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…

Paying the Rents

As I mentioned before in this blog, earlier this year some eejits stole a statue of Manannán Mac Lir from its place in Ireland.  I have to wonder about the intelligence of some people… pissing off a sea god when you live on an island sounds like a very bad idea to me.  But I digress.

Galina Krasskova dedicated her blog to Manannán in February, and there was a wonderful outpouring of devotion to him… including a poem from yours truly.  Amongst the other offerings, there was a lovely ritual by Sparrow, based on the Manx custom of paying the rents to their patron deity at MidsummerFree Spirit Gathering was coming up, and I saw that Saturday there would be Midsummer’s Eve.  Perfect.  I did some divination, and was disappointed to find that doing the ritual myself was contraindicated.  But then I recalled Sundance, a fellow member of the Universal Temple of Spirits, had a strong connection to Manannán, so I did another divination: should the both of us present the ritual?  The answer this time was a resounding “Yes!” We submitted the proposal and were approved, so it was time to come up with an outline.

Camp Ramblewood is a lovely and powerful place, and the land spirits there are very supportive.  So is the Free Spirit Gathering spirit- this year was the 30th FSG, and the spirit has grown and changed with the festival itself.  We chose a location down by the lake- a water connection seemed right (although the actual Manx ceremony takes place on South Barrule Hill on the island).  There was a bridge over the narrow part of the lake that we decided was perfect to make the offerings from- since Manannán is a psychopomp and gatekeeper to the Otherworld, a liminal space like a bridge over water just made sense.

Of course, we had to modify the outline when we got there- there was no longer a sandy beach, so we dropped the idea of drawing triskeles and other appropriate symbols in the sand.  We also dropped the parts involving people standing in circle and holding hands- there were several mobility-impaired people who attended, so we let people sit or stand as they felt best.

Here is the outline as it actually went:

1. Sundance used her rattle to define the sacred space and we invoked the Ramblewood spirits and the FSG Spirit

2. We spoke our names in turn

3. I had everyone close their eyes while I did a brief “place-setting” guided meditation and read the poem I wrote

4. Sundance showed around the symbol on the Isle of Man crest and explained the motto

5. I sang the song “C’raad ta’n Ree?” (Where is the King?) three times through while everyone concentrated on the symbol.

6. We passed around a chalice of Atlantic seawater so everyone could offer a prayer or libation to Manannán.

7. Sundance led us in a chant while we made our offerings.  It was very simple yet powerful, starting out with:
    Manannán Mac Lir
Sundance encouraged it to go into a swirling call-and-response that was very much like the sound of waves crashing on
the beach…

8. We gathered back together and I did a brief “come back” and then closed with my variation on an old sailor’s hymn:

    Come all you bold sailors wherever you’re bound
    And always let Manannán’s proud mem’ry go round
    And pray that the fighting and the tumults may cease
    For the greatest of gifts is a sweet lasting peace
    May the Gods put an end to these cruel old wars
    And bring peace and contentment to all of our shores

9.We then closed by thanking Manannán and the “locals”

Sundance and I thought things went very well, and we got a lot of good feedback.  The visualization and invocation felt like it had opened the way to Manannán’s presence.  His trickster nature was brought in by some of the participants, and especially manifested when we trooped onto the bridge to make our offerings- we didn’t know that it was on pontoon supports, and it started heaving like a ship on the waves!  I learned the songs well, and managed to deliver them clearly enough that people could sing along (not an easy thing with lyrics in another language).  We were left with a feeling of blessing and rightness.  Sundance and I are definitely planning on proposing it for FSG XXXI.

Our most sincere thanks to Galina, Sparrow, the members of Gaol Naofa, and the Manx and other Gaelic folk who’ve kept the traditions and memories alive over the centuries.

Hail Manannán Mac Lir!

Poem for Manannán

Son of the Sea

The first wave reaches further than
You would think; your feet are wet.
The way is open.

The second whispers along the strand;
Your ears strain to follow voices.
You hear answers.

The third rolls muted thunder
As it falls, passing up the beach
Like chariot wheels.

Four, five, six- they draw you
In and out, away from land.
Salt spray whirls.

Seven, eight- they sing the world anew:
Scent of flowers, water clearing to show
Land under wave.

The ninth towers- colors blending,
Indescribable- and subsides, dawn-silent.
He is here.