Conference review for Brighid: Her Flame Burns Brightly 27 Jan 2018

“Brighid: Her Flame Burns Brightly” was an online conference organized and hosted by Land Sea Sky Travel as the first in a series of conferences. The series is called “A Year With The Gods” and they have plans for online conferences spaced through the year close to the more commonly recognized Pagan festivals.

As I have had a devotional relationship with Brigantia for many years I decided that trying to attend this online conference should be a good experience for me with the added benefit of devoting time to Her that day.  I was however a bit nervous as I had not experienced this type of online conference before.  I needn’t have worried.

The software used was Zoom which has a freely available client for a participant.  The software has some good support information and I didn’t have any problems with downloading the client or testing my set up.  The organisers of the conference were also available via email and Facebook with advice in the days before the conference.

As the conference organizers are based in the United Stated of America the timings of the conference were very understandable picked with the Sates in mind.  Saying that the welcome pack emailed out before the event had a detailed schedule for the day including timings in three different time zones.  I was both impressed and very pleased with this level of information and it made things much easier for me to organize.  There were a number of nice extras sent out with the welcome pack too including a couple of short stories, a couple of chants and a couple of links to suppliers of relevant goods and services.

On to the day itself.

For me the conference started at 3.30 in the afternoon.  Getting into the correct location was straightforward and everything seemed to be working very well.  Our main host for the day, Vyviane Armstrong, provided clear information and repeated basic housekeeping type information throughout the day for those that joined at different times.  Tech support was on hand through out the day too and while I was aware of some minor glitches happening problems were dealt with swiftly and efficiently with a good sense of humor kept throughout.  I was very impressed with the entire organizational operation and I would expect that things will only improve as the series of conferences continues.

The opening devotions were carried out by Andrea Maxwell who sang a beautiful chant for us. The day was underway.

The first presenter was Lora O’Brien not someone I was familiar with although that’s true for a lot of people so please don’t take any particular meaning from that.  Lora spoke about her experiences with Brighid and took up all on a guided journey to meet Brighid.  Her voice was clear and very enjoyable to listen to, the journey was a delight.  I particularly enjoyed the use of a boat as guide for part of the journey, this reminded me of many tales from both Scotland and Ireland.  It also reminded me of the little boat in the Wizard of EarthSea quartet by Ursula Le Guin.  Interestingly I had a name from my little boat, Wayfinder, and I hope I see it again in other journeys. I also found it interesting that where Lora described working areas in Brighid’s place that were slightly messy with works in progress I saw areas that had been tidied up, work finished for the day and things in their place for when they were next needed.  I’m sure that says more about me than anything.

The next presenter was Gemma McGowan who spoke eloquently about her experiences serving Brighid as a priestess.  Unfortunately I had to sort out my daughter’s tea during that talk so could only dip in and out.  One of the advantage of this style of conference though is that the sessions are recorded and will be sent out to all the participants so although I missed some of Gemma’s talk at the time I will be able to listen to it again and pick a time when I am not going to be interrupted.  I know she shared something of her experiences in seership and trance possession which is something I have a little experience of myself with a different Goddess so I am particularly looking forward to being able to properly listen to what Gemma shared during her talk.

The conference then had a short break and a giveaway draw.  The break was also an interesting experience as participants had the option to turn on mics and videos for a little bit.  It got a bit chaotic.

Following the break we had our Keynote speaker, Morgan Daimler. Morgan is a well known author and presenter and I was delighted that this conference would give me the opportunity to hear her speak.  She confessed to being a bit nervous at the start of her talk as it was the first time she had presented at an online conference.  I could see the nerves but I could also see her swiftly relax as she began to speak. Morgan spoke about her work with the original old Irish texts translating and digging for references of Brighid.  While I was familiar with much of what she spoke about some information was either completely new to me or had simply not stuck when I read Morgan’s book on Brigid. In particular that the earliest mentions in the texts are of a single Goddess, the triple Brighid comes later in time.  Also that the earliest form in the Irish texts was very likely to have been thought of as Brighid the Poet.  That’s poet in the old Irish sense of an incredibly highly trained and skilled individual with a huge collection of lore, poems and stories stored within their memory.  It was a very interesting talk.

Straight after that talk was a panel discussion.  A range of questions were put to the presenters who shared their experiences and opinions.  Participants were also encouraged to share responses in the chat room which remained pen throughout the conference.

After another break we heard from Mael Brigde who founded the flame tending group Daughters of the Flame in 1993.  She shared with us the history of that group which I found fascinating and what a lovely piece of synchronicity that the Daughters of Flame lit their first flame tending candle on the very same day that the Brigidine sisters relit the sacred flame at Kildare. Neither group being aware of the other doing so at that time.  Meal Brigde spoke beautifully about her experiences and both the history and practicalities of flame tending within the Daughters of the Flame.  She also sang two chants for us, both simply lovely.

By the time Mael Brigde’s talk ended it was 11.30 in the evening for me and I was very tired so it was at that point that I quietly left the conference, shot down my laptop and went to bed.  The conference itself went on with another presenter and I look forward to listening to her talk in the future when it is sent out to participants.

I really enjoyed my day taking part in this online conference.  I was a little disappointed not to be able to hear more of how the speakers felt Brigantia fits into the assorted Brigidine lore as I connect best with Brigantia.  I was also a little disappointed not to hear from any male presenters during the day.  There were male participants but a male perspective in the conference did seem a little lacking to me.  These however are minor points.  No conference pleases everyone all the time.

Over all I felt this conference was exceptionally well run with some wonderfully chosen speakers.  I am very pleased I made the decision to attend this first conference in the series.  I am not sure how many of the others I might attend but I can see at least two that interest me from just the titles.

I know from experience of running face to face conferences in the past what a great deal of work goes into conference organization. My heartfelt thanks and congratulations go to all those involved in the planning and organizing of this very well run and presented conference.

Further details of the plans for the future conferences will be available on the Land Sea Sky Facebook page

 

 

 

 

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Reflections on 2017

A new friend on Facebook recently asked what people were proud about from the past year and that got me thinking about the past year a bit more resulting in this post.

The first half of 2017 was quiet on this blog because I had signed up for a an online course in counselling skills.  I completed and passed that course and at the time I investigated the possibility of gaining further qualifications in counselling skills.  After much thought and investigation into options and costs I decided it is not the right time for me to commit to trying to gain further qualifications. I am however prud of having completed the course successfully and gaining new knowledge and confidence.

In the last year my devotional practices have continued to develop and deepen.  I’m now beginning to settle into a devotional practice where I am spending some time in prayer and contemplation on six days of the week.  In the last year as well as relaxing into my relationship with Loki I’ve also started developing a devotional relationship with Gofannon.  It’s almost two years since Loki started making his presence felt in my life so both of these deities are still relatively new to me. I also continue to be a flame tender with Clann Bhride, a practice I began on Imbolc 2015.

I’ve now been involved in volunteering with the Riding for the Disabled Glasgow group for just over a year. I’ve learnt so much since I started there and I’m still learning more including finally having riding lessons myself.  I’ve wanted to learn how to ride horses for as log as I can remember and this year I have been able to begin that journey and it’s just wonderful!  I literally cried tears of joy after my first couple of lessons, that’s how much it means to me.

This time last year I had completed counselling sessions to help me with managing my social anxiety and had also just come off medication for anxiety and depression.  I have remained off medication this year and have not had a relapse.  I still get the occasional anxiety attack with social situations and have had a couple of more severe panic attacks too this year but I am still improving.  I have managed social situations this year that I could not have done last year.  I am proud of my progress.

My daughter had been attending dance lessons with Indepen-dance for a full year now.  She’s absolutely loved these lessons so I know this will be continuing for the coming year.  My daughter has also joined her school choir this year and has experienced her first performance with the choir outside the school as part of a carol service.  She also had a solo to sing during that carol service.  I am extremely proud of how well she did, not only with her singing but also with her behaviour during the service.  Sitting quiet and still is not an easy thing for my sensory seeking, bouncy Aspigirl. So proud of my girl!

This year my son completed his Bronze Duke of Edinburgh Award. To complete this award he had to do some voluntary work, develop a new skill, do some physical activity and complete an overnight camping expedition with the group from his school taking part in the Duke of Edinburgh award activities.  His physical activity was hillwalking, his new skill was pyrography and the voluntary work was organised by the school and took place at an allotment.  I am incredibly proud of his achievement!

Last year (2016) I went through the assessment process for adult autism diagnosis.  I didn’t meet diagnostic criteria.  Perhaps part of the reason for this was that at the time I went through the process I was also suffering badly from stress and anxiety.  Needless to say I didn’t agree with their conclusions at the time and I still don’t agree.  It’s still something that irritates.  I have been peer recognised as autistic by a number of autistic adults as well as by my wonderful kids and that recognition means a great deal to me.  I am immensely proud of being neurodivergent and probably autistic. I still hesitate over calling myself autistic because I didn’t meet the diagnostic criteria during my assessment.  I know many within the autistic community are perfectly fine with self diagnosis and if I had never attended and failed the assessment I’d be happy with self diagnosis too. Failing the assessment makes me doubt myself and means I often don’t feel comfortable in saying I’m autistic without adding the story of not meeting diagnostic criteria.  Anyway, this year I have becoming more aware and more confident of myself as neurodivergent. If you are unfamiliar with neurodiversity as a concept here’s a good staring piece on the neurodiversity paradigm

My other area of achievement this year is still very much a work in progress.  I have begun writing a book about being a polytheist.  It will have a great deal in it about my own practices.  My tentative working title at the moment is “Life as a British Polytheist”.

To all my readers on this last day of 2017 I hope you take pride in your achievements whatever they may be and I wish you a very happy 2018!

 

 

Rebirth

We went out the other weekend exploring Glen Lochay near Killin in Pethshire. We chose that area because of something Neil had read about Creag Na Callich which overlooks Glen Lochay and because I had been feeling the need to seek out the Ancient One in the land.

Several years ago the wooden hammer that had been given into my care and used since in ritual had been destroyed by my ex-husband. That hammer was dedicated to An Cailleach and I still feel it’s loss. I had been thinking about this a fair bit recently and felt that something wasn’t resolved between An Cailleach and I over this loss. I felt I had to know if I needed to make some form of reparation to Her for the hammer’s loss and my failure to anticipate my ex-husband’s behaviour.

The first snows were on the mountain tops and much of the colour lower down was of late autumn. I had offerings with me of whisky and oatmeal. We drove along the Glen stopping from time to time to explore something or for Neil to take some photos. I was seeking for something, somewhere I could feel An Cailleach and commune with Her. I wasn’t sure exactly what I was looking for, just that I’d know if I found it. If I didn’t find that something then I would need to do more, If I found that something then I hoped things would become clearer for me.

At one point we spotted something unusual. We stopped and went for a closer look. We had found something, something quite special. Closer to the river on the other side of the field I found a place that called to me, a tiny island forming just by the river bank. A place of magic that sang to me and my heart filled with wonder. I poured out part of my offerings there. Then I returned to the centre of the field and the tree that was growing there.

I have seen trees growing out of cracks in rocks and cliffs. I’ve seen trees of one species growing out of another older living tree of a different species but I’d never seen something like this before. A stump of what must have been a pretty old tree was still connected to the large rocks it had grown on top of and between. Growing on the top of that stump were several types of mosses and lichens and in the midst of them a silver birch tree. As I walked round this gazing in wonder at this a single word resounded like a bell in my head. “Rebirth!”

I gave more of my offerings there in that place beside that tree.

Glen Lochay - renewal

Later in the day we walked part way up the route out of the other end of Glen Lochay in a route that leads towards Glen Lyon, we didn’t have time to do more that go part way up. Before we turned back I made my final offerings in a place that looked back along the Glen towards Creag Na Callich among other peaks.

I sought An Cailleach and She had answered me.

We took a slightly different route out of the Glen towards Killin and in the dusk as we came towards a couple of fields we saw a herd of red deer. There were a couple of stags, one clearly more dominant as he chased off others bellowing at them, and about forty does. A wonderful end to our visit to Glen Lochay.

 

All photos thanks to Neil Pitchford, Awen photos

If not you, then who? If not now, then when?

These are words that first began ringing loudly in my mind a few days ago when Neil and I were travelling to Glen Etive for a day out.  It was the day after a storm and the skies were still grey and heavy with rain when we set out.  The water poured off this hills in streams and waterfalls, rivers were swollen.  As we turned into Glen Etive I felt as if we were travelling in a land surrounded above and below with water. And that’s when these words started to sound in my head.

If not you, then who? If not now, then when?

And I knew what this was referring to.  I had a decision to make, to try and write a book about devotional practice I experience it or to leave it.

I remember Nimue Brown once writing that she wrote books she wanted to read.

I want to read about someone who juggles devotional life with family life, someone who isn’t very good at hearing messages from deities. I want to read about someone who says something about how long it has taken them to develop a devotional life, how they have tried things and then dropped them, how life has sometimes overwhemed them.  And I want to read about their journey with deities who have traces of ancient worship in the land I live in.

I haven’t come across a book like that yet.

If not you, then who? If not now, then when?

As our day in Glen Etive progressed we did see the odd patch of blue as the sky lightened.  We heard the bellowing of stags on the mountainside.  As we began the journey back along the Glen we had to stop.  Deer on the road. A small herd, a doe with what must have been this year’s young, a couple of slightly older but still immature stags, a few mature does and him.  He posed beautifully for our admiration.

One doe gently ate pieces of apple from the hand of another woman who like us had stopped.  This small herd were clearly used to people. That was the highlight of the trip for me and still those words echoed in my head.  A decision was made. I will write.

We came home days passed with other things; catching up with chores, spending time with the kids, doing some knitting and still these words come back to me.

If not you, then who? If not now, then when?

I’m working through things I said I’d do for others.  I’m beginning to plan, to think about what I want to say, how I might say it. I’m intending to start writing my first ever attempt at a book at Samhain.  It may take me a long time.  The first steps of a journey are not when you set out but when you make a decision and pack your things.

I am beginning to answer the questions that keep ringing in my head.

I will write and very soon now.

Changes to my altar

In the last couple of weeks there have been changes to my altar.

Meet the Smith, for Gofannon.

The Smith
The Smith

Today arrived a wonderful, amazing gift.  A traditionally made Zuni Coyote fetish crafted by Aaron and Thelma Sheche. I am deeply honoured to have been entrusted with this fetish. It’s actually two coyotes carved from the same stone bundles with an arrow head and pieces of turquoise.

Coyotes fetish
Zuni Coyote Fetish

Both the Smith and the Zuni fetish are now on my altar, shown below.

Altar 6 September 2017

Messages from Gods

Like forgotten yet eternal dreams.
Broke in bits before her, the lady lacks her necklace.
Like the sweet-apple reddening high on the branch.
Better far that my body should suffer outrage than my soul.
Oh, each of us discovered life’s burden, and we call that time a fable, remembering ourselves as we would a stranger.

These are words for me from a divination two weeks ago where I basically asked if I was doing ok with my devotions.  The overall interpretation I was given was I’m doing ok but there’s room for improvement.  Isn’t there always?

In April I had a three card tarot reading done for me with the following overall message:

These may seem vague, as Minor Arcana cards, but I love the combination of elements here. It seems to tell of an emotional time, perhaps with ups and downs on several levels, but also with a sense of determination, goals achieved and a clear path opening up through it all. Keep hold of that determination, hun, you’re going the right way and have good friends at your side!

I had another reading in January of this year but that one was face to face and I can’t remember a great deal from it.

I’m also working on improving my own divination skills.  At the moment that involves working with runes and practicing readings mainly on myself.

And then there is what happened to me on Saturday as I sat before my altar praying and listening.  I slipped into a trance and began to journey, something I haven’t done in quite a while.  Loki appeared beside me and we walked and talked in the Otherworld I know.  I’ve been asking, thinking and wondering why Loki is still interested in me, half expecting Him to move on and not return.  One part of my journey and conversation had a very powerful effect on me.

Loki asked me if I wanted Him in my life. At first I sidestepped replying clearly by saying “If you want to be”.  That wasn’t good enough though. He asked me again:

“Do you want me?”

And this time I simply said yes.  His reply was that He would remain with me then.  I asked if it was that simple. “Yes.”  We talked further, other things that I’ll not mention here but that helped clarify aspects of our growing relationship. I also gained insights into aspects of other deity relationships.

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This year I have already asked for reassurance that I’m doing the right things, going in the right direction more times than almost any other year in my life. I’ve been unsure why I feel the presence of certain deities, why still other deities have come into my life.

Each time though I have been given reassurance that I’m doing the right things, going in the right directions.  Most of those reassurances have been open to some aspect of interpretation. This time, with Loki, I’ve had something amazingly direct, amazingly simple.

And that simple question echos on in other voices – Do you want me in your life?

Sometimes devotion is as simple as answering that question.

Traveling Shrines

A home shrine is a wonderful thing but what do you do when you are away from your home for whatever reason?  Recently my family and I were away from home for holidays so I decided to put together a few things and take a form of traveling shrine with me.  Rather than try and describe what I did in words I took a couple of pictures while I was away so I could share what I had done.

photo of traveling shrine
Traveling Shrine while on holiday on the Island of Skye

 

photo of traveling shrine
Traveling Shrine on the Isle of Lewis

 

The cloth I used for my traveling shrine is actually a cloth for reading oracle decks made for me by Gemini Aspect.  The prayer cards are from Galina Krasskova‘s etsy store where there are prayer cards to many deities in several different pantheons.

The shrine while we were on the Isle of Lewis includes a card from both the Druid Animal Oracle and the Druid Plant Oracle both by Philip and Stephanie Carr-Gomm with artwork by Will Worthington.