sophiacatherine: Ruined church, County Cork, Ireland (ruined-church)
There's been a lot of talk of privilege online recently. No one's talking about what, in my humble opinion, is one of the biggest forms of privilege in online Paganism. Forgive me if I rant about privilege for a little bit. I'm not trying to be mean to anyone, or to put anyone's back up. I'm trying to say what it feels like to be non-American in internet-based greater Pagandom.

Most Gaelic/Celtic recon is, if we're really honest, very North American. (I suspect that most recon in general is very American.) It's not even just Irish-in-diaspora -- it's Irish-in-American-diaspora. This makes a lot of it seem very odd to me as Anglo-Irish, and no doubt it seems even more alien to people who are home-grown Irish. Here are just a few things that I find entirely alien in American Gaelic polytheism:

- A non-land-focused approach. My CR/GP is about the land. Well, lands, plural, really. It could never put mythology before land.
- A highly literalist approach that elevates myth to the position of a bible. (Medieval myth. That was written by Christians.) That's incredibly American, and (in my opinion) quite alien to many Europeans.
- An approach that tries to unify pre-Christian Ireland into one country, and (even worse) tries to unify pre-Christian Irish belief into one set of beliefs. That's so far from the evidence, it's ridiculous. Yet I get shouted down if I argue that, no, we cannot be sure whether ancient Gaels believed they were going to Tech Duinn or Manannan's realm, because the question is utterly nonsensical to start with.
- A majority of believers who have never been to Ireland or Britain, but who don't acknowledge that there are therefore some things they will see VERY differently to people in Ireland and Britain.
- An approach that privileges academia over mysticism in a way that doesn't work for me at all. I'm very academic. I want my religion to be rooted in good scholarship. But there are other things besides academia.

The path that feels most Brythonic to me (although definitely not Gaelic) is modern British druidry. The 'British' qualifier is necessary because British druidry is TOTALLY different from US druidry - something that is rarely acknowledged over on the other side of the pond. (I'm always being told what druidry is like. The assertions usually come from a place where the speaker is familiar with exactly one kind of druidry - ADF druidry. That is by no means the only kind of druidry out there. OBOD is *much* bigger than ADF, if we're just playing a numbers game. But still the assertions are made, using terminology that comes from Americans and based in situations that I don't recognise.) British druidry is incredibly flexible and fluid. It is NOT 'mesopagan' or whatever Isaac Bonewitz called it (presumably without having met many British druids), but it's nothing like American neopagan druidry. It is very Pagan, but it's very uniquely *British Pagan*. Modern British druidry is becoming its own thing, its own tradition almost - a new generation that has followed *after* revival druidry, rooted in it, but going in entirely different, entirely new directions. It is often very Brythonic, with a peculiarly British kind of polytheism that defies theistic definitions, but which ultimately doesn't have to be about the gods (and often isn't), because these are gods who emerge from the land, and you can believe in the land (and have relationship with it) without worrying about your theology. A lot of this is what I sort of imagine the Brythonic tribespeople were like - especially the non-priests among them. Ironic that a very real-life hearth-and-land spirituality has emerged from something called 'druidry', but it strikes me that that's what it is for most practitioners. A few are on more of a priestly path, but only with the constant consent of their community. It is very non-hierarchical, very modern Pagan, very British.

Druidry is my larger community. But I'm not sure if I can call myself a modern druid. Not yet, anyway. Partly that's because of the misconceptions the term engenders, but that's not the only reason. But that would be another journal entry entirely. The point is that I'm looking for a Gaelic path that works with this modern Brythonic one. And I'm not sure the answer is American-style Gaelic reconstructionism. So what is it?

Could there ever be a European form of Gaelic reconstructionism? What would it look like?

sophiacatherine: Tarot cards (tarot)
Inspired by Ali Leigh Lilly's post on using the tarot for writing, I've been starting to work with tarot for academic writing. This was an experiment. While for fiction writers this month is NaNoWriMo, for academic types it's AcWriMo - academic writing month. I don't know any crazy person who's aiming for 50,000 words in academic writing (since that will be a bit less than the length of my entire thesis), but I wanted to have a go at making good progress on a chapter that I've had difficulty starting. And then I heard about Ali's approach, which seemed worth a try.

I wasn't sure whether a similar use of the tarot for academic writing could work. I looked into a few techniques - most are based on fiction writing, such as using them to create character development, which is nice, but not particularly relevant to my chapter on the history of illness and healing in Christian churches. (I mean, I could use the Emperor to represent Martin Luther, but if the ensuing spread suggests he gives up on the church reformation thing and becomes a Hindu, then we're into fictional rather than research territory.) The ones that recommend meditation on the card followed by free writing seemed to have potential, so I tried that. Instead of providing specific guidance for my writing, it has given me a kind of theme for how to approach the writing day. Some days this has been more motivational, other days more directional. It's certainly interesting.

Amusingly, on the first day I tried this, I drew the Fool - the beginning of the journey. In meditation I came up with the concept of starting with a clean slate, so I did - and going into writing with no expectations or plans (just for that day) was very positive for my work. Day two, and I drew the Seven of Pentacles, which I interpreted in terms of magical work - which gave me inspiration to continue, as well as the idea that I had already done a lot of the work and was at the 'harvesting' point, which was useful. On my third day of trying this, I drew the Nine of Swords - and it was a particularly difficult day, but with a possible new direction (albeit an extremely unexpected and challenging one) occurring to me by the end.

I don't think tarot can tell the future, and I don't know how much I'd invest in a reading from another person, but I do find it useful for getting in touch with my subconscious mind and spiritual side. I also think the gods can use any divination system they care to - although I don't have quite enough hubris to believe that the gods are interested in my work (although Ogma seems to appreciate my need to do excellent research). I find academic writing really, really hard, and anything that can help me work with what I'm doing on a more symbolic level is a good idea. I'm usually lost in enormous mind-maps, plans with far too much detail, and confusing reams of notes that I don't remember writing from books that I don't remember reading. But, as my work with NLP has shown me over the past few years, the brain is a much more useful organ than we usually allow it to be. I'm going to think about other ways to use symbols to help my brain drag itself out of the Bog of Pointless Notes and the Slough of Over-Detailed Chapter Plans. It needs rescuing.

Divination is generally starting to interest me more recently. I use it a lot to talk to my deities, but not in any particularly skilled way. I mainly use the DruidCraft tarot - the only deck that resonates with me - and (less often) the Druid animal oracle, although occasionally my pendulum also comes in handy (but I'm not particularly skilled with it). I would like to learn Ogham - I've been working through John Michael Greer's 'Druid Magic Handbook' recently, where he talks about the Ogham in some detail, and I've been finding the concept of Druid sigil magic an interesting one. I use sigil magic occasionally and would like to create a system for it that works better for me personally. The chaos magic approach of creating a sigil based on each working is fine, but doesn't particularly resonate with me. I know ADF has done some work on creating Druid sigils, although I haven't explored that in any detail. Since I'm almost certain that I'm not moving on the Ovate grade after I finish the OBOD Bardic grade (at least not for the moment), I won't be doing the year+ of divination skill-building that my grove mates will be doing when they move on to Ovate*, so I'd like to start some more dedicated study of divination systems in a self-directed way soon. Just as soon as I get past the Bardic grade and  work out what I actually am doing next - ADF, BDO, or entirely self-directed stuff. Ah, decisions.

And talking of divination, it's Druid Coffee Club today and that's the theme. I'm off to dig out my cards. Happy Sunday, all.

*There are several of us who are about to move on from the Bardic grade - it just sort of worked out that way.

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Naomi J./Leithin Cluan/Sophia Catherine

July 2014

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