Ancient Celebrations – Part 13 – Midsummer Traditions

The exact dates of Midsummer festivals vary among different cultures, but is primarily held close to the summer solstice. The celebration predates Christianity, and has existed under different names and traditions around the world.

St. John’s Day

Although we all know that the birth of Jesus is celebrated on December 25th to tie in with the Winter Solstice, the birth of St. John the Baptist was designated as June 24th around the 4th century at a similar time Christmas was first established. These were both established during the first council of Nicea, convened by Constantine I, Emperor of Rome and the first to convert to Christianity, held in 325 CE.

In the Gospels, John, born of Mary’s sister Elizabeth was exactly 6 months older than Jesus. The significance of this is John the Baptist “was understood to be preparing the way for Jesus”, with John 3:30 stating “He must increase, but I must decrease”; this is symbolised by the Sun beginning to diminish after the summer solstice and eventually increasing after the winter solstice.

Up to the Council of Nicea, though, birthdays and special designated days were avoided by Christians, with only a Mass held around the Passover to mark his death and resurrection.

The Council also outlawed Arianism, named from Arius, that disputed the divine nature of Jesus as having a beginning, being begotten from his father. As opposed to him being one and the same as his father. This was actually pre Trinity, but the doctrine was the duality of the Godhead.

To say that the Council of Nicea basically took pagan ideas and Christianised them might be going too far. However, given the former beliefs of many and the cultures that prevailed at that time, it is highly likely that Christianising pagan celebrations, such as the Solstices, would give a previously simple Church a more universal appeal to potential converts.

It is likely then, that St John’s Day celebrations draw from much older pre Christian Summer Solstice celebrations. The seasonality of the celebrations with the decreasing and increasing being applied to days certainly has an old world pagan feel to it. It is actually far more like that John was born around March/April and Jesus around September/October time, but that’s a more indepth discussion.

The fires of St. John

Throughout Christendom “Saint John’s fires” are lighted on mountains and hilltops on the eve of his feast. These probably have a much older pagan connection.

In Ireland the celebration is also called “Tine Cnámh” meaning Bone Fire. Lit by the oldest present, the youngest present would throw in a bone as part of the celebrations. As part of some customs after the dancing and celebrations were over, revellers would bring home a spent ember from the fire, this was thrown into a field to bring good fortune in the year to come.

In his poem “The Sisters,” published in 1861, Limerick poet Aubrey Thomas de Vere describes “Bonfire Night” or “St. John’s Day Eve” in a post-Great-Famine world that still lay in ruins: –

“At last,
After our home attain’d, we turn’d, and lo!
With festal fires the hills were lit! Thine eve
Saint John, had come once more, and for thy sake
As though but yesterday thy crown were worn,
Amid their ruinous realm uncomforted
The Irish people triumph’d. Gloomy lay
The intermediate space; — thence brightlier burn’d
The circling fires beyond it. ‘Lo!’ Said I,
Man’s life as view’d by Ireland’s sons; a vale
With many a pitfall throng’d, and shade, and briar,
Yet overblown by angel-haunted airs,
And by the Light Eternal girdled round.”

Herbs and Potions

As the first day of summer, Saint John’s Day is considered in ancient folklore one of the great “charmed” festivals of the year. Hidden treasures are said to lie open in lonely places, waiting for the lucky finder. Divining rods should be cut on this day. Herbs are given unusual powers of healing, which they retain if they are plucked during the night of the feast. St John’s Wort is the best known of these herbs. In Germany people bring these herbs to church for a special blessing.

In Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Eve, Oberon seeks to punish Titania. He calls upon Robin “Puck” Goodfellow, his “shrewd and knavish sprite”, to help him concoct a magical juice derived from a flower called “love-in-idleness”, which turns from white to purple when struck by Cupid’s arrow. When the concoction is applied to the eyelids of a sleeping person, that person, upon waking, falls in love with the first living thing they perceive.

Love-in-idleness is actually a reference to the wild pansy, botanical name Viola Tricolor. And Shakespeare is drawing from Roman Mythology, in which Cupid shot one of his arrows at the imperial votaress, but missed and instead struck it. As Cupid is the god of desire, affection and erotic love, the flower’s juice received the trait, to act as a love potion.

Spirits Roam The Earth

In Scandinavia and in the Slavic countries it is an ancient superstition that on Saint John’s Day witches and demons are allowed to roam the earth. As at Halloween, children go the rounds and demand “treats,” straw figures are thrown into the flames, and much noise is made to drive the demons away.

In Shakespeare’s time it is also highly likely that similar beliefs were held, considering the supernatural content of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

The Midsummer Pole

In some Northern European countries, such as Sweden, the Bonfire customs are no longer part of Midsummer (and reserved for Walpurgis Night), but a form of Maypole is erected.

This Midsummer pole is decorated with greenery and flowers. The maypole is a comparatively new part of Swedish Midsummer tradition. It came to Sweden in the late Middle Ages from Germany, where the pole was decorated with leaves and raised on May 1 (hence the name).

Since spring comes later to Sweden it was hard to find the greenery to decorate the pole on May 1, so the tradition was moved to Midsummer. Some sources also attribute the perpetuation of the term majstång, or maypole, to the archaic Swedish word maja, meaning “to decorate with green leaves.”

Traditional dress is worn and in some areas males dress as the green man (with green faces an garnered in greenerer), whilst females are adorned in flowers. Traditional music is played and they dance around the Midsummer pole.

Midsummer was considered to be a time of magic, and anything to do with nature was thought to have a special power. Gathering flowers to weave into wreaths and crowns was a way to harness nature’s magic to ensure good health throughout the year.  Even though most people these days probably are unaware of the magical origins of the tradition, weaving crowns of flowers is still a major part of any Midsummer observance.

A Time of Romance

“If music be the food of love, then play on.”

Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” demonstrates that Midsummer was a time of romance (or unrequited love – we’ve all been there, or will go there at some point).

A Swedish verse says, “Midsummer night is not long but it sets many cradles to rock.” For maidens, it’s said that if you pick seven (or sometimes nine) types of flowers and place them under your pillow, you will dream of your future husband. So Midsummer is a time to enjoy romance and embracing natural sexual attraction and pairing.

In the old days in Finland, unmarried women would use special charms and bend over a well, naked, in order to see their future husband’s reflection.

The Midsummer Feast

Of course, no celebration is complete without a feast. In Sweden, Midsummer is a national holiday, second only to Christmas and always celebrated on the closest Saturday. All Swedes take to the countryside and after celebrating they have a picnic lunch of pickled herring with potatoes, dill and chives, whilst drinking nubbe (vodka schnapps).

In Latvia, folks feast on bacon pie and sweet beer. Italians vary and have regional midsummer traditions. In Rome, people eat snails, believing that these horned creatures will protect the consumer from devilry. If that doesn’t whet your appetite, you may prefer the traditional dishes of northern Italy. There they prepare dishes (including salads with fresh tomatoes) with aged balsamic vinegar.

Stonehenge and other ancient monuments

In Britain, Midsummer is connected with music festivals and Glastonbury. Stonehenge is considered THE place to be.

Stonehenge is aligned with the Solstices and dates back over 5000 years, a huge gap between the building of Stonehenge and St John’s Day. At Stonehenge on the summer solstice, the sun rises behind the Heel Stone in the north-east part of the horizon and its first rays shine into the heart of Stonehenge.

English Heritage provide free Managed Open Access to Stonehenge during the Summer Solstice. However, Stonehenge is a significant World Heritage Site and to many it is sacred. So a plea goes out respect the stones and all those who are attending. In previous years, Stones have been marked and descrecated by disrespectful attendees.

Amplified music, alcohol, illegal drugs and disorderly behaviour are not tolerated at Stonehenge, though difficult to police due to the sheer numbers that attend. It is a sacred place and the Order of Celtic Wolves suggest that the nearby music festivals are the places to party, whilst you take in the atmosphere and absorb the magical field around the Stones.

There are also many other wonderful Stone Circles around, so maybe choose to celebrate the Solstice at a quieter event, if you are like me and enjoy a bit of peace and contemplation.

Finnish Traditions

To finish (pun intended) let’s look at the traditions of Finland, where Midsummer is the main national holiday. Midsummer is the high point of summer in a land that sees continuous Sun during this period and the most popular time to start annual vacations.

Appeasing Ukko the God of Thunder

Like Sweden it takes place on the Saturday between the 20th and 26th of June. In Finland it was a tribute to Ukko, the god of thunder. Since he controlled the rain, you had to appease him in order to get a good harvest.

Bonfires were also burned in Finland, a ritual that continues today. Although in the Swedish-speaking areas of the country people have been happy just to put up a well-decorated maypole.

In modern times in Finland, Midsummer is also a celebration of Saint John (hence the Finnish name for the holiday: Juhannus), a time for some people to consume vast quantities of alcohol and a popular weekend for weddings and confirmations.

In Finland, it is a time for barbecues, plenty of drinking with friends on country vacations, with plenty of alcohol.

So, whether you are pagan or a Christian there are plenty of traditions based around the Solstice, or make your own. I like nothing better in Britain than meeting with friends, enjoying a ritual and having a nice bowl of strawberries and cream.

Solstice Blessings to all from all of us at the Order of Celtic Wolves 🙏


Imrama agus Imbas ag an Bealtaine

I gCuimhne Tadgh Jonathon. Suaimhneas síoraí.

Senbecc grandson of Ebrecc, from the sídhe, came from the plain of Segais seeking imbas, and Cú Chulainn encountered him on the River Boyne. Cú Chulainn captured him, and he explained that he had come looking for the fruit of the nuts of a fair-bearing hazel. There are nine fair-bearing hazels from he got imbas: it used to drop into the wells, so that the stream bears the imbas into the Boyne. Then Senbecc sang to him some of his lore, and a song:

“I am not a lad, I am not a man,

I am not a child in learning.

The mysteries of god had made me gifted.

I am Abcán, a sage of learning, a poet from Segais.

Senbecc is my name, Ebrecc’s grandson from the sídhe.”

Then Senbecc offered great rewards to Cú Chulainn for letting him go free, and Cú Chulainn would not grant it. Then he stretched out his hand to his harp. He played him a wailing-strain, so that he was wailing and lamenting; he played him a laughing-strain so that he was laughing; and finally he played him a sleeping-strain so that he cast him into slumber. Then Senbecc escaped down the Boyne in a bronze boat.

Imrama agus imbas leis an carr

On the first Sunday of the month, I travelled up to Beenalaght early in the morning hoping to conduct my Bealtaine personal decompression ritual at sunrise but unfortunately it was raining down from the heavens all through the half hour drive. By the time I had walked through the field from the car up to the standing stones, it stopped and then continued to pour when I got back to the car after the ritual. I was very lucky on that one but unfortunately still couldn’t catch the sunrise coming through the Bronze Age monuments. Later, my partner suggested that we go to a Bealtaine Fair in a village called Knockanore north of Youghal as a family day trip as she is originally from the area and wanted to show the little seoíge where her mammy spent time as a little girl. The fair was a small craft exhibition in an equally small community hall, and I was inwardly groaning but I came across an exhibit hosted by the KGK (Knockanore Glendine and Kilwatermoy) Heritage and Historical Society. My partner did a face palm. While she went around the various stalls, I was caught up in conversation. They recently (in the last few years previous to the pandemic lockdown) uncovered a Bronze Age burial urn (which is the one pictured on their poster) and donated it to the Cork Museum of History. I had never realised how many standing stones, ogham stones and ring forts were in the area ( and I thought West Cork and East Kerry were heavily populated with them). I was given a printout of a map with very one of the above that the group had located.

I couldn’t go around the area looking for some of these sites as time was pressing on and it was a family day out, but journeys have their rewards and the best ones are those that are completely unexpected (like finding a heritage conservation group in the middle of nowhere). My partner wanted to go to Glendine church which is in a deep small valley halfway between Knockanore and Youghal along the Blackwater to show the seoíge another place of her childhood. On both sides of the road, the floor is carpeted with beautiful blue flowers in between trees for miles. There is a beautiful small waterfall that comes out from under the road and makes up for its size with harmonious noise. There is lime cast steps that lead to nothing up the side of the hill ( I read up later that there was a national school there for several years from 1865 onwards before there ever was a church built there later around 1890 ). There area is so beautiful, it’s no wonder nature is a religion in herself. You could spend hours there just wandering around listening to the water roar in the background just lost in contemplation.

Imrama agus imbas leis an bad

Last year I bought an inflatable two seat kayak and never got the chance to use it for a whole year. Finally, I got out at 5.30am on Sunday morning a week later and headed out to Passage West in Cork Harbour. The water was so calm and there was a thick mist all around. It was nothing but total peace. I paddled up alongside the Greenway (it’s an old railway line that was converted to a cycleway and walkway) between Passage and Rochestown and back. I even went out a small bit out into the mouth surrounding myself with the early morning mist on all sides which reminded me of the Myth of the Gaedhil looking for the shores of Ireland to exact revenge for their slain brother, Ith. In my minds eye, I could see the figure, Amergin, rise up amongst the warriors and sing his famed amhrán (song) which lifted the heavy blanket of fog that the druid’s of the Tuatha Dé shrouded the Island in.

Two Saturday’s later, I brought the seoíge out on the kayak at Garryvoe strand in East Cork which is 5 miles from where I grew up in Mogeely. The wind was fairly strong but it was very warm at the same time. We were cooking in our wetsuits driving down to the beach but once out in the water, it was worth wearing them. Popped her at the seat in the prow and slid into my seat and grabbed the double-sided oar. The water was very choppy and the small one was enjoying being bashed from the sides by the waves and generally being tossed from side to side unless I went perpendicular to them, and the swells have us go up and down smoothly.  At this point, it wasn’t too hard to see Aonbhar, an capal bán naofa  Manannan mac Lír(sacred white horse) rise out of the water and gallop gracefully from crest to crest until his charge has reached the shore. When sppeding to the shore on the boat, in my minds eye, the kayak became the chariot of electrum and the small one a water sprite calling instruction to the white steed of an Domhan Eile Naofa (Sacred Otherworld) for safe passage to land. As well as this inward scene, I could also picture an early expedition of the mythic early Gaedhil exiled from Scythia and searching for a new home:

They found a fair island there,

in the Libyan Sea of the warriors’ swords;

for a year and a season, with renown,

they dwelt on that day;

the radiance of the hands of Lámfhind

was like fair candles.

They had four leaders, it was not feeble,      

after crossing the Libyan Sea:

Elloth, Lámfhind swift across the deep,

Cing and his brother Caicher.

Caicher found a remedy for them   

against the mermaids beguiling;

this is the remedy which fair Caicher found:

pouring wax into their ears.

It is Caicher, an illustrious union,

who prophesied to them

at the Rhipaean mountains, with harmony:

‘There is no rest for us until [we reach] Ireland’.

‘Where is lofty Ireland?’

said Lámfhind the savage warrior.

‘Far away’, said Caicher:   

‘not we but our fair children will reach it.’

They set their course[?] venomously, in their company,

southward past the Rhipaean headlands;

the descendants of Gáedel, with purity,

conquered the Marshes.

An illustrious child was born there  

to Lámfhind son of Agnoman:

Éber Glúnfhind, the pure gryphon,

curly-haired grandfather of Febri.

The kindred of bright nimble Gáedel

were in that land for three hundred years;

they dwelt there from then

until the coming of victorious Bráth.

Occe and Ucce, without reproach,

were the two sons of Elloth son of Noenual;

Mantán son of Caicher, Bráth the good-

those were their four leaders.

Fourteen men, with their wives,

was the crew of each warrior-laden ship,

together with six splendid mercenaries;

they won three battles in Spain.

Imrame agus Imbas leis an rothar

Again this year, I took on a virtual charity cycle (Special Olympics Ireland) for the month of May. The challenge was to either cycle the length (600km) or the breadth (300km) of Ireland. I had to take on the 300km as I didn’t have time this month to even attempt the 600km. On one of these cycles, I set off on a Saturday morning at 5.30am and took the Blarney route. I got to the top of Clogheen Hill and it’s impossible to give justice on what I saw. The morning fog was carpeting the valley at sunrise. I hope the accompanying pictures that I took will strike you the same as it did me that morning. Even the thick mist rising from the small river in the wildlife sanctuary between Blarney village and Killeens was something to stop for. On all cycles, the white blossom veil of the Giving tree of the Sídhe hangs from branches in abundance. Again, these wonders of Nature can bring about a very profound experience.

Another cycle was from Youghal to Kelly’s Cross, going into West Waterford on the main road. It is all uphill and the sun was baking. I reached the cross and sat down for a small break. At the start of the return journey I spotted a single standing stone in the middle of a field to my right (later I checked it on the map above and is the solitary site to the upper right of Ardmore). Halfway way down before the Gaeltacht ends, I passed Cosán Deaglaín Naofa (St. Declans Way) which is a medieval pilgrimage trail from Ardmore, county Waterford to Cashel in Tipperary. Here is the link on its folklore, Home – St. Declan’s Way ( . Historically, Cashel was the seat of the of Munster and wasn’t handed over as a gift to the church until roughly the 10th Century when the roundtower and church was built. The church and round tower in Ardmore date to the 12th Century. Among the medieval sculptures of New and Old Testament biblical scenes, there are two 5th century Ogham stones located there as well.

Guím gach beannacht oraibh agus ar do chosán mar atá sibh á lorg imbas ar do imrama.

Le meas,

Seán Ó Tuama.

The Celtic Diet – Part 7 – Beltane

Continuing with our series on Celtic Diet, here’s a couple of recipes for Beltane.

Beltane Bannock

Beltane Bannock is an oatcake, made and eaten on Beltane morning to ensure the health of crops and your herds. An old folk magic ritual was performed where the bannock is separated into nine ‘knobs’, each one dedicated to something they felt preserved their livestock or a plea to local predators before being shared and eaten. A rhyme like this was recited: – “Here
to thee, wolf, spare my sheep; there to thee, fox, spare my lambs; here to thee, eagle, spare my goats; there to thee raven, spare my kids; here to thee, martin, spare my fowls, there to thee, harrier, spare my chickens.”


  • 1 1/2 cup oatmeal
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tbs. lard or butter
  • 1/2 cup hot water


  1. Combine oatmeal, salt and baking soda in a bowl.
  2. Melt the butter, and drizzle it over the oats.
  3. Add the water, and stir the mix until it forms a stiff dough.
  4. Turn the dough out on a sheet of wax paper and knead thoroughly.
  5. Separate the dough into two equal portions, and roll each one into a ball.
  6. Use a rolling pin to make a flat pancake that is about ¼” thick.
  7. Cook your oatcakes on a griddle over medium heat until they are golden brown.
  8. Cut each round into quarters to serve.

Beltane Caudle

Caudle is a warm, thick and sweet drink that was often prescribed to those who were sick, pregnant or to new mothers. This can be served with the bannock, which can be dipped into mix. The oldest surviving recipe is just a list of ingredients; wine, wheat starch, raisins, and sugar. Later recipes state ale or
wine is heated and thickened with egg yolks and/or ground almonds, then optionally spiced with sugar, honey, saffron, and/or ginger.


  • 1/2 pt (1 cup) milk
  • 1 tbsp oatmeal
  • 2 beaten eggs
  • 1 tsp sugar or honey
  • pinch of salt
  • nutmeg or mixed spice
  • whisky, ale or white wine


  1. Heat the milk in a pan with the oatmeal and a pinch of salt.
  2. Stir well and bring to the boil, then simmer until it starts to thicken.
  3. Stir in the eggs, sugar and spices (added according to taste), and keep simmering for at least five minutes – stir well to make sure the mixture doesn’t burn or stick to the pan.
  4. Remove from the pan and add in as much whisky, ale or white wine as you prefer.
  5. Serve immediately, either on its own or poured over bannocks or a dessert.

Ancient Celebrations – Part 12 – Beltane and May Day

Bel from whom Beltane receives its name is also known as Belenus and is one of the most widely worshipped Celtic deities. He is a sun god known as “The Shining God”. Like the Norse Sol he was thought to ride the sun across the sky in a horse drawn chariot. In the 3rd century, Bel was the patron deity of the Italian city of Aquileia. Some ancient images of Belenus show him to be accompanied by the Gaulish Goddess Belisama.

Of the four main Irish celebrations, Beltane and Samhain were the most important. In the story of the “Wooing of Cu Chulainn”, the ancient celebration of Beltane is described. The year is described as being in two divisions of summer from Beltane (the first of May in our modern calendar to Samhain and winter from Samhain to Beltane. At Beltane Druids used to make two fires and made magical incantations as they drove the cattle between them every year. This was to protect the cattle against plagues. The young ox and cows were entrusted to the God Bel, whose protective powers were believed to be in the flames, smoke and ashes of the fires.

The people of ancient Ireland would also walk between the bonfires, and sometimes leap over the flames or embers. People would take embers and re light their home from the Beltane
bonfires. They would feast and offer food and drink to the Aos Sí. Homes would also be decorated with yellow May flowers. People used morning Beltane dew on their faces to stay young and beautiful. When Christianity arrived, many of these customs and more became part of May Day. Beltane is also a celebration of love and this harks back to the ancient tale of Cúchulainn and Emer, or the divine pairing of Belenus and Belisama.

The May Pole

Primarily found within the nations of Germanic Europe and the neighbouring areas which they have influenced, the May Pole maypoles are believed by scholars to have been erected “simply” as “signs that the happy season of warmth and comfort had returned.” They are of ancient Germanic pagan origin and the true meaning has been lost in the midst of time. Their shape allowed for garlands to be hung from them and were first seen, at least in the British Isles, between AD 1350 and 1400 within the context of medieval Christian European Culture.

The May Queen

In the British Isles and parts of the Commonwealth, the May Queen or Queen of May is a personification the May Day holiday, and of springtime and the coming of summer (the transformation of maiden to sexual maturity). The May Queen is a girl who rides or walks at the front of a parade for May Day celebrations. She wears a white gown to symbolise purity and usually a tiara or crown. Her duty is to begin the May Day celebrations. She is generally crowned by flowers and makes a speech before the dancing begins.

A May Day festival is held on the village green at Aldborough, North Yorkshire on a site that dates back to Roman times and the settlement of Isurium Brigantum. A May queen is selected from a group of 13 upward girls by the young dancers. She returns the next year to crown the new May Queen and stays in the procession. The largest event in this tradition in modern Britain is the Beltane Fire Festival in Edinburgh, Scotland.

A May Day celebration held annually since 1870 in New Westminster, British Columbia, Canada, has the distinction of being the longest running May Day celebration of its kind in the British Commonwealth.

Morris Dancers

Morris dancing is common during Beltane and May Day celebrations. Morris dancing is a form of English folk dance usually accompanied by music. It is based on rhythmic stepping and the execution of choreographed figures by a group of dancers, usually wearing bell pads on their shins. Implements such as sticks, swords and handkerchiefs may also be wielded by the dancers. They clap their sticks, swords, or handkerchiefs together to match with the dance.

Illustration of William Kempe Morris dancing from London to Norwich in 1600

While the earliest (15th-century) references place the Morris dance in a courtly setting, it appears that the dance became part of performances for the lower classes by the later 16th century. In 1600, Shakespearean actor William Kempe Morris danced from London to Norwich, an event chronicled in his Nine Daies Wonder (1600).

As you can see there are many ways to celebrate Beltane and May Day. It is a time of the turning of the seasons. Beltane and Samhain are also both times when the veil between Annwn, Mag Mell and Tír na nÓg are at their thinnest.

At Samhain the veil between the worlds of the living & the dead is thin enough that we can connect & convene with our beloved dead.

At Beltane it’s the veil between the human world, and the world of the fae, aes sídhe & nature spirits that has grown thin. These spirits & faeries are thought to be especially active at this time of year. Offerings can be left at the ancient faerie forts, the wells and in other sacred places in an effort to appease these nature spirits to ensure a successful growing season.

Wherever you are, celebrate in whatever way you can. Honour your ancestors and ancestral spirits and keep old traditions alive.

Lasair naofa lá feile na Bealtaine agus Uisneach

The Sacred Flame of Bealtaine and Uisneach

When the sun begins to rise on this morning a flame will be lit signaling the beginning of Summer and blessing the fertility of the upcoming harvestide……

The Bealtaine Festival was often the first chance for neighbouring tuatha to greet each other after the long winter months and great celebrations ensued. Goods were exchanged and gifts offered to the various Gods and Goddesses.

Feasting, dancing, music, tournaments and trade were all avidly partaken in as the festival proceeded. It was also customary to drive cattle around the fire with the belief that the smoke from the sacred fire would protect them from harm.

The Bealtaine Festival was revived on the Hill of Uisneach in 2009 and todays’ festival remains much as it was in ancient times, a chance to meet old friends and make new ones. A family-friendly event that welcomes all the different tuatha to celebrate the beginning of summer at the sacred centre of Ireland. In 2017, the ceremonial fire was lit by the Uachtarán (President) of Ireland, Michael D Higgins; making him the first Irish Head of State to do so since the last Ard Rí or High King, nearly a thousand years ago. Introduction to President Michael D Higgins on Hill of Uisneach – by Ruairí McKiernan – YouTube .

The origins of Uisneach lie far beyond recorded history with surviving monuments and relics dating from the Neolithic (3700-2500 BC) and Bronze Ages (2500-500 BC) which confirm its ceremonial status in pre-historic times. There is no definitive translation of the word Uisneach as it likely predates the Irish Gaelic language. It is translated as “place of the hearth” or “angular place”, indicating a ceremonial sanctuary.

In early written sources, the area in which Uisneach is located, is recorded as ‘Mide’, meaning ‘middle’. Originally a name for the hill itself (i.e. Uisneach Midi, the ‘hearth’ at the centre), over time the territory expanded to become the medieval Kingdom of Mide which gives its name to the modern counties of Meath & Westmeath.

The first known map of Ireland, created by the Greek cartographer Claudius Ptolemy in 140 A.D. is thought to have shown Uisneach (which Ptolemy called ‘Reba’) at its centre. It is just above Annica in small writing in the picture below.

Since pre-Christian times the hill has been regarded as the ceremonial & sacred centre of Ireland; the meeting point of the ancient provinces, where laws were struck and divisions agreed. In later years, when Tara became the political seat of the Ard Rí of Ireland, Uisneach retained its position as the country’s spiritual centre.

It was customary for the Ard Rí to ritually ‘marry’ the sovereignty Goddess (representing the land) at an inauguration ceremony known as the ‘Banais Righe’ (wedding feast of kingship). This ceremony may have been part of the ‘Ard Fhéis Uisneach’, a great assembly and fair held at the beginning of Bealtaine when the great fire was lit on the hill to mark the onset of summer.

In the first millennium AD, Uisneach became the chief residence and assembly site of the Clann Cholmain kings, who ruled over the Kingdom of Mide with some even becoming Ard Rí  of Ireland. The last of these was Máel Sechnaill Mór, who became Ard Rí in 980. His reign lasted until 999, when Brian Boru came to Uisneach to claim sovereignty over Mide and ultimately the Ard Rí of Ireland. However, after Brian’s death at the Battle of Clontarf in 1014, Máel Sechnaill was re-instated as Ard Rí and reigned until his own death in 1022.

As well as royalty, Uisneach was the residence of important families of poets. Taigh Mór O Coffey, described as being ‘Chief Poet of Ireland and Scotland’ was born at Uisneach in the mid-sixteenth century. In the 19th and early 20th Centuries, Uisneach was the site of great political rallies, with Daniel O’Connell, Padraig Pearse and Eamonn De Valera addressing huge crowds from atop the Ail na Mireann (the famous landmark stone). The famous Irish writer James Joyce was a regular visitor, enthralled by Uisneach’s many stories. He later mentioned the hill in his novel ‘Finnegans Wake’, referring to Ail na Mireann as ‘the mearing stone’.

I won’t be able to attend the festival in Uisneach myself this coming weekend as I have family commitments but will be travelling to ‘Na Séisear’ at Beenalaght in North County Cork (you may have seen the video) and will be conducting a personal decompression at the oncoming sunrise. Hopefully, the weather will be better than it was at Castlenalacht last Winter Solstice. Andrew (Filtiarn) and I have discussed the unnecessary need to build our own fire pits for ritual purposes. It would be poor judgement with the current climate. I will be on private land and I don’t think the farmer would welcome the idea of me burning a piece of his property. Filtiarn will be conducting a group ceremonial decompression at Brockholes Stone Circle in England which is a Nature reserve, and I don’t think fires are welcome there either. I will be symbolically lighting a candle just before the sunrise.

Bíodh spraoi agaibh ar an lá naofa seo agus beannachtaí Bealtaine oraibh féin agus ar do chlainne.

Le meas,

Seán Ó Tuama.

Anseo déanaimid cuardach agus seasamh os comhair clocha móra ár sinsear.

Here we seek and stand before the giant ancestral stones.

Beenalaght North Cork

As gaeilge:

Na Dhia agaibh go léir,

Níl a fhios agam cén fáth ach inné bhí sé i mo cheann ag rothaíocht suas go dtí seanchlocha ár sinsir i gCorcaigh Thuaidh. Chuaigh mé ar rothar ó mo theach sa Chathair Thuaidh ag dul thar chaisleán na Blarnan, thaistil mé taobh istigh de ghleann agus suas sliabh beag. Tá an gleann go hálainn le haillte aolchloiche ar an dá thaobh agus abhainn bheag ag déanamh a bealach ar ais go baile na Blarnan. Bhí neart coiníní le feiceáil ach chonaic mé iora rua ag rith suas crann go han-tapa. Thóg sé 1 uair agus 20 nóiméad orm an tuas “Na Séisear” a fháil. Bhí an turas 25 ciliméadar ar fad agus bhí an ghaoth ag dul i neart mar a chuala sibh go léir sa chraoladh ag an suíomh.

As bearla:

Hi everyone,

I don’t know what put it into my head but I decided to get out on the bike and travel up to the standing stones up in North Cork. I left my home from north of the city, passed Blarney castle, travelled through a valley and up a small mountain. It’s a beautiful valley with outcrops of limestone either side and a small river making its way back through Blarney village. There were loads of rabbits around and I got to see a red squirrel dart up a tree. It took me about an hour and 20 minutes to get to the field of ‘the Sixers’. The journey was 25km and there was a wind getting stronger which interfered with a live broadcast.

Na Séisear or the Sixer’s

          When I arrived at the field, I went to the farmhouse and asked permission to go up to the bronze age site. We had a good conversation about the area but unfortunately, he had no local folklore stories associated with the ‘Sixers’ even though he is a fourth-generation farmer on this land. He also gave me permission to return on the morning of Bealtaine at sunrise in a few weekends time. The site itself is impressive but I failed to locate the adjacent stone which was probably either gone missing over time or was hidden in the little woods behind the stones themselves. This particular site, much like the one in Castlenalacht south of the county was, as archaeologists have worked out, used for measuring the length of the day to ascertain what time of the year it was for bronze age farmers.

I am 5ft 7 and I am approximately 2/3s the height of the 1st monolith

I am pretty lucky where I live. 25km North is ‘Na Séisear’ in the Beannsalaght townland between New Tipperary and Bweeng villages. 25km South are the Casltenalacht standing stones where I conducted a live personal decompression at the previous Winter Solstice morning, 5km West is the site of an unexcavated ringfort in Ballincollig village, 25km North-West is the triangular locations of Knocknacoille stone circle (conducted numerous personal decompressions), the Tobar Eoighan Naofa (Well of the 3 Goddesses, conducted live last Spring Equinox) and a wedge tomb, and finally, there is a portal dolmen tomb in Rostellan 25km East.

Rostellan Portal Dolmen Tomb

          Now this particular portal dolmen tomb is one of a kind in Ireland and is also a large one as well. Portal dolmen tombs are megalithic monuments which take their name from the two large upright stones which form an entrance or ‘portal’ to the chamber of the tomb. The monuments are generally of a simple rectangular plan with a chamber formed by upright stones and the two portals. The chamber is covered by a capstone which in some cases can be massive. It is believed that portal tombs were once an integral part of a large cairn or mound. These monuments are thought to date to the Neolithic period, and from the available evidence it would appear that they served as communal graves. “Nearly submerged by the tidal waters of Cork Harbor’s Saleen Creek, the Rostellan Dolmen (portal tomb) is the only example of such a Leaba Dhiarmada agus Gráinne (Diarmuid and Gráinne’s Bed) in Ireland to wear a garland of seaweed. It is also unique in that it opens to the east, rather than facing the setting sun, as does the normal, land-locked portal tomb. There is no trail leading to it, nor is it mentioned in most modern guidebooks. The Shell Guide of 1967 calls it Carraig a’ Mhaistin, which may mean “Bully Rock.” While it now sits in the sea ten meters (33 ft) below the high-tide mark, when it was built in the Early Neolithic the oceans were lower and it likely sat on beachfront, rather than aquatic, property. A kilometer to the west along the rocky shoreline are the crumbling ruins of “Siddons’ Tower,” built in 1727.” ( I was showing this to a very good friend of mine who lives in Whitegate which is 1km away and we are going to try to get out to it when the occasion arises. I must also mention that ‘Diarmuid and Grainne’ is one of the best Irish mythological romances which can be found in the Óisinic Cycle based on Fionn mac Cúmhail. I found an old picture of the dolmen online which gives a rough idea of it’s dimensions.

the ‘Bed of Diarmuid and Grainne’

Le meas,

Seán Ó Tuama.

Early Irish Dynastic Poetry

The poems deal mostly with the legendary rulers of the Laigin ( modern day Leinster and South-East Ireland) in the pre-Christian period and their ancestors. They are linguistically archaic, and the majority of the verses may date back as far as the 7th Century. Several modern authorities have labelled these as artistically poor poems but nonetheless, they highlight certain heroic values that are seen in their later more ambitious literary cousins.

The early poets or filí were attached to particular ruling houses and as part of their work, they had to praise the generosity and martial valour of the ruler as well as praising the illustrious lineage of the patron, back to the legendary founder of the dynasty. That is what these lists are doing. A genealogy was an instrument of political propaganda for the Celts, as in many other cultures in which inheritance is a factor in determining leadership. A legitimate dynasty had to have reputable ancestors. Rival families had to be undermined as unrightful by having their ancestral lineage portrayed as ‘anflaithi’ or unkings. Before the advent of the written word, poetic genealogies were more than likely more easily remembered by the learned retainers of the ruling class than the use of unembellished written lists. Poetry was also considered to be a more valid form of oral testimony in a dispute, because it was harder to make up on the spot or modify for one’s own purposes.

In the Middle Irish Period ( circa 900-1200), poems of this sort formed parts of the basis for the greater literary works of Irish legendary pseudohistories that followed.

Here are two examples of this style of early Irish Dynastic poetry based on two persons of note:-


Mál Ad-Rúalaid íathu marb,                  A prince who has reached the realm of the dead,

Macc sóer Sétnai,                                      the noble son of Sétnae,

Selaig srathu Fomoire                              laid waste the vales of the Fomoire

Fo doíne domnaib.                                    Under the worlds of men.

Dí óchtur Alinne                                        From the heights of Ailenn

Ort tríunu talman,                                     the powerful tribune great in

Trebun trén túathmar,                             dominions Mess-Telmann of the Domnonian tribe

Mess-Telmann Domnon.                         Slew the mighty of the earth.

Ailenn (aka Dún Ailenn,) was an important hillfort of pre-Christian Leinster (aka Laigin). It was its political centre located in the county of Kildare. The Domnonian tribe seems to be an early Latinisation of Fir Domnann. It is worth remembering that Fomoire was used as a negative description of a rival Tuatha or family for the leadership seat and it has been noted by Irish archaeologists that it may also be a localised name (non-Latin name) for a different Celtic tribe as is Domnonian/Domnon.

Bressual Beolíach

An grén gríssach,                                       A brilliant burning sun,

Goires bréo, Bressual-                              that heats the flame, Bressual-

Bress Elce, aue Luirc,                                fair one of Elg, descendant of Lorcc,

Lathras bith-Beolíach.                              who lays waste the world-Beolíach.

This is an interesting one. Elce is an early Latin name (Elg maybe a localised Laigin variant) of Ireland. Both poems are directly translated from Old Irish by John T Koch and found in the page 50 of his book ’The Celtic Heroic Age’.

The one that follows is a longer one and is translated from the German notes of K Meyer on his findings from early Irish manuscripts in his work ‘Uber die alteste irische Dichtung’ published in 1914 and translated by J Carey. It brings a history of the ArdRí of Tara and it seems that the poet of the house of Tara was learned of the names of the different rulers and how they got the seat from their victory in battle.

Nidu dír dermait

It ill beseems to me

To forget the affairs of every famous king,

The careers of the kings of Tara,

Mustered tribes on warpath.

A noble battle hero,

Fair and tall was Moen, Labraid Longsech;

A cruel lion, a lover of praise,

A mighty lover of battle.

A fair warrior was Ailill in battles

Against the frontiers of Crothomun;

Abratchaín shook the ranks

Of the field of Ethomun.

Dreaded master of Ireland

Was glorious Oengus Amlongaid.

He dwelt upon the slopes of Tara:

With his own will alone he conquered it.

Circular Ailenn,


Citadels magnificent amongst strongholds,

Fortresses which an illustrious, powerful, spear-wielding royal host would smash.

Bresal Bregom ruled the boastful world;

Fergus was blood-red;

Fedelmid was a seemly ruler,

Who reddened pure Ireland.

The prince Feradach Find Fechtnach

Owned it;

Ruddy righteous Crimthann Cosrach

Sheltered it.

Mug Airt illuminated it;

Art, the champion laid claim to it,

Alldóit ordered it,

Núadu Fuildiu was a princely champion.

Feradach Foglas was an illustrious man;

Ailill Glas cleansed it;

The violent one seized it,

Fíachra Fobrecc overpowered it.

Bresal Becc smote it,

A king great in blows and treasures;

A lion seized it,

Lugaid Lúathfhind, a manly princely king.

Like wolves the army of Sétnae Sithbacc ravaged it;

He cast it down;

Núadu Necht freed it;

Fergus put it in bonds.

Fairrge, Rus Rúad:

The thrust of his will impelled him.

On the battlefield

His great sons divided (it) with battle-fury.

Find Fili, harsh Ailill,

Fair Cairpre;

The mighty king

Brought a path of destruction (even) to kings.

The over-king of Macha,

The mighty chariot-warrior,

Overcame the territories of mighty fortresses,

Destroyed boundary ditches.

Mug Corb, Cú Chorb,

Nía Corb the battle-king,

Seemly Cormac;

The ex-king Fedelmid ruled the land.

For fifty years Cathaír dwelt there,

An enduring reign,

Fíachu Aiccid, the truly brave,

Was a vehement prince famed for agility.

Bresal Bélach overcame (his adversaries),

A hulking bear, a conquering champion;

He broke the hosts of Conn [ Cétchathach]’s descendants,

A triumphant hero, a stern fighter.

The strong king contended for the inheritance,

He triumphs, he impoverished them(?);

He smote the sons of Lifechar of Liffey,

He drove them to their ship.

Muiredach Mo-Sníthech, of noble race,

Pursued the great ones:

A famous distinguishing sign,

The heir of fair lineages.

The youthful king Moenach, a strong offspring,

Conquered the walls of the great plain;

Son of Cairthenn, lover of warfare,

Was a nobly born lover of praise.

And Buidb was a severe hero, a victorious king,

Son of Erc Búadach,

An aristocratic bellower of firm agreements,

A stern king ordering armed encounters.

Blood-red heroes prevailing in combat,

Dominant men beyond the border army,

They cast a challenge from the slopes of Tara,

(warriors) honourable and brilliant in battle.

This next poem looks like it was written late in the Middle Irish period because of the inclusion of Christendom fables. One name to note is Góedel Glas who is also the famed ancestor of the Gaedhil or early Irish. In the later Medieval manuscripts, he was a leader in Egypt who migrated his people to Spain. Again, this version is translated by J Carey from K Meyer’s ‘Uber die altese irisch Dichtung’. It is possible that Núada’s Tuatha was Christianised, and the house poet duties were being slowly replaced by a monastic (I already discussed how the filí changed their roles in order to keep their high class status in medieval Irish society in the ‘Pseudohistory’ series) or this could have been transcribed to the monastic from the poet his/herself and the Christian elements added later. It mentions the Gáileóin which was an alternative name for the Laigin.

Núada Necht

Núada Necht did not endure an un-king:

The overlord Etarscéle,

of the race of Iár,

Was slain.

A brave king of fiana

Against a ruddy prosperous king:

Blood-red were the taxes

Of the swift grandson of Lugaid.

Swift in ships,

He traversed the sea as a warrior of the west:

A red wind,

Which dyed sword-blades with a bloody cloud.

Fergus Fairrge, Núadu Necht strong and brave:

A great champion

Who did not love punishment from a rightful lord.

As a wave does not

(merely) visit the land,

Thunder from across the sea,

An advance against a cliff.

When Art’s grandson struck down

Feeble resistance,

He was not timid behind another’s back

Ordering the battle.

Firm (?) contenderagainst an army

Was Sétnae Sithbacc,

Enduring field of ruin,

Mighty horror, reaping-hook of death.

Brecc’s grandson has earned victory-song;

Bresal’s grandson

Was mighty

According to the harsh tale of battle.

Lugaid rushed to their aid,

Against a lean warrior;

A protracted battle,

The overswearing of Sedrach.

Sturfdy against the onslaught of champions,

Against the fury of champions;

Swift he rushed,

The roar of the vast sea.

Deedful was battle-mighty Bresal,

Fiachra the princely champion;

Ailill the old champion

Was a deedful lord.

Foglas was violent,

Who equipped a hundred forts:

A king of battles,

Who ruled realms with vipers venom.

Núadu, son of Fuildiu

Conquered fiana,

He flattened them;

With red blades he made the brave kings of the world his subjects.

With great masses of troops,

He harried the land of Ethomum:

Troops, horror of destruction,

Upon the territories of Crothomum.

The destroyer shook worlds

with his armies,

Art and fierce Mug Airt,

Who brought ruin.

With great showers of blood

He cleansed the swarthy world;

The heaven-hued cloud

Flowed (?) with ruddy men.

Fair Crimthann Cosrach

Was not a holy inheritor;

Feradach Find Fechtnach

Was no milder.

He left the world orphaned,

The sturdy support of the host of Carmun;

Fedel Fortrén, the savage chariot-warrior,

Smote a picked battalion.

He ploughed three hundred battlefields,

Nimble in the heat of conflict,

When Fergus Fortamail

Loosed his fury upon the Britons.

Bresal Bregom, a contentious youth,

Who loved no feeble strength;

Fair-browed Ailill was a battle hero,

Fierce and renowned was Oengus.

He razed eight towers in the land of Iath,

He destroyed the fields of Idrig,

He ravaged eight camps of the men of Skye,

He smote the armies of Siblig.

Swift on the sea, good at rowing,

A mighty blood-red dispenser (of booty);

He fought three times fifty battles in Morc

Labraid, son of Lorc’s son.

Every Monday he waged

A bloody battle against Fergus;

Every Wednesday he razed a wood;

Every Saturday he lay waste a bog.

He harried the great sturdy sea-realms

Of the the Fir Fagrig,

Phantoms burnt their ships,

Labraid grandson of Lorc.

He ventured against the many Orkneys,

He the Sábeóin;

For thousands of months he occupied Irrus,

He divided the Gáileóin.

He cleansed the possessions of sixty kings,

A manly distributer of gracious favours;

He divided the south of Ireland,

Labraid grandson of Lorc.

With broad spears,

With troops,

He smashed the territories of Carmun;

In dire battles the ravager smote men.

He fettered Gaulish hostages

As far as the five peaks of the Alps;

Scores of fierce lords, of armoured legions,

Go into hiding.

The race of the Gáileóin stormed Tara,

A mighty march:

Fál wails at the conquest

Of the troop of Fáireóin.

So long as he reigned,

Áth Cliath asked for no aid;

Labraid grandson of Lorc

Was like a golden door.

The high-hearted Loingsech,

A great rich diadem,

Around which the princes of the stormy land of Iath

Arrayed their troops.

An occasion of fear arose

(when) he bound a violent race:

The reincarnation of his grandfather Lorc

Defied the armies of Suibig.

A noble company were

Feradach, Fedelmid,

Fergus Fortamail, Bresal Bregom,

The lordy Oengus Ollam.

Fair-browed Ailill

Of lofty irresistible courage,

Ugaine, Eochu the noble,


Lorc, Labraid.

Dui Ladcrai, a red goad,

Fiachra Tolcrai;

A tumult

Was the wild Muiredach Bolcrai.

Victorious was Senén,

Ethén was a bright harsh king;

Young and radiant was Núadu,

The fierce high king.

Ailill Oalchloen of battles,

Sírna, Dian, a brave king;

Demál who was violent,

Rothait,Ogamuin, a king of the plains.

Great was Oengus son of Fiachu,

Smirgnath, Smrith,

Enboth, Tigernmas-

A lordly judgement.

Etherél was eloquent,

Illustrious in dispute;

Éremón was great,

Míl sturdy and familiar with the sea.

Bile was rich in treasures,

With a bear’s strength, noble and fair as heaven;

Bregon was a sky of strength,

Bráth was illustrious and handsome.

Deáith was powerful,

Bold Eirgid was a radiant one;

Alldóit was a champion,

Núadu a noble one.

Noenal, Faebur,

Góedel Glas uniquely fair;

Glúnfind was a radiant one,

Lámhfind, Etheoir was fairer.

Agnomain, Toi,

Banb, a victorious one;

Noble Seim was a champion,

Mair was a stately one.

Great was Ethecht,

Aboth, Aos, Ara,

Sara, Seth, the peaceful and deft.

Lordly was Zru, Esru,

Ethrocht, Baath was kingly (?);

Ibath was a cliff of glass,

Gomer was sun-like.

Though Japhet was fair,

A famous lordy battle-warrior;

More illustrious than the men of the world

Was the saintly Noah.

It was not a petty fellowship

Of kindred brothers,

(but) a mighty splendid company

Of fathers and mothers.

Sons of the lofty god,

Angels of white-cloud heaven,

Noah, Lamech,

Bright white Methuselah.

Enoch, Jared,

Malaleel of worthy race,

Cainan, Enos,

nobly born (?) Seth.

Nobler was Adam,

Father of mortally descended men;

A man shaped by god,

A noble unique offspring.

Only offspring of the god

Of the mighty peopled earth,

A hero who inhabited

The dwelling of the strife-filled world.

Triple god,

Lofty single three,

Wonderous sole king of heaven,Infant, holy champion.

As always, thank you for your time in reading this quite lengthy piece (Andrew will have a fair few words ready for me, no doubt).

Is mise le a meas,

Seán Ó Tuama.

The Pagan Federation

The Pagan Federation is an umbrella International organisation that benefit all pagans. Find out more about them on the above link.

We DO NOT charge for anyone to be a member of the Order of Celtic Wolves. This is because we believe that our path is tailored around individuals and should be open to everyone. We do occasionally make reading recommendations and organise rituals.

Rituals rarely come without cost, so how they are run is up to individual Nemetons or Groves. We encourage Groves to align themselves with the Order of Celtic Wolves and will advertise them. Just drop contact us with details of your Nemeton, Grove, or group. We encourage Groves to be open and public, wherever it is safe to do so.

We encourage ALL Pagan members (we welcome people from all faiths), though, to become members of the Pagan Federation and, if you want their magazine, take the digital option (let’s save the trees!). Here’s a bit about the Pagan Federation from their website: –

Founded in 1971 the PF seeks to support all Pagans to ensure they have the same rights as the followers of other beliefs and religions. It aims to promote a positive profile for Pagans and Paganism and to provide information on Pagan beliefs to the media, official bodies and the greater community.

The Pagan Federation regards membership of any organisations that refuse to support freedom of religion and equality of race, gender, and sexual orientation, as incompatible with our aims, objectives and values.

Membership is open to those aged 16 and over who identify as Pagan, and we welcome genuine seekers who accept and support our aims and objectives below:

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Ancient Celebrations – Part 11 – Spring Equinox, Ostara and Easter

Equinox blessings throughout the Earth. May there be Peace and Harmony on this day of balance.

This year, the precise moment of the Equinox is at 9:24 PM GMT (Greenwich Mean Time-UK) on 20 March 2023, throughout the Earth (for many Eastern countries it will be 21 March if you are 4+ hours ahead of GMT). This is the exact time the Sun hits the equator directly. In the tropical (or seasonal) zodiac this point is 0 degrees Aries and marks the start of the Western zodiac. The tropical zodiac is split into 12 lots of 30 degrees with the four cardinal signs being represented at the Equinoxes and Solstices.

In the Northern hemisphere it is a time of planting and fertility.
In the Southern hemisphere it marks the time of harvesting.

Day and night are balanced throughout the Earth at this time. With the turbulent events of recent times, let’s hope we see peace and balance restored soon.

Christians and pagans have declared Ostara or Easter as pagan festivals. However, let’s look at the history of Spring rites.

Linguistically, Ostara is an Old High German cognate of Eostre, the ancient spring goddess, worshipped by the Anglo-Saxons, but there is no evidence of a festival to honour Ostara.

Eostre has only one mention by Bede in his ‘Reckoning of Time’, which gave rise to the Anglo-Saxon month Eosturmonath, so there is more foundation to honour Eostre than Ostara.

“Eosturmonath has a name which is now translated ‘Paschal month’, and which was once called after a goddess of theirs named Eostre, in whose honour feasts were celebrated in that month. Now they designate that Paschal season by her name, calling the joys of the new rite by the time-honoured name of the old observance” (Venerable Bede).

It was later replaced by the Christian festival of Easter. It is interesting to note that in other countries Easter is known in its different translations of Paschal (eg Paques in French) so this might give an indication that Eostre was so deeply rooted in the culture of the English peoples of the time that they simply carried the name over.

With regards to Ostara as the Spring Equinox and Mabon as the Autumn Equinox, these were invented by American occult writer, Aidan Kelly, in the 1970s, who also invented a few other things that seemed to have been accepted as traditional within some pagan communities. These inventions seemed to take root in the 1990s in many US neo-pagan and ‘Wiccan’ books and imported to the UK and elsewhere, and as they were presented as fact, many pagans accepted them as true or traditional names.

Here, then, are some facts to help you make an informed decision about celebrating the Equinox or Ostara:

1) The festival of Pascha was celebrated for centuries before the conversion of the Anglo-Saxons who named it ‘Easter’ in their own relatively small part of the world. (It’s still called Pascha, or a variant thereof, outside those areas.) So no, it wasn’t ‘originally pagan’ or about a Goddess of sex and fertility.

2) Bede, our only source for the Goddess Eostre, states that the festival of Easter was named after the ‘old observance’ of Eostre’s feasts during the month of Eosturmonath. He does not say that anything survived of these feasts except that name. Some scholars have suggested that Bede made her up, and academia is still divided on this point, although it remains unclear what his motive for doing so might have been.

3) Eostre’s symbol wasn’t a hare. That was an unsupported guess made by the folklorist Adolf Holzmann in 1874. Holzmann was baffled by the Easter Hare tradition, finding it ‘unintelligible’, and guessed that ‘the hare was probably the sacred animal of Ostara’. Later writers misrepresented his guess as a statement of fact.

4) Eggs were not symbols of Eostre either. There are no known symbols of Eostre in the single surviving text.

5) Hot cross buns weren’t eaten by the pagan Saxons. That extraordinary claim comes from the long-outdated 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.

6) Eostre is not the root of the word ‘oestrogen’, which comes from Latin ‘oestrus’ meaning ‘frenzy’, used in sexual context since 380 BC. Oestrogen was only discovered in the 1920s, the human ovum in 1827.

7) Jehovah’s Witness literature equates Eostre with Ishtar or Astarte. That comes from Christian fundamentalist beliefs that all pagan gods are the same group of demons. Ishtar was ancient Babylonian, Eostre (if she existed) Anglo-Saxon; thousands of miles and many hundreds of years apart.

8) Ostara is not an old name for the Spring Equinox. Only modern pagans use it in that way. The Spring Equinox was first called ‘Ostara’ in the 1970s.

9) Hares and rabbits were introduced to Britain by the Romans and are not indigenous, so it is impossible for rabbits to have been sacred to any indigenous Goddess.

People who debunk pagan myths about Easter aren’t all Christians. In fact, many fundamentalist Christians don’t like Easter; they think it’s unbiblical and unchristian to celebrate it. It suits them down to use claims that Easter was originally Pagan. The number of ill-informed pagans, sadly, is also growing.

The advice of the Order of Celtic Wolves is always to check the facts before you share them.

Equinox blessings to you 🙏 and Easter also doesn’t fall until after the next full moon, so Easter this year is in April. The dates tie in with the Jewish passover.

Ar na mhuintir agus ar thír na hÚcráine, bíodh beannacht na síochána an domhan

Once Cú Chulainn was beside the river Boyne in his chariot, and Lóeg mac Riangabra along with him, and the feat (cles) of nine champions was above him; he was killing the salmon in Linn Féic. They saw a little man in purple clothes, (sitting) in a bronze skiff, travelling (?) on the Boyne without rowing at all.

Cú Chulainn set him and his boat on the palm of his hand. “Here you are,” Cú Chulainn said. “So it seems,” he said. “I will give you my cloak and my tunic as reward for my safety. They have a special property: they fit anyone, whether small or big. No one is drowned or burnt so long he wears them. No deterioration will come upon them nor upon him who wears them, and every colour which anyone likes is upon them.”  “I have them already,” Cú Chulainn said. “Take my shield and my spear, and no battle or combat will be gained against you; and you will never be wounded as long as the shield protects you.” “I have them all,” Cú Chulainn said, “in the hollow of my fist.” “You are hard on me,” said Senbecc grandson of Ebrecc, from the Síde.

“What is that thing there,” asked Cú Chulainn. “A little timpán (stringed musical instrument),” said Sebecc; “shall I play it for you?” “I would like that,” Cú Chulainn said. He drew his finger across it so that Cú Chulainn was lamenting at the wailing-strain. Then he played the laughing-strain until Cú Chulainn was carried away with laughter. He played the sleeping-strain so that Cú Chulainn fell into a deep sleep and slumber from one hour to the next. Senbecc went home………………

(‘Revue Celtique’ Kuno Meyer and translated by John Carey)

Senbecc grandson of Erbrecc, from the Síde, came from the plain of Segais seeking imbas, and Cú Chulainn encountered him upon the river Boyne. Cú Chulainn captured him, and he explained that he had come looking for the fruit of the nuts of a fair-bearing hazel. There are nine fair-bearing hazels from whose nuts he got imbas: it used to drop into the wells, so that the stream bears the imbas into the Boyne. The Senbecc sang to him some of his lore, and a song:

I am not a lad, I am not a man,

I am not a child in learning.

The mysteries of God have made me gifted.

I am Abcán, a sage of learning, a poet from Segais.

Sembecc is my name, Erbrecc’s grandson from the Síde.

(These are the names of the nine hazels: Sall, Fall, Fuball, Finnam, Fonnam, Fofuigell, Crú, Crínam, Cruanbla.)

              The Senbecc offered great rewards to Cú Chulainn for letting him go free, and Cú Chulainn would not grant it. Then he stretched out his hand to his harp. He played him a wailing-strain, so that he was wailing and lamenting; he played him a laughing-strain so that he was laughing; and finally, he played him a sleeping-strain so that he cast him into slumber. Then Senbecc escaped down the Boyne in a bronze boat…………….

(‘Ériu’ EJ Gwynn)

              The Irish (one could say international as well) National holiday, Seachtain na Gaeilge (Irish speaking week) and Féileadh Sheelagh/ Spring Equinox is coming around the corner and I could be here sharing related anecdotes, experiences and such with you but more serious world events taking place currently take precedent.

              Both of these similar tales of Cú Chulainn and Senbecc come from The Ulster/Ulaid Cycle. The first and earliest rendition is from the ‘Book of Lecan’ whereas the last is from the later ‘Book of Armagh’. In these two Cú Chulainn is shown to have a flaw in the otherwise ‘Champion of Ulster’ where he is the aggressor attacking a seeming weaker opponent and taking what is not his as well as ignoring the pleas for release. (There is another later manuscript that has a tale without the mention of Senbecc but has the Síde as the attackers of Cú Chulainn while he seeks imbas along the Boyne). Although trapped, Senbecc uses his quick wit and skill to peacefully subdue the Ulsterman and carry on his travels along the Boyne. Quite similar to what is currently happening in Ukraine where it’s people are subject to the tyranny of a Russian madman. And the Ukrainians are no easy push-over either.

Although our country leaders cannot impose military action on Russia without sparking off World War 3 and remember Putin has an arsenal of both nuclear and chemical weaponry as his disposal (as well as arresting his own people for anti-war protests), the imposed economic sanctions are having the desired detrimental effect. Western Europe has opened its door and spare beds to welcome the mass displacement of women and children. Aid is sent in large convoys by volunteers who are more than willing to donate their time and efforts. People are standing with the people of Ukraine and protesting in the streets outside the Russian embassies worldwide. If you haven’t seen or heard, there has been funny occurrences outside the Russian embassy in Ireland. A catholic priest spray painted the outside walls and gate with the Ukrainian colours, a lone driver drove a van full of ecclesiastical supplies through the gates (he was arrested by unwilling gardaí, represented himself at court who just called him a ‘naughty, naughty boy’ and don’t do it again…..wink, wink….) and the gardaí parked their car outside the damaged embassy gates (look at the car markings lol).

              I am not appealing just to the Pagan community but to all communities. I know the knock-on effect of oil prices are driving up prices in all our communities and we are all moaning and groaning about it. Thoughts and prayers are nice but physical acts are more positive a force to aid our Ukrainian kin. Remember that we are empowered via our personal rituals to physically act in order to make a reality. Donate to charity drives if possible. Peacefully stand with the protesters outside Russian embassies if possible. Let’s all do our part within the legal framework. Let’s all try to see a peaceful resolve occur between Russia and Ukraine with no further atrocities being committed. Next Thursday I will be celebrating my country’s heritage and the approaching Equinox and I will be standing for Ukraine at both in solidarity as most of us will in such events but I will also be donating my time and effort whenever possible and so hopefully will you. Tyrants fall.

Is mise le a meas,

Seán Ó Tuama.