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: (firetree)
Lighting My Candle has been a great place for me to start exploring my Pagan religion and spirituality, but I've been wanting to set up a Druidry journal recently, and I took the plunge a few weeks ago. You can now find my more regular blogging at Leithin Cluan (it probably needs a more imaginative name than just my Druidry name, but hey ho). I'll still be putting randomness and unpolished thoughts up here, I'm sure.
sophiacatherine: Forest road (forestroad)
I've finished the OBOD Bardic course. I currently have no time to reflect on it, but I will make time soon, because I need to write my review of the course. I'm thinking prose poetry with some of my photographs of the attached at the right points. I may be writing this at five in the morning on a few days, because I have a lot to do in the next few weeks, including baking cookie gifts for the members of my grove, making some Solstice cards (painting little scenes), and doing some writing. And I've started the ADF Dedicant Path (and it is wonderful. I feel like I'm home). Plus, y'know, there's the PhD to do. But I got a podcast episode out! So that should tide some people over until after the holidays.

My ancestor work continues - I haven't managed to do 12 consecutive days, as migraines and similar have led to a few days off here and there, but I will have done 12 days of ancestor meditations in total by the end of it. It's been transformative. I'll be writing about it at my new Druidry blog soon, by request from my Druid priest and a few friends.*

All I've really done for ADF work so far is to find a small tealight lantern to represent fire, and to dedicate an old mini cauldron for the well. I'm still looking for a tree representation, although I've found something online that may work. A glass of branches from my garden is serving as the tree for now. The fire/tree/well imagery really works for me, which is great. I didn't expect it to.

*Yes, I have too many blogs now. But I'm thinking that, as my general spiritual writing will be happening a lot at the website that I'm going to be contributing to, and as I'm mostly set on a Druid path now, it's time to get more specific. I'll keep Lighting My Candle open, in case the 'general spiritual writing' mood strikes me.
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.
sophiacatherine: (firetree)
Three parts - meditation, offerings, affirmations.

We don't know if we can continue to use the grove that the group has been meeting in for dozens of years. We gave offerings in thanks to the spirits who have hosted us there for a long time.

Anonymous cards for each other. Mine: "You are strong enough to walk your own path."

Highly appropriate, when I don't feel like I even know where to start looking for it (although 'hold things in balance' is the advice that keeps turning up). The card is going on the altar so I can contemplate it in this more think-y half of the year.

It's been a really bad week of frustrating doctor's appointments and not feeling well enough to do the enormous piles of work that just keep growing. I'm not really in a spiritual mood - at all. But tonight I want to try dedicating the dark half of the year to Bui, giving my about-once-yearly offering to Aengus mac Og and Boann, and starting to bring the Morrigan back into my consciousness (I have red wine and whiskey for her) before I honour her in a major way at Samhain. I think that's enough not-at-all-reconstructionist-enough offerings for one Equinox!

I promised a fellow polytheist an offering to Lugh on his behalf, and I keep getting flashes of things that Lugh would appreciate, but I want to give him his own ritual. Soon.
sophiacatherine: Sea view (sea)
 I'm determined not to neglect this lovely shiny new journal, but I've been having one of *those* weeks. I'm fairly sure I'm anaemic (happens about once every eighteen months and my wonky body doesn't deal with it very well - I have EDS). But I've had no time to get to the doctor's - between attempting to write a thesis chapter, preparing for teaching starting next week, and doing stuff for my other job too. I will go on Monday (or my lovely wife might actually kill me). I might have to give up and take a day or two off soon, which will mean I look flaky in all three jobs. Ouch.

So I've had no real time for spiritual stuff, although I always do something at the shrine every day. It's occurred me to that my OBOD work has been seriously lacking since I did the fire ritual a few weeks ago (and promptly did nothing at all ritual-related with fire, although I have been having a general fiery time recently). I haven't been to any grove meetings for a couple of months, through a mix of circumstances, but there's an Autumn Equinox ritual coming up next week, and I'm again feeling that need to *choose a path* that I put aside for a while recently. My grove is full of the most wonderful people, but it's not my kind of Druidry (anymore), and I don't know how to broach that with them. I think they'll be fine with it, and there certainly won't be anyone demanding that I leave, but being relatively new to these things - well, it's scary and challenging to stake your claim to your own self-sovereignty with people who've been practising for decades. Oh, and then there's decisions to be made for the next directions. I think ADF is calling, but if I rush into that like I did with OBOD, I might regret a too-quick decision. And I want some time around and after Samhain to work on hearth-based ritual of my own, anyway.

Other stuff... I'm ridiculously excited about the return of my TV shows. When I'm reading all. day. long, it's challenging to come home and read some more, as much as I do want to do religious research. I really love coming home to Fringe or Community (both of which I think are short final seasons this year, but with any luck there'll be some promising replacement shows). The wife and I have been so happy that Doctor Who is back. The episodes have been sort-of-OK - we're hoping for a decent one tonight.

Right, must go and attend to garden and three cats before I have to go back to work.
sophiacatherine: A sign to Tir na nOg (25 km away if you swim) (Tir na nOg sign)
I'm not really new on dreamwidth, but my fandom journal fell into disuse (a few years ago now). Still, I remembered dreamwidth when I wanted to set up an online journal. I have lots of places where I write about spiritual things, including my (paper) Druidry journal and my blog (not very often updated). I need somewhere where I might be inclined to write more often - things happen that disappear into the ether, thanks to my ridiculously poor memory. One discipline that I've kept up since the beginning of my Pagan spiritual journey, a couple of years ago, is taking photos - but they need commentary that I forget to add.

So here I am. I'm a Celtic polytheist (mainly Gaelic), a neo-Druid-in-training (exact flavour of Druidry currently undecided), and I've been Pagan for a bit less than a couple of years. I still have Christian influences in my spiritual awareness (including Celtic Christianity and Gnosticism) - although I'm mainly focused on the Paganism at the moment, and haven't decided whether, or to what extent, to include elements of Christianity. I'll work it out, one of these days.

In the 'rest' of my life, I'm a PhD student in the fields of sociology of religion and disability studies, and I also teach sociology. I've been involved in disability rights campaigning for about eighteen years, although I'm not particularly active with that at the moment, between the PhD and trying to get my head around a (fairly) new religious path. I'm married to my Girl and we have four furbabies (but the Girl calls them cats and hamster. She's heartless).

Online, I post at The Cauldron and UK Pagan messageboards. I co-host a podcast called Divine Community - we don't have time to produce it very often, but we enjoy it when we do. I'm on twitter as SophiaCandle - I'm there a fair bit. (Occasionally I have time for an offline life, too!)

I'll write an actual post with real content shortly.

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sophiacatherine: (Default)
Naomi J./Sophia Catherine

July 2014

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