The Broken Pact
“What kind of people govern us now? Are they generous? Are they just? If the rulers are guilty of injustice and mistreatment, if their rule does not bring prosperity for all, if they mistreat the Land, the Sea, and the Sky, then they have lost the Sovereignty and have no authority.”
This is the first in a series of essays on magical-religious practices for radical pagans in the Celtic tradition. In modern Irish, the word draoi or druid means a wizard or magic-user, and draoícht or Druidry simply means magic. The purpose of these practices is to restore the broken pact of friendship between humanity and the gods, committing us to the protection of the Three Realms of Land, Sea, and Sky. All the exercises described in this series can be combined with each other, experimented with or altered as needed.
On the Need for a Radical Druidry
There was a wondrous king over the Tuatha Dé in Ireland, the Dagda by name. Great was his power, even over the sons of Mil after they had seized the land. For the Tuatha Dé blighted the grain and the milk of the sons of Mil until they made a treaty with the Dagda. Thereafter they preserved their grain and their milk for them.
-From “The Taking of the Sid/ De Gabáil in t-Sída” in the Book of Leinster, translated by John Carey.
The Tuatha Dé are the Irish gods, and the Dagda is described in the Irish lore as a god of Druidry and an “earth god,” with power over the crops and the weather. This passage from the Book of Leinster presents a profound and ancient piece of wisdom: if we live in a right relationship with the spirits of Land, Sea, and Sky, then the natural world will bless and protect us.
If we violate this right relationship with the spiritual powers, then they will withdraw the bounty and abundance of the natural world, destroying our ability to survive. After centuries of wrong relationship between humans and the world, we can see that this is exactly what is happening. We have torn up the Land and released countless poisons into the Sky; now our world is heating up and the Sea is rising. The earth we depend on for survival is becoming dangerous and hostile, a sign of the broken pact between humanity and the gods.
One of the underlying concepts in ancient Celtic religion was that the king of any tribal kingdom was married to the Sovereignty, a goddess who represents the right to govern a land or territory. If the Sovereignty goddess rejects the king, he loses the power of governing and is defeated by his enemies. Being satirized, defeated in battle or otherwise dishonored was a sign that the king had lost the Sovereignty. Plagues and famines are another sign. When the king is just – when he gives true judgments and is brave and generous – then the land is prosperous and fertile, and the people are happy.
We don't have sacred kings anymore, and the ancient Celts themselves were in the process of getting rid of the institution when the Romans came along and established a completely new social order. Although the custom of sacred kingship continued to thrive in Ireland, some of the larger Gaulish tribes had already abolished the monarchy and made it a capital crime to seek the kingship about a generation before the Roman invasion. Without a king, it’s logical to think of the sacred marriage as a relationship between the people and the land they inhabit.
The relationship between people and place is either a healthy, happy relationship resulting in prosperity and abundance – or an ugly, abusive relationship resulting in the loss of the Sovereignty. The ancient Celts symbolized the human partner in this marriage as a man and the divine partner as a woman but there's no reason to be bound by those symbols, and in practice they were flexible. Both myth and history give examples of ruling queens, and male poets were sometimes seen as stand-ins for the Sovereignty goddess in their power to either praise or satirize the king. The most important point is the nature of the relationship between humans and the land, and what that implies.
The quality that kings (and, by extension, peoples) were expected to exemplify was known as Fírinne or Truth, a close cousin to the Hindu concept of Dharma or the Egyptian concept of Ma’at. Fírinne is not truth in the sense of a subjective ethical standard or a merely factual accuracy – it’s a word for the qualities of an ideal human community, including justice, generosity, hospitality, and abundance. If the decisions of the leaders and the actions of the people are in accord with Fírinne, then Sovereignty is maintained. If these actions are not in accord with Fírinne, then Sovereignty is lost.
What kind of people govern us now? Are they generous? Are they just? If the rulers are guilty of injustice and mistreatment, if their rule does not bring prosperity for all, if they mistreat the Land, the Sea, and the Sky, then they have lost the Sovereignty and have no authority.
Neopagan movements that call themselves “druidic” often emphasize a love of nature, but reverence for nature is no longer enough. We need a fighting Druidry, a radical Druidry, one with the explicit goal of restoring Fírinne. This includes the militant defense of the land, the air, and the water, also known to Celtic pagans as the Three Realms. Many modern druids have already begun this fight, and this work is meant as a contribution to the growing movement for a Radical Druidry.
A Radical Druidry could be based on the premise that the pact or treaty of friendship between humanity and the Three Realms has been broken by our disregard for right relationship with the natural world, right relationship with the spiritual powers, and right relationship with each other. With the Pact broken, the spiritual powers are turning against humanity. Without Truth our rulers have lost the Sovereignty and have no right to rule.
The Four Treasures
The Tuatha Dé Danann learned the arts of Druidry in four magical cities before descending to Ireland in a cloud of mist, bringing the Four Treasures with them.
From the city of Falias they brought the Lia Fail, the Stone of Destiny that cried out beneath the feet of a true king. From the city of Gorias they brought the sword of Nuada, the Fragarach or “Answerer” which none could resist. From the city of Finias they brought the spear of Lugh, against which no battle could be sustained. From the city of Murias they brought the cauldron of the Dagda, the legendary “Un-Dry Cauldron” from which no one ever left unsatisfied.
The Dagda’s Un-Dry Cauldron fed everyone equally, never running out of food no matter how many people ate from it. This implies the equal sharing of all resources, what the Zapatistas call “everything for everyone.”
Lugh carried his spear into battle when he led the rebellion of the gods against the tyrannical king Bres. This implies resistance against oppression.
Nuada carried his sword in the same rebellion until he fell in battle and his cause triumphed. This implies indomitable courage in the face of repression.
The Stone of Destiny has not roared since mythic times. This implies that there are no true rulers, and the rejection of all human claims to sovereign authority.
The Four Treasures Exercise
The purpose of this exercise is to begin the process of re-establishing Cairdes (the Pact of friendship between the spiritual powers and humanity) and restoring Fírinne (the Truth that creates abundance for all living things).
The exercise accomplishes this purpose by clarifying and strengthening the practitioner’s intent, and providing the qualities or Buada of the Four Treasures: a commitment to leave none un-fed from the Cauldron of the Dagda, the power to overthrow oppression from the Spear of Lugh, the courage to face and defeat all opposition from the Sword of Nuada, and the determination to reject false rulers from the Stone of Destiny.
Facing the east, raise both arms to about the height of your face, elbows bent, and fists clenched. I call this the “Dagda” posture, but it is also associated with the Gaulish gods Taranis and Cernunnos.
Breathe in while performing this gesture and then breathe out while crossing both arms across the chest with palms open and facing in. I call this the “Donn” posture, referring to the god of the dead.
With each in-breath, recite one of these four lines, or visualize the corresponding treasure while meditating on these concepts:
The Dagda’s Un-Dry Cauldron leaves no one unfed,
The Spear of Lugh strikes down the king,
The Sword of Nuada brings courage and victory,
The Stone of Destiny is silent.
Repeat while facing the south, the west, and the north, then turn to the east again. Raise both hands in front of your face or body so you can see your palms. I call this the “Brigid” posture, although the name of the goddess who performs this gesture on the Gundestrup Cauldron is not known.
Perform this gesture while breathing in, then lower them in a V shape below your belly while breathing out. I call this the “Boann” posture.
With each in-breath, repeat one of the four lines or visualize the corresponding treasure while gazing up at the Sky. Repeat while gazing straight ahead and focusing on the Land beneath your feat. Repeat again while gazing at the ground and focusing on the Sea.
Christopher Scott Thompson
Christopher Scott Thompson is an anarchist, martial arts instructor, devotee of Brighid and Macha, and a wandering exile roaming the earth. Photo by Tam Zech.