Druid Clan of Dana - Finding a Soul Friend

FOI Co-Founders Lawrence Durdin-Robertson and Olivia Robertson

The Grove of Eithne - "Finding a Soul Friend"

Grove of the FOI Co-Founders, Clonegal Castle, Ireland

By Olivia Robertson

Members have queried - what takes place at our Grove of Eithne? My brother and I conducted Druid rites of initiation for many years, prior to the founding of the Fellowship. I still perform them, assisted by Irish and visiting members of Dana’s Clan.

One part of our Initiation ceremony I did not put to paper but now do so: ‘Finding a Soul Friend.’ The basis for the practice is this: if you befriend one especial animal friend, he/she acts as intermediary - like Anubis the jackal - with all his kind. Befriend one snake and the rest won’t bite you. The ‘Choice of Soul Friends’ was always used in our own Grove at Clonegal. This discovery of totem animal and other guides has been a matter of secrecy in tribes and clans in most countries. I would ask the candidate: ‘Who is your soul friend among - plants - trees - insects - reptiles - birds - animals - and so forth, extending to angels and Deities.

The rituals of the Druid Clan of Dana, as first practiced at Clonegal Castle, use a spiral path. There are no closed circles. We begin our ceremony within the open Chapel of Dana, filled with shrubs and birdsong. It is here that we involve the Goddess Dana. She has appeared to me in a vision, bringing extraordinary happiness. Her cape is of turquoise blue embroidered with gold and She has very long, waving golden hair. The Candidate for Initiation is asked by an Archdruid/ess to acknowledge his Soul Friend, ranging from insects, reptiles, birds, animals, humans and Deities. This is an ancient Druid Custom which creates a soul link through mediation with one particular creature, thus with the whole species. North American Indians call this finding the Totem Animal. For instance, we have three wolf heads on our Durdin Coat of Arms. Once, when I needed help, an actual wolf-friend, Lee-loo showed her lovely furry head.

During this first part of the ceremony, a feeling of rapture may be experienced, and song and music e presented. We receive the oracle of Dana through a Priestess seated on the dolmen altar. A Dance of Joy is offered, and often animal friends - cat or dog - turn up. Children present pots of flowers to be planted in the chapel garden. There is no racism in our clan. So for the presiding Dana, the Goddesses Parvati, Kuan Yin, and Oshun may be relevant. With a threefold smiting of the ground with his staff, the Archdruid has declared the Abbey to be Tir na nOg, or Hi Brasil, the Many-Coloured Land. This may be paradise, Elysium, Devachan - to a child, Faeryland.

However, the next turn of the three-fold spiral brings us to a very different venue. On one occasion the weather itself obliged with menacing dark clouds, a portent of thunder. Our procession makes a descent through our upper terrace down steps to a lower parterre, facing our long line of ancient yew trees. Our music is no longer of flute, or guitar. Drums are now marking our progression to a slow beat. We descend another flight of steps, marked by two urns bearing the features of the Horned God, and reach the entrance to the underworld, the Wilderness, bordered by the dark yew walk.

I remember on one occasion I was to undertake the role of the Morrígan, She is the Goddess of our rivers, the Derry and Slaney, which meet in the Crows-Foot downstream. I was seated in a circle of cypresses which reach high in the sky with delicate tracery. Beneath me was a brown carpet of pine-needles. Before me were the two cypresses that constituted our entrance. Now what was strange was that the ritual became real in a strange and compelling manner. Everything seemed vast. The hooded Druid who stood guarding the entrance with his staff looked far away, like a figure in a vision. The fire sparked and shot out flames from burning wood, and the smoke coiled upwards in a spiral. And then in the distance I heard the solemn beat of a drum. And I felt in harmony with the spirits of our ancestors of ancient Ireland, the Druids, and far further back, with the Tuatha Dé Danann. The procession could only be glimpsed at first far away. The chanting was coming nearer. I felt the usual electric-like tingling that assured me that the Goddess Morrígan, the Great Queen, was with me. I would give the companions Her message, in Her capacity as Queen of the Underworld.

The aim of such a ceremony is to bring into harmony the upper and the lower realms of being. The Goddesses Allat, Kali and Sekhmet preside in the lower sphere. The pine trees provide the incense, their shade, the matriarchal darkness, and our crows are the voices of the Morrígan!

Our final destination is the mysterious sphere of the Land of Heart’s Desire. Here, in the West beyond the ocean of space, is the Land of the Immortals. The above is in harmony with the below, here in the centre which combines all that is. The Star and the Sun are in harmony, and so create world upon world. We approach the sphere of the Creator Goddesses. Here also dwell the Creator Gods.

The procession makes its way to the Temple of Isis, up from the Wilderness and through an old orchard lighted by the setting sun. We enter the Temple of Isis and the music is heart-moving. The Archdruid strikes the ground with his staff and declares this is the Land of Heart’s Desire. Finally we face a Priestess in trance, who is seated by the well. She gives us the Oracle of Brigid. This is the realm of the Three-fold Deities. The Creator Goddesses are those who preside over the central sphere. Persephone spends one third of Her life on Mount Olympus, one third on the earth, one third in Hades. Brigid is the Bride, the bringer of hearth fire, and also Goddess of poetry and the crafts. There is the three-fold. Sophia of the Divine Wisdom, and NuKua, Who created humanity out of colored clay. The role of her consort the God Fu Hsi was to animate Her figures. The Gods are not ignored in our ceremonies, but it is Their wish that the Goddess should once more be their partners on earth as They are in Heaven. Without the Divine Feminine, Deity is only half itself.

How to bring our ideas to others who may not have a chapel, a well, wilderness? They have. Everybody has access to water, trees and fire. Our Groves of Dana are happily active all over the world, using the local setting, whether in town or country. One tree represents a forest: a cup of water, a spring. A candle well shows forth the Hearth of Vesta and Brigid.

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