Exit Standard 1. Name and briefly describe one method of divination or Seership technique common to three paleo-pagan Indo-European cultures. (minimum 100 words each)
One practice that seems to be prevalent in all cultures is augury although in different cultures it is referred to by different names. Although it is mainly the flights and songs of birds that were studied, any action could have been interpreted to either foretell the future or relate a message from the gods. Further, there was a hierarchy of the birds which indicated the importance and not all birds were included in that hierarchy. The Roman historian Livy stresses the importance of those performing the Augury: “Who does not know that this city was founded only after taking the auspices, that everything in war and in peace, at home and abroad, was done only after taking the auspices?” (Wikipedia, Augur) Ornithomancy is an Ancient Greek practice of reading omens from the actions of birds, equivalent to the Augury employed by the later ancient Roman culture. Like the Roman Augurs the Greek Seers would study the hierarchy of birds noting their actions, appearance, songs and number of sightings at the time and make predictions based upon these observations.
Augury is an act of consulting and interpreting the will of gods about some course of action such as accession of kings to the throne is indicated especially in Ireland where the connection of the King was inextricably linked to the Land. Anne Ross in her book Pagan Celtic Britain tells us that, “Birds figure throughout the entire Celtic tradition as symbols of divinity and as servants or messengers of the gods.” (p302) She also goes on to note that they had a specific hierarchy of birds with three in particular featuring prominence, the swan, the crane and the raven. The Druids would inspect the internal organs of all animals (especially bulls) which were sacrificed to the Gods and would deduct important information concerning the future (harvest, wars, politics, weather, city prosper, etc.).Other cultures such as the Mesopotamians deemed the liver of special sheep the means to discover the will of the gods
Omenology, which is a Vedic form of Augury, is called Nimmita or shukuna shastra in Vedic Astrology and gives us an indication that this form was practiced in India as well. Evidence of Vedic Augury can be found in “RV hymns II 42 and 43 taking the Kapinjala, a kind of heather-cock, as birds of good or bad omen, depending on the direction from which they call: if the call is from the right or south of the house, then it is auspicious. “If many eagles keep flying over a city, the city will be besieged.” (Vedic, p20-21) Bhishagratna goes to quite some length in the XXIX chapter of his work regarding omens of many types including Augury of various fowl when he states, “…harmonious melodies of birds chirping on the boughs of healthy Kshira trees, bent under the weight of fruit, and looking gladsome with their dowry of beautiful blossoms and foliage, or notes of birds perched on the terraces of palace towers or on the tops of banner poles singing melodiously, or birds following the messenger with their songs or singing seated from the auspicious quarters of the heavens, or following him on his left, should be equally regarded as sights and notes of happy foreboding. A bird, seated on the withered trunk of a blighted or thunder-blasted tree, or on a thorny knoll covered over with creepers, or on ashes or stones, or amidst ordure or husks of grain, or on dried skeletons, and singing in a harsh voice with its head turned towards the blazing or inauspicious quarter of the sky, should be deemed as portending evil. Similarly, birds, which are possessed of names of masculine terminations are happy omens if seen on the left by a physician on his way to the house of a patient, while birds, on a similar occasion, whose names have feminine endings, are auspicious if seen by him on the right.” (Bhishagratna, p275-276)
These evidences then from written works in Vedic culture along with the Celtic culture give credence to the actual practice of Augury occurring across the known Paleo-Pagan world and was a prevalent ritual in every culture. It is important also to note the importance of the use of Augury at specific times, for example, “Any omen which is seen, heard or even visualized at the initiation of an activity is believed to foretell the outcome of the activity.” (Wikipedia, Omen) so not only is the actual interpretation of the actions required but also the timing of those specific actions.
Exit Standard 2. Within the context of a single paleo-pagan Indo-European culture, discuss three different forms of divination or Seership, and give an example of each. (minimum 100 words each)
In the Celtic culture these three forms of divination were documented as used by the Druids.
It is apparent, at least to me, that the close link between kings and Druids went beyond respect and simple advice inasmuch as the kings seemed to always defer to the Druids before making any important decision, indicating that the Druids had foreknowledge of events yet to transpire having been informed of such by the Otherworld and that the kings would seek that knowledgeable advice. “Eochaidh of Connacht consults a Druid to prophesy the best spot to build his new palace, while we have Cathbad the Druid of Conchobhar Mac Nessa making several prophecies, such as the birth and greatness of his own son and the future of Deidre…” (Ellis, p226) We also learn that Beag ac Dé pronounced one of the most interesting prophecies of all when he gave his mystic Threefold Death proclamation. (Ellis, 78)
“… speaks of the Druids as true prophets. And under the name of Merddin, we have scarcely anything, either genuine or spurious, but descriptions of magical lots, auguries by birds …” (Davies, p39) As people who lived close to Nature and indeed venerated it, the Celts would be very observant as to the signs provided by birds, trees, animals, wind and all other aspects of Nature just the same as any other culture living in harmonious companionship with the natural world. Most prevalent is divination from the study of birds, their actions and flight. In fact there is a “… manuscript in Trinity College, Dubin, mentioned by O’Curry, contains references to bird omens and their meanings such as the croaking of ravens, chirrping of wrens, flights of crows.” (Ellis, p223)
When dealing with historians from the great past it is always with some trepidation that they are used because of their bias, we should question everything, especially if it comes from sources hostile to Celtic civilization, but Diodorus Siculus, a Greek historian from the 1st century BCE, gave a rather clear description of how the druids would predict the future by the flight pattern of birds in much the same manner as the Greeks and Romans. (Ellis, 222) Because of the fact that he compared them to other cultures with whom he was familiar it is fairly safe to belief that this description was accurate and not fantastically created to prove a point beyond that of the truth.
“The Irish literary tradition has tales describing druids and others using the ogam for divination and magical purposes.” (Laurie, p26) The great tale of Cúchulainn in the Táin Bó Cuailnge ddescribes how he used the Ogham to foretell the doom of those who are seeking him and his men. We are also told in the legend involving Etain and Midhir that Dallan, a druid, made use of four inscribed Ogham rods when he performed a scrying ritual to locate the whereabouts of Etain who was missing and whom they were seeking. These are but a few examples out of a plethora that indicate the Ogham was used to a very large extent in the Celtic community for the purposes of Divination. In fact it was prevalent enough to even be granted a name, coelbreni, which means omen sticks.
Exit Standard 3. Discuss both the role of Seers within at least one Indo-European culture and the relationship of Seers to other members of the society, including in that discussion how Seers or visionaries would have supported themselves or how they would have been supported by their people. (minimum two paragraphs)
The fáith (Vates) or Seers in the Celtic culture served to inform the people of the will of the gods, revealing hidden knowledge and warning of impending doom giving the populace cause to heed closely to their words. The status of the Seers was such that they, “…were so highly placed socially that the ‘kings were not permitted to adopt or plan any course’ without consulting them ‘so in fact it was they who ruled and the kings became the subordinates.” (Ellis, p75) Unlike the role of Seers in Greek and Roman culture where they, “… only had the power to advise, not direct …” (Jones & Pennick, p85) the Celtic Seer had ‘much more direct political power’ with their words were sought and adhered to by the kings. This may be due to their ability, “…to pronounce a glam dicin or the geis to assert their authority.” (Ellis, p140) This fear of taboo or banishment from rituals or from taking part in the sacrifices (the most severe of punishments) and being regarded as criminals to be shunned as unclean was a powerful tool in society and inasmuch as they were the only ones who had the authority to act in this way shows that their status was definitely elevated above even the kings.
Although not required it was expected as a reciprocal gift much the same as today we offer gifts to the Kindred in return for their blessings. In Celtic society, every person is expected to provide for their own sustenance in some fashion, even the Kings, who although granted use of lands still needed to maintain crops and livestock. Although Seers were of an elite class by the code of the society they would be expected to primarily take care of themselves. The Brehon states that a teacher must provide for his students who in turn, when the teacher is old, infirm and without family, must return the sustenance. There are very few exceptions in the laws that make provision for being given provisions; one such case would be if the Seer was considered a guest then by the laws and custom of hospitality they would be given shelter, food and drink. This exception could have been exploited but that scenario is highly doubtful because of the ethical standards that were held in such high esteem by the society.
Exit Standard 4. Identify and describe one method of divination to which you find yourself attracted, and discuss its relationship to paleo-pagan divination. (minimum 300 words)
Ogham is a source of divination that I have recently felt calling to me during my meditations and journeys to the Otherworld. I have previously used the Tarot and Runes feeling reasonably comfortable with both methods of divination for several years. However once I settled on the Celtic-Gaelic Hearth Culture and started spending more time with my biological Ancestors I found myself desiring more than just their company and guidance during my travels. It was at this juncture that I began to feel a more urgent impression that using a system that was familiar during their time and peculiar to their culture was desirable and almost obligatory by them.
Steven Blamires in his book Celtic Tree Mysteries states that the ancient Celts, “…felt compelled to do as the Ogham said, shows the power with which it was regarded.” (p 13) In fact, as he further states, “In the legend of Etain and Midhair, Dallan the druid, uses four Ogham-inscribed rods in a scrying ritual to determine the whereabouts of the missing Etain.” (p13) There are many instances recorded of the famous Cuhulain, ‘the famous hero of Ulster,’ being well acquainted and associated with Ogham. The simple fact is that Celtic tradition teaches and emphasizes a complete and total attachment, even immersion, in the things of this world, and also a very deep sacred bond with the land. There are very few instances can an instrument such as the Ogham rods have as deep a union closer with the land than the spirits of the trees from which the rods were respectfully and devotedly obtained for divination use.
We acknowledge the presence of Nature Spirits and often call upon them to guide us in our work much as the ancient Celts did and so by continuing the use of Ogham for divination as we learn that they did, not only brings us closer to them and the Nature Spirits, but also shows a respect for their traditions, learning and practices. Learning divination through the use of the Ogham continues to provide a vital link for me as mentioned above and enables me to employ their accumulated wisdom for guidance in my life and work. Embarking on the Druid Path is not a whim or to be taken lightly by me and the more that I can bridge the disparity of my experience and the vast empire of knowledge of the Otherworld the more beneficial my search for knowledge and wisdom in this world will become.
Exit Standard 5. Briefly describe the symbology of your chosen method of divination, and include a method of application for that system. (minimum 100 words overall description plus at least one sentence or line per symbol)
The Ogham was a system that enabled the ancient Celts to inscribe words that was only meant to be used on short inscriptions due to the fact it was extremely laborious and thus not very practical as a script for ‘writing’ as we associate detailing of events. However, the etching of straight lines with intersections is a far easier form to carve on stones than curving, circular or joined lettering. It has been postulated that in some cases all that was needed was the first letters of known words for the reader to be able to decipher the message. It was also a system that was not probably known adeptly by all as is the cases with the legends of Cuhulain who was the only one in the company that could interpret the warnings posted.
Each symbol in Ogham has three levels of significance; the Physical, Mental and Spiritual. The Physical is the actual physical characteristics represented by the associated tree and its properties regarding the health benefits afforded by that tree. The Mental is an indicator of what processes should be employed for benefit and of course the Spiritual should be regarded as indicative of what might transpire as seen by the spirit guides. Knowledge of the question being asked will let the omen reader know how to best provide an answer. Generally in divination the following interpretations are applicable for each of the respective Ogham staves.
Beith -: There is a need to purify oneself, clarification and discipline are required now.
Luis-: This is a time to seek inspiration or enlightenment, look for signs and omens in your environment.
Fearn-: Your are insulated from harm and your emotions are protected, however there is a need to be cautious.
Saille-: There is a need to connect or listen to the Ancestors; you need to pay attention in the timing of your endeavors right now.
Nin-: Now is the time for writing for the purpose of clarity, especially in contracts.
Huatha-: Something of critical importance may be missing, if you are working a ritual or preparing to it is better to abandon your work or start over.
Dair-: This indicates stability, firmness, endurance; look to what is fundamental in your life.
Tinne-: There is stability in dealing with metal, money, wealth or weapons, it is time to stop procrastinating.
Coll-: Inspiration or wisdom is at hand, trust you know answers to the question or problem and can apply your knowledge or skills to bring resolution.
Ceirt-: There is frustration or self-destructive activity around you, be aware of sudden changes in fortune approaching.
Muin-: There is a depth of emotion, desire, of affection right now but there is also a need to use caution with words of others.
Gort-: Look to blessings that are in your life and give thanks for them, prosperity will come soon.
nGéatal -: Health is a priority right now, active or progressing healing is taking place.
Straif -: There is a need for spiritual work and development to take place, a total change in direction or intention needs to occur.
Ruis-: There is a fear of loss of control, but an aura of positive love and passion surround the situation.
Ailim-: Your creativity is strong at the moment, there is an epiphany waiting to happen or you are on the brink of discovery.
Onn-: There is a need to examine the direction your life is going, it is advisable to use active or physical methods of meditation to correct any imbalances or misdirections.
Ur-: The end of something is happening, there is a need for letting go of a physical object or relationship.
Edad-: It is time to pay closer attention to your dreams or impressions from your inner self.
Idad-: Look at the past to help determine the future, seek out elders and lay a foundation upon which you can build.
Typically one stave is drawn and the symbol interpreted, although it is possible to draw three; one for the past, one for the present and one for the future. As in all divination methods it is not exactitude of what is portended but that it serves as an indication of what may transpire if the current course of action of the individual is followed. The choice is still dependent on the individual to heed the counsel or ignore it. There are more methods of drawing the staves depending as to whether one is following a strict CR method, neo-Pagan or a combination of the former methods and readings of the staves from the different layouts can be dependent upon the order in which the staves fall and the nearness of other staves in interpreting the resolution to the question at hand.
Exit Standard 6. Describe the results of three divinations performed by you. These divinations may be text assisted. (minimum 100 words each)
My first divination using the Ogham was BEALTUINN 2009. I used some primitive staves that I had made to temporarily use while I made myself a more ceremonial set from the actual tree wood related to each symbol on the individual stave. On this occasion I drew Coll which is the omen indicative of following my intuition to the source, where I will be rewarded with wisdom and my soul will ring with poetry. It is also indicative of a time of choice and of making the right move to ensure all effort and energy is channeled in the right direction. I felt completely at ease with this drawing because it described exactly what I was experiencing and considering in relation to the Dedicant Path and the work involved in completing all that was required.
My second divination that I will discuss was LUGHNASADH, 2009. I had begun studying more material relating to the Ogham over the preceding weeks and was beginning to feel more accomplished at understanding the nuances involved. I found that since Bealtuinn the more time I spent meditating prior to drawing the Ogham stave the clearer my understanding of the omen and its implications became. On this occasion I drew Fern the omen of Salvation and Spiritual Protection implying that I need to keep my eyes open to see the unusual and acknowledge what is seen in another if at all possible, I should also let my intuition guide me in this matter. This was an interesting draw because at this time I was questioning what my intuition was telling me. I’m sure that many of us do this from time to time but as I had begun writing my journal and working on the Dedicant Path many questions about my experiences arose and although I was feeling one way intuitively, I was quizzical about the obvious direction I was heading. This reading assisted me in accepting what I was feeling.
The third divination that was a remarkable milestone for me was SAMHAIN, 2009 where I drew Dair, an omen indicating that I had accumulated acorns of wisdom and that the time for dropping and sharing my wisdom was here. I must also be tough and resilient despite life’s unpredictability as an Oak is to the bolt of lightning. I continue to marvel at the appropriateness of my drawings with Ogham and felt that there was indeed a magical quality to them growing more evident as I continue to study and use them. It was at this time that I was beginning the serious editing of some of my Dedicant Path essays and writing others from my notes. My journal showed me the progress I had made and I saw the wisdom in suggesting that we write down impressions, divinations, prayers and omens among other items of note and observance. On this evening I felt the strong presence of my biological ancestors, more than at any other time, which was appropriate since this is one of the times when the veil between us and the Otherworld is at its thinnest. It marked a turning point for me in my connection with my ancestors and realized how much their knowledge had been imparted to me thus far in my journey.
Exit Standard 7. Discuss your view of the purpose of divination. (minimum 100 words)
Divination is not foretelling or prophecy of the future as so many people believe. To me it is more an indication of what might transpire if particular aspects and occurrences fall into line in a specific manner as seen by our guides in the Otherworld. With this foreknowledge it is possible for us to choose a different outcome by following the wisdom of those in the Otherworld. Nothing in this world is set in stone so to speak and by being aware of the consequences we are able to avoid or embrace the outcome shown to us through divination.
Our guides and Ancestors in the Otherworld have the ability to warn us of impending doom or blessing; it is up to us as individuals to be open, receptive, and willing to change in order for us to bring about desirable consequences. This is the purpose of divination, just like road signs that warn us of construction, speed limits, bumps, icy conditions etc. divination provides us with the warning of what might transpire. A factor that is often overlooked is that of how the past affects what is in the future for us. Past events and impressions form a foundation for our current and future actions, thoughts, impressions and decisions. It is using these foundations and the foreknowledge provided by the Ancestors that we can make, hopefully, wise and beneficial decisions about our future.
Exit Standard 8. Discuss the relative importance and effect of divination within your personal spiritual practice. (minimum 100 words)
Divination is a tool to aid or guide me in my life and as such has a very crucial importance in my spiritual practice. On a daily basis this is one way the Ancestors and my Otherworld guides communicate with me and provide me with wisdom, education and guidance. Seeking such guidance is preceded by a grounding and consideration of an important question that I am pondering which is answered, not necessarily in the manner which I might choose or like, but by offering me a direction that I might follow to bring balance back into my life and surroundings.
My understanding or interpretation of the divination is what serves as a beacon akin to a lighthouse to guide me through the shoals of life in a relatively safe manner and assists me in suggesting solutions to problems, difficulties or quandaries. We all want to know what the future holds for us in some fashion or another, although we really only want to know the beneficial fortunes that await us not the impending problems, which is why divination is such a popular tool in many neo-Pagan practices today. I have lived through enough in my life to realize that while it is nice to be aware of what is impending it is far better for me physically and spiritually to give heed to the warnings and do what is necessary to bring about the necessary changes to resolve any imbalance that I may be experiencing. It is for this purpose that I feel the express need for guidance in many forms, one of which is divination.
Exit Standard 9. Discuss your view and understanding of the function of the Seer. (minimum 100 words)
To continue my waterway analogy from above, I see the function of a Seer as that of a Harbor Pilot who assists in the safe navigation of vessels. A Seer likewise assists ADF members by counseling (steering), advising based upon acquired knowledge (reading the maps and charts) and reading the omens or signs (channel marker buoys) to provide a safe mooring for the individual. Being able to know the signs and follow the guidance of the Otherworld host ascertains that we as members of ADF are meeting all of the needs necessary for not just ourselves but the entire membership.
By far the most important aspect of a Seer is to provide counsel on many matters to the members. I believe that the more adept Seers are those that have experienced life in a variety of ways beyond theoretical knowledge. Many of us know that as great as book knowledge may be, practical experience combined with the theoretical provides a much more superior knowledge foundation from which a Seer can draw. This is due to the fact, hopefully, past experience has taught the Seer consequences and blessings with which he or she can provide sage counsel to the membership. Interpreting signs and omens is not an exact science for most, but it can become more so when experiential knowledge is applied to like circumstances portended in answer to questions and quandaries. To me a Seer equals Knowledge, Wisdom, Experience and Understanding. These are qualities that can be honed the more that the Seer practices the art of Divination and recognizes patterns and resultant actions that can be used to provide assistance to those seeking it.
Exit Standard 10. Discuss the importance and value of divination as it relates to ADF. (minimum 100 words)
It is very difficult to say that one role is more “important” than another in ADF however the role of the Seer is critical during ritual workings. It is during the Omen, a significant section of the ritual that the Seer comes to the fore in describing how the sacrifices have been accepted or, hopefully not, rejected. This interpretation is based upon to a certain extent if the sacrifices or offerings were appropriate for the work and if they were then a description of any forthcoming blessings can be provided. I believe that this is critical because the correct interpretation can mean the difference between offense or honor to the involved Kindred. It is also important for the Seer to be vigilant for any signs that might become evident during the ritual that can give indication to the assembly of the presence of any of the Kindred or can assist in providing clarification of the will of the Gods as pertaining to the assemblage.
Depending upon the manner or style which the Seer uses to aid in the divination such as Runes, Ogham, and Omenology etc. there is even the possibility to ascertain specific guidance for answers to specific questions regarding health, spiritual or physical well being. The Seer who is adept at the craft can provide individual interpretations relevant to particular patrons who have approached the Seer seeking some guidance. Although the Seer should not provide such services for a fee, they should be available to members of the ADF as needed. In this capacity they may be of a more important resource to a greater number of members, especially as they practice their craft and become more adept.
Bhishagratna , Kaviraj Kunja Lal The Sushruta Samhita, J.N. Bose, Calcutta 1907
Blamires, Steve Celtic Tree Mysteries, Llewellyn Publications, St. Paul, Minnesota 1997
Davies, Edward Mythology and Rites of British Druids, Kessinger Publishings, Whitefish, MT 2003
Ellis, Peter Beresford The Druids, William B. Eerdmans Publishing, Grand Rapids, Michigan 1995
Green, Miranda Dictionary of Celtic Myth and Legend, Thames and Hudson, New York, New York 1997
Laurie, Erynn Rowan Ogam: Weaving Word Wisdom, Megalithica Books, Stafford ST, UK 2007
Ross, Anne Pagan Celtic Britain, Academy Chicago Publishers, Chicago, Illinois 1996
Vedic & Mesopotamian cross influences. http://www.omilosmeleton.gr/pdf/en/indology/VMCI.pdf
Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Augur Livy, VI.41