A Book of Celtic Polytheist Prayers

Something that has long been needed in Celtic Reconstrusitionist communities and households are prayers that are easily accessible. Ceisiwr Serith’s A Book of Pagan Prayer was a good pioneering effort, with templates easily adaptable to our needs but many have long-awaited a book of prayers specifically for Celtic Polytheists.

 

An Leabhar Urnaí: A Book of Celtic Reconstructionist Friendly Prayers,  edited by Maya St. Clair and published by Air n-Aithesc remedies that. The book includes prayers in Old Irish and reconstructed Gaulish, as well as prayers in English for Welsh, Irish, and Gaulish deities. There’s a very interesting Gaulish “Geneology of the Gods” by Segomaros Widugeni, prayers for specific occasions, praise poems, and other devotional prayers and invocations. I do have some contributions therein.

Deities include, Sirona, Cernunnos, Rosmerta, Epona, Taranis, Grannus, Lugus, Nuada/Nuadhu, Macha, Nemain, the Morrigan, the Dagda, Lugh, the Brigid’s, Manannan Mac Lir, Rhiannon, Arianrhod, Lleu Llaw Gyffes, Blodeuwedd, Branwen, Ceridwen, and more.

 

Copies, both print and digital, can be purchased at

http://ciannai2.wix.com/air-n-aithesc#!blank/q7plh

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Polytheist Book Recommendations

 

I like making lists, keeps my mind form chaos. Here’s a list of some good polytheist books I read this year. These were either published in 2015 or 2014.

 

 

Dance of Oak and Wren: Rites of Draiocht by Robert Barton. The author is a leader in the Gaelic reconstructionist community of Sinnreachd. There are a lot of Druidist books out there, but not a lot grounded in a reconstructionist foundation. This one is, and is a worthy interpretation of recon Druidism for our times.

 

 

The Treasure Book of the Tuatha De Danann: A Pocket Book of Irish Myth by Morgan Daimler. Includes, the Tain Bó Regamna, The Morrigan’s Satire, Berba—The Story of the Morrigan’s Son, Oenghus’s Dream, and the Taking of the Sí. The author has both Irish originals and her own translations (impressive). A Miscellany of little bits from the lore about the gods and the holidays. A lovely little book.

 

Irish Paganism: Reconstructing Irish Polytheism. Moon Books (Pagan Portals series). Another one by Morgan Daimler. A good, if short, introduction to an Irish Reconstructionist practice, something people have been waiting a long time for. Includes a pronunciation guide.

 

Enchanting The Shadowlands by Lorna Smithers

A beautiful book of landscape poems (and short stories) and evocations of the Brythonic god Gwynn ap Nudd and also to my delight, of Nodens. Post-industrial landscapes (in Lancashire) and their forgotten spirits along with buried rivers are called forth, as it were too. Some of these poems give me shivers.

 

Ephesia Grammata: Ancient History and Modern Practice by P. Sufenas Virius Lupus. Red Lotus Library. The Ephesian Letters are fascinating magical formulae that were associated with Artemis of Ephesus. This little book gives historical background about their uses and how to use them for divination. I have found them a very interesting divination set to add to others in my toolkit.

 

Thunderstruck with Wine: The Hymns of Sannion by H. Jeremiah Lewis. Nysa Press. As the subtitle says, 31 hymns to bring us closer to the God. As the blurb says “…they are Keys that open the Labyrinth”. If you’re a Dionysian, get this one!

 

Komos: Celebrating Festivals in Contemporary Hellenic Polytheism by Sarah Kate Istra Winter, (aka Dver). Winter’s main focus is on Hellenic festivals, but what she has to say is applicable to other polytheist traditions, including Celtic. She writes that the record even for Greek festivals is spotty, most of what is known is Athenian, and even there the details are often spotty. For Irish we have so much less that the Hellenic record seems rich. But I think developing new festivals for deities and heroes that fit our local situations is an important thing to do. As Winter says it’s a both and, meaning doing traditional ones and creating new ones within the spirit of the old ways. An excellent read, full of useful ideas.

 

I find myself thinking, as I rounded them, these are small books, and there is something good about that! Easy to carry, among their other virtues.

 

There are so many winter holidays coming up, (and books are such good cheer) and I’m sure most of us celebrate at least one, if not many….

 

 

Oh, and From The Prow Of Myth is still available and makes a nice gift. J

https://www.createspace.com/4443944

Greek and Roman Animal Sacrifice, A Book Review

A Book Review

I read this book a few months ago, when there was a lot of discussion on the subject in the blogosphere, and am at last getting around to putting this review up. I think it is relevant not only to those interested in Greek and Roman practices and attitudes, but for the wider Indo-European field, including Celtic.

 

Greek and Roman Animal Sacrifice: Ancient Victims, Modern Observers,

edited by Christopher A. Faraone and F.S. Naiden. Cambridge: 2012.

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This book focuses on Greek and Roman practices but has wider implications. In the latter part of last year ‘discussion’ flared up on the issues of animal sacrifice in pagan/polytheist contexts today. One can hear some proponents of the practice stating that it is “central” to their particular tradition. In fact it’s widely thought as of being the case among the two cultures of the title. The editors begin the book with an interesting statement, “In recent scholarship, animal sacrifice ranks as the central ritual act of the Greeks and Romans, yet this was not always so.” They go on to show how it was Walter Burkert and J. P. Vernant. (with Marcel Detienne) that gave it this central placement, and that their views became the norm. The French and German schools of interpretation were distinct but both agreed that animal sacrifice was a distinct practice and served social functions of political solidarity.

 

In recent years, many scholars have challenged Burkert’s and Vernant’s views, questioning its centrality. The Greeks lacked a word specific to animal sacrifice. The usual term thuein/thusia means to make smoke. The basic Roman words were sacrificare, meaning “any act by which something was put into the possession of a god.” 4 Also immolare, which meant to sprinkle meal. The central act of Roman worship, the authors say, was the burning of incense. Those who were suspected of refusing worship of the emperor were required to make an offering of incense and wine. The Christians like certain NeoPlatonics (see Porphyry, for example) were against the sacrifice of animals. I came away from this reading thinking it may have been the Christians who made it a separate category with heated disapproval (they believed Christ’s sacrifice was the only sacrifice), and then leading pagans to defend it, creating a conceptual category that had not previously been there.

 

Bruce Lincoln gives a history of modern western thoughts and theories on sacrifice from the late 19th century to the present. Fritz Graf discusses the abandonment of ‘great theories’ a generation after Burkert’s and Vernant’s works. John Scheid writes all acts of eating and drinking were shared with the gods, whether plant material, meat, wine.…” Certain vegetable offerings, like the pure wine and the incense, were themselves a representation of the gods, and were in a certain sense even more important than animal sacrifice, because by offering them the Romans made the gods present, and opened a space for ritual communication with them.”

F.S. Naiden problematizes the idea that the Greek animal sacrifice was a widely shared communal meal by marshaling a vast amount of archaeological evidence from recent years based on faunal remains, size of ancient animals, which were much smaller than contemporary ones, and other osteiological evidence. He concludes that with certain exceptions there just wouldn’t have been a enough meat for it to have been shared by a whole community.

 

 

Jas Elsner writes complexly on the evidence of Roman art and warns of the tendency to take it as realistic representation. Something striking though is in a change from 200CE, one of mostly depicting vegetal sacrifice and libations, although this is the period of the mounting Christian attacks on the bloodiness of Roman rites. The historical evidence does suggest a lessening of the animal sacrifice during the later Empire and he notes one religion of the time, Judaism had turned away from it after the destruction of the Second Temple in 70CE. I found his last sentence eye-opening: “The bigger ‘theological’ argument, however, that we as a scholarly community have systematically overrated the significance of animal sacrifice within the general ritual complex of ancient religions and specifically within Roman religions, by contrast with other elements within the sacred system (such as libation). In doing so we have effectively not only followed but swallowed hook, line, and sinker the suggestions made by our polemical Christian sources in their brilliant rhetorical rant against the religious world that preceded them” (my emphasis).

 

Richard Neer, an art historian reminds readers that what was often sacrificed were treasures, objects made by humans, and that some of the most famous temples of all including the Parthenon and the Hephaestium in central Athens show no signs of a much looked for altar for animal sacrifice, the buildings themselves being expensive offerings. I note that archaeological evidence from the Celtic world shows a similar propensity for the sacrifice of beautifully wrought human-made objects.

 

James Redfield writes on sacrifice in comedy and Albert Henrichs on the situation in tragedy, where sacrifice gone awry, especially human sacrifice like that of Iphigenia, what he calls sacrificial perversion becomes a common theme. Henrichs also reminds us that while English has the one term sacrifice, ancient Greek had half a dozen. Sacrificial perversion includes sacrificing animals for the wrong reasons to the substitution of a human victim. Animal sacrifice is central to Greek tragedy, and Burkert focused on the evidence of tragedy for his theories of the sacrificial in general. According to Henrichs, Burkert in some of his publications make “the intriguing equivalence of animal and man…that casts the shadow of human sacrifice over al those holy altars in front of the temples.” Henrichs counters “Nothing could be further from the truth…human victims and animal victims are treated the same as far as the sacrificial language and the ritual process are concerned, but from an ethical point of view, they are worlds apart, as the tragedians make crystal clear”.

 

In the conclusion Clifford Amdo writes “When the Arval Brethren adapted earlier ritual forms to find a place for divinized emperors within pre-existing conceptions of the world, various forms of cognitive and communicative work were performed, and new forms of social differentiation and corresponding patterns of deportment were granted the dignity of legitimation in light of such antiquity and authority that orthopraxis treasured and could bestow.” A bit dense, but carries an important insight for those of doing reconstruction, I think. Overall the books dislodges blood sacrifice from centrality, and on the other hand does not deny its importance; the reality was complex, differentiated, nuanced in time and place, and the evidence we have always comes through interpretative and partial lens. I recommend this work for any polytheist who really wants to know what scholarship currently has to say about this topic. It clearly shows that there is no one way for this practice.

 

 

 

Weaving Winter Holidays

I have to push myself to share personal practice, but friends say it is important to do so, as we grow our polytheistic traditions. So here is a brief account of my weave of winter holidays, of which there have been so many: Solstice, Yule, Christmas (which yes, I do celebrate in a secular and family way), Devotions for Dionysos, Antinous, the Brigids, Nuadha, CúChulainn, all the Shining Ones of the Gaels, the ancestors, and many more. No big (Druid grove) ritual this year for me, but many devotions, and small celebrations and rites. And so we weave the sacred into our lives.

Some of what I did: two days of Solstice/Yule, a home dinner, offerings to the Gods and ancestors and a local land spirit, whiskey for CúChullainn whom I offer to around the 21st, chocolate for Antinous, and a gift for Dionysos—a beautiful piece of metalwork of grapes and vines that I bought at the Berkeley holiday craft fair on Telegraph for his shrine. On the last day of Saturnalia (Sigillaria) I walked out to the park where I have long celebrated Antinous and Diana. A big storm had blown down a large part of one of the cypress trees that makes an entry into Diana’s Grove. A few boughs were gathered; one is on my Antinous shrine (where I honor other deities associated with him in Ekklesia Antinoou practice also) and another sent to an esteemed colleague.

For years on Christmas Eve I’ve made a kind of Mother’s Night offering for my blood ancestors, especially the female, Germanic ones. They get cookies, cake, and rich organic milk/cream. One of my great grandmothers and her sister have become a focal point on my ancestor shrine which is in the dining room, an appropriate location I feel. I used to offer drink to the werewolves on this night also, but the last few years have been unable to as I currently have no neighborproof outdoor space. At my home we do celebrate a secular Christmas, a family day. Early on New Years’ I made small offerings –poems, incense, candles, and prayers for Janus, Hermes and Antinous at my Antinous shrine. My partner makes a beautiful and magical traditional Filipino (his heritage) New Year’s table, with fruit and bowls of coins to bring luck and the good stuff in the new year. Subtle magic.

ancestorShrine Ancestor

Later we walked on the beach under the sandstone cliffs; spirits were showing everywhere. An offering was made to Ogma and an ogham divination done. Later I did my usual saining, purifying the flat completely with smoke of juniper and cedar.

Funston

I love the still quiet time…though, especially now at the beginning of the new year, with all my work completed for my job and some time ahead for my own projects, plenty of reading (I got some great books this Yule! including Detienne’s The Masters of Truth In Archaic Greece and Page duBois’ Out of Athens and the fascinating Steven Mithen’s After The Ice: A Global Human History 20,000–5000 BC, a mini-course in prehistory in itself), and some trance/journey work. But simply recharging is so vital. I notice after I’ve been off work for awhile I start remembering my dreams more often, and some of them have been pretty intense. In the quiet time my spiritual vision kicks in stronger. I’m more likely to be aware of spirits. Ancient calendars were designed with the wisdom of the intercalary between times, though most moderns just see it as their lack of scientific precision. Yesterday was the day I honor the ancient Druids, a day some of us call The Festival of the Three Druids or Feis Tri Druad, which is sort of a repurposing of Epiphany or Three Wise Kings Day (for more on this see https://aediculaantinoi.wordpress.com/2012/01/06/a-dies-mortis-sancti-and-a-feis/), a big holiday in Catholic countries. I think one can come up with one’s own triad (or triads); for me this year it was Bodhmhall, Tlachtga, and Fedelm who received the honors, but I also have widened it to be a Festival of the Ancient Druids in general. And so also of my own aisling contacts and guides. Offerings were made at my home shrine as well as a night walk to a grove of evergreens at a spot high above the Pacific. The day brought quite an epiphany of sorts too.

This round completes my midwinter holidays, which this season were also blessed by rain. El Niño please bring more!

Land, Sea, Sky
Land, Sea, Sky

I’ll close with a great quote from a Yanomamo (Amazonian) leader/shaman named Davi Kopenawa.

On western cities

Their cities are beautiful to see, but the bustle of their inhabitants is frightening. People there live piled up one on top of another and squeezed side by side, as frenzied as wasps in the nest. It makes you dizzy and obscures your thought. I can never think calmly in the city. People constantly ask you for money for everything, even to drink and urinate. Everywhere you go you find a multitude of people rushing, although you do not know why. Whenever I stay there too long I become restless and cannot dream.

ww.theguardian.com/global-development/2014/dec/30/western-living-yanomami-shaman-brazil

Earth Day 2014

From

The Sixth Extinction: A Conversation With Elizabeth Kolbert

Humanity’s “most enduring legacy” will be our effect on the rest of life on Earth

 

“You write that we’re putting other species in a double bind: forcing them to move by changing the climate, and at the same time making it harder for them to move.

Pretty much everything now is on the move or should be on the move. I think it’s 30 feet a day you’ve got to be moving, toward the Poles or upslope, if you want to track the climate. Some things are moving very fast; some things are not.

In the past we know that some species have survived pretty dramatic climate swings by moving. But now you have the problem that where you might need to move is either bisected by a road or completely occupied by Los Angeles or São Paolo. So you’re bringing both of those forces to bear.”

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/02/140218-kolbert-book-extinction-climate-science-amazon-rain-forest-wilderness/

 

This book is on my wish list. We’re living in the sixth mass extinction on this planet, and one supposedly conscious species is involved, and truly one portion of that species that has inflicted its madness, its hubris upon the rest in this so-called ‘global civilization’. If this is not an apocalypse, I don’t know what could be. Yes, we are living in the middle of the apocalypse. Western, industrial capitalist civilization has embodied the apocalypse in its drive to escape embodiment.

From the Prow of Myth Review

Check out the review of From the Prow of Myth over at Aedicula Antinoi: http://aediculaantinoi.wordpress.com/2013/11/13/review-of-michael-routerys-from-the-prow-of-myth/

A couple excerpts:

There is a quality to many of these poems that is simultaneously reminiscent of the Orphic Hymns in their grand and traditional lyricism, but which likewise has a touch of what I can only describe as a variety of “pagan beat poetry,” in the very best sense of that set of terms. There is a Zen-like, haiku-esque use of linguistic economy and restraint that ends up being more suggestive and evocative, and nearly apophatic amidst the generally kataphatic phraseology of poetry. It’s a quality I’ve also sensed in other modern polytheist poets, including in Erynn Rowan Laurie’s Fireflies at Absolute Zero, a poet who likewise shares the CR/filidecht and Antinoan Mystery tradition associations with Routery and myself.

 

The section on land spirits was especially wonderful, and given the general neglect of these in modern pagan and polytheist practice, this is all the more commendable. Even though many of us do revere and honor these beings in our local geography, not many of us write truly devotional poetry to them, and so this section may be of especial interest to those who wish to see exemplary models to follow in this regard for the future.

–P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

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