Brid, Brigantia, Brigid Festivals

Heather Awen copyright, St Brigid well
St Brigid’s Well, Co. Clare, copyright Heather Awen photo.

Last year I covered the Goddess of Britain’s most powerful tribe, Brigantia, and how the Goddess Brig became the Saint Brigid. Also, I shared the story of an incarcerated transwoman’s decision to recover from PTSD due to rape, based on her experience with this simple rite/prayer to Brigantia.

I’m adding some Imblog information and ritual invocations from Steel Bars, Sacred Waters:Celtic Paganism for Prisoners in the hope that you will be inspired to donate $12 so an incarcerated Pagan receives a free copy. Please email us if you would like to spread the knowledge of our deities to the forgotten 1%.

“Imbloc (or Imblog or Oimlec) is covered in the Imbloc Ritual to Brigid. It is Imbloc in Scottish Gaelic, too. Pronounce it “imbolk.” In Welsh it is called Gwyl Ffraed, for Brigid. As it is the end of winter in Ireland (the wet winds are fierce then) and even colder in Scotland, it is a household hearth ritual, not intertribal. The seasonal celebration is gratitude for the longer days and the milk from sheep giving birth.”

Artist and all round good guy Armi Dee worked intently on providing the first visual instruction I’ve ever understood on how to make a Brigid’s Cross. I, Heather Awen, wrote the incantation to charge it in ritual.

“Brigid of the fiery arrow

And the cows who always provide milk,

You who hung your wet cloak on a sunbeam,

And guarded many a family and its animals,

To you I pray.

Your equal armed cross I made

Symbol of the Sun herself

To bring your divine blessings

Into mortal lives.

Hearth Goddess, protect our homes,

Protect our wealth,

Protect our health.

May your blessings of sacred safety

Ever shine into my life through your cross.

May your blessings of sacred safety

Ever shine in our lives through your cross.

Thank you, Exalted Brigid!”

Imbolc Invocation for Making Offerings to Brigid by Heather Awen

“O Goddess,

Mistress of the Flames of Healing, Making, Creating,

Triple daughter of The Dagda

First to keen

And wife of the treacherous Bres

I call to you.

Brigid who is foster mother of the World

Who hears and answers countless prayers

Please join me here

On this, your sacred day.

Let my love for you reach you

Let my love for you reach you

Please may my love for you reach you,

Bright beacon of hope, home and health.

O Brigid, know how much I value you,

Wondrous one who nourishes the World.

Dear compassionate Brigid

Whose fire lights up my spirit

Please accept this offering!”

 

Have a happy Imbolc, Oilmec, Candlemas, St Brid’s Day or whatever you celebrate!

 

 

 

“Standard Manufactured Pantheons”: Prisoner’s Book Review Challenges Neo-Pagans

I received a really cool, interesting letter from a Pagan in prison who had received a free copy of Steel Bars, Sacred Waters: Celtic Paganism for Prisoners. He’d been Pagan for about 15 years, with a focus in Ceremonial Magick but like most people in prison, studies anything he can.

He’s integrated parts of the book into his practice and was especially interested in the great deal of historical information. He wanted to know why this information isn’t in other Pagan Polytheist books. In his words:

“I don’t understand how lots of the Neo-Pagans I know, know virtually nothing about these deities (in your book). They all seem only to know the standard manufactured pantheons. If spirituality is very important to them, shouldn’t they try to devour all the knowledge they can about the deities of their paths besides the ‘uses ‘ for deities?”

What he especially liked about Steel Bars, Sacred Waters is the history of the deities. Telesphorus actually was his example, possibly the most well known Celtic God no one knows, as I said in my Festival of Telesphorus post.

Here we have a God so loved in Gaul, He traveled to Turkey and was worshiped by the Celtic Galatians and adopted by the Greeks. He’s even included in the Hellenistic pantheon and given Greek deities for family. Centuries later the Romans bring this healer God back West to the Gauls. Obviously, this is a God Who gets things done. There’s statues of Him (one included in the book) with His pointy Gaulish cap. Anyone who studies Greek mythology should  understand His importance and consider how many ways people worshiped this important deity.

And why don’t Celtic Pagans know about this God? Why do all the books bring out the same ones, often contradicting each other? Don’t people care about history? There’s over 160 deities in Steel Bars, Sacred Waters, put into historical context. The book explains ways of worship that he found helpful, especially the different essays about sacrifice and offerings. There were enough suggestions for him to understand the attitude behind it and ways even someone with no income and barely any food could make them.

The polytheist scene has been fighting to make sure that people worship deities and don’t treat them like bottles granting magic wishes. The idea of worship and devotion has become more mainstream. And although all reconstructionists have been saying “Read the source material,”  for most people that was difficult unless Heathen because the Prose Edda, Poetic Edda and H R Ellis-Davidson’s very helpful book Gods and Myths of Northern Europe are often at libraries, available cheap or even free online. You can FIND Norse mythology.

There’s no book of the Gaelic Mythological Cycle. It’s a collection of messy pseudo -history, going back to Noah and the Bible. Same for the ogham alphabet. And the fact that I explained this and some of the variations in medieval manuscripts, the Celtic most popular but rarely understood “source material”, is something that readers appreciated.

Heathenry became really popular when easy to read books on the deities, rituals and cosmology were easy to buy. Meanwhile, Celtic Reconstructionism never produced a scholarly book for the masses who were interested. People have told me that they wanted to follow a CR path, but couldn’t figure out how, so they became Heathen. (Also, there was no pronunciation guide for deity names.) CR folks could be vicious about cultural misappropriation of Celtic culture and books about Celtic Wicca, Celtic Shamanism and other things that the Celts never had – and yet aside from Erynn Rowan Laurie’s wonderful ogham book Weaving Word Wisdom, no one ever wrote a book on what CR was.

It’s hard to find Greek/ Hellenistic Reconstruction, Kemetic Reconstruction or Roman Reconstruction books, too. I gather bits off Wikipedia, blogs, and my own history books to send to people in prison who want to learn about those traditions.

The Internet is wonderful for finding academic papers, and barely OK for finding blogs or websites where scholarly knowledge about the deities and their worship have been written for the average Pagan. We really NEED books – actual books people without the Internet can read. The bar has to be set higher. Instead of talking down to readers with Wiccan, Druidry and Witchcraft rehashes, let’s assume that they’ve already read the original books, the best books, and give them something new.

Why is there no Gaulish Reconstruction book, but there’s online discussion groups and a few blogs – either dead or slowly beginning? I’m guessing that the idea of an anthology without strict dogma doesn’t appeal to people who all have their own ways to do the religion. Of course, that reality of diversity would make it a much more realistic, inspiring and helpful book. (That guess is just based on the old, disintegrated Gaelic Reconstruction scene.)

Please, self publish. Amazon’s CreateSpace and Kindle Direct merged. Steel Bars, Sacred Waters is a mammoth size book and costs less than $8 a copy. It’s available at Amazon in Europe and North America. They take a chunk, which is why I can sell it here directly from Gullveig Press for less and still have almost enough to mail a copy to prison. Aside from your book being much less expensive than if you used Lulu, most people in prison can receive books from Amazon, but not “self published” – and that’s important! 1 in 1000 Americans are incarcerated Pagans and they want good informative books. The average prisoner has an 8th grade education (which is why dictionaries are so in demand), but you can explain important, lofty information in simple language and shorter sentences, especially with maps and other visuals. Steel Bars, Sacred Waters monthly devotion to Rosmerta and 3 page guide to Gaulish history by Viducus Brigantici filius are amazing proof of this.

 

Happy Samhain and Trinoxtion Samoni!

If we go by the older Roman calender used in Irish medieval times, October 31st becomes today, November 11th. There’s been arguments about how many people would have known the date, but I am now inclined to agree that most did in Christian Ireland. The Christian Church has a strict liturgical calendar. In the 7th century, when the first written reference to Druids in Ireland are mentioned (as having the same worth as any other ordinary citizen, showing that the title merely meant sorcerer), Ireland celebrated Easter on a different day than Rome. This complicated things greatly because all Christians were meant to worship the same things at the same time. It also meant that the entire year was different than the rest of Western Christianity’s.

Steel Bars, Sacred Waters discusses how this caused chaos for the Anglo-Saxons. The Angles who ruled over Northumbria were, from an early time, raised in Dalriada, the Gaelic speaking kingdom of the Scots. More specifically, they were educated at the monastery at Iona, which was founded by an Irish prince and 12 followers. As the early British Angles practiced Gaelic Christianity and the southern Saxons were converted by  Christians following the Roman calender, Britain was split into two different calendars. When a Saxon woman married an Angle man in the North, their household would be split in half, with some people fasting for Lent while the others celebrated the resurrection of the Christ. While this was fixed in Britain by everyone following the Roman calender, Ireland continued its own “Celtic Christianity.” Which means that the date of Samhain is thrown off by that as well.

The common belief is that Samhain means “summer’s end.” The year is divided into a Dark Half, which begins now, and a Light Half, starting at Beltain, May 12th. Samhain was around the first frost when most fruits and grains would be ruined, hence the rush of September’s Harvest Moon in bringing in all the grain. As a young teenager I read that the Devil had the blackberries after Samhain. I couldn’t understand this, but when 18 in Galway walking to a friend’s parents’ home in November I tried a blackberry still ripe along the road. It was sour from the frost. That probably taught me more about Celtic Paganism – and how many people understood the Devil – than any dozen books. Replace the Devil with Fomorians and you understand half the Irish Mythological Cycle.  At least in Ireland, Britain, and Iberia, this is an agricultural, pastoral religion. (The Gauls had a much more urban culture, even before the Roman invasion.)

Scholar Brendan MacGonagle believes that early linguists misunderstood the word Samhain, and its true meaning is “Assembly.”

“The traditional interpretation, first put forward in Medieval glossaries, and still held by many, is that it means “summer’’ being a combination of Samh “summer” and Fuin = “ending, concealment”. This is obviously a later folk etymology, since we know that the earliest form of the word (Samon-) had a different meaning. In fact the original Celtic meaning of “Samhain‟ comes from the Proto-Celtic *samoni- = assembly ([Noun], Goid: MIr. samain “assembly on the 1st of November‟; Gaul: samon – (Coligny), from the PIE: *smHon- “reunion, assembly‟ (also in Skt. samiina- “together‟, Go. samana “together‟).

This works, too, as Samhain is when there was a weeklong feast at Tara. Divination was performed to determine what the next year would bring. Questions focused on war, famine and plagues, issues that affected entire kingdoms. Assembly makes sense when we consider the return of the young men who have been in the summer fields watching over cattle, and perhaps raiding the cattle of other kingdoms. As the Celts spread East from Gaul, one way for an ambitious young man to form his own tribe was to gain cattle (ie wealth) with some friends by raiding other people. The more wealth a leader had – and shared in feasts and gifts – the more followers he attracted. In Iberia and Ireland we know that young men were sent to summer pastures with the cattle, and their return would correspond with Samhain. The people were assembled together.

 

If you seek mythological events to celebrate, there are two from Ireland that stand out. Aengus is with his love, Caer Ibormeith, the swan maiden, and before Second Battle of Moytura the Dagda mated with the Morrigan. Most people focus on the Morrigan, for she is giving the Tuatha De Danann her power as a battle Goddess, guaranteeing their victory over the Fomorians. There is much more to this Goddess than most Pagans think. The only prayer found to a Pagan deity in Ireland was to the Morrigan for more cattle. As protector of the land, she holds its wealth as much as she gets involved with its battles. Part of protecting the land is to make sure that the right person rules it. This is a major theme in the myths we do have, including those of other horse Goddesses like Aine and Rhiannon. For Celtic polytheists in prison worshipping with Wiccans, the mating of the Morrigan and the Dagda is usually an easy ritual compromise.

The “veils are thin between the worlds” has to do with the liminal nature of being between years. Beltain also is liminal time, another new year, into the Light. The Anglo-Saxons seem to have continued this belief in two years within one solar year, although they had a lunar month, solar year calendar. It quite possibly is a general Germanic calendar. Looking at the rune that means “year” (whether Anglo-Saxon or Norse), it shows two halves. Unlike other Anglo-Saxon names for months, October does not end in month. October is “Winter Nights”, also one of the three celebrations which we know the Norse celebrated along with Yule and  February’s Disirblot. The emphasis on Nights reminds us that the northern lands, which include the islands of Britain and Ireland, have long nights during winter.

Any liminal time is considered to be not one thing, not the other. Times of magic and danger were dawn (before sunrise) and dust (after sunset) when the world is filled with grey shadows and more active wild animals. Neither day nor night, medieval folk spells and times for divination usually state dawn. As a girl of feminist parents (women can have careers and attend University, don’t have to get married, should not endure domestic violence or rape, have all the rights and opportunities men have –  crazy stuff, huh?), I often wondered why so many divination techniques focused on the occupation of a girl’s future husband. Until very recently, a woman’s lot in life was completely dependent on her husband’s income. Her status would be determined by his class. The amount of back breaking labour she had to do to keep the household running was in his financial hands.

Dusk seems to often be more about communicating with spirits. The Welsh had 3 nights when speaking to the dead was easier called tier nos ysbrydio: October 31, May 1, and June 24th, St. John the Baptist Day. This was another form of divination. For religious people, divination normally means a way to communicate with the divine, be they ancestors or deities.

Modern folk magic watched the clock, and midnight – neither today nor tomorrow – became the new liminal time, the “Witching Hour.” Hoodoo takes that farther, with the minute hand moving down as a time for decreasing or banishing something, and the minute hand rising being a time for magical increase.

There’s nothing bad about the Dark Half of the year. For the Celtic people, life begins in the Dark, in the Underworld. It may be the beautiful kingdom of Annwn, the Plain of Apples, Avalon, or the Isle of the Young, but it is always filled with feasts and games, astonishing music, and all our loved ones who have passed on before us. The day starts at sundown, in the incubation of sleep. In the Dark half of the year, people literally turned within. Visits were extremely rare. Although in dark, smoky close quarters, people knew how to give privacy to those with them. As the lack of sunlight meant less vitamin D, the fat lost over winter released stored vitamin D. Some symptoms of depression, often triggered by lack of light, may have evolved to help us with the long stretches of “down time” by sleeping more which conserved calories.

Families stayed home, often with the remaining cattle and sheep sleeping with the human family. The smoky Walpurga and Beltain fires that the cattle were driven between had many herbs with insecticide powers. The fires jumped had the same. (In 16th century Scotland most people only bathed once a year, in May. Due to having no trade cities, modern ideas like soap and art skipped over the struggling farmland.) I used to be confused by old English herb books. What was the difference between a strewing herb and a potherb (which I pronounced poth-erb)? A potherb goes in your broth for its amazing vitamin and mineral content (parsley being the best example), while a strewing herb was strewn across the floor for the lovely smell it produced when crushed by feet. Traditionally strewing herbs also repel disease-carrying insects.

I’m really pleased that Steel Bars, Sacred Waters has a ritual for the ancient Gaulish ritual of Trinoxtion Samoni (“tree-NOKH-tee-on sa-MOE-nee”) written by Viducus Brigantici filius. The focus is on Dis Pater. As he poetically writes, “Dis Pater was the god who ruled the land of the dead. We all came from Dis Pater’s land, because before we are born, our spirits lived in the Otherworld. And we will return to him one day. And after that … we will return here again.”

Dis Pater could be Cernunnos or Sucellus. There’s no reason to assume the various Gaulish tribes had the same pantheons. The ritual chooses Cernunnos, along with the Gaulish Goddess Erecura associated with Persephone, plus the Greek-Kemetic Isis and Serapis. I personally feel a much stronger connection to the Gaulish deities than the Gaelic, so I feel personally blessed to have had Viducus write this ritual, as well as the Epona Day one, the Sucellus and Nantosuelta harvest rite, and a monthly devotion to Rosmerta. It was very important to me that Steel Bars, Sacred Waters focus on the cultural exchange that was happening all over Europe. Whether it’s the Atlantic Coast Celtic culture meeting with the Phoenicians, the Indo-European people around the Czech Republic who began the Celtic and Germanic religious traditions around 4,000 years ago, the influence of Greece on the Southern Gauls (and vice versa), Norwegian Vikings who became medieval Irish Kings, the Celto-Germanic Belgae territory, or the diversity of religion in the Roman Empire and the response of the Celtic people – we cannot pretend that there were any static, xenophobic people in Europe who didn’t share ideas and trade material goods.

Reading a little about the history of Roman religion, at first I was more intrigued with its earliest times. Viducus told me that the wide variety of religions both native and absorbed from other peoples fascinated him more. After studying the Nova Roma website and a few Roman Reconstructionist books, I was genuinely impressed. The Mystery Religion of Isis celebrated the festival of Isia at the same time as Trinoxtion Samoni. I wonder how many Gauls joined this cult and how it might have influenced the Celtic Samhain. The Roman Christian church could easily have created All Souls Day based on Isia. Our knowledge of Samhain is Christian, and the ancestor reverence part of Samhain could easily be from that important holiday. All Souls Day could have merged with Samhain into what we see in Paganism today: dumb suppers and contacting the Beloved Dead.

Strangely, it IS Remembrance Day. A day to remember the horrors of World War I, the most convoluted, insane war people can remember. It’s a call for sanity. Do you know why the Austro-Hungarian Empire, Ottoman Empire, Russia, France, Germany, England and the United States were fighting? Most soldiers involved didn’t know either.  Nerve gas, trenches and fields of blood where poppies bloomed – that’s why we wear the red poppy. To never forget the war that was meant to be the last war, a war that created the Lost Generation, where politicians were distrusted, the Spanish War proved anarchy and socialism work, and the peace movement was rapidly growing. But due to the terms of the punitive Treaty of Versailles that destroyed the German economy, the stage was set for Hitler, with his promise to make Germany great again. Still, the German pacifist art movement made of WWI veterans depicted their internal horrors by creating a new genre of film: horror and psychological thriller. Alfred Hitchcock himself studied with these shell-shocked veterans whose films focused on sanity: does the man in power or the individual know what is real? Today we’d call it gaslighting, from a movie of that very same genre.

The Isia focused on the death and resurrection of Serapis (Osiris). Along with a huge procession of initiates and musicians, there were private rites of ritualized grief and joy. Like the longest running Mystery Religion, the Kidnapping of Persephone by Hades of the Realm of Underworld Dead and the grief of Persephone’s mother Demeter who stopped all the plants from growing, which lasted for 3,000 years, I’m certain that Gauls participated in the Isia. Statues of Erecura stood in Gaulish cemeteries along the territories following the Danube River east, as  She held baskets and plates of sweet fruit like apples, reminding everyone of the Otherworldly Afterlife and the rebirth in our world that comes every spring. Also associated with Persephone is the Celtic Goddess found in Iberia, Ataegina, whose very name means “rebirth”. As the Celts often choose for themselves what deity from the Roman Empire their own deities were most like, and Ataegina’s name is Celtic, these were almost definitely Celtic seasonal Underworld and Renewal Goddesses before the Romans became involved.

I suppose that all people had myths and deities focusing on the death in winter (or perhaps the dry season in other climates) and rebirth in spring (or the returning rains). Maybe they focused more on the migration of elk or moose, or the returning fish and birds each year. We acknowledge the powers larger than us, upon Whom we depend. Many Pagans say that we have moved from that sacred, embodied knowledge of deep need and trust because we no longer are responsible for our own food. Even if we do not farm, we usually rely on imported foods, barely aware of our bioregion’s food cycles. We can buy delicious blackberries after Samhain. The Fomorian threat is far from our minds.

What I have noticed is that people who live with a chronic illness often feel this dependence on the deities and their cycles in a very visceral and emotional way. As plagues were so common, perhaps chronic illnesses bring us closer to the older ways of experiencing life. I believe this is especially true for people with the “can’t help you” diagnoses like fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, MCS, seizure disorders, many auto-immune diseases, etc. A decade of Lyme disease and, worse, babesiosis taught me how much I need my deities. We may not fret over not getting the hay in on time, praying that the rains will wait, but we do often pray to make it through the day in a world hostile towards people with disabilities. Will insurance cover this? How will the dishes get done? What can stop this pain? Being sick is a full time job.

In prison there’s nothing to note the cycles of time. The lights go out at the same time, the diabetes-inducing, low calorie “meals” arrive (or don’t, depending on the guard’s mood) at the same time, and the mask worn to keep privacy stays in place. Like the Treaty of Versailles proved, punitive justice only destroys people, leaving them vulnerable for great evil. After WW2 Germany was nurtured by the victors and became a strong economic nation within decades. Germany is one of the most eco-friendly nations in the world. They’re certainly not a perfect place, but when compared to Hitler, we can see how on a global scale punitive justice does not work.

Hail, Freya! She DID honor Her vow! I’m Lyme-free! Cured!

freyja_newwatermark
Freya by Alexandra Rena

A few years back I learned that the reason I was so sick wasn’t just a Christian church carbon monoxide poisoning my family because the Vestry never checked the furnace in the home where my mother was a Priest. (The building inspector’s report was a toxic nightmare including arsenic.) That caused the severe MCS, but I was already sick with “fibromyalgia”* which was actually Lyme disease and babesiosis (malaria like parasites eating my red blood cells).

(Lyme causes MCS, too, BTW. It’s all probably from Mast Cell Activation Syndrome, something you are born with and have hassles like allergies and GERD, but then get Lyme disease or a different physical or emotional trauma and WHOOSH gasoline on the fire. Yeah, I have MCAS, which according to top researcher Dr Lawrence Afrin is probably responsible for the rise in all the new or once rare poorly understood diagnoses that tend to come in clusters such as: fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, migraines, generalized anxiety disorder, reactive hypoglycemia, asthma, allergies, Celiac disease, autism spectrum “disorders,” Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, GERD, type 2 diabetes, auto-immune disorders especially RA and MS, medication sensitivities, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, fertility issues, and more – the stuff that tends to pile on to people and make doctors hope you won’t come back. Treat the MCAS, things improve. There’s a zillion peer-reviewed medical journal papers on MCAS, and since everyone has completely different triggers (like cold temperature, bee sting or fragrance) that can cause any response including death, doctors are nicer about accommodations because technically anything I inhale, touch or ingest could kill me. You don’t mess with the little understood mast cells – which cross the brain blood barrier.)

Yep, it’s been a time of breakthroughs!

In my Hell of sickness, wondering how they’d treat the tickbourne diseases when my body is weird with medication and especially herbs, I made a pact with Freya.

She already was guiding me hardcore and kicking my ass when I didn’t listen. For me, She’s always right. So I said “Take everything over (as if She hadn’t) and make me better. Let me live. No more palliative care, no more insane fevers and terror, no more death!”

She said, “I want a book. It’s about your ancestors’ deities and make sure you include how they’re related to my Vanir family. Honor us.”

I thought “Oh, maybe 50 pages of bad poetry devotional. I don’t even understand poetry, but OK.” And, wrapped in organic linen, She received presents, including organic leeks, a found crow’s wing, amber, jewellery and grains, buried by my awesome mother, because I have been too sensitive to car fumes and smoke to go outside for a few years. (This is why I get along with folks in solitary confinement probably.) She also did it because unlike terrified narcissist Christians who actually need everyone else to validate their faith by joining it, she doesn’t think Christianity, especially Christendom, has any monopoly on Truth.

Then I was asked to write information about the Mabinogi and Gaulish deities for a book people were doing for people in prison. I think, process and write information really fast (tested faster than the machine for reading speed could go when age 7, fastest reporter at the Toronto Star, and a nifty Aspie photographic memory), so I kept going, doing various exercises, an Ogham guide –

And everyone else dropped out of the project – oddly because of severe MCAS -issues. (Not known then, but now it’s obvious.)

The book, Steel Bars, Sacred Waters, became over 900 pages because I know that in prison you can’t use the Internet or buy more books. So anything from the 3 days for talking to spirits in Wales to the newfound importance of Iberia was recorded.

Then THOSE papers came out. The linguistic ones that find a sudden change in Proto-Indo-European language about 4,000 years ago probably in modern day Czech Republic. Words, especially about religion, that would centuries later turn up in proto-Celtic, proto-Germanic and often proto-Finnish, burst into use. Many refer to Lug/Wotan. The German Nerthus who becomes Njord, and Macha, Badb and other Gaelic deities come into existence. Before there even is a Gaelic language.

The word prija (the root of Freya’s name) changed from “beloved” to “free one” ie a noble. As Frey and Freya are titles Lord and Lady, this is a very ancient link. The root word that became seidR, Freya’s magic, was already alive, shared with the Celts. It comes from “string” – hence the importance of knot magic in both cultures. (Viducus experienced someone possessed by Matronae telling people to pray to Her while tying and untying knots. We ARE getting our religion back!) The sacred groves with horses, the crow Goddess with the Battle husband, angelica and holly become important plants, and words that combine into variations of shamanism, prophecy and poetry – plus new words for wagons, roads and other Vanir-type things appear. (All this is covered more in depth in the book.)

Instead of making the book smaller, we made the dimensions bigger – 8.5″ by 11″ – and left no blank space. Art and writing from amazing people was donated.

I had to learn how to publish, make contracts (thank you, Erynn Rowan Laurie), figure out the financial logistics of an always -in-the- red project and how to not have it affect my $800 a month SSI and food stamps (thank you, accountant and attorney, neither of whom charged me), WHILE drenched in sweat, semi-conscious, crying in pain. Oh, yeah, and getting emails from Pagans who all hated each other more than they cared about their deities and people in prison. (I am trying to erase the gossip from that photographic memory.) And my partner in this, the amazing artist and designer, Armi Dee, was diagnosed with cancer.

Out of nowhere, Alexandra Rena (remember her name, because she’s going to be a Big Deal artist whose Oracle deck you’ll be buying) took over the CreateSpace part. I didn’t even know her. She just wanted a book about these Gaulish and British Celtic deities for so long, she made it happen. Because, honestly, there’s been nothing for the not-Gaelic Celtic Pagan published. It’s the book I wished I had years ago.

The time while Ms Rena was finishing up with CreateSpace (the 100+ images made it a hassle), I did a 10 day Lyme antibiotic treatment and Mepron for the babesiosis. People bitch about Mepron. I didn’t feel as bad as babesiosis made me at times. Babesiosis puts people in wheelchairs and I couldn’t find one nontoxic enough, even though walking was no longer safe. Compared to that, Mepron was nothing.

Because MCAS is a hyper -reaction of the mast cells, antibiotics and anti -parasite medication are dangerous for long periods of time. I did the treatment for people with low immune functioning, specifically chemotherapy patients and those with HIV, to blast the bacteria and parasites. Then I stopped before my own immune system jumped in for no good reason, which would cause all the MCAS inflammation which people often mistake for still having Lyme.

(Now there’s finally an affordable, good test for Lyme and co-infections, by Mercy Labs, usually covered by insurance, but sometimes just $20 if you are undercovered or have no insurance. Better than iGenex’s $800 test which has a much longer results turn around. Don’t assume your Lyme came back based on symptoms – get the test! Too many antibiotic, antifungal, and antiparasite treatments with MCAS might be why after lengthy Lyme treatment people develop RA!)

The book came out as I finished treatment.

You have to wait 3 months before testing for Lyme disease after treatment. I stopped having mood swings from Hell, cognitive impairment, waking nightmares, seizures – and was bored and in pain because I just wanted to keep DOING stuff. I had energy, but a body ill prepared for that.

My results are back.

There’s nothing living in my body that shouldn’t be. No Candida overgrowth, no Lyme bacteria, and no babesiosis parasites.

Hail, Freya! I dedicated the book to Her. “Willingly and deservedly” keeping my vow. I didn’t know if She had done Her part, but I believed. And She did.

I’m testing MCAS medication and getting ready for reconditioning. Years lying in bed has messed up my myofacia in a major way, and I’m weak with terrible cardiovascular strength.

But I got my health back on track and learned all about the underlying problem, and found myself. I was able to put all my weird life experience, skills, and special interests into something that helps humans and deities and the land. I’ve made some really wonderful, close, real friends, in and out of prison, and celebrated the changes in their lives. I’m doing what a job, even with honors degrees in Community Organizing and constant “woke” training for actually doing things off of Facebook, wouldn’t let me because  that paying job doesn’t exist. I’m a person with severe disabilities and I have compassionate community. I’m creating art again and engaged in much deeper conversations about Paganism with people in prison than I ever found on the outside, while discussing other parts of my “Celtic Vanatrur” ideas with someone on the outside without an ax to grind. I’m even getting to discuss Witchcraft, Wicca and Druidry all with the same person!

I’m also providing the most desired resources my friends in prison want: psychological. The mindfulness meditation, radical acceptance, CBT and value-based living in the book wet their appetites. I’ve collected ACT (acceptance and commitment therapy) information and CMT (compassionate mind therapy) information and watched them change their lives. The past makes sense; the present is tolerable and better decisions are made; the future finally feels hopeful. I spend about $40 a month of my own money sending people psychological health resources. And then I am accountable for doing my values, my defusion practices, and treating myself with compassion. I even have an African Diaspora Religion book club! Think it’s easy to find this stuff if you are unable to leave your room? It’s not.  Shoot, I couldn’t find it when I lived in big cities – everyone flaked.

Also penpals in prison value honesty because they never get to be honest in prison – it’s never safe to be real. They value human contact and ask questions about their concerns instead of attacking unlike people online, who will just freak and not discuss. People in prison don’t run from reality. And they want it to be a better place. Those are two things that are hard to find on the outside!

I’m a much stronger person now than I ever was before – Before people called me strong because I survived horrible things for long periods of time. Now I’m strong because I have so much more confidence in all aspects of myself, including my body. I learned what to leave and what to accept as mine.

Thank you FREYA!

 

* Fibromyalgia definitely exists. A good DO (MD with extra training in the body’s muscles, myofaciamyofacial, bones, etc) can feel it. People who have fibro and get flares occasionally like from lack of sleep don’t test positive for MCAS. They also don’t  have other MCAS related issues. People with chronic fibromyalgia that needs narcotic  pain relief – they test positive for MCAS.

Oh, yeah, there’s blood tests for MCAS.

Contributors to Steel Bars, Sacred Waters

ACelticTreeOfLife (1)
A Celtic Tree of Life by Gerald Gibbons

These wonderful people contributed the writing and art that made this book so fantastic. Visit their other writing and art at their websites!

Writers

Artists

 

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Heather Awen (in malaria recovery) with Steel Bars, Sacred Waters.