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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Noínden Ulaid

Ailiter: Machae dano ben Chruind meic Agnoman doriacht and do comrith fri heacha Concobair, ar atbert an fer ba luaithiu a bean. Amlaid dano bói in ben, is hi inbadhach, cor chuinnigh cairde coro thoed a brú, ocus ni tucad di, ocus dognith in comrith iarum, ocus ba luaithem si, ocus o ro siacht (cenn) in céiti beridh mac ocus ingen - Fir ocus Fial a n-anmand - ocus atbert co mbedis Ulaid fo ceis óited in cach uair dus-ficfad eicin. Conid de bái in cess for Ulltaib fri re nomaide o flaith Concobair co flaith Mail meic Rochraidhe, ocus atberet ba hí sin Grian Banchure ingen Midir Brí Léith, ocus atbeb iar suidhiu, ocus focresa a fert i nArd Machae ocus focer a guba ocus roclannuadh a líae. Unde Ard Macha
  - Prose Dindshenchas

 Furthermore: Macha, moreover, wife of Chruind son of Agnoman who arrived there to race against the horses of Concobar, because her husband had said his wife is quicker. Thus moreover was the woman, she is due for delivery, she seeks a surety compact* to bring forth her womb, and none is given, and she is brought to race therefore, and she is the quicker, and when she reaches the (head of) the assembly she bears a son and a daughter - Fir [True] and Fial [Honorable] were their names - and she said that the Ulaid would be under a complaint of youth in each when their enemies compelled them. Therefore was this debility on the Ulaid for nine days and nine nights  from the rule of Concobar to the rule of Mail son of Rochraidhe, and it is said she was Grian Banchure [Sun of Womanhood] daughter of Midir of [the sí of] Brí Léith, and she died then after that and they put her burial mound in Ard Macha and performed her mourning lament and placed her stone. Whence Ard Macha [Macha's Height].


*cor chuinnigh cairde might possibly also be read as "she seeks a heart friendship" or something similar. The words can mean both a legal respite or mercy, and should perhaps be understood as both. 

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Translation Tidbits 2

I'm in the middle of writing my fourth novel but I thought you all might enjoy some miscellaneous translation tidbits. These are some of my favorite short pieces from a variety of sources.

Sonus lomma is lenna lir,
buáid comairle in cech caingin,
búaid comperta, clú co mbail,
búaid creiche adiu, buáid slúagaid.
Trí lán ma chluic d'usci úar
do chur esti a n-agaid slúag,
innreth t'innse tairis sin
- Betha Colmáin maic Lúacháin

Luck of milk and plentiful beer,
Victory of counsel in every matter,
Victory of judgments, fame with good luck,
Victory raiding henceforth, victory of hosts
three full good bells of cold water
Your horse-champions towards the faces of the host
Injury to those there forth



Trí coiri bíte in cach dúini: coire érma, coire goriath, coire áiged
- Triads of Ireland

Three cauldrons are in every person: a cauldron of motion, a cauldron of warming*, a cauldron of honor
* goriath is uncertain and may also mean "piousness" giving us a cauldron of motion, a cauldron of piety, and a cauldron of honor (literally "face")


Ré secht mbliadan Nuadat narsheng
Osin chuanairt chéibfind
Flathius ind fir chichmair chuilfind
Ria tiachtain in Hérind
I Maig Thuiredh, truim co trucha,
I torchair cuing in chatha,
Do cosnamaid bán in betha -
Ro lead a lám flatha.
- Lebor Gabala Erenn, vol 4

A space of seven years noble, graceful Nuada
Over a fair-haired warrior-pack
Ruled the greatly keen, fair-tressed man
Before going to Ireland
In Maige Tuired, heavy with doom,
By chance burden in the battle
From the bright defender of life -
Hacked off was his arm of sovereignty.


Fírinde inár croidhedhaibh ocus nertt inár lámhaibh, ocus comall inár tengthaibh - Acallam na Senórach

Truth in our hearts, and strength in our arms, and fulfillment of duty in our tongues


Ní dlig ferann fer cen treoir,
ní dlig degairm fer cen gliaid,
ní dlig cerchaill cenn co mbeoil,
ní dlig feoil fer cen scíain.
- marginalia Harleian 5280

Not deserving of land is a man without action
Not deserving of armoring is a man without battle skill
Not deserving of a pillow is a greasy head
Not deserving of meat is a man without a knife


Ad·fenar fó fíu.
Ad·fenar olcc anmoínib.
Ad·fenar maith moínib.
-          Cethairshlicht Athgabálae

Good is repaid by worthiness
Bad is repaid by un-treasures
Excellence is repaid by treasures

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Crossing Lines

  As my regular readers know I almost never get political on this blog. I try to avoid that sort of thing because, quite frankly, that's not what this blog is for.
   However, there's been a recent issue coming up in the wider pagan community*, which is itself just another verse of an older song, relating to elders in paganism making comments that are exclusionary and prejudiced. And that particular issue is more or less concurrent with another hate crime committed by people who may be associated with both White Supremacy and American Asatru. And honestly, yes I'm biased in both cases as someone who is non-binary gendered and who has a Heathen Kindred that includes someone of non-European ancestry, but I'm also just tired of it. And I'm tired of seeing so very many people in the community defending attitudes that exclude minorities with comments like "Yes, but they can have their own communities" and "Yes, but people are set in their ways and shouldn't be expected to change.". What I see is people - usually people not directly effected by the exclusions - making excuses and justifications.
   Seriously, people? That's asinine. I've been kicking around the pagan community for more than two decades and one thing that's always been true, until recently, was that paganism - in general - was a place for outsiders, for boundary pushers, for the minority of the minority. Have we really forgotten our own history so completely? Do we not remember when we were the ones who weren't accepted, weren't tolerated by mainstream society at all? We have a long, long history as a religious movement of pushing other people out of their comfort zones, of saying that we deserve acceptance because we exist, and in existing we have the same rights as everyone else. But now we're going to turn around and say within our own religions that doesn't apply to everyone? I realize some of these problems, especially racism in Asatru, have deep roots, but the hypocrisy needs to be addressed. We can't simultaneously have an attitude that says the rest of society must accept us and give us equal treatment, while refusing to do the same within our own community. We're letting lines be drawn when we, as a wider community have always been about crossing lines.
    I'm not generally against individual groups being able to choose who can and can't join. I'm not against groups controlling membership based on criteria they choose when that criteria makes sense in the context of the group. Individual groups are complex and group dynamics influence these things. An Irish pagan group only including people who follow Irish paganism, makes sense. A Heathen Kindred that is only open to people who honor Norse gods makes sense. A group that includes children choosing to exclude registered sex offenders is common sense. A private group that only lets in people who mesh well with existing members is one thing; a public group that wants to be public but also exclude is another. Groups have specific definition that establish who they are and create boundaries. But, no the color of someone's skin, their ethnicity, their sexual orientation, or their gender identity should not be a factor.
    Being Heathen isn't about having a certain amount of Germanic ancestry, or a certain skin color. Being a woman isn't about having a uterus or a certain chromosome combination. Just like being Pagan isn't about having the biggest pentacle (or Thor's hammer, or triskele or whatever). It's what's inside that defines us, and its always been what's inside that defines us. For people who so poetically say that our connection to our religion, to our Gods, is something internal that we feel we can't turn around and shift those goal posts to say that suddenly what's inside doesn't matter as much as what's outside.
    And if you are going to be a public figure than you are accepting the burden that comes with that, which includes the scrutiny and having your words given more weight than other peoples. If you are considered an elder then you should strive to be someone worth looking up to - or don't look for that position. When you speak publicly, when you take public stands on issues, for good or ill, your voice is louder and carries further than someone else's. Make your words count. Make sure you are speaking from a place of wisdom and compassion, not of fear. There is too much fear in the world already, we don't need more of it.
    So the next time anyone says that someone doesn't belong in the Pagan community, at a public ritual or event, or in a national organization because of an external factor, don't just make excuses. We, as a community fought for and earned the right to follow our religion in prison, in school, in the military. We fought for and earned the right to have a symbol of our faith on a military headstone. We have fought for the right to be acknowledged and given the same basic rights as every other religion. Don't turn your backs on that history now by deciding that our inclusiveness, our sense of community only applies if you look like you fit in.
      Either we stand together, or we fall.

*obviously all of this is aimed very generally, and I am using the term "Paganism" and "our religion" as blanket terms to cover the diverse traditions and groups within the wider community. 

Thursday, November 12, 2015

The Influence of Fiction and Hollywood on Paganism

       I've been pagan for a couple decades now and I've observed a couple trends over that time. One of the most perplexing to me is the way that popular fiction - by which I mean novels, television, and movies - shapes and influences paganism. The reason it perplexes me is because the things that get picked up and absorbed into the pagan paradigm are often based in plot points and rarely fit well or make sense (to me) in actual practice. I've had friends argue, however, that this reflects a normal growth and evolution within the wider community, creating the dynamic which is modern paganism. From this viewpoint modern paganism is woven as much from current fiction and popular culture as it is from past mythology and belief.
     I'll provide a few examples of things that I have noticed and the sources I attribute to them, based on apparent corollary relationships. This isn't a scientific study, just personal observation. 

     Within a few years of the release of the movie The Craft I noticed an upswing in people condemning love magic as dangerous, calling on the made-up deity Manon, and a sudden trend towards people looking for an elemental balance in their groups, either using zodiac signs or affinity to elements. After Practical Magic came out I noticed a huge surge in people claiming to be natural witches. The Mists of Avalon (book and later movie) created a belief in a division between female witches and male druids (exacerbated by another fiction novel marketed as non-fiction), and forehead tattoos . The Charmed television series provided an array of beliefs I've run across in the pagan community, including the belief that magic shouldn't be done for personal gain, that familiars guide and protect new witches, in "whitelighters" as healers, and that each witch has a special power.
    Thor and the Avengers movies as well as the comics are other good examples. How many times have I seen, recently, people saying Thor and Loki are brothers, even though that's a complete modern fiction? That Sif is a warrior? People who have never read the Eddas or any other Norse myth are incorporating Marvel Thor's mythology instead. 
     And then there is the way that some modern pagans have redefined fairylore based on popular fiction and movies, so that fairies become exclusively tiny winged figures, and guardians of nature. I'm giving a side eye to Fern Gully and the Tinkerbell movies here, although they are only the most recent pop culture result of a slightly older trend going back to the Victorian era.
      Why does any of this matter? Well, what I struggle with is the way that many of these beliefs are not rooted in anything and cannot be explained. When I asked someone telling me that Druids had to be men and I should be a witch why that was so he could only say because it was "how it was always done" even though that isn't true outside of fiction. When I asked someone claiming familiars protect and guide new witches how her cat does that she could not explain except to say that it was what her friend told her. When I asked the woman who was lecturing me about never doing magic for personal gain but only ever to help other people why the old cunningfolk were paid for their services; well she just gave me a dirty look and stormed off. When I asked the girl telling me that she needed someone who was an "air" person to complete her Circle why she needed elemental balance - what would happen when she had it? Would the group size be limited to 4? What about traditional covens of 13? - she couldn't tell me.
     Paganism already suffers from a lack of understanding of our own beliefs and cosmology; many people repeat beliefs by rote not from a place of comprehension. And we should understand what we believe, the meaning and purpose behind what we say. We should know why we do what we do. Grafting on beliefs that are rootless, that have nothing behind them except an author's need to forward or complicate a plotline, does not help us; in fact can only hurt by muddying already misunderstood waters. You can't explain a belief that is based in the writers need to keep their characters from solving things too easily, or which was meant to set up the main conflict of the story. That is fiction - our religions aren't.
   The thing is I love pagan fiction and I think its wonderful - I love that it guides people to eventually finding the religions. I love that the quality of pagan fiction is getting better and that we have more and more books and movies which more accurately reflect the real beliefs, especially the old fairy beliefs. But when the line between the entertaining fiction and the actual religion blurs to a degree that people are practicing the fiction, without understanding it for what it is...that's where I see the problem. It frustrates me to see some of it, although it may be an inevitable evolution of religion based on how we tell our stories now - we don't grow up on the old myths and tales we grow up on Charmed and Disney Tinkerbell...and that shapes our beliefs. I enjoy pagan fiction quite a lot, but I understand it for what it is - entertainment.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Modern Prayers in Old Irish

This is something I've been working on to submit for a anthology* which is looking for modern Celtic Reconstructionist prayers. I thought it would be interesting to offer basic prayers in Old Irish to different Gods.
It is still a work in progress, but this is what I have so far:


Guide Nuada 
Nuada Argetlam
Nuada fo dí Ríg
Nuada narsheng
Guidim do a bhennach
Guidim do a eolas
Guidim do a anacht
Do chairdes form
D’ecne lemm
Do sciath úasum
Dobiur sin duit
Bronntas do bronntas
Nuada Ríg mórda


Prayer to Nuada
Nuada Silver Arm
Nuada Twice King
Nuada Noble-fair
I pray for your blessing
I pray for your guidance
I pray for your protection
Your friendship on me
Your wisdom with me
Your shield over me
I give this to you
A gift for a gift
Nuada mighty king



Guide Macha ar Nert 
I pray to you,
Oh Macha,
Sovereign Lady,
Queen by her
own hand,
Deadly crow
of many battles,
May I be fierce
May I be strong
May I be unyielding
In my own strife

Prayer to Macha for Strength
Guidimm cuccut,
a Mhacha,
Banfhlaithes,
Rígan tree
feisin laim,
Fionóg bhadbda
de ilchathaigecht
Beinn adlond
Beinn nert
Beinn taetach
I mu gliada céin




* information on the anthology can be found here, deadline is January 2016