Sunday, January 17, 2010

When Druids Meet

(originally posted years ago to alt.religion.druid and now edited for this blog)

When Druids meet, how do they recognize one another?

The answer to this question has many answers because there are many ways that a person can be a Druid.  In one of the few references available to us on this subject from antiquity, _The Colloquy of the Two Sages_, we can discover that some of these many ways are as follows:
1. Druids recognize one another through inquiry and by detailing the truth of the inner *nature* that caused them to seek to become Druids.
2. Druids recognize one another through inquiry and by providing the *traditions* of the studies that formed them into Druids.
3. Druids recognize one another through inquiry and by describing their *rank* of attainment in their chosen specialties of Draíocht.
4. Druids recognize one another through inquiry and by itemizing the *skills* in the art of Druids that they practice as Druids.
5.Druids recognize one another through inquiry and by outlining the *goals* that they've set for themselves as Druids.
6. Druids recognize one another through inquiry and by detailing their *accomplishments* in their life as Druids.
7. Druids recognize one another through inquiry and by tracing the Druidic *lineage* of their teachers.
8. Druids recognize one another through inquiry and by performing *prophecy* that is inspired through imbas.
9. Druids recognize one another through inquiry and by *acknowledging truth* when they see it..

These nine points of being a Druid are clearly provided to us from the Druids of the past. I think they ably provide us with three questions that we each need to answer:
1. Can we ignore these nine points of being a Druid when we seek to be Druids ourselves?
2. Can we afford to ignore discovering them in others who say they are Druids?
3. Can we demonstrate them to the world through the truth of our own actions?

When we look for Druids among us or within ourselves, will we find the requisite nature, tradition, rank, skill, goals, accomplishments, lineage, prophecy and truth that is the mark of a Druid?  Will we be able to ask and answer the three questions of seeking, discovering and demonstrating? When Druids meet, the knowledge of tradition, experience and inquiry are each validated through the harmony of respect, openness and imbas.

(the following in answer to questions about the above lists; mainly from Erynn Laurie)

1. One would assume from this that they trade life stories?

I think what is meant here is that Druids tell one another what it was that set them on the Druid Way and describe this epiphany of choice in such a way that other Druids can identify and synchronize with it.

2. IE Talking about what they learned?

This is basically the curricula of the Druidic schools in which they've studied.

3. This strikes me as bragging.

Wouldn't you want to know the degrees that a person has as well as their experience if they were going to be your doctor or discuss other professional matters with you in a professional specialty.  Wouldn't you want to know the qualifications of your lawyer, your clergy or your doctor?

4. More bragging, but it can be done with some humility.

This might be considered itemizing their areas of specialty or it could be just an understanding of the techniques or systems that they use. In medicine, this might be reflected in asking a person if they specialized in surgery before you contracted with them for an operation.  You might want to know if your doctor practices holistic medicine vs. heavy use of drug therapies, etc.

5. Okay, this one I can see. It's like what clergy do when they get together.

I think everyone shares such goals and dreams with other people with whom they think they might like to establish a professional relationship. It's a matter of getting together with like minds who share a common dream and pulling together in the same direction.

6. Strikes me as bragging again. But once again, it can be done with some humility.

I see this more as stating the details of one's resume to fill out the overall picture and credibility of one's experience.

7. Too much like the Wiccan "you aren't a *real* Wiccan because you weren't initiated by so-and-so".

Actually, this list and process is very useful in evaluating where a person is coming from. If the teacher, school or group is already well known, the evaluation of the individual's practice as a Druid might be better understood against that background. Knowing a person is a member of Keltria, ADF or OBOD might suggest something about their overall belief structure and practice.

1. It makes me wonder if some of these nine can be used in this day and age. I can trace my Druidic lineage through about 5 people, but not any further. And what is to say that the first Druid I can trace my lineage back to was any more qualified to be called a Druid than I am? I think some intelligence needs to be exercised in using these as 'measuring sticks' for themselves and others.

If I already know the Druids of a person's lineage, I have a pretty good idea about whether or not they have credibility as a Druid through their connection to them (or to their path, group or school).

It is my hope that Druids everywhere consider intelligence to be a great measuring
stick, along with truth, intuition and awareness. Credentials are important.

2. Like I say, we need to exercise common sense. I don't object to this being used, but sense needs to be exercised.

I think that using the various ways that I've listed of evaluating anyone's claims are sensible.  What we are talking about here are credentials that are similar to what would be on any resume.

3. We probably could, but I don't think it would matter to a majority of humanity. Some of the populace would be in(t)eres(t)ed in how *real* we are, if we are ordained, and so on, but most I don't think would care. It could be demonstrated, but once again, we would look like Catholic Priests who are more concerned with proving ourselves to each other, and society, to be concerned with taking care of our "flocks". I would actually like to see some kind of measuring stick for Druids and Wiccans as well as Witches to denote who is serious about their path, and who is qualified to teach and preach, and to separate the fluff-bunnies out, but as long as there is no central authority to any of our paths, this may be a pipe dream.

It is a major focus of my work as a Druid to effectively establish credentials and other clear-cut ways of defining who and what we are as Druids. It's my great hope that much of the confusion and hoopla associated with the many who *claim* to be Druids (but who are actually something else) can be eliminated through these (and similar) efforts. That's why some of us in The Summerlands are working toward the establishment of a Druid Seminary. I suspect that is also why OBOD, Keltria and ADF have improved (and continue to improve) their training courses.  I also think that's why the Druid College of Avalon is being established. I think that we can establish centers of credibility and authority without having to have one central authority.  If we do this, I think we will be emulating the ways that the ancient Druids also established and maintained their own centers of learning and authority.

When we look at the Druid traditions, I don't think one can be too far apart from others. We can differ in terms of what we embrace in the tradition in regard to degree and point of focus.  Regarding centers of credibility and authority, anything can be misused or become off-centered.  That is why most workable systems and groups have some form of checks and balances as well as some way of self-evaluating and regulating.  How this can or is being done is worthy of another thread and further discussion. I hope that some of the more successful Druids, groups or schools out there will share what their experiences have been?

The idea behind having certification is to provide an easy means of determining credentials and capability, even relative authority.  They are not the "be all and end all" of Druidic society.  They are ways for the general public to get a grasp on what we are all about in a fairly uniform and consistent manner however. A feature of such groups should be their ability to recognize individuals who have obtained the necessary standards of excellence on their own as well as through divine inspiration.  Here (and also in the case of those who attend regular schools and training) there should be a criteria that establishes what a Druid (no matter the specialty) actually is.  That same yardstick can measure the conventional as well as the unique.  In fact, that is one reason I started this thread (to attempt to place some marks of reference on that stick). The Inis Glas Hedge School that Erynn and Lorax established and taught is an excellent example of a knowledge base that would serve as such a yardstick for traditional knowledge and some of the experiential knowledge that a Druid should be expected to have.

In ancient Ireland, an ollamh was established and recognized through a process of education, examination and installation involving other sages and ollamhs, as well as kings and chieftains. I see no reason  why we should not expect our own efforts at education and achievement to measured and established by a similar process with schools, boards and governmental recognition today.  That is how the university system works in much of the world. That's the way that I think it should work among us as well. Perhaps the members of any such board should come from the schools, the leadership of government and from those who are independently acknowledge experts in the field on some rotating basis? That way, we might minimize any one group gaining a control over the process in a restrictive manner?  How to do this in balance and fairness is a discussion and an outcome that I eagerly await.

I generally agree that there should be a list of general warning signs (about cults and false traditions) but do reserve the right to find wisdom in even the most unusual and controversial of places. This does not mean that I endorse the unusual or the controversial (or even the outright wrong) but it does mean that I think such sources can inspire us to go beyond them into realms of truth that would otherwise be ignored. Every knowledge must be evaluated and substantiated through careful research and thorough investigation.  Wisdom is found almost as often from failure as it is through success. Perhaps we should attempt to refine the list of warnings while we are also attempting to develop and produce a list of affirmations for Druids and their like?


Telgud Noe - Man-throwing

"Man-throwing" (telgud noe) in its simplest definition is the adding of the suffix "tot" to a word in Old Irish.

There's of course more to it than that. "Tot" is defined and described as the sound that a wave makes or even the sound that a man's body makes when falling on water. This is specifically an onomatopoetic sound. Now before anyone gets too confused, here's a few things that one should also know
onomatopoetic: strictly speaking, of or relating to the formation or use of words which imitate sounds, like whispering, clang, and sizzle, but the term is generally expanded to refer to any word whose sound is suggestive of its meaning.

a.. Sidelight: Because sound is an important part of poetry, the use of onomatopoeia is another subtle weapon in the poet's arsenal for the transfer of sense impressions through imagery.

b.. Sidelight: Though impossible to prove, some philologists (linguistic scientists) believe that all language originated through the onomatopoeic formation of words.

In Auraicept na n-Éces, the Ogham are said to be composed of "sound and matter." They are a tool for unlocking the ways that sound and form relate to thought and perception. What this is all about is that some words or sounds mimic one another. Irish and specifically Old Irish is considered to be a very onomatopoetic language. Its sounds are primal and more closely connected to the ways that the human psyche relates to existence and Nature. That's why the Celts and the Druids believed that words had a power to create, especially when they were *true* words that had the onomatopoetic attribute. Poetry and words are then "man-throwing" when the sounds within them strike into the psyche through their close connections to the processes and effects they are describing (or manipulating).

Here's how the Auraicept describes the process (in Calder's translation):

"Fertot, its telgud noe, its flinging of a man, for *nae* is man, ut est, if a man suffer on land, i.e. the man allows suffering on him, he goes afterwards to bathe himself in the water, he lets himself down the bank, into the water, *tot* saith the wave under him, i.e., *tot* was the name of the sound which the wave makes: *tott; tott*, then, is its onomatopoetic name or mixed name from sound, ut est, the *bu* of cows, the *go* of geese: or the heavy voice the man utters dropping himself on the water. From the sounds of birth have been named *go go* in sound, or *bu bó*, i.e., *tot*: or again the man takes his garment about him from some one else. What he then says is *fertom* (i.e. give ye to me, i.e.) it serves me, *feartot* it serves thee, quoth thy companion to thee, that is a passive verb, *feartot* quoth his companion to him, this is an active verb."

English being a more artificial language than Irish, I expect that many would be unfamiliar with the power and effect of onomatopoeia in words and expression. It is an essential of the Poet's art however and one that is still studied in schools of higher learning today.

Here's links to onomatopoeic words and usages in



Even examples in English:

The key to the use of onomatopoetic words is to select those that evoke a response from the hidden self, the natural self, the inner self that hears and tastes and feels the words. It's a trip into how illusions are made and realties are structured. To write powerful poetry and to see words have an effect on those around us, even our surroundings, we must dive into the wracking, whapping waves of onomatopoetic, totting tons of tonn, toit, tuigen and tongues.


Trefocal - Three Words

In Auraicept na n-Éces, there is a tract on Poetic methods and knowledge that says of Trefocul:
…for the limbs of science are equal to the limbs of man, for there are
365 limbs of a man, 365 measures of poetry, 365 days in the year, and 365 herbs through the earth, so that the protection of the Trefocul encompasses them…
This is reminiscent to me of the tale of Airmid and Miach and their knowledge of herbs and healing.

Additionally, there is part of a poem on Trefocul in the same tract. It is about the "Laws of Barddism" (Bairdne) or the "Laws of Poetry" (Filidecht), but I think it also gives us windows into the minds and ways of the filidh and through them to the Ways of Draíocht:
Trefocul which poets plead
To defend their lawlessness,
Is no more than a burden of a children's part
From something, I reckon, which they understand.

Shields and pure countenances
Ward off many blemishes
As perfect Adna has devised them,
It is no profit not to turn them.

Twelve "errors" it is clear to you,
The poets must know them;
Etain has found no profit in them,
She has woven the beauty of poetry.

Twelve shields and twelve countenances
She has appointed to guard oneself against them,
The blemishes without a weak bare rhyme,
They succor them with their number.

The countenances of defense which I shall mention,
"Hardening" and "singular" that are not unsharp,
Right "ennobling", "enslaving"
The "staves of words" for true measurement.

"Interloping syllable" entire.
"Theft of a long" it is true,
"Theft of a hard" it is not wrong,
"Change of initial" for its visitation.

"Apocope of initial" ,
"doubling of initial" in front,
"Mod speech" with its modes,
It is a twelfth dear countenance,
"Prefix of gender" for reckoning it.

The shields of defense throughout the world
Are "hyperbole" and "retarding"
Ancient poets have found out those
Two "metathesis" and "internal

It's "full" is not full without foundation,
Its "reduplication," its "diminutive,"
A memory to each noble old bard
Its "exaltation," its "humiliation."

I reckon "man-throwing" with venom,
And "change of final,"
"Apocope of final," it is troublesome,
"Doubling of final" of a good word.

Those are the twelve shields,
The learned are in the habit of observing them,
And the twelve countenances which have been granted,
The four and twenty divisions.

The poets that do not know this,
No back to essay poetry is on them.
How can they conceal their wrongs?
How can they ward off "errors?"

Is it one countenance or one lofty shield
Which saves from blemish each full rough,
Or the twain that are thrown around every blemish?
Not thence, from considering it, will harm arise.

Whoever he be that sings
with his understanding;
Through his intellect rough and dangerous;
It is difficult and it is troublesome
To take account of the Trefocul.

Trefocul the three words
A knowledge of its secret is very hard,
Thirty-six up to this point
Are found through its specifics of Gaelic.
A study of these concepts and the people that are mentioned this tract on Trefocul would serve each of us well in our own efforts to travel the Druid Way.

What are the levels of meaning to be found here?
How were they applied?

How can we still use them today?

I'll probably include this article in my third book of the Ogham Keys to Wisdom series, The Song of the Forest. It was originally composed and copyrighted by me in 2003 on the alt.religion druid newsgroup of Usenet and in the Bards forum of the Summerlands.