Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Macha Lughnasadh Ritual

      For myself Lughnasadh is a time to honor Macha.  In Ireland Lughnasadh was celebrated with games of skill and horses races.  One of the events during Lughnasadh was known as "√≥enach" which is glossed as "a contention of horses" and would have included swimming and racing horses (O'Donovan, pg. 127-128). It can be speculated that these races may have been a way to showcase the best of the herd and whose stock would be the most sought after for sale during such harvest festivals.  When we look to the Morrigan’s mythology there is a pretty significant horse race that occurs at an unnamed assembly.  We can only speculate that Macha races the king’s horse during this festival, but given Lughnasadh’s association with horse racing it would make sense.      
   For this ritual the quarter calls are less about the elements so much as telling the story of Macha’s race.  If doing this as a group ritual you may wish to read a version of the story to those gathered or create your own retelling (or re-enactment even) of the story for those who may not be familiar with it. 
   It goes something like this.  Macha appears one day at the door of a widower, she becomes his wife and as a result his fields become fertile, his house is set in order, and Macha becomes pregnant with twins.  When her husband leave to attend a great fair she tells him not to speak or boast about her.  He agrees but of course breaks his word and boasts that his wife is faster then the king’s  finest horses.  The wrong people overhear this and the kings tells him to prove the boast.  Macha heavily pregnant is forced to race the king’s horses, her pleas of mercy, asking to wait until her children are born, go unheard.  Being no ordinary woman she wins the race, but falls down upon the finish line and gives birth to twins, before passing back into the Otherworlds.  With her final breath she cursed the men of Ulster to feel the pangs of a woman in child birth in the hour of their greatest need, a curse that plays out in other myths concerning Ulster.
   Both the story and Lughnasadh make me think about sacrifice, about what we must or are willing to let go of to become whole or to achieve our dreams.  The harvest is a sort of sacrifice.  The plant’s life is ended to create food for us.  A necessary ending to fuel other life.  Similarly Macha  reminds us that sometimes sacrifices must be made.  We must go through trials by fire in life to accomplish our goals, to learn and grow.    

You Will Need:
Grain and whiskey (or other offerings to Macha)
Offering bowl
Candle or statue to represent Macha

Cast circle saying:

                 As Macha marked the boundary of  Emain Macha
          so do I mark the boundaries between this world and the Otherworlds,
                              between the realm of flesh and spirit,
                       between this time and that place beyond time,
                         where myth, truth, and mystery become one.

As you go to each quarter take a pinch of the grain and scatter it in each quarter (or in an offering bowl at each quarter if you are inside)


                              Come Macha, come!
                            Faery, Goddess, Queen
                      From the faery mound you came
                        Macha with the red tresses
                         Hooded crow, mare mother,
                       Taking mortal flesh for a time


                            Come Macha, come!
                          Faery, Goddess, Queen
           To Crundchu, son of Agnoman you came
                 Bringing with you your blessings
           Fields ripe with grain, vines heavy with fruit
                     Womb swollen with new life


                           Come Macha, come!
                        Faery, Goddess, Queen
                             A boast fulfilled
                       A mother’s plea unheard
                 Across the king’s field you race,
               Hooves pounding upon the ground
                      Unstoppable, untamable


                               Come Macha, come!
                             Faery, Goddess, Queen
                      A babe wails, the victory is won
                  A curse with a dying breath is uttered
     Shucking off your mortal form you are the crow again
          You become Macha of the faery fens once more

   Return to the center of the circle.  If using a candle to represent Macha light it.  Pour the whiskey and grain into the offering dish or on the ground if you are outside, saying:

                                         Beloved Macha
                      Sleek mare, Faery woman, Bold Queen
             You teach us that there can be no life without death
                      With every harvest there is a sacrifice
                           No beginning without an ending
                                    Come, Macha come!
                                 Be at our side O Macha,
                          Let us know the right times to let go
               And when to stand firm in our conviction and deeds

   Sit comfortably.  Take three deep breathes and relax.  Think about what you must sacrifice to achieve your goals and dreams.  Ask Macha to help you release all that hinders your path and to help you accomplish your goals.  If you have any spellwork planned do so now.

   When you are ready go to the north/east/south/west saying:

                        Faery, Goddess, Queen
                 Depart in peace beloved Macha!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Frequently Asked Questions of a Traveling Priestess

   In doing workshops and other events there tends to be a few questions that I am always asked.  They are all great questions and have led to some great conversations so I thought I would share them on the blog for those who haven’t seen me speak or gone to one of my workshops.  And if anyone else can think of any good questions feel free to ask here!

Morrigan and Morgan Le Fay are they the same?

   This is perhaps the most popular one.  This is my own opinion on the subject so if you feel differently there is nothing wrong with that!  Are they identical, one and the same- No.  Do I see a connection between the two- Yes.  When I work with the Irish Morrigan/Morrigu, I am working with the Morrigan.  When I work with Morgan Le Fay, I am working with Morgan Le Fay.  Their energies feel different to me.  But when we look to mythology I do see a connection, or perhaps the correct word would be evolution, between the two.  The etymology of their names are dramatically different, Morgan Le Fay comes to us from Welsh mythology and Morrigan from the Irish lore.  But like other gods like the Irish Lugh, who has a counter part in the Welsh lore as Lleu Llaw Gyffes, much of the ideas and deities that the Irish celebrated migrated to other regions.  I see many connections between the Welsh Modron and the Morrigan.  Like Lugh and Lleu they are not quite the same but the connection is still there.  Modron eventually evolved into Morgan Le Fay, both having the same husband and having many parallels within their stories. (I could write a whole blog about those connections so you can reference by book for more details)    For me the connection is there. I work with them separately but with that evolution in mind.  I take a similar approach with Lugh and Lleu, not the same but the connection is there.   

You compare the Morrigan to a lot of Goddesses in your book why?

   Part of the what I wanted to do with Celtic Lore & Spellcraft of the Dark Goddess: Invoking the Morrigan was to have everything you’d possibly want to know about the Morrigan in one place.  So that being said it is impossible to do that without going into all the goddesses that have been connected to (correctly or not) with the Morrigan.  Do I think they are interchangeable goddesses? No, absolutely not.  Goddesses like Modron, Aine, Nemain (who I consider to have been confused with Badb and be a separate deity) all have their own distinct energies.  They are connected to Morrigan, some in big ways and others in smaller ways, but they are not the same as the Morrigan. For example Lady Gregory tells us in her collection of Celtic lore that Aine was said to be the Morrigan herself.  There’s the connection, and it is worth exploring.  Whether you decide that connecting with Aine will further your study and worship of the Morrigan is up to you, but at very least it is important to note that there was a connection drawn between the two for whatever reason.  Same goes for Nemain who is only once mentioned along with Badb (one of the three goddesses that form the Morrigan) in the Cattle Raid of Cooley, and in my mind is a similar goddess who has come to be confused with Badb, and thus the Morrigan. When I first began searching for information about the Morrigan I came across these comparisons to other goddesses and I feel it is necessary for those working with Morrigan to explore theses connections and make their own decisions as to if they will be useful in the their own practices.           

Should we label the gods?  Why do you consider the Morrigan a Dark Goddess?

   When I think of the Morrigan I think of her just as the Morrigan.  Words like Mother come to mind- for she is my mother, and has become an inseparable part of me.  She is so many many things.  She embodies so many powerful lessons and guises.  It’s not hard to understand why she was seen as a shape-shifter, she doesn’t really like to be pinned down to one thing for very long.  But if I have to put a label on her Dark Goddess would be it.  Of course this all depends on what you consider “dark” to mean.  For me “dark” deities are gods that embody transformation, liminal deities, gods that deal with death, and are connected to the underworld.  Dark for me conjures up images of dark rich soil, fed by the decay of other life, yet nurtures the seed and new budding life.  It reminds me that I can never create without destroying.  These god challenge us, they lead us to transformation which is at its core a process of destruction to create anew.  They also embody the things we fear, which are usually the things we need to look at the most. 
   I don’t think that the Celts would have seen her as a dark goddess, they were closer and more at peace with the things she teaches, where we in modern times are not.  Who knows maybe in a hundred years Aphrodite will be a dark goddess to the pagans of the future.  The label of dark goddess is a starting point.  Just like saying Artemis is a moon goddess is just a starting point for her mysteries.  This of course brings up the idea of whether or not we should label the gods.  As humans we give things labels in an attempt to understand them, and wrap our heads around ideas and concepts.  It’s impossible to not try to categorize the gods, and that can be both a good and bad thing.  When we pigeon hole a deity and see only the label and fail to see what that deity is truly saying to us or embodies then it becomes a crutch and does not serve us spiritually.  It is something we have to remind ourselves not to do when working with any deity.  The Morrigan is a very well rounded figure, there is a lot to her personality and mysteries.  I call her a dark goddess based on my own definition of what a “dark” deity is, but she is far more than just that, just like any deity.         

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Badb’s Song

Badb’s Song

“Over his head is shrieking A lean hag, quickly hopping,
Over the points of their weapons and shields.
She is the grey-haired Morrigu."

   A chorus sings below me. Throaty cries ring out, shouts and the clashing of shield and sword.  The power of the fray spirals up on the air.  It caresses black feathers, I sore higher and higher, following the call of battle frenzy, and the smell of mingled blood and sweat to those who whisper, shout and scream my name.  Blood spills upon the ground, life ebbs and flows.  They sacrifice their lives so easily, so willingly, so wastefully.  Some to protect those they love, some for valor, ideals, others pettiness and greed.  I drink it all in, the sweet and the bitter.  I am all of it, the frenzy, the battle madness, the power behind what makes men stand defiant.   I make them remember some things are worth dying for.
   When all is done, when all is quiet my feet touch the ground.  Feathers become pale flesh, talons nimble feet.  I am a shadow upon the battlefield.  My fingers brush cold skin, weaving moonlight, unbinding spirit from husk.  Over shields and weapons I glide gathering the dead as spirits rise from ruined flesh like morning mist.  If not for I who would care for the dead?  What god has the stomach for it?  Who would guide spirits and shades to rest, who will wash the bloody armor clean and bring the soul to rebirth, if not for I?  Birth and death are both a bloody thing, but I was never one to turn my head away from an un-pretty truth.  
   A crooning sound escapes my lips, and I sing.  “Your tether to life I unbind, your fate I unwind,   so in my halls this night you will dine…..”  I sing, and sing, of life and death and all that is in between, and spiritsgather.   They will call me the spirit of war, the crow of battle, and they will fear me.  But I am the one who makes life sweeter by reminding you it will one day end.  I am the one who gives you courage when you stand upon the precipice.  I am a necessary darkness, a necessary truth.