Rituals & Charms

To the Ancient Celt, the world was a magical, unpredictable place ruled by unseen forces and supernatural elements. Every rock, tree and river had a spirit and a force of will attached to it. Never knowing when he or she might be in the presence of a deity or nature spirit, the Celts were careful... they approached the most mundane tasks and projects with a reverence and ritual born of the need to pacify local gods, and to avoid being captured by faeries.

Holiday Rituals

Some rituals were observed by the entire populace, as part of the sacred fire festivals of Samhain and Beltane. During the celebration of Samhain (Nov. 1.), the Celtic New Year and the beginning of the long, dark half of the year, the entire village would extinguish their hearth fires and ceremonially relight them from the King's fire. This fire was ritually lit by the King's chief Druid.

The Pagan fire festival of Beltane was, in contrast to Samhain, a celebration of spring - of fertility, new life, and the awakening of the earth after the long hard winter. Young people sleep outside all night, make love, and return home the next day with flowers in their hair. Another well known element of the Beltane festival,

was the dance of the May pole. The Maypole, symbolic of the world tree, is circled by two rows of dancers spiraling and weaving in and out, each holding the end of a ribbon tied to the top of the pole. The weaving ribbons represent the turning of the earth's axis, the turning of the seasons, and the turning wheel of the universe.

Prayers & Blessings

The Celts had an almost endless assortment of daily rituals, charms and prayers, many of which have been preserved in the Carmina Gadelica. Written down in the 1800s, many of these seemingly Christian prayers and charms retain much of the Pagan flavor of the Ancient Celtic world. The average Celtic tribesman and women probably said prayers and chants throughout the day: before meals, when drawing water from the well, when preparing food, before retiring to bed. Indeed every activity was then inbued with magic and spiritual power.

The following is a comparison of the Christian and Pagan variations of a chant.

In the eye of the Father who created me,
In the eye of the Son who purchased me,
In the eye of the Spirit who cleansed me,
In friendship and affection.
Through Thine own Anointed One, O God,
Bestow upon us fullness in our need,
Love towards God,
The affection of God,
The smile of God,
The wisdom of God.
The grace of God,
The fear of God,
And the will of God
To do on the world of the Three,
As angels and saints
Do in heaven;
Each shade and light,
Each day and night,
Each time in kindness,
Give Thou us Thy Spirit.

Translation by - Mike Nichols

I am bowing my head
In the eye of the Mother who gave me birth,
In the eye of the Maiden who loves me,
In the eye of the Crone who guides me in wisdom,
In friendship and affection.
Through thy gift of nature, O Goddess,
Bestow upon us fullness in our need.
Love towards the Lady,
The affection of the Lady,
The laughter of the Lady,
The wisdom of the Lady,
The passion of the Lady,
The blessing of the Lady,
And the magic of the Lady
To do in the world of Abred,

As the Ageless Ones do in Gwynfyd;

Each shade and light,
Each day and night,
Each moment in kindness,
Grant us Thy Sight.

Ancient Druid Rituals

Not much is known of the rituals practiced by the Ancient Druids, except what was written down by those who conquered them. Such documents cannot be taken as a clear and objective chronicle of Druid activity of the time, as the Romans were known view the Celtic people in disdain, and considered them barbarians. The Druids, as the learned, educated class were wiped out by the Romans, and their religion and ceremonies banned in an attempt to gain control of the people, and to replace their gods and beliefs with Christianity. Thus the Druids were discredited and painted as 'barbaric, sadistic priests of a dark religion.'

It is generally believed that the Druids practiced human sacrifice during some of their ceremonies, but not much is known about the ceremonies themselves. Other Druidic rituals are often referenced in mythological sagas and folklore. The procedure that Cerridwen used to create her Cauldron of Wisdom might be a remnant of an earlier, Druidic ritual. Ross Nichols, past Chief of OBOD (a modern Druid Organization,) believed that the story of Talieson contains references to Druidic ritual. The passage where Cerridwen tied Talieson in a sack and threw him into the ocean mirrored a Druidic initiation ceremony in which the novice was put in an rudderless coracle and set adrift in rough waters.

An Irish ceremony known as the Tarb-feis, meaning bull-feast, is briefly described in the Tain. In the story, the Druid chewed some meat (from the bull,) then placed it under a stone by the door and slept on the animal's skin. This ritual was practiced in order to receive prophetic dreams and visions.

Another Druidic ceremony was known as the Imbas Forosna. A Druid entered a sensory-depravation chamber, and remained under a pile of skins with other Druids stood around the body chanting, possibly for many days. At last he or she was grasped and thrown out of the hut and into the bright sunlight. It was believed that the shock of being thrust from deep darkness into bright outdoor light would push the mind into a higher state of consciousness. Particularly gifted seers and prophets could invoke the Imbas without the need of sensory depravation.

Modern Druid Rituals

Druidism was revived in the early 18th century, under the leadership of John Toland (author of "The History of the Druids," 1719.) Due to the stifling and intolerant atmosphere of the period, much of this revival was done in secret, and isn't well known outside of the circle of the Modern Orders.

This early Grove of Druidic followers later split off into subsequent Orders, each with slightly different rituals and organization. Today, the largest of these Organizations are the Ancient Druid Order, the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids, and A.D.F. (Ár nDraíocht Féin.) These organizations have revived and recreated many of the ancient Druid rituals in a form that is relevent within our modern day society and culture. Below are some examples of modern Druid ritual, as provided by these orgaizations.

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Revised: November 17, 1998.