Monthly Archives: July 2014

Blood and Mistletoe 2

Blood and Mistletoe 2

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Blood and Mistletoe

By Ronald Hutton

A Review

Dr Hutton’s style is fluid and he manages to weave stories with the information he tries to share.

When I started reading Blood and Mistletoe I had intended to create a chapter by chapter review. My eagerness resulted in the first post which can be found here ….

So I started on this task…

But then something else took over.

It became apparent that the story Hutton was telling was one which itself denied such reductionism. To simply report on the work chapter by chapter does the book a great dis-service since it is about the evolving ‘image’ of Druids and Druidry rather than about key moments in history.

Chapters 2,3 and 4 speak of what could be seen as the political manipulation of the image of the Druid. From one perspective within the myths of the Druids we find cultural icons and iconographies which, once easy to dismiss and distance ourselves from, actually speak of ‘ancient’ seats of learning; wisdom and reverence. Just as the Arthurian myths gave some kind of legitimacy to kings who needs to cast themselves in the role of being saviours of the land. (for example Henry VIII’s creation of the ‘Winchester Round Table’ with him painted as central to him), the Druidic history was polished, and refined in order to create nationalist propaganda.

Chapter 5 deals with a name and character familiar to all who have read anything about Druidry – Iolo Morganwg (Edward Williams), Of course this name is muttered with almost equal amounts of respect and annoyance; a literary collector and, for want of a better phrase, forger who manages to muddy the already murky waters of Druidic history and lore.

It was a time of passion for all things ‘Celtic’ and inspired the romantic approaches to such histories by people like William Blake. Perhaps the most sobering thing in this whole episode is that many of Williams’ forgeries are better known that many of the original texts. The influence he will have had on Lady Charlotte Guests version of The Mabinogion must be questioned.

Chapters 6 and 7 really record the growth and development of British Druidry to an all time high. The eighteenth and nineteenth centuries were in many ways times of ‘rediscovery’ of all kinds of esoteric teachings and ‘magical lore’. However by the 1860’s interest in Druidry seems to have been in decline.

In Huttons book chapters 8 and 9 are really dedicated to an exploration of this fading of the ‘druidic star’. The Gorsedd of Bards of the British Isles had been established by Williams (1792) and the society of poets, musicians and artists continued. Today, like the Cornish Gorseth (established 1928) serve to keep the British Celtic Languages alive – Welsh and Cornish in these particular examples.

The final chapters of Huttons work explore what he calls the ‘afterglow’ and what can only be described as the revivalist movement within the neopagan tradition… and that brings us up to date.

So whilst the image of the Druid has been borrowed, stolen and annexed by particular people at particular times the re-invention of a nature based, Celtic inspired approach to spirituality has caught the green-spiritual zeitgiest the tag line offered  by the Reformed Druids of Gaia holds more than a keen element of honesty –  “we’re doing religion the old fashioned way — making it up as we go!”.

Ronald Huttons book is best considered as mammoth read and full of well referenced, well researched information considering the development of Druidry from the point of view of its waning and waxing socio-political significance. Not necessarily sidling the spirituality but placing everything within a framework which leads to the comforting notion that we are involved in a vibrant re-creation and re-invention of a system and not keepers of stale, traditional lore.

It is a MUST read for all interested  in really getting to grips with the background of the path they are walking,

Consider Purchasing Ronald Hutton’s Superb Works here …

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Published: July 13, 2014

Eleven Commitments of Modern Druids

Eleven Commitments of Modern Druids

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We are involved in a movement which is built around re-connection to and re-construction of tradition.

In my recent meditations and revisiting of what some would call Bardic teachings I wanted to focus on what it means to be a Druid. A study of the Welsh and Irish Triads gives us a starting point and of course the poems and stories within the Welsh and Irish Bardic traditions offer some pointers.

With the movie Avatar on the television at the moment many of the core themes of shamanism are bouncing around in my head.

So what does it mean to be a Druid in today’s world?

Perhaps the following discussion piece created for the course I am running at the moment may be of interest…

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Published: July 13, 2014

Three Cauldrons Three Worlds

Three Cauldrons – Three Worlds

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Three Cauldrons – Three Worlds

Reconstructed Druidic Lore

If we accept the any of the scholarly work on Druidry we know that very little is really known about what the Druids actually did. Perhaps the only thing we can say with any certainty is that Druidic Lore has presented today is a ‘best guess’ about what was believed based upon quite late (historically) texts, narratives, poems and tales which began to circulate in the 11th and 12th Centuries.

Such reconstruction and re-creation is at the core of Western/European pagan tradition and should not be dismissed since the intention, to create a system through which personal-spiritual development within the context of the natural world is an honest and valid one. The truth is that all spiritual systems have been revised, revisited and restated in keeping with the needs of the time.

I would personally go as far to say that any spiritual system which refuses to develop to meet the needs of the people becomes ‘fixed, ‘dogmatic’ and a fertile ground for fundamentalist thinking. We see so much evidence in the world where religious teachings have been divorced from the context in which they were first recorded and held on to as irrevocable, unquestionable law.

But I digress.

My true Cauldron of Incubation
It has been taken by the Gods from the mysteries of the elemental abyss
A fitting decision that ennobles one from one’s center
that pours forth a terrifying stream of speech from the mouth. 

I sing of the Cauldron of Wisdom

which bestows the merit of every art,

through which treasure increases,

which magnifies every common artisan,

which builds up a person through their gift.

 I sing of the Cauldron of Motion 

understanding grace,
accumulating knowledge
streaming poetic inspiration as milk from the breast,
it is the tide-water point of knowledge union of sages 

 

Abstract from Cauldron of Posey – Amergin

 

The Cauldron of Posey was a poem attributed to Amergin White Knee a bard and poet within the Irish Mythological Cycle (featuring the stories of the Tuatha de Dannan).  During the 7th Century an Irish poet re-created the poem which was later recorded in a 16th Century Manuscript (Legal codex H.3.18, Trinity College, Dublin).

It is interesting since the poem proposes the idea that there are three cauldrons which can be considered to exist within the human body from which all poetry (inspiration) flows.

Inspiration, Poetry and Wisdom are three essential gifts which we can say are the result of a spiritual quest and hence the three cauldrons represent three aspects in the attainment of these gifts.

  • The Cauldron of Incubation (warming) is upright in a person from the beginning.
  • The Cauldron of Motion (vocation)  is tipped on its side in the newly born.
  • The Cauldron of Wisdom (knowledge) is seen as being up-side down in the newly born.

One way to think about these cauldrons is in considering how each may relate to human experience so that the :

Cauldron of Wisdom ‘speaks to’ Consciousness  : Future, Creation, Knowledge, Inspiration

Cauldron of Vocation : Experience – Present, Motion, Observation, Training

Cauldron of Formation :  Existence – Past Incubation, Formation, Tradition

As Amergin notes…

The Gods do not apportion the same to everyone

tipped, inverted, right-side-up;

no knowledge, half-knowledge, full-knowledge

 

The Cauldron of Formation

From whence we came, our source , our origin and as such the cauldron is upright ready to receive.

We owe our origins to the ‘Sea’ – we emerged from the sea and we develop within the ‘waters of amniotic fluid’.

Water in myth is also emotion and often the sea represents the unconscious. The idea of the ‘under ground stream’ in alchemy is about the passing of wisdom from one generation to another.

The key questions we can focus on here relate to our existence; our personal inner and outer worlds (the relationship between consciousness and unconsciousness) as well as the traditions which shape us.

Perhaps the key lesson of this cauldron is that we are shaped by our past and not defined or limited by it. Maybe then, we could consider traumas cause this cauldron to spill over and possibly diminish for a while, our capacity to engage in our own lives with vitality and motivation.

The Cauldron of Motion

It is by the recognition or denial of our gifts that this cauldron is turned or not. It is the realm of the Earth, the ‘middle-world’ upon which we act and that action results an a consequence.

We, as we define our selves, incubate ideas and connect to motivations through consideration of the Cauldron of Warming, but when working from the space of the Cauldron of Motion we are connecting and interacting with the world.  … and the world is acting upon us.

The question here perhaps is related to the effects of our actions and the consequences which stem from them.

Amergin notes that the Cauldron of Motion can be turned by sorrow or joy and by that we can possibly suggest that these result from our actions or inactions – in a sense karma.

The poem speaks of …

Longing, grief, the sorrows of jealousy and the discipline of pilgrimage to holy places.

 It is internally that these are borne although the cause is from outside.

So we must live and respond and know that we are being ‘here’ and ‘now’ – about responsibility in developing our skills and our gifts.  Through our inter-action with ‘the land’ we either create or destroy.

The Cauldron of Wisdom

Whilst knowledge comes from what he have learned, wisdom comes from experience – wisdom is earned not learned.

So we start to understand and work on a more profound level with those things we have incubated and those things we have created.

This Cauldron relates to the outer world of the Sky – the realm of deities and of ‘the future’

A question here is perhaps related to our responsibilities to the future and our connection with the Universe beyond the here and now.

Amergin notes that ..

There are then two divisions of joy that turn the Cauldron of Wisdom, these are divine joy and human joy.

In human joy there are four divisions among the wise.

There are four divisions of human joy among the wise — sexual intimacy, the joy of health and prosperity after years of studying poetry, the joy of wisdom after the harmonious creation of poems, and the joy of ecstasy from eating the fair nuts of the nine hazels of the Well of Segais in the Sidhe realm.

They cast themselves in multitudes, like a ram¹s fleece upon the ridges of the Boyne, moving upstream swifter than racehorses driven on midsummer¹s day every seven years. 

The Gods touch people through divine and human joys so that they are able to speak prophetic poems and dispense wisdom and perform miracles, giving wise judgment with precedents, and blessings in answer to every wish. The source of these joys is outside the person and added to their cauldrons to cause them to turn, although the cause of the joy is internal.

 This is the cauldron of poetic inspiration and wisdom beyond the moment.

As one writer notes:-

“Once upright the Cauldron of Wisdom and Knowledge is capable of holding much more knowledge and wisdom [it] is emblematic of the connection between the Skyworld of the Gods and the spiritual and mental aspects of life.” (Murphy, 2014)

 The Three Cauldrons and Their Associations

Incubation Motion Wisdom
SEA LAND SKY
The Underworld The Middle World The Upper World
Past Lives ‘Reality’ “The Awen”
Ancestors The intersection of the Web Poetic Inspiration
The Cycle of Death and Rebirth The ‘sacred’ directions Realisation of Goals
Senses Gifts Visions
Unconscious/Conscious Mind Ego/Consciousness Transpersonal Consciousness
THOUGHTS ACTIONS DREAMS
Keeper of Tradition Caretaker of the Earth Seer and Healer
Old Ways Initiation Transcendence
WATER EARTH FIRE
Primal Life Energy Motivating Force Spiritual Energy

 It would be a mistake to ignore the interdependence of these domains in the same way it would be artificial to deny anyone of them. Within the “New Age Spiritual” movement we constantly read of those who want to ‘dismiss their ego’ or ‘live only in the light’.

In the first instance letting go of egotism is not the same as abandoning that which at your core makes you – you (your ego).

In the latter case abandoning the material and not considering the effects you have on your environment is, I would argue, a kind of psychosis.“New Age Festivals”  are often subtitled Mind, Body and Spirit events for a reason – the recognition of the need to integrate the three domains and that they are interdependent.

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Published: July 12, 2014

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