In our Irish Pagan School student group on Facebook, and our blog comments here, an ugly spectre recently raised it’s head again, in the form of queries about whether sources such as Edain McCoy and DJ Conway were good or bad? So, it’s time to revisit the question of checking sources in Irish Paganism.
How to Identify a Reliable Source?
When looking at older material, even if it is framed as an academic source, you have to be aware of the context and connection of the person to the material. For example, W.B. Yeats was from a higher social class, so he wasn’t directly part of the culture he was recording – which meant he had very specific biases and he had an agenda in how he presented it. The same goes for Ella Young, Lady Gregory, and Lady Francesca Wilde.
Any of the folklore or history scholarship before the 1900s, at least, needs to be taken with a grain of salt depending on who is writing it, and should always be cross checked. If someone refers to their sources as ‘the peasantry’, let that be your first clue?!
When exploring any topic, it’s important to ensure that the sources you are using are reliable and accurate. This can be especially challenging when it comes to topics related to Irish spirituality, as there is a lot of misinformation and questionable material out there.
Here are some quick tips you can use for checking sources on any Irish Pagan author or content creator:
- Look at the date: If a source is outdated, it may not reflect current knowledge or perspectives on a topic. Make sure to check when a source was published or last updated.
- Check the author’s background: It’s important to know who is writing the material you’re using. Look for authors who have native experience or who have dedicated significant time to studying or working in the culture.
- Look for references or a bibliography: Good sources will provide references to other sources or to the actual lore itself, or recommendations for further study. If an author isn’t citing their sources, it’s probably not great material.
- Check reviews: Reviews can be a helpful way to get a sense of whether a source is reliable or not. Look for detailed reviews that point out specific information or problems with the material.
- Be wary of AI generated content: If an author has published multiple books on a wide array of topics in a very short period of time, be suspicious. You’re dealing with AI generated content, or ‘writer farmed’ ghost-written content. None of which is accurate or reliable. (For examples of this, see Mari Silva and Lisa Chamberlain).
- Be critical and discerning: Don’t take everything at face value. Always approach sources with a critical eye and be willing to question what you’re reading.
By following these tips, you can help ensure that the sources you’re using are reliable and accurate, saving yourself time and frustration in the long run.
And to close the loop we started with, anything by DJ Conway or Edain McCoy is a load of pure shite. Please avoid, and honestly just trash anything you may have picked up by them already. It’s cultural appropriation and complete misinformation at it’s worst.
When we know better, we do better, right?
Remember, quality research takes time and effort, but it’s worth it in order to find trustworthy information that sets you on the right path to authentic Irish Paganism. Always be checking sources!
We Made Checking Sources Easy…
There’s a Free Guide for you to download! Trustworthy Sources for Irish Paganism is your 10 Step intro and checklist to beat overwhelm and make sure all of your sources are relaibale from the start. 100% beginner friendly resources are laid out in a step by step checklist under sub-sections of interest such as Magic, the Sidhe, the Gods, etc.