Celtic polytheism

When history adds to your modern practice

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

Washing and Bathing in Ancient Ireland

A. T. Lucas

The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Brigid’s Holy Day

As I posted in my last blog, I was part of a group celebration of Brigid on the 1st of February. It was delightful.

For most of the day I was working, so I could not do my usual activities of reverence for Brigid, such as cheese making. However working at the amazing Sacred Well, I was able to utilize our Community Altar room and set out a water offering a candle for Brigid for the day. I also took the liberty of listening to Celtic music pretty much exclusively all day lol. But I eagerly look forward to the end of the day and the small ritual that was planned by our Brigid priestesses.

Under the cloak of darkness by the light of the bountiful full moon our small band of mischief and heart took to the bay, to a much favored spot known by our Cauldron sister Rowan. The moon was a glorious galleon on the foggy sea, luminous and steady. The rocks stood in silent witness as we gathered there on the liminal edge of space and time. The grey cloaked sky melted seamlessly with it’s loving tranquil sea. We had a few items to set up our altar. A bowl filled with precious water collect in that silvery moonlight. Candles to glow, small and cheerful echoing the powerful light above them. Apples and bottles of precious spirits for offerings.

Hail the Lady of fire and spirit. The Exulted One

Hail the Lady of fire and spirit. The Exulted One

We gave thanks and offerings to the three realms for their continued balance in our lives. Our leading Priestess made a heartfelt invocation to her beloved Lady Brigid that pulled down moonbeams on the water and parted the veils to swell our hearts with the power and love of the exulted goddess Brigid. We had gathered petitions and gave offerings on others behalves as well as ourselves. During that quiet time of whispered wishes and tearful prayers, our words were met with the gift of sea birds landing gently on the water. When prayers of health and well being for loved ones trembled from our lips a flock of geese flew out from the bay with hushed grace.

Brigid's Holy day 2015 (2)As our last words of humble reverence and honorings were raised up to the sky, our toes felt the moist touch of the sea that swelled up to meet us. As the tide took out the apples on their playful hands, we dipped out cloths in the waters blessed by Brigid and hurried back to firm ground.

There were many words spoken in sacred communion. Above all we lifted each others name in gratitude and praise and heaped glory upon the Lady of Well and Forge. Our small cauldron of five powerful women prove that with sincerity and devotion much can be accomplished. The rest of the year lays ahead of us, and we fully intend to prove ourselves worthy to be priestesses of our beloved gods. No matter how the year changes, we have made a wonderful start. I am very proud of us.

When I returned home, I had enough energy to set out my cloths and things to be blessed by Brigid that night and light a candle for her. In the morning I tended to my altar and poured her another offering of milk and honey, and set the flowers I had bought in her honor in the Cup of Glory. Simple and yet complete.

A linen shawl made by my grandmother. A cotton cloth made by me. A hair bauble given to me by my dear friend that was bought in Ireland.

A linen shawl made by my grandmother. A cotton cloth made by me. A hair bauble given to me by my dear friend that was bought in Ireland.

No matter what your celebrations looked like, I hope that you are blessed with health and joy at this time of year. May we all feel the hope that spring and the goddess of inspiration can grant us.

Brigid's Holy day 2015 (4)

Táin Tuesdays : Nes the Mastermind

I think at this point it is safe to assume this will be a biweekly posting, as frankly dear people, my life is just too busy for weekly.

Now, I was originally going to call this post “Enter Conchobor aka Nes is a Mastermind” but then decided to cut with the pretense that I gave one boar’s fart about Conchobor in this at all. The tale for this tuesday is technically called “How Conchobor was begotten, and how he took the Kingship of Ulster” but honestly…the child Conchobor did just about nothing, it was all his mother. While yes Conchobor is the subject of this tale he is not by any means the driving force. Credit where it is due people it was all Nes.

And really no matter what version of the tale of the birth of the legendary king Conchobor this seems to be true.

Because my good people there is another version of the birth of Conchobor, one I have to say I much prefer, and one that showcases more of Nes’s prowess. For a run down of that tale (that I do not actually know where the original text is from) see here. But so that I don’t wander too far into the realm of “same story different version and all are true.” We will stick to what Kinsella chose to tell us.

In Kinsella’s tale Nes is out with her royal women and happens to pass the druid Cathbad and ask him what the present hour is lucky for? And in what my imagination can only conjure up as an ancient Irish smarmy bar line he replies with “Begetting a king on a queen.” Following that up with a prophecy about a son being conceived now would be legendary and known throughout all of Ireland. Nes seeing no other male around, takes Cathbad to her bed and is pregnant for 3 years and 3 months.

Now…Frankly this little part of the story gives me way more questions than anything else. Like, what is the meaning of this 3 years 3 months pregnancy nonsense? Is this just a literary device to signify to the the audience that Conchobor is in fact not like mortal men? If so talk about being heavy handed with your literary devices. I mean seriously that is a curse on Nes, is what that is. Granted I am somewhat pregnancy phobic but even the ladies that I know who have been keen on the begetting of children usually want to be done with it and threaten to forcibly remove said child by month nine. The womb and mind shutter at the thought of 3 freaking years. But I digress.

The other tid bit of this that makes me weep at my lack of knowledge is the mention of Conchobor’s birth at the feast of Othar. I have not been able to find anything on what exactly this feast is and I would very much like to as it seems mentioning it specifically must indicate something.

In any event Nes in this story takes the lead to making herself a son, a son who will be legendary, a son who will be king. Which I have to say is pretty interesting from ancient female character, and once again I am reminded that I need to pursue a more in depth study of women and their roles in Iron Age and Ancient Ireland. There was a book that I saw many years ago that seemed a good place to start but have since lost all recognition of. If anyone has recommendations on the subject, please by all means.

But from my unstudied modern point of view I have to say that I am impressed by the gumption that is shown here. In a lot of stories even today women’s motivation for having children is rarely ever cast in the light of being for glory or power. And if it is there is a certain amount of vilification that seems to be absent here. Men want children to carry on their lineage, to build empires in their name, that is acceptable and understood. But to see it here, and in this story coming solely from Nes, the mother is refreshing and interesting.

My interest is furthered peaked when the extent of Nes’s skills in political intrigue and the game of power come into plain view in the telling of how Conchobor “took” the throne. The long and the short of it is that Nes used her cunning and assets to gain the thrown for her son. She convinces the current Ulster King Fergus (you remember Fergus, the spirit of whom brought back the Tain in the future.) to let seven year old Conchobor be King in name for a year, so that his children could claim being the son of a King. Fergus agrees so that Nes will marry him and immediately Nes starts pulling strings to secure the throne for Conchobor. Kinsella tells us that she instructs Conchobor, his foster parents (that’s right she didn’t even raise the boy herself, take that gender roles!), and his entire household to steal from one half of the kingdom and give it to the other half. I have to say this feels like…something is missing. Mainly which half is being stolen from, and why are their no ramifications for this? Are they stealing from the rich and re-distrubuting the wealth? But that doesn’t entirely seem like a likely plan to win over the court. Are they stealing from Fergus supporters and then giving to people who will later be influential in who keeps the throne? This is about the time that I remind myself that this story was written down by Monks after generations of oral tradition and it’s entirely possible that many details have fallen to the wayside.

Needless to say this combined with Nes paying off the Warrior elite with her own money, led to the men of Ulster deciding that there were no taksey backseies for Fergus, and Conchobor was King.

Things that I love about this. Again Nes’s complete unabandoned power play here, bonus points for not a hint of wickedness being thrown her way for being so cunning and for being a woman. Which is kinda impressive considering again it was Monks writing this stuff down.

But also the rewarding of cleverness. Not just cleverness but downright trickery. I suppose this is an odd thing to like, as well in a modern light it appears to be awarding duplicitness, but it clearly shows that success is about being vigilant, and puts an emphasis on more than just strength. It acknowledges a different type of power than the physical. Which isn’t always something that is underlined. You don’t just get to be King because you are strong. You also have to have the support of the people. You also have to just be smart enough to not be tricked out of your position. It is the first showing that being in such a position of leadership and privileged and power comes with being constantly held to a standard, but more importantly that failure to meet that standard will in fact lose you that position. Again something that is illustrated in other tales.

It is this idea that is foundational to my own coda of living. Interestingly it was an idea of leadership that was first introduced to me by my Marine Corp father, and was a major connection that I had to Celtic mythology and history. It is an idea that leadership is not a given, it is not merely ordained by some higher authority, although clearly lineage is still a major factor here historically. But that lineage is not the end all deciding factor. The King is not ordained by god and thus unremovable. Now I don’t literally to the letter follow with the ideas of kingship/leadership as outlined in the Tain or other mythology cycles, as my modern sensibilities cannot get behind discounting a leader based on physical defect or injury. But I do believe and put a lot of weight in leaders having to be proven capable and continuously capable of their position.

Going back in this tale, the other take away I have from this is the validity and faith in Druids prophecy. Remember the whole start of this plot of Nes was started by a Druid giving an on the spot prophecy of the hour. Which illustrates the skill that is expected of a Druid, but also the weight that their prophecies held. Nes is now moving and making large political movements based on that prophecy, on that guarantee of what Conchobor will become. So true divination, true prophecy is a real tangible thing, and is something that is worthy of moving in congruence with. Now granted, I do not consider myself a Druid, nor do I actually think that Druidry is something that can be recreated in the modern world. But it adds to the importance of divination and being open to messages from the beyond. I would have dearly loved for the story to give us some hint into how Cathbad made his prophecy about the hour of the day, but alas.

Now there is still more to delve into in this little tale. A very detailed description of Conchobor’s kingship and what type of king he is and the houses he keeps etc. I have decided to go ahead and post what I have here and make that a separate post.

As before please go ahead and let me know your own interpretations or insights! Hopefully I’ll have the second have of this post up on Thursday.

 

 

 

Táin Tuesday: Before the Táin

Well this project took a little longer to get off the ground than anticipated. But now that I have both books in hand and have a few moments to peruse both I see that this isn’t going to be as straight forward as reading chapter by chapter of each one.

For the duration of this project I will be referring to the two versions by the last name of their translators. So, The Táin by Thomas Kinsella will hereforto be known as Kinsella and The Táin by Ciaran Carson will hereafter be known as Carson.

On the initial examination of both books it immediately struck me that the Carson does not begin in the same place at the Kinsella. Whereas Kinsella begins “Before the Táin” and includes the birth and rise of power of Conchobor, the story of the sons of the Uisliu, and the Pangs of Ulster. The Carson begins with the actual cattle raid with Medb and Aililli talking in bed. This is an interesting choice and I will go back and read Carson’s introduction to see if he explains that choice here. Maybe it’s the old stubborn person in me but I feel like leaving out those stories at the beginning leaves out a lot of the context for the cattle raid itself. Though I suppose I only associate them with the Táin because the Kinsella version was the first version I read. But to me they were world builders and set the stage for what was to come. Especially the Pains of Ulster! But then I am rather fond of that story and could be very bias at the moment.

But since I do find those stories to be important and since they are in the Kinsella, I will begin with my take aways and overviews of them and when the two version meet then we will have comparison. Seems fair enough to me.

With that said we being “Before the Táin

In Kinsella’s notes he attributes this anecdotal text to the ninth century text in the Book of Leinster. I have to say that it does have a different feel and sound to me than some of the other parts of Kinsella, but I wonder how much of that is Kinella’s own voice coming to the translation.

In any event this short little story tells us that the knowledge and story of the Táin itself was once lost or at the least not know in its entirety. And in the fashion of all good important myths and legends had to be quested for and sought out.

Now you may be asking “What can you possibly get out of this tiny little story?”

Well, not a huge amount but some things in my practice are certainly underlined and other things that I have known but not paid as great attention to are brought to the forefront.

In the start of this story it is plan that the “Poets of Ireland” have convened to see if they could all remember the story of the Cattle Raid of Cooley. This illustrates that the poets or bards were very much the history keepers. This is something that my previous research already told me, but it is them all discovering that they only know parts of the story and then deciding it was important to go and find the whole tale again that helps brings few things into focus for me.

First, that people especially educated people, and I will go a step farther and say probably especially educated people who considered themselves or were considered by their community to be spiritual leaders, had A LOT memorized. And by memorized I don’t just mean they  had the cliff notes version that I could tell you off the cuff, I mean it was in verse. Word for word, line for line, verbatim. This doesn’t just apply to Ireland of course, the ancient world in general seems to have this trait. A trait that we of modern times have fallen behind on and something I would like very much to work on. This isn’t to say that I’m going to memorize the Tain line for line, but who knows maybe someday. But I do want to memorize more prayers and songs, reading this helps to solidify my dedication to that cause. Also to you know…write more lol.

Second is a little more…spiritual practice-ish. In the story Muirgen, the son of the great poet teacher who set the challenge before them all, finds the gravestone of Fergus mac Roich (deposed King of Ulster who aids Queen Medb in the Raid) and entreats him in verse to tell the whole tale. A mist comes over Muirgen for three days and three nights he cannot be found. In that time Fergus appears before him (dressed spectacularly I might add) and recites the whole thing.   Thus Muirgen is able to return from the quest victorious and the Tain is returned to Ireland in full.

There is quite a bit in that little story. We see that there is a strong ancestral connection, even to figures of myth and legend. That they are real, that they are able to speak and teach us even after death. That is something that I have always connected with. That tangible thread of spirit that links the living to the dead, and the living to their ancestral and mythical past. It is a huge part of what brought me to the Gaelic Polytheist path. I started out following the threads of these same stories and heroes. Ok maybe it didn’t start here it started over a bit of water with King Arthur and his lot but still it didn’t take long to find my way to Erin.  For me this underlines the already standing practice of honoring and learning from the Beloved Dead. It is something that a lot of CR sites and Gaelic Polytheist talk about. Clearly with good reason.

The other thing that I note here and just sort of put on my List-of-things-to-look-for further in this reading, is the mist. The mist came and then knowledge from the beyond was received. There are several different things I can take away from this. One is that there may be future connection between the mist/fog and the dead/supernatural. My other research and knowledge and just flat-out gut says that this is so, but I will make note of it here and see how often this occurs.

Because then I can start and pay more attention to the mist and fog. I live in an area where it is not a stranger to me. Perhaps next time I look outside and see the mists at my door I will leave out an offering to passing spirits. Or it occurs to me that in times when the mist is coming in may be a good time to try to contact the Beloved Dead more easily. Things to think on, things to see how they can fit in my life.

A different take on the time that Muirgen spent in the mist; is that a mortal was able to gain supernatural information from the beyond. Granted this was lost information that was already part of the mortal world but I don’t consider it too far a leap to see a parallel in this to the times that I go into a state of trance and come back with new inspirations, song and prayers. Now I’m sure for some that might be too great a leap in lines of thought, and that’s fine. But for me I can see how the literary use of mist that hides a person for 3 days and 3 nights could in fact be a way to describe a state of trance. Where the body remains and the mind or soul enters into the mist and beyond. Like I said perhaps too far fetched for some but it makes complete sense to me. Which makes it reassuring and helpful. It’s not something I have talked at length about as it’s hard to articulate, but I find a great connection to the divine in a trance state. Interestingly most of my trance states happen in the shower, where there is a mist in the steam and water. This is something else that is on my list of things to look out for. The connections of the divine and supernatural to water, mist, steam etc.

That my friends are my take-aways from this wee tale. Also a very good example of what the rest of this project will look like. So if this interests you please stick around! Let me know what you glean from these stories. What are the nuggets that leap out to your mind. I’d love to hear!

I’m already working on next weeks so I do hope to have these up every tuesday but you know there may be some flubs here or there lol.

Altar of Bone and Flame

Hello little blog, it’s been a while. I find that frequently I just get wrapped up in the real world, or my own mind that leaves little room for things like blogging. But never fear, I always come back. Eager to share, and eager to continue transcribing my spiritual adventures. 

As it’s been a while I thought it would be a nice way to ease back into things by sharing photos from my recently cleaned altar. There are to be many projects, and much blogging on the horizon. This blog will get a face lift amoungst other things. But that is another post for another time. 

For the now I’d like to say how much I love my winter altars. They just come together so much easier. The bones, the stones, the furs, and wood. It all just sings in harmony and I love it. In spring and summer I feel the lack of color, the lack of being outside on a green hill in the open sky. But in winter, it is all stark and wonderfully homey. The bones I leave out all year round, they are spring and summer bones as well. But in winter they take center stage. Wonderful in their off white glory. Warmed to yellow in the flame. 

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There is something about candlelight that just makes an altar connect. It’s hard to capture in photos, at least it’s hard for me but still. The illumination of the flame has always connected to me. I think of it as the light of the human soul. There is something incredibly comforting and familiar while at the same time foreign and mystical about it. 

I arise today
Through The Gods strength to pilot me;
The Dagda’s might to uphold me,
The Dagda’s wisdom to guide me,
The Morrighan’s eye to look before me,
The Morrighan’s ear to hear me,
Manannan’s word to speak for me,
Anu’s hand to guard me,

 

 

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The Gods way to lie before me,
The Morrighan’s shield to protect me,
The Dagda’s hosts to save me
Afar and anear,
Alone or in a mulitude.
Gods shield me today
Against wounding

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The Gods with me, The Gods before me, The Gods behind me,
The Sea around me, The Land beneath me, The Sky above me,
My Beloved Dead on my right, My Beloved Dead on my left,
The Ancestors when I lie down, The Ancestors when I stand,

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The Dagda be in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
The Morrighan be in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
The Spirits be in the eye that sees me,
Imbas in the ear that hears me.

I arise today
Through the mighty strength
Of my beloved Gods, of the Valiant Dead, and all that came before.

 – Prayer adapted from Carmina Gadelica St. Patrick’s Breastplate  

Revelations at the Sea

It’s been a while blog. Such is the way of life that things have just gotten complicated and I haven’t felt the inspiration or need to sit down and enter the login information that would bring me here and write, until today. Spiritually and just in general things got hard, and my treading water in the storms that have arisen have demanded all my attention. I won’t go into the nitty gritty details but as this is a spiritual blog for the most part I will talk about the spiritual side of the coin.

About the time that this little blog became dormant the Morrighan had made it known to me that the accordance we had agreed to prior and had put the nebulous stamp of “someday” on  was changed to “Now or Never”. At that point I went into a state of self analysis and processing because frankly that is a hefty thing to have to face. While my choice was fairly self evident to me; do the work, be the person that she expects me to be, or be a worm. I say that and I know that many people may infer some melodrama on my part, or attempts at sensationalism. All I can do is assure that is the actual feelings and breadth of the situation. Although to me it was a non-choice that I was going to accept the path before me, it still took an amount of gearing up and adjusting to the “someday” being “now”.

In the taking up this mantle it meant a pretty heavy overhaul of life style, and doing that has taken up a lot of my time and attention. Which meant that the stand still of spiritual life settled into that standard of layman.

What I mean by that is I said my prayers when I needed to, I made toast on occasion, but otherwise just lived my life. There is nothing wrong with that, just being a believer living in the world. It is the standard I held for a long time, But I am a priestess, more I am a High Priestess, and as such am required to have more of a spiritual life and practice than that. If you know me or read my blog enough you know that this then triggered another session of self analysis. I believe pretty strongly that self analysis is the tool for life fulfillment. It is time to go back and ask myself if being a Priestess is still for me? Is this a service I am still called to render? Why? What does that mean? What are the standards that I am willing to uphold? The list goes on.

While I am still in the process of  turning these questions around, I’m fairly certain that I am still able, willing, and called to serve as priestess. But obviously need to reestablish the lines of what that means, what my personal practice is in need of, and how they can be in accordance with the vows that I have made to the Gods.

Which brings us to yesterday, and the clarifying refreshing insight that the grey stormy sea gave me.

The grey skied sea

It had been a long time since I was last at the Sea. Temple and mine’s monthly dark moon trips had petered out for the same reasons that everything else had. So when a coven sister of ours revealed that she had not been to the beach in 8 or so years we knew it was time.

When we got there I was immediately hit with how incredibly good it felt to breath. No, really something as remarkably simple as that. The difference between the short shallow constrained breaths that I had been taking ever day and every night of my life recently and the soul satisfying deep all through the belly breathing that the open sky and sea air enticed into me. Even now sitting here in front of my computer far away from the crash of the waves, I remember and my breathing is better.

The sky was a glorious shade of grey. The low hanging clouds and a fine curtain of mist rolling at a steady clip across that wide sky. We had chosen our beach wisely for it’s lack of popularity, hoping for privacy. We were rewarded beautifully. After a long trek across the crab littered beach it was just us, the gulls, crows, pelicans and our various Gods.

We took our time, enjoying the lush spread of food that we had brought along. Savoring each others company and just the freedom of the sun, water and being sans four walls. Then it was time to do what we had come to do. For me that was to make my most humble offerings, with no grand design other than to say “I am still here with you”.  I had brought what felt right. An apple for my love and devotion. Oats for the sustenance that my faith has given me. Olives as the wealth that they bless. Beer for the pact between mortal and Gods as well as the pacts between mortal and mortal. And blood for the cycles and power that is in the world.

An offering of my devotions

I took my small offering further down the beach towards the stoic cliffs and felt compiled to sing. I sang my self blessing, a song I have not sung in a while. I sung loudly into the wind, my sisters each wandering off their own way on their own journeys. My self blessing is a fairly simple song that helps to connect me to the three realms. It usually goes as follows:

By the Sky, I speak truth
By the Sea, I know my beauty
By the Land, I walk my path

By the Sky, I sing your beauty
By the Sea, I know myself
By the Land I am your daughter
All Three are in me

But today that was not the order that the words came out of my mouth. Today the Sea wanted to be the path that I walked, to be the place from whence I was born from and I was happy to oblige. I made my procession around the corner of the cliffs, tide being low enough to allow. Coming face to face with the Ancient Temple sized giant that is the shear cliff side, the magnificent deep cave to the Underworld and the Sea. I will someday bring my camera to photograph the grandness of this holy sacred site, adding it to the entries of my Sacred Places. It is a Temple. On it’s rough sea hewn walls you can see where the sigils and writing would be, you can envision the regal Lion that would guard one side and the benevolent Bull on the other. Offerings in hand I sang even louder turning in time with the song to serenade each of the realms.

Chest bursting with the power and beauty of it all I carefully laid out my offerings, said my prayers and began to make the lightheaded way back to the blanket and my final offering to the Man of the Sea himself.

Land, Sea and Sky

It is the tradition of these beach trips that our Sea Gods get their own offering and time. Usually it’s a bottle of beer, today it was a bottle of Guinness. The waves were white and rough, pulling in zig zag crosses, easily warning of the deadly undertow that would be all to happy to snatch a wandering soul out to the tepid blue and the isles of the spirits. The water was not as frightening cold as I expected, and though the skies were grey the air was pleasant and humid. Without hesitation or even a hiss of pain at the cold I walked out into those waves. I sang the song of Manannán . Well…it’s not a whole song yet, but it will be, and I sang it none the less. Pouring out the heady foaming mixture into the white foamed surf. Mimic the ebb and pull of the waves to ensure that I would not also get swept away into deeper water, gasping when the inevitable excited waved came up too high and drenched me more thoroughly in thanks for my offerings.   My song soon changed to a different melody. One I had never sang before, but reminded me of many an Irish love song.

I stayed out there much longer than intended. Enjoying the flirtation with the waves, really feeling relaxed. The first time in a long time. At length I joined back up with Temple and we talked of our Sea Gods and our love of them. When our sister had completed her own workings we took her around the corner of the cliffs to see the glory of the cave to the Underworld and the Temple Cliffs. We went into the cave and stood in its dark embrace for a while, taking a few moments to chant to Persephone who much loves the place. Just as I felt the darkness pulling me in, the Sun which was beginning to hang low in the sky hit the perfect angle to shine into the cave. The darkness was lifted and I could hear the deep melodic voice calling me outside. Beckoning me back. I had been gone so long it was too soon to disappear again. In pure elation I turned from the cave to the Sun pouring down through the hazy clouds and ran out to the sea. My heart pounding, a wolf grin on my face, straight into the Sea. It was a home coming.

Sussing ourselves further on the waves, the water, the salt, and just everything, we slowly made our way back to the blanket. It was only then that the chill caught up to me, it was easily pacified with a towel but I was covered in sand and resigned to it happily. Laying on the blanket staring up at the shifting sky Temple and I do as we always do, shared.

I will take this moment to say some things that will embarrass and hopefully please my beautiful friend Temple.  I am so incredibly thankful to have her in my life and as my friend and sister. It is a rare thing in our society these days that you find more than one person to share your soul with. We are told sublimely that there is only one way to have intimacy and that is in a sexual, romantic relationship with one person. It’s just not true, nor do I think the weight and health of an entire soul can be sustained in that way. We are social creatures, I am a social creature, that craves true connection, and various types of love that life can bring. The comforting love of family, the fun love of friends, the supportive love of community, the strong connective love of people who you make the active choice to be your family, as well as the sustenance of the love of a partner who is your friend and lover. So to be blessed in this life time with so much love, and with finding a friend where there is absolute trust is just amazing.  So hear me fully and completely when I say my beautiful, kind, witty, Temple, that I love you.

Now then back to spiritual revelations on the the beach.

Sitting there watching the gulls, and the pelicans, we shared our current spiritual conundrums. How my altar has been veiled for about a month, how it was just feeling like it was trying too hard. Temple being the cleaver one who asks the right probing questions asked me what I meant by the altar “feeling it was trying too hard”? Having to put feeling into words things just started to line up for me. My altar felt like it was trying too hard because it wasn’t being what it wanted to be. It wants to be a stone slab table outside. It wants to be a flat rock in the middle of a standing stone circle. It wants to be a carved wooden statue in the center of an apple orchard. It wants to be at the base of a guardian Oak tree. It wants to be a fire pit and a hole in the ground. But it is a vanity, in a apartment, covered in man made items.

I am an Animist stuck in a bubble.

I don’t know what to do in my practice here in this urban nature. I tend my household spirits, I cleanse etc, but I don’t know what else to do. I know what I would do. On land that I owned. There would be no question of what to do because it would be everywhere all the time. The boundaries of the property would need to be walked and tended to. The harvest would need to be offered. At first bloom there would be rites that needed to happen. When the land was still and dead there would be rites. Dates on a calendar mean nothing to me, I need to be able to feel the breath of the land and just know when things need to be done. I know that this is what I would because this is what I did when we lived out in country. It was a year of watching the milk thistle grow, watching the walnut trees bear fruit, keeping an eye on the wild pigs and coyotes. It was the most spiritually fruitful time of my life. Some people feel connected to the rhythms of the city, the ebb and flow of people, of commerce. Some people feel connected to the nature of the urban forest, and the ivy that grows on the overpass, and the concrete temples that simply are. That connection is not easy for me. Lately I have fallen into staying within the confines of my four walls, cut off from the indicators of the three realms. Cut off from the messages of how to maintain the natural order in my life. I have let myself get surrounded in plastic and concrete things that are not my conductors. My roots veer off to land where the ratio of human to nature is much smaller. Where I don’t have to worry about the neighbors hearing. Where bonfires and bones are just part of the day. I need trees and forest, and hills and garden, not too far from the sea. Flowing water and just land.

All illuminating to my character. All helpful insights into “Yes, the goals you have set for yourself are good ones. Ones that will make you happy.” But in the mean time? I will have land and house, but in 5, 10, 12 years. What to do till then? How to feel connected, how to maintain my spiritual integrity with the reality of my life now. There is still work and opportunities to have here in the city. A balance must be struck.

Plotting with Temple is always helpful, and then plotting with the Lumberjack just even more so. The Lumberjack, my beloved, does not share my beliefs. He is more of an agnostic jedi scientist, but he is incredibly support of my spirituality. Actively supportive, talking things out with him telling him my revelations, he immediately added in methods and ideas to help obtain my goal. Immediately volunteered ways he could be involved in making things happen for me. Truly I am a much loved woman and I am so thankful.

The plans currently are to immediately get the Dark Moon beach trips on the calendar and started again. Getting out meeting Land, Sea and Sky at their nexus. Making offerings, that is how I maintain my own natural order. Doing the work and making monthly petitions for others as part of my Priestess service, more information on that to come. We are going to clear off and spruce up our little back porch. I’m going to get more plants, the Lumberjack is going to make a little altar table space for me out there. Then I’m just going to open the door and spend more time out there. When Temple comes over, we’ll sit out there and talk. I’m just going to go outside more. Walk more. The Lumberjack wants to take me on more camping trips, would like to find a good spot for us and Temple and the Giant to go. He’s going to help make me some items out of branches and wood to bring more of the outside onto my house altar. I’m going to cut it back, and really just put the things that connect to the realms and the Gods on there. Separate my spell work and community work for another place. At our coven’s up coming Harvest Home retreat, I’m going to spend as much time outside as possible. Temple and I are going to recruit someone into drumming for a trance ritual.

And that’s the plan thus far. Not a lot. But it’s a plan. It’s a start, and I feel good about it.

I feel good about the whole day yesterday. I feel emotional and weeping today, but I can still look back on yesterday and feel the energetic buzz. I’m sort of clinging to that at the moment. In the long run I don’t know what others might call my path, if it’s Celtic Polytheism with a Recon bent, if it’s Recon flavored Celtic Revivalism, if its just a woman grasping at feelings of rightness in order to live her life happily. I don’t really care. I’m just going to keep on remembering to breathe.