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!

Some Thoughts on the Recent PantheaCon

I meant to post this a couple weeks ago but came down with a nasty cold. But here are my impressionistic PantheaCon thoughts.

By turns revivifying, draining, overwhelming, recharging, hope giving, and ever so American in its hugeness PantheaCon charged up in the Doubletree Hotel owned by the Hilton hotel chain, which sits in the flood plain of the Guadalupe river, though from the hotel you would never know it flows nearby. Perhaps the incongruence and contradictions are appropriate—earth-revering pagans and corporate America, the rush of the adjacent freeways, the bubble of other worlds seeping from portals within a middle class generic hotel. Rhyd Wildermuth spoke on witches in a crumbling empire, on how empire is lodged everywhere in our mind/bodies. Walking near the hotel and to the Motel 6 where I spent the last nights of the conference (don’t even ask) on avenues allergic to pedestrians, I found a convocation of crows had gathered around the building; to me a good sign of protection, though for others it might mean something menacing (omens are relative and directed). I felt more of an exhausted empire myself in the landscape of onramps and tech ‘campuses’ and Denny’s. Here is America hyped and amped up, determined to race along until the fuel tank is empty, circuits of pointless rushes, oblivious to surroundings, as long as the ear buds are in and the smartphone is working.

***

In a smallish hotel room has been transformed into a temple. The entire room is lined with marvelous shrines, images of many deities, and pervaded with presences. Rhythmic song and people swaying, this is a place of transport in this very same mundane hotel, but here we are in another world; another culture is in birthed action. A place of Wide Branches and Deep Roots.

 

I speak one evening about the sea and filidecht to a surprisingly large group of attendees, we explore the cauldron of poesy. Beforehand I had gone outside into the pouring rain which purified me, and the otherworld lapped around my feet, momentarily took my glasses, and said it’s time to turn to that inward vision now.

 

A few days later I watched a construction site near the Motel 6 that had turned into a lake, with a small mound rising from the center by a construction crane. The floods rise in any landscape, no matter how postindustrial and seemingly manmade*. The mounds are to be found in all countries, with their portals to the dead. The dead are invited in, to walk the concourses, as we open more doorways into the impossible futures full of beauty and joy. At a marvelous rite led by Welsh Druid Kristopher Hughes, he said that a real spiritual path takes anxiety and transforms it into joy.

 

To turn the Cauldron of Motion, our sorrows and joys move the cauldron, and help to move it upright due to our own efforts of a fully lived life. I cried tears of blocked sorrow, saw the sky bright eyes of a goddess looking down, and let go into the tide. This is a time to both delve deep and activate on the surface. Cauldrons were abrewing, spells woven, blessing poured forth over the long weekend. My body was exhausted by over 6000 miles of travel, my soul revivified, shards of empire pulled out of flesh.

 

* Just a few days before the start of the ‘Con the town of Oroville to the north was evacuated due to the waters building up and threatening the Oroville dam, one of the world’s largest such structures. A crater formed in the spillway and the emergency spillway was seriously eroded.

Filidecht Resources

Here are some useful resources.

Breatnach, Liam. “The Caldron of Poesy”. Eriu 32. 1981.

Calder, George. Auraicept na n-Eces: the Scholar’s Primer.https://archive.org/details/auraiceptnancess00calder

Carey, John. “The Waters of Vision and the Gods of Skill”. Art and the Sacred Kairos and the Dallas Institute for Humanities and Culture. 23 March, 1991. Santa Fe.

Carney, James. Medieval Irish Lyrics with The Irish Bardic Poet.

Chadwick, Nora. Poetry and Prophecy. Good worldwide survey form 1952 (but does contain some racist/colonialist attitudes prevalent in that era).

—, Chadwick. “Imbas forosnai”. Scottish Gaelic Studies, 1935.

Corkery, Daniel. The Hidden Ireland.

Ford, Patrick. “The Blind, the Dumb, and the Ugly”. Cambridge Medieval Celtic Studies 19.

Guyonvarc’h, Christian J. The Making of a Druid: The Hidden Teachings from The Colloquy of Two Sages (the text with annotations).

Heaney, Seamus. Sweeney Astray: A Version from the Irish. Irish poet’s translation of        Suibhne Geilt, the poetry of “mad Sweeney’, a glimpse into the world of a geilt, outsider poet living in the woods.

Henry, P. L. “The Caldron of Poesy”. Studia Celtica 14/15. 1979/80.

Jones, Mary. Jones Celtic Encyclopedia. 1998-2015. Web.

Laurie, Erynn Rowan. The Well of Five Streams (contains her Cauldron of Poesy article).

Minahane, John. The Christian Druids: on the filid or philosopher-poets of Ireland.

Nagy, Nagy, Joseph Falaky. The Wisdom of the Outlaw: The Boyhood Deeds of Finn in Gaelic Narrative Tradition. Berkeley and Los Angeles: U of California Press, 1985. The Fenian outsider warriors were poets too.

Ó hÓgáin, Dáithí The Sacred Isle. A crucial book for understanding pre-Christian practices and believes in Ireland by an Irish Celticist.

Ó hÓgáin, Dáithí. Myth, Legend and Romance: An Encyclopaedia of Irish Folk Tradition. London: Ryan, 1990.

Ó Tuathail, Sean. The Excellence of Ancient Word: Druid Rhetorics from Ancient Irish Tales. Idiosyncratic modern practitioner’s take is worth a read.

Patterson, Nerys. Cattle Lords and Clansmen: The Social Structure of Early Ireland. The historical background.

Skelton, Robin. Samhain and other poems in Irish Metres of the Eighth to the Sixteenth Centuries. Contains an appendix with the different traditional meters.

Thompson, Christopher Scott. A God Who Makes Fire: the Bardic Mysticism of Amergin. A recommended practitioner’s handbook.

Incubation & Surrender

With Samhain approaching, on Friday I went out to one of my favorite places anywhere. At the end of a remote road on the North Kohala coast lies a deep valley. Pololu. A steep trail zigzags down to the wild beach. This is a favored place for my visionary filidecht practice of incubation. Beach huts make nice incubatory chambers. The sea itself induces light trance. I am the sound of the sea. I am the wind on the sea. The waves of the deep.

 

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Beach huts make nice incubation chambers

 

Deepening. Down, down, down, I went. The Cailleach is a deity that has surprised me in her importance in the work, as least in my practice of it. I feel she laughs with amusement that after my being cast into the sea in her cold waters I washed ashore on this remote tropical coast. And an island that could only be Otherworld from the point of view of the ancients.

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This has been a year where much was about letting go, surrendering; it has not been about my will, my ‘self’, which I think Paganism in its modern from has heavily overemphasized (I’m sure a part of our modern western notions of the absolute importance of the individual). Old ‘selves’ die, are shed, decompose, new selves sprout and grow, if one surrenders to the work of visionary traditions. It comes with pain, mutilation, as well as ecstasy. Such is sacrificial work. Consider the Shining Ones burning their ships when they landed on Eire’s shores. Did they not have great longings from whence they had come? I am told.

 

Perhaps a true sovereignty comes from overcoming the boundaries of the daylight self, the ego, of its puncturing and laceration, of the waters overflowing its dam, as French philosopher Georges Bataille suggested; that overcoming of self that happens when we really come into intimacy with the sacred.

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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.

Satire, Divisions, the Hound of Ulster

I’m saddened to see all the divisiveness that seems to be spilling over in our communities. Polytheism really doesn’t need the increasing fractiousness that’s taking on almost farcical proportions this year. We all will never agree on everything, but do people really want to tear apart our interconnected communities as they have been growing for the first time in many centuries? A few nights ago I was dreaming of ways to make going to Many Gods West in Olympia possible this year; I had written it off as completely financially unfeasible, but there I was online looking at airfares to Seattle. Dionysos Chthonios! Then I learned about the fiasco that had occurred and the cancellation. If you haven’t heard Dver gives a very good background to it all here:{edited: she’s removed her post}.

 

While I don’t think one could possibly do polytheist practice or any kind of religion without a political context (with the possible exception of if you are doing a private solitary rite and it’s only between you and a god(s) and you never share anything about it with another human), the fact that people are being labeled and excluded is very disappointing. I have long enjoyed Sannion’s satires (to say nothing of his enormous contributions), even if not necessarily agreeing with him. Again we have an example of how American society has less and less ability to comprehend satire as well as inability to avoid polarizing thought. Since satire is a sacred art in my Irish tradition, this is even more greatly a cause for concern to me.

 

On to more positive things: Today is a day when I celebrate Cú Chullain and I wrote this little poem as devotion this morning.

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Cú Chullain Has Taken Up Arms!

Bearing 3 heads, hauling a

stag in the back of your chariot,

after a day of monster slaying,

trailed by a cloud of swans that

light the sky around you

signaling the virulent turmoil of your ‘fury’,

your ríastarad, your warp spasm,

as you returned successful to Emain Macha—

who’d ever seen or will see such a

taking up of arms, O hero of Ulster!

 

 

 

And it is also the Liberalia, a day I find good to remember Ovid (who has also fallen afoul of political divisiveness in at least one elite US university).

From last year: https://finnchuillsmast.wordpress.com/2015/03/17/liberalia/