Within these pages you will find a very basic ‘How to’ and 'What is' explanation of some of the general aspects of the ‘Pagan’ religions in general. What you won’t find is the opinions of experts. For further information, see the page titled 'Belief'. or 'Basic Paganism'
Almost all of the contents of this website was written and researched by Rainbird between 1999 and 2007 some have been revised between 07 & 09 and again in 2013 -2014. And again almost all the clip art was designed or put together by Rainbird.
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5th March 2014
So what is Paganism; this religion that I and many others practise? That’s a question I have been asked many, many times and most of the time I can only answer that question in the very vaguest of terms. Yes, in England technically I suppose it is usually understood as the worship of non-Christian Gods and Goddesses, yet at the same time we do not see religions such as Hinduism as a pagan religion which also has many Gods and Goddesses which are also non-Christian! By the very nature and understanding of the word, ‘pagan’ means many different things to many different and diverse groups of people throughout the world. Just looking at the word ‘Pagan’ doesn’t help us much either.
In the English dictionary the word pagan means ‘Heathen’ and the word heathen means ‘not adhering to a religious system’ and the actual root Latin word ‘paganus’ means ‘rural’ or ‘country dweller’. So as we Pagans ‘do’ adhere to a religious system all be it non-Christian one, obviously we are not ‘heathens’. So if the Latin root word is taken literally the total population of our Isles are all ‘paganus’ as we all dwell in a country!
If and when somebody asks me “what religion are you”, I give the easy answer “I’m a Pagan” and then I leave it up too the individual to believe whatever they wish, or to enquire further if they are curious. But to all intents and purposes there is an infinite number of religions within that one all encompassing answer. Within that answer I could believe in Druidism, Wicca and or Odinism or indeed I could be one of those who hold a belief in Ancient Greek,
The most popular ‘pagan’ belief systems in this country are Druidism and Wicca, closely followed by Odinism yet even in those there are many different branches and divisions within the scope of those titles.
Of Druidism very little is known of the original belief system. Most of what we think we know today is based on reports written by the Romans who wanted to show this ancient Celtic system of worship, governance and law in a bad light and thereby justify the reasons for conquest. Even the Romans wrote that ‘History is written by the victors’, in other words it cannot be trusted implicitly. Many of the reports and observations written by or for
We do however have tantalizing glimpses and historical and archaeological facts to build on. Facts garnered from archaeological sites and finds in
Last but not least we have the Irish and Welsh Triads which were put together in the Middle-Ages, using much older material and containing such things as the interpretation of the law and the penalties and fines for breaking those laws. From these you can gain an insight into the important beliefs of the Celtic people and thus armed with the names of their deities and an indication of what was important to them, some people have extrapolated from this and built up a framework of belief through which they honour the Deities of our ancestors through their version of Druidism.
In Wicca the two main branches are ‘Gardnerian’ and ‘Alexandrian’. In the 1950s
There are also those groups who hold and follow a belief in a fusion of both Druidism and the Wicca religion. They use the ritual words and actions of either Gardnerian or Alexandrian Wicca and set within that framework the Celtic Goddesses and Gods of Druidism as a more pertinent link to the ancestors.
Over the past ten years I have been actively researching pagan religions with a view to quantifying and putting my own beliefs into some sort of order and later to write a book that hopefully included some of the answers for others that I found very difficult to get to the questions that I was currently asking.
As I mentioned before there are many religions that pre-date early Christianity and the one I currently lean towards more than any other is Druidism, but as I mentioned earlier the Druids very rarely allowed any of their teachings to be written down, we know very little of how or what they believed. What we think we know today is as I have written earlier, largely based on guess work or second hand reports by people who wanted to show the home-grown religion in a bad light. The reason the druids did not write down any of their religious teaching was given to us by
I read some where that the Druids training is said to have taken a full thirty-six years to complete. I also read in some transcripts of manuscripts written by the Romans, that it only took twenty years, but sadly we can only guess. Yet as the life span of the average pre-roman
“Many young men assemble in their colleges of their own accord or sent by parents and relations. It is said that they learn there great many verses by heart. Some stay for twenty years under instruction. They have discussions about the stars and their movements, the size of the universe and of the earth, the order of nature and the strength and power of the immortal Gods.”
Some say that the would-be druid had to have been taken for training at a very early age, maybe as young as three or four years old. Quite possibly they were physically handicapped or frail in some way, (marked by the Gods) and most probably the son or daughter of a person of some importance. From these meagre facts we can perhaps assume that the training took up most of the Druids life; that is if they ever stopped learning at all.
It’s no wonder that what with the length and depth of the training they received the Druids were looked upon not just as priests, magicians and doctors; they also became the councillors/advisors, Brehons (Judges) and mediators to and between the Kings and Chieftains of and for the people as a whole. Because of their knowledge, experience and to the people they served, their great age, they were respected. In pre-Roman, and post
In the training of a Druid, perhaps the first few years or so were spent studying music, song, dance, law and folklore. Throughout this training they would also have been developing their mind and memory. At this stage they would also have learnt the ancestry or lineage and history of the people and would have acted as the arbitrator to the succession of leadership and Kingship or ownership of land. At this stage they were I believe called Bards.
The next few years would perhaps have been spent as ‘Ovates’ studying animals, birds, trees, and especially plants and their uses in medicine, magic and protection. Some say the Ovates or Vates as some call them were also Seer’s and used the flight of birds and insects to foretell the future. Trees were also studied and used as the bases of the Ogham script. It is known today as the
The last years of the Druids training probable over lapped all rest too some degree, and were spent training or sharpening their skills in the magical arts, and the pantheon of the Gods and Goddesses of the time. Nowadays non-believers would not admit to the possibility of there being something more than man; and grudgingly a God let alone more than one God and Goddess.
Some say that the religion of the Druids was split into three separate orders, that of Bards, Ovates and Druids, with each order concentrating on their own disciplines and traditions. My own personal belief is that each person who trained in this religion had to be proficient in each of the disciplines in order to progress. It is inevitable that some would be better at being a Bard than an Ovate or a Druid. Indeed some would have been more at ease in the one discipline, and each person would have gravitated to that order which he or she was naturally good at, thus putting them selves into the appropriate order naturally. Then there would be those very rare individuals who would master all of the disciplines, they would become the leaders, chiefs or Arch-Druids of the order. After their training was completed they would be fully fledged in their tradition. One thing that is for sure is that nobody is sure. We can only surmise how the various orders where set up and governed.
Over successive generations our early ancestors also built up codes for survival, moral codes; social codes, codes of behaviour and codes of honour which unfortunately have been sadly lost in today's society. One of the tenets or something similar that may have been held very strongly by the Druid priests at that time. In fact probably the most important and only one generally thought by Pagans to have come down to us through the ages is, “If it shall harm none, do as thou will”, although some argue that it was recently coined and put forward as a newly discovered ‘lost’ piece of ancient lore, later to be corrupted by the infamous Aleister Crowley as ‘There is no law beyond, Do what thou wilt’. You the reader will have decide and draw your own conclusions on that one. This ‘newly’ discovered piece of ‘ancient’ lore however has been embraced universally by most pagans anyway and is actually harder to comply with than the Ten Commandments of the Christian bible. If you think about it; how many actions can you come up with that does not harm someone or something directly or indirectly, physically or mentally somehow, somewhere, and at sometime? This, at the moment fits in with my outlook on life, but I have to say that I fail miserably in this. But then again I don't think anybody could do this, apart from some sort of Deity, Demi-God or so called Saint. I do however think that the most important thing is for all of us to aim for that state of grace; to keep trying for that personal spiritual growth of the soul!
It is also said by some that the Druid priests of old were pacifists, I am not convinced. I do not believe they could have been pacifists in the world in which they lived. If you go by the writings of ‘
For my own part during my life I have spent a great deal of my time studying/enjoying English folklore, folk music, plants and their uses. I have also studied birds and animals of the British Isles etc, and I have always had more than a passing interest in other religions, magic and the occult, plus astronomy and astrology. If I could add up the time I have spent on each of the areas mentioned I think it would come to about twenty years or more in total although I can in no way call myself an expert in any of these areas.
As to the study of Magic, I have only just started. I have only now found or realised that I had found the ideologies that draw them all together. I have found that which I have been looking for all my life without knowing it. Something I can believe in.
So with the blessing of the Goddess and the God, I will now start the most important and exciting part of my life.
The next few lines are a blessing based on the Ogham Tree Script.
May your journey be filled with blessings?
By the initiation of the Birch
From the protection of the Rowan
And the foundation of the Alder
By vision of the
And the guidance of the Ash
By restraint of the Hawthorn
And the strength of the Oak
By the justice of the
And the wisdom of the
With the beauty of the Apple
And the truth of the Vine
With the perseverance of the
And the harmony of the Reed
By the magic of the Blackthorn
And the healing of the Elder
With the height of the Fir
And the abundance of the Gorse
With the passion of the
And the courage of the Poplar
And the silence of the Yew.
May the trees of the forest of the other realm,
Take root within your heart,
May you grow in wisdom, joy and love?
For, and with all who live in the Earth Mothers embrace.