Report from a Windy Place

The winds are blowing hard. Last night they howled and moaned, things clattered and knocked about outside. A light rain falls. A storm is expected tomorrow. It seems to reflect things happening far away in the national ‘center’. I think of David Abram’s intuiting of the wind as spirit. This has been a difficult year on a personal level. When you have a local focus and animistic practice big moves, changes of geography and ecology are painful. At times I have been nearly overwhelmed with what the French call mal du pays (yes, the French have a much better word for what English makes do with homesickness; readers of Haruki Murakami, that animist novelist, will recognize this term, and know Lizt has a musical piece by this name). Local spirits left behind. Meeting new ones, but that takes time.

 

Things are shifting, realignments occurring on the macro-level. This is happening within our pagan/polytheist communities as well. Unpleasant things have come to light this year, things that weren’t exactly invisible before, but like seeing peoples’ masks slip, and seeing such ugliness revealed.

 

Rootedness is good for animism, good for learning ecological ways. But uprooting can be needed, so a god tells me. And there are much greater ones, much greater uprootings. I received rebuke (it hurt), my complaints getting in the way of doing the work. The storm warning says trees will be downed. Be prepared. Stock up on water, batteries…

 

A god shows me we must make otherworld sanctuaries, places not of this world. With our gods-given gift of imagination we co-create these places. They will be needed.

 

The winds blow harder. I am much more aware of the sky here. The stars. Much of my practice has long been deeply earth-focused (and still is) but the sky is becoming more prominent. There are times for flight. I receive lessons. I watch the birds, especially the white ones. At times it is necessary to fly high above the cloud layers, above the storms to high mountain summits, to the Cities of Knowledge, to the abodes that shine with the light of the Shining Ones.

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We need to unleash the imbas, the awen, the intuitive flows. I touch the odd vitreous substance of the castle walls. There are others here too, others heeding have flown here.

 

I went up on the mountain, almost to the summit. Iron-red and black cinder all about. I was light headed, this one was this-worldly but not really, it all intersects, the heavens and the earth. Some build bridges with science, some with poetry. I was oxygen deprived, I was drunk, the light was tangible. Poetry flit in the thin air, the god wanted me to go there for a long time, I could see for two hundred miles. It’s necessary at times to go high above the cloud layers above the storms to high summits.

 

 

In Honor of a Sacred King

This post got delayed due to the horrific massacre in Orlando.

There’s been some discussion here and there this year of sacral kingship, including something on this blog awhile back https://finnchuillsmast.wordpress.com/2016/03/30/sacral-kings-traditions-defense/ …. Here in Hawai’i, Kamehameha the Great is such a king who maintains a kind of guardianship over the islands to this day. On Saturday, June 11th, I had the opportunity to celebrate the king’s birthday (a state holiday). In the little town of Kapa’au stands a statue of this sacral king who spent part of his childhood in the vicinity. On his day, huge leis (20 feet long) are offered up to him, among other offerings early in the morning, followed by a parade and other festivities, including traditional chanting. Quite inspiring.

http://www.kamehamehadaycelebration.org/statue-ceremonies.html

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The statue itself has an intriguing history, having been created in Paris in 1878, put ona ship that sank off the Falkland Islands and was eventually salvaged and placed in Kapa’au in 1912. Kamehameha, who was born around 1736, unified the archipelago and navigated the kingdom through the treacherous waters of international relations during the late 18th century and early years of the 19th. Kamehameha authored the Kānāwai Māmalahoe, the “Law of the Splintered Paddle”, which protected rights of non-combatants in war. He is very much the object of reverence in various sites associated with his life. In a story reminiscent of other sacred heroes as a boy/young man he was able to lift a stone that prophecy could only be lifted by the would be king. The stone stands in front of Hilo’s public library today and receives offerings.

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The stone in front is the stone the young to-be king lifted.

The Lotus, Ever Emerging ( prayer)

 

May lotuses drop

red with love to balm the grieving,

cosmic flowers of life’s river

ever emerging from the dark.

 

O Antinous may you guide aboard those

who would embark on the Boat of Millions of Years

to sail with the holy powers into the stars

crossing the abyss to bright new event horizons,

–and for us here as well.

 

 

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Temporary Antinous shrine in temporary housing.

May you gather up your people

in this time of tragedy

and lead us all victorious to new life.

 

Ave Antinoe!

 

For those unfamiliar with Him, Antinous is a deity especially concerned with glbtqi folks and their allies.

 

Keepers of the Past, Guides to the Future

I’ve lately been very struck by this statement of Arundhati Roy, Indian writer, activist and author of The God of Small Things:

“The day that capitalism is forced to tolerate non-capitalist societies in its midst and to acknowledge limits in its quest for domination, the day it is forced to recognize that its supply of raw material will not be endless, is the day when change will come. If there is any hope for the world at all, it does not live in climate-change conference rooms or in cities with tall buildings. It lives lowdown on the ground, with its arms around the people who go to battle everyday to protect their forests, their mountains and their rivers because they know that the forests, the mountains and rivers protect them.”

 

“The first step towards reimagining a world gone terribly wrong would be to stop the annihilation of those who have a different imaginations—an imagination that is outside of capitalism as well as communism. An imagination which has an altogether different understanding of what constitutes happiness and fulfillment. To gain this philosophical space, it is necessary to concede some physical space for the survival of those who may look like the keepers of our past, but may really be the guides to our future.” (Quoted in This Changes Everything, Naomi Klein).

 

I find there is much applicable to pagan polytheism and our reconstructions here. And an understanding of the positive side of traditions that a reconstructionist should hope to cultivate as attitudes/practices/imagination that are an “altogether different understanding of what constitutes happiness and fulfillment” and a good way of life that what our mainstream viewpoint of neoliberal capitalism asserts. Whether Celtic—Irish, Welsh, Gaulish, etc.—or Scandinavian, Hellenic, Baltic, etc. reconstruction of our traditions provide tools of imagination and life as we fare into a dangerous future and forging new/old ways of life that are integrated into the great life cycles of our planet, of our biology and ecology and the greater cosmos. They provide us with understandings of reciprocal living in a relational landscape, that we may step out into a sacred intimacy with world.

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Christopher Williams, Ceridwen, 1910. Wikipedia commons.

Chanting Amergin

am gaeth i mmuir

I am a wind on the sea

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am trond trethan

I am a wave of the deep

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am fuaim mara

I am the sound of the sea

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am dér gréne

I am a tear of the sun

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am cain lubai

I am the fairest of herbs

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am bri danae

I am a hill of poetry

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White knees

 

Versions are from A God Who Makes Fire, by Christopher Scott Thompson

 

 

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The fili in a liminal place.

Sacral Kings, Traditions, Defense …

Here are a few thoughts generated by the uproar over Rhyd Wildermuth’s text at Gods and Radicals on Confronting the New Right… While I think that an unnecessary amount of confusion resulted from his lack of providing definitions for the type of Right he is discussing, specifically those who have roots in what is called the Traditionalist school of perennial philosophy, including the thought of René Guénon and Julius Evola in the early 20th century, and even if he painted very widely, there is much merit for us reconstructionist polytheists/pagans to seriously consider his points. And the fact is there is plenty of influence of this school of thought in contemporary polytheism and it is disingenuous to deny it. Just read some of the comments of the people who have crawled out of the woodwork spouting far right nonsense over this article.

 

As Reconstructionists, we, of course, are interested in traditions. The world is deeply wounded and many of us have found much that is healing in traditions that may or not be ancestral. So the slipperiness of language becomes a problem (tradition is like electricity, it can be used positively, negatively or otherwise); it should be clearly noted that “Radical Traditionalism” refers to the Evola/Guenon/de Benoist school and does intersect with fascism and similar far right politics. If some people, want to create universalist neopagan religion that is without roots, well fine. But I ask please be careful not to smear the work of reconstituting traditions, whether they are of nineteenth century fairy faith practices of Ireland, or of archaic Iron Age practices with “Radical Traditionalism”. If one does so, I think they should be aware they are also smearing traditional indigenous people from North American to Hawaii, from Ladakh to Nigeria. Helena Norberg-Hodge, producer and co-director of the film Economics of Happiness and author of the influential book Ancient Futures: Learning from Ladakh, is an example of a very different kind of traditionalist. I personally have long been of the mind that ancient traditions and practices are what is needed for human survival as the current unsustainable petroleum civilization breaks down and leaves everyone a ravaged landscape. And the traditions of the Irish, the Scandinavians, the Welsh and many other European cultures all have their place in that. I do have a problem with Rhyd’s damning of ‘tribalism’, but since he capitalized it, he may mean a particular iteration, but that, unfortunately, he didn’t define. The key thing to keep in mind with tribes is that they are not race-related—and that ancient Europeans didn’t even have the concept of race.

 

 

With that said, I think there is much of value to examine from the article. It claims that Reconstructionism is “one of the more significant places where the New Right intersects with Pagan beliefs. Emphasis on returning to ‘reconstructed’ traditions, older (and poorly understood) social forms and hierarchical structures, as well as an emphasis on recovering European heritage are often problematic. Further, nationalistic and racial exclusionist tendencies are often justified as being part of ‘the lore.’ Very strong language, but worth examining…

 

 

From a Celtic perspective, I think one of the most relevant questions here is how do we as reconstructionists of a Gaelic/Celtic emphasis deal with sacral kingship. I haven’t really seen any individuals or groups who really were monarchists and want to revive and live in an actual monarchy but there may be some hoping for such, for all I know. As I know I’ve discussed here and there in the past the Gaelic kingdoms and kings weren’t the monarchs of more recent European and other countries based on the ideology of divine Christian monarch invested by the Church and made by primogeniture (and often were a of a tuath, a tribe of about 2000 people and weren’t even states!), that people usually think of but nevertheless there was the whole very important symbolic concept of the sacred king (I prefer the Irish word rí) who received sovereignty, often as a liquor, from a goddess. And the filidh often played a role in not only inaugurating the king as representative of sovereignty—and even could share the king’s bed, a far cry from most rightist fantasies!

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Some groups create a ceremonial king, others have the role in ritual invested in a chief druid, but there are many possibilities. I wonder if anyone would have a problem with these symbolic kings and their role in ritual? It’s likely kings arose as ritual leaders whose ritual roles eventually carried over into the mundane. There certainly are examples from places that had moved onto other forms of governance that maintained a sacred king for certain rituals, as did the city of Athens in the classical era.

 

I can see that some people would want religions that had no such ‘hierarchical’ roles, even of the symbolic nature, I supposed even not having one chosen for one ritual, and then another for the next. I would hope that they would be tolerant of those who do wish for such ritual reconstructions. And I would also hope that anyone wanting to literally socially recreate an Iron Age based social structure would be laughed out of the community. I know all sorts of crazy does appear in CR-oriented social media these days, but ones that I am familiar with rapidly throw up bars to those who would attempt to fly fascistic flags or assert racist notions of Celtic identity (sadly, not so much or at least not with such quick defense among some devotional polytheist-labeled groups in my experience). I do agree with Rhyd that we need strong immune systems against such intrusions or false claims. Critical thinking absolutely must be a part of reconstructionist approaches and has to be part of our immune-defenses. So this is a valid place, a vulnerable area in reconstructions to beware of people who are actually monarchists with fascist leanings.

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And while I really haven’t seen much that would seem to be the “New Right” per se in a CR setting, an obsession with genetics and attempts at racial (and thereby racist) identities of Celtic identity do show up a lot. Celtic, as has been said so many times, is a linguistic term and the cultures that are based on said languages, and is not a genetic marker. People became Celtic by adopting the culture. Besides that fostering was a key custom, and thereby the continuous establishment of deep familial bonds between genetically unrelated people. Nonetheless, I think the racists who show up are dim enough to not realize that the black person or the Puerto Rican whom they consider an outsider to the traditions might well have more Irish ancestry than they do, those who would bang their chest in false Celtic pride—and have a deeper relationship to the gods.

 

A related area that is very unfortunate and unhistorical relating to all this is there are plenty of people in Gaelic traditionalist groups who believe in a cultural ‘purity’ and believe you can only worship Irish gods or Welsh gods, and the like, usually based on a false belief that cultures are isolated things stored timelessly in hermetically sealed vessels. I think analogous concepts can be found in some other reconstructionist religions, as among some Heathens or even some Hellenes.

 

So these are some points where I think we should set up strong defenses.

 

I’d be very interested in readers’ thought on these issues.

Which Dead?

I’ve been thinking a lot on the Dead of late. Some dead have become ancestors; another sort of the dead are those unloved, those who died far from home and were forgotten, those who suffered great injustices unrectified, the ghosts that the Chinese call hungry ghosts, and that the inhabitants of ancient Rome greatly feared. The inhabitants of that ancient city hunkered down after sundown, often with protective spells and prayers to avert the throngs of restless ghosts their haunted their violent city.

 

I’m hardly the first person to note that there is a miasma of unsatisfied and angry dead over the lands that presently constitute the United States of America. Not that surprising in a country whose government once offered money (bounties) to any who would turn in the severed ears, noses or genitals of its indigenous people. This leads into which dead do we honor or wish to placate? These are choices that we all have to make, and these choices are political, cannot help but be political, as well as spiritual. Some of you are aware I’m sure that some well-known members of current polytheist communities proclaim their complete apoliticalness, while at the same time pronouncing statements that are in support of the status quo. Some would honor Columbus, his genocidal impact notwithstanding, and bracket him in his era, even though his murderous brutality was not something desired by all men of his time and culture. Most importantly, though, is that his operation is still very much in effect in the Americas, not only in the US. Justice has not been done to the descendants of the genocides of the indigenous peoples of Turtle Island. Laws keep people from their sacred lands, from justice on many levels. The Doctrine of Discovery still underlies ‘legal’ justification of land theft. A number of locales have banned Columbus Day celebrations over the years, as more non-Indian people became aware that not only did he not discover America but that as governor of Hispaniola he brutally murdered over seven million Tainos.*

 

Glenn Morris, a member of the Leadership Council of the American Indian Movement of Colorado and professor at the University of Colorado says, “we have to ask the very simple question: why does the holiday even exist? And it exists in part to advance a national ideology of celebrating invasion, conquest and colonialism. And the proponents of the Columbus Day holiday in Colorado and Columbus parades, and so on, make no bones about the fact that they’re celebrating the colonization of the Americas and, in fact, have told us on several occasions, “Look, we’re going to have this celebration. We’re going to have these parades to Columbus. And let’s get one thing straight,” they say to us. “This is not your country anymore. This is our country now. And you’d better get with the program. http://www.democracynow.org/2006/10/6/challenging_columbus_day_denver_organizers_discuss

 

Counter to the argument that Columbus was just a European man of his times, Catholic priest Bartolomé de las Casas (he wrote A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies in 1542) who observed the region where Columbus was governor, described Spaniards there as driven by “insatiable greed” — “killing, terrorizing, afflicting, and torturing the native peoples” with “the strangest and most varied new methods of cruelty” in systematic violence that was aimed at destroying their culture. The Spaniards “thought nothing of knifing [American] Indians by tens and twenties and of cutting slices off them to test the sharpness of their blades”, wrote Las Casas. “My eyes have seen these acts so foreign to human nature, and now I tremble as I write”.**

 

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Spanish atrocities in Cuba (Wikipedia).

Several states, including Hawaii, Alaska, and South Dakota do not have Columbus Day; Hawaii has a Discover’s Day to celebrate the Polynesian navigators who made the extraordinary ocean voyages of discovery, and South Dakota has Native American Day instead. A number of US cities have replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous People’s Day, starting with Berkeley, California in 1992, now including Santa Cruz, CA, Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota, and Seattle, Washington. Various Latin American countries have moved away from this celebration including Venezuela which celebrates an Indigenous Day, and in Argentina, Día del Respeto a la Diversidad Cultural.

 

 

For those interested in the truth of Columbus I recommend Kirkpatrick Sale’s The Conquest of Paradise, and Columbus and Other Cannibals by Native American scholar Jack Forbes.

 

I think it’s very important for polytheists living in countries that have benefited from colonial conquest and exploitation to be very careful about which historical ancestors they choose to honor. There is a vast train of Dead who came from the wake of Columbus’ devastation. They are worthy of honor. I also think it highly important that those of us living in countries like the United States, who want to practice contemporary polytheism as a part of our world today, need to exercise these kind of discernments.

 

 

 

* Ward Churchill. On the Justice of Roosting Chickens.

**Solomon, Norman (October 1995). “Columbus Day: A Clash of Myth and History