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Keltria Journal

Issue 34 - Beltaine/Summer 1997

Understanding the Ways
of the Ancestors

By Ellen Evert Hopman

An interesting way to begin to understand the tribal ethics and values of the ancient Celts is to take a story such as Nuada of the Silver Hand and to dissect it paragraph by paragraph. Hidden within the narrative one can infer moral codes and beliefs that may not be obtainable by any other method of inquiry.

The Order of the White Oak is a Celtic study group devoted to this kind of research. We are an eclectic group of Keltrians, ADF and OBOD members who are taking the first steps to creating a code of ethics that all Druids may consider and adopt. I believe that this kind of activity is a natural for any Grove or Druid order, seeking to understand the ways of the ancestors. Here is what we uncovered by examining the story of Nuada:

  • No maimed person can or should lead. We interpreted this to mean any person maimed in body, mind or spirit, not just the physical wound.

    A good leader will abdicate if his or her rule ever becomes displeasing to those who elected him or her.

    Excessive taxation is bad.

    A uniform tax of 1 ounce of gold for every member of the tribe is unfair as it penalizes the poor.

    A person should never enter into a contract in bad faith.

    Changing the ground rules by playing on other people's assumptions and then taking advantage of them are abhorrent.

    Do not tolerate avarice and tyranny.

    Be sure you understand a contract before you enter into it.

    Following the letter of the law leads to absurdity.

    Hospitality is required, and especially of rulers.

    Guests must be entertained to their own pleasure.

    Do not deprive people of food or warmth.

    Medical transplants using animal parts are a mixed blessing. Going against nature might seem to work but beware of nasty surprises.

    Jealousy can kill.

    Medical arrogance is folly.

    Treat poets with honor and feed them well.

    Beware the poet's satire — it can cause a blemish (again, mentally, physically, or spiritually).

    Shelter the needy.

    Support the arts.

    You get what you give. What goes around comes around.

    Fomorians, or people who live under the ocean, have no manners.

    Be a master of art and the highest social circles will admit you.

    Be a master of many arts and you will be regarded a God.

    A master musician must know three kinds of music, sleeping music, crying music, and laughing music.

    Confidence and self-assurance are virtues.

    Satire takes away honor and credibility.

    Everyone needs to work together, each drawing on their special talent.

    There are three approaches to successful warfare — satire and propaganda, brute force and physical destruction, cutting people off from their water supply.

    Victory consists in bringing your enemy to justice, even if they are trying to escape or evade it.

    The truth is a fire that burns the evil and illuminates the just.

    We must take care of our own, even if we are wounded.

  • For further information about the Order of the White Oak, e-mail: saille333@mindspring.com.


  • This material is Copyright 1997 by the author identified. Keltria: Journal of Druidism and Celtic Magick posts this article on the Internet by permission of the author. It may not be republished or reproduced in any form without the expressed written consent of the author or Keltria Journal. Links to this page may be established.

    This material was first published in Keltria: Journal of Druidism and Celtic Magic. For a copy of the issue that this article ran in, send $3.95 to Keltria Journal, P.O. Box 1060 Anoka, MN 55303-1060 and request the issue identified at the top of the page. For other subscription and ordering information, see our Order Form.


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