THE BOOK STRUCTURE:
PART FICTION, PART REALITY, PART SPIRITUAL JOURNEY
Phillip Car-Gomm’s “Druidcraft” is a must read for anyone who is interested in both Druidry and Witchcraft. Now, in writing this book, Car-Gomm is not insisting that Witches and Druids everywhere must join forces together. Rather, he is saying that it is fine if you prefer to be just a Witch, or just a Druid; however, if you are interested in both of these paths, that it is perfectly reasonable to combined them together.
Druidcraft is an easy to read guide for those interested in this synthesis of spiritualities. Rather than being an Instruction Manual, it is part fiction, part non-fiction and part spiritual journey all blended together.
Each chapter begins with a Bard telling a story, just as the teachers in the old Bardic schools did. Some of these stories are old Celtic tales with their structures intact, and then with some of the tales, Car-gomm tells them in a new way. Car-gomm refrains from explaining the stories too much, stating that the power of each tale lies in their ability to sneak past the rational mind. Car-gomm takes the reader to a mythical school in the Otherworld named “Avronelle.”
Each tale is followed by a colloquy – which is a dialogue between a teacher and student. This was a common technique for learning among the Ancient Greeks and (theoretically) the Ancient Druids. After the colloquy is a practical section with a series of lessons that give suggestions on how to work with the presented ideas. Car-gomm makes it clear that these aren’t ideas set in stone, but a set of guidelines. The practical section is then shortly followed by the Historical Section.
Through this structure, Car-gomm explains the Druidcraft approach to magic, healing, and seasonal celebration – as well as giving a brief history of Druidry and Witchcraft.
WITCHCRAFT AND DRUIDRY
HOW ARE THEY SIMILAR? HOW ARE THEY DIFFERENT?
For those of you unfamiliar with the ways of Druidry and Witchcraft, they may seem like one in the same to you.
How are Druidry and Witchcraft Similar?
Both are Neo-Pagan paths that explore the Pre-Christian world of magic, the elements and nature spirituality. Both paths even follow an 8-fold, wheel of the year of holiday festivals that are connected with the rhythm of nature. Even more striking is the fact that the Neo-Pagan versions of these paths were founded around the same time – somewhere in the 1960’s. To clarify, I know that the revival of Druidry happened about 300 years ago during a period known as the “Druid Revival.” Yet much of the way that modern Druidry is practiced today has been shaped by the founding of OBOD by Ross Nichols in 1964 (and ADF arrived later in the 1980’s). Wicca, alternatively, is a religion based on witchcraft, was founded by Gerald Gardner in 1954.
How are They Different?
Phillip Car-Gomm summarizes the differences below.
“Wiccans were interested in magic and spells, while Druids were more interested in history, the old Celtic myths and a ‘spiritual’ rather than ‘magical’ approach to life (page 14).”
In my opinion, Wicca has a more standardized version of spirituality: there is definitely a God and Goddess, there is definitely karma (results of the magic and energy you put out into the world), there is a specific way of doing magic that involves specific tools, there is the “threefold law,” and the “do as you will as none are harmed” rule of ethics.
Druidry is much less regulated, with more of an emphasis on spiritual exploration and learning magic through a journey. Most of the Wiccan texts I’ve read have had a “1,2,3” approach to spell craft, while Druid texts end up telling an old tale that reveals the lesson. The specific worship of a God and Goddess is less emphasized in Druidry. ADF is a much more, clear-cut polytheistic Druid organization. OBOD on the other hand, leaves the decision on how to see the Gods up to the practitioner. For this reason, it is not unusual to bump into a Christian Druid who is involved with OBOD.
Yet Druidcraft is a path for those who would like to combined both aspects of Druidry and Witchcraft together. Phillip Car-Gomm has the following to say about this spiritual synthesis:
“Many Wiccans have become interested in the history of the Druids, in Celtic myths, and in Druid animal and tree lore. At the same time, many Druids have become interested in the more intuitive and magical approaches to life that are found in Wicca. If you talk to people who are interested in Wicca or Druidry you will find that most of them are drawn to these spiritual paths for the same reasons. In the past, subjects and disciplines were kept within defined boundaries. Today, we understand the value of synthesis, synergy and interdisciplinary studies. This is the spirit in which this book is written – to contribute to the field, not to detract from the uniqueness of each approach.”
(Background music: Dead Can Dance “Frontier”)
All around the world there is a revival of the Ancient Ways.
People are returning to indigenous religions and ideas.
Why is this happening?
In one of his podcasts, Philip Carr Gomm (the chief of the Order of Bards Ovates and Druids) gives his perspective.
He says that many of the main religions have reached a point of maturity.
While I don’t want to bend his words – this could mean that these mainstream religions have reached a point of death. All around the world, people are realizing that the system just isn’t working. The pre-dominant religious ideas aren’t solving man’s problems and the environmental crisis is getting worse. Culturally and spiritually humanity is experiencing a sort of metaphorical death. At a deep subconscious level – we know that something ominous is ahead like crows warning of a coming storm. That’s not what Phillip said, but that’s my point of view.
What Phillip did say is that we are like Salmon before death. Before death, salmon swim upstream to the point of their origins. Like salmon, humanity – in the face of a spiritual and environmental crisis – is swimming upstream to return to their primordial origins – to return to the ancient indigenous ways before it’s too late.
(Happy Late Imbolc everybody! I was going to make this post sooner, but got too caught up actually celebrating Imbolc – so now I’m doing this late.)
Imbolc is not technically the first day of Spring in the modern calendar, the first day of Spring is officially on the Spring Equinox (March 20th). Yet Gaelic festivals in ancient times did consider Imbolc the first day of Spring. For us modern folk, we can think of Imbolc as a day when nature begins to show the first signs of Spring. Imbolc is a transitory period. The snow on the ground is starting to melt, the birds are becoming more vocal, and new plants are pushing through the frost. It’s certainly not a coincidence that Imbolc is shortly followed by Groundhog’s day – the day when the groundhog determines whether Spring is coming early or not.
The key patron of this holiday is the ancient Goddess Brighid as well as Saint Brigit. Brighid was a triple Goddess of healing, poetry and smithing. She was so popular in Ireland, that the Christians could not prevent her worship. The Catholic Church ended up converting her into a saint and calling it a day. I’m not stating that Saint Brigit wasn’t a real person. This is a matter that has been the subject of much historical debate. Apparently there are 11 people with whom Saint Brigit is associated, and the lives of these 11 women may have been amalgamated into the life of one person (this is a theory). There is also a theory that the aspects of the Ancient Goddess Brighid were synchronized with the Catholic Saint.
Her duality as a Goddess and Saint is interesting when you consider the transitory nature of the original Goddess herself. As a liminal lady, she was born at the exact moment of daybreak. She and her husband, King Bres, were from two warring tribes and hoped that their marriage would bring these tribes together. Unfortunately, marriage did not do the trick. The tribes ended up fighting and Brighid’s son Ruadan died in battle. Brighid’s grief was so powerful that her lamentations were heard throughout all the land. Her grief moved the two battling tribes to negotiate a peace with one another, which is part of the reason why Brighid is a Goddess of healing and peace. She is associated with healing wells, but also with the fires in the forges of black smiths.
Brighid is a lady who stands on the threshold of winter and spring, warfare and life, water and fire. As a Liminal Goddess it is not unreasonable that she would also represent the marriage of two other warring tribes: Christianity and Paganism.
In the early days of the Catholic Church, there was much syncretism between the Old Pagan traditions and the new Christian ideas. This is not to sugar coat what was often a brutal and forced conversion process. The druids who were driven out of Ireland certainly didn’t approve of the union. But rather, my point is that we need to recognize that people live in a nuanced world where ideas and cultures often intersect – rather than being just one thing or another.
The duality of Brighid is highly relevant to the religious environment of the world today. Many modern Pagans were not born into their path, most were born into Christianity. As Pagans transition out of their Christian backgrounds into a new but ancient faith, they often wonder if they are representing this ancient faith accurately. Some groups like Reconstructionists try to emulate the Ancient Ways in complete accuracy. At the other end of the spectrum, there are paths like Druidry that allow one to blend different paths together (I’m not saying all Druids do). There are even Christian Druids who reconcile the Pagan Faith of the Ancestors with the Modern Christian faith we have today.
So in the Imbolc season, as we stand on the threshold between winter and spring, we must think about the myriad of cultural transitions taking place around the world. This is a time of change, renewal, creativity, healing – and possibly destruction. Perhaps Brighid is connected to the fires of the forge and the healing waters of the well because destruction begets new life and new life begets destruction. The creative process itself is one where stagnant ideas are crushed and new ones evolve.
Brighid represents the idea that we cannot all stay the same forever. This is why she is both fire and water, for both are elements of change. Fire is a destructive change and water is a healing change. Speaking from my own experience, Imbolc is usually a time of tremendous upheaval. Brighid brings about positive changes in my life, but she doesn’t guide me from the kiddie pool into the deep end with baby steps. It’s more like she tosses me into the brisk waters of a shark infested lake and shouts at me to “sink or swim!” This is often how dramatic changes happen in life. One minute everything seems normal. The next, the sky is falling and the earth is ripping apart.
Yet much like the death of Ruadan, two warring tribes can end up negotiating peace after a period of tension and anger. May Brighid bless us with healing and renewal as we transition out of the stagnation of winter into the vitality of spring.
What are the seven gifts of druidry?
1. Philosophy: Which emphasizes the sacredness of all life.
2. Getting back in touch with nature: 8 seasonal celebrations
4. The affirmation of life as a journey, the creation of rites of passage.
5. The openness to other realities.
6. The gift of self development, developing our potential
7. The gift of magic
Before the advent of the Romans, Britain was a place with its own sophisticated, spiritual culture.
Once the Romans did arrive, they wrote that the British had no fear of death.
This lack of fear may have had a connection to their ancestral beliefs about life in the after-world.
The after-world was a very big part of life for the ancient British people.
In fact, it was so important, that several tombs dotted the land.
The title of this documentary is a bit misleading, since it isn’t entirely about the druids.
But it did discuss the purpose of Stonehenge and interesting information on British Ancestral Worship.
Your sacred face emerges from the shadows
You’ve been keeping the wisdom for 1,000 years
They tried to quench your flame
But they are petty men, controlled by fear
A sword tempered by fire and ice
You are protectress of the land
May courage and might flow through my veins
Guided by your hand
May I drink from your well
A goblet everlasting and true
Flanked by the double serpents of healing
Your waters reveal and renew
Your cloak of blue, the world-wide sky
Poetry falls from the clouds like rain
Lady Brigid of the flame
Your burning pillar will rise again
‘Spring passes and one remembers one’s innocence.
Summer passes and one remembers one’s exuberance.
Autumn passes and one remembers one’s reverence.
Winter passes and one remembers one’s perseverance.’
~ Yoko Ono
Image: Tree of Four Seasons by Josephine Wall (josephinewall.co.uk)
(This post was originally done by the Order of Bards Ovates and Druids on Facebook)
To live fully in the present;
to honor tradition and the ancestors;
to hear the voice of tomorrow;
From the Order of Bards Ovates and Druids
The bears I surveyed gave this movie a C+.
There were two reasons I was initially excited to see this movie: a fascination with Ancient Celtic Myth and the fact that this was Pixar’s first movie with a female protagonist as the lead. Yet watching this film left me feeling like this was the “C” student who I was expecting to make an “A.” On this blog, I admit to feeling silly for criticizing a movie made for children. Over all, the movie wasn’t terrible. I still walked away from it being somewhat entertained. But there was also something about this movie that left me feeling frustrated.
PIXAR’S FLIMSY ATTEMPT TO CREATE A STRONG FEMALE CHARACTER
I feel like “Brave” was Pixar’s attempt to make a strong female character, since they have been criticized for being something of a “boy’s club.” Yet instead of coming off like a strong, female Celtic warrior the likes of Boudicca (a woman who destroyed three Roman towns and nearly kicked the Romans out of Britain), Merida – the lead – remains a prissy, self entitled teenager who seems more likely to whine about doing her math homework rather than leading her clan to greatness.
NOTES ON THE MOVIE ITSELF
Brave itself is a movie that takes place in an idealized 10th century Scotland. The animation and scenery is remarkable, in this aspect, Pixar does not disappoint. Directors Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman both also have Scottish roots, which gives the film some authenticity.
The beginning of the movie seemed promising. Merida is a princess with remarkable archery skills. She wants to be a powerful warrior like her father, King Fergus. Yet she remains trapped by her mother with the responsibilities and traditions of being a “prim and proper” princess who doesn’t “put her weapons on the dinner table.” Eventually the day comes when it is time to marry Merida off to the future leader of another clan. Politically successful marriages were vitally important to the survival of a clan. These marriages were key in bringing peace to two different clans that may have ended up declaring war on one another. The Ancient Celtic Goddess Brigid herself played an important role in bringing peace to two warring tribes after her son was killed in battle.
Different clans come together in order to compete for Merida’s hand in marriage. The sons of all the clan leaders end up being quite unsuitable – suitors. In cliché movie fashion – they are all miraculously a bunch of bumbling doofuses who can’t tell an arrow’s tail from their own faces. I understand the element here was to introduce comedic relief. Yet I found it incredibly disappointing that ALL of the men in this movie were incompetent. The mighty king Fergus can’t even give a speech without his wife’s assistance. This element made the movie more frustrating and stereotypical than funny in my opinion.
The reality is that the Scottish clans of these times had an intense focus on warfare and raising up powerful warriors. The son of a clan leader would’ve trained his whole life in different skills of battle: sword fighting, archery and hand to hand combat. The idea that all the suitors would be this incompetent is just as insulting as it is stupid. But then again…I remind myself that this is a kid’s movie and I must suspend some expectation of reality here…
With a lifetime focused on physical training, like throwing logs and boulders, it’s likely that the Scottish Suitors may have looked something like this. Heart melts! Merida, if you don’t want any of the suitors, I’ll take all four. Mwahhaa!
MERIDA VIOLATES TRADITION
Merida ends up competing for her own hand in marriage – which violates all protocols of tradition – and wins. This horrifies her mother – the Queen – and increases the rift between the two. After a fight, Merida ends up running away. At this point in the story, I was expecting some heroic adventures and deep life lessons. Instead we get some wacky hijinks where Merida ends up using a witch’s spell to “change her mum” – the most vague request you can make of life altering magic – and ends up turning her mother into a bear. This is bittersweet considering that King Fergus is a mighty bear hunter.
Perhaps there may be some mythological significance to this transformation considering that shape shifting magic was a common theme in Celtic Mythology and that Artio herself was a mighty Bear Goddess.
However, getting back to the movie plot, the rest of the movie tediously makes its way through Merida trying to turn her mother back into a human. There are a lot of shenanigans that ensue which provide some slapstick humor and some clumsy plot development.
BRAVE IS NOT SO BRAVE
(Now that’s what I call Brave!)
Our heroine also does not prove to be very “brave” either. When she comes close to having a fight with a real bear she ends up screaming and curling into a ball out of fear.
Eventually Merida discovers that she must “mend the bond destroyed by pride.”After this revelation, I was hoping some life lesson would emerge about the destructive effects of pride – but in the end this was all muddled by some vague lesson of each person being allowed to choose their own path. Merida does not end up getting married, the unsuitable suitors go home, and there is not much clear indication of what happens to the rest of the clan as a result.
The reality is that the clans would’ve probably declared a brutal war on one another, destroy their alliance and bloodshed would ensue. Merida’s actions did nothing to benefit her people or her family. The desire to doom the future of one’s entire clan for one’s own selfish interests is not “brave,” it is selfish and “prideful” and frankly is a perfect description of what is wrong with modern values today. Actual Celtic history is replete with tales of women who knew how to fight – and there were women who even had their own fighting schools. Yet most Celtic men and women did what was good for their tribe and not necessarily what was best for themselves. If we are to learn from the past, we must learn to do what is best for those around us – not simply living for our own selfish ends.
LACK OF CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT OR STORY ARC
I think the problem here is that the boys at Pixar really had no idea how to develop a powerful female lead. They couldn’t conceive of an independent and strong female without also making her selfish and prideful, not really heroine material. A good character is also someone who has some kind of challenge to overcome. I suppose the challenge here was to mend the bond torn by pride – but she didn’t really end up making any major sacrifices or concessions for her prideful behavior. She was also a great archer from the get-go, so there wasn’t really much to develop on that end either.
WANT TO A GOOD KID’S MOVIE ABOUT A FEMALE HERO?
A much better children’s movie about a strong female lead was Mulan. She joined the army not out of some childish fantasy, but in order to save the life of her father, who was becoming too old to realistically defend himself in armed combat. She also isn’t a “Mary Sue” who ends up miraculously being good at combat either. Mulan was somewhat clumsy in the beginning and actually has to train and work hard in order to become a powerful warrior. In the end, she makes tough decisions and harsh sacrifices in order to save the nation of China. What’s even better, is that Mulan the Disney movie was actually based off a true story.
While Mulan was fighting to save the nation of China from Hun invasion and inventing clever war tactics, Merida was busy throwing tantrums and getting freaked out by Bears.
WANT TO SEE SOME STRONG CELTIC WOMEN WHO ACTUALLY EXISTED?
A contemporary garden created in honor of a Powerful Celtic Goddess
There are parallels between this Garden and Brigit’s cross.
Much like Brigit’s cross, this garden was created with four aspects: the four aspects or four seasons of the year.
A public garden devoted to an Ancient Goddess would be unthinkable a few decades ago.
In the modern era, much reverence for all things Pagan has taken place at home altars or secretive groups. Yet as pagans come out of the broom closet and make their way into everyday life, there is becoming more tolerance for projects like this, for our ability to create public spaces which revere the ancient Gods.
Much of modern life is very linear and we mainly focus on progress. Yet the purpose of this garden is to attune visitors to the cyclic aspect of life, to attune the visitors to nature. Nature is a wheel and the most ancient representations of the divine, whether it be Brigit’s Cross, a sun wheel, (or the Hindu Swastika that later became controversial), depict all life as a sort of sacred spiral, an eternal cycle.
ALL TEXT BELOW CAME FROM THIS SOURCE
1. Every action has a consequence that must be observed and you must be prepared to compensate for your actions if required.
2. All life is sacred and all are responsible for seeing that this standard is upheld.
3. You do still live in society and are bound by its rules.
4. Work with high standards.
5. Make an honest living.
6. Be a good host as well as a good guest.
7. Take care of yourself. (Health was held in high esteem amongst the Celts, so much that a person could be fined for being grossly overweight due to lack of care.)
8. Serve your community.
9. Maintain a healthy balance of the spiritual and mundane.
(Nihtscad writes: ‘Ethical and self respecting Druids did nothing without being properly schooled or aware of the consequences ahead of time. They knew when it was appropriate to visit the Otherworld and immerse themselves in the spiritual as well as when it was appropriate to be fully in this world.’)
10. Uphold the Truth, starting with yourself.
11. Be sure in your convictions, particularly when judging or accusing someone, but also when debating. Ask yourself: are you really sure? Do you really know that this the case?
A global order dedicated to teaching the ways of Druidry as a spirituality.
The order was started 50 years ago and now thousands across the world have joined.
Druidry itself is a spirituality that seeks a deep connection with nature as a source of wisdom.
Druidry welcomes all: males and females, you also don’t have to be a Celt to join.
Check it out.
Most Westerners these days take what is called a “Binary” approach to problem solving.
No, they don’t speak in “0’s and 1’s.” What I mean is that most debates and decision making approaches split a matter into two separate options (whether it be political, religious or philosophical). Then the debaters must choose one side or another.
For example: “Republicans” vs. “Democrats,” “Feminst” vs. “Anti-Feminist,” “Religious” vs. “Secular,” “West” vs. “East,” “Man” vs. “Woman,” “Black” vs. “White,” “Capitalist” vs. “Socialist”, etc.
Even in the judicial process, Supreme Court cases that decide major Amendments to the law are ______ vs. _____ (Roe v. Wade) for example.
Often times these options become opposites and are even assigned moral labels. “Good” vs. “Evil.” (A Christian Influence no doubt).
Yet the druid way offers a third option. It’s called “ternary thinking.”
The first number that guides thinking into balance is the number three. Divisions into three are called ternaries. Every ternary, according to this teaching, consists of two things opposed to each other, and a third that connects them. Thinking in ternaries considers both differences and similarities (The Druidry Handbook, Michael Greer).
Ternary thinking is inspired by the three elements in the Celtic Mythos: Earth, Air and Water.
Three is the smallest number needed to achieve balance. A three legged stool will hold you up, but if you sit on a stool with only two legs you’ll fall down.
So next time you’re about to throw punches in a philosophical or religious argument, it might be better to find the middle ground between your two opinions – rather than crashing to the floor like a two legged stool.
This isn’t to say that Ternary is the best and only way to solve all life’s problems. This is also not to say that it is the only number druids and Celts use to approach life. But it is definitely something worth trying out and contemplating.
“Music can be very powerful, it’s a way to free your soul, to open your mind to your inner world…(Simone Alves)”
(All Artwork in this post was done by Simone Alves, Vocalist of Astrakan)
If I were to tell you the short story, I could say that Astrakan is a World Fusion, Ethno, Electronic musical project that uses the Breton language, themes and folk songs into their sound (Breton is a Celtic Language still spoken by a few in Western France).
Yet the fascinating thing about Astrakan is that they decided to broaden the scope of their sound by moving to Istanbul, Turkey. Astrakan itself seems to be a synthesis of many different places, feelings and sounds. To get to the bottom of the Astrakan mystery I decided to talk to the vocalist of the group, Simone Alves herself:
Simone Alves, thank you so much for taking the time let me interview you for the Metal Gaia Blog.
My first question is, How did the members of Astrakan get together?
This is a really good question, that we’re not asked very often actually! Actually I and Yann Gourvil met… hum… 17 years ago! Music was what brought us together. We played in various bands and projects along the years, but then we wanted to start something that would really be more personal. We started to compose and arrange in Istanbul in 2009, and then were very lucky to find two great percussionists, Ali Dojran and Volga Tunca, that loved the project and play now regularly on stage with us. Although we still do duo performances, specially abroad.
What brought you guys to Istanbul from France?
This is the difficult question… that we’re asked about all the time! And there isn’t any short answer… We left France at that time because we needed to step back from our musical projects, we felt we needed to change perspective, to listen to other things, experiment, and somehow find some inspiration. Istanbul definitely has a very attractive aura, it’s a city with a very special atmosphere and soul. It’s also close to Greece, to Bulgaria; it’s Middle East, but it’s still Europe… it’s definitely a good place to change one’s perspective… and get inspired!
Ooo very cool. I also see from your site that your music is inspired by Breton and Celtic culture. What got you guys interested in these topics?
Actually… we only play traditional Breton music, it’s what we’ve been doing always, what we’ve heard, what we’ve learned. We sometimes have the feeling that we never really chose Breton music… without sounding like “bragging”, Breton music might have caught us instead
But despite of that, I guess, as musicians and persons, it reflects what really matters for us, old stories, legends, dances, Celtic mythology…
The way we play it might be personal. By traditional, we mean that all the lyrics are from Brittany. Some tunes as well, but not all of them, Yann made a few compositions.
So going back to Istanbul in this conversation, do you guys see yourselves staying there for a while, or could you see yourselves eventually moving somewhere else for further influence and perspective?
Well, when we first came to Istanbul, we didn’t plan to stay for so long! Actually we miss Brittany, we’re going back for holidays, but they’re always too short. Unfortunately, we doubt the economic situation there would allow us to move back permanently, at least, not in the next couple of years.
They’re still a couple of places where we’d imagine we could stay for a while, Scandinavia or the States, the Balkans – well, then, Northern Greece, maybe? The interesting thing about being in a different environment, is that your own culture will reflect differently. Like if by being different among other people, you’d become more aware about what you share and what makes you different. We feel this is as true for music as for life in general. And very often, we’re amazed to see that traditional cultures have much more in common than we would suspect.
Without moving to a new place, we love to travel, and moreover to travel for our concerts, we love to discover new countries, new people, new food!
(Astrakan In Berane, Montenegro)
What is your favorite place that you’ve been to?
Too hard ! We can’t choose ! Really…
Hahah, too many to choose from I guess.
And too different one from another !
But from what you tell me and from what I’ve read on your site, it sounds like the place and the people you are around speak through your music and almost have a power of their own.
It is a kind of feeling like that. That’s maybe why we sometimes need a change? Because we ourselves have changed in the meantime? Instead of “favorite” place, we’d rather say that Central Brittany is the place we relate to. Not because it is better, more beautiful (although it is really a gorgeous region) or any thing else, but maybe, because it’s the place we feel we belong to.
(Astrakan Playing a show)
That makes sense. I also see on your page that you are influenced by Dead Can Dance. How has listening to these guys influenced your music?
Its quite interesting, I personally was a big fan of DCD as a teenager, and it’s always hard for a fan to tell why. Then, when they paused their career, I myself went more into very “traditional” Breton music, basically a lot of a capella singing, and study of the its very specific ornamentations and rhythms. And I almost forgot about them.
Then recently, I kind of realised that without having ever tried to make something sound like DCD, Lisa Gerrard could have been a kind of “model”. Because of the way she explores music, using her voice as an instrument, because of the way she embraces technique with interpretation.
Do you think Dead Can Dance has also inspired you to make World Music?
Wouldn’t say that, not that way. It’s more like… they’re one of our favorite bands, and we’re musicians, so we, consciously or not, will take something from their music. But musicians like Ezam Ali and her project Niyaz or Mehdi Haddab (Speed caravan ‘s oud player) influenced much more of our sound and compositions. But they’re much less known….
Well I will definitely have to check them out after this interview.
I also see from your facebook that you do a lot of artwork. Do you do most of the artwork for the band?
But it just happened like that…
I’ve always been drawing/painting a lot, but I’d never showcase it. I was mostly considering it as a hobby.
One last thing I would like to ask, what is one thing that you would like me – as a listener – to take away from Astrakan Project?
If I think back to what people that came to our concerts told me, I’ve loved to hear people saying that they’ve felt like travelling to another place or time. We’d love listeners to keep memories from our music as if they’d visited another world. Maybe an inside world ? Music can be very powerful, it’s a way to free your soul, to open your mind to your inner world…
Thanks again Jessica…
Thank you Simone!
Sample Audio Track
Tri martolod an oriant: traditional tune and lyrics from Brittany.
A collection of 11 different tales from Welsh Prose.
A great read for anyone interested in Celtic Mythology, History or Arthurian Legend.
For the last 1,000 years of history it was believed that all druids were men.
Yet much new evidence is confirming that this just isn’t true.
Druids were part of a culture where women and men were equals in many aspects of life.
It’s hard to believe that there would be an exception in terms of religion.
This is a great article on Female Druids that gives more details: CLICK HERE
I invoke the land of Ireland
Shining, shining sea
Fertile, fertile mountain
Abundant river, abundant in waters
Fish abounding waters
Fish abounding sea
Irruption of fish! Fish there
Bird under wave! Great fish
Crab hole! Irruption of fish
Fish abounding sea
Among the ancient Celtic people, there was a primitive nature magic that permeated the land. The verse above is a proclamation from the poet of the Milesians, Armairgen, before the Milesians invaded Ireland.
WORSHIP OF THE ELEMENTS
It was common for folk to invoke the elements when taking an oath. People could swear by heaven, earth, sun, fire, moon, sea, land, day, night etc, and these things would punish the oath breaker if they did not keep their word. Even the Gods would swear by the elements. Such oaths existed at a time when people believed the elements to be a divine force. Similar beliefs were practiced by the Greeks and Scandinavians.
It makes sense that people would worship the basic objects of nature. As the comedian George Carlin said in one of his sketches, “I’ve begun worshiping the sun for a number of reasons. First of all, unlike some other gods I could mention, I can see the sun. It’s there for me every day. And the things it brings me are quite apparent all the time: heat, light, food, and a lovely day.”
SPIRITS OF THE LAND
Yet the Celts also populated the Earth with spirits, both friend and foe. Some of these spirits may exist as fairy in a meadow or as a demonic being haunting a lonely place. The druids were known to send forth mischievous spirits called siabra. These were spectral bodies they could raise from the ground. And of course there are the The Tuatha Dé Danann (a mythical race of people who were defeated, moved underground and resided within the Earth as spirits or fairies).
One of the most important elements of nature to the primitive folk was the moon. The phases of the moon offered an easy way to measure time. The Celtic year was lunar before it became solar. There are still many cultures today that use a lunar calendar (the Islamic calendar for example). Night also preceded the day.
The moon dictated when certain tasks would be carried out. The moon waxes and wains, therefore it was a symbol of growth and decay. Crops would be sown on a waxing moon and harvested on the waning moon. If you needed something to grow – you would do it while the moon was waxing. If you needed to finish a task, you did it when the moon was waning.
In Greek Culture, Artemis and Diana – the moon goddesses – had power over all growing things.
There is evidence that the primitive peoples of Europe may have worshiped animal deities: Wolf Gods, Bear Gods, Deer Gods and Bird Gods. The current theory is that as humans became more agricultural and asserted more power over the land – anthropological deities replaced animal deities. As nomads, humans were more subject to the whims of nature. The might and power of a bear could certainly seem divine. Yet as a farmer, man not only asserted himself over the land – but began to assert himself more in the spiritual realm as well (Native American and Hindu Mythology are rife with traditions of Animal Deities).
Also, as the Romans took over the Continental Celts (The Gauls), they forced the Gauls to abandon their more animalistic deities in favor of purely human ones.
What is the evidence that points to the worship of animal Gods? Many of the Gods the European pagans worshiped were shape-shifters who could turn into animals. The Morrigan, the phantom queen of battle, strife and fertility, often took the form of a raven or a crow. Moccus was a Swine Agriculture God. Epona was a Gallic/Roman horse Goddess. Then there is Cernunnos the horned God, a liminal God connected to the hunt, the underworld and sexuality.
Even in their more humanized form, certain Gods still had an association with an animal familiar. For example, there is the wise Roman Goddess Minerva who would often be associated with an owl. Even today the owl carries a connotation of learning (just watch Winnie The Pooh).
Most of the information in this post came from “The Religion of the Ancient Celts,” by J.A. MacCulloch. If you go to the listed link, you can read his ebook for free. A great comprehensive source on the religion of the Celts.
Much of the information we have about the Ancient Celts was recorded by the Romans. And much of that information is a complete lie. The Romans presented the Ancient Celts as uncivilized, uneducated and uncultured barbarians. This is the picture we’ve had of the Celts for the last 1,000 years.
Yet the archaeological evidence presented in this documentary proves otherwise. We see a buried world unearthed: A society of people who had astronomy more advanced than the Romans, sophisticated engineering, a trade network that reached Africa and Asia and complex metal working.
These weren’t a perfect people, but they were a society that had rules obligating the respect of women, children and the elderly. Meanwhile in Rome they believed in Pater Familia, a system where the male head of the family was the only one with rights. A system in which a father had the legal authority to put his wife and children to death.
While the Romans destroyed Celtic Druids under claims that these druids were performing barbaric human sacrifices – the Romans were killing thousands in the Gladiatorial games for their own amusement.
So who were the real barbarians?
You can have reverence for your ancestors without living in a time machine.
All beliefs and people evolve over time
An Asatru Blog covers this in more detail here