Wiccan Rede * Spring 1982 by Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki
The Celtic Path is our own natural heritage in the Western Mysteries. It is, like the Celts themselves, highly complex, with many interconnecting lines. Yet it is incomparably fluid and far reaching, beautiful and intricate. There is a lifetimes study in it, but the main God Forms and Archetypes are easy to contact. They are part of the very soil of Britain and the seeds of Cerridwen are still there waiting to be called forth from the depths of the Racial Soul. For Instance the “BRAN” contact, part of the legend of the Archetype tells how his head, after his death in battle, remained alive and was carried back to his native land by his companions. Every night they feasted, and the head would talk and sing with them, giving them advice and behaving as Bran would have done in real life.
The Celts have always given a lot of attention to the magical image of the Sacred Head. In the Qabalistic path this would be equated with Kether. The whole of Britain abounds with place names and allusions to Nags Heads, Kings Heads, Horses Heads etc. Pate is a common name for lanes and roads in country places, while headless horses, nuns, highwaymen and coachmen haunt many of the older houses and their surroundings. Beheading was for centuries a form of death for those who plotted against the state, and it was long the custom to display the heads on a pole above Tower Gate, while the head of Bran himself is said to have been finally buried beneath the White Tower, guarding the whole of London. While it stays there we are told Britain will be safe. I can recommend a set of books by Evangeline Walton under the title of “The Island of the Mighty”. Here you will find the Mabinogion told in fictional form and less dry than the old, more scholarly translation from the Welsh. Though if one can read it in the original, it can have a charm of its own.
Besides Bran there are a bewildering number of Celtic deities, made more so by the fact that the Celts are divided into Irish/Scottish Celts, Welsh/South-West Celts, and the Breton Celts. All had different names for the Children of Don, or Tuatha de Danaan. The Gallic Celts adopted many of the Roman Gods and mixed them happily with their own, but by virtue of being an island the Celts of Britain and Ireland kept a much purer form of their worship. This has had the effect of allowing much of their methods and rituals to come down to us in folklore and traditional celebrations. Many of their original meeting places are still held as such, some of the older inns and public houses being built on these traditional sites. As the old faith dies out they became simply places for rest and refreshment for the traveller. The number of English Inns named after the “Green Man” is legion, holding in reality a memory of Cernunnos the horned fertility God of the Celts. The Nags Head or Horses Head relates to Epona the Horse Goddess whose sacred symbols are still to be seen out into the chalk of our southern hillsides. Even today the great shire horses are decorated in memory of her. Merrie England takes on a new meaning when we realise that Merrie means enchanted or fairy-like.
To do justice to such a vast subject one needs a book, not an article and it will repay research into the traditions of the Blessed Isle.
As with the other rituals, this is a ritual in the Celtic style rather than an actual rite. They remain in the custody of those whose duty it is to guard them. This rite can be used by oneself, with two, three of four people, but no more. To do it alone requires a certain amount of courage, for it needs an outdoor setting and a moonlit night in a country place. It must be as quiet and as private as possible. A garden will do so long as you are not overlooked. Late spring, summer and early autumn are the best of times for it.
You will need salt, water, four handfuls of corn, a bottle of mead, also something from which to drink, two containers for the salt and water, something on which to lie down and some string. Robes only if you are sure of privacy. Bathe and put on clean clothing, it is a good idea to walk part of the way to your chosen site, there is something about walking through the quietness of the night towards a sacred place that enhances the whole procedure.
If working in a pair it should be man and woman, if three, two men and one woman or vice versa, if four two of each sex. Choose a clear night with as little cloud as possible, and as near full moon as you can. The intention is to unite yourself with the Celtic heritage, using four of the old God Forms to project yourself towards the fifth.
Obviously those of Celtic stock will have more of a reaction than others, but even those of a different race will feel an influx of power. When you reach your chosen place, first cut a length of string that will be sufficient to make a circle enclosing one person lying down or two lying foot tot foot, three in a Y formation of four in a cross. Place this on the ground and make sure you have all that you need with you in the circle, you don’t want to have to break it to get something you have forgotten. Lay out the rug, place the chalice with the mead in the centre. Now charge your salt and water.
Place thumb and little finger together on the right hand, keeping the three middle fingers straight. Point them all at the salt saying:
CREATURE OF EARTH I BLESS THEE, I CALL FORTH ALL EVIL FROM THEE THAT WE MAY CLEANSE THIS PLACE FOR OUR WORK. IN THE PRESENCE OF THE LIGHT THIS SALT IS CHARGED.
Do the same with the water. Tip the salt into the water and use it to sprinkle around the circle you have set out with the string. Find your compass points, if four of you, you will each take one, in the middle facing outwards. Whoever is leading the rite takes the corn and walks to the Eastern edge of the circle. Throw a handful just outside the circle saying:
CERNNUNOS OF THE SEVEN TINES, I BID THEE WELCOME. GRANT A BLESSING ON OUR WORK AND KEEP US FROM HARM.”
Walk to the south, throw another handful of corn, and say:
EPONA, WHITE MARE OF THE HILLS, I BID THEE WELCOME. GIVE A BLESSING TO OUR WORK AND KEEP US FROM INTERRUPTION.
Move to the west, and after throwing the corn, say:
MONA, SACRED COW OF THE SACRED ISLE, I BID THEE WELCOME. BRING A BLESSING TO OUR WORK AND GUARD US THIS NIGHT.
To the north, using the last of the corn:
ARTOR, GREAT BEAR, ARTHUR AND LORD OF LOGRES, PLACE A BLESSING ON OUR WORK AND GRANT US PEACE IN HEART, MIND AND BODY.
As each figure is called, it should be visualised as strongly as possible. When all this has been done the rite can start. If one person, lie down in the centre of circle extending arms and legs in the form of a cross, moving the chalice to a place between the feet. If two, lie foot to foot with the chalice between you. If three lie in a Y formation again with the chalice in the middle, four will be in a cross. If three or four extend the arms on either side taking care not to go outside the circle, not because it is dangerous, but in order not to spoil the symmetry. As you lie there in the quietness of a moonlit night, around you build up four of the great God Forms of the Blessed Isle, and above you is the fifth… the Cauldron of Cerridwen, the moon itself.
Lie quiet and calm, letting the sounds and scents of the night seep into you. Draw the air into your lungs, sifting each scent as it comes and trying to identify it. Let the earth cradle you, reaching up from beneath and holding you, its child. When the moon has reached its highest point close your eyes and think of yourself as part of a wheel, each one of you a spoke, start to spin slowly as if a giant hand were turning you. No need to feel afraid, it is like a cosmic carousel, part of the wheel of life, spinning on the soft green turf of England, a spiral such as we find cut into the ancient silent Celtic crosses. As you spin faster, you are part of all that Britain has ever been or will be, and the wheel that is YOU lifts from the earth, the Essence of your race, spinning, turning like the castle of Arianrhod, up towards the great cauldron that gleams above you. Black on the outside, but silvery white on the inside. Closer and closer until you are shedding on her. The Race Essence has been offered up to the most ancient of the Grails, to be reborn and remade.
All of Britain lies beneath you, and you are now ready to bring the Grail mystery down to spread like a blessing over it all. Far beneath you is a small circle of light, in which lie tiny figures, around the circle stand gigantic figures, the God Forms we called forth, but in their real stature. A seven-tined Stag lifting a proud head, pawing the ground as it turns it magnificent antlers from side to side. A white mare, gleaming in the moonlight, stamping a hoof and blowing clouds of white steam from her nostrils. A black and white spotted cow, most ancient of the God Forms gently cropping the grass as she waits. In the north, stands a bear, the ‘Arthur’ symbol of the race, swaying as bears do from side to side, guarding as it has always done, those of its own kind.
The figures are nearer now as we spiral down gently getting loser and closer to the earth. Gradually we feel the earth take up our weight once more. Lie quietly for a while letting the sounds and the scents return fulling up the body with their gifts. Bring the arms to the sides, gently move the body, take your time in sitting up. When you feel ready, stand up and face outwards. Take the chalice and go to the East, spill some of the mead on the ground saying:
THOU OF THE SEVEN TINES, WE THANK THEE FOR THY BLESSING AND THY PROTECTION.
WE GIVE THANKS TO THEE EPONA FOR THY BLESSING AND THE GIFT OF QUIETNESS.
MONA OF THE SACRED ISLE WE GIVE THANKS FOR THY BLESSING AND THY GUARDIANSHIP.
LORD AND ARTHUR OF BRITAIN WE GIVE THANKS FOR THY BLESSING AND THE PEACE OF OUR LAND.
Make sure you have shared the mead with all the four quarters and return to the centre, share what is left of the mead between you. Share also what you have done this night with the whole land.
Now untie the knot of the string and wind it up moving anti-clockwise, say as you go:
AS I WIND THIS CORD SO LET THE CIRCLE BE CLOSED.
Gather up your things, make sure you have left the place clean and sweet. Now you may depart, preferably after a cup of hot coffee. If this ritual is performed at regular intervals in the same place, that place will become set apart on the inner levels and become holy in its own right. You will find that it begins to welcome you when you approach it. The figures will build up very quickly and powerfully and they will have more and more of an effect on the surrounding country-side.
Of all the rituals I have given you, this is my own favourite, and one which has given me most in its performing. It has something to give that goes deeper than just the Art of Ritual.
To seek knowledge of and use only ONE tradition is to close the mind to some beautiful experiences that can show us the ways in which the old faiths kept up the links with their past. As Westerners working on our own Mysteries by all means let us develop those rituals which are ours by inheritance. But on the other hand we must also start to think of ourselves not as being of east or west but as the children of the earth. It is possible for us to use the many branches of ritual as a means whereby we may sound the Keynote of the Age of Aquarius. That Keynote is BROTHERHOOD. Unless we can do this we will be lost in a darkness of our own making.
Ritual is not a Temple with costly furnishings and robes, it is a living reality that can be used, and experienced with little or nothing in the way of aids. Even if you do build a Temple and work on it and in it there will come a day when you do not need it, when the true Temple will be found where it was right from the beginning, in the heart. When that day comes, the true magician dismantles his Temple and gives away all that he made with such trial and error to one coming after him. He then goes on unencumbered with the physical to greater heights than he thought possible when he started out.