Gnostic Warrior is truly a great treasure trove of spiritual reading. In the article above, they discuss possible connections to the culture of the Arab Bedouins and the Celtic Druids.
It’s hard to believe that people who lived thousands of miles away from one another may have had any connection. But as I mentioned in A Shared Spiritual Origin in Celtic Europe and Indo-Aryan India, it is very probable that the spirituality and culture of the Celtic people had its origins in the migration of the Aryan tribes from the Near East (either Iran or Northern India) across Europe. Some say some of these Aryans also spread elsewhere. If they migrated as far as Ireland, it’s not hard to imagine that their influence may have touched areas closer to home.
Gnostic Warrior discusses some of the interesting connections between the Pre-Islamic Arab Bedouin tribes and the practices of the Celtic Druids. The worship of the God Baal (whose name sounds a lot like the Celtic Bel), the tradition of poets and bards, rituals performed under oak trees, animal sacrifice, fire worship, and a similarity in dress.
I’m not here to verify that this theory is true. I’m just saying that it’s interesting reading and that you should decide for yourself whether this connection could be true or not.
A mere ten feet below a suburb of Edinburgh Scotland, lies Gilmerton Cove, a mysterious network of tunnels and carved passageways. How old is this cove and what was it used for? There are many theories.
According to Julian Spalding, a writer, art expert, historian, and the former head of Glasgow’s museums and galleries, the temple could have been in use for centuries. He believes that further work at Gilmerton Cove may unlock many of the secrets connected with the mysterious labyrinth.
The official record states that the place was created by a blacksmith by the name of George Paterson in 1724. Until recently, no one had any proof to the contrary. Yet Julian Spalding believes that it may have been a temple used by the druids centuries ago and then buried to protect the sacred nature of the place. He says that the construction of the temple is too complicated for one blacksmith alone to make, and believes that Paterson simply discovered the place and used it for himself.
Now just because this place could have existed before Paterson, doesn’t necessarily make it a sacred druid site. There isn’t concrete proof to say that this is the case. But it is an interesting theory. And the carvings in the wall could a spiritual significance.
In the 1740’s, the site was used by the Hellfire club, a gentleman’s club that turned the cove into a den of vice: a place for drinking, enjoying music and sexual activity. Some researchers even believe that there were religious practices linked to these sex parties.
Then there are some other theories; that it was used by the Free Masons, and even the Knights Templar. Are any of these theories true? Who knows.
But it is interesting to think that just below the surface of a sleepy mining town and suburb, lies a piece of history, possibly charged with spiritual significance.
For those of you interested in Druidry, you may want to check out the home page of Philip Carr-Gomm.
He is the current chief of The Order of Bards Ovates and Druids.
He also has several written works about Druidry, Spirituality and Psychology
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.”
(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
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