Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Who are MY People?

A brief look into friendship

 Often in life we come to a cross roads where we examine such things as our vocation or even our location in this forever changing world. For many of us a sense of community is important. Knowing who your people are is a wonderful thing, but have you asked yourself, who are MY people; and what does that really mean?

   The differences between acquaintances, friends, and those we consider family is really about who we feel 'at home' with. An unspoken bond, our vulnerability laid out before them, and a trust that they will always be there, never judging us. These are the people that help you move, the ones you tell things to you would not share with others. You are very lucky if you have more than one of these people in your life. In the Irish culture the concept of a 'soul mate' was not influenced from the widely popular Greek mythos, it is its own brand of beauty. They call it Anam Chara - soul friend. Not that we have this one person that completes us to make us whole, but rather this deep spiritual bond that you can not analyze. You can only accept and embrace it & its definitely not limited to one person.  

   There is often those people you only catch up with once a year or so, leaving off without missing a step in the dance of life's journey. There are also those who you remain in frequent contact with no matter the distance of the location. Yet what makes certain friends seem closer than others? Could it be that our own perceptions based on personal experience lead us to unite with those that share our views? Perhaps the subtle and yet complex art of dialoguing plays an important role in not only forming these ties and keeping them going; but how we feel, process, and interpret such information determines the outcome of such bonds. No one will ever know what it is like to be another person, so are we really all alone, living inside our own minds even when we feel the closest with another. I do not know. When I say the word 'dog' you have your own image, feelings about dogs, experience with them, memories, etc. The dog that I mention is not the same dog as you interpret. Try and experiment sometime, ask everyone in the room to draw a pig. We all know what pigs look like so its rather easy. Take a few moments and then share your sketches. You'll notice such great diversity among the drawings. Some will be cartoon like, some with curly tails and small ears, and then some more wild boar like with tusks, and long tails. Communication is so strange. 

   Personally I have always struggled with communication. My thoughts are emotional, tied to songs, stories, colors, dreams, memories, and feelings. Internally the words I wish to express could best be conveyed by music instead of a conversation, but I am a Wren so I guess this is only natural. 

   When I go to speak I find that my education can be a barrier and I start searching for the right words to convey my thoughts, which in turn forces me to spiral up the mountain instead of getting to the point directly. I have insecurities with my personal grammar, and lexicon; not to mention I am always reading body language and other non-verbal language like facial expressions, for what the person is really saying. Hell, even trying to compose this is difficult, I am horrible with punctuation if you couldn't have already figured out. 
   People wear masks, lie, evade, and hide behind ambiguity. I grew up in a house where I was not heard, and when I was my thoughts and opinions were too cerebral to be appreciated. This is why I enjoy posting blogs, because I am free to share even if no one ever reads them. It is something that I need to do for me. 

   Many of the friends we have are simply people that we get on with. Those that share common interest like music & hobbies. This type of fellowship is wonderful and fills a void for many of us, but could it be suggested that 'those people' are not really friends? It is if that they are merely reflections of who we are, or better yet things we like. They do reinforce those things within us and make us feel better about our selves in who we are, but who are we? I like to refer to the Celtic axiom of one the Triads that says:

Three things a man is:
   What he thinks he is
   What others think he is
   What he trully is

   I think it addresses a few topics that are important, for what we think of ourselves does shape and change us into becoming a someone we work hard to become. It is about working for self betterment I think. Though I could also suffer from delusions and think I am pirate, so there is also that. What others think of us many do not concern themselves with, feeling dismissive as it is unimportant to them. I happen to care what others think of me. It is not something that consumes me, but I use caution in my words and try by virtue to live by example as best as I can so that when others have an opinion of me or something to say I hope it is with joy and honesty. You can't make everyone happy and not everyone will like you, and I am fine with that; so long as I know I have been honest with myself in who I am in the company of others. Lastly who we truly are I feel is a bare bones stripped down version of ourselves. Can we answer with truthfulness if we are good people? Do we share joy, give love, live with honor, and respect others? What we truly are is arguably, our nature. I often tell people, "You can't be upset with the monkey because he doesn't know how to play cards with you." You have to accept the monkey for the monkey. It is not within his nature to know how to play cards, and if you happen to teach him you have to remember it's your game, not his. 
   Who we are is also our heritage and ancestors, for we would not be here without them. For me honoring the past, my ancestors, who they were, and what they did in history only brings me to a place of home within myself. Genitics only gives us the forward to our story because we can choose for ourselves if we are steadfast in our convictions of being true to ourselves in the face of indifference and adversity. This is where we focus on who we want to be in this world. For many of us part of this is our vocation, and for others there is so many subtle layers that make up a whole. 

   So back to the topic of MY people. It can be odd meeting new people, feeling them out and opening ourselves to them so that we may share freely. Finding common ground to build on can be a journey itself into self exploration and growth if we allow it. Often it takes us down paths we would have never travelled. People can change us, as much as we may influence them even if we don't realize it. Have you ever met someone and right from the start you just knew that they were 'your people'? Is it merely science, some sort of hormones and firing of chemicals? It is not how they dress, what music they like, or even what faith they celebrate. It is just a something, a something I know not. Just like attraction, it is subjective and can not be analyzed! 

   There may be a community you know of and a group of people within that community you feel drawn to being more expressive with and yet only a small group or even one or two within that subgrouping that you actually can consider 'your people'. Furthermore it is even more rare that any of them will become that type of person we can develop that unspoken spiritual bond with. Why is this?

   To give you a personal example of this; I am Druid, a Celtic Pagan and celebrate the Gaelic tradition. This in itself is like a huge puzzle to someone outside of the culture. It is sort of like saying you are a Christian. What denomination, which part of the country, which parish, which study group, which services do you attend, which Priest, Minister or Reverend do you most work with in your faith, etc. 
   I am very traditional in my faith/culture so I tend not to often associate with many of the Neo-Druids. What they do is much different than I. Even though I have been in an Order for over 17 years, I find more times that not what they do to celebrate their faith is not how I celebrate mine. In that I am drawn to Celtic Reconstruction groups and Sinnsreachd. From there I focus more on those groups within the North East of the United states that belong to their own tribes/groups. More so then, those that are smaller groups like family units and Hearth groups that may make up a Poball (community) is where I find myself. Lastly, my direct focus is my own local community, and then my extended family, family and then myself. As a Draoi (Druid) it is part of my job to be of service to 'MY people' much like a Rabbi is to the Jewish faith. If I have no community, I have no job, no role, and am I really a Druid if I am not being of service to a community? The Druid role was a social-political one where the educated class of society was there for those in need, be it for education, entertainment, council, or other roles required to help connect them to their faith. We held many positions within society but we were never priests, nor should we be today. It was only after many years of education your tribe would then have the respect to see you in such roles of service. You were not simply a Druid, you had to be trained and then accepted by your people to fit the position they required from you. 

   So, today being a Druid does not mean I can automatically connect and feel a bond with someone else that calls them the same. They might belong to an Order that I do not really feel 'at home with' and a Grove within that Order that celebrates Brythonic/Welsh tradition which is also foreign to me. Beautiful as it may be, it is not my calling. Perhaps even further they are also Neo-Druids that do not share in the same rituals as I do, which can be rather conflicting in practice. Imagine you are a devout Catholic and attend a Southern Baptist Church. A better example is that your Jewish and attend a Catholic Mass, something traditional in Latin. Yet moving past this, it still can be hard within Celtic Reconstruction groups and even Sinnsreachd to form a bond, and then hope to have strong lasting foundations to build on and grow from. We all feel and search for.... OUR people. I have always found it best that opening my home, hosting, breaking bread and sharing a cup puts the mind to ease, the heart follows and joyful things usually occur. 

   This also happens to us that are Freemasons who travel to other Lodges. Our Mother Lodge where we are raised offers us a sense of home. Within the walls and halls of such places we form bonds with our brethren and again perhaps only a small group of them become very good friends, with an even smaller number sharing that unspoken bond just how it is in any other group. When we travel to other lodges if we are careful in our observations with a discerning eye we can see it clearly. Those Brothers that never miss a meeting, those that work in the kitchen, those that share a life outside the lodge, and those that have become family to one another. Some Lodges may do their work differently due to which jurisdiction they belong to, and even what type of Lodge model they follow. The ritual work could be worded differently and the layout of certain things could also be different. There is a good foundation already set when you are a Master Mason so reaching out with some education behind you goes a long way in forming new bonds. 

   Could communication be the bedrock of those bonds that stand the test of time always growing together with the seasons of change? Introverts operate much differently than extroverted people, yet both can share close friendships but do they ever develop into such close spiritual ties? What about those that speak foreign languages or even sign language. The topic of communication and the beginning of friendship is something that interests me greatly. Things like social anxiety, and those that suffer from other conditions that leave them feeling misunderstood, awkward or even sick and sacred I find fascinating to examine in relation to communication and the forming of bonds. 

   What causes us to feel 'at home' with others? Sure, having common ground helps us feel secure in opening ourselves in sharing from places we may only reserve for those we trust. Ah, there it is... Trust. We take subtle ques and even subconscious information internally and maybe its as simple as bio-chemical, we begin to trust. I have known people a short time, made online connections and have only shared their company in person a handful of times and trust them more than I do others I have known for years. 


   Sadly we have people in our lives we can no longer call friends. Something happened, perhaps lies, dishonesty, too much time passed, or growth happened in different directions. I know when my wife and I had our first child seven years ago many of our friends no longer were as close, most of of them without children drifted away never to reestablish a bond. We entered a different phase of life, and parenthood with maturity and responsibilities changed whom we allowed ourselves to be close with.
   There was no more time to embrace hedonistic pursuits of spontaneity. People have come in and out of my life and I have tried like hell sometimes to hold on to relationships that should have witherd and died. I have a hard time letting go, always hoping to mend or heal whatever caused such decay even if it was my own fault. To be fair I have not always been the best friend to others. I struggle with my own demons like many of us, but mine at times form a wedge where no wedge should exist because I am not forthcoming with communication. I try, but as yoda told us, there is no try. I understand it is hard for people to trust me that have known me for years because I am often in my own head or on the opposite end of the spectrum, a very opinionated extroverted aries. The child develops an ego and protects it with great passion for their emotional security and even strength. It has only been through broken trust, hurt, pain, and loss of friends and partners that I come full circle to reflect upon myself in past situations to embrace growth. We live and learn, we try and adapt and move forward. Sometimes we are like the salmon swimming upstream using undercurrents to leap forward to a place of home. We change... It is only with work and compassion we still remain close with those we share our lives with. I can only hope that in time those I feel close with presently remain by my side during this great journey of life. Those that have gone have their opinions of me and thats fine, so long as they realize I am not the person they once knew or even grew to dislike.

   I hope this blog reaches someone, anyone, and that they may also explore this condition of friendship, community, and bonds. I ask you, "Who are your People, and Why are they your people?" Be excellent to each other and by all means feel free to share this post. 

~ spoiler alert ~
One of my next posts will be on Irish Hedge schools. Stay tuned!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Celtic Last Rites

My very dear and close friend Robert Barton author of Dance of Oak and Wren: Rites of Draiocht was nice enough to share some of his funerary rites with me some time ago. I share them now with you here. They are in Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig) and I am hoping to translate them in the near future into Irish/Gaeilge. My wife and I will be using a version of these for her father when we finally place his ashes in his destination of choice. Please excuse the lack of fada (accents) over many of the vowels. I have no idea how to do the Scottish fada on my Mac. 

Final Rite of Sacrifice:
Beannachd leibh  Na Diathan leibh
Blessing of the Morrigan
Dion nan Diathan air an aite seo
Gu robh beannachd na Diathan agus ar Sinnsearran air an
(a bhoireannach, an fhear, a phaisde) seo.

Behold the cup of truth may we all partake and know that we are of one people

A Mhorrighan _______ is prepared to pass across the threshold of worlds.
Resting now in the arms of our people in this world, but soon to rest in the arms of our people in the next world.
Accept this sacrifice freely given and show favor on this one of our people

Personal Patrons ______ is ready to pass across the threshold of world, accept this sacrifice free given and show favor on this one who has walked so closely with you.

A Mhanannan, we ask that you accept this sacrifice freely given and grant a gentle journey in your Wave Sweeper to Tech Duinn for ________. 

(Hand on the person and say)
"Know that you are one of the people, you have have feasted with us in this world and you will feast now with the ancestors in the next world. Know that you will be honored and spoken well of amoung the folk."
Na Diathan leibh.

(Personal things said and offerings made) This is when we will scatter his remains.

Prayers for the Dead:
Sith co Nem     Peace up to the heavens
Nem co doman     Heavens down to Earth
Doman fo nem     Earth under heavens
Nearst hi cach     Strength in all 

Nan Diathan tha os mo choin  The Gods who are over me
Nan Diathan tha os mo bhonn   The Gods who are below me
Nan Diathan tha os mo bhos  The Gods who are above me here
Nan Diathan tha os mo thall   The Gods who are above me yonder
Nan Diathan a tha san talamh  The Gods who are in the earth
Nan Diathan  a tha san adhar   The Gods who are in the sky
Nan Diathan a tha sa mhuir mhor bhocaich  The Gods who are in the great pouring sea. 

An Tuiream Bais Death Dirge
Thu dol dachaidh anochd dha do thaig geamhraidh
You go home tonight to the home of winter
Dha do tharg foghair is earraich is samhraidh
To your home of autumn, of spring, and summer
Tha sgail a bhais a ghraidh air do ghnuis
The shade of death lies upon your face beloved
Caidil-sa, caidil agaus dhiot am bron
Sleep you, sleep and away with sorrow
Caidil a luaidh a nochd ann an glac nan talamh
Sleep beloved this night in the arms of the earth
Caidil, O caidil ann an ciuin nan Diathan
Sleep, O sleep in the calm of the Gods
Caidil, O caidil ann an tul nan Diathan
Sleep, O sleep in the guidance of the Gods
Caidil, O caidil ann an run nan Diathan
Sleep, O sleep in the love of the Gods
Manannan bhith leat an lag nan tonn, air barr nan stuagh.
Manannan be with you in through of wave and on crest of billows.
Manannan bhith leat air gachceum dh'an chuart dh'an teid thu.
Manannan be with you each step of the journey you go.

Gu robh beannachd na Diathan agus Sinnsearan air an fhear seo.
May the blessings of the Gods and ancestors be upon this man. 

~ Roberts book: Dance of Oak and Wren: Rites of Draiocht

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Practice makes mastery

There is a saying in the English language "Practice makes perfect", but I came across another version often used in Gaeilge. "Cleachtadh a dhéannan maistreacht".  This translates to "Practice makes Mastery."  Maistreacht translates to mastership and maístreacht to masters. I am uncertain but they are probably loan words, as the origins of the word Mastery can be traced to the 13th century in Middle English as maistrie from the Anglo-French mestrie, maistrie from meistre - 'master' 

Cleachtadh which does translate to practice also means exercise, lesson, and experience; which I feel adds much to the meaning of someone working to obtaining mastery. It is through lessons, and practice exercises one gains experience. Mastery comes from doing!

Another word that also seems to pop up in these translations is Líofa, which means Proficient, Fluent, Acceptable, Suitable. 
Brothers, are you seeing a theme here? If we then return to the phrase, "Practice makes perfect" which uses the word Foirfeacht - 'the condition, state, or quality of being free, or as free as possible from all flaws or defects'. are we not also talking about The Perfect Ashlar? Suitable, Acceptable for the Builders use partially because we are proficient and fluent because of our lessons and practice. Cleachtadh a dhéannan maistreach!

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Druid Orders - A brief look into antiquity

I was gathering some information for a friend on the topic of Druid Orders from the UK the other day and came across something interesting. During my online search, I found that some of the printed information I had in my Gwersi was also posted online. Since it is publicly posted on by The British Circle of the Universal Bond - An Druidh Uileach Braithrearchas, I feel only sharing it here helps others find this information. Here is what I wished to share. Enjoy the re-post. 

The Mother Grove or Grand Lodge of the Most Ancient Order of Druids known as [The Druid Order and] An Druidh Uileach Braithrearchas,  was inaugurated in the year 1717 and announced by the Herald in accordance with ancient usage on Primrose Hill, London at the Autumnal Equinox of the sun. This Mother Grove was named Gairdeachas  and its outward exoteric or public manifestation was called An Tigh Geatha  -- the lodge-gate or reception centre, the Outer Order where beginners receive their preparatory training.

 The inaugural assembly was held in the Apple Tree Tavern, Charles St., Covent Garden, London and the plan of The Unity, first suggested by John Aubrey of Old Mount Haemus to John Toland when they met at Oxford was accepted at this inaugural gathering.

 The work of organizing the assembly was undertaken by John Toland who was chosen by delegates from the Druid centres of York, London, Oxford, the Isles of Man and Anglesey,. Cornwall, Scotland, Ireland, Wales and Britlany; and elected Chief of the newly reconstituted Order.

 The Druid Order was declared to be the Unifying Centre of the Druid Unity; independent of but allied to all other Druid Groves, and a Supreme Grand Council was formed having the status, not of regal authority, but of duty and obligation. A duty to maintain the unity of Druidic activity and an obligation to ensure that the Groves selflessly observed their pledge to further the cultivation of the noblest and best in man and thus work for the restoration of the Golden Age.

 The Supreme Grand Council guides The Druid Order A.D.U.B.; it holds and issues the Warrents, Charters, Parchments etc. so necessary to the preservation of true succession in these days of pseudo movements and fraudulent imitation. It preserves the Ancient Wisdom found in Druid Traditions and Teachings that have been handed down from generation to generation and provides instruction thereon for the use of Groves.

 The Unity is organized in three sections -- the Outer Order, in contact with the public; the Inner Order, which guides and works through the Outer; and the Sanctum of which nothing is said in public.

 The Outer Order has three Grades known as: The Gatehouse, where anyone may seek admission to the Order through Initiation.  Only those who have received the appropriate training in the relevant Grade of the Inner Order, and have qualified therein, are able to give effect to an initiation ceremony. Without the Hierophant the ceremony is no more than a mere charade.

 The Seven Kings, wherein the aspirant begins to study and tackle the forces at work within himself which the Hierophant has quickened during his second initiation. The aspirant should have been properly prepared for this in The Gatehouse.

 The Ovate Og or Ovydd Og, ...Ovydd,  a sapling or unformed plant: ov,  raw. A young shoot having the promise of growth (which must be realised at least in part before qualifying in this Grade). It is here that man shows his worth, the balance of his wish and will, the quality of his integrity. It is here that he chooses between the life of selfless service and that of self agrandisement.
 Part of the aspirant's task in this Grade is to meet and clear up his obligations to the past; he is not yet obligated to the future, hence the point of balance; O - O, zero - zero. Not until he has caught up with himself can he even approach the portal of the Order proper -- until he measures up to the required standard, he must remain in the seed-bed or nursery.

 The Inner Order is divided into Three Orders each having its own sphere of activity and its own series of Grades. Until the aspirant attains the required standard of character and integrity, he can not even be considered as a candidate for the Inner Order where the Druid training proper begins, and this training can take quite a long time. There is no short cut to the balanced development of man's latent forces, faculties and powers.

 The Druid teaching is an outward manifestation of the inner light. Its practices induce the development of man's transcendent powers, those which come from, and are in constant contact with, the Central Sun of the Cosmos. They may themselves be called the inner sun, or divine light.

The Three Bars of Light, known as The Awen,  [Welsh for "inspiration"] form a symbol of the Divine Name. It is said that upon its three columns all knowledge is inscribed, for from its angled lines and by their combination was shaped the Bardic Alphabet. "The days for holding the Gorsedd are the Four Albans,  when the rays of the Orient Sun, converging to the maen llog,  delineate the creative Name of God; and the Druid standing thus in the face of the son and in the eye of light  speaks in the Name of the Lord".

 The three rays of The Awen  concentre upon the stone of speech as do the rays of the summer solstice and of the spring and autumn equinoxes upon the altar stone at Stonehenge. The Awen  symbolizes the Source of Light in the cosmos and in man whence come the Druidic virtues of courage, brotherhood, and selfless service; and also the Druidic wisdom much of which has been handed down in the form of triads:
God is of necessity three things: the greatest part of life, the greatest part of science and the greatest part of force; and of each thing there can be but one greatest part.
Three things are continually increasing: fire or light, intelligence or truth, and spirit or life; and these things will end by predominating over all others. Abred  (the plane of material life and cyclic incarnation) will be destroyed.
The three gifts of music: sleep, laughter, tears.
Courses of instruction are given in the Groves of the Outer Order to prepare students for the Druidic Teachings which are given in the Groves of the Inner Order. Understanding is cultivated by ritual and wisdom by triads increasingly appreciated, mastery of the body and brain by exercises and meditations.
The three intentions of Druid instruction: The training of the mind, the cultivation of the heart, and the making of true manliness.

The Druid Order is an association pursuing cultural aims, to preserve, defend and enrich our heritage. Many of its members are writers, artists and poets, so much so that it appears to be an academy of people of learning. It is this -- and much more; for such an association alone would not justify annual gatherings in a megalithic circle of people dressed in archaic robes and performing unusual ceremonies.

 The Druid Order considers itself a traditional society in the largest sense of the word, carrying on the teaching and example of the ancient Druids of whom it claims to be the successor.

 The Druids, Ovates and Bards were the backbone of the peoples of the west in olden times, and stand as the inspirers of the people today. It is not a matter of mere sentiment, nor a wish to return to the past, but of a living tradition touching a living people. A tradition that goes back to a past remote indeed, far back beyond any record of civilization itself.

 There are links with the Aryan and early Hindu cultures and what is now the witch cult; reverence for both sun and moon, fivefold and threefold bases of teaching, ritual circular dancing, burning of the dead, the existence of a priest-ruler caste, transmission of teaching by lengthy memorized poems.

 A cult within the Jain community, the Draus  or Druis  have striking similarities to the Druids of the west (Latin drus:  possibly cognate with drau).  Amongst them are found Stone circles around upright stone altars.

 The builders of Stonehenge and Avebury gave reverence to sun and moon; and at Stonehenge the sun's movements became a calendar for the seasons. Circular and processional movements, a cult of the dead (setting sun) as well as a life cult (rising sun), male and female elements, instruction on the forces and faculties of man and their fields of activity are clearly, implied in the structures.

 To this remote time, long before anything was known of Celtic invasions, tradition ascribes the first planting of the Druid System by Hu Gadarn, leader of the Cymry  or Brotherhood colony.

 After Hu Gadarn, Aed Mawr is said to have set up The Druid Order about 1,000 B.C., with three Archdruidic sees and thirty-one other centres of learning. Classical tradition, however unreliable, agrees with this in speaking of the reception of the founder-philosopher of Greece, Pythagoras, into The Druid Order in Marseilles in about 529 B. C.

 It has also a legend, already old to Herodotus, who disbelieved it, that visiting Pythagoras came one Abaris, from the land of the Hyperboreans he being a priest of Apollo, speaking perfect Greek and "fit for the reception of wisdom".
 Passing over these more doubtful figures which approximate to myth, more sober traditions and records agree in attributing to the Druids an elaborate and lengthy wisdom teaching with several grades, and an influence over princes and Celtic tribal peoples alike.
"The Druids," says Ceasar (Gallic Wars, Bk. 6 )  "preside in matters of religion, have the care of sacrifice and interpret the will of the Gods. They have the direction and education of youth... In almost all controversies... the decision is left to them .. The Druids never go to war, are exempted from taxes and military service".

 The young "are taught to repeat a great number of verses by heart and often spend twenty years upon this institution... They (the Druids) teach likewise many things relating to the stars and their motions, the magnitude of the world and our earth, the nature of things and the power and prerogatives of the immortal gods".

Britain not Gaul, was the centre or holy land of this formidable body and although Bardism compromised, disastrously for itself, with the Roman power in Gaul, here Druidism fought the invaders tooth and nail.

 How far it was really driven out one cannot tell; it remained strong in Scotland, Wales and above all Ireland, whence the Christianised Druids returned as the missionaries known as Culdees and probably formed the background of great missionaries such as St. Columba (Columcille) who founded the Celtic Church in Britain.

 The Arthurian traditions are clearly Druidic in their earlier forms, being part of a mystery teaching which includes the Welsh mythology.
 The Celtic reconquest, commonly and wrongly known as the final Wessex period of the Heptarchy (Saxons had little to do with it), clearly spread Arthurian ideas, whilst Henry II and his Queen encouraged their elaboration and fusion with French and other elements in the great Romances of the Holy Graal.

 There is thus evidence of a large body of tradition in England, whilst Wales had been elaborating the poetic wisdom of the great bards of the sixth and later centuries. Scotland continued full of the traditional wisdom until a very late date, and still has a good deal of it.

 The English Druids of the Universal Bond (An Druidh Uileach Braithreachas,  or A.D.U.B.) have always claimed continuity with the earlier Druidism and there seems no particular reason to doubt it. Before the foundation of Oxford University there was a Druidic confraternity there with the same name as, and probably a branch of, the specialised Druids known in Wales as Pheryllt,  translated sometimes as metal-workers or alchemists, the word indicating skill with fire and metal (Cymric ffer  -- "what is solid").
 Cor Emrys  (City of Ambrose) seems to have been the name of this "Grove" or Lodge; it was both on the Penmaen ridge of Snowdon (Eryr)  and in the south Snowdon range at Dinas Affaraon,  with its legend of watery dragons. The cult guarded the Mysteries of Ceridwen.

 Persecution followed and before 1066 the Oxford Grove perished. The tradition, nevertheless, seems to have gone on, for Haymo of Faversham revived the Druidic idea in England and on his death Philip Brydodd founded and named the present Mount Haemus Grove in 1245; Companions of the Bond (CAW) came from many parts and conferred, agreeing on a common programme.

 The 17th century saw the emergence of the Order into its more modern shape. In the 17th and 18th centuries there was a complex of mystical societies, Hermetes, Rosicrucians, Freemasons and Druids, who often had members in common.
 It seems that disturbances in Scotland had caused many of its Druids, such as John Aubrey, to come south. John Toland of Londonderry had been sent to Scotland and there educated, and, as the custom was in education, he was sent abroad. On his return he linked with Scots Druids, then with those of York and finally with Aubrey's Mount Haemus Grove in Oxford, and thus achieving the union of five sections of Druids in 1717 which Aubrey had aimed at.

 Toland thus became the first of the modern Chosen Chiefs (see note on the inauguration given at the beginning). He set forth the philosophical principles and he gives a full acount of the Druids in his 1726 book. These, like other groups of philosophical inquirers, began meetings in London, this one at a Cheapside tavern; their meetings had royal approval and contacted similar-minded groups.

 Boyle called the movement the Invisible College. Certainly an immense amount of learning was generated. It may have been John Aubrey's enthusiasm over Stonehenge as an 'observatory' that led Charles I to found Greenwich. From this background and influence Sir Isaac Newton developed his speculation, his inquiries being typically in the Druid tradition. Newton's mystical interests have been rather hushed up, but some indications are seen in the published correspondence with the Rev. William Law.

 Newton was a deist, not a Christian, and, like Kepler and Swedenborg, he was much influenced by the mystic Jacob Boehme. Dr. Stukeley, rector of a church, a famous antiquarian of his day who wrote books on Stonehenge, the third Chief, was a close friend. The King and Locke may be added to the students of Boehme; indeed, the later Royal Society had a strong Boehme influenced group.

 Halley the astronomer and Sir Christopher Wren being amongst those who proposed the membership of Newton. Wren founded the Philosopher's Lodge about 1674 and presided over the Mecca Lodge 1675. About now the Autumn Equinox ceremony took its modern form, the first celebration of the revised version having taken place on Primrose Hill in 1717.

 There was a period of unhappy disputes between Welsh and English Druids, largely over the language question. Helping to pull the English Druids together after it, was William Blake, although he was an "original" rather than a leader or even member of any of the contending factions in an exclusive sense.

 He worked with the Druids of Poland Street, the Ancient Order, which was an offshoot of the Royal Order of Bucks. He was influenced by Swedenborg, who again had been influenced by Boehme. Echoes of the Druidism of his day abound in his work; in "Jerusalem" is a drawing of Albion as Adam Cadmon and Prajapati, giving the universalism which is a true hallmark of the mysteries. "Man anciently contained in his mighty limbs all things in heaven and earth". Although Blake made intellect his demon, he drew a beautiful "spiritual form" of Newton. Later on, the Friendly Societies Act sifted out most of the groups many of which retained only an economic side.

 Robert Owen, the English parent of Socialism, was of Cymric stock and had a Celtic following; he was promoting essentially Druidic ideas of cooperation. His ideal was the self-supporting community. Grant Allen, who was very interested in Druidry, has pointed out how ideas kept alive amongst lowly natives reduced to serfdom and driven out by medieval overlords in earlier times did in fact return with the Industrial Revolution's influx from country to town and spread community ideas.

 His work in a sense still continues in the United States where the Oneida Community has carried out the concept. Other figures whom there is a strong reason to believe were Druids, or at least closely acquainted with Druidic teachings, include besides those already mentioned, Dr. [John] Dee, famous 'wizard' of Elizabethan times, the poets Vaughan and James Thompson, Elias Ashmole the supposed founder of Freemasonry; more recently, Bulwer Lytton and Charles Kingsley, novelists; Sir Edwin Arnold the Asiatic scholar and poet, the late John Soul and Lewis Spence.

 The Druids appear to have exercised throughout a fostering or founding influence in many institutions. The laws of Molmutius appear to be Druidic, and it was upon them that King Alfred based his code, a foundation of later English law. The apparently Saxon council of wise men, the Witan, derives its name and perhaps itself from the Welsh Gwyddan or Gwyddon.

 Druids were, as we have seen, at the beginnings of Oxford, also a King Alfred interest; the same is true of Paris. They were prominent in the Royal Society and influential as we have seen in the beginnings of English Socialism; there was a link also with the Fabian Society. All this demonstrates their essential character, which is not that of mystagogues but of pioneer thinkers and experimenters.

 The special link which London has with the later Druids is interesting if the site of the Druid Temple as shown on maps of Roman London is more than guesswork. A pillar base from it is shown at All Hallows, Barking.
 The roll-call of Chosen Chiefs is distinguished, see the list given at the end of this booklet. The present Chief is Dr. T. L. Maughan D. Sc. [which dates this booklet to pre-1977].

 Amongst the Welsh, the Archdruid Morien (the successor to Myfyr) stirred much controversy over his propaganda for the Eisteddfod of Wales about 1896. In 1874 Dr. Wentworth Little gathered together members of the Masonic Order and developed an interest in comparative studies, sought for points in common, and founded a Druid Society which he called the Ancient and Archaeological Order of Druids. In 1956 the Ceremony of the Spring Equinox was renewed at the Bryn Gwyn or Tower of London.

 The higher wisdom is essentially one. This the ancients well knew -- and the more perceptive of the moderns. Dr. Inge's studies in Christian mysticism show this as clearly as do the experiences of nonChristian occultists. Clement of Alexandria testifies clearly that the venerable wisdom systems of his world were all giving the same doctrines, whatever the local variety of the rite: Orphic, Thracian, Osiriac, Isaic, Bacchic, Cabiric, Eleusinian, Adonaic, Mithraic, Essene -- or Druidic.

 Of this great tradition the Druidic is what is mediated for the west, and in it our foundations of thought have been laid in the past. In this essentially Celtic system is always a sense of revelation, of ascension and manifestation that is imminent. Life is a tentative thing, a probation between the several worlds:
Three phases necessary for every existence in the development of life: the beginning in Annwn  (the creative abyss), the transmigration in Abred,  and the plenitude in heaven or the circle of Gwynfyd  (white or pure life); and without each of these three things no one can have a complete existence except God who transcends them.

 From three things man is compelled into Abred,  although in all other things he may turn to good: by pride (he falls) down into Annwn,  by untruthfulness he goes further down still, by lack of charity he descends to the farthest darkness and must strive towards manhood once again.
Over the scheme of things presides the deity, the 'Vast and Mighty One whom nature hath not formed'; this Being both indwells through all forms and also as God Transcendent fills the realm of Ceugant, unapproachable to created beings. The Druid Prayer, common to Druids of all peoples, gives the typical sense of uplift and enlargment in unforgettable form: 

The Druid Prayer
Grant Oh God Thy protection
 And in protection -- strength:
 And in strength -- understanding:
 And in understanding -- knowledge:
 And in knowledge -- the knowledge of justice:
 And in the knowledge of justice -- the love of it:
 And in the love of it -- the love of all existences:
 And in the love of all existences -- the love of God and of all goodness.
Within such a philosophy death is seen as both a liberation and a renewal. The graded organisation of the Druids is generally speaking an association for investigation, experimental, creative and often curative.

 The Druidic type of wisdom is, it is suggested, the native and more assimilable wisdom for us. The various admirable oriental philosophies which in the general absence of a more intelligent Christian mysticism, have understandably captured a wide allegiance in the west from the middle of the last century onwards, are alien to our culture in their expression, although their spiritual content is universal. In Druidism and its allied studies in Gaelic and British wisdom literatures may be found a system perhaps not so completely expounded, but expressed the better for our comprehension.

 To put it more vividly, the Enlightened One entered into both the Sacred Bull and the White Elephant (see O'Brien "The Round Towers"):  wisdom has made a parallel entry into west and east, the White Bull of Britain (known in antiquity as the Enclosure of the White Bull) and the White Elephant of India.

 As by many in India Christianity can be accepted as another manifestation of Vishnu the Creator, so in Britain Christianity could be taken as another form of Druidism, which Druidism itself appeared to recognise by in fact passing over wholesale into Christianity in Ireland, thus clearly indicating that there was nothing incompatible in the two systems of thought. The Druidic tradition dating from before the credal era is necessarily non-credal.

 Finally, it is interesting to note that the dress and decoration shown on certain Roman period reliefs from Autun in France appear to derive from the same authority as the known robes and some ornaments of the Druids.
Chosen Chiefs of The Most Ancient Order since 1717
John Toland 1717 -1722 
William Stukely 1722 - 1765 
 Edward Finch Hatton 1765 - 1771 
 David Samway 1771 - 1799 
 William Blake 1799 - 1827 
 Geoffrey Higgins 1827 - 1833 
 William Carpenter 1833 - 1874 
 Edward Vaughan Kenealy 1874 - IX80 
 Gerald Massey 1880 - 1906 
 John Barry O'Callaghan 19Q6 - 1909 
 G. W. MacGregor-Reid 1909 - 1946 
 Robt. A. F. MacGregor-Reid I946 - 1964 
 Thomas L. Maughan 1964 - 1976 
 Christopher Sullivan 1976 - [handwritten note] 

Copyright © 1998 
The House of Reflecting Shadows
Copyright © 1984,1997 c.e., Isaac Bonewits. This text file may be freely distributed on the Net, provided that no editing is done, the version number (if any) is retained and this notice is included. If you would like to be on the author's personal mailing/phone list for upcoming publications, lectures, song albums, and appearances, send your snailmail and/or your email address to him at PO Box 1021, Nyack, NY, USA 10960-1021 or via email to ""

By The British Circle of the Universal Bond 
An Druidh Uileach Braithrearchas 
Copyright © The Druid Order (B.C.U.B.)
[Minor edits and layout by Isaac Bonewits]

Tuesday, September 2, 2014



Have you ever wondered what people played prior to chess? Throughout Europe people played various board games. Some ranging in giant tables sizes with many pieces right down to some boards that were only a foot in size.
Fidchell was a board game people played in Ireland. It was simple in design, a 7 square by 7 square board with 25 pieces. Fidchell also went by other spellings in Irish as Fitchneal and Fithcheall. They all have one thing in common and that is the etymology of the word comes to translate to, wood-sense/wood-intelligence/wood-knowledge. A game about having a wisdom from playing with and on pieces of wood. Let us begin on our adventure to a theme behind the surface of this wonderful game. So, What of this wood wisdom?
So far we have mentioned that the game was played on a 7 by 7 board and that there was 25 pieces. The defenders had 9 pieces and the attackers had 16. If we know about the trees in Ireland we will quickly see this in reference to that of the Ogham. It was no doubt a game made up of the 25 trees on a board, a board that was a map. A sort of Battle of the Trees if you will. To have this wood-intelligence was to know the Trees & to know the Ogham. For those who are unfamiliar the Ogham, is a complex system of hidden meanings behind a very simple written language. The Gaelic tribes used this method to mark boundries all over the countryside, to mark important graves and even later for divination. It was a system of mnemonics as well. The basic pattern of 5 groups of 5 with slashes down a central line or on the edge of a standing stone. The ancient Poetic/Filidh class were said to know how to communicate using a special technique called Dordacht or Iarmberla (darkness or dark speech). 
While holding a normal conversation a Bard or Poet could use hand signs, finger placements on the wrist/shin/nose bridge. By a Bards 6th year in training they would have been able to not only read inscriptions but know how to communicate through speech patterns, gestures, different patters on finger placements and other secretive signs used for private conversation. That would have only been about half way through his/her 12 year training program in becoming an Ollamh (Dr. of Poetry) Needless to say it didn’t take the High King (Ard Rí) too long to be offended about this hidden speech done in front himself and other warrior elite noble class. It is interesting to note that in Ogham the letters are called feda, & the consonants are referred to as taebomnai. A series of notches, or letters grouped together is called a flesc. These old names of letters, groups, and consonants give us this connection to the trees. The word flesc means twig, whereas feda means wood, or trees, and the word taebomnai means side of the trunk of a tree. Was Fidchell then  not a game that Lugh played at Tara in his ritualistic poetic conversation; A game of Ogham trees on a board. For Fidchell even translates to wood-sense, wood intelligence, or wood wisdom.  Not hard to see where we have a Celtic tree language of sorts. Who then, in those times before the carving of Ogham stones were the keepers of language, tree-lore, the older use of a non-spoken hand language, and those who held a sacred form of poetic communication? Yes the Druids/Draoithe a social and political role that seems to have been stamped out, or better yet replaced from the Druid (Draoi) to the Ollamh during this time; but look at what is still being taught; Poetry, language, communication & divination, etc.

What does Ogham have to do with Fidchell? If we look at the diagram of the board we see that it is divided up into quadrants. We see 4 major corners and a central quadrant as well. This would be the layout of Irelands provinces. Ulster in the North, Leinster in the East, Munster in the South and Connacht in the West. Leaving Meath in the Center of the board. Meath being where The Hill of Tara is, the High King in classical times would have been seated there. 

The Lia Fal or Stone of Destiny would scream out announcing to all who the unquestionable King was on this sacred ground and the true rightful King of the land. On the Hill of Tara certain seasonal festivals were held and sacred fires were lit. There on this Ancient hill the Druids themselves instructed those to gather up the 9 sacred woods to kindle a balefire on such days as Samhuinn. 

Mentioned mostly throughout Gaelic mythology was the number three. Many people are aware of the references that pertain to the Irish reguarding the Shamrock or Trefoil. We can see these Proto-Celtic carvings on stones of triple spiral patterns at New Grange. The Triskele patterns found on swords, helmets, jewelry and even pottery by the Tribes of the Celts. There are Triadic sayings from early Irish lore like: 

“What are 3 Candles that illuminate every darkness?
                    and the Truth

This numeral was important to people in the Isles from Neolithic times, through the Bronze age, and all the way through the Iron Age as well. 
This number three is important in Fidchell, for at the very start of the game the King is only three squares away from winning the match. Sounds fairly easy right?

Sacred trees? Ogham? Fidchell...
So far this Game is like entering a tall Bardic tale or even a  Seannachie’s history lesson. With the nine sacred trees used to light the Fires on Tara, and the 9 defenders of the Game Fidchell they are the High King and his people are we seeing a theme yet? We are starting to glimpse where this wood-knowledge is going. The game we mentioned is played on a 7 by 7 square board. The 7th letter of the Ogham alphabet was D. for Duir / Oak. Seeming unfitting that the King Tree of this game is the Oak by Irish ranking systems of Ogham. Seven colors in the rainbow, humm...Old Irish Brehon law states that according to the dress customs of the time, only the King can wear seven colors, all others in a lesser ranked color system of fewer colors. What of the musical notes A-G could an Irish harper not play the Ogham as well? Its certain that the Bardic Harpers knew of such compositions for the 7days of the week. There is also mention of the 'house of doors' on the hill Tara that had 7 doors with 7 views. The Door itself being another poetic allusion to the Oak tree itself.

The Oak is considered now a-days as a gentle father of the forest. This King of the woods was not seen as the most important tree to the Gales in Ireland of the time when Fidchell was played. The Yew, the Rowan, or even the Hazel, would have held greater importance to the customs and lore of the people back then. The question is, why are we placing this Oak Ogham upon the King Status of this board?  
If one looks at the ancient place names throughout Ireland the most repetitive and numerous ones are all associated with the Oak. A central meeting place a town could have easily grew up around? The place having a giant (bile) a sacred tree, would have allowed many to know where to gather and where meetings would be held. Villiages could have been built around it much like a square of a town is today. 

Irelands other provinces had sacred centers as well during this classical period of history. Ulster had Emain Macha, Uisneach was in Leinster, Connacht had Cruachan, Munster had Caiseal. Each region respresents an aspect on the compass as well. The center- Meath had Tara the central meeting point of the tribes.

In the game we see that on the Central square the High King is seated, surrounded by 4 of his closest people. Could these members be his royal council? Could we not call them his ,Ollamh (highest rank of Bard), Filidh,(poet, diviner) Druid(for council and advice) and best Warrior (for protection)? Could it not be The High King with a Wife, and three children? The High King with wife, his mother and father and a single child? The possibilities are numerous but lost to us today.

There is some debate as to where some of the invasions of Ireland came from, but we do have note of 4 sacred (mythological) cities to where four treasures came from. The Cauldron came from the city of Murias and was called The Undry. The Sword came Findias, The Spear from Gorias and the Lia Fial or Stone of Destiny came from Falias, that sat upon Tara.

Are we drawn in yet by this Fidchell Game and wish to know even more? 

Besides all this facinating information, what of the Game already? 

First, Welcome (Fáilte)  to the lovely world of the mind of the Gael. So far on our journey to the hidden, have we not seen many references to all these things making up the complexity of the game? Something you may wish to take pride in while playing. Things to debate while gaming with a friend beside a fire, over some good food and some beverages. Possibly the Heros portion and some Miodh (Mead)
So now that we have some basic history on Fidchell some insight into the Ogham and of the nature of the complexity of the background of this game how do we play it? It appears that from litature only the Gods and the Heros played this game. For its not mentioned as a common game among the mundane world. Perhaps another variant called Brandubh was played by the masses? 

Through story it appears that every time its mentioned the game is reflecting what is going on in a battle, or away from them in a hidden fashion. Could this be where the Ogham was used on the board for a type of casting of lots? Possibly reading the moves of your opponent to gain insight into the otherwise hidden agendas of what is going on and around your kingdom. Now to the Fun itself!

Basic Set up:
The King on the central square surrounded by his mates in the way of an equal cross or compass setting. The other 4 members of his class are seated in their proper provinces. I see these members as Provincial Kings ruling over that area. You may wish to set up all eight of the kings men surrounding him if you so choose. I deem its a more changeling game if the Provincial Kings are seated in their own domains, as one per corner of the board.
The Invaders are always set up the same. Attacking from the four sides three in the back row with one above the middle.
Here are a few suggestions for setting up the board. Each option offers a different approach to the game. 

It is obvious that right off the start the King and his people are out numbered by the invaders. To add to the madness the invaders are the ones who always make the first move. It is proper etiquette that the guest plays the invader side with the advantage. Taking turns they would after the game trade sides and be in the place of the Defender/King. A game is measured by the score of playing both sides meaning two games equal one game having played both positions. The score being held from the out come from playing each side.
How the players move:
All players move like a Rook in Chess. Up and down in as many spaces as wished. No player can move diagonal or jump. The King moves like a rook also but moves only one square at a time.

The Goal:
The Goal for the defenders is to protect the King and to aid him in his escape from the board. By doing so the King must land on any given square on the permeter of the boards circumference, thus escaping the invaders and regrouping to fight another day!
The Goal of the attackers is to Capture the King. To do so they must prevent him from landing on the permeter squares. In order to capture the King one must attack him by surrounding him all four sides, preventing any movement. If they do so while he is seated on the Central square its stalemate.

On the Kings seat at Tara The Center Square:
There is some objection as to how to use this square, I have seen and played with all possibilities and feel the proficient way is to have each party agree on set rules and set ups before entering the game. 

The most common way to use the Central Square is that its a Safety square for the King to land on at any given point during the game. If surrounded by all four sides while on the central square the game is void and must be played again. Any player may move over the Central Square but none can land on it except for the King himself. I have played with methods as its off limits and all players must move around it, and even if the King leaves the square he can not return. The possibilities are up to you to play with. Have fun discovering what you feel is favorable.

To Capture:
Capturing an opponent is done by flanking the person on two sides. If you are next to an opponent and he does not move, you can move a player on his other side thus removing him from the board. Double moves are known to happen. If there happens to be two members from the opposing side set up in such a way where you can enter between them, they can not take your player on the next move. This is known commonly as a induced suicide maneuver. By you freely placing your player between two of the other sides pieces you are safe from being removed. Because you willingly and knowingly put yourself in that position. BUT if they move on the next turn and you remain there and they happen to move back again, your toast! 

There are methods of playing where each person casts a die before they move to see how many spaces they are allowed, there is no real set rules in this area, so feel free again to make it work for yourself, and your company. Remember the guest goes 1st and plays the role of the invader/attacker, and thus one complete game consists of each party having a go at both ends of the spectrum. 

Now off you go to play the game of wood sense, the game of the Gods, that High Kings and Warriors played. To battle side by side with the ancient trees to aid your King to safety. May you move wisely from city to city knowing the trees along the way. With the Ogham to guide your King a passageway to salvation; So that he may fight again another day.