Knights of the Realm
History of Paganism
Long ago, only the races of Faerie — a strange, immortal race of beings descended from the Old Powers — lived on the land. They marked the places of natural power in the land, living in huge, elaborately constructed mounds. They read the wisdom of the universe in the stars. They learned the wisdom of the earth, and recorded their sacred knowledge into the landscape using great stones, which
even now mark their ancient holy places. The Faerie themselves were akin to the Old Powers (the ancient daemons and spirits of power), which they referred to, collectively, as “The Dragon.” However, they were as much akin to the earth itself, and did not differentiate between the World and the Other Side, nor favor either light or darkness, nor separate the turning of the year into its parts.
Then people came to the land who were born on it but not of it. The first humans in Britain were the Picts, who called themselves children of Alba, the eldest Goddess, and named the land Albion after her. At first the Picts lived in harmony with the Faerie, but even they — being human, for all their savagery — could not bear the inhuman knowledge of the Dragon. Their greatest deity, whose name is never spoken, slew the Dragon using the power of words. The Picts’ deity then named things to take power over them, and thus appointed beings to embody the powers of Nature. Pictish magic requires a worshipper to make a personal pact with one of the Powers, and each thereafter helps the other. Those people are called “heathen magicians,” because their magic is still practiced out on the wilderness heaths, where the Picts and other wild people still worship.
When the Dragon was slain, the stars moved, and the world was separated into this world and the Other Side. The Faerie people began to depart. Most went to the Other Side, where they still live. Sometimes they went away in horror. Sometimes they fled out of fear. Disgust drove others out. Sometimes they were driven out. Some have not yet left, and have made homes beneath their earthen mounds and stone circles, or in the wastes where humans do not go. The Picts inherited the responsibility for many Faerie rites. Heathen magicians invoke the Faerie powers, but used the Pictish names for the parts of the Dragon. The first named is always Anna, “the Goddess,” who is bountiful and cruel, both Source of Life and Keeper of Death. Anna is wife, mother, and daughter to Cernunos, the horned hunter, who is the First God. The Picts maintain important rituals to these deities to keep the world alive. They practice the
spiraling dance of the labyrinth to awaken the Sleeping God, Arktos the Seven-Starred Bear. They were the first to divide the year into four parts, each with its own sacred fire.
The heathen religion is — by “civilized” Christian standards, at least — amoral and impersonal. It has no true gods, only natural forces with names. It does not acknowledge good or evil, only the ceaseless cyclical movement of nature and the self-interested morality of personal and family survival. It submits to the forces of nature, and does not recognize a separate human morality. It integrates worshippers into the fl ow of the material world so that they may prosper with nature rather than fight against it.
The presiding magician in Paganism is a shaman, who has penetrated the invisible world individually, learned the secret names, and returned to use his powers for others. Ceremonies usually require an entire family to participate, helping the shaman with the magic. Typical magic is to cure a sickness, heal a wound, calm the wind, raise a fire, summon an animal for dinner, or bless the fertility of woman or beast.
The Time of Brutus
The ancestors of the British came to this land under Brutus, a man of great lineage and prowess. They were Trojans, descendants of the great race so foully destroyed by the vile Greeks. The land is named “Brutus-land” (eventually transformed to British-land, then
Briton or, later yet, Britain) after him.
Brutus and his people brought civilization to the wild lands. They knew how to plow the land to plant grains, so they settled first in the well-watered valleys. They lived in large communities, not scattered clans, and built clusters of houses. They had horses, too, and chariots to bear their lords about. Brutus also brought his own deities and priests, and new ways of interacting with the spirits of the land, which the Romans referred to gods. Each deity holds specific powers that he can grant to the priests. This form of worship is the Paganism of today. Pagan worship of the gods is done in public, for great numbers of people, to fulfi ll the needs of the gods.
Priesthood has always been with the Britons. Anyone can become a priest or priestess of the deity who chooses them — the mortal has no choice over the matter. Even royalty must obey when they are summoned by the gods. For example, Queen Boudicca herself presided over the sacrifices during her victory against the Romans in the year 60 A.D.
These priests used their deep wisdom to study the ancient wisdom of the Pict lands. They moved their worship into the sacred places, and they called upon their gods to help them triumph. The first gods they called upon were the Two Brothers, Bran and Beli; and then they called upon the Three Goddesses; then the Three War Gods, and the Three War Goddesses, and then on all their other deities,
like the god of the plow, or the goddess of the horse, or the goddesses of the streams.
The gods of the priests proved that they were stronger than the heathen spirits. Yet the older powers were not destroyed
or driven away. Instead, they were absorbed by the more newly arrived holy folk. The British integrated the heathen magic of the Picts with their own occult secrets and insights. From this fusion came the practice of druidism. The druids’ secret was to experience the Other Side, to discover what it means, and to teach it to others who asked. They rediscovered the cosmic language of the heavens,
and found unity between belief, worship, philosophy, and mysticism. The druids were so learned in philosophy, it is said, that even the famous Greek wise man Pythagoras acknowledged their wisdom.
Druid philosophy is concerned with maintaining a balance between the material world and the Other Side. It recognizes a duality in form, manifest in masculine/feminine, earth/sky, summer/winter, day/night, and light/darkness. It also recognizes the existence of several cycles, some regular and temporal, others free-willed and mythic. By interacting with these cycles, an individual can experience, and learn
from, his or her god. All gods manifest an ambivalence that operates equally well within worlds of light and darkness, of life and death, of myth and materialism. The objective is to exercise the powers that are best for the communal good. The teachings of the druids outlined and guided people to the common good.
Paganism, unlike Heathenism, is not amoral. The pagan gods work for the specifi c purpose of helping the tribe, so they teach right and wrong. Paganism acknowledges good and evil, unlike the heathen faith. The welfare of the people is preeminent, and spiritual work is for the good of the people. Thus, if the tribe does something “bad,” it does so only because it might accomplish some good by that means.
Thus the druids, recognizing that some of the ancient practices from which they drew their religion were “wrong,” outlawed certain heathen rites and traditions. Especially odious were human sacrifice and headhunting, both of which were outlawed, as noted in the laws of Dunvallo Molmutine, the great Lawgiver of ancient times.
Under druidism, witchcraft was also recognized. Witches were people who maintained the heathen ways, but without continuing human sacrifice or headhunting. The witches were ordinary people who remembered the Old Ways, and practiced what they could remember or discover, variously helped or hindered by priests and/or druids alike.
Roman conquest stilled the druids. The empire feared any organization that rivaled its own, and the Romans preferred to exterminate what they feared. In 61 A.D., the sacred druid isle of Mon was invaded, its wells filled and its keepers slaughtered. The practice of druidism was declared illegal, though public worship of native deities led by priestkings was allowed. Druidic knowledge went underground or was lost. Only the bards continued their ancient tasks, offering half-forgotten doorways to ancient secrets. Common
people, though, continued their ancient ways despite Roman conquest. The myths lived, and like the ancient western Roman god Chronos, slept, waiting.
When Roman power failed in 400 A.D., the gods came back. Old cults were revived. Northern warlords, who had never been conquered by Rome or Christianity, moved southward and became kings. The names of the old gods again rang out in groves and temples. Bards once again delved into the Old Ways. The spirits responded. Individuals rose in knowledge and wisdom, relearning druid secrets from native Faerie ways. A leader among them was Blaise of Northumbria, a wise and ancient man of books and of nature, and he taught his secrets to talented young folk such as Merlin and Viviane. At last, from among the contemporary druids there emerged the true
Archdruid, Merlin the Magician and Prophet, who mastered the arcane arts and who struggles against the world to shape its future.