Oh dear… Where do I even begin?
It’s Samhain today for me! I normally don’t update for holidays, but today I felt like making my present thoughts public. For starters, I want to plot out what I’m doing for the rest of the day. Religiously, I plan to:
- Take stock on how the year went
- Make my rosemary pizza
- Order food for my feast
- Give offerings to my ancestors
- Do divination for the upcoming year
- Rewatch Song of the Sea
- Play Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines while my fiance watches
If you have any questions about why I do any of these things, feel free to ask! My celebration is going to start at sunset, but I am going to take stock of how the year went in this blog while I’m feeling nostalgic. So get prepared for a lot of reflections below.
I realized about a month ago that my religious practice felt cumbersome becaue my shrine was cumbersome. While I was excited about its set up a year ago, I slowly lost that enthusiasm.
I always say how the shrine I had set up wasn’t for my Powers, but for me. I wanted something large and gaudy — they never demanded a huge set up, I desired one. And for a time, that was true. But now, I wanted to downsize. I needed to downsize. The large setup was stressing me out. I wanted something I could sit at with ease.
Just wanted to post a quick update about how my “About” page has changed. It changed in one major way: I no longer call myself a Bandraoi or a Banfhaidh. And I figured I’d muse why that is.
I recently saw an event on Facebook for an “Irish Beltane” with the cover picture using a May Pole.
Immediately, I thought of this quote by Kevin Danaher in The Year in Ireland, pages 97-98:
At least one other May pole figured in the tragic evens of 1798. From Kildare we read (Four. Kildare Arch. Soc. v, 446):
‘In some towns the May pole was a permanent fixture: one formerly stood at the junction of the streets in Castledermot; a pump now occupies the site. Earlier still this may have been the site of the market-cross, as funerals passing through the town always make one turn round the present pump. Some rebels are said to have been hanged from the May pole in ’98.
‘The May pole was unknown in the country districts and was probably introduced into the towns by the English.’
Most, if not all, of these seem to bear out the remark in the last excerpt quoted above above, that the May pole is a medieval or later introduction into the towns from England. More recent attempts are known by people with English associations to introduce the ‘polite’ English custom of the May pole to the ‘wild Irish’.
Also, a quote from Lora O’Brien in Irish Witchcraft from an Irish Witch page 159:
I would also like to point out that the maypole so long associated with this festival, though great fun on the day, is not an Irish or even a Celtic custom. It is English. Some Celtic communities have borrowed from it over the years, using living trees in some cases but, as we are sticking to what is truly ours here, we’ll leave that particular piece of misinformation to one side.
Perusing other sources, they all point out that May poles were found in Ireland where the English were located. And given the English’s relationship with Ireland… I don’t think it’s fitting to celebrate an Irish Bealtaine using May poles.
Instead, the Irish made May bushes. Both Danaher and O’Brien talk about this custom. The basic gist is that bushes were decorated with “bright things, colored ribbons, eggshells, and all sorts of trappings and given center stage in proceedings” (O’Brien, pages 159-160.) I personally decorate a small plastic tree I got around the winter holidays with a ribbon and flowers, seen below:
(Traditionally, May bushes would be made with living flora and not…plastic stuff…but I work with what I have.)
Anyways, my point is that that May poles are not Irish. Instead, I recommend making a May bush if you are celebrating an Irish (or Gaelic) Bealtaine.
For a while now, I’ve been musing about the idea of using Gaelic ideas to base a system of divination around. Originally I was thinking of using cards, but the idea of using stones came to me more recently and I liked it.
So pictured above is the result! There are 18 stones total, listed below. I may add two more stones but I’m not set on that idea as of now.
I plan to have this sold from my Etsy shop to add some more revenue for the Polytheist Community Center. But someone wanted to know how to make them themselves, so I’ll explain my process below for anyone who has the tools to do this:
Eighteen stones with images symbolizing: Earth, Sea, Sky, Moon, Sun, Fire, Triskele, Honor, Family, Community, Fae, Otherworld, Gods, Ancestors, Hearth, Hospitality, Ogham, and Magic. I used a color coded system: black are abstract concepts, gold are tangible things in this world, and silver is Otherworldly things. There’s some overlap as you may guess, which makes for some interesting imagery.
I read them by throwing them on a cloth divided into three sections. These trisections don’t represent anything and just help me see connections better. The center of the cloth is the “epicenter” which shows the most important issue or the topic closest at hand. I don’t read reversals typically.
They have been really easy for me to use and understand so far. I’m not sure if I’ll be using them for other people, though. We’ll see what time has in store.
I actually also have Ogham Dice, but I have felt that I needed to also use Ogham Staves or sticks too. These pieces of wood were graciously given to me by my neighborhood tree and I give it MANY thanks!
I think I’m going to keep practicing with Ogham before I offer to divine for anyone using Ogham. The system still is new to me, but I have found it accurate (since card readings will often yield same results after I draw Ogham.)
If you want to know more about Ogham, my friend Jared made a really awesome thread at Polytheist Community Forums about Ogham: The Great Big Ogham Resource Thread. I recommend reading it when you get the chance!
Anyway, that’s all I have to update. Yay Ogham Staves!
After some thoughtful meditation and consideration, I think it’s time for me to mark my new goals of my spiritual life with titles that reflect how I want to be perceived by the community at large. Quoting Lora O’Brien’s Irish Witchcraft from an Irish Witch, I felt a deep calling to these two titles:
Bandraoi (pron. Ban-Dree): a term for a Druidess, this is what is given as the dictionary definition, but literally translated it is the same as Bean Draoi (woman, magic), which is a female User of Magic.
Banfhaidh (pron. Ban-aw-eeh): Prophetess
I know I don’t talk about it here much, but I do practice magic. More so than my co-religious Gaelic Polytheists. And I want to help people through magic. While visiting with a group of witchy feminists, one of them shared how they believed they were cursed with bad luck. I really wanted to just grab her by the shoulders and help her with whatever magic I could grab my hands on. But I held back because I don’t advertise myself as a witch-for-hire (or a witch for that matter.) I realized I did need a way to talk about how I am a magic user and how I want to help others. So calling myself a Bandraoi is a great way to do it, without calling myself a witch.
As for Bandfhaidh…I have also felt very in-tuned with divination lately. I’m still trying to get better and try new ways, but I love how much I have been able to provide clarity for people using cards and bibliomancy. I plan to make Ogham Staves and to get better with my Ogham Dice, too. It’s important to me. I also am getting more attentive to naturalistic signs.
For clarification, while I am taking on a woman’s title I still do identify as a demigender woman specifically. This is why I’m not demigender, not trans or agender–I still have a strong connection to female titles and gender, but just not as strongly. I am also not relenting on my idea that “witch” is a negative term to be avoided (though I still don’t hold it against those who wish the title on themselves.)
So that’s exciting, right? I hope I can continue to help people through magic and divination, as well as help myself.