Monday, July 31, 2023

Eamhain Mhacha: Neamhspleáchas agus Cómhalartacht/The Twins of Macha: Autonomy and Reciprocity

 {The Lughnasadh season is upon us here in the Northern hemisphere, a time to remember the Sovereignty Goddesses and their sacrifices. We sadly lost Shuhada Sadaqat/Sinéad O'Connor just a few days ago; her actions and convictions, what she offered up to the world, emulated how I imagine a Sovereignty Goddess would be. So while I am devoted to Macha, my love and gratitude extend to all the Sovereignty Goddesses and to everyone who strives for liberation on behalf of themselves and the collective. ❤️‍🔥

This is my attempt to help process some of my thoughts and much of what is written here probably won't be new to folx who are reading it. But perhaps it can spark some of your own thoughts around sovereignty, what that might look like to you and its importance. So here is my little prayer for us to return to ways of being that are centered in autonomy and reciprocity.}


🌟 Eamhain Mhacha: Neamhspleáchas agus Cómhalartacht/The Twins of Macha: Autonomy and Reciprocity 🌟

These last few years have been a bit of a crash course in personal sovereignty. This has also been accompanied by confliction of the whole concept, as sovereignty is often meant as power-over instead of empowerment. After spending some time in Macha's territory it has become clear that there is still so much to unlearn/learn and to sort out in my heart, head and spirit. 

As I sat on top of Eamhain Mhacha, I started to revisit the idea of what sovereignty means to me both as an anarchist and as an Irish-centered polytheist. This is a place thought to be the ancient seat of rule for the province of Uladh {Ulster} and Macha being the tutelary Goddess here is often associated with sovereignty. What might that mean to her and her devotees today? What potential does that have to offer or even what did it look like before we thought that we could own other beings and places? In quiet ritual, I consulted her and remembered her stories that are rooted here.

I remembered the arrogance of both her chosen husband Cruinniuc and of King Conor; her husband's boasts and the king's fragile ego. The betrayal and the abuse of power. 

Betrayal of the husband after he swore to Macha not to mention their relationship or her Otherwordly talents. Instead of keeping his promise, Cruinniuc bragged at a {either Lughnasadh or Samhain} feast hosted by King Conor that his wife could outrun the king's fastest horses. This lead to Macha having to make good on his boasts, as the king threatened to kill her husband if she didn't race against those horses. Problem was she was very pregnant, in the final stage, ready to give birth soon. She pleaded with King Conor to allow her to give birth first, but the tyrant wasn't having it. She turned to the crowd of people at the feast, seeing if anyone would speak on her behalf for the king to have mercy. She was instead met with mockery and jeers.

Macha raced the king's horses and won, right after which she gave birth to twins. It is thought by many that Eamhain Mhacha was named after them, "The Twins of Macha".

I remembered that abuse of power and betrayal, not only by her husband and the king, but by all present, everyone was culpable. I also keenly remembered the defiant curse that Macha spat out: for nine generations all the men of Ulster would become weak and immobilized with the pangs of birth in Ulster's greatest times of need. This is the part of the story I hold onto most dearly; not the curse itself but it's Macha's rebellion and resilience that enchants me.

Many of us have known deep betrayal and abuse of power, and at the same time, there are many of us who are culpable at benefitting and participating in those very things as well.

As for Macha's Twins, there are a few different outcomes I've heard. Sometimes there is no mention of their fate at all; sometimes they become the chariot horses for the hero Cú Chulainn, and sometimes they are taken back to the Otherworld with Macha. For me they have become the embodiments of Neamhspleáchas/Autonomy and Cómhalartacht/Reciprocity as Macha herself is an embodiment of Flaitheas/Sovereignty.



 In my own struggles to find healing and to reclaim power, there have been people who have tried to dictate to me what that should look like. Sometimes I think this was coming from a good place, and other times there was an agenda, and in those times people would try to use their own power over me to push their agenda. In softer instances it would be run-of-the-mill paternalism, and in more fucked up instances it was manipulation, threats of punishment and weaponizing my own trauma against me. All in the name of "saving me from myself". 

Internalizing this from a young age has at times made me judgemental of others, and unfortunately there have been people who were dear to me that I failed. Instead of being a good friend, I allowed my disagreement with some of their choices get in the way of meeting them where they were at. Sadly they are no longer here for me to try to make it up to them.

Dogma and authoritarian tactics are rampant in non profits and charities that are supposed to be serving marginalized people. Shit like saviourism {especially the white variety!} as well as withholding of services to those who need it if they don't conform to some narrow vision of "acceptable" behaviour {i.e. joining a certain religion, practicing sobriety and heteronormativity}. But this isn't limited to these types organizations, I have seen grassroots and other types of activist groups openly shun people for not meeting their purity mandates {such as people who do sex work, who use substances or who are Queer}. 

And lastly, I have both witnessed and experienced spiritual leaders in pagan communities who have misused their influence over vulnerable people who came to them in trust. Bidding us to listen to what they say our Otherwordly crews require of us, attempting to persuade us from our choices, otherwise we aren't "stepping into our full power" {or some variation of that}. Once again, in some of these cases the shunning is brought down for not following their directions.

So in saying that, what I envision sovereignty to be would have firstly the component of autonomy. We are the experts of our own trauma and needs. It is so important that we all have the freedom and space to figure out what that looks like, to make mistakes, to learn, and to have a voice. 

With that autonomy I also think it's important to reject the hyper cutthroat individualism that the dominant western culture pushes.


Western colonizer culture is set up for us to be in perpetual isolation and alienation; this makes it possible for those who hold the power to maintain its apparatus of extraction and exploitation.

Those in power want us to forget that we are all interconnected. That we as humans are connected to one another, but more than that, we are connected with all beings. We are all kin. If we remember this, we are more likely to live in the spirit of reciprocity. 

There is a wonderful Irish seanfhocal/proverb that sum this up perfectly: "ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine/it is under the shelter of each other that we survive". 

 It can be hard to imagine what that would even look like or figure out how we get there. Or it could be hard to believe that it is even conceivable. But it can be done, it has been done, it is being done.

Personally I don't think this is about creating some utopia or that this will solve all our problems. I do think however that there are so many possibilities of what we can do now to attempt to shift into living in right relationship, but since it is so vastly different to what many of us are familiar with, it might be daunting to figure out what that even means.

There are two quotes from Robin Wall Kimmerer in Braiding Sweetgrass that really speak to my heart of what it means to live in reciprocal ways:

"Action on behalf of life transforms. Because the relationship between self and the world is reciprocal, it is not a question of first getting enlightened or saved and then acting. As we work to heal the earth, the earth heals us."


"The most important thing each of us can know is our unique gift and how to use it in the world. Individuality is cherished and nurtured, because, in order for the whole to flourish, each of us has to be strong in who we are and carry our gifts with conviction, so they can be shared with others."

What a beautiful way to resist western colonizer culture.

Perhaps it might also be helpful to think of ways in which reciprocity is already expressed in our lives. Both in how we send that out into the world and how it is given to us. This might be a nice starting point or something to reflect on when we feel like we are "not doing enough" or when we lose hope. I definitely lean into this when my health stuff limits me and want to figure out how I can contribute while in recovery mode. 

As animists, pagans and magical workers we can turn to our spirit allies to collaborate with, our ancestors for healing and support and to the stories of our deities and heros for inspiration.

This sacred territory of Macha is still colonized, and as an outsider it's not my say how decolonization here would look like. Where I live, Turtle Island is still of course colonized too, and the active genocide against Indigenous people is still happening. Some of my ancestors were settlers from Ireland, fleeing from An Gorta Mór, The Great Hunger that was forced upon them by the English. Others who were first British colonizers here on this island, then moving on to become participants in the genocidal colonizer project on Turtle Island. One thing both those lines have in common is that they both bought into the lie of white supremacy and benefitted from it. And with that I inherited privilege and responsibility.

I mention this because we most certainly can't have the kind of sovereignty that I am envisioning here without actively eradicating colonization. For settlers that means listening to Indigenous people whose lands they occupy and supporting Indigenous lead tactics when welcomed to. 


I don't believe that the Sovereignty Goddesses were born to represent dominance, but come from a time when many more of us rememembered our interconnection. That kind of sovereignty is not about promoting greed or control, or retribution. Instead it upholds generosity, cooperation and restoration. And I think to get to that Sovereignty it is of equal importance to have Autonomy because we are individuals, and Reciprocity because we are a collective. 

Míle buíochas to Macha for all your lessons, protection and guidance. Sé do bheatha, a Macha/Hail Macha!




Thursday, January 30, 2020

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Healing with the Aid of Ancestors {Ritual and Herbal Powder Recipe}

I had been inspired by two events and two plants this year to finally do an Ancestral healing ritual this past Samhain. This is something that I had been wishing to do for a few years now, and had worked my way towards it on some counts, but also had been avoiding doing so, not ready to face or let go of some pain and anger. 

The first event of inspiration happened when I was at Tlachtga/Hill of Ward this past Bealtaine, after hearing the story of Tlachtga, I knew that I had wanted to do something on Samhain to honour her. In her story she is deeply betrayed by her jealous father, which lead to her rape and impregnation, causing her to birth three sons, which also ultimately lead to her death. But instead of her last words being of vengeance and hatred, they were of hope and love, the naming of her three sons: Cuma, Muach and Doirb. And as long as those names are remembered, Ireland and her people shall be safe from catastrophe. To me Tlachtga is a figure of strength and sovereignty; not necessarily encouraging forgiveness and most certainly not forgetting, but urging one forward to live their full potential, irregardless of what life throws at them. Also while at the Hill of Ward, I had my first of many experiences during my time in Ireland of communing with various nature spirits, this time being with Stinging Nettle. Already an ally, I was reminded of the many lessons that this plant can teach. One of them being that just like the pain one can get through harvesting them, it could be well worth going through the experience for the potential of nourishment and healing that both the plant and painful experience can bring. For only through such experiences can we truly gain the insights needed to heal ourselves and help others with the same. 

The second event of inspiration came this past summer during a get together up north, while visiting our family cemetery in a small village. The whole place was carpeted by beautiful Selfheal/Heal-all, another beloved plant ally. I harvested some, knowing that it would be perfect for helping heal family and ancestral wounds. 

While I did initialize the healing on Samhain, it is a work in progress, so this is something that I continue to do. I suppose it could be said that this has been incorporated into my devotional work with my Ancestors, hopefully that is mutually beneficial for both the living and the dead. 

I've decided to share some of that here, in case others are looking to do similar work with the aid of their own Ancestors.

Ancestral Herbal Healing Powder

A powder like this could easily be used in charms, in an incense, or as I have done and made it for adding to candles for ritual use. *Wearing gloves would be a good idea while making this, as some of the ingredients can be toxic. This was made on the full moon before Samhain, which happened to be a Sunday, to me a great time for healing work. I spent a good long while grinding everything in a mortar and pestle, in a meditative state focusing on healing. The mixture was then left under the light of the full moon to be blessed for nine days.

Stinging Nettle
Ancestral Rose Thorns
Wild Rose
Tansy {can be toxic}
Apple Leaves
Bleeding Hearts {can be toxic}
Linden Leaf and Flower

Ancestral Healing Ritual

I carved on a black candle in Ogham down three separate sides "Clann" {Family}, "Shinsir" {Ancestors} and "Leighgeas" {Healing}, and over each carving placed three personal effects to consecrate the candle within the Three Realms: blood {Talam/Land}, saliva {Muir/Sea} and breath {Nem/Sky}. Then on each carving I rubbed some of the herbal powder from above, three times on each.

The candle was then placed in a silver bowl of Ancestral graveyard dirt, surrounded by three poppy pods, one at each point of the Ogham carving. Under this is kept names and situations being focused on for healing. Before being lit, the candle was anointed with nine drops of a healing oil, and sprinkled with more of the herbal powder. This is something I do every time before the candle is lit for a working.

Of course before beginning the ritual, I always leave offerings to those who I am asking help from, which I encourage everyone to do. During the ritual there are prayers, meditation and often divination as well, which I also encourage others to do, tailored to their own needs and personal practices. 

It's never an easy thing, the process of healing. For those on that same journey, I hope that this post might be of some use to to you. 

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Samhain Blessings

Samhain blessings to you all in the Northern half/Bealtaine blessings to you in the Southern half. However you observe this time of year, may your loved ones always be felt, both the living and the dearly departed. 

Warm hearts & hearths! <3

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Folk Magic Quick Tip: Bedside Kit for Protection and Aids while Sleeping, Dreaming and Walking Between Worlds

Tending to be one of those people that likes to be prepared for just about anything, I have various types of protections, charms, and such scattered throughout both my home and carried on my person. Perhaps on the verge of overkill, but I don't wish to chance things, plus I like to have things within reach. And I am kinda lazy when in bed, not wanting to have to get out unless it is time to get up or if nature calls. So on my beside is a kit of things I might need to keep me safe while either sleeping, dreaming or while walking between worlds. 

This rather innocent-looking vintage tin once belonged to my Granny. She used to keep buttons, spools and other doo-dads for crafting in it. When I look at the image of the girl and the goat, I like to picture her as a witchling-to-be, so thought that it would be a good storage option for supplies of that nature. :) 

Should you wish to do something similar, here's some ideas of what you could put in your own bedisde kit. This is currently what I am keeping in mine:
Each item has a purpose, many of them with more than one function, so one could certainly simplify what they keep at their bedside down to perhaps just two or three items and be just as guarded. 

Good sleep, sweet dreams and safe travels to you all. 


Friday, September 6, 2019

Rathcroghan Mound & Visitor Centre

It's taken me longer to post about the various places visited and experiences had while on pilgrimage to Ireland. I've posted about one of the other sites already {Tlachtga/Hill of Ward}. I suppose in part it can be chalked up to lack of time and motivation, but it's probably more honest to say that I don't know what and how much I am comfortable sharing of the more personal details. There are a few more that I would like to do, so I will get to them eventually. :) 

This post is focusing on Rathcroghan Mound and the Visitor Centre not too far away from the Mound in the village of Tulsk.

Rathcroghan Mound
Rathcroghan is actually a complex of various sites close to one another, the most well known being the Mound. We visited but two of the many monuments this complex has to offer, the Mound and Oweynagat/The Cave of Cats {another post of that spot to come}. It is the ancient royal center of Connacht, most famous for perhaps its ties to the legendary Queen Medb

Reconstruction artwork by the talent JG O'Donoghue
We did a procession up the hill, and had a beautiful group ritual lead by Lora O'Brien and Jon O''Sullivan {who also run Eel & Otter Press}. It was fantastic to experience this site as well as others with Lora and Jon, as they are both super knowledgeable about not only Irish myth and folklore, but are dedicated to preserving that knowledge and the sites. Lora in particular has strong ties and background to Rathcroghan. The work they do has been invaluable, providing resources and accessibility to information, not just the specs and stories of these places, but also emphasizing the importance of etiquette and cultural understanding that is key for anyone who wishes to grasp the spirit of these places and their stories. I say this whether you are a Gaelic polytheist, some other stripe of Pagan or of some other faith {or lack thereof} altogether. If you are not Irish and are visiting these places, I can't recommend them enough. Even for those who might be a little bit more well read and fancies themselves informed, if you haven't checked out Lora's work, do so.

After the group ritual, we had time to do our own thing, some gathering in small clusters or as individuals. Once again, it was nature spirits who called to me, most strongly felt was that of a rowan who stands guard at the public entrance of the Mound site. This solitary tree yet another harbinger of the lone side quests that would make themselves known to me on this pilgrimage.

At the beginning and at the end of the day our coach bus stopped for a bit at the Rathcroghan Visitor Centre, which houses a great little heritage centre, a nicely stocked gift shop and the Tain Cafe {if you are used to North American-styled coffee, you are safe, they got you covered :)}. The folks who run the place are very friendly, and if that is not enough to tempt you, the stop just to sit on this pretty throne is worth it.

Some links of interest:

Friday, August 2, 2019

Lughnasadh Blessings

{photo of a working with Macha from last year}

I hope that everyone is having a fruitful beginning to the season of Lughnasadh {or a wonderful Imbolc for those in the Southern half}! 

The first fruits of the harvest for me are more of a spiritual and symbolic nature this year, rather than the literal and tangible ones. Reaping the blessings of seeds planted this past spring, or even before that, as I do observances looking back.

As mentioned several times before, for me personally, this is the beginning of Macha's time. This year simple offerings of beer and oatcakes, as well as seasonal wildflowers and grasses in a bouquet picked under a new moon and a cloak pin dedicated to her. A humble thanks for kicking my ass up mountains; some real ones, while others have come in the form of challenges that life tends to put in our ways. These last few years especially she has given me strength when I have been ready to give in, all in knowing that I can have faith in her to shield me from more than I can handle. 

May this time be fruitful for you all!