You may have come across the term 'crane bag' before. But what is a crane bag? What is its use, and where does it come from?
There doesn't seem to be a one agreed upon definition of what a crane bag is. I've seen it referred to as a symbol of sovereignty, a place where a Druid keeps their ritual tools, and a tool itself used to empower magickal workings. So let's take a look at the origins of the crane bag and its role in ancient mythos to understand a bit more about how the crane bag could be used.
The crane bag is often called a Druid's tool, but it has its root firmly in Irish mythology. The crane bag was created by the sea God, Manannan mac Lir. As a major figure in Irish mythology he features in many tales, but the one concerning the crane bag features in 'Duanaire Finn', or 'the Lays of Fionn'. In this tale, we learn the Goddess Aoife, daughter of Dealbhaoth, fell in love with one of Manannan's sons named Ilbhreac. However, she was not the only one who desired Manannan's son, for another had also fallen in love with him - Iuchra, daughter of Abhartach.
Enraged, Iuchra invited Aoife swimming with her, where she used her magick to turn Aoife into the form of a crane. Iuchra determined that Aoife would spend 200 years in the form of a crane in the house of Manannan, and that when she died her skin would be used to make a vessel of treasures, which would be called a crane bag.
When Aiofe died, Manannan himself used her skin to create this 'vessel of treasures', which held every precious thing he owned. This included his shirt and his knife, Goibhne's girdle, a smith's hook from a fierce man, the King of Scotland's shears, the King of Lochlainn's helmet, the bones of Asal's swine, and a girdle made from a great whale's back. When the sea was full, all of these treasures were visible in the bag, but when the tide fell the crane bag would appear empty.
The bag passed through many hands, including the God Lugh, the high King of Ireland Conaire, and Fionn mac Cumhall.
From this we can glean that the crane bag was a magickal artifact containing treasures. Many of these treasures appeared to be weapons, which would have been useful to the warriors that carried it. So essentially, the crane bag could be seen as a bag which contained items of magickal significance, items which were precious or considered 'treasures' to its owner, or a bag which contained items useful to its owner.
In a magickal sense, we can see how the crane bag could therefore be used to hold ritual tools, or even as a tool itself to help empower workings with the magickal items it contains.
For those who use a crane bag today to aid them in their practice, any sort of bag will do. You can make it yourself out of wool or material, or you can buy one and use it as-is, or decorate it to add a personal touch. The main thing to consider is what exactly you plan to use your bag for and so the size it will need to be to hold all of your items. For example, if you plan to use one to hold your ritual items then it will probably need to be a lot bigger than one you wish to use to hold a small number of objects which have symbolic meaning to you.
The crane bag is unique to each individual, and can contain whatever you want! Below are just some ideas to get you started and may or may not be relevant depending on the purpose of your bag and your own magickal path:
I personally have a crane bag I created as a dedication to Manannan, and all of the items in it I use in rituals and prayers to honour Manannan. It is just a small one, and one which can be added to, but currently it contains a shell, a small bundle of dried reeds (as per Manx tradition), and a gold anchor necklace. Your bag doesn't have to be big, or fancy, or stuffed full of items - it just needs to be personal to you. Creating your own bag and finding objects to put in it is a lot of fun, as well as practically useful, so have a go and see if it works for you!
The Weekly Witch:
Once I week I talk about something 'witchcraft' related I have done with my week. How we incorporate witchcraft into our every day lives is always a topic that has interested me, so I wanted to start this blog to explore it further!