Thursday, 31 December 2009

Bliadhna Mhath Ùr

There's less than an hour to go of this year on this side of the Pond, and earlier there was a partial eclipse of a blue moon. So aside from wishing everyone a Happy New New Year, I thought I'd share a picture I took of a gloriously full moon at the start of the partial eclipse:

The night is cold and clear so far. Sheets of ice (compacted snow) and what remains of the snow we had a few weeks ago now still lies on the ground. The cold weather shows no sign of letting up, and for once we enter the new year in the grips of a proper winter.

It's not been an easy year, but it's not been a terrible one either. I hope for better, for 2010. After this, I'll start on saining the house with the water I've saved from Bealltainn. I'll have a wee dram ready for the bells, and leave out some offerings before I go to bed, along with a penny to go on the step outside. It's supposed to be good luck if it's still there in the morning.

I also intend to perform some frìth at sunrise, and I'll be baking some shortbread and/or some Yetholm bannocks to take to the in-laws tomorrow, for the obligatory New Year's steak pie. I honestly don't know why it has to be steak pie, but apparently that's the way it is for New Year's Day. As far as I can tell, it's a west of Scotland thing.

But anyway.

A Guid new year to ane an' a',
0, mony may you see,
And during a' the years that come,
0, happy may you be!
And may you ne'er hae cause to mourn,
To sigh or shed a tear,
To ane an' a' baith great an' sma',
A hearty guid New Year! 
Peter Livingstone             

Have a good yin. Good Wishes to you all.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Cailleach Bheur

Given the weather at the moment - gales, torrential rain, slee, hail, flooding - it was a nice coincidence that I finally spotted a copy of a book I've been after for ages, which I was hoping would have some good stuff about the Cailleach. It was a little more than I'd usually spend on a book so Mr Seren said he'd get it me for Christmas - not that we're doing presents for each other, but anyway...

Donald MacKenzie refers to the book a lot in his Scottish Folk-Lore and Folk Life and he seemed to take a lot of his information from this source, so I had to have it. My efforts in getting my hands on it were frustrated by the fact that I couldn't get it from the library, so hunting down my own copy was the only way to go. It arrived yesterday and I got into it with gusto, and so far I'm really enjoying it - lots of good stuff, and she gives a version of the Cailleach's battle with Spring, but without Bride or Angus in it like MacKenzie has, who really does seem to be the only source for that.

So anyway, I thought it would be good to copy it down for anyone interested. And maybe it would please her so we she'll calm down and we can get some sunshine for once, eh?

"The word Beur, taken simply as it stands, signifies a peak, point, or pinnacle, and may without straining be taken to mean, in its plural form of 'Bheur' (mountain) ridges.

The hag of the ridges, would be a suitable enough appellation for the genius of the mountain tops. There, on the topmost ridges, do the dark herds of Cailleach Bheur congregate. Thence rush the floods in fleecy foam, and snowy cascades leap, for dark clouds and dark billows are her herds of deer; her sheep and goats are fleecy clouds, and also white-crested waves, or seething waters of hill and plain.

The manner in which the word 'beur' is used is illustrated in the following quotation:

leis an dionaiche long,
A' gearradh a h'astar feadh thonn
Gun chùram mar theine nan speur
Troimh bheàrna beur nan neul-

Whose taut barque
Cleaves with a fearless prow unerring her way thro' the bilow,
Like a lightning flash that shoots thro' the gaps of the jagged cloud ridges.

None of these surmises concerning the origin of the name is quite convincing or satisfactory.

The sphere of the Cailleach's influence, and the actions attributed to her are the following: -

With her mallet - 'farachan' - or pestle - 'slachdan' - she beats and pounds the earth till all growth is destroyed; Nature has become torpid.

But about the middle of January Nature shows signs of reviving, and the sun has begun his returning journey. The Cailleach gets alarmed, and summons the 'faoiltich,' wolflings, or wolf-storms; 'faol,' a wolf. Those storms last until the middle of February.

Then follows the third week of February - 'trì lathan gobaig,' three days of 'shark-toothed,' bitter, stinging east winds; and 'trì lathan feadaig,' three days of 'plover-winged,' swift, fitful blasts, careering, rainy winds that are 'the death of sheep and lamb, and get the strong cattle bogged till the flood rolls over their heads.'

Here are the Gaelic words for those last lines.

'S mise 'n fheadag luirigineach luath;
Marbhaidh mi 'chaora, marbhaidh mi 'n t-uan;
Cuiridh mi a' bho' mhòr 's an toll
Gus am bi an tonn thar a ceann.

Then comes the last week of the month, 'Seachdain a' Ghearrain.' The name is variously interpreted. Some have supposed it to mean a week of sighing, moaning winds, from 'gearan,' complaining. Others take it to denote 'Ploughing Week,' from 'gearran,' a colt. A third party surmise that the name comes from 'geàrr-shion,' short, sudden squalls. But those who suggest this rendering place the week between the 15th of March and the 11th of April. Ploughing week is probably the true interpretation.

The first week of March is marked by temporary blasts of foul weather and flying showers - 'Sgarraichean na Feill Connain' - St. Conan Storms. The second week is marked by tempestuous weather, squally and inclement, 'Doirionn na Feill Padruig' - St. Patrick gales.

Then the Cailleach becomes desperate over her want of success. Despite her efforts to keep the earth hard by beating it with her mallet, despite her storming, the grass waxes, buds appear, and the blossoms peep from beneath their hoods. The Cailleach exclaims

Dh'fhàg e shios mi, dh'fhàg e shuas mi;
Dh'fhàg e eadar mo dhà chluais mi;
Dh'fhàg e thall mi, dh'fhàg e bhos mi;
Dh'fhàg e eadar mo dhà chois mi!

Shootings her and sprouting there,
It eludes me everywhere;
Overhead and underfoot
Bud and blade blossom shoot.

The brave, little wild duck taunts the Cailleach - "Despite thy shrivelling, stinging-cold little March, I and my twelve are yet alive!' 'Just wait a little!' exclaims March, or the Cailleach - for here they are synonymous; she borrows three days from February, and the result is thus described in Scotch: -

The first day it was win' an' west,
The neist day it was snaw an' sleet,
The third day it sae hard did freeze,
The wee birds nebs stuck tae the trees.

The Cailleach tries to chase away her son - the sun, wooing the young Spring - but he escapes with his bride. She causes the wild duck and her brood to perish with cold, and in so doing puts out her own eye. Baffled and defeated on every hand, and fleeing before her enemies, the wintry storms of the Cailleach sink into a calm as the returning sun shines forth and the warm winds blow.

The enraged Cailleach is defeated, she flings her mallet under a holly, where never a blade of grass can grow thereafter, so powerful is the magic influence to deaden growth.

This brings us to 'Latha na Caillich' - Old Wife's Day - the 25th day of March (old style), the date of the Caileach's overthrow, the flinging down of her mallet, and her punishment in being turned into stone."

K. W. Grant, Myth, Tradition and Story from Western Argyll, 1925, p5-6.

Sadly she doesn't cite any sources that she vaguely mentions at times, and a lot of it seems to be anecdotal anyway. She also seems keen to show the Cailleach as having Norwegian origins, which is interesting, and there do seem to be some parallels with some of the mythology so it does seem that there has been an influence at least. I'm looking forward to finishing it off, anyway, when I get a minute...

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Birth and Baptism

First off, a quick note - my dear husband has (finally) fixed the header and the side bar on the site. I'd still like the font size to be bigger on each page but the last time I tried to do that, it's probably how the header broke in the first place...And a better side bar that isn't so unwieldy would be good, but I'm probably pushing my luck there...

Anyway, my I've been feeling in a writy mood lately, and following a discussion on Óenach I was inspired to re-write one of the articles that had been on the original site - mainly I wanted to flesh it out and reference it. So I've done that and it's up on the site now, called Birth and Baptism. There are some things I'd like to add at some point, when resources and time allows - especially on the subject of evidence for druid baptism and the practice of bestowing geasa (tabus) at birth or at important times of change in a person's life. But if I wait for that then like everything else I'll sit and tweak it here and there until it's perfect, and it never will be, so it will never get published.

But instead of wading through my waffle, I thought it might be a good idea to post some of the most pertinent excerpts that I've used to inform what I've written. So errr...why not wade through loads of other people's waffle, eh?

First off, Henderson has some good bits to say on it - a bit scattered, but that can be read around:

"The mother never sets about any work till she has been kirked. In the Church of Scotland there is no ceremony on the occasion; but the woman, attended by some of her neighbours, goes into the church, sometimes in service time, but oftener when it is empty; goes out again, surrounds it, refreshes herself at some public-house, and then returns home. Before this ceremony she is looked on as unclean, never is permitted to eat with the family; nor will any one eat of the victuals she has dressed" (Pennant's Tour). Within my own recollection the idea of 'uncleanness' before the 'kirking' was retained...

...In the Proceedings of the Synod of Cashel, A. D. 1172, Benedict of Peterborough mentions for Ireland the following curious facts, which show that the father, in accordance with old custom, could immerse the child thrice in water immediately after birth, or, in the case of a rich man's child, thrice in milk. Thus we could perhaps speak of a rite of milk-baptism: "In illo autem concilio statuerunt, et auctoritate summi pontificis praeceperunt, pueros in ecclesia baptizari, In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti, et hoc a sacerdotibus fieri praeceperunt. Mos enim prius erat per diversa loca Hiberniae, quod statim cum puer nasceretur, pater ipsius vel quilibet alius eum ter mergeret in aqua. Et si divitis filius esset, ter mergeret in lacte."

The mention of the milk reminds of the rite after Christian baptism at Rome on Easter eve in the ninth century: "For the newly-baptised the chalice is filled, not with wine but with milk and honey, that they may understand . . . that they have entered already upon the promised land. And there was one more symbolical rite in that early Easter Sacrament, the mention of which is often suppressed,—a lamb was offered on the altar, afterwards cakes in the shape of a lamb. It was simply the ritual which we have seen in the mysteries." "

See more at: Henderson, Survivals in Belief Amongst the Celts - chapter 3, The Earthly Journey in particular.

Then there's Napier, who gives a wealth of information in his chapter about Birth, with plenty of personal anecdotes, too. Here's a good chunk, but really, it's good to read the whole thing:
"When writing of fairies I noticed,—but as it is connected with birth, I may here mention it again,—a practice common in some localities of placing in the bed where lay an expectant mother, a piece of cold iron to scare the fairies, and prevent them from spiriting away mother and child to elfland. An instance of this spiriting away at the time of child-bearing is said to have occurred in Arran within these fifty years. It is given by a correspondent in Long Ago:—"There was a woman near Pladda, newly delivered, who was carried away, and on a certain night her wraith stood before her husband telling him that the yearly riding was at hand, and that she, with all the rout, should ride by his house at such an hour, on such a night; that he must await her coming, and throw over her her wedding gown, and so she should be rescued from her tyrants. With that she vanished. And the time came, with the jingling of bridles and the tramping of horses outside the cottage; but this man, feeble-hearted, had summoned his neighbours to bear him company, who held him, and would not suffer him to go out. So there arose a bitter cry and a great clamour, and then all was still; but in the morning, roof and wall were dashed with blood, and the sorrowful wife was no more seen upon earth. This," says the writer, "is not a tale from an old ballad, it is the narrative of what was told not fifty years ago."

Immediately after birth, the newly-born child was bathed in salted water, and made to taste of it three times. This, by some, was considered a specific against the influence of the evil eye; but doctors differ, and so among other people and in other localities different specifics were employed. I quote the following from Ross' Helenore:—

"Gryte was the care and tut'ry that was ha'en,
Baith night and day about the bonny weeane:
The jizzen-bed, wi' rantry leaves was sain'd,
And sic like things as the auld grannies kend;
Jean's paps wi' saut and water washen clean,
Reed that her milk gat wrang, fan it was green;
Neist the first hippen to the green was flung,
And there at seelfu' words, baith said and sung:
A clear brunt coal wi' the het tangs was ta'en,
Frae out the ingle-mids fu' clear and clean,
And throu' the cosey-belly letten fa',
For fear the weeane should be ta'en awa'."

Before baptism the child was more liable to be influenced by the evil eye than after that ceremony had been performed, consequently before that rite had been administered the greatest precautions were taken, the baby during this time being kept as much as possible in the room in which it was born, and only when absolutely necessary, carried out of it, and then under the careful guardianship of a relative, or of the mid-wife, who was professionally skilled in all the requisites of safety. Baptism was therefore administered as early as possible after birth.

Another reason for the speedy administration of this rite was that, should the baby die before being baptised, its future was not doubtful. Often on calm nights, those who had ears to hear heard the wailing of the spirits of unchristened bairns among the trees and dells. I have known of an instance in which the baby was born on a Saturday, and carried two miles to church next day, rather than risk a week's delay.

...I have quite a vivid remembrance of being myself believed to be the unhappy victim of an evil eye. I had taken what was called a dwining which baffled all ordinary experience; and, therefore, it was surmised that I had got "a blink of an ill e'e." To remove this evil influence, I was subjected to the following operation, which was prescribed and superintended by a neighbour "skilly" in such matters:—A sixpence was borrowed from a neighbour, a good fire was kept burning in the grate, the door was locked, and I was placed upon a chair in front of the fire. The operator, an old woman, took a tablespoon and filled it with water. With the sixpence she then lifted as much salt as it could carry, and both were put into the water in the spoon. The water was then stirred with the forefinger till the salt was dissolved. Then the soles of my feet and the palms of my hands were bathed with this solution thrice, and after these bathings I was made to taste the solution three times. The operator then drew her wet forefinger across my brow,—called scoring aboon the breath. The remaining contents of the spoon she then cast right over the fire, into the hinder part of the fire, saying as she did so, "Guid preserve frae a' skaith." These were the first words permitted to be spoken during the operation. I was then put in bed, and, in attestation of the efficacy of the charm, recovered. To my knowledge this operation has been performed within these 40 years, and probably in many outlying country places it is still practised.

The origin of this superstition is probably to be found in ancient fire worship. The great blazing fire was evidently an important element in the transaction; nor was this a solitary instance in which regard was paid to fire. I remember being taught that it was unlucky to spit into the fire, some evil being likely shortly after to befall those who did so. Crumbs left upon the table after a meal were carefully gathered and put into the fire. The cuttings from the nails and hair were also put into the fire. These freaks certainly look like survivals of fire worship.

We must not, however, pursue this digression further, but return to our proper subject. It was not necessary that the person possessed of the evil eye, and desirous of inflicting evil upon a child, should see the child. All that was necessary was that the person with the evil eye should get possession of something which had belonged to the child, such as a fragment of clothing, a toy, hair, or nail parings. I may note here that it was not considered lucky to pare the nails of a child under one year old, and when the operation was performed the mother was careful to collect every scrap of the cutting, and burn them.

It was considered a great offence for any person, other than the mother or near relation, in whom every confidence could be placed, to cut a baby's nails; if some forward officious person should do this, and baby afterwards be taken ill, this would give rise to grave suspicions of evil influence being at work. The same remarks apply to the cutting of a baby's hair. I have seen the door locked during hair-cutting, and the floor swept afterwards, and the sweepings burned, lest perchance any hairs might remain, and be picked up by an enemy."
See: Napier, Folk Lore, Or Superstitious Beliefs in the West of Scotland Within This Century.

Or, concerning Bride in her role as midwife (traditionally, she was said to have helped Mary):

"When a woman is in labour, the midwife or the woman next her in importance goes to the door of the house, and standing on the 'fad-buinn,' sole-sod, doorstep, with her hands on the jambs, softly beseeches Bride to come:

'Bhride! Bhride! thig a steach,
Tha do bheatha deanta,
Tabhair cobhair dha na bhean,
’S tabh an gein dh’an Triana.'

Bride! Bride! come in,
Thy welcome is truly made,
Give thou relief to the woman,
And give the conception to the Trinity.

When things go well, it indicates that Bride is present and is friendly to the family; and when they go ill, that she is absent and offended. Following the action of Bride at the birth of Christ, the aid-woman dedicates the child to the Trinity by letting three drops of clear cold water fall on the tablet of his forehead.

(See page 114.)"

See: Carmina Gadelica Volume 1.

And for Scottish charms to aid childbirth:
The earliest reference I have been able to find of the use of these seeds as amulets in the West Highlands is in Johne Morisone’s "Deseription of Lewis," supposed to have been written between 1678 and 1688. His words are:-"The sea casteth on shore sometimes a sort of nutts growing upon tangles, round and flat, sad broun or black coullered, of the breadth of a doller, some more, some less; the kernal of it being taken out of the shell is an excellent remedie for the bloodie flux. They ordinarlie make use of the shell for keeping their snuff. Ane other sort of nutt is found in the same maner, of less syze, of a broun colour, flat and round, with a black circle, quhilk in old times women wore about their necks both for ornament and holding that it had the virtue to make fortunate in cattle, and upon this account they were at the pains to bind them in silver, brass, or tinn, according to their abilities. There are other lesser yet, of a whitish coulour and round, which they call Sant Marie’s Nutt, quhilk they did wear in the same maner, holding it to have the virtue to preserve women in childbearing."

In the Life of Sir Robert Christison there is an extract from his Journal of May 30th, 1866, in which Sir Robert records that Dr Macdonald of Lochmaddy had not been able to get him a specimen of because it is "so rare and is so prized as a charm during childbirth that the midwives wear the seeds set in silver for the women to hold in their hands while in labour; and a husband, who had two, refused twenty shillings for one of them, saying he would not part with it for love or money till his spouse be past childbearing."
See: Geo F Black, Scottish Charms and Amulets.

The main portion of information about baptism practises from the Carmina Gadelica is in Book Three, which is now available from the Internet Archive site (I'm linking to the main page for it so you can choose which version you want to look at or download). This excerpt I quote in full in the article, but aside from the fact I think it's beautiful, I think the symbolism and imagery it invokes of the nine waves is very in keeping with pre-Christian ideals:
“When a child was born the midwife would put three small drops of water upon the forehead of the little on in the name of the Father, in the name of the Son, in the name of the Spirit, and she would say:

The little drop of the Father
On thy little forehead, beloved one.

The little drop of the Son
On thy little forehead, beloved one.

The little drop of the Spirit
On thy little forehead, beloved one.

To aid thee from the fays,
To guard thee from the host;

To aid thee from the gnome,
To shield thee from the spectre;

To keep thee for the Three,
To fill thee with the graces;

The little drop of the Three,
To lave thee with the graces.

Then the midwife would give the child to a nurse to wash it, and the nurse would put a small palmful of water on the poor little infant, and she would sing the sweetest music that ever ear heard on the earth, and she say in this wise:

A wavelet for thy form,
A wavelet for thy voice,
A wavelet for they sweet speech;

A wavelet for thy luck,
A wavelet for thy good,
A wavelet for thy health;

A wavelet for thy throat,
A wavelet for thy pluck,
A wavelet for thy graciousness;
Nine waves for thy graciousness.

The rune would be on the nurse's tongue till she was finished of bathing the little infant.”

Is that enough? Maybe not. How about some good stuff from Walter Gregor before I finish:

"On the birth of the child, the mother and offspring were sained, a ceremony which was done in the following manner:--A fir-candle was lighted and carried three times round the bed, if it was in a position to allow of this being done, and, if this could not be done, it was whirled three times round their heads; a Bible and bread and cheese, or a Bible and a biscuit, were placed under the pillow, and the words were repeated, "May the Almichty debar a’ ill fae this umman, an be aboot ir, an bliss ir an ir bairn." When the biscuit or the bread and cheese had served their purpose, they were distributed among the unmarried friends and acquaintances, to be placed under their pillows to evoke dreams.

Among some of the fishing population a fir-candle or a basket containing bread and cheese was placed on the bed to keep the fairies at a distance. A pair of trowsers hung at the foot of the bed had the same effect.

Strict watch was kept over both mother and child till the mother was churched and the child was baptised, and in the doing of both all convenient speed was used. For, besides exposure to the danger of being carried off by the fairies, the mother was under great restrictions till churched. She was not allowed to do any kind of work, at least any kind of work more than the most simple and necessary. Neither was she permitted to enter a neighbour's house, and, had she attempted to do so, some would have gone the length of offering a stout resistance, and for the reason that, if there chanced to be in the house a woman great with child, travail would prove difficult with her."

See: Folk-lore of the North-East of Scotland (chapters 1-3).

Monday, 2 November 2009


Overall I got pretty much everything I was hoping to do done (do done? Is that even proper English? I'm really don't think it is...). Everything I did get round to doing went well, barring my ogam reading which just didn't seem to...spark? It wasn't a disaster but I just wasn't feeling it - but more on that later. I'm fairly sure I know why.

Friday was pretty much dedicated to baking and then carving the tumshies - I did three again, and seeing as they take a while and the kids had taken a while to settle in bed before I could get started, I was fairly wiped out after I finished. The past few weeks have caught up with me, I think, and even though I'd had a good three hour nap that afternoon (I'm so glad Mr Seren had the day off) I wasn't up to much else after that. I started on the pictures for our wintery scene, though - I glued and padded some icicles for the kids to paint and decorate, and put together the mountain scene, also for the kids to decorate. I did most of that one because I wasn't really sure what I intended for it so I was just making it up as I went along.

The next day the pictures were dry enough to work with, so the kids painted, splodged, glittered, glued, sparkled, pompom'd, and - most of all - gleefully made a mess of the kitchen and themselves. And me. We talked about how it was going to get cold now, and it would get frosty and might even snow. Tom was disappointed that we couldn't make snowmen now...

We were going to decorate the gingerbread men we'd made the day before but thanks to Mr Seren being a biscuit fiend, there weren't really enough left to make it worthwhile. I should've hidden them. I at least managed to save some for offerings later on.

My brilliant plan of letting the kids scoop out the pumpkin nearly didn't work out. Note to self: In future it's probably best not to shout "BRAAAAAIIIIIIIINS!" as you lift the lid of the pumpkin off. I wasn't expecting the pumpkin to smell as strongly as it did and neither did the kids, apparently - or just how much mess there was going to be:

Not Rosie's most flattering pose, is it? They weren't too impressed, although Rosie did stick with it for a bit once I dived in to help as well:

A dessert spoon isn't the most effective tool for the job, it has to be said.

Tom became a bit more interested once we got to the carving a face stage, which ended up being quite late as we had to get some food in. He insisted the pumpkin should have triangular eyes and big teeth, just like at nursery the day before. We hadn't even got the lanterns lit before the first guisers turned up, but I had time to light the bonfire outside before the main lot arrived in a steady flow. I made some offerings and a Good Wish to start the festivities properly, and the lanterns were lit from the bonfire. It took forever, though, because the wind kept blowing everything out, but once I got it all done - finally - I was about to go inside when a firework went off, almost right behind us. That was a nice touch. I was almost getting worried at one point - trying to keep the fire lit was like I was doing battle with the wee feckies, but I was buggered if I was going to give up. It's tempting to think that way, anyway.

So here are the lanterns:

I'd got a couple of bowls of treats ready, with all sorts of chocolate, Haribo, monkey nuts and apples like last year. We had a ton of guisers turn up once the lanterns were at the window, and like last year we almost ran out of sweets to give out so we had to get some more in quickly. They started coming thick and fast after Star Wars Episode 2 finished on TV - coincidence? I think not (Tom enjoyed it too, much to my disapproval). But of course, as soon as we had more sweets, hardly anyone else came.

Most of the kids did a turn for their goodies - some of the jokes were awful, some were funny, and one kid turned up wearing a gigantic afro wig and had his electric guitar with him. He played Wonderwall by Oasis and was pretty good in spite of the strings being out of tune, so he got extra treats for actually making an effort. Mr Seren refused to give sweets out to one lad who told an anti-Celtic (as in the football club) joke and just gave him some nuts and let his friend have his share of chocolate instead. The kid was quite put out at not getting his treats but Mr Seren told his friend he could give him some later if he thought he deserved it. Later on Mr Seren said he wasn't offended by the joke, he just thought it wasn't too bright telling jokes like that to complete strangers, even these days. The lad deserved a lesson, and it was better coming from someone who really didn't take offence.

We didn't get round to playing any games - dinner was late and I was busy with that in between the guisers and getting the lanterns lit, and Rosie was tired once the novelty of the guisers wore off. Mainly the fact that all the sweets were being given away and she wasn't getting any grew tiresome. I can't imagine her mood would've improved by getting smacked in the face repeatedly with a scone covered in treacle as she and Tom tried to catch it, but oh well. In the end they made their own entertainment by breaking the monkey nuts open (the packaging actually had Warning: May Contain Nuts Or Nut Derivatives on it. Apparently the company who produces them is owned by Captain Obvious), and evidently it was such good fun that Tom proudly announced, "I've got nuts!" to a small group of guisers (who seemed quite old, really) who then looked panic stricken as their minds sank to the gutter and they tried not to laugh. "Don't tell everyone, Tom, or they'll all want some," I said, which made them look like they wanted to run away. Rosie tried to make it better by handing them more and more sweeties.

Anyway, our feast was roast lamb followed by some of the leftover treats and raspberries, strawberries and cream - I couldn't do the cranachan, we'd run out of whisky. We ate by candlelight, which Tom and Rosie found very exciting, and then had some quiet time to get the kids to calm down before bed. I had a little quiet time too, before getting onto the serious business, so by that point it was getting late.

I decided to give up on the 'bonfire' outside - the wind was playing havoc with it and it was spitting a lot. I moved the lanterns to the hearth instead and did most of my devotions by the fire. I started off with the deiseal, made offerings, and sained the house with the water I skimmed at Bealltainn - paying close attention to the door jambs, but also just sprinkling it around with a few words for warding. I sained myself too. I had to take the offerings outside to keep them away from the dogs so that was when I meditated a little and thought about my beloved dead. I'm lucky this year in that I haven't lost anyone close to me, but I did feel something, a closeness of sorts from some of those I was thinking of and remembering them fondly. "Dinner's in the oven," I said. "You're more than welcome to join us." I couldn't leave it on the table - the dogs would have it. I poured out a pint of beer from Orkney that we've bought a few bottles of - all different flavours, but this one was called Raven Ale - it seemed apt given my...whatever it is...with Badb. It also seemed well received, too.

After I came back inside I made the rowan charms and hung them up - some rowan went in the compost bin too (my interpretation of 'the midden' - rowan was put in there too to stop the toradh being taken from it. Being a rich and important source of nutrients for the vegetable patch it was an important asset to the household so I guess the compost bin would be more apt than our rubbish bin which just takes the non-recyclables).

Then I decided it was time to take some ogam, but as soon as I began to pick them I just wasn't feeling it. Something felt off but I couldn't think what, so I wrote down what I'd picked and took a look at them all. One of the fews - Coll - was broken, the top had snapped off. I've no idea how it happened but I'm either going to have to glue it back together or make a new one (I'm erring on the side of the latter). I got the beeswax out and waxed them before putting them away, just to keep them conditioned). I'm not sure whether to count the fews I picked as a 'proper' reading yet, so this is going to be a learning experience I suppose - the set wasn't whole but how would that affect the reading?

All that was left was to finish off the wintery picture the kids and I had done so I could hang it up and surprise them with it in the morning. The icicles weren't yet dry but I'm still trying to figure out how to hang them up, anyway - they're a little heavy. But all in all it turned out not too bad after I fudged it a little and had to try and rescue it:

Although there was a slight hitch in that the picture is too tall to fit the space properly. Doh! But even when they don't turn out quite as I'd hoped I've been enjoying doing them with the kids and telling them all about the changing seasons, and it's a nice way to look forward to what the season will bring.

I was intending to perform the frìth on Sunday morning, assuming I was up in time for sunrise. I was awake at 6.30 so that was no problem, and I managed to sneak downstairs without waking the kids up - definitely a bonus. I had plenty of time to meditate and get into the right frame of mind to focus on what I was doing, although at first I was impatient to get started in case the kids woke up. I knew I just had to go with the flow, though, and if I was interrupted then I could probably take that as a sign in itself - I could have waited until this morning to do it, when a lot of the sources say it was usually performed, but I wanted to keep the flow of my celebrations and it seemed better to do it then.

This time I remembered to keep my feet bare and hair unbound, unlike my last go that seemed to be a failure. I was a little more sure-footed about what I was doing, too, and it seems to have gone well; I made offerings and offered a prayer to Bride, walked to the door, eyes closed, and took my place with hands on either side of the door frame. I opened my eyes to see a spider spinning a web on the porch. I see spiders as a good sign, and it was spinning its way (at least, I assume it was spinning) in a sunwise direction so I hope it is a good one.

I needn't have worried about the kids - I had time to make my thanks after I finished at the door, and then got on with the bannocks which were blessed as usual. Tom and Rosie surfaced just as they were ready to come out of the oven, so we had some for breakfast. I'm not usually a morning person and I don't normally relish such early starts, but there's something very relaxing about starting the day with a bit of peace and quiet. After the afternoon at the in-laws, driving through torrential rain and minor flooding here and there, we came home in time for the kids' bed and to narrowly miss a car crash - two cars were trying to race each other at the roundabout coming off the bypass and one must have skidded on the wet road. The car ended up wrapped around a sign in the central reservation - lucky for them no one was hurt and they all got out and laughed about it. Eejits. We stopped to make sure they didn't need help, as did another car who witnessed it all, and then drove on. I'd been feeling apprehensive all the way from the in-laws because the roads were bad, so I was relieved that Mr Seren had slowed down to give them some distance - if he hadn't, we'd probably have been involved too. My offerings just before I went to bed last night were very heartfelt...

It's been a busy but oddly calming few days and as usual I've got some bits to chew on that weren't expected. Things went relatively smoothly and I think having a vague sort of plan, with lots of wiggle room if need be, is a good way for me to be doing things. As I think about how I do things, there are parts where I like it not being scripted - the time where I contemplate and meditate, just sit and be and see what happens; but there are parts that I like being more formalised, where the repetition of doing something I've done before helps me focus - like when I perform the deiseal which I use as a sort of opening devotional ritual. I've been slowly ritualising more and more of what I do, in keeping with the way so much was ritualised from what we can see in the Carmina Gadelica, and I've been getting a lot out of it. But still when I get to actually trying to communicate with the gods I prefer not to ritualise (in a formal sense, at least). I suppose in a sense that's the time when I stop doing and just try to listen in the stillness of the moment.

Friday, 30 October 2009

Samhainn planning

It's cutting it fine but I have most things I'll need for all the things I've been planning over the next few days for Samhainn - I'm sticking to my usual format of spreading everything over three days (well, nights, mostly), so I'll be starting tomorrow and finishing up on Sunday. Last year I ended up realising each day I celebrated had a kind of theme - starting with the ancestors as the main focus for the first day, the spirits for the second day, and the gods for the third day. It worked well so I'm planning on doing the same again.

Tomorrow, then, after Tom's fancy dress Hallowe'en party at nursery, I'll start on our winter mural for the kitchen with the kids. We did glittery snowflakes last year, but I think we'll save those for when Tom finishes nursery for the Christmas holidays. They feel a bit too 'festive' to do right now (bah humbug) and it will give us something to do then. We're going to try a wintery mountain scene, I think, and we can hang the snowflakes up later on. I'm not sure I posted a picture of the autumnal mural that we did at Lùnasdal, so here it is, just for the record:

It's currently partially obscured by a giant pumpkin, though - I got one today, much to Mr Seren's disapproval because it's not traditional (although he didn't say anything until after I'd already bought it, so tough). I've got three tumshies to carve as well but I'll have to do those by myself, and the pumpkin seemed like it would be good fun for the kids to help scoop out the innards. It would be nice to include them in the festivities. And I'm willing to bet it's a bit easier than carving a turnip or two, at least...

If we have time I might bake some gingerbread men (or skeletons - Tom's going as a skeleton to his nursery party) that we can decorate as well, and I'll be saving some for the cranachan the day after. I've thought about putting some charms into the cream so everyone can dig in, but I think the kids are too young yet - maybe next year (and that'll give me time to plan for what I'll use as the charms...). I'll be making some treacle scones for games on Saturday as well - and I found this video about traditional Scots celebrations to show you what I'll try and do with them (it's only a short clip, from 1961), and we might try some dookin' for aipples if I can find something big enough for that.

Over the past week I've been trying to get the garden in order but the weather's been so wet that I've not done as much as I wanted - it'll do for the winter, though. Weather permitting, I want to build the cairn, in honour of my ancestors, beside the wee pond I've done, and bury the turnip lanterns I saved from last year so they can act as guardians in the coming year. I was hoping to get some nice rocks to dress the cairn with from the beach - larger ones so the cairn's a bit sturdier - but again, seeing as the weather's been so bad I haven't been able to yet. I was hoping to do the cairn tomorrow to fit in with my ancestral theme but I'll see how it goes. I'll be making some offerings to them, anyway.

Tom and Rosie are a bit young to go guising themselves just yet (we wouldn't get very far, accounting for Rosie's legs and my back, and she'd fall asleep in the pushchair if I took that), so instead we'll light the lanterns and put them in the window on the Saturday and give treats out to the guisers that come to our door. Hopefully we'll manage some games as well. After our feast and the kids are in bed I'll get down to my devotional stuff and light a fire in the garden (if it's dry enough...otherwise it's the hearth) as the focus - I'll perform the deiseal as usual, make some rowan charms, sain the house, take some ogam, make some offerings and leave a meal out for any visitors overnight after time to meditate.

In the morning I'll perform the frìth ritual and see if I have any better luck than last time I tried it (and at least the sun rises at a more reasonable hour now). Bannocks will be made for breakfast (Brodick bannocks, probably, the kids like them the best). And I'll finish the evening off with more offerings and some quiet contemplation to absorb everything.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

The first post...

I've been toying with the idea of doing a CR-only sort of blog for a while, which I can link to from Tairis without everyone being bored to death from having to wade through my more personal (and more frequent) posts. My aim is to give an idea of how I apply my research to what I actually do as far as my religious practice is concerned, if anyone's interested, and while that's kind of tied up with who I am and what I get up to in my personal life, I'm sure it's not absolutely necessary for you to get caught up in the minutiae there...

But maybe it would help to know a bit about me to start off with. Previously I've identified as a Wiccan - both solitary and as part of a traditional coven. I've dipped a toe into ceremonial magic, modern druidry and explored a few other paths in searching for what I'm looking for. I've identified as CR for a good five years now, in which time I've had a family and moved back to Scotland - first in the east near Edinburgh, and now on the west coast where I can admire views of the Highlands and Islands (almost) from my doorstep. But not quite.

My focus is very definitely Scottish, and my practises incorporate both my surroundings and my circumstances, so I suppose the best way to describe my focus is hearthy, but I also try to keep in touch with the more mystical aspects. I'm not a poet - a filid - a druid, or a warrior, but I do find there's a lot to learn from those who do practise those paths.

Over the next few...however much...I'm going to try and archive some of my old posts and then eventually I'll get round to maintaining this blog as a more up to date account of what I'm up to, what I'm reading, and sometimes, (when I'm feeling deep and meaningful) what I'm thinking.

What I do is constantly evolving, and hopefully you'll see that reflected here.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Archive: Before Scotland - Alistair Moffat

Before Scotland
Alistair Moffat

This is one of those books that seems to promise so much to start with and then it all ends up falling a little flat. It started off so well and then...what the hell happened there?

As the title suggest, the book covers the history and pre-history of what eventually became Scotland. For the earliest pre-history I wasn't expecting too much because there's not really much that can be said that's particularly concrete about it, is there? But I was impressed with the way Moffat weaved a story of the pre-historic peoples and made them seem almost tangible - not dim and distant, living in a murky past of generalisations, but real: ancestors of the land. Understandably, given the nature of the evidence, Moffat has to draw from a much wider area than just Scotland for much of this section - not just to put the evidence from Scotland into context, but also to help flesh things out. His mentions of Doggerland were really interesting - not something I've really come across before and it really made me chew things over in a way I've never done before. In a way, though, it kind of distracted from the Scotland-specific information, and with a distinct lack of maps and specifying which country he was talking about sometimes, it wasn't always clear where he was referring to. Or which part of Scotland, even.

The biggest strength with these chapters was the way Moffat managed to paint such a vivid picture of the people and bring it into a modern context as well - pointing out the way in which many of the islanders still hunt the birds today, for example (although more for tradition than subsistence these days). It's strange to think that things like this have been literally going on for thousands of years and it's easy to romanticise and view it through rose-tinted glasses but I think Moffat manages to stay just on the right side of that.

But then I began having problems. First of all, Moffat seemed to jump from the Bronze Age right to the end of the Iron Age in the blink of an eye, which was disappointing. The emphasis on how people lived, from what the archaeology can tell us, changed to looking at the historical sources and the effects of the Romans - for the most part it's nothing you can't find elsewhere (although it is more up to date) with a few interesting tidbits here and there that piqued my interest. As soon as he got past the Bronze Age, gone was the way in which Moffat painted such a colourful picture of the Stone and Bronze Age people (terms that he eschews, for the most part, as many academics do these days...). Instead of drawing all the strands together into weaving a story like he did before, he seemed to stay a little aloof and detached. The tone changes from almost warm affection for the subject to verging on dry - which is not to say it gets dull or boring, it's just a big let down given the previous chapters.

And if I ever end up meeting the author? I somehow doubt that I'd ever have the balls to mention the Romans in front of him. The chapter on 'Caledonia' starts with more of a rant on the Romans and modern historians attitudes towards them, than dealing with the actual meat of the book...It's probably safe to say he's not a fan...I have to admit that when he started on about how the Romans did nothing for Scotland, in the longterm, my concentration wandered off into the land of Monty Python...WHAT'VE THE ROMANS EVER DONE FOR US?!

I don't want to be overly critical of the book - I wouldn't want anyone to be put off by my disappointment with some aspects of it because what you find here is solid - even with a distinct lack of any referencing (which is not good, but it's not meant to be an academic book so it's almost forgiveable, I s'pose). As an introduction to all of the different elements that contributed towards the making of Scotland, this is a great resource and in many ways it's refreshing. While it does seem that as soon Moffat starts getting into the meat of my favourite subject - the Celts - he loses some of his enthusiasm. I wonder if it's because he's covered it already in another book and he's trying to offer something different from that? Maybe he's just not keen on the labels, especially loaded ones (to some archaeologists) like 'Celts'? He certainly doesn't seem to be keen on the Romans, but at least he's upfront about that bias.

In spite of the slight disappointment, there's nothing terrible or bad here, it has to be said. There were still plenty of bits that caught my eye - the suggestion that many of the Pictish carvings were meant as offerings to the gods which were supposed to endure, for all to see, is worth exploring a bit more I think; Moffat suggests the 'tuning fork' on Pictish stones, for example, is a carved version of a broken sword. Instead of the sword being ritually broken and then being ceremoniously thrown into a bog or river, the carving lets the offering remain in sight, making it more permanent. To make the treaty that it commemorates more permanent?

There's good stuff to ponder and it's definitely worth a read (even if the change in tone half-way through makes it a little harder to stick with). For the absolute beginner it's maybe a bit broader in scope than you might be looking for to start off with, and in that respect, for something short and sweet I'd suggest something like Richard Hingley's Settlement and Sacrifice, and then something like Sally Foster's Picts, Gaels and Scots. What Before Scotland offers is something a little more up to date than authors like Foster does now, and it also helps puts the specifically Celtic stuff into a broader context that will help give a better idea of how Scotland came to be. Read it for the context, or as a good compliment to other books if you want something more up to date. Or just because it's a fun read (barring the last couple of chapters, that is....).

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Archive: Symbol and Image/The Gods of the Celts - Miranda Green

Symbol and Image in Celtic Religious Art and The Gods of the Celts
Miranda Green

It's difficult not to lump these two books together in one way or another because in many ways they're pretty much the same book, just done in a slightly different way.

Of the two, The Gods of the Celts is the older and - I found - slightly less readable of the two. Partly it's a difference in formatting that makes Symbol and Image a better read; but mostly I think it's to do with the fact that Symbol and Image is more up to date in terms of information, and as a (only slightly, admittedly) more recent work Green seems to have developed her writing style which makes for a more engaging read overall. It has to be said that the illustrations in Symbol and Image also help to put what she's saying into a better context. What can I say? I like the pretty pictures...

For the most part Green covers Gaulish examples, and to a lesser extent she then covers the British and Gaelic evidence. This is usual - Green's area of expertise certainly lies in Gaul so that creates a natural bias, I suppose. When she covers things outside of this area she often relies on the work of Anne Ross, which is some cause for concern and caution. Much of Ross' work is valuable but now dated and Green doesn't make as much effort to balance out Ross' opinions with work from different authors who approach the subject from a different academic viewpoint as she does when she's more confident in her subject. First and foremost, though, Green is an archaeologist and not a Celticist as such, and it's important to remember this as you read.

Another problem with Green's work (in general) is her insistence on pigeon-holing deities into specific roles - sky-gods, sun-gods, chthonic deities and so on. This is a very Classical interpretation, which isn't necessarily appropriate in a Celtic context and it's a shame she doesn't really make much effort to consider or explore a more native view. The insistence on sun-gods is something that grates - what makes them sun-gods? Why the disparity between her interpretation and the distinct lack of any overt connections with the sun, or a solar role, in the surviving myths? Some exploration of this would have been nice, because otherwise it seems she's just regurgitating a commonly held view with little thought to whether it's actually correct or not. Neither does she really explain why she sees wheel-shaped iconography associated with some gods as being 'sun-wheels', except (as far as I could see) to reference an article written by herself. A little exploration of this would have been nice, to show some balance at least.

Having said all that, the books are actually quite good. One of Green's advantages is that she's able to write simply and clearly without losing her audience, and she does a good job of giving a good overview of the subject whilst also raising some points to ponder. Sometimes she delves a little too deeply into using jargon and technical terms without really explaining them (or maybe she just assumes the reader has a larger vocabulary than publishers tend to these days), but this was more of a problem with The Gods of the Celts than it was with Symbol and Image. To be fair, it's nothing a dictionary or a quick google can help to solve, though it could be annoying.

Symbol and Image focuses more on the deities and what their associated iconography and symbolism implies about their roles (so it kinda does what it says on the tin...). Each chapter focuses on a particular subject - the female image, the male image, triplism, the divine marriage, symbolism in the natural world, and what the style of the iconography itself implies. Within each chapter Green focuses on particular subheadings that are relevant - horned gods, iconography of birds, warrior cults and so on, as well as particular deities and divine couples.

The Gods of the Celts covers a lot of the same stuff, laid out in a different way. Chapters cover water gods and healing, war, death and the underworld, animals and animism, 'cults of sun and sky' and so on. The last example involves some gritting of teeth in particular, but in general these bits are easily read around if you find yourself disagreeing with it like I did. While there's a big overlap with Symbol and Image, The Gods of the Celts does a better job of giving a more rounded idea of Celtic religion and expression as a whole. Green goes into more detail about how the gods were worshipped and so it's a better read in that respect, because it probably caters more to what any budding Recon wants to know.

Because they're so similar, sometimes it seemed like Symbol and Image is a reworking of the first book but with a few more bits and pieces to add to the discussion. Each book has something unique to offer though, and they're both worth a read - they're not the be all and end all of the subject, but they're a good overview and Green gives good references and bibliographies to help you delve a little deeper if you want to. Since I found Symbol and Image to be a more engaging read, and better formatted, I'd suggest starting with that one if you're looking for a good book about the gods. The Gods of the Celts will do the job as well, and if you're looking to get a more rounded view as a beginner (or a refresher, or wider context, as a more advance type) - an idea of the religion and the gods - then start with The Gods of the Celts.

They're both good books to expand your general knowledge about Celtic religion, but bear in mind the continental and Romano-Celtic (encompassing Roman Britain as well, then) bias. You'll probably be disappointed if you're looking for a good indepth study of the Irish gods, for example, but even so they're worth a read if you want to get an idea of the different nuances in religious belief and expression across the various Celtic cultures.

Archive: Highland Heritage - Barbara Fairweather

Highland Heritage
Barbara Fairweather

This is not so much a book in its own right as a collection of booklets that were produced by the Glencoe and North Lorn Folk Museum in the 1970s, many of which are available to buy on their own. If you can find a copy of Highland Heritage going cheap then it's probably a good idea to invest in this, rather than buy them individually, but it seems Highland Heritage is hard to come by and I lucked out.

Subjects covered include the social calendar and customs, plantlore, farming, livestock, the Ballachulish slate quarry, the folklore of Glencoe, and a brief history of the area, along with selected excerpts from a wide variety of sources on Highland life and travels. Some chapters are more interesting than others, and more relevant to a CR context than others - these are:

The folklore of Glencoe and North Lorn
The Highland calendar and social life
Highland livestock and its uses
Highland wildlife
Highland plant lore

Which are both the chapter titles and the titles of the booklets if you want to look them up separately.

Of these, the chapters on folklore and the calendar don't offer anything you won't find anywhere else, but they do give a good idea of the lore that's specific to the area (which is often presented in a more general way in other books) so it's good if you want to concentrate on that because of ancestral heritage or something. The chapters on wildlife and plant lore offer a good overview of the subjects, and not being particularly au fait with herbalism, there was a lot that I hadn't seen before and was genuinely interesting to me. I can't say they offer anything very different from other books on plant lore, really, but it was different to me, at any rate.

The chapters towards the end of the book are almost entirely made up of excerpts which are mostly from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, but some are even older. On the plus side, there are some obscure and useful sources used - the sort of anecdotal evidence that help to lend some support to some of those folklore books written in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries that aren't so well referenced. I found a few references to bannocks that I thought were interesting, for one thing. For the student of Scottish history - particularly interested in everyday, domestic life - these chapters make a great resource. But to be fair, I couldn't say they make for the most thrilling of reads...

On the whole though, since each chapter was originally written as a booklet, they're all very general and lacking in any real depth, and as a book it feels a bit piecemeal and not very coherent. This makes it the sort of book you can pick through, rather than go through in one sitting - it's more suited to mine little tidbits from, when you want to get into the details details details, not so much when you want to look at the bigger picture. It's unfortunate, in that respect, that there's no indexing to help find those little gems more easily. Have some post-its or a pen and paper handy.

Taken on their own, as booklets, the more relevant chapters offer a good introduction to the subjects they cover (but not in a very analytical way, to be fair - it's all about the facts, not how to interpret those facts). In that sense they might appeal to a beginner lookng for a quick and easy read, but to be fair you're better off working through McNeill's The Silver Bough or Black's The Gaelic Otherworld in the long run. As a collection in Highland Heritage, though, it's probably going to appeal more to someone who wants to get beyond the usual suspects that tend to be high on the reading list. I wouldn't say it's a must have, but it's a good compliment.

Archive: Scots Gaelic - George McLennan

Scots Gaelic: An Introduction to the Basics
George McLennan

Since I've started my lessons I'm all enthused about learning, so I've had the books out to help get the words stuck in my head (does that make me a bit of a swot? Very likely...). My main concern about learning a new language is that I have very little understanding of how it all works in a technical sense - vocative, genitive, nominative, irregular verbs...Just the thought of all that brings back nightmares of Latin language lessons and me just not getting it. So I thought I'd get a good head start in the hope that I don't get completely lost when the time comes to get all technical. This book fits the bill nicely.

It's not the sort of book that will help you start having simple conversations in Gaelic - rather it aims to give an idea of the basics of all the technical aspects, so instead of learning how to introduce yourself and ask where the nearest toilet might be, McLennan covers lenition and aspiration, the basics of pronunciation, spelling, dialects, inflection, and so on (you will learn some vocabulary as you go, but that's not the primary focus). Each subject has a short chapter devoted to it, and everything is written in a clear and simple manner and the tone is engaging, which is always a help in my book.

The book itself is quite short and some might criticise it for being too simplistic in certain areas, but for me, less was definitely more. Anymore detail would have been overwhelming, I think, and now I'm a little more confident of facing the prospect of tackling different tenses, irregular verbs and so on, even if I know I don't have all of the basics down just yet.

The great advantage of this book is the way McLennan gives comparisons in the English language, which really helped me understand the points he was making - they allow the reader to put the Gaelic into a more familiar context, as it were. He gives examples of English cognates and sticks to words that will likely to be learned early on, rather than giving more obscure examples of vocabulary, which makes things simpler and more familiar. He also does a good job of showing some similarities between English and Gaelic grammar, which helps make the Gaelic seem less alien.

My only bugbear with the book is that while the basic rules of pronunciation are covered, phonetic pronunciations are rarely given along with the Gaelic. The last chapter gives a list of common words that can be used to get the general point across in pidgin Gaelic if you happen to find yourself stranded in the wilds of the Gàidhealtachd where nobody speaks a word of English (well not really...), but without phonetic prompts I don't imagine anyone would feel confident enough to try actually saying most of the words to a Gaelic speaker without the expectation of being laughed at. But really, the lack of phonetics is a distraction, more than anything else - it does kind of spoil the flow the first time round.

On the plus side, then - it's short and sweet, and very straightforward. Some things might need reading more than once to absorb it properly, but you probably won't get completely lost. McLennan also does a good job to accommodate all kinds of readers - not just Scots wanting to learn Gaelic, but readers from further afield as well. There's something for everyone in here, and the fact that dialects are mentioned is a big plus. That might be why phonetic pronunciations aren't usually given, though, because McLennan is presumably trying to accommodate people who might actually live in Gaelic speaking areas, who might learn different pronunciations. It is a bit distracting, though, and limits the usefulness of the final chapter.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Frìth failure...

I mentioned a while ago that I was working on developing the practice of frìth in a CR context. I've been experimenting for a large part of the past year, putting my ideas into practice and seeing where it takes me, really, and while I'd got most of it decided and organised, by the time Lùnasdal came to pass I was still feeling a bit of a block as far as how the actual wording should go. I was hoping to solidify it somewhat, by then, but poetic inspiration did not hit in time. I'm not much of a poet at the best of times, to be fair, though.

I'm not really one for elaborate and formalised ritual for the most part (I'm not much of a Cat'lic as far as ritual is concerned, I guess. I like and appreciate a set, constructed kind of ritual, with each sentence having a strict and described meaning, but don't necessarily find it essential. I'd like to be Cat'lic, in that sense, I guess. But off the cuff, non-repeatable, holistic, can work too...). And having had some previous experience to inform me, I decided to go along with my usual course of action and see where it took me (i.e. wing it at the appropriate moments as far as what I was going to say). I had a vague idea of the wording, but not so much the specific wording...I hoped to improve, to find something that clicked as a definite thing to remember. So on the Monday morning right after my celebrations for Lùnasdal, before sunrise as per the descriptions I've seen, I got up and performed my devotions and went to the front door with the usual kind of prayer I offered, the door opened and the position assumed, I opened my eyes...

And saw nothing. Granted, it was ridiculously early so I was hardly likely to see anyone walk past, but I was expecting to see a bird or two or a tenacious dogwalker at least, as I'd always done before. But no. The moment clearly passed and still there was nothing - not even a breeze to move the leaves on the trees in a particular direction. I finally gave up and went back to bed, wondering what the hell went wrong. I'd felt tuned in, I'd felt I'd said and done what was needed. But nothing.

Then the kids got up, got me up, and after breakfast it was time for a shower. And then I realised I'd forgotten to remove a hairclip - my fringe needs a cut so I've been clipping it back to keep out of the way and evidently I'd forgotten to take it out before I went to bed, so I was completely oblivious to the fact when I performed my devotions to Bride, followed by offerings, and then performed the frìth itself...And the sources I've seen clearly state that the hair should be unadorned. I presume this to mean the hair being tied back, in anyway, too. Certainly that was the only real difference from previous attempts.

There have been things I've been unsure of in the past, as far as my level of success is concerned. I guess this is my first utter, inyourface, failure. I can only hope that my theory of why it went wrong is correct...I'll be having another go around the equinox, I think - hopefully this time I'll be more careful.

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Archive: Lùnasdal 2009 - First Fruit(s)

Perhaps taking the idea more literally than necessary for the season...

What you see here is the whole of our harvest for the season so far, with the addition of some herbs that I've pruned back. A raspberry and an alpine strawberry. Astounding, isn't it?

Although this isn't technically the whole of it, seeing as there was a blueberry ready for the picking too, except Rosie nabbed it before I could stop her. She assured me it was very tasty.

To be fair though, I'm just pleased that I had something to harvest, even if it was something of a token gesture this year - the fact that all of the plants I put in to the flowerbed have survived so far is an achievement in itself, really, given the battle between the slugs and Mungo the Destroyer. I could've waited to celebrate until the other fruits had ripened (the other four blueberries then, seeing as that was all that was left after Rosie decided to pick all the others to show me that they weren't ripe yet), but there are a ton of raspberries around the village that are begging to be picked, and even three - yes three - blackberries that have ripened. That's the earliest I've ever seen them so far. I haven't found any away from the roads yet, though, so I'll wait until the ones are ready in the garden. Berries with added exhaust fumes might be a little too flavourful for my tastebuds...

It was the blackberries that decided it. I was going to celebrate on Thursday intervened.

It's been a tough few weeks with Mr Seren being away for so much of the time, so he took pity on me and offered to take the kids to softplay in the afternoon so I could have a break. Rosie has a cold and fell asleep on the stairs (her favourite spot for an impromptu nap), so Mr Seren ended up taking just Tom, but it gave me the peace and quiet I needed to get my personal devotions done and the celebrations started properly (serenaded by Rosie's snoring, of course) - I started with some offerings and a Good Wish, and put the offerings and some shells I'd painted and decorated with glitter to make them look like strawberries around the outdoor space I've been working on in the garden. After much internal debating I've gone with my instincts and decided the cairn I was intending to build to finish the space off would be better to be done at Samhainn.

I collected the fruit and herbs, sained the house with the water I've saved from Bealltainn, and decorated my shelf shrine with the herbs and some rowan berries I'd collected earlier in the week. I also put a rowan charm up on the shelf that I'd made earlier in the week, too - a bigger and fancier one than I usually do, as you can see. Then I set about making some smaller charms from a small branch that had snapped off the tree in the garden - one for me to carry about, and one to hang in the bedroom. It felt good to be making them with wood from the tree I planted - my first ones. I put them in place with the charm I made last year, which seems to work well.

That's about all I managed before Rosie woke up, so after calming her down (she insisted she'd 'lost' Tom) we set about preparing our feast. The lamb was put in the oven, with the spuds peeled and par-boiled to roast in garlic butter with rosemary, and then Rosie helped me do the cranachan and some yetholm bannocks and prepare the veg (we had peas and carrots, and some romanesco, which is a rather sinister-looking vegetable, but very tasty). Rosie had a good nose around and declared my decorations "Boo'ful!" and then homed in on the fruit...Mungo later stole the remaining bannocks off the sideboard - which I hadn't got around to putting away because they were still cooling and I assumed that even Mungo wouldn't be too keen on ginger, but nooooooooo. So that was less than ideal, but at least there was enough of everything else to leave as offerings before I went to bed. Little sod. Unfortunately that wasn't the only minor disaster to happen at the paws of Mungo...

After games (the kids got a fishing game with a magazine, so we had a competition to see who could catch the most, and we played noughts and crosses, too - we were going to play cards but I realised the only one we have in the house is Mr 'Young Magician of the Year 1982' Seren's trick deck that he uses for magic tricks...) and a bath for the kids I sat down for a wee while to catch a break and relax and contemplate. It was a nice evening so there were lots of kids running around outside and I wanted to make sure things were quiet before I took the dogs out to leave some raspberries for Lug at the vantage point overlooking the sea and Argyll and Bute that I went to last year. So eventually as dusk set in, things quietened down and off I went, Eddie and Mungo in tow, as intended, and my new charm safely in my pocket.

It was close outside and I wondered if there was going to be thunder later on - you could feel the pressure building - but the air was very still as I got to the spot and got out the raspberries. There's a large grass verge there so I'd let Mungo off the lead so he could have a run around - Eddie's obsessed with walking in circles so I rarely have him on the lead unless it's necessary, but I don't trust Mungo enough to do that unless I know there won't be any cars he'll want to try and herd (he was born on a farm - you'd think he'd know the difference between giant hunks of metal and sheep, but nooooo). In spite of the fact that it was his second walk of the evening, he had a lot of energy to bounce off so I let him at it, and he happily nosed around in the bushes while Eddie danced excitedly in circles, waiting for something to happen.

I made my offerings, stood back and took in the scenery. There were a few clouds in the sky - horses' tails, how apt, I thought...The lighthouse over on Bute was flashing intermittently, catching my eye. The air was still, humid but clean and cleansing as I took a deep breath or two. All was peaceful and calm. I was thinking about how I was starting to get it, now; I've always had a hard time connecting with this festival, but I was really feeling something this time, building on my modest successes from last year and the year before and actually starting to feel some connection with Lug himself. I felt like I was being acknowledged, heard. Something was starting to fall into place - my attempts at growing some fruit, tending to them, building up to their harvesting and so on had really helped me understand things a bit more. It's not about the start or end of the season, so much as it's about continuity. With my efforts at tending to the garden it's helped to smooth everything out into a good flow - not just one festival, then another, then another, but a thread carrying on from one to the next. And this year, I've even got something to show for it, however modest the results.

And then, just as I'm starting to feel quite pleased with myself, and I'm thinking that another piece has clicked into place, something catches my attention out of the corner of my eye - there's a fox trotting across the road some distance away. Which would've been fantastic if it weren't for the fact that Mungo saw the fox too and was haring off to say hello to his newest best friend before I could catch him. In Mungo's world everyone's his best friend, and everyone wants to play, and all I can think as I'm running as fast I can and trying to call him back is that the fox is going to hand Mungo's arse to him on a plate if the stupid sod catches up and gets close enough. Thankfully the fox was far away enough to make a clean getaway and Mungo decided that rooting around in the undergrowth wasn't as much fun as he thought it would be and came back quickly. True to form, Eddie followed and ran around in small circles - not quite sure what was going on, but being excited for everyone anyway.

So if all that was supposed to be a sign, I've no idea what it portends. Maybe it was supposed to be an acknowledgment. I felt bad for the fox getting such a scare, but I was glad that nobody was hurt at least. We saw another fox (this one we see around a lot, the other I've never seen before) as we made our way home (both Mungo and Eddie firmly on their leads, this time), and she stopped briefly to look at who was coming before scurrying off on her way. She's been a constant companion these past few weeks, along with the owls and bats, hooting and dancing around as I've walked the dogs of an evening. One night I started off being serenaded by two owls (unusual, because there's only ever been one before), saw a shooting star shoot straight ahead of me, followed our fox friend pretty much the rest of the way along our route - with her leading us from a safe distance, dipping in and out of hedges - but not before finishing off with two bats flying around together. Other times I've been woken up by a chorus of crows making a godawful racket at 4am (but not before dreaming of ravens as the noise seeped into my subconscious...). There was the frog I had to shoo across the road (I didn't want it to get squished, and it seemed intent on following us, which meant heading for the busier roads), and then the giant spider I came across in the park - which frightened the life out of me at first, but not as much as the raucous squawks of something in a tree over the other side of the park that started up as I stopped to take a closer look (I like spiders and consider them to be a good sign, but this one was seriously huge and pulsated - even Mungo was unsure whether or not a quick sniff was a good idea). I thought the squawking was kids taking the piss at first, but there was nothing and nobody there. I ended up walking around to see if there was something dying on the road by the park, it was that loud and insistent. But then I realised that maybe it was just being territorial and perhaps I should take a hint...

So there have been signs agogo recently. Maybe it's just the time of year. Maybe it's all the crap that's been going on lately. Maybe I'm just expecting to see them, so I can try to make sense of everything going on at the moment, so it all has meaning. Or maybe I'm just completely missing the point...

When I got home I took some ogam to help me focus and maybe get an idea of where this was all going. I picked h-Úath, Onn and then Gort (I got the sense that the first was referring to events since Bealltainn, much of which hasn't been good, with the second suggesting my struggling to figure things out and find the right direction. The last one seemed pretty positive, but maybe I'm just grasping at optimism...). I was worried that Mungo's antics might have caused offence (though I don't think it did, seeing as he's in one piece and looking pleased with himself, and then there was the second fox we saw) so I went outside to see what the wind said. Nothing, really. So I left out the best of the dinner and headed off to bed.

I slept badly - it was still so close and I was too hot and at one point had to get up to get a blanket because I was boiling under the duvet. I always think I should make a note of the dreams I have after celebrating a festival, because there might be an important message in them, but then I always sleep soundly and don't remember much of anything. So this time was different. Thanks to my broken sleep I had lots of dreams - some of which were just snatches of images - a flash of lightning was one, probably because I was hoping for the weather to break. I had an odd dream - a mix between Prison Break and Lost (I would guess - I've never really seen either) where some men were being experimented on in a secret prison. Their prison suits were booby trapped and kept electrocuting them, but one of the prisoners was given his freedom by the Deep Purple Organisation (I know...), but it seemed that it was a ploy to mess with everybody's heads (is it a coincidence that I dyed my hair purple a few days ago? Hmm). The men tried to take their suits off but were still getting shocks, and I remember thinking there bodies were all wrong - too long and distended and bloated. I put that one down to being too hot under the duvet, with underlying stress making it more fun. The next dream was also odd. I'm sure there was something to do with a rubber snake to start with, I think I kept having to pick it up, and then I was excited because I saw some real snakes - two of them, I think. But the main part was about a woman. She came up to me, smiling (she didn't stop smiling, in fact, but I'd caught a bit of Batman earlier so maybe that had something to do with it...Except the smile wasn't sinister or wrong in some way, unlike Jack Nocholson's...), and she was wearing a dark green dress made of heavy material. She told me I needed to ask her something, so I did. I can't remember the question, but I remember I called her Bride. She gave me the answer, which I also can't remember, and then told me there was something else she needed to say. All I remember is that she told me that I need to trust, but I know she said more than that.

The kids woke me up from that one, I think - it was barely past 6am and Tom was insisting he'd had a bad dream and wanted a cuddle (though I don't know if he had, or just didn't want me to send him back to bed because it was too early), so I was a little flustered, trying to keep the dream in my head and sorting the kids out at the same time. It was Mr Seren's turn to get up with them today so at least I got some more sleep after that, and after he couldn't take it any more I got up while he went back to bed and made some Brodick bannocks for a late breakfast, which I blessed as usual. They were very tasty with jam and butter and it seemed only fitting to leave one as an offering to Bride, with some milk.

I was going to have a go at making some cheese later in the day but never got round to it - today has mostly been about tending to the lurgy'd, seeing as Mr Seren's coming down with Rosie's cold (and therefore it will obviously turn into swine flu by tomorrow, because he never takes illness with good grace) and Rosie is still in full flow of snot, phlegm and now a productive cough. Given the crappy weather it seemed like a walk through the woods was a bad idea, considering, so we'll hold off on that - I tend to take the kids out so we can spot the signs of the new season.

Aside from that though, I've done most of the things I was intending to do. All things considered I think I've received a bit of a headfuck in return...So far I'm really not sure what to make of it.

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Archive: Daily practises and other deep thoughts...

I lurk and occasionally post on a couple of the larger CR mailing lists and I have to say they're becoming less and less relevant to me these days. It's not just the fact that the same arguments tend to go round and round with alarming regularity, it's the infuriating kind of discussions that seem to be cropping up recently, and at the heart of it there's just nothing there to interest me. So mostly I skip and surf until something piques my interest. I suppose I could try and stimulate a bit of discussion that does interest me, instead of bitching quietly to myself, but I can never think of anything that I think would be good for discussion...

...Books. I can do books. But that's a little cliche, perhaps.

There was a thread not so long ago where someone asked something along the lines of "What things do you like to do to make yourself feel Celtic?" And I thought...Odd question, and I really don't know where to start with how wrong that seems to be...Maybe it was just badly phrased, maybe I wanted it to be. But it seemed to imply that the idea was to 'play Celtic' as part of CR's religious practice, and then once it's over we go about our daily business as we were. It seemed a few responses were framed in that manner, anyway. And I admit I'm probably being completely judgemental (in the bad way, because apparently you can only be judgemental if you judge negatively. Otherwise you just have great perception skills...), but it got me There were people who replied with the usual: language, literature, music, traditional activities like weaving tartan. And they're all good answers, to an extent, but they seemed to lack something and I began to chew on what it was that I couldn't put my finger on.

And then I think the list owner pointed out that it's not things that makes you 'Celtic', you either are or you aren't - it's who you are, not what you do. There are things you can do that are all good ways of honouring a particular culture, but that goes beyond 'being Celtic' if you want to end up being CR in a serious way that speaks to the core of your being. It goes beyond slipping these things on as is convenient, and then going back to normal, so to speak. Or even endeavering to learn music, language, arts and so forth on an ongoing, daily basis. Unless you're a part of a culture, indigenous to it, do you fully understand it? Conversely, I'd say, if you're a part of the culture should you be considered to be the fount of all knowledge...Experience says no, in that respect, because obviously personal biases come in to play. And unfortunately those biases are often based on politics and racism, it seems. As far as internet forums go. And inevitably such biases are open to taste and interpretation, too.

But then, I thought, you have to start somewhere. Most CRs don't have the benefit of having being brought up in Ireland, Scotland, Wales and so on...I've always thought that CR has been quite clear that first and foremost, it's a movement that started within the diasporal peoples, or has been hugely influenced by them at the least, and that first and foremost the emphasis should be on striving to understand those cultures as best you can. Some of those from the diaspora - CR or not - seem to be more defensive and conservative of the culture(s) than some of those who are of it/them. But most CRs don't have the benefit of spending any length of time in the particular countries that form such a large part of their cultural focus, and that can be important or not. Sometimes I wonder if, from the outside, the differences between Ireland and Scotland are really appreciated outside of those countries, in a specifically Gaelic context. Then again I think it's something I'm only really beginning to appreciate a lot more as an outsider myself.

So maybe there has to be a start somewhere, a way of incorporating these cultural elements into one's daily life until it becomes an integral part, a solid foundation to build on. Is there a scale? Where would I be on it? Does it matter? The language is something of a final frontier in that respect, for me, since my efforts at learning by myself are somewhat limited (I'm hoping to start lessons in the autumn, but there's no word yet on whether these will go ahead for this year). I can only try, even if I feel doomed to mediocrity in this respect...But I do feel it's important and integral, ultimately, to my practices. It's frustrating, sometimes, knowing how far away I am from it. But if I fail, I'd rather say I tried, and keep on plugging away at the basics.

But thinking about it further, it's interesting that many of the responses in the thread focused on doing things first, and then religious practice second (if it was mentioned at all). Maybe practice is a given. I don't know. But I would've thought that as a reconstructionist, this kind of answer would be first. It got me thinking, along with some discussions I've seen elsewhere recently about daily practises, that these really are the lynchpin of CR in many ways. It's something I've been musing on since all this cropped up in the last month or so, in various places.

These days I seem to have found myself in a good rhythm as far as my daily practises are concerned: I've been making regular offerings and every evening as I prepare for bed and make sure everything's in order I turn it into a meditation as well as an act of prayer. I do the same in the morning, as I take a pause and look out of the window to see what the day might bring, and I lift my cup of coffee to greet the crows, rooks, magpies and jackdaws that invariably hop about the garden looking for tasty treats before Mungo tries to say hello (they're not so keen). My evening walks also tend to end up being meditative, and I'm finding it all very comfortable and it all feels like second nature now. I cook; I pray; I clean; I sing; I do; I am. It's not something I have to get into the right frame of mind for now, because it's become such a part of my routine. It's how I'm living my life.

It's not something that's other anymore, it's integral. And I realise I risk sounding incredibly smug at this point, sorry. Bear with me as I ramble, I might have a point...I'm not sure yet. It's just that maybe - more than anything - I've realised that CR as a spiritual practice is so pervasive, and it should be. I don't have the benefit of those who were brought up with survivals in the diaspora, along with language and a strong and deep-seated love for one's ancestry. I grew up with a few survivals and superstitions, but these were Catholic, not appropriate to my culture and the cultural milieu I was brought up in as an agnostic/atheist and by-default-Protestant.

Like many, my love and passion for exploring my ancestry is seated within a foggy romanticism that's somewhat removed from reality. I can claim a name, or two, a heritage at some remove, but really it means very little in defining me or my beliefs. As I'm raising my kids, idealising their upbringing as much as I can as a parent who wants the best for my children, and who sees that as lying in this country, Scotland, rather than the country I was born and raised in...I'm seeing what it is to be born and raised Scottish in a new light. I know my husband; I know how he was raised. But discussing and coming to understand many of the finer points of his upbringing not so far from here gives a new perspective to how I see myself, too. I learn a lot just as my kids do. For them, it's second nature, but for me it's something to analyse to embrace but see as something incorporated rather than inherent...And yet, not incorporated. It just is. We adapt...

I was brought up as an atheist or agnostic at best, although my mother encouraged religious exploration in the hope that my sister and I might find some answers as she felt (and still feels) that she never could, or can, find. So I can claim some survivals, few and disjointed though they may have been, but they're disjointed at best - mostly through my nan's efforts to save us spiritually and give us an identity culturally.

So I can only throw myself into the idea of reconstruction of traditions, rather than traditionalism. The principles seem simple on paper, but finding a personal understanding, a rhythm, takes a bit longer, I've found. It all seems to have fallen into place when I stopped worrying about doing things properly, as I've focused on so much before, and the realisation has kinda crept up on me since I made my offerings for Midsummer last week. Rather than finding that the routine of doing, praying, being and so on gets stale and old after a while - the same thing, day in, day out - I'm finding that it's helping me to evolve my practises and outlook as a whole. I've been experimenting some more with traditional dishes (Mr Seren was particularly grateful for the gingerbread I tried) and different types of bannocks (though I still can't find any barley meal, I've been looking for ages - the barley bannocks will have to wait), and even cheese-making. In addition to this stuff, I'm finding that developing a devotional sort of ritual that I can use as a formal Good Wishing and Deiseal ritual to start off my formal festivities has been very helpful in keeping me focused and structured, somwhat. Even if Bealltainn wasn't all that focused at the time, I felt...

The blueberries and raspberries growing in the garden have given me a sense of continuity for my practices, and I think for once, when I harvest them for Lùnasdal (assuming all goes well), I'll feel a real sense of connection to the festival that I usually lack. I've finally found a sense of energy again, and my increasing focus on daily practices has given me an anchor for that. It's not something that gives me mindblowing spiritual insights everyday, but it's giving me a balance. And sometimes, maybe, there might be a bit of an aha! moment along the way. But more than anything the rhythm, the reassurrance of continuity, helps ground me.

Since Bealltainn I've been feeling a lot more positive, for some reason. Being interrupted by a dying cat on one of my meditations the other week can't be interpreted as a good sign, I suppose (and thank you for your kind words, those of you who commented or sent a nod my way in some form or another), but I think I got a few more positive ones when I went to pay my dues to Manannán last Wednesday. There were no dying cats, anyway...Although it is dead jellyfish season now, apparently.

I'm still unsure as to how the 'lesser' festivals fit in with what I do in some respects. I don't go all out like I do for the Quarter Days and sometimes I think maybe I should, so for Midsummer I decided I should at least put some thought into it, in a more structured way. It kind of snuck up on me so I didn't have a chance to do much reading up on it, so I just decided on making some offerings and finishing with a feast. Since Manannán is a god I've had a long relationship with, I started off with taking the dogs down to the beach to leave some offerings there. I've been meaning to post some photos of the village, so now seems as good a time as any...

First we head to the woods - the arboretum that was planted as part of the former estate's grounds, which is situated right in the middle of the village. There are lots of trees that have fallen over because of the soft ground, but amazingly a lot of them seem to survive:

Then we come out of the woods and take one of the back lanes through the oldest part of the village where all the ridiculously big houses are. This is a view of the woods as you leave them, looking back:

Followed by one of the grand old houses further down the lane, heading towards the sea:

Then it's down to the pebbly beach and the rock pools with the views of Bute and Argyll:

(Or just Argyll, really, in this case). And then we loop round on our way home so we get to see all the grand houses sitting up high as we walk along the coastal road:

The roof tiles on the turrets look like fish scales, which seems very apt for the locale.

I went to the beach at dusk this time, and the sun was very low and peaking dimly through the clouds. I'd brought some Pittenweem oatcakes and a generous lump of butter with me and gave it to the sea from the rocks, while Mungo went off for a frolic and Eddie went for a swim. I debated about whether or not I should give something more valuable - would it be too much, or just what was required? I didn't want to offend by giving too much or too little.

I was wearing some silver studs in the shape of shells that I bought a while ago with the idea of giving them in mind, and had put them on in case it seemed appropriate to give them after all. Given the recent stresses and worries, I decided it would be appropriate to give them after all, so they went into the sea with some heartfelt words too. There always seems to be a handy gust of wind at moments like this, that seems to acknowledge what's been given.

I stayed for a while, soaking in the seaweedy salty air and the last rays of the sun, and took a little bit of peacefulness from it all - much needed seeing as my mother was due to arrive the next day. As it began to get properly dark I built a small cairn just by the sea line, so the waves would take it as it came in, and as I looked for a white stone (which I generally put on top), one stone in particular caught my eye and I realised it was covered in fossils. It's not a fossily beach so I've no idea where it came from, but I picked it up and took it as a sign that I was being given something back. A sign of a contract, perhaps. A renewal. I've taken a photo or two, to illustrate:


It's almost heart shaped, and it's literally covered in the little fossily creatures. Of course I could be wrong. It could be dried on bird poo, or something, not fossily at all...But it seems fossily to me. Either way, I shall add it to my collection of interesting things for my water feature that incorporates representation of the three realms, in my garden (which I really need to finish at some point).

I stuck my iPod on shuffle to see what radiomancy might tell me about the future, not having my ogam fews to hand and feeling that the moment was pretty much now, not later when I'd got the dogs home and fed and so on. It started off with Janis Joplin's Half Moon - very full of three realms imagery, it seemed to me, so uncannily apt given my thought processes at the time. Then there was a break beat called Rolling Thunder, so there were no lyrics but it was very funky and I noted the naturey theme - maybe the thunderiness pointing to Lugh and therefore Lùnsadal...Thirdly came Morcheeba's The Sea. Which made me think that the gods were being a little facetious at this point, but maybe it was also meant to tell me to chill out. Relax, stop worrying!

Point taken.

I went home and made some more offerings to the spirits of the house and more immediate land, and some more specific deities like Badb, before making my way to bed, and I slept well and deeply. Mum wasn't as nearly as demanding as I'd built the whole visit up to be, after she arrived the next day (later than expected), and I cooked a roast chicken with garlic roast potatoes and veg for a celebratory feast for her first night and to celebrate the passing of Midsummer, along with some cranachan and gingerbread for afters - minus the whisky, for mum's portion. She really enjoyed it all, which was a surprise, and it was somewhat gratifying too - high praise from a properly trained cook. I put some chicken out as an offering before the dogs raided the kitchen for leftovers, and it was all gone in the morning, which was a reassuring sight to see. Mungo was pissed off, too, he was really looking forward to scarfing it all down.

So this sense of otherliness...I guess I've realised that that's not what my practices are about. I don't classify them as particularly mundane either, but still. The idea of otherworldliness and thisness is never far in Gaelic cosmology of any flavour. They overlap so heavily as to be almost the same, and yet not. So contradictory and so similar. Thinking about Manannán and what he is, where I am, how I am...It all seems to have fallen into place. Stop worrying. Maybe I might just do that. Hopefully it will take me in the right direction.