Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Review: Pagan Portals—Irish Paganism: Reconstructing Irish Polytheism by Morgan Daimler

An excellent primer on Celtic Reconstructionism and the deities and beliefs of ancient Ireland.

 (Also mentioned, Daimler, Morgan, Tales of the Tuatha Dé Danann; Daimler, Morgan, Treasures of the Tuatha Dé Danann; Laurie, Erynn Rowan, Ogam: Weaving Word Wisdom; and NicDhàna, Laurie, Vermeers and Lambert ní Dhoireann, The CR FAQ — An Introduction to Celtic Reconstructionist Paganism.)

So why is this book on a Brigit blog? Because, and I truly do believe this, whatever our background or spiritual leanings, the more we understand about the world Brigit emerged from and the world which embraces her now, the deeper our connection with her will become. 

Pagan Portals—Irish Paganism: Reconstructing Irish Polytheism is another short book by Morgan Daimler that gets straight to the point—a clear, comprehensive manual that dusts away cobwebs and guides the reader in helpful directions. The other such by her that I have reviewed (favourably) was Pagan Portals— Brigid: Meeting the Celtic Goddess of Poetry, Forge, and Healing Well.

By its nature, the present book cannot be as precisely tuned as the Brigit book; its topic is much vaster and its page count similar. Not difficult. Daimler still manages to identify key topics and dispatch them creditably. There are times when I wished for more detail—also not difficult. She footnotes beautifully so that the reader can consult elsewhere for that fleshing out. To attempt to put all the rich detail possible into this book would have defeated its purpose. For clarity on what is a deep and rambling topic, with dozens of possible interpretations of the materials, Daimler’s choice of a smooth outline and spare prose is perfect.

Irish Paganism: Reconstructing Irish Polytheism contains quick, nicely referenced notes on what Celtic Reconstructionism is and isn’t, basic beliefs, deities, spirits, holy days, an Irish Polytheistic approach to ritual, magic and mysticism, and so on.

I read it, without planning to, at the same time as Daimler’s pair of palm-sized bilingual (Irish and English) booklets, Treasures of the Tuatha  Dé Danann and Tales of the Tuatha  Dé Danann. She has selected key passages from Irish myths and translated them here. I found reading these booklets in tandem with  Irish Paganism: Reconstructing Irish Polytheism helped illuminate the character of some of the deities, as well as the sense of story and Otherworld from an Old Irish point of view.

A nice follow-up would be Erynn Rowan Laurie’s Ogam: Weaving Word Wisdom, which goes into greater detail on many of the above elements, including what CR is, its ethics, and approach to ritual, as well as homing in on texts and traditions that illuminate the various letters of the ogam alphabet. This yields a practical tool for the type of spirituality Daimler offers us here in broad strokes. Daimler herself gives a list of readings to turn to next, including the CR: FAQ, which I would agree is an important book for getting a grasp on what CR encompasses and aspires to.

Not every aspect of the book worked for me. Most particularly, I wish Moon Books would get a good copy editor and not let errors slip by (though I admit there are not many, and the layout can’t be faulted). Recalling that a book like this is ideal for beginners, a glossary with new words and terms, or the word listed with the page where it is defined, would be a good compromise in a short book where there is no index, and would be easy enough to add to the pronunciation page. There are times, too, when ancient and modern, Pagan and Christian are subtly blurred, such that they don’t completely reflect reality and can cause confusion.

As one who doesn’t do a lot that would be termed magical, myself, I found Daimler’s description of the place of magic in the daily life of our ancestors and the nuts and bolts of how Irish spells might be constructed quite illuminating. And finally, her discussion of cultural appropriation, with a rare and valuable explanation of what the term exactly means and when it is and isn’t a bad or good thing, was extremely valuable to me. Clearly, though this book would make a great introduction to someone newly interested in Irish Polytheism or Celtic Reconstructionism generally, it has gems on offer, too, for those who have been involved in the movement for some time.

I look forward to reading my next book by Morgan!

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Brigit Music Downloads

Passing the time in iTunes (always a dangerous course of action, I understand) I popped "Brigit" in the search field and discovered fellow Canadian Bruce Mitchell's album New Earth Goddess, with its track, "Brigit". A sample tells me this is a rich and rumbling instrumental track. You can find it in various places besides iTunes, but I will give you that link and if you want CDBaby (which is down at the moment) or some other thing you will find it there, too. $0.99 will get you the song. For a review of the album by New Age Music World, pop over here.

For a lighter and more skipping instrumental track by the same name, try Ruaidhri's "Brigit" on his album Celtic Goddess. Also $0.99,

In a much gravellier, grittier vein, the song "Brigit's Cross" by Steve Von Till on his The Grave is a Grim Horse doesn't have a huge amount to do with Brigit but it does protest the primacy of the pre-Christian religion. I liked it. Here is a link to a YouTube rendering, and below are the lyrics. It, too, is $0.99 on iTunes.


Steve Von Till – Brigit's Cross

Holy man,
Don’t waste your breath on me
I don’t seek what you lost
We don’t need your superstition

Keep your poison out of our well
It’s bitter to the taste
We’ve been drinkin’ here
For thousands of years

I left my blessing
On the Brigit’s cross

Our old ways are as snakes
That live deep in the clay
No man with a crooked stick
Can drive them away

He drove our gods into the sea
At least so they say
Let me tell you friend
We’ve given up your ghost

I left my blessing
On the Brigit’s cross

I live my days by the quartered wheel
Woven from the straw
Harvest gold
Reflects the sun

I left my blessing
On the Brigit’s cross

Engaged Brigidism

Apart from my devotion to Brigit and my interest in Irish mythology generally, I have a Buddhist practice in the tradition of Vietnamese Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh. So I am well exposed to the idea of engaged Buddhism, a movement begun by our teacher and his student friends as they attempted to come to grips with living as monastics in a country at war in the 1960s.

To quote Wikipedia (and who better?)

Engaged Buddhism refers to Buddhists who are seeking ways to apply the insights from meditation practice and dharma teachings to situations of socialpolitical, environmental, and economic suffering and injustice

It has long struck me that the stories of Saint Brigit often have to do with defying injustice, particularly around marginalized people such as lepers, the poor, and the mentally ill, as well as the liberation of slaves and the protection of fugitives. If that is so, it seems we are invited to follow the lead of the Catholic Brigidine Sisters and bring elements of peaceful social justice into our practice as lay or NeoPagan Brigidines.

This has a broad scope, as broad as the aspects of both saint and goddesses Brigit. Various possibilities come to mind. Generosity, in terms of donation of time or money or skills, of caring listening to suffering people, come instantly to mind. I have recently looked into volunteering with refugees in response to the awful situation faced by such people in many countries. To me that can be seen as under the auspices of Brigit healer, or Brigit hospitaller, or even Brigit smith, as a means of strengthening the bonds of our community and our world.

In the name of Brigit poet I sent a small financial donation to Story Archaeology today. These women are tireless in their researches into Irish mythology, brilliant in their understanding, scintillating in insight, and entertaining to read on their website and listen to on their podcasts. They aren't getting paid for the bulk of their work, yet they are giving a gift of inestimable worth. I am grateful to have discovered them and grateful that I have the opportunity to help.

You can donate to them via this link. No amount is too small to let them know you appreciate their contribution.

I would be interested to hear of others' engaged Brigidine activities.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

“What the Goddess Brigit Means for Women and Men Today” (Excerpt from Course)

Genevieve of Goddess Ink excerpted a lesson from my course Discovering Brigit for her blog post last week. Here's the link, and here's a quote:

Why has the Goddess Brigit become so popular, and with so many different kinds of people?
Apart from a lull in her popularity in the last century*, Brigit has always been beloved, especially among the Irish and Scots—and where they have migrated churches bearing the name “Saint Brigit’s” or “Saint Bride’s” have popped up with great regularity. So many Irish girls were baptized with her name that its diminutive—Biddy—came to apply to Irish women generally (not in the most flattering way, at all times, but that’s another story), just as their men became known as Paddies, after Saint Patrick.
Brigit’s fortune seems ever on the rise... 

Monday, January 23, 2017

Friends of Bride's Mound: Gathering, Archaeology, Hedge-Laying

C/O Glastonbury Opportunities, Unit 7 Abbey Mews, BA6 9DY.
Email; friendsofbridesnew@yahoo.co.uk 

January 2017 Newsletter

IMBOLC – Wednesday 1st February 2017 
The Friends of Brides Mound invite you to join us for the day, the feast day of St. Brigid. 

9.30am White Spring opens (tbc)
 10am Ceremony at the White Spring (tbc)
12 noon Meditation at the Well Head at Chalice Well
10.00 – 1.00pm Refreshments available at Chalice Well

1pm Walk to Bride's Mound with Serena Roney-Dougal; 
Meet outside the White Spring, where the White and the Red springs join.
Wear clothing and footwear suitable for wet and muddy conditions! 
2.30pm Gathering around the fire on Bride's Mound.

AGM.  The Library of Avalon, Glastonbury 22nd March from 7.30pm to 9.30pm.  All welcome.

Archaeology on the Mound 
Somerset skeletons are oldest evidence of monks found in UK

As you might have seen on the national news, Richard Brunning of Southwest Heritage Trust led a team doing the first archaeological dig on the mound since Philip Rahtz’s dig in the 1960s. All very exciting!

An ADF Imbolc Ritual

I realized today that I have not offered here any actual ritual for Imbolc, or indeed for flame-keeping, and that doing so might be of help to some readers. After poking around in my computer I further realized that it has been so long since I have felt the need to write out my rituals ahead of time (I've found over time I'm happier keeping it direct and simple), I don't have any to hand.

So I went noodling around on the internet and found this. It has many interesting ideas and although I would make changes if I were using it (such as not using the word invoke, as I don't feel I have the power or the cheek to summon a deity--invite, maybe), I think it is a great jumping off place. Kudoes to Rob and Kami for their work here.

A Solitary Imbolc Ritual

by Rob Henderson and Kami Landy
written March 31st, 1999
Adapted from the Shining Lakes Grove 1999 Imbolc Rite, written by the SLG Liturgists
with sections shamelessly stolen from the StoneCreed Grove Solitary Liturgy
(This is my first attempt at writing a solitary ADF ritual. Well, perhaps "writing" isn't the right word, more like "assembling". Our Grove's Imbolc Rite this year was more scripted than our usual fare, and I thought it would be a good opportunity to do a solitary ritual. I'm adding some running commentary in the parentheses, so you can understand not only what you're doing, but why you're doing it. -- Rob)
[Kami's commentary will be in brackets, like so.]
(If you've got your Dedicant's shrine set up, you should use that for this ritual. If you don't have such a shrine, you can make do with representations for the well (a bowl of water) with a piece of silver for the Well offering (a coin is fine), the fire (a candle - three candles, or a three-wicked candle, would be best), and the tree (a branch placed in a pot of soil is good). You'll also need:
  • a separate bowl of water and a candle (to receive the blessings of Brigit)
  • offerings for Brigit (see below for suggestions)
  • offerings for the Outsiders (food or drink)
  • For purifications: mud or red ochre; salt water; incense or smudge stick
  • a straw "dolly" or rowan stick to represent Brigit, and a straw bed for her (optional)
  • For the return blessing: red, white, and black ribbons attached to the frame of a doorway (optional)

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

St. Brigid's LGBTQ-Affirmative Christian Community

I was strolling down Burrard in downtown Vancouver a couple of weeks ago and as I passed Christchurch Cathedral I glanced at the schedule of events. To my great surprise there was a thing called "St. Brigid's Eucharist" on Sundays at 5:30 PM. Curious, I went online to find out more.

Here's what the St. Brigid's people say about themselves.


Welcome to St. Brigids, a community of Christ-followers in downtown Vancouver. We are an emerging LGBTQ-affirming Christian congregation of Christ Church Cathedral where questions are honoured, faith is nurtured, and discipleship pursued.

St. Brigids is a community that loves to sing, laugh, eat, serve and worship God together in ways that send us refreshed and renewed into our daily lives – wherever that may take us.

If you are new to Vancouver, or are newly seeking a spiritual home, we invite you to join us for Sunday worship. We are a growing, newly formed congregation that welcomes people from diverse backgrounds.

Our hope is that you’ll be able to get to know us through the website and in person so you’ll have what you need in order to decide whether St. Brigids is a community where you can plant roots. You’re invited to get to know us in a way that makes the most sense to you:

We look forward to welcoming you to St. Brigids!

(So how cool is that? say I.)

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Hymn to Saint Brigid

Philomena Breslin

I've found a lovely rendition (if you like "High Voice", which I do) of a hymn sung by many Irish schoolchildren in earlier times--twentieth century, and if I read things right, nineteenth century as well. (I wonder if it is ever sung in schools there now.) 

It is sung by Philomena Breslin on her album My Wild Irish Rose, and can be purchased on iTunes for $0.99 CDN (or similar in your local monetary dialect). You can preview the song to get the tune and see if you like it. This is (I blush to say) my very first purchase on iTunes. For a more folky version, turn to Michael Connolly on YouTube.

Called here "Hymn to Saint Brigid", the song is also known as "Far Above Enthroned in Glory", and was written by Brigidine Mother Cecilia Sinnott of Goresbridge, a village in County Kilkenny in northern Leinster. The Australian Sisters have the words on their site:

Hymn to St. Brigid

Words by Mother Cecilia, Brigidine Convent, Goresbridge. Circa 1911.
Music by Sinnott (1863-1902)
Music by M.S.
Far above enthroned in glory
Sweetest Saint of Erin’s Isle
See thy children kneel before thee
Turn on us a Mother’s smile.
Sancta Mater, hear our pleading
Faith and hope and holy love
Sweet St. Brigid, Spouse of Jesus,
Sent to us from Heaven above.
Sweet St. Brigid, Erin’s children,
Far and near o’er land and sea
In the world and in the cloister
Fondly turn with love to thee.
Sancta Mater, sooth the mourner
Shield the weary tempted soul
Sweet St. Brigid, guide thy children
To thy bright and happy home.

Marcella, of Trias Thaumaturga, offers the Irish language version of the text, collected by Douglas Hyde. She says of it, " I much prefer the Irish version as the lyrics don't convey the rather twee Victorian-parlour sentimentality of the English."

Twee or not, Philomena's singing and the familiar-sounding melody are pleasant to my old-fashioned ears. 

I am a tad puzzled by the dates given on the Sisters' site, though. If Mother Cecilia died in 1902, I am unsure how she could have written this in 1911. But Saint Brigit is known for her miracles. Maybe this is another such.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Amy Panetta: Brigit Classes, Updates, and the Fundraiser is Ending In Five Days!

Amy has been raising money to finance a research project in Ireland, which I posted about last month. She has been sending out updates and brewing all sorts of ideas. I thought I would share her latest (and last?) letter with you below. Of particular interest, perhaps, to those of you in the eastern United States, who might be able to attend her classes, but there is much more besides.

From her bio:

Amy Panetta, MA has been teaching music for over a decade in public schools, independent schools (including Montessori, Waldorf, and college preparatory), music studios in Northern New Jersey and the Central Vermont/Burlington areas.  She has experience facilitating West African and Caribbean drumming classes for adults and children in grades 1-12, as well as arranging percussion music for local high school productions.  Other related community involvement includes empowering teenagers in her previous role as Youth Program Coordinator at a Northern New Jersey Unitarian church.  Currently, Amy facilitates WorldSpirit Drum & Song sessions, leads classes discussing the music of Brigid, the pre-Christian goddess and Irish saint, and teaches a variety of private and group music lessons.
Amy holds a Masters of Arts in Ethnomusicology from the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance at the University of Limerick where she spent time studying the dynamics of an on-campus Irish traditional music session; investigating songs written in dedication to Robert Emmet, an Irish hero; formation of community drumming groups; and sacred music written in dedication to Brigid, the pre-Christian goddess and Irish saint.  She has been active in NJ, NY, and MA since 2007 participating in drum circles and classes.  She has studied and been influenced by Marafanyi Percussion, Sanga-of-the-Valley, Mark Wood, Aimee Gelinas, the late Frisner Augustin, and John Bowker in Ireland.  Her related interests include work in the Positive Discipline program for teaching social and life skills, Compassionate/Non-Violent Communication, peace education, progressive/holistic teaching approaches, instructing a special needs population, and integrating spirituality and music.

Message body
Hello all!

I hope you are all doing well and having a good time getting ready for holiday festivities.  I certainly wish you and your loved ones the warmest holiday season!  

As you know, I started the fundraiser Music of Brigid, Ireland's Patroness back on November 1st (All Souls Day).  This fundraiser drive will end on December 21st - that's only five days away.  If you are feeling generous and would like to support this project, now is a great time to do it!  Just over 20% has been raised.  Thank you all who have contributed!  While the drive will formally end on December 21st, contributions can still be accepted afterwards (if you have any problem with this on the webpage, you can email me for my postal address).

I am happy to announce that I will be teaching several classes coming up in the new year discussing the Music of Brigid, which will include:

  • Who the historical Brigid was, both the saint and pre-Christian goddess.
  • The traditions in Ireland on St Brigid's Feast Day/Imbolc.
  • Weaving Brigid's crosses.
  • The nature of the songs dedicated to Brigid and where they are performed.
  • Hearing a selection of songs that people have recently composed.
  • Learning a song dedicated to Brigid in Irish Gaelic.  (All musical skills are welcome!)

Dates and Locations:

1/12/2017: AwenTree in Easthampton, MA
1/18/2017: Upstairs above the Grian Herbs Apothocary in Montpelier, VT
1/19/2017: Spirit Dancer in Burlington, VT
1/21/2017: Mystic Spirit in Montclair, NJ

You can find out complete information about these classes on my website.  More classes are being added soon.
I am excited that some other opportunities are brewing, such as being a guest lecturer for high school and college students in VT.  Also, I have been accepted to speak at the Celtic Studies Association of North America conference coming up in British Columbia!  

I should mention also, that to make my research more widely accessible, I have decided to start up a new podcast in January 2017!  I should be posting one episode each month with the composers of Brigid songs, as well as experts in disciplines such as Irish and Celtic studies, folklore, and ethnomusicology.  Yay!  

If you are interested in supporting my research project, as well as the contribution I will be giving to the Brigidine sisters in Kildare, Ireland, please visit the following webpage (that includes a short video and description):

I thank you very much for your generosity!  Please share this email with anyone who you think might be interested!


Amy Panetta