“There are dozens of legends that contain the germ of the Celtic tradition but I will concentrate on the ancient Irish legend of The Battle of Moytura. This legend, as will be shown, contains within it the essence of the Irish Celtic spiritual and magical system as well as a great deal of practical instruction and information on the various techniques and attitudes needed to live successfully both in the modern world and in the timeless and ageless Otherworld.”
Enthusiasts of the Irish legends will know the work of Steve Blamires, particularly The Irish Celtic Magical Tradition, for its careful exegesis of an ancient text as well as its spiritual insights. This important work centres almost entirely around the extant Battle of Moytura (Cath Maige Tuired) text translated by The Irish Texts Society, exploring the legend to unlock its sacred truths while finding a basis for devotional practice within its mythical symbolism. Where most books of this nature selectively pluck from various mythological amalgams, often splicing sources together in convenient but unhistorical ways, Blamires boldly approaches his source text as an organic whole. In the Introduction to the new edition Blamires explains – “I took an entire ancient Celtic legend, The Battle of Moytura, and showed in detail the way the story can be interpreted on three distinct levels to reveal much more than the surface story relates.” What results is a pure and inviolate attempt to treat the legend as a template for spiritual enhancement but without any of the posturing polemics of scriptural inerrancy.
Early on in the work the author, almost with postmodernist éclat, calls for a complete suspension of the notion of linear time. It will require effort on the part of the contemporary reader but the swirling and often surreal events found in these early legends must account for fast and almost seamless transitions between the physical and historically accountable world and the mysterious ‘Otherworld.’ The triangulated annals of the Fir Bolg, the Fomoire and the Tuatha De Danann cannot be restricted to linear time and are rendered senseless, and thus powerless, by doing so. In that sense, the Battle of Moytura operates on many levels, whether ancient history, in the instantaneous present, or eternally ongoing.
The Irish Celtic Magical Tradition is both a scholarly work, cleverly annotating the portents of the ancient text, and a deeply meditative one, infusing these ancient and often seemingly absurd happenings with fresh insights and devotional applicability. In essence, readers once embarked upon the shores of the book, must burn their boats along with the Tuatha De Danann. The reader will also learn to accept that the confrontations faced in this legend are not always easy, pleasant or immediately understandable. This is not some ancient Star Wars; there is no ready moral constructivism to apply and the participants are often multi-dimensional and spiritually complex. The Celtic kings, as with King Nuada (the ‘Silverhand’), were often flawed, inconsistent, and found to overlap with mirrored characters in other parts of the legend. Blamires explores this mutability for spiritual advantage and sometimes even revels in these ambiguities. Characters like The Dagda, Bres, Lugh, and the war Goddess Morrigan are strange, shape-shifting personages that are hard to lock into some easily applied allegorical archetype. This allows for a great sense of freedom and exploration in the application sections and the resultant magical system is only one by loose definition – with the initiated given room to explore.
The Battle of Moytura is both scripturally and scriptorally intact with its own unique creation myth – but there are no overarching themes of mass sacrifice, redemption and judgment. Blamires explores the prehistorical events (again outside of linear consideration) and how the symbolism contained therein has contemporary significance. He introduces the deities, the cities of origin, the islands of training and preparation, the fashioning of magical weapons, then the events that lead up to the war all as supplemental and usable for meditation and ritual. He is careful not to clamp our binary modern value system on any of these sections and seeks to facilitate understanding purely on the terms of the original legend writers themselves. He comprises a magical system from the materials but one that is adaptable and pliant for any that are willing to embrace it. The book then becomes an illuminating method to empower any would-be seeker of the ancient Celtic mysteries for the purposes of divining a nurturing and self-contained magical system.
Originally published in 1992 as The Irish Celtic Magical Tradition: Ancient Wisdom of the Battle of Moytura, the book was praised as “a manual which tells you how to get in touch with the mystical and mythical traditions of pre-Christian Ireland” by The Irish Sunday Independent. It will appeal to those interested in ancient history and the Celtic legends as well as those seeking spiritual and magical sagacity. Skylight Press is thrilled to publish an all-New edition that has been revised, updated and expanded to incorporate two decades of new insights and suggestions.
The Irish Celtic Magical Tradition is available from various retail outlets such as Amazon, Amazon UK, or direct from the Skylight Press website.