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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Liminal Gods

  I read a blog the other day about primal Gods that grabbed my attention and has had me thinking ever since. I don't think I've ever read anything else that simultaneously made me feel so in agreement and also wanting to argue counterpoints. Maybe that's how it should be, as we each connect to these older natural forces in our own ways. It's uncomfortable for me to talk about them, especially here, because they are so personal, representing an intimate connection to the liminal place between the living green world and the timeless Otherworld.
  I have talked in my blog before about the Irish and Norse Gods I honor, but I haven't talked about the other Gods, the nameless ones who don't belong to any pantheon. Perhaps they are not Gods at all but rather are very powerful spirits of place, although they feel larger than that; often the line between deity and spirit or daoine sidhe can be a thin one after all. I relate to them as Gods and I suppose that is all that matters in the end.
     Most of what I do in my daily life and personal practice is centered on the daoine sidhe and land spirits, shaped by the Fairy Faith through a pagan lens, so maybe it was inevitable that I would eventually encounter these liminal Gods who straddle the gray area between Otherworldly spirit and divine being. I have never asked their names and they have never offered them, so I call them by titles: the Lady of the Greenwood, the Lord of the Wildwood, the Hunter, the Queen of the Wind. Not creative titles, but descriptive ones. There is something utterly foreign and achingly familiar about them that I cannot put into words. They are primal. They are wild.  They are experiential. I have no frame of reference for them outside my own experience, no myths, no folk lore, no ancient texts to rely upon to understand them or how to honor them. Worshiping them is, perforce, an exercise in intuition and awareness; I must trust my own intuition and I must let myself be aware - of their presence, of their preferences, of their patterns. I must let myself abide in that primal place within where these qualities, intuition and awareness, are a language of their own.
    These Gods are not tame or domesticated. They aren't Gods of computers, or the safety of the hearth fire. They live in the wild places of the world, in the heartbeat of animals that have never known a human hand, in the shadows of city buildings, in the endless mist and relentless tide. They dwell on the paths to Faery, in the music of the sidhe that haunts those who hear it, in bliss and in agony. They live in the perpetual twilight and the first rays of dawn, in the flood and the storm as well as the gentle rain. You can find them in the vast wilderness and in the twisting city streets. They are forces of change; they are unchanging. They are heartlessly brutal and unimaginably kind. They are grotesque; they are beautiful. They are all these things simultaneously and in harmony.
    These are my liminal Gods, my primal Gods. This is the heart of my worship, the bridge between my Fairy Faith practices and my pagan religion, the forces that are greater Powers than the daoine sidhe and more immediate than the Gods from known pantheons. I do not have to seek them out; they are here. I speak to them beneath the moon and in the wind, amid the forest's song and the music of the rushing stream. I offer to them, pray to them, and hear their voices in synchronicity and dream.
   Theirs is not an easy path to follow because it means letting go of the civilized expectations we hold with other Gods. It is a path through the trackless forests and the untouched wilds both within and without. It puts aside logic and rational thought and embraces instinct and emotion. And once you are on their path you cannot help but be changed by it. And once you are on their path there is no turning back.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Book Review - Druidry and the Ancestors

  I recently read Nimue Brown's book Druidry and the Ancestors: finding our place in our own history. I was intrigued by the book's title but approached reading it with some trepidation as I have felt ambivalent about the work of other OBOD authors in the past. Generally my approach to Druidism is very different from OBODs and while I have great respect for the wisdom and vision of their organization the result is that books by their authors often leave me with strongly mixed feelings. I must admit I was quite pleasantly surprised by this book and found it thought provoking and more than worth reading.
  The author breaks the book down into a look at how we perceive history, the way that viewpoint shapes our ideas about ancestors, and a discussion of the ancestors themselves. She is refreshingly open about her own biases and viewpoints and uses anecdotes to illustrate her points to good effect creating a personal touch to the text. The author is also not afraid to tackle the more difficult or emotional issues of ancestry - including adoption, abuse, and invention - in a direct manner.
   After an initial chapter which defines who the ancestors were and are the second chapter delves into "history as story". I found this section to be profoundly thought provoking as it challenges the reader to look at what we know about history, how we know it, and how our view of it shapes our understanding at the most basic level. The book raises several points that I had never before considered but which will require some profound reflection long after I've put this book behind me.
  Next is a chapter on 'spotting the melons" which encourages critical thinking in reading and offers a list of basic guidelines to sort bad sources from good. The author feels, as do I, that paganism is plagued by bad source material and faulty or outdated facts and tries to educate readers about the pitfalls to be found. Although I felt that some of the examples used were a bit vague, overall the chapter was a great edition to the book. Particularly in Druidism sorting fact from fiction from fantasy is an endless process and discernment is essential.
  Moving on there is a chapter on the importance of ancestors and then several on individual types of ancestors, including ancestors of place and of tradition. I enjoyed the way that a variety of non-blood ancestors were included and that the author continues to challenge readers with new perspectives and ideas. The reality of ancestors whose stories we know well stand side by side with those who we have invented as part of our own narrative, and we are encouraged to value fact as well as myth in building practice. In this book knowing our ancestors is about knowing ourselves, and indeed one of the final chapters, "ancestors of the future", encourages us to look at ourselves as tomorrow's ancestors.
   This book is not a workbook or how-to of ancestor work; in its pages you won't find how to set up ancestor altars or what offerings to make to who. What you will find is an invaluable guide to connecting to your own past, healing broken connections, and how today's Druids are and will be the ancestors of tomorrows spiritual seekers. More than worth reading, more than once.