Gods and Goddesses

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The Celtic pantheon, as it comes to us today, is nowhere near as well preserved as that of Greece and Rome. Some Gods are archetypes, expressing a feeling or attitude: love, war, mothering, growth, inspiration.

When the Romans came to our lands, they equated many of our deity with their own and, whilst this may give us some insights, the connections were made with little understanding of the true practice of the time and have muddied the waters. Later influences came from Viking settlement and have become part of our language in the very days of our week: Tew, Woden, Thor, and Freya replacing Mars, Mercury, Jupiter and Venus, leaving only Saturn, Sun and Moon as the Roman planetary gods of our weekdays.

The story of Celtic deity is told in the Mabinogion, the verses of Taliessin, and early manuscripts where the tradition of oration was finally captured in writing; firstly, by Roman invaders and then by Christian scribes. Here again, these stories were heard by the untrained ear with little understanding of the sub-text and by those who, no doubt, added a veneer from their own values.

Nonetheless, it is possible to see the archetypes in the Children of Dôn: the trickster God, Gwidion; the mother/teacher Goddess, Arianrhod.

Having said this, there is one God who is very ancient and who still fascinates people today, his name is Arthur.

Spirits of Place

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There are also Gods and Goddesses of place. These lands were once seen as the place of Brigantia, also known as Britannia. In Ireland she is known as Brighid or Bride and became one of their patron saints as Brigit. Brigantia, therefore, is a powerful Goddess. Her energy is all around us, so pervading that we are not consciously aware of her. She is the female energy behind all things from the land of Britain.

Whilst we can recognise this power, we are also aware that our local land has its own energy. Locally, we know of Chiltona. She is the energy specific to our sloping chalk hills, unlike the energy of, say, the limestone Cotswolds, the sandstone Brecon Beacons, or the heath of Exmoor.

Each area has its own vitality which we can choose to see personified as deity. There are those who can feel a change in the energy when they cross the border between Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire giving rise, perhaps, to modern Goddesses of Buckinghamitha and Hertfordia?

Masculine and Feminine Energy

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The energy of the land is female, it is part of Mother Earth, giver and provider, always there, always supportive. We associate Spring with her Maiden form, in Summer and early Autumn she is the nurturing Mother and provider, late Autumn and Winter she is the Hag or Crone.

The energy of growth is masculine. Seeds and bulbs push up through the land with strength and vigour, sap rises in the plants and trees encouraging the leaves which capture the sunlight. This masculine energy is linked to the Sun. He is born in the depths of winter and celebrated at Solstice as the Mabon child, by Spring he is a young boy. At Beltaine he is a strutting young man sporting splendid antlers and by Summer solstice his magnificent stag-like energy roams the forest that is his own. At Lughnasagh he is the warrior/King able to achieve anything he sets his mind to. His energy begins to wane by Autumn and he returns to the womb of Mother Earth at Samhain to be reborn at the Sun Return.

It is this energy that is closely associated with the work we have to do each year and, no doubt, has given rise to the idea that Druidry is for men. This is being far too literal. We all need to work with masculine energy in order to achieve anything. It is the driving force behind getting things done. Female energy is the sustainer, the constant, the hearth and home. She is our second wind when the initial strength of the masculine is spent. Whether we are man or woman, we need to work with both Goddess and God for our work to be complete.

At first, many find the idea of gods and goddesses a remote concept. Some feel that it is not part of their Druidry. This is perfectly acceptable, it is not a vital part of connecting with nature. However, keeping an open mind may result in an unexpected encounter.