Archive for the ‘Winter Solstice’ Category

Read Full Post »

the winds

I’m in Austin for the holidays. A front is moving down, and the winds are whipping the pecan trees. It is Love!

by Emily Dickinson

Of all the sounds despatched abroad,
There’s not a charge to me
Like that old measure in the boughs,
That phraseless melody

The wind does, working like a hand
Whose fingers brush the sky,
Then quiver down, with tufts of tune
Permitted gods and me.


Read Full Post »

At 4pm today I needed lights on in the house.  It was dark; or at least dark enough.  As I drove to the train station at 4:15pm, I needed the headlights on.  My body feels the dark now.  St. John’s Wort has given me welcome relief from the depression of the lengthening night, but today–for the first time–I felt the deep desire to withdraw: to climb into a warm bed and remain (at least until the sun returns).

The dark may finally be  impacting me because community has retreated.  I have had visitors almost the entire Autumn and early Winter.  First, a dear friend and initiator was here for a week; then a craft sister and friend for another week; and most recently, two of my sweet friends brought my faery god-daughter  for three weeks!  This has me musing on the role of community at different times of the solar year.

For instance, here in Ireland this is the traditional time for story-telling.  I have mentioned previously the taboo against story in the summer half of the year.  I wonder now how much of this was purely practical.  Not just work-wise, as there would be less physical work engaged in during the winter, but also, psychologically.  I have been brought to task on this blog, by a friend who is a scholar in the field, for being over simplistic in my approach to folklore, but Professor Ó Crualaich (in The Book of the Cailleach)makes much about the theaurapeutic role story and folklore played for oral cultures.

Might the telling of story, and the gatherings those sessions required, during the long dark have played a significant role for a community suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder?

Soon enough I will escape the solitude and stillness of the dark.  Like a magical bird, I will take flight– returning for a time to the land of wide sky and high sun.  I am spending the holiday back home with family, and there are three things I am looking particularly forward to:

Margaritas, BBQ, and REAL Mexican food!  🙂

Read Full Post »

In my window seat, perched above the valley, I see scattered farm lights. I sit here in the dark, window open. A stillness so deep, there is only a whisper in the bare limbs of the trees. Barking. A farm dog scent of fox.

The Dark.

Porch light casts a yellow glow, making beautiful shadow forms poised in contemplative silence. My heart races out beyond the confines of my skin. Consciousness swirls kaleidoscope in awareness of that larger Mind which is unfathomably deep.

Do I dance?
do I Sing?

This holy moment is a breath for me to fill my lungs with. A black mouth of time for me to kiss, because there is no separation–only longing. How can I Be other than weep for the delight and ecstasy of it.

Where are You?
what is outside your window?

I dare you-in this moment….

close your eyes and hear

tell me what is there, in your place


Read Full Post »

[text copied in its entirety from Irish folklore list to be used for my research in the future]

>Rathraige or Roithrige or Rothraige or Rodraige [Rathan] als. Corce Roide:
>Nine men of the son (sons) of Glaschach, son of Mug Ruith from whom
>are the Rodraige. Genealogical Tracts: Three sons of Mug Nuadat.
>One of the Achedtuatha.
>Dal ua Corp (Corb?) were: Dal nUiste; Fedraige, Gabraige, Glasraige,
>Gregraige, Grandraige, Lugraige, Lusfraige, Mendraige *Mennraige*,
>Mendtraige, Rathraige, Rochraige, Seinraige, Sodraige, Tradraige,
>Uaraige, RC xx 336

This is very useful. So as far as I can see the reference to Mug Ruith as an
eponymous ancestor of the Rodraige is taken from The Expulsion of the Déisi
which has been dated to the 8th century so right near our earliest
references to him. The narrative breaks off at various points to explore
separate stories of individuals in the text and there are battles, druíd and
magic but Mug Ruith remains undeveloped in the text appearing towards the
end in a long list of the various subsets of the Déisi. 

When I try to find references to genealogies of Mug Nuadat I am not finding
a Mog Ruith connection, instead I am only finding Eochaid Rothán listed as
an alternative eponymous ancestor of the Rothrige but I'm still looking for
a date for the composition. Have I missed something? 

At any rate it does seem to verify our assumption that Mog Ruith was linked
from some of his earliest references to the Rothraige (of various spellings)
but we seem to have an alternative in Eochaid Rothán also being put forward.
We also have an earlier background for some of the narrative ideas in the
Siege story and although we cannot push the date of its composition back any
further we can see that it expands on a story of the Déisi and Cormac mac
Airt that goes back to the 8th century. 

Looking at the Déisi story I came across a neat summary in a book by Will
Parker called The Four Branches of the Mabinogi which looks very interesting
so I'm quite grateful to this thread for bringing this to my attention - he
explores various Irish texts in the book and their meaning in the Irish /
Welsh context :) and I shall be looking to get this book in the near future:

"Before we explore the other main themes in the Third Branch, the Wasteland
Myth and the figure of the ‘Un-King’, we need to understand the background
of the particular group that settled in Dyfed. These are identified in the
medieval tradition as the Déisi or Dessi, a parallel branch of which
inhabited a small tribal kingdom in the eastern coastlands of present day
County Cork.

According to an Old Irish text (dated by Meyer to the late eight century
AD),666 the Déisi were a vassal people whose homeland was originally in the
Meath area. In the reign of Cormac they suffered abuse at the hands of the
high king’s son, and were subsequently forced into exile. In the course of
their wanderings they spent some time in Leinster, before being moved on
again in the time of the
reign of the High King Crimthann. They were then moved on to the South,
where they eventually established a territory among the peoples of Munster.

The Expulsion of the Déisi, though an unremarkable tribal-historical tract
in many respects, does include some interesting features. Telling as it does
the story of a ‘wandering people’ (immerge), the Expulsion is perhaps
necessarily anti-heroic. Throughout the story the Déisi are continually
harried, routed and moved on by neighbouring tribal groups – resulting in
their perpetual itinerant, landless
status. While they are not portrayed as weak or cowardly, they are
represented as suffering more than their fair-share of animosity and
ill-fortune: a state of affairs that begins with the rape of one of their
daughters by the High King Cormac’s son.

It is interesting to note that one of leading protagonists from among the
Déisi is a rather sinister female druidic figure, known as Eithne Uathach
‘Eithne Dread’ who was ‘reared on the flesh of little boys’ to ensure her
preternatural growth. It was prophesied that through Eithne the Déisi would
eventually ‘seize land on which they shall dwell’. And indeed, this proves
to be the case. Eithne first
marries the High King of the Mumu (Munster), then negotiates a homeland for
the Déisi, her mother’s people. But this homeland is only secured when the
Osraige (‘Deer-People’), rival claimants to the land, are finally overcome.
This victory itself is again largely the work of Eithne, following a
prophetic vision induced by ‘two jars full of wine … from the lands of Gaul’.

In this vision, the Déisi receive the rather unheroic injunction that as
long as they do not strike the first blow, victory will be theirs. To this
end, they magically transform a passing serf into the shape of a ‘red,
hornless cow’ and send this hapless proxy over to where the Osraige were
advancing, who
kill it before they realise ‘it was man that had been slain’. After this
follows one of the few military victories achieved by the Déisi throughout
this tribal-historic account, with the Osraige turning and running ‘like
deer’. After this, the Déisi divide up the newly won territories, to be held
‘until the day of Judgement’.

We are less concerned with the historical reality or otherwise of this
mythico-legal tract. It was probably constructed largely to explain the
presence of tribal groups with the name ‘Déisi’ in various parts of central,
eastern and southern Ireland and to qualify the nature of the relationship
of this last group with the high kings of Cashel (the Eoganachta of Mumu).
It is an almost parenthetic reference to a fourth offshoot of the Déisi
tribe – this time over the Irish Sea – that interests us in this particular
context. This is mentioned shortly after the birth of Eithne, just as the
Déisi are attempting to find a foothold in the South:

Eochiad, son of Artchorp, went over the sea with his descendants into the
territory of the Demed [i.e. Dyfed], and it is there that his sons and
grandsons died. And from them is the race of Crimthann over there, of which
there is Tualodor son of Rigin, son of Catacuin, son of Caittien, son of
Clotenn, son of
Naee, son of Artuir, son of Retheoir, son of Congair, son of Gartbuir, son
of Alchoil, son of Trestin, son of Aed Brosc, son of Corath, son of Eochaid
Allmuir, son of Artchorp.

Interestingly enough, almost precisely the same geneaological sequence is
found in the Harleian genealogies of the kings of Dyfed, based on traditions
current at the court of Owain ap Hywel, in tenth century Wales. Through
this, we can fairly confidently link the name of ‘Gartbuir son of Alchoil’
with the ‘Vorteporix Protectoris’ commemorated on the aforementioned
inscribed stone (in both
Latin and ogham characters) at Narbeth in Dyfed. Gartbuir/Vorteporix can in
turn be linked to Vortipor the tyrannus demetorium ‘the tyrant of Dyfed’ – a
figure mentioned by Gildas, his sixth century contemporary. What this tells
us is that even into the Early Middle Ages there was at least a memory of a
common tradition linking the Expulsion of the Déisi with the extensive Irish
settlements in Dyfed. It would even seem likely that the two regions
involved, Dyfed and Southern Ireland, remained in close contact for some
generations after this settlement.

The Irish presence in Dyfed is testified, as we have seen, in numerous ways:
including the presence of ogham stones and Irish-style raths as well as a
number of toponymic and linguistic indicators. Both the ogham tradition and
the raths would seem to point to a particular connection with the southern
area of Ireland: a connection which is also recognised by the medieval
tradition. While we cannot be certain about the accuracy of the origin myths
or even the genealogies involved, it is clear that these were traditions
that were recognised on both sides of the Irish Sea, even into the Early
Middle Ages. If we are looking, then, for the original Irish-Demetian
tradition on which the Third Branch probably drew, we should at first
consider this Southern Irish context, and any significant mythical parallels
that might be found in it. The latter points most heavily to the exile myth
of the Déisi outlined above, as well as the ‘un-king’ tale (with its
Wasteland associations) found also in the Irish tale Cath Maige Mucrama,
which we shall consider in due course."


It is interesting that in the Déisi story we have the same use of magic to
acquire land and that Parker notes this might be considered anti-Heroic in
the same way that Mark Williams describes the Siege story:

"The conscious manipulation of apocalyptic and apocryphal story elements
that we see in Forbuis Droma Damhghaire perhaps has a satirical purpose.
Does it diminish Mug Ruith to dress him, as it were, in the garments of
Antichrist? In Forbuis Droma Damhghaire, he is an impressive, dignified
figure, but it is possible that the very excess of magic in the text is
satirical. Magic undercuts the heroic code: enchantment diminishes. The new
synthesis that led druidic cloud-divination to emerge as a motif in the
twelfth century, or perhaps slightly before, shows us that Irish
presentations of the wonder-workers of their pagan past were certainly not
static: new elements were brought in to revivify these
literary representations. These were often remarkably ambivalent, as with
the dual influence of both Magi and diabolical magi in the creation of
néladóracht. We have seen that early Irish writers drew on Isidore as the
standard description of wicked magical practices, though they emphasized
different aspects of his account."

Williams, FIERY SHAPES (2010)

So some possible interesting emerging connections - 

- Eithne Uathach in the Déisi story and the other instances of úatha in
Irish stories and their connection with the Morrígain (cf. Borsje, The
‘terror of the night’ and the Morrígain: Shifting faces of the supernatural
at http://dare.uva.nl/document/133032)

- the idea of acquiring or defending land through magic rather than through
direct (heroic?) battle

- the Morrígain assumes the form of an eel to attack Cú Chulainn in the Táin
Bó Cúailnge and a similar (yet fatal) attack by an ally of Mog Ruith in the
Siege story. 

- the Morrígain's familial connections show a heavy leaning towards incest
and one of the unique features of the Irish Antichrist myth as opposed to
the rest of Europe is that he is to be born incestuously so it may be
significant that Irish texts place this emphasis on incest in the birth of
characters with a dread nature about them

If anything I wold say we are moving further and further away from a sun-god
connection and more to the darker side of things.

Read Full Post »

A little tidbit, while I’m thinking of it.20120821-142939.jpg

We have several large standing stones on our ridge. The thick, curved variety. One of our neighbors popped in today, to make a massage appointment, and she mentioned a bit of local folklore about these stones. Here in east Cork, those large stones are known as ‘bull stones’. Our neighbor said that when she was a girl, she thought this was because they tied the bull to them….

On the Dingle Peninsula, there was a great assembly held on Domhnach Chrom Dubh in the village of Cloghane. In the old days, the turas (pilgrimage) was made at dawn (1). That would mean a night climb or a vigil on the hill. The ’rounds’ consisted of praying at the ruined oratory and then encircling it and the pillar-stone and the ‘graves’ nine times while saying the Rosary, and ended by taking a drink from the well. When these exercises finished, pilgrims went down the eastern slope to the village, where a famous Patron was held. This Patron (pattern) was begun, tradition says, to20120821-160849.jpg commemorate the day on which the pagan Crom Dubh was converted to Christianity. Crom lived at Ballyduff (Baile Dubh), about two miles from Cloghane. A stone carving, formerly kissed as a cure for toothache, in the wall of a local church is said to represent his head. In the OS Name Books for this parish, dated 1841, there is a note indicating that Croum Dhu was the god of the harvest whom pagans worshipped. His conversion legend tells of him slaughtering a bull in order to send the meat as a gift to St. Brendan.

Another story, from Galway, recounts how Crom Dubh (a false god whose law prevailed until Patrick overcame him) was a wild speckled bull (tarbh breac) that killed travelers at Mam Ean: it attacked Patrick, but was driven by him into the lake in which it drowned (Loch an Tairbh – the bull’s lake). In Armagh there is the story of a bull that prevented Patrick from building a church, so Patrick cursed him and he went mad, eventually caught and killed, and buried under a standing stone at Corran. This stone, part of The Bull’s Tracks, was once associated with the bull of Cualgne (from the Cattle Raid of Cooley), which makes sense because originally the bull that defied Patrick (Crom) and the bull of Cualgne were, if not one and the same, at least emanations of the same concept. On an island north of Skye there was a tradition of sacrificing a bull in August, on a day dedicated to ‘going around some ruinous chapels, taking of omens from a hole in a round stone…, adoring of wells and … pouring of milk upon hills as oblations.’ 20120821-160834.jpg– and the bull-killing associated with a cure for insanity(2). From Cois Fhairrge, we hear of a beef-animal skinned and roasted to ashes in honour of Crom Dubh (harvest-giver and weather-ruler), which the hide carefully preserved. For as we know from many Irish sources, sleeping in a bull-hide was a rite of divination.

I have a reference to make here connecting the wild bull as guardian and dream giver, and an essential trial undergone by seekers, but am at a loss to find my citation [NEED CITATION].

There are several large stones identified as, or with, Crom Dubh (Crom Cruach, Cromm Crúaich, Cenn Cruach, Cenncroithi), i.e.. the decorated stone from a Cavan stone circle, and the large stone at the Grange circle in Limerick.

In he latest issue of the NRA archeology magazine, they mention this about standing stones20120821-160857.jpg, “Standing stones are thought to have functioned as burial-markers, commemorative monuments, boundmarkers and route indicators. … Previous excavations of standing stones in Ireland demonstrate a general association with prehistoric burial grounds and they are
often interpreted as territorial markers. It has also been occasionally suggested that some are aligned on important landscape features such as local mountains. It has also been suggested that standing stones were intended to resemble the human form. The Ask stones may fall into one of two categories: ‘guardian’ stones to the site both warning of the entry into a sacred or supernatural space and protecting the outside world from the energies within, or ‘companion’ stones to the dead, marking the limits and extent of a sacred or significant place, such as a cemetery.”

1. Manuscript of the Irish Folklore Commission 888, 390.
2. Mitchell, A., On various superstitions in the north-west highlands and islands of scotland especially in relation to lunacy.

Read Full Post »

Today is the date of Old Lughnasadh, if you account such things according to the calendrical change from Julian to Gregorian. If we celebrate Bron Trógan, and the groaning of the earth, on this date we notice it coincides with the Perseid meteor shower.

Although, if we hesitate and wait for the 2nd new moon after Summer Solstice, as Máire MacNeill suggests in her seminal work, The Festival of Lughnasa, then we hold our breath until 17 August.

I feel the Gate now…and see that Eithne’s hair has turned golden.


Read Full Post »