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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in cattle-raiding

Posted by on in Culture Blogs

 The Táin. Bull of Cuailnge - Louis le Brocquy - IMMA

I can't remember what year it was that the Druids brought cattle-raiding to Pagan Spirit Gathering. I know for sure that it was when we were still down in Big Valley.

(Big Valley was a self-contained dell among the hollow hills of Southwestern Witchconsin that became, for one sweet and all-too-brief week each year, the New Pagan Republic. Delightful.)

Certainly, they introduced the phenomenon memorably. During Morning Meeting one day, the main spokesman for the PSG Druids stood up and announced that they were, as of today, reinstituting the ancient Celtic practice of the Táin (cattle raid).

Just then, a big, beefy guy, stark naked and painted woad-blue all over, came screaming into the meeting, circled us all, and ran screeching out again, his shoulder-length blonde hair streaming out behind him.

As I say, memorable.

The PSG Druids were an unruly lot, known for their raucous, late-night parties, and their alcohol-fueled public singing.

(If you're thinking Scots ballads or Auld Irish ditties the now, be disabused of the notion. As a song that made the rounds at the time put it,

The Druids are drinking again;

they've opened a bottle or ten.

They're raising their voices in song:

it's “Gilligan's Isle” all night long...


Cringe. One bean-Draoí, I remember, was in the habit, while walking down Merchants' Row, of suddenly—for no apparent reason—bursting into earnest performances of songs from, of all things, Jesus Christ Superstar. What, if anything, the Man from Galilee, or seven stranded castaways, had to do with Druidism—or anything else for that matter—this fearless blogger, for one, is clearly insufficiently evolved to fully grok.)

Here's how it worked. The Druids—usually at night—would steal something large and noticeable from someone else's campsite, and relocate it to their own. The original owners would then miss the item, and eventually steal it back.

Can you say, “escalation”?

Quickly the custom spread beyond the Druids. The teenaged boys of the festival, I recall, took up the practice with great gusto.

(Interesting, isn't it, how ancestral patterns tend, spontaneously, to reassert themselves.)

Eventually, things like picnic tables went missing. Soon there began to be hard feelings. Just like in the old days, things began to spin out of control.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs



“Was that housekeeping that just went by?”

The woman sticks her head out of the hotel room door.

“No,” I say, chin-pointing, “but the cart's down there.” I'd just walked past it, on my way to the ice machine.

“Bless you,” she says, falling in alongside.

“Somewhat excessive,” I say.

“Toilet paper,” she explains.

“All is made clear,” I reply.

She snags a roll from the unattended cart.

“Celtic warrior making a raid,” she quips, heading back down the hall at a goodly clip.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Your Craft Is Too Small

When first I came to the Craft years ago, we were all young in it together, so I suppose it's something to be said that we now have old farts in our midst.

I suppose.

One such was overheard at a recent event to say that by now he'd learned all that the Craft had to teach.

I don't know which is the more striking about this statement: the arrogance, or the ignorance.

Me, I've been doing this for nigh on 50 years now and, frankly, I sometimes still feel like a beginner. For me, the Craft is an endless Sea: you could swim in it forever, but you'll never come to an end. It's deep, so deep, and it goes on forever, this Craft of ours.

Oh, the years have been hard, and sure, much has been lost. Sometimes then we must look elsewhere to find what we've lost, what was taken away. Then and there, we'll recognize it when we find it, ours to us. Then it's our work to bring it home, to bring it back home to the Craft.

But that's neither to impugn the Craft, nor to steal from someone else. When you try to live in someone else's lore, that's stealing. When you learn about your own lore from someone else's, that's Wisdom.

The Craft goes on forever. It's bigger than me, it's bigger than you, and there's never an end to it.

So to any old fart (or young one, for that matter) out there who thinks to have come to the end of the Craft, I can only say:

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

Well, it could have been a game that Indo-European children played 6000 years ago as they rode out in wagons with their families to conquer most of the known world.

Although I doubt it.

“Why don't you two 'count cows'?” my father would say to my sister and I in the car. He'd played the game himself as a child.

Whoever ends up with the most cows wins, of course. All cows on your side of the road belong to you. With herds, this can mean some quick tabulation. You have to count out loud, and you can only keep counting while the cows are still in sight. Don't even think of cheating: there are other eyes on your cows as well.

As for the bad news: whenever you pass a graveyard on your side, you lose all your cows, and have to start over again from nothing. Like most games, it enacts the story of life itself.

By its very nature, this game can hardly have preceded the automobile. I strongly suspect that my grandparents made it up to keep fractious children distracted during long road trips.

And yet. And yet: those primal, primal images. Cows and graveyards, life and death: prima materia indeed.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
The Boy Who Never Complained

A Lost-Found Dobunni Folk-tale


There was once a man who, feeling the approach of death, summoned his sons that he might divide his wealth among them.

When all that he owned had been distributed, it was found that he had overlooked his youngest son.

Father, is there nothing for me? asked the boy.

Alas, my son, said the man, There is nothing left but this old copper kettle. But I give it to you with my blessing.

The boy took the kettle without complaint.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Going Viking

The sad, sorry truth is that none of the old ways have come down to us intact.

None of them.

That's why we go viking.

The way of the shaper, who makes the new, is good.

The way of the merchant, who buys and sells, is also good.

But when you can't make for yourself, and there's none to be had by honest means, then betimes needs must set sails.

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There is No Life Without Cattle: A Maasai Tale

When the missionaries first came to Maasai, one clan headman asked them: How many of my favorite cattle will I be able to take to heaven with me?

To traditional Maasai, cattle are considered almost as members of the family.

None, said the missionaries. Animals can't go to heaven; they don't have souls.

That's ridiculous, said the headman. You call that eternal happiness? There is no life without cattle.

To the clan he said: There's no point listening to these guys. They don't know what they're talking about.

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