Australian Celtic Festival Newsletter – August 2020

Greetings from the Festival

Hello friends, as we countdown the months to the next Festival, we will be visiting some of the wonderful support events being held. This month, the Australian Celtic Fashion Awards team have begun planning their exciting program for next year. They are happy to announce that entries into all categories will be free which will no doubt be extra encouragement for many fashionistas wanting to get involved. The theme for 2021 is A Tartan Day Out.  There are categories for Junior (under 18) Open and Seniors. All mediums are welcome knitted, woven, stitched, leather work, millinery, dressmaking, haute couture, accessories, release the artisan and be creative. More details will be revealed via our website in the coming months.

After last month’s newsletter on the Isle of Man Tynwald Day ceremonies held at the Australian Standing Stones on July 5, we received a delightful reciprocal picture and email showing the ceremony being held at Tynwald Hill. Tynwald Day proceeded in a modified form there this year, but it was still a wonderful day and they were really pleased that the Manx public were able to come to St John’s to watch the Ceremony. They look forward to a more traditional Ceremony next year when hopefully the world will be able to move around more normally.
Covid-19 may be lurking like a dark cloud on the horizon for all upcoming events in Australia but rest assured the team at The Australian Celtic Festival will continue to plan, encourage and inform every step of the way. If you are new to the ACF newsletter, press subscribe to keep up to date with our progress and any changes to the schedule. If you would like to be involved as a volunteer at the festival, even if you are planning to visit, it is a great opportunity to support our hard-working teams. There are opportunities leading up to the festival and of course during the weekend in key roles. So please contact me at for details.

Rhonda Bombell, Tourism & Events Officer
Glen Innes Severn Council

Feature Article – Australian Standing Stones Management Board

Judi Toms D Urr
Chair, Australian Standing Stones Management Board

September at the Stones

September 7th, 2020 marks the 29th anniversary of the raising of the first stone of the Australian Standing Stones array. The first stone raised is known as the Alexander Stone as it was named in honour of Peter Alexander, the then Convenor of the Celtic Council of Australia and instrumental in Glen Innes being given the honour of having Australia’s national monument to Celtic heritage.On September 7, 1991, the local Jelly Beans tug o’ war team used a block and tackle to raise the stone. Prior to this, the local Catholic priest had ‘blessed’ the hole with a bottle of whisky! The Alexander Stone marks the entry to the winter solstice avenue and can be found on the eastern side of the array. On September 7, 2016 a small ceremony was held to mark the 25th anniversary.  Guardians were piped to the Alexander Stone by the Glen Innes Pipe band and renewed their vows. Their vows were once again blessed by the spreading of whisky around the base of the stone.

September 8th flag lowering for Asturias. The Day of Asturias is a public holiday in Asturias in northern Spain on September 8th each year.  It marks the birth of Mary, mother of Jesus. The flag of Asturias shows the Victory Cross in gold on a blue background.  The Greek letters Alpha and Omega hang from the horizontal axis of the cross and are a direct reference to the Book of Revelation ‘I am the alpha and omega, the beginning and the end….’ The ASSMB will hold a flag lowering ceremony at 5pm at the Stones to acknowledge Asturias.  Come along and enjoy this free event, taste some traditional food, toast Asturias and hear more about this Celtic area.

September 21st is the Spring Equinox. Check the ASSMB Facebook for details on our activities for this event.  We hope for a clear sunny day to watch the sun’s shadow fall on the solar noon spring equinox plaque.

The Declaration of Arbroath

by Garek Fysch

2020, marks the Declaration of Arbroath’s 700th anniversary. It was written at Arbroath Abbey where Robert I’s chancellery of government was located at the time. Written in Latin, the Declaration was sealed by eight earls and about 40 barons. The letter emphasised Scotland’s right to be a nation, sowing the seeds of Scotland’s independence and was addressed to Pope John XXII.

Plans for the Declaration to go on display at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh on Friday March 27 were cancelled when the Museum was shut as a precaution against the coronavirus. Today, only 19 seals remain, and the document, which is cared for by the National Records of Scotland, can only be occasionally displayed in order to ensure its long-term preservation. So if the letter was addressed to the Pope in Avignon, France, what is it doing in Scotland?

The answer is simple. The letter that was sent to Avignon – the copy that actually went to the Pope – is lost. What we have is a copy written at the same time. It’s still 700 years old and that’s the document that survives today that we call the Declaration of Arbroath.

What it was originally called is a mystery. The name Declaration of Arbroath has only been in use for about 100 years. The Declaration is about A3 size and was originally thought to have been written on calfskin. The consensus now is that it is written on sheepskin.

It famously said: “For as long as 100 of us shall remain alive, we shall never in any wise consent submit to the rule of the English, for it is not for glory we fight, nor riches, or for honour, but for freedom alone, which no good man loses but with his life.”

Garek Fysch D Ua
Chair Caledonian Society Glen Innes


Dancing the Celtic Seasons

By John Rhys Jones

Imbolc and Springtime at the Solar noon array at the Australian standing Stones

In Glen Innes Highlands, we are blessed to experience the changing seasons in many ways, from the snowy cold of winter to the blazing heat of summer, in the magnificent colours of the trees in and about our town, in the red and golden autumn displays enjoyed during the Australian Celtic Festival to their budding and flowering blossoms of springtime, as well as in the beautiful Australian natives like wattles in spring to bluebells throughout the summer, not to mention the seasonal changes of local birdlife of parrots, honeyeaters and wrens.

The changing seasons were tremendously important to the Celtic speaking people, who like our own region today, had such a strong dependence on agriculture. Rather than marking the seasons from equinoxes and solstices, the Celtic tradition – celebrated in abundance throughout its mythologies and poetry – marked the changing seasons from the ‘cross-quarters’, the halfway times between the equal daylight times of the equinoxes and the extreme long and short daylight times of the solstices.

From Maytime’s festival of Beltaine, August’s Lughnasadh, November’s Samhain and February’s Imbolc, the four seasons were marked, at the beginning of Summer, Autumn, Winter and Spring. Each season at its opening is tinged with the aspect of the season to come and developing to fullness before giving way to the next season. In Australia, being in the Southern Hemisphere, these seasons are offset by half a year, so that at the early May timing of the Australian Celtic Festival, it is the time of Southern Samhain.

Right now, in August we are enjoying the onset of Springtime, as the sunshine becomes distinctly stronger and warmer – despite the cold of winter bursting through and keeping temperatures brisk. In Australia, the cross-quarter of Imbolc has come to be held at the opening of August, with all the attributes of the Celtic Imbolc festival held at the start of February marked by St Brigit’s Day.

Imbolc, or its identically pronounced variant Oimelc, holds in its name the meaning of washing, lactating and purification. In the Irish myth Tochmarc Emer, Emer tells Cú Chulaind that ‘Oimell is the beginning of spring, the time when the sheep come out and are milked’, giving a strong seasonal sense for the time. Imbolc is regarded as deriving from Imb + folc ‘washing all around’. St Brigit patron of this period ‘was born at sunrise neither within nor without a house, bathed in milk’ as recorded by Douglas Hyde in 1899 in his Literary History of Ireland, bringing milk and washing together as a theme of purification.

St Brigit as an Irish patron saint brings her name through from Brigid, daughter of the Dagda. Brigid, recorded in the ninth century Cormac’s Glossary,  ‘was a goddess whom poets worshipped, for very great and very noble was her superintendence, therefore call they her goddess of poets by this name, whose sisters were Brigit, woman of smith-work, and Brigit, woman of healing, namely goddesses – from whose names Brigit meant to all ‘goddess’. She is ancient, her name meaning ‘Exhalted’, from the Sanskrit Brihari, and throughout the Celtic realms she was known: in Britain ‘Brigantia’ and Gaul ‘Brigindoni’.

Her father the Dagda owned a harp that called the seasons into being: He sang as he played this instrument “Come, oak of the two cries! Come, hand of fourfold music! Come summer! Come winter! Sounds of harps and bellows and pipes!” Brigid as a pure goddess of springtime stands in myth as the younger form of Modron the mother, whose time is in the summer.

At the Australian standing Stones, the Solar Noon array marks the shadow cast at the height of the sun every day, and has markers for the equinoxes and solstices, and monthly increments along the path. At the natural midday, the sun casts its shortest shadow of the day, and the shadow points to true south. At the winter solstice, the longest such shadow is cast, while at the summer solstice the shortest shadow is cast. The shadow lengthens and shortens during the passage of the year, but the length of the shadow does not change in a simple, linear way.


The cross quarters may be observed to see how long the shadow is, and there is a lovely proportion displayed in the distance between the equinox and solstice markers. At the start of May, during the Australian Celtic Festival, the length of the shadow falls 2/3 of the distance between the March equinox and winter solstice positions: this is the cross-quarter of Samhain in Australia. The final third of length grows to the extreme solstice position, and as the days grow longer again, at Imbolc the shadow has shortened by a third of the length back to the equinox. This means that 2/3 of the distance remains to shorten back to the equinox position in September. So while half a year elapses, from equinox to equinox, the path of the shadow can be divided into three equal lengths from equinox to cross-quarter, out to the extreme length and back to the next cross-quarter, and back to the equinox position again. This three-fold division is not only beautiful in proportion – it makes for a very useful way for farmers to know when the turn of the seasons will take place.

Across the Celtic world, the return of light and the hint of warmth was a great celebration to be had, and in one form or another the springtime in the form of the goddess Brigid was called to bring her promise of new life and purification. One form from Ireland goes along the form as follows, dancing around the house, a symbolic coming of spring:
‘Go on your knees, open your eyes, and let Brigit in! She is welcome! She is welcome! She is welcome! And in through the south door, Brigid would come in, and winter was gone, and all was well: Wonder! She is welcome, we see, so a toast!

“Mush! Se beatha agus a slainte!”

Read more on Imbolc at the author’s website Caer Australis

John Rhys Jones
Friend of the Festival

Other News and Updates

Next month we’ll have more updates for you on the 2021 Australian Celtic Festival – Year of Ireland & Isle of Man as well as more featured articles from our guest editors.

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