sanity, tying a rag at Her well in Co. Clare. I’d ignored the psychologists who told me, “Heather, it’s not you, it’s your husband,” but Brig took my request seriously. Within two months he abandoned me, and a year later a rare good psychiatrist (Dr Joe Lasek) immediately said upon meeting me “You don’t have bipolar disorder. It’s ADHD. Let’s taper you off these drugs. If you weren’t hyperactive, you’d be unconscious!”

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

In Brig’s honor I made a Mexican folk Catholic style ex voto. These are art depicting a horrible situation and the Saint who saved them. Usually the person draws the ex voto themselves but some people make a living painting them. Often the pictures are of drunk men hitting women or muggers with guns with the Virgin Mary or another Saint hovering over head. The sacred art is hung in churches as proof of the divine helping mortals.

I made mine a double face, one blue and looking up crying for depression, and one orange and looking down for mania, overlapping each other. Brig took bipolar away by getting me finally to a decent doctor who removed the 10 mood stabilizers, tranquilizers, and antipsychotics and gave me Provigil instead and, much relieved, I happily fell asleep.

ex voto brighid 001
Brig ex voto by Heather Awen copyright

At the top I hung a charm of a wedding couple. I painted the bride red in blood for how suicidal I became in this nightmare of gaslighting smoke and mirrors.

A little bucket (for milk, as She is associated with the abundance of cows) held a page from Alexander Carmichael’s Carmina Gadelica Hymns and Incantations (1900) with a prayer to Saint Brid (pronounced “breed” the Scottish version of Her name). A pruned blackberry branch, a bush associated with Brigid, was attached with a red rag (clootie). I made an equal arm cross from Rowan, a tree associated with Brigid, as well. (The rowan was a gift from a friend’s farm after pruning.)

Brig isn’t the only Goddess to save my health. After 10 years of living with Lyme disease and Babesiosis, Freya cured me after I fulfilled a promise She asked for in return. And Brig’s forerunner Brigantia, based on a prayer I wrote to Her for recovery from PTSD, aided a transgender woman in a male prison in her rape recovery, as posted here.

Power & Religion: The Creation of St Brigid

From Steel Bars, Sacred Waters:

“The British Ui Bairrche and Fothairt may have created St. Brigit from the Sovereignty Goddess Brig. The Ui Bairrche tribe were related to Britain’s powerful Brigantes (the tribe of Brigantia). They and their mercenaries, the Fothairt tribe, probably brought their Goddess Brig to Leinster when they migrated. The Fothairt were not originally important in Leinster, but they had the monastery of St. Brigit, which gave them some power by the 7th century. With its obviously Pagan roots of 19 female virgin fire tenders, the monastery was on the Curragh Plain, where originally Pagan horse races and religious activities had been held.

“Even before St. Patrick arrived, Christianity had a small following in Ireland, probably from Roman British tribes settling in Leinster, or through Irish families communicating between Wales and Leinster. Eventually Ulster’s powerful, new Ui Neill dynasty aligned themselves with St. Patrick and the Roman church. Meanwhile, the Ui Bairrche and Fothairt probably brought Christianity to Leinster, which used the native St. Brigit to consolidate its Christian power.

“St. Brigit gives some insight how the newly Christian Irish still understood a Sovereignty Goddess. Unlike Patrick, she never fights Pagans or their Druids. An early hymn starts by calling her Brigit, but then changes her name to Brig when asking for her protection. When Leinster was attacked she was seen in sky, defending her land. Unlike other medieval Irish saints who fasted and renounced the pleasure of the body, Brigit prepared eight miraculous feasts. She fixed the broken chalice of a king, handing it back to him whole. These are aspects of the Sovereignty Goddess and the Pagan king-making ceremony.”

 

Selected Bibliography

Bethu Brigte (Author: unknown), https://celt.ucc.ie//published/T201002/index.html

Byrne, Francis J., Irish Kings and High-Kings. Four Courts Press (2001)

Huth, Christoph and Monika Kondziella, Textile symbolism in Early Iron Age burials, CONNECTING ELITES AND REGIONS: Perspectives on contacts, relations and differentiation during the Early Iron Age Hallstatt C period in Northwest and Central Europe, Robert Schumann & Sasja van der Vaart-Verschoof (ed.) Sidestone Press (2017)

Meyer, Kuno trans., Hail Brigit: An Old-Irish Poem on the Hill of Alenn. Dublin: Hodges, Figgs, and Co. (1912)

Smyth, Alfred P., Celtic Leinster. Mount Salus Press Ltd. (1982)

Heather Awen copyright, Brigid
St Brigid’s Well somewhere in central Ireland on a roadtrip, copyright Heather Awen photo. (Friend said “It looks like a Black Sabbath album cover” LOL)

 

Brythonic Polytheism Sacred Space & Shrine Direction

When researching for Steel Bars, Sacred Waters, I noticed that in Celtic Roman Britain the temples were all built with a southwest entrance. Future research may of course find others with a different orientation, but this is a large, consistent pattern and obviously not random. This seemed to have important implications for Brythonic polytheists, and perhaps other Celtic Reconstructionists. In the book I didn’t have time or space to delve deeper into this, but hoped those who read it would notice and put the information in context with current, fashionable theories about how the Celts adapted to Roman religion. Here I bring the ideas together and perhaps may add something to the practice of Celtic Reconstructionists. (If you have read Steel Bars, Sacred Waters, then you know much of this, often in greater detail, but the orientation of Brythonic polytheist ritual space was never “spelled out” directly.)

The Romans did not just appear and take over the local religious cults. They had uprisings, political intrigue and road building keeping them busy. Except for the Roman Civic Cult that united all Roman citizens, the Romans didn’t really get involved with the local religion. The stone statues of Celtic deities look like Roman deities because Roman craftsmen were hired to make them. (As Thracian artisans put animal designs on most art, the importance of the cauldron image most Pagans use for Cernunnos – and from that image of him surrounded by animals have wrongfully named him “Lord of the Animals” – should be carefully reviewed. The many Celtic images of him with the snake are a better way to study him. All the Celtic deities on the famous cauldron have animals surrounding them!)

In one British region a Celtic God may have been associated with Mars, in another with Mercury. This is true in Gaul and Iberia as well. Celts seem to have often made that choice, not Romans. Or, based on different Celtic ideas about the same deity, Romans in different regions choose the Roman deity who seemed to fit best what that particular Celtic person was saying. With Celtic religion being so decentralized and tribes having their own ancestral and bioregional deities, no group of Celts was instructing the Romans. The Druids had already been destroyed, but they were not religious leaders then, as much as an educated, powerful elite in a culture that did not separate religious from secular life.

In the same spirit, there were no Roman Priests running about trying to control Celtic religion. For the most part, the Romans didn’t bring Priests with them. Much of Roman religion is actually quite bioregional to the city of Rome. What the Brythonic people learned about Roman religion came from discussions with whatever Romans they met (like a merchant, a Syrian or Gaulish soldier, or a Roman official, ranging from a tax collector to a General) and what Brythonic people who had actually been to Rome reported. This is like asking random Christians of many denominations in the world  and someone who visited Vatican City for a week on business “How do you/they do Christianity?” A Utah Mormon, Nigerian Pentecostal Christian, Scottish Presbyterian, Haitian Catholic, Greek Orthodox, etc are going to answer differently, not only because the form of orthopraxy (how you do religion) is different, but because each person has a different level of official education and training.

Due to this, Celts in different regions learned different parts of Roman religion and mythology, just like southern Gauls did centuries earlier with Greece. Those Gauls were not conquered by Greece and maintained their independence. They just saw the Greeks had some good ideas and powerful deities they included in their culture, like Apollo, sometimes Hermes, which may explain the ease in which the Gauls later took to Mercury. During the start of the Roman occupation, it was obviously much more traumatic, with war and chaos everywhere, and freedoms lost. The Celtic people were struggling with where they fit into the new world. A new political structure was forced upon them, but it did not directly affect the native religion. The ideas about religion, especially the Civic Cult, were suddenly available and the Celtic people had a tendency like any other people to love imported goods. (Like the Swedish woman buried in the 10th century with many luxury items, including a statue of the Buddha. Did she know anything about the Buddha? Probably not, except he was a rare foreign item, thus showing her wealth and status.)

At least in the beginning, Celtic leaders were making choices about what from Rome would be paid for and included in their own tribe’s religion. A Gaulish merchant in the new Roman Empire may have commissioned a large statue of Mercury, thus creating the religious center of a local Celtic Mercury cult – whatever that looked like! These local “mish mash” cults were one important way Celtic people were choosing what from Roman religion to incorporate. Celtic cultures seem to have always been flexible and open to considering changes, within reason. An important example is art. They were always introducing different art styles into theirs, and art until recently was always religious. The Southern Gauls adoption of Apollo and Hermes/Mercury show that the Celts were never against the deities of other cultures.

At the same time, a new cult of the Hero Ancestor with self-consciously Brythonic Iron Age religious elements briefly appeared. Folly’s Lane, described in the book, is a wonderful example of how Brythonic religion changed over the years of Roman occupation.

Three generations later, Britons probably had a better understanding of Roman religion, as it developed where they lived. Temple theaters produced Greek and Roman plays that focused on mythology, and scholars and merchants learned Latin. Gradually, the Brythonic people, especially in the southern areas of Britain, began to think more like citizens of Rome. Ideas long accepted by Gauls such as cities are for living, not just trade, never really were accepted and of course the Brythonic languages continued. As language contains a way of thinking that can’t ever be easily translated, Celtic concepts stayed alive with phrases and also traditional folk tales.

For some, especially in the northern parts of what we call England, life, including religion, probably didn’t change very much aside from who collected their taxes. Hadrian’s Wall, where many Gaulish and German soldiers were stationed had several temples and gives us many names of Gaulish and German deities, was in that area. When not fighting natives or trying to stop their cattle raids, these soldiers traded with the locals, sometimes even marrying them. (That was not formally allowed but we have records of a Syrian solider marrying a British woman. Obviously no xenophobia.) So, even in remote areas there still was interaction, which much of Briton came to economically depend upon for survival. When goods are traded, so are ideas.

Some may say “The Romans killed the remaining Druids because they were so powerful.” That’s true, but let’s remember what the organized Iron Age Druids did. Those Druids were far more than Priests. Remember that they were the PhD elite who guided society, including the Kings. Judges, historians, astronomers, mathematicians, political advisors and much more, the term wasn’t specifically about magic until medieval Irish law and other writing like the Mythological, Ulster and Heroic cycles centuries after any organized Celtic Pagan religion existed. (The Anglo-Saxons took to word Druid and made it their word for sorcerer, the common meaning at that time in Ireland.) The Romans were dealing with political leaders who would not comply with Roman rule, and Druids were part of that political resistance. Many Celtic leaders did comply, happy to have a strong ally against enemies like other Celtic tribes. (Germanic tribes sometimes did the same.)

As all this kept the Romans very busy in Britain, a lot of the religion seems to have been brought over by Gaulish soldiers. The two cultures, plus the Celto-Germanic Belgae territory, had been trading goods and ideas for some time before the Roman invasion, but these deities were brought specifically by Gaulish Roman warriors. To say that Britons worshipped Maponos is not exactly true. Maponos was worshipped by Gaulish soldiers stationed at Hadrian’s Wall. This is something that Brythonic polytheists need to consider. For example there is nothing Celtic about the design of the temple at Bath for Sulis Minerva. Some scholars believe that her name is a reference to Athena as “The Eye of Minerva” and whatever original deity was worshipped there (if any) has been long forgotten. Because the local people adopted the Classical curse tablets to Sulis in such large numbers, while the Romans did not, we know she at the least became important to the Britons. Their changes to the curse tablet structure (all of this is covered in Steel Bars, Sacred Waters) give a fine example of Celtic people making new Roman ideas fit a Celtic cosmology. The Celtic British temples that have been discovered that were native without any known outside influence (although we can be sure new ideas did spread) have no names of deities.

As the Britons were hiring Romans to build temples, it’s odd that they don’t have the doors where they’d be in Rome. Depending on the type of temple, Roman temples had different orientations. In Indo-European religions the deities (“shining Celestial ones”) are in or come from the East, so we face East to welcome them. Statues of them look at us, facing West. If you watch the sun and night sky, all the lights in the Heavens appear over the Eastern horizon, moving across the sky in a Southern half circle, with all of them setting in the West. This changes in different linguistic “daughters” of proto-Indo-European culture, but generally is still found as a rather common orientation for temples and ritual  movement. Deities about death or the Underworld often have a different orientation.

All  the Celtic temples found in Britain have the person enter from the Southwest, facing the Northeast side of the temple. They  already had the usual porch circling the temple, like in Gaul, for walking/dancing the typical ritual circle around the holy object, so we can safely assume that at the heart of the ritual – going face -to- face with the deities – Britons were used to facing them looking Northeast. After all, they paid for these temples. As walking the Celtic circle(s) around the sacred space would have occurred before entering the temple, there’s no reason to assume they did any other movements when in the temple where the deity statues were kept.

I believe other Celtic peoples may have used the same ritual layout. As the Gaulish soldiers were an important part of the stone religious remains that have been uncovered, at least some probably were used to this orientation. Ireland was never cut off from Britain. Roman coins found at Newgrange show that even then Ireland already had a tourism industry. The Irish also were raiding and settling the coasts of Wales and the Gaelic speaking Dal Riada kingdom straddled eastern Ulster and western Scotland. Irish people in Wales probably were the first to bring Christianity to Ireland. And for a thousand years a trade route with similar art, tomb design and language, possibly proto-Celtic, culture connected Ireland with Britain and the Atlantic coast of Europe. There’s a 6th century BCE inscription to the pan-Celtic God Lug written in Phoenician script in southern Portugal. The Celts in Iberia may have also faced Northeast in ritual.

I propose that when setting up a Celtic shrine, especially to deities known to be worshipped in Britain, that it be in the Northeast, facing Southwest. That way when you approach it, you are facing Northeast.

This gives us a framework for Celtic ritual movement and shrine layout:

1. Circle the sacred space if possible. (As the sunwise/ clockwise direction is so common in Celtic ritual acts for thousands of years, that would be the correct direction.) Whether walking in a meditative state or dancing, there probably was the sort of ritual droning music as described in Steel Bars, Sacred Waters.

2. Everyone enter the interior space from the Southwest and face the shrine, which would be in the Northeast.

Every bit we recover is a priceless connection to the cosmology of our religion. I hope this helps others in their religious relationships with the deities.

Contributors to Steel Bars, Sacred Waters

ACelticTreeOfLife (1)
A Celtic Tree of Life by Gerald Gibbons

These wonderful people contributed the writing and art that made this book so fantastic. Visit their other writing and art at their websites!

Writers

Artists

 

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Heather Awen (in malaria recovery) with Steel Bars, Sacred Waters.

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.”

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