Towers: A Satire

These are times for satires. Here’s mine. Some of you might perceive an echo of a famous prophetic poem here, among other things. In Celtic lore, satires really do have venom.

 

Towers: A Satire

 

it rose obscenely pink

like a plucked turkey neck,

then it rose more,

slathered and viscous, not from

primeval slime but

from a polluted swamp.

 

it rose, its towers flung

upward into the heaven of circuitry

into money’s pure domain, where it was

sly at manipulating the currents.

forgetful of its place of emergence,

wiped clean of all traces of roots,

leaves, humus in a sterilizing chamber,

simultaneously calcified and virtualized it was.

 

it turned itself into sign

in the eddies of the monetary,

yet, its towers slipped having

lost their foundation, the muck and mire

from which they had emerged,

the fecund perennial glut and rut

of hordes of teeming soil, oblivious

it was to the seismic twisting of restless serpents,

slipping their fetters far beneath,

the lands and waters

growing ever more active.

rapturous with its penetration

of heaven, the phallic thing

now orange and lurid, smirked,

unaware of the scythed ones,

the raven-clawed ones, and

the red-mouthed ones rising in

fury, their cries echoed

by the shadows of the dead—shrieks

shivering the forgotten foundations

of the network of fruiting bodies

now turned putrid, purple flecked,

and blackening with rot.

 

the millennium tilted as

they threw down

sheets of blood, and

cursed with mists of confusion,

their cups of blood emptied.

the scythed ones

with a flick of wrists unseen

slice the lurid orange things.

 

falling back,

falling back

falling down

down down

 

the hitherto weightless circuits

drift down in ashy precipitate,

mad mangled metal work

and tarantellas of glass.

against the tower

a fortress wall of storm

strong as white steel glowers

over this spectacle.

the unleashed torrents lash

a bare fortress now,

crumbling, naked, defenses failing—

the high places that cannot endure

before the packs of wolves, the terrible storm birds,

the outlaws of the woods, the

reivers, the revenants, the enchanters.

 

a ghastly scene lit by

artillery of lightning reveals

corpses bobbing in the wash.

as floodtide washes away the wreck

a rainbow breaks and I see

an old lady with a basket of mushrooms grinning,

making her way through the salvage.

 

 

 

Filidecht Resources

Here are some useful resources.

Breatnach, Liam. “The Caldron of Poesy”. Eriu 32. 1981.

Calder, George. Auraicept na n-Eces: the Scholar’s Primer.https://archive.org/details/auraiceptnancess00calder

Carey, John. “The Waters of Vision and the Gods of Skill”. Art and the Sacred Kairos and the Dallas Institute for Humanities and Culture. 23 March, 1991. Santa Fe.

Carney, James. Medieval Irish Lyrics with The Irish Bardic Poet.

Chadwick, Nora. Poetry and Prophecy. Good worldwide survey form 1952 (but does contain some racist/colonialist attitudes prevalent in that era).

—, Chadwick. “Imbas forosnai”. Scottish Gaelic Studies, 1935.

Corkery, Daniel. The Hidden Ireland.

Ford, Patrick. “The Blind, the Dumb, and the Ugly”. Cambridge Medieval Celtic Studies 19.

Guyonvarc’h, Christian J. The Making of a Druid: The Hidden Teachings from The Colloquy of Two Sages (the text with annotations).

Heaney, Seamus. Sweeney Astray: A Version from the Irish. Irish poet’s translation of        Suibhne Geilt, the poetry of “mad Sweeney’, a glimpse into the world of a geilt, outsider poet living in the woods.

Henry, P. L. “The Caldron of Poesy”. Studia Celtica 14/15. 1979/80.

Jones, Mary. Jones Celtic Encyclopedia. 1998-2015. Web.

Laurie, Erynn Rowan. The Well of Five Streams (contains her Cauldron of Poesy article).

Minahane, John. The Christian Druids: on the filid or philosopher-poets of Ireland.

Nagy, Nagy, Joseph Falaky. The Wisdom of the Outlaw: The Boyhood Deeds of Finn in Gaelic Narrative Tradition. Berkeley and Los Angeles: U of California Press, 1985. The Fenian outsider warriors were poets too.

Ó hÓgáin, Dáithí The Sacred Isle. A crucial book for understanding pre-Christian practices and believes in Ireland by an Irish Celticist.

Ó hÓgáin, Dáithí. Myth, Legend and Romance: An Encyclopaedia of Irish Folk Tradition. London: Ryan, 1990.

Ó Tuathail, Sean. The Excellence of Ancient Word: Druid Rhetorics from Ancient Irish Tales. Idiosyncratic modern practitioner’s take is worth a read.

Patterson, Nerys. Cattle Lords and Clansmen: The Social Structure of Early Ireland. The historical background.

Skelton, Robin. Samhain and other poems in Irish Metres of the Eighth to the Sixteenth Centuries. Contains an appendix with the different traditional meters.

Thompson, Christopher Scott. A God Who Makes Fire: the Bardic Mysticism of Amergin. A recommended practitioner’s handbook.

Above the Clouds

It’s been quiet around here (it seems with the gloom of the US political situation, prepping for a new job, and my mom being hospitalized my ability to write has been stopped up), but before the newness of the year is gone I want to spill out a few words here. The old year sputtered out with an occasional remaining fit of coughing and spewing. A new one has come in with the energy of a careening freight train, will the rails hold, or if not what might be down there at the end of the line? Some will say years are arbitrary but they are astronomical realities. Sure, it’s a cultural thing where they’re said to start and to end and begin again but we are symbolic animals and psyche is as real as soma.

 

For many in the northern hemisphere it’s winter, but here in the tropics day and night are the antinomies, but the nights have at least cooled off. At the end of the year I had the opportunity to journey up to a high summit (just under 14,000 feet) where winter is reigning. Plenty of snow on the amazing mountain of Maunakea. The effects of high altitude, of low oxygen can easily induce light trance-like states, and the otherworld can more easily communicate with this one at these heights, I have found. Whether via literal heights or those we can reach in our imagination, in “interesting times” it is important to get above the clouds from time to time, above the light pollution of the media (including social media). Of course, one can go underneath too, but that is a different journey.

 

I do have a few announcements to make:

 

I will be at PantheaCon in San Jose in February and presenting a class on filidecht practice on Feb. 17th, “Cauldron Work: The Cauldron of Poesy” (9PM). Here’s from the program:

 

The Three Cauldrons are discussed in the medieval Irish text: “The Cauldron of Poesy”, attributed to the mythical vision poet (fili) Amergin. We will talk about the nature of the whirlpool-like cauldrons and their turning in this wisdom tradition, the importance of our emotions in this tradition (which can turn the cauldrons), and techniques to scan for personal knowledge. To turn the cauldron of wisdom upright, even if momentarily, brings mystical insight. We will discuss the key technique of incubation as well; poetry, art, song, knowledge, wisdom are fruit of this work.

 

The devotional book The Dark Ones, published late last year by Neosalexandria has my poem for the Cailleach, along with a lot of familiar voices. Ordering info here:

https://neosalexandria.org/bibliotheca-alexandrina/current-titles/fiction-anthologies/the-dark-ones-tales-and-poems-of-the-shadow-gods/

 

The new issue of A Beautiful Resistance is available for pre-order and will be out next month. I have an essay there about the left-hand sacred, an important understanding of the sacred earlier developed by Emile Durkheim, Marcel Mauss and Georges Bataille and very relevant for 21st century pagans/polytheists. https://godsandradicals.org/2017/01/01/left-sacred-presale/

Here’s a lovely meme with a quote from the essay made by Rhyd Wildermuth:

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Finally, a quote from an inspiring essay by William Hawes:

“Each of us must find the strength to light their own flame, find their own inner strength and sacred fire, and use their passion and creativity to change the world. By using our collective brilliance, a new space could be opened up for a new kind of Earth. Reviving our communities one-by-one gives us our only chance to confront and defeat the many tentacle monster of international capitalism and US imperialism. There is an alternative: but you won’t find it by watching your TV, or playing on your smartphone.”

https://godsandradicals.org/2017/01/16/lighting-a-flame-in-dark-times/

Imbolc is coming! May Brigid’s flame inspire us.

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Extinction Remembrance Day

November 30th is Remembrance Day for Lost Species. I believe commemorations like this can be channels for the grief that any authentic living in this time must confront. Definitely a good day to mark for those with an animist bent.

More information can be found at this website.

https://www.lostspeciesday.org/

I’ve also found valuable thoughts from Lo (Keen) on extinction on this blog: https://rotwork.wordpress.com/

I’ve written a couple of poems and tributes to the lost birds of the Big Island of Hawai’i for this day.

A distinctively human consciousness arose in Paleolithic

linguistics and painted its wrestle with abyssal animal mind,

staving guilt of hunt and anxiety separation

with ritual’s diplomacy:

ochre and feathers

and sorcerers dancing on the edge of worlds,

occasionally falling off into the pit of bones.

now centuries of the rites cast aside,

suppressed volcanoes of grief wait unaddressed

and sedimentary layers of numbness press on our continents—

a society looks for the forgotten

who peek occasionally from sedated dreams,

in pixar and pokemon-alert smartphones

(the children were out in August—I hadn’t known there were any,

but there they’d gathered near where the stream gushes by the supermarket unseen)

while outside barely known

the Sixth Extinction rages on.

We the truly lost species as tectonic plates grind on.

Here on the island of Hawai’i there are at least ten species of bird that have gone extinct since the arrival of whites in the late 18th century. There are many more if the entire archipelago is included. Hawaii has suffered more extinctions and more endangered species than any other US state. The majority of these lost species are of a group of birds called Hawaiian honeycreepers that underwent diverse speciation as they adapted to a multitude of island environments much like the finches that led Darwin to theorizing evolution. In many cases their habitat was destroyed by sugar plantations and cattle ranching; also the introduction of rats, mosquitoes and the diseases they transmit (there were none before the Europeans came), mongooses and cats have led to the demise of others.

The Hawaii mamo, Drepanis pacifica, last seen in 1898.

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The greater Koa finch, Rhodocanthis palmeri. Last confirmed sighting in 1896.

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The lesser Koa finch, R. flaviceps, 1891.

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The Kona grosbeak, Chloridops kona. 1894.

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The Hawai’i o’o, Moho nobilis, last seen in 1934.

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The ula-‘ai-hawene, Ciridops anna, extinct at the latest by 1937.

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The greater ‘amakini, Viridonia sagittirostris, last seen in1901. Lost to sugar plantations destroying its habitat.

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The lesser ‘akialoa, Akialoa obscura. Last seen in 1940.

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The Hawaiian rail, Porzana sandwichensis. 1884 or maybe 1893.

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The kioea, Chaetoptila angustipluma, 1859.

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All images Wikipedia, public domain.

 

An Elegy

before the cattle, before the sugar,

before the mosquitoes and rats

brought by whalers’ ships,

before the plantations

how much richer the island life—

when the lost birds could be heard cracking

the naio fruits, flitting in gold epaulettes and black dress

among the ohia trees,

opening the seed pods in the koa groves,

sheltering from fierce noon sun and plundering

nectar with long curved beaks. Your flights

haunt, a lost net of sorrow.

.

Report from a Windy Place

The winds are blowing hard. Last night they howled and moaned, things clattered and knocked about outside. A light rain falls. A storm is expected tomorrow. It seems to reflect things happening far away in the national ‘center’. I think of David Abram’s intuiting of the wind as spirit. This has been a difficult year on a personal level. When you have a local focus and animistic practice big moves, changes of geography and ecology are painful. At times I have been nearly overwhelmed with what the French call mal du pays (yes, the French have a much better word for what English makes do with homesickness; readers of Haruki Murakami, that animist novelist, will recognize this term, and know Lizt has a musical piece by this name). Local spirits left behind. Meeting new ones, but that takes time.

 

Things are shifting, realignments occurring on the macro-level. This is happening within our pagan/polytheist communities as well. Unpleasant things have come to light this year, things that weren’t exactly invisible before, but like seeing peoples’ masks slip, and seeing such ugliness revealed.

 

Rootedness is good for animism, good for learning ecological ways. But uprooting can be needed, so a god tells me. And there are much greater ones, much greater uprootings. I received rebuke (it hurt), my complaints getting in the way of doing the work. The storm warning says trees will be downed. Be prepared. Stock up on water, batteries…

 

A god shows me we must make otherworld sanctuaries, places not of this world. With our gods-given gift of imagination we co-create these places. They will be needed.

 

The winds blow harder. I am much more aware of the sky here. The stars. Much of my practice has long been deeply earth-focused (and still is) but the sky is becoming more prominent. There are times for flight. I receive lessons. I watch the birds, especially the white ones. At times it is necessary to fly high above the cloud layers, above the storms to high mountain summits, to the Cities of Knowledge, to the abodes that shine with the light of the Shining Ones.

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We need to unleash the imbas, the awen, the intuitive flows. I touch the odd vitreous substance of the castle walls. There are others here too, others heeding have flown here.

 

I went up on the mountain, almost to the summit. Iron-red and black cinder all about. I was light headed, this one was this-worldly but not really, it all intersects, the heavens and the earth. Some build bridges with science, some with poetry. I was oxygen deprived, I was drunk, the light was tangible. Poetry flit in the thin air, the god wanted me to go there for a long time, I could see for two hundred miles. It’s necessary at times to go high above the cloud layers above the storms to high summits.

 

 

Catching Wisdom: Nuadhu, Nechtan, Nodens

I’ve decided to share an essay I wrote for Air N-Aithesc (Lughnasadh/Samhain 2015) issue here. This exploration was generated out of my filidecht work which has brought me to this awesome god(s).

Catching Wisdom: Nuadhu, Nechtan, Nodens

The god who is willing to play a high price for justice, for the protection of his tribe, is found in many Indo-European religions. In the Irish pantheon we find Nuadhu, often known as Nuadhu Airgetlam (Silver Hand or Arm). The lore tells us that it was under the leadership of Nuadhu that the gods came to Ireland from the four cities of magic and learning in the north, where they had previously resided. In his most famous myth, He loses his arm in the First Battle of Maige Tuired. He who has held the kingship among the gods, steps down, as the king must be unblemished and whole—steps down of His own accord. The physician gods Dian Cecht and his son Miach come to strife over the replacement: flesh restored by spells (Miach) or a beautiful silver prosthesis (Dian Cecht). With the perfectly usable silver one Nuadhu was enabled to receive the kingship again. The context is the First Battle of Maige Tuired: this divine war puts him into the heart of the Indo-European myth of the battle of the gods, which was probably part of his cultus (Ó hÓgain, Myth 326). There are parallels with the Norse Tyr who lost an arm to the Fenris wolf here (Puhvel 199). Nuadhu’s arm was severed in combat with Sreang, a Fir Bolg warrior; His comrades had intervened and brought him off the battlefield but the next day He was back on it. He entreated Sreang to tie up his right arm so they could resume combat fairly, but the Fir Bolg warrior refused. The Tuatha De Danann stepped in in what They thought would be Nuadhu’s destruction, offering the province of Connacht to the Fir Bolg, which they rejected (Ó hÓgain, Myth 326). Justice, doing the right thing, is a key aspect of Nuadhu but there is much more to Him, and associations with healing and the poetry and the fire in water complex will be explored here.

 

Nuadhu also has important water associations. One of the poetic kennings for the Boyne river is “the forearm of the wife of Nuadhu” (Ó hÓgain, Sacred Isle 136). He appears to be the same as Nechtan who is named as the husband of Boann (and I will precede here from that perspective). This river association is particularly interesting, as the Boyne River was considered the primal river, a source of sacred wisdom. The first reference to it is from Claudius Ptolemaus in the early 2nd century CE who labeled it Buvinda. The Celticist Dr. Dáithí Ó hÓgain says the early Irish form would have been *Bou-vinda, meaning ‘the white lady with bovine attributes’” (Myth 110). She dwelt at the source of the river, a well surrounded by nine hazel trees, whose nuts contained imbas, and when these fell into the water they were consumed by the salmon who in turn held the wisdom in their flesh.

 

In a well known tale1 Boann disobeys Nechtan’s command that only He and his cupbearers can approach the well; if anyone else did, then their eyes would supposedly burst (Puhvel 279). But Boann disregards this and Her transgression ushers a flood as waters gush forth and create the river, which bears Her name. As She fled from the three gushes She was injured, losing a hand, an eye, and a foot as She ran all the way to the sea. While this could be given a misogynistic interpretation, it actually conceals mystery (Carey 170). There is an allusion to the Irish magical practice of closing one eye, standing on one foot, and holding up one hand, hinting at Her agency and intentions in this ‘transgression’. It also references a much wider Indo-European association of wisdom being associated not only with wells/pools, but with eyes. As Carey mentions, the word for eye and spring can be the same in Celtic languages, citing the hot springs of Bath, which were called the Waters of the Eye, that is of the goddess Sulis Minerva (171).

 

Ó hÓgain asserts that Boann would have originally been the sacred cow who gives the milk to an archetypal seer-poet named Find, whom Ó hÓgain states is “an early personification of wisdom, many vestiges of whom are found in the early literature” (Myth 208), whose reflex would be Finn the Poet whom the hero Fionn MacCumhaill goes to learn poetcraft from in the Fenian tradition (Nagy 179). This implicitly associates the river with sacred milk. Indian tradition also names rivers as being the milk that flows from mystical cows (Ó hÓgain, Myth 49). Nuadhu is named as an ancestor of both Fionn MacCumhaill and of Finn or Find the Poet. In Find’s lore, He is also called Nuadha Find-Eces, that is Nuadha the Far-Seer Find who was associated with a wise salmon; Ó hÓgain states that Nuadha’s cultus may well have absorbed the lore of this earlier wisdom figure of the Boyne river valley (Myth 210).

 

All of this has led me to explore His role in filidecht. And right into the problem/situation of Nechtan. Necht may have been an ancient word for water (Ó hÓgain, Myth 326) and comes from a root for washing, with additional meanings of clear, pure, white (eDIL). Alternatively, it may derive from the other meaning of necht, that is nephew, which will be considered later. ÓhÓgain states that Nechtan was a “pseudonym” for Nuadhu who was also known as Nuadha Necht. As we’ve seen, His well was said to be at the source of the Boyne, which we have already seen was considered the ‘archetypal’ river. The salmon that Fionn MacCumhall caught and which illuminated him, was originally ‘intended’ for a seer known as Finneigeas and also as Nuadhu Finnegeas, further associating him with the seer-poet tradition. Fionn is as much a seer-poet as an outlaw warrior; he cooked the salmon of wisdom for his teacher Finnaigeas, who’d already fished seven years for this fish and who asked his new guest/pupil (gilla) to do the cooking. Doing so, Fionn burnt his thumb, and put it into his mouth to suck on and was flooded with imbas (Nagy). The image echoes the Norse Sigurd, the dragon-slayer who while cooking the heart of the dragon burnt his thumb and realized through the resultant illumination that his companion sought to kill him. Ó hÓgain believes that Norse and Irish stories influenced each other in a complicated way during the 10th century (216). There are the well-known parallels with the Welsh Gwion Bach attending Cerridwen’s cauldron and licking the spatters that landed on his skin, and the ensuing chase, transformations, and rebirth as poet/prophet Taliesin (Ford 20).

 

 

Nuadha has a parallel and cognate in Britonnic lore, Nodons or Nodens, a god who had a temple at Lydney in what is now the county of Gloucestershire on the bank of the river Severn near the English/Welsh border. The Roman era temple is located on a bluff over the river, which is famous for its tidal bore, a huge incoming tidal wave that surges far upriver. The temple is believed to have been a site of incubation2 for pilgrims seeking healing, and who would stay overnight hoping for a visionary dream. This god was associated with dogs, evoking the hunt. In the interpretatio Romano, He was synchronized with Mars who besides having war attributes was a god of agriculture and had associations with water (Jones). At Chesterholm in north Britain, an inscription synchronizes Nodens with Neptune. He was syncretized at Lancaster with Mars where two such inscriptions of Mars Nodens have been found (Green, Dictionary 162). Dogs, while symbolizing hunting, also symbolized healing; belief in the healing powers of dogs are widespread (and reappearing in current western medicine). Besides war and water, Mars also was associated with healing, so the dogs could represent both strands. Nine striking canine images were excavated from the temple (Green 162).

Roman_Temple_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1318760

 

Nodens also has a syncretism at Lydney with Silvanus, a forest and hunting deity (Green, Gods 148). Silvanus was a Roman god of the forest and wild places, boundaries, and with some agricultural attributes, as one of His attributes is the falx, a sickle. Important in terms of Lydney is his association with sight hounds. This fairly elaborate and large temple with its guest house for the pilgrims. The temple has depictions with marine imagery: there is a mosaic in the cella of a marine scene, a bronze relief of a sea god, and a diadem was found that shows a god driving a quadriga (chariot) adorned with tritons and anchors, in other words a Neptune like figure, though Green rather surprisingly states Him to be a solar god (Green, Gods 148).

 

This is a good place to think about synchronization: while this is often thought to be an actual equation of two deities, as is so prevalent in western occultism and Neopaganism, it can just as well be thought that analogical comparisons are being made, that is similes: Nodens is like Neptune, or like Silvanus in some way3. Carefully considering these comparisons made in the Romano-Brittonic practices can shed light on qualities of deities so synchronized (and indirectly of Nuadhu). Neptune might seem an odd one at first, but His earliest role was an association with springs before becoming merged with the Greek Poseidon and thought of as oceanic (even Poseidon appears to have had archaic associations of the chthonic). A lot of coins were found at Lydney; one of them suggestively has a figure catching a salmon (Ó hÓgain, Sacred Isle 136). A reconstructed IE proto-myth as elaborated by Jean Puhvel finds another connection between Nechtan/Nodens and Neptune. The other possible root of the name is the other meaning of ‘necht’, which means nephew, which would prove a philological linkage with the Indo-Iranian deity Apam Napat found in Vedic and Avestan sources and whose name would then share a root with Nechtan and is the ‘Nept’ in Neptunus, as well, argues Puhvel (279). Even Rome had a historicized version of a fire in the waters myth; in its case, the Alban Lake was said to have overflowed its volcanic crater during the war with the neighboring Etruscan city of Veii (Puhvel 279).

 

 

Proinsias MacCana notes the etymological equivalence of Nudd, who would be the same as Nodens and of Nuadhu (69). However, because the god who was worshiped at Lydney and whose temple dates to the 3th century and was renovated in the next (Green, Gods 147), was part of a heavily synchronized cult, he states “that some of these would suggest that the god had strong aquatic associations, and yet these are not noticeably reflected in the legends of Nuadhu and his Welsh congeners” (MacCana 69). However, if we accept Nechtan as Nuadhu, this really isn’t true. The Welsh tradition comes down more blurred, but a parallel is that both Nudd and Nuadhu were portrayed as governing realms threatened by chaotic forces, with Llud’s kingdom threatened by the invasion of the magical people known as the Coraniad in the tale “Lludd and Llefelys”, included in the Mabinogi (MacCana 69). Nuadha/Nechtan/Nodens could have strong ‘functions’ in the primal struggle of chaos/cosmos reflected in the domains of war, medicine, and art.

 

Returning to the Boyne River, which was the body of its eponymous goddess Boann after Her ‘transgression’, or as Christopher Scott Thompson (with whom I agree) sees it, Her tactic to unleash the poetic waters and their wisdom for the world, it is relevant to consider that another of Her names is Segais, according to the Metrical Dinndchensas (93). In the Cauldron of Poesy text4 which provides an arcane guide to the turning of the three cauldrons that are said to be within the human constitution, and provides a guidebook to the practice of the filidh, the Boyne becomes seen as the ‘ur’ river, the original sacred river, which has many manifestations from the Tigris to the Tiber and interestingly enough, the Severn is mentioned as one of them (93) in light of the location of the temple at Lydney). According to the Cauldron text (Thompson’s translation, which incorporates the glosses; see Henry, and Breatnach for original and scholarly translations), the “joy at the coming of poetic ecstasy from the nine hazels of the Well of Wisdom in the otherworld, landing on the Boyne river as thick as a ram’s fleece and flowing against the current faster than a racing horse at the midsummer fair once every seven years. When the beams of the sun strike the plants along the Boyne, it is then that the Imbas bubbles up on them. Whomever eats them then will acquire an art” (Thompson 14). Pushing up river we must go, and like returning salmon to the headwaters, the source, the Well of Segais where Nechtan dwells with his cupbearers. His wife has disappeared into the waters, but there He can be found by the waters of life that bubble with chaos and potentiality. Such is my aisling. As the dweller at the Well of Segais, more of a pool it seems to me, I think Nechtan would Himself be intimately linked with the flow of imbas, with the Cauldron of Wisdom, which is linked with the Well of Segais in the Cauldron of Poesy text, whose nuts are stated as a source of one of the joys that this cauldron affords (Henry 125, Breatnach 67).

 

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Weir on Boyne (by JP–Wiki).

Again flowing out, the rush of the imbas like a stream of milk, like waters bursting a dam, like a tidal bore; the river itself, a river that has held attraction since the earliest times, the river that ran beneath the monuments of the Neolithic Irish, which the Gaels were to repopulate with their own deities as dwellers therein, and whose seer-poets (re)mythologized the rich river valley. Ó hÓgain suggests that the previously mentioned wisdom figure Find, derived from a Celtic Vindos, was thought to dwell there with a sacred cow, the source of inspiration, Bouvindos, and was seen as a bright-haired youth, hence his name, who emerged from the waters (Ó hÓgain, Myth 209). Fionn MacCumhaill in this view was to later absorb this tradition and Find would be echoed in medieval lore in other figures such as Find File, Morann, and Fionntan, the famous seer and lore keeper who had lived through many ages as an eagle, a hawk and a salmon as well as in human form and said to have come to Ireland with Cessair (Myth 224-5). Ó hÓgain writes that His name most likely comes from a “Celtic compound Vindo-senos, which would mean ‘old Find’…that Fionntan was a variant in ancient lore of the great mythical Find” (Myth 224). He suggests that around the 2nd century BCE this cult was influenced by the adoption of the cultus of Nuadhu, who was said to have a sacred salmon in the river (Myth 209). All in all, a vast tangled net of stories and lore but through which swim the central figures of wisdom, which manifests in metrical speech in illuminated states.

 

The etymology of Nuadhu/Nodens remains unsettled with conflicting views. They include ‘cloudmaker’ or ‘wealthy one’ (Green, Dictionary 163). Another is that it comes from an Indo-European root meaning ‘catcher’. Even J.R.R. Tolkien weighed in on this, interested as he was with Lydney Park and consulted by its excavator Sir Mortimer Wheeler (Kennedy). Ó hÓgain found the most likely meaning being catcher, acquirer or fisher, eventually going back to an Indo-European root of *neu-d, meaning to grasp (Pokorny 768), *neud, to make use of, enjoy (Watkins 60). This seems a fitting name for the catcher of fish, the catcher of the salmon, and brings us back in a skein of associations of catching wisdom and those associated with the poet wisdom tradition of filidecht. The catcher is one who is on the chase, and similarly the fisher. So I have found Nuadhu/Nechtan important in my personal practice of filidecht, from knowledge seeking, to healing and to drinking from the waters from which imbas flows. As the catcher and hunter He is one who searches, who looks, who catches. I look for him in the shining knowledge—and at the place of dangerous watery wisdom at the heart of the world where we can find both healing and wisdom. In my own aisling many of these deities work together, as one launches on this river. The gods give us multiple paths to take; often the destinations are surprising and the linkages even more so, and therein lies much change. In my personal work, I approach Nuadhu and Nechtan at different locations, but whether considered as separate or as the same, He warrants the attention and reverence of those of us fishing for imbas.

 

Notes

 

  1. The stories of Boann and the well of Segais can be found in various versions in the Dindshenchas, the place name lore, for example in The Bodleian Dinnsenchas 36, translated by Whitley Stokes, 1892; and The Metrical Dindsenchas 3.26-28 edited and translated by Edward Gwynn, 1913.

 

  1. Incubation, the withdrawing to a dark chamber for the purposes of a healing dream, had a widespread use in the Greco-Roman world. In the Gaelic world, it was a technique used by the poets, the filidh, for vision and composition.

 

  1. According to O’Cathasaighe, the switch to Lludd from Nudd is “owing to assimilation of the initial to that of the epithet Llaw Eraint ‘of the Silver Hand’” (48).

 

 

  1. The Caldron of Poesy is the name usually given to a text found in a 15th century manuscript (Breatnach 46), the oldest layer of which probably dates back to a 7th century original composition (Henry 117).

 

 

 

Works Cited

Breatnach, Liam. “The Caldron of Poesy”. Eriu 32. 1981. Print.

Carey, John. “The Waters of Vision and the Gods of Skill”. Art and the Sacred Kairos

       and the Dallas Institute for Humanities and Culture. 23 March, 1991. Santa Fe.

Print.

Electronic Dictionary of the Irish Language (eDIL). Arts and Humanities Research

Council. Royal Irish Academy. Queen’s University, Belfast. 2007-13. Web.

Ford, Patrick K. ed. and trans. The Mabinogi and Other Medieval Welsh Tales. Berkeley:

U of California P, 1977. Print.

Green, Miranda. The Gods of the Celts. 1986. Print.

—. Dictionary of Celtic Myth and Legend. London: Thames & Hudson, 1992. Print.

Henry, P. L. “The Caldron of Poesy”. Studia Celtica 14/15. 1979/80. Print.

Jones, Mary. “Nodens”. Jones Celtic Encyclopedia. 1998-2015. Web.

Kennedy, Maeve. “The Hobbit Ring That May Have Inspired Tolkien Put On Show”.

The Guardian.com/books. 2 April, 2013. Web.

Lupus, P. Sufenas Virius. A Serpent Path Primer. Anacortes, WA: Red Lotus Library,

  1. Print.

MacCana, Proinsias. Celtic Mythology. London: Hamylyn, 1970. Print.

Nagy, Joseph Falaky. The Wisdom of the Outlaw: The Boyhood Deeds of Finn in Gaelic

     Narrative Tradition. Berkeley and Los Angeles: U of California Press, 1985. Print.

O’ Cathasaigh, Tomas. Coire Sois: The Cauldron of Knowledge. Notre Dame, IN: U of

Notre Dame Press, 2014. Print.

Ó hÓgáin, Dáithí. Myth, Legend and Romance: An Encyclopaedia of Irish Folk

     Tradition. London: Ryan, 1990. Print.

—. The Sacred Isle: Belief and Religion in Pre-Christian Ireland.

Woodbridge/Cork: Boydell Press/Collins Press, 1999. Print.

Pokorny, Julius. Indo-European Lexicon: Pokorny Master PIE Etyma. Linguistic

Research Center. University of Texas. 13 May, 2013. Web.

Puhvel, Jaan. Comparative Mythology. Baltimore: John Hopkins UP, 1987. Print.

Thompson, Christopher Scott. A God Who Makes Fire: The Bardic Mysticisms of

       Amergin. 2013. Lulu.com. Print.

Watkins, Calvert. The American Heritage Dictionary of Indo-European Roots, Third

Edition. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2011. Print.

 

Polytheist Book Recommendations

 

I like making lists, keeps my mind form chaos. Here’s a list of some good polytheist books I read this year. These were either published in 2015 or 2014.

 

 

Dance of Oak and Wren: Rites of Draiocht by Robert Barton. The author is a leader in the Gaelic reconstructionist community of Sinnreachd. There are a lot of Druidist books out there, but not a lot grounded in a reconstructionist foundation. This one is, and is a worthy interpretation of recon Druidism for our times.

 

 

The Treasure Book of the Tuatha De Danann: A Pocket Book of Irish Myth by Morgan Daimler. Includes, the Tain Bó Regamna, The Morrigan’s Satire, Berba—The Story of the Morrigan’s Son, Oenghus’s Dream, and the Taking of the Sí. The author has both Irish originals and her own translations (impressive). A Miscellany of little bits from the lore about the gods and the holidays. A lovely little book.

 

Irish Paganism: Reconstructing Irish Polytheism. Moon Books (Pagan Portals series). Another one by Morgan Daimler. A good, if short, introduction to an Irish Reconstructionist practice, something people have been waiting a long time for. Includes a pronunciation guide.

 

Enchanting The Shadowlands by Lorna Smithers

A beautiful book of landscape poems (and short stories) and evocations of the Brythonic god Gwynn ap Nudd and also to my delight, of Nodens. Post-industrial landscapes (in Lancashire) and their forgotten spirits along with buried rivers are called forth, as it were too. Some of these poems give me shivers.

 

Ephesia Grammata: Ancient History and Modern Practice by P. Sufenas Virius Lupus. Red Lotus Library. The Ephesian Letters are fascinating magical formulae that were associated with Artemis of Ephesus. This little book gives historical background about their uses and how to use them for divination. I have found them a very interesting divination set to add to others in my toolkit.

 

Thunderstruck with Wine: The Hymns of Sannion by H. Jeremiah Lewis. Nysa Press. As the subtitle says, 31 hymns to bring us closer to the God. As the blurb says “…they are Keys that open the Labyrinth”. If you’re a Dionysian, get this one!

 

Komos: Celebrating Festivals in Contemporary Hellenic Polytheism by Sarah Kate Istra Winter, (aka Dver). Winter’s main focus is on Hellenic festivals, but what she has to say is applicable to other polytheist traditions, including Celtic. She writes that the record even for Greek festivals is spotty, most of what is known is Athenian, and even there the details are often spotty. For Irish we have so much less that the Hellenic record seems rich. But I think developing new festivals for deities and heroes that fit our local situations is an important thing to do. As Winter says it’s a both and, meaning doing traditional ones and creating new ones within the spirit of the old ways. An excellent read, full of useful ideas.

 

I find myself thinking, as I rounded them, these are small books, and there is something good about that! Easy to carry, among their other virtues.

 

There are so many winter holidays coming up, (and books are such good cheer) and I’m sure most of us celebrate at least one, if not many….

 

 

Oh, and From The Prow Of Myth is still available and makes a nice gift. J

https://www.createspace.com/4443944