It does not escape me that, as an Irish polytheist, there aren’t any images of my gods (not ancient ones, anyway). There are no bronze or marble statues to show how ancient people imaged the gods. Some images of Gaulish gods survive, such as on the Gundestrup cauldron, and some heavily Romanized carved images, but there are no ancient representations of the Morrigan or of the Tuatha Dé Danann. If there were, they are lost to us, leaving only modern artists to give us their interpretations of the gods. What we have left to us instead are stories.
These stories tell of the exploits of the gods, the words they spoke, their blunders as well as their mighty deeds. Our myths and stories are important, because they shape how we view and understand the gods. In difficult times I look to these stories. I find both comfort and inspiration in them. Why? Because the gods faced difficulties and uncertainty, too. They faced plagues, bad kings, and wars. I can read these stories and know that ancient people probably looked to these same stories when dealing with their own difficult times.
When I first started practicing Paganism, the experiences I looked forward to the most were big, deeply moving rituals. I wanted to be immersed in the presence of the gods and have those big, overwhelming moments of connection where I felt them with us in ritual space. Many of those moments were immensely powerful and moving, and certainly shaped my views on the gods for years to come. Big, extravagant, and complex ritual is wonderful, but we aren’t meant to have those big moments all the time. Part of being a Pagan is to make your practices a part of your everyday life. It’s not a path, if you only walk it every so oftenyou have to live what you believe. Big moments in ritual are still important to me, but many times I find that it is the small, quiet moments that I cherish the most. This has become especially clear to me during the current world pandemic. Big, in-person gatherings and group ritual have become a vital part of being a Pagan for a lot of folks. Gathering with like-minded people and friends at festivals is something I very much look forward to. Even smaller gatherings for covens and other groups have been impacted. Humans are social creatures after all, and having a year without gatherings, without festivals, without local events and coven gatherings—that’s crushing.
During this time of isolation I have found it vital to look to my personal devotional practices. To refresh and rework some practices and refine others. I found in many ways these simple practices, whether it was making an offering, meditation or saying a prayer, where the things that got me through the day. They helped me deal with a world filled with stress and uncertainty. While I think prayer and offerings are important there is another type of devotion that I find to be a powerful tool: stories.
Perhaps it is a story about the Morrigan, or another deity. Perhaps it is only a line or two of that story which has meaning to you. Whatever it is, sit in you sacred space and reread part of that story, or concentrate on just a line or two that has special meaning to you. Then spend some time meditating on that line or elements of that story. What wisdom can you find in it? What meaning does it inspire in you? Is there something in it that helps you in your current situation? Maybe this meditation inspires you to create a piece of art, write a prayer, or create a ritual. Or maybe it just helps you find the strength to get through the day. Or it may help you feel closer to deity. Stories are powerful, especially the stories of our gods. They are more than just arcane lore, they can be a vital tool in the modern world, a way to help you strengthen your connection to the divine, and bring the gods closer to you.
Our thanks to Stephanie for her guest post! For more from Stephanie Woodfield, read her article, “Connecting to the Morrigan as a Goddess of Prophecy.”