Blog Post by Rev. Barbara Ney Ni Saomhair
I was born in the suburbs of Dublin in a working class area. Both my parents were Catholic and I was reared as a Catholic, but there were so many elements of Paganism in the way I was brought up. In ways of thinking, tradition and pisogs my parents imparted to me, both consciously and subconsciously.
Though both my parents were city born, both their roots and ancestry are in the Midlands, in Co. Westmeath. My Father and Uncle were sent down to my Great Grandparents farm during the war years when there was a shortage of food, my poor Uncle because he had rickets, and my Father because that’s where he was happiest, on the land, with the chickens and horses.
From his Grandparents he learned that the land was a living being with a spirit of its own, and to be thankful for what grew and fed us. He remembered and told me that as a young boy, he helped his Grandmother bring water from the well, and his Grandmother whispering thanks to the well, so as not to anger the fairies and the spirit of the water.
My Father spent many summers even as a young man down on the farm, learning about chicken husbandry and became quite an expert. In later years he told me it was very natural that on one hand the rosary was said every night and on the other hand a firm, deeply held belief in magic, fairies, and the almost worship of the land happened and both were in harmony and did not seen to contradict each other.
There was the annual weaving of the Brigids crosses, hanging one in the barn and the other in the house. The old ones being burnt each year. He remembered his Grandmother churning the butter, and that there was a type of song she would sing, almost whisper, and he knew not to disturb her while she was doing this, as this song had to be sung, or something would happen to the butter. I would love to know the words of that song! 🙂
My Father began to keep chickens in the back garden of his parents house in Dublin and indeed when he married and eventually moved to where I live now, he kept chickens in our back garden too. I loved helping my Father with all aspects of caring for the chickens, feeding them, watching the eggs hatch, sometimes under the hens, sometimes in the incubator, and handling the chicks the moment they hatched. The chickens and even the cock were very tame and would peck the grain from my Father’s and my hands.
My Dad had a deep respect for all animals, he always said they were sentient beings that could think and feel, and he detested any form of animal cruelty or neglect. He was also a very practical man. He taught me all of this from a very young age. My Father also taught me in a very practical manner about the circle of life: birth, life, death and rebirth.
When the chickens reached a certain age, they were useful for only one thing, to eat them. He would coax them into his lap, and talk gently to them. He would stroke them and pet them. He would then place their head under their wing until they fell asleep. He would then very quickly dispatch them and they felt no pain.
He did try to teach me, but I would only coax them, then pluck them afterwards! I always had a profound natural affinity with animals and they seemed drawn to me and I to them. I was never afraid of any animal.
Both my Father and Mother had green fingers, and could make anything grow, there was almost a competition between them. They decided between them that Dad would have the back garden and Mam had the front garden. Dad grew vegetables in the back garden, and there I would help him too.
I learned from my Dad the importance of respecting the Earth and of looking after the Earths needs. We recycled before it became popular to recycle and I think most people did. My Mother grew the most beautiful roses in the front garden, I can still smell them.
From a very young age my Father and I took our early Saturday morning walk. All year round, it didn’t matter what the weather was like. In the early 1970s up to the middle 1990s, all we had to do was cross the field in front of us, go through the small lane and we were in the country side.
On these walks, he would teach me about the “unseen in nature” the fairies, the leprechauns, the magical beings that inhabit the land with us. He told me they were more ancient than humanity, they were here before us. And though he was a Catholic and practised his religion, he told me that there were many Gods and Goddesses and to believe in just one God was a very silly thing to do. He had a great devotion to Mary the Mother of Jesus and treated her like a Goddess.
When I was a teenager, he said to me one day that as there were both male and female in humans and the animal kingdom, therefore it was only logical that there were Gods both male and female. On these walks he also talked about the spirits of the land, trees and plants and spoke about them as if they were friends. My Father was very psychic, he had a gift of “knowing”. My Father was also a very shy man, but he became animated and very passionate when he talked about such subjects.
We picked wild blackberries when they were ripe, but never after the end of October he said as the devil had spat on them! My Mother, a wonderful cook, made blackberry jam, and apple and blackberry tarts. The same tradition of the weekly walk continued with my son, and his Grandfather imparting the same wisdoms to him. It was only as my Father became weaker and less able did the walks stop, a sad and poignant time for all of us. The chickens too had to go, we made sure they went to a good home, and we knew it was the end of an era.
As relatives and friends died, my Dad talked of death as just another beginning, without pain or disease, there was no mention of sin, or of penance, just of peace and reunion with those who were waiting for us, including animals. He also believed in rebirth, but of having a choice of whether to be reborn or not. He did not believe however that you could come back as an animal, only as a human. He firmly believed that when one was dying the family that went before gathered around to collect and welcome the one who had just died.
Both my Father and I loved horses, and in the field across from the house there were plenty. Travellers horses and working horses. My Father was often called to help if something was wrong, and to watch him with the horses was a wonder. He seemed to know what was wrong instinctively and if a vet needed to be called or even the blacksmith. Of course any chance I was allowed, I was up on the back of a horse galloping across the field, my Mother nearly tearing her hair out with worry and my Father standing there grinning!
My Father for several reasons had slightly deformed/crippled hands, yet that never stopped him from doing anything he wanted to. He worked hard all his life, was a very professional engineer and carpenter and he installed in all his children the will and determination to live life on their terms.
My Mother was reared in the heart of Dublin by her adoptive Mother who was a convert to Catholicism. (My Mother’s biological family come from the Midlands). This Lady was often called to either lay out the dead or help birth a child. My Mother was often with her when she laid out the dead and learned from her Mother about opening the window to allow the spirit of the newly dead to float to Heaven.
It was also important to put two coins in with the dead person either laid on top of their closed eyes or in their hands or clothing. Most people at that time were waked at home and somebody always had to sit with the dead person, there were never to be left alone. Two candles always had to be lit on either side of the coffin. When in later years I asked her why, she said it was the belief that it took three days for the soul to fully leave the body. However she was never allowed to go see a baby being born! 🙂
My Mother was more traditional in the practice of her religion. She had great devotion to the Sacred Heart (an aspect of Jesus) and she always said anything she asked of him she got.
The May Altar for Mary the Mother of Jesus was set up at the beginning of each May and fresh flowers put on the Altar every week. The May Procession was almost compulsory to attend. We were encouraged to go to Mass and confession regularly until mid teens and then left to make up our own minds on the matter.
However she also had traditions that she taught me that were clearly more Pagan in nature.
When moving into a new house, you always put salt into each corner of every room and lit a blessed candle in every room she said. You also, she said, gave a piece of coal to the people moving into the house and this would be kept, not burned, so that symbolically at least you always had fuel in the hearth and home. Sympathetic Magic?
My Mother also every few years performed this ritual in our house, to in her words “ to clean the dirt that can’t be seen”.
Holy water too played an important role, we were blessed with holy water every time we left the house and the house would also be blessed to ward of evil. Any sign of a storm, especially thunder and lightning, the mirrors were covered and all of us and the house blessed too.
At Halloween we left the dumb supper for all who had gone before us and a small coin was left outside for the fairies. November was the Month of the dead, where we visited the graves of our loved ones, cleaned the graves and brought fresh flowers. We often took a picnic with us and had tea out of a flask and sandwiches.
My Mother also seemed to have the ability to predict when there was going to be a death in the family or close loved ones. She would get this itch in the middle of her forehead (third eye?) and most of the time she was right.
At Christmas candles were lit for all the spirits that might be wandering, especially tall red ones from when it became dark on Christmas eve and on New Years eve at midnight the hall door was opened to let the old year out and the new year in.
The first Monday of the New Year was called according to my Mother “Hansel Monday”
This was the day when you exchanged coins with family and friends and you kept these coins until the following Hansel Monday. This was again symbolically to always have money in your purse or wallet, this then might attract more.
My Mother like my Father was a very practical person, she was also very strong mentally and highly intelligent. So when I was 10, the Government of the time wanted to use the domestic dump near us as a toxic dump. My Mother and other concerned people educated themselves and then formed the local environmental group to fight these plans. It took some years to fight and entailed many meetings with officials, politicians, court appearances, blockades, media attention etc. As I am the youngest in my family I was brought along to everything and it was certainly an education for me about protecting the environment and future generations. It also showed to me at a young age how power can corrupt people.
We did win, but then the quality of our water began to decrease, so again my Mother and others became environmental warriors and battled to win for our community clean water.
My Mother was also a social warrior, with other people she brought in the “Neighbourhood Watch”, in conjunction with the local Gardai and also with the co-operation of FAS set up a Community Workshop for disadvantaged teenagers and young people to provide them with basic education, practical and life skills.
I was also taught by both my parents the importance of respecting and honouring the Elders within the family. So just as my Mother cared for her Mother, I too cared for my Parents in their later years. My Uncle too. It was a privilege to do so. I gained insights into both my parents and my uncles personalities that I am deeply thankful and grateful for.
When their time came I waked them in the old ways, in their own home, and in their coffins I placed two coins and emblems of things they had enjoyed in life.
I have spent a lot of time researching my Mothers family history and have discovered that my Great Grandmother was a known herbalist that had cures for sick animals.
This article is called ‘traditions my parents taught me’. But I also have to include my older brother, who was my playmate and my mentor. As a young man growing up, he had a huge interest in all things scientific and also in art and painting. He had what he called his Lab out in a small shed in the back garden as I was growing up. In there he had a microscope and a telescope. On clear nights I looked through the telescope and could see the moon and the night sky so clearly. One day he pricked my finger and put some of my blood on a slide. I looked through the telescope and could see all the different components of blood. He taught me to live life on my terms, be kind, respectful, have an inner strength but never be a doormat!
Thank you Mam and Dad and my brother for an unusual and magical childhood. You all helped to form within me the deep desire and the courage to begin to walk my own Path and that then led me, with many twists and turns to another joyful coming home, to Wicca and Paganism.
Just a quick round up this month of some Irish Pagan events that are happening either in Ireland, or online with an interest to/the involvement of Irish Pagans.
NOTICE: Dublin Pub Moothttps://www.facebook.com/pg/DublinPubMoot.No1/
Barbara says… “We’re still up in the air for a Dublin Pub Moot location, and there is no moot in January… we will be up and running again in Feb in a brand new location, yet to be announced.”
6th January (ONGOING, Register Any Time): Learn the Lore – 21 Day Challenge. This free 21 day challenge run by the Irish Pagan School will help you to get an easy start with proper Irish source lore and community discussion. Join at – https://irishpaganschool.com/p/lore-21
10th January: Monthly Pagan Moot in Cork City – an informal event, providing the opportunity to socialise with other people who are interested in Earth based spirituality, Irish folklore, magic and the occult. We are open to people of all gender, sexual orientation and background. If you are 16 or younger, please bring an adult to accompany you. Hosted by the Well of Wisdom Temple (€2 suggested donation), more info at – https://www.facebook.com/events/2244312408947484/
12th January: FLAMEKEEPING/ BRIGIDMAS/ IMBOLG 2019 – Clann Dord Fiann are working each evening from the 12th of January to the 31st with a 20 day devotional work with and to Brigid. As part of the extension of our work to have a public face, we invite others to join this activity if they wish. It is solitary and requires no other involvement (free), more info at – https://www.facebook.com/events/326719824839035/
13th January: The Dagda’s Tools Online Class, with Jon O’Sullivan.
Live Online Class (Sunday 13th Jan) – Learn about the Good God’s tech, and what it means to us. Enroll Now at the Irish Pagan School (€27) – https://irishpaganschool.com/p/dagda-tools
19th January: Anti-Semintism in Paganism Online Class and Discussion Panel. There are many Jewish people who are also pagans, polytheists, and magical practitioners, and others who come from an ethnically Jewish background. Jewish practices, mysticism, and magic have deeply influenced parts of the pagan and occultic communities. Despite participation in and many contributions to the broader pagan and occult discourse, the Jewish community continues to be oppressed and misunderstood. Join us for a conversation about Jews and Judaism, past and present (suggested donation on a sliding scale, non-profit event) – More info at https://www.facebook.com/events/562311290897895/
19th January: The Dead Zoo Tour – (Dublin) Meet Museum Educator, Geraldine Breen, and discover the science and stories behind the collections on display during this free public highlights tour of the Museum of Natural History. More info at – https://www.museum.ie/Visit-Us/Events?id=3955
20th January: Treasures of the National Museum – (Dublin) Take a tour of the iconic treasures in the National Museum, including the ‘Tara’ Brooch and the Ardagh Chalice. More info at – https://www.museum.ie/Visit-Us/Events?id=3974
26th of January: PLR Imbolc Ritual Cork – hosted by Well of Wisdom Temple. Everyone who is genuinely interested is welcome, regardless of background, ethnicity, gender identifiation or sexual orientation. People under 16 are welcome, provided they are accompanied by an adult and they can stay quiet during the meditation. No previous experience with Paganism is required. (€5 suggested donation), more info at – https://www.facebook.com/events/531000037407843/
26th January: Revisiting Brighid & Imbolc – A Year With The Gods Online Conference. Hosted by Land Sea Sky Travel. This is an all-day online conference, held from the States but featuring many Irish presenters, with five presentations and a Bardic closing. The day starts and ends with devotional prayers and offerings to Deity, and also includes giveaways, a chat room, and interactive breaks where you can get to know others in our community. You will also receive a recording of all five presentations and Bardic time after the conference. More info at – https://www.facebook.com/events/282324285765984/
26th January: Recovery Awareness in Spiritual Community Online Class. In this class we will examine substance use and recovery in magical, spiritual, and pagan spaces. We will begin with an overview of what addiction is, discussing causes, triggers, related trauma, myths and biases, and the relationship between substance use and mental health. We will examine the role of leadership in the community and the responsibility to provide safe spaces and we will also focus on tools for providing support to addicts in community spaces (suggested donation on a sliding scale) – More info at – http://transformationreiki.com/events-1/
27th January: Make a St. Brigid’s Cross – (Mayo) Join the members of the Education team to learn more about the history, customs and traditions around St. Brigid’s Day and make your very own St. Brigid’s Cross. More info at – https://www.museum.ie/Visit-Us/Events?id=3925
27th January: 10 Steps to Irish Paganism Online Class, with Lora O’Brien. Live Online Class on Sunday 27th January – a simple, step by step class; covering the main topics you need to get started. Enroll Now
at the Irish Pagan School (€17) – https://irishpaganschool.com/p/10steps/
30th January: Waterford Pagan Pub Moot – Last Wednesday of every month, a social gathering for those interested in earth-based spirituality, or who identify as Pagan. Discussion and networking in safe space, and a bit o’ craic. No cost to join us, but throwing a few quid in the community fund is welcome. More info at – https://www.facebook.com/groups/waterfordmoot/
6th February: The Wexford Moot continues in 2019 on the first Wednesday of every month in Murphy’s Barn Wexford (free)… See Pagan Moot Wexford FB page for information on Moots and events – https://www.facebook.com/PaganMoot-Wexford-200226263368501/
21st February: Cork Moot – An Spailpín Fánach, Cork City. NB One week later than usual to avoid Valentine’s Day :
Having at least a basic, regular meditation practice has been proven to be good for your health, but is also an effective way to boost the focus and visualisation skills needed for many Pagan magical and spiritual activities.
With that in mind, here are some Meditation resources to get you started, or help improve, your own practice.
– 2014, by Jenny Chase.
Meditation is the most powerful mind and body hack available. It will improve your health, wealth and relationships. Meditation is the age old art of purely focusing your mind and attention on one area. The practice of doing this has an almost endless list of beneficial impacts on your mind and body. With the incredible benefits that meditation offers it is no surprise that it has spread throughout every culture of the world. For centuries people of all different backgrounds have been using meditation to better their life and health. From businesses gurus to prisoners and from celebrities to monks – people from all walks of life have adopted meditation.
But what are the benefits? What makes meditation so powerful? Well, meditation has been shown to: Increase creativity Increase ability to focus and concentrate Reduce stress, anxiety and high blood pressure Increase levels of happiness and contentment Increase energy levels As well as many, many more incredible things. This book is the guide to helping you reap those benefits. It is a complete beginner’s guide covering everything from the neuroscience of meditation all the way to walking you through your first ever meditation So, if you’ve ever wanted to learn to meditate… grab this book now.
– 2017, by Daniel Goleman & Richard J. Davidson.
Two New York Times–bestselling authors unveil new research showing what meditation can really do for the brain.
In the last twenty years, meditation and mindfulness have gone from being kind of cool to becoming an omnipresent Band-Aid for fixing everything from your weight to your relationship to your achievement level. Unveiling here the kind of cutting-edge research that has made them giants in their fields, Daniel Goleman and Richard Davidson show us the truth about what meditation can really do for us, as well as exactly how to get the most out of it.
Sweeping away common misconceptions and neuromythology to open readers’ eyes to the ways data has been distorted to sell mind-training methods, the authors demonstrate that beyond the pleasant states mental exercises can produce, the real payoffs are the lasting personality traits that can result. But short daily doses will not get us to the highest level of lasting positive change—even if we continue for years—without specific additions. More than sheer hours, we need smart practice, including crucial ingredients such as targeted feedback from a master teacher and a more spacious, less attached view of the self, all of which are missing in widespread versions of mind training. The authors also reveal the latest data from Davidson’s own lab that point to a new methodology for developing a broader array of mind-training methods with larger implications for how we can derive the greatest benefits from the practice.
Exciting, compelling, and grounded in new research, this is one of those rare books that has the power to change us at the deepest level.
We hope that’s helpful!
Comment below with your favourite Meditation resources?
Pagan Moots are regular (usually on the same day each month) social and educational meet-ups, and they are for anyone who is already thinking of themselves as ‘Pagan’ – or some variation ther-of! – or for people who are completely new to this and just want to pop in and see who’s involved locally, and what it’s all about.
If you’re interested in attending a Pagan Life Rites moot, they’re held at various locations around the country:
(Pagan Moot listings are correct at the time of publication.)
It’s been a while since we have last posted any news, but that doesn’t mean we have been idle. We have been dealing with the boring administrative things that keep our organisation going.
We have said a farewell to some Clergy Members, who have moved on to newer things, and, as a result, couldn’t give the commitment required to the obligations of being a Pagan Life Rites Clergy Member. However, we would like to give them our thanks for the hard work and input that they have put into the organisation and the hard work that they have done on your behalf, and we wish them well.
We also welcome a new Clergy Member, Anna Coote, and know that she will be a valuable addition to the Clergy Membership.
We are accepting new membership applications at the moment, which will close on the Autumn Equinox, so if you think you have something to offer to the Pagan community as a Clergy Member, please send us an email expressing your interest to email@example.com, with the subject line Clergy Application.
We have been welcoming new clergy membership applications since March, and have had a very good response.
If you wish to become a Clergy Member of Pagan Life Rites, then please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we will send you an application form. Please have a look at our Membership page to see the criteria for applying.
All completed applications must be received by us no later than June 15th, 2017, in order to be considered for Clergy Membership this year. We will not consider any further applications after that date until the Spring Equinox 2018.
In the lead up to Census 2016, Pagan Life Rites ran a social media campaign which encouraged those from various Pagan traditions to simply declare “Pagan” in the “Other” box for the question on religion. This was to unify our community under one descriptor to more easily demonstrate the number of people in our community who self-declare in the Census. For reasons of prejudice, privacy and family, there will also be some who will not self-declare on the Census (within the “Not Stated” category) so the figures in this report as outlined below may not be fully representative of the size of our community. There may also be persons of Pagan faith who may not define their spiritual path as a “religion” and so may opt for the “No Religion” category, which means that not all of those opting for this descriptor in the Census are Atheists or Humanists.
(Use the dark green line on the right to scroll down)
In today’s report focusing on the data for this question we can see that there is a 39.1% increase in the number of people who opted for “Other Religion.” This brings the total number of this cohort to 97,700. The top three counties for this category are Dublin (122,079 / 24%), Cork (23.958 / 29.2%), and Galway (12,601 / 27.7%) with Kildare following close behind.
If you go to the data tables and run reports for religion selecting “Pagan/Pantheist” you will find that the total number of those who identified as such has increased by 40.5% bringing the total number to 2,645, an increase of 762 declarations. 1,913 of these were Irish nationals with UK nationals being the next largest cohort to declare (340). 1,209 were male (43% increase since 2011) and 1,436 were female (38.3% increase since 2011).
While a county breakdown for “Pagan/Pantheist” is not yet available from the CSO, the figures do show that our community is slightly larger than the Jewish community which currently sits at 2,557 declarations. We can also see that declarations of Catholicism have dropped from the 2011 figure of 84.2% to 78.3% in 2016. Of interest to us, given the above, are declarations of “No Religion” which have increased by 73.6% – meaning this cohort now represents almost 10% of the population – and the “Not Stated” category which has increased by 71.8%.
*“For the 2016 Census, the religion breakdown has been expanded. In 2011 the religions with a 0 figure were included in the Other Stated Religion category. The CSO attempts to capture and code all responses and have published any categories where there were 30 or more responses in 2016.”
Report chapter on religion: http://www.cso.ie/en/media/csoie/releasespublications/documents/population/2017/Chapter_8_Religion.pdf
Pagan Life Rites now sits alongside many other Civil Society Organisations listed on the Irish Links Directory of www.activelink.ie.
To find us there, simply hover over the “Irish Links” menu tab and select the “Civil Liberties-Human Rights” option from the drop-down and you will find the listing below on Page 3.
Much gratitude to the folks at ActiveLink!
The new Board of Pagan Life Rites was elected on 31st March. According to our Constitution, the Board is rotated annually and made up of four elected Regional Officers. We thank our previous Board members, Francis Devenney, Lora O’Brien, Fionnuala O’Regan and Vinnie Woods for their year of service and dedication. We welcome our new Board members, Sophia Boann, Barbara Lee, Kristian Märkus and Gavin Morrison. The outgoing Board members continue to serve as Regional Officers and Clergy members.