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Irish Witchcraft from an Irish Witch – Sneak Peak!

Irish Witchcraft from an Irish Witch - Original Cover

I’m writing the preface to the second edition of my 2004 book, ‘Irish Witchcraft from an Irish Witch’ right now, and it has me a little emotional folks.

I’m going to share it here, because I sort of need any encouragment you might be willing to share?

Hit me up in the comments below with your thoughts… and I’d really appreciate some kindness.

PREFACE TO IRISH WITCHCRAFT FROM AN IRISH WITCH (2ND EDITION, 2018)

Oh this book.

It’s the end of 2018 as I write this preface, and I’ve had the publishing rights back from the original publisher for quite a while. To be honest, I’ve been dragging my heels on getting it in print again, despite it being one of the most frequent requests I get.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate it or anything. It’s just, I was so VERY young when I wrote it. 26 years old when it was first published, and in such a different place in my life. Of course I’ve grown and changed since then. Of course my personal practice has changed significantly… it would be really weird and kinda sad if it hadn’t, right?

Going deeper into the original lore of Ireland gave me a connection I didn’t have then, even after growing up here and wading through the magic of Ireland my whole life. Digging through digital manuscripts and academic papers and books that weighed more than my kids did, all gave me an insight that shifted my personal practice into a thing that is almost a part of the land itself. And then I spent a good number of years working professionally as a Guardian (manager, they called it, but whatever dudes) at Rathcroghan, and that changed me even more.

So yeah. I’m in a different place right now.

For a long time it made me ashamed of this work. Like I’d done something wrong, or at least – not good enough – in writing it. I mean, that probably says as much about my mental state as anything else, but there you go.

I began to travel to teach, and people would rave at me about how this book changed their perspective, their practice, their life. And I’d be mortified, because I knew I could have written it so much better, helped them so much more.

Until one of those conversations that stops you in your tracks, or maybe derails you a little. But in a good way, coz the tracks were laid all wrong. I met a woman called Victoria at PantheaCon in California, my first year out there, and after a long day of feeling that embarrassment as folks talked about this book, I confessed to her that I didn’t like it. That I should have done better. That I’d like to take it back and re-write it completely.

An’ you know what she said to me?

“You were where you were, back then. And there’s plenty of people who need that book as it is, because they are still there right now.”

Now, I’m paraprasing there. But that was the gist of it. And it floored me.

Because that’s exactly why I wrote this book in the first place. I didn’t want to be an author. I didn’t want to be well known, or in any way… responsible for people. *shudders*

But I wrote the book I had needed, ten years before; when I was 15, and seeking, and desperate for something that felt native and REAL to me, and all I could find were foreign voices, foreign spiritual systems, foreign magic, to try to express or explain the things I had felt and experienced and known – deep down – all of my life.

So I’m putting this book back together, with an updated resource section, a few corrections to the text, some small additions or notes for clarification, but essentially – it’s the same book. I’ll get a fresh round of folk complaining in the reviews that I’m too grumpy or snarky, that I’m expecting too much by saying they should *GASP* make a godsdamn effort to learn the language of the culture they are gaining from, and that the book doesn’t suit them for various reasons of their own devising. Fuck it, and fuck them.

This one is for you folks who are still coming ashore from almost drowning in a sea of ‘celtic’ shite. There’s a lot more work you can do, if this suits you, and you develop a grá for Ireland.

Check those resources (there’s so much more available now, it’s a pleasure to recommend them!), visit my own website LoraOBrien.ie for the blog, the other books, and the classes I teach in my Irish Pagan School there. There’s more developed Guided Journeys on there too, with audio versions, or you can check out the rewards on Patreon.com/LoraOBrien for a monthly download of stories and journeying goodness.

You have options now that we didn’t have when this book first came out, and certainly not back in the 90s in Ireland when I was starting out. Make good use of them! Enjoy them!

I’m not embarrassed anymore, to include this book among them. It’s good enough.


 

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The Curse of Macha

Macha pregnant-beach-sunset-mother

Sometimes a Goddess fancies a change.

Immortality can get awful boring after a time.

So it was with the Goddess Macha. She decided she wanted a home, friends of her own, a family… and that’s how she ended up on the doorstep of a wealthy merchant in the mountains of Mourne.

She knocked, asked to speak to him in person, and when he arrived down to greet her she made her proposal. She would bring wealth, prosperity, and abundance to his household (being a Goddess definitely has its perks), but in return she wanted a quiet life – to live out her days undisturbed, as a mortal. So he had to promise her privacy, and secrecy, and respect, and the love would come later, she was sure. And so he did.

She turned thrice sun-ways on his step to seal the deal, and stepped into his life as a mortal wife.

The years trundled on and his household prospered, as she had promised it would. She brought abundance and wealth to his life, as she had promised she would.

Love even bloomed, and she became pregnant, as is wont to happen at times, when a man and a woman are in love and doing the things that people in love might do.

The merchant rose in status, and he began to receive invitations for them both to attend all the feasts, and all the fairs – invitations which she always declined, but he attended. Unfortunately, his appetites grew right along with his status, and he began to feast and fair too much, eating and drinking until the wee small hours, and sometimes not even bothering to go home between events.

Macha didn’t mind too much; she kept herself busy, and was delighted when the physician told her she was carrying not one baby, but two – twins!

One month, near the end of her pregnancy, her husband was off again at one of his fairs. This was a big one: the Samhain festival at the court of the King. The merchant paid his tributes and tithes, ate his fill (and more) in the camp kitchens, and contented himself with wandering around the fair grounds, chatting to people he knew, looking through stalls and market tents, watching the competitive events, gaming for profit or loss… and of course drinking. Lots of drinking.

He sat eventually, content to watch the horse racing, and soon there was a cackling crowd, placing wagers on which would win. After a heavy loss, perhaps to salvage some part of pride perceived lost, the wine-soaked sot began to boast that as fast as those horses were, his own wife could out-run any one of them. Even the horses of the King himself, which were known to be the best of the best.

Now, it didn’t take long for this boast to reach the ears of the King himself: for his horses represented his rightful rule, and any slight on them was a slight on his very kingship. He insisted the woman be fetched, and made to race against the best horse of his stable.

Warriors went out, Macha was made travel, and told she would race the next day (as it was a three day festival). She bawled and cursed her husband – and his drunken, pounding, head – all through the night, but it was no use.

She was stood in front of king and crowd first thing in the morning, with the horse lined up next to her. She sweated and swore, for the pressure was doing strange things to her heavily pregnant body, and it looked like mother and babies were in serious distress, to anyone with eyes to see.

The king held firm, and she was made to race – but before she did, she cursed every single man of Ulster, to nine generations on, with a spell that gave each and every one of them the pains of labour and childbirth, to strike them whenever Ulster was under attack.

Macha raced that day, and indeed she won, but the exertion brought on the birth and she died there at the finish. Screaming her curse to the last breath.

This is why Ulster men were in bed each time their province needed them; but sure, they are all stories for another day.


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Celtic Woad – an Authentic Resource?

Kiera Knightley as a Woad

Ah, the Celtic tribes – they painted themselves blue with woad and ran naked into battle. Right?

Got high as a kite to scare the bejaysus out of their enemy and improve their ferocity because, as we all know, woad is a powerful hallucinogen. Right?

We’ve all seen Braveheart, and that King Arthur film on the telly box – they even called the people ‘Woads’ in that, didn’t they? Sure, then it must be true…

Though seemingly well attested in eye witness accounts, scholars question the veracity of this belief, but that doesn’t seem to filter into the body art or Celtic re-enactment communities with any great speed.

Personally, I believe that ancient tribes of Ireland and the British Isles, such as the Picts and more southern Britons, did utilise methods of tattooing and body decoration as part of their battle, spiritual, and even everyday rituals.

Herodian, in the First Century CE (Common Era), said of the tribes –

“they puncture their bodies with pictured forms of every sort of animals. And this is the reason why they wear no clothes, to avoid covering the drawings on their bodies.”

I am inclined though, to at least challenge the ‘fact’ that they used woad to dye themselves blue.

The most often quoted source for this prevalent belief is the Roman emperor Caesar’s recorded description of the Brittani, a Celtic tribe. It has been commonly translated as:

“All the Britons dye their skin with woad, which produces a blueish colour and makes them appear horrifying in battle”.(1)

The original Latin, however, says: “Omnes vero se Britanni vitro inficiunt, quod caeruleum efficit colorem”. The “vitro inficiunt” could translate classically as ‘stain/dye with glazes’, or ‘infected themselves with glass’.(2)

The blue colour he describes could have been caused by body paint rather than tattoos, or it is possible the tribe used scarification techniques or glass ‘needles’ to tattoo themselves. But probably not with woad. Why not?

Woad (Isatis tinctoria)

Although it makes a wonderful indigo coloured dye for materials, a safe, biodegradable natural ink, and is also showing usefulness as a wood preservative; it’s pretty crap as a body paint, or a tattoo ink.

It’s extremely caustic – when used as tattoo ink it literally burns itself to the surface, and though it heals fast, it leaves an excessive amount of scar tissue. Alas, none of it blue.

The extremely knowledgeable Celtic art tattooist, Pat Fish, is often quoted as saying she believes that Celts used copper as a blue colour and firewood ash or lampblack for a black.(3)

Traces of copper based pigments were found on an ancient body, excavated from a bog in Cheshire, UK. This would seem to indicate the presence of copper tattoos of some sort, which would have been coloured blue. Of course, we now know that copper is highly toxic, and would not use it on or in our bodies.

From my own experiences with powdered woad, using it as a body paint, I’ve had to mix it with something (I’ve tried hair gel, commercial body glitter gel, and even PVA glue!) to try and get it to stay on at all. Even then it streaks all over the place or just dries up and flakes off. Not entirely reminiscent of a battle hardened warrior.

It also doesn’t seem to particularly stain the skin. Perhaps it would stain in certain areas, such as the finger tips or elbows, through prolonged contact. But so would pretty much anything.

And besides, blue smudged cuticles and tinted elbows aren’t going to particularly impress anybody in battle, even if you take the time to assure them that it’s genuine Celtic woad.

And to the other common belief, that of high Celts running round?

Woad is not a strong hallucinogen. A mild psychotropic, at best. Reports of woad induced ancient battle/modern festival madness must have, to my mind, been greatly exaggerated. Pagan types, collect your people?

All in all, the only practical possibility is that woad was used on the battle field as a possible wound cauterising agent, on account of its astringent properties.

It’s a nice thought for those of us who are proud of our ‘Celtic’ heritage – and I use the term in the academic sense, please understand that – being able to use the same materials or techniques as our ancestors, to look the same or perhaps even produce the same effects.

I can see why it can be difficult to give up on. Even if the actual evidence or effect achieved is disappointing at best, and at worst, somewhat risky in the hands of the inexperienced.

A possible alternative to woad or copper, which would also have been available at the time, is iron.

Julius Caesar, while commenting on early Celtic tribes, said that they had “designs carved into their faces by iron”.(4) Iron could possibly be used to produce a blue coloured ink or dye, if handled by an expert.

Don’t try this at home, girls and boys! However, with the sheer beauty of the Celtic art and wonderful tattoo artists that are available now, I’d be encouraging the use of these to connect with or emulate the warriors of old, rather than the crude inks they employed.

After all, the Celtic people were nothing if not highly adaptable. If they had the kind of high quality ink that we have available to us now, I seriously doubt that copper filings, or woad, would even get a look in.

###

Resources

(1) – Philip Freeman, “War, Women, and Druids”, University of Texas Press, U.S.A. ISBN: 0-292-72545-0
(2) – Encyclopedia, Columbia University press (online): http://www.answers.com/topic/picts
(3) – e.g. In her article for ‘An Scathán’, entitled “Celtic Tattooing: Primitive art form emerges in America”, available online at: http://www.underbridge.com/scathan/archive/1995/11_november/11.11.tattoo.html
(4) – Julius Caesar, “Commentarii de Bello Gallico”, circa 55 BCE (Before Common Era)


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(This Article)

First North American Publication, Tattoo Revue Magazine.
First Canadian Publication, Celtic Heritage Magazine

The Síd at Kesh Corann

Fionn MacCumhaill, leader of the noblest band of Irish warriors, the Fianna, sat on the hunting mound at the Sidhe of Kesh Corran, taking in the sights and sounds that made his heart most happy.

His men were spread below him on this fine sunny day, ranging the fields and forests, their great hounds barking and baying around them as they brought down kill after kill. The Fianna would feast well that day.

Conaran however, who was the Sidhe (Otherworld, Fairy) King in those parts, was less than happy to see his old enemy in such a fine, untroubled mood. And with the rest of the Fianna busy hunting, he decided the time had come to do something about Fionn for once and for all.

Three of Conaran’s four daughters were nearby, although neither the men of the Fianna nor their chief could see a bit of them, because you never can see the Sidhe unless you are in their world, or they want you to see them in ours. The King called his brood – who were as ugly a bunch as you ever saw, and worse again – and told them what he wanted. Then, by his magical arts, he opened a door to their world in the side of the Sidhe mound on which Fionn was taking his ease.

After a while, the warrior chief climbed down to join the hunting party below, and was astounded to see the three sisters sitting spinning in a cave that he was sure hadn’t been there before he’d climbed up.

Now you couldn’t call any of these Ban Sidhe beautiful. Well, you could I suppose, but you’d be telling a lie if you did. Fionn though, was a curious sort, and wanted to see more – it might have been the whiskers he thought he could see on their faces? Whatever was driving him to it, he stepped inside the mound.

As soon as he passed the holly on the threshold, a weakness came over him, and he could no more lift his own arm than he could have lifted a whole mountain at the best of times. He tried to give the whistle that would warn the rest of the Fianna to danger, but he was so weak that all the sound he could make was a chuff like a baby falling asleep, and sure that’d warn nobody.

He was bound by the sisters with every knot and tie they could think of, and as each warrior came looking for their leader and stepped inside the mound, the same fate befell them. The Sidhe mound was filled only with the sounds of gently chuffing babies, until every single man of them was captured and bound the same way.

But their dogs were not. As each man entered the mound, ignoring the warning signs in the search for his leader, his hound refused, and soon there was a great pack of barking, baying dogs gathered outside.

Finally one of the warriors, the last of them left outside, had the sense to be cautious enough not to follow blind into danger. The hideous sisters watched Goll Mac Morna stand his ground outside, and decided that three against one was a fair enough fight for them to take him on. They were wrong, of course.

Though it was hard fought, Goll managed to chop two of the three into halves and bits; so there were warts and twisted fingers on one side of him, gnarled toes and crooked noses on the other. Panting with the effort of it all, he extracted (in exchange for her life) the firm promise of freedom from enchantment for the Fianna from the last sister, who was so terrified by then that her whiskers were all atremble, on both the outside and inside of those livery lips.

She kept her honour, and released each of the warriors to sit out in the sunshine and shiver until their strength returned. The doings of that day did nothing to ease the enmity between Fionn and the Sidhe King Conaran, nor his remaining Ban Sidhe daughters – nor even the animosity between Fionn and Goll MacMorna.

But sure, they are all stories for another day.

 


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Your Irish Ancestry?

Family Tree and Irish Ancestry

To move forward, we need to understand what is behind us, what has developed us, how to use the fertility of prepared and nourished ground and seed to grow and thrive into the future.

This is our Ancestry.

Blood lines are important, and an understanding of family ties, bonds, history, and each root and branch of our physical family tree will provide a firm foundation from which to build. But what of spiritual ancestry? What of the deep seated desire that burns in so many of us for a land, a tribe, a culture from which we have no discernible descent?

I am Irish. It’s a simple statement, an understanding that one originates from a small green island on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean. Irish people have always been explorers, travellers, hard workers and adventurers who sailed and settled throughout the globe. Ireland’s blood reaches far and wide, but Irish culture, Irish heritage weaves an even wider net over the world. And Irish spirituality sings a pure siren song, even for those whose physical ancestry does not seem to tie in with this land.

What harm? Irish mythology is rich with ‘invasions’ of other cultures, blended into a fine tapestry through time. We are a multicultural stirring pot; so whether your grandmother was from Connemara, or Colorado – if the spirit of Irish ancestry stirs your soul, you can explore it. Here’s how.

 

Your Ancestor Altar

First, you create a special place in your home or garden, welcoming to ancestral spirits. A quiet corner is good, with a table or shelf, and an area in front where you can sit facing it. The space should be as tech free as possible, and if it’s unavoidable, think about placing plants or salt rock warmers to support clearing ‘negative’ ions.

In this clear space, think about what your ancestry means to you. Go there, with a notebook and pen, sit with eyes closed, and observe what initial thoughts surface when you turn your mind to your Ancestors. What names surface? Associated places? Physical characteristics? Moods or personalities? Family events? Memories, stories, or anecdotes?

Then open your eyes, and take written note of what you thought or felt. Let this be the basis of your ancestral actions.

For many of us, not all things associated with family and ancestry are positive, or even easy to remember and think on. Take note of this too, let it flow through you as much as you can, observe it, record it. Sometimes, it can be just as important to understand the parts of our past that we do not want to incorporate into ourselves, as this leads a clearer path to determination for who we do want to be.

Some of your memories and thoughts on ancestry will be related to death, and so, dark or shadowed. But remember that it is within the darkness that seeds first grow, it takes the absence of light to bring forth hope, and new life nourished by the old.

Looking at your notes, begin to gather items and physical triggers or representations related to your ancestry. This could be photographs, family crests, memorabilia or souvenirs… anything that relates in your mind, or resonates in your spirit, with your ancestral memories. Take your time, gather or remove things as seems right to you. Aim for deep quality resonance over sheer quantity of items.

Finally, place a trio of small items at the front of your ancestral altar to represent the 3 worlds of Earth, Sea and Sky – clustered in a triple spiral formation around a central point of fire, even a simple tea-light candle for safety.

Spend some time at your ancestral altar weekly at least, but preferably every day. Sit quietly and absorb, meditate on the items and their resonance, move and change things around as you will over time. This is your space, for inspiration, and balance – life and death, co-habiting and calm.

 

Action Items

 

“Níl aon tinteán mar do thinteán féin”

(Old Irish Saying) – There’s no hearth like your own hearth.

Phonetic Pronunciation: Neel ane tin-tawn mar thu hin-tawn fayn.

 

  • Choose 1 of your ancestors – whether blood relative or spiritual predecessor – and begin to form a specific relationship with them.
  • Place a photograph on your altar, along with a sample of handwriting, small personal item, or anything else that may for a direct physical link.
  • Light the flame at the centre of the 3 worlds, and close your eyes. Breathe deeply, imagining yourself at the centre of the worlds, holding the flame in your core.
  • Think of this internal flame as your hearth fire, which you have sat down by. Invite your ancestor to come and sit by your hearth with you. Picture them clearly in your mind, and use your own words, whatever feels most comfortable. You are inviting them for a chat, not formally evoking their presence.
  • If they don’t show up at first, don’t worry. Sometimes it takes a wee while to establish a connection and form a pathway. You keep showing up every day, and extend the invitation regularly. They’ll get there.
  • When they do, you can have a chat. Ask a question, share a story, get their perspective or advice on a matter. Listen, remember, and be respectful.
  • When you’re done, thank them and say goodbye. Stay sitting, and let them leave your space before you do.
  • Then you can take a few minutes by your hearth yourself. Look at the fire, and see it as the candle flame on your altar. Breathe deeply, and feel your body sitting by your altar. Move, and open your eyes.
  • Write your notes!

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Part 9 – Dearg Corra – Who’s Who of Irish Mythology Series

Who's Who of Irish Mythology

Part 9 – Dearg Corra

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 8 Here…]

 

Dearg Corra

Placement ~ Fenian Cycle

Pronunciation:  Jee-arr-g Korr-ah.  Also called Derg Corra.

Dearg Corra will usually only be referred to as a servant of Fionn Mac Cumhaill.  This is due to the somewhat strange story about him from an 8th Century text, which seems to be a survival of (or a way of collecting) older stories/references concerning the character.

The story goes that he was Fionn’s servant, and was propositioned by a lover of Fionn’s who had taken a liking to him.  When Dearg Corra rejected the woman, she went to the Fenian leader with a story of being raped, and the servant was banished.  While hunting in a forest, Fionn later came across “a man on the top of a tree with a blackbird on his right shoulder, and a bright bronze vessel in his left hand, in which was a leaping trout; and a stag was at the foot of the tree.”  Fionn didn’t recognise the man as he had hidden himself in a Féth Fiadha (pron. Fay Fee-ah), which is a magical ‘cloak of concealment’, but he could see that the stag was sharing apples with him, the blackbird was sharing nuts with him, and the trout was sharing water from the bronze vessel with him.  Fionn then placed his thumb in his mouth to access his own magical seeing ability, and proclaimed the following: “It is Dearg Corra, son of Daighre’s descendant, who is in the tree!”  These quotes were given by Kuno Meyer in the Revue Celtique 25.

Alwyn and Brinley Rees “merely mention” the character of Dearg in the context of an enemy of Fionn, who is perhaps a supernatural malevolent burner.  They use the fact that he is said to have jumped “to and fro across the cooking hearth” to support this.  Dáithí Ó hÓgáin goes into the whole thing in far more detail.  His take on the story is that the only way to explain the supernatural elements contained within it, is to view it as a survival of a “cult of some divinity”.  He links Dearg Corra to a fire God, giving the word Dearg (which means ‘Red’) as a common enough name for a God in Early Ireland, along with the connection to his ancestor Daighre (pron. Dar-ah, meaning ‘flame’) and attributes his aforementioned fire leaping as symbolic of the flames cooking food.  He links the deity to a possible Irish representation of the horned animal God whom the Continental Celts referred to as Cernunnos; a name which will be at least familiar to most modern Witches, Wiccans, and Pagans.  The evidence for this is, admittedly, circumstantial.  Dearg Corra symbolising the provision of sustenance (his role as a servant, his connection to the cooking of food), his role as protector and sustainer of wild animals as the hunters quarry, his skill at concealing himself from your average prying eye (even Fionn with his Seer’s abilities had a bit of a job in identifying him), and the best surviving example of the Cernunnos figure in all his glory (seen on the inner plates of the Gundestrup Cauldron, now housed in the National Museum, Copenhagen, Denmark) shows him surrounded by animals such as the stag and the fish, among others  – all of this does seem to point to the true role of Dearg Corra being more than it initially may appear.  Ó hÓgáin also further connects the character (or at least the name) of Dearg with aspects of the God of death, Donn, and with the Dagda; seemingly in the context of more violent deaths and slaughter.

Though there is little concrete evidence for the death connection, it makes sense to me that a God of life would also have a flip side concerned with death, and that a protector of animals who also works for or with a hunter figure such as Fionn, would preside too over the violence and death of the kill.  If nothing else, he could make sure it was done right.  And as the prevalent horned animal God figure, referred to as Cernunnos by archaeologists, appears to have been quite widespread among the Continental Celts – and indeed, Proinsias MacCana even makes connections with an Indian God form appearing on a seal found at Mohenjodaro; who may be a prototype of Shiva in his aspect as Pashupati, ‘Lord of the Beasts’ – I am not sure it is too far fetched to conclude that there quite possibly was an Irish God who represented the same values and concerns, at some stage in our history.  There is certainly, in my experience, a native Irish Being who responds quite happily to the evocation and invocation of Cernunnos or the ‘Horned God’, which I  have experienced while working in the Irish landscape.

From a modern magical perspective, Dearg Corra can be seen to be  primarily concerned with, or representative of, the following:

  • Fire; for cooking, and sustenance.
  • Forestry, and forest dwelling wildlife.
  • Protection of, and continual provision for, the hunted.
  • Concealment, especially from those who have no business with seeing.
  • Right conduct of the hunter, honour and respect in the kill.

If you choose to work with Dearg Corra, or indeed, he chooses to work with you, a forest setting would be particularly appropriate.  Look for him in the trees, and by the camp fire or cooking pit.  The wildlife he sustains could be your guide: especially look to the stag, the blackbird, or the trout to direct you to him.  Whether you visit his dwelling places in this world or through connection to the Otherworld, be watchful.  Trust in your own ability to see and your power to connect, as Fionn did.

 

This is the End of This Book Proposal! Thanks for Following the Series  🙂


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Part 8 – Flidhais – Who’s Who of Irish Mythology Series

Who's Who of Irish Mythology

Part 8 – Flidhais

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 7 Here…]

 

 

Flidhais

Placement ~ Ulster Cycle

Pronunciation:  Flee-ash.  Also called Fliodhais, Flidais.

 

If she is known at all, it is as a Goddess of cattle or deer.  The main surviving tale we have concerning her from original source material is “Táin Bó Flidais”, which has two versions.  A short version appears first in Lebor na hUidhre, The Book of the Dun Cow, an 11th Century text.  A similar short version can be seen in the Book of Leinster, from the 12th Century, and also in a manuscript from the 15th Century called the Egerton manuscript.  But perhaps a more interesting version, for it’s additional esoteric elements, appears in the 15th Century Glenmason manuscript. “Táin Bó Flidais” is one of the Remscéla or ‘Fore-tales’ which precede, and explain, the happenings of the epic Táin Bó Cuailgne, the ‘Cattle Raid of Cooley’.

Flidhais is said to be a woman of the Sidhe, who crosses to this world.  She brings with her a herd of wonderful cattle, the most amazing being a cow they call the Maol Flidais, the Bald or ‘Horn-less’ cow of Flidhais.  This creature could feed over three hundred men, and their families, in one night from a single milking.  The Fairy woman marries a man from Connaught, Aillil Fionn, a neighbour of Queen Meadbh and her husband Aillil.  On a visit to Maedbh’s court, Flidhais meets and falls in love with the exiled Ulster warrior Feargus Mac Roich.  A man of powerful sexual appetites, usually it took seven women to satisfy him; but Flidhais was a match for him on her own.  She puts him under a geis (pron. gesh), an ancient obligation or prohibition, to take her away from her husband.  A bloody battle ensues, the upshot of which is that Feargus brings her the severed head of her late husband.  The Maol Flidais, not as enamoured of Feargus as her mistress, mourns the death of her former master – who had fought bravely against odds that were vastly stacked against him, as Feargus had attacked him with the help and support of Queen Maedbh’s forces.  This amazing animal was only convinced to go and join the Connaught herds by the reminder that there she would have the companionship of her beloved Flidhais, and would also become the fitting consort of the fantastic White-Horned Bull.

Some versions of the tale then say that Flidhais remained the wife of Feargus until she died, a long time after, in Ulster.  But the longer version states that she was sorry for the killing of her husband, and that she is “rescued” on the way back to Maedbh’s court.  Flidhais “returns to the west” (i.e. the Otherworld lands from whence she came) along with her fabulous Maol Flidais.

Proinsias MacCana, in his “Celtic Mythology”, only briefly refers to this Lady as the Irish Goddess “who ruled over the beasts of the forests and whose cattle were the wild deer”.  Alwyn and Brinley Rees make no discernible mention of her at all, but the popular fictional writer Caiseal Mór does bring her name into his “Well Spring Trilogy” as a Goddess of the Hunt.  Dáithí Ó hÓgáin makes correlations between the more recent Mayo folk story of Dónall Dualbhuí and Muinchinn to the tale of Flidhais and her maligned husband, Feargus still being cast as the warrior who defeats him by treacherous means.  He says her name was likely to have originally referred to liquid, most particularly to milk, and that her epithet of Foltchaoin (pron. Fult-queen) means ‘soft-haired’.

There are accounts of Flidhais from the earlier Mythological cycle, which place her as the mother of a king, Nia Seaghamain, whose name has been translated to mean ‘warrior of deer-treasure’, as during his reign the “cows and does were milked together every day”.  It was his mother with her herd of both wild and domesticated animals, deer and cattle, who had made this benefit of the king’s reign possible.  Dáithí Ó hÓgáin goes on to deem her to be an original mother-Goddess figure.

From a modern magical perspective, Flidhais can be seen to be  primarily concerned with, or representative of, the following:

  • Provision of sustenance.
  • The flow of milk – breastfeeding, lactation generally.
  • Sexual appetite and satisfaction.
  • Cattle; farming, keeping, tending of herds.
  • Co-operation with wilder animals, especially Deer.

 


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Part 7 – Aengus Óg – Who’s Who of Irish Mythology Series

Who's Who of Irish Mythology

Part 7 – Aengus Óg

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 6 Here…]

 

 

Aengus Óg

Placement ~ Mythological Cycle

Pronunciation: Eng-guss Owe-g.  Also called Aongus, Aonghus, Aenghus, Oengus, Mac Óg, Mac Óc, Mac Ind Óg, Mac in Dá Óc.

 

Known as Young Aengus, he is often spoken of as a God of love and youthful pleasures.  Daragh Smyth referred to him as the “greatest and wisest of magicians of the Tuatha De Danaan”.

His name has been translated in many ways.  Aengus means ‘true vigour’, this is generally agreed upon.  But the ‘Mac ind Óg’ part, though often translated to mean ‘son of the two young ones’, would be grammatically incorrect as such.  Dáithí Ó hÓgáin states it is accepted that the original form of this name would actually be ‘maccan óc’ or ‘in mac óc’, which instead puts him as ‘the young boy’.  There are many tales that survive that illustrate Aengus as a youthful expression of Irish deity.

His conception and birth story is an obvious example.  From a 9th century text we learn that the Dagda is his father, having desired his mother, Bóann, Goddess of the river Boyne in county Meath, and wife of Nuada (later known as Ealcmhar).  Brugh na Bóinne (pron. Broo nah Boy-nah, which we know as Newgrange) was their home.  The Dagda was king of all Ireland then, and he sent Nuada away on a journey.  He then magically stopped time, making the night disappear and Nuada feel no hunger or thirst.  The Dagda lay with Bóann, nine months went by, and she bore him a son – after which Nuada returned, not having noticed the passage of time and remaining in the dark (so to speak) about what had happened.  His mother named him Mac Óg, as she said “young is the son who was begotten at the beginning of a day and born between that and evening”.  Aengus was fostered and reared until he was 9 years old by Midhir at the otherworldly rath of Brí Léith (now known as Slieve Golry and located on Ardagh Hill, in County Longford).  He became a champion hurler in that time, but during a quarrel on the field one day, another player told him that Midhir wasn’t his real father; actually he called him a hireling whose parentage was unknown.  Aren’t kids lovely?!  This set Aengus off on a mission to find and secure his true heritage.  He was advised by Midhir (whose name may have originally meant something like ‘judge’) as to who his real parents were and where his inheritance lay, and proceeded to meet with the Dagda at Uisneach, in County Westmeath.  In the Book of Leinster the story then runs thus:

Mac Óg asked for his share of land after the Dagda had apportioned all of the Sidhe mounds to the lords of the Tuatha De Danaan.  He was told there was none, for the Dagda had completed the division.  “Then let me be granted”, said the Mac Óg, “a day and a night in thy own dwelling” (Newgrange).  When that time was up and the Dagda asked for his home back, Aengus’ reply was quite cunning.  “It is clear,” he said, “that night and day are the whole world, and it is that which has been given to me”.  In the story ‘The woo-ing of Étaín’, it is given that the dwelling belongs to Nuada, not the Dagda, and the latter advises his son on how to gain possession, notably on Samhain eve, which he does after the day and night similarly on the grounds that “it is in the days and nights that the world is spent”.  Nuada is named as Ealcmhar for this tale, which meant ‘the envious one’.  Although he was given another dwelling as compensation for his loss, I suppose Nuada can’t really be blamed for being a wee bit envious after such trickery.

As far as source material on Aengus Óg goes, we also have a rather interesting text which is called Aislinge Oenguso (pron. Ash-ling Eng-guss, meaning ‘the vision of Aengus’).  The story was given in Revue Celtique III, by E. Muller, and by Francis Shaw in 1934, and goes like this.

Aengus is asleep one night when he sees a beautiful maiden approach, but as he reaches out to touch her, she disappears.  As a year goes by and such visits become a regular occurrence, he pines for the lack of her.  He falls in love with her as she comes to him in his sleep, and plays him music, but he can never reach her nor find out who she is.  As he continues to sicken with longing, his physician approaches his mother for help.  Bóann searches Ireland for a year, but fails to find the maiden, and Aengus continues to waste away.  The Dagda is sent for, and with the help of Bodbh(pron. Bove, a king from the Province of Munster whose knowledge was celebrated through all of Ireland), and another year’s searching, the girl is finally named and located.  The maiden is Caer Iobharmhéith (pron. Care Eevor-vay-th, meaning ‘Yew Berry’), and they find her at Loch Bél Dragan (now known as Lough Muskry, in the Galtee Mountains of County Tipperary) in the midst of a hundred and fifty maidens, each pair linked by silver chain.  They track her back to her father’s home in Connaught, only to discover that he has no power over her, and that she spends alternative years as a maiden and as a swan.  They determine she can be found again at Loch Bél Dragan the following Samhain with a hundred and fifty swans about her.  Unable to recognise her at first in that form, Aengus calls her to him with the promise that he will return to the lake with her, and when she comes he puts his arms around her, and sleeps with her by taking the form of a swan himself.  He then encircles the lake three times in her company, thus fulfilling his promise, and the pair fly off together back to Brugh na Bóinne, where their sweet song puts all who hear it fast asleep for three days.  Caer stays with her lover in his dwelling after that.

Aengus Óg is given as being concerned with love, both his own entanglements and those of other couples, in many sources.  In a story of unfulfilled love, when his intended went with Midhir instead of him, he cast “the blood red nuts of the wood”, his food, down onto the ground in anger.  Clíodhna is said to have loved him, and indeed one tale says she drowns as she goes in search of him.  He lends his horse to an eloping couple, who is said to have been so huge that when they stop for a rest and the horse urinates, it forms Lough Neagh, which is the biggest lake in all of Ireland.  Aengus also appears as the patron and protector of the later Diarmuid, a Fenian warrior, who elopes with the intended bride of Fionn Mac Cumhaill – Gráinne – helping the pair escape their pursuers at least twice when all seems lost.  Eugene O’Curry, writing in 1873, relates how a mediaeval text describes how he forges four of his kisses into four birds “which charmed the young people of Ireland”.

Dáithí Ó hÓgáin attributes his ownership of a “wonderful multi coloured mantle” (which only appears to be a single colour to a man about to die), to the suggestion of the exuberance of youth which lingers about him.  Daragh Smyth puts his role in later medieaval romances as a somewhat wily character down to the possibility that Christian scribes may have found it necessary to belittle such an important and powerful figure.  He also ascribes the survival of Aengus into Irish folklore as a frightener of cattle – as illustrated by Lady Augusta Gregory, who wrote “…every sort of cattle that is used by men would make way in terror before him” in her ‘Collected Works’ – as perhaps due to the fact that his mother is the cow Goddess, Bóann.

To my mind, Aengus Óg does indeed seem to still be concerned with lovers and with guidance of youthful exploits and experiences.  A close friend of mine related to me an experience she had of being spontaneously contacted by him in a time of loneliness and despair.  This is not a girl who is given to flights of fancy or wishful thinking, be sure on that.  During a personal meditation, which took place in her home, in which she was seeking… something – guidance, answers, help perhaps – she experienced the following:

 

I got an image of a man standing in front of me (around where my altar is, I was kneeling in front) and he handed me a white flower, and I just (don’t know why) figured it was Aongus.  But I’d never worked with him or called him or anything before, or thought about it even.  I don’t really know why I thought it was him, I just thought it was, so I figured I should find out some more information.  He wore a tunic I think, but my idea of a vision wouldn’t be as clear as yours.  I remember the flower and the man and the hand handing it to me.  And, I felt comforted.

 

From a modern magical perspective, Aengus Óg can be seen to be  primarily concerned with, or representative of, the following:

  • Search for love, inspiration of love, the comfort of a lovers embrace.
  • Protection and aid for lovers, especially those who find themselves put upon or kept apart by others.
  • Youth, and the rise of the young to replace the old.
  • Perception of time, the importance of a single day.
  • Hope, and comfort, for those who pine or long for companionship.
  • Charm and wit, the intelligence and ‘street smarts’ to make a situation or an opportunity work to your desire or in your favour.

 

If you choose to work with Aengus Óg, or indeed, he chooses to work with you, pay special attention to birds, either physical ones presenting themselves to your notice or those that appear as imagery or visionary visitors.  Depending on what aspect of his help you seek, a lakeside setting might be appropriate.  For general knowledge, you might try to focus in on the image of his kisses as birds, his multi coloured mantle, his huge horse, his relationship with cattle, the swan imagery, or soothing music.  Samhain Eve has figured in relation to him, so this would be an appropriate timing for your work, again depending on what aspects you wish to attune to.  Time wise – the turning of night to day or day to night, the magical span of dawn or dusk, will be potent power points to work with this deity.  The ancient site of Newgrange itself would also be a good place to figure in, or indeed any of the locations mentioned above in connection with Aengus Óg.

 


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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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