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Thursday, September 29, 2011

Who were the Druids - part 1

  Recently a friend asked a question on several facebook discussion groups - who were the Druids to the Celtic peoples? It's an interesting question and it made me think about exactly what role the Druids played within their society. The first hurdle is to decide where to start in looking for clues about who the Druids were. Every possible source of information has its flaws, either through the bias of the authors of secondary sources, or the bias of people interpreting harder evidence such as archeology. However, these flaws are not insurmountable and do not require that all evidence should be thrown out, especially when evidence form different source is supportive of the same point. I think in the end we are left with secondary sources Greek, Roman, Christian, and mythology as well as supposition from archeology and anthropology to form a picture of who the Druids were. Each one offers a little piece and requires a certain cynicism.
   Personally I have always rejected the common modern division of the Druids into 'bards, ovates, and druids', although I can see ho wthis is a convienent way to divide up segments of study.  As Daithi O hOgain says in his book The Sacred Isle, "Given their similarity in function abroad, and their interchangeability in Ireland, it seems best to regard these three terms druis, velitos, and vatis [druid, bard, and seer] as indicating the functions of the wise man among the ancient Celts. In the world of antiquity, we should not look for a clear distinction between great wisdom in its practical and sacred senses." So instead of seeing the Druids as divided in to rigidly different segments I think it more likely that there was crosstraining that would have made each Druid able in the basics of each area, but allowed individuals to specialize.
    I also don't agree with the idea that some people put forth that an individual Druid was an expert in all things associated with Druidism. I think that the Druids filled a certain role within society as the educated class, if you will, and religious leaders, but that just like today there was specialization within. A fair analogy for my view may be of someone in a modern setting who goes through a degree program and has all the same basic classes but also focused electives.  So this is why, I think, we see Druids referred to as seers, priests, judges, advisors to kings, healers, and astronomers.
   So, who do I think the Druids were?
   To start I think the Druids were concerned with any and all religious matters, both of doctrine and practice -Caesar tells us that "Druids are concerned with religious matters, private and public sacrifice, and divination." Diodorus also mentions the role of Druids: "The Gauls have certain wise men and experts on the gods called druids, as well as a highly respected class of seers....It is a custom among the Gauls to never perform a sacrifice without someone skilled in divine ways present. They say that those who know about the nature of the gods should offer thanks to them and make requests to them, as though these people spoke the same language as the gods. The Gauls...obey the rule of the priests and bards..." From this I gather that public religious ceremony required a Druid to preside. Caesar also mentions that a person brought before the Druids for judgment who ignored the ruling would be banned by the Druids from attending public ceremonies, and that this was viewed as an "extremely harsh punishment" by the Gauls. This reinforces the idea of the pivotal role that the Druids played within the society and in religious life.
  I think the Druids were judges. Caesar, in his Gallic Wars, says, "...the Druids are the judges on all controversies public and private." Strabo also comments in a similar way, saying, "The Gauls consider the Druids the most just of people and so are entrusted with judging both public and private disputes." I know it's common today to refer to them as lawyers, but I don't feel that's accurate because the modern idea of a lawyer carries associations that are simply not what the Druids actually did. In a modern context the word lawyer refers to people who advocate for a particular person or side in a dispute, and historically the  Druids as Brehon did not do this but acted as judges or speakers of the law. The word in Irish "breitheamh" (Old Irish brithem, plural brithemain) translates as judge, not lawyer. It's an issue of semantics in English but using the word lawyer implies action as an advocate, whereas judging is what they actually did. In the Old Law texts the Brehon (brithemain) always act as judges. The law texts do have a classification for a person who fills the role of an advocate but that would be "aigne" (that's the Old Irish). Kelly also discusses, in his book Early Irish Law, that people were often represented before the King or Brithem by a fethem, a non-proffessional lawyer who was usually the head of the person's kin group.
    My final thought for todays blog - I think the Druids were seers. Although many references seem to seperate the seers into a different category, it is also clear that the boundaries were fluid and that Druids were also seers, so I think rather than three rigid categories the Druids themselves were expereinced as ritual leaders, seers, and bards. For example in all the following cases the words druid and seer are used interchangably or a person identified as one is given the attributes/skills of the other:
"The practice of divination is not even neglected by barbarians. I know there are druids in Gaul because I met one myself....He would predict the future using augury and other forms of interpretation." - Cicero.
"Tiberius passed a decree through the senate outlawing their Druids and these types of diviners and physicans." - Pliny.
" The Druidess exclaimed to him as he went, 'Go ahead, but don't hope for victory or put any trust in your soldiers.' Lamoridius on the emperor Alexander Severus recieving a prophecy when passing by a Druidess.
Another account by Vopiscus relates a similar tale of Diocletian being told he would one day be emperor by a Druidess offering a spontaneous prophecy, and later the same writer says "On certain occassions Aurelian would consult Gaulish Druidesses to discover whether or not his descendants would continue to rule."
Indeed, in The Sacred Isle by O hOgain the author points out that "prophecy and divination are the accomplishments most frequently attributed to druids in Irish literature." which clearly establishes that there is no way to seperate the concepts of seers and Druids from each other, particularly in the Irish.

  References:

 Early Irish Law by Fergus Kelly
 The Sacred Isle: Belief and Religion in pre-Christian Ireland by Daithi O hOgain
 War, Women, and Druids by Philip Freeman

Monday, September 26, 2011

Book review - Faery Wicca 1 and 2

 There are some bad books that just never seem to die, even after being pulled from publication for plagiarism issues. I was at a pagan conference in my state over the weekend at one of the workshops I taught someone asked about the book Faery Wicca (volume 1) by Kisma Stepanich, and I was actually rendered temporarily incoherant. I did recover and explain some of the issues with the book, but as I thought about it later I realized this might be a good time to post a book review of both of the Faery Wicca books here on my blog, since these were originally published in 1996 and 1998 respectively and all the melodrama about them went down so long ago that perhaps many people aren't aware of it anymore.
     Faery Wicca Book 1: Theory and Magic: a book of shadows and light. This one was pulled from print years ago but can still be found easily used; however it's not even worth the money to buy used. Her information is so inaccurate it makes me wonder if she read half the sources she lists in her bibliography. She relies on several authors which have been largely discredited, such as Robert Graves ideas about the Celtic tree calendar, or Seamus McManus's archeologically inaccurate idea that the Fomorians were Scythian or the Fir Bolg Greek. Beyond the shaky references, there are the author's rampant self contradictions - in one section she states that Cu Chulainn is Lugh reincarnated then two paragraphs later refers to Lugh coming to Cu Chulainn's aid, without ever explaining how that could be possible if they were the same person. Her information in general, but especially relating to any mythology, is so off it leaves a reader wondering what she is talking about. She inaccurately refers to the Fianna as members of the Tuatha de Danann and says that Badb was the main Celtic war goddess who "contained" three aspects including the Morrigan. She fall sinto the common trap of seeing moon and sun deities everywhere, despite the fact that Celtic deities did not fit a classical mold. Her text is full of Kabbalistic and Biblical references which have no place in the fairy faith, for example she states that Dana is GOD, in the Christian sense of the ulitimate deity that contains both male and female, the source of all, and quotes a Bible passage that she says shows that Macha was a also a biblical goddess/queen. And for someone claiming the title of Ollamh - the highest rank among the Fili, or poets of Ireland - her Irish Gaelic is atrocious. She mangles the language mercilessly (if only because she includes no accent marks), both in spelling and her pronounciation guide reducing it to meaningless gibberish, making it very plain that she does not speak the language at all - it seems to be included for no other reason than to make her book look more "Irish" and authentic, when it is in fact neither. Anyone who reads this at the least needs to be aware that it is not genuinely Irish in any way, and should skip right over any Irish Gaelic included in the text. The information about the gods and faeries is blatantly wrong and often contradictory. In short I would never recommend this book as it only spreads a lot of misinformation. There are much better books on Celtic Wicca, if that is what you are interested in, such as Celtic Wicca: Ancient Wisdom for the 21st Century by Jane Raeburn, or Lora O'Brien's book Irish Witchcraft from an Irish Witch
   Faery Wicca Book 2: The Shamanic Practices of the Cunning Arts (the Ancient Oral Faery Tradition of Ireland). As with the first book some of her information is simply wrong, such as her assertion that Cu Chulain was a shapeshifter who could take on the form of a wolf, hound, eel or bird, and her confusion of the Daghda with his harp. This occurs in that same section where she states he could take the form of a harp whose playing changed the seasons. In reality it was one of his famed possessions, not himself - in point of fact in one tale it is stolen and he must go with Ogma to reclaim it which would be rather difficult if he and it were one and the same. Those details aside though my biggest issue with this book is that the author takes Christian charms from the Carmina Gadelica, Vol. I & II: Hymns and Incantations (Forgotten Books), alters them slightly to be more appropriate for her "Faery Wicca" by changing references to God and Jesus to Danu, and calls them traditional Faery Wicca charms, without ever citing the real source she is drawing on. Not only is this misleading to people reading the book who are not familiar with the source material, but it is unfair to the source material itself to fail to credit it. Her faery faith is not old or traditional - it is clearly her own invention based off of altering genuine traditional material without ever admitting that is what she is doing. If you want to practice faery faith magic just read the Gadelica for yourself - you can rewrite the charms your own way and know where they came from. The author also falsely says that the term Ollamh means "faery shaman" and was traditionally used to describe those who mastered the faery shamanism she describes, when in reality Ollamh was the term used for the highest ranking poet and translates to "master-poet" or just "master" in modern Irish dictionaries.
  Effectively the author has made up her own tradition, which is fine in and of itself, although I don't agree with many aspects of it myself; currently she has new books out using the name Kisma Stepnaich-Reidling and a website called the Irish-American Fairy-Faith. The website also has some serious issues with using common domain, out of copyright, materials without credit to the sources while implying Mrs. Stepanich-Reidling wrote the material. Where the real problem lies with her books and tradition is the way she did it - by plagiarizing from many other sources including RJ Stewart and the Carmina Gadelica, and by asserting her own often contradictory opinions about mythology as if they were facts and generally accepted. The result is that people who read this material will either have a massive amount to unlearn later or will be buying into the lie the author is selling that her tradition is the modern face of the ancient Faery faith.
   Some links further discussing the books:
When Is A Celt Not A Celt
Open Letter from Former Student
Discussing the Plagiarism

Friday, September 23, 2011

Pagan Piety

  I'm in the mood for a bit of a rant today, so you've been warned.... 
   There is probably no faster way to start a fight on a pagan discussion board than to bring up the subject of piety in any form. For some reason the topic itself seems to immediately put people on the defensive, as if even discussing it is implicitly judging everyone. If I could have one wish relating to how the pagan community interacts among itself (hey a girl can dream) I think I would wish that each individual would stop judging everyone else based on what works for the individual.
  For example if you bring up the topic of devotions on a discussion group, instead of an actual discussion about devotional practices many times it very quickly devolves into more-pagan-than-thou pissing matches. Not everyone sinks to this level, but inevitably someone will comment on how essential frequent devotions are and someone else will react by accusing anyone who does devotional work of having Christian baggage, and then it just becomes a big argument. There doesn't seem to be any respect for the natural variation that occurs within any community; no acknowledgement that with such a personal thing as connection to the gods and spirits what works for one person may be useless for another. And it doesn't seem to matter at all how valuable the practice is for the people who like it, which makes no sense to me. I understand discussing how historically accurate something is or how a practice fits into reconstruction, but the idea of ignoring evidence in support of something and condemning a practice entirely as "unpagan" just because the speaker doesn't like it is ridiculous.
  This is also seen a lot when the subject of dedication to a deity comes up. Within the pagan community you'll see the full range, from people who aren't sure the gods exist and only acknowledge them on holy days to those who feel enough of an affinity to a deity to dedicate themselves to that Power. Actually even within the sub-culture of those who have chosen to dedicate there can be a lot of judgment based on each individual's definition of what dedication means. But one way or another it always seems to come back to some people feeling threatened by others who do things differently, as if the other people's different practice is a judgment on the individual's own piety. A heathen who only acknowledges the gods at blot is no more or less "right" than one who is fulltrui with a deity - the relationships are just different ways to connect to deity based on what works for that individual (and of course what the gods want from them). In the same way a CR who does daily devotionals to the deithe and an-deithe is no more or less right than one who doesn't.
  None of this is to say that there aren't legitimate issues within the subject of piety that are worth arguing over; however it seems like whenever the subject comes up people lose all perspective and let their own bias take over. The community might judge our actions to decide how well or poorly we fit into the community, but in the end it is the gods and spirits themselves who will decide the value of our efforts.
  Piety isn't a competition to see who can get the most god-brownie-points, it's a way to live in right relation with the gods and spirits around us. And, however tribal my overall view of religion is, when you get down to it how we each individually relate to those gods and spirits is unique to each of us. Actions are meaningless if they are being done without the right intention or as empty duty, and not doing what we feel moved to do out of piety because of community judgment also detracts from our connection to deity.
    For my own part I think the most important factor is the spirit any action for the gods is done in, because piety, true piety, is the inner motivation that moves us. Although there can be value in pushing through spiritual dry periods by continuing to practice even when we aren't feeling very connected, in general I don't think we should do what we do not feel in our hearts nor should we hesitate to act when we feel called to if we want to build a real connection to Powers outside ourselves. So I will leave you with this quote I stumbled across on patheos.com: "Are you not aware that all offerings whether great or small that are brought to the Gods with piety have equal value, whereas without piety, I will not say hecatombs, but, by the Gods, even the Olympian sacrifice of a thousand oxen is merely empty expenditure and nothing else?"
- Flavius Claudius Julianus the Pious and Philiosopher

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Macha

   Macha is one of the Tuatha De Danaan who appears in several different places in Irish mythology. She is a daughter of Ernmas, sister to Badbh and Anand; some people consider these three sisters to make up the triple Morrighan. In some sources Macha herself is called Morrigan (O hOgain, 2006). Macha appears in different guises in Irish mythology, once as one of the Nemedians, as one of the Tuatha de Danann, as a "fairy woman" and as a queen. This last one may or may not represent an actual historic queen or a story about the Goddess; the story itself has many mythic overtones but is not explicitly mythic so it could be taken either way. I tend to favor the view that all the appearances of Macha relate to the Goddess, but that is just my own opinion.
    In the first story she appears as the wife of Nemed, of the third race to settle Ireland, and in this tale she "dies" clearing the plains of Ireland for farming (Macalister, 1941). In alternate versions her husband cleared the land and she died there so he named it for her, or she clears the land and then has a prophetic vision of the death and destruction of the future Tain Bo Cuiligne which causes her to die of a broken heart (Green, 1992). In either case she is linked to the earth and its produce, through her death in exchange for clearing the land for farming. It is also possible that her name "Macha" may mean plain or field (Sjoedstedt, 2000). The eDIL lists several meanings for the word in Old Irish including royston crow, milking yard/field, and field or plain. In modern Irish the word means cattle field or yard, a fine group of cattle in a pasture, or, when added to brea bo, a herd (O Donaill, 1977). The connection of the word to cows and milking as well as fields and pasture, I think, also supports the connection of her as a land goddess and the symbolism of the Nemedian story.
    She appears in the Lebor Gabala Erenn where she is called a daughter of Ernmas and wife of Nuada Agatlamh ( MacAlister, 1941; Berresford Ellis, 1987). There is some supposition that it was Macha as Morrigan who joined with the Dagda a year before the second battle of Maige Tuired (Berresford Ellis, 1987). In volume IV of the Lebor translation by R. A. S. Macalister, the  translator says "Delbaeth...has three daughters, the famous war-furies Badb, Macha, and Mórrígu, the latter sometimes called Anand or Danand." (Macalister, 1941). In this appearance she is killed in the second battle of Mag Tuired but Macalister in his introduction to Section VII of the Lebor Gabala Erenn, volume IV says that it is logial to believe that this Macha and the Macha of Ard-Macha who curses the men of Ulster are in fact the same deity. At a later point in the text Macalister also posits that Macha was a later addition to the Badb/Anand(Nemain) pairing, saying, "Macha, one of the Badb sisterhood, has a certain individuality of her own, and enjoyed a special cult, probably centered at Armagh (Ard Macha), to which she bequeathed her name. Her intrusion into the Badb sisterhood may be a subsequent development, for the genealogies before us seem to suggest an earlier tradition in which Badb and the variously named third member of the group formed a dyad." (Macalister, 1941). This provides us a variety of interesting information about Macha. We learn that she is the daughter of Delbaeth and Ernmas, and sister to Badb and Anand, one of the three Morrigan. And we learn - according to the Lebor Gabala Erenn anyway - that Macha falls in battle with Nuada at the hand of Balar of the evil eye. This seems to tell us that she was actually fighting in the battle along side the other warriors.
     All of this information is supported in the "index to persons" of the Cath Maige Tuired which references her as one of the Tuatha de Danann, and agrees with the Lebor Gabala Erenn's parentage. This index also mentions that in the Banshenchus she is listed as one of the Tuatha de Danann's magic workers, and that in the first battle of Mag Tuired she acts with the other two Morrigan to use magic against the enemy, specifically by sending rain, fog, and showers of blood and fire upon the oppossing army. The second battle of Mag Tuired lists the three Morrigan as ban-draoithe, or Druids (Gray, 1983). This tells us that not only is she a warrior but also a magic user, especially of battle magic.
    Next she appears as a fairy woman who marries a peasant named Crunnchu, and becomes pregnant with twins. He goes to a festival held by the king who is bragging of the speed of his horses. Crunnchu, despite being warned by Macha not to speak of her to anyone else, brags that his wife could outrace any horse, and the furious king demands that Crunnchu bring her immediately to race or forfeit his life. Macha begs for a delay as she is in labor, but is denied and forced to race anyway. She wins, collapsing and birthing her twins  just past the finish line and curses the men of Ulster with nine days of labor pain in their greatest hour of need for "nine times nine" generations before dying (although in some versions of the story she doesn't die, but simply returns to the Otherworld because Crunnchu broke her prohibition). According to the Metrical Dindshenchas Macha gives birth to a boy and girl named Fir and Fial (Gwynn, 1924). To this day the spot carries her name, Emain Macha, where for a long time festivals and assemblies were held, especially at Lunasa (McNeill, 1962). It is from this story that her associations with horses, childbirth, pregnancy, justice and, again, the produce of the earth - by marrying a peasant - are seen. Also in this story it is said that Macha's other name is Grian: "her two names, not seldom heard in the west, were bright Grian and pure Macha" and "in the west she was Grian, the sun of womankind." (Gwynn, 1924). The word Grian itself has multiple meanings including and all relating to the sun; some meanings are given in the eDIL as sun, shining, bright, radiant, and luminary. I wonder if this may be an attempt by the Dindshenchas to connect Macha and the fairy queen Grian of Cnoc Greine in county Limerick; if so its a tenuous link as there are no other references to this or connecting Macha to the sun in anyway. Grian is more often connected to Aine. As already mentioned There seems to be a clear connection between this Macha and the Macha of the Tuatha de Danann.
   In the final story we see her connection to sexuality, sovereignty, and battle. She is Macha Mog Ruadh, Macha Red-Hair, daughter of one of three kings who share the rulership of Ireland, each ruling for seven years in turn. This Macha is listed as the 76th ruler of Ireland and said to have ruled around the 4th century BCE (Berresford Ellis, 1987). When her father dies, Macha steps up to rule but is challenged by the other two kings who do not want to co-rule with a woman. She battles them and wins, and when her seven years are up she refuses to turn leadership over to the others since she is Queen not by blood but through victory in battle. One of the two kings dies, leaving five sons who would challenge her, so she goes to them in the appearance of a crone or leper and seduces them one by one, tying them up afterwards and thereby defeating them and enslaving them. In some versions of the story she forces the five brothers to build her fort at Emhain Macha. Finally she marries the last of the original three kings, Cimbaeth. This story has the most tenuous link to the Goddess on the surface, but I have always seen a lot of mythic symbolism in it. The number of kings and years, as well as Macha going to the five sons disguised as either a crone or leper, and then her marrying the final king to give him full sovereignty have always struck me more as echos of the older tales about the goddess of the land choosing the king through trials.
  Traditionally the severed heads of enemy warriors were called "Macha's acorn crop" another sign that she was a warrior goddess  (Sjoedstedt, 2000). Macha is particularly associated with Ulster, Armagh (Ard Macha) and Navan Fort (Emain Macha). She is also often strongly associated with horses possibly because of the story where she races and wins against the king's horses; Cu Chulain also had a horse named Liath Macha, "grey of Macha", which wept tears of blood before Cu Chulain's final battle.  Horses and crows are animals often linked to her; in Cormac's glossary she is called "Macha the crow" (Green, 1992). This may be a reflection of her role as a soveriengty goddess, with the horse as a symbol of the rulership of the king (O hOgain, 2006).
    My own imbas is that in each story when she "dies" she is actually just returning to the Otherworld from whence she came, having accomplished what she intended in our world. I'm with MacCulloch (quoting from Celtic Mythology) on this one: "Pagan gods are mortal and immortal; their life is a perennial drama, which ever begins and ends, and is ever being renewed – a reflection of the life of nature itself."
    From a purely personal perspective I have found her to be fiercely loving and protective of those she calls her own, with a strong "mother" energy to her, but she can be very no-nonsense and unbending as well. She always appears to me as a red haired warrior woman wearing a cloak of black feathers and riding or walking next to a black or white horse, sometimes both.  To me she is a goddess of the sovereignty of the land, a protector of the weak, and goddess of women and women's issues, especially pregnancy and childbirth. Certainly her position as sovereignty and rulership goddess are particularly interesting in light of her relationship with Nuada Argatlamh, king of the Tuatha de Danann. She is also a goddess of battle and warriors, death, magic (especially battle magic), Druidism, and prophecy. Green posits that Macha represents the soveriegnty and fertility of Ireland and can be vengeful when the land or she herself is wronged (Green, 1992). O'hOgain sees her as a mother-goddess and goddess of sovereignty and war,with a strong connection to horses as symbols of kingship (O'hOgain, 2006).
References:
Gray, E. (1983) Cath Maige Tuired. Published by the Irish texts Society.
Macalister, R. (1941). Lebor Gabala Erenn, volume IV. Published by the Irish Texts Society.
Green, M., (1992). Dictionary of Celtic Myth and Legend
McNeill, M., (1962). Festival of Lughnasa
Sjoestedt, M. (2000) Celtic Gods and Heroes. Dover Publications
Berresford Ellis, P., (1987). a Dictionary of Irish Mythology
O hOgain, D., (2006). the Lore of Ireland
O Donaill (1977)., Focloir Gaeilge-Bearla
Gwynn (1924) the Metrical Dindshenchas

*this version was edited and had material added to it on 4/15/12

Monday, September 12, 2011

Book review - Taking Up the Runes

    If you can only afford to buy one rune book I recommend Taking Up the Runes by Diana Paxson. Not only because the author includes a wide variety of valuable information and suggestions, but because she extensively quotes and references many of the other most often recommended rune authors including Aswynn and Gundarsson. Because of this through buying this book you get the advantage of the knowledge contained in the other authors' books as well. This is a wonderful advantage for people on limitied budgets who can't afford to buy all of the indivudal books on their own. Although ultimately I do think getting a variety of different rune books is the best way to go, when that isn't an option, especially starting out, this is th eperfect book for you.
     I liked the set up of the book very much, finding it both easy to use and easy to break down into small segments for an effective rune study program.  Each chapter featuring two paired runes and including the Icelandic, Norwegian, and Anglo-Saxon rune poems, as well as suggestions for divinatory meanings and magical uses. Reading the original rune poems is wonderfully enlightening and allows the individual to get a feel for what the runes might mean on their own, without the modern filter of current authors' interpretations. I found it very useful to go over the rune poems for each rune and then mediatate on them for a little while and form my own opinions before reading further and seeing what the modern ideas about each rune was. As I said before Paxson includes not only her own ideas but also the highlights of the interpreations for each rune by the other major rune authors which provides a very well-rounded view of the meanings. While the ritual and meditation suggestions might not be to everyone's taste they do serve to illustrate the possibilities, and could easily be tailored to suit the individual. This is not a historical a study of the ancient runes, but rather a modern exploration of the uses of the runes in the world today and it serves that purpose very well. The magical applications are often aimed at very modern needs like car travel, and should be points of interest even to those who don't intend to use the runes magically.
     The book  was designed based on a series of classes taught by the author and lends itself very well to study groups, particularly those structured (as the author suggests) over a longer period of time. Ideally I would suggest reading it in small segments, either one, or possibly two of the paired runes, at a time so that you could get the most out of each section. Personally I have read it through, used it for a study group, and keep it on hand as a convenient reference. It is generally the first book on runes that I recommend to anyone and the first I go to to check anything.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Celtic Folk Magic: Food part 1

It's pretty much common knowledge that I have a strong interest in folk magic, particulalry Irish and Celtic, although I also study other types like Pow-wow and Hoodoo (I'm not sure I'd categorize seidhr as folk magic). My interest is not purely academic; while I am interested in it from that perspective as well my main focus is learning how to use it, both the traditional material and creating new charms that are in the same spirit. I have found the Camrina Gadelica to be a treasure trove of Celtic folk magic charms and also a wonderful way to learn more about the theory and approach that makes Celtic folk magic uniquely Celtic. Obviously for my purposes the Carmina Gadelica is overly Christian and so I end up adapting the material by removing the current deity references and replacing them with ones more fitting to my own approach, although there is an abundance of material that is useable as is. I am also comfortable creating new material that I feel is in the same spirit of traditional Celtic folk magic and I am going to include and example in this blog.
  One of the things that I like the most about the Celtic approach to folk magic is that it encompasses every aspect of daily living. There are few activities that seem exempt from the inclusion of a charm or ritual song and that really appeals to me. One of the ways that I do this is with food - I sing a little charm whenever I am mixing anything I am cooking, even something as simple as making Kool-aide. Food is a basic need, something we all depend on for survival, and something that we can easily add a blessing and good word to while it's being prepared. I stir dieseal, clockwise with the sun, the direction of blessing, focusing loving energy and thoughts of abundance and good health through the spoon and into the mix and sing something simple along the lines of:
"I bless this food with love and health
Round with the moon, round with the sun
I bless this food with all good things
Round with the moon, round with the sun"
 It's easy to do, it's fun for my children, and I firmly believe that it adds something good to everything we eat. And I think it is in the spirit of traditional Celtic folk magic, even though the words and actions are new.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Catching up...

 So I have been offline now for a while thanks to hurricane Irene. We were very fortunate in that we didn't lose power or water but our phone and internet were out. Being forcibly unplugged was a distinctly odd experience - I didn't realize how much time I had been spending online, both with my college classwork and my random socializing. That is something I do want to address and cut down on...
  In the past week and a half I was able to get out into nature and even travel to the local seashore several times. It was refreshing and invigorating to spend time by the ocean and to be outside in nature in general. I had a chance to reconnect with the living world around me and I think that was definitely a good thing; I was also inspired on several fronts and have a couple new projects in mind.
  Those who read my last blog before the storm may remember that I was getting ready for pagan pride day here in Connecticut on August 27. Although we did have rain on and off throughout the day it was still a good turnout all things considered and people seemed to have fun. I was able to see many friends there, although only briefly as the day was rather hectic. I also taught two workshops which both seemed to go well, from my end anyway. I taught one on Celtic Magic that ended up focusing mostly on practical Irish and Scottish folk magic and a second that was aimed at more a more advanced audience titled "Rites of Passage". The second class was a look at the practical side of officiating at pagan rites. As usual I cna't wait until next year's PPD.
  Now it's time to gear up for the next event I am teaching at CWPN Harvest Gathering where I am doing workshops on Faeries (one of my fave's to teach), Intro to Druidism, and Animal Magic. Then it will be on to a handfasting, speaking at a pagan spiritualist church, and finally the  Changing Times, Changing Worlds conference in November. The theme for the conference this year is healing and I am very excited both about my own classes and to get to as many of the others as I can manage before I fall over!
   Well, I think that catches everything up to this point - tomorrow I will try to return everyone to the regularly scheduled blog...