Pulse: When Hearts Stop Beating

In a crowd of people golding candles, a masculine person's arm with a medium brown skin tone is painted in the colors of the rainbow and is outstretched holding a candle in a plastic cup. There are many more peopl ein the background holding candles and there palm trees and tall buildings with rainbow lights in the far background.

When I decided I wanted to write about death last year, I don’t think I foresaw just how many things relating to death that I’d be writing about, but here we are again. This is about my own experience with this tragedy, faced 650 miles away from the actual events, but one that hit home in a way I was completely unprepared for. This is a pretty long post, but it was incredibly cathartic and hopefully helpful for other folks.

Today marks the 1st anniversary of the Pulse Nightclub Massacre in Orlando, one of the deadliest mass shootings in US history. This time last year, I was takin my final classes of my undergraduate career, Spanish oddly enough, and tryin to survive on a little over $500/month when my rent alone cost that much; I still can’t figure out how I made it. What little I was making came mostly from an employer who is homophobic, transphobic, ableist, full-fledged misogynist, and casually racist. I was also fightin my university for not protecting Queer, POC, disabled, female, or any minority status students; fightin with the state legislature for literally makin it illegal to fund the Office for Diversity & Inclusion (the law has now expired, but no clue what’s actually happenin yet); and tryin to lead a group of student leaders (who had been stabbed in the back days earlier by a now ousted member) in these efforts through “respectable” means while participating in a more radical organization that was willin to do whatever it took. I was at wits end, just tryin to make it to August when I would officially graduate, move home, and pay off some debt. I just had absolutely nothin left to give. And then it happened.

The massacre happened on Saturday night and I was working 12 hour shifts on Sundays, so I’d gone to bed fairly early. Sundays tend to be a pretty busy day in a veterinary ER, but for whatever reason, we were fairly slow that morning. I don’t remember what was on TV, but I got a Facebook alert that a friend had “marked themselves safe,” a feature I’d only seen a time or two before after some major event. I didn’t have a clue what had happened since I’d gone to bed early, so I googled and felt like I’d been slammed in the gut. At that point, no one had any idea what happened and there were *only* 12 victims or so. But over the next couple hours, the count climbed higher and higher until it hit 49. We stayed pretty slow and I later realized my coworkers just let me sit in front of the TV all day. They check on me, sat with me when we didn’t have anything goin on, andnever asked to change the channel. I was just floored. I had to go to the bathroom to cry a couple times, but I absolutely lost it when I got into my car at the end of the day. I sat and collected myself before headin back to an empty house since my roommate was in Norway for an internship to finish up his degree.

When I got home, the first thing I did was pop open my laptop. We’d cut off our cable to save money, so I stayed glued to social media and then news clips I could see online and kept my phone in my hand to look at multiple sites at once. I cried all night long and at 4am, realizing what time it was, I knew there was no way I was gonna be able to function in class, so I emailed my professor. Thank the gods, he understood and didn’t count the absence against me. He even moved the quiz that was supposed to happen that day so that I wouldn’t miss it. Turns out he’d seen several of the interviews I’d done on local news and could probably fathom how hard I was takin all this.

The next little bit was a blur. The recently fired director of our defunded Pride Center organized a vigil with counsellors present for Tuesday and I went to that. Of course, university administrators – some of whom had flat out laughed at student safety concerns –  showed up and attempted to co-op the event in person and on social media as if they’d planned it, which only made it harder. We couldn’t even totally just grieve because we were all just so damn angry that they were there. At one point, through tears, I called out the university’s (now former) chancellor and told him that people like him were directly responsible for so much of the grief in the room; he rolled his eyes at me. Typical for him and the tone he set for pretty well the whole of admin.

All of this has led me to the decision I seem to have made without even realizing it. I think it’s important here to disclose, if you didn’t already know, that I’m a white cis gay man. As all the facts came out, it was obvious that the majority of the victims in this massacre were of Puerto Rican and/or Latinx descent and that the attack happened on Latin Night. Whether this crime was intended to specifically target Queer/LGBTQ+ Latinx PoC or not, they were the majority of the casualties and if this event impacted me so heavily, I can only imagine what people closer to the location or who shared more common identities with the victims felt. But because of the visceral reaction I had, one that I feel pangs of any time one of our siblings is lost, I’ve decided that I want to incorporate a special day of ancestral remembrance. Through honoring those that have preceded us all, many of whom have paid the ultimate price, I hope that we can truly unite the community more. June is already Pride Month (even though both my hometown and the city I’m movin to celebrate in October because of the heat, lol), plus the Pulse anniversary will fall in June every year, so it only makes sense to me. I’m also toying with the idea of a Queer ancestor elevation to help all those lost to violence or who never got to live as their authentic selves because of their Queer/LGBTQ+ identities, but because of everything happening in my own life this year, I’m gonna wait and plan to start that next year. Today, I’ll be honoring the victims of the Pulse Massacre by reading their names and prayin for them. I’ll be prayin that Brighid offers comfort to their families and/or to them as needed (especially the person whose father wouldn’t even claim their remains), that Airmid and Miach continue to heal those still with us, and that Manannán mac Lir casts his mist of protection around Queer/LGBTQ+ people the world over. It’s a small gesture that I hope grows with time, though not in terms of numbers or necessity. I want the ritual to have a feeling of breadth because, while spurred by the Pulse tragedy, they are far from our only siblings lost. Folks Leelah Alcorn, Islan Nettles, Matthew Shepard, and far too many others have been lost far too soon and we can’t forget them, nor the gains we’ve made as a community from the publicity of their deaths. We can’t change what’s happened, but we can honor them as we continue the fight to prevent it from happening again.

A single while taper candle is burning in the center of the fram, held by a hand that is at the bottom of the frame and the edge of the back of someone's head on the right of the frame. In the background, blown out lights in the colors of the rainbow fill most of the image.

But the sad fact is that this isn’t one community, even though I wish it were a more unified one. The reality is that Black SGL folks don’t face the same struggles that Latinx Queer people do, who don’t face the same struggles as White LGBTQ+ folks do, who don’t…you get my drift. We all share elements of common identity, but that hasn’t stopped anti-Black or -Brown sentiment from it’s prevalent place in many Queer circles. To truly move forward, we (White folks) have to do the hard work of fighting racism in our worlds, listening to out PoC siblings, and making those changes despite whatever discomforts we may find in those moments.

May na Dé protect us all and may we grow together, move forward, and forge a new world for those who will call us “ancestor.”

Grianstad an Gheimhridh 2016

Image of an altar with candles on a white painted windowsill. On the far left is a large lit pillar candle, white at the top and fading to gold at the bottom. Next is a clear faceted glass candle holder holding a lit white taper candle. In the middle of the space is a gold arched candleholder with the silhouettes of pine trees on the front. This holds 4 lit votive candles; the left 2 are white, the right 2 are gold. In front of this sits a lit small white

TheModernSouthernPolytheist’s Grianstad an Gheimhridh altar for Gráinne 2016

Grianstad an Gheimhridh Shona, y’all! It’s hard to believe it’s that time again! Yet here we are.

I feel like a lot has changed in the last year, and yet this was a ritual that felt familiar. I’m hopin by next year to have somewhat of a solidified liturgy, but I made the decision a long time ago to let that kind of thing develop as naturally as I could. I don’t wanna force somethin and end up hatin it or it feelin disingenuous.

That said, the format and connection to other holidays has really taken shape this year. I’ve come to a lot of realizations and, through talkin to other Gaelic Polytheists in various locations across the country and the globe, I feel like things are takin shape in more concrete ways. Discussions of local cultus in the South, most of whom seem to be Hellenic Polytheists, has also truly had a major impact. It’s helped me flesh out my own ideas as well as solidify the idea that we don’t all have to practice identically and never even did. The idea of true orthodoxy simply doesn’t fit into my understanding of a Gaelic Polytheist worldview.

Which brings me to this year’s ritual. In the last year, I’ve truly come to see Gráinne/Grain as Áine’s sister. I realize in retrospect that I’d somehow come to view her as an enemy or adversary. I think it has to do with my own struggles with winter that led to that, but one day it was like a light turned on and that idea just seems so foreign to me now. As such, I altered the idea of the ritual to be about transitioning from the time of Áine to the time of Gráinne rather than about somethin more akin to tolerating the winter.

In a Gaelic worldview, days begin with sundown of the calendar day before, similarly to the way Jewish days run. I was out of town visiting family for an early Christmas since I’ll be workin on the 25th, so I knew I couldn’t do a full ritual that night. Before leaving and while the sun was just barely still in the sky, I burned a stick of incense I reserve for Áine, thanking her for her warmth and wishing her a speedy return. Before I went to bed that night, I lit a small jar candle that I’d got to use that felt appropriate for Gráinne, said a quick prayer, and let it burn overnight. I’ll admit that I had more time and expendable income this year than I have in a long time and likely more than I’ll have again for a while, so I splurged a little. I found a gorgeous white candle that transitions to gold that I feel really represents the transition from the pale face of the winter sun, Gráinne, to the warm yellow summer sun, Áine. I doubt that I’ll ever find a candle that does the opposite (I looked and didn’t see one), but it’s given me ideas for ways to incorporate those color transitions in the future.

White to gold candle representing the transition from Grainne to Áine

As for the ritual itself, I started by lighting the gold taper candle and thanking Áine for her warmth and presence. I then used this candle to light the the two white votive candles. From these candles, I lit the white taper representing Gráinne, then lit the gold votives. Really, this was all symbolism of the rising and setting sun, the transition of the seasons, etc. Lastly, I lit the white and gold pilar candle, talkin to Gráinne and askin that she keep us warm, drive away the bitter cold the An Cailleach brings, and that my relationship with and understanding of her grow. I let all the candles burn until they burned out, except for the pillar, which I put out when I left for work tonight. I think I wanna burn it again, maybe every couple weeks or somethin and time it to be about done by the time Grianstad an tSamhraidh hits.


In the future, I really wanna repeat this ritual, in reverse, to welcome Áine at Grianstad an tSamhraidh. But at the same time, this doesn’t feel totally right. I don’t know if it’s cause I’m in the South and our days are longer or what, but by the time the solstices roll around, we’ve been in the swing of the season for a while. I’ve never been one to do much with the equinoxes, but I’ve been entertainin the idea some kind of small recognition of the beginnin of this transition. It’s not been more than a passing thought, but it’s definitely an idea I want to explore.

All in all, I feel like it was a successful ritual. As a side note, the little strings of lights were an impulse buy while I was at Target. They were just festive and on sale, but I really think they added a nice touch. They’re not somethin I leave on their shrine all the time, but in this year of transition and without any other holiday decorations, it just felt nice.

A Prayer for the Soul in my Arms

When Airmid’s herbs and Micah’s tricks
Can’t heal the pain and relieve the sick,
May I and Flidais comfort you
With whisps of pink and streams of blue.

While Brighid’s touch and loving caress
Gathers and holds who loved you best,
To the West, across the sea,
Let Manannán mac Lir carry thee

To Tech Duinn where Donn still dwells
An isle of stone among the swells
To rest yourself and mend your soul
After this life has exacted its toll.

And when it’s time to move again,
For Tír na nÓg to let you in,
Eat the fruit and draw your breath
And never again know pain in death.

This is my own original work. It’s a prayer I’ve been tryin to write for years now and haven’t been able to. However, in the last 48 hours, it seems to have just flowed. I found myself sneakin away to write as I felt it and now that I’ve compiled it, it feels…whole.

This is the 2nd part of my Deathwork series.

I Am Become Death…

The boundaries which divide Life from Death are at best shadowy and vague. Who shall say where the one ends, and the other begins?

-Edgar Allen Poe

Content Warning: This post is very heavy and involves some macabre details of my occupation and practice as well as discussion of suicide. I’ve also decided that this will be a multi-part series, though I have no idea how many.

Many folks that have known me over the years know that I work in emergency veterinary medicine and have been in the industry for 13 years now. It’s an often thankless job, full of blood, violence, tears, and anguish. But hey, someone’s gotta do it.

All jest aside, my work is very dark. Just this weekend, I saw necrotic limbs, flayed abdomens, and patients full of maggots;  it’s never a dull moment in the Heart of the Delta. These patients come in screamin, cryin, clawin, and gnashin. In these first moments, it’s part of my job to ease their suffering. Sometimes, that means pain meds and sedation so I can begin to help heal their wounds, but sometimes it means they’ve come to the end of their road – especially if they’re a stray.

A previous roommate of mine did a project when we both went back to college about death and about our role in it; that project has stuck with me. He’s a former veterinary technician and we talked about how many lives we had each personally ended. Not how many we’d witnessed or assisted, but personally ended. This was several years ago and after some basic math, we figured we were each up to at least 3,000. Continuing that math now and makin some minor adjustments, I realize I’m now well over 6,000. That’s 6,000 beating hearts that these hands have stopped, 6,000 lives I’ve watched leave the eyes, 6,000 paws (and a few wings) I’ve held in their final moments in this life. To say this has taken a toll on me is an understatement; there’s a reason you don’t see many vet techs older than 45.

As a testament to this, veterinary medicine has now overtaken all other professions in rates of suicide (XXX). And these articles are just about the vets, often completely ignoring the nursing and support staff. Compassion fatigue has become a huge issue, leading my alma mater to do somethin proactive for once and pioneer the field of veterinary social work (XX). It’s not uncommon to come home, start to unwind, and end up in tears over a soup commercial because I’ve spent all day on the edge of fightin it back. It can lead to very dark places and a lot of prayer and soul searchin to make it through.

As you can see, there’s a lot of trauma in the work I do. Which brings me to the religious component; I’ve been doin deathwork for as long as I can remember, since long before I ever identified as anything but Christian or had more than an inkling about actual magic. And really, it should come as no surprise to me or anyone else.

I was born under the shadow of death. My father was sick when I was born and died six months later. His father followed suit 6 days after my 1st birthday. My life was peppered with death since I was an infant, never goin more than six months without attending a funeral. Comin from a rough neighborhood in a Grit ‘n Grind town, I buried friends, loved ones, and family my entire life. It was so common that when I met people in college who’d never attended a funeral, I was shocked. Death has simply always been there, loomin like a predator and yet a constant companion. Becoming an agent of that death seems like a natural progression.

My work in veterinary medicine is, in retrospect, I think what led me to Flidais, and possibly her to me. The short version is that I felt a presence for years, especially when I’d spend long periods of time contemplating my role as Death. After stumbling upon her name, I instantly knew who’d been there all along. Though not typically seen as a chthonic deity or psychopomp, my own UPG very much sees her with feet in those roles. In my world, she plays this role in conjunction with  Manannán mac Lir,  Donn, and to some degree Brighid, though that’s long, complex, and very UPG. As for Flidais, I pray each time I take a life, that it be in the creature’s best interest, that she helps them understand, and comforts them. I pray that Manannán leads them gently to the Isle of Donn, that they rest there comfortably, and eventually Manannán leads their souls to the place of their eternal rest.

This past weekend, I faced a particularly hard case. Where I work, we regularly take in strays, often in the form of random pit bulls and kittens. Many of the kittens come in sick, but not too worse for wear. One kitten, one that should have been destined to be a beautiful black domestic longhair, came in weak, thin, and sickly. Many times, that alone leads to euthanasia simply because there are so. damn. many. kittens at any given time. In fact, the city is so full right now that none of the shelters or rescue groups can even hold any more. But I couldn’t bring myself to make that call. Upon tryin to get a temperature on the kitten, I noticed a small wound with little white visitors poppin in and out. This is another point at which most people call the game, but it didn’t look all that bad and I just knew it would be fine. So I gave her some pain medicine, gloved up, got the hot water goin, and began to debride the wound, one maggot at a time. Once I was done, it really didn’t look that bad. The wound was just in the skin, there was no GI, muscle, or body wall involvement, but the kitten’s temperature was low. I settled her up with some warm water bottles and a heating bad, glad that she would make it. At that point, I went to grab a tube of in-house ophthalmic ointment, opened one eye, and my heart sank; the rump wound wasn’t the only place that other creatures had found a home. Her eyes were completely gone and there was nothing I could do. This explained so much else that was happening (that I’ve left out here) and I knew it was time. I swaddled her close and administered the final medication she’d ever need. I whispered to Flidais, finding a moment of silence comforting in a room swarming with chaos, and delivered her my latest soul harvest.

My Polytheism

6 people stand in this image, 2 to the left and 4 in the center and right. All are fressed in solid black. The person on the far left is  femme, has glasses and is holding a  sign, bit the text isn't visible. The person next tonthe right is in a hijab. Both of these people are looking toward the other 4 people. The next person is femme, has medium-dark skin, is wearing several small buttons, and is smiling widely at a person farther right. The next person is a light-skinned PoC with long hair andnis looking down. She is wearing sunglasses. the nest person is a light skinned white masculine person with his hair pulled up in a bun. He is wearing a rainbow bracelt, white arm band, sunglasses, abs is speaking into a microphone. The last person is Asian, is looking at the person to  the left, and is standkng with his hand on his hip.

Organizers speak at the #MassClassExit staged by #UTDiversityMatters at the University of Tennessee -Knoxville in spring 2016.

I’ve done a lot of thinking about my own religious practice lately. I’ll start by sayin that I’ve been in what I often hear referred to as a “fallow time,” or so I thought. See, I’ve been in a place in my life where I haven’t had much time to devote to religious practice. I just graduated with a BFA in Photography and BA in Religious Studies after a 12 year uphill battle. I was also simultaneously working 3 jobs and heading up a group of student leaders trying to save our LGBTQIA+ Center from a university and state legislature that are hellbent on forcing us back into the closet. Sure, I think it about religion regularly and a while back came to the conclusion that my life and decisions are constantly influenced by my religion (that’s another topic I’ve been meanin to talk about since right before Gods & Radicals really seemed to blow up. But that’s for another day) but I rarely had much time to do anything about it. But now that I’m taking a year off to prep for grad school, I should have more time for my religious practice, right? Well, that’s what I thought, too.

But I’ve come to a realization. As my life is so influenced by my view of my gods, what they would find pleasing, and what they expect from me, I noticed what had been in front of me all along. Just as my practice has and will change when shifting regions, it had changed without me even noticing. I was living my Polytheism. My activism, organizing, and protesting was inspired by and an honor to Na Mórrígna. My work with fellow Queer people was honoring Manannán mac Lir, forging new and liminal spaces and working with people transitioning in various ways. My attempts to create a safe space, a home away from home or in lieu of home as so many of us described it, honors Brighid. Working, existing, and forging new spaces in the South, upholding the almighty Southern hospitality honor my ancestors, both recent and ancient. My work in emergency veterinary medicine, my source of income and first passion, honors Flidais. My healing and nursing honor Airmid and Miach. My care of the suffering, even if it means ending their suffering, honors Donn, too. My studying and academic aspirations honor Ogma. Filling in the gaps and making everything work honors Lugh, the master of all trades.

A black mortarboard sits on a wooden desk. The mortarboard has been painted to say

A collage of graduation accoutrement

All of these ideas act on my simultaneously and I act them out in return. They are a part of me. I am a part of them. While I have every intention of resuming regular offerings and prayers, celebrating holidays with big meals, and all the other things I’ve done in the past, I also realize that it doesn’t have to look like that. My Polytheism is just that: MINE. It is a lived tradition. It is an evolving tradition. One that I hope to grow and pass down, to share with others, but one that that is ultimately mine.

That said, I’ve already started setting up shrines in my new space and I couldn’t feel more at home.

Local Cultus and the Winds of Change

I’ve been doin a lot of thinkin about local cultus lately. In fact, some of it even came up in my undergraduate thesis I submitted just a few weeks ago. But much of it is in relation to what I’m now realizing is a major shift in my life. As of August, I will officially be a graduate of the University of Tennessee with a BFA in studio art and a BA in Religious Studies, plus a minor in American Studies (I technically already graduated when I walked in May, but that’s another story). As this happens, more changes will happen. As with most college students, I’ll be moving soon after graduation, but I’m not your average college student. 

I was born and raised in Memphis, Tennessee, a proud graduate of Memphis City Schools in 2004. I then moved from the Mississippi Delta to Appalachia, attending the state’s flagship school on the other end of Tennessee in Knoxville, nestled in the valley just west of the highest peaks in the Eastern US. This was a culture shock in every way imaginable and it left a major mark on me. What I didn’t know then was that college would be a time of immense struggle, also in every sense of the word, and I wouldn’t graduate until 2016. 

Though I’d begun explorin Paganism in high school, college was the first time I hadn’t lived under the almost literal Panopticon set up by my parents, finally bein able to freely explore and practice without lookin over my shoulder. We’ll skip the boring details and play by play, but it dawned on me the other day as I thought about moving back to Memphis that this will be the first time I’ll be practicing Polytheism for any length of time outside Appalachia. As that occurred to me, I also thought about what Allie, a local and friend of mine, said to me once when I commented about Appalchian identity: “You’re one of us now.” That simple phrase has stuck with me for a few years now because I recognize its truth; Appalachia has had a lifelong influence on me that I didn’t even see happenin. As much as I’m a Memphis boy and always will be, I’ve spent 40% of my life and all of my adult life in Knoxville. How could I not have seen the impact it had on me? 

In turn, this made me mull over how much influence my time here has influenced my view of Na Dé. I so often feel Flidais in the mountain breeze, see Lugh in the storms comin in off the Cumberland Plateau, or seen Na Mórrígna in the faces of campus minority students fighting for our very right to exist at this hostile HWI in a violent, white supremacist state that gave rise to the first iteration of the KKK. Will a move change the way I experience the gods? Will it sever a link? Was it Appalachia that drew me to them? I see how my friend Mary conceptualizes New Orleans in her Hellenic practice, how perfectly fitting it seems, and try to imagine Gaelic Polytheism there; I can’t seem to. Will new gods call me as I move? 

But as I think more, I also know that the hearth of the fires stoked here often lie in  bricks and kindlin laid in West Tennessee, in a city that has struggled to exist since 1819. I then can see the ways I’ve maintained connections to the Bluff City, even in the ways I’ve left offerings, i.e. floating paper boats with fruit for Manannán Mac Lir down the Tennessee River because it connects to the Mississippi, flows past my hometown, and then into the Gulf of Mexico before bleeding into the Atlantic and touching the Gaelic lands. I see the random patches of tree in the middle of urban sprawl that team with The Cattle of Flidais. I remember my home, also the home to the National Civil Rights Museum built inside the Lorraine Motel after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. These things shaped the earliest me, even if Appalachia did some reimagining and refining. 

In all likelihood, my practice will change, just as I will. That doesn’t mean I won’t remember and honor Appalachia, always carrying a piece of her with me and leaving a piece of myself behind. After all, I’ve been gone from Memphis for 12 years now, but I still feel connected there. It’s still home in a way I’m not sure anywhere else ever will be. Will I stay there? Not if things go as planned. My path will hopefully take me to Atlanta, an almost seemingly perfect mix of East and West Tennessees, but only time will tell. I’m both excited and terrified by the road that lays ahead, but I know I’m also gonna face it head on with Na Dé Ocus Andé around me, but in the mean time, take a moment to breathe. 

Grianstad an Gheimhridh

Ideally, the first post here woulda been about Samhain, but I’ve said that for a long time and I don’t wanna keep puttin it off, so I figure I’ll just dive right in.  This post is taken in large part from  question I got on Tumblr, but I decided it would make a good first real post.

tumblr_nzqqa01uiu1rpmi2go5_1280

[[Image: lit candles in a window.  Two candles in clear glass candleholders on either side of frame, the left one gold and the right one silver, flanking a brass metal bridge-shaped tealight candleholder with four candles and evergreen tree cutouts across the bridge. A sun shaped incense hold with a stick of incense sits in the middle.]] 

Grianstad an Gheimhridh, sometimes called Meán Gheimhridh or just Midwinter, is a pretty minor holiday for most Gaelic Polytheists, if they even celebrate it.  We can assume the ancient Irish celebrated it to some degree because of sites like the tomb at Newgrange that fills with light only on the winter solstice and because we can extrapolate based on the fact that most European cultures did/do celebrate in some fashion.  

In the image, the gold candle was for Áine and the silver one for Gráinne, representing the warm face and the cool face of the sun, respectively.  The middle candle holder is just pretty and seemed seasonally appropriate.  Then the sun-shaped incense burner I’ve had since…lord, 2004?  One of those things from when I thought I needed all the accouterment in the world that just stuck around on a shelf and has finally found a good home. I started to walk away and this was just really pretty, so I thought I’d share.

For me, however, the desire comes from other places.  One of these comes from the celebration of Grianstad an tSamhraidh.  On the Isle of Man and in the northern Irish counties, Manannán mac Lir was paid his rent or otherwise honored at this time, but in some of the southern counties, this was Áine’s time.  Having family from both County Derry, where a large modern statue of Manannán mac Lir stands today, and from County Kerry and County Clare, I combine these practices and do something honoring both of them then.  I also feel that, as time marched on, this would have been a natural progression of the celebrations through increased communications and interaction of the regions had there been no outside interference.

If you’re familiar with Áine, it’s commonly said that she has a sister, Gráinne (sometimes spelled Graine or Grian), both associated with hills near each other in the County Limerick.  Gráinne’s name literally means sun, thus influencing our understanding of them as goddesses.  In this way, Áine is associated with the yellow face of the summer sun and Gráinne the white, winter sun.

The other part of this equation that I haven’t mentioned is that I kinda fell into my honoring of Áine.  I have Seasonal Affective Disorder and, even down South, this leaves me in a bad place durin the dead of winter, so I started honoring Áine as a way of reminding myself of summer.  But something felt off still.  So, I started to do more reading and stumbled on Gráinne and her lore.  I decided that it felt inhospitable to honor Áine and not her sister, so using this information and suggestions from somewhere that I honestly don’t remember, I decided that Grianstad an Gheimhridh would be Gráinne’s.  But I still couldn’t figure out a way to do this that didn’t fill me with dread and blah because of my general feelings about winter.  Then it hit me: ask Gráinne to be gentle and to be as warm as possible so that I could be outside as much as possible and to reserve the coldest of the cold for when An Cailleach just had to visit and to help keep that visit short here.

So, as to the celebration itself, I REALLY wish I’d had the time and energy to go out somewhere because it’s just been so damn warm and because I generally go down to the river for Grianstad an tSamhraidh, which I’m lovin (although I’m also acutely aware of what this means about global climate change), but alas work and scheduling just didn’t allow for that.  I keep a small shrine for Áine in the window sill (literally just a candle and incense plate) and I decided that I should add one for Gráinne, especially given that I have a matching candle holder to the one I was using.  I added a seasonal one for funsies and flare that had 4 votive holders that would allow for all night burning.  I prayed to both Áine and Gráinne, welcoming the latter and wishing the former a timely return.  I know that down here we the solstices fall at the beginning of our seasons technically, but it’s also when the seasons have really been building for a while.  I burned some incense, too, and just sat and contemplated, singing a song that I sing for various holidays that to me just screams for the peace we need in the world and that I petition na Dé to do anything they can on the regular. I’m definitely one for ritual actions and prayers, but I’m also one to let things take a natural course, so I tend to keep em just that simple.  I find that havin a playlist made on my phone is helpful, though it’s also hard to find ritual music for me, too.

Ultimately, this is a holiday that’s taken multiple forms for me over the years.  It’s slowly comin into its own in my practice and one of my goals for the year is to really solidify a lot of ritual aspects.  I know each holiday is different and that’s important, but I really like the idea of a ritualized beginning and ending that unites them all.  It’s started kinda happenin organically, which I love, but I also wanna hone it and make it something really important for the future.