A while back, I was interviewed by a student named Hannah for their college research, and I thought others might be interested in the Irish Paganism Q&A that resulted from the interview.
What would you say is the overall conception of the world and the place of humans in Irish Paganism?
Overall, I believe native Irish spirituality/Irish Paganism views us all as connected, and by ‘us all’ I do mean everything, in this world and the Otherworld. Even the worlds are strongly connected. Nature’s inhabitants and cycles are still integral to our survival in many areas of this island, and of course would have been even more so in times gone by.
Past and present are close here too, we have a long reaching sense of time, so beliefs and practises are very deep rooted. We have a well developed sense of community in Ireland, which definitely stems from our social history with clann (family) and tuath (community/tribe) groupings. This connected community extends to the world around us, our personal and family traditions are securely tied into this land and landscape, our ancestors walked here, worked here, worshipped here, were buried here. We still tend the graves of those who passed many centuries ago. Everything is connected, and all of this permeates our sense of self, which of course informs our spirituality.
What would you say is your concept of divinity?
Irish Gods and Goddesses are autonomous entities who exist independently of us, but are also (again) connected to our culture, and even individuals within our culture specifically. They can influence us and we can influence them, but that happens over time and through Right Relationship.
Are there different roles for men and women or non-binary individuals in the act of worship or rituals?
In modern Irish Paganism, everyone is treated equally. Irish society has had quite rigid roles for men and women in the past, much of which was influenced or enforced by our colonisers (the catholic church, and the English invaders). There is no place for that in our modern spiritual practice, and our current Tuath ethos and activities exemplify this commitment to inclusivity beautifully.
Are there any specific rituals that are just particular to Irish Paganism?
Many of our native traditions and practices have been appropriated and cannibalised by NeoPaganism, unfortunately, such as the beliefs about directions, walking the rounds, and various other aspects. Some of our cursing methods weren’t deemed suitable fodder, I guess, so they remain largely unknown outside of native practice.
What would you say are the different rites of passage in order to be, in your case a High Priestess of the Morrigan, if you can share, or to just be a simple follower?
I don’t refer to myself as a High Priestess of the Mórrígan, and never have. For the record.
Priest work is complicated, and there are many ways to be a Priest – it is a job description, ultimately, not a title. In other traditions, another Priest would often initiate you into service, but there is no recognised authority for Irish Paganism, so this is not available to anyone. It will take somebody starting a ‘church’ or formal organisation here in Ireland with suitable credentials in place, before that is a possibility. Currently, people are recognised as Priests by the community they serve, as they do the work of a Priest. It’s an organic process.
Anybody can dedicate to the Gods, and begin to work with them or for them, however. I have detailed some of the methodology for this in a blog post here – https://loraobrien.ie/irish-deity/ – and in my book, A Practical Guide to Pagan Priesthood.
Are there any rules on marriage and kinship for example, marriage rites in Irish Paganism or who people consider to be kin?
The concept of Clann and Tuath as mentioned above has a long history, and still shows through in our society and culture today. Fosterage was a well established kin bond, for example, often without any blood ties. The Brehon Law System had multiple different types of marriage, as well as different rules and responsibilities in each. All of that was wiped out in society with colonisation, and we are lucky we still have enough records to form a patchwork of what it may have been like in full.
What is your view on death dying and the afterlife in Irish Paganism?
The Irish have a very practical view of dying and death, and again, we see the dead person as still very much connected in spirit and memory. Our mourning process is communal, even today not-Irish people are surprised by how involved everyone gets through the whole process, it encompasses people who were connected through the dead person’s (and their family’s) entire life.
What are the different beliefs of a possible afterlife? Is there an afterlife for Irish Pagans?
I believe, as my distant ancestors did, in transmigration of the soul (what is commonly called reincarnation, but we don’t use that appropriated term). The Otherworld has a realm within it where the dead can rest, before re-creation or re-birth.
Finally, How do you approach people who believe different things?
Openly. My beliefs and thoughts are my own, and I’m happy to compare notes, but I don’t think my way is right or wrong for anyone else. Even my own children were taught about many belief systems, and grew up to make their own choices at an appropriate age.