Saturday, February 7, 2009

How Druids Created the World

Several years ago, I visited my imbas to see if there was a story of how the Druids created the world (as they claimed in the Senchus Mor).

Here I present a hypothetical discussion between a Druid and his student that is modeled after and based on other similar teachings regarding cosmic order and organization that exist in many Indo-European traditions. The 'Colloquy of the Two Sages' contains a similar form of esoteric questioning and answering through the art of Ogham kennings. So does the 'Cauldron of Poesy.' The model for the text of this conversation is directly based in large part on the sixth Brahmana of the Third Division of the Brhadara aranyaka Upanisad that is recorded between Gārgī Vācaknavī; (the student) and Yājñavalkya (the teacher or Sage) found at:

The following tale is what leaped out of the darkness at me:

How Druids Created the World

"Then the student asked him: 'My teacher', said she, 'since everything in Creation is woven, like warp and woof, on water (i.e. the flows of creation or the powers of the universe which are brí and bua), on what, please tell me, is water woven like warp and woof (amhail deilbh, amhail eanglaim)?'

The teacher answered, 'On the winds (gaoth), my student; on streams of water and whirlwinds (sruth bua: caise uisce, gaoth ghuairneáin).

'On what then, are the streams and winds woven?', asked the student.

'On the worlds of the open sea and the enclosed lands and the columns of the sky (an fharraige choimhthíoch is tír is Maige Tuired), my student.' answered the teacher.

'On what, then, pray, are the worlds of the open sea and the enclosed lands and the columns of the sky woven?' inquired the student.

'Not hard to say', answered the teacher, 'On the worlds of the spirits of the air, the forests, the depths and the mountains, my student. (the Sídhe)'

Next the student questioned, 'On what, then, please tell me, are the worlds of the spirits of the air, forests, the depths, and the mountains woven?'

'Easily answered, on the wheel of the Sun (Roth Grían), my student.' replied the teacher.

'On what, then, pray tell, is the wheel of the Sun woven?' was the next question put forward by the student to the teacher.

'This too is easily answered', he said, 'on the houses of the Moon (Tiath an Éasca).'

Then the student asked, 'On what, then, please tell me, are the houses of the Moon woven?'

'Ni hansa, on the plains of the Cattle of Tethra my student.' answered the teacher

'On what, then, pray, are the plains of the Cattle of Tethra woven?' inquired the student.

'On the lands of the gods (Maigh Mhór), my student?' said the teacher.

'On what, then, pray tell, are the lands of the gods woven?'

'On the Cró of Lugh, my student.', was the answer given.

'On what, then, please tell me; is the Cró of Lugh woven?'

'On the treasures of the cities of Findias, Gorias, Murias, and Falias, my student.' was the enlightened reply from the teacher.

'On what, then, pray tell, are the treasures of the cities of Findias, Gorias, Murias, and Falias woven?'

'On the powers and skills of Draíocht and the mastery of the Dagda, the God of Druids, my student.' was the steadfast answer given by the teacher.

'On what, then, please tell me, are the powers and skills of Draíocht and the mastery of the Dagda, woven like warp and woof, like Land, Sea and Wind, like Sun and Moon, like the Cattle of Tethra and the worlds of the gods?', asked the student finally.

Then the teacher, instead of answering the question directly, warned the student 'not to ask too much about things that are not easily understood but which must be experienced and mastered through training.'

This is thought to mean that the teacher did not give the answer in plain words, but through the means of kennings or by having the student learn the ways through pathworking. It is clear from the Druid's statement, as well as from other passages in the ancient wisdom, that he had Tír na Bhithbheo (Annwn, Alltar, Tír na n'Óg, Tír Andomain), the eternal Otherworld, the unknowable, sacred reality, in mind within which everything else is based, and from which, everything is sourced and reborn. Here also is to be discovered and understood the fundamental relationship existing between the different components of the three worlds, as well as the balances existing between the deities/powers of Order (i.e. the Tuatha Dé Danann) and the deities/powers of Chaos (i.e. the Fomorii/ Tuatha Dé Domnann).

Searles O'Dubhain

What's in the Cauldron?

I've resisted blogging for many years now but have finally taken hand and knife to this one. Hopefully, I won't clutter the Internet with too much dross or drivel.

Here's links and an article to what it's all about:

What is an imbas experience?There seems to be some confusion about this topic among some frequent posters to this newsgroup. It's certainly not a way to self-aggrandizement. It is however a way that one connects to the gods.That means that it is a pathway of dedication. I apologize in advance to those of you who already know what an imbas experience is.Good historical and scholarly information about imbas can be found here:

A short description of my personal take on imbas can be found at this URL:

This is a part of "The Celtic Workshops" a course I taught online forseveral years:

The Celtic Workshop is a part of "O'Dubhain's Cauldron" a Pagan Bestof the Web website which is itself a part of the Summerlands Public Library and the Summerlands itself (the website that my wife Deborah,many talented others and myself created seven years ago):O'Dubhain's Cauldron:

The Summerlands:

But enough about all that for now! :-)

Imbas is an experience that has been described by Druids in the past. Amergin described it in the Cauldron of Poesy materials as translated by Erynn Laurie and found at:

Here is different version of part of this poem:

The Cauldron of Vocation

Ar-caun Coire
intlechtaib raith
rethaib sofis
srethaib imbais,
ellach súithi,
sru/aim n-ordan,
indocbáil doer,
intlecht ruirthech,
rómnae roiscni...

I acclaim the
Cauldron of Érmae
with understandings of grace
with accumulations of
with strewings of imbas,
(which is) the estuary of wisdom
uniting of scholarship,
the streams of splendour,
the exalting of the
the mastering of language,
quick understanding,
the darkening
of speech...
Attributed to Nede mac Adne and translated by Liam Breatnach

I put together a version of these texts more in line with my own imbas that stands on the shoulders of previous translations and versions:

The Three Cauldrons

Trí coiri bit en cach dúini:
coire érma, coire goriath, coire áiged.

Three Cauldrons that exist within each person: the Cauldron of Formation, the Cauldron of Vocation, and the Cauldron of Celebration.

Amergin, White Knee and the Triads of Ireland

My own existence springs forth from the Cauldron of Formation,

Which was created by the gods from the dúile;
Enlightened is each inspiration
That streams forth in my speech and from my center of being.

I am Amergin White Knee,
Ancient in years and gray of hair.
My inspirations are found within
The many forms of poetry
That are born within my Cauldron of Wisdom.

The Gods do not orient each person’s Cauldrons equally
Or fill them with the same talents and abilities:
Some are formed upside down, some tilted or upright.

Some are empty, while others are half full,
Some are filled with knowledge like Eber and Donn,
Capable of creating chants of life and death,
Through a skillful combination of words
In the power of three genders: masculine, feminine, and neuter,
And possessing the strength of three measures:
Double letters, long vowels and short vowels.

My Cauldron of Vocation is trained
Through a study of the arts of poetry
And sustains me through proper composition.

I sing also of the Cauldron of Knowledge
That allocates the gifts of wisdom
According to the laws of each art
And the work of each artist in general.[i]

Question: Is the root of poetical art found in a person’s body or within their soul?

Some say that it is found in the soul, since the body is brought to life by the soul. Others say that it is through the body that the skills of our ancestors are passed down to us, hence it is true to say that the source of poetical arts is within a person’s body; though in every second person it is not to be found at all.

Question: What is the root of poetical art and all knowledge?

Not hard to say. Every person is born with three cauldrons existing within them: The Cauldron of Formation, the Cauldron of Vocation and the Cauldron of Wisdom.

All people are born with their Cauldron of Formation upright, which promotes growth in the body and the learning of childhood.

Secondly, the Cauldron of Vocation is properly filled and oriented after each
person has done the work of turning it from its original position on its side.

Finally, the Cauldron of Wisdom is originally upside down in all people, and it
distributes the first gifts and aptitudes of art.

In unenlightened people, the Cauldron of Vocation is completely upside down; while it is on its side in people who practice the arts of Poetry and Barddism; for the skilled it is completely upright as is the case with the Ollúnaidh (Filidh or Doctors) and the
Draoithe (Druids). The position of the Cauldron of Vocation determines a person’s level of skill, and does not yield proficiency until it is turned by either an awareness of sorrow or the thrill of ecstasy.

Question: How many forms of sorrow will turn the Cauldron of Vocation?

Not hard to say. There are four forms of sorrow that occur within a person: longing, grief, jealousy, and a questing for the Gods; though the causes of each of these are sorrows found in the world. There are two forms of ecstasy that can turn the Cauldrons upright in a wise person: divine joy and human joy. Human joy has four forms: the union of marriage, the excellence of good health, the joy of graduation after long study in the poetical arts; joy in the experience of imbas granted by the nine hazels of wisdom of the Well of Segais, which flows in its excellence against mundane streams along the Boyne with the relentless determination like a wild boar in valor, or like a racehorse in the Sun’s splendor, at the Solstice during the
most perfect year of its endeavors.

When the Cauldron of Wisdom is turned by divine ecstasy, rather than by human joy alone, its special grace is a gift that transforms a person, who becomes both sacred and knowledgeable, so that their works include miracles, prophecies, judgments and precedents. It is these people who establish the wisdom that guides our knowledge and regulates the forms of our speech. though this knowledge comes from within a person, its truth and its power is from the Gods and originates from outside of a person.

[i] The text of the Cauldron of Poesy is all traditionally
attributed to Amergin. Several translations of the text have been done (to my
knowledge): one by P.L. Henry, one by Liam Breatnach, another by Caitlin
Matthews and still another by Erynn Laurie. Anne Power transcribed the original
text. I have studied materials from each of these translations and am offering a
combined version of them and their meanings in my own words.
[ii] Ibid.
[iii] Ibid.
[iv] Ibid

I personally had this kind of experience after years of questing and months of sustained and dedicated meditation. It's what started me on the Druid way. It is what let me experience a connection to spirit and deity that gave me a direct personal experience of life beyond life and the reality that surrounds/touches the present reality.

Don't take my word for it or place me on a pedestal for having the experience. You can discover your own imbas that comes from the gods yet is found through an inner search. See for yourself as Cathbad told Cú Chulainn. Seeking truth and finding it for yourself is what the Druid way is allabout. That is the "Truth Against the World." That is an imbas experience. That is how you can know for yourself.

Searles O'Dubhain