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writing

27
Feb - 19

Milk and healing

This is a snippet from the chapter on spiritual hygiene and purification in my work in progress, the Celtic Sorcery book. This was originally posted for patrons a month ago ahead of Imbolc so it seemed seasonally appropriate. It’s in rough unedited form, so you get what you get!


Milk and the products of milk as agents of healing and purification are a pervasive theme in the Irish literature and Celtic traditions in general. In part, this appears to stem from the fundamental connection between nourishment and healing. This larger theme is emphasized by, for example, the names of the healing deities Dían Cécht, Airmid, and Míach, each of which has a meaning related to agriculture and food. The insight seems to be that what nourishes the body heals the body. Additionally, milk in particular and its products are associated with the ability to soothe, to neutralize poison or contagion, and to make whole and purify. Milk appears in many places in Celtic traditions as a condensed representation of the fertility of the land – nourishing, edible, gentle enough to soothe, rich with life from the land. Where “the fertility of the land” occurs as a plot point in myth, it is usually represented by the phrase, “grain and milk”, or “corn, milk, and fruit”. Similarly, the phrase “cows without milk” is symbolic of total loss of fertility from the land.

The symbolism and spiritual qualities of milk connect them with similar beliefs about water, particularly flowing sacred waters, such as springs and rivers. This is in part reflected in the associations that tie both milk and flowing water to the beneficent powers of life and renewal, and we also see it in the deities that share associations with both. For example, the river goddess Bóann, namesake of the Boyne river, is also associated with a holy well and its inspiration, as well as with cattle and the milk of cows, and their associated fertility. The earliest reference to the Boyne river gives the name as Buvinda, from archaic Irish , cow + vinda, a term that can mean white, bright or having wisdom (and sharing its root with that of the poet-warrior Fionn). Her name and symbolism parallel several Continental and British goddesses associated with cattle and healing wells. In the myths and symbolism that attaches to Bóann and similar goddesses, we find the images of a well of wisdom whose waters pour forth with wisdom, nourishment and healing, like streams of milk pouring from the body of a cow, and which become the river that carries her name. 

Similarly, Brigid, a goddess deeply associated with waters and springs, healing and purification, combines many of these same symbols and modes of action. She is also a poet and the streams of water arising from the holy wells associated with her are imbued with inspiration, as well as healing, purifying, and renewing powers. At the same time she is profoundly connected to cattle, held as their protector, invoked in dairy rituals, and attached to blessings and nourishment provided by milk and dairy products. 


For access to the full draft chapter on Spiritual Hygiene (around 4300 words), you can join as a supporter on Patreon.

What do you think about milk and healing? Leave a comment or join the conversation in our Discord community.

01
Feb - 19

Writing again: Celtic Sorcery project

After a nice long hiatus, I’m getting back into a writing practice again. This blog has been dormant, in part because I just needed a break after finishing my book a few years ago, and in part because my available time and resources were focused more on visual art than writing.

I’m into a new writing project now, and as I’ll be posting some material from it here on this blog, I thought I’d update readers on what I’m up to.

These days, outside my tattoo practice which continues to be the cornerstone of my work, I’m focusing my work through Patreon. Over on Patreon, I have a couple different patron-funded projects, with the primary one being the writing of a book on Celtic Sorcery.

This book is based on material I’ve developed for teaching classes on magic and sorcery, spirit-work and polytheism, rooted in Celtic spiritual traditions and scholarship. I’ve been teaching this material as workshops for a few years now arising out of my own practice that blends elements from different Celtic cultural sources. I noticed that every time I teach one of the classes in the series, people always ask, “Okay, is there a book I can buy with this material in it?” So yes, there’s going to be a book.

Here’s a summary of my focus for this work: The Celtic cultures of Ireland, Britain, and Gaul provide us with rich and ancient wells of magical lore – blessing and purification rites; protective charms and spells; fate-binding and foredestination; curses and battle sorceries, Gods and spirits who are connected to these practices, and a whole lot more. I draw on folk tradition, archaeological study, early literature, and my own extensive personal experience, to explore these traditions of magic and sorcery in depth, while seeking insight through them into Celtic worldviews and cosmologies.

Because I’m a hungry self-employed artist, I need to do this as a patron-funded project. So as the book is in development, the draft chapters are being published as patron-only content over on Patreon. I also get into researching ways to extract ritual & magic from old traditions, experimenting with novel divination tools and spirit-work methods, and other explorations, and patrons will be able to participate along with me in those projects too.

Where this blog comes in is that as draft chapters are posted for patrons, I’ll share shorter excerpts here and hope to open conversations about this rich area of study and begin building a community of practitioners. Toward that end, I’ve also created a Discord community space where folks who are interested in this topic can join us for discussion: https://discord.gg/UC3wYqm.

Look for Celtic Sorcery writings to begin showing up here later this month. And a blessed Imbolc/Brigid’s Day to you all!

09
Sep - 14

It’s a damn fine time…

Today I’m emerging briefly from book cave to spread the word about the shiny new Polytheist.com site!

Polytheist.com is the brainchild of my dear friend and co-conspirator Theanos Thrax, known to many in our communities as the Anomalous Thracian. He’s bringing together a gorgeously diverse array of writers (with more to come) representing a range of polytheistic traditions and streams of practice, to create a curated, intellectually and spiritually rich set of columns on Polytheist theology, practice and experience.

I am in full support of this project. I was honored with an invitation to write for Polytheist.com myself, and in the not-too-distant future, I will be doing so. The reason you aren’t yet seeing anything from me there is, of course, the demands of my book-writing schedule (and accompanying obligations to my book backers) – which I have come to affectionately refer to as being in “Book Jail”. In the meantime, however, Polytheist.com has hit the ground running with a fine array of columns and articles from a stellar batch of authors.

Here’s the thing: Polytheism needs this space because – whether or not any given Polytheist does or does not also identify as Pagan – the experience of a devotional Polytheist is unique to itself and thus to have a space dedicated to exploring, teaching, learning, and supporting those experiences is a huge service to us. To encounter the Gods as real beings with agency and consequence impacts our being and our lives in particular and profound ways that are often quite distinct from experiences of other Pagans oriented toward archetypes as prisms of the soul, or toward non-personal universal forces, etc. Polytheist.com exists to provide a dedicated space for community and exchange around those distinct needs and experiences.

Here’s a quote from the site about its purpose:

In a “manifold” universe populated by myriad entities, autonomies, consciousnesses and willed layers-upon-layers of complex relations, animist sensibilities, and at times adamantly ancestral engagements, it is important to not only acknowledge the many gods and goddesses and Their sacred agency, but also the agency of the many cultic communities, devotional disciplines and worshipful fellowships, war-bands, sects and circles. We are not all of us called by the same gods or to the same task, but for those who place central life importance in answering, navigating, and honoring the very state of being called by Them in the first place, this place is for you. Safe. Protected. Dedicated.

– “About” Polytheist.com

There’s also a fine piece in the Wild Hunt this morning with more perspective from the Thracian and from Hunt writer Terence P. Ward on the site launch.

As my friend the Thracian iconically says, “It’s a damn fine time to be a polytheist!”

Now, back into the book-writing cave with me!

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