Scathach

by Caoimhin Ó Coileáin
What made Scathach
That vampire born?
How did the grey queen,
Spend her youth once before,
She settled on the Far Isles?
Before she became a warrior,
And was cowed by no man,
And yet stood still by the Hound’s side.
Before that was she a maid acower?
Scathach was not born
As the warrior lady but that she became,
Whose ice came first through fire
She grew and hardened,
From mewling frightened wretch.
What mysteries made Scathach,
That trainer of heroes,
Both brothers by blood and sword,
Whose love tamed the wild Cuchulainn
Who brought to him a complete soul?
To stand down the Connacht men unashamed
To face the Crow and spit in her face unafraid,
The Setanta became with her a man not just a warrior,
With her he became one true soul
About: Caoimhin Ó Coileáin’s ‘Scathach’ is from his anthology Fenian Whispers (forthcoming). You can find him on Facebook at Caoimhin Ó Coileáin.
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Shame

I don’t think we ever know quite what it is going to mean for us when we make a promise to the gods. Certainly, that’s been true for me. And the dedication of one’s body, well, that’s something it’s obvious should not be undertaken lightly.

I’ve been reading Brene Brown lately.  In her book Rising Strong she talks about shame connected with religion as being one of the top three hardest things to come back from. This makes a lot of sense to me. I also suspect that I’m not alone in the experience of facing shame as a dedicatee of the Morrigan.

One of the patterns I’ve noticed in my experiencing of Her and with Her is that She will draw out every place of darkness or secretly harboured weakness within the self…and if resisted, it won’t be in a way that feels easy or comfortable. Shame, our own, and that of others, is of course one of those patterns to be faced as we are stripped down to the bones and rebuilt from within.

There are some experiences I’ve had in ordinary life where I would definitely say Her hand is upon them, sometimes just lightly resting, enough to draw out to the surface the things that the people involved would most like to keep covered. There’s an edge to the experience or the exchange. A fierceness that is characteristic and unmistakeable, to the point that I can see, even while it is happening, She is there, in me or in them, or in the exchange. (This happens increasingly as I myself become clearer and stronger in Her service – my presence reflects increasingly the tough things people don’t want to see within themselves, and this doesn’t always lead to happy endings).

The Morrigan works through conflict. Well, it is a fast track to clearing out the bullshit, that’s for sure. If you don’t have the stomach for it, you’ll learn fast or you won’t last long.

So, I offered my body. She tested that claim in ways that were uncomfortable. I expected a certain kind of hard work, perhaps physical training (you know, warrior, battle goddess, all that). She asked instead for softness, and a different sort of challenge. Not what I had anticipated or expected.

These things were challenging not only for me, but also deeply challenging for those around me.

They made me less ‘nice’, less pliable…most certainly, less palatable and less acceptable. They shattered and transformed who I thought that I was or could be. They challenged me – and still challenge me – to power, to stand in power, to live in power in ways that are not entirely acceptable or easy.

In the first round, She challenged me, and I accepted. I did the work, but I didn’t like it.

This stupidly (but humanly) as the work itself was so beautiful and such a gift – a way of connecting within the body and the self, and to the goddess and the land, opened for me, and I am so grateful.

But it didn’t look like I had expected it to look. It was hard, and lonely, and I was overwhelmed and afraid.  I didn’t want it. What I wanted was for other people to do it. I wanted to be less, and to be loved and accepted, and stay invisible. And the truth was that I couldn’t be accepted or loved, until I loved and accepted the patterns and requirements of this work within myself even though it wasn’t what I wanted it to be or thought it should be.

It is my work, a deep part of who I am and my purpose. , Answering the call to it was a clearest impulse of love (devotion) and desire to serve within me.

Once the first pieces were done, I hid myself away for a while, and was given a time of rest (illness requiring retreat). The illness and the processing was a gift, but when it was time to emerge, She was not gentle. I was challenged and accused by a person I had a lot of respect for, challenged that I wasn’t doing what I had done for anything other than my own personal whim. Even though this was not even remotely the case, I was ashamed. This spiraled in various ways to a massive shake up and clearing out of anything that was not in alignment in my life around the work she has for me.

I was ashamed that this was how I would or could be seen. I felt the shame that was being aimed at me in the whispered gossip and the attempts at exclusion. It was petty, ridiculous, and childish. But the edge – how far it would go? Where it would end?

In the end, it went only as far as I let it go (not far).  Quite frankly, the people involved have and had no power over me. They were not living up to what was required of them, and I was (perhaps I still am) a mirror for that. They’d rather throw mud at the mirror, cover it over, push it away, try to break it, than allow themselves to see what it was reflecting…because, well, ouch! We’re all only human, and the vulnerability and shame is a common experience. I’ve seen the weakness and the vulnerability they don’t want to see let alone be shown.

But I’ve faced my own shame, you know?  I’ve looked it squarely in the eyes, and welcomed it in. There’s no breaking me that way any longer.

The underlying message in this experience for me was this:

Who do you stand for? Will you fulfil the promise, no matter the cost? will you fulifil it even if it causes those you hold most dear to turn on you, to speak against you, to challenge your place, your work, and your right to be there?

Can you dare to see your own vulnerability and shame? The places where weakness and fear hold you back from truth, and power? Will you acknowledge and hold that vulnerability and that strength within you?

The answer is yes. Screenshot 2015-10-23 10.52.01

‘Have you a story to tell?’

What will you see? Whose story, what story, will you tell?

Hers and yours, or someone else’s, the one that fear, theirs or yours, is writing?

It only goes as far as you let it. I say, allow something different.

About: Rebecca Wright is a mother of four, a birth doula, and a shamanic healer and teacher. Daughter and Priestess of the Morrigan, she is one of the founders of the Call of the Morrigan Facebook group, and this blog.

It’s the last call for the 2015 Call of the Morrigan UK Retreat: Sex, Sovereignty, Power – are you coming?

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The Morrigan

20150206_095400

I was just finishing off the last detail on a painting I’ve been working on (actually, it’s bin working on me…) on and off for a few months, when I had an impuls to take a blank canvas out. Iwas sitting with it and then another impulse made me take an orange cayon and I started drawing the shape of a face. And after just a few lines, She was there.
A powerfull and angry looking woman. A goddess I knew she was. First a rather quiet voice inside of me said “Freja?”,but then a strong voice said: “The Morrigan”, and I knew.

I was thrilled, and a little scared, but I didn’t know much  about her, more then being a Warrior Goddess, and I had some faint memories of watching a few You Tube videos on The Morrigan by Laura Daligan. So I watched them again. And was confimed, happy, and humbled, by this Calling of this Powerful, Powerful, Dark, Beautiful, Sexual, Strong, Deep, Loving and of course, much more, beyond words.

I have never been looking for her. She Called me. And our journey has just begun. Or maybe she’s been with me all the time… Either way, I love it.

This is the painting. My journey with it has also just started. I will keep you posted on my work with it and with The Morrigan herself. Beautiful to have a place to share!

The days, or maybe a week before this happened, Crows were showing themselves in a special way to me a few times…

Magdalena Ellverson, Sweden

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Warrior Heart

Hearty
Heartiness
Heart warming
Fire of our heart
Our very own hearth
There are so many layers of heart
Peeling off those layers has become my work
Facing that which is present, when the layer falls away
When did these layers become what I knew?
Each layer offers feeling as it falls
panic
fear
challenge
freedom
joy
My heart beats like butterfly wings; fragile, beautiful, open, sensitive, strong.
I reclaim the inner-most part of my being, my hearth.
My hearth fire roars and burns with passion.

About: Brooke Ravenwood is a priestess of the Morrigan, her work is reclamation, through rekindling fires within and supporting journeys towards sacred sexuality. Contact by email: brookeravenwood [at] outlook.com

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Sovereignty requires courage

Sovereignty requires courage, this is my first thought as I sit down to write this for you. Sovereignty requires courage.

Too often I’ve heard people define sovereignty as relating to ‘rule’ or ‘the land’ with a casual wave of the hand and a knowing nod that excludes any real meaning or purpose. The Morrigan is a goddess of sovereignty, of the land, of battle, and more. What does that mean exactly for us in these days, in this day, where we find ourselves now.

I’m not an historian, but I know enough about history to know that the ways that people would have understood these concepts, and themselves in relation to these concepts, is very different to how we will see them and see ourselves now. This even with the best will and intention. We can be grateful to scholars for pointing us in the direction of understanding, but our understanding will never be the same, as we occupy a different space and perspective in time and place.

And this is as and how it should and must be.

The gods – for those of us who believe in or who have experienced them – are living and transforming, not static. Yes, we need to know and appreciate their stories and histories, how people worshiped them and connected with them in the past. But to me, this is as we would like to understand and appreciate a mother or a father or a friend or a teacher or a lover, by understanding over time who they have been and where they come from, learning their likes and dislikes, how to appreciate and love and work with them more fully. This knowledge informs us, and deepens our practice. It can warn us as well of the personality or characteristics behind this god-force. But it in no way limits Them or us in our relationship to Them.

And so sovereignty requires courage.

The biggest question of sovereignty in these times, for most of us who will be reading this, is the question of personal sovereignty, and of courage.

Personal sovereignty in the rule of the self. Personal sovereignty in our connection to the land. So I challenge you to answer, what do these things mean to you? How do you work with them in your personal practice (ritually or practically)? How will you work with them? Commit. Now. If you haven’t already.

If I’ve learned nothing else about sovereignty, I’ve learned this: it isn’t about making excuses or stepping back and letting other people do it. It’s not about using the gods as excuses for our own weaknesses either. Worshipping a battle goddess is not an excuse for sowing dissent or hatred or confirming prejudice. It’s not an excuse. It’s a challenge.

The battles begin within ourselves, and She will show us where we are lacking. So that anger you feel against the other, that hatred, that fear, look at that in yourself as well. There is undoubtedly a message there.

Personal sovereignty is a challenge to awareness of these forces working within and around us – forces we so often don’t see or acknowledge because they feed the forces that hold us prisoner.

True sovereignty? It requires of us the courage to see clearly. To speak truth, yes, but also to see truth within ourselves. To see our own weakness clearly and to root it out. To stand firm in truth and power (that is, the capacity to hold or to bring change).

It’s where we don’t make excuses for the maltreatment of ourselves or others.

Instead we stand up, stand firm, provide sanctuary and refuge for the weak, the wounded, the damaged – not because we look down on them, or think they are less. They are not. Nor are we or have we been less in our vulnerability than we are in our power.

We stand because we know the wound, we know the strength of the power that runs through it, and we are not afraid of it any longer. And when we can do this fearlessly and wholeheartedly, for ourselves and for others, not shrinking from the wound or the pain, but carrying within us and extending outward that which is needed most, that is sovereignty, and that is courage.

About: Rebecca Wright is a shamanic healer and teacher, and a daughter and priestess of the Morrigan. She is one of the founders of the Call of the Morrigan Facebook group, and this blog. Come and meet and work with her at the Call of the Morrigan UK retreat.

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Little Witch Crow Dance #8 by David Seed

Image

12080259_10153683037992354_8936087563713533159_oLittle Witch Crow Dance #8 by David Seed

About David Seed: I’m a painter based in Gloucestershire, a county rich in  ancient history and bronze and iron age sites.   I did a BA in contemporary crafts at what was Crewe and Alsager college of HE in the Eighties where I made sculptures out of reforged and recycled industrial waste but have been producing two dimensional work for a few years now.  I’ve had an interest in Celtic mythology and history for as long as I can remember.  This particular piece is one of a series informed and inspired by the Bean Sidhe and Morrigan archetypes.

You can find him on Facebook at David Seed fine art or on Tumblr.

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Three Paths, One Purpose by Morgan Daimler

12076537_10206739153311181_1519930415_oThe witchcraft community is a varied and diverse place, just like the people who belong to it. It can generally be said thought that there are three main approaches to witchcraft, once labeled white, gray, and black. The vast majority of people prefer to identify as white or benevolent witches, those who focus only on positive energy, healing, blessing, and connecting to nature; they usually strongly emphasize the light. The second largest group are the gray or moderate witches who favor a balance between dark and light; they generally seem to prefer the positive but are willing to use the negative methods when necessary. Finally there are the black or dark witches who are the fewest in number, publicly at least, and who focus on the darkness and on knowledge of hexing and destructive magics.

Obviously this is something of an over-simplification, as very few people are limited to only one view and each tends to blend into the others to some degree. And naturally in discussing it the different paths must be generalized – there will of course be exceptions and slightly different views in each one. It’s also important to note that each approach, light, gray, and dark, all can have followers who use their witchcraft in abusive ways. While it’s easy enough to picture the dark witch as someone who is simply cruel and enjoys hurting people, those same qualities can be found in those who follow the light exclusively. All approaches have benefits and risks. For those of us drawn to honor the Morrigan, undeniably a complex Goddess herself, it is worth taking the time to look at the different paths and how we relate to them.

The most popular path – publicly at least – is the light path. People drawn to this approach tend to see witchcraft as a tool for improving the world, for healing, blessing, and protecting. The light is a path rooted in love and so its emphasis tends to be on manifesting love; people who follow this path generally also follow the Wiccan Rede “an ye harm none, do as ye will”, the three-fold law, and karma. The Wiccan Rede can be interpreted in different ways, from forbidding all harm of any sort under any circumstances, to suggesting that no action should be taken without great consideration of the consequences first. The three-fold law, sometimes also called the law of return, states that the energy we put out returns to us, so that those who do good receive good. The western-ized idea of karma goes along with this and encourages people to be responsible for their actions through the belief that actions create similar responses; those who do good things have good karma and good things happen to them, or on a wider scale in the next life they bring this good energy forward with them. Light witches often refuse to do specific kinds of magic that are considered manipulative, believing that it is wrong to interfere with another person’s free will.

The strength of this path is that it encourages kindness and gentleness. It is a path of love and it encourages people to be positive and loving in life, to heal themselves and others, to bring happiness and optimism into the world. Spirits are dealt with, but usually only those perceived of as entirely beneficial or helpful to people. Plants need sunlight to grow and the world needs light witches to nurture and nourish that fragile sense of joy that is so easily lost. The weakness of this path is that it can tend towards intolerance of those who are not similarly inclined towards unadulterated “goodness”. It can also encourage a rejection of non-light oriented methods that can result in fear and judgment of those methods. Many people are drawn to this path because of its focus on positive things but is often misunderstood by those who don’t follow it who may believe it is shallow, fluffy, or too passive.

Those who follow the Morrigan and walk a light path may find it especially challenging to reconcile her harsher aspects with their rejection of anything harmful or manipulative. There may instead be an emphasis on the Morrigan’s sovereignty, prophecy, and land goddess aspects.

The second most popular path is the gray. A gray witch straddles both the light and the dark emphasizing balance between the two. Gray witches tend to reject either extreme and instead seek to walk in moderation, although in actual practice they tend more towards favoring a light point of view. Some gray witches do follow the Wiccan Rede or believe in the rule of three, but others prefer a morality based in the idea that if you need to cause harm you will, if you have no other choice and with an understanding that there will be repercussions to you. The common sayings which appeal in this path

is “you can’t heal if you can’t hex” and “only act if you are willing to pay the cost”. Gray witches tend to respect both life and death as powerful forces and emphasize the importance of incorporating both sides of human nature into the witch’s practice. Some people practice gray witchcraft as a blend of both light and dark, taking practices from both, while others see it as the line between the two. Magical practices in gray witchcraft often emphasize what may otherwise be labeled Hedge witchcraft, Green witchcraft, or wild crafting, with an emphasis on connecting to the spiritworld through a variety of practices and on applying magic in diverse ways. The gray witch may or may not work to help the larger community or be more personally focused.

The strength of this path is its avoidance of extremes and its willingness to explore a variety of methods and options. Gray witches tend to be open minded and appreciate open mindedness in others. Spirits are dealt with that are mostly benevolent towards people but those that are more ambivalent may also be worked with. The gray witch is necessary in the community because they serve as a bridge between the light and the dark and they, in many ways, represent the most organic approach to witchcraft. The weakness of this path is that moderation can sometimes feel like stagnation and there may be a struggle with feelings of indecision as the gray witch’s morality and practice is not necessarily rigidly set, leading to a need for situational ethics. Many people who follow this path are drawn to its moderate approach, but it can be misunderstood by outsiders as being both hard to define ethically and also reflecting an unwillingness to commit to one side or the other. Some people may criticize gray witches for wanting the public acceptance of the white witch while also having the darker magic of the dark witch.

Followers of the Morrigan who are drawn to gray witchcraft often like to focus on her connections to the Fey, who are also ambiguous in nature, and her psychopomp and justice aspects. Gray witches generally have no issues with any of the Morrigan’s associations and may find honoring her empowering.

The final category is dark witchcraft, the smallest public group and the most misunderstood. Dark witches themselves fall into a variety of sub-groups, but generally people are drawn to this approach because it doesn’t shy away from using the types of magic others consider dangerous. Witches who follow this path often prefer to rely on their own judgment to decide right from wrong. Consequences from actions are seen as the direct results of the actions themselves, rather than an energetic return and value is often placed on doing what is best for the self and those closest to the witch, rather than a more nebulous greater good. Magic and spellcraft are viewed as utilitarian tools, which like an ax or knife can, help or harm depending on how they are used. Knowledge is often valued, even of things viewed as dangerous or unpleasant. As with gray witches the belief is often that you should be willing to pay the cost of any action taken, but where a gray witch may feel that you can’t heal without knowing how to hex a dark witch might say you shouldn’t know how to hex if you aren’t willing to use what you know when needed. Although they tend to have a negative reputation few Dark witches will cause harm without a strong motivation to do so; understanding things like pain and suffering and having an affinity for understanding the darkness in others tends to engender a sympathy towards others along with a cynicism. Dark path witches generally believe that only by confronting and accepting the darkness can a person find strength and overcome fear. Things that other people may avoid or find uncomfortable like death, decay, and negative emotions are things that dark witches are often drawn to; where, for example light witches are empowered by sunlight or moonlight, dark witches look to the darkness and shadows for peace and empowerment. Dark witches often practice some form of necromancy, and emphasize working with the dead, spirits of various sorts, and protective magics.

The strength of this approach is its willingness to confront what others avoid and to deal with the darker aspects of life and of magic. Dark witches tend to be extremely open minded and accepting of people’s eccentricities and flaws, but also tend towards cynicism and introversion; this can be a strength or a weakness. Dark witches who work with spirits will usually work with a wide variety of types,

including those others might avoid. Dark witchcraft also has a strength in its emphasis on the importance of facing and overcoming our own negative qualities. People may be drawn to this path for different reasons, including a personal preference for the macabre, a desire to confront their own fears, or a need to feel empowered. A major weakness of this path is a risk of arrogance in the practitioner and a possibility of becoming too focused on power. This path is often misunderstood by others as being nothing but shock value, evil, or focused on malicious harm for its own sake.

Followers of the Morrigan who are dark witches may tend to focus on her war and battle aspects along with her role as washer-at-the-ford; her lighter aspects such as fertility are less emphasized. Dark witches who honor her may also acknowledge her aspects relating to madness, battle magic, and cursing.

These three paths, light, gray, and dark, have many differences and many similarities – but ultimately for those of us who share honoring the Morrigan her worship should be something which holds us together. We should learn to see beyond the differences in approach and philosophy to the person and the ways that we all ultimately seek the same thing. Sometimes we get so caught up in trying to justify our own beliefs that we lose sight of the value in other people’s, and also the truism that there is no one way that is ideal for everyone. As Nietzsche said: “You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist”.

And as to me, well I spent many years as a light-path witch and then, to quote Pratchett and Gaiman’s book “Good Omens” I “sauntered vaguely downwards” into dark witchcraft with a brief stopover in gray witchcraft. That, however, is another story.

(Read more from Morgan on her personal path in the post Reflecting Darkness on her blog Living Liminally.)

About: Morgan Daimler has been a witch since 1991, an Irish reconstructionist since about 1994, and heathen since 2006. She also practice seidhr. She loves studying other paths and other ways of doing things, and enjoys discussing religion, philosophy and spirituality with people from diverse paths.

She is the author of a number of books, including The Morrigan: Meeting the Great Queens, Irish Paganism: Reconstructing Irish Polytheism, and The Treasure of the Tuatha De Danann: A Pocket Book of Irish Myth. See more about her and a full listing of her work on her Amazon author page.

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