From Chapter Nine: THE NEMETON
It has long been a cliché that our Celtic ancestors worshipped rocks, trees, and other “senseless” things, or that the druids (as if they were a separate people) were wistful old wizards who either pined mystically in the misty glades or butchered everyone who wandered into their gruesome groves. Of course, these are all popular misconceptions and most people should know better, but we still hear of “neo-druidic” organizations who call their small groups “groves” as if they were somehow the “Druidic” counterpart to a temple, church, or mosque. This is a significant misconception as well. Sacred grounds or places are common to most religions, and there is no exception with our Celtic forebears.
The sacred ground was called a nemeton in Gaulish and Brythonic, and the word simply meant “sacred place,” related to the PIE root *nem-, “to measure out,” as in a sacred plot of ground.
Nemetons came in two basic shapes, quadrangular or circular. Rectangular nemetons were sacred to the Gods, and it is believed that the circular ones must have been sacred to the toutal Goddess who represented the land and was a sort of totem of the touta. This is because the circular shape symbolizes the middle world of the manifest world or the earth, while the square or rectangular shape symbolizes the four corners of heaven (see Chapter 3).
The nemeton of the Celts somewhat resembles in its dimensions and size the Norse (Germanic) vé and the interior of their temples, and its set-up matches closely the Vedic Indian devayajana, which was their counterpart to the nemeton. In the Vedic devayajana, we find that the shapes of the fires symbolized the three main levels of the multiverse, with the round fire for the domestic operations and the square ones for cooking.
From Chapter Twelve: PUBLIC RITES
Setting Up the Nemeton
This first ritual needs to be done before most any of the other rites can be done, but, once it is set up, one need never do it again. This is one of the things that sets Druidiactos apart from most Neo-Pagan traditions. Since we do not use the rituals of cabalism, commonly called “ceremonial magic,'' we do not need to consecrate and reconsecrate our sacred ground like most of the others.
A nemeton should be a sacred ground in a natural setting. A clearing in an oaken forest, on a hilltop, or near a natural body of water are ideal spots. This, of course, means that your touta will need property for this use. It is best to use a rural and secluded spot away from the noise and traffic of the mundane world.
The natural features of the site are of paramount importance. Oak trees are symbols of the high Gods in particular (Taranis, Taran, or Torannan). It is not necessary that your oak trees be the exact species of quercus robor, the “English oak.” A great variety of oak trees grow both wild and cultivated in in North America and Europe, and all of them are indeed sacred.
The nemeton should be a plot of ground anywhere from the size of a small garden or back yard to that of a football field. The central area of it should be about nine paces long by three paces wide. It must be clear of all grass, weeds, twigs and other debris. The soil should be flat and pounded down, with a small, level mound in the center. A square pit should be dug to the east and a round one to the west. These pits should be about one yard in diameter or one yard square. This rectangular enclosure should be laid out with its long axis running east-west.
The whole nemeton site should be clean of any pests and cleared of high weeds and any rubbish found in the area. Trees surrounding the area should be decorated with bird feeders to attract the delicate creatures that sing their beautiful songs and cast omens.
Your nemeton may be decorated with flower gardens, but it should also be surrounded with a bank and ditch. This ditch should be dug about one or two feet deep, with an embankment surrounding the entire lot. This surrounding boundary is called an airbe druad [awr-rib-eh droo-a].
The pits will be used for building the sacred fires, and the whole nemeton area should be open to the sky. Surround the fire pits with gravel and rock and cover them with iron grills which may be lifted without difficulty. The round fire pit symbolizes the domestic fire, the home, and the middle world or mediomagos at the sacred center. The square fire pit is the fire of the heavens, symbolizing the world of the Gods and the sun in the sky. The round fire is used for cooking the sacrificial meal. It is a sort of holy barbecue pit or campfire. The square fire is where the offering of the adbertos is placed, that is, a portion of the food is actually burned on it. Additionally, the round fire symbolizes not only the hearth and home, but also the land of the touta and the Goddess of that land. This is why this hearth is used for cooking.
During the adbertos, the square flame becomes the focal point when the offering is placed upon it. The flames eating away at the food, fuel, and incense become the visual image on which all gathered fix their attention and upon which they meditate. Everyone should gaze at the burning fire or embers for at least ten to fifteen minutes, closing his or her eyes and attempting to retain a mental image of the flame or flames. It is very important that these fires be built up very carefully with attention to safety and the proper materials.
A semicircular fire pit should be dug to the southeast of the domestic firepit. This semicircular shaped hearth is called the dexouiotenia DEKHS-so-wee-oh-TAYN-yah], “south or right-hand fire.”