Oh Ye Children Of Immortal Bliss ! Arise ! Awake !
And Stop Not Until The Goal Of Spiritual Illumination
is Reached ! Drink Deep Of The Intoxicating Mystical
"Goddess~Creatrix~Source is ALL. Everything Seen
& Unseen is Goddess * She is the Magician. All Worlds & Universes & Beings Seen & Unseen are Her Magick & Herself...One...And Thou Art That! "
one version of the Celtic Wiccan belifs:
Celtic Wicca (Church of Wicca)
The Church of Wicca was founded by Gavin and Yvonne Frost. They offer correspondence courses in their brand of Wicca, which is sometimes called Celtic Wicca. The Church of Wicca has just recently begun including a Goddess in their diety structure, and has been very patrofocal as Wiccan traditions go. The Chuch of Wicca terms itself "Baptist Wicca"
The Frosts call their tradition of Wicca Celtic. To me it seems more of a mixture of high magic and eclectic Wicca, with a smattering of Celtic thrown in. For instance, they use three circles, one within the others, made of salt, sulphur and herbs with runes and symbols between them instead of just one circle. They also insist on a white- handled athame and will not have a black handled one, whereas all the other traditions I have heard or read about use a black handled one. It seems to me the Wicca they practice and teach should not be called Celtic at all; but since a lot of it is made up or put together by them from other traditions they should also give it a made-up name; say Frostism. If you DON'T have to pay for the course, and have some extra time, it would probably be worth reading just for comparison. [*From Circe, who took their correspondence course.]
The Frosts have always been rather more public than most traditions (advertising their course in the Enquirer and similar publications) which has earned them heavy criticism in less public Craft groups.
INTRODUCTION by: Cathbad
I am a solitary practicing Druid, or Celtic Pagan, or what-have-you; labeling myself I thought to be unnecessary. I don't belong to an order or coven, not because I feel these groups do not have merit, but because they do not always agree, and because at the moment I prefer solitary practice. I have Celtic ancestors. I like learning about the ancient Celts, specifically their beliefs and practices, and I have a desire to emulate them in a manner valid for myself and for this century.
If you agree with one or more of these statements, you are probably drawn to Druidism, and this FAQ is for you.
WHY DRUIDISM IN THE 20TH CENTURY?
Why not? :) Actually, there are a number of good reasons for modern people to consider Druidism. Some see it as a way to reconnect, or "ground" themselves in history, or to improve their relationship with their ancestors (if they are of Celtic descent). Some are attracted by the relationship with the natural world that a Druid cultivates, or by the artistic, creative methods used to build that relationship. There are those who choose Druidism over other forms of neopaganism. Perhaps a reason for that is because Druidism is not only a branch of neopaganism, but also the subject of academic study. Druidism is often of interest to archaeologists, historians, and mythographers who don't necessarily consider themselves Druids, or even remotely pagan. Thus, there is a wealth of serious academic material available concerning the Druids, and many discover Druidism through it.
Finally, there are those who choose Druidism over more conventional religions that are more accepted and widespread, such as Christianity. Christianity belongs to a middle-eastern language, culture, and mythology-set; Druidism belongs to the Indo-European set from which we in the West inherit virtually all our other cultural practices, including our languages. An exploration of Druidism is for many people a resurgence in Western Europe's indigenous spirituality. Many seek Asatru to revive Northern Europe's spirituality for much of the same reason. If mainstream religions cannot provide answers to those "deep", spiritual, and philosophical questions, Druidism or another form of neopaganism is often the only answer.
WHO WERE THE DRUIDS?
I suppose the main thing that can be said about the Druids is that they were members of a professional class in their culture, the Celtic Nations of Western Europe and the British Isles. (The Druids were not an ethnic group; their culture, the Celtic culture, was.) They filled the roles of judge, doctor, diviner, mage, mystic, and clerical scholar. Though through history we have lost much, if not most, information about them, though this will be discussed later.
WHAT ARE THE CELTIC NATIONS?
Alba (Scotland), Breizh (Brittany), Cymru (Wales), Eire (Ireland), Kernow (Cornwall), and Mannin (Man).
WHAT ARE THE SOURCES BY WHICH WE CAN KNOW THE DRUIDS?
The main sources we have on what they did are Roman historians, who wrote on them as they were in the process of conquering Gaul (what is now France; a variant of Gaelic is still spoken in Brittany) so there is that political problem, and they equated Celtic deities with Roman ones as well. The main authors are Julius Caesar, Pliny, Tacitus, Strabo, and Diodorus Siculus. But in my point of view, the best sources are the mythologies. There we can read of what the Druids did, how they behaved, what some of them said, and though the medieval manuscripts that preserved them were written by Christian monks, much wisdom yet remains there. In Ireland the chief myth cycles are the Ulster Cycle, the Fionn Cycle, and the Invasion Races. In Wales, the major myths are contained in a book called The Mabinogion. In this century, a number of folklore collections were made of remaining oral-tradition stories, the best of which are W.B.Yeats' "Mythologies" and Lady Gregory's "Gods and Fighting Men".
If you were to expand your search to include historical and archaeological records, you might have more luck, and may arouse less suspicion if your area is not very pagan friendly. In fact what you will be doing is precisely what the Druids did, for they had to study so many academic, legal, and spiritual subjects they became walking encyclopedias. The problem is that the Druids were the subject of a number of persecutions and conquests, not only by the Romans, but also by later Christians. Some Druidic wisdom was censored, evolved into something unrecognizable, or just plain lost. A modern person seeking the Druid's path must attempt to reconstruct the wisdom based on the sources discussed above. The Romans never invaded Ireland, so that country became a haven for Druidic learning for a while. After St. Patrick and St. Columcille, Ireland evolved an unique and beautiful blend of Christianity and Druidism, headquartered on the Isle of Iona, which was later to be eradicated by the invading English. Catholicism eventually became a point of national identity in Ireland (and without it they may never have become independent).
WHAT DO MODERN DRUIDS BELIEVE?
I don't know. There are so many different ways to be a Druid nowadays....:) Actually, the reason for this is because of the problem in reconstructing any ancient religion: there are so many ways to interpret the record.
Since their beliefs included concepts like balance of forces in nature, reincarnation, and the interaction of this world with the Otherworld, it is safe to say that the ancient Druids would stand for environmentalism, justice, spiritualism, etc. if they were alive today. The Druids fostered artistic (particularly poetic) innovation, and were excellent astronomers. Thus, many modern Druids are also scientists and/or artists. Druidism provides a methodology to allow one's artistic capability and scientific interest to become part of one's spirituality.
DID THE DRUIDS PRACTICE HUMAN SACRIFICE?
The Romans recorded that they sacrificed humans, specifically condemned criminals. Judicial executions were no different elsewhere in Europe, including Saxony. The Romans wrote that such victims were tied into huge wicker man-shaped effigies and burned alive. The archaeological record does reveal a number of sacrificial deaths, such as "triple-deaths" where the victim was drowned, stoned, and impaled on a spear simultaneously. Some mythologies describe one person's life being sacrificed so that a terminally ill VIP would survive, thus indicating a belief in a cosmic balance of forces.
However, there is some debate over this; it may have been anti-Druid propaganda. Julius Caesar had good reason to make the Druids look bad, because, after all, he was trying to conquer them. It would fuel interest in his campaign back home if he could prove that the Celts engaged in such barbaric practices. On the other hand, the Romans would kill people in gladitorial games, for the entertainment of the people. The Druids, if they did sacrifice people, could claim religious sanction. The archaeological record is ambiguous if such sacrifice was judicial or ceremonial, or even if it occurred at all. Rest assured that modern Druids do not sacrifice.
WHY HAVEN'T YOU CALLED THEM "PRIESTS" YET?
The best word for them would seem to be "priests", yet I am reluctant to use it for two reasons" The Romans never used it, and because Druids didn't preach to congregations as priests do. Rather, they had a clientele, like a mystic or a shaman would have. Caesar and his historians never referred to them as priests, but perhaps they could not recognize them as such; the Roman priesthood, officiating over an essentially political religion, were primarily teachers and judges, with less emphasis on being seers or diviners.
WHAT ARE THE DRUIDIC HOLY DAYS?
There was a series of fire-festivals, occurring at 12-week intervals, and spaced between the seasonal festivals of solstices and equinoxi (thus, a festival every six weeks.) These fire-festivals would last three days, beginning at sunset on the first day, and would be the best time for sacrifices and divinations. They are:
Samhain (Nov. 1) Feast of the Dead, and beginning of the new year. Death came before Life in the Druidic cycle, because before new growth can occur, there must be room for it. On this day the boundary between this world and the Otherworld is thinnest, and so it is a time to remember all those who died during the year.
Imbolc (Feb 1) The Return of Light. The ewes begin lactating around this time of year, and it is a sign that winter is coming to an end. Perhaps divinations were cast to determine when spring would come (from this practice we get Groundhog Day.)
Beltaine (May 1) The Fires of Bel. Spring has arrived, and the people give thanks. This was a day of fertility and life, often the choice day for marriages.
Lughnasadh (Aug 1) The Feast of Lugh. The essential harvest festival, to give thanks to the Earth for Her bounty. The name is a reference to the Irish god Lugh of the Long Hand, son of the Sun.
I have heard that Australians who practice these festivals do it in reverse order, because these dates are for northern-hemisphere seasons. It would make sense for them to celebrate Beltaine on Nov.1, for example.
In Wales, there was an annual festival called the Eisteddfod, which was a bardic musical and poetry competition. It still exists, alternating between North and South Wales.
Great bonfires were built on hilltops and kept burning throughout the whole of the fire festivals. By day, there would be carnival-like celebrations, and by night, serious rituals. Cattle were driven between bonfires to purify them, and couples would run and leap over the flames, often completely naked, also for purification (and it was fun!) Some sites were centers for the "perpetual chant", where Druids in rotation would chant incantations without stop; during festivals the entire community would join the chant.
WHAT DID THE ANCIENT DRUIDS BELIEVE?
The poetic tradition in Druidism comes from the method the Celts used to trace their lineage and history. Written records were distrusted for the most part, and though a runic writing system called Ogham did exist, it wasn't used for much beyond burial markers and landmarks. Druids in training had to learn all the Bardic poetry, in a manner we would call sensory deprivation. Poetic inspiration was an important spiritual practice, which the Welsh have focused on in their eisteddfod. In Irish myth there was a deity of poetry (Brigid).
Oak was the most important symbol in druidic lore, as it is strong, tall, and very long-lived. Mistletoe was said to have healing qualities. Other important trees were the yew, for its offspring grew from the dead stump of its parent, representing perpetually-regenerating life. The Ogham alphabet was a list of tree-names. Trees are important because they are bridges between the realms of Land and Sky, they communicate Water between these realms. When the Realms of Land, Sea and Sky meet, as within a tree or at a seashore for example, great power could manifest, and such places were best for poetic composition or spell-casting. Stones could channel, store, and direct earth-energy, and thus were used for markers, set in circles, and libations were poured over them in sacrifice.
Fire-worship is strong as well, but doesn't fit the Greek four-element picture. Fire is a thing unto itself, with the dual qualities of destructiveness and cleansing power. It is a spiritual principle, because it is always reaching up to the sky. This may be why they built those hilltop fires. Poetic inspiration is said to be a fire in the head, so Brigid is a fire-deity as well.
WHAT GODS DID THE DRUIDS WORSHIP?
This depends on the nation you look at. Ireland had different gods than Wales, who had further different gods than Gaul. Another point to consider is not only were gods known by different names, but many of the names were deemed too holy to pronounce aloud. (thus the common oath: "I swear by the god my tribe swears by".) Here is a brief, by no means authoritative, list of deities.
In Ireland: The Tuatha de Danann (Tribe of the Goddess Danu) was the name of the pantheon, for the Sidhe (faeries) were descended from Her. Some names you may recognize:
Lugh, the Long Handed, Son of the Sun. Dagda the Good (good not by his moral disposition but by the diversity of his skills) Morrigu, Babd, and Macha (a triple goddess of War.) Brigid (a triple goddess of Fire, Poetry, and the Forge) Diancecht, god of healing Manannan mac Lir, god of the sea and master of magic
Welsh mythology tends to focus on the actions of heroes, and their interaction with gods.
Arawn, lord of the Annwyn (the underworld) Math ap Mathonwy, the quintessential wizard Pwyll, lord of Davyd Rhiannon, (wife of Pwyll) Goddess associated with horses and the Underworld. Lyr, god of the sea Manawyddan
In Gaul: Gaulish deities are the focus of Caesar's records. He drew analogies between his own Roman gods and those he discovered in Gaul.
Herne the Hunter Taranus, Teutates Esus, Hu'Hesu, the Dying God Cernunnos, Master of the Wild Hunt, or the Animal Lord/Green Man Epona, The Horse Goddess
Not all modern Druids worship the gods by name. There is some evidence that the Druids of old believed in a kind of universal Life Force, flowing from a central place (such as the Irish Well of Wisdom or the Welsh Spiral of Annwyn), to and from all living things. Perhaps the best modern description is Obi-Wan's description of the "Force", from the famous Star Wars films. :)
WAS STONEHENGE A DRUIDIC TEMPLE?
Perhaps. The question of who build Stonehenge is one of academic debate. The theory that most people find acceptable is that since carbon-14 dating places the construction of Stonehenge before the rise of Druidism, they did not build it, however that does not rule out the probability that they knew how to use it. The solar and stellar alignments Stonehenge embodies would not have been lost on an intelligentsia so well versed in astronomy.
WHAT ABOUT GLASTONBURY?
Some folkloric traditions and mythographic examinations suggest that Glastonbury Tor is the mythic Isle of Avalon. If, for example, the nearby river were to flood, the Tor would be an island. A certain thorn tree is said to be the descendant of the staff of Joseph of Arimathea, which was changed into a thorn tree when he set it there (the Thorn is sacred to faeries!), when he brought the Grail to Britain. Avalon means "Isle of Apples", and apple orchards do grow there. Some archaeologists believe that, if one accounts for centuries of erosion, the sides of the Tor are terraced into the shape of a Cretan Maze pattern. Whether or not the region is Druidic, anyone who has meditated by the nearby Chalice Well knows it is a holy place.
ARE THERE ANY OTHER DRUIDIC SITES?
There are hundreds of stone circles dotting Britain and Ireland. The Hebrides of Scotland are famous for them. In Ireland, there are many sacred wells dedicated to St. Bridget, am obvious borrowing from the earlier goddess Brigid. There is Newgrange, a temple/tomb/center for initiation rites in Ireland, thousands of years older than the Pyramids, which is constructed to allow sunlight into the inner chamber on Midwinter sunrise only.
WAS MERLIN A DRUID?
Yes, he was, and one of the last in Britain before the wisdom was lost. The Arthurian legends are unique because they embody the delicate transition period between Druidism and Christianity. Christianity was well entrenched as the religion of the nobility, yet Druidism remained in the form of folk-practices. Misty islands and otherworldly hunting expeditions, which comprise much of Arthurian legend, clearly originate from the older Celtic mythologies where such encounters are signs of the presence of the Otherworld. And perhaps all those "wise hermits", that the Knights are always running into, are Druids in hiding.