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This is the main blog for the fellowship Comhaltacht na nGaedheal: Cairdreabh nan Gàidheal. Edited and managed by Rob Barton

Dirty Magic

Gaelic culture and religion.Posted by Rob Barton Fri, November 24, 2017 12:46PM
There is a description of an ancient curse that was called onto someone by the poet picking up a hanful of the ground, grasses, dirt and whatever. Chanting or whispering an incantationover it and then tossing this material into the air. Other references to folk practice include tossing a handfull of dirt into the path of some otherworld beings to drive them away or disrupt their movements. The little charm bags that we see desribed in the late ninteenth century by James Mooney could sometimes contain soil.

Maybe it was living on a farm as a child that did it but that smell of freshly turned soil is the smell of fertility - the smell of power. It always has an autumnal quality to it, even in the spring or summer - that dark smell of the natural forces of decay creating the richness for new growth. Maybe this is the Dark Crooked One..... this is rot and decay and it also teems with life, little organisms, mushrooms and the roots of larger things, grasses - flowers - tress.

Magic is a funny thing - very individual.... some folks like to use crystals, how many little tiny crystal fragments are in a handful of soil??? milions??? But maybe they are not big and clean and pretty.... maybe they are tiny and dirty but they are part of this web of sustenance that is in the soil so they are extremely connected - these tiny, dirty broken shards of crystals.... they are bound to life and to millions of little organisms.... that is a powerful magical idea.... that handful of soil is completely bound to and entangled with the local ecology - the local world. Some people use a lot of dirt and practice 'dirty magic'.... that entanglement is spiritual and magical as much as it is physical and biological.

Nothing against the gods - by this I mean celestial gods (hear a chorus of ahhhhhhh) - you know the ones, they have all of these myths and legends and they are "great and powerful" beings...... but perhaps for many things, maybe even most things it is the local terestrial deities and spirits - the non-gods - who are most likely to hear us - to help us. Maybe the beings of the fey world that surrounds us - they are actually our neighbours - are the ones most likely to aid our magics if we are on good terms with them.

A friend, Morgan Daimler, posted a question recently asking "what does your magic smell like"?.... I answered that it varies but sometimes rot and decay....... but I don't mean barrows and morgues or piles of rotting flesh..... (mostly anyway, no need to fear or be bothered by that when it does happen).......... I mean healthy decay within rich dark soil as we scater it into the air and around us when we are chanting or incantating.....

..... go outside and pray on the land and grab some soil and take a deep breath of it.....that, that is magic - the magic bound into the land around us - bound into the deities around us - that is the force of life - decay and gernmination are the same smell.

Here is to the hope that all of us can get our hands dirty and do some dirty magic