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Blackbird/ Druid Dhubh

Posted: 17 Oct 2006, 09:44
by Tynan Elder Oak

Isnt this great?  Well as Donnata said lets get started.  I hesitate to be the one to start it off as such, not being an expert in it and all.  But one of us has to so here goes.  

Blackbird:(European looking one)

I don't know where to get the pictures from perhaps you do Donnata?
Any way on having refelcted on this I am struck by the way all the elements are represented if one looks at it carefully.

Birds of course always represent the element of air and the link between air and fire for a blacksmith are inexcapable, blackbird being not only the druids bird but the bird of the forge.  Then we have the dark depths of the earth represented by the cave, leading us into the otherworld.  Then we have the early twilight moon representing water, and have you noticed the branch the blackbird is sitting on?  Well even though I know it has rowan leaves and berries, the gateway tree, to me it looks very much like the hazel contorta in my garden, and its shape is reminiscent of a water sign.  So blackbird as a druids bird not only takes in to the the gateway of the otherworld but reminds us to use all the elements in our journey there.  What of Spirit you may ask, as did I... well that seems to be implied in the whole sense of journeying into the otherworld, making the choice to listen to blackbirds call to look deeper, to follow the pure liquid sound of his song and look deeper into the heart of life, which always starts in the darkness of the womb like cave....

But I wondered about the skeletal tree in the background?  Why is it there?  Is it to remind us that all passess on the wheel of time?  

I have a powerful afinnity to blackbirds, having been enchanted by them since a very young child. I was always a rebel trying to escape and was sitting out the corregated iron roof of my house. The heat was unbearable and I had had whooping cough and was sitting out there to try to cool down. Of course I was not supposed to be there!.  The sky was a sulphorus yellow and all had gone very silent as it can do .... I had been looking at a cushion of moss growing on the roof and had been captured by its little red fronds growing upwards, so small and infinitely beautiful...I was completely lost in this contemplation going deeper and deeper into this otherworld of miniture, when from my left a blackbird shot out right in front of me calling out an alarm, just as the first heavy drops of rain fell on to my skin and roof, turning all the golden lichen into deep brown patches...the raindrops cooled me and I felt so part of the fire of the lightening and the sulphorus air sitting on this tin roof with the moss and raindrops.  As you may see, it made a very deep impression on me, one which I hope never to forget, but blackbird was my guardian and my guide.  

Anyway, enough for now...what do you all think...apart from anything else isnt it a beautiful bird.

Posted: 24 Oct 2006, 13:48
by Abhaill
I've had this deck for a while now, but haven't spent very much time actually working with it, in the way one might work with a Tarot deck or something similar.  I think mainly I've just been drawn to the beauty of the artwork and the depth of the symbolism.  So saying, I'll just offer what I see. :)


The first thing I notice about this card is the night sky.  The moon is a waxing crescent, which signifies new beginnings, the start of a cycle.  From a Celtic POV the 'day' begins with night, so it's an appropriate place to 'begin'.  

As Tynan Elder Oak mentioned above, the Blackbird pictured is European-looking.  In Canada they look much different!  In Canada the rowan berries anywhere from the beginning of September to as late as Samhain.  As the seasons are different in Ireland/UK I'm not sure when the rowan is in berry over there.  Can anyone enlighten me?   Is the rowan still in berry at the winter Solstice, for example?  My guess would be no, which would probably place the season of the picture between Samhain and the Solstice.

Also, when I look at the the bare trees in the background, the greyness of the leaves on the rowan branch tinged with reddish brown, they also indicate this season.  Without the presence of the new waxing moon, this card might easily be about the end of things, rather than the beginning.

Stone also has a commanding presence of the landscape.  In the Colour Ogham, L for Luis (rowan) is L for Liath (grey).  I'm not sure if that was intended, but personally the grey tones of the lower half of the picture, and the presence of the Ogham symbol for L ( |= ) inscribed on the stone, help me to remember that connection.

In the picture, the blackbird itself seems poised between the earth and the sky, at the threshold of the cave's entrance into the earth, and at the beginning of a new cycle, marked by both seasonal and lunar symbols, all of which point to liminal associations.  In the accompanying book, it is stated that the blackbird sings at "twilight, and even later", another liminal time/space.

My first encounter with the European blackbird was in the story "Culhwch and Olwen", as also mentioned in the accompanying book.  Years ago I had to create a felt-board story for children, during my Montessori teacher training program, and I chose this episode from the "Culhwch and Olwen" story.  I had to find a picture of this blackbird in order to make a felt version as one of the characters.  

Those are some of my thoughts, hope they're helpful and not too far off the mark!  I look forward to hearing others' thoughts on the Blackbird card as well. :)

~ Abhaill

Posted: 24 Oct 2006, 16:01
by Donata
Selene has graciously offered to post the  pics for us - just now she's a bit busy elsewhere.

Re Blackbird, I've been reading its description in the DAO book. Part of what it says (in case not everyone has the deck and book) is:

Druid Dubh (the Blackbird)... calls to us from the gateway between two worlds.... he calls to us in the twilight, showing us the path to Otherworldy secrets...

It seems to me that the Blackbird can speak to anyone of us, but especially to Ovates, since their work is that of the inner otherworldy path. Blackbird is a good animal for the Samhain season (in No. Hemisphere) when we may seek to contact the Otherworld and especially our ancestors.

Blackbird may be a good guide to call on when we do a shamanic journey where we may discover hidden things about ourselves. Blackbird in the pic stands as a guardian at the portal of the dark cave which is an entrance to Otherworlds. He stands guard, ever alert,through the night. He sings a song - warning? or rejoicing at our safe return?


Posted: 24 Oct 2006, 20:15
by Busker
This is a very interesting thread.
I don't have the DAO yet but I intend to rectify that soon.
In a very real (to me) way the Blackbird led me here.
A family of Blackbirds have nested in our jasmine and stolen our blackberries and strawberries for a few generations now.
Some while ago I heard a commotion and looked out to see around four or five magpies trying to raid the Blackbirds nest and being seen off by a solitary Blackbird. I didn't like the odds and chased the magpies away.
The Blackbird looked at me from a chimney pot for a long time and then flew down to the fence.
After a few moments of eye contact he flew towards me came within a couple of inches of my face and then returned to his nest.
Over the next few weeks he often came within touching distance,and even when feeding the young he was unperturbed by my presence.
I was musing on all of this when I surfed to the OBOD site and there displayed on the front page was the blackbird card from the DAO.
I know synchronicity when I see it. :) I enrolled on the Bardic course.

Posted: 24 Oct 2006, 20:50
by Donata
Hi Busker,

What a wonderful story! you definitely are blessed by blackbird in your life!


Posted: 25 Oct 2006, 20:31
by Dryadia2
Here's the pic of Blackbird from the DAO:


Peace and Blessings,
:dryadia: /|\

Posted: 25 Oct 2006, 20:43
by Abhaill
Sweet!  Thanks Dryadia. :)  It's great to have the picture to go with the words, especially for those who don't have the cards themselves.  They're so beautifully done, I just love them.

~ Abhaill

Posted: 31 Oct 2006, 03:49
by Abhaill
Another few thoughts about blackbird:

I've been studying Medieval Lyric poetry, where the blackbird is a common theme for 'hermits'.  It has been suggested that one reason for this might be that the blackbird is seen to be a solitary bird, flitting back and forth between the forest cover and the clearing.  As a monastic practice, a time of solitude away from the daily business of regular religious life was sometimes sought - perhaps to a retreat such as a clearing (or grove) in the forest - in order to meditate, read psalms, write poetry, and commune with the natural world.  For the Medieval Christian scribe, this retreat might have been seen as a time outside of time.  This is of course a parallel practice for modern (and perhaps ancient) Druids as well.  The blackbird spends time both in the open and in seclusion, often alone.  As this type of ritual is common to both Druidry and Early Irish Christian monasticism, the blackbird can symbolize to both the reminder to take the time to retreat to nature alone in order to really listen.

~ Abhaill

Posted: 31 Oct 2006, 10:29
by Tynan Elder Oak
I like that image of the blackbird not only leading us  to the gateway, but encourageing us to take time out,  to reflect on our own.  I so often forget that need space, until things get so overwhelming that if I don't take time out I would burst or worse!  Maybe that is why the blackbirds alarm is so insistant?

Posted: 13 Nov 2006, 17:05
by Beith
Hi there,

just to follow Abhaill's description above. The Londubh (blackbird) is often represented in Irish poetry as being the "Pagan voice" usually in opposition to the Christian strictures on living - just as in the Fiannaíocht tales where Oisín is in opposition to St Patrick, telling him of the joys of the outdoor life of the Fíanna instead of the disciplined confinements of the monks and Christianity.

The Ossianic lay "Lon Doire an Chairn" (the Blackbird of Derrycairn) describes this well. (orig is 18th C I think and I believe the style is Dán Díreach). I found this translation below (text and translation from this website:
and the poem was reworked by the poet Austin Clarke in his beautiful "Blackbird of Derrycairn" (posted in green at the bottom of this msg)


Lon Doire An Chairn
(the blackbird if Doire an Chairn, transl. below)

Binn sin, a Loin Doire an Chairn!
Ní chuala mé in aird sa bhith
Ceol ba binne ná do cheol
agus tú fá bhun do nid

Aoincheol is binne fán mbith
mairg nach éisteann leis go fóill
A mhic Calprainn na gclog mbinn
is go mbéarthá aríst ar do nóin

Agat, mar tá agam féin
dá mbeith deimhin scéil an eoin
Do-ghéantá déara go dian
‘s ní bhiadh t’aire ar Dhia go fóill

I gcrích Lochlann na sreabh ngorm
fuair mac Cumhaill na gcorn ndearg
An t-éan do-chíthe-se anois
ag sin a scéal doit go dearbh

Doire an Chairn an choill úd thiar
mar a ndéindís an Fhiann fos
Ar áille is ar chaoimhe a crann
is eadh do cuireadh ann an lon

Sgolghaire luin Doire an Chairn
búithre an daimh ó Aill na gCaor
Ceol le gcodladh Fionn go moch
lachain ó Loch na dTrí gCaol

Cearca fraoich um Chruachain Chuinn
feadghail dobhráin Druim Dhá Loch
Gotha fiulair Ghlinn’ na bhFuath
longhaire cuach Chnuic na Scoth

Gotha gadhair Ghleanna Caoin
is gáir fhiolair chaoich na sealg
Tairm na gcon ag triall go moch
isteach ó Thráigh na gCloch nDearg

An tráth do mhair Fionn ‘s an Fhiann
dob ansa leo sliabh ná cill
Ba binn leosan fuighle lon
gotha na gclog leo níor bhinn

Blackbird Of Doire An Chairn

Beautiful, O Blackbird of Doire an Chairn!
Nowhere on Earth have I heard
A lovelier music than yours
there as you guard your nest

The world’s loveliest song
a shame you won’t listen a while
Mac Calprainn of the sweet bells
You could still fit in your nones

If you knew, as I know myself
the real story of that bird
You would have to cry hard tears
and forget your God a while

In a blue-rivered Viking region
Mac Cumhaill of the burnished goblets
Found the bird you see before you
true is the tale I tell

Doire an Chairn is the wood back there
where the Fianna took their rest
So fine and fair its trees
they set the blackbird there

Throat-song of the blackbird of Doire an Chairn
stag’s call from Aill na gCaor
Where Fionn’s music, sleeping at morn
and the ducks from Loch na dTrí gCaol

The grouse at Cruachan, seat of Conn
otters whistling at Druim Dhá Loch
Eagle cry in Gleann na bhFuath
cuckoo’s murmur on Chnuic na Scoth

Dog’s voices in Ghleanna Caoin
cry of the half-blind hunting eagle
Patter of hounds, on their way early
in from Thráigh na gCloch nDearg

When Fionn and the Fianna lived
they loved the hills, not hermit-cells
Blackbird speech is what they loved
not the sound, unlovely, of your bells

The below poem by Austin Clarke is based on the above earlier lay. It describes the Blackbird recalling the pagan days and mourning the loss of old ways to those of the newly arrived church. The Blackbird tells St Patrick of how the music of nature was more dear to Fionn MacCumhaill and the Fíanna, than the bell ringing of the church - and that the wide open spaces of nature are in stark contrast to monastic cell confinement. The bird contrasts the power of the sun (a symbol perhaps of druidry but certainly of the outdoor pagan life) in it's brightness to living in the shadows of Christianity. The line "my throat rejoicing from the hawthorn" is one I love, as the blackbirds that live in the field near my home sit in the hawthorn branches and sing at sunset. The beauty of their song is always brought home to me in that line.  Enjoy the poetry of Clarke, below.

The Blackbird of Derrycairn

Stop, stop and listen for the bough top
Is whistling and the sun is brighter
Than God's own shadow in the cup now!
Forget the hour-bell. Mournful matins
Will sound, Patric, as well at nightfall.

Faintly through mist of broken water
Fionn heard my melody in Norway.
He found the forest track, he brought back
This beak to gild the branch and tell, there,
Why men must welcome in the daylight.

He loved the breeze that warns the black grouse,
The shouts of gillies in the morning
When packs are counted and the swans cloud
Loch Erne, but more than all those voices
My throat rejoicing from the hawthorn.

In little cells behind a cashel,
Patric, no handbell gives a glad sound.
But knowledge is found among the branches.
Listen! That song that shakes my feathers
Will thong the leather of your satchels.

~ Austin Clarke

Posted: 14 Nov 2006, 12:09
by Tynan Elder Oak
What a beautiful poem.  I can see why it fills your heart so.

Posted: 31 Jan 2007, 13:12
by Tao of Pooh
It seems to me that the blackbird is about to sing, but I'm not sure about what. An invitation call? A warning? I'm not sure yet but it's probably something important/serious judging from his/her stance so I'd better pay attention!

Posted: 17 Apr 2007, 18:30
by Stone
Hi All

I have only just got the deck but like Busker  it was the blackbird that lead me to it and also to this site.

I love working out in my garden and it is a special place to me. We have a pair of blackbirds that frequent the garden and they have fascinated me with their behaviour. Mr Blackbird is always first up singing in the garden (seems to usher in the dawn) and the last to go to bed at night (seems to sing the darkness in). I have been watching them for weeks. Yesterday I was sitting on the ground at the bottom of the garden. We had had a BBQ and I had put some bread on the floor. One of the blackbirds flew down to feed about 2ft away from me. She came three times and although kept looking at me was seemingly not bothered by my being there. It may sound a bit sad but it felt like a realy gift and really lifted my heart.

Posted: 18 Apr 2007, 18:50
by Jingle
This topic came up just as I was reading the beginning of PCG's The Druid Way.  Such a synchronicity doesn't go unnoticed, so I started looking up blackbirds.  There are no blackbirds in North America, though a related species is the robin, the robin doesn't look anything like the blackbird.  I listened to the voice of the blackbird, and it reminds me very much of our own Northern Cardinals which have been nesting annually in our hedge for several years.  The birds don't look alike and they aren't related (except that they're birds), they don't even share the same eating habits.   Sometimes we just sit and look at the cardinals, and they seem to guide me someplace else.   Cardinals are solitary birds, usually only one pair in a square block area, but lately, we've seen two males sitting in our cherry tree (Awesome it is to see two male Cardinals at one time).  They have a short lifespan, and usually fledge two broods in a year.   I wonder if it is appropriate to associate a specific bird that's native to our area with one that is not?  What do you think?

I don't have this deck yet, but I'll be getting it soon.  I haven't any experience with tarot, either, but I hope to learn.

Posted: 30 Apr 2007, 17:09
by Tynan Elder Oak
It seems to me that if you don't have the fortune to have the same native birds, but DO have the blessings of birds that have similar qualities, then assign them that position.  But, you may want to investigate what the traditions are associated with that particular bird in your cultures native beliefs, you may find some interesting surprises.  Have fun... love and light.

Posted: 27 Jun 2007, 11:14
by Bel
We have had a blackbird visiting our garden for the last few days.  It was striking as we dont see them much in the city, we usually get seagulls, pigeons and magpies in our garden.  I took it as a message and read the description in the DAO.  It didnt mean much to me.  My 8 yr old saw it too so we decided to read the book together.

As I was reading it out to her, she was shuffling the cards and spread them faced down.  She grounded, centred and protected herself as I've taught her and chose a card   ................. Blackbird !!!!

We then realised the message was for her.  She had been writing a story last week entitled 'The Four Elements and.....' where she is exploring the idea of the fifth.  We believe it was a gentle nudge to continue her exploration.  What do others of you think ?

Posted: 27 Jun 2007, 12:13
by shirley mclaren
Nothing to do with DAO I am afraid, but I am making friends with a lovely young blackbird.  He is practically at the point of feeding from my hand.



Posted: 27 Jun 2007, 15:22
by Donata
Hi Mamma,

Yes, I agree that it was a definite message for your daughter.

Shirley - what a great experience!


Posted: 27 Jun 2007, 15:57
by shirley mclaren
Hi Donata

Yes he is a lovely little fellow.  Sits on the fence close by and eyes me up and down, then jumps down and hops towards me closer and closer and cheeps a few times.




Posted: 27 Jun 2007, 23:07
by Greygnome
Hello Shirley, it was interesting to hear about your blackbird, as children we fed a female blackbird which used to tap at the window or come to the doorstep to demand her porridge oats!  The word got round so we had to lay in a supply of oats for the wrens, starlings, robins etc.  This bird gradually became completely bald which was a bit odd.

A few weeks ago whilst doing a DAO reading about work, the blackbird showed up reversed, which seemed to have very little to do with the work reading but was prodding me to get on with the bardic gwersi again, so I am making some more steps.  The idea was I know where the gateway is but am not going through it, which can be a bit of a pattern for me, I need to make more definite moves!

Perhaps by the time I finish the gwersi I shall also have lost my rapidly thinning hair.   :old: