Archives For Celts

As some Pagans and Heathens attempt to revive ancient or indigenous religions they often rely on the work of historians, primary texts and archaeologists. For this reason, when something new pops up that challenges long held academic ideas on cultural or religious practice, we pay attention. Here are some of the new(er) finds making waves in archaeological circles.

Ireland was inhabited earlier than thought…
A knee bone from a brown bear had been sitting in the National Museum of Ireland since the 1920s. What archaeologists didn’t know was that this bone would prove Ireland was inhabited in the Palaeolithic era. The bone has cut marks on it indicative of butchering and was originally found in the Alice and Gwendoline Cave in County Clare. Archaeologists date the bone to 12,500 BCE. Until this find, the oldest known human evidence in Ireland was set at 8000 BCE.

County Clare, Ireland [Photo Credit: Christine Matthews / Wikimedia]

County Clare, Ireland [Photo Credit: Christine Matthews / Wikimedia]

…but the Irish aren’t Celtic?
Ten years ago a pub owner in Antrium, Northern Ireland found the remains of three humans buried behind his property. The remains turned out to be a burial dating back to 2000 BCE, which makes them hundreds of years older than the oldest artifacts generally considered to be Celtic. DNA evidence from these bones revealed another fact. These are the ancestors of modern Irish people, and they are not Celtic.

Traditional theory has held that the Celts, who came from the continental European countries of Switzerland, Austria and Germany, invaded Ireland between 1000 BCE and 500 BCE. These Celtic invaders were thought to be the ancestors of modern Irish.

Instead, the genetic roots of today’s Irish existed in Ireland long before the Celts arrived. In fact, it may be that the Irish exported their culture to central Europe, where the Celts lived, rather than the other way around. It also appears Ireland was tied more to Spain and Portugal, through their DNA, culture, language, and religion, than to Central Europe.

In addition to changing how scholars view Celtic and Irish cultures, this new finding may change how modern Pagans view themselves,  their ancestors,  and their religion.

Queen Nefertiti [Photo Credit: Philip Pikart / Wikimedia]

Queen Nefertiti [Photo Credit: Philip Pikart / Wikimedia]

More Evidence Found in Search for Queen Nefertiti
In July of last year, UK archaeologist Nicholas Reeves theorized that there is another tomb hidden behind the walls of Tut’s burial chamber. His theory was greeted with skepticism, but after closer study of the tomb, Egyptian officials invited Reeves and Hirokatsu Watanabe, a Japanese radar specialist, to perform a radar scan of the west and north walls of Tut’s tomb. Initial results showed promise that there was another chamber behind the north wall.

Now the final results of the scans are in: not only is there a hidden chamber, there are what appears to be metallic and organic objects in the chamber.

So what, or who, is behind the wall? Some Egyptologists say it could be Queen Nefertiti. The tomb and Tut’s grave goods and funerary mask appear to have been made for a woman. Not only was Nefertiti probably Tut’s step-mother, the orientation of the tomb was laid out for a Queen, and the Queen who recently predeceased Tut was Nefertiti.

Finding Nefertiti could answer many questions about a turbulent time in Egyptian history and religion. Was Nefertiti not only a Queen, but a Pharaoh? And did she continue a monotheistic form of religion or revert back to polytheism?

Cherokee Farm Sacred Honey Locust Tree
Biologists now believe the Cherokee were “farming” honey locust trees centuries earlier than any form of agriculture was thought to exist in the United States.

Biologist Robert Warren says, “While I was doing field work in Southern Appalachia, I noticed that whenever I saw a honey locust, I could throw a rock and hit a Cherokee archaeological site. I knew that, in the late Pleistocene era, the main source of dispersal for honey locusts was megafauna such as mastodons. But mastodons disappeared more than 10,000 years ago. You’d expect plant species that relied strictly on extinct megafauna for seed dispersal would only exist in small, remnant populations.”

The Cherokee had a strong motivation to plant and care for honey locust trees. Not only were they a source of sugar and wood for weapons, the tree has religious value. One myth tells of the God Thunder and his son Lightening. Thunder heard a boy was looking for him and was claiming to be his son. Thunder had the boy brought to him and asked him to sit on a blanket under a honey locust tree. When the boy wasn’t hurt by the long honey locust thorns under the blanket, Thunder knew the boy was his son Lightening.

[Photo Credit: Kevmin / Wikimedia]

[Photo Credit: Kevmin / Wikimedia]

All Dogs Go To Heaven (in Siberia)
The remains of dogs have been found in an ancient cemetery at Lake Baikal, Siberia. The dogs were buried between 5,000 and 8,000 years ago and were buried in a similar manner as the humans they were buried alongside. Some of the dogs were buried with decorative collars and had other grave goods, such as spoons. The significance of this find is that the people of this time thought the dogs had souls and would join their owners in the afterlife.

Three personages who’ve had an impact on our interconnected communities passed away recently: one a Wiccan Elder, and two scholars whose works have been cited repeatedly by Pagans, and indeed helped shape how many of us perceive ourselves. All three should be honored and remembered for their contributions, for what is remembered lives.

Mike Gleason (1951 – 2012): A beloved Elder within his community, Mike Gleason was an Alexandrian High Priest who distinguished himself as an early supporter of pan-Pagan festivals in the 1980s, and as a strong advocate for Pagan rights. This included serving as the head of WARD’s (Witches Against Religious Discrimination) Massachusetts chapter, the Witches Education League, and the Lady Liberty League. In addition to this, Gleason  was co-editor and publisher of the now-defunct  THINK! Magazine (1996-1999), and contributed to a number of print and Internet publications. You can read a selection of his recent book reviews, here.

“May those of us who mourn Mike’s passing take comfort in the memories of our good times with him and in knowing that his legacy within Paganism continues on in his writings and the many lives he enriched.”Selena Fox, Circle Sanctuary

Mike Gleason is survived by his wife Cindy (Cynthia), his daughter Sheri Lynn, and his son Ed (Edward). Memorials are still in the process of being planned. His ashes are being interred at Circle Cemetery at Circle Sanctuary Nature Preserve in Wisconsin. His family invites memorial gifts in his memory be made to Circle Sanctuary. May his spirit rest and return to us once again.

Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke (1953 – 2012):  An eminent professor of Western Esotericism at University of Exeter, and co-founder of the European Society for the Study of Western Esotercism (ESSWE), Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke is perhaps best known for his works exploring how esotericism interacted with fascist and extremist groups in books like “Black Sun,” “The Occult Roots of Nazism,” and “Hitler’s Priestess.” His most recent publication was 2008’s “The Western Esoteric Traditions: A Historical Introduction.” Sasha Chaitow of Phoenix Rising Academy remembers Goodrick-Clarke as “a gentleman, a fine scholar, and one of those teachers who always made you want to surpass yourself.”

“Through his work Nicholas expressed his great love for the history, culture and peoples of both England and Germany, and in the course of a distinguished academic career he brought his considerable intellect to bear upon their respective esoteric traditions. With his passing we have lost a wise and much-loved teacher, an incisive scholarly mind and a jovial and kind-hearted friend.” – Hereward Tilton (University of Exeter), Wouter Hanegraaff (President of ESSWE)

Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke is survived by his wife, Clare Goodrick-Clarke, also a professor at the Exeter Centre for the Study of Esotericism. In closing, Sasha Chaitow says that “my fellow-Exeter graduates and I have already concluded that the best tribute we can pay him is to try to  live up to his expectations and continue his vision of bringing the study of esotericism more firmly into academia.”

Anne Ross (1925 – 2012): While no official obituary or notice has been posted, I have received word from scholarly sources I trust that famed Celticist Anne Ross, author of “Pagan Celtic Britain” and co-author of “Life and Death of a Druid Prince” passed away recently. A former Research Fellow in Archaeology at the University of Southampton, and teacher of lecture courses at the University College of Wales in Aberystwyth, Ross spoke Gaelic and Welsh, and her work had a huge effect on modern Druidry and reconstructionist Celtic traditions. Interviewed many times due to her theories regarding the famous “Lindow Man,” and oft-remembered for her brief appearance in the television documentary series “The Celts,” her work on the Celtic “cult of the head” is still the primary starting place for study on the subject.

Speaking from my own experience, I know that her work was deeply influential during a time that I was immersed in Celtic scholarship and voraciously pored over  “Pagan Celtic Britain” looking for clues to unlock the mystery of the past. Modern Pagan oriented works like “The Isles of the Many Gods” owe a direct dept to her scholarship. No doubt many obituaries and remembrances will be forthcoming, and I will post them here once they emerge.

May all these spirits be remembered, may their wisdom and work endure, and may they return to us again.

Word has come to us that noted Celtic scholar, linguist, and author Alexei Kondratiev passed away last night due to an apparent heart attack. His writings on Celtic religion and spirituality, which included the ground-breaking book “The Apple Branch: A Path to Celtic Ritual”, were highly influential on both Celtic-oriented Druidic groups and the nascent Celtic Reconstructionist movement. He was a passionate defender of Celtic language and culture, and regularly advocated that Pagan religions that drew from Celtic culture should immerse themselves in the living Celtic languages and communities.

Alexei Kondratiev

“For those of us who speak only English, the treasure-trove of the Celtic consciousness is still behind a locked door. But the key to unlock the door is there, within our grasp. Anyone of us can, at any moment, decide to fit the key to the lock and be on the other side.”

In addition to his insightful writings, Kondratiev was fluent in all six extant Celtic languages, and conducted classes on the Irish language at the Irish Arts Center in New York since 1985. Kondratiev was also an officer in the Celtic League American Branch, a board member of the now-dormant group Imbas (which hosts many of his online writings), and co-led the Protean Mnemosynides Coven with his partner Len Rosenberg (Black Lotus). He even wrote a comic-book about a Druid that immersed the character within Celtic culture. His wide-ranging and influential participation in the modern Pagan movement can not be adequately measured, but suffice to say he had a huge impact on many individuals, myself included.

“The battle is not over yet. The six Celtic languages are still alive, if not well. In them are stored, as on a disk, several millennia of a people’s unique experience, waiting to be given a new dynamic expression by that generation who will dare to break the colonial shackles of fear and self-doubt. Now more than ever do we need the devil-may-care valour of the Celtic warrior. Now more than ever do we need the druidic clarity of vision, the bardic ability to draw resources from the unlimited potential of the Otherworld. We must, as they did, have the imagination to give flesh to life-giving myth, and the will to work its pattern into our existence. Time is indeed short. Everyone of us who has felt the beauty of the Celtic world-vision must act, each in our individual ways, now, before it is too late. Gwnewch rywbeth!! Do something!!”

All honor to Alexei Kondratiev, may his journey to the Otherworld reunite him with his ancestors, and provide him communion with his gods. My deepest condolences to his partner, Len, his family, friends, and co-religionists.

Historian Ronald Hutton’s “Blood and Mistletoe: The History of Druids in Britain”, the more academic-minded companion to his 2008 book “The Druids” (now out in paperback), is now out in the UK (and will soon be out in the US) and reviews are starting to trickle in. So far they have been extremely positive.

“This book is a tour de force: surely the definitive work on our perception of the Druids. The only thing missing from this exhaustive account is an overview, however brief, of today’s colourful Druid groups – an odd omission by the acknowledged historian of neo-Paganism. For that, you need his earlier book.”David V Barrett, The Independent

“This is an ably researched and well-written book. It charts the history of an obsession, representing the strange creation of a wholly fabulous people who by dint of repetition become lodged in popular consciousness. They then become part of history. They become real. Hutton explains this alchemical process very well, in a study notable for its humour as well as its scholarship.”Peter Ackroyd, The Times

“His real concern is with the constantly developing role the Druids have played in Britain’s various cultures since the 17th century, and their place in changing notions of nationality in these islands. From the first of the “antiquaries” through the foundation of the thoroughly modern Ancient Order to the Stonehenge solstice-celebrations of recent times. The result is an engrossing, endlessly thought-provoking read.”Michael Kerrigan, The Scotsman

You can read an excerpt of the new book, here. It seems a shame that, as David Barrett reports in his review, there is little information on modern Druid groups in this book. Perhaps it was an issue of space? If so, maybe we’ll be graced with a third tome on Druids from Hutton, this one giving an extensive focus to modern Druidry. Still, despite a lack of focus on modern Druid groups, I can only imagine that anyone interested in the history and evolution of perceptions concerning Druids in Britain will find much to enrich themselves with in “Blood and Mistletoe”. I can’t wait to pick up my own copy.

Prompted in part by a listing at The Witches’ Voice, several members of the Celtic Reconstructionist and Druidic communities* have been examining the dubious claims of a new book by Steven Akins. The self-published book, “The Lebor Feasa Runda: A Druidic Grammar of Celtic Lore and Magic”, claims to be an English translation of a German translation of a before-now undiscovered book of ancient Druid lore.

“In his highly anticipated English translation of the ancient Irish text known as the Lebor Feasa Runda (Book of Secret Knowledge), Celtic scholar and historian, Steven L. Akins, has at last made available to readers the wealth of pre-Christian teachings espoused by the Druids in this seminal work of pagan religious literature. Basing his translation on the only extant transcription of the now lost Black Book of Loughcrew, the actual doctrines of the Celtic priesthood are finally brought to light in this timeless rendering of these sacred scriptures.”

There are several problems with his claims of finding this book, not least of which is the fact that it hasn’t been submitted for peer review to any Universities or reputable Celtic scholars. A strange move for a find that would completely revolutionize the field of Celtic Studies (especially Celtic Studies scholars in Germany, who would most likely be eager to verify the validity of a German translation of an ancient Gaelic text) if proven true. Further complicating the reputation of Akins is his involvement in a bribery scandal to attain the rights to a Scottish coat of arms.

“Steven Akins, styled himself as Steven L. Akins of that Ilk, Hereditary Chief of the name and arms of the Clan Akins … created a clan badge, crest and tartan for his clan and petitioned the Lord Lyon King of Arms to claim the right to use a coat of arms of an alleged ancestor and legitimize his clan. On April 15, 2001 an article in the Sunday Mail, a Scottish newspaper, stated that Steven Akins allegedly attempted to bribe a Glasgow man in aiding him in his bid to be recognized as chief of Clan Akins. Akins allegedly wished to plant a forged tombstone with a coat of arms inscription, accompanied with forged genealogical records to prove his family was based in Lanarkshire in the 1700s. Steven Akins’ petition was ultimately rejected because of fraudulent information.”

As if these factors weren’t enough to raise doubts about the “Lebor Feasa Runda”, it also seems to have gained quite a bit of popularity (warning: link to racist site) with the virulent racists at Stormfront. One entry at the hate-site reproduces the entire author’s preface (again, warning, racist site link) which makes clear exactly why racist Pagans would enjoy Akin’s book.

“The disciples of this völkisch esoteric organization [Thule Gesellschaft] saw evidence for an Atlantean origin of the Aryan race in the lore contained within the Lebor Feasa Rúnda, specifically in the legends relating to the ancient gods of the pagan Celts having come from a mysterious island in the North Atlantic, bringing with them the four hallowed treasures of the Tuatha Dé Danann. The fact that the Lebor Feasa Rúnda apparently corroborated the Thule doctrine of Aryan racial origins led to Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler ordering its siezure by the S.S. following Adolf Hitler’s rise to power … At face value, the Lebor Feasa Rúnda, fulfills the same role in pagan Celtic spirituality as the Bible, the Torah, or the Koran do in the Christian, Jewish, and Islamic religions.”

Akins himself, at the OBOD message boards, has referred to himself as “protective” and “restrictive” in regards to his (white) race (and lists Adolf Hitler as a “hero” on his MySpace page). While that is surely his personal prerogative, the fact that racial “Druidic” teachings that “corroborate” the Thule Society** should suddenly appear from Akins casts further doubt that this book is anything other than his own invention. I would caution anyone interested in this Celtic “bible” to consider the source before spending your money. Further, modern practitioners of Celtic and Celtic-derived Pagan spiritualities reject any notions of “Celtic blood” being a prerequisite to participate in living Celtic cultures or reconstructed Celtic religions.

ADDENDUM: Celticist Dr. Phillip A. Bernhardt-House has done a examination of material posted online concerning this book, and posted an academic (p)review of his findings.

* I would like to thank Erynn Laurie, C. Lee Vermeers, and others in the CR and Drudic communities who provided me with information for this post.

** Aside from the Nazis, the book is also credited with inspiring everything from the Templars to the OTO, and was allegedly in the hands of people like Roger Bacon and John Dee. That before-now unpublished book sure did get around!

Tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day (though, due to holy week conflicts, many Irish Catholics celebrated it on Saturday), a huge (and increasingly secular) celebration for one of the patron saints of Ireland. As a result, I thought a collection of Irish-themed links of interest to modern Pagans would be entirely appropriate. Let’s start with a fine essay written by Caroline Kenner on the ongoing struggles to halt the construction of a toll-road through the Tara-Skryne Valley.

“Royal Tara, seat of the High King of Ireland in Pagan times, premiere portal to the Celtic Otherworlds, realm of the Ancestors and the Faeries, has a history dating back 6,000 years. But even in a span as long at Tara’s, the last few years have been unusually filled with incident. This week, while many of us are thinking of Ireland and her heritage … it is a good time to turn our thoughts to the situation at Tara. For more than three years now, Royal Tara has been threatened with a superhighway, a toll road called the M3, being built within 1000 yards of the Hill of Tara. Despite heartfelt protests from international Celtic scholars, locals from County Meath, Irish citizens and members of the Irish diaspora, a couple of sympathetic politicians, many passionate activists, commissioners of the European Union, and, yes, Pagans from Ireland and around the world, the road building continues at Tara.”

Kenner speaks to several Irish Pagans about the situation including Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone, whose group, Teampall Na Callaighe, has members directly involved in activist work trying to halt construction.

“The issue is not the building of the M3. We’re the first too say that we need the road, and the bypass around Kells, where we live. The problem is the route and the impact it will have on the archaeology in the area. The National Roads Authority has been desperate to paint anyone against the route as being against the M3, so they can keep the local people, and more importantly the local business community on board. But now, more and more people are realising – including local business people – that they have been duped. This was particularly true when they found out that they had been mislead regarding the M3 being a public road, and discovered it was in fact going to be a toll road.”

Meanwhile, the Irish Voice has run a spotlight on Celtic Reconstructionism in its Wed., March 12 – Tues., March 18, 2008 issue.

“The article is very pro-Tara and a positive portrayal of CR. Andrew Nusca interviewed a handful of us involved in the preservation efforts, and quotes two of us who are CR, along with quotes from a Wiccan of Irish heritage and a more secular activist from Ireland.”

The article isn’t online yet, but the author of the piece has said that it should appear online eventually. The hardcopy edition is on newsstands now.

The Irish Independent runs a story by Antonia Leslie about her brother Mark winning a Thea award for his firm’s work on the Blackrock Castle Obervatory in Cork. In the process, the entire Leslie clan reunites to celebrate the win, including Antonia’s eclectic Pagan sister Wendy.

“My sister Wendy, who lives in Fort Myers, is a different kettle of fish and deserves an article all on her own, but I’ll condense it here. She was the result of an affair which my dad had but she was adopted and grew up in the States. I met her when I was 12 years old and she and the rest of my five ‘known’ siblings have been thick as thieves ever since. Wendy is a white witch and she lives with her Warlock hubby in a rambling spread by the Caloosahatchee River with snakes and cats and crystals and cauldrons. She is high priestess of a big Florida Wicca coven (they call it a clan). They drum and perform rituals and cast spells and observe Wicca/Druidic tradition. You would know that she was one of us — madness, eccentricity or whatever, it’s in the genes.”

In a final note, it wouldn’t be a St. Patrick’s day news cycle without several articles repeating the usual “driving the Pagans snakes out of Ireland” story. Though a valiant few try to debunk “Patrick drove out the Pagans” myths (Pagans and Druids were around for another century or so after Patrick’s death), it makes for interesting copy. So the myth propagates and takes on a life of its own.

“The text carries an account of a sect called the Crom Cruich, who used the symbolism of the snake … ‘The Crom Cruich cult were very bloodthirsty with the faithful expected to sacrifice their first born in his honour to assure a successful harvest. The annual slaughter took place on the pagan feast of Samhain, on November 1, each year,’ explains historian, Thomais Moriarty, who specialises in pre-Christian Ireland. It’s recounted in the text that Saint Patrick marched on the place with a band of well-armed missionaries, mocked its demons, blessed the place afterwards and then destroyed the site. ‘By all accounts, a major battle took place, but Patrick and his well-armed followers won the day. The people feared terrible retribution from the pagan god afterwards, but it never came to pass, and from that point onwards, the cult’s grip was effectively broken in Ireland for all time. The event is recorded in the 6th century Dinnshenchas text, otherwise known as the Book of Leinster,’ adds Thomais Moriarty.”

I have never heard that Crom Cruach was associated with snake symbolism (or that regular baby-killin’ was a proven part of his cult). That’s a new one on me. I’ll let the resident Celtic scholars and CR folks dissect this variation on the Patrick/snakes/pagans story in the comments.

That is all I have for now, my best wishes to all those celebrating Irish culture and heritage.

In recent years a small island in the UK with a rich pagan history has become internationally famous for its apples. No, it isn’t Summerisle, but a small island off the coast of Wales. Around ten years ago Ynys Enlli (aka Bardsey Island) became the home of the rarest apple tree in the world, and sparked a sensation.

Ian Sturrock with his children and Bardsey Apples

“One of the world’s rarest trees has become a must-have for green-fingered Welsh patriots. Nearly 10 years ago a birdwatcher noticed an apple tree growing beside a house on Bardsey, off the Lln Peninsula, and alerted Welsh orchard expert Ian Sturrock. One of the world’s leading authorities on apple species, based in Kent, later declared it the rarest apple tree in the world. Now Mr Sturrock – who specialises in growing native Welsh fruit trees by grafting small pieces of them onto rootstock – cannot keep up with demand for Bardsey apple saplings. Having sent them across Britain and overseas, he is now sending wood from a Bardsey tree to a nursery in the US – for grafting on the other side of the pond.”

It isn’t just any rare apple tree on a small Welsh island, Bardsey Island has been a pilgrimage place for pre-Roman pagan Celts and for early Christians, it is rumored to be the final resting place of Merlin the magician, and some claim it may be Avalon itself.

“Barber & Pykitt identify Ynys Enlli with the Isle of Avalon where King Arthur was taken to be healed of his wounds after the Battle of Camlann. The battle, they place at nearby Porth Cadlan on the mainland. Merlin’s “Castle of Glass” on Ynys Enlli would appear to be the “Chamber of Glass” where Queen Morgan (or Modron) Le Fay lived and worked with her nine sisters (Merlin’s companions) to heal King Arthur on the Isle of Avalon. Avalon, meaning “Place of Apples,” was an aspect of the Celtic Otherworld, usually called Annwfn…”

As a result both modern Pagans and Christians are eager to get their hands on the famous Afal Enlli (Bardsey Apple).

“Christian people want it because it’s got the Bardsey connection, … Pagan people like it because of the original Bardsey connection.”

So how does an apple from an apple tree growing on what might be the Isle of Apples taste? According to fans it has a tangy taste with a slight hint of lemon. But it may be awhile before enough is grown to satisfy an international demand (there is already a two-year wait for more saplings). In the meantime, 150 trees were sold to a Gwynedd business in hopes of producing a cider from the apples, and residents of other islands are buying the strain in hopes it will be hardy enough to thrive in that rugged environment. This includes residents of Hebridean islands off the coast of Scotland. So who knows, perhaps we will see a Sumerisle strain of apple sometime in the future.

For more information check out the official web site for Yns Enlli, and the official web site for Afal Ynys Enlli (the apples of Bardsey Island).

My semi-regular round-up of articles, essays, and opinions of note for discerning Pagans and Heathens.

We are saddened to report that Lady Jaye Breyer P-Orridge, the musical and spiritual partner of Psychic TV founder Genesis P-Orridge, passed away on October 9th due to a previously undiagnosed heart condition.

“Genesis Breyer P-Orridge and her reactivated Psychic TV aka PTV3 are terribly sad to announce the cancellation of their November North American tour dates. This decision is entirely due to the unexpected passing of band member Lady Jaye Breyer P-Orridge. Lady Jaye died suddenly on Tuesday 9th October 2007 at home in Brooklyn, New York from a previously undiagnosed heart condition which is thought to have been connected with her long-term battle with stomach cancer. Lady Jaye collapsed and died in the arms of her heartbroken “other half” Genesis Breyer P-Orridge.”

A visual and conceptual artist, Lady Jaye spent more than a decade exploring the concepts of “pandrogeny” in which she and Genesis strove to become one being incorporating all sexes and sexualities. The P-Orridges and Psychic TV were instrumental in the development of music that explored occult concepts and imagery.

Several interesting stories have emerged that touch on environmental issues. In England, there is a plan developing to save Sherwood Forest, which is in increasing danger due to storms, forest fires, and vandals which are killing the ancient oak trees at an alarming rate.

“For the people who care for Sherwood Forest it is like a death in the family when one of the ancient oaks falls, a tragedy that is now becoming depressingly frequent. They used to lose an average of one a year, now it is usually five, and the rate is accelerating. The appalling calculation, which almost breaks the foresters’ hearts, is that in 50 years’ time the greatest collection of ancient oaks in Europe, many 1,000 years old and more, may be no more.”

The foresters hope to plant 250,000 oaks on 350 acres, in order to help preserve and protect the ancient oaks. The article also discusses the folkloric history of the forest, including tales of Robin Hood and Druidic rites.

Why are environmentalists like Al Gore and Wangari Maathai winning a prize dedicated to peace? According to, sudden environmental shifts may be one of the biggest contributors to war and strife.

“I asked Maathai what reforestation had to do with ending conflict. “What the Nobel committee is doing is going beyond war and looking at what humanity can do to prevent war,” she answered. “Sustainable management of our natural resources will promote peace.” … The idea of a connection between conflict and climate change is fairly new, and one that had been mostly relegated to academic journals until earlier this year. Then, in June, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon went on record to suggest global warming as a cause for the fighting in the Darfur region of Sudan.”

More proof that everything is interconnected. A rise in temperature doesn’t only mean running your air conditioner more in the summer, it can mean drastically changing whole cultures and peoples, a point that is further explored in a column by Jodi Rave. Rave reports on how climate change is affecting the way indigenous populations struggle to live and interact with a quickly changing landscape.

“I was in Alta, Norway, as an invited speaker at an international indigenous journalists’ conference. Indigenous people – communities whose homelands have been invaded by colonizers yet still maintain distinct languages, cultures and customs – share common concerns, including a right to live off the land … But global warming is changing their landscape … In Alaska, sea ice is melting and the permafrost is thawing. Native Inuit villages are being destroyed … What will happen in Scandinavia and other parts of the Arctic when snow disappears little by little?”

Some indigenous groups are now working with scientists in order to understand and adapt to the changes, hoping to meld science with traditional wisdom.

As Samhain approaches, those hoping to save the Hill of Tara in Ireland from highway development are planning magical and symbolic actions to help raise awareness and stop the planned M3 expansion. The TaraWatch organization is raising funds to create a “protective light shield” around the historic spiritual and political center.

“Tara Light will consist of an elaborate light show with beams of white light illuminating Tara valley the home and source of the Celtic Halloween festival (the Celtic New Year), while a live radio broadcast will provide an audio backdrop to those viewing the event from Tara and others tuning in around the valley, surrounding area, Ireland and beyond … The objective of the lighting event is to show the positioning and significant quantity of sacred sites throughout the complex, in relation to the motorway route proximity and to show the importance of immediately halting the destruction to maintain the integrity, balance and beauty that has existed here for over 5000 years of history.”

Meanwhile, Celtic Reconstructionists from around the globe are planning rituals to help protect the site. A web site for the “I Stand With Tara” ritual is now up, and details are going to be posted soon.

Since I brought up Al Gore earlier in this post, I thought I would mention that Pagan author and pundit Isaac Bonewits is calling for magical action to urge Al Gore to run for President.

“As a Druid and as a priest of the Earth Mother I know how important it is to use both magical and mundane methods to draft Al Gore, kicking and screaming if necessary, to run. There is no other position from which he could have the power and influence he will need to push major American corporations, our national and state governments, and other nations of the world to take the drastic action that will be needed to avert the worst of the already tipped-over climate.”

Finally, the blog Tropaion links to a BBC documentary concerning “Togas on TV”, a look at how ancient Rome is viewed in popular culture.

“The question that the narrator asks is what is Rome for us today and how we conceive it, and whether or not that is right or wrong. Enjoy it, as I must confess I enjoy it, especially with the marvelous points by our Mary Beard.”

That is all I have for now, have a good day.

Back in May, I reported on how construction of the M3 motorway expansion in Ireland had been halted due to a major archaeological find. The M3 expansion is controversial due to the fact that it runs through the Tara-Skryne Valley, home of the legendary Hill of Tara (the political and spiritual capital of Ireland through most of its history). Currently An Bord Pleanala (the planning board) is deciding if the M3 expansion needs fresh approval in light of the new find, while Environment Minister John Gormley is coming under fire for allowing the site to be “recorded” and removed while these decisions are being made.

“Yesterday TaraWatch called on Environment Minister John Gormley to halt excavation works on the prehistoric ritual site while the board reviews the planning permission. “The minister appears to be acting in bad faith here, by allowing demolition of the national monument to proceed while the board is making its legal determination,” spokesman Vincent Salafia said. “Minister Gormley must stop the demolition by the NRA and Meath County Council now and permit only the excavation of the delicate features now exposed on the surface. “This magnificant prehistoric amphitheatre, which sits in plain view of the hilltop, deserves the highest level of protection possible.” The Department of the Environment has said it does not have the power to alter the route of the road unless a “material change” or new information emerges.”

But activists concerned about the future of Tara haven’t been idle while this bureaucratic wrangling takes place. Protesters have attempted to stall work at the excavation site, have urged the Rolling Stones to back their cause when they stopped to play in Ireland, and Hothouse Flowers frontman Liam O Maonlai has released a song to rally the cause.

“The accomplished musician best known for chart hits ‘Don’t Go’ and ‘Give It Up’ has turned to the genre of the protest song to attack Celtic Tiger Ireland’s relationship with its heritage. In ‘Tara’s Eye (Money Mad Mile)’ the Dubliner who has steeped himself in the Gaelic tradition attacks construction companies and politicians linked to the contentious Co Meath motorway.

Meanwhile government supporters of the M3 expansion are claiming that activist’s fears are over-exaggerated and that the new road won’t impact the ancient monument.

“The National Roads Authority’s (NRA’s) Mary Deevy said she believed the proposed road would not impact on the Tara landscape in Co Meath and was further from the ancient site than the existing carriageway … She added some fears about the future development of the Tara area were legitimate, but said a landscape conservation scheme was being considered by Meath County Council which had been included in the current county development plan. This would restrict the construction of large-scale housing developments and retail outlets.”

But despite reassurances that development would be kept in check, property in Tara near the new motorway is already being auctioned off at hugely inflated rates for residential and commercial development.

“Three parcels of land on Tara Hill are expected to fetch in excess of E1 million when they go under the hammer in Gorey next month. The land, totalling 36.2 acres, will go under the hammer at the auction rooms of Sherry Fitzgerald O’Leary Kinsella in Gorey on September 5.”

While the campaign to stop the motorway is a broad coalition, it has also attracted many Irish Pagans* (as well as Pagans from around the world) who see the construction as a sacrilege.

“…despite claims that the M3 is what the community wants or needs, many folk have been duped and coerced into believing this is necessary. In Egypt, would the remains of an ancient woman of highstatus be left in a plastic bag in a warehouse? Is our ancient culture to be discarded? Much has been written and said about Tara-Skryne Valley being seat of the High Kings of Ireland and the ancient Royal City of Tara. However, one monumental fact remains disregarded. This is the realm of the Gaelic White Mare Goddess, Edain Echraidhe, known also as Rhiannon in Wales and Eponain France. Ireland may now be mainly a country of an Abrahamic tradition but our ancient indigenous spiritual traditions still survive today. Tara-Skryne Valley, realm of Edain Echraidhe, is where the ancient Celtic Festivals are celebrated ritually throughout the year still to this day.”

It remains to be seen if protest efforts, or these archaeological finds will succeed in doing anything more than delaying construction, but it remains certain that modern Pagans with a spiritual, geographical, and emotional connection to the Hill of Tara will be on the front lines of this battle till the end.

* For an interesting examination of Pagan attitudes towards megaliths and archeology, check out this recent essay by Jessica Beck.

For some time the Irish government has been planning a controversial motorway expansion that would run through the Tara-Skryne Valley, home of the legendary Hill of Tara. The site is home to several ancient monuments, and for most of Ireland’s history was its political and spiritual capital. Critics of this plan, which include academics, environmentalists, and 3500 MySpace users, have so far been unable to stop building through protests or legal challenges.

But now it looks like ancient pagans (or at least their henges) have been able to halt construction just one day after the ground-breaking ceremony.

“Dick Roche, T.D., Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government has received a report that archaeologists working on the route of the M3 motorway have found archaeological evidence of a national monument at Lismullin, Co. Meath … no works which would interfere with the Monument may be carried out, except works urgently required to secure its preservation, carried out in accordance with measures specified by the Minister … The National Monuments Acts provide that where the discovery of a National Monument has been reported to the Minister he must consult with the Director of the National Museum before issuing directions in the matter to the road authority.”

Despite this set-back, critics of the motorway expansion fear that the government will pressure to have it quickly documented (a few days) and destroyed to make way for the construction.

“The site of a massive ancient pagan temple unearthed at one of Europe’s most archaeologically significant sites will be buried under a controversial motorway, campaigners warned last week. Fears were growing that the government is to plough ahead with the contentious M3 route despite the discovery that has excited heritage campaigners. The government insists it has not decided the future of the major find near the historic Hill of Tara in Co. Meath – uncovered just 24 hours after Transport Minister Martin Cullen turned the first sod on the project.”

An environmental group is already threatening legal action if they attempt to destroy the henge, while a local archaeologist bemoans the fact that it has come to legal action.

“The campaign to preserve this site has become a legal battle when in fact it should be an ethical one – whether we value our heritage or not.”

But it looks like, for now, the site has been given a reprieve thanks to the spiritual practices of ancient Irish pagans. A superstitious person could even comment that a message was being sent. To remain updated on the battle over this site, and the motorway expansion, check out the TaraWatch blog.