Thursday, June 21, 2007

Man is a Shepherd of Being...

Non in depravatis, sed in his quae bene secundum naturam se habent, considerandum est quid sit naturele (We should consider what is natural, not in things of a perverted nature, but in those that are rightly ordered according to nature.) Aristotle, Politics 2:2.

The body, mind and soul are all interconnected in the Gaelic tradition. Within this is the belief that the soul is wrapped around the body, like a garment of finely woven cloth. The body inhabitats the soul. The body is the rich composite inheritance of the ages of existence, a fragrant and cavernous monastery (mainistir) for contemplation, journeying, living (aistir) and more than anything the dream (aisling) of the soul. The soul emerges from an ever-bubbling spring (tobhair na beatha) or the well of life, and unfolds into this life like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon. The soul seeks discovery, intimacy, creativity, and imagination. As a pure force of life it is enriched by balance and harmony, by attending to fruitful relationships at the right time and in the correct context… it blossoms with the fragrance of wild honey in summer. The purity of the soul is intensified with contemplation and prayer, it grows by hospitality, it is gilded by charity and generosity, and it rises to the heavens on the winds of truth and honest labor. More than anything, the soul belongs to the body, the earth, the flesh… the most sacred ground, the greatest inheritance of the ancestors, the lyrical memory of distant ages, the firelit dance of creation, and the final descent into the womb of the Mother… awaiting for a new dawn of life.

Often we are nourished by the simple earthly fruits, of bread, meat and water… but whose symbolism extends our dream of life beyond the borders of imagination, and lead us to an eternal vision in which we can dwell.

A blessing of solitude.

John O’Donahue ‘Anam Cara’

May you recognize in your life the presence, power, and light of your soul.

May you realize that you are never alone, that your soul in its brightness and belonging connects you intimately with the rhythm of the universe.

May you have respect for your own individuality and difference.

May you realize that the shape of your soul is unique, that you have a special destiny here, that behind the façade of your life there is something beautiful, good and eternal happening.

May you learn to see yourself with the same delight, pride, and expectation with which God sees you in every moment.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

The Tradition and History of the Irish Poet...

Tréde neimthigedar filid: immas forosna, teinm laeda, dichetal di chennaib. Three things that constitute a poet: 'knowledge that illumines,' 'Illuminating song’ and Divination by touch.’

The most enduring manifestation of the Druid, particularly in Ireland is that of the Filidh or Poet. Poetry, verse, chanting, hymns, satire, and other forms of vocal expression were the principle means of oracular expression for the learned Druid. According to the ancient Gaelic Brehon laws the requirements of a Filidh were; ‘purity of hand, bright without wounding, purity of mouth, without poisonous satire, purity of learning, without reproach, purity of vows.’ According to the Crith Gabhlach (another legal treatise) the difference between a Bard and a Filidh, was that the Bard is one without lawful learning but his own intellect (bard dano: fer gin dligid foglama acht inntlicht fadesin). The Poet and his/her art was therefore officially recognized in law as a trained, professional and respectable occupation. One could not label oneself as a poet without passing several stages of intense education and exams, monitored by a professor. According to the Auricept na n’Eces (The Scholars Primer) and the Uraicecht Na Riar (The Poetic Grades in Early Irish Law) the specific stages of development were, (with Ollamh (professor) being the highest):

Taman, Drisuic and Oblaire.

The Irish term fili or filidh is derived from faith whose original meaning was a ‘seer’ or ‘prophet.’ They existed throughout history as a powerful and influential group of visionary artists, maintaining Pagan rites, practicing divination and prophecy, as well as being historians, genealogists, preservers of wisdom and culture, satirists and teachers. Many Filidh were accomplished in several arts, and frequently practiced a craft such as metal-working, also law (Brehon), medicine, as well as composing verse. The curriculum of the Filidh lasted 12 years, in which Ogham (alphabets of understanding), tales, composition, philosophy and other standard learning requirements were met. Using a template created by Eugene O’Curry in Manners and Customs of the Ancient Irish, we can chart the progress of a student from the beginnings to the award of Ollamh:

Year One: The Oblaire (Elementary student). The study of 50 oghams, basic grammer, 1-20 tales.

Year Two: Fochloc-Macfuirmid (Word-maker to fermenting student). 50 oghams, six easy lessons in natural philosophy (six meters called Dians: air-sheang, midh-sheang, iar-sheang, air-throm, midh-throm, air-throm.) specific and introductory poems, 20 – 30 tales (dreachts). Grammer called Uraicept na n-eigsine, part of that book called reimeanna (courses?).

Year Three: Macfuirmid (continued). 50 oghams, six minor lessons in moral philosophy, certain specified poems, advanced grammer, 40 poems or tales.

Year Four: Macfuirmid – Dos. The Bretha Nemed or Law of Privileges, 20 eman or poems with couplets sharing form and meaning (or ‘births’), 50 tales.

Year Five. Dos – Cano. Grammer, 60 tales.

Year Six: Cano. The secret language of the poets, 40 poems of the species called nuath or ‘twins’ which may be elegies in the form of couplets, 70 – 80 tales.

Year Seven: Cano – Cli (journeyman). Brosnacha or miscellanies, the laws of Bardism.

Year Eight: Cli. Prosody, dindshenchus (glosses, the meaning and origin of obscure terms and words), Teinm Laegda (illumination of song), Imbas forosnai (illumination of knowledge), Dichetal do Chennaib (Extempore incantation).

Year Nine: Cli. Sennet or poems of ancient wisdom, lusca or chants of swinging and rhythmic oscillation, nena or truth-saying, eochraid or warding and shielding (keys), briocht or spells, sruith or veneration and calling of the ancestors (streams), duili feda or wisdom tales (mastery of the elements). To master 175 tales to this and the next two years.

Year Ten: Cli. A further number of the compositions from year nine (part of 175 tales).

Year Eleven: Cli – Anruth (master/warrior). 100 composition of Anamain or the use of breath in magical toning.

Year Twelve: Anruth - Ollamh. 120 cetals or religious chants/orations, the four arts of poetry, 175 anruth or glorious victories. During this year and the two previous, to memorize and master the 175 tales together with the 175 anruth. This completes the 350 tales learned by heart.

The Ollamh’s had their colleges at Clogher, Armagh, Lismore and Tamar, all situated on notable rivers, and later taken over by Christian clergy in the 5th century for seminaries. The process of education within this system appears to have observed ‘seven degrees of wisdom’ which may reflect several key examinations which were required before progressing to the next stage. In this respect it may have resembled the ancient Greek and Latin Trivium and Quadrivium, the lower division consisting of grammar, rhetoric and logic, with the upper concentrating on arithmetic, geometry, astronomy and harmony (music). The practice of chanting appears to have been a primary method of learning, an ecclesiastical observer in 1571 (Edmund Campion) tells us that Irish students sang out their lessons piecemeal using a technique called ‘cronan’ or crooning. Other notable refrains perhaps practiced may have been the caoine or death lament and the fonn or mantra of repetition.

The Prima – Scela or Primary tales outlined in the ‘Book of Leinster’ which the Filidh learned included: Aideda (death and violent tales), Aitheda (elopements), Baile (frenzies and visions), Cuthanna (battles), Comperta (conceptions and beginnings), Echtrai (otherworldly journeys and adventures), Fess (feasts), Fis (visions or dreams), Forbasa (sieges), Immrama (sea voyages), Longes (exiles), Oircne (murderings and ravagings, Serca (loves), Sluagada (hostings and military expeditions), Tana (cattle raids), Tochmarca (wooings and courtings), Tochomluda (setting forths and advancings), Togla (attacks and destructions), Tomadmann (bursting forth of lakes and rivers), Uatha (horrors and terrors).

However, these tales were memorized in two separate groups; being the primary myths and the secondary stories. The first group were the Irruptions, visions, loves, expeditions and invasions. The second group were the destructions, cattle-raids, courtships, battles, feasts, adventures, elopements, and slaughters. It appears that the first group of tales were widely available to all the filidh, whilst the latter was only kept for the cano, cli, anruth and ollamh.

By contrast the bard only studied for approximately seven years, or the first part of the curriculum and rarely advancing to the more esoteric techniques of the file. It was thus that a bard was considered inferior, such that whilst a File could expect the payment of three milking cows for his services, a Bard may only get one calf. Bards (or bairds) were divided into two classes; the Saor and the Daor or the Patrician and the Plebian. The Saor where known as the Sruth di aill or Stream down two cliffs, the Tighearna bhard or Lord-bard, the Admhall, Tuath-bhard or lay bard, the Bo-bhard or Cow-bard, and the Bard dine. The highest ranking of the Daor bards was the Cul-bhard or Back-bard, followed by the Sruth bhard or Stream-bard, in rank going down came the Drisiuc, Cromluatha, the Sirti-ui, Rindhaigh, Long-bhard and Bhard-loirrge.

Draoicht na Filidh: The Mystical Path.

The study, pursuit and practice of magic, visionary work, and mysticism may also have been restricted to the upper echelons of the Irish Druid network. Druids at this level were considered by Brehon law to be classified as being nemed or within the sacred. Within this they may have performed a role as priest, spiritual councilor, advisor, and enacted rites of sacrifice, offerings to the gods, public and private rituals, and maintained the social and communal festivals. As spiritual guardians and representatives of the divine forces they practiced draoicht or ‘the way of wisdom’ and what we would call today ‘magic.’ What was that? Sean O’Tuathal and Searles O’Dubhain have constructed an Oghamic list of Druidic magical skills:

Briocht a fully verbal spell or charm used for general protection, but also employed in battles and conflicts. Leapaidh lanlaidhi ‘harborage of complete attentions.’ This is a type of sanctuary wherein a well-focused intention could be invoked in preparation for divination or briocht work. Faistine or ‘divination.’ A term derived from ‘faith’ meaning prophet or seer. It implies soothsaying or use of the second (inner) sight. Suilacht or ‘magical insight.’ A feeling of being magically influenced, possession of a ‘magic eye.’ Nealadoireacht or cloud divination. This may have included all forms of divination, prophecy and power work involved from astronomy, astrology, weather, the elements of air and wind… indicating key strengths above. Huideacht or traveling through life and/or death. Applied to vision journeys that go beyond earthly boundaries, across perceptions of time and space through trance. Dicheadal or incantation. Diechetal do Chennaib or incantation of the fingertips, the science of understanding hidden causes through physical touch, taking the pulse. Tamhneal or ‘trance.’ Anything connected with a loss of physical consciousness and dreamwork; stupor, fainting, blackouts, epilepsy… mind storms and moods, remembrance of effects within that state. Corriguineacht or ‘crane magic.’ A type of briocht, mallacht or directly deadly, pronounced on one foot, one eye closed with the left hand in one’s belt or pocket. Used by Lugh as a technique in the battle against the Fomoragh. Associated with edges, boundaries, liminal space – between energies. The poetical meter used in a killing invocation was 7(3)a, 7(2)b, 7(3)a, 7(3)b. The Crane magician may also have possessed a ‘bag’ of religio-magical tools. Cumhacht power, authority and influence. A term used to describe the power or influence exerted by a greater force in or around it. The power of words, sounds, names arranged in such a rhythm within a poem or incantation to affect the shape of reality. Millteoracht or ‘magical attack.’ A term used in place of destruction, ruining and perversion. A poetic technique placed within the structure of a poem to denigrate or destroy the power of the subject. Gabhlairdeall or ‘forked attention.’ A division of consciousness during somhoill (a suspension of briocht in stasis to adjust details). This may be related to the term samailt meaning double; the process of constructing or invoking a second energy… perhaps a spirit-helper charged with some task whilst the Druid continues his/her principle focus of attention. Ngesadoirecht or ‘sorcery.’ Divination. Activites involving or concerning geasa (prohibitions, taboos, interdictions). Associated with the time of birth, the winds, weather, astrological events. The process of identifying the central key dynamic in a persons life, their destiny and path. Sruth bhua the current, stream or flow of ‘bua’ or energy. The flow of this energy is a key principle in the work of Draoicht and Filidhecht, charging the individual with the power to perform their duties and activities. The capacity to direct this flow of energy toward matter, and thereby change it. It is both immediate and experiential, knowledge and experience locked together. Reamhfhuireach is the trigger which sets off a ‘briocht’ set in place as a hidden trap, or shield of energy. A spell that protects, directs focus of attention away, bounces off incoming, meant to delay, postpone, or restrain. The essential meaning is to be wary or alert. Aithroicht is shape-shifting, the physical changing and manifestation of another creature… to actually become another self, to assume an alternative image, a disguise. Ortha a charm, physical not verbal. Mainly to infuse with power in the making of a tool or concoction. Used by blacksmiths, herbal healers, craftsmen… Upthaireacht or folk-magic. From upa meaning a ‘folk-charm’ and perhaps the construction of charms used in healing; the charms used in sacred springs to cure eye-disorders (of common folk). Earaid a magical interference or hindrance. The affect of a ‘curse’ upon an individual, or a compulsion… the ways to release it. Idircho an area of overlapping liminality. An in-between place in time and space where the edges of reality are blurred… the connection between this world and the other is stronger and allows more powerful communication and magical work to be initiated. Easca or ‘moon.’ Also meaning fluid, nimble and swift. Associated with lunar periods, tides, movements of the earth in relation to the moon, expectancy, exaltation, cleansing, the mind and fertility. The menstrual cycle and women’s mysteries. Oibelteoireacht is religious contemplation, meditation, discipline of the self, mind body and soul. Iompochur a briocht to reverse in boomerang fashion. A term derived from impod menaing to turn, return, warding or annulment. A briocht to deflect rather than seek direct confrontation. Uinde seeing or beholding. Visions, revelations, spiritual communications, dreams, translating cryptic signs or messages in nature. Airbhe is a hedge of protection. Encircling those within a barrier or boundary of spiritual strength, through which nobody could pass without injury. Created by a ritual and chant like the caim.

As previously mentioned, the Bards tasks never ventured further than versification and composition. The Saor Bard was entitled to use a specific type of meter called Nath in which the word at the end of each line makes a vowel rhyme or alliterates with the beginning of the next. The syllabic count of the Nath is irregular. There were six kinds of Nath meters called Deachna, which were practiced by the High Bards together with another form called Seadna. Suffice to say here that each category of bard was only permitted to practice a limited set of meters, and it was forbidden to compose anything out of that range.

Three Forges of the poet: of the burning embers of memory, of the university of reclining, of the clinging tendrils of knowledge.

As the poetic tradition developed in history most of the separate and distinct ancient meter became fused collectively into what is now known as Dan direach or ‘straight verse.’ These changes began in the 12th century under Norman influence and extended toward the 18th century. All that we know about previous poetic forms in encapsulated within the structures outlined in Dan direach. We know that poetic composition was extremely complex and structured. The basic form was a quatrain called a rann, with a set number of syllables per line. Ornamentation called comhardadh involved the marriage and blending of consonants and vowels individually categorized into slender and broad, hard, soft, rough, light, and strong. Three other ornamentations were employed; amus or assonance, uaithne or consonance, and uaim or alliteration. Two other distinctive features of most poetry included the dunadh or a technique which involved repeating the first word of a composition as the ending, and cross/internal rhymes. An example of the structure of one form called Rannaicheacht Mhor:

BC x x b x ac
x x x a x x bc
x b x x x x ac
x x a x x x BC

The complexities of these grammatical rules become more understandable when considering that Irish native poetry evolved within a purely oral context. The grammer is reflective not of the way a poem should be written but recited in public. Form, structure, rhythm and rhyme, intonation, and expression all play an essential part of the credible performance of poets who were expected to amaze an audience with vocal virtuosity, knowledge, and spiritual depth. It is little wonder how the Filidh came to be viewed with a sense of awe, respect and complete fear. As satirists they had the capacity to evoke elemental forces of immense power to blight and destroy the reputation of even the highest in the land.

Within the core of Irish poetics satire called Aer was an art-form all of its own. Satire was the whip of the Filidh, often used to command respect, punish the stingy, exact revenge or employed as an extortionate means to gather wealth. The variety, complexity and color of satires was immense, ranging from petty blasphemy to ridicule and banishment. Some satires were reputed to bring disease and blemish to the accused, others humiliation. Quite often the satire was used only as a threat to obtain a price. The three main categories were; Aisnes or a declaration in prose, Ail or an insult, and Aircetal or an incantation, of which there were ten varieties ranging from the private to the most public; Mac Bronn or ‘Son of a bitch’ a private insult. Dalbach or blindness, an innuendo. Focal i frithshuidiu or a word in opposition, a quatrain of praise in which there is a derogatory remark embedded. Tar n’aire or an outrage of negative satire. Tar molta or an outrage of praise, ironic or ludicrous praise. Tamall aire or a touch of satire, less outrageous than the last. Tamall molta or a touch of praise, assailing the victim with faintly credible remarks. Lanair or full satire, the entire family and reputation of the victim is assaulted. Ainmedh or sarcasm. Glam dicind is a full religious and magical rite of denunciation, aimed at completely destroying the victim and his/her life.

The first serious blow to the power of the Filidh came in 574 CE, under King Aedh Mac Ainmire who desired to banish all the poets from Ireland because of their great numbers and insolence. His complaint that the Ollamh have a retinue of 30 attendants, and the Anruth possess at least 15 followers, with lowers grades all possessing a certain number of disciples gives the definite indication of their extent of influence, popularity and breadth of importance. On this particular occasion they were all saved from extinction by none other than Saint Columcille himself, pleading on their behalf. The final demise of the ancient institution of the filidh and Bards came after the battle of Kinsale in 1601, the defeat of Hugh O’Neill and the Elizabethan re-conquest of Ireland in 1603. As a system of professional education that relied upon the Irish nobility for patronage, the aristocratic loss was immense when replaced by the English. The final nail in the coffin of the hereditary Irish poet was a historical even called the ‘Iomarbhágh na bhFileadh’ or The Contention of The Bards, a polemic and venemous contest between various principal poets lasting between 1616 to 1624 in defense of their respective patrons. The precise nature of this contest between 30 poets was over the relative merits of the north and south houses of descent. Later developing into vehement criticism over style, content and meter, language and presentation. The argument descended into base sarcasm and bickering, and perhaps as a result the traditional styles of composition within the system of Dan direach became regarded as obsolete, and a new, looser, fresher style called Amhran or Aisling was adopted.

There has never in history been a country or people more attached to the poetic arts as Ireland. In the years following the ‘Contention’ poetry was still practiced and developed with dedication, creativity and in the pursuit of personal vision. Perhaps the last and greatest Irish bard in the traditional sense was Toirdhealbach O Cearbhallain or Turloigh O Carolan (1670 – 1738). Despite being blind, O Carolan was a composer, poet, a writer and accomplished musician. Other poets of this era include Daibhi O Bruadair (1625 – 1698), Aogan O Rathaille, followed by the great Irish satirist and social commentator Jonathon Swift (1667 – 1745). The beautiful style of the Aisling poem was captured by the poet Brian Merriman (1747 – 1805) in his Cuirt An Mhean Oiche or ‘The Midnight Court.’ The standard was thence carried from the 18th to 19th centuries by artists such as Oscar Wilde, and into the 20th with Ezra Pound, Samuel Beckett, Padric Colun, and Seamus Heaney.

Irish Poetic Forms. Maureen O’Brien:

The Ogmios Project, Labara 5, by Meredith Richard:

Master Poets and their Kings in Late Celtic Society, by Bennett Blumenburg:

Eugene O'Curry's Manners and Customs of the Ancient Irish Vol. II.:

Crane Magic by Iain MacAnTsaoir:

The Power of Words in Gaelic Culture by Iain MacAnTsaoir:

Poetic Brehon Lawyers, by Katherin Simms:

Brehon Law and the File, Michael Ragan:

Foclóir Draíochta - Dictionary of Druidism, Sean O Tuathail:

Toirdhealbhach Ó Cearbhalláin - Turlough O'Carolan:

A Smaller Social History of Ancient Ireland by P. W. Joyce:

The Contention of the Bards (Iomarbhágh na bhFileadh):

Cuirt an Mheán Oíche—The Midnight Court by Brian Merriman:
Irish Druids and old Irish Religions by James Bonwick:

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Five Spokes of the Wheel...

"A Chief does not grant speech except to four: a Poet for satire and praise, a Chronicler of good memory for narration and storytelling, a Judge for giving fair evaluations, and a Historian for ancient lore."

Much has been discussed of the origins, practices and roles of the Druids in history. We understand them as figures in an ancient world, as practitioners of law, religion, art and poetry within Celtic society. How does this benefit us now, and how can we define the spiritual path of Druidry within a modern context? A modern Celtic scholar, Searles O’Dubhain has identified five key and integral aspects of a modern practitioner, and this profile gives a solid working foundation for the pursuit of Druidry as a religious faith. The Druid passes through three distinct phases in their personal evolution, firstly a state of wonder or questioning, secondly an arrival at understanding, a sense of peace and harmony, and lastly a sense of accomplishment and awe, a realization of the greater sacred.

1) The Scholar. Enquiry is the beginning of true knowledge. The foundation of the self is realized through an investigation and understanding of tradition, myths, systems of belief, culture, organization and methodologies of the ancestors. Thoughtful reflection becomes the essence of purposeful action and quantifiable realization.

2) The Poet. Creativity is the effect of inspiration, within any mode of operation. The illumination of the mind provokes a physical manifestation in which an understanding can be reached regarding a question possessed. Poetry is a process of discovery, valuable insight, charged with wisdom.

3) The Philosopher. The evaluation of qualities, quantities, states of being and purpose is active regard. The action of identifying the mechanics of nature, life and the cosmos provides the necessary information to understand ourselves and our role as human beings.

4) The Judge. Understanding balance and harmony, the key to justice is to be obligated to a truth greater than ourselves. The measurement of all things is by the will of truth.

5) The Doctor. When all levels of existence are perceived as one whole, and all the strands of life are revealed as being of one garment; then the perception is elevated to understand the sacred. There is seen to be no differentiation between subjects, only energy in varying degrees of intensity, and the energy flows like water. The infinite, ever eternal, without ending, supreme bliss. The subject enters the flow of life fully aware, and cognizant. Truly only a reflection of nature, of the great spirit.
Oran Mor: The Great Song, The Song of Birth.

Moladh daoine is dó is moladh an neach do-ní a gcruthoghadh (Praise of people, and you, is praise of the spirit that does the creating)

The beginning of the journey of wisdom is a step from the ocean of birth onto the shore of existence. The first consideration is of yourself, who you are, and then your relationship within the world. As the Poet has said; “Am gaeth far na bharraige… (I am the wind across the sea…). This is understanding the dynamics of your inner momentum, the ideals which constitute your core of being. There may be one, or several, but the weight of your core existence is the keystone of individual character, and the anchor of integrity will allow for the development of a true knowledge.

In transpersonal psychology and spirituality the core ideal/s of individuality represent the North Star, by which we navigate through life. It is nourishing, sustaining and guiding, a measurement by which we can ascertain our sense of place, time and appropriate conduct. To recognize a core ideal we should ask ourselves some key questions; what human qualities do I value most, such as peace, love, harmony, honesty? What is the summit of my ‘best self’ or the greatest exhibition of quality of consciousness? What aspect of my life am I most in direct contact with? What are the peak spiritual experiences of my life, the beautiful epiphanies of realization?

In the Druidic and Celtic spiritual path the core ideal/s may be selected from traditional values; piety, vision, intelligence, courage, integrity, perseverance, moderation, fertility, creativity… and many more. The morals, ethics and virtues outlined in a traditional text like the ‘Testament of Morann’ or the ‘Instructions of King Cormac’ provide inspiration enough to begin. However, this is serious work on the self, it is the deepest contemplation of your primal essence, consideration of your most refined spirit.

Coch Anam: The Soul Shrine.

“Man is not himself only… he is all that he sees; all that flows to him from a thousand sources… he is the land, the lift of the mountain lines, the reach of its valleys…” - Mary Austin.

In the Celtic tradition the soul shrine is the sum total of the body. From a cosmological standpoint the body is composed of all the elements of the earth; the blood is the waters, the bones are the mountains, the brain and mind are the sky, the breath is the wind and so forth. The body has three aspects; crabadh or soul trust, devout observance and will. This represents the spirit of a being. Creideamh or consent of the heart, the body of a loving nature which seeks connection, it is physical action in space. Iris or faith, a pledge or intention of the mind, thought and purpose. Thus in primal Celtic thought the human is mind, body and soul which if correctly coordinated and in complete accord provide a beautiful sense of harmony.

Because we are of the earth and reflect its principal mechanics we must be in harmony with it. Everyday the totality of the body yearns for Nature, to revel in its glory. The path to a secure connection to nature is through communication, and this occurs in two principle ways; active involvement which is participative and responsive, and passive contemplation through meditation, reflection and is nourishing.

Active communication occurs not as a recognizable language, but in observation and interaction through the development of senses. The first and most important sense is visual narrative, and I call this the ‘rainbow perception.’ We see through cones and rods of power in the eye, all colors, forms, distances, shades. This is the science of light and suffice to say here that it is enough to simply be aware of this faculty, to be aware of and use it. To be ‘sensual’ is to fully experience the world we live in and belong to it. I mean sensual as ‘sense-all’ and to explore and regenerate all of our faculties of perception. The eco-psychologist Dr. David Cohen has estimated that we possess over 50 differing senses with regard to nature, many of which have become dormant due to our advanced technological lifestyles. These particular senses lie within the realm of the intuitive, instinctual and primitive; the inheritance of our ancestors.

As a technique of communication within the context of Druidic spirituality, meditation is a passive exchange of energy. The most effective of this type of meditation is the ‘Two Powers’ (see link below) in which an individual draws energy from the sky, and the earth/waters, replenishes and restores inner balance, function and internal order to initiate a greater spiritual strength, and draw inspiration. The Two Powers energize what are seen within Celtic tradition as three internal ‘cauldrons’ which correspond to the anatomical cavities of the body; the cranial/spinal, the pleural/thoracic, and the abdominal/pelvic. This purification of the generative, vital, and spiritual energies is similar to the Daoist concept of the three Tan-Tien fields, but in the Gaelic tradition according to the Cauldron of Poesy the primary purpose is to engage within the stream of life, being poetic inspiration.

The totality of these attribute enables the manifestation of a dynamic creative inner force which greets each and every life experience as a building block for future growth. Standing close by a tree is a passionate revelation, a short walk opens a rain-storm of inspiring energy, and as William Blake says;

“To see infinity in a grain of sand, and eternity in an hour.”
Inspiration of Memory

Tri caindle forosnat cach n’dorcha: fir, aicned, ecna. (The three candles of illumination in darkness: truth, nature and knowledge.)

Perhaps the single most defining characteristic of Druidic practice throughout history is memory. The act of memorizing vast tracts of information might be said to be a reflective imitation of Nature herself, who has no books, scrolls, or stone tablets; only the memory of characteristics, forms and structures. She then repeats these codes into ever new and complex creations, again and again. This is like the traditional Gaelic saying; “Who is the birth that has never been born, and never will be?” This is the tuirgen (plur: tuirgente), the circuit of births or the circle of creation. In his glossary, Cormac defines this as; ‘the birth that passes from every nature into another… a transitory birth that has traversed all nature… through every wonderful time down to the end…” Memory can therefore be seen within the context of Celtic spirituality to be both subjective (in the mind) and objective (existing outside of our experience). For comparison I quote the concept of the collective sub-conscious of memory and myth offered by Carl Jung, where we all inherit the thoughts, rituals, and patterns of life of all our ancestors. The other is the statement by Krishna in the Baghavad Gita: “I have been born many times… and many times you have been born… but I remember my past lives, and you have forgotten yours… although I am unborn, everlasting, I am the Lord of all, I come to my realm of nature and through my wondrous power I am born…” - BG 4:5-6.

Combined, these fragments of information point toward the Druid belief in reincarnation, and the transmigration of the soul, where the spirit retains a memory of a previous form and travels into another, birth, life and death are merely physical manifestations of being. The point of liberation from this cycle of repetition is simply being aware of it, having knowledge and illumination of processes, and of recollection to the farthest limits.

The triad above (three candles) indicates that we begin in darkness. Our primary state of perception is blindness, not knowing, oblivious to anything around us. We are senseless, groping around until we begin our search… and it is like a seed beginning to sprout within our mind, and our first action is to light our darkness and to see with more clarity. This initial process involves three states which then expand; the experience of common knowledge or that which we know as being around us; the ordinary truth. Experiential knowledge or that which we learn by the process through our common senses, fire is hot and therefore burns… do not touch it. Investigative knowledge or that which we attain through comparison, conjecture, evaluation, discussion, theory…ect. These three primary means of experience are typified into the most common forms of Druidic practice called ‘Imbas forosnai’ or illuminating wisdom, ‘Dichetal do cheanaib’ or experience of fingertips, and ‘Teinm laegda’ or burning song. These practices are used to step into the lake of memories, of intuition, dreams, instinct… to travel within the microcosm then outward to the macrocosm, and understand all connections, meanings and perceptions.

Imbas Forosnai.

This means ‘the illumination of tradition’ or ‘inspiring wisdom.’ A method of receiving insight through spiritual perception. The ancient form followed a peculiar ritual of chewing on the raw flesh of an animal, formulating an incantation on the palms, then being enclosed in darkness to await the spark of an answer to a specific question. In modern Druidry this is achieved through meditation, reflection, concentration, or simply deepened thought. The cosmic mind may be seen as an ocean or lake, a well-spring, or other source of water, the fish within the water are thoughts swimming about. Concentration in darkness is the vehicle by which an individual arrives at the body of water and catches a fish which represents the wisdom of illumination he/she has been seeking. In Shamanic terms it is a form of journeying for a resolution or result. The hero Fionn Mac Cumhail achieved all of his wisdom by tasting the salmon caught by the Druid Fintain.

Dichetal do Cheanaib.

The dictionary definition is ‘extempore incantation’ and the earliest scholars suggest that this type of divination involved the use of the fingertips; dichetal is cognate with the term digital, from Latin digitus meaning finger (or toe). Typing without rhythm, cracking open the nuts of wisdom, or incantation on the knuckles are other descriptions. Ancient Druids used this method to divine the inner energy of something, to understand internal rhythms, messages, problems, or blockages. In this sense it might be seen to be akin to the methods of pulse diagnosis in some traditional forms of healing, such as Ayurveda in which the principle activities of internal disease are recognized simply by touch and sensation. Similarly the touch can locate energy in most objects, the energy translated into an image in the mind and then vocalized by the practitioner. Sometimes a Druid would employ the use of a stick, wand or staff as the point of contact and transmission of energy-information. When fully developed this form of divination can be of immense help in investigative, curative, and correctional modalities.

Teinm Laegda.

This is ‘illumination by song.’ Another term used is ‘chewing the pith’ and essentially is a means of decoding the internal essence of a thing through song, chant, mantra (fonn in Gaelic) or poem. It may be seen as a form of ‘echo-location’ of the type used by animals such as bats or undersea creatures like whales as a guide in darkness or low visibility. Modern science tells us that sounds behave much like water waves, and can move through matter such as air, and on a molecular level may be able to pass in some way through any object, thus sound of any kind is a form of energy capable of being harnessed for any intention or purpose. The essence of teinm laegda might be summarized as vocalized illustration of the heart.


The Druid is urged to develop and cultivate all of their faculties, senses and perception to the greatest extent possible. With these attributes he/she can investigate any matter of concern or interest. The three illuminations suggest a triad of ways that an individual can assume a greater sense of inspiration; using the mind/thought through meditation, the body, hands and feet for manipulative research, and the voice, hearing, vibration through songs of understanding. The validation of their effectiveness can only come from personal practice and experience, such techniques can never be learned thoroughly from books or manuals alone.

Shamanism in Gaelic Culture by Iain MacAnTsaoir:

Divination and the second sight, Gifts of the Gaels by Iain MacAnTsaoir:

Imbas Forosnai by Nora Chadwick:

The three illuminations, Searles O’Dubhain:

The Soundry:

Biodh se, David
Sources of Illuminating Inspiration:

The Song of Amergin:

The Ogham Tract (from the Auricept na n’Eces):

The (ADF) Two Powers Meditation:

The Cauldron of Poesy, translated by Erynn Laurie:

The Colloquy of the Two Sages (from the Book of Leinster):

The Instructions of King Cormac (translated by Kuno Meyer):

The Testament of Morann (translated by Fergus Kelly):

Battle-Hymn for Daghda ‘Eochaid Ollathair’

O Shining Sun-star, Guiding Harp Song, Mansion of the Cosmos, Fire robed and Marvelous Bearded One, Fertile, undulating, Deep sea…

Tar a Thighherna… Tar a Thi (Come, O Thou Lord, Come O Thou Being)

Fiery glow, Lightning of judgment, Roar of Waves, All-Father the Red Glory…

Tar a Thighherna… Tar a Thi

Holy storyteller, Sacred Scholar, Cauldron of Poesy, Spirit of strength…

Tar a Thighherna… Tar a Thi

Overflowing, Loving One of Silence, Generous and Thunderous, Bountiful…

Tar a Thighherna… Tar a Thi

Warrior of a hundred hosts, Shield of Hymns, Bear’ Roar…

Tar a Thighherna… Tar a Thi

Saturday, June 2, 2007

The Delineation of a Modern Grove...

Constitution and Charter

Of The

Druids of North America


The State of Colorado

(Instituted on the 1st of May 2005)

General Preamble

I, David John Drew of the City of Aurora in Adams County, in the State of Colorado, The United States of America, in the month of May the first, two thousand and five do hereby establish a Drunemeton or Grove of Druidry to further the exploration of the ancient path of Gaelic spirituality, history, literature, and community, with the aim of making more orderly our investigations and learning, and to encourage the growth of fruitful bonds between our companions in this faith in the pursuit of scholarship and friendship within a peaceful enclave.

This Grove will also seek to contact and establish links with other Druidic Groves across the nation of North America and throughout the world, for the enjoyment and profit of learning and comradeship. This Grove will offer the hand and heart of peace to all of various faiths, religions, and spiritual paths regardless of origin, in an attempt to further understanding and global cooperation for the development of all citizens of this earth, to promote equality, education, and interfaith dialog to demolish poverty and ignorance.

This Grove will not suffer or promote discrimination of any sort amongst its members, whether based on sexuality, race, religion, age, or any other possible permutation of individuality. The administration of this Grove will be established on the basis of communal and democratic principles and will not suffer any dictatorial authoritarianism. Membership will be open to any person of interest; any member may be expelled by common vote for failing to adhere to the principles, aims, and articles of this constitution and charter of the organization know as ‘Hesperus Aurora Grove.’


I call upon the strength of heaven
The brilliant light of sun
The reflected radiance of moon
The burning splendor of fire
The sharpness of lightening
The broad swiftness of wind
The hidden depths of ocean
The sound stability of earth
The firmness of mountain;

I call upon the ancient Gods, the Tuatha De Danann as witness;

Danu, Great Mother Spirit of Earth, of Gods and humans, the source,
Daghda, Eochaidh Ollathair, The All-Father, of Wisdom,
Boanne, Virgin-Goddess of the ever-coursing river,
Brighid, Burning-Arrow, Goddess of Fertility, inspiring and healing,
Morrigan, of Badh, Macha and Nemain, Phantom Queen of War, Death and harvester of the dead,
Manannan Mac Lyr, Lord of Elysium and of the deep oceans,
Aengus Mac Ogh, son of the young, patron of love-poets,
Lugh Samildanach, master of all arts, God of light,
Oghma Cermait, honey-tongued, and ‘grainainech’ sun-face,
Dian-Cecht, most noble physician and healer, God of restoration,
Mare, Goddess of sovereignty and nobility, of prophetic dreams.

O’ ancient Gods, Spirits, Noble ancestors, indwellers of the deepest Sidhe, arise from your slumber to witness this honorable charter of formation and a new birth. Join us this day to bless our virtuous venture, protect, nurture, and inspire our well-intentioned efforts. I humbly request that you prevent any impediment in our progress, guide and guard us, make smooth our journey along the sacred path of the earth and illuminate our spirits and sight on dark days.

I call upon the spirits, ancestors and guardians of this place, the Arapahoe, The Bison Path People, the Chiefs ‘Oh-Has-Tee’ and ‘Little Raven’ and ‘Left-Hand’ and White Antelope’ and ‘Neva’ and ‘Bosse’ and ‘Heaps-Of-Buffalo’ and ‘Notanee’ and ask you for permission to dwell in this place for a short time, to rejoice in its beauty and drink from the wisdom of this earth, I ask for your blessing and protection at this time, so that we may prosper.

In a sacred manner we live,
To the heavens we gaze,
In a sacred manner we live;
The Great Earth is our benefactor.

I call upon the ancestors of this ancient land, the Dine, honorable people to beckon and invoke the mighty Gods and Goddesses of this land to bless our venture and protect us. We ask for the assistance of Na’acdjei Esda (Spider-Woman), and Etsan Natlehi (She-Who Changes) and Yolkai Estaan (White Shell Woman) and Johano-Ai (Sun-God) and Niltshi (Wind-God) to watch over us, provide guidance and assistance along difficult paths to a golden land.

Here Begins the Articles of This Grove of Hesperus-Aurora.


The name of this organization shall be Hesperus-Aurora Grove, of the Druids of North America in the State of Colorado. The title of the Grove comes from the sacred mountain of the Dine People (the Navajo) known as Hesperus, which lies in the south-west of Colorado in the La Plata mountain range, and is known to the Dine People as Dibe Nitsaa or Big Mountain Sheep, or Baashshinii Dzil or The Jet-Black Mountain because of the profusion of obsidian there. Thus shall the obsidian stone be the elected totem-stone of Hesperus Grove. Hesperus was the name given in ancient times to the evening star, which is identified by our esteemed astronomers as the planet Venus, and thus shall Venus be elected as the totem-planet of Hesperus Grove. In the works and knowledge of the learned astrologers, Venus is the ruling planet of Taurus the Bull, and so shall the mighty horned bull be adopted as the totem-beast of Hesperus Grove and which also represents the great Irish epic myth the ‘Tain Bo Cualigne’ or ‘Cattle Raid of Cooley.’ Of the native flora and fauna in the State of Colorado I have most carefully selected and elected three distinct species of creature as companions in our path; The osprey (Pandion haliaetus carolensis) to represent the element of air and of sky, the raccoon (Procyon lotor) to represent the element of earth, and the Kokanee salmon (Oncorhynchus nerka) to represent the element of water. As a botanical I have elected the chokecherry shrub, whose Latin name is Prunus virginiana. This is in honor of the first inhabitants of this area, the Arapahoe tribe led by Chief Little Raven who dwelt at the base of the shining mountains along ‘Cherry-Creek’ where it meets the South Platte river. The Arapahoe named the area after the wild chokecherry bushes growing along the creek. I also have adopted the native oak species Quercus gambelii as a ‘grandfather’ totem for our presence as a Grove here, a qualifying act recommended from the European tradition. The choice and acceptance of these native species in the immediate environment is representative of the Grove in the true tradition of Druidism; that which expresses a love and respect and reverence for the land, nature, the earth and that which populates and sustains it.

The Primary Aims of Hesperus Aurora Grove shall be:

1) The advancement of learning, education and training.
2) Worship, spiritual and religious activities.
3) Within the Celtic concept of ‘soul-friendship’ or anamchara the grove will exist for the nurturing of companionship, spiritual guidance, mutual support and friendship.
4) The Grove will recognize life events within the community, such as births, marriages and deaths. The administration may develop rituals and rites to mark these occasions, in order to enhance their significance and depth of meaning within a communal context. Such is the practice amongst most societies based on ancient native spiritual values.


Hesperus-Aurora Grove will be administered by three principal officers:
1) The Ollamh-Draoi or Arch-Druid, shortened to OD or simply Draoi. This shall be the official organizer of the grove. The Ollamh-Draoi will preside over all services, meetings, and convocations. The Arch-Druid will be the official representative of the grove in all matters. He/She may be a lay person with sufficient experience to effectively manage the organization and/or be trained and/or ordained by a spiritual authority. The traditional and historical role of a Druid is as an advisor, judge, teacher, authority in spiritual matters, natural philosopher, mediator, and diplomat, although these categories are not limited.

2) The Faidh or Ovate, in a very traditional sense is a diviner, seer, and/or prophet. The Faidh held the ability and skill to see and sense beyond physical space assumed time. In a modern sense the Ovate may be seen a the protector of the Grove and its members, marking the boundaries and carrying a symbolic shield. They may also hold the tools and skills of divination, to advise on past, present or future events. Many Ovate’s also possess a sound tree-lore (or ‘laws of nature’) and have healing skills, a knowledge of herbalism or other medicine-craft.

3) The Filidh or Poet/Bard. Traditionally the Bard kept the oral traditions of the tribe. There were several educational grades of Bard; Ollaire or Principal beginner, Tamhain or Poets Attendant, Drisac or Apprentice Satirist, Cli or Pillar, Anruth or Noble Stream, Eces or Man of Learning, and Ollamh or Doctor of Poetry. In a modern administrative sense the Bard is a secretary who maintains the written records of Grove meetings… ect. In a more spiritual sense the Bard is involved in the generation of creative works, forming character through expression and development, recording inspiration, a translator of the voice of nature, a herald of events, a vital link between the spiritual and the physical realms. He/she believes in the restorative power of nature and the flow of ideas is the Bardic stream of thought, channeling that energy in identifiable forms. A craftsperson, a maker or one skilled with hands, voice, and movement.

The grades of officers in Hesperus Aurora Grove are not intended to be hierarchal, but represent the specific skills, abilities, training, and knowledge of individuals. As a triad they personify the mind, body and spirit of the grove and should equally provide inspiration, education, and protection.


Elections for the posts of Ollamh-Draoi, Faidh and Filidh will be held annually on the last day of the Celtic New Year which is October the thirty first. All posts will be filled by voice vote, or via electronic communication which is by email, telephone or other. The Ollamh-Draoi reserves the right to appoint any member amongst members of the Grove to fill an unexpired term, and may appoint any member to serve in his/her place pro-tem. The annual General Meeting (AGM) of Hesperus Aurora Grove will be either at the same time as the election of officers or within two weeks of that date.


Hesperus Aurora Grove shall convene for a minimum of twelve meetings per year, and of this number the eight official ‘high-days’ are incorporated. The Grove shall adhere to the Celtic eightfold path of seasonal observances. These consist of four agricultural or earth celebrations, and four solar or celestial festivals. Where members of the grove cannot convene as a whole on these sacred days, individuals shall follow a personal ritual.

The Earth Festivals are:

1) Beltaine on 1st of May.
2) Lughnasadh on 1st of August.
3) Samhain on 1st November.
4) Imbolc on 1st of February.

The Solar Festivals are:

1) Mean Geimreadh on 21st December.
2) Mean Earrach on 21st March.
3) Mean Samraidh on 21st June.
4) Mean Foghmar on 21st September.

Hesperus Aurora Grove will convene in a specific, pre-arranged location in the absence of a permanent venue. In addition, Hesperus Aurora Grove recognizes the observance of the division of the year into lunar months. The new moon is the beginning of each month, the calendrical year begins on the first days of the season of Samhain and ends on the last days of the season of Lughnasadh. These are the first new moons prior to these festivals. The lunar calendar has been accepted on the basis of archeological evidence extracted from the Coligny Calendar (a bronze tablet discovered in 1897 in France and which details a Celto-Gaelic solar/lunar calendrical system). A similar system is detailed in Ireland in an ancient stone fragment known as the Knowth Site Stone. Hesperus Aurora Grove understands that the beliefs, practice and acceptance of a lunar calendar vary greatly from community to culture, and therefore is not in a position to force one system upon anyone. For the purposes of guidance the modern Irish calendar is given here:

Deireadh Fomhair October to November.
Mi na Samhna November to December.
Mi na Nollagh December to January.
Mi Eanair January to February.
Mi Feabhra February to March.
Mi Marta March to April.
Abrean April to May.
Mi na Beltaine May to June.
Meitheamh June to July.
Mi Luil July to August.
Mi Lunasa August to September.
Mean Fomhair September to October.


All members and officers of Hesperus Aurora Grove shall endeavor to uphold and follow the three essential tenets and moral principles of Druidism, being; truth, justice and knowledge. This is together with fifteen key Celtic virtues, extrapolated from the Audacht Morainn or Testament of Morann Mac Moin, a Brehon Judge and Druid. The fifteen virtues are summarized as follows: Mericful, just, diplomatic, conscientious, reliable, generous, hospitable, curteous, honest, courageous, strong, eloquent, steady, composed and objective.

The most basic cosmological belief in Gaelic-Celtic and Druidic practice is An Thribhis Mor or The Great Triskele, which represents the three essential elements of earth, water and air, or land, sky and sea. This Grove adopts this view and its traditional basis on which all oaths are formulated, although it does not seek to persuade any member or individual pursuing membership to adopt this belief.

This Grove recognizes that throughout history Druids have fulfilled many roles in traditional Celtic society, that they were a professional class of men and women who were historians, analysts, judges, arbitrators, diplomats, ambassadors, keepers of myths and tales, masters of chanting and music, artists, poets, doctors and physicians, magicians, cup-bearers, diviners, bards, lawyers… amongst other professions. Any member of this grove may pursue to qualify themselves in any of these arts or others not mentioned or listed, and will be supported wholeheartedly by the Grove administration.


Hesperus Aurora Grove recognizes thirteen points of modern Druidic Spirituality, which are based on a desire for and love of nature, the world, humanity, and all of its aspects in the search for a truly harmonic existence:

1) The Love of Peace.
2) The Love of Beauty.
3) The Love of Justice.
4) The Love of Myth.
5) The Love of History and Ancestors.
6) The Love of Trees, Herbs and Plants.
7) The Love of Mountains, Stones, and Minerals.
8) The Love of Truth and Wisdom.
9) The Love of Animals.
10) The Love of The Universe and Cosmology.
11) The Love of The Sacred Body.
12) The Love of Humanity and Community.
13) The Love of Life, Celebration and Commitment.


No discriminatory behavior will be tolerated in Hesperus Aurora Grove. All members will be treated as equals without exception. No person desiring admittance to the Grove will be refused on the basis of race, religious belief, gender, or other, but will be accepted solely on the basis of a presentation of a petition which may be written, oral or otherwise, stating their belief in the basic tenets of this Druidic Grove, which are:

1) Druidism is an ancient spiritual path with many dimensions and aspects, although primarily it is ‘earth-centered’ and seeks wisdom and knowledge through direct contact and study of nature and the universe. It is the basic belief of this Grove that nature is complex and interrelated, that the human being is but one of the many elements in this creation and that an understanding if the relationships with nature is one key to spiritual happiness.
2) A belief in and desire to follow the eightfold path of cyclical observances oitline in Article IV.
3) A belief in and desire to follow the three essential tenets of Druidry, and the fifteen virtues outlined above.
4) An understanding of the basic Celto-Druid cosmology of land, sky and sea.
5) A belief in the role of Druids in Celtic society as a professional class, and by extension that this professionalism may be emulated in our own time for the benefit of this group, the general community in Colorado, and both nationally and internationally.
6) An understanding of, an willingness to follow the thirteen aspects of love outlines above in Article VI.

Membership shall not be limited by location. Any individual expressing their desire to join Hesperus Aurora Grove shall be admitted regardless of their origins. No member shall impose or seek to influence any other member/s in religious, theological or spiritual doctrine. Members may share experiences, impart objective knowledge, teach or lecture on topics of specialization, or generally, or offer insights into their spiritual values, but there should never at any time be an intention or resolution to convert or change the spiritual or religious beliefs of any other member/s. It is the sole and unchangeable view of Hesperus Aurora Grove that absolutely no spiritual path is inherently superior to any other.


Hesperus Aurora Grove cannot accept responsibility for any criminal damages caused by members whilst committing illegal activities. This Grove does not support any unlawful activity. Hesperus Aurora Grove cannot be held responsible for any mental illness contracted as a result of beliefs or doctrines contained within this constitution.


Amendments to this constitution may be enacted after two consecutive meetings of members with majority votes on items for correction or addition.


The constitution and organization of Hesperus Aurora Grove is put into motion with the following members, who join of their free will and may likewise choose to leave:

Jan Preston Dunn. Ed. Le-Rae. Sam Kuntz. Shawn. Simon Shupp. Ben Alexander. Ryan. Shirley. J. W. Rockies. Laura. Laura Allen. David J. Drew. Shannon.