Honouring the Blood: Call of the Morrigan by Awen Clement

As dusk fell we closed the gates to the ordinary world, allowed the land to envelop and cradle us. Quietly we came, healers and priests, craftsmen and warriors, gathering in Her name. Raven Queen, Battle Crow, Morrigan.

We cast a circle of light and dark, of flame and blood and weaving.  We asked the land to hold us, we asked the ancestors to stand with us, to guide us and guard us. We called our Queen in rich voices of fire and honour.


We cleansed away the old versions of ourselves, prepared to step into new skins, new shapes of our souls.  One by one, turn by turn we submitted to the needle. Gave our blood and received her mark. Gave shape to our prayers, made promises in ink. Witnessed by our brothers and sisters, nurtured by the hearth fire.

We wove together a pattern of story and song, of prayer and devotion as the land and the ancestors looked on. Brave voice of the young spoke in honour and faith. Men cried tears of truth. Women wove prayer and flame in devotion. Some sang in voices not their own and the drum echoed the heartbeat of the world.


And the Great Queen heard us call. She came to us. Accepted our offerings of blood and flesh and honouring. Some trembled, some wept, but all held steadfast in the truth of her sight. Her voice like the gentle roar of the river, we were held out of time. She gave voice of both warning and blessing.We gave thanks, we feasted and then one by one and two by two we slipped away, across land and sea. Returning home, forever changed, ready to face what is to come.And so it was done. The ashes went cold and the land fell quiet.

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This writing is a reflection of my experience at Honouring the Blood: Call of the Morrigan Retreat 2016.Awen Clement – 2016 (c) This piece was originally posted at www.wildmagpiewoman.blogspot.co.uk

Awen is the Wild Magpie Priestess who serves The Morrigan and Brigid. She leads circles and workshops in the West Midlands (UK).
www.wildmagpie.co.uk
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Me, The Morrigan, and Pilgrimage

November 1, 2011 – Rathcroghan Complex, Tulsk, Co Roscommon, Ireland

In 2011, I visit her cave for the first time, on a whim. My friend Jamie has featured it in one of her fictional stories, and suggested I go check it out while I am in Ireland.  With my friend’s new IPhone as my only light, I make it half way down before the fear of dropping her phone in the mud is quickly overtaken by the primal fear of the dark and death. I, who loves caves and the dark, am wondering if I am having a panic attack, and if I can make it out. This was the day and way I met the Morrigan. I did not know her by name until I visited the Rathcroghan Visitor Centre a few hours later.

 

July 2012 – Rathcroghan Complex, Tulsk, Co. Roscommon, Ireland

I am hosting a pilgrimage, and we visit the cave with a proper guide who would later become my good friend, Lora O’Brien. She takes some of us down, those that feel called, and again I feel fear, but this time I have my sister with me, and we hold hands in the dark, which helps just enough to keep me down in the cave. The Morrigan asks me many questions, and tells me to devote myself to something. To what will I devote myself? I answer her, and I do devote myself to that answer, and it changes my life from there on out. I am interested in the Morrigan now, and we arrange to speak again soon.

 

December  2014 – North Georgia, USA

In 2014, I get out of Atlanta for some fresh air. I head up North and go hiking. Mid-hike, I hear Her calling me loudly. I feel like I am in the cave again, though I’m not–it’s hot and humid, and the sun is burning me even though it’s December.  As I walk on, I find a sign indicating that this is a Civil War battle site. I ask Her if it’s Her site. She says yes, but it’s not her kind of war. She tells me what her battles look like, and they remind me of my own. Later that week, I will receive the catalyst, a phone call that will kick off years of battle in my own life. I will return to that site several more times to discuss my battle with Her. Battles that have left me stronger and victorious internally, but also with scars and heartaches that never seem to heal. She always tells me “I take first” when I complain about the pain.

 

September 2015 – Rathcroghan Complex, Tulsk, Co. Roscommon, Ireland

The battle rages on, quietly, internally, behind the lines, and escaping the notice of most, but never escaping Her’s. I once again go and visit the cave with Lora O’Brien. This time, I have plenty to be grateful for. Unwanted blessings released. She tells me the suffering will end soon, my rewards are just, and that life is messy and horrible. It soothes me, and I leave her my blood as an offering. When I come out of the cave, there is a little boy from a nearby farmhouse, with his pet bunny.  While I respect and honor Her cave, I am glad there are little boys with pet bunnies running around the world, and I spend sometime with both of them.

 

June 2015 – Morrigan’s Call Retreat, Orange CT

I have my most profound experience of the Morrigan yet. We are all in paint and feathers around a bonfire. She is calling us Her ravens. “What do you fight for?” She asks, “Are you brave?” I meet one of Her Priestesses, who through great grace, grounding, and devotion, holds the Morrigan for me. She tells me, “You are a star. You deserve what I gift you, take it.” It takes many moons for the message to sink in, and when it does, my path opens up before me and I receive blessings that stick with me to this day.

I now await re-visiting the Civil War battlefield, Rathcroghan, and The Morrigan Retreat in 2017  with equal anticipation. This Samhain, I will spend October 30, the day before Samhain, in Her cave with another group of pilgrims. According to local legend, we will be there the eve of when the cave turns into a portal to hell, and demons come out.  I am already scared, but I will go and hold hands, and see what She has in store for me next.

Vyviane Armstrong, July 2016

 

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Vyviane Armstrong owns and operates Land, Sea, Sky Travel, which has a special focus on Liminal Travel and Sacred Site pilgrimages in North America, UK, and Ireland.

She is a member of the Sisterhood of Avalon. She lives outside of Atlanta, in Stone Mountain, Georgia.

You can find her at Land, Sea, Sky Travel

 

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Rag Tree Tradition by Lora O’Brien

So, I’ve worked for the last 12 years as a professional tour guide to the sacred sites of Ireland, and let me tell ya, I’ve seen some shit.

8 of those years were spent managing the sites and visitor centre at the royal complex of Rathcroghan, Cruachan; which (as many of you know, unless you’re believing the nonsense that there’s no Morrigan sites in Connacht), is where the Morrigan ‘resides’ – Her primary site in Ireland is the Cave of the Cats, Uaimh na gCait. This site is an ancient cave, worked by human hands in later times, known as the primary physical entrance to the Irish Otherworld, which Medieval Christian scribes referred to ‘the Gates of Hell’ due to the unfortunate amount of monsters and demons (to their perception) which flowed out from this hole in the earth on an all too regular basis.

I’m probably telling y’all stuff you already know here, being folk who are interested in Herself. I’ve been Her priestess for 13 years, and I know how hard she pushes us to do the work, and how important real information is to Her.

But what you might not be aware of, and what I’d really, really, like you to be aware of (and tell all your mates), is the absolute misconceptions and horrific disrespect that Pagan or ‘spiritual’ visitors to Ireland show at our sites.

Let’s talk about the Rag Tree tradition, shall we?

In Ireland, we have long had the custom of the ‘Raggedy Bush’ or Rag Tree, and there’s similar in Scotland, with what they call ‘clooties’ tied to certain trees. The trees are Hawthorn, one of our most prominent native trees/bushes – Crataegus Monogyna, or in Irish, the Sceach Gheal. The Irish name literally means something like, ‘that which makes the hedgerow bright’, and when it’s covered in colourful rags it sure does. Most often, there’s a particular hawthorn, growing near a particular holy well, and this is the local Rag Tree.

Occasionally there’s no well or spring to be found, but my theory on that is that there used to be one and it’s gone now, or that the misconceptions around Rag Trees stretch back further than your average modern American tour group, and some fecker just decided at some stage that a single growing hawthorn was actually a Rag Tree, way back in the mists of time, and it stuck. Now, that doesn’t mean there’s no magic there today… just that it probably didn’t start out that way. The water nearby is a pretty important part of the magic here.

What’s it all about then? Well, basically, the tradition goes that you take a piece of cloth from a sick person, tie it to the tree (often with prayers), and the sickness disappears as the rag rots away. The water nearby is most often a holy or healing well, which helps of course.

Sounds simple enough, right? From a magical perspective, we’ve got sympathetic magic in the rotting of the fabric – the visual representation of the illness losing power and strength and eventually disintegrating. We’ve got an energetic loop that’s formed between the sick person (it has to be an item they’ve worn while ill, so imbued with their DNA or essence) for illness to flow to the tree, and back the way then with the healing energies from the water, through the roots of the tree. Make sense? Sure!

You know what doesn’t make sense though? Folk who come along and tie their rubbish to the tree. Or tie strings or cloth so tight they damage the tree branches. I’ve removed everything from crème egg (candy) foil wrappers to junk jewellery rings to plastic covered wire wrap ties from the branches of our Rag Trees on this island. Not cool people, not cool. That, at least though, can be written off as ignorance of a ‘quaint’ local tradition they want to be a part of, by people who are really just here for lip smacking the Blarney Stone and the Guinness.

What’s more worrying is the visitors who come to sites where there’s no Rag Tree, on supposed spiritual pilgrimage, and tie their shit to whatever tree happens to be there.

The Cave at Cruachan is a prime example of this. I was a guardian there for 13 years, and for 8 of those I was paid to be in and out of it most days of the week. There’s a hawthorn that grows over the mouth of the cave, but it’s a relatively young one. Maybe 20 or 30 years old is all. It’s a fairy tree in the sense of it being smack bang over the mouth of a Sidhe dwelling, and it’s definitely magical… but it’s not a Rag Tree. Every week though, there’d be some new bit of tat tied to it. One tour group got a nylon umbrella off their bus, ripped it to bits, and tied the bits to the tree. Then they left the umbrella carcass in the field, got on their bus, and drove off.

There were obviously some who wanted to leave an ‘offering’ at the site, to connect themselves there in some way, and perhaps that’s how some of the cloth strips got into the tree. Maybe some were even cloth from the garments of sick people. But this is not a healing site. In my experience – personally, and collected from feedback of those who energetically interacted with the site – the entities at this site will gleefully follow any connection you choose to make there, go right back to source, and tear down anything weak that they find there. Ostensibly ‘for your own good’, of course, but they are absolutely merciless about it… if you lay a pathway for them they will follow it. This is not a good thing, for most people. Especially unprepared people. People who maybe think that Irish entities and Sidhe spirits are essentially pleasant and good natured, full of the craic, and harmless to let in. People who are perhaps sick, and not at full energetic defensive strength.

There was once a baby’s bib tied through the branches of the hawthorn tree at the Morrigan’s Cave. Just take a moment, and let that sink in for yourself.

You see now why I might be a bit ranty on this topic? Can we not do this anymore?

My best advice is to take local advice. If you want to find a real Rag Tree, there’s websites and books that will tell you where to begin your search, but first and foremost you should be talking to local people. Get exact directions. Check that the tree you think might be the one is actually the one. And remember, just because some eejit has tied something to it before you got there, doesn’t make it a Rag Tree.

Please, be sure?

13625325_10154343445948833_754878224_nLora O’Brien is a native Irish Author and Guide to Ireland, facilitating your authentic connection to Ireland one small step at a time. You can get involved with the excellent Irish Rewards by becoming a Patron of her work at www.Patreon.com/LoraOBrien, or visit her website to find out about her upcoming on-line course, Meeting the Morrigan. You can find Lora’s blog, books, mailing list, classes and more at www.LoraOBrien.com.

 

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Pilgrimage by Brennos Agrocunos

Detail from Desmond Kinney’s 1974 mosaic mural of the Táin Bó Cúailnge in Dublin

Introduction

It’s taken me days to make the transition from being in Ireland to being in California.  Jet lag was a factor, but it is much more than jet lag that has thrown my system into disarray.  What has shifted in me is deeper than a physiological response to travel, or the simple shock of moving between contrasting cultures.  In a very profound way, my spiritual landscape has been altered, reworked, grounded in place in a way that I was unaware that it was even lacking, but now can’t imagine being without.

I wasn’t sure that I should even attempt to write about my experiences on this journey.  Some of them seem too involved and detailed, with tangents twisting off of tangents.  Too much backstory would needed to relate the significance of some of these events to readers, and the format of a blog is ill-suited for this type of storytelling, usually requiring strong drink and smokey firelight, quite possibly the smell of wet wool.  Many of the stories are painfully personal and would force me to tell my own histories and stories, an art that I am not skilled at nor comfortable doing in most cases.  But my habits of seclusion and remaining guarded have been put on the chopping block by the Queen that I serve, and stories have a habit of wanting to be told.  So here we are.

Instead of trying to relate the journey to you all at once, or simply relating a chronological telling of the tale,  I’ve decided that I will be publishing my account in a series of stories.   Some will be about certain portions of the trip and some will be explorations of themes and concepts that came up during the experience.  The time we were there was so densely packed with places, spirits, experiences, and revelations that I’m not exactly sure how these stories will form and want to be told.  This process I am going through is more for me than anyone else.  It is not unlike the process of unpacking your bags after a long trip.  You slowly take each item that you have acquired during your expedition out of your bag and hold it in your hands, remembering where you found it, its significance to you, how it fits into the life that you have returned to.

So I welcome you to join me while I unpack my experiences and tell some tales of my odyssey if that type of thing will be of interest to you.  I humbly hope that my words can do justice to the wealth and richness of the land we walked in and brilliance and kindness of the people that we encountered, but stories must start somewhere and in the case of this account, it should probably start with a tale.

Boyhood Deeds

The boy had his first training among the women of his mother’s clan, and this is fitting for it’s a pups mother that trains it to fight, for women know that fighting is more than glory and tales, but often a matter of survival.

He lived in a village in the shadow of a great city with his Grandmother, Corcairghorm and her sisters, powerful Druidess’ of a fierce clan, who knew the arts of healing, craft, and persuasion.  The boy lived a happy but lonely life with his mothers people, and it was likely that the women loved him greatly, for there were few children in the clan, and the boy was kind, and good natured, and tried to be helpful even when his size and skills made him very unhelpful in some tasks.

The boy, then called Tómas, spent the dark half of his year with the clan of his mother in boyish pursuits, exploring deep forests, pushing the boundaries of his existence, and asking too many questions, and he spent the light half of the year with his fathers people, a wild and untamed clan that lived deep in the mountains. From his fathers people he learned the art of the hunt, and how to move like a staking beast through the forest. He learned to plow rocky fields and when the right time to cut hay for the animals.

There was another thing about the boy that set him apart from his people, a fact that he kept to himself as much as he was able to, but something that made him feel alone and distant from the other people in his life, the boy was often approached by and spoken to by spirits of the dead and creatures of the Otherworld. At first there seemed nothing out of the ordinary to have exchange with these spirits, but Tómas quickly realized that he was the only one that saw them, and that by talking about the beings that he encountered with the other members of his clan, made the people that loved him look at him out of the sides of their eyes suspiciously, and regard him with fear and concern when they thought he wasn’t looking.

Once, the boy awoke in the middle of the night, eyes open but unable to move his body. It was then that he saw the woman, tall and beautiful, who had the bearing of a mighty queen from the stories that his grandmother told him. He feared and loved this stormy, stately Queen and struggled to make his mouth and throat make sounds to speak to Her but could only make a strangled moan that broke the spell that held his body still, when the spell was broken the Queen was gone, all that remained was the sound of calling crows and the image of a fair green land.

Years later the boy awoke during a violent storm. Storms didn’t frighten him at this point, the terrors and fears of the night had become his friends and companions. He had learned to run through the forests at night alongside wolves and to sit silently in the trees as an owl mapping the sounds and movements of the creatures of the wood. He spoke with his ancestors and with spirits and shades of the dead and they became his confidants and protectors. He did not fear storms but ran into them at night, reveling in the power and beauty of the whipping rain and bright flashes of lightening, and ground shaking thunder, but this storm was different. It was not a storm to challenge. As the boy sat quietly in the dark listening to the raindrops crash against his window, he saw the face of a crone peering in at him. Once again the boy felt that combination of fear and attraction that he felt with the Mighty Queen that visited him years before and he knew that although Her appearance was different, this was the same Queen. He rapidly sat up in bed and the crone was now in the corner of his room, peering out of one eye with a piercing stare, cloak and feather wrapped, growing and filling the space, and with a voice that sounded equal parts music and screams, the crone who was a Queen who was a black bird, called him a name that he had never heard before and yet knew it was his and said to him
“You Child, are one of my creatures, and I will have need of you in the future, and as I have visited you in your home, someday you will come and visit me in mine”
And with those words She was gone and he was left with dreams of a green and magical island that he knew was his home as well as that Queen’s.

Reblogged with permission from Pilgrimage to Ireland – Introductions and a Tale https://strixian.wordpress.com/2015/09/25/pilgrimage-to-ireland-introductions-and-a-tale/

About the author

Brennos Agrocunos is an activist, spirit worker and priest of the Morrigan presently living in Berkeley California. He is one of the founding members of the Coru Cathubodua, a Celtic devotional polytheist priesthood based in the Bay Area. As a priest, he works towards social justice, environmental healing, and sovereignty of the land and write about these and related topics.

He can be found online at Strixian Woods https://strixian.wordpress.com/

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