Reply To: Bookshelf

david poole

I have just finished reading two new books, Manannan Mac Lir, Celtic God of Wave and Wonder and Irish Paganism, both by Morgan Daimler. They can be found at Moon Books the first is ISBN 978 1 78535 810 4 2018 while the second is ISBN 978 1 78535 145 7 2015 The book on Irish Paganism is extremely strong as a read into modern forms and variations on paganism. Reconstructionism is tackled as a major topic. Arguably this is what most if not all of us are doing. This approach can be applied to any pagan path, but certainly to Irish paganism. This approach involves a lot of study of its related history. There are certain issues arising here. The pagan Irish apparently wrote nothing about themselves but were written about by Christian sources, meaning that the filters of a completely different faith have been applied. There is variation in the reliability of sources, and then language itself is a barrier as translations may provide a different interpretation than the original texts. Does this mean that anyone studying Irish paganism has to learn Gaelic, it seems as if Daimler is recommending this although I don’t think that she expects it. The subject of unverified personal gnosis then turns up. Are we allowed to apply our own experiences and interpretations to a path, or does this distort a path? Obviously allowing personal interpretation is ripe for misunderstanding or even deliberate abuse, so this is something which really needs to be thought about carefully. Daimler describes Irish Reconstructionist Polytheism as polytheist and animist. There follows a long section introducing the Tuatha De, which is something which readers may find to be very helpful. Worship of the fairies and the land spirits is very important within Irish reconstructionism. Daimler discusses immortality of the soul and cosmology. Apparently there is no creation myth within Irish mythology. Ritual comes next, Daimler goes into some traditional forms of offering and emphasises that one should know what one is doing and why one is doing it in order to maintain fidelity to the Irish way of doing things. She goes through the eight festival days in an interesting way which I have never seen before which was really helpful in providing background and context; I understood the traditional festivals much more clearly after reading this, and maybe you will too. Rosc is raised as a traditional form of magic, this is a rhetorical composition or chany which may be accompanied by certain actions such as the crane posture, standing on one leg with one arm behind you back while keeping one eye closed, known as the corrguineacht and is compared to the form held by the Fomorians. Rosc are spoken in the present tense and depend upon the speaker’s personal power rather than appeals to higher forces. Amergin’s Invocation of Ireland and Mogh Ruith’s Magic Stone are examples of this, and rosc is compared with the Song of Amergin which also uses the principle of personal power. Cursing by contrast can be used to force people to change shape, something which we also see in Welsh mythology. Daimler recommends double checking in order to verify personal experiences as a response to the problem of personal gnosis. The closing chapters go into race, cultural appropriation and sexuality. Daimler recommends that we understand the background to what we are trying to do and take care that our practices have justification and are done in the right way, but does not say that Irish paganism is limited to people of an Irish background, the subject of cultural borrowing is also raised. Cu Chulain is described as having a homosexual relationship in the first instance. I was surprised earlier on to find that Cu Chulain is venerated during March and is considered to be a god, which some may consider to be euhemerisation. For purposes of further study there is a list of books for Irish polytheists and mythical texts in both English and Irish to help with the language barrier. The book on Manannan goes into this deity in revealing depth. Apparently Manawydan is the Welsh equivalent. Manannan was not considered to be one of the Tuatha De but was connected with them. Manannan’s appearance is described in detail and so is his family and his connection to the Isle of Man. Daimler goes carefully through Manannan’s appearances within a variety of classical texts, I left this read knowing more about those texts than I had before and with some interesting suggestions for further reading. Manannan and Manawydan’s stories appear to be somewhat different. Manannan possesses a number of magical items with different powers. He fulfils a number of different roles covering the sea, obviously, but also magic, the sidhe, trickster, psychopomp, weather, creation, warrior and advisor. Manannan appears later on in texts from the nineteenth century and in modern cultural pop references. Apparently he does not appear much in modern Wicca or in Witchcraft but does appear within modern Druidry, possibly due to his connection to magic and enchantment. The Feth Fiadha is sometimes called the Ceo Draiochta, or Druidic mist, making for a clear connection there. Some Neodruids see Manannan as the keeper of the gates between our world and the Otherworld.