The Mystifying Morrigan

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I read this article about The Morrigan yesterday and almost dismissed it due to this line: “Her breasts were believed to form the hills in County Kerry called Da Chich Annan (the paps of Anu).”* I thought that the Paps of Anu referred to a different goddess, Anu or Danu. Then I kept reading more and more about The Morrigan and it seems that she is behind many Irish and Celtic goddesses, and to try to pull Her out and stand Her separately would be to rend apart an ancient and fragile weaving. Damaging it would not damage her; it would damage us. We, especially Americans, try to fit the most confounding deities of all into our notions of Archetype.

We Americans learn a little about Greek and Roman mythology in high school. We have to take advanced university classes to learn Celtic mythology. Or, we have to learn on our own.

I did minor in Folklore at my university, but I couldn’t finish the four-year degree because my student loans were cut, and I thought it best to just work, take a second job on top of the job at the library at night after a full day of classes.

My first job was a clerk in the library, so I was able to continue my education on my own. I got a little lost in Buddhism in 2003. I did have a great love for Kwan Yin. I rejected it when my ex-husband turned it into a weapon–I was unworthy because I couldn’t “fix” my mind. I floundered about a bit and then went back to the first religion and Goddess I had known–Mary. I clung to Mary and Mary Magdalene, which suited my in-laws but not my husband–until I left him in 2010. But I still hung onto those Christian Goddesses who made me feel safe until 2015. I was living with my mother again, praying, studying the rosary . . . and we were hit with a financial crisis that endangered our home.

Many Christians would say it was a test of faith. I didn’t have that luxury. You see, the difference in Christianity and Wicca is faith versus action. I remember the date my faith in Christianity died. And what I came back with was a desire for power and a way to act to change my circumstances.

I turned back to Wicca, I acted, and I saved our home.

I’ve struggled for the past year with specific deities, all-encompassing deities . . . and two came to me at different times. I am moving, for a time, from working with Rhiannon to asking The Morrigan if She will work with me. As she calls to me so often, in the voices of crows and ravens, and the long black feather that I found in my yard, I think that She might have an interest in me.

Is what I want what She knows that I need? That is my question, and I will draw cards and ask for an answer.

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Your Favorite Pagan Books

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Many of us got started on our path by happening across a book. My book was The Spiral Dance, but the original, not this 20th anniversary edition. I was 12 or 13 and I read The Mists of Avalon, and The Spiral Dance was listed in the concordance as a reference. Miracle of miracles, the local library had the book. It was hardback and had a red cover. I read it over and over. I photocopied long sections because I was so young and yet old enough to know that I would never be allowed to buy the book, at least for a very long time, until I became an adult. Now I do have a copy, but not the original.

My other favorite pagan book is Celtic Magic. As I mentioned in this post, it is a great book for people new to The Craft. You can find history, mythology, goddesses and gods, and ingredients for all types of spellwork in this little book.

Please feel free to add your favorite books to this discussion with a comment.

Hey Pagans, Some Discussion Would Be Nice

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Or even a “thank you.”

The Twitter pagan/Wiccan community is not, shall we say, up to speed on some basic social niceties. Like being nice. Half-a-dozen times, I’ve responded positively to a post, or raised an issue of concern to me, or DMd a popular Wiccan or pagan account and got . . . nuttin’.

And these were not situations where the person or persons running the accounts were inundated with responses to their tweets linking to their blog posts. Maybe I was supposed to go to their blog to comment? Well, I just don’t f’ing feel like jumping through all the hoops to comment on everyone’s blog, and NO, I am not signing in with Facebook. Ever.

If someone links to their new blog post, and I respond, “Great post, really made me think about Topic X” is it so damn hard to respond and say, “Thank you!” Or, “For more discussion, visit my blog.” Or even, “F*ck you!”

If you keep running into the Pagan Wall of Silence, it’s not just you. I can’t give you an explanation for the bad behavior, but it’s not just you.

Someone presenting her or himself as an authority on paganism ought to answer a question. Or at least say, “Hey, can you ask that over here on my blog?” I personally am not going to anyone’s Facebook page because I use FB as little as possible.

It is tempting to unfollow people who have no manners, but oftentimes they write the most insightful articles. I think–I hope–that their Twitter accounts are automated and that explains the lack of manners, but that’s still not okay. Protip: Everyone hates automated accounts. Everyone. Stop it. I don’t care if you’re the High Priest of Cthulu. You’re still acting dickish.

Sometimes, the articles you comment on and don’t get a response  address noob concerns or basic, important topics. And then there will be a post about not doing the thing the person wrote about but ignored questions. So what the hell are you supposed to do?

Well, just because someone doesn’t reply to comments doesn’t mean everything they have to say is wrong. If the post resonates with you, study it for answers to unanswered questions. If you find it confusing or upsetting, go on your own search for answers.

A tip for people new to pagan belief systems:

Wicca and paganism are NOT about renaming yourself “Sister RavynnMorgyn” and posting digital art of voluptuous witches morning and evening and greeting all your friends with “Blessed Be, Sister GoldenDragonWing!” That’s a bunch of crap. That’s not real. The vast majority are struggling along just like you, struggling to learn, struggling to resolve conflicts between Wicca and our birth religion. And the people who put themselves out there as sources of knowledge should BE sources of knowledge instead of ignoring questioners. Wicca is all about questioning. You don’t have dogma. If you do have dogma, you shouldn’t.

Books. Libraries. Used and new book stores. Acquaint yourself with them, and accept that Wicca is like a university course that goes on until the day you die and then after.

Don’t let bad-mannered Wiccans turn you off.

Start At The Beginning Of The Book

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Do you flip right to the back of the book when you buy a new book about Wicca, witchcraft, paganism, magic, or deities?

  • Moon Goddesses: Artemis/Diana, Arianrhod, Rhiannon
  • Gemstone: Moonstone
  • Metal: Silver
  • Colors: White/Silver
  • Day: Monday
  • Incense: White Musk
  • Animal: Cat, Rabbit/Hare

Or maybe you want to do a . . . hmm . . . love spell!

  • Love Gods and Goddesses: Aphrodite/Venus, Angus mac Og, Guinevere
  • Gemstone: Pink Quartz, Diamond
  • Metal: Gold
  • Colors: Pink, Red
  • Day: Friday
  • Incense: Vanilla
  • Animal: Swan

I just pulled some of that from memory and some of that from . . . the air. Do you know anything about Angus mac Og? Why is Guinevere listed as a Goddess?

When you’re new at this, you think you can skip to the back of the back, pick a deity who suits your needs, light the right color candle, and you’ll get what you want.

That ain’t happening.

Many people like to place abstract Goddess and God figures on their altars. The pregnant Earth Goddess, the wasp-waisted Spiral Goddess, the Horned God. They may have a separate shrine for a certain deity. They may have a figure or something relating to their special God or Goddess on their altar. They may have multiple shrines.

How do you move beyond the correspondences and find the Goddess or God that is your magical soul mate? They usually find you. The name Athena may pop into your head for no reason. Then three nights later, you may hear an owl calling, and hear it every night for several nights. Maybe Athena is tapping you on the shoulder. That’s one great reason to study, study, study, so that you’ll already know that the owl is associated with Athena.

You may also meet a deity through a deck of oracle cards. Oracle cards are vastly different from Tarot cards. They’re usually based on a theme (Goddesses) or a type of being (vampires.) You might ask your oracle cards if someone in particular is trying to get your attention, and then turn over the Ceridwen card. Then, you need to study, study, study.

Maybe the darkness fascinates you. Maybe you genuinely feel at home outside in the night. Or perhaps you see ghosts or other spirits. Then the lists at the end of the book can give you some suggestions. You might be feeling the influence Hecate or The Morrigan.

And what do you do? Study.

I read this article tonight. It inspired me to write this post, which is derived from my own experiences over the last three decades. Please read the linked article, because it is so important in understanding why skipping to the back of the book is almost certainly going to bring you confusion and disappointment.

If you’re drawn to Celtic magic and deities, you need this book. I referred to it so often since 1995 that I had to buy a second copy, and now that copy is yellowed and has loose pages. It contains Celtic mythology, information on deities and fairies, holy days, spellwork, and yes . . . tables of correspondence.

 

Converting-Can It Be Done Without Disparaging the Previous Religion?

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Apparently not in Doreen Virtue’s case.

The first oracle deck I bought was Doreen’s Goddess Guidance Oracle. I bought it because it includes Mary Magdalene as a goddess and at the time, I was deep into studying the “Grail heresy.” And I still do believe that Mary Magdalene and Jesus were married and had a child, and that she escaped the Holy Land and lived out her life in southern France. But the quest for Mary Magdalene became a source of confusion for me, and there are just too many things in the Bible that I can’t accept. I felt pulled towards Wicca again. I stumbled in going back into that, but I went with what I felt and realized, as I tended my little garden this summer, that that was where I felt closest to the Goddess. I do have affinities for two particular goddesses, but the earth and the changing seasons are to me as God and church are to Christians. Even though I’m allergic to so much of the earth, which is a sad irony.

So I can certainly understand a person’s spiritual journey changing and evolving, and Doreen has obviously been growing towards angels and Christian themes in her oracle decks, but her actual conversion leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

From the linked article: “Doreen told listeners she will be changing some of her previously published books and card decks . . . . She will be taking out some of the deities she wrote about and created cards for . . . . The book and card deck will then be re-issued.”

That’s not okay. It’s misleading to her new followers. It’s erasing part of her spiritual journey, the opposite of what a spiritual teacher, which is what she calls herself, does. She’s now removing deities she considers dark from her classic decks, basically besmirching those of us who follow or at least respect those deities.

My theory is that she found her niche market in angel and Christian-centered oracle decks and wants to erase the parts of her past career that doesn’t fit into her new baptized and born again persona. Anne Rice was an atheist, went back to the Catholic church for a few years, wrote a trilogy about the life of Jesus, even said she was done with the Vampire Chronicles, but she didn’t alter the books or pull them off the market. And then she went back to them.

(Please forgive me for drawing a parallel between Anne Rice and Doreen Virtue.)

Doreen can’t erase her pagan past. I have the Goddess Guidance oracle. It’s not my  favorite deck, I rarely work with it, but it was my first oracle deck. I can’t see me using it again because I’ll always associate it with someone building a career on people like me, then spitting on us and turning her back on us.

Edit: I just read this on Doreen’s site, and it’s highly problematic for those of us still using her decks and materials who do not share her “Christian” views.

What about Jesus? 
Doreen was raised as a Christian, and she continues to talk to God, Holy Spirit, Jesus and the angels. She consults them before, during and after every one of her readings and sessions. However, she realizes that many people are turned off when Jesus is “shoved down their throats.” She also knows that many people have suffered painful experiences in organized religious settings. So, Doreen prefers not to “push” Jesus upon people. She respects everyone’s right to worship in whatever way they prefer. She does, however, believe that everyone benefits from having a spiritual path and a belief in a loving God. 

People of all faiths and cultures believe in angels.

This is a flat-out lie.

There are so, so many “faiths and cultures” in the world, and while some may believe in angels, and others may believe in beings that resemble angels, every faith and culture does not believe in angels. Or unicorns. Or fairies.

When I was a broke pagan, I tried using angels as goddess figurines on my altar. Even the semi-pagan autumnal angels did not work for me because I couldn’t associate them with anything but Christianity in my mind. Altars, of course, are another hotly debated subject in the pagan community, with some saying they aren’t necessary, or should be as simple as possible, or can be whatever you wish. I went with “whatever you wish.” I added two miniature fairy figurines to my nature goddess altar. Fairies are not angels. Angels are not fairies. Many “faiths and cultures” believe in nature spirits that may be friendly towards humans, ambiguous, tricksters, teachers, or decidedly unfriendly. Those unfriendly “dark” fairies are the ones Doreen has decided to erase from her materials. That’s crap, because she’s deciding which fairies are okay and which aren’t, and she’s telling us that EVERYONE believes in angels.

Again, Doreen found her niche selling angel oracle decks, and she seems quite determined to force that down our throats, and I am not okay with her behavior. I am so glad that I only bought one of her decks because I won’t be using it again except maybe to frame a couple of the cards as art, and I’m glad I did not waste more money on this charlatan.

Recreating Your Altar: Yes, it’s Okay

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This post is especially for pagans/Wiccans/witches still in their “year and a day” period.

So you set up an altar, and probably you felt connected to a particular goddess/goddess and god/pantheon. Maybe you set up a simple altar and didn’t put a lot of money into the components. That’s actually good and smart and not what I did. Well, I didn’t spend a great deal of money, but I did buy two beautiful goddess figurines based on an oracle card reading that told me that one goddess was trying to reach me and a fascination with another goddess. At first, I felt very connected and centered to the goddesses. After several months, I lost the connection. I kept doing all the things that I had done since the beginning, but I could not regain that feeling of presence.

At the same time, I was spending a lot of time outside in the spring preparing and planting my garden. It’s been a difficult year–I don’t have to say why, but add health worries and family issues on top of that–and I got to a point that if I didn’t touch a plant every day, I was miserable. I realized that the goddess whose presence I craved was nature.

You already know that you don’t have to have an altar. We don’t have dogma. But if you’re like me and you like altars and symbols–perhaps a carryover from Catholic school?–you can build a budget altar and save up for things that you love, like the mini cast iron cauldron that I just bought. Budget or altar of your dreams, if you find yourself pulled in another direction six months later, it’s okay to change. And it’s okay to feel drawn to another deity. If another goddess or god seems to tug at your heart for months, it’s time to sit down and try to determine if this deity should become a part of your life.

How do you know? Meditation, sitting or walking can give you insight. Tarot or oracle cards can be a great help, but try to stay away from god/goddess decks. Turning over a goddess card doesn’t mean that goddess should be your goddess. Different deities speak to us when they have something to say.

Reading books–NOT random articles online–can help you learn about the specific mythology associated with your deity. Serving a deity is serious and arduous. This is one reason that many modern pagans choose goddess and/or god symbols instead of a particular deity.

I believe that “God” is a part of our universe and appears to people in a form that they can connect with and understand. We are not so far from our BCE ancestors. We are sheltered from and understand rain, thunder, lightning, snow, intense sun, but we are still vulnerable to the elements. What is more elemental than the earth and the forest and the sea? Where to we go to “get away from it all?” To the sea. To the forest. Some of us camp out in the woods. Some of us rent beachfront condos. Most of us get as close to nature as we comfortably can.

What draws you, the mountains or the sea? The desert? The prairie? The forest? The wooded area a mile from your home? Your carefully cultivated garden, or the garden you let run wild?

I’ve felt on edge for months, as if I made a mistake in choosing particular deities, and that I would be doing some great wrong in making a change. I no longer believe that it’s wrong to change. I do think that the change should be done with great respect. I have a place picked out for my goddess statues. It will be, in essence, a second altar. My new altar will be dedicated to the Goddess in her persona as Nature. This goddess will be my garden. This altar will tide me over the winter, but I will of course include winter nature elements. This altar will be personal to me rather than dedicated to something outside me. I made a mistake with that, not a terrible, unforgivable mistake, but an error.

So I have big plans for this altar. I’m lucky to have space, and lucky to not have to pack up and hide my altar. I can grow plants on my altar. I can add things until my entire dresser surface is an altar.

Many teachers will caution against adding a lot of stuff to your altar. That depends upon the person. Does having a well fleshed-out altar aid you in your meditation, magical work, daily ritual? Daily ritual is so very important in our chaotic world. It helps us feel grounded and centered, or as much as is possible these days. Tending an altar is like tending a garden.

How do you tend an altar? That’s another post. This was a long post, and sunrise is in two minutes.

But yes, you can change your mind about your altar, and you can devote yourself to a different deity. Both should only be done after a long period of thought, meditation, and asking oracles for advice, at least in my opinion.

Fellow pagans, how do you respond?

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“Paganism/Wicca is a made up religion.”

What do you say? My impulse is to say that they’re all “made up,” human expressions of the Divine.

I was told today that we (all pagans of all traditions) are just having fun without having done any research into how ancient peoples worshiped. As this person’s comments were particularly foolish and presumptuous, I told them they needed to get their ass off their shoulders and stop assuming that none of us have done any research into our particular path.

Because we don’t have a holy book, because we’re all different, because we all have our own way of approaching our spirituality and we (largely) avoid dogma, we’re just playing around.

I’ve never understand why religion can’t evolve. I’ve never understood why a spiritual practice built on the foundations of ancient religion isn’t as real as, say, Mormonism, which is a very young religion.

Wicca isn’t easy. For me, it’s hard work continually chipping away at the fear installed in me by Christian school teachers. It’s hard work readjusting my thought patterns from a religion that says “Just pray and believe!” to a spiritual practice that is . . . real life. It’s birth, life, and death. It’s having a pragmatic view of daily living instead of walking around telling everyone MY GOD IS GOOD, I’M BLESSED by people who don’t seem blessed at all, just desperately trying to convince themselves that they are or will be if they keep repeating it. And research . . . the research never stops. New archaeological discoveries, fighting through the fluff to get to the blood and bone, trying to understand how my ancient Irish ancestors viewed their gods and goddesses. Trying to set aside my comfortable modern mindset. Trying not to be pushed into doing things the way that other pagans do them. Not hiding my beliefs and knowing that people think they’re silly and hearing things like this woman on this TV show just said, that she goes to church to feel like she’s part of something bigger than herself.

I don’t need to go sit in a building to do that. All I have to do is water my garden and monitor the growth of my plants that I planted from seed. All I have to do is pick up half of a robin’s egg shell and add it to my shelf of things I find around my yard. All I have to do is look at a modern interpretation of an ancient female figurine and feel that primal awe at how something so simple seems to hold all the meaning in the world.

What do you say to someone who just wants to feel superior and sneer at a “made-up” religion? Do you bother with them at all? Is it our jobs to try and educate them? Does that ever work? Do we have to be nice? I don’t feel like trying to set some kind of example. If someone is behaving like an ass, I want to say “you’re behaving like an ass.”

So how do you respond to the “made-up religion” comments?