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Why we Founded the Pagan Movement

    Tony Kelly

   Some would say it was love that saw the birth of the Pagan Movement, love for the Goddess, the Green Lady, the Earth-mother of our oldest memories and the womb wherein Time himself found his dreams.  And I couldn't say it was otherwise than this.  Yet it wasn't only this.  It was loneliness that drove my hand where my heart had ever drawn me and my head to assail the mysteries that my soul had ever known.  It was loneliness in this way: Do you know someone you love, someone beautiful, whose mind, it seems, was fashioned in the same smithy and by the same cunning hand and the same secret arts whereby your own mind was fashioned?  Do you know someone whose deepest feelings were gathered from the same deep dark forest glades wherein you gathered your own most precious yearnings in forgotten days before ever the Sun set his eyes on your face?  Do you know someone whose love play is made all of beauty and artistry and whose body exudes scents as lovely as the winds of a summer day, someone whose laughter is as bright as sunshine, whose hands are made all of beauty and deft in the magic arts and whose voice has all the wonders of the darkness and the Moon's enchantments?  And do you know another who loves this one as much as you do, and who is loved by them as you are loved?  Then such a one is your companion for they love your Love and your Love holds them as dear and your Love holds you.  When they write a love song it's as if it were your love song, and when they speak the praises of their love, they speak the praises of yours.  But if your companion is lost?  Who then will speak the praises of your love?  Who will remind you?  Who is there then to add their artistry to yours, to sing the love song you have forgotten or bear you up when others, it seems, would bear you down?  And so it it with the Earth-mother.

   Let the theologians discuss her if they will; let the atheists deny her, the agnostics ignore her, the believers believe in her and the disbelievers disbelieve.  None of these is important.  Let the logicians play with their truth tables, weight her in the balance of existence-nonexistence, and all they have in the end is the same tautology they had in the beginning.  These are outsiders.  To live among outsiders is to be an outsider oneself; and this is loneliness.  But we're not all outsiders, and the ending of loneliness is the finding again of our lost companions to share with them, and they with us, the love, the beauty and the wonder of the Goddess.  And it was for this, for her, that we made a pagan movement.

   Oh, but we were beginners then and she was all to us!  Her womb was eternity, her breast abundance, and her arms were full of stars and her heart was all of love and she taught us, in the way a mother teaches, that her other name was Being' and we saw then that there were mysteries of which, before, we knew nothing.  She is the Earth, robed in green, full-breasted in the harvest, whose womb we have known since before Time set his footsteps in the void, and to whose arms we have returned and will ever return till Time himself grow weary.  She is the priestess who weaves her enchantment in the bright green fields of Bealtaine, the dark green and golden meadows of the Harvest and Samhain's dark and dismal plains of the Winter.  And she is the pregnant vault of space herself, deep as the darkness, beautiful as the Milky Way, mysterious as the lure that first drew atom to atom impelled by an aesthetic urge and which gave the very meaning to first' and will give it as many meanings as there are mysteries.

   Oh, but we were beginners, as a baby is a beginner again, and we thought her all!  And it was a thought wherein was as much deception as there was truth (and as much truth as there was deception).  Of the God we thought little, knew less, and felt nothing at all.  Of false gods, it's true, we knew much, but still we thought little and still we felt nothing at all.  Yet, shall the baby take the sword in his hand?  Or count the days?  Or set his will where other wills would contend him?  He shall not while he is a baby.  And shall he be for ever a baby?  He shall not, for a road opens before him, a road whereon, with a mother's blessing in his heart, he would set his feet to the very end.  And to set one's feet to the very end of a path whereon there shall never be an end is a wonderful thing to do.  She is the path, and he is the walking of it; his is the excitement, hers the content; his the glory, and hers the reason why.  He is the Sun, the bright new child of Yule, the wielder of the golden spear that stands athwart the Storm Gods of Imbolg; he is the Lord of the Sky and his light is the seed of the Earth-mother's womb.  He is the priest, the joy of the Lady in Yule, the promise of a summer's bounty in the hard, cold, frozen fields of Imbolg, and leadership, inspiration, power, and the will to go on and on as the shadows shorten and the glimmering edges of the days meet hand in hand through Midsummer's fleeting nights.

   Father-mother, God-and-Goddess, weave a story that had no beginning and shall never know an end.  And shall we ask them why?  No, let's not ask them, not with the head, not with loud words, not for reasons that may be written with a pedant's pen in leaden words for the dull of understanding to read.  For if we did, it would be a lie as much as it were a truth.  Let us rather find the answer to the riddle in a lover's heart, and the reason why in the deep of the dance, for the oldest of the Old Ones is younger than the young, old as Winter, young as Spring, and the dance shall go on and on.  For lust shall be the reason of the ring, the youth shall be the father or the man and the mother shall come of a maiden's womb.

   Perfect was the cosmic egg... before time... like a thing of beauty, grander than the mountain, smaller than the firefly.

   Electricity was the warp of her dress and magnetism was the weft, and they wove together like bindweed through a summer hedgerow, like gnats in the mazy dance, and for all the beauty of her dress, she was naked and she was alluring.

   And the piper played to her, captivated by her beauty, and she danced to him, danced to his playing, and he played to the dance, and the music grew the faster and the dancing grew the wilder and the music became a tumult, the notes of his pipe rose into a cacophony and the egg was shattered.  Still faster he played and the cacophony was gone and the notes were sweet again, but an octave higher, and two there were a dancing, and still he played to her faster and still she danced to him and the two became four and the four became eight and..... and..... the allure was a myriad dancing forms and it was all for her beauty he played on his pipe and all for the lilt of his pipe she danced to him.....

   And it's springtime and the Earth is in her calling mood, all green and fragrant and decked with flowers, and here is the May Queen, green-gowned and lovely, priestess and beloved of the Maiden Earth, dancing in the ring and calling with her may scents across the grass and across the flowers of the May, and the sound of the pipe is in the air and it's full of the wild music and the magic of the forest, and here is the Lord of the Greenwood before her, naked as the wild ones, the glint of the Sun upon the tips of his horns and all the lust of the forest in his loins.  No mother she is now, but a lover; no father is he, but a lover's swain.  And, for I am a man and feel as a man and write as my feelings guide my hand, it is to her, to the Goddess, to the Queen of the May, that all my love and my lust goes out, and the priestess is one with the maytide hills and she casts her green gown wide about her, and my name is one with the wind.

   And when the Goddess is old and haggard?  What of November when her hair is grey, when her bones are bare and the leaves are falling grey and sodden about her?  Who will love her then?  Old Hag of the hollow breasts and the withered arms, of the eyes that look only inward, of the empty hand, of the grasping claws that would take all, for only all will sate her...  We could not leave her if we would, and would not if we could, for as the tongue forever returns to the aching tooth and grief to the very source of pain, the plight of a Goddess bereft of her all is a pain we have no will to put aside.  She is fear, horror, abject despair and the withering of all hope; she is the pit out of which all that is lovely has fled and out of which meaning itself was dug.

   Have I told you, by hints and by allusions, that the gods are five?  Six would be nearer the count.  But no one will ever tell you of the one I haven't for the telling would be a lie to the hearer.  And of the One Supreme God above them all?  Show me such a One, and I'll show you an imposter!

   If paganism is a religion of poetry, of wonder and of beauty, it is also a religion of truth: love the loveable, hate the hateful, and scorn hypocrisy.  Here are our ethics:

               Have your will and let none stand against you.
               Give others theirs and let none stand against them.
               Let your youth be neither slave nor robber of your age.
               Neither withhold your counsel from those who are young
               Nor burden them with the wisdom of your years.
               When will would thrust against other will
               The yielding shall be rational, and equal, and least.
                  Lovely in the heart of Mabh your gladness
                  And hateful in her breast your pain.

   Our worship is of beauty, in song and poetry, in meaning and discovery, and in the rites of hearth and hill.  We meet in the wild rites: in the bright new fields of the May, in the bounty and the warm days of the Harvest, and in the cold and windy fields of Samhain; and again in Yule for the Light of all her Land.  We meet in Imbolg for the conferring of the precious gifts, and in the magic of Midsummer's day and night.  The floor of our temple is the rolling plain, the pillars are the greenwood trees and our roof is the open sky.  Come Sun, come Moon, come wind and rain, come hail and sleet or snow, there in the heat of the day or there in the eye of the blizzard, are we and the gods.  Am I cold?  I am the cold.  Is the rain pouring down?  I am the rain.  I am the rush of the river, the noise of the storm, the heat of the sunshine, the lust of the May.  And the priestess of Mab the Beautiful, dancing there with the girdle of hawthorn leaves...  Will I remember her when she is old and the leaves are falling and she bears the elder wand and her girdle is of bones all whitened on the rain-lashed hills?  Yes, I'll remember, for she is closer than breath and the dance must go on and on.



                             ME    :   Tony Kelly

   I have given what might loosely be called a proof of reincarnation which doesn't depend on arbitrary belief or on the dubious interpretation of supposed memories.  Summarising it: I'm alive and aware now and might be expected to be in this state of being alive and aware for something like an average lifetime before I die.  Now if I first came into existence at the beginning of this life, and if when I die I cease to exist for ever after, it's remarkable that, of all the vast stretch of time from the remote past to the immensely distant future, during most of which I have no existence at all, the present moment of time by sheer chance falls in the tiny period during which I am actually alive and aware.  It's so improbable a chance, in fact, that it can be rejected.  So the fact that I am actually alive and aware now in the face of this extreme improbability means that I must also have been alive and aware during the infinite past, and will also be alive and aware during the infinite future.

   But who am I who am eternal?  And what in fact is proved or disproved?  What is disproved are all possibilities in which there is any special or unique change.  An actual time of coming into being would be a special change as would be a time of ceasing to exist for ever after; so too would be a change involving the escape from a cyclic existence into ‘a state of perfection’ (whatever that might mean) or into a state or unstate called Nirvana' (whatever that might mean).  All such changes would be special, or indeed unique, and so they can't occur within a finite time from the present moment, which is the same as saying that they can't occur at all.  So my present life must be an essentially unspecial life in a series of unspecial lives.  This is not to say each life is identical with others, or that all lives have been or will be in human form, but rather, that no life in the infinite series of lives could be picked out as being in any way specially different.  Of course I might, let's say for the moment, have been a king or a queen in a past life, or a beggar, or a rattlesnake, or a fly or a gooseberry bush, but all these are essentially variations on a theme, a continuous evolutionary chain all the way from an atom and what went before to what I am now.  None of them requires a sudden break; no point in the chain or chains is a special point.  So let's look back into history.....  Who is that queen who emerges from the mists of the past?  Was that me?  Or what of the beggar at the town walls?  Was that me instead?  What if I were both the queen and the beggar at her walls?  Was I the fly that bit the beggar's nose?  Or was I the whole swarm of flies?

   Let's not become entangled looking for answers to these questions (There probably aren't any) but let's think about the questions which are far more interesting than any hypothetical answers.  If I have any special connection with a particular person, creature or gooseberry bush in the past, I know nothing of this connection, not in all the infinite past.  Will I sometime in a future life perhaps acquire a memory of my past lives?  No, I won't, because if at some time in the future I were to begin to remember my past lives and had not done so before, this would be a ‘special’ change, a unique event, and a change which is special or unique may not occur within a finite time from any specified time, such as the present.  So there is nobody in the past, human or otherwise, with whom I can identify myself, and nobody in the future who will identify themself with me.  Those people, those creatures, of the past were not me, and the creatures who people the future will not be me.  Yet, I've shown (and summarised the argument above) that I live and am aware for all time.  So how should we resolve this apparent contradiction?

   Let's suppose there is a lake and a wind upon it, and the wind makes waves on the surface of the lake.  We see a wave travelling the surface, reaching the shore, and finally vanishing into the shingle of the lakeside.  We look again and see many more waves travelling the lake surface towards the shingle shore.  Which of these new waves is the re-enactment of the wave that previously perished on the shore?  It isn't a sensible question, is it?  No particular wave now corresponds with any particular wave in the past or with any particular wave in the future.  Each wave lives for only a few moments on that shimmering surface.  But the water that spilt onto the shingle shore is nevertheless there again in the lake and is still coming in waves on the surface.  The waving is as old as the lake; but the individual waves and their individual identities are ephemera in the unchanging and everchanging flux.

   Waves on the lake are objective things that I can look at, point to, think about and feel about.  But what if I were a wave?  Which one would I be?  Not the one that had died on the shingle shore; not the ones yet to be raised by the passing wind.  No, I'd be one that was coming now over that surface.  Now?  How long is now?  All time is fictitious except now.  ‘Now’ is the only time in which I have ever lived.  And how, as a wave on that surface, would I know I was travelling?  It would look for all the world as though I was still, and all around me was flux.  I see other waves, always the same distance in front of me or the same distance behind; I give them names, and call them ‘them’ or ‘they’ as the occasion demands.  Now and again, a reed is growing up through the water or the rocky outline of the shore juts into the lake and the waves are reflected, and then we encounter each other and I interact with you; that's how I learned that your name was ‘you’.  But I remain unchanged.  True, you saw me as I bounced off that rock and said I changed, but I saw you change then; I'm still me, aren't I?

   I don't want to push that analogy too far; just so far as to make it meaningful when I say that you live and die, but that I endure for always, and what you might say are changes in me, I experience as changes in you and in them (Do help yourself to the pronouns you need!)

   Many years ago, intrigued by who I was, I tried to track myself down through meditation, discarding all that was not me until I arrived at the ultimate point of myself.  I failed.  I didn't at that time learn anything from that failure, thinking that it probably needed some technique I didn't then know about.  But there was another possible reason for my failure which I didn't then consider, namely: that I am not a point.  Even if I pretend that I am a dweller within my body, and even if I can imagine that I am more in some location than in another (more in my head than in my heel for instance) the more I try to pin down a point where I am, the more I realise I am the watcher of the point, or the watcher of the watcher, or..... all the way to the last term of that infinite series, and the watcher of that last term, and the watcher of the watcher, and..... (That's not rational; I only did it to show you that, even if it were, it would still be nonsense).  I'm neither definable, observable, nor spatial.

   Take a look at a newspaper photograph of somebody smiling and cover up most of the picture until all that's left is the smile, still recognisable as a smile.  Now cover up some more of it.  Has the smile gone?  Then it must be in the bit you've covered up, mustn't it?  So uncover that bit, and cover up the other bit instead.  Has it gone again?  So it seems the smile must be in two parts.  But if this were so, covering up one part would leave the other still on show.  No, the smile is not in two parts or many parts, but rather it hasn't a precise location; it's the very concept of ‘position’ which is suspect.  Let's take this further and look at the newspaper under a magnifying glass to try to discover the very essence of ‘face' or ‘expression';  wherever we look, we see nothing except black dots of various sizes, and not one of those dots shows us anything at all of face' or of expression'.  But as we stand back from the picture and look not at one, but two, three, four... hundreds... of dots we find more and more that we gain the feeling of ‘face' or ‘expression'.  We can even draw boundaries, more or less accurately, in the photograph saying which parts of the picture contribute to ‘face' or ‘expression' and which to something else such as background.  But we can't pinpoint it, and the reason we can't pinpoint it is precisely and significantly because it isn't a pinpoint.  Neither am I (Take care with the pronoun!)

   Instead of thinking about a newspaper photograph, let's think about ourselves.  I feel that a lot of me is associated with my head, and a bit of knowledge of anatomy would ascribe this to my brain rather than to the outer shell.  I'm a collection of memories, many of which, no longer available to conscious recall, contribute to my feeling of identity.  These memories, both conscious and unconscious, are stored in my brain.  Now suppose part of my brain is damaged, say by a blow to the head or by an electrical discharge such as might be administered in electro-convulsive therapy.  Depending on which bits of brain are damaged we might expect certain memories to be obliterated and others to remain intact.  But what actually happens is that there's general confusion, some memories do vanish for a time, but then reappear.  So particular memories are not stored in particular places but are spread throughout the brain rather like a smile in a newspaper photograph is spread throughout some dots.  Getting rid of some of the dots more or less randomly over the picture doesn't either eliminate or miss the smile; it makes the whole smile less certain or clear.  So too, damaging or altering brain cells doesn't specifically destroy or miss particular memories, but rather renders the whole memory less certain or clear.  Now it's obvious that if I try to locate myself at a point I must necessarily fail because I'm not a point but a pattern.

   However, let's not overrate the brain, which in some respects resembles a calculator.  A lot of my experience is spread all over me, which is obvious when, for instance, I have a pain in the guts or feel seasick or, in the other extreme, when someone is writing runes of magic with her fingers all over my skin.  Then I'm an all-pervading feeling.

   Am I only my body (and all its thoughts and feelings) though?  Consider learning to ride a bike.  At first, it's an awkward machine; its control demands all my attention, and even then with all my attention on it, progress is a series of mishaps.  But after a time the bike is so much a part of my body that I can ride without giving it any conscious attention at all.  Learning to use legs was the same.  How about becoming familiar with an artificial limb?  Or with an implanted organ?  Or an electronic pace-setter?  Or mind-changing drugs?  How much of this is me, and how much not me?

   Let's suppose we built a robot capable of many of the things we do.  Let's suppose we included in its programs the ability to construct more robots out of raw materials (such as copper, gold, silicon and other such delicacies) and let's suppose we set one or two of these robots loose somewhere.  They would, of course, use their facilities to discover sources of their raw materials and means of maintaining and renewing their power supplies.  Let's suppose these robots were not quite perfect so that, sometimes, when they put a new robot together, there was an error in the new robot.  Most of these errors would mean that the new robot would be a write-off, but every now and again the result would be an accidental improvement on the original pattern.  Now let's suppose that these robots made so many replicas and near-replicas of themselves that they ran low on raw materials.  They would now compete with each other for what was available, and many would be destroyed in the competition.  A few would have the advantage when an error in their making had been an improvement on the original, and these would tend to win the battles for resources, so that the originals would soon be eliminated, and then the next in their turn as ever-better robots got the upper hand in the battle for materials or energy.  Every trick, every new strength, every new power of artificial intelligence which cropped up by accident in the errors and was thereafter perpetuated would gradually become characteristic of the evolving robot society.  Even group strategies and alliances would evolve.  These metal and silicon things would be behaviourally indistinguishable from people and would even fight us if we threatened their survival (actively or passively).  Would they be conscious' (whatever that means)?  Would they be aware?  When they sent their first space ship off to explore the planets or even the stars, would we still say "They're only bits of metal and silicon"?  We might even have to negotiate peace treaties with them (since it would be, perhaps, to our mutual advantage).  Would they be sentient?

   Now, suppose I did this experiment with carbon and hydrogen and oxygen and phosphorus and suchlike instead?  Would the results be sentient?  Am I?  I am, but I don't know about you (Take care with the pronouns!)

   Let's think about familiar organic things again.  Consider the tiny one-celled animal called an amoeba.  When an amoeba divides into two (as they are wont to do) who is who after the division?  And if I were an amoeba how would I experience the change, and which of the two daughter cells would I be, and who would be the other one?  Now it's a deep mystery (which I haven't unravelled) that after the experience I am still only one amoeba, and I know the other one as you, or as her.

   Now we're not very different from these creatures except in size and complexity.  Whatever processes and events have led to my being alive and aware now in this, my present style, and however this style will come to an end, the result, for me, will be and can only be me.  And it has always been me for ten thousand million years and more.  And however the atoms are mixed and re-organised, whatever the patterns that were made, the mixing was always... absolutely always... in the past.



Cold was the Yuletide morning as we went with the priestess to the ring of stones, to the womb of our beloved Earth. Not for long she lay there on her bracken bed, and a change there was in the clouds that stood on the hills. The lips of her cunt were parting and a shaft of light reached out of the Earth. Slowly, in the rhythm of the ages, she brought the Little One out of her beloved body. Strong grew the light as he stood on the hills and cast merry eyes on the sparkling frost.

  And when the forty days had passed and the Sun was come of age we met again in the Rite of Imbolg, and Idris was priest of the Sun and Rhona priestess of our mother Earth. And she took him to an area of cultivated ground that stretched before us in brown ridges and white snowy hollows, in bare stones and frozen soil, and she said to him:

As thou, O Pahh, be the son of Pahh,
And my children hunger at my breast,
Dost thou make these stones to be bread?>
And he said to her:>
Even as I love thee, Mabh, for thee and all
thy children shall these stones yield thee roots
and golden corn and sweet fruits in all abundance.

And our hearts swelled in awe and a song was on our lips, a song to our beloved Earth:

Proud, the Sun adore thee,
Fiery, fierce and free;
Born to stride in glory,
Blazing gold for thee.
Wax more strong, more mighty,
Gleam the spear he'll wield;
Wrought that he delight thee,
Forest, fen and field.>
Father of thy forest,
Wide his seed is sown,
E'er for thee, O Goddess,
Thee, and all thine own.

Now the maiden Earth grew wistful in her longing and the May scents flowed about her, and here was her priestess Merian, green-clad and beautiful and dancing in the ring of stones; dancing... dancing... where the sacred cunt of the fecund Earth was calling her maytide love; and far and far she cast her gown of green as, naked as a flower before the wind she danced:

By fiery Sun and wind and rain and Earth,
By the plains and the greenwood growing,
By valley cool and by rock and pool,
And by river swiftly flowing,
By cloud and sky and night and day she bound,
And her eyes all aglow and alluring.
By ling and furze ... Mighty Brirn was hers!
And her love near past enduring .....

And naked he came over the Maytide grass with the glint of the Sun on his horns and all the lust of the forest in his loins. And there in the grass, in the wind and the clover, was the Lord of the Forest wedded to the Queen of the May. We danced around in the pulsing rhythm, that her womb bear a Sun anew, and we threw flowers in her lap to adorn her blessed nakedness, and leaves for her lusty swain.>
And then came Midsummer with the grasses all aflower and the Scorpion's tail hanging low in the southern sky. And here is the Lord of the greenwood, Horned God of all the forest, Lord of the moors and the wild roaming wind. Summers beyond counting he bore on his brow and his loins sowed the seeds of unnumbered Springs. Hawthorn scents... And midnight magic... The lilt of the wild pipe, the rhythm of our Green Lady Earth, and the Sun in all his summer glory!>
  And so to Harvest in the warm days of September, and here is our priestess Rhona, her gown as green as the summer forest and her breasts hanging lovely in their nakedness and her arms full of apples, all coloured green and red. And in the evening, in sacred communion we went in alone to her in the field beneath the harvest Moon, into her bower made of willow wood and bound about with bracken and with green things and scented of the wild woodland mosses. Full-breasted Earth-mother she was and she sang to us of summer evenings and warm skies, and her hands were gentle and her eyes were full of mysteries, sparkling, darkly, in the soft light of her lamp as her hands stroked her love and her scents flowed so warmly about her in that green haven of the night.

But the cold winds came in November and 'twere a pity then to see the gods; and in the rain we met them by the cold November stones:

Sad now thou lookest, O Queen of my heart.
Sad now I see thee; more sad do we part.
Gay was thy face when the wood sorrel shone,
Garlanded then with the blooms that are gone .....>
Wan, hollow-breasted, sweet waif of the storm,
Would I could aid thee, but hope lies forlorn.
Spent all thy laughter and sped all my cheer,
Spilt where thou die'st in the pit of the year .....>
Bare-boned thou liest. What yet might'st thou bring?
Bent-backed in secret: the necklace of Spring!
Call I thy love-name, O Queen, blessed Earth.
Cold though thou lie'st yet, sweet thou'lt give birth.

The days darkened until the night before Yule when the old Sun trod his last on the low wintry way behind the naked boughs. A weariness was come upon the priestess, and sweet she lay in her earth-coloured bed. One leant over and spoke to her, "Blessed be the fruit of thy womb, beloved Earth," and another spoke to her, "Blessed be the child that you bear, dear Mabh," and many were the words that bore our love ere we kissed those holy lips. And we sang her the Holy Night:

Lovely Queen; holy Queen;
Lies she still, her cloak of green,
Sequinned all over with frost sparkling bright,
Peaceful and vast 'neath the silver starlight.
Stirs the child in her womb;
Stirs in the deep of her womb.

And next day she brought the Little One forth, and Idris was naked in the bed before her. "Pahh, I name thee, O my Little One," she said, and she put the red robe about him, a light in his hand and a mother's blessing in his heart:

Straight willed shall be thy part;
Fell, deft shall be thy hand,
O heat of all my heart!
O light of all my land!

And as we told of the deeds we would accomplish in the coming year and threw our fragments of bark upon the flames, we spoke as one voice together:

Let my will grow strong as the fiery King
Who shall stride in the blue roads above!
Let my heart belong where our friends shall spring
To the work of our Earth-mother's love!


The First Emergence of Spring

Tony Kelly: (from Ethos Group Newsletter , 1983)

The Goddess loosens the clasp of Winter about her throat, and the hazel catkins tumble out like the tresses of a young lady when she's in a mood to play.  Oh, but her play is subtle, and all around as far as the eye can see, her dress is but of the Winter still.  But wait!  Look!  She decks herself in purple jewels, so dark you'd think she gathered them out of the night itself; and she's set them in her subtle art all upon the bare branches of the alder trees.  And under the alders the grass is green and fresh and the fine young leaves of her greensward bosom thrust aside the old cloak of beech leaves that she left by the wayside when she walked the autumn road.  Look closely to see her jewels or, if you're not in a mood to look at all, then even so, though you see nothing at all that the eye will speak of, there's that in the air, and close to the earth, that wasn't in the air before.  Too subtle for a scent, too young and fresh for a memory, it seems like the first dance of Spring.  But there's time enough yet for hail or snow or wind and ice, and let the Dancer weave the shape of the dance.  Rain is the warp of her dancing dress and the weft is the rushing stream, and all around she dances in the rain-splashed puddles, caresses in her soft wet hands, and darts away then into the thick mists that lie like an enchantment over the land.


What is Imbolg in Nature? : Tony Kelly

[From the Ethos Group Discussion Papers]

Yule is the birth of the New Sun while Midsummer is his culmination and both events have a precise time and can be timed with astronomical precision. They're events of minimum light and maximum light respectively. The Earth rites of Bealtaine and Samhain in May and November are older and more diffuse; they come from the events and moods of the Earth, the burgeoning of life and sexuality in May and the dying and decay of November. The Harvest Rite too is old, though not as old as the May Rite or Samhain, and is a time of fruitfulness, often identified with Lughnasadh on 1 August, though in fact it varies with the crop and from place to place. But what of Imbolg or 1 February?

A glance at a temperature graph throughout the year will show that the coldest months are January and February and they're about equally cold, which means the coldest day is, on average, in the middle of the period, which is 1 February, and unlike the other Earth rites, this one is the same irrespective of locality all over the northern hemisphere. The Earth is at her coldest though the the Light is growing. It's not, of course, a celebration of the Earth being so cold, but of the Sun at last grown strong enough to chase the cold from the Earth and warm her. It's an occasion not of the growing light of the Sun, but of his growing heat, and the consequent warming of the Earth who is grown young again. How shall we share in this event, or in this process, since it's not a precisely defined date but a period subject to the wiles of the weather?

Yule, or the Winter Solstice, occurs on 21 or 22 December, varying a little from one year to another. From the occasion of Yule to 1 February is, as exactly as we can estimate it, 40 days. And 40 is a number of rather widespread traditional significance. My first thoughts turned immediately to Jesus' forty days in the wilderness after his baptism. Christian mythology is particularly strong in the period from Yule to Imbolg, though it becomes confused thereafter. In the Yule Rite I wrote: "... for the westering star had come to his rest." Traditionally, the resting place of the Star was over the town of Bethlehem, and a carol has it: "We three kings of Orient are / Bearing gifts. We travel so far; / Field and fountain, / Moor and mountain, / Following yonder Star." And the chorus goes: "O Star of wonder, Star of light, / Star of royal beauty bright, / Westward leading, / Still proceeding, / Guide us by thy perfect light!" A lot hinges on the meaning of the word Star', and speculation has ranged from a conjunction of the major planets to a flying saucer. It's quite likely that Star' does in fact mean Star', quite literally, but a rather special star, namely, the Sun. Who of the stellar host more deserves the description, "Star of royal beauty bright" The adjective royal' virtually identifies the King. Notice too that the Star travelled consistently westward, which is the diurnal arc of the Sun in the sky. And lastly, notice that the Star came to rest precisely over the birth place of the baby. At Midsummer the Sun sets in the north-west. Next day, his setting is slightly advanced along the horizon towards the south, and next day slightly more advanced, and so on, until by the Autumn Equinox he sets due west. Thereafter he sets a little to the south of west, moving more southerly each time. At first, his movement along the horizon is quite rapid after the Equinox, but his progress becomes gradually slower until in the days before Yule he is hardly moving at all. And then at Yule his movement comes to an end; he stands still for an instant, and then, at first very slowly, begins to move northward along the horizon again. So the Star's coming to rest over Bethlehem is an allusion to the Sun's setting place coming to rest at the point from which the new year's Sun will begin to move his setting place further to the north again.

But it's many days before the New Sun is strong enough to warm the Earth, and in fact it isn't until Imbolg that he begins to give her new heat as fast as she is losing the remnant of the heat of the Old Sun. And thus is it said that Jesus wandered for forty days in the wilderness before he knew his work. And who is the Wilderness? You don't need me to tell you her name.

The period of forty days occurs again, though very confusedly, in the story of Noah, and Jesus is described in a genealogical table is descended from Noe, which is probably an alternative spelling of Noah (Jesus' father was Joseph, both names cognate with Yahweh, and Joseph was the son of Heli, whom I feel tempted to equate with Helios, the Greek Sun-god; there are many of his progenitors with names like Mathias, which means gift of God' or, I would suggest, New Sun'; and I'm wondering too if we can see the same in Math ap Mathonwy in the Mabinogion). I wonder if the story of Noah and the Ark is an allusion to the Night-boat of Ra, the Sun-god. Rather speculatively, I wonder if we might equate the name of Noah, or Noe, with the Arabic Noor' which means light' and hence, again, an epithet of the Sun. And carrying speculation yet farther, can we equate these epithets of the Sun with Nod, or Nudd (Gwlad ap Nudd, the Land of Nod) as the fallen Sun?

Again, there is the story of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves' from the Arabian Nights. Baba' means Father' and who were the forty thieves? Who other than the forty days after the birth of the New Sun while the Earth is still growing colder? And where sesame seed is a the staple food, what better magic could there be from the Sun-father than "Open sesame!"

Jesus' forty days in the wilderness come after his baptism, which was a rite of immersion. I suspect that the rite is symbolic of birth and emergence from the amniotic fluid of the womb. This would certainly suggest a parallel with the Night-boat of Ra, and with an Indian custom whereby, if a man is declared dead and later found to be alive, he is nevertheless officially still dead' until he has spent a day in a tub of greasy water, symbolising his rebirth. Jesus' baptism, then, suggests the birth of the New Sun from the womb of the Earth, immediately followed by forty days of apparent inactivity.

Your reference to Bridget, Frank, prompted me to look up Proinsias MacCana's Celtic Mythology. His words are worth quoting:

Her (Minerva’s) nearest counterpart in insular tradition is the goddess Brighid, of whom it is said in Cormac’s Glossary (c. 900) that she was expert in filidhecht, in other words poetry and traditional learning in general as well as divination and prophecy, and was worshipped by the filidh. By the same account, she was daughter of the Daghdha and had two sisters also named Brighid, the one associated with healing and the other with the smith’s craft, and from this common name among all the Irish a goddess used to be called Brighid’. As regards function, therefore, Brighid was patroness of poetry and learning, of healing and of craftsmanship, and, as regards status, such was her prestige that her name could be used as a synonym for goddess’.
But paradoxically, it is in the person of her Christian namesake St Brighid that the pagan goddess survives best. For if the historical element on the legend of St Brighid is slight, the mythological element is correspondingly extensive, and it is clear beyond question that the saint has usurped the role of the goddess and much of her mythological tradition.
The saint’s life infers a close connection with livestock and the produce of the earth. Appropriately, her feast-day, 1 February, coincides with Imbolg, the pagan festival of spring; even today it is still the occasion of various popular and patently un-Christian rituals.
She was born, we are told, at sunrise neither within nor without a house, is fed from the milk of a white, red-eared cow (that is, by Irish usage, a supernatural cow), hangs her wet cloak on the rays of the sun, and the house in which she is staying appears to onlookers to be all ablaze. According to Giraldus Cambrensis she and nineteen of her nuns took turns in guarding a sacred fire which burned perpetually and was surrounded by a hedge within which no male might enter.....
The name Brighid was originally an epithet meaning the exalted one’, just as its cognate brihat was used as a divine epithet in Vedic Sanskrit, and this perhaps gives point to Cormac’s remark quoted above that among all the Irish a goddess used to be called Brighid’..... she gives her name to rivers: the Brighid is Ireland, the Braint in Wales and the Brent in England..... She is, at all events, one of the principal goddesses of the Celts.”

The first paragraph leaves me cold, but the rest of it is very interesting indeed; There's no doubt that the sacred fire that was guarded is the Sun. I can't find an exact equivalent of brihat in my Sanskrit dictionary, but there are certainly some very close equivalents, namely: brihana (fattening), brihata (lofty), brihati (to increase, to rear), and there is brihaspati, composed of briha' and pati' meaning Lord of Devotion' (pati' is owner'). The meaning to increase' is particularly interesting. I don't know the origin of the epithet and the dictionary isn't helpful. I wondered about the English word bright', but the dictionary traces it back eventually to an Aryan bhrag', which I think an unlikely origin. Another possibility is broad', but the etymology goes back only as far as Old English, which isn't helpful. The pronunciation of Brighid is like the English word Breed', the gh' being silent, though it could possibly be pronounced as an h', but never as a g'. It's a familiar process whereby the sound of g' is gradually lost, via y' in English and, apparently, via h' in Irish and Sanskrit.

I wonder about the identity of the three kings from the Orient who attended the birth of Jesus, and the threefold Brighid. The kings bore gifts of gold, Frankincense, and myrrh. Gold is a suitable gift for a King and the emblem of the Sun. Frankincense is "an aromatic gum for burning as incense", while myrrh is "a gum resin used in perfumery and medicine, and in incense." How do these compare with Brighid and her two sisters of the same name, the one an expert in poetry and learning, divination and prophecy, another with healing, and the other with the smith's craft?

My own first feelings about Imbolg arose while writing the Yule Rite. The Old Sun laid his powers at the feet of the Hag, and the Black Queen gathered them up into the night, not as a marauder with predatory intent, but with tenderness for their safe keeping. The inevitable sequel will be her presenting them as a coming-of-age endowment to the New Sun. This, clearly, can't be a part of Yule for the New Sun's rule doesn't extend as yet beyond the cradle. So he receives his gifts from the Queen at Imbolg, and thereafer strides forth to forge a Summer. This is the central idea around which I want to build an Imbolg rite. The problem is to dramatise the event and provide a scene to sustain a sentiment. Perhaps you too, whoever you are, would like to try and develop the idea?

For further information, I recommend the following pasages from the New Testament of the Christian Bible, namely, Matthew 3,13-17, Matthew 4,1-3, 5-6, 8-9, Luke 3,23, Luke 4,1-3, 5-7, 13 and Mark 1,9-13 (though Mark gives very little). Bear in mind that those passages (as others) have been severely edited. Abrupt changes of subject indicate deletions, and the dialogue has been doctored' rather in the way that radio reporters record interviews, and then replace the questions they asked on the tape with substitute questions. In the case of the story of Jesus, it's the other way round. And I wonder about the sex of the devil in the original texts...


The Holly and the Ivy

Adapted by
  Tony Kelly

                     The holly and the ivy
                     When they are both full grown,
                     Of all the trees that are in the wood
                     The holly bears the crown.

                        The rising of the Sun
                        And the running of the deer,
                        The twining of the ivy and the
                        Crying of the bright new year.

                     The holly and the ivy
                     And the lying of the Earth,
                     The yielding of the blessed womb and
                     The giving of the birth.

                        The rising of the Sun .........

                     The holly and the ivy
                     And the glowing of the red,
                     The blazing of the berries and the
                     Shining of the golden head.

                        The rising of the Sun .........

                     The holly and the ivy
                     And the glowing of the green,
                     The warming of our blessed Lady
                     And the flowing of the stream.

                        The rising of the Sun .........

                     The holly and the ivy,
                     All the red and all the green,
                     Great Father Sun and sweet Mother Earth,
                     Ever blessed King and Queen.

                        The rising of the Sun
                        And the running of the deer,
                        The twining of the ivy and the
                        Crying of the bright new year.