In the article entitled Fénidecht I explain that the fiana are part of an Indo-European cultural phenomenon that have been associated with wolves and werewolves, also called ‘wolf warriors’ (McCone, Werewolves, Cyclopes, Diberga, and Fianna: Juvenile Delinquency in Early Ireland, 1986, p. 16). If you do a search for other examples of this institution you will find warrior hunter gods to which these groups were associated, but not for the fiana. This could be due to the fact the Irish had an oral tradition, and stories of their gods did not start to get written down until the 5th century by Christian scribes who altered and hid the mythologies while other Indo European people were writing down their stories or would be writing them down before Christianity could fully take hold of the culture. It could be that the Irish did not have a deity associated with the wolf warriors, but that is unlikely given that hunting and warrior bands were a core part of Irish culture and other Indo European (IE) cultures have stories of such gods. No, I suspect the truth is that the Irish god of the ‘wolf warriors’, the hunt, and wild places is the well-known deity turned hero, Finn mac Cumall.
In March I attempted to write a response to John Becket’s article “The Lore vs. UPG – A False Dichotomy“, but ended up just sharing information on the triad Aisling, Ársaíocht, agus Agallamh as conceptualized by Erynn Laurie in her blog “Aisling, Ársaíocht, agus Agallamh: A Modern CR Triad.” This month I want to demonstrate why I reject the idea that UPG, or aisling in our terminology, is dismissed out of hand by folks involved in reconstructed faiths such as Gentlidecht by giving an example of how the triad has been applied to two subjects, one that was rejected and one that is accepted.
The most obvious example of UPG becoming accepted by reconstructionist is Manannan Mac Lir functioning as a psychopomp. For those who have not spent years reading every little detail of this god from original source material (translated and untranslated); there is not a single example of him acting as a ferryman for the dead. No song, no story, no sentence ever has Manannan in any known form leading the dead to the Otherworld. Every time Manannan is involved in Otherworld travel with a mortal that mortal is very much alive. However, over the past 20 years he has come to be known as a psychopomp among Wiccanate and recontructionists alike.
While some mistakenly just accepted him as psychopomp, others looked hard within the lore, ourselves, made offerings, asked questions, and then discussed our findings before coming to a conclusion. The final result was an acceptance that Manannan does function as a psychopomp when requested and it fits his over-all role of moving through barriers. The aisling, or UPG, becomes accepted as a reality and we all move on.
The application of the triad has also resulted in the rejection of a common UPG, namely that the Morrigan is a Mother Goddess. There are those who feel that the Morrigan, one of the Morignea, is a goddess of mothers and motherhood. When the idea was presented to the reconstructionist community it forced a lot of research, discussion, debate, more questions and finally a general rejection of the concept by reconstructionists.
The idea that all reconstructionists are hostile to the concept of UPG is no longer a true one, and those that are hostile are in the minority. The Genti application of the triad allows us to take aisling and break it down so that we don’t stray from too far from our root mission; the revive/reconstruction the pagan indigenous religion of Ireland.
Old and deep.
That is the first thing that comes to mind when I consider the nature of the god known as Manannan Mac Lir. I first met him in August of 1994 when my 1st marriage ended. I wrote about it shortly after it occurred and while not a well written piece, it was near 20 years ago, it conveys the experience well enough:
In Part 1 of the Outlaw/Outsiders series, I talk about the mythological Fianna protecting Ireland from outsiders, this includes foreigners from other lands and Otherworldly beings bent on harming the people of Ireland. In the stories these beings are not given a special name and by there nature, Otherworldly beings are ‘outsiders’ to our world so for purposes of this article and discussion the term ‘outsiders’ will only represent those beings that are hostile and/or disruptive to us. In most ADF groves they include a section of the ritual where they make offerings to the outsiders as an offering to appease or make peace with them so they do not interfere with the ritual. Others portray the outsiders as negative emotional baggage carried by the ritual attendees which is cleansed by the appeasement of the outsiders. In the version of Gentlidecht
I practice we view the outsiders as beings not emotions, and we do not make offerings to them during the normal course of our rituals.
Among the various Irish Polytheist folk, treating with the outsiders is something that varies from group to group and the reasons for and against are also varied. My group of genti have chosen to not include offerings to the outsiders for a few of reasons. Reason number one is that we have no evidence that I am aware, of the pre-Christian Irish doing such things.
Of course absence of proof is not proof of absence so that leads into the fact that in the legends such beings were dealt with by other outsiders, in Ireland’s case the Fianna lead by Fionn mac Cumhaill, not the members of society. Trained specialists who could travel between the worlds to deal with the hostile forces in an effective, and deadly manner. They did not bribe them, they defeated them. So reason number two is, it is not the place of the community to keep the hostile outsiders at bay, but the responsibility of the ‘friendly’ outsiders.
Finally we do not wish to call to them or attract them with goodies and create a situation of ‘blackmail’ in which we have to constantly provide for them. This situation is not obvious to most but for those groups that have regularly made such offerings in the same space for a period of time, the area used begins to develop a ‘darkness’ about it that doesn’t go away without some serious work.
There is a way for those who wish to include some sort of acknowledgement of the outsiders to do so without creating a ‘hostile’ zone. I have already pointed out that in legends there are beings whose job it is to defend against outsiders. If you wish to include an outsider section in your rituals my suggestion is to make the offerings to a defender being and not the ‘hostile’ forces. Two such beings would be Fionn mac Cumhaill and Angus mac Og who both have qualities of being an outsider or defender from outsider forces. This way you are asking for the being to protect you from those things that are not friendly to what you are trying to accomplish.
During the development of Gentlidecht na gCuain we have chosen to not include a section for the ‘outdwellers/outsiders’ in our rituals for three clear reasons. One is that we have no evidence that it was part of ancient Irish Pagan rituals, the legends show that it was other outsider beings dealt with outsiders rather than anyone within the community, and because anecdotal evidence shows that having a regular place where offerings are made to hostile outsiders develops a relationship of blackmail, bribery and an unfriendly space near the ritual.
Having exposed ADF to the outsider/outlaw warrior the feedback has been interesting and slightly frustrating. The basic concepts are all covered in the article Outlaws/Outsiders Part I – Fénidecht but misunderstandings still exist. They don’t understand how anyone would be drawn to such a status, how such a person would be involved in ADF or why ADF should even bother caring about such people. The last is most problematic for me but I hope I can address each of these in turn.
People wonder “Why would anyone want to be an outsider?” and the answer is simple, in most instances no one asked for it. Personal experiences have driven us to the outskirts of our chosen communities. Be it negative experiences with the community-at-large or experiences unrelated to the community that makes us more unable or unwilling to take part in certain types of community rituals. Sometimes, it is a foolish oath made in youth that forces us to be non-participator in certain situations.
The second question is of involvement. Just as we may prefer to remain on the periphery in rituals, we also serve our communities from the periphery. In a ritual context we may prefer to function outside of community rituals as guides and watchers, looking for safety issues, helping people find their way etc. Some groups have incorporated us into the ritual structure by allowing us to stand just beyond, in the liminal area between the ritual space and ‘mundane’ space. Socially and politically we tend to be very active in our communities, to include running for leadership positions.
This last one is problematic for me because it came from an ADF leader. Mind you, these are not exact words but after several statements made this is the impression being given. ADF is no place for people who ‘want to stand apart’. The fact is we don’t always want to ‘stand apart’ and we don’t always have to do so and we are always looking for a community to which we can belong. One that understands we won’t always fit in, or be part of the festivities and accepts us for what we are. In return we would find ways to serve that community in ways that make sense to that community.
Being one who identifies as the ‘outsider warrior’ does not mean we will always stand apart. That is the paradox of being an ‘outsider’ in the 21st century. Sometimes we are very much the insider. I myself am a Grove Organizer and so by default within the context of my grove I am the leader of a community and not on the periphery. Yet, when I go to my next pan-Neopagan festival I will be taking all those things that identify me as a féinnid and function as such in relation to the tribe that will be brought together. It is a fluid state of spiritual being in which I live and am comfortable.
Dear reader, you know people who fit this profile. Please open your communities to them and come to understand them. Like the wolves, once we become part of your pack we are loyal and fierce.
my total opposition to the worship of the battle goddesses known as Nemain, Badb and Morrigu (I am leaving Anand and Macha out of this for now.) I was spurred to write this entry after reading about a
Temple of the Morrigan at Pantheacon run by a group known as Coru Cathubodua, the idea of a temple to these goddesses being established at a Neopagan gathering of hundreds of people actually scares me a little.
going to focus on the reasons why I do not worship her and won’t be part of any ritual that does, except under a very specific circumstance.
occasions this included Somali’s who were injured during their clashes. All of the wounds we were treating were either from gunshots or explosives, inflicted on men, women and children. There is nothing more heartbreaking than helping a kid who has an arm blown off to eat.
The discussion with Alexi Kondratiev in which he used the term ‘psychopath’ to describe the Morrigan occurred at the Chesapeake Pagan Community Gathering in 2008. I no longer try to convince people it’s a bad idea to worship any of the Morrígna (it is rude and inappropriate). And the comment about people not being killed by her “yet” is meant as a joke. Lighten up.