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: ‘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: http://amzn.to/1Bh3LCs