Author: Primal Heart

I’m a Gaelic Polytheist. I consider myself to be an American Celt. I practice intuitive witchcraft. I’m a public High Priestess. I have a morbid affinity with blades, warfare, bloody, dead things, bones, and generally stuff that makes my mother’s skin crawl. I’m an artist, occasional writer, and a storyteller. I believe in the power of fairytales that imprint themselves on our souls. I walk between the worlds and a dreamer of the fantastic. I’m wild, more than a little unrefined, blunt, decadent, and have been known to be a bit much for most people. I’m a complete and utter geek, and an out of shape jock. I’m an Amazon, a Barbarian and a Heathen Queen. But the number one thing to know about me is that I love life. I love humanity. In all it’s messy tragic beautiful joyous packaging.

Google Scholar for Polytheism!

I woke up this morning with the very clear thought in my head to do a blog post on how I use Google Scholar as a resource in my studies for my devotions and polytheism. A rather dry and boring topic but hey, maybe someone will get some use out of it somewhere.

For those of you that don’t know there is a specific search engine of Google that only indexes and searches scholarly and published material. It is not your standard Google search, but a whole different search engine all of it’s own. In Google’s own words, “Google Scholar provides a simple way to broadly search for scholarly literature.”

The benefit of Google Scholar to your polytheism practice is that it means you will not have to weed through geocities type websites wondering where exactly someone got the information that the Morrigan is associated with pumpkins. None of that is going to be in Google Scholar, because Google has created criteria for what is “scholarly literature” and they stick to that. Most of Academia do everything they can to get their works in Google Scholar as a result, because it provides more discoverability for them and their careers.

The difference between an academic paper and a website mostly comes down to standards of sources and peer review. I am not saying you can trust absolutely everything you read in an academic paper you found on Google Scholar. That is just silly. Papers are written by people, who have agendas, and biases, and Google Scholar is also filled with historical scholarly content which will have theories and viewpoints that have long since been proven incorrect. These are all incredibly important things to remember when researching anything. That being said, there is a standard of citing sources, and even peer review that means there is more reliable information in these papers than a random website that pops up. Because all it takes to put up a website is server space and a domain. Publishing a paper takes a bit more leg work.

Alright, one more disclaimer and then we’ll push on to the meat of it. I am by no stretch of the imagination a professional academic. This is all my very amature way of trying to build up my understanding and studies of the culture and the history of the Gods that I worship. If you have better methods you would like to share, if there is something I am missing, please feel free to comment and let me know!

Step 1: Go to Google Scholar! Search!

Fairly easy step. Go to https://scholar.google.com, and you will be presented with a search box that looks very familiar but in fact is different.

Here you can enter the search term you would like to find articles on. If you are like me, you may have forgotten that there is a wide variety of advanced search commands you can use to best utilize getting the search results you want. You can find a list of these commands on this website.

The two most useful ones in my experience are using “parentheses” to search for exact phrases and the minus (-) command. For example if you wanted to search for “Irish poetry” -Yeats, you would get results that contained the exact phrase “Irish poetry” but did NOT contain Yeats.

This can be super useful when you try looking for something and notice that you keep getting results that are not what you are looking for.

Step 2: Looking through Results!

Alright! Now we got some results. How to decide what’s worth looking at and just general info.

Google Scholar Screenshot

The first thing I would like to note is the option in the red box on the left hand side of the screenshot. There are two options “include patents” and “include citations”, generally speaking for polytheistic studies you aren’t going to be looking for patents, so you can go ahead and turn that off. You may want to include citations however, as that will give you the names and authors of articles that many other articles are citing in their works. It is likely that they won’t be available online for you to read, but if you have access to a college library or contacts you might be able to track them down, but you can disable them if you just want articles.

Next is to look at the information under the Title. That includes the Author, Institution or Journal, when it was published, and maybe platform it is on. This is all important information to look at and can tell you a lot about the article.

Publishing Date: As I mentioned before there is a lot of historical published articles that are in Google Scholar. You can get a feel for what information is going to be up to date, vs what might have some historical biases, based on when it was published.

Anything published in the Victorian Era, so 1800’s, is going to have out dated information in it. Archaeology, history, and just academic understanding has come a long ways since then. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t also have good information in it. It just means that you will need to read it with a critical eye (you should do that with everything but you get what I’m saying). The Victorian era in particular, besides being filled with racism, was also a time when Ireland was under colonial rule by England. A fact that colors a lot of the papers written at the time. Additionally you will find a lot of classicism in regards to deities in these papers. This is where you will read about Lugh being a sun god and other Irish deities being the “Irish Mercury” and so on. It is important to know the lens that you are reading a paper through.

Some other things to look into is the Celtic Revival, or the Celtic Twilight, and the schools of thought prevalent during those time that will likely be present in papers written during those times.  

Honestly, just learning the different eras schools of thought is a study all of it’s own. You can get into nativist vs anti-nativist theory, the “Celtic Migration”, and probably a whole lot that I am not even aware of because as I said I am not a academic in the field. Just a Branwen being a nerd.

Author: This one I usually pay a little more attention to this after I have read the article but it can be useful before as well. You can look up the author and see what institutions they studied at which will tell you something about where and how they got their information. If they are a professor your can sometimes get bios on faculties sites as well that can be helpful. How is this helpful you ask? Well, is this an American born academic that has always lived in the USA? Or is this a British born academic? Do they or have they ever lived in Ireland? Did they study at an Irish institute? These things again can give you an idea about the lens that they are speaking from.

Plus knowing the author means you can look up to see what else they have written. (Moar Homework!)

Source Information: So if you see JSTOR, that means it’s available on JSTOR, other publication and online journals might be listed. JSTOR there is a good chance that it is available to read online for free with a JSTOR account. One thing you are going to realize and run into quickly is what are known as “Pay Walls”. That means that you would need to be with an institution (college, university, etc) that is paying for a subscription to the journal to read the article, or sometimes you can pay to download the article (usually around $20).

Academics need to be paid just like the rest of us, and while I do believe that we will eventually get to a full Open Access model of education, we aren’t there yet. BUT there are a lot of open access articles you can find, AND if you live near an awesome library you should see if you can go get access through them (Libraries are the best.)

Cited By: Underneath the blurb about the article you will see a link that says “Cited By” and a number. This indicated how many other papers in Google Scholar cite this one as a source. They will also link you to those articles.


Step 3: Read all you want! Set up alerts, swim in information!

Once you go through and find the articles that are available for reading online, you can also set up alerts so that whenever a new article matching that search criteria is indexed into Google Scholar. To do that you can click on the “Create Alert” link in the purple box in the left hand of the screenshot. This will then send you an email when new articles are indexed and meet your search. Magic! Information straight to your inbox.


That’s all I got for you today folks! I hope that this shined a little light on a new tool for you to use in all your lore seeking needs.

If you liked this and would like to see more content like this. Let me know! Send me a message or comment. I’m always curious if this kind of information is too dusty and dry or what. But then again I also believe that we should share our resources so that we can all have access to what we need for self betterment.

Happy hunting! May the information that you seek find it’s way to you and you have the wisdom to use it for the greater good.

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Reflections of the Dark Moon

She is in the sound of bare feet running across the dirt and stone. The thud of bone hitting earth and making it stronger. She is the song without words but whose depth of truth is unquestioned. The cry of beast and mortal alike. Hear her in your beating heart as the pounding drum. Hear her in your mind as the wailing carnyx. A force of nature. A force pushing you to beyond. Beyond your current limits. Ever striving. Ever changing. Ever thriving.

The Dark Moon. The Full Moon. The Summer. The Winter. She is there.

It is the Samhain season, and there is much to do, but there is also a need to sit back and reflect. The bones have been released on my altar. The Ancestors are getting their daily offerings and prayers. The Morrigan’s Holy day was marked in the dark of night under a fog covered sky in the Oakland hills. Every day is full with work.

Work that brings my household money and stability. Work that keeps my household healthy and feeling supported in the hard times we are currently in. Work to prepare for the new year in the Cauldron and what we wish to offer the community. Work for my household Gods and Spirits, to continue our mutually beneficial relationships and bring them honor. Work to shore up and refresh my wards for the house, my loved ones and myself. Work to become a better person.

Amongst all that work it would be easy to get lost. To focus solely on what is directly in front of me and move forward. But moving forward without knowing where you have come from means that you may not realize where you are going. So I wanted to take a moment to pause. The Great Queen wanted me to take a moment to pause.

Herself has been very present this season. The shadows are more than a little deeper. My emotions are a little stronger. Under the surface bubbles and restless energy, it can be harnessed and focused to accomplish so much, but it also threatens to overwhelm and fantasies of literally running wild are never far away. These are some of the markers of the Great Queen’s presence to me. The feeling of a deep endless chasm within me that will never be filled and never run dry.

Several years ago during a trance ritual with the Morrigan it seemed important for me to start working on some form of divination skills. This was difficult for me. It’s not a skill I am particularly attracted to or one that I feel that I am good at, but there was something in the practice of prophecy that clearly she felt would be good for me. That is the crux of my relationship with the Morrigan. Becoming a better version of me. The better version of me that she sees even when I do not.

So I bought Brian Froud’s Heart of the Faerie Deck and started doing readings and it was remarkably easy to listen to them. Now whether or not they had anything useful to say, is another question entirely. I didn’t bother with a Tarot deck. Something about Tarot has just never appealed to me. There are some truly beautiful cards but it’s just…not for me.

I don’t read for people often or even for myself. When I do people seemed to genuinely get something out of it and I have started giving myself calendar year readings annually. For a while that seemed enough.

Not this year. Time to step it up and branch out lol. It started earlier in the year with the random idea that I would like to have another deck, not just those wilde Faeries, to read with. But as mentioned Tarot still seemed not for me, so then was the somewhat difficult task of finding another Oracle Deck that I could speak with. The timing of finding a possible deck has worked out in that witchy way. My dearest sister, Brenda called my attention to the “With Your Shield or On It” deck by Pam Wishbow on my instagram. It was an insta-buy. Something I don’t do often. They arrived a few days before the Dark Moon and the Morrigan’s Holy Day, and as soon as I had them in my hands I realized that I would need to spend time getting to know them and learn their language. It wasn’t one I could already speak like my Froud deck.

It just seemed correct to do a daily card pull to get to know the deck, to see if it was the right one for me. From Dark Moon to Dark Moon seemed natural. Asking the Morrigan to bless the deck and open my eyes was second nature. We are seven days in and I can now see a little of how good of a practice this is right now.

Life is more than a little full and hectic right now. A family member is in the hospital, my partner is on leave to help in their care. Our “normal” has been packed up for another time. Spending some small minutes in the morning to sit in the quiet. To shuffle the cards. To think about yesterday and wonder about today has been supremely beneficial.

Added to that is the fact that there has been a lot of energetic shifts happening around me. In communities I am apart of, in neighboring communities, and just everywhere I look to be honest. This Dark Moon of the Morrigan’s  I told her and felt the truth that it felt like the long holding pattern I was in for many years is over. I am no longer treading water. I am moving forward. This practice of prophecy, of divination, is one of looking in all directions and listening. When there is so much going on, it is important to listen. To be in closer in connection with her voice, to hear warnings, to see patterns, to know.

For all that I am grateful. To the Great Queen who constantly inspires me and drives me, I am humbly grateful.

To all those seeking, my best advice to you is to listen and act. Don’t let the doubt freeze you into inaction. Start small. Start with something manageable, but doable. A prayer once a week. An offering on the Dark Moons. Deciding to read one of her stories and legends. Listen while you are doing these things and take time to reflect.

May this time of great depth and possibility give you what you need to reach a new personal level. May you continue to thirst for greater understanding and mastery of yourself. May your loved ones be safe and protected. May your household be prosperous and joyful even in times of stress. My the Great Queen bless us.

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Magic. Protection. Safety.

 

Doing : Devotional Practice to the Dagda

Shoulders back. Head up. Go for it. Do the work.

This is my mantra this morning. It is my mantra most of the time but especially when I am feeling particularly stressed and just kind of crappy. I am having one of those times right now. Summer Funk. Awakening to my heart rate being elevated as my mind launches into the rotations of things I need to do better, things that have impending deadlines. How I am falling behind. How I need to be better. It’s stress induced. It isn’t logical. It can lead to headaches and just in general feeling like trash. An infestation of brain weasels and not a brain dachshund to hunt them down in sight.

But that’s life, at least life as I have known it. These things happen, they will pass and happen again. Yet there is still work to do and sometimes the way through is to just keep working. Do the thing! Like writing this blog 😉

So where were we? Learning. Good, good. Keep doing that. That never stops. It is like breathing. But now that you know some things, now that you feel acquainted with the Keeper of the Lore, now what?

Do something.

The what and the how are really not as consequential as you might think. If you were reading the stories and myths and learning about the Irish culture, chances are that some things have jumped out at you as being things that sing with the melody that the Dagda sings. They might have felt red, had a heat, and made your heart feel a couple sizes larger. Take those themes, take those lessons, and go make them a reality in the world.

Maybe it was service to community that stood out to you?

Go be of service. There a thousands of ways this can take shape in your life specifically. Volunteer opportunities. Helping to put on events. Just being that steady person that comes to events and welcomes folks. Sending emails. Typing up notes. Putting together a book group. Online participation in groups and discussions. Being a moderator in an online group. It doesn’t have to be a physical bodily action, because hey not everyone can do that, but there is work to be done on a huge spectrum that can fit into your life. The key is to see how you can help. Not just benefiting from the community you are in, but also giving back in some way.

I think that community is a major theme that I have seen come up for those who are in devotion to the Dagda over and over again. It was one of the first real missives that I felt from Herself and the Good God. “Go find your people. Be a contributing part of community.”

Makes sense. He is a Chieftain. Hard to be a Chieftain without people to care for. Finding community is rough. Not going to lie. On the one hand it is easier with the internet, on the other hand making connections with people is scary and has a whole slew of other problems and risks with it.

I think one obstacle in finding community, especially spiritual community, is thinking you have to find people that practice and believe exactly as you do. Honestly, I just don’t know that it’s possible, and can lend itself to situations where group dynamics and relationships aren’t healthy.  You don’t need uniformity to have commonality. Healthy relationships are more important than worshiping the same Gods.  Something to be aware of and think about before joining a new spiritual group or community.

If there just isn’t a community around you, online or in person, well…that is likely it’s own missive. I’m not going to tell you anything in absolute terms here, because this is just my weird limited experience that hopefully you get something out of, but if you consider the Dagda is a builder, then you may be called to build. As a follower of his it was a big and on going lesson, that if you want a thing, you might have to build it your own damn self. I’m not saying it isn’t possible to be a devotee of his and do more solitary non-responsibility non-leadership heavy things, because what the hell do I know (it might be totally possible!) but for me, in my observations, these things go hand in hand.

(Little tidbit from behind the scenes: The Cauldron of the Celts started out as the Cauldron of the Dagda, true story.)

I’ll talk more about putting on public event type things in later parts of this series, and if you want to start building a local community platform but have no clue where to start, I’m happy to talk and give you what advice I have to give. It is an undertaking.

All that being said, you don’t HAVE to take on creating a community platform or public anything for the work to bring you closer to the Dagda. Not at all. There is after all so much work to do!

Here is one way to think about it: The Learning stage is like first being introduced to each other. So that you would recognize one another in a social situation. Then how do you become better friends? You do things together! That’s it. Your actions are the follow through and the energy that it takes you to show who you are as much as it is getting to know him better.

So what do you want to do? Want to learn Irish? Do it! Want to write poetry? Go for it! He loves poetry. Write a blog. Bake bread. Volunteer. Set a goal. Start meditating. Take a class. Sing. Read stories to children. Journal everyday. Choose a thing to do for/to/with the Dagda and do it.

It is really that simple.

Look. My way is not flashy. Not really. I mean, I enjoy my comforts and luxuries (I will be bringing sheepskins and eating off golden platters whenever possible, trust me), but the core of it all, my actual beliefs and practice and relationships with my Gods is simple. I honor them. I learn. I try to learn how to respect their culture, their lore, and wisdom. I undergo deeds and tasks in their name because I believe it will please them and because I feel it will make me into a better version of myself according to what I have learned. Ultimately that is so I am a better me for my household, community and the world.

So again it comes back to what “connection” means to you. For me, in this series and the context of this stage of doing, connecting to the Dagda means feeling like I am doing his name honor. I’m doing something he will be pleased with. Just the same as you might do something for a loved one or family member. There are lots of things that I do that I know one of my parents would smile and be happy to know I was doing. I watched a favorite movie of my fathers, and it reminded me of him. So I text him and let him know.

Doing things spiritually is much the same for me. I did something that I think would make the Dagda smile, so I let him know. I say a little prayer. In my head. Out loud. It just depends. It can be long. It can be short. It can be as simple as “Praise the Dagda!”, because the important part is the action that is spirit filled. Through that action I feel closer to my Gods, and sometimes those actions lead to greater understanding of their lore or their missives in my life.

My spirituality is founded on the idea that it is what you DO, that is important. Philosophy and theory are all things that have merit but in the end people know where they stand with you by what you do. So it stands to reason that the Worlds, the Gods, the Spirits, know you by what you do in the same way. That’s why this portion is so important to me.

So what are you doing? 😉

To be fair, I’ll share first. I’m writing this series. So far I think it will be a 4 part series, but it was certainly something of a missive to do in his name. I am also running the Cauldron of the Celts with Victoria, our community space to worship, honor and rejoice in the Gods names. Part of that is for him, part of that is for others, and he helps guide me through the process, but the sense of community there and the presence I try to bring is very much in his honor. I keep my home a place of sanctuary, an on going process. Those are the major “doings” with other projects and devotions that bubble up and happen over time.

 

 

 

Learning: Devotional Practice to the Dagda

Ruadh Rofhessa – Red One Great in Knowledge

I don’t remember where I first heard of the Dagda.

It seemed fitting to start with a confession, just dive straight to the start of it. I don’t have a grand story about how he revealed himself to me, or my first time reading his name and being enraptured. I had been reading myths and legends since I was very small and I simply cannot pinpoint the exact moment of discovery.

Was it the first reading of the Second Battle of Mag Tuired? Where the Dagda says:

“I will fight for the men of Ireland with mutual smiting and destruction and wizardry. Their bones under my club will soon be as many as hailstones under the feet of herds of horses, where the double enemy meets on the battlefield of Mag Tuired.”  That is certainly something that would get my attention. The cadence and imagery of destruction makes my blood rush.

Was it when I read “How the Dagda got his Magic Staff” and his use of trickery and wit to gain the item of power? He was roguish, he was entreated to compassion, these were all things that would have endeared him to me.

Was it when I was reading of the Morrigan, and learned of their meeting by the river? There is something primal and complete in that story. No matter the translation it calls out to me. I may have met Him through Her, it is not impossible.

It is unknowable at this point. One thing I can tell you, is that my first connections with him were while learning.

We will pause here to unpack that particular turn of phrase, “my connections”, as it is one I hear often, and one that seemed to kick off this particular request from the Good God to myself. They question you will hear often is:

“How do I connect to him?”

“Connect” is the root there and the “how?” is the mystery, at first glance. But let us look again. “Connect” is one of those wispy magical words that can mean many different things depending on context and who you are talking to.

When I say “connect”, I mean the feeling of being in alignment with the energy or spirit. Connecting with the Dagda for me, brings about particular physical and emotional feelings that I have come to identify as his presence. It also means being in the presence of subjects, things, symbols, and actions that are things he enjoys or takes notice of.

This entire multi-part blog series is about the various ways I, personally “connect” to the Dagda.

That being said, my impression is that when some people say “connect” they may mean, a ritual/incantation/process that puts them into a trance/meditative state where the Dagda comes to them and gives them a message or speaks to them.

If that is what you are looking for you will not find it here. It just has not been my experience with him, or any of the Gods, and not what I mean when I say “connect”.

Instead, I will direct you over to Lora O’Brien and her amazing Journey to the Irish Otherworld and foundational Journeying techniques.  She often gives the class, online and in person, even away from her beloved island, while she is traveling which is much to the world’s benefit. That is the method that I recommend and would trust for that type of “connection,” and it would be in the Irish Otherworld that you may be able to meet the Dagda in that manner. Lora is a wonderful teacher, she will give you excellent tools and her audio journey’s have actually worked for me. I have a history of not being able to meditate or journey, so that was super impressive to me. And even if you do not have that particular type of connection while journeying, you will still gain a lot of personal insight.

For those of you that are ok with perhaps a little less glamorous form of “connection”, thanks for sticking around lol, and I will continue my tale of connecting through learning.

One of the Dagda’s many titles is  Ruadh Rofhessa, which Mary Jones’s Celtic Encyclopedia has as meaning “Red One Great in Knowledge”, which as far as everything I have read seems legit. It shouldn’t be surprising then that he encourages, enjoys, and facilitates the quest of knowledge.   

When I first discovered that particular title of his, whenever that was, it was one of those “ah ha!” moments. Another piece of the puzzle fell into place, another treasure chest opened. For me at least, a large part of my spiritual path and growth has also been one of self analysis and discovery. Part of feeling able to connect to the divine is being able to see parts of the divine within my own mortal self and recognize it in the world around me. When I first started to feel the affinity and draw to the Dagda, much like when I felt the affinity with the Morrigan, I spent a goodly amount of time trying to decipher what was my own confirmation bias of wanting to be in alignment with the powerful generous mighty Good God and how much just seemed true.

This was the first correlation that made the whole affinity seem more than just the desires of my heart. Yes, I want to be strong, and so may want an affinity with a strong deity. Yes, I enjoy food and pleasure, (who doesn’t?) that hardly seemed substantial enough. But! I am a nerd. Always have been. A book worm, as well as a bit of jock. Following that thread and the fabric it wove with all the other aspects of the Good God, devoting time and worship to him felt more than personal inclination. That being said, at this specific time in my life when I was looking for more than just personal inclination to my spiritual practice, I also learned that it was a silly and somewhat vain notion that I no longer hold with. Respecting the Gods and the culture they are from is a more important foundation, for me the most important. But I digress.

Now, if you are here and have had a passing interest in Gaelic Polytheism, or Polytheism at all really, you will have no doubt already come across the concept of this being a spirituality with homework. I won’t belabor that point any more, in fact what I will say is that I don’t actually think you have to get a degree in Celtic or Irish studies and read dry academic papers all the time to have a wonderful living spirituality with the Dagda or most of the Tuatha Dé Danann.

I do think you’ll need to learn however. I just happen to enjoy learning by looking over thesis and papers on archaeological finds and the breakdown of Medieval Irish bathing customs. I have several Google Scholar Alerts that are set up for when new things say “Ancient Ireland” and a few other keywords, because I’m a nerd and even though I didn’t pursue higher education I was privileged with a decent enough education to make those dry academic writings more accessible to me.

Learning however is a process that doesn’t have to happen in the clinical academic way and certainly not when it comes to learning that will bring you closer to the Good God.

You will rather quickly run out of articles about the Dagda specifically (unless you are fluent in reading French, then there is a tasty but expensive academic book that would likely give you much more time to chew through). Learning about his people, about Ireland, about the real people living there now and their history and struggles, will all bring about his energy. He is a deity of the people. A Chieftain. You don’t have to be specifically learning about him to learn about him.

You don’t have to read articles to learn either. The stories are far more important. They have been to me.

Stories, and especially the Irish myths, have so much to teach us and in such a deep way. You can read a story once and learn a certain detail, or catch a specific theme, then when you read it again you will learn completely new things. They are that rich with information and have a way of exposing pieces of ourselves that changes with our understanding. As you learn more about cultural context, history, and even as you just learn more about life, you will get more out of the stories. Which is why I read them often. I try to read multiple translations (unless I know they are bad translations). Revisiting them often has proven to be on the centering and rejuvenating parts of my practice. A type of coming home.

Learning the stories also helps to recognize and feel his presence. As you are reading about the great feats and the battles where he is present, you might start to take note of emotional and physical effects that regularly occur and signal his presence, his energy. Once I recognize it in the lore, I am able to identify it out and about in the world. Learning his stories and his people stories also means that I am able to tell them to other people and keep the names and deeds of the Gods alive and in glory.

It doesn’t just end with the old myths however. He is alive and present in new stories being told today, which are also amazing ways to connect and learn about him. There is going to be a resource section down below, however, this particular resource just needs more highlighting. You can get a lot from the old myths. Personally, every time the Dagda makes an appearance in them, he leaps from the page. A mountain of vitality, humour, loyalty, wisdom, strength, and more. That being said, there aren’t a lot of them and I found myself thirsty for more. More that depicted those things that many people didn’t seem to notice about him. At the time, and frankly until recently, his name was not known in the broader pagan circles that I had started communing with. To them he was a byline in bigger stories with shinier deities, or was the oafish male god no one really knew what to make of. I threw myself into making a case for him beyond this shallow understanding. I did it without conscious effort. He was ever present in my home, in my actions of hospitality, in my service to my community and speaking of him and his deeds would inevitably bring out the enthusiastic impassioned side of me. Yet, while several people came to understand him through my serving him, but that never seemed…enough? I couldn’t possible do it justice. An introduction sure, but I felt there had to be one story to show them the breadth of what made the Dagda, the Dagda, and why one would want to be devoted or honor him. But I could never decide which that was, frequently deciding it didn’t exist… and then, like magic, there was.

One of the side effects of always learning, is that it takes you beyond your comfort zone and you are introduces to new ideas, new people, new things. In the continued quest for learning of Ireland, my dear sister Victoria, introduced me to Lora O’Brien’s work, who in turn then brought the work of Jon O’Sullivan, aka An Scealai Beag, into my world. A modern Bard of the Dagda, forging new tales of the Good God. I highly recommend you read all of his stories on his blog. They all have an amazing depth and insight, and really from the old myths and these there is plenty for a starter kit to build a connection to the Dagda. All that being said, there is one story that I feel, encapsulates the depth and breadth of the Red One Great in Knowledge and his realness. It is a story that if I had an inclination to make priesthood to the Dagda would be one of the required readings. The story is “The Dagda’s Work”. We got to hear it told by Jon at PCon 2016 in ritual and I think I can safely say that was one of my favorite most cherished rituals to date. Go read it. Leave a comment for Jon. Come back and gush with me about it. I could talk about that story for hours.

All that being said, learning and connecting through learning, doesn’t just start and end with articles and stories. That might be evident in the above mentioned story 😉 One of the big things that I have learned in being devoted to the Dagda, is that it is important opening up your mind to the process of learning in all parts of your life. I try and remember that in my life. Learning is good. I can always learn more, really I know very little in the scheme of things. Learn things from people with different experiences than me. Learn from the daily acts of being a human being and having duties and obligations. Learn from nature and it’s capacity to thrive and the wisdom in it’s machinations. Learn from the skills that I already know and the ones that I’m still trying. Learn from the stories and media that permeate our culture. Learn from the art I create and is created around me. In all things learn.

I try and support educational measures and be supportive of those around me in learning as well. We as a society need to get into a mindset of encouraging learning, nurturing it, making it thrive. That change and attitude has to start with me in order for the change to start anywhere.

That’s where he comes in. A warm hand at your back supporting and encouraging you. The hearty pleasure at seeing others enjoyment in expanded their knowledge and being open to learning. The heavy weighted pressure in those situations where your beliefs and knowledge is being questioned and it is a moment to brace and gain more wisdom by opening up or be battered by my own close mindedness.

The first step on my path of connection with the Dagda was in learning. Learning his names, his stories, the people who were dear to him, his enemies. In learning of his culture, and of the history of the island that is his home. Learning of the troubles and triumphs of the people who still live in Ireland and are keeping it alive. Learning the language that is native to Ireland, and the words that shaped the stories. Continuing outwards and learning of the land I live on and the colonialism and history here. Learning of the people around me and our struggles and victories. Learning of the values and virtues that I hold dear, and why, and where do I find them in my life. Learning skills and facts and knowledge, and the happiness and strength it brings. It started with learning. It continues with learning, always learning.

In that vein, I will end this long rambling tale with resources you might be interested in. This is in no way an exhaustive list, or even that long of a list, (because eventually I realized I just need to post this blog). Think of it as a starter pack.

Articles specifically about the Dagda:

The Names and Epithets of the Dagda by Scott Martin

Following a Fork in the Text: the Dagda as briugu in Cath Maige Tuired by Scott Martin

Myths and Stories:

Mary Jones Celtic Literature Collective – Online translations of many of the Myth cycles.

The Third String – tales of the Dagda by Jon O’Sullivan, aka An Scealai Beag. Go read. Absorb.

Story Archaeology – They do have specific episodes featuring the Dagda. But really just listen to them all.

Tales of the Tuatha Dé Danann and The Treasure of the Tuatha Dé Danann by Morgan Daimler – Two very affordable books that have great translations of the old myths.

Other Resources/ People whose writing you should read:

Lora O’Brien – If you can take any of her classes, take them. Become a Patron if you can, it’s worth it. I recommend all of her books, especially the Practical Guide to Irish Spirituality.  If you are totally new to Irish Mythology, Lora has a great post on where to start.

Living Liminally – Morgan Daimler’s blog. Lots of wonderful translations and footnotes with bibliographies. A treasure trove.

Tairis – A Gaelic Polytheist website. A wonderfully in depth article all on the Dagda. Great articles with bibliographies. Again so many resources to discover here.

Coru Cathubodua’s Reading and Resources – This page has soooo many good articles and reading sources. Yes it is heavily focused on the Morrigan but there is a lot of amazing cultural, mythological, and historical pieces. Super inspiring, I should get my resources in such fine order.

 

 

Devotional Practice with the Dagda

I was sitting at my desk, enjoying the grey sky morning, when the amazing Lora O’Brien asked the Irish Spirituality group she runs on Facebook, “What one thing you would like to learn about the Dagda?”. It was a question that my mind immediately ran away with. So many things! What archaeological evidence is there? What modern Irish practices and culture resonates with him? What title does he like the best? The list ran long and I was thoroughly enjoying the replies that the question brought up. I started to feel that contented full heartedness that just comes with the Good God. It’s a warm larger than life feeling, it settles in the rib cage and then just expands out. You feel like you could do anything. You feel like anything in the cosmos is possible. You feel like you just climbed a mountain and are looking out on the expanse of the miracle that is nature and all your eye can see. You feel like you want to be at a table full of friends enjoying good food and drink. You feel like if someone challenged your abilities right now you would take that challenge with gusto and laugh heartily. It is about now when this one realizes that she has a Good God at her shoulder, while looking at the several people all asking to know how to connect to him.

It’s not really a conversation. It’s all feelings and impressions but my tiny little mortal mind takes it all and makes it into a story format that my limited consciousness can understand. So bear with me gentle reader, what I write below is not literally what happened, but then again…it is:    

Sitting as inconspicuously as possible at my very conspicuous desk in a very standard office, I let the large comforting and uplifting feelings of the Good God wash over me as I read the responses and think more on my plans for this weekend in the woods, making a mental note to buy him a large Guinness.  

“You should write about how you do things.”

I pause in my typing and general work. I didn’t hear anything, there were no sounds to hear, but I heard it all the same. The feeling on my heart increases, expands, the temperature rises. For a moment I smirk at the idea of hearts growing bigger and the physical, likely dangerous, impact on the human body. The humor is there and so is the strength, settled deep in the chest, in the bones and it has been many months since I have been honored with his presence this acutely. I consider my words, the feelings this small proposal brings up, the doubts, the excuses. None of them are fully formed thoughts and yet the Good God knows them all.

“The work continues on. You aren’t claiming to be anything but yourself. That is enough. You have created a space to share, so share. Others may find their way and more work will be done.”

I breathe deep letting the air fill the caverns of my expanded self. The host of self doubt, of feeling an impostor, of not being enough, remain. I am human and my psyche will always hold these scars, but I will not let them hold me back. I had not been asked to serve for some time. Not in this way. Many things had changed in the course of that time. I had wondered if I would feel this calling ever again or if that path was done.

“It would please me.”

A warm smile blooms on my lips. The path has not gone. It split off but it is as surely mine as it ever was and sometimes a Good God would walk with me. One that was deep, strong and red. One of life and death, of work and play, of love and loss, of the earth and the sky, of wisdom and of foolishness.

For him I will gladly do the good work.

Which, my readers, those of you who have come this far, means that I will be writing a series for the Dagda and posting it here. I already have been given some ideas on how to break things down, and this will really just be explanations of what I do and what has worked for me. Just one version of how this very American, Gaelic Polytheist has practiced Devotion to the Irish God known as the Dagda. Not the end all, or one true way, or how the ancestors did it. Just how I do. That being said, if anyone has questions or something they’d particularly like to know, I would love to hear them!    

Every Day Carry

Times are looking shady af. It is always a good time to think about emergency preparedness, and if you are wanting to also be of use to other people, it’s just something to think about. In that vein, the Lumberjack and I spent the day updating and taking inventory of our EDC’s and making list of things to get for an office kit for me. One of my dear friend’s asked to know what I carry with me, so in the vein here it is in case you find it useful or inspiring.

Now everyone’s EDC is going to be different, based on your needs and area. I hate carrying a lot of shit, so my EDC is as compact and minimum as possible.

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So this is it. Everything that fits in that little bag to the right. The bag is one that can be worn over the shoulder or as a thigh holster for longer distance walking. Starting over to the top left:

My keys, I attach to the outside of my bag with a 150 lbs carabiner. My keys include a small pepper spray unit. I like the small ones you can get pretty much anywhere so that it is out and easy to grab. It is also just good to have out for visual deterrent, rather than being buried in your purse.

My wallet, is that leather bag there. Inside I have a card with “Contact in Case of Emergency” information. This way if something happens to me people will know who I am and who to contact. I also keep a couple dollars change and will likely try to keep some nominal amounts of cash ($20 or so). Because where I work the electricity is dicey and cash is just handy. I also keep a card that has some duck tape wrapped around it in here. you can use and old gift card or any plastic card you don’t use and wrap a good amount of duct tape that won’t take up a lot of space. You can also wrap wire, thread, or fishing line.

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Beneath my wallet is a small clean handkerchief. Endlessly useful.

Next we have my medication bottle. This is going to be the big thing that I HIGHLY encourage everyone to make sure they have one them at all times. Enough of your medication for at least 48hrs. More if you can. I have my personal meds and ibuprofen in that container and have other first aid meds in the Lg. Altoids case.

Next we have my multi-tool and a pocket knife. I have my father’s Gerber Bluntnose Multi-tool.  Which is my preferred multi-tool. It’s slim, it is reliable. I also have a Gerber Remix Serrated folding knife. These are tools that are endlessly useful. In a folding knife, I want something thin and has quality blade.

Then we have a square  black makeup bag. This holds some loose end items, some example of which you can see to the right of it. This is where my earphones go, my glasses and glasses cloth, tampons, hair pins, a flashflight. Keeps everything neat and easy to get to. One thing I need to get that will go here is some beeswax chapstick.

Back to the top, is my check book.

Below that are a few pens, a sharpie, and a hair stick. Sticks are endlessly useful as a tool and for someone who has over 3 feet of hair.

Back to the top is my Clipper card (public transit card), a small Altoids tin (with actual mints in it) and a thing of post it notes.

The Large Altoids tin has some more first aid and survival stuff in it.  Which we will look at below.

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This tin holds some bandaids, two plastic baggies, one of which holds the following:

Strike anywhere matches
A pencil witch wire wrapped around it
Chalk
mini candle
Safety pins
My sewing kit. A piece of cardboad that I stuck a sewing needle into and wrapped some upholstery thread around and taped with masking tapes.
Fishing kit, has a goodly amount of fishing line and a hook

Then I have two zip ties, some aluminium foil, a garbage bag (doubles as a poncho if needed), and a swiss army knife.

Things that are missing from this kit because they got used and need replacing are:
Pepto bismol  pills
UTI pain pills
alcohol wipes

This is everything that I carry everyday in my purse. There are some items that I need to purchase to add to this. Some hand-sanitizer & sunscreen are at the top of my list. And the Lumberjack is talking me into carrying a stainless steel water bottle with me to and fro work. I currently have one at work but…I dunno. We’ll see. I see the use but I lose shit.

I will be making up a kit for the Office here soon that will be a little more in depth on the first aid and will include things like Milk of Magnesia and such, because I live in an urban area where tear gas is a thing.

People that are looking for a place to start in making an Earthquake emergency or just a general emergency kit for the home. There are pretty complete kits, it is a chunk of change up front but overall it would be just as expensive or more so to put it together piece by piece. Amazon has a 4 person Earthquake Kit for $105 and change.

Because I live in CA here is the FEMA Earthquake Safety Checklist for those wanting to get their emergency preparedness together.

There are a lot of things to consider in preparedness, especially in today’s current social climate. Stay safe out there! Be vigilant, and please do what you can to help those around you in need. This is a good guide for helping people being harassed (the comic is focused on helping those of the Islam community but I think it applies across the board): http://maeril.tumblr.com/post/149669302551/hi-everyone-this-is-an-illustrated-guide-i-made

 

 

 

When history adds to your modern practice

Today I dived head first down the rabbit hole of Google Scholar and a wide array of historical academic papers that are available to read. While saving a whole bunch to read later, one caught my eye.

Washing and Bathing in Ancient Ireland

A. T. Lucas

The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland

Vol. 95, No. 1/2, Papers in Honour of Liam Price (1965), pp. 65-114

I am relatively well known to be a woman of Feasting, as I consider food, the acts of hospitality and feasting to be a huge part of  my spiritual well being. There is however another portion that is likely not as well known because it’s just not something that I was able to concretely connect as “Gaelic” in my practice. Certainly it is something that has always been a important aspect of my practice, but I chalked up a lot of that to be unique to me. Sometimes, you read something and then you make historical and spiritual connections you didn’t “know” were there but were completely there and now can consider more ways to incorporate it. In this case it’s, Ritual bathing.

Since childhood the pleasure and just comfort of a good hot bath has always had a place in my heart. My household regularly used hot showers and baths as a way to help aid the healing process of headaches, colds, flu, muscle aches, and pretty much everything under the sun. There is the vinegar bath for a bad sunburn. The oatmeal and milk bath for chicken pox. The Epsom salt bath for other illness. When I moved out of my parents house, I started having intense migraines and stumbled on the remedy of showers where you turn the water to as hot as you can stand and then as cold as you can stand, repetitively. You kinda feel like your getting torn apart and are exhausted afterwards but for a long time it was the only relief I could find.  Along my witchcraft path I learned the value of purification baths, and adding a variety of other herbal and stone items for magical purposes. Likewise I discovered that while I sucked a meditation and trance work, I could easily slip into trance and meditation in a steamy shower or bath.

At that time, it made sense to me, in that water, especially running water, is a gateway to the Otherworld, and steam seemed associated with the mist and fog that is also seen in Irish myth and folklore to be a portal to the Otherworld. The act of bathing seemed to create a liminal state of its own that I’ve always felt connected to and it’s been a useful way to de-stress and in general keep emotionally balanced over the years.

But I had never made any stronger connections to Irish mythology or lore until recently. A few years back, my partner was experiencing some intense stress at work. Anyone who has a lot of stress in their lives, know how it just starts to take a toll mentally and physically. For some reason, I called to mind the story of the young Cúchulainn returning from battle still in his battle frenzy and being dunked/bathed in three vats of water to cool his furor and return him to a more human state. I felt a connection with the stresses and dehumanizing aspects that service jobs can reap upon a person and the inhuman state of Cúchulainn in the story. It seemed to me that the act of being bathed ritualistically as the young hound was, was a way of bringing him back into the fold of his people. Bringing him back to peace and civilization in some way. I started to use showering in this way, after work. A way to wash away the grim and rat in a maze feelings that Corporate America can bring, and return to a state of comfort, balance and humanity. It helped. It became sacred and essential in our comfort rituals.

The article highlights some facets of bathing and washing in Ancient Ireland and in Irish myth that I hadn’t taken the time to ponder before. In particular it’s connections with hospitality and even feasting(!).

It outlines various examples of how a bath was one of the requisite amenities given to a guest as part of the rules of hospitality. We are given the example of the bad hospitality of King Bres Mac Mac Eladain who had a poet of the Tuatha dé Dannan visit. He was conveyed to a small house which was narrow, dark and dim, there was neither fire, nor bath, nor bed. Three small cakes, and they dry, were brought to him on a little dish. The next day he rose and he was not pleased. From this and the other examples tales of Cúchulainn, King Donn, Mael Dúin, being greeted with lavish beautiful welcomings the included lovely women to bath them, the argument that having a comfortable and plush bath available for guests was considered the mark of a good household.

Comfort is one of the tenets of hospitality, and while I have generally considered my mother’s propensity for buying copious amounts of soft bath towels and having over flowing baskets of colorful washcloths available, to be her desire for a magazine type home,  I now look at it at it as being very gracious. If I were to show up at my mother’s house unannounced with 5 or more guests unexpected and we all needed showers, she would have clean fresh towels and cloths ready and waiting. I’m afraid I can’t say the same for my own. In fact to own the truth, my house has only a handful of towels and they are almost never all clean at once. Something to consider.

The article also make the connections to prestige and honor to be the first to bath, making several references to chieftains and kings being granted the right to “the first bath and the first drink” at a feast. There is some interesting information that makes a strong case that bathing of somekind (whether full body or hands and feet) were done prior to feasting. This makes sense in a logistical and hygienic sense, as well as adding a layer of ritual cleansing to feasting that just makes energetic sense. It also reminded me a lot of a podcast I was recently recommended, Dark Ages Feasting – The British History Podcast. Which, while predominately looking at Anglo-Saxon traditions, covered the ritual handwashing that took place before eating at a feast. He also pointed out how uncouth many of we modern folks are in comparison, how often do you actually wash your hands before a meal? More things to consider ;

The article only briefly touches on the connection of ritual bathing by women being connected to healing and magic, but there is enough to make note of and keep an eye out in further reading.

There is a lot of minutia of daily life in ancient Ireland, that perhaps not everyone would consider interesting lol, but I love it.  Things like theories of what sort of detergents they used, how they heat their water, what the tubs looked like, the different words that meant different types of bathing. These things don’t necessarily add anything to my modern practice, but they help to provide another piece of the puzzle to a worldview of the past. I feel like that helps to create a depth of understanding that solidifies my modern practice.

If you have made it this far in this much longer ramble than anticipated post, all of this is to say that I recommend the article lol. It has opened some ideas in my head as far as ritual feast  activities, and that I for sure need an lovely washing station in my future feasting hall. It reinforced  my I practice of using bathing for sacred ritual purposes as well as for community and hospitality building in some ways. More food for thought on how to relate to the every day life and I suppose a little window in how I break out academic articles and relate them to my practice.