Ancient Celebrations – Part 10 – Lupercalia – a precursor to St. Valentine’s Day

Was Lupercalia a Precursor to St. Valentine’s Day?

Lupercalia was held every year, on the 15 February in ancient Rome. It took place in the Lupercal, where Romulus and Remus were said to have been nurtured by a she-wolf. The Lupercal contained an altar and a grove sacred to the god Lupercus. Since St. Valentine’s Day is celebrated on 14 February many believe that there is a link between this ancient celebratory ritual and the romance of the latter. What actually happened on Lupercalia and is there a link to Valentine’s Day?

The Luperci, who were priests dedicated to Lupercus, assembled on the day of the Lupercalia. They sacrificed animals, namely goats and young dogs, to Lupercus. Lupercus was a fertility God and these animals were specifically chosen because of their strong sexual instinct. Two male Luperci youths of noble birth were then led to the older Luperci. One of the priests then touched their foreheads with a sword dipped in the sacrificial blood. Another priest immediately wiped off the bloody spots with wool dipped in milk. The two youths were then expected to break out into a shout of laughter. This ceremony is believed to be a symbolical purification of the shepherds Romulus and Remus.

After the sacrifice was over, the Luperci partook of a meal, at which they were plentifully supplied with wine. They then cut the skins of the goats which they had sacrificed, into pieces. They covered parts of their body in imitation of the god Lupercus, who was represented half naked and half covered with goatskin. They cut other pieces of the skins into thongs, and ran through the streets of the city, touching or striking persons whom they met in their way, with the thongs.

Women especially came forward willingly, since they believed that this ceremony rendered them fruitful and eased the pains of childbearing. Running with goatskin thongs was considered a purification of the land and that of touching persons a purification of men and women. The goatskin itself was called februum and over time the festive day became “dies februata” and the month in which it occurred Februarius.

Apart from similar dates, links between Lupercalia and Valentine’s Day are tenuous. The two only get equated in the 20th century, partly due to fundamentalist Christians wanting to attack Roman Catholic celebrations and discredit them as pagan. A lover’s festival, however, doesn’t necessarily derive from the ancient fertility rites and flagellation by goats.

There is actually no shred of historical evidence for the connection. In fact, St. Valentine’s Day was established by Pope Gelasius I in 496 CE in honour of the Christian martyr, St. Valentine of Rome, who was executed on that date in 269 CE.

Saint Valentine was imprisoned for performing weddings to soldiers who were forbidden to marry and for ministering to Christians persecuted by the Roman Empire. According to legend, Valentine restored sight to the blind daughter of his judge and wrote her a letter signed “Your Valentine” as a farewell before his execution.

The Celtic Diet – Part 6 – Imbolg/ Imbolc

In our ongoing series of articles about ancient celebrations we recently discussed Imbolc. Imbolc festivities and celebrations (including food) vary between regions and countries, but these are some of the more common things eaten on Imbolc’s Eve and Imbolc: –

  • Butter – a traditional food to celebrate the lactation of the ewes. Cake, bread, butter, or porridge are placed in the window as an offering to Brigid’s White Cow. The next morning these blessed foods can be eaten by the family. Butter or oil left out on Imbolc Eve is used to make healing salves and ointments throughout the year.
  • Blackberries – blackberry pies, jams, jellies and wines are eaten in honour of Brigid.
  • Bannock Bride – a Scottish cake with hidden fruit and nuts. A large cake was made for the family and a small cake made for each member of the family. The family would eat the cakes in the field and throw a piece over each shoulder as an offering to spirits who might harm the fields and the flocks.
  • Crepe (French pancake) – in Brittany the crepe is a traditional festival dish (you could serve this with blackberries).
  • Colcannon- was also served. See recipe in our earlier article.

Blackberry Pie

Preparation time:40 minutes, Cooking time:40 minutes Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 4 cups fresh blackberries
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 recipe pastry for a 9 inch double crust pie (suggest sweet short pastry recipe below)
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • ¼ cup white sugar

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 220 degrees C (fan oven 200 degrees).
  2. Combine 3 1/2 cups berries with the sugar and flour. Spoon the mixture into an unbaked pie shell. Spread the remaining 1/2 cup berries on top of the sweetened berries, and cover with the top crust. Seal and crimp the edges, and cut vents in the top crust for steam to escape.
  3. Brush the top crust with milk, and sprinkle with 1/4 cup sugar.
  4. Bake in the preheated oven for 15 minutes. Reduce the temperature of the oven to 190 degrees C (170 fan oven), and bake for an additional 20 to 25 minutes, or until the filling is bubbly and the crust is golden brown. Cool on wire rack.
  5. Traditionally serve with cream, but really nice with a bit of vanilla ice cream or custard.

Sweet Short Pastry Recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, chilled
  • 4 tablespoons shortening, chilled
  • 5 tablespoons chilled water

Method

  1. Place flour in a bowl with the sugar and salt.
  2. Cut the butter and shortening into pieces, and cut into the flour until crumbly.
  3. Mix in vanilla.
  4. Add just enough water to form a ball: it should not be sticky.
  5. Knead quickly into a smooth ball.
  6. Wrap in plastic wrap, and chill for 1 hour.
  7. When ready to make pie, roll dough out and use as per recipe above.

Bannock Bride

Bannocks are well-known across Scotland, but it’s hard to find a traditional bannocks recipe because everyone has their own version. “Bannock” is thought to originate from the Old Celtic English “bannuc” meaning “bread” or “anything baked”. Made from oatmeal and flour, the earliest citing of a bannock or bannuc recipe in Scotland was in the 8th Century. On the eve of St Brìde’s day (more commonly known as St Brigid’s Day) it was customary for mothers to give out gifts of bannocks, cheese or butter to the girls who visited each house in the area with the brideog, the Brìde’s doll. Their gifts would then be taken to a house where the girls would make a feast of it all, with boys arriving shortly after and asking politely for admission. Once they been allowed in their would be feasting, merriment and dancing.

Preparation

  • A flat Griddle or cast iron Skillet is traditional. You can also use a frying pan or even bake in the oven
  • Large mixing bowl
  • Teaspoon
  • Wooden Spoon
  • Scales
  • This recipe makes 8 individual bannock

Ingredients

  • 330g Oatmeal (2 5/8 Cups) – also known as ground oats
  • 265g Plain flour (2 1/8 Cups
  • 2 tsp Baking soda
  • 1.5 tsp Salt
  • 1.5 Cups Buttermilk (375ml) – Not everyone has buttermilk available, but all you need to do is stir lemon juice into full-fat milk and then leave it to settle. For every 1 cup of milk (250ml) you need to add 2 tbsps of lemon juice. Mix well and leave it to settle for 30 minutes and it will thicken and curdle slightly

Method

Make sure your skillet or griddle is in good condition and nicely pre-greased to avoid your bannock sticking.

  1. Mix the oatmeal and flour together in your bowl and add salt.
  2. Turn the heat on low to start heating your griddle/skillet. A slow consistent heat is better than heating it on a high burn then turning it down, it allows for a nice even cook.
  3. Add your buttermilk mixture to your bowl with the flour, salt and oatmeal bringing it together with a spoon to form a dough. It can get sticky and wet, so don’t feel you have to use it all. If your mix does get too wet just keep adding a little flour at a time until you have a workable dough.
  4. Take your mix out of the bowl and place it on a floured surface. Split the dough into two. Manipulate the dough into a flat circle about one inch in thickness and the right diameter to suit your griddle, skillet or frying pan.
  5. Gently knead and adding a bit of flour at this stage to create a less sticky mix but be careful not to handle the mixture too much to avoid taking any air the baking soda has added from it.
  6. Indent your dough to provide 4 quarters then gently add the dough to your griddle/skillet making sure the heat is focused in the centre of the pan.
  7. You only turn your bannock once, leaving it longer on the first side to do the majority of cooking then turning it over to lightly brown the top. Don’t be afraid to give it a shake while cooking to ensure it does not stick to the bottom, but allow it to cook a little first.
  8. Your bannock should rise a little from 3/4 of an inch to 1.5-2 inches once fully cooked. If your bannock is too thick cook for a bit longer on the second side to ensure the middle is cooked. This will depend on your griddle/skillet size.
Indent bannock prior to cooking

Ancient Celebrations – Part 9 – Imbolc/ Imbolg

Brigid, along with The Dagda was the first born of the Children of Danu and as such is a fitting symbol of Imbolc/ Imbolg, which possibly comes from the Old Irish i mbolc meaning “in the belly”, and refers to the pregnancy of ewes. Imbolc is celebrated traditionally from sunset on 31 January to 1 February, since the day started at sunset.

The alignment of some ancient monuments, such as the Mound of the Hostages on the Hill of Tara, indicate that Imbolc has been celebrated in Ireland for possibly 12,000 years. The inner chamber is aligned with the rising sun of both Imbolc and Samhain.

In Gaelic Ireland, Imbolc was the feis or festival marking the beginning of spring, during which great feasts were held. Celebrations involved lighting a hearth fire at home, candles or a bonfire. This lighting of candles and fires represented the return of warmth as the sun slowly increased in strength.

Sacred wells were visited at Imbolc, and participants would pray for health while walking sunwise around the well, representing the womb of Danu, who is connected with sacred water. Sacrificial offerings, such as coins were placed in the well and clooties (small pieces of cloth from old clothing) are dipped in the water. They are then tied to a branch of a sacred tree in honour of Bile, the great oak. Water from the well was drawn from the well and participants would later use this to sprinkle and bless the home, family members, livestock and fields.

In recent times, Imbolc is celebrated by Irish Christians as Saint Brigid’s Day, but the festival is based on Brigid in her role as a fertility goddess. On Imbolc Eve, Brigid visits deserving households and blesses them.

Brigid represents the transition from the dark season of winter into spring and her presence was very welcome at this time of year. Families would have a special meal on Imbolc Eve, including included food such as colcannon (mashed potatoes with kale or cabbage), dumplings and barmbrack (round bread). Some of the food and drink would be set aside for Brigid.

Brigid was invited into the home and a bed be made for her. A family member, representing Brigid, would circle the home three times carrying rushes and knock on the door requesting to be let in. On the third knock they are welcomed in, the meal is had, and the rushes are then strewn on the floor as a bed for Brigid. A white wand, usually made of birch, would be set by the bed, representing the wand Brigid uses to make the vegetation grow again.

The following morning a Brídeóg (a doll like representation of Brigid made from reeds and clad in bits of cloth, shells and flowers) would be paraded around the community by young women.

For a personal perspective of Imbolc/ Imbolg see Sean Twomey’s article Imbolg: An Lá Nua agus Tús Nua

Brideog, National Museum of Ireland, Kildare Street, Dublin

Imbolg: An Lá Nua agus Tús Nua

Imbolc: A new day and a new start

The time of year for rebirth, renewal and healing is just around the corner once again, the time of ‘I mbolg’/ ’in the belly’ or Imbolg/Imbolc. It is time for the one who was born under the halo of fire and nurtured by the Bó Bán Naofa that resides between both worlds to walk again. Sacred Brighid, She of the forge, inspiration and healing. The Triple Aspect Goddess, the daughter of an Dagda and Boanne, the 5th Century nun, the Irish patron saint or which archetype your creed associates with Her, works through and within us.

Andrew has already written a brief history about this day in Ancient Celebrations – Part 8 – Lá Fhéile Bríde/ St. Brigid’s Day – Home | Order of Celtic Wolves and  I will add this link to it also which gives a history of Lá Bríghid from medieval era up to more recent times and of the Lasair Naofa or sacred flame of Kildare. Lighting the Perpetual Flame of Brigid – A brief history of the flame (kildare.ie)

To date in the Republic of Ireland, 3 of the 4 major days of celebration fall on or around national bank holidays.  The May weekend (Bealtine), August weekend (Lúgnasadh), and October weekend (Samhain). Even the months ‘as gaeilge’ are Bealtaine(May), Lúnasa(August) and Samhain(November). But Imbolg is left behind as the first day of Spring (an t-Earrach) and February (an Feabhra) is just a Church holiday. But this is changing.

Globally, the pandemic rocked us all but the light getting brighter as the end of the tunnel is getting nearer. This is especially true for Ireland. The HSE is still under pressure, but it is easing gradually. It has been announced that the pandemic restrictions will be finally lifted and as a mark of national celebration the country is getting a new public or bank holiday added to the year. This year it will be March 18th, the day after Patrick’s day but from 2023 onwards, it will be February 1st or Imbolg/ Brighids Day. The reason for the extra national holiday is to thank the Irish public for their patience and safeguard for themselves and others during the global pandemic. The day was chosen also as a memorial of those who lost their lives to the disease (approx. 6,136 source JHU CSSE COVID-19 Data dated 26/01/22).

As well as the Goddess of the forge, She is also the Goddess of healing and according to the various medieval texts, She wears a cloak. According to legend, when the cloak is placed on an afflicted wound or diseased area, they are healed completely. Even the legends surrounding the saint/nun archetype tells us of a similar healing cloak. The cloak is wrapped around the world now and the healing has begun.

This Imbolg, I will be undertaking a personal pilgrimage to Tobair na Faithní or Tobar Eoghain Naofa in the Muskerry hills (Sliabh Musheramore is the name of the mountain in the old Barony of Duhallow in Northwest County Cork). It is a Sacred Well that I have wrote about before in The Threefold Path – Home | Order of Celtic Wolves . There is a particular folktale that comes from Cullen, a small town nearby concerning St. Laitarian (also one of the aspects of the harvest Goddess that was associated with the Well in pre-Christian Ireland Lasair, Inghne Bhuidhe and Latiaran meaning flame, yellow hair and  bundle/stack associated with harvest in seangaeilge).

“Latiaran went to the local forge each morning  to take live coals from the fire in her apron or habit to her cell to start a fire. Because of her great holiness she was able to take these red-hot coals in her apron without getting burned in any way. It must be said that other a number of other Irish saints are also credited with this miraculous power. One morning the Blacksmith watching the saint lifting her habit to collect the red-hot coals complemented her on having a nice pair of legs. Latiaran was so much taken in by the Blacksmith’s compliment that she looked down and did agree that she had nice legs.

Next, we know her apron was on fire, and she completely lost her head and cursed the poor Blacksmith for the compliment he paid her. She prophesied that the sound of a smith’s hammer would never again be heard in Cullen. Apparently, this is the case. After this incident at the forge folklore tells us that Latiaran disappeared down through the ground and ended up in her cell. This spot is marked by a heart shaped stone where she entered the ground, but others would say that this stone marks her grave. This stone is at the holy well. Nearby ruins show where a church once stood and a tree from which items can be hung to so that their ailments can be taken away. Many cures are recorded as having taken place there. Crippled people walking away cured leaving behind their crutches and sticks.” 

This particular piece of local folklore dates apparently dates back to the 5th Century and coincidently the day associated to her is 25th July (very close to Lúgnasadh and the start of the harvest celebrations) just as her 2 other sisters (also ‘nuns of the 5th Century’) with St. Inion Buí/Inghne Bhuidhe celebrated on the 6th of May (Bealtine??) in nearby Dromtarriffe and St. Lasairin  celebrated at the 28th January (Imbolg??) in Kilmeen (source Cork folklore Project “Graveyards of Duhallow, Co. Cork” Tierney John).

Tosaíonn am nua dúinn agus muid ag cur tús le lá nua. Tá lá an leighis ag teacht.

Le meas,

Seán Ó Tuama.

Ancient Celebrations – Part 8 – Lá Fhéile Bríde/ St. Brigid’s Day

1 February is St. Brigid’s Day, which has been celebrated for hundreds of years in Ireland. Who was St. Brigid, how is her day celebrated today and what are her links to a much older Celtic Goddess?

According to the story recorded by an Irish Catholic priest, Saint Brigid was born Brigit and her mother was Brocca, a Christian baptised by Saint Patrick. Her father was Dubthach, a Leinster chieftain and Brocca’s slave master. When Dubthach’s wife discovered Brocca was pregnant, she was sold to a Druid landowner.

When Brigid was born, she grew up pure and virtuous and the stories state that she fed the poor and healed the sick. At age ten, Brigid was returned to her father’s home, as he was still her legal master.

Brigid’s charity did not end when she left her mother, and she donated Dubthach’s possessions to anyone who asked. Dubthach tired of Brigid’s charitably nature and took her before the king of Leinster. Whilst Dubthach spoke to the king, Brigid gave Dubthach’s jeweled sword to a beggar, so he could barter it for food for his family. The king witnessed this and convinced Dubthach to grant her freedom saying, “her merit before God is greater than ours.”

On being freed, Brigid returned to the Druid and her mother, now in charge of the Druid’s dairy. Brigid took over from her mother and often gave away milk. However, the dairy still prospered and the Druid eventually freed Brocca.

Brigid’s father Dubthach, had arranged for her to marry a bard, but she refused and made a vow to always be chaste. She devoted her life to the church and at age 40 founded the Church of the Oak, a monastery, which was built above a pagan shrine to the Celtic goddess Brigid, beneath a large oak tree.

Whether St. Brigid is a real historical figure is a matter of great debate. Her feast day was originally a Celtic pagan festival called Imbolc, which marked the midpoint between winter and spring.

Some scholars suggest that St. Brigid is a Christianisation of the goddess Brigid. Others believe she was formerly chief druid at the temple of the goddess Brigid. When she converted to Christianity, she then transformed the temple into a Christian monastery. After her death, the name and characteristics of the goddess became attached to the saint. St. Brigid was made one of Ireland’s three patron saints, alongside St. Columba and the more famous St. Patrick.

Since 2018, St Brigid’s Day Festival in London has become an annual celebration. St. Brigid’s Day is a time to celebrate the enormous creativity and talent of women and is now celebrated at Irish Embassies and Consulates worldwide. From February 2023, St. Brigid’s Day will become a Bank Holiday in Eire.

The Celtic Diet – Part 5 – Burns Night

Burns night is celebrated with a supper and commerates the life and poetry of Scottish poet Robert Burns, known affectionately as Rabbie Burns, the National Bard, Bard of Ayrshire, the Ploughman Poet and many other various titles. He was born on 25 January 1759 in Alloway, Ayrshire in the Western lowlands of Scotland. He is the best known of the poets who have written in the Scottish Gaelic, though much of his writing is in a “light Scots dialect” of English, accessible to an audience beyond Scotland. He also wrote in standard English, and in these writings his political or civil commentary is often at its bluntest.

Robert Burns

After his death on 21 July 1796, he became a great source of inspiration to the founders of both liberalism and socialism, and has remained a cultural icon in Scotland and among Scottish emigrants and their progeny throughout the world.

Many, though, throughout the English speaking world link arms and sing Auld Lang’s Syne, the best known of Rabbie’s compositions to mark the New Year in the modern calendar, after midnight.

The Battle of Sherramuir

The Corries – Sherrifmuir Fight

“The Battle of Sherramuir” is a song written by Rabbie about the Battle of Sheriffmuir which occurred in Scotland in 1715 at the height of the Jacobite rising in England and Scotland. It was written when Burns toured the Highlands in 1787 and first published in The Scots Musical Museum, 1790. It was written to be sung to the ‘Cameronian Rant’.

Burns Night

Burns night suppers are normally held on or near the poet’s birthday, 25 January. There’s traditional dancing and neeps, haggis and tatties are the food of the day. All washed down with a Scottish whisky.

So let’s have a look at some great recipes for a traditional Burns Night.

Recipes

Traditional Haggis. Neeps and Tatties

Haggis, Neeps and Tatties

Prep time: 10 mins
Cooking time: Depends on cooking method (10 – 60 mins)
Serves: 41 haggis

Ingredients

400g neeps (swede [yellow turnip])
500g tatties (potatoes)
butter
50ml milk (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

Method

  1. Cook your haggis* according to the cooking method on pack.
  2. Meanwhile, peel your neeps and tatties.
  3. Cube them, then boil separately till tender.
  4. Drain, then mash separately with a good bit of butter.
  5. If you like, add a glug of milk to get a smoother consistency.
  6. Then add salt and pepper to taste.
  7. Once your haggis is ready, serve alongside the neeps and tatties for a traditional Burns supper.

Haggis

Making your own Haggis is not for the feint hearted and some of the ingredients are not that easy to purchase, especially the sheep’s stomach bag in which it is cooked. You can cook the rest of the ingredients separately, though, but ensure it stays moist and should never be served dry.

Ingredients

1 sheep’s stomach bag
1 sheep’s pluck – liver, lungs and heart
3 onions
250g beef Suet
150g oatmeal
salt and black pepper
a pinch of cayenne
150mls of stock/gravy

Method

  1. Clean the stomach bag thoroughly and soak overnight. In the morning turn it inside out.
  2. Wash the pluck and boil for 1.5 hours, ensuring the windpipe hangs over the pot allowing drainage of the impurities.
  3. Mince the heart and lungs and grate half the liver.
  4. Chop up the onions and suet.
  5. Warm the oatmeal in the oven.
  6. Mix all the above together and season with the salt and pepper. Then add the cayenne.
  7. Pour over enough of the pluck boiled water to make the mixture watery.
  8. Fill the bag with the mixture until it’s half full.
  9. Press out the air and sew the bag up.
  10. Boil for 3 hours (you may need to prick the bag with a small needle if it fills up with air) without the lid on.
  11. Serve with neeps and tatties.
  12. Alternatively, buy a ready to cook haggis! It’s far easier and you are guaranteed to enjoy!

Best Place to Purchase

Although many supermarkets sell haggis, the best place to buy is from an award winning Scottish butcher. Some only do local delivery, though, but their are some award winning butchers that sell online. Also, if you have a delicate palate (like myself) you can try various alternative haggis, including vegan and vegetarian alternatives.

An Súil Éile ar an Blian Anuas agus an Súil Éile ar an Blian Amárach

Remembering the Past and Looking to the Future

Sacred Well at Cath Pass Cork/Kerry Border

From out of the earth, the well pours forth the waters of life which cut a path forward to the seas to return back by air and cloud so that the magickal journey will continue anew.

Another year has passed and it hasn’t really been much kind to us but it has been a lot better than 2019 especially with the world wide vaccination programme that has prevented a lot more deaths than the previous year under the pandemic. I know there are still restrictions but are not as stringent as they were previously. Hopefully things will be a lot better for the new year as we open the front door to welcome its dawn and sweep the dirt and rubbish of the old year out the back door (an old Irish tradition of welcoming the new calendar year that I only heard of in the last few years. It seems to be a an image of the old rural whitewashed thatched houses for the tourist industry but a very pleasant one all the same).

I am a frontline healthcare worker and there has been a lot of pressure on the health services but again, it has relaxed a good bit since the introduction of the vaccine to the populace. Yes, you still can get sick from contracting the virus while being vaccinated but mortality rates and chances of hospitalisation have decreased dramatically.

Castlenalacht

Looking back on the year that was and how my personal path has evolved during this time, I have come to appreciate more that which influences indirectly or what I manipulate and fashion into tools to aid my path. Those of you who have read my written pieces throughout 2021 will have a good idea of what I mean by that. Basically it’s changing what inspires me to what I want to aspire to and finally, make it a reality that impacts on my path both physically and psychologically (some can say spiritually as well). I am a fairly active person and started cycling for pleasure as well as for personal challenges. This year I took on 3 challenges. I hadn’t planned to do them but attempted them on a whim (okay okay, my partner ‘volunteered’ me for the NCBI charity one). The first was cycling a total of 300km for National Council for the Blind Ireland and I completed it over a 5 day period with the last trip being the most memorable. This can be found in ‘An Scéal a Trí Sliabh’ which I wrote during the Summer. Another charity cycle I attempted and completed was the 120km Fort to Fort for the Mercy University Hospital Cork ( where I work) which was the beginning of another change of my life which I wrote about in ‘Draíocht na Sidhe’. I did another charity cycle a few weeks ago which was the Christmas Cracker Cycle for Marymount University Hospital Cork which is a palliative care centre. This one was very important to me personally as it was the care and dedication of the staff in this organisation that was with my maternal grandmother & grandfather, paternal grandmother and fathers of two very close friends all of whom had different forms of terminal cancers. It was only 85km but it was the toughest challenge I have done to date. A week ago, a surgeon friend of mine sent me a link for another challenge in September 22. The 160km Beara cycle tour. Funny how things come back to you. Ardgroom village is one of the checkpoints on the route. I have written about Ardgroom Stone Circle and taken some of you there in both written (‘Scéal a Trí Sliabh’) and videos and pictures I have shared in social media groups such as the OCW member page and my own Na Mhac Tíre na hEirú (affiliated with OCW). This area is populated with a lot of Neolithic sites which I will be looking out for along the tour (that’s if I survive Healy’s Pass).

Drombeg

Owing to the weather conditions and due to national restrictions, I wasn’t able to travel much for some key dates of the year for personal decompressions/rituals. However, I did manage to go to Knocknacoille, John’s Well/ Tobar Brighid Naofa and a long day trip to Ardgroom but also I had the opportunity to conduct live decompressions at Drombeg Stone Circle at Crom Domhnaigh/ Cheile Tailte/ Lugnasadh and at the Linear Orthostadt stones of Castlenalacht just before  Grianstad an Grimhridh/ Winter solstice on social media. I want to personally thank those who attended and endured everything that could go wrong and my Cork accent butchering the Irish language. A cairde, Andrew agus Johnny, go raibh maith agaibh.

Ardgroom

I was disappointed on the morning up in Castlenalacht as I was hoping to catch some type of sunrise with the tallest standing stone but typical of Irish weather, I felt like a politician arriving at Newgrange. It was too overcast and started raining as soon as I left. But not all is lost. At the moment , there are weather alerts for the county and we have had nothing but bad weather but there was a small break. One morning I left the house to get to my car and a beautiful sun rise over the hills greeted me. It’s that one perfect moment that makes you pause, give you time to look what you have accomplished and what you can look forward to in the future.

I was very lucky to get this photo

Thank you all for listening to my journey over the past and previous year. So lets all raise a glass in toast.

Súil éile ar an bhliain anaus agus súil éile ar an bhliáin amárach.

Go n-ardóidh an bóthar chun beannú dui tar do chosán gach éirí gréine nua.

Go mbeadh an ghaoth i gcónaí ar do chúl agus go dtitfidh an bháisteach go réidh ar do shála.

Go mbeannaí tú do bheannacht ag teach Donn nuair a ghlacfaidh an fear dubh do lámh.

Athbliain faoi mhaise daoibh féin.

Sláinte.

Seán Ó Tuama.

Ancient Celebrations – Part 7 – Wren’s Day

Saint Stephen’s Day, also called the Feast of Saint Stephen, is a Christian saint’s day to commemorate Saint Stephen, the first Christian martyr celebrated on 26 December.

In Irish, it is called Lá Fhéile Stiofáin or Lá an Dreoilín, the latter meaning the Wren Day. When used in this context, “wren” it alludes to several legends, including those found in Irish mythology, linking episodes in the life of Jesus to the wren. People dress up in old clothes, wear straw hats and travel from door to door with fake wrens (previously real wrens were killed) and they dance, sing and play music.

A Mummer’s Festival is held at this time every year in the village of New Inn, County Galway, and Dingle in County Kerry. Mumming is also a big tradition in County Fermanagh in Ulster. Saint Stephen’s Day is also a popular day for visiting family members and going to the theatre to see a pantomime.

In the UK Boxing Day originated as a holiday to give gifts to the poor. The Carol “Good King Wenceslas” tells the story of a Bohemian king going on a journey and braving harsh winter weather to give alms to a poor peasant on the Feast of Stephen. During the journey, his page is about to give up the struggle against the cold weather, but is enabled to continue by following the king’s footprints, step for step, through the deep snow. The legend is based on the life of the historical Saint Wenceslaus I, Duke of Bohemia or Svatý Václav in Czech (907–935).

Whether you are a Christian or otherwise, St Stephen’s Day is a great day to show appreciation for what you have and give to the poor. Maybe go through your possessions that you no longer use and donate them to charity, or donate money. Let’s always care for those in society who have illness, disabilities, the widowed, the single parents and all who suffer from poverty.

However you spend the day, may you be blessed and wishing you all good health.

Watch a video of The West Clare Wrenboys

Druidry – Exposing the Frauds – Part 1 – Meddygon Myddvai

The Physicians of Myddfai (Meddygon Myddfai) were a succession of physicians who lived in the parish of Myddfai in Carmarthenshire, Wales.

Instructions for preparing herbal medicine attributed to the family have survived in the Red Book of Hergest, which dates from the late 14th century, and in other, “more recent”, Welsh manuscripts.

The “more recent” Welsh manuscripts have been used since as a definite guide to Druid herbal medicine.

With renewed 19th century “Christian” interest in Druidry, antiquarians visited Myddfai parish to collect further oral traditions regarding the family of physicians, including a legend of its origins. The first reference to this story occurs in a diary compiled by the topographer Richard Fenton, who visited the parish in 1808.

The story was subsequently expanded in an article in 1821 periodical The Cambro-Briton and in an introduction to the 1861 book Meddygon Myddvai. The latter version was based on the oral accounts given by three elderly residents of the parish in 1841 to William Rees.

The book Meddygon Myddvai, published in 1861 by John Pughe, collects together most of the materials attributed to the Physicians, which it groups under two manuscripts. What it terms the “first” manuscript is the material included in the Red Book of Hergest, corrected by comparison with other copies.

The “second” manuscript, however, consists of materials found in a manuscript formerly known as MS Llanover C.24 and now held by the National Library of Wales. It was brought to light by, and is partly in the hand of, the antiquarian and bard Iolo Morganwg (Edward Williams).

The text purports to be a collection of herbal medicinal prescriptions and herb names compiled by Hywel Feddyg ab Rhys ab Llywelyn ab Philip Feddyg, a descendant of the Physicians of Myddfai.

However, the Llanover “Meddygon Myddfai” manuscript is one of Williams’ forgeries, and was compiled by him based on the materials he found in a manuscript compiled by Harri Jones of Pontypool.

So, whilst the information found in the first part can be credited (with extensive revisions) to the Red Book of Hergest, the latter part of Meddygon Myddvai can be dismissed as another fraud, whose prolific material has been promulgated by modern Druid Orders.

Ancient Celebrations – Part 6 – Perihelion, Aphelion and the Solstices

The Earth is closest to the Sun – at its Perihelion – about 2 weeks after the December Solstice and farthest from the Sun – at its Aphelion – about 2 weeks after the June Solstice.

Earth orbits the Sun in an elliptical path, which means that there is 1 point of the path when the Sun is at its closest to the Earth and 1 point when it is furthest away.

The shape of this path varies due to gravitational influences of other planetary objects, particularly the Moon. Approximately every 100,000 years, Earth’s orbital path changes from being nearly circular to elliptical. The difference of the Earth’s orbital shape from a perfect circle is known as its eccentricity. An eccentricity value of 0 is a circular orbit, while values between 0 and 1 describe an elliptical orbit.

The dates when Earth reaches the extreme points on its orbit are not fixed because of the variations in its eccentricity. In 1246, the December Solstice was on the same day as the Earth reached its Perihelion. Since then, the Perihelion and Aphelion dates have drifted by a day every 58 years. In the short-term, the dates can vary up to 2 days from one year to another.

Mathematicians and astronomers estimate that in the year 6430, over 4000 years from now, the timing of the Perihelion and the March Equinox will coincide.

The Earth is closest to the Sun – at its Perihelion – about 2 weeks after the December Solstice and farthest from the Sun – at its Aphelion – about 2 weeks after the June Solstice.

Earth orbits the Sun in an elliptical path, which means that there is 1 point of the path when the Sun is at its closest to the Earth and 1 point when it is furthest away.

The shape of this path varies due to gravitational influences of other planetary objects, particularly the Moon. Approximately every 100,000 years, Earth’s orbital path changes from being nearly circular to elliptical. The difference of the Earth’s orbital shape from a perfect circle is known as its eccentricity. An eccentricity value of 0 is a circular orbit, while values between 0 and 1 describe an elliptical orbit.

The dates when Earth reaches the extreme points on its orbit are not fixed because of the variations in its eccentricity. In 1246, the December Solstice was on the same day as the Earth reached its Perihelion. Since then, the Perihelion and Aphelion dates have drifted by a day every 58 years. In the short-term, the dates can vary up to 2 days from one year to another.

Mathematicians and astronomers estimate that in the year 6430, over 4000 years from now, the timing of the Perihelion and the March Equinox will coincide.

Ancient Ancestors Placed Markers For Astrological Events

You might wonder why we are discussing such things in great detail and the connection with today’s revived interest in Solstice and Equinox Celebrations.

From at least 5000 years ago ancient monuments have marked out Solstice and Equinoxes with their alignment with the Sun. The ancients would have spent many years (even decades) putting up these monuments, with blood, sweat and tears for future generations to enjoy.

Our ancestors lived amidst nature more than most of us do today. They observed the universe, noting its rhythms. They used both solar and lunar calendars, tracking the Sun’s path across the sky. Here are some examples of the ancient sites and monuments that were built to align with the solstices or equinoxes.

1) Stonehenge

Stonehenge, Wiltshire, England

Each year, thousands visit Stonehenge on the Summer Solstice. The huge monolith stones (many of which were transported from miles away in South Wales) were arranged in a circle around 3000 BC. The huge monument marks the relation between the Sun and the seasons.

On the dawning of the summer solstice, the sun rises directly above the Heel Stone. Although the tallest trilithon at the monument is no longer standing, the sun would have set between the narrow gap of these uprights during the winter solstice.

2) Newgrange

Newgrange, Donore, County Meath, Ireland

Around 3200 B.C., ancient people in Ireland built a huge mound and surrounded it with stones. Today, the knoll is called Newgrange.

Illuminated passage during Winter Solstice

For five days around the winter solstice, a beam of sunlight illuminates a small room inside the mound for 17 minutes at dawn. The room holds only twenty people at a time.

3) Machu Picchu (Peru)

Maccha Picchu, Peru

Marking out Solstices and Equinoxes wasn’t just limited to Britain and Ireland. The awe inspiring Machu Picchu was the transcendent City of the Incas. This archaeological site is perched atop a mountain overlooking the Urubamba Valley in Peru.

Intihuatana Stone, Maccha Picchu, Peru

The giant Intihuatana (meaning “the place when the Sun gets tied”) stone at the top of this sacred mountain is perfectly positioned so that each corner sits at the four cardinal points (north, south, east, and west), and at an angle of about 13 degrees northward. The stone casts a shadow throughout the day. However, at exactly noon on the date of the spring or fall equinox, the Sun’s shadow disappears. The stone is a precise indicator of the date of the two equinoxes.

4) Other Examples

The importance of marking out ancient Celebrations is seen from many other ancient monuments throughout the world, including the Mayan Pyramid, Chichen Itza in Mexico, the Chaco Canyon in New Mexico, and the Great Sphinx and Pyramid of Khafre in Egypt.

Added to the list are thousands of smaller stone circles concentrated mainly around Britain, Ireland and Northern Europe, but found as far away as Northern India. These time keeping circles show that the ancients viewed these events as important.

Solstices – Longest and Shortest Day of the Year

The June solstice is the summer solstice in the Northern Hemisphere and the winter solstice in the Southern Hemisphere.

The date varies between June 20 and June 22, depending on the year, and the local time zone.

A solstice happens when the sun’s zenith is at its furthest point from the equator. On the June solstice, it reaches its northernmost point and the Earth’s North Pole tilts directly towards the sun, at about 23.4 degrees.

It’s also known as the northern solstice because it occurs when the sun is directly over the Tropic of Cancer in the Northern Hemisphere.

In the tropical zodiac used in Western Astrology it is at this exact point that the Sun enters the Astrological sign of Cancer (however, the Sun is still physically positioned in Gemini due to the precession of the Equinoxes).

The Winter Solstice takes place each year between 20-22 December, depending on the year and your location. All Solstices and Equinoxes are events that happens around the world at the exact same point.

For the December Solstice, this is when the Sun is aligned to the most Southerly point, the tropic of Capricorn. Indeed in the tropical zodiac it is seen as the time when the Sun enters Capricorn. For those south of the equator it is the time of the summer solstice.

It is a time of celebration. A time of rebirth of the dying sun, or the Sun at it’s zenith in other parts of the world. Many festivities take place this time of year, but Christmas is the most well known. The controversial 19th century Welsh Druid Iolo Morganwg called it Alban Arthan, which translates to The Light of Arthur the legendary King. But whatever you call it, or however you celebrate it, solstice blessings to you and your kin.