The Trouble with Wicca a /rant

So the title got you here but for full disclosure let me say right off the bat there is no trouble with Wicca.  In fact, the trouble seems to be with folks who are not Wiccan but make a point of denigrating Wiccans at every turn.  The following is a bit of a rant on the reality of people denigrating Wiccans or wiccanate (Generic Neopagans who tend to follow a Wiccan model of ritual and belief) folks.

/rant on

If you have followed this blog for even a day, you know I am not Wiccan or even wiccanate.  I am and have been a dyed-in-the-wool Celtic Reconstructionist for 20+ years.  Like most people my age, I got my start in Wicca, Seax Wicca to be exact, but within a few short years I became a polytheist and left Wicca behind.  Like my leaving the Catholic Church the break was undramatic, so I didn’t develop any anti-Wiccan sentiment until I became entrenched in the CR community.

Even being in the online company of folks who did not like Wicca did not really make me think ill of that religion.  I just never voiced my concern of the sentiment and allowed myself to be dragged into the discussions about how Wicca did everything wrong from a CR perspective.  Some foolishly even went the route that somehow CR was better because our faith was based on what we knew of the pre-Christian people, meanwhile Wicca was made up by a ‘dirty-old-man’.   Seemed just as odd then as it does now – that a group faiths that are totally fabricated using archeology, history, mythology, ect. could think it was any better than one created using folklore and ceremonial magical systems.

Since then, I have moved way beyond the idea that a reconstrucitonist faith is better or that there is something wrong with Wicca.  In fact, Wiccans and those of a wiccanate faith are the hero’s of Neopaganism and should be treated as such.  They have broken ground in every aspect of Neopagan civil rights and lead the rest of the community in all organizational actions to support and enforce religious freedom for all Neopagans (and yes, reconstructionists are also Neopagans.)  Three groups that stand out are Sacred Well Congregation (Neopagan circles on military bases), Circle Sanctuary (lawsuit to get the Pentacle on VA headstones) and Covenant of the Goddess ….all of them Wiccan and all of them in the for front of fighting for religious rights or bringing Neopaganism out of the closet.  Of course there are others but these three come to mind as the oldest or most successful.

So why then do I still see non-wiccanate people making disparaging comments about Wiccans?  I am not just talking a random reconstructionist on Facebook but community leaders who should be doing outreach with other Neopagans, Neopagan churches and even interfaith organizations.  When suggested they get in touch with a certain well know “Big Named Pagan” the response is, “Oh, I just don’t want to deal with those Wiccans.”  Seriously??

Yes…seriously.  Seriously get over yourself…and get over whatever it is that has caused you to think you are somehow better than Wiccans.  Whether you are a reconstructionist voicing an opinion on social media or the leader of a Neopagan church – without Wiccans paving the way for the rest of us, we would not be able to be so vocal.

Anti ANY other religious group has no place in Fénidecht or Gentlidecht.  In fact, it is these wiccante groups and pan-Neopagan festivals where one would most likely function as a féinnid during ritual.

Guarding the boundaries between the worlds for ALL is what being a Féinnid is about.  So let go of your biases, accept that you will not agree with every faith, and get over yourself just enough to work with others who may be a little ‘lighter’ than yourself.

/rant off

*story slightly modified to maintain anonymity of the individuals being referenced.

Bealtaine Blessings

Bless those minding cattle,
And those minding sheep,
And those fishing the sea
May the rains sweep gentle across the fields,
May the sun warm the land,
May every good seed planted bear fruit,
And late summer find us among fields of plenty.

* A combination of two traditional Irish poems.

The Community Statement on Sexual Abuse – I approve this message.

In response to recent events I want to re-post this statement from 2009, crafted for the community by my friend Prof. Brendan Myers.

1. Our movement has many principles of moral thought, not just one
singular monolithic principle. As there are many gods in the world, so
there are many models of the good and worthwhile life for humankind.
Some of us practice Heroic Virtue, others Classical virtue, others a
Utilitarian principle such as the Wiccan Rede. There are also many among
us who find that ethical principles are revealed through the intuition
of a Divine presence that dwells within the human heart and mind. This
presence unites us with the Earth, with each other, and with the cosmos.

2. Among our many traditions, groves, hearths, circles, and
communities, there are broad areas of moral agreement. For the purpose
of this statement, we (the authors and the undersigned) wish to
emphasize the matter of sexual abuse. We agree to the broad and general
principle that the human body is a sacred temple, a work of art, and a
good home for the self and the soul. Many of us believe that the body is
the dwelling-place of the Divine, and the seat of a deeply integrated
web of relations which ultimately includes the whole of life on Earth.
The human body is thus among the first of all things that deserve our
care and respect. On this principle, the differences between our various
circles tend to be only a matter of emphasis. Indeed, on this
principle, we may share some moral agreement with the dominant religious
traditions of our dominant culture: the view that the body is made in
the image of the Divine.

3. In our circles, the sacredness of the body, as a religious truth,
leads to positive conclusions about human sexuality. Our view is that
sexuality, sexual identity, sexual expression, and acts of love and
pleasure, between consenting, informed, and mature people, have great
religious significance. Indeed such acts can take on the significance of
ritual. We hold that our sexual identities are worthy of celebration.
And for many of us, an occasion of shared sexual pleasure and lovemaking
is a most spiritually meaningful event: a communion with the Divine
which dwells within ourselves and within each other.

4. Indeed, there are some traditions in which a sexual act is performed
as part of some rituals, such as higher-level initiations. Various
names designate these rituals: Heiros Gamos, the Great Marriage, or the
Great Rite, to name a few. In most cases, the Great Marriage is
performed “in token”: for instance, a priest touches the tip of a wand
or a blade to the bottom of a chalice held by a priestess. This is an
ancient gesture, with precedents in the ancient cultures of the Greeks,
the Romans, the Hindus, and other great civilizations of the distant

5. Naturally, given our perspective on the sacredness of the body, our
view is that all coerced, nonconsensual, harmful or exploitative sexual
acts, are seriously morally wrong. We find that sexual exploitation and
violence are particularly worse than other forms of criminality, such as
property offences, because sexual offences invade the body. Sexual
abuse ignores the sacredness of the body, and ignores the privacy, the
dignity, and the freedom of the victim to use and delight in his or her
own body. It is an extraordinary affront to the Divine presence which
dwells within every human body and which animates the body with
goodness. It severely harms the victim, and degrades the dignity of both
victim and offender. Sexual abuse also inflicts deep wounds upon the
precious sense of bodily identity which all of us hold so dear. No
exceptions or relativist interpretations can alter the basic moral
wrongness of sexual exploitation and violence. We identify all such acts
as sexual abuse, and we refuse to tolerate them in our community.

6. Thus in our contemporary circles, the rite of the Great Marriage, if
it is not performed in token,  is held privately and by invitation
only. The participants come in full knowledge of what they have been
invited to. If there are any initiatory “surprises”, they are never
intended to violate the sacredness of the seeker’s body. Ideally, the
invitees already know, love, and trust one another. They have already
given their informed consent, and retain the right to withdraw from the
event without prejudice at any time. When we mix sexuality with
religion, there is no space for deception or coercion. Religious
sexuality is always consensual and never obligatory. No one should enter
a circle with eyes covered when sexuality, sexual identity, and the
sanctity of his or her own body is put to a test. This remains true even
when the ritual participants are not strangers to each other.
Initiatory surprises, tests, and ordeals are intended to help a seeker
find the sacred within him or her self. If they threaten or invade that
self, then the initiators are harming, and not helping, the seeker.

7. If someone finds a private group’s practices uncomfortable, he or
she is always free to find another group to join. It is wrong to hold
someone back from spiritual progress or knowledge for refusing to
participate in a sexual act. We are always right to doubt the sincerity,
honour, and spirituality of someone who claims that a sexual act is a
mandatory requirement for initiation, or for any kind of relationship
with the gods, goddesses, or deities.

8. An accusation of sexual exploitation is a very serious matter. The
accusation alone, even in the absence of evidence, can damage the
reputation and the self esteem of good people. We therefore find that a
false or vindictive accusation of sexual misconduct is another form of
sexual abuse.

9. Yet we also recognize that real sexual abuse victims experience deep
feelings of guilt and shame, and that they often struggle to admit that
they have been abused. Their condition should not be made worse by a
predisposition doubt the validity of their claims. Nor should they be
automatically counter-accused of having a vindictive intention, or of
lying. We hold that anyone alleging sexual abuse should always be
treated with compassion as a primary response, and that claims of sexual
abuse should be handled with intelligence and concern for all.

10. It is clear that one need not be a spiritual person to recognize
the wrongness of sexual abuse. Yet we are especially outraged when the
perpetrator is a leader or a teacher in a religious community. In our
circles, religious teachers are held in high esteem. A seeker who
approaches a teacher in search of spiritual guidance and comfort offers a
special kind of trust to the teacher. Teachers and seekers often open
their hearts and minds to each other, and thus they becomes very
vulnerable. It is for this reason many of our traditions require
teachers to possess not only great knowledge, but also great integrity
and honour. It is also for this reason that sexual predators will pose
as religious teacher: in that way, they may find more victims for their
gratification. There are also some teachers who, exploiting the trust
given them, become sexual predators as well.

11. Furthermore, a person who uses this relationship of trust to
exploit people thus harms the whole social environment in which teaching
and seeking take place. For the sexual predator’s harm touches more
than just the victim. It affects all the victim’s friends, family
members, fellow seekers in the same circle, colleagues at work, and
anyone to whom the victim may turn for help. The harm of sexual abuse
thus affects numerous other people who the predator may not know, nor
ever meet. Moreover, sexual abuse also casts suspicion and doubt on the
intentions of the honourable teachers in our midst, undermining the good
work that they do.

12. Finally a sexual predator can sometimes exploit the relations of
trust that grow between fellow seekers in the same tradition, hearth, or
circle, even when he or she does not pose as a teacher. This kind of
exploitation also harms the whole community. In all cases, we maintain
our condemnation of unwanted sexual acts.

Therefore –
We, the authors and signatories of this statement, commit ourselves to:

• Demonstrate by example a fully moral sexual spirituality;
• Vigorously entreat others to agree to the principles of this statement;
• Handle all accusations of sexual exploitation and misconduct with
intelligence and compassion, for victims of real sexual harm, and for
victims of false or vindictive accusations;
• Cooperate with the police when an incident of sexual abuse in our circles is under investigation;
• Help bring comfort, medical assistance, legal aid, and spiritual
healing, to victims, as far as ability and opportunity may allow; and
• Help seekers find groups, circles, traditions, or individual
teachers, whose practice involves as much or as little sexuality as the
seeker feels comfortable exploring.

We voluntarily commit ourselves to this declaration, and we encourage others to commit themselves to it, whatever their path.

We remain, respectfully,
A community of Pagans.

Please feel free to share this!

Splitter or Lumper – the Nature of the gods.

Unlike monists or duotheists who see all gods/goddesses somehow being One, we polytheists view and experience them as individuals.  As a result of this view topics on the nature of the gods comes up pretty frequently.  One topic that comes up more frequently than others is what gods ARE the same and which ones are actually different people.  This does not only apply to different gods in differing cultures, like comparing Lugh and Odin….but within the same or related cultures like the Irish Lugh and Gaulish Lugos or Danu and Anu in Ireland or the three/five Brigids of Ireland.

Everyone in these conversations has valid reasons for what they do and believe but there appear to be two camps.  Splitters, who believe more in the individuality of the gods, and Lumpers who recognize that some gods are the same with minor linguistic differences due to the distance of time and geography.  To confuse things more, some of us are both Lumpers and Splitters, depending on the deity and the information available.

I am a Splitter. Mostly.  That means that in most instances each name is a different deity, unless there is a strong compelling reason linguistically and functionally to show they are the same.  And sometimes, I have to go with the experiences I have, and my gut/heart call it aisling or imbas.

Examples of Splitting:

Brigid – I split the Brigid’s into as many as five.  The three daughters of the Dagda (Poetess, Leach and Smith)  and the two judges (Brethra and Ambue).  The tales clearly separate them but from a functional and linguistic perspective they are the same.  I split them due to my experiences. 

An Morrígna – There are three, no six goddesses  associated with this name.  The Morrígna are a group of goddesses all with similar purpose.  The names found in the tales are: Morrígan, Badb, Macha, Anann, Nemain and Fea. 

Danu/Danann and Anu/Anann – NOT THE SAME.  Not the same.  We are not even sure of Danu is a goddess as she is not named in the mythology but derived from Danann while  Anu/Anann is one of the Morrígna.  I split them because in my work in the military one of the goddesses of war is not also a water goddess. 

Examples of Lumping:

Manannan mac Lir and  Manawydan fab Llŷ – Despite differences in mythology these two names apply to the same person.  The linguistics are clear and the changes in mythology make sense given the differences in the cultures of Ireland (island) and Wales (mountainous).  Note that Manannan mac Lir (Manxman of the Sea) is not his name but a title of sorts.  His name in Ireland is give an Oribsen and there is working theory that he is Fintan mac Bóchra (wiseman of the ocean).

Finn mac Cumail and Gwynn ap Nud – This is harder to explain in a single paragraph, so an article is forthcoming.  However, the first names are cognate as are the names of their ancestor Nud/Nuada.  Both are associated with hounds and hunting and have free reign in passing between the worlds.

Lugh/Lew/Lugos – Linguistics show these names are cognate but time and geography separate them.  However, functionally the cult of Lugos remained fairly intact thus making these gods one and the same.

So there ya go.  Examples of splitting and lumping.  Some polytheists lump more, some split more but we can all pretty much agree that in the end it is the worship that counts and the gods don’t seem to be as concerned with their nature as we are.

Imbolc Business – A summary on what I did.

So been quiet here for the past couple weeks as I worked on my ritual for Imbolc.  In the past I have never really done a ritual per se.  My Imbolc has always consisted of burning a candle for the Brigids, burning incense, for the past 6 or 7 years smudging the house with juniper and cleaning the house.

In short, for me Imbolc is about cleansing and purification.  I can’t really say where I got this idea from it just sort of evolved over time (probably came about with discussions with other CR folk) until it stopped being a thing and just became the way it is done.  It is so ‘not-a-ritual’ my housemates/wife would only know I was cleaning the house and making it smell nice.

This year, as part of my 12 months of ADF ritual for genti I wrote and conducted an Imbolc ritual.  the Brigid’s were the focus of the worship and the work is purification.  I did my ritual cleansing of the house with juniper as part of the ritual but completed and closed it before I started the vacuum and mopping.

In a previous article I talked about using apples as the medium to receive the blessings but for Imbolc I switched to butter.  This year it was regular unsalted butter but I am already planning on using my grandmothers churn to make fresh butter.  We can’t get raw milk in my state but some friends in PA may be able to help me out so I can make butter  as our ancestors did.

Why butter?  Because no matter what Old Irish term you use for the day, it has something to do with dairy.  Oimelc is understood to mean “ewes, milk” and Kim McCone translates Imbolc as “butter wolf”, more about that in the Hidden Imbolc article.  In any case…it’s about butter.  So, the making of and consumption of butter seems appropriate to the day.

Since the ritual was indoors it was quiet and smooth.  Other than cats wanting to eat my blessed butter (which I used in making cookies) nothing unusual occurred.  I did not do any of the other usual Imbolc activities this year, but seeing as I have just helped found and am the Grove Organizer for Five Rivers Protogrove, ADF I expect some of the traditional activities to became part of our Imbolc celebrations.

I hope you had a nice Imbolc.  Use the comments to tell me what you did.

Synopsis of Kim McCone’s and J. de Vries’ Theory on the Gundestrup Cauldron

The short of it is that Prof. McCone theorizes that the Gundestrop Cauldron is associated with fiana like warriors of Gaul.  All based on the images on three of the inner panels of the cauldron.  I will paraphrase his work from his article “The Celtic and Indo-European origins of the fian” found in The Gaelic Finn Tradition published by Four Courts Press.

Panel 1 – This is the well known ‘Cernunos’ panel, the main figure with Gaulish parallels (see “Keltische Religion (1961 Pp106-7))  with horns on his head and the “hatching” of the clothing worn is indicative of fur.  A deer stands on the left and a wolf on the right, with the horns associating him with the deer and the fur possibly associating him with the wolf.  The implication being that he has attributes of both animals.  Above and below the figure are a goat and lion, which would have the same cultural attributes as the deer and wolf near Eastern or Balkan context.  Keep in mind that the cauldron most likely comes from Thrace, which was a mix of Eastern and Gaulish peoples.

Prof. McCone believes that the figure depicted is a patron of the *koryos the outcast warrior bands of Indo-European cultures such as the Fiana in Ireland.

Panel 2 – The second panel has hunters accompanied by hounds or wolves attacking large oxen.  Above each stands a spotted cat like figure that could be a leopard. The prey our doubtless to be aurochs with the leopard being another Balkan addition.  If the dog figures are hounds then they would be helping with the hunt, if wolves they could represent the ‘mascot’ of the hunters, who garments resemble that which is worn by the “Cernunos’ figure on the first panel.  The two outer men are wearing only britches and cap with the more seasoned leader wearing a garment covering his upper body.  With the stylized leaves, also found on the first panel, this could be a *koyros hunting party in the woods.

Panel 3 –  The third panel depicts a ritual, where a group of foot soldiers move towards a cauldron are dunked into the cauldron and come out as horseback warriors.  An initiation or cleansing from one status to another.  The bottom six soldiers are armed with spear and shield and are again wearing clothing as depicted on the ‘Cernunos’ panel.  At the front of the line of soldiers is a wolf facing the oncoming soldiers, with musicians at the end of the line.  The wolf is presumably the mascot and the young men are the ‘young wolves’ preparing for initiation back with the musicians also being ‘young wolves’ not yet ready for the transition but acting as assistants to the ritual.

I will quote McCone’s summary:

Whatever about some of the details, the crucial point here is that the three scenes from the Gundestrup Cauldron, just discussed, present clear evidence for a sequentially regulated Gallo-Thracian opposition between, on the one hand, spear and shield, and, on the other, a class of mounted warriors, progress from the former to the latter set being marked by a baptismal rite of passage. 

For my own part.  I have to wonder if the cauldron was actually used for such rituals.  Now that would be an amazing thing.

Further reading:

de Vries, J. Keltische Religion (1961), pp 104-07

Kim. “The Celtic and Indo-European Origins of the Fian.” The Gaelic Finn Tradition. Ed. Sharon J.
Arbuthnot and Geraldine Parsons. Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2012. 14-73.

Personality Types – Of Warriors and Jerks

The following is an excerpt from the forth coming article on various personality types I have identified among the neopagan warrior and Celtic Recon community.  It was pulled from another article entitled Fénidecht to be published in “Oak Leaves” Spring 2014 and on this blog June 2014.

In this excerpt I am discussing two types of ‘warriors’ we find online.  The problem we have is that we can’t usually tell them apart until it is too late unless we know what to look for, and by giving information on these two I hope to increase awareness and decrease the killing of good discussions while not feeding trolls.

 One of the most common féinnidi personality types I have come across is the “Challenger of the Norm.” They enjoy discussions with others and tend to ask questions of the community that force people to consider something that is counter to an existing belief or understanding thus disrupting how society thinks of itself. This has often resulted in the assumption that the féinnid is somehow trying to change things or be intentionally disruptive, while the truth may be as simple as that they want to understand another’s perspective and simply don’t know how to couch the question in a way that doesn’t seem as though they are pointing out errors in others’ understanding. Of course, sometimes an individual is in fact being intentionally disruptive, which is simply poor behavior. However, intentional or not, the community response is too often hostile, and instead of nurturing discussion and debate, the féinnid is flagged as a troll. Given an opportunity, the well-intentioned “Challengers of the Norm” will distinguish themselves by staying involved in a discussion; a troll, on the other hand, will post inflammatory statements with obvious intent to create trouble. While disruptive at times, “Challengers of the Norm” should be seen as the people who help us really know and understand ourselves by forcing us to periodically re-evaluate what we believe.

Then there is the‘Warrior Antagonist’, which is not a personality type limited to féinnidi but is a general type often found among those who identify themselves as warriors. They often appear to be “Challengers of the Norm” but as the discussion continues they tend to get more heated until finally a moderator steps in or the entire discussion shuts down. When challenged as to why they get so heated and fight the response is something akin to “I am a warrior and we enjoy conflict and fighting.” This is a behavior that no one, especially féinnidi, should accept. As modern warriors part of our martial training is de-escalation, team-work and in many organizations,including the armed forces and police forces, conflict resolution. The only time a warrior should escalate a conflict is to bring it to a quick end, and this only applies to actual combat situations. Escalating discussion and debates to the point of open hostility is also counter-productive and in the end only places the warrior in a poor light. With féinnidi already being misunderstood by the Neopagan community it is important to not be a ‘Warrior Antagonist’ and for non-warrior Neopagans to recognize the differences between the personalities to avoid killing discussions that could introduce new ideas and opinions.

EDITED – Updated the first paragraph after my editor pulled this section from the original article.

Pagan adaptations of original source material.

I love the work of Morgan Daimler and Mike Nichols who both published poetry from the Carmina Gadelica converted to a Neopagan version.  This makes sense to me.

What I don’t understand is why we have to change things that are already good.  The example I ran into just this morning is from the “Acallam na Senórach” when Patrick asks  Caílte what kept Fionn Mac Cumhaill’s warrior band going all those years.  His response  is “Fírinde inár croidhedhaibh & nertt inár lámhaibh, & comall inár tengthaibh.” which has been translated in variants: “truth in our hearts, strength of our arms, and constancy of our tongues” or  “truth in our hearts, strength of our arms, and fulfillment of our tongues”.

If you look for this phrase on the internet though you find it written as  “Strength in our arms, truth on our tongue, clarity in our heart” and yet there is no use of this version that I have been able to find in any translation of the AnS yet people cite that it is from the Fennian Cycle.  It’s not but I did find its source.  Turns out it was written by Seán ó Tuathail in 1993 as part of his Foclóir Draíochta – Dictionary of Druidism.   In it he reorganizes the phrase and puts it into Modern Irish as “Neart inár lámha, fírinne ar ár dteanga, glaine inár gcroí”.  Honestly, it is easier to understand than the various translations of the original but why not just clarify the original?

Three points to take away from this brief rant:  1) Why not use original phrases when they don’t contain obvious non-Pagan overtones 2) Be sure you know the source of something before citing it.  3) If you adapt something, cite it properly so we all know its origin.

As Abraham Lincoln said at his 1865 Inauguration Speech – “Just because it is on the internet!!  Does not make it true.”

Sharing other Outsider blogs…

Here is a quick and short list of blogs for folks that I know who self-identify as outsiders and are in some way connected to the CR movement or Gaelic Polytheism.

Searching for Imbas – Erynn Laurie
 Flying with the Hooded Crow – Kym Lambert
A Wolfman, not a Wolf in Mans Clothing – Faoladh

Mound of Hostages today, the actual day of Samain.

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