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Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs
Beltane Rites and Lore

Beltane is the start of summer, at the opposite end of the Wheel of the Year to Samhain, Summer's End. Cattle would be brought to the higher ground and summer pastures, tended by the women and children while the men would work the farms. In Irish Gaelic it is Beltaine, in Welsh it is Calan Mai, and in Scottish Gaelic Bealtainn. It is the other time when the veils between the worlds are thin, and the Fair Folk can be seen wandering the land in abundance. By the calendar, Beltane begins at dusk on the 30th April and runs to dusk on the 1 May. If celebrating by the local flora, it is when the hawthorn, or May is out in flower. In the UK, the first weekend in May is still celebrated with a bank holiday, perhaps as a remnant of this very important Celtic Festival.

Fire is an important part of this festival, for Beltane is often translated as "the fires of Bel", who was a sun deity. All household fires were extinguished on the eve of Beltane, and then fires were lit on hilltops at dawn, similar to but in reverse at Samhain, where fires were lit at sunset.[1] It was important to not give away any fire from your household at Beltane, for your luck would soon run out. In Ireland, the focus on fire and hilltops shifted from Tlachtga and Tara to Uisnech.  It is said that the first Beltane fire was lit at Uisnech by the Druid, Mide, whose name means "the centre". Beltane is a hinge for the world to open and change, as at Samhain. [2] In Scotland and Wales, the Beltane bonfires were made from nine woods collected and put together by nine men, and called "needfires". [3] Cattle were driven between two bonfires on this day before heading out to their summer pastures. They were said to pass close enough to the fires so that their hair might be singed. The heat and smoke of the bonfires might have been enough to cause any parasites to fall off the animals that may have taken up residence in the winter quarters. Fire is also an important part of the Beltane ceremonies today, as at Edinburgh with the Beltane Fire Society putting on a spectacular event every year, as previously mentioned.

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For millennia, people have used a wide variety of methods designed to foretell future events or to gain advice from the spirit realm. In many cultures, the ability to divine the future was a highly valued skill, and the word of augurs and professional soothsayers could influence important political or strategic decisions, such as whether or not an army should head into battle, or if planting or harvesting should commence. The ability to decipher meaning from the chaos of everyday life helped to establish a sense of order in the cosmos.

Divination remains popular in today’s society, even if the status of most professional readers and astrologers may not be quite as illustrious as in the past. Some of the more familiar forms of divination, such as tarot cards, are relatively recent inventions, while others—such as throwing bones or scrying for patterns in a crystal ball or flames are quite ancient. What all these forms of divination hold in common is a desire to try to provide answers for an oftentimes uncertain world.

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs

Do Druids Cast Spells? A Look at Magic in Druidry 

I’m not sure where it happened, but somewhere along the way the notion that Druidry and magic are somehow separate things seems to have slipped into the collective consciousness. Perhaps it is because in Neo-paganism we tend to view magic as being the purview of witches and Wicca, the role of magic in Druidry has by consequence been diminished to the point that some may forget it is even there in the first place!

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    Hiya - I find this post very interesting, but difficult to read because of what looks like a formatting error. Am I the only one e

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

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Title: Traveler (The Druid Chronicles Volume One)

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Spring Equinox tradition and lore

The Spring Equinox or vernal equinox occurs between 20 - 22 March. The word equinox is Latin for "equal night". It is also known as Ostara, Eostre or by its Welsh name, Alban Eiler, "the light on the earth". It is a time when day and night are of equal length, and the sun rises and sets due east and west respectively. In secular society, the spring equinox marks the first days of spring, but as we've seen above, Imbolc is actually when the first signs appear, at least in Britain.

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Posted by on in Paths Blogs

We are taking a brief break from talking about the lastest construction project at White Mountain Druid Sanctuary because it's winter and we can't get much built with snow on the ground.  This blog is written by a different grove member than the others - enjoy!

The Importance of Meditation in Druidry

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Imbolc - Welcoming Brighid, welcoming Spring

The word Imbolc stems from the older Celtic Oimelc, which means "of  milk" or "in the belly". Traditionally it was a time when the ewes from the sheep flocks began to lactate, having just given birth. This was an incredibly important time for our ancestors, as the winter's stores would be running low and the fresh milk available would provide nourishment and sustenance to get people through until the first crops began to appear. Fresh butter, cream and cheeses could be made to supplement the restrictive winter diet. Imbolc occurs around the beginning of February, if we are working with the traditional gestation period of the ewes. Nowadays, farmers have the sheep give birth at times that are more convenient; for example, a few villages over, one farmer has his lambing season during the Christmas holidays, as that's when he and the rest of his family are home and can help out.

If we are following the calendar, the dates for Imbolc are 31st January to 1st February. As the Celtic day began at sunset, we start the night before. Imbolc is often confused with the Christian holy day of Candlemas, which occurs on 2nd February. No doubt this was intentional, in order to compete with the beloved Pagan celebration of the lambing season and Spring.

Imbolc is a holiday that is dedicated to the goddess Brighid. She is so entwined with the season and the time, that most traditions honour her in some way during this festival. She is the goddess of poetry, smithcraft and healing, and is also often seen as a goddess of Spring. She is the sacred waters of the wells and springs, and the sacred flame tended first by nineteen priestesses, and then later by nineteen nuns dedicated to her in the guise of St Brighid. In Wales, Brighid is known as Braint, and is connected to the river Afon Braint which floods around this time every year. [1] The name, Brighid, has been adapted all over Britain and Europe, and indeed Britain is named after her, in the form of Briganti (Romanised to Brigantia). There are also myths that link the goddess Brig with the Spring in the form of the maiden, who alternates with the winter goddess the Cailleach. At Imbolc, the Cailleach drinks from a sacred stream, or makes her way to the seashore before dawn, and there transforms into the young maiden, Brigid. Other myths tell of Brigid immersing a white wand into the mouth of winter, which awakens the earth and brings in the thaw.[2] Brighid's name might also come from the Gaelic Breo-Saighead, which means "fiery arrow", and many modern-day devotees of Brighid see this as her aspect in the flow of awen, the fire in the head of the poet and artist as well as the returning light of Spring. For those who celebrate Imbolc by the signs in the vegetation, it is when the first snowdrops appear, pale white and green against the stark greyness of winter.

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