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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

A Prayer to an Cailleach During Storms

Cailleach, Lady of Winter,
Winter of hard snow,
Snow driven by wind
Wind roaring, fierce,
Fierce Hag, I pray to you
You, who can be gentle
Be gentle to my home
My home and my family
My family and little children
Children who offer to you
You, Cailleach of Winter,
Winter hard and cold
Cold kept back by warmth
Warmth that we share
Share what we have with you
You, who can be gentle
Be gentle with those
Those who offer in your storm
May your storm pass us by
pass us by unharmed



Friday, January 23, 2015

The Morrigan and Plans for 2015

   I'm sure many of you would rather see more translation here, and don't worry I'll get some more done soon. I'm working on a new manuscript at the moment which is taking up some time, but hopefully next week I'll get to some of the other fun untranslated bits of the Cath Maige Tuired...
  I dreamed last night of the Morrigan, and this morning I was asked to do a workshop about her (them) next month so I thought it might be good to offer a short blog today just outlining some of this year's plans, where I'll be and what I'll be doing.
  I'm going to Pantheacon next month which is a very exciting first for me. I'll get to meet a lot of awesome people and spend time with some friends, including Stephanie Woodfield who is dragging me out there with her (I haven't been on a plane since I was 10 years old). It will be an adventure. While I'm at the con I'm going to be doing an informal workshop in the ADF hospitality suite, on Friday at 4, about the Morrigan in different myths. I'm really looking forward to it and think it will be a lot of fun, and I'm honored to have been asked to do it. So if you happen to be at Pantheacon and in the mood to hang with some Druids and talk Morrigan, come check it out.
  In June I'll be at the second annual Morrigan's Call Retreat teaching a workshop or two and helping with rituals. Last year was amazing and I'm sure this year will be even better. We have Jhenah Telyndru from the sisterhood of Avalon as a speaker and Mama Gina as a musical guest, as well as the usual suspects and some new faces.
   At the end of October I'll be participating in Seeking the Great Queens: a Sacred Sites Tour in Ireland. It is a sacred sites tour focusing on sites associated with the Morrigan and her mythology and includes celebrating Samhain at Tlachtga. There will be workshops, discussions, and rituals, and I have no doubt it will be a once in a lifetime experience.
   It's going to be a busy year, and very Morrigan-focused, but I'm excited about it.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Verifying Practical UPG

  So a common question in relation to upg* is how to know if the gnosis you get is good or not. A basic rule of thumb is to take the information you get and double check it, whether that's checking it against mythology or other types of fact checking.
  I tend to do a lot of mystical activities that result in upg. Sometimes on purpose, sometimes not so much. The result is the same though, information that comes into my head from outside and then requires some sort of verification. I almost never utilize a upg without some kind of checking, and when it is checked I find that while some of it turns out to be contradicted (in other words just my head talking to myself) some of it turns out to be even more interesting than I realized at first.
  One example is the phrase "Mache mind" which I had stuck in my head for several days. I knew it was from the Tain Bo Cuiligne and thought that it meant "halidom of Macha"; I had a visionary experience where I saw a sword with those words engraved on it. I initially thought the message of the vision was that the sword was a sacred object of Macha's, which is one layer of meaning and is true, but after several days of this stuck in my head I finally double checked the word mind. It turns out mind in Old Irish also means "blade, weapon", so that Mache mind also means Macha's blade. As soon as I learned that it felt as if something clicked and the phrase stopped being stuck in my head. Part of the upg had to do with me understanding the vision and the phrase on the sword, and that meant getting out of my own assumption.
   I recently also had a upg experience involving herbal knowledge. Herbs are not my forte**. I was looking for an oil to use in a cleansing bath and was feeling like I needed something particular. I tried to open myself up to find out which one I needed. On the store display my eyes went to rosemary oil, but I dismissed it. I knew that rosemary was burned to cleanse sick rooms after illnesses but not much else about it and that wasn't the sort of thing I was looking for. Nonetheless I kept feeling that rosemary was what I needed and when I tried picking out a different bottle the next one I grabbed from a different area of the display was also rosemary, even though there shouldn't have been two bottles (according to the store owner). I gave in and went to look up the uses of rosemary to see if this little upg had anything to it, and it turned out that yes indeed rosemary is used in cleansing and purification according to two different books on magical uses of herbs.
   Both of these are just small things, but I hope they demonstrate the way that different types of upg can be researched and double checked. Instead of just trusting the random information we get in visions, dreams, and intuition we can take the time to see what deeper meanings might be behind them. Sometimes they may come to nothing. Other times they may prove out, and then you will know going forward how much depth your gnosis had.


*upg - unverified personal gnosis
** any herbal upgs should be double and triple checked in my opinion before you even think of using them in any way

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Translating the Untranslated part 5 - The Morrigan's Prophecy part 2

Today I want to take a look at the second half of the Morrigan's prophecy after the battle of Moytirra, which Gray does offer a translation for, but with significant sections excluded:

Boí-si íarum oc taircetul deridh an betha ann beus ocus oc tairngire cech uilc nobíad ann, ocus cech teadma ocus gach díglau; conid ann rocachain an laíd-se sís:
"Ní accus bith nombeo baid: sam cin blatha, beit bai cin blichda, mna can feli, fir gan gail. Gabala can righ rinna ulcha ilmoigi beola bron, feda cin mes. Muir can toradh. Tuirb ainbthine immat moel rátha, fás a forgnam locha diersit- dinn atrifit- linn lines sechilar flaithie foailti fria holc, ilach imgnath gnuse ul-. Incrada docredb- gluind ili. imairecc catha, toebh fri ech delceta imda dala braith m-c flaithi forbuid bron sen saobretha. Brecfásach mbrithiom- braithiomh cech fer. Foglaid cech mac. Ragaid mac i lligie a athar. Ragaid athair a lligi a meic. Climain cach a brathar. Ní sia nech mnai assa tigh. Gignit- cenmair olc aimser immera mac a athair, imera ingen..." (Gray, 1983).

 She was afterwards among them prophecying the years at the end of existence,  and further promising each evil and lack in those years, and every plague and every vengence: so that there she chanted her poem:
 "Something seen is a world that shall not be pleasing: summer deprived of flowers,  cows deprived of milk; women deprived of modesty, men deprived of valor. Conquests without a king, pointed, bearded, mouths of many-oaths, sorrow, a lord without judgments*. Sea without profit. Multitude of storms, excessively tonsured, forts, barren of structures, hollow, a stronghold coming from mistakes a devastated time, many homeless, an excess of lords, joy in evil, a cry against traditions, bearded faces**. Equipment decaying, numerous exploits, finding battles, silent towards a spurred horse, numerous assemblies, treachery of lord's sons, covered in sorrow, crooked judgement of old men. False precedents of judges, a betrayer every man. A reaver every son. The son will go lay down instead of  his father. The father will go lay down instead of his son. In-law each to his own kinsman. A person will not seek women out of his house. A long enduring evil period of time will be generated, a son betrays his father, a daughter betrays [her mother***]"


Referene
Gray, E., (1983) Cath Maige Tuired

* "feda cin mes" can be translated as "a lord without judgments" or alternately "trees without acorns"; given the rest of the sentence is discussing the difficulties caused by lack of a king, the lord version seems more logical
** sometimes a reference to Vikings
*** the manuscript ends with "a daughter betrays" with the next page missing, however it is logical to assume the line should be "a daughter betrays her mother"

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

an Slua Sí

  Whenever the subject of the fairies comes up it is best to remember that they are not the twee little things of pop culture. Even among the diverse groups of fairies though some deserve more caution and respect than others. One group that was particularly feared is the slua sí, the fairy host. In Scotland the Sluagh are considered the most daunting of the fairies (Briggs, 1976).This fairy army would travel on the wind, especially the whirlwind, which was called the séideán sídhe, fairy blast, or sitheadh gaoithe, meaning thrust of wind, and often called by the similar sounding name of sí gaoithe, fairy wind (O hOgain, 1995; MacKillop, 1998). Although most often described as invisible to mortal eyes and traveling in the form of a wind, in Scotland the Slua is also said to appear in the form of clouds (Carmichael, 1900). The Slua traveled most often at night, but was especially active around midnight (Evans Wentz, 1911). Anyone who had reason to be out at night, and more so if they were out alone, needed to be careful to avoid the fairy host. This does not mean that the slua appears only at night though, and in fact the fairy host may appear anywhere at any time.
     In Ireland it was said that the slua sí  would often force a human to go along with them while they engaged in their malicious endeavors (O Suilleabhain, 1967). In tales these endeavors often included kidnapping brides, a common theme in many different types of fairy stories. A hapless traveler out alone at night or wandering where they shouldn't be might be taken up by the slua and find themselves with no choice but to go along where the fairies took them. People taken this way might be said to be "in the fairies" (O Suilleabhain, 1967). In folklore people taken by the slua sí may go as far afield as France or Spain and be left there to find their own way home, or else may be returned to the place where they were taken mostly unharmed. There are also tales of those, out traveling at night, who would see another person who had been or was being taken by the slua. To get the host to release anyone they may have taken one should throw the dust from the road, an iron knife, or your left shoe and say "This is yours; that is mine!" (McNeill, 1956).Those known to have been taken and released were gone to for advice relating to the fairies and seen as being quite knowledgeable about them (O Suilleabhain, 1967). 
    In Scotland some people believe that the Slua sí, the fairy host of the air, are spirits of the mortal dead*, specifically those who died with unforgiven sins (McNeill, 1956; Briggs, 1976). Alexander Carmichael described them as the ghosts of men who died full of sin and Evans Wentz related stories of the Slua as both the mortal dead and as fallen angels (Carmichael, 1900; Evans Wentz, 1911). In Irish folktales related by authors like Yeats and Hyde however the fairy host seem distinct from the human dead and appear to act like fairies in other tales, engaging in behavior such as stealing human brides. It's possible that no simple line can be drawn between the two groups, but rather that crossover existed which is reflected in the different folk beliefs. 
     The fairy host would appear in a sudden wind and the sound of voices, armor clinking, or people shouting (O Suilleabhain, 1967). Hyde describes it in the story "Guleesh Na Guss Dhu" this way: "he heard a great noise coming like the sound of many people running together, and talking, and laughing, and making sport, and the sound went by him like a whirl of wind..." (Hyde, 1890, p 76). Some say it appears as a dust devil which moves over roads and hedges as the Good Neighbors travel (JCHAS, 2010). When the whirlwind appeared people would avert their eyes, turn their backs, and pray, calling on saints or their guardian angels or else saying "Good luck to them, the ladies and gentlemen" (O hOgain, 1995, JCHAS, 2010, p. 319). This was done to avert any harm caused by the close proximity of the Host and to hopefully avoid drawing their attention. The sidhe gaoithe (fairy wind) which was a sign of the presence of the fairy host, could bring illness or cause injury as it passed by, contributing to its fearsome reputation (MacKillop, 1998). The Slua had a reputation for being mercurial and prone to malicious behavior and unlike more sedentary types of Fair Folk they are not easily appeased but most often must be warded off, usually with iron, driven away, or out-witted. 
   I've only encountered the Slua Si once and that is enough for me. Their reputation is what it is for a reason. 


References:


MacKillop, J., (1998) A Dictionary of Celtic Mythology
McNeill, M (1956). The Silver Bough, volume 1
O Suilleabhain, S., (1967). Nosanna agus Piseoga na nGael
O hOgain, D., (1995) Irish Superstitions
Briggs, K., (1976). A Dictionary of Fairies
Carmichael, A., (1900) Carmina Gadelica
Evans Wentz, W., (1911). The Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries
Hyde, D., (1890) Beside the Fire
JCHAS (2010) Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society

*This may tie into the idea seen on the continent of the Wild Hunt as spirits who travel the air and can take people.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Book giveaway for new novel "Into the Twilight"



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Giveaway ends January 28, 2015.

See the giveaway details
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Thursday, January 8, 2015

In the Presence of the Gods

  I am currently working on an article for a new anthology through my publisher and during the process have been reflecting about the times I have felt the presence of the Gods around me. It is always hard to describe the numinous and so often after such an experience we find ourselves questioning and rationalizing away what we felt. This makes sharing these moments far more difficult, but there have also been times when the presence of the Gods created noticeable, tangible effects that were witnessed by many people and these are harder to rationalize away.
   I have been in rituals where the presence of the Gods was like a physical weight hanging in the air, where it became harder to breath and move simply because they were there. I have felt indescribably small when the Gods come into a space and fill it, and once, when I'd inadvertently offended a deity, I felt like a bug under someone's shoe about to be crushed. I have been filled with terror and awe in the presence of Nemain (who still scares me) and overcome by calm in a terrifying situation when Flidais was with me. All of these experiences are precious, and all were profound for me, but they are and can only be deeply personal. Even with poetry I cannot truly convey what it felt like, nor convince anyone else that what I experienced actually occurred.
   In contrast I have personally experienced moments when the presence of the Gods was physically perceptible, if only in small ways. While attending a public Imbolc ritual I and several other people noticed a candle on the altar burning out; it smoked briefly as it burned down then extinguished itself. Several minutes later as the group was singing a chant to Brighid that candle relit itself, the light flaring briefly and then burning steadily for the duration of the chant and a few minutes longer. At a ritual to the Morrigan when the goddess was invoked the temperature dropped so much that people could see their breath in the air and the temperature stayed down for more than five minutes before rising again. Several friends witnessed a broken string of lights, which was unplugged, lighting up and remaining lit during a ritual after Odin was invoked into the space. These little moments represent a few examples of times when the presence of the Gods was tangible and evident to groups of people, many of whom are not usually mystically inclined.
   We are often in the presence of the Gods, both in and out of ritual. It is up to us to be aware of their presence and willing to acknowledge it. We can choose to cherish these moments of connection, or we can rationalize them away, strip them of their numinous beauty. Or we can appreciate the little moments of connection, the glimpses into the mystic, the times when we feel the Gods reaching back towards us. It is up to us to decide.