Morgan Daimler: A Druid in the New World
Morgan is an experienced Druid and author of Where the Hawthorn grows, cited as a unique look at the beliefs and practices of American Druidism, looking at daily practice and practical, modern applications. Morgan was kind enough to answer a few questions about her life as a Druid and her writing.
Mabh: Your book, Where the Hawthorn Grows, describes you as an Irish reconstructionist Druid in America. Can you sum up this description for us, tell us a bit about your path and its roots?
Morgan: Well, basically, I’m an Irish polytheist – with some Norse flavour – and I use a reconstructionist method in approaching my religion. Reconstructionism is about using different sources to understand the ancient pagan religion in order to reconstruct what it would have been like today if had never stopped. I’m a Druid in the Order of the White Oak, a reconstructionist Druid Order, and I see Druidism in the spirit of the ancient Druids as people who serve the community as clergy, who serve the Gods and spirits, who are the Seers and Poets. I’m part of the Irish diaspora in America, so I always like to make that clear as well, that my Irish polytheism is influenced by different factors.
I was raised a secular agnostic but I always had a draw towards the mythic, especially the old Irish fairy stories. I used to build little fairy houses and leave out offerings to them, write them notes, things like that, when I was little. When I was 11 a friend introduced me to Wicca through books and I was immediately taken by that idea. She and I practiced for a bit, but it wasn’t for her in the long run. My own focus shifted to Irish Gods and I started to search out as much information as I could find; I’d say my first steps into what could be called reconstruction started early, with that desire to know what the pagan Irish really believed and did. That drew me to start studying Druidism and around 1997 or so I found White Oak, which had an online discussion group, but after a few year lost touch with it. I tried joining other Druid organizations as well but couldn’t find another one back then that resonated with my own historic emphasis. Eventually I found the online Celtic reconstructionist community and reconnected with White Oak and finally started to feel like I wasn’t alone in what I was doing.
MS: What inspired you to write the book?
MD: I started blogging at the urging of several friends. I like to write and I really felt like there was a lack of solid resources out there online but a lot of inaccurate stuff was being repeated. So I wanted my blog to be a resource, something that would have citations and suggested reading and talk about the things it seemed no one else was talking about. At some point I looked back and thought, you know I’ve practically written a book here. And I saw other bloggers like Cat Treadwell putting out books based on their blogs and I started to think maybe I could too. I felt like it would be really valuable to have something on the market that was talking about reconstruction Druidism, because there really aren’t any books about it. The more I thought about how much I wished someone would write that kind of book the more I felt like if no one else was doing it I should. And it all just came together.
MS: What’s been the biggest challenge in the writing and production of the book?
MD: The production was wonderful; I am really lucky to have a fabulous publisher, Moon Books, who made the process a great experience. My biggest challenge in writing it was the editing. I’m dyslexic and I have a really difficult time catching spelling and grammar errors in my writing. I’d go over the same passages until my eyes crossed and still miss things, which can be frustrating.
MS: And the most rewarding moment?
MD: Holding the book in my hands was amazing. It’s the fourth book I’ve written, but it’s the one I’m the proudest of, the one that has the most of my heart in it.
MS: You write about the Celtic Deities and the Norse Deities and involve both within your magical practice. Which did you come to first, and is there any particular deity you feel closer to, and why?
MD: I’ve been honouring the Irish Gods for about 24 years; the Norse for almost 8. I am ritually dedicated to Macha, because I felt she wanted that. I’ve felt called by her for a long time. I’m also oathed to Odin, also because he wanted me to oath to him, something he relayed through another person during an oracular seidhr session, which is a kind of Norse trancework. In simple terms I see myself as serving them, as best I can, in the world. I also regularly honour Badb, because I do Seer work, Morrigan, Nuada, and Flidais. Flidais is an interesting one to me – I know most people today see her as a kind of wilderness Goddess but because of her mythology and personal experience I relate to her as a Goddess of nursing mothers (among other things). She has been really present in my life this past year and helped me get through a very difficult situation.
MS: I have a passion for Celtic mythology and spirituality, which I believe comes from my Irish ancestry. What are the roots of your interest in the Celts?
MD: Ancestry is the heart of it. I have Irish ancestors, as well as Scottish. My Dad’s stepfather was Irish, from Cork, and I grew up with the aspects of that like the food, music, and stories which he passed on. I was always raised to be proud of my roots and as I got older I embraced the culture on my own. Now I pass it on to my children.
MS: And as a mother, do you find your children are naturally curious about your spiritual endeavours? How do you feel about them being drawn to Druidry or a different branch of Paganism? Likewise, how would you feel were they to adopt one of the Abrahamic religions, for example?
MD: I find that my oldest, who is 10, is very spiritually inclined and always has been. She was making her own little altars when she was a toddler. My second daughter is ambivalent. All the children like to do spiritual things with me – not that the baby has a choice! – but my oldest is the one who has the real interest in it. She’s still finding her footing though and I don’t think she’s decided what she really wants. She practices with me, she goes to different churches with her friends, she reads about different religions. I give them all the opportunity to do what I do with me, from my morning devotionals to the Holy day rituals, and leave it to them to decide. I am raising them with my beliefs and practices, but all I want for them is to find happiness and fulfilment from their spirituality, whether that’s Druidism, witchcraft, heathenry, a syncretic blend, or anything else including Christianity.
MS: Certainly in Britain, Druids are sometimes of differing faiths and follow different deities; sometimes none at all, preferring to worship nature or the universe. Are the members of your grove all on a similar path, or do you also find this diversity within your ranks?
MD: My Order is explicitly Celtic polytheist, although within the definition of ‘Celtic’, people have room to choose their own focus. Outside my Order I respect an individual’s choice to follow the type of Druidism that works best for them, no matter how different that approach may be from my own.
MS: I see you are currently working on one of the Pagan Portal series, Fairy Witchcraft. Can you tell us a bit about this project? What is Fairy Witchcraft?
MD: Fairy Witchcraft is a blending of the Fairy Faith with modern pagan witchcraft. It was largely inspired by the old Irish Fairy Doctors and figures like Biddy Early, combined with folk magic practices and the beliefs of the Fairy Faith.
One day I stumbled across a pretty awful webpage purporting to be about Fairy Wicca; it was really just a hodge-podge of randomness without much substance. I went to some friends and was venting about it and getting pretty upset and I had an epiphany – if I was this bothered by it I should take all that energy and direct it into something constructive. If I felt like there wasn’t a good resource for people searching for a way to unite neo-Paganism with fairy beliefs, I needed to create that resource. Most of my friends know that the daoine sidhe, or fairies, are the foundation of my spirituality so this is something that was very important to me, but I was really hesitant to actually do it. My path began with fairies and moved into witchcraft, something I never stopped practicing as such even when I moved on into reconstructionism and Druidism. I have taught classes on fairies to a neo-Pagan audience for over a decade. I wrote a previous book for children on practicing the Fairy Faith. But I don’t talk a lot about personal experiences and I almost never talk about my personal practices relating to this, so it was unnerving to think about suddenly being open about everything. I also wanted to be certain, given the historic prohibitions about talking about fairy experiences that it was okay for me to do. Once I felt I’d gotten the go-ahead, so to speak, I wrote the book itself in a week. There was a lot of inspiration going on.
MS: How would you describe a Fairy to someone with no experience of them?
MD: Dangerous. Seriously, I’d say that there are many kinds of fairies – some look like people, some like animals – and they can be helpful to us or hurt us depending on their inclination and our actions so it’s best to always be respectful, polite, and keep in mind that they are not human.
MS: You obviously do a great deal of research, and I see quotes from Cicero and Pliny in your book. What’s the most fascinating or relevant piece of literature you have found in you research for your reconstructionist methods?
MD: For Druidism it would be really hard to pick just one. I really love the Lebor Gabala Erenn and look to that and the Cath Maige Tuired for stories about the Gods. For actual practice I’ve gotten a lot out of McNeill’s Silver Bough series, Carmichael’s Carmina Gadelica, O hOgain’s Sacred Isle, Danaher’s books…I guess I’d have to say that it’s all about weaving the different sources together rather than any single source.
MS: If you could name one person as a spiritual mentor, who would it be and why?
MD: If I could name a deceased person, W.B. Yeats, without a doubt. I carried his book Celtic Twilight around and read and re-read it until it fell apart. I think he was the first inspiration for my spirituality.
MS: Druidry seems to be gaining in popularity recently. Why do you think this is?
MD: I think there’s something about the idea of Druidry that appeals to people on a visceral level, whether the person sees it as an environmental philosophy or a pagan religion connected to the ancient Celts. Modern Druidry has so many different faces and iterations that it can speak to a wide range of people all seeking to connect to their idea of what a Druid is.
MS: What’s the most vital part of being a druid, for you?
MS: And other than Fairy Witchcraft, what other projects do you have on the horizon?
MD: I’d really love to come out with a second book on reconstructionist Druidism so I’ve been working on that although who knows if it will ever see the light of day. I’m contributing to several anthologies through Moon Books and blogging. I’ve been tossing around the idea of a book for teens on Heathenry and one on Druidism. So who knows? Every time I think I can’t possibly have another book to write, I end up writing one.