“Magic Circle” by John William Waterhouse (1886)

Now there’s a word I didn’t know I needed in my life! Fjölkyngi (FYŒL-koon-gee) is the Old Norse word for magic or witchcraft. It means “great knowledge” and, according to Diana L. Paxson, is “derived from the verb kunna which meant ‘to know’ but didn’t refer to just any kind of knowledge. It signified an understanding of the inner workings of people, things, and the world as a whole, as well as a mastery of an ancient lore and traditions.” Being a magician (fjölkunnigr) is not something you learn how to do in a five minute video on YouTube. It involves a lot of hard work and dedication to the craft, following whatever path the Spirit may lead you on.

Back in the day, when I was just a witching, I had been studying and practicing for about a year and happened to be visiting Asheville Raven & Crone. A young person came through the door and asked the clerk at the counter if they were hiring. The clerk said that they were welcome to fill out an application and also needed to list their five favorite books on magic and pagan spirituality. The person confessed that they had not read any books on the subject and I knew immediately they would not get the job. The clerk kindly accepted their application but without any knowledge of the Craft, it would be very difficult to work there! As I thought about myself applying for the job I had already read 25-30 excellent books at this point and was also a member of a training coven. It would have been nearly impossible for me to pick just five because there were so many excellent ones to choose from! I would have also been hesitant to apply for the job because I still felt like a toddler in terms of my magic practice and still had lots to learn before I could help others in a store such as this.

Im my own pursuit of “great knowledge,” I’ve alway been a spiritual mutt, sampling from many different traditions to form my own unique path. I encourage others to do the same. I’ve always had a thirst for knowledge and it led me to pursue a masters degree in theology in the Christian tradition. I’ve also had Buddhist, Wiccan, Medicinal Herb and Norse Pagan teachers, along with an extensive study of Tarot. My current obsession is runes and it quickly dawned on me that in order to understand them you also need to have a basic grasp of ancient Norse history, language and customs. So that’s what I’m doing these days! It is a joyful journey but it is also a lot of hard work.

I share this with you to encourage you to always seek to gain more knowledge and acquire more skill in whatever traditions you’re studying. The well is deep, but the water is oh-so sweet! This depth of knowledge will serve you well and will make your fjölkyngi strong. Blessed be!

Copyright ©2023 by David Taliesin,

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The Naming of the Divine: A Non-Binary Perspective

Lately, I’ve been reading more and more articles written by practitioners of magic who identify as non-binary, gender-fluid, etc. Many of them are expressing their desire for us to move beyond the traditional god/goddess language when referring to the Divine and adopt a more inclusive approach.

I must admit, I totally relate to their struggle with this issue. Growing up as a Christian, I reached a point where the male-dominated language of my faith no longer worked for me. I began infusing some feminine energy into my concept of the Divine, always referring to the Holy Spirit as a “she” and trying my best to get away from “Lord” language when referring to the Creator by using other nouns such as “Eternal One” (which is what the Hebrew word YEHOVAH actually means instead of “Lord”). When the goddess Brigid entered my life, the feminine aspects of the Divine were a permanent part of my spiritual life which feels a lot more balanced than it did before.

That being said, while my spiritual life includes Divine aspects that are both traditionally male and female, I often seek terms for the Divine that move beyond gender completely. This is especially true as I write liturgies for both Christian and Pagan gatherings. For example, when casting a circle I often welcome the “Divine Presence, who is known to us by many names.” One of the reasons I do this is that The Welcoming Circle, which I lead at Asheville’s Raven & Crone, is open to people of all spiritual paths. I try to honor all the names we attach to the One we know as the Divine.

My biggest source of inspiration for naming God more inclusively are the various Native American spiritualities, some of whom refer to the Divine as the “Great Spirit,” or my personal favorite the “Great Mystery,” since none of us can completely understand nor comprehend the Divine.

Recently, I’ve been using the First Nations Translation of the New Testament which came out in 2022. While it uses male pronouns when referring to God, it also gets creative with more generic terms for the Divine such as “Maker of Life” and often uses “Great Spirit” or “Creator” in place of “God.” It also takes a few steps toward inclusivity by using “sacred family members” instead of Paul’s typical “brothers and sisters” in his letters. It also describes the “kingdom of God” as “Creator’s good road” which I really like.

Language is always an evolving thing. The point of this article is to get us thinking about the names and pronouns we use to describe the Divine. I encourage all of us to listen to our non-binary siblings because they have some important wisdom to share with us!

Copyright ©2023 by David Taliesin,

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The Wanderer’s Hávamál

Six months ago, when I began an intensive study of the Elder Futhark Runes, I had no idea how deep the rabbit hole would go. I found myself learning some Old Norse language and delighted in reading the myths and legends found in The Poetic Edda. Perhaps the most well-know portion of this collection of writings in the Hávamál which can be translated as “Words of the High One.” It’s narrated by Óðinn and is a treasure trove of sage advice, including Óðinn’s story of how he obtained the runes.

There are lots of antiquated translations of the Hávamál out there that are in the public domain (Olive Bray, Henry Adams Bellows). However, there are times when one wants to read a more modern take of these classic poetic stories.

Well, look no further than Jackson Crawford’s The Wanderer’s Hávamál. It is truly a labor of love and a thing of beauty. Crawford is a Norse scholar whose YouTube channel is a must see. His videos are what led me to discover that one cannot master the runes without a deep dive into Norse mythology and culture.

The Wanderer’s Hávamál began with Jackson going back to the Codex Regius, which is the original source for these poems, and preparing his own Old Norse text from it. This is an important step because there are lots of abbreviations in the Code Regius and very little punctuation. Then from his version of the Norse text, which is published in the book, he gives us a fresh translation in modern English. It really makes the Hávamál come alive, and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

The delightful bonus in this book is The Cowboy Hávamál where Crawford ‘s creativity shines brightly. It takes stanzas 1-81 of the Hávamál and gives it the voice of his grandfather June Crawford. It is not to be missed and as far as I know is only found in this book. Fans of the TV series Yellowstone will love it.

As if that’s not enough to convince you to purchase this book, Jackson Crawford’s extensive notes are a treasure trove of insight and information. If you’re a bookworm like me, you will find this section as refreshing as a horn of mead. What are you waiting for? This book is a definite must in your collection of Norse literature.

Copyright ©2023, by David Taliesin,

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Rune: What’s In A Name?

If you’d like to learn about the language of Old Norse, Jackson Crawford is your go-to guy in English. He taught Old Norse at several colleges and now shares his knowledge with a wider audience on YouTube. The quality of his postings are outstanding and I value his objectivity regarding what he teaches.

Einang Stone, Oppland, Norway,

Now on to the subject of the day. What does the word rune mean? First of all, it should be noted that runes are not a language, they are an alphabet much like the Roman alphabet you’re reading right now.

The word rune first appears in several stones including the Einang Stone (4th Century) and the Järsberg Stone (6th Century) and is written in Elder Futhark runes as runo and runos respectively.

The thing that interests me is the usage of the word as it appears in various languages of the time. While Jackson Crawford is very reluctant to make a mystical connection with the runes (and I totally respect that) I have no problem doing so. Here is how the word appears in various languages and the meaning attached to it:

Old Norse— rún (singular) rúnar (plural); later rúnir. It refers to the runic letters but secondary meanings include council or whispers. (i.e. a council is a group of people whose knowledge we seek out. A whisper implies something that is hidden or mysterious.)

Old English — rūna (singular), rūne (plural). It means runic letters.

Old Saxon — rūna (singular). It means council/advisors.

Old High German — rūna (singular). It means whisper or murmur.

Gothic — This is where things get really interesting. The Gothic Bible which was translated from the original Greek by Bishop Wulfila in the 4th Century (or a group of scholars using his name) uses rūna. He uses this word to translate three different Greek words: 1. counsel, i.e. advice or a council, 2. plan, and 3. mystery.

One example of the third translation is Ephesians 6:19—”Pray also for me, so that when I speak a message may be given to me to make known with boldness the mystery (runa) of the gospel.” [NRSVUE] (There are many more examples of this in his Gothic translation.)

So we can see that the word rune takes on more meaning than simply an alphabet. Yes, this was its primary use but we can see that the usage of the word itself implies that it is also a source of wise counsel that is a bit mysterious/hidden in nature.

This would seem to be in sync with Norse mythology where Óðinn sacrifices himself on the Yggdrasil tree in order to obtain the runes from the three Norns (Urðr, Verðrandi, and Skuld), the powerful female seers who are responsible for shaping the course of human destiny. But that’s another story for another time!

Written by David Taliesin, Much of the information contained in this post is based on the work of Jackson Crawford. Check out his YouTube channel.

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The Power of Symbols

Way back in the day as I began my exploration of Wicca and other Pagan spiritual paths, two symbols called to me early on that have been with me ever since: the crow and the tree of life. Both of them are near and dear to my heart and are always present on or near my home altar. In the wild, crows often gift me with feathers and I always greet them when I see them. The Celtic Tree of Life is the symbol I chose to represent me on my author page on Facebook.

Fast forward many years and these two symbols joined hands in a beautiful and unexpected way as I recently finished a six month study of the runes. This deep dive included learning some Old Norse as well as reading all the beautiful stories contained in the Poetic Edda. The Hávamál, which is found in the Poetic Eddas, tells the following story about Óðinn and how he obtained the knowledge of the runes:

I know I hung on that windy tree (Yggdrisil)
for nine long nights,
wounded by a spear,
and offered to Óðinn,
myself to myself,
on the tree
that no one will ever know
what roots run beneath it.

No one refreshed me with loaf or horn (bread or drink).
I peered down into the deep.
I took the runes—
shrieking I took them—
and feel back from where I came.
[Hávamál 138-139, David Taliesin translation]

The tree in question is Yggdrasil which, in Norse mythology, is the world tree that binds the nine realms together. It bears more than a similar resemblance to the Celtic tree of life in illustrations I’ve come across on the internet.

Then there are Óðinn’s ravens: Huginn and Munnin who fly all over the world and report back to Óðinn what they find. They are beautifully described in the Grímnismál, which is also found in the Poetic Eddas:

Huginn and Munnin (Thought and Memory),
Fly every day around Jörmungrund (the earth);
I fear for Huginn that he may not return,
But I fear more for Munnin.
[Grímnismál 20, David Taliesin translation]

As soon as I discovered this story, I smiled. I have always understood crows and ravens as divine messengers who bring us wisdom and magic. And here they are, beautifully portrayed in Norse Mythology!

Now, as I begin every rune reading I say a prayer to Óðinn and thank him for his sacrifice on the Yggdrasil tree so that we could obtain the knowledge of the runes. Then I ask him to send Huginn and Munnin out into the world to retrieve the knowledge we need to know in the reading. Who knew these two symbols would have such profound meaning to me as the years passed.

I share this story as a word of encouragement. When exploring and expanding your spiritual practice, pay attention to the things that catch your eye or you feel drawn to. It may be an image, an herb, a stone, a ritual, a deity, etc. We never know how significant these sacred objects will become to us as they years pass so enjoy them when they make their presence known!

P.S. If you’re interested in a beautiful scholarly translation of the Poetic Eddas, I highly recommend the work of Jackson Crawford. His YouTube channel is outstanding!

Copyright ©2023 by David Taliesin,

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Brigid, Gold-Red Woman

At an Imbolc celebration I attended, we sang the following chant. I quickly caught the tune on my smart phone and scored the melody. I write quite a bit of music so I made a small change to the melody to make it more interesting. If any of you know this tune and can suggest any revisions, please let me know. It has been my experience that there are only a few printed resources out there for Pagan songs. Therefore, I will try my best to preserve them on this blog as I come across them. Blessed be!

Here is a jpeg of the score:


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Song to Brigid

I learned this chant at a public celebration of Imbolc. I scored it so it could be shared with a wider audience. If anyone knows who wrote it, please let me know. So far, I’ve been unsuccessful in tracking it down!

songtobrigid PDF

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Imbolc vs. Candlemas

Candlemas @ All Saints Ashmont, Boston, MA

Even some of my Wiccan books get this one wrong! Imbolc and Candlemas are not the same holiday, but they are tried together thematically as we shall see. Imbolc is a Gaelic celebration that usually occurs on the night of February 1st. It honors the goddess Brigid who is often associated with fire among other things. One of Imbolc’s main themes is Brigid’s turning of the Wheel of the Year toward spring. Therefore, light plays an important part in the celebration. Some NeoPagans light outdoor bonfires while others employ lots of candles in indoor settings.

Candlemas is a Christian holiday that is observed on February 2nd. Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox celebrate it as the Feast of the Presentation of Jesus at the Temple. Candlemas commemorates a story found in Luke 2:22-40 where Joseph and Mary take baby Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem forty days after his birth, as required by Jewish Law. After making the required sacrifice, Mary is then considered to be ritually clean and Jesus is presented at the Temple since he is their first born son. A man named Simeon witnesses this event and gives a heartfelt prayer known in Latin as the Nunc Dimittis. The theme of the prayer is that Simeon has now beheld the “light” that will shine on Gentiles and Jews alike.

Christian celebrations of Candlemas include the blessing of beeswax candles, and a candle-lit procession precedes the worship service that day. In some part of Europe, especially France, they eat crepes on Candlemas (I’m not exactly sure why!). Each member of the household cooks their own crepe while holding a coin in their hand. They believe it assures wealth and happiness until the next Candlemas celebration.

I’ve read a number of articles that connect Candlemas with Imbolc, as well as the Roman festival of Lupercalia. Personally, I’m not convinced the tie is as strong as some people suggest. Both Imbolc and Candlemas are festivals of light. However, there are numerous light festivals during the winter season that appear in many cultures and religions. If anyone out there has a strong argument regarding how they tie together, I’m all ears. Please cite the sources that helped you to draw this conclusion.

There is a good possibility, however, that Candlemas got its start as a Christian alternative to Imbolc. This has certainly been true of many Pagan festivals so it wouldn’t surprise me at all. Copyright ©2023 by David Taliesin,

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It All Begins with Brigid!


The seed of this blog began with Brigid (Exalted One). Brigid is the Celtic triple goddess of fire, poetry, metalwork, and medicine among other things. Brigid is also associated with the element of water and has a number of sacred wells and rivers named after her. Brigid is celebrated with gusto on the sabbat of Imbolc which is February 1st. On the night I attended my first public celebration of Imbolc, I immediately fell in love with Brigid’s creative, fiery spirit that was evident all throughout the sabbat.

One of my favorite parts of our time together was a song one of the priestesses taught us:

Lighting your candle, we call to you, call to you.
Lighting your candle, we call you by name: Brigid.
Burn off our darkness, we call to you, call to you.
Burn off our darkness and heal with your flame.


My curiosity that night was peaked even further when I learned of Brigid’s ties to St. Brigid, one of Ireland’s most revered saints. According to medievalist Pamela Berger, Christian “monks took the ancient figure of the mother goddess and grafted her name and functions onto her Christian counterpart.” In her Christian incarnation, St. Brigid was known for her generosity to the poor, her healing miracles, and warm hospitality.  Her feast day is also February 1st.  Hmmm. I am inclined to believe that many of the qualities attributed to St, Brigid came from the goddess Brigid because the worship of this Celtic deity was so popular at the time.

Another interesting connection is that a perpetual flame to honor Brigid was kept in Kildaire until the 16th century. It was then relit by the Brigidine Sisters in 1993 to honor their beloved saint and became a perpetual flame again in 2006! The icing on the cake is that the monastery in Kildaire, which St. Brigid founded, was built on the site of an older pagan shrine to the Celtic goddess Brigid.

As the celebration of Imbolc ended on that fortuitous night, I left not only feeling warmly welcomed by my Pagan sisters and brothers; it also made me realize we have a lot more in common than I ever imagined. A bridge was built between us that set me on a journey to find more connections and help Pagans and Christians overcome their fear, suspicion and sometimes hostility toward each other.

If you’re interested in reading more, there are several books on the subject including the excellent Brigit: Sun of Womanhood by Patricia Monaghan and McDermott Michael and Brigid: History, Mystery and Magic of the Celtic Goddess by Courtney Weber.  You can order both of them through Amazon.

Copyright ©2023 by David Taliesin,

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St. Brigid’s Cross


I love the simple beauty of St. Brigid’s crosses. In Ireland, they are made from rushes and contain a beautiful woven square in the middle with four equidistant arms that are tied at the ends. They make these crosses for the feast day of St. Brigid, February 1st.

Many people believe this cross has pre-Christian origins and I wholeheartedly agree. The cross reminds me of the spokes of the wheel that the goddess Brigid turns toward spring during the celebration of Imbolc. The four spokes of this cross represent the two solstices and two equinoxes of the year. With all the connections that can be made between Brigid and St. Brigid, it’s not hard to believe that Brigid’s cross is a Christian adaptation of the wheel of the year.


The earliest origin of St Brigid’s cross may possibly be the sun cross or wheel cross that dates back to prehistoric times, especially during the Neolithic and Bronze Age periods.  Wheel crosses appear frequently in artifacts associated with religious rites. They call to mind the spokes of a chariot wheel. If this is the case, this cross could have been used in connection with the sun chariot the gods rode to carry the sun across the sky. Whatever the case may be, this is an old symbol that has been connected to spirituality for a very long time. Enjoy!

Copyright 2023 by David Taliesin,

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