Cauldron of the Celts

The Shiny Parts: Devotional Practice to the Dagda

Herein is the thing about being given a missive to write a series of blog posts by one of your beloved Gods, no matter the crazy, or how many obstacles that life throws at you, eventually the work bobs up again. Luckily, the Good God is a patient one and has been incredibly helpful and kind in recent times when I have needed support. But enough that, back to the task at hand!

When I last left you wonderful folks, we had talked about Learning being the starting point of connection to the Dagda and how that never ends. Which means you should still be on that Learning track, yes? Good.


We had also talked about the Work, and how after learning you then have to actually apply that into Doing. The “what” wasn’t as important as the act of breaking out of the theoretical and rolling up your sleeves to work. That my friends, is also an ongoing process, so I expect you are all merrily working a long.

But I know that those two things aren’t as satisfying an answer as some might be looking for in regards to making a connection with the Dagda. You might look at those two things and think that sort of spirituality or religion wouldn’t look any different from others on the outside. It’s too simple. Which to be fair, it is, but honestly that is the core of my devotions to most of my Gods and specifically to the Dagda. It’s not fancy. It’s not complicated. If I just had books, the internet, and living my life, that would be enough. I could still do it all with nothing on a desert island at this point, actually. Just with the knowledge and what I have learned thus far in my head. That’s honestly my goal. To be able to take my Gods and their teachings with me anywhere and without need of anything more than myself.

“But Branwen!,” I hear you say, “You are notorious for carting around all kinds of ridiculous accoutrement over hill and dale regardless of the weight!” You aren’t wrong. I do. Happily. Gladly, and I like to think with panache. But I am a firm believer in knowing the basics, know the roots, and THEN go hog wild and dress it up however you fancy. The heart has to be strong and in alignment, otherwise everything else is just glamour and shallow.

That being said, if you have made it this far, questing traveller, then you get to read me prattle on and on about all the trappings and shiny things that I too enjoy and take much reverence in, and do help in their way to build a strong connection.

 

Altars and Shrines – I want to be a Pagan damnit!

dagdaaltar2017

Altar and offerings to the Dagda on his holy day August 9th 2017

I admit it. One of the appeals of being a pagan or a polytheist, for me at least, is embracing an aesthetic that I have always been attracted to and just holds a deeper meaning when added to my beloved Gods. Our aesthetics may vary, but the power of props and surrounding yourself with the visuals and items that make your heart beat and your soul feel bigger can help you to feel more yourself, more powerful, and more in touch with the Gods.

One place to start with this is building an altar or a shrine to the Dagda in your home, place of work, or yard. “What is an altar? what is a shrine?”, you ask. Good question. Ask a different polytheist or pagan and you will get a different answer, but for the sake of this piece and really this blog in general, the following definitions apply (your mileage may vary):

Altar: Is a set space, usually flat (such as a table top, or shelf) where items associated with the Deity are artfully arranged to focus devotional energy and give the Deity the open invitation to come and be at home here. It is a place where offerings can be set, where items can be charged, and where additional spellwork or prayers are worked. An altar can be set up, taken down, rearranged, cleaned, and moved whenever needed. Some of the items on the altar might be the practitioners, some might be dedicated to the Deity, it’s all interspersed and mingled.   

Shrine: Shrines can take many shapes. They can be contained in a open shadow box type construction, on a flat surface, portable, immovable, you name it. They tend to center around a statue or image of the Deity and are the focus of devotional energy for offerings and petitions to said Deity. Shrines undergo a ritual instantiation of the Deity’s energy into the iconography so they know they are always welcome here and the prayers and offerings are being made directly to them. Offerings and prayers can be left at the shrine and usually collect until a specific time when the shrine is cleaned and the offerings are ritual disposed of. Most items on a shrine are considered property of the Deity.

If either of these call to, you then go for it! They don’t have to be big and should fit into your lifestyle and needs. I don’t personally prescribe to any “You must have X, Y, Z, to be an altar”. My altars have changed and shifted depending on my moods, needs, and just where we are in the year. There is not a lot of historical evidence for what might have been on an altar in Ancient Ireland or even if altars were a household practice (unless I’m missing something, and if I am and you know of articles and information let me know!). But it is a practice that makes sense and has a cross cultural appeal, so one that I have incorporated into my practice.

altarfromthepastIn that vein of making things work for you, you don’t have to have a specific altar for each individual deity. But maybe you want to give it a try and set up a space just for the Dagda when you are starting this new relationship, or deepening it. Even if it is just a specific corner of a larger altar. Go with what works for you.

You might want to start with an item or image of an item that you particularly associate with the Dagda.  A piece of artwork that really calls out to you and evokes those same feelings you get when you read his myths and stories.

My friend Marjorie, has a great practice of creating collages of different images that then help to evoke the different aspects of the deity. You can see things like this on Tumblr a lot. She prints them out and puts them in frames for the altar. Not sure where to get started? Feel free to look through my An Dagda pinterest board. Those are all images that stand out for me.

The other idea that stands out and is one that I immediately took to was getting a cauldron (or fifty), because of his association with the Undry, the cauldron of plenty, as one of his many treasures. Cauldron’s don’t have to come from a witch shop, don’t have to cost a lot of money, and really lots of vessels can become cauldrons if you decide to make them that. I suggest checking out your local thrift stores regularly for some finds. Usually they appear in the home decor or flower pot area. You can find some great brass ones. But do not be daunted, until a cauldron catches your eye a lovely deep bowl can easily serve as a cauldron. I have several wooden bowls that shapeshift from cauldron, to bowl, to well, as needed.

What other items jumped out at you in the myths and lore that you are reading?

It was important to me to have a representation of the Dagda’s club, the lorg mór. That’s not something that I felt I could just find in a thrift store or order online. So I went out to my local woods and spent some time looking for the right branch, and fashioned it into my own little mini club that fits on the altar to represent the lorg mór and the power of life and death. This neatly combines all the previous steps we talked about in devotions to the Dagda. I learned about the club, learned it’s name the lorg mór (working on being able to pronounce this regularly). Then decided I need to go out and create an icon of it. Went out in the woods, spent some time thinking and praying to him. Then spent the time and devotion making the icon. The act of creating an altar is an act of devotion. You can layer it with as much energy, love, and dedication as you feel called to do.

dagdacauldronandclubSome other associations that I make that you might look over for your own altars are listed below. I noted if things that are purely UPG (Unverified Personal Gnosis) and you can go ahead and ask me about anything you like:

Cauldron
Irish Harp
The Club
Boars/Pigs
Horses
The color red (this is not solely the Dagda but UPG particularly for dark ruddy clay red)  Red Jasper and Tiger Iron (UPG) Oak Trees
Sid in Broga, Brú na Bóinne, Newgrange (It should be noted that the Brú na Bóinne changes ownership to Aengus, his son in the lore but I still feel there is that familial connection) because of this UPG for the Newgrange spiral being associated with him
Oats
Bread (UPG)

So go out. Look around your house. Embrace your local thrift store. Patron your favorite artists. Create a little Dagda space in your life. Embellish it with the style and fashion that is you. For me that involves furs, leather, antlers, bones, horn, rocks, and metal items. But maybe you are a more clean lined modern aesthetic. Go for it. Then use it!

If it’s an altar, I will put the books that I am studying Irish culture and lore on it for the Dagda to give me a little insight into the. I put my jewelry that I would like blessed by him up there too. If an Oak tree gifts me with a leaf or acorn on my daily walk I set it up there in appreciation. I make sure to pour and give offerings.

It’s a place to come to and say prayers specifically for him. A focus point to seek guidance and do divination readings to get messages from the Good God. Keep it clean. Keep it well loved and hopefully it will serve you well in return.

Offerings – Connection through Giving

Above in the altar and shrine section, I mentioned that being a place to set out offerings, but what exactly is an offering? What is a good offering for the Good God? What do you do with it? All excellent questions. Let’s discuss below!

What is an offering?  

It occurs to me now, that it would be interesting to go through and look to trace down the archaeological, folklore, and mythic, examples of offerings and offering practices in Ireland throughout history. Suffice to say I have not done that yet but it does make me happy to think about. In any event. Offerings is the practice of giving a gift of reciprocity or an act of propitiation to spirits and deities. It is a spiritual practice that has deep roots in many human cultures and is still seen in Irish folklore and wisdom in leaving milk and butter out for the Good Folks. Below I’m going to link to two excellent articles that cover more history and depth of what a offering is and I highly suggest anyone unsure or curious to go ahead and give those a read and then come back.

Tairis article on Offerings

Morgan Daimler’s Offerings to Gods and Spirits

For me and my practice, offerings are how the connection with my Gods are maintained. It’s how we keep in touch. It’s how I show them I revere and am devoted to them. It’s how I ask for their blessings. It really is that simple.

What is a good offering for the Good God?

The good news is that if you have already started on the Learning and Working parts of this particular series then you, my friend, are already making offerings to the Good God. Congratulations!

That being said, the articles above talk a lot about tangible (largely food) based offerings, so let’s go over some options and ideas for that and then we will talk about the non-corporeal type offerings afterwards.

dagdaofferings
As you read in those articles, and if you are reading the lore and stories, I am sure you can imagine that whole milk or cream and Irish butter will never go amiss as an offering. Across the board really. Delving deeper into the stories you might glean some ideas for other offerings yourself. Things like, porridge, pork, baked goods, and stew, all come to mind.

For the Dagda’s holy days, I usually try to make a feast meal that I think he would enjoy. Usually pork plays a central role, and from there we add just good well made, well loved food and flavor. Then I make sure he gets the first and best plate. It goes up on the altar and ta da! Offering served.

But making big meals is not really something a person can do everyday. Not that you have to give offerings everyday. There are other options that I use on a more regular basis that are more liquid in form.

If you are ok with alcohol, then a good beer, or a good whiskey, or good mead, make for a good offering.
toastingofferings
Food offerings aside, there are other tangible offerings that seem to me to alway be appreciated. These things include devotional crafting/arts. Poetry, calligraphy, artwork, sculpture. If you make something for him. With him in mind. That is a beautiful offering and can also make for wonderful altar additions.

What do you do with the offering?

This comes up the most in regards to the food and beverage offerings. It’s a question that I had starting out and something I’m still evolving in my practice.

For food items, I usually leave them overnight and then either put them in the compost if possible or put them in the bin if not. No one wants molding rotting food on the altar.

Now there are some folks who are in the “offer it to the Gods and then consume it yourself” camp, and there are some in the “if it is for the Gods it is for the Gods” camp. I gotta tell ya that I can see the argument on both sides. From what I can tell the evidence for Irish tradition leans towards the “What is for the Gods is for the Gods” but that doesn’t mean you can’t have your own practice. It means go research, look into the sources, figure out your practice and needs, talk to the Gods and do what is best for you.

I personally let food items be for the Gods, unless otherwise guided in the moment by inspiration. Beverages when out and about, such as at a restaurant and wanting to buy a drink for the Gods, can sometimes fall under the “I drink, you drink.” clause. Above all be respectful and be mindful, and for the love all:   DON’T LITTER.

We have enough going on in climate change, and wrecking our ecosystems and natural resources. There are way more people in the world now, so some practices that were ok back in Ancient times now fall under the umbrella of Littering and please don’t do that.  Lots of the food we eat today causes havoc on local wildlife. Not to mention making a mess in publicly shared nature spaces is just rude. So be smart. Think about the environment. Don’t litter.

Other devotionally created items can make great pieces for your altars or given as gifts to other devotees.

Non-Tangible Offerings

Food and libations make up a good portion of my offerings but by no means encompass all of them. Nor does tangible devotional creations. There is more that can’t be so neatly defined.

As I said at the start of this section, I consider my work to learn the lore and learn more about the Dagda and his people to be an offering. The completion of this particular blog series is also an offering to the Good God and seeing his will be done. If you are dedicating work to him, that in itself is a type of offering.

There are also offerings that come in the form of prayers or songs, these are things that I’ll cover in their own section, but I consider them offerings as well.

But let’s take a moment to think on the idea that the Dagda is a God of Ireland. His lands, his holy places, his people, are based in Ireland. Being a deity that takes great care in life and stewardship of his culture, it very quickly follows that what we can do to support the people and land of Ireland can be made as an offering to the Dagda. For me, that means that I try to make monetary offerings on behalf of the Dagda towards Ireland and her people. Supporting native Irish practitioners and artists. Supporting grassroots movements, heritage sites and environmental organizations helping people, places, and the culture on the ground.

A few of the people, and organizations that I have donated/patroned to:

Irish Peatland Conservation Council

Abortion Rights Campaign

Scealai Beag – Bard of the Dagda

Lora O’Brien – creating Authentic Spiritual Connection to Ireland

Story Archaeology

Taking this all to another layer. After we give offerings to the land and traditions that we are getting so much enrichment from, it then feels like the next step is to apply the teachings and lessons within our own community and local areas.  


For my own practice, living in the Bay Area, something that has come up and just continued to grow in my connection with the Dagda is the complete utter unacceptable way that the homeless and poverty is being treated, or more accurately ignored and abused. I have a lot to say on this topic but suffice to say, that with the Dagda’s connection to plenty, abundance, and hospitality, he ain’t fucking pleased.

This has translated into my giving a monthly donation to my local food bank in his honor as an offering in the name of the Dagda. This also manifests in my more daily life of being aware and kind to the homeless, I give money directly to them when I can, and if I have food in my hands and am asked I will always give it. This is again is done as an offering to the Dagda.

Finding ways that you can acknowledge the teachings you have learned from the Good God in your everyday actions is a wonderful way to have offerings to stay meaningful and to give you something to grow on towards being a better human person.

What can you do to help? What do you want the Dagda to look at see you in action and be pleased with? These are good places to start brewing on!

 


 

There are two more parts that I intended to include in this section. Prayers and Finding Sacred Places. However this section has been sitting on my drive for several months, so I felt like I would just post it and let the other sections come at their intended time. So what I intended to be a 4 part blog will now be a 5 parter. Such is life.

I hope it is of some use!


Devotional Practice to the Dagda: The Call

Learning: Devotional Practice to the Dagda

Doing: Devotional Practice to the Dagda

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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.

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.


Devotional Practice to the Dagda: The Call

Learning: Devotional Practice to the Dagda

The Shiny Part: Devotional Practice to the Dagda

 

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!    


Learning: Devotional Practice to the Dagda

Doing: Devotional Practice to the Dagda

The Shiny Part: Devotional Practice to the Dagda

Everything on it’s ordained path…

Image: Big Dipperby AloriaTheZombie

http://aloriathezombie.deviantart.com/art/Big-Dipper-321841368

Everything on it’s ordained path…That is the message that I keep getting from the Beyond these days. As my world shifts and moves around, as I adjust pace to keep up with the path that is unfolding beneath my feet, the few times that I have actually sat down to ask if I should do a thing, or whether or not this is a good idea, the answers come back with no great amount of useful information. Just “It’s time. Go with it.”. At the beginning of this year I got a reading, from someone who did not know the intimate details of my life, (no small feat! Someone you know is good but doesn’t know you is hard to come by in this small world.) They pointed out that this year is my Chariot year. A year of opportunities, to just take the ones I wanted and not wait. That was the key. Don’t wait. As somewhat of a slow moving cautious Bull Woman, I find that advice a little hard to take. But I decided to focus, the hone my vigilance, my instincts, and just act.

It has not been an incredibly easier year. The changes that have come has brought with it a lot of rocky road just as much as it has brought new blue sky. There were times when I thought, maybe I had just made huge mistakes. Maybe I had gotten it all wrong. But then my friends would buoy me, my love would ask me what I wanted to do and support me as I had my copious amounts of feelings. All the while the next thing would come along and it would have been foolish to let insecurity keep me stagnant. All the while the same signs would make themselves known. The Chariot. Ursa Major. The Bull. The Cauldron.

Now that the we have reached the Dark half of the year, the momentum that I have gained begins to feel more tangible. I am excited to say that there is a lot of amazing and hopefully grand things on the horizon. I hope to be able to wrap up some of the events that happened this year that I have yet to blog about before the end of the year. There was an beautiful and powerful ritual to Epona, a satisfying and rejuvenating devotional camping trip dedicated to the Morrigan. And a few other personal entries.

For those of you that have stuck around, thank you for you continued support. I am looking forward to being able to share more of the comparison’s from translations from the Tain, and other pieces of my personal practice. Along side more posts about the Cauldron and the many exciting projects that are brewing there. The Cauldron of the Celts, is creating the welcoming space and inclusive active community among Celtic practitioners, that I have longed for. We are just in the seedling stages, but the love, devotion, and enthusiasm is there, so I can only pray our efforts bear fruit.

In the mean time I continue to practice my stride, enjoying the new comforts my new prosperity provides, and at the same  time tending to the responsibility and finical aid to my family, I haven’t been able to provide in the past.  May the Gods continue to guide my path to become better for my self and my loved ones. May my eyes see true, and recognize the opportunities and sign before me. May the Ancestors guard and bless me and may the Realms continue in their ordained paths.

Great Queen guide us, that our strength and wisdom be true.

Great Queen guide us, that our strength and wisdom be true.

Beltane and the Great Queen

As part of the ongoing creation and sanctification of the Cauldron of the Celts Sacred Calendar, we have the honor of adding two more days to the calendar. Both in honor of an Morrighan. I was having a rather hard time figuring out where exactly the holy day of the Great Queen would go on the modern calendar year, and it wasn’t until we welcomed more to our merry band of Celtic devotees that the answer revealed itself, apparently you need at least an attempted murder to get things brewing. With the help of my dear sister Verity Blue Midnight, we realized that one day was just not enough and that the date was less consequential than the timing. So for this year and hopefully many more future years to come we will be honoring the Morrighan on the full moon of May and the dark moon of October.

To be clear, I do not know of any direct connotation in the lore or otherwise between the Morrighan and the moon (although if anyone does know of some I would be interested in looking into it). However, given her association with the liminal states, it felt more correct for her days to be on a lunar calendar whilst the rest settle into the solar modern one. While her connection to Beltane and Samhain seem fairly clear, and are clearly felt. This years May full moon fell just days after May 1st/Beltane. Which seemed a blessing on things to come.

We crashed into May with a thunderous bang. I have always found this time of year to be one of high emotions and high energy, this year is proving no different. While my sister priestess planned a loving devotion to the Great Queen for dusk on the full moon, petitions tended to while walking a labyrinth at dusk and offerings given in honor and praise, I ran off to the woods. Truly it was a weekend where her presence and the spirits of this time of year were all around.

The Beltane Sun 2015

It started before dawn on Beltane, way up on inspiration point with the Morris Dancers jovially playing and dancing up the sun. It was incredibly warm this year, a contrast in years past when you would have to bundle up to greet the golden rays, a marker to the change our earth is going through. Every year I am amazed at the flutter and anticipation that this sunrise brings. What if I’m late? What if this time it rises early? Silly, perhaps. But it is part of the magic and the buzz of Beltane.

Beltane 2015

This year the heat and dryness of our land prevented any morning dew to be found. I suppose I can go one year without the blessings of Beltane beauty upon me. After basking in the golden hour light for a while longer it was time to go in search of food and then to work. A stark change from years before where I could stumble back to bed before rising and prepping for the day. The Rooster, a local cafe, was kind enough to provide us with a lovely meal, and then we decided to spread the May Day cheer by buying flowers and passing them around the office. There was quite a bit of bemused confusion as to why they were being given or offered flowers, and an equal amount of delight at discovering flowers on ones desk for apparently no reason. All and all I consider it a Beltane well managed.

The Canyon

That night we cleaned up the house, left out some offerings, and prepped for an escape to the woods. We left bright and early the next day, heading straight for the Canyon. A trip we have made countless times over the years that holds so many memories. It was brilliant and beautiful all day. Clear skies, jubilant sun, and fresh crisp air. Everything a person could need to clear their head and help ease their burdens. We decided for this trip to explore all the little side roads off the canyon in search for a great camping spot. We found many treasures, but one that still has a hold on my heart and desires.

There are several places through the Canyon where you cross the Feather River, and at one such place there is a road, and up that road is an oasis. You can’t see it from the road. We had just stopped because I have an ever growing obsession with rocky rivers and a need to be by them. At first I wasn’t sure whether or not there was going to be a way down to the water, but there was. I was not prepared for the beauty that I saw.

Ladybug Lagoon

It was like stumbling upon the lagoon from Neverland. Completely picturesque. I desperately wanted to dive into that crystalline water, but the reality is that water is far too cold for swimming just yet. Treacherous and beautiful, the way I like it. We stayed by the river for a long while, climbing rocks and enjoying the serenity of it all. The Lumberjack recounted the story of coming to this spot once and all the rocks were covered in ladybugs! There were a few ladybugs here and there and many a butterfly on this trip. It seemed only natural to name the place Labybug Lagoon. I will gladly and happily be returning here this year.

Wash away my fearsClear waters

 

 

 

 

 

 

Come to the river, child of the heart
Lay by the stream, all cares depart
Great Lady wash from my soul
My weakness and the doubts that I hold
Splendid One wash me in the waters from beyond
I arise glorious with only my courage and tresses donned

After stopping and scouting many more places, including my beloved Bullard’s Bar we settled down to camp for the night. We did not plan enough ahead to have gotten a campfire permit, so we went without. Eating a humble but filling meal of sandwiches and fruit, we enjoyed the calming solace of being outside and away from the hustle and bustle. We found a broken knife and fashioned a game out of throwing the blade and trying to get it to stick in some rounds. We planned to buy a small archery set to bring out next time, for fun and practice. We gathered some wild cedar tips and made them into bundles, the Lumberjack even picked some dogwood flowers for me. I think that dogwood is probably the regional equivalent of the Hawthorn in this part of the woods. It was in bloom everywhere, crowning the forest in beauty and joy.

The moon was full and splendidly bright, the air was cold and fortifying. That night prayers where made to the Gods and the Ungods with heartfelt devotion to see us all through the challenges and trials we walk. Offerings were made to continue to bring prosperity and joy to my beloveds. The land and all it’s many treasures were thanked profusely for being steadfast and welcoming. With a much lighter heart I slept that night.

The return home was slow, as we were want to leave. We revisited our plans and what the next five year holds. Each of us know we can’t stay forever in the city, it wears too much on out emotions and spirit. May this year bring the beginnings of dreams realized for my family and all those seeking and working towards their goals.

Blessed Beltane everyone! I pray that the month of May keeps you well and shows you the way to your dreams.