Scraping the Bottom of the Barrel (How The Morrigan Claimed Me Part IV)

I found myself scraping the bottom of the barrel this Spring. Soul-wise, energy-wise, inspiration-wise. While Spring is generally associated with new beginnings and growth, I felt the exact opposite. Everything around me seemed to being going wrong, everything felt off. I felt wrong. Despite the outward appearance of all being well, nothing was well, not at all.

The Morrigan is known to be a hard teacher at times. Her lessons, while powerful, can be painful. This Spring, The Morrigan was on me “like a duck on a june bug”. I had to pay attention. I felt as though Macha Herself had ridden me down and trampled me. Badb was screaming at me. Anu, I felt, was just frustrated with me. I had to get quiet. I needed to shut up, sit down and listen to Her.

I took time off from writing and teaching. I stopped attending public events. I spent more time alone. I talked to The Morrigan. I listened to The Morrigan. I read a lot. I gardened. I binged-watched some shows.

With The Morrigan’s help, I came to realize I had made several errors in my life and I was not going to get any relief until I acknowledged and corrected those errors. If you have ever attended one of my workshops, I always say, “You are in control! You are in the driver’s seat! You are master of your destiny!” Blah…blah…blah..was about how I felt about that crap this Spring. It was time to walk the talk. I had to get honest with myself.

A recurring issue in my life has been personal boundaries. Actually, the lack of proper personal boundaries is the real issue. And it had come back to haunt me once again. Why?! Again and again, this issue was wrecking havoc in my life. Again my reluctance to establish healthy personal boundaries was causing intense suffering in my life.

I needed to take a step outside myself and examine what was really going on with me. I talked to a therapist to get an outside opinion. I asked myself the hard question: “Why was I reluctant to establish proper personal boundaries in my life?”

The answer was in two parts.

First, I was reluctant to establish healthy personal boundaries because I feared rejection. I feared appearing unfriendly, unavailable, of not appearing present. By living in this fear, I was not making good decisions about who I allowed into my personal life. I ignored the little instinctual warning bells tinkling in my ears. I ignored the warning because Fear and Ego took over. And by Spring, I was paying the price. Fear can be a tricky thing, not obvious, Ego-driven, tough to spot sometimes. But here it was right here in my face, grinning. Fear.

The second reason why I lacked in the boundary department was my “savior complex.” I had maintained an unhealthy relationship with a certain individual for years because I felt I could eventually make that person “see the light” and change their fundamental beliefs. I was wrong, wrong, wrong. It was some of my own beliefs that were almost sacrificed as a result. Another blow to Ego. Another circumstance of it blowing up in my face again.

Spring turned to Summer and Summer is now turning to Fall. I am continuing my inner work. I am continuing to tackle difficult issues in my life. But by doing so, I have gained relief from the suffering I was experiencing. The Morrigan is pleased I am back on track. I have acknowledged I am a work in progress. I always will be. I wouldn’t want to be anything less. It is a part of why I write. By owning my stories, my imperfections, I free myself from them.

I have shared in the past of how The Morrigan claimed me. It’s the title of this little series I have been writing for this blog. In truth, The Morrigan did not just claim me one time. She has claimed me again and again. If I wander off the path She has set before me, She comes thundering back into my life, claiming me again. It is an ongoing process for me. And I am ever grateful to Her for it. The Morrigan likes to keep Her tools sharp. She sharpens me on a regular basis. I feel blessed She does so.

(c) Morrigan Odin – Originally published at The Morrigan’s Nest

Other writing by Morrigan Odin can be found at Patheos

Photo by Mathew Schwartz on Unsplash 

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Having a spiritual practice when you feel you can’t

Sometimes in life we find ourselves in places that make it difficult to honour our spiritual practices.  Perhaps you have to live with family who are not comfortable with your beliefs, perhaps you want or need to keep it hidden from friends, neighbours or children for safety reasons. Perhaps you are away from home and away from your sacred spaces.  So what can you do to maintain your spiritual practices, to keep honouring your Gods and deepen your connection?

Probably the first thing to recognise is that your connection with your Gods and guides begins within you.  Whilst we may build altars and have devotional practices to help us maintain that connection, these things do not make the connection external from you.  Whilst They may appreciate your efforts in maintaining altars and shrines or in performing devotional rites, they are not specifically necessary (I will add the caveat that some people do have specific direction on this from their Gods but that isn’t the point of this article).

So what can you do when life gets in the way of your devotional practices?

Pray

Prayer can sometimes be seen as bit of a dirty word amongst pagans due to the overtones it has acquired from the Christian faiths.  However, our ancestors were talking to the Gods of their land and people long before Christianity came along.

You can pray anytime, anywhere and it doesn’t have to be out loud.  It’s a really good practice to designate a time and space for it in your life, daily if possible. But if you’re working long hours, commuting a lot or have a schedule that makes truly regular practice difficult, then fit it in when and where you can.

Pray while you’re on the train travelling to work or college, pray on your lunch break, pray in your garden or bedroom when you have five minutes in the evening.  Pray when you find yourself in a space where nothing else is going on, where you can turn your focus and intention to your Gods and speak with Them.

Don’t know what to say? There are lots of great prayers out there in books and on the internet. Learn something short off by heart and use it with intention. But otherwise, speak what is in your heart. Tell your Gods how you feel about Them, show them honour with words. Prayer can also be a conversation about something that you may need from Them (and what you will give in return) but fundamentally it is about honouring your Gods and showing your appreciation for their presence in your life.

Think of it as being like maintaining a friendship, the relationship you have with the friend you call every day or every week is stronger than the one you only call once a year or when you want something. Your Gods are going to appreciate a regular five minute call with you over you worrying about having the right candle to light.

Meditate

Some people might not think of meditation as a devotional practice as we tend to see it as a space of emptying the mind or focus on the breath and so on. But actually it can be a really strong devotional practice. It’s kind of like a deeper version of prayer. Above I have advocated for the quick, five minute, when you can approach. But if you can make space for a longer session, then you can go deeper in your connection with your Gods.

To continue the friendship analogy it would be like going to visit somebody in their home for tea every day or once a week.  When we sit down in devotional meditation, we are sitting down for a longer visit with our Gods.

It may be that you combine devotional meditation with prayer or other rites and practices, but at absolute core it is about sitting down and putting your focus on your God(s) for a period of time. To sit and be with Them, be in their presence. To feel Them with and around you. To be open to Them, to listen for Their words or directions.

This may not be an easy practice to begin with, but committing to a regular practice of devotional meditation is extremely valuable in building a deeper relationship with your Gods and guides.

Make Offerings

I have written about offerings before. I wrote about it from the perspective of what you can offer when you have nothing, but actually the principles apply for those people who for whatever reason cannot make obvious or overt offerings due to living restrictions or the discomfort of others.

But in short, offerings of prayer, of story or song, of time in voluntary service or the clearing up of the land or sacred sites are offerings that are well received by most Gods. All of these offerings are things which can be done when our living situation prevent us from making physical offerings or working with devotional spaces.

Be on the land

For me, being out on the land is a massive devotional practice for a number of the Gods and other entities that I work with. Putting your bare feet (if possible) on the land and feeling your connection to the life of this planet, to the connection with all things. To the connection with your ancestors who stood on this land before you. To the connection with all those who have honoured the Gods before you. To feel the Gods in the land.

It is also possible to combine all of the previous suggestions in this article with being on the land. Pray on the land, meditate on the land, sing on the land, clean up the land.  Being outside is free and allows us a powerful connection pathway to our Gods. Whether you sit at the bottom of your garden, go to your local park or take yourself out into the wild somewhere.

 

Deepening your connection with your Gods does not require objects and gifts and fancy rites, though they are appreciated, it is about strengthening the connection that begins inside you, about maintaining and honouring the relationship you desire to have with Them. Whether that’s a five minute call every day or a weekly trip to the local park to meditate.  Do what fits in your life as it is now, add to it or deepen it when life allows. But do the work, every day.

Awen Clement © June 2017

Awen is a priestess of The Morrigan who lives and works in the West Midlands of the UK. She is leading the 2017 Call of the Morrigan Retreat – The Queen’s Vigil in West Wales in September.

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The Nature of Offerings

by Stephanie Woodfield

There has been quite a lot of heated debate on the internet concerning the appropriate types of offerings to give the Morrigan. And whether or not bullets are a legitimate one. What I think about all those discussions boils down to two main points. Firstly that offerings in general are a very personal thing. The context in which an offering is made is important. And the type of offering reflects on the relationship between the devotee and the deity in question. Secondly it begs the question: What exactly is an offering? And this is what interests me the most. Because it’s not something often discussed in Paganism, and to be honest I find that not many Pagans necessarily make offerings as a part of their daily or regular spiritual practice.

So what exactly is an offering? Why do we do it? Are we bribing the gods? Putting a quarter in the celestial vending machine, hoping to get the prize we want?

Questioning whether or not an offering is appropriate to a deity requires us to consider why we are leaving that offering in the first place. For myself it boils down to reciprocity. I offer the gods something out of respect, love and devotion, and they offer at times something in return. What is a small thing to a god can be something that makes a big impact in my life. Leaving offerings helps build a connection to deity, it is something that is a regular part of my devotion to the gods I work with.

The spirit in which you offer something is immensely important. We are not bribing or bartering with the gods, and sadly I think this is the approach a lot of people take. If I offer the right stone or herbs then I have essentially “bought” or bribed the gods into giving me the thing I asked for. If a person approaches making offerings in this manner, then I’m really not surprised when the gods don’t fulfill their request. No matter what I am offering I approach the process with love and gratitude in my heart. Even if I have nothing more than a cup of water to offer the gods, it is the spirit in which I offer it, the devotion I imbue it with that matters the most.

I also spend a lot of time thinking about what to offer to deity. Things that are a part of a deity’s myths, or have been historically offered to them are always good places to start. Also if a god finds something repugnant in their myths then maybe that’s not the best thing to offer them. For example there are specific things that certain Orisha, either via myth or tradition, should never be offered. And lastly the offering has to have some kind of meaning to the person giving it. On occasions I offer herbs or incense, but it worries me that these have become the fall back offerings to many people simply because they see someone else using them, and because they really aren’t thinking about why they are choosing to offer that particular item in the first place. At a festival a few years ago I attended a ritual where those present were asked to throw an offering into a fire for the gods. The ritual revolved around cleansing and bringing change. A friend who was there had asked the gods to help her with something that was very important in her life. We had known about the ritual in advance and she had brought something very special to her, and item her deceased father had given her, to offer to the fire. The offering fit with the thing she was asking the gods for, and all was well until she noticed the items other people were throwing into the fire. She whispered to me that she felt silly offering something so grand and so very different that those tossing handfuls of herbs and sticks of incense into the fire. She actually felt embarrassed to offer what I felt was a beautiful gift to the gods. A true sacrifice. Something that could not be replaced. Eventually she did go up to the fire and make her offering. And the gods answered her plea not long after.

My point is that there should be some thought that goes into offerings, and that by their very nature offerings will differ from devotee to devotee. What has value to each person and what the gods want from each of us will be different. And it should be. The Morrigan has many devotees. One may be a single mother, another a police officer, a soldier, a teacher, a Wiccan, a Reconstructionist, a Druid, a conservative, or a radical, the list goes on. All of these people may have a dedication to the Morrigan but each will more than likely offer her different things. And guess what. That’s how it should be. There are some things that people offer the Queen that I never would, and it really doesn’t offend or hurt me that they do so. If it works for their practice and reflects their connection with Her, awesome. I’ll honor Her in my way, and others in their own way. All that really matters to me is that they are honoring Her. That they are approaching Her with devotion. The problem with people getting riled up over someone offering something they personally wouldn’t give to a deity or personally find repugnant, comes down to confusing taste for morality. Just because I don’t like something, or something doesn’t work well for me, doesn’t negate the fact that it could hold an entirely different meaning for someone else.

So that brings me to what do I personally offer the Morrigan. Me personally. Not what you should offer. What works for me. Well surprisingly 98% of the time I offer Her whiskey or an act of bravery. Offerings don’t have to be physical things. One of my first teachers told me “Do something today, that you were afraid of doing yesterday. ” Given the Morrigan’s connection to strife, battle and sovereignty, I find this to be a worthy offering. Facing my fears, having the bravery to stand up for another person, these are all things I think She values more than any physical item I can offer to Her. For the rest of the time I do find that the Queen likes her whiskey. I’m that crazy Pagan who wanders a liquor store waiting to feel a nudge that says a deity wants a certain libation.

As to the drama on the internet, yes I have a few bullets on my altar. Two of them are from WWII and have been carried through real combat. Near them , against the wall, is a bayonet that my grandfather brought back from WWII. Having two great uncles and a grandfather who survived D-Day these all have meaning to me. There is a modern bullet there too, alongside the WWII relics, sitting beside candles, offering bowls for whiskey, swords, spears, a drum painted with a raven, and multiple statues. Bullets are not what I offer on a daily basis, but it’s something I have felt called by Her to leave on Her altar. Because my altar to Her is a reflection of all Her aspects, not just the ones I like the best. And because she is still a goddess of war. Not iron age war, or just war that involves swords. She reminds us what is worth fighting for. What do we love enough to lay down our lives for? When humanity stops asking ourselves those questions, maybe she will cease being a war goddess. But I don’t think that will happen anytime soon, or ever really.

Stephanie Woodfield's personal altar

Stephanie Woodfield’s personal altar

For myself personally a bullet doesn’t represent violence. If they do to you, then I suggest you find other things that have meaning to you to offer Her. For myself bullets and guns are just tools, just as swords are simply tools. The violence we connect with them originates in the person holding the tool, not the tool itself. The swords that we romanticize has no other purpose than to kill, specifically to kill other humans. At very least the argument can be made that spears and guns have been used for hunting. But not the sword. So the next time you pick up your ritual sword, reminded that while other weapons have replaced it over the years, it is still a weapon meant for killing. A weapon the Celts ritually broke and offered to the gods. That LOTR replica sword (not knocking anyone here I have a few!) may be beautiful to look at, but it doesn’t change what it is. So in that fashion having bullets on Her altar does not bother me. Like a sword, a gun can be used in self defense, and for myself it represents the idea that I have the right to defend myself. I have two friends who owe their lives to having concealed carry permits. One prevented a car jacking. In the other case it saved a friend from being raped. We both went to college together and she had one of those so called “gun nut” fathers. We joked with her about how he insisted she get a concealed carry permit and bought her a small gun to have with her when she walked to her car late at night from her bartending job. And one night a man tried to assault her and force her into his car. Luckily she was able to scare him off long enough to call the cops. If she hadn’t had a gun at very least she would have been raped, and more than likely she would have ended up losing her life. Similarly I know one military devotee who leaves bullets on his altar before deployment, asking for protection and that he may do his job without having to take a life.

Oddly enough, perhaps because I’m a vegetarian, offering meat is one of the few offerings I at first had some difficultly with. But on occasion, usually for a very special purpose, I will offer a small portion of raw beef (the best cut of course). I may not have had to slaughter that cow myself as our ancestors would have, but the fact that I am offering flesh remains forefront in my mind. To offer that bit of beef something living had to give up its life, and the gravity of that goes into the energy and emotion behind my offering. And as I said before I truly think the gods care more about the manner in which we give an offering than what the physical item is.

This is not the first time devotees of the Morrigan have gotten heated over what other people choose to offer to the Queen. What troubles me is that we have trouble respecting that what one person does in their practice can be different than our own. What is repugnant to you may hold a different meaning to me. Let the gods decide what is to their liking and what is not. Offer what you are personally called to offer, and respect what others give in their devotion.

Lastly what concerns me is this idea that the Morrigan’s connection to war does not apply to modern times, but instead to only the romanticized war of the past. The Morrigan has many guises, she is far from just a goddess of war. But war remains a part of her nature. She is not a tame lion. She did not retire from the war goddess business once swords stopped being the high tech weapon of the day. In some ways I see a shift in her approach. As I said, she reminds us what is worth fighting for. That can apply to a personal battle or a literal battle. And today I find she is very concerned with claiming personal sovereignty and goading us into facing our personal demons. But that makes her no less a goddess of war. To pretend she is otherwise, simply because we find modern warfare distasteful, is to deny a vital part of Her being. Morgan Daimler puts it quite succinctly:

“You know when my dad came back from Vietnam, when he got off the plane, people in the airport spit on him. This makes me think of that. We are spitting on our war gods because we are mistaking them for the gory collateral damage of war that we abhor. But they are not that. They are the spirit to fight and win and defend the things that matter. They are the spirit of battle that makes anything in life worth fighting for. And I think its dangerous to forget that, and very dangerous to disrespect them. They protect us, and we need them, just as we need soldiers whether we want to admit it or not.”

When someone offers something to a deity, respect that it’s a personal choice. It is part of their devotion to deity, not yours. And may we remember to respect that gods may represent things we are uncomfortable with, and that to turn a blind eye to part of their nature is dangerous. When you make offerings to the gods think about why you are offering a particular item. What meaning does it hold for you? What connection does it have to the god you are giving it to? Find what works for you, not just what works for other people. Because you are the one making the offering, not anyone else.

Originally blogged at http://darkgoddessmusings.blogspot.co.uk/2016/02/the-nature-of-offerings.html

About –

Stephanie Woodfield is the author of Celtic Lore & Spellcraft of the Dark Goddess:Invoking the Morrigan. She has been a practicing Witch and Priestess for over fourteen years. Her lifelong love of Irish mythology led to a close study of Celtic Witchcraft. A natural clairvoyant and empath, she has worked as a tarot card reader and is ordained as a minister with the Universal Life Church. Find her blog, Dark Goddess Musings, at: http://darkgoddessmusings.blogspot.co.uk.

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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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