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Re: Sjamaan

on Sun Mar 04, 2018 5:52 pm
A druid (Welsh: derwydd; Old Irish: druí; Scottish Gaelic: draoidh) was a member of the high-ranking professional class in ancient Celtic cultures. While perhaps best remembered as religious leaders, they were also legal authorities, adjudicators, lorekeepers, medical professionals and political advisors. While the druids are reported to have been literate, they are believed to have been prevented by doctrine from recording their knowledge in written form, thus they left no written accounts of themselves. They are however attested in some detail by their contemporaries from other cultures, such as the Romans and the Greeks.
The earliest known references to the druids date to the fourth century BCE and the oldest detailed description comes from Julius Caesar's Commentarii de Bello Gallico (50s BCE). They were also described by later Greco-Roman writers such as Cicero,[2] Tacitus[3] and Pliny the Elder.[4] Following the Roman invasion of Gaul, the druid orders were suppressed by the Roman government under the 1st century CE emperors Tiberius and Claudius, and had disappeared from the written record by the 2nd century.

In about 750 CE the word druid appears in a poem by Blathmac, who wrote about Jesus, saying that he was "... better than a prophet, more knowledgeable than every druid, a king who was a bishop and a complete sage."[5] The druids then also appear in some of the medieval tales from Christianized Ireland like the "Táin Bó Cúailnge", where they are largely portrayed as sorcerers who opposed the coming of Christianity.[6] In the wake of the Celtic revival during the 18th and 19th centuries, fraternal and neopagan groups were founded based on ideas about the ancient druids, a movement known as Neo-Druidism. Many popular notions about druids, based on misconceptions of 18th century scholars, have been largely superseded by more recent study.[7]

Druids in mythology

Druids also play a prominent role in Irish Folklore, generally serving lords and kings as high ranking priest-counselors with the gift of prophecy and other assorted mystical abilities - the best example of these possibly being Cathbad. The chief druid in the court of King Conchobar mac Nessa of Ulster, Cathbad features in several tales, most of which detail his ability to foretell the future. In the tale of Deirdre of the Sorrows – the foremost tragic heroine of the Ulster Cycle – the druid prophesied before the court of Conchobar that Deirdre would grow up to be very beautiful, but that kings and lords would go to war over her, much blood would be shed because of her, and Ulster's three greatest warriors would be forced into exile for her sake. This prophecy, ignored by the king, came true.[32]

Arguably the greatest of these mythological druids was Amergin Glúingel,[33] a bard and judge for the Milesians featured in the Mythological Cycle. The Milesians were seeking to overrun the Tuatha De Danann and win the land of Ireland but, as they approached, the druids of the Tuatha Dé Danann raised a magical storm to bar their ships from making landfall. Thus Amergin called upon the spirit of Ireland itself, chanting a powerful incantation that has come to be known as The Song of Amergin[34] and, eventually (after successfully making landfall), aiding and dividing the land between his royal brothers in the conquest of Ireland,[35][36][37] earning the title Chief Ollam of Ireland.

Other such mythological druids were Tadg mac Nuadat of the Fenian Cycle, and Mug Ruith, a powerful blind druid of Munster.
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Re: Sjamaan

on Sun Mar 04, 2018 6:04 pm
Amergin Glúingel
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Amergin[1] Glúingel ("white knees") (also spelled Amhairghin Glúngheal) or Glúnmar ("big knee") is a bard, druid and judge for the Milesians in the Irish Mythological Cycle. He was appointed Chief Ollam of Ireland by his two brothers the kings of Ireland. A number of poems attributed to Amergin are part of the Milesian mythology.

One of the seven sons of Míl Espáine, he took part in the Milesian conquest of Ireland from the Tuatha Dé Danann, in revenge for their great-uncle Íth, who had been treacherously killed by the three kings of the Tuatha Dé Danann, Mac Cuill, Mac Cecht and Mac Gréine. They landed at the estuary of Inber Scéne, named after Amergin's wife Scéne, who had died at sea. The three queens of the Tuatha Dé Danann, (Banba, Ériu and Fódla), gave, in turn, permission for Amergin and his people to settle in Ireland. Each of the sisters required Amergin to name the island after each of them, which he did: Ériu is the origin of the modern name Éire, while Banba and Fódla are used as poetic names for Ireland, much as Albion is for Great Britain.

The Milesians had to win the island by engaging in battle with the three kings, their druids and warriors. Amergin acted as an impartial judge for the parties, setting the rules of engagement. The Milesians agreed to leave the island and retreat a short distance back into the ocean beyond the ninth wave, a magical boundary. Upon a signal, they moved toward the beach, but the druids of the Tuatha Dé Danann raised a magical storm to keep them from reaching land. However, Amergin sang an invocation calling upon the spirit of Ireland that has come to be known as The Song of Amergin, and he was able to part the storm and bring the ship safely to land. There were heavy losses on all sides, with more than one major battle, but the Milesians carried the day. The three kings of the Tuatha Dé Danann were each killed in single combat by three of the surviving sons of Míl, Eber Finn, Érimón and Amergin. In her Gods and Fighting Men (1904),[2] Augusta, Lady Gregory translates The Song of Amergin as such:

Lebar na Núachongbála (The Book of Leinster)
p. 49 in the diplomatic edition; from the CELT site

Ic tabairt a choisse dessi i nHerind asbert Amairgen Glúngel mac Miled in laídseo sís.

Am gáeth i mmuir. ar domni.
Am tond trethan i tír.
Am fúaim mara.
Am dam secht ndírend.
Am séig i n-aill.
Am dér gréne.g
Am caín.
Am torc ar gail.
Am hé i llind.
Am loch i mmaig
Am briandai.
Am bri danae
Am gai i fodb. feras feochtu.
Am dé delbas do chind codnu.
Coiche nod gleith clochur slébe.
Cia on cotagair aesa éscai
Cia dú i llaig funiud grene.
Cia beir búar o thig Temrach.
Cia buar Tethrach. tibi.
Cia dain.
Cia dé delbas faebru. a ndind ailsiu.
Cáinté im gaí cainte gaithe. 

I am the wind on the sea;
I am the wave of the sea;
I am the bull of seven battles;
I am the eagle on the rock
I am a flash from the sun;
I am the most beautiful of plants;
I am a strong wild boar;
I am a salmon in the water;
I am a lake in the plain;
I am the word of knowledge;
I am the head of the spear in battle;
I am the god that puts fire in the head;
Who spreads light in the gathering on the hills?
Who can tell the ages of the moon?
Who can tell the place where the sun rests?"

Amergin then divided the land between his two brothers, Eber taking the southern half of Ireland, Eremon the north.[4][5][6] Within the year Érimón defeated Éber in battle and gained the kingship of the whole island, and two years later killed Amergin in another battle.[7][8] Local tradition in Drogheda locates his burial-place under Millmount.

Some of the early medieval Welsh poems on mythological themes attributed to the 6th century poet Taliesin in the Book of Taliesin have similarities to those attributed to Amergin.[9]
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Re: Sjamaan

on Sun Mar 04, 2018 6:09 pm
The White Goddess, Robert Graves, Faber, p.13
I am a stag: of seven tines,
I am a flood: across a plain,
I am a wind: on a deep lake,
I am a tear: the Sun lets fall,
I am a hawk: above the cliff,
I am a thorn: beneath the nail,
I am a wonder: among flowers,
I am a wizard: who but I
Sets the cool head aflame with smoke?

I am a spear: that roars for blood,
I am a salmon: in a pool,
I am a lure: from paradise,
I am a hill: where poets walk,
I am a boar: ruthless and red,
I am a breaker: threatening doom,
I am a tide: that drags to death,
I am an infant: who but I
Peeps from the unhewn dolmen, arch?

I am the womb: of every holt,
I am the blaze: on every hill,
I am the queen: of every hive,
I am the shield: for every head,
I am the tomb: of every hope.

There are another two versions on p. 204 of the White Goddess, but I have not found these on the web (Gary).
Shadow of the Witch, MSN Group

I am a stag of seven tines, I am a wide flood on a plain, I am a wind on the deep waters, I am a shining tear of the sun, I am a hawk on a cliff, I am fair among the flowers, I am a god who sets the head afire with smoke, I am a battle-waging spear, I am a salmon in the pool, I am a hill of poetry, I am a ruthless boar, I am a threatening noise of the sea, I am a wave of the sea, Who but I knows the secrets of the unhewn dolmen?I am a stag of seven tines, I am a flood across a plain, I am a wind on a deep lake, I am a tear the Sun lets fall, I am a hawk above the cliff, I am a thorn beneath the nail, I am a wizard who but I Sets the cool head aflame with smoke? I am a spear that roars for blood, I am a salmon in a pool, I am a lure from paradise, I am a hill where poets walk, I am a boar ruthless and red, I am a breaker threatening doom, I am a tide that drags to death, I am an infant who but I Peeps from the unhewn dolman arch?


Enya's La Soñadora 
I am the wind that blows across the sea;
I am the wave of the deep;
I am the roar of the ocean;
I am the stag of seven battles;
I am the hawk on the cliff;
I am a ray of sunlight;
I am the greenest of plants;
I am a wild boar;
I am a salmon in the river;
I am a lake on the plain;
I am the word of knowledge;
I am the point of a spear;
I am the lure beyond the ends of the earth;
I can shift my shape like a god. 

Alternative Religions at

I am a stag of seven tines, 
I am a wide flood on a plain, 
I am a wind on the deep waters, 
I am a shining tear of the sun, 
I am a hawk on a cliff, 
I am fair among flowers, 
I am a god who sets the head afire with smoke. 
I am a battle waging spear, 
I am a salmon in the pool, 
I am a hill of poetry, 
I am a ruthless boar, 
I am a threatening noise of the sea, 
I am a wave of the sea, 
Who but I knows the secrets of the unhewn dolmen?

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Re: Sjamaan

on Sun Mar 04, 2018 6:15 pm
Am Geath i m-Muir
I am wind on Sea

So begins the Song of Amairgen, the ancient mystical poem uttered by Amairgen Glanglun, the legendary bard, as he first stepped foot upon thelandofIreland, on the shores ofKenmareBay.

And while this blog is intended to cover wide and varied topics from contemporary Spiritual Care (chaplaincy), modern paganisms, and Celtic religion generally, I will – time and again – be returning to this beautiful, syntactically dense, mysterious poem as a source of connection, reflection and meaning making.

In case you’re asking yourself WTF – which is, of course, “Why the fuss?” right? – Here is a beautiful rendition of The Song, recited by Lisa Gerrard, of Dead Can Dance.

Am gaeth i m-muir,
Am tond trethan,
Am fuaim mara,
Am dam secht ndirend,
Am séig i n-aill,
Am dér gréne,
Am cain lubai,
Am torc ar gail,
Am he i l-lind,
Am loch i m-maig,
Am brí a ndai,
Am bri danae,
Am bri i fodb fras feochtu,Am dé delbas do chind codnu,
Coiche nod gleith clochur slébe?Cia on co tagair aesa éscai?
Cia du i l-laig fuiniud gréne?
Cia beir buar o thig tethrach?
Cia buar tethrach tibi?
Cia dám, cia dé delbas faebru a ndind ailsiu?
Cáinte im gai, cainte gaithe.

I am Wind on Sea,
I am Ocean-wave,
I am Roar of Sea,
I am Stag of Seven Tines,
I am a Hawk on a Cliff,
I am shining tear of the Sun,
I am Fairest among Herbs,
I am Boar for Boldness,
I am Salmon in Pool,
I am a Lake on a Plain,
I am a Hill of Poetry,
I am a Word of Skill,
I am the Point of a Weapon (that pours forth combat),
I am God who fashions Fire for a Head.
Who knows the secrets of the Unhewn Dolmen?
Who (but I) announces the Ages of the Moon?
Who (but I) know the place where falleth
the Sunset?
Who calls the Cattle from the House of Tethra?
On whom do the cattle of Tethra smile?
Who is the troop, the god who fashions edges
in a fortress of gangrene?
(I am) a Song on a Spear, an Enchantments of Wind.

From early in the 20th century, there are scholars who have suggested that the poem has spiritual and cosmological meaning, connecting the nature of the world to the nature of the soul.  Likewise, from the same period there have been scholars (usually without formal training in the nature of Indo-European religions) who have contested this notion.

As an example of the later, Marie-Louise Sjoestedt in Celtic Gods and Heroes (19) says, “It has been suggested that this poem, which is a tissue of obscure formulas that puzzled even the mediaeval commentators, echoes the druidic doctrine of metempsychosis; but it simply expressed the pride of the sorcerer, whose art has just brought him triumph over his enemies, and who now parades his talents and declares his power. For we know that one of the gifts which all primitive peoples attribute to their sorcerers is that of shape-shifting.” (p. 23-24)

Sjoestedt’s explanation makes clear that she could not possibly imagine deeply spiritual thought, or complex multivalent thought, among so called ‘primitive peoples’ – a bias which has repeatedly been proven incorrect the world over.

Personally, I don’t see this poem as just the swaggering of a simple and arrogant magician-priest, and I’m not alone in that opinion. 

Well versed in at least one other Indo-European religion, Alwyn and Brinley Rees, in Celtic Heritage offer a far deeper explanation, and one that seems to speak directly to Sjoestedt while at the same time remembers that we are reading medieval text, not unadulterated ancient myth: “The Celtic substratum of our story is particularly evident in the obscure poem which Amairgen utters as he first sets his right foot upon Ireland, a poem which gives the coming of the Sons of Míl a significance beyond that of a mere historical invasion.” p.98 “Potentially, the whole creation is bound up in Amairgen, and Indian parallels preclude the dismissal of his speech as simply an expression of ‘the pride of the sorcerer’. Thus Sri Krishna in the Bhagavad-Gita declares himself to be the divine seed without which nothing animate or inanimate exists. He is the Atman, he is Vishnu, Shiva, Brahman, and all the gods, the beginning, the life-span, and the end: ‘I am the radiant sun among the light-givers… among the stars of night, I am the moon … I am Meru among mountain peaks … I am the ocean among waters … Of water-beings I am Varuna: Aryaman among the Fathers: I am Death … I am the Wind…’ He is pre-eminent among hymns, poetic metres, the letters of the alphabet, the months and the seasons: ‘I am the dice-play of the cunning, I am the strength of the strong …I am the silence of things secret: I am the knowledge of the knower … What I have described to you are only a few of my countless forms.’ Vishnu, dormant during the interval of non-manifestation between the dissolution and recreation of the universe delivers himself of a similar series of ‘I am’ utterances. … Similarly Amairgen on the ocean of non-existence embodies the primeval unity of all things.  As such he has the power to bring a new world into being, and his poems are in the nature of creation incantations.” (p.99-100)

In addition to connecting the Song and its utterance to, not only the whole of existence, but the act of creation, as a corollary to that, Rees and Rees connect it to transmigration of the soul: “Amairgen…is everything, and it is a fair inference that among the Celts, as in India and other lands, there existed alongside the belief in individual reincarnation a doctrine that there is essentially only One Transmigrant. As Ovid expressed it: ‘The spirit wanders, comes now here, now there, and occupies whatever frame it pleases. From beasts it passes into human bodies, and from our bodies into beasts, but never perishes.’” (p.230)

The Rees brothers draw this conclusion, not from the Song of Amairgen alone, but from a look at the tradition as whole, through the material we have left.  The book, Celtic Heritage, practically culminates with the notion that Celtic religion depicts, “in the concepts of the boundary, the centre, intercalary time, ‘to-day’, betwixts-and-betweens…multiple names, multiple skills, puns and, we may add, metaphors, an ambiguity, or a multiplication or concentration of meaning which makes them fitting symbols of the unmanifest, which is itself the world of chaos and at the same time the ground of all being.” (p.348-9)

This would later be reflected in the words of Alexei Kondratiev, in The Apple Branch (1998), saying that in “Celtic religion… everything interpenetrates everything else, and nothing is only itself” (p.156)

In this light, the Song of Amairgen is not unique, but simply one beautiful instantiation of the Celtic understanding of the interplay between self and totality, and between unity and multiplicity.  In this sense, any such hard distinctions are dependent more on how one approaches existence and at what resolution, than any absolute privileging of one paradigm over the other.
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Re: Sjamaan

on Sun Mar 04, 2018 6:21 pm
The Celts in general and the druids in particular were averse to committing their own important lore to writing, and their formal memorized oral transmission was broken long ago. We therefore know very little about the pagan religions of the ancient Celtic tribes. In any case, it could not be strictly accurate to speak of ‘Celtic Shamanism’, as the words ‘shaman’ and ‘shamanic’ properly refer only to the Tungus people of Siberia. However, magico-religious elements which can be recognized as ‘shamanistic’ or reminiscent of shamanism, and which are furthermore common to many cultures, can indeed be found in the pagan Celtic spiritual traditions. Celts occupied a great deal of Europe by the 4th century C.E., but only in the British Isles did any substantial body of literature survive. This entry will therefore mainly focus on that area.

We do know that the Celts had a complete system of magic, one which was highly respected by the ancient world. Diodorus and Clement of Alexandria said that the Celtic priests of Gaul trained with Pythagoras in mystical philosophy. In the 1st-century A.D., Dio Chrystosom equated the Celtic Druids with the Persian Magi, Indian Brahmins, and Egyptian priests.

Do you hear that kids?
Irish Druids trained the old world Rulers, they would send them over to Eire to be trained
hope you get it , child , but I know you cannot understand
hmm interesting...
Hope you pay some attention to this, facebook kiddies...

What we currently know about Celtic spirituality and magical practice is based on Greek and Roman descriptions, a few works by the early Celts themselves (mainly from Wales, Ireland, and Scotland), folk songs and fairy tales, and a great deal of imaginative invention. These sources prove troublesome due to their limitations. The Greek and Roman texts are mainly observations by invading armies from political encounters with the tribes of southern Gaul. Folktales may become changed by each storyteller. Some details of ‘Celtic spirituality’ as represented in numerous contemporary popular books were originally recovered through analepsis (spontaneous ancestral memory) and bardic creativity by more modern writers such as Iolo Morgannwg and Robert Graves. Finally, the historical story cycles and poetry originating with the Celts were recorded years later by Christian monks, who may well have felt hostility towards – or at least discomfort with – the pagan worldview.

Despite these difficulties, however, shamanistic elements can be easily discerned in the sources we have. These elements include descriptions of practitioners and patterns of magical initiation; magical practices such as spiritual healing, harming, and warfare; uncanny abilities such as enchantment, soul flight, distance viewing, shapeshifting, animal transmogrification, and understanding the speech of birds and animals; the employment of wise judgment through insights gained by trance, divination, and prophesy; the use of magical tools; the experience of deep mystical inspiration and understanding; and a pervasive theme of deep relational connection to all beings and the processes which tie them together.

Celtic Magic and Spirituality
Pagan Celtic spirituality perceived that the supernatural otherworlds lie so close to this one that the borders often cross, and that the magical numinous was present in every aspect of their lives and surroundings. Nature was keenly observed by the pagan Celts to obtain understanding of her deepest secrets in both the physical and metaphysical sense, without the aspect of torture, violence, penetration or dismemberment in order to get to it that we find in later western inquiries.

The land itself was considered animate and conscious, quite aware of human activity but of course quite ‘other’ in its needs and nature. The ceremony for investing a new Ard Ri or Irish High King involved marriage of mystical dimensions with the land as goddess, thus binding the people to the place through kinship. Should this relationship be betrayed – for example, through disrespectful tribal behavior towards the land, trees, water, etc., or lack of personal honor in such qualities as generosity, bravery, or beauty – he could no longer serve as king.

Folk stories collected between the 18th and early 20th centuries abound in which nothing is merely as it seems to the physical eye. Woods, wells, rivers, and trees all were sacred places that might house gateways into the otherworld, both glorious and dangerous. On an ordinary walk home, a person might fall into a fairy mound and spend years there which feel like mere hours. Stones speak; a stranger or a bird might be God in disguise; music has the power to kill or maim. The greatest knowledge in the world is held by a fish. The fairies or ‘good folk,’ leprechauns, and brownies are neighbors; and the latter, if treated well, might do your housework.

There is an intense practicality to the Celtic mystical worldview. Things tend to go  better in faery encounters for those who are generous with their labor, time, and material goods, and for good musicians. Irish scholar Jeffrey Gantz (1981, 1) observes that all Celtic art is characterized by a “tension between reality and fantasy.” It is “romantic, idealistic, stylized and yet vividly, even appallingly, concrete.” Further, there are no distinctions made between the transcendent and the immanent in their potential for holding divine wonders. These tales clearly suggest a shamanistic worldview, with no separation between the physical and the metaphysical aspects of life.

We can turn to indigenous Celtic languages for clues to their speakers’ thoughts about their magical arts. The noun used to describe a spell or spoken word of magic in both Scots and Irish Gaelic is bricht, which is related to the Icelandic bragr, ‘poetry or magical rhyme’. The word eolas, ‘knowledge’, is used to describe magical ability. And a Gaelic term for any sort of sorcery or magical act is druidheachd. From these words, we can glean that Celtic magic was practiced by Druids, that ‘knowledge’ implied something much more than factual data, and that poetic inspiration/expression through the voice was commonly employed as a magical tool.

Pre-Celtic Works
It is easy for a casual observer to confuse Celtic with pre-Celtic artifacts. Although the druids may have used the great megaliths such as Stonehenge, Dol, and Carnac, and the tumuli at Newgrange and Gavr’inis, they did not build them. Standing stones were the work of peoples who inhabited these regions long before the first Iron Age Celts arrived around 500 B.C.E.

However, if we take the patterns of later immigrations as an example, some pre-Celtic spiritual knowledge may have been passed down to, or appropriated by, subsequently arriving peoples. The Irish Book of Invasions describes a much later wave of ‘indigenous druids’ struggling with a newer tribe’s chief druid over the right to kindle a fire that was ceremonially important to both.

Many prehistoric sites are found lined up in rows. Five or more sites in a row are known as a ‘ley,’ and are believed by some to mark a natural earth meridian or channel of energy, similar to the ch’i-filled ‘dragon currents’ the Chinese recognize in feng shui. Modern mappers of these pathways, or ‘ley hunters,’ believe that certain special places where two or more ley lines cross are full of power which can be drawn upon in magical practice. Some researchers speculate that one such line colloquially known as the ‘Old Straight Track’ was a road map to be used from the air during soul flight. Others believe that the leys reflect zodiacal patterns, because elements of passage-grave construction posit strong evidence that the spiritual practices of Bronze Age Ireland and Britain emphasized recurring astronomical phenomena. A third hypothesis is that the sites lie over hidden underground springs of water, and that the particular spiral flow of these aquastats may serve as a healing force. Spirals do appear with extreme frequency in early Celtic art.

Spiritual Practitioners
The Roman historian Strabo lists three classes of learned Gaulish spiritual practitioners. The druids are described as philosopher/theologians concerned with both the immortality of the soul and with natural phenomena. Bards were poets, storytellers, musicians and singers who chanted histories, eulogies and satires. And manteis or vates were naturalists and experts in divination through auguries and sacrifices.

Before the first millennium B.C.E., however, all of these abilities were attributed to druids, as the separation between these specialized functions was not so absolute. For example, in the Tain bo Cuailnge it is noted that the bards or ‘sweet-mouthed harpers’ of Cain Bile were also druids of great knowledge. And in the Welsh tale of Gwion Bach as told in the Mabinogion, the witch Cerridwen is described as being a master of all three of the great arts: magic (the province of the druidic class overall), enchantment (a later specialty of bards), and divination (assigned to the manteis). Her facility in all three sub-branches of learned spiritual practice points to the fluidity of those categories. Some speculate that the separation into specialized functions occurred for political reasons involving the overall strength of the druidic class.

Despite the common portrayal of a druid with a flowing white beard, references to both male and female adepts can be found. Women were accepted in pagan Celtic cultures as military leaders, as queens in their own right, and as magical practitioners. Tradition refers to ‘sunset isles of women’ where groups of female druids lived apart from their families for parts of a year. Examples include the Ile de Sein off the coast of Brittany where a sisterhood of nine miracle-working healers worked, and the Isle of Avalon, which gained fame in the Arthurian saga as a training ground for sorceresses and healers.

Most scholars today agree with Pliny the Elder, who regarded the Old Irish name druid as originating with the Greek word for oak-tree, drus, combined with the Indo-European root word wid-, to know (Piggott 1985, 103). Druids held their spiritual ceremonies in open groves of oak, preferring these natural cathedrals to any human-built structure. Place names involving the Gallo-Britonic word nemeton, which means both a clearing in a wood and shrine/sanctuary, were very likely once the sites of druidic practice and education.

At one time, a network of formal schools for generations of druids crossed the Celtic lands, the most important of which was located on the Isle of Mona (modern Anglesey). According to Julius Caesar, a druidic education – which could easily take twenty years – encompassed science, law, practical religion, philosophy, and history. Because writing was mistrusted for storage and transmission of important information, all of this had to be memorized. Details of such education have unfortunately been lost, and we do not know how, or if, magical initiation was formally conferred.

Instead, we repeatedly find very human tales of somebody making an innocent blunder which turns out to have tremendous magical repercussions. The ordinary and the numinous sides of the world are so close together that they can shift places in a moment, and one small deed can catalyze great change. In the biographical tales of both the Welsh chief bard/seer Taliesin and the Irish tribal leader/warrior chief Fionn MacCumhaill, shamanistic initiation was not sought but came upon the recipient through terrifying serendipitous accident. Very little in the Celtic magical world seems to take place as planned through human volition.

Druidic and Bardic Powers of Enchantment
Inspired poetry, regarded as a vital skill of the pagan Celtic seer, fits in with the shamanistic tenet that one must bring back any information gained from the Otherworlds to benefit the people. One challenge to this is that visions wildly pouring forth while in deep trance can easily be forgotten during the return to ordinary waking consciousness. They are much more likely to be retained and recalled for later use when placed in some sort of pattern which the cognitive mind can hold onto. Through the uses of rhyme, alliteration, meter, repetition and tune to this end, the crafts of music and poetry became intimately connected with magical practice and otherworldly power and knowledge in the Celtic world.

Besides voicing deep and otherwise hidden wisdom gained while in an altered state, bards used sound to harm, heal, and alter moods and probability. Poetry and music were not considered beaux-arts to the pagan Celts, but tools of raw magical power. Scorching satirical poetry known as the briarmon smetrach was intended to ‘puncture’ and to publicly destroy reputations. Well-aimed, the poetic form known as glam dicin was used to drive out rats and to disfigure or even kill an opponent. The Irish cattle-rustling epic Tain bo Cualgne describes the bardic warfare employed by Queen Medb against her enemy Fer Diad:

Then Medb sent the Druids and satirists and harsh bards for Fer Diad, that they might make against him three satires to stay him and three lampoons, and that they might raise on his face three blisters, shame, blemish and disgrace, so that he might die before the end of nine days if he did not succumb at once (Kinsella 1969).

Bardic incantations could also be used to end hostilities. Diodorus Siculus observed this magical use of sound in the late 1st-century B.C.E.:

Frequently when armies confront one another in line of battle with swords drawn and spears thrust forward, these men intervene and cause them to stop, just as though they were holding some wild animal spellbound with their chanting. (Diodorus Siculus 31, 2-5, as cited in Ireland, p. 181).

Tacitus describes the effect of this weaving of enchantment against Roman invaders on the Isle of Mona in 60 A.D.:

On the shore stood the opposing army with its dense array of armed warriors, while between the ranks dashed women in black attire round the Druids, lifting up their hands to heaven and pouring forth dreadful imprecations, scared our soldiers by the unfamiliar sight so that, as if their limbs were paralyzed, they stood motionless and exposed to wounds. (Tacitus, Annals XIV, 30)

Finally, bardic powers could also be used to heal – as when a master harper restored speech to the dumb prince Maon through his music. The small harp was often employed by bards as a magical tool. Part of the Celtic harper’s toolkit was working knowledge of the Adbhan Trireach or ‘Three Noble Strains,’ attributed to the chants for childbirth sung by the god/spirit Dagda’s harp Uaithne. Each Strain was not only entertainment but a form of enchantment: ‘Sorrow-‘ or ‘Lament-Strain’, which could reduce listeners to tears; ‘Joy-Strain’, which could turn tears to laughter; and ‘Sleep-Strain’, which could soothe listeners’ hearts into deep sleep. Gaining songs of power from spirits is a common element occurring in many shamanistic cultures.

Shapeshifting, Glamour, and Invisibility
Trickery achieved through enchantment, or the shifting of seeming reality, is a theme commonly found in literature detailing observations about indigenous magical practitioners of the Americas. It is also replete throughout Irish texts and British/Gaulish Arthurian literature.

The magical manipulation of weather by druids appears prominently in Irish sagas, often employed as one weapon in the arsenal for ordinary tribal warfare. Strong winds and tempests were raised by the Tuatha de Danaan people to keep the first Milesian invaders from landing on shore, and the druid Mog Ruath sent storm-spells and magic fire against King Cormac and his druids in order to drive them out of the area. Weather could also be called up in order to conceal people or to get their enemies lost and confused. Heavy snowfalls, thick mists, dense fog, thundershowers, and sudden darkness were all employed.

Another commonly found druidic practice is the manipulation of events through magical impersonation. For example, the Irish warrior Cuchulainn was once deceived by a sorceress who took the form of a trusted lady in order to get near him and goad him onto the field of battle. Sexual themes are quite common. In the Arthurian cycle, the wizard Merlin enchanted Uther Pendragon so that he seemed to be the husband of Igraine so that she would gladly sleep with him. Merlin knew through augury that this mating would conceive the child who would later become King Arthur. One tool for accomplishing such shapeshifting was the spell known as fith-fath, used to transform one object into another and also to confer invisibility. Remnants of this are still with us in the shamanistic childrens’ story of Jack and the Beanstalk: “Fee-fi-fo-fum.”

A classic motif in Irish folktales is the nonhuman Fair Folk ‘casting glamour’ upon an unwitting passer-by, who thinks he is being invited into a grand home to enjoy a fabulous feast, a gift of gold, and a night of love with a beautiful woman. Instead, in the morning when he wakes, he finds himself lying an open field with the dew on his coat and a pocketful of yellow leaves, holding a rotting corpse in his arms. Such tales could be seen as illustrating spontaneous and shamanistic soul flight with otherworldly aspects of travel, uncanny beauties and terrors, encounters with strange beings, the element of later finding one’s body elsewhere, and great time discrepancies.

Animal Transmogrification
Ties with other animals are extremely strong in ancient Celtic tradition. The deepest wisdom in the world is held by the ancient ‘Salmon of Knowledge’. The appearance of crows forewarns the coming of the war goddesses Morrigan or Badbh. Gwyrhyr ‘Interpreter of Tongues’ exhibits the ability to communicate with wild animals.

We further find this shamanistic motif of mediating between human and other animal forms not only by observing them from the outside, but by transforming into them. The druid Uath was said to change himself into any form he wished. In a conversation with the ancient Hawk of Achill, Fintan describes his history of transformations into an eagle, a hawk, and a salmon. And instead of dying, Tuan MacCarell repeatedly finds himself alive and vibrant in a new young animal form. In the last days of his final human life, he relates the entire history of Ireland as witnessed through his many different eyes, most of them non-human, to the Milesian invaders.

These mystical biographies, and those of the bards Taliesin pen Beirdd, Oisin, and Amergin, comprise some of the most powerful examples of shamanistic elements in the Celtic world. Each changed into animals and other forms (waves, winds, a spear, a seed…), lived significant amounts of time in each form, then came back to the people with useful knowledge gleaned from their time spent in non-ordinary reality. Through dismemberment of the ordinary human form, the poet-seer gets to understand divine nature through many lenses, learns to wield natural forces, and becomes unafraid of death.

If we can take the oldest extant mythological cycles as evidence of worldview, practitioners were also considered to be able to change the shapes of others. The story of the Children of Lir describes their cruel transformation into swans by their jealous and magically adept stepmother. Beings in the Welsh Mabinogion such as the hunted boar Twrc Trwyth who was once a human king, and the lady Blodeuwedd who is actually an enchanted owl combined with flowers, were similarly changed without consent.

The Celts also live closely with beings who belong to both the human and other-than-human realms. Legends of seal-people or selchies abound in the outer islands such as the Hebrides. It is said that at certain times of the year such as the Solstices, these seals shed their skins and go dancing on the rocks as human beings. Some of them are captured or captivated by “real” humans and mate with them. There are families in these islands who deem themselves to be part seal-blood, from just such pairings. One benefit of this lineage is that these people seem to have better luck with the fishing and the waves: they have an intuitive “knowing” of where the fish will be, or when and how a storm will come. Their relatives below will also help them by herding fish towards their boats. Selchie legends comprise one of the most palpable variations of the shamanistic theme of transformation: both the human and seal people learn of another perspective, and mediate between the worlds of land and sea, by literally and metaphorically living in the other’s skin.

A personal connection through lineage could also determine behavior. Conary was forbidden to hunt birds since his father came to his mother Messbuachalla through the window as a great bird, who threw off his plumage to make love to her. Ossian was forbidden to eat venison, as his mother Saar gave birth to him while transformed into deer-shape. Cuchulainn, whose name literally means the ‘Hound of Culainn’, was under a geis or tabu against eating dog-flesh.

Such relational protection is a common thread in Irish tales, and may connect back to earlier tribal totems. There is clearly a tie with other animals that far exceeds romantic sentimentality or meat-thinking: this is an animistic view about one’s relatives. Early Celtic tribes were named after these connections: Epidii (Pictish “Horse People” in Kintyre and neighboring islands), Cornavii (“People of the Horn” in the British midlands), Brannovices (“Raven Clan” in transalpine Gaul), Taurisci (“Bull Folk” in transalpine Gaul). In early Celtic culture, the shamanistic elements do not generally center around individual human psychology as they tend to in modern neo-shamanism; instead, they illustrate the tribal relational stance with a magical, completely alive and sentient, world of nonhuman and spirit equals.

Mantic Powers of Divination & Soul Flight
Divination and prophesy were integral parts of the pagan Celtic druids’ or manteis’ repertoire. They divined to see deeply or travel into the ‘other nature’ of seemingly ordinary things. This could be done through ecstatic poetic trance, observation of natural forces for correspondences, or soul flight to other realms.

Giraldus Cambrensis describes the Welsh magical poetry specialists known as awenyddion (‘people inspired’) going into deep ecstatic inspirational trance with the body in frenzied paroxysms, chanting wildly. Cambrensis says that when the information came upon them, they roared mightily and that the listeners had to pick out the useful bits from the mass of unintelligible gibberish around it.  Both the Welsh awenyddion and the Irish poet/seers had to be violently shaken awake after their forays into this other state of consciousness. Cambrensis reports that the awenyddion felt as though they had sweet milk, honey, or writing poured onto their lips from the spirits.

The greatest-known magical practitioner from the Arthurian saga, the wizard Merlin, was so accustomed to soul journeys into non-ordinary realms where space and time are different that he was reputed to ‘live backwards in time’. It is said that he could prophesy easily because for him, this was not a matter of divination but of simply remembering the future.

Celtic prophesy was undertaken for practical purposes. In Irish sagas, we find the druids or manteis called upon to augur whether a particular day is auspicious for some important undertaking, such as births or battles. Mothers would sometimes artificially hold off delivery of their babies until a day the druids found would foster greatness in the child. The Irish druid Cathbad prophesied that whoever would take up arms on a particular day would have a short life with eternal fame. The young boy Cuchulainn seized the moment, and later went on to become hero of an entire cycle of Irish sagas.

The druids may have used a detailed divinatory calendar. Bronze calendar fragments found at Coligny in France form the oldest extensive document in a Celtic language, having been dated between the late first century B.C.E. to the early first century C.E.. Thought to be a product of the Gaulish druids, it uses Roman lettering but its content is distinctly different from the Roman calendar. Each month in it is marked by either the abbreviations MAT (good) or ANM (not good). Similar methods were used in Babylonian and Jewish calendrics, and can still be found today in Indonesia, where healer/seers and even everyday folk use them to plan events around particular days and even certain hours, due to their attributed characteristics.

Divination through Nature
Druids and manteis observed the patterns in nature for clues to the patterns surrounding human events. Fedelm in the Tain practiced crystal-gazing. Scottish Highland seers discovered meaning by throwing the scapula bones of sheep. The 1st-century historian Strabo reported that periodically, in earlier times, a particularly chosen human being was stabbed in the back with a dagger, to foretell the future from his convulsions. Smoke rising from a fire, the placement of the stars, the auspiciousness (or not) of particular days and hours, the placement and shapes of clouds – all could be looked to for advice. Asking non-human beings and the spirits of the beloved dead for help is, of course, a classic aspect of shamanic inspiration and practice.

Animal allies figured especially prominently in pagan Celtic divination. Parts of the bull could be eaten or worn to invoke divinatory aid.  In the 1st century C.E., the Iceni warrior queen Boadicea used a hare for foretelling and to help ensure her tribe’s victory against the invading Romans. The direction in which the hare ran off foretold to the assembled people whether or not the battle would go well. Many animals and birds were watched closely for clues, for it was deemed quite possible that some were actually humans or deities temporarily taking on that form.

Cave paintings by Bronze & Iron Age Celts which portray ravens speaking to humans were found in the Camonica Valley of northern Italy. Augury by ravens appears commonly in the British Isles. The system is remarkably like that found in contemporary Tibet. Ravens are watched for omens of luck, approaching visitors, and the like. Oral poetry collected in the 19th century Carmina Gadelica still includes tales in which approaching ravens are taken as an omen of impending death.  Observation of both the raven and wren involved their various cries, direction flying, and bodily position in the sky relative to the questioner. Diodorus Siculus observed that the early Christian saint Columba differed from his Druidic teachers in that he paid no heed to the voices of birds. The Welsh word for wren is drui-en, which means ‘druid bird,’ clearly alluding to its role as magical helper.

Journeys into the Otherworld
The definitive shamanistic act in many cultures is ‘soul flight.’ The shaman deliberately goes into trance, her soul temporarily leaving her body, in order to gain deeper knowledge, understanding, and power. The Celtic literature which has been translated to date describes other lands which are clearly not part of ordinary reality, seeing at a distance through both space and time, and details of methods used to leave the body.

The Vision of Rhonabwy describes seeking inspiration by going alone to a remote place and wrapping oneself up in a bull’s hide at night. The Gaelic name for such a bull-hide wrap was taghairm, which literally means ‘an echo,’ a response from a distance – in this case, perhaps from the otherworld. Lacking bull-hide cloaks, later generations similarly wrapped their plaids about their heads to cover their eyes in the dark, in order to see better.  The imbas-forosnai or ‘divination by holding the cheeks’ involved the seer eating the flesh of a white bull and then going to sleep holding onto his cheeks, with four druids continually chanting over him. In one imbas-forosnai, the dreamer had a vision of the man who was to be made king. He saw where the man was and what he was doing at that exact moment. This seems to be an example of distance viewing and prophesy, through the mechanism of soul-flight.

The historical/mythological cycles are richly embellished with episodes of shamanistic trance. A scene in the Red Branch cycle describes the druid MacRuith rising up with the fire into the air of the skies, dressed in his magical garb of a bullhide cloak and enchennach or bird-dress, and soaring above the heads of the opposing army to scout their position. A tugen or feathered cloak has also been mentioned as worn by certain Irish poet/seers. The wearing of feathers is common in many peoples’ shamanistic costumes intended to further soul flight, spiritual power, and magical insight or inspiration.

Tales involving travel into non-ordinary realms abound in the British Isles, such as Pwyll’s meeting with Arawn in the underworld; the surreal voyages of Brendan, Peredur, and Maelduin; Ossian’s return from Tir na n’Og after spending three centuries there; and Lancelot’s crossing of the Sword Bridge in search of the abducted Guinevere. Other classic shamanistic elements in the latter include Lancelot’s forgetting who he is and being confused as to whether he is alive or dead, his deliberate removal of his armor to cross the swords and his subsequently being cut up by them, and finally, the sudden disappearance of the fearsome leonine guardians he’d perceived guarding the far banks.

Shamanistic portals to other realms appear in Celtic tradition as they do in other cultures. Lancelot’s ‘sword bridge’ is a good example of an object which holds meaning in both ordinary and non-ordinary reality, and can serve as a literal bridge between the two. Descriptions of narrow bridges which initially defy the promised passage to a magical place also recur in Irish literature.

Trees, which appear worldwide in shamanistic practices as a means of reaching other spiritual realms, are of central importance to druidic magical practice. Pliny observed that the druids “perform no rites without the foliage of the oak,” and that they revere the mistletoe because “anything growing on oaks … is a sign that the tree has been chosen by the god himself.” (Pliny, Natural History XVI, 249-251, quoted in Ireland, p.183). Perhaps the presence of the mistletoe designated a particular tree as a gateway into the gods’ realms.

Certain hills in the British Isles are considered to be hollow inside, containing or leading to nonordinary realms called ‘Faerie.’ Such realms have their own rules of time and space, their own unique weather patterns and natural laws. The perception that both space and time work differently in non-ordinary reality is well documented cross-culturally. As in the case of Thomas the Rhymer, a traveler returning home from a journey of a day or two spent in the hollow hills of Faerie can find that in this reality, years have passed: their house has gone to rot, loved ones seen a few days ago as children have now long been dead, and nobody is left who knows him. In the Irish tale of Oisin who spent years in the ‘Land of Youth,’ the journeyer’s body has also been preserved in its original youthful state, but upon touching the mortal ground of this world, it suddenly ages to catch up with the years here, or even turns to dust.

Folk stories of adventures in Faerie give clues to avoiding dangers when journeying to the Otherworlds or accidentally coming upon spirits in this world. One should behave as befits a good guest: not stealing objects found in their homes; not intruding upon private dances or ceremonies; not playing bad music at their parties. It’s best to avoid accepting food or drink in the Otherworld, as this could mean becoming their prisoner. The Queen of Faerie has a reputation for stealing away mortals she finds beautiful, interesting, or useful. Brave attempts to retrieve beloved human souls from this thief involve trials by fire, shapeshifting terrors, riddles and other trickery, and the threat of dismemberment – all classic shamanistic elements.

Besides trees and hills, the Irish were also known to view certain waterways as entry portals to the Otherworlds. The Dinnshenchas describe many rivers being under the watchful care of particular female spirits or deities. Thermal springs in modern Buxton were once called Aquae Arnemetiae; the connection with the Brythonic word nemeton showing that these waters were once an important site of Druidic practice. Evans-Wentz recorded that the faerie realms could be reached by entering through a well:

It was by passing under the waters of a well that the S’dh, that is, the abode of the spirits called Sdhe, in the tumulus or natural hill, as the case might be, was reached (Evans-Wentz 1911, 431).

Wells were widely known to be sacred places, each inhabited by – or being itself – a spirit. Many Christian shrines found in Celtic lands today, including the great cathedral of Chartres, were built on the sites of druidic wells.
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Re: Sjamaan

on Sun Mar 04, 2018 6:33 pm

THE Celts, like all other races, were devoted to magical practices, many of which could be used by any one, though, on the whole, they were in the hands of the Druids, who in many aspects were little higher than the shamans of barbaric tribes. But similar magical rites were also attributed to the gods, and it is probably for this reason that the Tuatha Dé Danann and many of the divinities who appear in the Mabinogion are described as magicians. Kings are also spoken of as wizards, perhaps a reminiscence of the powers of the priest king. But since many of the primitive cults had been in the hands of women, and as these cults implied a large use of magic, they may have been the earliest wielders of magic, though, with increasing civilisation, men took their place as magicians. Still side by side with the magic-wielding Druids, there were classes of women who also dealt in magic, as we have seen. Their powers were feared, even by S. Patrick, who classes the "spells of women" along with those of Druids, and, in a mythic tale, by the father of Connla, who, when the youth was fascinated by a goddess, feared that he would be taken by the "spells of women" (brichta ban). 1 In other tales women perform all such magical actions as are elsewhere ascribed to Druids. 2 And after the Druids had passed away precisely

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similar actions--power over the weather, the use of incantations and amulets, shape-shifting and invisibility, etc.--were, and still are in remote Celtic regions, ascribed to witches. Much of the Druidic art, however, was also supposed to be possessed by saints and clerics, both in the past and in recent times. But women remained as magicians when the Druids had disappeared, partly because of female conservatism, partly because, even in pagan times, they had worked more or less secretly. At last the Church proscribed them and persecuted them.

Each clan, tribe, or kingdom had its Druids, who, in time of war, assisted their hosts by magic art. This is reflected back upon the groups of the mythological cycle, each of which has its Druids who play no small part in the battles fought. Though Pliny recognises the Priestly functions of the Druids, he associates them largely with magic, and applies the name magus to them. 1 In Irish ecclesiastical literature, drui is used as the translation of magus, e.g. in the case of the Egyptian magicians, while magi is used in Latin lives of saints as the equivalent of the vernacular druides. 2 In the sagas and in popular tales Druidecht, "Druidism," stands for "magic," and slat an draoichta, "rod of Druidism," is a magic wand. 3 The Tuatha Dé Danann were said to have learned "Druidism" from the four great master Druids of the region whence they had come to Ireland, and even now, in popular tales, they are often called "Druids" or "Danann Druids." 4 Thus in Ireland at least there is clear evidence of the great magical power claimed by Druids.

That power was exercised to a great extent over the

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elements, some of which Druids claimed to have created. Thus the Druid Cathbad covered the plain over which Deirdre was escaping with "a great-waved sea." 1 Druids also produced blinding snow-storms, or changed day into night-feats ascribed to them even in the Lives of Saints. 2 Or they discharge "shower-clouds of fire" on the opposing hosts, as in the case of the Druid Mag Ruith, who made a magic fire, and flying upwards towards it, turned it upon the enemy, whose Druid in vain tried to divert it. 3 When the Druids of Cormac dried up all the waters in the land, another Druid shot an arrow, and where it fell there issued a torrent of water. 4 The Druid Mathgen boasted of being able to throw mountains on the enemy, and frequently Druids made trees or stones appear as armed men, dismaying the opposing host in this way. They could also fill the air with the clash of battle, or with the dread cries of eldritch things. 5 Similar powers are ascribed to other persons. The daughters of Calatin raised themselves aloft on an enchanted wind, and discovered Cúchulainn when he was hidden away by Cathbad. Later they produced a magic mist to discomfit the hero. 6 Such mists occur frequently in the sagas, and in one of them the Tuatha Dé Danann arrived in Ireland. The priestesses of Sena could rouse sea and wind by their enchantments, and, later, Celtic witches have claimed the same power.

In folk-survivals the practice of rain-making is connected with sacred springs, and even now in rural France processions to shrines, usually connected with a holy well, are common in time of drought. Thus people and priest go to the fountain of Baranton in procession, singing hymns, and there pray for

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rain. The priest then dips his foot in the water, or throws some of it on the rocks. 1 In other cases the image of a saint is carried to a well and asperged, as divine images formerly were, or the waters are beaten or thrown into the air. 2 Another custom was that a virgin should clean out a sacred well, and formerly she had to be nude. 3 Nudity also forms part of an old ritual used in Gaul. In time of drought the girls of the village followed the youngest virgin in a state of nudity to seek the herb belinuntia. This she uprooted, and was then led to a river and there asperged by the others. In this case the asperging imitated the falling rain, and was meant to produce it automatically. While some of these rites suggest the use of magic by the folk themselves, in others the presence of the Christian priest points to the fact that, formerly, a Druid was necessary as the rain producer. In some cases the priest has inherited through long ages the rain-making or tempest-quelling powers of the pagan priesthood, and is often besought to exercise them. 4

Causing invisibility by means of a spell called feth fiada, which made a person unseen or hid him in a magic mist, was also used by the Druids as well as by Christian saints. S. Patrick's hymn, called Fâed Fiada, was sung by him when his enemies lay in wait, and caused a glamour in them. The incantation itself, fith-fath, is still remembered in Highland glens. 5 In the case of S. Patrick he and his followers appeared as deer, and this power of shape-shifting was wielded both by Druids and women. The Druid Fer Fidail carried off a maiden by taking the form of a

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woman, and another Druid deceived Cúchulainn by taking the form of the fair Niamh. 1 Other Druids are said to have been able to take any shape that pleased them. 2 These powers were reflected back upon the gods and mythical personages like Taliesin or Amairgen, who appear in many forms. The priestesses of Sena could assume the form of animals, and an Irish Circe in the Rennes Dindsenchas called Dalb the Rough changed three men and their wives into swine by her spells. 3 This power of transforming others is often described in the sagas. The children of Lir were changed to swans by their cruel stepmother; Saar, the mother of Oisin, became a fawn through the power of the Druid Fear Doirche when she rejected his love; and similarly Tuirrenn, mother of Oisin's hounds, was transformed into a stag-hound by the fairy mistress of her husband Iollann. 4 In other instances in the sagas, women appear as birds. 5 These transformation tales may be connected with totemism, for when this institution is decaying the current belief in shape-shifting is often made use of to explain descent from animals or the tabu against eating certain animals. In some of these Irish shape-shifting tales we find this tabu referred to. Thus, when the children of Lir were turned into swans, it was proclaimed that no one should kill a swan. The reason of an existing tabu seemed to be sufficiently explained when it was told that certain human beings had become swans. It is not impossible that the Druids made use of hypnotic suggestion to persuade others that they had assumed another form, as Red Indian shamans have been known to do, or even hallucinated others into the belief that their own form had been changed.

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By a "drink of oblivion" Druids and other persons could make one forget even the most dearly beloved. Thus Cúchulainn was made to forget Fand, and his wife Emer to forget her jealousy. 1 This is a reminiscence of potent drinks brewed from herbs which caused hallucinations, e.g. that of the change of shape. In other cases they were of a narcotic nature and caused a deep sleep, an instance being the draught given by Grainne to Fionn and his men. 2 Again, the "Druidic sleep" is suggestive of hypnotism, practised in distant ages and also by present-day savages. When Bodb suspected his daughter of lying he cast her into a "Druidic sleep," in which she revealed her wickedness. 3 In other cases spells are cast upon persons so that they are hallucinated, or are rendered motionless, or, "by the sleight of hand of soothsayers," maidens lose their chastity without knowing it. 4 These point to knowledge of hypnotic methods of suggestion. Or, again, a spectral army is opposed to an enemy's force to whom it is an hallucinatory appearance--perhaps an exaggeration of natural hypnotic powers. 5

Druids also made a "hedge," the airbe druad, round an army, perhaps circumambulating it and saying spells so that the attacking force might not break through. If any one could leap this "hedge," the spell was broken, but he lost his life. This was done at the battle of Cul Dremne, at which S. Columba was present and aided the heroic leaper with his prayers. 6

A primitive piece of sympathetic magic used still by savages is recorded in the Rennes Dindsenchas. In this story one man says spells over his spear and hurls it into his

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opponent's shadow, so that he falls dead. 1 Equally primitive is the Druidic "sending" a wisp of straw over which the Druid sang spells and flung it into his victim's face, so that he became mad. A similar method is used by the Eskimo angekok. All madness was generally ascribed to such a "sending."

Several of these instances have shown the use of spells, and the Druid was believed to possess powerful incantations to discomfit an enemy or to produce other magical results. A special posture was adopted--standing on one leg, with one arm outstretched and one eye closed, perhaps to concentrate the force of the spell, 2 but the power lay mainly in the spoken words, as we have seen in discussing Celtic formulæ of prayer. Such spells were also used by the Filid, or poets, since most primitive poetry has a magical aspect. Part of the training of the bard consisted in learning traditional incantations, which, used with due ritual, produced the magic result. 3 Some of these incantations have already come before our notice, and probably some of the verses which Cæsar says the Druids would not commit to writing were of the nature of spells. 4 The virtue of the spell lay in the spoken formula, usually introducing the name of a god or spirit, later a saint, in order to procure his intervention, through the power inherent in the name. Other charms recount an effect already produced, and this, through mimetic magic, is supposed to cause its repetition. The earliest written documents bearing upon the paganism of the insular Celts contain an appeal to "the science of Goibniu" to preserve butter, and another, for magical healing, runs, "I admire the healing which Diancecht left in his family, in order to bring health to those he succoured." These are found in an eighth or ninth century MS., and, with their appeal to pagan

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gods, were evidently used in Christian times. 1 Most Druidic magic was accompanied by a spell--transformation, invisibility, power over the elements, and the discovery of hidden persons or things. In other cases spells were used in medicine or for healing wounds. Thus the Tuatha Dé Danann told the Fomorians that they need not oppose them, because their Druids would restore the slain to life, and when Cúchulainn was wounded we hear less of medicines than of incantations used to stanch his blood. 2 In other cases the Druid could remove barrenness by spells.

The survival of the belief in spells among modern Celtic peoples is a convincing proof of their use in pagan times, and throws light upon their nature. In Brittany they are handed down in certain families, and are carefully guarded from the knowledge of others. The names of saints instead of the old gods are found in them, but in some cases diseases are addressed as personal beings. In the Highlands similar charms are found, and are often handed down from male to female, and from female to male. They are also in common use in Ireland. Besides healing diseases, such charms are supposed to cause fertility or bring good luck, or even to transfer the property of others to the reciter, or, in the case of darker magic, to cause death or disease. 3 In Ireland, sorcerers could "rime either a man or beast to death," and this recalls the power of satire in the mouth of File or Druid. It raised blotches on the face of the victim, or even caused his death. 4 Among primitive races powerful internal emotion affects the body in curious ways,

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and in this traditional power of the satire or "rime" we have probably an exaggerated reference to actual fact. In other cases the "curse of satire" affected nature, causing seas and rivers to sink back. 1 The satires made by the bards of Gaul, referred to by Diodorus, may have been believed to possess similar powers. 2 Contrariwise, the Filid, on uttering an unjust judgment, found their faces covered with blotches. 3

A magical sleep is often caused by music in the sagas, e.g., by the harp of Dagda, or by the branch carried by visitants from Elysium. 4 Many "fairy" lullabies for producing sleep are even now extant in Ireland and the Highlands. 5 As music forms a part of all primitive religion, its soothing powers would easily be magnified. In orgiastic rites it caused varying emotions until the singer and dancer fell into a deep slumber, and the tales of those who joined in a fairy dance and fell asleep, awaking to find that many years had passed, are mythic extensions of the power of music in such orgiastic cults. The music of the Filid had similar powers to that of Dagda's harp, producing laughter, tears, and a delicious slumber, 6 and Celtic folk-tales abound in similar instances of the magic charm of music.

We now turn to the use of amulets among the Celts. Some of these were symbolic and intended to bring the wearer under the protection of the god whom they symbolised. As has been seen, a Celtic god had as his symbol a wheel, probably representing the sun, and numerous small wheel discs made of different materials have been found in Gaul and

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[paragraph continues] Britain. 1 These were evidently worn as amulets, while in other cases they were offered to river divinities, since many are met with in river beds or fords. Their use as protective amulets is shown by a stele representing a person wearing a necklace to which is attached one of these wheels. In Irish texts a Druid is called Mag Ruith, explained as magus rotarum, because he made his Druidical observations by wheels. 2 This may point to the use of such amulets in Ireland. A curious amulet, connected with the Druids, became famous in Roman times and is described by Pliny. This was the "serpents' egg," formed from the foam produced by serpents twining themselves together. The serpents threw the "egg" into the air, and he who sought it had to catch it in his cloak before it fell, and flee to a running stream, beyond which the serpents, like the witches pursuing Tam o' Shanter, could not follow him. This "egg" was believed to cause its owner to obtain access to kings or to gain lawsuits, and a Roman citizen was put to death in the reign of Claudius for bringing such an amulet into court. Pliny had seen this "egg." It was about the size of an apple, with a cartilaginous skin covered with discs. 3 Probably it was a fossil echinus, such as has been found in Gaulish tombs. 4 Such "eggs" were doubtless connected with the cult of the serpent, or some old myth of an egg produced by serpents may have been made use of to account for their formation. This is the more likely, as rings or beads of glass found in tumuli in Wales, Cornwall, and the Highlands are called "serpents' glass" (glain naidr), and are believed to be formed in the same way as the "egg." These, as well as old spindle-whorls called "adder stones" in

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the Highlands, are held to have magical virtues, e.g. against the bite of a serpent, and are highly prized by their owners. 1

Pliny speaks also of the Celtic belief in the magical virtues of coral, either worn as an amulet or taken in powder as a medicine, while it has been proved that the Celts during a limited period of their history placed it on weapons and utensils, doubtless as an amulet. 2 Other amulets--white marble balls, quartz pebbles, models of the tooth of the boar, or pieces of amber, have been found buried with the dead. 3 Little figures of the boar, the horse, and the bull, with a ring for suspending them to a necklet, were worn as amulets or images of these divine animals, and phallic amulets were also worn, perhaps as a protection against the evil eye. 4

A cult of stones was probably connected with the belief in the magical power of certain stones, like the Lia Fail, which shrieked aloud when Conn knocked against it. His Druids explained that the number of the shrieks equalled the number of his descendants who should be kings of Erin. 5 This is an ætiological myth accounting for the use of this fetich-stone at coronations. Other stones, probably the object of a cult or possessing magical virtues, were used at the installation of chiefs, who stood on them and vowed to follow in the steps of their predecessors, a pair of feet being carved on the stone to represent those of the first chief. 6 Other stones had more musical virtues--the "conspicuous stone" of

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[paragraph continues] Elysium from which arose a hundred strains, and the melodious stone of Loch Láig. Such beliefs existed into Christian times. S. Columba's stone altar floated on the waves, and on it a leper had crossed in the wake of the saint's coracle to Erin. But the same stone was that on which, long before, the hero Fionn had slipped. 1

Connected with the cult of stones are magical observances at fixed rocks or boulders, regarded probably as the abode of a spirit. These observances are in origin pre-Celtic, but were practised by the Celts. Girls slide down a stone to obtain a lover, pregnant women to obtain an easy delivery, or contact with such stones causes barren women to have children or gives vitality to the feeble. A small offering is usually left on the stone. 2 Similar rites are practised at megalithic monuments, and here again the custom is obviously pre-Celtic in origin. In this case the spirits of the dead must have been expected to assist the purposes of the rites, or even to incarnate themselves in the children born as a result of barren women resorting to these stones. 3 Sometimes when the purpose of the stones has been forgotten and some other legendary origin attributed to them, the custom adapts itself to the legend. In Ireland many dolmens are known, not as places of sepulture, but as "Diarmaid and Grainne's beds"--the places where these eloping lovers slept. Hence they have powers of fruitfulness and are visited by women who desire children. The rite is thus one of sympathetic magic.

Holed dolmens or naturally pierced blocks are used for the magical cure of sickness both in Brittany and Cornwall, the patient being passed through the hole. 4 Similar rites

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are used with trees, a slit being often made in the trunk of a sapling, and a sickly child passed through it. The slit is then closed and bound, and if it joins together at the end of a certain time, this is a proof that the child will recover. 1 In these rites the spirit in stone or tree was supposed to assist the process of healing, or the disease was transferred to them, or, again, there was the idea of a new birth with consequent renewed life, the act imitating the process of birth. These rites are not confined to Celtic regions, but belong to that universal use of magic in which the Celts freely participated.

Since Christian writers firmly believed in the magical powers of the Druids, aided however by the devil, they taught that Christian saints had miraculously overcome them with their own weapons. S. Patrick dispelled snow-storms and darkness raised by Druids, or destroyed Druids who had brought down fire from heaven. Similar deeds are attributed to S. Columba and others. 2 The moral victory of the Cross was later regarded also as a magical victory. Hence also lives of Celtic saints are full of miracles which are simply a reproduction of Druidic magic--controlling the elements, healing, carrying live coals without hurt, causing confusion by their curses, producing invisibility or shape-shifting, making the ice-cold waters of a river hot by standing in them at their devotions, or walking unscathed through the fiercest storms. 3 They were soon regarded as more expert magicians than the Druids themselves. They may have laid claim to magical powers, or perhaps they used a natural shrewdness

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in such a way as to suggest magic. But all their power they ascribed to Christ. "Christ is my Druid"--the true miracle-worker, said S. Columba. Yet they were imbued with the superstitions of their own age. Thus S. Columba sent a white stone to King Brude at Inverness for the cure of his Druid Broichan, who drank the water poured over it, and was healed. 1 Soon similar virtues were ascribed to the relies of the saints themselves, and at a later time, when most Scotsmen ceased to believe in the saints, they thought that the ministers of the kirk had powers like those of pagan Druid and Catholic saint. Ministers were levitated, or shone with a celestial light, or had clairvoyant gifts, or, with dire results, cursed the ungodly or the benighted prelatist. They prophesied, used trance-utterance, and exercised gifts of healing. Angels ministered to them, as when Samuel Rutherford, having fallen into a well when a child, was pulled out by an angel. 2 The substratum of primitive belief survives all changes of creed, and the folk impartially attributed magical powers to pagan Druid, Celtic saints, old crones and witches, and Presbyterian ministers.

Marv Brian Boru 'rein buhez 'n Iwerzhon
Dihan e Bro-Ulad ha ba ker Dulenn
Undedan tiegezhn unded an dud-man
Unded ar Gelted hag an douar

Maraiodh Brian Boru chun beatha nna heireann
Siochain in gcuige Uladh agus I mbaile 'cliath
Aontacht an teaghlaigh, aontacht na dtuath
Aontacht an domhain is na gceiltteach

Diouzh nerzh ar c'hadou da nerzh an ehan
Diouzh 'bed doueek bennozh ar c'haroud
O neart an chata go neart na siochana
On brith dhiaga beannacht an ghra

Duirt siad gurbh I seo sochraide ar muintire
Gur choir duinn bheith sollunta fein
Biodh nach Raibh bronach

Marv Brian Boru 'rein buhez 'n Iwerzhon
Dihan e Bro-Ulad ha ba ker Dulenn
Undedan tiegezhn unded an dud-man
Unded ar Gelted hag an douar

Ta muid 'nos ha haimsire
Go hairid an ghrian
Agus thogh muid ait bhog cois abhann.
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Re: Sjamaan

on Sun Mar 04, 2018 6:49 pm
The Shaman's Cosmos

In Celtic society the shaman's cosmos may be divided into three levels/tiers: The Upper, Middle and Lower Worlds. These worlds may be accessed through the Tree of Life, or the Great Tree as it is otherwise known. If we view the Tree as being the central pole, the centre and core of the cosmos, and the shaman with sitting with her back to the tree, then it follows on that the shaman is at the centre. Each individual, in fact, is at the centre of their universe, their cosmos. From this point the directions stretch out in eight cardinal points (N,S,W,E,NW,NE,SW,SE) and form the sacred wheel or circle. The circle has long been of importance to the Celts and the Irish, enclosing within it the cross which indicates the four sacred directions (NSWE). When working in a spiritual way, the creation of a circle helps to focus the mind and the spirit of the individual, enabling them to work in a deeper and stronger way. It defines the boundary between the mundane world and the spiritual world, in that the shaman 'leaves outside the circle' that which is not necessary for the work; namely, worries, problems etc. It creates a sacred space within which the shaman is protected. It also acts as a magnifier, as the energy moves to the outer limits of the circle, so does it return back to the shaman, multiplied and stronger.


The Upper World is the spiritual realm which contains the realm of the stars. It is the world where the blueprints of life may be seen. Teachings about healing and identity are derived with the help of guides and the lessons of mutual responsibility are found.
The Middle World is that world in which we live and breathe. This world is shadowed by the otherworld, which constantly overlaps, so that we may move from one dimension to another.
The Underworld
The Under World is the realm of ancestors and spirits - the root of our deepest thoughts and emotions, the depths of our psyche. It is the place where the light within the earth may be accessed to bring healing and growth.
Within Irish tradition these realms are linked, encapsulated within the shell of a hazelnut which stands on the lip of the Well of Segais - from this well the seven rivers of life are said to stream forth, and from it, all knowledge is derived.

Although at times the discussion of the sacred wheel or circle may seem vague or theoretical its incorporation into everyday life is vital. We are all at the centre of the universe, all life moves around and within us, while at the same time we are only one thread in a whole tapestry of life. It is for this reason that grounding is so vital when working with shamanism, being firmly rooted. Work with the four elements of life (earth, air, fire and water) is extremely beneficial and is, in one sense, intrinsic to the practice of shamanism. The relationship, both physical and spiritual, which we maintain with the elements, what lessons may be learned etc., this all leads us towards a deeper understanding of our physical selves and our spiritual role in life, albeit constantly transforming as we change and grow.

Celtic Shamanism
There are may traces and elements of shamanism to be found within Celtic, and more specifically, Irish, Society. One very familiar image is that of the Lord of the Beasts which is found on the Gundestrup Cauldron. This image shows a figure in a posture which is familiar to shamans the world over. He is surrounded by animals of all kinds and wears antlers. This figure has long been associated with Cernunnos, however, on a broader level, he would have been widely known as a walker between the worlds - a shaman. 

Within Irish culture there are a wide range of sources to draw on. The Song of Amergin, perhaps, is one of the most obvious. The transformations that he experiences, his power over the elements, all betray a shamanic level of practice. Images such as these would have been easily recognised by other indigenous shamans for their shapeshifting nature. Another famous example is the Voyage of Maelduin, and the later Voyage of Brendan, which describes "immrama" or journeys to the Many Coloured Lands/Islands. By studying these stories the shamanic elements are found immediately (journeys over seas were generally meant to indicate journeys to the otherworld). The lessons to be learned about balance, rejuvenation, respect and honour are all to be found in the descriptions.

The following description comes the closest to describing what I do: "If memory circuits were accidentally erased, these could be retrieved through the shamanic techniques of teinm laegda or "decoding by means of verse", dichetul do chennaib or "psychometric composition' (where the revelation comes straight from the ends of the poet's fingers) and imbas forosna or 'inspiration of tradition"and are the primary shamanic skills employed by the filidh poet. Shamanic methods of trance singing seem to have been particularly widespread in the Celtic world. The filidh utilized a form of vocal tracking called teinman laegda, "the decoding of the poem', which involved trance singing to come at unknown information. The filidh sang over the subject, communing with its soul-life or energy field, and sang aloud the images, impressions and metaphors that came to him: following the thread of the poem/song the filidh was able to arrive at a solution". Clay Miller.
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Re: Sjamaan

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