WHEN PEOPLE think of Irish heritage and culture some of the first things that come to mind are our language, music and dance. As a nation, we take great pride in our culture. We go to great effort to keep our traditions going – think Gaeltachts, the GAA and festivals like the Fleadh Ceoil. But in a quiet corner of the Roscommon countryside, Con and Niamh Connor and their fellow druids carry on some of the traditions of our ancient Celtic ancestors.
The Celtic Druid Temple in Castlerea is situated on a tranquil 16 acre nature preserve in north Roscommon. It’s here that a host of significant druidic events and festivals take place, including the Temple’s very own druid school.
One With Nature
Druidic tradition reaches back to long before written history, when druids were recognised as pagan religious leaders among a host of other roles. Their core beliefs remain unchanged to this day: maintaining a strong connection and reverence for the old gods and the natural world, as well as engaging in practices of spirituality and mindfulness.
This connection to Nature as a Supreme Being is plain to see in the work they have performed. Like, for instance, establishing a nature preserve on their land for the local community. Over 16,000 broad leaf trees (and counting) have been planted and maintained without the use of chemicals. Niamh, Con and helpful volunteers from the community have transformed the woodland into a refuge for nature-lovers and wildlife.
Recognised officially as a charity for the advancement of religion, the Temple’s fundraising efforts have contributed to the upkeep of the woods. Local schools and clubs such as the archery club have been able to avail of the woodlands.
Moon and Sun Ceremonies
Some of the major ceremonies are the Sun Festivals that take place throughout the year. These ancient festivals commemorate the changing of seasons in accordance with the Celtic eight-fold wheel calendar.
These events are deeply spiritual gatherings held to celebrate both the commencement and ending of harvest seasons, as well as the equinox and solstices. Every Full Moon is also acknowledged with an open and free invitation to ceremony. It takes place at the Temple in north Roscommon with Ard Druí Con and Niamh, at Tara with Ard Druí Red John and in Vienna with Ard Druí Karl.
Celtic Camp Games
For those looking to get a taste of the Slí an Druí tradition, the Temple welcomes families to take part in the Celtic Camp Lughnasa games. This family friendly event takes place on a purpose-built area of the temple during the first weekend in August.
The games offer a wide variety of fun and engaging activities for families to enjoy. These range from warrior skills such as archery and spear-throwing to handicraft, storytelling and more. Started in 2008 and taking place since, the event is not-for-profit and serves as a fundraiser for the Temple.
But the Slí an Druí tradition goes far beyond the occasional event attendance and festival. The most respected members of the druid way, the Ard Druí are authorised to carry out rites of passage. These include naming ceremonies, passover rites and coming of age as well as Celtic wedding ceremonies and legal solemnising.
Following the Path
Becoming an Ard Druí is no easy feat. It requires years of contribution and commitment to meet the criteria. But for those who follow the Slí an Druí path, it is a much a lifestyle as it is a belief.
The Temple’s Druid School offers various degrees of membership and friendship with the Celtic Druid path. Membership cards are available online for supporters to declare their identity as a follower of Celtic beliefs and traditions. These cards also act as valid proof of ID.
For those who want to commit to the Temple’s teachings and become a recognised druid, the website offers an online course. for people who’d like to get a deeper understanding of the spiritual and mindful aspects of the Celtic Path.
The Temple also has a limited availability spirituality weekend once a year with accommodation and food provided. Staying in a 250 year old Tigín at the temple in Castlerea, aspiring druids are guided through meditative practices and introduced to the wisdom tradition. Through it they fully engage with the practices of the Celtic Path to the Primordial Tradition.
Even after so much time has passed, some of Ireland’s oldest traditions and beliefs still persist in their relevance. A glance at the work and teachings of the Celtic Druid Temple shows an awareness of the natural world. As well as the steps needed to keep it clean and green.
We live in a time where climate change and pollution ravage the environment and threaten our wildlife. The teachings of Ireland’s ancient druids can be said to hold significance now more than ever. Perhaps we can all take something away from a look into the druidic way of life.
First published on www.oldmooresalmanac.com