Ireland

Jamie + Ireland: Tales from Oweynagat Cave

Oweynagat Cave is one of the archeological sites at Rathcroghan – check out my earlier blog about the rest of the day at this magical place – Rathcroghan, Queen Maeve, and the Cattle Raid of Cooley.

Our tour guide, Mike, explained a number of mythological tales about the site. It’s considered to be where Samhain (Halloween) originated! It’s known as the gate to hell, as the cave of the cats, and as the home of the Mórrígan. 

Some parts of Rathcroghan are on private property, and there are active farms all around the sites. There was a friendly dog greeting our group as we approached the cave. He enjoyed all of the belly rubs while we listened to Mike’s tales. And we lovingly named him, “the Guardian Dog to the Gates of Hell.”

Tour guide, Mike McCarthy
The Guardian Dog to Gates of Hell

Oweynagat cave is made of two parts, a man made underground passage, and a natural limestone rift. I’ve been to caves in India and Iceland, but nothing quite like this! It looked like a modest little hole in the ground, at the corner of a field. I could not believe a dozen people were going to fit down there! You enter through a very low, narrow entrance marked with stones. This method of stacking stones without mortar was common in the Early Medieval period. 

Entrance to Oweynagat cave 2022

Mike handed out flashlights and prepared us for going into the cave. It was a tight squeeze through the entryway, scooting on your butt, or on hands and knees a bit. Be prepared to encounter a good deal of mud! Under the entryway, the passage to the right collapsed some time ago. But if you go to the left, you enter a cavern large enough to stand up and move around.

Video clip from inside the cave 2022

We turned off the flashlights and stood in silence for a moment. The air and the energy were deep, dark, and cold. But in a way, it felt like a healing or a rebirth as we climbed back out into the daylight. After Mike’s thorough and knowledgeable tour, he took his leave, and we had ourselves a little grounding ceremony in the field before leaving the site.

Grounding and mud

Oweynagat and Fráoch, son of Maeve

There is an ogham inscription on one of the back of one of the entrance stones; I didn’t get a good look until I was on my way out. Ogham, known as the ‘Celtic Tree Alphabet,’ dates back centuries and has several theories about its origins. Ogham can be dated back to the 4th-8th centuries AD and is based on the Latin alphabet. It says, “VRAICCI MAQI MEDVVI,” and is translated as, “[the stone] of Fráoch, son of Medb.” 

Ogham inscription in the cave 2022

If the Medb here refers to Queen Maeve, who we learned about earlier (revisit the last blog), then it is the earliest written reference to her in Ireland. Fráoch could be the literary figure, Fráoch mac Fidag Foltrude who played a large part in the Cattle Raid of Cooley.

In the initial part of the tale, he is severely wounded by a device of Alill and Maeve. To atone for their actions, they make him a bath of fresh bacon and beef. While he’s enjoying his meaty bath, some otherworldly women claim him, and take him away into Oweynagat. When he returned, he was completely healed.

Ireland’s Gate to Hell and the birthplace of Samhain (Halloween)

The concept of Oweynagat as a cave to hell is a common theme in tales throughout time. It’s also considered the birthplace of Samhain (Halloween)! Samhain marks the end of the harvest season and the coming of Winter. On this day, the portal to the otherworld lies open! Read more on my blog: Secrets of Samhain.

Oweynagat cave is an entrance to the otherworld, not to be confused with the underworld. Death is not required to access the otherworld. It is a parallel dimension, said to be the dwelling place of the Tuatha Dé Danann, the semi-divine beings of Ireland who were defeated by the Milesians. 

On the feast of Samhain, Connacht warrior Nera witnessed an otherworldly army emerge from Oweynagat, and destroy Maeve’s palace at Rathcroghan. Having found the entrance, he went into the otherworld himself. He is allowed to stay, and even takes a wife. But he has a vision of destruction that will happen on the following Samhain, and he returns to warn Maeve and Alill. He returns through the cave at the Winter festival of Samhain, but he brings with him the fruits of Summer from the otherworld: wild garlic, primrose, and golden fern. This is proof of where he had been. 

The Cave of the Cats

Yet another tale about Oweynagat cave originates from the tale of Bricriu’s Feast, from as early as the 8th century. The Táin, Bricriu Nemhthenga (of the wicked tongue), is similar to the Norse God Loki. He is a troublemaker. He throws a great feast and requires all the warriors of Ulster to attend. He convinces three of the great champions to claim the best piece of meat at the feast. Mayhem ensues as they compete to prove who is worthiest. 

As a test, three wild cats are released from the cave and the warriors are forced to endure a night at the cave, in their presence. Only one champion returned victorious. 

Photo by Akin Cakiner on Unsplash

Mórrígan’s Dwelling Place

Oweynagat is the dwelling place of the Mórrígan, the Great Queen, or Phantom Queen. She is a shapeshifter, most commonly associated with the hooded crow. She sometimes appears as the “Washer at the Ford, washing the blood stained garments and weapons of warriors, and prophesying their deaths. She does not usually partake in battle herself, but she’s known for invoking it with her magic and her presence. 

Photo by Sergio Ibannez on Unsplash

Mórrígan plays a role in the Cattle Raid of Cooley. She approaches Cú Chulainn, who was the chosen warrior fighting for the Ulster side (see previous blog). She appears to him as a beautiful young maiden, but he rejects her, saying he has no time for love. She furiously vanishes. Later, she attacks him three times while he is in combat at the ford. Once as a black eel, once as gray wolf, and finally as a white, hornless, red-eared heifer. She vows to be there at his death. 

I grabbed a copy of Rathcroghan: The Guidebook, co authored by my tour guide; all of the proceeds support the visitors center (you can order one online here). Plan a visit to Rathcroghan, or check out their virtual tour here.

Source: Curley, Daniel, and Mike McCarthy. Rathcroghan: The Guidebook. Tulsk Action Group CLG, 2018. 

Astrology and Tarot, Holidays

Modern magic in the Autumn Equinox: how to celebrate Mabon

Mabon & the Autumn Equinox

Mabon is a Sabbat that celebrates the autumn equinox, which falls around September 21st each year. The name Mabon is a modern terminology set in the 1970s by Aiden Kelly, and influential figure in the Neopagan religion of Wicca. Before that, festivals during this time of year were usually referred to as the Autumnal Equinox. Although there is no proven connection between Mabon and the Autumnal Equinox, Kelly believed that the Celts celebrated at this time. 

In Stonehenge, astronomer Sir Fred Hoyle determined a series of holes called Aubrey Holes that lined up with specific eclipses, allowing light to show through at exactly the moment of the equinox. 

Kelly chose the name Mabon from the celtic tale of Mabon, an infant child stolen away from his mother and imprisoned. The mythic hero Culwch must seek out Mabon to help him hunt down a wild boar that was previously a king in order to win the hand of Olwen in marriage. The myth is indicative of the separation of the youthful gof from his mother, the great goddess, and the resulting deloation of the land, which can only be restored once he is restored. 

The festival of the Eleusinian Mysteries was a sacred harvest held in Greece, once every four years in Eleusis and lasted nine or ten dats. It started at the full moon and included a procession hailing Demeter, the mother of Persephone. Like Mabon, Persephone was also stolen from her mother and imprisoned.

Connecting with the Season

Imagine the way ancestors would have lived during this time of year. Mostly farmers, they are likely working on the second harvest of the year, squash, pumpkin, root vegetables. They are well fed, they are enjoying the fruits of their labor, and preparing for the winter ahead. They are giving thanks and showing gratitude for food, for animals, and for surviving another year. It’s a time to make decisions about what to consume, what to store, and what to leave to decay in the fields.

No two Mabon feasts would look the same, but they usually included a shared meal, acknowledgement of sacrifices made during the year for survival, and offerings for protection through the Winter.

Even as modern people, we breathe the same air that our ancestors held in their lungs. We touch the same earth and water that they touched. 

The Autumn Equinox falls when the sun rises in Libra, the sign that represents level-headed balance and careful judgement. An appropriate frame of mind when preparing for a harsher season. Mabon is both celebratory and somber. It is a busy time of year, and people are tired. With themes of gratitude, death, grief, and looming winter, it is time to acknowledge mixed feelings and seek inner balance. 

How can you celebrate the Autumn Equinox?

Harvest what you have grown in the last year and take an honest look at what you need to let go. You don’t have to cut any chords right away, make it a gentle separation from now until Samhain or Yule.

Here are some light hearted ways to celebrate Mabon in the modern world.

  • Plant bulbs for the Spring
  • Organize your planner for the rest of the year, buy one for next year
  • Improve your negotiation skills with a class or a ted talk {find one, link it}
  • Can, jam, freeze, pickle, or dry goodies from your garden or a local farm
  • Go for a long walk or hike
  • Watch the sunset or the sunrise
  • Have a full harvest moon ritual
  • Go apple picking
  • Have a bonfire
  • Go out dancing or take a dance class
  • Make corn dollies or wreaths
  • Go horseback riding
  • Have a “goodbye garden” parade – great for kids
  • Have a tarot reading

If you like learning about seasonal magic, sign up for my newsletter! Follow me on InsightTimer where I give regular, free talks about mindfulness and seasonal magic.

Mabon Tarot Spread

  1. As the nights get colder, what will the frost wilt and wither?
  2. What energetic cords need to be pruned during the Fall so that I can blossom in Spring?
  3. With darker nights approaching, how can I rake in my energy to hold light for myself and others during Winter?
  4. What dreams have ripened and need to be celebrated with a grateful heart?

Autumn Blessing

At Autumn Equinox, I name this place

A sacred time and sacred space.

Within it I now give my thanks,

With protection granted by Goddess grace!

The north grants ground to walk upon.

The east grants winds that gyrate.

The south grants fire so we live on.

The west grants fluids to sate us.

~Llewellyn’s Sabbat Essentials for Mabon

Holidays

What is Imbolc? Goddesses, History, and How to Celebrate

Imbolc is an ancient Pagan holiday based on Celtic traditions; it marks the halfway point between winter solstice and the spring equinox in Neolithic Ireland and Scotland. This is the time of year when we start to emerge from the darkness of winter in preparation for the Spring. 

In today’s modern world, we are far removed from the hardships of Winter, compared to our ancestors who lived thousands of years ago. At this point in the year, people have been hunkered down inside for months, living off root vegetables, salted meat, and what little they could fish or hunt. Their sheep, who naturally tend to breed in Autumn, are ready to give birth right around Imbolc. The ewe’s milk flows for the first time all Winter, and fresh milk and cheese were the first signs that Spring is about to arrive. Imbolc was a time to celebrate the coming of brighter days, surviving the harsh Winter, and planning for the year’s sowing season.

Being mindful of the natural energies, the ebbs and flows of the year, can help us stay connected to the elements, the season and the earth. Ancient Pagans followed the Wheel of the Year, eight Sabbats consisting of four solstice festivals, and four fire festivals.

All about Brighid (Brigid)

On Imbolc, ancestors in Ireland and Scotland particularly, honored the Goddess Brighid. Brighid can take on any appearance she wants, young or old, human or snake. She is a Triple Celtic Goddess, the embodiment of the child, the maiden and the crone. She is the Goddess of the Eternal Flame, the trinity also represents three types of fire: hearth fire, forge fire, and the fire to create and transform. She is also known as the Goddess of the Sacred Well, protecting healing waters. Brighid was the patron of poets, healers, and magicians.   

Brighid (Brigid) Imbolc

Imbolc Correspondence for the Modern Witch

Foods associated with Imbolc are milk, butter, yogurt, and cheese (and nondairy alternatives will do just fine). This is the time to savor creamy soups, spring onions, leeks, potatoes, and Irish Soda Bread. Oils associated with Imbolc are spruce and fir, cinnamon, rosemary, patchouli, jasmine, and vanilla. Colors are white, light blue, and light pink. 

Imbolc is sometimes referred to as Candlemas, and a common practice is to make and bless candles. You can make corn dollies or Brighid’s Cross out of any kind of grass or hay you have available. 

Ceromancy, or candlewax divination, is a great way to connect with the magic of the season. Imagine a goal you are working towards, a seed you wish to plant. Really meditate on this goal, and develop a question with a yes or no answer. Use a paper plate and draw a line down the middle. Label on side yes, the other no. Light a small spell candle or tealight. Journal about your vision or meditate more (while supervising the candle). When it has burned all the way down, observe which side of the plate collected the most wax. That is your answer!

Imbolc Spell Kit

4 Ways to learn more about Imbolc

  1. Listen to my Imbolc playlist on Spotify, with seasonal songs and podcasts
  2. Check out my Imbolc board on Pinterest for more ideas
  3. Order an Imbolc Spell Kit from my Etsy Shop (pictured above)
  4. Join me for a magic workshop:

Learn more about Brighid, the Roman Goddess Juno, and the Egyptian Goddess Renenutet. Pull tarot cards, receive reiki, and relax during a guided meditation that will help you plant your own fire seed of intention. 

  • In Person workshop at Saltitude Sunday 1/31 1:00-3:00 pm (learn more)
  • Virtual workshop on Zoom Monday 2/1 5:30-7:00 pm (learn more)

Sources

Neal, Carl F. Imbolc: Rituals, Recipes & Lore for Brigid’s Day. Llewellyn, 2016. 

Moura, Ann. Grimoire for the Green Witch: a Complete Book of Shadows. Llewellyn Worldwide, Ltd, 2018.

Events, Holidays

Online Magic Workshop: Imbolc Fire Festival

Join me in my Zoom Room on Monday, February 1st from 5:30-7:00pm to celebrate Imbolc, a time to emerge from the darkness of winter in preparation for the Spring. If you want to create new plans, sweep away old energies, and plant the seeds of abundance for the season, then don’t miss this event!

Imbolc is an ancient Pagan holiday based on Celtic traditions; it marks the halfway point between winter solstice and the spring equinox in Neolithic Ireland and Scotland. This is the time of year when we start to emerge from the darkness of winter in preparation for the Spring. Learning about ancient traditions can help us connect with the seasons of the Earth in the modern world.

  • During this online workshop, you will learn all about the Goddesses of the season: Celtic Goddess Brigid, Roman Goddess Juno, and Egyptian Goddess Renenutet.
  • You will discover some ways to celebrate Imbolc in the modern world – check out my board on Pinterest.
  • You will get a tarot reading that helps you set an intention for something you want to plant this Spring – a new project, a new job, a new relationship, a new energy, etc.
  • Then you will be guided through a meditation to plant your fire seed of intention so it can grow in the coming months. Manifest something great and connect with some amazing people.

Register before January 25th for a $20 discount! Upon registration, you will automatically receive an email with the zoom link. Email jamie@arrowtarotreadings.com if you have any questions!

Register Here

Astrology and Tarot, Personal Quips

How a pomegranate lead to personal growth

Monday morning’s new moon and solar eclipse in Sagittarius had me wide awake in the early hours, thinking about the past year. The lesson that came to mind was a lightbulb moment sparked a pomegranate that arrived by surprise in my produce subscription box (Misfit Market – here’s a coupon).

Pomegranates are powerful little fruits! They are packed with antioxidants and rich with symbolism. Pomegranates represent fertility, the womb (ovaries), abundance, and new possibilities. In the tarot deck. The High Priestess has pomegranates on her tapestry, and the Empress has them on her dress, to capture their creative, reflective, feminine energies. Some say that the “forbidden fruit” in the Garden of Eden was actually a pomegranate (learn how it became the apple). 

As a kid, my first encounter with a pomegranate was in a holiday fruit basked that arrived at our house. My stepfather cracked it open and we picked out the seeds with our fingers, juice squirting as they burst, our fingers turning pink. It made quite the mess. I got the message from my parents that they were too messy and kind of a pain in the butt to eat! As an adult, I love pomegranate juice (especially in mimosas) and I buy prepackaged pomegranate arils. But never the whole fruit, too much work.

Anyway, here I am with an uninvited pomegranate in my possession, and with the power of the internet now in my hand, I found a great hack video on how to eat pomegranates really easily. You scour the four corners and crack it open into a bowl of water. As you work out the seeds with your fingertips, the water helps prevent them from bursting, and they sink to the bottom. The pulp floats to the top, you drain it off, and done! So easy, so much better than prepackaged, and I will never hesitate to buy fresh pomegranates again!

For so long I stayed away from this amazing fruit or I bought processed versions because I thought they were hard to eat. What other self limiting beliefs have I carried into adulthood that are completely wrong?

Things that “I’m bad at,” or things that, “always happen to me.” What I think I am or I think I’m not. Subconscious limits that I set on the boundless opportunities that life has to offer, based on outdated knowledge, tools and experiences. This year, I have only started to scratch the surface of my ego. It started with a pilgrimage to India and ended in the pandemic. I received the gift of some serious down time, and invested that back into learning and creating new things.

The Winter Solstice comes on Sunday, and Yule season is here. Ancient pagans believe that the sun was reborn on this day, the shortest day of the year. As the sun is reborn, it is also a chance for us to start with a blank slate. The practice we foster in the darkness of these months will move us to the light in sync with the sun. 

If you want to practice manifestation, raise your vibe, and work with the magic of the season, join me for an online Winter Solstice Celebration. Carter from Success in the Stars Astrology is going to tell us all about the great conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn, the “Christmas Star” that you might be hearing about. She will share insights into the energies at play in now and in the future. Check it out.

You can also give some else the gift of tarot – book a group reading or ask about gift certificates! Learn more.