Optional Additions to Ritual
The CR FAQ
The CR FAQ Book - Now Available
Celtic Martial Arts
Tree Huggers - Crann Ogham
Pre-Ritual Briefing and
by Kathryn Price NicDhàna and Raven nic Rhóisín
This ritual is open to any individuals or groups concerned about the Tara preservation efforts and who wish to help. The ritual was written by Celtic Reconstructionists (CRs), and is formatted according to Celtic beliefs and worldviews, but one does not have to be CR to participate. Anyone wishing to help in honor is welcome. We do ask that interested parties follow the format presented here so that efforts can be coordinated harmoniously and in a unified fashion. For more information on Celtic Reconstructionism, please read http://paganachd.com/faq/.1
For a list of the areas where the ritual will be taking place, see the Solidarity and Networking section.
If you're working in a group, we suggest practicing the Irish bits together to determine your group's comfort level with Irish. If the group can't get the hang of it, it's probably better to simplify the phrases to something everyone can say with confidence. Confused, stumbling script-reading may negatively impact your energetic results, so it's best to go with something that can be done strongly and with unity. For instance, you can shorten the Old Irish phrase nem nglas, muir mas, talam cé. (phonetically: Nev nlas, Mweer mas, TAH-luhv kay) to simply talam cé (phonetically: TAH-luhv kay). Most people can handle three syllables. TAH-luhv kay. (Really, they can! We tried it on an Irish-impaired friend with amazing success. Now he runs around yelling, talam cé like a pro! We can't get him to shut up!)
We use the phrase Sláinte Mhaith! (phonetically: SLAWNTCH-yuh Vah) often, usually to mark the end of a prayer, or the end of a section of the ritual. Colloquially, this is often translated as Cheers. A more complete translation is Good Health/Strength/Wholeness - which we feel are good things to affirm - for the land, the spirits and the people.
While many find the use of a Celtic language an important and evocative part of the ritual, those parts may be done in English if you find the Irish too challenging. We have provided translations and substitutions accordingly. For instance, for the three realms, you could have people repeat in English (at the beginning) Sky, Sea and Sacred Land. And at the end, Sea, Sky and Sacred Land, with everyone repeating Sacred Land as people connect with the earth and become centered after the ritual.
If this date or time is not possible for you, earlier is fine just imagine your signal fire being one of the first in a chain sparking a blazing chain of light and strength flowing towards Tara. The ritual can also be done later that night, or after the 31st, as an ongoing effort to continue and strengthen the protection.
There may also be a webcast of the event
happening. Keep an eye on http://tarawatch.org/, this site (http://paganachd.com/tara) and the message
board at http://www.paganachd.com/community.html
1. Opening Statement
2. Initial Offerings
- Ancestors3. Sacred Space
- Saining4. Introduce Yourself (threefold)
5. Lighting Signal Fires for Tara
6. Invoking the Land of Ireland
7. Deity or Deities
9. Aftermath and Winding Down
This can be as simple or complex as you want. Basically, welcome folks and make sure everyone knows why you're there. Since everyone should have read or at least discussed the points in this introduction beforehand, the opening statement can probably be brief.
If your local spirits are not interested in participating in this ritual, but are willing to stand aside and let you proceed, the offerings you make to them will be those of establishing a treaty of non-interference. When you make the offerings, ask that the spirits be at peace with you and not interfere with your work. Agree not to interfere with them, as well. If you are energetically perceptive and used to interacting with the spirits, you may be able to tell pretty easily if the offerings are accepted. If you are not certain, you may need to do some divination before proceeding, to be sure. If the land doesn't want to be linked, and assuming youve received no dire omens to leave the area, and the energy and divination is otherwise favorable for doing the ritual itself, proceed with the ritual with the participants connecting themselves and the fire to Tara, but not doing anything to connect the two lands.
We advise that, if at all possible, you spend some time at the ritual site ahead of time, so the opinions of the spirits, for good or ill, are not a surprise to you on the night (or day) of the working. (Again, see KILLYOUANDEATYOU!)
Saining is an initial step in many Celtic rituals. The idea is to purify and bless those present, as well as the space in which the ritual will be performed. It is a time when the distractions of daily life are set aside as we prepare ourselves and our site for spiritual work. The practice survives in recent Scottish folklore as saining - to purify, bless or consecrate. In Scotland, and amongst many Celtic Reconstructionists, saining has usually been done with the smoke of burning juniper branches, either thrown on a fire or carried, smouldering, throughout the home and byre.
It is also traditional to sain with blessed water, with charms and incantations, or with a combination of all of the above. For this ritual we have indicated saining with smoke, but you can use whatever method works best for you. If using juniper, be aware that the branches are resinous and will spark. If you are doing the ritual inside, or are worried about getting sparks near your face, it may be best if you grind them up beforehand to ensure more even burning. If you are burning juniper in a container, we recommend making sure the container is fireproof, and putting a layer of earth or sand in the bottom to avoid burning your hands. If fire is not safe in your location, we suggest sprinkling water on participants and around the space. Water from a holy well or sacred river is ideal for this purpose. Those who work with the sacred trees of the crann ogham might use Birch for cleansing, either putting some form of birch in the water, or breathing its name in and out with the nine breaths, or just holding its energy in your mind.
Sain is derived from the Early Irish word sén, so it's probable that the ancient Irish ancestors had a similar practice of ritual purification. As we prepare our space tonight for the sacred work we do, focus mindfully on cleaning, clearing, and blessing yourselves, your site, and the work.
Ritual participants often sain before starting any of these ritual activities, both saining themselves before going out to the ritual site, as well as saining the area before any other activities are done. So even though we've put a formal place for it at this point in the ritual, feel free to move this part to the very beginning.
We're connecting with the Three Realms of the Celts, the earth (talam), the sky (nem), and the sea (muir). These three realms are ever present. They are the physical and cosmological model of the world the ancient Celts inhabited, and which we inhabit today. The ancestors swore their oaths by the Three Realms, and acknowledging and connecting with the realms at the beginning of a Celtic ritual is a way to center yourself before beginning magical work. For this working, well repeat in Old Irish: muir mas, nem nglas, talam cé the beautiful sea, the blue sky, the present earth. This phrasing is from The Poems of Blathmac Son of Cú Brettan, cited in Irish Perceptions of the Cosmos, here: http://www.celt.dias.ie/publications/celtica/c23/c23-174.pdf). We will be slightly varying the order of the names of the realms at different points in the ritual. In the beginning we will chant nem nglas, muir mas, talam cé - sky, sea, then land. At the end we will reverse the flow of the cycle of energy, and chant muir mas, nem nglas, talam cé - sea, sky, then land. We will always begin and end with the land. We will often be repeating things three, five or nine times. These were, and still are, sacred numbers to the Celts, and three threes of repetition will especially aid in connection. Throughout the ritual, we have tried to echo threes and nines whenever possible.
Different people have different methods for opening up energetically and connecting to the realms around them. If movement enhances the experience for you, you may want to use physical gestures along with the words: for example, reaching down to the earth, raising hands to the sky, reaching out to your sides, then pulling the energy up from the earth again and ending with your hands over your heart. Experiment with this, and see what best helps you connect.
After we connect with the Three Realms we'll see the center opening, the mystical and metaphysical center at Tara, where burns the fire or symbol of fire at the center of our ritual space. We'll chant Tara while we open to the mystical center of all. If it turns into a wordless or freeform chant, that's fine. At some points you can keep chanting softly while the Ritual Leader speaks another part over the simple chanting. Again, see what works best with the energy and flow of the ritual (just make sure that the Ritual Leader doesn't get drowned out with your enthusiasm!). Continue until the chant dies down naturally or the Ritual Leader brings it to a close.
Here, we address Tara herself, she who is the land, she who is an ancestor, she who is a goddess. We call her by her many historical names and poetic titles, and introduce ourselves accordingly. The poetic bits in this section are derived from the Metrical Dindsenchas, an Old Irish poetic description of the names of places and natural features in Ireland. While this is being recited, focus on reaching out and connecting to Tara, her long and proud history, and her role as the center of Ireland, seat of kings and queens and home of the land. You can either use the short version that is in the ritual script, or the longer version, here.
I am Raven nic Rhóisín
O'Callaghan, wild goose daughter of Connaught. I stand with Tara.
I am _________ of _________, _________. (light individual flame) I stand with Tara.
For groups, the ritual leader begins with their intro to set the tone and structure. I stand with Tara is the signal for the next person to give their intro. Go around the circle in a sunwise direction, ending each brief intro with the lighting of the individual flame, and then saying I stand with Tara. Emphasize the threefold nature of the introduction to minimize people going on and on about themselves. (grin) If you are outside and it's windy, lighting individual candles will only work if you have votive candles or lanterns, and even that may not be enough. If that is the case, as you listen to the others speak and then speak yourself, see the fire growing strong in your heart. Hold the fire of your heart, the fire of your ancestors, in your cupped hands. When you can see it shining before you, say I stand with Tara. Then, when the ritual leader goes to light the central fire, walk to the fire as a group, turn your hands to the flame, and see the fire of your hearts joining with the physical flame and helping it grow strong and bright.
When all individuals have spoken, RL says, We are _____________________ (Name of group).
If its not an ongoing group, use a name decided on by participants before ritual, such as, the people of the Hilltowns or the Celtic Pagans of the Connecticut River Valley or something as simple as friends of Tara. For established or more formal groups, this can also be threefold, such as: We are Nigheanan nan Cailleachan (group name), of Pàganachd Bhandia (tradition), of the Quinnitukqut River Valley (location), We stand with Tara!
The group identity is done as a call and response, three times:
RL: We are (name of group).
If you have an established relationship with the land where you live, or the land where you are performing the ritual, and its given its blessing for you to connect your locality with Tara for the purposes of this ritual, now is a good time to do that, according to the tenets of your relationship with the land. If youre interested in this sort of work but are not sure what to do or if your land might be amenable, again, please consult KILLYOUANDEATYOU!, as mentioned above. Those wishing to attempt the optional extension here should pay particular attention to the offerings to the land spirits at the beginning of the ritual, and the results of that exchange. You should also be certain that the land where you are is a strong place that will strengthen and help protect Tara, rather than do anything to drain her. You may want to consider including a clause to the effect that if anything happens to your local site to make it a liability, rather than drain Tara that link will be broken.
If your offerings to the local spirits are well received, your divination has gone well, and you havent encountered any back off messages like those described in the KILLYOUANDEATYOU! article, engage your local spirits according to their preferences (if you're doing this section, we trust you to know what those are!), reach out to Tara, make sure that the energy in both places is harmonious, and bring them together energetically, gently at first. If everything seems to still be harmonious, strengthen the bond until it can stand on its own, shining and strong. At the end of this phase, wrap up with a statement of (Place name) stands with Tara!. This could be the name of the specific place you stand, the name of your town, the name of a prominent local geographic feature, or even the name of your state. For example:
Symphony Woods stands with Tara!
This is one of the optional sections, depending on how long and structured you want your ritual to be. One of the historical texts about Tara, the Settling of the Manor at Tara, described how Tara was the seat of the kings, the unifying center of Ireland. You can read the full text here: http://www.ancienttexts.org/library/celtic/ctexts/tara.html. Some of us will be using it as a way to pull together concepts from all over Ireland with a central focus on Tara. Those doing so will honor all five provinces of the island. This is also a place for people from the different regions of Ireland, or those with ancestors from a given region of Ireland, to honor and call upon that connection in support of the work. In the version we've posted here, we've snipped the list of place names from the other provinces a bit because it got really long, but thought it important to leave in the ones for Meath and Tara, as the center and focus of the ritual.
Tara Solidarity Vigil
The Irish coordinators we're working with had participants in seven countries and twenty areas of Ireland (again, these are the ones who reported in before the event):
If you participated but didn't contact us, feel free to e-mail your name (individual or group) and location to the address on this website.
Photos of the ceremonial re-lighting of the sacred flame on the Hill of Tara herself: http://www.tarataratara.net/Tara_photos_SacredFire.htm. The participants report they they could feel our love, support and energy coming to them from all over the world.
1. Or, in hardcopy: The CR FAQ - An Introduction to Celtic Reconstructionist Paganism by NicDhàna, Laurie, Vermeers, ní Dhoireann and other members of the CR community. (2007 River House Publishing) ISBN: 978-0-6151-5800-6 ( back )
I Stand with Tara - Pre-Ritual
Website design, code, graphics, and look and feel copyright ©2007 Kathryn Price NicDhàna for Big Electric Celt
All worldwide rights reserved
"Taras Dancers" graphic copyright ©2007 Ingrid GrayWolf Houwers
Aerial photo of Hill of Tara courtesy Michael at Knowth.com
Thanks to Paul Pigman for additional coding