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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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Film poster. (Fair Use)

 

Many of my favorite anime titles involve spiritual elements.  The Hayao Miyazaki films, such as My Neighbor Tototor and Princess Mononoke, were greatly inspired by animistic beliefs native to Japan.  The interaction between the human and spirit world are important elements to the stories, and I find a lot to compare to Druidism – old and new.   Someone online suggested to my husband that we check out A Letter to Momo.  While watching the preview, we couldn’t help but compare it to Miyazaki’s style.  It wasn’t just the whimsical art or the coming of age story – it was the thin line between this world and the next.  We had to watch it.

In the film, a young girl named Momo is dealing with the unresolved argument she had with her father right before his untimely death.  The dramatic change in her life, and her need to adjust, are made concrete when she and her mother move to the small island of Shio, where her grandparents live.  Along for the ride are three spirits on a mysterious mission.  Unlike just about everyone else around her, Momo can see them.  While this chance encounter with the Otherworld creates (often comical) challenges, it ultimately helps both Momo and her mother heal.

One element that intrigues me with A Letter to Momo, and indeed the same element that helps to endear Miyazaki films to me, is the proximity between this world and the spirit world. Set on a rural island, there are scenes at shrines, examples of ancestor veneration, and discussions of Japanese mythology.  The spirits, comparable to Irish lore, are neither totally benevolent nor malicious – they simply are.  They have their own histories, motivations, biases, and faults.  What separates them from the humans they interact with are their powers and Otherworldly jobs.  The three take a shining to Momo in part because of how she comes to interact with them – which includes some offerings of food.   Less obvious but still there, mixed in with all the modern farming equipment, phones, and Japanese snack foods, are little spirit homes people built once upon a time.  One of the major scenes of Momo features an old community tradition in which the families send straw boats with lanterns that they made as offerings into the sea.  I’m assuming it is part of the Japanese Obon celebration, a festival for the dead.  It’s never really explained – it’s just there, part of the culture.  The movie’s purpose is not to explain Japanese customs and beliefs to curious Americans, after all.  They just exist, as they have existed in some way for generations, embedded in the story.

In watching these films, so full of Japanese customs and folklore, I can’t help but find things to compare to the living fairy faith in Ireland, or think about how things could have been if the Pagan tradition there had not been so altered by Christianity.  What can we, as modern Druids, learn from cultures who have living animistic traditions?  It’s something to contemplate after watching the film.

I highly recommend A Letter to Momo.  It’s heartfelt, humorous, and appropriate for the whole family.  It would be especially appropriate to watch near Samhain because of the ancestral veneration.

 

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A grovie recently brought a documentary on Hulu to my attention.  It’s called “The Celts” and you’re able to watch it free online!  With six fifty minute episodes, I decided to give it a go while marathon nursing my little one (growth spurt, I guess?).  Narrated by John Morgan, it spans Celtic history from that civilization’s cradle to modern times.  Because I am, admittedly, new to the Druid scene, I can’t claim this is the most accurate documentary ever made about the Celts.  I will say, however, that nothing struck me as contrary to the historical reading I’ve been doing.  There were even some fascinating tidbits that matched up with what others who have been studying longer have shared with me.  For example, I learned a lot about the salt mines in the Hallstatt region – something Michael Dangler brought to my attention in past musings about the Celts, modern Druids, and natural resources.

The documentary also asks some compelling questions such as who are the Celts?  What does it mean to be Celtic?  This question is explored in the final installment – the episode I thought would be least interesting considering it was about the modern era*.  There is no fluffiness about this series.  It teeters between respecting modern Druidic practices in Celtic nations as revivals of national pride – a way to celebration cultural and linguistic heritage in a modern way – and as anachronistic nonsense that continues to confuse modern folk about the historical facts.  Also questioned are kitschy elements that so many modern folk, especially the diaspora who make pilgrimages back to the old country, think represent the Celtic identity.  The conclusions are that defining “Celticness” is difficult to do outside of the usual reliance on linguistic groups alone.  I think all modern Druids and Gaelic polytheists who live outside of Celtic nations should check that episode out and think on it.

The best part of this production are the visuals.  Not only were there the usual views of seaside cliffs, standing stones, and rolling green hills.  I was able to delve into the aforementioned salt mines, visit a people in China who are believed to be descended from an ancient Celtic people, and examine a wide variety of artifacts in exquisite detail.  Although the music was a bit odd at times, I think they were going for a Celtic sound that wasn’t obviously Irish.  Otherwise, I enjoyed hearing different examples of Celtic languages spoken.  The episodes about modern Celts also feature some very interesting stories about how those languages were suppressed – something we should not forget about when we go to honor our ancestors in ritual!  I also really enjoyed seeing a carnyx for the first time.  I had read about them in history books and saw them illustrated upon photos of artifacts in books.  The Gundestrup Cauldron  features some, for example.  This show included a man who reconstructs and plays them.  I had read of their sound and the belief that they brought fear into enemies.  To hear one was truly wonderful!  I don’t know why I never looked them up for more detail, but here’s a start**.

I definitely recommend this documentary.  I believe it would be very accessible to people who are new to Celtic studies and Druidism, and after ten years of learning, I also got a lot out of it.  I’m sure old hats would enjoy it just as much for all the beautiful footage!

 

*This is, of course, something I want to study more to have a better understanding and appreciation for my ancestors and the hearth culture I’ve embraced.  It’s just sometimes difficult to get into because there are so many political and imperialistic aspects to wrap my head around.  I’m more intrinsically motivated to learn about the ancient Celts, their religious practices, and their customs.  I’m trying to learn more about Christian and modern Ireland in baby steps.

** Now how cool would it be for a Druid grove to have one during Lughnasadh games?

 

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The cover of

Red Leaf,Yellow Leaf: Lois Ehlert: 9780152661977: Amazon.com: Books.

Although the rain in the North Country may make it feel more like April than the Autumn Equinox, signs of the season are all around us. If you have children in your life – be they your own or young grovelings – you should consider adding the book Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf by Lois Ehlert to your collection.

Told from the perspective of a child, it explains the life cycle of a maple tree and celebrates the seasonal changes.  Included are ideas to inspire – leaf rubbings, pressed leaves, and ways to feed birds in the winter.  The illustrations, created with mixed-media collages, are sure to delight.

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