The Scribe in Me.

The Scribe in Me.

Bealtaine Fires on the Hill of Uisneach

Uisneach is in Co. Westmeath, it rises to about 600 feet above sea level, and is considered the centre or naval of Ireland. It is primarily a place of assembly associated with the druids and the festival of Bealtaine. Thought to be the burial site of both the Earth Goddess Ériu and the Sun God Lugh and as such is regarded as sacred ground. Its name can be translated as "place of the hearth" or "place of cinders".

In Irish mythology, Uisneach is the site of a sacred tree (the Bile Uisnig), and a place of assembly (the mórdáil Uisnig) associated with the druids, which, was held during the festival of Bealtaine. I will have the honour of being there in 2022 and will see her skirts spread across the body of Ireland, be part of lighting her sacred fires, and, I will keep her fire lit.

No less than twenty counties have a line of sight to this ancient place. Furthermore it is the meeting place of five provinces, Ulster, Munster, Leinster, Connaught and Míde, the fifth province is the county of Meath but there is a school of thought that says it also maeks the entrance to the otherworld. This can only be accessed at the "cat stone" at Uisneach. This stone known officially as "Aill na Mireann" (the Stone of Divisions) is a sacred, fissured and fragmenting limestone boulder on the south west slope of the Hill. It stands at about 20 feet high and weighs in excess of 30 tonnes. It stands as a symbol of Ireland being united in its divisions, which indeed it is.

The divisions were first made by an ancient race known as the Fir Bolg. Uisneach divided Ireland into "knowledge in the West, battle in the North, prosperity in the East, music in the South and Royalty at the Centre." The history and herstory of Uisneach fascinates me. Some texts claim that "Aill na Mireann" was ringed by a stone circle, and some claim that these stones were transported by the Druids to Wiltshire in the UK and make up the circle at Stonehenge.

A lot of the myth and legend surrounding Uisneach has bourne true in archaeological evidence, so maybe there is some truth in that claim, who knows? "There are more things in heaven and on earth..." The royal sites of Ireland served as the seats for the Gaelic kings of Ireland. It is said that each site had a route way from it directly to Uisneach. These sites are; Caisel, Emain Macha, Dun Ailinne, Cruiachain, and Teamhair.

Many royal sites served as ceremonial locations for inauguration ceremonies. Prospective monarchs benefited from associating themselves with these places. Uisneach became the seat of the High Kings and it became customary for the claimant to the high throne of Ireland to ritually "marry" Ireland’s founder Ériu at a ceremony on Uisneach.  Coupling with the Goddess was what gave them their sovereignty. Irish Kings were not 'crowned.'

The Dagda was Ireland's Sun God of the Tuath Dé Danann. His primary residence was at Newgrange, but he is also said to have lived at Uisneach. Bealtaine is one of the great sun festivals of Ireland, the others being Imbolg, Lughnasa and Samhain. These are liminal times when the veils between this world and the other world are lifted. The Dagda is said to have stabled his solar horses at Uisneach.

The triple war goddesses associated with sovereignty and kingship (Ériu, Banba and Fódla) were closely associated with horses (as well as ravens), and the divinatory king-making ritual of the Druids involved a prophetic sleep sewn inside the skin of a sacrificial mare. It is the Dagda who secures the services of the goddess of sovereignty. It is the Dagda who sleeps with Morrigan, thus securing the victory of the Tuatha Dé, and it is the Dagda who fathers figures like Brigit and Aine, who act as goddesses of sovereignty. His name "Eochaid" is also indicative of a sovereignty connection, as it is the Horse Goddess who often confers sovereignty to the king; many kings in Irish legend also have the name Eochaid. The Dagda is also known as Eochu Ollathair "Horse Great-Father" generally taken as his "true" name and not a nickname.

Archaeologists have discovered these stables on the north flank of the hill, under a wheel-shaped enclosure concealing two souterrains beneath a paved floor in the shape of the divine Mare, pursued by a galloping Stallion. After the Tuatha De Dannan were defeated in battle by the Milesians, they left to go elsewhere while some chose to stay in Ireland. Those that stayed agreed that they must live beneath the earth, and they were led by a great King in the west, Finnbhear son of Dagda, who it was said reared him from a horse.

The roots of Uisneach lie lost in the mists of time but, surviving monuments and relics range in date from the Neolithic, early Bronze Age to the medieval period so it has been a significant site for some five millennia. At this site there is a lake Lough Lugh, where it is said the great harvest God Lugh of Lughnasadh met his fate at the hands of Mac Cuill, Mac Cécht and Mac Gréine, the Sons of Sons of Tuireann.

There is a cairn known as “Carn Ludach” closeby where Lugh is buried. As a warrior of the Tuatha de Dannan, he came to Uisneach to rescue his mother from the tyranny of the evil Formorians. After defeating them and killing their leader, Balor of the Evil Eye, Lugh became king. Lugh was an important a god to the ancient Euro-Celts, he was the great Sun God of the Irish, patron of Arts and Crafts, leader of the Tuatha de Dannan. Many European cities were named for Lugh such as London, Lïsbon, Loudan, Lyons and others.

Often celebrated as a sovereign goddess, Ériu represents Ireland in the form of a woman. Eriu was one of three sisters, however, neither Banba nor Fódhla are as well known or respected as Ériu. Identified as children of Adam, the sisters are according to the Lebor Gabála "older than Noe... on a peak of a mountain was [Banba] in the Flood." The only two other people which are said to be this old and to have survived the flood are Tuan mac Carill and Fintan mac Bóchra. Ériu is the woman who gives Conn the cup of sovereignty in "Baile in Scáil." In the Lebor Gabála Érenn ("Book of the Taking of Ireland"), the Milesians meet the goddess Ériu at Uisneach. Ériu was said to have been the wife of Mac Gréine, a grandson of Dagda.

Amergin, King of the Milesians, fought with Queen Ériu. When the Queen was mortally wounded, she asked Amergin to grant her a dying wish; to bury her under Ail na Mireann and name the island after her. Thus Ériu became a Celtic Goddess who gave Ireland its name. The Gaelic name Ériu was later changed by the Vikings into “Ériu’s Land”, or Ireland.

The Hill of Uisneach was connected directly to the Hill of Tara, by the Slighe Assail, one of the five roads that meet at Tara, the modern day R392 mostly follows the course of this ancient highway. The Dindsenchas ("lore of places") says that Uisneach is where the druid Míde lit a sacred fire that blazed for seven years. The tale Tucait Baile Mongáin ("Mongan's Frenzy") describes how a great hailstorm during an assembly on the hill created the twelve chief rivers of Ireland.

The lighting of the Uisneach fire is a ritual practice of rebirth, it signals the igniting fires on many hills across the whole island creating a unique, fire eye, with the Uisneach fire being the pupil. We must all honour this sacred practice.

Ostara, the Goddess after whom Easter is named.

'April come she will, when springs are ripe and filled with rain' ... so sings Simon and Garfunkle. It is my favourite time of the year. Nature springs forth, buds open and flowers begin to blossom. It is really a lovely time. Mother Nature introduces herself, the days get longer, the sun warmer, and birds nest, even the hares come out of their winter hibernation.

Spring is the time of abundance, the time of hope, the time when we want to be facing the world and all of its potential. It's the time of Ostara, the Goddess after whom Easter is named. She arrives at dawn, from the East, after the full moon that comes after the spring equinox.

She comes bearing gifts; the warm winds, the budding leaves, the birdsong. She is wreathed in bluebells and primroses and often dances in the wind. Goddess Ostara presides over personal renewal, fertility and fruitfulness. As a spring goddess she oversees the budding plants and burgeoning fertility of the earth. As is her month, her mood is glad, but like the weather she is capricious, innocent and known by turns.

We begin to see her sacred animals, the hares. She is so associated with fertility that the hormone Eostrogen is also named after her. Because there are equal hours light and dark at the equinox, this is a time of balance. Nature is in harmony. As plants bloom and new life returns, the theme of resurrection is ever present.

We seem determined to fly in the face of nature. In these times after the equinox, balance is key. We have equal day and night. There is a sort of tension in the duality of yhese two opposities. It teaches us that every aspect of life is created from a balanced interaction of opposite and competing forces. Yet these forces are not just opposites; they are complementary. They do not cancel out each other out, they merely balance each other like the dual wings of a bird. Ying and Yang, Male and Female. We must be mindful of that and we must believe that in the grand scheme of things, in the universal plan, there is a reason for it.

The month of April has huge associations with the Goddess of love Aphrodithe and the planet Venus, so evident in the night sky at this time of the year. Both Goddesses are synonomyous with fertility and abundance. I reflect on the nature of the process of metamorphosis. In the life cycle of a butterfly, the cocooning stage is when when the most dramatic changes in the insect’s appearance. It is when they are at their most vulnerable to predators and other hazards, and need extra protection. While the insect lies still to complete its development, the cocoon helps ensure that it reaches adulthood unharmed. We are all emerging from our cocoons.

The caterpillar becomes a butterfly, morphs from a crawling earth bound creature to a flying air bound one. By learning to hold the tension of the opposites, we stretch and grow bigger. This allows space for seemingly opposite ideas, feelings, and behaviors to peacefully coexist. We become less rigid and more flexible, less judgmental and more tolerant, less fearful and more loving. The Irish believed that gods/goddesses, druids, poets, and others in touch with the magical world could be literal shape-shifters. We can too.

I welcome Ostara by placing a garland of greenery and flowers at the entrance to my house. Eggs get decorated and placed on my altar. At dawn I wear green and walk towards the east and the first flower I find I press between the leaves of a book. I ask her to help me to realise my full potential, to express my ripeness, celebrate my potential. Then I plant seeds and wish as they mature and blossom I will too. Then I light a fire and get rid of decayed leaves and deadwood and whittle staves out of what I can salvage and share them with my tribe. And if I'm feeling really daring I eat chocolate. Happy Easter everyone.

Fánach - Trivia

Trivia can be fascinating and sometimes we can glean interest there. Sometimes, the interesting stuff, when employed properly, can be powerful. Then again, nothing is interesting, if you're not interested.

This is where I balance the deep and the meaningful with the inane and the mundane. If there’s no benefit to knowing the important stuff, I might as well give over some space for the useless...

April Fool

April Fool's day is celebrated on the first day of this month every year. It's history harks back to the Romans who had a feast around the vernal equinox known as Hilaria, which in Latin denotes 'joyful' and from where we get the word 'hilarious'.

The day of its celebration was the first day of the year which was longer than the night. The winter with its gloom had died, and the first day of a better season was spent in rejoicings. It marked the day Mother Nature fooled people that the weather was changing. 'Syn March bigan thritty dayes and two' is how Geoffrey Chaucer refers to it in the Canterbury Tales refering to the time when a vain cock Chauntecleer is tricked by a fox in the Nun's Priest's Tale.

One story goes that April Fools’ Day began with France’s 1564 Edict of Roussillon, which decreed that New Year’s Day, historically observed on Easter by Christians, was moved to January 1 and those that continued to celebrate the new year on the wrong date were 'April Fools.'

The word 'Gawk' stems from the gaelic word for Cuckoo, a bird long since associated with being able to fool people and is a term commonly applied to a gullible or naive person. In Ireland a popular tradition is to have someone deliver a letter which read 'Send the Gawk further.' The virtues of satire eh?

"Beware of the Ides of March."

When one reads history (which I do a lot) and in particular Church history (wherein lie many gems) you come upon terms that relate to the Roman Calendar; namely the kalends, nones and ides. They are Latin terms that refer to the ancient markers used to reference dates in relation to lunar phases. We are all familiar with the quote from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar "Beware of the Ides of March."

The word '"calender"  comes from "Kalends" = New Moon (no moon to be seen). "Nones" = 1st quarter moon and "Ides" = Full Moon (whole moon visible in the night sky). The Kalends fell on the first day of the month. Nones was the 7th of the 31 day months March, May, July, and October, and the 5th of other months. Ides fell on the 15th of the 31 day months March, May, July, and October, and on the 13th of other months. The Ides of March fell on the 15th of March. In fact, it once signified the New Year, a key date in the Roman Calendar and was marked with celebrations and rejoicing.

In the Roman world, the Ides of each month were sacred to the God Jupiter. On this day the high priest would lead the Ides sheep and goats in procession along the main street to Rome’s citadel. Because it marked the New Year, there was extra revelry and other ritual practices. It also marked the Feast of Anna Perenna, a goddess or deity of the circle of the year. From her name we get the term "per annum." All scores and debts had to be settled by this date. A specially selected man was dressed in goat’s skin and ritually flogged and hounded outside of the city walls to mark the passing from the old year and into the new. He was imbued with all the sins of others and everyone was given a new and clean slate into the New Year. It is from this practice that we get the term "Scapegoat."

After the establishment of the Roman Republic, rulers began exercising control over the calendar, lengthening dates of when they were in power and shortening dates when their rivals were in power. Having won his war with Pompey, Julius Caesar used his position as Rome's chief pontiff to enact a calendar reform in 46 BC and in so doing he changed Rome’s New Year celebration from the March 15th date to January. In fact, our modern calendar is very much like the one that Julius Caesar enacted. It had 365 days and 12 months each year and took into account the fact that Earth’s orbit around the sun by adding a leap day every four years.

Ironically on this foreboding day, the Roman Senate conspired to kill Julius Caesar. After ignoring numerous warnings–including those of a seer, Caesar was lured into an ambush and was stabbed 23 times before he died. The expression "Beware the Ides of March" is first found in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, 1601. The line is the soothsayer's message to Julius Caesar, warning of his death.

The Cauldron of Destiny - Coire Ansic

According to myth Ireland was overeun by a successtion of invading tribes, they include the Fomorians, the Fir Bolg, The Tuatha Dé Dannan the last of whom were the Milesians or the Sons of Mil, the ancestors of the current Irish. They were entrusted with four gifts by their predecessors the Tuatha Dé; namely the Sword of Destiny, the Spear of Destiny, the Cauldron of Destiny - the Coire Ansic and the Stone of Destiny. The Tuatha Dé Danann are supposed to have brought them from the four island cities from the northern world, Murias, Falias, Gorias and Findias, when they arrived in Ireland. Each object was inbued with potent magic and there is a history attached to each item, some of which survive to the present day.

Known as the (the un-dry cauldron) this cauldron came from the city of Murias in "the northern islands of the world," possibly located in Lochlann (Norway).  No company ever went away from it unsatisfied it was the cauldron of pleanty. It was said to have a ladle so big that two people could fit in it. This cauldron had the power to bring the dead back to life. The most famous owner of this cauldron was the Dagda. He is said to be husband of the Morrígan, and his children include Aengus, Cermait, and Aed (often called the three sons of the Dagda), Brigit and Bodb Derg.He is said to have two brothers, Nuada and Ogma who is the creator of Ogham writing.

Once a fire is lit beneath the cauldron, it will never go empty, and those that eat from it are always satisfied. It could cure all ailments and bring the dead back to life. When it was not in use it housed the invincible Spear of Destiny owned by Lugh. 

There are some suggestions that the giant stone basin found at Knowth, could be the Dagda’s Cauldron, and that the concentric circular design depicted on it could be a map of Atlantis, as described by Plato.

 

The Sword of Destiny - the Fragarach or Claíomh Solais

According to myth Ireland was overeun by a successtion of invading tribes, they include the Fomorians, the Fir Bolg, The Tuatha Dé Dannan the last of whom were the Milesians or the Sons of Mil. These people are the ancestors of all the current Irish. They were entrusted with four gifts by their predecessors the Tuatha Dé; namely the Sword of Destiny - the Fragarach or Claíomh Solais , Spear of Destiny, the  the Cauldron of Destiny and the Stone of Destiny.  The Tuatha Dé Danann are supposed to have brought them from the four island cities from the northern world, Murias, Falias, Gorias and Findias, when they arrived in Ireland. Each object was inbued with potent magic and there is a history attached to each item, some of which survive to the present day. 

Here I will discuss the Sword of Destiny. It was called the Fragarach, translated from the gaelic as "The Whisperer", "The Answerer", or "The Retaliator." It was also called "Claíomh Solais" - the sword of light. The sword was fashioned for Nuada, the first high king and was forged by the gods. It was meant to be wielded only by those who stood above the Stone of Destiny (the Lia Fail) which roared and the sword whispered in response. This came from the city of Falias. No one ever escaped from it once it was drawn from its sheath, and no one could resist it. The sword is also described in the Tain legend as "Nuadu's Cainnel" — a glowing bright torch and it could cause lightening to strike.

With Fragarach at their throat, no one could move or tell a lie, thus the name "Answerer". The sword was also said to place the wind at the user's command and could cut through any shield or wall, and that it inflicted piercing wounds from which no man could recover. So what became of this mighty sword?

It became the Sword of Excalibur of course, the sword with which Arthur slew four hundred and seventy men in single combat. An older spelling of Excalibur is ex Caliburno derived from Calabolg which was a legendary Irish weapon. Caladbolg was the lightning sword of Fergus mac Roich. Caladbolg was also known for its incredible power, and was carried by some of Ireland's greatest heroes. The word calad means hard and the word blog means lightning. The lightning sword is close to the description of the Sword of Light of Nuada known as Claíomh Solais. 

 

Easter Sunday.

On the face of it Easter Sunday seems unpredictable. It never seems to fall on the same date two years in row. Why is that? It is not a prima facie case, there is a logic to when the date falls and why it is different every year.

The Equinox is the midpoint in the calendar year between Midwinter (December 21st), which has the shortest hours of daylight of the year and Midsummer (june 21st), which has the longest hours of daylight of the year. There are two equinoxes every year, one in spring (20 March) and the other in autumn (23 September). This is when the the centre of the visible Sun is directly above the equator as the Earth orbits the Sun. Most of us follow the Gregorian calender (a solar calendar adopted by Julius Caesar in 45 BC) Leap years throw this out a bit, but it is easily followed.

The first Full Moon after the Spring Equinox is known as the Paschal full moon. You will remember this year 2020 as the Super Pink Moon. Easter is always the first Sunday after this full moon. This was decided in 325 CE, by the Council of Nicaea, (a gathering of Christian bishops) and the deigned also that it should always fall on a Sunday. Consequently Easter Sunday will always happen between March 22 and April 25. This explains why all holidays leading up to that day, such as Ash Wednesday, Palm Sunday and Good Friday, are known as “moveable feasts.”

Eastern Orthodox churches follow the Julian calendar, and there is a discrepancy of 13 days between calendars, and thus their Easter falls earlier.

Easter Sunday 2021 falls on the 4th of April.

 

Mothering Sunday

My very cynical response to my daughters enquiry as to the history or herstory of Mothering Sunday was; 'Halmark probably.' Of course I was wrong, it dates back to the Greeks and the Romans, who knew? The Greeks celebrated Rhea, the Mother of the Gods and Goddesses, while the Romans celebrated the Goddess, Cybele, every March as far back as 250BC.

Mothering Sunday falls on the fourth Sunday of Lent and that tradition goes back to medieval times. This is exactly three weeks before Easter Sunday and it also served to remind the faithful of their 'Mother' church as well. On this day you were expected to revisit the church in which you were christened and anyone who did this was commonly said to have gone "a-mothering". Because of the religious observation those in service and apprenticeships had the day off and went home to their mothers with gifts such as hand-picked flowers.

Eventually this tradition evolved into the spoil our mother's day that we celebrate nowadays.

'Beware of the Ides of March.'

When you read history (which I do a lot) and in particular Church history (wherein lie many gems) you come upon terms that relate to the Roman Calendar; namely the kalends, nones and ides. They are Latin terms that refer to the ancient markers used to reference dates in relation to lunar phases. We are all familiar with the quote from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar ‘Beware of the Ides of March.’

Kalends = New Moon (no moon to be seen). Nones = 1st quarter moon. Ides = Full Moon (whole moon visible in the night sky). The Kalends fell on the first day of the month. Nones was the 7th of 31 day months March, May, July, and October, and the 5th of other months. Ides fell on the 15th of 31 day months March, May, July, and October, and on the 13th of other months.

The Ides of March fell on the 15th of March. In fact, it once signified the New Year, a key date in the Roman Calendar and was marked with celebrations and rejoicing. In the Roman world, the Ides of each month were sacred to the God Jupiter. On this day the high priest would lead the Ides sheep and goats in procession along the main street to Rome’s citadel. Because it marked the New Year, there was extra revelry and other ritual practices.

On this day the Feast of Anna Perenna, a goddess or deity of the circle of the year was also celebrated. From her name we get the term ‘per annum.’ All scores and debts had to be settled by this date. A specially selected man was dressed in goat’s skin and ritually flogged and hounded outside of the city walls to mark the passing from the old year and into the new. He was imbued with all the sins of others and everyone was given a new slate into the New Year. It is from this practice that we get the term ‘Scapegoat.’

After the establishment of the Roman Republic, rulers began exercising control over the calendar, lengthening dates of when they were in power and shortening dates when their rivals were in power. Having won his war with Pompey, Julius Caesar used his position as Rome's chief pontiff to enact a calendar reform in 46 BC and in so doing he changed Rome’s New Year celebration from March 15 date to January.

In fact, our modern calendar is very much like the one that Julius Caesar enacted. It had 365 days and 12 months each year and took into account the fact that Earth’s orbit around the sun by adding a leap day every four years. Ironically on this foreboding day, the Roman Senate conspired to kill Julius Caesar. After ignoring numerous warnings–including those of a seer, Caesar was lured into an ambush and was stabbed 23 times before he died. The expression 'Beware the Ides of March' is first found in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, 1601. The line is the soothsayer's message to Julius Caesar, warning of his death.