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CELTIC DRUID'S CEREMONY
The Sun festivals of ancient Ireland are still known by their old Irish names, Imbolg, Beltine, Lughnasa and Samhain. These Sun festivals are many thousands of years old; they have survived an imperial invasion and occupation for 800 years and the attempted erasure of indigenous consciousness by the catholic church for almost 1500 years. These Sun festivals are the gateway for todays Celtic Men and Women to celebrate with the Celtic Gods – Brigid at Imbolg, Bile at Beltine, Lugh at Lughnasa and Tlachtga at Samhain.
But the advice for anyone seeking connection to the Celtic Gods is to avoid the current catholic calendar of the so-called civilised world to time your ceremony. Pagans and Druids on a Celtic Path use Natural Time as their ancestors did – this means working with the alignments of the oldest temples to the four bright stars in the belt of the Zodiac. The Solstices and Equinoxes do not line up with particular Stars, they are turning points of the day / night balance such as when the Sun’s energy enters the ancient temple at Bru na Boinne (Newgrange) energising the God Dagda after the longest night of the year. The history and correct timing methods are shared below for those who wish to walk a Celtic Path.
Celtic Druid’s Spring Equinox
Equinox means "equal night" and this happens at the equator because the sun is positioned above the equator and at this time of the year - day and night are about equal in length at the equator. The Spring Equinox is sometimes referred to as the Vernal Equinox – vernal means spring so together the Vernal Equinox means “Spring Equal Night and Day”. This is the start of the Astrological year when the Sun enters 0* of the Sign of the Ram (Aries). The famous Egyptian priests built their Great Sphinx to point directly toward the rising Sun on this day every year.
The Spring Equinox is also called: Alban Eilir, Eostar, Eostre, Feast of Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Festival of Trees, Lady Day, NawRuz, No Ruz, Ostara, Ostra, Rites of Spring. To Celtic Druids it is the time when day and night are equal in length and this happens roughly when the Sun is at 0* of Aries and again in the Autumn when the Sun is at 0* of Libra. These astrology signs are 'modern' in that they were not used in ancient Ireland.
Goddess of the Spring Equinox?
There is a distinct relationship between the Spring Equinox and Easter. The new religion of the Catholic Church absorbed the existing traditions and their symbols and developed a new name ‘Easter’ which is obviously a variant of a German / Saxon Goddess name whose festival was with the arrival of spring. In the pre-Catholic times the celebration of the Vernal Equinox was about new life and hope, the planting of seeds and the activation of the fertility cycle. But the Catholic Church replaced this with solemn displays commemorating Christ and Catholic dogma (written rules). The Old Testament heroine was the goddess Ishtar in thin disguise (Esther is the Aramaic word for Ishtar). Ishtar is Persian for 'star'. So Ishtar was the goddess of the morning & evening star, as well as being the Great Mother, Shining One, Lady of Visions, Priestess of Priestess', she was the source of the Oracles of Prophesy, & Possessor of the Tablets of Life's Records. Her symbols were the eight-pointed star, the pentagram, dove, serpents, & the double axe. Her planet was Venus and she wore a rainbow necklace. The Persians converted this necklace (the rainbow) into a razor-sharp bridge that led to the Mount of Paradise. In ancient Sumeria, she had 180 shrines where women gathered daily for prayer, meditation and socializing. The night of the full moon, known as Shapatu, saw joyous celebrations in her temples. At these rites (known as Qadishtu) women who lived as priestesses in her shrines took lovers to express the sacredness of sexuality as a gift from Ishtar. Men communed with the goddess in these rites through sex. Every woman once in her life had to sit in the grounds of Ishtar's temple and wait for a man to take her on one of these nights. Until she had, she was not allowed to marry!
The German fertility Goddess was Ostara, who was associated with fertility of both humans and crops. Ostara mated with the solar god on the Spring Equinox and nine months later she gave birth to a child around the Winter Solstice at 21st/22nd of December. The Saxon name for the Germanic lunar goddess Ostara was Eostre. Her festival was held at the full moon after the Spring Equinox and the Catholics adopted this determination for their Easter. The Mayans of Central American have also honoured the spring equinox. For ten centuries they have held their unique celebration using their ancient knowledge of the Sunbeam. El Castillo is the name of their great pyramid of the Equinox and as the sunsets on its western face light and dark compliment each other creating a very special pattern of a diamond backed snake descending the pyramid. This solar magic has always been known as the "The Return of the Sun Serpent".
For the Greeks the god-man of the Spring Equinox was Dionysus. He was associated with flowering plants and fruitful vines and he was always in pain during winter symbolising hibernation and the cessation of growth. He returned triumphant on the Spring Equinox and many researchers see direct parallels with the story of Jesus Christ. Mesopotamia, Sumaria, Babylonia, Elam (5000 years ago) celebrated the start of their new year at the time of the spring equinox. Zoroastrianism was the religion of Ancient Persia until the advent of Islam 1400 years ago. "No Ruz," their new day or New Year was celebrated on the Spring Equinox. Many religious historians connect Judeo-Christian concepts to Zoroastrianism.
In Rome, about 200 years before the birth of Christ there was a wide range of what are today called “mystery cults”. Attis and Cybele held their Spring Equinox rituals at the location of today’s St. Peter's on Vatican hill – the centre of Catholicism today. Attis was also known under various names such as Osiris, Dionysus, Tammuz and Orpheus. The Attis and Cybele festival had a death or day of blood and three days of semi-death and then a return to life for the deceased. Attis‘s mother was called Nana and she was a virgin – no surprise there… Attis was crucified on a pine tree and his followers ate his body, his blood was spilled or release to renew / redeem the earth. Attis was both a sacrificial victim and a saviour, his death and re-birth was intended to bring salvation to mankind. Most researchers will declare that Attis is clearly the prototype for Christ.
For today’s Catholics Easter Sunday is a moveable holy day that commemorates the execution, visit to Hell, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is celebrated from late March to late April. False Time explains the 14-step calculation used to determine the actual date for Catholic Easter each year. In Judaism we can see that the Passover dinner was their spring fertility festival. It records the escape of the ancient Hebrews from slavery in Egypt – its main meal was of unleavened bread and of lamb.
In America the First Nations people honoured the Spring Equinox in landscape-sized temples such as Mystery Hill in Salem NH. Five standing stones and one recumbent stone are set in a linear alignment that connects to the sunrise on the Spring and Autumn Equinoxes.
Wicca is a modern path that is seen as Celtic and/or European but today it is a mishmash of every cool religion or spiritual path but it was originally based on the Cabbala. It is like some one trying to make a tree out of a lot of different branches. Today there is no definition of Wicca so it can mean anything. It combines ancient Celtic beliefs, symbols and practices, with the Masonic and ceremonial magic rituals. Wiccans recognize four minor Sabbaths at the two solstices and the two equinoxes and four major Sabbaths halfway between each equinox and solstice suggesting partial alignment to the cycles of natural time and part modern creation. Their rituals at the Spring Equinox relate to fertility and to the balance of the day and night.
We do not know the name our ancestors gave to this time of equal day and night, yet. They built huge temples to mark this time of the year so we expect that they had a god or goddess associated with the temple / equinox. Maybe this Irish name relates to the planet Venus, maybe some day we will find out.
Calculating the Spring Equinox
In Ireland, the spring equinox was calculated and celebrated long before the arrival of the Celtic tribes in one of the best known of the ancient Irish stone Cairn temples - Knowth. Knowth is near to Newgrange (Brú na Boinne) and it has a 100-foot long passage that accepts the Sun on the mornings of the Spring and Autumn Equinox. The precision engineering feat of building a temple out of crude stone with a 100-foot long passage to allow the Light to enter fully to the end of the passage only when the day and night are of equal length is truly awesome. The chamber at the end of the 100-foot tunnel is small and the entrance is now closed to the public. Brú na Boinne (Newgrange) has a passage that is 66-foot long and has become popular because of the large end chamber with its alcoves allowing profitable tourism. But Knowth is bigger and has a longer and therefore more accurate Solar engineering design aimed to capture the Sunrise when the day and night are equal. (Note - the west passage at Knowth is not aligned to take the light from the equinox sunset as reported by some)
A second and older stone cairn equinox temple is found at Sliabh na Callighe (aka Loughcrew) and is given the name Cairn T. Both Knowth and Cairn T allow a sunbeam on the morning of the Spring and Autumn Equinox to enter a passageway to light upon the sacred geometry on a stone inside the temple. This is precise timing from a period of over 6 thousands years ago and it still works today. Druidschool has also discovered two ancient temples that were used to honour the two Equinoxes – More on this later in this essay.
"Anois teacht an Earraigh, beidh an lá dúl chun shíneadh'
Now with the springtime - The days will grow longer
But this year (2014ce)... I've revised our timing for the Spring Equinox by looking deeper into when the day and night are closest to being equal. This means not using astronomy / astrology but instead simply seeing the day and night length are at the most balanced. This year 2014 it is on Monday March 17th that there is 12 hours 1 minute and 45 seconds of daylight and thats as close as it gets to exact balance with the night. We will attend at Rathra to watch the Sun set into Croagh Crom - over 60 miles 100 km away. If you are reading this = you are welcome to join us to share the experience of the ancesteral alignment.
The Spring Equinox is not aligned to a Star
In its most basic - there were no clocks, no calendars and the passage of time was measured in Ireland by the penetration of a sunbeam into designed passages in stone cairns to exactly light up a section of a stone with carvings upon it. This happens even today so the ancestral calendar is still accurate. The same solar alignment that determines the correct time for Spring Equinox is also the exact same alignment for the Autumn Equinox. This means if you were to stand outside of Cairn ‘T’ at Sliabh na Callighe or at Knowth and look 88* east of north you would see the sun rise to shine in through the passage and onto carved stones inside these temples on the Spring and Autumn Equinox. At Knowth, this alignment consists of the Sun, the 100-foot long passage and the stone basin with its sacred geometry inside the chamber and there is no connection to any star in the belt of the Zodiac. Today a house built near the temple at Knowth blocks the rising Sun on the Equinox from entering the east passage of the temple, which is also blocked up, further denying access.
But there is another important Spring and Autumn Equinox alignment over the Lambay Volcano to two hilltops called Summerhill and Knockastia. Summerhill is a small village in County Meath with only the outline remains of a temple on its highest hilltop. Knockastia is a volcanic outcrop just south of Uisneach – often referred to as the navel of Ireland. Just like Tlachtga in its relationship to Royal Tara – we have a similar magically located temple on Knockastia serving the Royal site of Uisneach. We have visited Knockastia and no temple structure remains – only the barest stone platform on top of the hill. But we were gifted with a story from the landowner who can recall the day they (the archaeologists) dug up the bones… he even showed us the shed they were kept in… he said he did not sleep for the duration of the bones being stored in the shed! At Summerhill and Knockastia the alignment is the Sun, the Volcano and the passage Cairn, presumably with the sacred geometry carved into an end stone or a stone basin. Neither an end stone nor stone basins are known for either of these two sites.
Gods, Goddesses and Archangels
When the Sun and Moon were not visible the time of the seasons and the time of night could be obtained by looking to the bright star in the night sky. This placed the four bright stars next to God and Goddess in order of importance. These four bright stars form an almost equal armed cross within the circle or belt of stars we call the Zodiac. But there is no star to determine the timing for the Spring Equinox - instead we have the day and night becoming equal. Yet at the same time - it appears that Venus was honoured by many cultures in pre-history at the time of equal day / night. So, lets look at this briefly - Venus is very visible in the night sky although it is a planet it appears as a star. Venus can casts a shadow on Earth (only near the dark moon) - this also means that the Light from the Sun is reflected off Venus to Earth. The Mayan used this Morning and Evening 'Star' in their great calendar. It is possible that reflected Light from Venus could enter some of the passage Cairns. The Planet Venus is brighter than any star. The Chinese called it Tai-pe or "the beautiful white one," the Egyptians called it Bonou for "bird," and the Chaldeans named it the "bright torch of heaven." The English word "Friday" is derived from the Anglo-Saxon Frigedaeg, meaning "Venus day" (Friga = Venus + dae = day), and many other languages also trace their names for Friday from root words meaning "Venus day"
The ancestors timing for the Spring Equinox is a glorious archaeo-astronomical feat of Sunlight engineering bringing the energies of the Sun to Earth. The Sun, Lambay volcano, the passage at Cairn 'T' on Sliabh na Callighe all make an alignment stretching many millions of miles twice a year and this shows the correct timing for the Spring Equinox and later on in September the Autumn Equinox as well. The same day had the Sunrise enter the 100 foot long east passage in the Cairn at Knowth but the authorities have closed up the entrance to the public. So it is shown by many histories that Venus is strongly associated with the Spring Equinox but as of writing Her old Irish name is unknown to us. Please email us if you have an idea on this topic.
Earth's Magnetic Field
This is one of Eightfolds of the Solar Year of the Tuatha De Danann. Samhain and Imbolg share the same alignment to Cairn ‘L’ on Sliabh na Callighe, Beltine and Lughnasa share the same alignment to Cnoc Lugh (Lyons Hill), the two Equinoxes share the same alignment to Summerhill, the Summer Solstice has its own alignment to the Hill of the Fair Gods on Tallaght Hill and the Winter Solstice has its own alignment to Brú na Boinne or Newgrange. All these alignments for the Eightfold Solar year have the fulcrum or pivotal point of the leaking energies from the volcano being wrapped back into the solar wind. This is earth magnetism and landscape healing at an extraordinary level. In magical terminology – this is the Solar Word wrapping the Volcanic leaking energy into itself as it connects to the acupuncture of the stone Cairns – activating and harmonising the magnetic grid here on Earth.
At Druidschool, we will guide you to find and express your Celtic Spirit by helping you discover the Three Realms, Three Cauldrons and Natural Time - this creates a strong foundation for becoming a Celtic Druid. We train students and pathworkers from all over the world who seek to know and express Sacred Knowledge and Indigenous Spiritual Traditions so that many seekers can walk a distinctly Celtic Druid Path.
Calculate your Equinox
The common perception is that the day and night equality happens everywhere at the same time but this is no so. We are told to align with the Equatorial Equinoxes. Our position at 53* above the Equator tells us that we should celebrate the True Equinox when it happens here, because that's when it actually happens for us!
Check out http://www.timeanddate.com/ learn how to use it and it can really tell you when true time events are connected to true places as opposed to conventional commercial control calendars that steer you to their fake calendar only to increase their profits....
On the 18th of March 2015 in Ireland - the day length is 12h00m40s - so this is the true Equinox for Spring if you are in Ireland or at Ireland's latitude. We have an Open Family Day here on March 17th (see the Almamac 2015 at http://www.celticdruidtemple.com/ ) a chance to wander in our young forest to see and feel vibrancy returning to the Earth. More info on our Open Family Day at https://www.facebook.com/events/434276190072307/
Here in the west of Ireland we will watch the Sun set in to the Holy Mountain over 60 miles away from Rathra, a three ring ceremonial enclosure at the west side of the Rath Croghan or Cruachan Aí complex http://www.druidschool.com/site/1030100/page/3138060. We have witnessed this magical Sunset three times, but for most it is a forgotten or lost connection to our ancestors awareness of true time. More pictures showing the sequence of this west coast sunset in to the holy mountain as seen from Rathra are at http://www.celticdruidtemple.com/news/autumn-equinox-rathra-castlerea