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Walking in the Shoes of the Ancients: The Druids of the British Isles

Written by Reverend William Saunders-Cummings

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Supernatural Creatures
Living on the Isles with both man and beast, one could find, if you look hard enough, magickal creatures. People have heard of the Leprechaun and the Dragon. But, do you know what a Fomorian or a Sidhe (pronounced SHee) is?

Dragons, to the inhabitants of the Isles, were evil monsters. They destroyed the land, rendering it sterile. Often, one can find this creature, along with serpents, as symbols for hardship and infertility. They also however, were creatures of great and powerful magick. They were the balance to the abundance of Life.

A Fomorian was an intriguing beast. According to Irish mythology, they came from the Otherworld through the Sea. One can find descriptions of them as being created from the parts of other creatures; such as a fish with legs and arms, or as humans with one eye, leg, and arm. No matter what the description, they were ugly. There is some who say the Fomorian was a cross between a Giant and a leprechaun. Interestingly enough, the Tuatha de Dananna apparently took Fomorian women as wives, and had beautiful children.

The Sidhe were actually a group of creatures. They are the Fey. Elves, in the traditional quasi-medieval fantasy style, were probably developed from the tall, regal, Otherworldly lords and ladies. Rhiannon was a Sidhe lady. Although Elves are not the only type of Sidhe congruent to the Isles. The Leprechauns, the mischievous pranksters of Eire, and Brownies, the housekeeping spirits of Scotland were also Sidhe.

But, no Sidhe is more mistaken, or misunderstood, as the bean sidhe, more commonly spelled and pronounced “banshee”. The bean sidhe wails outside a home when one of the inhabitants is near death. However, contrary to modern misconception, the “Wail of a Banshee” is not what causes death. In fact, the bean sidhe are kind creatures. They protect their charges; often, one will see a bean sidhe washing a shroud. If one sees her doing this, one should go home and burn a bee’s wax candle. If the smoke appears like a shroud, it foretells death. If it does not, it foretells a great change in the future.

Natural Creatures
Animals, in Celtic legends, are often associated with various traits. Fertility, vitality, strength, wealth, wisdom, and knowledge all had their animal representatives. Boars represent courage, strength, and wealth. Fish, especially salmon, were associated with wisdom; perhaps this is where the idea of fish being “brain food” came from, before scientific study showed it to be high in nutrients which help the brain function. Birds, especially ravens and crows, are associated with prophetic knowledge. Serpents, as mentioned above, represent trouble, of some sort or another. Domestic animals, with emphasis on Horse, cattle, and pigs, are representatives of fertility.

The Druids
When one thinks of the Druids, one often thinks of human sacrifices in monolithic circles. I hate to say this, but, if you think this, you would be wrong. They were guardians and keepers, bards and teachers, fighters and priest. Yes, there were some human sacrifices, but they were not required; only volunteers were taken, only Druids, and only after they had drunk a form of mulled wine made from Mistletoe (which, by the way, is a pain inhibitor and euphoric psychotropic) and other herbs. Primarily, though, the Druid was the keeper of life. He taught the young the lessons and stories of Magick; he advised the Old on the course of the community. He protected the forest, field, and stream from over use. He healed the sick and solemnized ceremony. When called for, he would do battle with the enemies of his community. He was the community’s father, brother, and friend.

I hope you have enjoyed this travel down the Ancient paths. In the future, we will look at other cultures’ myths, legends, and/or religions; whatever you wish to call it.

May Bran the Mighty, Math the Wise, and Pryll the Witty walk with you each day.

Rev. William Saunders-Cummings,
Augusta Open Pagan Circle

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