Bealtaine and Fionn

So, a while ago I posted an entry describing my personal sacred calendar.  In it, I mentioned that I wanted to find the right day to honor Fionn, but nothing had come to me yet.

Flash-forward to a few days ago, when I found myself ruminating on the approach of Bealtaine, and the fact that it never really resonated with me even when I was keeping the standard Pagan Wheel of the Year.  I mean, I honor both the sacred sex aspects of it, I like the Maypole dancing and the singing, and I realize the deep power and mystery that lies there… but it just isn’t personally significant to me the way it is to others.

But then it hit me:  Bealtaine is the beginning of the “summer half” of the old Irish year, when the fianna would  leave their winter quarters to go back to living on the land, hunting and fishing (and making trouble, on occasion)- and Fionn is the king of the fianna.  And what was Fionn’s first creation after he had gained the salmon-wisdom?  Why, a poem praising Maytime!

May-day, season surpassing! Splendid is color then.
Blackbirds sing a full lay, if there be a slender shaft of day.
The dust-colored cuckoo calls aloud: Welcome, splendid summer!
The bitterness of bad weather is past, the boughs of the wood are a thicket.
Summer cuts the river down, the swift herd of horses seeks the pool,
The long hair of the heather is outspread, the soft white bog-down grows.
Panic startles the heart of the deer, the smooth sea runs apace-
Season when ocean sinks asleep- blossom covers the world.
Bees with puny strength carry a goodly burden, the harvest of blossoms;
Up the mountain-side kine take with them mud, the ant makes a rich meal.
The harp of the forest sounds music, the sail gathers-perfect peace.
Color has settled on every height, haze on the lake of full waters.
The corncrake, a strenuous bard, discourses;
The lofty virgin waterfall sings a welcome to the warm pool;
The talk of the rushes is come.
Light swallows dart aloft, loud melody reaches round the hill,
The soft rich mast buds, the stuttering quagmire rehearses.
The peat-bog is as the raven’s coat, the loud cuckoo bids welcome,
The speckled fish leaps, strong is the bound of the swift warrior.
Man flourishes, the maiden buds in her fair strong pride;
Perfect each forest from top to ground, perfect each great stately plain.
Delightful is the season’s splendor, rough winter has gone,
White is every fruitful wood, a joyous peace in summer.
A flock of birds settles in the midst of meadows;
The green field rustles, wherein is a brawling white stream.
A wild longing is on you to race horses, the ranked host is ranged around:
A bright shaft has been shot into the land, so that the water-flag is gold beneath it.
A timorous tiny persistent little fellow sings at the top of his voice, the lark sings clear tidings:
Surpassing May-day of delicate colors!

(source)

So tomorrow I’ll light His candle, pour Him a drink, and read the above poem and one of His tales.  And I’ll build on that from there.

Happy Bealtaine!  Hail Fionn MacCumhaill!

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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…

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.

Dealing with my Catholic past

A recent post by John Beckett got me thinking.  I was raised Catholic and it (and other aspects of Christianity) definitely did me some damage.  Although I’m fond of Western Ceremonial Magic as an area of study (and occasional LARP character background), it just doesn’t work for me… and a lot of that has to do with its explicit Christian groundwork.  I’m not much of a magician (and not into the ascension/transcendence/etc. aspects of Ceremonial Magic in general), so I don’t find that to be much of a hindrance.  On the other hand, a lot of hoodoo uses psalms and prayers, and that bugs me a bit (although it seems to work).

But I do have some Vodou lwa who walk with me, and a lot of them have Catholic saint imagery associated with them.  For many reasons, that doesn’t bother me.  Most sources that I have read are pretty clear that Vodouisants appropriated those images and reinterpreted them- because the images were easy to get, attractive and resonated with them as much as for camouflage from the Catholic church.  There’s not necessarily any identification or connection implied- e.g., St. Patrick is used as an image for Damballah because of the snakes in the image (amongst other things), not because Damballah and Patrick are in any way related.

Also, for me, the lwa themselves have often expressed a preference to me for those images. Erzulie Freda wants the image of Mater Dolorosa (the one with all the golden heart lockets) over Her shrine; Erzulie Dantor wants the Black Madonna of Czestochowa over Hers.  Others are less picky- Simbi Andezo prefers dragon and snake imagery, and the Gede like just about anything with skulls and such.  If it bugged me, I suppose I could work with them to find substitutes.

I guess the point here is magic is about what works for me.  Devotion is about what the Powers want, and how that resonates in our relationship.

She also rules hearth and home

I dream of the bones, risen ghosts
Flitting fitful from longer poems,
And wake to a more concrete set
Of tasks, still given by Her.
The heart-deep fires She commands
Are also hearth-warmers, and do not
Light themselves.  So, to, inspiration
Leads to a stropped blade, then the sting
Of onions chopped to sizzle, and lay
The ground for alchemy of oil and spice,
Meat and sauce. Her candle burns in the glass,
Casting a blessing glow on the pot
Bubbling slow, transforming, as water
Soap and scrubbing set right the aftermath.
Now only to wait, stir and taste, and let
The spell of sustenance unfold in time.

  • 1/22/17

Simple Devotions

As a follow-up to my prior post, I had some thoughts about simple solo devotions.  Most of my practice is solitary, so I’ve come up with a few over the years.

Example 1:  Fionn MacCumhaill is (amongst other things) patron Power for divination.  So when I’m working with Tarot or shagai bones (my two major divination modalities), I call on Him as part of it.  Specifically, I put my thumb in my mouth and bite down hard enough to cause pain, in honor of the way Fionn gained knowledge from the Salmon of Wisdom.

Example 2:  Last night I celebrated Imbolc (yes, I do it on Groundhog Day- there are reasons).  First, I cleaned all of Brigid‘s shrines (surprise!  I have several!).  Then I cleaned myself up and put on some jewelry dedicated to Her.  Then I lit candles and made whiskey offerings at all of Her shrines, reciting several prayers and singing some songs.  I ended up the evening reciting a story which is sacred to Her in front of Her image.

I also started a batch of short mead dedicated to Her, but that wasn’t a simple process. 😉

Small Things

I read a number of blogs of people who have deep, developed, and intricate devotional practices, ones that are important and powerful.  Also, they can be intimidating.  Sometimes, the writers have such an ecstatic immersion in their practice that they seem to be presenting their own path as an all-or-nothing mandate, a goal that another seeker may not even want, even if they can attain it.

It’s important to remember that your own path may not be like anyone else’s.  It may end up being deep and intense and overwhelming, it may be constant yet unobtrusive, it may be somewhere in between.  All of these paths can have equal value, and it’s really between you and the Powers to decide what path to take.  And yes, you have some input in this decision.  The Powers value our free will and our sovereignty; it makes our devotion that much more valuable to Them.

And if you don’t know where to start, start small.  Start each day with a short devotion- I use a slightly modified version of Sigdrifa’s Prayer.  End each day with another short prayer, something to thank the Powers and put the day away.  Get into that routine and build from there.

 

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