Learning to dance… and other things

This is my usual pre-fiction warning that while this story is based on experiences and UPG of my own, it’s important to note, it’s not based on lore, or general gnosis. It’s personal, unverified, etc, etc. So, please – don’t go saying this is canonical, it’s fiction….

She loved the skirt. She wasn’t usually one for skirts much, leggings were far more practical to her way of thinking, but this skirt was lovely. It was made of light fabric and swirled around her legs, making her feel special and unique. Surely no one else would have a skirt like this? She twirled as she went down the road to meet her friends, delighting in the feel of the fabric and the weighlessness of the whole thing. As she met her friends, there was giggling and laughing and admiration of outfits – all as was usual for a big night like this.

It wasn’t often the place had musicians like this come to play and anyone over the age of 14 (or able to convince parents and guardians that they were mentally if not chronologically old enough to attend) was there. The old grannies and grandads lining the walls where, hopefully, the music wouldn’t be too loud, the youngsters at the front waiting for the music to start and the lepping and dancing to begin.

It started quiet enough, with the usually group dances, and they were fun, but there was energy building in the room, and the hairs at the back of her neck were rising, rising with the energy. After the break, there was an announcement that they were going to try some new stuff, some new tunes. “tell us if you like them” was the call and everyone rushed the floor to begin.

There were drums, she thought, beating in time to her pulse, causing her legs and arms to move almost of their own volition with no conscious thought at all. These weren’t the carefully learned steps of the set dances, this was individual dances, no set steps, no control over body or mind. She found herself with the group of lads everyone agreed were the ones to watch. They were the sportsmen, the ones that were going places, the ones that would be the leaders of the community in years to come. Normally she wouldn’t have belonged there, but tonight, with her special skirt and the thumping music, she belonged anywhere. One in particular, he caught her and threw her, up and up in the air til she was flying and laughing and singing in time with the drums.

But indeed all things come to an end and most people there had crops to tend to and animals to feed come the morning, neither of which would wait a sleepy man or woman with patience. And so the music ended and although there were calls for more, most agreed there was time to be finished now. And as the people on the dancefloor drifted away, the boy she had been dancing with, the one who had been laughing and flying with her, rubbed the back of his neck and ducked his head so that he was looking up at her through hair long lost of any style.

“Well, um, are you dancing so?” he said and she laughed some more.

“I could walk you home”, he said, “for fear you might be weak after all the dancing. Hate to think of you not getting there safely.”

“Sure”, she agreed, for he lived out her way anyway, “but Da will be coming along the road to meet me anyway”.

“No worries, sure there’ll be a crowd of us anyway in that direction”. So he tousled his hair some more and she fixed her lovely new skirt, so light it was like wings of air around her on the floor, but a bit less new now than it had been at the start of the night. Still, it was special, and the moon was out and the stars were out.

She popped over to the water to get a drink, passing by the female equivalent of the lads she’d been dancing with, hearing snatches of conversation as she went by. “did you see her?” “slut… showing her legs” “shame on her to be bucklepping like that” “no decorum” “that skirt”

She slowed as she realised who they were talking about – to be fair they made it easy for her, stopping silent and staring at her as she paused by them. She looked them all in the face, seeing the judgement, the sneering, the superiority lingering there. She plucked at her skirt, her lovely new fancy skirt, almost seeing the lustre drain out of it with their comments. She was no slut, even if she didn’t understand what they meant by it, it was a word she knew meant something she was not. Her skirt was lovely.

Her eyes hot now and burning with the need to release these feelings of shame and fear, even if she didn’t fully understand why, she went back to the boy she’d, but with feet dragging in the dirt now, rather than lightly floating over it.

“What happened?” he said, then looked over to the other group. “Don’t mind them, whatever they said, jealous bitches the lot of them.”

Easy for him to say, she thought, stroking her skirt almost frantically.

“It’s a gorgeous skirt”, he offered, “I know my sis is dying to get one like it after seeing you tonight”.

“Oh, Mam made it for me, got the fabric from the trader last week”.

“Sis will be so jealous so, it’s unique for here!”

So saying, he linked arms with her and turned in the direction of home. And she focused on one foot in front of the other and smiling and hiding her true feelings and her hurt.

Her Da did indeed come out the road to meet her, smiling and waiting by the turn up to the house. The boy came right over to him as well, as if to make sure she’d not get lost crossing the road, or maybe to protect her from that group coming up behind.

“All ok lass?” her Da rumbled.

“Yeah, it was fun” she said, although she knew her Da would hear something wrong. She could feel him tensing up and starting to glare at the boy. “not him, Da, other people2.

Her Da looked at the young lad, waiting.

“There’s a crowd of jealous bitches in town that don’t have the courage to dance like your daughter, but then judge her for it and put her down. She was like an angel tonight, floating and dancing with the best of us. And that skirt is brilliant, I know my Ma will be down to ask about it in the week.” So saying he hugged her a goodnight and wandered further up the road home, falling in with his brother as he went.

“So, not a total success then?” She looked up at her Da and struggled to keep the tears in.

“No” came out in a whisper.

“Well you can tell me about it on the quiet road home, love, no one there to hear only ourselves and the foxes”.

And so it came out, the joy and the giggling and the laughter and the dancing and the drums and the beat and the whirl and the flying… and then the aftermath and the crushing feeling and the sadness and having to hold it all in so no one would see…

“I can see that was tough alright, love, but you don’t need to hold it in now. Let it all out”

And she did, weeping and wailing to the moon, standing with her Da’s arms around her, safe and secure. And then her Ma came out, ready to defend her young, until Da talked her out of it. Still, she had no doubt her tormenters would be having bad dreams tonight anyway. Her Ma wasn’t over-keen on unwarranted forgiveness and when one of her babies was threatened…

“So who’s this young lad then? He seemed decent.”

“Oh Da. He was one of the ones I was dancing with, remember I told you?”

“Oh yes, do I need to do my scary routine then?”

“You mean that oldy dancing you do?”

“Cheeky…. but yes… do you remember the steps?”

And so the three of them made their own music, under the stars, using the horrible, horrible movements her Da was convinced was dancing. And the family love surrounded her and helped to heal just a little the damage done earlier in the night.

And the next morning, the young lad came with his Ma, so she could find out more about the skirt…

The one with the fox

Please note this is a work of fiction based on a story of the saint with a fox and how I imagine it might have happened. This is UPG, fictional, NOT REAL.

We were worried, it’s true. The auld Fox, him that caused the phrase comh glic le sionnach (clever as a fox) to be coined in the first place, had been killed. Out on the hunt he was and a spear took him down. No one admitted to it of course, but there he was all the same, bleeding out on the ground, and nothing any of us could do to save him. And then of course, someone had to tell Himself that the Fox was gone, and to be fair it was a brave woman that did it in the end. Well, she was married to him, we thought she’d be safe enough, but even so it was a worry. Himself did love his auld Fox.

But now the Fox was gone from us. And we were left with Himself in a mood, an ongoing, ever lasting mood. Nothing could life him. We tried. We retold the stories the Fox used to tell. We re-sang the songs he used to sing. We had tumblers and dancers and musicians and entertainers galore in to try and life him and nothing worked.

And at the same time, there was a man kept confined. It was not our way usually, but really, we couldn’t trust Himself to give right judgement and blast it, there’s times you have to manage them above us. The man was likely to be killed if he went for judgement in that time and he hadn’t done anything worthy of that – or so we thought anyway, those of us who had hidden him away. Stolen a sheep from what I remember, for a youthful joke and the sheep given back the next day, but worry was given to the auld farmer who owned said sheep, the sheep being part of the family. So usually that would lead to a season’s work on the farm for the young lad or hiring someone to do it for him, if such could be found, but prices jumped when it was a judgement hire to be sure.

In the end, the Lady from Kildare was due a visit anyway. So we waited and kept him fed and tried to keep Himself from doing anything he’d really regret. And when she came walking up, she was maybe a bit surprised at the level of welcome she got. But the first thing she did was to throw Himself off someone he was yelling at. So that was a great start. Now Himself and the Lady were old friends, but you’d never think it from the row that followed. I won’t repeat the language used at all for fear someone might read it and think of using it, but they yelled each other up and down every wall in the place. And we had tall walls! It went on for hours. Hounds ran from them. Children were hiding behind their mothers’ skirts and some of them were taller than said mother! We were running interference as they moved through the place, moving any weapons we could see, leaving them blankets and rugs to fall on and throw at each other.

Well, the pair of them had tempers and Himself had been brewing a while and herself could never abide wallowing. In the end, she stopped and looked at him and said “Are you feeling better now, do you think?” And he laughed and we all heaved a sigh of relief.

Then while we were all at dinner, she left early to go say her prayers – her thoughts were always with God, you know, from the time she first heard of Him – and we thought nothing of it. And the next morning, she went off work a walk and we went to feed the young lad we had waiting for judgement only to find him gone. So we had to go chasing him. And the trail was easy enough to find, the lad had headed straight home and sure we could see him tearing along ahead of us. But he was on foot, and tired and we were on horses, so anyone could see how that was going to end. But the Fear must have been on the lad, because he was determined to escape us, he was scrambling on all fours to escape us, pulling himself up a hill, through brambles, squirming and twisting, dammit the horses couldn’t catch him.

So we went through the brambles on foot, with thorns as long as swords digging into us with every step. and hearing him ripping ahead of us. And we broke through the last barrier and there was the Lady standing in front of us, staring us down. And so we asked her had she seen the young lad, explaining what was going on and she said no, she had only seen a fox that had run under her skirts and weren’t we to be shamed for scaring the poor thing so. And we looked and thought it must be one big fox she had hidden, but she stared us down again and asked were we thinking that she, the holy lady that she was, would be lying about such a thing? And sure what could we do but say that no, of course we wouldn’t be accusing her of lying, didn’t everyone know she was brutally honest… And we stood there, scruffing our toes off the dirt, trying not to make it look like we were trying to see under her skirts, cos it wasn’t a fox, but the lady wouldn’t lie to us, but still…

In the end, she took pity on us. She laughed and took pity on us and shook out her skirts and sure enough, there was yet man, bold as brass. Well not so much bold, as shaking and shivering, hunkered down on the ground, trying to hide even now. And explained to us that the young lad would be no good for the season on the farm, but as a Fox, now, as a Fox, he might work out very well. And wouldn’t we get great praise from Himself for finding him a Fox as cunning and entertaining as the last one. Now she couldn’t be seen to be passing him over, seeing as how she had just torn strips off him the day before, but couldn’t we present him with his new Fox as a new entertainer tonight.

And what of the poor farmer and his recompense? Well of course she’d thought of that. The poor farmer was going to get help as well, with the young lad gone from home, there was trouble there somehow, but she wouldn’t give the details and the poor young lad was speechless, anyway, with the young lad gone from home, there was someone else that could leave as well and they’d be well pleased to help out the farmer for a season or maybe more. And even better the farm was close enough to the places the Fox was likely to be anyway, so they could still be family, even if not the same as before.

Well, we weren’t going to say her nay, now were we? Sure he was worth a try as a new Fox and if we threw him in with the other entertainers, he’d be safe enough. The Lady would take care of the help for the farmer she said, but laid a clear obligation on the young lad that he was to visit the farmer in 9 days time and not to miss it, because it was important. None of our business as to why, of course, but he nodded and looked a bit relieved. And we were told to make sure this happened as well, that he wasn’t caught in a hunt or such on that day.

And so the young lad performed that night and he proved a success. He kept Himself entertained and although he had a different way about him, he reminded more than a few of us of the way the auld Fox had about him. He could tell the stories, make Himself laugh, ended up pulling him out of a few moods as well… He was too old to be the auld Fox come back to us, so we just figured the Lady knew something we didn’t and left it at that.

Now he wasn’t tied to Himself in any way, it was a job, the same as most of the rest of us had. He could leave anytime he wanted, but he really seemed to enjoy coming up with the riddles and the tales and the songs – silly things, nothing a bard or file would contemplate most of the time, but he made a fine Fox for us all the same. And kept Himself happy, which really, was all we wanted. Life was a lot easier when Himself was happy.

Is Brigid calling me?

It’s a question that comes up a fair bit, in relation to many deities, but lately, I’ve been getting a fair few questions along these lines myself. And the answer is both extremely simple and extremely complicated.

For me, I didn’t necessarily feel ‘called’, as in, she didn’t appear in a flash of light and thunderous music, saying, “Right, it’s time, come on, get your arse in gear”. I mean, that might be the way she does it for some people but not for me. For me it was more a realisation that I was doing the work she wanted done anyway, so I might as well do it with her help as without it.

Explaining what that realisation was like is a bit more difficult though. If you’ve read the blog, or taken any of my classes over at the Irish Pagan School or are a member of the Brigid’s Forge group on Facebook, you’ll know I grew up Irish Catholic, and still identify as Pagan Catholic (and really, Irish Catholicism in the traditional pre-20th century sense, was really only skin deep with all sorts of pagan practices still trundling along nicely thank you very much. Just try asking most of us if we’d go so far as to disturb a fairy ring….) Growing up Irish Catholic, Brigid (as in St. Brigid) was always there, one of our three patron saints, a strong female holy figure, someone who promoted education, learning, justice…. Plus a decent excuse for at least a day a year of making Brigid’s crosses to take home to the Mammy and Daddy. (usually only in primary school that last bit!)

So, I knew the stories of St. Brigid. I also, I thought, knew the myths and legends fairly well. (As it turned out, I didn’t, those tales are heavily sanitised in schools!) But in my late 30’s, things began to change a bit for me. Now the Catholic Church I’d pretty much given up on as an institution at this point. It has done a lot of good in Ireland and elsewhere over the years, but it’s also done a lot of harm at the same time. Individual members of that church are a different story, but the institution itself… well I could be here for a while typing on that!

So, mid-30’s things began to change. From the time I graduated as an engineer, I got involved in getting more women into engineering (most companies want to use female engineers for promotional purposes anyway tbh, to maximise their image) I had always thought of myself as a feminist, even if I did proudly proclaim for many years that “I wasn’t like those other girls”. I rejected for a long time any pretense of liking or wanting traditional “female” concerns – boyfriends (although I was more than willing to have sex, just not any sort of commitment), looking pretty (my thoughts were that I was fat and ugly, so what was the point?), marriage (tying myself down and actually trusting a man????)… this list could go on for a while. I was pretending I was male while insisting I was female (not trans in any way, just didn’t want to be seen as less and I saw being female as being less). As far as I was concerned I could out-drink, out-shag and out-work any man.

Then I hit my late 20’s and met someone special (ended up marrying him). I started researching different areas of study – hitting the arts and humanities as well as STEM subjects. I saw the value in literature, stories, in creating a better world. I started thinking on a wider scale, not just my own life. It was suddenly not enough that my own life was getting better, I needed to do something about the world.

Sounds fierce grandiose, doesn’t it? This is what I mean about her sneaking up on me….

I started to do work on myself. I realised things were very wrong with me – I was showing all the signs of anorexia, except I was fat (and doctors don’t see fat people as getting eating disorders for some reason), I was desperately unhappy, drinking miles too much… I was not in a good place. The Church, my upbringing was telling me, should by my place of comfort, but frankly, it appeared to think that getting married to a fine, upstanding Catholic would solve all my issues (but I’d met a lot of those fine, upstanding Catholics as young men and frankly, an awful lot of them weren’t and aren’t…) So I started looking into women’s spirituality, menstrual spirituality. I went on some “reclaiming your power” retreats. I went into some dark places.

And then I realised there were “presences” in my life, especially when I was doing this inner work. Now I was still based in the UK at this point, so when they appeared, the old Irish deities were not first on my mind, especially since lot of the inner work practices I was taking part in were drawing on classical Greco-Roman structures and deities. It didn’t fit properly and it was hard to absorb some of what was happening. Plus two of the “presences” were strongly related to both the Virgin Mary and St. Therese of Lisieux. Both strongly Catholic images, rather than pagan.

And then I came home. And I started listening to the land I was born in again. I started listening to Irish podcasts, Irish telly, Irish radio, Irish stories. I realised how cut off I had been from the land of my home. (“Home” is probably worth another post all on it’s own!) I firmly remember going back to England at this point for a self-development weekend and standing in the closing circle, bare feet on the ground and declaring that “this is not my home. This is not my land. I have no deep roots here. My roots are elsewhere.”

Now I’m lucky to have that root system in the land of my birth. Many don’t. But it was part of my call. I started meditating, studying the old lore, seeing what elements of what I was being called towards. And by called, I mean I could read through the entire text of the Caith Maighe Tuireadh and return over and over and over again to that single paragraph that names Brig. I returned to the parts of the various glossaries dealing with Brigid. I found myself learning about how the poet, the smith and the healer operated in the world they inhabited. Most importantly, I learned how the work I was feeling interested in, feeling called to do, linked in to those stories and scriptures.

I found a need in my to do some energy training and specifically training aimed at the womb and menstruality. I found myself writing again, fiction, after years or not doing so. I found myself promoting and forcing myself into various spotlights to highlight engineering as a career for women and speaking out about the barriers to that.

I see many people out there questioning “Is Brigid calling me to do this?” My answer is “Why is it important? Is this work worthwhile and a positive force in the world? Does it lead the world to a better please? Is it making things better?” If the answer to any or all of those is “yes”, then why wait for the bolt of lightening to JFDI?

But the backing of a deity is a comfort, I know that. And if you want a relationship with Brigid, then you need to put some work in as well. Meditate, use guided meditations to meet her, develop your own. Look into her lore (and I’d strongly encourage you to read up on the saint as well as the deity), see what sort of person she is. Light a candle occasionally. Pray – we underestimate this in the modern world. (Prayer for me tends to be extemporaneous now, rather than the formula of my youth, but there is a comfort in repeating prayers as well).

I’m a strong supporter of study and learning for deepening our relationship with deity. Learn about the being your interested in. Learn what others experience with them, learn with tends to be general gnosis and what appears to be more restricted. Learn the lore – we are lucky to have so much of our original lore still intact (ish) in Ireland and there are loads of places out there that allow free access to original texts (virtually I mean!) I’d recommend UCC Celt website for starters and you can move on from there. Spend time meditating and praying on your chosen deity on a regular basis.

Finally, if Brigid does call you, or you think she does – talk to people. Don’t just take one point of confirmation as a definite response, take your time. And for the love of whatever god you currently support, don’t go making lifelong or further promises without really serious care over wording, intent, content etc.

Brigid is a good deity to work for/with. (The very fact that she and I are actually arguing over the preposition there is a sign of this!) She uses tools, she’s not always great at remembering tools need rest and TLC as well as work, but she will listen when you point this out. She can and will also force a rest on you if she feels it’s needed. For me, she has a close link to the Dagda (her Da), as well as links to Airmid (herb healing) and some others in the Irish pantheon. But she is a being with a non-human outlook, non-human perspective, non-human priorities. It’s important to remember that. It’s always important to remember that!

Honesty

I’m currently working on a post exploring how you can tell if Brigid is calling you, but that’s taking a while to percolate. And in the meantime, “honesty” came up as a topic to explore. I’m hoping this will take a bit less time than the call post to be honest, but we’ll see how it goes.

A few years ago, being honest became very important to me. I had just done some work on how I want to be seen in this world and honest was high up on the list, as was someone who can be trusted. Now, the “trust” aspect I may have to address elsewhere, but the “honest” one I’ll address here.

I started off by looking at myself in the mirror and examining what I thought about my life. In many ways, I was living a very dishonest life. I was working for a place that I didn’t approve of, I was dealing with people on a daily basis who had very different opinions and views on world than I did, I was pretending major parts of myself didn’t exist. I was working for managers that didn’t tie in with what I thought ethical management was about.

So, I started exploring what I would like life to be. I started job searches that, yeah, ok, still included companies that I didn’t feel aligned with my values and principles, but were better than the ones I was currently looking for. I did some therapy on my past and admitted to myself that many major moves in my life, I viewed as a chance to start over and forget the person that existed in me previously. Assimilating all that was difficult.

These days with other people, I’m pretty honest. Other than answering “I’m grand” when I’m blatantly not, I mostly tell the truth. (OK there are occasions when I answer “yeah, we’re working on that right now” when we really weren’t up until the question was asked, but hey, I’m an engineer…)

Where I find it most difficult to be honest, is with myself. When I look at some of what’s happening in the world today, admitting to myself how this makes me feel, what emotions, thoughts and feelings are coming up for me, how I initially react versus how I think I should react… all these things are difficult. On less weighty matters as well -when my husband does something that really annoys or upsets me and I try to brush it under the carpet, swallowing down my feelings instead of addressing them, even if only to myself.

Admitting how I truly feel is a big deal to me. For much of my life there were only certain feelings that were acceptable and it’s taking a long long time to educate and practice my way out of that mindset. Equally, I’m conscious that I want to be viewed a certain way by this world and don’t want to be attacked for my views – sometimes this makes it harder to voice those views and opinions, even among family and friends.

But honesty, like charity, starts at home. And I am not living an honest life, if I don’t be honest with myself. You know all those films where the protagonist has to go through a series of trials and then in the last trial, they have to face themselves? Well there’s a reason for that. Sometimes ourselves can be our hardest critics, enemies, etc. Being able to look at ourselves in the mirror is a gift that is probably hugely underrated. Being able to look at ourselves in the mirror and like what we see – even more so.

I know I am still not being 100% honest with myself about certain areas of my life. There I things I wish were different, but are not so easy to change, so I try to persuade myself I am happy as they are. I’ve mastered the ability to be honest in work, even when the outcome of that honesty is less than pleasant, but I’ve not mastered the same ability in my own head.

So it’s a work in progress and it’s probably some of the hardest work I’ve ever done. But it’s important. Brigid doesn’t ask us to stay the same forever – in fact she asks the opposite. Yes, there might be years or decades when growth might be measured in millimetres, but that’s ok, as long as there’s growth. Lack of change leads to stagnation. None of us (I hope!) would be completely happy to still be the person we were 10 yrs ago, or 5 yrs ago, although there may be aspects of those people that are still very valuable.

Brigid wields the hammer but she expects us to do a lot of the work ourselves. Cos if she has to do the work, it gets a lot less pleasant. Here’s an exercise to try: look into a mirror. See how long you can last, just looking at yourself. What thoughts come up for you? What feelings and emotions come up for you? How long can you look at yourself? Spend a few mins recording what comes up as well – this may not be as easy as you think. And remember to think of good things as well as areas for improvement. Now what do you want to do about that? How honest can you be with just yourself as judge and jury?

When you want to do the work but…

So it’s a beautiful Sunday afternoon here in Ireland. It’s about 20C outside (which is bloody warm for this country!), the birds are singing, there’s isn’t a cloud in the sky. And I’m sitting in a dodgy portacabin, dealing with numerous minor and not so minor catastrophes, while maintaining spend, uplifting morale and generally being a Pollyanna figure for anyone who isn’t as chirpy. In short – I’m an engineer running a shutdown.

Now, shutdowns for engineers are what we live for – we get to do all the stuff we wanted to do for the last X years, get things back to right, make things look good, etc, etc, etc. It’s a wonderful, manic, stressful, energising, hectic, action-packed time. And that’s before something goes wrong 🙂

It’s also part of doing the work -the people working for me during this shutdown may not work with me full time, but they are my community during this time and it’s up to me to set the tone. There are things I will not compromise on, of course -safety is also first, the quality of the work is important, communication (respectful communication) is key. (Those who work with Brigid may recognise some of the above as part of her mission statement as well.) But there’s no need to be a slave driver, treating people like animals. I try to assume that people are doing their best and work with that.

It means when things go wrong, people tend to be honest with me -those who work with me anyway, those who don’t know me so well, might be a bit more cautious. I can look very snarly at times from afar…

And now on a Sunday afternoon, I only have 2 contractors on site, so I have a bit of downtime. Well, I’m still here in work in case something goes wrong with those two contractors, but still, it’s not as hectic. And I got to thinking back to a comment I made of a conversation I had a while ago, about Brig’s role in Caith Maith Tuired. We don’t get much detail on what she’s doing but I can imagine. Now fair warning: HERE BE DRAGONS (or at least, what follows is pure UPG, not lore!!)

I can imagine as the king’s wife, the link to sovereignity, the Dagda’s daughter, she’s able to fight, but she’s not in the front lines. I can see her in the organisation side. She’s making sure people get fed, people are healed, weapons are made and distributed, the support workers are organised, etc, etc, etc. She’s supply chain and engineering and finance and all the other support functions that come along to make the front line look good. It’s ridiculously similar to an engineer running a shutdown. Ok if there’s a part we need urgently, I’m unlikely to run off and get it, but I’ll be coordinating the people getting the part, the people needing the part and the people paying for the part. (Yup, usually at least 3 different groups there!)

Brig is there making sure the drinking water is safe and clean, she’s keeping the food good, she’s lifting the spirits and giving people heart. OK, a shutdown, not the same as the major conflict (part 2) that is CMT, but you’d be amazed at the similarities.

So I’m doing the work. And I’m looking at other people doing the work as well. The contract owner who’s bringing in snacks and chocolate for his team every day. The team leader running around at 6pm to make sure the night shift has the capability to make themselves a cuppa at 2am, even with the power out. The factory manager checking in with key people to make sure they’re ok and they have the support they need. If I asked any of those people about doing the work in the context I talk about on this blog, they wouldn’t have a clue about what I was talking. But they still do it.

it’s interesting to look around you. I’ve been in before 5am yesterday, by 5:30 this morning. It’d be easy to start feeling like I was doing something special or better than others, but other people were here too. I’ve been in a lot of pain this week – my period finally arrived after 63 days and it’s pretty bad pain wise -but so are other people. I’m not the only one to be popping painkillers to get through this week. (Not heavy duty ones though, we are at work!!) I could look at the hours I’ve clocked up and the salary I get and start questioning the balance, but then I look around at the people here working with me, all pretty much working towards the same objectives, working as a team and it becomes more than all that.

I like to link my work to aspects of Brigid. It helps me be a better person ( or what I consider a better person) and it helps me feel part of something bigger -that I’m not waging a futile existence that will have no impact on this world at all. It makes me feel that I can make a difference in this world, even if it’s only a tiny, miniscule difference, and leave the world a better place.

There are a lot of people who do that sort of work without the assistance of deity and fair play to them. I do it better with that assistance, or moral support or whatever you want to call it. So I’m taking time this afternoon, in a bit of quiet time at work, where I can spend some time with her in a place I usually don’t have this peace to do it and I’m appreciating these people I see around me. I appreciate these people doing this work and just getting on with it. I appreciate these people who come to work, even in these scary times, to help the rest of us do our jobs.

Most of all, I appreciate her for helping me see this and appreciate it.

When you don’t want to do the work

This morning, I don’t want to do the work. This morning, I want to curl up and forget the world and pretend it’s all not happening. This morning, I want things to magically, effortlessly change without me having to put in the work. So what do we do then? How does our deity (and it’s Brigid I’m relating to here) react when such a thing happens?

Well here’s the thing. I’ve committed to her that this blog will get written. It’s a struggle this week, for reasons I’ll explain in a minute, but I’m still posting something this morning. It’s personal ramblings rather than anything more profound or revealing but I’m still posting. So I’m maintaining that side of things. There’s very little else right at this point in time that I’m committed to on a regular, ongoing basis other than remembering her. But there is other work that I need to do.

Now this work is personal, it’s usually private, it’s not something I tend to speak publicly about in general. It’s working on healing my past trauma, my past pain, my past in general (my past, like many others, is not a pretty, pleasant place). And that’s the work I’m struggling with right now. I don’t want to do it any more. What good is it doing me???

Intellectually, I know it’s doing me some good. I know it’s helping me understand myself more, heal a bit better, deal with the past in ways that are etched into my flesh and bone. But it’s also hard, ongoing, relentless and neverending. It is unlikely I will ever reach a point where I’m saying, “That’s it now, I’m fixed, I can stop doing this” because life is… well life. New trauma, new pain, new wounds happen all the time. Sometimes even the joyous times cause effects that need to be dealt with.

But right now, I’m on day 49 of my menstrual cycle and I’m not pregnant. I know this is likely as a result of stress and the ongoing threat of the COVID-19 virus, but it’s still hard to take. And I feel it deep in my womb that this hurts.

So, just for today, I’m taking a step back.

Just for today, I’m deliberately not working on myself (which is different from just not doing something by default lol)

Just for today, I’m going to be, in my now, as I currently am.

I may end up taking stock, making an assessment, seeing where exactly is here and now for me, but in terms of the healing, the repairing, the learning… I’m taking the day off.

Tomorrow, I’ll be back on it, but for now, I’m doing nothing.

Translations

No, I don’t mean the play by Brian Friel (although if you do get the chance to ever see/read that play, please do. Or indeed anything by Brian Friel) I mean translating language, words, from one language to another. And specifically, from English to Irish.

Speaking to the gods in their own language, or at least in the language you think is theirs, can be an offering in and of itself. For those of us following the Irish deities, this means Irish. And there’s a lot of us that started out speaking English. Even those of us who are Irish generally start out with English most of the time as well. And there’s differences in the language. There’s differences in thinking, in philosophy, in syntax, in grammar… Things that aren’t necessarily obvious when you’re learning a language. And I’m going to use some examples I’ve seen around the place (and by place I meant internet) over the years and explain why double checking is important.

So, I think the one that has come around so so often in the last few years is the time someone decided to translate Blue Lives Matter as “Gorm Chónaí Ábhar”. Now technically in Irish, blue = gorm; conaí = lives; ábhar = matter. but…..

In Irish, in preceding generations, an fear dubh (technically translates as the black man) was used for the devil. (Or at least this was my experience with my grandparents) So those words were taken plus there’s a rumour/ thought/ hypothesis coming from linguists that actually it comes from the Viking words for black people (which mean blue people because the first ones they met wore a lot of blue clothing. Either way, the Irish for black man is fear gorm (technically meaning blue man). So there’s the first problem.

The second word “chónaí” does mean lives, but it means lives as in I live here. Táim i mo chónaí in Éireann means I live in Ireland. Lives in this context (blue lives matter) would be saol. Equally, as ye may have noticed in the previous paragraph, in Irish the noun comes first and the adjective second. So, it would need to be saol gorm not gorm saol.

Finally we come to “ábhar”. Ábhar means matter as in stuff. Things. Subject. That sort of matter. As in “Cén ábhar a thóg tú ar scoil?” (which subjects did you study at school?) That sort of thing. Matters as in ” blue lives matter” is an entirely different concept in Irish. The closest concept would be “important” or “of worth”.

Coming from all that, one way of saying “blue lives matter” in Irish would be is fiú iad saolta gorma. Now, ye’ll notice that the words “saol” and “gorm” have changed there and that’s cos in Irish, words change according to case and number. So because we’re saying lives, plural, saol goes to saolta and that forces gorm to gorma.

Now for someone of my politics (which would be fairly liberal and left wing to say the least) the irony of someone trying to say “blue lives matter”, a phrase that came up to support the police in opposition to the black lives matter movement, and coming up with something as twisted and backwards as this is fairly amusing. It’s not so bad on a T-shirt, but I’ve seen tattoos of this.

The second one I’m looking at is from a Yasmine Galenorn books where she translates Land of Brilliant Apples as Talamh Lonrach Oll. OK, she never claims it’s Irish, so I’m not really going for her here. It’s just being used as an example. First off, “talamh” does mean land, but it’s land as in ground, or earth. Land as in country, area is tír. Again we come to the whole adjectives changing spelling with cases and being in the reverse order (plus the Irish for apple is úll, not oll) So Land of the Brilliant Apples would be more like Tír na hÚlla Lonracha rather than Talamch Lonrach oll.

Now here’s the thing. No one, deities included, can expect you to become fluent overnight in any language. And frankly, if they do, they can bloody well teach you overnight 🙂 That’s not what I’m about here, not about shaming. This is about raising awareness that using Google Translate or other online translators for spiritual or tattoos or anything permanent or important – double check it. Triple check. Tie in with a native speaker or someone who is at least on their way to fluent. Use Google Translate and then translate what they give you back into the original language. Try each word on it’s own and again as a phrase. Run the answers you get by someone who knows the language.

For the record, I don’t consider myself fluent in Irish. I learned Irish in school, as do most people going through the Irish school system. I love the language so I use it as much as I can and I had parents who could afford to send me to Irish college for 3 weeks in the summer (for 5 years on the trot!) I got to use and speak the language as a living language and learn to appreciate the differences and things to think about. There’s nothing quite as surprising the first time you realised you dreamt in different language to what you’re used to 🙂

But, there are many topics I can’t converse with as Gaeilge. I’m an engineer, I don’t have the Irish terms for much of my daily business conversation. Speaking about politics, world affairs, etc is probably beyond my comfortable Irish. But I use what I have.

And that’s important. The gods appreciate whatever our best is. But if it’s something important, if it’s something permanent – remember, the syntax, grammar and structure is NOT the same as in English. (and possibly not whatever your native language is). Learning Irish is a great way to honour the Irish pantheon, and they will appreciate it, but remember our magic is a magic of language and poetry and words – be careful what you say!!

Brigid as support in time of pandemic

So, Brigid as a healer is a fairly well established entity. So she seems an obvious choice to ask for support in time of pandemic. But what support and how to ask? Well, ok, right now, a lot of my prayers and requests are somewhat gibberish ranting some version of “please keep me and mine safe in this time of plague and pestilence”. Sometimes it’s “please give me the patience to survive this crap”.

But that’s personal and not really looking out for the world. I’m going to be honest, I’ve not asked for any help on a worldwide or pandemic wide basis. I hadn’t thought of doing it until earlier this week and I get a feeling of “yeah, doing what I can” when the thought comes into my head, so I’m leaving it alone for now. Plus, I tend to be big on the practical and the deity helps those who help themselves side of things…. Here’s what I’m thinking:

What helps you, supports you, mentally, physically, emotionally right now? What can you do on the daily, weekly, monthly basis to help yourself? What food do you enjoy eating that feels good and gives you what you need right now? What movement can you do with the resources available to you? Will meditation help? Will just taking time to get a deep breath help? What do you need to do for you, to keep yourself in one piece?

Who around you can you ask for help? Is there governmental assistance in your area? Have you family you can ask for help? Sometimes just having a listening ear at the end of the phone is such a massive help. Are there organisation in your area offering help with shopping/ meds collection?

If you’ve done all that you can do and you still need help – reach out to Brigid. See what you need, just be aware that she may not agree with you with what’s best for you. Ask – however formally or informally you feel best suits. I mean, I wouldn’t go asking her for stuff straight off the bat, maybe see what kind of relationship you already have there, but if you’ve already had a few conversations, contacts, etc, then reach out. Have a chat, do a meditation, create the thoughts…

Now a lot of the above is obviously UPG. These are thoughts based on my relationship with Brigid and my experiences with her. But I think from my experiences, she’s going to be looking at the community support, the food, the mental support, the balance between supporting ourselves and supporting our communities. Right now, she’s not asking me to do a lot of in-person work because my husband is sick and we’re isolating. But she is asking for virtual support, sharing of experiences, letting people know they’re not alone.

Not all healing is medicine based, plant based, etc. Sometimes healing involves a listening ear, a hug, a sleep, or just being able to read the random ramblings on a blog of someone just saying – it’s ok. Whatever you’re doing right now to support yourself, to maintain yourself, it’s ok. (well you know if it’s going to actively hurt someone else, maybe rethink it… maybe… depending)

You’re presumably an adult, if you’re reading this blog. (If you’re not an adult, check with your parents ok, I do discuss adult themes here!) You are probably on a journey to know yourself (to me this is the first step in any spiritual journey), and so you may do things at this time that you will look back at with a sense of shame or disappointment in yourself. That’s ok, learn from them, make what reparations you can. But right now, be very clear about all the asks on you, whether from yourself, family, work and deity. Prioritise, see what you have time for and look at what’s most important to you.

She is here but not necessarily to help us… She has her own things to do and she will see them done. But she will support where she can, especially if you already have a relationship with her. Right now, she’s saving me a space in a quiet meditation space, she’s allowing me space to give my brain a break every now and then. But I’m also keeping going in the virtual support I offer and trying to offer that space further on. It’s not a completely transactional relationship, but it has elements of the transaction about it. I do my bit, she does her bit, those two things are not necessarily equal over time but as long as we’re both happy with it…. we’re ok.

See what you can do for yourself. See what support you can find for yourself. See where the gaps are and where you think she can help fill them in. And of course, if you wish to do a formal ritual, prayer circle, etc that’s always useful. I grew up with and still adhere to the belief that a true, heartfelt prayer is always useful. Just… don’t necessarily expect her to solve all your problems, or at least not in the way you expect 🙂

Community while distancing

I used a planner called the Full Focus Planner to help me organise my life. I like it because it contains a range of features, and makes me think about conscientiously planning my life. One of the things I like about it is that there’s a weekly review that includes space to outline how I will support myself that week. It has various headings included in this section including sleep, move, eat and more but the one I want to talk about this week is “Connect”.

I have to admit, this is a tough one for me. I’m notoriously bad at keeping in touch with people, especially when I don’t see them for a while. It means friendships drift sometimes and I don’t like that. However, one upside of the COVID-19 virus is that I’m getting more and more used to checking in with friends virtually. I’m organising and taking part in virtual games nights. I’m looking at how to keep in touch with friends with kids whose lives aren’t always plannable (cos even if the kids do go to sleep on time, parents are often heading to bed at that time themselves just to try and catch up!) I’m having hour long talks with my parents on the phone, instead of the usual weekly duty call (and I’m stretching the weekly there!!)

So now I’m consciously listing out the people I want to connect with each week. It’s not exactly a rota, it’s not on a formal, regular basis, but I am looking at who I’ve not spoken to in a while and depending on their circumstances, make a task to call them, message them or set something with them. It’s a conscious decision rather than leave it to see when it pops up in my brain again and it’s working pretty well. Which leads me to community in this time.

I’m a member of several communities, many of which have developed through a mixture of online and in person events, conversations, etc. I had thought that the communities that were used to conversing and mingling on line would be easier to manage during this time and yet there’s been a definite mix of community response in this time. Equally, with all the social distancing, it’s hard to figure out what’s permitted in our in-person communities.

So I’m coming to some conclusions. One of the most important things I can do for any of my communities right now is just to check in. Ask a genuine “How are you?” or “How’s things?” Give people space to talk and be genuine about their responses. Support the charities who are feeding those who are struggling, who are offering life lines, phone lines etc for those who are in increased danger right now, those who are working to heal those who are ill…. We can support out communities through indirect action as well as direct action. It’s not always appropriate to step out of the house to go do something right now.

And of course there’s the long term actions we can take. Remember that post on energy and money a few weeks back? Well here’s another drip into that – remember when the next election comes around in your area, who do you want to be shaping policies on health, social care, etc? What companies supported the community and which didn’t? Who around you stepped up and supported the community and how will that affect your relationships from here on out?

Now of course there is no call for everyone to step up. Some of us are doing just about ok, or less well, by surviving. Some of us are managing ourselves and our families just about and the energy or spare brain space to take on community work just isn’t there. That’s absolutely fine. And it’s to be commended. If all we can do is lie curled up under a blanket and breathe, that’s fine. We all have different levels of capabilities in all sorts of different areas.

I will say that with a full time job in the food industry, supporting my communities is hard right now. And I look at some of the community leaders out there who have revamped, adjusted, changed their businesses and ways of working to accommodate these times we’re living in and beat myself up over not doing more. But there’s only so many hours in the day and only so much energy available.

So – that part of my planner that allows me to reach out and connect with people, with friends, with family as best I can. And because it’s there in my planner I can consciously make those choices. There are things I’m doing on a weekly basis right now and they’re on a specific list, but there are other things that come up because of something I see in the community, or because of a story I hear, or because of a passing remark.

Our communities are changing shape, changing form, but that doesn’t make them any less valuable. And community is so important in the modern world where despite all our technology, it’s really easy to remain alone, be lonely, not actually make a connection with people. So – what can you do? What steps can you take? (And remember, if the answer to that is “exactly what I’m doing right now, no more and preferably less” that’s perfectly fine!!)

A visit

A few nights ago, as I was just finishing up work, cos in this new world we’re living in, I work from home for now, I heard an almighty ferocious roaring outside the window. It sounded like a cow stuck in labour. After frantically wandering around the inside of the house for a few mins, I saw a beast outside the window.

Not a cow, but one very upset bullock. (For those who are not familiar with the nomenclature, a bullock is a bull who’s had the snip) The poor thing was pawing the ground, shaking his head (with a fairly decent set of horns on him for Ireland now….) rubbing up against the house, generally upset. So naturally, I withdrew from the room and told my husband to do the same. The last thing I wanted was for the bullock to see us through the window and try to come through the wall.

Our house is well built but still….

Anyway, I started ringing round, cos while I know of the names of the farmers around us, I don’t have contact details. No luck at all. The bullock at this point was doing laps of the house, not in any sort of focussed way, mind, just meandering around the house, still letting his displeasure be known. (A bullock making his displeasure known is LOUD!!)

So I rang my Ma, who reminded me it’s been more than 5 decades since she had to deal with any breed of bovine creature, but mainly, once she was satisfied it wasn’t a cow in labour, said to leave it alone. It was entertaining once I stopped worrying the poor thing would hurt itself. It inspected our cars, nibbled a bit of grass, gave us a bit of fertiliser in exchange and after about an hour moseyed out the gate. At which point my darlin husband went out to close the gate.

Why am I writing about this? Well very often, people speak of signs and symbols in paganism (and in other belief systems as well). With Brigid’s association with cows, or lack thereof, I could look at this as a sign of something, couldn’t I? But well… what would it be? A bit of company for the evening? I was going nowhere near the animal knowing as little as I do about cattle and not knowing how used said animal was to humans) An attention getting tactic? She usually manages that all on her own. A sign I should go out and buy some cattle? Highly unlikely -we have no land, no space and most importantly, no experience.

Now, if I had just done some working or some prayer or something, possibly I might be looking at this differently. but the most I’d be taking from this is that she hasn’t forgotten me. She’s still here in this time of crisis and pain and woe. She’s still looking out for us, still keeping her eye on us, still being herself.

Sometimes, a bullock in the garden is just a bullock in the garden. It happens in rural Ireland, with the best farmer in the world, animals escape (and bullocks aren’t near as bad as goats….) But for all that, it was a nice break from the ongoing horribleness in the world right now, and sure just maybe, that was her intent all along…