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.