Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Noted with hopes I'll really do it

Before March 17 of next year, I really want to set down an essay detailing where people have been getting the legend of St. Patrick and the conversion of Ireland wrong. The more I look at it, the more I realize that pagans have been buying into church-generated propaganda in their quest for a whipping boy. I have no love for evangelism per se. I also have no love for swallowing a fraud as if it were valid history. I'm a big fan of disliking what someone really did, not what people have been misled into believing happened.

My sources look to include Barry Raftery, modern writings on the history of Celtic Christianity, and a fascinating set of penitentials written by Irish monks in the 6th-8th centuries. I may pull in bits about Christian conversion efforts that make his look like leaving a Chick tract behind in a public restroom, just for the sake of perspective.

And just for the record, I was inspired by a History Channel attempt at discussing Celtic history that swallowed the same propaganda without the bloodshed that gets assigned to him. I also freely admit that the hatred spewed every March 17 in pagan circles has been getting to me more and more every year. It sometimes has hints of anti-Irish bigotry attached, only making matters worse from where I sit.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Quick check-in

I'm still around, but this is production week for Equus and thus a lot of my time and brain cells are otherwise occupied.

I do want to note we got a rather lovely review. And you can just spot me in the background of one of the pictures.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

The Carnival has put up its tents

Jason Pitzl-Waters has initiated a Pagan Carnival on his blog, The Wild Hunt. My thanks to Chas Clifton for submitting an article of mine when I was too horsed out from Equus to think straight about sending one in myself.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Legal contemplations

First, I want to note for the record that I am a complete sap for Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. I always make sure I know where my Kleenex are when it comes on, as I'm almost guaranteed to lose it before it's over. I've been known to need one during the introductory segment. And Ty Pennington is second only to Queer Eye for the Straight Guy's Thom Filicia in my mental list of interior designers I would hire if price were no object.

This lawsuit that has been brought against ABC TV and EM:HE has got me thinking on a few levels, not all of which have to do with whether or not I should worry about EM:HE's integrity. I'm handing them a large chunk of benefit of the doubt right now. They get told a story, they check it out, and move forward on the belief it's legitimate. If they were lied to, which is essential to the argument the Higginses are making in their suit against the Leomitis, they're victims as much as anyone else. They're the ones who paid to turn a three-bed one-bath into a nine-bed six-bath. I wouldn't be surprised to see a parallel suit for fraud.

Now let's assume that the Higginses aren't lying. Under American law, they'll get a cash settlement that they may never see, as the Leomitis could turn around and file for bankruptcy even with the changes Bush signed into law. If ABC is held liable, they may use it as a PR opportunity or lock it up in appeals for years. The losers might sell the house to pay it off instead, leaving neither with the fruits of the makeover crew's labors. I am left wondering how a brehon would have judged the case.

Irish law before the imposition of Anglo-Norman jurisprudence was based on compensation for injustices rendered. There was a complex system based on the gender and social standing of the offender, the offended, and the nature of the crime. And you had to pony up. This is why the penalties were based on your rank. It's hardly fair to force an apprentice blacksmith to pay a landowner's penalty.

In this case, a lower-class person offered the hospitality of a middle-class landowner was used by the latter to obtain a false elevation in rank, then ejected when the cameras went away. Under hospitality law, the landowner went above and beyond the minimums required. But at the same time, they presented themselves publicly as a united household, not merely making the other family honored guests. This could be seen as linking their ranks and elevating the poorer family accordingly.

I should note that under brehon law, all of the orphans are legal adults (age of majority in pre-Anglo Ireland was 14 for women, 17 for men, and the youngest of the five is 14). This turns the suit into adult vs. adult, making each of the orphans eligible for compensation according to their genders.

Returning to the presumption of liability (the case isn't settled, so I'm not saying the Leomitis did anything wrong), there's also the matter of ABC being defrauded. There were no corporations in brehon times, so the closest parallel I can see is they yanked the chain of the local nobility. Who would be within their rights to press for compensatory justice.

So, you have a landowner who, assuming guilt, is indebted to five lower-class adults and an upper-class individual. I think you'd call it theft under that code. With a return of the stolen property plus additional compensation for the time and trouble, the Leomitis would probably lose the house.The neighbors who pitched in (parallel to the crew ABC hired) would probably enact some amateur justice of their own, and they'd never let that family come back to that section of Ireland again. And I think that if the nobleman had studied Cormac's philosophy on rulership, he'd give the now-abandoned house to the Higginses.

You know, there are times when I like the idea of a system based on compensation with no way to file paperwork to get out of it.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

The data's changed. So, now what?

One of the questions that has been asked of Celtic pagans from people of multiple persuasions is "what do you do if the scholarship changes?" Celtic studies is prone to fads, fancies and the more solid reasons for alterations in approach. Many documents lie untranslated. New discoveries shape analysis of older ones. And even etymologies get the occasional revisit.

Take the Gaulish god Belenos. For decades, people translated his name as "bright one" and the Victorian presumption that all shiny male gods are sun gods carried into modern times. Recent work has discovered that its definition is closer to "strong one" and may also be related to a Gaulish word for henbane in an echo of how one Latin name for it is apollinaris.

Now, Apollo is a sun god, but he is also a god of healing. And in all of the times Apollo was conflated with gods in Gaul by the Romans, none of them were ever stated as being solar deities in the extant descriptions. It was always Apollo's other aspects, such as healer, that led them to merge the two. Thus, Apollini Beleno was a healing god with no solar aspects.

There are modern pagans who class Belenos as a solar deity, using prior scholarship as their guide. The new data contradicts this approach. And the news leads to examples of how different pagans treat such changes. I know of some who look at the information as the god's way of letting us know we're getting him wrong. Others refuse to change, whether because it works for them or they'd prefer more direct input from the god in question before they change their approach. While I'm all for that kind of spiritual inspiration, I can't help but remember the old joke about the man who said "Jehovah will provide" when rescuers came by to fetch him off the roof of his house before the waters rose too high and he drowned. I can't help but picture Belenos looking at the people who insist he's a solar god in the face of the new data and saying, "I sent you three Celtic scholars and a dictionary! What more did you want?"

Some would argue that innovation shouldn't be treated too cavalierly. A tradition must be allowed to change. I agree with that. But the best, most appropriate and respectful changes come from a base of true understanding. The Victorians shaped the data to fit their assumptions. This is not understanding, it is appropriation. Their presumptions work for some people, I know. And if you're aware that you're using their material instead of more attested ancient lore and admit as much, it's not that big a deal. But honest eclecticism shouldn't get anyone too annoyed, I think.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Burnout, dysfunction, and your friendly neighborhood pagans

I ran across this essay on Dysfunctional Behavior and the Pagan Scene in the Full Circle Events newsletter thanks to Blackthornglade's LiveJournal. As the leader of a pagan organization that is suffering from burnout and has seen its share of the walking wounded, it resonated extremely deeply with me. No religion is a sure cure for mental illness, nor should it be an excuse for same. And tolerating the dysfunction in our groups in the name of a false unity only drives the saner people out.


Happy Lughnasadh! As I suspect just about everyone reading this knows, today is the usual day for observing the feast day of Lugh, the Irish god of many skills, as well as a celebration of the first phase of the harvest and the start of autumn. Lugh is described as one of the pan-Celtic gods based on common names and overlapping functions within the set of pre-Christian European tribes commonly called Celts these days. It was originally a two-week festival, but it's rare to find any pagan individual or group nowadays with that kind of time who'd have the money to throw that sort of party.

For an excellent essay on Lugh/Lugus, I recommend Alexei Kondratiev's writeup on the subject.

Brian Walsh has set up an online shrine to the Many-Gifted Lord. If you don't have time to do a full ritual, a visit there wouldn't hurt.

Lugh is one of my patrons, though only since last year after Lughnasadh had already passed. I am grateful to Him for His encouragement, advice, and butt-kicking this year. Hail Lugh!