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Posts Tagged ‘mythology’

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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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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Each week, I draw a card from my Druid Animal Oracle deck as an omen for the week.  I pray for guidance as I go forward.  During this week’s ritual, I pulled the owl card. I’m not used to seeing this omen, so the meaning didn’t come to me right away.  At first I thought about wisdom, stealth in the dark, and change because of the myth of Blodeuwedd the flower maiden.  She is transformed into an owl for betraying Lugh.  

This made me stop and think a lot about change.  The frog card can signify change, but it’s a total change – inside and out, possibly including one’s environment.  Snake can also indicate change, but more superficial.  One must shed one’s skin in order to grow.  What kind of change is the owl, then?  A punishing change?  An unwanted change?  Change via divine intervention?

I then thought about the link between owls and An Cailleach, as the Scottish-Gaelic cailleach-oidhche refers to owls.  An Cailleach transforms from old to young in several stories.  Could the owl card refer to a change via age or even a spiritual transformation?

I asked for more clarification and drew another card after shuffling.  This time the cat card came to me.  I associate this card with protecting the home and, at times, sensuality.  The former meaning comes from some Irish stories in which cats guard treasure, especially in fairy realms.  As I have cats at home, I see them as protectors and very hearth-centric.  I thought more about the connection between the cards.  They are both predators capable of seeing in the dark, yet I felt more confused.

Although I feel I have a good sense of the cards, their meanings, the symbolism of the animals, and my own understanding of their lore and biology most of the time, I occasionally turn to the companion book for further insight. I might have forgotten something.  Interestingly, another meaning for both cards is “detachment.”  Well, when both cards have literally the same word in their symbolic description, it’s hard to overlook the emphasis.

I’m not sure what this omen means to me yet.  Is it a blessing?  A warning before something comes up?  Maybe it means that, in order to engage with the spiritual change I seek, I need to take some time for myself.  This would make sense given my last post about  once more delving into trance practice.  Only time will tell.

Learning a divination system can be a complex process, but I love how rich and thought-provoking it is.

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Although my divination method of choice remains “The Druid Animal Oracle,” I’ve been working to improve my understanding of ogham.  Each day, after I perform my morning or afternoon devotional, I ask for an omen for the day and draw an ogham symbol from a muslin bag.  I’m getting better at interpreting certain symbols and seeing how they could relate to my day, both as I head to known destinations and activities, and in reflection at the end of the day.  Other symbols, however, continue to elude me.  Part of this is due to the variety of interpretations in the books I have.  Others seem very ominous, only for my day to be relatively stress-free.  This left me confused and second-guessing the symbols.  I wasn’t about to give up, though, as I know that questioning and critiquing are part of the learning process.

Blackthorn has been one ogham symbol that has continued to bloggle me.  Skip Ellison’s book Ogham: The Secret Language of the Druids summarizes its meaning as “Trouble & negativity” (125).  Ian Corrigan also touched on Ogham in his work A Druid’s Companion: Lore & Rituals for the Work of Druidry.  He summarizes its meaning as “trouble and protection.”  Finally, Celtic Tree Mysteries: Secrets of the Ogham by Steve Blamires simplifies blackthorn as such: “Be prepared for a transition; prepare for something about to end; sudden change; death” (253).   It’s quite the variety, but the common denominator is always fairly negative.  Of course, most authors expand on the tree by looking at its folklore and biology.  Blackthorn, however, continued to confuse me in part because of the symbolism associated with other trees.  For example, some authors equate hawthorn with “unpleasant period(s)” (Blamires 253), or yew with death (Corrigan and Ellison).  According to Cúchulainn, heather could also relate to death through his comparing it to the “shroud of the lifeless one,” (Ellison 47).  Ultimately, one has to consider all the information as well as our own perceptions, but I was feeling overwhelmed.  Perhaps part of this is my own inexperience with actual, living blackthorns?

Then I started to think about blackthorn in terms of “strife.”  Many authors link its Gaelic name for the ogham, “straif” or “straiph,” with the English word “strife.”  I was repeatedly drawing blackthorn, and I was getting worried.  At the same time, I’ve been pouring over books to work on an ADF course – Indo European Mythology 1.  There’s a major comparative element to it, so I decided to pull out all my materials from my college mythology class.  Oh, the wealth of material I have on Greek mythology!  I was rereading Hesiod’s “Works and Days,” which outlines good morals as well as when and how Ancient Greeks should have performed certain tasks.  It’s quite a fascinating peek back in time, honestly, one that people who follow a Celtic hearth culture could only dream of finding.  Anyway, Hesiod discusses strife:

And I will speak to Perses the naked truth:
There was never one kind of Strife.  Indeed on this earth
two kinds exist.  The one is praised by her friends,
the other found blameworthy.  These two are not of one mind.
The one – so harsh – fosters evil war and the fray of battle.
No man loves this oppressive Strife, but compulsion
and divine will grant her a share of honor.
The other one is black Night’s elder daughter;
and the son of Kronos, who dwells on ethereal heights,
planted her in the roots of the earth and among men.
She is much better, and she stirs even the shiftless on to work.
A man will long for work when he sees a man of wealth
who rushes with zeal to plow and plant
and husband his homestead.  One neighbor envies another
who hastens to his riches.  This Strife is good for mortals.
Then potters eye one another’s success and craftsmen, too;
the beggar’s envy is a beggar, the singer’s a singer.
Perses, treasure this thought deep down in your heart,
do not let malicious Strife curb your zeal for work
so you can see and hear the brawls of the market place. (lines 10 – 29, translated by Apostolos N. Athanassakis)

This passage was a reminder not to lose sight of the less ominous interpretations of straif.  They are also part of the blackthorn.  Just as Hesiod says there are two kinds of strife, a positive and negative, blackthorn has its sides.  It depends on the perception and context.  The thorny bush could indeed be protective in certain circumstances.  I don’t see death in it, though.  I feel that yew, with its association with graveyards, has a better connection to death than blackthorn, but the latter surely relates to trouble and difficulties in reaching our goals due to all those thorns.

Later that day, I further meditated on blackthorn while at yoga class.  Before we started, our teacher set an intention for us.  She asked us to think about transitions.  As we went through our stretches, breathing, and movement, she would remind us to stop and think about the processes we go through to transition between one pose and another.  Sometimes, those transitions were quite challenging.  They sometimes made me feel a little clumsy or sore, yet they were part of an ongoing process.

It dawned on me that the blackthorn I was drawing could relate to a transition I’ve been going through in my career.   It’s certainly been stressful, but not dreadful.  All the blackthorn could be related to the strife of hard work as I transitioned, and the difficulties of that process.

This whole experience, while probably kind of roundabout, has felt like a breakthrough in my understanding of some of the ogham symbols.  Let the journey continue!

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The poet, Shane Koyczan, takes a more “rationalistic” and archetypal view of the Gods, but I find his view on the Titan Atlas, particularly his modern relevance, to be fascinating. Just as interesting is his retelling of the age-old story of the Earth Mother and Sky Father. How is ancient myth relevant to our currant environmental crisis?  Just watch.  Koyczan’s poem is very moving and gives hope in what can otherwise seem like a hopeless situation.

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I started to explore the concept of crane bags back when I was pregnant.  I made a small bag specific to my pregnancy and desires for delivery.  The linked post is also where I shared the basics of what a crane bag actually is and where it comes from in Irish lore.

Later, I decided to make a larger crane bag to carry with me during ritual and outdoor treks to the forest shrine.  I looked to the oak tree as my inspiration.  I’m still quite fond of how it turned out, and I continue to add special pins to the strap.

My latest crane bag is actually a commission for a friend and member of Northern Rivers Protogrove.  She picked out and purchased the fabric (complete with actual cranes!) and we looked at different types of bags for inspiration.  I ended up making my own pattern based on a photo we liked.  I’m so happy with how it turned out, and I love the colors she chose.

Crane Crane Bag by Grey Catsidhe, 2015

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