Praises to Brigid

Once upon a time, there was LiveJournal.*  I haven’t posted there for over a year, but I was digging through my account and found this (from twelve years ago, almost exactly:

Because I have dreamed of beauty

Sing within me, oh perilous Muse,
Bright mistress of my soul’s fire;
Your mantle lies still swirled around
This world- warp and weft embedded,
Emblazoned in the lines of light,
Dragon-fire in the deeps of the land.
Untie that knot of memory, return,
Descend in imbas into my secret self;
Set your flame within my head
That I may frame, focus it in words,
Blaze it in beauty through the land.
My heart is always home for you.

Mighty Brigid, threefold Flame, my Muse of Fire, how can I praise You enough? You are the blaze on the hillside, the whisper in the well, the shield of the house. Your spirit inside us inspires- guides the healer’s hand, the smith’s hammer, the poet’s pen. You set the cool head aflame with ideas, seeds of bright beauty that sprout and grow, entwining all the green and grey and blue of this fragile world.

Bright Arrow of Fire, Victorious and Gentle One, when have You not been near me? I have been a hawk above a cliff, a hound on the trace, a salmon in a pool. I have been father, mother, son, daughter, infant and aged, dead and alive and neither. I have made worlds, shaped them, ruined them. Above and beyond and within, You have been with me through all of it. On my left and on my right, before and behind me, above and below me, within and without me- I am always in the compass of Your glory and grace.

Thrice-shining One, Beauty of the Upper Airs, Hearthkeeper and Comforter, accept my thanks. Guide my art, grant me imbas and imagination; let me draw compassion from Your well; make me sure in the works of my hands.

Light-casting, Triumphant Brigid, mighty and gentle, nine times hail!

Essay on Brighid from the IMBAS website

 Brigid, the Energy of Creation

*It was a good place to write various things, and to communicate with friends.  But it started to wither for various reasons, and then the Russian company who bought it moved the servers to Russia, and most of my friends ditched it wholesale in the face of various (IMHO legitimate) concerns.  I haven’t deleted my account, though I haven’t posted in over a year.

Advertisements

Imbolc 2019

Into the ice wind and snow sting, I trudge
A path to ring my neighborhood, layering
Another fine line of fortune around the land.
Your fire in my deep within leads me on,
Your song (one of so, so many) drives
The rhythm of my feet. Wearing red,
I carry Your flame; engraved above
My heart is Your sigil. I warm
To my task, returning home to light
Your candles, offer You mead and music
And a story that is litany to You.
The cold-bringing winds cannot quench
This blaze; whatever the season, You
Whisper this blessing in my words.

Myths changing over time

I was just thinking about the modern re-working of the Persephone myth… the one where She and Hades are actually in love and elope instead of Him abducting Her.  I’m not going to bother digging up references- it’s all over the Pagan community, and even outside it (Messner-Loebs and Keith’s Epicurus the Sage has an amusing example…).  I’ve heard a few polytheists grousing about such modernizations, claiming that they are disrespectful to the Gods involved, and constitute a “politically correct” whitewashing of the truth.

I don’t agree.  Myths are sourced in the Gods and the holy, but they were given form by human minds and human culture.  Whether you think that the Gods change or not (I have my thoughts on the matter, which I may touch on at a later date), human thinking and culture do change, and have changed quite radically since the time the Greek myths were formulated.  Marriage by capture was widely practiced in the ancient Mediterranean, but it’s no longer something considered acceptable in the cultures that formed modern Paganism.  The lens changes, the image changes – even though the source of light remains the same.

This doesn’t mean that I can go around changing myths just because they make me feel uncomfortable or unhappy.  The Gods have the last word on Their stories, and should always be consulted.  I can’t speak for practitioners of Hellenismos or other Greek reconstructionist Pagan traditions, but I know that my group has sung songs for Persephone that use the modern form of the myth- and She was pleased.

My own sacred calendar

One of the many places where I differ from mainstream (Wicca-descended) Pagan practice is that I don’t celebrate the Wheel of the Year.  The reasons are many… but what it comes down to in the end is that most of the holidays don’t resonate with me- or the Powers that I follow.  Perhaps this should be filed in the “Paganism- I’m doing it wrong” part of my life, but really, this is the truth.  I can go on here about the historical validity (or lack thereof) of the construct, but that hardly matters to me these days.  It was different in my “baby Pagan” days, when most of the people I ran with still believed in the literal truth of the founding myths of Wicca.  Even then, though the Wheel was treated as a given part of my practice, some of the fests never resonated with me.  The difference is that I no longer feel guilty about it.

Some of the feasts still work for me, of course.  Imbolc is sacred to my Patroness.  Summer Solstice is the time for the Free Spirit Gathering, the festival I helped found, and more recently has become sacred for me to a certain Irish sea-god.  Samhain and the Day of the Dead is for those who have recently died, as well as my Ancestors.  And Yule is the centerpoint of the winter holiday season, the sacred time of renewal.

My current ruminations on this were sparked by John Beckett’s article on building your own liturgical calendar.  So I started thinking about what mine is currently, and what could be done to improve it.  I found his post inspirational but I disagreed with it parts of it- he suggests starting with the Wheel, and as I mentioned above that’s a non-starter.  But I like the idea of having a day for each of the Powers I have close links to.  I’ve gotten a start, but I need to add Fionn and Sulis at least.  Someone (it might have been PSVL) once suggested St. Patrick’s Day, but I think that might be a bit quixotic…  there’s also Simbi Andezo, but apparently the traditional day for the Simbis is Three Kings (Jan. 6th), and that works well for my current calendar- that’s the day that the winter sacred time ends for me.  I’ll have to remember that.

He also suggests “a day for yourself”, but I’ve got that covered.  My spouse and I celebrate each other’s “birth months”, because the fragmented nature of our lives and of those around us means that commemoration of our birthdays often takes place in a spread-out fashion.

I also incorporate some “secular” American holidays here.  July 4th I dedicate to the Mighty Dead of America.  The party I go to every year incorporates a ceremonial reading of the Declaration of Independence, something that is very powerful for me.  Thanksgiving is for home and hearth and connection to my living family, and also for gratitude.  And my spouse and I still celebrate Christmas- not for the birth of Yeshua, but as a celebration of giving and generosity.

So… very much still a work in progress, but it’s working for me so far…

“Fear” is the wrong word

I recently read a fascinating article on Atlas Obscura about the subject of “taboo deformation” (when we call something by a word that is not its true name).  I immediately had some issues with it.  On the surface, this doesn’t come as a great surprise- AO is a fascinating cabinet of curiosities, but the writing (and research) is uneven and not necessarily checked very well.  I signed up for an account there in order to be able to do a near-complete rewrite of the article on the Tortuguero Stela (a key piece of evidence used by promoters of the Maya 2012 phenomenon.

The article on taboo deformation doesn’t have that kind of problem, though. Instead, the author uses the word “fear” where they (in almost every case) should (also) be using “reverence”, “awe”, or even simply “respect”.

The article accurately describes the origin of humorous pseudo-expletives such as “dagnabbit”- an unwillingness to use the “true name” of something, especially while swearing. There’s a very good linguistic discussion of the process.  The author traces it back to (amongst other things) a curious phenomenon in many Western European languages- the word “bear” in English (for example) is not actually descended from the proto-Indo-European word for bear (*h₂ŕ̥tḱos, from which we get such works as “Arctic” and possibly even the name “Arthur”).  The bear is a powerful and dangerous animal, words have power, so people wanted to avoid invoking it directly.  But our of fear, or fear alone?  I think it’s more likely that this circumlocution comes from awe and reverence for something of such great elemental power.

Likewise, the substitution of (for example) “gosh” for “God” isn’t done out of fear but reverence or respect.  So is using “darn” or “dang” for “damn”- after all, damnation is a divine prerogative, and it would be disrespectful for mortals to tread in that area.  And changing “fuck” to “frick” (or my favorite, the Irish “feck“, although that one seems to be a bit more complex) or using the word “crap” instead of “shit”- that’s not fear.  That’s just skimming the edge of whatever society defines as polite language.

I think this points to an impoverishment of our language these days, probably driven by a similar poverty of the imagination.  Words like “awesome” have lost their original spiritual sense, and the idea that someone could revere and respect a powerful force of nature or the divine, as well as fearing it, just don’t seem to occur to most people, the author included.

Thoughts and Prayers

One of the things I’ve noticed over the past year (possibly brought to the fore by the large number of natural disasters in the U.S. and elsewhere, as well as the horrible world-wide refugee situation and the proliferation of mass shootings and terrorist attacks) is the amount of scorn being heaped on the frequently-repeated statement of “our thoughts and prayers are with them” (or its equivalent).

I think a lot of this is due to the knee-jerk atheism that seems to be hip these days.  Even in those who aren’t atheist, there seems to be a lack of belief in the effectiveness of prayer, in the idea that the divine can and will affect the material world.  And a lot of Pagans (and other people who believe in magic) seem to shy away from the idea of prayer in general because it’s “too Christian”.

There also seems to be a false dichotomy being set up- that anyone who offers “thoughts and prayers” in response to a horrible situation is just being lazy, that they’re automatically not actually helping in other ways.  That may be the case in some folks, but it isn’t in all.  Any good magician knows you need to act in the material and the spiritual world at the same time; every Pagan should take that principle to heart as well.

Also, sometimes, there is simply nothing else we can do.  Someone we know is in trouble- a messy divorce, a fatal illness, serious mental illness.  But they are far away, or their material needs are provided for, or we have no way to help them… or perhaps, our own stock of spoons is so low that we can’t be of material aid.  All we can do is tell them that our thoughts are with them.  It could be that just knowing we hear them and we’re aware of their pain will help them.

Finally:  I’m a polytheist.  I have, to use the Anomalous Thracian’s elegant phrase, “a religious regard for many real Gods”.  That means They can hear my prayers, and choose to act on them if They so choose.  When I tell someone, “you are in my prayers”, it is not trivial to me- or to the Gods.   It is a real and meaningful offer of aid, one that takes time, effort, and sometimes cost.

Hospitality and my tradition

One of the centers of my devotional practice is an eclectic trance possession group called the Universal Temple of Spirits.  Not going to go into detail here, but please feel free to explore the website and ask respectful questions in the comments.

Anyway, one of our central tenets and paths of service is Hospitality.  The way I see it working in our devotional ceremonies is that we create a space of hospitality, a warm and safe “feast hall” as it were, and we send out “invitations” to the Spirits that the mortal attendees want/need/have been told/etc. to invite.

The Spirits we invite are our Guests; it is their choice whether to show up or not, and to help or counsel or chastise or comfort; or to indulge in the song and dance, the food and drink; or to send Their “regrets” as energy or goodwill; or to not respond at all.  We are the Hosts;  it is our duty to make Them welcome and to provide for Them, to honor and praise Them, to heed Their words and respect Their wishes, and to be aware of how They want to interact with us.

It’s a delicate balance, though.  Just like in the ancient tales and myths that touch on hospitality, the Guests have duties, even though They are greater than us- noblesse oblige, perhaps, and definitely remembering not to abuse Their welcome.  And we as Hosts have rights as well- as John Beckett has said many times, we retain our sovereignty, even with the Gods.

Previous Older Entries