Delay in blog posts

I had intended to be posting on a Sunday but I’ve missed the last two (I’m sure ye have noticed!) On Sunday 17th October, I was teaching a class on Samhain ritual with the IPS (check it out here if you’d like to take a look) This meant for most of that day I was doing the final preparations as if I were doing my own Samhain ritual. This meant cleaning and sorting out the room I was doing the teaching in – it’s not one I usually use for ritual, so it took most of the day to clean and get sorted in the way I wanted.

This included physical and energetical cleaning, as well as a de clutter and organisation theme as well. Now, on the plus side, I’m now really happy with the way the room looks and it feels better as well. On the down side, it was exhausting, especially the energetical work, since it hadn’t been done in a while. It’s usually my work-from-home office so it doesn’t get the same attention as the other areas I use for ritual work. People don’t always appreciate that there is a difference between physical and energetical cleaning. I do think physical cleaning is an essential part of energetical cleaning, but it’s not the whole thing. So, aside from the cleaning up of about 12 months worth of dust and clutter, I was also clearing out about 12 months of energetical dust and clutter as well. Hoovering out the corners, de-spidering the room, throwing out the rubbish… but it’s open and clear now.

then there was the teaching of the class and since it was ritual, it took a bit more energy than usual. It was a great class and I really enjoyed it – fair warning, there was audience participation in this one as well as my own experience! But it was fun as well and we had a great time doing it.

As a down side from that though, as part of the usual energy drop after a ritual (for me anyway) my already fragile enough mental health took a down turn and I’ve been off work for a week and likely to be so for another 2 at least. I think I mentioned going back on the anti-depressants a few weeks ago and really, I should have taken time off then, but I forced myself to struggle on. And then, it all became too much. So for the last week, I’ve been on recovery mode. I’ve been on extra meds and will be for a few more days to take the edge off. I’m out of work (it’s ok – pay won’t be affected for this, Ireland is different from the States with this, in case people were worried) and my team are being really good at not contacting me to allow me to recover.

But it’s meant that the blog was one of the things that fell off the radar. The things that have made it onto the list of “shit I care about right now” has mostly included food, sleep, personal hygiene. And even they’ve been a struggle some days. This all means I need to take another look at that self care thing the Morrigan was charging me with earlier in my Samhain preparation. (Cos I will be doing my own ritual next Sunday, 31st October, so my prep is continuing). I’m also getting messages similar to “well if you won’t make the effort to look after yourself, we will make it so you have to”. It’s not that clear of course, but that’s the general feeling.

So, sometime before next Sunday, I will need to be spending a day or so cleaning out my usual ritual site in the same way I did this room last week. I also need to make sure I have the energy and will to do the ritual in the way I want to do it and maybe break it up if I need to. Sending myself back into crisis mode would not be helpful for anyone right now. And my doctor keeps telling me I need to be selfish now and look after myself first… this is not something that comes naturally to me. In fact, ignoring my physical and mental and emotional needs comes way more easily and familiarly to me. But here we are. I’m under both medical and deity orders to look after myself. And if that means breaking up my Samhain ritual into manageable bits, that’s what I’ll do.

There’s also been a lot of interest in my preparation for Samhain posts, so I’m thinking of running a 3 month preparation for Imbolc course as well. If you’re interested, please let me know! I’m thinking of taking a small group of people through the exercises and other stuff I do for preparation for the festival, and with it being Imbolc next, people won’t be surprised to hear it’s the one I put most effort into and it’s slightly different to the rest of the festivals – far more focused on Brigid for a start! So do leave a comment or drop me a line if you would be interested in that.

For now, I’m looking at something small I can do right now for me. (It’s lunch. Or possibly brunch – breakfast didn’t happen this morning) Then I’ll look at showering and dressing. In something fun for me rather than something purely practical. And then I may curl up with a film or something comfy on the couch and rest. Because, sometimes, rest is as important a part of spiritual work as anything else. Maybe if I say that to myself often enough, I might start believing it at a body level rather than at a mental level!

Veiling & modesty

Veiling has nothing to do with my prep for Samhain, but I’ve been thinking about it and so here we go…

A while back, in the Brigid’s Forge Facebook group, someone asked about the role veiling plays in people’s practice. And, I have strong feelings about veils, their uses and their role in modesty culture, subjugation, and modern living.

First off, if, for whatever reason, you like to wear a veil – that’s your choice, fair play to you, on you go. I am making no comment on people who choose to wear the veil, a veil, for whatever reason. What I’m discussing here are the reasons why the saint or the nun might be depicted with a veil and some of the considerations in relation to the use of a veil in practice.

I don’t use a veil as a general rule. I also don’t have much use for modesty in my deities, saints or other Beings around me. I don’t have much use for physical modesty in myself either. I tend to wear comfy clothes and, if the weather gets hot, this tends to mean a lot less clothing. Of course, when the weather gets cold, I’m covered up in as many layers as necessary.

There are times when I cover my hair with a bandanna – usually if the pollen count is high. Helpful hint there, wearing a bandanna restricts the pollen getting trapped in your hair and, if you have hair like mine, less pollen then gets into your nose and eyes. So when it’s practical, yes, I will use a bandanna. I don’t think of it as modesty though – as always practicality wins the day for me.

Modesty culture though – modesty culture to me is a continuation of respectability politics, a means to control women. It’s rarely men who are expected to cover up in a certain way or ensure they don’t arouse lust in the opposite sex (yeah, same sex relationships tend not to be considered in these situations either). It’s offensive to me to suggest that I must dress a certain way to ensure the men around me don’t get inspired to rape or other forms of violence against women. I tend to put more faith in the men I know than that. I mean most of them are well familiar with the terms “No” and “Not interested” and “hell no, get off me, you prick”. Not that they’re heading out trying to pick up women all the time, but they understand the words and most of them can admire a woman without assuming dress means an invitation.

There are plenty of women (and men to be fair) who choose to dress modestly, out of choice or habit or ease. I’ve no problem with that. I do have a problem with people being ordered to dress a certain way though.

The veil can be useful in a spiritual practice though. I can see a value in donning a certain article of clothing as a signal someone is about to engage in spiritual practice. And I have in the past thrown a scarf over my head (well actually, a coat or hoodie is more likely) to give myself some privacy in a public space. I have used certain objects, certain items of clothing, certain habits to indicate to myself I’m entering a spiritual space. It takes time and practice, but it’s an important way to signal to oneself that the mundane world is being left behind, or that this is an action that has more consequences than we might immediately think of.

I wouldn’t be thinking of giving Brigid, or indeed any other deity, instructions on how I expect them to dress mind. Modestly or otherwise, it’s up to them how they choose to appear and I for one amn’t going to give them guidance. How we as humans depict them however – well that’s another story. I think I’ve ranted here before about the “sexy goddess” statues and paintings that abound on the internet. Sure, it’s grand, but when Every. Single. Statue. looks like the wet dream of a teenager, there’s an issue.

So in short, my attitude to veiling is the same as with most things clothes-related. If it’s your choice – go ahead, have fun. It can be useful. Where I start getting issues is when people start trying to force others to veil or be modest or dress a certain way or whatever. And really, seriously, trust me on this one – don’t try it with deities!!

Preparation – the joy of music

Last Thursday morning, I wrote a comment about using Alice Cooper’s Poison in a cleansing ritual. I think it says a lot about the membership of that particular group that really the only comment was saying it was a great song! But it is part of my ongoing preparation for Samhain.

The chorus, in case you’re not an aficionado of the popular rock of the late 80’s, goes like this:

I wanna love you, but I better not touch (don’t touch)
I wanna hold you, but my senses tell me to stop
I wanna kiss you, but I want it too much (too much)
I wanna taste you, but your lips are venomous poison
You’re poison running through my veins
You’re poison
I don’t wanna break these chains

I know, it’s a strange one to be thinking of cleansing, but hey, the song to me speaks to the things I know don’t help me, aren’t nurturing, whether they be old attitudes I want to change, old habits I want to shed, whatever… (OK it doesn’t hurt that this song really does get that tingle going low down in my belly, but that’s not what it was used for last Thursday! Husband wasn’t awake early enough…)

The lyrics call to me of the siren song many things have or have had for me in my life. I can call out many habits or behaviours that just plain weren’t good for me, in a holistic fashion, but at the time, I wanted them, badly. I knew they were the poison of the song, but they worked and so I wanted them and even my saying I wanted to separate from them or give them up or stop the behaviour was half hearted at best. Brigid has been happy enough with my progress on these things to date, I think primarily because none of what’s left is affecting my ability to do the work she needs doing. I’m finding the Morrigan takes a different view. It’s kinda like a stern beloved teacher holding up a mirror and saying “Is this what you want your life to be? Cos you can be better!”

And yes, this came out of the mirror exercise I spoke of last week. I can look myself in the eyes these days, but I had still be skirting over patterns of behaviour that are residues rather than bedrocks of unhelpful habits. I won’t go into detail here, but my actions and behaviour are still being limited by past actions and behaviour. Some of those can be fixed and adjusted. Some… maybe not.

But “maybe not” is no longer a reason not to try. And some of this is limiting my life and causing me issues right now, so there’s no good reason not to change things. Spiritually, I’m not in a bad place. Mentally – not so good. Physically – really not good. So part of the next steps in preparation are to keep going with the cleansing and the spiritual spiral I’m on, but also to look at physical what I need to do and how I can improve things for myself.

It’s 4 weeks away now, since the 1st October was on Friday, and there is, of course, a limit to how much I can achieve in that time, but again, I was reminded that just because I may not reach the end goal, is no reason not to take the first step along the path. I won’t be any worse off than I am now!

And this is part of my reaction to the Poison song as well. I used to drive myself into extreme pain as a coping mechanism for some shite I was dealing with, and now I try to avoid that sort of pain as much as possible. But there’s a healthy balance to strike here with aches and pains. Extreme pain – no. Aches – probably yes. Tired muscles don’t feel great, but then, they don’t feel great anyway right now. So, improvement in 4 weeks is the way to go.

You know, people think this spirituality stuff is all meditation and raising vibrations and all that – no one ever mentions the endless physio exercises or drudgery of walking X amount per day or the scrubbing floors or the ruthless pruning of waste from your life… I wonder that is???

Festival preparation – inner journeys

Usually my preparation for festivals includes a lot of physical, outside-of-the-self preparation. Certainly at the start of the preparation anyway. I’ve spoken before about cleaning the house, clearing out the cobwebs, energising the corners, eliminating clutter, that sort of thing.

This year my spiral, for my preparation is usually a spiral, for Samhain appears to be taking a different turn. I’m having to focus on both the inner work of developing a relationship with the Morrigan and the outer work of tending to a community. It’s a difficult balance to hold and it’s not made easier by a demanding day job and a husband with health difficulties. But it needs to be done.

I wrote a few months ago about restarting my meditation practice. I have the night time meditation fairly well settled now, Sunday to Thursday and the morning practice settled Monday to Friday. (as an aside, I’ll be putting a link up soon for those that want a voice recording of the meditation I use most often in the morning). But I find as Samhain approaches, the meditation is changing. I’m developing a relationship with the Morrigan, since they are the deity I most associate with Samhain, the beginning of the dark half of the year.

This time of year is significant for prepping the ground for growth, for planting the seeds that need the winter for germination or growing in the dark, even if there are no obvious changes from the outside. I have a feeling my inner life is going to be going through a similar journey this year. There are times these premonitions are welcome – I’m not entirely sure this is one of them! Still, it can’t be any worse than Brigid’s anvil right? (Just as an FYI, tempting the gods like that is usually not sensible!)

So I’m using my usual meditation in the morning and Brigid is bring in the Morrigan to that time. We’re kinda like a Victorian couple getting to know each other under Mama’s watchful eye right now… but no doubt that will change. I’m not going for an apprenticeship, I’m unlikely to be loaned out to the Morrigan, this is more about manners than anything else. If I’m going to have a chat with her during a ritual on Samhain, then I’d best put in the work first.

One of the things I usually look at for Samhain is how easily I’m able to look myself in the face, look myself in the mirror. It’s a question of how honest I’m being with myself, even if with no one else. This year, that looking is happening at a deeper level than I realised and it’s looking back past my living memory. It’s tough, I can’t deny it, there are recurring images that I need to deal with, it seems, and that’s not easy even when it’s this life we’re dealing with.

But it is a simple enough exercise to work through yourself, if you want to? I find it useful to find out how easily I can look myself in the face in general, and it’s amazing the things that come up when I do. As I said, it’s simple, although read through it before you commit to it – you may not be comfortable doing it or it may push through memories or past trauma that you’re not in a place to deal with.

Sit down, or stand up in front of a mirror. Look into your own eyes. See what comes up. Usually helps to write it down, along with any thoughts or feelings that come up as well.

That’s it.

And yet, for many years, this was incredibly difficult for me to do. Depending on how bare or deep I need to look, I will sometimes do this as part of a ritual, or naked, or as part of a cleansing. But the core of it, the looking into my own eyes, is the important bit.

I would warn you, though, to set an alarm when doing this, since it can be easy to get lost in oneself as well and that’s not really good either! You can do it lying down, but I found it way too easy to sleep doing it that way, so I avoid it. In saying that, these days, I feel so tired, I sometimes think I’ll fall asleep standing up as well, so maybe it’s not the practice but the tiredness! 🙂

As I said, getting to know the Morrigan this year appears to be making changes to the things I’m perceiving about myself, the things I need to do to prepare for this journey at Samhain. I’m being asked to cross lines I never though I’d cross within myself and it’s challenging. But I’m still here, I’m still carrying on.

And no, this is still a Brigid blog, don’t worry and she’s my Main Person, so to speak, but Samhain isn’t her thing as such. I’ve no doubt she’ll turn up for the feast and be looking at the ancestors and all that, but her big day is after this, when the days are lengthening again, rather than shortening and the attention, the light, the ways are coming back to equal rather than the extremes of Samhain and Bealtaine. But I’ll also pay the Morrigan their due.

I might talk more about the spiral next week, but I’d love to hear how you get on if you try the mirror exercise. I would advise doing it straight, as in without ritual, first, just to get used to it…


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 Ruadhán dies. There’s no mention of Brig as a female warrior in that story, she is Ruadhán’s mother.

We have, of course, examples of female warriors in the tales. We have Scáthach from CĂşchulainn’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 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…


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… 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:



  • 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. IománaĂ­ocht (or hurling) is referenced in our oldest sagas. Setanta’s boyish skill with a hurley was how he protected himself and gained the name CĂşchulainn. (I have my difficulties with CĂşchulainn 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 Gabhála Éireann, or Lebor Gabála 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; 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: 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 🙂