Thursday, 31 July 2008
Tuesday, 22 July 2008
First of all, at baptism my parents and godparents undertook vows to school me in the ways of Christ, and affirmed that they repent of their sins and renounce evil/satan. Well, its up to them as to whether they upheld those values. Nothing was required of me at the time, so I consider I have not broken faith with anyone in this regard.
However, my confirmation is another matter. I undertook that myself, though not necessarily of my own free will. I attended a convent and, before we made our way to high school, we were required to take our confirmation. I wasn't too enamoured with the whole process, but I really had no alternative, being 11 years of age. I did choose a confirmation name; one that fitted with my other names and had nothing at all to do with the saint I most admired. I did choose my sponsor; a neighbour whose outlook on life was wonderful, not because he was devout. I do remember mumbling through most of the service, but not being very happy about all the hours we undertook working towards it.
It was the same for my first confession, in which I rattled off things I thought the priest might expect from someone my age, not what I really thought, i.e. that the whole thing was a farce. My communion was no different. I was a child and my parents, and, more especially my grandparents, had expectations of me. I fulfilled those as a dutiful grand/daughter, but most of what I did as a Catholic was done with my fingers crossed from the age of 5 when I first attended school and figured out life was far more complicated than the church, and the bible, would have you believe.
At 19, I held a little, itsy bitsy ceremony and renounced my religion. No-one was in attendance, and I didn't renounce deity, just the whole Catholic system. I felt it was the only thing I could do, even though I knew several good people who were devout Catholics, including my Aunty Pat (as she is affectionately known), a woman so kind, so giving, so forgiving she ought to be cannonised before her demise and my school principal, Sister Marcella who tried desperately to reconcile the bible with origin of species theory. I had no faith left in the Church, and the majority of its members seemed such hypocrites. The priests were often drunk, moaned about not having enough money for the church repairs whilst driving around town in a large Mercedes, and employing a full time housekeeper, despite a convent full of nuns living opposite. Certainly, it seemed as though they were never short of a good meal, nor did the nuns for that matter. My own grandmother would steal flowers from people's gardens on her way home from church.
Everything I read about the religion into which I had been baptised seemed false and I could no longer stomach it. I was an adult, supporting a family of four and felt I was able to choose for myself. So, one day I decided to voice my feelings.
Of the questions I was asked and what I was required to say, things have moved on a bit - to say the very least. I don't repent my sins, as I am not sure what a sin is anymore. I turn away from Christ, as a deity. I know he lived; its recorded, but he is not my idea of a god incarnate. I don't reject evil, either. I accept it is a part of our world. I believed this when I took confirmation, too, so its an odd question to answer. The only one I did not answer honestly (at the time of my confirmation) was accepting Christ into my life, because I didn't though I said I did. Once I left primary school, our family seemed to abandon regular church attendance altogether and I had a feeling that might be on the cards, but I went along with the rest of the congretation and answered in the affirmative.
So, do I consider I've broken vows? No.
I felt I undertook the whole process under duress in the first place; I certainly wasn't sure about what I was being asked to do, and I never took the process seriously, even if others did. Certainly, the Christian god does not appear to have punished me for leaving the Church. I have a feeling he might be disappointed with the Catholics, and if he had a choice, he'd probably renounce all affiliations with them, too.
Thursday, 17 July 2008
Seachd (also known as The Crimson Snowdrop outside of the United Kingdom) is the first ever Scots Gaelic feature film and what a film it is. The tag line, "The truth is in the story" sums up the movie well. Its hard to explain what the movie is about as there are so many themes running through it. The main relationship is between Aonghas and his grandfather, with whom he goes to stay, along with his sister, Mairi and brother, Donnchadh. The grandfather regails the children with his tales of times past whenever he gets a chance. Aonghas is not enamoured with these fictitious offerings and seeks the truth ... about his parent's death and his grandfather's stories.
The movie is wholly in gaelic and its wonderful to hear the language spoken, but no different from watching a foreign film. Filmed entirely on Skye, the landscape features heavily in the movie, as does history spanning centuries of tales. For those that know the myths, legends and folklore of Scotland, some of the tales will be recognisable; only one having been written especially for the movie - the tale of the crimson snowdrop. Each tale is clearly distinguishable in terms of the flow of the language, the colour scheme and the storytelling, a result of involving several writers, directors and actors. I have to say that I almost wanted the whole movie to be full of the grandfather's stories.
The music is wonderful and the stories are engrossing. One of the main themes is about the importance of keeping culture alive through language - stories, music, etc. and this is clearly spelled out without detracting from the main storyline itself. Its a wonderfully woven piece of film making and with every viewing something new is revealed - it has that kind of depth.
It's a wonderful movie for all ages, though it does carry a PG rating. I had a few quibbles watching this film, but they are insignificant in comparison to the level of enjoyment this film provides.
If you don't speak Gaelic, subtitles are provided in English, Irish and Scots Gaelic on the DVD. Also provided are interviews in both English and Gaelic. As a bonus, the DVD also contains the original short of the story of the Crimson snowdrop - well worth watching.
Wednesday, 16 July 2008
What's got me thinking is that this is the third rabbit in odd circumstances. The other week, after staying late to do some personal work, I was travelling home along a busy A road about 45 minutes after sunrise, only to see two rabbits grazing happily on the footpath outside the local B&Q (DIY centre). I had to wonder what had brought them there as there were plenty of out of the way fields where they could remain undisturbed. Again, I think I was pretty much on my own apart from a truck that had passed a few minutes before.
We have plenty of rabbits on the fields around us, but these three appeared in some very odd places and both sightings occurred while I was in the car travelling to work. I'm not one for seeing the obvious signs, but perhaps I should look into this a little more - or am I just taking things out of all proportion?
Tuesday, 15 July 2008
Thursday, 10 July 2008
"The (gods) that cause the most pain in your particular arse won't let you not talk to them, so just get on with it and quit moaning."
Why? Because I would like to know which of the gods I'm not talking to enough to deserve the gargantuan pains in my arse.
Wednesday, 9 July 2008
I was unable to feel spiritually connected to my land of birth, so I felt I had no other choice but to leave. I wonder, though, how others on a similar path to me cope being in a foreign land? I know of several druid and other celtic style groups in Australia, but if they ever experience a feeling of being disconnected?
I know the Vikings tooks their gods with them, whilst the Roman would mix and match, sometimes bringing their own, but often appeasing the local gods. I am not sure how connected they felt to their own gods being such long distances from their home. I know they continued to honour and worship, but was that just out of habit, or did their gods really travel with them?
I know some immigrants to my land of birth brought other gods and spirits and these did have an impact, but mostly in the cities and suburbs. Even so, those that you might encounter seemed out of place in the landscape.
I did feel it important to travel to the land of my forebears and to try and establish connections to them and to the genius loci of their birth place. Its important to me and something I put ahead of my work and even my family. I do wonder - is that going too far?
How far would the readers of this blog travel, I wonder.
Tuesday, 8 July 2008
Monday, 7 July 2008
Do we need them? Yes, we do. We need them in everyday life and we need them to define ourselves, our beliefs and our practices. Its no good saying, "Well, one person's polytheist is another's animist".
I am not a skyscraper just because I am taller than most erections. I am not a freezer just because I have been known to give people the cold shoulder. I am a human being, I am a woman.
Each word in the English language has a basic definition that most can comprehend, allowing for differences in dialect and dictionaries. Hence, I feel its important to keep those definitions when talking with other people. This is my reasoning behind not borrowing terms from other cultures and traditions. It just muddles things for those trying to understand the differences.
So, when someone says they are a druid, you can assume that they adhere to a broad spectrum of practices amongst modern druids, can't you? Well, no. Not in today's pagan circles you can't. I have my own definitions, based on what I know of history, archaeology, relevant texts, the Oxford dictionary and my experience of those, of my acquaintance, who are tryng to follow the path of the ancient druids. Unfortunately, my definition does not seem to be the same as others; thus giving occasion for my posts of last week.
So, when you seen the word "pagan" before any other word, do not assume that the definition of the latter word is unaltered. It ain't always what it says on the tin.
Friday, 4 July 2008
I have to wonder what Wica initiates have done to earn such disrespect from the pagan community at large?
Why, too, do people feel the need to borrow practices that have no real value, such as the use of words like "blessed be"? Is it really going to make all that difference to your life? I have to admit I am not fond of those people who use the term "Namaste", either. Having practiced yoga, I used the term in class with my teacher and fellow students, but never took it outside. It wasn't relevant to the everyday man on the street in a western civilisation.
I can understand borrowing magical techniques from other traditions, as I follow the maxim: "If it works, use it". But why the need for elaborate, high theatre ritual if its not necessary? Okay, if it gets you in the mood, so to speak, but still why not concoct your own based on your own experience of energy, instead of borrowing from others?
I've noticed, too, there are trends in pagan circles. When I first entered the scene in the United Kingdom, and on the internet, everyone wanted to be associated with Wica. So much so, that the term became interchangeable with witch. You just couldn't get away from the word or the practices. Traditional witchcraft seemed a dirty word - this might have been because of the release of Professor Ronald Hutton's book [who knows?] and everyone wanted to link themselves to Gardner or Sanders without being an initiate.
Recently, the trend turned more towards druidism, the most common reason for converting being because "it has less dogma". I find this a little laughable given the druids of old had to learn large tracts of law, history and poetry by rote and their training could be up to 20 years long. They were the keepers of lore and law for their clan, often judging what, when, where and how to approach matters. So, I presume there was a certain amount of dogma.
Over the last few months, I've heard reports from those that frequent pagan-lite boards, moots and events that there is an increasing propensity for pagans to claim to be atheist, and the numbers are rising. So, obviously this is the next big thing. I don't mind as I don't believe you have to believe in any deity, or even the possibility of deity existing to be a pagan.
What I do mind is the fact that these things seem to follow in trends. It was one of the reasons I completely ignored anything "celtic" (if you'll excuse the term being used outside of its strictly linguistic context). Everything appeared to be tinged with the celtic motif: reiki, Wica, shamanism ... and the list goes on. The majority of my own ancestors are Irish, but I took the Anglo-Saxon route and follow my English ancestors rather than delve into the apparently kitsch world of celtic pagan traditions; none of it seemed authentic to me anyways (and that's apart from the ancient potato goddess of Ireland), and the modern druids appeared to be too New Age for me, a scene I had long abandoned.
It was only an encounter with a particular entity that forced me to re-examine my beliefs and change tack. I was loathe to do it, but I dived in regardless. This time, however, I dove into a very different pool and came up breathing the air of my ancestors.
I don't call myself a druid, or even a druid-in-training, as I have no intention of going back to law school, or taking part in overt political actions. I do have every intention of learning the myths and lore of my ancestors as thoroughly as I can. I also don't call myself Irish, I'm not. I'm not Scottish either, though that is where my true interest lies. Nor do I align myself with the Brythonic traditions, though they also form part of my studies. [Note: If you want to truly get to grips with all the history, myth and folklore of any of the people defined as the Q-Celtic or P-Celtic cultures, you need to read the texts from the various countries in order to gain the right perspective, or so I am told.]
I refer to myself as a bog-standard pagan for the most part, adding (hard) polytheist for further definition. Depending on my audience, I might also use the label "(practicing) witch". That should be enough for most people to understand my point of origin.
On another note, why do so many authors think its okay to borrow the work of others, rework it and republish it as their own? Its quite obvious, in some cases, that they've not even practiced what they preach and the lack of experience shows. I recently read one post where someone claims a well-known authoress of wikkan books admitted to them that they had got all of the material for their first book from internet sources. I have never known so much plagiarism to be okay. One author of witchcraft books, Paul Huson, even has a link on his website to report those who are peddling his book around the internet illegally as "Mastering the Dark Arts: A Practical Grimoire for Witches, Warlocks and Covens" and, more brazenly, in its original format.
I've also noticed a propensity for members of pagan message boards to "cut and paste" huge swathes of texts from other sites in response to queries, rather than posting an original thought. The idea that message boards are full of armchair pagans was one I had dismissed until I saw all the links in posts being pasted.
Copyright issues seem to be side-stepped by administrators and moderators of these fora, too. The number of times I've brought this to the attention of those in charge only to have no action taken and, often, no response to my query. I've even resorted to contacting the authors and informing them of the breach.
So much for the honour that so many pagans purport to espouse.
So ends today's rant!
Sorry folks. Its been one of those months where some unsavoury practices have come to light, both personally and for friends. I prefer to write things down otherwise I can spend hours, days and weeks mulling over my thoughts. Thanks for being patient and keep the comments coming, please.
Wednesday, 2 July 2008
If only every language had a book like this you could read before undertaking a course in said language.
This is a slim volume, but packed full of useful information, including a brief history of the development of the Gaelic language, pronunciation, why letters are pronounced a certain way, and why it appears this language using more letters than others. Accents are explained as are long and short vowels, the changes for past/present/future tense, prepositions, counting (the old fashioned way) and differences in dialect and a likely explanation as to why they might occur. There is also explanations for words imported from other languages and their spelling and pronunciation.
All of which information gives you a head start when trying to read what's being spoken by your tutor, or sounded from your CD/computer. It all makes much more sense now and I don't feel so lost wondering where the sound originates.
Although this book is only 80 pages long, its a great reference and I will keep it close by whilst I learn Gaelic until I have its contents memorized and can fumble my way through written text, confidently sounding out the words using McLennan's explanations as a guide.
Tuesday, 1 July 2008
"Note: My definition of a 'fluffy bunny' is one who only reads one author, or books from one publishing house, or one internet site and sets it up as the one and only authority, refusing to be challenged on fact or experience, and informing all others they are wrong to call themselves pagan/witch/druid/heathen/whatever if they don't follow the guidelines as defined by them. These are the people who scream louder when challenged, drowning out any reasonable discussion with cries of 'persecution'."
There are a few things I should add to the definition, as I read the comments left on the post about my intolerance of bicce and bitchcraft.
I would like to include those people who shove love and light down everyone's throats, or "blessed be", without realising this is used by Wica in address to or from the priest/ess. It is not a general greeting to be plastered at the end of every post and used in real life - something I have grown to despise. Same goes for "merry meet" and "merry part", which also have specific uses, but seem to have become a general greeting for all pagans.
Anyone who talks about the triple moon, or wears that symbol, or uses it in a post, also comes under the term fluffy bunny - it has four phases, not three. Full, waning, dark, and waxing. Of course, this might be because most people have no undergone second degree initiation in Wica and learned about dark aspects. They see the lovely Wica crowns for sale in shops or on the internet, adopt the symbol and have no idea what it means, they just copy it out.
Anyone who refers to casting a circle and then calling the four corners. Basic mathematics should help you figure out that there aren't four corners in a circle. People who believe you need 13 people to form a coven, or four (one from each element of the eastern astrological system), or any other tripe borrowed from the cinema, including those elusive eye/hair colour changing spells.
Anyone who bangs on about millions of witches being burned, also known as "The Burning Times" is definitely a fluffy bunny. In UK history, most convictions were not for witchcraft itself; witchcraft was the means to an end, such as theft, assault and murder. So, people would be convicted for murder (by witchcraft) and, usually, sentenced to hanging. In Europe, there were some burnings, I believe, but not in the numbers often spouted about on pagan sites.
There is a project underway where court records are to be examined and numbers collated, but estimates are in the region of 30,000 not millions. What's more, if you read some of the original documents in some of these cases, people were convicted and sentenced, but for various reasons, the sentence was never carried out. Some died awaiting their fate, some escaped and others just seem to fade out of history.
Fluffy Bunnies are those that insist that wicca is an ancient religion; its not. The term wicce/wicca was use in Old English to refer to a witch, but it was out of common useage (apart from Tolkien's use in the fictional Lord of the Rings series wherein he resurrected a lot of terms long out of use in common English) when Mr. Gerald Gardner adopted it for his faith. There is only the remotest chance that any ancient magical practices have survived the onslaught of the christian faith in the English-speaking world. Written records of the same are likely to be scarcer then hen's teeth.
Anyone referring to Wica as a nature-based religion. Its not. Its a fertility religion. Oh, and while we are on the subject, modern druids say their religion is nature-based, but it was not exactly so for the historical druids. Their role was less religious and more about upholding the lore/law of their people; even the kings were answerable to them.
I don't do crystals, but I can understand some people's attraction to them. Yes, I wear them in jewellery, because I wear silver, not gold and semi-precious stones are routinely used by silversmiths when crafting jewellery, the more expensive stones being reserved for gold. I am fully aware most of these will have been blasted out of the earth's crust in a rather violent manner. That's why I don't consider crystals good for magic and/or healing; they are part of the earth's destruction. However, anyone that says they left a crystal as an offering, either at a megalith or other sacred site, or as payment for some gift, also gets termed a "fluffy bunny". Think about it? Leaving a crystal that has been blasted out of the earth in South America is not, I repeat not a suitable offering for a local diety or spirit.
And, while we are on the subject, neither are those tealights. The aluminium is rubbish and should be taken away with you, in case it causes harm to local wildlife and, quite apart from taking millenia to break down, the wax can cause damage if it melts and hits the grass below; in some instances, can damage stones, too. Flowers, not picked locally aren't suitable either. Actually, forget flowers as the chemicals they release upon breaking down can also be damaging to historical sites. Its always best to observe the maxim: "Leave it as you found it", i.e. take away everything you brought with you.
Actually, even some thoughts and energies are unwelcome. The number of times I've heard of outsiders infringing on local areas thinking they have a right to them. Then begins the warden wars - arguments as to who are the true protectors of a particular site or area.
Have to say, too, that those that wear those lovely velvet, fairy tale dresses for ritual, as opposed to living history displays, etc. mostly fall into the "fluffy bunny" category. Look, I don't mind if you enjoy wearing that style of clothing - I would if it suited me and I was going to a fancy dress party - but its hardly suitable for ritual, certainly the kind of ritual a velvet-clad group are likely to perform using candles, cauldrons, incense, etc., as all those long sleeves are likely to catch fire (and, I've certainly heard of this happening to the odd HPS and HP at public rituals). [See "Coarse Witchcraft: Craft Working" and "Coarse Witchcraft: Carry on Crafting" for accounts of mishaps in rituals.] While we are on the subject of dress, wearing a pentacle the size of a saucepan will get you labelled "fluffy". I do have a small, silver, pentacle charm that sits amongst many other charms on a bracelet, which generally goes unnoticed. Its only meaning for me is that it is associated with witchcraft through the ages, as are all the charms on that particular bracelet, but may soon be removed in favour of charms with a more personal connection to my personal beliefs.
Dressing in black does not make you a dark pagan, either. It makes you a goth and, in some instances, a "fluffy black bunny", especially if you follow one particular author on night magic(k), whom shall remain nameless.
This bring me to my next point. Using the spelling magick, as opposed to magic, whilst neither a follower of Crowley or numerology, but rather to distinguish the term from sleight of hand magic, would render you a "fluffy bunny", too. Actually, spelling in general can be a problem. The use of fae and/or faerie when referring to fairies or the sidhe is also rather odd, as are misspellings like wytchcrafte. Fake olde worlde spelling does not make you any more of a witch or pagan, it does make you more of a prat. If it's a question of a user name on a message board or url address, I can understand it as names are quickly snapped up - I've had to resort to it in the past - but misspelling in posts, emails and/or general text is just ridiculous.
In my opinion, so is anyone who believes that fairies are those elegant, sweet, small, winged creatures of Victorian or Lady Cottington's storybooks. Think of the fairies in Episode 5, Series 1 of Torchwood ("Small Worlds") and you getting closer to the truth, those the design was a bit crass.
Those that say they are a witch, but don't practice magic, or those who state witchcraft is a religion (it's not) I also consider fluff bunnies . Witchcraft is just that, a craft, a practice. Wicca is a religion and, even if you are American, do not use the terms witchcraft and Wicca interchangeably; it confuses everyone. Anyone who says they are Wica, Wicca, or Wiccan without being an initiate of a valid, lineaged (Gardnerian/Alexandrian) coven is also a fluffy bunny. Fact: unless you are an initiate of such a coven, you are merely a follower of practices derived from published materials on Wic(c)a, you are not a Wiccan yourself.
Referring to yourself as a vegetarian Norse Wiccan will also get you lumped into the fluffy bunny league. Why? Because Wica is separate from Norse Heathenism and I don't know many heathen vegetarians myself; it appears to go agains the historical grain (if you'll pardon the pun). Same goes for things like Celtic Reiki and/or Celtic Shamanism. Professor Ronald Hutton has done a rather nice book on what shamanism is and isn't. Oh, and otherkin and their ilk are also quite fluffy, not to mention delusional.
Just to be clear: I do not refer to newcomers to witchcraft, Wic(c)a, druidry, heathenism or other paths that fall under the umbrella of paganism as fluffies. When first starting out along a pagan path, there is an array of misinformation in various forms of media that is hard to bypass. However, during interactions with the general pagan community, people will inform a newcomer that the path they are on is usally based on facts (historical and scientific) and substantiated personal gnosis ("SPG") and offer a critical assessment of the newcomers's beliefs and/or practices, challenging the newcomer to learn and grow. If said newcomer then proceeds to ignore the valid information offered to them, choosing instead to spout the inaccurate statements they've read or the unsubstantiated personal gnosis they've adopted, then, to my mind, they are also fluffy. If someone cannot accept reasoned, factual arguments, choosing instead to opt for misinformation and delusions, then so be it.
I don't believe pagans have to be tolerant. Albeit the Romans adopted local gods, so as not upset them when travelling in their territory, and heathens and celts often traded alongside one another, not every pagan was tolerant of every other pagan's views, practices or gods. For instance, the path I have chosen holds truth above all else. So if I encounter people who are not willing to accept a proven historical fact in place of some pseudo-feminist BS, then I'm not going to waste my time on them. I'll argue to a point, and then give up and leave them to their own stupidity and me to mine (I'm not perfect and make no pretence of it, either; I'm as ignorant as anyone else).
Things I don't consider fluffy:
- being eclectic;
- mixing pantheons;
- observing a goddess only;
- all newcomers to witchcraft, Wic(c)a, druidry, heathenism or other paths that fall under the umbrella of paganism; and
- tree hugging;
- a belief in sidhe;
- New Age enthusiasts;
- vegetarians and/or vegans;
- any of the exceptions of mentioned in my text above; and
- [anything I might like to add at a later date].
[Note: Any initiated, lineaged (Gardnerian/Alexandrian) Wic(c)a are welcome to comment on the correct use of words and/or symbols as I am no expert.]