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This May I was blessed to be asked to teach at a wonderful event at Dunderry Park in County Meath in Ireland. 'Animystics' was a two day event that wove together various Celtic traditions and earth based practices to really deepen our connection to the earth and our own souls. My session was all about connecting with tree spirits, and the tradition of the Bile, or sacred tree, clan totem and representative of the world tree in the Celtic Traditions. Standing there, in a field on a beautiful May morning, I was struck again by how such simple acts as breathing and being present to nature can restore our balance, and by extension our connection to our own sovereignty, our own souls, and the soul of the earth Herself. Dunderry is just a few miles from the hill of Tara, said to be the ancient seat of the semi- mythical high kings of Ireland, and I felt the ancient ancestors, with their passionate love of the land reach out to us, to remember, and honour Her again as a way to restore ourselves in these often troubled times.

Tara is such a special place, a wide green hill that overlooks a vast and verdant landscape. On a clear day it is said you can see all of Ireland from it's summit. Once an Iron Age hill fort, it is also home to a Neolithic burial mound, 'the mound of the hostages', granting access to the womb of the earth, the realm of the sidhe, and the Lia Fáil, or Stone of Destiny, said to have been brought from the otherworldly city of Falias by the Tuatha de Danann, the Irish gods. The Lia Fáil is said to cry out when the rightful king stands upon it. Once it stood beside the mound, but now it stands sentry a little further off, overlooking the wide plains below. Whether this solitary monolith was truly the ancient mythical stone will always be up for debate, but standing there touching its weathered grey sides, sensing the endless generations that have come here, and used this as the touchstone, the still and central point to anchor their spiritual and earthly selves together, to find that link to sovereignty in a world that tries to take so much soul and so much power from us, is always a healing and humbling moment.

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Pagan News Beagle: Fiery Tuesday, March 29

We remember a momentous event in Irish history. The international community turns its scrutiny on the disappearance of five booksellers in Hong Kong. And the role of Muslims in Western media is examined. It's Fiery Tuesday, our weekly segment on political and societal news from around the world! All this and more for the Pagan News Beagle!

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
The Food it Wouldn't be Samhain Without

It's the quintessential Irish Samhain food: colcannon.

The name means “white-head cabbage”: col (as in “cole slaw”) + ceann (as in Kennedy, “black head”) + finn (“white”), but cabbage is only one of the autumnal triumverate that make up this classic of the peasant kitchen, onions and (of course) potatoes being the others. Before the coming of the spud, likely turnips—that other classic Samhain root vegetable—would have been the third.

How many foods do you know that have (and deserve) their own song? You can hear Mary Black singing its praises here. We sing this song every Samhain. Then we dig in.

Colcannon is good, hearty winter food, but the Samhain batch is special because then you put in the divinatory tokens before you serve it: the coin (for money), the ring (for love), the thimble (some say, spinsterhood; others, creativity).

One Samhain my covensib Kay got the coin. “I could certainly use the money,” she said, “but it doesn't seem very likely; I'm already at the top of my pay grade.”

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    I love the way that holiday foods carry memory. An anthropologist friend of mine once quipped, "Tell me what your family eats at C
  • Anthony Gresham
    Anthony Gresham says #
    I don't think I've ever tried Colcannon before, but it sounds interesting. For myself I take the last Saturday in October to make
  • Carrie-Anne
    Carrie-Anne says #
    A bit confused, Samhain was replaced by All Hallows around 800ad, and potatoes weren't introduced to Ireland until the mid 16th c
  • Mabnahash
    Mabnahash says #
    I didn't realize my poor Irish ancestors of a few generations ago didn't count as peasants. Why are more modern foods not legitima
  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    I can think of numerous examples of divination (or selection) by means of tokens served in food. Plum puddings usually have a sixp
Pagan News Beagle: Watery Wednesday, September 16

Witches gather in New York City in an annual street fair. We take a look at images of a Neolithic tomb through the ages. And Crystal Blanton considers the importance of maintaining a diverse and welcoming Pagan community. Today is Watery Wednesday, our weekly segment on news related to the Pagan community's past, present, and future. All this and more for the Pagan News Beagle!

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Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs
Making (Fairy) Tracks

By serendipity I met a friend in town on Saturday. Over coffee and an organic raspberry and white chocolate scone (still slightly warm), Mandy told me how she and a friend had been haring round Ireland on a road trip on the trail of the sidhe. Their trip took them from Tara in the east, down to Clare, then up to Carrowkeel and Knocknashee in Sligo. They took in some of the most sacred sites and amazing megaliths in the land.  But they didn't really need to stir themselves so far from Fermanagh. They are all around us here. Or maybe I am just sensitive to the local fey vibrations.

Tourists ask me if I see fairies. I answer honestly. I don't see them and I very much doubt they are very much like Mabel Lucie Atwell's vision of them.  Here is West Cavan I experience them as nature's skin turners and messengers. But maybe that's just how they want to show themselves to  me, for I have a strong suspicion that when they want to make themselves known as friendly allies they choose a form that is least threatening to their beholder. So maybe children do see Mabel Lucie Atwell creations. Musicians hear fairy music. But I have seen a hitch hiker that turned out to be a heron standing on the road verge. A local storyteller saw a bent old woman that turned out to be a hare. 'Turned' being the operative word.

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Recent Comments - Show all comments
  • Bee Smith
    Bee Smith says #
    The local tradition I was told, Francesca De Grandis, is that it is usually unwise to extend a building to the west. A neighbour s
  • Francesca De Grandis
    Francesca De Grandis says #
    Thank you for that. I enjoyed reading the details of your local lore, it resonates with me. And, yes to the local easygoing atti
  • Francesca De Grandis
    Francesca De Grandis says #
    I LOVE your story of taking down the shed and luck changing. I sometimes feel like the Lone Ranger for believing in stuff like tha

Posted by on in SageWoman Blogs

There is a cultural stereotype that Ireland is a Catholic country, harrassed by clergy and neurotically pious. The literary canon tends to reinforce this view; contemporary writers are less concerned with overturning this and getting on with fresh material. Ireland may be a majority Catholic country, but as Catholic friends from other countries point out - not as they know it! While the Catholic Church may be a social institution still, especially in rural areas, it does not hold sway spiritually anymore.  (The resounding 'Yes' vote to gay marriage on 22nd May 2015 in the Republic of Ireland displayed little heed to Bishop's sermons to the contrary.)  The popularity of ancient sacred sites at Summer Solstice is one piece of evidence that Ireland has never really divested itself of her pagan roots. 

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Pagan News Beagle: Watery Wednesday, May 27

One of the most important parts of building a community is making sure everyone has access to the necessary resources to keep them alive and comfortable. Water is perhaps the most fundamental of those. This week in Watery Wednesday we take a look at (among other things) communities around the world that are working to maintain easy access to water or those that have formed in areas where water is scarce. Continue below to find out more!

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