What’s in a name?

As some of ye know, I’ve been working on a book for Irish Brigid, investigating what we have in the lore, what we can extrapolate from that and a few other bits and pieces. (Yup, I am still working on it, it’s not been forgotten!) As part of that, I’ve been spending a lot of time on dil.ie looking at the various meanings of “brig”.

They have 4 (see the link here)

a) power, strength, force, authority; vigour, virtue

b) value, worth; advantage; validity, virtue, efficacy

c) meaning (of words, sayings)

d) In phrases with prepp. and verbs

Now a) and b) would be fairly well known I think generally – that brig would be linked to power, value, strength, etc. But I was surprised by c) meaning of words, sayings and I wanted to investigate that a bit. Because to me, that links Brigid to the meaning of words and sayings, to the power of words and sayings, which of course as a poet and protector of poets she’d be well aware of.

The website has 3 phrases that I want to talk about (bearing in mind that I’m not good with medieval Irish and some of the stuff I draw out here may be inaccurate. I’ve done the best I can, but with limited knowledge! So with that warning clear, I hope, on we go!)

brígh na cédlitre = tenour is the first phrase in the entry. (Truth to tell, I had to look up tenour for a meaning as well. wiktionary.com gives me: “The (primary) intended message or purpose of something. The tone or character of something; the tenor of something; the usual mode of life” Now I can’t find a meaning for “cédlitre” to be able to break this down further, but having “Brig” linked to the tenour of words, the intended message, the purpose to me gives us a further link to the poet and the power of words.

bríogh na guidhei-se comes without a direct English translation, but… I looked up various forms of guidhei, and anything that comes up with a guid in the root of it is linked to begging earnestly, praying, pleading, so I would say it’s linked to power of prayer, power of asking appropriately, that sort of thing. Again, something easily linked to the power of words and poetry for Brig I would say.

fios a bhríghe is the last one under this section and it adds in English “of a prov. saying” which I think means of a proverb or proverbial saying? Now, fios is the modern Irish word for knowledge and although I can’t find an entry for it in the eDIL, any time it’s mentioned it appears to be linked to some sort of knowledge. Here again so we have the power of knowledge, which to me again links Brigid strongly back to the poets, where the power of knowledge and the ability to use it was pretty much the root of their power – and the acknowledgement of that power by the general population of course!

Now, of course, I could be talking out of my ass here, gods know it wouldn’t be the first time I’d gone on a wrong train of thought, but the strong links in the dictionary between the root word brig and the power of words, the value of words is a reasonable jump for me to Brigid’s links with poets and poetry. Does it bring anything new to my practice? Well maybe a few new words for me, in both Irish and English, which is never any harm. A deeper understanding of the potential meanings of Brigid’s name? Maybe. Or maybe not. Maybe I’m unconsciously biased and I’ve missed something glaring here! Either way, I hope it’s interesting and it encourages people to do their own exploring through the meanings of words!

The Year in Ireland – Kevin Danaher

Image shows the book “The Year in Ireland” by Kevin Danaher

I finally managed to get a copy of this book and I’m so excited by it. I’ve been reading about the hungry month of July, as well as Lúnasa traditions, and I obviously will be reading the rest of the book as well, but it’s just such a lovely book and really easy to read.

I’ve seen copies going for €2-300, which is a bit beyond my price range, even for a book like this, but I found a copy for €59 (including postage) from Carmarthaen Books (well I found them on abebooks.com, which is a great website for finding older books) and it arrived earlier this week and I’m having a great time reading through it.

I know, it’s a short post, but I had to share my excitement with ye all! I love reading the old traditions and then think through how these traditions would/wouldn’t work today. For example, July isn’t really a hungry month anymore for most of Ireland – or at least no more hungry than all the other months of the year. We have a consistent food supply (as long as you have the resources to buy said food, which is not yet, unfortunately, a given) so I never heard of burning the straw from the corn instead of threshing it. We don’t, thankfully, survive on spuds and dairy any more either, so we have options when it comes to food.

But it also got me thinking that the abundance of food we eat tends to lead us to take it for granted, in ways that those who grow their own food and depend on that food can’t. We’ve separated the reality of growing food, whether plant or animal, from the eating of the food. The majority of people wandering around the supermarket on a Thursday night don’t really understand, at a bone deep level, what it takes to grow a calf from birth to death to turn it into meat. Or even to mind the cow so she can produce another calf in time. Or the pain and loss of losing a lamb or ewe at 3am on a wild night (or even at 3pm on a sunny day – the loss is no less, even if the surroundings are marginally more pleasant!) The backbreaking work of weeding a long, long line of spuds, hoping the worm doesn’t come up, or the birds don’t peck the new seedlings or any of the other various means by which a crop can be ruined or less than it should be.

And it got me thinking as well, that I am able to express preferences in food that my grandparents, or even my parents, were never able to. In the space of a single generation in Ireland we’ve gone from managing food carefully to last the cycle of the year, to food being readily available on supermarket shelves almost always. Our expectations of food are shown in the way we expect formerly exotic foods like tomatoes on a daily basis, with no understanding of the distances the tomato has travelled to get to us, or the energy required in growing it in Ireland. Avocados – once a staple in Mexico, if I understand correctly – is now too expensive for locals to eat, because foreigners, in our supermarkets, are willing to pay well beyond what those locals can pay. I think this would be similar to the spud being too expensive for the Irish to buy – although the price of spuds is rising consistently as well…

And we must remember that the spud isn’t of course native to our land, but it was so easy (relatively speaking) to grow, and you get so much return for your effort (again, relatively speaking) in terms of nutrition and calories, that it was adopted as families grew larger, land lots grew smaller and more was needed from less soil. So what did people eat before the spud? Apparently dairy. A lot of dairy. It’s well worth reading up on, if you get the chance, or I might do another blog post on it, if people are interested, but there are reports that dairy, milk, cream, cheese were hugely important. (Well most of our big sagas are around cattle, so it stands to reason really!) Oats were the usual grain, wheat being a bit difficult to grow in our climate. For fruit and veg: well the national obsession with bacon and cabbage was come by honestly, apparently, for cabbage, parsnip, onion and garlic were common enough, as were berries (seriously, even today, you can get a fair crop of berries around the island from wild sources) Seaweed for those living along the coast, of course, as well as fish from coast and river. So, y’know, actually a fairly comprehensive diet pre-spud.

But I haven’t come to that in Kevin Danaher’s book yet and I think he’s looking at post-spud introduction anyway, so it’s going to be interesting to see how often food is mentioned throughout the book. And even the small bit I’ve read, of the hungry month of July, is enough to have me considering what I eat and how I appreciate it.

St. Brigid’s Well, Liscannor

A picture of the well entrance, white washed stone hut on the left, with a bench outside and 2 potted plants at the entrance, a set of stone steps to the right, with a low wall and hint of tree trunks and greenery. From: http://irelandsholywells.blogspot.com/2014/01/saint-brigids-well-liscannor-county.html

I have often said that there as wells dedicated to Brigid in most counties in Ireland and I’ll stand by that statement (although the paper I discuss below mentions Patrick Logan’s “The Holy Wells of Ireland”, which outlines 15 wells dedicated to St. Brigid in 11 counties. It also mentioned there are probably more undocumented, so my initial thoughts might be still valid…

Some, however, are a bit more famous than others. St Brigid’s Well in Liscannor, Co. Clare is one such. Now my mother grew up not far from the well and she has mentioned in the past the days when the crowds would come to the well, from the Aran Islands and all over Co. Clare (and I’m sure elsewhere as well) but until I was in Clare a few summers ago (thank you COVID), I didn’t realise how big an insitution it was. We had the (mis)fortune of driving by on the Feast of the Assumption (my grandad’s birthday) and getting stuck in the traffic jam. Honestly – it’s a quiet country road usually, but it took us a good hour to go a mile… my own fault really, I should have been paying attention to the date!

A picture from Google Maps, showing green hedges in the front and a glass/plastic enclosed statue of St. Brigid, holding a crozier and book in the middle, with a stone wall and tall trees behind her

Anyway, over the last few days, following on from my delight over the Brigid Shoe Shrine in the last post, I was doing some mooching around academia.edu and came across a wonderful paper called Saint Brigid: Holy Wells, Patterns and Relics by David W. Atherton and Michael Peter Peyton. It explore Peyton’s memories of the regular Pattern or Patron Days at the well, and he maintains there were four times a year when people would visit the well en masse: St. Brigid’s Eve (31st January), the Saturday and Sunday of Crom Dubh (the last Sunday of July and the vigil) and the Feast of the Assumption, as mentioned above is the 15th July. Now at another time I’d like to come back and visit the connection to Crom Dubh, but I’m forcing myself to put that aside for now.

The paper refers to the “Catholic authorities” being concerned about the morality of these gatherings, given that there was drinking and dancing and all sorts of things going on – even, God forbid! “those practices that involve a striving to have children and such, since such practices smack more of superstition than devotion“. Ah yes, the striving to have children and such??? Anyone else wondering what the “and such” entails?? All in all though, as many a good Irish Catholic will tell you, when the priest is warning you off a party, gathering or event, it’s usually a good sign it’ll be worthwhile going! Things had calmed down a bit in the mid-20th century, and I have to say I saw no signs of debauchery of any kind when I was driving by a few years ago, although it was in the middle of the afternoon. Maybe I should have gone back that night…

As well as the commentary on the morals of the gatherings, the paper includes the “rounds” or the practices to go through to gain the saint’s favour or help in your endeavour. Now, they say they got these from Wikipedia, but I can’t find them on there, which is a bit annoying. On the other hand, as far as prayers go, I don’t see any issue with using this one and the rounds are very well described in the paper. I’d suggest reading the paper to get the full extent of the rounds, as they involve the upper and lower sanctuary and are something I will be doing myself when next I’m down there. But I’ll reproduce the prayer here:

Go mbeannaí Íosa duit, a Bhríd Naofa,

Go mbeannaí Muire duit, is go mbeannaím féin duit,

Chugat a thána’ mé ag géarán mo scéil chugat,

Agus d’iarraidh cabhair in onóir Dé ort.

In English, this is: May Jesus bless you, St. Brigid/ Holy Brigid, May Mary bless you and may I myself bless you. It is to yourself I have come, voicing my complaint and asking your help for the honour of God.

Now I can understand that this is a fairly Catholic prayer and sure the well is devoted to St. Brigid these days, so there’s no surprise there, but there are ways to alter it to a more pagan option. I’ve done my best below.

Beannachtaí an lae ort, a Bhríd,

Beannachtaí an oíche ort, is mo bheannchtaí féin ort comh maith.

Chugat a tháinig mé ag géarán mo scéal chugat,

agus d’iarraidh cabhair ort.

In short, this translates as “blessings of the day to you, Brigid, blessings of the night to you and my own blessings as well. It is to yourself I have come, voicing my complaint and asking your help”.

The prayer isn’t necessarily tied to St. Brigid’s Well, Liscannor of course and could be adapted, as could the rite, to any well or water really in my opinion.

Finally, the Irish for well is usually taught these days as tobar, but in the paper, the well in Liscannor is consistently referred to as Dabhach Bhríde. And dabhach has other meanings in Irish as well, which I found interesting: copper, tank, trough, vat. And this had me thinking of the forge again, because coper, tanks, troughs and vat are likely to be found in a forge. PURE UPG alert here, folks, this is my brain rambling and making connections that may or may not be there. But I’d like to think that the well had some connection, at some point to the older versions of Brigid, in her forge, hammering away.

And now, I want to go explore Crom Dubh and see why people would be going to St. Brigid’s well on the Sunday of Crom Dubh, so I’ll leave it there!

St. Brigid’s Shoe Shrine

Yeah, you read that right!! St. Brigid has a shoe shrine, that is on displayed National Museum of Ireland – Archaeology (Kildare Street in Dublin for those able to get there). Now, I’ve not made it up to Dublin yet to see this shrine, cos I only found out about the shrine this morning, but there a great page on it here (it’s on the website of the National Museum of Ireland, so it’s a pretty legitimate source!)

There’s a video on there as well, going over what is known and/ or believed about the saint. The video also goes over the 7 known lives of St. Brigid (although honestly, Cogitosus and Bethu Brigte are the two I hit on most often!) and how accurate/ inaccurate they might be, as well as the customs and traditions associated with St. Brigid and her feast day.

The most exciting bit of the video, in my opinion, is the bit about the shoe shrine. I mean, I’d never heard of a shoe shrine before… But anyway, a shrine is something that would be created to hold a relic of the saint, in this case a shoe was the relic, so it’s a shoe shrine. A relic can be any object associated with the saint – you often see bones or blood for example in Catholic tradition anyway, but it can also be something that belonged to the saint as well. As another example, in the Middle Ages, there were apparently so many fragments of the “True Cross” wandering around Europe, you could have built a good sized town out of them all if you got them all together. And of course there are loads of relics and shrines still around today.

In honour of the fact these items held sacred objects, these shrines were often heavily decorated and were prayed to/over (the preposition used here depends on your point of view) and could be used to swear oaths. They were usually held in churches or monasteries and in later years found their way into private antiquaries (it’s colonialism, Chad….)

Now this shrine is thought to have held a shoe, hence the shape (either one of Brigid’s own or a relic she herself held), although said shoe is not longer in existence. It’s made of metal – copper or bronze, I think the video said, and the metal is carved with various inscriptions in Latin and pictures of St John the Baptist and Christ on the cross. Now the shoe depicts a later period than Brigid herself would have worn, which is described in the video. (I mean, really, by this point, I’m assuming you’ve already gone to the video in question, cos it’s amazing and only 10mins long!)

Now, the shrine suggests a link between Brigid and St Mary’s Church in Ballinrobe, Co. Mayo – not the part of the country we usually associate with herself to be fair, and I find myself itching to head over to duchas.ie to see what it has to say around Ballinrobe and Brigid. That may be a later post… I may even take a trip up there over the summer to see the stained glass window mentioned in the video. It sounds great.

Anyway, why am I so excited? Well aside from the fact it’s a shrine I didn’t know about – cos that’s exciting in and of itself. And it shoes me that Brigid’s relics were being used and treasured, in this case in a Carmelite monastery dedicated to her in the Lough Rea area of Galway (that might have to be investigated in the same trip as Ballinrobe. It could be Lough Ree as well, but that’s not in Galway, but covers bits of Longford, Westmeath and Roscommon, so I’m hoping it’s Lough Rea – my Dad is from near there and it’s a much smaller lake as well! There is a Carmelite abbey and monastery in Loughrea town itself, but the convent is empty now as the nuns left in 2020. I’m not sure how much of a presence the monastery has in the town, masses are still being held there… This would be the same Abbey that my grandmother regularly went to Mass at before she died. This is also the same Nana that refused to go to Mass when they changed the time of the Mass so it no longer suited her. As far as she was concerned for those few months in Loughrea, there was no Mass held. (It’s not off the side of the road I got my stubbornness!)

Interestingly, that Carmelite convent started off in 1680, when Eleanor Bourke (a “young lady of noble birth” according to Declan Kelly’s Loughrea: A Parish History where I got some more info!) decided she wanted to live a life of piety and the first Carmelite house in Ireland was supplied to her near St. Brigid’s Well in Loughrea (which is now thought to be St. Bride’s on Bride Street). This could be why the video on the National Museum website says the convent was dedicated to St. Brigid?

At this point, I find myself intrigued by the history of St Brigid in the west and I can see a few road trips in my future as I explore this more fully. Including a more careful reading of Declan Kelly’s book. And seeing if the Carmelites have any histories of their own…

And yes, this did all come from a random mention of St. Brigid’s Shoe Shrine in a paper on academia.edu by Niamh Whitfield called Dress and Accessories in the Early Irish Tale “The Wooing Of Becfhola”. I got to page 6 of a 34 page document and just had to pop off and do all this other looking up about the shoe shrine and then I was so excited I had to write to all ye about it. And it doesn’t include the list of other writings, books, papers etc already referenced that I have noted to look up later. As to why I started reading it? I wanted to know how accurate my mental images are of the clothes our ancestors would have worn, whether Iron Age type clothing or Middle Age type clothing. I have the brat and the léine in my head of course, but I’m not sure how accurate that is, so hence the reading to find out.

I know I keep going on about it, but really, reading up on this stuff is fascinating and this morning’s activities are yet another example of how a simple article reading exercise progresses to a rabbit hole of research… a labyrinthine mind is a wondrous thing!

Know yourself

I won’t speak to other pantheons, but I feel the Irish pantheon kinda insists on their followers doing a lot of work around knowing themselves. And within that pantheon, I feel like Brigid pushes her followers to know themselves a lot. Her followers speak about going through the anvil almost as a rite of passage, except it rarely is a one-time journey and it demands self-knowledge in a way my experience of organised religion never did.

(side note: as I was typing the above, I could feel other Irish deities kinda poking their heads up and saying “What now?” Brigid is of course not the only deity that pushes self knowledge among her followers, she’s just the one I have most experience with. )

But what does self-knowledge mean? And how does one go about learning about it? We should know ourselves right? After all, most of the people reading this blog have probably been living on this earth for a few decades at least?

Well true, but there’s many people who can live their lives and not delve deep into themselves at all. And when I think of self-knowledge, I tend to divide the knowledge into 3 realms, similar to how I prepare for festivals: physical, emotional/mental, spiritual. In physical terms, “knowing yourself” often comes up in sexual conversations, particularly with women (or at least, particularly in my experience of being a woman, which is not universal) And it usually comes in related to sexual pleasure, which is an important part of life, in my opinion, so I’m not knocking it. Knowing how your body receives pleasure, whether sexual or otherwise, is hugely important. But there’s also other things to know about your body. What does it look like? What does it feel like? What sensations does it like? What textures, fabrics, surfaces does it like? What foods have what effects on it? (Yeah, there are days I live on chocolate, no harm in admitting it, but really, long-term, that’s not what my body looks for!) What movement does it like? You may not be able to give your body everything it likes, but know what works best can help a lot.

For example, over the years, because of my work and lifestyle, my body has gotten used to a lot of sedentary time. In fact, there are days I can go by with fewer than 500 steps if I don’t make an effort. That’s not the preferred state for my body, it works better with more movement. Equally, washing my body daily is a good idea for me, washing my hair daily – less so. It works better if my hair is washed a few times a week rather than daily. Nothing life threatening really here, but it’s about knowing myself.

You can take this and work through the mental/emotional realm and the spiritual realm as well. What works best for you? And while you might think that quitting your job and running away to wilderness would suit you best, maybe figure out how you’re going to live beforehand and pick up a few of the skills you’ll need before such a major commitment?

What brought this to mind? Well, we’re on the May Bank Holiday weekend here in Ireland and celebrated Bealtaine over the weekend. As part of my celebrations, I didn’t spend money between midday 30th April and midday 1st May. And I found it difficult. I rarely spend money physically, at the weekends anyway, but it is a time when I can spend a lot on Amazon and other online sites. I didn’t realise how much of a habit it was until I found myself very uncomfortable on Saturday night, not browsing my usual websites. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, I’m not spending money we don’t have, but it was interesting to note my levels of discomfort and this is now something I’m going to explore some more over the coming weeks.

It may just be a habit and my discomfort was the usual discomfort of changing a habit, for however short a time. It might also be that this is a soothing activity of some kind for me. It may be completely harmless, but such a marked experience is worth exploring further.

I have heard people ask what use is it following the habits of our ancestors in the modern world and what use they have for us. Well, this is one of the uses for me – it can expose parts of ourselves we might not otherwise have noticed. My husband and I regularly have something neither of us are interested in on the telly at the weekends, while we read or browse the internet, so that didn’t bother me. Stopping myself hitting “Checkout” though was very interesting and caused some internal discomfort so it’s worth exploring a bit more.

This is just one habit of course, at one festival, one person’s experience. And there are other ways to know yourself – journaling is more consistent, if done regularly, shadow work is useful if done with solid theory and foundations, there are loads of ways to explore self knowledge. Hell, lighting some candles, putting on your favourite underwear and having a good explore session with your body is an amazing way to spend an evening, the work doesn’t always have to be difficult and painful!

Have a think over your practices and which bits can cause unexpected reactions in you and see what you can learn or explore further there. You might be surprised what you learn!

Grounding

More than one of my friends have mentioned to me over the last few days about their struggles with grounding lately. Now, many of these people would have significant experience in working with energy and being focused and in generally, could usually ground in their sleep – and, I’m fairly certain, have done so!

I’ve had some difficulties myself, to be honest, but it’s manifested in a slightly different way than usual, so it took me a while to figure out what was happening. So I thought I’d go through some of my techniques for grounding that don’t really require training as such.

First and easiest for me is to stand barefoot on the ground – grass or sand or clay or earth. Tarmac/concrete/floors work as well, but the natural base helps significantly. Stand barefoot and feel the ground beneath your feet. Imagine yourself being rooted to the earth. It should help a lot.

If you want to go even further and your local weather allows is, lying on the ground, particularly again in nature, exposing the maximum amount of your body to the earth, is very helpful. If you have hair like mine, it might be easier to tie it up, rather than allow it to attract every leaf, cobweb and other natural debris in the local area, but it’s not necessary. Some would say loose hair is a necessity for this, but I say those people don’t have wild, curly hair with a mind of their own! 🙂

Next up is standing in moving water – anything with a current or a wave, regardless of how small it is. So, lake, stream, sea – now, I’ll be honest, a lot of the time, the initial cold takes my breath away when I do this and you need to be careful about safety and not be wading hip deep in a heavy current – water safety is always important! But even that shock to the system of cold water is useful for bringing you back to yourself (as long as you don’t have a medical condition where that shock of cold would harm you) If you can submerse yourself as well, even better. But with Irish weather, this might not be advisable. Although rain would work as well – you’d just have to deal with your Mammy giving out to you and threatening you with pneumonia for standing out in the rain.

Next one is to eat something mindfully. By this, I mean, select something and put some time into eating it. Focus on the taste, the motions you use to eat, to chew, the sensations in your mouth, your throat, on your hands as you move the food to your mouth. Think about the smell, texture, sight. Does the food make a noise? Narrowing your focus like this is a handy way to bring you back to the presence. Think about the journey this food has had to reach your plate. Contemplate the movement around the earth (or down the road, or from the back garden), the work that went into producing it and moving it and getting it to you. Think of all the times this food has touched the earth, moved across the earth, as part of this massive ecosystem of ours.

Finally – and this one is a bit controversial, but bear with me. Go to the toilet. Defecate if you can. It’s hard to feel ungrounded while pushing faeces out of your body. This activity is one of the natural times of the day (or week or month, depending on your body’s cycles, I guess) to consider our bodies, our physical selves and our connection to the other physical bodies around us and beneath us. And yeah, I get it, it sounds yucky. But here’s the thing – our faeces and urine are the waste we expel from our bodies and return to the earth. There is a connection there between us and the earth. OK, these days, we mostly treat our waste before returning it to earth, but nevertheless, at the end of the sewage system, or in the septic tank, that’s what happens.

So there you go – a few quick and handy techniques I find useful for grounding. Let me know if they help!!

A new look at shadow work

Trigger warning for abuse, sexual assault, and other horrible experiences

Any student, or causal reader of Jungian psychology will be familiar with his concept of our shadow selves. If you’re not familiar with it, and sure, there’s no reason you should be! it’s the exploration of the unconscious or hidden parts of ourselves, including those parts of us we repress or try not to acknowledge. Usually because they’re the less-nice bits.

You know – the bits that ache to punch someone cos they annoy you. Or the parts that enjoy some (what you consider to be) abnormal sexual position or activity. Or even some part of you that wasn’t accepted when you were growing up and therefore you swear isn’t part of you. (Not that I have experience in any of these! Ahem. Nope, not me…. totally lying here by the way)

Anyway, I came across what looked like an interesting book the other week called Existential Kink by Carolyn Elliott and bought it. I mean look at it – why wouldn’t you?

Image of the front of the book Existential Kink by Carolyn Elliott, PhD. which has a woman’s face, mostly covered in shadow, but a strip of light or non shadow over her eyes and with her right hand covering her right eye. There is a red circle with white writing on the top left hand side saying “A method for getting what you want by getting off on what you don’t”

I’ll be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Many of the works on shadow work have a tendency to be a bit victim blamey and don’t take into account the fact of abuse, intimate partner violence, sexual assault and other horrible things that happen all over the world, every day. And, if I’m even more honest, there was a tinge of that in the book, although at least childhood abuse is eliminated from the question.

And ok, I can accept that someone who has had multiple abusive relationships may need help to figure out what is it about these partners that attracts them and how to work out the warning signs. I don’t think abuse is the victims/ survivors fault though. No one causing their own abuse. And that’s something these kind of books keep on putting out there. So, if you are, like me, the survivor or victim of an abusive relationship, just remember this: it’s not your fault. You didn’t force someone to abuse you. OK?

On the other hand, I can see, looking back, how I have done work similar to what is described in this book about things that might have led me down that path. The author describes getting very friendly with the physical feelings that certain situations evoke in us. As in – if you are constantly short of money, then imagine being completely broke and see what the physical feeling evokes in you and luxuriate in it. Obviously, this process is explained miles better in the book, but essentially, I like the idea of exploring fully the conditions we want to escape and never seem to be able to. The author encourages you to feel these emotions and physical sensations so thoroughly and deeply that you orgasm (hence the name!) Now, I can’t say I orgasmed from my experiments with the book, but I did find it useful to identify ways I no longer seek sensation in life, but have them covered through specific activities.

And the prologue is shite. Persephone and Plute are in different pantheons for a start and her ideas behind what happened to Persephone – well it’s rubbish in my eyes. However, I did follow on through with the rest of the book and I’m glad I did.

And at it’s core, the process is similar enough to most shadow work processes I’ve seen, but the sexual element is a new one for me and makes the whole thing more attractive (your mileage may vary!) Because a lot of the shadow work process, whether group or individual, I’ve worked with before can ignore sex and desire as part of shadow work. I’ve worked with one or two good ones that at least sexual desire exists and is part of human life, but it’s not widespread. Which I suppose speaks to the need for something like this.

Essentially this book works through with you a process taking you through as many of the taboo subjects or areas we’re not meant to be attracted to in life as possible and helps you see if these are things you need to address, and how to address them. From that point of view, it’s a good book.

It’s also well written, well researched, on solid foundations as they say. I mean, it’s not like you’ll completely go over to the dark side, unless you really want to. But understanding why we feel the way we feel or why we have “issues” we can’t move past is really helpful in actually moving past them.

Now this is an adult book, both by topics and language. It’s not aimed at kids. So, there’s a bit of language in it, there’s discussion of sexual things in general, there’s references to orgasms and other sexual acts. So, if that sort of talk offends you, don’t buy the book, it’s not for you. If you’re not interested in looking into the darkness of yourself, it’s not for you either. If you look to align yourself completely with “light and love” eliminating any mention of darkness from your life – ignore this completely, it’s not for you.

To be fair, if you already have a shadow work process that works for you, this may not be for you, although you might pick up something useful for yourself along the way.

But, if you are interested in exploring the deepest, darkest corners of your soul, where you know the skeletons are buried and looking to move past what is holding you back into a new future? This is definitely for you. If you want to explore the things that you have repressed, for whatever reason, and dig up the dirt on yourself – go for it here. And even if you want to dip your toe in, this is a reasonably safe process by which to start off as well – although maybe tackle your issues around toffee lattes before hitting the deep childhood stuff…

All in all, as with any shadow work, do your homework and don’t start engaging with something you don’t trust, but I found this book to be really good, enjoyable read and useful process to follow.

Brigid and her Da

Because I’ve been preparing for a Bealtaine ritual and practice class over the last few months, I’ve been working more than usual with the Dagda. I mean, he’s always there in the background anyway, it’s not like he’s not a regular visitor, but I’ve been actively working with him more than usual lately. To the extent that I exclaimed in one of the Brigid in Ireland classes just after Imbolc that I had only Frankincence & Myrrh incense available to me! (For reasons with that, check out the stories about How the Dagda Got his Staff, I think both Jon O’Sullivan and Morgan Daimler have the story on their blogs)

Anyway, as part of the work, I’ve been looking at the relationship between the Dagda and Brigid. And if I’m honest, it bears reflection on the relationship with my own Dad as well. I mean one of the Dagda’s epitaph’s is “Ollathair”, meaning “Father of many” and not “Father of all” as many translate it. That’s Zeus I think? Definitely not Irish anyway!

But the relationship between the Dagda and Brigid is really interesting. She’s one of his offspring that just don’t have a story with him as such, acting in a fatherly way. She’s clearly outlined as the Dagda’s daughter in several places in the lore, but they don’t get a story together really. So what follows here is extrapolated from the lore, but is UPG. Maybe I should put that in big red letters or something?

Anyway, for me, the Dagda comes across as a loving and caring Dad to his offspring. He brings one of the back from the dead, he arranges for another to get the land he wants, paying out of his own land for replacement for the previous occupant, he takes in foster kids, the general impression is a father who loves his kids and will do right by them. Now I don’t get the feeling he’s a complete push over, but I can also see him easily sneaking sweets or a few quid when it’s needed as well as providing the discipline when that’s needed as well.

And he doesn’t claim to be perfect one way or another, which is good. You add that impression to my impressions of Brigid as an independent, stubborn, dedicated deity who does what it takes to get the job done, and you can see where she’d get that work ethic from. The Dagda is good at it, whatever it is, y’see and I can’t imagine him allowing his daughter not to be prepared for anything life might throw at her.

I can easily see them sitting down by the fire, debating freely the topics of the day, or talking through problems, or working out difficulties. I imagine they have similar debates as the ones myself and my own Da have as well – where we know damn well the other one isn’t going to change their mind and the arguments are so old, we each know what the other will say, but sure it’s fun to revisit the classics anyway… A gentle teasing undercurrent, a mutual respect, an insistence on facts and proof…

Relating to parents or children as adults isn’t always an easy transition to make, but I figure after a few thousand years or so, they must have gotten there right?

I know from personal experience as well that the Dagda is an expert at the gentle chiding that my own Da can produce at times as well. He (the Dagda) isn’t too happy with how I’m nourishing myself lately, although he understands my issues with food, and isn’t pushing it too far. He’s also reminded me every morning this week that I’m teaching this class on Saturday and it’s not written yet (it will be don’t worry, he just wants to make sure it’s done right…)

That subtle, gentle “are you sure you want that” could be hugely annoying from someone else, but from the Dagda, I can take it since he doesn’t overdo it and it’s generally after 2-3 days of a 100% chocolate diet. (Oh yeah, that’s possible, trust me 😀 ) And it’s never given in a “you always do this” or ~”oh shite, you’re at this again?” type of way. It’s always more of a “look, you know you will feel better if…) Which helps a lot.

And he wants to keep an eye on his daughter as well. Even if she is a grown adult and is perfectly capable of helping herself, if he can help her, he will, whether it’s a few quid at the end of the month or dropping in to take care of a few small repairs she’s too busy to tend to herself. She’s his little girl after all, for all she’s a deity in her own right. And that’s isn’t to belittle her at all, more that he cares for her and loves her and won’t give up on her no matter what. And in return, she will pop by for him, when she feels he’s doing too much or invite him round for a bite to eat on a night she knows he’s been pushing himself hard, or even think up an excuse for him to have to do some gentler work urgently as a break from the more difficult stuff.

Or indeed, either of them can provoke a row or heated debate with the other, when they realise the other needs to let off steam. And offer a hug for comfort as well.

He’s a big man, the Dagda, both physically and energetically and he can be overwhelming sometimes, but he’s aware of this and wouldn’t want to cause accidental harm to people just saying hello. I’d still approach him with respect and courtesy initially at least, unless/ until you develop a relationship with him and be careful what you say to him. I once said he was welcome to what food we had in the house and very quickly changed it to he’s welcome to share in our meals, because otherwise, we might find ourselves out of food very quickly! He won’t come where he’s explicitly not invited, but he will come and visit members of his family from time to time, so don’t worry if he pops up as part of a Brigidine practice. It’s probably not you he’s checking up on, although it might be.

He’s fair, he’s steady, he’s dependable. He’s also highly attractive to the ladies, if the amount of mothers for his kids are anything to go by. He can be a rock in a crisis, but he’s a better rock after you develop a relationship with him. He’s big on hospitality and cooking and looking after people. But he can and will remind you to look after all your tools, even your own body, mind, spirit.

And there’s nothing specifically in the lore to tie him into Bealtaine, but the general themes of fertility (in Ireland mostly of the bovine sort or general prosperity, but human fertility fits the Dagda as well), preparing the ground, marshalling resources for the coming year fit him very well. So it’s UPG for him to be linked to Bealtaine, but he’s the most obvious one for me!

Has the Dagda appeared in your work with Brigid? How has it gone?

Ireland’s (other) patron saint

St Patrick’s Day is celebrated in Ireland, and indeed all over the world, on 17th March, or your nearest day off, depending on whether you’re lucky enough to get the day off or not. And there’s “controversies” every year about the day, with Irish people moaning it’s yet another holiday associated with a religious holiday, pagans moaning that dear, old Paddy wasn’t all that great, and history experts (the real sort, not the internet sort) getting caught in between.

And after one of my recent emails to my fans (or at least people who agree to sign up to receive emails from me, click here if you’re interested) people came back asking what my thoughts on the day. So here you go…

I’ll be the first to admit that, for a lot of my life, Paddy’s was celebrated as a day off work or a day on double pay when I was in college. In my early years post-college, it was a chance to meet up with friends in Dublin, see the parade, or the tail-end of it, and then hit the pubs for the day. It was a day to relax and let our hair down, and drink quite a lot. So, having been in that tradition myself, I don’t really condemn those who celebrate in this way now. I can’t bring myself to be that hypocritical and, really, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying yourself.

Where I do get a bit annoyed is when people start saying that because it’s Paddy’s Day, there’s almost an onus on us to get plastered, sure cos aren’t the Irish all mad drinkers anyway? Alcohol causes a lot of problems in this country, so don’t be using that rhetoric to justify or excuse letting your own hair down. I drank for problematic reasons for years, beginning far younger than I really should have, I recognise now, even if it was the norm. I also know there are plenty of my friends who started drinking around the same age I did who didn’t end up with the years long dubious relationship with drink. So, that comes down to the individual (and I should add, the laws of the land. I’m not recommending anyone go breaking laws now!)

And the whole dying rivers green thing and the lighting up buildings green and all the rest – it’s great advertisement for Ireland and fair play to those places doing it. I did feel sorry for poor Micheál Mairtín though, getting COVID so he couldn’t meet with Joe Biden. Paddy’s being a chance for our politicians to go promote the Irish tourism industry all over the world – take advantage of it, if it brings in more money to deal with the problems we have at home!

The things I don’t like seeing? Well there’s the annual “Paddy is a druid-killer” debate, seeing as how he drove the snakes out of Ireland. As far as I’m aware, the whole “drove the snakes out of Ireland” thing was invented to explain the distinct lack of snakes on this island – apparently we’re too wet and cold for them. More joy to us, in that case! Also, Paddy wasn’t going around killing people as a general rule. He was a lone man in an isolated country, where he’d been a slave a few years previously, before escaping. He also wasn’t the first Christian on the island either, there were Christians before him, or so Pope Celestine 1’s letter to Palladius in 431 would indicate, referring as it does to Palladius being “first bishop to the Irish believers in Christ.” So, he wasn’t the first, he wasn’t the last, he was just the one with the best propogandist.

He also didn’t eradicate paganism from Ireland. I can’t find anyone daring to specify a date from which we can consider Ireland to be Christian, but most academic resources outline a syncretic process happening over centuries rather than at the point of a sword over a single generation. I have read in various places that a few outbreaks of famine where the monastic settlements had more food than non-monastic settlements helped a bit as well. (Oh yeah, there’s way more than 1 famine in Irish history!!) And some would say, myself included, that Christianity in Ireland was always a thin enough veneer over a deep bedrock of paganism. In comparison to the more fundamentalist Protestant religions, Catholicism is often considered pagan anyway, but it is monotheistic officially, whatever about the realms of saints…

I also dislike intensely people from outside Ireland telling us how we should and shouldn’t celebrate the day. Let’s face it, for many of us, it’s a day off work or a day we get double pay for working. There’s few people would give that up just to satisfy other people’s notions of how we should celebrate our country. And for many of us, Paddy’s isn’t even a religious occasion any more. It’s a time for relaxing, maybe for venturing forth to your local parade, which will be extremely different to the big on in Dublin in most cases, for spending time with family, for catching up on housework or just relaxing and chilling. It’s a day off.

And it’s a day we can celebrate being Irish. Not that we can’t celebrate 365 days of the year, but there is a buzz about the day of the year when it seems the whole world turns green. It’s also fantastic in (very) recent years to see the communities of emigrants celebrated in the national parade, and this year was the first time I have seen the Travelling Community represented in the national parade (although they could have been there in previous years and I didn’t notice? Or did I imagine that? Either is possible and firm answers either way are welcomed.)

This is the day we can turn out our best image possible and let the world admire us.

It doesn’t take away from all the issues in the country – direct provision, homelessness, violence against women, poverty, hunger… All these things will still need to be dealt with. And I don’t mind St. Patrick having his day after all, haven’t I said plenty of times before, he has his day, but Brigid supports the people throughout the year? Patrick is our immigrant saint, the one that we have claimed as our own, as we have claimed other immigrants and invaders over the years. We now need to learn to extend that to the more recent immigrants, extend it to those who maybe don’t look quite like us? (Yes, I’m talking about non-white immigrants here, we need to be better about racism in this country. As in eradicate it and listen to the lived experience of those BIPOC in our society to do so).

Colmcille is our emigrant patron saint, who paved the way for so many emigrants over the centuries, some more willing than others. Brigid is our homegrown and stayed saint. No wonder she’s special!

But back to Patrick. This year, I slept in, no alarm clock. Read a bit. Watched the parade on the telly. Tried to moderate a bit online, but frankly, I’m unsure whether anyone was willing to listen. I didn’t even bother having a drink this year, cos I was looking forward to my bed!

If you’re Irish – no one really has the right to tell you how to celebrate our national holiday. People can give opinions all they like, but it’s up to you. If you’re not Irish, then maybe listen to the Irish around you. And remember, just because one Irish person once told you X was ok, doesn’t mean it is acceptable to any and all Irish people.

If you’re not Irish and if you want to celebrate Irish food and cooking – brown bread, fruit scones, bacon and cabbage, spuds with plenty butter, don’t go skimping now… If you want to celebrate Irish drink – the big named brands are all pretty much foreign owned. Try some of the smaller distilleries, Slane whiskey (distilled not far from where I grew up) is nice, as is Connemara whiskey. There are also some beer/ ale breweries around the country as well, just do your research because big names like Jameson are owned by Pernod Ricard (just as an example) There are also plenty of Irish food producers, whether you’re looking for chocolate or seaweed. Do your research and see what locals think of them – that’s usually your best bet.

Be respectful, don’t talk over native voices and listen to what’s being said. The Irish, no more than any other group of people on earth, are not a monolith and what I’ve said above may not pass for any other Irish person. But seriously – a day without the alarm clock going off, who’d refuse that??

So I took a week off

I was planning on a week off from the day job last week anyway, but then it turned into a week where nothing work related really got done at all. And I thought I’d explain how this happened!

I was travelling on the first weekend to see my new niece – those of you in the Brigid’s Forge Facebook group will have seen the pic of the adorable little cherub. Now initially, we were meant to be staying with my baby brother and his wife, but her Dad was then in hospital so the house was given up to her family so they had a base to be going in and out of the hospital from. No problem for us, night in a hotel. And to help out, I was bringing up a boot load of food because I knew damn well my bro would be trying to feed everyone no matter what time they were coming and going at. A few freezer meals is no harm is these situations! But I still got a good 2 hrs solid cuddling with the niblet and I am so happy I did. Plus I managed to fit in a decent walk in Salthill which would rejuvenate the soul frankly, and spent some time with my feet in the sea and just reconnecting with myself essentially.

Then on the Monday, I was over in Waterford, talking to some academics on a new course we’re trying to put together to help technicians advance in their careers, or even just develop the skills to make them better technicians! And while I was there I fit in a lovely few hours in Tramore, again washing the feet, spending time with the sand and the sea and the sky. I was blessed both days that it was mostly fine, decently warm, although most other people were well wrapped up, I was fine in my cardie. Possibly some inner fire from herself there?

On Tuesday, I did nothing. I sat on the couch. I slept. I stared into space. I couldn’t even follow The Big Bang Theory on the telly. So all plans at that point were cancelled, because since I had the breakdown late last year, I am paying attention to my mental state.

Wednesday, I got my husband to Lidl to get some food in (we were reduced to instant noodles on Tuesday night – just on their own, not even a scallion chopped up in them!) and I got a couple of bottles of wine and we planned a quite Paddy’s day.

Oh yes, in case you missed in, last Thursday was Paddy’s Day, when suddenly everyone’s Irish, and has a license to start drinking at 9am or earlier. Well, that’s not how my Paddy’s went. Now don’t get me wrong, when I was younger, I loved the excitement of going into Dublin, spending the day with friends drinking, watching the parade, trying to find out favourite night club that wasn’t charging to get in and generally letting our hair down. We’d have cocktails, and catch up on all the goings on of the last year, because some of these friends I’d not seen for the last 12months. But time moves on. And the days of me spending a full day drinking are long gone. Mind you, so are the days of me needing hair of the dog to function the next day as well. I think the way I spent this Paddy’s was much healthier for me – mentally and physically.

I had a good long 10hr sleep. I watched the parade on the telly. I admired my niece’s latest photo (the poor child is going to be the most photographed child in Ireland!) I spend time chatting to family and friends. I read some books. We had chicken teriyaki for dinner. I didn’t bother with the wine cos I didn’t feel like it in the end. And you know, that probably wasn’t that different to most other people on this island, except anyone with kids would probably have been involved in their local parade as well. The % of Irish people going on the piss for the day fairly low. And if you want to know more about St Patrick, go look at the Irish Pagan School, there’s a grand course on there for the truth about him, not to mention the numerous videos on the youtube channel. And there was a fair bit of time spent on social media countering the various falsehoods about St Patrick and the Irish relationship with him. I could go into that here, but honestly, I’m still drained from it. If my opinions on this are something you’re interested in, let me know and I’ll see about gathering up the energy to do it later on.

Friday, I started to feel more energy, I was reading more, did a youtube workout video, I actually cooked something. Saturday was even better, my husband and I went out for a very late lunch, did some brief shopping around town, and I started to defrost the freezer. I know, I live an exciting life. In the middle of this, my brother messaged me to let me know his father-in-law had passed away, which was sad, but also a release from pain for the poor man. This doesn’t of course make it any less sad for his family though.

Anyway, this meant Sunday was spent finishing off the freezer (which is still empty and shining!!) getting food in for the week, getting to the bottom of the laundry basket and figuring out how I could manage all my expectations for this week, booking hotels and things like that. Also ringing my mother in a panic cos I thought it was Mother’s Day – it wasn’t, it’s next week, in Ireland at least! But still. It also meant packing my clothes to deal with three days away from home and deciding on what approach I’d take to food.

Now after typing all that, it doesn’t sound like a very restful holiday, but it was really. Defrosting the freezer is something I’ve been trying to do since before Christmas but couldn’t make myself start. It’s also been a while since we saw the bottom of the laundry basket, or had all the clothes put away instead of being in piles everywhere. There are loads of things I didn’t do – sorting out our medical receipts, getting last year’s taxes sorted out, getting in to the doctor, etc, etc, etc, but the 10+ hrs sleep a night was really healing and rejuvenating. I work just before my alarm clock this morning which was great, and I was able to do my morning routine with little pain.

Why did I give all that run down? Well, I talk about self care here a lot. And a lot of the time, it’s about eating right, moving my body, sleeping etc. But sometimes it means taking a week off and just going with the flow. A lot of the time it means adjusting your plans for the week to what must be done versus what you’d like to be done. A lot of the time it means eating instant noodles because the thought of having to get in the car and drive somewhere is just too damn hard to contemplate. And hell yeah, I’m privileged to be able to do this and have the flexibility to do this. I appreciate that very much. It also brought home to me how much more I need to tune into my energy levels and my general feelings on a day to day basis rather than waiting til I get to that “sitting on the couch staring” stage again.

My week off was far more and less of a week off than planned, but I’m happy with the way it came out. I was even able to sleep last night, without worrying about what I’d face in work this morning, which was a big change. So there you go. My week off! I didn’t even manage to light a single candle while I was off… I did have a few chats with herself though, more on that later 🙂