My personal study of occult and esoteric history and practices has brought me closer and closer into a relationship with the folklore and mythology that the magical arts are so closely intertwined with. Not overly committed to a specific regional or ethnic cosmology, I find myself equally fascinated by all the traditions and stories the ancient world has to offer.
While my current practice is more closely tied to Greek and Egyptian deities and formations, my ancestral connection to Ireland provides me a direct link to the streams flowing from that lineage. I'm also drawn to cosmologies that have mythical creatures like trolls, faeries, giants, and gnomes weaved into them. In wanting to deepen my cursory knowledge and understanding I turned to the best resource within my magic network whose writing and work has been a great resource for Irish mysteries.
David Halpin and I connected on social media though the Secret Sun Facebook group and proceeded to carry on a private correspondence that led us to share ideas and a blog publisher for a time. Being a native of Ireland who has dedicated his life to the study of his ancient roots as well as magic and mysticism more broadly, I can think of no better person to help clarify and shed light on my questions that others might also be curious about.
David is incredibly well read and you may already be familiar with him on YouTube as the host and creator of The Occult Book Review, in which he shares his deeply felt and thoughtful analysis on some of the most historically significant tomes of magical lore. David has also been an active writer, contributing to The Wild Hunt, Occultum, Ancient Origins and elsewhere.
At the core, he and I share a belief that mystical experiences provide humanity with a vehicle for transcending the confinements of modern day consumer and cyber culture which has done a number on our spiritual consciousness and relationship with our inner and outer landscapes. By turning inward with guidance from the past, we have the opportunity to shake free from the monotony and pressures of life.
STEP INSIDE THE STONE CIRCLE AND PREPARE TO GAZE INTO THE INFINITE LIMINAL SPACE OF THE GODS...
How did you develop an interest in mysterious subjects? Did it have to do with your upbringing?
On the surface it might seem that way but being a parent myself, I often wonder about my children’s different personalities and how they developed. I also sometimes wonder how much might have been there to begin with.
For example, my daughters have grown up in the same household, under the same conditions, and yet they are completely different in terms of their interests and personalities. The same is somewhat true of my own siblings. One has a degree in accounting, the other in anthropology!
All I can say is that the potential and opportunity to interact with occult and spiritual literature was always available to me. My dad used to buy magazines like Man, Myth and Magic and The Unexplained which I would sneak into my room to read as a kid.
There were always books about mysterious subjects, ancient religions and science on our bookshelves. Oddly enough, for someone so interested in the occult, my dad was an atheist for most of his life, though he’s not anymore. He would also bring home horror and science fiction novels which I would devour.
I remember reading books like Harvest Home and The Exorcist before I was ten years old. It wasn’t the horror itself that attracted me, rather it was my fascination with the otherness, and how characters in novels and folk stories dealt with something smashing through their previously safe and sanitized world.
This is, I would later realize, a very shamanic concept; having to break yourself open in order to find your inner path.
After that it was a case of falling down the rabbit hole and reading everything I could. I particularly liked the work of Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison and all of the great fantasists of American literature before plunging more into mythology, folklore and the history of religions and, finally, ideas about consciousness and spirituality.
My mother was very much a mystical Christian. She was in the local church folk group, for example, and would sometimes bring me to very liberal Catholic meditation groups, including Taize services. These were some of my first experiences of seeing people in trance-states, actually. These types of services would end with people repeating the same word or phrase over and over until they slipped into an alternate state of consciousness.
This is actually termed ‘semantic satiation’ and can lead to psychological states such as Jamais vu where the practitioner can feel as if they are merging into the world for the first time and other disorienting effects. As a kid, of course, I found it funny as well as it stimulating my curiosity.
Looking back on it now, there were Gnostic and witchcraft elements in many of those types of groups which went way over my head but I think that’s the way it had to be at the time in Ireland: many alternative and New Age concepts emerged through orthodox entry points.
For example, people would take part in Christian services then talk about faith healers they’d been to see or certain ancient, magical places they’d been to which were said to cure ailments. The church was very authoritative for many years in Ireland but indigenous wisdom and, indeed, the respect for traditional beliefs incorporated itself and survived.
I found all of those experiences interesting and although I would not have been able to understand it, I knew instinctively that they were all connected; the occult, the mystical masses, the folklore and the unexplained.
In your research, what role did you find folklore played in culture historically? What is the consequence of that tradition breaking down and being lost in your opinion?
Well, speaking about Irish culture, folklore is the blood that beats through the body. How it is conveyed, how it was hidden from the oppressive threats it faced and how it managed to knit together communities and keep memory and tradition alive is perhaps what I appreciate most about it.
Having said all of that, Irish music is a folklore tradition in its own right, as is poetry, herb-lore and the knowledge of Irish wise-women, the Bean Feasa, going back centuries. I would leave it to more qualified authorities to expound upon these areas.
For me, the interest has been how folklore was utilized to offer hope, as well as promising something more than the meager, material existence poorer people were expected to put up with. It was, and still is, a refuge from the mundane and a window into a more connected and timeless experience.
I’m thinking mostly of the type of folklore involving spiritual encounters, instinctive symbolism and, as the recent book by Kripal and Strieber advocates, a ‘super natural’ as opposed to something that’s not supposed to exist.
Esoteric folklore offered a continuation of consequence and possibilities beyond those which people could usually hope for.
If you lost something precious to you, for example, a folk story might tell you how to make a bargain with a spirit of a place to find it again. But there would always be a price!
When I look at it now, all of these ideas which survived through the systemic Christian destruction of Irish lore and tradition were extremely courageous in their offering, as well as highly heretical to the church, of course.
As for the second part of the question, I am possible naïve in my belief that folklore is in the safest place it’s been for many centuries. We have the ability to create databases and connect with people all over the world in order to tell our stories, compare traditions and share experiences.
The perception of folklore, as well as the inclusivity of such a diverse and wide-ranging subject matter, means that the interdisciplinary possibilities are very exciting.
Although some researchers are careful about drawing parallels between cultures, comparative studies show many similar spiritual techniques and, indeed, archetypes exist and seem to emanate from ecstatic practices world-wide. I am less worried about individual traditions being lost as I am about them being deliberately obfuscated.
Is mythology and folklore more accepted and seriously considered in Ireland than perhaps the UK or America? Why or why not?
No, I don’t believe so, although I can understand why such an answer might require qualification.
What I see since the explosion of social media is a huge desire to connect with our past. As non-indigenous Americans make up the majority of the American populace today this means that most Americans look elsewhere for their roots. The growth of Celtic Polytheism, the rise of Nordic Paganism, the reconnection to African spiritual systems in America all refocus attention onto traditions and folklore outside the continent in this context.
The African example should be acknowledged as being different as there is a slavery and oppressive component which was not the case with Irish or European settlers. For many Americans of European descent, then, there is the potential to both draw from, yet over-romanticize, the land of their overseas ancestors and give its folklore and history prominence over American folklore.
Ironically, I have had many American people ask about Irish ancient monuments and bemoan the fact that they cannot visit them even though America has a vast prehistoric culture of its own with mounds, stone circles and ancient sacred sites.
Recently the first arrival of people into Ireland was pushed back 2’500 years to around 10’000 BCE. However, sites like Monte Verde in Chile are being dated to 30’000 BCE with people then moving upwards through Central America and onwards into the North. This offers tantalizing possibilities in relation to American megaliths having the potential to predate many European megaliths, which is only now being recognized.
So, I don’t think folklore is more seriously considered in Ireland but I do think that we have the attention of those outside of Ireland too. Non-Irish people are just as interested in folklore and accept it as readily as Irish people but perhaps their location focus is not upon where they live.
What is the origin story for humanity according to Irish pagan faith?
Well, there is no one Irish Pagan Faith. For many people, there is a reflexive habit to revert to Celtic deities and beliefs but, as I will speak about in a later answer, Celtic Irish paganism is not original Irish paganism. We do have surviving artifacts and art but no written records.
The stories of Irish mythology and Gods were actually written by much, much later Christian monks. There is some argument as to whether these accounts come from authentic oral traditions as many of the stories have a distinct biblical tang!
The idea that Christians were not going to censor and distort pagan traditions is, unfortunately, wishful thinking.
It becomes much more exciting for me when we look at the recent DNA findings relating to ancient Irish people going back to 3’500 BCE. Then we discover links to such places as the Fertile Crescent, Eurasia and Northern Europe. These were the people in Ireland at the time stone circles and megalithic structures were being built.
It seems logical, then, that we can explore parallels to the belief systems of those people at those dates and possibly embark upon comparative analysis of the art and structures left behind.
In this context, symbols of ancient gods and goddesses, solar and stellar alignments within monuments all become representations of deities that seem to have a common archetypal origin.
For example, the Venus alignment at Newgrange allows us to seek the Goddess archetypes associated with Venus at this time period It then becomes incumbent upon us to acknowledge those links and connect the DNA findings relating to the people living in Ireland at this time with the Goddess forms associated with Venus in those cultures.
This is a more accurate correspondence to an authentic Irish Goddess than a much later Celtic form, to my mind.
Who were the Tuatha De Danann and what role do they play in the history and folklore of Ireland?
Well, the original name of these people is actually The Tuatha De. The Danann part was added much later.
Tuatha De translates to ‘Tribe of the Gods’ and these deities seem to have cognates with other Celtic pantheons albeit with certain Christian-Irish cultural traits and quirks.
For some, they are a supernatural race, whereas for others they might be seen as the remnants of historical characters and rulers composited with myth.
It is worth pointing out that contrary to what many people seem to think, the Tuatha De are not Irelands first people. When they supposedly arrived in Ireland (In ‘Dark clouds’) they discovered a race already here called the Fir Bolg.
An interesting aside is that Fir Bolg translates to ‘Men of the bag’ which might spark the attention of those who know the civilization myths of Babylon and Ur and even South America. In fact, the motif of men with bags seems to have a worldwide basis as we discover and translate origin tales of different cultures.
The Fir Bolg themselves were said to be the 5th race to inhabit Ireland, the original, according to the Christian monks were led by Noah’s granddaughter!
As I have mentioned, these stories integrate Biblical characters within the texts so to put too much credence into these histories is moving away from the physical artifacts and evidence of stones and monuments which offer a more accurate link to authentic Irish Gods and Goddesses, in my opinion.
Ultimately, though, and after various battles with new invaders, the Tuatha De were said to have been driven ‘underground’ and into the mounds of subterranean Ireland. Or, alternatively, they used their powers to enter an alternate dimension where they still reside.
Many people equate the Tuatha De with fairies and supernatural beings although this is quite a complex issue. For one thing, the concept of fairies today is completely different to what it was before the 16th century.
Terms like ‘fairy’ and ‘giant’, for example, had different meanings. Many Irish fairy encounters within folklore speak about a tall, regal race rather than small, ethereal beings.
There was also a movement in the 19th century led by an historian called David MacRitchie who believed the Tuatha De referred to early Inuit pygmy races who first inhabited Ireland and Northern Europe. His thesis was that this is the basis of the cultural memory of small people.
In fact, his ideas became so popular for a time that Walter Evans-Wentz, in his work The Fairy Faith of Celtic Countries, dedicates many of his arguments against this hypothesis.
Today, this idea has become popular again among Afro-centrists who have drawn parallels to the Twa tribes of Africa and the word Tuatha, as well as accounts of dark-skinned Picts in Scotland and Orkney. However, MacRitchie did not believe the pygmy race came from Africa, but from Northern Eurasia. These ideas are not accepted by most scholars, it has to be said.
Today, the characters of the Tuatha De have become the Gods and Goddesses of many Celtic Pagan Reconstructionists, as well as solo practitioners who integrate with the archetypal attributes of the various figures comprising this pantheon.
The personalities of the Tuatha De when given an animistic origin have, for me, more authenticity than when they are used as substitutes for practitioners seeking to replicate Christian systems with pagan gods and goddesses.
Sorry for the long answer!
When did the Christianization of Ireland happen and how did that experience transform the land and its people?
Christianity arrived in Ireland at the start of the 5th century. The area of Celtic-Christianity is vast and I couldn’t do it justice in this piece but people can look up the concept of insular-Christianity to get a better understanding of it. Basically, many existing ideas survived and were integrated so as the new religion could gain a foothold.
In many instances pagan deities were transformed into Christian saints in order to encourage conversion. Pagan holy sites were knocked down and destroyed and Christian churches and monasteries were built upon them so as to use a method of preexisting association to transfer both practical and psychological power.
Many customs and rituals continued but with the names of Christian deities substituted for the earlier pagan and local spirits. Many people believe that this actually spared Ireland bloodshed as the conversion was non-violent. Some scholars dispute the non-violence description, though. After all, if the Christians themselves were writing the history there is no guarantee that they would record their massacres.
Today, most ancient holy wells are renamed after Christian saints. There are huge, garish crosses upon Irish mountains which once were places of pagan worship. Stone circles and pagan temples were destroyed at the behest of bishops and priests and a whole legacy of authentic Irish culture was damaged. The later oppression and moral control of Ireland by the Catholic Church is another chapter entirely.
However, there is a resurgence of Irish paganism today and more and more people are becoming involved in securing preservation orders upon sacred sites as well as educating themselves about Irelands past.
Do you consider yourself a Pagan? If so, what does that identification mean to you?
I don’t place myself under any label, to be honest. As you can probably tell, though, I certainly resonate with certain concepts of animism and pantheism to some extent although even then I would anticipate further knowledge changing and extending my ideas.
I don’t envision myself ever belonging to any one tradition as that would be like shutting myself off from knowledge and growth.
There is still a huge misconception about what it means to be a pagan, though, and I would not argue too much if I am described as one in general conversation.
The way I see it is, if that’s as far as a person can perceive then it’s a step forward at least, even if the attitude is more simplistic than I would like.
I would feel obliged to rectify the distinction when speaking in a more in-depth conversation.
My own concept of paganism is something that sits comfortably with timelessness as well as the present moment.
I find it awkward when I’m in a room full of pagans and they’re dressed like people from the past and wearing robes and cloaks. It’s very reductive and small-minded, from my perspective. Paganism is not as much something to return to, as it is something to discover as being inherent.
What role does Gnosticism have on your beliefs?
Gnosticism has a huge role in my life. Again, while I would not describe myself as any one thing, using the lens of Gnosticism to see beyond temporary worries and struggles is a powerful tool. It is, psychologically, one of the most magical attitudes a person can arm themselves with, in my opinion.
To understand and truly comprehend the illusion of ‘civil’ society is one of the most direct routes towards refocusing your attention upon what really matters. Gnosis, if you like. There are primal, essential truths which many people barely think about each day.
For example, we are on a ball of rock hurtling through space. We breathe air and need food and water to survive. Language is an illusion and culture is a blind which inhibits individual expression.
These are Gnostic truths when you think about it and although they are self-evident, people are prepared to watch the world become more polluted, allow corporations to take control of water systems and allow trends and societal pressure to be the sound of their voice.
Often, people form opinions based upon political misdirection and subterfuge and all the while believe that they are free.
In cinematic language, contemporary life is a MacGuffin; it is the meaning and surrounding activity which is what matters, not the distraction placed in front of us. If you become separated from the primal real then it is hard to find your way back.
As Craig Williams writes in his book Entering the Desert, “Without a constant connection to nature, the primordial voice of the Soul will eventually fade into silence. Nature must become a constant companion.”
Personally, I believe Gnosticism is paganism in one of its most authentic forms. Now, let me clarify. I am speaking about the quest for higher connection and an acknowledgement of that connection, not needing to belong to an obscure sect or follow particular rituals.
I am not referring to elevating particular texts or groups. These too can be crutches or bondage; they can help for a while but to stay within the confines of a system, usually based on the ideas of another person is tragic and anti-Gnostic to my mind.
Who were the Druids and what do we know for certain about their beliefs and rituals? Can you touch on “Metempsychosis” in your answer?
Again, this is a question for which you will receive many answers so I would advise readers to explore this topic themselves.
However, to summarize, Druids were trained in memory techniques and all experts agree that the requisite for becoming a Druid was to spend years memorizing astronomical knowledge, law, mathematics and most likely esoteric sciences. This meant that a Druid did not have to write anything down and, indeed, all of our knowledge of Druids comes from sources writing about them as opposed to Druidic sources themselves.
This, obviously, has led to the many different ideas regarding who the Druids actually were. For some they originated with Pythagorean groups, for others they are much older and shamanistic. The most famous association is with the Celts but the earliest record of Druidic mention also associates their practice with that of the Magi and the Chaldeans. This was in a philosophical context which allows us room for magical speculation too, in my opinion.
The work of Nora Chadwick is a good place to learn more about the Druids.
Despite various schools of thought still at odds about certain characteristics, contemporary scholarship seems to agree that Druids were shamanic-like tribal priests.
That said, we shouldn’t get hung up on the term ’shaman’ and its Tungus roots. We are describing a world-wide function as opposed to a Eurasian cultural tradition.
We know that Druids taught the idea of reincarnation, or metempsychosis. They believed that the soul was immortal and moved from body to body following death.
Although many writers use this association to link the Druids specifically to the Brahman caste of the four Varnas, this is rather simplistic, in my opinion. Simply put, later anthropological knowledge shows that a belief in reincarnation/metempsychosis is worldwide as far as we can tell.
For example, the Eora/Dharawal Aborigines believed in metempsychosis and that when they died, their warriors became dolphins who would protect the tribe from sharks.
Another misconception is that Druids were initially believed to practice human sacrifice but scholars such as Nora Chadwick have come out against this in recent years. Personally, I agree, as most of the evidence seems inconclusive. Chadwick believes that it was Roman propaganda which started the sacrifice rumors and it had both a political and stately religious agenda.
There are other mentions of sacrifice or at least suggestions in early Irish texts but, again, these were written by Christians who had every reason to portray the Druids this way so you have to weigh up the motivations of the writers very carefully.
Finally, it should be remembered that, again, Druids and megalithic Ireland occur in two different time periods. By the time Druids are recorded here in Ireland Irish sites such as Newgrange had been around for thousands of years. So, no matter what people decide to believe about the Druids and the practices we have writings about, they are not the people who built and aligned Irish megaliths to the stars.
What role does ancestor worship play in your own life? Any tips on making those connections?
Well, I’m not keen on the term ancestor worship. I would rather use ancestor recognition or remembrance. I think this is something which is part of everyone’s life in one form or another.
People may not be aware of an esoteric or spiritual connection, though, and may just remember a loved one or family member on a certain day or anniversary.
I do notice, however, that even this acknowledgment is sometimes disguised within an acceptable societal context in order to bypass the recognition of internal communication. What I mean by that is that people often draw strength from memory and don’t see that process as being alchemical, which it really is. They also don’t want to be perceived as being ‘crazy’!
Of course, on the other end of the scale there are people who claim to receive communication back from their ancestors and they too draw upon an ancient, possibly the most ancient spiritual tradition we know of.
For some, an altar of sorts at home comprising of photographs and mementos is a way to honor their ancestors whereas for others the touchstone is actually internal. A perception of their roots and connection is enough to bind them to something larger than themselves. Individual ritual, therefore, really depends upon making this distinction.
I know of some people who began to search out their family tree and discovered aspects of their ancestor’s lives which motivated them to change direction in a very positive way. This is the practical face of ancestor remembrance.
For others, the remembrance must be spiritual. It must be a reaching out to the non-material in order to correspond with traits they may feel they do not have themselves. They establish a resonance with particular ancestors for certain occasions and circumstances.
There is no right or wrong here but researching tradition may help a person discover effective methods which can benefit them.
You touch on shamanism in a number of your writings. How far-reaching was shamanism in ancient times?
In my view, all spiritual tradition stems from the traits of shamanism although, as I’ve previously stated, we should now be moving past the term itself as it is merely one cultural description of an instinctive human function.
I find the work of Max Dashu particularly interesting and insightful when it comes to reframing shamanism.
We need to look beyond the older works of Eliade and recalibrate our understanding of magical practitioners to accommodate women, first of all.
Also, Eliade seemed quite reticent to acknowledge the importance of entheogens, at least in his earlier works. I was reading a conversation recently where it was suggested that as he grew older he was more willing to accept psychedelic importance but because this was not his position in his seminal works it is still overlooked by some scholars.
To me, there is little difference between the practice of a shaman and a sorcerer except for the fact that the shaman is usually in service as opposed to seeking something for him or herself.
Equally, the methodology and role of a witch is interchangeable with most indigenous shaman and again I would acknowledge the point of separation being the reason why someone is seeking to journey to spiritual realms as opposed to any lack of or lesser ability to do so.
Shamanism, then, when we look beyond the 20th century definition, is a world-wide practice with different spells, knowledge and rituals emerging from the physical and cultural landscape as opposed to a different root.
For me, the root can only ever be the same. It is an axis-mundi of the internal mind, a place of emergent archetypal and instinctive consciousness. It is also outside of physical constraint and beyond what it means to be human and which hints at something transcendent and impossible to comprehend.
This is why language is so useless when it comes to shamanic experience, to me at least.
What misconceptions does history record in relation to the Celts and Ireland? For instance, is it not true that much of Ireland’s megalithic sites pre-date the Celts arrival?
Yes, this is a very important point. Irish stone circles and megaliths are not Celtic. As far as we can tell, Celts arrived in Ireland around 500 BCE. You can push that back a few hundred years if you want to allow the possibility of smaller groups with Celtic traits arriving slightly earlier but it makes no difference in terms of Irish monuments.
Newgrange, as a prime example, was constructed around 3’500 BCE. This is 3’000 years before the people known as Celts arrived in Ireland.
To put that in context, the Celts arriving in Ireland are closer in time to the construction of the Empire State Building than they are to Newgrange.
|Courtesy of David Halpin|
Most surviving Irish monuments and stone circles would date to within 1’000 years of this date although some are thousands of years older.
It really is just a case of trying to get people to be very careful about their perception and propagation of the ‘mystical Celtic landscape’ type of description.
It is an Irish stone circle, not Celtic! When you look at the ongoing arguments in India relating to the AIT (Aryan Invasion Theory) you can see how nationalism, politics and race can color such a debate.
It is thought that humans have the best access to otherworldly realms or with non-human entities in a “liminal” space. Can you describe what that is exactly and why you think those times generate such phenomena?
Well, from the context of Irish fairy lore there are particular times when a person might slip into an otherworld and, as you say, this might come about from being at a certain place as well as being in a particular state of mind.
Traditionally, both dusk and dawn are considered liminal times but we can also examine the internal mindset as well as the physical location of the seeker. I’m sure you notice the parallels to ‘set’ and ‘setting’ here.
Retuning to Walter Evans-Wentz again, we have recorded oral traditions of stone circles being places of emergent energies as well as entities themselves.
There is also an overlooked link to Asian folklore here where stone circles were considered doorways which opened and closed, and turned with seasons. This is also the case with Irish and Scottish lore where certain places became ‘active’ at particular times of the year, especially at the solstices and equinoxes.
As an aside, the fact that Irish stone circles and megalithic temples have alignments to these times of the year and were built before farming shows that the calendar function was incorporated for other reasons.
Gobekli Tepe is an example of this on yet another continent.
Now, as for the ‘otherworldly realms’ themselves, we can either believe that some kind of deep meditative state is more possible at these times and places or we can take the stories literally and accept the accounts of those who say they have seen and physically experienced paradigm shifting encounters.
There is no shortage of stories and accounts regarding these ‘journeys’ and sightings but are they internal or externally perceivable to others? Some might define the reality of the phenomenon based upon the answer to that question.
While there are cultural and tradition-specific reasons given as explanations for the importance of liminal times, I wonder if an esoteric answer can be combined with a sensory, biological one.
Occult wisdom speaks of the potency of light itself. Much like the varying quality of air and water, depending on its composition it will have different effects. Times of liminality, eclipses and seasonally changing light may create a type of alchemical reaction within a body, thus instigating a rarer receptiveness within consciousness itself.
This is purely a personal musing but certainly we have scientific evidence of electromagnetic fluctuations within stone circles at certain times, particularly at dawn. Again, coming back to Kripal and his chapters in The Super Natural, we shouldn’t see this occurrence as superstition or fantastic, but rather as Peter Redgrove explained; it is part of ‘The Unseen Real’.
What purpose does making contact with entities or energies from the unseen side of reality provide? Should we seek to pierce the veil, is that a part of our purpose here on earth?
Well, that depends on your definition of ‘energies’ and ‘entities’ I suppose. When people pray in the conventional sense they are trying to contact and draw solace from an outside source, usually. When people try to motivate themselves with encouraging thoughts and words they are trying to create purpose and support from within themselves and yet often the results of these two practices can be the same.
So, is one more ‘real’ than the other? Consciousness itself and how a person defines it possibly helps to calibrate that answer.
If you believe consciousness is created internally and emitted outward into the world then perhaps a person may feel a lack of control, somewhat.
Whereas if a person follows the work of the philosopher Henri Bergson or even the mystic Evelyn Underhill they may feel that they are the receivers of a connected consciousness that is greater than themselves and from which they can draw upon to receive wisdom and strength they may not ordinarily have.
Is that piercing the veil, as you say? Well, in practice it is, but there is an abstract quality to this type of example.
Things become more complex when we anthropomorphize traits and consciousness qualities and begin dividing and assigning purpose. Suddenly, ‘energy’ is more accurately described as ‘entity’.
Mythological roles and stories become a map upon which we can find these forms and from here culture, landscape, religion and tradition may establish our next steps.
Really, it becomes an entire history of occult and ceremonial practice at this point. Is it beneficial? Is it dangerous? Is it evil?
One point I like to examine is the difference between what is considered bad and what is considered dangerous. Often we confuse these descriptions and yet they are completely different.
A dangerous practice can also be a ‘good’ practice, whereas doing something ‘bad’ can often be very easy.
Itzhak Bentov was a big influence upon my thinking in this regard. In his book, Stalking the Wild Pendulum, he writes about levels of separated consciousness and the correspondences to what we might call ‘the spirit world’.
In Bentov’s thinking, the levels just above general human thought are hugely influential upon us simply because we are below them. They appear attractive and god-like and yet they may also be repositories for mischievous and immature spiritual forms. These correspond to our instinctive tendencies, if you like, as opposed to hard-earned wisdom.
Bentov speculates that beyond these levels are vast and incomprehensible, as of yet, states which are so powerful and so limitless that only by accepting that consciousness itself permeates everything can we accurately consider such timeless and macroscopic principles.
You can see some correspondence with Bruno here and the idea of ‘links’ that ‘fill the universe’.
I’m simplifying considerably, but in relation to the question, maybe we shouldn’t consider the first stop-off after death as being the final destination.
There is a lot of misconception about fairies, most certainly in the United States. What would be an accurate description of their nature?
As I’ve mentioned in some of my reviews, the concept of a fairy has changed considerably over time. Looking at the work of the French historian, Claude Lecouteux, for example, we can see that classification itself has been transformed due to the Christianization of many indigenous myths and oral traditions. So, as I’ve alluded to in an earlier question, a giant was once considered a fairy but not many people use that categorization anymore.
And, going further, even the term ‘fairy’ is not what it originally meant, which was a realm as opposed to a being.
Another often quoted influence was Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Nights Dream at the end of the 16th century.
However, looking at what people expect when they hear the word fairy then we can place some traits on the table.
The diminutive ethereal sprite is very much a relatively modern conception in the context of human lore. For example, here in Ireland, the race of fairies known as ‘The Gentry’ are said to be very aloof and tall and are often cruel, thinking nothing of returning a person home hundreds of years after they had initially kidnapped them in some cases.
The ideas of Leprechauns and pixies have comparisons within other world cultures and tend to associate with the poorer people and laborers and trades peoples in many cases. Examples are shoemakers and bakers in fairy tales. There is generally a material reward for helping them as opposed to a magical or spiritual gift as is the case with other fairy races.
Then there are the more spiritual or ethereal beings in Irish lore which can parallel indigenous Australian spirits like the Mimi. There are elementals who are spirits of a particular place or object within a place like rivers, rocks or trees.
In Ireland, we have another fairy spirit called a Pooka which can take the form of animals and can emerge from a lake or ancient stone. There are parallels in many other European folklore traditions as well as indigenous cultures worldwide.
It often becomes a case of personal preference or even belief when attempting to classify or pin down attributes here. People can be possessive, sometimes, as well as defensive if they feel they have a vested interest in a specific fairy tradition.
In a contemporary folkloric context the fiction of Angela Carter, Jonathan Carroll and Charles de Lint has repositioned the fairy tale for modern readers but I would also urge those looking for an interesting take to read Sheri S. Tepper’s novel, Beauty, or Ian McDonalds Jungian fairy tale, King of Morning, Queen of Day.
Both of these novels incorporate the themes of timelessness and futurism (To our perspective!) and demonstrate that we cannot hope to understand ‘Fairy’ from the perspective of limited physicality.
An important development is that for many today the fairy path is a chosen spiritual tradition. The lines between folklore, ritual and even ecology can blur significantly in this terrain. The work of John Michael Greer is a good example of this.
I think there is a fundamental difference in terms of how fairies are approached in this context. Certainly, people sought favors and knowledge in the past but the stipulation was that there was something larger beyond the fairy realm.
In my opinion, it is a mistake to overlook this. Establishing a religious structure and placing fairies as Gods and Goddesses needs to be carefully refined in order to not limit ones spiritual potential and even a follower’s power and eventual fate.
If a person is of the mind that these beings are external and independent then our own understanding of them can only be flawed to some degree. Again, mistakes can be made due to the limits of physical perception so all may not be as it seems.
To clarify, this tangent is one that is specific to those who venerate too quickly before they have fully explored the fairy tradition in a worldwide context.
How common was the practice of building megalithic stone sites in ancient times? Why were structures seen as powerful conductors for making magical contact with gods or other spiritual beings?
We have the remnants of a worldwide technique, from the pyramids of Giza to the Bolivian site of Tiwanaku, as well as Dolmens, stone circles and stone megaliths on every other continent. The obvious benefit of using stone is because it withstands the ravages of time better than anything else.
The strength and effort behind these structures is considered ceremonial as well as functional, of course, but there are many mysterious attributes and discoveries which hint at esoteric and occulted significance.
The work of mathematician Scott Onstott is ground breaking, in my view, as is the work of English philosopher, Gary Osborn. Obviously when we look back to people like Egyptologist and occultist, Schwaller de Lubicz, the Hindu scriptures, The Agamas, and, in contemporary times, the work of Dr. Steven Skinner, we see that sacred geometry is another of Bruno’s ‘Links’ which I have already mentioned.
Mystery schools of sacred geometry cannot be easily described in terms of what they conceal and their ultimate purpose. But even the obvious starting point of correspondence offers significant opportunity to begin to see oneself as being part of something larger and more connected than everyday reality would suggest.
Techniques such as incorporating mathematical equations into building measurements, aligning stones to solstices and constellations are ways of demonstrating this connection and in many traditions they are ways of drawing down the qualities in a similar way to the occult practice of material basis.
Again, there are a great many different views on this and my own is also just where I am at this moment in time. I will be disappointed if my views don’t evolve further.
The language of symbol works differently to our everyday communication methods. Schwaller de Lubicz spoke about ‘the intelligence of the heart’ and this deeper understanding shares resonance with how we feel when standing in an ancient place, in my experience.
The evidence for Astrotheology within ancient structures is overwhelming but because interdisciplinary cooperation and comparison is so new this knowledge is not accurately reflected in academic texts yet.
So, we have a huge disparity between what is appearing instantaneously in magazines and social media and what is being taught by professors in universities. This is not due to the inaccuracy of the information but to do with how long it takes for a paradigm as well as college text books to change.
The Max Planck quote about science changing funeral by funeral is appropriate to my point. We can already see the acceptance of archaeo-astronomy but back in the sixties it was still frowned upon by many scientists and academics.
Astrotheology is really experiencing the stubbornness of certain influential scholars who refuse to face the insurmountable proof of theories they previously rejected. Again, the solstice alignment at Newgrange is a perfect example of this.
Baltinglass Hill is a mountain in County Wicklow, close to where I live. The reason for its importance is only becoming understood today because previous studies have not incorporated the surrounding stone circles, ancient monuments and star alignments. There are other factors such as its height which potentially add to the sites ceremonial importance but there is a lot more which will hopefully be revealed over the next few years.
Another reason for the urgency in having it recognized is the state of neglect many Irish monuments are in. In the case of Baltinglass there is a 5’000 year old ceremonial basin completely exposed to the elements, grazing and wandering cattle as well as occasional wanton vandalism.
I have tried to draw attention to these matters with politicians and local historians but as of yet the fate of the site is still precariously balanced.
As I said, the mountains surrounding Baltinglass Hill include many standing stones, stone circles and dolmens, as well as ruined temple-like cairns and structures.
The translation of Baltinglass also offers a hint to its ancient ritual purpose with A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland from 1837 writing, “This place, according to most antiquaries, derives its name from Baal-Tin-Glas, signifying, according to common acceptation, "the pure fire of Baal," and is thence supposed to have been one of the principal seats of druidical worship.”
You found some interesting possible connections between ancient Egypt and Ireland. Can you briefly summarize what those might be?
Yes, this is really a case of being able to highlight the recent DNA discoveries connecting some of the ancient people of Ireland to the Fertile Crescent and lower Mediterranean area.
This does not mean a wholesale immigration and conquering, in my opinion, but instead an advanced and cooperative sea trade route running along the western coasts of Europe in both directions.
There have been findings of Egyptian made beads in terms of physical evidence, for example, to support this idea and, indeed, it only really becomes far-fetched when those with a Biblical inerrancy persuasion try to exaggerate myths. The most famous of these being the myth of Scotia, I would say.
In the last century Old Testament ‘archaeologists’ were responsible for terrible destruction at The Hill of Tara, when they tried to dig it up in order to find the Ark of the Covenant which they thought was buried there.
Understanding and accepting that shared mythic motifs, as well as alignments exhibiting traits of deities worshipped in the Fertile Crescent area, can be found in Irish monuments is new territory. It should be approached in a constrained and careful manner, in my opinion.
There are, of course, lots of mythological Egyptian/ Irish connections which are much more colorful but as of yet still have to be proven.
You have a folklore tourism business called Circle Stories. Tell us about what you offer and some of the experiences a person can have if they decide to hire you as a guide?
Circle Stories is basically a web-based folklore business focused on the areas close to where I live. Next year I will be offering physical walking tours as well but for now I am sticking with virtual information.
I know the mountains and out of the way places more than most large tour operators and I was struck by how many people were feeling less and less of a sense of wonder when being brought to ancient sites in large groups.
I noticed this same situation when I worked in a museum and would lead people on tours of the exhibits.
So, with Circle Stories I intend to incorporate folklore, mythology, and local heritage instead of purely discussing something like soil composition or the width of a rock.
If interdisciplinary techniques are uncovering new knowledge about ancient monuments that should be reflected in how these places are being explained.
I have been on very dry, academic tours even though sites being visited had so much rich lore, tradition and history which ended up not being covered.
I believe there is room for both, academic, archaeological interpretation as well as being able to acknowledge the magical, spiritual and original function of ancient places.
After all, these sites were not built for archaeologists and historians but for the people living at these times. They have been shown to have a purpose which reminds us of our eternal connection to the sky and stars, ancestors and future generations.
You have a YouTube page called Occult Book Review in which you do just that. Tell us the most meaningful books to you that you’ve had a chance to do a video review for so far or plan to do.
The idea behind The Occult Book Review was to review books that were on my own shelves and to catalog some short, concise opinions about them for my daughters. The process began when I realized that when my girls are the same age as I am today, I will most likely be dead.
So, with one eye on my legacy, (Hah!), I wanted them to have some signposts with respect to what their dad thought about particular occult topics as the amount of books in our house is vast.
Although that might sound slightly morbid, I find recording the series good fun and it helps me to realign certain books and influences through new perspectives. What has now happened since I began the project is that lots of writers have sent me their books to review and I feel a big responsibility to them which I didn’t intend at all.
It will be impossible for me to review the books I currently have lined up, never mind new books and titles I have not read but I’ll continue on as long as I can.
Really, it’s a small project which has grown a little bit bigger than I thought it would. It’s great to be in contact with many of the writers I have long admired like Gary Lachman, David Mathisen and Jonathan Black (Mark Booth). It’s satisfying to discover that my instincts about certain writers are correct and they are very approachable and only too happy to answer questions as well as having a genuine interest in new knowledge.
Returning to the second part of the question, a book that is very meaningful to me is The Secret Teachings of all Ages by Manly P. Hall. Even though I recognize that some of the topics have undergone new revision and may not align to new ways of thinking. On the whole, though, what Hall achieved with this work is unparalleled in terms of an overall compendium of occult knowledge.
Another few titles which I haven’t reviewed yet are Wilson’s The Occult, The Kybalion and The Golden Bough.
Sometimes it needs to be said that it is very often the case that the best occult knowledge comes from mythology and folklore directly. Understanding the symbolism and the ‘lessons’ within the texts is a process that continues to evolve throughout a lifetime.
This is because the tales and lessons shift depending on your own personal situation, the relationships you have cultivated and, of course, the cultural masks that need to be stripped away when they begin to seem more real than the inner life and mind. This inner Gnosis always transcends the illusion of what society deems to be ‘true’.
I am also painfully aware that for many, books are left unread in favor of summations and opinion. I believe that people should use podcasts to compliment their reading as opposed to the other way around, for example.
As I mention in some of my videos, even the term ‘review’ is probably inaccurate when it comes to how I approach some of the classic texts. They don’t need someone like me to judge them or bestow merit. In those instances it’s good to highlight them, at least, and make sure that the profiles of great authors are not overlooked.
You have a lot going on to keep you busy but what might be some other future projects you may have coming we should look out for?
I am currently working on a book about an overlooked form of witchcraft. I hope to complete it by spring of next year and I can finally talk about it then.
I hope to continue with The Occult Book Review and, of course, my business Circle Stories has some exciting content and tours lined up.
For a deeper dive into David's exciting work, be sure to check out the following links