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Keltria Journal

Issue 18 - Beltaine 1993

Back to the Tribe

by Caillean

The Shaggy Man

"It is not possible for you to be a Druid! There is no unbroken Druid tradition, and to call yourself a Druid is both presumptuous and slanderous! You do not know for sure EVERYTHING that the Druids did, so nothing you do can rightly be called Druid!"

If I hear one more strident suggestion that I am ignorantly mistaken to call myself a Druid (in training) I believe I am going to throw up. The people who are so concerned have confused my intention. Here it comes, loudly and slowly, so you are able to u.n.d.e.r.s.t.a.n.d. I am not trying to parrot an ancient belief system so exactly that the man on the street will say to his friend, "Look, Bob, there goes a paleolithic Druid. Wonder what he's doing still alive." I am drawing from a growing body of historical information, and from my own connection to the same Divine that inspired the original Druids, to reconstruct a valid spiritual system in a way that is significant for these modern times. All you frustrated university history professors are invited to go find an undergrad, or somebody else who gives a shit, to impress with dates and word origins. Wicca doesn't stem from a history any less fragmentary than that of the Druids, and yet no "authority" is contesting the Wiccan's use of the word "witch". Where are the criticisms of the generic Pagans who have the ignorant audacity to live in the cities and use a title which, by most definitions, means "country dweller?"

See, I'm finding these tantalizing scraps and bits of something which was once really beautiful, and I'm trying to put it back together. Some of the pieces are missing (although more and more are turning up all the time) so I'm taking some new stuff which looks as if it might fit, and I'm making repairs. Sometimes I even add a piece of my own, even if there's no hole to stick it in, because it just seems as if it ought to be there. It's going to be different from it was, and a collector wouldn't buy it, but it's also going to be beautiful again, and I didn't really want to sell it anyway.

Putting the pieces together again is an exciting activity, and there are many individuals and groups who are doing a beautiful job of modernizing ancient concepts. New stories and mythologies are being added to the old ones, new rituals are being written which have personal meaning for the participants but which at the same time keep the spirit and flavor of their historical antecedents. Energy is being poured into the ashes, and a beautiful new spirit is emerging.

"Beautiful new spirit." Hmmmm. We sing new songs, dance new dances, sit around new fires and tell new stories, make new magic with new rituals, and we invoke the old Gods. At the risk of inviting charges of heresy from the rivet painters of the spiritual arts, is it possible that we might consider who the new Gods will be?

First some background. T.G.E. Powell (The Celts) makes the point that the Celtic Gods were personified aspects of one tribal God, and that their Goddesses were aspects of one Goddess who was identified with the land which the tribe inhabited. Discussing Samhain, Powell states that it "...had to do with the union of the tribal God with the Nature Goddess who nourished the tribal territory, and who was sometimes personified in a river or other natural feature." Powell further states that this fact would help to understand why there were so many different names for the deities, and so few that were found universally throughout the Celtic lands.

Although we will still have a strong identification with the traditional deities of our chosen pantheon, it would seem reasonable that as we develop our modern tribes, we will identify with a God and Goddess who have particular meaning for us, whose significance and symbology exactly suits our unique group character. It is just as reasonable that these beings may not look exactly like any which our ancestors worshipped.

Our tribe, Tuath Cymry, may be experiencing just such a development. Several years ago we attended a local festival. The accommodations were very primitive so everything we needed had to be carried in. Along with the usual list of suggested necessities was the shorter list of thing not to bring, and among them was alcohol. Now, anyone who has invited a bunch of Druids to a gathering knows that a prohibition of "No Alcohol" stands about as much chance of success as a cookie jar does against thievery, especially if a small child has just been told to keep his hands out. Might as well post a sign at the front gate stating "No Druids Need Apply". This time, unbelievably, almost everybody DID comply with the request. One individual maintained standards. The single bottle which was eventually passed around the circle had to have been purchased more for color than quality, but we had a great time anyway. The events of the evening, which were unremarkable and should have remained that way, have turned into a regular social ritual for our group. A story was even written to go with the festivities.

One of the story characters was given a name: the Shaggy Man. The individual who inspired him, the owner of the bottle, wasn't any more than usually rambunctious. The hair stood up on nobody's neck when he showed up with his gift. It shouldn't even have turned out to be as much fun as it was. Somewhere that evening, some sort of magic was set in motion and some unseen Door was opened. I believe that, through the image of our Shaggy Man, an understanding of an older deity form (or perhaps more than one) was allowed to come from the past into the present. Although his birth was accompanied by tongues in many cheeks, the last few times we have done his ritual there has been a certain solemnity in our group, and that demands some serious reflection.

The Shaggy Man has some of the attributes of several of the established members of the Irish pantheon, but he isn't any one of them completely. He is someone who probably won't mean that much to the members of any other tribe, but he has a special significance to us that could neither have been planned nor simply got from reading a book of Gods and Goddesses. Shaggy Man is the cup bearer, the God who introduced the sacred drink to our tribe. He is the one who brings us together as a tribe, the wild man whose shadow leads us in dance around the bonfire. He is the inspiration for the first story in our oral tradition, and keeps the tradition alive by telling his own story when we gather to pass the horn. It is his unquenchable humor that reminds us that the magic of laughter can chase away the deepest of depressions. He is, ohmygosh, our tribal God. And where is his Goddess counterpart? We don't have any ties to land yet, but I strongly suspect that when we do, she won't be long in making her presence known.

When the members of your own tribe come together, either socially or ritually, take stock of the interesting events which have happened during the past year. You have some fine myths and traditions in the making. Pay attention to the things which mean the most to your group and turn them into new rituals. You have my permission to ignore the snorts of outrage from those who know better than we what the larger focus of the Druid revival should be. And when you tell your new stories and act out your ritual dramas, carefully watch the characters who move through them. There may be an old God, perhaps a new one, or even one who was forgotten long, long ago who has decided the time is right to put on yet another face and gift your people with their own tribal God. Caillean. Triads

Keltria Journal Issue #18, Beltaine 1993, is out of print and not longer available in the original print edition. However, for a scanned PDF copy of Issue #18, please send $4.00 (for email), $6.00 for printed, or $8.00 for printed to international destinations to Keltria Journal, c/o The Henge of Keltria, P.O. Box 1060 Anoka, MN 55303-1060 and request Issue 18. Alternately, see our Order Form or order directly via Pay Pal with the below link.

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