Preparation

Photo taken this morning as the sun rose

I took the above photo this morning as the sun was turning from brilliant red to orange and yellow. The old rhyme rang through my mind: “Red sky at night, shepherd’s delight; red sky in the morning, shepherd’s warning”. It’s the most basic preparation we can do for the day, figuring out what weather we’ll need to deal with. Less so for most of us in the modern world, when if the weather is bad (and in Ireland this means wet, cold, windy or some combination of the three!), exposing ourselves to the weather is limited to the scurry from car-door to building-door and back again. But even as much as 50yrs ago, knowing what the weather would be doing that day was important as you set about your daily tasks.

We prepare for other things too – both sacred and profane. In the longer term, most people I know do the Big Weekly Shop, to see us through the next week food-wise. We prepare food for eating. We select clothes to wear, making sure we have them washed and ready for public consumption before throwing them on in the morning. We prepare for big live events – weddings, funerals, baby ceremonies, religious ceremonies. For all sorts of things we prepare.

And part of that preparation is the conscious preparation. For me, I celebrate or mark the fire festivals in Ireland. They give me an excuse to do certain things, but I’ve realised in the last months that I do a lot of personal preparation as well. And now I’m trying to put a structure around that and recognise what I do, when I do it, why I do it, etc. And in doing so, I’ve realised a few things.

In the mundane, and sometimes even the sacred world, we tend to focus on physical preparation: cleaning the house, getting washed, buying a new outfit or selecting a current outfit, maybe getting the hair and nails done, making sure we’re clean and presentable basically. We’ll also maybe sort out food, a venue, entertainment – whatever is in keeping with the occasion itself.

We tend to look overmuch at the spiritual and emotional side of things. And as I’ve looked at how I prepare for our festivals, I notice that actually, I tend to do this as a festival approaches. Right now, as the days are noticeably shortening and cooling, my mind turns to Samhain. I’ve restarted lighting my candle in the morning, something not necessary in the summer months when the sun is up early, but definitely needed now. I’ve started looking at more snuggly food, comfort food, stews, soups and curries instead of the lighter summer fare. I’ve refocused on my meditation in the mornings and at night to allow me that space of peace in the day. I’m looking at preparing my body as well – reinvigorating my movement practices to accommodate the shorter days, the darker days.

This year, as I said above, I’m paying more attention to what I’m doing and noting whether it’s a sacred or profane practice, aimed at mind, body or spirit. What state of mind am I heading towards? What are my meditations bringing me to? What is my body calling for? (Weirdly at the minute – less chocolate, but that’s another post!!)

There are many ways we can look at preparation for a festival or a ritual – and Samhain in my case is both. But I like what I’m finding out this year and will be sharing more. Right now, even noticing what I’m doing in terms of physical, emotional and spiritual is interesting, as is how my sensitivities and awareness are changing as I do this. It’s not right, I don’t think, to live entirely in spirit – our bodies and minds are important too! But there’s no harm giving the sacred its space in our world as well.

So over the next few weeks, I’ll maybe mention a bit more what this preparation looks like for me.

My major step this week will be hiring a cleaner. With my husband still sick and not getting better, indeed getting worse, the housekeeping has fallen dramatically in our priorities and it’s getting to the point where even I want to give the place a good scrub. I can’t spend my entire weekend cleaning the house though, so hiring a cleaner is the way to go for us! Once I get that up and running I can start looking at the energetical cleaning of the place, or at least of a few key areas in the home, and then we can decide what we want to do, what we have the resources to do and what we will do for Samhain 🙂

Priesthood and roles to play

I have an uncomfortable relationship with priesthood. I mean, really uncomfortable. There is enough Catholic in me that “priest” really means “man in black with a white dog collar” (I’m sure ye can remember the picture from my mini-series on the practicalities of mixing Catholicism and paganism?) And so, when people describe me or address me as “priest” or “priestess”, I tend to get a bit uncomfortable.

And yet… Some of ye may know Lora O’Brien wrote a book on pagan priesthood back in 2019. I read it early on and as I was going through it, I started to get these subtle proddings. Ye may recognise what I’m about to describe – herself gets poking with her hammer and it’s kinda hard to ignore. Lora has divided the book into the duties of a priest, the sacerdotal activities and the community activities, and it has been explicitly pointed out to me the bits I’m already doing, however unofficially. I’m also quoted in the book, seeing as Lora asked me to respond to her questionnaire to get some thoughts from people “in the business” as it were. One of the things that stands out in my mind is when I describe the priest as one whose role is to “provide the shining light in the dark, to be the example, to lead the way… Priests are held to a higher standard in my mind”. Well, at least I didn’t say to be the whistle for signaling at night, right?

Anyway, the prodding is getting more and more urgent lately and certain not-so-subtle hints have been forthcoming. In one way, it’s fierce exciting. In another – I’ve got so much going on in life. And we all know she’s not always fantastic at recognising the limits of her tools. But sure, it’s up to me to remind here of that, I suppose.

What it means is, there will be some changes in the way I practice. Not necessarily the actual practice, but the way I publicise or manage the way I practice. There’ll be more teaching involved for a start (so far there’s an interest in some prep courses for Imbolc and something on the Brigs in the Ulster cycle, with a few more in the wings as well). There’s also a “making official” of the private consultations I’ve done up to now. As in, there’ll be a page on the website, when I get it set up, where you can sign up for some 1 on 1 consultation, should you wish to do so. I’ll also be actually communicating with my email list, with either new blog posts, or some interesting article or other I’ve read, or random bits of activity I’ve been doing. That bloody book will need to be finished!! (I’ve not done anything on it at all in 2021 for… reasons… but that needs to change now)

All in all, it means, I need to step up and be a more public priestess than I’ve been heretofore. I have to admit that actually, I am doing this work and do it a bit less under-the-table. I will need to post here more regularly as well.

Now all of this won’t happen overnight – even she admits it takes time to set things like this up – but it’s a heads-up to people and a warning to myself that she is being serious about this. Plans to follow….

Brigid as Warrior?

I asked for topics to write about in the Brigid’s Forge Facebook group there a few days ago and one that struck my interest almost immediately was Kerry’s comment about seeing Brigid as a warrior. I found this interesting, because I think, while Brigid does most certainly fight, I don’t see her as a warrior. Hear me out…

If we look at her three primary aspects, Poet, Smith and Healer, all these people would be engaging in battles, involved in battles and probably able to fight in battles in ancient Ireland. (I’m going for very definitive time periods this morning obviously!!) We don’t have very many stories of Brigid full stop and the only one I know of directly linking her to a battle pre-Christianity is the bit in Caith Maighe Tuireadh 2, where RuadhĂĄn dies. There’s no mention of Brig as a female warrior in that story, she is RuadhĂĄn’s mother.

We have, of course, examples of female warriors in the tales. We have ScĂĄthach from CĂșchulainn’s training, we have the Neasa who was Conchubar Mac Neasa’s mother (and gave her name to her son in an unusual turn of events!), we have Queen Medb (although here we’re looking at a war leader rather than a warrior herself, maybe). Regardless, we have examples of women known as warriors, in our lore. It’s not unheard.

But Brigid isn’t listed among them, not anywhere I can find.

I suppose at this point it would be useful to explain what I mean by the word “warrior”. I mean an experienced fighter, something different to a soldier, one who acts off their own bat so to speak rather than under orders or as part of a group. (This is my own definition now mind!!) If we translate “warrior” into Irish, one of the words we get is laoch which also means hero – this is closer to the imagery I get when I think of warrior. (Another word I found, gaiscĂ­och has similar links to hero) A warrior or a laoch is someone fighting in a cause in my head, or someone who has surpassed themselves on the battlefield (and a battlefield can be very small or very big!) But there is an inherent use of physical violence for the word “warrior” in my head.

For Brigid, I see her as different. Let’s go back to her three parts: Poet, Smith, Healer. All three would have tied to battle and fighting, while not necessarily taking part in fighting themselves. The Poet – well check out this post (and associated merchandise) from EelandOtter.com on the important of the poet in battles. The deity mentioned as the poet for that battle is the Morrigan, but it still shows the power held by poets over battles and wars. Poets could incite, fuel and end battle and wars. And Brigid is the Goddess of Poets (according to Cormac’s Glossary anyway!!) so she has that power as well.

The Smith is equally as essential during times of war and of peace to the community. Where else do the weapons come from? And from making weapons, you’d surely get an understanding of how to use them? I don’t think weaponry is alien or foreign to Brigid, but the end use isn’t her major focus. And the Smith creates items for creation as well as destruction – the plough as well as the spear, so to speak. Supporting warriors, certainly, but also supporting the farmers, the weavers, the producers of society. Certainly, working at the forge would build muscles and endurance and the ability to pick up a weapon in times of need would be important, but a smith isn’t a frontline troop and if they are picking up weapons, something has gone very wrong…

Finally the Healer. One of the recurring lines I see in my fantasy books is that healers are dangerous, because the ones that know how to put you back together are the ones that can take you apart very easily as well. It certainly puts my GP in a new light! But it’s true. Healers could and did heal terrible wounds and to do so, they needed to understand how the body was put together, to understand how to take it apart, to understand how to put it back together again. It’s still similar to the way surgeons are trained today (from my very limited understanding of things!) Now I think the time required to learn enough to be a good healer might preclude also being an excellent fighter, but, similar to the Smith, Healers are essential at a battlefield or fight, and equally similarly, things have gone very wrong if a Healer needs to pick up a weapon…

Of course not all warriors are physical fighters, and in this aspect of the Warrior, I feel Brigid comes into her own. In the modern world, while I know there are armed. physical conflicts going on all over the world, for most of us, physical altercations are not a way of life. But we do have our battles. This is where the power of Brigid comes in. The Poet can persuade, cajole, teach, educate, etc etc etc to change minds and hearts. The Smith can create the tools and methods society needs. The Healer still heals, but not necessarily battle wounds, or not necessarily physical wounds.

Brigid is inherently involved in many battles, in my UPG. She was active during the Repeal the 8th campaign in Ireland a few years ago. She is active in women’s rights, equality campaigns. She can and will fight injustice where she finds it. She will pick up a weapon when needed, but it’s not her first port of call. Hope this helps!

Stress Management

Warning: this week I’m talking about methods I use currently and have used in the past, some of which are more and less helpful than others. Specifically, I will be writing about alcohol consumption and other activities, which when carried to excess, can be less than helpful

It’s been a really long month this week. Yeah. One of those. I have three major multi year projects going on in work and balancing the stakeholders from each of them – there’s huge overlap in the stakeholders but they appear to forget from one meeting to the next what’s going on. Big audit in work next week as well. Husband still not well and looks like he’s getting worse. House shopping – which is bloody painful.

So, yeah, it’s been a week.

And I’ve talked a lot about popping open a bottle of wine, or ten, tonight. It’s something I do fairly often. I rarely actually do pop open a bottle of wine when I’m like this anymore however. I used to – time was, there would be multiple bottles of wine consumed by me on both Friday and Saturday nights. Took me a long time to pull myself out of that habit. But sometimes I want to feel like I might pop open the wine and enjoy it and the relaxation it brings. The problem is it rarely brings the relaxation any more.

So, I’m going to talk about stress management today. Now my best means to manage my stress is through small, daily actions. And yeah, I mean daily. For me it comes to

  • a good night’s sleep
  • eating food that supports me and is enjoyable
  • moving daily
  • getting fresh air daily
  • drinking enough water daily
  • having “space-out” time regularly
  • regular, daily meditation

It’s not very exciting is it? I can say that this week, I’ve managed 1, maybe 2 of those and it’s showing. So I’m into crisis management now and here’s where the talking a bout hitting the wine tonight helps me. Even if I do open the wine tonight, I’m most likely to have 1 maybe 2 glasses of wine. Because I know that drinking more will leave me feeling worse tomorrow. I’m not dancing it off, I won’t be eating a bit meal with it, I’ll be sitting on the couch watching telly and reading and chatting to the husband. There’s nothing wrong with me having a glass of wine like this mind, but any more than 1-2 glasses and I won’t feel good tomorrow. And I need to feel good tomorrow…

Why?

Well, tomorrow starts the work of regaining the above habits again and it takes time, effort and energy to do that. I mentioned a few months ago about starting to rebuild my meditation practice. I’m not as far on as I’d like with that, partly because when I’m going to bed, my head is still racing from the day and I can’t settle to meditate, so I’m listening to YouTube videos from Fundie Fridays, the Illuminaughty, John Oliver and things like that. They’re entertaining, but hardly the same kind of experience as a meditation from Jason Stephenson (my go-to meditations here are this one and this one – no connections to them, but I love the meditations) Either way, it’s affecting both the amount and quality of my sleep.

Which then leads on to me making less informed or sensible choices when it comes to getting up in the morning – or at least when it comes to breakfast. ideally, I will have either an egg or porridge based breakfast. This is what works for me to set me up for the day, especially when I have a busy day and the gap between breakfast and the next time I eat can be 8hrs. (Please no advice on food or fasting or the types of food I eat. Please. I know what works for me ok?) But when I wake up late, cos I haven’t slept right, or I wake up on time, but I’m really sluggish and can’t get moving. So I end up either not getting breakfast or stopping by McDonald’s on the way to work. (Again, neither bad choices, they just don’t work long term for me). That then leads on to lunch being grabbed from local garage (white bread roll with coleslaw, cheese and tomato with a bar of chocolate) or from Tesco’s (chicken wrap with bbq slaw, crisps and orange juice with a choccy bar) Again neither particularly bad choices but not what works best for me. Then it could be 8pm when I get dinner which means I’m back to not sleeping properly again etc, etc, etc. And you’ll notice no movement, no fresh air, no spaced out time, water is hit and miss and meditation disappears again.

And I’ve had a few weeks of this all knocking out of sync.

But I also know that I can’t just dive back in to all these activities from a standing start. I’m still healing from having my toenail removed a month ago and walking is extremely difficult. Sitting down to meditate when I feel wired is almost impossible. Taking the time to take some deep breaths of fresh air is inconceivable when my work backlog is growing by the minute. So what do I do?

Well, this weekend, I’m doing my best to ignore work. It’s 18:25 here in Ireland as I write this and my work laptop and accompanying equipment is packed away, ready to travel into work on Monday. I’ve spoken to my darling husband about what we’re having for dinner and it looks like either fish or stir fry, so easy food to eat, but also nutritious and filling. I may end up having that glass of wine, but I won’t be deciding that for another hour or so.

Tomorrow, I’ll spend some time spacing out, actively spacing out. I’ll go outside and hobble around the garden getting some movement and some fresh air. I am planning on baking, because I find that something fun to do, but will also give me foods for breakfasts for a few days that are grabbable and easily eaten while driving. I can make sure I have enough clean tops, trousers, bras, knickers and socks for the coming week and lay them out. I can remove as much activity as possible from during the week so that even if I do get caught in work or am ridiculously late home, I have the next day set up already and ready to go. I can start each day fresh and not feel like I am falling behind more and more each day.

For the immediate crisis management though, I am comfort reading tonight. I have chocolate on hand. I may have a glass or two of wine. I have a few films lined up on Netflix I think. I have immediate, short term, “suspension of belief” type activities set up so that I can escape for a while for a few hours. I have used all these tactics in the past to push away life for months on end. That’s not healthy for me. But for a few hours, for one night, it might just get me through and set up for prep work tomorrow…

I can hear people asking, “Where’s Brigid in all this? Why isn’t she supporting you?” Well, bluntly, she is. But she doesn’t stop me spiraling like this cos she sees the work needing to be done. And while my mind and body are more than tools to me, they are tools to her, and sometimes tools need to be driven near to breaking point, then refurbished to get through a shit time. And that’s what we’re doing here. My body and mind have been driven to near breaking point, but not at breaking point, so now, I take the time to refurb and recover. I’m also going to plan in a spa treatment for next weekend to a) give myself something to look forward to and b) give myself some official, designated “space out” time.

I tell my stories when things aren’t going too well because very often, when we look at people’s lives on the internet, we see the curated, clean, special version. We don’t see the mess, the pain, the times when things aren’t going so well. And while a lot of places talk about stress management, very few of them talk about ways to deal with it in the moment. So me talking about drinking several bottles of wine tonight – most of my co-workers know I’m not a big drinker, so they know it’s exaggeration. They also know it’s a way for me to let off a little bit of steam to keep the explosion in check for a while longer. They’ll also notice my language getting a bit stronger, my general attitude degenerating a bit more. And when they ask me how I’m doing, I make a solid effort to be honest rather than covering it over with “I’m grand”.

Sitting still doesn’t help with stress most of the time. Drinking really doesn’t help with stress most of the time. Over eating, over exercising, over sleeping… for a long term solution, none of this helps with stress long term. But short term? Well now, that’s a different story…

Irish Ethnicity and following an Irish deity

There was a really interesting discussion in the Brigid’s Forge Facebook group on ethnicity and how it related to following, working with, being devoting to an Irish deity, such as Brigid as someone who possibly has no blood links to Ireland. And I thought it worth discussing at a deeper level than a Facebook post can allow – I mean, you can discuss things very deeply on Facebook, it just doesn’t come naturally to me to do so…

Anyway. Thanks for Brandon for his original post and thanks to everyone who answered. For this post, I’ll take a look at what ethnicity means, what it can be used for, the issues with it as a route for spiritual practice and a reiteration of what I believe I have said before on working with Irish deity. Hmm… this could be a long one…

Dictionary.com was my first stop – I mean, I had ideas in my head about what ethnicity was but I wanted to start at the beginning and move on from there. What I got was the below:

noun,plural

eth·nic·i·ties.

  • an ethnic group; a social group that shares a common and distinctive culture, religion, language, or the like:Representatives of several ethnicities were present.
  • ethnic traits, background, allegiance, or association:The graph shows class enrollment by gender and ethnicity.

Now for somewhere like Ireland, there are a bunch of cultural, religious and language signifiers that we may not all partake in, but we are mostly aware of. For example, I couldn’t explain the rules of hurling to anyone, but I can still recognise a good game from a bad game and can understand why, on the Monday morning after a match between the two counties my office borders, there’s little enough work going to be done until the match has been replayed at least 5 times, with every puck of the ball examined and critiqued. It’s also hard to explain to outsiders just how Gaelic Games is permeated through the national psyche. I often joke to my family that I’ll start taking an interest in sport again when Meath start playing football again (that’s Gaelic to the foreigners among ye, not soccer!!) It also looks like I may have to make good on that promise shortly, given the changing outcomes of the minors and U-21s in recent years.

These common cultural signifiers have built up over centuries, or even longer. IomĂĄnaĂ­ocht (or hurling) is referenced in our oldest sagas. Setanta’s boyish skill with a hurley was how he protected himself and gained the name CĂșchulainn. (I have my difficulties with CĂșchulainn himself mind, but there’s no denying he had skill with a hurley) The Catholic Church is another ethnic identifier with Ireland. Again, not all Irish people have a close relationship with the Church, but most of us, indeed, when I was growing up, the vast majority of us were at least close acquaintances with the institution. In our schools, in our hospitals, in our politics, in our pubs even, the Church was there, whether seen or unseen. Not all Irish people are members, not all Irish people are followers, not all Irish people are devotees, but if you talk about going to Mass, or that one priest that always stank of drink, or Christmas Eve Midnight Mass at 9pm… these are things that the majority of us will know about.

So, there are cultural ties that are a common holding to the people of this island. We have darker ties as well – the history of colonialism, the devastating effects of social conservatism, strongly supported by the Church, on certain elements of the population (namely, anyone who didn’t fall in line or who had the temerity to suffer from abuse), the economic hardships of the mid-20th century, the generational memories of famine and want. You don’t need to have 7 generations buried in the local graveyard to tie into these memories. How we each individually choose to deal with it is our own business, as long as we’re not hurting anyone else, but it’s all there to be dealt with…

it’s easy with Ireland, we had a fairly low immigration rate for centuries, unless you count our colonisers, which I don’t. Although to be fair, they did add to the gene pool, however willingly or unwillingly the gene pool accepted them. That doesn’t mean there’s anything like a “pure, Irish bloodline” mind you. We’re a nation of mongrels, in my opinion, with our very creation myths coming from the Book of Invasions (Leabhar GabhĂĄla Éireann, or Lebor GabĂĄla Erenn in old(er) Irish). It outlines seven waves of invasions of Ireland of different people and is probably worth a whole series of posts. But the message is clear: Ireland has been invaded a lot. And the seven waves don’t count the Vikings, the Normans, the English…There’s a very worrying trend that “ethnicity” is related to bloodlines and really, that’s just not possible in Ireland. I know, 23andme and all the other genetic data farms are highlighting DNA evidence of coming from Ireland in an ancestral sense, but seriously, that’s based on the genetic data of the people currently in Ireland who are willing to share their genes like that. It’s not the be-all and end-all.

And, to be clear, I also understand that it’s easy for me to say this, being born on this island and being clearly Irish and having that direct link to the land, the people, the history… it’s not as easy for people born elsewhere, but it’s not impossible. But I’ll move on to North America now…

Purely because it’s meant to be a great melting pot (well the States at least, I don’t think Canada has quite the same approach?) and yet, as I saw on a Facebook post recently, unless you are a member of one of the indigenous tribes of the continent, you’re a coloniser. It’s a harsh history to have to deal with. Plus, America is often denegrated for it’s lack of history – people in Europe reasonably regularly pointing out they have houses older than the country of the USA. (I mean, you could argue that Ireland as a country is younger, but I wouldn’t advise it in the hearing of any Irish people. It just took us a while to shake off the colonisers physically and frankly, we’re still working on it emotionally!)

We deal with Irish Americans a lot in Ireland. Coming home, connecting with their roots, spending those all-important tourism euros… There’s two sides to the story though. We, who have had the joy and privilege of growing up on this island know our culture, how it has developed, how it has changed, how it continues to change and develops. The tourists coming home for the first time in generations are trying to match the tales their parents, grandparents told of an older Ireland. Clinging on to those traditions, the ones they could anyway, was hugely important in remember who they are and where they come from. But Ireland moved on without them – to the point, we now get Irish American claiming Boston is more authentically Irish than Ireland… I hope most people reading that sentence might see the problems with it.

But I have sympathy for the Irish American trying to get in touch with their roots. there are a lot of people out there trying to sell a version of Ireland that doesn’t exist any more. Look at The Quiet Man, Darby O’Gill and the Little People, Far and Away… I won’t comment on recent films, because I can’t bring myself to watch them yet, but it’s evoking the sense of an Ireland not familiar to anyone in Ireland today. Or at least, not familiar to us outside history anyway. There are of course, genuine and authentic people, willing to work (and get paid for) helping those trying to get in touch with Irish roots, but sometimes that requires some personal learning and growth on the part of the student as well.

I would say though, that observing my Irish American cousins across the ponds (cos of course I have them! one group in and around New York, another lot around Boston, another lot that started around the Toronto area but are now spread across most of Canada. Yeah, Irish families abroad can be prolific, especially after a few generations…) there is a definite Irish American ethnicity that is distinct from, if related to, the Irish ethnicity. Doesn’t make it worse, but it is different. There is more focus on the old songs, Irish dancing, holding to Catholicism and the guidance of the church. In Ireland, I think my generation was the last of the ones that learned the old rebel songs in school, not that we don’t recognise them. But we don’t sit around in the evening singing away to ourselves. I mean, we’ve got Netflix, like…

You don’t need to be Irish, or even descended from Irish ancestors to work with Brigid, or indeed any other Irish deity. But the reason I say so often you need to understand the Irish culture before diving in deep with Brigid is because you need to understand the context you’re working in. Bloodlines doesn’t give you a boost here – unless you make the effort to learn about Ireland, modern and ancient, you won’t understand the shorthand most people use in cultural settings. Just because your great-great-grandmother came from the Burren doesn’t necessarily give you a special connection to the land there, especially not if you’ve never set foot there. Yeah, it’s shit that people say this isn’t it? You’ve been told your living on colonised land that you have no right to and then the land of your ancestors say you have no rights to their land either. It can lead to being rootless and feeling very adrift and forsaken.

But here’s the thing – you don’t have an automatic right to any land or culture, just because your ancestors came from there. You can earn the right by putting in the work though. Same as us all – none of us get rights, with deity in particular, through one off actions or requests. It comes from building the relationship. Learn. Adopt the beginner’s mind. Don’t expect people to reach out to teach you. There’s loads of good sources on the internet these days. Learning about modern Irish culture could be as easy as signing up to some of our online newspapers (The Irish Times is our paper of record, but it’s fair conservative in nature; thejournal.ie is one of my usual sources, the Indo is another one and the Irish Examiner, although for many people the Irish Examiner is still the Cork Examiner… the Corkonians might suggest that’s the usual Dublin-centric bullshit though) It could mean learning our language – and I don’t necessarily mean Gaeilge here, but there is a distinct slang and dialect associated with Ireland. We tend to refer to it as Hiberno-English as a joke, but from 10yrs living in England, yeah, it’s a different language really!

Sure, learn our history, there’s a lot there, but try learning it from Irish sources. You may be surprised about how much of our history has been rewritten/ adjusted from a colonisers point of view. Check your sources, read the critiques of the work in question as well. Not every Irish author will give you an emotion-free, factual account either, and honestly, it would be strange if they did.

Now, I’m talking here about getting to know Irish deity, but this can all be expanded or adjusted for any deity outside your own culture. Another note of caution on ethnicity as well – most Irish people are lucky to track their families back past their great-grandparents. it requires a lot of work and effort to even get that far. Getting back through the various upheavals, famines, risings, etc is extremely difficult. This is why you’ll find it extremely rare an Irish person will say in seriousness, “I’m descended from this famous king/being/person/chief”. We know damn well how impossible it is to track back factually, through the records, that far. You may well have family traditions that you’re heir to the chiefdom of such-and-such, but being brutally honest, all it is is a family tradition. It might be true, it might not be, but declaiming it and expecting people to observe that will lead you into difficulties. And the further back you go, the less likely you are to be believed or taken seriously. (This is just physcial ancestors of course. Spiritual ancestors are a real thing, in my opinion, but again, be cautious about basing an entire spirituality on nothing other than an assumed spiritual ancestors – check your sources, even when your sources are yourself!)

We need to touch a bit on colour here as well. There’s a really disturbing trend I’ve seen online that only white people can be of Irish descent. For a start, that’s pure bullshit. There were Irish slave owners in the States. Remember Scarlett O’Hara? She is very clearly of Irish descent, the damn plantation was called Tara, ffs. And, not to put too fine a point on it, I can’t believe that Irish slave owners were more adverse to using their slaves as they wished than anyone else was. There are several famous black people in the States with obviously Irish names (Eddie Murphy, Robert Kelly are the two I can think of immediately), not to mention people like Phil Lynott and Paul McGrath who have closer links to Ireland (both born and reared here to Irish mothers, with connections/time spent in England rather than the States). Samantha Mumba, Alicia Keys, hell we even claimed Barack Obama through his great-great-great-grandfather (seriously, check this out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DerVmiZeUDw and yeah, in the grand Irish tradition, it’s a pisstake, ok?) Whether we go back a hundred years or more or we stick with the last forty years, being Irish does not mean you must be white. Yeah, for years, we didn’t mix much outside the country, but mixing a small bit and not mixing at all are two different things.

Your ethnicity doesn’t award you the right to work with Brigid. Your ethnicity doesn’t forbid you from it either. We’ve all got generational shit to deal with (I mean, in India, the Irish were colonisers because of the British Army being one of the few employers available…) Being Irish means you get the joy and wonder and pain and torment of growing up in this country, getting that relationship from the start. It’s like when an Irish person turns up in New York and has to deal with the subway system (I never risked the bus system, that was a step too far!) It takes a while to get used to it… Same with learning about Brigid, learning about the context and culture she comes from, same with the shorthand those born into her traditions use through familiarity. Learn from good sources, use the internet carefully, and if someone declares themselves the One True Authority and Gatekeeper, avoid them like the plague!!!

Why does deity bother with us?

After my last post, you might be forgiven to think that the relationship with deity is for our benefit as humans. And I firmly believe that it does benefit as humans to have a relationship with deity, if only, as I said last time, to have someone to scream at in times of high pain and suffering! But why does deity bother with us?

Now, I won’t be going down the road of deity needing us to exist. I don’t think they do. But I think the deities with the most followers have the most obvious power in this world. (Of course, now we need to explore my views on “obvious power” and “this world”, but we will… eventually!)

This can be a subtle way of thinking about things, but if you look at the deities that have the most power in the world currently, I’d be look at the Christian God (2.4bn official believers), the Muslim God (1.9bn official believers), followed by 1.2bn people who are secular/agnostic/atheist/ non-religious. I’m not sure how atheism is a religion as such, but it’s listed here as part of the 3rd of the top 3 denominations… So between Christianity and Islam, we’ve accounted for 55% of the world’s population. That’s a lot of power to a monotheistic situation.

And we can see clear examples of numbers of followers influencing how a country or nation or even city is governed, how laws are made, how things are done, what the default holidays are, etc, etc, etc. So there is power in being the deity of a majority religion. Of course, I’d argue that a lot of those followers are in name only or because it’s default, rather than true believers, but that’s a story for another day. As an example, in Western Europe, Christmas Day is an almost universal holiday. Easter is also acknowledged in most countries. And while individual attitudes to Christianity are changing in the continent, by and large, Christian values and norms run through the daily practices of the general population. Marriage is predominantly defined (until very recently) as between a man and a woman. (There are still places in Europe where this is so, with same-sex partnerships being allowed civil unions or registered partnerships or something like that – here’s hoping it will change soon!) Polygamist marriages are illegal in most European countries and in both North and South American countries. In predominantly Muslim countries, polygamy, or polygyny at least, is allowed, whether freely or under certain circumstances (this varies from country to country and I’m way outside my swimlane here!!)

I’m hoping you’re starting to see, though, that by having large numbers of followers and by having the tenets of your religion or followers widely understood at some level in the wider population, the power this can give to a deity? Presumably, the followers of a deity would be working towards that deity’s idea of a good, just world? Or at least, that message as it get transcribed from the deity to the people following the deity. I mean, a few good charismatic religious leaders can distort the message immensely – I don’t think it says anywhere in the Bible that unmarried mothers should be abused, have their children torn away from them, buried in septic tanks, or sold to adoptive parents without their mothers’ consent? (I’ve written a bit about this here) And yet, the people who did that in Ireland were “good, Godfearing Christians”…

Messages get distorted over time as well, which is why I recommend going back to the source material yourself, as close as you can.

But back to why deities bother with humans. Aside from the power thing, and numbers do have a power all of their own, there is also the interactions of human with deity. No more than a human can love a dog or a rabbit or a pet, the deities can love us as well – and in my opinion, the balance of equality is about the same in some ways. We, as humans, can’t imagine the vast span of millennia deity deals with. We can’t imagine plans and goals reaching over centuries – in the same way your dog probably can’t really conceive of a walkies next week and not right now! The compass of understanding is on a whole different scale. And, with deity as well as with human, there are good, responsible deities and some less so… There are some that take a very active role in leading, caring for, training their chosen followers, some that take a more “benign neglect” approach and still others that appear to use up and discard their followers. Relationship with deity is not always a comfortable, bright, shiny thing. Sometimes, like a dog snapping when things cross a line, we need to stand up for ourselves. Sometimes the outcome of that might not be to our liking, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less necessary. There are some that regard us as tools (not looking at anyone here at all now!) and occasionally need to be reminded of the care required of those tools as well…

But when it comes to furthering their plans and reaching their goals, deity might not need humans, but followers can make that journey easier in some ways. There are benefits for the deity as well as the human, and while it might not be a relationship of equals, it can still involve give and take. Don’t forget that!

All of the above, however focuses on this world and not any other worlds the deity may be dealing with. In Irish paganism and tradition, we have the Otherworld (although no maps of the place!) which can be seen as the place the Tuatha de Danann went when they went under the hill (the half of the island they got after the Milesians arrive and conned them), the afterlife, a soul space we can visit… It’s many things to many people and honestly, probably best not to limit it too much at all. But it is another world, with different rules, physical and natural laws, ways of behaviour… just because a deity isn’t well known or well revered here in this world, doesn’t mean they aren’t rather more powerful elsewhere 🙂

Why bother with deity?

I’m a firm believer in reciprocal relationships. As in, any relationship I have, there’s a natural give and take from both sides. There are times when the give can be predominantly in one direction and the take in another, but that then balances out over time.

Take parents for example. For most parents, their kids are mostly on the taking end for the first few decades of their lives. The parents can get joy and love back from the kids of course, but a parental role is, traditionally, a giving one. The returns are far more nebulous and hard to define than the obvious food, clothing, shelter they give out. (Please note, I’m not saying all parents do this – I am very well aware, there are truly awful, negligent and neglectful people out there and there are children who have endured a lot. There are also parents who can’t actually provide all they want for their offspring and regret this as well. Not everyone has equal experiences and I want to note that here)

But for most parents in my experience, there isn’t a checks and balances act going on. There isn’t a grand balance sheet keeping account and ticking off 1 hug = 0.5 breakfast or anything like that. But there is energy flowing both ways.

My experience of deity is something like this. No, I really don’t believe Brigid is up there in the sky, keeping accounts of everything I do or don’t do for her, and doling out rewards or punishments in accordance with that. I believe that Brigid will look out for me and help me, as best she can, for as long as I indicate I want or need that assistance. And I indicate I want or need assistance by my words, my actions, my thoughts, my prayers. And sometimes she goes with what I need rather than what I want, but that’s her prerogative. She doesn’t owe me anything.

Now there are times when we will come to an agreement on specifics. Such as, I will engage with a particular activism activity in exchange for her specific assistance in something in my life. It doesn’t ever guarantee a specific outcome cos other people have free will and need to consent. And, as well, the specific outcome I thought I wanted may not come true, but usually something else will. As far as I’m concerned, her help is real.

As an engineer though, my brain is screaming for proof of this and it’s hard to provide. And here’s where we come to a hard truth. As humans, we like to think there is a Higher Power to appeal to. Whether it’s the Christian God, pagan deities, the Universe, Mother Earth, whatever, when the shit really hits the fan, we like to have someone to appeal to for help. Now there are all sorts of psychological studies and other studies out there looking to back up or disprove Voltaire’s famous quote: “If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him“, but there’s also some truth there as well.

While it’s nice to imagine all of us depending on ourselves and finding inside of ourselves the necessary energy, determination, fortitude to keep going when things get tough, I think for most of us (yeah, not all, but most) there are times when calling on an outside power is comforting at least. It’s important to note that in the poem Voltaire wrote, he was showing the importance of the afterlife, and punishment therein, for upholding societal order. The thinking was that the idea of eternal damnation is important for assisting in maintaining social order, since the fear of the afterlife might force most people into good and honest living. This works for a Christian view of life, but not so much for those of us who follow a different path (this might lead to some sort of partial explanation as to why non-Christians were less than welcome in Western societies over the year: how could someone be trusted to behave appropriately without fear?)

I don’t subscribe to this view, and I think it’s one that has fallen out of favour in recent years, particularly in view of the failures of Christian churches all over the world. I’ve written before on the failures of the Catholic Church as an organisation. But the view of morals and moral living still permeates a lot of Western society. (The reason I’m saying Western society here is because I have little to no experience of life outside of Europe and North America).

I will say this though -I firmly uphold the belief that there are no atheists in foxholes. (The origins of this saying are murky at best, with several origin stories discussed in the wikipedia page…) In times of extreme stress, terror, pain or loss, most of us will turn to a Divine Being of some description, whether looking for help or screaming in pain or cursing them to the nth degree… The feeling that there is something outside of ourselves to appeal to, to beg, to plead, to curse… it’s weirdly comforting.

And of course, I believe in the existence of this Divine Force. There have been too many times in my life that I’ve been saved from things through no logic or rationale for me not to believe. And I “choose” to work with Brigid as my main representation of the Divine. (“Choose” might not be the right word there, but it’s not like she holds me hostage or anything!) I also work with other Beings, as most of ye know.

In saying all that, for most of us, those “foxhole moments” are not an everyday occurrence though (unfortunately not all of us). So what, on a day to day basis, is the point of a deity? Why bother to work with them? For my own views on this: well, we are more than our physical bodies. We are ensouled, we are spiritual beings, we are forces of nature. We need to nourish and grow that part of us as much as we need to nourish and grow our bodies and our intellect. We are more than the parts that make us up. And that part, the part that is more than the parts that make us up, is the bit that the Divine gets involved in most of all.

In Irish paganism, our deities are not necessarily omnipotent, omniscience or omnipresent (all-powerful, all-knowing, all-present). They’re a slight step closer to human than that. But that slight step closer, does not mean they are human. They have powers beyond our ken, so to speak. They are good at getting shit down. They help their people. They care for the land and the people. They are here with us, but also elsewhere. When we’re working in line with them, things get, not necessarily easier, but perhaps slightly smoother. I don’t want to downplay all the efforts that go into the work they support by saying it’s easy or easier, because that’s unfair to the people involved. But when we work in line with our deities priorities and desires, things happen.

I can only assume that if you’re reading this blog, you have a belief in deity. That’s great. But I also believe it’s important to examine why we belief in deity and what we mean when we say we believe in deity. This kind of reflection is not where I’m most comfortable – as an engineer, I much prefer the bashing things with hammers bit – but it’s still hugely important. Knowing what we believe, knowing why we believe it, realising how our beliefs change and grow over time, are all hugely important in our spiritual journeys.

So go on, examine a bit: why do you bother with deity?

Forms of address for Brigid

It’s hard when starting out on a new path or transferring from one path to another to come to grips with how to address beings. I mean, people, we can usually figure out, but deities and such like – well, they don’t always bloody answer do they? And few people actively want to be disrespectful to a deity, no matter whether they have a relationship with them or not.

Add to that, many of Brigid’s followers have some form of Christianity in their backgrounds, so we’re used to addressing Our Father, which doesn’t work on all sorts of levels for Brigid. Just for info, I wouldn’t be risking Our Mother either… just to be on the safe side.

Starting off with her name is no bad thing. Except for non-Irish speakers, the name is a bit of an issue. I mean we have Brig in Caith Maighe Tuireadh; Brigit in the Lives, Brighid in later Irish, Brigid in even later Irish and BrĂ­d in modern Irish. Not to mention those of us (ahem, point at myself here!) that use Brigid when speaking English and BrĂ­d when speaking Irish. Now, the way I’d pronounce any and all of these words has little enough variation, but I’d say find a video on YouTube (I know Lora O’Brien of the Irish Pagan School has done at least one video on pronunciations of Irish deities) preferably from someone who speaks some level of Irish – hell, there’s even some videos up on Lora’s channel that she has me speaking on, I’m sure I say Brigid’s name a few times… The thing is – whether it’s Brigit, Brighid, Brigid or BrĂ­d – it’s the same name, the spelling differences reflect changes in the language rather than the name. The reasons we pronounce them differently are to do with colonialism and the attempted eradication of the Irish language. But we won’t go into that here. Needless to say, addressing her in a respectful manner by name, you won’t go far.

The main thing to remember is, you’re addressing a deity here. So think of how you’d addressed any deity and work out from there. I’d not be calling her “Lady” or “Missus”, not unless she explicitly tells you you can – even Lady is a fair big step down for a deity. Calling her “Goddess” probably won’t land you in hot water, but it seems like a lot of syllables… (the lot of syllables bit is my own opinion now mind!) Brigid, BrĂ­d, Brighid – all of these will be fine. In certain circumstances, “Daughter of the Dagda” might be appropriate, if you’re working on her relationship with her aul fella. “Mother of RuadhĂĄn” might also be good. Personal gnosis here, but I think “Wife of Bres” might be touchy, because of the politics involved. I mean, Bres was not a good king and she was married to him, so she had to put up with him…

You will see me refer to her as “herself”. This is an Irish thing. It’s not a mark of disrespect, only someone who is worthy of respect might be referred to as “himself” or “herself”. (There are those who think using the capital H here is more respectful, so “Herself” rather than “herself”, I don’t subscribe to that idea, but I respect those who do.) There’s something important to realise about the Irish approach to people of respect. There’s people you respect and know well – an outsider might never realise just how respected someone is in a community, since as a race, we have a grand tradition of pulling the piss. And really, there’s a tendency to show our respect by the lack thereof in certain circumstances. Not all circumstances, mind, but certain ones.

For example, I had a manager when I was a baby engineer, who was amazingly helpful and supportive to me throughout the 4 yrs I worked for him, to the point that not only did he attend my wedding with his wife, but he was mentioned in my Dad’s speech as being a surrogate father to me while I was in England. I refer to this man as “boss” to this day and he hates it. But it’s how I show how high in my esteem he sits. If I stated calling him by his given name, he’d think I was angry at him. His wife, I will always call by her given name, not because of a lack of respect, but because of a lack of familiarity.

There are elements of Irish culture, such as the apparent lack of respect shown above, that is difficult to explain to outsiders, or people who have not lived in the culture for an extended period. As in decades. There’s nuance here and honestly, until you see it in action, you may struggle with it. In fact, you probably will. So stay on the safe side and stick with what you know until you learn it 🙂

We can always address Brigid by her professions or associations of course. Poet, Healer or Smith are all appellations I feel she connects with. The three titles come from Sanas Cormac (Cormac’s Glossary) and I suppose she could be addressed as a queen, seeing as how she was married to Bres and he was king. I’ve never addressed her as Majesty or anything like that, but it’s usually the Smith or the Healer I deal with, neither profession much given to rank or status beyond skill.

I would steer very far away from addressing her as maiden/mother/crone. It’s not Irish Brigid to be in that mould and I think it could be dangerous. She has a temper after all! I’ve heard of people addressing her as “Mistress” as well – again not something I understand, mistress being a fair long step below deity. “Holy One” might suit your spiritual beliefs and be safe enough as well, “Skilled One” is probably better, in my opinion. You could try “Great One”, but she’d probably be looking for the kick in the tail. She is an Irish deity after all – too much plĂĄmĂĄsery is suspect. (From teanglann: plĂĄmĂĄs, m. (gs. -ĂĄis). (Act of) flattering, flattery; soft talk, cajolery. ~ a dhĂ©anamh le duine, to flatter, wheedle, s.o. NĂ­l tĂș ach ag ~ liom, you are only trying to soft-sawder me. Cuir uait an ~! None of your palaver!)

It is, of course, highly respectful to learn how to address her as Gaeilge (in Irish). BrĂ­d is Brigid in Irish (kinda pronounced “breedj”). Goddess is “bandia” (literally, female god – in Irish when you see the word “ban” at the beginning of the word it means it’s someone female). Duine MĂłr (literally big person) or Duine Uasail (person of respect) are two other phrases although both are very formal and would rarely be used in normal conversation. In fact, duine mĂłr would rarely be used as an address, but more as a description of something.

Now, if you’re speaking Irish, you don’t just start off by saying “BrĂ­d“. You say “A BhrĂ­d“. The “A” denotes the fact that you’re talking to the person, a way of getting attention or directing the conversation. In a similar manner if you were using “bandia” as a form of address, you would say “A bhandia“. Now, it would be equally right to say “A dhia”, seeing as how the use of “ban” to indicate female gender is falling out of use in modern Ireland. And yeah – changing culture does change the langauge!

The Irish for Healer would be something like lia (and you wouldn’t add the “h” after an “l”, so you would say “A Lia”) The Irish for Smith is “Gabha”, so “A Ghabha” and of course, poet would be “File” or “A Fhile“. For anyone working with the saint, we say “Naomh BhrĂ­d” and you don’t say “A Naomh BhrĂ­d”, just “Naomh BhrĂ­d”. Irish is a very simple language, with clear rules – until it isn’t 🙂

Addressing a deity in their own language would be a basic sign of respect, I’d say, no matter what deity you’re dealing with. Very few of them worked in English… certainly far fewer than the widespread use of English in dealing with matters spiritual would indicate.

As a summary then: calling her Brigid/Brighid/ Brigit is sensible, seeing as how that’s her name. Using her titles – Goddess, Poet, Healer, Smith, Queen / Your Majesty (although I have very ambivalent feelings about Queen to be honest). Remember titles like “Lady” might seem fine to us in the modern world, but it’s a fair steep step down from Deity. Those titles in Irish would be even better as outlined in the paragraphs directly above this one. And again, teanglann has great pronunciation help, and there’s also Abair (literally means “say” in Irish) which shows the three major dialects (or canĂșintĂ­ as Gaeilge – I was older than I want to admit before I realised there was an English word for canĂșintĂ­!!)

Hope that helps people who are coming to Brigid or Irish deity from other traditions. I mean, if you make an honest mistake, Brigid isn’t recorded as blasting someone from the face of the planet. Yet. So be careful, little bit fearful but not necessarily terrified. Healthy respect, with a little tinge of fear – kind of like how I view the Other Crowd, but that’s another post!!

UPG, Sources and the importance of differentiating

I hope everyone likes the new look of the blog. Please let me know what you think!

Over the last few months, I’ve had some debates, rows, discussions and plain fights with people online over the importance of citing sources when making a declaration with regard to spirituality or deity. Here’s the thing. I don’t mean going back through papers from 30 yrs ago, when you might first have read something, I mean saying things like “Oh I read this paper by such and such that linked this aspect to that aspect and came up with this”. For most people, that’s about all that’s needed. Or indeed, “it was a story in the Lives, the one that isn’t Cogistosus or Bethu”. And then someone else can come and suggest the Prima, and the original person says, “That’s the one, thanks!” I don’t expect people with no research training to do much more than that.

Now if you’re writing something for publication, either a research paper, a book, or a blog you know will be widely read, or if you’re known as a scholar of the subject, I expect more. I expect a proper research citation really at that point. Or at least a very clear indication where the information came from. It doesn’t need to be Harvard referencing or anything like that for blogs (although for books and papers, if your editor isn’t asking for some sort of official citation scheme, question what sort of publication it is!) but something like “In Bethu Brigte,…..” or “In X’s paper, The Red Book, …” things like that really help when trying to separate facts or primary/ secondary sources of gnosis from personal gnosis.

I’m always amazed I’m not pulled up more often when I go back over older things I’ve written because of the lack of references or at least a nod to where this is coming from.

Why is this important?

Well. There’s a few reasons. The first one is “paper never refused ink”. Anyone can write anything, particularly in these days of free blogs on the internet (ahem, look at what you’re reading!) and really, we have no idea what their credentials are or what experience they have or whether they’re speaking truth or lies. I’d advise reading anything, including anything on this blog, with a pinch of salt until you can determine for yourself the legitimacy of the author. And sometimes that’s harder than others.

I’ll give an example. Every Imbolc, I see things going round the internet about how “golden round foods” are the way to celebrate Brigid’s festival. This is then linked to the “fact” that Brigid is a “sun deity” and Imbolc is celebrating the return of the sun. These people have never been to Ireland in February. Seriously. Let’s attack this a bit at a time. From the variety of Lives of the saint we have, Brigid is strongly connected with the dairy, so butter, milk, cream, anything that can be made in the dairy is a good way to start with offerings, if you want to go down that road. But pancakes in Ireland are associated with Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday, when Lent will start. The date of Ash Wednesday can vary from 4th Feb to 10th March every year because Easter Sunday is calculated by a combination of the spring equinox and the moon cycle. From https://www.rmg.co.uk/stories/topics/when-easter

The simple standard definition of Easter is that it is the first Sunday after the full Moon that occurs on or after the spring equinox. If the full Moon falls on a Sunday then Easter is the next Sunday.

So it could be easy to say in Ireland, they use pancakes to celebrate Imbolc – except we don’t. When I was a child, pancakes were only served on Shrove Tuesday, because eggs and rich foods were not eaten during length traditionally, and pancakes were a handy and tasty way of using up such foods. It has nothing to do with Brigid or Imbolc at all. But someone somewhere didn’t really understand what was going on, linked some ideas about Brigid being a sun deity (which she isn’t, more on this later) with pancakes being round and golden like the sun and came up with pancakes being a great way to celebrate.

I mean, pancakes are a great way to celebrate anything, but it’s cos they’re so tasty and nice. There is no symbolism here linking them to Imbolc.

And then we come to the bit about celebrating the return of the sun at Imbolc. Not in Ireland. Imbolc is officially the start of spring in Ireland, but it’s more the beginning of spring, when we first see green shoots coming out of the ground. The weather is still, usually, miserable. It’s raining. It’s cold, it’s heavy, it’s unrelenting. It’s one of the prices we pay for those lovely green fields and for me, it’s worth it, but a celebration of sun return, it is not. We do sun celebrations at solstices. Kinda.

But the thing is, because this post saying Brigid is a sun deity and so anything round and golden , like eggs and pancakes and other foods, represent the sun, these are all good things to make for Imbolc, goes around every year and is celebrated across the internet every year, a lot of people are picking up some very inaccurate information. We don’t really have a sun deity as such in Ireland. If we did, the Dagda would be a much more likely candidate, but honestly, our deities are more to do with arts, crafts, and trades. They’re doing things. Brigid (from Sanas Cormac, or Cormac’s Glossary) is associated with poets, healing and smithcraft. There’s a list of animals as well – although it’s important to realise Cormac’s Glossary is not a modern dictionary, but that could be a whole other post! There’s definitely no mention of sun goddess in there or in the Leabhar GabĂĄla Éireann (the Book of the Invasions of Ireland, essentially, our creation myth) or in Caith Maighe Tuireadh (Battle of Moytura).

But definitely not sun deities.

And I can already hear people asking, why this is important? Sure what harm can it do? Well, if you don’t believe that dealing with deity in the right manner is important, frankly, I’m wondering why you’re reading this blog at all? Every religion in the world has its ways of dealing with deity and observances around them. And yes, these things change over time and Brigid herself has shown herself very willing to change with the times – she supported the people of Ireland as a saint when paganism wasn’t really an option any more (although if you’ve read previous posts here, you’ll know of my belief that Christianity in Ireland was more of a thin veneer over deep roots of paganism anyway). So worship can change and what a deity does can change. Sure, I’ll accept that. But such changes happen gradually over generations, not overnight (relatively speaking) because someone got things wrong.

Now, Irish Brigid is not the only Brigid, I know that. But this all serves equally well for any other Brigid. I have yet to come across non-modern lore regarding Brigid as a sun deity. And yet, outside of certain circles, people accept this as true. It’s the same with the triple deity – triple deities in Ireland don’t fit the maiden/mother/crone mould – trust me!! – and yet, there’s a plethora of people out these insisting Brigid is a maiden, mother, crone. That’s a Wiccan process as far as I can figure out (and it was difficult to even narrow it down that far) but I’d strongly advise against telling Irish Brigid she fits that mould. Seriously. Or, if you’re going to have that conversation with her – let me watch? 😀

I can hear people screaming all over the place, “But that’s not my gnosis!!” Yeah, personal gnosis has a role to play in any spirituality. It’s really important and vital to your spiritual growth to develop your own gnosis. (Gnosis is the word used in many spiritual circles to cover knowledge and belief about a certain topic, comes from the Greek word for knowledge anyway). UPG, unverified personal gnosis, is such a common term around the place that it has it’s own acronym. It’s hugely important that you develop your own practices and beliefs, otherwise we end up with dogma and that’s not good. But it’s also crucial, absolutely crucial, to outline to others where something is based on your own experiences and where something is based on lore or writings or common knowledge. For example, Brigid to me is a friend, a support, a manager, a leader, a powerful force in this world. She is strong and capable and gets shit done. This is my personal gnosis. She appears this way to others as well. She also appears as a beautiful energy to others. She appears as a loving relation to others. She is more than one thing – deity is not simple. But it would be wrong of me to say she is only a support or only a capable doer of things. Because that leads others to doubt where their experiences have taken them. Now I do get annoyed at people who only see the beautiful energy thing, because that to me is a waste of energy. Energy is there to be used and useful – maybe it’s my engineering background, but I have a strong belief that deity needs to be useful as well, because, well why else would we do all of this? And even the belief that deity needs to be useful is personal gnosis as well.

It’s important to delineate between knowledge stemming from the lore and personal gnosis, because of the danger of leading others down an incorrect path. We’re not all called to do the same work, and why should we be? But the core of the lore concerning Brigid is quite brief, there’s not mounds of writing there (Irish Brigid again here!) so it’s worth being familiar with it and basing your practice on it. Working out from there is extremely useful. The Mary Jones website has a handy list of the lore concerning Brigid here, although I should note, I don’t necessarily agree with the links to Welsh mythology. I’m not familiar enough with Welsh mythology to comment more than that though. Clann BhrĂ­de have a more complete list of lore here. They’ve also kindly provided a little commentary on each bit as well as links to where the originals can be found online.

There’s no reason not to look at the ancient lore we have, because it tells us what our ancestors deemed important to be recorded. We can work out our own practices from there. But it is work – it’s not enough to just decide something is right and go do it, you have to prove it to yourself and look for indications from herself that it is right. And, it’s really important to remember that while something might be fine and dandy for you to do, it might not be for someone else. Brigid doesn’t treat us all the same. That’s not in the old Irish ways. People were given their due, but their due was not constant. So, what is right and proper for me do to in relation to Brigid, might not be right or even safe for someone else to do.

We have a lot of commonalities for Brigid – fire, lighting candles, praying, writing – whether creative writing or otherwise, healing work, smithcraft… there’s a lot in it. And I go into it a lot in my courses in the Irish Pagan School as to how we can extrapolate from the lore and directions we might go in.

But just remember – the lore is there for a reason. It’s all we have. And “experiences may vary” is a valid warning no matter what we’re talking about! So label your UPG as such. You may find others have a similar UPG and that’s great. But they might not and that’s ok too – just as long as the experience is being labelled as UPG and nothing generally accepted practice.

Changes to the blog

Well, if you’re this far, you’ll have noticed some changes to the blog. I mainly changed the theme so I could have the “Categories” menu over there on the left hand side, to try and make navigation easier.

Another post will be following in a while, possibly tomorrow, but let me know what you think about the changes and if it makes things better or worse.