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An Un-Official Publication of the Reformed Druids

Samhain Y.R. 40
(October 26th, 2002)

Volume 18, Number 7


Samhain Essay
News of the Groves
Some Optional Choices for Voluntary Simplicity
Apple Tree: The Fruit We All Know
Unearthing Dalon
A Sociological Look at the RDNA, Pt.2
Where Are My Druid Ancestors?
Celtic Dietary Health Problems
25th California Celtic Studies Conference

Samhain, the beginning of the Season of Sleep in the Druid calendar, marks the end of the Celtic year and the beginning of the new, a time the veil between the worlds is the thinnest, when the door to the Otherworld opens and spirits walk the earth, and when communication with the dead is possible. This is the most important High Day in the Celtic calendar.

Samhain is a time associated with prophesizing and foretelling of the future. It was commonly believed that children born on Samhain were gifted with Second Sight or the ability to foresee events and objects. This was time when divination rites were practiced and there are many tales and traditions surrounding them.

In the Book of the Dean of Lismore, a mortal man, Fingein mac Luchta is visited by a ban-sidhe every Samhain who would tell him of all the marvels in all the royal strongholds of Ireland. She tells him of three chief artefacts of Ireland that were found and revealed this night, the headpiece of Briun mac Smethra, a helmet that had been hidden in the well of Sidh Cruachan from the Morrigu; the fidchell board of Crimtham nia Nar left in an adventure and was hidden in the rath of Uisneach; and the minn (diadem) of Loeguire mac Luchta Limfinn that had been hidden since the birth of Conchobar until this Samhain night. The ban-sidh also relates to Fingein other events that come to pass in the next twelve months

In modern times divination rites were still practiced in the Celtic countries at Samhain. Grain, vegetables, and fruit were used indicating the close association of Samhain with the Harvest. These were the foods that would sustain tribes through the winter. Apples and hazel nuts that played an especially important part to the early Celts: they were foods of the Otherworld, were notably used. Hazel nuts were known as a source and symbol of wisdom, and were eaten before divination. The apple symbolized life and immorality, was the talisman that admitted one to the Otherworld, and gave one the power to tell the future.

In the Border ballad Thomas the Rhymer, the 13th century poet and seer, meets the Queen of the Faeries at his favorite Eildon Tree, and after entering her mystic hill, they journey through rivers to the Land of the Faerie, where they find a garden. The queen gives him an apple from one of the trees for his wages saying, "It will gi'e thee the tongue than ne'er can Ice," and thenceforth Thomas can only speak the truth. After having been instructed by the faerie queen in prophecy or "second sight," Thomas is then able to enter Avalon as an initiate where he dwells for seven years.

There are two main apple rites that survive, one involves ordeal by water and the other ordeal by fire. The act of going through water to obtain apples could be the remnants of the Druidic rite symbolizing the passing through water to Emain Abhlach or Apple-Isle. Apple-Isle is where Manannan Mac Lir prepared the Otherworld feast for the eternal enjoyment of those who have passed on.

The Ordeal by Water survives in Scotland in such Samhain traditions as "Dookin' for Aipples." A large wooden tub is filled with water and set in the middle of the floor into which apples are placed. The master of ceremonies has a porridge stick or some other equivalent of the Druidic wand, and with this he keeps the apples in motion. Each participant get three tries, and if unsuccessful, must wait until the others have had their turn. If a participant captures an apple, it is either eaten or kept for use in another of the divination rites.

The modern form of the Ordeal by Fire is known as "The Aipple and the Can'le." A small rod of wood is taken and suspended horizontally from the ceiling by a cord. After it is fairly balanced, a lit candle is set on one end and an apple at the other. The rod is then set whirling around. Each of the company takes turns leaping up trying to bite the apple without singing his or her hair. Touching either the rod or apple with the hands is not permitted.

The divinations practiced at Samhain were chiefly used to discover who would marry, who one's partner was going to be, and who was going to die over the course of the next year. Eating the Apple at the Glass is an example of such a divination. At the hour of midnight the person goes into a room with a mirror. The room is lit with but one candle. The apple is cut into nine pieces. The person stands with his or her back to the mirror, eats the eight pieces, and throws the ninth piece over the left shoulder. Turning towards the mirror, he or she will see the future partner.

Paring the Apple is another Samhain divination rite performed at the stroke of twelve. The person pares the apple carefully so that the skin comes off in one unbroken ribbon. As the clock strikes twelve the person swings the paring around his or her head three times with out breaking it, and tossing it over the left shoulder. The shape that the paring assumes is the initial of the querant's future spouse. If the paring breaks matrimony will not happen in the coming year. If any of the readers wants to try either of these divination methods we would be curious to know how they work.

News of the Groves
For the Full Grove Directory

Carleton Grove: News from Minnesota

Fall student recruitment went relatively well, but the location of the weekly tea-meetings is in dispute. One member has reputedly "gone deep" into researching older Reformed Druidism. In other news, former Carleton Professor Paul Wellstone (considered the most liberal of existing Senators) was battling a much-watched election for a third term, which ended in a tragic airplane crash in a forest in the Iron Range of northern Minnesota.

Akita Grove: News from Japan

We are doing well. Pat will work at traveling roast-chicken van until December, when the snows become too deep. I finished collecting 20 kilos of chestnuts and other fall plants from the surrounding mountains. Things are developing well in me, and the tentative date is February 4th. I will stop outdoors Shugyo at Samhain, and replace it with warmer shower meditation. We wish Americans a path to greater peace in what seems a difficult time of decision. Love, Nozomi

Digitalis Grove: News from DC

Between dodging term-papers and bullets, Eric and I are doing fine. The Fall Equinox anti-war service was emotionally moving, but apparently the bills in congress passed, although we did note that the opposition was more than substantially expected, so we consider it a muted success and hope for further ripples in the social fabric in the upcoming months.

In the meantime, Mike is preparing to mail out the horde of letters in mid-November to announce the 40th Anniversary Beltane service for May 2nd-4th, 2003 at Carleton. If you have access to other Druid mailing lists, please contact Mike at so that he can spread the news by giving you a copy of the flyer.

Garran na Duirliath (Grey Oak Grove): News from Massachusetts

A new grove is forming in Marlborough, MA. Non-smokers are welcome. Contact

Bamboo Grove: News from Delaware

Well, the Bamboo Grove is a new Grove that just came into being (I think around September? That's what Mike has it down as on the RDNA Grove list, anyway). Many thanks to Amon Sul Grove for their help and advice so that I could start my own lil' Grove in DE.

The Arch-Druid seems to be flourishing nicely...'tis a beautiful bundle of bamboo shoots (three, actually) in a little glazed ceramic vase with three green ceramic frogs as the "pedestals." I'm rather pleased with this turn of events, since I tend to have a rather hard time growing anything successfully and usually need someone to rescue the plant. (Embarrassing stuff for a Druid!).

As for Samhain, the usual tradition is for me to wear my partly Gothic, partly Renaissance dress to classes for the day (providing it's not raining and soggy). It's a quiet way for me to challenge myself...a reminder to me that my spirituality is a part of my everyday life. In my earlier years, I would flaunt my spiritual ways, declaring to the world I was a witch, and one who could call upon the elemental powers. The tradition of wearing this dress over the years has gone from flauntingly defiant, to what it is this year...a quiet reminder that I am what I am. And most importantly it serves to remind me that my spirituality is a part of my everyday life and that no matter where I am, I can be watching and listening for the teachings the Earth-mother and Be'al may whisper to me on the winds.

I plan to give a burnt offering of dried herbs that I've held onto for a long time, not knowing what to do with them. Recently it's dawned on me that I can give of these offerings back to the Earth without harm...sprinkling herbs if I'm outdoors, and giving them up as a burnt offering in my little iron cauldron when indoors, Since I don't know much about the traditional way we honor our ancestors in the Asian tradition, I will offer up a burnt offering of dried herbs in quiet reverence, and watch as my thanks and love rise up to their realm, swirling around them as the smoke rises upwards.

I wish all a sacred and special time this Samhain.


Dravidia Grove, News from Maryland

Hello all,

Dravidia Grove is going on a good scarefest this year, we are trying to do the spooky bit for the yard and see how many people we can scare the life out of. The Grove itself is kinda slow, not much time during works peak season, but it is starting to slow down now.

Eurisko Grove, News from Virginia

Things down here seem to be plugging along slowly but surely. Gwydion performed his "Jester Routine" at a Pagan Pride Day in Virginia Beach and again on 10/18 at "Harvestfaire" a medieval weekend in Newport News. Jacquie continues her six month devotional to the Assyrian Gods ending this Samhain. All members of the grove are active in our local Pagan community and this fill most of the undesirable free time we want to get rid of so far.

Swamp Grove, News from Florida

Swamp Grove is beginning to come alive after the hot months of summer and our planting season has started. We are planning a series of Religious Philosophy trivia challenges at a local bookstore called, "Tea with the Druids." All are welcome to try their hand at answering questions about practices and ideas concerning the topic. First place winner each month receives a gift certificate to the bookstore. The contest will be held at Naples Books a Million at 7:00 pm on the last Thursday of each month and will hopefully promote education and tolerance of other belief systems.

Mojo Protogrove

Mojo Protogrove will be attending a local "Bowser Boo Bash" an annual event by the local Humane Society to raise funds. Also in the works are a gathering in the forest, much divination with each member using their favorite means, and definitely a party to finish off the night.

Olympia Grove: News from WA

Brother Daniel has been experiencing difficulties lately and has been without internet access for most of the year. He is coping well, living healthily, and has immersed himself in the third revision of his Druidism by Mail correspondence program.

Recently, he merged with a local branch of the British Druidic Order (based out of England, founded by Shallcrass and Orr), and is seeking to structure it into a stable entity. He wishes everyone a happy new year.

Cylch Cerddwyr Rhwng y Bydoedd Grove
News from Oregon

Another turning of the wheel and we enter the realm of the Crone--the favourite season of the Clerk of our Grove--Ceridwen - for obvious reasons! We continue to grow at a slow, but steady, rate, and we are even now planning our first annual OMS-RDNA Convention--which will take place sometime next year. We are hoping to host as many of our ever-increasing number of Cybernest members as can travel here to Southern Oregon, along with some "special guests" (yet to be decided). More on that as the new year comes upon us...

The classes are going very well. The latest Druidcraft 101 class began on September 22, and has 85 students. The Cybernest has increased to 87 members--many new ones from the previous D101 class--and they are an enthusiastic bunch! For more info about our Order, go to:

Ceridwen's Astrology for Pagans class also currently has 85 students, who are soon to enter into the "Intermediate" course. This is quite a "cosmopolitan" little group, with people from Australia, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, England, Holland, Puerto Rico, Scotland, South Korea, and USA. On March 1st, a new "Beginning" cycle will start again. If you are interested, please send a blank email to:

And, as ever, we continue to work toward our vision of a Druid Monastery/Intentional Community-"Imladris"--which was mentioned at length in the Fall Equinox issue of the Missal-Any...

Nemeton Awenyddion:
News from California

Things have been stirring up in that great cauldron and about to give rise to some very good changes for our Grove's growth and Nemeton site to go into a permanent place in which I will own the property, and still be 25 miles above Chico, Ca. only on a different hill. This is still in the works as I wait for that call on the loan. There will still be ample camping space and the gatherings will be much easier in the winter because we will then be below the snow level.

We will be holding our last campout gathering on the weekend of Nov. 1st--3rd here in Cohasset at the Nemeton's site, along with bardic fire circle after ritual, and potluck feast. I may be doing an intro to dowsing if enough Druids are interested. I'm so far expecting a crowd of about 30 or so. This event will be open to any visitors who agree with our laws of harmony which you can read at:

Our online Seekers classes have been a success and we just started the second Seekers class and the first Awenydd Level class. We even had one of our new members (Laughing Fox) from the first Seekers class fly all the way out from Philadelphia for our last campout on Fall Equinox, we had a blast and ended our meeting with binding ritual song books to use when in ritual.

I also have a new best friend, a mandolin, and I've been working hard at transposing all my fiddle and harp tunes into it, I'm awaiting the cold weather of winter to absorb more musical knowledge with this new friend.

Deep Peace,

Poison Oak Grove, News from California
Publisher of "A Druid Missal-Any"

The Renaissance Faire has returned to Marin, now put on by the now adult children of the couple who started the Renaissance Faires, which began in California. Through an odd set of circumstances, namely the Scottish guild needing water and my guild having the only running water in the area, I had the grand opportunity to learn how to waulk wool and sing waulking songs with the Scottish women. Waulking is a communal activity practiced by the womenfolk to shrink hand-woven wool to prepare it for cutting and use in making garments. The songs are sung in a call and response method as the wool is kneaded and moved around the table. The last weekend we carved turnip lanterns. Yes the Jack ofLantern tradition goes back to Scotland! Pumpkins are a New World vegetable. Turnip lanterns were carved and hung on a strong or wire and a small candle is placed inside. This was done at Samhain to light the way for departed souls to find their way home.

This week is the Festival of the Feeding of the Hungry Ghosts at the Shasta Abbey. In the Buddhist tradition, like the Celtic, food is set out for friends and family who have passed on, but on the altar rather than at the feast table or grave. I sent things I thought Emmon would like: an organic Gala apple, beautifully red and white mottled; walnuts from a friendfs tree, organic hazel nuts, a small pumpkin, and a beeswax tea light. The weekend of November 9th I will be driving up to the Mount Shasta to be able to visit his grave.

Some Optional Activities
for Voluntary Simplicity

By Alex Strongbow

Looking back on earlier Missal-Anies, it seems that Samhain and Yule activities are well covered. Besides if you can't think of things to do on those two holidays, then you probably couldn't find your butt with both hands. So, instead, I'd like to write for a few issues about volunteering and simplicity, a different type of activity, one that involves you with others.

Winter is one of the harshest time in the year, when the Earth-Mother, withdraws much of her nourishment from the northern temperate areas. Bird, animals and people are hard put to survive outdoors in our towns and cities. We've all seen those Thanksgiving soup-kitchens and Christmas toy charities, but these are just the apexes of the daily, continual efforts to assist our fellow citizens who haven't been able to meet all their needs.

The greatest obstacle to the joys of volunteering is finding some time to do it in. Who wouldn't gladly lend their energy and expertise to serving our community, pro bono, if we could just solve those little technicalities-making a living, for example, or getting enough sleep? You've heard about the 5% rule, spending about 30 minutes a day or three hours a week on something meaningful? To assist a cause, you have to build up reserves of money, time, and inspiration.

One way, yea, one way among many, to acquiring more discretionary time is the path of voluntary simplicity. That has been defined as "living purposefully, with a minimum of needless distraction." Cut out the junk. Most people find that when they carefully coordinate their use of money and time with their deepest held values, the less important things fade away. This opens up more time and inner space for more discretionary activities, including volunteer services.

How to direct our money and time is a question that requires careful reflection and planning. You don't just throw all you possessions in a trash can and run out to save the world (although that might work). Some of the best ideas on this subject came from Steven Covey's classic The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. This is more than a book for just econometricians, it could also be called The Seven Habits of an Aware Life." It is chock full of good tips.

We all need "time off," a sabbatical to marshal our forces. Some tips for building space for solitude is in Shelter for the Spirit: Creating Your Own Haven in a Hectic World by Harper Perennial, 1997. A quick Druidic paraphrasing of this will now follow:

1. Say No. Save your time and stamina for what truly speaks to your heart. Don't chase every rabbit that you see.
2. Tithe Your Time. Tithing was a time-honored tradition of giving money to charities in a planned, orderly way. Time can also be tithed, giving to something that really speaks and tugs at your heart. You say "no" without guilt to the rest, and things that are beyond achievement.
3. Put Things with Feelings First. Put more importance to the condition of sentient beings than the quality of your stereo sound. This is not to deny the effect that a healthier environment has on living creatures. One hour helping the environment, might be helping hundreds of critters and people in small ways.
4. Allow More Time. We often waste time by cutting things close, by rushing about and forgetting and making mistakes. If you always budget in an extra 5-10% of time for a task, then you will usually have time to finish things in a careful controlled manner. No more half-ass mules, my mom would say. If all things go well, then you can read or chat or just breathe. What a gift! You might also be able to notice things that need fixing.
5. Prioritize with the ABC method. Label your daily task sheet with A for "priority-must be done today," B for "important--needs to be done soon;" and C for "necessary-should be done sometime." That way, even if only the A list gets done that day, at least everything that really needs to be done will be done. As time passes, the Bs and Cs will rise in importance or drop off the list.
6. Stay Well. There is nothing more time-consuming that being sick. You're little use to anyone, stuck in bed. Time spent preserving health-nutrition, exercise, spiritual practice, sleep-is a no-risk, high-return investment. Think twice before running to catch the bus in the rain, on what a slip and sprained ankle would do to your weekly schedule.
7. Let the machine get it. There is no requirement to drop everything and run to the phone if it rings. Let your answering machine and e-mail be your secretary, and check in every few hours, and you can return your calls at your convenience.
8. Turn off the TV. It takes up time. Choose consciously how much time you wish to spend with your electronic friends (TV, VCR, computer) and don't use them when you're just feeling bored.
9. Put off Procrastination. Some goldbricks spend twice the effort to avoid work. Do the things on your list or drop them. Your list will shrink quickly.
10. Schedule in Fun. Recreation is nourishment for the soul. It is a necessity not an option. Keep it high on the list, and you'll realize what motivates you keep plugging away through a dull job.

By the way, volunteering can be a fun way to spend time with the family, and build up their civic responsibility. For more on "voluntary simplicity," go to Northwest Earth Institute's site ( or look for more on a web search.

Apple Tree: The Fruit We All Know

By Sam Peeples

This is a more difficult tree to discuss since it is such an ever-present part of our diet. Many scientists believe it is the first fruit tree to be domesticated by humans. Apples are easy to identify by sight and flavor, and as a result they have deep connections to cultures and mythologies. We see them around us all the time in supermarkets, and apples (like corn) is one of the ubiquitous foods.


In ogham script, apple is called Ceirt/Quert ("KWAIRT"). "Qu" (like "K" or "Kw") Not sure why the "Ceirt" is associated with the Apple tree, as Scottish translates Apple tree as "abhall" and Middle Irish "aball." Apple is "ubhal," Irish "ubhall/úll," Early Irish "uball," Old Irish "aball," Welsh "afal," Breton "avallen." According to MacFarlane's Online Gaelic Dictionary, "Ceirt" is Scottish for "right, justice, propriety," though I've also been told (by an Irishman) that it's Irish for "rag/piece of clothing." As the most popular fruit of the Teutonic area, the Apple has appropriated, as its popular name, what was once a common Germanic term for fruit of any kind, "Apfel" being once "apl," and often "apulder," connected with "maple" and "mapulder," and being still extended to many totally different fruit-bearing plants, such as thorn-apples and love-apples. The Anglo-Saxon name for the blackberry, for instance, was the bramble-apple; and that rare old traveler, Sir John Mandeville, speaking of the cedars of Lebanon, says, "they beren longe Apples, and als grete as a man's heved." Though both apples and apples of gold are spoken of in several parts of the Bible, the tree now so called is believed not to have been cultivated by the Hebrews, the citron or some other fruit being referred to.

Physical Description

The Pyrus Malus has over 10,000 varieties, with over 7,000 types cultivated in the U.S., but with only 20 varieties making up 90% of the commercially sold apples. The bark resembles cherry trees and belong to the enormous Rosaceae (rose) family of plants (as are pears), and approach 10-13 meters in height, although most commercial trees are cropped to keep the branches closer to the ground. The branches sometimes have thorns. They tend to be found between 30 and 60 degrees of latitude where winters are close to the freezing point, but rarely reach 15 (e.g. New England and Washington.) They like cool air of valleys and shaded hillsides. There are usually three major splayed branches with 90 degree branches. The pale white flowers are quite lovely and appear before the leaves in May, and are primarily pollinated by bees.

Apple trees may begin to bear fruit around six to eight years after sprouting, and may continue for over century (producing about 800 pounds of fruit a year), but most commercial trees are replaced after 15 years. Most modern orchards take scions, or branches of very fruitful branches, and graft them into base trees to grow better apples, while the rootstock is usually very resistant to frost, making a very robust hybrid organism. Apples are 79% water and 18% air (which is why they float and shrivel so well). They generally have a total of 10 seeds in five compartments (carpels) which make a nice star if sliced horizontally. If they don't have as many, it's probably a sign that the tree was stressed by climate, poor pollination (bees help), or growing difficulties. The better "set" the seeds are, the better the fruit will develop, usually taking 140-170 days, usually ripening in August. The sunnier the climate, the redder the apple on the sides facing the sun. Most apples are dinged or unpretty and go in as "filler" in commercial products. The world's most expensive apples are in Japan and Korea, at $25 a piece for a perfect specimen. Some unusually well-maintained orchards in Japan, place a parabolic shield under the apple to get a solid red hue to the entire apple.

Physical Uses

Apples are for eating, silly.

Apple wood is sometimes used as a veneer for furniture and music instruments.

Crab-apple tree, a wild variant, has a proverbial hard wood, excellent for cudgels.

Apple wood is fine for carving and smells beautiful when burned. As the old rhyme says, "Pear logs and Apple logs, They will scent your room."

The unripe fruits of the wild Apple are used in the manufacture of verjuice, now chiefly made in France, which, when fermented and sweetened, makes a pleasant drink; but in the sixteenth century the fruit was in more esteem than it now is. Christmas was then the season they being served in hot ale "When roasted crabs hiss in the bowl."

Mythological Appearance

The first and most famous appearance of Apple is definitely in Genesis where many people assume that the apple was the forbidden fruit on the Tree of Good and Evil. It simply doesn't state what type of fruit it was, except that it was good to eat. Most likely it was a late medieval tradition based on the pictorial choice of the apple by various European artists. There were some varieties of apple tree in the middle east, but a citron or fig would have been more likely, if it wasn't just a story. Apple tree, Heb., thappuakh (cf. Arab, tiffah; Egypt. dapih, "apple") and the description of the tree and its fruit indicate the common apple tree, Malus communis, which is beautiful, affording shade for a tent or a house (Cant., ii, 3; viii, 5), and bears a sweet fruit, the aroma (Cant., vii, 8) of which is used in the East to revive a fainting person (cf. Cant., ii, 5). Apple groves flourished at an early date (Ramses II) in Egypt (Loret, "Flore pharaonique," p. 83); place-names like Tappuah (Jos., xii, 17) or Beth-tappuah (A. V., Jos., xv, 53) indicate that they were a distinct feature of certain districts of Palestine. But this might be renaming of the fruit after a place. We see the apple in many modern Jewish traditions. During Rosh Hashanah, apple slices dipped in honey are eaten in the hope of a sweet new year. Haroset is a traditional Passover dish. It is a mixture of apple, nuts, wine, and spices, representing the brick mortar with which the Jews were forced to build while they were enslaved in Egypt.

Apples appear frequently in Celtic Lore. The Isles of the Otherworld are sometimes called Emain Abhlach, Emain of the Apple Trees. Cormac was once offered a branch (possibly for grafting?) from Manannan Mac Lir. It bore golden apples. When shaken it gives off a sweet sound that soothes sadness, cures illness and brings peace. It is the giving of a similar branch that soon inspired the voyages of Bran in the Immram Curaig Bran MacFerbal. In both cases, the hero soon made a journey to the Otherworld. Because they are seen as an Otherworld gift, it is not really surprising that they appear so frequently in Samhain customs (bobbing for apples on strings or in tubs), especially those concerned with divining future events. It is true, of course, that round about October and November they are a good wholesome food that is both in season and readily available

Avalon, where the wounded Arthur was taken from the battlefield, is also related. Geoffrey calls it "Avallo" in the HISTORIA and "insula pomorum" (island of the apples) in the VITA MERLINI. It is often seen as having a connection with apples because of the similarity of its name to various Celtic words indicating that fruit: Old Irish ABALL, Middle Welsh Afall, Middle Breton Avallenn, Celtic Avallo. It has also been connected with Avalloc, evidently originally a god who, according to William of Malmesbury, lived there with his daughters. The present case form of the name may have been influenced by the Burgundian place name Avallon. One school of thought suggests that it comes from Irish Oileán (island). It was perhaps originally a Celtic paradise. It was said to produce crops without cultivation, to be ruled by Guingamuer, Morgan's lover, or by a king named Bangon. In PERLESVAUS, Guinevere and Loholt died before Arthur and were buried there. Avalon was then identified with Glastonbury, probably because Arthur's grave was supposedly found at Glastonbury in the reign of Henry II and, as tradition had had him borne away to Avalon, the two were considered the same. However, because of the first syllable in Glastonbury's name, some may have thought it identical with Caer Wydyr, the Fort of Glass, another name for Annwfn.

The tale of the Sons of Tuirenn combine both Irish and Graeco-Roman elements. The Sons of Tuirenn killed Lugh's father, Cian. Lugh demanded that they do eight "impossible" tasks as blood-price for his father's life. The first was to bring back three apples from the Garden of the Hesperides in the east of the world. They would know these apples from the following characteristics: they were the size of a one-month-old child, the color of burnished gold, and they tasted of honey; eating them healed all wounds and diseases and the apples would not be diminished by being eaten; and if thrown, they would rebound to the thrower's hands. The Sons of Tuirenn managed to accomplish all eight tasks, but were mortally wounded while doing the last one. Lugh refused to allow them to use the healing powers of another object they captured in the second task, a magical pig skin, so they died shortly thereafter.

Another famous apple that caused trouble was given by Eris. She was of such a deplorable nature, that the gods had kept Eris apart, and she was not in the list of guests who were invited to the wedding of Peleus and Thetis, the parents of Achilles. Nevertheless, Eris, being difficult to get rid of, came to the party and threw a golden apple through the door with the inscription: Kallisti ("For the fairest") And Hera, Athena and Aphrodite started disputing on account of the apple, and were therefore sent by Zeus to Mount Ida near Troy in order to be judged by the shepherd Paris, who chose Aphrodite as the most beautiful, accepting Helen's hand for a bribe. This is one cause of the Trojan War, for Paris, having come to fetch his bribe at Sparta, where Helen was queen, left the city as her lover and sailed with her to Troy. But her husband Menelaus and his brother Agamemnon, against all odds--for war had never before broken up for the sake of a woman--sent a powerful army against Troy, and produced a conflagration that still today causes such an awe and amazement as if the flames of Troy were still burning. The modern followers of Eris, the Discordians, use the Kallisti apple as one of their symbols. has another rendition.

In another Greek legend, Atalanta was a powerful warrior who would only marry the man who could outrun her. Desperate to win, Hippomenes prayed to Aphrodite for aid, and she gave him golden apples from her garden which he was to throw into Atalanta's path. The apples did distract Atalanta and he won the race, but he forgot to give due honor to Aphrodite afterwards and as punishment, both he and Atalanta were changed into lions.

The Hesperides were three virgin sisters who, along with a dragon, guarded the tree of golden apples Gaea had given to Hera as a wedding gift in their garden. These were reputed to bring beauty and health. It was the eleventh of the twelve labors of Heracles that he bring back the golden apples to the world.

Pomona was the Roman Goddess of fruit trees, especially of apple trees, and was also know as the "Apple Mother" who gave the "apples of eternal life." Roman banquets ended with apples and an invocation of Pomona's blessing. Pomona had a special priest appointed to her service. Her sacred grove was called the "Pomonal" and was located on the road from Rome to Ostia.

In the legend of Thomas the Rhymer (13th century),Thomas Learmont, laird of the castle of Ercildoune, is accosted by a hag who takes him on a journey. He is shown three paths, one of leads to the land of the Fay. While ravenously hungry, he resolutely passes by all the luscious fruits of all kinds, but he is warned not to eat of any of them, for he would then be trapped there forever. He is also told that his hunger would soon be relieved with an apple. When they reach a certain spot, the hag climbs down off the horse and offers Thomas an apple from a small yet perfect tree. She tells him that after eating it he will be graced with the gift of Truth. At that time the hag turns into a beautiful woman and together they go to a castle where they feast and make merry for three days. At the end of that time, the woman tells him that he must return to his own world where seven years have passed. When he returns home, he finds that he is given the gifts of prophesy, poetry, and an enchanted harp. He becomes a wise ruler of his territories and is, in time, called back to Fairyland where he remained.

Iduna, wife of the Norse God of poetry, Bragi, kept a box of apples. If any of the Gods felt the approach of old age, they only had to taste of one of these apples to remain young. She was abducted by a giant (aided by Loki) and, in time, the other Gods realized that they were aging rapidly. Loki was sent to rescue her so that she might restore youth to the Gods. He later married her, and whenever he was punished, she would sometimes use these apples as leverage to free him.

Another renowned myth to the Swiss is the story of William Tell refusing to bow to a Hapsburg lord's hat placed on a stick in the town square. As punishment he is forced to shoot an apple off his son's head with a crossbow. After doing so, he then manages to escape from the governor's clutches on a stormy river, effectively drowning the rascal. The legend is a distortion of actual events that led in 1291 to the formation of the Everlasting League among the forest cantons of Uri, Schwyz, and Unterwalden. The original story is believed to derive from a 12th century Scandinavian tale of shooting a small object off a loved-one's head. See the following website

The next feat of the legendary apple would be Sir Isaac Newton's discovery or realization of Gravity. During a plague in the city, he retired to a country estate. As the tale goes, Sir Isaac Newton was sitting under an apple tree when an apple fell on his head. This, supposedly, was what led him to discover the laws of gravity. Popular legend to the contrary, Sir Isaac was not beaned on the noggin by an apple, although it's said that watching apples fall from a tree in his parents' yard was an inspiration. His treatise on gravitation, presented in Principia Mathematica (1687) observed the fall of an apple in an orchard at Woolsthorpe and calculates that at a distance of one foot the attraction between two objects is 100 times stronger than at 10 feet.

The most famous recent example is, of course, Johnny Appleseed, a.k.a. John Chapman (1774-1845), an eccentric, itinerant pioneer nurseryman and colporteur. He won the respect of many settlers and Native Americans alike as he made his way from his native Massachusetts to the Pennsylvania/ Ohio/Indiana frontier, planting apple nurseries, spreading "news right fresh from heaven," mediating and healing. He exchanged his apple seeds and seedlings for food, cast-off clothing and articles and frontier currency enough to take care of his simple needs. Profits went for copies of Swedenborg's works, which he separated into parts for wider and cheaper distribution. There are several songs about him.

Medicinal and Magical Uses

  • The sugar of a sweet apple, like most of the fruit sugars, is amazing. It is practically a predigested food, and is soon ready to pass into the blood to provide energy and warmth for the body. A nice ripe raw apple is one of nature's most easiest vegetable substances for the stomach to deal with, the whole process of its digestion being completed in eighty-five minutes. The juice of apples, without sugar, will often reduce acidity of the stomach; it becomes changed into alkaline carbonates, and thus corrects sour fermentation.
  • "An apple a day keeps the doctor away." From an old English advice "Ate an apfel avore gwain to bed, makes the doctor beg his bread."
  • "It is better to give than receive." Derived from a fourteenth-century saying "Betere is appel y-yeue than y-ete" (better is the apple you give than you get).
  • Paradise is a word derived from the Persian paeridaeza, or walled garden, such as the Persian gardens, normally containing apple orchards. Throughout history, depictions of the Garden of Paradise include apple trees.
  • Bartholomeus Anglicus, whose Encyclopedia was one of the earliest printed books containing botanical information (being printed at Cologne about 1470), gives a chapter on the Apple. He says:

    "Malus the Appyll tree is a tree yt bereth apples and is a grete tree in is more short than other trees of the wood wyth knottes and rinelyd Rynde. And makyth shadowe wythe thicke bowes and branches: and fayr with dyurs blossomes, and floures of swetnesse and Iykynge: with goode fruyte and noble. And is gracious in syght and in taste and vertuous in medecyne.some beryth sourysh fruyte and harde, and some ryght soure and some ryght swete, with a good savoure and mery."

  • The custom of serving fresh fruit, particularly apples, at the end of a meal arose because of digestive qualities attributed to them by such early medical notables as Hippocrates and Galen, the latter a second-century Roman physician.
  • The medieval physician's bible, the Salerno medical school's Prescription for Health, taught therapeutic applications of cooking apples for disturbances of the bowels, lungs and nervous system, among other ailments.
  • The modern tradition of tossing rice at a happy couple succeeds an ancient practice of throwing apples at weddings. I guess, British native apple trees have smaller fruit than modern commercial fruit, or perhaps the Celts were just ornery cusses.
  • The game of apple-bobbing began as a Celtic New Year's tradition for trying to determine one's future spouse.
  • An Irish and Scottish custom prescribed throwing an apple peel over one's shoulder on the ground, where it would form the initial of your lover's name.
  • Eat an apple whole, saving just the pips. An odd number foretells a marriage, an even number means that none is imminent.
  • It is said that you may cut an apple into three pieces, then rub the cut side on warts, saying: "Out warts, into apple."
  • The once-popular custom of wassailing the orchard-trees on Christmas Eve, or the Eve of the Epiphany, is not quite extinct even yet in a few remote places in Devonshire. More than three centuries ago Herrick mentioned it among his "Ceremonies of Christmas Eve:"

    "Wassaile the trees, that they may beare
    You many a Plum and many a Peare:
    For more or lesse fruits they will bring,
    As you do give them Wassailing."

  • The ceremony consisted in the farmer, with his family and laborers, going out into the orchard after supper, bearing with them a jug of cider and hot cakes. The latter were placed in the boughs of the oldest or best bearing trees in the orchard, while the cider was flung over the trees after the farmer had drunk their health in some such fashion as the following:

    "Here's to thee, old apple-tree!
    Whence thou may'st bud,
    And whence thou may'st blow,
    Hats full! Caps full!
    Bushel-bushel-bags full!
    And my pockets full too! Huzza!"

  • The toast was repeated thrice, the men and boys often firing off guns and pistols, and the women and children shouting loudly. (I do not recommend this part.) Roasted apples were usually placed in the pitcher of cider, and were thrown at the trees with the liquid. Trees that were bad bearers were not honored with wassailing but it was thought that the more productive ones would cease to bear if the rite were omitted. It is said to have been a relic of the heathen sacrifices to Pomona. The custom also prevailed in Somersetshire and Dorsetshire.
  • In Danish, German, and English folklore, and in voodoo, apples are used as love charms.
  • Roast apples, or crabs, formed an indispensable part of the old-fashioned wassailbowl, or "good brown bowl," of our ancestors.

    "And sometime lurk I in a gossip's bowl
    In very likeness of a roasted Crab."

  • As related by Puck in Midsummer's Night's Dream. The mixture of hot spiced ale, wine or cider, with apples and bits of toast floating in it was often called Lamb's wool, some say from its softness, but the word is really derived from the Irish la mas nbhal, "the feast of the apple-gathering" (All Hallow's Eve), which being pronounced somewhat like "Lammas-ool," was corrupted into "lamb's wool." It was usual for each person who partook of the spicy beverage to take out an apple and eat it, wishing good luck to the company.

    Apple Songs

  • "Ida, Sweet as Apple Cider" by U.S. minstrel Eddie Leonard (1903).
  • "In the Shade of the Old Apple Tree" by Egbert Van Alstyne, lyrics by Henry Williams (1905), author of "Take Me Out to the Ball Game."
  • "I'll Be with You in Apple Blossom Time" by Albert von Tilzer, lyrics by Neville Fleeson (1920).
  • "Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White" by Louiguy, lyrics by Jacques Larme (1950).
  • "The Golden Brown and the Green Apple" by Duke Ellington (1965).
  • "Little Green Apples" by Bobby Russell (1968).
  • "Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree" words and music by Lew Brown, Charles Tobias and Sam H. Stept (1942).

    Apple Links: Botanical lore and details on making cider by presses and just loads of recipes. Apple magical associations. Apples in western lore. Apple lore. Crab apple variant. Apple quotes in literature. Good parallel to this page. More apple quotes and apple history chronology. Wisdom from apples. Apple lore. Apple terminology. Apple songs for kids. More kids' stuff

    Unearthing Dalon:
    General Elements of a
    Dalon ap Landu Myth Cycle

    By Thomas Lee Harris, Jr.,
    Reformed Druidic Wicca, Missionary Order of the Celtic Cross

    (Note: While this article purposes to set forth general elements of a Dalon ap Landu myth cycle, before this article, such a myth cycle did not exist. Except, of course, for a newly created battle between Dalon ap Landu and Hu-Gadarn, which was written--both in poetry and prose form--because of said lack of a myth for Dalon. Dalon's myth cycle, thus, is the epitome of Zen Druid myth. It is the myth that was, and is not, there.)

    If one were to quickly glance over a Dalon Cycle-at least this one-it would reveal him to be almost a Neo-Celtic Messiah, were such a thing to exist, or more properly a Druid Everyman. Possibly even the pretense of for demi-godhood exists. He is very much an archetypal Druid as well as a Lord of the Groves. The much used title "Lord of the Groves" applies to several greater and lesser known Celtic deities (or at least does not apply to them for purposes of this article, supposing the various forms of Green Man and sylvan deities would be called Lord of the Grove in an extended sense) and can thus be seen as a description of intimate knowledge of Nature rather than mastery over it. First appearing as a name singularly encapsulating the Third Order of the RDNA (The Council of Dalon ap Landu) as well as the ideals Neo-Druids strive to attain, the fact that we were calling on him in our rites without having any form of myth for him, or other means of finding him in Celtic legend was all it took for us to decide, well, Dalon needed some kind of history to him.

    Dalon first appears-in his myth-as a prophetic spirit. After all, he probably should have some form of pre-incarnational existence. Let's say that he's most likely an incarnation of Duir/Oak and a spiritual descendant of Nuada.

    Despite our knowing the parentage of Dalon, his cycle has no birth, no nativity, though we'll say for the sake of convenience that this may have been lost in the course of time. As such neither given a concrete place of time, he is a person of pure mythology. He is a human manifestation of Duir/Oak, so he doesn't have a human heart, but in its place is an acorn, and all the potentiality contained therein.

    His parent are a goddess (either Danu, Brigit, or Gaia depending on the source being used, and Landu, a chieftain, his human father (there may once have been a Landu Cycle, but none of it exists as of the writing of this article. Let's get those creative juices flowing then.) Landu feared than Dalon would discover his maternal origins, so as chieftain over his clan's holdings, he expelled every Druid from his clan's lands and had every stone circle cast down to discourage the impractical leanings of his son's mind. With the circle gone and no human teacher available Dalon is forced to go directly into groves to learn. His education and initiation comes not from the human world, but from Nature Herself during the vigils he holds at Her feet. Often this Nature Goddess is his Mother.

    Greater and lesser loves and lusts of Dalon, especially the relationship he has with the Pine-Son. Unlike the Zeus/Ganymede story, there is no abduction. Unlike Apollo/Hyacinthus/Zephyr, there is no jealously, even in the face of extraneous, often bisexual, paramours they both entertain corporately and separately (yes, yes, it smacks of polyamoury, but let's remember this is a modern myth cycle). There is a progression from the awe of newfound love to mystical union to continual revelation and deep sharing. It is almost as if they meet as youths, handfast, and feasibly could grow old together and be buried side by side, were they mere mortals. Their bisexuality, as a concept, is conveniently a "modern anachronism read into the cycle but actually not applicable from their standpoint, as from the mythic standpoint, gender was a non-issue" in case anyone asks.

    The enlightenment of Dalon ap Landu is very Buddha-esque. An authority I'll make up for documenting the enlightenment is No'one the Short, a true sage if ever there was one, said, "If Dalon see the Be'al, it is only during his Enlightenment," and "Since the Enlightenment of Dalon, the World Tree from his navel grows." One must assume that since Buddha's enlightenment happens under a Bodhi tree, Dalon's must happen beneath an Oak, although No' one's navel comment has caused some authorities to debate whether the World Tree in the Dalon cycle is actually an orange. Others insist that this is only navel gazing. The debate is cut short by a passage thought to originate with Dalon himself: "For now is every tree become the World Tree. The oak is the ash, the ask is the oak, bramble, chieftain, warrior.these are now made the same in my eyes, not as unknowing of the Mystery and every wall is laid flat in my eyes.every boundary is breached."

    Next comes Dalon's coming to grips with his Shadow Aspect. There is some debate as to whether these tales come before or after the enlightenment episodes, but most sources say afterwards as a warning against self-righteousness. Trickster stories are usually incorporated under this heading.

    The disowning of Dalon by Landu. This may originally have been a threefold disowning, for there are three different accounts of why Dalon was disowned. Source A holds that it was due to the religious aspect, Source B holds that Landu disapproved of the Dalon/Pine-Son romance, and Source C holds that he was disowned due to an incident in the shadow tales.

    Forced out of Landu's lands, the next phase of Dalon's life begins with his becoming a hermit and interacting purely with the Old Ones. This, basically, is Dalon goes up the hill to commune with the Old Ones, returns to deliver his teachings in the Mishnah of Dalon. The whole thing is very Moses on the Mountain and Jesus-Sermon-on-the-Mount-ish. At some point in these discourses, Dalon raised his hands in the midst of a field (conveniently because he just came down from a mountain, possibly one of the Ozarks, much to the chagrin of Old World Druids) and the birds that were in the field arose around him and his Holy Band. The birds flew off to the Four Quarters. Dalon turned to his followers and said, "Even as these birds have flown, so do I send you into the Worlds. I am the door, but if is given to you to be the threshold. You are the reason for the door, you are my definition. Lest I send you out as a sower sows seeds, my speaking unto you will have been in vain." The fulfillment, the very apex, of the Mishnah of Dalon is the sending out of the Holy Band. They were his "apostles" if you can call them that. They were poor and illiterate, a rag-tag gathering of souls that had little in common other than the belief that they could change the world, and that someone had shown them how to do it.

    Upon the sending out of the Holy Band, Dalon begins his own pilgrimage. The source of many local legends concerning Dalon in various capacities and guises, morality stories and miracle stories become part and parcel of this cycle, turning Dalon into a Messiah-like figure (also sort of like a Hercules figure in that lots of communities had a Hercules story in the areas that had Greek influence). He has to travel to establish covert recognition of his Divine Nature while, at the same time, discouraging any worship of himself as being especially Divine.

    The transfiguration of Dalon is the culmination of his Great Pilgrimage, then Dalon returns to his ancestral home and to his father, Landu. No'one, on the subject of the transfiguration, said: "This can be seen as a lesser event than his enlightenment, for by defining himself as the model Druid, he attempts to limit what a Druid can be, and thus takes a step away from being an image of the all-encompassing Be'al" and "We cannot lose sight that although he an archetypal Druid manifesting human nature and awe at the Mysteries of Nature, he is-when transfigured-the Lord of the Groves, Spirit of Oak, as much as his rival, Hu-Gadarn."

    Dalon finds Landu in Battle with Hu-Gadarn. Metaphysically, the battle represents our highest potentials grappling with primordial powers, or traditions of our tribe, and concepts beyond our ability to control. The battle between Landu and Hu-Gadarn is assumed to result the jealousy over the love of Dalon's divine mother (again, Her identity is variously given according to what source is used), and Hu-Gadarn kills Landu. Dalon rushes to Landu's side, picks up Landu's spear, and fights Hu-Gadarn. Dalon and Landu represent two visions of the Lord of the Groves. Hu-Gadarn represents the ancient and primal Lord of the Groves as the wildwood. Dalon represents the Lord of the Groves as that of mankind in relationship with the wildwood and Hierophant of the Druid Groves. Hu-Gadarn mortally wounds Dalon as a reminder of human mortality and weakness in the face of Nature itself, and then Hu-Gadarn disappears, either into the wildwood or the fog, depending once again upon the source being used.

    Dalon gives the Pine-Son the acorn as an androgynous symbol and as a token of love (remember, the acorn is Dalon's heart) and tries to hold onto life as Winter's chill sets in. When at last he can hold on no more, the pine-Son finally gives him the pine cone while the Pine-Son discourses concerning the eternality of the soul, reincarnation, et cetera. Dalon finally dies in the arms of the Pine-Son. Following Dalon's death there are later metaphysical attributions, in liturgy, written word, and oral tradition as the Lord of the Groves, Initiator, and Dying/Reborn God. He appears as a Nature Spirit in several diverse accounts, and is then reborn. When the rebirth occurs, the Druids are sent out in search of the reborn Lord of the Groves.

    A Sociological Look
    at the RDNA at Carleton College
    The Epistle of Irony (Part Two)

    A Druid Missal-Any is proud to continue with part two of this Epistle written by Irony Sade in November 1998 for a sociology class at Carleton College. What is so striking about it to me is that it puts into words the essence of RDNA Druidism, not what it isn't in comparison to other Druid groups (we don't have a formal study program, lengthy requirements for membership, or even an organized structure), but simply what it is, in and of itself.

    Section II
    Origins of the Reformed Druids

    The Reformed Druids of North America began, with no connection to either the Paleo or the modern European Druids, at Carleton College in April of 1963. At that time the college had a requirement for graduation stating that

    "Attendance is required at the College Service of Worship or of the Sunday Evening Program or at any regularly organized service of public worship. Each term, every student must attend seven [of ten] of the services or religious meetings." 1

    A number of students felt that it was unfair to require people to attend services and decided to test the policy. The protesters were led by the original "Triumvirate," consisting of David Fisher, Howard Cherniack, and Norman Nelson. They noted the escape clause of "or at any regularly organized service of public worship" and realized that they could create and organize such a service themselves and offer it up to the relevant deans as a fulfillment of the requirement. The college would have two choices, as they saw it: either to refuse to recognize them and be accused of religious discrimination, or to let them graduate at which point the movement would be declared a hoax and the requirement further ridiculed.2

    Instead, in the summer of 1964, John Nason, the president of the college, sent out a memo revoking the requirement. It should be noted that Nason had already decided that the college's policy of in Loco Parentis was outdated and may have been planning to revoke the requirement all along. The role of the Druids in its elimination is debatable, but they cheerfully took the credit for its disappearance.

    Two things about this origin are crucial to the understanding of Reformed Druidism. The first is that the founders never intended the movement to last. The second is that the Reformed Druids had no connection what so ever to any other Druid group at the time of their founding. 3

    "Indeed," writes Scharding, "this leads up to the greatest hindrance to the entire study of Reformed Druidism; the name 'Druid.' Many scholars will see the word 'Druidism' on a sheet of paper and suddenly a myriad of assumptions will strangle their minds." 4

    The Reformed Druid movement embodies none of the philosophy, worldview, cultural resonance or even religion of the Celts, Paleo, or Meso Druids. The name was picked because it was sufficiently venerable to be taken seriously and sufficiently misunderstood that the young RDNA could make up whatever they chose and not be called on inaccuracies. 5 As the story goes, Howard Cherniack's parents did not like indicating that they were Jewish on government forms, and had taken to writing "Druid" instead. The Triumvirate picked up the idea and ran with it, inventing beliefs as they went.

    The subsequent history of the movement is complex and fascinating but I do not intend to address it here. Scharding has covered it more thoroughly than I am ever likely to and traces its internal dividing and developments over a thirty-year span. I will attempt to avoid much of that discussion except where it is relevant to our purpose here.

    Section III
    Beliefs of the Reformed Druids

    Two things were of primary importance for the Reformed Druids in the beginning, and have remained fundamental to the movement ever since. The respect for nature, and the respect for each individual's rights. The founders wanted to create a system that would contain a meaningful core while eschewing all dogma and orthodoxy. In the words of one Druid, "Reformed Druidism is a statement that religion has a tendency to become organized religion and [sic] which then becomes organization devoid of religion." 6 The founders were very conscious of this "fossilization theory" and wished to provide no framework for organization that could be exploited later. As such, when the two tenets were devised and finalized in 1963, they were kept as simple and as inclusive as possible.

    The object of the search for religious truth, which is a universal and never-ending search, may be found through the Earth-Mother; which is Nature; but this is one way, yea, one way among many.

    And great is the importance, which is of a spiritual importance, of Nature, which is the Earth-Mother; for it is one of the objects of Creation, and with it people do live, yea, even as they do struggle through life they are come face to face with it. 7

    These are the only two tenets of the Reformed Druids of North America- and the only two statements with which all Druids are ever likely to agree. Everything else is up to the individual. In their original form the tenets are rather cumbersome. They are often paraphrased as "Nature is good" and "Nature is good." A more serious way of putting it, currently practiced amongst the Druids at Carleton is to say that first: The spiritual search is an important, individual, and life long endeavor, and secondly, that one way of searching lies through the study, understanding, and awareness of nature. Each of these phrasings indicates something rather different if they are taken literally, yet it is at one truth that they point. The only commandment I have ever seen attached to Reformed Druidism is Think for thyself! The tenets, however you conceive of them, establish the framework in which to do this.

    Druidism teaches that you have the right to believe what you know to be true, no mater what anyone else thinks of it. At the same time it holds that you cannot simply pick what you would like to be the case, nor design a cosmology irrespective of what the world teaches. To be a Druid is to deliberately and consciously seek out the truth of the world and decide for yourself what it is you will believe. Margot Adler sheds some useful light on the matter when she writes, "The original founders seemed to hold the fundamental idea that one should scrutinize religion from 'a state of rebellion,' neither embracing traditional faiths nor rejecting them." 8

    Druids look everywhere for inspiration. World philosophies, religions, science fiction, children's books, strange dreams, the flight of swallows; all are considered equally valid insights to potential truths that must be at least examined, if never espoused. As Scharding writes, "It was important to Druidism that you believed your own views instead of slavishly following those of others, provided that you had carefully examined them and judged them sound." 9 This intellectual honesty is a necessary--if not sufficient--feature of the Druidic search. Without it the movement would descend into utter relativism. 10

    Another significant feature of Druidic "belief" is that it is compatible with almost any other religious system. It serves to accentuate rather than replace a person's faith. Michael Scharding is a devout (maybe) Catholic as well as being a Druid. The group today contains at least one Atheist Druid, Jewish Druid, Quaker Druid, Seventh Day Adventist Druid, and innumerable Agnostic and Confused Druids. Indeed, the people who have taken Reformed Druidism to be their only religion have always been in the minority. The movement is hardly a thing that one can be converted to. The most common reaction to the personal acceptance of being a Druid is one of coming home. My own was, "Oh--now at last I have a name for what I've always done." The inclusiveness with which Druidism approaches all other religions is one of its strongest and most redeeming features.

    To Be Continued...

    End Notes

    1. Carleton College Catalogue, March 1964, pp. 136. -ARDA-
    2. It should be remembered that these students- the original "triumvirate" consisting of David Fisher, Howard Cherniack and Norman Nelson--were in no way irreligious. David is currently an Episcopalian priest. They merely felt that the requirement was unfair on principle and should be tested. They also hedged their bets and continued attending the "legitimate" services throughout their protest.
    3. This will be discussed more in section IV.
    4. ARDA pp. 339. This seems to be a thing that each researcher is at pains to learn anew.
    5. "Mec" --Michael Scharding--wasted eight months of research before figuring this out. I knew he'd done so and I still fell for it. My desk is littered with fascinatingly irrelevant books on Druidism that have nothing to do with the RDNA.
    6. Internal correspondence ARDA pp. 338
    7. An interesting change in the modern phrasing of the first tenet is the omission of the idea that the spiritual search is universal. The reason for this is two fold. One motivation is a desire not to impose even that truth on others. Another is that it has become apparent that one can be a great Druid without holding that the spiritual search holds any immediate, personal, relevancy. David Coil, one of the greatest Druid apologists at Carleton today and the functional right hand of the Archdruid for the last year, holds the above view. He believes that upon death he will go back to being 'nineteen cents of chemicals,' end of story. He would rather live life that ponder its spiritual significance, and expresses one of the purest Druidic spirits on campus.
    8. Drawing Down the Moon. pp. 301
    9. ARDA. pp. 341
    10. One could argue that the Druids already embody such a relativism in that the closest thing we have to a statement of belief is really simply an insistence that you search truth out your self. If so, it is only the relativism of individual minds. Yet I do not believe that even this is the case. The intellectual honesty that Druidism fosters encourages clear sight and careful thinking, and it seems that even with a great many people searching in this manner, agreements and commonalties arise. It may be that when people look hard and carefully at the nature of reality they all find, on some fundamental level, the same things. It seems to me that even without an imposed order to the universe, relativism confounds itself against a deeper order that is already present. It is part of the answer to the problem of saying "This is the truth that I have found, which I will force on no one else- but it applies to everybody." A rigorous examination of this confusion will have to await the foredoomed attempt of working out a formal Druidic philosophy and metaphysic.

    Where Are My Druid Ancestors?

    By Mike Scharding, Digitalis Grove


    I get one of these delightful letters about every week and spend copious amounts of work-time on them. Perhaps this sample response may assist you in your own correspondence. I sometimes wish to tell them that we do keep records, "but only back to 538 A.D., and strangely they are all in a mysterious language on golden plates." But honestly, it is a pressing dilemma for a movement that espouses tradition but rejects many of those traditions of the last 1300 years of recorded history. I hope that it opens your eyes to the desperate desire of many young pagans to fill a "missing link" between themselves and their more ancient ancestors. Is this a curable condition, and do you have any other responses to this perennial question?

        Dear Mike,

        My question is about a matter of how does one research their ancestor's involvement with druidism? I am very interested in finding out a few things about my family and believe somehow our lives have been impacted by our ancestor's involvement. This may sound outlandish but I would like to know to figure or trace information. What are the oldest records, and whom does one speak with for this sort of information? If you are not sure, please forward this to somebody who might be of be of some help.

        Thank you very much! Yours truly,

        Desperately Seeking Seanachi


    Dear Seanachi,

    Hi, how ya doing?

    I wish I could be of greater help on this subject. My parents have done extensive genealogy back to the 17th century, and we're pretty sure we've got more ancestors before those ones. But in my own Reformed Druidic way, I' ll try to offer my best advice on this frequent question. There may be a solution imbedded somewhere in this long reply.

    Most genealogical records of American/British/French citizens only go about to the 17th century (ask the Mormons for assistance on research); unless you are linked to a royal family, then you go back into the late medieval age (barring "secret" records, if they exist or are not doctored). This sadly leaves all of us out of any connection with "actual ancient druids" who more or less vanished by the 7th to 9th century, probably. It is probably that every clan had its Druid (or at least a bard or two).

    But given the closeness to royalty and religious power throughout the ancient and modern world (every single U.S. President is a descendent of William the Conqueror, and the one with the most direct patriarchal connection (and always the tallest except for G.W. Bush, but he didn't really win) has always won the presidency. Their family trees are carefully done by a foundation, so finding a president or noble in your family tree would be a good route.

    Now although Patriarchy was seemingly well established by the first few centuries of the Christian Era, we cannot be entirely sure that the job of Druid was passed on from parent to child, and there is evidence that in some Celtic area, that inheritance may have passed through the mother and adoption of apprentices or nephews and nieces was frequently an established part of village life and career training. But, let's assume for now that Druids didn't sensibly select the smartest and most promising children of the countryside, and rather only passed on their knowledge and powers to their biological offspring, irregardless of their natural talent (one of the reasons why hereditary Monarchy is not a great idea). Well, since celibacy wasn't truly in effect until the 16th century for many clergy and monks and popes; and many Druids reportedly re-defined their job-description to "Christian" with changing fashions of power; a link to an ancient abbot, bishop or pope would also be a good bet.

    Now, you might have better luck finding a family connection to a meso-pagan Druidic revival organization since 1697 (one of the fraternalistic clubs.). They presumably kept membership records. If there were any "Druidic Survivals," they probably would have joined one of these clubs over the last three centuries. Contact OBOD or ( or UAOD or AOD ( to pursue this route, then provide a list of your family members and time periods and they may or may not be able to confirm or disconfirm their membership.

    Another route. Since it is generally agreed that when explicit Druidry was suppressed, the bards probably continued some of the stories, truth or lore of the Celtic religious culture. So if you could find any minstrels or entertainers (like O'Carolan and such) then you might have a connection. Such as a "harper" or MacCruithin, or one of the hereditary piper families of a clann. Many chieftainships and positions were hereditary, and the clann system continued to the 16th century in Ireland and 19th century in Scotland, well into the historical period.

    If you wave enough money or foolishness in public, someone will supply all your needs (see credit card salesmen and Madame Cleo). Anyone who offers you a Celtic pedigree chart is probably just trying to scam some money; and there are lots of them already working the Scottish/Irish-descendent market; adding you would not take much more trouble. Demand to see the original documents and blow the dust off them yourself.

    Here are the last few methods, and perhaps least satisfying for pedigree mongers, is Idea, Nature, Divine Inspiration, Simple Mathematics, and of course the Apple and Boat test.


    If the thoughts and beliefs of the Druids can leap from their bodies to non-blood relationship people through the medium of words and music and custom; then by studying ancient and modern Celtic culture you can regain the seeds of those past souls and hopefully they will regerminate into a similar tree.


    If the Druids gained their knowledge and power through the observation and interaction with Nature over generations; then you can by doing likewise, and thereby you and your descendents will gradually build up a similar bloodline of power.

    Being the impatient Americans that we are, you could jump-start the whole process by getting your parents to convert, or even (like the Mormons) retroactively convert your ancestors in their heavenly rest to your new religious program. That would add several generations to your current status of inheritance.

    Divine Inspiration

    Surely, if you are a good Druid, and I think you are, then you believe in the Gods (or at least on alternative weeks, like me). Now, the Deities should be technically more powerful than the worshippers (otherwise the roles would be reversed). If the gods still exist, and the Druids listened to them, then you can ask the gods to download that power and information to you from their backup disk, right? This is known as the prayer method. Are there any signs of artistic, ESP, political or musical prodigies in your family line?

    Simple Mathematics

    Now there is a famous Irish proverb: "In the veins of every Irishman is the blood of a king, and a slave." Kings and slaves are but two sides of the same coin or "The Wheel of Fortune." Let's explore this further:

    By argument: There are 600 Million Europeans today. There were only 30 million Europeans during the Black Plague of 13th century. Probably only seven million in 1 AD in Europe during the Roman Empire (which is why a single legion of 10,000 was so HUGE a problem for the Celts). Let's assume that two million of those were Celtic religious practioners (France, Switzerland, North Italy, Spain, Dalmatia, Turkey, Britain, Ireland, Wales, Scotland, Belgium, Denmark/West Germany), with about 20,000 Druids/Intelligentsia (1%) okay?

    There are plenty of legends with Druids having offspring. Assume 1.2 kids per Druid (probably three is normal, but child mortality, plagues and war reduce it, plus overlapping descendents) and a 20 year inter-generational period with 100 generations since 1 A.D..

    So, you've got 20,000 ancient druids (1.3 to the 100th power which is 8,2817,974.5) producing a whopping grand sum of about 165,6359,490,440.3 currently living Druid descendents at a minimum. And it's a possible 2,535,301,200,456,458,802,993,406,410,7520,000 people, if we use 2.0 kids for calculations; but there are only 8,021,020,016 people on earth now). So with Europe and America and Australia's combined estimated Celtic-descendent population of about 400,000,000 people, you have at least at 40-100% chance of having a Druid ancestor, depending on your calculations, without knowing any more than that your great grandmother was a McWhatzername.

    Unfortunately, we don't know their Druid ancestor's name(s) and street postal address(es), but let me assure you by your very presence, that not knowing your ancestor's name will negate your existence or your heritage. I' ve got lots of ancestors I don't know too well, and I do fine.

    Apple and Boat Test

    Now if you're a "Christian Druid," congratulations, it gets much more simple!! Since you believe in "Ya*weh, then you believe the first Humans were Adam and Eve (among others). Now Adam and Eve were originally on very close terms with God (as all the Druids were) and lived in a Garden, with intricate association and knowledge of all the plants and creatures of the Earth (in fact they named them all). This would qualify as "Druidic" by many definitions. So if Adam and Eve were Druids and Druidesses, then we all are Druidic descendents. If by chance, non-Druidic people were around (because some women was marrying all these sons of Adams, unless constructing women was a family business for the Adamses) then the flood killed all of them all, leaving only Noah's offspring, who have a direct link to Adam, thus insuring and cementing our Druidic heritage, including the Maori exchange student at your neighbor's house.

    I hope that in someway, I've been helpful and reassuring on this fascinating topic. I wish you the best of luck in your search, and hope you get back to me when you find a promising path to your solution.

    -Mike the Fool
    AD of DC

    Celtic Dietary Health Problems

    By Eric Powers, Digitalis Grove

    Well, after discussing junk food and sanitary issues of the Celts, I believe it is time to address the abysmal eating habits of modern Celts, and their health implications. It is a sad fact that as the waves of Germanic people pushed through Europe, the Celts found it was their turn to choose less desirable and more defensible territory. Any visit to a Gaeltacht region of Celtic speaking territory in Brittany or Wales will show you the poor quality of the farming. Now, it is a little known fact that 2,500 years ago, much of Britain and Ireland's barren hills and plains were covered in thick forest full of lions, bears giant deer, and other monsters. Centuries of degradatory farming erosion, poor arboreal harvesting and other ecological disasters have made many of the bogs and moors of the British Isles. So much for being in harmony with nature. Such a fate awaits the Brazilian rainforest.

    For the purpose of the remainder of the essay, we will assume the general French and Belgium and Galician populations are not Celtic. According to the genetic test in the last issue, the English are generally of recent immigrant stock (only back to the 8th century), despite their understandable desire to be aboriginally of the land in which they dwell. Population and ecological pressures have increased the reliance of the Celts to rely on fish, animal and dairy products. The deer hunts of Ireland's roaming army are legendary, as were Robin Hoods in England.

    This hunting/gathering/survival lifestyle continues to be eked out in the small crofting communities of the western shores of Scotland and Ireland on the rugged stony coast. A croft is defined as a land holding between one and 50 acres. A crofter's son once defined a croft as "a small area of land surrounded by regulations." For example, there are roughly 2,000 crofts on the Isle of Skye, but of these only 100 or so are large enough to allow a crofter to earn his entire livelihood from the land. The crofts, once laid out to provide homes together with a home food supply are, as one can see, a survival of past economic conditions. Today, the crofter's role is to provide a family home and a side-line to whatever other job the crofter can obtain. The majority of their working age population have to search elsewhere for employment. Some find seasonal work in the building or service industries while others serve in the oilfields of the North Sea. (More details on the history of crafting at

    I found the health statistics rather surprising. Celtic regions (e.g. highlands) tend to be poorer than Anglo areas, with reduced access to health care, nutritional education, higher incidents of low-rate babies and more farm accidents. Sound familiar? This is all accentuated by the lack of physical exercise among non-farmers/athletes in modern cultures.

    We all know that British rockers never smile in photos, not because they are cool and grim, but because they have some of the most nasty teeth in Europe, with about 50% of Scottish adults in 1970 having not a single natural teeth left in their head, now down to "only" 20%; (which is still 12% higher than England) and much worse in the Highlands. So when you think of all those bards, imagine why the music is much better than the singing (which must be hard with dentures.) Of course, it was the introduction of sugar in the 16th century that was a prime culprit.

    UK (9%) and Ireland (6%) show the lowest level of mammography for at-risk age women and among the lowest rates for immunization of child-hood diseases in Europe(87%) which is higher than the US (60%) Scotland has the lowest rate of breast-feeding in Europe (only 35% in first six weeks, 15% in highlands) mostly due to factors of poverty and prudity (or at least that's the rumor). The birth rate of Ireland and Scotland is the lowest since the famines of 1855. Access to family planning is less than easy in Ireland. Drug use is about as bad as the US and worse than most of Europe outside of the Netherlands.

    Consumption of grain-based products in last 24 hours:

    Netherlands 93%
    Germany 90%
    France 87%
    Spain 77%
    UK 73% (30% in Scotland)
    Europe 75%
    USA 64%

    Obesity Percentage(by various BMI stats for Male/Female)

    Sweden 5.3%/N.A.
    Netherlands 8%/10%
    England 13%/15%
    Germany 17%/19%
    USA 32%/33%

    Things are improving, and the drinking and smoking statistics are rosier.
    Smoking (Male/Female)

    Europe 45%/29%
    Ireland 40%/31%
    Scotland 34/32
    UK 40%/30%
    USA 30%/26%

    Note: Lung cancer is the number one cause of cancer and death in Scotland

    Alcohol Consumption Frequency
    infrequent(below 1 per week)/average (2 to 3 per week)/frequent (nearly daily) for male and female showing remarkably high abstinence in Ireland, despite traditional stereotypes.

    Europe 27/35/36 and 66/29/16
    Ireland 41/48/11 and 72/16/2
    UK 33/47/20 and 60/30/10
    USA 32/45/23 and 53/40/7

    Note: Average Scottish Male consumes 20 alcohol units per week (females at 8 units), i.e. a unit is one 12oz. beer, one cup wine or one shot whiskey.

    "The national diet is notoriously high in fat, salt and sugar and low in fruit and vegetables. Next to smoking, our diet is the single most significant cause of poor health, contributing to a range of serious illness, which include coronary heart disease, certain cancers, strokes, osteoporosis and diabetes." How bad is the food really? (Where do you think the restaurant McDonalds was inspired?) Yes, it's rather untasty, probably due to the parcity of strong spices in northern Europe. The old worn saying is that if you want to put on two stone spend a month in Belgium, and to take it off, go to England for a few week. (The drink is better in the latter, I believe.) Perhaps Americans are like the pot calling the kettle black.

    I remember during my stays at B and Bs in Ireland in 1998, the standard dreaded breakfast "Heartbreak Special" was two links, a thick slice of sweet black pudding (blood sausage), a banger (sardine), two fried eggs, some bacon, a boiled tomato, and a slice of toast with heaps of butter. For the porridge, there was a pitcher of heavy cream; and a cup of coffee Lard-made biscuits were available on the side. Last year, Mike told me he had similar fare in the Scottish dormitory, and Mairi said Welsh fare was not much better. Think fish and chips or the ubiquitous "crisps" (potato chips in 50 flavors) and candy/tobacco stores.

    This is not a newly acquired taste of an enriched society, but the fulfillment of centuries of cultural dreams. I bring you this ancient story, in which a chronically troublesome incarcerated bard is hauled out of chains and brought to cure the king of a demon who had hid inside his gullet. The possession caused unimaginable hunger in the ruler that was draining the wealth of the countryside. MacGonglinney, on promise of his prompt release, told the following story after starving the king for five days. As the insanely hungry king listened, bound in ropes at the three narrows, the demon inside slowly came further and further out of the King's mouth, until MacGonglinney grabbed it and threw it into the fireplace, curing the king. The following version is at and a longer version is recorded at

    I leave you with his words:

    The Vision of Viands

    In a slumber visional,
    Wonders apparitional
    Sudden shone on me:
    Was it not a miracle?
    Built of lard, a coracle
    Swam a sweet milk sea.
    Whith high hearts heroical,
    We stepped in it, stoical,
    Braving billow-bounds;
    Then we rode so dashingly,
    smote the sea so splashingly,
    That the surge sent, washingly,
    Honey up for grounds.
    Ramparts rose of custard all
    Where a castle muster'd all
    Forces o'er the lake;
    Butter was the bridge of it,
    Wheaten meal the ridge of it,
    Bacon every stake.
    Strong it stood, and pleasantly
    There I entered presently
    Hying to the hosts;
    Dry beef was the door of it,
    Bare bread was the floor of it,
    Whey-curds were the posts.
    Old cheese-columns happily,
    Pork that pillared sappily,
    Raised their heads aloof;
    While curd-rafters mellowly
    Crossing cream-beams yellowly,
    Held aloft the roof.
    Wine in well rose sparklingly,
    Beer was rolling darklingly,
    Bragget brimmed the pond.
    Lard was oozing heavily,
    Merry malt moved wavily,

    Through the floor beyond.
    Lake of broth lay spicily,
    Fat froze o'er it icily,
    'Tween the wall and shore;
    Butter rose in hedges high,
    cloaking all it's edges high
    White lard blossomed o'er.
    Apple alleys bowering,
    Pink-topped orchards flowering,
    Fenced off hill and wind;
    Leek-tree forests loftily,
    Carrots branching tuftily,
    Guarded it behind.
    Ruddy warders rosily
    Welcomed us right cosily
    To the fire and rest;
    Seven coils of sausages,
    Twined in twisting passages,
    Round each brawny breast.
    Their chief I discover him,
    Suet mantle over him,
    By his lady bland;
    Where the cauldron boiled away,
    The Dispenser toiled away,
    With his fork in hand.
    Good King Cathal, royally,
    Surely will enjoy a lay,
    Fair and fine as silk;
    From his heart his woe I call,
    When I sing, heroical,
    How we rode, so stoical,
    O'er the Sea of Milk.-

    Aniar MacConglinne--Irish, 12th century-trans.
    G. Sigerson, in Bards of the Gael and Gal (London Unwin, 1897)

    Health Links:
    Scottish Health Statistics Irish Health Statistics Int'l Health Statistics: What it means for the United States. (kind of big)


    25th California Celtic Studies Conference

    The annual meeting of CSANA will be held in conjunction with the annual University of California Celtic Studies Conference on the UC Berkeley campus April 3-6, 2003. Our invited speakers include Sioned Davies (Cardiff University), Patrick Ford (Harvard University), Sarah Higley (University of Rochester), Joseph F. Nagy (University of California, Los Angeles), Diarmuid モ Gioll疂n (University College Cork), and Oliver Padel (University of Cambridge).

    Submission of abstracts is solicited on a wide variety of Celtic topics, including from the fields of anthropology, archaeology, art history, folklore, history, linguistics, literature, and music. Papers should be no more than 20 minutes in length, and abstracts of one page only should be sent by January 15, 2003 to:

    Maria Teresa Agozzino (Mabli), Celtic Colloquium Chair Celtic Studies Program, 6303 Dwinelle Hall, MC 2690 University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA Or e-mailed to:


    Astronomical Samhain, when the Sun is half-way between the fall Equinox and Winter Solstice will occur on Nov 7, 2002 at 4:00 a.m. Pacific Standard Time, or as 15 degrees of Scorpius on Nov 7, at 06:23 a.m. PST.

    A Druid Missal-Any

    The Missal-Any is published eight times a year. Post mail subscriptions are $8.00 and email subscriptions are free. Or write an article or send us a cartoon and receive a year's post mail subscription free.

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