Often one sees sap coming out of an old tree, usually where it is healing up, but usually these “bleeding” areas heal up quite quickly. Recently I came across a most remarkable yew tree when I visited the ancient village of Nevern in Pembrokeshire. It has a 6th century church (St Brynach’s Church) and in the churchyard there are a number of ancient yew trees (Taxus baccata). One of these yews near to the gate is called the “Bleeding Yew” which is about 700 years old and here are some photos I took of it. It has a blood-red sap running out of it which has the consistency of blood – though it dries pink rather than brown. I dipped my finger in it and there wasn’t any distinctive smell or stain, but as people say that most parts of the yew tree are poisonous, I didn’t taste it.
There are many myths about why the Nevern yew tree bleeds: some say that as Jesus was crucified on a cross it is bleeding in sympathy and thoers say that it is reflective of the tree of Life in the Garden of Eden. But that wouldn’t explain why this yew tree in particular is bleeding. One myth says that a monk was hanged on this tree for a crime of which he was innocent and the tree is protesting his innocence. Some say, more politically, that it won’t stop bleeding until there is a Welsh Prince installed at Nevern or even that it will bleed until world peace is achieved.
The church at Nevern is well worth a visit for the bleeding yew, but also because the church has some stone carvings which are over a thousand years old, such as the “Braided Cross Stone” (pictured here) which, like the bleeding yew, has been ascribed many meanings with two cords apparently being woven together to make the cross. There is an even older carving, the Maglocunus stone, which throws light on the version of ancient Celtic once used in these parts of Wales, called Ogham. This stone wasn’t preserved for itself standing vertically but was incorporated horizontally into the church as a windowsill.
Beltane or Beltain
(/ˈbɛl.teɪn/)is the Gaelic May Day festival. Most commonly it is held on 1 May, or about halfway between the spring equinox and the summer solstice. Historically, it was widely observed throughout Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man. In Irish it is Bealtaine ([ˈbʲal̪ˠt̪ˠənʲə]), in Scottish Gaelic Bealltainn ([ˈpjaul̪ˠt̪ˠɪɲ]) and in Manx Gaelic Boaltinn or Boaldyn. It is one of the four Gaelic seasonal festivals—along with Samhain, Imbolc and Lughnasadh—and is similar to the Welsh Calan Mai.
Beltane is mentioned in some of the earliest Irish literature and it is associated with important events in Irish mythology. It marked the beginning of summer and was when cattle were driven out to the summer pastures. Rituals were performed to protect the cattle, crops and people, and to encourage growth. Special bonfires were kindled, and their flames, smoke and ashes were deemed to have protective powers. The people and their cattle would walk around the bonfire, or between two bonfires, and sometimes leap over the flames or embers. All household fires would be doused and then re-lit from the Beltane bonfire. These gatherings would be accompanied by a feast, and some of the food and drink would be offered to the aos sí. Doors, windows, byres and the cattle themselves would be decorated with yellow May flowers, perhaps because they evoked fire. In parts of Ireland, people would make a May Bush; a thorn bush decorated with flowers, ribbons and bright shells. Holy wells were also visited, while Beltane dew was thought to bring beauty and maintain youthfulness. Many of these customs were part of May Day or Midsummer festivals in other parts of Great Britain and Europe.
Historic Beltane customs
Beltane was one of four Gaelic seasonal festivals: Samhain (~1 November), Imbolc (~1 February), Beltane (~1 May) and Lughnasadh (~1 August). Beltane marked the beginning of the pastoral summer season, when livestock were driven out to the summer pastures. Rituals were held at that time to protect them from harm, both natural and supernatural, and this mainly involved the “symbolic use of fire”. There were also rituals to protect crops, dairy products and people, and to encourage growth. The aos sí (often referred to as spirits or fairies) were thought to be especially active at Beltane (as at Samhain) and the goal of many Beltane rituals was to appease them. Most scholars see the aos sí as remnants of the pagan gods and nature spirits. Beltaine was a “spring time festival of optimism” during which “fertility ritual again was important, perhaps connecting with the waxing power of the sun”.
The Spiral In the Natural Pagan world
If you have taken many nature photographs or sketched and/or painted outside, you may have noticed just how often you come across one of natures repeating patterns, the Spiral.
From Lichen on rocks to the way the bark grows on some trees, water spinning in a rock pool and the form that galaxy’s take in the night sky.
The last image below was taken at the Local Pagan location of Knickroe, County Kilkenny where most of the stones are marked with the spiral pattern. In this image you can just about make out the form of the Triple Spiral, Possibly representing the : ( “three realms” – Land, Sea and Sky ). Clearly our Pagan ancestors noticed the spiral and give it a significant place in their lives. Today the spiral takes a leading place in Modern Re constructionist Paganism being used in Art and artifacts.
Believed by many people to be an ancient symbol of pre-Celtic and Celtic beliefs, the triple spiral appears in various forms in pre-Celtic and Celtic art, with the earliest examples having been carved on pre-Celtic stone monuments, and later examples found in the Celtic Christian illuminated manuscripts of Insular art. The triple spiral was possibly the precursor to the later triskele design found in the manuscripts.
Christian Celtic symbolism
What the symbol meant to the pagans who built Newgrange and other monuments is unknown; but, as Christianity came into the forefront in Ireland before the 5th century, AD, the triskele took on new meaning, Kidnapped somewhat as a symbol of the Trinity (i.e., Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) and, therefore, also a symbol of eternity. Its popularity continues today as a decorative symbol of faith for Christians of Celtic descent around the world.
The triple spiral
The triple spiral is one of the main symbols of Celtic Reconstructionist Paganism, often standing for the “three realms” – Land, Sea and Sky, or for one of a number of deities who are described in the lore as “threefold” or triadic. The god Manannán is probably most often the one symbolized by the triskele, though some also use it for the goddess Brighid. Some Celtic-inspired Wiccans also use the triple spiral symbol, most often to represent the concept of the triple goddess.
According to Uriel’s Machine by Knight and Lomas (2003), the triple spiral may represent the nine-month period of human pregnancy, since the sun takes a fourth of a year to go from the celestial equator (an equinox) to extreme north or south declination (a solstice), and vice versa. During each three-month period, the sun’s path across the sky appears to form a closely wound quasi-helical shape, which can be likened to a spiral, so that three spirals could represent nine months, providing an explanation for a link between fertility and the triple-spiral symbol.
The Pagan element of Water and the pagan Irish Goddess : Boann and the Irish God : Nechtan
Water, is of a great necessity, without it nothing can live. Only earth and water can bring forth a living soul. Such is the greatness of water that spiritual regeneration cannot be done without it.
Thales of Miletus concluded that water was the beginning of all things and the first of all elements and most potent because of its mastery over the rest. Pliny said “Water swallow up the earth, extinguishes the flame, ascends on high, and by stretching forth as clouds challenges the heavens for their own, and the same falling down, becomes the cause of all things that grow in the earth.
Water is a cleansing, healing, psychic, and loving element. It is the feeling of friendship and love that pours over us when we are with our family, friends and loved ones. When we swim it is water that supports us, when we are thirsty, it is water the quenches our thirst, another manifestation of this element is the rainstorms that drench us, or the dew formed on plants after the sun has set.
The power of the energy of Water, can be felt by tasting pure spring water, moving you hand through a stream, lake, pool, or bowl full of water. You can feel its cool liquidity; it’s soft and loving touch, this motion and fluidity is the quality of Air within Water. This Water energy is also contained within ourselves, our bodies being mostly composed of Water.
As well as being vital for life, within the energy of this element is contained the essence of love. Love is the underlying reason for all magic. Water is love.
Water is a feminine element, it also the element of emotion and subconscious, of purification, intuition, mysteries of the self, compassion and family. It is psychic ability; water can be used as a means of scrying or as an object for meditation. Water is important in spells and rituals of friendship, marriage, happiness, fertility, healing, pleasure, psychic abilities and spells involving mirrors.
Ref : Pagan elements of Water
Irish Goddess : Boann, Irish God : Nechtan
Celtic (Irish) Goddess of the River Boyne and mother of Angus Mac Og by the Dagda. She was the wife of Nechtan, a god of the water. Likewise, Boann was herself a water-goddess, and one of her myths concerns the water. According to legend, there was a sacred well (Sidhe Nechtan) that contained the source of knowledge. All were forbidden to approach this well, with the exception of the god Nechtan (as was noted, Boann’s husband) and his servants. Boann ignored the warnings, and strode up to the sacred well, thus violating the sanctity of the area. For this act, she was punished, and the waters of the defiled well swelled and were transformed into a raging river, a river that pursued her. In some versions, she was drowned; while in others, she managed to outrun the currents. In either case, this water became the river that was known henceforth as the Boyne, and Boann thereafter became the presiding deity.
Another aspect of the myth of Boann is that she bore Angus. She and the All father of the Tuatha De Danaan, the Dagda, engaged in an illicit affair that resulted in the birth of this god of love. However, since both Boann and the Dagdha wished to keep their rendezvous a secret, they used their divine powers to cause the nine month gestation period to last but a single day – or so it seemed, for the sun was frozen in the sky for those nine months, never setting and never rising. On this magical day, Angus emerged into the world. She held the powers of healing. Variants: Boannan, Boyne.
The pagan elements :
The element of Air is vital to human survival, without it we would all perish, its aspects are Thinness, Motion and Darkness and its quality is Active. Air is the manifestation of movement, freshness, communication and of the intelligence. Sound is another manifestation of this element. As an element, it is invisible, but its reality can be felt in the air that we breathe in every day.
To connect with the power of this element, find a place with clean air and breathe deeply, touch a feather or inhale the fragrance of a heavily scented flower. Let yourself experience the energy of this element, and reflect that we also possess Air energy within ourselves.
In magical terms, Air is the power of the mind, the force of intellect, inspiration, imagination. It is ideas, knowledge, dreams and wishes. Air is the element of new life and new possibilities and is essential to spells and rituals of travel, instruction, finding lost items, some types of divination, and freedom. Air aids us in visualization, a vital technique in magic.
Air is a masculine element and governs the magick of the four winds. It is the vital spirit passing through all things, giving life to all things, moving and filling all things. Thus Hebrew doctors ascribe it not as an element but as a medium or glue that binds all things together.
The first element of the alchemical tradition.
Air is the essence of intuition and learning, the element of the nature of the mind.
Astrological Signs: Gemini, Libra, and Aquarius.
Represented by: Feathers, Birds, incense, fans, flags, flowing garments and sheer material.
Celtic air god and goddess:
“The Silver Wheel”, “High Fruitful Mother”. Celtic Goddess, the sister of Gwydion and wife of Donn. Deity of element of Air, reincarnation, full moons, time, karma, retribution. The palace of this sky Goddess was Caer Arianrhold (Aurora Borealis). Keeper of the Silver Wheel of Stars, a symbol of time and karma. Her ship, Oar Wheel, carried dead warriors to Emania (Moon-land).
Arianrhod (Welsh pronunciation: [arˈjanr̥ɔd]) is a figure in Welsh mythology who plays her most important role in the Fourth Branch of the Mabinogi. She is the daughter of Dôn and the sister of Gwydion and Gilfaethwy; the Welsh Triads give her father as Beli Mawr. In the Mabinogi her uncle Math ap Mathonwy is the King of Gwynedd, and during the course of the story she gives birth to two sons, Dylan Ail Don and Lleu Llaw Gyffes, through magical means.
GODDESSES: Aradia, Cardea, Nuit, Urania.
GODS: Enlil, Kheohera, Mercurym, Shu, Thoth.
Today is Mid winters day or the Winter Solstice.
History and cultural significance
The solstice itself may have been a special moment of the annual cycle of the year even during neolithic times. Astronomical events, which during ancient times controlled the mating of animals, sowing of crops and metering of winter reserves between harvests, show how various cultural mythologies and traditions have arisen. This is attested by physical remains in the layouts of late Neolithic and Bronze Age archaeological sites, such as Stonehenge in Britain and Newgrange in Ireland. The primary axes of both of these monuments seem to have been carefully aligned on a sight-line pointing to the winter solstice sunrise (Newgrange) and the winter solstice sunset (Stonehenge). Significant in respect of Stonehenge is the fact that the Great Trilithon was erected outwards from the centre of the monument, i.e., its smooth flat face was turned towards the midwinter Sun.
The winter solstice may have been immensely important because communities were not certain of living through the winter, and had to be prepared during the previous nine months. Starvation was common during the first months of the winter, January to April (northern hemisphere) or July to October (southern hemisphere), also known as “the famine months”. In temperate climates, the midwinter festival was the last feast celebration, before deep winter began. Most cattle were slaughtered so they would not have to be fed during the winter, so it was almost the only time of year when a supply of fresh meat was available. The majority of wine and beer made during the year was finally fermented and ready for drinking at this time. The concentration of the observances were not always on the day commencing at midnight or at dawn, but the beginning of the pre-Romanized day, which falls on the previous eve.
Since the event is seen as the reversal of the Sun’s ebbing presence in the sky, concepts of the birth or rebirth of sun gods have been common and, in cultures using winter solstice based cyclic calendars, the year as reborn has been celebrated with regard to life-death-rebirth deities or new beginnings such as Hogmanay’s redding, a New Year cleaning tradition. Also reversal is yet another usual theme as in Saturnalia’s slave and master reversals.
CAILLEACH BHEUR : The Celtic Goddess of winter
CAILLEACH BHEUR : Scottish, Irish, Manx, Great Goddess in her Destroyer aspect; called “Veiled One”. Another name is Scota, from which Scotland comes. In parts of Britain she is the Goddess of Winter. She was an ancient Goddess of the pre-Celtic peoples of Ireland. She controlled the seasons and the weather; and was the goddess of earth and sky, moon and sun.
Esbats and Moon Phases
The Esbats are the Wiccan Full Moon Celebrations.
There are 12 – 13 Full Moons yearly, or one every 28.1/4 days.
The Moon is symbolic of the Goddess, as well as a source of energy.
Each Moon has a traditional name.
Each Full Moon has a different meaning and magickal purpose. Because of this, it is a good idea to plan your Full Moon Rituals to work with the meaning and purpose of the Moon. The Full Moon is also a traditional time for divinations of all kinds, as the power of the Moon aids in such work.
January – Wolf Moon Plan a ritual of protection around your home and family.
February – Storm Moon Plan a ritual to ask the Old Ones for help in planning your future.
March – Chaste Moon Plan a ritual to help fulfill your wishes is appropriate.
April – Seed Moon Plan a ritual to physically plant your seeds of desire in Mother Earth.
May – Hare Moon Plan a ritual to reaffirm your goals.
June – Dyad (pair) Moon Plan a ritual to balance your spiritual and physical desires.
July – Mead Moon Plan a ritual to decide what you will do once your goals have been met.
August – Wyrt (green plant) Moon Plan a ritual to preserve what you already have.
September – Barley Moon Plan a ritual of Thanksgiving for all the Old Ones have given you.
October – Blood Moon Plan a ritual to remember those who have passed from this world, and be sure to make an offering to them.
November – Snow Moon Plan for a ritual to work on ridding yourself of negative thoughts and vibrations.
December – Oak Moon Plan for a ritual to help you remain steadfast in your convictions.
A Blue Moon is variable and occurs when the Moon with it’s 28 day cycle
appears twice within the same calendar month, due to that month’s 31 day duration.
New Moon – Sometimes the moon phases are broken down further, where the new moon represents enchantments and temptations. These properties are also present at any other times during a lunar phase when the moon is unseen or clouded over.
Waxing Moon – New beginnings, protection, positive magick for growth, magick to bring things to you.
Full Moon – Any magick can be done during the full moon because magickal energies have reached their peek. This is the ideal time to do any magick.
Waning Moon – Banishments, bindings, removing yourself from negative influences, negative magick ONLY to protect yourself.
Irish Moon Gods
In Irish mythology, Elatha or Elathan (modern spelling: Ealadha) was a prince of the Fomorians and the father of Bres by Eri of the Tuatha Dé Danann. The imagery surrounding him (he visits Ériu at night by sea on a silver boat) suggests he may once have been a moon god.
Elatha is quoted as being the “The beautiful Miltonic prince of darkness with golden hair”. He was the son of Dalbaech and a king of the Fomor, he was father of Bres by Eri, a woman of the Tuatha de Danann. He came to her over the sea in a vessel of silver, himself having the appearance of a young man with yellow hair, wearing clothes of gold and five gold torcs. He was one of the Fomor who took part in the Second Battle of Magh Tuireadh.
During the Second Battle of Magh Tuireadh, Elatha, son of Dalbaech, watched over Dagda’s magic harp, Uaithne, sometimes called Dur-da-Bla, the Oak of Two Blossoms, and sometimes Coir-cethar-chuin, the Four-Angled Music. He is said to have a sense of humor and a sense of nobility.
Though considered to be the Fomorian father of Eochu Bres, Elatha (Elada) was also the father of the Dagda, Ogma, a son named Delbaeth, and Elloth (the father of Manannan mac Lir) according to the Lebor Gabala Erinn. The mother of these “Tuatha De Danann” chiefs may have been Ethne, the mother of Lug, based on Ogma’s often cited matronymic “mac Ethliu.” Since Ethne was Fomorian, this means they are all Fomorians. This is rather confusing, but may betray the battle between the two groups as actually being about the new generation of gods displacing the older generation.
Elatha and Bres
She told him that his father was Elatha, one of the Kings of the Fomorians; that he had come to her one time over a level sea in a great vessel that seemed to be of silver; that he himself had the appearance of a young man with yellow hair, his clothes decked with gold and five rings of gold around his neck. She had refused the love of all the young men of her own people, had given him her love and cried when he had left her.
Before he left he had given her a ring from his own hand and had bade her give it only to the man whose finger it would fit. Eri brought out the ring and put it on the finger of Bres and it fit him well. She and Bres and some of their followers then set out of the land of the Fomorians. At long last they came to that faraway land. Elatha the local King saw the ring on Bres’s hand and asked him the whole story and said that Bres was his own son. Elatha then asked Bres what it was that drove him out of his own country and his own kingship. Bres answered truthfully: “Nothing drove me out but my own injustice and my own hardness; I took away their treasures from the people and their jewels and their food itself. And there were never taxes put on them before I was their King. And still I am come to look for fighting men that I may take Ireland by force”. Elatha listened and then bade him go to the chief King of the Fomorians, Balar of the Evil Eye.
These are the names that Elatha has gone by and where that name stems from.
Elatha – Rolleston (author): Myths and Legends of Celtic Race
Elathan – Squire (author): Mythology of the Celtic People
Elathan – Lady Gregory (author): Gods and Fighting Men
Elathan represents an incorrect usage by Squire and Lady Gregory as Elathan is the genitive case of Elatha and means ‘of Elatha’.
The 1st of November, marks the start of the Celtic new year or Samain/Samhain.
It was believed that this time of year marked a very spiritual time, the underworld became visible and the sides of the mounds were opened. A ritual was held on this night that marked rebirth of the gods and goddess, Ireland’s fires held a sacred flame and the years cycle was started a fresh.
Kilkenny Photographer : Nigel Borrington