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 )

Belinos or Belenos? Pagans Respond to COVID-19

I’m happy with how fast word of mouth spreads. Now I send complete a Pagans in Prison Resource List along with ways to creatively practice in prison to folks who write “I found Gullveig Press scribbled on a paper, do you know of anything that or anyone who can help educate Pagans in prison?” As the only clearinghouse of Pagan prisoner information, I send letters with the list if they have specific Pagan questions. I’ll check what their facility is supposed to allow if they don’t know. Mostly I wish them good luck.

The COVID-19 virus is terrifying inmates. They can’t quarantine and buses are moving prisoners from facility to facility as if there’s no State of Emergency. Hand sanitizer has alcohol in it, so it’s not allowed, and for prisoners who have no income, the one bar of lye soap to wash body, hair and clothing doesn’t last long. I’m sure that you have all been very worried, especially because so many people in prison are HIV+ or live with Hep C, diabetes/heart disease and respiratory diseases. I’m sure that you are praying for them, writing letters to the editor of your paper, and donating money to help inmates with compromised immune systems have their medication, food, etc. (Black & Pink, the nation’s LGBTQIA 25+ prisoner advocacy group is currently requesting donations to help people living with HIV during this dangerous time.)

From the many copies of Steel Bars, Sacred Waters I’ve paid to donate to books-to-prisoners organizations, TWO have ended up in the same facility where there’s 130 Pagans! I know this from a letter from Jay Glenewinkel. He wrote to tell me that the Ostara ritual at Seogoville, Texas, on March 19th included a prayer I wrote in SBSW. It can actually be used as a Magickal chant to raise power, which never occurred to me. I’m sharing it here in case others are looking for a prayer or chant during this stressful time.

Seriously, I really would like to know that Pagans on the outside who have the luxury of hand sanitizer and quarantine are praying for those who don’t. Please. This is one out of one hundred Americans. It’s the parents of 27 American children. No other country even comes close to these numbers! In other nations many of these people would never even have been in prison or would have been released far sooner. Who is a prisoner is a political decision. It’s a reflection of the nation’s fear and hatred, not the people in prison.

If you were in the UK, Canada, Germany, Iceland, New Zealand, Finland, Japan, Spain, Brazil, Ireland, etc., they’d be probably be your neighbors and co-workers, not prisoners.

They’d be considered human beings.

Belinos

(from Steel Bars, Sacred Waters: Celtic Paganism for Prisoners)

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.

Prayer to Belinos to Stop Contagious Disease from Spreading in the Prison

by Heather Awen

Body to body, blood to blood,
No longer does the infection spread,
For Belinos is our protector and guards us from disease.
The fear is gone, the people relax,
No longer does the infection spread,
For Belinos is our protector and guards us from disease.
Blessed by the fire in the sky,
No longer does the infection spread,
For Belinos is our protector and guards us from disease.
Federal prisons often allow Pagans a lot more than state prisons because Native Americans have made great legal strides in being allowed to practice their religions outside. Most state prisons don’t offer the very expensive email available in many Federal prisons. Women’s prisons usually have more receptive Chaplains and fewer restrictions for Pagans, but they still need Pagans on the outside for guidance.

 

Gullveig Press does not support any advertisers to whom WordPress sold space. We probably have very different values than these companies.

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.

 

 

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.

January Pagan Holy Days Resource

Onje Keon Pierce Gullveig Press logo
Gullveig Press logo design by Onje Keon Pierce

Gullveig Press sends an 18 page detailed polytheist calendar with dates of new (NOT dark) and full moons, Mercury Retrograde and lots of information about other Pagan cultures’ division of the year, month and week to incarcerated prisons for $2.25. But if you are pen pals with a Pagan in prison, you can copy each month’s calendar from this blog, print and mail! It’s usually posted on the 23rd so you have a time to send it.

Make sure that you included the Introduction to the Calendar so they can understand the Athens calendar, the Julian calendar and have the dates for the new and full moon. As the mail is slower this time of year, try to send it at least a week in advance. Thank you for doing this work for your pen pal!!

Gullveig Press Pagan Festival Calendar by Heather Awen, author of “Steel Bars, Sacred Waters: Celtic Paganism for Prisoners” Gullveig Press, PO Box 126, St Johnsbury, VT 05819, 556 pages, $12 includes shipping.

January is named for Roman God Janus, who rules over beginnings and the transitional space of doorways. He’s depicted with a face of both sides of His head. January became the 1st month of the year later in Roman history. Originally it was March.
January 1 is Janus Agonalia, when Romans gave sweets like jars of honey, dates and figs to Janus and their loved ones so their year would be sweet. Ovid instructs: “Now must good words be spoken…. banish mad disputes straightaway!” They believed that you must only say positive, kind words when beginning anything.
Vediovus, a Roman God of the manes (the dead), was active in the barren month of January. He’s depicted as a young man carrying arrows with a goat.
During the 1st two weeks of January Greek healing deities Aesculapius, His mother Coronis and His daughter Salus (Hygeia is her Greek name) received offerings in the Roman Empire. Aesculapius had a staff with a snake coiled around it, still the symbol for doctors today.
January 3 is the Roman Festival of Pax, Goddess of peace. Her symbols are an olive branch, cornucopia and scepter.
Crossroads are places of transition that attract spirits. The Roman countryside held the Compitalia from January 3 to 5 to please the crossroad spirits. By hanging a head of garlic for every household member, their real bodies and minds would stay safe. In towns, families on the same block brought honey cakes to a festival.
The 8th is sacred to the tough Haitian lwa of the Revolution, abandoned children and lesbians, Erzuli Dantor.
The Carmentalia is January 11 or 13 (or full moon), when the nymph Carmentis was invoked as Postvorta and Antevorta, names that refer to Her power of looking into the past and the future. The festival was mostly held by women. No leather or blood sacrifices are allowed in a grove or temple of Carmentis. Instead of wine, She wants milk as a libation (drink).
The 17th is dedicated to Ogun in New Orleans Voodoo, focusing on work opportunities and protection.
During the waning moon of January rural Romans celebrated the Sementivae and Paganalia. While sowing of seeds, sacrifices of baked goods were made to Tellus (Mother Earth) on one day and Ceres (grain Goddess; similar to Greek Demeter) on another. The community prayed for a good harvest, peace and prosperity.
2 days before the dark moon of the lunar cycle of December-January, Hera, Greek Goddess of marriage, was honored with Her husband and the leader of the deities, bright sky father Zeus, at the Gamelia.
The day after the new moon was sighted in the lunar month of January-February began the Anthesterion (Older Dionysia) in Athens. Focus was on the flowers of spring. (The climate was similar to Southern California.) After sunset clay jars of wine were broken as a libation for Dionysus, God of wine. The next day featured drinking competitions as the dead wandered amongst the living, receiving water and wheat flour mixed with honey. The day ended by banishing the dead, yelling, “Get out, Keres (spirits that work harm), the Anthesteria is over!” The next day people ate pottage (boiled grains with honey) and offered it to Hermes in His role as psychopomp (guide to the dead).
The 27th Romans celebrated the birth of Castor and Pollox, horse riding sons of Zeus. Gauls also worshiped Them.

If we’ve missed a traditional Pagan festival please let us know! Include information about the festival and the source of the information. 

Celtic Festival of Nechtan, Nodens, Nuada, Nudd & Llud

371px-Neptune_et_Amphitrite
Neptune

On December 1st (or the new moon) the Romans made offering to Neptune. I don’t have any more information than that, but it’s interesting that a God not very popular in Rome has two annual Festivals. Sailors preferred the Greek sea God Poseidon to Neptune.

Neptune, Gaelic Nechtan, Brythonic Nodens, Brythonic Nudd and Llud, and Gaelic Nuada all have linguistic roots in the proto-Indo-European God Xákwōm Népōt also known as Neptonos. Xákwōm Népōt seems to have guarded a well of fiery water, something associated with magic, wisdom, poetry and prophecy in medieval Irish writing. His name translates to “Uncle/ Close Relative in Water” but probably means “God Dwelling in Water,” the source of fiery water rising from the Underworld in wells and springs. Xákwōm Népōt is associated with the deities’ drink of immortality, *Nekter “death overcoming.” We find drinks that provide immortality, wisdom and kingship throughout Indo-European cultures. In Ireland it’s the Ale of the smith God Goibniu and the pork from Manannan Mac Lir, but mead or honeyed ale probably was the drink given to the Irish king during his inauguration.

If you would like to organize your worship of Celtic deities who have no known Festivals, you may want to use the Roman Imperial calendar. Aside from Ireland, the Romans conquered the vast world of the Celtic tribes and kingdoms. (Newgrange did have Roman tourists.) Sometimes Romans associated a native Celtic deity with a very popular Roman deity. However, Celtic people also choose the deity for themselves, leading to many Celtic Gods associated with Mars in one region and Mercury in another. The Celtic understanding of what a deity is never really matched that of the Romans, so the fit was often strained at first. However, over a few generations, new Celtic cults developed. When deities share a common origin like Xákwōm Népōt it’s easier to work with Their core importance. In this case, we find both, overlapping in different Celtic deities.

The Deities

Nechtan Pronounced: NEK-tan

Nechtan is the Gaelic keeper of the Well of Wisdom. Around the well grow nine hazel trees which are in bloom and provide fruit at the same time. Drinking the water, eating a hazelnut from the well, or eating a salmon that has eaten the hazelnuts gives someone the knowledge of everything. Living in the Otherworldly Síd Nechtain, only Nechtan and his three young female cup-bearers could visit the well safely. (Cup-bearers were important for the safety of royalty, as they protected the cups from being poisoned.) Nechtan is often cited as the husband of Boann.

Many have searched for the well, which appears with different names such as Connla’s Well, Well of Coelrind, Well of Nechtan, and the Well of Segais in different tales. The famous Anglo-Irish poet William Butler Yeats visited the well in a trance and wrote it was filled with “waters of emotion and passion, in which all purified souls are entangled.”

Invocation to Nechtan by Heather Awen

He of the shining waters that spring from the earth,
He who is the fountain that arises filled with imbas,
He from where all rivers begin,
Nechtan, Nechtan, Nechtan, God of the holy well,
May you sense my call.
So crucial are you to the Celtic soul,
You fill the prophet’s head.
Hazelnuts fall, ancient salmon return to spawn,
For you are the source of it all.

Boann “white cow” Pronounced: BO-an

“Boann from the bosom of our great riverbank, Mother of very fine Aengus, The son she bore the Dagda, A clear honor in spite of the man of the Sid.” -From Dindshenchas (place lore)

Boann is a member of the Tuatha De Danann (pronounced TOO-ah-hah djay DAH-nahn). She is the daughter of Delbaeth, the son of Elada. The white cow is the ultimate Indo-European symbol of abundance and wealth. Cow Goddesses are usually mother Goddesses of fertility who are devoted to the tribe’s abundance. White animals have no camouflage and rarely live to adulthood. Because they are so rare, they are sacred in many cultures.

Some say Boann is the wife of Elcmar who lives in the sid (mound) of Newgrange; others swear that her husband is Nechtan, keeper of the Well of Wisdom. Even while knowing she was a devoted wife, the Dagda desired Boann. The Morrigan was wonderful at protecting their land, but the Dagda sensed Boann could make it flourish with life. Although it was against her faithful nature, Boann made love with the Dagda. To keep Boann safe, the Dagda tricked Elcmar into leaving for one day, but kept the sun in the sky for nine months. That was enough time for Boann to carry and give birth to Aengus Mac Oc “conceived and born on the same day.”

Boann later went to the Well of Wisdom, Tobar Segais, some say to purify herself and others say to prove herself innocent of having the affair. Those who approach the well must move in the correct ritual manner (clockwise/sunwise) and have no moral flaws. But Boann, who cheated on her husband, walked around the well counterclockwise. Did she do it on purpose, filled with shame, or did she truly forget how to approach the well? Whatever her reasons, as she circled the spring its fiery waters rose. They rose and rushed after Boann! She ran towards the ocean and the waters followed, ripping away one of her eyes, one of her arms and one of her legs. What was left was the newly created River Boyne, feeding the rich farmland near the High King’s court of Tara. She flowed past Newgrange, the huge astronomical observatory and cheiftain tomb from Ireland’s first days of agriculture.

Some say that by losing her eye, arm and leg to the Well of Wisdom Boann gained Second Sight, being half in the Otherworld.

The Boyne River has been an incredibly important river in Ireland since the Neolithic period and is the embodiment of Boann, the cow Goddess of fertility who gave birth to the God of youth. Boann’s painful transformation turned her into another source of life with knowledge of the Otherworld. Bealach na Bó Finne (“the White Cow’s Way”) is the Milky Way. Some say the milk comes from Boann herself.

Noden_bronze_plate
Fragment of a bronze plate from the Sanctuary of Nodens

Nodens Pronounced: NO-dense

An ancient Brythonic God of the sea, hunting and healing, Nodens (or Nodons) is the earliest form of the name of the Mabinogi Gods Nudd and Llud. His name may be related to the word “catcher” like a hunter or fisher, and some believe that his job included hunting and catching disease. Nodens is also connected with the Old Irish Nuada, an important figure from the Irish Mythological Cycle.

In ancient Britain, under Roman rule, a temple complex dedicated to Nodens was built at Lydney Park in Gloucestershire. The dormitories for the ill overlooked the Severn River and its tidal wave. (This river’s wave is so strong that today people surf on it. The Goddess Sabrina may be the Severn.) Pilgrims traveled to the temple for healing, especially to have a dream where Nodens would tell them how to get better. The beautiful temple had a mosaic floor with images of fish, dolphins, and sea monsters, and was decorated with bronze reliefs depicting a sea deity, fishermen and tritons, nine statues of dogs, some similar to Irish Wolfhounds and one with a human face. (Dogs are associated with healing because they heal their own wounds by licking them. They are also associated with hunting.) Among the offerings were over 8,000 coins. Coins were possibly considered payment for killing animals when hunting.

The Celtic people often viewed water as a deity or a gateway to the deities and ancestors. The Greek deities often spoke to mortals in dreams, and the Romans put healing sanctuaries by fresh water, so this type of sanctuary may not have been a native Celtic concept. This complex grew very popular in later Roman rule, but we do not know what it meant to pre-Roman Britons.

In later Arthurian literature, Nodens may be the inspiration for the Fisher King.

Nudd “mist” Pronounced: Neeth and Llud Pronounced: Lleeth

Nudd and Llud known to us from  from the Mabinogi are later developments of Nodens. Nudd is most famous for being the father of ruler of Annwn, Gwyn ap Nudd. Llud is father of Gwyn’s lady love Creiddylad (pronounced kray-DU-ladd), the most beautiful maiden in Britain. Gwyn’s rival is Gwythyr (pronounced GWEE-thr). Lludd is considered by many scholars to be the same as Nudd, making Creiddylad Gwyn’s sister. Perhaps before the Christian influence on these folk tales Gwyn and Creiddylad were a typical brother -sister and husband -wife (or lovers) duo, like Osiris and Isis, Zeus and Hera and FreyR and Freyja.

Nuada Pronounced: NOO-adh-a, also: NOO-uh-thuh (ancient), NOO-uh (modern)

“No-one escaped from the sword of Nuada after he had been wounded by it, and when it was drawn from its warlike scabbard, no-one could resist against him who had it in his hand.” – “The Four Jewels of the Tuatha Dé Danann” The Yellow Book of Lecan

In Lebor Gabála Érenn (pronounced LEV-ar GA-vah-la ER-inn, in English “The Book of the Taking of Ireland”) Nuada was an early King of the Tuatha De Danann (pronounced TOO-ah-hah djay DAH-nahn). With a broad chest and blonde hair, he owned one of the four treasures of the Tuatha De Danann, a magical sword that always gave victory to the warrior using it. A prophet and warrior, he was King when the Tuatha De Danann landed in Ireland. He’s the son of Echtach. Nuada has at least two children, a daughter Echtga of the mountain Slieve Aughty and a son Tadg Mor, from the Hill of Allen. He may be the grandfather of the Irish and Scottish hero Fionn Mac Cumhaill.

In the First Battle of Moytura (pronounced Moy Tura) his arm was cut off by a Fir Bolg warrior. The Fir Bolg King Eochaid predicted this would happen, describing the Tuatha De Danann as a flock of black birds. The Tuatha De Danann still won the battle and the Fir Bolg disappeared to the western isles off Connaught. (The western isles are often Otherworldly.) Dian Cecht and Credne made Nuada a silver arm and he became known as Nuada Airgetlamh (pronounced AR-gad-LAHV), Nuada of the Silver Hand. However, a king could not have any spiritual, emotional, mental or physical blemishes so Nuada had to step down. Bres took his place. When Bres was removed as king, Nuada became king again. Then he was killed by Balor, Lugh‘s Fomorian grandfather. As death doesn’t seem to apply to the deities, Nuada managed to rule for 20 more years.

Nuada’s name is linguistically connected to the Roman British God Nodens who had a healing spa. Another of Nuada’s names is Nuada Necht, suggesting a connection to the Gaelic God Nechtan, the God of the Well of Wisdom. This would make Nuada also a healer and a keeper of Wisdom. At first glance he may seem like only a warrior king but like the typical Celtic God there are many other layers to him. His marriage to the important Sovereignty Goddess Macha shows he is worthy of ruling.

Prayer to Nuada for Accepting Loss by Heather Awen

Once like you, old king of Danu’s children, I held power,
More than I do today.
Once like you, silver-armed Nuada, I had freedom,
More than I do today.
I pray to you, first king from the north, ancient leader of the Gods,
To have acceptance of my current situation,
Not to let it take my identity, but to merely accept this as merely one turn by the wheel of fate.
(Do we hear the Morrigan’s caw, and does that make you smile? Knowing
That the Goddess of destiny reminds us that her story for us is never over?)
Did you lose the power of kingship and control over the Tuatha De Danann? Yes, and yet
Did you lose your skill as a chieftain, your wisdom as a sorcerer?
Never!
Did you lose your arm, the one that led you and your family through many a battle? Yes, and yet
Did you lose your power as a warrior, your ability to provide and heal?
Again, we know the answer true!
Never!
What makes you, you, fair Nuada, is not a title, a position of power,
To be given and taken away, or
A body at the peak of perfection. No, that which makes you
You is your knowledge that the self is a glamour spell across the mind,
Filled with labels, beliefs and judgments that are
Not real, that change and shift
With new perceptions, such as how
A metal arm may be great in its own way
And a defeat may be a step towards a more important win in the long-term.
To hold lightly the sense of self and control,
You teach,
For we are more than external circumstances,
Greater than the stubborn illusions about identity to which our frightened minds may cling.
Instead you teach that there is life after what feels like death,
That change is inevitable,
And the wheel of fate will turn again,
And it’s best to stay at the calm center of the wheel
Than its spinning edges where the world is a blur of ups and downs.
Bring me to that calm center, Nuada of the silver arm,
Lead me to the wise acceptance that change is perspective
At least as much as situation
So I may know the greater pattern
And keep my balance no matter how the wheel may turn.

A Possible Ritual

Some readers have stated that they like actual ritual instructions. Xákwōm Népōt and the deities who continue spreading His Otherworldly fiery water have very specific rules about purity. This is physical and ethical, so if you have broken any vows, the root of relationships, late November is the time to make amends. Many tribal people have holy times for healing grudges and gossip in the community. Perhaps late November could be ours.

You could fast in a common way for Romans in the 1st century CE by not eating meat except for fish, abstaining from sex the night before and not drinking alcoholic beverages. (The diluted wine actually purified their drinking water and had a low alcohol content. We have better water purification – I hope.)

For your ritual, if you actually have a well or know where a spring emerges, make that your focus. Otherwise an altar with images and symbols of the deity is where you can make your offerings. A beeswax candle (which naturally purifies the air and smells a bit like honey) could be lit. You may want a container that won’t rust or leak as your sacred well of purified water. With the two primordial elements of the Celts and the fiery water represented, an image or symbol of the deity (or deities) being honored can also be added. If you and no one in your building doesn’t have asthma, burning herbs and resins on a charcoal made for incense could be added, using ones for purification. If you will be using an invocation or other poetry in the ritual, you might want to stash it someplace close and dry.

Clean the ritual space with nontoxic products. Baking soda gently scrubs everything from dishes, ovens to porcelain sinks. White distilled vinegar cleans glass and removes grease for shine. Both remove odors. Olive oil, fresh lemon juice and a little water cleans and protects wood furniture. Dr Bronner’s liquid castile soap cleans everything: add a bit to a bucket of warm water and some white distilled vinegar for mopping most floors. Add infusions of herbs that purify.

Clean yourself only with things you can safely eat. Honey washes off easily, is antimicrobial, and helps both acne and dry skin. Dr Bronner’s liquid castile soap diluted works great for hair and body. Baking soda is a safe exfoilant and a very tiny amount diluted in 8 ounces of water rubbed into the roots of the hair and rinsed away removes excess oil. Epson salts in a bath actually helps you detox through your skin and eases sore muscles. Hair rinse of apple cider vinegar makes it shiny. For dry skin and hair there’s everything from the light jojoba oil to rich shea butter, with olive or coconut oil in the mid-range. (Coconut oil on damp frizzy hair dries into ringlets.) There’s lots of recipes for nontoxic cleaning and body care, to which you can add herbal infusions, oils and salves.

Before you begin check that you have your offerings, matches, and any written praise poetry or invocations needed for the rite. (Hester Butler-Ehle has written fantastic ones!) Center, ground and shield. Keep your exhales long and do not hold your breath after the inhale. Droning instruments or rattles and bells (perhaps sewn on your clean clothing) may put you in a light trance state as you begin. Approach your altar or well respectfully, in a beeswax candlelit procession if possible. Circle it three times sunwise (clockwise). Offering ideas include but are not limited to: coins, ceramic, metal, glass and wooden images of fish, hounds and tridents, plus jewelry of the same materials. (Make sure that the ceramic glaze is safe – if it’s for holding food, you’re good. Also older metal pewter sometimes contains lead, which is really poisonous. With a deity based on purity, it’s even more important to not poison the soil or water.)

 

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