Monday, December 25, 2006

Pagans and Christians

I was inspired by someone else's commentary to do my own two cents on an issue in pagan circles: anti-Christian bigotry. I see it in comments on blogs, in forums, and face-to-face discussions. Everything from Wiccans who will accept any tradition's gods in a circle except That One to reconstructionists who refuse to respect their ancestors because they're Christian. Parents who think it's fine if their kid investigates any of a dozen faiths except That One. People who insist it's OK to hate Christians because of the Burning Times, the Inquisition, the Salem trials, the snakes, or whatever, but just let someone even look at them funny for wearing a pentacle the size of a hubcap and they go off about how it's St. Patrick all over again. The fact Patrick's hardly responsible for half of what he's saddled with is a related point. A complete refusal to look at the entirety of a religion's history and cherry-picking for strawmen and scapegoats is textbook behavior for religious bigots.

Guess what, kids. I don't care if you went to a bad church. I don't care if the priest molested you. I don't care if you were beaten into compliance. You don't get to blame the religion for its followers any more than the rest of the world gets to blame paganism for its problem members. The Tuatha de Dannan are not held responsible for the racists in Celtic pagan traditions, but Jesus is held responsible for the bigots in His faith. How is this fair? How is this even?

The Christians have a saying about how you shouldn't pick on the mote in your neighbor's eye until you remove the plank from your own. If you insist on looking at Christianity and only see the extremists and perverts who use it as a cover for authoritarian or pedophilic behaviors, you have a plank. It's called bigotry. And it's not true to any pagan faith I can think of.

Oh, and Merry Christmas. Solstice is over, so I figured the proper greeting of the day was in order. I promise you won't go up in flames if you say it.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006


Now that Haloscan has decided to force you nice people to see ads when you leave comments on my blog and Blogger's little now-released beta isn't likely to remain optional for long, I'm going to bite the time and effort bullet and migrate this blog to my own setup on my own domain and use Wordpress. If ads are going to ever turn up on this blog, I want to get a cut.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Dedication, sacrifice, and breakfast

There's a half-joking analogy about the difference between involvement and commitment relating to breakfast. When you look at a plate of bacon and eggs, the chicken was involved and the pig was committed. This also applies to the question of sacrifice. I see the question of "should we do some kind of blood sacrifice" come up sometimes. The knee-jerk reply that comes back when it arises is, "Donate blood and dedicate the act." Dedication is not sacrifice the way eggs are not bacon.

In the ritual deposit areas in Celtic tribal lands, researchers have found weapons that were deliberately broken before being cast into the pits. From what they can see, the weapons were being given over to the gods. I don't know if there's anything in the Celtic lore about a weapon being dedicated to a god, but when someone does that in other traditions' source material, they get to keep the weapon and it is used in this world. If you donate blood and dedicate that act to the gods, the blood stays in this world and is used here. That is why it's a dedication. If it were a sacrifice, to follow the form established in the past, you'd need to pour the same pint onto a fire, thereby transferring it to the Otherworld for the gods' usage. Also, there is a distinct difference between bleeding yourself to the gods and using a different animal's blood. Using your own blood can be taken as a sign of an even deeper commitment to the act than may be intended. I'd much sooner see people buy some pig blood from a butcher or use ghee as the Hindus do to ensure the wrong message isn't transmitted. Of course, if all the signs say, "Do it yourself," who am I to question if they do it safely and sanely?

This is not saying people should go to a blood bank and try to talk them out of keeping the bag of blood you generate for them to do a "proper" blood sacrifice. What I'm saying is that if you're going to sacrifice something, some part, if not all of it, is supposed to go to the gods. In short, it has to be ritual bacon. So it is that people dedicate themselves to gods instead of sacrificing themselves to them. The latter implies ritual suicide.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Lights, Pentacle, Controversy

10,000 Reasons to Doubt the Fish has an interesting controversy on his block. A family of Wiccans living next to fundamentalist Christians decided to erect their own holiday display, including a 5-foot wide pentacle in lights. The inevitable argument ensued.

I've been seeing more pentacles appear in holiday light displays in my own area. I may not follow that faith, but I'm always glad to see a moment of diversity, right up there with the people who've taken to hanging lights for Hanukkah. It is a sad day when people who claim to be good Americans refuse to realize this country was built in the spirit of freedom of religion and try to co-opt December for their own purposes with no respect for others' reasons for the season.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Checking In

I try not to end things just by walking away. I'm not ready to shut this blog down and don't intend to. I have been swamped by my day job to the point of hauling work home on nights and weekends. This leaves precious little time for blog posting. Once the insanity eases, I'll be able to at least assess my situation regarding the Roost and take matters from there. I'm getting some clear messages that I'm going to need to re-evaluate a lot of what I do in public fora due to shifts in my spiritual life, and nothing will be left out from the process.

I miss writing for you all, and I'll let you know if I'm going to close shop or not. I prefer my "worlds" to end with bangs instead of whimpers, if not merely a clearly closed door.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

No Irish Spoken Here?

Kathryn Price NicDhàna's blog, Pàganachd Bhandia, tipped me off to the sad and horrid case of Máire Nic an Bhaird, who was arrested on the streets of Belfast for the crime of using Irish to say goodbye to her friends within earshot of a police officer.

A link to the PDF describing the case from the Celtic League is here. And if you think people are all rallying around this woman and her usage of Irish, guess again. DemiOrator also cites a discussion with Nic an Bhaird in which she explained her side.

This must have sent a few shock waves through the growing Gaeltacht in Northern Ireland. The devolution talks have been making all official attempts to express and support NI as a multilingual society, but this attitude has apparently not sunk in with the constabulary. I hope that whatever else happens, some education takes place so that the police remember there's no good reason to assume "oíche mhaith duit" means "up the Rah." (For the record, it means, "good night.")

Monday, November 06, 2006

Sorting out the laws

Jason Pitzl-Waters posted recently about the decision in Ireland to eliminate the dual-ceremony system of marriage imposed on practitioners of most religions other than Roman Catholicism. I did some more looking around, and found two things. First, Pitzl-Waters misstated the current situation somewhat, though the editorial (requires registration) that inspired him didn't exactly help in its sweeping comments on the issue mixed with some odd ideas about Druids. It is noted in the General Register that other religions besides Roman Catholicism have means of performing weddings without forcing a second wedding onto the believers. Church of Ireland, Presbyterian, Quaker and other Christian faiths, as well as Judaism, are noted as being eligible to perform weddings without the need for a second ceremony. Islam is noted as being ineligible very specifically, but any religions other than that are not mentioned at all. The context of "other religious bodies" within the rules has most likely been interpreted as meaning "Christian denominations not listed here" over the years, especially considering the concept appears between the Presbyterians and the Quakers.

That said, the law change to quit forcing people outside of those groups to go through two ceremonies or arrange to have a registrar on site is a very good idea, and one that helps bring Ireland more into modern times. That aspect of the story led me to the Pre-Independence Project currently being undertaken by Ireland's Office of the Attorney General. They are going through the laws that have been on the books since before the founding of the Republic of Ireland and making sure all of the laws have been ones passed by their own government instead of applied by the British Parliament and carried forward by sheer momentum. I suspect the marriage law is one of these. Other obsolete and non-applicable laws have been progressively stripped from the books as well.

And while this doesn't put Ireland back in the days of the native brehon laws, a system that predates the Magna Carta, an Ireland truly under Irish law will be a nice reality to have back again. I share Pitzl-Waters' hope that the marriage law amendment, as well as other changes, will make it a more equal state, devoted to rights for all citizens regardless of religious faith or lack thereof.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Credulity, credulousness and curmudgeonism

Ever think that some pagans would be better off as skeptics in the Amazing Randi vein except they can't quite get past the idea of having to be an atheist to do it? I see this sometimes. Their knee-jerk reaction to ideas like dealing with the Fair Folk of any variety with something closer than ten-foot silver tongs is to snark first, get pushy later.

Oh, certainly, lots of people take that sort of thing to an irrational conclusion, like the fluffybunnies who think all of the Shining Ones are friendly playmates who look like Tinkerbell. But I've seen people get rudely dissected for material that has some grounding in the lore, if not their perceptions, the latter being occasionally hard to argue with. I've made comment elsewhere about the Norse lore relating to attracting a helpful house brownie only to have someone get cute about chocolate fudge in a fashion that clearly indicated they weren't only punning to be cute. It's only annoying in that they showed no understanding of context and assumed they had the right of it when they clearly couldn't tell elfshot from Elfquest.

What some pagans seem to find hard to believe is that the lore of the cultures they are at least allegedly drawing their beliefs from is rife with stories of interactions with non-god-type entities with varying agendas and different means of being addressed. They either scoff or assume they all must be treated very carefully if not outright ignored. I grant you, an Asatruar setting up a house for their local wight isn't going to have a spic-and-span house as if by elfin magic, but it's perfectly within the lore to guess their tendency to always be able to find their house keys despite having no real system for keeping them in the same place might be related.

On that note, I need to put some cream out.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Thinking and Contemplating

I've been enjoying blogging and interacting with other bloggers for a while now, but lately, I've been turning a bit more private. It may just be me experiencing the change of the seasons in a way I never have before. That said, I'm not sure how often I'll be posting for a while, and I'm sure I'll be reading less often than I used to. I don't plan to shut this down, but I figured I'd make a note so the regular handful of you who've been following along will know why I've gotten quieter in case you hadn't been told via other means.

Of course, saying this, I may find myself posting a flurry in about a week or two. I'm just going to roll with it for a while and see what happens.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Flogging for a Friend

A woman I count as both an elder in Celtic Reconstructionism as well as a friend of mine, Erynn Rowan Laurie, has made available her first pass at an ogam book, Not Your Mother's Tree Ogam. Comprising her thoughts on the first 20 ogam characters (she doesn't work with the forfeda for reasons she explains), both of tree and non-tree sorts (yes, Virginia, it's more than birch and ash), it's a look at nearly 20 years of meditation and research as well as a preview of coming attractions for her first full-sized book since A Circle of Stones. Since I gave her a squib for her WitchVox entry for the book, I figured I should also promote it here. It truly is a useful work, even if it's small. It's also dead cheap at $5.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

When Myth is Found to be Fact

One of the passages in the Lebor Gabála Erénn that is sometimes argued about is what was meant by the claims the Milesians came from Spain. Some considered it possible, others weren't sure. The question appears to have been settled, alongside any claims that there is such a thing as a unique strain of genetics that could be called Celtic.

Bryan Sykes, the man who worked out the Daughters of Eve research that demonstrates 95% of humanity descends from seven women based on DNA markers alongside many other accomplishments, spent the last several years researching the genetic history of Great Britain and Ireland. What he found supports the LGE's claims of the origins of the Milesians. Genetically, the large majority of residents of those two islands can be traced back to the northern coast of Spain. About 6,000 years ago, the civilization on that section of the European mainland were shipbuilders of sufficient talent that their crafts made it to those islands. They weren't the first humans there; some small population already existed there but was mostly subsumed by the newcomers. Successive waves since then that left their marks were the Saxons, Normans and others. Also, the markers for the first wave are so consistent across the two islands that it is foolhardy to claim a genetic difference between a Londoner and a Dubliner without one of them being non-white. Or perhaps not. Interestingly, the probable source of the "black Irish" also seems to have been located. Around the same time those Iberians were making the journey (the Oisin genetic marker in Sykes' nomenclature), some people from northern Africa were there along with them and settled primarily in the coastal areas (labeled the Eshu marker).

I look forward to getting my hands on his book, which is being published as Blood of the Isles in the UK and Saxons, Vikings and Celts in the USA. I dearly wish my paternal line had the Irish and that I had the spare cash to take advantage of the genetic testing available through his institute's site. But those of you who do may find it worth a look.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Something Older, Something Newer

Here's a phrase to strike fear in the heart of your average Neopagan: The Old Ways. Fear of being seen as a fluffybunny leads to rejecting it. Fear of not being taken seriously leads to embracing it. It comes up a lot, especially in Wiccan circles. Was Margaret Murray misreading things? Was she on to something? How far back could the traditions from which Gardner built Wicca possibly go? Some Wiccans insist their tradition comes from a single tradition that once existed all across Europe, possibly before the arrival of the first Indo-Europeans. Others aren't so sure they know or even care.

When I see that, I contemplate whether my religious traditions are truly in direct touch with the Druids and realize that to me, it just doesn't matter. But I know I'm in touch with something that predates me, Gardner, and the founding of the Golden Dawn. The Irish Celtic culture. The modern form of Irish is traceable to a time before Julius Caesar. The roots of Celtic culture go back farther than that. What does it matter that the rituals I perform don't have a provable, traceable pedigree to Cathbad? The perspective and philosophy behind them have a clear path of origin. They haven't been separated out and tacked onto something from another tradition that claims it as its own by an unprovable birthright. I may combine one from another, but I know from whence they came. I don't need to claim we were all under one tradition in the first place.

I also feel far less compulsion to worry about what happened in the past to make this path harder to travel. Any discussion of the Burning Times leaves me out from the start, as I remember the pre-Christian Romans have far more Celtic pagan blood on their hands than any Christian group ever had. I know the conversion of Ireland was one of slow centuries of persuasion, not short years of strife and torment. The witch trial insanities barely touched the island a few centuries later. And the slow conversion method left hints and hybrid forms in its wake that even Rome and England could not wholly extinguish before they became interesting enough to write about. The language remained and a clearly connected, albeit changed over time, culture with it. And the more I learn of that culture, the more I am in touch with its battered but unbroken line.

Not that claims to ancient ways matter. All religious traditions were new once. All religions are built on what came before and so bear a common lineage to the first African protohuman who said a prayer in a language nobody has spoken for millennia but everyone uses a trace of. We are all new. We are all ancient. Such is humanity.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

When is a Celt not a Celt?

The genetic identity of three mummies found in the Takla Makan Desert has been declared far and wide to be Celtic. But that's the popular press talking. There is not now, nor has there ever been, a common genetic marker that says "this person is a Celt." There are common markers amongst the Irish, not the least of which is for a blood disease in which the body doesn't process iron properly. But the Scots don't share it to the same degree. The Bretons and Welsh don't, either, let alone the Cornish and the Manx. The assumption of red hair marking a Celt is a fantasy, too, as red hair is more common amongst the Norse.

So what does that make the most embarrassing archaeological find the xenophobic Chinese government could imagine shy of discovering they were founded by time-traveling American capitalists? Most definitely genetically European. But that's as refined as it gets unless you're lucky.

As for the carvings, their similarity to continental Celtic designs makes perfect sense without assuming the mummies were refugees from prehistoric Aberdeen. It was noted years ago that the blatantly Caucasian mummies and wall paintings in the area were associated with the Tocharians, a culture that started up near the Ural Mountains and extended their reach along the Silk Road. The Ural Mountains are where a lot of the European cultures got their start, so design elements in common make sense. As for the fabric? Tocharians were Silk Road traders. The trade routes did not terminate at either end of that road; they branched out. Without clear evidence they had more than those pieces in that vicinity, it's quite a leap to claim they were from that part of the world. And the Scots were not the only people who wove like that then, either.

Their being Tocharians does put them right into the Indo-European matrix alongside the Greeks, Norse, and others. This means their burial traditions are useful to contemplate for possible common threads. Blue stones where coins normally go in some IE burial rites are still likely to be an offering for the conductor of the souls of the dead, for example. But Tocharian is not a Celtic language, and a few dolmens and spirals don't make them a Celtic culture.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Milestones and exposed myths

First, this represents my 100th post. Go me.

Second, and more importantly, I wanted to recommend Phillupus Doctor Ecclesiae Antinoi's latest essay on Witchvox. In it, he discusses the history and contents of the early Irish literary tradition and what they mean to Celtic pagans. He suggests good approaches to the material, especially when it comes to trying to avoid falling for some of the traps of presumption that are common in Celtic pagan circles. I know it's a piece I'll keep in mind in future years as I progress further in this tradition. And if you're wondering why someone with a non-Celtic name would write such a thing, his mundane certifications include a Ph.D. in Celtic Studies. He's probably spent more time on the material in the original language than most people in CR.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Nature and Culture

One of the blanket terms for Neopagan traditions is "nature-based." This is a label which many reconstructionist pagans reject for our traditions. Yes, our calendar of feast days is related to natural events, and the lore from which we draw inspiration for our practices is rife with tales of nature interactions as told through the bonds and wars amongst our gods. But frankly, claiming a reconstructionist pagan is practicing a nature-based religion is not presenting the entire picture.

A nature-based religion in and of itself requires no relationship to a culture other than some passing nod to the majority secular one of the nation in which the practitioner resides. A subculture within it, to be sure, but there's nothing barring a nature-based pagan from developing a practice that bears the names of gods not followed at any time in Europe or any other nation. As a reconstructionist, the standards are a bit different. And what those standards encompass is more than the cycles of the moon and sun.

Not only are we seeking to build a religion that's sensitive to the cycles of the natural world, we're working out how to do this within a specific cultural framework. This is why many of us prefer the term "culture-based" paganism over "nature-based." The relationship to nature is part of the culture and cannot be removed from it without significant difficulty. There's something to contemplate in a culture such as the Celtic set, in which a god established a holiday in honor of a goddess who clear-cut a forest to permit grain to grow and died from the effort. How do we square that with many of the minimal-impact philosophies bandied about in environmental circles? Do we curse our ancestors for their cruelty or recognize it as a sign that it is impossible to live on the earth without affecting it and choose how to do so instead? And how would our ancestors have felt about it then? How do the modern members of that culture square it in their heads? These questions are just one example of the wider set contained in determining and practicing a culturally sound approach to nature interactions.

We also do not worship nature per se. Forget all of the jokes about druids and trees; they were part of a symbolic complex, not the end-all of the lore. Natural events, the gods, the ancestors and the spirits that dwell within and without the world at the same time all combine into one dynamic system that informs the culture and is interpreted by it at the same time.

Nature is, thus, part but not all. It's impossible to split them, so labeling something with part of the whole just doesn't make sense to me.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Strikingly dissimilar

I'm usually wont to take on modern politics in my blog here, but this topic strikes too close to home for me to avoid it.

Cindy Sheehan, one of the more well-known American protesters against my country's involvement in Iraq, has declared herself to be on a hunger strike. Potent statement, you say? Yes, it can be. Those of us who are old enough to remember the IRA and INLA prisoners who staged one in 1981 will never forget regardless of what side of the argument you landed on then or now. Those of us who've studied Irish history know it's a tool of last resort for the common man to gain justice from someone who has offended the concept. The goal is either concession or death. One starves. One sits and waits for death or satisfaction; there is no third road.

Ms. Sheehan, however, seems to define "hunger strike" as a "liquid diet." Then there is Code Pink, an anti-Iraq War group who is calling for people to do 24-hour to two-week fasts, but to make sure they drink their fruit juice and eat avocado slices if they really need to. The ten who died in 1981 only drank water unless forced, and even that didn't stop them. And some of these self-declared "hunger strikers" are flying around the globe to discuss their goals. A true hunger strike does not involve transcontinental flights. No poet attempting to get paid would ride around the countryside discussing why he was doing it.

I'm not saying where I stand on the Iraq War. What I'm saying is they're abusing a term and a practice with a very long and unbroken tradition, and I do not like it. Not in the slightest.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

One-trance pony

Chas Clifton recently blogged about a change in the big-ticket events at pagan festivals he attends. They used to do large, participatory rituals. Nowadays, that pattern has apparently shifted, at least in his neck of the woods, to rites involving multiple priests and priestesses "drawing down" an aspect of the Wiccan Goddess and people either waiting for their turn to come in a circle or filing into a tent where the aspect's carrier is ensconced, in both cases for very brief consultations. I freely admit I have all but no experience with Wiccan rites aside from being a very occasional attendee of same. At the same time, I've been studying trance possession for the last three years and know people who've been at it for far longer. My background has left me a bit bemused by this usage of the talent.

I've both attended and been involved in rituals that contained trance possession and involved larger groups. I've attended a Hrafnar-run seidh ritual, in which the seidhkona will often embody deities from more than one tradition during the course of the evening depending on who's asking the questions as well as reaching out to speak with any requested dead person. I was one of three women selected to carry Brigid for a public ritual attended by over 200 people. But in neither case were the trancing individuals set up as a private oracle in a tent. I know of a different seidh group where something similar to that is done, but even then, we're not talking about long lines and ten-second visits. I grant you, the Brigid ritual included what we called the "rock star" routine in rehearsal. The three of us performed rapid greetings to everyone who we could reach in our thirds of the space. But greetings are not consultations.

What can you get in a few short seconds from an aspected deity? A fortune cookie quip? Is it so difficult to get in touch with the numinous that people have to stand in line to get a brush with it? And is there real community in a ritual where you only get a group vibe going long enough to allow the drawing down to happen, then you stand and wait until your turn is up and either leave for the next event or watch until everyone else is done before it's closed? The Christian churches know the value of audience participation. Are there Wiccans who are forgetting? If so, I feel sorry for them. If Wicca is a religion where all are priests, this shifts the power structure outside of that approach and into a system of priests and congregation. That brings it closer to the Christianity so many people within Wicca left behind. That would only reinforce the suspicion many outside Wicca hold that the more modern versions of it are Christianity minus the rules and with a Mommy Goddess Who doesn't do more than give hairpats and consolation. And truly, I don't know of many deities Who would easily tolerate being treated like a divine ATM for long. The ramifications are many, I fear, unless my distance on the issue is introducting mistaken impressions.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Finds and fantasias

I don't know if this find is going to pan out the way the initial talk about it is going, but I have to say the first wave of chatter about the remains of what may have been an ancient astronomical observatory being found in the Amazon has been interesting. I love finds that turn assumptions on their heads.

At the same time, my cynical side is flirting with the notion of taking bets on how long it'll be before someone hypothesizes the Druids either went to or came from Brazil. The second most likely claim will be that some of the Atlanteans escaped north while the rest went south, thus the parallel observatory situation. Before you claim none of us are that stupid, it's my understanding that Diana Paxson's deliberately fabricated names for Freyja's chariot-pulling cats in a novel Paxson wrote have since been taken for ancient lore.

And of course, if this first wave of hypothesis doesn't pan out, we'll hear far less about the debunking and still have to deal with the "Amazonian Druid" contingency. I suppose it won't be much worse than having to face the AD&D crowd.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Irony, thy name is blog commenters

While not qualifying as a right-winger in American terms, I do tend to poke my nose into that zone of the blogosphere at times. I find it helps me get a variety of perspectives I would otherwise lack. Most of my friends are very left-of-center while I seem to float amongst the classifications depending on which topic is under discussion (albeit leftward-biased for the most part). This habit of mine has led me to discover the latest tempest in a titanium PowerBook known as Jerome Armstrong's admission he's dabbled in astrology.

To establish my perspective, I'm not much of an astrology type. I'm a fan of Rob Brezny's weekly column for the writing at least as much as I am for the times he's managed to pinpoint the issues I'm facing in a given week. He misses as well as hits, but he's a good read in any case. I'll let people cast my natal chart, and that has led to some interesting coincidences being mentioned along the way. I'm a Mercury retrograde Doubting Thomasina, something I get accused of being by true believers because I was born during such a phase. Independent observation says I'm better at communicating during retrograde periods, but that could easily be because I'm just paying more attention during those phases so I can act as an example. Some would call me a bad druid for this stance. The way I see it, if I'm going to play with oracular divination, I should do it in a system that doesn't force me to conform to an elemental system I don't work with anywhere else. Tarot and ogam-casting are far more my speed unless and until someone comes up with an astrological system that doesn't use the Greek elemental patterns or Robert Graves' fantasias.

All that said, I've done a fair bit of exploration in astrology to come to that conclusion, starting back when I was 13 and dipping in off and on ever since to keep my memory fresh on the basics. I know the newspaper forecasts are so vague as to be impossible because they're attempting one-step forecasts for people with thousands of variables in their charts that cannot be accounted for in the space provided. So when I see some of the commentary on Armstrong's revelation, I know I'm seeing people who have no idea what they're talking about. Opining that it's evil because their Dominican teacher told them so. Citing the Bible, which both condemns fortune-telling and grants a pack of astrologers access to the Divine made flesh, starts to sound as ludicrous as the claim that Sun opposite Jupiter retrograde in my natal chart is why I can't save money but always have enough to get by does to the disbelievers. And the people who base their derision on the newspaper columns are the finest examples of the breed. It's like assuming you know enough about Darfur from watching a report on Angelina Jolie's latest visit there.

It's perfectly possible to dismiss astrology as hokum after studying it for a while. Assuming it's hokum from seeing the sloppiest form of it is rather like assuming all Christians are evil because of people like Pat Robertson. Or that all pagans are crazy because of Kevin Carlyon or the drunks at Stonehenge. And these commenters are quite sure they're being sane. I think I'd rather take my chances with the newspaper astrologers.

Sunday, June 25, 2006


I've edited my post announcing the CR FAQ to make sure my level of contribution to it is made clear. The Internet equivalent of telephone tag seems to be affecting how I put it the first time (in brief, contributor does not equal co-author, and trust me, I'm plenty aware of the difference).

I've also updated the blogroll to account for the passing of two retired blogs (Right Wing of the Gods and Phoenix's Nest), dropped a blog that shifted focus and so shifted away from reading mine (the former Following Flidhais), and removed with a moment of mourning the fine Myth and Culture blog that had been the home of Maggie Caray before her sudden passing back in April. The Sacred Grove is now Cypress Nemeton (and would you please fix my listing in your blogroll, Fiacherry, as it is not merely Red Raven?). The link section has been updated to include the FAQ and drop Ord Brighideach due to my having resigned from it in order to pursue other Brigidine interests.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Big Announcement

Because I looked in the wrong places first, I found out I can actually announce the release of the Celtic Reconstructionism FAQ. I was one of the eight people who did a bit of blood-sweating (admittedly not as much as others) over that, and it's good to see it wrapped up and live. People have wanted a CR 101 book for years. You may consider this to be it, at least for now. There will be a hardcopy edition sold via in the near future. And since Manannán mac Lir has been considered to be one of the major movers amongst our gods to get this tradition off the ground, we chose this day to do it. I can only hope he is pleased with the results of our labors.

ETA: Since Jason Pitzl-Waters' choice of words about my relationship to this in his blog post might mislead some people into thinking I'm claiming more than I should about it, I want to note that the primary co-authors are Erynn Rowan Laurie, Kathryn nicDhàna, Chris Vermeers, and Kym nì Dhoireann. The rules of UPG I posted here a few months ago are included, and I wrote some or most of a few of the answers as well as inserting bits here and there in several others and acting as one of the "some people" in the answers where variations in patterns amongst CRs are noted. That last position was held by pretty much everyone on the project at some point, of course.

Happy Rent Day!

No announcement as of yet, but I wanted to make note of my reference to Rent Day. It's not the formal name for it, but St. John's Day is the day that the Isle of Man traditionally pays rent to Manannán mac Lir for the use of the island. Said rent is paid in rushes, sometimes interpreted as yellow flag irises.

Usually, I take today and go to the ocean so I can give Him some yellow flowers and beer. But I just performed a ritual this morning, dedicating someone to Him for a year and a day the way I was six months ago. I think I may be entitled to do elsewise today. Like recover from the long hours involved.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Not going away

I wanted to make sure to note that I'm still planning on posting here. I'm having a busy June, though, and that will culminate in both semi-private achievements and a public announcement I'm very much looking forward to making. But more on that around Rent Day/Midsummer/St. John's Day.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

A question of pain and belief

I don't normally get theological in this blog, but I'm feeling motivated today. I ran across an atheist whose argument for their stance was, in part, "No deity worth its salt would allow its believers to suffer. If they don't intervene during situations involving abuse, they're not worthy of respect and probably don't exist." To say I disagree would be the polite way of phrasing my attitude toward that concept.

Yes, the gods have power. There's a certain amount of responsibility that goes with it. But claiming that the gods have to make sure their followers aren't attacked or abused or they don't exist is like arguing your parents have to make sure you don't get harassed in school or they don't love you. On some levels, it starts to sound like, "Your parents didn't buy you a pony? Well, they couldn't possibly be real parents. You must have made them up."

It also carries, from my perspective, a very odd mental relationship to free will. If we are able to choose as we will, there are times when the choices will cause another pain. And this world, for good and ill, is constructed to permit people to do just that. Is it tragic that people are hurt due to this? Yes. Is it proof the gods don't exist? Not to me. The same system that permits someone to choose to cause pain also allows us to choose to heal. To be kind. To love. If pain is eliminated, I can't see how we as people will grow. The system of the three cauldrons described in the Cauldron of Poesy discusses how sorrow and suffering help turn the inner cauldrons so they may be filled, granting understanding and wisdom to the person who applies themselves to do so. If life is all kittens and cotton candy, the cauldrons cannot turn but partway. Joy turns them as well as pain. And before anyone asks, I am a survivor of multiple kinds of abuse, so I am not speaking as someone whose biggest complaint about her parents would be the aforementioned pony. I have material to move my cauldrons and to spare.

Of course, I'm arguing as a polytheist, but I really don't see where in any statements about the three-omni god of the Judeo-Christian matrix where he's in on any sort of contract to keep his people's lives free of pain, either. It only seems to exist in the minds of some atheists and lightly committed theists who are stunned to realize belief isn't a golden ticket to Wonkaville.

Does this mean I never question when I don't get what I ask for? Surely you jest. I threatened the gods with ritual deprivation if they didn't pony up the job I'm currently in, and they came through on deadline down a vector I wasn't actively pursuing. And I was well and truly angry when I did that. I wasn't just yanking their chains in hopes they'd respond like good little puppets. I know the gods don't play that way. I have too much evidence to expect them to. Oddly, it doesn't cause me to disbelieve. Maybe it's because I know I'm working with entities whose final goals are unknown to me. Moreover, they have preferences, distastes, and a far different perspective than I do.

I am not arguing that I am but a child to their parental brilliance, as many monotheists would. I argue that the power structure is more complex. They need me, as they need all believers and even some unknowing non-believers, to help them do what they want to do. In return, they help all of us who ask properly to do what we want to do provided the two sets of goals don't stand in active conflict. It's closer to negotiating with aliens than attempting to be a child to a set of inscrutable parents. But I never forget the aliens have bigger guns. I sometimes remind them that I'm the one who has to help pull the trigger, though. Neither side can get too cocky.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Another semi-personal reminder post

I don't have time to go into this now, but the concept of how to engage cultures within their own context and recognizing the difficulty of being 21st-century Americans dealing with the writings in early Christian Ireland and similar areas is attempting to turn into a blog post in my head. I'm a bit too distracted with a science fiction convention right now or I'd launch into it.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Gone to the Otherworld

Leigh Ann Hussey, musician, bard, actress, and pagan liturgist, died last night in a motorcycle accident. She was 44 years old.

Magical Acts Ritual Theater, an offshoot of her work in the Oak Line of NROOGD, has a memorial page posted here.

Personally, I knew her more by reputation than direct contact, but she was a friendly and energetic woman. Bright, talkative, and extremely talented in many ways. She will be deeply missed in the San Francisco Bay Area pagan, music, science fiction and filk communities as well as anywhere she touched lives.

What is remembered, lives.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Reality check for the matriarchalists?

Stone Age Britain was hardly a haven for horse-riding patriarchal steppes-dwellers, so I guess this report of violent deaths amongst the people living there at the time must have all been ritual sacrifices. Or faked by the patriarchy in an attempt to use science to hide the truth about the Universal Mother. I'm beyond caring, frankly. Anyone who believes that claiming the lie of the prehistoric matriarchy is so important to their myth they treat it as reality is as bad as a young Earth creationist to my mind. Just as illogical, just as disproven, just as fundamentalist.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

It's all about the PR

Terry Jones, who came to international fame as part of Monty Python's Flying Circus, has turned his hand to historical studies these days. His most recent is of especially keen interest to Celtic Reconstructionists and other European-focused pagans, as he has worked to put the lie to the notion that the Celts (as well as other non-Roman civilizations) were uncouth idiots. The book about this, Barbarians, has been released in the UK with a television series to follow on BBC 2; one can only hope both will land on US shores very soon. This excerpt from the article he wrote about it for the BBC is a faint taste:
The Romans kept the Barbarians at bay for as long as they could, but finally they were engulfed and the savage hordes overran the empire, destroying the cultural achievements of centuries. The light of reason and civilisation was almost snuffed out by the Barbarians, who annihilated everything that the Romans had put in place, sacking Rome itself and consigning Europe to the Dark Ages. The Barbarians brought only chaos and ignorance, until the renaissance rekindled the fires of Roman learning and art.

It is a familiar story, and it’s codswallop.

I expect Mr. Jones to handle the material with scholarly attention as well as a touch of the sort of humor you'd expect from a man who once played a Hammond organ in the nude for laughs.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Growing up can be a good thing

CR used to be a tradition where arguments would split friendships irrevocably. One such led to the formation of the Imbas mailing list from the ashes of a debate on Nemeton-L. I joined the online CR community shortly after that, as memory serves. Since then, I've seen multiple iterations of arguments about everything from clergy within our tradition to three realms vs. four elements, the placement of the sacred cities, and on up to the latest row about male flametenders for Brigid.

The difference with the last argument is that nobody felt the need to flounce out of the forum it happened in to start their own little fiefdom. There are two different groups doing Brigid order building now, but that's a positive thing to my mind. There is a need for diversity if a tradition is to flourish. I've argued we're a living tradition and not an attempt to build a replica of a dead past before. That sort of thing only proves it to me.

The unfortunate truth is not everyone grows up. I've seen people who think it's 1991 in CR and they can act any way they please, only to be shocked to learn their tricks are getting so overused a five-year-old can see them coming. That sort causes schism and continues to do so. I'm at the point where if someone wants to encourage the children, they should sit at that table and quit acting like they're being grownups.

We still have our issues, blatant acts of denial, and petty gamesmanships. But I'm so relieved it's possible to sit down in even an electronic forum and not worry the next words out of my mouth are going to lead to yet another irrevocable blowup.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Why it's lore, not holy writ

It's a good thing Celtic Reconstructionists know better than to take every word written by the monks who wrote about pagan Ireland seriously. Otherwise, we'd have to buy into this segment from The Life of Adamnan and ask ourselves some odd questions:

Cumalach was a name for women till Adamnan come to free them. And this was the cumalach, a woman for whom a hole was dug at the end of the door so that it came over her nakedness. The end of the great spit was placed upon her till the cooking of the portion was ended. After she had come out of that earth-pit she had to dip a candle four man's hands in length in a plate of butter or lard; that candle to be on her palm until division of food and distribution of liquor and making of beds, in the houses of kings and cheiftains, had ended. That women had no share in bag or in basket, nor in the company of the house-master; but she dwelt in a hut outside the enclosure, lest bane from sea or land should come to her chief.

But it's easy when it's obviously propaganda and not the subtler workings, such as some of the odd encodings in the myths. I still wonder if anyone who wants to recreate the "real" old ways will ever be caught taking this one seriously.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Oh, yeah, right...

Yesterday was my blog's first anniversary. Go me for getting there.

And one of these days, I'm moving this to my own domain. Blogspot's been eating older comments I've received. That is not nice. The setup's been done, I have bookmarks telling me how to migrate from this to Wordpress, and the rest is spare time and choosing to apply it. Heh.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Why I don't resent the Christians so much, one in a series

Philobiblon provides a discussion of part of the impact of the pre-Christian Roman invasion of Celtic Britain in What the Romans did TO us (i.e. women). Say what you will about the Roman Catholic Church's attitude toward women, they saved female babies from being treated as disposable. Besides, nobody's yet proven that any Christians performed mass slaughters of Druids (hint: when you see an Irish saint's life story, treat it as propaganda, not historical fact). The Isle of Mona massacre was not run by a bunch of priests.

And in yet another moment of modern innovation for me, I refuse to let history tell me how to react to Nova Romans. I prefer a more balanced perspective on modern times.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

The point and purpose?

I've argued in the past about certain elements of the hagiography of St. Patrick that demonstrate a political intent on the part of its writers. In a far more comprehensive fashion, Lisa Bitel argued for similar approaches to St. Brigit's hagiography in her essay, St. Brigit of Ireland: From Virgin Saint to Fertility Goddess. The timeline of her life story's development and the historical context are a fascinating bit of perspective into what so many of us base our beliefs upon as modern pagans. Some might argue Bitel's perspective is a bit too focused on the idea that the pre-Christian gods of Ireland were closer to a literary invention than legitimate gods, but I'd suggest they keep in mind that to those Christian writers, those gods were not as real as they are to us. Cultural context means so much in all of this.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

The darker side of CR

I've been logically aware of the fact Celtic Reconstructionism is not perfect for the entire time I've been involved with it. I came in as an adult, after all. I know when you put human beings into the mix, you'll wind up with problems. But a recent conversation showed me exactly where we as a tradition are facing severe growing pains.

Many if not most of the people reading this blog are probably aware of the modern orders, both Christian and pagan, who watch over Brigid's flame. From the nuns in the saint's abbey in Kildare to the Daughters of the Flame and Ord Brigideach, the fire that was re-lit in Ireland now burns around the world. I myself am a member of OB and keep a 20-day vigil cycle.

One thing none of the currently extant organizations are is CR. OB and DotF are more generi-pagan. OB has a clear policy of accepting Christians (I can't speak for DotF). This attempt to be all things to all Brigid worshippers leads to a lack of common liturgy and in some respects, a sense of community in the membership in my experience. Others are quite happy there, but I've been backing away from it very slowly aside from lighting the candle when I'm supposed to.

Noises started being made not so long ago about putting together a CR order to keep the flame. Liturgy would be designed, flames distributed to the 19 members, and so forth. This first one is being designed to be all-female in keeping with the pattern established with, at least, the nuns of Kildare. Intellectual honesty compels me to note that there's no hard evidence of the practice starting before the Christians showed up. Nobody's about to ask the nuns to let them do a complex archaeological dig where they have to, say, put their vegetable garden.

Personally speaking, I don't do well in all-female groups unless it's a small social circle of a temporary nature. "Women's space" feels wrong to me, even if only via e-mail. I'm very much female. I just prefer mixed company. So I would not be able to participate in that all-women's CR Brigidine order for long before it got to me. My husband was wanting something similar, so he broached the idea of a gender-blind flamekeeping order in a public space.

I wish I could frame some of the objections in a civil manner. I can't. They weren't civil, even if politely phrased. I don't mean the people who dislike the idea but are willing to admit they aren't Brigid's police force. I might be a bit sad about those, but I'm the last person to expect everyone to agree about how to handle the lore. I mean the ones who started making sweeping pronouncements about how men should never honor Her in that fashion and should be happy with alternate approaches regardless of the call they feel. The fact the nuns of Kildare give the flame to all comers was dismissed as a modern innovation by Roman Catholics who weren't in touch with the real truth behind the ritual.

That's the dark side. The orthodoxy of the convert. Forgetting when it's convenient that we're not working with a set of static images from a dead culture. If an innovation by members of a living Celtic culture is forbidden to members of CR because it contradicts older material, not just something that makes someone uncomfortable but an influence that must be ignored by all right-thinking people, we should stop lying about being willing to engage the modern cultures and make like the Society for Creative Anachronism clone we get accused of being.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Be vewy, vewy quiet...

Humorous twist on the title aside, I'm going to risk being politically incorrect and speak out in favor of Daven and the others I'm aware of who are essaying bunny hunts in pagan fora. Why? Many of the same reasons he cites. Misinformation hurts our image as a valid set of religions. Argue how a bad start can lead to good development all you want, but if that's your response to the hunters, riddle me this. How else are the clueless newbies going to get past the first phase of stupidity? Random flailing, the way the rest of us did? How fair is that? So long as the "hunting" is done with respect, I don't see where the problem is.

We have experienced people in multiple paths, from my own Celtic Reconstructionism to Wicca, Asatru and more, who are able to ease the transition of the uninformed and misinformed to at least disagree with them on a more educated basis. Insisting they should be left alone to stew in their ignorance out of some misinterpretation of kindness is patently ridiculous.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Sloppy studies

I know I'm a bit late to the party in discussing the latest attempt to see if prayer conforms to the scientific method. I still feel like chiming in.

Here's my beef with it. You're talking about attempting to apply the scientific method, which works splendidly for non-sentient forces like gravity, onto a sentient, independently operating entity. It's like attempting to predict humans. You can get autonomic and reflex behaviors pretty well down, but when it comes to the softer stuff, like emotions and whether you can get your neighbor to feed your cat, there are variables science can't eliminate. The will of a deity to act like a performing seal has to be even slipperier than black ice. Frankly, if I were a god and knew those prayers were being done purely in the name of proving my existence, I'd have a bit of fun with it so long as the results didn't mess with the broader picture. And I rather doubt the Christians' god is above such behaviors himself. I respect him as much as I do any god I don't have direct allegiance to. I just find that most gods I deal with like to have their occasional joke. I've seen no evidence that Jehovah's any different. He's just as slaved to the web of nature as the rest of us, too.

The only way I think any prayer studies will ever be trustworthy is if they manage to find a situation in which the targeted deity is required to answer. I don't think that's going to happen.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

It's a sad phenomenon

Those who are paying attention to the appropriate areas of modern American journalism have noticed a fairly steady stream of stories about plagiarism in the mainstream media. In CR circles, we're not immune, unfortunately. All the talk about virtues of the ancestors can't trump the desire for self-aggrandizement through theft with some people. Yellojkt's Foma*: A Plague of Plagiarists focuses on the secular world's problems with it, but the words still hold true. Though I suppose a pagan excuse set would have to include items like, "I was doing automatic writing; I can't help it if the god quoted you."

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Oddly relieved

I came across the Religious Affiliation of Comic Book Characters in my wanderings while home sick from work today. I noticed a few interesting details:

1) The majority of human superheroes are Christian.
2) The vast majority of villains are anti-religious, areligious, or atheist.
3) There's only one listed character who has even a tenuous link to Celtic practices.

The first two don't surprise me, but I think the writers are missing some real opportunities by pandering to mainstream American assumptions like that. The third has me relieved. My Asatruar friends have enough of a love-hate relationship to Marvel's depiction of Asgard's finest as it stands. I'm not sure I want to seek out anything depicting Dr. Druid, though. The description on Marvel's site is more than enough for me.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

So I have promised, so I have done

I said a few months ago that I wanted to put up a post about the misconceptions surrounding St. Patrick that run riot in the neo-pagan world. I just did this little coredump onto an LJ community. I'll share it here as well to prove I wasn't kidding. It's not as scholarly as I had planned, but it covers the message I want to put out well enough.


Let's get this one settled out here and now.

The myths surrounding St. Patrick that need to be squelched have already popped up elsewhere on the Internet this year. Perhaps a bit early; I think the odd winter weather's sprouting them funny.

These are, to my knowledge, the correct statements about the big three misapprehensions about the saint that neo-pagans fling around this time of year and any other time his name comes up. I'm sorry if this runs long; it's a pet peeve of mine.

1) Patrick was not the first Christian in Ireland. He wasn't even the first bishop sent by Rome. That honor went to Palladius, who showed up the year before Patrick did. Best hypothesis is that Christianity first appeared in Ireland sometime in the second or third century of the common era. Palladius was sent to serve as the representative of Rome to those Christians, who were in the south of Ireland. Patrick was sent to start evangelizing the northern Irish. His inflated importance to the Irish Catholic church was due entirely to the Leinster diocese's propaganda. See St. Brigid for the other success of their PR campaign.

2) The snakes he drove out of Ireland were not symbolic of druids, pagans, or goddess worshippers. They were, quite simply, snakes. The tale was lifted from the life story of St. Hilaire, who was said to have evicted the snakes in a section of France, as an explanation of why there are no native snakes in Ireland. That piece of plagiarism explicative text was added in the 10th century. Earliest versions of Patrick's story don't include it. They do, however, include direct claims of him besting druids in magical combat and argument, as well as having druids in his personal retinue. Catholic saints' stories, by and large, do not truck in allegory. To cite a different reptile story, they really did mean to say that St. George killed a dragon. I have never seen anyone who's bothered to study the way Irish saints' lives were written down and embroidered take the snakes to be symbolic of anything. It is a neo-pagan invention to assign that story any degree of symbolism.

3) Most of the druids, and many other pagans, were still around when Patrick died. It took a century or so after his death to finish the conversion process, and it was hardly what you'd call a complete success. This proves he didn't show up with an invading army and cut down all protesters. If he had, I think he'd have been the first Christian martyr of Ireland. They didn't get any blood martyrs there until the Vikings started showing up and poking at monasteries. The conversion process was one of social pressure and legal wrangling to switch power to the churches, not one of swords and bloodshed.

Thank you. Good night. Happy St. Patrick's Day. Please skip the green beer. You don't know where it's been.

Monday, February 27, 2006

The Laws of UPG

I was going to write something else, but the concept of the Laws of Undocumented Personal Gnosis came up during the first one and seemed to be a much better topic than ranting about the Plastic Paddy Racist of the Month (Na Astaraichean, if you want to Google the loon).

The laws, in first draft:
1) No UPG is allowed to contradict known facts about the associated pagan culture and stand as more than a modern invention. It is also probably useless unless you don't care for accuracy.
2) If a UPG does not contradict known facts but cannot be verified within the same body of knowledge, it remains a modern invention. This does not mean it is useless.
3) If a UPG turns out to fit a gap in known tradition in a fashion that does not activate the first law, it is worth pursuing further.
4) If a UPG that meets the second or third law is arrived at by people who have had no real contact with each other, it remains modern but is Shared. This means the group just may be getting somewhere interesting.
5) If a UPG becomes a SPG and said SPG is adopted outside of the groups who first thought of it, it becomes a modern tradition.
6) There is no way for a UPG to become Ancient Lore unless it is kept mostly intact for at least 1,000 years.

Any refinements that y'all might want to suggest, leave them in comments. I'll be grateful.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Time to blog?

I'm at Pantheacon this weekend. Time to blog is at a very tight premium accordingly.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Personal bits update

The contract-to-hire position I mentioned late last month is reaching the "to-hire" part next week. It's a very good environment for me. My boss is mellow about my paganism as far as she's been exposed to it (my description of Pantheacon was met with, "Oh, that sounds pretty cool"), the company encourages its people to do more than act like a cog, and I see lots of room for growth in my career there. They know I blog. They don't care as long as I'm not divulging company secrets or abusing company time to post.

This does mean my thoughts of migrating to a different blogging software package and domain are in abeyance for now, though. I'm not chafing at this setup so much that my lesser quantity of free time is crying to be sacrificed on that particular altar.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

A lovely debunking

Every so often, Barry Fell's claims about ogam in the United States come around. Monroe Oppenheimer and William Wirtz did those of us who have large issues with Fell a big favor by laying out exactly where he went completely off the deep end.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

New with potential

Brehon Law Project is a new blog which looks to serve as an adjunct to the website and real-life symposia on the subject. I hope it lasts a good long time.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Personal note

If any of you are planning on being at Pantheacon this year, I'll be around. My husband and I co-edit the convention newsletter. We're also participating in two rituals. On Friday night, we'll be working the Pomba Gira ritual. I'll be on stage helping with the singing. Sunday evening's Brigid ritual includes me as one of the three Brigids. Both promise to be excellent, even if I do say so myself. I'll also be hovering around from place to place, as is my wont at Pantheacon.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Identity politics of a different sort

One of the more personally disheartening divides in modern Celtic paganism is over the matter of gay rights. One individual who identifies as Gaelic Traditionalist (I'm led to believe some GTs would rather he stop making them look stupid, thus the dodge language) recently snarked that "the bridge crew of the USS CR" hauled its personal politics into Celtic religion along with them. I put it as "them" because I wasn't there for the start of it. I just happen to agree wholeheartedly with keeping Celtic reconstructionism a safe place to be queer.

In a large respect, the pro-gay stance of CR/senistrognata is indeed an import with no easy proof our ancestors would have felt comfortable about it. Same-sex marriage was impossible under brehon law, albeit for heavily biological reasons. Marriage and children were linked to where some of the lesser degrees of it were designed to protect the interests of both the mother and the offspring gotten by a one-night stand or a rape. Brehon law is mostly silent on the topic of homosexuality. The modern concept of a queer identity was non-existent then. But the fact some people had same-sex relations was well known. One of the valid grounds for divorce under brehon law was discovering your spouse was only interested in having sex with members of their own gender. My readings in early Irish Christian penitentials has led me to discover very specific descriptions of same-sex activities that were frowned upon by the Church, so the behavior was religiously proscribed under that tradition. But the pre-Christian attitude in Ireland is not noted.

Greek writings about the behavior of Gaulish soldiers may shed some light, though. Those men had no problem with at least situational homosexuality with little respect for military rank in their choice of partners. We're not talking Theban pair-bonding, which was blatantly pederastic. The writer made it sound as if the soldiers' idea of a good night off would be fit for a Castro District porn store shelf. Was it just because the women weren't there? Quite possibly. But that to me indicates a more flexible attitude toward sexual behavior than that of modern times. Your average American male would see extended time away from women as a reason to learn new variations on what his dominant hand can do. I've also seen a translation of Roman graffiti in which one man declared he was abandoning all attempts at dating women in favor of men. No identity labels were involved, just a statement of behavior.

It would be easy to romanticize the situation based on scanty evidence. At the same time, I am hard put to see where refusing to treat queers as equals is inherently more Celtic than embracing the concept. And if it's more Celtic to sneer at the notion of supporting rights for all regardless of sexual orientation or identity, then I think I'd rather be American for that aspect of my beliefs. Self-hatred is quite definitely not one of the Celtic virtues, and I know what I'd rather be Gaelically incorrect about.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

A small poke at presumption

Circle Jerk at the Square Dance invites people to play Spot the persecution. I see in this both a critique of the fundamentalist right wing of modern Christianity and perhaps an unsubtle reminder to some of my fellow pagans about the difference between social difficulty and persecution.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Personal update

I am about to start a contract-to-hire position performing software QA at a startup. I realize I've been a once-a-week poster already, but it's possible this will drop even further down my priority list depending on how the rest of my life fares around my day job. It may be a hiccup where I only do the first three weeks and the company decides I'm not worth keeping after all. I may have more leisure at the job than I've been warned about. Either way, I wanted to make note of the change in case I get even more quiet than usual here. I'll try to maintain some contact with blogging, though. I've been enjoying this.

Friday, January 13, 2006

They will know we are pagans by... what?

I mentioned in my last entry that I've embarked on a dedication to Manannán mac Lir. One of the conditions of the dedication is my wearing a symbol of it on a daily basis. After due meditation, I chose a mermaid as the symbol. Other events confirmed that I chose properly. So far, there's been no reaction to my wearing one around my neck. I recently added what I will charitably call a fan art cloisonne pin of Jessica Rabbit as a mermaid to my purse to make sure I have a mermaid no matter what (I sometimes forget to wear the necklace). But should someone ask why, I am duty-bound to answer.

This leads me to contemplate what it means to have a closer walk with my god and being more open about it than I used to be. It's sensitizing me to how others approach it in their lives. I'm one of the last people to think we need to evangelize the unfaithful. One of the aspects of my tradition that I appreciate is how we don't think we have all the answers. And I know there are people in situations where being out isn't a wise idea. But I think some of us, myself included, can be too cautious about this.

I live in one of the most liberal areas of the United States. I am also primarily surrounded by free-thinkers in my social circles, whether they're pagan, atheist, Christian or Jewish. I still get touchy about revealing some bits of my beliefs. That's common in pagan circles. I see people online who claim to be pagan but never discuss their faith, even in their own blogs. There's a wide difference between admitting what some of your beliefs are and sharing oathbound material, but some pagans don't seem to want to do even that much

I do know there are places where it isn't safe to admit much. But as with the gay rights movement, which I've had contact with longer than I've been a pagan, the question comes down to this: how long does keeping silent act as a safeguard, and how long does it act like a means of maintaining the status quo? Does our refusal to admit what we are perpetuate the reasons to keep it to ourselves? And when does the burden of speaking the truth outweigh other considerations?

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Notes and meditations

Neopagan fundamentalism is as hateful, vindictive and closed-minded as any other religion's. The only real difference between the neopagan form and the larger faiths' approaches is that there is no such thing as a neopagan-run organization with enough weapons to do anything more than take over a 7-Eleven. At least not this week.


In a semi-related sense, I'm debating whether the label "pagan" is properly applied to me. I don't mean I'm returning to Christianity. I mean whether it's appropriate for a Celtic reconstructionist to use the term. Is it reclaiming in the sense that "queer" is being reclaimed, or is it muddying the issue? I may revisit this later.


I forgot to mention that I'm now on a year and a day dedication to Manannan mac Lir. I can't predict what that will mean to this blog, though I suspect it'll continue in some form. I won't be changing the name. That's already been discarded as a meaningless idea.