Pagan Portals Abnoba is one of those books I had the opportunity to read way ahead of it being published, and so a few words of mine have ended up inside it: “Ryan McClain shares his exploration of the Gaulish Goddess Abnoba. It’s a fascinating insight into both the historical Celtic deity, and modern Pagan practice. The author offers up his own experience not to create dogma but to empower the reader to trust in their own journey.”
I’m not aware of any other books exploring this deity. There are of course a lot of Celtic deities, many of whom exist as an inscription or two – tantalising glimpses of a past that is largely lost to us. But, if you start from the premise that the Gods are real and present, then reconnecting with them is entirely possible.
I was surprised by just how much I didn’t know about Demeter, and by how much there is to know. This is a tightly packed book full of history, legend and possibilities for modern devotion. I read it as someone interested in all of those things but not an actively deity-seeking person.
This would no doubt be a great book for anyone interested in Demeter but who knows nothing more than the story about Persephone. It would be a good read for anyone primarily interested in Persephone or anyone connecting with the Greek Gods as a group, as it reflects in interesting ways on many members of that pantheon.
I often struggle with the Greek stuff because there’s so much patriarchal crap in the mix. This book gives a sense of how Demeter and Persephone might have existed in earlier, more inclusive cultures. I found it led me to thinking about Laura Perry’s work on the related Minoan culture, and how these deities might relate to each other.
These images were all drawn by me, using pencil, and without looking at any references. Partly I wanted to see how plausibly I could draw these figures without having to look at anything else. Once of them owes a lot to Neolithic Goddesses and none of them are meant to be realistic, but I did want to see what kind of bodies I can manage.
These drawings helped me think about what makes the representation of a body seem objectified, to me. I also came to the conclusion that the world has enough images of tormented, malnourished and impossible-sexualised female bodies. Probably we need more that celebrates and is rooted in joy and delight, both in terms of how the person creating the image feels about what they’re creating, and in terms of how the person is depicted.
What makes me happiest are depictions of people who are themselves happy and at home in their own skin.
I’ve been interested in Pagan deities since childhood. I’m deeply attracted to the stories, and early on I was much more of an active polytheist, seeking relationship with deity. The reasons that I fell out of that are many. I’ve no problem with the idea that gods exist and that people interact with them, it just doesn’t work for me.
I struggle with the feudal language that always comes up around deity. It’s funny because there’s a massive sub streak in my nature but most of the time I have no desire to be in a relationship with a being who is so much more powerful than me. My urge to serve doesn’t translate into an urge to serve a deity, and I have no idea why.
I struggle with the gendered language. It’s taken me a while to figure out anything much about the ways in which gender doesn’t do it for me. So much of the language we have is so very gendered when it comes to deity. Some days I find Goddess material difficult because while I have a (mal)functioning womb, my experience of being embodied just doesn’t chime with a lot of what other people seem to be doing around Goddess worship. I know there are gender complicated deities out there, but none of them really speak to me either.
I struggle with the whole notion of anthropomorphic Gods, a lot of the time. I think humans tend to favour picturing Gods as a lot like humans because for many people that helps. For me, it’s a bit of a barrier. I don’t actually want the spirit of the land to show up with a human face and talk to me in my own language. For me, that would feel like a loss of magic, not a more accessible manifestation of deity. If I want to talk to the land, I talk to the land, and I don’t expect any kind of reply.
Around all of this, I have an experimental and intermittent prayer practice. I’ve found that it works best for me just to address things to the universe, or to any bit of the universe that might be listening and interested. I listen, on the off-chance there’s anything out there that wants to talk to me – and mostly there isn’t, which is fine. Most days, there is no reason at all for anything out there to take interest in me, and most of the time I feel that this is far better for me anyway. I’m not sure it would be at all healthy for me. I have too much hunger around wanting to feel special and important, and I think that would make me a problematic worshipper, and an even more problematic priest. Better to work through those issues in my own time than load that onto a relationship with a deity and risk where that might take me.
If you’re a Pagan who loves bears, this is for you. This is a beautiful exploration of Celtic bear deity.
As is so often the way of it, we don’t have much by way of written sources for Celtic bear deities Artio and Artaois. What Andrew has done with this book is to share his journey in search of them, and it’s a really engaging read and an excellent way of approaching the quest.
It’s always clear where the material has come from, as Andrew searches widely for bears. His explorations are thoughtful, informed and intriguing. They also function as a map – there are so many Celtic deities for whom we have names and little more. The quest to forge a personal connection with a God or Goddess about whom little is known, is a challenging process but one that a person can undertake with honour and sensitivity, and this book demonstrates ways of working that anyone could use to inspire their own quests.
I have always loved bears. They were incredibly important to me in childhood, and they remain significant and deeply loved by me. I’m not very good at deity – it’s a complicated issue for me. However, I really enjoy work that is written with passion and integrity, and it felt like a privilege to join Andrew on his journey to find the Celtic Bear Gods. It was an inspiring read, as much for what it showed of personal devotion and enthusiasm as for what it teaches about Bear Gods specifically.
She has many names. Those who do not love her call her the Goddess of Hellfire for they can only see the destruction she causes.
She is the Goddess of the cleansing flame that cauterizes wounds and wipes away the unbearable past.
She is the fire into which you can make sacrifice, and in making sacrifice you may find peace, and freedom and transformation.
She is the fire raging through ruins. The fire that war starts but cannot control. She is the end of your schemes, the end of your hubris and your illusions of power.
She has no temples, you can only worship her where there are living flames.
(Art and concept by Dr Abbey – this is part of an ongoing project we’re doing together. I’m considering a setting for a work of fiction that has a lot of Goddesses in it, but I won’t be drawing on existing pantheons to do this. It’s going to be an interesting process finding out who the Goddesses are in this setting, and what their followers do, and where they meet. One of the other intentions is to challenge how bodies are read, so there will be bare breasted priestesses and naked angels who are naked because they are innocent. I feel very strongly that a person’s sexual identity should not be read from their bodies, this is something we’ve been talking about as we’re exploring with the world building.)
Who would you be if you woke one morning as the person you have been in dreams? If longing led to transformation, what form might you now hold?
Or are you full of nightmares? If the inside became the outside, what would we see of you? Are there demons in your heart trying to break free? Are you driven most by hunger, or by cruelty, would you become a predator, or something more vicious?
Who would you be if the inner self who frightens you most were allowed to become your whole self, you true self?
If a Goddess of transformation came to you when you were unguarded and ill prepared, what would she pluck from your soul to manifest in the world?
Would you offer up prayers to her? Would you burn incense and light candles, would you sing in her temple in the hopes of courting her favour? Would you ask that she recreate you as your most authentic self? Do you know who that would be?
Would you seek her out, or flee from her?
(This is part of a creative project I’m developing with Dr Abbey – the art is his, and he’s prompting me with ideas to develop. I’m going to blog once a week with this as I’m thinking about things, because world building is slow and this gives me a good space to develop ideas. Nothing you see here will be anything like the final work. If all goes well, I’ll start writing in earnest in the autumn.)
Sabrina offers me the comfort of her arms. She promises to hold me like a mother holds a small child. She will comfort me, and take away the pain. There will be peace in her embrace, and relief, and release and none of this will matter anymore. Sabrina invites me to sleep in her arms.
She offers this invitation widely, gathering to her the lost and distressed, the hopeless and despairing. She will hold anyone who can no longer bear to breathe. She will take anyone into her keeping who has nothing left to live for and no faith in the future.
Once she had a reputation as a river that kills. The Severn always gets her man, they used to say. With her tides and mud and unpredictability, she was never kind to the careless. These days they come willingly, when they can take it no more. She does not need to lure the fisherman or tantalise the careless child.
She calls to me. I hear her promises, her reassurance. It is a brutal mercy that she offers, a killing kindness for those who can take no more. She is always there, always offering to be the end of the journey, the place of rest. ‘Sleep in my arms,’ she says ‘and forget.’
Encountering the Dark Goddess, by Frances Billinghurst isn’t out until March 2021, but I saw it and I had feelings so I’m doing an early review. It was the book I needed to read, as I felt my own life plunging out of control (again).
Dark journeys happen. Dark nights of the soul happen. Sometimes we have no choice but to crawl on bloody hands and knees through some kind of personal Hellscape for a while. Working with Dark Goddesses, or The Dark Goddess as an aspect of the Goddess, is about having the tools for those journeys. Find yourself in the thick of one and you may reach for a book like this for guidance and wisdom. Being prepared won’t save you, but it will help you make sense of things.
This is an excellent book. Frances takes us through 13 Goddesses of the dark. Each one is put in their mythological context and we get information about their cultural context, and who honoured them and when. It’s a good overview on this front, enough to give you a sense of place, people, culture and to put modern devotion into some sort of context too. From there, if you want to dig deeper, you have a strong starting position and the clarity that deities exist in contexts and that those matter.
Each section includes something personal that the author has written in response to the Goddess, and an exercise that you can do to explore that Goddess. These are guided visualisations, and they’re very good.
This is a book that will work no matter what you believe. If you’re exploring Goddess as archetype and energy, with no particular belief, then this book will work for you. If you believe that all goddesses are aspects of one great goddess, this book will work for you. If you are a hard polytheist seeing each Goddess as a specific being with their own personality and intentions, this book will work for you. It’s been written with great care and inclusivity, and there is room for all outlooks here so long as you are at least broadly interested in the subject matter.
I found it a helpful read during a hard time. There is wisdom here, compassion and life experience. I can entirely recommend getting a copy.
Pagan Portals Aphrodite by Irisanya Moon is a new introductory title from Moon Books. It is a small book, easily read and digested and designed for the non-expert who would like to find out more about this Goddess and how to work with her. If that’s you, this is a good book to pick up.
If you’re established as a follower, dedicant or priestess of Aphrodite, this book is not for you. And that’s fine because you don’t need it!
I have a confession, and it is something I’ve not really talked about directly. I’ve had an attraction to Mediterranean Goddesses of love and sex ever since reading Jane Meredith’s excellent book, Aspecting the Goddess. I picked up this book because I am reading around this topic and actively seeking inspiration. It’s part of a personal process to try and heal. I was taken with the way Irisanya talks about Aphrodite as a Goddess of heart healing.
What affected me the most was the content in this book about beauty. There’s a lot of exploration of what beauty means and how it might manifest in our lives and how we might work with that. Not beauty in the narrow, conventional ways in which mainstream western culture defines female beauty. Something wilder, more expansive, loving and inherently magical. This book has caused me to ask some serious questions about the role beauty plays in my life and the changes I need to make. I’ll be back on this topic.
I still don’t know whose temple I would dance in if there were temples I could dance in. I’m still looking for a name, a sense of connection, a deity associated with the landscape I inhabit. I may never find that, but the looking is important to me all the same. This book has been a useful part of my journey. It wasn’t written for me, I am not seeking a relationship with Aphrodite, but even so it has given me maps I can use on my own journey, and it has taught me things about love and beauty that I really needed to hear.
Pagan Portals – Persephone: Practicing the Art of Personal Power by Robin Corak is a new title from Moon Books.
I picked it up because there are a number of things that interest me about Persephone. I’m not Hellenic and this isn’t a Goddess I identify with especially. So, to be clear, I am not the intended audience for this book. It’s written for someone who want to follow, work with or otherwise devote themselves to Persephone. If that’s you, this is a good place to start with an array of meditations, historic insights rituals and tools to help you build a relationship with this Goddess.
One of the things this book offers is a re-reading of Persephone’s story. This was one of the things I was particularly looking for. Conventionally, Persephone is presented as an innocent girl who is kidnapped and raped by Hades, rescued by her mum – Demeter – but tricked by Hades so she has to go back to him for a part of each year. However, there are other ways of telling her story, and I’m interested in how different women are doing this. Robin has a Persephone story for us that is about the journey from innocence to experience, and about finding your own way when you seem to have only limiting, binary choices.
Persephone is most assuredly the Goddess of not being limited by narrow identity stories. She is both the spring maiden and the Queen of the underworld. What meaning you take from her story depends a lot on how you relate to two key scenes from it. Do you see her as the abducted victim, or do you see her seeking adventure and opportunity? And do you see her as force fed the pomegranate seeds that keep her tied to the underworld, or do you see her taken them of her own free will because there is no going back to her child-life?