There are so many dynamic and wonderful goddesses from the Irish tradition…goddesses who are woven deeply into the wisdom of the earth, and embody aspects of the sacred feminine in powerful ways.
A question that I often hear is, “How do I start working with the Irish goddesses?”
In this blog I’ll impart some wisdom on this question based on my own experience, so you can begin a relationship with the Irish goddesses.
I want to begin by saying that my relationship with the Irish goddesses has evolved so much over the past 10+ years, and that these relationships have shaped my life in profound ways. I don’t believe that there is a singular path or a “right” way to establish and grow these relationships, but there are some fundamental building blocks that can help to create this sacred weave.
That’s really how I would like to invite you to think of these relationships; as a sacred weaving that’s rooted in a living, breathing tradition.
The first question to really ask yourself is why you want to connect with the Irish goddesses and the Irish traditions.
And I want to be clear here that there is no separation between these two aspects. The Irish goddesses are part of the Irish traditions. To try and lift the goddesses out of the native traditions is akin to ripping a tree from the earth.
So it’s important to ask yourself:
What are you being drawn to? Get curious and try to find out why.
How are these traditions going to heal, uplift, and enrich your life? How are these traditions going to impact your lineage? What are you longing to discover?
Perhaps you’ve grown up in Ireland, have Irish ancestry, live in Ireland, feel a strong connection to the lands of Ireland.
Perhaps this is a moment in your life where you’re getting curious about your ancestors, your heritage, and the earth-honoring native traditions of your ancestral lands.
Perhaps you’re longing to remember and reclaim aspects of your feminine self through the wisdom and guidance of the Irish goddesses.
Perhaps you simply feel the Irish goddesses calling to you, beyond logic or reason.
To use myself as an example, my Irish ancestry is not the most dominant thread of my ancestral tapestry, but focusing on the Irish traditions has everything to do with healing my ancestral lineage.
Every time I speak or sing in Irish, I feel that healing permeating through my lineage. Every time I pray to the Irish goddesses, every time I bring folk rituals into my life, every time I read the ancient myths of Ireland, I feel that healing within myself and my lineage. This is part of what I call my ancestral destiny.
Perhaps creating a relationship with the Irish goddesses and the Irish tradition is part of your ancestral destiny.
I also want to normalize here that you might just establish a vague sense of the why. By deepening into this journey with the goddesses, the “why” will likely become more and more clear to you.
Another important thing to establish is which goddess or goddesses you’re longing to connect with.
I was nineteen when I first learned about goddess Brigid, and I remember experiencing an instant connection with her. I felt her presence so strongly and her energy was so familiar to me. Over time, I came to realize that Brigid had actually been with me all along. Before I knew her name, before I knew a thing about her, she was walking beside me (or perhaps I was walking beside her).
Brigid was the one who inspired my love for the goddesses, but over time I found myself being drawn to other Irish goddesses; the Mórrígan, the Cailleach, Danu.
Each of these goddesses has helped to activate different aspects of my feminine self, offering so much wisdom, guidance and medicine over the years, which has also had a profound impact on my lineage. Over time I have come to love and appreciate so many of the goddesses from this tradition.
Since you’re reading this blog post, I imagine that you are (probably) someone who is just starting out on this path.
For the sake of simplicity and ease, I recommend choosing one goddess that you want to connect with at first.
That way, you can get really familiar with her energy, her stories, her wisdom, her sacred places, her teachings, her medicine.
This isn’t to say that you can’t learn about other Irish goddesses and be curious, but choosing just one goddess to connect with will help to focus your energy and provide depth to the relationship.
You might already know who this goddess is (and that’s perhaps the reason why you’re reading this blog), or you might have no idea.
If you have no idea (you simply feel called to connect with these traditions through the wisdom of the goddesses) I recommend registering for my Irish Goddesses Introductory Guidebook (it’s free). This will introduce you to my 10 favorite Irish goddesses, and you can see which goddess calls to you the most.
The most important thing is to feel the call. Feel it singing in your blood and your bones.
If you don’t truly feel it, putting time, energy and commitment into building a relationship is going to be difficult (and it probably won’t feel aligned either).
Now that you have a sense of the why and the who, we can now dive into the really fun part which is the HOW.
As I shared at the beginning, there is no “right” way to do this and there is no singular path, but here are a few suggestions…
In the Irish tradition, there is a lot of AMAZING goddess mythology. The ancient mythology that was first written down in medieval times (by Christian monks) is what we call “source material”. The source material is a truly foundational aspect of the goddess traditions in Ireland; it’s what roots them into something ancient and real (not simply made up).
The source material can be really hard to read, but if you’re up for a challenge, I really recommend familiarizing yourself with these incredible texts. In my Irish Goddesses Introduction Guidebook that I mentioned earlier, I list the source material associated with each of the 10 goddesses that I introduce.
If you find the source material too heavy going (trust me, I get it) you can always read a more modern telling of the story, but it’s important to be aware of who is telling the story and consider how accurate the story is compared with the source material. In other words, be mindful of your sources.
This isn’t to say that the source material has to be completely honored, or that storytellers don’t have the right to use some creative freedom. But when you’re basing your relationship on a goddess based on someone’s version of a story, it’s important to be mindful of how true the story is to the original essence of the story.
For example, there is a lot of misinformation on the internet about Irish goddesses. It’s easy to see how this happens. Someone writes a blog post about one of the goddesses, incorporating their own perspective of that goddess, but writing it as if their own perspective is fact. This perspective then gets cited all over the internet by people who don’t know better, and suddenly there are so many references to this one person’s perspective treating it as fact.
Let me give you a tangible example of how misinformation can really distort our view of the goddesses. One of my students came to me asking about Áine, as they had seen in a shop somewhere that she was a “Celtic Goddess of Love” which is really not an accurate description of Áine. In Áine’s mythology, she is raped by the King of Munster and the assault ends with Áine biting off his ear. She is also an Irish goddess, not Celtic goddess.
What I’m really saying here is that you need some solid understanding of the goddess mythology if you want to have a relationship with any of the goddesses, otherwise you are really at the mercy of false information.
This isn’t to say that it’s not valuable to read about people’s personal ideas and experiences with any given goddess – and even share your own ideas and experiences – but get your feet grounded in the true essence of the mythology first.
Goddess mythology is one of the core pillars of my membership community The Roundhouse. Every month I gather women in the membership to learn about one of the goddess mythologies, and I share my own wisdom and teachings at the end of the story to help provide depth, meaning and context.
NATIONAL FOLKLORE COLLECTION
There is an incredible source of folk traditions and folklore in Ireland called The National Folklore Collection (duchas.ie), which is a reliable resource for learning more about some of the goddesses.
The body of material that makes up the Main Manuscript Collection, assembled by the Irish Folklore Commission and its successors, preserves an important record of Ireland’s oral tradition and material culture. It is recognized as one of the largest collections of its kind in Western Europe. It features folklore recorded from across the 32 counties of Ireland, in both Irish and English.
For example, there are lots of entries about St. Brigid and relevant traditions & customs. (St. Brigid and goddess Brigid have lots of interweaving aspects). In the stories section, there are some wonderful tales about The Cailleach.
These archives might even give you some inspiration about rituals and practices that you can bring into your relationship with the Irish goddesses.
RITUALS & PRACTICES
So far I have given you some guidance on some study-based practices that will help you to understand the Irish goddesses in a way that’s rooted in the true essence of these traditions.
Through the study-based practices you have already begun your relationship with whichever goddess you have chosen to connect with. Now it’s time to talk about creating your own rituals and practices to connect with the Irish goddesses in a personal and embodied way.
I recommend creating some kind of regular practice where you intentionally make time to connect with your chosen goddess. This might be a daily practice, a weekly practice, or a practice that aligns with the cycles of the moon. You will know what will work best for you, but regularity and consistency is key.
I invite you to get creative about how you want to connect in an intentional and ritualistic way.
People sometimes think that rituals have to be serious, complicated, or have to look a certain way. I personally find that simplicity and sincerity works best for me.
Some goddesses are very elemental in nature, and this can help to provide an anchor for your rituals. For example, Brigid is very associated with fire, and so using a candle for the focus of your rituals can be a wonderful way to honor and connect with her (this is something that we do in my annual Daughters of the Flame journey with Brigid).
Boann is associated with water and you could bring a special bowl of water into your ritual practice with her. The Cailleach is associated with rocks (amongst other elements) and you could bring stones into your ritual practice with her.
If you have a question about an Irish goddess and her elemental associations, please leave a comment below!
You can also work with other aspects of the goddesses and get really creative about your ritual practices. For example, Medb is associated with menstruation, and so you might like to create a ritual practice in honor of Medb that has something to do with your menses (such as offering your blood to the earth in honor of her, or making art with your blood).
Macha is associated with horses, and you might be someone who likes to ride horses. While you’re riding or working with horses, you can think of Macha and bring her into your heart.
Síle na Gigh has come to be a powerful folk goddess associated with sexuality, and you might create a self-pleasure practice or an ecstatic dance practice that evokes her energies and allows you to embody her energies of feminine empowerment.
These suggestions hopefully give you an idea about how to work with the goddesses in a variety of ways.
Connecting can also be as simple as sitting down, closing your eyes, and reaching out to her with your attention and intention.
CREATING AN ALTAR SPACE
Creating some kind of altar space in your home to honor the Irish goddesses is a wonderful way to express your devotion, and give you a physical place to anchor your rituals and practices.
For me the altar space is about honoring rather than worshiping, a place to simply connect with myself and my goddess guides.
I recommend putting items on your altar that have some kind of association with the goddess you’re working with.
For example, on my altar (where I spend a lot of time connecting with Brigid) I have a Brigid’s cross, a white candle, a bowl of water and my Brat Bríde (a piece of cloth that I leave out on Imbolg eve to be blessed by Brigid).
If you are setting up an altar space for the Mórrígan, you might use items like raven feathers, bones, and black candles.
You can make your altar space as simple or as complicated as you like. Some of the most beautiful altars are the most simple.
PRAYER & MEDITATION
Over time, as you create a relationship with your chosen goddess, she will become what I call a goddess guide. A guiding force that enriches your experience of life, providing wisdom, love, comfort, support, direction, and more.
There will be times when you feel called to pray to your goddess guide, which is when you speak to her, and there will be other times when you meditate with your goddess guide, which is when you listen to her voice.
Prayer and meditation creates a two-way dialogue between you and your goddess guide.
This is one of the most fundamental ways of connecting with any of the Irish goddesses, and it also takes practice.
I encourage you to take your time working on this aspect of the relationship, and to be keenly aware that all relationships are reciprocal. Reciprocity is the foundation for right-relationship, which is so incredibly important in these traditions.
When you pray for something and you feel that your prayer has been answered, you might like to leave an offering or sing a song in honor of your goddess guide. Infusing natural items with your love and then leaving those offerings in nature for your guide is a beautiful practice (make sure the items are biodegradable).
You will get to know your goddess guide over time through prayer and meditation and learn what kind of reciprocity is most suitable for the relationship.
Goddess Brigid, who is my primary goddess guide, is a goddess of action. She cares less about me sitting down at my altar and more about what I’m creating in the world. All of my creations are a devotional practice, which suits me and Brigid very well, and allows me to sink into my life as a living prayer.
DEEPENING INTO THESE TRADITIONS
Last but not least, I want to say a few words about deepening into these ancestral wisdom traditions from Ireland.
As I mentioned near the beginning of this blog, the Irish goddesses are part of the Irish traditions. To try and lift the goddesses out of the native traditions is akin to ripping a tree from the earth.
To really understand the goddesses in their fullness, it’s important to understand the wider cosmology and culture of these traditions. The goddesses are just one aspect of this rich tapestry of wisdom.
If you would like to be supported on this journey into the Irish traditions…
…I lovingly invite you to explore my membership community The Roundhouse. Each month we dive into goddess mythology, ancestral teachings, embodied journeys, and nature-based feminine wisdom from Ireland that’s deeply rooted in the sacred cycles. You’ll also receive rituals that align with the moon, inspired by Irish folk magic, and opportunities for deep sisterhood and support. You can explore all of the details here.
I also want to mention here that learning the Irish language is another key aspect of deepening into these traditions. If you’re looking for a teacher I recommend Paraic Donoghue (Connacht dialect) or Michelle Furey (Ulster dialect). I also highly recommend my Irish singing teacher Mary McLaughlin (Ulster sean-nós).
BLESSINGS TO YOU ON THIS JOURNEY
I hope that this blog has been useful and inspiring, and I want to complete this wisdom share by saying how excited I am that you are embarking on this journey with the Irish goddesses.
I would love to hear from you in the comments. Which goddess is calling to you at this time in your life? What rituals and practices are you thinking of bringing into your life? What aspect of this wisdom share has spoken most deeply to your heart and soul?