Lughnasadh 2005 - Issue 67
The Henge of Keltria, P.O. Box 1060 Anoka, MN 55303-1060
Tony Taylor, Editor
Table of Contents
From the Secretary
From The Treasurer (Not presented on-line)
The Bard's Path - A Life Well Lived....
The Seer's Path - The Nature Spirits - Part 1 of 4
The Druid's Path - Keltrian View of Deity
Groves & Groups
(Not presented on-line)
Reviews - Caera
From the Mailbox - FallFling 2005
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From the President
I am an intensely spiritual person. In fact, I am intense in every aspect of my life, being just as passionate about gardening as I am about making love. When I love, I love fiercely, and when I don’t love, I do that with every fiber of my being, too. As an athlete or as a priestess, I pour myself completely into it, giving my all. I do everything I do with that intensity, with a passion for life that has always defined who I am. I try very hard to live my life “in the moment.”
I am a Druid. I say that with complete confidence after many years of questioning if that particular title applied to me. I am a Keltrian Druid, truly, but I am also a Druid that needs no acknowledgment from any living person. My acknowledgment is from Spirit. It is my birthright, and it also stems from my as-yet-unfulfilled desire to know absolutely everything there is to know. Some will understand that it is partly this insatiable, driving desire to know that makes a Druid, and some won’t, and that’s okay.
But it is also my intense spirituality that makes me who and what I am, and I am a Druid. An Irish-American Druid, to be precise. Poking, prodding, delving into darkness, shedding light on mystery, discovering that which is hidden, revealing truth – those are the things that I do best. Otherworldly work. Work of Spirit.
With that in mind, it is truly ironic that I have been the President of the Henge for two years, with my name on the ballot again. Being the President of this (or any other) organization is often a thankless job, and it is not particularly Druidic or spiritual. It comes as no surprise to me that I am running unopposed again. There is no glory or prestige to be found in this job. There is no spiritual satisfaction in being the moving target for every person who ever held a grudge (did I mention that I am also intensely sensitive?) — unless it is in knowing that while those negative beings focus on me, they are sparing someone else. And managing the mundane affairs of the Henge is real work, the kind of work that causes most people to shy away. Sifting through paperwork, editing documents to be sent to the membership, deciding on dates for meetings of the Board, asking people to volunteer their time and effort, and endlessly searching for something original to write about at every quarter for the space called “From the President” are not activities that feed the soul. In fact, it is work that often takes my attention away from Spirit, away from my Grove, away from my life’s work.
By now you are certainly wondering why I agreed to run for President again! First, I was asked...and I am in service. Yes, I am still in service, to the Henge and to the Gods of my People. Of course, I will always be in service to the Gods. But the three requirements for advancement within the Ring System are time, knowledge and service to the Henge. And, although I am a Ring of the Oak, my service is still required, because I have always believed in giving back to those who have given so much to me. Right now I can best serve in the position of President. You see, there is another side of me that is efficient and organized and very grounded, and that is what is required of the mundane job of President of the Board of Directors of the Henge of Keltria. I go where I am needed.
Second, I am passionate about the Henge of Keltria. I approach the job of President of the Henge with the same intensity as I approach everything else. I love the people, I love the ritual, and I love the Order. From the very beginning, the beliefs and rituals of the Henge have resonated within me, and I want so very much to share that with others. I want us to be successful in our continuing efforts to become a stellar resource, a welcoming sanctuary, and a united fellowship, both for our current members and for others who might need us. I want us to continue to strive toward excellence in all that we do. I want us to proceed toward our vision of reconstructing a Druidism based on the practices of the ancient Celts that is still useful and valid for us today.
Third (for there must be a triad), the spiritual warrior that dwells within me is fighting for our right to be who and what we are, without apology, within our larger society. It is time for Druids to step out of the shadows and take our place in the world as a legitimate spiritual path alongside the “world religions.” As your President, I have been and can continue to be in the forefront of that fight, a battle which is waged more with diplomacy than anything else.
So it is that the small victories and kudos I occasionally experience help to reinforce the idea that this job is worthwhile (you will read about some of those small victories in this issue of Henge Happenings). Of course, I could never do any of this without the support and cooperation of the rest of the Board, who are just as passionate about the Henge as I am. They really are wonderful, dedicated people, and I would be lost without them. We truly are a team.
There are times when I stand back and understand that the mundane things I work on when I wear the President’s hat eventually do contribute to the greater spiritual good in some small way, and that can be satisfying to my own spirit in the end.
With that said, I am looking forward to the Gathering of the Keltrian Tribe, where face-to-face contact with other Keltrians always refreshes my soul and rekindles my passion.
Blessed Lughnasadh! May your First Harvest be bountiful!
- The Topaz Owl
From the Secretary
by Tony Taylor
Council of Elders Vacancy
The duration of appointment to the Council of Elders is nine years. The seat currently occupied by Tony Taylor is coming to the end of that appointment period. Active members of the Ring of the Oak are selecting from three candidates in accordance with the by-laws and working documents of the Council of Elders. The nominees for a new nine year term are Tony Taylor, Phil Hutchens, and Chris Moore. Election results will be determined in November 2005.
IRS Grants 501(c)(3) Exemption to Henge
In a letter from the IRS dated May 19, 2005, we were informed that our application for tax exempt status under section 501(c)(3) was granted by the IRS. Contributions to us are deductible under section 170 of the Code. We are also qualified to received tax deductible bequests, devices, transfers or gifts under section 2055, 2106 or 2522 of the Code. We were further judged to be classified as a public charity under those codes.
The Tax Exemption Project was stalled for one reason or another for several years. Congratulations and thanks go to TopazOwl who took it on last year. She started fresh and finished this monumental task. The IRS had the application for over nine months before they informed us of their decision.
Effective Date of Exemption: November 30, 1995.
Henge elections will take place at the Annual Meeting in August. Results of the elections and any other actions taken at the Annual Meeting will be reported in the Samhain issue of Henge Happenings.
The Bard's Path
A life well lived...
Today I have laughed and cried,
I have held the future in my arms,
made love with the present,
and brought joy to the past.
Today I have touched the crescent moon,
and basked in the warmth of the sun,
the waters of emotion have run their
course around my roots.
Today I have made a child laugh,
and taught a valuable lesson,
I have taken on a new responsibility,
allowing myself to grow.
Today I have lived!
The Seer's Path
The Nature Spirits - Part 1 of 4
By C. Leigh McGinley & Mauro Bruno
[Ed. Note: The Henge of Keltria Correspondence Course is intended to assist members of the Henge to improve their understanding and practice of Keltrian Druidism. This is the first of four parts of Lesson VI of the Henge of Keltria Correspondence Course.]
Many people are drawn to certain trees, where they find comfort and peace. Others are attracted to a natural place, such as a waterfall or an especially pretty spot in the mountains. Often people will find they have an affinity and admiration for a particular animal, or find a certain animal coming to them often in their dreams. Some people collect certain rocks or love to be surrounded by plants. Does a lake or stream near your home call to you? Have you been visited by certain birds recently? Have you had some rather interesting experiences in the natural world that seem to have no explanation? Perhaps these experiences and attractions can be attributed to the Nature Spirits, who have their own special ways of communicating with us.
In the Keltrian Tradition, the Nature Spirits are associated with the Realm of Land and the Discipline of the Seer. They are the spirits that share the earth with us in the present. These are the plants, the animals, the fairies, and the Spirits of Place such as the spirit of the mountain or the spirit of the lake. They are the spirit of the individual oak and the Spirit of the Oaks. They are the spirit of the individual deer as well as the collective Spirit of the Deer. When performing Keltrian ritual, along with the Ancestors and the Gods, we invite the presence of the Nature Spirits to complete our triad invocations.
In this lesson, we will discuss the various types of Nature Spirits so that the student might gain a greater understanding of them, both from an ancient Celtic perspective and from a modern Keltrian perspective. We will examine the sacred landscape, discuss Celtic sacred animals, trees, and plants, and determine the ways in which Keltrian Druids can form a respectful working relationship with the Nature Spirits as we take our example from the Druids of old.
The Sacred Landscape
In our modern society, most of us have forgotten the sacred nature of the landscape and how to live at one with the natural world. We have forgotten that the natural world feeds us, both body and soul. This leaves a void in our very being. Humankind feels alienated from the Earth and Nature, and try as we might to fill that void in our souls with the acquisition of more material goods, we are still left empty and searching. This search has brought many people to Earth-based spiritualities, where they discover their sacred connection to the Land once again.
The ancient Celts were mainly a pastoral people, dependant on the Land for their living in a way to which most of us can no longer relate. Both their mundane and religious lives centered around the Land. There was no separation of human and nature; neither was there a separation of spirituality from everyday life. Humans were a part of nature, and the natural world was the physical manifestation of spirit. Traditional teachings tell us that the Earth is alive and infused by a spirit that is its life and soul. In this traditional way of viewing the world, the material is a reflection of the spirit, and the spirit reveals itself in the material. There is an outer, physical landscape that reveals and reflects the inner, spiritual landscape. Celtic tradition and beliefs are expressed spiritually through the Land. The natural landscape is filled with places where spirit is present. Stones, springs, mountains, islands, and trees are natural places where we can feel the sanctity of the landscape and begin to communicate with the spirits there, for in the Celtic tradition, such places are ensouled.
Spirit of Place
The Greeks recognized and referred to the Spirit of Place as the genius loci, or “spirit of a place.” The Celtic scholar Nigel Pennick prefers to call the Spirit of Place the anima loci, or “place-soul,” feeling that this term more accurately describes the energies apparent where a feature of the landscape is sacred.
Because the Celts recognized that places have spirit, significant features of the landscape were named appropriately; that is, the name of a place had meaning to the people. These place-names still exist in Celtic lands, although their meanings may now be forgotten by most inhabitants. The Irish place-name stories, called the Dindsenchas, are stories that tell how a place got its name, and they express the quality of the spirit of those places. There are equivalent place-name stories from other Celtic areas.
Natural places become “sacred” when humans recognize their spirit, and the sacred aura of a place is enhanced by a careful tending of the qualities already inherent in that place. One must participate consciously in the qualities already present, and not attempt to control or command the presence. This is the reason that places where rituals are held that are in sync with the natural spirit of a place become more “powerful.” Centuries of honoring and working in harmony with the spirit of a place have given us some very sacred places that still exist today in Celtic lands, such as Avalon/Glastonbury, Uisneach, the Hill of Tara, or Newgrange in the Boyne Valley.
Conversely, performing acts that are contrary to the spirit of a place tend to alter it or, in some cases, even destroy it. Many natural sacred places have been altered irrevocably or destroyed altogether in the quest for profit and gain. The modern mind set views no place as sacred, and if a sacred thing or place is “in the way,” then it is obliterated. Other times a sacred place is not obliterated, but desecrated. The nature of the spirit of a place can be changed forever by misuse.
Some natural places still exist in the world where the Spirit of Place is evident to those who are aware. Waterfalls, rivers and lakes, mountains, groves, rock formations — all have a spirit inherent. It is up to us to discover the nature of a certain place with which we feel an affinity and to develop a harmonious relationship with that particular Spirit of Place. One can never tell when one may discover, develop, and nurture a powerful Spirit of Place right in one’s own backyard!
The Celtic Elements
The “elements” in Celtic belief, called dúile in Irish, are not the same as the Greek system that most of us are familiar with. While the Greek elements are earth, air, fire, and water, the Celtic elements consist of things like stone, earth, plant life, sea, wind, moon, cloud, and sun. These are the dúile that occur in nature, in humans, and in the cosmos. The elements of the self are described by the Welsh Bard Taliesin in The Book of Lanrwst. In the poetic writings of both Taliesin and the Irish Amairgin, these great Bards relate themselves to the natural world (see The Song of Amairgin below). Through this we can understand that the workings of the human body and soul are reflections of the universe, and with this in mind, nature can be interpreted in terms of the human constitution. Stone relates to bone, sea relates to blood, wind relates to breath, plant life relates to hair, earth relates to flesh, and so on. Various features of the landscape are reflections of corresponding human parts, so we can relate to them in terms of those parts.
It is clear that the Druid must understand the relationship of the body, mind, and soul to the elements of the cosmos in order to perform Draíocht, or “the Druid arts.” This is a good concept to keep in mind as we continue on to discuss the Goddess of the Land.
Since the earth was considered a living, breathing, ensouled being, each Celtic tribe paid homage to a Goddess that was the embodiment of the land they inhabited. A king ruled the tribe only with the approval of the Goddess of the Land, who was known by different names in various regions. The condition of the land was always a reflection of the quality of kingly rule; in fact, the king was considered “married” to the land, and must care for Her as he would a wife. If the King was good and fair, the Land Goddess would look favorably upon the Tribe and the people would prosper.
The Lebor Gabála Érenn (Book of the Invasions of Ireland) tells us that the Druid poet Amairgin White-Knee set his right foot on the shore at Inber Colptha upon his arrival at Ireland and spoke these words:
I am Wind on Sea,
I am Ocean-wave,
I am Roar of Sea,
I am Bull of Seven Fights,
I am Hawk on a cliff,
I am Dewdrop in the sunshine,
I am Fairest of Flowers
I am Boar for Boldness,
I am Salmon in Pool,
I am Lake on Plain,
I am Word of Skill,
I am the Point of a Weapon (that poureth forth combats),
I am God who fashioned Fire for a Head.
Who smootheth the ruggedness of a mountain?
Who is he who announceth the ages of the Moon?
And who, the place where falleth the sunset?
Who calleth the cattle from the House of Tethra?
On whom do the cattle of Tethra smile?
Who is the troop, who the god who fashioneth edges..?
Enchantment about a Spear? Enchantments of Wind?
One can note above that Amairgin names himself as several natural things. Amairgin was able to become one with the cosmos, by becoming those things he has named and also gaining all the attributes that are hidden in the “kennings” or secret meanings of this incantation. By this act of “becoming,” he was able to set foot on Irish soil and spiritually merge with all things that existed there. He was, in effect, introducing himself to and becoming one with this new Land. In this way, he could spiritually communicate with all things and understand how to honor and gain the favor of this particular Land Goddess and the spirits of the Land that he and his people had come to claim; in fact, he learned how to gain Ireland for his people. Later, as he explored the Land a bit, the Goddess of the Land came forward to speak to him and introduce Herself in return, personified in triplicate as Banba, Fotla, and Eriu. Each promised the Sons of Mil victory over the Tuatha de Danann (the current rulers of Ireland) if Amairgin would promise to keep her name as one of the names for Ireland. Amairgin agreed, the Sons of Mil (who were the Gaels) were victorious, and Ireland is known as Erin (a variation of Eriu) to this day.
The Goddess of the Land is, of course, herself multi-faceted and ambiguous. She can be auspicious as the granter of Sovereignty and the giver of the Harvest, but if the Tribe does not have her favor, she can also be the infertile Hag, or neutral in her reproductive aspect like the Flower Maiden.
The Land or Nature Spirits also represent this full range of being: they can be chaotic and hostile, but can be cajoled into cooperation. The Land Goddess is the ruler of all these spirits, so when her favor is obtained by the people through the just rule of a king, she can direct these spirits to help human survival instead of hindering it.
When we invite the Nature Spirits to join us during Keltrian ritual, we are establishing and maintaining a positive relationship with all of the children of the Goddess Sovereignty, who can be considered the Earth Mother. In this way, we gain the favor of the Land itself so that our Tribe may prosper, just as the Druid Amairgin did when he landed on Irish soil long ago.
Spirit of Stone
As we have seen above in our short discussion of the dúile, the ancient Celts believed stone to be equivalent to the bones of the Land. One of the Four Treasures brought to Ireland by the Tuatha de Danann was the Lia Fáil, or Stone of Destiny. It seems to have been the most important of the Treasures, for it was placed in Tara, one of the two sacred centers of Ireland (the other being Uisneach), where it cried out at the coming of the rightful High King.
The properties of the Stone of Destiny were oracular, and the stone itself was one of a class of stones endowed with divining powers. Only one among the many purposes of an oracular stone is the recognition of a monarch, and the Lia Fáil is just one of many stones of kingship (albeit the most famous). For instance, the O’Neills, kings of Armagh, were inaugurated in County Tyrone while sitting on a special stone. Other rulers were made when placing their foot into a special footprint within a rock — the Celtic version of a coronation. It is no wonder that Celtic High Kings were crowned on the bones of Sovereignty.
Stones were also used for wishing and cursing, for marking sacred places, and for healing. Stones that formed natural rock basins were prized for the water the depression collected, for it was said to contain curative properties, and it is possible that at one time they served as receptacles for libations to the Gods and Spirits. People sat in natural stone chairs for their ability to heal both body and spirit. Rocking Stones, which “sing” in the wind, were used by Seers as oracles. “Lucky stones” were not merely lucky, but were considered to be ensouled with beneficial spirits. Holey stones, which are stones with a natural hole in them, were often held in special esteem, and some were used for healing small children by passing them three times through the hole in the stone.
Some stones are said to endow special gifts. One of the most famous of these stones is the world-famous Blarney Stone, which bestows the “gift of gab,” or eloquence, upon anyone who kisses it.
Pliny the Elder, a Roman natural historian, spoke of a Druid magic egg, reputedly made of the spittle and secretions of angry snakes, that was esteemed by Druids and believed to “ensure success in law courts and a favorable reception by princes.” In Wales it is referred to as an “adder stone” or a “Druid’s gem.” Some say it was a talisman made of glass. Others say it may have been a fossilized ammonite or sea urchin, or the egg-case of a whelk. In Ulster and the Western Isles of Ireland, quartz pebbles and crystals are left on graves or tombs, and are, interestingly enough, also called “adder-stones.”
To be continued next issue....
The Druid's Path
Keltrian View of Deity
By C. Leigh McGinley
I was recently asked, "If the mythic deities are recognized as the actual Gods in Keltrian worship, or are they representations of real deities, but in a more Animistic way?" The following is my response to that question.
Questions about how we view and interact with Deity are always interesting, because no two people will view Deity in exactly the same way, even within the same belief system. Perception of Deity is so personal that what usually happens is that we agree on some general points of view into which we can categorize ourselves, such as animistic, polytheistic, pan-polytheistic, etc. From our FAQ: ”What is the Keltrian view of Deity? ”We see Deity in many different aspects, both male and female. These different aspects of Deity each represent different aspects of life, nature and the seasons.
"We use appropriate aspects of Deity in rituals and in our lives to help us maintain contact. The idea that these aspects of Deity are separate from each other is called polytheism (many Gods). The idea that these aspects are part of a larger whole (often called the unmanifest and sometimes God) is called pan-polytheism. In Keltrian Druidism, we see both polytheism and pan-polytheism as valid views of Deity.
”We believe that Deity exists in all living things. We see each human, animal and plant as a unique expression of the Divine. Some Druids extend this view to what are normally considered inanimate objects such as wells, rivers, and mountains. They see Divinity in many places such as mountains, rivers, and the wind. This idea, that inanimate objects are in some way living is called animism. Keltrian Druids are animistic at least to the level where they see the Divine within plant life.”
Also, the first of the Stated Beliefs of Keltrian Druidism reads thus: ”We believe in Divinity as it is manifest in the Pantheon. There are several valid theistic perceptions of this Pantheon.”
Now, the word “worship” is a tricky one in itself, especially for folks who are reacting from its connotations regarding their Christian upbringing. My own understanding of the word “worship,” assisted by the Random House Dictionary, is that worship can mean “reverent honor” and “great admiration or regard.” I do believe that this describes our interaction with our Gods. Nobody is groveling before idols or anything, which I’m afraid is exactly the image the word “worship” conjures for the organized-religion-phobic.
Like many other Druids, my own relationship with the Gods of our People is reciprocal, and I suspect it may be that way for most Keltrians, though I hesitate to put a finger on anyone else’s way of interacting with the Gods. When one considers the word “worship” as “reverent honor; great admiration and regard,” I don’t think any of us really have a problem with it.
Through Misty Air
Wake the Dragon
Review by Ailim
Music should possess the capability of taking you to other places. Caera’s music does just that! Her combination of brass-string harp, modeled after those used in the Middle Ages, and soothing vocal qualities moves you out of the mundane world and into the Celtic realm.
Caera has two recordings presently available. Through Misty Air is a solo work with a primary focus on original material, and Wake the Dragon a collaborative effort with bandmate Myra Hope Bobbitt focusing primarily on traditional songs. What differentiates Caera in her efforts is her use of multiple languages. Collectively on these two works you will find Welsh, Irish, Scottish Gaelic, Middle French, and English.
Through Misty Air provides twelve songs that weave in and out of English and Gaelic, often within the same song. Caera provides translations as well as a few thoughts on the motivation for each song. My personal favorites include Carolan’s Welcome, an excellent rendition of Turlough O’Carolan’s air #171 and Symbols a tale of one’s discovery of their personal power.
Wake the Dragon is a collaborative work between Caera and Myra Hope Bobbitt. Songs are in English, Welsh, Gaelic and French and involve tales of warriors, priestesses, love found, and life in the forest realm. The interplay between Myra’s nylon-strung harp, Caera’s brass-strung harp and their respective vocal qualities makes this CD well worth listening to. Personal favorites include the haunting In Fading Light and the Scottish Buain a Rainich (Fairy Love Song) with interwined vocal tapestry.
I strongly recommend both of these works not only for their artistic quality but for their ability to move you beyond the mundane realm. They are perfect for relaxing after work or for preparing the mind for ritual. We are indeed fortunate to have a bard such as Caera to remind us of the great stories of old.
[To Purchase visit Caera's website: http://www.caera.info - ed]
T-Shirts now Available
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Check them out. We anticipate having a full line of Henge of Keltria merchandise over the next few months. Particular thanks to Ken F. for his beautiful artwork displayed on the back of this t-shirt.
From the Mailbox
Georgia - FallFling is a celebration of the fall season and a chance to both rekindle old friendships and to make new ones. October 6-9, 2005, Dragon Hills, GA (Near Carrollton). For registrations information please contact Linda Kerr at http://www.faeriefaith.net or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.