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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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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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