Communicating With Deity: All the Small Things

Stovetop altar to Brighid, January 2015.
Stovetop altar to Brighid, January 2015.

(Nature’s Path welcomes DC McBride to our growing batch of writers. This is what he has to say about himself: Unitarian-Universalist since 2009, Dan McBride is a practicing Devotional Polytheist, a member of Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship, and the Coordinating Officer of UUCB-CUUPS.  His spiritual interests are in Neo-Pagan religions and Irish folklore and mythology, as well as in inter- and intra-religious dialog.  Outside of the grove, he enjoys technology, hiking, camping, skiing, history, photography, and adventuring with his wife.  A fifth-generation downstate New Yorker, Dan traces his roots back to the Italian region of Calabria and County Waterford in Ireland.  He currently resides near the confluence of the Susquehanna and Chenango rivers in Binghamton, NY, where he makes his living as a technology professional.)

Last December I completed my Masters in Computer Science after four long years of work alongside my white-collar day job. I was relieved, and was looking forward to spending more time connecting with Deity in general, with my Gods in particular, and possibly even joining ADF and starting work on its’ Dedicant Path.  But with school now packed away, my wife and I decided to take the first opportunity we could to travel to our usual vacation spot: my family’s second home in Vermont.

“The Vermont house”, as its known amongst my clan, is more than just a vacation cottage.  It was my father’s primary residence during his bachelor years, and has since been been the scene of many happy childhood memories as well as two generations of bacchanals.  Being a good Brigidine Pagan, of particular importance to me is the stone fireplace that serves as its primary source of heat.  Having been constructed out of the quartz stones excavated during the building’s construction, it is a giant energetic battery and amplifierthat has spent almost forty years absorbing some of the best energies my family can produce.  My father’s hearth is a very sacred place for me, and the idea of curling up in front of it sounded like the perfect way to spend several days’ well-deserved rest.

The author at his family hearth in Southern Vermont
The author at his family hearth in Southern Vermont

And so my wife and I found ourselves spending a brutally cold January evening in front of our beloved hearth.  The fire was roaring in the fireplace as my wife slept soundly on the couch.  I sat facing the crackling fire, preparing for an “Introduction to Earth-Centered Religions” class that I would soon begin teaching at my UU Congregation.

As I worked, my thoughts turned to the student I had recently taken on. This was my first “official student”, a strong-willed Buffalo native named Ava who had been contacted by Brighid and a second as-yet-unidentified Deity.  Having no experience in Paganism or with Devotional Polytheism, Ava had been directed to me by a mutual friend that felt that I could give them the guidance they needed.  Contemplating Ava’s situation, I took a break from my lesson planning and looked up to the fire.

“Brighid, is Ava one of yours?”

The fire responded with a resounding pop!

I took that to mean a yes. [1]

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  • Very interesting post! I shared this story recently, but I some divinatory work last fall hoping to learn more about a deity with very little surviving lore. The result of the divination was a pretty clear message to “open your eyes”, and when I did I saw foxes everywhere I looked for a week. Live, wild, foxes. I must have seen 5 or 6 in the space of a week when I’d never seen a wild one before. One was within stone’s throw of my house. I’ve got some theories kicking around as to whether there was more to the message than just “I like foxes” but it’s an unmistakable piece of iconography in my practice now.

  • That’s fascinating, and thank you for sharing! If you wouldn’t mind, I’m curious as to what else you were able to learn about this Deity. Its always tough when you’re working with someone for whom there is little surviving lore.

  • I’m working with Nemetona as a gatekeeper in ADF work. And I’m a relative beginner in this kind of work so take me with a big heaping teaspoon of salt. I’m not any kind of an expert and none of my impressions have any basis in anything beyond my own individual experiences, but I’ve seen her use foxes and hawks as messengers. I have an overwhelming sense of her as red haired. She uses imagery of protection and shelter when I communicate with her, but in a physical shelter sense more than a personal shelter sense… Like walls of stone and wood more than an embrace. I have a sense of her as a tribal deity who no longer has a tribe and is taking in strays. She likes to be remembered, and she’s willing to take on different roles. I once asked her if she was ok with being gatekeeper at a ritual in her own honor, and got one of the most clearly positive responses I’ve ever seen – I rarely find divinations clear when I first read them, I have to sit with it a while before the meaning sort of coalesces – but that one was instantly clear. She’d rather work at her own party than be left out.

  • I really like what you’re doing here, and it sounds like you’re off to a strong start. I don’t know much about the Gaulish deities myself (Nemetona is Gaulish, correct?) but I know some folks who are. This sounds like a good thing to bring up on either the ADF General Discussion FB group, or the Celtic Paganism FB group. If you haven’t joined either, I’d highly recommend them 🙂

    Also keep in mind that ‘m an ADF newbie myself, so if you’re actually running ritual you’re farther along than me!

  • Yes, Nemetona is Gaulish (although the tribe she’s associated with are sometimes listed as Germanic). I’m not in any of the ADF FB groups. Are they more active than the mailing lists? I’m unfortunately still pretty much “in the broom closet” but if there’s good community there, I should look into how I can fix my privacy settings because I’m *so* lonely.

    I’ve been with ADF since 2012 but haven’t managed to get through the DP yet.

    I am REALLY looking forward to more of your insights! I hope you write well and often!

  • Thanks! I’ve got a DP blog that I use (https://sittingbetweentworivers.wordpress.com/), and saw yours as well 🙂

    The ADF FB groups are *way* more active than the mailing lists, with ADF General Discussion being quite active. Both it and the Celtic Paganism FB groups are “closed”, meaning that anyone can see the group and who is in it, but that only members can see posts. Both are very worthwhile groups to join (there is an incredible amount of community over on “Celtic Paganism” in particular).

  • Spear_Maiden

    I love this post! It’s very timely for me too, as I was thinking there was something wrong with me for not being able to “hear” the voices of the Gods or get visions of Them and “speak” with them in real time.

    I do have a story I’d like to share. I am a Greco-Egyptian devotional polytheist, and for a while was working with Hermes. One day in a tarot reading, He announced he had some “god stuff” to do and left my personal pantheon. I was of course sad but understood. I asked Him to let me know if He ever wanted a devotional practice with me again.

    For a few months, nothing. Then, in the span of about two weeks, I’ve noticed small things that made me wonder if He was back: good luck at avoiding accidents on the road, good luck in finding things at the store I need, and at an excellent price, and good luck in hitting green lights when I’m running late. I also felt a sense of re-connection to His golden, bubbly energy.

    But I didn’t want to just assume, because I wanted re-connection so badly. So I did some pendulum work last night, and lo and behold, Hermes is back! I am very happy, and also stoked that I not only received small signs from Him, but also that I recognized them for what they were. 🙂

  • That’s bloody awesome! 😀 That’s also the kind of thing I’m talking about. I’m wondering why there hasn’t been a larger conversation in the Pagan community on “small” omens before (I’ve only been here since 2011, so I could have missed it).

  • Spear_Maiden

    It is huh? 😀 I’m super excited. It takes me a little while to notice the small omens, but I am improving.

    Yours was the first post I can remember on small omens. Usually when the topic comes up, it’s the larger omens, the Voice of the God/dess in your ear, epic dreams, etc. I felt so left out, like maybe the Gods don’t like me. And then this happened. And yesterday I found a deal so good on a TV that my dad told me I was an idiot if I didn’t get it, even though I technically wasn’t out to buy a TV. Praise Hermes! It was like confirmation that He is back and yes, He wants a shrine. Preferably near the TV I think…

  • Sabrina Diane Owens

    This has been kind of helpful. However, and I hope this isn’t unsolicited, I am still having some trouble.

    I’ve kinda felt out of touch with my spirituality, and while I’ve thought I’ve felt the call of Brigid, I’m still unsure, and I think this unsurety has kinda thrown me off my path. So, I’m starting over again at the beginning, and I figured the best way to start is to get ahold of the people upstairs and give my respects…but I was wondering what else I could do?