Blog - Page 10 of 12 - Lora O'Brien - Irish Author & Guide

Part 6 – Walking Your Path – Who’s Who of Irish Mythology Series

Who's Who of Irish Mythology

Part 6 – An Turas

I found a Book Proposal from 13 years ago, that I had agreed to write before life took a different turn for me – a ‘Who’s Who of Irish Mythology & How to Work with Them’.

I may or may not turn it into a book at some stage…?! But for now it may as well be out in world as sitting on my computer.

WARNING: It’s an unedited old photo of my thoughts and practice 13 years ago. So, be aware.

[Check Part 5 Here…]

Walking Your Own Path

I cannot and would not want to take you step by step along your personal path.

I can only relate what I’ve experienced, what I’ve researched and what I’ve learned.

Then I must leave it up to you, Dear Reader, to explore honestly and with integrity, where your own journey or Turas can take you.

Create your sacred space in whatever way appeals or feels comfortable to you, either in your home or at a special physical place that is appropriate or inspiring to the work in hand.

In doing so you will have formed an intersection between the worlds, an saol sin agus and saol eile, in which you can meet and get to know the Powers with whom you wish to work.

When you are finished, thank and say goodbye to anything or any Being you have called on, and also to the Spirits of Place – Spioraid na hÁite (pron. Spirrid nah Hawt-ya).

Leave offerings of bread, beer, milk, honey, or whatever is appropriate to the Powers and the place – but ONLY leave offerings that are fully and quickly biodegradable.

If you have nothing that will break down or be consumed completely within a day or two, then spit on the ground or wind a strand of your hair to a tree as an offering and a sacrifice from your person.

Seriously folks, if I see another plastic bag or sweet wrapper, not to mention the torn umbrellas, bits of shattered glass, and baby’s bibs others have reported, tied to a tree or otherwise left at a sacred site, I may just have to scream.

What do these people think this will achieve, other than pissing off the Powers?!

If you walk a spiral path as you create your space, then un-walk it as you deconstruct, and generally clear and tidy all remnants of your presence (both physical and subtle) before you leave or finish up your working.

As the primary aim of this book (and all of my work) is to facilitate and aid you in the forming of relationships with the Powers of Ireland, and there’s none of us getting any younger, it’s probably time to get on with doing just that.

Some of the Gods and Goddesses, or mythical figures, you will have heard of or perhaps worked with, and some you may be meeting for the first time.

But they are all interested in seeing how the journey goes.

So let’s meet them.


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Part 5 – The Irish Language – Who’s Who of Irish Mythology Series

Who's Who of Irish Mythology

Part 5 – As Gaeilge, In Irish…

I found a Book Proposal from 13 years ago, that I had agreed to write before life took a different turn for me – a ‘Who’s Who of Irish Mythology & How to Work with Them’.

I may or may not turn it into a book at some stage…?! But for now it may as well be out in world as sitting on my computer.

WARNING: It’s an unedited old photo of my thoughts and practice 13 years ago. So, be aware.

 

[Check Part 4 Here…]

 

Use of the Irish Language

I will also mention the use of the Irish language in ritual, and generally when working with the Powers of Ireland or at the ancient sites.

Yes, they do understand you if you speak English.  They would understand you if you spoke to them in Tahitian, Mongolian, or the sign language you and your sister made up when you were kids.

Intent matters – they can hear and feel what is truly in your heart.

Of course, how the Powers choose to interpret and use that intent and anything you hand over to them, depends very much on who you are dealing with; not all are good and pure and looking out for your best interests, by any means.

Be clear, focused and a little cautious.  Otherworldly entities don’t think or feel the same way we do, nor do they have the same sense of right and wrong as most mortals.

They understand intent, and whatever language you speak natively… but, Irish is their language.

It is the language of the ancestors, the continuity of the people, our connection to the past and an expression of our souls that makes them sing.

Modern Irish is quite different to the Irish our ancestors spoke, but it is a development of it, and a lot closer than English.

So many Irish people don’t seem to care about their own native tongue, and it is a huge personal worry of mine that Irish is being lost or disregarded.  Even as I type there is a fight in Europe to get our national language recognised as an official EU language.  (Note: it has been recognised since writing this.)

Although the issue was ignored for quite a long time, our government now seems to recognise, for once, a matter of national importance.

The use of Irish language terminology through my writing has been praised by some and highly criticised by others.

I have even seen it suggested that I skip the actual Irish words altogether and just give the phonetic sounds, as the pronunciation guides seem to annoy, or the Irish terms overwhelm some people.

Well, they are staying.  The language is real, it is still vibrant and developing in many areas of our society. Although it may seem difficult to learn, in reality it is no more challenging than French or German.

Irish Gaeilge (pron. Gayl-gah) is an important part of Irish magic and spirituality. I know quite a few people who would have originally considered the use of Gaeilge in magic to be at best unnecessary, and at worst pretentious – but on having actually experienced for themselves the response it evokes from the Powers and the extra dimension it can add to a ritual, they now see the value.

As I said, it is not that the Powers don’t understand other languages, but they certainly do understand the respect (and often the effort or hard work) it shows to speak to them in their own tongue, or as close to it as we have.

So I do encourage you to at least try using Irish in your rituals or magical/spiritual practices.

I will continue to provide the terminology and pronunciation guides for those who wish to incorporate it, and I will be providing it in actual Irish format, not just some dumbed down phonetic version for those who are too lazy or too stubborn to at least look at the language of a culture they profess to have an inclination towards.

 

Check my YouTube Playlist for Pronunciation Guide Videos… Subscribe for More!

 


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Part 4 – Sacred Space – Who’s Who of Irish Mythology Series

Who's Who of Irish Mythology

Part 4 – Between the Worlds

I found a Book Proposal from 13 years ago, that I had agreed to write before life took a different turn for me – a ‘Who’s Who of Irish Mythology & How to Work with Them’.

I may or may not turn it into a book at some stage…?! But for now it may as well be out in world as sitting on my computer.

WARNING: It’s an unedited old photo of my thoughts and practice 13 years ago. So, be aware.

 

[Check Part 3 Here…]

 

As modern magical practitioners or workers with Irish native traditions, by whatever name we choose to call ourselves, it is useful and even essential to us to be able to recognise, create, and control these intersections or connections between the worlds at will, as well as being able to recognise and utilise the more naturally occurring ones.

This is called, among other terms, creating sacred space.

Creation of Sacred Space

When the magical group in which I work began to move away from the whole Wicca thing, the first and possibly most difficult hurdle for us was regularly and ritually creating a space that was suitable to our membership and our surroundings, in which we could honour our ancestors and the Powers of this land.

With Wicca, it’s easy.  You join a coven, are taught the importance of protection and containment of energy, learn how to cast your circle with the whole “I conjure thee O thou Circle of power, that thou be-est a meeting place of love and joy and truth…” bit, and you quickly get to a point where you always work magic within a magical circle.

Of course, you don’t always go through the entire salt, water, cast, strengthen, watchtowers rigmarole – sometimes it’s as simple as an impromptu mental “Shields Up” blast and, as we see so faithfully represented in Star Trek, your ship and all within it are encased in an impenetrable force-field.  Possibly a rather fetching blue flamey or golden edged force-field.

Ok, it’s not easy exactly; there’s a lot of hard work and regular repeated ritual involved before you get to the Star Trek special effects stage.

But I’ll tell you what, it’s a lot easier than trying to figure out a set and standard procedure for the creation of sacred space, from scratch, that’s faithful to Irish source material and natural Powers, and encompasses the often widely differing views and practices of a group of very headstrong and opinionated Witches.  I should know.

We did eventually come up with an ‘opening ritual’ or standard format for the creation of sacred space that works really well for us as a group.

A part of me would love to just write it all down and trust that those who chose to work with it after reading this book would adapt and develop it, as our group will continue to do.

But, apart from the fact that it’s relevant to our particular time, place and people – the rest of the group would break my arms and legs for publishing something that is still very much a work in progress.  Which is fair enough really.

What I am free to do is elaborate on what the ‘creation of sacred space’ actually means and what function it performs, for this Irish Witch at least.

Yet, there is also another factor to be taken into consideration.

When I started to write my first book, “Irish Witchcraft from an Irish Witch”, I was determined to avoid the usual hand holding we see in so many New Age books.

I credited you, Dear Reader, from the outset, with integrity.  And with the willingness to work as hard as it takes for your knowledge.  I credited you with not needing me to hold your hand every step of the way.  I placed the responsibility for your own development squarely on your shoulders.  And still do.

It has however, been pointed out to me on many occasions since, that not everybody knows how to create a sacred space to work within, and those who do, don’t necessarily feel their usual methods are appropriate to an Irish based way of working.

I was aware of this at the time, and tried to address it in my resources list.  A few have reported that this leaves them hopping between one book and another with no real insight or guidance as to what is ‘right’ in the context of ‘Irish Witchcraft’.

My position has always been that through all that hopping and fumbling, you will find what is right, for you.  But, as I’m here and putting up some sort of signposts anyway, I guess I can get off my high horse and make them a little clearer this time round.  In doing so, I am breaking with my native tradition and culture – Irish signposts are notorious for pointing you in the wrong direction, or just hiding from the unwary traveller altogether.  But all in all, this is an important part of the book.  So let’s have a look at the form and function of different ways to do this.

How Differing Traditions Do It (Generally Speaking…)

Traditional Wiccans, such as Gardnerian or Alexandrians, usually refer to the sacred space simply as the Circle.  When creating or ‘casting’ it, the Circle becomes a “meeting place of love and joy and truth”, a “shield against all wickedness and evil”, a “boundary between the world of men and the realms of the Mighty ones”, a “rampart and a protection”, which will “conserve and contain the power” that is raised within it.

These are all individual functions, describing what one would achieve when using a Traditional Wiccan circle casting.  What these quotes mean in essence is that the circle or sacred space serves as: a neutral territory in which personal arguments or clashes are unnecessary, protection for the group/individual practitioner from unwanted outside influences, an intersection between the mundane and the ‘supernatural’ realms, and as a sort of bubble battery pack in which to hold the energy which is raised during ritual or spell working, until the High Priestess or individual practitioner deconstructs the circle and the releases the stored energy to go and fulfil it’s appointed purpose.

The Elemental Lords are evoked to their appropriate quarters of East, South, West, and North, and a God and Goddess energy -either generic or specifically named – are usually called from the North (seen as the most appropriate place of power or magic), to further protect and guard the circle.  That’s Wicca, and a lot of ‘eclectic witchcraft’ is based around those principles.  It’s all useful stuff.

Celtic Reconstructionist Pagans don’t tend to set aside specific sacred space, as they feel that the entire world is sacred.  They may work around altars, hearths, or shrines, which can be dedicated to individual deities, to spirits or ancestors, or specifically set up for particular magical purposes.

Some acknowledge the four or twelve winds, and mark the division of the world into quarters or provinces which equate to the Irish model of Four Provincial divisions with a sacred centre.  CR’s generally seem to work also with a three worlds model: the realms of Earth, Sea and Sky being appropriate to a Celtic mindset.

This makes sense to me, as we can see that these realms or worlds of Nem, Talam, and Muir (sky, earth, and sea respectively in Old Irish) are at least referred to, evoked, or attached a very certain potency through examination of ancient texts such as The Book of Leinster, the Táin Bó Cuailgne (though this is based on parts of the former), and Togail Bruidne Da Derga.  All in all, an interesting approach, and relevant to Irish native heritage.

Ceremonial Magicians might ensure their personal space or aura is strong, healthy and razor sharp by the daily practice of the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram, and other personal cleansing, banishing and strengthening rituals.  Working with the evocation of universal forces, sometimes referred to as Angels or Demons, seems to ensure a healthy respect for the concept of “this is my space, and that is your space”; so a protective circle would be used in such workings, along with a triangle outside this space to contain/control the evoked being.  Very practical and safe.

Early Celtic Christians utilised the Turas Deiseal, often named the ‘Sunwise’ journey/walk (pron. Toor-ass Jesh-al).  In Irish, ar dheis (pron. Air Yesh) still means ‘to the right’, so technically it is following the direction the sun appears to travel in the sky, in our country.

The Turas Deiseal is a circular walk to the right, sometimes specified as seven times round, with the rounds being counted on hand held pebbles.  It was most appropriately done around a holy well, church, or other sacred site, and was viewed as a pilgrimage or journey.  Dara Molloy, in his essay for the book “Celtic Threads”, maintains that the Turas Deiseal is a ritual which facilitates a tuning in “with the rhythms of the earth, the cycle of the days, the seasons and the passing years”.

Personally, I believe this practice to be based on older knowledge or techniques.  One similar instance of this practice which I have come across is in a fore-tale to the Cattle raid of Cooley, about the curse put on the Ulster men by the Goddess Macha.  The story is entitled Ces Ulad, or ‘the pangs of Ulster’.  It tells how the Goddess came to live with a mortal man, just turned up one day and attended to the household as if she had been there forever.   But before she would sleep with him, she does an interesting thing.  Proinsias MacCana describes her action as “the ritual right hand turn to ensure good fortune”.  Daragh Smyth says that it was only “after circling three times on the flagstone on the front of his house” that she went in and entered his bed.  Although this is hardly concrete evidence to support my theory, the Turas Deiseal could quite possibly have a more ancient heritage than the Celtic Christian usage.

…..

That’s how some folks go about things, and there are many more examples available for you to study. Do go and look up different traditions to see what is important, relevant or useful from them.

In our search to blend sensible modern magic with native Irish practices, there are a few notable elements which the creation of sacred space could take into account.

I am quite firm in my belief that any actual words you use, whether spontaneous or pre-written, regularly and routinely used or changed each time, should and indeed must be your words and not mine – but to help with the whole signposts thing, my personal practice includes the following:

  • An initial tuning in, relaxation and opening up exercise, or connection of some sort to the actual physical space in which I work, particularly when outdoors.  This can be as simple as a few minutes of silent contemplation, physical relaxation, deep breathing and observation, or can involve the like of a more detailed ‘Chakra opening’ exercise for those who are comfortable with, or interested in, such things.  The intent is to relax, tune out of the mundane and into more ‘supernatural’ aspects, prepare myself, and observe what is already going on around me.
  • I then use the Turas Deiseal, as outlined above, to demarcate the area in which I wish to work.  A simple walk, sunwise (that is, following whichever way the sun appears to travel through the sky in your part of the world), which I usually take seven times round, while chanting or singing, speaking particular words or absorbing the silent creation – depending on where I am and who I am working with at the time.  I find this to be useful on many levels.  It is reminiscent of the spiral symbol which is an important part of Irish heritage.  This symbol was used by our ancestors from as early as 3100 BCE, the most famous examples being found carved into the stones surrounding the pre-historic passage-tomb of Newgrange, in County Meath.  What these images represented, or why they were important, nobody can say for sure.  But if the spiral or triple spiral symbol is something you feet an affinity with or wish to explore for yourself, then the Turas Deiseal can be adapted to facilitate this.  Walking the spiral path is an effective connection to Otherworld energies.  Walking the ritual right-hand path also clearly marks the space in which I wish to work.  It creates boundaries and protection if that is so desired – this aspect can be clarified and strengthened by your words and your visualisation, if you feel the need yourself.  And it focuses and strengthens your central point – whether that is a fire, a seat, a cooking pot, a candle, a hearth, an altar, a shrine, a standing stone – making the centre of your sacred space a useful focal point for whatever work you intend to carry out.
  • I then bring in other elements of Irish tradition as appropriate, again to time, place, and the company I am keeping when I work.  These elements could include: Provincial evocations (Ulster, Connaught, Leinster and Munster, with either Midhe or Uisneach as the central point), acknowledgement of the four directions/winds/cities or treasures of the Tuatha De Danaan, evocation (calling to my presence) or invocation (more complex, calling to within myself) of particular deities, movement/dance to incorporate the triple spiral symbol into the space, or connection to the three worlds of land, sea and sky.

When the sacred space has been created to my satisfaction, I then proceed with the work of the time.

For the purposes of this book, the work might be:

  • simply sitting in contemplation of the Power to whom you wish to introduce yourself and seeing what way your mind takes you (this is often how the feedback happens),  the oral telling of a story connected to the Power or illustrating their attributes (this serves to remind them of who they are, as well as educating yourself and others present regarding them, and tapping into Bardic skills of story-telling and continuance/development of knowledge),
  • a more formal introductory proclamation of who you are, and what you want from them (be warned: this may open up a whole can of worms if they decide to throw what work they want from you into your life),
  • a magical evocation of the Power to come and meet you within the space you have created (requires a level of visualisation/concentration practice and ability, and prior experience with meditations and spiritual journeying is an advantage),
  • or a full blown invocation of the power to come and inhabit your body for a time, to speak or act through you, to prophesise through you, to merge with you for a time (this requires the highest level of previous skill and magical training to be able to handle and control successfully and at Will –  though it can happen spontaneously, such an occurrence should be viewed as honestly and critically  as possible to avoid the whole experience or series of experiences degrading into nothing more than fanciful ego stroking and self aggrandisement).

Any of these methods of working can happen simultaneously, e.g. an evocation or invocation may begin with the silent contemplation or be followed by the telling of a story. It is always a good idea to plan what you wish to do before hand; get it clear in your own head what the intent of your work is, and what from the above outlined (or from your own intuition/experience/research) you feel is relevant to your time or place.

You can write and learn off specific words to say, chants to use, learn songs or drum on a bodhrán, or just have the basic outline of what you want to do ready in your head and fill in the gaps as you go, as the spirit moves you.

Please, please, for your own sake, keep a full and honest record of all you do and all you experience.  Even things that seem irrelevant, failed, or stupid to you now can hold immense value as you continue your own development and training through the years.

It is truly amazing what clicks into place when I look back over records I have kept for years without realising the significance or relevance of incidents such as dreams, intuitive feelings, life events and recurring challenges, when viewed only in isolation.

And of course, tracking your personal development is always good for a laugh, and occasionally to highlight just how far you have actually come – it can often seem like we are banging our heads on the proverbial brick wall, when in fact we are coming further and faster and steadier than we think.

 


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Part 3 – The Otherworld – Who’s Who of Irish Mythology Series

Who's Who of Irish Mythology

Part 3 – Their World

I found a Book Proposal from 13 years ago, that I had agreed to write before life took a different turn for me – a ‘Who’s Who of Irish Mythology & How to Work with Them’.

I may or may not turn it into a book at some stage…?! But for now it may as well be out in world as sitting on my computer.

WARNING: It’s an unedited old photo of my thoughts and practice 13 years ago. So, be aware.

 

[Check Part 2 Here…]

 

The Irish Otherworld

It is agreed far and wide by those who know of such things, that we mortals inhabit one world or plane of existence, and the Powers inhabit another.

An saol sin agus an saol eile (pron. On Sail shin O-guss on Sail ella). This world, and the Irish Otherworld.

There are many references to the Otherworld to be found peppered throughout Irish culture – in our literature, works of art, our history, the old stories, sayings, songs, traditional fairy tales and fables.

Yet none of the scholarly works in whose indexes the reference appears can completely characterise a singular definition for what this ‘Otherworld’ actually is.

There’s no simple answer, no uniform dictionary definition, and an awful lot of conflicting and contradictory information.

An Saol Eile (pron. On Sail Ella) or the Irish Otherworld, is the realm that lies adjacent to our more mundane world of here and now.

An Saol Eile is the realm that belongs to the Gods and to the spirits or Powers of the land. An Saol Eile is the realm of the Sidhe (pron. Shee), the Good People, the Fairies, to which comely maidens and sporting young men are enticed with dance and feast, where time runs differently – if they ever do return they may find that their 2 hours of fun has left them 20 years out of their own world.

An Saol Eile is where the soul may go when we finally shuffle off this mortal coil, the equivalent of the Underworld through the House of Donn, Lord of Death.

An Saol Eile is the Land of Promise, the Land of Youth, the Land of the Living, the Land of beauteous Women, the Land of Milk and Honey.

It is any of a series of mysterious islands which can be visited and explored through the Adventurous Eachtraí, or the Immrama, soul voyages. It could be heaven, or it could be hell. In my opinion, it is something in between.

The Otherworld is where those Powers with whom we wish to work reside.

Far from being distinctly divided however, the worlds often meet. There is crossover and intersection, although the modern mess of hustle and bustle, constant noise and distraction, and lack of observation in which we now dwell ensures that many of us remain closed to the possibilities.

In quieter times, people’s experiences of these natural points of intersection have lead to the many mentions of the Otherworld in the Irish tales.

There are particular times and places in which travel between the worlds was (and still is) not only possible but often seems to have been difficult to avoid. Oíche Shamhna (pron. Ee-ha How-na, meaning ‘Samhain night’), Bealtaine Eve, daily times of transition such as dawn or dusk, walking home after a Céilí dance, fairy raths or ring forts, deep pools, wells, certain caves, particular trees and forests, high and lonely hills, standing stone circles, passage tombs or cairns, and of course any old mist or fog that descends suddenly while you and your men are out hunting…

As we can see, there are many occasions throughout the land, and throughout the year, when the worlds meet.

Times and places at which they can come here, and we can go there.

 


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Part 2 – About Them – Who’s Who of Irish Mythology Series

Who's Who of Irish Mythology

Part 2 – About Them

I found a Book Proposal from 13 years ago, that I had agreed to write before life took a different turn for me – a ‘Who’s Who of Irish Mythology & How to Work with Them’.

I may or may not turn it into a book at some stage…?! But for now it may as well be out in world as sitting on my computer.

WARNING: It’s an unedited old photo of my thoughts and practice 13 years ago. So, be aware.

 

[Check Part 1 Here…]

 

The Powers

This is essentially a book about the characters of Irish myth and legend.

I have looked for relationships with these beings; the characters, the entities, the Gods and Goddesses, the heroes, the warriors, the maidens, the kings, the queens and all the rest.

Throughout, I will refer to these beings generally and collectively as ‘the Powers’, for simplicity’s sake. Continually talking about ‘the Beings, the characters, the entities, the Gods and Goddesses, the heroes, the warriors, the maidens, the kings, and the queens’ would get pretty tedious for you, and give me writer’s cramp in no time.

I don’t want to go down on my knees and worship these Powers; I want to stand and face them, utilising and revelling in all of my natural strengths and in theirs. I don’t want to simply categorise the Powers into neat little boxes, mark down what they are said to be useful for and leave it at that, ‘correctly’ correspond them to other pantheons, other deities, other cultures. I recognise and respect them for the unique beings that they are, and the unique skills that they wield, each unto themselves.

The book I needed wasn’t to be found – one which could give me real information and facilitate me in my search for connection. So I’m writing it. Because I am very certain I am not the only one who wants this connection.

I am not the only one who wants to form relationships with these very real Powers. And I am not the only one who wants to see real information which will redress the balance, and, I hope, help to wake up the Ireland which has been sleeping.

There is debate as to whether the myths and legends were originally based on historically real people and events, or on archetypal symbols which were given form to represent the needs, desires, fears, strength and weakness of a people.

It has been my experience that however you choose to perceive them or believe in them, they are entities which are undoubtedly satisfied to be worked with and related to from our modern magical perspective.

Whether you regard them from the perspective of religious devotion, or as practical/symbolic tools that can be utilised to achieve a particular end, their power is potent. Whether you are Irish, American, or Tanzanian, their strengths and energies are available to you.

In the modern New Age spiritual movement, the Irish Powers are often vastly misrepresented and misunderstood. From what I have seen and felt, they don’t seem to be too pleased about that.

In talks and workshops on working with Irish Deity or magical Powers, I usually advise that the first thing to do is familiarise yourself with them. Read their stories, visit their sacred sites, learn the mythology, examine the original source material that is still available, and research what scholars have extrapolated from these sources.

These are all essential steps when forming relationships with them. Although the Powers have evolved and grown through the ages, knowing where they have come from gives us a good grounding in their fundamental characteristics, interests and natures. Starting at the beginning in any endeavour is always a good plan.

Oh and, speaking of “forming relationships”, that’s another thing I’d like to be clear on from the start.

Generally speaking, I’m not a fan of the practice so often seen today; where a person decides that a particular God or Goddess is suitable for a one off ritual or occasion, calls them up, expects them to grant boons and favours and help out in whatever situation is being worked for, and then is never heard from again.

If a complete stranger walked into your house and asked for a favour, however politely – would you be inclined to help? Possibly you would, and sometimes the Powers do too, if there is sufficient offering or perhaps bribery involved. They are not above being bought off.

However, most people would be far more inclined to help out when a friend asks a favour, and this follows through with the Powers, in my experience. A give and take relationship is the most effective and respectful way I have found of working with them.

But I digress.

Those first steps in researching and getting to know the Powers are essential. Once you’ve done your homework though, where do you go with that?

 


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Part 1 – My Background – Who’s Who of Irish Mythology Series

Who's Who of Irish Mythology

I found a Book Proposal from 13 years ago, that I had agreed to write before life took a different turn for me – a “Who’s Who of Irish Mythology & How to Work with Them”.

I may or may not turn it into a book at some stage…?! But for now it may as well be out in world as sitting on my computer.

WARNING: It’s an unedited old photo of my thoughts and practice 13 years ago. So, be aware.

 

Part 1 – About Me

 

Through my life, for as long as I can remember, I have been seeking.

For what, I did not know, for the longest time. As I looked around me, growing up, I knew I was different somehow, and thought myself a ‘freak’ because of it.

I could feel things that other people didn’t seem to feel. I knew instinctively that there was more to the world than most of us could physically see.

Some of my earliest magical and spiritual experiences were instinctive, natural, totally unexpected and unlooked for. They rocked my world and set me on my path. They came in the form of contact, and help (when it was most needed), from the natural and ancient Powers of Ireland, though I barely understood this at the time.

From that point, I tried to follow many of the traditions and paths to happiness and spiritual fulfilment which were available to me at the time. I read books on solitary witchcraft and hedge witchcraft, I tried crystal healing, study of the tarot, some shamanic teachings, and Wicca (I worked for many years with a Traditional Alexandrian coven).

Nothing was quite right. Nothing ever really fit.

I know now that this was mainly because I was following other people’s experiences, their perceptions of the paths, instead of following my own intuition. Although I learned a lot, and quite a bit of it was learning what NOT to do, it was only when I looked within that I started to achieve any sort of true fulfilment.

I realised that I had to go back to my beginnings. Back to my own experiences, my own culture, my heritage, the ways of my ancestors. I needed to reconnect to the more natural powers of my native land, from which I had received my first insights and aid.

I read everything I could find on Celtic or Irish magic. There wasn’t a lot around at that time.

Through my initial book research and study, I was looking for something that feels real, connected to the Ireland that I know, and to the Ireland that I can still feel by walking the land and the ancient sites.

A lot of the books I studied are about Celtic myths and legends, which is a far broader topic to cover than the Irish on it’s own. A lot of those books just relate the stories, and leave it at that. A lot of the books that do try to address how a modern user of magic might relate to these beings fall far short on actual academic research of source material, and often on true experience of what is available to us.

That has been my experience, at least, when seeking guides while on my own journey of mixing modern magic with traditional tales.

I have read many fascinating books. Many wonderful, moving, inspiring and intellectually stimulating books. But none of them have addressed what I needed – me, Lora Uí Bhriain, Bean Draoí (pron. Ban Dree, meaning ‘female user of magic’), Irish Priestess and Witch.

 


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Brian Ború’s Fort, County Clare

Brian Boru Fort

This is Brian Boru’s Fort, Ballyvally, Co. Clare, in the South West of Ireland.  The Record of Monuments and Places (RMP) number is CL045-031.  For your Sat Nav, the GPS co-ordinates are approximately 52.819486, -8.451598, and it’s in Irish State ownership, so you don’t have to get permission to walk the site.

Brian Boru (Old Irish: Brian Bóruma mac Cennétig; Middle Irish: Brian Bóruma; modern Irish: Brian Bóramha; c. 941 – 23rd April 1014) was an Irish king who ended the domination of the Kingship of Ireland by the Uí Néill. He is the O’Brien ancestral progenitor.

Brian belonged to the Dál gCais (or Dalcassians), a newly styled kin group of ultimately Déisi origin who occupied a territory north of the Shannon Estuary, which today would incorporate a substantial part of County Clare and then formed the core of the new kingdom of Thomond.

To visit his home today, you can fly straight into Shannon Airport and be here within the hour, and I highly recommend booking into Glocca Morra B&B, just down the road in Ogonnelloe.  There’s an excellent atmosphere, with consistent top reviews for the host there, Mike, who just can’t do enough for you when you stay, and with the views over Lough Derg, fresh coffee and scones on arrival, and healthy countryside walks, you won’t want to be leaving.  It’s worth a trip into Scarriff though, to visit the gorgeous little health food and gift shop, the Grainey, and the Irish Seedsavers Project.

From Killaloe, you’re taking the R463 for Scarriff, and driving to approximately to the co-ordinates 52.818708, -8.456329.  Park safely (unfortunately, the only available parking is by the side of the road), and you’ll see a shaded woody laneway in to the right, with an information panel on the entranceway, and a sign pointing to ‘Brian Boru’s Fort’.  Follow that lane to the end, and you will see the monument off to your left.

See my YouTube videos of our family visit:

Brian Ború’s Fort, Co Clare – Part 1

Brian Ború’s Fort, Co. Clare – Part 2

 


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Padraig and the Pouca

Irish Mill, Roscommon - River Suck

There was a young man in Clare, a miller’s son, whose name was Padraig. He worked hard for his father, for they hadn’t much, but every day he went to the mill he would have to shout and shuffle the lazy labourers out there to get them to do even a tap of work. One of the days, when they had a big order on, he couldn’t even get them to raise a toe, never mind a finger, and when he went to check at end of day, didn’t he find them all fast asleep – and not a bit of the corn was ground for the order.

Frustrated and furious, he walked out along the stream for a bit, and was sitting head in hands when he heard a fierce snorting behind him. Turning, he met a large black bull, pawing the ground and about to charge. Now, Padraig knew there was no such bull with his family nor with the neighbours, and his own mother was a fairy woman, who’d been telling him old tales since he was born – so he could well recognise a Pouca no matter what form it was taking. He stood and said that if the Pouca would help his family that night, he’d give him his own thick coat to wear, for it was fierce cold. He laid the coat over the shoulders of the bull, and it rested down meek as a lamb, then lumbered off back up to the mill. Padraig sat for a while by the stream, his head much quieter, and waited, for the fairies don’t like to be disturbed in their work. After a time, he saw an old man leave, away into the scrubland behind. The poor thing was skin and bones, and cold even with the heavy coat draped over him, for he was dressed only in rags beneath. When Padraig went into the mill though, he saw the corn all ground; a week’s work had been done in a single night and it certainly wasn’t the labourers who’d done it, for they were still snoring.

The next night, Padraig was back by the mill at the same time, with a drop of whiskey and a bit of a cake his mam had made, and left them by the door. Sure enough, it wasn’t long before he heard the mill working away, and he knew again it wasn’t the labourers, for they were all still down at the pub. He went and dismissed the lot of them, and was back in time to see the Pouca leave the same as the last night. This happened every night, and the family grew very rich, for the miller was getting a week’s work done in a night, and he never had to pay a wage other than the whiskey and a bit of cake of an evening. But Padraig grew tired of seeing the Pouca heading off through all kinds of weather with not even a shoe on his foot, nor trousers to keep his skinny old legs a bit warm. So he got a superb suit of clothes made up, and left them out one night in place of the usual whiskey and cake.

He watched the Pouca find them, try them on, and preen as he examined himself looking like a fine gentleman. Indeed, he must have thought himself such, and fine gentlemen don’t labour each night in a mill, so he took himself off to see the countryside, and laboured no more. But Padraig didn’t mind, for they were wealthy by then, and sold the mill for good profit. He made a match after with a Lord’s daughter, and had a fine wedding party with all the trimmings. At the feast, he found a grand golden cup laid up at the top table, and knew it to be a gift from the Pouca, so he insisted that only himself and his bride drink from it that day, and every day thereafter. The couple never had a day’s bad luck in their lives from then on, and their descendants went on to many adventures with the fairies.

But sure, they are all stories for another day…


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First President of Ireland – Douglas Hyde

Douglas Hyde

‘We need not claim that in quantity and quality of achievement he was great as a writer; but we surely can say that he did write well, that he did help others to write greatly – that he did help Irish letters, in all its branches, to be native, continuous, rooted, branching and fruitful.’

Robert Farren, ‘Douglas Hyde the Writer’, in Irish Press (14 July 1949) [obituary notice on the day following his death]

A boy, transplanted to Roscommon soil – in an alien garden; he not only put down firm roots, but proceeded to flourish and bloom like no other before him, to cross pollinate thoughts and ideas that would wake and revive the native life, all the while respecting, caring for and nurturing the fields and gardens which surrounded him – Douglas Hyde.

 

Born by accident in County Roscommon, on 17th January 1860; while his mother, Elizabeth, was on a short visit to Longford House, in Castlerea.  Raised in his father’s Church of Ireland rectory in County Sligo, Hyde didn’t return to Roscommon until he was 7 years old.  His father, Arthur, was appointed Rector and Prebendary (a type of Canon) of Tibohine, and the family moved to the village of Frenchpark in 1867.

There were 4 brothers, but the youngest, Douglas, was educated at home due to illness, by his father and his aunt.  At the time, Irish people were still suffering the after effects of the extreme poverty and denigration of the Big Famine.  An Gorta Mór, ‘the Great Hunger’, took about a million people in death, and approximately another million in emigration.  That was about 25% of our population.  And the anger that remained!  The loss and grief were terrible, but the anger and frustration felt by the Irish people equaled, and even surpassed it – to know that there was plenty of food all along, grown on our land, with our labour, and leaving our country to grace the tables of Landlords and their class, while our children starved to death.

The Irish ‘peasantry’ were suffering and struggling still by the time Hyde was born, to a county that was among the worst affected.  His family were well off, of a higher class, and it would have been unseemly for their child to mingle with the peasantry.

But mingle he did.  In particular, he was fascinated by listening to the older people in the community speaking the Roscommon Gaeilge dialect.  He became friends with an old Gilly on his father’s estate, a gamekeeper by the name of Seamus Hart.  The job title ‘Gilly’, by the way, comes from the old Irish term Giolla, meaning servant or slave.  The Irish language was deemed coarse, backward, savage – old-fashioned, at best.  It had been made shameful to speak it, to teach it to your children.  Parents were convinced that their children would never, ever, get anywhere, progress at all in life unless they could speak with a proper English tongue.  But to the young Douglas Hyde, the language was lyrical, eternally pleasant to listen to, witty and wise and unendingly beautiful.  He fell in love with the Irish language, and began to study it of his own accord.

The boy would roam the estates, and the countryside, listening to the stories, exploring the ancient places, talking to the older people in their own tongue. Learning.  He loved the legends of Rathcroghan, home of Queen Meadbh (Maeve) and Gaelic royalty for over 2000 years.  He carved his name in Uaimh na gCait, the Cave of the Cats – fabled entrance to the Irish Otherworld.  He was devastated when Seamus Hart died, 7 years later, when Hyde was just 14.  He flagged a bit, stopping his studies of the language and the culture, but his interest and passion began to rally when over the course of a few visits to Dublin he discovered there were others like him; groups of people who wanted to preserve and speak the Irish language, to whom it was just as important and wonderful as he found it to be.

Hyde rejected family pressure to follow their traditional career in the Church, and instead went to Trinity College, Dublin, where his flair for languages continued into fluency in French, German, Latin, Hebrew and Greek.

 

At the age of 20 (1880), he joined the Society for the Preservation of the Irish Language, and published over a hundred pieces of Irish language poetry under his pen name An Craoibhín Aoibhinn, ‘the Pleasant Little Branch’.  The Irish Language movement was viewed as eccentric at first, the province of bored academics looking for novel ways to spend their time.

But it gained respect, and a huge following, steadily in the years to follow.  Hyde was a huge influence on this, helping to establish the Gaelic Journal in 1892, and speaking publicly on topics such as “The Necessity for De-Anglicising Ireland”, where he said:

But the Irish language is worth knowing, or why would the greatest philologists of Germany, France, and Italy be emulously studying it, and it does possess a literature, or why would a German savant have made the calculation that the books written in Irish between the eleventh and seventeenth centuries, and still extant, would fill a thousand octavo volumes…

We must arouse some spark of patriotic inspiration among the peasantry who still use the language, and put an end to the shameful state of feeling — a thousand-tongued reproach to our leaders and statesmen — which makes young men and women blush and hang their heads when overheard speaking their own language…

To a person taking a bird’s eye view of the situation a hundred or five hundred years hence, believe me, it will also appear of greater importance than any mere temporary wrangle, but, unhappily, our countrymen cannot be brought to see this…

We must teach ourselves to be less sensitive, we must teach ourselves not to be ashamed of ourselves, because the Gaelic people can never produce its best before the world as long as it remains tied to the apron-strings of another race and another island, waiting for it to move before it will venture to take any step itself…

I appeal to everyone whatever his politics — for this is no political matter — to do his best to help the Irish race to develop in future upon Irish lines, even at the risk of encouraging national aspirations, because upon Irish lines alone can the Irish race once more become what it was of yore — one of the most original, artistic, literary, and charming peoples of Europe.

The following year, the same in which he married a German lady by the name of Lucy Cometina Kurtz (1893), Douglas Hyde helped found the ‘Gaelic League’, Conradh na Gaedhilge, to preserve and promote Irish culture and language.  Contrary to other organisations of the time, Conradh na Gaedhilge accepted women as full members right from the start, and did not assign them to subordinate roles.   Many notable women, such as Lady Esmonde, Lady Gregory, and Mary Spring Rice, played an active part in establishment of the League, and in leadership roles in their local communities.  At the 1906 annual convention, out of 45 executive roles, 7 were filled by women.  Hyde resigned in 1915, when the League formally committed to the Nationalist political movement, as he felt that the culture and importance of our language should be above politics.  His influence though, was huge, as many of the prominent Irish leaders (such as Earnest Blythe, Pádraig Pearse, Éamon De Valera, and Michael Collins) first became educated and passionate about Irish independence through their involvement with Conradh na Gaedhilge.

It seems he tried his best to stay out of politics, and returned to the life of academia.  He did get sucked in briefly, accepting a nomination to Seanad Eireann, the Irish Senate, after the creation of the new Irish state.  But things got messy in 1925, and a Catholic smear campaign caused the loss of his electoral seat, so he settled in to be Professor of Irish at UCD (University College Dublin), instead.  In 1938 though, then Taoiseach (Irish political leader) Éamon de Valera, re-appointed him to the Seanad.  From here he was nominated and elected uncontested to the position of An tÚachataráin, first President of the Irish Republic, on 26th June 1938.  Although the President could choose either English or Irish in which to recite the Presidential Declaration of Office, Hyde set the precedent by (unsurprisingly) declaring in his chosen native tongue.  His speech, the first ever recitation of the Irish Republic’s President, is one of the few remaining recordings of the now lost Roscommon dialect in which he was fluent.

He was a very popular president, cultivating friendship with many world leaders such as Franklin D. Roosevelt and the English King George V, but due to ill health decided not to run for a second term, leaving office on 25th June 1945.  He never returned to Roscommon, his wife having died early in his presidential term, but moved to a residence in the grounds of Áras an Uachtaráin, the President’s Residence in the Phoenix Park, Dublin; where he died quietly on 12th July 1949, at the age of 89.  Douglas Hyde is buried with his family at Portahard Church, which is now the Douglas Hyde Museum, beside the Main N5 road between Tulsk and Frenchpark, in County Roscommon.

The Irish Poet and Writer W.B. Yeats had this to say on Douglas Hyde:

‘He had much frequented the company of old countrymen, and had so acquired the Irish language, and his taste for snuff, and for moderate quantities of a detestable species of illegal whiskey distilled from the potato by certain of his neighbours’…

‘the cajoler of crowds, and of individual men and women … and for certain years young Irish women were to display his pseudonym Craoibhin Aoibhin in gilt letters upon their hat-bands’.

‘The man most important for the future was certainly Dr Douglas Hyde. I had found a publisher while still in London for his Beside the Fire and his Love Songs of Connacht and it was the first literary use of the English dialect of the Connacht country people that had aroused my imagination for those books. His faculty was by nature narrative and lyrical, and at our committees […] he gave me an impression of timidity or confusion. His perpetual association with peasants, whose songs and stories he took down in their cottages from early childhood when he learned Irish from an old man on a kitchen floor, had given him. Though a strong man, that cunning that is the strength of the weak. He was always diplomatising, evading as far as he could prominent positions and the familiarity of his fellows that he might escape jealousy and detraction. […] He never spoke his real thought […] for his mind moved among pictures, itself indeed a premise but never an argument. In later years the necessities of Gaelic politics destroyed his sense of style and undermined his instinct for himself. He ceased to write in that delicate, emotional dialect of the people, and wrote and spoke, when he spoke in public, from coarse reasoning’.

He said Hyde ‘wrote out of imitative sympathy’; he was to create a popular movement (the Gaelic League) but Yeats nonetheless mourned for ‘the greatest folklorist who ever lived’… ‘his style is perfect – so sincere and simple – so little literary’.


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In Service to the Morrigan

So, as part of my Meeting the Morrigan Intensive Programme, I answer questions from students who want to know more about the Irish Goddess Morrigan, with whom I have had a solid working relationship for about 15 years now… and the last 13 of them as Her priestess.

8 of those years were spent in daily service (and professional employment), managing Her primary sacred site at Rathcroghan, Co. Roscommon, and guiding visitors in (and safely back out) of the cave known as ‘her fit abode’; Uaimh na gCait, Oweynagat – the Cave of the Cats.

I’m going to occasionally share some of those answers through this blog.

[Find them tagged with ‘Morrigan’, or ‘Class Questions’]

Shannon Duerden Thompson asked: “What about ways to be of service to Her, and to the community?”

There was a blog post and some social media hoo-hah  a while back, originating from a self-styled community ‘elder’ or leader, who was giving out… now, this person is kinda known for giving out, and a whole lot of other problematic shit besides. So, I didn’t read it all.

But the gist was they were giving out about people who tied their activism with their service to Her.

For me, political and social activism is very much a part of my service to Her, and that’s by Her request… so I mean, to each their own.  But for me, that’s very much a part of how I serve.

That whole thing about, y’know, showing up and doing the work – part of that for me is standing up and being present, being a voice for people who can’t speak for themselves.

Now that’s not everybody’s path, and I’m very, very aware of that. I would never want or expect anybody who didn’t feel safe doing that, to feel that was part of the work that they had to do, or that they couldn’t work with the Morrigan unless they were socially/politically active.

But my activism; my politics, my fighting for equality and for everybody to have crazy stuff like basic human rights, is very, very important to me – and to Her, as I understand it – as part of my service to Her and my community.

That’s very much a part of my priesthood, but it’s not all about shouting people down or being on the front lines.

If you’re not able to be on the front lines, there are so many ways that activism work can be done.  Calls, emails, letters and postcards all need sending to lobby politicians and organisations. Having those difficult conversations with family and friends – Click Here for Resources for White Allies.

Support work is also essential, keeping hearth and home.  If somebody is out being a warrior, and that’s not you, that’s fine.  Those warriors need somewhere to come home to.  Those warriors need feeding, those warriors need hugs and minding and healing.

You don’t need me to tell you how fucked the world is right now, whichever part of it you live in.

As well as me doing my own work, on and offline, I am also a voice that calls people out to do their own work.

It has been said that for evil men to accomplish their purpose it is only necessary that good men should do nothing. – Rev. Charles F. Aked

If you’re genuinely doing what you can do, quietly, offline or in private, then those call outs – or calls to action as I prefer to think of them, as I don’t generally personalise them – are not for you.

We all need to take care of ourselves through this, and each other. I totally understand folks only have a certain amount of energy and resources (spoons) to spend – perhaps due to their own trauma, physical or mental limitations, or other responsibilities – and have to figure that accordingly.

A problem occurs though, when you start talking online about what for you might be genuine reasons not to be politically or socially active, and essentially lazy folk around you will hop on that, using it as an excuse to blithely sail on by… Because it’s hard, and they’re not being directly affected (yet), and they’re only looking for excuses to stay comfortable and living the easy life.

Of course, that leaves the people who are directly affected right now with even more work to do, on top of that whole trying to survive thing that they’re doing every single day.

So all of this is part of the service to Her and to the community that I see happening right now, and a need for right now. Feel free to follow me on Facebook for daily activism resources and talking points for allies who work this way, whether you are in service to the Morrigan or not.

(thanks to Marjorie for the transcription service from class, much appreciated!)


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