Saturday, April 7, 2018

A Divine Who-Ha Does Not A Moon Deity Make: Or Why the Morrigan is not my Moon Goddess

   Let’s just file this under pet peeve.  Because there are far better myths and modern misunderstandings to dispel about the Morrigan, like how she is not a sex kitten, not a goddess of sex, or a declawed war goddess. One of which you can find in a blog Morgan Daimler wrote: The Morrigan is Not My Sex Goddess.  But because this keeps cropping up and because a whole lot of people ask me about it or use it as a reason to conflate the Morrigan with other Goddesses I feel it’s worth addressing, at least in a blog post.

SO…repeat after me.

The Morrigan is not a moon goddess.

She never was, never has been. 

   And probably a lot of other goddesses you are calling moon goddesses aren’t really moon goddesses either.  Moon does not instant equal feminine any more than solar instantly equates to masculine.  It does in some systems and pantheons, but not all, and not even the vast majority.  I wrote a whole book about the solar feminine and why we need to stop putting our ideas of masculine/feminine and moon and sun into strict little boxes: Drawing Down The Sun.  Or current mindset is the result of the view points of those who pioneered the study of comparative mythology, namely that everything must be held up to the standard of Greek & Roman mythology and everything else was deviant. As well as some of those very binary view points making their way into modern psychology, like the works of Jung, which modern occultists tend to be a fan of and apply to things that they probably shouldn’t apply them to.

   Just because the Morrigan is female doesn’t mean she is instantly connected to the moon. The Irish didn’t really have Gods that fit the pattern of Greco/Roman pantheons where there were clear solar/lunar deities.  Seeing how often you have a sunny day, or see the sun shining without cloud cover in Ireland, I am not surprised. And if there are any deities in the Irish pantheon that could be considered for the title of lunar deity, all the ones that come to mind are male.  

   But the Morrigan is a triple Goddess, you say, like the phases of the moon! The concept of maiden, mother crone that we connect to the moon’s waxing and waning is a concept you can thank Robert Graves for in his book The White Goddess.  And yeah there are places where that model works, but in the Irish pantheon it doesn’t. Just like with the triple Brigid’s the three Morrigans are more like sisters than maiden, mother, crone. They are different aspects of a greater whole, or from another view point a triple set of sisters given one title who may not even be a unified being. So to connect the Morrigan to other lunar Goddesses based on the idea that she appears as a maiden, mother and crone trio doesn’t work either.
   So why do suggest working with her, or guises of her, during different moon phases, you ask? Well because the moon and her cycles, as well as the sun and planets in their dance around the universe, can be harnessed for magical purposes.  Working in conjunction with these energies and these cycle can result in some pretty successful magick.  And harnessing and aligning our work to that is always a good idea.  So it really doesn’t matter if I am working with the Morrigan, Oya, or an angelic intelligence, there will always be a preferable time to do certain work based on those heavenly bodies.    
   So please. Stop calling the Morrigan a moon goddess. And really look at the myths and attributes of other Goddesses too. A divine who-ha does not a moon deity make. Maybe look up the myths of some moon Gods to get some perspective. Rethink what you classify as relegated only to the masculine and feminine.  And don’t try to fit the Gods into boxes, they are far too old and vast to fit easily in them.  

Saturday, January 6, 2018

A Feast for the Morrigan: Creating Tradition Where There is None

   It’s a new year, and Florida is experiencing quite the cold front.  Perhaps nothing by New England standards, but the chill in the air, the novelty of seeing my breath as puffy clouds of steam when we have gone hiking brings back memories of other cold January nights making offerings to the Morrigan shortly after the new secular year.  January 7th as a Feast Day to the Morrigan is undeniably modern.  As far as I can tell the date can be traced back to Edain McCoy, who mentioned it in one of her books.  There isn’t really an explanation as to why she picked that date.  Perhaps there was a reason, perhaps not.  In the end though I don’t think it actually matters.  What I do find interesting is how we establish traditions where there are none. Whether something has been lost to time or the deity one worships never had a sacred day or feast day connected to them, how do we go about making one? And should we?

   There are many days you can connect to the Great Queen and her mythology.  Samhain usually being the most important one I honor Her on, but certainly not the only one. But even with Samhain one must ask themselves when is the correct time to celebrate?  Oct 31st? Or Old Samhain, which thanks to the adoption of the Gregorian calendar moved the day the ancients would have celebrated to somewhere around Nov 12th .  As modern practitioners we like things to be on an infallible schedule, one we can always rely on, but that isn’t always the case.  Even Newgrange with the sun’s light hitting the inner chamber on the winter solstice can be misleading.  Because while we can figure out the exact day of the solstice via all the convenience of modern technology, the sun actually shines into the passage tomb for several days around the solstice.  That begs the questions, which day or days did the ancient Irish celebrate or hold sacred?  Which is the right day to honor? Well the answer is simple. There is no right answer. 

   Perhaps in the end all that matters is our intentions, our reverence for the Gods, that makes a holy day sacred.  In more ways then one the yearly three days of the Morrigan’s Call Retreat have become Feast Days in honor of her.  Our main focus for the entire weekend is The Morrigan, connecting to her, making offerings, coming together in her honor.  As we approach those days each year I feel her stirring, pacing, readying for those who gather.  And I think of how our ancestors gathered to honor the Gods at different times, traveling perhaps long distances to honor sacred days, not unlike what we are doing in today's world with different Pagan festivals and events.  They may not fall on a holiday of the Wheel of the Year but in many ways we have create our own new sacred times.  And I think no matter how long The Morrigan's Call event goes on those days will remain sacred to her.  The second weekend of June will always be a time I must make offerings, call to her in ritual, because now she expects it. We have given those days to her, perhaps as much as some of us have given her January 7th to her, making it sacred with offerings and intentions and the dedication of returning and continuing the practice year after year.   

   Perhaps we should create more modern Feast Days to our Gods, and in the case of the retreat perhaps some of us have already create some without realizing it.  A Feast Day or holy day doesn’t have to be ancient for you to make it valid.  So if your Gods don’t have holy days that are remembered or recognized create your own. And if someone else celebrates that day alongside you, great.  If not, that is ok too.  

   So even though I know its not ancient, tomorrow I will pour whiskey, speak prayers, and wander into the wild places of the area I now live and honor the Queen. And its fitting in a way that as far as the weather predictions go, tomorrow will be the last day of chilly weather in my tropical home (at least the 40 and below kind).  A mirror to other days where I walked through snow drifts to honor her. For whatever reason on those past Feast Days feeling it was important to make my offerings outside, feeling the cold and sting in the air. Letting it be a reminder that cold and struggles can be weathered.  That winter and difficult times yields eventually to spring.  And even here in Florida with mostly eternal summer, by my New England standards, there are reminders, days kissed with frost to remind me that her blessings come on the edge of a blade.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

The Problem with Karma: Down the Rabbit Hole of Pagan Ethics

   Ethics can be a difficult topic when it comes to Paganism.  Mostly because Paganism is made up of so many different traditions, pantheons, and paths. We don’t really have a universal code of ethics.  The Rede isn’t something that is universally accepted and furthermore it is less than a hundred years old. It does not reflect the ethical constructs of ancients Pagans.  Ultimately the Rede is a suggestion, good advice and not something one can easily use as an ethical framework.  There are too many holes.  What interests me is how ancients Pagans dealt with ethical problems, how they sought to lead a good life.  But that is a whole different blog post all together. What also interests me is how we have gotten to the place we are as modern Pagans with our views on ethics. Because we seem to have some hang ups and carry overs. And they are fairly obvious, especially when we look at the concept of karma.    

   The first thing we have to accept is that what Neo-Pagans call “karma” isn’t actually karma. Karma in a Hindu context we have hijacked and bears only the mildest resemblance to what Neo-Pagan, and westerners in general, call karma. In Hinduism one’s karma (both positive and negative) is something that is worked through over the course of several life times.  It is not as we have come to think of it as “instant justice”.  To some extent we have merged the idea of the Threefold Law with what we think karma is to create our own uniquely 20th century Pagan concept. 

   We find the Threefold Law’s first appearance in 1949 in Gerald Gardner's High Magic's Aid, and has since been adopted as part of modern Wiccan liturgy.

“Thou hast obeyed the Law. But mark well, when thou receivest good, so equally art bound to return good threefold. (For this is the joke in witchcraft, the witch knows, though the initiate does not, that she will get three times what she gave, so she does not strike hard.)”

Blend this together with the Neo-Pagan version of karma and you have the modern Pagan concept of how the universe deals out justice.  If you do something bad, something bad will happen to you.  If you do good, good things come to you.  And this is usually used as an argument against cursing or hexing, even when protecting one’s self in a given situation would be the justified thing to do.  Striking back against an attack is often second guessed out of fear of causing bad karma or energy to rebound on us.  
   Furthermore the Threefold Law is often equated with the Law of Attraction.  While similar these don't really act the same way.  The Law of Attraction is a conscious thing.  If I use a certain herb or colored candle to attract a certain energy or quality while doing magick, the force of my will is directing it.  I am calling like to like consciously, and to some degree it is a mental que that I am using to get my mind in the right head space.  Something I use to attract certain things might not have the same connotation to someone else.  A criminal doesn't continuously want to be caught, or seek to manifest that result.  Quite the opposite, their will is focused on getting away with the crime. 

   But lets take a step back. What are the roots of this concept of universal justice?  Because that is what it all boils down to. The universe deals out good and bad karma, based on our actions.  Essentially we see the universe as dealing out justice. It’s a cause and effect that we have no control over and is outside of ourselves.  Sound familiar? If you were raised in an Abrahamic religion replace “universe” with “god” and you have exactly the same world view on how justice is handed out in the cosmos.  Whether its god or the undefined universe we see it as a universal law of restitution.  Like gravity it acts with impunity.

  Now there are some problems with this.  Like Morticia Addams points out “What is normal for the spider is chaos to the fly”.  What we perceive as justice often depends on our own point of view.  We are often heroes of our own narratives.  And sometimes justice and what is perceived as good or bad falls into a gray area.  If I do a spell to get a job and as a result land the job, have I done something the universe will punish with bad karma?  Maybe I might not have been the best candidate, maybe by bettering my own odds I am taking money and food out of the mouths of someone who needed it more. Yet from my perspective I didn’t do anything wrong, I brought something good into my life. So who is right? Will the universe from this mind set punish me or not?  And who is to say our human concept of justice, or good and evil is the same as the universe’s? Or the Gods' for that matter?

   I think in many ways we have taken a way of viewing how the world works from the religions of our youths and unconsciously carried it over to Paganism.  I can not say if this is necessarily good or bad, but certainly worth some reflection.  Certainly ancient Pagans had the concept of divine retribution and the gods dealing out punishment, but it wasn't exactly a universal thing. And at very least in Greek mythology punishments dealt out by the gods weren't always justice, but at times petty.  But ancient Pagans, regardless of culture, were very concerned with what it meant to live virtuously.  With what it meant to live a good life and what constituted right action.  The different is that it wasn't a force outside themselves, it was something that had to be sought within.  

  For myself I have to come to the conclusion that there isn’t a universal crime and punishment system that acts like a force of gravity. After all bad things do happen to good people. We don’t always catch the criminal.  And bad deeds often go unpunished.  I do think in many ways magick plays the role of evening the odds for those with no other avenue to do so, or for that matter have no other avenue of seeking justice. And I think that perhaps a consequence of having free will and agency as a being means that we have to seek out our own justice.  I’m not talking about taking the law into our own hands or becoming Batman.  But instead that is why we have laws as part of society, why we feel the need to wrap our minds around concepts like justice and ethics.  We must seek it out, its not a guarantee.    

Thursday, September 28, 2017

9 Reasons Why We Shouldn’t Water Down Witchcraft

   For whatever reason this morning my Facebook feed was filled with some interesting links to “articles” about Witchcraft.  They featured pictures of women with their eyes closed, face frozen in a state of ecstasy and arcane power.  Like they know the secrets of the universe and its all moving through their bodies in one giant sexy Witch orgasm that reveals the secrets of the universe by osmosis.  And to be honest they are my biggest pet peeve, and you’ve probably seen them too if you are Pagan and have the internet. 9 Reasons Why You Are A Natural Witch.  8 Reason Why Being An Empath Makes You Wolverine.  5 Reasons Why Being Psychic Means You Are Destined to Save the World From the Rapture, and similar nonsense.  Harmless right? The problem is I see people accepting these things as legitimate statements about Witchcraft, and statements and images they need to attach to their identity as a Witch.  The images attached to these articles are always the same and project a certain stereotype a lot of modern Pagans feel they need to imitate or fit into.  I see a lot of folks who feel they need to always project an air of zen harmony, or buy all the “right” Witchy clothes to be taken seriously.  They have to be like the women in those picture that have the secrets of the universe whispered to them and are all powerful in their lives.  And that is not Witchcraft at all.  Sometimes the whispered secrets of the universe shatter you so hard you have to rebuild the pieces of your life as they lay on the floor.  Sometimes your best use of your craft as a Witch is when you don’t have all the answers and your life is anything but zen.  Sure I have ritual clothes but half the time I do ritual or magick in a T-Shirt and jeans.   

   Now don’t get me wrong. I like mindless internet fun on occasion too.  I’ve done those silly quizzes that tell you what Egyptian Goddess you, or which mystical animal is your Patronus (I’m pretty sure mine is Deadpool, or at very least Xena’s love child with Deadpool).  So aren’t these other article just the same thing? At first glance they might be, but how we portray Witchcraft both to the world and among ourselves is important.  Because just like words have power images do too.  Is this the image of a Witch we want to create and inspire? I think not.    

So I thought I’d put together my own list: 9 Reasons Why We Shouldn’t Water Down Witchcraft

1. It Makes Things That Shouldn’t Be Taboo, Taboo:

  I’ve talked about declawing war gods, well this is declawing witchcraft - you need the dark too. Hexing, cursing, defensive magick, blood magick, and even warding to some degree are becoming increasingly taboo to talk about much less practice in modern Paganism.  These are practices that have been a part of Witchcraft and magick in general from its very beginnings.  Sometimes magick is about leveling the playing field and giving those with no other means of doing so to invoke justice or simply defend themselves.  If you don’t think ancient people used curses, there is a plethora of archaeological evidence that proves otherwise.  The curse tablets found at the temple of Sulis-Minerva are very interesting.  All I can say is don’t steal pants in the ancient world, or people will curse your ass.   These are all practices that you might not often use but are worth understanding the mechanics of.  You might need them someday down the road, or you might be on the receiving end and need to know how to handle it.  No knowledge is ever wasted.      

 2. Love & Light isn’t Balance:  
   Life is hard. And sometimes it just outright sucks. People go through difficult times and situations.  It’s part of living, and if we are lucky we can learn and grow from the darkest parts of our lives.  But when we portray Witches as always being in a state of all knowing bliss, it sends the wrong message.  It says that being broken is bad, not having life figured out is a failure.  It’s not.  Not even the gods have everything figured out.  The goddess Akhilandeshvari whose name means “Never Not Broken” is portrayed with her body shattered into many pieces. She is constantly reforming, and fitting the pieces back together into something new.  When we stigmatize darkness, and try to always be positive we will ignore the gritty difficult things we need to work through in life. Ignored problems, and not solved problems. And our spirituality of choice should foster us through such times. When we teach people it’s not ok to have these emotions people become afraid to show they need help or have life issues. 

3. Hard Work isn’t Sexy Buts its Reality:

 Master your craft. Mediate every day, do something magickal every day, do daily devotionals, whatever it is. Practice your craft, to master your craft.  There is no such thing as 9 easy steps to becoming a Witch. It takes work and time.  Being an empath, seeing spirits and visions arent some cool mutant power that doesn’t make you all knowing.  From experience, I can say being an empath means you need to really master your skills at energy work. Seeing sprits or feeling the emotions of other isn’t always fun or easy.  These are things that can take a lifetime to master, require daily work. 

4. Do You Want to Be a Dress Up Witch Or A Real Witch?:

Images of those ecstatic women should not be seen as empowering, sometimes Witchraft is doing what is needed on a dime and on a moment’s notice, it requires practicality and sometimes its done when you are crying and snotting on the floor and a real mess. It’s not pretty, and it’s not supposed to be.  You don’t need to look pretty to be a Witch, or have fancy occult clothes and jewelry.  Those things can be used to get your mind into a different state, but ultimately you are the source of power that drives your Will and magick.  It is you that are speaking to the Gods, not your fancy wand.  I like bling as much as the next Pagan but all the bling in the world isn’t going to make you better at your craft.  In the end dress up Pagans don’t integrate their spirituality into their life, it’s just to feel good.


5. Being a Witch Isn’t About Being All Powerful, or Always Knowing the Right Answer:

  This is kind of a follow up to some of the above points.  When our mental image of a legit Witch is based on these images of Witches dressed to the nines seeming zen wisdom from their every pore it attracts followers and students to the wrong people.  Because there are people out there who put on that exact image to draw people in.  People who want to manipulate others and can be dangerous.  The cult of ego is very real and when people put teachers on pedestals, it can be hard to take them off those pedestals when they realize they are just human too; when the cult of ego is harmful and not really about teaching but rather to make the predator feel empowered.   

   Remember that your teachers are human too, they make mistakes, they aren’t all knowing so don’t expect them to be.  Think for yourself, and recognize the cult of ego when you see it.  Witchcraft isn’t about having all the answers. It’s about finding them along the journey and making them a part of your life.

6.   If We Start Taming Our Craft We Will Start Taming Our Gods:

 I’ve talked about this in other blogs and I think to some degree this is already happening.  When we shun the darker aspects of life and ourselves we in turn try to make aspects of our Gods less threatening.  We refuse to see them from what they are.  We can see this with the general taboo nature of dark gods, or gods connected to battle.  Just because we are uncomfortable with battle does make Ares any less a war deity.  And even if we don’t go off to actual warfare now it doesn’t mean he can’t teach us valuable lessons.  It’s only the surface of what he, and other dark, Gods embody.  What it does not mean is somewhere along the way Ares was demonized and turned from a god of picking wild flowers into a mean god of war that we can now tame back into his hippy flower picking ways.  It’s just not how this works, it’s not how any of this works. 

7. Witchcraft Isn’t Something You Do, It’s A Way Of Living:

This is a big one. Being a Witch is something your become, and at the end of the process it’s a part of your everyday life. It’s not an alter ego you put on when it’s the full moon or just on Wednesdays.  After all the revelations, mystical rituals, classes, there is a point where you need to run all the threads through your own life and make it your own.  The first time you experience ritual or feel the presence of a God can be mind blowing, then the next step is to make it part of the ordinary.  You wake up in the morning, put pants on, pour whiskey to the gods, say a daily devotion, go to work deal with your boss, etc etc.  It’s not separate from your life.  

8. Trivializing Magick Diminishes It:

I find it really surprising when a magickal practitioners is shocked that their magick works, or that dealings with Gods can have consequences.  Yes, magick is real. Yes, the Gods are real.  Trivializing your magick is a sure way to either not get the results you expected or for you to have spent a whole lot of time and energy shaping you Will and energy to just make it go poof.  If you don’t believe it’s real, guess what, it’s probably not going to work that well.  After all your beliefs and thoughts are what is shaping it.  Trivializing the Gods can have far worse consequences, anything from you realizing how very real the deity actual when your life turning upside down or having them turn their backs on you. No one wants to talk to someone who doesn’t even believe they are real in the first place.  

9.  Magick Isn’t Attention Seeking:

  There is a reason why it’s called occult after all.  Magick is between you and the gods, and the forces of nature, spirits, or whatever else you might be connecting and working with.  It’s not entertainments, or a stage show.  It’s something that should improve your life and your relationships with the world around you.  It’s not 9 easy steps, or 9 signs that you are Dumbledore. What is your goal?  Why do you want to be a Witch?  If it’s to post pictures and memes to either make people afraid of you or envious of you, then you’ll just be the same person you always have been just with a veneer of crystals and arcane symbols.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Cauldrons in the Dishwasher: Devotion in Action

   This will be a short post, as I’m writing it in an underground bunker at the moment.  Well not exactly a bunker, but we are below the ground surrounded by poured concreate. Maybe we can call it the Raven Lair.  I’m lucky enough to have a partner who’s job both requires him to ride out hurricanes at work (making sure everything stays running) but also welcomes family and pets to ride out the storm in a safe location complete with generator, water and snacks.  Maybe the internet will hold out long enough for me to finish this blog post.

  This week has been a long one of watching the weather channel and getting a crash course in armature meteorology.  So as a category 5 hurricane barrels across Puerto Rico and Cuba, and heads toward my home in Florida along with all the other mundane hurricane preparations of boarding up windows and filling water cubes and the bath tub, there have been other less mundane preparations happening as well.  Libations poured, offerings made, advice asked for and received. Now that everything is done and we are set up in the Lair, safe and waiting for the storm to do whatever it is going to do, I realize just how important my devotional work is to me.  How interwoven and vital it is to my life.  In between organizing food stores in the pantry I light the candle on the Dagda’s sprawling altar.  It was much smaller at one point, and I had this incredulous image in my head of him with a raised eyebrow saying “Really? Me. I’m going to fit in this tiny space”. He has an entire shelf now, his items somehow have become sprawled out like that person who is a bed hog and just stretches and takes over the whole space.  I pour him whiskey and ask Him to stand between us and danger.  His cauldron which is a resin replica is fragile so I put it in the dishwasher so if anything does get through the windows it is safe.  I saw a post online about putting photos and things you want to keep safe or from water damage in the dishwasher.  Other people are putting photo albums in there, me I’m storing God Bling for safe keeping.

   We board up the windows and later that night I make offering to Hekate to guard the boundaries, to protect this place and those who dwell here.  Each morning I made offering to the Great Queen, going through my usual prayer cycle and adding to it a prayer for protection written by Morgan Daimler.  There are other offerings made, to Oya, to Brighit, and to all the Gods I have a deep relationship with.  Its as vital to me and the practical things we are doing to prepare for the storm.  Their voices are familiar, the prayers I say are familiar too, because I speak them often, they are a regular part of my life.  And I realize how important these relationships are to me.  

   Devotional practice is often a difficult subject to describe to others. By its very nature it is a very personal practice and each individual will go about it in a myriad of ways.  In the end its all about building a relationship with the divine.  Its not a 1-800 number to the divine vending machine, and its not a number you dial only when you need something.  Building a relationship with a deity is a rewarding experience.  Just like any other relationship you learn to recognize Their voice, likes and dislikes. The strength of that bond is carried with you in everything that you do.

  Devotional work, our relationships with the Gods, should be something that sees us through hard times.  Its not just there on Mabon or Samhain etc, or the next Pagan festival.  Its there all the time, fulfilling us, urging us onward and sustaining us as only the Gods can.


Saturday, September 9, 2017

Halidom of Macha: Oaths on the Point of a Blade

"Fergus said: ‘By the point of my sword,
halidom of Macha, swiftly shall we wreak vengeance.."
-Tain Bo Cuailgne

   The topic of oaths has been on my mind lately.  There are many different kinds of oaths, and none should be entered into lightly.  The oaths we take often can shape our lives, our relationship to the Gods, and the very core of ourselves.  Because once spoken, they can never be unspoken.  They weave threads through our lives and choices.

   This past Morrigan’s Call Retreat myself and a few priestesses were asked to facilitate a private dedication ceremony for a member of Morrigu’s Daughters.  I loved how we all came together to create something meaningful and beautiful for that person.  Challenges were met, and one of the items used in the ceremony was a sword that I had sworn my own oaths on, with the blade point resting again my chest.   That sword has a story of its own.  If our little tribe of Morrigan devotees have our own magickal treasures, like the Tuatha De, this sword would be one of them.  You can check out Morgan Daimler’s blog posts about its creation which literally involves being forged in a storm ( 

   In the Tain there is a line about Fergus making an oath on a sword dedicated to Macha (again see Morgan’s blog for more about this) and it reminds me very much of that sword and my experience with it. I’ve seen people make grand oaths during ritual, oaths that are forgotten shortly after, not unlike new year resolutions, and then soon after they find their life is in an uproar and don't understanding why.  In my experience the Gods expect us to make good on our promises, especially ones made in a sacred way.

  I’ve made oaths during initiation rituals and when I dedicated as a priestess, but I think the one that has truly impacted me the most, shapes my life and myself by holding true to it, is the one I made upon that golden sword forged in a storm and dedicated to Macha.

  Here is part of something I wrote about the experience after that first retreat.   

   The candles flicker in the small room, a gentle glow that illuminates the golden polished bronze of the sword pointed at my heart.  The bite of its point against my skin feels so welcoming, and I would impale myself upon it if I could.  Not in a real sense, but there is power there, flowing from the woman who holds it fast in her hands, and I would soak it in.  I would let it fill me, no matter the danger. So I hold my arms out welcomingly, and lean towards the danger, because I am not standing before a mortal woman anymore, but a goddess. 

  After a devotional ritual to Macha deep in the woods of Massachusetts the rest of our companions had returned to their cabins and tents, while myself and two of the priestesses who had facilitated the ritual returned to the little screened in building we had created as a temple to the Morrigan and her many guises for our stay in the woods.  The camp we were staying at had been using it as a mediation area, up high on top of the mountain, and that is where we had hauled our altars, swords, and statues for the Great Queen.  And I’m not even sure how we managed to make it up the small dirt path, that we had been jokingly calling a “goat trail”, in the dark after an exhausting ritual.  But we did.  Nothing is easy with the Morrigan, at least not at first.  

   During the ritual one of the priestesses had channeled the Morrigan in her guise as Macha, and we had called for those who wished to speak to Macha to come forward to meet Macha’s challenge and offer her their oaths if they wished.  I had felt the need, but resisted.  I was helping facilitate the ritual, I was there to help the others move through the ritual.  And that is how we have ended up here, in her temple, just the three priestesses, in the dark.  Because there is more to say and more to be heard.  The ritual isn’t over.  Not until the Morrigan says it is.  And when I look into my friend’s eyes they are not her own, there is a vast wild depth to them.  I am almost afraid to be caught too long in their gaze, but I resist looking away all the same.  Her voice has a new familiar edge to it, I have heard that voice in my dreams.   And she seems taller, perhaps the only time I have ever felt short next to my friend who is easily a head shorter than myself. 

   Those eyes look at me expectantly and I say my oath, three in fact.  Three promises that would shape the course of my life and practices for the next several years, and I have no doubt will continue to.  Because once said an oath can’t be unsaid, it’s as binding as steel.  And then the Morrigan speaks, and there is truth and warning in her words.  And prophesy, always prophesy.         

   The Great Queen spoke for a long time that night.  Afterwards we sat exhausted on the wood floor of the temple.  Candle light illuminating her statues, my friend drained but back in possession of her own body again, the bronze sword returned to its sheath.  The sounds of our friends’ laughter further down in the woods calling us back to the normal world.  But the Morrigan’s words stayed with me. The feel of her blade pressed against my breast remained. 

   It would not be until a few years after that I fully understood all of what she had said or the path that my own words would set me on. That night in the woods I made what was both a heartfelt vow and one that I foolishly thought I could easily keep.  I stood before the Morrigan and vowed to fight for my own happiness.  Simple right? Well I thought so.  I wasn’t happy with many of the circumstances or people in my life.  And some part of me felt, if I just did the right spell, asked the right deity to help me, it would be easy to fix.  All the puzzle pieces that I was desperately trying to force to fit together would magically connect with ease. Or perhaps my perspective would change.  I couldn’t really be unhappy with my life, I was just looking at it the wrong way.  I would gain a new perspective, and learn to be content.  Of course that wasn’t the case.  What I had to accept was that what I had to do was turn my life upside down, burn parts of it to the ground and remake myself out of the ashes. I would also make some unpopular choices, but ones that were for my own good, even if others did not like them.  I would leave a long broken relationship.  I found one that nourished and fulfilled me.  I moved and found a better job.  I pulled the dead things out of my soul, and realized I couldn’t please everyone.  That I didn’t need to. Deep powerful magick, doesn’t come without a cost.  Healing festering scars doesn’t happen until you burn the rot out of the wound.  And the process isn’t easy, nor is it without pain. Nor does it happen without criticism.   Yet I don’t regret it. I chose to fight for myself that night. I put myself first.  Not everyone was happy about that, it is amazing the amount of enemies you’ll make when you stop placating people, and when you do what is right for yourself despite the opinions of others. Or when you speak your truth no matter the subject. But I can say that once you have burned your life down to ashes and risen up from them renewed, you’ll never be afraid to do it again.  Because you’ll know exactly how strong you are, you wont put up with the bullshit of others so easily.  You wont be as afraid to have unpopular opinions, because you’ll know yourself, and you wont loose site of who you are as easily. 

    An oath isn’t something you say once and forget, its something we are constantly reaffirming.  Something we are constantly challenged to hold true to.  A constant reaffirming of our devotion to the Gods and ourselves.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The Finest of Wolves

"I will break thee against a green stone of the ford;
and thou shalt have no healing from me, if thou leavest me not."
"I will in truth be a grey wolf against thee," said she
-          Tain Bo Regamna  
  In both the Cattle Raid of Cooley and the Tain Bo Regamna the Morrigan and CĂșchulainn have an exchange where she promises to come against the hero in different animal forms, and he in turns promises to deliver his own attacks. One of the shapes she takes is that of a wolf. While most are familiar with the Morrigan’s connection to crows and ravens her connection to wolves has a particularly important connotation for me.  There is a personal meaning behind it, and one that is often on my mind. 
   In 2014 I was teaching at a conference along with my friend and fellow Morrigan cohort Morgan Daimler.  A few of us were splitting a hotel room for the conference and one night while decompressing in the hotel room we were out of the blue given a very strong message from the Queen.   If you are familiar with channel work you might already know that if a deity needs or wants a message to come through, sometimes there is very little you can do to stop Them. This was that kind of unexpected message. And a message that has guided a number of my decisions, and approaches to community, since that night.
  I was not the one who channeled the message but I share it here with Morgan Damiler’s consent, as we both feel it is something important. Part of the imagery she saw was devotees fighting like dogs over scraps of bones while the Queen urged that She wanted wolves, or hounds, who perhaps where not quite a pack but at least ran in the same direction and not against one another.  Afterwards she saw those wolves going off into all the directions of the globe, accomplishing their own work and purposes.
"My followers are headstrong proud people. They are strong willed. This is good. But nothing is accomplished when all fight among themselves like dogs snarling over a bone. To achieve anything of worth you must find common ground and seek what unity can be had in diversity. I would have a hunting pack fit to take down any prey, not feral hounds fighting over scraps."

    I remember the strength that came through in those words, the demand to not disappoint in them. And the look in Morgan's eyes that were not her eyes anymore. We really are a headstrong bunch. But even if we disagree with one another, even if we are given different marching orders in this world by the Queen, have different takes and viewpoints on life, whether you see the Queen as simply the Irish Morrigan, or the Gaulish Cathubodua while someone else instead connects to her as Morgan le Fay, or Nemain etc and you do not see her as such, I hope that we can respect each other despite those differences.
   Let us not be stray dogs but the finest of wolves.  The kind of regal wolf I envision meting CĂșchulainn’s challenge.
    If there is one downside to be a devotee of a goddess connected to war, it is that Her followers have a tendency to fight a lot.  Although perhaps it’s not just something rampant in the Morrigan devotee’s community.  It’s a growing thing I keep coming across a lot in Paganism in general. We’ve kind of forgotten how to get along with one another, unless of course the other person believes exactly what we believe.
    I’ve come across other devotees who relate to the Queen in completely different ways than I do. Some are new to their relationship with her, others have had a relationship with her for just as long as I have or longer. And to be quite blunt some of us never will relate to her in the same way. And probably shouldn’t. The marching order she gives one person might be very different than the ones she gives to another.  Any good general isn’t going to send all the troops off to do exactly the same task.  And a tribe is only a tribe because of its differences, the myriad of talents, coming together that support the whole. And you know what? That’s ok. She shouldn’t want the same things from each of us, because we are not all the same. We don’t all need the same things in life, or to learn the same lessons, nor can we as devotees all offer Her the same things. I don’t think the Gods are here to just make you a better person. There are elements of that, they teach us certain lessons, and a devotional relationship can be mutually beneficial, but the Gods I think always have the long game in mind. They are looking at the big picture. They move in the world with a purpose.  And they have Work for each of us to do.
    More and more in Paganism I see the trend of UPG (unverified personal gnosis) battles, and devotees arguing over what is the correct way to honor or view a deity.  Or getting bent out of shape if someone has a view point or UPG that doesn’t fit with their own views.  For many people Paganism is appealing because there is no dogma. No bible, no holy book, sometimes really no “spiritual roadmap” other than the one you discern for yourself.  Being a devotional polytheist I don’t have much of a problem with not having a set in stone road map.  When the Morrigan first showed up in my life there was barely anything out there written or really being said about her. A few scant references in books that warned me DON’T GO THERE. DANGEROUS GODDESS. All of which I ignored, having to jump off the deep end and just trust my relationship with the Morrigan.  Many times I would have an experience with Her then not long after find something in my research or in reading the lore that would confirm something about that experience.  It was like a spiritual trail of bread crumbs if you will.  Did I worry about if I was doing something wrong? Sure everyone worries about that at some point. But I trusted that relationship and continued on, and eventually I learned to rely on that connection with Her.  I really didn’t have anyone else to ask about how to go about my practices other than the Queen herself. Saying her name in circle was like brining up Voldemort.  And as hard as that was, I’m kind of glad that I was forced to trust my instincts, and my connection to Her.  Because if I didn’t learn to build and trust that connection, I don’t know if it would have formed so strongly.
    While the appeal of Paganism is that there is no dogma, the problem with it is there is no dogma.  A lot of people really don’t know what to do with that.  A natural reaction might be to just let someone else figure it out for you.  Find someone who has been doing it longer than you and has “the answers”. We pick the Pagan Guru we like the best and defend their methodology vehemently but never take the leap of discovering our own way of doing things, or finding our own answers.  And when we don't figure out the answers for ourselves, when someone questions why we believe something or do something a certain way we react defensively out of our own uncertainty.  Because no one wants to think they are doing something as personal as their spirituality incorrectly.  We loose site of that fine line between 'We can agree and still be friends' and 'You don't agree with me so clearly your judging me'.    
  Michelle Skye makes an insightful observation in a recent post. She laments that Paganism has become very judgmental, and that her own experiences when she found Paganism where very welcoming and open to different modes of thinking and opinions.  She mentions in passing that Paganism has gone from a grass roots movement/religion to a more social media based one. 
“It has come to my attention lately that there is a decided judgmental quality to Paganism. A feeling of one way is the best way. The only way. The true way. Thus, derision and defamation are acceptable when directed toward any individuals doing things any other way.……… Now that Paganism is becoming bigger, more mainstream, more social media and less grass-roots, I hope that new Pagans are experiencing the same feeling of being welcomed. I never once, in all my new-Pagan-growing-years, felt judged for my thoughts, opinions, or beliefs.”
– Michelle Skye
   I have to agree the Paganism of today isn’t the same as it was twenty years ago.  Back then you were just happy to find another pagan in the same town as you, you wrote to green egg or scrolled through profiles on Witchvox to find other Pagans.  Now there is no need. We can communicate with almost anyone we want to interact with online through social media, emails, webcam, you name it.  There is something somewhat impersonal about online interactions, or being able to use anonymous names or accounts.  You don’t really have to be polite, and most people get into fights and dramas online that they probably wouldn’t have in a face to face interaction.  And if you do interact with some you don’t like or has ideas that you don’t like, or go are simply different that you personal UPG well then you can just unfriend them or block them.  In short we have forgotten a very vital skill: how to interact with someone who think differently than ourselves, and in short how to be civil in a lot a cases.  I wonder if Skye has hit the nail on the head. Maybe we have lost touch with our grass roots? Maybe social media and interacting online has changed paganism in ways we haven’t expected.  And we have lost touch with our base. Paganism is growing up.  If we consider the emergence of Wicca as the beginning of the rebirth of Paganism in general in the western world, then we are talking about a religious movement that is about 100 years old if that.  Regardless of whether you practice Wicca in particular or not it is the spark that started Paganism as we know it today. We have grown out of our infant stage and are now a moody teenager movement full of snark and trying to figure ourselves out. 
     I have no problem interacting with people I don’t agree with, but this idea that you can’t have fellowship and pray with someone who thinks differently, has different politics, beliefs, or have to worry if they will unfriend you or accuse you of not being “pagan enough” or not honoring the Gods in the “correct” way, is toxic.  Having an opinion on a practice or simply saying it is not something you would personally do are all valid things in my opinion, but they all require the simple etiquette of having respect for one another.  Instead of taking pride in how many people we unfriended for not agreeing with us, maybe we should take pride in being able to find common ground, in being able to respect someone else’s view point even when it’s not one we share.
   Wolves are predators, they are dangerous, they have opinions.  But they are also loyal.  Working together they can take on things far bigger than themselves.  I hope we learn to do that too.  I hope we learn to truly be Her wolves in a way that honors Her.