Wednesday, October 31, 2012

A Samhain Blessing for the Dead


Wishing all a merry and magickal Samhain!  Tonight we honoring the dead and our ancestors.  To honor and welcome those who have gone before light a candle and say:


“For all those who have gone before,

Who dwell upon that farthest shore,


To you we drink and pray this night,

To you we call without fear,

Your voices again we would hear”


-Blessing of the Phantom Queen and blessed Samhain all!



Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Gwyn ap Nudd on Samhain

                                  Gwyn ap Nudd on Samhain

   The hounds whine and nip anxiously at the mare’s feet.  She knickers at them and pounds pale hooves against the cold ground, impatient as the hounds for the hunt.  Deep within the mound we wait, silent as the grave, for the last lingering strands of day light to vanish, for darkness to fall and the doorways between this world and that other place to open, to swing wide for the Host of Gwyn ap Nudd.  It has been so long since last we rode, and I find am as eager as the hounds to step upon mortal soil once more.

   And then I feel it.  As gentle as a lovers caress the veil moves past us, parting for a single night, and we are off.  Hooves and claws and cloven feet touch the soft greenery of the mound momentarily, before taking to the sky.  Below me the pale mare moves like lightning, her milky eyes long since blind, look back at me with another sort of sight.  Behind me I hear the calls and shrieking of the Host and smile.  Some ride skeletal mounts, others beings with wings and scales, and yet others creature to horrible to describe.  It is the night of the dead, and we will hunt and feast on the souls of the wicked.  And when we’ve had our fill the just and brave we will gather.  Across battlefields we fly, atop steeples and grave stones we alight.   A choice to be made, join our ranks, turn spirit to faery flesh, live again, or be ferried beyond this world to everlasting rest.  So if you hear our howling on the wind as we ride a’ hunting, do not tarry.  Whisper a prayer to Gwyn ap Nudd and lend your thoughts towards living well, for all must bow down to the god of death one day.  But will you be my quarry, a rabbit for my hounds to rend and chase?  Or will you ride on the winds with me, wild and free.... 

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Samhain Book Contest!

   It’s almost Samhain and magick is in the air!  During this time of year I re-bless and add to the altar I have dedicated to the Morrigan.  So to celebrate one of the Morrigan’s most sacred nights I thought it would be fun to have an altar contest.  You can enter by going to my facebook page!/pages/Stephanie-Woodfield/262507577096053  and replying to the contest thread with a picture of your altar dedicated to the Great Queen or a Samhain altar dedicated to Her by Nov. 5th.  The winner will receive a signed copy of Celtic Lore and Spellcraft of the Dark Goddess: Invoking the Morrigan!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Little Something...

   Just a little something that came to me while meditating today. I normally don't include Nemain in Her trio (usually seeing her as Anu/Macha/Badb) but feeling Nemain pulling at me and trying to get my attention lately....

I am the Morrigu,

Anu the bringer of life,

Nemain the sword that sweeps it away,

Macha the seed in the soil,

I am strength when there is no strength,

I am valor where there is only dishonor,

It is my path you must trace,

Down, down through the dark,

Down to the heart of all things,

Until you accept my embrace there is no peace...

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A Walk in the Woods...


   It is silent as I enter the woods. A single golden leaf spirals silently to the ground, landing at my feet. The air is chill and I pause and take a moment to breathe, to center my being, and fill my lungs with the scents of autumn. I breathe in again and become aware of the earth beneath my feet, feel the breath of the land spiral upward through my legs and fill my body. Silently I send a prayer to the Morrigan and Cernunnos, gods of the dark rich soil, and begin my journey.....

   Had an interesting experience while out hiking today. For me hiking is a kind of combination workout (the trails I go on are part of the Appalachian Trail, and trust me going up and down a mountain, even a small one, works up a sweat) and meditative/spiritual experience. I can exercise my body and connect with nature all at once. At times hiking becomes a kind of walking meditate, just as those who meditate while walking the path of a labyrinth. I always begin with a silent prayer. It could be for guidance, to ask the Gods for a sign, or simply to thank them for this day, this moment of being alive. About halfway through the trail I came across a deer. It appeared out of nowhere, one minute I was alone the next the doe was just here. Usually they will run away immediately but this one simply stood watching me. After a few moments I slowly walked further down the path towards the doe. We stood just a few feet apart quietly watching one another. Then above us a crow called out. It flew past us then circles to perch in a tree behind the doe. In that moment I could feel the presence of the Morrigan and Cernunnos fill and radiate through me. There were no divine revelations, no epiphanies, just a beautiful sense of connection. A moment later another hiker came down the trail and the doe startled ran into the brush, and the magick of the moment was broken. While I connect with the divine during ritual it is moments like this that I love the most. To truly live our spirituality, to truly be Seekers, we must learn to find the Gods both during the dance of ritual and when we are dripping sweating on an ordinary autumn day.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012


   In honor of Lughnasadh here is an invocation calling upon Macha, who most likely raced against the kings horses on this festival.  Macha speaks to us both of sacrifice and harvest.  Her sacrifice brings new life, from the birth of her twins as she wins the race, yet she is also a Goddess connected to death and endings.  What lessons have you harvested?  Sacrifice what is no longer needed to Macha, and me mindful of what you wish to manifest in the days to come. 

Macha Invocation


Sovereign, Warrior, Queen,

Hoof beats echoing on the ground

Unbridled, untamed,

Fiery one of the Sun,

Mistress of all things growing and green

Crow Goddess

Predictions and omens on thy tongue

Your crop the masts of battle

All warriors in the end must give you your due

Macha, I give you honor

As the men of Ulster would not do

I call to thee Macha,

Mare Mother, Lady of Horses

I call to thee Macha,

Crow Goddess, Queen of Battle   

I call to you thee Macha,

Sovereign who blesses and keeps the land

I call to thee Macha

Bless me this Lughnasadh day!
                                                                              © Stephanie Woodfield

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Sunburn, odd coincidences, and Irish faery Goddesses...

   This post started out as a promise or to be more specific a desperate prayer.  This past weekend I spent the day at Jones Beach (which was a lot of fun!)  But despite being half Greek, my Irish half has given me very fair skin, skin which after we drove home from the ocean decided to let me know how much it didn’t like being out in the sun.  At first I just turned lobster red, which was to be expected.  I don’t tan I burn like a vampire “meeting the sun” with a death wish.  Then the next day my entire face swelled, despite all the sun screen I had used, then the next day it swelled even more.  And I mean SWELLED, I didn’t look like the same person.  Kind of apropo while I’m writing about the destructive side of certain sun Goddesses, but still not fun.  It’s also not the best thing that could have happened on July 4th when all the doctor’s offices are closed.  So I desperately called every doctor I could find, only to find they were closed.  Frustrated, swollen, and not happy, I was about to give up.  I closed my eyes took a deep breathe and sent a silent plea to the Goddess.  I took another deep breathe and decided to call one more doctor.  I scrolled down on the screen and looked at the name.  Dr. Fand.  Well wasn’t that odd, a doctor named after a Irish Goddess.  I immediately thought of the faery queen who took the hero Cuchulain as he lover.  I silently sent a prayer out the Fand, if this doctor was open I’d write something about her and spend the week working with Her, letting myself be open to whatever it was she wished to teach me.  It’s not every day you come across a doctor with the name of Goddess, or one that pronounces it the same way.  At very least it was an odd coincidence, and I don’t believe in coincides.  I dialed the doctor’s number, and a human being, not and answering machine, picked up on the other end.  So as I have burn cream slathered on my face I have Fand on my mind.  More to come on her soon, but for tonight I think it will suffice to light a candle and burn some incense as thanks.         

Sunday, April 29, 2012


   It’s almost Beltane, a time of passion and renewed light and warmth.  This Beltane sovereignty has been on my mine a lot.  Beltane is a time of beginnings, a time of blooming before the fullness of summer, and the perfect time to claim our own inner sovereignty. 
   Take a moment to think of an aspect in your life that needs reclaiming.  See the Morrigan standing before you, she placed her hands upon your shoulders and fills you with strength, she wraps around you a regal cloak.  Know the Great Queen lives within you, claim sovereignty over your life, your destiny, your happiness, your creativity, etc.  Take a cleansing breathe and say:

“Great Queen guide us this day toward inner sovereignty and self-mastery.
Crown us with the knowledge of self, and the power to forge our own destinies in life”

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Morrigan and the Nine Thieves

   They made their way to the mound as darkness fell.  Within the horseshoe of stones they could see the hag hunched over her fire, the hot flames licking the prize they sought.  It towered over the old woman, nine pieces of iron linked together.  On one end a hunk of red raw meat, in the center a hunk of dressed meat, and on the far end a wedge of butter.  It might have been the cooking fire of any poor herdsman or farmer, and not a Goddess.  But the thieves knew that food from this cooking fire was unending.  No matter how much a man ate more appeared, and to eat from it was to gain the wisdom of the Morrigu, the raven mother, lady of battles.

   The boldest of the thieves crept closer, not noticing the old crone tilt her wrinkled head as if listening to the wind.  Closer now he saw the woman’s eyes were glazed over, blind.  Her hands curled and knobby with age.  Taking such a magickal treasure should be a simple task.  But as the man reached out, hand ready to claim his prize the woman spun towards him and stood.  The woman who looked at him now was not the hobbled old hag, she stood talk and imposing, her dark raven hair billowing in a wind in an unearthly wind,  her limbs young and strong, her face terrible and unimaginably beautiful all at once.  He coward, unable to move in the presence of such a being.  “If you had only asked Me for my treasure I would have freely given it, but instead you approached me as an outlaw in the night.” she said.  Her voice was as sweet as the notes of a harp, as harsh as the cry of ravens upon the battlefield.  

   Slowly the Morrigu raised the spit form the fire, with the end still hot from the fire she prodded the foolish thief in the side.  The pain of his burning flesh startled him into action, leaping to his feet he fled down the mound, his companions following behind.  The woman smiled to herself, calling after the thieves she said. “Let your brand be a reminder of Me, and that my wisdom cannot be stolen, only earned!”   

Symbols of the Morrigan

   Symbols are important, they speak to us on a primal level.  They embody the essence, character, and mysteries of a deity.  In our worship, whether it be designing a ritual or creating an altar, we use them to further our connection to deity and to draw upon their power.

   Many of the Morrigan’s symbols we already know.  Crows, ravens, cattle and horses being the most well known.  As a Goddess connected with death ,skulls (animal or otherwise) are also a popular symbol connected to Her, as well as the cauldron (such as the one Badb stirs) representing transformation and rebirth.  I would add the torc to that list, as I often use it in rituals dedicated to the Morrigan as a Goddess of sovereignty.

  But one symbols in particular that is connected to the Great Queen in her myths is often overlooked, the Morrigan’s cooking spit.  At first this seems like an odd symbol to connect with the Morrigan, but it appears several times in her mythology.  This magickal cooking spit was said to hold three types of food on it, a piece of raw meat, a piece of dresses meat and butter.  In Gods and Fighting Men Lady Gregory recounts a story in which nine outlaws beseech the Morrigan for the spit (or steal it from her).  The spit could be broken down into nine pieces and each man carried a section of it during the day, while at night they gathered together to reassemble it.

“As to the Morrigu, the Great Queen, the Crow of Battle, where she lived after the coming of the Gael is not known, but before that time it was in Teamhair she lived. And she had a great cooking-spit there, that held three sorts of food on it at the one time: a piece of raw meat, and a piece of dressed meat, and a piece of butter. And the raw was dressed, and the dressed was not burned, and the butter did not melt, and the three together on the spit.

Nine men that were outlaws went to her one time and asked for a spit to be made for themselves. And they brought it away with them, and it had nine ribs in it, and every one of the outlaws would carry a rib in his hand wherever he would go, till they would all meet together at the close of day. And if they wanted the spit to be high, it could be raised to a man’s height, and at another time it would not be more than the height of a fist over the fire, without breaking and without lessening.”  (Gregory, Gods and Fighting Men)     

  The spit appears again in her interaction with the hero Cúchulain.  Before Cúchulain’s final battle the Morrigan appears to him along a roadside as a hag cooking dog flesh on a cooking spit.  There are several versions of this encounter and how she tricked him into eating the flesh of his namesake, the dog.  In one she attacks the hero with the spit, perhaps to goad him into taking action.     

   The Triads of Ireland (number 120) makes mention of the three appliances of a blacksmith, which are "Three things constitute a blacksmith, Nethin's spit, the cooking-hearth of the Morrigan, the Dagda's anvil."  In County Tipperary we find a fulachtas mound called by the same name, Fulacht na Mór Ríoghna or “The Cooking Pit of the Mórrígan”.  Fulachtas (FULL-ahk FEE-add) or burnt mounds are found throughout Ireland, England, and even Scotland.  They are low horseshoe shaped mounds with a depression in the center, accompanied by heat shattered stones and charcoal enriched soil.  It is uncertain exactly what purpose they served but it is generally believed that they were used as outdoor cooking areas. 

   Who exactly these outlaws are is debatable.  Rouge warriors? Thieves?  And why does she give such a magickal item to them?  Why does she use the spit to attack Cúchulain?  Some have suggested that the spit and its unending supply of food represent the Morrigan’s function as a fertility goddess.  Dagda who is also connected to fertility and abundance possesses a similar spit.  But the fact that Morrigan uses this magickal tool as a weapon should also not be overlooked.  She uses it to prod Cúchulain into action, into accepting his destiny and the path he has chosen for himself.  The Great Queens lessons are often hard, and it does seem a fitting tool for her.  She is using a proverbial cattle prod to get us off our spiritual butts.  And in truth sometimes we need this.  All too often we are afraid to take those crucial steps forward in our spiritual development, or to move forward in our lives.

   The items on the cooking pit are intriguing.  The raw meat, the dressed meat and butter may symbolize abundance, as they are constantly replenished.  Another interpretation could be that they represent the stages of transformation, the raw meat being a state of raw beginning, the dressed meat the process of learning, and the butter transformation or attainment of knowledge.       That the spit brakes down into nine pieces is also no surprise, as the number nine is connected to the Morrigan several times, again hinting at a connection to transformation.   Eating or drinking from magickal items, or eating the flesh of magickal animals is often a vehicle of attaining wisdom in Celtic myths.  Drinking from holy wells, eating the Salmon of Wisdom, were all ways to attain such wisdom.  In other stories gods or spirits shape shift into animals and are swallowed (usually as flies), their spirits entering an unsuspecting woman in this manner and the god then reincarnated as the child of the mortal.  Etain is reborn in this manner, she is transformed into a beautiful fly which is swallowed by a mortal queen who soon becomes pregnant with the Goddess’s mortal incantation.  Morrigan’s spit and the food on it may have had a similar function, granting wisdom, or another of the Morrigan’s attributes, to those who ate from it. 

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Myth of Macha


   Some prose about the Goddess Macha who cursed the men of Ulster.....

    The dappled mare beside me stomps the ground impatiently just as the child within my womb begins to kick. She eyes me wearily, perhaps knowing better than the men who gather around us what I am. Another kick from the life within me, the mare dances nervously in place kicking up clumps of packed earth with her hooves, and I run a hand over my swollen stomach. Although I know it is pointless I call out to the crowd again. It is too close to my time, will they not wait till after I have brought this tiny life into the world to test my husband’s foolish bragging? But my plea is met with laughter. I look at the bearded faces around me, did a mother not bare each of them? How can they listen with such deaf ears and stony hearts to my pleas? I place a protective hand on my belly again, and think that if this had been a crowd of women I would not be answered with gears. Little do they know this was never about the race, the race is already won.
    My pleas unanswered, the signal is given and the horses run free. I begin slowly, following behind them on the track. Their hooves pound against the earth, like distant thunder, like the beat of the drums within the Sidhe hills. I concentrate on the sound, and as I run I change. What the men see I do not know. Do they see the pale woman with hair the color of flame? Or do they see the roan mare? Perhaps both? When I run I am free, the weights of the world disappear as if a great yoke has been caste off my shoulders. There is nothing I cannot outrun. I am as eager as that dappled mare to challenge the wind, and so I run, and run, and run. The crowd blurs around me, a few shout in disbelief as I easily pass the king’s chariot. This was not what they expected. They were so certain these beasts where the swiftest that ever lived. Perhaps they are, but at this moment I am the Great Mare, I am the primal essence of every horse that ever was, and there is nothing that I cannot outrun, nothing I cannot overcome. But this magick has a price, and I will have to pay it all too soon.
    When I cross the finish line I collapse, no longer the Great Mare but a woman in the final stages of labor. The crowd circles around me. These men of sword and spear, who spill blood and glory in death, I wonder, do they know the value of life? They are so close, life and death, both forged in blood and pain, whether it be the pangs of labor or the sting of a blade. Transitions are never easy, whether we are coming into this world or leaving it behind. They look at me in astonishment, unsure of what to do or say. They should have waited as I had asked. Did I not deserve that much mercy? Do they think my husband’s boast was so bold now? I think not, but it was never about the boast, or the race. I knew from the very moment they arrived at my doorstep that I would win. It was about the mercy of men. It was about honoring the women who bore them, and the women who will bare their own children, and their children’s children.
    I feel myself fading as I hear my child cry out. No, as my children cry out. Twins. Despite the pain I smile. Someone places them in my arms, a tiny mercy, although it is too little too late. I look into my children’s faces and both a fierce love and rage sparks within my broken body. I feel the blood pouring from me. It comes too quickly. The womb that brought life into the world will soon end mine, but there is still some magick left in me, and when I speak it is not as a dying woman but as a Goddess.
    Some will call it a curse. But in my mind it is a blessing. For nine generations, in the hour of their greatest need, the bearded men of Ulster will know the pangs of a woman in childbed. If men will take life and throw it away so carelessly on idle words they will know the pain, the sacrifice it took to bring life into the world. Perhaps then they will not throw is away so carelessly.
    With the last word of my spell my human body gives way. Once more I am myself, shining spirit, immortal fay, Goddess. My sisters never understood my desire to take on mortal flesh for a time, they both warned it would only cause me pain. And it has, but it has also brought two new lives into the world. Two flames that will shine brightly, if only for a little while.
    The crowd stands in stunned silence around my discarded mortal frame. As I watch my spirit begins to take on a familiar shape, sleek wings, and black glossy feathers like a cloak of midnight. No one sees the crow now perched on one of the raceway’s posts. As I fly away I wonder if they see my curse for what it truly is.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Bride and Cailleach: Drinking from the Well of Youth

   As it’s almost Imbolc the story of Bride and Cailleach has been on my mind the last few days.  Cailleach and Bride’s interactions with mythology are all about transformation. Cailleach is arguably one of the most ancient Goddesses of the Celts. In fact she may even be a pre-Celtic Goddess, possibly being an earth Goddess of the original inhabitants of Ireland, prior to their integration with the invading Celtic tribes. She is usually described as an old woman with white hair and blue skin and at times is thought to be a giantess, dropping boulders out of her apron as she walked along. She was associated with Slieve na Calliagh, a peak of jagged rocks situated in a low range of hills in Ireland, which is made up of jagged rocks, which may be why she was sometime said to have very sharp teeth.

   Cailleach is best known as a Goddess of cold, winter, and darkness. She was also a Goddess of storms and during the winter months she was said to ride through the air on the back of a wolf, bringing snow and ice to the world below. According to my Irish grandmother thunder is really the Cailleach sneezing! She also had a magick wand that she used to strike away any hints of green on the winter landscape.

   As the winter hag Cailleach kept spring at bay, usually by keeping Bride, who represented spring hidden away. In Scotland it was believed that each year Cailleach held Bride captive in a cave. Unfortunately for Cailleach her son falls in love with Bride and together they flee the cave. Enraged Cailleach chases the lovers, conjuring up storms in her wake, but with the release of Bride spring soon overtake winter despite Cailleach’s best efforts. In other versions Cailleach turns to stone at the first signs of spring, and Bride escapes bringing with her renewed fertility and warmth to the world. But at Samhain Cailleach awakes again and captures Bride and once more holds her captive through the winter. In another version Cailleach travels to a magickal isle (sometimes said to be the Isle of Skye) where there is a miraculous Well of Youth. On Imbolc she drinks from the well and transforms into Bride.

   There are so many layers to this simple story. On one hand it is a seasonal myth. In other cultures many Goddesses connected to the sun are often hidden away in caves during the winter and return to the world with spring, Bride’s imprisonment in the cave mirrors this. But we can also see this struggle between the hag and maiden, winter and spring within ourselves. At times we keep our inner fire banked, we burry our creativity, our passion our hope deep within, like Bride in her cave. And like Cailleach sometimes we are afraid to let that part of ourselves out. We resist change.

   During this time of year I think about what I have been keeping locked away within me. Have I banked my inner fires? Have I been afraid to welcome change in my life? And I think of the winter hag taking a drink from that sacred well, willingly accepting change, knowing soon she will be the Goddess of spring.

Drinking from the Well of Transformation:

   Brew a cup of your favorite tea or if you prefer use wine. Take the cup to your sacred space. Place two candles on your altar, one of each side. Blue for Cailleach and a red candle for Bride. Light the candles and place your cup in-between the two candles on the altar.

   Take a few minutes to ground and center. See yourself in a small boat. The boat glides soundlessly across the waves, and a cold winter wind blows across you. Soon your boat glides up to the isle’s shore and you step onto the green earth. Shaded by a grove of trees you see an old stone well. The well waters shine with their own light, and you know you have found the Well of Youth. Take a few minutes to consider what kind of transformation you wish to bring into your life. Are their old habits that you need to shed, new ventures you wish to start? When you are ready you dip your hands into the water and drink.

   When you are ready take the cup in your hands and hold it over the altar, saying:

Cailleach, blue hag of winter,

Churning storms and chaos in your wake,

Lady of thunder, winter, and cold,

Drink now from the sacred well,

Bring transformation,

And let me change as you do each year

   Hold your hands over the cup. Visualize a brilliant white light filling the cup, the light of Cailleach and Bride, the light of new beginnings and transformation. Then take a sip of your magickal brew. Feel the blessings of Cailleach and Bride filling you, revitalizing you, as the Goddess’ energies renew and awaken the earth each spring. When you are ready say:

Like Cailleach I transform,

I drink from the sacred well,

The darkness within transformed to new light,

I shine like Bride of the green mantle,

Renewed and transformed by the Goddess!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Book Review: The New Death and Others

   Admittedly most of the books I read are part of a series.  I love getting sucked into a story and following characters across several books and mourning the fact that a series can’t be 30 books long.  But that being said, its refreshing to read something short and conscience. 
   The beauty of a short story is that while it may only be a few pages long it can leave more of a lasting impression on you than a novel that is several times longer.  The very first story in this collection The God of the Poor is only a few paragraphs long but I found myself thinking about it for days after I read it.  So if you are a fan of horror and dark fantasy and are looking for a collection of stories that will make you laugh or make you stop and think than you’ll love James Hutchings The New Death and Others.  Teh topics of Hutchings stories range from the birth of reality TV, to demons, to a story about a sorceress who craves the magic of the Gods.  My favorites were Everlasting Fire, with Lily the demon who enjoys punishing supermodels by feeding them and dines at McDonalds (the only restaurant in Hell).  And although a little gruesome, I loved the endings to How the Isle of Cats got its Name.  Hutchings poetry was also very enjoyable.