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Posts Tagged ‘Goddesses’

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The book on my altar near my Brighid candle and doll.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2016.

This post has been on my to-do list forever.  Those who have followed me for awhile know that I haven’t been updating as regularly.  Blame motherhood.  Thank goodness for spring break!

First, a disclaimer – I did not buy this book.  I won this directly from the author as part of a publication giveaway!  I was very excited because I so rarely win anything, but Brighid has a way of making good things happen in my life.  A Pagan Twitter friend pointed me towards Courtney Weber and I’m so glad she did.  The author is a delightful person full of passion.  She offers several workshops and classes on Brighid as well as tarot.

This is the third book I’ve read specifically focused on Brighid.  I am devoted to her, so I really enjoy delving into such material.  The first was The Rites of Brigid: Goddess and Saint by Sean O Duinn, and the second was Tending Brigid’s Flame by Lunaea Weatherstone.  In addition to those, I have read several more general books on religion and mythology in Ireland and a bit in Scotland.  I think Weber’s book is excellent for newcomers; there’s so much information there, but she presents it in a warm, narrative style.  Her enthusiasm is infectious.  The lore is accessible, in part because she included her own retellings and interpretations.  While reading those once and claiming to understand everything would be misguided, I’ve found that retellings act as a scaffold when I later read closer translations of Irish mythology.  (Similar to how an easy English text can assist English language learners grasp more complex novels.)

Some information should be taken with a grain of salt.  Weber is one who believes that An Morrigan could be Brighid’s mother.  She also spent a tiny bit of time talking about Maman Brigitte – a Voudon figure I was unfamiliar with.  I’m open-minded, and it’s important to be aware of these possible connections, but also recognize that Weber is sharing her own UPG.  It may very well inspire and inform your practice!  (I was excited to see that Weber also feels Brighid appreciates cinnamon – something I’ve intuited for years.)

Inspiration was my biggest takeaway from the book.  If you have read a decent amount on Irish mythology and folk practice, most of the information will be review.  However, I found Weber’s personal story to be reinvigorating.  The book exists because the goddess demanded it.  Writing and researching was part healing process, part devotional, and part pilgrimage for the author. Oaths are very important in Celtic-inspired faiths, so it was fascinating for me as a Druidess and writer/artisan to see into what is often an intimate process.  I also enjoyed some of the spellwork Weber suggested to grow closer to Brighid.  Much of it was definitely inspired by Wiccan practice (calling the quarters), but the prayers and ideas could be adapted into ADF or reconstructionist ritual as well as she was inspired by Celtic lore and practice initially.  There are many other ideas that individuals or groups could try if their Imbolc or flame keeping rituals and routines have become stale.  The pictures are wonderful.  I always enjoy seeing photos of other peoples’ altars, and there’s a great step-by-step guide to weaving a Brighid cross for those new to the process.

One other noteworthy aspect of the book is the emphasis on giving back to the community.  Weber spends some time discussing the saint’s charity work, and exploring Brighid as a warrior and champion of women and children.  As I read, I felt a strong push to help those in need.  This has been reiterated in my trance and meditation work, and my grove has been talking about taking up collections for a local women’s shelter in the near future.  It’s a start, and it’s partly because of this book!

If you work with Brighid, I recommend this title.  If the goddess is new in your life, this will serve as a great introduction.  If you’ve been Brighid’s priestess for a few years, this may reinvigorate your practice.  You can order Weber’s book on Amazon  or directly from the author.

Next on my Brighid reading list – Brigid: Meeting the Celtic Goddess of Poetry, Forge, and Healing Well by Morgan Daimler.

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My otter drum.  Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2017

I put many things on the back-burner after having my daughter.  Attending drum circles at the Kripalu Yoga and Wellness Center was one such thing because it’s meant for adults.  The purpose of their monthly circles is to trance, and most of us know that kids do not mix well with that practice.  My husband graciously offered to keep our little one busy while I headed to the drumming I had been craving for months.

The circle always starts with prayers and offerings.  The style is determined by the facilitator who often looks to lore surrounding the seasons and full moon.   He then leads a guided meditation which may or may not help participants find a focus for the drumming.  Mine centered around horse imagery.  A horse approached me and told me that it’s time to reclaim my Sagittarius nature; I need to get out there and have the adventures my soul  needs to stay happy.  Drum circle is something I’ve been wanting to get back to, and it’s something that allows me to have adventures of spirit and mind.

Although I have tried to revamp my trance practice, and I do engage with different techniques on my own, it seems that something always interrupts my routine.  I’m hoping that I can continue to attend monthly drum circles to reinvigorate my momentum and share with like-minded people. It will feed my Sagittarius soul.

To further drive home the horse energy, drumming brought out an unexpected visitor in the form of Macha. I found myself on her, riding her through a verdant field.  I remember the tops of grass whipping against my legs and the wind in my hair. I typically do not work with goddesses associated with war.  I’ve done some work with An Morrigan in the past when facing difficult situations, but my closest divine relationship is with Brighid and, in particular, her domestic and artistic sides.  My experience with Macha was one of physical power.  She took me for a ride and I got a sense that I would need such strength soon.  She is a goddess you do not mess with or else she will curse you.  She is associated with the land of my ancestors from County Armagh.  I need to pull my books out and learn more.

I will have to contemplate her visit and what it means for me.  Based on what I see from other peoples’ visions and dreams lately, I think many of us need to call on our inner warriors to stay strong in times of difficulty.

 

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Here are some highlights from Northern Rivers Protogrove’s recent Bealtaine celebration. It was magical!

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The Airmed banner I made for our ritual.  I’m very proud of how she turned out!  I really enjoy making appliqué flags.  Photo by Annette, 2016.

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Goddess symbols on my altar. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2015.

 

This may seem frivolous to some. Like Valentine’s day, love between lady friends should be celebrated all year. However, unlike the love between romantic partners, especially that shared by people who see each other every day, it can be hard to express fondness for people who have become distant through the complications of life.  Work schedules, childcare, personal hobbies, and family obligations can really stretch a person thin!  I feel like, if it weren’t for the internet, I would have lost touch with a lot of my beloved gal pals.  Although we don’t get together as often as I’d like, I just want to send out a special bit of love to all the ladies who are very dear to me.  I wish it were easier for us to get together more regularly, whether it’s to chat over tea or dance around a fire.  Preferably both.  Maybe with wine.  So I’m sending out this little bit of love to the ladies in my life – not just my mother and sister, but also my soul sisters, my spiritual teachers, my like-minded learners, my fellow eccentric artists, priestesses, flame tenders, witches, bitches, Earth warriors, tree huggers, whimsical dreamers, and all around amazing people.  I feel like I spend so much time surrounded by people with whom I can never feel entirely comfortable or myself.  Whenever I’m with my soul sisters, I feel such joy and kinship.  The ladies this goes out to all beam with blessings from the Goddesses, and I’m lucky for how you’ve touched my life.  A toast to you, my lady friends.  I wish we were all together right now.

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Shrine to Airmed. Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2014.

 

Last year, I felt called to begin building a shrine to honor Airmed.  For those who are unfamiliar with her, she is an Irish Goddess – one of the Tuatha Dé Danann.  Along with her brother, Miach, and her father, Dian Cecht, she helped to heal the other Tuatha Dé Danann.  The King of the Tuatha Dé Danann, Nuada, lost his arm in battle and, as a result, was seen as unfit to rule.  Dian Cecht made him a metal arm to compensate, but his son, Miach, was a more talented healer.  He made Nuada a new arm of flesh and blood so that he could once more resume his place as leader.  Dian Cecht was driven mad with jealousy; he murdered his son.  From Miach’s body grew all the healing herbs, each growing from the body part it is capable of healing.  Wise Airmed gathered them on her mantle according to their function.  Still jealous at the knowledge of his children, Dian Cecht flung the mantle and scattered the herbs so that others could not easily know the knowledge of the herbs.  Only Airmed, who so tenderly gathered and organize the plants in tribute to her brother, knew their secrets.

Because of her herbal wisdom and healing knowledge, Airmed is an excellent ally for herbalists of all levels.  I’m still very much a novice, and cultivating a relationship with her feels important.  Using a broken bit of concrete I found nearby, I painted a simple figure to represent her.  I placed this in a pot and surrounded it with some cilantro and dill that were growing wild in the mulch in my front shade/fairy garden.  Since I rent and strangers periodically come through to weed-whack anything I’m not growing in a container, I wanted to give the plants a better chance.  They look a little limp right now, but I’m hoping love from myself and Airmed will give them the strength they need to adapt and persevere.  I placed a small, leaf-shaped dish in front of her for offerings, then built a spiral of stones in front of that.

There is more I would like to do, but that will entail surrounding her with even more herbs!  I love how the shrine is taking shape.  It adds so much magic to my home, and I pray that Airmed is pleased.

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A White Coral Fungi – Photo by Grey Catsidhe, 2013

Originally, Northern Rivers Protogrove was going to meet today for a workshop and discussion.  That’s going to be rescheduled, but it gave me some free time to engage with Druidism in other ways.   I did something I’ve not felt up to in months – I took a walk in the forest. That’s right! It’s nice and cool so I donned a sweatshirt, long pants, and sneakers and crossed the hedge with offerings stuffed in my pockets.  I’ve missed the forest greatly, especially the clarity that comes from visiting.  It has the ability to put all of my petty worries into perspective and calm me into a more rational state when the less-than-petty things pile up.  Not to mention, I really needed to reestablish contact with the local wild spirits.  It had been way too long.

I spent a majority of my spring and summer focused, as many other Pagans, on birth and life.  Indeed, there was much life in the forest – white coral fungi, the chattering of chipmunks and squirrels, green leaves clinging to trees, and lots of ravenous mosquitos!  Returning to the forest, I was suddenly struck by so much decay.  There were large gray mushrooms littered across the forest floor that had been partially eaten by other creatures.  I’d never really thought about it before – the fungi that feed on the dead are, in turn, food for the living.  Life and death are two sides of the same coin and exist together in a dance we often don’t witness or care to admit knowledge of.

Driving the point home, I came across a very sad sight – a dying red squirrel.  He or she startled me at first because I frightened the poor thing.  S/he struggled to move, flopping clumsily, face pressed into the ground, before once more collapsing into a heap.  I watched, scared stiff that I might have stumbled onto a rabid creature, yet also deeply sad for the tiny life that was passing before me.  I didn’t see any wounds or foam at the mouth, so I’m not sure what brought about the squirrel’s demise.  I recognize the fact of death, and I think I’ve come to a certain mature understanding of it despite the sadness it still brings me.  It’s the sight of suffering that impacted me so.  I don’t often feel that when I see half-eaten mushrooms and I couldn’t help but wonder – were they also suffering – in stillness?  After all, the sight of a maimed tree makes my heart tighten – so why not a mushroom?  Even while recognizing the reality of death, there is nothing wrong with feeling sorrow that another must suffer.

Yet how to deal with that suffering?  Sometimes people talk about starfish washing up on the beach; you can’t put them all back.  Watching the squirrel writhe in pain then collapse, I felt helpless. I did what most people in such situations do – I prayed.  I wasn’t sure who to pray to.  I prayed to An Morrigan.  I prayed to An Cailleach.  I prayed to the spirit of the forest.  I prayed that the squirrel would not suffer long and would find peace in the Otherworld.

 

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The Cailleach’s attendant animals are herds of deer and shaggy goats. Mr. McKay thinks that this militates against the idea that she was a goddess of winter, and he would place her as a deer-divinity, who belonged to a people in the hunting stage of existence, the cult of the deer having been superseded by the cult of gigantic deer-goddesses, who were originally their priestesses. This theory hardly seems to me to account for the various legends about her, but it may be, quite conceivably, one of her many aspects ; for it would seem that, of the many ” Auld Wives ” or ” Hags ” created by the Gaelic imagination, the Cailleach Bheara or Bheur has collected the attributes of several into her story.

Eleanor Hull on “Legends and Traditions of the Cailleach Bheara or Old Woman (Hag) of Beare” in Folklore, Vol. 38, No. 3(Sept. 30, 1927).

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