So I thought it might be interesting to give a wee behind the scenes glimpse of some of the elements that went into 'A Practical Guide to Irish Spirituality'.
This was the first cover draft. I didn't really like it, though elements of it really appealed to me - and actually, the publisher didn't like it much either.
The idea for this book had started out a few years previously, with a workbook concept called Faigh ar Ais (pron. F-eye air Ash) - A Guide to Irish Magic, Ancestry, Language, Mythology, Archaeology, and Other Interesting Things.
Faigh ar Ais
(pronounced F-eye air Ash) simply means 'to get back again' or 'retrieve', and is a workbook and guide which has come about due to the volume of interest I have received since writing my first book on Irish Witchcraft, far too many moons ago, and working for the last 2 years in the daily management and guardianship of a key Irish sacred heritage site.
People are looking for honest and responsible guidance as they walk their path of Irish magic, spirituality, or heritage. This structure is designed for those of you who would like to begin the journey of retrieving or re-creating your own personalised modern system of Irish magic and spiritual practice.
This book, or any course or workshop you take, will not confer status of Irish witchcraft, druidry, or any such thing to you. If that is what you seek, look elsewhere. I know there are many eager individuals who are more than willing to convince you that they, and only they, have the power to teach you exactly what you need to know to guarantee your bona fides, and they are delighted to do so for the bargain price of… Blah.
Don’t get me wrong now, I have no issue with an honourable craftsperson charging a fair price for their skills, to help a person genuinely with their journey – whether that be as a reader, healer, or teacher. As long as you understand that you are doing the work on this. Your ‘qualifications’ will be based on the experiences you gain, the hard graft you put in, the relationships you form, and the people you help and support along the way. Your ‘status’ is whatever you make it. Honourable action and respectful interaction are self-evident, especially within the tight communities in which people like us live and work.
You will be whatever you make of yourself; that is up to you.
What I can give you is a firm and solid grounding in Irish traditions and beliefs, a sound knowledge of what exactly is available to us to utilise, an outline of the resources we have available to us, and how best to start making use of them, along with advice and guidance on how we can incorporate the knowledge into modern magic and spirituality.
I would earnestly appeal to everyone… who wishes to see the Irish nation produce its best - surely whatever our politics are we all wish that - to set his face against this constant running to England (the rest of the world) for our books, literature, music, games, fashions, and ideas. I appeal to everyone whatever his politics - for this is no political matter - to do his best to help the Irish race to develop in future upon Irish lines, even at the risk of encouraging national aspirations, because upon Irish lines alone can the Irish race once more become what it was of yore - one of the most original, artistic, literary, and charming peoples of Europe.
Douglas Hyde, November 1892
From dirty footed heroes, to weasels who say thank you, a journey with the fairies to rescue (or kidnap, depending on your point of view) a daughter of the King of France, dancing corpses, boiling a head until the ears drop off, an awfully polite giant who happens to be the son of the Old God Balor, a pope with a surprisingly Irish accent, and making babies with a single kiss - this collection of Irish Gaelic Folk stories has it all. Add to this the meticulous collection, translation and explanation of a man famed for his Irish language expertise and passion (who later became the first President of Ireland); and the skilled, careful compilation, editing, and formatting by an established modern authority on Irish Heritage, which brings this invaluable Irish Research resource right into the modern digital publishing age. Now we have an accessible, pleasant to read and easy to understand, treasure trove of Irish Stories.
You can Get Your Copy Here, or read more about Douglas Hyde in This Blog Post.
The book proposal plan looked something like this:
Over the coming 9 chapters you will cover introductory information on the Irish traditions. To my knowledge, there is no complete system of magical training or earth based spiritual practice existing today which has survived from ancient Irish practices, either in Ireland or outside of it. And I have searched! So what I have done, and continue to do, is build my own working system based on what has survived.
~ World of Earth ~
Explores in 3 chapters that which can pertain to the realm of Earth.
- Chapter 1 is concerned with Ancestry; from your physical location to your genealogy.
- Chapter 2 is concerned with Ancient Places; from well known sacred sites to your local woodland.
- Chapter 3 is concerned with Sacred Cycles; from seasonal celebration to your life stages.
~ World of Sea ~
Explores in 3 chapters that which can pertain to the realm of Sea
- Chapter 4 is concerned with Gods and Goddesses.
- Chapter 5 is concerned with the Sidhe.
- Chapter 6 is concerned with Otherworld journeys.
~ World of Sky ~
Explores in 3 chapters that which can pertain to the realm of Sky
- Chapter 7 is concerned with surviving written material.
- Chapter 8 is concerned with Celtic Christianity and its influence.
- Chapter 9 is concerned with Bardic skills and magical training.
And I didn't like it. So he patiently changed it.
I decided I'd really like some reader input through the process, so I took to Facebook and Twitter and asked a few questions.
If you were reading a book on Irish traditions, what would you want to know about Deity, and the Sidhe (Irish Fairies)?
A clear explanation of the various groups of invaders, the various regional tribes of Gods, and how they differ from and are similar to other Celtic and world pantheons, without getting too fanciful. Also I’d be interested in how to interact with them, especially from personal experience, doubly especially if the experience was with more obscure deities. Alden
How to not piss them off. Neil
If I was reading about them, I’d like it to be down to earth, bit of history + mythology, how it’s relatable to us today (+for people who don’t just live in the countryside and have hearths + fires), plus personal story/anecdote bits, humour, anything that helps it be more real to the reader. Sarah
Identification, for me the Sidhe are collective and I have never been able to separate them out. I would like to know how to do that. John
I’d want to know the differences between them and any other wights I might encounter, how to politely interact with them, and why I might want to besides simple proximity. Alden
How to/how not to address them, that they are capricious, to always be aware of ‘the fine print’ that there are different tribes/clan. Janet
Where do they come from? Where did they go? Are they still around? What are their stories? What are the rules…? Where might I meet/sense them and how should I behave? Ian
And then I got the frighteners put on me by the particular Irish Goddess I work with, and I suddenly understood that I'd faffed about for far too long, and the book had to be written by Samhain. Which, at that point, was 3 months away.
Sometimes I hate that Bitch. But mostly because she's usually right, even when I don't like what she's telling me I have to do. Because I did it; I wrote the whole damn book in 3 months, while working a full time day job too.