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Celtic Moons, The Stag
By DragonHawk

(Full moon between 23 Dec and 20 Jan)
"Am Dam secht ndirend" I am the Stag of Seven Tines
The third moon of the Celtic Year (the Celtic Year starts at Samhain (Hallow'een))

Sometimes interpreted as "the Bull of Seven Fights" given that the Celtic word for Stag (Dam or Damh) is also the word for Bull or Ox. However, given the imagery of the Stag's antlers (as antennae), it is clear that it is Stag not Bull or Ox that is being referred to in the current moon. The term Dam was originally also metaphorically applied to human warriors given that Dam referred to the bellicose (warlike) nature of these animals. In Modern Irish the term Damh is most often applied to Ox, so the notions of the victory of the Light of the Celtic Year (via Stag) of the old usage are now largely lost in language terms.

The Stag, along with the Boar (the other protagonist in the Hunts of the Celtic Festivals of the two major turning points of year: Samhain and Beltaine) are creatures of the Otherworld who act as messengers for humans. They cross the boundaries of the worlds with ease particularly at turning points and inaugurate magical events, usually a hunt, where a "chosen party pursues an unusually fleet of foot, magical prey out of the world of the mortals and into a place of magic" (http://wwwpersonal.umich.edu/~lars/rel375.html). Two common hunts are the Hunt for the White Hart (Stag) of Samhain, and the Wild Boar Hunt at Beltaine but are equally present and the trap tales that lead the heroine into the magickal worlds such as that of the White Boar that leads Pryderi into a trap set by Llwyd ap Cil Coed at the turning point of Beltaine in Welsh myth are well known in Celtic lore.

After Beltaine (1 May: start of the Summer/Light/Day period of the Celtic Year) Stag wanders the forests of the Land bound to the greenery: his antlers acting as "antennae" of mystical inspiration that informs Nature and so the Tribe (brings the Light (of the Sun) to Earth) by bringing the seminal flash (or Life Force) that brings New Life via the Sacred Union to the fertility inherent in the "seed within seed" aspect of feminine Nature. Thus we get notions of the Green Man which is the same archetype as Stag. In Summer the Boar (the Maponnas or Summer god) courts the Goddess (the Sun: which was feminine in early and pre-Celtic mythos) as the Sun's (masculine) companion in the Otherworld which in summer is the Celestial (or Above) realm (signified by the Hill of Tara in the Tara/Newgrange cycle of ancient spiritual monuments in north-east Ireland)

Stag loses it's antlers after rutting (mating: Union which brings New Life the coming year) as days get shorter as winter sets in and in the Celestial Stag Hunt at Samhain (1 November: start of the Winter/Dark/Night period of the Celtic Year) Stag is driven from the realms of the Land and the Tribe into the Otherworld were he then courts the Goddess as the Cernunnos, the Winter God. The Goddess (the Sun) is now stolen away by Cernunnos the Stag or Winter God into the Underworld (the Below World: the winter Otherworld) so that Stag (the Life Force) may be re-born of her again at the Winter Solstice: Midwinter. The winter Otherworld is signified by Newgrange, the ancient spiritual mound monument in north-east Ireland.

With the Goddess removed from the Land and the Tribe at Samhain, the Formorians (the spirits of the Land who are generally considered unhelpful to the Tribe) who are coerced to assist the Tribe by the Goddess whilst she reigns in the summer months, have taken back the fertility of the Land into the Land itself and the Land becomes barren of greenery, crops, fruits and berries. The Boar (now as the Sow) who was deposed as the Goddess's companion by Stag at Samhain, now walks the barren landscape of the Land in Winter. Sow sustains the Tribe through winter as meat (In much the same way that Buffalo sustains the Tribe in NA lore) now that the Formorians reign over the Land given the Goddess's absence.

The Stag brings hope in the depth of Winter and is the herald for the great change that is about to take place at the Winter Solstice. Although the Earth is dark and barren and night still overwhelms day, imperceptibly as yet the Light is beginning to grow. We are still in the Abyss of the Winter Giamos period, but a spark glows before us reminding us not to lose touch with the Life Force, for, eventually, the Light will return. The "Stag of Seven Tines" has seen many cycles of waxing and waning strength and always fought his way back to triumphant life.

While the Moon waxes we contemplate Light, not in association with any meaning or purpose, only the pure phenomenon of Light as if shines beyond the darkness in which our spirits are now quiescent. At Full Moon, we focus on the image of the Stag himself: the Luminous Messenger and archetypal Changer. As the Stag Moon wanes his receeding image gives the Light direction so that we see it positioned inevitably in our future and begin to regard the future with Hope.

From "Celtic Rituals: A Guide to Ancient Celtic Spirituality" by Alexei Kondratiev

Nice. It was stag who led me to shamanism... and 7 is my birth and name numbers. Thanks for this.

One thing I found interesting with this moon is the notion of the Irish word Dam/Damh being interchangeable between Stag and Ox and there is an off in the Christian Nativity story, particulalry given to the timing of Christmas given the interchangeability of the word for Ox with that of Stag. After my visit to Italy in 06, and seeing a copy of Botticelli's Mystical Nativity, the size and emphasis of Mary, the babe and the prominence of the Ox and Ass really stood out to me. The Ass I found was to represent Mari (the Grey Mare) the indo-European/pre-Celtic Goddess of Fire and Water (who later became Brigid in Irish lore) from the time before the sun changed from being seen as a feminine to a masculine symbol in Europe/western Asia. But I could not find a reference for the Ox: but that an ancient European language could supply this analogy seems interesting So with the Ox as the Stag in the Christmas story we have the Winter God and the Goddess in shamanic form in the story and the Goddess and the God reborn at Solstice in the human figures. Also in the picture, the Ox is shown prominently against a very dark background; just as the

Moon in Celtic Stag moon lore is a light that leads us in the direction of the future in the darkness of midwinter. Edited to add link to the Botticellis Mystical Nativity: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/b/b6/Mystical_nativity.jpg

DH, once again, thank you so much for taking the time and effort to share the Celtic Moon lore, it's fascinating me.

DH, once again, thank you so much for taking the time and effort to share the Celtic Moon lore, it's fascinating me.

Crow, I am not familiar with Scandinavian Lore other than small portions that relate to Grail Lore. I am not sure, but goats horns are usually more spiral aren't they: in that respect they may have a different significance? But yes, generally speaking protrudances such as horns/antlers would fit the notion of a "fire-stone" or antennae and it would be that aspect that is important in relation to fertility from a spiritual perspective. But the Celtic Moons are also concerned with the physical wellbeing of the Tribe. From this perspective it is usually larger ruminants that are considered as fertility symbols: having more meat (Cow, Bison or Reindeer) and in the case of cows, milk or as beast of burden (ass/donkey/ox) or beast that allowed the tribe to travel greater distances/faster or have warrior advantages (horse). But in areas with less pasture or poorer weather such as the Scandinavian countries, it could be that Goat was considered a productive meat/milk source.

Goat was considered a fertility symbol in the county of Roscommon in Ireland: but why I have not been able to find out. One reason I can see that Goat might relate to fertility is that they eat just about anything: so it could be that Goat relates to the Death aspect (transmuting aspect) that precedes the fertility of New Life in Rebirth

The only St Nicholas I am familiar with is the 4th Century Turkish one that is the model of the gift-giver in Christian lore. But certainly a white horse was the one of the earliest symbols of fertility in Celtic Lore that was once prevalent in that part of Europe. I know Odin's chariot was pulled by horses and Thor's chariot that was pulled by goats, though not the significance of either.

Just lost a whole post hitting the wrong button. Mercury retrograde? Ok, try again!

The goat was new to me too. I only found out about it because there was a news item about a straw Yule goat being vandalized. What interests me is that in Sweden the goat is sacrificed. A man dresses up as a goat and others pretend to kill him... eventually he comes back to life - is resurrected. That, connected to your comment on goats eating anything, made me think of the black pig legends. The Black Sow or Boar that comes either on New Year's eve or the Celtic new year - the devourer that also symbolizes rebirth. I remember that the Black pig legends are much older and link to Ancient Egypt, but I can't remember which god... Seth? Not sure.

The Turkish St Nicholas was a real man, but his story has been overlaid by older legends in each area. Interestingly the Dutch Sinter Klaas dresses as a bishop (the real St Nick was a real bishop), but in every other respect the Dutch version seems to echo Odin. Both ride white horses - in Odin's case the weird Sleipnir (spelling?). Sinterklaas goes around with Zwaart Piet - the black Moor. Odin kept two black ravens as companions, as I'm sure you know.


“The Black Sow or Boar that comes either on New Year's eve or the Celtic new year - the devourer that also symbolizes rebirth “

In many Celtic myths the archetype of the Boar or Sow, with the aid of an accomplice "tricks" the Stag archetype on Samhain (Celtic New Year) into its sojourn in the Magickal Otherworlds. Just as in the biblical Jesus story however, Stag is aware of its fate and readily assumes its sacrifice to aid the Tribe: You could say that Judas is the trickster (Boar archetype) in the biblical story who then turns into the Sow (Mary Magdelene?) who sustains the tribe in the Stag-Lord's Winter absence from the land in the in the biblical mythos.

The Sow represents sustenance and fertility during the baroness of the Land in the Winter months and the promise of renewal, so I am not sure that the Black Sow archetype would represent "devouring", however there is an element of "breakdown" in the contrary medicine of Boar in Celtic Shamanism. You mentioned Goat as being a symbol of Samhain and whilst I was unable to find any reference to Goat in my Celtic Oracle Cards there is a reference to Ram and in its contrary nature there is a link to Stag's part in the Season's activities and that link is through "sacrifice" so in that respect Goat/Ram and Stag represent "devouring", but it is a willing sacrifice so I am not sure that a willing sacrifice is "devouring", although in a sacrifice that which is sacrificed could be said to be "devoured".

Under the Stag Moon, we are contemplating the phenomenon of Light as we sit in the Darkness (both the Darkness of the Inner Worlds and of Winter and of the Shadows they both contain): from a spiritual perspective. Although we have been releasing Shadow aspects in the previous moon, we have not yet reached Full Stag Moon (which occurs on Dec 31) so we are not yet at the stage were the Stag has returned (even though in Solar Law he returned at Winter Solstice): i.e. the full masculine and feminine powers of Stag are not yet reborn.

In this sense we are still feeling the effects of the releasing of the contrary aspects of the Season's totems: As the waning Light of Stag Moon gives direction, those aspects released will come into focus or rather the effects of having released them should.

These aspects are:
Foolish Pride that is an overcompensation for feelings of lack of self-worth that tells us we are fine and that prevents us from looking within (Stag)
Competitive nature that has us locking horns with others (Ram)
Unwillingness to enter the sacrifice of self (Boar)
and the fearfulness that cannot see the return of abundance/fertility (Sow).

Stag particularly asks us to sacrifice Pride and Ram to sacrifice our competitive nature to allow us to see that banging our head against a brick wall is not the way forward: perhaps the brick wall is there for a reason: to help us turn back and go the other way perhaps?

To go Within and fight the battles with Pride there rather than carry on projecting them out in the mundane? Boar speaks of madness being one step away from Insight but that there is a need for "breakdown" to rid ourselves of the madness so that the Insight may be seen: and Sow is pretty obvious. It is easy to see how Boar gets the epithet trickster in view of the associations with madness: as madness is a "trick" of the mind. It's also easy to see how each of the totems gives energy to the others; foolish pride having us lock horns to avoid the breakdown that brings feelings of lack of abundance into our lives.

Once the Moon reaches Full Stag is highlighted and if we have done our healing homework and made the sacrifices over the preceding Winter Moons, we are ready to follow the direction of transmuting Light into the more abundant moons of Spring which start with the Flood Moon in which Imbolc occurs.

Here the Fire and Water of healing and fertility start to show in our lives. If we have not done our homework then we plant the same doubts in that Returning Light repeat the previous years’ lessons and keep on repeating them until we "get it" or until Spirit/Mother decides that it is time we did; as happened to me last year out in the UAE as the Winter Moons progressed. I now understand how the Fire and Water aspects of the Flood Moon bringing healing and abundance into our lives: having lived in a climate with scorching sun and almost 100% humidity through the early Winter Months last year.

“I remember that the Black pig legends are much older and link to Ancient Egypt, but I can't remember which god... Seth? Not sure.”

I would agree: much older the Celtic has its roots in the Indo-European who came down off the Russian Steppe and many of the Egyptian myths are similar to the Celtic: implying the common ancestry which is found in the people's from Russian Steppe who we know as the Indo-Europeans and who appear to have started their Migrations into Europe about 6000bc. In the immediate Pre-Celtic era, the link appears to be via the Scythians. The similarity of purpose between the pyramids and Newgrange in Ireland, as rebirthing chambers, is clear but Newgrange is 1000 years older which begs the question "whom influenced whom?"

“The Sow represents sustenance and fertility during the baroness of the Land in the Winter months and the promise of renewal, so I am not sure that the Black Sow archetype would represent "devouring", however there is an element of "breakdown" in the contrary medicine of Boar in Celtic Shamanism. You mentioned Goat as being a symbol of Samhain and whilst I was unable to find any reference to Goat in my Celtic Oracle Cards there is a reference to Ram and in its contrary nature there is a link to Stag's part in the Season's activities and that link is through "sacrifice" so in that respect Goat/Ram and Stag represent "devouring", but it is a willing sacrifice so I am not sure that a willing

sacrifice is "devouring", although in a sacrifice that which is sacrificed could be said to be "devoured". “

No, I actually mentioned goat as a Christmas sacrifice symbol in Scandinavian tradition that reminded me of the Black Pig legends. The Black Sow is a devourer in Welsh legends. " In some cultures the initiation of a shaman includes dismemberment and being devoured by powerful spirits, as Eliade shows. The demon sow, who we see in Lleu's story, is a familiar figure in Welsh folklore. She appears on Nos Galan Gaeaf (Night of Winter Calends, or Hallowe'en), in company with a headless White Lady, and is a fearsome figure: Adref, adref am y cyntaf, Hwch Ddu Gwta a gipio'r olaf! (A-home, a-home as the first, Tailless Black Sow snatch the last!) Like the Master Bear of the circumpolar bear cult, or the Demons of the Tibetan Chöd rite, the Black Sow of Britain is the destroyer of the profane body in preparation for its rebuilding as a sacred body filled with spirit-power." From here And I found the link to Egypt. It was Seth/Set AND... it links to the moon as well. Bless internet search engines! " Set was identified with the Apep serpent of night and storm, and in certain myths the pig takes the place of the serpent. It was the Set pig, for instance, that fed upon the waning moon, which was the left eye of Horus. The Egyptians regarded the pig as an unclean animal. Herodotus relates that if they touched it casually, they at once plunged into water to purify themselves. Swineherds lost caste, and were not admitted to the temples. Pork was never included among the meat offerings to the dead. In the Highlands (Scotland), even in our own day, there survives a strong prejudice against pork, and the black pig is identified with the devil." ..

"This conclusion leads us back to the primitive conception of the Great Mother Deity. In the archaic Scottish folk tale, which is summarized in our Introduction, she is the enemy of mankind. But her son, the lover of the spirit of summer--he is evidently the prototype of the later love god--is a beneficent giant; he fights against his mother, who separated him from his bride and sought to destroy all life. Ra similarly desired to slay " his enemies", because he created evil as well as good. Seb, the Egyptian earth god, was the father of Osiris, " the good god", and of Set, the devil; they were " brothers". Osiris was a boar, and Set was a boar. The original " battle of the gods" may, therefore, have been the conflict between the two boars for the mastery of the herd--a conflict which also symbolized the warfare between evil and good, winter and summer. Were not the rival forces of Nature created together at the beginning? The progeny of the Great Father, or the Great Mother, included evil demons as well as good gods.

The Greek Adonis was slain by a boar; Osiris was slain by Set, the black boar; the Celtic Diarmid was slain by a boar which was protected by a Hag who appears to be identical with the vengeful and stormy Scottish Earth Mother.

" It would appear that there were originally two moon pigs--the " lucky pig" of the waxing moon and the black pig of the waning moon. These were the animal forms of the moon god and of the demon who devoured the moon--the animal form of the love god and the thwarted rebel god; they also symbolized growth and decay--Osiris was growth, and Set symbolized the slaughter of growth: he killed the corn god. The primitive lunar myth is symbolized in the legend which tells that Set hunted the boar in the Delta marshes. He set out at full moon, just when the conflict between the demon and the lunar deity might be expected to begin, and he found the body of Osiris, which he broke up into fourteen parts--a suggestion of the fourteen phases of lunar decline. We know that Set was the moon-eating pig. The black boar of night therefore hunts, slays, and devours the white boar of the moon."

From HERE Interesting that they saw 14 lunar parts rather than 13. It seems as if the devourer is necessary rather than contrary in the old legends. The devourer is the Yin to the Yang of the gods of Light - the way they access purification and rebirth. In a weird way, that makes the Boar both the executioner and the savior of the "savior". As some have argued Judas was to Jesus? Necessary to fulfill the destiny and to bring about the death and rebirth. I love the way they echo each other.

Crow, “No, I actually mentioned goat as a Christmas sacrifice symbol in Scandinavian tradition.”

Well in that case I am not aware of how it relates to the Celtic Notion of Stag Moon which relates how Stag is reborn under this moon having sacrificed itself at Celtic New Year: Samhain

The Black Sow is a devourer in Welsh legends. Boar who becomes Sow after Samhain and is the "trickster" as I related in my last post: but again that is at Samhain. The word "culling" is used in relation to Stag at that time. There are many regional variations that fall under the heading of "Celtic" as I am sure you are aware. I have found Kondtratiev's work to capture the essence of Celtic Lore and explain the many regional variations reasonably well in terms of his take on it in other parts of the book I reference in the Moons posts here. It is that essence, through the Moon Lore sections, I am trying to portray here. He stresses the sacrifice aspects of the Moons of the Winter Season ie this is something we have to do for ourselves: we have to sacrifice our contrary/shadow attitudes.

The trickster is a helper in that sacrifice, as Judas was in the Christian Jesus sacrifice story (before the formalized church changed Judas into something else), but not a devourer. Devourer implies something quite different. I had to choose to make the sacrifices last year: the lessons came and I had choice: but there was no devourer. That is not to say that, as you point out, there may have been communities within the broad church of the Celtic peoples that believed in the concept of the devourer.

What we choose to believe today I think very much depends though on where the focus of that community lay and in turn our perception of the Lore in where our focus lies: whether we are willing to make the sacrifice or whether we feel something needs to be taken from us in the sense of devouring. Thinking outload I wonder if the devourer aspect could relate to the contrary aspects being "devoured" by the Oneness: but that speaks to me of losing an aspect of self/Self: when the point of the Stag moon is to transmute the contrary and turn it upright; so in that respect we don't "lose" a part of ourself.

Personally I can however see that an aspect of contrary self may be devoured to be replaced by an aspect of upright Self, but whether that thinking would be Celtic in flavor I am not sure. Thanks for sharing this stuff though: it adds another flavor that other may wish to explore. When I have more time I will look into the Scottish/Egyptian connections: but right now particular lore’s and their relationships are not my focus and other than to help explain the points, I have largely left them out of these posts so that the basic tenets, and how they relate to the cycles of Nature through the year, can be seen. To me particular lore’s when not explained in full amidst the backdrop of the wider lore of the area they come from, can actually confuse matters.

“Whether we are willing to make the sacrifice or whether we feel something needs to be taken from us in the sense of devouring.”

I hadn't thought of it that way, but then again I had got lost in the joys of digging up myths and legends. I used to be pretty keen on Egyptology before I wandered onto shamanism, so it was an easy leap back into sharing stuff I've shared elsewhere in the past. Thinking now about devouring vs sacrifice... the "devouring" is a purification symbol, like the fire the phoenix builds. How to define the one kind of death/rebirth (of willing self sacrifice) against the other (willing devourment)...? Not a clue, but I'm sure you'll figure out what fits for you personally.

Crow, The Celtic Moons from The Cliff to the Stag effectively invite us to make the sacrifice as Stag does at Samhain (to announce the coming of Winter and indeed as Boar does at Beltane to announce the coming of Summer). Full Stag Moon this year is in a couple of days (31 Dec) and as I see it, we have until then to decide what course we are going to follow for the coming year; what we are going to "plant" in our mind's eye (i.e. into the Returning Light that, during the waning phase of the Stag Moon, gives direction to our path for the coming year) and effectively the lessons we are going to bring to ourself in the coming year.

If we have made the sacrifice and transmuted the contrary aspects/attitudes then we sew positive energies in the Returning Light: and when the Well-Cap burst at full Flood Moon (the next Celtic Moon), the energies that seep forth and flood the Plain are more positive energies and we see movement in our lives. The Flood moon refers to that which we have quietly worked on Within ourselves during the first phase of Winter (the start of the Celtic Year) "flooding" into consciousness and informing our path through the coming year. If we have sewn the old contrary energies, then that is what Floods the Plain when the Well-Cap bursts and we repeat the lessons of previous years and keep on doing so until we transmute the energies.

I had been doing that for a number of years, but that changed last year and through going back over the last year (or just over: from when I left for the UAE) using the teachings of the Celtic Moons, I can see how my path evolved through this year: how the change of perception and so the change in outlook I planted into last year's Stag Moon I was able to break the pattern of previous years. I can see how "devourer" would fit into the Celtic System: Death itself could be described as a "devourer" and the Giamos (Winter) Season is considered the Dark/Death Season of the Celtic Year (as opposed to the second portion of the year the: Light/Life Samos (Summer) Season).

Whilst the Death season lasts for six months, as noted in the last para the second half (Spring) is seen as the "Returning" to Light phase and the Moons reflect this starting with the Flood. I'll start a separate thread on the Death aspects of the Celtic Year/Moons though in Spirituality when I get a moment as I am conscious that this moon is the "Rebirth" Moon where the Summer God, the God of Light is reborn, and it is that Rebirth aspect is what I want to concentrate on here.

I have other things to do for the next couple of days, but I might start the thread: just won't have a great deal of time to contribute to it.

Why not ask Cinn to move the off topic section of my reply and yours to me to any new post? That way this one stays on topic. I'd be quite happy with that. I thought you were starting this post in a generic way and didn't realize it was personal until after I'd added all my info. I wouldn't have added it had I'd realized. I know how frustrating having a post taken off topic can be, even with the best intentions. Feel free to ask for anything to be moved or removed - I can do both.

I’m going to leave this as is. The insights are interesting. *Smiles*


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