An Graveth is the native name of Cravethism, the main religion (and export) of the Armorican Isles. The name itself literally translates from Arvorec as the religion, the derived adjective being cravedhec- which was adopted as by Kerno-speakers as La Cravytheck. The general term for an adherent is combrow, which is cognate to the Brithenig word comro.
There are approximately 1.3 million adherents worldwide, mainly in the Armorican Isles, Kemr, the NAL and Brittany; both among Arvorec expatriate communities and foreign converts. A notable foreign "convert" is the current High King of Dûnein.
Cravethism is an organic growth and development of the ancient pagan religion of Celtic Gaul, and that from the common belief systems of the proto-Indo-European speakers. In this way the religion can claim to be one of the oldest in the world, with a continuum of constant practice and belief comparable to that of Hinduism. However, Cravethism in its modern form dates from the life of Talchan the Druid, in the early fifth century.
Very little factual information survives about Talchan, or to give him his Gaulish name, Talocanos. Virtually none of the Arvorec scriptures were actually written by him- most are attributed to his companion Devobratus the bard. Only a few contemporary sources refer to him and only one by name, most refer to “the druid from Dariorigum”. There is even evidence that his name was not Talocanos. However, by removing the obviously legendary elements from Arvorec sources we can build up a plausible picture of him.
He was born around 410 CE in Dariorigum, in southern Armorica. His father’s name is stated to be Marcus and, being born in Dariorigum he was probably of the Veneti tribe, which was dominant in Armorica at that time.
The Crusade and Theologisation
The Crisis of Apostacy
The actual body of the church has always been open to men and women; as long as a person has a desire to serve the gods, he or she can become a priest. Traditionally the priesthood as a whole is known as Sedhaelyd an Drwydh, the College of Priests, headed by the Gwerdhrwy, the Archdruid.
Due to the expansion of Cravethism beyond Armorica, a priestly hierarchy has arisen. Druids within the Isles still report directly to the Archdruid, however those outside the Isles are divided on a geographical basis into gwlaedeth, provinces, each under the nominal leadership of a barnwn (literally arbitrators), whose role is somewhat analogous to that of a Christian bishop. However, the barnwn is seen only as primus inter pares, with no special powers above that of a normal druid.
The position of Archdruid is held for life, except in extreme circumstances. The Archdruid is elected nine weeks after the death of his predecessor, by the body of the Sedhaelyd.
The Three Conclaves
The Sedhaelyd is divided into three parts, Goreanaw, normally translated as the Conclaves. The first is Gorean an Drwydh, the Conclave of Druids, the second is Gorean an Gwaedeth, the Conclave of Seers and the third is Gorean an Baerdh, the Conclave of Bards. The three conclaves are distinguished by their functions and ceremonial robes.
The Conclave of Bards has become increasingly secularised, although it is still nominally under the control of the Archdruid. The Conclave has two major colleges, the Cadh an Yeth, the home of the scholars of language, slightly like the Acedemie Française, which is based in Landrewan and the Cadh an Ganthyl, which is a musical college based in Porth Belen. Bards are these days principally musicians and poets, although before mass media their role was greatly increased- they kept records of history and contracts, they made proclamations and were very much the executive arm of the Sedhaelyd.
The Conclave of Seers is a much smaller group, of about only 70, most of whom reside on Gosaera. They are generally feared by the populace as their function is haruspicy, astrology and omen-reading. No great undertaking by the government of the isles can take place without at least three gwaedeth present. The Seers wear black robes and shave all their hair. They carry black staffs when in public, although they rarely leave their monastery.
By far the largest, the Conclave of Druids is made up of what would seem to us to be normal priests and priestesses. Their function is to lead services, do pastoral work in the community and, before the introduction of a state education system, educate the community’s children. It should also be noted that druids are credited with magical powers, without their blessings the cattle will not give milk and the soil will not yield a harvest. In former times druids also served as judges in disputes and such although this power has largely been taken over by the judiciary. However, it is not uncommon for a man with a grievance against his neighbour to take the dispute to his druid for arbitration. Druids generally work in groups of three (the trevarchês nwyf), all assigned to the same temple. Most groups are mixed-sex although groups of exclusively one sex are not uncommon.
It should be noted that druids rarely marry, although the standing explanation is because they don't have the time rather than any religious prohibition.
Druids wear a white robe girdled with a red belt. They always carry a six-foot oak staff as a symbol of their authority. Anciently all druids (including women) shaved their heads forward of a line drawn from one ear to the other, although this practice has fallen into abeyance.
The Cravethist place of worship is the temple, or nevyd. The earliest nevydon were simple affairs, a central two-storey box-like cella surrounded by a collonated ambulatory. Such nevydon today are rather rare, although a fine example is that of the Nevyd an Cêd, dedicated to Cornon in the Saernec bro Cêd Elaeneth.
The cella or central part of the temple was originally rather small, housing a statue of a god and an altar. Later nevydon opened the central cella, replacing the collonade with solid walls. This development made the nevyd big enough to hold a congregation. Generally the nevyd is roofed with a low dome and a cupola, with large stained glass windows on each of the four walls. Internally they are decorated with colourful mosaics, generally depicting abstract patterns of knotwork and tree-of-life motifs.
The furnishings of a nevyd generally include at least a centrally placed altar and the tân an dhês, a bank of candles against the southern wall. Chairs and seats of any kind are rare.
The Trêvarches Nwyf
Most nevyds have three druids in attendence, the Trêvarches Nwyf1. Each of the trio has a seperate title, which denotes their functional speciality: the ceysdhan, who delivers the homily and "directs" the sacrifice, the godweydyr who leads the singing and invokes the gods and hywedon, and the agaeryth who actually performs the sacrifice. In many trevarchessaw the druids rotate the roles, each taking their turn at each speciality.
Larger nevydon obviously have more than three priests in attendence, but only three druids will perform a sacrifice at any one time.
The Nevydon Uchellef serve a dual function. Their primary function is to provide a retreat from society where a group of druids and druidesses (normally about twenty) live together for the purposes of study and contemplation, and of service to the community. Whereas Christian monastics take the attitude of being within the world but not of it, the druids of the Nevydon Uchellef see themselves as being most definitely of the world, just removed from the tawdry pressures of society and able to give their lives in service to the communities they have left.
Only a few serve the second purpose, which is analogous to that of a Christian seminary. There are five Nevydon Uchellef around the world which train druids for pastoral duties, one in the Isles, two in Kemr (one in Kemr proper, the other in Dumnonia), and two in North America- one in the SLC and one in Louisianne.
The two most famous are the Nevyd Cadwodhew on Serch, inhabited solely by druidesses and dedicated to the mad goddess of slaughter; and the Nevyd Talchan on Lychow, the residence of the High Priest. According to legend, this is where Talchan the Druid first arrived in the Islands.
At the heart of Cravethism lies not the gods, nor the druids, but a common understanding of how the world works and why. As was pointed out earlier, all religions seek to explain the world in a spiritually satisfying way. It is this explanation which marks Cravethism out as unique and separate, not only from other contemporary religions but also from the classical Celtic paganism of ancient Gaul.
This unique exegesis is intricately related to the faith's creation myth2. Cravethism teaches that the primordial state of existence, the "blank slate", was all that is was united and of the same unknowable substance, everything was cyvadhaesec, undifferentiated, united. Then came the first division, when the undifferentiated whole separated itself into two, the first polarity, which Talchan names havon and gaeavon, which can be translated "energy" and "matter"3. The characteristics of havon are expansion, chaos, creation and destruction. The characteristics of gaeavon are immobility, order and stagnation.
As is well known, the theme of triads is a recurrent one throughout Cravedhec belief. It is in the creation myth where it finds its most basic expression. The Cravedhec Triadic Principle states that there can be no meeting between opposites, and therefore, for there to be a cyvônaeth, or mediation, of the opposites, there must be a harmony, which has something in common with each of the extremes. The harmony both connects the extremes, but also keeps them separate by occupying the gap between them. The harmony which unites and divides havon and gaeavon is gwyraen, which can be translated "cosmic order, harmony, truth, universal consciousness". Gwyraen is the universe aware of itself.
According to Talchan, this Consciousness desired self knowledge, and in an attemt to understand its unimaginable essence gwyraen went about ordering and changing both havon and gaeavon, creating of them aelbyth, the physical universe. In order to know its creation better, gwyraen split itself into many parts and became immanent in the physical world.
As these emanations of gwyraen descended into aelbyth, many became entranced by it and forgot their true origin and unity and identified themselves with the physical world. The truth which forgets itself becomes the lie. Of course, the degree to which these emanations identified with aelvyth and forgot their true nature differed. Those who fell farthest from gwyraen became evil and self-identifying- the angethlow. Those who remained closest are the gods. Those who fell somewhere in the middle are humanity, unable to escape the physical world and so condemned to reincarnation yet somehow still aware that there is "something more".
It is from this explanation4 that the essential teachings of Cravethism derive. The task of humanity is to realise their true nature as part of gwyraen and by doing so achieve reunion with it, to achieve escape from reincarnation, to achieve pywys "rest" The gods, by virtue of being "closer to the source" and aware of their true nature can guide and help humanity to realise this. However the angethlow are constantly attempting to pervert the will of gwyraen. See also the section on Eschatology and the Afterlife.
The preceding cosmogony is, of course, a philosophical understanding and relation- the truth behind the allegorical mythology which Cravethism also teaches. The "mythic" theogonic and cosmogonic stories are not seen to be in competition with the philosophical exegesis, but rather the one compliments the other.
rādite, ō mapī Aremoriciās, sagiete in ume vīriānian.
Technically speaking, Cravethism does not hold any particular text as being doctrine or dogma, nor as being infallible. There is, however, a body of religious and philosophical literature which is given the name sugnatos, which although often translated as "canonical" actually means "respected". Talchan said: "I do not ask you to assume my words are truth. Think for yourselves, o sons of Armorica, and find the truth within you!"
The three works called sugnatisami, "most respected" are the Book of Dewrad, the Scroll of Cadwallon and the Sayings of Talchan (Libron Dēvobratōs, Volumā Catuvellauni and Laudā Talocanōs). These three works form the basis of what is most commonly known as the Scriptura Armoricana. These three works were chosen by the Conclave of Druids in the eleventh century as the most useful religious writings.
The Book of Dewrad is, in essence, a manual of liturgy compiled by Dewrad himself, with guidance from Talchan. The book is organised according to the calendar and is so divided into twelve sections. Each section gives the appropriate timing and wording of the major rituals of the year. Each section also contains relevant retellings of the myths, homilies, and parables. Dewrad obviously intended it to be something of a catchall reference work for trainee druids and bards and so included anything (and everything) he thought useful.
The Scroll of Cadwallon is a rather shorter and more mystical work, composed by the Archdruid Cadwallon in the ninth century. It is probably the most elegant and clear exposition of Cravethistic metaphysics and exegesis ever written. Based on and around the snippets of Talchan's teachings about the nature of the universe and the purpose of the world found strewn throughout the Book of Dewrad and the Sayings of Talchan, the Scroll is presented in the form of a teacher reading passages from the aforementioned and answering the questions of his pupils on them.
The final work is the Sayings of Talchan, which is arguably the most difficult in the corpus. It comprises a wide-ranging collection of Talchan's sayings, sermons and speeches, probably recorded by Dewrad. Several of them relate to the founding of the kingdom and the giving of secular laws and as such it is often used in Armorican jurisprudence. However, much of it is made up of rather dense theological and ethical tracts presented in a seemingly random order. It is rarely published in full today, and most modern editions include some sort of commentary5.
The Nature of the Gods
ratios esti amē conaredercimiās gnātū angnāti
Cravethism sees its gods as both immanent and transcendant, as both unique personalities and facets of the unknowable unity. The resolution of this seeming contradiction is actually quite simple. The gods, like humans, are indeed both individual and facets of the whole- when gwyraen became immanent in aelbyth, the gods did not forget their essential unity as part of gwyraen (whereas humans have and believe themselves wholly separate). The gods are both immanent and transcendant as they both act upon this earth and have immediate concerns here- they are not however tangiable beings fixed in space and time.
The theology of Cravethism is highly utilitarian- everything has a purpose, and that extends to the gods themselves. The gods, being closer and more aware of their true nature as part of gwyraen, have the purpose of helping and coaching their less fortunate siblings (humanity) to gain greater enlightenment and awareness of the world. In such, the gods are not really seen as fundamentally different from humans: both are facets of the same universal consciousness. Essentially, the gods are enlightened souls who strive to bring enlightenment to other conscious beings.
In the myths, the gods are often presented as nothing more than larger than life humans, which is something that detractors of the religion often seize upon. However, followers of the religion are fully aware of this and rather than assuming that the myths are accurate records of factual events, they see them as allegorical. As Talchan's famous dictum states: we must explain that which is unknown by means of that which is known
Cravethism divides the pantheon into two categories: the Mawrdhywon and the Aeldhywon. The Mawrdhywon are the great gods, those who are ranked first in power and honour. The Aeldhywon are the lesser gods, ranked less in power but no less worthy of devotion.
Belen is the lord of the gods. He is the protector of gwyraen, the enforcer of natural law. As god of the bright sky, he is connected with the sun, although not in the sense of being the sun. Rather, the sun is his symbol. The sun sees all, is lord of the bright sky, and performs functions according to the unfailing law of the universe, gwyraen – just like Belen. He dwells in great splendor, and is almost unapproachably sacred. He is the god of priests, the embodiment of the way rituals are to be performed. He is also a god of justice. He does what is right, ensures that others do likewise, and punishes those who do not. Oaths are sworn by him. His sacred animal is the ox.
Twdêd is the partner of Belen, just as Belen rules (and is ruled by) natural law, Twdêd rules (and is ruled) by social law, the laws of men. Together with Belen he enforces justice, and oaths are sworn by him as well. Through him, the wealth of society is circulated properly among the people. Twdêd is also a god of marriage and of healing and the god of good social order, of the right way for things to be. He is therefore a god of peace and plenty, of the successful and orderly continuance of society.
Lw, the many-skilled lord, is, like Twdêd, a god of society, but on a more personal level than the more remote Twdêd. His domain is friendship, contracts and peace, and the arts of peace as well. Cunning and skilful, his is the realm of intelligence, and survival by wits rather than by force of arms.
Taraen is the god of thunder and lightning. He is a god of war, particularly against outside dangers and in defense of his people. He is the defender of truth, protector against evil, and ensurer of fertility. His weapon is a double-headed iron axe, with which he defends gwyraen from the angethlow. His sacred animal is the bull. His sacred tree is the oak, and like the oak he is hard, even stubborn. But stubbornness in defense of truth is a virtue.
Nethyl is primarily the god of the seas and waters, a task he shares with his son, Lydaewon. However, he also guards a well which contains a fiery liquid. This liquid grants rule, wisdom, inspiration, or prosperity to those who drink it. However, who wish to drink from the well must deserve the well's gifts. They cannot have any moral flaws, and they must approach the well in the appropriate ritual manner. In other words, the gifts of the well are available only to the virtuous.
Hygel is the lord of the Annwn, the Cravethist otherworld. As the psychopomp, he is also seen as a god of travellers and of boundaries- the conlict between the wild and the known. He is always pictured weilding a great hammer with his red-eared dog at this side, his bondsman Ancew at his back.
Reannon is the queen of the gods- the goddess of sovreignty. As such she is a capricious and wilful goddess, mating with kings and gods and raising them to greatness but always with another man in the first's shadow. She is not a motherly goddess, although she is a mother. Her offspring include Cadwodhw, the mad battle goddess, conceived by Taraen's rape of Reannon. In addition, she is the mother of Nanchwelth and of Trearan and Dondarw by Belen.
Modron, in sharp contrast to her sister Reannon, is the perfect mother-goddess. Her patronship is the Earth, which she shares with her daughter Davon, and motherhood. She is seen as a divine protectress, bestower of fertility and all kinds of blessings. Is is generally considered to be the consort of Nethyl, as in Arvorec thought the seas and the fields are two equal sources of bounty. As the goddess of fruitfulness she is depicted as holding the Paer Modron, an unemptiable cauldron of mead. Her son is Mabon and her daughter Davon.
Nanchwelth is the goddess of spring, of growing and blooming, and particularly of flowers. She is the patroness of beauty and art, and things beautiful for their own sake (and so by extension of homosexuals and children). She is the consort of Hygel, and spends the first half of the year in Annwn with him, tending there the apple-orchards of the dead.
Breanon is the goddes of the hearth, of the controlled fire of the household. Fire is exceptionally holy, the most holy thing in our world. Fire is the means by which natural items are transformed into food. This is true both of our own food and that which we give to the gods - the sacrifice. Fire is a doorway between our world and the next; that which is burned in it goes up to the celestial gods, up the pillar of smoke as if up the axis mundi6. Breanon incorporates all of these themes. She is that without which we can not worship the gods, can not even live in our homes. Without her we have no right to live on our land.
In addition to her vital patronage of the hearth, Breanon also is patron of other instances of controlled fire- she is the goddess of smiths and engineers, and of the fire of inspiration she is the goddess of bards and singers.
Archanrod is the virgin goddess of the moon, and the deity of the hunt and dark magics. She is a mysterious goddess known to be capricious with her favours but especially fond of those who are oppressed or found in slavery7. She is the daughter of Belen and Breanon, her twin sister is Beleaf, goddess of the dawn.
Beleaf is the goddes of the dawn, twin to Archanrod. Although depicted as a beautiful maiden, Beleaf is not all sweetness and light. Dawn is ambivalent and capricious: it is neither night nor day. The dark has been safely navigated, but the light is not yet here, and it might not come. As the keeper of the gates of dawn, there is always the chance that Beleaf might not open them. Even when she does, her gift is ambivalent as each day brings us closer to death. Cravethists see Beleaf as a goddess to be propitiated rather than befriended. However, the sun does rise, and as long as we continue our own proper behavior it will continue to do so- offereing the hope of rebirth and redemption.
Govannon is the son of Reannon and Cavyl, the foster-son of Breanon. He is the god of smiths and craftsmen. He is also the patron of magicians and fortune-tellers, for what is more magical than turning lumps of ore into the tools neccessary for civilisation?
Lydaewon is the son of Nethyl and Romerth, and like his father a god of the seas. However, Lydaewon is god of the coasts and shallows rather than the open seas and therefore the patron of fishermen. The shallows, however, can be treacherous and Lydaewon is prayed to for protection against the rocks and clemency in his tempestuous rages.
Davon is the daughter of Modron and patron of fertility and agriculture. She is the goddess of the harvest and the crops. She is said to work in conjunction with her mother Modron and her son Amaethon.
Amaethon is son of Davon and the god of the fields and farmers. Where his mother is the goddess of agriculture and stock-raising, Amaethon is the patron of those who work the land. While farmers pray to Davon for a good harvest, they ask Amaethon to bless the plough.
Romerth is the goddess of prophecy and the keeper of the Lyvyr Tyngeth, the Book of Fate. She is the consort of Lw.
Mabon is the son of Modron, the youthful god of the summer and of wildfire. He is seen as the god and embodiment of the havon principle. His myth culminates in the Wild Hunt which begins at the summer solstice, when he is transformed into a boar and persued across the hills and fields of the world by Archanrod, the divine huntress and her dogs. He is finally caught and killed at the autumnal equinox, passing his kingship of the year to his opposite and equal, Cornon.
Cornon is the god of the wild, the master of beasts and the sage of the forest. He is seen as the god and embodiment of the gaeavon principle, the king of the winter half of the year. He is most often pictured as a great antlered stag. His power reaches its height at the midwinter soltice, but begins to wane at this time with the birth of Mabon. His reign comes to an end at the spring equinox, when he is defeated and killed in a battle with Mabon.
Wmm is the divine sage of Cravethism. In his youth he was a man, a great and bold hero who ranged over Gaul8, in the service of the great king Aengad and defeating the angethlow. However, at the apogee of his power he became arrogant, believing himself to be the very equal of the gods. In retribution for his hubris, Romerth cast him down and dealt him misfortune after misfortune and by the time he was old and bent he had gained great wisdom and humility, understanding the universe. So he spent his final days wandering Gaul and explaining what he had learned to the people, king and bondsman alike. After many years, as he lay down to die, Belen took pity on him and raised him to godhead. The apotheosis of Wmm is the essential myth behind the Cravethist "meaning of life".
Cavyl is the god of battles and warriors, attendant and servant of Taraen. He is a god of pure strength and valour- while Taraen is a protector Cavyl is an agressor, a berserk god of valour for valour's sake.
Cadwodhw is the one-eyed hag of battle, Cavyl's natural partner and co-conspiritor, or so it would seem. The myth has it that she was raped by Cavyl and her hatred for him and his servants has no end. She revels in the blood of warriors, the servants of Cavyl, and she also punishes rape and the violation of virginity. She is quite insane, and served by the dark druidesses of Serch, whose blood-spattered rites scare even the gwaedeth. She is also seen as the goddess of death. While the land of the dead itself is ruled by Hygel, she is death itself. She is not a goddess to be friends with, more a goddess to be propriated.
Gran is the god of healing, the son of Belen and Breanon. His mastery of the healing arts was unparalleled and in a fit of jealousy Belen cast him down to Earth, where he taught medicine to humans. However, his sister Syron restored him to heaven with the aid of their mother Breanon.
Syron is Gran's twin sister, goddess of wells, the night and the stars. She is most often portrayed as a handmaiden of Archanrod or helping her brother.
Other Supernatural Beings
Cravethism also teaches the existence of many other supernatural beings, some benevolent, some malevolent and some ambivalent.
Taldhyw, the Nature-Spirits are generally ambivalent spirits, which are most often portrayed as small women. They are divided into four types: Talvascaw the spirits of the earth, Nescaw, spirits of water (distinct from the morvorwynaw), Bochaw spirits of the forest and Bodhydeth, who are spirits of places and locations, guardians of wild places.
Morvorwynaw are the mermaids, nominally servants of Lydaewon but more often they ignore him and act upon their own whims, which generally involve uncontrollable lust for innocent sailors whom they lure to their deaths and thence the clammy embraces of the morvorwynaw.
Ancew is Hygel's bondsman, the psychopomp and bearer of the souls of the dead to and from the Otherworld.
Lwtheyrn is the mouse-lord, supposedly an ancient king who was transformed into a mouse by Taraen for cowardice. He is generally portrayed as a cowardly but boastful and mischevious sprite, much like the British Puck.
The Angethlow are the demons of Cravethist theology, those who would pervert the order of nature and take the world for themselves. It is said that in times immemorial the Angethlow did indeed rule over humans, and their rule was brutal and unforgiving. However, they were driven back to the furthest corners of the world by the gods, who gave their servants the holy metal: iron. To this day iron amulets are worn by all combrow to ward off their baleful influence and in rememberance of the war which to gods fought on their behalf.
The Drwneth on the other hand are not intrinsically malevolent, rather the spirits of the restless dead, those who have died but not gone on to the otherworld. This is either because they have been denied a proper cremation or because they have scores to settle among the living.
Cravethist metaphysical cosmology divides the universe (aelvyth) into three worlds or planes of being: Maeneth, Byd and Annwn, which are all interconnected by Bylyth, the world oak tree which serves as the axis mundi.
Maeneth, literally meaning the great plain, is the abode of the gods and the blessed dead (see: Afterlife), perceived as being the plane of being above our own, closer in its realisation to gwyraen than our world.
In Cravethist thought, Byd is our world, oikoumene, the battleground of gods and angethlow. Cravethists further divide Byd into three: Nef, Talaf and Môr- Sky, Land and Sea.
Annwn is the abode of the angethlow and the dead who have not escaped rebirth. Within Annwn is Ynys Avallon, the abode of the dead, guarded and ruled over by Hygel and Nanchwelth. While in Greek myth, a soul would drink of the River Lethe before reincarnation, to the Cravethists the soul eats of the apples of Ynys Avallon in order to forget his former life and prepare for rebirth.
Matter and the Elements: Like most metaphysical systems, Cravethism preaches a theory of Elements. Modern Cravethists do not contend that the Elements are the physical building blocks of the universe, rather the metaphysical understanding behind the way things fit together. In mediaeval Cravethist-influenced alchemy, the Celtic system was in direct competition with the Classical system9. For completness' sake, the Cravethist elements are: dwr water, croc rock, talaf earth, gwed air, deng mist, hawl sun, and tân fire.
Fate, The Soul and Reincarnation
Fate, or tyngeth to the Cravethists, is a concept similar to the Eastern idea of karma. It can essentially be defined as the soul's journey from ignorance to its realisation of being part of gwyraen, and the spiritual lessons and their consequences accrued along the way. Fate is not judgement nor reward or punishment, simply consequence.
It is central to Cravethist belief that all sentient beings have a soul10. The Cravethists maintain that soul is divided into three parts: anaf, annean and mwyn.
Anaf is the soul proper- the spark of gwyraen which became immanent in the world. This is considered to be the true self of the person.
Annean is the mask of the soul, an emanation of a person's anaf and that which makes the person who they are. It can best be thought of as a person's inner nature.
Mwyn is the intellect, the mind, which is further divided into Thought, Memory, Will, Sensation and Life Force.
Every lifetime has a purpose, an aedhyl11. The aedhyl is a reflection of fate, tyngeth, upon a person's annean- those lessons which have been set for the soul's growth. One's aedhyl is a goal, a duty for this lifetime, and has a certain similarity to the Christian concept of a calling. In essence, this aedhyl presents the soul with two courses of action: gwyndrod and gwaethrod. Gwyndrod is acceptance of one's fate and an active participation in taking the lessons and challenges of this incarnation head on. Gwaethrod, on the other hand, is wilful ignorance and a refusal to accept one's fate.
After death, the three parts of the soul merge into one, and those lessons learned in that life are assimilated by the soul. Before rebirth, Ancew takes the soul to Ynys Avallon, which is seen as a place of reunion with dead loved ones but also as a place for the soul to reflect on the lessons of their previous life and prepare for their next incarnation.
Reincarnation continues until one's aedhyl is completed and the soul realises its true nature. This enlightenment is considered to be the point that anaf, annean and mwyn become one- one becomes one's soul. At this point, the enlightened soul becomes a hywed, a soul committed to aiding the enlightenment of all sentient beings. The hywedon, are considered to be the equals of the gods and like them dwell in Maeneth.
In this way both Cravethist ancestor-worship (see below) and ideas such as Wmm's apotheosis and Gran's incarnation and subsequent re-elevation to Maeneth become clear.
Rituals and Piety
The physical expression of Cravethist thought is of course, its rituals and the actions of adherents.
Rituals fall into many categories, and there are as many different interpretations of ritual as there are celebrants. One of the first principles of Cravethist ritual is the gwestas principle, that of reciprocity. Technically, gwestas means the state of a reciprocal obligation of hospitality, and Cravethists see both society and the universe as being bound together by the free exchange of gifts. In human society, a person acts as a host and gives gifts to his guests on one occasion, and expects to become a guest on another. In the same way, the devotee is bound to the gods through the giving of gifts and the receiving of blessings.
This is the underlying principle behind the Cravethist sacrifice. When one is performed, some of sacrifice is burned to go to the gods, and then the people who offered it eat the rest. The sacrifice is thus a shared meal, in which the congregation serves as hosts and the gods as guests. Since the gods know the rules the rules of hospitality, they are then be obligated to serve as hosts on another occasion, and they do so by granting the congregation favours and blessings. Although some see this as a cold contractual exchange, it is through this exchange that a relationship is created between the gods and their worshippers, which bind the celebrants closely to them in a shared society.
Thus, the raison d'être of all Cravethist rituals, the essential purpose, is one of communion: communion between the celebrants and the gods, the world, the gwyraen and not least with each other.
There are eight principal festivals which celebrate the turning of the year- four major feasts and four minor feasts. The great feasts are Havaen, Oraneth, Belthwyn and Edhryneth, the four minor feasts are Dweryw, Medhwear, Medhevyn and Tyscorêth.
Havaen is the most important of the eight festivals. It lasts for three days, from the thirty-first of October to the second of November. It marks the beginning of the year in both the Cravethist religious calendar and the Arvorec legal and fiscal calenders. It is typical of the ex tenebrae lux sentiment of Cravethism that the beginning of the year also coincides with the beginnings of the ascendency of the fading half of the year.
Each of the three days of Havaen have their own special feasts and practices, each with a different emphasis.
The first day is the last day of the old year, and is chiefly given over to agrarian and pastoral matters. The main ceremony is the Orchean an Dhâf, the Ox-Sacrifice, which is conducted by the Archdruid in Porthbelen and Landrewan on alternate years. Historically on this day, livestock would be slaughtered in order to provide for the winter ahead- the Orchean an Dhâf is an offering to Modron, Amaethon and Davon in thanks for the harvest and the sacrifice of the livestock. The Sacrifice is followed by parades in the afternoon, in which the participants dress as domestic animals and march around the boundaries of the community. Just before sunset the parades go around extinguishing all the fires they come across. Finally the parade culminates outside the nevyd at sunset, where a bonfire is kindled from a need-fire. Each hosehold then solemnly takes a spark from the common flame to light their own hearths, symbolically uniting the congregation as one for the coming year and providing protection throughout the winter months.
The second day12 is seen as standing outside the year, and on this day the veil between the three worlds is at its weakest. As such, the second day of Havaen is seen as the Dydh an Marwon, the day of the dead, when unincarnate souls are said to walk the earth. The Dydh an Marwon is seen as the most sacred of the three days, a day for reflection and commemoration of the dead and the hywedon. Traditionally, at the main midday meal, each family will set a place at the table for the dead, and serve food and wine13 for them. The day culminates just before sunset at the nevyd, where the dead are invited to join in the celebration before they return to the otherworld.
The third day is a more lighthearted affair, a simple celebration of the new year with few religious concerns. The day is characterised by partying and the exchange of gifts. It's traditional to have your fortune told for the coming year, so astrologers, fortune-tellers and the like do a roaring trade. On a more serious level, however, at sunset the gwaedeth leave their enclave on Gosaera and travel to Ynys an Seanad and take auguries for the year on behalf of the government.
Expressions of Personal Piety
The Mythological Corpus
Note 1:Which literally translates as Holy Trinity or Holy Triad. For obvious reasons I have elected to leave the Arvorc form untranslated.
Note 2:Students of Pythagorean theogony will notice the evident parallels here.
Note 3:These terms should not be understood in terms of modern physics, rather in the sense that "energy" is the principle of animation and "matter" is the principle of immobility.
Note 4:Note of course that there was another "Creation Myth", which was seen as an allegorical version of this one.
Note 5:Commentaries on the Sayings have been written for many centuries, often as guides for students in different fields. Therefore one can find Historical Editions, Legal Editions, Ethical Editions and Theological Editions of the same work.
Note 6:Note that Cravethists cremate their dead and believe that the souls of those who are not cremated wander the earth unsatisfied until their body decomposes and returns to the earth. As such they tend to view the idea of embalming the dead with not a little horror.
Note 7:As such, there is a temple dedicated especially to her on the highest peak of Elaeneth, in rememberance of the slaves who were freed by the islanders.
Note 8:This mythical pre-Roman Gaul is called Lydaw by Cravethists. See the section on mythology.
Note 9:If indeed they think about the concept at all. One should not be misled into thinking that all Cravethists are New-Age mystics, far from it. The Cravethist concept of the elements these days only surfaces in the metaphysical musings of drwydh and in the horoscopes of the gwaedeth. On the other hand, adherents of New Age philosophies have enthusiastically borrowed the concept, much to the consternation and confusion of the Cravethist hierarchy.
Note 10:The position of animals and plants is subject to debate however. Some contend that everything has a soul, some only that animals and humans have souls and some reject the whole idea as preposterous. In a spirit of inclusiveness, the hierarchy leaves resolution of this knotty conundrum up to the conscience of the individual believer. Bestiality and congress with vegetables, however, are frowned upon.
Note 11:Any similarity to the word ideal is entirely coincidental. The word is from the Gaulish adilon meaning goal.
Note 12:Note that a "day" is considered to run from sunset to sunset.
Note 13:To the Arvorchedeth, the drink of the gods is mead, as used in libations at the nevyd. The dead, however, prefer wine or coffee.