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!

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

A Reddening Ritual {a Deer's Skull}


Just about a year ago I had done a rebirthing of a deer skull under last July's full moon {often called a Buck Moon, which last year also turned out to be the longest blood moon eclipse of this century}. I had wanted to do a post about it in greater detail, meaning to share the three stage process I went through to redden, rebirth, and consecrate and bind the skull to myself for ritual purpose.

A year on, I had been reminded that I wanted to post on this when doing a ritual this past full Buck Moon honouring my lovely deer friend. So, here we are, this is the first post of three in this little series of what I did for this particular skull. The process and ritual I will be sharing is something that I have done not only for animal remains, but also some other sacred items, most recently before this skull, my rowan stang, and don't see why others couldn't do the same should they be adverse to doing this for the remains of an animal.

While this is a practice I started doing before I considered myself a Gaelic polytheist, it has been refined over time to fit my personal practice and cosmology, and below is how I would go about doing it today. Just in case there are folks who are looking for inspiration on how one might do a ritual like this, I am going into quite a bit of depth here. Anyhow, on with it.

Instead of me rattling off what reddening is, and why we do it, I will be lazy and share a really great post that had been done on the In The Chimehours blog back in 2011, who also in this post reddened a very handsome deer skull.

This deerie was found by another in the forest, he was a white-tailed buck, whose antlers had been shed and had not started to grow new ones. So he had died in winter or early spring. I think that he was a younger lad, probably two or three years of age, and how he was found, his death seemed to be a natural one. I believe that while I was initially connecting to him, I saw what the cause was, but obviously can't say for sure. His skull had been exposed to the elements for some while by the time he was found. Not the "prettiest" skull, but he is certainly my favourite. His spirit has turned out to be a most precious ally in my travels when I walk between worlds.

At some point I may go into greater detail on how I've developed and maintain my relationships with spirit allies, especially of those whose remains I am the steward of. For now I will just say that before I started to woo him into working with me, I had made a little shrine to him, and left regular offerings, which I still do today. 


Prior to the actual reddening, I did a small offering and saining ritual on the new moon. The skull was placed on a plate that held the dry ingredients of the reddening paste {pictured and listed below}, surrounded by a rowan berry necklace and candles of the Three Realms.
  • Lighting the candles of the Three Realms: Sky {"Blessings of the sky above"}, Sea {"Blessings of the sea about"}, Land {"blessings of the land below"}
  • Lighting the hearth candle, a prayer of welcome is said to The Three {Gods, Spirits and Ancestors} and offerings are made: incense {representing Sky} whiskey {representing Sea}, and food {representing Land}. 
  • A threefold saining is then performed: juniper smoke {"blessings of Sky"} is moved over the skull, saining water {"blessings of Sea"} is sprinkled over the skull, and sea salt and purifying herbs {"blessings of Land"} is lightly rubbed on the skull 


Below is a list of the dry ingredients that I had used in this reddening paste. Keeping in mind, I was reddening this skull to house an ally I wished to do specific types of spirit work with, the contents of this reddening paste reflects that. Ingredients may vary, depending on what the purpose of the item being reddened is. The dried ingredients I used here are {* potentially or is poison, handle with care}: 

Staghorn sumac berries
Rowan berries
Ghost fern
Oak leaves
Wormwood*
European mandrake roots*
Bittersweet nightshade berries*
Yew*
Mugwort*
Willow bark
Dandelion root
Mullein
Black nightshade berries*


The wet ingredients for the reddening paste were three beets, each one carved with one of the names of the Three Realms in ogham: Nem {Sky}, Muir {Sea}, and Talam {Land} that were then boiled until they could be mashed; Samhain water, and nine drops of my blood. 

This was then all mixed together in a paste and plastered on the skull, which was left on for about 24 hours until it could crumble off by itself. Before moving onto the next stage, he was left to dry out completely for nine days.


Thursday, July 4, 2019

Quick Tip for Polytheists: Small Rituals to Stay Connected



Or, I suppose this could also be called making the most of the time you have.

Many of us live super busy lives, and I think for those of us in polytheist, pagan and witchcraft communities, might feel that we don't have a enough time to spend on observing holy days or special times of the year the way we would like, or find it difficult to stay connected to the spirits and deities we have relationships with.

For me this became especially true once I started working in healthcare, and even more so once I moved away to where I am now. At times it has left me feeling extremely frustrated and even depressed. Like I am somehow failing. Over time I've found ways to adjust. Here are two examples of what I've done recently, which will hopefully inspire and give ideas for folks who find themselves in similar situations.


During Midsummer I was working and didn't have time to do much to celebrate. So, the night of, after working the late shift, a friend and I walked home together and picked wildflowers at around midnight as we made our way home. We did do the usual making of offerings and "paid the rent" to the local land spirits, a tradition I have taken to previous years {it is good form to never skip on hospitality in my view, no matter how pressed for time}. 

Some of the wildflowers were placed on my hearth shrine and others on Airmid's part of the shrine, with a quick devotional prayer. And that's it. I didn't have time to greet the rising sun, it was that or sleep. For practical reasons I chose sleep. So, just making due the best I can. 


Speaking of Airmid, I had mentioned in previous posts, how I divide the year to seasonal devotions to the household deities I have relationships with. From around Midsummer to Lughnasadh is Airmid's time. After my pilgrimage to Ireland, I feel a deepened sense of devotion to her, and I want to maintain that, to see where that leads.

For her season I decided to take advantage of the strong sun at this time of year, as well as her connection to plants and healing by making a sun tea every day. I simply choose herbs based on intuition or whose properties I feel I need, add them to a mason jar with water, and leave it on my balcony shrine for the day. I leave a little tea as an offering to the land spirits, make an offering of some to Airmid with a small devotional prayer, and use some of it myself. 

The main thing I think is to make the most the time, energy and abilities one has. Of course it is smart to be mindful of oaths one has made, but when it comes to The Three, I find that effort is probably what is most appreciated by those we have relationships with.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Tlachtga/Hill of Ward


On the first day the group for the Wolves, Witches and Warbands Irish pilgrimage met up, we made a visit to Tlachtga/Hill of Ward, a ring fort and sacred site in Co. Meath. The weather was very cold, wet and grey, very reminiscent of a late fall day, instead of being on the cusp of Bealtaine, or how I pictured it would be at least in Ireland. Which I suppose was suitable, as there are some at least who think that Tlachtga is the birthplace of Samhain bonfires.


Before doing the group ritual, we all had a chance to explore the site a bit, after getting a little introduction by the lovely Gemma McGowan. The story of Tlachtga had a real impact on me, to the point of tears, but it was to the far corner of the field that the site is on that I first felt called to.


While others are priests of deities or the go-betweens on behalf of the Othercrowd, I was the dipshit on the fringe of sites chatting with trees and plants, and listening to what the birds had to say. This ended up being a personal theme for me at each site I was able to visit, giving me the opportunity to connect with various different spirits and beings of those places. At this particular spot it was the humble stinging nettle that had the most to teach me. 


Only until pretty recently Tlachtga has been often overlooked as far as importance goes, but it is growing in popularity. There has been Samhain festivities held there, and a couple years back there was an archaeological dig. 

Some links of interest:


A really beautiful spot. <3



Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Pilgrimage Processing {Shrine Edition}



I still have a whole lot of processing to do from my time in Ireland. Got the feeling that I will be doing that for some time. I do intend to share bits of that, and figured that I might as well start at the beginning. One of the first things I did after getting unpacked was putting together all the treasures that I got while over there, either found or given to me.


Certain items are devotional pieces dedicated to specific deities, so those sit on their parts of the household deity shrine. Other items I thought would be good to put on the general Gaelic deity shrine, which I have found helpful as a visual focus while doing meditation, work or making offerings while going through this processing.

Some folks find making visioning boards helpful for when planning and dreaming, think of what I am at here as something similar, but after the fact. I suppose in a way it could be for planning and dreaming too though, as I have every intention of going back.


The shrine is now a little bit more spread out compared to what originally was. Thankfully I had some wall space still :) 

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Time Flies When in the Otherworld

Bluebells and ferns on the Bog Trail in Knockvicar Ireland, May 2019.
I can't believe that it is June already! It definitely does not feel like a month ago that I was in the midst of such an amazing experience in Ireland. My time there was even more fleeting than since I have been back. Just like when in the Otherworld, time went by in a blink. But, to be fair, we were quite on an Otherworldly journey, those of us on that pilgrimage.

This had been my first time in Ireland, one of which I hope to be of many. It feels much thinner there than where I reside, more so than anywhere I have ever been I think. Although, I suppose the time of year and the company and purpose of being there all had something to do with that as well. Hard to say.

When asked about my time there, it has been difficult to describe most of it, as I still have so much processing to do. There were countless amazing and very weird experiences that happened, and to recount all of them, I really wouldn't know where to begin at this point.

I've said it more than once on here, but I have felt much more private over the last while about my spiritual practice. Although I think that sharing my impressions and how I remember certain things will perhaps help me process what happened to me there. I will say this much, I am sure forever changed. I know that sounds cliché, but at this point, that is the best way I can describe it.

I met really wonderful folks who shared this pilgrimage journey with me, and I also had quite a bit of time to myself. There were so many sacred places visited, of which I will share a bit about each one in individual posts, as well as other topics as they come to me.

Almost certainly there will be changes, at the very least finetuning to my spiritual practice. As well as a project that I feel called to do, once I finally figure out what that is to look like.

Fair to say that Ireland is one fucking strange and beautiful place.

***********

Some links of note related to folks who helped make this pilgrimage amazing <3

Wolves, Witches and Warbands {the actual pilgrimage}

Land Sea Sky Travel

Coru Cathubodua Priesthood

Lora O'Brien 

Jon O'Sullivan

Gemma McGowan