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Friday, October 24, 2014

Translating the Untranslated - the Morrigan's prophecy

So here's another translation from Old Irish, this one is the Morrigan's prophecy from the Cath Maige Tuired. The Old Irish text is from Sean O Tuathail's version. The English is my own, as always with the caveat that I am not fluent but am offering my own understanding of the material based on the way I personally translate it.

Fáistine leis an Mórrígu

Sídh go neimh
neimh go domhan
domhan fo neimh
neart i gcách
án forlán
lán do mil
míd go sáith
sam i ngram
gae for sciath
sciath for dúnadh
dúnadh lonngharg
fód di uí
ros forbiur beanna
abú airbí imeachta
meas for chrannaibh
craobh do scís
scís do ás
saith do mhac
mac formhúin
muinréal tairbh
tarbh di arcain
odhbh do crann
crann do thine
tine a n-áil
ail a n-úir
uích a mbuaibh
Boinn a mbrú
brú le feabh faid
ásghlas iar earccah
foghamar forasit eacha
iall do tír
tír go trácht le feabh ráidh
bíodh rúad rossaibh síoraibh ríochmhór
sídh go neimh
bíodh síornoí.

Prophecy of the Morrigan

Peace to sky
sky to earth
earth below sky
strength in each one
a cup overfull
filled with honey
sufficiency of renown
summer in winter
spears supported by warriors*
warriors supported by forts
forts fiercely strong
land of sheep
healthy under antler-points
destructive battle cries held back
crops [masts] on trees
a branch resting
resting with produce
wealth of sons
a son under patronage
on the neck of a bull
a bull of magical poetry
knots in trees
trees for fire
fire when wished for
wished for earth**
getting a boast
proclaiming of borders
borders declaring prosperity
green-growth after spring
autumn increase of horses
w troop for the land
land that goes in strength and abundance
be it a strong, beautiful wood, long-lasting a great boundary
peace to heaven
be it so lasting to the ninth generation

*scíath means shields but also "fighting man, warrior, guardian". The usual translation here is given as shield, but I prefer the imagery that comes with warrior, however it may also be taken as "spears supported by shields, shields supported by forts"
** alternately "wished for by flesh"

O Tuathail, S., (1993). The Excellence of Ancient Word. Retrieved from

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Why Worship the Gods and Spirits?

   Recently John Beckett wrote an interesting blog about why he worships the Gods, which reminded me of my own recent guest blog on the Raise the Horns blog about why I worship the Morrigan. John's post was part of a larger conversation in the blogosphere about the reality of the Gods and their ability to effect people which I have been following in bits in pieces. I find the conversation fascinating, as a so-called "hard" polytheist because it is offering insight into the different viewpoints that exist within today's wide array of pagan faiths.
   I thought today I would expound a bit on my own personal theology, although given my view of deity it might be more accurate to call it cosmology. You see so far the discussion that I have seen has centered on deity: are the Gods real? Do they have agency? Can and will they adversely effect people? I think that is a bit limiting in that the conversation should really include all the Powers - are our ancestors real and do they effect people? Spirits of place? Spirits of the Otherworld? Because you see if we are going to ask ourselves these questions about deity then it follows we should ask them as well about the other spirits. If we believe the Gods are not real in the sense of beings that do not exist in anyway beyond the human mind, and that those beings effect us only in the sense that we create what we expect to conform to our expectations, then isn't that also true of all supernatural beings? However if we believe - as I do - that the Gods do exist beyond the human mind, as beings separate from and more powerful than humans, beings who can and will interact with and shape our lives if they choose to, does it not also follow that we need to at least consider the reality of ancestral spirits, land spirits, and Otherworldly spirits, and that they too can and may effect us?
   Why do I worship the Gods that I do? Simply, and echoing what John said, because the Gods I worship have been good to me. They are the ones I have a reciprocal relationship with, who I offer to and who have blessed me. Flidais may have literally saved my life, and certainly blessed me by reuniting me with my son during a difficult time. Macha, Morrigu, Badb, and Nemain have made me a stronger person and have given me a community I never could have expected but which is truly a blessing in itself.  Wodan has blessed me in more ways than I can count, although he challenges me as much as he blesses me, which is why he's my fulltrui. My Gods are good to me, even when things are difficult and challenging, and I never doubt that they are worth honoring and offering to. Do I believe they have agency and the ability to directly influence things? Oh yes, indeed. And that is a blade that cuts both ways; yes they can act in helpful ways that benefit me but they can also act in ways that are harmful. They are Gods after all and have personalities that include both good and bad; at least in my theology there is no such thing as an all benevolent deity who only ever hands out candy and kisses. Sometimes you will get smacked because you deserve it or because a smack is the most helpful thing in that moment. Or quite frankly because you've done something that you deserve getting smacked over. Gods have expectations of us especially where we have promised certain things, whether that's regular worship or a specific item, and if we blow those duties off there will be repercussions. In Heathenry there is a concept of weregild to pay for a broken oath or an unfulfilled promise and I have seen people do that both with groups they belong to and to the Gods when needed. But if responsibility isn't taken for your actions, then a divine smack upside the head is an option.
    There are Gods I do not or will not worship, but I still respect them, because they are Gods. Just because I choose not to honor them doesn't lessen their power or ability to effect me - although who I do honor may influence that last. I never forget that a deity I don't like or want to have anything to do with can still influence my life, especially if I give it the opportunity to or a reason. So polite respect and strong allies are a big thing for me, and knowing how to respectfully say no without offending a deity. Because if they Gods I like, who bless my life, are real and have agency then it follows the Gods I don't like also are real and have agency since my likes or dislikes have nothing to do with their existence, or for that matter their abilities.
    What is true of the reality and agency of the Gods is also true of the reality and agency of other spirits. As an animist I firmly believe that the world is full of spirits of all kinds and that these spirits are everywhere. They are real, whether or not they are corporeal, whether or not they are significant to our lives. There are disembodied human spirits, ancestral spirits, spirits of place, house spirits, and Otherworldly spirits of an enormously wide variety. All have agency and personality, and each will have the ability to effect us to varying degrees. To what degree can range from nearly-as-much-as-the-Gods (don't piss off the alfar, for example) to barely noticeable, and I tend to use this range of influence, of Power, to decide what a spirit is and where it ranks in my worship. A powerful enough Good Neighbor is little different from a God, which is in fact where the Gods of Fairy Witchcraft came from, because if its as powerful as a God and able to influence me like a God, then for all intents and purposes its a God. However even those spirits that are clearly not deities can still help or harm us and are still important. Our house spirit is an important part of our home and should be given respect and offered to and if treated well will help to nurture a happy environment and give the home luck. Our ancestors can and will protect us and are worth remembering and honoring, and many feel they are the most strongly motivated to directly intervene for us, since we are their legacy.
   What does all of that matter? Well we ask why we worship the Gods, but why do we honor the ancestors and Otherworldly beings? I'd argue for many of the same reasons: because they are worth honoring and they are able to help and bless us, and ultimately if we create the right relationship with them they will be good to us and our lives will benefit. The more immediate spirits on our lives, the ones in our homes and home-places, the ones in our family are the ones who have the greatest motivation to intercede - for good or ill - in our lives because they are intimately a part of every day we live, whether we see them or not, whether we honor them or not.
    And so we honor all these Powers - Gods, ancestors, spirits - because such reciprocity is what creates the relationships that nurture positive things (luck, blessings, health) in our lives. We give to them and they give to us, from the greatest God to the lowest spirit of place. For me that is the essence of firinne (truth), to live in right relationship with the seen and unseen world.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Translating the Untranslated

If you read the English version of the Cath Maige Tuired, whether its the Stokes or Grey translation, and you compare the English versions to the Irish version you will see that several passages have not been translated at all. It may be because these sections are more difficult to understand, or lacked a poetry that the translators were aiming for, or it may be that these sections - all dealing with prophecy and battle magic - were a bit too pagan for the translators. For modern polytheists studying the material I believe these passages do have great value and so I have undertaken to learn Old Irish and attempt to translate them myself.
  For example in E. A. Gray's translation of the Cath Maige Tuired there is a section she translates as:
 "Then she said to him, "Undertake a battle of overthrowing," The Morrigan said to Lug, "Awake...." (Gray, 1982). The ellipses at the end indicate that there is an untranslated section of Irish that followed, which Gray, for whatever reason, chose to not to include. The Whitley Stokes version omits the entire passage. 
This is the passage in Old Irish from Gray's Irish Texts edition:
"Arfolmais cath mbrisi." Conid dei atppert an Morrigan fri Lug, "Diuchetrai cein cuild ansaim slaidither truasfidir troich tarret brothlach mbodhmhou indraither tuatha do agath diuchtra..."
 The following is my own translation of this passage:
"Undertake a battle of overthrowing," so sang the goddess Morrigan turning to Lug, "Awake, make a hard slaughter, smiting bodies, attacks boiling, greatly deafening, devastating, the people to a man crying out..."
- Cath Maige Tuired, translation M Daimler (aka amateur)
 A less word-for-word and more poetic version might be: 
"Undertake a battle of overthrowing," The goddess Morrigan chanted to Lugh, "Awake, make a hard slaughter, smiting bodies with furious attacks, the sound of battle deafening, devastating the people who cry out to the last man..."

There are several more like this, including Lugh's battle magic chant and the Morrigan's prophecy at the end of the battle. My goal is to translate these myself and offer my versions here for anyone who might be interested in them, with the understanding that they are being done on a purely amateur basis. However even on that level I think the material has value and is worth studying and considering.   
*edited after publishing for better translation

Gray, E., (1982). Cath Maige Tuired, Irish Texts Society

Further reading:
Stokes, W., (1891). The Second Battle of Moytura. Retrieved from

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Book Giveaway

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Lost in Mist and Shadow by Morgan Daimler

Lost in Mist and Shadow

by Morgan Daimler

Giveaway ends October 27, 2014.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Mysticism and the Morrigan

   I've always been of a more mystical bent, but its one of the most difficult things to discuss. Not because mysticism is so difficult to talk about but because mystical experiences tend to lose something in the translation. Also one of the first things most people ask is how do I do what I do, followed by how can they do it too, and the answer to some of that is simply that I don't know. I don't know how I get some of what I get. Certainly I do use methods, both modern and reconstructed older Irish ones. But other things just come as they will, and I don't know how or why. I dream often of Otherworldly things, for example, and those dreams come on their own not at my will. I've tried a few times recently to convey some of those experiences here and here
  Last night I dreamt of Odin, the rune ansuz a burning brand that both consumed and was consumed. I dream often of him, and of going to the Otherworld, and of the Morrigan. This time of year I dream of the Wild Hunt. I could, of course, say these are merely dreams or I can see them as something else entirely. Sometimes the same experiences come in waking dreams or in imbas forosnai experiences, the latter were I am seeking them intentionally. 
  Another recent dream I shared on my facebook page involved a vision of myself standing at the edge of the vast sea, with a voice on the wind crying "Lost! Lost!". And I stood with my feet equally in water and on dry sand calling them in, back from the ninth wave, back from exile, and like birds they came, like ravens on the wing, soaring over the churning water.... I woke up in the dark early that morning to blood (my own) and tears (not my own). 
   Since the Morrigan's Call Retreat last June I've been having a lot more of these experiences that involve the Morrigan and related goddesses, which makes sense I suppose. I've seen Nemain bloody and terrifying, and Macha swinging her sword through the air with a clarion cry. I've seen Badb, both winging over the battlefield and in a river that was as much blood as water. I've seen the Morrigan standing on a hilltop, singing. I feel her calling to those who honor her, those who follow her, and her call is both a compulsion and a challenge. There is something coming, something electric in the air, like the charge of ozone before lightning strikes or the way the wind rises heralding a storm. I can feel it. 
  I hope we are all ready.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Random Life Notes and Some Writing Tips

  I realize I've been neglecting the blog of late, and I apologize for that. I do hope to be back on a regular schedule soon, but I've been dealing with a variety of pesky real life issues that take enough of my attention that I just don't have the time to get any nice juicy blogs done. Bear with me and it'll get better. Some of this has to do with an increase in the amount of writing I am doing elsewhere, and some of this has to do with child related things, but the end result is not enough blogging time.
   To fill you all in on what I've been up to in general. I wrote a couple guest blogs for Raise the Horns both on the Morrigan but very different in topic and tone. I submitted a couple essays for the next issue of Air n-Aithesc, a wonderful CR journal that comes out twice a year. I submitted an article for ADF's journal Oak Leaves, and another for the e-zine Goddess Alive! and I am working on two more for other e-zines as well. I've been asked to do an entry in another forthcoming anthology by my publisher, which should be interesting. I'm eagerly anticipating the release of my 9th book in December, Pagan Portals: The Morrigan, and recently finished the draft of my second urban fantasy novel which will hopefully be released soon as well (I'm aiming for October 31st, if all goes well). So its been a very busy writing time for me, just not here. I'm also gearing up now to officiate a wedding, head off to a Morrigan retreat for Samhain, and I have the Changing Times, Changing Worlds conference fast approaching (I'm teaching 6 workshops this year on a variety of subjects).
   Basically, I've been very busy, but am hoping that things will settle down and allow for more regular blogging soon.
   Besides all that I wanted to share a conversation I had today with a friend. We were talking about writing and in the course of the conversation I shared the two best pieces of writing advice I've ever gotten, which I'd like to share here too:
 1. Writing as a career is a job like any other and should be treated as one. When I first heard this it offended my artistic sensibilities, but the truth is, well, it's true. I treat writing with the same work ethic I treated every other job I've had and that means if I have time to write I write, whether or not I feel inspired or in the mood.
 2. Write what you enjoy reading about. This was some great advice from my friend Cathrine Kane  and I've always found it to be valuable. When we write about what we like to read about we have more passion about the topic or genre and we also are more familiar with it. And its much more fun to write.
  So there you go, hope you all have a great day!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Samhain Poem to the Morrigan

I dreamt last night of honoring the Morrigan at Samhain. In the dream I chanted the following, as if it were a song or sacred prayer:
"Great Queen, Lady of Phantoms
Giver of hard victory
who deals out both good and bad
terror, death, madness, battle, war,
soveriengty, glory, success,
Bloody blade and screaming crow
strong shield and swift cutting sword
see us through whatever comes
through cold and snow and hunger
'til summer's sun shines again"