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A SITE OF BEAUTIFUL RESISTANCE

Gods&Radicals—A Site of Beautiful Resistance.

The Nine Elements

“Direct worship of natural phenomena is a powerful way to overcome our alienation from the world around us, and the linking of those natural phenomena to our minds and bodies is another way to make this connection more alive and real.”

Photo by Michael.

Photo by Michael.

Reconnecting with the Natural World

We don’t have much evidence about the religions of the ancient Celts, but the evidence we have suggests that animism played a central role. St. Gildas, St. Kentigern, and the story of the daughters of Loegaire all reference the pagan worship of natural features in the landscape: mountains, valleys, rivers, hilltops, fountains, the sea, the sky, and the earth.

Kentigern specifically says that the pagans worshipped “the elements.” In this case, the phrase does not refer to the classical four elements alone. The Celtic elements included a much wider range of natural phenomena, including lightning, stone, ice, and so on.

In one story, the Dagda swears an oath by the elements, implying that the elements are sacred to the gods themselves:

“What guarantees and bonds have we that our staff will come back to us?’

‘Sun and moon, land and sea, provided that I slay my foes with it and bring my friends to life.’ Under that condition a loan of the staff was given to him.”

The Irish spoke of seven or nine primal elements known as the duilean, and the Body of Adam text hints that these may have been understood as the pieces of an archetypal human of which the world was made.

It is worth knowing what Adam was made of, that is, of seven parts: the first part, of earth; the second part, of sea; the third part, of sun; the fourth part, of clouds; the fifth part, of wind; the sixth part, of stones; the seventh part, of the Holy Ghost... The part of the earth, this is the man’s body; the part of the sea, this is the man’s blood; the part of the sun, his face and his countenance; the part of the clouds, his thoughts; the part of the wind, his breath; the part of the stones, his bones; the part of the Holy Ghost, his soul.

There is no surviving Celtic creation myth, but an old text called the Seanchus Mor tells us that the druids claimed to have created the world themselves through these primal elements:

(H)e used to contend with the Druids, who said that it was they that made heaven and earth, and the sea... and the sun and moon...

According to author Sean O'Duinn, the Body of Adam corresponds exactly with one version of the Indian Purusha myth, in which a vast Primordial Man is sacrificed to create the cosmos. This implies that the sacrifices of the druids were meant as symbolic and magical reenactments of the original sacrifice by which the cosmos was created, explaining their claim to have created the world.

The Carmina Gadelica, a famous collection of Gaelic prayers, mentions another list of the seven elements as the seachd siona rather than the seachd duilean. According to Alexander Carmichael's notes on the Carmina Gadelica, the seachd siona include earth, air, fire, water, ice, wind and lightning.

The healing prayers in the Carmina Gadelica often call upon the powers of the elements:

Power of storm be thine,

Power of moon be thine,

Power of sun.

 

Power of sea be thine,

Power of land be thine.

Power of heaven…

 

Power of wind I have over it,

Power of wrath I have over it,

Power of fire I have over it,

Power of thunder I have over it,

Power of lightning I have over it,

Power of storms I have over it,

Power of moon I have over it,

Power of sun I have over it,

Power of stars I have over it,

Power of firmament I have over it,

Power of the heavens

And of the worlds I have over it,

Power of the heavens

And of the worlds I have over it.   

 

“The Deer's Cry,” a traditional prayer attributed to St. Patrick, begins with a verse that doesn’t seem Christian at all and is probably much older than the rest of the prayer:

 

Atomriug indiu

niurt nime,

soilsi gréne,

étrochtai éscai,

áni thened,

déni lóchet,

luaithi gaíthe,

fudomnai mara,

tairismigi thalman,

cobsaidi ailech.

 

I arise today, through

The strength of heaven,

The light of the sun,

The radiance of the moon,

The splendor of fire,

The speed of lightning,

The swiftness of wind,

The depth of the sea,

The stability of the earth,

The firmness of rock.

 

Buada or “excellences” are qualities of character, such as the qualities expected of a good king acting in accordance with Fírinne in Irish lore. Kings and heroes were expected to display Buada while avoiding Gessi, the ritual prohibitions found in many of the Irish tales. This list of naoi duilean or Nine Elements links each element with one excellence, implying that the elements can be invoked directly to grant the excellences. As for the prohibitions or Gessi, in Radical Druidry these would logically include acts of oppression, exploitation, or ecological destruction.

The Deer’s Cry

Direct worship of natural phenomena is a powerful way to overcome our alienation from the world around us, and the linking of those natural phenomena to our minds and bodies is another way to make this connection more alive and real. The purpose of this rite is to engage with the elements, to engage with the body, to sain or bless any person or thing, and to cultivate the Buada of the Nine Elements.

 

Facing the east, repeat this verse from the Deer’s Cry prayer: 

I arise today through the strength of heaven,

The light of the sun,

The radiance of the moon,

The splendor of fire,

The speed of lightning,

The swiftness of wind,

The depth of the sea,

The stability of the earth,

The firmness of rock.

As you speak each line, breathe in and raise both arms to about the height of your face, elbows bent, and fists clenched in the “Dagda” posture. Breathe out while crossing both arms across the chest with palms open and facing in, taking the “Donn” posture, then recite the next line as above until you are finished.

Repeat once, three times, or nine times while facing east, or while facing each of the quarters in turn. Alternatively, you can repeat only the line you wish to focus on for a specific excellence. For example, since the Dagda is a god of both the weather and magic, and since the Body of Adam links the clouds with thought, you could invoke the “speed of lightning” to sharpen and awaken your mind when needed. Similarly, you can invoke the “stability of the earth” to calm and center your spirit.

When using the Deer’s Cry to perform a saining or blessing, you can rephrase the lines to read, “The strength of heaven be yours, the light of the sun be yours,” and so on. For all these purposes, make sure to move in a sunwise direction – east to south to west to north.

To call upon the Nine Elements to banish something unwanted or oppose an oppressor, face the east and repeat this prayer:

 

Power of heaven I have over them,

Power of sun I have over them,

Power of moon I have over them,

Power of fire I have over them,

Power of lightning I have over them,

Power of wind I have over them,

Power of sea I have over them,

Power of earth I have over them,

Power of rock I have over them.

 

Breathing in, raise the right hand with palm open while crossing the left hand across the chest. I call this the “Morrigan” posture. Breathing out, cross both arms across the chest with palms open and facing in, in the “Donn” posture.

Repeat once, three times, or nine times at each quarter while moving against the sun: east to north to west to south.


Christopher Scott Thompson

Photo by Tam Hutchinson.

Photo by Tam Hutchinson.

Christopher Scott Thompson is an anarchist, martial arts instructor, devotee of Brighid and Macha, and a wandering exile roaming the earth.