I’m delighted and honored to share that my short story “Sisters” will be published in a new anthology next year through Weiser Publishing! The book is called Brigid’s Light: Tending the Ancestral Flame of the Beloved Celtic Goddess edited by Cairelle Crow and Laura Louella. May my latest story honor Brigid and my Irish ancestors.
Here’s what I can share so far courtesy of the editing team:
We are thrilled to officially share “Brigid’s Light” with the world, coming in Spring 2022, available for pre-order now!
Editors Cairelle Crow and Laura Louella have gathered art, poetry, stories, spells, rituals, recipes, and traditions as an homage to the worldwide influence of Brigid’s magic and lore, especially among the descendants of immigrants to the Americas. In compiling these individual works, Cairelle and Laura have given voice to those traveling ancestors by showcasing a rich and beautiful heritage manifested through embodiments of devotion by their descendants, as well as others touched by Brigid.
The contributions are beautiful, funny, delicious (yes, delicious!), and powerful. All proceeds are earmarked for non-profit donation (and more about that soon). We’re very proud of this compilation of works that were created in honor of our beloved Brigid!
You can learn more about the Sanctuary of Brigid and their work here. Stay tuned for more!
As many of you know, I worship and serve the goddess Brigid*. One reason I wrote my novels is out of service to her; to portray modern, polytheistic devotion to her and other members of her godly family. So when I was given the opportunity, I jumped to review an ARC (advanced reader copy) of A Brigit of Ireland Devotional: Sun Among Stars by Mael Brigde.
This book, like the goddess herself, is multifaceted. Part devotional poetry, part mystical reflection, and part resource, this text belongs on the shelves of all who devote themselves to Brigid. I don’t have much space in my little home, and I tend to buy ebooks these days, but I plan to purchase a physical copy of this as I sense it will become an old friend.
The poetry itself flowed from the page to my heart. While not all pieces will impact readers equally, there are verses reflective of many life experiences. I can see myself revisiting the tome again and having a completely different reaction. Favorites of mine include: “Brigit’s Garden,” “Otherworld Gate,” “Ancestral Dream,” and “Ogam Reading.” Some jumped out as prayers I want to commit to memory such as “Threshold Blessing” and “Kindling.”
Those who are familiar with Irish lore will recognize when the author taps into some older poetic forms as in “Song of Brigit,” but other entries take on a more conversational tone such as the excited, childlike “Everywhere.” Some ask the same queries I have about her mysteries.
What really touched me about the author’s writing, poetry and prose, is her humility and love for the goddess. She repeatedly speaks with an adoring tone, and it’s clear she has felt this love reciprocated over many years. The book ends with footnotes and short essays describing how the author’s intellectual understanding of Brigid has shifted over time. She humbly admits that some of her older poems were written based on misunderstandings or concepts passed on from Victorians and modern Neo-Pagans rather than Irish and Scottish sources, but she wanted to preserve them as part of her journey. Her wording is never accusatory or belittling to those who may still embrace those ideas. She simply describes her process of sitting with new information, letting go, and finding her relationship with Brigid has only strengthened as a result. Seeing this process in print without a condescending tone is both refreshing and very needed.
No tome concerning Brigid would be complete without reflecting on the question we all encounter: where does the goddess end and the saint begin? Are they different or the same? She continues to help me heal after converting from Catholicism, but has also acted as a bridge between me and my monotheistic family members. Like other flametenders and priests of Brigid, the contradiction has become less of a hinderance and more of a meditative concept that deepens our compassion for self and others over time. When there seems to be some new drama in the online Pagan community every day, I felt a medicinal sort of kinship with Brigde while reading her words.
Mael Brigde’s conclusions may surprise you, but she does not insist other’s embrace her perspective. She leaves it open, as each devotee must figure that out with Brigid herself. The figure(s) loom so large in Irish culture, both on the island and among the diaspora, that surely she(they) evolve with the times. She loves her devotees, whether Druid, witch, nun, Wiccan, Catholic, or polytheist. This book of poems will provoke your meditations but ultimately comfort you on your journey with Brigid. You are not alone, and the goddess is here to inspire and guide you on the way to be both a better priest to her and your community.
…and like the wild fox
race across the plain
leap into the jumping chariot
beneath her cloak
prepare to do anything she wants of me because I love to do as she has asked
You can read more about the author, Mael Brigde, here. She also regularly updates a blog (here) with reflections on Brigid, including more poetry, Pagan practice, the goddess in contemporary cultures, and book reviews (fiction and non-fiction).
* You’ll notice I spell the goddess’ name differently. The name can vary depending on region, culture, time period, colonial influence, etc. This is just another example of how multifaceted she is.
I went away for several days; off to where Lake Ontario spoons the shores of Upstate New York. The beachline stretched beyond my sight, past buoys marked for ‘swim at your own risk,’ private residences, and wildlife management areas. Fresh water, sometimes smooth as a reflecting pool, other times choppy and reminiscent of ocean surf, extended until the horizon kissed the sky. As the thirteenth largest lake in the entire world, it is one of those landforms that washes me with humility and awe.
Another couple and their child invited us to the getaway months ago. Their site had room for another tent, and we’d been talking about camping for some time. Friends and grovemates, it meant for a peaceful time away from obligations among people with whom I can be myself. As I sat on a sandbank, foamy waves splashed against me as one friend shared an experience with Manannán mac Lir, and then we felt the god there with us in waters that would flow through the St. Lawrence and reunite with the Atlantic Ocean.
We took shelter from the sun in the shaded areas of the camp, renewing my gratitude for trees. Our first day there, my daughter and I made offerings and said a prayer of thanksgiving to the green sentinels who guarded our refuge. When we left, the children and I placed kisses on the grass.
As the sun arched low, we built fires for warmth and even cooking. I had another humbling experience in which I burnt the peach cobbler I’d attempted to make, but I successfully cooked chili over the flames, and in the mornings I boiled water for tea. We made offerings to the fire, to Brigid, and cozied beside her. Our final day coincided with my flame-tending shift, and I now see ways I can deepen that practice with new skills.
Returning to the comforts of home, especially our soft mattresses, was welcomed, but I do miss falling asleep to the lullaby of a crackling bonfire on the sand, wind through the trees, and waves rolling toward the dunes.
Three things I enjoy: a glass of wine, supporting local farmers, and folklore. Author Gwen Clayton combined all three into an intriguing and entertaining offering of WitchLit. In my last entry (which was in May, my gosh), I explored a loose definition of WitchLit and committed myself to reading and reviewing such titles on my blog. Clayton caught my eye last year when I realized she’s also in ADF and her religion inspired characters and situations in her novels.
First, the book blurb:
BUSINESS CLASS DIDN’T TEACH THIS KIND OF CONFLICT RESOLUTION
Manuel Chavez grew up in the vineyards as the son of a migrant farmworker. All his life, the good Catholic boy heard rumors of Fermata Cellars being haunted, but he never believed them until he accepted a job as the winery’s marketing director. When a corrupt city councilman tries to snake the land away from his Pagan employers, he has to confront his fear of the supernatural to determine whether or not the nuisance should be abated.
The premise of Fermata Cellars intrigued me and reminded me of By Earth: The Witches of Portland Book One by T. Thorn Coyle in that the antagonists are corrupt officials. There’s also an element of religious conflict which looms over the characters both in regards to the fate of the storied vineyard, and in Manuel’s personal baggage as he grapples with his identity and how he fits into the community.
I’m going to explain what I liked in a moment, but I want to get this part out of the way. To be honest, I often struggle getting into stories written as journals (hello Dracula!), and it was difficult for me believe that someone would document such detailed dialog in their diary. The minutia of Manuel’s record-keeping, such as his marketing plan budget, sometimes detracted from the mysteries of the vineyard, but that’s just me. He initially starts the journal to help him keep track of the details, and I suppose Manuel has a very good memory! I also want potential readers to know that characters use several slurs. Some of them are Romani people, and the author uses a more controversial title for them. It definitely reveals something about the characters when they speak as they do, but you may find it jarring and at times unnecessary. One of my favorite scenes actually involved a young woman calling Manuel out on using one!
Curiosity in who ultimately haunted the Fermata Cellars kept me going, as well as a desire to see more about the Comatis, a fictionalized group of Pagan people who have deep roots in the Rivervine community. They are very open about their religious identity, and many run local businesses in addition to growing grapes and producing wine. Overall, the portrayal was a glimpse at what could be if a large number of polytheists lived together in the same village.
I suppose I should have been weirded out, but they didn’t do anything that was downright scary. Everyone kept their clothes on. The children were safe. No demons appeared out of the bonfire. It was just incense and candles and tossing stuff into the flames like pennies in a wishing well.
Manuel reflects on a ritual in Gwen Clayton’s Fermata Cellars.
In addition to the supernatural suspense, Clayton populated Fermata Cellars with an intriguing cast of characters. I enjoyed learning about Manuel’s friend Lily and would have liked more of her. There’s also Glenda, a journalist who decides to write a novel about the spirits who inhabit the vineyard. Even one of the antagonists, Edie, has a strong voice I clearly heard in my head whenever she spoke.
Another strength is Clayton’s ability to bring the setting to life. Notes and acknowledgements reveal some of the locations and experiences that inspired Rivervine. I have a soft spot for story locations that are as much of a character as anyone else!
If you’re seeking a romantic read, there is a small subplot, as well as LGBTQ+ representation, but it’s not a major focus. However, if you thirst for a ghostly whodunit with realistically described rituals based on actual practice by an author immersed in polytheism and her landscape, this may be your cup of tea! (Or your glass of wine!)
I often classify my writing as magical realism, which has been wonderfully explained by others such as this helpful series. I think my books sometimes veer close to being supernatural, especially the third, but the plots remain rooted in a realistic, contemporary setting. The characters have experiences with spirits, sometimes in corporeal form, who scare, confuse, inspire, and guide them. Lacey, Cian, Anthony, Margaret and others often doubt themselves, but as they move forward, they realize these beings are an integral part of reality, though others may not experience them. This is something many polytheists and animists experience too.
If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter, you may notice I also often make use of the “witch lit” hashtag when promoting my writing. Perhaps you’ve wondered about that and why I don’t simply stick to the magical realism label. What is it?
Again, others have written about the topic before me, notably author Wendy Steele who helps curate the Witch Lit account on Twitter. There are communities on Facebook and Discord for people who write and read it. Author Laura Perry discussed this and linked to some in a guest post on Nimue Brown’s blog. So what is it?
To me, Witch Lit is a sub-genre of magical realism, meaning it’s rooted in real witchcraft and folklore. That doesn’t mean one has to be a practicing Pagan to write or even appreciate it, but it should show an understanding of who we are (and have really been). Witch Lit, in my opinion, is not about Hollywood witchcraft. The Wicked Witch of the West and Hermione Granger are great examples of literary witches, but they aren’t based on reality like the aunties in Alice Hoffman’s acclaimed “Practical Magic” for example.
When I realized I wanted River Magic to be more magical realism than fantasy, I was inspired by Hoffman and Sarah Addison Allen, but I thirsted for stories about people like me by people like me. (I’m not sure what Allen’s religious perspectives are…I can’t find them. Hoffman is Jewish.) So I did what so many writers before me suggested: wrote the story I needed.
Now, through the wonders of social media, I’m connecting with other Witch Lit writers such as Gwen Alyce Clayton, Serene Conneeley, and fellow Upstate New York resident Janina Grey! These are just a few who I’ve become acquainted with, but I know there are others, and I’m excited to get to know a more diverse circle and read their work. Each month, I aim to delve into more Witch Lit and share my recommendations. Stay Tuned!
My third novel, Forest Magic, begins a new tradition in the Rock Bay Pagan community – the annual Magical May Fest! The small-town magical festival was inspired by several I’ve attended and helped to organize. In the novel, Lacey and Cian help their friends plan for their first ever multi-group event!
Last year, many of our favorite festivals were cancelled or held virtually. Some are reviving this year, but others are playing it extra safe and postponing until the next. Many of us miss these physical opportunities to celebrate and learn with like-minded souls. Goodness knows I miss the workshops, whimsy, drum circles, and shopping.
In honor of the festivals that have inspired and shaped me, to support my local Pagan community in Upstate New York, and to celebrate the publication of my third novel in the Rituals of Rock Bay series, I’m bringing the Magical May Fest to you online! For the rest of the month, I’m going to share reflections of past festivals, snippets from my novel, and peeks at a prize I’m going to give away on May 31st! Join me on a little tour of some of my favorite shops and artisans–places and people I imagine Lacey and Cian would adore. There will be opportunities to interact and wine prizes! There will be one package for US residents only (which will include a signed paperback copy of any one of my novels), and another for international fans (which will include an e-book copy of any one of my novels). Stay tuned for more info here and on my social media for the other prizes.
For your first entry, comment on my blog or Instagram to answer the following prompts:
In what country do you live? (To determine whether you may win a paperback or e-book of one of my novels)
Which of my novels would you choose and why?
This giveaway is not associated with WordPress, Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter. You must be 18 or older and have a valid email address to participate. Winners must be willing to share their mailing address and email. Only US residents will win the package with the signed paperback copy of one of my books. The e-book prize is also one of my novels. Winners may choose one. Participants may enter by answering as many prompts as desired, but must interact by answering the questions fuly. Participants may gain more entries by answering on more than one social media platform, but only one answer per post will be counted. I will randomly choose two winners, one per prize package, on May 31st and announce them on social media. Winners must respond with valid contact information in order to receive their prize. The contest is free to enter!
Instagrammer Via Hedera started a challenge called the “Regional Witch Pic Challenge” and tasked everyone to post a photo “that highlights the toolkit of magic” where we live. I’ve truly enjoyed seeing all the marvelous photos others have posted, and have been considering what to share for my own.
I decided to place everything on the quilt handstitched by my great-grandmother. In my Druidry, the ancestors are a major focus. While I live in Northern New York (in Haudenosaunee land), my own ancestry is largely comprised of diaspora from Ireland, Scotland, and England. Those folkways dominate my practice and influences how I interact with the local spirits and my deities.
In the center, there is a sigil representing the Three Cosmos (designed by Ian Corrigan). A fellow ADF Druid gifted me with this handmade banner. Though not authentically Irish in design, it represents my journey with modern Druidry in America. I try very hard to focus on Irish polytheism, but I found my spiritual community within Druidry. It has a special place in my personal path.
A deer friend rests on top of that. He has been with me for some time, and he is a beloved and steadfast companion.
Other items (from the top going clockwise) include:
A seagull feather found at Sylvan Beach
A potholder my daughter made me — I’m over the moon that she’s learning how to craft useful items for our kitchen magic
A rowan cross made with berries I harvested and dried and wool yarn I spun
The mini cauldron that belonged to my mother
My handstitched pouch that houses our Brat Bride
A smooth river stone
A Herkimer quartz (a local gem largely found in the region around my childhood home)
Pellets of incense I made with wildcrafted ingredients
A jar of mugwort grown in my garden
The shell of a fresh-water mussel found beside the Indian River
A fresh-water snail shell found near the St. Lawrence river
A handmade ceramic bowl made by an artisan in Utica. It contains dried beans and peas from my own garden
A candle made of local beeswax
A Brigid cross made of dried grasses from around our home
There are other items I could have included but did not for various reasons. I enjoy how this layout turned out, and I hope it inspires some of you. Tools needn’t be central to your polytheism; the focus is on your service to the gods, land, beloved dead, and your community. That may involve tools, and I hope you consider where you obtain them and how.
When asked what drew one to Druidry (or other kinds of Paganism), many are quick to answer that it had something to do with a love of Nature. For many of us, this stems from a background in gardening, and those of us who became gardeners as adults were exposed to it as children.
I recently watched an episode of Gardeners’ World in which the host, Monty Don, described how he helped with his parents’ garden as a child. Now a celebrity gardener, he admits that it felt more like a chore back then. Though I enjoyed the idea of having a mini veggie patch as a child myself, I wasn’t very good about the work involved, and I didn’t become engaged with the challenge and joy of it all until I was an older teenager. It was around this time when I began studying folk magic and realized how gardening could become part of that process. I’ve found this to be true with many of my polytheist and witch friends who also garden or have house plants: the love (and perhaps obsession) with the plant world didn’t come until adulthood.
As a parent, it’s important to me that I expose my daughter to the everyday magic of working with the land. Some of it will always come across as a chore–watering plants is a simple and necessary way to promote time outside to learn and begin forming a relationship with the green world.
While I accept that a deep passion may not come until later (if it comes at all), I want to make the process as fun and whimsical as possible. My husband and I decided to set aside the ground around my daughter’s swing set as her “play garden.” Bee is enthusiastic to collaborate, and that ownership is important for her motivation and development as a lifelong learner. She gets to choose the decorations and plants, but she understands her parents have veto power. Of course, we would explain our reasoning, whether a plant is poisonous, thorny, invasive, or not suited to our zone. So far, the only plant we had to strongly discourage was a peony, and only because I showed her how large they would become, and how it would limit her options. In the end, it was her choice. So far she selected tulips and hyacinths. Later, we’ll plant marigolds since they look like fire flowers from Mario.
In addition to adding plants, we are going to make some stepping stones so that it’s easy for her to access and care for her new green friends. Their practical nature is secondary to her; Bee is excited to hop from stone to stone!
As spring blossoms all around, take some time to consider adding a play garden to your own space for the little ones in your life. For some, this could be a living, outdoor Waldorf-inspired nature table that shifts with the seasons. It could be the beginnings of a child’s own altar area and a place to make offerings to the land spirits with guidance from a trusted adult. Or it could be an observation area for the budding scientist. Maybe it can be all three! You can make it as large as a bed that wraps around a play area or as small as a single pot on the windowsill, balcony, or patio.
Whatever the case, the end goal is not to push Druidry on your child (though I certainly raise my daughter in my tradition). Rather, the goal is to share a deep respect and understanding for the natural world with your child. Whoever they grow into as an adult, the hope is such care will guide them as they make personal and civic choices.
The crocuses, tulips, and daffodils are out, and that means Bealtaine is around the corner. In my upcoming book, Forest Magic, several Pagan characters in Rock Bay are organizing a Magical May Festival to celebrate their Pagan community. As I wrote book three in the series, I drew from various festivals I’ve attended and helped to organize. The anticipation, joy, whimsy, and, yes, drama, all inspired me. While it’s not the main focus in the story, the Magical May Festival is certainly a driving force as Lacey’s life changes and her grove confronts an old foe.
A few days ago, I learned that our local Pagan Pride Day is cancelled for the year. Given the ongoing pandemic and the difficulties of planning a large festival, I think this was a smart idea. Still, I miss these gatherings. I miss coming together with Pagans on different paths to swap knowledge, song, and dance. I look forward to enjoying more Pagan festivals in the future, both in real life and my fiction writing!
If you’ve been reading The Rituals of Rock Bay series so far, I hope you’ll come with me to the Rock Bay Magical May Fest! If you haven’t started, there’s still time. Get to know Lacey and Cian in River Magic then Hearth Magic. Book three, Forest Magic, comes out May 1st this year!
You can pre-order an e-book of Forest Magic and also find brand new merch, including t-shirts and mugs featuring the above design! Just head over to Shadow Spark Publishing.