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Myths and Ledgands
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Article contributed by
Rosemary Marr
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The glorious days of Pagan Ireland, when man was intimately attuned to the seasons, and the bounty they brought fourth, are long gone. Thousands of years ago he was obviously acutely aware that his ultimate survival depended on the return of the sun at the winter solstice.

Today in our arrogance we appear to be blissfully unaware, or we choose to ignore the fact that we are destroying the planet which is our home, our only home.Our countries are led by politicians many of whom are or appear to be firmly in the pockets of the multinational companies who reap rich rewards

The Glory days of Pagan Ireland, when life revolved around the seasons, and its bounty was reverend, seem long gone, especially set against our present backdrop of global climate change. Where our innate greed, is destroying our wonderful world, for short-term gain of money and power, for the elite few, that rule our planet, which such disregard for all our futures.

The Wheel of the year, was divided up around the natural tangible evens that could been seen around them, the spring and autumn equinoxes and the summer and winter solstices., between these there were four high Celtic festivals. Imbloc , a celebration of spring , Beltaine heralding the beginning of summer, Lammas , the harvest and the coming of Autumn and Sanhain, the Celtic new year. These four were fire festivals, associated with the lunar energies, in Ireland all were founded on site sacred to the Goddess.

The ancient Celtic pagan people, have a similar Shamanistic beliefs to the native American Indians, Australian Aboriginal, Polar and Asian cultures. Shamanism has a worldwide practice in which the spiritual interrelationship of the earth and otherworld forms, an interwoven fabric of physical and psychic being, affecting all forms of life, seen and unseen.. In many indigenous cultures, have an animistic worldview, which exists in many forms, such as healing, divinatory and in spiritual practice. The ancient myths of the Celtic lands are inter woven with fairies, spirits, creatures, ancestors, omens and portents, elements and animals that are not what they seem. The seers and druids of our past, are present, in our dreams, and can be heard in our music, seen in our painting read in our poetry, and our reading of horoscopes, an echo of divinatory links to the past.

The ancient Celtic pagan people's, had comparable beliefs to the Native American Indians, where the Wheel of the Year, with its festival has to mark the seasons, brought the people a simple yet profound passage through the year, where the equinoxes and solstices, marked their life with straightforward rituals. Where the waxing and waning of the moon, guided the planting of their crops, through the cycle of the year as well as controlling the tides of the sea.

Respect for all living things and the cycle of life around them, is sadly lacking in our time, when the culture of greed, has taken over the world, where nothing but money and material wealth is valued and power is craved. The old and the young are not given their due care and attention. The earth is now being exploited by Multi- national company's whose relentless pursuit for profits, are destroying us all.

The Celtic year was divided into six week periods, beginning with Samhain or Halloween, the Celtic New Year, the natural boundaries of the Spring and Autumnal equinoxes and the Summer and Winter solstices, interspersed wih Imbloc, a spring domestic festival of new beginnings; Beltaine the fertility rites marking the beginning of summer, and Lammas celebrating the fruition of the havest

 

The Celtic Wheel of the Year

Samhain.
 

The Celtic New Year
31 October

The New Year, marks a time of new beginning, to begin again with a clean slate, to make resolution of change. The new year, although it begins at different times in different cultures , its meaning remains the same. When man first began to mark time, the new year was an important date in the "Wheel of the Year", it was often celebrated around the Vernal or Spring Equinox.

The Celtic New year, was Samhain or Halloween, 31st October, and marks the beginning of our agricultural year. It was and is still, celebrated with great enjoyment.
All the Celtic festivals are moon and fire celebrations.
In ancient Ireland, Samhain, began with the extinguishing of all fires, which were then re-lit, using the sacred flame from the hill of Tlachtga, (now called the Hill of Ward near Athboy, Co Meath). Great fairs held at Samhain, when all outstanding business was concluded, debts paid; the dead who had died in the previous year were remembered, and animals that could not be over-wintered were slaughtered and eaten at a great feast, that went on for many days.

All the Celtic festivals, have a supernatural element , this is part of our Shamanistic heritage, where the inter woven elements..
That ghost and witches are now associated with Hall o'ween, ( All Hallow's Eve), we own mostly to the Christian church, who have always vilified, the Pagans, demonising them with dreadful practices, this was in part to have control of all sections of society.
The dreadful symbolic date of 11th November, where the dead of the past two world wars are commemorated, can be viewed as part of Samhain, with remembrance of the dead , as a central pilar.

In the reign of Tuhal Teachtmair, the four Celtic festival were celebrated at these sites, all were founded by Celtic Goddesses.

 

 

Tlachtga the Celtic Goddess of Samhain

Goddess of Thunderbolt s and Wisdom.
 

tlachtga went with her father Mog Roith, son of Fergus, in the Christain version the three sons of the Simon Mageus, raped her. She went with her father to learn the magic arts , and she made for Trian, the Rolling wheel, The stone in Forcathu and the Pillar in Cnamchaill. She brought these things with, from the east, until she came to the Hill of Tlachtga. There she bore three sons, Doirb, Cumma and Muach, after whom, three of the regions of Ireland are named.
Tlachtga and Mog Roith are the Lord and lady of the wheel of Life and Death, the Druidic keepers of knowledge.
The hill of Tlachtga hill is known as the Hill of Ward, near Athboy, Co. Meath, it was here that the sacred fires of Samhain were lit. It was customary for the Druids of Ireland to assembly here on eve of Samhain, to offer sacrifice to all the Gods. All the fires in Ireland were to be extinguished, that night and only the sacred fire was allowed to re kindle them. . For each fire kindled from the sacred fire of Tlachtga, the King of Munster received a tax.

Tlachtga, in common with many ancient female founders of sacred sites, is raped and dies giving birth. Death through great labour is such a common basis for earth goddesses, at sacred sites. The root meaning of her name, tlacht or earth, and gae or spear, suggests a link with the great meteoric sites. This links Tlachtga, with major goddess such as Cybele, whose meteoric stone enshrined Rome or the pre-Islamic Goddess Al-Uzza, whose hidden black stone is now venerated by millions of Moslems in the Kaaba at Mecca, as they circle it, during their sacred pilgrimage, the Hadgze???????. The descent of Innanna, in the Sumerian tales..

We can see the importance of Tlachtga's burial place, being the focal point for Samhain, and the gathering of druids. Her sons names become protection of Ireland and she become an epitome of a black goddess who can, rouse life from seeming dead material, one who has the divine spark wisdom.
Tlachtga is venerated as a founding ancestor, but a dark and feared one. Her pillar stone at Cnamchaill, turns people deaf, blind or senseless. While her father, Mog Roig, transforms.

In the year 998, St Odilio of Cluny, France, used Samhain as the basis of the Christian day of All Souls Days 1st November. This spread through out the Catholic world, one if its finest example can still be seen in the Mexican, Day of the Dead, when family's visit family graves, bring candles and songs, spending the day in the cemetery, bringing news of the living to the departed.

The dreadful symbolic date of 11th November, where the dead of the past two world wars are commemorated, can be viewed as part of Samhain, with its remembrance of the dead as a central pillar.

Only in England was, 'Remember remember, the 5th of November', celebrated. The burning of Guy Fawkes, after his bungled attempt to blow up King James 1st and the palace of Westminster in 1605, it could be seen as a Protestant attempt to replace the Catholic, All Souls Day, with its own Protestant equivalent. In England 'Guy Fawkes day' has, until the recent replacement of Halloween, in the Americanized form of 'Trick or treat', ( a good money spinner for the multinational supermarkets) been the English Autumnal feast..

Halloween has not only survived it has spread to America with the Scots and Irish emigrants of the 18th and 19th centuries, in the form or trick or treat, where it has been turned into a commercial festival of witches and ghouls, its ancient message lost among
among plastic pitchforks and pointed hats.

In Europe, New year was marked by the spring Equinox and did not move to the 1st January until the Gregorian calendar was introduced in 1582. Eleven days vanished from the calendar and Christmas moved from the 6th of January to the 25th if December. The 6th of January still remains Christmas day for the Coptic Christian church and the 7th for the Russian Orthodox church.

In Anglo-Saxon England, the new year began on 25th December, until William the Conqueror changed it to January 1st.
England then joined the rest of Christendom, in beginning the year on the 25th of March, this continued until Protestant England adopted the 1 of January as the new year in 1752.

Scotland
With its Celtic identity, Hogmanay, 31st December was its main celebration. Hogmanay comes from the old solar hero giant of the North, Hogmagog. The ancient pagan custom of the new year fires, burning out the old year, has survived in Scotland and areas of Scandinavia, Teutonic and Celtic heritage.

In parts of the Grampian region, fireballs, made of wood and cloth soaked in paraffin are lit and carried in procession before being hurled into the sea, part of an earlier custom of offering food, drink and coins to the sea gods. In Tayside, one ritual involved burning branches of Birch, (Birch in the Ogham tree alphabet, symbolised rebirth and purification), which are then hurled to make larger fires at midnight. Even more ancient rituals, included dressing up as animals, in purifying and fertility dance., some of these hark back to Old horned gods , but the Christian churches , imposed, a three year fasting penance on anyone taking part. ( Death by any other name).

Ringing of bells, the firing of cannon's and fire works goes back to the primitive fear that malevolent spirits could assemble at times of transition, such as the new year, so as much noise was made to dispel them.

First Footing
In the Celtic Scandinavian and Teutonic tradition's all the door's of the house are opened, just before midnight, to let out the bad luck, then closed, then a dark haired man, representing the new year knocks at the front door and is admitted by the head of the household. The first footer then gives a piece of coal to insures warmth and a coin for wealth for the coming year. He then leaves by the back door without speaking, then he re-enters the front " Happy new year " resounding . In Dundee a dressed herring is given. In parts of Ireland it is unlucky to meet a red haired women on the New year.

Fairy mounds and standing stones.It is believed that fairy mounds open at Samhain and the sidhe ride forth, there are many tale's of the Riding of the sihhe and of people foolish enough to get too close to a fairy mound and staying with the fairy's for many years.

Vigil of the Dead through out Britain and Ireland candles are left in window's to lit the way for departed spirits or ward off evil ones. In parts of Cheshire and Shropshire, a Hobby Horse is still ridden thought the country side to symbolize a the "Nightmare" which carries away the dead on her back, there is a custom of 'soul caking' giving a spiced cake, to pay for prayers for the dead. Up until the last century, the Church porch watch survived, where people sat and watched to see if the apparition of who was to die in the could been seen. The church portal was supposed to be a place of divination being, the threshold of the church, a sanctuary and the graveyard where the dead lay. This Vigil, was practiced in Wales, north and west England, some times on Halloween, some times in Midsummer also on St Johns Eve and St marks Eve 24th April.

The Celtic festival have an element of disguise in them, where their shape shifters, masquerade, as animal and demons, their true identity, hidden behind fantastical masks. n is believed that standing stones can move on new year eve.

 

 

The Chinese New Year 31 January

 

The Chinese New year is marked by the first new Moon in February, Houses are cleaned , all debts are settled, and the paper gods that guard the doorways are replaced. Chinese characters meaning , good health wealth and happiness are written in red and used to decorate the entrances Fire cracker and drums are let off to chase malevolent spirits.

The God of the Kitchen visits the Jade Emperor in heaven, on the eve of the Chinese NewNew Year

Indian Saka 22 March

Muslim 31 May

Hindu 1st April

Jewish 25th September

Sikh 14th April

Japan 1st January

In Ancient Egypt the new year was celebrated by the arrival in the sky, of the Dog Star, Sirus, which heralded the flooding of the Nile delta which made Egypt fertile.

In Oceania, the island states of the Pacific the new year is marked by the coming of the Pleiades which coincides with the annual sowing of crops.

 

Imbloc.
 

2nd February

The Celtic festival if new beginning was Imbloc, Oimelc or Brigantia, the festival of Ewe's Milk was held from sunset on 31 January until sunset on 2 February, it was a moon festival celebrated between the equinox and the solstices. The Celtic year was divided into six week periods, beginning with Samhain or Halloween, the Celtic New Year.Oimelc was the first festival of the Celtic spring, when the early lambs were born and fresh milk was available after the long dark days of winter.

Bright or Bridgid was the maiden Goddess, she was the daughter of the Dadga, the Celtic father God, whose cauldron always gave food. Bridgid became the Goddess of Fertility and replenishment.

On Bride Eve, 31 January, the 'Bride Bed' with straw was made in front of the fire, and the family would call out for her to enter the house. A symbolic maiden would leave her cows and a cauldron would be places at the door. In some places the women of the house would pour milk and honey on the bed straw. At the beginning the bed was made in the chieftains house , then it was made in the main farm of the neighbourhood. The men folk would come and enter the circle of firelight and having given a coin, a flower or a kiss would ask for help with their planting or their occupation, then they would make a wish on the bride bed. This rural festival gradual faded with the Industrial revolution but was still practiced in some rural parts.

The Christians took over this festival and called it Candlemas, which they celebrated on the 2nd of February, the third day of the old Celtic festival, we now know it as St Bridgits day. The Christian say it is the day the Virgin Mary was cleansed, 40 days after giving birth to Jesus. In the old tradition the Celtic bride was de- flowered by her mate, the tribal leader on the bride bed and became pregnant at the Spring Equinox, That the Christian sought to mirror this in the 'Annunciation of the Virgin Mary, to give birth at the mid winter Solstice, is no coincidence. The Celts would chose a maiden to act as bride, with a suitable male to act as God, and their fertility was believed to ensure the fertility of the earth and the spring to follow.

In the Celtic tradition , Brigantia was when the Maiden Goddess replaced the old hag of Winter.

In the Roman tradition, flaming torches were carried to rivers, honouring the goddess Februs. On 2 February children played a board game , with a hag on one side an a maiden on he other, The hag was defended by a dragon , the maiden by a lamb. Pope Boniface was told that the Sibyl, a pagan prophetess had taught the game, and so it was banned as pagan heresy.

In popular tradition this Celtic festival was replaced, by St Bridgit, the Abbess of Kilbride, who died in 525, she was made a saint, because she is said to have performed miracles, making her cows give milk three times a day, making fish leap in a famine. Some old wells dedicated to Bridgid, had flowers thrown, in at Candlemas, to represent her deflowering; we still have the ritual of well dressing and some wells are still known as, St Brides well.

 

Spring Equinox

21st March
 

The Spring or Vernal Equinox was recognised as the pre Christian spring festival Ostara ( Easter), when the end or Winter and the new beginning of Spring were celebrated.
This was the world awakening from the cold sleep of winter.

 

Beltaine
 

1st May

Beltaine or Mayday was the major Celtic festival celebrating when summer began, the day lovers would come together over the fires of fertility.

Beltaine was a festival of fertility, were fire played a symbolic part in the ritual. Women who wished for a child would jump through the fire, and would, it was believed, have a child by the next Beltaine; as did young men and girls who would spend the night together. Fire was a symbol of purification and fertility.

The ancients believed that fire transformed, a sacrifice, whether symbolic or actual, animal or human, the ashes of the fire, endowed the soil with the life that had been cremated. That fire, purified, is still a true today as it was in ancient belief, but then it was also symbolic act of purification, that drove away evil spirits, as well as disease.

Bel or Belenos was an ancient sun god of Northern tradition. The May or Hawthorn tree blossomed in may. The custom of washing your face in the May morning due, to ensure a girls beauty, still survives. In some places, all hares found on May Day, were killed as witches.

In the Isle of Mann gorse was burnt so the hares would not able to hide among it This festival has in common with other Celtic festivals, still has the shamanistic shape shifting beliefs that abounded in our ancient paths, only at Halloween is, this still a very common part of the celebration , with false faces and masks being easily bought.

In Germany, Beltaine is known as Walpurgisnacht, the Night of the Witches, fires were lit to scare away the witches, and stop them meeting on wild hilltops.

 

 

Summer Solstice
 

21st June

The Midsummer solstice was the marking of the Solar power reaching its zenith, and the long hot days of summer's arrival. The days of promise.

Lammas

Lughnassdh

1-31 August

Lamass, the festival of harvest, when all the hard work, of planting the crops had been done, now was the time to sit back and enjoy the wait for the yield to ripen.

Lammas or Lughnassadh, was a celebration of the Celtic God of Wisdom, Sun and Light, Lugh.

Lammas s was a time of feasting and meeting distant relative, (the roads being dry in the fair summer weather). It was a time for arranging marriages, the custom of marriage, for a year and a day, was set up at this time, the couple would put their hands, through a holes in stone, agreeing to part if either one was unhappy with the union.

Some believe that Lammass, began on 1 August and others that the festival began on the 31August and continued until September 2, depending on the full moon.

 

 

The Autumn Equinox
 

22nd September

 

 

The Winter Solstice.
 

22nd December
Yule

The Winter Solstice, is the mid winter festival, that at all times and places was celebrated by most cultures. That this is darkest and longest day, fed a need among people, both the ancient s and our selves for a party.
In Northern Europe, Odin or Woden, the original, Father Christmas, rode through the sky in his chariot pulled by his sight legged horse Sleiper, dropping gifts.
The Romans called it Saturnalia, beginning on the 19 Dec they partied for 7 days, Saturn, was a Roman Corn god.
The Persians had a mid winter feast, when they kindled great fires for Mithras, their Sun God; in ancient agricultural traditions, the gods of crops were honoured. The Egyptian Sun God Osiris, and the Babylonian God Tammuz, both died and were brought back to life, by their Queen consorts on this day. The Mexican and Peruvians celebrated the birth of a son, to the Celestial Queen of Heaven.
In 353AD, Pope Julius, changes the birth of Christ from the 6th of January, to the "5th December, the Coptic and Orthodox Christian churches, still celebrate, the original date, of the 6th& 7th January, as Christ's birth.
The Feast of Epiphany is still a focus on the 6th January, in Spain and Italy.

Mistletoe was the sacred plant of the Druids, a golden sickle cut it from the sacred oak, at the Midwinter Solstice, it was known as All- healer for its healing powers. Its use, has now declined, into an excuse to kiss under bunches of Mistletoe at Christmas

The dreadful symbolic date of 11th November, where the dead of the past two world wars are commemorated, can be viewed as part of Samhain, with its remembrance of the dead as a central pillar.

Only in England was, 'Remember remember, the 5th of November', celebrated. The burning of Guy Fawkes, after his bungled attempt to blow up King James 1st and the palace of Westminster in 1605, it could be seen as a Protestant attempt to replace the Catholic, All Souls Day, with its own Protestant equivalent. In England 'Guy Fawkes day' has, until the recent replacement of Halloween, in the Americanized form of 'Trick or treat', ( a good money spinner for the multinational supermarkets) been the English Autumnal feast..

Halloween has not only survived it has spread to America with the Scots and Irish emigrants of the 18th and 19th centuries, in the form or trick or treat, where it has been turned into a commercial festival of witches and ghouls, its ancient message lost among
among plastic pitchforks and pointed hats.

In Europe, New year was marked by the spring Equinox and did not move to the 1st January until the Gregorian calendar was introduced in 1582. Eleven days vanished from the calendar and Christmas moved from the 6th of January to the 25th if December. The 6th of January still remains Christmas day for the Coptic Christian church and the 7th for the Russian Orthodox church.

In Anglo-Saxon England, the new year began on 25th December, until William the Conqueror changed it to January 1st.
England then joined the rest of Christendom, in beginning the year on the 25th of March, this continued until Protestant England adopted the 1 of January as the new year in 1752.

Scotland, with its Celtic identity, Hogmanay, 31st December was its main celebration. Hogmanay comes from the old solar hero giant of the North, Hogmagog. The ancient pagan custom of the new year fires, burning out the old year, has survived in Scotland and areas of Scandinavia, Teutonic and Celtic heritage.

In parts of the Grampian region, fireballs, made of wood and cloth soaked in paraffin are lit and carried in procession before being hurled into the sea, part of an earlier custom of offering food, drink and coins to the sea gods. In Tayside, one ritual involved burning branches of Birch, (Birch in the Ogham tree alphabet, symbolised rebirth and purification), which are then hurled to make larger fires at midnight. Even more ancient rituals, included dressing up as animals, in purifying and fertility dance., some of these hark back to Old horned gods , but the Christian churches , imposed, a three year fasting penance on anyone taking part. ( Death by any other name).

Ringing of bells, the firing of cannon's and fire works goes back to the primitive fear that malevolent spirits could assemble at times of transition, such as the new year, so as much noise was made to dispel them.

First Footing

In the Celtic Scandinavian and Teutonic tradition's all the door's of the house are opened, just before midnight, to let out the bad luck, then closed, then a dark haired man, representing the new year knocks at the front door and is admitted by the head of the household. The first footer then gives a piece of coal to insures warmth and a coin for wealth for the coming year. He then leaves by the back door without speaking, then he re-enters the front " Happy new year " resounding . In Dundee a dressed herring is given. In parts of Ireland it is unlucky to meet a red haired women on the New year.

Fairy mounds and standing stones.It is believed that fairy mounds open at Samhain and the sidhe ride forth, there are many tale's of the Riding of the sihhe and of people foolish enough to get too close to a fairy mound and staying with the fairy's for many years.

Vigil of the Dead through out Britain and Ireland candles are left in window's to lit the way for departed spirits or ward off evil ones. In parts of Cheshire and Shropshire, a Hobby Horse is still ridden thought the country side to symbolize a the "Nightmare" which carries away the dead on her back, there is a custom of 'soul caking' giving a spiced cake, to pay for prayers for the dead. Up until the last century, the Church porch watch survived, where people sat and watched to see if the apparition of who was to die in the could been seen. The church portal was supposed to be a place of divination being, the threshold of the church, a sanctuary and the graveyard where the dead lay. This Vigil, was practiced in Wales, north and west England, some times on Halloween, some times in Midsummer also on St Johns Eve and St marks Eve 24th April.

The Celtic festival have an element of disguise in them, where their shape shifters, masquerade, as animal and demons, their true identity, hidden behind fantastical masks. It is believed that standing stones can move on new year eve.

In Ancient Egypt the new year was celebrated by the arrival in the sky, of the Dog Star, Sirus, which heralded the flooding of the Nile delta which made Egypt fertile.

In Oceania, the island states of the Pacific the new year is marked by the coming of the Pleiades which coincides with the annual sowing of crops.