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Celtic Moons, The Stag
(Full moon between 23 Dec and 20
"Am Dam secht ndirend" I am the Stag of Seven Tines
The third moon of the Celtic Year (the Celtic Year starts at
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
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
DH, once again, thank you
so much for taking the time and effort to share the Celtic Moon
lore, it's fascinating me.
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.
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
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
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." ..
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
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 lores 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 lores
when not explained in full amidst the backdrop of the wider
lore of the area they come from, can actually confuse matters.
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.
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.
Im going to leave
this as is. The insights are interesting. *Smiles*
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