Read an Excerpt
Peer often deep within the pool of Fec
From the "Song of the Salmon-God" by W. P. Ryan
The Waters of Time
Life has often been compared to a river, whose flowing water represents the flowing of our lives toward an ocean of Oneness and Bliss. Using an oracle we attempt to look beneath the surface of the water, the surface of our lives, to observe its undercurrents, its depths, its hidden secrets. There we may be lucky enough to find the salmon of wisdom who can show us the truth that time is not linear.
It feels as if we are all walking a path that leads inexorably from the past to the future via the present, and yet mystical experience, the ancient wisdom traditions and now modern physics tell us that it only appears that way to our consciousness. The reality turns out to be far more extraordinary and wonderful -- although impossible to grasp fully with our minds. Every so often, though, we will get glimpses of the truth that at some level linear time does not exist. This may happen in meditation, in sleep, or in a near-death experience, or time may play "tricks" on us -- creating synchronistic experiences that amaze us with their impossibility or extreme unlikelihood in the normal course of events.
It seems that this time-free state holds the seed-bed, the impulses and dynamics which guide our passage through the world of linear time.
Oracles are devices which help us to gain access to this seed-bed deliberately and consciously. Through an oracle it is possible that we may get glimpses, insights, images, and ideas which will tell us about the dynamics, the "seeds," that lie behind events and experiences in our past, present, or future. BUT AN ORACLE CANNOT PREDICT A FUTURE EVENT. It can only point to possibilities and pitfalls, dynamics and options. It is all too easy to read an oracle and to take a word or idea given in its text as an omen or prediction. If you feel tempted to do this, please take some time to study this chapter before using the Animal Oracle. To use the Animal Cards effectively you need to know the difference between using an oracle and fortune-telling. Ralph Blum, discussing the oracular use of the runes, says that "they are not meant to be used for divination or fortune-telling. The disposition of the future is in God's hands, not ours. Rather, the Runes are a tool for assisting us to guide our lives in the present, for it is only in the present that our power can be exercised...They are a system of guidance and selfcounselling...'a compass for conduct.'"
Exactly the same can be said for the Animal Oracle. We should use it to discover not what will happen in the future, but what influences or tendencies might exist in our lives that need encouraging, understanding, or changing. The oracle then becomes a way of encouraging personal responsibility for our lives, rather than a resignation to our supposed fate. Just as in sailing a boat, the more we know about the tides and the weather, the better we are able to sail, so in life, the more information we have on its influences and dynamics, the more we are able to react to it in the most responsible and effective way.
The Bright Knowledge
Druidry recognizes that knowledge is neutral. It is how we use it that makes it good or bad, helpful or harmful. The Cauldron of Inspiration in Druidry provides both Bright Knowledge and Baleful Knowledge. It is our responsibility to use the knowledge we gain in creative, positive ways. This applies to all the knowledge we acquire -- including that which comes from the use of an oracle.
Ovates, who are trainee Druids specializing in healing and working with the spirit of Time, in the past were also concerned with augury and divination. Augury is the making of predictions based on signs and omens, and many methods were used, including the interpretation of weather patterns, bird flight, and animal behavior, to predict the outcome of certain events. The Druid queen Boudicca (Boadicea), for example, let a hare run from her cloak just before her battle with the Romans. The direction in which it ran was interpreted as favorable to the British, who did indeed win the battle. Neladoracht was the Irish name for the Druid art of makingpredictions based on the observation of clouds, and similar techniques existed for observing signs and omens in fire or water.
Divination is a more sophisticated form of augury, and it is said that the Druids employed a form of divination based on a sacred woodland alphabet called Ogham, which used signs for each of the sacred trees and plants carved on sticks as symbols for a host of concepts. The sticks would then be cast on the ground and read. A modern adaptation of this system is given in Liz and Colin Murray's Celtic Tree Oracle and Nigel Pennick's The Celtic Oracle.
The Ovate used divination not only to plumb the subtle, intangible realms of time and the psyche, but also to discover tangible things, like water or metal, or objects lost or deliberately hidden. Dowsing to find a hidden water source, the Ovate would enact in the physical world the Druid search for hidden life and knowledge behind the veil of appearances.
The Druid Animal Oracle
The Animal Oracle, building on the accumulated wisdom of the past, is a new contribution to the ever-growing and changing tradition of Druidry. In particular we see it as a contribution to the Ovate stream of Druid teaching, in which the art of divination is informed and deepened by an understanding of psychology as well as traditional lore. The inspiration for it arose three years ago, when we were shown the Medicine Cards of Jamie Sams and David Carson during a workshop in America. Bringing a set back to England, we realized that Celtic and Druid animal lore could also be presented in the form of a card set. It seemed the perfect way to convey the richness of a tradition which is now being rediscovered. The Medicine Cards present primarily Native American animal teachings, but the first card spread suggested is a Druidic one, and its mention seemed a beautiful symbol of the rainbow bridge that connects our respective traditions. They have much in common: sacred circles, the honoring of the directions, a deep reverence for the natural world, a belief in animal guides, and an abiding sense that the land itself is sacred. There is even evidence that the Druids worked in sweat-lodges and we know that birds' feathers were used in ceremonial clothing and headdress. When we were in America some Native American teachers expressed the opinion that "white people" were taking their traditions from them, just as they had taken their land. "They should make connection with their own roots first," they told us. "Then they can come to us if they like, but first let them make peace with their own ancestors." While being wary of generalizing, because there are always exceptions, we believe they are probably right. Once we can feel fully at home in our own indigenous tradition, then somehow it is easier for us to relate to other traditions. Coming from a secure, rooted base we no longer have the feel of an outsider or a predator, and we can transcend the divisions of race and culture to feel truly at home in all traditions, with all of humanity.
In recognition of the deep bond that exists between the native traditions of all lands, we would like to offer this Animal Oracle as one means of helping people to connect to the richness of their spiritual heritage.
Copyright © 1994 by Philip and Stephanie Carr-Gomm