Caer Australis

Drunemton - The Grove

"On the eve of the festival of Samhain,
At the plain of Rath Archaill,
Dathi commanded the Druids prophesy;
Thus met we the king of Erinn and Albain"

              - Doghra, The Expedition of Dathi

winter oak

Welcome to wintertime in the Grove!

Beginning in November, with the feast of Samhain, the Celtic winter is the quiet half of the year

The world is cold, and life is dormant; Life is indoors by the hearth during the long, dark days of winter.

Songs of cold and death but with prophesy of greatness to come - these are the songs amongst the winter oaks!

A Song of Winter

Cold, cold!
Cold to-night is broad Moylurg,
Higher the snow than the mountain-range,
The deer cannot get at their food.

Cold till Doom!
The storm has spread over all,
A river is each furrow upon the slope,
Each ford a full pool.

A great tidal sea is each loch,
A full loch is each pool:
Horses cannot get over the ford of Ross,
No more can two feet get there.

The fish of Ireland are a-roaming,
There is no strand which the wave does not pound,
Not a town there is in the land,
Nor a bell is heard, no crane talks.

The wolves of Cuan-wood get
Neither rest nor sleep in their lair,
The little wren cannot find
Shelter in her nest on the slope of Lon.

Keen wind and cold ice
Have burst upon the little company of birds,
The blackbird cannot get a lee to her liking,
Shelter for its side in Cuan-wood.

Cosy our pot on its hook,
Crazy the hut on the slope of Lon:
The snow has crushed the wood here,
Toilsome to climb up Ben-bo.

Glenn Rye's ancient bird
From the bitter wind gets grief;
Great her misery and her pain,
The ice will get into her mouth.

From flock and from down to rise -
Take it to heart! - were folly for thee:
Ice in heaps on every ford -
That is why I say 'cold'.

From: Early Irish Literature by Myles Dillon (1948) pp161-163
1972 reprint: University of Chicago Press, Chicago and London. Quoting: Kuno Meyer, Four Old-Irish Songs of Summer and Winter (London, 1903) reprinted from his Selections from Ancient Irish Poetry (London, 1911). see also: Selections from Ancient Irish Poetry - Kuno Meyer (1911;2007)return to winter menu

Summer is Gone

My tidings for you: the stag bells,
Winter snows, summer is gone.

Wind high and cold, low the sun,
Short his course, sea running high.

Deep-red the bracken, its shape all gone,
The wild-goose has raised his wonted cry.

Cold has caught the wings of birds;
Season of ice - these are my tidings

Kuno Meyer, Four Old-Irish Songs of Summer and Winter (London, 1903)
Reprinted in Early Irish Literature by Myles Dillon (1948:1972 reprint) p.161. Uni Chicago Press
using the English version reprinted in Kuno Meyer, Selections from Ancient Irish Poetry (London, 1911). see also: Selections from Ancient Irish Poetry - Kuno Meyer (1911;2007) return to winter menu


In the Celtic Fire Feasts area, read more on Samhain

The Feis of Tara

1. The Feis of Tara every third year,
For the fulfilment of laws and rules,
Was convened at that time mightily
By the noble kings of Erin.

2. Cathaoir of many alliances assembled
The beauteous Feis of Royal Tara;
There came to him, it was a pleasure,
The men of Ireland to one place.

3. Three days before Samhain, according to custom,
Three days thereafter, good the practice,
Did that high-spirited company
Pass in constant feasting, a week.

4. Robbery, personal wounding,
Were forbidden them all that time;
Assault at arms, cutting,
Proceedings by litigation:

5. Whoever did any of these thing
Was a wicked culprit of much venom
Redeeming gold would not be accepted from him,
But his life was at once forfeit.

Attributed to Eochaidh Eolach.
Presented in The History of Ireland (BOOK I-II), History of Ireland, XXVI, p133. Published by CELT: Corpus of Electronic Texts: a project of University College, Cork
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Summer's End

Wild garlic and primrose
A ferny dale, moist and green
Moonlight dances in shadows
On fine brocade with subtle sheen

In indigo sky, atop the Hill
The embers fly in sunset's chill

Within the Hall, they sit to feast
Fine carvings of roast
Goblets of wine
The cattle are sheltered
The bard sings to his host

'Strong is your kingdom,
Noble your birth,
Great is your wisdom,
Your hospitality praised by all
in kind and in worth!'

Bright days behind
Dark days ahead
The moonlight plays gaily
On the living and the dead

Coldness to endure
Snow and bitter cold
Ahead lean days; the meat is salted
The fires to warm the halls
In the days of the low orbing sun.

by John Bonsing July 2007
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Knowing Nothing

Columns of Light
A shift in the Darkness
It all comes again
Knowing not where it comes

We come into our Light
         No clues, nor Dreams
And live as we can
         No emptiness
And again, the Darkness comes
         No remorse, without regret
We lose naught, but
         No memory

Shafts of Darkness in the Light
A shift in the Light
It comes again
Knowing nothing

By S Rhys Jones - 1997
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Summer's gone, the sun is dying;
Winter draws so harsh and cold;
gates of Hell stand wide and open,
forgotten realm of days of old;
hope-fires burn caressing moonlight,
tongues of flame lick the sky
Within the circle of the ancients
the fattened calf prepares to die

The forest sleeps, awaits the Springtime;
Beltaine's fire will bring new life;
await the passing of the Winter;
await the dawning of the new light
You want to know what holds the future;
you want to know of hope or fear?
Beware the swords the gods are speaking,
some things you may not want to hear...

Choose well thy words lest folly be thine
Choose well desire lest suffer in time
Choose well thy thoughts be less fleeting than rain
case the gods to thy bidding when they walk at Samhain.
If fear still thy heart hold close to the fire;
the harvest moon rises and burns as the pyre
Mock not the ancients, invite not their curse;
misfortune or mirth do they hold in their purse

When Summer greets Autumn and green turns to gold,
when the barn is well laden stray not from the fold,
when Morrigen circles, her fortune to bring,
for does death treat the beggar more lightly than king?

by © RAGNAROK (UK) LYRICS: To Mend The Oaken Heart (1997)
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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

     Winter in the Grove

     Featuring the works:
     A Song of Winter
     Gaeaf - Winter
     Summer is Gone
     Saman's Day
     The Feis of Tara
     The Chant of the Fairy Maiden
     Clear Winter

     Original works:
     Summer's End
     The Fallen
     Knowing Nothing
     The Acorns

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

     For articles on Celtic History and Myth, see the Gorsedd

            Gaeaf - Winter

            Llym awel, llwm bryn, anodd caffael clyd,
            Llygrid rhyd, rhewid llyn,
            Rhy saif gwr ar un conyn.

            Ton tra thon toid tu tir;
            Goruchel gwaeddau rhag bron bannau bre;
            Braidd allan oresfir.

            Oer lle llwch rhag brythwch gaeaf;
            Crin cawn, calaf trwch,
            Cedig awel, coed ym mlwch.

            Oer gwely pysgawd yng nghysgawd iäen;
            Cul hydd, cawn barfawd;
            Byr diwedydd, gwýdd gwyrawd.

           from: The Black Book of Carmarthen, 13th Century,
               in The Celtic Realms by Myles Dillon and Nora Chadwick,
               Weidenfeld and Nicholson, London, 1967. Here is the English:

            Keen is the wind, bare the hill, it is not easy to find shelter;
            foul is the ford, the lake is frozen;
            a man can stand on a single stalk.

            Wave over wave covers the shore;
            loud wails the wind against the mountain peaks;
            one can hardly stand outside.

            The lake is a cold place in the winter storm,
            dry are the reeds, the stalks are broken,
            fierce the wind, there are logs in the chest.

            The fish's bed is cold under the ice,
            the stag is lean, the reeds are bearded;
            the evening is short, trees bend.

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Saman's Day

[Cairbré:] "O grandson of Con, O Cormac, what are the duties of a prince at a banqueting-house?"
[Cormac:] "A prince on Saman's Day should light his lamps, and welcome his guests with clapping of hands, procure comfortable seats, the cupbearers should be respectable and active in the distribution of meat and drink. Let there be moderation of music, short stories, a welcoming countenance, a welcome for the learned, pleasant conversations, and the like, these are the duties of the prince, and the arrangement of the banqueting-house"

Extract from the Book of Ballymote, where King Cormac instructs his son Cairbré about 'Saman's Day', that is, All Souls Day, from: Literary History of Ireland from Earliest Times to the Present Day. Douglas Hyde 1899 (1967 reprint): Ernest Benn ltd, London, p. 247, "The Bardic Schools: The Instruction of a Prince" return to winter menu

                    She sits
                    Cruel summer is at its end
                    Through springtime's loss
                    The hearth beats golden
                    The warmth of winter's ordeal

                    She sees
                    But one who sees the many
                    Aspects of ourselves
                    The spirit of our strength
                    The cold of winter's call

                    She sleeps
                    As the cycles turn in turn
                    A reflection of the ice
                    All prepare for the feast
                    Of spring's bright return:

                    She knows that many have come before her

                    Yet she remains true to herself
                    The Pride of all, her closest lost
                    Her loving eyes, pure love, pure trust, pure faith

                    She is now here, curling the heart
                    She is now here, perfect trust
                    She is now here, to the soul; a Dart
                    She is now here, a friend - to the last

                    By S Rhys Jones - 2002
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The Acorns

In Autumn leaves beneath the oak tree
The scattered acorns littered the ground
We collected them by the pocketful
Round brown promises of renewal

Memories of oaks
At the Forest edge
The loss of loved ones
Round brown promises of renewal

Spread onto the earth
Over Winter they lay
Quietly waiting in scattered leaves
Round brown promises of renewal

By John Bonsing - Autumn 2002
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                    The Fallen

                    We see the frailty
                    Of lives no more
                    And understand little
                    Of the truth

                    We see the strength
                    As it goes adrift
                    The canoe that speeds
                    To the Western shore

                    Our hearts abound
                    Memories filling the void
                    Of a life no more
                    Knowing only the love

                    The times of pain
                    And of hurt
                    Real and imagined
                    They are all there

                    We see the tragedy
                    Of life as we live
                    Too late we see
                    The beauty there

                    We feel the remorse
                    Of life taken
                    And learn to know
                    The love there

                    Our yearning for that shore
                    Adrift in the wonder
                    Must wait for the time
                    Knowing our truth again

                    The times of joy
                    Never truly lost
                    Only all too real
                    We embrace our Fallen

                    S Rhys Jones, October 2005
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The Chant of the Fairy Maiden

From: Old Celtic Romances
Translated from the Gaelic by P.W. Joyce
First published in 1879 and revised in 1894
© 2000 Wordsworth Editions in association with the Folklore Society. p.99 (adapted).

A land of youth, a land of rest,
A land from sorrow free;
It lies far off in the golden west,
On the verge of the azure sea.

A swift canoe of crystal bright,
That never met mortal view -
We shall reach the land ere fall of night,
In that strong and swift canoe.

We shall reach the strand
Of that sunny land:
From pain and sorrow free;
A land of rest in the golden west,
On the verge of the azure sea.

And though far and dim
On the ocean's rim
It seems from mortal view,
We shall reach its halls ere the evening falls,
In my strong and swift canoe.

And ever more
On that verdant shore,
Our happy home shall be:
In the land of rest in the golden west,
On the verge of the azure sea!

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Clear Winter

"Think on the beginning of clear winter;
Think on its wonders in their turn -
Think in yourself of what it brings forth:

Its cold,
Its length,
Its want of beauty!

This stupor, it is not good wholesome sleep;
It is idleness and the fear of battle,
Long sleep is the same as drunkenness!

Weakness is only second to death!"

from: "The only jealousy of Emer" in "Cuchulain of Muirthemne, The Story of the Men of the Red Branch of Ulster, Arranged and Put into English by Lady Gregory. With a Preface by W.B.Yeats." 1902: 1970 reprint: Colin Smythe, Gerrards Cross, UK: pp, 212-215.
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