Irish Paganism

Full Title: Irish Paganism – Reconstructing Irish Polytheism (Part of the Pagan Portals series)

Author: Morgan Daimler

Publisher: Moon Books

Published: 2015

ISBN: 978-1-78535-145-7

Pages: 89 including Appendix A – Pronunciation Guide, Appendix B – Recommended reading for Irish Polytheists, Appendix C- Myth titles in both languages, bibliography and endnotes.

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Synopsis: Irish Reconstructionist Polytheism is an often misunderstood path, but it is one with great richness and depth for those who follow it. This short introductory book touches on the basic beliefs and practices of Irish Polytheism as well as other important topics for people interested in practicing the religion using a Reconstructionist methodology or who would just like to know more about it. Explore the cosmology of the ancient Irish and learn how the old mythology and living culture show us the Gods and spirits of Ireland and how to connect to them. Ritual structure is explored, as well as daily practices and holidays, to create a path that brings the old beliefs forward into the modern world.

Review:

As can be seen from the page count, this is a very short book, typical for a Pagan Portals book. Even so, it packs in quite a bit. There are so very few books out there written on Celtic Reconstructionism and Daimler’s book on Irish Reconstructionism is a welcome addition. This book is a well-researched look at the basics and should serve as a great introductory text for people interested in walking this path and don’t know where to start.

The book is made up of 7 chapters and discusses the methodology behind reconstructionism, the basic beliefs of the Irish, rituals, the holy days, and mysticism. Chapter six deals with controversial topics like race, cultural appropriation and sexuality. In the final chapter, the author wraps up the book with a conclusion.

I really enjoyed reading this book, twice. It has just the right amount of information as to not leave people wanting or confused but also just the right amount of push to get you on your own exploration of this path. Highly recommended for people who have read the Celtic FAQ, have decided that Ireland will be their hearth culture and are ready to get the specific basics for that hearth culture.

Promotion: Books aimed at Children and Adults

So I thought I would do something a little different today and promote a few books that I have read, liked and used to teach my little cousins about aspects of paganism and recommended to my family so that they get what I am doing.

The first batch of books are for the Kiddies.

1. A Child’s Eye View of the Fairy Faith by Morgan Daimler.

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Synopsis: The Faery Faith has been practiced by Christians and Pagans alike for hundreds of years, as documented by anthropologists including W. Y. Evans Wentz. In this book, you can discover the Folk of the Otherworld who have long been loved and feared by the people. 

My Notes: The book is only 78 pages so it will be something that the kiddies can read and not get bored with. I tried it on a few of my unsuspecting cousins, and they loved it so much they wanted to know more. 

2. A Child’s Eye View of Irish Paganism by Blackbird O’Connell.

ImageSynopsis: Céad mile fáilte romhat! The polytheistic faith of Old Ireland is coming alive once more. Child’s Eye View of Irish Paganism details Págánacht, providing concise information on this ancient faith and its modern practice. In these pages, learn the history and mythology of the Emerald Isle – from the last Ice Age, The Four Invasions, the Potato Famine, and on through to the Troubles. Fear the Fomorians and the Fir Bolg; and thrill to the adventures of the Gods and Goddesses known as the Tuatha Danann. Learn a smattering of Gaeilge, the official language of Ireland. A Child’s Eye View of Irish Paganism includes a description of the Four Treasures of Ireland, as well as individual entries for eleven of the most prominent figures in Irish myth, including Cú Chulainn and Fionn Mac Cumhall. Though written for children age 8 to 13, this book is an easy and informative read for busy adults as well.

My Notes: As the author said at the end that this is aimed for kiddies from age 8 – 13, but I caught my cousin who is 21 reading it the other day.  So I asked him, and my younger cousins 7 and 11 what they thought and they all said the same thing.  They enjoyed the ease of the book and now they had a good reference for when I read mythology to them, or in the case of my older cousin (of the batch who read the book lol) it was a good reminder of what they know.

3. A Child’s Eye View of Ancient Druidism by Blackbird O’Connell

ImageSynopsis: The Druids are as misunderstood and mysterious today as they were in the days of Caesar. Written by a practitioner of the modern Irish Pagan religion, this work combines thorough research and modern passion to demystify these legendary figures. This book is an excellent read for people of all ages interested in learning the facts about the beliefs of the people called the Druids, and about the Druids themselves. It speaks clearly and concisely about the people from history that we know held this most prestigious title. O’Connell talks about the Gods and Goddesses that they served and the heroes venerated by their people. This work draws on the writings of people who knew the Druids personally to help bring the ancient facts to light once more. Finding clues in archaeology, history, and mythology, Blackbird O’Connell paints a surprising picture of these once forgotten judges and leaders.

My Notes: This one I actually gave to my husband to read, I’m not a druid but it had the historical information that I needed to explain to my husband on where my practice came from and the people the practice servedbut in a small package that won’t bore him to death like everytime I had to explain this to him lol.

**Blackbird O’Connell likes to say that the editing on the books are not great, I didn’t find them to be that distracting, what interested me the most was the information in the books themselves.

Now for the grown up books.

1. By Land, Sea, and Sky by Morgan Daimler

ImageSynopsis: This book is a selection of modernized, paganized prayers and charms from volumes one and two of Carmichael’s Carmina Gadelica, intended for use by Druids, Celtic Reconstructionists, or others interested in Celtic spirituality. The Carmina Gadelica is a six volume collection of prayers, charms, and folklore from Scotland assembled around 1900 by Alexander Carmichael. This book represents modernized, re-paganized versions of selected prayers and charms from the first two volumes of the series. It is designed to be used by Celtic Polytheists, Druids, or anyone else interested in Celtic Spirituality. All original deity references have been replaced with the names of Irish gods, and the language has been modernized, but otherwise the content has been kept as true to the original as possible.

My Notes: This is my “go to” book when I’m stuck on a prayer and need inspiration or when I’m in a hurry and need something in a flash.

 

2. Where the Hawthorn Grows: An American Druid’s Reflections by Morgan Daimler

ImageSynopsis: Where the Hawthorn Grows is a reflection on being an Irish reconstructionist Druid in America. It looks at who the Druids were and different aspects of Celtic folk belief from a reconstructionist viewpoint as well as discussing daily practice and practical modern applications.

My Notes: You may read the review of the book here. This one I read purely for me!

Celtic Flame: Insider’s Guide to Irish Pagan Tradition by Aedh Rua

This was a hard book to review, and after careful thought I decided to look at it on a chapter-by-chapter basis.  So this will be a VERY long review.  I had bought this book on the recommendation of a friend and because I had seen some of the author’s posts on one of the Celtic Pagan groups (who are very strict) I belong to and liked what he had to say.  Almost around the same time two other friends of mine whom I respect the opinions of in matters of Celtic books said that it was a horrible book, so I thought okay, the book either was full of wrong information or the author was touting something as authentic when it was pure UPG.  I postponed reading it for a whole year.  This month I decided to bite the bullet and read it.  So here are my thoughts on the book.

Reading the acknowledgements and introduction I learned a few things.  The author is not a Celtic Reconstructionist though he was influenced and had interacted and communicated with people who actually began the CR movement.  The book is about Irish Paganism as HE has been practicing it for the last 20 or so years.  So basically this was his UPG and if you choose to go on you (and I) should judge the book on the premise of it and how well he was able to defend his views.

Chapter One: A Living Tradition

This first chapter gives you the aim of the book: an introduction to Irish Paganism as the author has practiced it for the past 20 years or more.  Then he gives you his version of Irish Paganism in six points.  The only point I have a problem with is the one about the Fomoire (more will be said about this later).  He considers these six points the basics and adds other elements to them (another seven points), which have to do with the Gaelic culture and language.  All these elements I also consider important when studying Celtic Paganism of any kind.

Next in the chapter he discusses his sources for his version of Irish Paganism.  All the sources are ones that most people in the CR community cannot argue with.  He also gives the qualifiers for each of these sources.  Then he goes in to the Irish Paganism worldview.  I agree with most of what he said in that section except for what he says about the Fomoire again.  Also he is just a bit idealistic about Irish Paganism and I don’t really blame him for that everyone wants his or her path to be idealistic.

Here is my problem with this chapter, aside from the Fomoire issue, which will be discussed later.  I’m not sure if it is his choice of words that put up my hackles or just my own sensitiveness on the subject.  When he talks about his aim he also says that this interpretation of Irish Paganism is “authentic”, but authentic as compared to what exactly?  And should a word like authentic be used with interpretation.  The very use of the word “interpretation” means that it is his opinion and his vision of the lore and mythology.  So why use “authentic”?  Also when discussing the elements that complement his basic practice his uses the word “correctly” to say that the book correctly identifies these elements as the ONLY ones that are purely pagan and predominately religious.  Again I think this is open to interpretation and the use of the word “correctly” implies that perhaps someone else’s ideas are not.

These things might seem minor especially as they are only mentioned once so far but they rubbed me the wrong way.

Chapter Two: Gods and Spirits

Chapter two was an interesting and hard read for me.  His descriptions of the Tuatha De Danann correspond with some things I’ve read and were better than most people’s descriptions of them, but I just felt like there was something wrong there and up until the writing of this review, I can’t figure out what it is.

The information he provided on the Gods was okay.  In some instances I know he was wrong but they are mistakes made by many.  For the most part on this section I would say do your own searches.  Most times your search will correspond to what he wrote but not all the time.  His classifications of the Gods and the Daoine Sídhe I found a bit confusing and in some cases I completely disagree with him.  I guess though the classifications are a personal thing and which gods mean what to you are completely up to you after all (I don’t see the need for classifications myself).  One other thing that bothered me was that he seemed to be saying that the Spirits of the Land were not as important as the gods, and that they were on the same level as we are.  I’m not sure how to take that.  I’m not sure where he got his vulnerabilities of the ancestors when he talks although I’m assuming he has taken them from the ones he says the Daoine Sídhe have.

I did find the section on how to determine the gods or spirits of the land you currently reside in a very useful section.  It takes into account the folklore associated with the places and history as well as the person’s intuition.

All I can say about this chapter is that you should do your own research.  There are some bits in there, which are really good (the section on how to determine the gods or spirits of the land you currently reside in and some of the information on the gods).  I came out of the chapter with mixed feelings.  I wish he had explained a little more WHY he chose to classify the deities like that.

Chapter Three: Fírinne

I thought chapter three was a wonderful chapter on the ethics and morals of both the individual and society.  Some of it I recognize from Alexei Kondratiev’s article “Celtic Values” and the author does acknowledge that he based his ideas on that essay.  I think this is a very important chapter and one that is not seen often in this kind of detail.

Chapter Four: The Otherworld

Chapter four is about the Otherworld again a good chapter with a lot of good sound information though the author sometimes talks about something he concluded as if it was a fact.

Chapter Five: The Fomoire

Chapter five is one that I felt uncomfortable reading.  His comparison of the Fomoire to demons, in my opinion was not a good one.  He portrays them as enemies of the Gods and as demonic spirits of darkness.  I think here the author is forgetting the concept of balance.  For order you need chaos, and for light you need dark.  The Fomoire are just as needed as the Tuatha De Danann.

Chapter Six: Íobairt

Chapter six was a delight to read for someone like me who wants to learn some prayers in Irish.  Also his ritual outline is very good (though a bit elaborate).  I find that I could incorporate some of the elements of rituals he discusses into my own very well.

Chapter Seven: Death and the Dead

A very brief chapter and yet a very informative one.  The author discusses briefly the different ideas on life after death.

So what do I think of this book?

  • It is one practitioner’s interpretation of Irish polytheism and he freely admits that at the very beginning.
  • The author is not a Celtic Reconstructionist and should not be judged on that platform, however, he does show a high level of research in his book whether one agrees with his conclusions or not.
  • He tackles subjects that are hard and for the most part does them justice.
  • He puts a lot of effort in the specifics of what he sees as the Irish practice of polytheism.  Discusses the components of religion, which are belief, sacred writings and oral traditions, rituals and ceremonies, and ethics.
  • I very much enjoyed this book, warts and all (and by warts I mean his opinions about the Fomoire and a few other niggling things that I told you about).