Review: ‘Brigid: Meeting the Goddess of Poetry, Forge and Healing Well’ by Morgan Daimler

Brigid by Morgan DaimlerBrigid: Meeting the Goddess of Poetry, Forge and Healing Well is an introduction to the multi-faceted Celtic goddess, Brigid, by Irish Polytheist Morgan Daimler. In this book, Morgan traces the threads of the ‘enormous, brightly coloured tapestry’ that gives form to Brigid in the twenty-first century to their original sources.

Morgan centres on the well-known Irish depiction of Brigid as three sisters in the 14th C Sanas Cormac: ‘Brigid of the Poets, Brigid of the Forge, Brigid the Healer’. She introduces Brigid’s earliest representations as the daughter of the Dagda and member of the Tuatha dé Danann in The Caith Maige Tuired and Lebor Gabala Erenn. Lesser know Brigids from the Ulster Cycle: Brigid the Hospitaller, Brigid of the Judgements and Brigid the Cowless are also introduced.

A chapter focuses on Brigid by other names: the Gaulish Brigandu, British Brigantia, Scottish Bride, Welsh Ffraid and Saint Brigid. Morgan traces a trajectory from her earliest worship in Gaul and Britain through her introduction to Ireland by northern British settlers in the 1st C to her arrival in Wales with Irish settlers in the 7th C.

Brigid’s Irish myths are covered along with variants of the Scottish seasonal story of Bride’s imprisonment by the winter goddess, the Cailleach, and rescue by her lover, Angus. A wealth of folkloric material is presented including the Imbolc rhyme ‘the serpent comes out of the mound’, the background of Brigid’s crosses, Bride dolls (brideog ‘little Brigid’) and the braht Bride (Brigid’s mantle or cloak).

My favourite part was the menagerie of creatures associated with Brigid; two famous kings of oxen, a king of boars, a king of rams, an oystercatcher, linnet, dandelion and Ffraid’s smelt. Morgan also shares traditional and modern prayers, chants and charms including her own translations and magical workings.

Each chapter ends with a section on Morgan’s relationship with Brigid. Three of these voice minor miracles. The first is remarkably evocative. Morgan speaks of going to a public chant circle led by pagan folk singer Kellianna. A small candle was lit in the centre of the room but before they called to Brigid it went out. In spite of this everyone held hands and sang a chorus for Brigid. The room was filled with warmth and Morgan felt Brigid’s presence. When she looked down, the candle flickered into life then settled into a steady burn and did not go out until the end of their songs. When I read this, I felt like I was in the room with Morgan experiencing her awe.

I’ve known Brigantia as the goddess of the Pennines for several years. I’ve learnt a little about Brigid from books and websites but have never seen her mythos brought together with such lucidity and coherence. I’ve also learnt new things to follow up such as the associations between Brigid the Cowless and the fian.

I would highly recommend Brigid: Meeting the Goddess of Poetry, Forge and Healing to anyone starting to seek Brigid on the grounds of its clarity, depth of research and provision of an excellent bibliography. I’d also endorse it to people with some knowledge of Brigid and longstanding devotees because it’s packed with fascinating information and shares touching personal testimonies to Brigid’s presence in the modern world.

Brigid: Meeting the Goddess of Poetry, Forge and Healing will be released on the 25th of March and is available to pre-order HERE

Review: Glossing the Spoils by Charlotte Hussey

In 2012 I wrote a very short review of ‘Glossing the Spoils’ by Charlotte Hussey. In response to a call-out from Chris Funderburg at The Druid Network, I recently wrote a more detailed review as this book has been such a powerful and lasting influence on my path as an awenydd. I’m re-posting it here as I’ve gathered followers since 2012 and believe ‘Glossing the Spoils’ deserves to be widely known.

Glossing the Spoils

Charlotte Hussey lives in Canada and is a lecturer in Creative Writing and Arthurian Studies and Celtic Literature. She has also trained with OBOD and studied Celtic Shamanism with Tom Cowan. Glossing the Spoils is a poetry collection which Charlotte describes as a ‘march’ through the earliest texts in Western European literature to ‘mend a break in tradition and time’.

The medieval glosa is the perfect form for this purpose. It enables the author to take four lines from an existing text and weave them as end lines into each of four ten line stanzas. The effect is the creation of a space where one can ‘gloss’ the lines: explaining, interpreting, re-imagining, bringing ancient often obtuse fragments to life for a contemporary audience.

On the cover are coins from the Hallaton treasure at Harborough museum in Leicestershire. The book is concerned with the treasure-hoard of our past literally and metaphorically. In several instances the ‘spoils’ are shown to have a strange, animistic, frequently dangerous life of their own.

In ‘Lake of the Cauldron’ the narrator is pulled into the Cauldron of Rebirth by the goddess etched upon it with ‘dreadlocks’, ‘long breasts’ and ‘a sweaty belly’, to be dismembered and boiled in the ‘churning waters’. In ‘Matter’, a shield empowered by an engraved dragon implodes as the cyclone of atoms tearing apart at Hiroshima, upon its destruction. A branch cut from a crab apple tree ‘possesses a potency all of its own, / calling, called to those it chooses/ like the silver one from fairyland.’

Figures from the deepest strata of Western European mythology are presented in new ways; uncanny and familiar. Beowulf is ‘working for the crime squad’: a ‘vigilante’ ‘on a mission to purge the city’ taking on monsters like the ‘psycho TV star’ tacked to the narrator’s door. Fand is the tear in the eye of a girl, ‘bruised and weeping’ on the morning bus. The Fisher King, a Vietnam veteran, watches his recruits sucked into the brown river of his wound as napalm falls.

Variants of Parzival are explored from a range of angles. In ‘Trolls’ the knightly quest is critiqued from the standpoint of the Loathly Lady. The hero is depicted ‘steely eyes fixed on some distant / vanishing point: a crusading convoy to join, another holocaust to start, / or a melancholic witch to burn.’ The Lady speaks: ‘Thoughts about whom next to destroy deprive you of joy.’

Another recurrent theme is otherworldy and magical conceptions. ‘Daemon Lover’ covers the conception of Merlin. ‘Devil May Care’ forms a tongue-in-cheek depiction of how an otherwordly being in the form of a woman collects ‘white spume’ from a male youth then, as a man, uses his ‘vis vitalis’ to ‘make a woman conceive.’ ‘Make Over’ re-tells how, with Merlin’s aid, Uther Pendragon takes on ‘the appearance of the Duke’ to sleep with Igraine (leading to Arthur’s birth).

‘Naked’ celebrates male and female sexuality. Based on lines from Geoffrey of Monmouth referring to a naked giant riding a dragon it opens with the Cerne Abbas giant ‘defending his turf, toughened / nipples like second eyes; roused / cock sticks out from his thighs.’ However it is modernist artist Georgia O’Keffe who throws her clothes off, ‘shakes her paint brush… like a shillelagh, / to evoke a dragon, horned, crested, / and then ride upon it naked.’

I have covered only a selection of poems from this treasure-hoard of glosa, which never fail to shock, disturb and delight. I would highly recommend Glossing the Spoils to all students of Druidry, pagans and poets as exemplary in re-envisioning the oldest myths of Western European tradition with formal mastery. Charlotte’s methodology has been central to my poetic and imaginative practice since this book was released in 2012 and I can’t thank her enough.

Glossing the Spoils can be purchased HERE.

Review: Snowdonia Folk Tales by Eric Maddern

Snowdonia Folk Tales by Eric MaddernFor my birthday a friend bought me a copy of Snowdonia Folk Tales signed by its author, Eric Maddern. I visited Snowdonia earlier in the year and was sad to leave, so it has been heartening to return through these tales breathed into new life by Eric’s local knowledge and enthusiasm and a fresh gust of Snowdonian air.

Eric was born in Australia but ‘after a ten-year journey around the world’ moved to Snowdonia and founded the Cae Mabon eco-retreat centre. Working in Aboriginal communities he came across the notions of the Dreamtime, songlines and ceremonial sites through which a people maintained a spiritual connection with their land and ancestors.

The Aborigines observed white Australians have no dreaming. Likewise In Britain we have largely lost touch with our spiritual heritage. In Snowdonia Folk Tales, Eric sets out to remedy this. The book is founded on a great song-line running through the Pass of Two Stones east-west through the Snowdonian mountains. Who walks this pass?

In the first two sections ‘Mythic Roots’ and ‘Legends of Arthur’ Eric covers the Matter of Britain. What I love about this section is that he has crammed in pretty much every tale from The Mabinogion which is linked to Snowdonia! These old, old, myths contain deep wisdom but in the translations I have read can come across as inaccessible and wooden.

Eric really gets into the bones of the characters and brings them to life. His re-working of the story of Lleu and Blodeuwedd is exemplary in conveying their feelings, teasing out the humour but also maintaining a sense of the numinous. The dragons buried at Dinas Emrys by Lludd form a narrative thread worming their way into the story of Merlin and Vortigern. Merlin disappears as mysteriously as he appears with the Thirteen Treasures of Ancient Britain. ‘Rhitta and the Cloak of Beards’ is hilarious. An unexpected gem is a brave reworking of the story of Lindow Man (how Eric connects him with Snowdonia I will leave out as I don’t want to spoil the surprise).

The following sections are ‘The Lives of Saints’ ‘The Tylwyth Teg’ ‘Folk Tales’ and ‘Historic Legends’. Arthur gets his come-uppance from St Padarn for coveting his richly woven clerical robe. The ‘fair tribe’ travel from Cader Idris to make mischief by inspiring endless dancing with the gift of a magical harp. The harp reappears floating hauntingly on Bala Lake after the old town of Bala was drowned and the harpist made a narrow escape with the aid of a robin. The stories of Maelgwn Gwynedd, Owain Glyndwr, Mari Jones and others illustrate beautifully how the lives of real people become the stuff of legend.

I enjoyed this collection of Snowdonian myths, oral tales and embellished histories immensely. I would recommend it to all people interested in Snowdonia and Britain’s heritage and to everybody who enjoys a good story. I also hope it will encourage people to visit some of the incredible places where these tales are set and share them with a wider audience.

P1110692 - Copy

Bala Lake

Enchanting the Shadowlands Book Launch

Enchanting the Shadowlands Book CoverOn Wednesday 22nd April I held an evening of poetry, song and story to celebrate the launch of Enchanting the Shadowlands at Korova Arts Cafe in Preston. The night was very special for me because it marked the publication of my first book, the completion of a spiritual journey and brought together friends who have supported me since I took to writing poetry seriously in 2012.

Storyteller Peter Dillon was MC for the night. We opened with a joint performance of ‘The Bull of Conflict’ a glosa recording the moment when my patron god, Gwyn ap Nudd, gave me the imperative of ‘enchanting the shadowlands’.

Vincent Smith’s ‘Woodland Eulogy’ and reflections on early memories of a close friend made a poignant start to the first half. Mike Cracknell brought the house down with his hilarious poem about lovers with nothing in common except filthy habits. Martin Domleo performed poems tying in with my nature themed work including ‘Thor’s Cave’ and the experience of deceleration linking to his passion for motorbikes. Nina GeorgeSinger Nina George was the first headline act. She started with a haunting piece written by a friend. Her second song, she told us, demanded to be sung at the launch! She got everybody joining in with the chorus:

‘She said this is my church here where I stand
With my hands in the earth and my feet on the ground
She said this is my church here where I stand
With my heart in my mouth and my soul in the land.’

Nina finished with a song by Jodi Mitchell. At the end of the first half I performed poems exploring local history written in voices of the ancestors and spirits of the land. These included a reluctant resident of Penwortham Lake Village, a spinner in her cellar, the spirit of the aquifer beneath Castle Hill and Belisama, goddess of the Ribble. During the break we looked out at a pink-purple sunset against fairy-lit trees and the silhouette of St Walburge’s spire. Preston Sunset from KorovaI opened the second half with  ‘Slugless’ which was written when I had a spate of people confessing to me about their slug problems. All but one…. As we often bump into each other walking beside the Ribble, Terry Quinn performed poems about the river, one set at a crucial time when a campaign run successfully by Jane Brunning saved the area that is now Central Park from a huge development scheme. Dorothy mentioned she also had a slug scene in her novel ‘Shouting Back’. Her poems included the memorable ‘City Rats’.

Nina returned to perform a song about reclaiming Druidry and a controversial tongue-in-cheek ditty called ‘The Day the Nazi Died’ by Chumbawamba. Novelist Katharine Ann Angel read excerpts from ‘Being Forgotten’ and ‘The Froggitt Chain’ and spoke of her inspiration from people, particularly working with difficult teenagers.

Nicolas Guy WilliamsThe second headliner was poet Nicolas Guy Williams. He opened with ‘Ancient by thy Winters’ saying he thought it would be suit my launch as it contains howling: ‘Hear them HOWL! HEAR THEM HOWL! Once no forest was defenceless.’ He also performed ‘Woman of the Sap’ and ‘Oh ratchet walk and seek that scent’ one of my personal favourites based on the local legend of the Gabriel Ratchets.

I ended the second half with a piece dedicated to Gwyn on Nos Galan Gaeaf called ‘When You Hunt for Souls in the Winter Rain’ and poems Lorna Enchanting the Shadowlandsrecording a journey to Annwn (the Brythonic Otherworld) with horse and hound to an audience in his hall. As a finale I performed ‘No Rules’ which summarises my philosophy of life:

‘Break every boundary.
There are no rules.
Only truth and promises
Bind us in the boundless infinite.’

Afterward there was an open-mic where it was great to have Flora Martyr, who is missed as a host of Korova Poetry, back to perform. Following Nina’s protest songs John Dreaming the Hound Winstanley, who is involved with the Wigan Digger’s Festival, sung an old diggers song. I also opened some presents from the generous members of my grove. Nina gave me a bottle of wine (knows me too well!). Phil and Lynda Ryder gave me a book about Boudica, a warrior queen and ruler of the Iceni (horse) tribe, called ‘Dreaming the Hound’ with a wonderful bronze image of a howling hound on the cover.

When we left Korova the crescent moon was high in the sky with a bright and beautiful Venus above the fairy-lit trees. I felt the shadowlands had been enchanted. There is power in a promise… and in the support of friends without whom I wouldn’t have been able to see it through. I’d like end on a note of thanks to Peter as MC, everybody who performed and came to watch and to Sam for providing the venue. Moon, Venus and Fairy Trees

Review: Your Face is a Forest by Rhyd Wildermuth

Your Face is a ForestRhyd Wildermuth is a writer and social worker based in Seattle. He writes for ‘The Wild Hunt,’ ‘Patheos Pagan’ and ‘’ and blogs at ‘’ He describes himself as ‘a dream-drenched, tea-swilling leftist pagan punk bard.’ He is also a student of Druidry with OBOD. What drew me to his work was his boldness, passion, vision and the fact he proudly and outspokenly ‘worships gods.’

Your Face is a Forest is a collection of essays and prose. Rhyd describes his style as ‘weaving a forest from meaning’. This book’s a tapestry of poetic prose and prose poetry woven from themes that make sense as a whole only in the non-rational way trees make a forest. It’s rough, edgy and raw, and also a little rough around the edges, which adds to its anarchic charm.

Rhyd invites the reader to step into his life and accompany him through the places where he lives into forests behind to meet the faces of ‘the Other’ in ‘tasselled willows’, pines and alders, satyr dances and Dionysian revels. To find the tooth of an elk long dead and buried where cars now drive. A world full of life and another world behind it.

What I love about this book is that Rhyd speaks deeply and richly of both worlds. On pilgrimages to France and Germany he tells of the wonder of waking in a field of rabbits, playing flute with locals on unknown streets, sitting within the pink fur womb of a Berlin bar. He speaks of his despair at social inequality and the continuing repression of homosexuality in Christian colleges. He is a poet of the sacredness of this-worldly life on all levels.

He also shares some of his innermost visions of the gods and otherworlds. These have guided his life and thus form the reader’s guiding threads. Outstanding was a vision of Bran, which deserves quoting in full; ‘When I saw Bran, his great black cloak rippled in an unseen wind, his powerful form straddling a Breton valley between the River of Alder and the sea. But the cloak fled from his body, a myriad of ravens having stripped from his flesh sinew and skin, leaving only great white pillars of bone, the foundation of a temple and a tower. I do not yet know where his head lies.’ On his pilgrimages we find a mysterious tower on a mountain, a stone head in a fountain and a magical cloak. But Rhyd doesn’t give all his secrets away.

Other deities include Arianrhod, Ceridwen, Brighid, Dionysos and the unnamed gods and spirits of the city streets, buried forests and culverted rivers. What I liked most about these sections is that rather than kowtowing to being acceptable, Rhyd speaks his experiences directly and authentically. This was encouraging and inspiring for me and I think will be for other polytheists whose encounters with the gods go beyond known mythology and conventional Pagan text books. There are few modern authors who speak of the mystical aspects of deity and Rhyd does it exceptionally well.

I’d recommend Your Face is a Forest to all Pagans who are looking for real, undoctored insights into nature and the gods. Because it’s not only about Paganism and is written by somebody fully immersed in the beauty and pain of life and the search for love I’d recommend it to non-Pagans too, particularly those interested in spiritual journeys and visionary prose and poetry. Quoting Rhyd’s dedication, to ‘Everyone who’s ever looked into the Abyss / And brought back light for the rest of us.’

Your Face is a Forest is available through Lulu:

Review: Bard Song by Robin Herne

Bard SongThis review is long overdue. Coincidentally I was re-reading Bard Song with the intention of reviewing it at the time Robin published his recording of Gwynn’s Guest, dedicating it to me, which has spurred me along.

I’m not sure if I can give this book an objective review as I’ve owned it so long and like it so much. The pages are scored with under-linings. Against many of the poems are pencilled a’s, b’s and c’s from my attempts to decipher complex metres. The spine bends open on my favourite poems, which I return to frequently, have shared with my local Poetry Society and used as examples in Bardic workshops. But I’ll give it a go.

Robin Herne is a polytheist Druid based in Ipswich. Bard Song provides an introduction to reading and writing honorific and seasonal poetry (in English) in mainly Welsh and Irish metres. This fulfils an important role in Brythonic and Gaelic polytheism, giving people like myself who have not yet mastered the language of their gods the tools and inspiration to compose poems based on Celtic metres. It also opens new and exciting vistas for future developments within poetry as a whole.

In his introduction Robin speaks of the Awen, the source of Bardic inspiration as ‘a wild spirit, a passionate and consuming Muse that imparts not just pretty turns of phrase, but a new vision of the world.’ Poetry is a magical art which can be used to commune with and honour gods and ancestors, attain and express a spiritual vision, record history, praise (or deride) a person and for fun. Its ultimate purpose is re-enchantment.

The first four parts of the book are divided in accordance with the Gaelic festivals; Samhain, Imbolc, Beltaine and Lughnasadh. In each section Robin introduces the festival with associated myths, traditions, deities and suitable metres before sharing a selection of his poems, many of which have been used by his clan in ritual.

For Samhain, Robin introduces the forsundud, an Irish genealogical poem for the ancestors. We meet the Cailleach holding ‘cold vigil’ in ‘The House of Winter’ and rutting stags. ‘Gwynn’s Guest,’ one of my favourite poems of all time (written in tawddgyrch cadwnog metre) records St Collen’s encounter with the Welsh Fairy King on Glastonbury Tor. The first stanza captures Gwynn’s wild nature so perfectly I can’t resist quoting it;

‘Wind tears the Tor, unravels hair
Bound in plaits fair, wild blood yearning
For thunder’s roar, this hill my Chair,
Blessed wolf’s lair, white fire burning.

Tribes rise and fall…’ And the ending is wickedly humorous.

At Imbolc’s core stands the hearth of Brigit. ‘Sisters of the Hearth’ introduces her triple role as smith, healer and poet. ‘Brigit’s Song’ takes place in her Hall. Robin’s words in ‘Three Flames’ resonate most strongly with my personal experience of her as Brigantia, goddess of northern England and the fires of inspiration which consume and heal;

‘Light of compassion white burning
Thaw the ice that scalds my mind
Stir the flesh from torpor afresh,
Night-blind, scars mesh; pray be kind.’

The section on Beltaine speaks of magical and military poetry. ‘Cu Chulainn at the Ford’ provides a heart-wrenching representation of Cu Chulainn and Ferdiad’s tragic battle in Ae Freisilighe metre. On a more cheerful note we find ‘The Honey-Tongued,’ dedicated to Ogma ‘carpenter of song,’ who is the patron god of Robin’s Clan. Since its publication this poem has fittingly given its name to a new brand of mead.

Lughnasadh introduces the stories of Lugh and Tailtiu, recording Lugh’s arrival ‘At Tara’s Gates’ and Tailtiu’s death and ‘funereal commemoration.’ It covers the story of Gobanos, a god of smithing and brewing and there is also discussion of famed cauldrons in Celtic mythology and the important role of select brews in the arts of inspiration.

I have mentioned only a small selection of poems and themes. In later chapters Robin shares poems devoted to Heathen, Greek and Roman gods and those written for fun. In the appendices he provides guidelines for writing in Irish and Welsh metres. These are clearly introduced with rhythmic and syllabic patterns with examples. For Englyn Penfyr;


‘The old hunter sought the beast in the night,
Though without might, hope never ceased,
Yet frail, his skill found the feast.’

I have learnt vast amounts from this book about Celtic metres, composed some poems of my own in the Welsh ones and found it to be an excellent resource for use in Bardic workshops. Robin’s dedication to the Old Gods shines throughout his work and this alone has inspired me on my path as an Awenydd and polytheist.

Bard Song is a must read for Bards, Fili and people of Celtic and other polytheistic religions. I’d also recommend it highly to all Pagans and to poets looking for new and exciting metres with origins in the British Isles.


Bard Song can be purchased through Moon Books:

Robin’s most recent poems, which continue his exploration of world mythology in carefully chosen metres can be found in Moon Poets:

His blog ‘Round the Herne’ is here:

Review: ‘The Morrigan: Meeting the Great Queens’ by Morgan Daimler

MorriganMorgan Daimler is a Celtic Reconstructionist and dedicant of Macha based in New England. She teaches Irish myth, magic and folklore and has published nine books as well as poetry and prose in a variety of magazines, journals and anthologies.

The Morrigan: Meeting the Great Queens is a short, introductory book (eighty pages) in the Moon Books Pagan Portals series. By bringing together material from ancient Irish texts and academic sources it aims to provide readers new to the Morrigan with a basic introduction to this goddess, those who share her title, Badb and Macha and other associated goddesses such as Nemain, Be Neit and Grian.

The result is a tightly packed text with an abundance of subject matter to learn from and plenty of references to follow up. Morgan’s research is thorough and she demonstrates a learned understanding of the original texts and scholarly viewpoints. Morgan’s approach is to let the stories of each goddess speak for themselves. Whilst she presents contrasting viewpoints and shares her own, she encourages the reader to seek their own interpretation through further study rather than leading them to her own conclusions.

The benefits are that she provides a holistic picture of the Morrigan and introduces her to newcomers without swaying their opinion. A slight cost is the book doesn’t flow as well as it could. As someone with only a vague knowledge of Irish mythology, I found myself frequently having to pause and look back to check names, associations and references to texts rather than being guided forward by the author’s argument. I also found the APA method of citation where references disrupt the text irritating. These are my only criticisms.

What I liked best about this book is that as well as sharing her academic knowledge of the Morrigan(s), Morgan shares her personal experience of each goddess; what it feels like to be in their presence, their physical appearance and their role in her life. These gnoses permeate her prayers and invocations.

Importantly for newcomers, Morgan astutely points out the differences between ‘working with’ and worshipping a goddess. The former is a temporary arrangement governed by specific guidelines and goals. The latter is based in relationship (she warns that when you invite a deity into your life you never know how it might go!) and interactions, which for her mainly take the form of prayers, meditations and offerings.

Morgan does not shy away from confronting moral questions raised by worshipping a goddess connected with war and death. She presents her own resolutions and also challenges readers who may have been drawn to the Morrigan as a ‘Dark Goddess’ to think what this means to them before applying this category.

A hidden gem of particular interest was Morgan’s description of ‘reconstructing celtic seership with Badb.’ Here she shares her use of the ancient techniques of ‘imbas forosna’ ‘tenm laida’ and ‘dichetal do chenaib’ with Badb’s guidance for divinatory purposes. The latter, which involves the spontaneous recitation of poetry is something I’ve felt compelled to do for a while and, inspired by Morgan, hope to try in my own way in the future.

Overall this is a cracking introduction to the Morrigan(s) and I’m sure there will be plenty of hidden surprises in it for everybody. I would recommend it to anybody new to this goddess who is looking for a trustworthy starting point, devotees of the Morrigan wanting to learn more about others’ experiences and anybody interested in polytheism in general.

The Morrigan: Meeting the Great Queens is officially released tomorrow and is available here: