Fires of Justice

One of the things that I love about the Celtic traditions is the focus on justice, with deities from Brigid to Nuadha (just thinking of Irish) coming to mind. In different eras concepts on (in)justice will be different but in today’s world and certainly in the country whose passport I bear, justice is so much about race. Americans, especially white ones, have to understand how deeply racism lies in the DNA of the United States right back to how the country was shaped and structured from its beginning; this lives on in the force of those White Supremacist institutions today such as the Electoral College, the police whose origins were the slave patrols, etc. And let’s remember slavery still remains in the US prison system, literally. At this time for Celtic pagans of all varieties and stripes it is so important to say Black Lives Matter. And that people of all origins, ethnicities and races should be very welcome in our Celtic polytheist and Druidic worship. Hospitality is one of our primary virtues. I think we can all do well to think of ways to make our doings more hospitable.

 

However, If we’re honest we can see there are a lot of racists among Celtic pagans; in social media the slightest criticism can bring out the racists. Some even scream that politics need to be separated from religion/spirituality—as if that is a possibility. Often people like to point the fingers at the Heathens but it is very much around (and has long been) in Celtic milieus. One group recently got a lot of attention that was full on fascist (I will not mention the name). One common aggression is the asking POC why aren’t they going for their own ancestral traditions (the assumptions are great).

 

I lead small druid rites (in a practice that comes from an offshoot of ADF) on the fire festivals. The people who participate other than myself are POC. The gods do NOT care about ancestry, race or anything like that. It is humans who hold these abusive modern views. We need to be aware of the coding and dog whistles people use who may come to our groups, our gatherings, our virtual spaces. We need to ward against them. And for those of us who are white this means increasing our own awareness, an ongoing project*

 

 

 

May the compassion of Brigid and the cosmic fairness and measure of Nuadha come to our very troubled land. May the criminal injustice system be transformed into a justice system.

 

 

  • For those interested in furthering their understanding of white racism here are a few books I’ve found helpful:
  • Race Matters by Cornell West
  • The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
  • Ain’t I a Woman? by bell hooks

The Observatory, a Meditation

You’re walking up the mountain. You’ve passed the tree line and keep on going, taking occasional rest breaks as it can be hard to catch your breath up here. You tread on a red crunchy soil. After a while you realize there’s a large round building near the top. At first, you thought it was a cloud.

 

You’re much higher than you had realized as you turn and see the land you’ve walked through unfurling far below.

 

You turn back, taking in the sight of the domed building above you. There is a door ahead of you. The building is high but it is only when you enter that you realize that it is huge. Somehow the interior space seems to have grown. A matter of perspective, they say.

 

There is a long open staircase made of metal, which you can climb up to a ring of galleries. Alternatively, you might find an elevator to take you up.

 

You may find a guide here, or perhaps not. What is up there are a long series of windows (there may be as many as 70*). Through these windows you can look out onto many, many views. But sometimes they only give onto white, thick cloud banks, fogs. Look carefully. You may be able to see into the years ahead. Into possibilities, those that may be important for you and your community. Or into the Otherworld. The colors are liminal. Concentrate on them. Surrender. Can you step onto the clouds? Or see new constellations? With practice you can read them. The starlight can be intense. It can enter your cells. The atmosphere is thin.

 

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Above this, in the center of the dome is an aperture. You can’t easily approach this but be aware it is there. It is possible a god may descend from there or maybe pop up through one of the hatches.

 

You can come to this tower when you really want to know something. You may not like what you see. Maybe it will be life changing, when life becomes insurmountable below. You may see things that better helps you navigate in the turbulence ahead.

 

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*I mention this number because Merlin had an observatory with 70 windows and 70 doors as related in the Vita Merlini (Life of Merlin) by Geoffrey of Monmouth. The architect was his sister Ganieda. Unlike this one, their observatory was built in the woods. But this is just extra information.

The Silversword Alliance

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The silversword plants (Argyroxiphium) grow around 9000 feet up on the island. Their leaves reflect. (Photo from Wikipedia). Fencing is to protect from invasive goats which have demolished their populations.

What follows is a poem full of personal gnosis.

 

The Silversword Alliance

 

the swords flash silver

in the mountain’s life,

the sun rose over the heads

of the many lost below

 

but here we raise the blades

of allegiance to the Cloud Lord,

an archaic league remade,

held high for the future.

 

where the sanctuary reigns

high like an eagle’s aerie

in the narrow valley we train

below the red house wary

 

the plants flash in the ash soil,

the alliance in mirrored din

reflects over world’s turmoil.

 

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Sword of Nuadha.

 

Gatherer of Souls by Lorna Smithers, a Review

 

These are poems and stories that probe, lifting tissues of (mis)remembered pasts. Ghastly misdeeds of King Arthur and his ‘knights’ are here. Smithers gives voice to those that were decapitated & slaughtered, mutilated like the Very Black Witch of Orddu, the giants of the land whose beards were pulled out bloody and nasty. Gatherer of Souls on one hand is a work of disassembly, but through such it is prophetically freeing of those who were buried, covered up, cast out as monsters from a developing, eventually imperial narrative.

 

Essentially, this book is a retrieval of Annwn, the Brythonic underworld, and of Gwyn ap Nudd to whom it is dedicated, a psychopomp and leader of the wild host who has gathered multitudes over the millennia, and is associated with Glastonbury Tor among other places. She shares her experience in a way that is accessible to the reader and also intensely poetic. “I met him on the tear-drenched edgelands between madness and reason, dreaming and waking, life and death. Gwynn ap Nudd opened the doors of Annwyn and called me to ride with him into the mists through the war-torn centuries to recover his forgotten mythos.” The book continues the courageous charting of Annwyn in her previous and recommended book The Broken Cauldron.

 

“Across Prydain giants lay headless and beardless, stony limb scattered in fragments on their hilltops. I helped them pull themselves together, fixed their broken fingers, stuck on their peeled-odd fingernails, guided their sprits into Annwyn’s craggy beds and chairs.

Their anger gathered into a muttering beneath the land that sounded like grinding rocks as Arthur and his men set forth to capture my hounds with leashes woven from their blood beards.”

 

The book is a mix of poetry and prose, but all filled with the prophetic vision of the anywyddyn. That the dead will rise again is foretold. That Gwyn has strengthened. She turns Procopius, the early Byzantine historian (who described a terrible wilderness of serpents and wolves north of the Roman walls) on his head: “From North of the Wall I return/cloaked in feather and claw./To breach the gap/and bring down the divide”.

 

Many voices speak through Lorna: a young girl living in a Celtic village who comes to know a Chalk God whom she first hates for taking her sister; there is Snow who lives at the time of the reinhabitation of Britain after the Ice Age, and who lives on plains of blizzard in the comfort of a “little tent made from willow saplings and reindeer-skins.” She tells us that it was like living in a “reindeer’s womb.” Wind Singer lives at the time of the Roman conquest and gives birth to dragons. In time of despair she flies as a dragon with the Winter Lord. Then there’s the raven that tells us of the downfall of the House of Rheged, that once-fierce kingdom in the north, of Urien blinded by the bible-bearers who forgot what his shield was all about. The oldest creatures share their stories here in a new way: the blackbirdsmith whose “black feathered cloak was sewn by the tailor who dressed the earth”, the wood stag, “when he sprouts back to life, no prison of brick can contain him; the wingless owl; the eagle who ate the stars, she who was taken to the depths by a salmon whom she healed from the wounds of the tridents; and that salmon of wisdom who now has to wear armor: “His wisdom has become a submarine to sink beneath visions of witches, eyes on the radar, launch missiles at Mabon’s prison…” and so many more…

 

As a child, I grew up with the King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table like so many Americans of my generation, went on to the shimmering artifice of Malory and later saw Arthur (whose name has a bear root) as a Celtic hero fighting off the Saxon invaders. At times this is a discomforting vision, almost a #metoo of the ‘once and future king’ on one level. The reveals of the voices of those abused feels so timely, the voices of Annwyn and the giants, witches and the rest of the ‘othered’. Smithers work is one of deconstruction but most importantly offering new vision and insight, the work of a true poet. I will be rereading this one. It could well be read alongside “Chulwych and Olwen” from the Mabinogi.

 

It can be obtained here:

https://lornasmithers.wordpress.com/publications/gatherer-of-souls/

 

Fire & Water

I’ve been on a bit of a hiatus here, I admit, but I plan on getting back to this blog. A lots been going on in the last few months including an inspiring trip to the Philippines. Here on the island the eruption of Kilauea has been much in the news and continues to be (in case you were wondering, we’re safe and lucky to have a nearly 14,000 foot mountain between us and the eruption). Here, instead, it’s been very wet for the last couple months. Fire and water (hmm, fire in water is quite the Brigidine theme, right?).

The goddess Pele continues to expel sulfur dioxide gas, lava bombs, and splinters of volcanic glass causing even shutting down a geothermal plant on the other side of the island in a reminder of who’s boss.

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(Halema’uma’u, home of Pele. photo credit: CFHT)

Meanwhile, recent study reveals that chickens and other poultry make up 70% of all birds on the planet at this time and 60% of mammals are livestock, mostly cattle and pigs. 36% are humans. 4% are wild. The ubiquitous distribution of domestic chicken bones across the planet is now considered a mark or the ‘Anthropocene’.

I recoil from this, there is something disgusting here. Yeah, chicken McNuggets come from birds (along with 37 other ingredients), kids, really. There is a certain irony in that the Hawai’ian islands are overrun with feral chickens, even supermarket parking lots.

In fact, since the dawn of civilization, humanity has caused the loss of 83% of all wild mammals and half of plants, while livestock kept by humans abounds. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/may/21/human-race-just-001-of-all-life-but-has-destroyed-over-80-of-wild-mammals-study

 

An animist can easily succumb to despair in these times. But then Pele shows herself with greater force. And in very intriguing timing an idol of the Hawai’ian war god Ku, under whom King Kamehameha I united the archipelago, was returned to Hawaii just a week before the start of the most recent eruption. Estimated to be around 200 years old, it came up for auction in Paris and was purchased for over $7 million dollars by the Salesforce CEO who has an estate in Hawai’i. He returned it to Hawai’i, giving it to the Bishop Museum in Honolulu (not often such a commendable act by a tech tycoon). Coincidence? Ku and Pele taking notice?

https://www.sfchronicle.com/bayarea/article/Benioff-pays-7M-to-return-rare-Hawaiian-war-god-12938915.php

 

To see such interactions of holy forces/agencies, including elemental ones can be recharging (even though I have compassion for those who have lost homes to them). Wherever we are, we need to work hard to build stronger relationships with the spirits and gods of the wild, to build on the fury of the boar and the wolf, to call on the dead who would aid us. There is so much that needs to be (re)moved.

Who is your local spirit(s) of the wild?

One of mine is the stream that runs below our hidden place. I made it an offering the other night. From what I hear it has been known to take a human. These are (holy) powers. Part of civilization’s problem is how it has forgotten this most basic knowledge.

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Some New Publications

I’ve got an essay on filidecht “The Well, the Sea, the Dead: the Poet in Irish Lore” in the latest issue of Air n-Aithesc, Volume 4, Issue 2. http://ciannai2.wixsite.com/air-n-aithesc

And a poem: “Fleet as Deer” for Flidais.

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I’ve also got some poems in the new Bibliotheca Alexandrina book,

Blood and Roses: A Devotional for Aphrodite and Venus:

“A Grammar for Aphrodite”, “Venus and Felix Roma”, “Eros Unloosed”, and Hermes’ and Aphrodite’s Child”.

 

https://www.amazon.com/Blood-Roses-Devotional-Aphrodite-Venus/dp/1973810816/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1501828200&sr=1-3&keywords=Blood+and+Roses

 

 

 

And a new post over at paganbloggers: Slipping Out Into the Mythic:

http://paganbloggers.com/blog/2017/07/29/slipping-out-into-the-mythic-by-finnchuill/

 

 

 

And happy Lughnasadh–and Imbolc for southern readers!