[Today, we sit down for an interview with author and artist, Stephanie Woodfield. Here, she discusses her devotion to the Morrigan and other Deities; her books about the Dark Goddess; and her upcoming projects.]
ev0ke: Which spiritual tradition do you follow? Does it have a name, or is it more eclectic or intuitive?
Stephanie Woodfield: I’m an Irish Polytheist and a priestess of the Morrigan. While the Irish Gods are my focus, I do have devotional relationships to Gods in multiple pantheons. I started out in a tradition Wiccan group. From there I moved on and based my practices on things that I felt had importance in the past as well as what the Gods were telling me. I don’t think any of us within Irish Paganism are practicing exactly how the ancient Irish did, but as long as we focus on how the Gods guide us to honor them, then we are on the right path. Consequently, I take what I feel is meaningful from the past and meld it with what works well for me as a modern person worshiping ancient Gods.
ev0ke: Which Deities, spirits, or other Powers are honored in your tradition?
SW: The Morrigan is always my primary focus, but the Dagda and Brigidare also important in my own work. Within that context, I also honor the spirits of the land, the sidhe, and the ancestors as part of my ritual work. I also have a personal tradition of honoring the dead of battlefields. I visit a lot of historic battle sites, and some modern ones, and make offerings both to the dead and the Morrigan.
ev0ke: You have published a number of books in the last few years, most dealing with the Dark Goddess. First, congratulations! Second, Dark Goddess Craft guides the reader through a transformational journey. How did you go about designing that journey? Was it based on mythology? Psychology? Personal experience? All of the above?
SW: All of the above! Mythology, psychology, philosophy, and my own experiences. I tried to think about the trials I had gone through in my own life. We don’t always look at the patterns when we are experiencing difficult things, but looking back I could see there were definite patterns. I also wanted to look at the things that helped me the most through those times. There were also insights that came to me directly from the Gods; messages I had written down in my personal journals when I was calling on the Gods to work through things in my own life. Those messages became the meditations that begin each of the chapters about particular deities.
ev0ke: How did you decide which “challenging Deities” to include in Dark Goddess Craft? Were there any that you wanted to include, but could not?
SW: I think personal experience is valuable. When I selected the deities I wanted to talk about in Dark Goddess Craft, I looked to deities that helped me personally. There is certainly a plethora of Gods that are connected to transformation, upheaval and change, so, yes, there are many that could have been added! I think we find them across the world, in all pantheons, in part because their roles are so vital. The techniques in the books could easily be applied to other deities, if one felt closer to a God/Goddess not mentioned in the book.
ev0ke: Your next book, Priestess of the Morrigan, is due out in January of 2021 from Llewellyn. Did you approach Llewellyn about the book, or did they approach you? Or did you already have the project in mind?
SW: It was something I approached them about. I never thought I’d be writing a second book about the Morrigan. But the Morrigan had other ideas. I kept feeling her nudging me towards the project. My first book was an introduction to the Morrigan, and when it initially came out, she was seen as that “scary” goddess, so a lot of it was about breaking that perception. It’s been almost ten years since then and now she is popular, which comes with its own different misconceptions to break. A lot of what I share are parts of my personal journey with the Great Queen, as well as practical information that is meant to help seekers take a next step in their own work. Telling you facts about a deity is valuable, but I think telling you what being her priestess has meant to me, how it has changed me, and talking frankly about my missteps and successes, is a far better way to understand a deity.
ev0ke: If you could correct one common misconception about The Morrigan, what would it be?
SW: She’s not an angry Goddess that is all about war — She is so much more. Most of my work with her at the moment is focused on oracular work and her role as a prophetess. I think we have come to a point in Paganism that we aren’t scared to work with deities connected to war and strife, but at the same time we forget to see that there is more to them than just that. We get lost in our own struggles with them, and forget they are also the deities that know how to build a lasting peace and the strength one needs to continue on after our battles. They are not one note. They are complex and we do a disservice to them by seeing them as these cardboard characters.
ev0ke: What other resources on The Morrigan would you recommend?
SW: I think the most important resource to start with is her mythology. Read the stories. Multiple translations if you can. It’s one thing to be told a story means something, but I think if you read it yourself there are layers that might speak to you that you would have never noticed it you’ve only read a summary.
Morgan Daimler’s books are also a great resource on Irish mythology and the Irish Gods. She also has some modern translations of Irish myths which are a great resource. Not all translations are faithful to the source material.
Angelique-Gulermovich Epstein’s dissertation “War Goddess: The Morrígan and Her Germano-Celtic Counterparts” is my go-to for scholarly work on the Morrigan. If you worship the Morrigan, it’s a must read. If you are more into podcasts, Story Archaeology is also a great resource. They have a few episodes about the Morrigan and go through many of the mythological cycles in great detail, but also make it fun and approachable, too. Their website is also a great resource for modern translations.
ev0ke: In addition to writing, you also create beautiful devotional necklaces. What material do you prefer to work with? Do you find that the material needed differs depending on the project?
SW: I work with a few different mediums: bone, copper, and polymer clay. Right now, I’m really enjoying perfecting working with clay. When I work with bones, most of the time I’m letting the echo of that spirit guide me to create something. With clay I can explore a wider range of themes. I started out making ritual jewelry for myself, then other people started asking me to make things for them. Part of being a priestess means you help facilitate connecting with the Gods for others. I feel I am also doing this even in my art. Being able to create a piece that helps someone focus and build that connection to deity in their own rituals and work is an honor. It means I approach creating my piece while being mindful that I’m creating something sacred, something that should embody an aspect of the divine for the wearer. A lot of times I might have an idea of where I’m going with a piece and then deity starts talking to me, and it goes in a completely different direction.
ev0ke: What advice can you offer other devotional crafters? Good places to find supplies? Rituals or meditations to perform before getting started?
SW: Before I start a project, I like to meditate on the deity and see what they show me. That meditation usually starts with reading something about them, usually part of a myth. If a line or aspect of the story stands out to me, that is usually my focal point for my meditation.
YouTube is probably my best resource for tool suggestions and learning techniques. Even if the artist isn’t making the kind of art I want to make, watching someone else create something gives me all sorts of idea on how I can use those same techniques in my own art. For tools, I think experimenting is the best thing for finding what works. Most of my favorite tools aren’t really tools, but things I’ve found that work best for what I’m working on. For example, a thumbtack can be a great tool for detail work!
ev0ke: Where can people find your work?
ev0ke: What other projects are you working on?
SW: Right now, I’m putting the finishing touches on my fifth book, which should be out late next year. The title isn’t finalized yet, but it is about how to navigate devotional relationships with the Gods. How to learn to connect and speak to the Gods, navigate oaths, offerings, and priesthood. It’s a topic I feel like I figured out by stumbling my way through the dark in my early years as a Pagan. So, this would have been the guidebook I would have wanted to read back then.
I’m also in the beginning stages of a book about Brigid.
Art wise, I’m trying to keep busy making more art with all the extra time I’ve had at home this year.
I also run two events, both of which turned into online events this year. The Morrigan’s Call Retreat will be in its eighth year in 2021. I also started an event with a few friends, Otherworlds, which will remain an online event in the future. So, if I’m not writing, or creating art, I’m festival planning in addition to my regular job!