Ireland

Lugh (pronounced LOO) was known to the Celts as a god of craftsmanship and skill — in fact, he was known as the Many-Skilled God, because he was good at so many different things. In one legend, Lugh arrives at Tara, and is denied entrance. He enumerates all the great things he can do, and each time the guard says, “Sorry, we’ve already got someone here who can do that.” Finally Lugh asks, “Ah, but do you have anyone here who can do them ALL?”

  • Origin: Celtic
  • Attributes: Magical spear, harp
  • Bird: Raven
  • Animal: Lion, horse
  • Planet: Sun
  • Plant: Red corn cockles

Lugh, Lord of Craftsmanship, Light, Victory and War, is a master builder, harpist, poet, warrior, sorcerer, metalworker, cupbearer and physician. It’s hard to envision anything at which Lugh does not excel.

  • Also known as:
    Lug, Luc, Lugos, Lleu Llaw Gyffes, Bright One of the Skillful Hand
  • Favored people:
    Artisans, crafts people, poets, artists, physicians, soldiers, and warriors.
  • Manifestation:
    Shining, handsome, charming and witty. He has a silver tongue to match his skillful hands.
  • Consorts: 
    Lugh has different consorts in different locations but he was frequently linked to Rosemerta.
  • Spirit Allies:
    Lugh shared the city of Lyon with Kybele and Paris with Isis. In battle, Lugh used his own weapons but also those belonging to Manannan.

Lugh was venerated throughout the ancient Celtic world. Modern scholars perceive him as especially significant because his veneration indicates the existence of pan-Celtic spiritual traditions. (Celts once ruled a huge swathe of continental Europe before being forced to the very edges of the continent.)

At least fourteen European cities are named for Lugh including Laon, Leyden, Loudon and Lyon. Lyon’s old name was Lugduhum, meaning “Lugh’s Fort.” Tat city is believed to have been his cult center. Its coins bore the images of ravens which may be a reference to Lugh. Carlisle in England, the former Lugubalium, is also named in Lugh’s honor. Some theorize that Lugh’s name is reflected in an older name for paris: Lutetia.

The Romans identified Lugh with Mercury. Many European churches dedicated to Michael the Archangel are believed to have been built over sites once dedicated to Lugh. Post-Christianity many of Lugh’s sacred functions were reassigned to saints like Patrick and Luke.

Lugh apparently traveled westward through Europe. Irish and Welsh myths describe his first appearance in their pantheon. He is greeted with resistance from women in Wales. His first public act in Ireland is to join battle with the Tuatha De Danaan (his father’s people) against the Fomorian, his mother’s people. Lugh chooses allegiance with the paternal line; the myth may be interpreted as indicating the beginnings of patriarchy in Ireland.

  • Feast: August 1st

August 1st is the festival of Lughnasadh. Lughnasadh (sometimes spelled Lughnasa) means “the marriage of Lugh.” Lugh the sun and the Earth Mother renew their wedding vows annually during the full moon in August and invite all to gather and revel with them. Lughnasadh celebrates the consummation of their sacred relationship.

Once upon a time, Lughnasadh was a four week festival.: the last two weeks of July and the first two weeks of August, roughly corresponding to when the sun is in Leo, the astrological sign that belongs to the sun and epitomizes its power. In modern Irish Gaelic, the month of August is Lunasa. However the modern Wiccan sabbat of Lughnasadh is almost always devoted solely to the eve of July 31 leading into Lughnasadh Day on August 1st.

Celebrating Lugh Today:

Lughnasadh is a pagan holiday is dedicated to this capable God, and is celebrated every year on August 1st.

Take the opportunity this day to celebrate your own skills and abilities, and make an offering to Lugh to honor him, the god of craftsmanship.

Here’s How:

Before you begin, take a personal inventory. What are your strong points? Everyone has a talent — some have many, some have one that they’re really good at. Are you a poet or writer? Do you sing? How about needlecraft, woodworking, or beading? Can you tap dance? Do you cook? How about painting? Think about all the things you can do — and all of the things you’d like to learn to do, and the things you’d like to get better at. Once you sit down and think about it, you might be surprised to realize how accomplished you really are.

Decorate your altar with items related to your skill or talent. If your skill relates to something tangible, like sewing or jewelry-making, put some of your craft supplies on the altar. If it’s an ability to DO, rather than MAKE, such as dancing or singing, put some symbol of your ability on your altar. Do you have a favorite outfit you wear when you dance? A particular song lyric that you know you’re fabulous with? Add as many items as you like to your altar.

You’ll need a candle to symbolize Lugh, the god. Any harvest color is good, because he came up with the idea of a grain festival to honor his foster mother, Tailtiu. Place the candle on your altar in the center. Feel free to add some stalks of grain if you like — you can combine this rite with one honoring the harvest, if you choose.

Light the candle, and take a moment to think about all the things you are good at. What are they? Are you proud of your accomplishments? Now’s your chance to boast a little, and take some pride in what you’ve learned to do.

Announce your own talents in the following incantation. Say:

Mighty Lugh, the many-skilled god,
he who is a patron of the arts,
a master of trades, and a silver-tongued bard.
Today I honor you, for I am skilled as well.
I am deft with a needle,
strong of voice,
and paint beauty with my brush strokes.*

*Obviously, you would insert your pride in your own skills here.

Now, consider what you wish to improve upon. Is your tennis-playing out of whack? Do you feel inadequate at bungee jumping, yodeling, or drawing?

Now’s the time to ask Lugh for his blessing. Say:

Lugh, many-skilled one,
I ask you to shine upon me.
Share your gifts with me,
and make me strong in skill.

At this time, you should make an offering of some sort. The ancients made offerings in exchange for the blessings of their gods — quite simply, petitioning a god was a reciprocal act, a system of exchange. Your offering can a tangible one: grain, fruit, wine, or even a sample of your own talents and skills — imagine dedicating a song or painting to Lugh. It can also be an offering of time or loyalty. Whatever it is, it should come from the heart.

Say:

I thank you, mighty Lugh, for hearing my words tonight.
I thank you for blessing me with the skills I have.
I make this offering of (whatever it is you are offering) to you
as a small token of honor.

Take a few more moments and reflect on your own abilities. Do you have faith in your skills, or do you deflect compliments from others? Are you insecure about your abilities, or do you feel a surge of pride when you sew/dance/sing/hula hoop? Meditate on your offering to Lugh for a few moments, and when you are ready, end the ritual.

Tips:

If you are performing this rite as part of a group, family or coven setting, go around in a circle and have each person take their turn to express their pride in their work, and to make their offerings to Lugh.

Sources: Encyclopedia of Spirits and PaganWiccan

dagda

Dagda is the most prominent God of Celtic Mythology, leader of the Tuatha De Danann (Irish race of Gods of Mythology). He is identified with the Weish Gwydon and the Gallic Sucellos.

His titles and attributes:

  • Mighty Red One
  • Groat Knwdelle
  • Ruler over Life and Death
  • God of Time and Protector of Crops
  • The Good God and Ollathir (All Father)
  • God of Earth and Treaties
  • Master of Magic
  • Fearsome Warrior

Chief of the Tuatha Dé Daan, oldest of the Celtic deities, Dagda literally means “the good god.” What was his real name? That information may be reserved for initiates or he may be so old, no one knows any longer.

The Dagda is a spirit of magic and abundance. He is the tribal All Father, deity of the Druids, Lord of Regeneration, provider of plenty, Captain of Abundance. He is the Lord of New Grange. His children, Brigid and Angus Mac Og, are among the most powerful and beloved Irish deities. He plays the role of ideal father for his devotees.

The Dagda’s barrow (sidhe) features an inexhaustible supply of drink, three trees that always bear fruit, and a pig that is always alive, even though it’s slaughtered and consumed daily. He may be the prototype of the Grail King. The Romans identified him with Hercules.

The Dagda is the master of paradox. Incredibly wise and powerful, he’s uncouth and bumbling too. He’s an old, bald, fat, sloppy guy, but he’s a sex master too, a fertility spirit renowned for virility and sexual prowess. The Dagda engages in the Great Rite with great goddesses like the Morrigan and Boann.

  • Mount: A black stallion named Ocean
  • Sacred Day: On Samhain, the Dagda performs the Great Rite. On a day otherwise associated with death, the Dagda creates new life.
  • Offerings: Oatmeal, porridge, mead, Irish whiskey, poteen

Manifestation:

A big, bald, bumbler with a beer belly; the Dagda wears a rustic tunic that no longer fits him. It’s too short for him, barely covering his buttocks and periodically exposing them. Don’t be fooled by his appearance. The Dagda only plays the fool; he’s brilliant, wise, and powerful. Furthermore, although it’s his posterior that’s mockingly discussed in myth, at least in the surviving ones recorded by Christian priests, tunics don’t only ride up in the back.

He was traditionally portrayed wearing a brown tunic that reached his hips, letting his huge penis drag while walking, a hooded cape that covered his shoulders and horse boots.

Dagda was commonly believed to be a crude and comical God. Some characteristics of The Good God, were his super strength, his insatiable need for women and food. He is a phallic deity, master of fertility and abundance. He was also a skilled artisan.

This God had various precious possessions:

  • A cauldron with unlimited food supply called Undry.
  • A living oak harp named Uaithne that he used to summon the seasons.
  • An iron cub that could kill nine men with one side and bring them back to life with the other side.
  • Three trees that always bear fruit.
  • A pig that is always alive, even though it’s slaughtered and consumed daily.

The Dagda, a master harper, has a repertoire of magical songs:

  1. Those that make him invisible on the battlefield.
  2. Songs to seduce people into sex or foolish behavior, against their better judgment.
  3. And music of Sorrow, of Joy and Dreaming.

Continue reading

cailleachWho is this Old Woman?

This Neolithic goddess, known variously as the “blue hag”, the “Bear goddess” and “Boar goddess”, “owl faced”, and “ancient woman”, has survived through the ages. Coming from the continent, Her worship spread to the British Isles early after the recession of the glaciers. The proto-Celtic peoples honored Cailleach and blended Her varying aspects, creating images invoking both love and terror. The various names (see below) that Cailleach has been worshipped in lend a clue to Her wide spread worship:

NamesBeare, Béarra, Béirre, Bhéara, Bheare, Bhéirre, Bhérri, Boi, Bui, Cailliaech, Cailliach, Cailleach Beara, Caillech Bherri, Calliagh Birra, Cally Berry, Carline, Digde, Dige, Dirra, Dirri, Duineach, Hag of Beara, Hag of Beare, Mag-Moullach, Mala Liath, Nicnevin, and  Scotia,

TitlesAncient Woman, Bear goddess, Blue Hag, Boar Goddess, Creator of Storms, Crone, Duineach, Goddess of Sovereignty, Many Followers, Old Woman, Owl Faced, and  The Popular

The Cailleach Beara is one of the oldest living mythological beings associated with Ireland. According to the ancient stories, she has a conversation with Fintan the Wise and the Hawk of Achill and both agree that she has outlived them, saying ‘Are you the one, the grandmother who ate the apples in the beginning?’ (apples are associated with immortality and are considered the food of the gods)

The Cailleach Beara is ever-renewing and passes through many lifetimes going from old age to youth in a cyclic fashion. She is reputed to have had at least fifty foster children during her ‘lives’. She usually appears as an old woman who asks a hero to sleep with her, if the hero agrees to sleep with the old hag she then transforms into a beautiful woman.

In Scotland, where she is also known as Beira, Queen of Winter, she is credited with making numerous mountains and large hills, which are said to have been formed when she was striding across the land and accidentally dropped rocks from her apron. In other cases she is said to have built the mountains intentionally, to serve as her stepping stones. She carries a hammer for shaping the hills and valleys, and is said to be the mother of all the goddesses and gods.

She is considered to be the daughter of Grainne, or the Winter Sun. She is affectionately known as ‘Grandmother of the Clanns’ and ‘the Ancestress of the Caledonii Tribe’. The legends of the Caledonii tribe speak of the “Bringer of the Ice Mountains”, the great blue Old Woman of the highlands. Called Cailleach, Cailleach Bheur, Scotia, Carline or Mag-Moullach by the people, She was the Beloved Mountain Giantess who protected the early tribe from harm and nurtured them in Her sacred mountains.

The Cailleach Beara is usually associated with Munster in particular Kerry and Cork. Her grandchildren and great-grandchildren formed the tribes of Kerry and it’s surroundings. And she is considered a goddess of sovereignty giving the kings the right to rule their lands.

Traits and Abilities:

She herds deer. She fights Spring. Her staff freezes the ground.

She is sometimes depicted as an old hag with the teeth of a wild bear and boar’s tusks or else is depicted as a one-eyed giantess who leaps from peak to peak, wielding Her magical white rod and blasting the vegetation with frost. Cailleach’s white rod, or slachdan, made of birch, bramble, willow or broom, is a Druidic rod which gives Her power over the weather and the elements.

Cailleach is also a goddess who governs dreams and inner realities. She is the goddess of the sacred hill, the Sidhe, and the place where we enter into the hidden realm of the Fey and spirit beings. Sacred stones, the bones of the earth, are Her special haunts. Cailleach is connected to the ‘bean sidhe’ or banshee (which means ‘supernatural woman’) who are the wild women of the Fey.

In Scotland, the Cailleachan (‘old women’) were also known as The Storm Hags, and seen as personifications of the elemental powers of nature, especially in a destructive aspect. They were said to be particularly active in raising the windstorms of spring, during the period known as A’ Chailleach.

Là Fhèill Brìghde is the day the Cailleach gathers her firewood for the rest of the winter. Legend has it that if she intends to make the winter last a good while longer, she will make sure the weather on February 1 is bright and sunny, so she can gather plenty of firewood to keep herself warm in the coming months. As a result, people are generally relieved if February 1 is a day of foul weather, as it means the Cailleach is asleep, will soon run out of firewood, and therefore winter is almost over.

On the Isle of Man, where She is known as Caillagh ny Groamagh, the Cailleach is said to have been seen on St. Bride’s day in the form of a gigantic bird, carrying sticks in her beak

On the west coast of Scotland, the Cailleach ushers in winter by washing her great plaid (tartan) in the Whirlpool of Coire Bhreacain (cauldron of the plaid). . This process is said to take three days, during which the roar of the coming tempest is heard as far away as twenty miles inland. When she is finished, her plaid is pure white and snow covers the land.

Cailleach is also the guardian spirit of a number of animals. She is associated with the ancient tradition of herding reindeer. This means that the reindeer (and all deer) are Her cattle; She herds and milks them and often gives them protection from hunters. Swine, wild goats, wild cattle, and wolves are also Her creatures. Cailleach is also a fishing goddess, as well as the guardian of wells and streams.

Related Content:

st-gobnet-and-bees-detail

  • Other Names: Abigail, Deborah, Mo Gobnat, Gobhnet, Gobnaid, Gobnata, Gobnatae
  • Feast Day: February 11
  • Patron of Honeybees and Beekeepers

Gobnait is Irish for Abigail which means “Brings Joy”. As the patron saint of beekeepers, her name also has been anglicized as Deborah, meaning “Honey Bee.” This Irish saint is a version of the deity Domna, patroness of sacred stones and cairns. The center of her worship was at Ballybourney, Co. Cork, Ireland.

Her feast day, February 11 is called “Pattern Day” in the parishes of Dún Chaoin and in Baile Bhúirne, and is regarded as both holiday and holy day. In one tradition, a medieval wooden carving of Gobnait, about two feet high, kept in a church drawer during the year, is brought out. Parishioners bring a ribbon to ”measure” the statue. This ribbon is then taken home to use when special blessings are needed.

About Saint Gobnait:

Gobnait was born in County Clare in the 5th or 6th Century, and is said to have been the sister of Saint Abban. Tradition holds that Gobnait fled Clare in order to escape family feuding, settling on Inis Oírr (where there is an early medieval oratory, Cill Ghobnait, dedicated to her). Gobnait was said to have been the only woman allowed on the island, but she didn’t linger. After a time, an angel appeared and told her that she was meant to spend the rest of her days (until her soul left her earthly body) elsewhere. She would know the right place because she would find nine white deer grazing there. So she left the island to journey through the southern coastal counties in search of the deer.

As a result of her quest, a number of places now bear her name – for instance, Kilgobnet or Cill Ghobnait in County Kerry and St Debora’s Well in County Limerick. She eventually came upon that mystical herd in Ballyvourney, County Cork, where she dedicated the remainder of her earthly life to pastoral work.

Her connection to honey bees is complex, beginning with the angel telling her to find her “resurrection place” (meaning where the soul leaves the body). Celtic lore held bees in high esteem believing the soul left the body as a bee or a butterfly.

Bees were more than just honey-makers to the ancient Irish. They have long held an important place in Irish culture. The honey, wax, pollen and other benefits of bees were considered so important that in the 7th century, someone scribed the ancient laws called the Bechbretha, which translates to ‘bee-judgements.’ These laws included six different terms in Gaeilge for the kinds of bee swarms, the proper ways to decide ownership of a swarm of bees, how to punish the theft of hives or honey, as well has how much honey a beekeeper should offer their neighbors, and the Caithchi Bech, the trespassing of bees.

Honey is also well-known for its curative properties, and Gobnait was renowned for her care of the sick. Gobnait added beekeeping to her life’s work developing a lifelong affinity with them. She started a religious order and dedicated her days to helping the sick, probably using honey as a healing aid in the treatment of illness and healing of wounds..  St Gobnait had a particular skill in caring for the sick and she is credited with saving the people at Ballyvourney from the plague. 

While her focus was on pastoral work such as tending her hives, healing the sick, and founding a religious community for women, Saint Gobnait was not just a placid nun, oh no. Excavations of her home have found that she was also a metal worker, smithing and smelting.

In the ruins of her church there is a smooth round iron ball set into the wall, known as St. Gobnait’s Bowl. It is said to have been used to destroy a fort built by a pagan chief on the hills north of Ballyvourney and was said to have returned to the Saint each time she threw it. Those who have grasped the bowl in the wall will know the miraculous nature of this feat.

There are also legends of her setting swarms of bees on forces attempting to invade Balleyvourney, causing the swollen and stung invaders to return the cattle they stole before they fled. Some accounts go even further, with the bees miraculously changing into soldiers and their hives transformed into bronze helmets.

‘Tháinig na saighdúirí Gallda agus tógadar mórán stuic i mBaile Mhuirne, ach ar an slige dhóibh ag imeacht an bóthar soir do scaoil Naomh Gobnait na beacha as an mbeachaire. Tosnuigeadar ar na saighdúirí a chealg chun nar fágadar súil ná srón ionnta agus b’éigin dóibh an stuic fhágaint ’na ndiadh’.

The English soldiers came and took a lot of stock in Ballyvourney, but on their way out the east road, Saint Gobnait released the bees from the bee-hive. They started to sting the soldiers until they were left without an eye or a nose and they were forced to leave the stuff behind them.

(from The Bee, its Keeper and Produce, in Irish and other Folk Traditions)

Collected from various sources and compiled by Shirley Twofeathers for The Powers That Be, you may repost and share without karmic repercussions, but only if you give me credit and a link back to this website. Blessed be.

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