Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A Storm of Crows....

   A couple of years ago when Morrigu’s Daughters was still fairly new I had a vivid dream, the kind of dream you wake from and aren’t really sure which world is the reality and which the dream.  The part that stuck with me the most was seeing the sky full of ravens, so many it blotted out everything else except this storm of black feathers.  In the dream I was one of the ravens, and when I woke up my fiancé said I sat strait up and complained to him that my wings were gone.  Thankfully he’s the kind of guy who shrugs the weird things I say off as me being me.  I came across the post I wrote about it a few days ago on the Morrigu’s Daughters website, while looking for something else, and its been back on my mind ever since.  At the time I took it to mean in part that we were gathering her “ravens” together, as the site had been growing a lot at the time.  And I thought it was ironic that many of us used “raven” in some form or another as part of our screen names for the site.  We really were, and are, her own little flock of ravens.  Here is what I wrote at the time:

“I hold a black feather in my hand. As I move I brush the soft tip of the  feather along the ground, as if casting a circle. I move in an arch tracing a pattern on the ground, but it is not a circle as I first though, instead I spiral closer and closer to an unseen center, tracing the pattern of a labyrinth or a spiral on the earth. Where the feather touches a black line appears, like black ash on the pale ground, or ink on ivory skin. The symbol is important, and all my concentration goes into etching it. As I move closer and closer to the center I begin to change. I no longer hold the feather, it is part of my arm and soon my arms become black wings, and I am some strange combination of bird and woman. Reaching the center of the spiral I feel like I have reached the center of my being, or perhaps the center of the universe. There is a stillness here, and I feel complete, whole. I raise my hands/wings upward and the transformation is complete. I lift into the sky as a raven. I fly for a long, long time, simply enjoying the feeling of freedom flying brings. Then there is someone below me. I circle around a clearing.  I feel drawn to glide closer and closer.  A woman stands in the clearing, her hand upraised stirring the air as if it were a cauldron. Her hand is human, but along it are black feathers, sprouting from her arm down to her back. She  is naked save for a black cloak with a beak like hood pulled down over her head, below it I see her lips tilt upwards in a secret smile. She is a strange combination of bird, woman and Goddess and I know immediately it is the Morrigan. She has never appeared in this way before.  She is usually either a woman or a crow/raven, or at times transformed from one to the other. Regardless I simply know it is Her. Around me I notice other dark shapes fill the sky, other black birds circle her, although I know on some level that they are no more birds than I am, despite the shape I wear. There are so very many.  The air is thick with them.  The sky is filled with storm a cloud of ravens, and it is these clouds she stirs with her outstretched hand. I fly down to the woman and when I touch the ground I am myself again. A silent understanding passes between us and I see in my mind’s eye the birds who circle over head, I see them spread out across the world, I see them filled with the Morrigan’s light and I see them doing amazing things, spreading a light within them to others. In my mind’s eye it looks like a soft blue light, pulsing like a brilliant aura around the Morrigan, and up to the birds, her children, then out to the world. She smiles at me. It’s a wicked kind of smile. Not sinister or bad in any way, but full of mystery, guile and secrets.  Only the Morrigan can smile that way. She kisses me on the brow and I wake up.”

   Today I had a very corvid filled day.  This morning three crows flew by the front of the building I work in.  The front of the building is mostly glass and they were very close, creating this streak of black whooshing by, accompanied by this chorus of loud hoarse cawing.  It scared the heck out of someone walking into the building, which made me laugh.  I felt the Morrigan’s presence the whole day, but she wasn’t quite done getting my attention.  As I drove home I drove past the town park.  Its just a little strip of green with a playground along Candlewood lake.  I drive past it everyday.  I might see the occasional crow there, or even a raven once in a while, but nothing like the gathering that greeted me as I drove by today.  Every tree was filled with crows.  Every single one.  They were everywhere I looked, and the sound of them all calling out was all I could hear.  I literally stopped the car and parked, and just watched them in awe.  The sound of so many corvid voices, all calling out at once echoed through me. The dream came flooding back to me.  A gathering of crows, a flock, a herd, a mob, an army of the Morrigan’s children gathered together. 
   I walked around the park for a little bit, sat on one of the benches by the lake and watched them.  I quietly chanted “Morrigu, Morrigu, Morrigu…..” over and over to myself.  It was a cold day, with some snow still on the ground, and there was no one in the park save myself and crows.  I thought of all the people who had gathered together to honor Her at the PantheaCon ritual I had attended, I thought of other rituals where Her children have gathered together, I thought of all the sisters on Morrigu’s Daughters, I thought of all the people who have emailed me or talked with me about being drawn to her, I thought of how she is calling her children together.      
  In my mind I tell Her  “Tell me what to do, and I will do it.’’  The reply comes immediately.  “Be a Power.”  The same message I received from Dagda (see my previous post for more on this).  The Morrigan is gathering her Tribe, She is calling to us more than ever before.  She is calling her heroes, her champions.   An army of ravens.  There is work to be done. 
  But what is the work?  What is she rallying us to?  I think in lettering her into our hearts, in letting her transform us, we in turn begin to transform the world around us.  The world certainly needs it.  And all who stands before the Morrigan leave transformed.   

* Above artwork by Larry Vienneau 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Cauldron of the Dagda

    (Cauldron of Bounty, shows a stone basin found inside the Eastern
passage of the central mound at Knowth.)

“From Muirias was brought the cauldron of Dagda;
no company would go from it unsatisfied.”

-Lebor Gabala Erenn

   The cauldron is a symbol we find woven throughout Celtic mythology.  It always seems someone either has a magickal cauldron, is trying to steal one, or is on a quest to find one.  This past week at PantheaCon it was a symbol that kept popping up for me.  Part of the Coru priesthood’s Four Treasures workshop was a guided meditation in which we worked with the energy of the four treasures of the Tuatha Danann, one being the cauldron.  In my own mediation both the cauldron and spear came through very strongly.  I could see the spear in vivid detail, its wood carved with intricate knots (which had me inspired to pull out my wood burning tool as try making a ritual spear that looks like it!), I felt draw to it, along with a need to hold it at the ready.  For me it symbolized my journey on the warrior path.  I also felt a strong pull toward the cauldron, which surprised me a little.  I’m a girl who likes her swords, which is apparent to anyone who has seen the large number of them in my house.  Part of me expected to be drawn in some way to the sword, but in the mediation it felt present but off in the shadows to me.  The cauldron drew me in, it felt deep and vibrant, inviting me to hold it in my hands.    

   The next day one of the workshops I was planning on attending filled up so I went to another one instead.  Ironically enough it was about the Cauldron and the Grail by the lovely Vivianne Crowley.  At the end of the workshop there was another guided meditation which started out fine until to put it mildly it got “hijacked”.  In both my own practice and in teaching meditation and pathworking I find this can happen quite often.  You start going through a guided landscape, then suddenly the pathworking/mediation takes on a life of its own.  The instigator of said hijacked meditation was Dagda.  So instead of continuing to listing to Vivianne’s voice, with it’s lovely accent, guide me, I followed Dagda into an earthen mound.  You might think that as a Priestess of the Morrigan I would work with Dagda, as they are often linked in mythology.  But I’ll admit he has never been a deity that came through very strongly to me in the past.  It has always been Lugh and Cernunnos who called to me.  But be that as it may there he was, a mixture of humor and jovialness with a kingly presence, beckoning me onward.  Once in the mound he held up a copper cauldron and breathed upon its contents in a ritualistic manner.  He held it out to me and said “Be a Power.”  I use a capital “P” because that word had weight to it.  Then I took the cauldron and drank from it, its liquid seeping into my bones, into my flesh, and into my spirit.  Then Vivianne’s voice came back to me and I was being called back.

   What I find interesting about the cauldron is that while we think of it as an inherently feminine object, namely representing the womb, in Irish lore it’s almost always possessed by a male figure.  We have Dagda and his cauldron that no host can leave without being satisfied and filled to contentment. The smith god Goibniu possessed a cauldron of healing, which could restore slain warriors to life.  Lugh’s spear could only be soothed from its “battle furry” by being dipped in three cauldrons.  What some would see as the ultimate symbol for femininity is almost always possessed by a male.  In Welsh mythology the pattern continues.  There is Bran and his cauldron of rebirth, and Arthur who quests for the cauldron in The Spoils of Annwn.  Even the brew of the cauldron of Cerridwen, whose cauldron and its story we are perhaps the most familiar with, is made for a male (her son), then later stolen by another boy who transformed into Taliesin.  I find there to be a nice symmetry to the idea of the masculine principle leading one to its polar opposite.  In his article on the cauldron Michael Ragan (http://www.danann.org/library/symb/cauld.html) suggests that no one can possess the cauldron/grail and that it is not possessed by these male figured but protected and held in trust by them.  Either way these male figured seem to be our initiators and guides to the mysteries of the cauldron.

   When it comes to Dagda’s cauldron I keep coming back to the lines from the Book of Invasions, “No company would go unsatisfied.”  It does not say it produces a particular thing, only that it satisfies all who come to it.  On one level it is the cauldron that provides for the people, a symbol of wealth and fertility.  But on the spiritual level, it is the vessel that nourishes the soul.  It shifts and changes and become what we need the most.    

   We’ll see where this works takes me, but for now it seems I’ll continue onward where Dagda leads me.  Should be an interesting journey.       

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

PantheaCon: The Heart is Our Nation Morrigan Devotional

“While I can breath I will take my stand,
The heart is the only nation.”
-Lyric from The Heart is the Only Nation, Ruth Barrett & Cynthia Smith

  I hear singing.  I find myself humming the melody in my waking hours, I hear it mixing and interwoven with a rhythmic chant in my dreams. Sometimes it is a quiet whisper, other times a mighty roaring sound. Rituals and their energy tend to stay with you long after all the participants have left, the offerings have been made and the invocations have ended. I’m use to it. I’ve felt it before - especially where the Morrigan is concerned. But something about The Heart is Our Nation: A Morrigan Devotional ritual at PantheaCon will stay with me for a long time. I’m a New England Pagan, which means there aren’t that many Pagans that live nearby (at least comparatively to other parts of the country). Although I do go to many festivals and gatherings they are nothing on the scale of PantheaCon, and there is something awe inspiring about a room full of a hundred plus Pagans chanting, shouting, then finally screaming the Morrigan’s name. The Morrigu’s presence was so palpable in the room I could feel it thrumming through me. At one point we all came close, hand in hand, and sang the last few lines of The Heart is the Only Nation (just want to give a little shout out to Amelia Hogan- your singing was beautiful that night!) and shouted out what we were willing to stand up and fight for. I could feel the energy of our combined voices and Will as waves of energy rippling towards the center of the circle, being received by the Morrigan. There was nothing tame about the ritual, from the spear and sword play fighting that went on as participants entered the ritual space, to the fierce shouts of our voices and hearts. The energy of it was raw and primal, and sliced right to the bone – just as the Morrigan does. My words don’t do it justice, but many I spoke to afterwards felt similarly. We called upon kinship and sovereignty, and over the last few days I find myself feeling and becoming more aware of the threads that tie us all together.

     I also felt the need to wear my torc to the ritual. It’s a plain piece with black onyx ends, but for me it represents my own inner sovereignty on a deep level. I blessed it when I underwent my priestess initiation ritual, and later when I did my warrior dedication ritual. It’s been with me over the course of many years, and I have changed much since the first time I wore it and called to the Morrigu. I became very aware (that’s the best way I can describe it) of it around my neck during much of the ritual. Of both the weight and freedom sovereignty bestows. Over the past several months much of the work I’ve been doing with the Morrigan and others has been about sovereignty. And I find myself thinking that kinship and sovereignty are connected. We have to claim our own sovereignty, see our own sacredness, feel the urge to stand up and fight for what is important in our lives to really value and find kinship.

    I had planned on going to the Hekate ritual that was planned a few hours after, as Morrigan and Hekate are two of the three main Goddesses a group I am part of work with. But after I left the Morrigan ritual it felt wrong to do anything to disturb the energy I felt humming through me. I ended up sitting and talking to a friend for a few hours, before we went to watch Morpheus embody the battle crow in the Faces of the Goddess belly dance performance. (And all I can say Morpheus is Wow! I can trip over my own feet, wish I could dance like that!) But looking back it was the perfect way to ground the energy of the night, sitting with a friend in kinship, sharing experiences, and honoring the ties that bind us.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Kings Arise to Battle!

   If you’ve read a lot of translations of Celtic stories you not doubt have encountered numerous passages that end in “……..”.  Sometimes there is good reason for these frustration gaps in stories or poems.  The original text may have been damaged for example.  But other times these “……” are parts of difficult text that have simply not been translated into English.  There is one particular “…..” that has always particularly frustrated me.  It’s a part of the Cath Maige Tuired were the Morrigan appears to strengthen and rally the warriors of the TuathaDanann.  In all the English translation texts she says “Kings arise to battle!”  and then those annoying dot, dot, dots, appear.  Well what did she say after that?  How does the Great Queen inspire the hosts in the middle of the fray?  I’ve always wondered what was in that deleted part.  Luckily I came across someone who went about translating some of that difficult text.  If you haven’t already check out their wonderful blog/podcast, Story Archeology. http://storyarchaeology.com/2013/01/27/poems-of-the-morrigan/

   There are several things I find interesting about the Morrigan’s speech.  While much of it is her describing the battle, and stating that it will be both bloody and the stuff sung of by bards, there are a few lines that stand out.  She tells us “I see all who are born [in the] blood-zealous vigorous battle”.  Well a battlefield is a rather odd place to be talking about birth.  Could it mean she is saying one is not truly alive until one has done battle?  Or perhaps the warriors are born into the spirit world as they fall in battle, reflecting her role as a psychpomp. 
   I also like the line “In the mossy margins / the helpful raven drives / strife to our hardy hosts.”  While mostly self-explanatory I think it says a great deal about the Morrigan’s nature within the battle.  She is the helpful raven who brings victory to those who favors and strife to the enemy.  She is victory to some and terror to others. 


Poem A: Section 137, Lines 683-693
Translation by Isolde Carmody:

"Kings arise to [meet] the battle

Cheeks are seized

Faces [honours] are declared

Flesh is decimated,

Faces are flayed

 [incomplete word] ?? of battle are seized

Ramparts are sought

Feasts are given

Battles are observed

Poems are recited

Druids are celebrated

Circuits are made

Bodies are recorded

Metals cut

Teeth mark

Necks break

 [A hundred] cuts blossom

Screams are heard

Battallions are broken

Hosts give battle

Ships are steered

Weapons protect

Noses are severed

I see all who are born

 [in the] blood-zealous vigorous battle,

raging [on the] raven-battlefield [with] blade-scabbards.

They attempt our defeat

over our own great torrents

Against your attack on the full [compliment] of Fomoire

In the mossy margins;

the helpful raven drives

strife to our hardy hosts

mustered, we prepare ourselves to destroy

To me, the full-blooded exploits are like

shaking to-and-fro of hound-kills"