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.