Tag Archives: Celtic

Recommended Resources for New Pagans

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While I wouldn’t exactly call myself an expert, I have been a Pagan for about 30 years. These are a few resources I would endorse for Pagans just starting out, especially those on a Celtic and/or Norse path.

BOOKS

GENERAL
Anything by the late great Isaac Bonewits
Real Magic, Real Energy, Neopagan Rites… all great stuff to start out with.

People of the Earth: The New Pagans Speak Out by Ellen Evert Hopman and Lawrence Bond
Including interviews across the spectrum, this book is a great way to compare the various Pagan paths (even though now it has become a little outdated, as new paths have arisen over the years). Many of the interviews are with founders of traditions, making this compilation of great historical significance as well. A similarly good source is Drawing Down the Moon by Margot Adler.

Earth Power: Techniques of Natural Magic by Scott Cunningham
This book has stuck with me through the years. These simple techniques in natural magic are of benefit to anyone of any Pagan path. The earliest editions of this book have beautiful art nouveau illustrations.

CELTIC
Celtic Rituals by Alexei Kondratiev
I recommend this not for the ritual style, but for the deep insights and ritual themes Alexei had for the holy days.

The Celtic Devotional: Daily Prayers and Blessings by Caitlin Matthews
Recommended especially for soft polytheists or duotheists, this little book is a treasure trove of beautiful of prayers and blessings.

Kindling the Celtic Spirit by Mara Freeman
A nice source and light read for customs and themes of various holidays throughout the year.

Myth, Legend, and Romance: An Encyclopaedia of Irish Folk Tradition by Daithi O Hogain
A good solid reference.

NORSE
The Poetic Edda by Carolyne Larrington
A clear and readable translation of the Elder Edda.

The Children of Odin by Padraic Colum
Yes, this is a children’s mythology book, but a great read and easy introduction to Norse mythology for adults as well. It’s a good place to start if you’re not ready to tackle the Eddas.

The Seed of Yggdrasill- Deciphering the Hidden Messages in Old Norse Myths by Maria Christina Kvilhaug
Maria has some really mind-blowing amazing insights into Norse mythology. If you can’t find her book at a reasonable price, check out her youtube channel: Lady of the Labyrinth.

WAINCRAFT
Sea Sky Soil: An Introduction to Waincraft by Nicanthiel Hrafnhild
If you lean more toward soft/squishy polytheism, and want to combine Norse and Celtic pantheons, this book will provide a lot of ideas and inspiration for it. However, does not include any guidelines on forming Waincraft ritual.

WEBSITES

GENERAL
The Witch’s Voice (Witchvox)
A great source for descriptions of Pagan paths, articles, and finding local Pagan events and groups (not just for Witches/Wiccans).

The Cauldron: A Pagan Forum
Message boards and articles, basically a ton of information. Check out their page titled A Pagan Primer.

Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship
A great organization and a great resource for rituals, chants, articles, and Indo-European Paganism.

CELTIC
The CR FAQ
A good place to start if interested in Celtic Reconstructionist Paganism.

Imbas
The organization is no longer active, but the website is a great source of articles and information.

Ghaol Naofa
Their name means “sacred kinship”. A great source for Gaelic polytheism.

NORSE
Temple of Our Heathen Gods
So much information and resources. So. Much.

Asaerich’s Domain
Ásatrú basics, very informative for beginners.

Odin’s Gift
A wonderful online source for Norse poetry, invocations, and especially- song.

WAINCRAFT
Waincraft – Following the Call of the Land
The main online source for this fairly new tradition.

The Compleat Waincraft
Waincraft on tumblr.

recommended resources

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The Nature and Character of Lugh

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It seems like every year around this time, I’m fighting misinformation on the god Lúgh. Everywhere one looks on the internet, people are perpetuating the same outdated stuff; that Lúgh is a sun god, and/or a god of the grain. The origin of such notions is from new age books that never bothered to research beyond outdated Victorian-era anthropology.

I mean, you only have look it up on wikipedia to know that his name doesn’t link him to the sun: “The exact etymology of Lugus is unknown and contested. The Proto-Celtic root of the name, *lug-, is generally believed to have been derived from one of several different Proto-Indo-European roots, such as *leug- “black”, *leuǵ- “to break”, and *leugʰ- “to swear an oath”. It was once thought that the root may be derived from Proto-Indo-European *leuk- “to shine”, but there are difficulties with this etymology and few modern scholars accept it as being possible (notably because Proto-Indo-European *-k- never produced Proto-Celtic *-g-).”

Some of the later new age publications actually acknowledge that modern scholars say Lúgh isn’t a sun god, but word it so as to not step on the toes of the die-hard sun theorists. The main passage that comes to mind is one published in Lammas: Celebrating the Fruits of First Harvest by Anna Franklin & Paul Mason, and has been copied onto Lúgh articles all over the internet. It states: “While some writers state, without hesitation, that Lugh was a sun god, others, with equal force, argue that he was neither a god of the sun nor harvest.” What the author seems to be doing here, is giving both ideas equal merit. However, they don’t have equal merit. The actual historical record speaks for itself.

There is no record of Lúgh being worshiped as a sun god, but ample evidence that both his name meaning and his roles in Celtic religion were something else entirely.

“…helped along by Victorian scholars’ obsession with “solar myths”, it was taken for granted that Lúgh was a solar god… However, traditional, ritual-associated ideas about Lúgh show no trace of this… Lugus has his domain in storm rather than in sunlight, and that if his name has any relation to “light” it more properly means “lightning-flash”… This is the principal function of his invincible spear…”Lugus: The Many-Gifted Lord by Alexei Kondratiev

Why does it irk me so that the misinformation persists? Because people who think Lúgh is a sun god are getting the story wrong. Because if you’re getting the story wrong, then you’re also misunderstanding the meaning of an entire holiday; Lughnasadh. Because if you think Lúgh is a sun god, you do not know the real Lúgh. The real Lúgh is much more interesting and complex.

So that is why I’m writing this. It’s time to go beyond calling out the sun myth debacle, and move on to telling folks about his true character.

Excuse me, do you have a moment to talk about our lord and hero, Lúgh?

He was known by the continental Celts as Lugus, by the Welsh as Lleu, and by the Irish as Lúgh. We must look to all these cultures to get a complete picture of who Lúgh is. When Romans encountered Lugus, they equated him with their god Mercury, patron of travelers, commerce, trickery, and eloquence.

Relief of Mercury and Rosmerta from Eisenberg in present day Rhineland-Palatinate.

Relief of Mercury and Rosmerta from Eisenberg in present day Rhineland-Palatinate.

Early depictions of Lugus show him with a Tree of Life, twin serpents, dogs or wolves, birds (especially two ravens), horses, and mistletoe. He has similarities with Cernunnos, as they are both threshold gods, psychopomps, have a triple form, and a magical bag.

He has much in common with, and may actually be the prototype for- Odin. Like Odin, he wields a spear and is associated with two ravens. They are both psychopomp deities (again, like Cernunnos and Mercury). Both are travelers and magicians. Odin is god of wisdom, Lúgh of intellect and of every skill. Odin is one-eyed. Lúgh closes one eye to do magic on the battlefield. Odin was hung on a tree, pierced by his own spear, died and was reborn. So was Lleu. There are a few similarities with Loki as well, as they are both tricksters and associated with the mistletoe, however Lúgh is seen in a much more positive light than Loki. (For more of such comparisons, read The Birth of Lugh – Óðinn and Loki among the Celts by Thor Ewing, and Of Norse Loki and the Celtic Lugh.)

Lugus

Archaeological Museum of Dijon

So if you know a little about Norse mythology, you may be starting to form a picture in your mind of some of the aspects of Lúgh’s character; imagine a younger, smaller, Celtic Odin (especially in his traveler guise), with a fair bit of the trickiness of Loki. Now imagine that like Thor, he can also wield lightning. He shares some strikingly similar characteristics and powers with these gods.

I think of all the modern day depictions of Lúgh in art, the Magician in Lo Scarabeo’s Celtic Tarot captures his spirit the best; the slender wiry god sits perched in his sacred oak (a tree sacred to several Indo-European thunder gods), a floppy red Odin-eske hat covering one eye, and his magic bag slung over his shoulder. The torc around his neck is huge (or is it the god that’s small?). He is surrounded by some of his symbolic animals (serpent, horse…). Torcs and rings of gold hang from the trees. A fidchell board (Celtic chess- his invention) lies at his knee.

Lugus The Magician from Lo Scarabeo’s Celtic Tarot

Lugus The Magician from Lo Scarabeo’s Celtic Tarot

In Irish lore, Lúgh was born of a Fomorian mother (Ethniu), and a Tuatha Dé Danann father (Cian). The Fomorians were an earlier race of beings that inhabited Ireland, sometimes depicted as monstrous giants, sometimes from under the sea. They represent wild chaotic nature. The Tuatha Dé were the race of divine beings that would later become the Sídhe, and were often represented as the gods of humanity and civilization.

Lúgh was born of both races, and so has a mastery of both nature and civilization, of the below and the above, of humankind and the divine. It is no wonder then, that his traditional places of worship are high hills with a nearby water source.

In the Battle of Mag Tured, Lúgh goes up against his own grandfather, the evil Fomorian king Balor. With his swift sling (or in folk tradition, his spear), he pierces Balor through his fiery poisonous eye (which represents the harsh summer sun). In winning this battle, he gains control of the land for the Tuatha Dé (and metaphorically saves the crops from scorching in the fields from Balor’s evil sun-eye).

He was fostered by Manannán mac Lir, the sea god and gatekeeper to the Otherworld, and so has many water associations and inherited much of Manannán’s magic. He was also fostered by Tailtiu, a Fir Bolg queen who died clearing land for agriculture. And it was in honor of his foster mother Tailtiu that Lúgh instituted the first Lughnasadh festival and funeral games.

I have just hit a very few of the highlights here, describing some of the points in the mythology that tie in with the season of Lughnasadh, and describing some of Lúgh’s traits that I find especially interesting. I know I have left out a lot of important parts of his lore. Find more of the story of Lugh in Lebor Gabála Érenn (The Book of the Taking of Ireland), and The Second Battle of Mag Tured (Moytura). Read about Lleu in the Fourth Branch of the Mabinogion.

He is god of Land, Sky, and Sea. God to kings, warriors, and farmers. He is the quintessential underdog, surviving and winning despite the odds and with intellect and magic rather than brute force only. He is both hero and trickster and sovereign protector of the land. He is patron of travelers, for he travels with the lightning, small and swift, many places at once. He traverses worlds.

As Alexei said, “His many gifts remain at the disposal of those who trouble to seek him out.” Indeed, I hope you do.

The Nature and Character of Lugh | Ozark Pagan Mamma

KIDS’ ACTIVITIES FOR IMBOLC

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EXPLANATION & INFORMATION

STORIES

  • “The Cailleach of the Snows” from the book “Celtic Memories” by Caitlin Matthews (for ages 8 and up).

CRAFTS

  • Make candles with beeswax sheets.
  • Make candle holders with salt dough.

ACTIVITIES

  • Look for early signs of Spring. What is the first flower to make its way through the thawing soil? What kinds of birds and other wildlife do you see? This is a good time to start a nature journal.
  • Do a Spring cleaning of your room, as well as helping the grown-ups clean the rest of the house.
  • With a grown-up’s help, make juniper room spray with a few drops of juniper oil (or a sprig of juniper) in a small spray bottle of distilled water. Use this as a spiritual cleanse on Pagan holidays.
  • Decorate a nature table with an Imbolc nature scene; put down a white cloth for snow, some green cloth for the greening land, a doll dressed like the goddess Brigit, and some of her animals (swan, cow, sheep, hibernating animals…).
  • Help grown-ups with preparing special Imbolc foods.

Kids' Activities for Imbolc

the importance of worship

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I write this mainly for new Pagans, but we all need reminders now and then…

Beliefs are only ideas floating around in your head, unless put them into practice. It is important to practice your spirituality through worship. Now, don’t misunderstand… when I say “worship” I mean it in the Pagan sense; hailing to, offering libations, and praising with arms raised, talking to the gods and spirits… not bending down with clasped hands and pleading prayers. Its important to practice your beliefs through worship even if (or especially if) you’re feeling a bit agnostic about the existence of the gods/spirits. Many Pagans struggle with feelings of agnosticism. If this is you, tell yourself that the gods are a metaphor for life and practice worship as an act of connection and comfort (or even psychological experiment). Many people who have done this have experienced dreams, visions, and other mystical experiences that have enriched their spirituality.

Some would say that worship strengthens the gods. Others say that the gods are powerful and do not in any way need our worship. But even gods desire the give and take of “social interaction” that worship provides. Think of it as being like a social call to elder family members. If you don’t ever visit your kinfolks, they will be like strangers to you. If you stay away, never visit nor call, over the years you will lose contact and not even know if they are still alive. So it is with the gods, and it is up to us to make first contact and to keep it going. We are strengthened by worship; it gives us a feeling of well being and connection and builds upon our relationship with the spirit kindred.

Worship doesn’t have to be elaborate rituals. It can be as simple as hailing a deity, pouring libations or lighting incense, and giving thanks or sharing a joy. If you’re not comfortable with spontaneous prayers, you can memorize something simple (like Sigrdrifa’s Prayer) and use it often. Do the gods tire of hearing the same prayer over and over? I think not any more that we would tire of a loved ones voice reciting a favorite poem.

To get things going, or revive your practice, see these articles: A Heathen Kitchen Witch’s Blót, Celtic Pagan Daily Spirituality – when there’s no time for ritual, and Celtic Paganism in daily practice. Many of the ideas listed there could apply to other cultures as well, with a few adaptations. If you cook often, see my article Stovetop Hearth Rites to bring worship into your time spent in the kitchen. If you think you’d like using prayer beads, see my system of Druid Prayer Beads. The prayers from it can be used individually, and are actually a song.

So get out there and practice, and keep at it. If you tire of one way of worship, change it up. Good worship should leave you feeling energized and whole. The options are as plentiful as the spirits.

revering nature

Celtic Mythology for Kids

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Whether you’re a Celtic Reconstructionist, Druid, or any other kind of Pagan, I hope you find this guide to teaching kids Celtic mythology helpful in some way. Though in traditional Irish culture, stories were told, not read, (and even then- only in the winter months), I have not adhered to that particular tradition. I am a visual learner, as are my children (I have an autistic son who is very visual-oriented and would not pay attention to a story without pictures), so I have only recommended books with lots of illustrations. Illustrated mythology books can go a long way in teaching children the lore and providing a sense of wonder and understanding.

In Irish mythology, there is the special problem of early Christianization; the stories, written down by monks, do not specifically name the characters in the stories as gods. (The mythology of other Celtic cultures have similar problems.) The Tuatha Dé Danann, “peoples of the goddess Danu”, were depicted as heroes, kings, and queens from long ago. However, many of the Tuatha Dé have parallels, cognates across the Celtic world, which reveal their divine status. Another difficulty is that the mythology doesn’t always describe each deity’s role or function. For example, there are no characters described as sun or moon deities. Sometimes when the deities are attributed a function in nature, our modern mythology books get it wrong… the most common example of this is the depiction or description of Lugh as a sun god (a notion that came about in Victorian times because one probable meaning of his name is “brightness”). However, he was most likely a lightning god (see my Children’s Lammas article for a little more info, or read Lugus: The Many-Gifted Lord by Alexei Kondratiev for a lot more info). Although not as apparent in children’s books, occasionally modern Pagans depict Brighid as a moon goddess, yet there is no evidence for it; historical lore depicts her as a fire and fertility goddess. And although many think of Danu as an earth goddess, she may rather be a river deity or simply an ancestral mother (see Danu and Bile: The Primordial Parents? by Alexei Kondratiev).  It is best to have the true nature of the deities’ roles and functions straightened out in one’s mind, and in the learning materials, before teaching kids the lore.

Having said that, I have reviewed many illustrated books to come up with this guide. I have written reviews of  the ones I have found useful and have put them in several categories; first, ones to check out from the library from time to time, then, one that is nice to have as supplemental (but may not be a good source for your main mythology book), some that are more specific to certain cultures under the Celtic umbrella, then two that I recommend the most so far (one for the younger set, the last for older kids)- as introduction to the myths.

Check these out at library occasionally for variety…

  • Myths and Civilization of the Celts by Hazel Martell (ages 8 and up) is a very densely illustrated book that goes back and forth between describing the history, artifacts, and way of life of the Celts, with short summaries of some of the myths. This one may be nice to check out sometime for a bit of Celtic inspiration, but doesn’t contain enough stories to be worth buying.
  • Irish Myths & Legends by Ita Daly is a very folksy retelling of the myths, set in a style of “told to the author by her mother”, passed down through the generations. The paintings that illustrate this book are reminiscent of folk art as well, only there should be more of them, to hold the attention of young listeners (although I didn’t much care for Lugh being drawn wearing a horned helmet). For the most part, I really like the way the stories are told, especially Daly’s version of Deidre of the Sorrows. However, it was while I was reading this book that I was reminded that there’s one myth from Irish mythology only serves to denounce Paganism; there has been a version of “The Children of Lir” in almost every children’s Celtic mythology book I’ve read. The name “Lir” means the sea, and the name implies that the character King Lir is actually Manannan or some relation to him. His children are turned into swans by an evil stepmother and their curse is never lifted until “the bells of the new religion ring out in Ireland”. So the story seems to symbolize Christianity putting an end to the evils of Pagan magic. In Daly’s version of the story, the children, who are now quite elderly, beg to baptized into Christianity before they die. So you might want to skip over “The Children of Lir”, at least this version of it. On the other hand, it may come in handy later as a teaching tool, to use as an example of Pagan defamation.

Nice to have as supplemental…

  • Celtic Memories by Caitlin Matthews is a treasured collection of tales and poems from several Celtic cultures; Breton, Irish, Scottish, and Welsh. There are six stories in all, with notes on each in the back of the book. I especially recommend “The Cailleach of the Snows” to be read at Imbolc. Although the story is of Caitlin’s own devising, it has a feeling of timelessness and wonder. The folksy illustrations are lovely, colorful and abundant.

 Get this, if it is your hearth culture…

  • Tales from the Mabinogion by Gwyn Thomas & Kevin Crossley-Holland is the only illustrated children’s book I’ve found that retells stories from all four books of the Mabinogion. The illustrations are gorgeous. The stories themselves, though toned down quite a bit for children, still depict graphic subject matter, and so I cannot recommend it being read to young children. The stories are also set in the Medieval era, and like much other Celtic mythology, the characters are not referred to or acknowledged as deities. The style of the time was very Christian, which comes out often in characters saying such things as “for God’s sake” and references to sin. There is a glossary of Welsh names and pronunciations in the back of the book.
  • The Names Upon the Harp, Irish Myth and Legend by Marie Heaney (ages 9 and up) contains two stories from the Mythological Cycle (Moytura, Children of Lir), three from the Ulster Cycle (The Birth of Cuchulainn, Bricriu’s Feast, Deirdre of the Sorrows), and three from the Fenian Cycle (Finn & the Salmon of Knowledge, The Enchanted Deer, Oisin in the Land of Youth). The beginning of each section has a short description of the cycle represented. The book is illustrated in sophisticated, beautiful, (and sometimes gruesome and frightening) watercolor paintings.
  • Myths and Legends of Celts by Bernard Briais is a rather odd book that may actually be quite valuable to those of a Gaulish persuasion. I say it is odd, because the stories are more like historical descriptions and fragmented legends, than actual stories. The illustrations are abundant, but also kind of garish, though I do like the illustration of the goddess Sequana. This is the only illustrated children’s book I’ve found, so far, that is about Gaulish culture. (However it is hard to find, unless your library has it. The French edition is available here.)

Sequana -from Myths and Legends of CeltsThese are the ones to get…

  • Celtic Tales and Legends by Nicola Baxter is the book to get for younger children who can not yet sit still for long stories. I am happy to have found such a beautifully illustrated book; there are brightly colored “Book of Kells”-inspired illustrations on every page, such a wonderful words to pictures ratio that is sure to keep younger (or more visual-oriented) kids interested. (Also, there’s a leprechaun hidden on each page.) A collection of Irish, Welsh, and British, the stories are: Cormac’s Golden Cup, Deidre of the Sorrows, The Land of Youth, Bran and Branwen, The Three Troubles, Elidore, The Fountain, The Two Pig-Keepers, The Field of Gold, and The Gift of Healing. In the first story, Cormac’s Golden Cup, King Cormac is visited (and tested) by the god Manannan MacLir, and is given a glimpse of the Otherworld. To me this story seems to be a great introduction to some important aspects of Irish cosmology; with mention of the the silver branch and the nine hazel Trees (both symbolic of the tree hallow in ADF Druidism), and the pool of knowledge (symbolic of the well hallow).
  • Druids, Gods & Heroes from Celtic Mythology by Anne Ross is from the same World Mythology series that gave us Gods & Heroes from Viking Mythology by Brian Branston, and though it doesn’t have the same author or illustrator, there is a similar style, notably; story panels on the contents page, plentiful detailed illustrations, and a lack of anti-pagan bias. Whereas most Celtic mythology books for children rarely mention that certain characters in the stories were gods, this one does. Also, the version of “The Children of Lir” found therein downplays the Christian aspects of the story. This is no ordinary children’s mythology book. It also contains a short history of the Celts, a chapter on their deities, and a map of lands that the Celtic peoples inhabited. The stories found within are from Welsh, Irish, Scottish and British cultures. There are 18 color pictures, and 40 line drawings. In the back of the book you’ll find a guide to the symbols used in the illustrations, and a pronunciation guide. The story panels on the contents page can be used as flash cards, quiz cards, and conversation starters such as I described for Gods & Heroes from Viking Mythology in my article Norse Mythology for Kids. Disclaimer: in this book, Lugh is briefly described as a sun god; I simply replace “the sun” with “lightning” when reading aloud.

Unlike the fore mentioned Viking mythology book, Druids, Gods & Heroes doesn’t have a page illustrating all the deities lined up in a row with their names underneath. I’m sure that it’s because there are so many deities, and so many different cultures under the Celtic umbrella, that this would prove a very difficult task. As an early tool for teaching young children the names and visual attributes of Celtic deities, you could use the Celtic Gods and Heroes Dover Coloring Book, or make your own picture book of Celtic deities and their attributes. Coloring pages give kids the chance to personalize their own deity images for their altar. They will also learn about the deities by participating in family (or community) rituals in which the deities are invoked, praised, prayed to, and offering given. The mythologies of many deities may even be included in High Day celebrations through story-telling and drama.

As with the Norse mythology guide, I haven’t given any teen recommendations because by the time your child is a teenager, she or he will be picking out his or her own books. At any rate, by that time she or he may know the basic myths (or inspired to delve deeper), which is the goal.

Celtic Mythology for Kids

Kids’ Activities for Lughnasadh / Lammas / Freyfaxi

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Here are some ideas and resources for celebrating Lughnasadh/Lammas/Freyfaxi with children. These three early to mid- August holidays overlap and share some common themes; the grain (and berry) harvest, fertility of the land, and sporting events and fairs that include horse races.

I disagree with the notion that this was a time of honoring the waning sun. I think that idea comes from the Victorian-era notion that Lúgh is a sun god. The Celtic god Lúgh is most likely a lightning god; his name means “flashing light” and his epithet lonnbeimnech means “fierce striker”. In County Mayo thunderstorms were referred to as battles between Lúgh and Balor. Balor’s evil eye represents the scorching late-summer sun. Lúgh’s defeat of Balor represents August storms defeating the crop-threatening summer heat and drought. Lightning strikes help fertilize the soil with nitrogen, and of course, the rain that comes along with the thunder and lightning is essential for a good harvest.

Many of the (otherwise somewhat useful) books and stories suggested below have a few lines or words in them describing Lúgh as a sun god. Unfortunately, this is true of many, if not most, children’s mythology books. When I find some that are more accurate, I will happily (joyfully!) update this list. So, as with anything, read to yourself before reading aloud to your kids to correct historical mistakes and inaccuracies.

EXPLANATION & INFORMATION

STORIES

  • “Saving Freyfaxi” by Christy Lenzi, a four-part story starting in the July/August 2010 issue of Cricket magazine. The story is about a Viking girl who is put in charge of a sacred horse, Freyfaxi, dedicated to the god Frey.

GAMES Games are of special significance for this holiday; the death of Lúgh’s foster-mother, Tailtiu, is commemorated by the Lughnasadh Games.

  • More familiar games well suited to this holiday are horseshoes/ ring toss, footraces, tug-of-war, and sack races, etc.
  • Idea for an indoor game: play the board game “Hi-ho Cherry-O” with real blueberries instead of the plastic cherries.

CRAFTS / ACTIVITIES

  • Go berry-picking.
  • Visit a horse ranch. Horses are associated with both Lúgh, and with the Norse god Freyr.
  • Help a grown-up with bread-baking; practice kneading and shaping dough into harvest knots and other shapes.
  • Make deity coloring pages to decorate your altar; use an internet image search to find one you like, save it, and go to a photo editing website like ScrapColoring to convert your image.

Lughnasadh deities

  • Try wheat weaving. Braided wheat straw decorations are symbols of good luck and prosperity. They are part of the harvest celebrations of many cultures. They are often called “corn dollies”, but this kind of corn dolly is not shaped like a person. (Also, corn dollies are not made with corn husks. In Europe, corn means a grain like wheat, barley, or rye.) For a simple first wheat weaving project, take three wheat stalks of equal length and soak the stems in warm water until they bend easily. Line them up beside each other. Starting at the wheat heads, braid the stalks all the way to the end, loop it around and tie to just above the wheat heads with a red ribbon. Find a book at the library on wheat weaving and work your way up to making more difficult wheat weaving designs.

Kids Activities for Lammas

Imbolc Ritual 2013

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This year, a friend of mine started a group to learn more about Paganism and magic. The group consists mostly of women I’ve known for years, so I am delighted to be a part of it and build on that sisterhood. For our first ritual, I hosted and pieced together this ADF-style ritual, using my favorite tidbits of ADF and CR liturgy, tailored to the personalities of the group:

IMBOLC RITUAL SCRIPT        2013

SCRIPT KEY
•Speaking parts are in italics.
•Songs are underlined.
•Script has the option for
3 Priestesses to officiate:
P1, P2, P3.
P1(host)_____________
P2:_________________
P3:_________________

MATERIALS
•Juniper wand and bowl of water for purification.
•Bell or bell branch
•Three Hallows symbols: Fire (candles & matches), Well (small cauldron of water), and Tree.
•Complete Imbolc altar with Bríde doll & basket.
•Bríde’s Girdle
•Chalices/goblets for all participants
•Pitcher of drinking water or other beverage
•Tarot deck
•Wand
•Chant handouts
•Offering bowl & offerings: silver, cornmeal, oats, bread, oil or red ochre

(P2) Purification: Carry fire around ritual site and smudge site with juniper long before people arrive, to let the smoke dissipate (in case someone has allergies to the smoke). Sprinkle site with water. Anoint people with water as they arrive. (All place tools and/or talismans upon the altar as they arrive. These items will absorb energy and blessings from the rite.)

(P1) Introduction & Opening Prayer (ring bell three times)
“The Wheel of the Year turns on and on, bringing us all to and from each Season, and from and to another…  What will be is. What was will be. All time is here and now upon this sacred ground. We now pause to watch the Wheel turn, and to honor the Old Ways on this blessed day, to celebrate Imbolc – the time of newly awakening life. In this moment between time, We come to welcome the goddess Bríde and receive Her blessings of healing and inspiration. We gather to celebrate in joy and reverence as a part of the ever turning Wheel of Life, Death, and Rebirth.”

(P3) Earth Mother Blessing“…and now we ask the Earth Mother to bless our rite:
O beloved mother of all, from whose starry womb the green earth springs, you who are the bearer of all life, I pray you bless and uphold this rite.”

(P2) Three Realms Meditation
“Three was a sacred number to the Celts. They did not categorize things into four elements,
but rather they viewed the world as being made up of three parts.
The three realms are- the Land, the Sea, and the Sky.
We may attune ourselves to these realms with a centering meditation…
Close your eyes. Take a deep breath, and as you let that breath out, imagine you are a tree sending a taproot down into the Earth… Now begin to feel the roots growing outward, spreading all around… Every time you exhale, send more and more energy down through those roots, until you feel firmly rooted to the ground…
We stand firmly upon the land.
Your roots grow deeper… Be aware of the cavernous Underworld kingdoms below you, where underground rivers seep through the unutterable darkness to their ultimate destination…
The Sea always surrounds us.
Now feel your roots absorbing water and nutrients from the soil. As you breathe in, feel this energy rising up though your roots, into your body… With each breath, the energy rises… until your entire body is filled with the energy of earth and water… Breathe deeper and let it flow out through the top of your head like a fountain of light… Feel your branches reach up and outward through the air… Become aware of your green leaves and how they turn toward the sun to receive warmth and light… Feel the energy of the light charging the chlorophyll in your leaves… Breathe in the air and life giving energy of the realm of Sky…
The Sky spreads itself above us.
We are at the center of the Three Realms.”

(P1) Triple Hallows
“At the center, there exists three sacred Hallows, through which we connect with the Spirits of all the Realms. The Triple Hallows are the Fire, the Well, and the Tree…”
FIRE: Light the fire and make an offering of oil. Say:
“I kindle this fire in the name of Bríde, golden flame of hearth and home.
Sacred fire, burn within us.”
ALL: “Sacred fire, burn with us.”
WELL: Pour the waters and make an offering of silver. Say:
“In the depths flow the waters of wisdom, cleansing, and creation- the waters of Bríde.
Sacred water flow within us.”
ALL: “Sacred water, flow within us.”
TREE: anoint the Tree with oil or red ochre. Say:
“From the depths to the heights spans the world tree, interconnecting all things.
Sacred tree, grow within us.”
ALL: “Sacred tree, grow within us.”
ALL chant 3 times: “Fire, Well, and Sacred Tree, flow and flame and grow in me.”

(P1) The Gatekeeper
“Manannan mac Lir, Gatekeeper, Son of the Sea, come to us, ward us as we walk in safety!”
(Place offerings in dish.)
“We ask in reverence, open now the sacred boundary between the worlds
so that we may commune more directly with the Deities and Spirits.
Let the Fire open as a Gate. Let the Well open as a Gate. Let the Tree open as a Gate…”
(Open Hallows with a wand or bell.)
“The Gates are open. Sisters, we are now woven into the fabric of the universe.
Here the Kindreds can see deeply into our hearts. So let there be only truth here.”  

(P2) Inviting the Kindreds
“Tonight we call upon the Spirits of Place, of the land all around us,
to be at peace with us and walk among us.” (Place offerings in dish.)
ALL: “Noble Ones, come. Be welcome.”
(P3)“Tonight we call upon our Blessed Ancestors, those who have gone before
and who watch over still, to join us at this celebration.” (Place offerings in dish.)
ALL: “Mighty Ones, come. Be welcome.”
(P1)“Tonight we call upon the Deities and Spirits of Hearth & Home, whose names each of us hold in our hearts, to be with us in reverence and blessing.” (Place offerings in dish.)
ALL: “Shining Ones, come. Be welcome.”

(P1) Inviting Bríde
“We are calling upon Bríde- Queen of the Hearth and Flame,
Midwife and healer, Poet and Seer, Lady of the Mantles…”

Song: Holy Water, Sacred Flame

“Bríde, Bríde, come thou in, thy bed is made.”

ALL CHANT SOFTLY THREE TIMES: “Let Bríde come in, Bríde is welcome.”

(The Bríde doll is brought out from behind the altar and placed in the basket.)

Song: Welcome Bríd

(P3) Bríde’s Girdle  
“Arise, in the name of Bríde, and go out three times.
Go through and emerge replenished and renewed.”

Song: Born of Water  -during song, all circle around and go through Bríde’s Girdle until all have gone through three times.

(P2) Omen
“We are reborn! Let us see now what blessing the Spirits give us.”
Everyone takes a random card from a tarot deck to divine ones personal blessing,
and one is taken as a general omen for the ritual.

Song: Way to the Well

(P1) Blessing Cup
“Close your eyes and let your body still. Using your inner vision, let your mind roam to look around and above us. Look at the crowd of friends gathered in this realm and in the other realms. Spirits of this place, Ancestors, Shining Ones, the Goddess Bríde– all these Blessed Kindreds looking at us with love in their hearts! We ask you now, gathered host, return to us your blessings! Send them to us in these vessels of water. Gathered Host, we ask this of you!
…Behold the Waters of Life! May we drink deep of peace, of blessing, of healing.”
(All drink, bask in blessing.)

Sharing & Magic
At this time, anyone who wants to share (a song or poem etc.) may do so.
Requests for healing are attended to, and/or workings of magic.

(P1) Final Prayer to Bríde
“Bríde, gold-red woman, Bríde, flame and honeycomb,
Bríde, sun of womanhood, Bríde, lead us home.
Bríde, you are a branch in blossom. You are a sheltering dome.
You are our bright precious freedom. Bríde, lead us home.”

(P3) Thanking the Powers
“The Kindreds have blessed us. With joy in our hearts, let us carry the magic
from our sacred circle into our lives and work. Each time we offer to the powers,
they become stronger and more aware of our needs and our devotions.
So now as we prepare to close this rite, let us give thanks to those who have aided us…”

(P2)“We offer our thanks to the Mother of All. We offer our thanks to the goddess Bríde,
and to all the blessed Spirits we welcomed here tonight.
May the Kindreds bring joy to all beings, and renew the ancient wisdom.
To the Land, Sky, and Sea, the Fire, Well and Tree- we offer our thanks.
May Wisdom, Love and Power kindle in all beings, and renew the ancient wisdom.”

(P1)Closing the Gates
“Now by the keeper of the gates and by our magic, we end what we began.
Now let the fire be but flame. Let the well be but water.
Let all be as it was before. Let the gates be closed!”

ALL: “Let the gates be closed!”

(P1) “May the Ancient Wisdom be renewed, and may all beings know:
Peace, Joy and Happiness in all the worlds.”

ALL: “As it was, as it is, as it evermore shall be. With the ebb, with the flow, blessed be.”

altar1

…and for those without a priestess role, I made this short guide:

IMBOLC RITUAL 2013
~Participant Guide~
Welcome to our Imbolc ritual. The style of this ritual is Celtic. You will notice we will not be casting a circle or calling the quarters. Rest assured, our space is well warded. You may move freely about without restraint. Our power will flow organically. This basic outline is not a script, but will help you keep track of what is happening and be a guide to your participation. Bríde (pronounced “BREE-jah”) is the modern Irish name for the goddess Brighid/Brigit.

Purification
All receive a drop of water on the forehead upon arrival
and place items to be blessed on the altar.

Introduction & Earth Mother Blessing
(All bend to acknowledge the Earth in your own way.)

Three Realms Meditation
Triple Hallows: Fire, Well, & Tree
All repeat phrases after priestess speaks them:
“Sacred Fire, burn within us”
“Sacred Water, flow within us.”
“Sacred Tree, grow within us.”
All speak 3 times in unison with Priestess at her signal:
“Fire, Well, and Sacred Tree,
flow and flame and grow in me.”

Calling the Gatekeeper

Inviting the Spirits (Kindreds)
All speak in unison with Priestess at her signal:
“Noble Ones, come. Be welcome.”
“Mighty Ones, come. Be welcome.”
“Shining Ones, come. Be welcome.”

Inviting the Goddess Bríde
Song: Holy Water, Sacred Flame

All chant three times with Priestess at her signal:
“Let Bríde come in, Bríde is welcome.”

Song: Welcome Bríd

Bríde’s Girdle
Song: Born of Water  -during song, all circle around
and go through Bríde’s Girdle
until all have gone through three times.

Omen

Song: Way to the Well

Blessing Cup

Sharing & Magic

Final Prayer to Bríde &
Thanking the Powers

Closing the Gates
All speak in unison with Priestess:
“Let the gates be closed!”

Ending the Ritual
All speak in unison with Priestess:
“As it was, as it is, as it ever-more shall be.
With the ebb, with the flow, blessed be.”