Celtic Lore and Spellcraft of the Dark Goddess: Invoking the Morrigan, by Stephanie Woodfield, 2011.
I want to start by saying that this is not at all meant as a personal attack on Stephanie Woodfield. A flawed book is not a reflection of character. This book was first published in 2011 and from what I’ve heard, Woodfield has changed some of her opinions. Unfortunately, published texts don’t reflect the author’s later growth and I still see this text referred to in ways that aren’t useful, especially for newer folks who may not yet have enough context in Irish lore to be able to discern substantiated information from filler or UPG.
The TL;DR Version
My rating: 2/5, would not recommend to anyone who doesn’t already have a really solid grounding in Irish myth.
This book might be useful for: Wiccans and folks who have a more Wiccan-influenced/neopagan personal practice and a pretty good knowledge of Irish and Morrigan-related lore already.
This book would not be useful for: modern polytheists looking for information on personal practice with a solid grounding in the archaeological and literary traditions. Anyone new to Irish polytheism or paganism. Anyone new to the Morrígan in particular. Anyone new to a practice involving magic.
- The book has a tendency to start with legitimate quotations or pieces of information…and then take an abrupt turn into a claim that makes no sense whatsoever in the broader Irish context (or at all, sometimes). This results in misrepresentation or sometimes flat-out incorrect information.
- There is a constant imposition of Wiccan and neopagan imagery, such as Maiden/Mother/Crone and the four Classical elements, with no clear explanation on when, why, or how they’re being shoehorned into a culturally-specific tradition that never used them. Using them in private practice is one thing; it’s quite another to present them as natively Irish.
- There are moments of archetypalism in which goddesses from different cultures are treated as more alike than they are or even as the same figure (e.g. Rhiannon, Epona, and Macha). This critique is informed by my own bias as a hard polytheist, so YMMV.
- Morgana le Fay, however, and by extension Avalon, are entirely unrelated to the Morrigan by point of currently accepted academic fact.
- Some of the spellcraft instructions are mislabeled (e.g. conflating manifestation magic with shapeshifting), appropriative (“sage smudge stick,” repackaging of hoodoo powders), or are even potentially outright dangerous, as in the case of swearing oaths without proper preparation and negotiation.
- All of the rituals follow the conventional circle-casting, four-quarter Wiccan/neopagan format, which is not Irish.
- There does not seem to be any explanations behind the various association/correspondence lists, many of which involve non-native ingredients or objects.
If you want some examples and details, read on.
Continue reading “Book Review: “Celtic Lore & Spellcraft of the Dark Goddess””