The Three Kindreds

4 03 2014

The three Kindreds are the main objects of worship and honour in ADF. They are the Ancestors, the Nature Spirits and the Gods. The Gaelic reconstructionists refer to them as the “de ocus ande” – the gods and un-gods. We can enter into relationship with any of them through the principle of Ghosti, of sacrifice and a gift for a gift. Through prayer, the giving of offerings and the way we live our lives, we can honour them and show them respect.

Until a few years ago I wasn’t very interested in my ancestors. But since the death of a friend and my journey into paganism, they have become a very important part of my life and spiritual practice. With only one grandparent and my parents left, I have many direct ancestors to honour. In ADF the ancestors are associated with the Well because that is the gate to the underworld in which they dwell. They are also associated with the Sea. In Celtic mythology one of the dwelling places of the dead were islands over the western sea, while in Norse mythology, those who die at sea are thought to dwell under it in the halls of Aegir and Ran. The ancestors are also related to the concept of water because of the well of wisdom (Mimir). The ancestors represent the accumulation of many generations of wisdom and memory which one accesses through the sacred well. In terms of the Two Powers conception of the universe, the ancestors would be related to the Earth current – the dark, cool, embryonic power of the earth which is full of knowledge and potential.

The ancestors, also called the Mighty Dead in ADF, can be viewed in three distinct groups. The first are the ancestors of blood. These are our ancestors who are directly related to us through our blood e.g. family members who have passed away. The second are ancestors of spirit. These are people who have influenced our lives, whether people we knew or those who have had an important affect on our culture and helped to create the world we live in today. These can also include the ancient ancestors of our chosen hearth culture. Finally there are ancestors of place. These are the people who lived in and shaped the land on which we currently live – their bones and atoms are now in the very ground we walk on. I also think it is important to remember that science teaches us through evolution that our ancestry can be traced right back to a common ancestor and that we are therefore kin with all living beings in the world. In ADF the ancestors are considered to be able to hear the voice of the living, to value our offerings and to be able to guide and protect us.

There are many ways to honour our ancestors. For me, this takes three main forms. Firstly I have done research into my family tree to discover as much as I can about my ancestors. I have discovered that I have some Japanese ancestry and that one of my great great grandfathers was killed in the first world war. Secondly I maintain an area of my altar devoted to my ancestors and place several objects and pictures on it that remind me of them. Finally, I also call on them in ritual (especially on Samhain) and give them offerings of cider in order to show that I honour them. In Celtic, Anglo Saxon and Norse cultures, the ancestors could often be contacted by visiting their graves or sitting on their grave mounds so this year I would like to try and visit some of my ancestors graves which are quite far away from me and pay my respects. I would also like to do even more more research into my family tree and find out as many of their birthdays and death days so I can honour them on those days (which is something I already do for one of my friends who died). It is very important to remember our ancestors and teach others to do the same because one day, we too will be an ancestor. Also, they are often seen as the Kindred which is most interested in us and easiest to relate to because they have experience human life and are interested in their family lines.

In ADF the Nature Spirits are associated with the Tree, the middle-world and the land. They are called the Noble spirits who are seen as dwelling in and nurturing nature. They maintain the order of the worlds. They are our seen and unseen neighbours. In the Anglo Saxon and Norse cultures they are the land-wights, the elves and dwarves. In the Gaelic culture, they are the Sidhe, the fairies, the creatures who live in the mounds (perhaps descendents of the Tuatha De Danaan). They are viewed as otherworldly beings, disembodied spirits who can sometimes appear to people but usually only the very gifted can see them. Despite this, they interact with our world, Midgard, on a regular basis. They are usually associated with a particular eco-system or special place in nature e.g. Woodland-elves or spirit of a tree or rock. Like humans, they are viewed as having personalities and their own interests and goals. They are not there to do our bidding, but can be propitiated and asked for help if we have developed a relationship with them. They are wild and separate from us. Sometimes they can help us while at other times they can hinder or hurt us, especially if we have annoyed them. Anglo-Saxons talked of the Elf-shot which they believed was the cause of certain illnesses. Yet they also left offerings for the elves and drank toasts to them, showing the relationship between humans and nature spirits was not black and white. Brian Bates says they were viewed as “bright, beautiful and wise creatures” and they could be befriended. The realm of Alfheim was ruled by the god Frey or Ing. Davidson points out that people often paid more attention to them than the gods because they were seen as affecting many aspects of people’s daily lives, and this was especially true of the household elf.

For me, the nature spirits include all the living beings around us, and even the rocks and “inanimate” aspects of nature. As an animist, I believe that all things are “minded”, all things can experience in their own way. For me the trees, the flowers, the insects, the birds and the micro-organisms are all nature spirits and should be honoured. There are many ways to honour nature spirits but the best way is to get out in nature and learn about them. They are best contacted in wild and natural places. I have done this primarily by spending an hour in nature each week to observe and learn about it. Every time I do a ritual I give offerings to them, usually of seeds, in order to honour them and thank them for ways they support the world around me. Of course, the most important thing we can do is to find ways to look after the land immediately near us. One thing I would like to develop in future is my relationship with the household elf as well as finding offerings that would be suitable to take to natural places to provide for the land-spirits.

In ADF the Gods are referred to as the Shining Ones. They are associated with the fire, the Upper-world and the realm of the sky. They represent the order of the sky power. ADF, and paganism as a whole, is a polytheist religion which believes in and honours many different gods rather than the one god of the Abrahamic monotheistic faiths. They are the most powerful spirits, the eldest and wisest beings in the universe, who are remembered for their love, help and power. They can be both male or female and in Celtic culture, they are often found in triple form. In Norse/ Anglo-Saxon mythology they are seen as the ancestors of humanity as Odin and his brothers created the first humans. Meanwhile in the Gaelic Celtic culture the gods are called the Tuatha De Danaan, the tribe of Dana. They are the first children of the Earth Mother. Most of the myths of these cultures tell the stories of gods and heroes. They are not seen as the god of one particular aspect, but have many interests and areas of expertise just as humans do. They are seen as distinct personalities. They have their own desires and goals, and while they can sometimes help humans, they are not seen as “spiritual cash machines.” They are not perfect but are capable of both vice and virtue. They are not immortal but are often renewed through magical feasts such as eating the apples of Idun.

I tend towards an atheistic or pantheistic view of the universe, and it is the universe or Mother Nature that is ultimately worthy of my respect and worship. However I do incorporate soft polytheism into my practice in that I believe that if there are gods, they would be manifestations of the one source – the cosmos. It is certainly easier to relate to nature by breaking it down into parts – the gods. It was this emphasis on honouring the earth that drew me to paganism in the first place, and I see the earth as sacred, which is why I love the fact that ADF honours the Earth Mother at the beginning and end of every ritual. Some of the best places to honour the gods with offerings are on hilltops, at rivers or in other unique natural features that command our respect. In ancient Celtic cultures, the main river of an area was associated with the land or sovereignty goddess and so it makes sense to honour and seek to connect with the Earth Mother at nearby water sources. In my personal practice, I seek to honour the gods by making offerings each time I do a ritual and by seeking to live my life according to the virtues.

Ellis, Peter Berresford. A Brief History of the Druids. London: Constable & Robinson Ltd, 2002.

ADF. Our Own Druidry: An Introduction to Ár nDraíocht Féin and the Druid Path. Tucson: ADF Publishing, 2009.

Albertsson, Alaric. Travels through Middle Earth: The Path of a Saxon Pagan. USA: Llewellyn Publications, 2009.

Bates, Brian. The Real Middle Earth: Magic and Mystery in the Dark Ages. London: Pan Macmillan Ltd, 2003

Davidson, H. R Ellis, Gods and Myths of Northern Europe. London: Penguin Books, 1964.





Fifth High Holy Day Explanation – Samhain

29 10 2013

Also known as Halloween or All Hallows Eve, Samhain is the festival on which the ancient Celts celebrated the end of the harvest season and the beginning of Winter.

At this time the earth appears to die, laying dormant through the dark cold times ahead. The leaves are changing colour and falling from the trees. The harvest has been collected from the fields and they lie empty. The livestock have been brought down from the pastures, the weakest animals have been culled for food and people return to their homes for feasting. Summer is over and winter begins. The days are getting much shorter and colder, the frosts have begun and animals are busy making final preparations for winter. Traditionally it was believed to be bad luck to harvest anything after this date and therefore any remaining harvest is left as an offering to deities or nature spirits. It was a time to give offerings to the gods in thanksgiving for the good harvest the people had.

Historian Ronald Hutton says “A feast with ritual practices…was…well known in both ancient Ireland and ancient Scandinavia, and represented by folk practices in the uplands of Wales and Scotland. There was, however, no common rite as there had been at Beltane.” He further states that “there seems to be no doubt that the opening of November was the time a major pagan festival was celebrated” but that there is no evidence that it was connected with the dead or that it was the new year. Rather, the association with the dead came through Christianity and the development of All Souls Day. However, it was a time to guard against and propitiate supernatural forces.

Samhain is the most widely mentioned festival in Irish mythology and the Gaulish Colignay calendar also mentions it as the end of the pastoral year. It is mentioned as the first festival in the Irish tale of Tochmarc Emire as “Samhain, when summer goes to rest.” It is the time when the Morrighan and An Dagda mate in a river for victory at the second battle of Magh Tuiredh, and it is a time to honour Donn, the father of the Irish race and chief of the sons of Mil. He is the Celtic lord of the dead, the dark one who was drowned in the battle to invade Ireland. He now dwells on a small island named Tech Duinn, the waiting place of the dead before they journey to the Otherworld. In contrast, Historian Peter Berresford-Ellis says that the god Bile is also a god of the dead who transports souls to the Otherworld. Another story related to this time of harvest is the story of why offerings are given to the Tuathe De Danaan. After the Milesians (ancient Irish) conquered Ireland from the Tuatha De Danaan, the land was divided up with the Milesians on the land and the Tuathe De Danaan under the ground. But the Tuathe continued to destroy the crops and stop cows producing milk so an agreement was reached with An Dagda so that the Irish offered a portion of their harvest to the Tuathe De Danaan in exchange for their friendship and blessing on the land. The Cailleach Bheur, the old hag of winter can also be honoured at this time.

Bede said october was named “Vuinter-fylleth” as it signified the beginning of winter, while November was named “blod-monath”because this was when the annual slaughter of livestock occurred to reduce the number of animals kept through the lean months. Hutton says that pagan Scandinavia held its own major festival at the opening of winter, called winter nights, on the saturday between 11th and 17th of October, but that there is no evidence this ever came to Britain.

For the ancient Celts who split the year into two halves, Samhain marks the transition from the summer half of the year to the winter half, from life to death. They believed that any time or place of transition was sacred. Just like Beltane, at this time the veil between this world and the Otherworld was at its thinnest and therefore the spirit world and human world could interact. As a night of liminality, transition, uncertainty, chaos and danger, it was believed that many otherworldly beings would be roaming on this night.

While there were fires lit in some areas on Samhain eve e.g. Scotland and Wales, this was not the case in Ireland, where Parshell Crosses were placed in the entrance to the house instead. Other practices at this time have included communal meals, candles being lit and prayers said for the dead, drinking and games, putting pieces of bread on windowsills for one’s ancestors, taking precautions against witches, divination by casting nuts into the bonfire to learn about death and marriage, carrying lights around in turnips and dressing up as monsters while causing mischief. It is also a time to sain and ward one’s property by walking the boundaries with fire and making rowan charms.

Gaelic reconstructionists avoid going out on this evening as the spirits as most active, or if they do, its in disguise. They light bonfires and carry flames around their property to protect and sain it. They carve turnip lanterns, hold big feasts, do divinations, give offerings to the gods and ancestors, leave food out for the dead and light candles for them. Its also a time to play games, sing songs and make a parshell cross.

ADF suggests that this is another spirit night, the feast of the dead, when the harvest is in and its time to give thanks. The cycle of death and rebirth can be celebrated as the ancestors feast with the living. Neo-pagans often celebrate this time with a dumb supper to honour the dead. For Norse reconstructionists, its a good time to honour Odin as the Norse god of the dead as well as the ancestors, especially the Disir.

It is traditional to celebrate this festival by eating a large feast of late harvest foods e.g. pumpkins, apples, nuts, root vegetables and barmbrack bread. It’s also the traditional time for remembering our ancestors and those we have loved and lost e.g. by visiting their graves and putting fresh flowers there. Personally, I build an altar and put photos and mementos of those I have lost recently on it. This year I have managed to get a few more mementos to add to the altar. I also put up my family tree. On Samhain eve I perform a ritual of remembrance, lighting a candle for each person I am remembering and holding a minutes silence in respect. I am also having a party with friends, decorating the house and eating traditional foods like Butternut squash soup, Colcannon (mashed potato with kale or cabbage), baked apples and gingerbread. I will do a house saining ritual, carve a pumpkin, and leave out a meal for the ancestors and porridge for the nature spirits. The nearest Celtic area to me is Cornwall and this time is celebrated there as Allantide, where it is customary to give an Allan apple to each family member as a symbol of good luck and children would often put it under their pillows. I will probably do that too if I can find some.

Hutton, Ronald. The Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996.

ADF. Our Own Druidry: An Introduction to Ár nDraíocht Féin and the Druid Path. Tucson: ADF Publishing, 2009.

 Ellis, Peter Berresford. A Brief History of the Druids. London: Constable & Robinson Ltd, 2002.

Davidson, H. R. Ellis. Gods and Myths of Northern Europe. London: Penguin Books, 1964.

http://www.tairis.co.uk/

http://www.gaolnaofa.com/festivals/

http://gaelicfolkway.webs.com/feiseannaomh.htm





Week 10 – Ancestors, The Mighty Dead

25 05 2013

Until a few years ago I wasn’t very interested in my ancestors. But since the death of a friend and my journey into paganism, they have become a very important part of my life and spiritual practice. With only one grandparent and my parents left, I have many direct ancestors to honour. In ADF the ancestors are associated with the Well because that is the gate to the underworld in which they dwell. They are also associated with the Sea. In Celtic mythology one of the dwelling places of the dead were islands over the western sea, while in Norse mythology, those who die at sea are thought to dwell under it in the halls of Aegir and Ran. The ancestors are also related to the concept of water because of the well of wisdom (mimir). The ancestors represent the accumulation of many generations of wisdom and memory which one accesses through the sacred well. In terms of the Two Powers conception of the universe, the ancestors would be related to the Earth current – the dark, cool, embryonic power of the earth which is full of knowledge and potential.

The ancestors, also called the Mighty Dead in ADF, can be viewed in three distinct groups. The first are the ancestors of blood. These are our ancestors who are directly related to us through our blood e.g. family members who have passed away. The second are ancestors of spirit. These are people who have influenced our lives, whether people we knew or those who have had an important affect on our culture and helped to create the world we live in today. These can also include the ancient ancestors of our chosen hearth culture. Finally there are ancestors of place. These are the people who lived in and shaped the land on which we currently live – their bones and atoms are now in the very ground we walk on. I also think it is important to remember that science teaches us through evolution that our ancestry can be traced right back to a common ancestor and that we are therefore kin with all living beings in the world.

There are many ways to honour our ancestors. For me, this takes three main forms. Firstly I have done research into my family tree to discover as much as I can about my ancestors. I have discovered that I have some Japanese ancestry and that one of my great great grandfathers was killed in the first world war. Secondly, I maintain an area of my altar devoted to my ancestors and place several objects and pictures on it that remind me of them. Finally, I also call on them in ritual (especially on Samhain) and give them offerings of cider in order to show that I honour them. In Celtic, Anglo Saxon and Norse cultures, the ancestors could often be contacted by visiting their graves or sitting on their grave mounds so this year I would like to try and visit some of my ancestors graves which are quite far away from me and pay my respects. I would also like to do even more more research into my family tree and find out as many of their birthdays and death days so I can honour them on those days (which is something I already do for one of my friends who died). It is very important to remember our ancestors and teach others to do the same because one day, we too will be an ancestor. Also, they are often seen as the Kindred which is most interested in us and easiest to relate to because they have experience human life and are interested in their family lines.





Dedicant Path Week 5 – Home Shrine

12 04 2013

Above is the picture of my altar. The centre of the altar is my tree (a small bonsai), well (a dish of water with a shell in) and fire (candle). In front of these is a wooden bowl for offerings. On either side of the altar are two vases with flowers in which I inherited from one of my grandmothers who died a few years ago. I have also added two glasses with daffodils in temporarily.

The left hand side of my altar is dedicated to my ancestors and includes a fan used by my grandmother, a picture of my parents wedding which include three of my grandparents who have died, a poppy because I found out recently that I had a great great grandfather who died in the first world war, a St Christopher necklace given to me by my grandmother when I was born and a fossil to remind me that my ancestors go right back through time and evolution to the first common life form. I also have a funeral programme for a friend who was killed three years ago in a car crash and who’s death precipitated my own crisis of faith that led to my rejection of Christianity and my search for a spirituality that is more connected to nature and to ancestors.

Across my altar there are objects from nature to remind me of the nature spirits in my area. These include shells from my local beach, feathers from some local sea gulls and pine cones and chestnuts from local trees. I often add fallen leaves in the autumn too. I also have a bell to begin and end rituals, a chalice for the waters of life and an incense holder with incense in. At the moment I am using a homemade Ogham set for my divination tool so that is also on my altar.

My altar is in my front room so it maintains a central place in my life and is the first thing I see when I walk into the room. It is in the West because it is not practical to put it in the North or East. I am able to maintain it as a permanent shrine.

In future I would like to improve it by having more candles and getting a cauldron for the well and a nicer offering bowl. As I am going for a more Norse/ Anglo-Saxon hearth culture now, I need to make some Runes for divination and I would also like to get some pictures or statues of Norse deities, especially Thor/ Thunor to put on there. I know I have some Japanese ancestry so I’d like to get something small to represent that too. I would also like to buy a drinking horn to replace the chalice.