Welcome to the Order of the Sacred Star! This Pagan/Wiccan group, based in Winnipeg, Canada, is committed to teaching the Craft to all those who wish to learn. Our goal is to provide a complete and fulfulling learning experience. Our public classes are offered through the Winnipeg Pagan Teaching Circle.

Friday, December 28, 2012

The Mythology of Ancient Ireland – The Milesian Invasion

The Milesians were the Celts. These people had long established a presence in Central Europe, and soon moved on to England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland. They were the fifth group of invaders to conquer Ireland, and were often referred to as the Sons of Mil. It was the Milesians who put an end to the supreme reign of the Tuatha De Danann.

The Sons of Mil and Landing in Ireland

Miled (sometimes called Milesius) and his wife, Scota (who was the daughter of a Pharaoh), were the leaders of the Milesians. In their search for a new homeland, Miled and Scota sent Miled’s uncle, Ith to Ireland to report upon its suitability. However, the Tuatha De Danann, suspecting his purpose, killed him before he could complete his mission.

Undaunted, Miled and Scota, with their eight sons, set out to take their people to Ireland. Miled died on the long and arduous voyage, and when his sons attempted to land in Ireland, the De Danann called up a great storm against them. Five of the eight sons of Mil were killed, along with many of their followers. The three surviving sons were:
  • Emer
  • Eremon
  • Eber
Though it seemed as if they might never reach Ireland, the three sons did eventually find their way to land, along with what was left of their followers. Their mother, Scota, found herself with her eldest son, Eber.

The Milesians and the Tuatha De Danann

The three sons had been separated, but they were not alone. They each had with them a selection of followers, though their numbers had been depleted by the storm of magick sent by the Tuatha De Danann.

Eber, along with his mother and their followers, landed at Inver Sceni, in Bantry Bay. Though they did manage to make their way into Ireland, Eber and Scota were soon confronted by the Tuatha De Danann. They did defeat the group under Queen Eire of the De Danann, but in the process, they lost their own Queen Scota. Eber, however, survived.

Eremon and his people landed at Inver Colpa, and soon located his brother Emer. Together, they joined forces with Eber in Meath, and they challenged the Tuatha De Danann at Taillte. The Milesians seemed to have the upper hand, for the three kings and three queens of the Tuatha De Danann were killed, many others were slain, and the rest withdrew to consider their options. They did not believe themselves to be defeated.

Some legends state that the Milesian poet and judge, Amergin, was given the right to divide Ireland between the two races. In his wisdom, he gave all the lands above the ground to his own people, and assigned the lands beneath the ground to the Tuatha De Danann.

However, other myths indicate that the De Danann, under the guidance of Manannan mac Lir, agreed that they should take themselves into the realm of the spirit, underground, and begin to fade from common reality.

Perhaps both of these occurred simultaneously. Regardless, the Tuatha De Danann went into the hills and down into the faery regions (sidbrugaib), which were already full of magick and wizardry, making it a perfect place for the De Danann. This made the faeries (sida) already there subject to the will of the Tuatha De Danann.

The Tuatha De Danann faded into legend to become worshipped as the gods of the Irish Pantheon. The Milesians became the people of Ireland. Of all the waves of invasion, they are the only wave that remained rulers of Ireland for any length of time. Today, the descendants of the Milesians in Ireland tend to have O or Mac before their surname.

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Mythology of Ancient Ireland – The Tuatha De Danann Invasion

Of all the characters of the Mythological Cycle, the Tuatha De Danann are arguably the most important, and they are considered the fourth wave of invaders. They were a people of wonder and magick, considered to be well versed in every art.

Where Did the Tuatha De Danann Come From?

The details of the Tuatha De Danann’s origins are shrouded in great mystery. Immediately before coming to Ireland, they were thought to have dwelled in the northern isles of the world, though it is not clear which isles these might be. Wherever they were, they acquired unparalleled knowledge of magick and wizardry. The Tuatha De Danann also found four great talismans, which they brought with them to Ireland. These talismans are:
  • The Great Fal;
  • The Spear of Lugh;
  • The Sword of Nuada; and
  • The Cauldron of Dagda.
When they did arrive in Ireland, the Tuatha De Danann were said to have arrived on dark clouds through the air, then alighted on the mountain of Conmaicne Rein. Stories claim that the Tuatha De Danann cast a darkness over the sun that lasted for three days.
The First Battle of Mag Tuired
When the Tuatha De Danann first arrived in Ireland, it was already occupied by the Fir Bolg. During this battle, the king of the Tuatha De Danann, Nuada, lost his hand, and was no longer a suitable king according to the laws of the De Danann. The kingship was handed over to his adopted son, Bres. The Tuatha De Danann did eventually prevail, and the Fir Bolg were expelled from Ireland.
The Tuatha De Danann and the Fomorians
The Fomorians show up several times in Irish mythology, and were masters of magick and strategy. They harassed both the Partholans and the Neimheahdians, and returned to challenge the Tuatha De Danann after they defeated the Fir Bolg. When the Fomorians arrived to battle the De Danann on the shores of Ireland, they came in four ships, each one carrying fifty men and approximately three times that many women.
The battles between the De Danann and the Fomorians were fierce, and their rivalry lasted many long years. The Second Battle of Mag Tuired was one of the greatest battles fought between these two mystical races, but there were a great many others. Finally, the De Danann won when Lugh, a warrior of the Tuatha De Danann, cut off the head of the king of the Fomorians, Balor. The Fomorians were never allowed to settle in Ireland.
The Tuatha De Danann are one of the most important pieces in Irish mythology,. From them come the Irish Pantheon of goddesses and gods and the Faery Lineage. Of all the fives waves of invasion, the Tuatha De Danann made the strongest mark on Irish mythology, and eventually became worshipped by those who followed the Irish Faery Faith. They were soon challenged by the Milesians.

Friday, December 14, 2012

The Mythology of Ancient Ireland – The Fir Bolg Invasion

The Fir Bolg were the third group of invaders to arrive in Ireland. There are many accounts of these people, both before they entered Ireland and after. However, like the Partholans and Neimheahdians before them, there is much myth and mystery surrounding this wave of invaders, and little fact.

Where Did the Fir Bolg Come From?

When the Neimheahdians fled Ireland, they are said to have split into three distinct groups. One of these groups made its way to Greece, where they were enslaved. After many years of this treatment, they escaped and fled Greece. These slaves arrived in Ireland approximately two hundred and seventeen years after the Neimheahdians left.

The term ‘Fir Bolg’ is thought to have originated from the Irish word for bag (bolg). The escaped slaves may have carried with them leather bags full of earth, and were so named after this practice. This is considered to be pure legend, as there is little historical evidence to support this entomology of the word bolg.

The Fir Bolg and Their Contribution to Ireland

The Fir Bolg and their invasion mark the very beginning of Ireland’s recorded history. They brought agriculture with them, and are sometimes said to have ‘civilized’ Ireland. They were a pastoral people, and very spiritual.

They created raths in Ireland, which were circular enclosures surrounded by earthen walls. They used these as both dwellings and fortifications during their time in Ireland. Occasionally, they would use these raths to bury their dead without cremation. More commonly, however, the dead were put to rest in large earthen mounds.

Rule of law was very important to the Fir Bolg. They established a monarchical government, which was seated at the Hill of Tara, and had respected social institutions. Their three leaders divided Ireland into the five provinces for the first time. The followers of these leaders became known as the three tribes. These tribes were:
  • Fir Domhnann;
  • Fir Gaileon; and
  • Fir Bolg.
What Happened to the Fir Bolg?

The Fir Bolg spent thirty-six years in Ireland before they were challenged by the Tuatha De Danann. The battles between these two groups were fierce, and many were killed on both sides. Eventually, the Fir Bolg were defeated by the De Danann in the First Battle of Mag Tuired.

After their defeat, the Fir Bolg fled to the islands of Arran, Isley, Man, and Rathlin. They did return to Ireland near the beginning of the Common Era, but as a subordinate people. However, there are some tales which indicate that the First Battle of Mag Tuired was fought, but then ended in a pact of goodwill and friendship.

The Fir Bolg are an important people for many reasons, but mainly because of their involvement in the great battles with the Tuatha De Danann. Of the five waves of invasion, this wave is the one in which we see the very beginnings of true civilization in Ireland.

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Wheel of the Year — Yule and Its Lore

The Winter Solstice takes place on or around December 21st. This holiday is often called Yule by many Wiccan practitioners, and it is often marked on calendars as the ‘first day of winter.’ It is the shortest day of the year.

The Winter Solstice is, in part, significant to Wiccans because it suggests that even in the depths of winter, there is a promise of the return of spring, and of light and warmth.

The Themes and Practices of the Winter Solstice

The Winter Solstice celebrates the rebirth of the sun. The simplest way to celebrate Yule is to rise before dawn to greet the sun as it rises. It is traditional to call upon the Goddess and the God, asking for their presence and their guidance. As the sun rises above the horizon, thanks should be given for the return of the light and warmth that it brings.

This is the very beginning of the return of new life to the land. It is a time of new beginnings. The Winter Solstice is the point at which the daylight hours begin to increase. At this time the Lord of Holly, who presides over the darker half of the year, gives way to the Lord of Oak who presides over the lighter days.

As a part of the Wheel of the Year, the Winter Solstice is the time when the God is reborn in Wiccan lore. The Goddess, exhausted from her labors, needs time to rest. This is not an interpretation of the Christian idea of the birth of Christ, for the celebration of the Winter Solstice is much older.

Some symbols associated with the Winter Solstice include:
  • Yule tree
  • Yule log
  • Holly
  • Mistletoe
The Feast of the Winter Solstice
The coming of winter brings an emphasis on preserved foods, foods that were laid down at the end of harvest season. Traditional European feasts would not have included turkey, but more likely boar, salted beef or game birds, with winter vegetables, as well as dried nuts.
As Christmas comes immediately after the Winter Solstice, it is a good idea to try not to emulate the foods served at Christmas, but rather to provide something different. Honey-glazed roast pork and beef and ale pie are both very traditional. Roast goose is a popular choice for a large gathering.
Foods with a sunny theme are an excellent reminder of the rebirth of the sun. Breads baked in a shape of the Sun, sunflower and other seeds roasted with spices, and golden cheeses are all good examples. Fruit pies or puddings are appropriate, as they often use the preserved fruit from the fall. Plum pudding is especially popular during the Winter Solstice.
Beverages for the Winter Solstice
Mulled ale or wine is very traditional and helps to keep the winter’s chill at bay, and when blended with a little brandy forms the Wassail Cup. Mulled cider is also very tasty.
Less traditional, but still appropriate, is hot chocolate with a big pinch of ground cinnamon or a teaspoon of a favorite liqueur. For ritual purposes, mead makes an excellent drink to welcome the return of the sun.
Celebrating the Winter Solstice
It is easy to get into the spirit of this holiday. Decorate the house with evergreens, especially holly, with its red berries, which celebrates both the Goddess and the God.Mistletoe is considered sacred, as it has long been considered sacred as it grows between earth and sky.
The lighting of the Yule log often forms a part of the Winter Solstice ritual, or can be incorporated into a family event. A piece of sturdy wood is needed, part of a cut branch or log, with the base leveled to make it stable. Securely fix a candle for each participant on top. Each person lights their candle and makes a wish for the coming season.
Plays can be a fun part of this season. Dark is giving way to light at this time and the battle of the Oak and Holly King, with the Oak King winning, can be reenacted. This battle is of particular significance to most Wiccans. The two are immortal brothers, the victory is temporary and the battle is replayed at the Summer Solstice, with the Holly King being victorious.
It used to be traditional to appoint a Lord of Misrule to oversee the Winter Solstice festivities. This would be a person selected at random whose role was to ensure that much fun and laughter took place at the festival. They could set tasks, play pranks and jokes, or demand that each member of the assembly took turns to provide the amusement for all. This is still an entertaining practice for many.
Alternatively, a King and Queen for the day might be appointed, whose roles are much the same. Originally they would be ‘chosen’ by the finding of a dried bean and pea located within a cake made especially for the purpose. This is the origin of the silver tokens often added to the more modern Christmas pudding.
Many Wiccans and Pagans celebrate this season with a powerful ritual. As Sabbats are celebratory in nature, magick is generally not worked at these rituals.
Dressing for the Winter Solstice
Fancy dress is an excellent way to get everyone into the spirit of the Winter Solstice. Some Wiccans feel most comfortable in their ritual robes. Others prefer simpler clothing. There is no firm rule here, but it should be something special. Traditional colors for the Winter Solstice include gold, white, red, and green. These can, of course, be incorporated into dress or celebration.
The Winter Solstice is a wonderful time of celebration for Wiccans around the world. It is a time of merriment and feasting, and a time to rejoice in the return of the light.