The Celtic Tree Calendar

The modern Celtic Tree Calendar was devised by Robert Graves in his book, “The White Goddess”, and is based on his re-interpretation of the Ogham alphabet. It has been widely criticized as a fabrication by many Celtic scholars, as it does not coincide with earlier Celtic calendars. While there is no evidence of ancient Celts or Druids using a calendar that even resembled this one, it’s origins are irrelevant, as it has become a valuable spiritual, liturgical and magical tool for some modern NeoPagans who identify with the ancient Celts. Celtic Reconstructionist Pagans reject it utterly as a complete fabrication with no historic basis. Others embrace it as a tool to enhance their magic, their spirituality and their connection with nature, and to help give structure to their rituals.

A Celtic tree calendar was first presented in the 19th century by Edward Davies, based on research of the Ogygia and the Book of Ballymote, further developed by Robert Graves in his book The White Goddess, and further developed by OBOD founder Ross Nichols. The calendar has 13 months of 28 days and an extra day chosen as the “year and a day” day. It begins with the Winter Solstice, in contrast to the tradition of Samhain as the Celtic New Year. Despite it’s origins, it still provides a beautiful framework for the study of tree lore and the Ogham. It has been embraced by many druids and Celtic pagans worldwide who consider it an inspired work.

There is a fine line between fabrication and inspiration. Fabrication implies an intent to deceive while inspiration is a creative idea imparted by divine influence. Unfamiliar concepts are often unfairly regarded as fabricated or invalid simply because they are new. Inspired works do not always come with footnotes and references to back them up. If we really, truly believe that Witchcraft is a living mystical tradition, then it stands to reason that it’s followers will receive divine inspiration to help them along the path and draw them deeper into it’s ways. This information will not always be of the “previously published” variety. Those who ask “where are you getting this information” and demand to know the book, chapter and page might be disappointed. Here we delve into the murky waters of personal gnosis. Interpreting information received through personal gnosis can be a slippery slope. Because something is true for you does not necessarily make it true for everyone, but there are times when this information is shared with others. The trick is in balancing the new information with what you already feel and believe. Sometimes there are no references to compare the new information with. For example, two of my favorite teachers have published books that contain information they received from communications with plants and spirit guides. Because these are teachers I highly admire and respect, I am inclined to take their experiences as valid ones. It is important to consider the source, and look within to see if it agrees with what you feel in your own heart. If it doesn’t, don’t use it, but at the same time do not immediately disregard it because you’ve “never heard that before”.

While both are believed to be inspired by earlier works, the Celtic Tree Calendar is nearly two decades older than the Wiccan Rede, another inspired work considered sacred to followers of Wicca. In the House of Blackthorn, students may choose the wood for their wands according to the tree that corresponds to their birthday. Some find that they feel a connection to a different tree altogether, and this is acceptable as well.

Below is an image that displays the dates and trees of the Celtic Tree Calendar. Note that Samhain and the Winter Solstice have specific trees associated with them. Which tree is your birthday associated with?

 

Advertisements

Samhain Ancestor Bottle

The Ancestor Bottle is created as a symbolic invitation to departed loved ones, that they may commune with us and participate in an exchange of information. Ancestor Bottles are made shortly before Samhain and are then placed on the Samhain altar.

The bottle is to be skull shaped, made of clear glass, and filled with the following:

  • Black Sand.

  • Dried Wormwood.

  • Assorted Crystals and Stones, particularly black stones such as Black Onyx, Black Obsidian or Snowflake Obsidian. Clear Quartz may be used as well.

  • Handwritten names and/or photos of departed loved ones.

  • Other objects may be added, such as your own hair, nails, teeth and blood. These items form a physical link between you and those departed ones you wish to invite.

  • Black or Silver glitter may be added and can be further decorated any way you choose.

Seal the bottle and it’s contents with industrial strength glue.

The process of making the bottle infuses your energy into it. When it is complete, hold the bottle in both hands, close your eyes and take several deep breaths until you reach a meditative state. Mentally place your intention within the bottle to invite your departed loved ones, and say..

With this bottle, I invite (state names) to be present and communicate with me”.

Then place the bottle on your altar. During your Samhain ceremony, be open to any impressions, images or feelings you receive. Keep a journal or notepad near your altar to write down any information. Talk to your ancestors as though they were standing right next to you. Ask questions, ask for advice, tell them how you feel. The veil is thin and they are listening. Ask them to communicate with you. As Samhain is also a powerful time for divination, you may also ask your ancestors to impart their wisdom through your tarot and oracle decks.

On November 2nd, break open the bottle and retrieve any photos or items you wish to keep. Dispose of the rest of the contents along with the bottle. Make a new bottle every Samhain.

Skull bottles are available at craft stores and online, especially near the end of September and during the month of October. They must have some sort of seal: cork, glass stopper, lid, etc, so that the contents can be tightly sealed inside.

Approaching the Cauldron of Cerridwen

15726395_10154618700655465_445962452683043498_nThe tales of Cerridwen identify her as a witch, goddess and mother. She is the keeper of the sacred cauldron of Awen, a Welsh word that means “poetic, divine inspiration”. Those who seek to know her need only approach her cauldron with gentleness and politeness. Any cauldron will do, as all cauldrons are archetypes of the one true cauldron kept by Cerridwen herself. When making contact with Cerridwen, it is not necessary to use grand, dramatic declarations (“Oh mighty Cerridwen, bestow upon us your great wisdom”). Just speak to her as you would anyone you are getting to know. Place an image of her on your altar. Light strongly scented incense and three white candles. During your conversations with her, place both your hands on the cauldron and know that she is listening. Quietly wait and allow her to speak to you. To those who truly seek contact, she will impart information, which may come in the form of images, words, phrases, feelings…or ideas. Keep a notebook handy. Study the story of Cerridwen and Taliesin, and become familiar with all the characters of this ancient tale. Cerridwen. Gwion Bach. Afagddu. Creirfyw. Morda. Tegid Foel. Taliesin. Each of them have an important lesson to teach. Cerridwen is the gateway, and her story is the foundation of modern druidry. Many lessons are hidden between the lines.

The cauldron holds many mysteries. It is a symbol of the darkness of the womb, a tool of communication, and the creative force by which change is manifest through magic. It is the catalyst that connects the druid witch to the universe, to nature, to the animal world, to the realm of spirits and to Cerridwen herself. The cauldron is one of the primary tools of the Blackthorn Druid Witch.

We must approach the cauldron of inspiration ourselves, boil the broth ourselves, be burnt and subsequently ingest the divine drops of Awen ourselves—no one can do it for us”. (Kristoffer Hughes, From the Cauldron Born).

The Noble Art of Divination

Divination is the art of obtaining information through the use of various tools, such as tarot cards, runes or scrying mirrors. The word Divination comes from the word Divinare, meaning that the information we receive through these practices is imparted to us as we connect to the divine. There are many kinds of divination, and most people find they are more adept at some forms than others. Here is a list of just some of the forms of divination practiced by druids and witches.

Aeromancy: Divination by observing weather patterns.

Anemoscopy: Divination by observing the movement of tree branches as they sway in the wind.

Belomancy: Divination by the flight of arrows.

Bibliomancy: Consulting a passage or line in a book at random.

Catoptromancy: Divination through a lens or magic mirror.

Ceromancy: Divination by observing the shapes formed by melted candle wax.

Chiromancy: Palm-Reading.

Geloscopy: Divination by interpreting someone’s laughter.

Oenisticy: Divination by studying the flight of birds.

Physiognomy: Divination by studying human facial features.

Phrenology: Divination by studying the bumps and contours of the head.

Pyromancy: Divination by smoke and fire.

Tasseography: Tea-Leaf reading.

Xylomancy: Observation of the position of twigs on the ground.

Tarot

The origin of tarot cards is somewhat mysterious, though they are believed to have began merely as playing cards, and then evolved into divinatory tools used for esoteric/occult purposes. A standard tarot deck contains seventy-eight cards, which is divided into two sections, the Major Arcana and Minor Arcana. (The word Arcana is the plural of Arcanum, which means “profound secret”). The twenty-two cards of the Major Arcana are the heart of the deck, as each one symbolizes some universal aspect of human experience. Each card in the Major Arcana has a name and number, along with associated imagery. Some names convey a card’s meaning directly, such as Strength and Justice. Other cards portray individuals who personify a particular approach to life, such as the Hierophant and the Empress. The names of these individuals vary depending on the deck you use. There are other cards with astrological names, such as the Star and the Moon. They represent the esoteric forces linked to these planetary bodies. The fifty-six cards of the Minor Arcana are divided into four suits: Wands, Cups, Swords and Pentacles. Each of these suits stands for a particular approach to life. Each tarot card is filled with symbolism and imagery that can help the reader awaken his/her intuition and decipher its meaning in relation to other cards in the reading. Readings from tarot decks can address any area of life, from health and relationships to career and romance. There are many tarot decks available on the market, the most popular being the Rider-Waite deck. New tarot decks are released every week, while older decks often go out of print, are more difficult to obtain and become more valuable. It is advisable to experiment with different decks until finding the right one for you. It takes time and practice to become proficient at tarot reading. Many people only use the tarot for personal growth, while others offer tarot readings to the public.

Oracles

Oracle decks can contain any number of cards, and tend to focus on spiritual growth and personal development. They are not as difficult to learn as tarot, which is why some people prefer them. Each oracle deck usually has a specific theme that sets the overall tone of the deck. For example, The Nature-Speak Oracle from Ted Andrews contains sixty cards, and calls upon the wisdom from nature, specifically trees, flowers, landscapes and weather. Other popular oracle decks are The Hidden Path and The Well-Worn Path from Raven and Stephanie Grimassi. These contain imagery associated with Old World Witchcraft, however, both of these decks are now long out-of-print. Angel cards seem to be popular, and there are many to choose from, such as the Angel Therapy Oracle deck from Doreen Virtue. Other oracle decks call on the energies of herbs, crystals, animals and similar metaphysical themes.

A Word about Tarot and Oracle Decks

The increasing popularity of tarot and oracle decks has made some of them quite valuable, particularly when they go out-of-print. There are many tarot “collectors”, those who do not actually use them for divination but appreciate the artwork and symbolism. It is important to purchase a tarot/oracle deck you like as soon as possible, because once it goes out-of-print it may be quite some time before it is availabe again, if at all. Some retired decks are being sold on eBay in the hundreds of dollars. Occasionally you may find privately produced decks that are not sold in stores to the general public, and these are typically more expensive than standard mass-produced decks. One such deck, The True Black Tarot, contains exquisite artwork.

Runes

The origin of the Runes is shrouded in mystery, although we do know they are powerfully connected to the ancient Norse people. According to Norse legend, the god Odin was a god of wisdom, cunning, sorcery and death. To impart to his children the gift of writing, he hung himself upside-down on the World Tree, sacrificing himself for his people on the giant ash Yggdrasil. After nine days of fasting, he fell from the tree and was granted with the knowledge of the secrets of the Runes. It is believed that they began as an alphabetic system, but have become much more than that. Each Rune symbol contains within it a specific energy that can be used in divination, spellcraft or other magical workings. While there are a few different types of Runes, such as the Witch’s Runes and Anglo-Saxon Runes, the most prominent (and most ancient) Runes are the Elder Futhark Runes. The Elder Futhark contains twenty-four different runes, and were originally carved into stone or wood. Today you can find runes that are carved into various crystals, wood, resin or bone. My preference is for runes carved on wood, as they seem to carry more power and primal energy in them. Many witches and druids like to make their own, by cutting a tree branch into small pieces and using a wood-burning tool to carve in the symbols. Making them yourself is preferable, but is not a requirement for them to work. In the magical community, there are many Runecasters, (those who specialize in Rune Divination), and offer Rune readings to the public. Runes seem to have a more masculine energy, while the Tarot contains more feminine energies. Runes and Tarot are both equally powerful, and a person should not choose one over the other based on their inherent energies. Most Metaphysical/New Age/Wicca shops carry runes in many varieties. Keep your Runes together in a drawstring pouch made of a natural fiber, such as cotton, wool or silk. There are special rune pouches available online, and even rune cloths with special markings to assist in your readings, but these are not necessary.

Scrying

Scrying is the art of obtaining information, wisdom or guidance by gazing into a crystal ball, a bowl of water, or a mirror. Many witches and druids own at least one scrying mirror or a crystal ball. Some may see actual images form on the surface of the object used for scrying, while others receive impressions within their consciousness. It is a difficult art to learn that relies heavily on stream of conciousness and intuitive ability. The best times to practice scrying seem to be during “between times”, such as a Full Moon, New Moon, a Lunar/Solar Eclipse, the Solstices and Equinoxes, Dawn/Dusk, or during Beltane (May 1st) or Samhain (October 31st). Regular practice will help to hone your scrying abilities. When scrying, it is recommended to use natural light only, such as candlelight, moonlight or sunlight. Place candles near the mirror or crystal ball where they will not be reflected in the glass, and place the mirror or ball at a slight angle so that you do not see your own reflection. It is also helpful to burn incense while scrying, as this helps you enter a ritual state of consciousness and will make you more open to receive psychic messages. Many times the shapes formed by incense smoke, or shadows from the candle flame will trigger images or impressions. You may see actual images in your mirror or crystal ball, but this is not always the case. Black mirrors are popular, and some people like to make their own. Traditional crystal balls are made from clear quartz or black obsidian, but they are also available in many other varieties of crystal and in many different colors. The larger the sphere, the more expensive it will be, so keep cost in mind when shopping for your own crystal ball. Some who use crystal balls recommend rolling the ball between your palms to bond with it’s energy between readings. When not using your scrying device, keep it covered in a natural fiber, such as cotton, wool or silk. To clean your scrying mirror or crystal ball, use an infusion of hyssop or pennyroyal and then pat it dry.

You can purchase my book, “The Noble Art of Divination: A Journal for Tarot and Oracle Decks“, currently on Amazon at this link.

Ethics of the Draighean

Ethics are the principles within us that govern our choices in life, our actions and our behavior toward others. Ethics are not to be confused with morals, which are ideals imposed on us by others based on what they want us to do, or laws made by lawmakers to support a smoothly functioning society. For those who live by magic, these principles sometimes present a dilemma. How do we apply ethics in the Ways of the Draighean: Blackthorn Druid Witchcraft?

We are not a Wiccan tradition, so we do not embrace such concepts as the Wiccan Rede or the Threefold Law. We do not use such tools as the athame or the chalice. Our primary tools are the cauldron and the wand. Ours is a tradition that blends Celtic Paganism and Druidry with Old World Witchcraft. We are sovereign. This does not imply that we advocate willful malicious harm. It does imply that we may use magic to protect ourselves and our loved ones in whatever means we find necessary. The Draighean do not “turn the other cheek”.

Before Gerald Gardner and Doreen Valiente, there was no Wiccan Rede. There was no Threefold Law. Witches were simply witches. They lived by their own ethical codes and moral standards, taking personal responsibility for their actions. These witches of the old ways were respected and feared in equal measure, as they had the power both to curse and to cure. They were self-ruled, unencumbered by imposed magical redes and laws. You wanted the witch to be on your side. These old ways witches are still among us today, and we the Draighean are counted among them.

Love and Light is a popular expression in Wicca, and conjures images of rainbows and unicorns. While it has a place and often works to bring healing and peace, it is not always the answer. Whether you are Wiccan or not, there are situations where ‘love and light’ will not provide a solution. Sometimes difficult choices have to be made, and they are not always pleasant. There are times when things have to be confronted and dealt with in a not-so-nice way. As witches and magical people, we are not to be passive or timid, allowing others to walk over us in the name of “love and light”.

Should you cast a spell to help someone in need without their permission? Should you do a healing spell for someone in a coma? Do you perform banishing and binding spells? Would you use magic to retaliate against someone who is causing harm in your life, or in the lives of your loved ones? These are ethical questions only you can answer. Blackthorn Druid Witches are encouraged to make their own choices in these matters. Sovereignty and personal responsibility are cornerstones of our tradition.

New classes begin every Spring. Perhaps the Ways of the Draighean: Blackthorn Druid Witchcraft are just what you’re looking for.

Earth Meditation

Try this meditation during the Summer months to help you connect to the energies of the Earth.

Find a spot where you can sit or stand undisturbed, barefoot if possible, on soft grass for at least 15 minutes. Close your eyes and take several deep breaths until you reach a meditative state. Visualizing the numbers 1 through 10 and utilizing controlled-breathing techniques will help you enter a relaxed, receptive state of mind. Then, place your attention on the sensation of grass/earth beneath your feet. In your mind’s eye, visualize the energy of the earth moving up into your feet. You may picture this energy as green, brown or white. Continue to move this energy up your legs, torso, and all the way up to your head. Allow every cell of your body to be infused with earth energy. What does this feel like? Be open to any impressions you receive. These may come in the form of images, words or just a feeling. When you have completed this meditation, slowly bring yourself back to full awareness and open your eyes. Write down your experience in a magical journal.