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Posts Tagged ‘Irish Pagan School’

Well, it should be obvious to everyone that it’s taking me a lot longer than 21 days to go through this lore challenge from Irish Pagan School, but at least I have not given up!

Today I jumped back into “Oidhe Cloinne Tuireann.”  The Tuatha Dé Danann are described in very earthly terms, and they express fear of the Fomorians who oppress them in this part of the Invasion Cycle. It is interesting to see these beings, which so many of us venerate as gods, tremble before an Otherworldly host. This occurs before the Milesians displace them to the Underworld.

To me, this suggests more about their roles than abilities or immortality. I am drawing on more than just the excerpt discussed today. We know the Tuatha Dé Danann are people of art and science. The Fomorians, on the other hand, seem to have a more primordial position. They control the harvest, and without a successful crop or hunt, civilization, created through art and science, collapses. The event read today occurs before the Fomorians are defeated, thus before Bres teaches Lugh the secrets of agriculture. Until those lessons were learned, civilization was at the complete mercy of nature.

That is just my interpretation, but it does lead me to some curiosity about the Fomorians. If they are the primordial beings of raw, natural power, how should we relate to them today given the shifting climate? I have much to ponder, but am not prepared to share more than that.

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Oh my gods, I got so behind. Between planning for the Spring Equinox, and everyone getting sick, this ended up on the back burner. I’m home sick today. It’s my turn with what my daughter brought home from school, so I decided to be a bit productive with my studies. Might as well, right?

So, back to Oidhe Cloinne Tuireann. Today we read a bit about Lugh, specifically how he was fostered by the god Manannán mac Lir.  Lugh arrives at Tara with several of his foster brothers, and is armed with some of his foster father’s treasures – namely the horse Aonbharr, who was famously swift, Manannán’s armor, breastplate, helmet, and sword. These objects sound magical, as they promise protection and strength above and beyond normal accouterments of war.

In Ireland, fosterage was a tradition by which children were raised by another in the clan. The purpose could have been to strengthen bonds between family, and Lugh’s arrival at Tara with some of Manannán’s greatest treasures, as well as his own sons, suggests a great love and respect. I think this was important for Lugh due to his heritage. Lugh was half of the Tuath Dé Danann, and half of the Fomorians. To have Manannán for a foster father must have instilled a great trust in Lugh.

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I fell behind. Workdays exhaust me, and this was a particularly demanding one since I had to stay very late one of them. I’m not giving up on this challenge, though! It may take me longer than 21 days, but it’s so good and worthwhile, I must not abandon it.

Today I read through some of Oidhe Cloinne Tuireann (The Fate of the Children of Tuireann). Lora O’Brien makes a point to discuss the importance of reading the intact lore rather than just retellings, or else one will miss important or interesting details. Many of the complex, sometimes convoluted, stories have been watered down to increase understanding, and I’m certainly appreciative of that to a point. Irish lore was overwhelming enough to me as a newcomer several years ago. Yet some authors, particularly the Victorian-era English in all their colonial wisdom, removed information that they didn’t like or felt would be difficult for an English-speaking audience to understand. Now that I’ve got a foundation, I’m ready for more. I want to improve and deepen my understanding of my Irish ancestors and the Tuatha de Danann.

Part of why I started this class was to familiarize myself with the recorded lore, as close to the original tellings as possible, and to learn about where I can find these resources. I’ve already learned so much. I had read some truncated versions of “The Fate of the Children of Tuireann,” as well as lore about Miach and Nuada, but, as O’Brien explains, some of the stories are actually mixtures of two or more texts. You have to read them all to truly comprehend the context.

Sure enough, as we delved into Oidhe Cloinne Tuireann, I was immediately exposed to new stories I hadn’t heard before, like the cat-eyed doorman. Fascinating!

In the story, Miach and another healer I hadn’t heard of, Oirmiach, enter Tara and help the king, Nuada, with an ailment. A beetle jumps out of his arm and is killed by those present. Vermin who cause illness is apparently a common motif in Irish lore – one I didn’t notice until O’Brien pointed it out. Were these details overlooked in modern retellings? Did I simply gloss over them without thinking? I don’t know.

The beetle represents illness, an impurity, and it is only recognized and located by the keen eye of the healers. Miach and Oirmiach prove themselves and their worth, much as Lugh has to do when he comes to Tara. The disease must be removed before the healers can replace Nuada’s silver arm with one of flesh. Perhaps the disease is linked to the disfigurement of the king, and the healing was necessary in order for him to truly take his place at the helm of the Tuatha de Dannan.

I’m looking forward to tomorrow and reading more of the story. Once more, I encourage you to start the challenge found at The Irish Pagan School.

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As you know, I’ve been working through the 21 Days of Lore challenge through Irish Pagan School. It’s a free course, brought to you by Lora O’Brien. I provided all the links in my first post on the subject. It feels especially meaningful to delve into Irish lore during Irish Heritage Month. As Druids and Irish-inspired polytheists, our exploration of history and mythology should not be limited to a specific time, but if you ever needed a push to get back into your studies, this has been fantastic so far.

Day 3 began an exploration of the Dinnshenchas. Thanks to the video, I finally know how to pronounce that! We looked at the poem “Berba,” then Lora instructed us to look up the River Barrow on Google maps and reflect on it.

I followed the river through what looks like farmland, fields, and even some forested areas. I noticed B&Bs, a waterfall, and trail heads. There are some places where it winds like the snake in the poem.  I moved back upwards through more urban centers, eventually losing it. Did it become another river? Google no longer labeled it after a point. Anyway, it got my little Sagittarius heart in a state of wanderlust. 

As I write my reflection, I keep pausing to look into other sources, to read about the river. I love rivers. They are an important part of my home’s ecology, history, and, yes, industry. I think of how all the waters are connected throughout the world, and how the water I see on the St. Lawrence at one point flowed through River Barrow. Perhaps I will get to see the River Barrow in person one day, and I shall think a similar thought, feeling a connection to home just as rivers in Northern NY help me feel connected, however distant, to my ancestral homeland.

Day 4, I was asked to interpret what is going on with Meiche in the poem “Berba.” We read more translations on Day 5. I hadn’t ever heard of him before. I found the story of his three hearts and the serpents to be very fascinating. It’s March, so everyone is on about St. Patrick driving snakes out of Ireland… But here we have an old story about someone (Mac Cecht) killing Meiche and destroying the snakes! Move over, St. Patrick. Leave it to An Dagda’s grandson. Others equate the snakes with plague, and I think that is an appropriate interpretation.

As for Meiche’s relationship to the Morrigan… I’m not sure. He could have been linked to her out of an attempt to equate her with evil by those who recorded the lore (as O’Brien posits). Perhaps he really was her son? A fosterling? Either way, this was all very new to me, and I’m delighted to finally delve into the Dinnshenchas and learn more about Ireland’s geography in the process!

I’ll probably have to do more multi-day posts like this. I’m very tired from a busy weekend, and Monday’s are always action-packed. In the meantime, I once more encourage you to check out this course!

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As part of my work on the “Learn the Lore” course in the Irish Pagan School, I’m tasked with reflecting on my knowledge of the file tradition in Ireland as well as my current feelings on poetry. Next, I’m to share my thoughts and feelings on the story studied in days 1 and 2, “Echtra Condla” (The Adventures of Connla the Fair”).

At this point in my spiritual journey, I’m somewhat familiar with what the file tradition is. I have seen the Irish word fili before while reading through mythology and history books about Ireland. (A quick search helped me to linguistically understand that file is the modern Irish word, and fili is plural.) My understanding is that the fili are the bards. In this tradition, words have power. Music also has power, as we know through stories about An Dagda’s harp. To me, poetry is the marriage of language and music, so poetry is incredibly potent. To be a file is to tap into, and channel, that power.

Poetry is also difficult to create. At least in my experience. I try to write it, and often struggle. Prose comes easier to me, and yet I continue to do my best with poetry, especially when I write prayers and chants for my Druidry. I’m excited to learn more about the file tradition in this course. Perhaps this will inspire me?

I found the story of “”Echtra Condla” interesting. I vaguely remember reading it before. I recalled the fairy woman giving Connla and apple, followed by his wasting away, and going with her to the Otherworld. I forgot, or possibly decided to disregard, the woman’s prophesy about the coming of Christianity. In light of yesterday’s reflection, it’s interesting to think about the story as a young man’s conversion experience, and the Otherworld as heaven. As Lora pointed out in the video, while the coming of Christianity to Ireland did bring some problems, it was largely peaceful and positive compared to many other places. And thanks to the monasteries, we have stories like Connla’s. Personally, in my humble, novice opinion, I can see how easy it would be for Christian monks to alter the story for their purposes.

So what is my takeaway as a polytheist? The apple is a symbol of the Otherworld. It shows up in other stories, and I’m sure it will appear again in this course. Tales of Fairies luring away young men and women are also common. It’s interesting that she promises to take Connla to an island populated only by women. It is supposed to be a peaceful place. Take that as you will, I guess! Also of interest to me is the limitation of the Druids. This could very well be Christian propaganda, but it’s also a good reminder that the spirits often have more power than us humans. It’s a lesson in humility.

 

 

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After many months of admiring from afar, I finally signed up with author Lora O’Brien’s Irish Pagan School. Another polytheist I admire, Morgan Daimler, recommended Lora awhile back, and I’ve been eyeing her website with interest ever since. I’m trying one of the free courses, Learn the Lore, first. They are short, based around 10ish minute readings with videos. Very manageable, especially for someone like me who is trying to revive my academic side of Druidry. I’ve kept my daily devotionals, but I really want to keep learning and reflecting. Hopefully this can yank me from my doldrums.

I’m going to try and put my reflections on here as a way to hold myself accountable, and to start blogging more regularly.

Yesterday, I read and listened to the first half of Echtra Condla. It’s a story I had read before, in one of the anthologies I possess, but hadn’t really thought much about. First of all, I love listening to Lora read. I am grateful to listen to an Irish person tell the stories, and to hear how the names are pronounced.

I was tasked to reflect on my thoughts in regards to the native, Irish lore and the Christian influence on them. Do I read the mythology specifically for the Pagan elements? Do I look for Christian allegory? Does the latter bother me? Etc.

I’m comfortable reading lore and knowing that there is a Christian layer. It would be wonderful if we had unadulterated, native Irish mythology, of course, but I’m glad to have what we have. It creates an interesting puzzle. I may not catch all the Christian influence, but I feel that the Pagan elements are so strong that to simply dismiss tales like Echtra Condla would be throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

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My dairy-free crepes turned out well! I didn’t have any lemon to squeeze over them, but I prefer powdered sugar anyway. Photo by Grey Catsidhe

I’ve also found that I appreciate knowing what my more recent Irish ancestors did and believed, too. Learning their beliefs is just as important when it comes to honoring my ancestors. It seemed like no coincidence that I started this on Pancake Day. While I’m not Catholic anymore, I decided to make some thin, crepe-style pancakes to honor my ancestral traditions. (I tried a dairy-free recipe, and they turned out really well!)

I’m looking forward to day two!

 

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