Thursday, November 24, 2005

A nod to the day

I hope all of my American readers have a good Thanksgiving, no matter what your politics are about the day.

For my non-American readers, I hope you're having a good Thursday.

I'm taking time today for friends, cheesy oversized balloons, and Arlo Guthrie.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The memories linger on

A housing project in St. Fillans, Perthshire, UK had to be redesigned when the locals pointed out the large rock they wanted to move had fairies living under it.
He said: “A neighbour came over shouting, ‘Don’t move that rock. You’ll kill the fairies’.” The rock protruded from the centre of a gently shelving field, edged by the steep slopes of Dundurn mountain, where in the sixth century the Celtic missionary St Fillan set up camp and attempted to convert the Picts from the pagan darkness of superstition.
In a fit of wisdom not always seen, the laws in the UK dictate that local customs need to be honored in such matters, so they have to redesign the project to go around the rock. I find myself hoping the owners remember to set out some cream at least once in a while.

It also seems to me that the aforementioned saint didn't completely succeed in his quest. But most of the Celtic saints were just about that effective, no matter what they tell you about St. Patrick. Elsewise, the Rev. Robert Kirk and W. Y. Evans-Wentz would have had nothing to write about.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

A welcome rebuild

Jason Pitzl-Waters reports that a pagan well is being rebuilt near a church in Llanllyfni, Wales. The reaction from the locals is best summed up in this quote:
Resident Julie Williams, 33, whose Glanaber Terrace home is close to the village church, said: "I think it's a lovely idea to create a footpath and refurbish the well.

"It's especially interesting for the children in the village to know more about the history of the place."

If each side in the Christian-pagan tensions within the USA adopted this sort of attitude, we'd all be far better off. But I fear the fundamentalists on both extremes will always be with us.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Eclectic, multi-path, or who cares?

Terri of Lilypily Daze asked me some very good questions off of my most recent post. During the process, the question of whether I'm an eclectic pagan came up. I wanted to give that a better amount of consideration than the comments section would provide.

I describe myself as a Celtic reconstructionist pagan. I also do work within the AsatrĂº and Umbanda traditions. I consider the latter two to be supplemental practices that enhance my home tradition. It is an extremely rare day when I will call upon orixa and gods in the same ritual. I think I've done it once outside of an Umbanda house gathering, and that was because I'm a huge believer in asking as many possible sources for help that I can find when keeping a roof over my head is the goal. Umbanda can't help but be eclectic; that tradition raises the concept to an art form.

The pivot point, I suppose, is where one draws the line and declares a person's practices to be eclectic. If that word means "works with more than one set of gods, regardless of how clearly the lines are drawn amongst them," then I'd be eclectic. The fact I don't merge deities from different traditions into one and claim it to be all the same path to the same divine may cause others to not see me as eclectic.

What I consider myself to be is a student. My home "university" is the realm of the Tuatha de Dannan and other gods and spirits of the Celts. I am doing "semesters abroad" with the other traditions to learn what I can from them. Those teachings enhance what I do for the Celtic gods. The supplemental teachers do not change my principal affiliation. Therefore, I don't see myself as a full-scale eclectic. But I'll freely admit to not being single-minded about my sources. When you're dealing with a tradition like Celtic paganism, where we have lots of supposition and a relative paucity of hard facts, it's almost mandatory to do that. So long as I footnote my sources, I'm at least avoiding being a fluffy bunny.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Lost bit of mindset?

Within Celtic reconstructionist tradition, there is discussion of achieving the appropriate mindset. A lot is made of gaining a certain familiarity with the language and culture. There are certain details that, no matter what we may try, we are most unlikely to regain. One of them struck me today.

All cultures have a concept of blasphemy or tabu. There are places you don't go. Actions you don't perform. Words you don't say. Even if they don't use those precise terms, there are danger zones into which a member of the group cannot move without suffering certain consequences. Not every member of the group may agree on them, but there are always limits. Modern paganism is not immune to this. Many treat Christianity as the tabu zone despite claiming respect for all faiths. Other terms mark the boundaries past which offense to the speaker's concept of orthodoxy or orthopraxy has occurred. Eclectic. Fluffy bunny. Folkish. It may not be called blasphemy, but "please don't do that where I can see it" is only a polite version of "get thee behind me."

I'm not saying those limits shouldn't exist. I firmly believe that limits are necessary in many areas. I've used all three of those terms to mark the place past which I will not go myself. What I'm coming to realize is that in all of the details we wish to reconstruct in Celtic paganism, one thing we lack and may never get back with any surety is what our ancestors felt to be blasphemous speech. We have a lot about what the Christian Celts thought qualified, but what came before is one of those areas of research I haven't seen touched on. I'd love to be wrong.

And I refuse to assume they had no such concept. I can't think of a single culture that lacks a forbidden zone. Even in modern American society, we see boundaries and discuss the concept of "dirty words." Certainly, it's easier to find entertainment that uses such things than it used to be (thank you, Lenny Bruce). But we all know we're working with material that polite society isn't supposed to be so free with. I myself was considering tidying up my speech when I realized I would be doing it to American standards instead of Celtic.

Am I blaspheming by muttering, "Mother of the gods" when I feel annoyed? Or am I entering the wrong territory for pagan Celts if I speak of bodily functions with four-letter words in the same context? Or is it both? I wish I knew. It would enhance my understanding of how they thought immensely.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Stopping to remember on this day

On this day, I honor the ancestors of blood and spirit who gave of themselves in military duty and lived to tell how it was and reap the benefits alongside those of us who stayed home.

I am able to worship as a pagan because of them.

I am able to speak my mind in a public forum without fear of reprisal because of them.

I have friends and lovers who would not be here otherwise because of them.

My own family lines would not have arrived on this continent were it not for service in the military. And I rather like it here.

All honor to those who served with honor and integrity. May those who malingered and deserted find the fate they deserve. May those who seek to deny the veterans their fair due also find their proper fate. And may the Morrigan continue to watch over her warriors and help the ones fated to die in service to find their proper rest.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Not your average Lutherans

While out and about in San Francisco today, I passed by Ebenezer Lutheran Church. It's an otherwise unassuming building, rather normal as churches go. But the banner hanging from it caught my eye. It was announcing a "Goddess Rosary" prayer session.

I noticed the URL for the church's website on a different banner and checked it out when I got home. I may have to remember them the next time I see pagans insist all Christians believe in a heartless, patriarchal god. The folks at Ebenezer Lutheran are not the majority in their sect or faith, but they're part of a trend within Christianity that deserves some respect from those of us who stand outside of it and also respect the divine feminine in one form or another. The rewrite of the Lord's Prayer they placed on the front page of the site would fit in admirably at some Wiccan rituals I've attended.