A Look at Today’s USA Army’s View on Wicca and Other Pagan Paths

(I thought it was important to follow the proceeding article with an update from the USA miltary views on Pagan paths)

Today’s Military Views on Wicca US Army Chaplain’s Manual from wicca.com

Excerpt from the U.S. Army’s Religious Requirements and Practices of Certain Selected Groups: A Handbook for Chaplains (pgs 231-236). Available from:

USAF Chaplain’s Service Institute
Resource Division
525 Chenault Circle
Maxwell AFB
Montgomery, AL 36112-6429


Witchcraft; Goddess worshippers; Neo-Paganism, Paganism, Norse (or any other ethnic designation) Earth Religion, Old Religion, Druidism, Shamanism.

Note: All of these groups have some basic similarities and many surface differences of expression with Wicca.

No central leadership. The Covenant of the Goddess annually elects a First Officer and there is a constitutional limit of two consecutive terms, but in practice officers have almost always served for one year only. In 1991, there are two Co-First Officers, Phoenix Whitebirch and Brandy Williams.

Note: This Covenant does not govern any Coven other than its’ own.

Because of the complete autonomy of covens, this cannot be determined. There are an estimated of 50,000 Wiccans in the United States.

Hernes note: This number is now substantially higher and estimated at over 200,000 (now over 1.5 million in 2020). Wicca is currently the fastest growing spiritual path in the U.S.

Wicca is a reconstruction of the Nature worship of tribal Europe, strongly influenced by the Living Nature worship traditions of tribal peoples in other parts of the world.

The works of such early twentieth century writers as Margaret Murray, Robert Graves and Gerald B. Gardner began the renewal of interest in the Old Religion. After the repeal of the anti-Witchcraft laws in Britain in 1951, Gardner publicly declared himself a Witch and began to gather a group of students and worshipers.

In 1962, two of his students, Raymond and Rosemary Buckland (religious names: Lady Rowen and Robat), emigrated to the United States and began teaching Gardnerian Witchcraft here. At the same time, other groups of people became interested through reading books by Gardner and others. Many covens were spontaneously formed, using rituals created from a combination of research and individual inspiration. These self-created covens are today regarded as just as valid as those who can trace a “lineage” of teaching back to England.

In 1975, a very diverse group of covens who wanted to secure the legal protections and benefits of church status formed Covenant of the Goddess (CoG), which is incorporated in the State of California and recognized by the Internal Revenue Service. CoG does not represent all, or even a majority of Wiccans. A coven or an individual need not be affiliated with CoG in order to validly practice the religion. But CoG is the largest single public Wiccan organization, and it is cross-Traditional (i.e. non-denominational).

Wiccans worship the sacred as immanent in Nature, often personified as Mother Earth and Father Sky. As polytheists, they may use many other names for Deity. Individuals will often choose Goddesses or Gods from any of the world’s pantheons whose stories are particularly inspiring and use those Deities as a focus for personal devotions.

Similarly, covens will use particular Deity names as a group focus, and these are often held secret by the groups. It is very important to be aware that Wiccans do not in any way worship or believe in “Satan,” “the Devil,” or any similar entities. They point out that “Satan” is a symbol of rebellion against and inversion of the Christian and Jewish traditions.

Wiccans do not revile the Bible. They simply regard it as one among many of the world’s mythic systems, less applicable than some to their core values, but still deserving just as much respect as any of the others. Most Wiccan groups also practice magic, by which they mean the direction and use of “psychic energy,” those natural but invisible forces which surround all living things. Some members spell the word “magick,” to distinguish it from sleight of hand entertainments.

Wiccans employ such means as dance, chant, creative visualization and hypnosis to focus and direct psychic energy for the purpose of healing, protecting and aiding members in various endeavors. Such assistance is also extended to non-members upon request.

Many, but not all, Wiccans believe in reincarnation. Some take this as a literal description of what happens to people when they die. For others, it is a symbolic model that helps them deal with the cycles and changes within this life. Neither Reincarnation nor any other literal belief can be used as a test of an individual’s validity as a member of the Old Religion.

Most groups have a handwritten collection of rituals and lore, known as a Book of Shadows. Part of the religious education of a new member will be to hand copy this book for him or herself. Over they years, as inspiration provides, new material will be added. Normally, access to these books is limited to initiated members of the religion.

The core ethical statement of Wicca, called the “Wiccan Rede” states “an it harm none, do what you will.” The rede fulfills the same function as does the “Golden Rule” for Jews and Christians; all other ethical teachings are considered to be elaborations and applications of the Rede. It is a statement of situational ethics, emphasizing at once the individual’s responsibility to avoid harm to others and the widest range of personal autonomy in “victimless” activities. Wicca has been described as having a “high-choice” ethic.

Because of the basic Nature orientation of the religion, many Wiccans will regard all living things as Sacred, and show a special concern for ecological issues. For this reason, individual conscience will lead some to take a pacifist position. Some are vegetarians. Others will feel that, as Nature’s Way includes self-defense, they should participate in wars that they conscientiously consider to be just. The religion does not dictate either position, but requires each member to thoughtfully and meditatively examine her or his own conscience and to live by it. Social forces generally do not yet allow Witches to publicly declare their religious faith without fear of reprisals such as loss of job, child custody challenges, ridicule, etc. Prejudice against Wiccans is the result of public confusion between Witchcraft and Satanism. Wiccans in the military, especially those who may be posted in countries perceived to be particularly intolerant, will often have their dog tags read “No Religious Preference.” Concealment is a traditional Wiccan defense against persecution, so non-denominational dog tags should not contravene a member’s request for religious services.

Wiccans celebrate eight festivals, called “Sabbats,” as a means of attunement to the seasonal rhythms of Nature. These are January 31 (Called Oimelc, Brigit, or February Eve), March 21 (Ostara or Spring Equinox), April 30 (Beltane or May Eve), June 22 (Midsummer, Litha or Summer Solstice), July 31 (Lunasa or Lammas), September 21 (Harvest, Mabon or Autumn Equinox), October 31 (Samhain, Sowyn or Hallows), and December 21 (Yule or Winter Solstice.)

Some groups find meetings within a few days of those dates to be acceptable, others require the precise date. In addition, most groups will meet for worship at each Full Moon, and many will also meet on the New Moon.

Meetings for religious study will often be scheduled at any time convenient to the members, and rituals can be scheduled whenever there is a need (i.e. for a healing). Ritual jewelry is particularly important to many Wiccans. In addition to being a symbol of religious dedication, these talismans are often blessed by the coven back home and felt to carry the coven’s protective and healing energy.

Most Wiccans meet with a coven, a small group of people. Each coven is autonomous. Most are headed by a High Priestess, often with the assistance of a High Priest. Some are headed by a High Priestess or High Priest without a partner, and some regard themselves as a gathering of equals. Covens can be of mixed gender, or all female or male, depending on the preferences of the members. Every initiate is considered to be a priestess or priest.

Most covens are small. Thirteen is the traditional maximum number of members, although not an absolute limit. At that size covens form a close bond, so Wiccans in the military are likely to maintain a strong affiliation with their covens back home. There are many distinct “Traditions” of Wicca, just as there are many denominations within Christianity.

The spectrum of Wiccan practice can be described as ranging from “traditional” to “eclectic,” with Traditions, covens and individuals fitting anywhere within that range. A typical difference would be that more traditional groups would tend to follow a set liturgy, whereas eclectic groups would emphasize immediate inspiration in worship.

These distinctions are not particularly important to the military chaplain, since it is unlikely that enough members of any one Tradition would be at the same base. Worship circles at military facilities are likely to be ad-hoc cross-Traditional groups, working out compromise styles of worship for themselves and constantly adapting them to a changing membership.

Therefore, the lack of strict adherence to the patterns of any one Tradition is not an indicator of invalidity. While many Wiccans meet in a coven, there are also a number of solitairies. These are individuals who choose to practice their faith alone. The may have been initiated in a coven or self initiated. They will join with other Wiccans to celebrate the festivals or to attend the various regional events organized by the larger community.

Within a traditional coven, the High Priestess, usually assisted by her High Priest, serves both as leader in the rituals and as teacher and counselor for coven members and unaffiliated Pagans. Eclectic covens tend to share leadership more equally.

Wiccans usually worship in groups. Individuals who are currently not affiliated with a coven, or are away from their home coven, may choose to worship privately or may form ad-hoc groups to mark religious occasions. Non-participating observers are not generally welcome at Wiccan rituals.

Some, but not all, Wiccan covens worship in the nude (skyclad) as a sign of attunement with Nature.

Most, but not all, Wiccan covens bless and share a cup of wine as part of the ritual. Almost all Wiccans use an individual ritual knife (an “athame”) to focus and direct personal energy. Covens often also have ritual swords to direct the energy of the group. These tools, like all other ritual tools, are highly personal and should never leave the possession of the owner.

Other commonly used ritual tools include a bowl of water, a bowl of salt, a censer with incense, a disk with symbols engraved on it (a “pentacle”), statues or artwork representing the Goddess and God, and candles. Most groups will bless and share bread or cookies along with the wine. All of these items are used in individual, private worship as well as in congregate rituals.


None. Recognition of the death of a member takes place within the coven, apart from the body of the deceased. Ritual tools, materials, or writings found among the effects of the deceased should be returned to their home coven (typically a member will designate a person to whom ritual materials should be sent). It is desirable for a Wiccan priest or priestess to be present at the time of death, but not strictly necessary. If not possible, the best assistance would be to make the member as comfortable as possible, listen to whatever they have to say, honor any possible requests, and otherwise leave them as quiet and private as possible. (Sind Note Pagans can now have a pentagram on their headstone in any official USA military cemetary)

No medical restrictions. Wiccans generally believe in the efficacy of spiritual or psychic healing when done in tandem with standard medical treatment. Therefore, at the request of the patient, other Wiccan personnel should be allowed visiting privileges as though they were immediate family, including access to Intensive Care Units. Most Wiccans believe that healing energy can be sent from great distances, so, if possible, in the case of any serious medical condition, the member’s home coven should be notified.

With respect to attitude toward military service, Wiccans range from career military personnel to conscientious objectors. Wiccans do not proselytize and generally resent those who do. They believe that no one Path to the Sacred is right for all people, and see their own religious pattern as only one among many that are equally worthy. Wiccans respect all religions that foster honor and compassion in their adherents, and expect the same respect. Members are encouraged to learn about all faiths, and are permitted to attend the services of other religions, should they desire to do so.


Note by Herne: Since this was written by the military, the list of books available has grown subtantially. For more topics and titles, see our Suggested Reading List.

The best general survey of the Wiccan and neo-Pagan movement is: Adler, Margot. Drawing Down the Moon. Boston: Beacon Press, 1986. 595pp

For more specific information about eclectic Wicca, see: Starhawk. The Spiral Dance. New York: Harper & Row, 1979.

For more specific information about traditional Wicca, see: Farrar, Janet, and Stewart Farrar. Eight Sabbats for Witches. London: Robert Hale, 1981. 192pp.

The Witches’ Way. London: Robert Hale, 1984. 394pp.


Pagan Military Newsletter c/o Terri Morgan, Editor, 829 Lynnhaven Parkway 114-198 Virginia Beach, VA 23452

Because of the autonomy of each coven and the wide variance of specific ritual practices, the best contact person would be the High Priestess or other leader of the member’s home coven.

The Celtic Oak Tree Month June 6th to July 7th


symbol of the life force

The oak (quercus) is one of the wonders of nature. Its splendid appearance perfectly reflects the essence of this tree. With its strong, deep roots, thickset trunk, and elegantly swaying branches and broad, spreading crown, the oak withstands the centuries. All kinds of Mosses live on it, cling planets twine upwards around it It bears this placidly and forms very hard wood through out its life

It grows best and reaches its fullest height in soil that is slightly damp and rich hummus, but it holds it own just as well on rocky ground. Its roots force their way inexorably through cracks to find water. In some places it may only grow into a shrub, but that doesn’t matter. The main thing is it lives and produces leaves.

Old oak trees–they can be 150 years old, sometimes twice that–may be hollow or rotten inside, quite dead on one side and growing well on the other. If cockchafers or caterpillars eat away the leaves in spring, new bright green leaves grow again in June and July. Not even a fallen oak will give up. Its wood survives for generations, living on as wine or brandy barrels, as a table or a railway sleeper, the pier of a bridge or a ship afloat.

Wherever the oak grows there is always plenty of light for everything that grows around it and is sheltered by it. Perhaps the oak trees remember their own youth, when they enjoyed and needed the protection and shade of other trees. They are often, for example, planted near lime trees until they are big enough. Then their ‘foster mothers’ are cut down. The oak does not forget that. It ‘knows’ that everything big and strong starts life as something small and weak. That is why it doesn’t matter when a gentle wind caresses its leaves. Nor does it howl when a storm tears at its branches. The oak always proclaims its wholehearted contentment with life. Who wouldn’t want that as their native tree?

If you were born on 21 March you may, no you must, liken yourself to an oak. For you are endowed with the same indestructible vitality and strength of purpose. You like a fresh wind in every relationship and your vitality bursts into flames at any opposition. Your body may not live to be a thousand years old, but your soul lives on in your children and in your work. And if even the slightest drop of Celtic blood flows through your veins, then you will fear neither death or devil. So what matters to you is not how long you live, but rather how intensively and meaningfully you fill time.

The Universe is God’s plaything. You very happily agree to join the game. You put failures behind you and will seize the first favorable opportunity to prove yourself in new enterprises.

Of course, you can’t help behaving like the farm lad who made a pact with the devil. ‘You can have my soul when this oak no longer has any leaves’, he said. The devil agreed, but he waited in vain. FOr many oaks keep their old leaves over the winter, until the new buds burst into leaf in the spring. Don’t you do the same thing? You prefer to cling to the old, well-tried methods until you have a clear understanding of the new, above all in ‘winter’ time. Or are you the sort of person that invests when the coffers are empty, and saves when they are over-flowing? Be careful these trick questions intended to provoke you. You like that, don’t you?

You may be quite different from the sketch I have given here. Each human being is unique individual. And not just people. Every oak tree is different, whether it is an English oak, a holm oak, a red oak, or a swamp oak; each one seizes a unique opportunity to become what it is.

The Celts associated the strength to be oneself, which is latent in every person, with the oak. The truly strong man is he who has travelled a lone way on the road to himself. Utterly dedicated, of his own free will he serves mankind, a cause, an art, responsible only to himself and the full of joy of the living. He sees himself as the living instrument of God’s power and does not lose himself in human reason, which thinks itself so dreadfully important.

Probably two or three thousand years ago there were relatively few people in whome the fire of the oak burned. But this is not the reason why the oak gives its name to only one day, like the beech, the olive tree, and the birch. On the contrary, this limitation of time should make it stand out from the ranks of other trees. It has been chosen to remind us, at the time of the vernal equinox on 21 March, that we should kindle a fire in ourselves that will allow us to find ourselves.

Native of the oak: Johann Sebastian Bach.

Gem Stone: The ruby, which express a love of life.

Number: 3

Motto: Moderation in all things.

The Celtic Tree Calendar Your Tree Signs and You  by MIchael Vescoli Copyright 1996 and for English 1999 Pages 30 – 35



One of the four quarter day festivals, Beltane saw members of communities come together to celebrate the return of the summer. The observance of this hugely important time in the turning of the wheel of the year was characterised by a celebration of the return of the fertility of the land, and would have been a time when livestock would have been put out to pasture.

The word ‘Beltane’ roughly translates as ‘bright fire’ and, as such, one of the most important rituals, which survives today in our modern festival, concerns the lighting of the Beltane bonfire. Fire was seen as a purifier and healer and would have been walked around and danced/jumped over by the members of the community. Farmers would also have driven their cattle between bonfires to cleanse and protect them before being put out into the fields.

In ancient communities, all hearth fires would have been extinguished and a new neid fire lit which would have then been used to relight people’s hearths in their own homes. In this way the community was connected to each other by the sacred fire which was central to all. The festival would also have been a time of courtship rituals and a celebration of our own fertility!

The important point to note when thinking about our own festival is the joy and the revelry that is fostered in the ritual. It is about casting off the darkness and celebrating the light. It is a time for celebrating fertility, both in the context of our biological functions as well as our own creative energies, the fertility of our creative community.


To continue reading the article on Beltane click here

Hey It Says Free, I’m going to grab it – Free Quiz – Are You a Natural Born Witch?

This post was originally put up by Lady Abyss

Free Quiz – Are You a Natural Born Witch?

You may be a natural born witch and not even know it! Many people are born with a lot of natural magical ability. Some people are aware of their ability, but many are not. There are many religions, such as Wicca that teach real magic in one form or another. However, you do not need to practice any particular religion in order to learn how to develop real magical ability. The first step is to determine your level of natural ability. The next step is to learn how to develop it and make the most of it.

Here’s a quiz to help you determine your level of natural magical ability. Answer the
following questions to find out if you are a natural born witch:

Do your watches or clocks always seem to run either slow or fast?

Do electrical things seem to act strange around you?

If yes, is it more noticeable when you’re emotional or when discussing certain

Have you ever just “known something, even if there’s no rational way you could
know it?

Have you ever had dreams that came true?

Have you ever “seen other people’s past lives?

Do you have unusually good luck with certain things?

Do things seem to happen just because you want them to?

Do other people seem to do things because you want them to?

Do you often know what other people are thinking or feeling?

Do you often find a great parking space, even when a parking lot is full?

Do you often know who’s calling before you answer the phone or look at the caller
ID unit?

Do other people seem to feel a need to touch you?

Are children and/or animals attracted to you?

Do people seem to fear you, or feel intimidated by you for no apparent reason?

Do you have a “green thumb”?

Did you have any kind of “imaginary friends as a young child?

Have you ever seen or felt the presence of ghosts?

Do people seem to be either very attracted to you, or very repelled by you?

Do people seem to stare at you for no apparent reason?

How many “yes answers did you have:
1-5 You have a small amount of natural ability
6-10 You have an average amount of natural ability
11-15 You have a very high degree of natural ability
16 -20 You are exceptionally gifted!

Mistress of Magic

Female Druids, the Forgotten Priestesses of the Celts

In all my studies I have never heard of Female Druid Priestess. But after reading this article and thinking back over what I have learn about the ancient Celtics spiritual path and the duality of it I than wondered was this information did not come out until now. I am going to look for at least two other article  confirming what this on days and I will post the links to them. I did a thank you ritual to Bridget for pushing to get this information to us. I would like to hear what you think of this especially if you follow a Druid path.


In medieval Irish legends they were called Banduri or Bandorai. Their existence was confirmed by ancient Greek and Roman writers. But who were the legendary female Druids?

The Druids were the ancient religious leaders, scientists and researchers of the Celtic society. For centuries, there was a common misconception that Druids were only male. However, numerous historical records attest to the fact that there were in fact women among their ranks.

The Wise Ones of Celtic society

The term ”Druid” comes from the Indo-European word ”deru”, which means ”the truth” or ”true”. This word has evolved into the Greek term ”drus”, meaning ”oak”.

The Druids were the intellectual elite. Being a Druid was a tribal function, but they were also poets, astronomers, magicians, and astrologers. It took them 19 years to gain the necessary knowledge and skills in alchemy, medicine, law, the sciences, and more. They organized intellectual life, judicial processes, had skills to heal people, and were involved in developing strategies for war. They were an oasis of wisdom and highly respected in their society.

Roman Accounts of the Druidesses

Gaius Julius Caesar was fascinated with the Druids. He wrote that they were scientists, theologians, and philosophers, and acquired knowledge that was extraordinary. According to experts in Caesar’s writings, the great Roman leader was well aware of the female Druids. Unfortunately, most of the Roman writers ignored women in general, so it is not easy to find reference to them in historical texts. However, Strabo wrote about a group of religious women who lived on an island near the Loir River. In ‘Historia’, Augusta is a description of Diocletian, Alexander Severus and Aurelian, who discussed their problems with the female Druids.

To read the rest of this interesting article copy and paste this link into your browser:


Table of Correspondences Part 1

Table of Elements

I will be posting from D. J. Conway’s book Celtic Magic the different tables of correspondences she has listed as used in the Celtic/Druid traditions of the Old Ways/The Craft.

Today’s information about the elements comes from pages 184-185


Rulers: Sylphs, Zephyrs and Fairies who inhabit the world of trees, flowers, winds, breezes, mountains.

King: Paralda

Attracted By: oils and incenses

Color & Direction: red or yellow; East

Magical Tools: symbols: sky, wind, breezes, clouds, breath, vibrations, plants, herbs, flowers, trees.and, incense, creative visualization.

Ritual Work: dawn, sunrise, SPring, knowledge, plant growth, intellect, thought, ideas, travel, freedom, revealing the truth, finding lost things, movement, psychic abilities.


Rulers: Gnomes, Dwarfs and Trolls who inhabit the interior of the Earth herself and are the consciousness of precious gems, minerals, and the Earth herself.

King: Ghob, Gob, Ghom

Attracted By: Salts and powers

Color & Direction: black or green; North

Magical Tools: pentagram, salt, images, stone, gems, trees, cord magic.

Symbols: rocks and gemstones, mountains, plains, fields, soil, caves and mines.

Ritual Work: night, midnight, Winter, riches, treasures, surrendering self-will, touch, empathing, incorporation, business, prosperity, employment, stability, success, fertility, money.


Rulers: Salamanders, Firedrakes (Fire breathing Dragons from Teutonic origins) the consciousness of flames.

King: Djin

Attracted By: candles, lamps, incense, fire

Color & Direction: white or red; South

Magical Tools: dagger, lamp or candles, censer, burned herbs or requests on paper

Symbols: lightening, volcanos, rainbow, Sun, stars.

Ritual Work: Summer, noon, freedom, change, sight, perception, vision, illumination, learning, love, will, passion, sexuality, energy, authority, healing, destruction, purification.


Ruler: Nymphs, Undies, Mermaids and Mermen who live in the sea, lakes, streams, and springs, and Fairies of the lakes, ponds, streams.

King: Niksa or Necksa

Attracted By: water, washes, solutions

Color & DIrection: gray or blue; West

Magical Tools: cauldron, goblet, mirrors, the sea

Symbols: oceans, lakes, rivers, wells, springs, pools, rain, mist, fog

Ritual Work: Fall, sunset, planets, healing, emotions, taste, smell, absorbing, communion with the spiritual, purification, the subconscious mind, love, emotions, pleasure, friendships, marriage, fertility, happiness, sleep, dreams, the psychic



A Short Introduction to Celtic/Druid Ogham or Ogma Alphabet and How to Use it For Divination

The Celtic’s used a writing system called Ogham or sometimes spelled Ogma which dates hundreds of years BCE (Before the Current Era). Most of the time the credit for the alphabets origins are given to the Druid Priests. As only they could read the meanings of the “Ogham Staves” when they were thrown. The Ogham alphabet consists of 25 different symbols which in turn are associated with specific trees or shrubs.

The alphabet can either be written vertically or horizontally but the actual marking for the symbol or letter always appears on the same side and location on the straight line that all the symbols/letter stem off of.

The Ogham Staves are used as a form of divination. You can use them the same as you would Runes or Tarot cards. To make Ogham Staves they should be craved into a piece of the tree or shrub they are associated with, all 25 pieces of wood should be the exact same length and when possible diameter.

How to use the staves is simple you hold them together in both hands, and roll them on your palms while you ask your question of them (be sure to keep your question clear and concise). When you feel it is time and with the question firmly fixed in your mind you let the staves drop from about 4 to 6 inches off the ground. Those closest to you are the future, the middle ones are for the present, and those furthest away are read for the past which led up to the present which will lead into the future.

Here is a picture of the alphabet writing, name of symbol/letter, and which tree or shrub is associated to it:

Other examples of the alphabet:

Here is are the symbols/letters on the tree or shrub they are associated with:

This is the first in a series of posts on the use and meanings of the Ogham alphabet and staves. I will also be posting an Ogham Symbol for the day starting Monday, August 13th both on here and on WOTC.

If you have questions about this topic please write to LAdy Beltane at covenlifescoven@gmail.com Please put Ogham Question in the “Subject line”


Eleven Principles Or Codes of Conduct For the Contemporary Druid

Eleven Principles Or Codes of Conduct For the Contemporary Druid:


1. Every action has a consequence that must be observed and you must be prepared to compensate for your actions if required.

2. All life is sacred and all are responsible for seeing that this standard is upheld.

3. You do still living in society and are bound by its rules and laws.

4. Work with high standards.

5. Make an honest living.

6. Be a good host as well as a good guest.

7. Take care of yourself. (Health was held in high esteem amongst the Celts so much that a person could be fined for being grossly overweight due to lack of care.)

8. Serve your community.

9 Maintain a healthy balance of the spiritual and mundane.

10. Uphold the Truth, starting with yourself.

11. Be sure in your convictions, particularly when judging or accusing someone, but also when debating. Ask yourself: are you really sure? Do you really know that this is the case, do you know the whole situation, do you know the whole truth.


Nine Elements of the Druids

Nine Elements of the Druids



The importance/significance of the number three in Celtic mythology and spirituality has been documented in many sources. It makes some sense then, that three times three would be a particularly auspicious number. There isn’t much in the way of documentation to support this, however the speculation has a great deal of support in the Celtic Pagan Spiritual Community. There are probably as many different ways of looking at these nine elements as there are groups who consider them important.

The Nine Elements, and correspondences
















Sky or Heavens



Green-growing things












As you can derive from this table, the Celts do appear to have grasped the concept of microcosm vs macrocosm quite well, albeit without the fance nomenclature.

The elements composing the tree principal realms of Land, Sea and Sky; also compose three of the most primary element of human life: Flesh (Land), Blood (Sea), and Breath (Sky or actually “wind”). Actually all nine elements would be considered needful for life, however these three would be the most obvious to our ancestors (with one obvious exception – the head – but we will get into that discussion in a moment. No _Highlander_ correlations yet!)

If a body lacked flesh, or that flesh became diseased or too old, the body died. If the body lacked blood, the body died. And if the body did not breathe – lacked wind – the body died. Simple, and I’m certain quite obvious to the ancient Celts.

The next most obvious fatal deficiency is the lack of a head. Physically, losing one’s head will in fact make you quite irretrievably dead. However, it is rather doubtful that the ancient Celts understood the finer points of neurology (although there is evidence that the ancients did practice some fairly advanced neurosurgical techniques). The ancients believed that the immortal spirit resided in the head: if the head were separated from the body (or in some cases, cut open sufficiently) the spirit of the person would leave – and the person would therefore die. Their ‘fire in the head’ would be lost (Insert _Highlander_ theme music here).

For those of you familiar with the _Highlander_ shows, perhaps their special effects aren’t that far from off. Upon the death of the physical body, the Celts believed that the spirit – the immortal being – was released, to be ‘reborn’ in another form. Contrary to the series, it isn’t re-absorbed by another immortal, but may be reborn as a new person, or into a spirit of an animal, plant or even an inanimate object: all depending upon the lesson needed by that particular spirit. The technical term here is transmutation. We’ll discuss this more thoroughly at another time.

The elements of “sun” and “moon” may seem a bit odd to our modern sensibilities, used to a more “scientific” analysis of the elements. Even for those more familiar with the Pagan (really Wiccan) wheel of elements will find the whole of the Celtic nine elements a bit unusual. In the Celtic elements, the Sun element takes on some of those properties familiar with the Wiccans’ fire element. The Sun correlates with the human face: preservations of this can be seen in common speech. A person’s face may be “shining”, or the Sun may be “smiling”. The moon, on the other hand, has long been associated with aspects of the mind. Specifically, the moon (in folklore) directly affects madness/sanity. Even today, common folklore reflects this: lunacy or lunatic (luna = moon). Superstision holds that the full moon drives a person insane. This may actually be related to superstitions regarding werewolves.

The correlations between the element of “Green Growing Things” and human hair may not be too obvious at first. It may have been as simple as the human hair being likened to the slow-growing English Ivy – they actually grow in length at about the same speed. This outward growth is a clear expression of the direction most associate with this element: that of “outwards”.

Stones were seen as the bones of the Earth: hard, shapable into toods, and maintaining the structure of the “body” (that of the person or the world). Even through the great stone circles pre-date the Druids (and perhaps the Celts), one has to wonder if there’s some relation between these stone monuments and the Celts own belief in the significance of the stones.



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Druids and Sacrifice

Druids and Sacrifice

As modern individuals walking a Druid path, we are faced with a primary obstacle: How do we construct a way of worship which complements the path already inscribed within our hearts? There are no “Grand Grimoires” of the Druids (or the Wiccans, for that matter!). Little, if anything, exists in ‘ancient written records’ as to the beliefs and practices of the Druids. What records do exist were generally written by outsiders (such as Caesar, Strabos, and Deodorus) – beyond that, zip, zero — nothing. We therefore must go to the origins — the people and cultures which defined the faith of the Druids. By so doing, we may gain enough understanding to construct some semblance of the Druid’s religion.

It is neither practical nor advisable to attempt to recreate the ways of the Druids identically in minute detail (besides, human sacrifices are so inconvenient!) Yes, there is enough evidence that we can say that the ancient Celts did practice one form or another of human sacrifice. There is a great deal of evidence that these sacrifices were voluntary in nature. These were intermediaries, in their deaths they took the petitions of their people directly before the Gods of their clan. Modern pagan clergy takes on this role today (obviously without the death requirement) as intermediaries between the Gods and their grove/coven/kindred. It is generally accepted in modern pagan culture that the greatest pagan principle is to harm none.

Most groups include the self as part of the ‘none’ we are to avoid harming. Taking the life of another or yourself is quite a large ‘harm’, and probably is the most often-used reasoning behind the discontinuance of sacrifice. Actually, blood sacrifices were discontinued long before the tenet of ‘harm none’ was ever placed on paper. There are no authenticated evidences of Druid sacrifice beyond about the first century CE, while the tenet of ‘harm none’ is usually accepted as dating from the late 19th – early 20th centuries (generally attributed to Gerald Gardener, Doreen Valiente, or Aleister Crowley). Today, our sacrifices are herbs, incense, flowers, oils – all wonderfully acceptable to the Gods. Those other supposedly ‘dire’ sacrifices are best suited for cheap horror flicks.

To follow a Druid path in the modern age, it is not necessary to reconstruct any of the ‘exact’ rites of our ancient predecessors. It is equally important to follow our own hearts, as well as the spirit of those ancient cultures. Modern elements and the fancies of our imaginations can be just as appropriate to a ritual than the most arcane sounding lines found in some dusty old tome. What we must not do, however, is try to claim ancient unbroken lineage for something we made up yesterday (this has caused some authors no end of trouble in the past!). An ancient source does not make something more authentic. Although there are those who still insist that the only correct way is the most ancient one possible: intact, with no changes; if it comes from the heart, the Gods know.




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Druidic Ritual Basics

Druidic Ritual Basics

Delineating sacred space

In the Druidic faith, all ground is sacred ground, so it is impossible to ‘create’ sacred space. Instead, we choose to delineate a portion of already-sacred space to ritual use either permanently, or for a certain period of time. Permanent sacred areas may be established on private land, and include such amenities as the planting of a grove of sacred trees, or the erection of a henge or similar structure. Temporary sacred space delineations are accomplished by means of focussed energy and various ritualized movements. One of the simplest forms of this type of ritualized movement consists of circumambulation of the given area while:

  • holding a lighted candle
  • wafting incense
  • sprinkling charged water

Further temporary demarcations may be visually set up with torches, ribbons, or other simple visual markers.

Once the ritual area is appropriately delineated, the ritual participants must be prepared for the upcoming activities. These preparations are completed via the pre-ritual briefings and meditation. The pre-ritual briefing is just that: a briefing to organize everyone’s thoughts to a specific purpose. Questions in regards to timing, organization, and general ritual purpose can be cleared up at this point. Following the briefing, participants use a grounding and centering meditation to bring themselves into a sacred mindset and into harmony with the other participants. This may be accomplished either as a group or separately, with separate meditations being the most commonly used. Often with the individual meditations, a specific focus of meditation may be assigned to the group as a part of the preritual briefing.

After a set period of time, the meditation period will be brought to a close and the participants will be summoned to the ritual area. This summons will take many different forms, the most common two are discussed here. The summons to the ritual area may be made by a musical que: drumming, horns, bells, or a particular piece of music. There is considerable historical precedent for this kind of summons. The other most common summons is a personal one: a designated individual, similar to the Gardnerian/Wiccan “man in black” or “summoner” would verbally announce that ritual was to commence and that persons should assemble.

Once participants have been summoned to the ritual area, they will enter through pre-determined ‘gateways’. In permanently erected ritual areas, these may be physical gateways, or breaks in the boundaries such as hedgerows or tree plantings. In less permanent settings, they may be delineated by some physical indicators, or may only be a position agreed upon by consensus. As the participants enter the gateway’s), they receive a preliminary blessings and/or anointing by either the senior druid or a designate.

Depending upon tradition and circumstances, various symbols may be used in the anointing of the individuals: the forehead may be anointed with the symbols of the three rays of Awen (inspiration), or perhaps the sword-and-chalice imagery of the Celtic Cross. Other sigils may be traced on hands, foreheads and the like. Participants may be sprinkled with sacred water or smudged with the smoke of sacred herbs.

Another special blessing that may be administered to entering participants is that of a blessing cup, or shared hospitality. Each participant sips from an offered common cup of blessing, and ceremonial words are exchanged. This blessing cup may be used with or without the other forms of blessing mentioned above. All methods described aid in establishing a common mindset and focus for the ritual work to come.

Once the participants have entered into the ritual area and settled into their places, the initial welcomes are pronounced. The first offering follows thereafter. This first offering is to the spirits of the place and of the Earth Mother, in acknowledgement of their blessings and in thanks for the use of the ritual area. These may be offering to a sacred fire, but would more commonly be one of cornmeal (or perhaps herbs or even birdseed) scattered to the periphery of the ritual area. An additional thought would be to also pour a libation from the blessing cup used in the entrance ritual.

An additional offering is also made to the “outsiders”, any potentially disruptive entities or energies not desired within the confines of the particular ritual. Many different items may be used for this offering, however the preference would be for sweets and/or alcoholic beverage, as these items appear to be particularly preferred by those types of energies. Out of habit, these offerings are placed in the south of the ritual area, simply because of it’s associations with such totem entities as Coyote and Loki (some of the most ‘chaotic’ and ‘trickster-ish’ entities).

Once these items are settled, the main elements of the ritual can commence. The first major elements of ritual comprise the acknowledgement of the three Celtic realms of existence. The first realm to be so acknowledged is the realm of the Land. In the Celtic cosmos, the Land is the realm of substance, where the clans exist in harmony with the natural world. The second realm, the Sea, is the gateway to the other worlds. Land is seen to float on the surface of a great, spiritual sea. The Sky is a realm of mystery as well as of many Gods – it flows above that of the Sea and the Land. As each realm is acknowledged, an offering is made to the realm, it’s gatekeepers, and its native spirits.

Once the realms have thus been acknowledged and offerings made, the gateways are summoned (or conjured) open, permitting the three worlds/realms to simultaneously exist within the ritual space. This bears resemblance to the Wiccan ritual effort of creating a time and place within the ritual circle that is completely removed from ‘ordinary’ time and space: “a time that is not a time, a place that is not a place”. However, in Druidic practice the opposite is the case. Druidic sacred space and opening of the realm gateways, is practiced to place the participants within all time and all places (the appropriate quotation for this then becomes “all time is now, and all space is here”). There is no true linear time in Druidic practice. Time is seen as circular, or even web-like: no beginning, no ending, and myriad different permutations. The methods of “anchoring” and traversing these three realms lies within the context of the Sacred Tree. This tree is an axis between the three realms, via which the trained practitioner may journey to experience other realities. Within and around the Sacred Tree (or Tree of Life, if you prefer), exists the essence of the Divine Spirit: the sacred Fire, the manifestation of the Sacred Dragon Energy.

At this point, any special magical workings would be inserted into the standard ritual format. The ritual processes should be inserted smoothly into the balance of the ritual format. The activities will segue without difficulty if written in a similar tone.

After these specific ritual elements are completed, the next appropriate step is that of the giving up of offerings to the Gods. These offerings may consist of many items such as herbs, foods, oils and other items. Generally these items will be offered to the ritual fire, previously established using the nine sacred woods. Omens may be taken from how these offerings burn; the movements of the flames themselves or of the smoke. Omen-takings are not limited to the sacred fire, but may be taken from any appropriate source available at that time. The final offering given up to the Gods is considered to be the ‘dire offering’, that of blood or flesh. In ancient times, this would have involved the sacrifice of a live animal, or in some cases a human being.

This type of sacrifice is not acceptable today because of the multitude of different offerings available to modern Druid practitioners. The blood sacrifice offered upon the modern Druid’s need-fire is a simple offering of meat. Anything from hotdogs to steaks/roasts is acceptable and appropriate. After all other sacrifices have been burned, the fire is “brought up” quickly – that is, caused to burn quite hot for a brief period of time in order to burn off all residue, then a grill or spit is place appropriately over the fire. The meat offering is then ritually placed on/over the fire. When the meat is cooked, or durring the cooking process, a portion of meat is dropped completely into the fire, to be consumed by the flames entirely. The balance of the meat is given to the celebrants as a portion of the feasting after ritual. This process has great precident in many cultures, including the Judaic faith (‘kosher’ foods are ritually processed, and actually offered in sacrifice to their God). This method of sacrifice to the fire (what really amounts to a sacrificial Barbeque) also helps to aleviate problems realted to the open fire. While many localities regulate the use of outdoor fires, or entirely prohibit outdoor burning, if the fire is for the purpose of cooking, many areas permit such fires without restriction.

Here, I insert a ‘nod’ not only to the ancient progenitors of our faith, but also to the more recent impetus for these ideas. DragonHart Coven, a British-traditional group with whom I practiced years ago, used an open fire pit in the back yard of their covenstead for rituals. In that locale, ‘open burning’ was prohibited. So at every ritual, cooking forks and marshmallows became a familiar – if never used – addition. If problems arose, those articles could have been produced as evidence that the fire in the fire pit was for cooking – a non-restricted fire use. In keeping with the Druidic Code of Ethics, when we incorporated this particular fire offering into the rituals, we would truly be using the fire for those reasons.

The closure of the ritual follows a similar, albeit reversed, path as that of the construction. The sacred tree is once again reverenced, the previously conjured gates are closed, and appropriate honours are paid to any personal or clan divinities previously called upon. A clear, concise closure of the ritual is made, and any surplus energies are grounded in an appropriate manner. The ritual participants are then dismissed to the feasting area (which of course is centre pieced/highlighted by the previous meat offering) for feasting and merriment.

The preparation of the ritual feast involves somewhat more than just the presentation of the fire offering as the main course. Ideally, most of the items for the ritual feast will be provided “pot-lick” by most or all of the participants. Foods may range from simple to more complex: there is very little that would be considered inappropriate for a ritual feast. Common items will always include fresh fruits and vegetables, and various baked goods – both sweet and savoury. With outdoor rituals, particularly in warm weather, it is probably best to avoid foods which must be kept at a certain – very cold- or -very hot- temperature to avoid spoilage. These would most particularly include such things as products containing mayonnaise, or cold cuts. By observing these few cautions, it is possible to have a grand feasting without food poisoning.



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Practical Druid Paganism – Gods and Goddesses

Practical Druid Paganism

Gods and Goddesses

Patron deities are a part of any ritual, as well as a part of everyday life. People who are familiar with Wiccan rituals are used to the invocation of “The Goddess” and “The God” in circle: either by a specific name, or just a “Goddess and God”. While many people who practice a Druid path have a patron Goddess/God or both, they are not limited to just one or two divine beings in a ritual. Nor must they always use the same divine beings. We may refer to one, two or twenty God/desses in the coarse of a single ritual. After all, the more the merrier, right?

Actually, it is just slightly different than that. As we see it, Druidry has many Gods and Goddesses: all different, and all equally valuable and valid. Where most Wiccan groups believe that “all Gods are one God, all Goddesses one Goddess”, we see many different divine beings, with many different relationships with both humans and with each other. We many honor one or several different God/desses in a ritual: as patrons of differing sacred precincts, as workers of specific energies, or as representative of particular relationships on the earthly plane. Aesclepius might be asked to aid in a healing work, within the same ritual where we have called upon Demeter, Persephone and Hades (celebrating the change of seasons as well as the sacrifice of love); and seek Charon’s aid for a meditative journey. Of course, the Gods and Goddesses should come from the same pantheon, as the interrelationships are already established. It may not be impossible to work with Isis, Cernunos, Kwan Yin, and the Corn Maiden in the same ritual, but it would be infinitely confusing.

Separate and unique from the Gods and Goddesses is an all-encompassing sacred energy. Separate, yet intrinsically connected and part of each other. The Christian concept of the Holy Spirit is similar: an immense, genderless, sacred “being”, which our particular tradition (and a few others) refer to as the Dragon. The Dragon is quite literally beyond true description: it is without gender and flows through all things, places, and people. John Boorman touches briefly on this concept in his movie Excalibur. The Dragon is unseen, yet can be seen all around us: it’s breath in the wind, it’s scales in the bark of trees. It is said that the Dragon’s energy can be felt in the ancient holy places (which may contribute to the fact that the mysterious energy lines which connect ancient sacred sites are called “Dragon Lines”.

If you have ever experienced this ‘Dragon Energy’ at one of it’s focus points or along one of the ley lines, you may have some difficulty describing the experience. Of course, each sacred site has it’s own “feel”. It has been reported that particularly sensitive individuals can tap into the ‘energy’ of another sacred site while working at a site along the same energy line. In theory, this seems entirely possible, although I don’t personally know too many individuals who have experience this phenomenon. However, it is this mysterious Dragon Energy along with the myriad of Gods and Goddesses who make our world what it is to the Druid: alive, breathing, and powerful.



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