Friday, 16 September 2011

Podcast! And religion!

My absence over the last few weeks has been due to a) much tiredness and b) putting all my leftover energy into The Podcast! That's right - Divine Community has started. If you're at all interested in religion and society, from a somewhat (but not solely) Pagan perspective, I think you'll enjoy this. You can subscribe in iTunes. We don't have an e-mail address for the show (because Amadore is incredibly busy, and I am both busy and on the autistic spectrum!) but we have a blog where you comment with feedback, and we hope to get a Facebook page and/or messageboard set up soon where people can discuss the issues raised in the show. I'm working on a new episode, in the meantime - with a sooper speshal (to me) guest co-host...!

In meMeME news, spirituality is chugging along, and continuing to make me so grateful that I finally found this path. I'm considering taking the OBOD course (or the new British Druid Order bardic course, which is a similar alternative). I've started an ancestor shrine over the past few weeks, which has opened the door for a surprising introduction from an ancient heroine. I've been doing a lot of reading, from both Pagan and academic sources, on Celtic culture and history. I already knew a lot - I've known some of the myths for years, thanks to having Irish family, and I've explored some of the pre-Christian history of Ireland before - but I've been trying to go deeper. I don't think I could ever be a Celtic reconstructionist*, because we just don't know how (or who) the ancient Celts worshiped. Taking all our cues on this from archaeology and Roman reports is just as dodgy, IMHO, as taking it all from the myths written down in the early Christian era. Ultimately, while I'd love it if we had as much knowledge of our history, culture and gods as some other reconstructionists do, we just don't. So if I meet a goddess who I identify with the myth of An Morrigan, that's what I'm going to call her. She won't mind - any more than she minds if I slightly mispronounce her name. She probably pre-dates the names we've given her anyway. And I mean, really - the Jews don't even know how the name of their god was originally pronounced. There are plenty of cultures where the deities seem to put up with a range of names and pronunciations!

Um, sorry for that diversion. My point was that, as great as it is to find out as much as we can about Celtic culture and worship, through archeology, history and myth (and I recommend Peter Harbison's and Barry Cunliffe's books for that), I personally don't think we can ever find enough evidence to reconstruct even a basic pantheon. I know there's a wide range of views on this, but I have mine. (For now!) So I'm not listening to those who want worshipers of Celtic gods to live like Iron Age Celts (how would I choose between Hallstatt and La Tene, for a start?!), or who insist that only deities whose names have been found on shrines or statues (mainly in Gaul) should be worshiped. I have no response to Gaulish or most Brythonic deities. It's the Irish and Welsh ones who call to me. Is this socially constructed, because I have Irish and Welsh family? Yes, to some extent, it probably is - I'm familiar with aspects of the cultures reflected in the Welsh and Irish myths, and I can imagine what kind of characters the Irish and Welsh would attribute to deities. On the other hand... it's easy to get lost in sociology and forget that spiritual experience matters too. These deities are real to me. I'm a polytheist (have been for a while actually!), and I may be moving towards becoming a 'hard' (or at least 'medium') polytheist. Yes, cultures create deities. But I think that deities also create cultures.

But I am drawing on the rich wisdom accumulated and shared by those who practice various types of Celtic Paganism, including reconstructionism. Most useful here, for me, are the hearth-based religious practices. As I think I hinted at in the podcast, I'm more about religion than spirituality. I'm incredibly happy for those who can follow a spiritual path without structure - but I really, really can't. I need little daily practices, rituals for creating sacred space where I can worship, etc. This doesn't need to involve institutional religion, but for me, it needs to involve personal religious practice. Offering nightly prayers to Bridget (as hearth/home goddess) and to the triple aspect of the Morrigan (as protector) are examples of this kind of thing. I need to do more reading around this kind of practice.

Anyway. Enough rambling. Please subscribe to the podcast! And tell me what you think! I hope you enjoy. :)

*All such statements are subject to change at any time, at my whim. So there.

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