Tag Archives: brigid

P is for Pantheons

I follow Brigid, who’s one of the Tuatha Dé Danann. While I follow Brigid, I have yet to learn more about the other deities in the pantheon. I’m not even certain if it’s going to be something I’d want to follow-up, as the idea of having male deities is uneasy due to complicated personal power inequalities as a survivor.

The Tuatha Dé Danann had travelled to the “Northern Isles” where they learned many skills and magic in its four cities Falias, Gorias, Murias and Findias. From there they traveled to Ireland bringing with them a treasure from each city – the four legendary treasures of Ireland. From Falias came the Lia Fáil. The other three treasures are the Claíomh Solais or Sword of Victory, the Sleá Bua or Spear of Lugh and the Coire Dagdae or The Dagda’s Cauldron.

(Wikipedia. But this isn’t an academic essay, so it’s all right. Right?)

I’m enjoying the contradictory information so far about the relationships between the deities (is the Dagda married to Danu, or her son, or is he her father, or…?)

Recommendations for useful online links where I can learn about the Tuatha Dé Danann would be smashing.

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O is for Ord Brighideach International

I have been wearing my Brigid’s cross for several months now, with great enjoyment, and decided it was time to get involved in worshipping Brigid within a wider group. I joined Ord Brighideach International which is a flame-keeping group. It has various cills (groups) of nineteen that each tend a flame, one person a day, for nineteen days; Brigid keeps the flame on the twentieth day. I joined the Trillium Cill, which is named for a splendid-looking perennial:

White flower with three petals

A white flower with three petals and three alternating leaves.

My first flamekeeping shift is on August 5th. I’m feeling energised and excited!

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N is for Names

Names are fun. Names are one way of identifying each other, identifying our places and our deities. I give names to the things I hold dear, to things into which I invest time and effort: to the house where I live (numbers are lovely but they miss the essence of the place), to the car I use, to my blogs, to my gender and my sexuality, to everything of significance. Naming it is what gives it significance in some cases.

My name for my outwardly queer, pagan, genderqueer, internet-based self is Hare. It’s so employers and people-I-used-to-know or people-I-vaguely-know can’t get curious and learn all these personal, raw things about me. They don’t need to know who I worship, who I sleep with, how I describe my gender, what mental health problems I have. So, I understand the appeal of other names, of magical names, of switching and changing one’s name. I also have a more personal name that I sometimes use when I talk or pray to deities, but that’s between them and me. It’s like a cloak or a shield or a trance to slip into; it’s something you can put on to cue yourself into a more spiritual state of mind.

However, I’ve also started to learn the value of introducing some of my Hare-self into my [offline-name] self – talking about genderqueer things on my FB, quietly ‘liking’ Pagan pages, wearing my Brigid’s cross every day and answering questions honestly if I’m asked. I’m learning to appreciate my full name, and smaller nicknames, and holding on to the knowledge that whatever I call myself, I will remain – essentially – me. (As a FAAB who plans on changing their surname on marriage, it’s a significant in many sections of my life.)

I think it helps that I’m a follower of a deity with a name which is said and written in so many different ways. I write Brigid and say /bri:d/ but recognise Bride and /braɪd/ and all manner of others. (I use this wiki page for the IPA [International Phonetic Alphabet], because I always get my diphthongs mixed up.) No matter what their name is, I know who my Lady of the Flame is, and I love all the names for them. I’m starting to learn to love all the names for myself, too.

 

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St. Bridget’s Church

On my travels this weekend I stopped to visit a church named for Saint Brigid. Disappointingly, it wasn’t somewhere I felt a connection or any particular spiritual experience. (The previous day, though, I’d heard a wren singing its heart out from a branch of an oak tree – and that was a profoundly spiritual experience!)

I suppose it reminds me of a few things: that others’ religious practices are not my own, and that while St Bride and the Pagan deity Brigid may be different ways of telling a similar story, they are not going to appeal to me in the same way.

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M is for Metaphor

Metaphor! I love metaphor. I love the thought of the year as a turning wheel, moving through the festivals. As previously mentioned, the knowledge that summer and sunlight will appear again is a balm in the winter months when my Seasonal Affective Disorder casts a bleak shadow over me.

Before I was Pagan, I used to read Wintersmith by Terry Pratchett for my source of summer/winter metaphor. This year I joyfully celebrated Imbolc as Brigid’s emergence, bringing fire and light into the cold, winter-struck world. Brigid and the Cailleach, carrying each other through the wheel in perpetual motion.

What’s joyful for me is that the seasons are both the result of the spin of the world and the elliptical orbit around the sun, and also the spin of Brigid and the Cailleach, the wheel, the festivals. The metaphor is where my faith lives. I mean, the fact that the earth turns and the sun shines is beautiful and a reason for joy anyway.

It’s kind of how I got into faith. I read Life of Pi and considered the two tales and admired the levels of meaning in the metaphor. I was relieved to learn that I could have faith, that it could be my choice, that it was something for me. It was also quite a relief to realise that I didn’t have to abandon my knowledge of science, and that each could have its place for different purposes. I didn’t actually have to squee-harsh all my joy at the spirituality of the world!

Metaphor is my favourite. ❤

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L is for Languages

When I came up with this topic I’d been learning the Futhark runes and watched how people writing about the topic had different names for the runes, different spellings for common words, different pronunciation. As I studied more, I struggled with the modern addition of associations between runes and planets, colours, stones, numbers and so on. (“Wait, if Neptune wasn’t discovered until 1846, how can it be associated with runes that date from the 11th century?”)

As a native English speaker and writer, languages other than English are interesting. Cultural saturation also deems them mystical, otherworldly and potentially magical, which I’m trying to avoid. Languages which follow different graphemic or phonological rules are interesting because they make one realise that it’s part design and part accident that English works the way it does, especially with the pronunciation because of the Great Vowel Shift and the 18th Century prescriptivists and – all those things. English generally works such that a single symbol, a letter (‘A’), represents a sound (‘aaah’) but the pronunciation is dependent on its surrounding letters, your accent, the stress pattern of the words, and so on. Letters don’t have additional meaning; they’re just a written representation of a sound.

So, when one discovers a language where the symbols (runes, letters, whatever) all have their own names, meanings, colour associations, tree associations, deity associations, use in divination and so on – that’s pretty exciting. That’s like discovering a mega-language, where suddenly it has all these attachments which can juggle and make you a cup of tea when your own written symbols just… y’know.. represent phonemes. Unfortunately, lots of this stuff (tree associations, divination, etc.) turns out to be based on conjecture (i.e. lies), on guesswork (lies), and on lies (lies). Did the people who used Ogham really associate ‘beith’ with a birch tree when they were using it to mark territorial boundaries or write signs? It could be the equivalent of associating the symbol “C” with the giant blue wet thing “sea” because they have the same sound.  It’s not necessarily a semantic link.

There’s also the danger of cultural appropriation and fetishizing of non-Romanic languages because they are ‘deep’ or ‘meaningful’ simply because they’re used by people who live quite a long way away. (For instance, see this blog.)

Bearing all that in mind, then, why am I learning Ogham?

Well, whether or not it had these associations of trees and meanings and names with the runes back when it was used centuries ago, it’s grown to have those meanings now. It’s used in the Pagan community by people who want to link to Gaelic deities, which is precisely why I’m using it: to get closer to Brigid. When I write poetry to her, I can now write parts of it using Ogham, which is more private and personal. Who doesn’t want a secret language to use to communicate with their deity?

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J is for Jackdaws

jackdaw

Jackdaw

Jackdaws (corvus monedula) are “a small, black, sociable crow. They’re handsome birds with a silvery sheen and pale eye” (RSPB). “Jackdaws partner up in their first spring as adult birds and stay faithful to each other all their lives” (Wildlife Garden).

My relationship with jackdaws started when I was around eight years old. When I was that age I had bright hair and frequently wore shiny alice bands, both of which attracted the attention of next door’s pet jackdaw. I was minding my own business, and the next thing I knew I could feel claws in my scalp and felt the light weight of a bird on my head. Aged eight, I was completely terrified! I slowly walked to my back door, knocked quietly to try to get my dad’s attention, and was relieved when he finally came out and the bird flew off.

Later that year, on holiday, I was eyeing some jackdaws nervously. I looked away for a second, and felt the touch of claws on my head again! I had learned from the last time and waved my arms around and it flew off. A few years later I was in a beautiful park with my grandmother and I was telling her the story of the previous two jackdaws that had landed on my head. We were laughing, and the next thing I knew? JACKDAW ON MY HEAD. AGAIN.

From then until a couple of years ago, I was terrified of jackdaws. I would freak out when they were near me. Gradually I’ve started to think of them more affectionately, and now I’m actually quite fond of them. For whatever reasons they were attracted to my hair or just wanted to land on me, I have build a connection with them into my personal history.

My name is Hare, and three jackdaws have landed on my head in my life so far. I think that’s why I like this painting so much:

A hare and a jackdaw contemplate each other

By Hannah Giffard

I don’t know quite how they fit into my spirituality, not quite yet, but I love seeing them. Maybe the hare is Brigid and the jackdaw is the Cailleach? I’m looking forward to figuring it out.

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