Subscribed members are invited to join us for the start of our Equinox celebrations. Sunday the 17th of September, 11am-1pm here at Celtic Druid Temple in Roscommon, Ireland. We'll be celebrating with ceremony in the Roundhouse and a shared meal in the marquee. Email to book your place.
Check out our new blog page dedicated to the progress of Tigín na Druí, little house of the Druids.
Introduction This essay will explore the origins of the fairies and how fairy tradition has changed over time. It will also look at the fairies of County Meath and how the tradition there compares to the rest of Ireland.
Image - The Quarrel of Oberon and Titania by Noel Paton
Who are the fairies?
Fairies are otherworldly creatures that inhabit an world invisible to humans[Dái06]. Most European nations have their own fairy tradition with each having their own unique origins stories. Fairies first appeared in Ireland in the early 12th century[Nor20] and seem to be heavily intertwined with the lore of the dead, some of the first tales of fairies evolve from the belief of the dead living on in their burial chamber[Dái06]. This might explain the use of the word sí to describe both fairies and the mythical other world. The Ancient Irish believed that fairies were the first settlers of Ireland. These people were known as the Tuatha de Danaan. The De Danaan conquered all of Eire until they were defeated by the Milesians. The Milesians were believed to be the ancestors of the modern Irish people. Not willing to cooperate with their conquerors, the De Danaan went into hiding and lived in the hills leading to them gaining a new name, Aes Síde or Sí which in this context means mound[Nor20]. The Tuatha De Danaan were often depicted as living in raths, mounds and lakes in the tales of Fionn Mac Cumhaill and in the Book of Invasions. The Tuatha De Danaan or fairy people were described as being the same height as normal people and dressed in elegant green clothing. They had many different abilities such as turning invisible and changing their appearance. The fairies were seen as godly to mortal people, hence, there lifestyle were often associated with the interests of the time. Interests such as music, war and chase were the occupation of the fairies. Their musical abilities were revered, and some of the best musicians of the time credited their best works to the fairies[Nor20]. The other origin tale was the Christian perspective on fairies, the existence of a Christian origin story for the fairies displays the strength of the belief. According to the church, fairies are angels who were thrown out of heaven by God. The tale depicts God opening the floor of heaven and casting Satan and other angels out, when he closed the floor, the angels that had fallen with Satan became his servants, Angels that had landed on the surface become land fairies, the fairies that landed in the sea became sea fairies while the fairies in the air become the air fairies. These exiled angels spend their time trying to get back into heaven by stealing children blood. The fairies are known by many names as there was a folk assumption that you should not refer to the fairies by their name[Joh00]. The fairies are also known as “the good folk” or “the noble folk”
Fairies in Modern Belief
In contrast to the early accounts of fairies in Ireland, the fairies of the 19th and 20th century had a much more volatile relationship with their human counterparts. The fairies were still associated with a lot of good in Ireland, such as music. In the documentary, “The Fairy Faith” a family of musicians recounts how their grandfather came to the acclaim to the people for his musical skills. The grandfather attributes his talents to the fairies, claiming that he played music for a fairy wedding and met two famous fiddlers who thought him the skills he had now[Joh00]. However, the fairies were feared by the people of Ireland and were normally the ones blamed for bad things happening, people were afraid to interfere with fairies on superstitious nights such Halloween, or Hallow Eve. An interesting element of fairy tradition that became popular was changelings. Changelings are fairies that resemble the human that they replace. It was believed by the rural Irish that a changeling was odd and wise beyond their years. The changeling would eventually disappear, if the changeling was discovered during the time it was alive, it would bring back the person it replaced. The presence of changelings were quite common, however, I haven’t encountered a tale where the subject has the person that was taken from them return. One particular tale that was quite disturbing was the burning of Bridget Cleary in 1895. Bridget Cleary was recently wedded to her husband Michael Cleary in County Tipperary. They had lived a happy marriage until her husband noticed his wife acting strangely. The exact details of how his wife was acting strange isn’t told, however it does say that he first suspected his wife being a changeling when she took sick for a few days from a cold. An old man visited the house and told him that the woman in the bed wasn’t his wife. When she didn’t get better, Mr. Cleary became convinced that the woman he was married to was a changeling. He sought a fairy doctor who gave him a cure for expelling the changeling. That night a large number of the Cleary family gathered to witness the expelling of the changeling. When Mrs Cleary refused to take the cure, she was forced to do by a hot poker. She was constantly question and shook as the family attempted to get rid of the changeling. Eventually they placed her over the stove and continued to ask her questions. Eventually the occupants of the house were sasified that Mrs Cleary was not a fairy. Michael Cleary remained unconvinced and the next day when his wife refused to eat he threw her into the fire and poured lamp oil on her. His house went on fire and with it went the supposed changeling. Weeks pasted and his wife did not return which led to Cleary growing remorseful. The occupants of the house were eventually charged with man slaughter[Tho82].
Fairies in Meath
The Schools collection of Co. Meath suggest that fairy belief was quite weak, there is few stories referring to fairies. The three accounts I have included with this essay are entitled Fairies Football, Fairy Reel and Fairy Fort, I chose these particular tales because they were the most common themes of fairy stories in Meath. Fairy football is a about a boy called Seamus who was sitting on Piercetown Hill. He heard shouting and looked down to see a fairy football match taking place. He was impressed by one of the players who wore a red cap and at the end of the game, he shouted out “well done red cap”, when he spoke he was surrounded by a troop of fairy soldiers and was imprisoned and never seen again. Fairy Reel was about fairies unique musical talents, two girls were walking home when they saw dancing fairies in a field, they were struck by the wonderful music of the fairies’ and rush home to tell their mother what they saw. The tale continues with the farmer who owned the field believing that the fairies had a pot of gold buried in his field, he ploughed the field but the grass grew back in a day and he “left the good people to their spring dance”. Unsurprising, fairy places were quite a prominent subject, Meath has many famous burial chambers and scared sites such as Tara and Newgrange which were the preferred dwellings of the fairies. The story I chose described a fairy fort called Rath Maeve near the Hill of Tara, It claims that a fairy with an apron took all the clay from a hill and made the mound with it. The tale also says that if you were to walk under Rath Maeve you would end up on the Hill of Skryne. Modern fairy stories are quite prominent in Meath, from my personal experience there is still a silent belief in fairies in Meath. On the Hill of Tara there is a hawthorn tree known as the fairy tree. I regular walk past this tree on my visits to Tara and it is often covered in ribbons, gifts and sometimes wishes to the fairies. After the construction of the M3 motorway, activist Carmel Divine claimed that the construction of the M3 motorway through the Tara-Skyrne valley angered the fairies and that the woes of Ireland since July 2007 was the fairies taking revenge[Gui11].
My interviews were quite successful and I uncovered some interesting perspectives on fairy lore in Meath. My objective with the interviews was to get a contrast between old and modern fairy tradition to see if it had changed since The Schools Collection was taken. My first interviewee told me about some tales of people who have interfered with fairies and were punished such as a man who bulldozed a fairy fort in Oristown County Meath. He was beheaded by a broken saw blade soon after. My second interviewee provided a lot of information I had never encountered before. He described fairies as energy forms that can take on humanoid forms if they wish to. My interviewee had seen fairies before and he said that they would appear only in your peripheral vision. They would usually be about 40-50 yards away. He told me that fairies were misunderstood creatures and were often blamed for bad things such as storms, rain and deaths or behaviour changes caused by illness. He also talked about different fairy types such as the banshee, which was a fairy that sings before someone dies. Both interviewees agreed that fairies were neither good nor bad, they were like us.
Fairy tradition in Meath is quite odd, I found it quite difficult to find tales of fairies in the Schools collection despite the presence of the Hill of Tara in a lot of the children accounts. In my interviews, one of my interviewees said there was a stigma in the belief of fairies and I suspect that this stigma might already have begun in the 1930s in Meath. There is a wealth of tradition and lore about the Battle of the Boyne, local cures and weather lores in Meath. The Battle of the Boyne is a clear source of pride among the children with a lot of descriptions and followed on stories in their accounts. Fairies do not receive the same treatment, the stories about fairies are isolated and often seem outplace with the other traditions that the children associate with their local town. I believe this might the setting in of the stigma about fairies in Meath and the stories that do remain are the ones that the past generations had told their kids. This provides quite a contrast with modern fairy tradition with that of the past. As I mentioned above, there are many stories and mentions of the fairies in modern Meath folklore, especially the fairies of Tara. Both my interviewees told me that there is a select group of people who believe in fairies and many live in Meath which I find interesting as this belief appears to revival of an old tradition. However the stigma still exists and becomes an interesting topic in itself when we consider whether a stigma is healthy for the tradition or killing the tradition. On one side, you could claim that a stigma on believing in fairies is leading to people being too afraid to speak about their fairy stories. However, if the stigma was non-existent would Irish fairy tradition become commercialised like the depictions we see today. It seems that the only thing certain about fairy tradition is that it isn’t going anywhere anytime quickly.
Guidera, A., 2011. Fairytale of New Ireland. [Online]
Available at: http://www.independent.ie/lifestyle/fairytale-of-new-ireland-26796272.html
[Accessed 7th April 2017].
hÓgáin, D. Ó., 2006. The Lore of Ireland. Cork : Collins Press.
McGrath, T., 1982. Fairy Faith and Changelings: The Burning of Bridget Cleary in 1895. Studies: An Irish Quarterly Review, 71(282), pp. 178-184.
O'Connor, N. J., 1920. The Early Irish Fairies and Fairyland. Sewanee Review , 28(4), pp. 545-557.
Súilleabháin, S., 1942. Handbook of Irish Folklore. s.l.:Folklore of Ireland Society.
The Fairy Faith. 2000. [Film] Directed by John Walker. s.l.: s.n.
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 today's 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 Brú 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 Summer Sun Standing
Solstice is from the Latin and is made up from two words given roughly as: sol = sun and stice = stopped. Celtic Druí do not believe that the Sun stops so we use the old Irish word “Tairisem” which means standing still. In summer this Sun Standing happens in the month of June around the 20th, 21st or 22nd when we honour Éatain Eachraidhe, the White Mare Goddess. This is the highest point of the solar year when the Sun reaches it maximum height in the Sky. The Sun is at its highest at noon and shadows are at their shortest. There are almost 20 hours of daylight and only four hours of darkness if you are in Ireland at this time.
This is not a specifically Gaelic holiday and many Pagan cultures celebrate this time with many festivals known by a range of names - Denmark, Sankt Hans Aften. Wiccan sabbat Litha. Slavonia, St. John's Night. Alban Heruin. Gaul (old France), Feast of Epona, (white mare goddess). Roman Empire, Vestalia. Catholic countries: feast of St. John the Baptist – this was an attempt to shift the natives away for the true date by setting the 24th of June as bone fire night. Hopi Indians and Native Americans celebrate the summer solstice but I don’t know their names for this day.
Etain, White Mare Celtic Goddess, Crom agus Corra
In Ireland, many people of all ages and religions do some sort of celebration for this day. The resurgence of the old Pagan ways and the need to believe in something truly spiritual for this day has many people visit the ancient sacred sites. We at Ireland’s Druidschool often hold a presence on Tara and we have multiple ceremonies. Our sunrise ceremony is very simple - we just stand or sit in silence facing the horizon where the sun will actually rise. We watch the clouds, the colours and the rising of the false sun and then the actual sun, and then the actual sun merge into the false sun. Magically - this is spirit rising within.
This longest day is sacred to the White Mare Goddess, who was known in Wales as Rhiannon, in France as Epona and here in Ireland She is called Éatain Eachraidhe (sometimes also spelt Edaín). In the recent destruction of the sacred valley in the Royal City of Tara the remains of a high status female (with horse and giant dog found nearby) was kept totally under media wraps. The high status female is wrapped in black plastic and stored in a warehouse in Drogheda. But Her spirit has returned to native consciousness and once again Éatain, the White Mare Goddess, is honoured with ceremony on Tara on the longest day of the year.
We also watch the Sun rise from Tallaght Hill as the sun aligns with Lambay Volcano, the Pond called Linn Oir and then to the Cairn on the Hill of the Fair Gods. Much is written about this alignment in this website - words cannot describe the thrill of being at a complex of sacred sites that were laid out to work with the energies on this specific day.
We also hold Pilgrimage to Croagh Crom, Ireland's Holy Mountain (aka the Reek). Just south of the holy mountain is a triangular lake called Loughnacorra – this should read – Lough na Corra which translates as the Lake of the Crane Birds. At midday the Sun is reflected from the surface of Lough na Corra onto Croagh Crom and a powerful connection is made. This is the harmony of balance between God and Goddess expressed in the landscape. More info on this Sacred Pilgrimage is available here.
Calculating the Summer Solstice
In the Celtic World and in the time before it - there were no clocks; no calendars and the festivals of the year were measured in Ireland by the penetration of a sunbeam into designed passages in stone Cairns (such as Newgrange) to exactly light up a section of a stone with carvings upon it. This happens even today so the ancestral calendar is 100% accurate. The longest day is calculated by the midday Sun casting its shortest shadow. But the Sunrise on the longest day makes an alignment over Lambay Volcano to a little known monument complex on Tallaght Hill in South Dublin. Even though the Cairn on Tallaght Hill is in ruins - the outer circle of recumbent stones from the Cairn still exists. This means if you were to stand on top of this Cairn on Tallaght Hill when the Sun rises at 0* of Cancer 45* east of north (midsummer) you would see the sun rise over the Lambay Volcano and light up a pond to glow golden before it shines in to the foundations of a ancient ceremonial temple on Cnockan (or the Little Hill) as the locals call it. The old maps give the name of Cnockan as Knockavinidee. A scholar from a nearby valley has given us a translation as “The Hill of the Fair Gods”. This is the ancestors Summer equivalent to Newgrange / Brú na Boinne.
God, Goddess and the Four Archangels
This longest day is sacred to the White Mare Goddess, who was known in Ireland as Éatain Eachraidhe. This was the Iron Age expression of the goddess, in the preceding age the goddess was honoured as the White Cow or Boann / Boyne the sacred river that flows before Knowth, Newgrange and Dowth.
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 at the Summer Solstice it was easy to know that it was the longest day because there were only 4 hours of darkness. This is the ancestors timing for the Summer Solstice and it is a glorious archaeo-astronomical feat of Sun light engineering bringing the energies of God to Earth. The Sun, Lambay Volcano, the passage Cairn presumably with its carved stone inside all make an alignment stretching many millions of miles once a year and this shows the correct timing for Summer Solstice.
The Summer Solstice 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 solar alignment that determines the correct time for the Summer Solstice is the most northerly rising of the Sun. The double check is that the Sun reaches its highest at midday and casts the shortest shadows. The temple that catches the Sunrise on the longest day is on Tallaght Hill which overlooks Dublin and Lambay Volcano but all that remains is the base of a Cairn. From Tallaght Hill you can look to Cnoc Lugh, Summerhill, Sliabh na Callighe, Tara and Brú na Boinne without obstruction – a pure line of sight. This was important as fires can be seen, signals sent and communication between districts were made easy, but more importantly in my opinion – the entire Eightfold year and its Cairn Temples pivoting on Lambay Volcano in Dublin Bay all worked to sustain the Earth’s Magnetic Field and they were visually linked.
In Limerick on the west coast of Ireland we find Grange, the largest stone circle in the country. It is over 150 feet in diameter and has 113 stones and was built over 4000 years ago. It makes an almost perfect circle of stones surrounded by a high earthen bank, making it into a Henge. It is aligned with the rising sun on the Sunrise of the Summer Solstice -the sun shines directly in the centre of the ancient stone henge circle. Hundreds would gather here and today people are returning and the numbers increase each year.
In England the focus is at Stonehenge where a huge multiple standing stone circle makes a perfect alignment with the rising sun on the Solstice. This has become a hugely popular event for many people from all over the world.
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 the Celtic Druid Temple, 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.
Dundalk Institute of Technology has appointed (and pays with State funds) the Roman Catholic Church to act as the single chaplaincy service provider to all its students. The policy change at DIT is as follows: The chaplaincy policy that has been replaced at DIT used to facilitate all faith groups to publish their details on the web site of State-funded university chaplaincies. The DIT policy now requires seekers looking to discover information about all other faiths to arrange a personal meeting with a Roman Catholic priest. We object to this restrictive policy and attached is a statement from the Celtic Druid Temple explaining our reasoning.
The new web page for the DIT chaplaincy according their new policy is at https://www.dkit.ie/chaplaincy/about
Statement from the Celtic Druid Temple 8/5/2017
On facilitating the right of freedom to access information about all faith groups in publicly-funded educational facilities.
The Celtic Druid Temple is an expression of the indigenous wisdom tradition of Pagan Ireland connecting us to Nature as the supreme being and to the spirit of our ancestors. We strongly object to policy’s which would limit or force people to interact with a Roman Catholic bishop priest, as the only possible way to be introduced to our indigenous spiritual practice. Even proposing such restrictive policy’s declare the intention to deliberately deny constitutional rights as guaranteed to all citizens through Article 44: 2.2°, 2.3° and 2.4° of Bunreacht na hEireann*.
Eamon DeVelera created and defended this constitutional freedom from archbishop McQuaid’s takeover bid of Ireland. McQuaid tried to make Ireland into a Catholic State with all non-catholics classed as lower status citizens with less human rights. It is apparent that McQuaid’s policy to enforce an Irish Catholic State is still being pushed today in educational and even hospital facilities. Roman Catholic priests are obliged by their Canon Law to evangelise and proselytise their religion and history tells us in great detail of their policy of destroying, pillaging, desecrating and vandalizing many ancient Pagan temples, tombs and monuments in their frenzy of denying freedom of religion to everyone except followers of their Catholic Church.
It is not possible for a Catholic bishop priest to be objective or neutral with regards to presenting the Celtic Pagan Faith. Paying a bishop priest to give guidance on religious or spiritual freedom would be an unreasonable idea and a blatantly unfair way for public bodies to represent the beliefs of minority faiths in Ireland. Any payment of public monies by the State to bishop priests to act as chaplains in 3rd level schools would contravene Article 44 of the Constitution. This constitutional guarantee against endowment of religions should ensure the State does not financially support any religion, and the Minister and the State in supporting the policy of paying bishop priests as chaplains in 3rd level institutions would be openly acting against the intentions of Bunreacht na hEireann, the supreme law of Ireland.
We believe that all public bodies should provide a neutral mechanism for students to discover information about all faith groups. We would prefer to explain our own faith position, instead of mandating that students must discover this through a votary from another religious denomination who is from a tradition that has actively and violently discriminated against our spiritual practice for over 1500 years.
As a minority religion we can only support objective and neutral means such as a chaplaincy web page listing all faiths empowering choice to all seekers.
Authorized Press Release
Ard Druí John McCormack, email@example.com
Chairperson Celtic Druid Temple, celticdruidtemple.com
Legal and formal recognition in Ireland as a religious charity -
Celtic Druid Temple on the Register of Solemnisers -
*Bunreacht na hEireann
After finishing my meditation with love and gratitude, I slowly picked my path back down and headed for the cliffs. Wow, I'll let the pictures talk for themselves.
I love heights, so I found a safe place to lie down and stick my head over the edge! Raw footage below from my little camera accompanied by wind and wave noises. I was transfixed watching the waves spiraling over the rocks below....enjoying that moment, that edge that makes me feel extra alive!
Our courses will guide you to know, enjoy and express your own personal connection to the Sacred Knowledge and Indigenous Spiritual Traditions of a distinctly Irish Celtic Druid Path. In 2017 we offer this one introductory weekend course from the 2nd to the 5th of June inclusive when we will guide you to make your own personal connection to your own Path. Begin your Pathwork with us by becoming a member and receive access to our members only section of this website. You can read feedback from previous student druids by clicking here.
This year we will celebrate Brigid, daughter of Dagda on Saturday 28th of January. We host an open and free ceremony for Imbolg at 1:30pm followed by our traditional Brigid's Cross making afternoon. Special designs such as three legged and spinning weave will be demonstrated and taught by Ard Druí Red John.
The ceremony and workshop will be held in the comfort of the Hemp Hall. Places are limited so forward booking is important to secure your place - contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org Some people are unsure about variations on the 4 legged version so we took some pictures in the Armagh Museum and the Ballina Festival to show the wide variations that exist.
The crosses above with the blue background are on a display board seen at the Ballina Salmon Festival - they are copies of the Brigid's Crosses on display at the National Museum for Country Living in Co Mayo. The crosses below (cream background) are on show in the Armagh Museum in Co Armagh, Ireland.
The white table cloth below shows what we made here at the Celtic Druid Temple last year.
Attending our ceremony for Imbolg at 1:30pm followed by our traditional Brigid's Cross making afternoon is open and free of charge - but as places are limited = you must make prior contact at email@example.com
Sacred Geometry from outside and inside Dagda's Temple at Brú na Boinne Newgrange. There is a unique design shift message from outside to inside. This is not an accident or a clever modification by me - it is a message from the original designers.
We today interpret the inside triple spiral as an "S" with a tail at the back. The upper spiral is the Realm of Sky, the lower spiral is the Realm of Sea and between them at the back is the Realm of Land, all in balance. On the big stone outside the chamber however there is a different triple spiral. Its still an "S" but the back spiral between the upper and lower spirals only connects to the upper spiral.
Is the message as follows - Outside the energy is with the Sky Realm, but the tail of the back spiral (Realm of Land) is aimed or ready to join the Realm of Sea - now do some Sun Magic with Quartz in the roofbox on the start of the shortest day and the back spiral (Realm of Land) will connect to the Realm of Sea. Is this temple an energy switching device from dominant Sky to dominant Sea in terms of activating the grid?
The two triple spirals are very similar - it is only a slight rotation of the back spiral that disconnects it from the upper spiral and re-connects it to the lower spiral. It needs the Quartz in the roofbox replaced to make it work - how does this interpretation sit with you?
Please note - this short essay is for those who are students with us, we know that each symbol can be seen as 6 spirals, the red and yellow colours were my choice - I'm just provoking others to observe whats there to question why.
Niamh and Con are founding members of Celtic Druid Temple and walk the path of Celtic Druids in Roscommon, Eire.