On the surface, we know Druids as ones who were/are among a certain group of Celtic priests, specific almost solely to the island of Ireland. These sorcerers were known to carry out the sacrifices and were known for their strict means of initiation; comprised of history, science, law, mythology, astronomy, and language. When we take a trip back in time linguistically, we come across the proto-Celtic words daru (oak) and windeti (to know, see), joined in the word druwits meaning “wise person,” or more specifically, “oak knower.” These words stem from earlier forms of the proto-Indo-European words dóru (tree) and weyd (to see), together as dóruweyd, which literally translates to “tree seer” or “tree knower.” As much as the druids were known for their sorcery, a key component of their characteristics lies in their knowledge of trees; their qualities, names and uses. Their writing system was known as Ogham, with each character also representing the name of a tree, hence it also being known as a “tree alphabet.”
What is a Godi?
A godi (goði) is a holy man or priest figure of the old Pagan north; invokers of the gods, custodians and facilitators of the Thing (þing). They were usually identified with jarls, chiefs, and landowners. When searching for origins in this word, we find ourselves first passing through the Gothic gudjô (pagan priest and custodian of temples, responsible for sacrifices) and eventually leading us to the proto-Indo-European ǵʰutós (to pour, libate, invoke). In pre-Christian Germanic culture, one poured libation to gods as sacred offerings, likely a remnant of the Soma ritual from Vedic literature. Godi also has its origin in the Gothic name for Odin as Gaut(az), where we are given an image of one that “flows” or “pours” out. Whether this is the ancient Odinic force of development or the entire population of people “flowing out” of the homeland is not entirely certain in this context. However, we know Odin as the ancient Godi, he who sacrifices himself to himself in a grand system of shamanic self-development. Odin (the operant) pours to his higher form, as the godi pours to Odin within him.
What is a Volva?
In Old Norse we have the term völva meaning prophetess, seeress, witch, wise woman etc. This word specifically relates to woman as opposed to many other terms delegating a person with “magical” ability. This word comes from a root word in proto-Germanic waluz (staff,stick) and an even older proto-Indo-European word welH- (to turn, wind, roll). Here we see an image start to solidify of a female “witch” figure can turn, wind, and roll the webs of fate. The association with a staff or stick can be contributed to “broomsticks” or wands of the classical witch, but in this context, one could assume that this connection alludes to the purported horse phallus preserved in herbs that was said to be consulted by these women for divine prophecy. Regardless, even Odin seeks the wisdom and knowledge of the ancient volva in ‘Völuspá,’ as it is with these primordial beings that cold, ancient, objective forms of knowledge are locked, trapped in their memories and experience of ages past.
According to Celtic legends, if February 1st brings bad weather, then the Winter Goddess Cailleach is sleeping and Spring will arrive early. However, if the weather is mild, then the Winter Goddess is out looking for firewood, ensuring a longer duration of Winter. So, dress warm, grab your snow shovels, and let us all revel in harsh weather today! Good Imbolc to all!
All things, whether sentient or (seemingly) insentient, possess an essence or a “spirit” within and around them. If you hold a stone tightly and close your eyes, you will sense a connection between your heartbeat and the “rhythm” of the spirit within the stone. In Rune work, this would apply to the Raido (ᚱ) rune. If you approach an ancient oak (or any other old tree) in the forest, you will feel undeniable connections and energies emulating from within it and its’ spirit can be accessed, communicated and interacted with. Once you recognize the spirit within everything, you will see how life starts to slowly connect and form one large, organic cosmos of interconnected spirit and matter.
Bodies of water, groves, and mountains are held in especially sacred light within our minds and they have undoubtedly immense power and essence within them. Each stream, river, lake and piece of land has its’ own personality and habits. We build connections and relationships with these environments and habits just as we do with the people we surround ourselves with, and the ancient man developed beautiful and passionate relationships with the landscape, its’ habits and the spirits of those landscapes. These days. people can easily relocate and move; more than likely their blood hasn’t yet built a connection to the soil because they haven’t experienced it for very long. I think this would apply to most people in America save the Native Americans.
It takes hundreds, if not thousands of years for organic relationships to be established between the soil and the blood of the people inhabiting it. The ancient man was locked into the cycle of his environment, as if his own body and mind were attached to its events and happenings. The patterns that were experienced outside of man were mimicked internally and recognized as one cycle. Time existed as an eternal and endless circle, not as a linear phenomenon with beginning and end. This recognition of patterns (and cycles) established the foundation for “religion” or Paganism/Animism.
Hurnaz is the Germanic form of the god Cernunnos, Lord of the Wild. There is some speculation as to the form and function of this god throughout history, ranging from being a simple god of commerce to being the leader of the Wild Hunt. However, from my understanding and experience with Him, I’m convinced of His role as a wild protector and progenitor of nature; a spirit of freedom and vitality. Some related concepts, ideas and gods would include Pan, Herne the Hunter, Mercury, Satan, Freyr and even Odin.
Hurnaz is a wild and masculine deity. He is indifferent to human affairs, unless His domain is in jeopardy. His domain includes the forest and all of its’ inhabitants; everything from the roots and leaves to the soil and blood. The animals, trees, and all the fruits of the forest belong to Him, bending at His will. The more respect we show His domain, the more freedom and bounty we attain within it.
Offerings to Hurnaz are reciprocated with protection, abundance, and rejuvenated spirit. Venerating this force directly combats stagnation and sloth; igniting the wild and robust nature within. His energy is of wild and chthonic quality, causing an Odinic like frenzy within the inhabitant; a hunter’s awareness and focus. In this hyper-aware state we are able to achieve things we might not be able to otherwise, such as enhanced vision, speed, strength, clarity and focus. These enhancements are all fruits of this power, hence His veneration as a shaman and hunting god.
Offerings to Hurnaz and the forest spirits may include:
Blood – to activate the spirit and open a medium of communication.
Animal remains – to return the fallen spirit to Hurnaz in exchange for future abundance in hunts and foraging.
Wood/Stone/Fungus – to offer organic material to the soil and animals; also to enable more objects to be inhabited by the spirit of Hurnaz.
Meat – to honor the carnivorous spirits of the forest, the natural hunting spirits.
Seeds – to honor the vital and fertile forest; to appease the spirits within His realm.
Nuts – to please the spirits of the land and encourage new growth.
Fruit/Herbs – to appease the land spirits and promote future fruit to flourish.
Feathers – to promote movement and motion of the spirits; allowing flight and a wider perception.
Present your offerings where you believe Hurnaz to be existing. This location can be a stone, tree, idol, grove, or simply the forest region in its’ entirety. State your business in His realm, and what your intentions are with His woods. Once you have been granted access to your desires, recite your prayers or galdr to enhance connection and protection, then carry about your forest business without worry.
Once you have established your sacred space to Hurnaz, and once you have connected your spirit with that of His and the forest gods, the woods will become your church. Here you can easily slip between the veil of worlds and into other layers of reality. The more often you visit this place, the deeper you can explore the boundaries of the spirit; for it is in our true nature to dwell within the woods. These sacred grounds will heal your ailments in this claustrophobic and chaotic world; guiding you to a place of wisdom, peace, and strength.
Experiencing and deciphering the language of nature is the most divine act, and as we learn its’ language we in turn unlock the secrets to our very own existence. The functions of nature mimic the functions of the body, mind and soul. The more balance we achieve in this Triskelion of realms, the quicker we can achieve a state of Eternal Awareness. May Hurnaz and the spirits of the forest bless you on your journeys.
Celtic Shamanism and Druidry were practiced by the Celtic tribes until the late Roman period, and even until modern day in the far western reaches of Ireland. At the very core of these spiritual practices are 3 main principles to conceive of and practice; 3 systematic perceptions of the way the Shaman should interact with himself and the world around him/her. These concepts are called by their Old Irish names Eolas, Imbas, and Dán, which I’ll be covering in detail throughout this piece. This trifold system of practices will give you new tools to venture into other worlds with; and to use to master the vessel you inhabit.
The first concept is that of “Eolas,” the Celtic word for “knowledge.” This type of learning would be to indulge in studying the Lore, the written wisdom and experience of those before you, and the analyzing of the myths of your people. The Druid, or Shaman, must be well versed in the history of the people and the traditions of his/her blood; he/she is a spiritual anchor for the surrounding community.
The second concept is called “Imbas,” which in Celtic means something like “inspiration/intuition.” This is practiced through the study of dreams, vigorous meditation, communication and offerings to spirits. This is where our intuitions, personal insights, and innate wisdom are given meaning; and we must master our internal dialogues and systems before attempting to master any external forces. The last principle is that of “Dán,” the Celtic word for something like “Gift/Poem/Skill.” This would represent how you apply your Imbas and Eolas to create yourself, your talents, and your destiny. This is represented by art, music, writing, magic, teaching, and the mastery of yourself and the universe in which you inhabit.
An easy way to visualize this system is to think of it as a metaphysical cauldron. The cauldron bubbles over a healthy and robust flame, and inside of it is a world that absorbs and radiates whatever is coming into it simultaneously. Out of this union spews forth creation and magic; all the while absorbing the energies of the surroundings and ancestral spirits. Through this trifold union we become true sorcerers of the Will; entering a permanent world of ascension and creation.
When visualizing this cauldron, imagine the Eolas as the Cauldron itself; the foundation of tradition and the anchor of the spirit. Underneath the cauldron of Eolas would be the Imbas, the energy and vitality that boils the Eolas. The Imbas represents the internal fire that transforms the contents within the Eolas or cauldron; the force we use to build off of our Eolas foundation of knowledge. Once the inner fire of the Imbas mixes and brews the contents of Eolas, an internal synthesis is created, which is unique to each person.
Out of this synthesis rises the Dán, the fruits and magic of our union of Lore and Revelation. This is the product of our magic; of our creation. Dán represents the skills or gifts we possess; the vessels and tools we use to make our will and purpose known in this life. Dán also represents the actions and outcomes that arise from the union of Eolas and Imbas, the creations of the inner fire.