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Tuesday, November 27, 2018

The Selkie Resistance Agenda

Today's post is meant just for fun (mostly) and is based off something a few of my friends came up with a while ago, the Selkie Resistance, which is in part about loving the ocean and hating modern society's aesthetic standards.
I'm trying to keep this humorous, hence the format, and what follows is entirely my own opinion. I do not speak for the entire Selkie Resistance ;) And yes I realize this isn't really an agenda per se.

Always dive deeply
Be true to yourself
Curiosity is a gift
Devour their hearts
Enjoy what you can
Find your flow
Go where the waves call you
Home is where you find rest
Its alright to let the water carry you
Joy doesn't need an excuse
Keep swimming
Learn your own tides
Making waves is okay
Nothing is really permanent
Oceans exist inside and out
Play whenever you can
Quests don't always end well
Rage heals; so does rest
Selkies of the world unite
Tears have power too
Value the worth not the weight
Water is always the answer
You are beautiful



Friday, November 23, 2018

Evolution of My Spirituality

I was asked on social media to talk a bit about my personal practice, so I thought a short blog about it would be a good approach. I've been pagan now for nearly 30 years and in that time my approach to everything has changed drastically more than once so its interesting to answer this question now, knowing what I say will be different than what I would have said 10 or 20 years ago and what I might say 10 or 20 years from now.


When I first started out in this spirituality I was very young and mostly modeling my practice from what I could glean out of available books. The result was a very stylized, formal, and rigid structure. At first I would follow a book exactly to make sure I was doing it correctly, dog-earing pages so I could flip between sections as I performed each part of a ritual or spell. Later as I shifted into a more reconstructionist approach I became more comfortable innovating but I carried forward a sense that a good ritual or even spell needed formality and rigidity. This was exacerbated as I joined Druidic groups which also focused on very formal, complex ritual structures. When I later began exploring Heathenry I was introduced to the idea that ritual could be simple and effective and this led me into a deep dive on older ritual structures including Celtic cultural feasting practices which were very eye opening for me*. In turn this influenced my personal approach to witchcraft and the Fairy Faith.

Ironically as I began to see the value and power in simplified ritual and to understand why we did each part of the structure - and so what in my own practice of it was actually essential and what wasn't - I ended up returning to a closer approximation of what I had done when I was much younger before I had stumbled across the idea of formalized spirituality at all. Nonetheless when I wrote down the outline of my own witchcraft practices in my book in 2013 I kept a slightly more formalized approach in there knowing that such structure had been comforting and necessary to me at one point and that especially when I'd been starting out on my path connecting my witchcraft to Fairy that more formal structure had its value. I mention that here because while I don't personally follow the same approach anymore I do still think that's a good place for people to begin, especially if they are coming from neopaganism more generally, and that aspects of that structure offer a level of safety my current approach does not.

At this point in my life my own magical work and spiritual practice is more spontaneous and fluid. I do love having set holidays to celebrate and I think holidays and holiday traditions are very important both in passing on beliefs and in creating connection between us and the Other (or Gods, spirits, ancestors, seasons, or what have you). Previously my holiday schedule was fairly reconstructionist in nature but as those who follow my blog and Patreon know that has recently been changing as I feel my way to a new cycle. Exciting times.

My approach to the rituals themselves is fairly simple and organic for the most part and usually just involves casting a compass with fresh water opening the rite and creating a space between worlds, calling in the spirits, making offerings, speaking to the spirits as needed, doing divination as needed, finishing with more offerings (think of it like welcome gifts and parting gifts), asking for peace between myself and whatever showed up as I say goodbye, then returning the space to its former state. I use this structure for holidays and for dark moon rituals although for dark moons I may also include meditation or journeywork. For spells or magic I would only go to those lengths if I was doing something major. Usually magic is a matter of simple actions and words, often involving yarn or fire.

I do have set things I say or repeat in these rituals and spells because words have power and repeated words gain power over time in my opinion. I'm a collector of old folk spells and charms and I also write my own and use them over time, and as well I've had things come to me in dreams or visions that I use. I also will use spontaneous speech when needed so not everything is old, traditional, or something I've been using for years. Sometimes the most powerful magic can come from words uttered in the moment when magic is being cast.

Daily practices are also generally simple and include small offerings and focused awareness. Focused awareness is a state of mind I try to have where I pay attention to potential omens, messages, just basically try to listen more than I talk if that makes sense. Talking to the spirits is easy but listening isn't always something people think to do, not really, so I have found it helpful to make an effort to throughout the day no matter how chaotic or hectic it is. And yes I often end up doing this in places like the bathroom, or while I'm cooking, or out walking, or while everyone else is watching tv. I make note of my dreams and if I remember them I write them down, as I believe that some dreams are actually the spirit wandering out and should be treated as real. I try to engage on some level with the beings who I feel are my allies or friends (if you will) as often as possible. I pay attention to the Otherworldly things I might See or experience and try to note patterns or trends as well as work, daily, to keep things in my general area and home smooth with Them.

I'm not trying to say any of this is easy, its not, and I want to emphasize here that this is distilled practice after almost three decades so please don't anyone use me as a measuring stick - there's many ways I could do better and things I've gotten pretty well dialed in now. I also, I've mentioned in other blogs about my particular fairy priestessing, don't necessarily recommend my personal path to anyone. Certainly the wider tradition of blending witchcraft with fairywork I do recommend which is why write about it, but the specific dedication and service to Themselves I advise caution with as it is consuming. I think some of that is reflected in my daily practices and I'm not even getting into the details of dietary things or personal taboos.

So this is where I am currently at with my personal practice. I feel like every change has helped me grow closer and deeper into my work and I am glad for that. In many ways I wish that I didn't have to stumble along creating this as I go but I have tried many other traditions along the way - and learned a lot from each experience - and I have never found anything yet that is suite right for what I'm looking for except what I do myself. My witchcraft isn't something that fits well in the ceremonial magic structure or the neopagan one that comes from it, its far closer to early modern witchcraft. My spirituality isn't easily fit into CR, Irish-focused neopaganism, or Heathenry although it looks to all three. My focus on the Good People is something I've only found, minus the religious overtones, in the traditional beliefs of Ireland and those people who were once known to be away with the fairies. Which leaves me with no choice but to forge ahead as best I can.

And so I do. And I change and grow and try to learn and do the best I can to honour the Other and to serve Them, and to preserve and continue the traditional beliefs respectfully.

I am not the same person I was 10 years ago, or even perhaps 5 years ago, and that is alright. As the saying goes that which isn't growing is dying. I'm sure I contradict things I've said and opinions I've had before, do things now I probably once told other people never to do, and that's also alright. To quote Walt Whitman: "Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.". Opinions change, people change, and we should never be afraid to acknowledge that.
I'm not the same person I was even 2 years ago - I went into the sidhe at Cruachan and I came out a different person, I stood on Tlachtga surrounded by fires and walked away a different person.
And I've learned to love the person I am now.




*I highly recommend Lady With A Mead Cup by enright for more on this

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Celebrating a New Holiday

When I was in Iceland I had an intense personal experience, shared with several friends, which later had me reassessing the way that I approach celebrating holidays and the entire cycle of holy days in the year. This has led me to trying an experimental year where I am celebrating times that are especially in sync with the Pleiades because I believe these times are more important to the Othercrowd than I had previously realized. The first of these dates was on yesterday, 21 November, a time when the star cluster culminates or is at its highest point in the sky at exactly midnight. I had designed a ritual to honor this specific time which I had share don my Patreon recently. Last night I went out and celebrated it.

Full moon over Eyjafordur in Iceland 9/2018
Going out under the November sky last night in America was strongly reminiscent of being out at night in Iceland for me. It was unusually cold and windy, the air having that sharpness that it gets when the temperature is a good amount below freezing.

I had intended to make offerings of honey cakes which I have used before on major holidays but there was an odd amount of apple synchronicity going on during the day so after some divination work I ended up making an apple spice cake instead. There seemed to be a very strong apple theme all around which is something I will certainly keep in mind next year. As it was I moved out into the darkness of the late night carrying fresh water and apple cake to offer, searching the sky for the blue glow of the Pleiades. Since the full moon was also high in the sky I had some trouble finding the stars but I did eventually locate them and I set up in what I felt was a good spot.

I cast my compass using some of the water, not for protection but asking that the way between worlds be opened. I spoke the beginning portion of the ritual, inviting in the Otherworldly powers, and froze as the sound of bells and uncanny music floated on the wind. It was unnerving; the last time I'd heard anything like that when the Slua Sidhe was nearby and I can't quite put into words the way it makes you feel terrified and thrilled all at once. I stood my ground and went on to the next part trying to ignore the sound of shuffling footsteps in the leaves around me. After that section I did pause again to make sure there weren't any animals nearby as I wasn't eager to be surprised by - or surprise - any local wildlife. Suffice to say that it wasn't wildlife making the noises so I continued on with the rest of it.

At the very end as I was closing up there was a particularly large gust of wind then everything went very still. It felt good in that moment, the whole ritual felt good if a bit wild and certainly eldritch in the old sense.

My husband would tell me later that while I was outside our entire house shook in a way that made him think a branch had fallen on the roof although there was no accompanying noise with it and no damage or sign of anything amiss today. I had strange dreams last night and today has been an interesting day overall but again nothing bad just a bit more intensely Otherworldly than usual.

We are finishing out our new holiday celebration with a feast incorporating apples in as many ways as I can manage. Some of this will also be left out as an offering of course.

Overall I feel that this was successful and intend to celebrate it again next year. Now I will start thinking about what the next logical holy day would be and how to approach that one.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Personal Gnosis and Research

I am asked on occasion how I balance out personal gnosis and research.

Honestly for me I see the two things as complementary so they just go together naturally for me. I know that there can be a perception that gnosis and existing mythology or folklore don't get along or aren't necessary to each other but for me I can't imagine having one without the other. The corpus of existing beliefs and myths are the bedrock for me and everything else comes from and is built on that. But just like an actual structure you need more than just a slab of rock and that's where the personal gnosis comes in, that's what builds things up and decorates it.

Mythology and folklore I think are indispensable and vital to my practice probably because my own life tends to have such a strong metaphysical or mystic bent to it. Researching and having knowledge of the existing folklore and the stories is an essential checks and balances system for me to help me validate things I see or experience and also to help me innovate in my own rituals and magic. And of course the beliefs of the living culture and of the written records form the bulk of my own beliefs and understanding of cosmology and theology. Researching these things can be time consuming and tedious but since we don't live in a pagan dominated culture anymore where these beliefs and stories are the norm its important to immerse ourselves as much as possible. Research becomes a way to make these things so deeply ingrained in our minds that we don't just believe them but we know them to our core, reflexively. We have to make it so that 'thinking pagan', if you will, is our natural state and that does take effort even if we aren't undoing decades of indoctrination in another religion (and I know many people are) because we live in a culture that every day reinforces materialism, monotheism, and disenchantment which are all the antithesis of animism and a polytheistic worldview.

The flip side of that is the personal gnosis, which makes up more of my daily spirituality than people might see from the outside. My spirituality is a very experiential thing but having a strong grounding in the folklore helps me filter out what is legitimate and what is just my head talking to itself. I think anytime personal gnosis is involved there is always a very real concern of both the gnosis overwhelming the person and also of a person misinterpreting the message; and of course it's very easy to convince ourselves that we are receiving something from outside that is actually just our own will or desire in one form or another. This is where its so helpful to look at the existing mythology and folklore to help filter out what is likely genuine from what is likely not. For example if I have a vision of the Morrigan urging me to be more passive and just let other people have their way with things knowing what I do of the mythology I'd be highly suspicious that this was just my head trying to give me an easy way out of a situation.

So for me research and knowledge of the mythology and folklore are less about balancing gnosis as they are about complimenting it. The two work together and guide my spirituality together. When they come into conflict its a chance for me to grow and reflect on why and how I am going to respond to that conflict.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Calling The Othercrowd Back

Recently the inestimable Seo Helrune wrote a post titled 'Restoration Not Re-enchantment' which made the point that much of our out-of-sync-ness now with the Otherworld is a direct result of christian, particularly protestant, efforts to drive off the Good Neighbours who they believed were demons. Reading her blog has had me thinking over the past week about the deep implications of this for those of us who live in Christian held lands. If we are in places where the dominant religion has been and may still be actively working to drive out the spirits that we in turn are allied with, what does that mean?



She makes a good argument in her post and certainly there's abundant evidence that some Christian traditions did indeed view the Othercrowd as demonic and classified them as demons; we see as much in witchcraft trial accounts where a person who spoke of fairy familiars and dealing with the Queen of Elfame was described by judges as dealing with devils and Satan. There are many examples where terms like elf or goblin are glossed as imp or incubus, going back at least to the 15th century in England and found in the American colonies from their inception.

Related to this is a pervasive campaign of propaganda saying that priests and other such religious men had driven out the Good People through their faith, despite continuous anecdotes and folklore to the contrary. One can argue that these stories of the religious men forcing out the fairies is another means to try to effect their removal by weakening people's belief in them and removing the power of folkloric stories tying fairies to places, as well as eroding practices designed to honor them.
For example:
Canterbury Tales, 'the Wife of Bath's Tale' 14th century:
"In the days of King Arthur, Britain was full of fairies. The elf queen danced in meadows with her companions. This is what I read, anyway. Now, no one sees elves any more, because of the prayers of friars. These friars search all over the land, blessing every building and house, with the result that there are no more fairies. Where elves used to walk, the friar himself now goes at all times of the day, saying his prayers. Women can walk anywhere they want without fearing anyone but the friar, who will only dishonor them, rather than beget demon children upon them." (Chaucer)
In Bishop Richard Corbet's 16th century poem 'Farewell, Rewards, and Fairies' he says that the fairies tolerated Catholics well enough but have all fled to other lands to get away from Protestant religion, which is why none can now be found. In a similar vein several anecdotes beginning in the 17th century mention fairies fleeing any area where church bells rang, apparently unable to tolerate the sound (Briggs, 1976). 

Perhaps we can still see echoes of this effort today not only in the disenchantment of the world and the places where the spirits have in fact been driven off but also in the wider cultural views that see the world around us as un-inspirited and empty. In the way that the dominant narrative may try to describe all things within their own cosmology only as if there could be no other possible options. 

So getting back to my opening question - for those of us who operate in a very different paradigm and for whom interacting with Otherworldly spirits, or any spirits really, is an intrinsic aspect of what we do how do we respond to this?

I think we fight back. I think we fight fire with fire, propaganda with propaganda. We spread our own stories and our own truth and talk about the reality of the spirits that are there in defiance of that dominant narrative. And if they call them demons then let them call them demons. I think we look at the world around us and see it as it is, alive and inspirited, and we learn to be aware if we aren't already of the Othercrowd when they are around us. But most essentially like repairing a rip in a tapestry I think we must actively work to fix what's been done over the centuries to, as Seo Helrune put it, restore the Othercrowd to their place in our world. And yes they can be and often are dangerous; so are wolves and bears and poisonous snakes but our world needs those as well.  

I believe we need to restore the balance that was by returning things to the way they used to be when the world was full of spirits. And I think we can do this. We can call them back. We can reopen the old pathways. We can re-find the old practices and ways. We can re-align ourselves with the Good Neighbours and restore the balance by undoing what the protestant church did when they drove those beings out.

It won't be safe but its essential.


Copyright 2018 Morgan Daimler
Find more of my work at https://www.patreon.com/morgandaimler 

Thursday, November 1, 2018

When What You See Has No Name

I had a dream last night that involved, among other things, seeing a group of small birdlike beings with fangs. They were about the size of ducks, covered in soft fuzzy white-grey downy feathers all over and where their beaks would have been instead they had muzzles full of a multitude of sharp fangs.
I have no idea what exactly they were although I feel that they were Otherworldly. They were also clearly dangerous.

Why am I sharing this story? I often have people come to me with encounters they've had with various beings, looking for names for what they've encountered. It's understandable. It's human nature to want names for things and to seek understand what we've experienced by relating it to a body of existing knowledge. When we first see a new animal we might have the same urge to find a name for it and seek out basic information about it. The problem we can run into though with beings not from our world is that even with the amazing store of folklore we have sometimes we encounter things that have no names and no known stories.

When people run into these unnamed or unknown* spirits and realize that they are unknown there is often a tendency to react by doubting themselves. As if just because the spirit they encountered can't be easily named and categorized the person themselves can no longer trust what they experienced. I think we need to be careful not to fall into that mindset that the only spirits and Otherworldly beings who exist are the ones who have already been recorded and defined by previous human generations; remember that even in the mortal world humans still sometimes discover new species. In the same way when we encounter the Otherworld and its inhabitants we should keep in mind that not everything there is known and defined by human understanding - indeed I would argue that its hubris to think that humans have such a complete understanding of the Otherworld as all that.

We also need to keep in mind that when it comes to the Other we aren't just talking about a single 'place' as it were or type of being. For myself I can speak with some confidence about whether something was likely a human ghost, and about a variety of types of fairies, especially from Irish, Scottish, and some Germanic cultures. But there are many, many other types of Otherworldly beings besides those, and beyond that there are many types of beings that are Other but not fairy necessarily. I doubt highly that anyone could identify beings across the entire range of possibilities. Instead a person would need to specialize and when someone encounters a being they may need to research or ask around across a variety possibilities before you may find what you encountered. And even then you may not have a name for it.

And that's still alright. A personal experience is no less valid just because what you saw or experienced can't be found in a book or wasn't shared by other people you know. I'd suggest (as always) making notes about the experience, what you saw, how it acted, what happened, and so on because that might be useful later in discerning at least the nature of what you encountered. But don't worry that just because you can't find it in a folklore book or grimoire that it doesn't exist. There's a lot more out there than can be found between the pages of books.


*for the record I don't believe they are actually truly unknown. I suspect the knowledge or stories of them have either been lost or is simply not readily available to the person