Celticsprite’s Blog


Celtic Symbolism: The Gaulish Lunisolar Calendar – Lunar Influences and System Properties
August 31, 2011, 6:23 pm
Filed under: Celtic Symbolism
The continental Celtic calendar as reconstructed from the calendars of :

1- Coligny

2-Villards d’Heria

1- The Gaulish Coligny calendar was found in Coligny, Ain, France (46°23′N 5°21′E) near Lyon in 1897, along with the head of a bronze statue of a youthful male figure. It is a lunisolar calendar. It is now held at the Gallo-Roman Museum of Lyon.

It was engraved on a bronze tablet, preserved in 73 fragments, that originally was 1.48 m wide and 0.9 m high. It is written in Latin inscriptional capitals, and is in the Gaulish language . The restored tablet contains sixteen vertical columns, with 62 months distributed over five years.

Overview of the re-assembled tablet

2- The Villards d’Heria is a similar calendar, found nearby at Villards d’Heria (46°25′N 5°44′E) is only preserved in eight small fragments. It is now preserved in the Musée d’Archéologie du Jura at Lons-le-Saunier.

The Lunar Influence On The Calendar Format

The Coligny Calendar is an attempt to reconcile both the cycles of the moon and sun, as is the modern Gregorian calendar. However, the Coligny calendar considers the phases of the moon to be important, and each month always begins with the same moon phase. The calendar uses a mathematical arrangement to keep a normal 12 month calendar in sync with the moon and keeps the whole system in sync by adding an intercalary month every 2½ years.

The Coligny calendar registers a five-year cycle of 62 lunar months, divided into a “bright” and a “dark” fortnight (or half a moon cycle) each. The months were possibly taken to begin at full moon, and a 13th intercalary month was added every two and a half years to align the lunations with the solar year.

The astronomical format of the calendar year that the Coligny calendar represents may well be far older, as calendars are usually even more conservative than rites and cults. The date of its inception is unknown, but correspondences of Insular Celtic and Continental Celtic calendars suggest that some early form may date to Proto-Celtic times, roughly 800 B.C.E. The Coligny calendar achieves a complex synchronization of the solar and lunar months. Whether it does this for philosophical or practical reasons, it points to considerable degree of sophistication.

The Calendary System Properties

It was a lunisolar calendar, attempting to synchronize the solar year and the lunar month.

  • The months were lunar. Scholars disagree as to whether the start of the month was the new moon or the full moon, or per Pliny and Tacitus perhaps even the First Quarter.
  • The common lunar year contained 354 or 355 days.
  • The calendar year began with Samonios, which is usually assumed to correspond to Old Irish Samhain, giving an autumn start to the year. However, as Samon is Gaulish for summer (Lambert p. 112), this assumed start is disputed. Le Contel and Verdier (1997) argue for a summer solstice start of the year. Monard (1999) argues for an autumn equinox start. Bonsing (2007) argues for a May beginning consistent with Irish Beltaine, and Fennian literature, notably Joyce (2000).
  • The entry TRINOX[tion] SAMO[nii] SINDIV “three-nights of Samonios today”) on the 17th of Samonios suggests that, like the Irish festival of Samhain, it lasted for three nights. The phrase *trinoxtion Samonii is comparable to a Gaulish festival mentioned in a 1st century AD Latin inscription from Limoges, France, which mentions a “10 night festival (*decamnoctiacon) of (Apollo) Grannus” (POSTVMVS DV[M]NORIGIS F(ILIVS) VERG(OBRETVS) AQVAM MARTIAM DECAMNOCTIACIS GRANNI D[E] S[VA] P[ECVNIA] D[EDIT] )[4]
  • the solar year was approximated by the insertion of a 13th intercalary month every two and a half years (unlike the Islamic calendar, where the calendar year keeps shifting in relation to the solar year). The additional months were intercalated before Samonios in the first year, and between Cutios and Giamonios in the third year. The name of the first intercalary month is not known with certainty, the text being fragmentary; the second intercalary month is Ciallos bis Sonnocingos (Lambert p. 116)
  • The months were divided into two halves, the beginning of the second half marked with the term atenoux or “renewal”[5] (cf. Old Irish athnugud “renewal”). The basic unit of the Celtic calendar was thus the fortnight or half-month, as is also suggested in traces in Celtic folklore. The first half was always 15 days, the second half either 14 or 15 days on alternate months (similar to Hindu calendars).
  • Months of 30 days were marked matus, lucky. Months of 29 days were marked anmatus, unlucky.
  • A simple five year cycle would be insufficiently accurate; the sequence of intercalary months is completed every thirty years, after five cycles of 62 lunations with two intercalary months each, and one cycle of 61 lunations, with a single intercalary month, or after a total of 11 intercalary months. This assumes that there are exactly 371 lunations in 30 years, which is accurate to a one day every 20 or 21 years on average (this is less accurate than the Julian calendar, which shifts a day in about 130 years, but which ignores lunar months). It may be assumed that the “30 years cycle” was not prescriptive, and that an extra month would have been omitted as the need arose (i.e. some 300 years after the calendar’s inception).


Britain’s Landscape Symbols and Mysteries: The Standing Stones of Mên-an-Tol
August 29, 2011, 5:15 pm
Filed under: Celtic Culture, Celtic Symbolism



The Lands End peninsula is home to one of the most extraordinary standing stones in Europe: the “Mên-an-Tol” (also Men an Toll), a sm
all formation of standing stones near the Madron-Morvah road in Penwith, Cornwall, United Kingdom (grid reference SW426349). It is about 3 miles north west of Madron. It is also known locally as the “Crick Stone” (reputation for curing back problems), “Stone with the Hole”or ‘The Devil’s Eye’ .

The name Mên-an-Tol is Cornish Language, literally meaning “the hole stone”. It consists of three upright granite stones: a round stone with its middle holed out with two small standing stones to each side, in front of and behind the hole. When seen at an angle from one side, the stones form a three-dimensional “101” (see picture).

Holed stones are very rare in prehistoric Cornwall; there is only one other comparable site, the Tolvan Stone near Gweek. All other ‘holed stones’ are much smaller with holes less than 15 cm in diameter; certainly too small to pass an infant through. These stones may have originated as horizontally bedded stones on granite tors, the hole produced by natural weathering processes. They may have been brought to the site to fulfil a specific ritual purpose and perhaps to provide a physical link with the sacred hill.

The Men-an-Tol is undoubtedly one of the more famous yet least understood of Cornish ancient monuments, for the original arrangement of this mysterious grouping of stones is unknown, having almost certainly been re-arranged in the distant past. It is thought by many that the stones were originally part of either a lost tomb or stone circle that once occupied the site.

Antiquarian representations of the site differ in significant details and it is possible that the elements of the site have been rearranged on several occasions. William Borlase described the monument in the 18th Century as having a triangular layout, and it has been suggested that the holed stone was moved from its earlier position to stand in a direct alignment between the two standing stones. In the mid 19th Century, a local antiquarian JT Blight proposed that the site was in fact the remains of a stone circle. This idea was given additional support when a recent site survey identified a number of recumbent stones lying just beneath the modern turf which were arranged along the circumference of a circle 18 metres in diameter. The recumbent stones are somewhat irregularly spaced but the three extant upright stones have smooth inward facing surfaces and are of a similar height to other stone circles in Penwith.

If this is indeed the origin of the site, the holed stone would probably have been aligned along the circumference of the circle and would have had a special ritual significance possibly by providing a lens through which to view other sites or features in the landscape, or as a window onto other worlds. There have also been suggestions that it may have been a component of a burial chamber or cist. There are instances of burial chambers close to stone circles, as at nearby Boskednan, and a barrow mound with stone cist has been identified to the north-east of the Men-an-Tol, so it seems likely that the site was part of a more extensive ritual or ceremonial complex.

Although the Men-an-Tol is considered to be Bronze Age in date no extensive excavations have taken place. The discovery of a single flaked flint by WC Borlase in 1885 is hardly compelling evidence for an early date whilst the recent works to reset the holed stone revealed only evidence for modern activity.

Folklore and Traditions

Mên-an-Tol is supposed to have a fairy or piskie guardian who can make miraculous cures. In one case a Changeling baby was put through the stone in order for the mother to get the real child back. Evil piskies had changed her child and the ancient stones were able to reverse their evil spell.



Local legend claims that if at full moon a woman passes through the holed stone seven times backwards, she will soon become pregnant.

Another legend is that passage through the stone will cure a child of rickets (osteomalacia). For centuries, children with rickets were passed naked through the hole in the middle stone nine times. Its curative powers actually are reflected in its name.

It was also said to provide an alternative cure “scrofulous taint”, also known as the “Kings Evil” which was otherwise only curable by the touch of the reigning monarch.

One can only wonder how many people have passed trough this iconic granite portal over the centuries.

Divinations were made by the use of brass pins placed upon the central stone. Their movement would indicate the answers to queries put to the spirit of the stone. Local Witches and magical folk make use of the portal to birth charms and spirit items.

The circular stone aligns exactly with the centre stone at Boscawen-Un and the church at nearby St Buryan. While this may conceivably be coincidental, the precision of the alignment suggests an intentional positioning of the structures in relation to each other.

Related Sources:



New Video Release: "Annwn"
August 14, 2011, 12:12 am
Filed under: Bran, Celtic Harp, Celtic Symbolism, Memorable Data

Greetings to you all …

I share with you this recent release on video of a tune of my own … I composed this tune on praise of the “Annwn”, which is the “Otherworld” in Welsh mythology. Ruled by Arawn, or much later by Gwyn ap Nudd, it was essentially a world of delights and eternal youth where disease is absent and food is ever-abundant. It later became Christianised and identified with the land of souls that had departed this world.



In the First Branch of the Mabinogi, entitled Pwyll, Prince of Dyfed, the eponymous prince offends Arawn, ruler of Annwn, by baiting his hunting hounds on a stag that Arawn’s dogs had brought down. In recompense he exchanges places with Arawn for a year and defeats Arawn’s enemy Hafgan. Meanwhile, Arawn rules Dyfed. During this year, Pwyll does not sleep with Arawn’s wife, earning himself gratitude from Arawn. On his return, Pwyll becomes known by the title Penn Annwn, “Head (or Ruler) of Annwn.”



In Culhwch and Olwen, an early Welsh Arthurian tale, it is said God gave Gwyn ap Nudd control over the demons lest “this world be destroyed.” He led the Wild Hunt. A Christian story tells of the Welsh Saint Collen entering Gwyn’s palace to banish him with holy water.

The early medieval Welsh poem Preiddeu Annwfn (“The Spoils of Annwn”), found in the Book of Taliesin, describes how King Arthur leads an expedition to Annwn to seek a cauldron. According to the poem: ” Three shiploads we went; save seven none returned.”

This track was recorded along with Xandru Reguera (co-founder of my folk based band BRAN) and was included on the digital edition of BRAN’s EP – “ANNWN”

Personnel

Eliseo Mauas Pinto: irish lap harp, keyboards

Xandru Reguera: Acoustic Guitar, Sound Engineering

Recorded at Two Hound Studios

This is a Remastered Version from original tracks ( 2010 )

I am specially grateful to my Spanish friend Diosa(E.M.R.) for her collaboration on the edition and layout art of this video, which includes two of her own photomanipulation works plus free footages and the inclusion of excerpts of the film Legend [1985] by Ridley Scott (director’s cut 2pts)




Faerie Lore : Lake Fairies – "The Elfin Cow of Lyn Barfog"
August 12, 2011, 5:30 pm
Filed under: Faerie Lore, Fairy Gifts
On previous posts I have discussed about the celtic belief in lakes, rivers, and wells, believes later christianized and concealed under the characters of Saints deeds and sancutaries .

There is a large amount of legends regarding the origin of lakes in several celtic countries, and in some of them, we can find the folk type of a fairy dweller, maybe remnant believes on ancient deities, or rather the Goddess herself.
Welsh lore attracts me a lot on this subject, I revisit once again the character of the Gwragedd Annwn (sing: Gwraig) the Welsh lake fairies, (literally, wives of the lower world, or hell) , which pleases me most. Click here for my previous related post.

Illustration by Willy Pogány as featured on “The Welsh Fairy Book”

by W. Jenkyn Thomas – New York, F. A. Stokes [1908]

Llyn Barfog (Lake of the Bearded One) is the scene of the famous elfin cow’s descent upon earth, from among the droves of the Gwragedd Annwn. This is the legend of the origin of the Welsh black cattle, as related to Wirt Sikes in Carmarthenshire:

In times of old there was a band of elfin ladies who used to haunt the neighbourhood of Llyn Barfog, a lake among the hills just back of Aberdovey. It was their habit to make their appearance at dusk clad all in green, accompanied by their milk-white hounds. Besides their hounds, the green ladies of Llyn Barfog were peculiar in the possession of droves of beautiful milk-white kine, called Gwartheg y Llyn, or kine of the lake.

One day an old farmer, who lived near Dyssyrnant, had the good luck to catch one of these mystic cows, which had fallen in love with the cattle of his herd. From that day the farmer’s fortune was made. Such calves, such milk, such butter and cheese, as came from the milk-white cow never had been seen in Wales before, nor ever will be seen again.

The fame of the Fuwch Gyfeiliorn (“The Stray Cow” – which was what they called the cow) spread through the country round. The farmer, who had been poor, became rich; the owner of vast herds, like the patriarchs of old. But one day he took it into his silly noddle that the elfin cow was getting old, and that he had better fatten her for the market. His nefarious purpose thrived amazingly. Never, since beef steaks were invented, was seen such a fat cow as this cow grew to be.

Killing day came, and the neighbours arrived from all about to witness the taking-off of this monstrously fat beast. The farmer had already counted up the gains from the sale of her, and the butcher had bared his red right arm. The cow was tethered, regardless of her mournful lowing and her pleading eyes; the butcher raised his bludgeon and struck fair and hard between the eyes; when lo! a shriek resounded through the air, awakening the echoes of the hills, as the butcher’s bludgeon went through the goblin head of the elfin cow, and knocked over nine adjoining men, while the butcher himself went frantically whirling around trying to catch hold of something permanent. Then the astonished assemblage beheld a green lady standing on a crag high up over the lake, and crying with a loud voice:

Dere di felen Emion,

Cyrn Cyfeiliorn-braith y Llyn,

A’r foci Dodin,

Codwch, dewch adre.

Come yellow Anvil, stray horns,

Speckled one of the lake,

And of the hornless Dodlin,

Arise, come home.

Whereupon not only did the elfin cow arise and go home, but all her progeny to the third and fourth generations went home with her, disappearing in the air over the hill tops and returning nevermore. Only one cow remained of all the farmer’s herds, and she had turned from milky white to raven black. Whereupon the farmer in despair drowned himself in the lake of the green ladies, and the black cow became the progenitor of the existing race of Welsh black cattle.

This legend appears, in a slightly different form, in the ‘Iola MSS.,’ as translated by Taliesin Williams, of Merthyr: [Llandovery, published for the Welsh MSS. Society, 1848.] ‘The milk-white milch cow gave enough of milk to every one who desired it; and however frequently milked, or by whatever number of persons, she was never found deficient. All persons who drank of her milk were healed of every illness; from fools they became wise; and from being wicked, became happy. This cow went round the world; and wherever she appeared, she filled with milk all the vessels that could be found, leaving calves behind her for all the wise and happy. It was from her that all the milch cows in the world were obtained.

After traversing through the island of Britain, for the benefit and blessing of country and kindred, she reached the Vale of Towy; where, tempted by her fine appearance and superior condition, the natives sought to kill and eat her; but just as they were proceeding to effect their purpose, she vanished from between their hands, and was never seen again. A house still remains in the locality, called Y Fuwch Laethwen Lefrith (The Milk-white Milch Cow.)’

Related Source:

“British Goblins – Welsh Folklore, Fairy Mythology, Legends and Traditions” by Wirt Sikes – [1880]


King Arthur:"The Avalon’s Enigma" – Does the Avalon’s conception is actually celtic?
August 5, 2011, 6:20 pm
Filed under: Celtic Symbolism, King Arthur
And the odd question is:

Does the Avalon’s conception is actually celtic?

As I quoted on previous posts , Avalon is referenced by Geoffrey of Monmouth in the Historia and much subsequent literature which he inspired, as the place where King Arthur is taken after fighting Mordred at the Battle of Camlann to recover from his wounds.

Welsh, Cornish and Breton tradition claimed that Arthur had never really died, but would inexorably return to lead his people against their enemies. The Historia also states that Avalon is where his sword Caliburn (Excalibur) was forged.

Geoffrey’s description of the island indicates a sea voyage was needed to get there. His description of Avalon here, which is heavily indebted to the early medieval Spanish scholar Isidore of Seville (being mostly derived from the section on famous islands in Isidore’s famous work Etymologiae, XIV.6.8 “Fortunatae Insulae“), shows the magical nature of the island:

The island of apples which men call “The Fortunate Isle” (Insula Pomorum quae Fortunata uocatur) gets its name from the fact that it produces all things of itself; the fields there have no need of the ploughs of the farmers and all cultivation is lacking except what nature provides. Of its own accord it produces grain and grapes, and apple trees grow in its woods from the close-clipped grass. The ground of its own accord produces everything instead of merely grass, and people live there a hundred years or more. There nine sisters rule by a pleasing set of laws those who come to them from our country.

By comparison, Isidore’s description of the Fortunate Isles reads:

“The name of the Isles of the Fortunate signifies that they bear all good things, as if happy and blessed in the abundance of their fruits. Serviceable by nature, they bring forth fruits of valuable forests (Sua enim aptae natura pretiosarum poma silvarum parturiunt); their hilltops are clothed with vines growing by chance; in place of grasses, there is commonly vegetable and grain. Pagan error and the songs of the secular poets have held that these islands to be Paradise because of the fecundity of the soil. Situated in the Ocean to the left of Mauretania, very near the west, they are separated by the sea flowing between them.”
In medieval geographies, Isidore’s Fortunate Islands were identified with the Canaries

But there are further conceptions about it’s existance, like those who relate Avalon with Glanstonsbury

Connection to Glastonbury

Around 1190, Avalon became associated with Glastonbury, when monks at Glastonbury Abbey claimed to have discovered the bones of Arthur and his queen. It is in the work of Gerald of Wales we find this connection made for the first time and it clearly draws on Geoffrey:

What is now known as Glastonbury was, in ancient times, called the Isle of Avalon. It is virtually an island, for it is completely surrounded by marshlands. In Welsh it is called Ynys Afallach, which means the Island of Apples and this fruit once grew in great abundance. After the Battle of Camlann, a noblewoman called Morgan, later the ruler and patroness of these parts as well as being a close blood-relation of King Arthur, carried him off to the island, now known as Glastonbury, so that his wounds could be cared for. Years ago the district had also been called Ynys Gutrin in Welsh, that is the Island of Glass, and from these words the invading Saxons later coined the place-name ‘Glastingebury’.

Though no longer an island in the twelfth century, the high conical bulk of Glastonbury Tor had been surrounded by marsh before the surrounding fenland in the Somerset Levels was drained. In ancient times, Ponter’s Ball Dyke would have guarded the only entrance to the island. The Romans eventually built another road to the island.[12] As Gerald says, Glastonbury’s earliest name in Welsh was Ineswitrin (or Ynys Witrin), the Isle of glass, a name noted by earlier historians which shows that the location was at one point seen as an island. The discovery of the burial is described by chroniclers, notably Gerald of Wales, as being just after King Henry II‘s reign when the new abbot of Glastonbury, Henry de Sully, commissioned a search of the abbey grounds. At a depth of 5 m (16 feet) the monks discovered a massive treetrunk coffin and a leaden cross bearing the inscription: Hic jacet sepultus inclitus rex Arthurus in insula Avalonia. (“Here lies renowned King Arthur in the island of Avalon”). Accounts of the exact inscription vary, with five different versions existing. The earliest is by Gerald in “Liber de Principis instructione” c.1193, and he says he saw the cross, and it read: “Here lies buried the famous King Arthur with Guinevere his second wife in the isle of Avalon”. Inside the coffin were two bodies, who Giraldus refers to as Arthur and “his queen“; the bones of the male body were described as being gigantic. The account of the burial by the chronicle of Margam Abbey says three bodies were found, the other being of Mordred. In 1278, the remains were reburied with great ceremony, attended by King Edward I and his queen, before the High Altar at Glastonbury Abbey, where they were the focus of pilgrimages until the Reformation.

The Glastonbury burial is tainted with the suggestion of forgery as an example of Pseudoarchaeology. Historians today generally dismiss the authenticity of the find, attributing it to a publicity stunt performed to raise funds to repair the Abbey, which was mostly burned in 1184. Long before this William of Malmesbury, a historian interested in Arthur, said in his history of England “But Arthur’s grave is nowhere seen, whence antiquity of fables still claims that he will return.”As William wrote a comprehensive history of Glastonbury De antiquitae Glatoniensis ecclesie around 1130 which discussed many pious legends connected to the Abbey, but made no mention of either Arthur’s grave or a connection of Glastonbury to the name Avalon, stating firmly it was previously known as Ineswitrin, this raises further suspicions concerning the burial. It is known for certain the monks later added forged passages to William’s history discussing Arthurian connections. The fact that the search for the body is connected to Henry II and Edward I, both kings who fought major Welsh wars, has had scholars suggest that propaganda may have played a part as well. Gerald, a constant supporter of royal authority, in his account of the discovery clearly aims to destroy the idea of the possibility of King’s Arthur’s messianic return: “Many tales are told and many legends have been invented about King Arthur and his mysterious ending. In their stupidity the British [i.e. Welsh, Cornish and Bretons] people maintain that he is still alive. Now that the truth is known, I have taken the trouble to add a few more details in this present chapter. The fairy-tales have been snuffed out, and the true and indubitable facts are made known, so that what really happened must be made crystal clear to all and separated from the myths which have accumulated on the subject.”

The burial discovery ensured that in later romances, histories based on them and in the popular imagination Glastonbury became increasingly identified with Avalon, an identification that continues strongly today. The later development of the legends of the Holy Grail and Joseph of Arimathea by Robert de Boron interconnected these legends with Glastonbury and with Avalon an identification which also seems to be made in Perlesvaus. The popularity of Arthurian Romance has meant this area of the Somerset Levels has today become popularly described as The Vale Of Avalon.[19] In more recent times writers such as Dion Fortune, John Michell, Nicholas Mann and Geoffrey Ashe have formed theories based on perceived connections between Glastonbury and Celtic legends of the otherworld and Annwn in attempts to link the location firmly with Avalon, drawing on the various legends based on Glastonbury Tor as well as drawing on ideas like Earth mysteries, Ley lines and even the myth of Atlantis. Arthurian literature also continues to use Glastonbury as an important location as in The Mists of Avalon and A Glastonbury Romance. Even the fact Somerset has many apple orchards has been drawn in to support the connection. Glastonbury’s connection to Avalon continues to make it a site of tourism and the area has great religious significance for Neopagans Neo-druids and as a New Age community as well as Christians. Hippy identification of Glastonbury with Avalon seen in the work of Michell and in Gandalf’s Garden also helped inspire the Glastonbury Festival.

Other locations for Avalon

In medieval times suggestions for the location of Avalon ranged far beyond Glastonbury. They included on the other side of the Earth at the antipodes, Sicily and other unnamed locations in the Mediterranean. In more recent times, just like in the quest for Arthur’s mythical capital Camelot, a large number of locations have been put forward as being the real ‘Avalon’.

These theories include l’Île d’Aval or Daval on the coast of Brittany and Burgh by Sands in Cumberland, which was in Roman times the fort of Aballava on Hadrian’s Wall near Camboglanna. According to Welsh tradition (as first recorded in the 10th century Annales Cambriae), Arthur was killed in battle at a site named Camlann which may be derived from either a Brittonic *Cambo-glanna “Crooked bank (of a river)” (compare the name of the Roman fort of Camboglanna) or *Cambo-landa “Crooked-enclosure”. Geoffrey Ashe suggests an association of Avalon with the town of Avallon in Burgundy, as part of a theory connecting King Arthur to the Romano-British leader Riothamus who campaigned in that area.

There are some texts, though, that do attempt to locate the Isle of Avalon into a particular region of Britain. The Isle of Man, for example, has been presented as Avalon, as well as Bardsey Island in northern Wales as discussed on a previous post, it is located in Gwynedd, famous for its apples and also connected with Merlin and St Michael’s Mount in Cornwall, near to other locations associated with the Arthurian legends have also been suggested. St Michael’s Mount is an island which can be reached by a causeway at low tide.

Related Sources:

Featured Artwork by : GrandeOmbre (all rights reserved)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avalon

The Vita Merlini

The Guardian – Treadmill in the Vale of Avalon 1990Gerald of Wales – Two Accounts of the Exhumation of Arthur’s Body



Druidry: The Symbolism of the Apple Tree
August 5, 2011, 6:04 pm
Filed under: Celtic Symbolism, Celtic Tree Lore, Druidry

Symbolism of the Apple Tree

On a previous post I have discussed upon the correspondence between the Arthurian Avalon and the significance of the apple fruit for the Celts, who recognize all of the features of the apple tree and view it as pleasing in every way.

Let’s assure that is even a symbol of creativity (as well as creation) and is an emblem of art and poetry. The meaning of apple trees is also associated with virtue, and the tree (as well as the fruit) is a symbol of purity and mortherhood.

In Medieval Irish story Connla the Fair, an Irish prince, fell in love with a beautiful Faerie woman, who arrived on the Irish shore in a crystal boat. She offered him an apple from the world of Faerie, and he took the fatal bite, and was hers forever. They set sail for her magical island where the trees bore both fruit and blossom, and winter never came. There, they ate an ever replenishing stock of apples, which kept them

In Irish lore, the God Óengus offered three miraculous apple trees from the magical woods, Bruig na Bóinde (New Grange), as a wedding gift for the one of the Milesians. One was in full bloom, one shedding its blossoms, and one in fruit. (Mountfort, page 103) The deliberate felling of an Apple Tree was punishable by death in ancient Irish law. (Gifford, page 97)

In the Welsh Câd Goddeu (The Battle of the Trees), the Apple is described as the noblest tree of them all, the tree that symbolized poetic immortality.

For obvious reasons the ancient Celts consider the apple tree a treasure among the Ogham tree clan.

It’s brilliant flowers burst forth in the spring, usually ranging from pink to white. These flowers have a light aroma that lifts the spirit of all who pass by them. Ancient Celts would decorate bedchambers with the apple blossoms as a fertility gesture and to tribute the beauty and bounty life provides.

After the glory of the blossoms, come the fruit of the apple. Druids recognized the powerful transformative qualities experienced when consuming the apple. It was thought the fruit could transport the eater to other worlds, typically of a paradise-like ilk. Further altered states could be induced by pressing the apples and allowing them to ferment over time, thus producing a “hard cider.”

Apples were highly valued by the ancient Celts because of their ability to keep over a long period of time when stored in a cool dry place. This was symbolic of the presence of love, even long past the time of peak ripeness. In other words, when the waves of passion subside, love lingers even afterwards when simple companionship is the prime comfort.

Even the formation of the tree trunk in her various poses was said to have a female form to it, and was considered a beacon of fertility. Indeed, apple wood was often burned during fertility rites and festivals carried out in the winter months. These were demonstrations to beckon bountiful abundance upon the return of spring as well as symbolically insure continuation of large, healthy families.

The Apple Tree on Druidry

The sacred Druid plant, an t-uil-oc (Mistletoe), is often found on Apple trees, making it an especially holy tree to the Druids, along with the Oak.

silver bough

Drawing by Cedar Sposato
In the Irish Druid tradition, the Silver Bough is cut from a magical Apple tree, where silver apple shaped bells played a mystical tune, which could lull people into a trance state. Druids could make contact with the Otherworld during a trance enhanced by this silver apple bough.

The Apple Tree is closely linked to Druids, in their aspect as magicians and shamans. The tree is often used when the Druid undergoes a magical transformation or journeys in the Otherworld. In The Voyage of Bran, an Otherworldly woman appears with an apple branch laden with bells, entrancing Bran with wondrous tales of the Otherworld. So enraptured is he by this damsel with the magical apple branch, that he sets sail immediately for the enchanted shores, having epic adventures on his journey. (Blamires, page 142)

“In Druid lore, the essence of three sacred apples growing on the Tree of Knowledge came from three drops that fell from Cerridwen’s cauldron, which correspond with the Druid’s most holy symbol, the Three Rays of Light.” (Gifford, page 99)

The Druid Merlin was purported to work in a magical Apple Grove guarded by birds, revealed to him by his master, Gwendolleu. He was said to receive the gift of prophecy from the Faerie Queen, conferred through the consumption of one of her magic apples. Merlin was also said to take shelter under an apple tree during his bout with madness.

Thomas the Rhymer, of Ercledoune, in 13th Century Scotland, was warned not to eat the Otherworldly Apple offered by the Faerie Queen, or he would be unable to return to mortal life.

Bards (poets) and Ovates (shamans) carried apple branches, (with bronze, silver, or gold bells), called the Craobh Ciuil (Branch of Reason) as symbols of their office. “As with all trees whose fruits are the basis of alcoholic drinks, the apple tree has close associations with divine inspiration and poetry.” (Gifford, page 94)

La Mas Ushal was brewed at the end of October in preparation for the Druid’s “Day of the Apple” on November 1st. This recipe has come down to us as the Wassail Bowl, made from baked or roasted crab apples, brown ale or cider, honey, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, brown sugar, and ginger.

Apples are much in evidence in Samhain rituals of prophecy. Peeling an apple in front of the mirror and throwing it over the left shoulder, a young maiden can recognize the initial of her future husband.

Bobbing for apples, another traditional Samhain pastime, was a reference to the Celtic Emhain Abhlach, “Paradise of Apples,” where the dead, having eaten of the sacred fruit, enjoyed a blissful immortality.

Related Source:

http://www.druidry.org



Celtic Symbolism: Why is "Avalon" known as the "Island of the Apples"?
August 5, 2011, 4:02 pm
Filed under: Celtic Symbolism, Celtic Tree Lore, Druidry, King Arthur
I had always wondered why this name for this legendary and singular Arthurian place.

So it seems that it’s first appearance was featured on the work of Geoffrey of Monmouth‘s (1136) the Historia Regum Britanniae (“The History of the Kings of Britain”) as the place where King Arthur’s sword Excalibur (Caliburnus) was forged and later where Arthur was taken to recover from his wounds after the Battle of Camlann. Geoffrey called it in Latin Insula Avallonis in the Historia.

In his later work “Vita Merlini” he called it Insula Pomorum the “isle of apples”, and dealt in more detail describing for the first time in Arthurian legend the enchantress Morgan le Fay as the chief of nine sisters who live on Avalon.

The name is generally considered to be of Welsh origin (though an Old Cornish or Old Breton origin is also possible), derived from Old Welsh abal, “apple”, or aball, “apple tree”. Maybe also influenced by Irish legends concerning the otherworld island home of Manannán mac Lir and Lugh, Emain Ablach (also the Old Irish poetic name for the Isle of Man)

Avalon was also known as the Avallach, the Isle of Apples, and the Otherworld, the Annwn.Thus it is told that the apples of Annwn (Avalon) healed all wounds.

In many legends of visits to the Otherworld, an outsider requires a special token to ensure safe passage to and from the land of fairies. This token is most often a branch of the Otherworld apple tree, a silver bough bearing blossoms and fruit that make music when shaken, often luring humans into enchanted sleep. This idea seems to come from older druidical practices, as early descriptions of the bards often mention the ritual use of silver branches hung with bells.

Celts like Norse, attributed the power of healing and youth, inmortality or rebirth, to apples. Apples are one of the magical trees, part of the Celtic Ogham tree alphabet, known as Quert. In Norse mythology the goddess Iðunn was the appointed keeper of golden apples that kept the Æsir young (or inmortal) forever.

Some Celtic Deities are associated to the “Apple”: Morgan le Fay, and Cerridwen (maybe for her cauldron of rebirth). Some associate also Olwen, daughter and aunt of the giant Ysbaddaden on Welsh Mythology, maybe I guess for her appearance in the folktale Einion and Olwen, about a sheep herder who travels to the Otherworld to marry Olwen. The tale was collected at the turn of the 20th century but is certainly related to Culhwch and Olwen.

Related Sources:
Photomanipulation by MorgainefromAvalon (all rights reserved by the author)

http://www.druidry.org
http://www.netplaces.com/celtic-wisdom/the-tree-of-life.html
http://www.whats-your-sign.com/celtic-meaning-of-symbolic-trees.html