Friday, February 24, 2012

Pagan Blog Project - D is for Diversity Debacle

     Yes, I'm chiming in on "that" subject too.

     Let me preface this by saying one, I was not there at Pantheacon and two, I am still new and learning my own path which is why I was hesitant to even give my two cents on what happened but I see it as, I have an opinion as well so why not share it?

     I'm sure by now everyone is familar with the situation at hand both from last year and the current one. As for my opinion I am very torn, as usual, since I can see the validity in both sides of the argument.

     First of all, from what I have read from Z Budapest and about her, I don't really care for her at all. I understand feminism and wanting to further women's rights in general and I am all for that, but in my humble opinion she is going about it in the wrong way and coming off as nothing more than a man-hater, lumping the good and the bad together giving the entire gender a bad name.

     That being said, I understand the desire to have a private ritual, on your own terms and according to your own rules and set up. That's the beauty of having different paths and traditions - we can all find what suits us best and speaks to our beliefs. However, I do have to agree with what many other people have said that at such an event as this, a private ritual like the one she wanted to perform should have stayed just that - private.

     Why go to a public event such as Pantheacon, where the message is Unity in Diversity, if you're just going to exclude people? A ritual for women should be just that - a ritual for ALL women, including those who are transgendered - because they are women as well. So what if the parts aren't "correct" - is that what we are being defined by now, our parts, and not who we are and what we feel? Imagine being a transgendered woman, how many go for years feeling like they are in the wrong body before finally being able to make the change then to be told "You're not woman enough." It's insane and hurtful and uncalled for.

     But what should be done about it? On that subject I am most definitely unsure. I understand the need to boycott Z. Budapest because of her hurtful, hatefilled speech, but I'm not too sure about boycotting Pantheacon. However I do think Pantheacon should take action to prevent something like this happening again. Maybe making a note for all future conferences that private rituals like this should remain private and on the leader's own time or even asking Z. to not return at all.


 As I said, I am still new to my own path and having not attended Pantheacon still feel it's hard for me to say anything definite except that as pagans we face exclusion and judgement plenty from those outside our religions and paths, why should anyone have to deal with it from our own people?

Friday, February 17, 2012

Pagan Blog Project - D is for Defining Myself

     Over the past week I've been struggling a bit with what to call myself, how to describe the religious path I'm following and wether or not I am doing it "correctly".

     I've been having doubts like this for a while, but this sudden confusing crisis came about after reading an online article about the difference between Wicca and Celtic paganism and why Wicca isn't Celtic. (There are SO many of these by the way...) This particular article brought up the subject of magic and how it's NOT a part of Celtic Paganism.


     I immediately went into panic mode. Am I doing this all wrong? Maybe I'm not truly a Celtic Pagan? But I ENJOY the idea of using magic... I keep a Book of Shadows and was worried that made me too Wiccan. (No offense to those who are, just not my cup of tea) I like to perform magic which made me think I should label myself as a Celtic Witch, rather than Pagan. (I'm a list-maker and label-lover...see why this is such a problem?)

     I brought my concerns to a Facebook group that I am a part of, mainly asking if me performing magic made me less of a Celtic Pagan, or even not one at all. I received two very intelligent, and well-put responses:

No one gets to make rules about who does what...Celts are from a Culture where personal Liberty is the Ideal, and anybody who tries to force their views on you, can talk to me. "Pagan" is a Latin term, and does not exactly fit into Celtic Lifestyle, but magic is a personal choice, and is not up to anyone but you...


In depends on how you define what you are and what you do. A Book of Shadows is a Wiccan concept, but it's something that's found in a lot of Wiccan-derived or influenced paths, including different kinds of 'Celtic' Paganisms.

Having a Book of Shadows doesn't automatically make you Wiccan; it's something that's become popular simply because Wiccan and Wiccanesque books are the most popular and available. Saying that anyone who has a Book of Shadows isn't a Celtic Pagan but a Celtic Wiccan kind of misses the point that there's a whole host of things that can be found under the Celtic Pagan label isn't Celtic in origin whether you have a BoS or not, and there are a whole host of things beyond a BoS that makes you Wiccan.

Since it's a modern concept, and not Celtic, the Book of Shadows is certainly not relevant to anyone focusing on more historically-based paths, up to and including Celtic Reconstructionists, but since it is something that more eclectic pagans might adopt, it can be something that some Celtic Pagans might use. It really depends on the kind of pagan you're talking to, and really a 'Celtic Pagan' can be any kind of pagan who falls under a 'Celtic' label, whether a CR or a Celtic Wiccan. Technically, speaking, at least. 'Celtic Pagan' can be as much of an umbrella term as CR can, so you have to bear in mind what the label means according to the person making such claims.

I'm CR so I don't keep a Book of Shadows, but that doesn't mean I don't practice magic. Not everyone practices magic in CR, but some do, although it doesn't tend to look like modern neopagan forms of magic - there's no circle casting, invoking elements or gods, no correspondences used; we look to traditional kinds of magic, like the cunning folk or older forms of magic.

     I took what they said and mulled it over a bit, and have come to the conclusion that I have to do what's best for me. I will follow a Celtic Pagan path as well as practice magic. I will keep a Book of Shadows (though maybe I'll change the name...)  I will follow the path that is right for me and all else be damned.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Ireland's Saintly Women

     I've never really been into National Geographic, but maybe now I'll have to check it out more often!

     There's a really great article with some fantastic pictures over at NatGeo about a woman, Celeste Ray, who has spent the past decade learning more about the saints of Ireland, but over the past year focused more on the women of the country.

     Click the picture below to check it out.

Friday, February 10, 2012

PBP - C is for Celtic Cosmology Part 2

     Last week's PBP post was an introduction to the Celtic Three Realms; where they come from and why they are so important. This week, we'll take a look at each individual realm more closely, starting with Land.

Land (Talam)

     Land is the stabilizing force between the sky and sea. It is the part of the universe that nurtured, fed and housed the Celts; it was home.
     Before Christianity, the land was connected with the goddess who could bless or curse those who owed her tribute. Each territory had its own goddess, sometimes encountered on mountain tops or by lakes. As long as she was honored, she would bless the people with prosperity and protect them if attacked. The land itself was thought to be imbued with power. Each landmark had its own energy, identity and mythical associations, and sometimes humans encountered deities at these places. Because they were considered so powerful and sacred, these areas were not used to ordinary purposes but instead set aside to be used for ritual.
     Harmony and balance were also maintained in a territory through the relationship between the goddess of the land and the king. As long as the king acted "rightly the Land and people would live in peace and plenty. Infact, an integral part of the King's inauguration was his symbolic marriage to the land over which he ruled. This contract was expressed in terms of a marriage between him and a sovereignty goddess who personified the land. Examples of such a goddess would be Macha, Eiru and Medb.

Sky (Nem)

   In many ways, the sky was the most mysterious of the three realms. Land was the natural home of the Celts and they might venture out to sea though it could prove to be risky, but sky could not be accessed at all. However since mountain tops were the closest to the sky they were sometimes the sight of rituals. In Ireland and Brittany, celebrations marking the beginning of the harvest included processions to the tops of mountains.
     Circling sunwise has long been an important part of Celtic ceremonies. Kings asserted control over their realms by circling sunwise, ordinary people took posession of new homes sunwise, and many rituals today include sunwise circling.
     Birds were also very important as well. There is clear evidence that birds were considered divine messengers from the gods, with birds such as ravens, crows, swans and cranes being considered especially important. Their appearance in myths and legends all held particular meanings that something was amiss, especially for those travelling on any kind of journey. For example, the sight of a heron, especially facing away frmo the person who saw it, was though to be one of the worst signs.
     Ravens in Irish myth are often portrayed as malevolent or evil, though they weren't always looked at negatively - a cheerful crow in front of a traveler meant a prosperous journey, for example.
     All in all, there is an Otherworldly theme running through the wind, weather and birds bringing Otherwordly messages, telling the future or letting the Gods speak through them.

Sea (Muir)

     The realm of Sea actually includes all bodies of water from rivers and lakes to springs and wells. It is a key element in The Book of the Taking of Ireland, which describes how Ireland was settled by five waves of people before the Sons of Mil took over and became the ancestors of the Irish people. It's significant because the people are not shown to be indigenous to the land itself; they all came from over the sea.
     The great rivers of Ireland are all said to have an Otherworldly source and according to Irish stories, some rivers were thought to originate in wells in the Otherworld and flow into this one carrying the power and knowledge of the Otherworld. This knowledge could be acquired by eating special salmon that lived in certain wells or rivers or by drinking from certain places.
     Perhaps the most memorable tale of knowledge and water is that associated with the goddess of the river Boyne. One tale regarding the origin of this river tell us of the Well of Segais being owned by a man named Nechtan. He was very possessive of this well and wouldn't let anyone near it because if anyone drank from it they would gain all the knowledge of the world. However one day his wife, Boann, approached the well and three waves sprang up and disfigured her:

They came each wave of them against a limb,
they disfigured the soft-blooming woman;
a wave against her foot, a wave against her perfect eye,
the third wave shatters one hand.”

     Ashamed, Boann ran to the sea to drown herself and the water followed her wherever she went which formed the river.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Pagan Blog Project Week 5 "C"

Celtic Cosmology Part 1

     I named my blog after this very important concept and today's post will explain the idea behind Celtic cosmology and how the Celts viewed their world.

     In ancient Ireland people swore their oaths by saying:

  "May the sky not fall,
May the sea not burst its bounds
May the land not open beneath me
So long as I keep my oath"

     But where did this concept come from? What sources do we have for them and why is it so important?

    Let's begin with a historical example. Nowhere is the concept of the three realms described more clearly than in The Cattle Raid of Cooley. In general, it is a story about how one woman Medb,  the Queen of Connacht,  decides to raid her arch-enemy, the Ulaid (Ulstermen), in order to capture their best bull - the finest animal in all of Ireland. The hero, Cú Chulainn, is forced to fight against Medb's men alone, his fellow Ulstermen being unable to fight because of a curse that has been laid on them. 
     Sualtaim, Cú Chulainn's father (also unaffected by the Cúrse, and by implication, not a man of the Ulaid himself - possibly explaining why Cú Chulainn is unaffected also), sees his son's efforts against the enemy, and goes to the Ulster king to try and persuade his men onto the field. Finding the king, Sualtaim cries: “Is it the sky that breaks or the sea that ebbs or the earth that quakes or is this the distress of my son fighting against odds on the Foray of Cuailnge?”  Right away, Sualtaim invokes the concept of sky, sea, and earth - in this case to illustrate the point that either nature itself is being turned upside down, or his son’s situation is extremely dire.
John Shaw also gives many examples of this threefold division in some of the more recent folktales from Ireland and Scotland. Often the threefold division of land, sea and sky appears in tales that deal with how the world will end:
"One character, or two (in some variants a hen, in others human) receives a signal that the sky is about to fallon the earth, or simply the approach of death (bás) or doom (bráth). In some variants they are down by the shore, and are made aware of the impending disaster by being struck by an object falling from the sky. They set out to carry the news to others (animals or human) in succession, all of whom bear distinctive, often comical names, using a formula along the lines of: "Who has seen or heard it?" "My eyes have seen it, my ears have heard it, my soles have felt it." They form a growing procession as they go through the country until they reach a destination of sorts: in many variants a white horse carries them to a river where they are drowned."
Clearly, then, the three realms are seen to represent the natural balance and order. An imbalance in any or all of them would have apocalyptic results indeed, to an individual or a people.

Triple Spiral - A symbol used to represent the Three Realms
In ritual, Celtic pagans may open up with a Three Realms Blessing. A nice example can be found HERE on Ozark Pagan Mamma's blog. Most, also, do not create a 'sacred space'. This is contrary to what many people are used to in Wicca where the Greco-Roman idea of the four elements are used. In addition, Celtic pagans do not break down their universe into components such as correspondences and color charts and deities are not "used" during ritual for specific aspects. Instead all matter is seen as being interconnected and the Divine is inherent in everything.

Next week we'll take a look at each Realm individually in Part 2 of Celtic Cosmology.