Celtic paganism

Taliesin

Taliesin is actually a title but is now most often used to refer to the 6th century Welsh druid Gwion Bach. I thought his writing referred to an 11-year cycle when he mentioned seven score muses (11 years and four lunar months if the muses represent lunar months) but now I think that that 11 year and four lunar month period was not a cycle but a one time separation between the time of his major call and the time of his release from his low years, and I discuss that a bit more below. Others other than him refer to the five month separation but he quite precisely refers to a period of eight score muses, which in days is 5.5 lunar months. So I highly respect my possible ancestor's scientific skills.

In this subsection I often refer to the book Taliesin: Shamanism and the Bardic Mysteries in Britain and Ireland by John Matthews (with additional material by Caitlin Matthews). The Aquarian Press/an imprint of Harper Collins, 1991 ISBN 1-85538-109-5.

In Taliesin's transformational sequence he spends time in the belly of a hen, which may be related to the period of depression a few years before the first shamanic initiation manic episode. Also his patron Elffin is described as having bread under the fingernails, which I believe refers to waning crescent moon. His inspiration comes at the last few drops of the cauldron, so before the crack of the cauldron at new moon, and then he must run or seek to avoid the goddess's wrath after new moon. He is found in a net, which is very like my pulling on a net (not sure if it was Haida, oops, Musqueam shellfish) after my sun stare that left me floating in the water near the net.

On p.97 as part of the poem The Hostile Confederacy, several lines read

"Seven score muses
There are in the inspiration of song;
Eight score in every score
In the great abyss of tranquility
In the great abyss of wrath..."

While it can also be interpreted as the vast number of musical, intellectual and other influences on a broad thinker, which also appplies to me, I also interpret the "seven score muses" as the number of lunar months from Gwion's major call (similar or identical to my sun stare, thorn hill climb, and blue rose vision) to his release from his low years. For me, if my low years had ended after that long, 140 lunar months, or about 11 years and four lunar months from Sept. 6, 1991 would have been early 2003 or almost seven years after my low years started on Jan. 29, 1996. But as I discuss below, I have had to go longer than seven years but I suspect Gwion did not.

The eight score is the 5.5 lunar months (162 days) or six solar rotation periods, in days, separation between waxing gibbous moon psychic test and waning crescent mystic high mentioned in the Summary of key features of my cycles section. The psychic tests are what Taliesin Taliesin describes as "three times in the prison of Arianrhod" (p.238), and the mystic highs are the inspirations of Ceridwen or Ogyrwen. In the book "three times inspired by Ceridwen" is mentioned, and that could be the three poetic inspirations following after the three times in the prison of Arianrhod. For me the three prisons of the beginning of January 1993, the end of July and beginning of August 1993, and March 1994 were followed by the three inspirations of June 1993, early January 1994, and late August and early September 1994.

After that the poet seems to imply that he has attained a flowing muse.

p.102: "Gwion has kept the cauldron
Steadily boiling..."

But now I think that this flowing muse comes not right after those early inspirations and trials but after release from the low years which follow them.

(If druids or shamans had/have any special botanical remedies that helped keep them stable, I'll try to find that out, eventually, or let me know if you know.)

The "great abyss of tranquility" might be depression and the "great abyss of wrath" might be paranoia. These great abysses I think refer to the low years which for me began Jan. 29, 1996 and which I thought once would last seven years (and which I think did last seven years for Gwion, as I discuss above, but I have had to go longer, as I discuss below), or until 11 years (or slightly more) after the first high. These low years I think are equivalent to Gautama Siddharta's ascetic years and the time Myrddin spent talking to his little piggy (which I think means base chakra area muscle click divination, which I now know I should avoid, since the pig is associated with the earth or underworld by the celts and so is the base chakra by some) and the cremation ground years in Hinduism. I think these low years are represented by the 7 years that Cu Chulainn spent serving the smith Chulainn in place of the hound that Cu Chulainn (hound of Chulainn), also known as Setanta, killed. These 7 years might also be represented by the 88.5 (90 pairs minus 3 birds) pairs of birds associated with Cu Chulainn's birth if the 88.5 are lunar months.

Also in John Matthews book Taliesin..., on p. 90, is the following quote

Seven years your right, under a flagstone, in a quagmire,
Without food, without taste, but the thirst you ever torturing,
The law of the judges your lesson, and prayer your language:
And if you like to return
You will be, for a time, a Druid, perhaps. 
                              (Ancient Irish Poem)

So that was yet another (but still significant) Irish (and note that my cultural background is largely Irish-Newfoundland) instance of seven years of low years, and I don't have an explicit Taliesin mention of seven years of low years, just "the great abyss of tranquility" and "the great abyss of wrath" which indicate the low years to me, plus the "seven score muses" which as I discuss above if it indicates seven score lunar months from Gwion's major call to his release from his low years it indicates a low year period of about seven years. So in that sense I have an indirect mention by Gwion of a seven year low period.

But at one point Taliesin mentions that he is now "three score" years of age, and for a while I thought that the "three times inspired by Ogyrwen" might be his initiation in his late 20s (for me it was at 27.5, or 2.5 solar cycles) near a solar cycle peak plus two later solar cycle peaks 11 and 22 years later, and that the inspirations of Cerridwen are individual highs within each Ogyrwen period of years, rather than Cerridwen and Ogyrwen meaning the same thing. However now (March, 2005) I no longer think there will be an 11 year cycle but hopefully after release from the low years a fairly continous flowing muse, as in the quote "Gwion has kept the cauldron Steadily boiling...". However I might be wrong. But for now I think the inspiration of Ogyrwen and the inspiration of Cerridwen mean the same thing, the waning crescent highs, though I have had five and not three, but if the intial major one of 1991 is considered separately and the very short one of July 1994 is not counted I have had three other waning crescent highs.

During the pre-new-moon episode, referring to the Taliesin legend again, the "three drops of wisdom" of the goddess can be extracted, but the poet must wind down carefully at and after the "crack of cauldron," the crack of new moon. This pattern is more likely to occur when the solar cycle is from medium to active average levels, when there is unusual local weather such as clear sky lightning or high winds, and when there are M class solar flares the week or so before new moon (plus sunspot numbers above 75). The 5.5 lunar month separation is also related to the following quote from Matthews' book, p.321,

"its inspiring brew
ages over five cauldrons, (brewing)."

i.e., after five full months after the full moon by which any anxious/panicky/fear/mixed/dysphoric symptoms have wound down, the druid can start hoping for a controlled creative hypomania in the waning moon, at least in medium to high levels of the solar cycle. This occurred for me three times from 1993-94 and I had two without precursors in 1991,94. Before such a new moon there can be a mystic dark/starry night of enlightenment, or several, or a sense of inspired mystic play, or a rush of ideas, or all three. After new moon, when the good enlightenment feeling runs out, and sometimes just after new moon without a high before new moon during the solar low years (for me twice, in Jan, Apr., 1995), there can be a low/dark night of the soul experience. Then beginning in the solar sunspot cycle low years there can be a "time in the wilderness." but I have found these do not end when the sunspot cycle comes back up next. I know that significant solar flares, which sometimes I think caused clear sky lightning by effects on the ionosphere, were important precursors to my waning crescent highs, but I no longer think I will have an 11 year sunspot cycle variation in the long term.

The picture of p.256, symbolic of The Defense of the Chair, highly moved me, since I can relate it to my own shamanic trek, from naked sundance in the shallow ocean water, up through layers of thorns overnight (the rings of fire) to see the glowing sky blue rose near the top of the thorns, which I had to "salmon leap" over, under the raven skies of two days before new moon, and finally, after trying to find a shakuhachi (or native?) flute player's door (I was glassless and it was an Asian garden type entrance, perhaps with gate locked) I ended up at the place next door, which had a fountain. The diagram on p.256 has ocean waves on the outside, then rings of fire, then a fountain in the middle, with a tower and chair. The overflowing fountain may be related to the drops of elixir of Kundalini yoga. This was on Musqueam territory, not far from the global Museum of Anthropology, though while on the thorns I hoped that this atoned for the Beothucks plus linked sky and sea and sent wild notes of music back to Newfoundland (now still partly Mi'kmaq territory).

Merlin

Merlin is actually a title but now most refers to the partly fictionalized Arthurian tales; but among druids refers to the historical man Myrddin.

On p.201 of Matthews, Merlin is spending his "year in the wilderness" consulting his "little piggy" which is like me in 1996 and 1997 and at times since, particularly from late March 2003 to February 2005 using my base chakra area (perineum) muscle response, or short period mulabhanda, as a divination tool, which I will never do again in terms of believing it but I do still play at it in some areas though I should try to rid myself of the habit since in the past believing it blindly has led me down some delusional paths. Why do I relate the piggy to the base chakra? The celts relate the pig to the earth or underworld and some also relate the base chakra to those. This is probably related to Kundalini, which I have written a bit on before and will again. What happens is that it seems to work for simple local matters, like judging how much spice to add or how to adjust the EQ on a sound board or stereo. Then you get hooked, much like gambling addiction, to trying it for long distance divination, especially during the low years (e.g., most seriously the first half of 1996 for me, when I was on no or low lithium and was drinking during waxing moon, which I gave up in July 1997, but also some since), when many believed incorrect answers unchecked by rationale use of wits and senses can lead to paranoid delusions or milder delusions.

This story of Myrddin is also related to the native salmon descent to the underworld, especially since a pig is an animal sacred to a celtic underworld deity Anwyn. This was much rushed, but I will post more later, including stuff on my inspired shamanic initiation mystic trek (sundance, overnight naked thorn hill climb, blue rose vision) and lots more (hot foot from an orca, seagull Luthien incident, wasp on nipple, Orpheus-like purgatory night of no pulse [which is the shamanic decent to the underworld, like that of Anwyn, corresponding to my tortured ascent of thorns to the otherworld, only to loop back]).

Bran

The transition into "living godhead" followed by a move back to a normal state is paralleled in the Welsh Mabinogion story of Bran, who for a while is in travelling mode (no house able to contain him) like one bipolar friend of mine who likes to drive long distances when hypomanic, and capable of great feats, then later has "lost his head" or become a delusional "talking head," then later (I hope) resumed a normal life. Oh, and for native readers, the Welsh Bran means Raven

Lleu Llaw/Math/Gwydion/Blodeuwedd

Lleu is mentioned in the section Divine Fool/Sun King/Lleu, part of a post of mine to alt.pagan in 1994.

I liken the waxing moon problems to transformational stories in mythology, such as in the Welsh Mabinogion, Lleu becoming a sick eagle restored six months later (like the 5.5 lunar months from waxing gibbous moon onset to waning crescent moon onset), or Math turning Gwydion and his brother into beasts (for the three years of the solar low period, without lithium? But now I think the low years last for seven years). Also I have observed the "chill of Math" referred to in the Mabinogion once, an unearthly chill in the legs a few days before the onset of a positive mystic hypomania. This may be related to cycling in thyroid activity. Finally, I believe I remember that in the tale of Lleu and Dylan that Lleu was prematurely born, like me, and kept in a warm chest for a while.

In the story of Lleu they mention a period of 180 days (or 180 tempests) which is closer to a full moon to full moon separation, so maybe "6th new moon after the death" got translated to "6th full moon after the death", or 6th moon was taken to mean 6 full months instead of the 6th appearance of a new moon, or last quarter for the onset of the high.

The fashioning of the woman Blodeuwedd out of flowers by Math and Gwydion to be Lleu's wife may perhaps be related to my blue rose vision and my association of the blue rose some with Sarah McLachlan (though she is not my wife yet if ever) as well as with Gaia (Mother Earth).

Also Dylan and Lleu were both born from Arianrhod at the same time and Lleu was premature like me and like Moses but Dylan was not, which I think is not possible.

Finn MacCool

Finn (or Fionn) derived inspiration from putting his thumb to test a cooking salmon and burning it and putting it in his mouth. This is related to the North American native story of the Salmon youth transformation, the waning crescent moon shaped like a salmon, and to the buffalo/bull/lightning horns of waning and waxing crescents. The thumb also indicates a waning crescent moon like the thumbnail or the moon in the nail above the cuticle. June 2003 update: In doing a google search for seven years Taliesin Amergin, I came across the information that Finn spent seven years training under a poet Finnegas of Finegas next to the river Boyne before he tasted the Salmon of Wisdom (which in some versions is said to be Fintan in salmon form). In another version Finnegas waits/fishes for the Salmon for seven years and then Finn arrives and the Salmon is caught/presents itself. So anyway that is yet another Irish seven years mention.

Amergin

Amergin, a Galician/Irish druid, also underwent from one story I read, a transformation from "ugly youth" to enlightened one, i.e., from depressed and not too unusual to inspired, like the North American native Salmon.

The tales of the "ugly Amergin" who is then transformed, may be related to the period of depression a few years before the first "seven score muses" shamanic initiation manic episode, or could just be the transformation from ordinary just before the high to inspired during the high.

One story of the bread under the fingernails of Amergin is also related, with a full moon a full round loaf, and that under the fingernail the waning thin crescent moon of poetic inspiration, that which can come on in the late twenties (for me, 27.5, or 2.5 solar cycles, after over 20 years in school). Or :-) I suppose you could relate it to that bread scene in the movie Go Fish, with Amergin making love with the goddess or her representative and being rewarded by drops of wisdom. This might happen in one of the transformations before full moon with release at full moon into the arms of the goddess or her representative (as in Beltane described in Marion Zimmer Bradley's The Mists of Avalon) followed 5.5 lunar months after transformation/test by a mystic inspired bread under the fingernail waning crescent high.

A few comments on his most famous song/poem, The Song of Amergin:

I have glanced at the versions in Robert Graves "The White Goddess," John Matthews "Taliesin..." and Morgan Llewellyn's "Bard" though I just have the Graves one with me here today. I have also been moved by Thomas Kinsella's poem Finisterre, a re-interpretation which more properly captures the musical rhythms of nature than the translations I have read of The Song of Amergin, but maybe not than the original in Gaelic.

The "stag of seven tines" I think means that he has gone through seven years (the seven tines) of low years (filled with delusion, paranoia, and maybe some depression, and likened to transformation into stag form perhaps). My seven years of low years will be over not long after Jan. 29, 2003 perhaps at Feb. 16 full moon, or no later that late April waning crescent.

The "teardrop of the sun" -- my fall into the water after the sun stare.

"fair among the flowers" (or "thorn beneath the rose") --- blue rose vision

"finger the sinkhole of the sun" (Kinsella) -- both where the sun sets, especially at solstices, and the dimpling effect in the sun stare

Of course there are several meanings woven in, those are just a few that speak to me. The calendar interpretation of Graves seems good. But bipolar (and other) poets delight in weavings of many meanings and sometimes some are lost in translation. Kinsella's reworking appeals to me the most, it has a musical rhythm/chant character.

Brigit's Well

There is a story of Brigit where she is slandered for drying up the well of the monks by washing her moon blood clothes in it. This is not the Christian Saint by the same name but the goddess Brigit, a triple muse goddess.

I believe this is a distorted version of an earlier story, in which the goddess Brigit inspires the mystic poet in the waning crescent moon (the bread under the fingernail of Amergin or Elffin) period and then it dries up (or can turn sour) at new moon. For many menstrual blood is poetically linked to new moon, so this was likened to the sacred well of inspiration or poetic manna drying up when the goddess reached her moon blood. However to quote Bill Bourne, "forgetful monks forgot to tell" that she was responsible for the inspiration to begin with. (But that was a misquote, he actually was referring to Mary, as in "forgetful monks forgot to tell, how Mary found her wishing well." That is on the Bourne and Johnson Dear Madonna CD, which I recommend, though I still like the ones he did with my piper friend Raven Alan MacLeod slightly better. They are both ex-Tannahill Weavers.)

Stories of the Irish Tain and the horned shaman on the Gundestrup cauldron are discussed very briefly in the section entitled Lode of Bull. But also note that the correspondence between the horns of the bull and the waning crescent and waxing crescent moons is, according to F. Marian McNeill's The Silver Bough Vol. 1, known in Scottish tradition.

Since people of celtic culture and perhaps some celtic pagans played a part in the Beothuk demise, you may want to take a look at the paragraph on them in the Asatru section, in which I call for a Beothuk wake WOMAD festival healing ritual, plus at the Native section.

Bright Blue Rose

On Christy Moore's recording Voyage there is a song written by Jimmy McCarthy entitled Bright Blue Rose with lyrics that include "One bright blue rose/Outlives all those/Two thousand years and still it goes,/To ponder his life and his death eternally". This would seem to indicate that Jesus had a blue rose vision like mine but since Jimmy is Irish it could also indicate some knowledge of the blue rose in Irish Christianity and also perhaps Irish celtic pagan traditions. Also note that there is a Newfoundland variant of the song The Foggy Dew, which I heard sung at The Ship Inn by Catherine Wright, which has a line including the words "rose of Medb" (but now, 2009, I think the words are "rose of mead" where mead is short for meadow), where Medb is an Irish queen in the Tain and I think is viewed as a goddess by some, and also her name is similar to Queen Mab who I think Percy Bysshe Shelley associated with the blue rose. Why do I think that? His poem Queen Mab opens with the verse

How wonderful is Death,
Death and his brother Sleep!
One, pale as yonder waning moon,
With lips of lurid blue;
The other, rosy as the morn
When throned on ocean's wave,
It blushes o'er the world :
Yet both so passing wonderful!

So from that juxtaposition of the word blue on one line and the word rosy on the next line I thought he was subtlely associating the blue rose with Queen Mab but perhaps I am reading too much into it. Also the mention of the waning moon struck me since my blue rose vision was two days before new moon. But also note that his poem To Constantia, which I give in full in the book thumbings section, more explicitly mentions a blue rose.

The birds of Rhiannon or Cliodniu

In John Matthews' Taliesin... book on p. 85 it says "...the bird-women recall the Birds of Rhiannon and Cliodniu, who sang men to sleep for seven years, during which time they learned the secrets of the inner realms." So that is another instance of seven years, possibly related to the pairs of birds associated with Cu Chulainn's birth, which I speculate represent waning crescent (one bird) and waxing crescent (the other bird) with a pair representing a lunar month, in the section on Cu Chulainn above.

Fairy traditions

(from F. Marian McNeill's The Silver Bough ) fairies, Scottish pre-Celts (Picts?), and maybe early Scottish witches were said to have a seven year cycle such at the end of each seven years there was a human sacrifice (e.g. a human for the fairies, a captured Celt for the pre-Celts, and maybe even, or maybe just rumoured, a human for early Scottish witches though later on it may have been an animal sacrifice or even a symbolic sacrifice/ordeal). According to McNeill this is alluded to in the ballads of Thomas the Rhymer and Tamlane (Tam Lin?).

I once thought my low years would end after 7 years but as I discuss below I have had to go longer than some past figures. I guess my naked thorn hill climb in 1991 was a sacrifice of sorts (like Odin hanging on the tree) to gain knowledge (and in my case I said to atone for the deaths of the Beothuk), but also my entire low years period can also be looked on as an extended sacrifice of sorts, again hopefully to lead to new creativity and knowledge after it ends (as in the case of the birds of Rhiannon or Cliodniu above and the case of Finn tasting the salmon).

The seven years bit might also be related to tales of capture or near capture by fairies, perhaps, i.e. if you drink or eat when visiting the fairies you may be there for seven years, or sometimes life, or it may seem like a day and when you get out seven years has passed (but that is from my memory and I will have to check sources to verify that and when I do will edit this and list the sources). But again from McNeill, in the ballad Thomas the Rhymer (where Thomas was said to have gained prophetic gifts from his intercourse with the Queen of Fairyland [who I sort of equate with Gaia and my blue rose vision, which, as I discuss above, I think Percy Bysshe Shelley linked to Queen Mab]) it says "and till seven years were come and gane, true Thomas on earth was never seen". I will have to look at Barabara Rieti's book on fairy lore in Newfoundland again (I haven't since 1995) to see if the seven years bits have carried over to Newfoundland.

New seven years comment

New March 2005: all the seven years bits above were put in when my low years were approaching seven years and I expected them to end at seven years. But they did not, and they are now at about nine years and 1.5 months. But I still think that the low years of some past figures similar to me were seven years or rounded down to seven years, and I have had to go longer partly because I have a bigger region and partly because I have it easier than they did, with modern medications, eyeglasses and contacts, and libaries and computers, and partly because lifespans are longer today. But I think the Buddha's ascetic years were a bit over eight years.

Herne

Though Herne is today a British pagan deity often equated with Cernunnos, there are some stories that had him originally in human form. In one of those he was a forester and gamekeeper/huntsman who hung on a tree, and I liken that to my hanging on the thorns, and Jesus hanging on the cross, and the Havamal 139--141 writer hanging on a tree. His antlers I also liken to the waning crescent and waxing crescent moon with the dark moon in between. However the best web page version of the story of him as a human that I have seen so far I saw a good while ago and did not save the URL and could not locate it on a quick search just now but will have another look again sometime.

Scottish blue ribbon joke

There is a Scottish joke about a drunken lad who passes out by the side of the road and in one version two lovely lasses come along and find him and lift up his kilt to see what was under it. They find bare flesh and tie a blue ribbon around his penis. He wakes up later to see the ribbon and say "I don't know where you have been but you've won first prize". In another version it is not two lovely lasses that tie the blue ribbon, but the Queen of the Fairies. Anyway I liken this blue ribbon to my blue rose vision near the top of my naked thorn hill climb.

The Silver Bough thumb

Once in 1996 or 1997 I thumbed at random a book on Scottish folklore called The Silver Bough Vol. 1 by F. Marian McNeill. It came out to a page with this poem on it:

Ri faicinn domh na gealaich uir,
Is duth domh mo shuil a thogail.
Is duth domh ma ghlun a leagail,
Is duth domh mo cheann a bhogadh,

Toir cliu dhuit fein, a re nan iul,
Gum faca mi thu a rithist,
Gum faca mi a ghealach ur,
Ailleagan iuil na slighe.

Is iomadh neach a chaidh a null
Eadar uine an da ghealaich,
Ged tha mise a' mealtainn fuinn,
A re nan re 's nam beannachd!

which translates as:

When I see the new moon,
It becomes me to life mine eye,
It becomes me to bend my knee,
It becomes me to bow my head.

Giving thee praise, thou moon of guidance,
That I have seen thee again,
That I have seen the new moon,
The lovely leader of the way.

Many a one has passed beyond
In the time between the two moons,
Though I am still enjoying earth,
Thou moon of moons and of blessings!

Now in that I think new moon refers not to the modern new moon or dark of moon but the early waxing crescent moon or first horn of moon. For a while I thought that significant to me since I thought a new age would begin in early waxing moon or I would be released from my low years in early waxing moon (and that could still be true since I am not, March 2005, yet out of the low years). Another interpretation is that it could be about having gone through an intense waning crescent high and now being back to normalcy for early waxing crescent. But really I just found it interesting and plan to research its signifance and Scottish lunar traditions further in future and take the thumbing as a sign I should do so. I would also like to know who the author was and if the author was similar to me at all.

Angus and Caer and other paired swans/birds stories

In celtic mythology there are numerous instances of transformation of humans to bird form and back again, or transformation of fairy folk to bird form. Also there are instances of pairs of such birds linked by a silver or gold chain. I think swans who are mated, if separated, fade away and die, so this pairing may mean that the paired couple do better together than apart. One such couple (though I have not yet found a mention of a chain between them, perhaps like the chain in Fleetwood Mac's song The Chain, but I haven't looked hard yet) were, according to Anne Ross's book Pagan Celtic Britain, Angus and Caer. (There are numerous other international swan maiden stories.) Now I liken this pairing of swans to my theory that I will do better in terms of mental health near Sarah McLachlan, the main inspirer of my sun stare and the woman I have the biggest crush on, and that my low years will end when I am near her. Now that does not mean I will invade her privacy without an invitation, I would not do that. Also it does not not necessarily mean I would have to be romantically involved with her, just near her in some capacity. I say that since she is far away and not yet (if ever) involved with me and thus I am open to other women. Also I plan to research the story of Angus and Caer more thoroughly later.

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