The motivation for this Green Book was that Part 3 had the seasonal liturgies, Part 4 had the numerical calendar of the seasons, but the reflections on the seasons had no such collection. Perhaps no aspect of Druidism is more widespread than the observation of the passing seasons, and the lessons they bring. However, not everyone writes about them, so this Green Book is really only the thoughts of a small handful of members.
Most of these selections were culled from the various NRDNA magazines of Part 11 of ARDA (published as a separate volume) and put together into three main sections, each sub-arranged by seasonal holiday, and then further sub-arranged by chronological order. Many of these materials may very well be copy-right protected by the original authors.
Section One: Essays of the Season are mostly drawn from the introductory essays found at the front of the various magazines announcing the holiday and giving some notes of past customs associated with the holiday, often a reconstructionist style that draws primarily on Celtic or European sources. Many times a subject is addressed again and again, and developed over the years. Emmon Bodfish, the editor of Live Oak Grove’s “A Druid Missal-Any” from 1982 to 1991, wrote many of these selections, as did his protégé, Stacey Weinberger, in the later run of that magazine from 2000 to 2003.
Section Two: The Heathen on the Heath was penned by Les Craig-Harger, a hermetic member of Live Oak Grove, who moved to Humboldt and lived in a rural stretch of land with her two children. She had been a previous Matriarch of the Bardic Order of Oberon in the NRDNA. A free-lance writer, she writes from a very personal angle with an immediate first-hand observation of the seasons.
Section Three: Non-liturgical Festive Activities was pulled from Part 3 of ARDA and reprinted with this collection. This series was mostly written by Alex Stuart for the recent incarnation of “A Druid Missal-Any,” providing enjoyable activities outside of the ritual format that often so dominates the celebration of the holidays.
I hope that you will read through these selections when you feel those holidays approaching but don’t feel a “connection” or firm style to begin the necessary preparations. Hopefully you’ll find some inspiration, but take these selections as but a few ideas, yea, a few ideas among many possibilities.
Yours in the Mother,
Four Seasons Hotel Lobby (Waiting for a bus.)
Georgetown, Washington DC
April 7th, 2003 c.e.
1st Edition 2003 c.e. (ARDA 2)
Table of Contents
Introductory Materials - 431
Table of Contents
Essays of the Seasons - 433
Samhain - 433
Samhain Notes 1976
Samhain Essay: The Tuatha 1982
Samhain Essay: Talking to Ancestors 1983
Samhain Essay: The End of Summer 1984
Welsh Folk Customs for Pagans at Nos Galan Gaeaf 1984
Samhain Essay: Samhain Customs 1985
Samhain Essay: The Other World 1986
Samhain Essay: Celtic Feast Days 1987
Samhain Essay: Gatherings 1988
Samhain Essay: Paying Respects 1989
Samhain Essay: Vigiling 1990
Samhain Explanation 1996
Samhain Essay: Summer’s End 2000
Samhain Essay: A Thin Time 2001
A Few (?) Thoughts About Samhain and Sacrifice 2001
The End of Summer, Fall Equinox 1988
Non-Liturgical Festival Activities - 498
Uncommon Activities for Samhain 2001
Various Winter Customs to Try Out 2001
Yule Time Caroling 2001
Winter Solstice Drama of Akita Grove 2001
Some Optional Things for Oimelc 2002
Things to Do for Spring Equinox 2002
Ten Things to Do for Beltane2002
Summer Solstice Activities 2002
Some Possible Lughnasadh Activities 2002
Some Optional Activities for Fall Equinox 2002
Fertility Cycle of the Druid Year 2002
Essays of the Seasons
The Druid Chronicles (Evolved) 1976
By Isaac Bonewits and Robert Larson
Samhain begins the season of Geimredh (gee-ru,) in Modern Irish an Geimhreadh (uN gee-ru); which is Winter, running from roughly the beginning of November till the end of January.
Samhain (Sô-un,) known in Modern Irish as Lá·Samhna (Laa Sôu-Nu,) in Welsh as Nos Galen-gaeof (that is, the night of the Winter Calends,) in Manx as Laa Houney (Hollantide Day,) Sauin or Souney; is, of course, the eve of “All Saint’s Day,” All Hallow’s Evening or Halloween. Among other things, it is the beginning of the Winter Half of the Year (the seasons of Geimredh and Earrach) and is known as “the Day Between Years.” The day before Samhain is the last day of the old year and the day after Samhain is the first day of the new year (though for clarity’s sake, most Druids assign each Samhain to the year following it. Being a day “between years,” it is considered a very magical night, when the dead walk among the living and the veils between past, present, and future may be lifted in prophecy and divination.
Samhain basically means “summer’s end” and many important mythological events occurred on that day. It was on a Samhain that the Nemedians captured the terrible Tower of Glass built by the evil Fomorians; that the Tuatha De Danann later defeated the Fomors once and for all; that Pwyll won his wife Rhiannon from Gwawl; and that many other events of a dramatic or prophetic nature occurred (see Later Chronicles, Chapter 5, Verses 11-14.) Many of these events had to do with the temporary victory of the forces of the darkness over those of light, signaling the beginning of the cold and dark half of the year.
Samhain Essay: The Tuatha
A Druid Missal-Any, Samhain 1982
By Emmon Bodfish
Samhain, the day between the years. The Druid year starts with Samhain, in the autumn just as the Celtic day starts with sundown, proceeds through night, dawning into the day. The Classic writers of antiquity held that it was a Druid teaching that cold and dark and the difficult precede warmth and light and the beneficent.
In pre-Christian times, Samhain was the occasion of great gathering in Ireland and Gaul, and probably in Scotland and Britain, though there, no records survived. Druids Bards and Ovates (Ollafhs) and the political leaders from all parts of Ireland assembled at Tara. In Gaul similar gatherings were held, and received and sent emissaries to and from Scotland and England. Better accounts survive from Tara than from any of the other Celtic areas. The Tuatha from the four provinces of Ireland assembled at Tara Hall well before Samhain. There after ritual purifications, which may have included the offering of sacrifices, part of the harvest, and leaping through the bonefires, the nobles and Druids retired indoors. They remained “under roof” all Samhain Day, the belief being that on this day the forces of Propriety and order were gathered inside, and the forces of Chaos were afoot outside. Inside the palace at Tara, took up their traditional stations around the High King: Those of Ulster, representing the warrior caste, to his North; Those of Munster, representing the prophetic/aesthetic pole to his right; Those of Connaught, representing the Druid, or clerical caste at his back; and facing his Lennster, representing the Tuatha, husbandman/producers. In this order the great counsel of the year was held.
Though called the Day of the Dead, Samhain was considered a good or lucky day. In contrast, Beltaine was considered a difficult, or tricky day as the day beginning the Season of Life. On Samhain, the two worlds of the living and of the Tuatha De Danann draw close and may merge, making this the time to contact the Other World, and ascertain the disposition of the Gods and ancestors on the plans for the coming year of the settling of old quarrels. Ancestors, in particular, could send fertility, or disease, to their descendents and their favor was sought for the ensuing winter. This tradition was especially strong in Alba (Scotland, approximately) where Samhain was the occasion to seek instructions from the ancestors and bring oneself into harmony with them. If the required funeral ceremonies had been performed, and the yearly offerings made, and all was right between the living and the dead, then there was no need to fear ghosts. But if all was not well between the living and their clan forbearers, if their will was flouted or the rites neglected, the dead could make their will known on this night when the line between the two worlds dissolved and spirits could come over and walk in ours.
To the Tuatha, husbandmen of the land, Samhain marked the absolute end of the harvest. It was forbidden to glean or gather any more wild fruit after Samhain night. This assured that all would be gathered in and stored before the storms began, and may also have prevented overpicking, especially of wild fruit, by declaring that anything which remained in the fields or woods after this date to belong to the wild birds.
Samhain Essay: Talking to Ancestors
A Druid Missal-Any, Samhain 1983
By Emmon Bodfish
Samhain, in the Celtic traditions, begins the new year. It is “the time between the Worlds,” the time that the dead may manifest again in our world or send us messages from theirs. In Eire it was the feast of Dagda. In a tradition that may be older than the Indo-European, spirits of departed ancestors are said to be able to send either prosperity or disease, fertility of crops or plague. If you have fulfilled all your ritual and practical obligations to your ancestors, and have not committed any defamations against their names, you have nothing to fear from ghosts on Samhain Eve.
If not, there are various ways of getting back on good terms with the spirits of dead ancestors. One is to create an image, a mask, a statue, a name plaque, or a painting (on rock) of the ancestor. This gives the spirit a “body” or locus in our world to replace the one that has died. The implication seems to be that with this image-body she/he continues to live, to be remembered, and to be able to transact any unfinished business in this dimension which may be troubling her/him. G. Rachel Levy, the anthropologist, feels that this image making is very old, and may account for certain types of rock paintings or prehistoric peoples. She quotes an Eskimo artist, relative to his rock paintings: (This way) “we give them new bodies to replaces their bodies that we had to take away.” (for burial.) This solidifying or fixing of a spirit into an image is probably pre-Indo-European, though elements of it are carried through in the Celtic culture. It was practiced until fifty years ago by some Siberian cultures* which some anthropologists feel are descendents of the pre-Indo-European peoples of North Europe/Asia. It is also very recent. It is still considered filial and decent, in some circles, to erect headstones and memorials over and for dead family members, though why is not now so clearly specified.
Another method of appeasing the ancestors is to name a child after the deceased, so that the ancestor’s spirit can be reborn within the clan. This, also, is still in practice, and children are named after deceased or aging relatives to assure prosperity, or at least inclusion in the will.
In the Celtic epics, there are numerous Bardic passages imploring that the names of ancestors not be forgotten. In later times, appeals to Deities of the dead, or of the other world, seem to have replacing offerings to the dead themselves. But at the most flourishing times, at the high points of Druid power, all the Celtic cultures buried their dead with rich grave goods, ready for another life that would be a close reflection of this one. Social status would be preserved; chief would remain chiefs, warriors, warriors, etc. Valour would be rewarded in men, fidelity, skill and courage in both sexes.
In the Scottish tradition, a Western Isle, Tir nan Og, is the location of this paradise, and Manannan McLer comes with his white barge to ferry souls across “to the isle where they would be.” Caesar, in the last century B.C., states that Druids of his acquaintance believed that souls do not suffer death, but after death pass from the (world) to the other.” (ab aliis…transire ad alios.) And Lucan, in rhetorical address to the Druids, said
“But you assure us, no ghosts seek the silent Kingdom of Erebus, no the pallid depths of Hades’ realm, but with new body the spirit reigns in another world–if we understand your hymns, death’s halfway through a long life.”
Unfortunately the hymns have not come down to us.
To the Classic writers, descendents of Mediterranean cultures, death was a state of suspended animation, or minimal animation, where shades drifted and muttered aimlessly in a twilight world ruled by an unfeeling, motionless god, Pluto/Hades.** In the Druid afterlife, people and gods mingled in a sunny world similar to this one, but “outside of time.” This was so different from the Greco-Roman concepts of death that it seemed to the Classic writers to require both emphasis and explanation.
They had, from their own Pythagoras, a doctrine of another kind of re-incarnation, and, in an attempt to explain the unknown in terms of the slightly more familiar, they asserted that the Druids had studied or borrowed from Pythagoras. This myth continued until the 18th Century, when it was reversed and asserted that Pythagoras had plagiarized from the Druids. There is no good evidence that Druidism ever heard of Pythagoras. It antedates him by at least a millennium, probably more. Its doctrine of re-incarnation in a material but timeless body in an Outer World, bears little resemblance to Pythagoras’ idea, as recorded by Salmoxis, of the immortality of the soul based on the indestructibility of concept and number. By equating the Druid belief with Pythagoras’ school, it could be integrated into the world of Classical thought and made acceptable to the Roman mind, and at the same time enhance the reputation of the Greeks as “The Founders of Philosophy,” a favorite Roman idea.
Sucellos, Esus, and in some of his aspects, Cerunnos, are often listed as Celtic gods of the afterlife or Underworld, but as much as my research has been able to determine, there is no one god of the dead, comparable to Classic Pluto or Hades. The Druid afterlife is more an Other World than an Under World, in which gods and people mingle in a timeless dimension. All the gods, and one’s own merits and clan connections seem, in Ossian’s poems, to determine one’s place at the perpetual feast in the Isle of the Ever Young.
It was a later development, and among the Germans, not the Celts, that associated divine energy with the souls of the dead. It was here that the original root of our present word, “God,” Ghav, Ghuto, arose and designated “the evoked” and was associated with the souls of the dead.*** Why the Christian missionaries used this word to translate the concept of their Deity, Jehovah/Yewah, is not known. Perhaps Dis Pater, also a heavenly father, and the other likely candidate, Taranis, were too clearly individualized, and specifically pagan presences. Ghav/Ghut was shadowy and vague. Perhaps they followed Paul’s example when he described his God to the Greeks as that “god-they-knew-not” but to whom they had built, nonetheless, an altar on Mar’s Hill. However that may be, by the laws of magical evocation, when you evoke “God,” you are naming/calling an ancient deity of the dead. This could explain the dour atmosphere at many Protestant services. You might experiment with using “Deus” or “Dea” and see if the mood changes; or, if you want the deity of the Bible, why not evoke Him by name, Jehovah or Yehowah. Avoid embarrassing mistakes.
*Waldeman Jochelson’s Expedition, 1900.
**”Being dead is a waste of time.” c.f. your average classical culture.
***Alternative interpretation: Ghav/Ghuto, “the evoked” one, referred to a “divine energy” associated “with the souls of the dead.” The trouble with the history of ideas is that historians all have a different idea of what happened in history.
A Druid Missal-Any Samhain 1982
By Emmon Bodfish
The following ceremony was associated with this time of year, and enacted annually at least through the 1820s, though in Christian times it was incorporated into Michael-mass festivities. In the Northern Celtic areas, Michael takes over many of the characteristics of the Celtic deity, Manannan Mc Ller, and even of Llyr, the sea god, and ruler of the Land of the Dead, celebrated on this Day of the Dead, Samhain.
The song and the dance, the mirth and the merriment, are continued all night, many curious scenes being acted, and many curious dances performed, some of them in character. These scenes and dances are indicative of far-away times, perhaps of far-away climes. They are evidently symbolic. One dance is called “Cailleach an Dudain,” carlin of the mill-dust. This is a curious character-dance. The writer got it performed for him several times.
It is danced by a man and a woman. The man has a rod in his right hand, variously called “slachdan druidheachd,” druidic wand, “slachdan geasachd,” magic wand. The man and the woman gesticulate and attitudinize before one another, dancing round and round, in and out, crossing and recrossing, changing and exchanging places. The man flourishes the wand over his own head and over the head of the woman, whom he touches with the wand, and who falls down, as if dead, at his feet. He bemoans his dead “carlin,” dancing and gesticulating round her body. He then lifts up her left hand, and looking into the palm, breathes upon it, and touches it with the wand. Immediately the limp hand becomes alive and moves from side to side and up and down. The man rejoices, and dances round the figure on the floor. And having done the same to the right hand, and to the left hand right foot in succession, they are also become alive and move. But although the limbs are living, the body is still inert. The man kneels over the woman and breathes into her mouth and touches her heart with the wand. The woman comes to life and springs up, confronting the man. Then the two dance vigorously and joyously as in the first part. The tune varies with the varying phases of the dance. It is played by a piper or a fiddler, so sung as a ‘port-a’bial,’ mouth tune, by a looker-on, or by the performers themselves. The air is quaint and irregular, and the words are curious and archaic.