Visiting the Well of Release (A Meditation to Process Pain)

Visiting the Well of Release

A Meditation to Process Pain

by Melanie Fire Salamander

Okay, it’s that time of year again. I don’t know about you, but the  first part of the year, New Year’s through Valentine’s, way too often finds  me breaking up with someone. I hate it! You’d think I’d have figured out  how to avoid it by now. But the pain of leaving, or worse of being left,  never seems to get easier. All I seem to be able to hope for is a few more  tools for dealing with it.

Even if you’re lucky enough to avoid this pitfall, pain is all  around us. Life, as the Buddha said, is suffering. This is a bad time of  year for family pain, our having just gone through the holidays. The earth  lies fallow, exposing her wounds: building sites like open sores, old mines  and dumps, places whose ruin makes you weep. And it’s a dark time of  year, when during long nights and short dreary  days all the specific, personal drek we’ve avoided  in summer and fall can rise and engulf us.

Don’t let that happen! You can process pain. Not shove it, to find it  later, having grown runners to other, older pains, but truly process it — be in  it, feel it deeply, then let it go. It’s not a hasty process. Expect to do this  work over and over again. But each time you do, I promise you, you can and  will let go a little pain. It’s hard work, because to release the pain, I find,  you have to feel it again and know its roots, its causes, which usually go  back to sufferings of early life or even before. But if you’re willing to do  the work, you can heal.

Following is a meditation to help that process happen. In honor of  the season and of the goddess Brigid, I’ve built into the meditation an image  of a sacred, healing well, an image of this goddess, whose holy day Imbolc  or Candlemas is. To use this meditation, either record it on tape and play  it back or ask someone to read it to you. It takes about 20 to 30 minutes.

Before starting, find a comfortable place where you won’t be  disturbed; take the phone off the hook and if necessary shut out your pets. If  you’re prone to falling asleep, try sitting up as you meditate, preferably on a  chair or against a surface that helps keep your back straight; alternatively,  you can sit cross-legged or in lotus position. If you have  problems relaxing, stretch out on a bed, couch or the floor.

The Meditation

Close your eyes, and begin to relax. Take a few deep breaths: in,  out; in, out. Feel your body, wriggle your fingers and toes, your nose, your  hips and arms; roll your head. Feel where your body ends and what’s around  you begins. Feel the air around you, the surface underneath you. Be here  now, present in your body, in the present moment. Feel yourself begin to relax.

Continue to breathe deeply, and begin to release the cares of your  day and week with your breath. Be completely here in the  present moment.

Throughout this meditation, you will have a complete, deep  experience, and you will remember everything you sense and learn. If you need to  return, you can always recall yourself to the physical world by moving your  fingers and toes. You will feel utterly safe and protected throughout.

Relax more fully still, and breathe deeply. Feel in the center of your  body, behind and below your belly button, a spark of life, your life, your  eternal fire. Feel that flame pulse with life. Let that flaming center send a  spark of energy downward, a liquid trail like molten fire, down through your  groin into your base and down into the earth. Feel this energy flow  downward, through the foundation of the building, down into the deep, wet,  cold earth, the soil, through hidden underground streams, cool water  slick on rocks, and below that into the solid rock of the earth’s mantle. Feel  the personal flame from your body push down through rock into the deep  core of the earth, the earth’s molten center, where all is fire as it is fire  inside you. Feel your own personal fire connect with the energy of the  earth, deep and red, the red glowing heart of the earth.

At the same time, feel a spark of energy flare upward from  the center of your body, up through your torso, through your neck,  through your head, through the top of your head into the air. Let this  energy flow upward through the air of the room, through the ceiling, through  the roof of the building into the cold air. Let the energy fountain up, up,  up, through the cold damp air, past clouds of rain and ice, up into the clear  sky above all clouds. Feel your personal fire energy connect with the fires  of the sky, the energy of sun and stars and moon, fiery, swirling sky energy.

Feel your deep energetic connections to both earth and sky,  tap into those connections and deeply feel them. Let sky energy begin to  flow downward into you, and at the same time let earth energy flow upward  into you. Feel the two energies combine in your center, swirling together  gently and cleanly, into one combined healing energy. Let this energy  flow outward from your center, filling your torso, filling your lungs and  throat, filling your head, filling your groin and pelvis, your legs and arms,  touching and washing away remaining tension, cleansing and healing. Let all  negative energy you can let go of flow with this wave out through your  grounding. Let negative energy, tension and pain and anger and everything you want  to let go of flow sweetly and cleanly down your grounding, into the  earth, which can reuse the energy for other things.

Now let a wave of sky energy come through you again, combine  with earth energy, and fill you, cleansing you, and wash away another layer  of negativity down your grounding. Release everything you need  to release. Keep any information you require, but release pain, tension,  fear and error with the cleansing, healing energy down your grounding.

And again, let another wave of sky energy come into you, combine  with the energy of earth, fill you and cleanse you, washing trouble and  pain away down your grounding into the earth. Feel your deep connection  to earth, and let trouble and pain wash into the earth. Keep any  information you require, but let all the pain you can go into the earth.

Feel yourself cleansed and sparkling, full of earth and sky  energy, and deeply connected to both earth and sky. Ground out any energy  you

don’t need into the earth.

Now imagine yourself at a stone boundary marker, standing beside  a gravel road. It is dusk, wintertime, and you are in farm country. The  landscape is wintry, with a light dusting of snow, the tree branches bare of leaves,  but you don’t feel the cold. Smoke rises from chimneys of houses here  and there, some far away on bare hills of cropped brown. The air smells  cold and of woodsmoke.

You turn and walk a while down this road. To either  side are fields full of stubble, tan. As you pass, crows rise  cawing. Far across a field, you see a lone scarecrow standing.

The road slopes gently down a hill, and you come into a small  wood. Tree limbs rise gnarled and black around you, shadowing the road.  A rabbit raises its head, brown against white shadowed snow, looks at you  a moment and bounds away.

You come out of the wood into a flat landscape, cropped fields to  either side behind board fences. You walk awhile, the scenery barely  changing, all in colors of brown and grey. The smell of the air changes, and  you realize you must be coming to a body of fresh water. Walking forward,  you crest a shallow hill and see before you stands of rushes around a large lake.

You continue forward on the road. The gravel stops, and you keep  going on an earthen path. Tall rushes stand at either side, the air brushing  through them, whispering. You push down the path through the rushes and  find yourself at a dock where a small rowboat is tied up, oars lying in  its bottom.

From here, at the lake’s edge, you have a clear view across. A band  of gold haze lies along the horizon, between long bands of  grey-purple cloud. The water is steel-grey, and in the center of the lake lies a  small island, crowned by a grove of birch trees. The island attracts you  strongly, and you decide to row out to it.

Knowing this is the custom of the place, you get into the boat, untie  it, and fitting the oars to the oarlocks begin to row. The island is not  far away, but it takes longer to get there than you think it will. The boat  moves slowly and dreamily through the twilit water. The twilight stays constant;  the sky does not get darker. This seems strange, but you feel perfectly  safe and protected, and you accept that twilight stays in this place.

You come to the island shore, step out onto gravel and pull the boat  up so it won’t float away, setting the oars in its bottom. The grey water,  tinged lavender in the light, laps the gravel shore. You walk toward the grove  of birch, and again though the trees don’t seem far away, it takes you longer  to get to them than you thought it would. Things move slowly in this place.  All around you lies dusk-purple light. Know that you will  remember everything you need to from this place.

You edge between two birch trees and come to the center of the  island. Here sits a stone well. Over the well hangs a weeping willow. The long  arms of the willow move gently in the air, rustling.

You see among the willow branches, sitting on the edge of  the well, a woman clad in sage-green. Her hair is  long, falling almost to the ground, and a very fair blonde,  or colorless, or grey — it’s hard to tell in the light.  She greets you and tells you that this is the Well  of Release, and she is its keeper.

You greet her with reverence. You know she is no ordinary person but  a goddess. (Pause briefly.)

She asks you what you would release, and you tell her.  (Pause briefly.)

She asks you to sit on the edge of the well, sit comfortably. When  you are seated, she asks you go deeply into the problem you would  release, saying she will protect you as you do.

You agree to her suggestion and begin to go into the problem in  your mind. See the problem in your mind. See pictures of scenes around  this issue, the people involved, the places. Take some time and bring the  problem you want to release fully into your consciousness and emotions.  (Pause for some time.)

Feel the emotions around the problem. Name these emotions. Be  in them. Avoid resisting them, but let them be present and flow through  you. Feel them fully. (Pause for some  time.)

The keeper of the well watches you, understanding fully  and protecting you as you do this work. When you have fully gone  into, recognized and felt the emotions around this problem, she nods  deeply and says she will give you something to hold this issue, a symbol or  object to contain this pain. She holds out her hands, and between them is  this symbol or object. (Pause briefly.)

You take it into your own hands. This symbol is a container and is  meant for your use, to protect you. You feel perfectly safe and protected.

She instructs you now to put the problem you want to release into  the symbol, to let flow into the symbol everything you need to let go. You  do so gently and fully, letting your emotions and memories and  thoughts flow into the symbol, keeping only that information you need and  letting go all pain into the symbol. (Pause for some  time.)

Once you have put what you need to into the symbol, the keeper of  the well cranks the well-handle and draws up the bucket. She instructs you  to put your symbol into the bucket, and you do. It goes easily, no matter  how big or amorphous it is, as if that’s  where it belongs. It disappears into the bucket.

Then the well-keeper lets the bucket back down into the well.  The Well of Release, she tells you, lets into an underground stream, a stream  that is able to change and break up pain and trouble and old blockages  and let energy go where it belongs. You look down into the well, and you  see the bucket hit the water, the dark water with just a ripple of light, see  the bucket go into the water, disappear into the water. As it does, you  feel released of your pain, you feel it gone. (Pause  briefly.)

Now the keeper of the well brings out a crystal decanter full of  water, and she motions you to stand in a silver-edged basin whose drain  feeds into the source of the well. “This is the cleansing Water of Release,”  she  tells you. You see the water in the decanter sparkle with its own  inner light. She pours the water over your head; it cascades down over you,  and you feel not wet but as if cleansing, healing energy were going  through you, washing away the last vestiges of pain and trouble, releasing the  last blocks and letting them pour downward into the  underground stream and into the earth. (Pause  for some time.)

The well-keeper smiles at you and says, “Now you are cleansed  and healed, and in token I give you a gift.” In her two hands she holds out  this gift, and you take it. You examine it, and she tells you what you need  to know to understand it. (Pause briefly.)

Know that you will keep the memory of this gift as you need  to, and all else that you need to retain.

Now you say your good-byes to  the keeper of the well and thank her. (Pause briefly.)

Leaving her, you pass out between the birch trees, and on the gravel  shore find the boat. You draw it toward the water and get in, push off with  your oar and slowly row back to the lake shore.

At the lake’s edge, you tie the boat to the dock, replace the oars in  the boat bottom and, turning, walk back through the rustling reeds along  the path. You pass through the reeds to the long flat land, the road with  brown fields on either side, and into the dark wood. You notice that it has begun  to get dark. But it is a reassuring darkness, a warm and  protective darkness, a blanket drawn over the land that lets it sleep.

You pass under the black, gnarled branches and out of the dark  wood, and you walk up the slope of the hill, looking at the cropped fields on  either side. You greet the scarecrow and the crows that rise from the fields to  caw at you. You continue along the gravel  road, the landscape getting darker around you, and you find yourself  back at the boundary marker from which you started.

You settle down beside this marker. All around you darkness  falls, comfortable, comforting and calm. Know that you will  remember everything you need to from this meditation. You will keep  everything you need to keep.

You begin once more to feel your body. You are coming up from  trance, feeling warm and relaxed yet energetic. Feel your body; wiggle  your fingers and toes. Feel the surface below you and the air above.  Retain in your mind everything you want to remember from this meditation.

Feel yourself present in your body, present in the here and  now. Notice your breath; feel yourself draw breath deep into your lungs and let  it go. You feel present and calm yet full of warm energy.

Breathe deeply once more, and open your eyes.

The Ancient Druids

The Ancient Druids

In about 750 CE the word druid appears in a poem by Blathmac, who wrote about Jesus saying that he was “…better than a prophet, more knowledgeable than every druid, a king who was a bishop and a complete sage.” The druids then also appear in some of the medieval tales from Christianized Ireland like the Táin Bó Cúailnge, where they are largely portrayed as sorcerers who opposed the coming of Christianity. In the wake of the Celtic revival during the 18th and 19th centuries, fraternal and Neopagan groups were founded based upon the ideas about the ancient druids, a movement which is known as Neo-Druidism.

According to historian Ronald Hutton, “we can know virtually nothing of certainty about the ancient Druids, so that—although they certainly existed—they function more or less as legendary figures.” However, the sources provided about them by ancient and medieval writers, coupled with archaeological evidence, can give us an idea of what they might have performed as a part of their religious duties.

Druid History

One of the few things that both the Greco-Roman and the vernacular Irish sources agree on about the druids was that they played an important part in pagan Celtic society. In his description, Julius Caesar claimed that they were one of the two most important social groups in the region (alongside the equities, or nobles), and were responsible for organizing worship and sacrifices, divination, and judicial procedure in Gaulish, British and Irish society. He also claimed that they were exempt from military service and from the payment of taxes, and that they had the power to excommunicate people from religious festivals, making them social outcasts. Two other classical writers, Diodorus Siculus and Strabo also wrote about the role of druids in Gallic society, claiming that the druids were held in such respect that if they intervened between two armies they could stop the battle.

Pomponius Mela is the first author who says that the druids’ instruction was secret, and was carried on in caves and forests. Druidic lore consisted of a large number of verses learned by heart, and Caesar remarked that it could take up to twenty years to complete the course of study. There is no historic evidence during the period when Druidism was flourishing to suggest that Druids were other than male. What was taught to Druid novices anywhere is conjecture: of the druids’ oral literature, not one certifiably ancient verse is known to have survived, even in translation. All instruction was communicated orally, but for ordinary purposes, Caesar reports, the Gauls had a written language in which they used Greek characters. In this he probably draws on earlier writers; by the time of Caesar, Gaulish inscriptions had moved from the Greek script to the Latin script.

The Druid’s Religious Practices & Philosophy

Greek and Roman writers frequently made reference to the druids as practitioners of human sacrifice, a trait they themselves reviled, believing it to be barbaric. Such reports of druidic human sacrifice are found in the works of Lucan, Julius Caesar, Suetonius and Cicero.Caesar claimed that the sacrifice was primarily of criminals, but at times innocents would also be used, and that they would be burned alive in a large wooden effigy, now often known as a wicker man. A differing account came from the 10th-century Commenta Bernensia, which claimed that sacrifices to the deities Teutates, Esus and Taranis were by drowning,mhanging and burning, respectively.

Diodorus Siculus asserts that a sacrifice acceptable to the Celtic gods had to be attended by a druid, for they were the intermediaries between the people and the divinities. He remarked upon the importance of prophets in druidic ritual:

“These men predict the future by observing the flight and calls of birds and by the sacrifice of holy animals: all orders of society are in their power… and in very important matters they prepare a human victim, plunging a dagger into his chest; by observing the way his limbs convulse as he falls and the gushing of his blood, they are able to read the future.”

There is archaeological evidence from western Europe that has been widely used to back up the idea that human sacrifice was performed by the Iron Age Celts. Mass graves found in a ritual context dating from this period have been unearthed in Gaul, at both Gournay-sur-Aronde and Ribemont-sur-Ancre in what was the region of the Belgae chiefdom. The excavator of these sites, Jean-Louis Brunaux, interpreted them as areas of human sacrifice in devotion to a war god, although this view was criticised by another archaeologist, Martin Brown, who believed that the corpses might be those of honoured warriors buried in the sanctuary rather than sacrifices.Some historians have questioned whether the Greco-Roman writers were accurate in their claims. J. Rives remarked that it was “ambiguous” whether the druids ever performed such sacrifices, for the Romans and Greeks were known to project what they saw as barbarian traits onto foreign peoples including not only druids but Jews and Christians as well, thereby confirming their own “cultural superiority” in their own minds. Taking a similar opinion, Ronald Hutton summarised the evidence by stating that “the Greek and Roman sources for Druidry are not, as we have received them, of sufficiently good quality to make a clear and final decision on whether human sacrifice was indeed a part of their belief system.” Peter Berresford Ellis, a Celtic nationalist who authored The Druids (1994), believed them to be the equivalents of the Indian Brahmin caste, and considered accusations of human sacrifice to remain unproven,whilst an expert in medieval Welsh and Irish literature, Nora Chadwick, who believed them to be great philosophers, fervently purported the idea that they had not been involved in human sacrifice, and that such accusations were imperialist Roman propaganda.

Druids And The Irish Culture

During the Middle Ages, after Ireland and Wales were Christianized, druids appeared in a number of written sources, mainly tales and stories such as the Táin Bó Cúailnge, but also in the hagiographies of various saints. These were all written by Christian monks, who, according to Ronald Hutton, “may not merely have been hostile to the earlier paganism but actually ignorant of it” and so would not have been particularly reliable, but at the same time may provide clues as to the practices of druids in Ireland, and to a lesser extent, Wales.

The Irish passages referring to druids in such vernacular sources were “more numerous than those on the classical texts” of the Greeks and Romans, and paint a somewhat different picture of them. The druids in Irish literature—for whom words such as drui, draoi, drua and drai are used—are sorcerers with supernatural powers, who are respected in society, particularly for their ability to perform divination. They can cast spells and turn people into animals or stones, or curse peoples’ crops to be blighted. At the same time, the term druid is sometimes used to refer to any figure who uses magic, for instance in the Fenian Cycle, both giants and warriors are referred to as druids when they cast a spell, even though they are not usually referred to as such; as Ronald Hutton noted, in medieval Irish literature, “the category of Druid [is] very porous.”

When druids are portrayed in early Irish sagas and saints’ lives set in the pre-Christian past of the island, they are usually accorded high social status. The evidence of the law-texts, which were first written down in the 7th and 8th centuries, suggests that with the coming of Christianity the role of the druid in Irish society was rapidly reduced to that of a sorcerer who could be consulted to cast spells or practice healing magic and that his standing declined accordingly. According to the early legal tract Bretha Crólige, the sick-maintenance due to a druid, satirist and brigand (díberg) is no more than that due to a bóaire (an ordinary freeman). Another law-text, Uraicecht Becc (‘Small primer’), gives the druid a place among the dóer-nemed or professional classes which depend for their status on a patron, along with wrights, blacksmiths and entertainers, as opposed to the fili, who alone enjoyed free nemed-status.

Whilst druids featured prominently in many medieval Irish sources, they were far rarer in their Welsh counterparts. Unlike the Irish texts, the Welsh term commonly seen as referring to the druids, dryw, was used to refer purely to prophets and not to sorcerers or pagan priests. Historian Ronald Hutton noted that there were two explanations for the use of the term in Wales: the first was that it was a survival from the pre-Christian era, when dryw had been ancient priests, whilst the second was that the Welsh had borrowed the term from the Irish, as had the English (who used the terms dry and drycraeft to refer to magicians and magic respectively, most probably influenced by the Irish terms.)

As the historian Jane Webster stated, “individual druids… are unlikely to be identified archaeologically”, a view which was echoed by Ronald Hutton, who declared that “not one single artifact or image has been unearthed that can undoubtedly be connected with the ancient Druids.” A.P. Fitzpatrick, in examining what he believed to be astral symbolism on Late Iron Age swords has expressed difficulties in relating any material culture, even the Coligny calendar, with druidic culture. Nonetheless, some archaeologists have attempted to link certain discoveries with written accounts of the druids, for instance the archaeologist Anne Ross linked what she believed to be evidence of human sacrifice in Celtic pagan society—such as the Lindow Man bog body—to the Greco-Roman accounts of human sacrifice being officiated over by the druids.

An excavated burial in Deal, Kent discovered the “Deal warrior” a man buried around 200-150 BCE with a sword and shield, and wearing a unique crown, too thin to be a helmet. The crown is bronze with a broad band around the head and a thin strip crossing the top of the head. It was worn without any padding beneath, as traces of hair were left on the metal. The form of the crown is similar to that seen in images of Romano-British priests several centuries later, leading to speculation among archaeologists that the man might have been a druid.

The Demise And Revival Of The Druids

During the Gallic Wars of 58 to 51 BCE, the Roman army, led by Julius Caesar, conquered the many tribal chiefdoms of Gaul, and annexed it as a part of the Roman Empire. According to accounts produced in the following centuries, the new rulers of Roman Gaul subsequently introduced measures to wipe out the druids from that country. According to Pliny the Elder, writing in the 70s CE, it was the emperor Tiberius (who ruled from 14 to 37 CE), who introduced laws banning not only druidism, but also other native soothsayers and healers, a move which Pliny applauded, believing that it would end human sacrifice in Gaul A somewhat different account of Roman legal attacks on druidism was made by Suetonius, writing in the 2nd century CE, when he claimed that Rome’s first emperor, Augustus (who had ruled from 27 BCE till 14 CE), had decreed that no-one could be both a druid and a Roman citizen, and that this was followed by a law passed by the later Emperor Claudius (who had ruled from 41 to 54 CE) which “thoroughly suppressed” the druids by banning their religious practices.

The best evidence of a druidic tradition in the British Isles is the independent cognate of the Celtic *druwid- in Insular Celtic: The Old Irish druídecht survives in the meaning of “magic”, and the Welsh dryw in the meaning of “seer”.

While the druids as a priestly caste were extinct with the Christianization of Wales, complete by the 7th century at the latest, the offices of bard and of “seer” (Welsh: dryw) persisted in medieval Wales into the 13th century.

Phillip Freeman, a classics professor, discusses a later reference to Dryades, which he translates as Druidesses, writing that “The fourth century A.D. collection of imperial biographies known as the Historia Augusta contains three short passages involving Gaulish women called “Dryades” (“Druidesses”).” He points out that “In all of these, the women may not be direct heirs of the Druids who were supposedly extinguished by the Romans — but in any case they do show that the druidic function of prophesy continued among the natives in Roman Gaul.” However, the Historia Augusta is frequently interpreted by scholars as a largely satirical work, and such details might have been introduced in a humorous fashion. Additionally, Druidesses are mentioned in later Irish mythology, including the legend of Fionn mac Cumhaill, who, according to the 12th century The Boyhood Deeds of Fionn, is raised by the druidess Bodhmall and a wise-woman.

The story of Vortigern, as reported by Nennius, provides one of the very few glimpses of possible druidic survival in Britain after the Roman conquest: unfortunately, Nennius is noted for mixing fact and legend in such a way that it is now impossible to know the truth behind his text. He wrote that after being excommunicated by Germanus, the British leader Vortigern invited twelve druids to assist him.

In the lives of saints and martyrs, the druids are represented as magicians and diviners. In Adamnan’s vita of Columba, two of them act as tutors to the daughters of Lóegaire mac Néill, the High King of Ireland, at the coming of Saint Patrick. They are represented as endeavouring to prevent the progress of Patrick and Saint Columba by raising clouds and mist. Before the battle of Culdremne (561) a druid made an airbe drtiad (fence of protection?) round one of the armies, but what is precisely meant by the phrase is unclear. The Irish druids seem to have had a peculiar tonsure. The word druí is always used to render the Latin magus, and in one passage St Columba speaks of Christ as his druid. Similarly, a life of St Bueno’s states that when he died he had a vision of ‘all the saints and druids’.

Sulpicius Severus’ Vita of Martin of Tours relates how Martin encountered a peasant funeral, carrying the body in a winding sheet, which Martin mistook for some druidic rites of sacrifice, “because it was the custom of the Gallic rustics in their wretched folly to carry about through the fields the images of demons veiled with a white covering.” So Martin halted the procession by raising his pectoral cross: “Upon this, the miserable creatures might have been seen at first to become stiff like rocks. Next, as they endeavored, with every possible effort, to move forward, but were not able to take a step farther, they began to whirl themselves about in the most ridiculous fashion, until, not able any longer to sustain the weight, they set down the dead body.” Then discovering his error, Martin raised his hand again to let them proceed: “Thus,” the hagiographer points out, “he both compelled them to stand when he pleased, and permitted them to depart when he thought good.”

From the 18th century, England and Wales experienced a revival of interest in the druids. John Aubrey (1626–1697) had been the first modern writer to connect Stonehenge and other megalithic monuments with the druids; since Aubrey’s views were confined to his notebooks, the first wide audience for this idea were readers of William Stukeley (1687–1765). It is incorrectly believed that John Toland (1670–1722) founded the Ancient Druid Order however the research of historian Ronald Hutton has revealed that the ADO was founded by George Watson MacGregor Reid in 1909. The order never used (and still does not use) the title “Archdruid” for any member, but falsely credited William Blake as having been its “Chosen Chief” from 1799 to 1827, without corroboration in Blake’s numerous writings or among modern Blake scholars. Blake’s bardic mysticism derives instead from the pseudo-Ossianic epics of Macpherson; his friend Frederick Tatham’s depiction of Blake’s imagination, “clothing itself in the dark stole of mural sanctity”— in the precincts of Westminster Abbey— “it dwelt amid the Druid terrors”, is generic rather than specifically neo-Druidic. John Toland was fascinated by Aubrey’s Stonehenge theories, and wrote his own book about the monument without crediting Aubrey. The roles of bards in 10th century Wales had been established by Hywel Dda and it was during the 18th century that the idea arose that Druids had been their predecessors.

The 19th-century idea, gained from uncritical reading of the Gallic Wars, that under cultural-military pressure from Rome the druids formed the core of 1st-century BCE resistance among the Gauls, was examined and dismissed before World War II, though it remains current in folk history.

Druids began to figure widely in popular culture with the first advent of Romanticism. Chateaubriand’s novel Les Martyrs (1809) narrated the doomed love of a druid priestess and a Roman soldier; though Chateaubriand’s theme was the triumph of Christianity over Pagan druids, the setting was to continue to bear fruit. Opera provides a barometer of well-informed popular European culture in the early 19th century: in 1817 Giovanni Pacini brought druids to the stage in Trieste with an opera to a libretto by Felice Romani about a druid priestess, La Sacerdotessa d’Irminsul (“The Priestess of Irminsul”). The most famous druidic opera, Vincenzo Bellini’s Norma was a fiasco at La Scala, when it premiered the day after Christmas, 1831; but in 1833 it was a hit in London. For its libretto, Felice Romani reused some of the pseudo-druidical background of La Sacerdotessa to provide colour to a standard theatrical conflict of love and duty. The story was similar to that of Medea, as it had recently been recast for a popular Parisian play by Alexandre Soumet: the diva of Norma’s hit aria, “Casta Diva”, is the moon goddess, being worshipped in the “grove of the Irmin statue”.

A central figure in 19th century Romanticist Neo-Druidism is the Welshman Edward Williams, better known as Iolo Morganwg. His writings, published posthumously as The Iolo Manuscripts (1849) and Barddas (1862), are not considered credible by contemporary scholars. Williams claimed to have collected ancient knowledge in a “Gorsedd of Bards of the Isles of Britain” he had organized. Many scholars deem part or all of Williams’s work to be fabrication, and purportedly many of the documents are of his own fabrication, but a large portion of the work has indeed been collected from meso-pagan sources dating from as far back as 600 CE.Regardless, it has become impossible to separate the original source material from the fabricated work, and while bits and pieces of the Barddas still turn up in some “Neo-druidic” works, the documents are considered irrelevant by most serious scholars.

T.D. Kendrick’s dispelled (1927) the pseudo-historical aura that had accrued to druids, asserting that “a prodigious amount of rubbish has been written about druidism”; Neo-druidism has nevertheless continued to shape public perceptions of the historical druids. The British Museum is blunt:

Modern Druids have no direct connection to the Druids of the Iron Age. Many of our popular ideas about the Druids are based on the misunderstandings and misconceptions of scholars 200 years ago. These ideas have been superseded by later study and discoveries.

Some strands of contemporary Neodruidism are a continuation of the 18th-century revival and thus are built largely around writings produced in the 18th century and after by second-hand sources and theorists. Some are monotheistic. Others, such as the largest Druid group in the world, The Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids draw on a wide range of sources for their teachings. Members of such Neo-druid groups may be Neopagan, occultist, Reconstructionist, Christian or non-specifically spiritual.

Magickal Correspondence for Summer Solstice 2012

Your Magickal Correspondence for Summer Solstice 2012

Incense – Frankincense, myrrh, rose, pine, vanilla, lemon

Herbs and plants – Lavender, carnation, chamomile, mugwort, honeysuckle, oak, fern, yarrow, wild thyme, daisy, sage, mint, heather, St. John’s Wort, pine, rose

Gemstones – Lapis Lazuli, diamonds, all green gemstones, especially emeralds

Traditional foods – Seasonal fruits and vegetables, corn cakes, honey cakes, honey. Other foods depend on a person’s tradition or individual tastes.

Deities – Mother aspect of the Goddess such as Isis, Athena, Brigid, Epona, Juno, Freya and Hestia.  Consort aspect of the God such as Mercury, Thor, Ra, Zeus and Apollo.

Colors – Yellow, gold, orange, blue, green and red

Imblc – Brigid’s Well Spell

Imbolc – Brigid’s Well Spell

To Heal Or Bring General Good Health

Purpose:  To ease ill-health or bring well-being in the coming year.

Background:  Imbolc is also known as the Feast of Brigid, a well-beloved Irish Goddess renowned as a patron of healing. Many springs and rivers are sacred to her, bearing features of her name, in Brittany, England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, but her strongest association with the healing power of waters is with wells.

In pre-Christian times, people venerated the genii loci, or “spirits of place,” of natural locations that were considered particularly sacred springs and wells, sources of water that came up from the earth, were considered very special, and healing properties, including cures for eye and skin problems, became attributed to many of those associated with Brigid. In this spell, you will be recreating Brigid’s Well in symbol, in the form of a pottery or stone bowl or cup. Since Brigid’s Healing Well is a spiritual symbol, this recreation is just as valid as if you had applied to the spirit of a well in Kildare, in Ireland, or a river in Wales. You may make up to three requests for healing, including one for general good health, as appropriate.

How to cast the Spell

Items You Will Need:

  • Six white candles, 6-8″ in length
  • One stone or pottery cup or bowl
  • Three small beach pebbles
  • One small cup of salt
  • Spring water
  • Matches

Timing:  Cast this spell at Imbolc

Casting the Spell:

  • Place the candles all around the cup.
  • Name each stone as an ailment you wish healed, as appropriate, sprinkling a pinch of salt over each. Breathe onto them, saying:

By my breath.

  • Cover them with your hands, saying:

By my flesh.

  • Place the in the cup, and cover them with water, saying:

By the living waters of Brigid, may health prevail and good reside.

  • Light each candle, saying:

Hail, Lady of Fire.

  • Hold your palms toward the flames and close your eyes, then visualize dark stains on the stones dissolving in the water, rising to the surface to be burned away in the candle flames.
  • Chant the following until you feel the energies in the circle rise:

Earth, water, flame

Work in Her name

Earth, water, fire

Work my desire.

Discharge the energy raised by raising your hands into the air and mentally releasing it.

  • Return the stones to a beach as soon as possible after Imbolc night.
 The Spells Bible
The Definitive Guide to Charms and Enchantments
Ann-Marie Gallagher

Candles and Lights

Candles and Lights

 
Candles (leading to the name, “Candlemas”) are sometimes burned in every window in the house, starting the night of February 1st, until the candles burn themselves out. (If you practice this, be watchful of fire hazards. We use battery-operated candles, and the if the bulbs and batteries are new, the lights remain on all night.)
 
This is yet another time to enjoy outdoor luminaria, as well. That’s when you take bags (lunch bags work fine, and you can cut designs in them), put a couple of inches of sand in the bottom of each bag, and then put a tea candle in each bag. If the bag is on a wooden porch or other flammable surface, make certain to use plenty of sand to insulate. Also check the bags regularly, in
case a stiff wind tilts a bag and the paper goes up in flames.
 
A similar tradition (in older houses where families have lived for generations) is to light a candle, one in the window of each room
where someone has died. One candle for each person who died in that room. Again, the candle is allowed to burn itself out.
 
A related tradition is to make candles the night before the holy day, thentake them to church to be blessed on the feast, and use those candlesthroughout the rest of the year.
 
Snow candles
 
Yet another candle tradition, which we have used with delight, is to collect a bowl of snow. (A white cereal bowl is perfect.) Bring the bowl indoors, place a “floating candle” in the center of the pile of snow and light it. As the snow melts, the candle will remain alight because it floats in the water. This is a very visual symbol for the return of light and heat to the earth, melting the snow.
 
Bride’s Bed
 
There are a variety of traditions related to making a “Bride’s bed” (also called “Brighid’s bed”) with a homemade cradle, an ear of corn, a wand (smaller but related to the coronation wand given to the kings of Ireland), and small tokens of respect and/or adornment. Many books on Celtic traditions give the details of this ritual.
 
St. Brighid’s Cross
 
“St. Brighid’s Cross,” is another tradition. It is a woven cross made from straw, sometimes with a diamond shape woven around the center. (Compare thiswith the Native American “God’s eye” crosses.) In some places, wells and other water sources (such as faucets) are decorated with ivy and early flowers.
 
Blessed clothing
 
Brighid’s healing arts are called upon in yet another delightful tradition.As night falls, place an item of clothing outside, for Brighid to bless as she passes over the earth on Imbolc. In the morning, bring the item indoors, and wear it whenever you need an extra blessing to heal. People with migraines are supposedly helped by this tradition, in particular. (Due to winter winds, it’s
a good idea to tie the item to a tree or fence so it doesn’t blow away during the night.)
 
And, in the morning…
 
In keeping with the milk theme of the holiday, some people pour a small amount of milk onto the soil early on February 2nd morning, as they thank Mother Earth for having fed them for the past year. The dairy theme of the festival also makes it appropriate to enjoy rich dishes and desserts such as cheesecake.
 
As with many holidays, it’s always appropriate to drum or ring in the festival, with a drum, rattle, or bells.
 
This is also a time for housecleaning and preparing for the new growing season. (Some women do a ritual “spring cleaning” of house, or use a cleansing tonic at this time, to mark a fresh start and a new year.)
 
In many ways, New Year’s Eve is somewhat misplaced. We do far better to begin our “resolutions” at Imbolc, which celebrates new beginnings.
 
Written by Fiona Broome http://www.fionabroome.com

Candlemas / Purification /Presentation / Our Lady of Candelaria

Candlemas / Purification /Presentation / Our Lady of Candelaria

Jewish women went through a purification ceremony 40 days after the birth of a male child (80 days after the birth of a female child) and brought a lamb to the temple to be sacrificed. According to Mosaic law, Mary and Joseph would also have brought their first-born son to the temple forty days after his birth to offer him to God, like all first-born sons, along with a pair of turtledoves.

The Presentation was originally celebrated in Jerusalem on November 21st but once Christ’s birth was fixed on December 25th (near the winter solstice), the Presentation and Purification rituals would fall forty days later, in early February when torches were carried around the fields.

First celebrated on February 14th, in 350 at Jerusalem, when it would have coincided with the Roman festival of Lupercalia, it was later moved up to February 2nd. Pope Sergius declared it should be celebrated with processions and candles, to commemorate Simeon’s description of the child Jesus as a light to lighten the Gentiles. Candles blessed on this day were used as a protection from evil.

This is the ostensible reason given for the Catholic custom of bringing candles to church to be blessed by the priest on February 2nd, thus the name Candle-Mass. The candles are then taken home where they serve as talismans and protections from all sorts of disasters, much like Brigid’s crosses. In Hungary, according to Dorothy Spicer, February 2nd is called Blessing of the Candle of the Happy Woman. In Poland, it is called Mother of God who Saves Us From Thunder.

Actually this festival has long been associated with fire. Spicer writes that in ancient Armenia, this was the date of Cvarntarach, a pagan spring festival in honor of Mihr, the God of fire. Originally, fires were built in his honor in open places and a lantern was lit which burned in the temple throughout the year. When Armenia became Christian, the fires were built in church courtyards instead. People danced about the flames, jumped over them and carried home embers to kindle their own fires from the sacred flames.

The motif of fire also shows up in candle processions honoring St Agatha (Feb 5) and the legends of St Brigid (Feb 1). The fire represents the spark of new life, like the seeds blessed in northern Europe on St Blaise’s Day (Feb 3) and carried home to “kindle” the existing seed.

The English have many rhymes which prognosticate about future weather based on the weather on Candlemas Day:

If Candlemas Day bring snow and rain
Winter is gone and won’t come again
If Candlemas Day be clear and bright
Winter will have another flight.

These are all similar to the American custom of predicting the weather on Groundhog’s Day, in that you don’t want the groundhog to see his shadow. In Germany, they say that the shepherd would rather see the wolf enter his stable than the sun on Candlemas Day.

The ancient Armenians used the wind to predict the weather for the coming year by watching the smoke drifting up from the bonfires lit in honor of Mihr. The Scots also observed the wind on Candlemas as recorded in this rhyme:

If this night’s wind blow south
It betokeneth warmth and growth;
If west, much milk and fish in the sea;
If north, much cold and snow there will be;
If east, the trees will bear much fruit;
If north-east, flee it, man, woman and brute.

This was also a holiday for Millers when windmills stand idle. In Crete it is said that they won’t turn even if the miller tries to start them.
Blackburn, Bonnie and Leofranc Holford-Strevens, Oxford Companion to the Year, Oxford University Press 1999 Kightly, Charles, The Perpetual Almanack of Folklore, Thames and Hudson 1987
Spicer, Dorothy Gladys, The Book of Festivals, The Woman’s Press 1937, GrannyMoon’s Morning Feast

The Wicca Book of Days for February 2nd – Imbolc and Candlemas

Book & Candle Comments 

Imbolc and Candlemas

 

The festival of Candlemas has ancient roots, for in Pagan Europe, fires were kindled at this time of year to reflect and encourage the growing strength of the sun. Its name is Christian, however, being derived from the tradition of the future year’s supply of candles being blessed before the first mass of February 2, and then being carried around the church in a pious procession. This is also the feast of the purification of the Virgin Mary and the presentation of the infant Jesus in the Temple; the parallel between the Vrgin Mary an the Goddess in her maiden aspect, and Baby Jesus and the Solar Child of Promise, are unmistakable.

 

 “Candlemas Creativity”

White represents purity, pale green denotes a fresh start and growth and a flame signifies the kindling of creativity. Light candles of these colors to commemorate the concepts symboized by Candlemas. As you gaze at the flaming taper, ask the Goddess for inspiration. 

~Magickal Graphics~

Happy & Blessed Imbolc To All My Dear, Dear Friends!

Imbolc/Candlemas Comments
Happy Thursday to you also! In the topic I almost said, “Happy & Blessed Imbolc to you, again!” But I didn’t. I figured I might make some of you angry. Seriously though, have you noticed something about our Sabbats? There is always two dates given to celebrate them now. I don’t know if I am just starting to pay more attention to details now or not. But when I was looking for Imbolc graphics (the graphics always have a little verse or two describing the Sabbat) this time, it was stated, “Imbolc is celebrated around the 1st or 2nd of February. I know this is particularly true for the Spring and Summer Equinoxes. I grew up celebrating them on the 21st. Now it is around or about the 21st or 22nd. It makes me wonder, what on earth is going on? Can’t anyone agree on what day our Sabbats are supposed to be celebrated on? I have decided what I am going to do, though. I am going to start celebrating on the first day all the way to the end of the second! Perhaps I have my thinking all wrong about nobody knowing what days our Sabbats are on. Perhaps this is did on purpose were we can party our little hearts out, lol! That works for me! So when the Spring Equinox rolls around and I say, “Happy Spring,” the first day. Then turn around and say, “Happy Spring Again!” You won’t think I have lost my mind. Poor me, I don’t have that much left to lose!

Anyway, I was just wondering if anyone was noticing this or if it was just me. I hope everyone has a fantastic day.

Happy Imbolc, again!

Lady A

Magickal Graphics

The Shield of Brigid

Every day, every night
that I praise the goddess,
I know I shall be safe:
I shall not be chased,
I shall not be caught,
I shall not be harmed.
Fire, sun, and moon
cannot burn me. Not
lake nor stream nor sea
can drown me. Fairy
arrow cannot pierce me.
I am safe, safe, safe,
singing her praise.
~The Shield of Brigid, Irish Prayer

Candlemas / Purification /Presentation / Our Lady of Candelaria

Imbolc/Candlemas Comments

Candlemas / Purification /Presentation / Our Lady of Candelaria

Jewish women went through a purification ceremony 40 days after the birth of a male child (80 days after the birth of a female child) and brought a lamb to the temple to be sacrificed. According to Mosaic law, Mary and Joseph would also have brought their first-born son to the temple forty days after his birth to offer him to God, like all first-born sons, along with a pair of turtledoves.

The Presentation was originally celebrated in Jerusalem on November 21st but once Christ’s birth was fixed on December 25th (near the winter solstice), the Presentation and Purification rituals would fall forty days later, in early February when torches were carried around the fields.

First celebrated on February 14th, in 350 at Jerusalem, when it would have coincided with the Roman festival of Lupercalia, it was later moved up to February 2nd. Pope Sergius declared it should be celebrated with processions and candles, to commemorate Simeon’s description of the child Jesus as a light to lighten the Gentiles. Candles blessed on this day were used as a protection from evil.

This is the ostensible reason given for the Catholic custom of bringing candles to church to be blessed by the priest on February 2nd, thus the name Candle-Mass. The candles are then taken home where they serve as talismans and protections from all sorts of disasters, much like Brigid’s crosses. In Hungary, according to Dorothy Spicer, February 2nd is called Blessing of the Candle of the Happy Woman. In Poland, it is called Mother of God who Saves Us From Thunder.

Actually this festival has long been associated with fire. Spicer writes that in ancient Armenia, this was the date of Cvarntarach, a pagan spring festival in honor of Mihr, the God of fire. Originally, fires were built in his honor in open places and a lantern was lit which burned in the temple throughout the year. When Armenia became Christian, the fires were built in church courtyards instead. People danced about the flames, jumped over them and carried home embers to kindle their own fires from the sacred flames.

The motif of fire also shows up in candle processions honoring St Agatha (Feb 5) and the legends of St Brigid (Feb 1). The fire represents the spark of new life, like the seeds blessed in northern Europe on St Blaise’s Day (Feb 3) and carried home to “kindle” the existing seed.

The English have many rhymes which prognosticate about future weather based on the weather on Candlemas Day:

If Candlemas Day bring snow and rain
Winter is gone and won’t come again
If Candlemas Day be clear and bright
Winter will have another flight.

These are all similar to the American custom of predicting the weather on Groundhog’s Day, in that you don’t want the groundhog to see his shadow. In Germany, they say that the shepherd would rather see the wolf enter his stable than the sun on Candlemas Day.

The ancient Armenians used the wind to predict the weather for the coming year by watching the smoke drifting up from the bonfires lit in honor of Mihr. The Scots also observed the wind on Candlemas as recorded in this rhyme:

If this night’s wind blow south
It betokeneth warmth and growth;
If west, much milk and fish in the sea;
If north, much cold and snow there will be;
If east, the trees will bear much fruit;
If north-east, flee it, man, woman and brute.

This was also a holiday for Millers when windmills stand idle. In Crete it is said that they won’t turn even if the miller tries to start them.
Blackburn, Bonnie and Leofranc Holford-Strevens, Oxford Companion to the Year, Oxford University Press 1999
Kightly, Charles, The Perpetual Almanack of Folklore, Thames and Hudson 1987
Spicer, Dorothy Gladys, The Book of Festivals, The Woman’s Press 1937

Magickal Graphics