Pesky Little Buggers: The Utukku

Today we’re going to talk about the Utukku, these pesky little buggers with animal heads, claws and horns have been popping up through history in various forms since there’s been history; Demon, Vampire, Restless Dead; the Utukku has been in all. So lets start at the beginning…

Lets face it, no one wanted to be a Sumerian, sure their history ranged from the 5th to the 3rd Millennia BC (Yes Millennia) and they probably invented the wheel and, well, writing but for a chunk of that time they were looking north and wishing they could be Akkadians (Hey it was good enough for The Rock) or to the future waiting to be Babylonians. Why did it suck to be Sumerian you may well ask? Easily answered, their religion was far less concerned with praising their numerous, fickle gods as it was distracting them from any involvement with humanity (Pay no attention to that Civilization behind the curtain.). Back in the day, the Utukku were a demon ghostly kind of thing, the spirit of those not properly buried who returned to pester the living. Now remembering that being a Sumerian sucked pester takes on a whole new meaning. These things possessed the living making them commit crimes; they spread disease and sucked the lives out of young children (although that may have been cats).

Now our buddy Dwayne Johnson’s people (aka The Akkadians) believed that there were only seven of these guys running around (see why it was better to be an Akkadian). Admittedly these seven were really really bad. They were the Underworld’s messenger boys and the Akkadian Underworld was not to be trifled with.

The Utukku are still with us, even recently, Prague had figures in white coveralls with tire prints on their backs placed at around the city handing out flyers warning about traffic and pedestrian safety. Trying to use images of the restless dead to help save the living. For more on then check out

Product Profile: Connections, Jigsaw Puzzles for Healing

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Connections Puzzles Company Information
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Magical Buffet Mythology: Otorongo

by Matthew

“Otorongo is a fierce warrior who teaches us integrity–how to leap gracefully from life to life.”

I first met Otorongo in a trailer park somewhere near Ann Arbor, MI. The master shaman stood in her house, surveying her students, silently trembling as the spirits began to make themselves known. She closed her eyes while I was sitting in the corner watching the spectacle – people stalking around acting like jungle creatures. The woman’s eyes opened and I swear that for a second they turned yellow, like a cats eyes, and she beckoned “Matthew, come.”

I left my perch and took my place in front of her, for a few moments I thought she was my mother, but she took different power objects and began to blow through them and into my chakras; it felt very strange, like a cored out tunnel of wind extending from my head down to my feet. In each chakra was planted a seed, and with each seed came a jungle spirit, and each spirit wanted to dance. The first spirit to really make herself known was Otorongo, the Warrior Goddess. We danced what seems for hours that night. I don’t really remember much of what happened, it was very ecstatic; I do know that I was able to climb a tree and see in the dark though. What a wild night!

Otorongo is actually a set of twins: the Night Jaguar (black with purple spots) and the Day Jaguar (orange with black spots). In both aspects she is the purr-fect mother who grabs us by the scruff when needed but she will also rub up against you to let you know everything is going to be ok. She really is very sweet to her children.

The Night Jaguar is the spirit of death, she is the psychopomp who escorts souls from this world to the next, but she can also be fear incarnate. This aspect of Otorongo can be fierce and unpredictable, often her host (the invoking priest or priestess) will get blood shot red eyes, and in this case it’s best to see what can be done to alleviate her anger. The great dichotomy of the Night Jaguar is that she is also the great sex kitten, er, goddess too! Her powers of seduction are legendary and I only have one thing to say about this: ouch!

The Day Jaguar is much more mother like in her temperament; she protects and cleans us, she goes hunting and feeds us, she guides us throughout life and teaches us when we need to get out of what we are doing and leap into something new. She teaches us how to walk without leaving footprints, how to stealthily become invisible. The Day Jaguar has no dichotomy, she is who she is.

If you would like to work with Otorongo, but you can’t make it to Michigan for the Three Worlds Shamanism workshops, here is what you can do: get an orange cloth with black candles for Day Jaguar, or a black cloth with purple candles for Night Jaguar. When you are ready to enter ritual consciousness begin thumping a drum or shake a rattle – make it slow at first, then let it pick up tempo as you go along. Light the candles and begin calling her. She always comes to the voice of her children; but please, don’t be afraid when she comes. I’ve worked with hundreds of spirits and Otorongo always has the strongest presence. You can literally feel her rub up against you. Offer her some water when she comes and ask her to help you with whatever it is you need help with. When finished, thank her for her assistance and put out the candles. Otorongo might stick around the house for a few days to clean your energy and give you further instruction through dreams and visions.

Matthew is a teacher, magical counselor and frequent visitor to the Magical Buffet (“yummy Pagan food?”).

Ten Questions with Dr Caroline Watt

1. What is parapsychology?
It’s the scientific study of the factors underlying apparently paranormal experiences. At the Koestler Parapsychology Unit, we’ve always taken a broad approach to this topic, including (for example) ‘what’s not psychic but looks like it’, the psychology of paranormal belief, and the social and historical context of paranormal experiences and beliefs. So for us it’s not solely about testing the psi hypothesis (psi being the blanket name for paranormal abilities – pronounced ‘sigh’).

2. According to the Parapsychological Association’s website you completed a part-time PhD on the topic “The Relationship Between Performance on a Prototype Measure of Perceptual Defense/Vigilance and Psi Performance”. Um, what is that?
Yes, it’s a snappy title, eh? Basically, it was looking at similarities between subliminal perception and extrasensory perception.

3. Can you explain to our readers what the term “experimenter effect” means?
In parapsychology, it refers to the situation where certain experimenters seem to consistently obtain evidence for psi, whilst others seem to always get chance results. In psychology, it refers to the situation where the experimenter inadvertently influences the participant in his or her experiment, often to give results in line with the experimenter’s expectations. My studies have suggested that an important factor in parapsychology’s experimenter effect is the experimenter’s own belief in the paranormal.

4. What makes replicability important to parapsychology?
Replicability would occur if parapsychologists could discover the ‘recipe’ for obtaining evidence for psi in their laboratory studies. It is important first because if we had a replicable effect then we could make quicker progress in understanding psi, and second because most scientists believe that if a claimed experimental effect is not replicable, then it is probably not valid, and third… there is no third.

5. I know this is a broad question, but can you tell us your thoughts on the psychology of paranormal beliefs and experiences?
Because most paranormal experiences occur out in the real world, I think there is a huge amount of psychology going on with these experiences (the role of expectancy, belief, memory, suggestibility, motivation, for example). While some people believe in the paranormal because of an experience that they have had, about half believe for other reasons (e.g., religious or other world views, and hearing about paranormal phenomena in the media etc.) – so it’s a really complicated issue. Because of this, most parapsychologists turn to more controlled laboratory settings, with more artificial tests (for better or for worse), when trying to formally test whether there is any evidence for psi.

6. What do you think about television shows that touch on parapsychological topics, like “Sea of Souls”?
I can’t bear to watch them! I can usually only last a few seconds before switching off because their depictions are so, ummm, ‘colourful’ – after all, these programmes are coming out of the entertainment strand, not factual.

7. Being the acting head of the Koestler Parapsychology Unit at Edinburgh University I just have to ask…haggis, delicious Scottish meal or paranormal phenomenon?
Don’t believe what the cryptozoologists say – there are no haggi running wild on the hills of Scotland! Delicious in my view – both the meaty and the vegetarian versions. MacSween’s are the best!

8. What is one thing that you would like every Average Joe to understand about parapsychology?
There are lots of normal factors that can cause people to have experiences that look and feel paranormal, but are not. I really am not a raving skeptic – honest! – but it’s so difficult to come to a clean conclusion on real-world, spontaneous paranormal experiences, that I think we have to turn to laboratory settings in order to be more confident about our conclusions.

9. On behalf of an estimated ¾ of our readers and my husband, how can I be you when I grow up?
I think you need to have a good training in methodology, statistics, and critical thinking. A degree in psychology would be a good starting point. After that, you need to get a feel for what’s already out there in parapsychology-land – see my answer to question 10.

10. Parting shot! Ask us here at The Magical Buffet any one question?
I am thinking of setting up a distance learning (i.e. online) ‘introduction to parapsychology’ course – would you be interested?

Interested? I already went to your website and took the survey to express my interest.

About Dr Watt
Dr Caroline Watt obtained her first degree in Psychology from the University of St Andrews in 1984, the year in which the University of Edinburgh announced that it would host the Koestler Chair of Parapsychology. The first Koestler Professor, Robert L. Morris, took up his post in late 1985. A few months later, Morris recruited Caroline Watt as his research assistant.
Having been awarded a psychology PhD supervised by Morris, on the topic of perceptual defensiveness and extrasensory perception, Dr Watt continued to conduct parapsychological research and teach at the University’s Department of Psychology, first as Research Fellow and then Senior Research Fellow.
Dr Watt worked with Bob Morris until his death in 2004. She was then appointed to a Senior Lectureship in psychology, her current position. In 2004 she became a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Bial Foundation. She served as President of the Parapsychological Association (PA) 2004-2005, and currently holds a position on the PA Board.

Born in 1962 in Perthshire, Scotland, Caroline Watt lives in Edinburgh with her two sons.

my own website:
Koestler Parapsychology Unit site:
And for haggis… (no, I am not on commission!)

Profile: Esoteric School of Shamanism and Magic

Magic and Shamanism. That’s what we’re about. We are Stephanie Yeh and Alan Joel. Whether you call it magic, magick, majick, wicca, paganism, shamanism or just plain cool, we study, research and teach as much useful knowledge in these areas as we can. We are Alan Joel and Stephanie Yeh, two researchers of the arcane and mystical who founded the Esoteric School of Shamanism and Magic. Why? So that people from all over the globe can attend a real, if virtual, school dedicated to magic and shamanism.

The aim of the Esoteric School of Shamanism and Magic is to help people create permanent, positive change in their lives through the study of esoteric magical and shamanic knowledge. It doesn’t matter what your esoteric background is, whether you started out with witchcraft, religious studies, spirituality or candle magic, we welcome you. We believe that the Truth is the same, no matter which form you practice. We delight in all manner of shamanic schools and traditions, magical techniques and esoteric ritual. Information about classes can be found at

About Alan Joel
Alan Joel, Doctor of Chinese Medicine, Shamanic Healer
Alan has been a Doctor of Chinese Medicine for over 25 years, and a practitioner of shamanic healing techniques for over 15 years. He helps clients heal on many levels – physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual – using a variety of traditional Chinese and tribal practices, as well as Edgar Cayce remedies and herbal/flower essence formulas.

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Article by Rebecca

I’m about to correct an ongoing error here at The Magical Buffet. As most of our readers realize, each month we discuss a creature, a mythology, and a symbol. Well, a creature is fairly easily defined as a creature, and in our second issue I discussed religion and myth with regards to our Magical Buffet Mythology section in the letter from the Publisher, but symbols, well there is where the ball has been dropped.

I’m proud at the diverse symbols we’ve discussed, some surprising like the peach, some enlightening like the swastika. From the jaguar in our first issue up to hex signs in last month’s, we’ve covered a wide gambit of symbolism. Of course, at no point have I ever discussed what a symbol is. Why is a jaguar a symbol for some and an animal for others? Why do two intersected lines create a powerful Christian symbol? Obviously answers to these questions are detailed and complex, there are many that have devoted their lives to understanding the nature of symbols. As you may have guessed, I have not. Regardless, let’s take a brief moment to talk not about a specific symbol, but the whole idea of symbols.

According to the American Heritage Dictionary a symbol is:

* Something that represents something else by association, resemblance, or convention, especially a material object used to represent something invisible.
* A printed or written sign used to represent an operation, element, quantity, quality, or relation, as in mathematics or music.
* Psychology An object or image that an individual unconsciously uses to represent repressed thoughts, feelings, or impulses.

This gives us an idea, but what do these definitions mean to us? Jack Tresidder in “Symbols and Their Meanings”, one of my favorite books, discusses these definitions in an easily digestible way. He tells us that symbols work like signs by being a visual short hand, but unlike signs, we react to symbols on an emotional level. For instance, the red octagon of the stop sign tells us to stop, but doesn’t generally effect us on a deeper level. Whereas a Cross, or perhaps your home nation’s flag, inspire within us with a deeper feeling. In fact, fundamental ideas represented by symbols occur similarly in so many far ranging societies, it encouraged Carl Jung to explore the idea of “archetypes”.

Essentially, as Tresidder explains, “Graphic images are symbols when they stand for an idea or abstract quality, and ritual actions can symbolize a shared emotional or spiritual experience.” So, a sign tells us something, but a symbol makes us feel something more than just the image it is.

Female Druids

By Ellen Evert Hopman, Druidess, Order of the Whiteoak (Ord na Darach Gile)

“Gaine daughter of pure Gumor,
Nurse of mead-loving Mide,
Surpassed all women though she was silent;
She was learned and a seer and a Druid”.

(From “The Metrical Dinsenchas” – a history of the places of Ireland, compiled by medieval monks)

Most modern Pagans are Wiccans or Witches, according to the few surveys that have been done; we Druids are still a tiny minority. Women of Celtic heritage have told me that they did not pursue the Druid path because “the Druids were all men”. But as more and more women study Celtic history, get degrees, do research, write books and teach in the colleges, the word is finally getting out that this is not so. But for millennia it has been a well kept secret.

Some of the blame for this misconception can be placed on the Roman historians who reported on Celtic culture, even as they decimated the Druids who were the intelligentsia. The Romans tended to ignore, downplay or overlook the true status of the women of the tribes.

The next groups to document Celtic society were male Christian monks who also tended to ignore and downplay the status of Celtic women while capturing the tales and oral histories in their scriptoria. Finally as modern archaeology and scholarship focused on Celtic artifacts and history, scholars until very recently were almost all men, who downplayed or ignored the role of powerful women in ancient Celtic times. But the evidence was always there for those who cared to find it.

The word “Druid” derives from the Indo-European “deru” which carries meanings such as truth, true, hard, enduring, resistant and tree. “Deru” evolved into the Greek word “drus” (oak) and referred over time to all trees as well as the words “truth” and “true”. “Id” comes from “wid”, “to know”, related to both “wisdom” and “vision”. A “Dru-id” is a truth-knower and a true-knower, one with solid and enduring wisdom, a tree-knower, and an expert.

The Proto-Indo-European word “dru” meant oak, and is related to “Druid”, so “Druid” also means “oak-knower”. Oaks are the most balanced of trees; their roots grow as deep as the tree is high. They give the hottest fire (excepting the ash tree) and provide medicine via their leaves and bark as well as food (acorns) for humans, pigs, and deer. They attract the attention of the Gods (via lightening) and survive to live up to a thousand years.

To be a Druid was and is to perform a tribal function. No king or queen could function without a Druid at their side, the ruler and Druid were described as “two kidneys” of a kingdom. It was the Druid who knew the laws and precedents without which a ruler could not pass judgment.

The Druids were poets and prophets, astrologers and astronomers, seers, magicians and diviners. They memorized the laws and kept the tribal histories and genealogies in their heads. They were ambassadors, lawyers, judges, herbalists, healers and practitioners of battle magic. They were sacrificers, satirists, sacred singers, story tellers, teachers of the children of the nobility, ritualists, astronomers and philosophers, skilled in natural science and mathematics. They specialized in one or several of these callings and spent twenty years or more in training. We know that Druids from all areas went to Britain, specifically to present day Wales, for regular gatherings and so their practices and beliefs must have been somewhat uniform.

What we know of the Druids comes to us from the written accounts of eye witnesses, from literary tradition and archaeology. Greek and Roman historians documented the Druids that they met; Julius Caesar, Diodorus Siculus, Strabo, Ammianus Marcellinus, Pliny, Diogenes Laertius, Suetonius, Pomponius Mela, Lucan, Tacitus, Dion Chrysostum, Lampridius, Vopiscus, Decimus Magnus, Ausonius and Hippolytus and others wrote their versions of Druid history.

Pliny gives us the only description of a Druid ritual that we have (the Druids preferred to keep their teachings in oral form, feeling they were too sacred to write down). He describes a white clad Druid climbing an oak tree on the “sixth day of the moon” to harvest mistletoe with a “golden sickle”. Of course gold is too soft to cut herbs with so any sickle would probably have been made of bronze, and we can only guess that the “sixth day of the moon” means six days after the first appearance of the new moon.

Tacitus gives us the vivid account of the slaughter of the Druids by Roman soldiers on the island of Mona (Angelsey) in Wales. He says there were cursing black clad women there defending the island. Since the island was the most sacred stronghold of the British Druids one can assume that these women were Ban-druid (female Druids) though since he does not say this outright we can never be sure.

Strabo describes a group of religious women living on an island at the mouth of Loir River but he does not call them Druids. In the Historia Augusta (a late Roman collection of biographies, in Latin, of the Roman Emperors from 117 to 284 CE) we learn that Diocletian and Aurelian consulted with female Druids as did Alexander Severus.

In Irish traditional accounts there are references to “bandruid” (female Druids) and “banfilid” (female poets). Fedelm is a female seer and Accuis, Col and Eraise are female Druids mentioned the Tain (The Cattle Raid of Cooley). Eirge, Eang, and Banbhuana are Druidesses mentioned in the Siege of Knocklong, and Dub and Gaine are mentioned in the Dinsenchas.

Fedelma was a woman in queen Medb of Connacht’s court who was a “banfili” (female poet) trained in Alba (Britain). The death of female poet Uallach daughter of Muinechán, who was the “woman poet of Ireland”, is mentioned in the Annals of Innisfallen for the year 934 and the Brehon Laws describe heavy penalties for illegal female satirists (whom they compare to female werewolves!). It is clear from these accounts that at least some women had attained the rank of Druid.

To shore up the evidence it will be helpful to look at the status of women in Celtic society before the Roman and Christian incursions and after. The marriage laws are an interesting place to start. The ancient Brehon Laws recognized nine types of marriage. In the first degree (the most desirable) both partners came to the union with equal wealth and status. In the second degree the husband came to the union with more wealth so he was in charge. In the third degree the wife came with more wealth so she was in charge. In all cases divorce was available to wives and in the first two degrees of marriage the husband had to pay a bride price to her father the first year and every year after that a large portion of the “coibche” went to the bride herself so that she could remain independent if the marriage failed. In the event of a divorce each spouse could claim any property they had brought to the union and the wife kept all the coibche she had accumulated. (Christian women would not see this kind of fair treatment again until very recent times).

Plutarch in “On the Virtues of Women” states that Celtic women participated in assemblies, mediated quarrels and negotiated treaties, for example one between Hannibal and the Volcae (this kind of ambassadorial work is a specifically Druidic function). Strabo says that Armorican priestesses (in modern day Brittany) were independent of their husbands.

We know that Celtic women wore trousers (the Celts invented trousers and there is a statue of a woman so dressed in the British museum). Gallic females went to war with their husbands and Irish Celtic women fought alongside their men. In some Roman reports they said the women were even fiercer than the men! (It took a series of laws issued over several centuries after the Christian missionaries arrived to wean Irish women away from weapons, indicating problems with compliance).

In the first century CE Tacitus wrote that “the Celts make no distinction between male and female rulers” and powerful Celtic women appear in the tales. By tradition Macha Mongruad founded Emain Macha (Navan Fort) in Ulster. The two most famous warriors in Irish history; Finn MacCumhail and Cú Chulainn, were both trained by women. Finn was raised by two females; a Druidess and a warrior woman who taught him the crafts of war and of hunting while Cú Chulainn learned the arts of war from Scáthach who had her own Martial Arts school.

Boudica was a Celtic queen who led the last British uprising against the Romans in 60 AD. She was a priestess of Andraste, Goddess of Victory. Saint Brighid of Kildare (Kil-Dara, Church of the Oak) had a different kind of power. She was the daughter of the Druid Dubhtach and according to the Rennes Dindsenchas was a “bandrui” (female Druid) before she converted to Christianity. She had both men and women in her religious community and she and her nuns kept a Fire Altar which was tended continuously until 1220 when an archbishop ordered it quenched. This Fire Altar mirrored the perpetual fire of the Ard-Drui (Arch-Druid) that had burned at Uisneach for centuries (thankfully the fire has been re-lit in modern times and is now being tended once again by nuns and lay folk in Kildare and all over the world).

Archaeology gives us more evidence for female Druids. An inscription was found in Metz, France, that was set up by a Druid priestess to honor the God Sylvanus and the local Nymphs of the area. It was found on the Rue de Récollets; “Silvano sacr(um) et Nymphis loci Arete Druis antistita somnio monita d(edit)” (Année Epigraphique 1983, 0711)

Two famous burials, the Vix burial and the Reinham burial point to very powerful women of their time. The Princess of Vix (who may have been a priestess) dates from the late sixth to fifth centuries BCE in present day Burgundy, France. She was a woman of wealth and authority whose rich grave goods came from as far away as the Mediterranean Sea. Her wood paneled chambered grave held a huge bronze “krater” (a large ornamental urn used to mix wine and water for banquets), elaborate jewelry of bronze, amber, diorite, and serpentine, and a golden torque (a neck ring), symbol of noble status. She had fibulae (brooches) inset with Italian coral.

Many other female burials have been discovered between the Rhine and the Moselle rivers, where the women are laid out on wagons with rich jewelry and more impressive grave goods than some of the warrior chieftains of the time. The Reinham burial dates to the fourth century BCE by the river Biles in Germany and was an oak lined chamber filled with precious objects and jewelry. The body was laid out on a chariot with food and drink provided for her Otherworld sojourn. She was also buried with a torque on her chest, symbolic of her noble status.

So what happened? Why did an indigenous culture that featured educated and powerful women devolve into a culture where women were demoted to the status of chattel?

By the first century CE in Britain the Romans were actively and deliberately suppressing the Druids who were the intellectual elite, the advisors to the nobility and the glue that held the kingdoms together. Roman propaganda campaigns claimed that the Druids were the perpetrators of “savage superstition” and of horrific human sacrifice (at the same time that the Roman Circuses were going on). Druidesses were described as seers who were working on their own, rather than as powerful royal advisors and clergy. A policy of deliberate extermination was carried out, brought to conclusion by the terrifying slaughter of the Druids at Angelsey.

The Romans never conquered Ireland and the worship of the Pagan Gods continued there officially until the death of king Diarmat in 565 CE. (Unofficially it goes on to this day). But as Christianity gained power in all areas Roman ideals of matronly behavior and womanhood took over, though in the few centuries that it was allowed to flourish the Celtic Church continued to exalt powerful priestesses such as Brighid of Kildare and Beaferlic of Northumbria. As the Roman Christian church gained ascendancy female Druids were labeled “evil Witches” and “sorcerers” as a way to smear their reputations and make people fear them. Religious orders founded by women were systematically dissolved upon their founder’s death, preventing continuity of female centered orders.

The Druids were demoted in the laws to figures of ridicule – mere magicians, stripped of their sacral function and status. Women in Celtic areas were forbidden to bear arms and their status dropped in most areas of life and society.

The current Druid revival of modern times began in the early eighteenth century, first in France and then in 1717 in England, the same year that the English Masons were established. The earliest English Druids of the current revival were all Masons and all men; the poet William Blake a prominent example. Gradually over the last few centuries, as more was understood about the actual Druids of history, the Druid Orders became more egalitarian in their membership until today most Orders are roughly half male and half female. Women in most Orders (the only exceptions being the old English based Orders with roots firmly in the eighteenth century) have the same opportunities to be leaders and clergy as men.
Female Druids of today most often look back to our status in ancient times. We view ourselves as the inheritors of a rich ancestral lineage, going back to the Iron Age. That does not mean we have an unbroken tradition, we are actively engaged in reconstructing the ancient indigenous European tribal religion (leaving out the nasty bits such as slavery, animal sacrifice, and head hunting of course!).
I took an informal poll of the women on the Whiteoak mailing list to see why they became Druids and what if any problems they have faced on this path. One said that she was thrilled to find a religious tradition that worships outside in daylight, as opposed to Wiccans who often circle at night and indoors.

All the women who responded said they were voracious readers who upon learning how much of Celtic history and tradition was still out there became absorbed in the topic. The women all reported being scholars of one degree or another; in common with the ancient Druids modern ones tend to be intellectuals (one of the worst insults you can hurl at a Druid is to call them a “fluffy bunny” meaning a dim wit!).

Several of them complained that in modern times Druids are very hard to find. Unless one lives in a large metropolitan area this is almost always the case. To put together a gathering of modern Druids you will have to send notice out to several states.

Some female Druids report that they are Pagans who were not attracted to Wicca, which was after all, invented in the 1930’s by Gerald Gardner (see Ronald Hutton’s excellent book “The Triumph of the Moon”). They wanted something that was more tied in to actual Celtic tradition.

Others had problems with Wiccan theology. Wicca is duo-theistic (it assumes that “all the Goddesses are one Goddess and all the Gods and one God so it hardly matter who you call on in a ritual). The Celts, and every other indigenous Pagan tradition that I am aware of, were and are polytheistic. They see their deities as separate personalities with different and distinct functions though some, for example the Hindu-Vedic religions, posit an ultimate Source for all the Gods and Goddesses and all creation, called the Atma in Vedic scripture. (Many Druids study Vedic texts because the Vedic peoples were the ancestors of the proto-Celts and Vedic ritual and Celtic ritual must have had many similarities. We know that they had many basic principles in common; triple deities, making offerings to sacred fire and sacred water, the primacy of cows, etc.).

Another problem with modern Wicca for some is the so-called “Wiccan rede” (“An it harm none do what you will”). This tenet has been used as an excuse to behave in self-centered ways that no tribal society would tolerate. Druids study the Brehon Laws and we know that the ancients expected strict codes of behavior from all levels of society.

Wicca was revolutionary at its founding because it emphasized the role of the priestess in a way that had not been seen since ancient times. As a result many Wiccan and Witchcraft groups are led by women and composed of mostly women (or all women). Those who became female Druids found this to be unbalanced and not much different from male dominated patriarchal Christianity, Judaism or Islam. They sought a Pagan path with a healthier balance of males and females. Some report that they still have problems with sexism, even after they had attained the title of Arch-Druidess of their Grove (a Grove is the Druid equivalent of a Coven) there were male Druids who would challenge their decisions in a way that they would never challenge a male Arch-Druid. They would continue to nag the Arch-Druidess, figuring that if they did so long enough she would give in to their opinions.

None of these women came to Druidism out of rebellion against another religion. They came to it from a love for nature and the old European tribal ways. I can identify with these reasoning’s, they are all familiar to me and true.

Thanks to Stacey Weinberger (of RDNA), Sín Sionnach (a solitary Druid), and Athelia Nihtscada (of RDNA), for their input.
For an overview of ancient reports see “The Druid Sourcebook” by John Matthews, Blanford, London, 1996
For Brehon Laws and the laws of marriage see Fergus Kelly’s “Guide to Early Irish Law”, Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, Dublin, 1991
To explore the status of ancient Celtic women;
For links to basic texts, modern Druid groups and Orders;

About Ellen Evert Hopman
Massechusetts resident Ellen Evert Hopman has been active in American Druidism since 1984. She is co-chief of the Order of the Whiteoak (Ord na Darach Gile), a popular author of Druidry-related titles, and a master herbalist. She teaches at the Grey School of Wizardry and has contributed to several Pagan journals.
Info on A Druid’s Herbal of Sacred Tree Medicine Click Here
Info on Priestess of the Forest: A Druid Journey Click Here

It’s Britney Bitches!

It seems to me the game plan for Britney Spear’s latest album “Blackout” was, channel Janet Jackson. It’s not a bad idea. Britney and Janet are very similar. Neither are stellar singers, they’re both about a package. Sexy female singer with awesome choreography. Like other misguided female artists before her, Britney (or her people) chose the wrong version of Janet to emulate. Britney was in the perfect place to recreate the excitement of Janet Jackson’s “Control” album. You know, “This is a story about control. Control of what I say. Control of what I do. And this time, I’m going to do it my way.” But no, oh no, again we have to witness a female pop tart tragically struggle to achieve the “Janet” album…and not hit the mark.

Everyone knows the “Janet” album, even if you think you don’t. It’s the album with the cover picture of Janet topless with a man’s hands covering her breasts. It’s a masterpiece album, littered with intelligent, danceable songs filled with subtle and not so subtle sexuality. In the recent past we’ve witnessed two women attempt the Janet reinvention with variable success. There was Christina Aguilera with her “Stripped” album, where she introduced the world to her alter ego X-tina. Of course, a big difference here is that Aguilera can sing, the woman has a power house voice. So even though the “Stripped” album was a hollow shell compared to the “Janet” album, she came out the other side okay. Then there is Nelly Furtado, an insanely talented singer/songwriter who had experienced moderate success, who decided to sex up her music and image, and now is a top 40 darling. Yes, her album “Loose” is successful, but it didn’t have the organic eventuality that the “Janet” album had. First Janet released “Control”, an album where she took the reigns of her destiny. Then was “Rhythm Nation 1814” where she introduced a legion of pop radio listeners to the concept of social consciousness, including yours truly. By the time “Janet” came out, Janet was a whole woman, so although shocking to some, “Janet” seemed like a natural progression, not a ploy to reinvent herself or to cause controversy.

There is nothing natural about “Blackout”. Now I don’t know who to blame, Britney, her people, her label, I just don’t know. The album is a fairly adequate dance/R&B album. The production values are fantastic, and you can tap your toe to every song. But who do I complain to that every freakin’ song on there is about sex? And not in a way that gets you hot, and not in a way that’s smart, but in a way that says “Please say you love me…I’ll put out.” Her first sing “Gimme More” does make some clever allusions to the idea that media attention prods her to make a spectacle of herself. I wouldn’t be so bitter about this album if there wasn’t this one bright shining example of opportunities missed….”Piece of Me”.

Britney didn’t help with the lyrics, but they sound like she could have. It’s a confrontational war anthem. It’s Janet’s “Control”. This should have been the first single, not the second. The video should have been tighter and more aggressive than it was. And “Piece of Me” should have been the inspiration for the rest of the album. Seriously, why couldn’t they have talked to Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, the architects of “Control”? “Piece of Me”, in my opinion is Britney’s best song ever, and a fantastic song when put up against other pop/R&B tunes. If only she had picked the right Janet…..

Freeze! It’s the Vice Squad! Part 3: The Saudi Arabian Edition.

On February 13, 2008 the organization Human Rights Watch sent a letter to King Abdullah bin Abd al-‘Aziz Al Saud on behalf of Fawza Falih, who has been sentenced to death by beheading for the alleged crimes of “witchcraft, recourse to jinn, and slaughter of animals”.
The letter highlights in aggravating detail the gaping flaws in the Saudi Arabian justice system.  It starts with her being held in detention at the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice for “witchcraft”.  Does this mean Saudi Arabia has their own Vice Squad?  You know, like this or this?  What did this wily “witch” do?  According to my pals with the Vice Squad a man allegedly became impotent after being “bewitched” and a divorced woman (Can there be divorced women in Iran?  With the way the Vice guys are going I just assumed they wouldn’t allow divorces anymore.) reportedly returned to her ex-husband during the month predicted by the witch said to have cast the spell. 
Misery loves company.  Read the letter so you can feel my pain.  I’ve got to say, Christoph Wilcke, the letter’s author, has laid out a rational argument for a pardon for Fawza Falih.  Let’s hope it helps.

2008…You Dirty Rat!

For those of you playing along at home, the Chinese New Year is February 7, 2008, and we are about to enter the Year of the Rat.
The Chinese lunar calendar is cyclic, with the same 12 representative animals going around and around.  We’re about to leave the Year of the Pig behind us.  Then, it will be all about the Rat, the first in the 12 year cycle of animals.  So, what does it mean to be in the Year of the Rat?
According to the anonymous posters at Wikipedia, “Rat is associated with aggression, wealth, charm, and order, yet also associated with death, war, the occult, pestilence, and atrocities.”  For any expecting parents out there, a child born between February 7, 2008 and January 25, 2009 is a Rat.  Again, according to the folks at Wikipedia, you have the following to look forward to. 
“Being the first sign of the Chinese zodiacs, rats are leaders, pioneers and conquerors. They are charming, passionate, charismatic, practical and hardworking. Rat people are endowed with great leadership skills and are the most highly organized, meticulous, and systematic of the twelve signs. Intelligent and cunning at the same time, rats are highly ambitious and strong-willed people who are keen and unapologetic promoters of their own agendas, which often include money and power. They are energetic and versatile and can usually find their way around obstacles, and adapt to various environments easily. A rat’s natural charm and sharp demeanor make it an appealing friend for almost anyone, but rats are usually highly exclusive and selective when choosing friends and so often have only a few very close friends whom they trust.
Behind the smiles and charm, rats can be terribly obstinate and controlling, insisting on having things their way no matter what the cost. These people tend to have immense control of their emotions, which they may use as a tool to manipulate and exploit others, both emotionally and mentally. Rats are masters of mind games and can be very dangerous, calculative and downright cruel if the need arises. Quick-tempered and aggressive, they will not think twice about exacting revenge on those that hurt them in any way. Rats need to learn to relax sometimes, as they can be quite obsessed with detail, intolerant and strict, demanding order, obedience, and perfection.
Rats consider others before themselves, at least sometimes, and avoid forcing their ideas onto others. Rats are fair in their dealings and expect the same from others in return, and can be deeply affronted if they feel they have been deceived or that their trust has been abused. Sometimes they set their targets too high, whether in relation to their friends or in their career. But as the years pass, they will become more idealistic and tolerant. If they can develop their sense of self and realize it leaves room for others in their life as well, Rats can find true happiness.
According to tradition, Rats often carry heavy karma and at some point in life may face an identity crisis or some kind of feeling of guilt. Rats are said to often have to work very long and hard for everything they may earn or have in life. However, a Rat born during the day is said to have things a bit easier than those who are born at night. Traditionally, Rats born during the night may face extreme hardships and suffering throughout life. Rats in general should guard themselves against hedonism, as it may lead to self-destruction. Gambling, alcohol and drugs tend to be great temptations to Rat natives.
Professions include espionage, psychiatry, psychology, writing, politics, law, engineering, accounting, detective work, acting, and pathology.”
To learn more about the Chinese New Year, check out the Wikipedia entry.  For more ratty details, check out the rat specific entry.