Spirit: A Donegal Fairy

I’ve just started reading William Butler Yeat’s Irish Fairy and Folk Tales this morning. After an attempt at the introduction (no offense to Allison Carroll who wrote it) I moved my restless self to searching through the stories and poems. The first one that caught my attention was “A Donegal Fairy” from Letitia Maclintock (page 47). It’s a short tale of a faerie that’s fallen down the chimney into boiling water. He screams and a bunch of faeries come to his aide and as him in the human lady alone in the house scalded him with the boiling water. The faerie says no, admitting it was his own fault, just an accident. The others hear him and say that if it had been the lady, they’d have made her pay.

There’s a lot about that story that jumps out at me right away.

First, the faerie showed a value in honesty. Falling and burning his leg like that, having to be rescued by a bunch of others, well I can imagine that would be a bit embarrassing. It would have been easy in the moment to blame someone else. It reminds me that one should not be afraid to look weak in the eyes of others. It’s okay to feel a bit embarrassed, to fail and fall and even get injured in the process. It’s a part of life and if we’re lucky, there will be a load of others ready to rescue us.

That’s the second thing I noticed. Once the faerie cried out from landing in the boiling water, a bunch of other faeries came running to help. There’s really a lot to this piece to unpack. If taken as a metaphor, I can see this part of the story as a message to call out when you’re in need of help and others will come, maybe even a surprising amount of people. Another part of this is that having community really is important as well as being a part of one. It’s important to have people around that will come to your aid when you need the help, but it’s equally important to be a community member that comes to the aid of others too.

I personally believe there are very few coincidences in this world and here I find some connections to my life that I can’t really ignore. The title refers to Donegal County and/or Donegal Town in Ireland. I’ve actually visited Donegal Town before in my trip to Ireland in 2014. I went there because in Donegal Town is a castle that for most of it’s time was run by an O’Donnell family. My mother’s maiden name is O’Donnell. Whether my mother’s ancestors had any connection to them, I have no idea, but I still thought it would be a fun visit. I can’t help connect that reference of Donegal in the title now to my mom.

I moved across the country and back in with my mom in December of 2019. I’m a recent college grad with a bit of student debt on my plate. My mom has chronic illnesses. Both of us, well, have some other issues of our own and together as well. Our relationship isn’t the best, for sure. With quarantine going on, we are stuck together much more often than we have been in a very long time, possibly ever. Its been a strange time where sometimes I think we’re growing closer together, but plenty of times all the same old, bad stuff seems to resurface.

Honesty can be tough sometimes. I really value it, but, sometimes we’re being dishonest without realizing right? Especially if we’ve been lying to ourselves. Why do I get mad about some of things I get mad about? Am I being honest to myself about how I express my anger? Am I shifting blame, taking it out on her, and is it even about that thing or have I been bottling it up and now just letting it explode everywhere? Am I the faerie that’s fallen into the boiling pot blaming the lady in the house or blaming myself when really there may be no cause for blame at all?

Community is something that I and my mom have struggled with for a long time. We’ve both been blessed with the ability to easily chit chat with people, but neither of us have been good at upholding relationships, and close ones at that, for longer periods of time. That’s including relationships with family members. In the last some years we have both gotten a lot better about it, though still in need of learning a lot. Distance (on my part) and quarantine make keeping connected with community really hard though. It’s often easy to feel like we’re each others only community and even then, not reach out or give back to each other when needed. It’s easy to, metaphorically, fall in a pot of boiling water and bite your tongue or push away the help that comes. I know I put a lot of burden onto myself and figure out things on my own. I know I’ve felt like I’m all alone and end up snatching for help when it feels like it’s drifted by on chance.

Like this story shows though, you’re never really alone. You might want to be alone or feel like you’re alone, but there are people willing to support you or just hang out with you. It can be scary and difficult to handle these relationships whether they’re with friends, partners, family, or even neighbors. But maybe the most important line in this whole story is the very first one: “Ay, it’s a bad thing to displeasure the gentry, sure enough–they can be unfriendly if they’re angered, an’ they can be the very best o’ gude neighbours if they’re treated kindly.” All of our relationships are much more complex of course, but it doesn’t negate the truth of this statement either. Just as our relationships can turn bad, we can also reach out and try to become “gude neighbours” once again. After all, the story began with this line, it didn’t finish with it.

Remember to check in with your loved ones, ask for help if you need it, and do your best to be honest and kind with yourself and others. Now is the time for community work as well as shadow work. Until next time ❤

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By the way, this is the books I’m using:

6981026._SY475_It’s a Barnes and Noble edition as seen in the link on the title at the beginning of this post. I plan to make more posts about my thoughts on different folktales in this book. You can likely use any edition of the book if you’d like to check out any piece I refer to in this new series of posts I’m starting. The page numbers may change a little based on which edition you use though. You might just be able to google the folktale and find it online for free as well. 

Spirit: Re-sprouting

Wow… It’s been over 6 years since I last posted here. Winter 2014 was just before I became a very busy community college student that put way~ too much on their plate. In 2015 I moved to Washington State and it was just this last December that I moved back to Maryland after finally finishing my Bachelor’s degree. During this time that I was living in Washington, my connection to my spirituality dwindled and then withered until eventually becoming dormant. I had a connection, a community, and a family with the circle I had joined here in Columbia, MD. Before I moved away, I was still practicing and deeply rooted to my spirituality, even though I wasn’t making time to post here, but… after I moved, I wasn’t practicing much anymore. It wasn’t gone, but it wasn’t active either.

Since last fall, little things keep popping up in my life that have that have left little seeds of spirit waking back up. First it was a book I came across in a store, then I moved back and my mom started suggesting we go back to the circle I used to go to, and then suddenly I started finding different instagram accounts with artists that created all manner of things witchy. The last couple years in Washington I was living in Seattle, so moving back to Columbia meant getting to see a lot more of the sky again and on a daily basis too. I don’t drive and so in Seattle I was often stuck to certain parts, usually my college campus. It’s a pretty campus, but I really forgot how much sky you can see all at once until I moved back; and how many trees you can see stretch into the distance. It’s strange how the mind’s imagination can get blocked by the concrete forests of cities as much as your actual eyes can.

Now, I’m back and I want so much to get in touch with everything again, to get in touch with my spirituality again. I’m hesitant though because I’ve learned a lot in the last 6 years. I see how much appropriation there is in neo-paganism, spiritual this or that, and while I can see the systems and history that brought many of us (particularly white pagans) to these practices and pieces that are not our own, I’ve been struggling to figure out what I will do instead.

Here is my answer so far: focus on my context.

What does that even mean?

Well, religions and mythologies and spiritual practices were created, given voice, re-interpreted, and set in certain times, places and communities. These people had certain values, lived in specific places with certain ecology, and they lived their lives in a particular way. I live in Maryland in the United States. I find that it’s important to respect the land I’m on and find a way to be connected to it. How can I do that if my spirituality revolves completely around Irish Celtic traditions that use native plants to Ireland? Land and location is just one part though, time is also important and can make for very big differences to be considered.

So what is my context?

Well… There is a lot to it. Let’s start with the basics: It’s the year 2020 and I live in a central part of Maryland in the United States. What else? A lot of my family’s ancestry comes from Western Europe, the easiest bit to retrace being the part that came from Ireland. I could easily pick up a book or two from my bookshelf and find all kinds of ancient Irish traditions (their accuracy a post for another time). However, those books cannot address the other parts of my context like where I currently live and could be difficult to relate to my life as it is in 2020 (versus how ancient people lived).

I live in a technology saturated world. It’s incredibly important to me because it’s the majority way that I consume music, stories (TV and movies), play games, as well as make and sustain connections with friends and family. I have friends all over the world, in fact most of my friends live nowhere near me. As a writer and artist, as a past and future student, technology is continually a part of my craftsmanship and my education as well. So, a spirituality and practice that doesn’t involve technology will leave out a huge part of my life.

My context is also about who I am. I’m a queer, non-binary man with a past and present that necessitate a spiritual connection that addresses this queerness. I can’t jump back into a telling of deities, spirits, guardians and certainly not a high power that is tied in a gender binary. There can’t just be gods and goddesses for me. I need something more than that.

Certainly, in a 2020 world living in the United States, I need a spirituality that addresses injustice and the importance of creating community in a world that makes it very difficult. It’s difficult, again, because of the time and because of who I am, a white person and a queer person, and it’s difficult because of this globalized world of quarantines, shifting politics, and most of all… technology. I’m usually so absorbed in all my activities online that I often forget that I have a community with those I live nearby because we are connected by land if nothing else and land is nothing inconsequential.

Now what?

My context is all over the place. It’s very difficult to reconcile the differences between them. How can I give space, give time, and do justice to one and still give that to another? These are things I have very little answers to yet. I think about it a lot. This is not something that can be easily answered but instead are like seeds of intention. These are things I value and areas I want to grow in. Growth doesn’t happen very fast. As I water these intentions with careful consideration, with conversations, exploration, and experimentation, I will share with you what I find.

But I can tell you of those seeds I mentioned at the beginning of this post, that have drawn me back in and made me aware of how much I want to be connected again:

The book:

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Becoming Dangerous: Witchy Femmes, Queer Conjurers, and Magical Rebels edited by Katie West and Jasmine Elliott (goodreads link)

The Instagram accounts:  there are a few shops on there that make very cool items many a witch would really love, but the main account that has really got me thinking about how technology can mix with older traditions is this account @brujaxtropical. Casting spells by sharing posts or commenting on them is just some of the major insights I’ve made through following this account (which is still fairly new actually). That account is certainly run by two geniuses.

Thank you for taking the time to read this long post and I hope you got something out of it. Getting my thoughts out there and attempting to organize them was certainly helpful for me. Sending my love to all of y’all, love and many wishes for good health and good luck.

Blessed be ❤ ❤ ❤