A selection of readings from the Lebor Feasa Runda

Albion Druid
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Joined: 2008-12-21

I thought that I would post here a few excerpts from my recently published book, The Lebor Feasa Runda (Book of Secret Knowledge) - A Druidic Grammar of Celtic Lore and Magic [ISBN: 978-1-4401-0282-0 (hbk), ISBN: 978-1-4401-0280-6 (pbk)] for those who might appreciate a Pagan (as opposed to Medieval Christian) interpretaion of the Celtic myths of ancient Ireland. Please visit: http://www.geocities.com/lebor_feasa_runda for more information on the origin and history of this text. The Lebor Feasa Runda can be purchased on-line at target.com, amazon.com, barnes and nobel.com and through most other major online booksellers.

Here is a sampling of some of the scriptures contained in this religious text:

The Testament of Ollamh Fodhla

Hear now the words of Eochaidh Ollamh Fodhla, the High King of Ireland, who spake unto his son, Cairbre, saying, “Value, O my son Cairbre, the wisdom of my words, seeing that I, Eochaidh, have received this from the Aes Sidhe.” Then answered Cairbre, saying, “How has it come to pass that I deserve to follow the way of my father Eochaidh in such things, who hath been found worthy to receive the knowledge of all great mysteries through the teaching of the Aes Sidhe?”

And Ollamh Fodhla said, “Hear, O my son, and receive my words, and learn the wonders of the Aes Sidhe. For on a certain night, when I stood upon the Hill of Tara overlooking my kingdom, I heard a voice carried upon the wind which spake my name and I puzzled over this and asked who called unto me. Then did there appear before me a messenger of the Aes Sidhe, even Nemglan, who spoke many things graciously unto me, and said, ‘Listen, O Eochaidh! For long hast thou ruled justly over Ireland and great is thy knowledge and learning, and deep is thy wisdom, so that it has been ordained that I have been sent forth from Tir Tairngire to complete thy understanding of all things seen and unseen that are yet unknown to the mortal race of men.’

“And when I heard the words which were spoken unto me, I perceived that in me had the knowledge of all things, of both the mortal and immortal realms, been imparted; and I saw that all the teachings and learning of this present age were astray, and that no man was without flaw.

Thenceforth I inscribed in ogham characters upon staves of yew wood a certain record in which I have revealed the secret of secrets, and in which I have vouchsafed them hidden, and I have also therein related all history of the origins of our race and all knowledge of the immortal gods and of their dealings with mankind, and explained all wonders whatsoever of the magical arts of every adept; along with all marvels or undertakings, namely, of those mysteries which are in any wise worthy of being achieved. These things and more I have concealed upon these staves so that as a key openeth a locked door, so this testament alone may open the knowledge and understanding of all the sacred mysteries.

“Wherefore, O my son, thou mayest know all rites and rituals of every ceremony for calling upon and having dealings with the immortal gods, and through the conjuration of them by means of sacred proceedings as thou shalt see rightly set down by me, thou mayest work wonders through mastering the power of this knowledge, which I have set forth; even the ways of divination whereby all things which are in the Universe, and which have been in days long past, and which are yet to come to pass in future ages, may be revealed.

“Therefore, O my son Cairbre, I command thee by the benediction which thou expecteth from thy father, that thou shalt fashion a vault of stone, and therein place, conceal, and secure this my testament; and when I shall have passed away unto my fathers, I beseech thee to place the same in my tomb beside me,
lest in another age it might fall into the hands of the profane.” And as Ollamh Fodhla commanded, so was it done.

And when, thereafter many generations had passed, there was held every third year on Samhain a Feis at Tara to which all the noblemen and scholars of Ireland did gather, and there came to Loughcrew unto the tomb of Ollamh Fodhla certain Druids; and when they had assembled they at once took counsel together that a certain number of men should restore the grave in Ollamh Fodhla’s honour; and when the tomb was uncovered to be restored, the vault of stone was discovered, and therein were the ogham staves, which they beheld with joyous hearts, and when they looked upon them none among them could discern their message by reason of the obscurity of the words and their arcane arrangement, and the occult essence of the meaning and knowledge contained therein, for they were not deserving to possess this treasure.

Thereupon, arose among the Druids, one more righteous than the others, both in the sight of the gods, and by reason of his age, who was called Mogh Ruith, and said unto the others, “Unless we shall go forth and ask the interpretation of this testament from the gods with piety and humility, we shall never discern the meaning of it.”

Therefore, when each of the Druids had retired to his abode, Mogh Ruith indeed fell upon his knees to the ground in great consternation and said, “What have I deserved above others, seeing that so many men can neither understand nor interpret this knowledge, even though there be no secret thing in nature which the gods hath hidden from me! Wherefore are these words so inscrutable? Wherefore am I so ignorant?”

And then on his bended knees, turning his eyes to the heavens, he said, “O gods, who are the creators of all, thou who knowest all things, who gavest such great wisdom unto Ollamh Fodhla the king of Ireland; grant unto me, I beseech thee, O mysterious, powerful and wondrous Sidhe, to receive the virtue of that wisdom, so that I may become worthy by thine aid to discern the understanding of these staves of mystery.”

And immediately there appeared unto him, a messenger of the Aes Sidhe, saying, “Dost thou remember that if the secrets of Ollamh Fodhla appear arcane and obscure unto thee, that the gods hath wished it so that such wisdom may not fall into the hands of profane men; wherefore dost thou promise unto me, that thou art not willing that such great knowledge should ever come to any living creature, and that which thou revealest unto any let them know that they must keep it unto themselves, otherwise the sanctity is defiled and no effect can follow?”

And Mogh Ruith answered, “I vow unto thee that to none shall I reveal them, save to the honour of the gods, and with much discipline, unto discerning, erudite, and righteous persons.” Then answered the messenger, “Go forth and read the testament, and its words which were obscure throughout shall be made manifest unto thee.” And after this the messenger returned to the Sidhe in a peal of thunder.

Then Mogh Ruith was glad, and labouring with a clear mind, understood that which the messenger of the Aes Sidhe had said, and he saw that the testament of Ollamh Fodhla was changed, so that it became discernable unto him and made apparent in all parts. And Mogh Ruith understood that this work might fall into the hands of the ignorant, and he said, “I conjure him into whose hands this secret may come, by the power of the gods, and their wisdom, that in all things they may, desire, intend and perform, that this treasure may come unto no unworthy person, nor may they manifest it unto any who is unwise, nor unto one who regardeth not the gods; for if they act otherwise, I decree that they may never be worthy to attain unto the desired effect.”

And so he deposited the ogham staves, which Ollamh Fodhla preserved, in the vault of stone. But the words of the testament are as follows, hereafter written.

Of Tir nan’Og and the Aes Sidhe

Long ago, before the dawn of the ages, there was naught but the depths of a vast emptiness which was the goddess Domnann, who existed from the beginning of time, dwelling alone without companionship until at last there came forth from out of the shadows of her darkness, Net, the god of disruption. And through the power of his will Net did cause the stillness of Domnann’s void to be disturbed so that the darkness became divided and matter and form took shape where before there was only space and emptiness. And into this void was born Ernmas, the goddess of the earth, and Tuireann the god of the sky. And Ernmas did lie beneath Tuireann so that she was covered by him and from their union was born Bel, the god of the sun, and Danand, the goddess of the moon.

And the brightness of the sun shone upon the earth during the day, and the light of the moon by night. Great was the warmth and brilliance of Bel, which caused Danand to be filled with desire and longing for him, so that she was wont to follow after him as he traversed the heavens. Through her wiles she did seduce him and they became lovers. From their union was born the race of gods who are called the Aes Sidhe, and who were known of old as the Tuatha DéDannan, or People of Danand.

Many were the number of the Tuatha Dé Dannan, and among them were Lir, lord of the depths of the oceans; and Manannan his son, ruler of the waves of the seas; and Dagda the good, who is a generous helper unto all; and his daughter, Brighid the maiden, protectress of growing things; and Diancecht the healer, physician of the gods; and Goibniu the smith, master of the forge and metalwork; and Oghma the eloquent, greatest of all bards and scholars; and Nuada, the warrior of the gods and defender of their race; and Midhir, guardian of the treasures that lie buried deep beneath the earth. These and many more numbered among the Tuatha Dé Dannan.

Yet the Tuatha Dé Dannan were not the only children who were born to the generation of Tuireann and Ernmass, for there existed an elder race of beings called the Formoraig who likewise came forth from their union. But so wicked and malevolent were these monstrous creatures that Tuireann could not bear to look upon them, and he ordained that they should be cast into the sea. But the sea did not consume them, and the Formoraig took to living amidst the waters of the ocean, and they did travel upon its waves. And in the cold, dark, northern lands of the earth they made their kingdom, far from Tuireann’s gaze.

And so the Formoraig being banished from the fellowship of the Tuatha Dé Dannan came to dwell in Lochlann, on account of their great cruelty and ruthlessness; all save but one named Samthainn, who in his youth was beloved by all the gods for his playful nature, as he delighted them with his mirth and merriment. In time he grew to a handsome form, but for the antlers that grew forth from his head, so that he was called Cerna, meaning the Horned One, by all the Tuatha Dé Dannan. And he was given charge of watching over their flocks in the fields and the herds of animals that dwelt in the forests of their country which was called Tir nan’Og.

Now Tir nan’Og was an island that lay far out to sea, beyond the north winds, in the midst of the great ocean; and it was the fairest of all places in the world. In the heart of that isle spread a vast plain called Mag Mell. Broad and green were its fields and meadows, where grew countless groves of apple trees upon whose silver branches were borne golden fruits; so that it was sometimes called Emhain Abhlach, the Isle of Apples.

Upon this fair plain stood the Tobar Segais, or Well of Knowledge, from which five streams did flow. There five salmon did swim who fed upon the nuts of nine hazel trees that grew about the well. Fine was the weather there, and age came not to those who dwelt in that land, but all who lived there did remain young and strong and beautiful.

And those who did dwell there had built four magnificent cities; Fálias to the north, Gorias to the east, Findias to the south, and Murias to the west. In each of these four cities there stood a watchtower overlooking the land of Tir nan’Og wherein four great masters of knowledge and learning, skilled in the arts of enchantment and magic held forth. Morfesa of Falias, Esras of Gorias, Uiscias of Findias, and Semias of Murias. They were the guardians of four great treasures, and were the teachers of the Aes Sidhe from whom they learned great wisdom and skills.

And it happened that one day Brighid, the daughter of Dagda, was alone having wandered into the wilderness, for she was fond of all manner of herbs and green things and had great knowledge of their powers and uses. And in her wandering she ventured into the realm of Cerna who dwelt deep in the forests and was master of all the animals who lived there; for he more than any of the other gods was the most wild and feral among them.

Now Cerna had never seen such a fair and beautiful maiden as Brighid, and no sooner had he caught but a glimpse of her was he smitten with a deep longing to have her. But frightened was she of his strange appearance, for he was arrayed in rustic apparel wearing garments of green oak leaves and having antlers upon his head, so that she fled from his company. Yet did Cerna pursue her until she relented and the two became lovers, and from their union was born the race of man.

This did not bode well for Brighid for she was much beloved by Tuireann, and when he discovered her tryst with Cerna he set about to punish them. Taking a blade forged by Goibniu, Tuireann gave it unto Brian, and told him to go forth to the realm of Cerna and lay waste to it, so that the race of man could no longer look only to their father, the horned one, to aid them in seeking their livelihood by hunting and herding the beasts which he ruled, but that they should thereafter have to seek out the other gods of the Tuatha Dé Dannan to assist them in their toils and labours in raising crops by the sweat of their brows.

And because mankind had been conceived from the tryst of Brighid with the Horned One, Tuireann decreed that the race of man should not bide in the landof Tir nan’Og, but that they must forever dwell in the mortal lands of the earth. And for this reason their life there would not be unending, but that they should be mortal, wherefore age and death would come to them. Then did he cause a veil of mist to fall about Tir nan’Og so that it disappeared and could not be found by those who did dwell in the mortal world.

And after this was accomplished, Tuireann banished Cerna from the land of Tir nan’Og and sent him thenceforth unto Tech Duinn, the realm of ghosts and departed spirits; taking from him his oaken staff and giving him a crown of holly leaves, saying, “Thou art Donn, the dark one, for thou hast brought death upon those whom thou hast given life. Depart now from this land and go forth to rule over the kingdom of the dead.”

And when Cerna had taken the crown of holly leaves given him by Tuireann, the leaves of oak that made up the vestments of his apparel, which formerly appeared green and bright, began to wither and fade. Then did Cerna speak unto Tuireann, saying, “I shall not bide there alone,” and he told Tuireann that while Brighid was with him she had eaten of the berries of the rowan that grew amid the trees of his forest, and because she had partaken of them she was bound to dwell with him. Unto which Tuireann replied “Only for a season.”

And Tuireann decreed that from Imbolc to Samhain, the goddess Brighid would dwell among the Tuatha Dé Dannan and thereafter, while in the realm of the dead, she should not be seen in the shape of the beautiful maiden that had filled Cerna’s heart with longing, but as Morrigan, a haggard old crone who appears to wayfarers as three dark birds of death, Nemain, Macha and Badb, who stand at the entrance to Tech Duinn croaking out the warning “Do not enter, keep away, pass by!”

And so it came to pass that when Brighid went forth to dwell in the land of the dead each Samhain at the ending of the harvest season, the earth became dark and cold, and growing things would wither and fade, so that during this season the race of man might survive only by bringing death and slaughter to the beasts of the forests and fields.

But upon her return to Tir nan’Og each spring she would go at dawn on the morning of Imbolc to the well of youth and drink the water therefrom and be transformed once again into a fair and beautiful maiden whose touch turns the grass to green once more. Then would the days grow longer and brighter, and the earth become bountiful once again; and so men would return to the plough and seek the blessings of the gods upon their crops.

And as a reminder to all that life and death are forever connected one to the other, it was the legacy of Cerna that the serpent, whose bite is the most deadly of all creatures, should come forth from the depths of the earth each spring to bide among the forests and fields as a symbol that death is ever present wherever there is life. Yet even as the serpent doth shed its skin to be renewed, so too does new life come forth from death also.

But lo, a prophecy was foretold by Brighid, that a day should come when the gods themselves must take leave of their own immortal land, even as her children had been banished from its shores by Tuireann's pride, so too would the Tuatha De Danann be made to flee and seek refuge amid the mortal lands of the earth. And likewise, as Cerna had been cast out and sent forth to dwell within the nether realm, it should come to pass that the race of men would someday compel all the gods to live amid the hollow places under the earth in the land that they should come to dwell in.

The Exodus of the Tuatha Dé Dannan

Now it came to pass that Iobath, together with his son Baath, of the tribe of Neimheadh, had left Ireland in a journey to the northern land of Lochlann, but in the course of their voyage, their ship was blown astray in a storm that fell upon them at sea, and so their vessel was set adrift until they happened upon the fair and peaceful shores of the Isle of Tir nan’Og.

There they were greeted by the Tuatha Dé Dannan who welcomed them and bid them to stay on their isle. And in that graceful land Baath and Iobath found a new home and did take wives of the Dannan women, and they did learn Druidry, and knowledge, and prophecy, and magic until they were proficient in the arts of sorcerery and enchantment. And by the seed of their generation was their blood mingled with that of the gods, so that their progeny dwelt in the land of Tir nan’Og among the Tuatha Dé Dannan. Gods were their men of arts and non-gods were their husbandmen. They knew the incantations of Druids, and charioteers, and trappers, and cup-bearers.

Now the Fomoraig learned that mortal men had come to dwell in Tir nan'Og, and their minds were wrought with envy that the Tuatha De Danann had given their daughters as wives unto these men. And through their jealousy, the toughts of the Fomoraig turned to deceiving the gods, that they might lay claim to their isle. Therefore the chiefs of the Fomoraig held council to decide how they should proceed in their plan, and they resolved to send forth Elada son of Delbaeth, the most noble prince of their race, to go to Tir nan'Og that he might beget a child by one of the daughters of the Tuatha De Danann. And by the spells and enchantments of their Druids, Elatha was transformed into the likeness of a fair-haired handsome warrior, whereupon he went forth in that guise to Tir nan'Og and did lay with Eriu daughter of Fiachna, who begat by him a son named Bres.

This brought forth the wrath of Tuireann, that a daughter of the Tuatha Dé Dannan had begotten a child who was heir to the prince of the Fomoraig, for such was an abomination to him. And lo, the thunders did gather over the land of Tir nan’Og and lightening bolts did fall forth from the heavens and the whole island began to be shaken by great rumblings of the earth so that the buildings of the cities therein began to crumble and fall, and havoc reigned over the land, whereby it was laid waste through wreck and ruin.

Then did Tuireann give dominion over the whole of that island unto Manannan son of Lir, the lord of the waves, so that by his hand it was overcome by a mighty flood and the land of Tir nan’Og disappeared into the depths of the ocean in the space of a single day and night when the waves of the sea overtook it, and for this reason it was thenceforth called Tìr fo Thonn, the Land Beneath the Wave.

Wherefore Nuada summoned the Tuatha Dé Dannan together in council and besought them to assemble a fleet of ships and in these they departed in haste therefrom with Nuada as their leader. For long they sailed upon the open waters until at last they reached Dobar and Iardobar in the north of Alba and there did they bide for the space of four years before they crossed over unto Ireland, from whence Baath and Iobath had come. And the Tuatha Dé Dannan brought with them four wondrous treasures, one from each of their great cities.

Out of Fálias was brought the Lia Fáil, the Stone of Destiny, which was placed in Tara; it used to roar under every king that would take the realm of Ireland. Out of Gorias was brought the Slea Luin, the flaming Spear of Lugh; no battle was ever sustained against it, or against the man who held it in his hand. Out of Findias was brought the Claiomh Solais, the shining Sword of Nuada; no one ever escaped from it once it was drawn from its deadly sheath, and no one could resist it. Out of Murias was brought the Coire Anseasc, the Cauldron of Dagda; no company ever went away from it unsatisfied.

On the day of Beltane the Tuatha Dé Dannan did land upon the shores of Ireland at Tracht Mugha in the province of Ulster. And Eochaid son of Eirc, the King of Ireland, had a vision of their coming which came to him as he slept. And when Eochaid awoke from his dream he was greatly troubled by it and sought counsel from Cesard his Druid.

The Druid asked the king what he had seen in his vision, and Eochaid told him that he had dreamed of a great flock of black birds that came forth from the depths of the ocean and lay siege upon the people of Ireland and brought to them conflict and turmoil and confusion, so that the people were destroyed, yet one of them struck the noblest of the birds and cut off one of its wings.

When the king had finished telling of his dream, the Druid told him its meaning, saying that a great host of warriors would come forth from over the sea and that they possessed vast knowledge of sorcery and magical enchantment and that they would conquer Ireland.

And when the Tuatha Dé Dannan had landed upon the shores of Ireland they broke apart their ships and burned them, then did they go forth to Brefne in the province of Connaught and made themselves a camp there by the Red Hills of Rian. Contented were they with the land they had come to and they determined that they would make for themselves a new home in it.



Albion Druid
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Posts: 21
Joined: 2008-12-21
Celtic myth and artifacts

The story of the dispossession of the horned god is actually illustrated in a couple of ancient Celtic artifacts - both from Gaul. One of these was the famous Romano-Celtic pillar that was discovered underneath Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris in 1711. The site had evidently once been a significant pagan religious location in the pre-Christian era, and (probably because of that) the Christian cathedral was later built directly over it. The pillar which was erected in the first century B.C. by the Parasian mariners is ornamented with religious scenes on each of its four sides, some of the scenes were depictions of gods under their Roman names, while other scenes show gods bearing Celtic names, including one (partially remaining) depiction of the Gallic horned god Cernunnos. On another panel the Gallic god Esus is shown cutting down a tree, and on yet another panel labeled "Tarous Trigaranus" is shown a horned bull with three cranes. This is very similar to another Celtic artifact discovered in Trier, Germany which shows a man cutting down a tree in the boughs of which are hiding a bull with three birds on top of his back.

I believe that the intention of the scenes shown on both these artifacts was to illustrate the story of how the ancient horned god of hunting and herding was deposed by the newer gods of agriculture, so that the horned god came instead to be the ruler of the realm of the dead. The three birds represent the triple goddess who often appears in bird form, like the Morrigan who appears as three ravens: Nemain, Macha and Badb; or in Welsh myth the goddess Blodeuedd - the wife of Lleu Llaw Gyffes, who is punished for her betrayal of her husband with the mysterious hunter Gronwy, by being transformed into an owl. (Both owls and ravens are traditionally assocated with omens of death). It is said in Irish myth that the dead go to Tech Duinn (the House of Donn), the door of which is guarded by three cranes which croak out a warning to passing travellers, saying: "Stay away! Do not enter! Pass by!", and Donn of course is the name of the famous brown bull in the Irish story of the Cattle Raid of Cooley - during which the Morrigan comes to him in the form of a raven, speaking prophetically, saying: 

"Dark One, are you restless? Do you guess they gather to certain slaughter? The wise raven groans aloud that enemies infest the fair fields, ravaging in packs. Learn, I discern rich plains softly, wavelike, bearing their necks. Greeness of grass, beauty of blossoms on the plains of war grinding heroic hosts to dust. Cattle groans, the Badb, the raven ravenous among corpses of men. Affliction and outcry and war everlasting raging over Cooley. Death of sons, death of kinsmen, death, death!"

 

Cernunnos from the Nautes Pillar, Notre Dame, Paris.

 

The god Esus cutting down a tree, from the Nautes Pillar, Notre Dame, Paris.

 

 

Tarous Trigaranus "The Bull with Three Cranes" from the Nautes Pillar, Notre Dame, Paris.

 

Artifact from Trier, Germany, showing Esus cutting down the tree holding the bull with three cranes.

 

Celtic temple from Roquepertuse, France, showing cross-legged seated figures in front of a niched arch holding human skulls, on top of which sits a large water fowl (a crane?)

 

The Celtic horned god shown in his usual cross-legged seated position, from the Celtic ritual cauldron discovered in Gundestrup, Denmark.

 

A Celtic shrine from Reims showing the horned god sitting cross-legged between two other deities, holding a bag from which is spilling acorns on which a bull and a stag are feeding.

 

 

 



Elkie
Posts: 112
Joined: 2007-09-23
Thanks

Thanks again A.D., you have given me much to think about. Great collage!



Albion Druid
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Posts: 21
Joined: 2008-12-21
mythologies

The different gods and goddesses worshipped by the various tribes or cultures of Europe are very much like the different languages spoken by those same cultural groups - all stemming from a common Indo-European source which branched out over time, evolving as parallels in each culture. The horned-god, together with the mother goddess, are two of the oldest and earliest dieties worshiped in Europe dating back to the Neolithic era, when mankind's primary concerns were hunting and maintaining the numbers of his tribe. Later as agriculture and trade began to overshadow hunting and herding, newer gods were worshipped to bring sun, fair weather, and rain to man's crops, and the old horned god of the hunt began to be associated with death as hunting was relegated more to the winter months when crops were not growing, and herd animals were slaughtered for meat and to thin out the numbers of the herd to ensure that there would be enough feed to go around and last through the barren winter months when the fields lay dead and cold.

As mythologies evolved, the gods sometimes took on new identities and roles in the culture in which they were worshipped. The Christian concept of the horned Devil is a thinly veiled borrowing of the earlier pagan concept of the horned god as the ruler of the underworld in the realm of the dead, an aspect which the horned god came to be associated with after agriculture displaced his prominence as a hunting deity.  

 

 

 



Elkie
Posts: 112
Joined: 2007-09-23
Cerna

Thanks for this Albion Druid, it makes the document very accessible. I was particularly interested in the character of Cerna. To me he sounds like Pan, but Pan with more depth than is usually given to that archetype in popular literature. What are your thoughts on this?
Elkie