Maoiseach is a Scottish Pagan, a member of the Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids ; Scottish Pagan Federation; studied sociology at the University of Abertay Dundee and is embarking on his second degree with the Open University. Interests in Wicca; Celtic mythology and Scottish History.
“I see my life go drifting like a riverWilliam Butler Yeats, ‘Fergus and the Druid’, in Poems of W.B. Yeats ed. by Prof. A. Norman Jeffares, Ed. 6 (London & Basingstoke: Macmillan & Co Ltd, 1962)
From change to change; I have been many things –
A green drop in the surge, a gleam of light
Upon a sword, a fir tree on a hill,
An old slave grinding at a heavy quern,
A king sitting upon a chair of gold –
And all these things were wonderful and great;
But now I have grown nothing, knowing all (…)”
I’m Maoiseach (Mee-shuck), a member of the Order of Bards, Ovates & Druids ; Glasgow-based Pagan and Sociology alumni from Abertay University My path is fluid and ever changing; but generally my focus is on Celtic deities and worship of the natural world. I’m inspired by the works of William B Yeats and J.R.R. Tolkien, and much of my worship stems from their views on the surrounding world that we are a part of.
My journey in the path of Paganism: 1993/94
It always helps to remind myself how I started on my path towards Paganism, in fact it’s an excellent grounding tool when performing rituals. My earliest memory was when our family lived in Germany, I must have been around 3 or 4 years old because my sister wasn’t around at that point. We stayed in an armed forces housing complex, and were lucky to have a sizeable garden (basically a long patch of grass, with a concrete path leading to the very back, where there was a patch of untamed undergrowth, and a silver birch tree protruding from it all, standing proud). The silver birch tree is my earliest memory of anything really, and provided a safe place for me to play. I used to line up the flower pots, upside down, and pretend that they were wee faerie houses – it felt like a comfortable space. The bark of the tree was always smooth and a craft paper like texture, I’d collect the bits that would fall off and make little roofs for the faerie homes. That was my first experience of Paganism and Magick, although for obvious reasons I wasn’t aware what that meant or what the connection would mean to me.
For me, the Silver Birch represents strength and compassion. They shine all year, the bark lights up the winter woodlands, and the leaves cast a warm dappled glow on a summer’s day. Ritual wise, that tree is there for me, always. In my shamanic trances, the silver birch is always prominent, often acting as a guide.
I remember spending many a day on my own, speaking to the trees, watching the birds and listening to the sound of the wind. In the village I stayed in – up in Morayshire – behind the village hall lay a ‘woodland’ (more like a thicket of undergrowth and trees, but to my young mind, it was most definitely a forest), it was a chance to escape from the grown-ups. Together with my little terrier Tilly, we would set off to the ‘woodland’ in the morning and come home before the street lights came on.
I have fond memories of the smells of foxglove, honeysuckle and damp pine needles in the wet soil around me, the sun always casted a beautiful light through the canopy; and the shadows would dance around the woodland floor like fairies dancing in the sun. I felt safe; watched over, it was my sanctuary away from home.
Over time and with the coming of mobile phones (and mobile phone signal), it would be the place I would phone my friends as a moody teenager dealing with all the complexities of puberty and sexuality. In fact one friend, who I’ll call Joe, from Wales, would phone me weekly, and we’d talk for hours, they too having to walk a good mile to get a phone signal, and struggling with puberty and gender identity. And again, the woodland provided not only a sacred space, but a safe space, to openly talk about these taboo and deeply personal subjects.
“I always wonder why did we bother? Distanced from one, deaf to the other. Oh, but sweetness follows. It’s these little things, they can pull you under. Live your life filled with joy and wonder”Berry. B, Buck. P, Mills. M & Stipe. M (1992) Sweetness Follows – Automatic For The People Atlanta, Georgia: Warner. Bros.
Fast forward to my mid-teens; a confused and depressed young soul, struggling with my sexuality. Around this time I made the conscious decision to come out as gay to my close friends, they embraced it and accepted it, and I count myself so lucky that they kept it secret and supported me throughout. It was also around this time that I became more spiritually aware (I was previously atheist, or at least agnostic before this point). The music of R.E.M. formed the soundtrack to my education; relationships and world views (for that I am glad, I’ll always admire Michael Stipe for being such a positive influence on young LGBTQ+ people), and also spoke to me on a spiritual level too – their lyrics on environmentalism and queer culture in particular spoke to me and beckoned my ears.
On one dark day, where my mood was rock bottom; my mind feeling like a stagnant muddy puddle with splashes of petrol and flies buzzing all over it, I decided to try and take my own life, my location was a ruined castle near the village, a short drive and nice and remote. I lit a cigarette, and stared out into the distance, the bright green fields contrasted sharply with the thunderous skies, midgies were out in force and biting my arms and legs – I didn’t care.
And from the reeds in the moat surrounding the castle, in front of an old solitary oak tree by the water, a panther sized big black cat emerged. It stared up at me for a few moments, I could feel it’s green eyes pierce my very soul, but I wasn’t afraid – in fact I was comforted, I felt the strength and courage to continue on with my life. Days later in the local press, local residents had claimed to have seen this very same big cat strolling through the fields – I felt reassured, I definitely wasn’t going mad. It was after this point I started to try to understand the deeper natural world around me and it’s spiritual implications.
“And you do know my name, though you don’t remember that I belong to it. I am Gandalf, and Gandalf means me”Tolkien, J.R.R. (1937), The Hobbit. United Kingdom: George Allen & Unwin
My first ‘encounter’ with Paganism as a recognised faith wasn’t from a R.E. (Religious Education) Teacher, but from my English teacher, Ms Morrison (I won’t disclose her real name), much of the literature we studied was from an Irish background, indeed it opened me up to the beautiful works of W.B. Yeats and the music of Christy Moore. Ms Morrison was a Pagan, openly Pagan! For a teenager this was something both unusual and yet ‘super cool’, and with her flowing dark dress and scarves, she was a fascinating teacher to listen to, we all loved her lessons and the way she taught them – opening up subjects for debate. we built up a pupil/teacher relationship, and over time I came out (telling someone you are LGB or T) to her. She was very supportive, and acted as a counsellor, a tutor for not only English, but Art & Design (helping me with my project), Music (she often spent time with Music pupils), going above and beyond for everybody. It was through her that I began to understand and process the spiritual thoughts I was feeling at the time, and over time became Pagan, both in how I live and what I do.
2009 – University
Around this time, I had completed the Highers and Advanced Highers needed to get accepted into university. I chose Dundee as my location, and the University of Abertay Dundee due to it’s Sociology degree being a science one (BSc) and having generally favourable feedback from former Sociology students. I had initially wanted to go into primary teaching (pupils aged 5 to 12, the idea of preparing children with the tools needed to live their lives really appealed to me) but opted for a course that would broaden my mind and deepen my understanding of society as a whole. There are times where I regret this decision, certainly the employment prospects have been scarce, and the degree itself meaning little on a CV without a Masters degree to bolster it up.
Saying that, it has helped me delve deeper into my understanding of how we all work as humans, the patterns in nature and human history; the endless economic downturns; pandemics; revolutions – all mirroring the changing times of our planet. As a Pagan and practising Druid, our awareness of our interconnectedness with nature and world events is absolutely essential to starting your journey down the spiritual path. Our ancestors; our wildlife; our plants and trees; our mountains and seas, are all connected, and we must care for them.