31 Days of Offerings – Day 23-26: Shying Away from The Great Offering

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I have the gall to whine at a goddess about my difficulties resolving concepts of ‘Pagan’ and concerns about many, many of the practices of that community, and to wonder whether my strategy from here on in should be silence.

And my Lady, who has called me to tell her stories and speak her name, came to me as a mighty giantess walking along the shore of Oileán Baoi in the early dawn, the hills of her island rising dark and strange behind her, the cold and death and rebirth of a coming November blowing the first winds of a storm across the dark water.

The shores of Oileán Baoi, island of the goddess now known as Cailleach Bhearra

The shores of Oileán Baoi, island associated with the goddess now known as Cailleach Bhearra

And she said…

Do you think you are a daughter of a queen? Are you from the tribe of great, remembered gods, their stories preserved by monks and monarchs? Do you speak of the chiefs and kings in your lineage, the castles your family lived in, the great wars they fought in, the great deeds they did?

No. You run with the wild spirits of the most isolated, sidelined, liminal land in Ireland, with its poorest, most marginalized of people. You do not boast of ancestors with kingly lineage. You speak of the horrific suffering of your people: the good, very ordinary farmers, victims of famine and war and oppression, those whose backs were broken as the great, remembered men of Ireland climbed over them to reach their powerful place, and ate their food, and whose names they did not remember. Of the soldiers who fought the great wars the great myths tell tale of, whose deeds are ascribed to other, greater men, and whose names are not remembered. Of the women who watched their many, many children die, in famine and pestilence and at the brutal hands of English landlords, and carried on, whose names are not remembered. Of the road through the mountains that you love, that was built to carry food in one direction and bring coffins back, carrying the bodies of those whose names are not remembered.

And even their stories are forgotten.

The memorial to famine victims at the top of the Healy Pass, the road through the mountains between Cork and Kerry. Once called the Kerry Pass, re-named for the first president of the Irish Free State. Photo: Sludge G (CC).

Memorial to famine victims at the top of the Healy Pass, the road through the mountains between Cork and Kerry. Once called the Kerry Pass, re-named for first president of Irish Free State. Photo: Sludge G. (CC).

And this is the way you chose to walk.

Then how dare you be embarrassed of the name you choose call yourself or the community you choose to draw around you?

And how dare you be ashamed of a goddess whose stories are so deeply buried in the landscape that few remember her name? When few know of her sacred sites, or the stories of her cow and her lobster and her harvest, or have heard the songs the mountains sing in whispers about her? When many roll her lazily into the stories of her more renowned sisters, and forget the name of the One she is married to, and forget her island, and her mountainous country, and her dark shores? When so many do not remember her name?

You are here to tell the unheard tales. The tales of the oppressed, those whom society crushes beneath their endless, vicious race to the top. The stories of the desperate, the despairing, the dying, the lost. The many who serve the few. Whose names are not remembered.

Then open your mouth and speak.

The long dark is coming, and my picture of a dark figure plunging a staff into the ground needs to move into the living room. It is not a picture of Her. And yet it is.

And her name will be remembered, by those who choose to listen for it.

31 Days of Offerings – Days 20-22: Attack of the Migraines

So I have totally failed to do any extended offerings for the past few days. I’ve been attempting to maintain my very brief offerings and practice – a hearth lantern lit with a prayer for protection for my house, candlelight for Beara and Duibhne, little offerings to the Good Folk.

And I’ve had one slightly more intense encounter with a goddess in which I whined about no one knowing her properly… which I’ll get to soon.

Mostly, though, I’ve been busy warring with the migraines all day, and too tired to do anything at night. I’ve been plagued with episodes of chronic daily migraine for years now. Just when I get them under control with a new medication for a few months, the medication stops working, and round I go again with daily torture for a few weeks (longer if I’m unlucky). I can’t work, write or think. It completely sucks.

Such is the world in which we live, though. We’re privileged to be human, to be creatures of the earth. I don’t hold to all that ‘spiritual being having a human experience’ stuff. I rather think ‘spiritual’ is a Cartesian dualistic social construction we created in order to pretend that one part of our lives was special but the rest of it wasn’t. While that might have made the special stuff seem extra-special, it did nothing for the valuing of the rest of our lives. I want to value every part of my messy, physical, real human life. 

Even the migraines.

(I think.)

31 Days of Offerings – Day 19: Surprising Offerings – Sound, Song and Speech

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Tonight I thought it was about time to pull a new Ogham fid, to set the tone for the next few days of offerings. I pulled Muin, the fid I associate with communication, words, music.

Photo: 'Muin' Ogham fid - card from the Celtic Tree Oracle pack

Photo: ‘Muin’ – card from the Celtic Tree Oracle pack

So then I suddenly find myself singing. I grab my bodhran, and out come both tune and words, in several verses:

Come, blessed Ladies, and gather around
As I sing a story without word or sound,
The world recreated as it resounds,

A song from the sea and the sky and the ground.

There’s even a penny whistle accompaniment! There’s more of it to come, about speaking the lost stories of the unheard, but I need to sit down and work with the snatches of lines I got while playing.


Well, I did say that my shrines were there to tell my deities’ stories.

“Open your mouth and speak…” For silence is the gateway of oppression, but stories break down the walls.

Or, as Bonhoeffer put it (much better than me): Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act. Dietrich Bonhoeffer, 1906–1945

31 Days of Offerings – Day 17-18: Community Redefined

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Offerings don’t have to be a solely Pagan affair. We do too much separatism, for people who claim to believe that the world itself is sacred.

Last weekend I was heavily involved in helping to run this conference (see also here, where a group that participated has reviewed it), for which I’ve been on the planning committee most of this year (and I do a lot of their publicity, and was their social media person, and tweeted on the day, and, and…). I’m still recovering! I’ve not really talked about this much in Pagan circles, because, well, Christian.

But I grew up in a Christian context (actually I was about 30 when I left church), and I believe my Wyrd is tied to that community. It is part of my Work. I’m not doing a PhD on Christianity and disability for my health (and definitely not for my wallet). I believe I have a calling, and activism around disability and churches is part of that calling.

Photo: St Martin-in-the-Fields church, London

Photo: St Martin-in-the-Fields church, London

Other offerings I give to a broad interfaith local community include inter-faith educational work, work with the Druid Network, and various other things that I do with the aim of improving dialogue between religious communities and serving the local community generally.

Ultimately, as well as an offering to the people around me, this is also an ancestor offering. Most of my ancestors were Christians. Social justice and Christianity was important to many of them, I gather from stories told about a few of them.

My exploration of the story of Narnia and its less-acceptable characters is all part of this tangled web of a spiritual-religious journey that never ends. My relationship with a very liminal deity probably is too.

I am a proud non-active Anglican (while also a polytheist and modern druid), living on the edge of the community that is itself living on the edge of the churches: the community of disabled Christians. Religion isn’t always about belief. In fact, in most of the world, it isn’t really. We’ve taken American evangelicalism and tried to apply it to Paganism as well as to every other religion in the world – but religion for most people is about action, much more than belief. Do the stuff. Embody your practice. Be.

Liminality. It’s not just about Otherworlds. ;)

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Pilgrimage: The Everflowing Cauldron of Hospitality 

Naomi Jacobs (Léithin Cluan):

I love this! The Dagda and the Guinness Brewery…

Originally posted on Strixian Woods:

The practice of hospitality is one of the oldest and long-lasting human societal behaviors. In early tribal cultures, hospitality was a method of ensuring mutual safety in an unsteady world, a code of conduct that guided people to treat strangers with respect and courtesy upon first meeting rather than hostility. Hospitality is one of the many mechanisms societies use that enable people to live together peacefully. Sometime a lost art in a world that encourages suspicion and fear of the “other”, hospitality is essential to having a functioning, healthy, and safe community.

One of the defining aspects in my experiences in Ireland was the overwhelming sense of welcome that we received everywhere that we went. It is clear that hospitality is a cultural reality to the Irish people. Historically, the Brehon Laws defined strict and clear rules of hospitality for both hosts and guests to follow and these rules were…

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31 Days of Offerings – Day 16: Something For Nothing?

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I have been praying to St Cajetan on behalf of a friend.


‘Our Lady Breaker of Chains’

Novenas (nine-day prayers) to saints are something I’ve been doing for many years. I’ve long since moved past the theology of it, past wondering whether my prayers will be heard, or asking why they would be. I do know that the offering is a bit of a struggle. Half way through the second ‘Our Father’ I’m usually getting a bit bored. By the third ‘Glory Be’ I’ve either started heading towards mystical union with the divine, or I’ve fallen asleep. It varies.

These days I see novenas as a ‘do ut des’ thing, a ‘deal’ made with spiritual ancestors, with them watching the content of my character as I ask them for something… “Are you honourable enough? Are you dedicated enough?”

I give that you may give. Asking something for nothing is not good for community, or for me. The offering I give in exchange for the saint’s favour may be words, perseverence, steadfastly remembering a friend, or candlelight… I’m not sure where the offering to the saint starts and the gift to the friend begins.

And all of that pales when I start to realise that the shaping of my own character is the greatest gift, and I’m giving it to myself.

31 Days of Offerings – Day 15: Wise Justice and the Authentic Self

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The Ogham fid I’ve been pondering during this week’s offerings has been nGéadal, which I associate with wounded healers.


Something has clicked in my head between the concept of the wounded healer, and the idea of living as a more authentic version of myself. Brighid, as the goddess of wise justice, has started to become associated with this idea in my head.

The wounded healer is an interesting archetype in mythology, especially if you read the lame smith that way (hail Wayland Smith, hail Hephaestus). Other legendary healers are flawed. Healing (which is not the same as cure – it’s much more interesting than that) can come from deep knowledge of pain, from exploration of the darkest corners of the universe.

For quite a few years I tried to be quiet about my struggles, and about oppression and social justice, trying to keep those parts of my life separate from my Paganism (as though spirituality can ever be separate from other parts of our lives, and especially not from issues of justice). But that leads to an inauthenticity that can be suffocating.

I fight a lot of battles in my life. More than that, though, I choose my battles (and reject many more). I can’t fight them all… but I have to fight some, or I will let the darkness overcome me. And then I’ll be no good to anyone. The question is how to be wise with the choices of battles, and authentic and true to myself and my values in the process.

What is a wounded healer, and how can she be true to herself without drowning? And is this, too, an offering?