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Thursday, December 18, 2014

Fairy Horses

Fairy horses are well known in Ireland and Scotland, where there are two main kinds of fairy horses seen in stories: the Kelpie and the Water Horse. The Water Horse is also called Aughisky and Each Uisce (Irish Gaelic for water horse). In Orkney, they are called Nuggles, in Wales Ceffyl Dwr. In Shetland, they are Coofiltees, and on the Isle of Man they are called Cabbyl Ushtey or the Glashtin. Water Horses and Kelpies are seen in all parts of the Celtic world under these different names and also in parts of the Norse world. In Scandinavian folklore they are called Bäckahästen or “Brook horses,” ; in Norway they are Nokken and in Iceland they are called Nykur. It is likely that that Water Horses and Kelpies, like other European fairies, have followed the people who believed in them to new countries so that they can be found all over the world now.
      These water fairies usually appear as black horses or ponies, but sometimes may be white or even green with a black mane. They appear to be unusually beautiful horses and act very tame and friendly; however, a Water Horse or Kelpie can be recognized by the seaweed or other water plants that are sometimes seen tangled in its hair and the water that drips constantly from its mane and tail. Water Horses may take the shape of people, usually women but sometimes a good looking man, but even in this form they can still be recognized for their dripping hair and seaweed or other water plants.
       There is a story from Scotland of a Kelpie who fell in love with a mortal girl. He came to her in the form of a handsome man, courted her, and convinced her to marry him. They had a small home together and in time a child; they lived happily together until the day that the human woman discovered her husband’s true nature. Realizing he was a Kelpie, she abandoned her child and fled. The Kelpie, deeply in love with his mortal wife, raised their child and waited futilely for her to return.
      These fairy horses are known for trying to trick people into climbing on their backs for a ride. Kelpies are said to do this in order to take the person on a wild ride before dumping the person on the ground, in a ditch, or in the water, although some say that Kelpies will trick people in order to take them to a body of water and drown them. The Water Horse is more sinister, tricking the person into riding, and then running into the nearest body of water where it turns on the person and tears them apart them, eating everything but the liver. Water Horses are also known to eat sheep and cows.
      Some people say that the fairy horses that live in lakes and ponds are less dangerous than those that live in running water, such as rivers or the ocean. Other people say that the less dangerous Kelpies live in streams and rivers, while the more dangerous Water Horses live in lakes and the ocean. In general it is never a good idea to try to ride a strange horse, just in case it is actually a Water Horse or Kelpie of some type.
       Another fairy that is similar to the Water Horses and Kelpies, but is not the same, is the Pooka. In Ireland they are called Pooka, Phouka, Puca, or Puka. It is also called Pwca in Wales, and Bucca in Cornwall. These fairies are shape shifters that can appear as many different things, including a man, dog, goat or bull, but they are most often seen as horses. Pookas are dark colored in whatever form they take. As a horse, the Pooka will trick a person into riding them and then run off before dumping the person on the ground. Pookas are seen by some people as mischievous but by others as dangerous. It is said that all the unpicked blackberries and raspberries belong to the Pooka after Samhain, and that people should never eat them after this date because the Pooka urinates on them.

* this blog originally appeared here

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

translating the untranslated part 4 - Lugh's battle incitement

  This is my fourth installment of translating often untranslated material from the Cath Maige Tuired and I'd like to start with a little more background on the CMT itself. I recently read the transcript of an utterly fascinating lecture by John Carey called "A London Library, An Irish Manuscript, A British Myth? The Wanderings of 'The Battle of Moytirra'" in which Carey traces the history of the only extant manuscript containing this vital Irish myth. One of the most important points in Carey's lecture for the purposes of my translation project is that the manuscript for the CMT is believed by scholars to have been written by a younger scribe and one who was fond of intentionally obscuring his writing with:
"willfully eccentric orthography in which certain aspects of Old Irish, together with other usages which seem to be the fruits of pure fantasy, are deployed without rhyme or reason to produce a kind of Irish which looks like nothing else on earth". (Carey, 2014, p 8).
What this means in practical terms is that the Irish of the CMT is in many ways a puzzle. There are points were it is difficult to be sure what a word is supposed to be and others were it is entirely supposition. The way I approach this is to use context to help suss out the most logical guesses with words that aren't obvious. Keep in mind though that expert linguists don't agree on what some of these words are so my translations should be understood as educated guesses. 
   For this fourth attempt I am tackling Lugh's incitement of the army of the Tuatha De Danann before the battle with the Fomorians. Normally translations of this piece end after saying he circled the army. 
From Grey's Irish Texts Edition of the Cath Maige Tuired:
     "Conid and rocan Lug an cétal-so síos, for lethcois ocus letsúil timchel fer n-Erenn. 'Arotroi* cat comartan! Isin cathirgal robris comlondo forslech-slúaig silsiter ria sluagaib siobrai iath fer fomnai. Cuifecithai fir gen rogam lentor gala. Fordomaisit, fordomcloisid, forandechraiged, firduib: becc find nomtam (nointam), Fó! Fó! Fé! Fé! Clé**! Amainsi! Neofitman-n ier nelscoth- trie trencerdaib druag. Nimcredbod catha fri cricha; nesit- mede midege fornemairces forlúachoir loisces martaltsuides martorainn trogais. Incomairsid fri cech naie, go comair Ogma sachu go comair nem ocus talom, go comair grioan ocus esqu. Dremniadh mo drem-sie duib. Mo sluag so sluag mor murnech mochtsailech bruithe nertirech rogenoir et- dacri ataforroi cath comortai. Aotrai.'" (Grey, 1983)

So that upon his cloak Lugh sang this to intervene, on one foot and one eye, encompassing the men of Ireland. "Fight* a slaughterous battle! There is fierce battle, a contentious, cutting army contending before armies of phantoms, men of the land beware. Aligning to truth without choice, following furies. Bursting forth, overthrowing, dividing, black truth: little white death-ring, Hale! Hale! Woe! Woe! Sinister**! Fierceness! A sanctified omen after cloud-shadows our fame will be spread through armies by triple skilled Druids. I am not reduced by battles at borders: wounding, matched, slender-speared, sky ravaging, deadly brilliance, burning, greatly subduing them, greatly thundering, the sun rises. Asking each of them, in the presence of Ogma and also in the presence of sky and earth, in the presence of sun and moon. A band of warriors is my company for you. My army is a great army, ramparts here, fleet-footed, seething, strong-guarding, choosing, may we fight a slaughterous battle! Fight!"

* this is almost always translated as "arise" under the assumption it's an irregular form of atraig "to arise" however I personally feel that its a variation of airgal "to
fight, do battle; overcome". The third possibility is at-roí "to fail" but that is difficult to see in context

** also may mean left

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Lives Matter

  There has been a trend in American society that is sending a message - a disturbing message - that some lives are more valuable than others. That some people matter more. I could point to specific cases but really there are so many examples its hard to choose which ones to include and which ones to ignore. And I don't want this to become a debate about the details, the minutia, of one example. Because I'm not talking about just one thing here. I'm talking about all of it. Black men and children killed, choked to death, shot, because of the perceived threat they represented. Woman viciously attacked for not smiling back or giving their number to someone. Gay and trans people killed for openly existing. Over and over the message goes out that some lives matter less than others, some lives are disposable.
   This must stop.
    We as a society must stop this. We must stop perpetuating this idea that color, gender, sexual identity, and yes nationality and language, effect the value of a person. We must each come to a place where we understand that beneath these superficial difference - as beautiful as those differences are in creating the diversity of our world - beneath those differences we are all the same. We all want to be happy, to feel safe, to be successful. We all laugh and cry the same. We are all born and we all die. We all bleed.
     I was raised on original Star Trek, where you it didn't matter if you were African, Japanese, Russian, Scottish, or even Vulcan - a person's value wasn't about the color of their skin, or where they were from, or what language they spoke. We need more of that in the world today, more understanding that a person's value lies in the person, not the external details. Even the antagonists in Star Trek were nuanced and presented as people. Can we as a modern society really not do as well in reality as a television show from the 1960's at accepting diversity?
    We all matter, no matter what color, or ethnicity, or nationality, or language, or gender, or sexual identity. Black lives matter. Women's lives matter. LGBT lives matter. Every life matters. 
   No one should die because someone else sees them as a "what" instead of a "who". 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Offerings and "Elves"

Last month I taught several classes about the Daoine Maith (Good People) at the Changing Times, Changing Worlds conference and one of the most common questions I was asked was about offerings. I thought it might be helpful here to blog a bit about the most common traditional offerings and the way they have been historically understood.
  Probably the most common offering is milk. We see multiple references to this in many sources, both to the milk being offered regularly and to it being given as type of appeasement when disruptive behavior is occurring. Evans Wentz in the seminal Fairy Faith in Celtic countries tells us "milk was set at night for piskies [pixies], who had been knocking on walls and generally making nuisances of themselves." (Evans Wentz, 1911). It should be noted that if you begin to make regular offerings and then stop it will bring you bad luck; an anecdote is related in Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries of a woman who always poured out an offering to the fairies when milking her cow, however after becoming Christian she stopped the practice; one of her cows was then taken by the fairies prompting her to resume making the offerings (Evans Wentz, 1911). Yeats mentions that offerings of milk were left out on windowsills for the Good People to ensure good fortune (Yeats, 1888). 
      Offerings to the Other Crowd may also include butter and bread, left either by a door or at the roots of a fairy tree, and small amounts of anything a person is drinking could be poured out onto the ground as an offering (Estyn Evans, 1957). The custom of pouring out a bit of your drink is something I was familiar with from my grandfather and is easily done. Milk that was spilled on the ground belonged to them and milk might sometimes be thrown in the air for the fairies or butter buried near a bog as an offering to them (Evans Wentz, 1911; O hOgain, 1995). On the quarter days a heavy porridge was offered by pouring it into a hole in the earth and bread was offered which could be left out or tossed over the shoulder (McNeill, 1956; Sjoedstedt, 2000). It was also once the custom to bleed live cattle on Beltane and offer the blood to the fairies (Estyn Evans, 1957). The most common modern offerings are milk, cream, bread or other baked goods, honey, and portions of meals, as well as alcohol.
   Finnish and Germanic cultures also offered to these spirits, usually called elves. In Finland it was believed that elves could be helpful in many domestic areas and appreciated offerings of food, alcohol, coins, silver, or gold (Nenonen, 2014) Guerber tells us that "In Scandinavia and Germany sacrifices were offered to the elves to make them propitious. These sacrifices consisted of some small animal, or of a bowl of honey and milk, and were known as Alf-blot." (Guerber, 1908). As Jacob Grimm tells us: "The hill of the elves, like the altar of a god, is to be reddened with the blood of a slaughtered bull, and of the animal's flesh a feast prepared for the elves... [a]n actual âlfabôt." (Grimm, 1883). The alfablot, or ritual offering to the elves, was a practice throughout the Norse lands that occurred roughly at the end of the harvest season and was celebrated by the entire family unit (Gundarsson, 2007). Offerings to the elves traditionally included milk, ale, silver, and crafted metal (Gundarsson, 2007).
   And for those who are curious the good Neighbors do not actually consume the physical item but rather its essence. Evans Wentz refers to this as the astral portion: "Apparently the piskies only drank the 'astral 'part of the milk" (Evans Wentz, 1911). Robert Kirk calls it the "pith" or "quintessence" (Kirk, 1893). In practical terms what this means is that the physical item remains but the fairies take its substance, so that afterwards what's left can be discarded or left for animals. 


Evnas Wentz, W., (1911). Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries
Kirk, R., (1893). The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns, and Fairies
Yeats, W., (1888). Fairy and Folktales of the Irish Peasantry
Nenonen, R., (2014) Finnish Myth
Guerber, H., (1908). Myths of the Norsemen. 
Grimm, J., (1883) Grimm's Teutonic 
Gundarsson, K., (2007). Elves, Wights, and Trolls

Estyn Evans, E.,  (1957). Irish Folk Ways

Sjoedsedt, M., (2000). Celtic gods and Heroes
O hOgain, D., (1995). Irish Superstitions

McNeill, M., (1956). The Silver Bough, volume 1

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Book Giveaway - Pagan Portals the Morrigan

Happy thanksgiving everyone. I'm doing a book giveaway for a signed copy of my new book Pagan Portals: the Morrigan when it's released next month. If you are interested you can enter here:

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Pagan Portals the Morrigan by Morgan Daimler

Pagan Portals the Morrigan

by Morgan Daimler

Giveaway ends December 10, 2014.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter to win

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

more NaNo

 I am once again doing National Novel Writing Month this year and attempting to write the third novel in my trilogy. I may have been a smidge ambitious this time since I only just finished the second one and am, in all honesty, a bit burned out. However I'm soldiering on to get the first draft done. In the 25 days of NaNo I've written a bit over 54,000 words towards what I expect to be between 100 - 120,000 when its done. So I'm about halfway there. It's been taking a lot of my attention though and as with last November the blog is suffering a bit.
  As usual with my novel writing I've been posting little word count & blurbs on Facebook as I write so I'd like to share them here for anyone who might be interested.
this is the synopsis for the third book from the NaNo site:
There is far more going on in the small town of Ashwood than anyone realizes, and Allie Mccarthy, like the town itself, is caught between mortal earth and Fairy, with treachery on both sides. Allie is struggling to pick up the pieces as the police investigation into a series of ritual killings contniues to wreak havoc in her life. She has lost one friend to a serial killer and seen another shot trying to protect her as the people behind the rituals work to get her out of the way. Meanwhile her own empathic gift - which may be the key to stopping the killings - is controlling her more than she controls it. In seeking training for her gift Allie may be forced to accept that defining good and evil isn't as simple as she wants it to be. Facing betrayal at the deepest level and with her own life hanging in the balance, this time Allie has to be sure that the conspiracies are rooted out and stopped, once and for all. No matter what the cost. 

Book 3

8,659 words - book 3 begins, picking up the pieces where the last book left off. My protagonist is still facing more than one challenge but she's realizing that the only person who ultimately may be able to save her is herself.

11,295 words - my protagonist is trying to convince the human and elven police to work together, because she's sure that's the only way to figure out what's really going on. Will the joint task force be re-formed?
Meanwhile there's still a conspiracy afoot, a killer who has gone entirely off the rails, and trouble from the past that my protagonist definitely won't see coming.

17, 476 words - nothing complicates a love triangle like a marriage proposal from one person and the other taking a bullet for the one he loves. My protagonist's love life is starting to look like Celtic knot work, despite her best efforts to untangle it (and no this isn't that kind of story exactly, that's just how messy life can be sometimes).
Meanwhile we have part of a plot uncovered - and gremlins, oh my! - and an antagonist who may be willing to do anything to protect someone she cares about, even if that means hurting the person herself.

21,144 words - negotiating with elves, take two. Has my protagonist learned anything from the results of the first attempt? Lets hope so because this time the consequences will be very personal....

24,041 words - the killer has slipped his leash and is killing now for fun as much as for a purpose, making him far more dangerous. The bodies are piling up, but can the re-formed joint task force recognize the clues when they find them?

32,200 words - my protagonist is trying to get her out of control ability under control with some training from a very interesting teacher (the great aunt of our entertaining ceremonial magician). But sometimes learning control means accepting things about yourself that you really don't like...

40,100 words - my protagonist has dodged a dagger from an unexpected source, and our intrepid kelpie has ridden to her rescue. Unfortunately she may now prove just as useful to those she trusts as bait to catch those lurking in the shadows as she does as a hound tracking the killer...

43,148 words - our killer has struck again, taking one life and ravaging another, but this time the victim fought back and thanks to some timely intervention lived to tell the tale. This could be the essential break in the case if my protagonist can stay strong...or it could trigger my protagonist's own past demons to come back and haunt her....

51,388 words - everyone has their limits. Some people hit those limits and break against them. Some people hit them and get angry enough to start fighting back.

My protagonist is done with running and letting other people get hurt for her. She's ready to start fighting back now.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

more translation

I'm a bit busy but I don't want to not blog at all, so here's a tidbit of translation, Irish courtesy of Hennessey's The Ancient Irish Goddess of War, translation my own.

Fuil os chind ag eigmigh
Caillech lom, luath ag leimnig
Os eannaib a narm sa sciath
Is i in Morrigu mongliath
- Cath Magh Rath

Bloody over his head, fighting, crying out
A naked hag, swiftly leaping
Over the edges of their armor and shields
She is the grey-haired Morrigu