A new adventure!

I knew around Imbolc I’d be starting something new this year for herself and for the community. I had some ideas, but nothing concrete.

Well, it got solidified! Welcome to the new Brigid’s Forge Patreon Page!! A few months ago, when I asked people for content for the school, prayers came up quite a bit. Well the school isn’t the best path for delivering that sort of content, but Patreon is. Every month, I’ll be adding a new devotional, based on some of Brigid’s lore, and a short Irish prayer. You can check out the different membership options here as well. Are you a Hammer, Anvil or Forge?

I’m looking to have fun with this – I usually enjoy writing devotionals and I’ve shared a few of them on this blog as well at times. Plus, it’s also a means of both using my Irish and getting more people to use their Irish as well – or even start learning it. In example Anvil post I’ve put up there, you can see it took me quite a while to go through a 2 line prayer, so when I say short… Well, it’s won’t be Paradise Lost, that’s for sure!

Anyway, please go take a look and I hope to see you there!

Imbolc is coming…

… and my blood pressure is going up! OK that was a joke. Kinda. But this is the time of year when I see the most dubious information posted about Brigid and it hurts.

I get it, there are people out there that visit with the deity of the season through the years and that’s great. I love to see more people getting to know Brigid and this is one way for people to do so. What drives me cracked is people taking lore from all over the place and mashing it together into some sort of Franken-deity.

For me it’s simple – yes I can see links between Irish Brigid and Scottish Bride and even English Brigantia. And possibly, way back when, they were all the same deity. It’s possible. But we’re not way back when and we don’t know how our ancestors worshipped or dealt with that pre-Brigid deity. It’s like saying all modern Irish are the Milesians. Or actually it would need to be further back than the Milesians, it would need to be the first hunter-gatherers that came to this island. it doesn’t work.

Deity, no more than people, develop over time and that means lumping together a mishmash can prove detrimental if you’re looking to do deeper work with Brigid. (Or any other deity for that matter!)

As for the things I’m seeing going around the internet that have Brigid as both a solar and a lunar deity – I can’t bring myself to comment other than to say that Irish deities don’t tend to work that way. We can sometimes say that such-and-such a deity has a link with the sun or the moon because of this particular story and that’s about it. (Unless it’s the Dagda who’s good at it, whatever “it” is 🙂 ) And I think everyone knows my opinion of the maiden-mother-crone things. *Shudders*

Depending on your needs, there are a few places you can learn more about why I keep going on about this and what’s to learn from our lore. I focus on the Irish lore because there’s plenty there to keep me happy and I am Irish, it makes sense to me. I have some awareness of Scottish lore (at an extremely basic level) but if I’m speaking or teaching, it’s about Irish Brigid.

Here’s a link to my post on UPG and why it’s important to differentiate UPG and generally accepted gnosis

Here’s my post on native vs non-native Brigid

Here’s my free class on Brigid in the Irish lore in the Brigid’s Forge school

Here’s my introductory class to Irish Brigid in the Irish Pagan School

I will also be teaching my 5 week deeper dive into Brigid with the Irish Pagan School in early February. It’s best to sign up to their email list to keep up to date on that one as well!

But please, if you’re reading something on the internet and it seems a bit easy, or a bit strange or a bit too nice… it probably is. Check the lore. Question the writers, including me! Question and discern for yourself and then make sure you’re very clear about what’s your UPG/ headcanon and what’s generally accepted. We owe it to ourselves to keep these things straight!

A matter of consent

I wrote last week about the murder of Ashling Murphy in Tullamore. The murder has gripped the country in a way that no other one has in recent years, indeed my Dad thinks no murder in his lifetime has gripped the country in such a way (and he’s 80+, so…)

It has also sparked a conversation about the responsibilities of men, and how the vast majority of violence instigators, whether it ends up being against women or not, whether it ends up being murder or not, are men. And there is a lot of backlash against this. There are men out there who can’t believe their  friends would do such a thing. There’s no one in their circles who talk like that. There’s no one that they  would associate with that would do or think such things. And yet… there are also men who think that coming along to a vigil for a dead woman and drowning out the speakers with a “Men’s Rosary” is appropriate. There are men in the country that think coming to an online vigil for the same dead woman and masturbating on camera is appropriate. There are men who think now is the time to start shouting over women to make sure everyone is aware that #notallmen.

All men benefit from the men who do these things, and who eventually move on to murder. Yes, all men. It trains women. It trains us to be quiet. It trains us to be careful. It trains us to not raise our voices, not speak out, not be noticed. It keeps us nicely in our places. And all while the majority of men in this world, not just in this country, can sit back and pat themselves on the back for clearing the lowest of possible bars for decency. By not inflicting violence on women. Yippee. Well done.

Now on to the serious work.

It starts with the absolute basics of life. Treat women as fully emancipated, fully competent, fully deserving human beings, worthy of respect, courtesy and all the other basics attributed to human beings. I’m not even going to go into how much worse women of colour, transwomen trans women*, poor women, chronically ill women, women with different abilities, neurodivergent women all have to contend with. Frankly, as a white woman, who has a reasonable salary, good education, is native to the land she lives on, is in the majority religion of said country, who speaks the language of said country (both of them!), cishet, and mostly reasonably healthy, I’m doing pretty damn well. If only I’d had the sense to go into a profession that was woman dominated, I’d be grand really.

But I’d still be at more risk that any man out there. And that’s the catch.

We train women from birth to be nice, to not make a fuss, to work in the background, to keep the peace. We speak to our daughters, our nieces, our younger colleagues about the strategies to use, to always have some running away money, to always have an escape route, to always plan ahead for late nights and journeys home, even if it’s only a few hundred yards, to “text when you get home safe”. We think about the shoes we wear, the clothes we wear, the places we go in ways that men simply don’t.

We train women to expect their consent not to be asked for. And that has to change.

It needs to change from the absolute smallest things – ask before hugging someone, ask before sending someone a private message on social media, ask before robbing a chip off the plate. Respect women’s autonomy, bodily, emotionally, spiritually. Ask before engaging in their space.

In the Brigid’s Forge facebook group, we have a rule that often confuses some people – no unsolicited private messages. That means asking permission before sending someone a PM. People question this rule a lot. They can’t see the point of it, they can’t see the problem with simply sending someone a PM. A PM can be just ignored, right? Well so can wolf whistling and catcalling. So can gestures made in the street. So can harassment at work. But it all takes energy to ignore. It all takes effort to ignore and deal with. And it’s the same with a PM.

So many of us get so many unsolicited PMs in all social media, it’s an intrusion. People, and in my experience, it’s mostly men, seem to think they are allowed to intrude into anyone they like. And honestly, most of the messages are along the lines of “Hello beautiful”, “Hi your photo looks so interesting”. It’s pure bullshit. Plus – my photo on Facebook is at least 10yrs old if not more. And even blocking and deleting these people takes time and energy to do. And sometimes, just sometimes, it would be great to go into my PMs and not see a pile of requests from people wanting something from me. Because a PM is a demand for attention. It’s an assumption that the person you’re writing to will respond. Not responding is “rude”. After all, the sender was being polite and pleasant, that’s what women want right?

Lowest. Bar. Possible.

It’s #notallmen of course, sometimes I get PMs from people interested in Brigid and my other work, and those are sometimes unsolicited as well. I get the ones telling me I have no clue about Brigid and should get back in my box. I get more insidiously horrible ones as well. I get patronising ones. I get downright abusive ones.

It doesn’t really matter what sort of content is in it, anytime I see a new message request, my heart sinks. And it’s an effort to deal with it. And sometimes I’m pleasantly surprised, but really, the % of times that happens is low.

And really, how is asking for permission to send a PM that much of an intrusion into the sender’s life? They want to make contact and are asking the most appropriate way to do it – why can that not be done through a quick question in a group or a contact form? Why must the initial “Hey I have a question, I’d like to PM you about, is that ok?” be PM itself? (There are exceptions for every rule – I mean, I say in the Brigid’s Forge group that if someone has a question about whether to post something or if someone is in a situation they don’t want made public, but need to get out of, then PMing is fine, but that exception is not there for everyone in the group, just for me and is limited to the group)

It’s a really small thing and people might be questioning how I can be linking unsolicited PMs to the murder of a woman, but it’s all a spectrum of lack of awareness and lack of respect. If we teach our boys and young men to heed boundaries like not intruding on people’s private messages without permission, they might start to get the idea that they are not entitled to put forward their opinions on women’s lives, bodies, dress, etc at any point. They are not entitled to lay hands on women. They are not entitled to attention from women. They are not entitled to any benefit from just treating women as human. They are not entitled to vent their frustrations on women. They are not entitled to treat women as objects at any point. They are not entitled to murder women.

Can you see it? Can you see how changing these small, seemingly inconsequential things can lead to bigger changes? Can you see how respecting boundaries is important?

* It was pointed out to me that “trans” is an adjective to be put in front of the noun not a part of the noun itself. So I corrected it.

Women, death and rights

For those outside Ireland, the following may come as a shock, but this event has swept across Ireland over the last few days. A young woman was murdered while out for a run. (the vast majority of Irish news sites are running stories on this event, so please check them out. Also, there are vigils being held in every county in Ireland over the coming days, so if you are in a position to check those out, please do so).

Some of the things that have shocked the nation:

  • She was a young woman
  • She was a teacher for a 1 st class in a local village school (1st class =6-7 yr olds)
  • She was out for a run
  • She was considered an excellent fiddle player and involved in her local Comhaltas group
  • She was running in a public place, well populated
  • She was running in daylight
  • She was dressed appropriately for running
  • She was beautiful

If you were looking for a list of attributes for a woman who did not deserve, under anyone’s consideration, to be murdered, this woman would have fit the bill. I think even the most conservative of religious conservatives would admit, this woman has done nothing wrong.

And she was murdered, in broad daylight, in a populated place, well known for walkers and runners. Now, to be clear, I don’t care if she was a naked, plastered, a sex worker, a drug addict, ugly, at midnight, etc, etc she did not deserve to be murdered. No one does. But she was doing everything “right”.

So, we, as a society here in Ireland, are now looking around and thinking – just what sort of society do we have here, that a young woman, doing everything “right” can be murdered in broad daylight.

To some people reading this, the murder of a young woman might not even make the news where you are – and I’m sorry for you if that’s the case. That’s not a society I want to live in. I’m also aware that there are many women in Ireland killed on a regular basis that don’t have the newsworthy considerations this young woman did, and again, that is on us as a society. All people are equal, and we should be equally outraged at any murder.

But since this story has hit the news headlines, let’s use this as an opportunity to examine what sort of society we want and need to develop.

Women in Ireland are not, as yet, fully equal in society in my opinion. Our movements are restricted in ways men just aren’t. The notion of “call me when you get home” is an almost entirely female one – among friends anyway. Mammies always want to know their offspring are home safe! The practice of holding your keys in your hand, making sure you have the correct key ready so there’s no fumbling at the door, making sure if you have the temerity to listen to music or podcasts or the radio as you walk or run, that the volume is at the right level so you can hear someone approaching from behind or the side. Never walk home alone. Definitely, never walk home alone in the dark. Always stay in groups. Mind your drinks. Abandon your drink rather than risk it. Be careful what you wear.

The list of “appropriate safety measures” women take, just without even thinking about it, is long. And that’s before we get into dating, or red flags in relationships, etc. This is just purely, walking around in our daily lives.

The first time I said to my now-husband, “give me a text when you get home”, he laughed. He lived 1 street over at the time. He fundamentally didn’t understand the impulse that drove me to say it. It took years before he fully understood…

Ashling Murphy didn’t deserve to die. She’s missed out on the majority of her life because someone decided she should die for reasons as yet unknown. She’s never going to get married or form a long term partnership lasting decades. Whether or not she wanted a family, that choice has now been taken from her. Her family are left with a massive hole where their daughter, sibling, cousin used to be.

It’s a life wasted, because it’s a life not lived.

Insomnia, dancing and making the best of it!

(Please note I’m talking about 5Rhythms dancing in this post. To be very, very clear, I’m not an expert or a teacher in this practice. I’ve been to a few sessions and I have several CDs at home that I dance to, irregularly right now!)

It’s 5:30am here in Ireland as I write this and it’s been 3 weeks since I last posted. There were good reasons to take time off over Christmas – I took time off from everything pretty much, as much as I possibly could, becoming even more hermit-like than usual. I took time and started reading again. I took time and spent it with my husband. I took time and thought about things. I took time and imagined fantasy worlds of make believe and supposition. It was fantastic and I feel more rested and energised mentally, if not physically.

Because, yes, I took time off from my physical stuff as well. I didn’t walk much for most of those weeks, my physio exercises definitely dropped in frequency and my meditation sessions dropped as well. I didn’t meet my goal of walking 4miles in 1 hour without pain, but I did walk 5km (3miles) in 1 hour with no pain, so I’m counting it a win. (The next goal is to hit that 4miles target by end of March if anyone is interested!)

Last night, I couldn’t sleep. I went to bed about 11:30pm, feeling tired and ready to shut eye and dream. And then my brain started working. This is insomnia for me. Nothing worked for me. Counting sheep, meditation – even the Jason Stephenson one that hardly ever fails me! Breathing exercises, gentle stretching/ tensing and relaxing the body a bit at a time, sips of water… sometimes this happens. The doctor has me on melatonin and once a week or so I see if I can sleep without it – turns out, not yet anyway.

So at about 4:30am, I gave up and got up. I lit a candle and put on a 5 Rhythms cd. This is a new one for me (called Double Wave by Gabrielle and the Mirrors). It became clear to me pretty quickly that I needed this. I was moving very much in the stillness part of the wave – actually hang on. Sweat Your Prayers by Gabrielle Roth was published in 1999 I think – or at least that’s the copyright date on my copy. The book is about using dance as a means of prayer or meditation. Gabrielle outlines 5 waves to move through, usually in the format flowing, staccato, chaos, lyrical and stillness. This notion of dancing your prayers isn’t new – there’s 9-10 verses in the Bible that mention dancing, although funnily enough, those verses aren’t used to often in modern times, wonder why? Most religions/spiritualities that I’ve read about have some measure of dance or movements incorporated in them. So this isn’t and wasn’t a new idea as such. But this form of dancing your prayers, was I think reasonably new. It was definitely new to me anyway!! (For proper information on the practice, check out the official website here)

I speak about this because it became very clear this morning that stillness was calling to me but in a strange way. I can spend hours on end being still, except for the turning of a page or taking a sip of a drink. This morning, I felt like I danced with Brigid and she was reminding me of the importance of real stillness. The type of stillness that doesn’t put achievement above self care; that doesn’t put advancement to the fore of nourishment; that insists on pausing for a moment before jumping off the cliff into this Brand New Exciting Thing that might or might not be a good idea.

So this means right now that I need to pick up where I left off before Christmas. Make time in my day for meditation, movement, physio exercises. I can spend less time advancing my career – especially since I have serious questions about what my career will look like in 5yrs anyway. I don’t have to learn ALL THE THINGS RIGHT NOW WITH NO DELAY!!! I don’t have to fix everything right now or achieve everything right now. I can move slowly, as if through honey. I can proceed at my own pace. But in the mean time, I can spend the time to instill, properly, those habits that will allow me to speed up at a later date.

So time every day for meditation, movement and physio exercises. Time for ensuring I have food I enjoy and that works for me (yeah over Christmas, we basically survived on Christmas cake, biscuit cake, and one roast chicken lasted 4 dinners for us!!) Time for checking in with myself and making sure my energy is being replenished as much as it’s being spent. And that means drawing hard clear boundaries with myself and others. No more 9pm finishes at work. No more 7 day working. Pausing in progress to consolidate is sensible – especially when there’s a lot to be done in that consolidation.

That doesn’t mean there’ll be no more classes for a while – there’s an Imbolc ritual class coming up with the Irish Pagan School (see here) and I will be doing the 5 week course starting in early Feb as well. The five week course is getting an overhaul this year as well, because my practice has moved on from when I started it and I think it needs to reflect where I am now, rather than leaving it in the past. That would feel awkward. So, stillness doesn’t mean no work or no new material, but it does mean a bit of consolidation as I said and particularly in my personal practice of self care and nourishment – I need to consolidate hard!!

It came to me a week ago, I’m doing a 90 container with Joanna Hunter to give this some structure and the first question she asked us to answer, journal, think about was “what do I require as a human being to be nourished?” More came after that, but I’m stuck on nourished. It’s not just food, y’see, it’s life. What is it in my life that makes me feel nourished? It’s a worthwhile question to answer for yourself and I hope you don’t find it as hard as I am!

For now, I’m going to go make myself some porridge, so I can get a good breakfast inside me (made with milk and probably some raisins or honey or something with it, just in case you’re wondering. Hell, it’s a weekend, I might even throw in some chocolate!) I’m going to make a nice cup of herbal tea. I’m going to watch the sun come up (in about 2.5hrs, cos it’s still January in Ireland and sunrise isn’t until 8:38am apparently!) Then I’m going to settle in and watch the last few episodes of Wheel of Time and decide what book I’m going to read today. I may get around to folding laundry as well…

But seriously – learn from me – what do you need to feel nourished? What are the building blocks that support your mental, physical and spiritual health? What do you need to pause, consolidate or otherwise slow progress on?

Pain, suffering and raspberry leaf tea

OK, so those who menstruate and read this blog probably know what’s going on as soon as I mention raspberry leaf tea – or maybe not.

I didn’t post at the weekend, I was suffering mightily. Still am, but it’s easing a small bit. Y’see, it looks like I’m heading into menopause now, which is a shame, since we did want to have a family. It now looks like adoption and/or fostering are the way to go for us. Which is Brigid connected, let’s face it, seeing as she herself (in her guise as saint) was fostered out for definite from her father’s home anyway (little info on the mother here again!)

But anyway, it had been a good 10 weeks since my last period and with the mental health things that are going on right now, I had kinda a) lost track other than to think “it’s been a while” and b) kinda forgotten to do the pre-menstrual pain relief stuff I usually do. So that was increased pain both from length of time and from lack of self care.

It also means my flow is a lot heavier this month than usual – again from both issues. So I’ve been lucky enough to be able to do a lot of sitting on the couch, napping, having hot baths and sipping raspberry leaf tea. Husband is well trained really – he knows at this time of the month there is ONE tea I really want and he provides it on a regular basis. (He also provides food, chocolate, water, hugs, etc as needed. He’s a good man!)

I’ve never been overly found of bleeding – my periods have been usually irregular and heavy. When we went through fertility treatment, we found out my hormone levels (particularly progesterone and oestrogen) are extremely low and while undergoing treatment, I was taking supplements and injections to address that. Unfortunately, once treatment stopped, it was not possible to continue with those prescriptions so back to normal I went. Well, normal for me.

My usual pre-menstrual care involves more meditation, dance meditation, gentle movement, that sort of thing. It kinda eases the muscles around the uterus (this is based on no medical knowledge, just my experience in my own body, by the way) and sort of pre-eases the cramps. Even so, I usually have at least one full day in bed, either before, during or after my period. If work permits, I try to do it on the first day, it makes the rest of the period a lot easier. Otherwise, it’s dose myself with painkillers and keep going until I can collapse for a day. And it’s usually a lot harder, more painful, when I have to do it that way.

So, it’s not that I’m going to miss this part of my life. Not really. But I feel over the last year that I need to do some mourning for the hopes we had of having our own family, because even by my standards of irregularity, 10 weeks is a long stretch. Last time I went that long, it was a miscarriage, not a period. And it got me to thinking about the habits and rituals I have around my period and the rhythm that gives my life, the drumbeat of my body. What will replace this monthly shedding of the uterus lining?

As ever, I don’t know the answers. And I’m talking to herself about how I will manage this and guidance around the whole adoption/fostering thing. It may or may not be for us, but it’s worth trying, right?

As for now, well, now I’m off back to the couch, with Buffy and yet another mug of raspberry leaf tea. I don’t know if it’s scientifically proven, but it certainly helps my aches and pains at this time of the month! And Buffy helps too!

Daily practice vs ritual

I made a comment in the Brigid’s Forge Facebook group after my last post that, really, rituals and devotionals only take up <5% of my life. Most of my practice is just that, living my life.

I meant it, but it appeared to come as a surprise for some people. I mean, how I live my life is far more important that the few hours a week I spend with Brigid. Those who have grown up within Christianity (or I suppose other organised religions as well) will be well aware of the concept of “Sunday Christians” (or whatever the equivalent in other religions is). These are the people dressed up in the finest, first into the church every Sunday, last out, always monetarily supporting the church, very obviously pious and praying and all the rest of it. And if you were stuck, as my Nana used to say, they’d not give you the steam off their piss.

That’s not the sort of person I want to be. I’m not perfect and I never will be, but for me, religion is not about the appearances. It shouldn’t be anyway and the prevalence of this sort of thinking is worrying in the modern world. Has probably led to the significant falling away in numbers from Catholicism in Ireland at least. (I’ve written about this before on the blog, go and have a look if you want to know more about about it)

That hour on a Sunday in Mass (for Catholics, and let’s face it in Ireland, anything over 35mins is really considered excessive!), or the time I spend with Brigid in spiritual practice is for me essentially. It’s for me to improve my spiritual life. And that’s a worthy cause in and of itself. But one hour a week is 0.5% of your time. It’s not enough to balance out all the rest of the time.

How we live our lives is so much more important than the time we spend in ritual. Ritual is important, yes, and it has it’s place. As does learning about our deities, figuring out their role originally and how that might have developed over time. As does learning prayers and hymns and poems, or indeed creating such prayers and hymns and poems. Yes it’s hugely important.

But what effect are you having in this world? It doesn’t have to be massive. And it’s harder with paganism because frankly, get 2 pagans in a room and on any given topic, you’ll end up with at least 3 opinions in my experience. We don’t have an official universal code of ethics as succinct as the Ten Commandments (while I associate these with Catholicism, I’m almost certain they were stolen from Judaism and changed, but I’m open to correct from people better equipped to deal with it) We don’t have black-and-white answers to most things. You have to, gods forbid, think about your morals and your ethics and how you live your life.

We were never promised easy when embarking on a course of spirituality outside of mainstream religion. It means we have to decide for ourselves what our morals and ethics are. Some things seem easy – killing another human being is wrong. Sure. But what about self defence (and no, seriously, that is not any form of support for that horrific display in the States judicial system a few weeks ago!) What if you kill 1 person instead of 5? What if it’s accidentally? Taking a life should take a toll on us, but there are situations when I can see myself doing it.

Most pagans aren’t attending a ritual once a week, in the same way Catholics are meant to attend Mass once a week. Our spiritual rituals are on longer time frames usually, particularly for community based things. So, we’re probably looking at less than 5% of our time in formal spiritual engagement. If we assume most people need about 8hrs sleep a night; even if someone doesn’t have a formal paying job, they’ll have work that needs to get done that takes at least 40 hrs a week, there’s shopping and food prep and all sorts of things. Even if we’re generous and we say we spend 1hr a day on spiritual practices, that’s 4% of our lives.

The way we do the other stuff, the daily living stuff, will have way more impact in the world for most of us than that 4%. OK, if Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos suddenly decided to use their wealth to pay off all debt in the world or focus on world hunger or something as a spiritual practice, that might have a massive effective in their 1 hour a day. But most of us don’t have that influence.

Where we do have influence is in the little things. Sending a friend a hug cos they need it. Standing up, even when it’s uncomfortable when someone is being racist or sexist or transphobic or whatever. Buying someone a coffee or a meal. Making sure we source our food as ethically as we can afford and can access. (We’re blessed in Ireland with food, but there are many, many places in this world that are not in that situation as I’m well aware!) Look at the clothing we wear and how it was made/ sourced (again, affordability and accessibility).

There is no clear set of rules or limits. And sometimes, when you come from a place of privilege, someone else’s boundaries seem like gatekeeping or just being mean. Sometimes, we can’t do the right thing as we see it because of something else. But we do our best and we do better next time.

Life isn’t simple and easy. It’s messy. It’s blood and bone and hearth and home. It’s what happens to us when we’re busy making plans. It’s what seems to last forever until it doesn’t. But we’re here now in this life and it’s up to us to do our best. Some days that might mean doing a great good, healing someone, giving someone access to something that will improve their lives. Sometimes it’s deciding not to punch someone…

The rituals and the formal occasions are good and necessary and vital for community building and all the rest. But it’s the rest of the time that makes the difference.

More recovery and stuff…

Yes it is hard to keep on a blogging timetable at a time like this. My doc has me on sleeping tablets so I can try getting 8hrs sleep a night. As far as that goes, well they’re working a little too well, with it being extremely difficult to stay awake throughout the day. Now while with many of my meetings in work this might not be too much of an issue, with the drive too and from work, it could prove difficult! So hopefully I am catching up on lost sleep and will return to normal shortly.

In other news though, I am definitely feeling better. My physical recovery is coming along nicely, with me being able to walk for an hour now. It’s still very slow by my standards, but it’s an hour of walking and it feels like a milestone reached. It’s looking unlikely now that I will reach my original walking goal this year, but it will be half completed at least so that it major.

Also, in the last week, I fulfilled part of a promise I made to Brigid 3 years ago. Yeah, three years ago. But I finally fulfilled it – of course COVID had a part in it not being fulfilled, but now it finally is. And it feels good to do it. It’s personal so I won’t divulge the actual details of the promise, but it’s good to have it done. And it shows she can be patient at times. Extremely patient in this case!!

I’ve also been to the dentist for the first time in 22yrs, which was a major deal for me. I hate people touching me unless I know them, I hate people poking me, and I hate people putting things in my mouth – ye can see how I don’t like dentists right? But I did it, and 2 out of 3 appts over now. Only 3 fillings needed after 22 yrs which isn’t too bad. I’m not going to lie – it was horrible, for all the reasons I highlighted above – but it’s almost over now. Just one more appointment next week and I’m done again for a bit. Self care is not always exciting or sexy or relaxing, but being able to eat comfortably for the years I have left on this earth will make me a better tool for herself.

None of this is easy, but it’s easy for me to look back at where I was 1 month, 2 months ago and realise that things are a lot better now and I definitely needed this time to recover. She understands healing, she understands self care – probably more deeply than any of us do. And this, too, is part of the work.

When the going gets tough…

…the tough take a step back and re-evaluate what’s a priority and what’s a nice to have.

Not what you were expecting? If I’m honest, it’s not what I was expecting either. I was a fully-paid up member of the “tough get going” club for many years. And it affected a lot of things in my life. It led to injuries to my body through over training and food restriction. It led to mental health issues through ignoring the signs that things weren’t right. It led to relationship issues because, well, you just keep going, right? It’s led to my current situation where I’m off work and trying to recuperate from burnout.

So I’m changing the format. I have been trying to do everything for the last few months, from 60+ hrs a week in work, to managing a household, to maintaining physical health and nutritional intake, to keeping hydrated… it didn’t work and things slipped up. I kept my preparation for Samhain on track, which was good – I was going to say lucky, but it wasn’t luck, I made it a priority, but I kept on making work a priority as well over almost everything else. And that’s not good for me.

So I’m currently in a phase of recuperation that I can take that step back and I’m looking at what I need to do. I’m looking at the daily, weekly, monthly tactics (students of Brian Moran and Michael Lennington may recognise some of this approach) I need to implement and continue and monitor to ensure I fulfil all my obligations, including those I make to myself.

Yeah, I’m putting myself first here. I know my day job pays the bills and requires some attention, but I’ve proved in the last few weeks that when I don’t put myself first, the day job suffers as well. My primary priority at the minute is the walking thing. Since I’ve not been driving in and out to work, I’m making massive progress on the walking thing. Whereas before, I was struggling to walk 10mins without pain, now I’m up to 40 mins – albeit extremely slowly at 4kph (or 2.5mph for my non-metric readers) but it’s a damn sight more than I was doing a month ago. And it’s proven, yet again, that small daily work pays off in the long run.

Next one to tackle is sleep. I’m still sleeping a lot, but it’s not in any sort of usual pattern for me. Last night, it was well after 2am before I could get my brain to calm down and today it’s been a real struggle to stay awake at all. So, sleep hygiene is next on the list. It won’t be today, but this is things like having a bedtime ritual or routine, making the bedroom a helpful place for sleep – quiet, dark, no blue light, etc, clean and nice bed clothes – both sheets and pyjamas here, uncluttered appearance about the place. For me, my bedtime ritual always includes meditation when I’m in the groove. I recently bought the full focus journal from Michael Hyatt’s system, because while I like the idea of journaling before bed, I also like the idea of structure and being able to empty my head of things to remember/do etc, which this journal will help with I think. Have I started using it yet? Oh no, why would I do that!! To be fair to myself, a lot of the reason I’ve not started using it is a) it arrived yesterday and b) I want to look through it and link it to my planner to get the full value out of it. So in the coming days, I’ll start experimenting with it to see where and when I should use it.

Usually, I have a bit of a check in with Herself at night as well. I hesitate as usual to use the word “prayer”, but really, it kinda is. Sometimes it’s as simple as “Good night, thanks for the help today”, or “Hell, I’m dreading this thing tomorrow, can you help?” things like that. Other times it’s a more formal meditation structure, where I follow my pattern of using the visualisation of a flame to empty my thoughts and go on a small walk to talk to her. Actually the flame thing came to me originally from a work of fiction that had nothing to do with Brigid at all – Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time. (yes it’s a wiki link to all of his books – they’re fantasy and not to everyone’s taste, but I grew up with them, starting to read them in 1990 and the final book was published – posthumously – in 2013) In those books, the Flame and the Void is used by men to empty their minds and focus. I’m sure it’s actually based in some martial arts technique, but since I never did martial arts, I’m not sure at all.

Either way, the sending my thoughts to the flame is a great way for me to calm my mind. The slight issue is, nothing works 100% of the time, especially when it comes to thoughts and emotions. Terrible, isn’t it? You’d think we’d come into this world with a manual to help us out with things like this. When that happens, I try to compose a prayer, usually as Gaeilge, since that takes more effort and crowds out other thoughts and then I find myself telling a story as Gaeilge either to myself or herself.

Sometimes, I just get up and read or watch telly or something because my brain just won’t shut up, and I deal with the lack of sleep the following day. Tonight, I’m aiming to get back into that ritual a bit, just a little bit. We’ll see how it goes.

Once I get sleep back on track, food will be next and then the compilation of things like spending time with husband, housework, laundry, car maintenance, etc that need to happen just for life, y’know. Then comes the spiritual stuff and how long I need to spend on a daily, weekly, monthly basis to do what needs to be done there. And then we’ll see how work fits in. My suspicion is thought, I’ll need to drastically trim back work hours to a mere 40hrs a week – you know, actually what I’m paid for – in order to fit everything else in. Cos there needs to be downtime as well, when I’m not working, either for money or for my life, when I can just relax, zone out if I wish, do nothing. We underestimate the power of doing nothing in the modern world and I think we need to reclaim it.

So my priority list (which by the way is extremely close to my overview prep for the festivals list) is:

  1. Physical
  2. Mental
  3. Spiritual
  4. Everything else

We forget when we are trying to develop spiritually that we are still physical beings, who need sleep, food, water, etc. And the body, in my worldview, is at least as important as the soul, since without the body, we don’t have any anchor for the soul in this world.

So there’s my priorities for the coming weeks. Body, mind, soul. Put myself first. Look after myself. Keep myself in as good a state of health as I can manage (always remember health will mean different things to different people!) And once everything is in place, the structures and rituals to support me to be my best me, then this tough will get going again!

Book Review: Red tents by Mary Ann Clements and Aisha Hannibal

There hasn’t been a post in a couple of weeks – sorry about that. I’m still working on mental health stuff and feeling very grateful to have the facility to take the time off the day job to do this. I think things are improving – I am after all reading again! – but there’s still a journey ahead of me. In the mean time, one of the books I’ve read, just finished this morning in fact, is Red Tents: Unravelling Our Past and Weaving a Share Future by Mary Ann Clements and Aisha Hannibal.

Image of the Red Tents book by Mary Ann Clements and Aisha Hannibal, a red book with a scene outlined in red and white showing a city scape in the foreground and a nature scape in the background with a crescent moon on the right hand side of the sky and the rest of the sky filled with stars

I have run red tents in the past, but I stopped because I couldn’t match my own development of understanding of things like gender and oppression and equality and inclusivity with what I saw as a very binary situation. I tried for a while to reconcile these and eventually I gave up. But this book answers a lot of the questions I had at that time and then some.

The book is split into 4 parts. The first goes through the history/herstory of red tents, as well as the authors vision for the future of a more inclusive and accessible gathering. Part 2, the longest part, is about the mechanics of starting a red tent, what you bring to the table, what’s the vision, looking at collaboratively and collectively creating the space and the guidelines and the finances and the boundaries. This section is hugely helpful if you are thinking of setting up a red tent but have no clue what to think about or where to even begin. Part 3 is about the fundamentals of each session and different explorations of what can work, what might not work, how flexible it needs to be, etc. Part 4 is about dealing with challenges and growth and closing or stepping away from a tent.

I was genuinely surprised by the book. I was worried it was going to be more of the same with regard to “white woman spirituality” but it wasn’t – or at least it didn’t read like this to me. I am of course open to being corrected by those who would know better. The authors have dug deep into their own experiences and the experiences of others who have run red tents through interviews, as well as looking into research, academic work, academics speaking on matters of inclusivity, whether it be welcoming BIPOC )black indigenous people of colour) or non-binary gendered people or those less financially well off into the circle. They also bring up issues of accessibility, not only those with physical differences, but childcare issues, locations, public transport, length of time. To me is seems like a comprehensive look at what can stop people availing of the support a red tent can offer – along with prompts for questions to ask ourselves along the way.

I am sure there are things that are left out – there is the constant consideration that red tents happen all over the world, within different cultures, and this needs to feed into the process. They also being up the topic of cultural appropriation as well, which was good to see and specifically address the issue of smudging as a problematic topic, while also allowing the space for the members of the red tent to bring their own cultures and traditions into the space.

The authors are pretty clear on the fact that there is no One True Way to run a red tent – the tent must be flexible to deal with the needs of the people attending at the time. And those needs would change according to the composition of the group as well.

I think for those who are thinking of starting a red tent or a women’s circle or some sort of talking/being space, it’s a really useful handbook to have in the back pocket. If you have no interest in starting a space like this, but want to join one – again, this is a useful thing to consult to make sure you’re joining a group that coincides with your values and needs at this time. Even if you don’t want either, but want to develop yourself or get clear on what you think and feel about certain things, I think a lot of the prompts/ self reflection questions will help you gain that clarity. I know I will be revisiting them in the future to help me regain where I stand on certain topics.

I feel that Brigid could support a red tent as is outlined in this book, in ways she couldn’t support some of the red tents I’ve attended in the past. This is outlining a vision of inclusivity, learning, growth and development that will lead us to look at communities and groups differently and hopefully promote a better outlook on how we run things in the future.

Added to note: following a discussion in the Brigid’s Forge Facebook group, I want to acknowledge and note that the book doesn’t acknowledge the origins of the red tent within the Jewish tradition. This was something I missed in the post and my apologies for it!