Beltane musings

Writing this post has a bitter sweet aspect to it to me.  This is based on the last writing I did before my mum died on a book that was never completed.  I tried to get back to it last year but failed so over the last six months I have used the material for posts here instead.

As many readers will know Beltane is often given the date of 1 May but its origin, like Imbolc, Lughnasadh and Samhain, is agricultural. This means that in the distant past it was triggered by seasonal changes in the local environment. Samhain has developed into the season of the ancestors and become fixed in our hearts and minds with the time of Halloween. Imbolc has a very strong focus on Brighid and has also become a fixed date festival more than one of the first signs of spring. For many, if not most, people Beltane has also made this transition from seasonal to calendar but personally I just don’t feel the energies of Beltane until I begin to see blossom on the hawthorn tree.

When I first wrote these words I had already taken part in a ritual for Beltane with the Tuatha de Bridget group I am a member of long before I had seen any hawthorn blossom. I think this was the first time the group ritual had taken place before I had seen a single hawthorn blossom and it just didn’t feel quite right to me. Spring was late that year, we had a long winter. I wrote this a week later than the ritual I attended and the last couple of days before I wrote had been warm and sunny, summer was finally on the way but still no hawthorn blossom. I’d heard from a friend in Ipswich that he had hawthorn blossom in his garden. I knew that soon the hawthorn would blossom around Glasgow but it wasn’t quite ready. This year as I walk round my local park I can see plenty of hawthorn leaves but the buds for the blossom are still very small.  IT will be a while yet before the hawthorn blossoms round here even with the recent lovely weather we have been having.  My fixation on the hawthorn blossom being the signal for Beltane is not one that has any foundation in any of the fragments of lore I have read. It’s not uncommon for Pagans in the UK to link hawthorn blossoms with Beltane but neither it is as fixed for many as it is for me.

What is known from the remaining fragments of lore gathered from across the UK is the Beltane marked the seasonal change into the summer months. We know that many places lit large communal fires, particularly in Scotland and Ireland but also in Wales, Devon and Cornwall. Often these fires were lit using methods that could have been recognised in neolithic times. In some cases in Scotland offerings of food were cast into the fires such as those referenced in F. M. McNeil’s Silver Bough volume two, in other cases the fires would be jumped by one as a symbolic sacrifice or by many for good fortune. In Ireland there are records of cattle being driven between two fires at this time. We also know that the making of crosses and other charms from Rowan wood was a widespread practice for this time of year, these were used to ward off evil influences.

In areas where livestock farming was widespread it was at this time of year that cattle and sheep would be taken to summer pastures. This is still a practice in some areas of Wales and Scotland although using less manpower and more vehicles to achieve. In past centuries some of the community would have to go with the flocks and herds to watch them over the summer living in purpose built shelters for that time. In Scotland these were called Sheilings, I know there were similar structures in part of Wales.

Another common feature found in records from a wide range of areas was to go “A’ Maying”. Ron Hutton’s Stations of the Sun gives several examples from a range of areas where officials paid for sections of the community to go out and gather flowers and greenery from the surrounding area. Hutton writes of a number of songs and poems that imply that young men and women regularly got up to sexual activities while out gathering flora but he goes on to write:

“It took until the late twentieth century, and the patient labours of demographic historians, to reveal that there was in fact no increase in the number of pregnancies at this season, in or out of marriage. The boom in conceptions came later in the summer.”
(Hutton, 1996 p229)

It seems the beginning of May was and still is a bit damp and chilly for certain types of outdoor activities after all.

At some stage Maypoles were introduced and my understanding is that the first records of them are from the mid fourteenth century but they may have been around before that. According to Hutton these were generally confined to “areas of English influence and language”. Like the fires more common in other areas the maypoles were a focal point for community festivities. By the end of the eighteenth century the use of maypoles began to fade but this symbol was rescued to some extent by the growing folk lore movement of Victorian times.

In fact many of the older traditions virtually disappeared from British communities during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In the mid to late twentieth centuries several areas began new versions of these older traditions and now there are vibrant Beltane and Mayday celebrations that take place across the UK.

Note that the hawthorn does not appear as an important part of any of the recorded Beltane traditions but still I cling to hawthorn blossom as the key marker of the season.

For me Beltane marks the final transition from the winter months to the summer months. Some myths, particularly the tale of the “Coming of Angus and Bride” in the Scottish Wonder Tales by Donald A. Macnkenzie, have the Cailleach being defeated at the spring equinox. To me the handover of power is not between Bride and the Cailleach but between Rigantona and the Cailleach at Beltane just as to me it is at Samhain the Cailleach takes up her sovereignty over winter once more. I also don’t see this as a battle but more like a dance. At this time I see the return of Rigantona (or Rhiannon to give Her the more modern name) from the Underworld to the land around my home. It is at this time, marked by the hawthorn blossom, I see Rigantona taking up Her cup of sovereignty for the summer just as at winter She passes it to Her Mother/Sister, the one I know as the Cailleach. So at Beltane on one level I celebrate the transition from winter to summer. On another level I mark the change in which of the goddesses I honour now holds the cup of sovereignty.

For many others this festival is one of fertility and sexuality, marking a marriage between masculine and feminine energies often represented by a maiden goddess and a youthful god. Handfastings, or marriages are popular at this time. Ceremonies often include some form of symbolic joining of sexual energies such as dancing with ribbons round a maypole or choosing a May King and Queen to crown. These are very heterosexual symbols and mythologies and such rites can make those who are gender fluid or non-hetrosexual feel excluded. My own personal symbolism for this time of year is not about sexuality but about sovereignty but the group I am part of is more eclectic in nature and the symbolism is usually more sexual in nature for that group. For the last couple of years though the group has attempted to balance these ideas with the addition of a spirit of change or mischief represented by a hare. This was inspired by a Beltane Faerie Story written by a dear friend of mine, Ferdiad and posted on his blog a few years ago. I encourage anyone writing a group ritual for this time of year to think carefully about the symbolism of what they are doing and think about making the ritual inclusive for a range of sexual and gender identities.

This year though across the world people are looking at different ways of celebrating Beltane due to social distancing or lockdown measures and the COVID-19 virus. There will probably be more online rituals shared and many people will be considering how to mark the season by themselves or with their households. I will be watching for the first signs of hawthorn blossoms locally as I do each year and then I will mark the dance of the seasons once more.

 

References

Hutton, R. (1996) The Stations of the Sun Oxford University Press

F. Marian McNeill (1959) The Silver Bough Vol Two: A Calendar of Scottish National Festivals Candlemas to Harvest Home Stuart Titles Ltd

More experiences with A’ Chailleach

This post follows on from my last one.

In late 2009 I had another very powerful experience in my growing relationship with A’ Chailleach. I was asked to be involved with the closing ritual at a Pagan conference held in Glasgow. I wasn’t organising the ritual or the conference but months before the conference I was asked by the conference organisers (who happen to be my parents) to take part in a ritual that would be centred around A’ Chailleach. I didn’t know the others that were going to be involved in the ritual but I said yes because at the time I was told that there shouldn’t be anything in it that would be a problem after all it was a public ritual and that further details would be sorted out nearer the time with those who would be leading the ritual who happened to be speakers at the conference.

And here I’ll just add that yes, my parents are also Pagan and their main path is Wicca. And no, I didn’t grow up with them as Pagans we all came to it separately in later life, my mum was first when I was in my late teens. It does however mean that I feel a sense of family loyalty in supporting some of the things they have organised over the years and I expect the same goes for them in supporting some of the things I have organised over the years.

Anyway the conference took place on Saturday 29th August and it wasn’t until the Thursday before that I heard anything more about the ritual and then it was only brief notes. By this time though I felt it was far too late for me to back out of the ritual even though what little I did see made me feel uncomfortable. The basic outline of this ritual was to put me on what was in effect a high seat at the centre of the ritual and for me to be A’ Chailleach and sing. The ritual leaders clearly had a different idea of what this could mean than I did, for me this wasn’t just being Her priestess but Her host. They hadn’t met me or talked to me before this time at all, they just knew I was reasonably capable from what they’d been told by others.

One of the other speakers was a friend of mine and I was able to discuss my concerns with him and before the ritual itself we laid out a couple of preparations which would allow him to help me if it was needed.

I had two major concerns. The first was that nothing would take place and that I would be acting. The second was that something quite powerful would take place and that I would have problems in coming back to myself. Recent online discussions and some hypnotherapy experiences had made me think that I may be more suggestible to trance situations than I had previously thought and this was a ritual situation that sounded likely to trigger a change in consciousness.

I had decided that in doing this ritual it would be more appropriate for me to remove my glasses and personal jewellery and wear items linked in my thoughts to A’ Chailleach. As part of my preparations I took my things off with ritual intent and gave them to my friend to hold for me. In returning them to me he would be able to help me ground myself in my more mundane life if that’s what I needed.

The ritual had me seated on a chair in the centre of the room with a circle of what must have been close to a hundred people around me. I wore a black robe with a plaited cord belt in colours I associate with A’ Chailleach that I had made a few years before. My face had been decorated and I was also wearing a veil that concealed my face. I held that precious wooden hammer I have mentioned earlier on my lap as this was a strong link to A’ Chailleach.

A bit of introductory words were said to introduce everyone present to who “the Cailleach” was and that the ritual would be calling on Her and asking for Her blessing. Then a ritual circle was cast and quarters were called by members of my parent’s development circle and coven. A few words were said gently calling “the Cailleach” to come to those gathering and show Her face. Then a chant and spiral dance was started off. The focus of all that energy was me and calling “the Cailleach” in through me.

I remember feeling that energy was building and feeling oddly colder as if someone had opened a door or window and I was in a breeze. The words of the chant were “We are many, we are one” As the spiral continued I started to hear words in my head “But I was first!” The chant became “We are many, we are one. But I was first!” in my mind.

I remember my body slowly standing. The spiral was no longer moving but the chant had sped up and feet were being stamped. I remember my body throwing up my arms, lifting the veil as it did so and then a shout “BUT I WAS FIRST!”. After that I was no longer I. I was there in the background but no longer the one controlling what I said or did. She said something about asking them to listen to Her words and to embrace Her challenge if they would. She then sang through me the “Challenge of the Cailleach” in the first person. It was different to how I sang usually. Part my voice, part my words but not completely either. In the last verse which mentions the Cailleach sleeping my body began to sit down again. As the voice stopped my head fell forward and my eyes closed and inside I felt this deep need to sleep. The “me” part of this knew that there were oatcakes and mead to be blessed so we struggled to stay alert enough to do this. After everyone else had had some the cup was brought to us and we drank and we were offered some oatcake – it felt dry and almost like dust. The ritual then started closing and oddly I remember strongly that there wasn’t a proper thanks and farewell made to the Cailleach.

As the closing progressed my body started to shiver and feel more and more drained. Inside I silently said my own personal farewells to A’ Chailleach and asked Her to leave me now. I wasn’t confident She was leaving or that She was leaving me behind and I remember feeling a bit scared that I wouldn’t fully return to being simply me. But Her presence sank down and eventually let “me” go.

After the ritual finished I called for my glasses. I can’t remember if it was at that point, slightly before or slightly afterwards that my friend asked me how I was feeling and gave me a talisman to hold. Finally things began to break up. To me it felt like a longish time but it probably wasn’t very long at all. An experienced Heathen friend came up to me and touched my hand saying her name and offering help. I said something about my other friend and then he was beside me again too. They both helped me up and we left the room for another quiet room. I was shaky and feeling drained.

It took a while for me to feel more myself. Those who had offered me help stayed with me the whole time and were an immense help and support. When I felt ready I asked for my rings back and that helped me feel more myself. I then got to the stage where I felt much more me and that I needed to get out of the robe and into my normal clothes. After that we went to the park across from the location of the conference and I made an offering which was burnt or charred anyway and thrown in the river. I still needed to eat but I was at least feeling much more myself by that point. The whole experience left me feeling drained and somewhat emotional for several days afterwards.

I’ve gone into a fair amount of detail about this experience because I learnt a great deal from it that I will share here. The first and most important thing I learnt is always know more about what you are getting into that I did when this particular ritual began. My second most important criteria is that any being that is invited to attend a ritual should also be given thanks at the end and, if appropriate, asked politely to depart for their usual abode.

If a ritual is set up with a possibility of someone hosting a deity that person should be willing and have some knowledge of the possibilities even if they are relatively inexperienced in doing such things. They should also have support and that support should ideally include at least one person who has had experience with hosting. The supporting individuals should ideally be prepared to offer support for days after the ritual takes place if required. This was a profound experience for me and it took me months to process some aspects of it. To let A’ Chailleach ride me in the way I did required a level of trust and submission of ego and because I already loved Her it was fairly easy for me to let go and trust Her. But as She left me on that occasion I also felt that She almost took part of me with Her and that was scary. The effects on my emotions afterwards were also unsettling.

I was fortunate to have the support I did at the time and more experienced polytheists and Seidr workers in the Scottish Heathen community to turn to in the months afterwards for further advice and training.

About six months after that experience while there was still snow on the mountain tops I was at a weekend camp in Wales for the members of Brython, a brythonic polytheist group. I had thought that while I was there I would undertake a shamanic style journey to seek A’ Chailleach and apologise to Her for my part in not making sure She was appropriately thanked and farewelled at the end of that ritual. I took with me an offering for A’ Chailleach of something that I had commissioned and did not want to part with that would go on the communal fire on the Friday evening. One interpretation of the difference between a sacrifice and an offering is that a sacrifice hurts more and giving this to the fire for A’ Chailleach hurt! On the Saturday we went on a walk up into the foothills of the Snowdonia mountain range and spent that night in a bothy. I struggled a great deal with that walk and felt I’d gone through a much more physical ordeal to seek A’ Chailleach out than I had anticipated. Afterwards I felt I had been heard.

At the beginning of 2011 I separated from my first husband and we later divorced. As part of the surrounding difficulties at that time my ex-husband destroyed the incredibly precious gift that I had been given by Andy Guthrie in 2003, the handcrafted hammer. I had thought it was safe where I kept it but I was wrong. I have more recently sought A’ Chailleach out in the wild glens over this loss to see if I needed to make some form of reparation. I was shown an unusual sight of a birch tree growing out of a long dead tall stump of a much older tree and given the word “rebirth” to go with that sight. My conclusion from that experience is that nothing else is needed. We move on.

The lunar devotional practices that I had developed for A’ Chailleach and others continued until about 2016. Sometimes I sang for Her, sometimes I sat in silence in the darkness. I usually made a libation of alcohol and that varied a bit. Sometimes it would be wine, sometimes port, sometimes hot chocolate or warm milk with honey. And as I began to develop a taste for single malt whisky sometimes it was whisky I offered. In 2016 I began to shift my practices away from a lunar cycle into an almost daily devotional pattern.  I now offer A’ Chailleach a libation on a Monday evening. As before it’s usually alcohol of some kind but not always, I tend to go with what I feel is right on the day.

Over time and with various experiences my relationship with She who I know as the Ancient Mother has deepened. As I write this these words it is close to nineteen years since I first called out to Her behalf of my friend Insa. I never imagined then the relationship that would gradually develop.

A’ Chailleach is not an easy Goddess to serve. She tests you, pushes you to learn and develop. Sometimes She can be as fierce as the winter storms but not always. In my experience She is not a Goddess that watches over you closely. She loves the wild and the fierce places in nature, She cares for those that dwell there. There are some people that She calls to and if they answer She will teach them what She wishes them to learn one way or another. If She calls to you think carefully before you answer. You don’t have to say yes, you could say no, or not yet, and She will probably listen as in my experience she wants you when you are willing. Be aware though that if you do say no you might not be given another opportunity to say yes. She’s not an easy goddess but She is a strong one!

Personal experiences with A’ Chailleach

This post is another that is based on material I gathered together in drafting a book.  This section was the longest one so I’ve split the material into two separate posts.

It began as many relationships do with a first meeting and that was thanks to my friend Insa who spoke about her studies learning about this ancient being during a pub moot in 1999. In December 2000 Insa was diagnosed with cancer. In February 2001 she was in the Beatson Centre at the Western Infirmary having chemotherapy and I remember walking along the river on my way to visit her. I paused by the water and made a heartfelt plea to A’ Chailleach that Insa be spared for just a bit longer. This was the first time I had addressed A’ Chailleach directly and as it happened, Insa did rally round for a while. She died in July 2001, A’ Chailleach had claimed one of Her own.

When I first called on A’ Chailleach in 2000 I had little idea that this would start a something that would bring a number of changes to me. I didn’t realise it at the time but I believe that in calling on Her on that day I gained Her attention. For a couple of years following that nothing really changed then in August 2003 we held a conference in Glasgow called DruidCon. It was run by those walking a druid path for anyone that might be interested in learning more of druidry. At that conference, one of our speakers, Andy Guthrie, presented me with a wooden hammer he had made after his talk on Scottish myths. His talk had included tales of A’ Chailleach and the hammer was given to me as a symbol. I was incredibly surprised by the gift and although I was very grateful I didn’t truly appreciate what I had been given at that time. It took me years to more fully appreciate that gift and then I lost it but that was many years later.

Naturally enough that gift led me to research more about A’ Chailleach and to try and understand Her a little better. In turn this led to me crafting a song or more accurately a hymn for Her in the winter of 2004 which I call “Challenge of the Cailleach”. One of the ways I connect more deeply with the gods is through music and song. I chose to sing that hymn almost every day for the following year. I still sing it, usually in the winter months and especially around Samhain.

The first year I sang that song was a challenging year for me. I had a great deal of stress at work and there were times I felt as if I couldn’t cope anymore. I also strongly felt that A’ Chailleach was testing me in that year. I felt that She was pushing me to see if I would stay the course or turn away. In the run up to Samhain 2005 I felt I needed to do something special at the Samhain ritual and invoke A’ Chailleach. I felt that She wanted to see if I would embrace Her and I found the following words flowing from me as I prepared for that ritual:

So you would call to me would you! You dare to wake me, to bring my gaze upon you. I have been stirring for some time, tossing and turning in my sleep as my time comes upon the land once more. For make no mistake I am part of the cycles of this land.

Hear my voice in the wild howling wind. Feel my touch in the winter’s chill. See me gather the storms on the mountains. But I am more than storms and strife. I have more to give than the chill touch of winter. Yes, I bring pain and destruction. Yes, I bring strife and testing but I am more!

I am rest and quiet. I am the healing touch of solitude. I am the raw beauty of the wild mountains. I herd my Deer and watch over them when the hunters come. I fly over the land with the wild geese. I ride the Wolf, swift and sure. I create the land anew with my floods and avalanches.

Yes, I hold back the spring but only that it may grow stronger in the testing until it overcomes the winter once more. And so too will I test you sooner or later. Think not that you can escape me.

Dare you stand before me?
Dare you look me in the eye?
Dare you embrace me?

And if you dare so much, then and only then will you know what my gifts can be.

After that ritual (which I only remember as if through a fog) I felt that A’ Chailleach was satisfied with what I had done. Things were still stressful but I no longer felt as if I was being tested.

In the spring of the following year I entered into what was to be a very difficult time for me personally. I experienced an early miscarriage and later in the year a family death. I ended up off work for a while. I had lost my sense of balance and didn’t regain it until I had spent a night at the autumn equinox alone in a cave on the coast of Ayrshire chanting, sobbing and finally sleeping. Throughout this period of time I felt A’ Chailleach was with me, this time as a supportive presence mourning my loss with me and lending me Her strength. I later felt that my year of testing had been in preparation for the pain that She knew was coming my way and to help me realise that I was stronger than I had thought.

In October 2006 I wrote the following words which I’ve shared previously elsewhere online but I think it’s worth including them here. They seemed to flow so swiftly that I feel that they didn’t really come from me but from A’ Chailleach.

This is my story. It is not the whole story, just a fragment that I am able now to speak.

I am old, older than you can imagine. Many have been my names and most are lost in the mists of time – even I can not remember them all now. Today I am called the Hag of Winter, Queen Beira, the Veiled One, the Cailleach, the Carlin.

Most of you will think of me as the dark hag of winter and see me as a force belonging to the mountains of Scotland but I am much more than that.

I am the Mother of this Land known to you as Alba or Scotland. I am the Mother of all the Gods and Spirits waking and sleeping in its mountains and valleys. My hands dug out the lochs and my tears filled them. My feet created the valleys as a I walked carrying my loads of earth and stone to make the hills and mountains. My breath formed the clouds that gather around those mountain peaks. My sweat fell down to create the streams of water flowing though the Land. I planted the first trees and tended them as I did the first of the animals to move into this land. Deer and cattle, goats, wolves and geese all these and more have I tended and loved.

You who call me hag and crone – you too would look haggard if you had lived as long as I. You think me ugly? Is the midnight sky ugly? Are the stark mountains ugly? No, it is merely that I am different.

The tales tell of my skin being deep blue black, of my teeth with red stains, of my one eye like a deep pool and my tangled hair like the frost covered roots of Aspen. Do you know what that means?

Perhaps my skin is the darkness of the deepest caves, perhaps it is the midnight sky or the blackest of storm clouds over the sea. Is my hair the fall of hail in a storm or is it the milky stream of stars across the sky? Perhaps my one eye is the moon or perhaps it is the sea and the whirlpool of Corryvreckan is its centre. Perhaps my teeth are the cliffs of the coast or perhaps the red tinged clouds at sunset. I no longer know.

You think me harsh and cruel. I am a mother. Can any mother afford to always be loving and kind? Sometimes she must show she can be angered for her children to learn. Have those parents among you never had to discipline your children? Does that mean you no longer love them? No, of course not, you love them all the more.

I have been forgotten. I have been pushed into the form of the dark winter crone. My tales are those of winter and harshness but that it not all there is to me. I care more than you can imagine for this land and those that live upon it. I have mourned when my children have been torn from me. I have shrieked out my anger and pain in the storms. But I have danced too in joy at each new life born to me, sang in ecstasy when my children have returned to me. I weep with you in your loss and sing with you in your joy.

I speak now through the heart and mind of one of my children who has opened her heart to me. Listen to these words. Remember them. Remember me once more.

Between 2007 and 2009 I continued in my quest to learn more of this ancient being and investigations took me into Welsh myths and stories looking for similar figures to A’ Chailleach. There are figures similar to the Irish Banshee and Washer at the Ford in Welsh folktales but which culture developed these stories first I have no idea. I was looking for a figure linked to the land or tribes who is described as the mother of gods. After all much of Scotland spoke Brythonic languages so felt it possible that in Welsh folk tales I might find the answer I sought.

In the Welsh lore there is Don, mother of the smith, farmer and magecraft gods – Gofannon, Amaethon and Gwydion. In Aberdeenshire we have the river Don, a possible link but it’s impossible to be sure. Other river names such as Dee and Tay derive from the ancient British word *Dewa meaning goddess and it’s not so far fetched to have rivers named for a particular goddess, the Cyde was after all. Don could easily have been known of in what is now Scotland. And if She was then the being I know as A’ Chailleach of Scotland may, just possibly, have once been known as Don, ancient, primal mother of the Brythonic Gods. Regardless of whether this supposition is correct I still refer to that ancient being as A’ Chailleach and She seems happy for me to do so.

Towards the beginning of 2009 I developed my first regular devotions for A’ Chailleach. On the day after the full moon I would make a libation in Her honour and spend a little time in silence thinking about Her. This practice was linked to other lunar observations I made on the two previous nights for Brigantia and Epona. The practice gradually deepened my love and sense of connection with this ancient Goddess.

 

To be continued in the next post

 

A little bit about A’ Chailleach

This is the third post drawn from material for the book I began to write and didn’t finish.

I have previously written a little about Insa Theirling and why I honour her memory. Insa was the first to introduce me to the Cailleach and that began a relationship that is still growing.

To many in the pagan world, the Cailleach is a being to be wary of, a figure of the dark winter, of death and destruction. She is called the Hag of Winter, a crone goddess and people often focus on Her dark side.

The literal translation of the word cailleach is “veiled one”, a more colloquial Scottish meaning is an old woman while in modern Irish the word has come to mean witch. The word comes from the Latin word “pallium” meaning veil. As Christianity developed in Ireland more and more women “took the veil” or became nuns. They took on the title of cailleach. Most of those women were widows and older women and it is thought that gradually the title of veiled one came to mean “old woman” instead. I think it’s worth noting here that the name or title Cailleach is from the q-celtic family of languages (leading to modern Gaelic) which probably came into what is now Scotland from what is now Ireland. The previous common languages were almost certainly of the p-celtic family (Pictish and Brythonic), eventually the Brythonic languages were restricted into what is now Wales and Cornwall but would have been spoken much more widely.

There are a few different myths involving the Cailleach and several variations on them. Some are strongly linked with Ireland, others with Scotland. The focus here is on the Scottish Cailleach and so I also focus on the Scottish myths and stories. Perhaps the best known of these is from Donald A. Mackenzie’s “Scottish Wonder Tales from Myth and Legend”. This was first printed in 1917 and a re-print is available or you can access it online via the Sacred Text collection The first chapters of that book heavily involve the Cailleach by the name of Queen Beira. This may be an anglicised version of the title Cailleach Bheur. MacKenzie’s “Scottish folk lore and folk life” states that: “J. Gregorson Campbell gives the qualifying adjective as beura or bheura, meaning “shrill, sharp, cutting”.” (p137) and so this title may mean the sharp old woman.

The main features of the Cailleach or Queen Beira in these tales are that she is old and fierce; the mother of the gods; the creator of the land, mountains, rivers and lochs; that she is the queen of winter and that She carries a hammer or rod which She uses to strike the ground and bring the frosts.

In “Scottish Wonder Tales from Myth and Legend” the Cailleach learns of the beautiful Bride destined to be Queen of Summer with Angus as King so she imprisons Bride and makes her work as a servant. Angus, living on the green Isle of Summer, dreams of Bride, falls in love and decides to try and rescue her. He searches the land seeking Bride and when he finds her at the Cailleach’s stronghold he rescues her and flees with her. The Cailleach gives chase and summons different types of storms to impede their progress and return the land to the depths of winter as with Bride’s release spring has come to the land. Eventually the young lovers win free and the rule of summer begins. In disgust the Cailleach throws Her hammer under a tree and in some versions turns to stone and in others drinks from the well of youth and is restored to youth and beauty for the summer months.

In other collections of tales and folklore the Cailleach is described as a gigantic figure carrying a creel full of earth and stone to build up the mountains, some of which include stone falling out and creating another feature such as Ailsa Craig. As the Queen of Winter She washes Her mantle in the Corryvrekan whirlpool in autumn and lays the now white mantle over the hills to dry. There are also tales of Her getting water from a well or spring with a capstone and the capstone not being replaced properly causing floods which create lochs and rivers.

There are a number of stories where the Cailleach is met on mountains by hunters. If they treat Her with respect and follow Her rules they get to go home with the kills they make. If they don’t the lucky ones arrive home (minus their kills).

The Scottish Cailleach has a fearsome physical description and in some cases there are desciptions of beings have come to be associated with the Cailleach. One of these is of the Muireartach. According to K.W. Grant the Muireartach is described as follows:

“Her name was the bald, red-haired Muireartach. Her face was dark-blue-grey, of the complexion of coal. Her reddish jagged teeth protruded above wide gaping jaws. In her forehead was one goggled eye, its glance swift as the flash of the Northern Lights. Grizzled locks bristled on her head like a forest of aspen in hoar frost.”
(Grant p13)

Later Mrs Grant puts forward the argument that the Muireartach and the Cailleach are the same being and certainly there are other places that give the Cailleach a very similar description to the one above.

As the name Cailleach is derived from Latin the title itself is a relatively recent one and does not at first glance imply a pre-Christian deity. However, I believe it is probable that this title was given to a much older mother goddess figure.

Gearóid Ó Crualaoich writes:
The significance of Cailleach Bhearra in modern Irish and Scottish folklore has, thus, to be understood in relation to two separate, yet related, levels of tradition: the literary, learned traditions of the early middle ages in which the term Cailleach Bhearra is established as the name of a sovereignty queen in politics, in prose and in poetry; and the common, popular, unlearned level of Gaelic tradition (concerning which there is little direct evidence until modern times) which seems to have contained a range of manifestations of an ancient female divine with the general characteristics of the Old European Magna Mater.”
(Ó Crualaoich, p88)

In the Gaelic speaking islands such as Lewis the title Cailleach is one given to one of the oldest and strongest willed women of the community. It is a title used to give honour and these women are treated with great respect in their communities.

In Scotland I believe we had, and still have, an ancient being linked to the landscape and the well-being of the natural world as well as to weather, particularly storms. While some myths describe her fierceness, others do indicate a goddess that cares deeply for the land and those living on it especially the wildlife. I believe that as the Gaelic language and Gaels spread into Scotland so they shared stories with the Brythonic speaking people and naturally myths became merged or were translated by travelling oral storytellers and so ancient mother of what is now Scotland took on a new title, the Cailleach. Due to a quirk of politics the Brythonic languages fell out of favour and the Gaelic ones strengthened so the myths which have survived are those of the Gael.

In my next post I will share some of my personal experiences of A’ Chailleach and some of the things I have learnt along the way.

References and further reading

Gearóid Ó Crualaoich (2003) The Book of the Cailleach

D’Este, S. and Rankine, D. (2012) Visions of the Cailleach: Exploring the Myths, Folklore and Legends of the pre-eminent Celtic Hag Goddess

K.W Grant (1925) Myth, Tradition and Story from Western Argyll

Mackenzie, D.A. (1917) Scottish Wonder Tales from Myth and Legend

Mackenzie, D. A. (1935) Scottish folk lore and folk life

Patterson, R. (2016) The Cailleach

Honouring Ancestors

This is the second post taken from the book I started to write.

I can’t think of any Pagan or Heathen path that doesn’t place great importance on ancestors in one way or another and I mean Pagan in the widest sense here. Often there are different categories of ancestors that are honoured and remembered in ways appropriate to the individual path. The three types of ancestors spoken of the most often within Druidry which is where my path began are those of blood, those of place and those of spiritual path or line. These types of ancestors are not confined to Druidry by any means and other paths in my experience will have similar descriptions for ancestors. There are other groups of ancestors that are important to think about too such as the military dead, the ancestors of skills you may practice or want to develop, the ancestors who fought for rights of the indigenous or those who were enslaved or women or LBGT; this list could easily go on. Where you have a group that comes together to share something be it a skill, an art form, a science or a philosophy you will have ancestors of that group too. Ancestral practices are important and there’s a lot of different ways in which you can start and progress with ancestral devotions.

My own ancestral devotional practice is mainly focused on my family ancestors and has built up over several years. One thread to a family ancestral practice is finding out who your family were through genealogical research. This is something that my mum did and while I have supported her efforts in some ways over the years this was very much her speciality and what I have learnt about my family has been thanks to her efforts for over three decades. Another thread to ancestral devotions is some form of prayer or ritual activity. One of the more common suggestion is to have an ancestral altar space and that is something that I have gradually developed. The first incarnation would have been about twelve years ago now I think and was just a small part of a shelf with a single photograph. I didn’t spend any regular time in prayer or ritual focused on my ancestors at that time. This small beginning remained as it was for a while of years before I began to do more.

The next stage of development took place after the deaths of my maternal grandparents. Their photos were added to the space I had and I began to sped some regular time communing with them. I developed a practice of brewing a fresh pot of tea, pouring a cup for my ancestors and a cup for me and sitting in silence drinking my tea and thinking about my family. I would think about the things I would like those who had died to know about and how they would have loved to hear about some of the things my children were doing now. It was around 2009 that I started to link this practice with the moon. At first I chose the full moon but not long after I moved to using the dark moon as it just felt more apt to me. Just as in the dark phase of the solar year we honour ancestors so I began to honour them in the dark phase of the lunar cycle.

From there my ancestral altar area has grown again into two dedicated shelves with pictures of different ancestors representing different branches of my family. It’s in a place I see and walk past several times a day and often I’m thinking of different aspects of my family life each of them might appreciate. I have a goblet there that I use to make libations of alcohol and I still make tea. About four years ago my regular dark moon tea making lapsed for around eighteen months to two years. Part of the reason for that is that I developed changes in other aspects of my devotions, part was a gap in having a lunar calendar available and part of it stresses and strains of life in general. It wasn’t the first time I’ve lost focus with some aspect of my practices and it probably won’t be the last. I often find that when I do get through these phases where I have lost focus in some way when I come through the other side my practices then become deeper and more meaningful in some way. In this case I feel that my family ancestors have a bit more patience with me that some deities might.

Not long before I first drafted these words two years ago I began to move forward with my ancestral devotions again. My first step to picking up my ancestral devotions was to re-arrange the shrine area. At that time I arranged the photos from my maternal line on the top shelf with a tea-light holder and room for offerings. On the second shelf I arranged photos from both my paternal line and my husbands line with a couple of other items that I feel are appropriate. I added an oil burner that has an androgynous figure seated cross legged before it looking down at a crystal ball, to me that figure symbolises my ancient and polytheist ancestors. My intentions were to light a candle and make an offering at my refreshed ancestral shrine each week. I was hoping to develop a more conscious relationship with my polytheist ancestors. I admit that was partially in the hope that having that relationship would help me in my other practices too but it is also because I wouldn’t have the gods I do have in my life had those ancient polytheists not walked those paths first.

I kept those practices and arrangements until my mum died on 23 May 2018. After she died the shelves were rearranged again and I now have photos and items from my maternal line on the bottom shelf with everything else on the top shelf.  Central to the bottom shelf are photos of my mum. I still make offerings at my ancestral shrine each week and while I do make efforts to develop my relationship with my ancient polytheist ancestors I now have a much closer Pagan ancestor in my mum.  Sometimes my devotions are more about sharing stuff with my mum than going back any further in my line.

The simple reality is that we would not be alive if not for the lives of all those from who we are descended. That doesn’t mean we have to like all the family ancestors we know about but we should respect the fact that without them we would not be. I prefer using the term family ancestry to blood ancestry because there is so much more to a family than blood. Many families have members that are not linked by blood, this isn’t something new to the modern age, fostering and adoption are very old traditions. Our blood is only one part of who we have come to be as a person, the purely genetic aspect, but we may have been brought up, shaped and influenced by those who have no blood tie. Those people, those incredibly wonderful people, are a vital part of our family ancestry even without genetic links. There are also people in any family line that we have difficulty in respecting or honouring, there are some that we simply will not want to develop more of a relationships with and that’s fine. Our ancestry spreads out into the mists of time and we can connect more strongly with different branches at different times depending on our own interests and experiences.

I feel I have to make something crystal clear here. Regardless of what your blood and family ancestry is if you are drawn to a particular Pagan path then as far as I am concerned you should be made welcome. Ancestors, gods and other spirits call who they will regardless of ancestry.

Ancestors of place are, in my path, those who have lived and worked the land in a particular area, usually an area of significance to you. There might be overlaps between family ancestry and ancestry of place for some of us. I live and work in Glasgow. As far as I know I have no ancestral family ties to Glasgow, I do have links to Paisley but that’s not the same place. I choose to honour those who have made Glasgow what it is today. That also means acknowledging that part of Glasgow’s former wealth was made on the backs of slaves, there are buildings I walk past and admire that would not be there if not for wealth gained from trade in goods dependant at one time on slavery. That is a much more painful reality to the place I call home and one I struggle with at times but I will not turn a blind eye to it. There are other places that are special to me and I honour the ancestors of those places too.

There are various ways of working with ancestors of particular places and the most obvious is to learn something of the local history. If you have family or good friends with generations of links to a particular area then talking to the older members among them is probably a good first step. Local libraries often have information on local history, there might be a local history society and of course, there’s the internet. As with any research look for collaborating evidence for any stories you come across. Maybe you’ll find that there is a history of a particular craft associated with your area and you can include that knowledge in your ancestral practice by getting a symbol of that craft or even learning to do it yourself. Maybe you’ll find out about local people accused of witchcraft in the middle ages and decide to honour them or maybe you’ll find out about a more famous figure, an inventor or social leader. I live not far away from the area where William Wallace was betrayed and captured 1305 for example. Once you find these things out then you might chose to include something connected to that in your practices. Other ways of working with ancestors of place could include doing something practical to care for some aspect of the place such as helping to preserve or keep tidy a particular area. Sharing what you have learnt with others is another way to do something practical.

If you are learning more about a place and spending time there you may find that the line between spirits of place or local wights and ancestors of place becomes a bit blurred. ‘Wight’ is more commonly in use in Heathen practices and I’m rather fond of it because it encompasses a wide range of beings.

” ‘Wight’, by the way, simply means ‘being’, but is usually used for those people who are neither Goddesses nor gods, nor human people.”
(Blain, p1)

For some this blurring doesn’t matter, for others it does. Either way respect for those beings you develop connections with is vital. Sometimes, as humans, we can get caught up in ideas of human ancestry but when you are working with ancestors of the land it may well be that you need to put those ideas to one side and think about the influences of plants and animals, rivers and hills and the wights that come with them. Whether we acknowledge it or not we are connected with and influence many aspects of existence about us and what we do, how we behave, can have repercussions we are barely aware of. If you are learning about the ancestors of a place it may well be that the non-human ancestry will have a larger impact than any human ancestry might. Helping to keep an area clean of human rubbish is an activity that may well mean you strengthen those non-human bonds more than the human ones.

Ancestors of spiritual line or path can include some that are common to many and others that are very individual. For example Ross Nichols is a key ancestor for the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids. Without his work and teachings the Order wouldn’t exist as it does today. Beyond him there is a lineage of figures associated with the revival and development of what has become modern Druidry. Gerald Gardner, Doreen Valiente and Alex Saunders are key ancestors for the Wiccan path among others. Some Heathens may well consider Snorri Sturluson an ancestor of their path purely for his work in preserving so much of the Old Norse lore but there will be other ancestors that mean a great deal. Each path will have figures that are honoured well beyond their lives and should be thought of as ancestors of path or line. Practical crafts and skills can have very similar lineages that can be honoured as ancestors. In addition to these wider known figures smaller groups and individuals may have others they think of as ancestors.

For me personally there are currently two people in particular that I honour as ancestors of my own path. As time passes there may well be other names that join them for varying reasons but for now there are two. I choose to name them here and share something of why they are important to me, they are Chris Turner (aka Coifi) and Insa Theirling. Both of these played a significant part in the development of my path as it is today although neither they or I knew it at the time. Both died in 2001 and I was honoured to have a role in the passing rites for each of them.

Coifi taught me to draw a labyrinth. I might have learnt it at some stage from someone else but as it happened I learnt it from him. Like many I find walking a labyrinth a wonderful thing to do drawing together physical movement with spiritual purpose. Thanks to Coifi I can draw a labyrinth in the sand of a beach using a staff or even by dragging my foot along, then I can walk it with purpose and later watch as the ocean clears all signs of it away. I don’t think I can easily convey in words what that has meant for me over the years. I have other memories of Coifi too but that bit is the most special and significant to me.

Insa’s gift to me was an introduction to the Scottish Cailleach through some of the folklore Insa studied at that time. When I first met Insa she was studying for a PhD at the University of Glasgow on Supernatural females in Gaelic Scotland and naturally enough the Cailleach featured. Insa had joined the Druid group I ran at that time and gave us a couple of talks based on some of her research. She also wrote at least one article for the Tooth and Claw magazine run by the British Druid Order if I remember correctly. Insa was a beautiful young woman. I have a wonderful memory of her playing her harp in the dappled spring light of the place our grove met for rituals in Pollok Park. Sadly she developed an aggressive form of cancer and after months of fighting she died. I would probably have learnt of the Caillach at some stage without Insa but without her struggle I may never have made such a heart felt prayer to the Cailleach which I believe was the first seeds of the relationship I have with Her today.

Hopefully in this section you have seen something of my stumbling journey in developing ancestral devotional practices. I share these things with you so that you can see where I’ve faltered and know that if you occasionally struggle in your journey you are not alone in doing so. If you are hesitating about beginning ancestral practices please just take that first step. Your ancestors of many kinds are waiting for you to reach out to them.

 

References

Blain, J. (2016) Wights and Ancestors: Heathenry in a Living Landscape Prydein Press

 

A declaration

Today I ask you who read this post to bear witness to my words.

I am known as Potia, a name given to me on a journey many years ago and linking me to my beloved Epona, She who is my guide, my guardian and my teacher. I am a daughter of the Great Mare and of the Herd Mothers. To the Herd Mothers, Epona and Rhiannon, I swear to do my best to follow their guidance and to trust them. I have sworn to do my best to serve Epona and I renew that oath.

Last month I was claimed again. To the name I have used for many years I now add another.

I add to my name Nighean a’ Chailliche, daughter of the Cailleach. I have sworn that I will serve An Cailleach to the best of my ability within the boundaries agreed between us. In honour of this oath I will now cover my hair with a scarf or hood when I am praying before Her or serving as Her priest.

I am Potia Nighean a’ Chailliche, sworn priest of the Herd Mothers and An Cailleach.

This is my truth.

A death, a rebirth, a claiming

A Death

Recently I chose to support a particular kickstarter project for “Tales of Hopeless, Maine” and I chose a level of support that included as a reward a Hopeless, Maine obituary by author Nimue Brown. When I first chose this I did so because I thought it would be unusual and fun (which it is) but not long before mine was written Nimue asked me what name I wanted to die under.  That’s not a question I expected and it got me thinking about my various names. My birth name is Pauline and many people use that name for me including my husband. My parents call me Polly, my brother sometimes calls me Pic (short for pickle), my children usually call me mum. And among many Pagans, particularly Druids, I have been known as Potia. I have also had several surnames in my life, Pitchford is my fifth. So I had a lot of options to choose from for my “death”. After some thought I felt that it was time “Potia” died.  Potia was a name I took up towards the beginning of my journey into druidry. I have changed a lot since then.  It’s also a name linked to Epona via a particular inscription. My love for Epona hasn’t changed but I am not dedicated to Her alone.

I had no idea how I might die on Hopeless, Maine. It’s an unusual place where death is not always certain, where bodies are not always available to be identified and buried. Perhaps I would be stabbed by knitting needles or poisoned via a pot of tea. I never imagined the death I got or the headline: “Potia Pitchford defies explanation“.  To be taken by surf horses was a beautifully significant way for Potia to die, to be taken into the depths by the very image of one of my most loved deities. And yet for my death to be uncertain too. No body to identify or bury, just gone. This death has a strong spiritual significance to me that I didn’t anticipate. It was also published on Friday 13th and Friday is the day I do my weekly devotions to the Herd Mothers, to Epona and Rhiannon.  It was also a full moon and I now do devotions on full and dark moons for beings of ocean, seas and rivers.

A Rebirth

The druid I was, Potia, has changed. What I am now has grown out of the druid that I was. I am a priest, a tender of a shrine, a servant of a group of deities and sworn to two deities in particular. I have written of some of this in a previous post “On being a priest“. I have felt since writing that post that I needed to take on a new name, one that to some extent reflects the changes in my life.  Until this evening what that name would be escaped me. This evening as I sat communing with An Cailleach I received some guidance.  I need to check my understanding and make sure I can write it correctly. I’ve also been led to believe I don’t need to stop using Potia, this new name will be more of a descriptive surname if I understand it correctly.

A Claiming

“You are mine” She said to me this evening. I acknowledge that claim with the understanding that I am also sworn to the Herd Mothers and that any tasks She and They would have of me need to be balanced against the needs of my children.

 

On being a priest

This evening I feel twitchy in a non-physical way.  I feel as if I have forgotten something or I’m supposed to be doing something but I can’t think of anything it could be. This non-physical twitchiness is something that I am starting recognise more easily as promptings from those I serve to do something in particular.  This time I believe this twitchy feeling means that I need to write and, in particular, to write about being a priest.

This isn’t the first time I have written about priesthood but the last time was ten years ago so it’s probably about time I revisited this topic here.

Others have written clearly and in depth on a range of questions around being a priest. Most notably John Beckett has written several posts on priesthood the most recent one being “15 Roles of a Pagan Priest – How Many Is Too Many?“.  Also of fairly recent note is a series of three posts by Morgan Daimler starting with “Priesthood in Service to the Other – Part 1: The wide view“. If you haven’t read these posts I recommend you do so if this is a topic that interests you.

My thoughts on priesthood are coloured to some extent by these authors and to some extent by my own experiences and observations. There are a few public individuals in the UK that I feel embody something of what it is to be a priest. Each of them do this in different ways and some may use other titles.  I’m going to name a few of them and try and give some reasons why I consider them to be priests.

The first is Cat Treadwell and you can find her online at The Catbox.  She is self employed as a Druid and Priest.  Much of her work involves celebrancy but she also runs workshops, presents talks, offers divination readings, writes books and blogs and supports people on a personal basis too. Cat serves her community in many ways and is a public voice for druidry and paganism generally.  She does all this from a place of personal challenges and struggles with depression which she speaks about openly. I have still not met her face to face but hers is a voice that speaks from the darkness.

The next is Nimue Brown who writes at Druid Life. Nimue is also an author of books and blogs and she has also been presenting more talks, I’m not sure of she’s been doing any workshops.  My perspective of Nimue is of a woman with a whimsical sense of humour that has worked to overcome a number of personal challenges to get where she is today. She’s a mother, a folk musician and a keen observer of her local environment.  She is a different sort of Druid to Cat and I’m not even sure that she would claim the title Priest for herself but in my mind she is both Druid and Priest.

What these women have in common is that they are both Druids and both pretty public figures. They also both speak from a place of deep experience with extremely difficult personal challenges.

My next example is Dr Jenny Blain. Jenny is a retired academic and a Heathen.  She is a polytheist and animist with strong ties to her local land spirits or landvættir. It is harder to put into words why I consider her a Priest or in Heathen terms a Gythia. One aspect is her ability to lead ritual, another is her ability to share her knowledge with others both through her books and via more direct teaching but there is more to it than that. She is a Seidr worker, that in itself is not a simple thing to put into words as there are many forms of seidr. A basic and probably incomplete description is that seidr is a method of entering an altered state of consciousness which can be used to work magic or journey for various purposes.

My final example is Lorna Smithers. Lorna is a an author, poet and mystic. She has a deep and personal connection to her patron deity, Gwyn ap Nudd. Her priesthood is one of personal dedication and part of her dedication is a call to communicate some of what she learns and experiences through her writing and talks. She is, in my opinion, a priest due to her very direct service to her patron.

I could go on. I have deliberately chosen to highlight a few female examples of priests here but there are a number of men I also consider to be priests such as Damh the Bard, Adam Sargant, Phillip Shallcrass, Geoff Boswell, Robin Herne, Mike Stygal and Rich Blackett. Most of these are Druid types as this is the community I have been part of the longest. I’m still getting to know individuals within the Heathen community.  The main things they have in common are that I know them either personally face to face or online and I respect their opinions.

All of this serves to give a few examples of the complexity of what it is to be a priest. More recently I have started to think of myself as priest as well as druid.  I am not an author beyond this blog as yet (who knows what they future might hold). Currently I don’t give talks or presentations although I have in the past.  I can write and lead group ritual although I don’t do a great deal of this now. I have acted as a celebrant in the past too. None of these things are why I am using the term priest more lately.  I am a priest because I serve a number of deities and because I am a shrine keeper.

I am sworn firstly to the Herd Mothers and to the Ancient Mother I know as An Cailleach. I feel they are still training me and gradually making me ready for further service.  I also serve within my limited abilities Maponnos, Gofannon, Mannanan, Brigantia, Loki, Ran, Aegir and the daughters of the oceans. Some of these I have served longer than others, some I am still learning about but I honour them and give them offerings. This is why I call myself a Priest and Druid.

 

 

Là na Cailliche

Today, 25th March is known as Là na Cailliche or Cailleach’s day. I haven’t done much in previous years to mark this even though I was first introduced to the Cailleach about twenty years ago. Back then I knew little and it’s taken time for the relationship I now have to develop.

I felt last week that I needed to do something more this year, something special. I thought and decided that a walk in the Campsie hills somewhere was fitting. I see the Campsies each day from my home. I look towards them often and think of the Cailleach. I don’t know of any particular folk lore that links any Cailleach stories with the Campsies but for me She is there. It’s not the only place ties to Her by any means but it is a personal one.

I’m not the fittest person. I also have family commitments that mean I can’t be out all day so I had to plan for somewhere fairly easy to get to and somewhere I could walk and return in good time for kids coming back from school. I chose a walk into the hills above the Campsie falls and if the weather was really bad my back up plan was to do some knitting and  spinning. Luckily for me the weather has been lovely. A bit of a chilly breeze but dry and some sunshine.

I  prepared a packed lunch and a flask of tea, tied a plaited cord belt and prayer beads round my waist both dedicated to the Cailleach, put my staff in the car and headed off. Walking boots and suitable layers of clothing for hill walking too of course and my hubby knew where I was going. Safety as well as spirituality!

It felt good to be up in the hills, it felt right to do something special to mark this day.  I ate my lunch on the hills by a cairn and shared my tea with the Cailleach and the spirits of the land. I sat and gazed out over the land and listened to the skylarks singing. There was a long pause, a silence that felt as if the world around me was waiting for something. I listened. I breathed the air and felt the cold, damp earth beneath me. Sound returned to the land.

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As I had walked up I heard a raven call and caught a glimpse of one flying. As I walked down again I heard the raven call twice more and saw it soaring. Three times heard, three times seen. Twice seen and heard at the same time, another time heard but not seen, then seen but not heard.

There’s a low flat stone part way up the hill and it’s clear that several people have taken advantage of its seat like nature for a rest. I did too for a short rest on the way up, a longer rest on the way down. And during that rest on the way down I prayed with my prayer beads. Beads that my mum had made. And the words I said changed.

Earth Her flesh,
Stone Her bones,
Plants Her skin, Her hair,
The waters Her blood,
The air Her breath,
The clouds Her thoughts,
Ravens Her voice,
Eagles Her eyes,
Deer and hares Her ears.

Hail to  you, Mighty Cailleach!

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My gods are calling…

First it was Epona nudging to write a blog post and I did. Since Then I’ve felt Her more strongly and been thinking about Her a lot as Eponalia (18 December) approaches.

Then it was the Divine Smith with a mention of Sucellus as a possible Smith for followed a few days later by a blog post on Sucellos that got me thinking and then this one on Sucellus and Smith gods which resonated strongly.

Around the same time there was a surge of activity online about Loki triggered by a Wild Hunt column (this one). There’s so many options I could link to for blog posts and articles that followed this original article but the Wild Hunt have published this one about the Lokean Community and this one so-called Loki and the Resistance.

I often see posts about Brigid because I’m in Facebook groups about Her and there’s not been any unusual activity there or elsewhere about Brigantia that I’ve seen but today an Cailleach made Her presence felt via an unexpected post about Her. Maponos has remained fairly quiet so far too.

It doesn’t surprise me that Loki should use technology to make His presence felt more strongly. That’s how He first pushed into my life. It doesn’t surprise me that Epona should provide judges through contacts with other people, She has always been subtle with me. The Divine Smith though, using both personal connections and technology, that did surprise me. I don’t do any form of smithcraft. My only attempt at regular craftwork is knitting. I’m not the fastest or best knitter by any means although I am confident enough to knit things for others. So I still find it a little surprising that Gofannon  has remained a presence in my life. Perhaps He wishes to remind me to keep persevering with various things in my life, perhaps He likes my respect for the craftspeople I know. g

Three of the gods I regularly make devotions to are making their presence felt more strongly. They are each calling to me, not with a specific message but to be more aware. They are challenging me to take up those tasks that I feel I struggle with and move onwards. And I believe they are each letting me know in their own ways that I am heard and that I am not alone.