She must have also had considerable Bardic talent, by the later accounts and the poems that are attributed to her. I include a translation of one that survives. It is from the Penguin Classic A Celtic Miscellany and her name is spelled Deirdre, in the Scottish fashion, translator unclear, the editor, perhaps, Ms. Betty Radice.
21. Deirdre Remembers a Scottish Glen
Glen of fruit and fish and pools, its peaked hill of loveliest wheat, it is distressful for me to think of it—glen of bees, of long-horned wild oxen.
Glen of cuckoos and thrushes and blackbirds, precious is its cover to every fox; glen of wild garlic and watercress, of woods, of shamrock and flowers, leafy and twisting crested.
Sweet are the cries of the brown-backed dappled deer under the oak-wood above the bare hill-tops, gentle hinds that are timid lying hidden in the great-treed glen.
Glen of the rowans with scarlet berries, with fruit fit for every flock of birds; a slumbrous paradise for the badgers in their quiet burrows with their young.
Glen of the blue-eyed vigorous hawks, glen abounding in every harvest, glen of the ridged and pointed peaks, glen of blackberries and sloes and apples.
Glen of the sleek brown round-faced otters that are pleasant and active in fishing; many are the white-winged stately swans, and salmon breeding along the rocky brink.
Glen of the tangled branching yews, dewy glen with level lawn of kine; chalk-white starry sunny glen, glen of graceful pearl-like high-bed women.
Oimelc Essay: Candlemas
A Druid Missal-Any, Oimelc 1987
By Emmon Bodfish
Oimelc, the festival of Bride, Bridgit, Bredes, the Sun-Maiden, Celtic Goddess of Light, Fire, and the Hearth. She is the patroness of craftsmen, especially those that use fire, smithies and workers in gold. Gold is her color, and she hangs her cloak on the beams of the morning Sun. She is also the patroness of poets, source of Bardic inspiration, which, to the Gaels was a supersensory form of fire descending upon the mind of the poet. The symbol of fire-in-the-water signified her divine inspiration, and her favored poets could see fire burning at the bottom of her sacred wells and springs.
The Festival of Lights, Candlemas, on the Continent, a celebration presided over by “Lucinda,” from the Latin “the light bringer,” is rooted in old Oimelc festivals. The Light is now returning; the days grow perceptibly longer, thaw begins in the more southerly parts of Europe and in Ireland, and the sheep and kine begin to give birth. In this association, and as Goddess of the Hearth, Bride is also the Goddess of birth. (To co-opt her worship, which they couldn’t eradicate, the Christians invented Bridget, who was mid-wife to Mary and Jesus. No such character is mentioned in the Bible.)
In the R.D.N.A. tradition, Oimelc is celebrated when the Sun is mid-way between Solstice and Equinox. There is the milk of a sheep or a goat in the chalice, and thanks are given that the coldest time of the year is past. The Earth Mother begins to stir in Her sleep, and dream of Spring.
Oimelc Essay: Bride
A Druid Missal-Any, Oimelc 1988
By Emmon Bodfish
Oimelc now is the time of Breedes, Bridget, Goddess of the hearth, Ruler of fire, Lucinda, Vesta, candle light parades, Lady Day, the Thaw. Bride was one of the most popular of the pan-Celtic Deities, and in Pagan times a perpetual fire burned on Her altar in Kildare. She was attended by a female priesthood. She is also the Dawn Maiden who hangs Her cloak on the rays of the morning sun. The sun is feminine in Gaelic, and in Scot’s folk tradition.
Greeting to you, sun of the seasons, as you travel the skies on high, with your strong steps on the wing of the heights; you are the happy mother of the stars.
You sink down in the perilous ocean without harm and without hurt; you rise up on the quiet wave like a young queen in flower.
Scottish Gaelic; traditional folk prayer.
From now until Equinox we worship Bride and give thanks for fire. When you light your fire or candle during these days, try, this old Scot’s verse, which is, I think, in a direct oral tradition from old Paganism.
“Unto Bride, Ruler of Fire,
Give us this little comfort now.”
MAD SWEENEY’S NEWS
I have news for you; the stag bells, winter snows, summer has gone.
Wind high and cold, the sun low, short its course, the sea running high.
Deep red the bracken, its shape is lost; the wild goose raised its accustomed cry.
Cold has seized the birds’ wings; season of ice, this is my news.
Irish; author unknown; ninth century
A CELTIC MISCELLANY
Oimelc Essay: Brigid’s Monastery
A Druid Missal-Any, Oimelc 1989
By Emmon Bodfish
Oimelc, festival of Bride, Bridgit, Bredes, the daughter of Dagda, and Celtic goddess of fire and the hearth. She is patroness of Bards and craftsmen. She sends poetic inspiration which the Gaels regarded as an immaterial and suprasensual form of fire. Always one of the most prominent and popular deities, it is thought to be She who the Romans called the “Minerva of the Gauls.” The early Christianizers of Ireland were unable to eradicate Her worship and instead adopted, or co-opted Her into their own pantheon as “Saint” Bridget. According to Charles Squire in Celtic Myth and Legend, She is still the most popular of all Irish saints with the country folk, and is still easily “recognized as the daughter of Dagda. Her Christian attributes, almost all connected with fire attest her pagan origin. She was born at sunrise; a house in which she dwelt blazed into a flame which reached to heaven; a pillar of fire rose from her head when she took the veil; and her breath gave new life to the dead.” This last attribute of the “saint” may be one of the powers of the Goddess which is recorded nowhere else. Knowledge of it was lost when the Druidic teachings were destroyed by the Roman Church and its soldiers It is preserved only in folk memory and here in the co-opters’ own writings.
She may be related to the British Goddess Sul, worshipped at Bath, and of whom the first century Latin writer Solinus says “She ruled over the boiling spring and at her altar there blazed a perpetual fire which never whitened into ashes, but hardened into a stony mass.”* A perpetual fire burned on the altar of the Druidic sanctuary of Bride at Kildare we learn from both Christian and Pre-Christian sources. Even after the sanctuary was stormed and taken over by Christians, the fire was kept burning, and some of the Goddess’ traditions such as that having all and only women clerics in attendance, were continued until the thirteenth century. By then the Roman Church had enough power to impose its monopoly by force and the persecutions were beginning on the Continent. A British bishop declared the sacred fire “pagan” and ordered it extinguished in 1220 A.D.
*a small knowledge of chemistry would make this easy to arrange.
Oimelc Essay: Triumph of Light
A Druid Missal-Any, Oimelc 1990
By Emmon Bodfish
Oimelc is one of the major high days of the Druid calendar. For the Celts, a pastoral people, this holiday marks the birth of the first lambs and the lactation of the ewes. Sheep’s milk was an important food in those times, as it was among many herding peoples into this century. The calves would not be born until late April or May.
Oimelc marks the end of “dark January,” as it is called by the Gaels. The days are noticeably longer now, and we are past the nadir of the year. The light and life invoked on Yule Solstice are indeed returning.
This festival is presided over by Bride (Bridgit, Breedes) as Lugh presided over Lughnasadh at the opposite point on the Celtic Wheel of the Year. Bride and Lugh are poles, complementary figures, who balance each other across the calendar in another of the Druidic systems of checks and balances. The Druids found good in the balance between opposite poles of a quality, light and dark, summer and winter, woman and man, producing and harvesting. Though a patrinlineal society, the Celtic world was less male dominated than our own has been, and certainly less patriarchal than the Middle East or the Mediterranean societies of the time, or than the Christian society that replaced it.*
In this the Indo-European cultures and many of those of the Far East contrasted with the Mid-Eastern group of religions from which Christianity and its offshoots developed. There good was defined as the final and total victory of one pole of a quality over the other. Thus it’s light triumphing over darkness, summer over winter, man against Nature. They have partly succeeded; in the middle of the Arabian desert, it is always sunny. Summer has triumphed. The deserts are spreading.
*See Professor Green on the status of Celtic women in The Gods of Celts, and Jean Markale’s work Women of the Celts. Both can be gotten at remaindered price from Publishers’ Central Bureau.
Oimelc Essay: End of Publication
A Druid Missal-Any, Oimelc 1991
By Emmon Bodfish
Oimelc, the festival of Bridee, Celtic Goddess of fire, the hearth, poetry and inspiration, Patroness of birth, Dawn-maiden, daughter of the Dagda who hangs her cloak on the beams of the morning sun! Here we are in the time of new beginnings.
The Druid Missal-Any will be looking for a new home. The pollution, crowdedness and difficulties of the Bay Area have increased, along with our financial means, to the point where your editor deems an atmosphere of the mountains a benefit. As we will be putting time and energy into locating rural property and relocating, the Missal-Any hereby declares a hiatus in its nine years of continuous publication. Anyone who would like to serve as interim Assistant Editor-Collator and Errand-runner-in-Chief should write to us at the usual address:
P.O. Box 142, Orinda, California, 94563.
If you would like a refund, rather than waiting for publication to resume, write us. Back issues are still available.
Oimelc Essay: Various Brigits
A Druid Missal-Any, Oimelc, 2001
By Stacey Weinberger
Oimelc, the end of Winter. It is the turning point in the Season of Sleep. Now is when the ewes come into milk and the first lambs are born. It is the beginning of new life. This can be seen even at the Orinda Grove site with the budding of new plant life.
Oimelc is the festival of Bride, Brigid, Breedes, daughter of the Dagda, Sun-Maiden, Daughter of the Dawn, Celtic Goddess of fire and the hearth, and of birth. She is patroness of poets and bards, smiths and craftspeople. Bride has perhaps had the longest enduring cult of any Celtic goddess. This is evidenced by Her aspects being co-opted by the early Christianizers into the figure of St. Brigid of Kildare. Even as a saint, Her identity continued to be associated with fire. No doubt the “legend” of St. Brigid’s monastery at Kildare (from cill dair meaning chapel of the oak—possibly a telling connection) of a group of pagan holy women originally tending the perpetual sacred fire of a pre-Christian sanctuary on the site suggests that it is based on historic precedence.
Her eternal flame continued to burn in Christian times at Her sanctuary at Kildare and was never allowed to go out--a tradition which sprung from its pagan Celtic roots. This sacred fire was tended for nineteen nights by nineteen nuns who each took a turn to feed the flame. On the twentieth night, St. Brigid Herself was said to take over. That night the nineteenth nun put the logs beside the fire and said: “Brigid, guard your fire. This is your night.” In the morning, the wood was found burned and the fire miraculously stayed lit. The fire was not extinguished from the foundation of the monastery in the fifth century but once in the thirteenth century until the reign of Henry VIII.
Sister Mary Minehan, a Brigidine Sister (Sisters of St. Brigid)--a restoration of the Ancient Order founded in 1807 to revive again the spirit of St. Brigid--relit St. Brigid's flame on Oimelc in 1993 at Solas Bhride, a Christian Community Centre for Celtic Spirituality in Kildare. And so to this day Her sacred flame continues to burn.
“Unto Bride, Ruler of Fire,
Give us this little comfort now.”
Oimelc Essay: Brigit and the Flocks
A Druid Missal-Any, Oimelc 2002
By Stacey Weinberger
Oimelc, one of the major High Days in the Druid calendar, is the Festival of Bride, Brigit, Brid, Dawn Maiden, Patroness of Poets, Bards, and Smiths, Celtic Goddess of the hearth, healing, inspiration, childbirth, cattle, and crops. Oimelc marks the end of the dark days of winter and the beginning of spring. Noticeable is the increasing length of the daylight hours.
Originally a pastoral festival, Oimelc was associated with fertility. The Irish word for Oimelc, Imbolc, is derived from the root word m(b)olg meaning lactation. Oimelc stems from the Old Celtic Ouimelko “ewe’s milk.” This was the time of year in agricultural societies when the ewes were first coming into milk and the beginning of the lambing season. This was important as milk was the first fresh food since the end of the harvest at Samhain. Sheep and Cattle were valued possessions both in human and underworldly society, and this is especially true of herding societies, such as early Celtic societies. The classical writers such as Pliny and Strabo comment on the use of milk and milk-products in Gaul, Germania, and Britain, showing its importance in those cultures.
That Oimelc is also known as Bride’s Feast Day (La Fheill Brighde in Scotland) shows Bride’s association with the fertility festival. Though little of the goddess Bride is known in detail, many of her associations were carried over into early Christian accounts of the saint. Anne Ross writes In her Everyday Life of the Pagan Celts that in the later Christian tradition, St. Bride's association with sheep and pastoral economy and fertility in general would seem to be carry-overs from her pagan predecessor’s role. In the Life of St. Brighid there are also various pagan attributes. She was said to be fed from the milk of a white red-eared cow, which was her totem animal as a pagan goddess. In Irish mythology white animals with red ears were considered supernatural or otherworldly. She was protectoress of the flocks and harm would come to any that harmed her cattle. She had the power to increase milk production. In artwork, she was often shown to be accompanied by a cow, which Miranda Green writes is a manifestation of her mother Bofhionn, the White Cow who is the goddess of the sacred river Boyne. She is associated with the dandelion, thought it quite possibly could have been coltsfoot, a plant with similar attributes, which flowers closer to Oimelc. It is said that the milky white juice in the stems fed the young lambs.
Bride’s association with the flocks is still evident in modern times. In the Carmina Gadelica, a collection of hymns and incantations by Alexander Carmichael records a charm for stock as recited by Archibald Currie, shoemaker. Charms are a poetic form dating back to Indo-European times used for protection.
The Spring Equinox, although sometimes known as the Festival of the Trees, is better known as the feast of (the Fertility Goddess) Eostara, or “Easter.” It is a celebration of the returning of life to the Earth. Rabbits, eggs and children are sacred at this feast and Pagans in need of fertility talismans now color hollow eggs and pass them through the ceremonial fires (quickly) to take home and hang over their beds and in their barns. A fascinating source of almost forgotten Paleopagan symbols can be found by examining carefully the fantastically decorated eggs produced by folk artists from Europe (especially Eastern Europe and Russia,) Mexico and South America.
A Minor High Day, it usually takes place around March 21st or so. On the night before, some Hasidic Druids stayed up until dawn, reading meditations about trees, eating the fruits of various trees and singing hymns about trees. Among many Paleopagan cultures in Southern Europe, the Spring Equinox was the date of the New Year (instead of Samhain, as it is among the Celts) and indeed, many Druids refer to this holiday as “the New Year for Trees.” Adding a bit to the confusion is the fact that some Neopagan groups call this holiday “Lady Day.”
More Spring Equinox Notes
Pentalpha Journal, Volume 2, Issue 4 Whole Number 9
Spring Equinox March 20/21, 1979 c.e.
By Isaac Bonewits
The Spring Equinox, although sometimes known as the Festival of the Trees, is better known as the feast of Eostara (the Fertility Goddess,) or “Easter.” It is a celebration of the returning of life to the Earth. Rabbits, eggs and children are sacred at this feast and Pagans in need of fertility talismans now color hollow eggs and pass them through the ceremonial fires (quickly) to take home and hang over their barns. A fascinating source of almost forgotten Paleopagan symbols can be found by examining carefully the fantastically decorated eggs produced by folk artists from Europe (especially Eastern Europe and Russia,) Mexico and South America.
A Minor High Day, the Equinox takes place at 9:15 p.m. PST on March 20th, therefore the Druid celebration takes place starting at sunset March 20th and continues until sunset March 21st. On the eve of the holiday (3/20,) some Hasidic Druids stay up until dawn, reading meditations about trees, eating the fruits of various trees and singing hymns about trees. Among many Paleopagan cultures in Southern Europe, the Spring Equinox was the date of the New Year (instead of Samhain, as it is among Celts) and indeed, many Druids refer to this holiday as "the New Year for Trees." Adding a bit to the confusion is the fact that some Neopagan groups call this holiday “Lady Day” (which we consider to be Oimelc.)
Spring Equinox Essay:
Festivals and Eggs
A Druid Missal-Any Spring Equinox 1983
Volume 7 Number 2
By Emmon Bodfish
Equinox, a Druid Minor High Day, the emphasis is Balance.” Some customs of this season, still held over from pre-Christian times, include colored and fancy eggs, and the “Easter Bunny” who brings them, though this was not the original sequence or association.
Nora Chadwick. a noted Celtic historian, describes the spring rite of the “coloring of the Cakes end Eggs,” noted by classic authors in their descriptions of Druid customs. Egg hunts, egg rolling games and rituals are still current in Ireland, Lithuania and Eastern Europe and may have a pre-Indo-European origin. Decorated eggs, and painted clay models of eggs are a frequent theme of Pre-Aryan, Balkan culture. They are part of the ensign of the Bird Goddess, whose worship seems to have been particular to spring, and to the time of the spring rains, to judge from holdovers into Greek times. Eggs are also part of the imagery of the supreme Goddess of the Old-Europe culture. In this connection, they represent the Cosmic Egg, laid by a swan or Nile goose, which was said to begin the world. Small painted clay eggs were included inside statues of this Great Goddess, as in Marija Gimbutas' drawing below.
“A Cosmic Egg may also be laid by a mythical water birds: this myth is almost universally known between Africa and the Arctic Zone; it is recorded in ancient civilizations and was known among hunting and fishing tribes. In an Ancient Egyptian myth, the Cosmic Egg was laid by a Nile Goose which was worshipped as the great chatterer, the creator of the world. According to the Orphic story, untreated Nyx (Night) existed first and was regarded as a crest black-winged bird hovering over a vast darkness. Though unmated, she laid an egg from which flew gold-winged Eros, while from the two parts of the shell Ouranos and Gaia (Heaven and Earth) were trotted. The beginning of the myth must lie in the Paleolithic era.”
The Egg, plus chatter, words, began the world.
The Bunny wasn’t one at all, it was the Hare, not the rabbit, that was the sacred animal among the Celts and Germans. Julius Caesar, in his War Commentaries on Gaul, describes the Gauls as keeping “hares and certain other animals to amuse themselves, and which they do not eat.” (or hunt.) The hare was seen as a messenger animal, associated with prophecy and madness. The March Hare brought in the Spring and gave the seeds their fertility, or withheld it. To run afoul of him caused madness. By the Middle Ages, the madness element predominated, and he came to be regarded as a demonic species. Many pagan ensigns and symbols suffered like defamation; and prophecy has always been associated with madness in Indo-European traditions. And underlying the egg theme, the theme of the March Hare is solidly Indo-European; its sacred and tabooed nature extends to most of the eastern European languages and early cultures. If language is the oldest witness to history, as Lockwood asserts, then the Cult of the Hare must go back to at least 3,500 BC. and the second wave of Indo-European expansion before Celtic, Germanic and Italic languages diverged. In these, the true word for hare, hara/haso, was tabooed, and euphemisms were commonly invented for it in everyday speech.
Our American Ground Hog Day, may be a dim and distant reflection of the March Hare theme, with its element of prophecy for an early or late spring. In the days of plowing and sowing magic, it was by the hare’s behavior that people tried to foretell the spring weather and the prospects for the seeds about to be sown. By the shadows of posts and menhirs, not groundhogs, and by the points of the sun's risings, the priestly castes at the Great Henges determined the day of the Equinox and kept the calendar of sowing and reaping in line with the Heavens.
Spring Equinox Essay:
Plowing Charm and New Year
A Druid Missal-Any, Spring Equinox 1984
By Emmon Bodfish
Equinox, the beginning of spring, which is marked by the Sun’s crossing of the Celestial Equator, the first point of Aries. For a diurnal cycle, the day and night are of equal length. The emphasis of the holiday is on renewal, active preparation for the summer to come. The stones of some of the Megaliths mark this sunrise, by this point the plowing and seeding must be done. In numerous cultures these were sacred activities, from the Charming of the Plow in pagan Germany, a celebration which the Anglo-Saxons brought with them to England, to the ritual plowing of the first furrow in a special sacred field by the reigning Chinese Emperor. Our word for acre, 43,560 sq. ft. of land, comes from the Gaelic word “acadh” meaning a field.
Erec, Erec, Erec,
Mother of Earth
Hail to thee, Earth,
Mother of Men
Be fruitful in
Filled with food
For the use of men.
This was written down in the Leechbook circa 950 AD in England. It is the ancient Indo-European Earth Mother and Sky Father, despite five hundred years of Christian influence.