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Thursday, October 8, 2015

Fulacht na Morrigna

   One of the mysterious things that the Morrigan is associated with is called the "fulacht na Morrigna" literally the Morrigan's cooking hearth. A fulacht is a type of outdoor cooking hearth or pit; the smaller ones were named for the Fíanna but the larger ones for the Morrigan (RIA, 1870). These fulachta were associated both with large outdoor stone cooking hearths and with cooking spits, so interchangeably in the texts and academic material that one might assume the two were parts of a single whole. Specific types of wood were associated with the fulacht, particularly in the law texts with the fulacht fían, and these included holly and rowan (Ó Néill, 2003). One might note that one of Cu Chulain's geasa was not to eat at a fulacht, and this is exactly what he ended up doing after encountering the three crones cooking on rowan spits at a fulacht who offered him hospitality - which he also had a geis not to refuse (Ó Néill, 2003).
      We are given descriptions of the Morrigan's fulachts in the Yellow Book of Lecan:
"fulacht na Morrigna in so .i. blogh di feoil huim ocus araili di ḟeoil ḟonaithi ocus mir n-immi irse ocus ni legad a n-im ocus ba fonaithi a n-om ocus ni ba loiscthi an bruithi ocus moale nobitis a triur for in mbir" - Yellow Book of Lecan
(The cooking hearth of the Morrigan is thus that is a portion of raw meat and enjoined of cooked meat and a small portion buttered and nothing melting from the raw flesh and nothing of it burnt by the cooking and at the same time together the trio on the spit.)
And also in a very early Scottish text (utilizing Old Irish) which describes both the Morrigan's fulacht and the Dagda's anvil excerpted here:
Fulacht na Morrigna, and so .i. crand a roth ocus crand a mol edtir teine ocus uisci ocus iarand a corp ocus da nai rethlen as an moil sin. Foluath athlam ic impo h-e. Tricha bir dobid ass ocus tricha drol ocus tricha fertas. Seol foai ocus fo h-ingnadh a cruth re luth a drol ocus a retlen. Fulacht na Morrigna doger ur goband do  - Celt. Rev. viii 74
(Cooking pit of the Morrigan is thus that is a wood wheel and wood axle between fire and water and an iron body and two people raise the wheel. Smoothly and quickly it went around. Thirty spits projected from it and thirty bars and thirty stakes. A sail on it, and a wonder its form when its bars and wheels were in motion. The Fulacht of the Morrigan very sharp edge of a smith.)
      The cooking pit appears in a story recounted in the Agallamh Beg:
"Ba hiat fein do rinde both doibh ind oidchi sin, ocus do rinded indeonadh leo, ocus teid Cailte ocus  Findchadh do indlad a lamha cum int srotha.
'Inad fulachta so' ar Findchadh,' ocus is cian o do rinded.'
'Is fir' ar Cailte, 'ocus fulacht na Morrighna so, ocus ni denta  gan uisce.'" (IRA, 1870)
(It was they who made for themselves a shelter there that night, and made a cooking place by them, and Cailte and Findchadh went to wash their hands in the stream.
"There is a cooking pit" said Findchadh, "and it has been long since its making."
"It is true, said Cailte, "and this is a cooking hearth of the Morrigan, and is not built without water.").
    Archaeological evidence supports the existence of these ancient fulachts which are found across Ireland, and some of the larger ones are considered fulachts na Morrigna with one known of at Tara and one in Tipperary (Martin, 1895). Ó Néill suggests that the fulacht was actually only the wooden portion of the cooking spit and that rather than a fire pit as we would imagine one it actually involved the use of heated stones for cooking (Ó Néill, 2003). He uses a description of the Fían utilizing a fulacht in Keating's Foras Feasa ar Eirinn as well as archaeology to support this; in Keating's account the fulacht was used not only for cooking but also to simultaneously heat water for washing after a morning of hunting so that the warriors would be clean before eating (Ó Néill, 2003). This theory is intriguing and fits the evidence well, explaining why the Morrigan's fulacht was said to need both fire and water; the spits would be used for cooking meat over a fire while heated stones were taken and used to make the water suitable for bathing, as well potentially for boiling food. Since the wood and water would obviously be long gone the only hard evidence left behind would be exactly what we do find at the sites of ancient fulachts: cracked stones in pits that may have been dug to reach water* (Ó Néill, 2003).
   So taking all of this evidence we may perhaps tentatively conclude that the Fulacht na Morrigna was a type of multipurpose outdoor cooking pit. Meat would be cooked on spits, possibly on a rotating assembly or wheel, and water might be heated for use. The smaller fulachts were named for the Fíanna but the larger, and apparently more complex, fulachts were named for the Morrigan.
  Edited to add:
The Morrigan's fulacht is also associated with blacksmiths:
"Perhaps because he also forges weapons of death, the blacksmith is sometimes thought to possess supernatural powers. As we have seen the author of an 8th century hymn asks God for protection from the spells of blacksmiths. The supernatural aspect of this craft is indicated further by the special treatment of the blacksmith in the list of prefessions in Bretha Nemed toísech. In the case of other craftsmen, three necessary skills are listed, but in the case of the blacksmith, the author draws on pagan mythology: 'three things which confer status on a blacksmith" the cooking spit of Nethin, the cooking pit of the Morrigan, the anvil of the Dagda."(Kelly, 2005, page 63)

It may be in this case that it is the skill to create these items which is the measure of the smith's worth, but it is uncertain. 

Royal Irish Academy (1870). Proeedings of the Royal Irish Academy
Martin, W., (1895). Pagan Ireland an Archaeological Sketch
Ó Néill, J., (2003). Lapidibus in igne calefactis coquebatur: The Historical Burnt Mound 'Tradition'
Kelly, F., (2005). A Guide to Early Irish Law

*it is worth noting here that O Néill concludes based on the date of the archaeological fulachts that they significantly predate the written accounts and therefore that the fulachts were likely mere cooking pits; however this leaves open the question of how evidence supports the pyrolithic use of fulachts and medieval texts also hint at this use if there is in actuality no connection. 

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Reflecting Darkness

So Friday is my birthday. I've been thinking a lot about that, and about something that was posted in a group today about the variety of witches out there:
internet meme; anonymous
     There are many, many approaches to witchcraft and some are completely different from others, but it is true that the vast majority of witches in the Western world seem to follow what is generally termed a "right hand path" or benevolent witchcraft. This approach usually adheres to the things mentioned above: a belief in a Westernized understanding of karma, following the Wiccan Rede, and belief in the Rule of Three. Because this is the most popular approach it can sometimes be seen in groups as the only acceptable approach, particularly with an emphasis on witchcraft that focuses on healing, blessing, protection, and a strong ethic of not causing harm.
I'm a witch.* I have been a witch now for more than 24 years.
   I don't believe in karma*, in the sense that what we do comes back to us in a reward/punishment system, or that being good makes good things happen. I do think that being a good person, however you define that, has value and should be strived for. But I don't think there is some universal power which metes out punishment or reward based on an arbitrary system of good or bad actions.
   I don't follow the Wiccan Rede, because I am not Wiccan, firstly, and secondly because I believe that sometimes "harm" is good and necessary. Sometimes a small harm now prevents a greater harm later, or is being done for a larger purpose, such as the "harm" done to my daughter when she had her cardiac procedure in order to correct a dangerous irregular heartbeat. Sometimes its being done to protect something, like when I have to kill a hive of wasps that is above my garage (my husband is severely allergic). Sometimes its simply a matter of deciding that the action is necessary, and taking it.
    I don't believe in the rule of three, in any sense. I do believe that our mindset, be it positive or negative, effects our life, and that how we treat other people directly effects how other people, in a very general sense, treat us (ie if you are nice to people they are usually nice to you, if you are jerk they are generally a jerk in return). But life experience has shown me that bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people all the time. And that's not even getting into the stickety-wicket of who decides what is "good" and "bad" to begin with....
   I have hexed. I have done bindings and banishings. I deal with spirits, both on friendly terms and commanding them (usually to leave a place). I am very pragmatic in my magic; I do what needs doing. And there has never been any terrible consequence to me from anything I have done (although I will add here that I am very careful and I know what I am doing). The greatest consequence I have faced is the judgment and censure from some people within the pagan community for being open about the sort of witch that I am. 

   I think, sometimes, that paganism has spent so many decades trying to convince the rest of the world that we are all harmless and safe that anytime someone comes along and says, "No if it needs doing I'll do it, even if its sad or unpleasant or hard" there is an automatic response of immediately rejecting that idea. We don't want to own the dark witch anymore, or we want to make it a clear cut matter of "good/light" and "bad/dark". We have bought into our own PR and we want our witchcraft safe and nice and palatable for the masses of non-pagans. We don't want the dark and scary as a serious practice, only as a sort of juvenile "phase" that we say people will grow out of or as a side-show all-flash-no-substance joke. Its not easy to break out of that mindset, as a community. Heck it was hard for me. Everyone wants to be the hero in the story, not the pragmatist.
   There are all sorts of witches in the world and that's exactly as it should be. We need the variety. Some are very gentle. Some are very loving. Some are very peaceful. Some are all of that but if their back is against a wall they will defend themselves.
   I am not that sort.
    I was told once, in a visionary experience, that I needed to own the idea of being a badb, a bantúaithech, for lack of a better translation an "old school witch". Someone who isn't afraid of doing what needs doing. Who can heal or hex without hesitation. Who isn't afraid to go where other people truly do fear to tread. Who owns their own darkness and understands the balance that is needed between dark and light to preserve Firinne (truth/right order). The word badb itself when applied to a human means a witch of the dark and dangerous sort, the kind who shows up and gives an ill prophecy and then works magic to ensure it happens. A cursing-witch. The word bantúaithech* is related to the word túaithe and
 has strong negative connotations, being related to túaithbel meaning lefthand-wise, against the sun, to cursing, of working against the positive, and is also related through túath to the aos sidhe who witches were reputed to deal with and get much of their skill and knowledge from. So a badb or bantúaithech is a witch who works against the sun and who deals with the fairy folk, who curses and prophesies.
This was not a message I wanted to hear, nor one I was quick to embrace.
    I really didn't want to be that person.
    Because there is a comfort in acceptance. There is a comfort in staying weak, and avoiding confrontation, and letting other people handle the messy work. There is a comfort in being able to say "I am harmless and good and only ever help everyone".
     But you can't fight dán and a raven can't be a robin no matter how much it wishes it was.
So I have spent a lot of time learning to be a bantuaithech, an old school witch, and learning that you can still be kind and gentle even when you are the one who knows how to hex and does it when it needs doing. Learning that you can still be nice even when you are the one who isn't afraid to walk straight into the darkness and handle what you find there, and you are the one who does the things that generally seem to horrify so many other people. I had to learn that all those frightening connotations with the words badb and bantúaithech nonetheless represent the preservation of right-order, of fírinne - the dark witch doesn't curse for fun or maliciousness but in the myths and stories she does so to bring back order when there is a great imbalance. She uses her own power to correct imbalances, often by bringing down important people - often kings or heroes -  who have abused their power or greatly transgressed the social order. She is not a bad person but she is the one who must do the dirty work in the stories in order to bring back balance. I had to learn not to fear using power when it needed to be used, especially in situations where those who were otherwise powerless needed to have someone act for them. I learned, ultimately that sometimes the only way to preserve right-order is to go against it for a time.
    I am that sort of witch, but it doesn't make me a bad person - if anything it has made me a better person because I understand the fear, and anger, and hatred that far too often drive other people.
I embrace the darkness because I don't see it as frightening or dangerous, just as beautiful and empowering. I can empathize with suffering and being broken because I have been there. I appreciate the importance of being good and kind because I am so aware of the reality of the other side of that. I am kind not because I fear the consequences of not being kind - I don't - but because I know the value of kindness for its own sake. 
......but like Al Capone said: "Don't mistake my kindness for weakness. I am kind to everyone, but when someone is unkind to me, weak is not what you are going to remember about me."

*I've discussed in previous blogs that I am both a witch and a Druid. I see the first as a personal practice, a skill, and the second as a role within the community. In my life they provide balance and dovetail nicely with each other, and both work within my Irish Reconstructionist Polytheism.
* okay that's a bit of hyperbole on my part, but its complicated. I've blogged about it previously here
* - I am editing this to clarify a point: the word bantúaithech is Old Irish and is the word used in the myths to describe female magic users, generally translated as "witch". Be Chullie and Dianann are referred to this way in the Cath Maige Tuired when Lugh asks what power they will bring to the fight (they promise to enchant the trees and stones and earth to appear as a great army by the way), and a further list of ten women of the Tuatha De Danann is given and described this way in the Banshenchus. The word, however, did not survive into modern Irish. There is a similar term, tuathánach, which means rustic or country dweller and tuathbheartach means evil-doing. Interestingly túathgeinte, meaning the Good Folk did survive as tuathghinte in modern Irish. Similarly badb, meaning a witch, is Old or middle Irish; in modern Irish babdbh when applied to a human means a scold and only has vague connotations of cursing. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Tochmarc Étaine

Tochmarc Étaine

[starting after gap] a thaigi ocus a gríanan co senistrib solsib fri techt ass ocus tobreth tlacht corcra impe ocus imchuirthe in gríanán sin lasin Mac Óc cach leth no théged ocus ba and contuiled cach n-aidchi occa chomaitecht do airec menman conda tanic a sult ocus a feth. ocus no  línta in gríanán sin do lubib boladmaraib ingantaib combo de forberedsi di bolod ocus blath na lubi sainemail logmar.

 Atchúas do Fuamnaig a ngrád ocus a mmíad doratad di lasin Mac Óc. Asbert Fuamnach fri Midir congarar deit do dalta co ndernsai chorai frib dib línaib ocus co ndechos for iarair Etaíne.  Dotháet techt co Mac nÓc o Midir ocus luidsi día acallaim ocus dolluid Fuamnach timchell calléic co mboí isin Bruig ocus tobert  in n-athaig cétnae fo Etaín conda bert asa gríanán forin fúamain forsa rabi ríam co cend .uii. mbliadna fo Herind conda timart athach gaíthe ar thrógi ocus lobrai conda corastár for cléthe tige la Ultu i mbátár oc ól co torchair isin n-airdig n-óir ro boí for láim mná Etair in chathmiled o Inbiur Cichmaine a coiciud Choncobair conda sloicside lasa loim gabais asind lestur co mbentai di suidiu foa broind combo ingen iar tain. Dobreth ainm di .i. Etain ingen Étair. Di bliadain déc ar mili trá o gein tuissech Etaini o Ailill cosa ngein ndedenach o Étur.

 Alta iarom Etain oc Inbiur Chichmuini la hEtar ocus .l. ingen impe di ingenaib tússech ocus ba hesseom noda biathad ocus no n-eted ar chomaitecht Etaini a ingini do gres. Lá n-and doib a n-ingenaib uilib isind inbiur oca fothrocud co n-accatar in marcach isa mmag cucu dond usciu. Ech dond tuagmar foran forlethan casmongach caschairchech foa suidiu. sídhalbrat uaine hi filliud immi. Ocus léne fo derginliud imbi. Ocus eo óir ina brut rosaiged a gúalaind for cach leth. Scíath argdidi co n-imbiul oir imbi fora muin. Scíatrach argit and. Ocus tul n-oir fair. Ocus sleg coicrind co fethan óir impi o irlond co cró ina laim. Folt findbudi fair co hetan. Sníthe óir fria étan conná teilged a folt fo agid. Assisedar sist forsin purt oc deiscin na n-ingen Ocus ro charsat na ingena uili. conid and asbertsom in laid seo sís
    Etain indiu sund amne oc Síd Ban Find iar n-Albai eter maccaib beccaib di for brú Inbir Cíchmuini. Is hí ro híc súil ind ríg a topor Locha Dá Líg is í asibed sin dig la mnaí nÉtair hi tromdig. Is tría ág dossib in rí inna héonu di Thethbí Ocus báidfid a dá ech i llind Locha Dá Airbre Bíat imda coicthe ili tríat ág for Echaig Midi íaid togal for sídib Ocus cath for ilmilib. Is í ro loited is tír is í archosnai in rig is í Be Find fris dogair is í ar nÉtaín iar tain.
   Etain indiu. .n. Dochúaid úadib in t-óclaech iar sain iocus ní fetatar can dodeochaid la cid iarom. O ránic in Mac Óc do acallaim Midir ní fornic Fuamnaig ara chiund ocus asbert .i. Midir fris bréc dorat in ben imond ocus día n-ecastar dí Etain do bith i nÉre. Ocus ragaid do denam uilc fria. Domuiniur is dóig bid fír ol Mac Óc. Atá Étaín ocom thigsi isin Bruig o chíanaib isin deilb hi tarfas uaitsiu. Ocus bes is cuice forobart in ben.
   Dotháet Mac Óc día thig fora chulu co farnic a gríanán nglainidi cen Etaín and. Immasoí in Mac nÓc for slict Fuamnaige co tarraid for Óenuch Bodbgnai oc tig Bresail Etarláin in drúad. Fosnopair in Mac Óc ocus benaid a cend di & dobert lais a cend sin co rrabi for brú in Broga. Acht chena iss ed islicht i nn-inud aile conid la Manandán ro marbait a ndís .i. Fuamnach ocus Midir i mBri Léith día n-ébrad.
    Fúamnach báeth bá ben Midir Sigmall is brí co mbilib i mBrí Léith ba láthar lan ro loiscthe la Manandán.

  - Lebor na hUidre

The Wooing of Etain

The Irish text picks up after a gap. Previous to this gap we learn that the Dagda had fathered a son with the wife of Elcmar and sent the child to foster with Midir, who by some accounts was also a son of the Dagda. The child, Oengus Mac Oc, fosters with Midir, believing Midir to be his father; when he finally asks who his real father is Midir takes him to the Dagda and asks that he be given land and formal acknowledgement. The Dagda acknowledges Oengus as his son, and tells him of a way to trick Elcmar out of possession of the Brugh na Boyne, which Oengus subsequently does. 
  Later Midir comes to visit Oengus on Samhain and sees two groups of boys fighting as Elcmar looks on in the distance; fearing Elcmar might cause trouble with Oengus if he goes out Midir volunteers to separate the boys. In the process his eye is put out by a stick that is thrown. Oengus calls on Dian Cecht to heal the eye, which he does, but Midir then refuses to stay and visit. He will only remain if Oengus gets him three things: an expensive chariot, a fine cloak, and the hand of Etain the most beautiful maiden in Ireland who is the daughter of a king of Ulster. Oengus can only secure Etain with the Dagda's help by meeting her father's demands to clear 12 plains, creating 12 rivers, and paying her father Etain's weight in gold and silver. 
  Oengus brings Etain to Midir and they are wed but he warns his foster father that he must be very careful around the jealousy of Fuamnach, who had been raised by a Druid and knew powerful magic. Oengus is concerned because he has promised to keep Etain safe. Midir doesn't listen though and after arriving back at his home Fuamnach transforms Etain into a pool of water, then flees. Eventually from the pool comes a worm who turns into a purple fly. Midir loves the fly as well as he had loved Etain in her human form, and Fuamnach learns of this and returns, using a blast of wind to carry Etain away and throw her about Ireland for seven years. Finally she lands on Oengus's cloak and he recognizes her, offering her a welcome into his own home....

  [starting after gap] his household and his crystal bower with a bright window for her going out and returning in. A purple covering was about her and the bower is brought there by Mac Óc each day with affection and he sleeps each night attending her until she found confidence and until she regained her cheerfulness and her tranquility. And the bower was filled with fragrant  wonderful herbs she subsists on both the scent and flowers of the excellent precious herbs.

  Fuamnach heard of his affection and the honor given her by Mac Óc. Fuamnach said to Midir "Call for your foster-son with agreed peace between you both and without a difference in seeking Etaín."
  Mac nÓc went to the house with Midir and when he was conversing Fuamnach went around meanwhile there to the Brug and puts the same blast of wind over Etaín which carries her away from the bower and from her garment, on a time ever of conflict for seven years around Ireland so that the gust of wind drove her in misery and weakness until she landed on the house posts of Ulster where warriors were with drink and she was thrown into the gold cup that was for the hand of the woman of Etair, wife of the champion of Inbiur Cichmaine in a territory of Choncobair, who she swallows with a sip taken out of the vessel with a strike she arises from it that she [Etain] was under her womb and was her daughter after that time. The name she bore from that is Etain daughter of Étair. One thousand twelve years then from the first birth of Etain from Ailill until the final birth from Étar.

 Afterwards Etain was at Inbiur Chichmuini with Etar, that is the girl was with daughters of premiere horsemen about her and he was the one who fed and nicely clothed them to attend his daughter Etain at her work. One day it happened to them that the girls on this occasion were at a river-mouth and were washing when they saw a horseman on the plain from the noble waters. A brown horse splendidly arched, broad above curly-maned curly-tailed beneath the aforementioned. A folding green cloak bending around him. And a red ornamented shirt on him. And gold brooch on the cloak reaches his shoulders on each side. A silver shield with a gold border on it on his neck. A shield-strap of silver and  a shield-boss of gold on it. And a spear bordered with gold bands on it from the butt of the spear to the hoop of the lance in his hand. Yellow hair on him to his forehead. A headband of gold against his forehead which keeps his hair from his face. He stops for a time there in that place gazing at the girl and all the girls loved him. So then he spoke the poem here;
    "Etain today is here thus at Síd Ban Find west of Albai among girl children at the border of Inbir Cíchmuini. It is she who cured the eye of the king from the spring of lake Dá Líg* it is she who was drunk in that drink of the woman Étair; a heavy drink. Because of her the king will attack* birds from Thethbí* and drown his two horses in the pool of lake Da Airbe 
Bíat* much war will be waged many hosts battling upon Echaig of Meath bringing destruction of Fairy mounds and battle of many thousands. It is she who will devastate the land, it is she that goes to the king, it is she Be Find*, she is called our Étaín now."
   Etain at that time went from the young man and was different afterwards and they didn't know whence he came from or yet went afterwards. 

    When the Mac Óc reached Midir to address him without help he didn't find Fuamnacht  and said, that is Midir [said], to him "The woman has deceived us and if she has learned that Etain was alive in Ireland. And she will have gone to perpetrate evil on her."
 "I believe it is likely to be true" said Mac Óc. "Étaín has been at my home at the Bruig for a time in that form displayed since going from you. And it may be towards her the woman is rushing."
   Mac Óc returned back to the house and found her crystal bower without Etaín there. The Mac nÓc 
turned around on the trail of Fuamnacht and overtook her at Óenuch Bodbgnai* at the house of Bresail Etarláin the druid.  The Mac Óc attacked her and he struck her head off so that he brought her head then with him to the Brú in Broga. But moreover, however, common people say in other versions it was Manannán who killed the two that is Fuamnach and Midir in Bri Léith. Some say:
    "Reckless Fúamnach was the wife of Midir, Sigmall was a hill of ancient trees, in Brí Léith was their full power burnt by Manannán."

This is where the available Irish text ends. In the story the strange rider's prediction comes to pass: Etain marries the king of Ireland. Midir finds her in her new form and wins a forfeit from the king - he claims a single kiss from Etain. When the two kiss she remembers her former life and Midir turns the two into swans who fly away. The king pursues them, fighting to get back his wife. Finally Midir makes 50 women look like Etain and tells the king he can keep her if he chooses the real one; instead the king mistakenly chooses his own daughter, who he fathers a daughter on. Etain and Midir return to the Sid together. 

I don't normally translate place names or people's names but in this case in the poem they are particularly interesting and an example of the word-play common in Old Irish material.
* Locha Dá Líg probably means lake of two glories
*in fairness this could also read "seek birds", but attack seemed to better fit the overall tone of the poem
*Thethbí - may be interpreted as "killing threshold"
* the name "Da Airbe Bíat" may mean "two numerous armies" or "two yew fences"
* Be Find, literally "White woman" but also meaning "bright woman" or "fair woman"
*Oenuch Bodbgnai - Harvest fair of the beautiful crow

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Morgan's Ogham Cheat Sheet

Although there's no solid historical basis for using ogham as a divination tool its certainly popular to do so today and there is more than enough material to make it a viable system. Much like tarot, actually, there is so much that it takes a while to learn to really read ogham well. I highly recommend checking out the original source material, the Auraicept na n-Eces as well as modern books on the subject including Erynn Rowan Laurie's book Ogam Weaving Word Wisdom, Steven Blamires' Celtic Tree Mysteries, John-Paul Patton's The Poet's Ogam and Skip Ellison's book Ogham: the secret language of the Druids for detailed study of the ogham.
  That said, over the years I have come up with what I call my "Ogham Quick Reference Guide" to help me out when I'm using ogham for ritual omens. Due to a learning disability I've found the ogham especially challenging to learn and using this little guide has been helpful, so I thought I'd share it with everyone. Maybe it will help other people trying to learn to use ogham for divination too.

English letter: B  Ogham name: Beithe - pronounced: Beh     Literally "birch tree": new beginnings, cleansing, protection

   English letter: L  Ogham name: Luis - pronounced Looh-sh    Possibly from the Old Irish "lus", herb. In tree ogham represents the Rowan, "coarthann": Enchantment, mysticism, protection against magic                  

English letter: F    Ogham name: Fearn - Pronounced Fee-yarn    The alder tree, Old Irish "fern", modern "fearnog": support, protection during attack. Often associated with ravens and divination.  


English letter: S   Ogham name: Saille - Pronounced Sall-yuh    The willow tree, Old Irish "sail": healing, making plans, moving forward.

 English letter: N  Ogham name: Nuin - pronounced Noo-in   Possibly "weaver's beam". In the tree ogham associated with the Ash, "fuinseag": peace, creation, stability. A clear path. Bring things together.

   English letter: H  Ogham name: Huath - pronounced Oo-uh   Literally terror or phantom.        In the tree Ogham represented by the Hawthorn, "sceach" a fairy tree: the unknown, fear of the unseen, transition

 English letter: D  Ogham name: Duir - pronounced Doo-ihr    The oak "dair": wisdom, strength, protection, growth.

English letter: T  Ogham name: Tinne - pronounced Tihn-nyeh   Literally means metal rod. In the tree ogham associated with the Holly "cuileann": fighting, contention, weapons, fire, and smithcraft

English letter: C Ogham name : Coll - pronounced Kohl  Means hazel: divination, magic, and enchantment, knowledge. Also relates to wealth.

English letter: Q  Ogham name Quert, alt. Cert - pronounced Kehrt  Means "rags". In the tree ogham this is apple "ull": healing, restoration, renewal, nourishment

   English letter: M   Ogham name: Muin  - pronounced Mwin  Literally means "neck" or "back". In the tree ogham it stands for the vine "funiuin": release, compromises, focus, determination, confrontation, vengeance (basically think the good and bad sides of wine)

 English letter: G    Ogham name: Gort - pronounced Guhrt   Literally "field". In the tree ogham it is the ivy, "eidhnean": beauty, love, friendship, fidelity

  English letter: nG   Ogham name nGetal - pronounced Neh-tahl  Literally "wounding". Associated with the broom plant or reed "giolcach" in tree ogham: separation, warning, courage, direct action

 English letter: Str  Ogham name: Straif - pronounced Strahf   Literally "sulfur". In the tree ogham it is the blackthorn "draighean": discernment, cunning, focused protection, the thorn, inner strength, boundaries

English letter: R  Ogham name: Ruis - pronounced Roosh    Literally "redness". In tree ogham it represents the elder tree, "trom": anger, blushing (ie loss of face, embrassment), endings, completion, be realistic in order to succeed

  English letter; A   Ogham name; Ailm - pronounced  Al-ihm  The word and its meaning is uncertain. In tree ogham it represents the fir or pine, "giuis": hard work, effort. The need for caution. Integrity and good judgment are key.

English letter: O  Ogham name: Onn - pronounced On    Old Irish for "ash tree" or "stone". In tree ogham this is given as gorse, "aitenn": take action, movement, success, perseverance, relief

English letter: U   Ogham name: Uir - pronounced Oor   Literally "earth". Associated with in the tree ogham with heather, "fraoch": embrace your talents, plant now to harvest later, effort brings reward with patience

English letter: E  Ogham name: Edad - pronounced Ehd-ahd    The word and meaning are unknown.I n the tree ogham it is the asen, "crithach": endings, death, let go of what you've outgrown. Calm consideration. Trust in your ability to endure.

English letter: I  Ogham name: Idad - pronounced Eed-ahd    the word and meaning are unknown. Associated with the yew, "iur" in the tree ogham: see the big picture. Seek experience, know when to act and when not act. Bide your time. Don't avoid problems.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

excerpt from my current work in progress

I'm a bit behind on blogging and translations because I'm in the middle of a new book draft for Pagan Portals: Brigid. The idea of doing more goddess-themed Pagan Portals was suggested by someone on my facebook author page and my publisher really liked it, and asked if I'd be interested in writing about Brigid. I'm about 14,000 words into the 25,000 word draft and its about all I've had time to work on, excluding real life child care (the never ending work-in-progress). So today I thought it would be fun to share a small excerpt from the new book in progress. Although the main focus of the book is specifically on the pagan Goddess Brighid it's inevitable that saint Brigid will have to be discussed too....

Brigid – Goddess and Saint
Our modern understanding of Brigid is largely the result of a blending of the features of the pagan Goddess and Catholic saint (Clark, 1991). There is a sharp divide among scholars on the subject with some like Kim McCone stating that saint Brigid, particularly in her later stories, shows a clear separation from the pagan Brigid, while others like Marie-Louise Sjoestedt say that the saint is an accurate preservation of the Goddess. This makes it difficult and at times almost impossible to untangle one from the other, particularly from material that dates to the transition period when Ireland was still nominally pagan and not yet entirely Christian. We can see this for example in the proliferation of both mythic figures and saints named Brigid as well as the characteristics of the early saint Brigid which clearly reflected earlier mythic patterns, such as providing food and drink to those in need (McCone, 2000). In the Lebor Gabala Erenn we are told that the Dagda is Brigid’s father and that he also had a son named Aed; interestingly saint Brigid also was associated with a person named Aed, in this case a fellow saint. Saint Aed was said to have founded a monastery with buildings dedicated to saint Brigid and saint Brigid was said to have invoked the name of saint Aed to miraculously cure a headache (McCone, 2000).  Those seeking to connect to the Goddess today will have to decide for themselves what they feel genuinely reflects older pagan beliefs and what may have evolved in the later Christian period.
   Saint Brigid was reputed to be the best brewer in Ireland, and her association with beer, ale, and brewing were shared by her counterparts the Welsh Saint Ffraid and the Scottish saint Bride. This particular association may reflect and older pagan belief connected to Brigid of Smithcraft, as it was not uncommon for smith deities to also be Gods of brewing. The Irish smith God Goibniu, for example was associated with brewing as well as smithing. Goibniu had a special mead or ale called the fled Goibnenn, “drink of Goibniu”, that conveyed the gift of youth and immortality to the Tuatha De Danann (O hOgain, 2006). Similarly the Welsh Gofannon was a brewer as well as smith and the Gaulish Secullos, the “Good striker”, although not known explicitly as a smith God was depicted with a hammer and associated with wine.

    Saint Brigid is most strongly associated with Kildare where her church stands near her sacred healing well; the church itself features a perpetual flame tended by Brigadine nuns. Although the perpetual flame cannot be traced with certainty back to the Irish pagan period Brigid’s British counterpart Brigantia had a temple under the guise of Brigantia-Minerva which also featured a perpetual flame (Puhvel, 1987). The Irish saint Brigid and the Scottish saint Bride are believed to be both the midwife and foster-mother of Jesus Christ and both are very strongly connected to childbirth, potentially reflecting older mother Goddess concepts.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Morrigan is Not My Mother and Other Personal Truths

  This idea for this blog was actually started in a conversation about the Morrigan as a mother goddess and I want to say right at the off that I have nothing against people who believe that she is. Modern worshipers see the Morrigan in diverse ways that are often deeply significant for each individual and I am in no way trying to argue against those views. You can have whatever personal relationship with any deity you feel that you have, and don't worry about whether or not  those views are shared. It may not be my cuppa, but such is life - and likewise my views and how I relate to her shouldn't get your knickers in a twist if they don't agree with your own.
   So, getting to it.
   The Morrigan is not my mother. I don't see her as a mother goddess, for several reasons. First of all, from a purely mythological standpoint the evidence for her having children is complicated. She is said to have a son named Meiche - but he had to be killed because he had three serpents in his heart who would have grown and destroyed Ireland. The Lebor Gabala Erenn names her as the mother of a trio of sons, but that may be a case of conflating her with another goddess in an attempt to homogenize the folklore when the stories where written down. She is also said to have 52 children who were warriors in the Silva Gadelica, but in context it seems likely they were actually people dedicated to her and not physical children. So there's not much solid evidence for her as a physical mother of children and certainly not in the prodigious way of, say, Flidais who one can easily argue does fit the image of a mother goddess. That isn't the sort of thing that bothers some people but as those of you who read my blog may have noticed the mythology is a pretty big deal to me, so having absolutely no mythic precedence is a big factor for me.
   Secondly from a more Jungian viewpoint (hey I do have a psych degree after all) she doesn't fit the archetypal pattern of the Mother very well either. The Mother, as an archetype*, is gentle, nurturing, caring, loving, and supportive, because she represents the idealized qualities of the concept of a mother. The Morrigan is many, many awesome and inspiring things but when I think of words to describe her "nurturing" and "gentle" don't exactly spring immediately to my mind. Not to say she can't be those things if she is in the mood to be - blackthorn can make a safe refuge for small birds avoiding predators, but that doesn't mean my first thought when it's mentioned is "cuddly" (seriously have you seen those thorns?). My point here - no pun intended, mostly - is that while I do think the Morrigan can be caring and supportive to those who honor her, I don't think occasionally acting that way or taking on that role under specific circumstances makes her the embodiment of the Mother in an archetypal way. I do think that its a very interesting thing that so very many neopagans seem to be seeking out a Mother in the goddesses they honor, to the point of seeing that Mother and the qualities of mothering in goddesses who far more easily could be said to embody the Anti-Mother or Negative Mother.
   The Morrigan to me, if I were going to describe her in a personal sense, is a force of incitment and empowerment. She can be supportive, but she also pushes me to achieve. She can be caring, but she doesn't let me slack or give excuses. She can be gentle, but she can also be brutal, harsh, and push me past what I thought was my limit so that I realize that I am stronger and braver than I realized. She can be nurturing, but she nurtures my potential by driving me to achieve and pushing me to excel. She will stand up and defend me only until the moment I can do it for myself, and she will be urging me the entire time to stand up. She does not chase away my nightmares, but teaches me to face them. That is who she is to me.
   For myself, my own viewpoint is both simpler and in a way more complex. She just doesn't resonate with me as a mother goddess, nor as a deity, quite frankly, of sex, nor of fertility** although these are all popular views of her. I don't see her as a goddess of rebirth or birth either - although I'll repeat here that if you do, that's fine, I'm not trying to attack anyone else's opinions, just to share my own thoughts. To me a mother Goddess is about more than fiercely protecting your children or family - after all isn't that what most warriors are doing? Wasn't that why the pleas of Cu Chulain's father, Súaltaim, during the Tain Bo Cuiligne to arouse the Ulstermen to fight include saying "your wives and sons and children are taken"? I feel like being fiercely protective speaks more to her warrior side than anything else, to the desire and ability to fight for what needs to be fought for. People say she is a goddess of sex, but why? Because she has sex once with the Dagda who is, by the account of several sources her husband? Because she propositions Cu Chulain in one late version of the Tain Bo Cuiligne? That seems like thin evidence to me, when we could far more easily argue for the Dagda as a god of sex since he's getting it on with a variety of beings in multiple stories. Why does she have to be a goddess of sex to be a strong female figure? Can't she be strong and independent without having to be blatantly sexual? What makes her a goddess of fertility? Being female and connected to sex? If anyone would like to discuss this one I'm open to it, but so far no one has been able to offer an actual explanation beyond a tenuous argument that as Anu if she's connected to the earth she is by default a fertility goddess, to which I would ask everyone to consider - what defines a fertility goddess? For me personally a fertility deity is someone I pray to for physical fertility of myself, my animals, and my crops and while I may ask the Morrigan to increase my cattle via successful raiding she just isn't who I would go to for physical fertility (which again isn't to say she might not answer someone for that if she felt like it, she's a goddess she can influence whatever she wants to). No mythic associations, no folklore, so just not something I see as her bailiwick. The same arguments hold true for re-birth and birth.
     I'll emphasize again - and again and again - though that just because a deity is generally most strongly associated with something doesn't mean that they are limited to those things. The Morrigan can be a goddess of war, battle, and death but may also choose to relate to an individual in a unique way, just as a person can specialize in a skill but also be able to do other things they have no training in, to use a rough analogy. I think where it starts to get messy is when someone has a personal association with a deity and then associates that outwards into a generalization for everyone. Also I know some people really dislike the idea of a deity being the "goddess of ----" because they find it limiting to that deity, but its pretty clear looking at both ancient pagan religions and modern ones that deities have always specialized. If you look at Hinduism, Santeria, any tribal religion, Egyptian paganism, Hellenismos, Shinto, and so on some gods were always worshiped for certain things and other gods for other things - the idea of any one deity doing it all is very uncommon. I might even venture to say that the idea of an interactive, all-powerful, all-influential, all-encompassing deity in a polytheistic sense is very post-modern but I'm sure someone will find an example to contradict me.
   I'm not always very good at binary thinking, and this is an example of where my perspective varies because I just don't see the Morrigan as defined, in any significant way, by her vagina. Yes, she's a goddess. Yes, she's female. Yes, she in many ways exemplifies female empowerment. But I just can't bring myself to see her as defined by those features which make her female - her ability to give birth, her ability to have sex, her ability to mother - these are all part of her but only in a modern context have they become aspects which we focus on and emphasize. And in some cases, in some contexts I have seen them emphasized in ways that reduce her to just another overly-sexualized woman in a culture that doesn't respect women very much. I've seen male devotees talk about her as if she was their girlfriend or some sort of anime fantasy, emphasizing only her sex and fertility aspects; and that does make me uncomfortable and more than a bit offended. I've seen female devotees talk about her as if she was nothing but gentle and loving kindness, the perfect mother fulfilling that fantasy for them. And maybe she is those things to those people, because maybe that's what they need, or maybe she isn't and they just see what they want to see, I have no idea, and I honestly its between Her and them. But I just can't see Her in those ways. To me she will always be powerful and awesome - awe inspiring - not because she is female but because she is Herself.

* A Jungian archetype that is - the word gets tossed around a lot in neopaganism but I honestly don't understand how its being used about half the time. In Jungian psychology as I understand it, an archetype is an unconscious, inherited idea of the ideal pattern or type of a thing that humans get form the collective unconscious and which is shared across cultures. So hence the archetypal Hero, Mother, and Trickster. Archetypes aren't decided by individuals but are dictated by the sum total of human experience and cultural inheritance.
** Macha, however, is arguably a fertility goddess something I discuss in my article "Macha, Horses, and Sovereignty" which will be in the forthcoming anthology "Grey Mare on the Hill" due out in december 2015. 

Thursday, September 3, 2015

De Chophur in Da Muccida - The Struggle of the Two Swineherds

De Chophur in da Muccida

Ceist cid dia dá Cophur na Muccide. Ni handsa. .i. muccaid Ochaill Oichni. & muccaid Boidb rig síde Muman. alaile rí síde Connacht. Síd mBoidb iss ed Síd ar Femun. Sid nOchaill iss ed Síd Cruachan. Ro boí dí cairddes eter ríg síde
Muman. & ríg side Connacht. Ro batar dano da muccaid ocaib .i. Friuch & Rucht a n-anmand .i. Friuch muccaid Boidb. Rucht muccaid Ochaill. Ro boí dano carddess eturrusaide .i. suithe ngentlechta la cechtar de. & nos delbtais in cech richt. amal no bíth Mongán mac Fiachna.
Ba he carddes na da muccaidse .i. In tan ba mess la Mumnechu.  Do theiged in muccaid atúaid cona muccaib caelaib fadess. In tan ba mess danoatúaid. no theiged in muccaid andess fathúaith. Consoíter debuid eturru. Asbertis Connachta ba mó cumachta a mmuccida. Asbertis Mumnig dano ba mó cumachta a mmuccida.
Bliadain and dano mess mór la Mumnechu & dolluid in muccaid atúaid fadess cona muccaib leis. Feraid a cheile failte ris. Consaíter etrunni mad tú ol se. Asberat ind firseo is mó do chumachtasu indausa. Ni lugu ém ol muccaid Ochaill. Bieid ní i fessamar ón ol muccaid Boidb. Dogensa urgaire do muccsu connápat metha ce beit for mess. & bat metha mo mucca féin. Ocus immarránic anísin iarum. Téit muccaid Ochaill dia thaig iarum cona muccaib caelaib leis. iss infechtain rosiachtatar less ar throgi. Con- tibther immiseom o ránic a thír. Olc húar lodsai ol cach fris. Is mó cumachta do cheili andaí Ni bá anísin ol sesseom. Biaid mess lenni atherruch & dogensa in cless cetna risseom. & immarranic son dano iarum. Téit muccaid Boidb fathúaid a dochumsom día bliadna cona muccaib caelaib leiss i tíre Connacht. & dogeni  muccaid Ochaill a cetna fria muccasom coro serggsat. Co n-erbairt cách ba cumma a cumachtu dib linaib. Luid muccaid Boidb atúaid cona muccaib caelaib leiss. Gataid Bodb a muccaidecht n-airi. Gatar dano a muccaidecht arin fer atúaith. Dí bliadain lána dóib iar sin i ndelbaib senén.
 Indala bliadain túaid la Connachta for Dún Chruachan in bliadain aile dóib oc Síd ar Femun. Condrancatar fir Muman i n-oendáil laa n-óen and. Ní bec a ndeilm dogniat ind eoin arfar mbelaib. ol eat. bliadain lán o tát ocond imchiradsa & ocund ábairtse cosindiu. Tan iarum batar forsna briathraibse co n-accatar rechtaire Ochaill{MS folio 246b 15} chuccu issin telaig. Fuidell mac Fiadmire a ainmside. ferthair failte friss. Is mór a ndeilm dogniat ind eóin arbar mbelaib.
Indar lat batir hé da én batar ocund atuaith innuraid. & iss ed dano dogníside co cend mbliadna a cetna. Co n-accat ní iar suidiu batar delba doíne. in da sinén hísin. Ataciat iar suidiu batir é a ndá muccid. Ferait failti friu. Ni fíu falti frinn or muccaid Boidb biaid mór colla cóem. & mór núall diar n-ág ar ndís. Cichib róer ol Bodb. Nin foruireth na mmaith ol se. O lodmarni uaibse ol se dib línaib dí blíadain lána cossindiu. Ataam i ndelbaib én. Adchondarcfarsi a ndoringensamni arbar mbelaib.{MS folio 246b 30} Bliadain lán dún i Cruachnaib ocund urdsin. Bliadain aile oc Sid ar Femun. Co n-faccatar ind fir atúaid & indess ar cumachta díb línaib. Regmai dano ifechtsa i ndelba míl uisci & bemmit fo  murib co cend dá bliadna aile. Documlat uadib iar sin cechtar n-aí a leth. Luid indala n-aí i Sinnaind luid alaile i sSiúir. Batir iar sin da bliadain lana fon uisci. Bliadain lán atchitís i sSiúir ic immithi. In bliadain aile dano atchitis i sSinaind. Batar dano da n-oss. & teclamad cechtar n-aí osséti co ndenad damlíg do mennut a cheile. Batir da fennid & imgonad cechtar de a chéle. Batir da siabuir & fobuthad cechtar de a chéile. Batir da draic túarcad cechtar de snechta for tír a cheili. Dofuittet díb línaib assind aér comtar di dorbbi. Teit indala n-aí i topur Glaisse Cruind i Cualngiu. conda essib bó Dáiri meic Fiachnai. & teit alaile i n-Uarán nGarad la Connachta conda ib bó Medba & Ailella conid díb ro chinset in da tharb. in Finnbennach Aí & in Dub Cualngi. Rúcht & Runce. imtar dá muccid. Ingen & Eitte imdar da sinén. Bled & Blod imtar da míl fo murib. Rind & Faebur imtar da fénnid. Scáth & Scíath imtar dí siabair. Crunniuc & Tuinniuc imdar dí dorbbai. Finnbend Aí & in Dond Cualngi a n-anmand in tan batar da tharb.
Is amlaid baí in Dond Cualngi

 -  Lebar na Núachongbála

The Struggle of the Two Swineherds

What caused the struggle of the two swineherds? Not difficult. That is the swineherd of Ochaill Oichni and the swineherd of Bodb king of the sídhe of Munster, the other the king of the sídhe of Connacht. The sídhe of Boidb that is the sídhe at Femun. The sídhe of Ochaill that is the sídhe of Cruachan. There was friendship between the king of the sídhe of Munster. and the king of the sidhe of Connacht. There were therefore two swineherds with them that is Friuch and Rucht where their names. That is Friuch was the swineherd of Bodb. Rucht the swineherd of Ochaill. There was also friendship between them that is both having pagan knowledge between them and had the habit of taking on many forms, like Mongán mac Fiachna would. 
 This was the friendship of the two swineherds that is when there were masts in Munster the swineherd came from the north with his thin pigs to the south. When the masts were in the north the swineherd from the south went north. Strife was stirred up between them. The people of Connacht said the power of their swineherd was greater. The people of Munster however said that the power of their swineherd was greater.
One year there the masts were great in Munster and the swineherd from the north came south with his swine. He supplied his fellow a welcoming bit of news.
 "They are trying to stir us up" said he. "They say the strength and greater power is yours."
 "It is not less" said Ochaill's swineherd.
"There is a way to know this" said Bodb's swineherd. "I will restrain your swine with a harbored wasting despite the mast, and without wasting on my own pigs."
 And so it went with them afterwards. The swineherd of Ochaill went home after with his thin pigs, who scarcely could follow to the courtyard because of their wretchedness. They smiled on him when he arrived back in his land.
"You went at an evil hour" they all said to him. "The greater power is with your fellow."
 "This is not good" said he. "The mast will be with us again and I will preform the same feat. And it will follow thus with him after."
 The swineherd of Bodb went back north after a year of his power with his thin pigs with him in the land of Connacht. And it was the same as it had first been with the swineherd of Ochaill's pigs with wasting. So people said the power was equal power with them. The swineherd of Bodb came back from the north with his thin pigs with him.  Bodb took away his office of swineherd, of guarding. Taken away as well was the office of swineherd regarding the man in the north. Two whole years they are after that in different shapes.
 One year north in Connacht at the fort of Cruachan the other year they are at the Síd at Femun.
The men of Munster came together in a gathering on a certain day there.
"Not small the noise  the birds are making with their mouths." they said. "a whole year of them raising outrage and raising battle-cries until today."
 Then after they were speaking they saw the steward of Ochaill coming to them on the mound. His name was Fuidell mac Fiadmire. They welcomed him. "It is a great din the birds are making with their mouths."
 "You would think these were the two birds that were stirring up in the north last year."
 And it was thus they had been in conflict the first year. Then they saw after that they were in the form of people, the two who had been birds. They could see then the two swineherds. They welcomed them.
 "It is not fitting to welcome us," said the swineherd of Bodb "There will be great destruction of fair men.and great shouting arising from the battle of this pair."
 "What causes this?." said Bodb.
 "We bring about nothing good" said he. "O since we have gone from you" said he "We have been two full years until today in the shape of birds. You have witnessed our actions. A full year at the fort of Cruachan raising a cry. The other year at Sid ar Femun. Both the men of the north and south have seen the power of each of us. We will go thus now in the shape of water animals and be under the sea with this skin for two more years. We will set out from you after that each on his own way. One of the two to go to the Shannon the other to go to the Suir."
 They were after that two full years in the water. A full year biting and devouring one another in the Suir. The other year therefore biting each other in the Shannon. They were moreover two deer and gathered together one of the two the other's herd with violent damage to the abode of his fellow. They were two warriors and each struck at his fellow. They were phantoms and each frightened his fellow. They were two dragons each smiting with snow the land of his fellow. They dropped out of the air becoming small insects. One went in the well of Glaisse Cruind in Cualngi and was drunk by a cow of Dáiri meic Fiachnai. And the other went to Uarán nGarad of Connacht and was drunk by a cow of Medb and Ailill so that the two bulls were born from them. The White-horned of Aí and the Black of Cualngi. Rúcht and Runce where the two swineherds. Ingen and Eitte were the two birds. Bled and Blod were the two animals under water. Rind and Faebur were the two warriors. Scáth and Scíath were the two phantoms. Crunniuc and Tuinniuc were the two insects. Finnbend Aí and the Dond Cualngi the names that were on the two bulls.