Ancient Pagan Festivals in May

Please copy this for your Pagan pen pal in prison. Make sure that you already sent the weekly and monthly guide.

The Anglo-Saxon name for May is Thrimilci which translates into “three milkings a day.” Cows enjoyed fresh grass.

May is named for Roman Goddess Maia, who was similar to Terra Mater (Mother Earth). On May 1 Maia was worshipped with the sacrifice of a pregnant sow.

Beltain is the Gaelic festival beginning the light half of the year. Cattle were moved to the summer fields, protected by the tribe’s young men. Herbs that kill ticks and parasites were tossed in bonfires for both cattle and human purification. (In the cold winter farm animals often slept in the home.) A lot happens in Welsh mythology now: Rhiannon is sighted on horseback by Her future first husband. Scottish fairy queens are especially active, perhaps as fertility spirits, so it is bad luck to marry (especially wearing green, their favorite color). Ancient British Celtic tribes made large animal sacrifices around Beltain and Samhain. A transitional time, communication with the dead and divination are easier.

In Haitian Vodou, May 1 honors Azaka Medeh. Although kind, He is suspicious of city people and fears they will steal from him. He is a rural farmer associated with agriculture and loves to eat.

On May 1 the Romans honored Bona Dea (“Good Goddess”), She who cares for women. Bona Dea particularly cares for pregnant women, whether they choose to have a baby or an abortion. Her temple garden grew medicinal herbs that healed the sick who visited. Sitting on a throne, depicted as holding a cornucopia, Bona Dea is associated with the healing snake, with consecrated snakes even living in Her temple. Her father Faunus beat Her with a myrtle stick after getting Her drunk, so never say “wine” or “myrtle” in Her presence!

The Lares Praestites (“Standby Lares”) also had a ritual May 1. The Lares are the protective household spirits; the two Lares Praestites protected the Roman state as Their home.

Lemuria was a time in early May when the terrifying, hungry ghosts (lemures) of those who died too young could return home and harm the living. The head of the family spit out black beans for the ghosts to take instead of living kin. Crashing bronze items together loudly, he’d yell, “Ghosts of my ancestors be gone!” Lemuria was very old.

May 11 is sacred to the mother of the Lares, Mania (“Good One”), who is a death Goddess. Cakes shaped like ugly humans were offered to Mania. Dolls of Mania were hung on the front door to ward off threats.

On May 14 Romans purified their city of the past year’s evil by making 30 puppets from rushes called the Argei. Citizens gathered with Priests and Vestal Virgins on a bridge over the Tiber River and threw the Argei into the water. One Priestess, her hair uncombed, grieved the puppets’ deaths.

The 15th is sacred to the hunter Orisha Ochosi who helps with court cases, justice and balance.

The Mercuralia, in honor of Mercury, Roman God of commerce and travel, was honored by merchants on May 15 (or the full moon). Mercury was incredibly popular with the Celtic Gauls in modern France, Germany and the Alps.

In Rome the last week of May focused on an ancient Italian Goddess, Fortuna Primigenia (“Bringer of Increase”), a luck Goddess. At Her temple worshipers prayed for answers then randomly chose messages inscribed on oak from a chest. Without Priestly guidance, they deciphered what the meaning of the message was.

The end of May was also the time of the ancient rural festival Ambarvalia (“Beating of the Bounds”). Any evil in a Roman farmer’s fields was purified by a procession marking the farm’s boundaries to be protected by Mars. Ceres, grain Goddess, and Bacchus, vineyard God, also received sacrifices for the continued growth of crops. Everyone including animals did not work that day. Humans abstained from sex. Ritual hand washing began the ceremony and the oxen’s horns were decorated with garlands. A bull, sow and sheep were part of the procession that circled the farm’s boundaries three times as Ceres was invited to move into the fields. Then the three animals were sacrificed.

May 29 is the festival of ancient agricultural Goddess Dea Dia, whose worship was organized by the 12 Arval Brethren (“Field Brothers”), of whom the Roman Emperor was one. Her grove had Her temple, a dining hall and a bathing complex.

Celtic Festival of Sirona – Pagan Artist Alexandra Rena

Sirona Alexandra Rena
Sirona by Alexandra Rena

On March 30 the Romans held another festival for Salus (“salvation”) who was identified with the Greek Goddess Hygieia. The snake imagery of both Goddesses was used for the Gaulish Goddess Sirona. If you wonder why snakes are such an important part of Greek and Prussian Pagan religion, the reason is that they were semi-domesticated animals that families fed as the spirit of place. For the Greeks, the monthly and daily offerings to the house snake were vital to the household religion.

Sirona has another holy day in my “What if the Celts used the Roman calendar their own way?” project. You can read all about Sirona there. It makes sense to honor the Goddess of health in the autumn and spring, when tonics for good health are taken. The changing seasons tend to bring colds, pollen allergies and the use of different muscles.

Also, I had to share Alexandra Rena’s gorgeous depiction of Sirona! Alexandra has been creating a beautiful series of Gaulish deity art which she let’s me use on this blog. She seeks to make sure that these ancient, often overlooked deities are not forgotten by creating stunning religious images. I try to do the same thing with writing. She has a background in fabric and clothing, which gives her an edge on many artists because she studies the fashion of the cultures from where all deities originated. I personally know how much research she puts into the deity and the physical culture of the deity’s first known devotees. The combination of scholarly research and artistic talent meet in a devotional polytheist’s sacred craft.

Alexandra’s available for commissions, like this powerful one of Freya. The photos of Tier, Sweden and Copenhagen are from her trip, where she graciously agreed to take my offerings with her own to deities worshiped in those areas. And Alexandra finished the mysterious computer and design work on Steel Bars, Sacred Waters when my homeboy was diagnosed with cancer. She didn’t even know me! Her friendship is my unexpected gift from doing the book.

I hope that you will look at her divine work and become a supporter. That mind blowing color art of Sumeria in the last post was from her Stone Oracle deck, which you can be part of at Patreon. Check out her black and white art of RosmertaTaranus, Epona, Abnoba and the outstanding color art of Artio!

 

Gullveig Press does not support the advertisers that WordPress puts on the blog. Buy prints and original art from Alexandra Rena instead and support your community!

Pagan Holy Days April

garnet_watermark Alexandra Rena
Garnet card (Babylonia) from the highly anticipated, well researched, in-process Stone Oracle by Alexandra Rena

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

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

On with the show!

April Pagan Holy Days

The Anglo-Saxon name for April was Eostre, whose name links Her to the east and dawn. Her name became Easter. As Easter is held on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox, it is believed that Eostre was worshiped on the full moon after the spring equinox.

Akitu, the Sumerian festival of barley and Babylonian celebration of Marduk‘s victory over Tiamat, started the new year. The new moon of the 1st Babylonian month Nisannu (April-May) began the 12 day holy time. Marduk and the other deities renew their covenant with Babylon now and promise another cycle of seasons.

Fortuna Virilis, Roman Goddess with power over women’s relationships with men, was honored April 1.

April 1 was also the Veneralia, Festival of Venus Verticordia (“Heart Turner”). Venus Verticordia turned the hearts of Roman women to be faithful wives and chaste maidens. Men and women, married or single, poor or wealthy – everyone prayed to Venus Verticordia for help involving love, sex and marriage. She maintained the gender roles and morality that Roman society expected from all women.

The Megalesia held April 4 to 6 celebrated the Goddess the Romans called Magna Mater, but originally was Cybele, the great mother from Phrygia in the Near East. The rituals began with an offering of herbs at Her temple. People held big parties, visited friends and went to the theater.

8 days before the new moon in April, Venus of Eryx was worshiped by courtesans and prostitutes. Her main temple was on the western point of Sicily in Eryx.

The 6th day of the April-May lunar cycle Athens held a purification ceremony. One woman and one man were picked to represent the adult population. Wearing garlands of figs, the couple was sacrificed on the seashore. Their burnt to ashes were scattered on the sea. In later times they were banished from Athens, symbolically taking away all evil in the city’s residents. They also were a sacrifice to Apollon, so He would not burn the crops.

The same day started the 2 day long harvest festival the Thargelia. The first day is for purification, such as fasting, bathing and abstaining from sex. The next day is Apollon‘s birthday feast of the first fruits. Artemis and the Horae (Greek Goddesses of the seasons) also received offerings from the first harvest.

During the Cerialia, April 12-19, Romans celebrated the reunion of grain Goddess Ceres (similar to Demeter) and Her daughter Proserpina. (Persephone is Her Greek name). Ovid instructs: “Ceres delights in peace; and you farmer, pray for perpetual peace and a peaceful leader. Good Ceres is content with little, if that little be but pure.” Women in white carried lit torches, like Ceres in search of Proserpina.

Fordicidia, April 15 or the full moon, is an ancient Roman fertility rite. A pregnant cow (“forda”) was sacrificed to Terra Mater, or Mother Earth. The Vestal Virgins sacrificed the unborn calf and used its ashes at the Parilia. The fields received the fertility of the cow.

On the 19th the New Orleans Saint Expedite who grants fast solutions especially in law and business and helps with overcoming obstacles to financial success is honored.

Held on April 21, the Parilia honors Pales who purifies the flocks. Ovid instructs: “Shepherd, do purify your well-fed sheep at twilight; first sprinkle the ground with water and sweep it with a broom. Deck the sheepfold with leaves and branches fastened to it; adorn the door and cover it with a long garland. Make blue smoke with pure sulphur ….when the (cakes of millet are) cut up, pray to rustic Pales, offering warm milk to her.”

On the 23rd Ogun is honored by those involved with Spiritualist Voodoo.

The ancient Roman Robigalia on April 25 honors Robiga, the spirit of mold, to protect the crops.

Walpurga’s night, April 30, is celebrated in Germany much like Halloween. Witches were said to meet on the tops of the moist remote mountains. Historically Walpurga was an Anglo-Saxon nun but She became synchronized with earlier Pagan practices. Some images of the Saint, especially in Sweden, show her holding shafts of wheat, because Walpurga is the fertility of the fields. For the last 9 days of April She runs through the forest hiding from a man who is chasing her. He may ask farmers if they have seen Walpurga. If a farmer replies no, he will be rewarded with gold by Walpurga. On May 1 Walpurga is free and brings summer to the land, much to the delight of the farmers.

On April 27, the Roman temple of Flora was dedicated, and her games and rituals lasted until May 3. “Perhaps you may think that I am queen only of dainty garlands; but my divinity has to do also with the tilled fields. Honey is my gift. ‘Tis I who call the winged creatures, which yield honey, to the violet, and the clover, and the grey thyme.” (Ovid) Flora was honored by the oldest college of Roman priests, the Arval Brethren, in their sacred grove. During a week of parties, hares and goats (animals who breed frequently) were released. Beans were scattered in the crowd as symbols of fertility. Everyone wore crowns of flowers. “When white robes are worn for Ceres’ festival, Why brightly colored clothes suitable for Flora? That is because the harvest whitens when the grain is ripe, But flowers come in a variety of colors.” (Ovid )

Festival of Roman Briton Goddess Sulis Minerva

Researching more about Sulis Minerva made it personally one of the more intriguing posts I’ve written on a scholarly, detached level. It teaches us so much about how Roman religion influenced the Britons and how much the Britons adapted Roman religion into something that made sense to their sensibilities. If you just joined the blog, here’s the link to the festival and the interesting hints about Brythonic polytheism. The Celtic ancient deities whose names we know are almost from imported Gaulish or North Italian Celtic soldiers in the Roman military. Brigantia, Domnu, Coventina, and probably Nodens are among the few native deities. Sulis Minerva? It’s more about what happened at Her temple that helps us piece together the Britons’ relationship with deities than information about from where She came.

Festival of Artio

artio_Alexandra Rena
Artio by Alexandra Rena

I started a series that imagined the conquered Celtic peoples honored their own deities associated with Roman deities on the Roman festivals for Roman deities. It’s possible that some Celts did this, as they seem to have had a lot of power in how they adopted Roman religion. Now I’m reaching to the Athens festival calendar, knowing that while the southern Gauls adopted the Greek deities Hermes and Apollo, there’s no way that they worked with the Athens calendar. However, it allows me to include other Celtic deities that otherwise don’t have modern festival dates, like the Goddess Artio.

The Athens calendar was lunar-solar and its months are explained in this post. (I’ll wait while you read that.) On the day after the March-April month’s full moon, Athens honored Artemis as protectress of the female bear. Round cakes with a lit candle in the center were offered as symbols of the moon. (For the “Gaulish Diana” click here.)

And now that we have a day to revere Her, let’s return to Artio.

640px-Muri_statuette_group_1832_Hinkender_Bote_illustration
Muri statuette group before Artio was assembled. Naria is labeled with “E”.

Artio was unknown until the only depiction of Her was found in Bern, Switzerland, with five other bronze statuettes of deities: the Roman Juno, Minvera, Jupiter and a Lare, plus the mysterious Gaulish Goddess Naria. They were probably worshipped by the river Aar at the temple of the regio Arurensis. 

The bottom of Artio‘s statuette has the inscription “To the Goddess Artio” or “Artionis”, “from Licinia Sabinilla”. The name of the devotee is Italic but common in Gaul. 

640px-The_Mythology_of_all_races_(1918)_(14763072414)
Artio after being reassembled.

Although Artio became very popular in Bern during the 19th century when the statuette was recovered, that’s not Her only place of ancient worship. Inscriptions have been recovered in Stockstadt, Weilerbach, Daun, and Hedderheim, all in Western or Central Germany.

Her name clearly links Her to bears. Beyond that, we really don’t know anything. She seems to feed the bear apples, which could allude to a forgotten myth, or the apples in Her lap are a typical Roman symbol of an abundance Goddess.

 

 

Bibliography

Mikalson, Jon D., Ancient Greek Religion, 2nd ed., Wiley-Blackwell (2010)

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

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artio (accessed February 15, 2020)

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muri_statuette_group (accessed February 15, 2020)

 

Mars & Celtic Gods Neto, Lenus, Cocidius, Rudianos & Nemetona (plus some Heathen myth skepticism)

For those of you who weren’t reading this time last year, here’s the link to the festival for a ton of Celtic deities associated with Mars. Some of Them probably were associated with Mercury, too. The imperial Roman pantheon doesn’t match well with small independent tribes’ “chieftain” God. He doesn’t really match Jupiter, the Emperor of the deities, because they didn’t have an Empire. The Kemetic, Greek and Babylonian Empires had pantheons that seemed to fit with each other better because of their cultural similarities. You find this when comparing the Sumerian/Babylonian deities who ARE the planets (Jupiter – Marduk, Venus – Inanna/Ishtar, Moon – Nanna/Sin, etc) with Their Greek equivalent.

The tribal independence of the Celtic speaking peoples leads to more regional divine ancestor style deities of the place and clans of a tribe. Lots of Them because there were lots of tribes. To be a good chieftain, you had a father role in that culture. You protected your huge “extended family” of the tribe, like Mars. Mars takes care of boundaries – the city of Rome’s, the farmstead’s. His own temple was on the edge of Rome, because He like most warriors defended borders. Also, warrior energy isn’t really civilized enough to be in the domestic realm of life. What warriors face they become – dangerous to society. We see this with demi-God hero Cu Chulainn. The red halo, destructive acts and twisted body of His warp spasm need three vats of cold water and the mothering bare breasts of the noble women to return Him to a civilized state that was safe to be near the civilian population. Beserkers weren’t guys you wanted hanging out in your village during peace time. A Celtic chieftain had to come from the warrior class, so a lot of Celtic deities were aligned with Mars. But a Celtic chieftain had to negotiate temporary federations, trade, have the wisdom of a poet, the strength of eloquence, and so many other tribal chieftain deities were associated with Mercury. And some were associated with both. Neto was also associated with Apollo, the solar light, the healer, the musician, the bisexual lover. The society structure made the chieftain God and the Goddess of the *fertile land/ river different than the deities of Empires.

This is why it’s very hard for me to believe the Eddas where there’s 12 (Olympian, anyone?) deities and Odin is somehow like Zeus, when these were rural people who put off unifying their many kingdoms for centuries. The Asatru temple to Odin in Iceland makes little sense to me because Odin was not very important to the Heathens of Pagan Iceland. Thor was by far the most important. Also we know Frey was very important and we read about His temple in the Sagas. Njord was given sacrifices because as an island people without any trees, they relied on trade with Norway and then trips to Greenland for timber and other items. No one could attack Iceland, so deities about war weren’t necessary. These were farmers and merchants. But being an educated man, I imagine Snorri tried to put the myths into a Classical background. He was dealing with the powerful unified Norwegian royal family –  the people whose ancestors chased out the lesser kings who became many of the settlers of Iceland. That he named his spot at the Althing Valhalla tells us quite a bit about his ego and which God He felt was most important, even though it doesn’t match what we know about Heathen Iceland.

* In some Celtic languages the word for “valley” and “river” are the same. Rivers flow through valleys. Nantosuelta’s name translates into “sunlit valley”, surely the ideal place for cattle and crops, but is usually translated in older Pagan books as “winding river”. With the continental Celts, especially the Gauls, I try to put both words together and think “river valley.”

Celtic Festival of Dies Equeunu and the Alci

Alci Alexandra Rena
The Alci sketch by Alexandra Rena

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prayer to Dies Equeunu for Fast Rescue Heather Awen 

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

 

Bibliography

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tacitus, Germania

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

Pagan Holy Days March

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

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

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

On with the show!

March Pagan Holy Days

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Brid, Brigantia, Brigid Festivals

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

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

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

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

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

“Brigid of the fiery arrow

And the cows who always provide milk,

You who hung your wet cloak on a sunbeam,

And guarded many a family and its animals,

To you I pray.

Your equal armed cross I made

Symbol of the Sun herself

To bring your divine blessings

Into mortal lives.

Hearth Goddess, protect our homes,

Protect our wealth,

Protect our health.

May your blessings of sacred safety

Ever shine into my life through your cross.

May your blessings of sacred safety

Ever shine in our lives through your cross.

Thank you, Exalted Brigid!”

Imbolc Invocation for Making Offerings to Brigid by Heather Awen

“O Goddess,

Mistress of the Flames of Healing, Making, Creating,

Triple daughter of The Dagda

First to keen

And wife of the treacherous Bres

I call to you.

Brigid who is foster mother of the World

Who hears and answers countless prayers

Please join me here

On this, your sacred day.

Let my love for you reach you

Let my love for you reach you

Please may my love for you reach you,

Bright beacon of hope, home and health.

O Brigid, know how much I value you,

Wondrous one who nourishes the World.

Dear compassionate Brigid

Whose fire lights up my spirit

Please accept this offering!”

 

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

 

 

 

Pagan Holy Days February

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On with February!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The 9th is sacred to the Orisha Oya.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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