Celtic Polytheism

Crow Folks: Samhain is for Battle Sorcery

This past Sunday was the Dark Moon, and as I’ve done for the past few months, the same as I did last year, I went to Na Morrigna to ask for an omen for their devotees within my networks and acquaintance. I received the following message:

Your cup is being refilled. You’ve had setbacks, and taken some well-deserved rest, but it is time to move on. You’ve been training for battle and gathering your squadrons, and it is time to Do the Work. You are prepared to engage, despite your doubts. I will lead you in sorcery and battle magic; we will press upon the field of war our own will and vision. We will fight with fierce determination. Play to your own strengths; you know your role and your shadows. Samhain Eve is the time we will work together, and our combined power will crash in a wave over the next few days. Raise and direct your magic in accordance with what I will show you.

It is somewhat unusual for me to get first-person-singular messages back, being as I usually speak with all of three of them, but in this case the speaker was Morrigan herself, leading her sisters as well as us Crow Folks in this action.

I also have two points of clarification. First, by “Samhain Eve” she means October 31st. Halloween, for those of us who celebrate that. Samhain is both November 1st and also the modern Irish entire month of November. Secondly, that last sentence means that if you’re not already aware of your role, you need to go talk to her and figure that out BEFORE Oct 31st, or at the very least early enough in the day on Oct 31st to still have time to prep and actually do the thing.

And fellow USians: working for change on a magical scale is super necessary work, but please also follow up with some mundane work and go vote in positive change on November 5th. Do your research and make sure the candidates you pick are the ones that best align with your values.

Good luck, Crow Folks! And I’ll be back with another message on or around November 26th.

Celtic Polytheism, fae, Paganism, Spellwork, Spiritwork

Riders on a Baleful Wind, and a Charm to Keep Them at Bay

This time of year, between the autumnal equinox and Samhain, is when I notice the most activity from a loose grouping of spirits I’ve begun to refer to as Riders on a Baleful Wind. I’m referring both to the Wild Hunt ⁠(or, really, Hunts, plural) and also to some of the Fair Folk⁠—trooping fairies who travel near these dates*, and groups like the slua sí, who are also associated with wind or storms, and overlap somewhat with the folkloric Wild Hunt.

As a folklore motif and a mythological archetype, the Wild Hunt is prevalent across much of Northwestern Europe, and the Hunt of each region has its own leader. Often these leaders are Pre-Christian deities associated with war or death, like Odin/Woden and Gwyn Ap Nudd. Other times they’re figures associated with the aos sí, like Manannán Mac Lir, or they’re said to be famous ghosts, like Herne the Hunter. These folk tales came with European Immigrants to the Americas as well, and here the Hunt is sometimes known as the Ghost Riders. (Some of you will be familiar with the song, I imagine.) Besides the leader, who or what exactly the rest of the company is varies from tale to tale. Sometimes they are human dead, sometimes they’re said to be fairies or demons, but most frequently these groups seem to be something of a motley crew. The overlapping circles of the Fair Folk, the Gods, and the Dead are difficult to pick apart, and it’s especially difficult to draw any clear lines when we’re looking at the Wild Hunt and related groups of weather-riding unfriendly otherworldly beings.

Unfriendly and intimidating though they may seem, not all of them are actually malevolent. That’s why I term them “baleful”, not “baneful”, and each individual group poses a different type and level of danger. Malevolent or not, however, they’re generally not spirits most witches want in or around their homes or places of business, and with that in mind I’ve been working on a charm object to add a little additional protection to whatever wards you already have in place.

Warding Charm

The charm itself is fairly small and would easily blend into an autumn wreath. The ingredients are pretty simple as well: a sweetgum ball, some red yarn, and iron water.

SWEETGUM BALL: One per charm, dried, preferably with the stem attached.

Part of the work I’ve been doing with the Ogham for the past two years (or more, really, but I think it was two years ago that I really started diving in deeply in a structured way) is finding local plants that have similar energy to the plants of the tree ogham list.** Sweetgum, a tree indigenous to my area, has an energy that I think is similar in some important ways to Blackthorn. While it doesn’t have thorns, it does have spiky seed balls, and its sweet-scented sap, like blackthorn sloes, is actually very bitter tasting. Additionally, it’s a favored food of luna moth caterpillars, an insect I have long associated with nocturnal fairy beings. Blackthorn is sometimes said to belong to or to ward off the Othercrowd, and I find Sweetgum fits that niche as well. I have since learned that sweetgum balls are also used in hoodoo for protection, which dovetails nicely with both my experience of the tree, and this charm.

RED YARN: Or thread, I suppose. Enough to wrap around the sweetgum ball twice at perpendicular intersections, and tie off to leave tails for hanging.

I decided to spin my own yarn. I’ve wanted to learn to spin for a long time, but until recently thought I was allergic to wool. It turns out, I’m probably reacting to a chemical used in the commercial processing, because I did a test with a friend’s fleece-to-homespun and had no redness, no itching, no bumps, no hives! Excited, I borrowed a drop spindle and purchased some red-dyed roving from an artisan supplier. They included a sample of some other colors and I used that to figure out a technique for spinning. That way, once I started on the red roving, I could focus more on spinning my intent and my power into the yarn, instead of still figuring out what the heck I was doing. If you don’t spin, I recommend braiding embroidery floss as a good alternative for adding your intent and power to the string. Something like: I’m a badass witch and I protect this space; I decide who enters and who the wards keep out.

Iron Water: Soak some nails in water with a little splash of apple cider vinegar for a few days. When it’s ready, dip the sweetgum ball, yarn and all, into the water and let it get saturated.

I doubt I need to tell most of my readers that iron is known to ward off the Fair Folk, but just in case you need the refresher: that’s why we’re using iron water. You could also stick those very nails into this charm if you wanted, but that’s a bit stronger than I wanted for my personal charms, and it would be a little too strong for some allies I don’t want to keep out. I wanted something vaguely iron scented. Enough iron to say that I know what I’m about, but not enough iron to deeply offend those who are welcome across my threshold.

This is also probably a good time to tell you that this charm, as I’ve made it, is basically a “No Tresspassing” sign. It’s not going to do much good if it’s your only line of defense. If you have decent house wards, though, and gods or allies you can turn to in times of need, that sign will be enough to make those Riders more inclined to go around, rather than through. There are fewer obstacles elsewhere, and easier prey to be found. As with most predators, that’s usually enough, as long as you don’t provoke them.

* Though the ones who travel near the autumnal equinox may be following the Pleiades, not the equinox. See Morgan Daimler’s recent writings on that for more information.

** Nota Bene: The Ogham is an alphabet, and it’s not just about trees. Trees are one of the ogham lists. There’s also word ogham, skill ogham, bird ogham, even dog and waterway ogham. Eventually I’ll make my own local herb and bird and waterways lists, too, and maybe a modern skills ogham. But a lot of my general witchy practice includes work with plants, so trees seemed like a good place to start.

Celtic Polytheism, Paganism

Crow Folks: Don’t Resist Change

Those of you who pay attention to moon phases are probably aware this is a week late. This has been a week of intermittent omens and conversation between myself and Na Morrigna, while I was drowning in migraine symptoms. Yesterday was my first day without blinding pain. Today, the wisps spun together into a yarn, and the message became clear to me.

It is close to the time of your awakening. We will fight side by side, working in harmony and cooperation across the whole of the battlefield. You must stand your ground and hold fast. Stay calm—you have the mastery of self and skill that you need to prevail. You may think you are unprepared, or not strong enough. Silence such thoughts! You are ready, and you will learn by doing. Do not resist the coming changes. True growth is never comfortable. Awaken, and join us.

Gods willing, the next message will be more on schedule. And do be careful out there! The Hunts are riding. Stay safe, and stay grounded.

Celtic Polytheism, Paganism

Crow Folks: Form Your Squadrons

Last night into early this morning was a Super Black New Moon in Virgo, and while others can tell you more about that, I took the time last night to go see Na Morrigna, the three Daughters of Ernmas, to ask what message they had for me and my allies and associates this Dark Moon. I met them around a huge cauldron, into which they threw herbs and other ingredients. I breathed the steam, watched images dance across the surface, and gave them my attention as they communicated their message. Here is what I was told*:

“It is time to get back onto the wagon, and take the reins again, but hold them in a loose hand. You are anxious and also have high expectations. Do not dwell on the past, neither its good nor its ills. Look forward. Change is possible, but there is work to be done. Organize yourselves. Form your squadrons – small practice groups within larger networks. Decisive action must be taken by each individual group; be small, swift, flexible, and adaptable. Identify goals and work by consensus. Create your own strategies and share with others in your network. Everyone has a role to play.”

This is perhaps a good time to remind you all that my major role, beyond these Dark Moon messages, is to offer healing (in person or remotely) to others in my networks, especially when illness (spiritual, emotional, or mental/physical) is impairing their ability to perform their own role in the larger work. Such healings are free of charge within the boundaries of an individual’s own agreement with Na Morrigna. (Basically – if you’re a devotee with a right relationship with one of or all of Na Morrigna, and She/They agree/s that you need healing as part of your exchange with Her/Them, I’m happy to oblige, because that becomes part of my exchange with Them. If you wish to pay me yourself, with money or barter, I’m happy to do that, too!) I also do divination for those wishing to understand their own role better (see last year’s Tarot Spread), and I’ve been known to do combination divination/consultation advice for neophyte devotees looking to dedicate themselves with an oath to one or more of Na Morrigna (though as my own relationship is with Anu, Badb, and Macha, my advice is more suited to working with Them over other goddesses sometimes included, like Fea and Nemhain).

Beyond that… Shifts are coming. I can feel that, but I’m not sure what kind. This is meandering into Unseelie Weather Report territory, but keep your wits about you, friends. Shields and wards, ground and center. Keep an eye on large patterns, but a closer eye on your local communities and ecosystems. I don’t think this is going to be an easy winter.

* That is, translated as best I can out of the all-encompassing experience that is deep trancework, into grammatical English sentences. If I am an artist of any sort, I am primarily a wordsmith, and more than two decades writing poetry and prose has perhaps prepared me to take these experiences and find the best words to encapsulate a deep knowing understanding that is transmitted in a way that transcends words. Those who dance with the divine in this manner all have their own preferred medium of expression.

Celtic Polytheism, Event, Holiday Celebration, Prayer

Lughnasadh – A Belated Summary

Lughnasadh season is busy in our house because it also usually coincides with the start of the Kemetic Epagomenal Days, and this year it also coincided with my return to Priestessing for the Morrigan.

Altar for the Fox and Fungi Lughnasadh celebration

This year, our main ritual was celebrated with the Fox and Fungi group at our local UU Church, which I co-led with another group organizer. We did a druidic style ritual based on a liturgical outline I’ve devised for the group, which sort of splits the difference between Wiccan ritual structure, UU service structure, and the ADF Core Order of Ritual that I became accustomed to when I was previously a member of an ADF Druid Grove. (Yes, those work together better than you might think!) We called upon Lugh and Tailtiu as the deities of the occasion, and a friend and very good storyteller regaled us all with her version of Tailtiu’s story. Our main working was done with leaves placed in baskets. We each had two leaves. On one, we wrote something we were good at or something we’d accomplished that we were proud of. On the other, something we hoped to learn to do, or something we hoped to achieve. As we listened to musical accompaniment, we each came up to the altar to put our leaves each into the appropriate basket. Later, the leaves were taken outside to our ritual space.

It was nice to be with our community, but it did mean that our home observance went largely undone – I wrote a prayer and Scott poured Lugh and Tailtiu each out a shot of whisky, but we didn’t do a large family dinner. I’ve copied the prayer below, for those interested.

Lughnasadh has arrived,
And the days begin to grow shorter
Fruit is ripening on branch and vine
And grains are golden in the fields

Summer heat still hangs in the air
But we have begin the harvest
We are standing on the cusp of autumn
And soon the nights will be chill

On this day we honor Lugh and Tailtiu
His foster mother, who cleared the land
So that the people might plant grain
She gave her life for her people’s needs

Come to us now, and join in our celebration!
We offer you food, drink, and merriment!
We ask in return for your blessings:
Help us to bring in the first fruits of our labors

Lugh and Tailtiu, Hail and Welcome!

lughnasadh Prayer, by Aleja Nic Bhe Chuille
Celtic Polytheism, Paganism

A Re-Gathering of Crows

I’m back on deck this Lughnasadh-Eve. Finished with my Saturn Return (but not yet ready to turn that journey into a narrative), and once again Called. I Answered (how could I not?), and have been once again drafted into the service of Na Morrigna, the Three Sisters, to deliver the messages I receive on the Dark Moon.

Are you ready to join me again, Crow Folks? A new journey awaits. Do not wait too long in deciding. Put less important things aside. We need to harness our own creative powers and generate the foundations of our triumph.

We all have a role to play. We were called. We accepted. We rise together.

Celtic Polytheism, Paganism

Crow Folks: A Final Message

I’ve been told to step back from this work, the messenger role I was thrust into around Lughnasadh last year.  It’s been six months, and the balance feels right.  I’ve learned a lot, and hopefully so have you.  I’ll still be around to answer questions privately through divination, and I’m happy to pull three more cards as I did for myself, to elucidate your new roles going forward.  But my three cards spoke of a need to step back, to spend the next few months on internal work.  The timing makes sense – my first Saturn Return begins next month, as Saturn encroaches within three degrees of its position in my natal chart.  That will be my focus for now, that self-work and my ongoing relationships with Starflower, and the Eyes of Ra.

That said, I do have one last message for you all, as we move into spring:

“It is time to seek harmony amongst yourselves.  This may require stepping out on your own in order to see things more clearly, in order to reorganize your priorities so you know where you can compromise and where you cannot, where bridges can be mended, and where fires can only be extinguished.  You need to continue training, but it is time to try things on your own.  What can you accomplish by yourself?  You have grown stronger, and you need to know your new limits, and what weaknesses still require ongoing work.  In the coming months you will be tested, and when we are ready, new leaders will be chosen.”

Good luck, Crow Folks.  May the winds be kind.

Celtic Polytheism, Event, Holiday Celebration, Paganism, Prayer, Ritual

Imbolc!

 

This year for Imbolc, we helped to organize a ritual at our local UU church.  At home, our deities of the occasion are Cailleach and Brigid, and the group agreed to honor them for our ritual.  We used a shortened version of the ADF creation of sacred space and ritual center, honoring of the Hallows (Fire, Well and Tree), the Kindreds (Shining Ones, Ancestors, and Nature Spirits), and a short meditation to help us connect to the space between the worlds.

Then we invoked the Cailleach and Brigid.  Another participant read a prayer they’d found called “Prayer to Brigantia, Keeper of the Forge“, by Patti Wigington, substituting “Brigid” for “Brigantia”.  I wrote a poem for Cailleach following the same pattern, and Scott read it during the ritual.  I’ve reproduced both, below.

We also tied raffia to pussywillow branches for our hopes and intentions for the spring, similar to cloutie ties, and we sang Kelianna’s song Brighid’s Flame together.

It was a simple ritual, but poignant for many of the participants, and it’s proof that we can pull something together in less than a week.  Still, I think we’re going to plan farther ahead for the Spring Equinox!

 

Imbolc Prayer for Cailleach, by Aleja Nic Bhé Chuille

Hail, Cailleach! Bringer of ice and snow,
She who blankets the world in white,
She who freezes the world so time seems to slow,
She who encourages us to rely on each other,
She who is called the Blue Crone,
And teaches us the true meaning of survival.

Hail, Cailleach! Queen of Winter,
She who frosts the ground with her staff,
She who dropped rocks and made mountains,
She who shaped valleys and hills,
She who flies over the land as a great winter storm.

 

Prayer for Brigantia, Keeper of the Forge, by Patti Wigington

Hail, Brigantia! Keeper of the forge,
She who shapes the world itself with fire,
She who ignites the spark of passion in the poets,
She who leads the clans with a warrior’s cry,
She who is the bride of the islands,
And who leads the fight of freedom.

Hail, Brigantia! Defender of kin and hearth,
She who inspires the bards to sing,
She who drives the smith to raise his hammer,
She who is a fire sweeping across the land.

 

[Feel free to use my prayer to Cailleach for your own rituals, with proper attribution!]

 

Celtic Polytheism, Paganism

Crow Folks: We’ve Done Well So Far

The Dark Moon is tomorrow yet the message from the Morrigna comes to me tonight, with the first of my moon’s blood.  And the message in a nutshell is this: we’ve achieved a lot so far.  This is especially true for those of us who are in the US.  As with all of these messages, they’re most accurate for those closest to me in time, space, and association.

You have trained, you have done the work, you have achieved victory.  Much of what we have worked for has come to pass, and more will come to pass soon.  This success is earned; we have manifested our shared desires.  Revel in it for now, but do not lose sight of the longer term goals.  False confidence and arrogance can ruin these foundations before they have time to set.  There is more to build in the coming months, and those who have risen to the top must lead the others.  Gather them beneath your wings.

I get the feeling that after Imbolc we’ll be working at a slower pace for a while before it ramps up again, and that we may be rotating instead of all on call, so to speak, but as of yet that’s not been made clear to me.  I have one more of these, for the Dark Moon directly following Imbolc, on Feb 4th.  I expect it will be clearer at that point.  Until then, fly joyously.

Celtic Polytheism, Holiday Celebration, Paganism, Prayer

Prayer for the Solstice

This is a prayer I just wrote for my 3-day Solstice working for Na Morrigna. It’s a little rough, still, but it was written in a fit of inspiration a few moments ago. I may edit it later, but this is the version I used today, and will be using tomorrow and the following day.

We are the children of light

Children of darkness

And seekers of balance

Darkness beneath our wings

Wings that shelter the oppressed

Oppressors fear our darkness

Light that blazes in our eyes

Eyes that witness injustice

Injustice condemned once brought to light

Balance ripens into peace

Peace sown by justice

Justice grows into balance

A never-ending spiral

The spiral of the Sun

The Sun’s renewal never ending

Shortest day and longest night

Night the deepest darkness

Darkness once more birthing light

We are children of the light

Children of the darkness

And seekers of balance