Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Moving day....

I've decided to move this site over to Wordpress for awhile, particularly because I was getting a bit creeped-out by the fact that my email and my writing (as well as my recorded recorder-playing videos, and my search engine, and, and..) were all being run by one company.

So, the new site is PAGANARCH.COM
I even splurged on a domain name. 18 dollars.  Much more than I usually spend on myself.  Figured I'm worth it.  : )

Be damn well, and thanks always for reading my stuff. It kinda means the world, you know.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The War for the Christian's god

A man, orphaned from the beliefs and culture of his youth through the choices and experiences of his life stumbles, through the forests of doubt and the cities of shouting voices, into a small community of strange folks who speak the names of almost-forgotten spirits and gods.  These people, their ways and customs foreign yet somehow familiar, whisper of the voices of trees, the tears of the moon, the wheeling of the stars.

He abides with them awhile and is warmed by their stories.  They nurture and teach him as he teaches them, sharing his wonder, reflecting back to them their mythic delight and dark broodings in a way that warms them like the fires by which he sits.  He learns their tales, he sings their songs, he charms them with his boyish beauty and his far-off gaze.

And then one day, he decides to leave.  He's seen their gods but does not recognise them as his, their gods have seen him and not embraced him.

He hears another call, another god, the one he'd left, the one he'd fled from in his search for truth.

The people with whom he'd stayed, who'd given him their tales and their joys and maybe even some of their hope meet his decision with fear and worry.  They've seen what the god to whom he decided to return has become, a god of fury, a pillaging, raping, brutal god.  How could he go back?

Some worried that he'd been dishonest with them, returning their hospitality with coldness, taking but refusing to return.

Some were hurt he'd abandon them.  A small community in a world eager to pour concrete into their holy wells, blot out the stars, bulldoze their forests--losing one of ours against what might come seems too hard to bear.
Some, like me, didn't know much about him until about the time he'd started to decide to leave.  He'd been known and loved by many, but there were many, many more of us who hadn't spent time in the same places he had.  Some of us merely shrugged, rightly focused instead on the work and worship of their gods and the service to others.  At least one--me--delved as far back as he could through the stories to find what this man had seen, what this man had meant.

There's something that I think I should say, having known both the god to whom he's returning and known of another community, similar to ours.  Those people are also small in number, like us, and are trying to do something just as difficult as we are.

We are trying to re-awaken the gods into the worlds of mortals, to entice them back from their decision to withdraw from us, to convince them we can be again worthy of their presence and their blessing, worthy to world with them.

They are trying to wrest from the priests of their god control of his co-creation.

Terrifying thing about gods.  They don't always care who worships them.  Despite the monotheist's claim, the god they worship didn't create the heavens and the earth.  He is like our gods, but more popular, raised amongst others by force of sword and fire.

But he relies on the same processes that our gods do.  The christian god is like our gods and goddesses, relying on his manifestation and co-creation through his priests, prophets, mystics, popes, and worshipers.

That small community I mentioned, the one like ours?  They are people trying to liberate the christian god from a preponderance of his violent, bigoted and uncaring worshipers, just as we may have to do for our gods, just as we have already begun to have to do with some of the heathen gods to whom racists and bigots have offered their worship in return for power.

Just as I would do on behalf of my gods and on behalf of the people I love (the poor, the oppressed, the queers and freaks--the kind ones of the earth), many of them are also attempting to do.  It would even appear their current high priest, Pope Francis, is attempting to do this to.

So, charming kind-souled man who stayed with us, who accepted our hope and kindness and returned it in kind, has quit the forests of our gods, journeyed back into the land from which he came with its raping and pillaging god.  But he appears to have thrown his lot in with the resistance, many of whom are my dearest friends, many of whom would fight on my behalf as I would for them.

Because of my belief in my gods, I feel I must also support them, and if he sides with them, then I should support him, too. 

I can't help but not smile at this, having remembered what we're all on about, all up against.

If they succeed, our work to bring the gods into the world will be easier, and we'll have less to fear.

If they fail, the earth beneath our feet, the forests in which we have taken refuge, the streams from which our goddesses whisper, the temples we hope to build for their worship--all this may fail.

Gods help them, and gods help us against that day.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Crown of the North: Arianrhod, Part Six

I rarely talk of myself. 

This may not appear to be true on first glance.  I talk and write relentlessly of the things I've seen, the places I've been, the thoughts I've had, the things I've done, the people I've loved and dreamed. 

But not myself.

Synchronicity is the word many of us pagans use to describe a certain process where there's something we want to do or more specifically something important we need to do and the world appears to conspire to make sure we understand.  It's different from the pathetic new-age idea that thinking positive thoughts will make the universe yield to your requests, or the christian "ask and you shall receive."  It's worse, actually.  That is, it's more brutal.

The events which conspired to suggest I take up this writing devotional to Arianrhod were unmistakeable to my mind, as if being directed.  Simultaneously, I've been studying the training materials for the Order of Bards, Ovates, and Druids, and am halfway through the section of deep-study on the element of water.

Unrelated.  Not un-related.

When Arianrhod first appeared to me in an obvious way, it was after encountering Dionysus.  He's a forceful, lusty sort, and I'd already made a specific vow to Bran, Brighid, and Ceridwen which I intended to make to any god who'd accept it on the terms I was offering.

Dionysus counter-offered.  Hard.

I've the sense that other people have experienced this.  He's a bit more all-or-nothing than many of the gods I've encountered, and it was with him I first started to understand the nature of Divine Trauma: that is, when a god appears to you in such an all-encompassing way that the rest of your world seems to shatter and you feel like you're going fucking mad.  And, well, Dionysus has been worshipped as The Maddener, so, well, yeah.

A friend of mine, who's experienced so much Divine Trauma that he seems to be done for awhile, hiding into the mundane (an utterly acceptable choice when you've seen what he's seen), reminded me that most gods are not utterly concerned about free-will.  That is, the slavish worshipper and the stubbornly free-willed both offer something to a god.

I'd made a decision that I wanted to be the latter.  The mere fact that I was encountering gods didn't diminish my desire to live my life as I'd always intended to, stubbornly independent whenever possible, being of service to others from a place of self-sufficiency, not of slavish need.

And then Arianrhod showed up, blue, silver, the sky reflected on the sea reflecting the stars, an owl, its wings dripping like that of a phoenix, clearer behind my closed eyelids than any other dream, memory or vision.   

Water is the hardest element for me.  I thought it'd be earth.  I flow only one way, and repress more than I release until, as if by Dahu's doing, I drown my world in emotions.  I'm best when I give counsel and sympathy, I'm my absolute worse when I need it and find it given.  I parch or I drown, I drought or I storm, I burn or I wield winter.  Like the King of Cups, far away from the sea of dreams, giving of his cup but forgetting to refill it.  So easily toppled because he's given everything that he no longer has anymore for himself.  That's too often me.

XVII: How Arianrhod may relate to other gods and Pantheons

Celtic:  I am near convinced that Arianrhod and Ceridwen are related.  Not aspects of the same goddess as the monists might suggest, but related as part of a triad including most likely Brighid whose collective title could possibly be The Morrigan.  I cannot prove this.  I'd never fight about it, and I'm open to being convinced otherwise.

An essay just posted gives me a little suspicion that I'm not the only one who suspects there's some relationship between Brighid and The Morrigan.  Within the essay, though, is the point of the daughter of The Morrigan being Nicnevin, a "queen of the witches."  Arianrhod has stated herself to be a Queen of the Witches to me (so I believe it, but again, I've got no evidence for this).  As Morgan le Fay is likely also Arianrhod, this backs up her relationship to magic, and I suspect Taliesin's mention of her sending "the stream of a rainbow...that scares away violence from the earth" seems also a magical reference.  But, again--I'm no priest, merely a bard.

Greek:  Alright, here it goes.
I don't think Ariadne and Arianrhod are necessarily the same.  But the placement of their constellations, the links to weaving (St. Catherine/Arianrhod/The wheel) and to labyrinths (one of the suspected names for Arianrhod's tower, Caer Sidi, means either revolving tower or possibly labyrinthine tower) means there's something else going on.  Also...who fathered Arianrhod's children?

I won't say Dionysus, but I'll also point out that Dionysus is said to have gotten around, and I believe it.  Furthermore, Arianrhod's relation to Desire and Dionysus's relation to Desire seem almost opposite or complementary.  And, finally, the fact that it was she who helped me not be overwhelmed by the advances of the god of lust, madness, the forests and liberation while still entertaining them suggests to me that, if they did not directly relate, they seem to now.

XVIII: Gender and Sexuality

Related, actually, to my experience with Arianrhod and Dionysus, and quite evident from the Mabinogion, I would posit that Arianrhod can best be described as the Queen of Swords.

For those unfamiliar with Tarot, here's what I mean.  The Queen of Swords often represents a fiercely independent woman who maintains a distance from lovers often in order to pursue herself and her own goals. A sharp, piercing mental certainty, a witch-like "maidenhood" (keeping in mind that the word for maiden used in The Mabinogion can mean both unmarried and virginal non-exclusive of each other).  She lives apart in a castle-island on the sea, has children that she does not keep, and seems from the story almost to be a poor mother.

But again, as I said before, there's something rather brilliant in her taking-of-everything from Llew.  It's akin to Ceridwen's choice to give her hideous son Afaggdu wisdom rather than beauty.

Anyone who wishes to experience love without ownership may find her myth resonates with them; more so, anyone who has loved and then chose to remain apart from their beloved may, too.  An unfortunate reality amongst the magically-inclined is that it's awfully hard to be in love without diminishing your practice.  I haven't found the balance yet, and I sometimes wonder if the balance exists. Which leads me to the next question:

XIX: Qualities I admire, qualities I find troubling

Just as Ceridwen demands a death and Brighid demands a re-forging, Arianrhod demands three losses.  In my case, the first was easy; the second much harder and the third I think I'm still attempting to comprehend.  Losing a name for some is hard, and harder still to gain another one.  Mine came in a dream, and I think it was only by a sort of Gwydion-esque trickery that I was there in the first place.  The second and third are much more complicated, and I'm not sure I understand them fully enough to write about yet.

This isn't quite troubling--more just intense.  More troubling is the apparent coldness of the Crown of the North, the Queen of Witches, and the confusions I have over her.  I've seen faces worn by Brighid and Ceridwen, but I have not seen Arianrhod's face except as a host of other women.  I've seen a circle of women several times, some of whom have become temporary guides for me.  I am never certain who they are, but they teach something in the way of magic.  There's suggestions that Arianrhod had nine sisters who lived with her until the drowning of Caer Arianrhod (and the sloppy and over-eager part of me wants to say Isle of Ys)--they may be them.  I don't know.

But the same things I find troubling I find I admire.  To be so secure in oneself, to need no-one, to walk away apparently unconcerned when shame and ridicule are made of one.  To withdraw to the sea, or the stars--I so often wish to retreat.  In fact, I've found precisely when I finally retreat from the world of fears and sorrow is when I learn more magic.  It would be much easier, I think, if I didn't need to retreat, merely instead to withdraw.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Crown of the North: Arianrhod, Part Five

Right, so let's see--where was I?

Actually, yeah.  Where was I?

Stone halls lit with torches and a light from windows I couldn't see.  I wish I could remember the walls--bare, I think, at least from my vantage.  Mostly, there were just lots and lots of people.  Drest strangely, or foreign though familiar.  That is, queer but not unrecognisable.  

The hall's crowded.  Enough space to move your feet a bit, not so pressed that your arms are pinned to your side.  Think of a performance about to take place in a medieval castle (and we've all been in how many of those? None, in my case), and you'll get the sense of the place. 

Everyone's standing, relaxed but alert for something.  Again, like the waiting for a performance. 
I know some of the people there.  Not by name, or not currently.  I did, or will, or do in that place.  

I'm a little nervous for some reason, not speaking to anyone, staring in the direction the rest of them are standing, towards a stone platform.  Not a throne, not even necessarily a dais; just some raised area.  We're all waiting in anticipation for something, and then there's a sound from the voice of one person, then another and another.  Not quite a chant, but a mere call, and people start looking around.  I do, too.

"Hey.  What's wrong?" asks a person next to me, a woman I think I've seen again in some dreams.

"Who are they calling for?" I ask.

Her expression looks a bit odd.  "You."

My turn to look confused.  "No they're not.  That's not my name."

She continues to look a bit baffled, and then her face softens a bit, suddenly looking wise.  "Oh.  You don't know it yet, do you?"

I got a bit frustrated, I'll admit.  I'm often frustrated in my dreams.  "Know what?  My name?  That's not my name."

She laughs.  "It is, or will be."  And, after I told her I didn't even know how to spell the word she called my name, she found some parchment and wrote it for me.

I didn't go up to the platform or anything else.  All I did was stare at the words written on the paper in my hand in this dream, and then woke, staring at my open, empty palm.

True story, as best I remember it.  The name on the page in my dream was long; I didn't think most people would call me that.  So I shortened it to the first four: Rhyd. About 14 years ago now, I guess.

Where was I?  Oh--

XII: Places associated with Arianrhod and her worship

Thresholds: I encounter Arianrhod more often in liminal times than any other.  The time between sleeping and waking is when I've had the most dreams with a voice whom I think has been her or someone representing her.  I've woken multiple times with some voice repeating in my head, reminding me to remember what she's said.  I try to write it down, but often times it's some magical practice; that is, spells.

[I'm not a very good witch, by the way.  My magic consists entirely of drinking some mugwort tea occasionally, sometimes doing something minor that comes to me.  I had the great pleasure of living with a rather adept witch who did lots of magic.  I once had to use Rue a little bit to undo some overflow or something, which contributed to him getting a bit ill for a few days (I didn't put in his food, don't worry). But besides the occasional spells I've gotten in dreams, I'm not much good at it.  I think this is important to her, though]

Water and Sky: Not just either, but both.  There's a...gate, I guess, that you can open by gazing upon the reflection of the sky on water.  I got a hint of this from the aforementioned witch and practice it as much as possible.  I'm not quite sure what happens here, really, except that the play of light upon rippling or still water, blue on silver on blue, is a way to find her.

Shorelines: I've heard this and read this from other people, and have done it once.  I think it's related to the Sky-on-Water gate.  Staring out to sea from a beach on a cloudy day near sunset, especially if the sun is behind you, seems to be something. 

The stars: Particularly when the moon isn't in the sky, or isn't very bright.  I know lots of people associate Arianrhod with the moon and call her a lunar goddess; I haven't found this to be true yet.  They could be right, I don't know.

The White Tower: I mentioned this at the beginning of the series.  Go find some still water.  Stare at the moon in it, while also looking at the moon above you.  See what arises between them.  This is part of her mystery.  It's said her tower revolves, or is a labyrinth.  If it's the latter, there's another goddess, a mortal raised to deity, who's familiar with labyrinths...
Fun thing about white towers?  The Marian cults in Europe represented her as a white tower.
Also fun thing?  There's a god who's head was buried at the base of one.  He's in the Mabinogian, too.

The Stars seen through the Needles of Pine: There's a mystery here that is related to why I link Arianrhod to Dionysus.  If anyone is on good terms with Dionysus and also Arianrhod and wants to try this, let me know how it goes.  Stare from the base of a pine tree at the light of the stars as they filter through the branches and needles.  Then, think about Desire. 




XIII. What Arianrhod Cares About.


Withdrawal.  Sovereignty.  Magic.  Desire. 

On a Sunday, at the time of dawn,
Between the bird of wrath and Gwydion
Thursday, certainly they went to Mona
To obtain whirlings and sorcerers.
Arianrhod, of laudable aspect, dawn of serenity
The greatest disgrace evidently on the side of the Brython,
Hastily sends about his court the stream of a rainbow,
A stream that scares away violence from the earth.
The poison of its former state, about the world, it will leave. 
From The Chair of Cerridwen, by Taliesin
From reading the story of Arianrhod in the Mabinogion, it would be easy to suggest that Arianrhod cares about women who reject their children.  This may be true; I don't know.  I used to have an obsession when I was younger about the stories of mothers who drown their children.  Strange obsession to have, yes.  But Ceridwen is said to have drowned or killed children, according to Robert Graves.  Graves, like all poets, including Taliesin, including me, should be shot.  And also listened to.  

The dreams about gods withdrawing into the sea which I had just before starting this series haunt me.  Arianrhod seems to have been among them, and possibly with other goddesses.  I don't remember any gods, but I do not dream vividly. 

I greatly suspect--actually, fuck that, believe--that some gods chose to withdraw from humanity while others, more powerful or more wily, according to their characteristics, chose to subsume the myths of saints (see Sannion's discussion of St. Martin of Tours and Dionysos).  Some have been active and blatant for quite some time (despite what the disenchanters tell ye'), while others chose, well--to withdraw. 

Arianrhod withdrew to Caer Arianrhod, now under sea and in the stars.  Some gods kick you in the face (again, Dionysos), others send an owl to you in a vision right after Dionysos has kicked you in the face (and just so we're clear, I did get enjoy getting off kicked in the face.)  A warning, a summons, a reminder not to get lost, a bidding to withdraw.

Sovereignty, like The Morrigan.  In fact, The Morrigan showed up apparently to test me on the whole sovereignty question with Arianrhod.  I didn't expect that (it's untidy...).  Did The Morrigan show up on behalf of Arianrhod? Is The Morrigan a title of multiple triple goddesses including Arianrhod? 

I'm gonna say yes to all of that.  I got no better answer.

Magic.  She just pretty much demanded that I start learning it.  Like, a few hours ago.  Actually, years ago, and then again and again.  I'm a lazy fuck.  Know when it all comes to you at once and you realise you've just been happily holding on the disenchantment because it's easier?  Yeah.  Like that.

Desire.  Read her story again.  She had two children, yeah?  One to the sea, one a king from whom she took everything.  Who'd she sleep with? 

Stare at her stars through the trees and ask her. 

Friday, November 15, 2013

Notes on "Worlding the Earth"

This post will make more sense if you read it first.  I cannot overstate (and I never overstate--right?) how thrilled I am about getting to write there.

I'm also excited about the series I'm writing.  A question which has haunted me my entire adult life: where'd the magic go?  Once could almost say that I've spent a significant part of my life attempting to create gates for it to re-enter, and those gates have been equally within as without.

I will occasionally post stuff that didn't quite make it into my posts there (1000 word limit is...going to be good for me, I think), including this one.

More on Chakrabarty

The quote I reference from Dipesh Chakrabarty deserves more attention.  I'll quote it in full:

"One historicizes only insofar as one belongs to a mode of being in the world that is aligned with the principle of "disenchantment of the universe," which underlies knowledge in the social sciences (and I distinguish knowledge from practice). But disenchantment is not the only principle by which we world the earth. The supernatural can inhabit the world in these other modes of worlding, and not always as a problem or result of conscious belief or ideas. The point is made in an anecdote about the poet W.B. Yeats, whose interest in fairies and other nonhuman beings of Irish folk tales is well known. I tell the story as it has been told to me by my friend David Lloyd:
One day, in the period of his extensive researches on Irish folklore in rural Connemara, William Butler Yeats discovered a treasure. The treasure was a certain Mrs. Connoloy who had the most magnificent repertoire of fairy stories that W.B. had ever come across. He sat with her in her little cottage from morning to dusk, listening to and recordering her stories, her proverbs and her lore. As twilight drew on, he had to leave and he stood up, still dazed by all that he had heard. Mrs. Connolly stood at the door as he left, and just as he reached the gate he turned back to her and said quietly, "One more question Mrs. Connolly, if I may. Do you believe in the fairies?" Mrs. Connolly threw her head back and laughed. "Oh, not at all Mr. Yeats, not at all." W.B. paused, turned away and slouched off down the lane. Then he heard Mrs. Connolly's voice coming after him down the lane: "But they're there, Mr. Yeats, they're there."
As old Mrs Connolly knew, and as we social scientists often forget, gods and spirits are not dependent on human beliefs for their own existence; what brings them to presence are out practices."
(Provincializing Europe, p. 111-112)

Dipesh Charkrabarty is particularly important because of his (I think) successful attempts to describe why historians who attempt to write histories of people without including their religious practices and the deities they worship are really just attempting to write their own sort of history over the actual experiences of the subject.  That is: historians (and other social scientists) who ignore the actual existence of the spirits and gods that a culture worships engage in the project of disenchantment.

A hypothetical example will help: if a people performs a pilgrimage because they believe their god has told them to do, writing about it as if their god doesn't exist imposes a western, secular spin on their practice which speaks nothing to their experience.  If they experience their god as real, you cannot tell their history without acknowledging this.

This has many ramifications for debates within paganism that I won't go into right now, except to point out that overlaying a secularist narrative on the experiences of people who believe that gods and spirits talk to them is part of the process of disenchantment.

On The Other

The Other is the term I use to describe all what we term spiritual and sublime.  It need not refer to gods and spirits (though, when I use it, it does), nor to any specific theology.

The Other is also a term from philosophy and psychology to describe that which is not Self.  There are shades of this in my usage of the word, but I mean something more.  Take the phrase Experiencing the Other in an Other and the difference may become clear.

If you've ever been to an anti-globalisation protest, you'll have heard another usage of this term, and it's more clear in non-American discourse than in America (the U.S. is pretty much one big machinery of discenchantment...).  The chant: "Another world is possible" can and should be also construed as An Other world is possible.  One of the translations of the french word for anti-globalization is Altermondialism, or Other/Alternate-worlding.  The fact that so many anti-globalisation protestors were also neo-pagans, new-agers, and other spiritual "deviants" should suggest that there is a link between embracing The Other and fighting economic injustice. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Crown of the North: Arianrhod, Part Four

 [Part of a series called 30 Days of Devotion. This is the fifth entry.  Start  Here]

Once, I made a conscious choice to shut out the gods.  

Ste. Barbe, possibly another syncretization

I remember how it happened, both the beginning of something severely real and the conscious decision to say, "no.  Not now.  Maybe not ever."

Hosting a samhain party at my house, a bit of tension in the air from the spirits of the thresholds and my own poised step between multiple worlds and multiple others, between one work and another, between one lover and another.

She pinned me against the wall, an old friend, not a pagan, but certainly a dancer upon the winds of madness and the currents of the under-earth.  "It's coming, you know.  You're gonna have to confront her, the goddess, the goddesses, women as divine, as dark, as breathing from grave, from the womb."

She terrified me.  Goddesses terrified me.  Sometimes they still do, as they should. 

Sometime around Beltaine the next year, dreaming in a dark room, still straddling those myriad worlds, I tried to get rid of an image that wouldn't go away.  A white tower in the middle of the city near a lake, not quite in the city but more behind the city, underlaid or overlaid of the city.  Light between sky and earth connected it, but it was physical, forged from a sort of stone that wasn't stone at all, almost chalk, probably...bone. 

It wouldn't go away.  I couldn't sleep this night or any of the nights before it because it was there when I closed my eyes, sometimes there just before I closed my eyes.

And I remember saying aloud, finally--"no. Not now.  Maybe later, maybe not ever."


I may deviate from the list for awhile.  Structure is great, and it's particularly helpful, but so is deviation.  I am nothing if not my deviations.

Let me elaborate.  The story of Arianrhod, the story of my relationship to my gods is itself a sort of deviation, or a deviation back on a deviated path, away from a futile attempt to hold onto normality by keeping the Other in abeyance.

There's lots of sorts of pagans, and they don't always get along so well.  Sort of like how there's lots of sorts of humans, with all the accompanying complications of difference.  Normality is generally over-rated, certainly, but normality is one of the best ways to survive Modernity.  Deviate, and certain things are closed off to you.  Say, prefer the fierce and brutal erotic closeness of men while also being a man, and lots of doors are suddenly closed.  There are some ways of forcing those doors open, such as acting normal despite your deviation, or minimizing your deviation.  These require a certain sort of double-mindedness of which I am no longer capable. 

Live a deviant life, and many doors are closed.  But live a deviant life, and many more things are open.  Ever spent time with the homeless?  Try it.  Sit with them for most of a day on a street and listen to their stories, their difference in perception of the city or the world.  There's something terrifyingly alive in their stories.

I was born into near abject poverty.  It really could have been worse, though--being born white was still easier than another skin-tone, since it's America and this is a horrible place to be if you're not white.  Also, male.  Lots of privilege, but simultaneously lots of not-privilege.  Some in my position side with the dominant class (white, christian, middle-minded) in hopes of either becoming accepted, gaining access to privilege, or at least having an easier time of it. 

I never do.

What's this got to do with Arianrhod?

Go back to the story of her children.  What did she give them?


A goddess in a towered castle on the sea, a goddess in a towered castle in the stars has two children.  She's a maiden, but not in the virgin sense.  She's unmarried, single, powerful.  Two children, one a child from the sea, one a blob of flesh.  One returns to the sea, the other, hidden in a chest, becomes a man sooner than others of his kind do, perhaps fathered by a giant. 

A foolish sorceror-bard, Gwydion, whose meddling has already caused him to become an animal thrice and to live and mate as an animal with his brother, to give birth himself at least once, takes the child to Arianrhod.  She takes from the child everything that gives him access to society and sovereignty--a name, arms, and marriage.

As for as myths go, this is my fucking favorite one. 

X. Offerings and Worship

What do you give a goddess who strips you of a normal life, a normal existence, an ordered world?

A poetic, brilliant, deviant life.

There are several celtic goddesses of poetry and bards. Brighid/Ffraid is the best known one.  Arianrhod almost seems an inverse Ffraid sometimes, or if you worship her as part of a triad including Ceridwen and Brighid/Ffraid (as I do), she is a third expression or path towards wisdom and poetry.

All three are goddesses of poets and inspiration, and all three offer transformation.  Brighid, goddess of springs, flame, and the hearth/forge, presents what as I see as an alchemical transformation, rooted in the processes of life.  In the forge fire is the breaking down, the separation, Solve before the reforging, the remaking, Coagula.

The path of Ceridwen's transformation is different, but related. The boy Gwion, tending her Cauldron (at a hearth, interestingly) accidentally steals the Awen, the poetic inspiration, the sense of the Other when it spills out.  Ceridwen (who also had two children, one beautiful, the other ugly) hunts him and kills him and gives him birth again.  Hers is the sudden tranformation, the shapeshifting hunt through the realms, death and birth which are, one comes to understand, the same.

And Arianrhod?  Initiation.  "I have been three times in Caer Arianrhod" claims Taliesin (that is, Gwion-become-Taliesin).  Some people start with lots and lose it.  Some people start with little and have to earn it.  This is the transformation of Arianrhod, and it is also a path of desire and sovereignty, both of which I'll discuss again later.

Also, she seems to like Chamomile.  I don't know why.  I mean, I like chamomile too, but I don't know why she seems to prefer it on my altar.  Also, mirrors. And I have a glass owl which I sometimes use (another association I'll get to later).

XI. Holy Days/Festivals

These are both personal.  I have no proof that Arianrhod was worshipped on any particular day (though I've read several places that it may have been in April).  That being said, both Beltaine (or, more specifically, April 29th-May 1st) and November 25th seem appropriate days.

The first comes from my own practice and rituals.  Two nights before I initiated into OBOD, I had a really severe dream which I can still recall vividly, one I've discussed elsewhere and may bring up again.  The next night I found myself in an open field in southern Oregon at a festival, staring at the myriad of stars above me and felt them not only seem to wheel about me, but felt myself to fall into them, a brilliant vertigo of despair and wonder.  Furthermore, through Tarot and grove ritual, Arianrhod appears always in the place of the South-east; that is, the "gate of Beltaine."  Also, one of the St. Catherines are venerated on April 29th.

November 25th is another St. Catherine's day, the one specifically associated with the wheel.  I intend to venerate Arianrhod on this day, and I'll let you know how it goes.


These are coming slow for several reasons.
  • One: I write at least twice (and in this particular entry, three times) as much as I end up using.  Some of this has to do with clarity, but much of it is something else: I've got a responsibility to tell this correctly, and it's difficult to figure out where what I think I should write and what I think needs to be told begin and end.  
  • Two: I've made a specific decision in my mind and practice that is sort of undefinable, but also personally profound.  Understanding why certain gods and goddesses have been more important to me than others, as well as how important what others have to say about them has been a matter of great interest to me.  I find myself rejecting certain notions of "normality," even more so than what I'd already rejected.  This is both liberating but also jolting.  I've Dionysus to thank for this, by the way, as well as some very dedicated people who've likewise decided to embrace deviancy rather than walling off the Other.  
  • Three: I'll now be contributing every Friday on a blog at Patheos,  A Sense of Place.  I'm absurdly excited.  Also, it's more writing.  This is a good thing.
  • Four: I've just finished the last of a kilo of Ceylon I smuggled out of Europe.  This is concerning.  Rhyd-with-Tea is better than Rhyd-without-Tea. Ask any lover I've known.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Thoughts on fallowing, writing, and self-editing..


It's been precisely a month since I returned from my pilgrimage.  I picked up the journal I carried with me everywhere while in France and Germany and noted that I haven't touched it since returning.  It's a bit of a perfect metaphor for what's happened in my soul regarding the experience.  Five weeks of the most intense life I've ever experienced, more vivid and severe and dream-soaked than maybe entire years of my life--I've need to not look directly at it, to let it fallow. 

I mentioned I'd read The Art of Pilgrimage while on the journey.  I must recommend this to anyone who goes on pilgrimage, or also, anyone, who wishes to experience the Other more fully through travel.  It was a gift from a newly-met friend at my going-away party, rather timely and endlessly helpful, more so as guide to understanding the shifts of the soul on pilgrimage.  Similar to John O'Donahue's Anam Cara, the book serves as a sort of soul-friend, a whispering, kind friend who assures you that what you're undergoing is not only transformative and wonderful, but an ancient, oft-forgotten wisdom.

To honor certain memories, they must be left alone for a time as other memories are re-established, other patterns are set.  He retells another's sentiment as, "coming home means letting go for awhile so an opening is created."  He also mentions the concept of the 'threshold guardian,' who must be appeased upon return.  Both ideas have helped greatly in keeping at bey my tendency to excoriate myself for "taking it easy" occasionally.  


The current project I've been working on, a question-guided series on Arianrhod, has been expanding far out of what I originally envisioned it.  Arianrhod is an under-studied goddess, one whom plenty acknowledge and worship in practice but one for whom there's been scant recent writing.  It appears I'm attempting to fill in several gaps at once.  I'm pleased to do this, but I hope perhaps such a thing will be picked up by others. 

There is so much unsaid, and I wonder how much of this comes down to fear, both of reprisals from others and also that we are "not good enough" to have anything to say on the matter. Vehement reactions from internet communities don't help, but remember--it's just the internet.  We all forget our manners when isolated from the real people behind our words, and words chosen in frustration can cause alienation (as I was brought to remember today). My prose can be a bit thuggish sometimes.

This extends far beyond spiritual practice.  Silence is great if it is preferred, but silence borne of fear is tragedy.  Most writers are so-called "introverts" (I've never accepted the dichotomy, but it's useful sometimes), even though some of us talk and write too much (probably myself included), while others with important insight don't engage in conversation. Whole nations are run on the verbosity of just a few people.  This is not a good thing.

Also speaking of Writing

I got some very good news this week.  Those who like my writing and think maybe I should write even more will be able to read me in another place, weekly.  I'll provide an update once my first contribution is approved.  This endlessly excites me.

And also speaking of Writing

I'm starting to compile several of my series writing from this blog onto another site.  Which means I'm editing my stuff as I do this.  This is a very good and necessary thing, until I find a furry red-headed highly-literate bagpipe-playing man who'll volunteer to edit for me while I play his bagpipes and watch him edit, shirtless. 

That is, yeah...I should learn to self-edit.

Be always well. 

And watch this, because I can't stop being absurdly happy when I watch it: