Friday, December 7, 2012

Audio files for A Circle of Stones

Over the years, one of the things I've had the most requests for has been a series of audio files for the prayers in A Circle of Stones: Journeys & Meditations for Modern Celts. It's never been anything I would be that good at. My pronunciation sucks and I wouldn't want to inflict it on anyone.

Last year, I was able to talk Caera into doing the files. She's been through a lot of stress this year and has had to move several times, but she's finally had the time to put together audio files for the book. She speaks fluent Irish, and enough Gaelic to be able to do some justice to the prayers. She's produced an album of audio files to go with the second edition of CoS, which is now available on BandCamp.

Click here for your copy of the audio files for Circle of Stones - only $5 US!

All the money for these audio files goes to Caera, in thanks for her work on the project and for her editing of the second edition of the book. I'm very grateful to her for making this available to you. Please pass the word far and wide. And while you're at her BandCamp store, please check out her music, as well! Caera is an accomplished harper who plays a medieval wire-strung Celtic harp, and she has a really lovely soprano voice. On her various CDs, she sings in Irish, Scots Gaelic, Manx, and Welsh, as well as a little English.

You know you want to.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A Samhain ritual text

I was blessed to have my girlfriend and some of our mutual friends over for my Samhain ritual on Sunday. A lot of people talk about the dearth of ritual material in the CR community, or they worry about "doing it wrong," or they're just not sure what it might look like to do a ritual that derives from the various Celtic traditions.

For these reasons, and others, I'm posting the text of the ritual we did this weekend in the hope that, if you're feeling uninspired, it might give you a few ideas to work with. There's a lot more out there now than there used to be, but it can still be hard to find things that resonate, or that seem appropriate.

This ritual derives from Irish and Scottish materials. I'll add some notes at the end of the text. Setting an ancestor altar is the central aspect of this ritual, as is the making of offerings to them as our guests at the feast.


Samhain ritual, October 28, 2012

Scél lem dúib
Dordaid dam
Snigid gaim
Ro faith sam

I have tidings for you
The stag bells
Winter pours
Summer has gone

Gáeth ard úar
Ísel grían
Gair a rrith
Ruirthech rían

Wind is high and cold
The sun is low
Its course is short
The sea runs strongly

Rorúad rath
Ro cleth cruth
Ro gab gnáth
Guigrann guth

Bracken is very red
Its shape has been hidden
The call of the barnacle-goose
Has become unusual

Ro gab úacht
Etti én
Aigre ré
É mo scél

Cold has seized
The wings of birds
Season of ice
These are my tidings

[Juniper purification]

Peace up to heaven
Heaven down to earth
Earth beneath heaven
Strength in each
A cup very full
Full of honey
Mead in abundance
Peace up to heaven

Power of raven be thine
Power of eagle be thine
Power of the fian

Power of storm be thine
Power of moon be thine
Power of sun

Power of sea be thine
Power of land be thine
Power of heaven.

[Three Realms acknowledgement]

We stand within the embrace of muir mas, nem nglas, talam cé – the beautiful sea, the blue sky, the ever-present earth. We stand here now, beneath the nine hazels at the center of the world, at the lip of the well of wisdom.

I call upon all the powers that exist in land, sea, and sky
I call upon you at the edge of the year
I call upon every creature to be at peace with us
Let our beloved dead be remembered
Let them find a place at our table
Let them find joy in our remembering
May we speak of them with love
May we remember them with kindness
May we be blessed by their presence

[Lighting the fire]

I light the fire as Brigid lit
With the spark from her forge
With light from her well
With the fire from her soul

[Set the altar with photos, candles, and mementos]

[Place the group offering of food on the altar before the ancestors]

We give whisky to you for your welcome
For your thirst we give you milk
Food of the feast for you, first of all shares
Be welcome among us


[Personal offerings and prayers to the ancestors (music/poetry/etc)]

[Neep carving]

[Ancestor meditation]


[Closing and Departure]

We are always within the embrace of muir mas, nem nglas, talam cé – the beautiful sea, the blue sky, the ever-present earth. Wherever we walk, we stand upon the land. Wherever we are, the sea surrounds us. Wherever we breathe, we are beneath the sky.

Hear us, ancestors and beloved dead
You who have shared our feast
We have made our offerings
We have offered our prayers
We have remembered you
Remember us kindly
Watch over us through the darkness of the year
Hold us in your hearts with love

[Offerings into the fire]

Take the substance of the feast with you
Take food and drink for your health
Take with you our thoughts and the warmth of our memories
Our blessings go with you as you walk


The opening poem is from the early Irish tradition and can be found in Gerard Murphy's Early Irish Lyrics. It is dated to the 9th or 10th century CE and is attributed to Fionn mac Baiscne.

Purification with juniper has been discussed here before, and the practice originates in Scotland. The stanza of "peace up to heaven" is from the response of the Morrígan to Badb after the Second Battle of Mag Tuired. The remainder of this purification and blessing is from the Carmina Gadelica, a collection of Scottish Gaelic prayers, songs, and charms.

The concept of the three realms of land, sea, and sky is found in a great number of early Irish sources, and similar cosmological patterns can be found in other Celtic cultures. The phrase muir mas, nem nglas, talam cé is found in the 8th century poems of Blathmac. This cosmological triad is discussed in some depth in Liam MacMathúna's article Irish Perceptions of the Cosmos, published in Celtica 23, 1999.

Turnip lanterns are the origin of the American custom of carving pumpkin lanterns at Halloween.

The line "I light the fire as Brigid lit" is from fire kindling prayers in the Carmina Gadelica.

The rest of the text is original, but inspired by the patterns and poetry of the Gaelic traditions. This weaving together of traditional sources and modern inspiration is at the heart of how I do Celtic Reconstructionist polytheist rituals. Knowing that there aren't any complete and intact pre-Christian Gaelic ritual texts, we need to make do with what's available, and to trust ourselves to gain enough understanding to work with what does exist and expand upon it.

I wish you all a blessed Samhain.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Pre-order link for Fireflies at Absolute Zero

My publisher has just released the link to the pre-order page for my poetry collection, Fireflies at Absolute Zero from Hiraeth Press. The book is $15.95 plus postage and is due to ship on October 31st, 2012.

I got some lovely cover text from several writers, including Ruby Sara, editor of the Datura and Mandragora esoteric poesis anthologies. From the Hiraeth page:

“Erynn Rowan Laurie’s Fireflies at Absolute Zero is a call to poetic arms, written with the ferocity and pas­sion of the Earth war­rior — “my poems burn like stars/​ they fall like spears from the oil-​​black sky.” It is a hymn of praise to the old gods, written in the long tra­di­tion of poets as dreamers of new worlds, and re-​​memberers of old ones. Indeed, Laurie’s poetry reminds us all that humanity cannot face its strug­gles with either mushy plat­i­tudes or mil­i­tarist cliché; we require the nuance of the poet who dances coura­geously on the edges, between the struggle and the embrace.” –Theodore Richards, author of Cosmosophia and The Crucifixion

“Following an ancient tra­di­tion of craft and inspi­ra­tion, Erynn Rowan Laurie’s work breathes in wonder, trans­mutes it into a crisp lyri­cism, and offers it, sharp and focused, back to the waking world. Grounded in expe­ri­ence, dream, and story, these poems declare with rich atten­tion the wild voice of the divine, the warp and weft of myth, the com­plexity of being human, and the great beauty of the earth, rough and sweet. Fireflies at Absolute Zero is a col­lec­tion for all who seek to invite in the raw, poetic nature of being and wit­ness to the singing of spirits and powers; bluejay, human struggle, man­drake, divine story, seashore...all brought into focus by the magic of the sacred word.” –Ruby Sara, editor of Datura and Mandragora

“Yes, this book of poems sings with lyrics, dances with visions, flies into spaces not yet filled with song, and lights dark places. But is it a book about writing poetry or about being a poet or being at-​​one with the nat­ural world, lit­erary world, and mytho­log­ical world? Or it is about spir­i­tual jour­neys or about embracing more fully the unknown? Yes!” –Mary Harwell Sayler, author of Living in the Nature Poem

“At the sharp edges of Dreams and Desires I have found a kin­dred spirit of the shining endark­en­ment.” –James McDowell, author of Night, Mystery & Light

Many thanks to Jason Kirkey and Leslie Browning of Hiraeth for their support and encouragement. It has been a delight to work with them on this project!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Airmed and Heapstown Cairn

Airmed was the first Celtic deity I ever had an experience with. She's been with me for pretty much the entire time I've been Pagan, though it took a couple of years to find out who she was and then figure out why she was with me and what she was about. Even back when I was practicing a pretty generic Paganism based on eclectic Wicca, she was there. Her presence was earthy and expansive, but there was also something cosmic and overwhelming about her in some of my experiences.

Airmed was the one who told me she wanted to hear Gaelic spoken to her; I'm not very good at it, but I can manage a few phrases in prayers. I'm still working on it, but my foreign language skills aren't that great, so it takes time. She fostered my interest in healing work and herbs over the years, and I keep an altar dedicated to her in my home. The first piece of paid writing I ever did was an article on her for SageWoman magazine, in the Spring 1994 issue, called Goddess of the Growing Green.

This drawing by Joanna Powell Colbert, in black and white, accompanied the article in the magazine.

The image here is by the Irish artist Jim Fitzpatrick. It is a concept drawing for a sculpture that, as far as I know, was never actually made, intended for a hospital site. This is one of the images I have hanging over my altar for her.

As a part of this summer's pilgrimage to Ireland, our group visited Heapstown Cairn, a site associated with Airmed, Dian Cécht, Miach, and Octriuil and said to be the site of the healing well of Sláine that features in the Second Battle of Mag Tuired. The cairn is just at the northeast tip of Lough Arrow, in County Sligo and can be seen from the road, inside a large ring of trees.

This is a place I'd wanted to visit ever since I found out about it last year while researching sites for the pilgrimage. I'd been asked by Vyviane if there were any Airmed sites in Ireland on behalf of a friend of hers and set out to see if there were. I hadn't been certain we'd be able to visit the place, given our schedule, but it turned out we were staying not far from there, just on the other side of the lake. I was determined at that point that we'd do an Airmed ritual there, and this was the place I wanted to dedicate the moss agate ogam feda that I'd made for her at the end of March this year.

Heapstown Cairn was our first stop of the day - later we would go to Knocknarea, to climb to Maeve's Cairn at the top of the hill. It was a grey day but not raining at that point. We crossed a verdant field to reach the cairn.

As one does in Ireland, we had to watch where we walked to avoid stepping into the leavings of cattle. Some of the ground was quite boggy, as you might expect near a lake when it's been raining a lot. Walking through the pastureland reminded me a lot of the fields I used to cross when I was growing up in New England, where my nearest neighbors were dairy farmers and most of the places I wanted to play were in or across a pasture.

During our initial approach to the cairn, the group split and wandered, looking for a suitable place to hold our ritual. There were a couple of promising spots, but they weren't quite large enough for everyone. Eventually we settled on a little semicircular clearing on the southeast side of the cairn. As I walked, seeking the proper place, I was quietly singing a chant we'd written that morning as a part of our preparation for the ritual, based on traditional Gaelic healing lore, intertwined with singing Airmed's name.

Bone to bone
Flesh to flesh
Blood to Blood
Heal us now
Teach the herbs to us

The cairn itself has not, like Newgrange or Knowth, been excavated. There are kerbstones, but they are much overgrown and not visible, for the most part. No one knows if there are petroglyphs on them. The cairn itself is much reduced over the centuries. Local fences and other stone structures were built with some of the stones, and the pillar that once stood atop the cairn fell and was broken sometime in the last hundred years or so. We were told we shouldn't climb the cairn to avoid destroying anything if stones were dislodged. I think it was also because people wanted to be sure nobody was going to be diminishing the cairn even further by taking stones away.

Most people interested in Irish mythology who know about Airmed will have heard the tale about Airmed and the healing herbs. In the first battle of Mag Tuired, the arm of Nuadha, the king of the Tuatha Dé Danann, was severed, making him ineligible to remain king. It was then replaced by a silver limb created by Dian Cécht. Having decided that this wasn't good enough, his son Miach replaced Nuadha's flesh arm by singing a charm much like the one above, and the use of the ashes of a wisp of burned straw to heal and regenerate the limb.

Dian Cécht, none too pleased by these proceedings, killed Miach and he was buried under a cairn from which the 365 healing herbs grew. Miach's sister Airmed collected these herbs in her cloak, sorted by their properties and the parts of the body that they treated. Dian Cécht, not wanting the knowledge of this powerful healing to be available to everyone, scattered the herbs. Most people think of this as the end of the story.

It isn't.

During the second battle of Mag Tuired, Dian Cécht made a visit to the place called Lusmag, the Plain of Herbs, where he gathered up all the healing herbs in the land, and he brought them to the Well of Sláine, at Heapstown Cairn. The herbs were placed in the water and four healers chanted powerful spells over the well. Those four healers were Dian Cécht, Airmed, Octriuil her brother, and Miach. It makes sense to me that a god whose body became healing herbs would, like a plant, rise again and regenerate himself, reborn for healing work.

The Fomhoire, seeing that the warriors of the Tuatha Dé Danann would be wounded and rise up whole the next morning to battle once again, realized that the healing well was responsible for this. Indech's son, Octriallaig, disguised the warriors of the Fomhoire as the wounded of the Tuatha Dé Danann, and each warrior carried with him a stone, which he dropped into the well. So many were these warriors that a huge cairn rose over the well, sealing it off and making it inaccessible, removing some of the most powerful healing magic available at the battle.

Local lore says that the well is still under there and that it can be seen by crawling into a passage in the cairn. Our driver, Con, spoke to one of the local ladies while we were off doing ritual; she said that when she was young she'd heard about kids who had gone into the cairn and seen the well themselves. The passage was supposedly still accessible somewhere, but no one could find it.

For the ritual itself, I told the story of Airmed and the herbs, and of the well beneath the cairn. A cloth was laid out to represent her cloak, a cauldron for incense, and a bowl filled with water for the well itself, in the center. Each person had been given a little packet containing an herb, and a slip of paper with the name of the herb and its properties listed on it. When we got to the part where Airmed was sorting the herbs from her brother's grave and laying them on the cloak, we each laid out our packet of herbs and described what the herb was and what it did.

When we heard the part of the tale where Dian Cécht brought the herbs from Lusmag and placed them in the well and the four healers stood around it chanting healing charms, we each put a bit of our herbs into the "well" and offered a pinch into the charcoal for an offering. Other offerings were made as well - whiskey was poured out, bits of food were offered, herbs, and other personal things by those who had brought them. After we placed the herbs into the water, we sang the chant we'd created that morning, noted above, and took some time to do any personal workings we wanted to, whether communing with Airmed, meditating with the land, or asking for healing; this is where I did the dedication of my ogam feda.

After our workings, we heard the story of how the cairn itself was formed and the healing well buried. The ritual was closed, the water poured out, and the charcoal doused. The cloth representing the cloak still had bits of herbs clinging to it, and I shook it out into the wind, scattering the herbs as Dian Cécht had once done.

I know I'm not the only person in the group who felt that they had connected with Airmed in that place. I experienced a feeling of being very close to her, and of reaching into some essence of her spirit, her presence all around the edges of my perception. I felt her in the land and in the plants growing on and around the cairn, her blessings in the wind. I'm very thankful to have had the chance to visit this place and forge a deeper connection with my first Irish goddess.

The opportunity to do ritual in the landscape where these tales took place, where local lore has a connection to both history and the spiritual in the land, was profound for me. It cannot happen like that in the place where I live. The core myths of my spirituality take place in another country on the other side of the earth, and I bring what I can of it into my own place, but it feels very different here than it does in Ireland. The connection is easier and deeper but at the same time, I can feel that Ireland isn't my place; mine is on the shores of the Salish Sea here in the Pacific Northwest. Much of the landscape is similar, the weather is very like, and many of the same plants and animals are found here, but their energies manifest differently.

Visiting Ireland, for me, wasn't like coming home. I know folks who have had that homecoming experience in Europe. For me it was like visiting the roots of something deep and significant, but it wasn't a return home. The act of pilgrimage is one of leaving home and familiar environs to make a holy visit to a sacred place -- and then to return home once more, transformed. By its nature, the site visited is something set apart from one's daily life, whether it is visited once in a lifetime, once in a year, or even more often. Pilgrimage offers us a way to approach a place in an altered frame of mind, with a heightened openness to certain types of experience of the numinous and the liminal. The places we visit on pilgrimage are, for us, threshold places where the Otherworlds bleed into our own.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

New publicity piece for my poetry collection

Here's the publicity graphic for Fireflies at Absolute Zero. It's not exactly what the cover will be, but fairly close. We're still working on fonts and such, but this at least has the necessary information that folks will want.

Cover promo Fireflies

Saturday, September 1, 2012

New page added: How to find Brigid's Wayside Well, Kildare

Given the difficulty I had finding Brigid's Wayside Well while I was working with the Sisterhood of Avalon to plan our 2012 Ireland pilgrimage, I thought I would post a page with photos and clear directions for how to find the Wayside Well.

The page is linked at the top of the blog or can be found if you click the link here. I hope this will make it easier for other pilgrims half a world away to find the site of the original Brigid's Well in Kildare Town.

May Brigid bless your journeys!

Getting it together for my poetry collection

Hiraeth Press has started some publicity for my upcoming poetry collection, Fireflies at Absolute Zero, with a poem from that collection. They have posted my poem Sugaring on their News page.

Feel free to drop by and take a look! Release date is scheduled for October 31st.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


I cried when we visited the Sisters of Solas Bhríde at Kildare. I didn't think I was going to. It hadn't even crossed my mind as a possibility, but when they did their ceremony and passed the flame to us and we talked about why we had come, I couldn't help myself.

Keeping Brigid's flame is a practice I have been engaged in for almost twenty years now. I started performing this ritual – lighting a flame in company with others, all of us scattered around the globe – back in 1993 when Casey Wolf lit the flame for the Daughters of the Flame in her apartment in Vancouver, British Columbia. That same day, the sisters at Kildare were doing so as well. Its time had obviously come for the rekindling. I think Brigid was reaching out to us all that day with a strength that was perceived in a profound fashion. The flame sparked bright in places on opposite sides of the planet from one another and spread from them both in a web of fire that continues to burn in hearts and in hearths, on altars and in sanctuaries around the world. I believe it is a flame for everyone who is called to light it and to tend it, whether for a few hours or a lifetime.

Sisters Mary and Phil very kindly welcomed us into their home and into the shrine they maintain there, sharing with us the stories of Saint Brigid, her iconography, and the light of her flame. We removed our shoes to enter into the shrine and sat in a circle as we all shared our reasons for coming on the pilgrimage, and coming to Kildare to receive Brigid's flame. The Sisters were very kind and welcoming, without any concern for what spiritual path, if any, we walked. They are there to share Brigid's light with all who come to them, whatever the reason. I was much more profoundly moved by the experience than I had expected to be.

Their shrine is a dedicated room in their home, with an altar set up in one corner, and images of Brigid and her symbols all around the room, from Brigid's crosses to beautiful colored banners. Her flame is kept in a novena candle, burning on the altar, and passed by way of a candle they light in the center of the room, with prayers and ceremony and storytelling. They speak of the goddess Brigid as well as their saint, with a love and devotion that is genuinely felt and shared. I think all the pilgrims were moved by the ceremony, and were joyful in our receipt of Brigid's flame from her hearth in Kildare.

In their back yard, they have a young oak tree that they intend to plant on the grounds of the retreat and conference center they are collecting funds to build. They had copies of the book Rekindling the Flame: A Pilgrimage in the Footsteps of Brigid of Kildare available, along with Brigid icons and other items, with the profits going toward the building of the center. This book was difficult for me to get online, as there aren't that many copies floating around, but it was with the little hand-drawn map in the back that I managed to locate the Wayside Well, the older of the two Brigid's Wells in Kildare town.

Finding the Wayside Well was a research project that took me a couple of weeks. A few websites mention the well, and some even show photos of it, but none of them gives an adequate description of how to find it. With the help of the book's map, I was able to locate the site on GoogleMaps street view, closely enough that we could visit the well for our opening ritual. In a supplemental post, I'll share photos of the site and how to find it so that others won't have the same difficulties I did.

When we visited the Sisters, the weather was sunny and reasonably warm, and we walked to Saint Brigid's Cathedral and the grounds of what is alleged to be the original fire temple. We paused and made personal offerings and prayers here, as individuals rather than in a group. I didn't enter into the walls as it didn't really feel right for me at that point in my journey. I think on another day I might have, but these things are so subject to individual calling that can't really be explained.

As we got on our bus and drove out to the site of the Wayside Well, clouds were rolling in. We hoped they might hold off long enough for our opening ritual, but it was not to be. I felt a stronger connection to the Wayside Well than I did to the newer one. Despite its roadside location, it seemed more peaceful to me, and more connected to the energies I was seeking in my own pilgrimage. I can't speak for any of the other pilgrims or their experiences. I know we each had our own expectations and experiences.

Our visit to both of the wells was held in a deluge. I think every well we visited while we were in Ireland, with the exception of Brigid's Well in Mullingar, was rained on. We certainly connected with the watery side of Brigid's powers during our pilgrimage! Prayers were offered for Brigid's blessing on our work, offerings were made, and intentions set in the pouring rain. I remembered all my friends and the folks who had donated to my travel funds for the pilgrimage at her well, offering prayers for them, as well.

At the modern well, many of the pilgrims tied clooties on the hawthorn tree at the end of the grounds. Jhenah and Vyviane led a short ritual for the Sisterhood of Avalon women who were on pilgrimage; I explored the small fenced-in grounds and walked the circuit of the five stones that represented five aspects of Brigid's path as expressed by the Sisters at Kildare. There is a liturgy for the circuit in Rekindling the Flame. We were not the only ones at the site, nor the only ones who were doing ritual there in the rain.

On the way back from the wells was Saint Brigid's Parish Church, where the original icon the Sisters are selling replicas of is kept. It was closed for the day, so we were not able to enter and see the icon or the stained glass, though we did see the doors of the church, whose doors are opened with handles in the shape of Brigid's open hands. The panels are laid out in the shape of Brigid's cross and there is etched glass in the door of oak leaves and acorns.

I would have loved a pilgrimage that went off with perfect weather, no forgotten ritual scripts, and no mishaps, but things rarely go as planned. I started out my pilgrimage with a fall the first morning in Dublin, and had a pretty horrific black eye for my entire visit to Ireland. The weather was mostly rainy and blustery. Some of the sites we tried to find (the Well of Segais) were pretty much impossible and had to be abandoned for the moment. Yet through it all, I think we managed with reasonably good humor and good spirits.

My own hopes for the pilgrimage were simply to be available for the pilgrims, to offer some information on the sites we were visiting, and to help shine some of Brigid's light and creativity into our time in Ireland with the hopes of opening us all to receive Brigid's inspiration. To that end, I prepared meditations and writing prompts for each day, focused on the themes we would be exploring and the sites we would be visiting. While not everyone did the daily meditations and exercises, I think those that did participate on any given day got something useful from them, and I was able to share the files of all of the work with the participants on our pilgrimage email list when I returned home in mid-August.

I was fortunate enough to be accompanied on the pilgrimage by my friends Llyne, from Seattle, and Ogam, who lives in El Paso. It was good to have folks that I know well along for the journey. Llyne's participation was very last-minute due to unusual circumstances at her job, and I was delighted that she could come. I tend to be a very introverted person and sometimes it's difficult for me to be comfortable around people I don't know, so this was an added layer of comfort and support that really helped when I was feeling tired and uncertain. I'm blessed with very good friends and am so lucky to have them. Vyviane and Jhenah are wonderful and I very much enjoyed working with them, but it was still good to have folks that I've known for years along for the ride.

In the coming weeks, I hope to be able to talk a little about all the different places we visited as a group for the pilgrimage, and about my experiences in the other places to which I traveled on my journey. Thank you for making it possible, and I'm glad I can share it with you here.

Files from my Brigid and Sarasvati workshop

This year at PantheaCon, then again at Eight Winds, I did a talk on the parallels between Brigid and Sarasvati. Most of the time, when I do public speaking I am doing my talk from an outline. There's not much to it beyond a structure for the talk I'm giving. Sometimes there's a reading/resources list to go with it that gets handed out at the presentation.

For the Brigid and Sarasvati workshop, it was a lot easier just to present the material in a side-by-side comparison chart. You don't get the discussion, but you can have pretty much all the information that was covered.

It's available here on my website as a .zip file that should download automatically when you click on the link. There are two PDF files, a text file with a short reading list, and a text file with some random quotes and notes for those who might be interested.

If you download, let me know what you think.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

My first proposal for PantheaCon 2013

I've submitted the following to PantheaCon for next year's program. If you have anything you'd like to see me present on, please do let me know! I try to give folks what they'd like to see.

Irish Healing Deities: Beyond Brigid

Ask about Irish healing deities and the first name mentioned is likely to be Brigid, yet there are many others in the pantheon. From Dian Cécht and his family to the invocation of Goibhniu in healing charms to healing water in the hands of Fionn Mac Cumhaill, explore some of these other deities and their stories. Holy wells, healing herbs, and magical metal limbs are only a few of the themes we'll explore.

If this gets picked up for the con, I'll be talking about the Airmed ritual that we did on our pilgrimage to Ireland earlier this year at Heapstown Cairn, as well as a wide variety of other information about and approaches to Irish healing deities.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

A few preliminary thoughts on the pilgrimage

I returned home five days ago from my pilgrimage and my subsequent trip to Europe. My thanks, again, to everyone who helped make that journey possible, and who lightened the financial burden of it with their generous donations. You took care of food, a couple of extra nights indoors when it was raining, and some of the travel costs between Dublin and my return home from the airport at Venice. I am incredibly grateful.

It seems that everywhere I went, I found some echo of one or another of the deities I worship and honor, and other figures that are spiritually important to me. Brigid, Airmed, Manannán, Myrddin, Antinous, and others made themselves known through wells or archaeological sites or images. I'm still trying to adjust to being back in my own timezone, and to absorb and process all the various things that happened and the places I've been.

On the Isle of Man, I climbed to the remains of the Iron Age fort atop South Barrule (1585 feet high), sacred to Manannán Mac Lir. The stones behind me in this photo are not the fort, they're a crescent surrounding the survey marker at the peak of the hill. Very little remains of the fort itself, beyond the broken earthen ring about the whole of the summit. Breesha Maddrell climbed with me, and took the photo. South Barrule was wreathed in moving mist the entire time we climbed, with brief breaks for sun that gave us a spectacular view of the southwestern end of the island. The wind was brisk and it was chilly but the clouds through which we climbed seemed more than appropriate to the purpose of the visit.

While I did very little formal ritual on my trip, I felt quite closely connected with those spirits and deities I sought. The object was not so much to do ritual at the sites, but to visit them, to briefly touch the root of what was there and bring home a connection that I can work with here, where I live. To experience being in these places at all is a blessing and an honor.

From our incubation ritual at the caves of Kesh Corran, accompanied by the singing bowls of other climbers, to live Mozart in the air as my brother and I explored the cemetery outside the catacombs of Salzburg, from the gargoyles of Prague to the Sedlec Ossuary at Kutna Hora, and from the Tomb of Merlin to the glass furnaces of Venice, it has been an extraordinary adventure. I hope to share more of it with you in the coming months, as I begin sorting through my experiences and putting together my Brigid book.

Before that happens, I have a presentation on ogam and magic at this year's Esoteric Book Conference in Seattle, September 15th and 16th, to prepare for. My poetry collection, Fireflies at Absolute Zero, should be going to press at the end of September for an October release. I had hoped to have a little time to breathe when I got home, but it is not to be. I'm doing my best to sort everything out so that I'll be able to do my best work for you.

Thank you again.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Setting Off On a Pilgrimage

I have one more day at home before I leave for Ireland. I get on the plane Monday morning and will be gone until August 16th, when I return to Seattle from Venice. I'll be joined in Ireland by eight fellow travelers and by Jhenah and Vyviane of the Sisterhood of Avalon, who have made all this possible.

While I am on the road, I'll be posting when I can, generally to my LiveJournal, where I hope to be able to let folks know where we are and what we're doing at least every few days. I'll be publishing photos when I can, though you should expect most of them when I return, as I won't be able to retrieve the photos from my camera until I return home. I'll be posting photos from my phone or possibly my iPad while I'm overseas.

We have all put a lot of work into preparing this journey and I'm honored that I was asked to make this pilgrimage and to offer my work to those who travel with us.

I arrive in Ireland on the 10th of July and we'll head to Kildare from there to meet the nuns at Solas Bríd, then make our way to the two Brigid's Wells in Kildare Town. After that, our journeys will take us to the Hill of Tara, Newgrange, and out to a B&B near Sligo Town, which will be our hearth and our center as we explore sites in the surrounding area.

From our opening ritual at Brigid's Well to our closing ritual at the Hill of Uisneach, we will be immersed in the history and myth of Ireland. We'll explore ourselves and our connections with the sacred through incubatory work and meditations, through rituals for Brigid and Airmed, and through hearing traditional storytellers telling the stories of place and of deities and heroes.

Each day, we'll explore new places and new themes, encountering sacred landscape and learning ways to connect ourselves not only to the land of Ireland, but to our own sacred landscapes in the places we live.

After Ireland, I'll be spending time in the Isle of Man, exploring places sacred to Manannán, and looking for three Brigid's wells noted in sources dating to the 1930s, to see if all three of them are still extant. I don't currently have any more recent information, but through the good graces of a friend, I was introduced to Breesha Maddrell, a Manx language and traditional music expert, and a PhD in Manx Studies. She'll be very busy wrapping up the Yn Chruinnaght music festival a couple of days before I arrive, but I hope to spend a day with her while I'm on the island once she's had a couple of days to catch her breath again.

While I'm there, I'll be visiting the iron age ring fort atop South Barrule, which is traditionally said to be Manannán's fortress, and where rent was paid to him, as reported in the Manx Traditionary Ballad. I'll be walking parts of the coastal trail, the Raad ny Foillan or road of the gull. As I visit these places and walk these trails, I'll be doing ritual for Manannán and learning what I can about the island and its culture, music, and language. During this visit, I'll be sleeping in a tent and will likely have only very sporadic internet access, though there is a web cafe in Douglas. It will not only be a time to focus on my relationship with Manannán, but to collect myself after the Brigid pilgrimage and process some of what I learn and experience in Ireland.

My trail from there will take me around the Lake District of northern England, visiting friends and acquaintances before I visit another friend in Brittany, just in time for the Festival Interceltique in Lorient. My friend Emma promises to take me to Arthurian and megalithic sites -- I know there is Merlin mythology in the area, and I will see if there are sites we can get to during my time there that are associated with him. Merlin's madness, like that of Suibhne Geilt, is of interest to me and visiting sites associated with him may, I hope, give me some insights that will be useful in my research on the geilta.

When I leave Brittany, I'll be off to Prague to visit another friend from Eugene, Oregon, who's teaching English there. She'll have a little time to show me around that beautiful and deeply magical city, and I'll be meeting my brother there before we road trip down to where he lives, in northern Italy. We'll spend time exploring where he's spent much of his life now, taking in the sights, and I'll be able to celebrate his birthday with him a couple of days before I return home. He promises we can visit Venice, and I have always wanted to go to the glass museums in the Murano.

When I was very young, back in the 1960s, my father was in the Navy and would sail from the east coast of the US, where he was stationed, out to the Mediterranean. He brought back Venetian glass animals from his travels that I still remember very fondly as things of great delicacy and beauty. It will be fascinating to visit some of the places places that my father did while I'm staying with my brother, who loves Italy very much and who recently finally got his permanent Italian residency a month or so ago.

I feel very blessed to be able to make this journey, in all its depth and variety. It's my honor to be able to share it with you.

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Return of Circle of Stones

Back in the early 1990s, when I was researching and working out some of my thoughts on what is now called Celtic Reconstructionist Paganism (CR), I wrote a book for our community. Tadgh MacCrossan's The Sacred Cauldron had been released by Llewellyn in 1991, but its focus was Gaulish and I felt that it modeled itself entirely too heavily on Vedic practice, as well as having other issues with the content. It was better than the pseudo-Wiccan "Celtic" material that was being published at the time but, in my mind, only barely.

A Circle of Stones: Journeys and Meditations for Modern Celts was published in 1995, with a Gaelic focus, and derived its material from the extant Irish and Scottish texts. I wasn't trying to provide an all-encompassing answer for the CR community, but I did want to offer an actual practice for people to work with and a few thoughts on expanding that in a more general way. I had a friend do the layout for the book and pasted in the art myself, along with making the cover, with a glue stick and a ruler, as you had to back then if you didn't have a lot of money for a desktop publishing program. I was surprised by very positive reviews and the warm reception my book received upon its release. Even more surprising to me has been its durability over the years. People recommended it to friends and, once my publisher Eschaton closed its doors, people kept looking for it used. I've seen it on Amazon for upwards of $80, which I always thought was a ludicrous amount to charge for a book that originally only cost $10.

Over the years, I've learned a great deal and I've come to feel that Circle of Stones reflects a place I was in nearly twenty years ago. As I've told many people, if I were going to write the book today, it would have been a very different work. I wasn't interested in rewriting it. Every author has to eventually let go of a project, and that time had passed for me a long time ago. I don't want to spend my life rewriting my first book. Yet people continued to request it, so I put it up on my website as a PDF file and it has been selling steadily -- a copy or two a month, usually -- ever since. That, however, was not what a lot of folks wanted.

I understand the desire for something to hold in your hand. Electronic books hold very little appeal for me, and I know it's the same for a lot of other people. Eventually, I was persuaded to reprint Circle of Stones through Immanion/Megalithica, the publishers of my book Ogam: Weaving Word Wisdom. I didn't want to rewrite the book, but there were some things that I really could not let pass. I got some help correcting the Gaelic and Irish in the book, added a new preface and new and much improved pronunciation guide, and I hope to have Caera (who did the pronunciation guide) record a sound file of the prayers in the book for those who want it. I did some grammatical and other minor corrections and sent it off.

Yesterday, the second edition of Circle of Stones was released into the wild.

I'm very pleased with the cover art, and feel at least a little better about the content than I did. I consider it more of a historical document, if you will, than a reflection of the majority of my beliefs and practices today. I certainly feel that Ogam: Weaving Word Wisdom is a far superior work, but I can understand why people like this one, as it offers some very basic, hands on practices that anyone can do. It's a useful introduction to CR cosmologies. A lot of folks have very fond memories of the first edition.

You can now purchase the second edition of A Circle of Stones from my publisher. It's also available from Amazon. Due to the publication of the new edition, I'll be removing the links for purchasing the PDF of the first edition from my website, The Preserving Shrine and it will no longer be available. I'm very grateful to everyone who has supported me over the years, and who has purchased the book either in its dead tree format, or as a PDF. Without your interest and encouragement, I would not be here now, writing and publishing for our communities.

As most of you are no doubt aware, I'll be going to Ireland (and the Isle of Man, Brittany, and points beyond) this summer on a Brigid pilgrimage through July and August. When I return, I intend to begin working on my next book, which I will be on Brigid and flamekeeping. It's a practice I have been involved with through Daughters of the Flame, maintained by Mael Brigde, since 1993, and through a CR-focused group called Brigid's Irregulars (no current website), which inspired the origin of the liturgy that I use. (There is a button on the sidebar if you would like to make a donation to help with some of my costs after the Ireland portion of the trip.)

Thank you, everyone, for all you have done for me over the years, reading my work and buying my books. I can't begin to tell you how much I appreciate it.

Go raibh maith agaibh!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Mandragora has been released!

Today's post brought my contributor's copy of Mandragora: Further Explorations in Esoteric Poesis, from Scarlet Imprint.

The book contains two of my poems, Lost Text and On the Origin of Dreams, as well as my essay Burying the Poet: Brigid, Poetry, and the Visionary in Gaelic Poetic Traditions. It's also filled to the brim with the works of other Pagan and esoteric poets, including several of my friends, whose work is a joy to read.

This anthology is about twice the size of Datura, whose companion volume this is. I've been eagerly awaiting this volume and can't wait to dive in and read everyone's work. It's available in both hardbound and trade paper, so it's available to folks who don't have the money for the beautiful hardbound volume.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

What's the point?

A couple of weeks ago, Teo Bishop wrote a blog post entitled What is the Point of Your Religion? over on Patheos. He asks the questions:

Why do we do what we do? What does our tradition provide us in the way of making the world we live in, the communities we build, the people that we care for, better? More importantly, how does it inform our capacity to love, our ability to experience joy, or, for that matter, our willingness to stand with the full spectrum of human experience? Is our religion pacifying us, or challenging us to go deeper?

He states a belief that "there has to be a greater purpose to our religious traditions than providing us with a sense of security, comfort, and personal or cultural validation."

Further along, he continues with the questions:

What is the point of your religion? What tools does it provide to you? Does it equip you for defense or for outreach? Does it lead you to question, or does it encourage you to rest in your knowing?

I suspect that most people are seeking purpose and connection. Most people walking a spiritual path will tend to use that path as a tool, possibly one of many, in that search. As always, I can only speak for myself, as a person who strives to practice filidecht within a CR community, and as someone who identifies very much with the geilt as the wounded outsider poet, seeking healing through art and isolation. In this context, community and isolation are not mutually exclusive states. The geilta pass from isolation into community and back into isolation, responding to need and circumstance.

Community and culture make connections possible. Within a reconstructionist movement, history is a centering point and the recovery of polytheist culture is a creative and expansive activity. Done properly - in my opinion, at least - a reconstructionist path recognizes and celebrates diversity without, as Teo suggests, a "need to squabble about whose deity is best, who’s laws are true, and who’s cosmology is most relevant." I fail to see how the acknowledgement of difference must perforce result in such struggles. Polytheism as a spiritual philosophy acknowledges multivalent realities, multiple deities, and the fact that different people will have relationships with different deities. A "need to squabble about whose deity is best" seems to me to be a remnant of the monotheism that so many of us grew up in, and which permeates western culture with the attitude that there can only be one "true" or "best" anything. We see it in monotheism, we see it in the belief in a singular soul-mate or "one true love," we see it in the idea that there is only one "right" model for family or for gender or for sexuality. It's a hard set of beliefs to shake off, but people do, to greater or lesser extents.

When I look at what the traditions I practice bring to the table in the way of helping make the world, community, and the people around me "better," I look at the effect art has. The fili has a duty to speak, to create poetry and to use words as praise and satire in an effort to bring things into balance, to correct flaws, to praise what is praiseworthy. The fili's work is to encourage the practice of virtuous behavior within the context of the good of the community, the improvement of the world, and the improvement of individual human lives. It is to acknowledge the beauty of sacred things. It is to call out violations of virtues when harm is done. As a path that is, as one of its roots, animist, community includes far more than just the human element; the environment and everything in it participates in that community. Particular places are sacred, associated with deities or expressing something numinous that may well be beyond human comprehension.

The geilt recognizes that culture and community can also harm. Humans in groups can be cruel and petty, and can harm and kill those who are more vulnerable. That cruelty and pettiness can destroy more than just other human beings - it can destroy ecosystems, cultures, species. Culture can be a nurturing parent, or it can be a selfish, bullying child, and it us up to all of us to see to it that culture is a nurturer, not a destroyer. Geilta use art as a tool to salvage something of a damaged self after culture and community have destroyed something in their souls.

The paths of the fili and the geilt urge us to look beyond the surface of things, to understand the weight of symbol and image. The idea of passing through the mist, of walking between worlds, is one of mental, emotional, and spiritual expansion. It enables a perception of links without having to perceive everything as undifferentiated. Language as poetry is a very powerful tool for conveying mysteries, for articulating what's wrong with the world and approaches to reparations and healing. Poetry allows language to approach things obliquely, to treat them with subtlety, to envision something new growing from the roots of something ancient.

Why do I do what I do? I think any artist would understand the sense of compulsion that drives creativity. So many writers and poets have spoken of the need to write, or they will die. Rilke, in Letters to a Young Poet, wrote, “Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depth of your heart; confess to yourself you would have to die if you were forbidden to write.” This is why I do what I do, because I will die if I do not. I will vanish into a nothingness from which there is no possible escape. That my writing serves a community is a wonderful result of responding to that need, but it is the need itself that is at the heart of everything.

When we are doing what is right for us, doing that thing that our soul will wither and die without, it is likely that our community and our world will benefit from that in some way.

For you, Teo, I offer this quote, from the same source:

Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.

I think it's important to recognize that the experience of comfort is not necessarily complacency. It may in fact be a necessary component of healing and of cooperation. I've lived in an absolute uncertainty of where I would be sleeping on any given night and not knowing where my next meal would come from - it is not particularly conducive to spiritual practice unless that uncertainty is deliberately chosen and embraced. Being forced into it by circumstance can destroy a person. Having enough safety and comfort to keep body and soul together is important. It isn't the only thing, but it is necessary. In a place where we feel some safety, we can learn and grow, we can be compassionate to ourselves, and thus develop our compassion for others. Different cultures, different spiritual paths may express these things in diverse ways, but unless we know there is the possibility of safety and comfort, most people cannot find it in themselves to go deeper. There must be a place of returning so that the risk is worthwhile.

As in all things, this is a process. It unfolds slowly, only rarely emerging in that flash of brilliant light. Even then, there has often been some subterranean motion that has led to that moment of imbas - the filid trained for up to twenty years to be able to experience it, to give them the ground from which to grow, the spring from which to draw water, the techniques used in the process of incubation.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Creating a new ogam set

This past week, among all the pilgrimage preparation I've been doing, I have also been working on a new set of ogam feda. The last set I made were of paua shell. These are made of moss agate. The material is much harder, so I had to get different bits for the dremel in order to engrave the stone. The tips wore out much faster than I was used to, so I had to pause in the middle of everything to go and get new bits, which took a couple of days.

This was a much less involved ritual than last time, where I did a 20-day series of rituals and made three each of the same letter every night. The process was exhausting but very rewarding. My experience this time was a little spottier because of technical difficulties, but once I got past the hurdles, I very much got into the right headspace for the work. Offerings were made, chants were sung, and the whirling dremel bit against the stone lit them from within like sparks of fire.

This is a photo of the full set on the altar cloth, before I had consecrated them and cleaned up the edges of the engraving from the paint pen.

This is the set with the bag I'm keeping them in, made by my friend Lupa of The Green Wolf.

Moss agate, to me, is an Airmed stone. Airmed is an Irish goddess most closely associated with herbal healing, daughter of Dian Cécht, sister of Míach and Octriuil, and of Cu and Cethen and Cian, which makes her Lug's aunt. Airmed is the one who harvested and sorted the medicinal herbs growing from Míach's grave after he was killed by Dian Cécht for restoring Nuadha's flesh arm to him. The hornblende or chlorite inclusions in clear chalcedony are reminiscent of moss or the branches of trees, in greens, brown, or red, with white streaks also a part of its composition.

Magically, it's a stone often associated with gardeners, so its potential association with Airmed seems fairly logical, as these things go. I keep some on her altar, along with a little moss agate bowl for water and offerings. This ogam set was created and dedicated to her, for use in healing work. As part of the ritual for consecrating the stones, I traced the engraved letters with a knife of a deer bone blade, with a bear bone handle, also made by Lupa and gifted to me a year or two ago.

Given the sporadic nature of the work on this set, I was concerned that it might have had some energetic effect on the ritual, so after everything was completed, I pulled one fid to determine if all was satisfactory. The fid I drew was tinne, the bar of metal, signifying mastery of one's craft. I wouldn't say I'm terribly masterful with engraving, but at least the ritual and the work were acceptable to the goddess in question. The fid engraved with tinne has a small red inclusion that looks like a tongue of flame in it, which I thought of as the spark of creativity when I was deciding which stone to use for each letter.

The process itself takes a toll on my hands; I have fibromyalgia, so too much hand work, whether it's typing or crafting, makes my hands and arms hurt. They've been in a somewhat delicate state lately because I've been doing so much work at my computer, but I'd been holding onto the stones for this ogam set for several years now and last week they finally grabbed me and said that the time for it was now. One doesn't generally refuse that sort of call to ritual, so I went into it despite knowing I was going to hurt more afterward. I'll deal with it later, when I'm done typing up this entry.

One of the places we'll be visiting while on pilgrimage is Heapstown Cairn in County Sligo. It's a site associated with the Second Battle of Mag Tuired, and said to be the mound beneath which the Well of Sláne is buried. This is the well that was tended by Dian Cécht, Airmed, Míach, and Octriuil, where the slain warriors of the Tuatha Dé Danann were immersed and rose from the dead, renewed. The warriors of the Fomoire, seeing how the physicians were raising the dead, filled the well with stones and buried it so that they would not have to keep facing the same warriors over and over again in the battle. As part of my pilgrimage, I'll be taking this set of ogam feda with me to that site, and doing a blessing of them there, dedicating them to Airmed on her own ground, as it were.

There's so much happening with this pilgrimage and the subsequent trip outside of Ireland. So many of my deities are central to it. It's incredibly exciting and I'm very blessed to be able to do this. The pilgrimage itself currently has either seven or eight of the twelve openings claimed. If you'd like to come along, please do pick up the information packet and get in touch with Vyviane very soon! I hope I'll see you in Ireland!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Confirmed for the 2012 Esoteric Book Conference

2012 Presentation:
Ogam: From Medieval Manuscripts to Modern Magicians

The Irish ogam alphabet predates the Irish manuscript tradition. It is found on boundary stones and funerary markers, as well as objects with magical import from about the 4th century CE.

In the Irish manuscript tradition, cryptic glyphs and “abbreviations” are found that could be seen as the seed of a sigil system. The mythic tradition shows ogam used for divination and magic in multiple contexts, from bindings on enemies to secret messages interpretable only by poets. Ogam is found outside the Irish context as well, in cryptic manuscript inscriptions like the 12th century cosmological diagram of the Anglo-Saxon monk Bryhtferth.

Some modern Pagans and magicians have also taken up the ogam as a magical and divinatory tool. It is used for lot casting, and in the creation of ogam “bindrunes” and sigils derived from the use of medieval glyphs like the Feige Find from the Book of Ballymote. It has also been used in elemental tablets based on the Enochian system.

This presentation will explore the medieval and modern uses of ogam in cryptic and magical contexts, with illustrations from the presenter’s own work, as well as examples from the work of other modern practitioners.

The conference will take place September 15th and 16th, 2012 at the Seattle Center in Seattle, Washington.

Appearing on the Conversations from the Porch podcast and chat

Sunday, March 18th, 2012, at 5:00 p.m. [EST] "Conversations from the Porch" hosts discuss Celtic Reconstructionist Paganism. Listeners who log into the show's host site have the opportunity to participate in a live chat with author Erynn Rowan Laurie.

The URL is:

Monday, February 27, 2012

Preparing for a pilgrimage

There are any number of things that could be said about this, of course. As I noted previously here, I will be traveling to Ireland as a part of a Brigid-focused pilgrimage. There are moments when it all feels so overwhelming.

Preparations of all kinds need to be made: transportation, study, developing the exercises and workshops and rituals that we as a group will be undertaking, making sure I have everything I'll need to pack along, devotional work and rituals in preparation for leaving, dealing with photography along the way, finding ways to cope with my fears and anxieties surrounding travel, and figuring out ways to finance the travel I'll be doing after the Irish part of the pilgrimage but before I return home, among many other things.

A pilgrimage is an opening to mystery. It is opening oneself to a time and a place, to people, to imbas, to the touch of deities and spirits. I'm throwing myself into the stream of life, hoping I will be carried to a deep and meaningful experience, even if it takes a long time to understand what has happened and why after I return home from the journey. Yet, even in throwing myself into the experience with wonder and abandon, preparation is essential.

I know there are those who feel that study and scholarship are antithetical to the kind of experience I'm seeking in this journey, a barrier to directly touching those things and beings I seek. To those people I offer that preparation and study are a part of what allows me to immerse myself in the experience when I am there. It means that I am able to better understand all the things I'm seeing, the spiritual currents, the voices of power and place that I may encounter. Study and scholarship offer context and a map to at least some of the territory being explored.

Without good preparation, it is possible to become lost, whether physically or spiritually. Lack of good preparation can leave someone stranded by a roadside, out of gas and without money for a place to stay the night, even should assistance arrive in the form of a local who can drive you to the nearest town. Being cold and wet while doing a ritual outdoors in an isolated place in poor weather can make even the best-designed rite an uncomfortable or even illness-producing experience. Without taking the time to learn something of the customs of a place, it's possible to give offense without intending to or to damage in some way the very thing which we seek to honor.

Creating and cultivating an appropriate attitude toward the work is also an important part of the preparation. Approaching the sacred might be as simple as taking a walk along an ancient trail, but doing so mindfully is part of the art of the act. Singing quiet prayers along the way changes the experience profoundly.

When I leave Ireland after the group pilgrimage, my own personal pilgrimage is not over. I'll be traveling to the Isle of Man alone before continuing on to visit friends in England and Europe, and finally staying with my brother in Italy. For me, the Isle of Man portion of the journey is just as important spiritually, for Manannán is another deity who is extremely important to me. My plans include camping for a week on the island, with trail walking, exploring heritage sites, and possibly attending part of a Manx and Celtic traditional music festival that will be taking place part of the time I'm visiting. The fact that I'll be camping will save me a fair bit of money, but it also means a lot of advance preparation of the sort I would have to make for any camping trip, and dealing with updates to some of my equipment and arranging to ship my gear home when I'm done on Mann. I also need to be prepared to find a hostel if my body can't hold up to a week's sleeping on the ground in a tent after having already been traveling in Ireland, or if my health otherwise fails.

In traveling and intending to write about my journeys and keep my family and friends updated, I have to be aware of access to things like wireless internet, dealing with overseas phone and data issues, and keeping expensive electronics gear reasonably safe while I'm on the road. Even this is a part of the pilgrimage and has to be properly prepared for. If the physical aspects of the journey are dealt with properly, the spiritual aspects will flow much more easily and my mind and heart can be devoted to the spiritual work and openness to serendipity, rather than worrying about what might go wrong.

If you would like to support my pilgrimage but cannot journey with me, I invite you to make a donation of any size toward my travel, food, and lodging if you feel called to do so. Your generosity would be most deeply appreciated and will help offset the basic costs of getting from place to place and feeding myself after I leave Ireland. I know how very blessed I am to be able to make this journey at all, and I am very excited to be able to share part of it with you through my writing and the photos I'll be taking.

Thank you!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Ireland Pilgrimage, July 2012

Seeking Brigid: Sacred Well, Holy Flame
Pilgrimage to Ireland, 2012
July 11-18, 2012

Join author and poet Erynn Rowan Laurie and the Sisterhood of Avalon for a seven day pilgrimage to Ireland, exploring our connections with the Goddess Brigid, patron of poetry, smith craft, and healing. With the breathtaking landscape of Ireland as our backdrop, our time together will be spent engaged in conscious sight-seeing, scholastic inquiry, and spiritual exploration inspired by Gaelic tradition. For pricing and the full brochure, click here. All over 18 are welcome. Only 12 openings are available.

I hope you'll join me as we explore Ireland and our relationships with Brigid this summer!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Fireflies at Absolute Zero

The final draft of my poetry collection, Fireflies at Absolute Zero, was sent off to Hiraeth Press this past week, while I was buried under the unusually heavy snowfall here in the Pacific Northwest. It was a lovely way to spend a couple of snowed-in days, which I otherwise would not have enjoyed very much. I don't care for the snow, which is one of the reasons why I live on the Salish Sea and not in the Berkshires where I grew up.

I was asked for a short description of the book, an author bio, and a photo, all of which I also sent along. Hiraeth will be updating their website sometime later this year with an announcement about the book. They currently have notices about projects up to August of this year on their news page. Tentative release is set for the last half of October or possibly November 1st of 2012.

To say I'm excited about the book is an understatement. I am, however, also nervous about the whole thing. I think most authors are at this point in the process. Most of my pre-print work is done. Now I have to wait on back cover blurbs, reviews, cover art, and all the rest of the things that go along with getting the book into print and ready for distribution. Once the book actually comes out, I'll need to do readings and signings and such. If you're interested in having me come to your area for a reading and signing (not just for this book, but with others as well), please let me know and we'll see what we can arrange.

Jason and Leslie at Hiraeth have been absolutely wonderful so far. I have great faith in them to make the best possible book from the manuscript I've sent them. I can't wait to see what they come up with for cover art - the cover is such an important aspect of the book. You may not be able to judge a book by its cover, but I have certainly been turned off by cover art and prejudiced against the content of a book by a bad cover. To me, a bad cover speaks of carelessness from the press or incompetence in an independent author. A good cover can intrigue and excite a potential reader, and it may turn the tide between picking the book up off the shelf and not doing so. The covers I've seen on Hiraeth's volumes are beautiful and definitely catch the eye.

Poetry is always such a personal genre of writing. Whether or not one likes it is a matter of deeply personal taste. Something that thrills one reader will bore another to tears. I think the best any of us can do as poets is to speak from our hearts about things that matter to us and to do so in the most honest way possible. To do so with eloquence and power is the essence of poetic art. I hope that I have done this and that my work will appeal not just to the Pagan community of which I am a part, but to the wider world as well.