To Brigid

Cauldron of the Celts – Sacred Calendar Year – Brigid’s Holy Day

Being a Gaelic Polytheist that does not currently have a Gaelic Polytheist community at hand, I spend a lot of my time and effort being a public priestess in a interfaith pagan coven known as CAYA Coven as I have found the community aspect to be so very enriching to my life and practice. Over the years CAYA has grown to the point where we can now group off into devotional affinity groups of priestesses that share a deity or culture or other grouping. One such groups that I am apart of is the Cauldron of the Celts. All of us publicly dedicated to deities that fall under the “Celtic” umbrella. Currently that means Irish and Romano-Breton but in future could include Gaulish, Welsh and so on. Being a multi-faith group means that everyone is coming from a different angle as far as practice and so forth but I have to say that it has been refreshing to have more people to talk about the lore and cultural background of things, as well as be able to share our devotions and put on some truly wonderful rites for the gods.

In that vein we have collective decided it would be a good idea to start a Sacred Calendar year for the group, with a holy day selected for each of our dedicated deities. Understanding that nothing about this is particularly Gaelic but a more modern adaptation to further foster reverence and honor to the gods. It also provides an opportunity to share with the wider community, and be of service. With that being said the first day of reverence this year starts with Brigid, and below is a humble offering for all those who feel called to partake.


To Brigid

Cauldron of the Celts Sacred Calendar Year – Brigid’s Holy Day 2/1/15

The Cauldron of the Celts, a multi-faith devotional group within CAYA Coven, is endeavoring to establish our Sacred Calendar Year. Each priestess is publicly dedicated to a deity who falls under the wide “Celtic” umbrella and has chosen a date on our modern calendar year to be a day of reverence to their deity. In an effort to connect with other devotees and be of service to the public we share this calendar and some of our own workings, that we may all raise up the Gods names in honor.

Our calendar year begins with Brigid’s holy day on Feb 1st.

The priestesses of Brigid, Foxfire Kells and Doyenne Rowan, invite you to send us any petitions you wish to make before the goddess and we will offer them to her in supplication and gratitude on her holy day. You may email them at cauldronofthecelts@gmail.com.

Below are a few words from the priestesses of Brigid:

Imbolc is celebrated in honor of the goddess Brigid between January 31st and February 2nd; the name of the holy day comes from the Old Irish imbolg or oimelc, meaning “in the belly,” referring to the season of lambing and ewe’s milk. Brigid emerges from the silence of winter to herald the coming of spring and new life and growth; she is also a goddess of the forge, of the hearth, of poetry and inspiration, and of healing. Her symbols include lambs or sheep,  wells, writing implements, acorns, apples, milk, snowdrops and crocuses, and, of course, fire.

Imbolc falls during the Celtic tree month (a neo-pagan construct based on Robert Grave’s interpretation of the ancient symbolic language of ogam) of Luis (lweesh), which is the Gaelic name for the rowan tree, so one activity you can do is to make a protection charm of 2 crossed rowan twigs bound with red thread. For more information about the history of the Rowan and red thread charm you can find a incredibly thorough article here.

Another one of Her traditions is to leave out cloth or clothing to be blessed by Brigid on Imbolc, often to be used for healing and protection purposes for the following year. Given the current events happening, Her face of healing is very clearly one that is needed in the world and in our community.

To welcome and honor Brigid into your home and life, you may wish to perform the following ritual:

Lay out a white or yellow cloth
Place a white candle in the center
Arrange around the candle 3 acorns and/or apples, a small bowl of fresh water (spring water or melted snow is ideal), a sprig of juniper, and a small bundle of wool roving.
Prepare an offering plate with a piece of bread spread with soft cheese and a drizzle of honey, and some apple slices.

Light the candle and contemplate what new projects or endeavors you want to nurture this year. How will you tend to these goals? How will you tend to yourself? What parts of yourself or your life are beginning to emerge with the Spring? How do you keep the fires of your creativity and motivation burning as the year wears on?  Do you make space in your life for pleasure and the warmth of family (however you define it)?

Say a prayer or sing a song to Brigid to bring her into the room.
Feel free to use or adapt this prayer, as you wish:

My good lady Brigid,
I call upon you to light the fire of inspiration in my heart,
to warm my hearth and burn away the cold shroud of winter,
just as the snowdrops burn through the frozen ground to burst forth in flower
and give the promise of renewal.

My good lady Brigid,
I offer you my devotion and gratitude
for the many ways you bring joy and beauty to life in the world.
May my lips ever sing your praises and my hands bring comfort and healing;
ever may the embrace of my favour glorify your name.

Offer Brigid the bread with cheese & honey and the apples, for sweetness and sustenance.

Dip the juniper sprig in the water you have charged and asperge your house to bless and protect you in the coming year.

More Links and Points of interest:
Detailed article about the customs in Ireland and Scotland of Là Fhèill Brìghde
:http://www.tairis.co.uk/festivals/la-fheill-brighde
Craft Ideas for Imbolc: http://unfetteredwood.blogspot.com/2014/01/crafts-for-imbolc.html
video from Gaol Naofa on the celebration of Imbolc: http://youtu.be/oEieym5uI7k
Podcasts from Story Archaeology about Brigid and her various tales:  http://storyarchaeology.com/category/series-01-mythical-women/mythical-women-05-the-search-for-brigid/

Cauldron of the Celts 2015 Sacred Calendar Year:
Feb 1st – Brigid’s Holy Day
March 19th – Sulis Minerva’s Holy Day
June 21st – Honoring of the Selkie
August 1st – Lugh’s Holy Day
August 9th – An Dagda’s Holy Day

Hermitage and the year ahead…

If you are a follower of this blog, or my tumblr, or happen to be someone I know, you may have noticed that I have receded from outside interaction for the holidays and new year. No real reason, it is just one of the those things that occur every now and again.  I think that it is overall a needed and good thing. In those time of hermitage, I get a lot of time to be with myself and my own mind, in these times I remember myself. It’s not that I forget, but being present in the NOW has historically been difficult for me. I spent much of my youth escaping, at first through books and other peoples stories, and then just as easily into my own mind and stories. At the heart of it all I am very much a dreamer. But I have learned how to have a fulfilling joyful life here in the now of this reality as well. It took a concentrated effort to do at first, and now I find that I easily get caught up in the details of things in the now. The tasks that are right in front of me take so much concentration that the doors to those other realms of reality get firmly shut. When I get some time and space away from other voices, opinions, projects, interactions, I open those doors again and am refreshed with soul lifting spirit of my dreams and the aspirations of my true self once more. Because that’s the point of living to me, always striving.

Maybe none of that made much sense to anyone else, and that’s ok. The crux of it is that I need time with just me and my beloved. I thrive when I get some time to myself to listen to music and walk, or read a novel, or watch movies. They feed me. Particular stories and songs remind me of what I am striving for. They swell my heart and soul with courageous deeds, and impossible odds, that give me the strength to keep on. I am so grateful for those times.

I have to say this hermitage was particularly fruitful. I realized that teenage me would be so fucking impressed with me now. I have achieved much of the levels of coolness that I wanted then. Silly as that may sound it is comforting. What’s more I know that there is more that I want to accomplish.

And in that vein I’ve decided to make a list of things that I would love to do in the year ahead. Just a small reference for me to look back on in 2016 and see where I was. Nothing on this list is set in stone, and I leave room for things to morph and do and accomplish things I cannot even imagine at the present moment instead. But for the now I’m just going to mark some things that would make me happy.

Home Life

  • Become financially stable and more independent better able to provide for my family and household
  •  Start putting away money for special trips and buying a home
  • Get the closet under some form of control
  • Replace the TV stand
  • Continue to upgrade the little things about the house that make me happy
  • Go visit the folks in NC
  • Make the Lumberjack’s 30th be something special
  • Do more home cooking
  • Get drivers licences
  • Sew some of the projects I have planned
  • Get rid of some of the stash of fabric I have

Personal

  • Eat healthier
  • Join a gym or class of some sort
  • Get eyes checked and new glasses
  • Go to the dentist
  • Continue annotation and comparison of the Tain
  • Continue prayer memorization
  • Read at least one of the books on my shelf
  • Make art
  • Coordinate and plan two ritual camping trips
  • Hold a blessing of the blades service in honor of the Morrighan
  • Write more prayer songs
  • Go for more walks with my music
  • Continue visiting my sacred places
  • Get away with the Lumberjack to the woods and just be
  • Continue to be involved in demanding change from our government on all levels
  • Try to stretch daily
  • Continue with daily practices
  • Finish writing one of my fanfics
  • Rent a cabin in the woods with my dear friends and be delightfully and terribly witchy
  • Do some of the projects of presents for people that I love
  • Read one of the comics that the Lumberjack wants me to
  • Go someplace new
  • Continue to update my wardrobe into what I want
  • Have more pampering days that involve oil, and lovely scents, and general wonderful things
  • Have both Mom and Dad record or write down a beloved story/memory from their childhood
  • Honor the festival days, holy days, household deities, ancestors, Gods and Ungods
  • Continue to research and learn more about the Gaelic world view and lifeway

Well that’s all I can think of at the moment…May at least some of these things happen and more that I cannot think of now.

May you all have the time and space to think, reflect, and feed your hearts and souls when you need.

A Little bit of Epic: Halloween Edition

It’s been a long while since I have seen a video on the interwebs that has made me think it was worthy of being posted in my little bit of Epic portions. But my older brother should me this very talented fellow while on vacation and then lo he appears again in my feed with a pretty amazing Halloween Thriller video.

So Happy Hauntings everyone, and enjoy!

 

The Red Cotehardie

There are lots of blog posts I could put up. Continuing the Tain readings with the Pangs of Ulster, the one about the Justice work here in America (you can read the beginnings of that over on Columbia Rising ), the one where I rant and rave about wanting to burn everything to the ground, the one where I start to talk about how I feel like things are in need of a change in my life. Lots and lots of things that could be talked about. However today is going to be something…frivolous. Why? Because I need to do to work soon and rather than continuing to indulge in my current mood of rage and ruin I think it might be more productive to just pause and distract for a moment.

Recently I have been endeavoring to make more time to well, make more things! I really enjoy the process of crafting, sewing, making and realize that it just makes me calmer and feel a sense of accomplishment. So I need to do it more. Last month I managed to get around to making and finishing(!!) a dress that had been in my mind for over a year now. Several years ago using the information on La Cotte Simple and the help of my dear friend Temple Witch, I managed to make a lovely black long sleeved many buttoned Cotehardie. Which I adore (even if I have to reset the sleeves because they are too small now). And I have since wanted to make a sleeveless red one for more casual ritual attire. I have long since had the fabric, but never got around to the making until lately. Back in Feb. we got together with some friends to do the pattern making with a healthy dose of alcohol to the mix. Then in late July I finally got to cutting and making.

One thing that I need to note and remember, is that sewing goes a lot smoother if I parcel out the tasks. Assigning one day for cutting, then another for sewing etc. My previous method of trying to just plow through it all in one go just does not work as well and is daunting. I think it keeps me from sewing more. With this project and in future I will try to think of things in smaller stages, see if that helps, it certainly did here.

1406931750883

Things were going smoothly. I use a corset style of lining for the dress bodice that makes things very clean and neat, so the dress itself sewed up very quickly. Then came those darn eyelets.

Now I have a machine that can make eyelets. However experience has told me that they just are not that sturdy. You have to puncture/cut the fabric and that just inherently weakens the fabric structure. With a dress like this where all the chest support is dependent on the tightness of that closure that just doesn’t seem wise.  As this is not really a dress meant to be historically accurate grommets are an option. But again, I do not have the equipment for the nice smooth lovely grommets, and the ones I can do are…well they just aren’t as nice. Sometimes there are rough edges and with a dress that is meant to be close to the skin not ideal. Which leaves, hand sewn eyelets.

Now overall they aren’t hard to make. Not really. They are however tedious. I have used the instructions from the Curious Frau for my eyelets over the years.

Eyelets

 

 

36 eyelets total. 18 on each side. Took me two and a half days of working on them for a few hours at a time. But at long last the end was in sight!

Now the thing about cotehardies…is once you have fitted the pattern, you really cannot check the fit again until you have the dress pretty much made up. Meaning I could not check the fit again until now, after 36 eyelets and all that work. I think you can tell where this is going. The fit my dear friends did not fit.

I have no bloody clue what the hell happened either. I mean the pattern fit, it was literally sewn onto my body. And yet someone from there to the cutting out of the actual dress fabric it seemed to have gained at least 4 inches. Which is a lot for this dress. A LOT. It was a sack on me and did not fit right at all. I was furious. I was damn well not going to rip out all those eyelets and I didn’t have enough fashion fabric to start again (nor did I want to). My only option was taking in the sides and ruining all the lovely clean inside lining.

refitting

So I did what any resourceful witch would do and turned the dress inside out and re-fitted it to me. I pinched in as much as I could, marked it. Took the dress off and then guessed at the curve. Basted it and putt it back on to check the fit again. As you can see above. That is a freaking lot to take in on this thing. The other side was very similar. Frustrating and mysterious.

redcotehardie

Fits much better now. Then came the day of hemming.  For those that know me, they know that I will do pretty much anything to avoid the tedious doldrums of hemming. Yet I wanted this dress to be nice and not trip over it. So I puts on the Return of the King and went at it!

20140818_095905Have to say that overall I am pleased with it. It is very comfortable and I think it looks nice. Someday I’ll get a full length picture of it lol. For now will just have to make do with portrait shots. One thing that I do need to do after wearing it for a day is take in about an inch on the shoulders. I have notoriously small shoulders. I always have to take them in. Clothes off the rack are just an experiment in how I should have line backer shoulders apparently. It should be an easy fix and help with the slow dangerous drift downwards that the neckline takes when wearing it.  Overall I’m very much pleased. Don’t know what the next project will be, the Black Magic Dress or the Emperor’s Jacket or possibly the elusive Queen’s Great Coat. We’ll see. 20140818_093623

The Feast of the Dagda

 

Heart and Harvest Dagda Feast (2)

For several years now I have been wanting to hold a feast in honor of the Dagda. Several different variations went through my mind, but for whatever reason they just never came to past. Then in my public priestess community of CAYA Coven I was presented with the opportunity to lead a ritual feast in his honor. Even more exciting this could be an outdoor feast! Early in the year I started plotting out the best way to introduce the Good God to a group of people who may or may not have ever heard of him. How best to honor his name and ensure a good time had by all.

Luckily I had an amazing crew, all of the initiates who are training to be public clergy in CAYA. They all went above and beyond and put such heart into their work it was really touching.

We were gathered in one of my favorite parks where there lives a 100 year old Oak tree. A wonderful tree that I sadly did not get to go visit this trip but love none the less. We spent the day grilling and playing games. Coconut shotput and Tug of Way being the highlights. I had originally dreamed of having a whole pig to roast for the feast but alas my budget at present did not allow for it. However I did go out and purchase the biggest shoulder pork roast I could from the local butcher, ethically sources and top quality. I decided to start cooking it the night before to ensure that it would be done in time for the Feast, and would finish it off over the open flames basting it in fresh apple juice. I have to say that I think it turned out delicious and since there were literally no leftovers and many folks asking for seconds, I think that is a far judgement lol. I will be making that pork again once I get a grill here at the house.

I kept telling myself that it would be a small crowd. Our outdoor rituals are usually smaller more 30-40 people than our indoor rituals that get more 60-80 people. Yet I was surprised, we had quite a turn out! I didn’t do an official head count but I think we were in the 50-60 range. Yet with great joy we made room for all. With equal joy we had more than enough food. There is nothing so sad as a feast where there isn’t enough food for people to eat their fill. And at a Dagda feast? Unthinkable!

There was a fire that was kindled with prayers and juniper burnt upon it for blessing. Offerings were made to the Dagda by all with wonderful words of praise spoken with adoration. There was beer and water on every table. The first round was served, food for everyone and then the stories began. They were tales of hospitality and lessons being generous. Songs were sung and the guitar AND violin played. Seconds and third helpings were served along with a delicious tasty dessert. Divination was cast to see if our offerings were received well and with blessing and what the next months held for the community.  There was much laughter, much conversation, and much enjoyment

I was so pleased and still am. For a public feast I do not think it could have gone any smoother. Thank you again to anyone who attended, to all the lovely people who pitched in and helped to make this dream a reality. Thanks to my beloved Dagda for continuing to teach me the ways of leadership, hospitality and enjoying the lust for life. May I continue to bring you honor and raise your name high. Looking forward to sharing more celebrations and joy with the community and for continued joy in devotion to the Good God.

Heart and Harvest Dagda Feast (1)

 

Heart and Harvest Dagda Feast - 5

 

 

Heart and Harvest Dagda Feast - 3

 

Wisdom of the serpent be
Wisdom of bull be thine,
Wisdom of valiant eagle.
Voice of swan be thine,
Voice of honey be thine
Voice of the Shining Youth.
Bounty of sea be thine,
Bounty of land be thine
Bounty of the All Father, ever sustaining.

Adapted from the Carmina Gadelica

Táin Tuesday: The Wealth of a King

This is a continuation of “How Conchobar was begotten, and how he took the Kingship of Ulster” but whereas the first part of the story I feel is more his mother Ness’s story (of being a mastermind and all around sharp lady), the second part of the story tells us more about what is to be expected from Kingship, idealized and legendary kingship, but in the paragons of myth we can find the lessons of the mundane. The first paragraph extols Conchobar’s virtues and how beloved of Ulster he was. There are the things you would expect such as:

There was no wiser being in the world. He never gave judgement until it was  ripe, for fear it might be wrong and the crops worsen. – Kinsella

Now later on we may talk about how true this statement actually is in reference to some the judgments he actually makes as King. But for now it is a telling piece of what is valued in a leader and very neatly and simply showcases the connection between sovereignty and the land.  This is a theme that you might have heard espoused before, especially if you have been looking into or have any connections with any of the many Irish Sovereignty Goddesses. Cue the Morrighan, Macha, Aine, just to name a few. I feel like there is a lot that could be said about this connection, but the one thing that strikes me in this reading may be the simplest. The sacred connection between mankind and the land.

If we concentrate down this, the king’s actions/words/being can cause crops to worsen and the people to suffer, we clearly see the ownership of stewardship in all things. We as human beings are not separate from the land that we live on.  This is a very animist view of things, and further gets complicated for those of us on U.S. soil and other places wherein colonialism has left us a history to have to weigh-in. But the solid foundation that there is a sacred connection between all of our actions and the land seems pretty clear and worth remembering. This simple foundation gives weight to the meaning of offerings, to seeing signs and omens in the day to day life, to cultivating the skills of wisdom and judgement. Because ultimately if you are taking on the mantle of personal sovereignty then you are taking up the mantle of your actions, your words, having profound affect on your world.

There are things that make the modern person raise an eyebrow and make a face, namely these:

So high was their regard for him that every man in Ulster that took a girl in marriage let her sleep the first night with Conchobor, so as to have him first in the family[…]Any Ulsterman who gave him a bed for the night gave him his wife as well to sleep with.

Ahhh Ancient times, when men were men and women were chattle. Now besides this being a very sexist way of showing the adoration and love Ulster had for it’s king it may also show a bit more of the practice of Ancestor worship and the ties of kingship. There is an interesting article written by Fedelm Cruithn titled A Semiotics of Kingship in the Tain which goes deeper into the topics that I am brushing over, but talks directly about this connection:

The Táin also indicates a very important relationship between the king’s popularity and his genealogy. The men of Ulster worship Conchobor so highly, they allow their new brides to sleep with him on the first night, in order to “have him first in the family.” (Kinsella 4) Try to imagine an Egyptian king sleeping with the wife of every man in Egypt! In this part of The Táin, there seems to be a break from the droit de cuissage or ius primæ nocti, (law of the first night), which reflects the right of a ruling man to “sample the wares” of his family subjects. In this instance, there’s a peculiar combination of a worshipful gesture made by free men honouring their beloved king and a genealogical insurance policy for the tribe: a figure of royal blood who shares his blood with the people of his kingdom. This points to the possibility that in Celtic kingship, unlike many other sovereignty traditions, the king was not only expected to be of perfect stock, but was also expected to revitalise and perfect the stock of the tribe. In this way, Conchobor becomes a prize breeding bull, woven into the very fabric of a story about the royal cattle theft of a sacred bull. (Mac Cana 52)

This idea of genealogy, of being descendants of legendary heroes, and even the Gods themselves, is not a new idea or one that is only found in the Celtic context. While overall interesting to think about on it’s own, for me personally it just throws more weight into the respectful practice of Ancestor worship. These Legendary Heroes and Kings were looked on as family, as kin.

Extrapolating further and tying this back into the ideas of personal sovereignty in the modern context, this close connection of king and people teaches me that those that I consider part of my tribe, my community should be treated as family. Again writing that out seems like such a given, but I was lucky enough to grow up in a family were taking care of each other is given. It is easy for me coming from that background to extend that outward to know that there are times when the good of the all is more important, and that these duties when founded in love hold great rewards.

The last part of this tale goes on in great detail on the houses and wealth of the mighty King. Of note that he had three houses each with a different task. Lets just go ahead and point out that three is a number of great weight in the Irish world and it will be something to look for in future. Craebruad the Red Branch, Tete Brec the Twinkling Hoard, and Craebderg the Ruddy Branch.

Craebruad, was where the kings sat and presumably where Conchobor lived. We are told that it is the Red Branch and red is for royalty. This is just flat out interesting to me and endearing to me. Red is not usually the color associated with royalty, that would be purple. It could very well be that there was not readily available dye for making purple at the time, one of the leading facts to purples elevation to royalty in other places and times. But I’m inclined to think not…I could be wrong, but having seen a lot of the craft work of Ancient Ireland and knowing that they did have some contact and trade with the outside world if only from Viking influence it seems far fetched to believe that purple was just not a color they could replicate. So then why the elevation of red? In Rome red was the color of the army, due mostly to the great availability and thus cost effectiveness of the color. Gotta love the Romans and their keen accounting skills. But then that is just it, red is the color of war. Red is the color of blood and passion. I would even venture to say that red is the color of courage. Could this also be a contributing factor to it’s royal associations in Ancient Ireland, where valor and courage were such prized items? Another interesting note is that red usually helps to depict Otherworldly things, White animals with red ears and so forth. Perhaps this too tied the Kingship and royalty to the spiritual and sacred.

All and all I find it a fascinating tidbit. Not the least of which is that Red is a color I associate very clearly with.

But what of the other houses? Tete Brec, is the place that holds all the beautiful and deadly weapons and armor of legendary heroes. Everything from Cuchulainn’s shield to everyone else’s and their goblets and javelins and swords beside. And in Craebderg is where all “the severed heads and spoils” were kept.  There are several ways that these houses could be analyzed, but again on this reading I am struck by Craebruad representing the King’s duties to politics and the people. Such a fine house with all it’s decorations and trimmings much play host to many heroes and Chiefs, foraging alliances and offering hospitality.  A point underlined by Gerg’s vat, from which at any time 30 men may be drinking from it in Conchobor’s room and the vat is always full. Such abundance and generosity are things that a sovereign must maintain. With Tete Brec I see the need to maintain protection, an entire house filled with arms and shields of mighty warriors, of whom may be called upon at any moment. It speaks to the bravery and the heroism that is idealized in sovereignty. And then Craebderg, the ruddy branch, where we see that bravery and heroism has been tested and proven true. This is not just a king who speaks of valor but who has the proof of those swords and shields in a house all of their own. The grandeur and glory must not be without merit.

This speaks to the heroic morality versus the passive morality that is seen elsewhere, and was one of the key things that turned me away from Judeo-Christian religions. With them it is all about the things that you should not do. Whereas to me being judged and held to your actions is more in alignment with the make up of my soul. I am not a “good person” because I do not steal or any number of the other tenets of “Thou shall not”. It is through my actions based on the real features of the situations that mold and shape me. Just as it is that Conchobor’s actions, be them in judgement or on the battle field is what molds and shapes him into a legendary king.

The Cooking Hearth of the Great Queen – Lessons in the fire

The main error committed by those who have called the Morrígan a “war goddess” has not been in giving her that designation, but in defining it too narrowly. When one considers what war was for the medieval Irish, rather than in light of what war means now, or even to the Romans, the designation becomes as complex and nuanced as its subject herself. All the messiness, the intricacies, and the facets of the Morrígan are the facets, intricacies, and messiness of war as the Irish knew it. Nearly all the important narrative texts of medieval Irish literature, and Ulster cycle texts in particular, center on that enterprise. It is therefore no surprise that the Morrígan, as embodiment of war, would appear conspicuously in these texts. Fame and glory, gore and terror: in war, are all one. And so the Morrígan. — The Morrígan and her Germano-Celtic Counterparts A dissertation by Angelique Gulermovich Epstein

Ever since reading Epstein’s wonderful dissertation this quote has stayed with me. It helps to succinctly keep the mind open to all the possibilities and facets of such a complex goddess and culture instead of getting too trapped in single ideas. I am always looking to learn more and to more full integrate my spiritual beliefs into my everyday life. So when new nuances come to light and settle so harmoniously with what I already have in my life and methods it just helps to deepen those bonds that I have found and created.

Last year I was inspired to go on a ritual camping trip to honor the Morrighan. Having found a truly amazing location that would include a 3 mile hike to the campsite and then allow for a beach side ritual, I was deeply motivated and looking forward to the challenge that this camping trip would provide. I often find that physical challenge is something that I yearn for in my day to day life that is absent. Thankfully, I don’t have to struggle to procure food, or fight for my life. This is a privilege of the modern first world that I live in and I am grateful. Yet…there is a part of me that wonders if I can ever truly know myself in such comfortable surroundings. There is some nameless voice in my soul that believes that it is through adversity, danger, fear, that you temper your core and truly find yourself. Many a sleepless night I have wondered if I am truly living my principles by not fully embracing this belief.  Shouldn’t someone who believes such things dive head first into a life that would manifest these things? Shouldn’t I have joined the military? The Peace Corp? Any other of countless paths that would bring me face to face with what I describe? It is the paradox of my existence in that this belief and pull goes head to head with my belief that life is meant to be enjoyed. That I consider my life well lived if I and my loved ones are happy. I am a conflicted soul if ever there was one lol.

So here presented itself a safe but challenging opportunity to get out into nature and connect with myself and the divine. More I knew that there were others in my community that would welcome the opportunity for the same. In my public priestess work amoungst a  mixed crowd of personal paths I relish the opportunity to do things the way I do them and invite others along to partake. I spent some time trying to figure out who to invite and how open to make this trip. Ultimately it seemed best to invite those who worked with the Great Queen or had approached me about working with her and those willing to undertake the physical challenges.

Not surprisingly when you set out with the intention of holding a ritual camping trip with the Great Queen to challenge yourself, you are challenged…and expected to adapted.

The first location that inspired the trip was just flatly not available for the weekend for up to a year in advance. Being someone who has only ever done much camping in national forest situations I was shocked that a month in advance was not enough. That in fact a year was needed. Adapted or die, right? Lol

Interestingly as this first plan and rendition of the ritual trip fell away there was an extreme influx of emotional and personal challenge in our community and amoungst my dear inner circle.  Things were hard, everyday was an emotional roller coaster. Within my own house we are still grieving for the loss of the Lumberjack’s mother and the first year of her passing quickly approaches. As anyone who has suffered through hard times know that the stress, depression, anxiety and other aspects take their toll physically and mentally. During this time I continued to pray, and to hold that some how I would do my best to honor her and her glory.

It was the Lumberjack that had me look farther inland after spending so long looking for a good site on the coast. I wanted some place that was a little less populated than most state parks and also had some water source. Then as the emotional turmoil reached its peak we went for a long and much needed drive out to scout out prospective camping sites. There is something spiritually comforting to me about long driving trips. It probably hearkens back to my childhood spent driving from one side of the country to the other. Something about it can just rest my mind, pull me out of the drudgery and see the bigger picture of life. I have to say that is was exactly what the doctor order. Truly I am blessed to have the Lumberjack in my life willing to support me and tend to my emotional needs amoungst everything else.

The drive up was beautiful and the location was stunning. It was a much more developed camping site than the original site, but still remote and next to an amazing reservoir. Stunningly blue and filled with pyrite and quartz. The location did not have the same wild rugged energy that had drawn me to the first location. Instead it was serene, inviting and ethereal. Standing on the banks looking out on the tranquil reservoir feeling that familiar welcomed feeling of finally being able to breath fully deeply, two ravens languidly circling the trees and I just accepted it as a gift. The time and energy of the present was harsh and tumultuous, here was the time and the place to gain respite. To nourish the soul. How often do such opportunities present themselves? And again should you limit the understanding and honoring of the Gods? No we would not be physically challenging ourselves, and meeting nature in the untamed wilds. But each and every one of us were being challenged in our daily lives. Having to self analysis, to face difficult situations, people and conversations and not turn away. It seemed more than possible that in the stillness and rugged outdoors we all would find a piece of ourselves that would help to preserve us through the challenges at home.

Bullard's Bar

With the new location came new possibilities. If the original offering of physical exertion and shear will to make this happen was no longer the center point, then naturally food would be the new center. Food is the center point of most of my offerings and connection to deity at home and I saw no reason why we shouldn’t feast to her honor. Luckily for me the group was equally eager to bring abundance and feast to the trip, and in the end we had so much food. We planned the meals together as a community. Marinated Chicken and grilled corn, plenty of sandwich meats and cheese for lunches and snack, pancakes, bacon and eggs for breakfast, and a Primal Heart beef stew for the culminating supper. No one went hungry.

We spent out days in the cerulean quartz charged water. Delighting in the refreshment and glitter. Quickly we found a treasure of pyrite laced clay mud. Smooth and glorious it immediately became a favored past time to cover ourselves in clay and search for quartz treasures on the shore. Beer, laughter, swimming, mud, I didn’t know these were things I needed.

The late days were spent tending the fire, getting the stew started and fighting off mosquito. I enjoy cooking on most days, but I have not had the pleasure of cooking over that many open flames yet. That is soon to change, there is something amazing and so heartening to throw hunks of meat into a cast iron pan over a roaring fire, hearing the sizzle, smelling the sear. There is a deep contentment in getting a large cauldron boiling and stirring into it the intentions of health and comfort for all.

Generally I associate my cooking with the Dagda. He has a shrine in my kitchen, and it well associated with food. His cauldron of plenty, his ever roasting pig, etc.  But over that fire, I felt her presence. There isn’t much more that I can say than that. Upon returning home from trip I was inspired to look up an article that was in my que to read for a while on Tairis Tales, I vaguely remembered it was about cooking and the Morrighan. Lo, indeed it was:

There is a popular belief that the Morrígan is a war-goddess and not much more than that, but like any other deity, things are never as simple as they might seem. Aside from her associations with war and magic there are some intriguing references in popular lore and the medieval manuscripts that associate her with the Fulacht na Morrighna, or ‘The Spit of the Morrígan’, often simply referred to as the ‘Cooking Hearth of the Great Queen’ (or variations thereof…). — Fulacht na Morrighna

Isn’t that just amazingly in alignment with just freakin’ everything? I laughed when I read it. Just laughed. But more it really did drive home the feelings and inspirations that I felt in that campsite. This part in particular:

It’s notable that the last paragraph in the excerpt above specifically mentions outlaws approaching the Morrígan, since the fulacht themselves are generally found in places that are not associated with settlements; they are commonly called fulacht fiadh, the latter word meaning ‘wild’, possibly referring to the location of them, or else the wild meats (such as deer) that were cooked and then consumed in them. Outlaws were usually young men who left their tuatha to live outside of normal society (and therefore the law and protections that such status within the tuath brought with it), and made their living as hunters and warriors for hire (or brigandage). 

We very much were outside of our normal community for those three days. We were outside of our homes, our families, and the usual titles and jobs that we tend to day to day. For those three days were were just in the “wilds” and had found comfort and solace at the hearth fire of the Great Queen. It is my hope that the other also felt this since of comradery and sanctuary amoungst the trees, the swooping birds, and dirt.

Over the two nights I told the tale of Cu Chulainn and his first meeting with the Morrighan and then his last stand. Probably not my best retelling but it was fun and heartfelt. Ritually I kept things simple and as I do at home just part of the natural weave. Offerings to the Land, Sea, Sky and Ancestors on arrival. Burning juniper on the first fire of the night for protection and blessing. Offerings to the Morrighan every night. Chicken hearts roasted over the open fire and joyfully popped into the mouth. Offered up on the open flames to the Phantom Queen. I sang her songs, and then we that felt called to sang their own inspirations. We asked for wisdom and visions that we might need. We raised our glasses in her glory and honor. We composed a new song to her in the dark by the light of the fire. We enjoyed ourselves, and washed our clay and oil caked hair in cool water. We laughed, we ate, and just lived in her presence.

One dim morning I sat up in my tent to brush my hair and listen to the wind in the trees. Just in time to watch a sleek regal raven swoop down and land on a branch above our camp and sweep a glance over us all before flying off towards the water. It was a moment of peace and I smile remembering it even now.

There are many small lessons that I took away from this trip. It was a subtle expression of what is usually portrayed to be a very catalystic deity. It was the light hearted stories of glory and triumph. It was the comfort of a well cooked meal found even so far from home.  I hold a renewed respect and love for my Queen. The Queen who demands self improvement at all times, who does not flinch at throwing adversity and terror to teach lessons. The Queen who knows, who sees, and who foretells. Is the same Queen who keeps her people fed, who shows that even in the wilds there is a way. There is always a way. Maybe just not the way you were expecting…

I look forward to more such trips. To trying my hand at returning to the original location and the different lessons learned there. But ultimately I am grateful I have the opportunities that I do.