Druid Divination: The serpent’s stone

The use of the “Awen stones of the Druids”

New Age Druid periodicals Phoenix AZ 2011

The Red Stone

Abstract Divination, Fiosach, or „Awen‟ in Ancient times was carried out on a daily basis by nearly everyone. Signs and portents were in all of Nature surrounding our Ancestors and they sought answers from their Protector Deities. Where are the herds of animals that they needed to hunt? When is it right to plant or sow the crops? Does that strange cloud formation mean something important? Is it time to move their summer camp early or should they wait out the cooling autumn weather a little longer? In the Celtic tribes, it was the Druids that everyone turned to for answers. For over 1,000 years the Druids gave their tribes the necessary answers. They had many methods with names we can find in surviving Irish and Scottish manuscripts. But they never wrote down their techniques and so we can only guess at exactly how they did it. Much has been written about the Druids, and some of it about what they did. Very little has been done to show how they did anything or how we can replicate their success. This short book will attempt to show a plausible method for the use of three stones in a divinatory pattern that replicates the way in which divination might have been done in a Bronze Age culture. The stones were referred to by several authors over a two thousand year period. Since very little was written about these methods few people opened up the topic further for any real discussion. My use of these stones has given me insight into how my ancestors might have used the Clach Fiosach (augury stones) they carried with them to ask for portents from the world around them. I hope you enjoy the use of these stones and that they bring you a little closer to your Ancestors as well as perhaps opening an insight into what tomorrow brings.

The Red Stone

In Welsh, the word „Awen‟ stands for „Inspiration‟ and has been taken to mean an insight into the world around the recipient either in the way of some form of art or a „glimpse across the Veil‟. The Irish call it „Imbas‟ (Imoss) and felt the same way about it as it affected their lives and their craft. According to the Greeks and the Romans, the Druids were known to carry stones or talismans called serpent stones. Much of what has been written about the Druids and what they did for augury or divination is all recorded by Christian Monks or even earlier by Greek and Roman philosophers. Most of what „we know‟ is only verifiable by texts now buried in the mists of time.

Pliny the Elder recorded in the Historia Naturalis XVI that the Druids were known to carry a „Serpents Egg‟ (also known as „Sanguinum‟ or the „Adder Stone‟) wherever they went. The Romans actually banned the sanguinum for it was said that it gave an unfair advantage to Druids arguing in Roman courts of Law. Possession of such an object was punishable under Roman Law by the Emperor Claudius, and there are several recorded punishments being carried out. Emperor Claudius also eventually suppressed the religion of the Druids and Emperor Augustus forbade Roman citizenry from following it according to Suetonius in his works Claudius XXV. According to Peter Beresford Ellis, the Druids sometimes carried an object known as the Glain na n‟Druidhe ( “Glan na Droy”) or the Druids Red Crystal. These stones were also spoken

The Red Stone

of by William Camden and Thomas Kendrick. Kendrick called them „Gemmae anguine‟ (also known as the Druids Glass or „snake-stones‟) and Kendrick believed them to be ammonites encased in stone. Ammonites are prehistoric marine invertebrates that were trapped in the silt after death and became encased in stone over time (see below).

The use of these stones and the auguries that the Druids performed is written about from the aspect of someone that is aware of the rites and feels them to be commonly known. As such very little is actually written down as to „how‟ they did any of these things. One thing is fairly certain, auguries and divinations were performed by the Ancient Celts and Druids were among their finest examples of learning and wisdom. The Celts and other peoples of Europe in this timeframe did not carry a lot of goods around with them, most owning (essentially) what they carried on their backs. From these basic assumptions I felt that anything would have to be easily portable, concealable, and usable anywhere. The Celts always did things in a series of „Threes‟ and since the Druids were Celtic I felt they should probably have followed this stricture as well. Since Divination was one of the more important things that a Druid did for their tribe, I‟ll cover them now. The Primary Three Divinations; also known as “the Three Illuminations”;

The Red Stone

The Imbas Forosna (Imoss Four ohs na) or „Manifestations that enlighten‟. Some say that the Druids would place their palms upon their foreheads to discern the secrets of the world around them. This is also known as „Palm Wisdom‟ and could have been the position that Druids would put themselves into as they cast lots to determine the future. Some assumptions of this method is that something would „manifest‟ so it could be said that the Druid would have a „sudden inspiration‟. Some form of sacrificial offering was performed prior to this method and so St. Patrick forbade its use. The Teinm Laida (Tenem Loyda), or „Understanding through Poems‟. Some say this was the reading aloud of prose in order to get into a trance-like state while others simply say the wisdom was either in the poetry itself or alluded to by reading through it. Some few have even suggested that it is the reading of poetry and using the words themselves as a sort of cypher (pointing blindly as you ask a question and opening your eyes to the word or phrase you pointed to). This was also known as „chewing the hazel nuts of wisdom‟ and „cracking the marrow of wisdom‟. One technique has been said to be the repetition of poetic prose over and over again thus creating a heightened mental state. Some form of sacrificial offering was performed prior to this method and so St. Patrick forbade its use. The Dichetal do Chennaib (Dikitul doe Kennay) or „Illumination through Song‟. This was something that appeared to “just happen” as no preparatory methods were discussed. The assumption here is that the Druid would burst into “automatic writing” or “automatic speaking” as a topic would open up. It is suggested that they might do this while in song, but could also have meant ritual chanting or a poem set to music. Perhaps it was simply the loss of concentration while singing so that your subconscious

The Red Stone

mind free associates and inspiration strikes. After the other two “illuminations” were banned, it is also possible that the Teinm Laida was combined with this method. Since no form of sacrificial offering was performed, St. Patrick approved its use. The Primary Three Auguries; of “Land Sea and Sky” Neldoracht (Nel door oct) or Augury by Sky; using clouds or perhaps the stars is something many historians wrote about being done without exactly telling us „how they did it”. In all likelihood they looked for patterns of clouds or constellations and possibly in certain directions depending upon the questions asked. Modern astrologers can tell a great deal about a person life from the stars and their patterns. The Greeks and Romans both said that the Druids were the preeminent Gallic astrologers and this may also point to this practice. Faisnach Uisge (Faw ees nik Whis guh) or divination by water was used to „see into the future‟ by staring into a fountains, wells, or the oceans waves and „letting their minds go‟. The technique was probably similar to how a modern Pagan uses a scrying mirror; they let go their conscious self and see what images appear. Nothing was written about how they did this but as with anything it is the establishment of patterns and what they might mean. Faisnich Teine (Faw ees nik Tay nuh) or divination by fire is done by staring for long periods of time into bonfires or other forms of fire. The Mayan Day Shamans were known to stare into the rising sun for hours at a time so that they could „absorb the dew of heaven‟. The Celts did not explain this methodology at all but since both cultures were similar in societal concepts it is possible that this method was also used. The

The Red Stone

Celts were known to watch the rising Sun in the East and refer to it as „Bael‟s Eye‟, the „Eye of Belinus‟ or simply the “Fire Eye”. Again we do not know what they were staring at or how they determined an outcome. Celts and Druids both were obsessed with all things in “threes” and held anything in a „trinity form‟ to somehow be „sacred‟. Modern Druids consider the Three Realms of “Land, Sea, & Sky” to be of the greatest importance instead of the Wiccan four or five elements. The Three Kindred‟s (also known as the Shining Ones, the Noble Ones and the Mighty Ones) were representations of the powers surrounding us above below and all around us. A very good friend of mine put it this way; “Witches think horizontally with the cardinal directions and their associated elements. Druids think vertically with the Realms and their associated inhabitants”. I chose the three methods of augury since I noticed another similar “scheme”; Land-Sea-Sky. In our rites we often asked for a „bit of Awen‟ or a „moment of Imbas‟ in the middle of our rites right after making our offerings. We tried using Rune stones, Tarot cards, and even a pendulum several times but each time we ran into difficulties. Rain or winds or low light prevented us from really achieving our goal of a simple augury that anyone could do without having to open a book, turn on a flashlight, or watch the paper pieces melt in the rain. I had been reading about the „Glainn n‟Draoi‟ prior to one ritual and had been carrying three stones in my crane bag for several weeks. As I watched the worship leader try desperately to shield his Tarot cards from the rain I had a moment of inspiration… “USE THE STONES” sprang into my head.

The Red Stone

I took out the stones and studied them and all of a sudden it hit me, I knew a way to use the stones for a simple augury. The stones were light, dark, and red and shimmered in the moonlight so they are easy to see regardless of where they land. Being stone they are not likely to melt in the rain and are quite durable if stepped on. We were using a black oak stump as our ritual center altar so I pronounced what my augury was about and threw them onto the altar top. The red crystal and the light stone landed and stayed nearly together, while the dark stone bounced off the altar landing several feet away. I pronounced the augury to be good and we went on with our ritual. These stones have been with me ever since that day and became our normal augury tool for both ritual and personal use as well. As our ritual got bigger and we began to take on student all of them began asking how to perform divinations. We had been teaching them the Runes and the Tarot of course but again inspiration struck. Our students needed to be familiarized with performing rituals and I saw an opportunity for them to do both; augury and ritual. When the „moment of Awen‟ was called for in our ritual I began handing the stones to the students. After a quick explanation all of them were able to perform the augury without having to hold cheat sheets in their hands. Some novel ways of reading the stones cropped up and are featured here as well. The single greatest aspect was that there was no “prescribed way” and no one could step forward (except me) to say that it should “be thus and so”. Our novitiates were free to use them in any way they wanted to without fear of repercussion and could feel as if they were really contributing to the ritual instead of being a strap hanger at the circles edge. Best of all, they were indestructible and hard to lose even in the grass.

The Red Stone

The implements: Three stones are needed that fit in your hand and are of similar weight, size, and texture. These stones can easily be found or purchased from any gem shop or roadside curio stand or river bed for that matter. The stones should be carried in bag of some sort and I carry them continuously at my side so they feel like they “belong to and are connected with me”. I prefer a leather bag with a sturdy drawstring that I can loop through my belt, which I also use to carry my Hearthstone and a small silk pouch with some „quick offerings‟. The leather pouch is mainly something that will carry the stones and keep them snug together. It is not necessary that the pouch be expensive but the bag should prevent the stones from rolling around and impacting with each other. This way any damage should be lessened or eliminated. Anything else of importance can also be carried in this bag as you should keep this bag on your person at all times.

Use of the Stones: The stones are carried with you continuously and essentially „become part of you‟. In this way, they are always there ready to be used for Fiosach (“Fee Oh sack” or Augury in Old Gaelic). This is in keeping with more modern traditions wherein Tarot

The Red Stone

cards for example are stored in silk wrappings inside a cedar box lined with felt. Stones should be selected for both how they feel and how they make you feel about them. The Red stone signifies „you‟ and should reflect your personality perhaps. The Light stone signifies all things positive and can be opaque or solid. The Dark stone signifies all things crossing you and should be either black or some other dark color. The stones are taken out and held in your hand while you clearly state the question you are about to ask for an augury about. The stones are rolled in your hand until they warm up to a comfortable temperature. This should take only a few moments but I have had them sometimes take several minutes. I tell people that they are „warming up to your question” and it is a good analogy. Keep rolling the stones in your hand until it “feels right” and keep repeating the question and any parameters in your mind. You can determine what is significant prior to the throw and the more detailed you think things through the better your augury is likely to be. Once the stones have „warmed up to you‟, they are cast onto a surface that should have a boundary edge or limit of some sort. Since we are talking about stones, you don‟t really want to chase the stones down the street on the pavement. I normally aim them towards a patch of grass or some other fractioned surface. I prefer not to have an edge that they can „bounce back‟ off of, but some of you may want this feature. The stones will roll or bounce on their own and settle down finally. You can choose to carry something with you such as an altar cloth or use them as you discover something that you can use them on like a flat tree stump. Some people throw all three stones together while others preferred to throw the stones one at a time blindly. These people

The Red Stone

preferred to have a surface to bounce the stones against since they were not really able to see where they were throwing each stone. The augury is actually very simple at this point, the light stone is your “Yes” or “Affirmative” answer while the dark stone is your “No” or your “Not Inclined” answer. The red stone is how you measure each answer with the closer stone being the „more dominant-acting stone‟. If both stones are equally distant to the red stone then you have gotten the “Ask Again Later” reply. This is the simpler measure but much more can be gleaned by watching how the stones interact with each other. For this, you need to be able to see the stones during their entire flight from your hand to the where they eventually come to rest. Everything means something, so watch them carefully. Within the Druidic ranks it was typically the Seers that were instructed in this art form. Many types of auguries can be used and nothing was ever written down about much of them. The implements were sometimes a Bull‟s hide (for the Tarfeis “Tur face” or Bulls Ceremony) which was used to call out the new King‟s name after days of ceremony and sense deprivation rituals. Bouddicea was said to have released a hare before battle to see what the animal would do. Augury was performed based upon the actions although nothing was written about exactly what was being watched or judged. It is likely it was simply a “which way did the rabbit run?” augury indicating that the rabbit wanted to go towards (or away from) the enemy. Since the Celts believed it was easier to remember a thing if you attached to something, poems are sometimes used to guide and remind you. This is an adapted poem from one that I use for my Ogham sticks. If you begin chanting this prose as you

The Red Stone

prepare for your toss of the stones; it will remind you of what you are doing and how. Remember to treat these stones with both reverence as well as respect as they are an extension of you and your will. Three Stones “ Three stones are drawn into the light, …one at a time as is their right Red for the question that burns in your mind …setting the balance we all hope to find Light for the forces that help you along …people and places that won‟t do you wrong Dark for the forces that hinder your path ...people and places inspire your wrath Framing the question while feeling the stones ...asking for Awen from deep in your bones Three stones are thrown into the light …the answers gleaming in your Second Sight “ Mark Bailey, 2009 Where are the stones? The dark and light stones should be examined for close proximity to the red stone so as to indicate how soon the resolution will occur. If the light stone as an example is resting right next to the red stone then the „Awen‟ might indicate that it is happening right now. Measurements of distance should be judged using the person‟s

The Red Stone

fingers, hands, and arms. Distances measured in fingers would be of the shortest time period (let‟s say „Hours‟). Distances measured in hands would be a little longer (so let‟s say „Days‟). Distances measured in arms would be extremely long perhaps too far away to tell (so let‟s say „Weeks‟ or longer). Determine beforehand what your „unit of measure‟ is for each digit would be and stick with it. For example use the width of your thumb to indicate a small group of 3-4 people, the hand‟s width could be a larger group of 10-15 people and anything longer than the distance from your fingers to your elbow is a group of hundreds of people or more.

If the closest stone is the light stone but it is several feet away it might indicate that the augury will not happen for some time or that it might not happen at all unless a lot of effort is put into it. It could be taken for a group of people so large is involved in your question that a group consensus is simply impossible and so your result will never occur without firm leadership and decision making from someone. How close to the red stone? The distance of the light and dark stones to the red stone should be measured in terms of the person casting the stones. For each arm‟s length distance the stones are apart from each other a time period or an amount of effort is indicated. If the

The Red Stone

stones are within a hands distance then the effect is more immediate and if they are touching then the result is probably happening right now. How close to each other? If the light and dark stones are on opposite sides of the red stone then they are not really affecting each other. Results are going to happen independently of the positive and negative influence surrounding this question. However if the two stones are close to each other, the results are going to be because of an interaction between the two forces. They can be said to be „blocking‟ one another or „working together‟ somehow towards a divinatory result. In the picture below, the dark stone is closer than the light and standing in between so even though the two results are similarly close to the red stone, it will take a lot for the positive to “get past” the influences of the dark stone because it is standing in the way of progress.

How close to a person? Once the „Awen stones‟ come to rest, you can read into the positions of the stones with regard to people standing around them. Since we use these stones in the middle of our ritual circle with everyone equally spaced and distanced around us it is easy to use the stones in this fashion. One of the best uses I saw was one of our

The Red Stone

students asking the question “who should lead us in the offerings?” They tossed the stones and chose the person closest to the light colored stone. In order for this to really work, you should do this with people standing an equal distance away from you. Otherwise the reading will just be another „skewed result‟. Did the stones touch? One of the things that you do not always see is the stones interacting after they hit the ground. Some tosses result in the stones travelling away from each other and some tosses result in them landing together, but occasionally they hit each other either in flight or on the ground. If the light or dark stone ricochets off the red stone we assumed that this influence was going to have a „forceful impact‟ on the outcome regardless of the eventual augury. If the light and dark stone struck each other before coming to rest then we said the stones were saying that the two forces were going to go “head to head‟ in this augury before a resolution would come. In the picture below we see the light stone has literally landed on top of the dark stone. Not only is the dark energies being blocked by the light, it is also being „held down‟ or „held in check‟.

The Red Stone

Multiple readings? As in the Tarot cards or Runes you can use the results of one reading to ask more in depth questions. A good technique would be to write down each reading and return to it later for more in-depth reviews. This can lead to some very strange results and should probably be done very carefully. The problem is that with a simple divination device such as this any question may „bleed over‟ into the original reading. A personal suggestion is not to read the stones more than once about a particular question or event. I caution people from doing the “let‟s double-check the answer” by asking the same question over and over again. You can do this if you want to but in my mind it just dilutes the answer and ends up being too conflicting. Asking more in depth questions though can lead to some interesting insights, especially if you are delving into why the stones interacted in the way that they did in the previous toss. In conclusion, the stones were written about in several treatises without really explaining how they worked. The methods offered here are just a few suggestions on how to use them and some hints and tips that have worked for me in the past. It is my preferred method of augury now and I like the fact that I can carry them easily, use them anywhere, and never have a non-Pagan even realize what I am doing. I have pulled them out in a restaurant to ask the question “is the beef good tonight?” or “red wine or white”? Most of the authors mentioned agree that the stones existed and that they were used for some form of divination purposes. Although none offered any suggestions as to how these were used, I would like to think that this method is at least a plausible one.

The Red Stone

Many of the experienced Pagans have found this to be an easy method to pick up, a simple thing to make, and something they could easily make very personal. These stones also fit with my view of what the Ancestors would have preferred; something light, durable, and easy to use. Our European tribal ancestors were not known to carry a lot of things with them and anything they had was usually close to them and very portable and durable. It is important in my Path to pay reverence and homage to my Ancestors and I do feel as though I have stumbled upon one method for using these stones that my Ancestors would have used as well.

Here is a picture of my stones, my bag, and my offerings pouch.

The Hearthstone is the larger round hematite sphere that I use to keep me connected to my stone altar at home. By combining this „Hearth stone‟ with my Glann na Druidhe I make a lasting connection with my stones stronger than simply keeping them in my pocket or on my coffee table. Earth energies I have found to be more stable in the end and easier to both work with and control over long periods of time.

The Red Stone

The offerings pouch contains whatever I have decided to offer as sacrifice on my travels. This can be used for simple offerings to areas that I feel the need for or to people that I feel deserve „something special‟. These gifts I keep in the pouch are worthy of “De, An‟De ocus Tuathail” De (Deities), An De (UnDeities), or Tuathail (mortals). This follows and expands upon a simple ancient blessing; “Bennacht De ocus AnDe fort” (Blessings of the Gods and un-Gods upon you). It does not have to be Iron Age Paganism but it can actually resemble it with little difficulty. We do not have to do exactly what our Ancestors did 4000 years ago, but with a little research and understanding we can see why they did things and bring some of those beliefs back into being. Using the basic Laws of Similarity and Sympathetic Magic I keep my Hearth stone in close proximity to myself and the stones in leather pouch. Since this hematite sphere represents the connection to my Home Hearth altar I can achieve a near permanent connection between all of these objects.

The more thought you put into something the more of a connection you achieve and in the end the more significance results from anything you do.

The Red Stone

Works Cited
Camden, William. Brittania. London England, 1586. Ellis, Peter Beresford. The Druids. Grand Rapids MI, USA: W.B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1994. Kendrick, Thomas. The Druids. The Banton Press, 1927. Matthews, John. The Druid Sourcebook. New York NY, USA: Sterling Publishing Co., 1996. Pliny the Elder, (Gaius Plinius Secundus). Historia Naturalis, XX. Novum Comum: Histories, 79 C.E. Suetonius. Claudius XXV. Roma, 212.

The Red Stone

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful