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23 September 2007 @ 04:08 pm
Flidais and me  
In light of the recent(ish) snark-turned-discussion about folks being hesitant to share bits of their personal practice, I figured that I'd stick my neck out and start. [grin] One of the goddesses that I connect to most strongly is Flidais. She's not as well known as many of the other Celtic goddesses, but has a marked presence for me in wild woodlands -- I experience Her most often as a guardian goddess of wild spaces, both looking out for and embodying the woodland wilderness and its residents.

There are references to Flidais in several sources, the most accessible of which is a brief note in the Táin Bó Cúailnge: "Then came Flidais Fholtchaín, the wife of Ailill Find, who had slept with Fergus on Táin Bó Cúailnge, and it was she who every seventh night on that hosting quenched with milk the thirst of all the men of Ireland, king and queen and prince, poet and learner." She's referenced several times as the possessor of a wealth of cattle, deer, and other mighty herds, including the "royal oxen, called Fea and Men" and one cow, Maol the Hornless, that can produce enough milk for three hundred men by itself. That was impressive enough that even Bricriu composed a song of praise to Maol and her owner Flidais. Sometimes all wild creatures are called "the herds of Flidais". The Táin Bó Flidais from the Leabhar na h-Uidhri is all about the migration of Flidais and Her herds from Ailill Finn to Fergus mac Róich. In "Coir Annam", she is said to have the fairy power to milk deer as if they were cows, and to have passed that on to her son:

"Adammair Flidaise Foltcháin, that is Flidais the Queen, one of the tribe of the god-folk (the Tuatha dé Danaan), she was wife of Adammair, the son of Fer Cuirp, and from her cometh the name Buar Flidaise, the Cattle of Flidais. Nia Ségamain, that is ség (deer) are a máin (his treasure), for in his time cows and does were milked in the same way every day, so that he had great wealth in these things beyond that of all other kings. The Flidais spoken of above was the mother of Nia Ségamain, Adammair's son, for two kinds of cattle, cows and does, were milked in the days of Nia Ségamain, and by his mother was that fairy power given to him."

She also is a strong figure of female sexual sovereignty -- like Maeve and other Connaught-women, she takes the lovers she chooses (Adammair, Fergus, Ailill...), and her skill in that department is the stuff of legend. It was said of Fergus's sex drive, in Scéla Conchobair maic Nessa, "Seven women to curb him unless Flidais should come." The strongest traditions about Flidais that I've found are all from western Irish counties -- maybe Connaught has a thing for strong-minded, lusty women. [grin] According to James MacKillop, there's a strong oral tradition in County Mayo about Flidais's relationship with local king Ailill Finn. Heroic Romances of Ireland discusses her involvement with the Cattle Raid of Cooley, with different partisan biases depending on which text you read. (Ireland? Contentious? Never!) "The L.U. version makes Flidais assist in the War of Cualgne by feeding the army of Ailill each seventh day with the produce of her cows; she dies after the war as wife of Fergus; the Glenn Masain version, in the "Pursuit of the Cattle of Flidais," makes the Gamanrad clan, the hero-clan of the West of Ireland, pursue Maev and Fergus, and rescue Flidais and her cow; Flidais then returns to the west with Muiretach Menn, the son of her murdered husband, Ailill the Fair." ("Heroic Romances" again for that.) And as with many wealthy, sexually free sovereignty goddesses, well-being follows in her presence, and luck leaves with her. From "The Battle of Airtech", we hear of Fergus that "his householding in the east was not good after Flidais".

As one often finds with a goddess with such formidable sexuality, she has many children -- Arden, Bé Chuille, Dinand, and Bé Téite ("Lebor Gabála Érenn"), Nia Ségamain ("Coir Annam"), and Fand ("Metrical Dindsenchas"). (Wiki cites here.)

What I actually do: Practice and UPG:
Most of the rest of this is salted with my UPG and personal experience, and may not apply to others. The best way for me to connect with Flidais remains out in the wild. While I have made offerings to her successfully from my house altar, She really prefers for me to get my butt outside, even and sometimes especially if it's cold, rainy, snowing, etc. It puts me on equal footing with the creatures She takes care of, and She seems to appreciate that reminder to me that we're part of the natural world too. While I've seen websites that state that She also has a particular care for trees, I haven't seen that sourced, and other than Her preference for woodlands over any other form of habitat I haven't seen any indication of that. In my interactions with her, She's been much more concerned about either the overall health of an ecosystem, or the health of the animals within it. (Given that wild animals in general have been referred to as "the herds of Flidais", that makes total sense.)

Most of the sorts of things She tends to appreciate as offerings are forest-ranger style things, taking care of the wild spaces and helping to maintain ecological balance in the woodlands. Care of any injured wild animal also falls under this rubric, and that care may include hard endings such as shooting a rabid animal before it hurts anyone else. (I've never had to do that, but the point was made strongly to me in a vision of Hers.) She's fonder of litter pick-up combined with a good swift run than She is of material offerings and ritual. She's seemed impatient with too much formalism, so I tend to keep my rituals to her spontaneous, swift, or both. She likes poetry, in the evocative natural beauty way, not in the chanting an endless epic way. Running through the woods with loose and unbound hair (as a nod to Her title Foltchaín, the soft-haired) is one of the quickest ways to connect to Her for me, though that's more in the ecstatic practice ballpark than the service-oriented offerings of doing Her work.

I have marked UPG associations of Flidais with ivy (probably derivative of my work with the crann ogham), and She's shown up in vision to me with ivy in Her hair, or badged to Her clothes. As far as I know, though, that's just me. That has occasionally been problematic... I've volunteered for invasive weed pulls in parks before as an act of service to Flidais, only to find that they wanted me to rip ivy (invasive where I live) off trees. Eek. I got the idea that this would be a poor course of action -- I'm close to ivy as a crann ogham tree in itself, and due to my particular correllation of ivy with Flidais, it seemed like that would be a disrespectful way of helping Her wild places. I found other unrelated invasive weeds to pull. [grin]

More explicably, I also strongly associate Her with woodcraft, and tracking, stalking, hunting for food, or hunting to cull the herds all fall within Her area of expertise. (Hunting for trophies most explicitly is NOT, IME, and is one of the fastest ways to piss Her off.) She seems to mildly prefer archery over guns, but supports skilled use of either. This seems to correlate with legends about her skill in archery, and makes sense in a modern context. While She's not at all uncomfortable in cultured environments, She does seem to travel a lot. She's a civilized Goddess as well as a wild one, but she's not settled or predictable. She brings the heart of the wild into the halls of queens, and compassion and care back out into the forest. She is comfortable moving between worlds, like her hallmark beastie the deer. She journeys when She feels like it... in "Táin Bó Flidais", Bricriu lauded Her just as she was returning from a journey, and She sets out again with Fergus at the tale. Like most sovereignty Goddesses, she goes where she wants and shows up when she feels like it. Even more than most deities, just because you call her doesn't mean that she'll come, and there are times where she'll just show up on you when you weren't expecting it at all. If you're considering trying to establish a relationship with Her, she may scope you out for a while before she decides if you're worth getting to know. On a few occasions She's taken to someone immediately, but most of us have to work for it, proving trustworthiness by treating Her woods well and worthiness by demonstrating warrior or wildcrafting skills ourselves. Hey, it worked for Fergus. [grin]

I connect more strongly with Her, particularly with her sovereignty and huntress-caretaker aspects, in the fall. (This is both deer-hunting and deer mating season where I live, which probably also has something to do with it.) Common-sense warning: if you're going to go running around in the woods during hunting season trying to connect with a hunting Goddess, wear something bright and don't get yourself shot. That's not the connection you want. [grin] Despite Her appreciation of stealth and woodcraft, She's never objected to good sense -- She's very practical, in my experience.

I'd be really interested to hear from others who work with Her, if anyone does, and what y'all do.
Current Mood: cheerfulcheerful
alfrecht on September 24th, 2007 02:40 am (UTC)
Sounds good to me!

Just a small caveat: I am not certain that "sovereignty goddess" is an appropriate term for her. In the strictest sense, a sovereignty goddess is essential in confirming kingship over a particular realm, and while she was known as the consort of several kings or former kings, her specific and essential role in that regard is not attested in the literary sources, if I'm not mistaken. As a deity connected to the land and its well-being, she certainly qualifies as a "territorial goddess," perhaps, but that's not quite the same as a "sovereignty goddess" or sovereignty figure as such. Anyway, just a minor point.
Itinerant hacker adventuress: grey hand-drawn crowthewronghands on September 24th, 2007 02:13 pm (UTC)
I agree that I'm using the term in a more loose sense, and that while She did seem to carry with her the blessings and bounty of the land and Her wealth of herds, that She didn't confer kingship. Is there a separate word for that? Territorial to me means just that they were local to that area, not that they got the land to vote for or against you (though the two can certainly go together). But I can certainly see it as a valid point of disagreement.

I think one of the reasons that I'm comfortable using the term more loosely is that human society has changed in the interim years, such that now more pagans are seeking harmonious cooperation with the land, and less blessing of kings... we don't have 'em, by and large. So it seems like a potentially valid outgrowth, if a more necessarily diffuse way of seeking the Land's blessing.
judithwisewomanjudith on September 24th, 2007 01:52 pm (UTC)
One of my religious activities is to make over my yard in a wild-life friendly and non-poisonious way.

When we moved in, the house had a few foundation plantings and grass, now the yard is 80% garden--the remaining grass is paths to walk on and the dog-yard. I have 2 bird and animal accessible water features and have skewed the plantings towards berries, fruit, and seeds.

However, I live on the edge of the city (not the edge of the suburbs--between the city and the suburbs) and deer don't live in my back yard. Deer do live in droves in the Greenbelt, but mostly small animals--squirrels, chipmunks, the odd groundhog, and many many rabbits--come to my yard.

So I connect Flidais with them, particularly rabbits because they are important to me.

Itinerant hacker adventuress: forest heart closethewronghands on September 24th, 2007 02:18 pm (UTC)
Go you; that's awesome. I'm a suburbanite gardener myself. I've mostly tended to associate Danu with the flora and Flidais with the fauna, but it's by no means a strict division... both are IME concerned with the overall well-being of the land and its inhabitants (human and otherwise), so it doesn't have to be one or the other.

I wish I could get my yard to be 80% garden, but the homeowners' association would riot. So I'm slowly encroaching native plants and habitat on them instead. It'll take me a few years, but I've seen marked improvement even just in the year we've been here. Muahaha. [grin]
Sofiathasolumn on September 24th, 2007 04:11 pm (UTC)
re: Danu and flora
Please do share more on this in respect to sources, experiences, and practices.

Also, you, wisewomanjudith, are going on my list of heroes. If I friend you, will you post some pictures of your yard for me?
Itinerant hacker adventuress: sycamorethewronghands on September 26th, 2007 02:55 am (UTC)
Re: Danu and flora
Sources: for Danu, there's not a whole lot, really. I'm pretty sure that there have been some previous discussions in this community on the Danu/Anu thing before (I'm a splitter there, but don't consider either side so thumpingly convincing that there's not room for disagreement). There's a reconstructed lexis of proto-Celtic language done by a couple of scholars from the University of Wales, which suggests that Her name stems from the Proto-Celtic root *Danoā, which has "Giving," "Bountiful" and "Flow" in its connotations. Wikipedia mentions this. That plus the root-ancestor-of-the-tribe role She has according to the TDD references in CMT make me more likely to percieve her as bounteous ancestress-goddess who looks out for Her many descendents. The strong Underhill association of the TDD after CMT makes that more likely to extend to the land, for me.

Experiences and practices could be a whole post in and of itself, but the short version is that anything that's gardening, growing or tending food, permaculture, or green engineering seems to fall under that whole bounty-caretaking-appreciation thing, for me. Associating Her more with the plants than with the animals is mostly my UPG, though it's also partly as a result of the above conception of Her as bounteous land-goddess. Maybe I'll write something more in-depth about this later on.
judithwisewomanjudith on September 25th, 2007 02:52 pm (UTC)
clover instead of grass
Itinerant hacker adventuress: forest heart closethewronghands on September 26th, 2007 02:42 am (UTC)
Funny you should mention that -- we just seeded our lawn with four-leafed native clover yesterday. [grin] We haven't got much in the way of grass in that section -- too many tannins from the red oak's acorns, so the soil is unfriendly. So we're bagging up this year's acorn crop for the Growing Native program (they'll replant them along streambeds and the like to re-establish riparian buffers), and if the clover doesn't do well, I'll look into organic soil amendments. Eventually I want to extend the mulched areas around the trees, but that's got to be done slowly or the HOA will complain.

And I must admit to a cheesy delight at the idea of a yard full of four leafed clovers.
Kathryn of Nigheanan nan Cailleach: Lightning Hag copyright ©flaming cronescaitriona_nnc on September 26th, 2007 04:58 pm (UTC)
Your grandmother would be proud.
Connecting the stars and the seas: pic#62328800lastwaykeeper on September 24th, 2007 07:54 pm (UTC)
Interestingly enough, that description is almost exactly the way Rhiannon (my "wild-woods" goddess) has shows herself to me, though she tends to favor fruit brambles that I've seen.
Itinerant hacker adventuress: hoodie on vikingbeastthewronghands on September 26th, 2007 02:58 am (UTC)
I haven't worked much with the Welsh pantheon myself, but that is interesting. Go go thematic, I guess?
Connecting the stars and the seaslastwaykeeper on September 26th, 2007 07:15 pm (UTC)
Indeed... I find it interesting, personally, cause I only have two Welsh figures, both goddesses, both who came to me personally. Everyone else involved in my practice is Irish.
suek1994suek1994 on September 24th, 2007 09:45 pm (UTC)
Wow. Where to start? First I do not think I have ever posted to list. I have lurked for quite sometime. Heck I have not even been on lj for a couple months. I had a friend suggest I make time to get on lj. Normally I am quite shy and rarely have much to say.

I first "met" her a couple years ago. It was in the fall and like you I connect more with her in the fall and I also seem to experience a strong connection in the spring as well. When I became aware of her I did not have a name until running across a post from this group and BINGO! It all fell into place.

From my own experiences outside is preferred (weather be damned) but I seem to be able to connect fairly well indoors at a very "earthy"/terrestrial altar (more like a shelf on my altar that is associated with land (my altar has 3 shelves on a book shelf with the top more sky, middle land, and bottom water oriented). Definitely a very no none sense kinda gal but at the same time there tends to be a fairly wicked sense of humor. I have had experiences where she came to me quite unexpectedly but that mostly happens outside. She is the goddess that I have the closest relationship. I could sit here and nod my head in complete agreement with all that you have said including the ivy connection. I have not done much with ogham. That is something I have planned to explore this winter. I have an ivy plant and always get this sense of Flidais, so to speak. Hard to explain but I always thought that strange. Not so anymore. For what it is worth the last time I had a strong interaction with her outdoors I was in an area dense with ivy (I was standing is some ground ivy as a matter of fact). I will definitely need to explore that association more now.

I always am picking up trash at local parks which seems to please her quite a bit. My degree is in Wildlife Management (I work in a different field though) thus I spend a fair amount of time educating people when I am at a park or anywhere for that matter. This is one of the few times I am less than shy. I will approach folks and answer questions if I over hear any portion of a conversation. I am not shy about debunking misconceptions either. All this seems to please her. Fortunately no one has whacked me over the head for just coming up and talking to them.

Because of the connection I share with Flidais I incorporate her into most of my rituals, sometimes planned and sometimes not (part of her unexpected quality ;) ). In all seriousness I have to be very grounded for her otherwise Flidais is not too keen to be around if in a lighter/flightier mood for lack of a better way to put it. She simply expects me to be solidly grounded.

As far as aspects of her I pretty much relate to her in countless ways since she is the goddess I have the closest association. I am not sure what else to say.

I hope to hear more of what others have experienced.
Itinerant hacker adventuress: deerthewronghands on September 26th, 2007 03:00 am (UTC)
Thanks for commenting! It's always nice to hear more points of view, and it's particularly neat when they happen to overlap with one's own work. Your altar setup sounds fascinating, too -- I'd never thought of doing it like that, but I can totally see how that would work.

I know what you mean about the unexpected. [grin] Sometimes She just shows up when She feels like it.

Thanks for sharing.
Paul Hamishpaul_hamish on September 25th, 2007 02:02 am (UTC)
I don't have much to add from personal experience or practice with her but I just wanted to say how much I appreciate your posting this info, sourced and UPG. Easily some of the most evocative and detailed descriptions I've read. It puts me in a wonderfully receptive mental space. Thanks!
Itinerant hacker adventuress: deerthewronghands on September 26th, 2007 03:01 am (UTC)
I'm happy that it came through well enough to be interesting and informative to others; hooray!
Kathryn of Nigheanan nan Cailleach: in the mist at boann brook waterfallcaitriona_nnc on September 25th, 2007 02:04 am (UTC)
Flidais experiences
I associate her pretty directly with the deer, and with the forest as a whole. Swift, wary, sensitive, always present here in the woods. If I had to put one tree or plant with her, it would be the predominant tree that makes up the forest (or one of the most prevalent), so I imagine that tree or plant may well vary depending on where I was living.

Though I had thought about her and previously sensed her energy without putting a name to it, I feel like I formally met her a few years ago. I was in conversation with thewronghands about her. I had just sent off a long post about my impressions of her, which at that time were somewhat vague, when one of my housemates came in to tell me there was a dead deer in the woods. Oh.

We hiked out and, sure enough, there was a doe. We assumed she had been hit by a car, but she had found her way into our woods to find a place to die. I was very sad, but also felt honored that she had come to us. It was sort of a creepy thing to have happen, even though it was fall, so we had to take some serious time and energy to sort it out.

We spent some time with the doe's body, and later took her body further back into the woods. Even though her spirit had left her body, she still felt present, and I didn't want her to have to be within sight or sound of the road. So we sweated and dragged and got her body moved back to the center of our land. The ground was too rocky and full of tree roots to give her a proper burial, but we also decided that perhaps her body should feed the local coy-wolves or other wildlife.

We did a ritual where we made offerings to her spirit, and did a reading to make sure she was ok with having her body feed others. We even considered eating her body ourselves, but I couldn't do it. It just didn't feel right. We also weren't sure how long she'd been dead, so maybe it wouldn't have been safe even if we did manage to be ok with it.

The offerings disappeared by the next day or so, but for over a week her body was not only untouched, but there was zero visible decay. Saint deer, the incorruptible. Very magical. Finally they coy-wolves found her and that was that. Nothing left. I had considered taking some things from her body, but it just felt wrong. All I took was some fur that had fallen out on its own, and some of the hemlock branches and needles that were on her body when we found her.

So now I have an amulet of that fur and hemlock. I feel her spirit very easily here in the woods, though she is not one of my main goddesses. But we check in pretty regularly. Especially when I see a doe in the field.
Itinerant hacker adventuress: deerthewronghands on September 26th, 2007 03:04 am (UTC)
Re: Flidais experiences
Having a close encounter of the random deer kind often makes me think of her, too. (It's fairly common when hiking in this neck of the woods, but sometimes they'll just show up when I'm on my way to the gym, or something much more everyday, and it's a pleasant reminder of deity even if they're random encounter deer and not Message From Goddess deer. [grin]
suek1994suek1994 on September 26th, 2007 12:05 pm (UTC)
Re: Flidais experiences
What a wonderful experience. I love how the doe's body was left out to feed other animals.

I think it is very interesting how you associate her with the predominant tree of the forest. In addition to ivy I also do tend to associate her with apple trees since I often have watched deer munching on apple trees. However I see that less of being a direct association with her and more of a case of seeing an apple tree makes me think of deer which in turn reminds me of her.
Kathryn of Nigheanan nan Cailleach: in the apple tree - smilingcaitriona_nnc on September 26th, 2007 08:46 pm (UTC)
Re: Flidais experiences - deer in Gaelic lore.
Hmmm.... thanks for bringing this up. I hadn't thought about the apple thing, but...

My mother associates apple trees with deer for the same reason. Where I grew up in the Midwest we had two apple trees that the deer used to come and browse. I have some strong associations with those trees, and used a branch from one to make my Quert Ogham fiodh. I haven't done anything with that branch for a few years, though it is sitting next to my personal altar. I think later on I'll go and get the branch and see how that energy interacts with my current conception of Flidais. Maybe I'll also compare it to a branch from a local apple tree and see if there's a general connection or if it's specific to that tree.

As apple trees are so strongly connected with the Otherworld, it makes me wonder: I know the White Hart is associated with leading people into the Otherworld in the Arthurian lore. Does anyone know of anything similar with deer in the Gaelic lore? My first hunch is to look into fianna stuff, because of the fiadh/fian thing (the words are sometimes used almost interchangeably in terms like fulacht fiadh or fulacht fian)

Not sure how, um, well attested this is, but if anyone could get this whole article, it also looks interesting: The Deer-Cult and the Deer-Goddess Cult of the Ancient Caledonians
J. G. McKay
Folklore, Vol. 43, No. 2 (Jun. 30, 1932), pp. 144-174
This article consists of 31 page(s). http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0015-587X%2819320630%2943%3A2%3C144%3ATDATDC%3E2.0.CO%3B2-0&size=LARGE&origin=JSTOR-enlargePage

Most of what I'm finding on the web seems to be generalizing from the Arthurian lore to "In Celtic lore". But I seem to recall some stuff in my books, so I'll check later when I have a chance.
Kathryn of Nigheanan nan Cailleach: kpn at highland games '07caitriona_nnc on March 13th, 2014 04:33 pm (UTC)
Not sure why I didn't note this at the time, but the offerings we made to the spirit of the deer, and spirits of the woods that day included an apple and oats. The apple and oats were gone when we went back, even though it took days for the coy-wolves to find the deer.
Madrun: toonmadrun on September 25th, 2007 01:58 pm (UTC)
What no one else has said... THANK YOU for sharing this very personal experience with us!!

Research and scholarship may be the bedrock, but faith grows the forest.
Itinerant hacker adventuress: grey hand-drawn crowthewronghands on September 26th, 2007 03:02 am (UTC)
You're very welcome. I know I've gotten a lot of inspiration from what other people have had to say, so I'm pleased that I was able to contribute something back. I'm glad you liked it.