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Druidry: The Sun Worhsip

As I already commented on previous posts under the Druidry label, Celts have always had a special devotion for Nature, particularly as an expression or manifestation of the deity and divinity expressed with in Nature, not as Nature itself.

This connection is deepened through reverence, ritual and meditation. A very personal experience indeed, spirit reaching to spirit. Through these religious practices we know that nature is sacred, we know that it is an expression of the divine, worthy of reverence.
Perhaps the most important object in nature to the early Celts as to most primitive folk was the moon. The phases of the moon were apparent before men observed the solstices and equinoxes, and they formed an easy method of measuring time. The Celtic year was at first lunar--Pliny speaks of the Celtic method of counting the beginning of months and years by the moon--and night was supposed to precede day
But how about the sun? Possibly sun festivals took the place of those of the moon

 Sun-worship may have superseded other and grosser forms of Nature worship.

Professor Rhys refers to the tendency of the savage "to endow the sun, moon, the sky, or any feature of the physical world admitting of being readily acknowledged with a soul and body, with parts and passions, like their own."

In all ages, in all climes, and in all nations, the Sun, under various names and symbols, was regarded as the Creator and as sustainer of all things.

A Scotch dance, the Reel, still keeps up the memory of the old Celtic circular dance. There is, also, the Deisol, or practice of turning sun-ways, to bless the sun. This was from right to left, as with Dancing Dervishes now, or the old Bacchic dance from east to west. Plautus wrote, "When you worship the gods, do it turning to the right hand." Poseidonius the Stoic, referring to the Celts, said, "At their feasts, the servant carries round the wine from right to left. Thus they worship their gods, turning to the right." The Highland mother, with a choking child, cries out, "Deas-iul! the way of the South." A Dîsul Sunday is still kept up in Brittany.

A stone was dug up in the road from Glasgow to Edinburgh, on which was an inscription to Grannius, the Latin form of grian, the sun. Enclosures in the Highlands were called Grianan, the house of the sun. On Harris Island is a stone circle, with a stone in the centre, known as Clack-na-Greine, the stone of the sun. At Elgin, the bride had to lead her husband to the church following the sun's course.

But did the Irish indulge in this form of idolatry?

Some writers, zealous for the honour of their countrymen, have denied the impeachment. Even the learned O'Curry was of that school, declaring--"There is no ground whatever for imputing to them human sacrifice--none whatever for believing that the early people of Erinn adored the sun, moon, or stars, nor that they worshipped fire."

Morien, the modern and enthusiastic Welsh Bard, is equally desirous to remove from his sires the reproach of being sun-worshippers "One of the Welsh names of the sun," he remarks, "proves that they believed in a personal God, and that they believed He dwelt in the sun That name of the sun is Huan, the abode of Hu" (the Deity) Elsewhere he writes, "There was no such a being as a Sun-God in the religious systems of the Druids. They named the sun the House of God (Huan-Annedd Hu)." Again, "The Gwyddorr (High Priest), was emblematical of the Spirit of God in the sun. The Gwyddon was clad in robe of virgin white, symbolizing light and holiness.

His twelve disciples, representing the twelve constellations, formed the earthly zodiac. They too were robed in white." Morien is the ablest living advocate of Welsh Druidism, but his views on that subject are somewhat governed by his extensive reading, his love of symbolism, and his poetic temperament.

The Milligans, in their learned story of the Irish under the Druids, say, "They worshipped the sun as their principal Deity, and the moon as their second Deity, like the Phœnicians."

Griann, Greine, Grianan, Greienham, have relations to the sun. The hill Grianan Calry is a sunny spot. The word Grange is from Griann. There is a Grianoir in Wexford Bay. The Grange, near Drogheda, is a huge cone of stones, piled in honour of the sun. Greane, of Ossory, was formerly Grian Airbh. As Graine, the word occurs in a feminine form. The beautiful story of Diarmuid, or Dermot, and Graine is clearly a solar myth The runaway pair were pursued by the irate husband, Finn Mac Coul, for a whole year, the lovers changing their resting-place every night. One bard sings of "Diarmuid with a fiery face" The last Danaan sovereign was Mac Grene The, cromlech on a hill of Kilkenny is known as the Sleigh Grian, hill of the sun. The women's quarter of that dwelling, was the Grianan, so-called from its brightness.

Bel is also the sun in Irish, as in eastern lands. Beli was their god of fire Bel-ain were wells sacred to the sun. The Irish vernal equinox was Aiche Baal tinne the night of Baal's fire. The sun's circuit was Bel-ain, or Bel's ring. A cycle of the sun, or an anniversary, was Aonach (pro. Enoch); and it is singular that we are told that the days of Enoch were 365 years.

Hecateus mentions the Hyperboreans of an island north of Gaul worshipping the sun. Diodorus speaks of the island's idolatry, saying, "The citizens are given up to music, harping, and chanting in honour of the sun." In Walker's Bards, we read of the Feast of Samhuin, or the moon, in the temple of Tiachta. "The moon," says Monier Williams, the great Vedas authority, "is but a form of the sun."

The circular dance in honour of the sun was derived from the East. Lucian says "it consisted of a dance imitating this god" (the sun). The priests of Baal indulged in it. A Druid song has this account--"Ruddy was the sea-beach while the circular revolution was performed by the attendants, and the white bands in graceful extravagance."

Fosbroke alludes to the revolving, with the sun, as a superstition. "At Inismore, or Church Island, in Sligo, in a rock near the door of the church, is a cavity, called Our Lady's Bed, into which pregnant women going, and turning thrice round, with the repetition of certain prayers, fancy that they would then not die in child-birth."

A Scotch writer observes--"The hearty Celts of Ireland say, 'The top of the morning to you.' Are these expressions to be regarded as remnants of Dawn-worship? It may be so, for many similar traces of the worship of the sun and moon, as givers of good fortune, are still to be found."

An Ode to the Sun in the "Leabhar breac" ("The Speckled Book") has been thus rendered by an Erse authority:--"Anticipate, my lays, O Sun! thou mighty Lord of the seven heavens--mighty governor of the heaven--sole and general God of man--thou gracious, just, and supreme King--whose bright image constantly forces itself on my attention. To whom heroes pray in perils of war--all the world praise and adore thee. For thou art the only glorious and sovereign object of universal love, praise, and adoration."

Crowe, who observes, "The sun was a chief deity with us as well as the Greeks,"--adds, "I have long thought that the great moat of Granard was the site of a temple to the sun."

The Rev. F. Leman, in 1811, spoke of an inscription upon a quartzose stone, at Tory Hill, Kilkenny, in old Irish characters, which he read Sleigh-Grian, hill of the sun. "Within view of this hill," said he, "towards the west, on the borders of Tipperary, rises the more elevated mountain of Sleigh-na-man, which, from its name, was probably consecrated to the moon."

When Martin was in the Hebrides, he came across observances reminding him of solar worship. "In the Island of Rona," said he, "off Ness, one of the natives needs express his high esteem for my person, by making a turn round about me, sun-ways, and at the same time blessing me, and wishing me all happiness." Again--"When they get into the Island (Flannan) all of them uncover their heads, and make a turn sun-ways round, thanking God for their safety." The Rev. Mac Queen mentions that every village in Skye had a rude stone, called Grugach, or fair-haired, which represented the sun; and he declares that milk libations were poured into Gruaich stones.

Travellers have written of Hebridean boats, going out to sea, having their heads rowed sun-ways at first for fear of ill-luck on the voyage. Quite recently one observed the same thing done by Aberdeen fishermen, who objected to turn their boat against the sun.

Related Sources:
The Religion of the Ancient CeltsBy J. A. MacCulloch [1911]
Irish Druids And Old Irish Religions by James Bonwick [1894]

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