Thursday, 28 July 2011
Combining my twin aims of being more active (sorry) and getting out in the local countryside more, The Girl and I went out into the Peak District last weekend. We are surrounded by some of the most beautiful countryside in the UK, but it's so difficult to access if you're disabled - it's hilly, craggy, and most of moors have inaccessible mountainous paths to get up before you can walk on slightly less hilly ground. However, there are some lovely cycle routes, and it was one of these that we attempted last weekend. We hired a hand-cycle for me (see below!) and The Girl walked beside me. We managed four miles, and had a picnic mid-way. I was *so* excited to be out seeing the countryside first-hand, rather than from a car, which is usually the most that I can manage. Now I want a hand-cycle, of course, and I would have nowhere to keep it. So much fun!
Meanwhile, The Girl bought me a deck of tarot cards. At this point, I should direct you to Fire Lyte's timely post on the subject of tarot, here. I disagree with most of what he says (!) but it's an interesting read. I don't think I like the practice of people reading for others (for some of the reasons he outlines) - but reading for myself, as divination, is fascinating. Learning to interpret the cards is going to be a long process, but for me it seems very like interpreting dream imagery. My concept of the process is that somewhere between myself, intuition, interpretation and the Divine, something a little out-of-the-ordinary happens. Is that so difficult to believe, for those of us who cast spells? I don't in any way believe that the cards have energy - not like I believe that crystals do (and they absolutely do) - but I do believe that something interesting is going on. Just like it does when I'm casting spells, praying for inspiration or guidance, invoking an ancient Irish goddess in a circle that may only exist in my mind, or - for that matter - taking Holy Communion. Can I describe *exactly* what's going on in each of these situations? No. Is something a bit out-of-the-ordinary happening in each of these situations, for me? Yes.
And the first tarot spread I did for myself is below. Heh.
Wednesday, 20 July 2011
I'm having a big struggle at the moment over what to do about church. Part of me feels that, particularly while no one knows about my current spiritual path, it may not be right to 'act the Christian' and, essentially, lie to my fellow church-goers about what I believe. Up until now, my path has been more-or-less compatible with Christianity. Believing Gnostic ideas is unusual, and basically heretical, but it also puts me fairly firmly in the Christian camp - albeit at the very non-literal end of the campsite. Things changed when the Celtic goddesses called me, though. In the past few months I've been flung out of the Christian framework. I can still move in and out of that framework very comfortably (despite my growing concerns with some aspects of Gnostic theology). However, I don't know if those I'm worshipping with would be particularly comfortable with my ability to step in and out of their framework, nor with the other frameworks I'm working within.
The weird thing, though, is how ongoingly comfortable I feel with church. If it weren't for my worry over deceiving other Christians, I would absolutely not feel like leaving. Whenever I've been called to move on from a church before, it has started to feel *wrong*, like I don't belong there. I very much belong at the church I'm attending at the moment. I'm reading over my Gnostic books at the moment, trying to work out if this is the 'world' deceiving me with sparkly treasures like friendship and structures, which aren't necessarily good for my spiritual development. My treasure should be in the Kingdom of God, which is the spiritual core of my being - the place where I meet the Divine. "And where your treasure is, there is your heart."
In short, I keep trying to leave church, and getting pulled back in. I don't have a clue what that's about.
I feel like my Celtic gods are faintly amused by me at the moment. (They each seem to be adopting me for a lunar month at a time, passing me on to another or others at the next full moon - which is as weird as anything for me, but also rather lovely. Given the 'keep silent' adage, I'm not sure I should say who they are just yet, but I'll decide later, with their help.) This is funny, because I always felt like Jesus found me faintly amusing. I used to picture Him with His head in His hands a lot, in response to the mad things I did. The Celtic goddesses (and it is mainly the ladies*) are less closely interested in what I do, but when I ask their opinion on things, I get it. Based on this, I should be asking them what is right to do about church - but I just feel that faint, detached amusement when I do. It's like they're telling me there are much bigger things for me to deal with and that it's barely worth worrying about. That's nice for them. I still have to make decisions for myself. Gah!
I've asked the curate, who is also a friend, if I can have a chat with her about church. I may be coming out of the broom closet soon, as least to a few people. Wish me luck...
*I hate that word when it's used for ordinary women - but there really is no other respectful term of address for a goddess than Lady. It turns out there's a reason for the word's existence after all!
Tuesday, 12 July 2011
When I was about ten, my mother and I were talking one day about how different ages suit different people, and how with some people there's just an age that they're 'meant' to be. She said she felt like she was in her 20s (not a surprise - she still acts like she is!) She asked me how old I thought I was meant to be. Without needing to think about it, I said 33. It sort of became a goal throughout my life - an age that I just knew things would start to come together for me. After a very messy time in my late teens and early twenties, and a very busy time in my late twenties, and a serious illness for a few years after that, I'm now full of optimism for this stage of my life. It's going to be epic. :D
A major part of my optimism and excitement is this new phase of my spiritual journey (which I'm going to have to stop calling 'new' soon, and just admit that I'm becoming a Pagan and it's a good thing). I spent a long time this evening with the Celtic goddesses who are the reason I'm on this new path (they called me. Sort of out of nowhere. It was a shock). I was doing a spell for wisdom and academic insight, since I'm trying to write a paper that I'm presenting on Wednesday. Well, I don't know if 'spell' is the right word - I don't even vaguely consider myself a witch, nor do I think I'm ever going to want to be one - at the moment my spells, such as they are, are mainly about meeting my gods in a sacred space, and doing ritual around that, mostly that I write myself (because I really hate badly-written poetry). But I'm doing a lot of research around magic, and learning some simple candle magic, playing with what I suppose might be called sympathetic magic, practicing casting circles, connecting with land spirits and the elements, and other useful things. I may try more later. We shall see. Anyway. Spell, ritual, whatever. And I was overwhelmed, all at once, by how empowering this path is, and how grateful I am for having heard the call of my ancestors' gods. I need to stay grateful, rather than taking anything for granted. I keep hearing "Nothing is wasted." I've been bemoaning how late I've come to this path, and envying people who knew these connections at a young age. But I'm starting to realise that at every moment on our spiritual paths, we are where we need to be. And that my experiences of spending hours in the woods growing up, of living much of my life in altered states of consciousness (thanks to being on the autistic spectrum), of learning spirituality through a whole mix of different things, the influence of my father's spirituality, the importance of learning that God has many names, and so on - it was all leading somewhere. That's pretty cool.
This post has been brought to you by late-night musings that should really be kept in my head, where they make a lot more sense. I blame my cat (he wanted to play until about midnight. And by play, I mean the IKILLYOUWITHCLAWSANDTEETHBECAUSEILOVEYOU game. Ow.)
The crow that let me stalk it for about half an hour in the park yesterday. It was brilliant. Morrighan bird!
Monday, 4 July 2011
There was evidence of a recent Pagan ritual here - flowers had been left on the goddess figure and there were the remains of a candle in a corner, and the signs of the goddess and the god had been drawn in chalk on one of the wooden supporting beams. I saw flowers left at all the sites I visited (from recent Litha rites, maybe?) - it was awesome to feel like I was joining a hidden community of worshippers in my pilgrimage. Of all the sites we went to, Bryn Celli Ddu felt the most sacred. I'm just learning to feel energy, but I could really feel it here. There had been a lot of worship at that site, over many centuries. It was amazing. I stayed until the Angel reminded me we had an entire day's worth of sites to see!
The next site we tried to visit was inaccessible to me. This was the case with about half of the sites. The problem was mostly not the natural landscape, but the 'kissing gates' that Welsh Heritage have put in around these sites, to keep out animals. There are wheelchair-friendly versions of these gates available, and I might write to WH and ask them to consider putting these in! On the way to the next site, though, we passed a random field full of standing stones, and went to investigate. They'd all been laid out in a line, across land that has now been divided into two fields. We wondered about what they'd been put there to represent, in the beginning. The straight line suggested they were some kind of marker of direction, but they could also have had a more spiritual purpose. The sheep didn't seem to mind us being there too much.
Next was the Presaddfed burial chambers, a set of two Neolithic tombs, although one has collapsed. They would have involved some fairly serious engineering. Impressive stuff. We then went on to Din Lligwy. This was my favourite of them all. There are three sites here - a fort dating back at least to Roman times, another excavated burial mound, and a twelfth-century church. I completely *loved* the church. My photo of the outside of it has been garbled by my phone, so here's one I've borrowed from a website:
I don't know exactly what it was about this church, but it felt older than twelfth century. I'd like to know if the circle of stones around it is older than that (the online guides don't say). Regardless, you can certainly tell that years of worship has taken place there. It's beautiful. As is the view of the bay from just behind it:
Just a few metres' walk from the church is the Celtic settlement dating back to 4BC, with parts of it possibly much older. According to the information provided there, the inhabitants would have been well protected from the Romans within the settlement. It was fascinating. Tiny round huts and a bigger workshop. It's thought that the community farmed the surrounding area.
The burial cromlech at the same site, a few minutes' drive away from the settlement, was wonderful. It looked much the same as many of the others we saw - low and squat, with a main stone supported by several smaller ones. It felt different, though. It was close to the road, so I left the Angel in the car and went in alone. But because it was surrounded by a fence, which you enter through a gate, it felt very secluded. I was the only person there for about twenty minutes, which meant I could do a little ritual - which made me feel incredibly lucky, and part of something.
Some flowers had been left on the main stone - again the link to community. It's a weird and mysterious thing, this 'hidden community' thing, after the 'ridiculously over-visible community' thing of my Christian tradition. I like how Pagans are, in one way or another, continuing traditions that have been going on at these places for up to 4000 years. But quietly.
Those were the main sites we were planning to attempt, apart from random standing stones around the island, and a church on its own little island (helpfully called Church Island!) On our way home, though, we noticed another one marked on the map. This one was another burial cromlech, set in the grounds of a country place. It was an odd place, again with evidence of rituals having been done there, but not in a way that I particularly approved of! (Along with ritual items being left there, paint in various colours had been applied to the underside of the main stone. That can't be respectful.) It was fascinating, though. I can totally see why the ancients and Celts saw these cromlechs as gateways to the world of the dead or the Otherworld. They're just amazing places.
I've had some fairly interesting experiences (during and) since this little trip. I'm still pondering them. Recently I've been feeling bad about how fast I seem to be moving into what is basically a new framework for old beliefs (I suppose I don't want to be labelled a 'fluffy bunny' - heh - but I also know how very, very, VERY much there is to learn, and it's overwhelming and scary and challenging all at the same time). I'm a long way from settling on certain practices, making final choices over the gods I'm going to worship, or even choosing specific labels for myself - but I'm also learning what people mean when they say that they've been something all their life. Clearly, I have not been a Pagan all my life - I've been a Christian, specifically a strongly Gnosticism-influenced one for the past ten years or so. On the other hand, I am not new to the Divine or to esoteric beliefs and practices - my practices for the past ten years have been remarkably similar to much of what I'm exploring at the moment. And yet, this is also all very new. I'm stuck between being terrified to do anything because I feel so new and lost, and also devouring everything I can because it's all so oddly familiar and makes complete sense. It's paradoxical.
But then, the Celts do like those paradoxes. When it comes to Celtic-influenced beliefs, I know these gods. I've known many of their legends for a long time, and I know the land they shaped. My mother's family come from the place where the legends of Cailleach Beara (sometimes thought of as the dark face of Brigit) emerged - the incredibly beautiful Beara Peninsula in County Cork, Ireland. My father's family come, for as many generations as they can remember, from the country where I was enjoying these neolithic sites this past weekend. My deepest spiritual experiences have been particularly associated with the land of my maternal ancestors, although I didn't always know what that meant. But I'm beginning to. Anyway. Much thinking and writing to be done. Always with the work to do! I should perhaps not forget I've got two conference presentations to write over the next two weeks. Heh.