Friday, April 30, 2010

The Month of May

There wasn't any information that I could find on the month of May itself without running into a lot about May Day or Beltainne and I'm going to save that for my next posting.
     What I did find out was that there are several stories about how the month got it's name. The most accepted is that it's name after the Roman goddess of Spring and growth, Maia. The Roman poet Ovid provides us with a second explanation. He states that the month of May was named after the word maiores,  the Latin word of 'elders', but not much thought is given to this idea.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The magnificent Stag

The stag has become a symbol of mystery, royalty and strength throughout much of the European countries. If you have traveled the English countryside you may find yourself going into many pubs with the name stag somewhere in the mix.
     Stag according to the dictionary is an adult male of various deer especially the red deer.
     The stag is taken as a symbol of sovereignty and male strength. Also is to be associated with the watchfulness of a celestial guardian. Many tombs and graves throughout Europe has been found with skulls and antlers of the stag especially graves of royalty. The stag was thought to be a messenger of the spirit world. To follow a stag, especially a white stag, was thought to lead you on a spiritual journey. Many of the Celtic ancestors saw him as the King of the Forest. In a grave in Colchester, archaeologist  found a bronze figurine of a stag, engraved on it was The King of the Forest.
     Many legends surrounding the white stag or hart, as it is also called, comes with the warnings of curses and prophecies of bad luck to anyone who crosses the creature. To the Celts, if one came across a white stag meant that it was a harbinger of some kind of doom, some taboo had been transgressed or a mortal law had been broken and some terrible evil or judgement was imminent.
     To the Hungarians, the white stag led their ancestors to their homeland. In many French legends, if anyone killed a white stag was cursed with the pain of unrequited love.
     In the Norse mythology, four stags representing the four winds stands around the world tree Yggdrasil.
     Also in Greek mythology, the chariot of the virgin priestess in whom Artemis was embodied was drawn by stags.
     The stag was also thought to represent the cycle of death and rebirth because the stag grew and then shed their antlers in the spring.  It was also thought as one of the oldest animals of the world. A white stag appeared to King Arthur and his men while they were in the forest. They took this as meaning that it was time to embark on a quest, the quest of the Holy Grail.
     Merlin was also said to led a herd of deer and riding on a stag in the Caledonian Forest.
     In the Irish Fionn cycle, Donn, the god of the dead and protector of crops and cattle, disguised himself as a stag, which the hero chased. Then later in the tale, the hero marries a fairy woman who often takes the form of a stag. They together had a son named Ossian, who himself was half human and half deer.
     In the 12th century Scottish legend of King David I, who was out hunting when a white stag charged him. He took the stag by the antlers when they turned into a large cross. He was then inspired to build a shrine to the Holy Rod meaning the Holy Cross, at the site of the Queen's Holy rood Palace.
     Today, the white stag or deer has been seen and recorded in many ancient forest through out the world mainly in and around Europe. One was filmed in the New Forest area of Southern England. People watched it and tried to protect it, but poachers killed it eventually. The authorities found it's carcass hanging in a tree and it's head gone. Needless to say the people of the area was very upset.
     If seeing a white stag was an omen of doom or some judgement was imminent, I wonder what doom was it predicting for us as a human race and I'm sure not to good for the individual(s) who hunted and killed it.

Monday, April 26, 2010

The Hazel Tree

This month we talk about the Hazel tree. It's a very popular tree in Celtic and Druid lore. The Celts believed hazelnuts gave one wisdom and inspiration. The Gaelic word for nuts are 'cno' pronounced 'knaw' and the word for wisdom, 'cnocach'. As with many sacred trees that were considered sacred to the Celtic people, if a Hazel tree was unjustly cut down then the punishment was death.
There is an ancient tale about nine hazel trees that grew around a sacred pool. The nuts from the tree would drop into the water and then they were eaten by the salmon, which they would absorb the wisdom from the Hazel tree. If you counted the number of spots on the salmon, you could tell how many hazel nuts that they ate.
A lot of pools or wells in Europe were mostly surround by the Hazel tree(s). Connla's well which was located at the foot of Cuileagh mountain in Ca van, Ireland. Ca van was thought to be the source of the river Shannon. The well is surrounded by nine Hazel trees, which produce both flowers and fruit which is said to represent beauty and wisdom.
Hazel trees were so abundant in Scotland that it was named Caledonia which was derived from Cal-Dun, meaning 'Hill of Hazel.
In Norse mythology, the Hazel was known as the Tree of Knowledge and was sacred to the god Thor.
In Northern England, the guardians of the Hazel tree were called, 'melsh dick' and in Yorkshire, 'Chum-milk Peg.'
There are 14 - 18 species of the Hazel and the nuts of all Hazels are edible. It's a member of the birch family and the 9th tree of the Celtic calendar. The deities that is associated with the Hazel are Mercury, Hermes, Thor, Mac Coll, Aengus, Artemis and Diana. The ruling planet is the Sun and Mercury. Elements are Air and Water and it's gender is considered to be masculine. In magic workings it is used as protection, fertility, luck, lightening and inspiration.
In Roman mythology, the Hazel was connected to the god Mercury. In Greek Mythology it was Hermes. They were the messengers of the gods and often seen with a staff or a wand made out of Hazel which was called Caduceus.
The story goes that Hermes gave a lyre which was made out of cords stretched across a tortoise shell, to Apollo. In return Apollo gave Hermes the magical Caduceus. It was said that it bestowed wisdom, wealth and prosperity to its owner by turning everything into gold.
The Caduceus had ribbons tied to it to show the speed of Hermes as he flew through the air. Thru time the ribbons were changed to serpents. The caduceus was adopted by the medical profession today.
The wood of the Hazel was used for funeral pyres.
Wands made out of Hazel has been found in many coffins of chiefs and rulers. It was a symbol of authority and wisdom. In Tara, the chief seat of kingship was built near a Hazel tree. Finn, a legendary warrior of Irish myth, had a shield made out of Hazel wood. It was said that the shield made him invincible in battle.
Hazel wood was used for divination. The divining rods or dowsing rods were made out of the Hazel. They were used to find water, treasure, thieves and murderers. According to some traditions the rod is guided by guardian pixies or the Kobolds (gnomes) of Germany. Hazel wands were popular in the practice of magic. Methods of cutting a wands was to find a tree that hasn't bore any fruit, then at sunrise on a Wednesday, cut a branch with a single stroke with a sickle. A good divining rod was said 'to sequel like a pig' when it was held under water.
An old custom in Europe was to use small flexible Hazel twigs to secure grape vines to stakes. If any goats were caught eating on the vines, then they were sacrificed to the God Bacchus on spits made out of Hazel.
Also in some parts of Europe, people wore 'wishing caps', which was caps made out of Hazel twigs weaved into a crown or cap. When worn, you could wish very hard and the crown would make all your wishes come true. Sailors also wore these wishing caps to protect them from storms at sea. The Druids also believed wearing this unique crowns could make you invisible.
Twigs of Hazel would protect a home from lightening if you placed them in the window sills of your home. Three pins of Hazel hammered into the wall would also protect your home from fire. No harm would or could penetrate a hurdle fence made from the Hazel. At Beltane and Mid-Summer, cattle were driven through bonfires and then had their backs singed with Hazel rods for protection against disease and the evil eye. The scorched rods were then used to drive the cattle the rest of the year.
The Hazel nut was just or more so Sacred than the wood itself. It was used for fortune telling. On Samhain night, two hazel nuts were given the names of lovers and then placed on burning embers. If they burn quietly and stayed side by side then they were faithful. If they cracked, spit or rolled apart then they were considered to be ill-matched and one of them was unfaithful.
Some people would string the nuts together which was thought to bring good luck and hang them in the house. Also a string of nuts were often given at weddings or handfastings to the new bridesmaid to wish her wisdom, wealth and good health. Eating the Hazel nut would also increase fertility. People who use divination would also eat the Hazel nut to increase inspiration. The nuts were wore as talismans for a healthy life gained through the wisdom that the nuts bestowed. People also carried a double Hazel nut in their pockets to use as a charm against toothaches.
An equal armed cross made from Hazel was placed upon a snake bite to draw out the poison. Kernels of the nut ground fine and mixed with mead or honeyed water was said to be good for coughs that wouldn't stop.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

At the end of Spring, awakening gnomes must pump Spring colors from underground in this colorful Harman & Ising Happy Harmonies animated fantasy. This is a workprint screening copy of one of the great cartoon classics to be shown on the Matinee at the Bijou sequel series coming soon to public television stations in HD and hosted by the great Debbie Reynolds: Visit the Bijou blog:

Monday, April 12, 2010


     To the Greeks the month of April was known as Aphrodite's month. Aphrodite was the goddess of love and beauty. In Roman mythology it was Venus that was given honor in the month of April.  It was called Aprilis, from aperire, meaning 'to open' because of the flowers and buds are opening this time of the year.
     April became the fourth month of the calendar during the time of the decemuirs, which were ten men in the Roman government who were given particular jobs. This happened about the time of 450 BC, when it was also given 29 days, which changed later to as we know it now, 30 days.
     In China, there was a symbolic ploughing of the earth by the emperor and the princess of the blood. This took place in their third month, which frequently corresponds to our April.
     St. Mark's Eve, which falls on the 24th, held a superstition belief that the ghosts of those who are doomed to die within the year will be seen to pass into the / a church.
     The Finns calls, to this day, this month Huhtikuu or "Burnwood Month", this is because wood was use in the process of beat and burn to clear farmlands for farming. We see that a lot these days, people burning their fields of weeds and brush, getting the fields ready for farming. I'm actually seeing people burning their yard, at least this is what they do around my neighbor.
     The birthstone of April is the diamond and the birth flower is either the daisy or the sweet pea.
     In the Celtic lands we go back to the celebration of Easter, which originally was a festival in honor of the goddess Eostre or Eostre. The Saxons call the month Eostur-monath after the same goddess, Eostur. Her sacred animal, of course, was the hare - the Easter bunny.
     In the 13th century a priest of Fife, Scotland was brought before the bishop for having celebrating Easter week according to the pagan rites. He had gathered together the young woman of the village and encouraged them to dance around a phallic standing stone while singing.
     On the western coast of Scotland the families would make a offering to the sea gods to send them some seaweed to fertilize their crops. 
     In Wales, families would go out into their fields to call upon the Corn Spirit for a good harvest. They would have a feast upon the fields. The feast would mostly consist of plum cake and cider. They would buried a piece of the cake and pour the cider upon the fields saying their prayers. Then they usually join hands and dance across the fields.