Caer Australis

The Grove

     "Your anguish words cannot tell,
       Through ages of gloom and fear;
       Till the sound of a Christian bell,
       And Faith's anthem of praise you hear!"

              - Aoife, The fate of the Children of Lir

summer oak - celebrating southern beltaine, our cet-samhin

Welcome to the Saints in the Grove!

Celtic literature records the coming of the new mystery religion with its promise open to all in the new world built by Rome.

The Saints utterly rejected druidism, and ushered in Christ above all else.

In Saints in the Grove, Caer Oz presents works told of the coming of Christianity into the Celtic view on life.

Strange tales indeed are the songs of the Saints amongst the oaks of the Grove!

The Paschal Fire
On the night of Easter eve, Patrick and his companions lit the Paschal fire, and on that self-same night Loigaire the King of Ireland held the high and solemn festival of Beltaine at Tara where the kings and nobles of the land were gathered. On that night of the year no fire should be lit until a fire had been kindled with solemn ritual in the royal house. Suddenly the company assembled at Tara saw a light shining across the plain from the hill of Slane.

'O King,' cried the druids, 'unless this fire be quenched this same night,
it will never be quenched;
And the kindler of this fire will overcome us all,
And seduce all the folk of this realm!'.

And Patrick quoted the Psalmist,
'Some in chariots, Some on horses;
But we in the name of the Lord!
Let God arise, and let his enemies be scattered!'

Then the queen came to Patrick and besought him,
'O mighty and just man!
Do not destroy the king -
Let him come and kneel and worship your God!'

From: The Life of St. Patrick and His Place in History, p. 104-106.
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Saint Columba

This poem is ascribed to St Columba (d. AD597), who sang this song as he walked alone, it was thought to be a protection to anyone who sang it on a journey.

This is a famous poem, though rarely quoted in full, for it contains the line, 'My Druid is Christ, the Son of God', widely reported to display an affinity between Christ and druids; it is on the contrary an utter rejection of druidism.

Alone am I upon the mountain;
O Royal Sun, be the way prosperous;
I have no more fear of aught
Than if there were six thousand with me.
If there were six thousand with me
Of people, though they might defend my body,
When the appointed moment of my death shall come,
There is no fortress that can resist it.

They that are ill-fated are slain even in a church,
Even on an island in the middle of a lake;
They that are well-fated are preserved in life,
Though they were in the first rank of battle,
Whatever God destines for one,
He shall not go from the world till it befall him;
Though a Prince should seek anything more
Not as much as a mite shall he obtain.

O Living God, O Living God!
Woe to him who for any reason does evil.
What thou seest not come to thee,
What thou seest escapes from thy grasp.
Our fortune does not depend on sneezing.
Nor on a bird on the point of a twig,
Nor on the trunk of a crooked tree,
Nor on a sordan hand in hand,
Better is He on whom we depend,
The Father - the One - and the Son.

I reverence not the voices of birds,
Nor sneezing, nor any charm in the wide world,
Nor a child of chance, nor a woman;
My Druid is Christ, the Son of God.

Christ the Son of Mary, the great Abbot,
The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost;
My Possession is the King of Kings;
My Order is in Kells and Moone.
Alone am I.

From: D. Macgregor, Saint Columba, Edinburgh, 1897, provided at Saint Columba, Abbot, Confessor - 521-597. Feast: June 6.
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Saint Brigid

This poem is ascribed to St Brigid (d. AD525). The Litany of Aengus, dating to about the year 798, describes the occasion of a synod held at Munster under Bishop Ibar, "where to the Angel of God was ascribed the great feast which St.Brigid had prepared in her heart for Jesus". The poem, which was old even in the time of Aengus, shows the way the saint 'prepared in her heart for Jesus'.

I Should Like
I should like a great lake of ale
For the King of Kings;
I should like the family of Heaven
To be drinking it through time eternal.

I should like the viands
Of belief and pure piety;
I should like the flails
Of penance at my house.

I should like the men of Heaven
In my own house;
I should like the kieves
Of peace to be at their disposal.

I should like vessels
Of charity for distribution;
I should like caves
Of mercy for their company.

I should like cheerfulness
To be in their drinking;
I should like Jesus,
Too, to be here (among them).

I should like the three
Marys of illustrious renown;
I should like the people
Of Heaven there from all parts.

From: Appendix CXXIV in Eugene O'Curry's 'Lectures on the MS Materials of Ancient Irish History' (1861) James Duffy, Dublin, p. 615-616.
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The poet Blathmac, son of Cú Brettan (fl.AD 750 - 770) and a monk, wrote of Jesus Christ:

"ferr fáith, fisidiu cech drui
rí ba hepscop, ba lánsuí"

He is better than a prophet, more knowledgeable than a Druid, a king who was bishop and full sage.

From 'The Druids' by Peter Berresford Ellis, 1994, Constable, London, p.79
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     "Grows an oak upon a steep,
       The sanctuary of a fair lord;
       If I speak not falsely,
       Lleu will come into my lap"

              - Gwydion, Mabinogi of Math ap Mathonwy

     Saints in the Grove
     Featuring the works:
     St David - Llandewi Brefi
     St Piran - On the Millstone
     St Patrick - The Conversion of King Laoghaire's Daughters
     The Paschal fire
     St Columba
     St Brigit - I Should Like
     Blathmac, son of Cú Brettan
     The Fate of the Children of Lir - Finola's Song

     Other places in the Grove:
     Welcome to the Grove
     Summer in the Grove
     Winter in the Grove
     Goddesses in the Grove
     Rowan Berries in the Grove

     For articles on Celtic History and Myth, see the Gorsedd

Saint David

Be joyful, and keep your faith and your creed.
Do the little things that you have seen me do and heard about:
I will walk the path that our fathers have trod before us.

Llandewi Brefi

Dewi Sant travelled with Dubric and Daniel to the Synod of Brevi, called against the Pelagian heretics with their doctrine of free will. On the way he raised to life the dead son of a widow, for David's miracles were many. Once as a young man he had returned the sight of the blinded Paulinus, his spiritual teacher, and many were the sick and the blind and the lame who he came to heal.

At Brevi, so loud and noisy was the crowd that his words could not be heard - when Dewi stood to speak, a call came forth from the back of the crowd 'We won't be able to see or hear him!'  So he laid his handkerchief on the ground and the ground rose till everyone could see and hear him.

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Saint Piran

From black Cornish rock he built his hearth
A blaze of fire rose hot and bright
And from the fire a molten river
Pure metal was made, of splendid white.

On the Millstone

The people of old and pagan ways, jealous of his power to heal and work his miracles, cast St Piran out to sea.  A millstone had been tied about his neck so the ocean would consign his body to a watery death.  As they threw him off the cliff, a terrible bolt of lightning and the sound of a thunder clap was announced by the heavens; But the Saint reached the sea, and the storm withdrew: as the sun came out, St Piran could be seen seated peacefully on the millstone, floating cork-like as a vessel on the surface of the sea.

The millstone bore St Piran across the water to Cornwall, where he landed at Perran Beach, and there he built a small chapel, and his first disciples were a badger, a fox, and a bear.  St Piran, finding the precious tin from within the ore of Cornwall, shared his knowledge with the people, and so delighted were they that they held in his honour a sumptuous feast and the wine flowed free. And today we still remember this merry love for a drink when we declare we are "As drunk as a Perraner"!

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Saint Patrick

The blaze of a splendid sun,
The apostle of stainless Erinn,
Patrick - with his countless thousands,
May he shelter our wretchedness.

St. Patrick in the Féliré of Aengus Céilé Dé, the Festology of Aengus, written during the reign of Aedh Oirdnidhé who was monarch of Erinn in the years 793-817. The stanza is to be found in Eugene O'Curry's 'Lectures on the MS Materials of Ancient Irish History' (1861) James Duffy, Dublin, p. 368.

The Conversion of King Laoghaire's Daughters

Once when Patrick and his clericks were sitting beside a well in the rath of Croghan, with books open on their knees, they saw coming towards them the two young daughters of the King of Connaught. 'Twas early morning, and they were going to the well to bathe.

The young girls said to Patrick, "Whence are ye, and whence come ye?" and Patrick answered, "It were better for you to confess to the true God than to inquire concerning our race."

"Who is God?" said the young girls, "and where is God, and of what nature is God, and where is His dwelling-place? Has your God sons and daughters, gold and silver? Is he everlasting? Is he beautiful? Did Mary foster her son? Are His daughters dear and beauteous to the men of the world? Is he in heaven, or on earth, in the sea, in rivers, in mountainous places, in valleys?"

Patrick answered them, and made known who God was, and they believed and were baptised, and a white garment put upon their heads; and Patrick asked them would they live on, or would they die and behold the face of Christ? They chose death, and died immediately, and were buried near the well Clebach.

The Conversion of King Laoghaire's Daughters
From: "Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry"
Edited and Selected by William Butler Yeats, 1888. (pp.2-3).
Reprinted in "A Treasury of Irish Myth, Legend, and Folklore"
Compiled and Edited by Claire Booss, Avenel Books, NY ©1986 by Crown Publishers, Inc. New York.

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The Fate of the Children of Lir

And Finola spoke, 'Come holy cleric, and baptise us without delay, and make our grave here and bury us together, and as I often sheltered my three brothers when we were swans - Conn standing near me at my right, Fiachra at my left, and Aedh before my face.'

Finola's song

Come, holy priest, with book and prayer;
Baptize and shrive us here:
Haste, cleric, haste, for the hour has come,
And death at last is near!

Dig our grave - a deep, deep grave,
Near the church we loved so well;
This little church, where first we heard
The voice of a christian bell.

As oft in life my brothers dear
Were sooth'd by me to rest -
Fiachra and Conn beneath my wings,
And Aedh before my breast.
So place the two on either hand -
Close, like the love that bound me;
Place Aedh as close before my face,
And twine their arms around me

Thus shall we rest for evermore,
My brothers dear and I:
Haste, cleric, haste, baptise and shrive
For death at last is nigh!

From: The fate of the Children of Lir. In: Old Celtic Romances, P.W Joyce (1907), Republished 2000 © Wordswoth editions and The Folkloric Society.

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Original work and design © Caer Australis 2011: From Coogee in Sydney's eastern beaches NSW Australia