Derwydd ym maes onnen

Discovering Druidry in and around Ashfield

Month: August 2019

The story of how the environment can be saved, that no one wants to hear.

I, like many people am rather worried about the prospect of global climate change and the mass extinction that is currently underway. Environmentalism has been a big part of my life since I was a teenager, and over the last 15 years or so I have come to the conclusion that there is no way our current political, economic and social systems will address the issue in time to avert a disaster. It is a sad position to feel yourself in and can lead to disengagement and a sense of giving up. A sense that there is no hope. I have come to realise though, how very wrong I was.

If the politicians, the scientists and the systems we have in place have utterly failed to act in time, and the structures underpinning society are unlikely to change radically enough to enact a meaningful change, where is this hope? To whom can we turn to help humanity through this crisis? The answer it so obvious it is almost painful.

First though, I think we humans need to accept we have failed. We had a really good stab at it, but since the initial charting of the electromagnetic spectrum we have understood that what we can perceive with our senses is less than one millionth of reality. Of that small proportion of reality we can perceive, we are only aware of how a small fraction of it works. With our human arrogance we think that we understand some part of nature, and that if we control that small part (such as the amount of carbon in the atmosphere) then we can “fix it” and make nature work the way we want. But in absolutely every attempt of humanity to subdue nature, we fail to see the vast quantity of intricate connections to other ecosystems and the subtle changes that end up causing environmental disasters. Even the simple tilling of land for growing food leads to soil erosion. The worst part is that in our arrogance we ignore all the millions of intricate relationships and connections between the animals, plants, fungi, bacteria and everything else in the ecosystem that we do not understand. If we don’t understand it then it can’t be important. But then every week there are news articles about new discoveries that completely change the way we understand these interconnected systems. Humanity’s quest to understand everything through science has been valiant, but it has utterly failed. In our quest to understand we have wrought untold destruction. We have only just begun to scratch the surface of what there is to know, and now we have run out of time. There simply is not enough time left for science to understand the entire workings of the planetary biosphere, and convert that understanding into political and social action in order to avert the disaster we have caused. And to think that we can do so now at this eleventh hour shows yet more human arrogance and that we have learned absolutely nothing from our mistakes. No, I think we have had our chance and have proven that we are not capable of the stewardship of the earth we seem to believe we are entitled too.

So if Humanity can’t resolve the climate crisis, who can? Who has the ability to fully comprehend all the important interconnected systems that support and encourage life on this planet? Who can comprehensively rebuild these devastated ecosystems at a rate fast enough to avert disaster? Who has the power to save humanity from extinction? And who will do this without payment, with no desire for reward or recognition? The answer is simple. I am beginning to believe the way forward is for humanity to accept it’s failure of science, and to once again petition the gods for their help. Stay with me a moment and hear me out.

If we stop interfering with Mother Nature, then the great mother goddess will rebuild all of the devastated ecosystems of the earth with absolutely no input from humanity. And she could do it in record time simultaneously across the entire globe. Without human interference nature would rebuild itself with new ecosystems that act as carbon sink. Grass lands, forests, bogs, and all other habitats and ecosystems would flourish, and the earth’s ability to deal with extremes of carbon output and other pollutants would be restored. It is not just that we humans are polluting the earth, it is that we are also destroying the ecosystems that would have naturally been able to absorb the pollutants. It is death by a thousand cuts.

So what if humanity could do just that. What if we could let go and place our trust and faith in the Goddess to restore herself to beauty, so that we all may benefit from her abundant love? Humans and every other species of life on the planet would benefit alike. Human science, politics, society and other artificial constructs can not, and will not save us. But the goddess both would and could.

For me the next logical conclusion is that as pagans who “love nature”, “worship nature”, “see nature as sacred” etc, is it not our responsibility as devotees to nature, to the mother of us all, to ensure that nature can flourish of it’s own accord everywhere that we can? To return brown field sites to nature and let her take her course. To prevent any further destruction of ecosystems. To let existing ecosystems such as meadows, forests, wet lands and seas all mature and re-grow the intricate relationships and connections that allow them to keep the climate in balance. Those would be the actions of someone who is truly devoted to nature.

There has been talk for a while now that humanity is lacking a story for the modern age. That we have outgrown our existing stories and have not been able to find a new one that will lead us through these dark times. I am beginning to feel that this is the story that we need:

If we let her, the Goddess will save us.

Ida Goddess of the river Idle?

I would like to talk about the River Idle in more detail in this article. The area of focus in this blog has been centred around the area south of Mansfield, from Sutton-In-Ashfield to Rainworth.

The River Idle rises in Sutton-In-Ashfield, and after flowing under the centre of the town, it joins the river Maun and is know by that name until it once again becomes the Idle at Markham Moor. Before it reaches this point though, it is joined by Rainworth Water at Ollerton, which has its source at Thieves Wood, just outside Sutton-In-Ashfield and was also once known as the Idle. This means that two rivers both named Idle join the Maun many miles before the Maun and the Meden conflate to become the Idle that we know today. Further, the sources of these river Idles all rise within a few miles of each other in Ashfield, some 20 miles from Markham Moor where the Idle officially begins.

I have stated before that rivers have a tendency to retain their Celtic names. We can see this in many other local rivers such as the river Leen (which also rises in Ashfield but flows south to the Trent) which comes from the word for lake or pool, Llyn in modern Welsh. The Trent or Trisantona meaning great thoroughfare. The Derwent meaning valley of Oak Trees. The reason that rivers retain their old names is because unlike a town, which is easily renamed by a new group of people, a river is shared among many communities up and down its banks. Used for transportation and trade, it is much harder for a new group of people entering the land to rename the river and to have the name stick.

It is therefore not unreasonable to think that the name Idle may be much older that we currently believe. The best guess at the moment is that it is derived from Anglo-Saxon, and it means slow and lazy or idle. The name would fit the first part of the river before it joins the Maun where it is little more than a trickle. But the better known bigger river Idle is a strong and fast flowing river, and the name simply does not fit. So what could the name mean? Is it older than Anglo-Saxon?

If the people who lived on these lands in the past, our ancestors, knew all of these rivers as part of the Idle, then it is also not to unreasonable to think that the river Idle could also have had a local river goddess associated with it, who would have been a unifying force for the people of the area. We may even be looking at the area of a very local sub tribe of the Brigantes or Corieltauvi tribes. So who might this goddess be? There is one very interesting name that is both spelt and pronounced in a similar way, the name Ida.

As a name, Ida has multiple contested sources. It is a popular name to this day in Nordic countries like Denmark and Sweden, derived from the Germanic word id meaning “work” or “labour”. Alternatively it may be related to the Old Norse goddess Iðunn who is associated with apples and youth. She is also the wife of Bragi the god of poetry. The Norse gods however are not the gods of this landscape. They are the gods of the Norse lands, and it is unlikely Iðunn has anything to do with the river Idle. But it must not be entirely discounted in that the Germanic culture developed from the same Indo-European culture as the earlier Celtic tribes. Ida is also the anglicisation of the ancient Irish girls name Íde. There is no reference to an ancient Irish Goddess by that name that I am aware of, however, there is a St. Ida.

St Ida of Killeedy was known as “the foster mother of the saints of Erin”, and her name is said to mean “thirst for holiness”. She was also known as “the Brigid of Munster”. It was said that Ida embodied the six virtues of womanhood – wisdom, purity, beauty, musical ability, gentle speech and needle craft. Her feast day is the 15th of January and she was also known as a prophetess and spiritual director. Genealogies of the saints state that Ida’s mother Necht was a daughter of Dallbronach, making Ida a cousin of Brigid.

It is well known that many of the Irish saints are really ancient Irish gods in disguise, adopted by the early christian church in Ireland in order to ease the conversion of the pagan population. There is no record of a Pagan Ida Goddess in Ireland, instead we are presented with her life story including dates of birth and death, in much the same way as we are with St Brigid. But we know that St Brigid has many of the attributes and associations of the earlier Goddess Brigid. They are largely the same character. At this point I would like to remind readers that in previous articles we have shown that the local tribe the Brigantes and their patron goddess Briganti are evident in our local landscape.

One very interesting area of investigation is the similarities and links between the ancient Irish language and stories, and that of the Indian Rig Veda of the ancient Verdic peoples. There are many websites and articles that document some of the many fascinating links, but one that I would like to point to now is the Verdic Goddess Ida. This Hindustani goddess of speech, the earth, and the source of abundant food and nourishment was seen as the primary cause of the origins, continuance and dissolution of all beings. Cows and milk are sacred to Ida, whereas in Ireland these are sacred to Brigid. In the Rig Veda she is associated with and often mentioned along side Bharati and Sarasvati, the goddess of knowledge, fertility, and flowing rivers. Bharati is a feminine adjective meaning “high, great, lofty” and seems to be a title applied several times to the goddess of the dawn Uṣas. As you may know, the names Briganti, Brigantia, Brigit come from a cognate proto indo-european word *bhrg’hnti from the root word berg’h meaning “high, lofty, elevated”.

To surmise for a moment then, we have an Irish St Brigid who is associated with St Ida. Brigid is based on an earlier Indo-European goddess Briganti who is also present in Verdic culture as Bharati. The Verdic goddess Uṣas/Bharati is also associated with the Verdic goddess Ida. Further, Verdic Ida, Uṣas/Bharati and Irish Brigid are all associated with cows, milk and motherhood. Briganti is clearly present in our landscape, and we also have a river named Idle for which we have no clear entomology. Could it be there is a forgotten Brythonic Goddess named Ida associated with the river Idle?

So what about the Maun? Well from this perspective the Maun is nothing more than a local name for a short section of the Idle, known to the Romans as Aqua Mam. Mam meaning “mother, breast or hill” in reference to Hamilton Hill where the source of the Maun is. If Ida is a goddess of the earth, of the land, and Hamilton Hill her breast then the Maun, Aqua Mam is her milk, the waters of the mother.

There is another possibly related goddess too, from Greek. The goddess Idaia, meaning “she of mount Ida”, Ida meaning “wooded mountain”. There are actually two sacred mountains named Ida, both sacred to mother goddesses. The first in Crete is where Rhea, mother of the first generation of Olympian gods put the infant Zeus to nurse with Amaltheia. The second mountain was in Anatolia, modern day Turkey, and was mentioned in the Iliad of Homer as sacred to Cyble mother goddess of the Anatolians and sometimes known as Mater Idaea or “Idaean Mother”, mother of the Idaean people.

There is of course no way to be sure about any of this. Is there a lost local Celtic Ida, local to this area associated with the river Idle? It is all just conjecture really, but I am certainly beginning to feel that we of Ashfield and the surrounding area are Ideans. We are Ideans in so much as we are the people of the Goddess Ida of the River Idle.

The Ladies of Ashfield

The ladies of Ashfield, they number in three
Ladies Meden, Maun and Idle they be

In a sorry state
Is Lady Idle of late
Her spring once a marsh 
Now a housing estate
East under concrete 
Her waters migrate
From pond amoung houses
Along litterd brook to her fate
To disappear under the road
Down a neglected grate
And emerge next to asda 
At a trickling rate
Onwards under the ground
To the boating lake donate
Her waters press forward
Then with the Maun’ s they conflate

Oh Lady Maun, 
Mother of this land
Nourishing the greenery 
With your waters so grand
From your spings by the Mam 
To your sacrifice on the moor
Your love for your people 
Is clean fresh and pure
Queen of the green wood
Sovereign of Sherwood
The spirit of your water 
Is thick in our blood

Beautiful Maiden of flowers and spring
On the banks of the Meden can be heard to sing
The notes in the air and rythm of the splashes 
Accompany her song of love and of rashness
From the end of wood to the moor with Maun
Her beauty is such it eclipses the dawn
She is the goddess of spring of life and desire
The river of youth and passion and fire.

Where they conflate
The Idle becomes great
Her flow and her waters
A much better state
Rushing to the Trent
At an incredible rate
Aligned with the Mam
On a magical date
No more to stagnate
Our lives to hydrate
To our Goddess of Idle
Our love we restate

To the ladies of Ashfield I offer this vow
To fight for the life of this land somehow
To pass on the lessons you have given to me
With honesty, integrity and to do it for free
To stand up to injustice and the greed of man
To work for balance and harmony any way that I can.
To help others to see your enchantment at hand
And before it is to late, learn to love our land