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Friday, March 20, 2015

Reconstructionism - What It Is, What It Isn't, and Why I Love It

   I've said it before but it bears repeating: Reconstructionism is a very misunderstood thing. There are many reasons for why that is and why some of those misunderstandings keep being perpetuated, but mostly it comes down to assumptions and stereotypes. So today let's take a look at what reconstruction is and what it isn't. 
   Disclaimer (because I don't enjoy the sensation of being flayed): This article is meant as a general commentary on the methodology of reconstruction when applied to polytheist religion. As with anything there will be exceptions to any statement or cases where specific styles of Recon differ. I am writing it from the base of my own experience, which is primarily in Celtic Reconstructionism* and Heathenry, however I wouldn't presume to speak for all recons everywhere.
 ~ What is Reconstructionism?
     This seems like a good place to start. Reconstruction is a methodology that uses a variety of sources including archaeology, anthropology, mythology, folklore, and historical texts to reconstruct what an ancient belief or practice most likely would have been. Using this reconstruction of the old the belief or practice can then be adapted for modern practice. Or, as I like to say, reconstruction is understanding the old pagan religion so that we can envision what it would have been like if it had never been interrupted and still existed today. 
   Reconstructionism is most often applied to spirituality but it can be used for a variety of related practices including traditional non-religious witchcraft. It can also be for mystic practices used in conjunction with spiritual practices, such as the reconstruction of seership methods within Celtic Reconstruction, or of seidhr within Heathenry. 
    Reconstruction is a method that is applied to a wide array of different ancient pagan faiths including Norse, Anglo-Saxon, Minoan, Egyptian, Irish, Gaulish, and Indo-European** to name just a few. It is a method which is both sound and flexible, but which also requires personal engagement and imagination. Because of this the end result of different people's reconstruction of the same culture's religion will not be identical, although it should be similar. 
   ~ What is Reconstructionism *NOT*
   1) Recons are not mean. Well, they aren't any meaner, generally speaking, than any other community can seem to outsiders. I see this one all the time, and it is usually rooted in two things: a difference in communication style and a difference in paradigm. People within reconstructionist communities tend to have a communication style - in my experience - that is rather blunt and straightforward. In contrast people within non-Recon communities tend, again in my experience, to have communication styles that favor friendly language and more passive aggressive approaches. Recons tend to operate from a paradigm of earned respect, skepticism, and where any statement requires hard evidence to support it, while non-recons have a paradigm of immediate intimacy, trust, and acceptance of people's assertions on face value. Neither of these is inherently better or worse than the other, but they create very different cultures and expectations of behavior for the people within them. It should be obvious that these communication styles and paradigms are in many ways antithetical and it is almost inevitable that people interacting between the two groups will have issues with each other. 
   2) Recons are not re-enactors. This is another very common one, usually expressed through the criticism that Reconstructionism is flawed because "there are things that should be left in the past". Well, yes, clearly. No one is advocating the return of human sacrifice or slavery - although we are honest about the fact that these were historic practices and that understanding them is important to understanding the culture. Reconstruction is not about recreating ancient religion exactly as it was and practicing it that way, but about understanding how it was in order to make it viable today.
   I for one love indoor plumbing and refrigeration, and I'm not about to give up all modern amenities to build a roundhouse and pretend I'm living in the Iron Age. I might not mind a round house with wifi and solar panels though. Obviously just like the rest of the population there are some recons who do favor sustainable living, off the grid living, and even a rejection of many aspects of modern technology but that isn't an aspect of reconstruction itself, anymore than belonging to the SCA or going to Renn Faires is. 
   3) Recons are not books only. There is a bit of a hesitance in reconstructionist groups - or at least the ones I have experience with - to discuss actual practice and experience. I think there are several reasons for this, including that we tend to get very tangential about minutia in discussions and we get sidetracked when someone else starts disagreeing and saying their research supports a different approach. However just because we don't talk all the time about what we actually do in our daily lives doesn't mean we aren't doing anything. Just like just because a non-recon talks a lot about what they do and not much about what they read doesn't mean that they don't read anything (I like to assume anyway). Recons do like their source material, but the entire point of the source material is using it to create a viable practice. 
  4)  Recons don't hate "upg"***. This one is also often expressed as "Recons are obsessed with lore" or "Recons are pagan fundamentalists". However you say it it simply isn't true. And that's just not my opinion, I'll quote the CR FAQs here, under What Is Celtic Reconstruction (CR): " By studying the old manuscript sources and the regional folklore, combining this information with mystical and ecstatic practice, and working together to weed out the non-Celtic elements that can arise, we are nurturing what still lives and helping the polytheistic Celtic traditions grow strong and whole again." (emphasis mine). Incorporating personal experience and mystical practice is part of reconstruction, so recons obviously do not hate personal gnosis. However we do apply the same critical thinking and discernment to mystical experiences as we do to any source of information and I suspect this is where the problem comes in. Recons question everything to ascertain its veracity including spiritual experiences and that is often unpopular especially in communities that do not share the same approach. 
   But seriously people recons don't hate mystical experiences, nor do we reject anything that isn't straight out of a book. We just place a lot of value on the vast amount of combined experience and belief that is the culture we are reconstructing and we use that as a measure for the credibility of new information. 
 ~ So why do I love it? Well, honestly Reconstruction is a part of who I am. It fits my nature, my personality, and so it is something I apply to everything: my religion, my witchcraft, my fairy faith. I was always that kid who asked why and who dreamed about what something could have been. I love studying the evidence we have and asking myself what if? What if it had never stopped? What if the Old gods, the old ways, had been continuously worshiped, continuously kept? What would that look like today? I find it a fascinating puzzle and one that I am compelled to sort out. 

  Reconstruction is not a methodology for everyone, just like any other path it is simply one option among many. It appeals to certain people for a variety of reasons, and leaves other people uninterested, and that's okay. Many people who don't practice Reconstruction, and even some who do, misunderstand what it is and sometimes perpetuate stereotypes about it, and I hope this blog helped at least a little bit to shed some light on a few of them. Recons aren't out to make people cry, aren't trying to recreate the Iron Age, aren't only about reading books, and aren't against personal ecstatic experiences or gnosis. What we are about is using solid academic evidence and personal inspiration to envision what that polytheism would have looked like today if it had existed without interruption. We are about honoring our ancestors, spirits of diverse types, and Gods. We are about respecting and helping to preserve the living culture today. 
   Reconstruction isn't about living looking backwards. Its about walking forward with the past a firm path beneath our feet, guiding our steps. 

 Further reading:

*I identify publicly as a practitioner of Celtic Reconstructionist Polytheism, however I am specifically endeavoring to reconstruct Irish polytheism. 
** Ceisiwr Serith has an interesting book called 'Back to the Beginnings: Re-inventing Wicca' which is, to all intents and purposes, an attempt to reconstruct Indo-European religious witchcraft.
***upg - unverified personal gnosis, or as Lora O'Brien puts it (and I like better) unique personal gnosis. I've also been known to refer to this as personal numinous experience, but PNE isn't as catchy of an acronym.

Copyright Morgan Daimler

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Spiritual Masochism or Why I Translate Ancient Texts Into Modern English

  Some of my regular readers have undoubtedly noticed that in the last several months I've begun posting more blog entries featuring translations of pieces of the old mythic texts. Some of you may be wondering why - or I may just be boring you to tears. A friend suggested this morning that I may want to explain why I've been doing the translations and how they relate to my spirituality and I thought it was a smashing idea so hear you go. It's a convoluted story, but maybe you'll understand a bit better how my head works and why I feel its so important to share this particular hobby.

   About a year ago while re-reading the Tain Bo Cuiligne I ran across a particular line that really stuck out to me, where Fergus swears on the point of his sword and calls it a "halidom of Macha". As I contemplated that line I found myself wondering if he had really said that in the Irish or if the translator had shifted the meaning in some way and on a whim I found a copy of the Tain as Gaeilge (in Irish) and checked. Indeed the phrase in question - "Mache mind" does mean halidom of Macha, but mind also has some fascinating layers of meaning including blade and oath. It was an intriguing thing to contemplate. 
  More time went by and I found myself, rather unexpectedly, writing a book on the Morrigan. As I worked with the quotes and translations of the source material for that I found myself once again wondering how well the translation reflected the original. Some people may not realize that the vast majority of translations we have access to for the Irish myths were done a hundred years or more ago, and during a time period when certain subjects where not always handled well and others were, shall we say, treated poetically? An example of this can be seen in Hennessey's approach to the line from Cath Magh Rath about the Morrigan where he translates "Caillech lom, luath ag leimnig" as a lean hag, swiftly leaping - but lom doesn't mean lean it means bare or naked. So properly this line says "a naked hag, swiftly leaping" and there is a significant difference, I think, in the imagery created between these two translations. And to me this matters a great deal. It also means that all the translations we have come to us through a specific filter which does, for good or ill, affect the meaning of what we are reading and change our understanding of it.
   So we've established that I am a stickler for semantics and that I am rather obsessed about what the original language actually said, as opposed to what the popular translations say. In Irish - modern Irish that is - there is a saying, tír gan teanga, tír gan anam, a nation without a language, a nation without a soul. I think this reflects a core truth, that our language is not only a basic means of communication but an expression of how we relate to and perceive reality. In psychology we call this linguistic relativity*, the idea that language effects how we think about the world. What this means in practical terms is that to truly understand a culture you must understand the language of that culture. 
   More time went by and the subject of the Morrigan as a battle goddess came up, and specifically of her inciting battle. The section in the Cath Maige Tuired (CMT) where the Morrigan incites Lugh to rise up and overthrow Bres was mentioned and I realized that although a small initial portion was translated the majority was not. In fact significant portions of the Cath Maige Tuired have not been translated due to the difficulty of the text and possibly the subject matter in those sections**. I decided to try translating the passage myself and found that what it said was profoundly meaningful to my understanding of the Morrigan as a goddess and as a deity of war. Over time I started taking on the project of translating more sections of the CMT, because I believe that it is important to read the sections previously untranslated and think about what they say. I made the decision to share these attempts here, even though I am at best a base amateur, because I wanted to offer other people who have no Irish or Old Irish at all a chance to see alternatives to the common translations and possible versions of the untranslated sections. I truly believe these portions of text are worth the effort to understand, and I also realize not everyone can read them. 
   As an Irish polytheist there is much insight and truth to be gained from reading the old myths, but there is a catch, because the translations that are available are written through a very specific lens. That lens distorts and changes what it reflects in ways that we are often not aware of. Reading the original language gives us a more direct understanding of the story as it would have been understood originally, but then presents a new challenge of taking that and putting it into a new language without losing too much of the meaning. There is a certain masochism, spiritually driven, that drives me to do this, to keep seeking to understand the old stories and to translate them. And I want to share whatever I can of it, with anyone who may be interested.

* commonly known, somewhat inaccurately, as the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis
** what this means for us as Irish pagans is profound, as the CMT is a very important mythic text and we are in effect relying on translations that are at best piecemeal.

Copyright Morgan Daimler

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Obligatory Pantheacon Post

 I attended my first Pantheacon this year, so here is the obligatory re-cap of my experience:
Day one - travel. Who'd have thought I actually enjoy airplanes? Airports however are a form of elaborate torture. I arrived in California and was hit with immediate culture shock - you can get alcohol everywhere and it feels like early summer, and this is so not Connecticut. It was great to travel with a good friend and reconnect with other friends I had made at the Morrigan Retreat last June. I also had fun setting up a communal altar in the hotel room I was sharing with these three friends.
    Horse omens started immediately. No really, in the airport and then everywhere afterwards, horses, horses, horses. I have witnesses! Also crows everywhere. I really should have understood where this would be going but I can be slow on the uptake.
  It was a great experience setting up the traveling altars in the hotel room with my roommates. Although I am very open minded about sharing space with people of other religious persuasions and approaches I must admit staying with other polytheists was nice because there was never any need to explain anything. We all understood that altars were needed, that offerings were required, and we all had the same basic respect for those spaces and things. The communal Morrigan altar was especially powerful as all four of us are devoted to her in different ways, and since there was another Odin's woman there as well he got his space and offerings without any issue as well. There were space for other Gods being honored as well, and several jokes about the number of altars and the amount of alcohol around the room but the overall feeling was friendly and pleasant. I also set up a small space for the land spirits and Fay, as it was important to me to try to connect to the local wights.
  Later on Thursday we went to the Doubletree, the hotel where the con actually takes place, and poked around a bit, met some people including a friend from an online group that I really enjoyed spending the weekend hanging out with (we dubbed her the unofficial mayor of P-con). And then jet-lag of doom set in. Later in the evening I met the Coru Cathobouda crew at their meet and greet event which I attended with the rest of the Tuatha De Morrigan contingent (my roommates at the hotel).
Day two - registered for the con. And so it begins. Today's theme was horse skulls. Everywhere.    
    I taught a Morrigan workshop in the ADF suite and it went so well I was asked to go back Sunday and do another. Met Lora O'Brien who is really wonderful and reconnected with some of my favorite ADF people. I can safely say the ADF hospitality suite is entirely full of awesome.
 I also was able to meet several other people I had previously only known on facebook which was great. I love putting a FB name to an actual face. I must admit even though I had been warned about the size of Pantheacon I wasn't prepared for the sheer scale of it. It was larger than anything I had ever been to by orders of magnitude and because of that I didn't end up seeing or doing nearly as much as I wold have liked to, although what I did see and do was amazing.
   I attended a class by Orion Foxwood where he talked a little bit about his Faery Seership approach and also his theory of the four types of witchcraft. He is a very engaging speaker and puts on an entertaining workshop. 
Day three - the horse skulls continue. Those of you who know my old LJ/yahoo group name will get the entertainment value of my being stalked by the Lair Bhan (although it was being called the Mari Lwyd here). I'll probably do a future blog post just on that topic, but suffice to say it became something of a running joke with the group I was with.
  Very early in the morning I went to a smashing class on the Irish sidhe by Lora O'Brien - if any of you ever have a chance to go to any of her classes, DO IT!
   Later that day we wandered in to relax a bit in the Sisters of Avalon suite, admire their artwork and connect with some great people who are helping with the Morrigan sacred sites pilgrimage I'm involved in next year*. Later we hung out with some Faery Seers and learned a bit about their approach - not my cuppa but always good to learn other ways. The hospitality suites were an interesting experience in themselves, and I have to admit I thought it was really fascinating to look at the approach each one took.
      There were some spiritual shenanigans on Saturday including making offerings on a rock in a small island of trees in the parking lot. Part of my personal experience as a polytheist and Reconstructionist is that you end up making a lot of offerings, and I was lucky enough to be bunking with other people who felt similarly although the actual lead up to making the offerings should probably be categorized as a misadventure.
Day four - very early Sunday morning I went to a class on working with skull spirits because at that point it felt like I needed to figure out what was going on with all the skulls I kept seeing. It was very interesting stuff (and the Mari Lwyd was discussed of course because at that point I was still being stalked by horse skulls). Went to a class about the Morrigan, Poetry, and Prophecy - interesting info on Irish poetics but there can't ever be enough rosc catha discussion for me.   smile emoticGot to have a good chat with Morpheus and Brennos Agrocunos over lunch with the Coru and Tuatha De Morrigan folks, sort of an east coast/west coast gnoshy thing.Went to Lora's Morrigan class which was amazing, even if there were a mad amount of people crammed into a little room for it (seriously should have been in a bigger room). 
  Lora O'Brien did a workshop on the Morrigan which was intriguing and had some great food for thought in it. Hearing her talk about her firsthand experiences with the Morrigan's sacred sites, especially Oweynagat, makes me even more eager to go visit them myself. She also had a guided meditation at the end of her workshop which I found very profound. 
 Later that day I taught my second workshop, "Morrigan 2.0" in the ADF suite - anyone else noticed a theme at P-con this year?  - and had a blast doing it. ADF Druids rock! The class went well and we ended up talking about a variety of things relating to Irish Gods and mythology with a bit of Boudicca thrown in. Afterwards I was as asked to invoke Macha at the ADF unity ritual Monday morning, as if I'd say no to that! 
 That night I was dragged up to a meet and greet in the Llewellyn suite. It was an interesting experience but by far the loudest hospitality suite which made conversation a bit difficult. I enjoyed meeting Jason and Ari Mankey though and seeing the new Llewellyn releases displayed around the room.
Day five - Up very early Monday morning for the ADF unity ritual, which went really well, even if my brain ceased functioning at this point. I think I was suffering from convention burn out. And as I was standing there getting ready to thank Macha at the end of the ritual I had a strong feeling that Herself wanted the thank you in Irish. I have no idea where I pulled the words from if not Her, because by that point my mind was pretty mushy, but the words came.
    Afterwards down in the lobby I had an awesome chat over coffee with Vyviane Armstrong, Lora O'Brien, and Stephanie Woodfield about the sacred sites tour that's being planned for next year which may be one of my favorite parts of the whole con, although its hard to pick any one favorite thing.
And then - the vendor room. Wow. Please take my money awesome pagan vendors. (And I got to meet Jen Delyth and talk about, what else?, the Mari Lwyd).

The less fun part was the Epic Quest Homeward which involved two airplanes, an overnight layover in Salt Lake City airport, and New England welcoming us back to her frigid arms with a snow storm.
That's the highlights anyway, I'm sure I'm leaving half of everything out. In short, met a ton of awesome people, the craic was mighty, and I had my priestess hat on, quite unexpectedly, the whole time. Because the Work never ends.

Since people seemed to really like it, here's the Macha invocation from the ADF ritual:
"Macha Mong-ruadh
Macha of the Red Hair
Great Queen, Mighty Lady,
Uniter of opposing forces
Who was queen by her own hand
and chose the king from the most deserving
You who brought unity
Where there had been opposition and strife
Be with us now."
The "thank you" (and anyone who can correct my Irish feel free to jump in, it was a spontaneous thing) was:
"Macha Mong-ruadh
Mór Ríoghain, Bean uasal,
go raibh maith agat as do bheannachtaí
imeann i síocháin
gach croí, do bhaile"
(Macha of the Red hair
Great Queen, noble woman,
Thank you for your blessings
Go in peace
Every heart, your home)

Copyright Morgan Daimler

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Excerpt from "Celebrating Imbolc with the Family" in Air n-Aithesc volume 1 issue 1

   Of the four Irish fire festivals Imbolc is the most family oriented, although it does also have wider community aspects. Celebrating Imbolc as a modern Irish polytheist, or indeed any Celtic polytheist drawn to this holiday, is an opportunity to involve the entire family, especially children, in the traditions. While we don’t have any surviving information about the ancient ways that this day was celebrated we do have a plethora of native traditions to draw on, with the role of saint Brigit and the pagan Goddess Brighid often blurred and easily shifted fully into paganism. With some slight alteration all of these traditions can be celebrated by any pagan family to honor Imbolc and the holiday’s main deity, Brighid.
A basic overview of the Irish traditions, most of which were actively practiced into the last century, is helpful in giving the reader both an understanding of the holiday and of ways that it can be adapted for modern family practice. There were often regional variations in practice and even in the tone of the celebrations, from solemn to comical, which created a wide array of different traditions associated with this holiday (Danaher, 1972). For the purposes of modern celebration by a pagan household it would be best to focus on specific traditions and choose one tone for the festival, rather than trying to include everything noted here.
    Generally it was the daughters of the household who played the main roles, although the mother might also be called to do so if there were no daughters. This is in contrast to other traditions which place the father as the main actor in any rituals, divination, or prayers, and establish the more domestic tone of Imbolc. The prominence of women and daughters also demonstrates the importance placed on Brighid at this holiday, with the women and girls often being the main intercessors between Brighid and the family in the ritual enacted or playing the role of Brighid herself. Imbolc also places a strong emphasis on children’s participation that is lacking at other holidays which tend to have a more adult tone.
    Weaving new Brighid’s crosses – symbols of protection, health, and blessing – was an important Imbolc tradition in many places. One ritual that was enacted in Connaught, Sligo, Leitrim, Mayo, Roscommon, and Ulster before the Brighid’s crosses were woven for the new year on the eve of the festival was for the eldest daughter to take the part of Brighid and wait outside carrying the material for the project (Danaher, 1972). She would then knock three times, proclaiming herself to be Brighid requesting entrance; she is warmly welcomed in and the family sits down to dinner with an elaborate blessing prayer (Danaher, 1972).  The meal often prominently featured dairy products, and if the family was wealthy might also include fresh mutton (Danaher, 1972). After eating the meal the family would sit and weave the new crosses, with the largest sprinkled with water and hung up on the wall until the next Imbolc (Danaher, 1972). In parts of Leitrim there was also a children’s practice to use a small rectangle of wood and with potato paste attach peeled rushes in shapes symbolizing the moon, sun, and stars which would be hung up alongside the woven crosses (Danaher, 1972).
    Another tradition was to create an effigy or doll, called a brideog (little Brighid), representing Brighid. The Brideog might be made of straw from the last sheaf of the harvest, leftover rushes from weaving the crosses, a re-purposed child’s doll, or the dash from the butter churn. The effigy would be decorated with a white dress and mask or carved turnip, and might be comical, grotesque, or beautiful in appearance (Danaher, 1972). In some parts of Ireland the Brideog was carefully and elaborately decorated with shells, crystals, and other natural adornments (Carmichael, 1900). In some places, including Ulster, Connaught, Leinstir and Munster, the children would process from house to house carrying the brideog and pronouncing Brighid’s blessing on each home (Danaher, 1972). At each home the people give gifts to the effigy, and the mother of the household gives food to the children in the procession, usually cheese, butter, or bread; this food would later be used by the children for a feast of their own (Carmichael, 1900). In other areas including Cork, Clare, Galway, Mayo, and Kildare a brideog might not be used but rather the unmarried girls would form the procession with one of their number chosen to represent Brighid (Danaher, 1972). In Ulster it was said that the chosen girl wore a crown of rushes, called a crothán Brighite, and carried a shield (sgaith Bhrighite) on her arm; she carried Brighid’s crosses to hand out telling each household that it was the sword of Brighid (Danaher, 1972). In other areas the procession might collect food from each house, and in some cases might be comprised entirely of men or boys who would play music at each house (Danaher, 1972). In these cases the procession was often referred to as ‘Biddy Boys’ (EstynEvans, 1957).
In those homes that used an effigy as a Brideog a small bed would be prepared, made of rushes or of birch twigs, on the eve of Imbolc (Estyn Evans, 1957). In some cases the older women in the home would prepare or shape a small cradle, the leaba Bride or bed of Brighid, for the effigy to sleep in (Carmichael, 1900). In this tradition the effigy is made with great care and a ritual is enacted, much like the one mentioned earlier with the reeds for the crosses, where the effigy is taken outside and invited in. In one tradition the women of the house prepare everything and then one goes and stands in the open door, bracing on the door jambs, and loudly invites Brighid in three times, telling her that her bed is ready (Carmichael, 1900). The brideog is placed in the bed with a small wand, the slat Brighid, which may be made of birch, hazel, willow or another white wood (Carmichael, 1900).  
  Read more in Issue one 2014 of Air n-Aithesc 

Friday, January 23, 2015

The Morrigan and Plans for 2015

   I'm sure many of you would rather see more translation here, and don't worry I'll get some more done soon. I'm working on a new manuscript at the moment which is taking up some time, but hopefully next week I'll get to some of the other fun untranslated bits of the Cath Maige Tuired...
  I dreamed last night of the Morrigan, and this morning I was asked to do a workshop about her (them) next month so I thought it might be good to offer a short blog today just outlining some of this year's plans, where I'll be and what I'll be doing.
  I'm going to Pantheacon next month which is a very exciting first for me. I'll get to meet a lot of awesome people and spend time with some friends, including Stephanie Woodfield who is dragging me out there with her (I haven't been on a plane since I was 10 years old). It will be an adventure. While I'm at the con I'm going to be doing an informal workshop in the ADF hospitality suite, on Friday at 4, about the Morrigan in different myths. I'm really looking forward to it and think it will be a lot of fun, and I'm honored to have been asked to do it. So if you happen to be at Pantheacon and in the mood to hang with some Druids and talk Morrigan, come check it out.
  In June I'll be at the second annual Morrigan's Call Retreat teaching a workshop or two and helping with rituals. Last year was amazing and I'm sure this year will be even better. We have Jhenah Telyndru from the sisterhood of Avalon as a speaker and Mama Gina as a musical guest, as well as the usual suspects and some new faces.
   At the end of October I'll be participating in Seeking the Great Queens: a Sacred Sites Tour in Ireland. It is a sacred sites tour focusing on sites associated with the Morrigan and her mythology and includes celebrating Samhain at Tlachtga. There will be workshops, discussions, and rituals, and I have no doubt it will be a once in a lifetime experience.
   It's going to be a busy year, and very Morrigan-focused, but I'm excited about it.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Goodbye 2014, Hello 2015

  Last year was a very busy one for me. I had four books published - Fairy Witchcraft and Pagan Portals: the Morrigan through Moon Books and the first two in my urban fantasy series Murder Between the Worlds and Lost in Mist and Shadow (self published); I also had pieces in three anthologies this year. I wrote for the blog as well as guest blogging on Raise the Horns, and writing articles for journals and e-zines, including one for Goddess Pages on the Morrigan. I taught at ADF's Wellspring, at the Morrigan's Call retreat, CT Pagan Pride Day and the Changing Times, Changing Worlds convention. And I had the always fun experience of being a guest on the podshow the New Normal as well as appearing on another podcast, Main Street Universe, where I talked about Fairies. I ventured into the new and interesting world of translating older Irish manuscript material, which I've really been enjoying (and look for more of that soon). And of course in between all those shenanigans was Real Life with children and grocery shopping and bills.
   Now we are heading into to 2015. I had genuinely intended to make this year a quiet one, but it doesn't look like that is meant to be. My next novel, the third in my urban fantasy series, is coming out at the end of this month, and I have a piece I am writing for another anthology. I have several other book projects in the works as well as articles coming out in the next issues of Air n-Aithesc, Pagan Dawn, and Goddess Alive. I'm attending Pantheacon for the first time this year, and am already scheduled to teach workshops at a spiritualist church, at the second Morrigan Calls retreat, as well as on a Morrigan Sacred Sites tour of Ireland, and tentatively at CWPN's Harvest Gathering.
  I do plan to keep up with the blog, including continuing with my translation efforts. Hopefully I will be back to my regular blogging schedule now, but I wanted everyone to understand that as my non-blog writing has increased - and as real life demands have taken a lot of my attention - it has gotten harder to give the blog the attention I want. I'd rather not write at all than write when I don't have time to cite sources and give it the quality it deserves.
  As we move into the new year my goal here, for the blog, is to find a balance between more academic entries and more experiential entries. And to get back on my twice-a-week schedule. So happy new year to you all, and stay tuned. 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Yule 2014

 I've mentioned before in other December blogs that I celebrate Yule as a Heathen holiday with 12 days of celebration. This year is proving quite challenging and hectic, but since editing the new novel has my blogging limited I thought I'd touch on how yule is going.
   We began our celebration this year on Sunday the 21, the day of the official solstice, by waking up to a gift exchange. 
Santa, you see, comes to our house on the solstice (it helps thin out his schedule for his busier night). We woke this year to falling snow*. The kids decided to get up extremely early so the adults were sustained by coffee. And bacon. A good time was had by all, and that afternoon we made gingerbread cookies. Dinner was a feast of ham and orange colored vegetables, some of which were offered to the house spirits. Later we did a small ritual in honor of some of the wights and held a vigil for the returning sun.
    Monday the 22nd the clouds  cleared briefly in the morning and the new sun shone down bright and glorious before the cloud cover closed back in. On that day we honored Frau Sonne with a small ritual and offerings in praise of her return. We lit our Yule log and let the candles burn out.

   Today, the third day of Yule, we choose to honor the Wilde Jagd (Wild Hunt) which rides this time of year. It is believed that the Hunt rides especially when storm winds blow and tonight my area is getting a Nor'easter - so truly the Wild Hunt is riding tonight here. Offerings will be made tonight that they pass us by unharmed. 
   Tomorrow we will honor our house spirit with an offering of porridge and butter. We also have a family tradition with the children of watching a movie (Polar Express) and having popcorn and hot chocolate and the house spirit will receive a portion of everything. 
  On the 25th we celebrate Mutternacht, Mother Night, by honoring Frija and the Idises. Most Heathens today celebrate Mother Night on the eve of the solstice, but we use Bede's reckoning as given here:

Incipiebant autem annum ab octavo Calendarum Januariarum die, ubi nunc natale Domini celebramus. Et ipsam noctem nunc nobis sacrosanctam, tunc gentili vocabulo Modranicht, id est, matrum noctem appellabant: ob causam et suspicamur ceremoniarum, quas in ea pervigiles agebant. 
(Moreover at the beginning of the year by the 8th calendar day of January**, when we celebrate the birth of our Lord. That night which we hold sacred, they used to call by the Gentile*** word Modranicht, that is, Mother's Night, we suspect because of their ceremonies, as in accordance they kept vigils)
So we celebrate Mutternacht on December 25th by honoring and offering to the "mothers".
    On December 26th we honor the spirits of the land. We also cleanse and sain our property, first by walking the boundary with fire and then by scattering a small amount of salt. This is also the anniversary of our kindred's founding in 2006 so we usually get together to celebrate Yule as group on this day, although this year due to scheduling we are meeting on the 28th instead.
   On December 27th we honor our ancestors with offerings and stories. A white candle is lit for them.
  On December 28th we honor Oski - Wodan as the Wish-giver. Small gifts are exchanged and offerings are made to him, and a small ritual is done. Omens are taken for the year to come.
   On December 29th we honor Frau Holda as the leader of the Wild Hunt, with Wodan, and as the protector of children's spirits.
   On December 30th we honor the Hidden Folk, specifically the perchten and huldufolk who travel with Perchta and Frau Holda.
   On December 31st we honor Berchta. Offerings of fish and porridge are left out. We ask her for her blessing in the coming year, especially for good health, and we thank her fo rall her blessings in the year that is past.
   This may seem like a lot but it really isn't. It's just a little each day and much of it is really fun, especially because of the children. The 12 days are hectic, but they go by quickly and everyone enjoys them.

* Frau Holle shaking her blankets out! A good omen in my opinion
** by the Julian calendar the 8th day of January would have shifted back on the Gregorian calendar to roughly December 25th, which is why Bede refers to it as the night they celebrate the birth of Jesus.
*** Gentile is often translated here as Heathen or Pagan but the actual word given is gentili so I have preserved the closer meaning.

Giles, J (1843). The Complete Works of the Venerable Bede