An introduction to Irish Paganism, its history, and relevance today. Discover the deities, magic, and spirituality of the ancient Irish culture, as you join us on a journey to explore the fascinating world of contemporary Irish Paganism.
Contemporary Irish Paganism is a modern interpretation of the fascinating and ancient spiritual traditions which have been believed and practiced on this island for thousands of years, provided by Lora O’Brien, Jon O’Sullivan, and the rest of our learned teachers at the Irish Pagan School.
In Ireland, we have a unique and rich culture of mythology and folklore that has deep roots in the beliefs and practices (as far as we can ascertain them) of the pre-Christian era, which survived the establishment of Christianity by being respected and adapted through the ages. Many of these living traditions are still being practiced by modern Irish people today, though most of us don’t refer to them as Pagan.
Through this blog post we will explore the history, deities, magic, and rituals of Irish Paganism, and provide advice on how to get started on this vibrant and relevant contemporary spiritual path.
What Do We Mean by Irish Paganism?
Irish Paganism is a polytheistic religion that honours a pantheon of deities and spirits. It is a nature-based religion that recognises the sacredness of the natural world and the interconnectedness of all living things.
As Irish Pagans, we believe that the world is filled with spirits and entities, both benevolent and malevolent, and that it is important to maintain a respectful relationship with them, which we refer to as being in ‘Right Relationship’.
We don’t claim to be an ancient, unbroken line of anything, and honestly, please be very wary of anyone who does. We are Irish people, who have grown up steeped in the culture and traditions, and proceeded to study our mythology through the manuscripts that have survived, and our folklore through the archives and repositories which have been collected and retained.
As Irish Historians (we have both Masters and Doctors on our teaching staff at the Irish Pagan School), we maintain that to better understand these primary sources, a thorough contextual understanding of Irish History through all its eras (from pre-history to more modern times) is vital. Thus we do our best to avoid projecting onto the past through the biased lense of modern culture.
With this in-depth experience, research, and synthesis, our own beliefs and practices have evolved through our lifetimes as we work each day to build and maintain relationships with our ancestors, and the Gods, guides, and guardians of Ireland… and with the sacred landscape of the island itself.
The History of Irish Paganism
Our ancient Irish ancestors had a rich and diverse spiritual tradition that was closely tied to the land and the natural world. This has been explored in the work of Daithí Ó hÓgáin, Barry Cunliffe, Nora K. Chadwick, and many other eminent academics, so please do check their work!
They believed in a pantheon of deities and spirits that were associated with different aspects of nature, such as the sun, the moon, the sea, and the land. With the arrival of Christianity in Ireland, many of the old Pagan beliefs and practices were suppressed, but they were never completely eradicated.
Christian monks faithfully copied the old stories into Medieval manuscripts, providing us with a rich store of mythological and literary evidence to draw from. While these men did not necessarily believe as their Pagan predecessors did, they valued their teaching tales and ensured they were recorded for posterity. With some obvious additions and christianised elements, of course.
Between this lore, and the beliefs and practices which survived in the memory of our people, often passed from parent to child through countless generations, we have retained a rich trove of valuable and authentic source material from which our contemporary Irish Paganism has evolved to what we believe and practice today.
Deities and Spirits – Ancestors, Gods, and the Sidhe
Irish Paganism recognises a pantheon of deities and spirits that are associated with different aspects of nature, various skills and domains, and our human experience.
Some of the most well-known Gods and Goddesses in Irish Paganism include: Nuada of the Silver Arm, king of the Tuatha Dé Danann; Brigid, the goddess of poetry, healing, and smithcraft; Lugh, the god of light and skill; the Dagda, ‘Good God’ and father of all; and the Morrigan, goddess of battle, prophecy, and change.
Irish Pagan Gods are not seen as all-knowing or all-powerful, but rather as beings with their own personalities, desires, and weaknesses. They are autonomous beings who are directly connected to our people, and to various sacred sites across the land itself.
As Contemporary Pagans, we believe that we can communicate with these Gods through prayer, ritual, and meditation, and that we can receive guidance and blessings directly from them, if they are of a mind to pay us attention.
The relationship between Irish Pagans and our Gods is personal and individual, with each person having our own unique connection to the divine, a relationship which can be sought, developed, and maintained through regular practice.
We also believe in a variety of spirits, such as Fairies, ghosts, and ancestors, who play an active role in our experience of this world, and the Otherworld which runs parallel to ours.
How to Get Started in Irish Paganism
If you are interested in exploring Irish Paganism, there are many resources available to help you get started. You can read books on the subject, attend classes or workshops, or join a local Pagan group.
It is important to approach Irish Paganism with an open mind and a willingness to learn, and to be respectful of the culture and traditions of the Irish people here in Ireland. You are a guest in these realms, unless you grew up as a part of our living traditions. Hospitality rules apply, and they go both ways!
All who approach, listen, and learn, respectfully are very welcome.
OUR BEST BOOK RECOMMENDATIONS:
- Irish Paganism: Reconstructing Irish Polytheism, by Morgan Daimler. This short introductory book touches on the basic beliefs and practices of Irish Polytheism as well as other important topics for people interested in practicing the religion using a Reconstructionist methodology or who would just like to know more about it. >>>Buy This Book Here.
- Irish Witchcraft from an Irish Witch: True to the Heart, by Lora O’Brien. As much about Irish Paganism as the magical practices associated with Ireland, this book is a delightful mixture of academia and accessibility; a book that explores Witchcraft in Ireland – how it was, is, and will be. >>>Buy This Book Here.
- Tales of Old Ireland, Retold: Ancient Irish Stories Retold for Today, by Lora O’Brien. A wealth of old myths, legends, fairy tales and folk stories, which are presented here in an easy to read, authentic Irish storyteller’s voice – retold for modern times. This is essential grounding for any authentic connection to Irish Paganism. >>>Buy This Book Here.
OUR BEST CLASS RECOMMENDATIONS:
- Getting Started in Irish Paganism 2022 – Your Free Guide to Beginning or Deepening an Authentic Irish Pagan Practice, with native Irish Draoí (Druid), Lora O’Brien (FREE). >>> Full Class Details are Here.
- A Practical Guide to Irish Spirituality: How to Begin? – from the 3 Worlds of Irish Cosmology – Land, Sea, Sky – through Ancestry, Ancient Places, Sacred Cycles… and More. (€20, $25). >>> Full Class Details are Here.
- An Introduction to Irish Paganism – Learn about Irish Paganism, Magic and Spirituality from a practicing Draoí, a Native Irish Priestess of Ireland. (€20, $25). >>> Full Class Details are Here.
OUR BEST GROUP RECOMMENDATIONS:
- If you are a student at the Irish Pagan School (on either a free or a paid course), you can join us in the Community Facebook Group Here.
- Celtic Paganism is a more general Facebook group dedicated to traditional Celtic Paganism, that is, Celtic Reconstructionism (CR), Druidry/Druidism, and Celtic Polytheism. Celtic Reconstructionism is a polytheistic, animistic, religious and cultural movement. You can Join their Group Here.
- If you’d like to attend an informal in-person social group gathering here in Ireland, there are monthly Pagan moots which run in various locations on our island. Find an Irish Pagan Moot Here.
Irish Paganism is a rich and fascinating spiritual tradition, elements of which have been retained in our culture (we believe, as nativists) in Ireland for thousands of years.
This is an animist, nature-based and landscape grounded, belief and practice system that honours the interconnectedness of all living things, and recognises the sacredness of both this world, and the Otherworld.
Whether you are a beginner or an experienced practitioner, there is always more to learn and discover in the world of Irish Paganism, as we teach and practice it right here on the island today.