This blog is part of the Scáth na Feannóige/Shadow of the Hooded Crow project exploring fénnidecht as a practice to follow the War Goddessses, Badb, Macha and the Morrígan whose name is Anann. This is a less formal place for me to discuss various issues of interest to someone on a modern version of the Outlaw warrior path such as physical training, history, Old Irish literature, pop culture inspirations, werewolves, ecstatic trance (okay, I find that one tough to write about but I may try), gender issues the wilderness....


Sunday, May 14, 2017

Wonder Woman Rant Redux - muscle, space and physical feminism

 Six years ago I wrote the post Wonder Woman---a rant from Goddesses to costumes to Goddesses which remains my most popular post ever. *sigh* (because while I'll always throw in pop culture material regarding physical feminism and all, that's not the precise focus of my blog even if story is and these are our stories) And as it started getting hits again recently, likely due to people looking for things regarding the new movie, I figured I should add a review to the movie.  But  as I had not made any commentary regarding Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman when Batman v. Superman came out, have been pretty actively avoiding doing so, really, I realized I really need to get the physical feminism issues of this out of the way so I can review Wonder Woman without discussing this aspect.

But first, please let me note that I am really excited about Wonder Woman, it's way past time to finally have a stand-alone superhero movie for a female character!   To boot, it's also important that it is being directed by a woman!  Be nice if there were more women in the background, it sucks to "take what we get" but hopefully it's a step. IF it succeeds. And there is evidence that it is not meant to, that it is being under promoted and it is being released at a bad time in regards to established competition.  


If we want more this movie must succeed strongly!  Pleas go see it, multiple times if you can!  Yeah, use capitalism to our advantage, by the Dr. Pepper! (don't like Dr. Pepper...yeah, me either, but the cans are what might be worth the purchase)  Buy T-shirts!  Uh, but we have to have our limits, please, PLEASE do NOT buy the fucking diet bars!  Talk and post about the movie!

Let's make this a huge success and at the same time demand more!  More! More female superhero stand-alone movies!  More female led superhero TV shows! More female directors of both! More female writers of both! More female producers of both! More female show runners!   Also more diversity over all.... women of color, trans-women!


And yes.....More muscle!  

Can someone point me to the original source?!  I found this tons of places via Google but have failed to find the origin.

Part of not writing about this for the past three or four years is just other things going on, but also not wanting to get into the accusations of body-shaming Gal Gadot.  So let's get a few things clear here:
  1. I in no way wish to body-shame Gadot. This isn't about her really, she just landed in the middle of an ongoing issue, especially as she never sought out the role. It is about the choice by Zack Snyder, and anyone else involved in casting, to actually pursue her for the role for it despite the fact it was for a character currently shown as largely muscled. This is on the casting not her. I am sorry if her feelings have been hurt, but also see #3 here. 

    I am also sorry she got attacked for her breast size, which is in no way an issue for me. (however, in her defending that someone should inform her that the cutting off a breast thing was likely propaganda created by forcing the Iranian *ha-maz-an "one fighting together" into similar sounding Greek term which conveniently made it sound horrid to Greek women who might want to become one. Certainly, there is no way it would help women draw a bow, quite the opposite, and certainly no evidence that the Sauro-Sarmatian female warriors who probably were sometimes called this did so, especially as they were expected to marry and have children when they gained adulthood [sound familiar?  yes, Amazons were likely among the war bands I am studying, of course] 2,500 year-old Alt-Facts are no more true than modern ones) Yes, perhaps WW is often shown with outrageously large breasts but as they are irrelevant to her ability as a fighter I really do not consider it important. Muscles matter, however.

  2. Discussion of the bodies of actors playing superheroes is not focused only on women, but has long been going on with men. The attacks on both Michael Keaton and George Clooney when they were cast as Batman were really before the internet took off and may be forgotten by many and since overshadowed by the, not unrelated, snarking on the rubber batsuits. This is a rather extensive post exploring Batman's physique, including the actors from Adam West up through Christian Bale from Gotham Alleys. Ben Affleck's and Henry Cavill's muscle mass has been up for discussion on the interwebs as well, never mind that they got more upgraded muscle suits to help them out (difficult with bare harms and shoulders of WW's costume, of course).

  3. Despite the usual cries (from privileged people regardless of the issue) that there should be no "oppression Olympics" oppression is not equal. Some forms of oppression are worse than others. And within particular form of oppression there is definitely a difference, that's actually the very nature of oppression.  Yes, being "skinny-shamed" or even "societal-ideal-body-shamed" might hurt the individual's feelings and that is real for them, it is not the same as a largely muscled woman who is shamed for "looking like a man" and who is (as is relevant to this issue) unable to get a job in film or TV because they are too muscular, which happens, and that is, honestly, not the same as someone being fat-shamed by being denied all sorts of jobs, being forced to buy an extra seat or not be able to fly at all to not being able to get appropriate healthcare and sometimes dying from that.

    As thin actresses are favored and get jobs all the time, bitching that muscular actress are left out of a role essentially designed for them is not thin-shaming, it is discussing muscle-shaming. On the other hand, almost all the defensiveness about "thin-shaming"in this situation is really thinly (no pun intended) disguised fat- or muscle-shaming the latter of which is displayed here.

    In a nutshell, it is simply not thin-shaming to demand that other types of women's bodies be seen in movies especially when the character is already established as having a body that does not meet the societal ideal.

  4. As a continuation of the above, there is more going on here than one woman's body shape. It's the whole damn message that, again, the Women's Health piece drives home, that women are supposed to be thin and only thin. There is a very narrow (yeah, pun is intended here) range of acceptable body types in the media, especially in any sort of leading role. There is a constant message that women must take up as little space as possible. 

    This was notable to me in watching Batman v. Superman, right down to the first encounter between Affleck's Bruce Wayne and Gadot's Diana Prince when he towered over her intimidatingly (while Affleck is 6'4" and Gadot is 5'10", canon Batman is 6'2" and the modern canon (we'll get to this) WW is 6'0" which is not as notable a difference, and height is easily managed in film so this could
    have played far differently. Again, while already very muscular, both Affleck and Cavill are made almost absurdly large with their suits and in the way they are featured, while Gadot appears diminutive, even while doing "large things."

    This size disparity is, of course, also found in the comic at times, but is, frighteningly, perhaps mostly geared towards kids as in  Justice League Action.  The message given to girls by always portraying female heroes as a always being able to be strong but thin remains a message to not take up space, to fit a societal ideal that most of us do not and which girls and women harm themselves daily to try to achieve. While also being strong? Can this message be denied here at all when there is a damn tie-in to a weight loss product?

  5. This has been one of a long line of very thin women being cast into muscular roles, a role that is now known for being muscular just as (even more so, really...far more so) Sarah Connor was, where the actress was put into a position of proving she was gaining enough muscle to do so and we are told repeatedly that she did despite all evidence that she doesn't. Now, again, this seems to get close to thin-shaming, but again it's about the spin that is put on the issue by the promoters and puts the actress, who surely would rather not be there, into the spotlight to try to prove a point about what women's bodies are "supposed" to look like.

    I also can sympathize, I do not put on a lot of muscle even though I work out specifically to attempt to.  So if it's a matter of not having a mesomorph-dominant  body I get it. I'm totally an endomorph/ectomorph cross.  So why not cast an actress who already does?  Because not all women have difficulty putting on muscle, just as not all men can put muscle on easily!

    But there is another factor. Are these women actually getting the sort of fitness training that builds muscle.  The Women's Health piece (I'm not giving them yet another link) claims Gadot said "that she’s been doing “a thousand and one things” to gain body mass in preparation for the role, including kung fu, kickboxing, and jujutsu."   So, you know, fighting arts is great for preparing for such a role but they do not exactly put on mass. I can only assume those thousand and one things included weight training but, of course, that also has to be done right even for someone genetically inclined to put on muscle.

    And, here's the kicker, there's a long term gas-lighting (no, really, that is what it is) technique in the fitness biz of telling women that "women do not bulk up like men but you must work out to make sure you do not bulk up like a man." Or even the ever growing popularity of "lift like a man but don't look like one, just starve yourself." (no, I am not linking to any of this shit, it's too easy to find as it is).  It's so fucking common.  And this little game of "oh, she's really muscular for a woman, this is is what a proper muscular woman looks like" is a growing part of that gas-lighting.

    This gas-lighting is so pervasive and has been going on so long that women truly believe they can't bulk up and that they must also avoid bulking up as much as possible. They also believe that a "toned" look, one of the most horrific jokes in fitness, on a woman is comparable to a body-building physique on a man. This is not just cis-women who believe all this (and I do apologize for how cis-centric this all is, the subject makes it difficult to be more diverse at this point) so most people do believe that Gadot (and other actresses put through this), for a woman, has "really bulked up." 

    (Want some great reading on how how sports media plays into this gas-lighting check out Body Panic: Gender, Health and the Selling of Fitness by Shari L Dworkin and Faye Linda Wachs and Built to Win: the Female Athlete as Cultural Icon by Leslie Heywood and Dworkin)

  6. This movie is tied in with a fucking weight loss product!

  7. Sorry Women's Health (no, not linking again), but while you can be strong and thin bigger strong people will still be stronger!  Simple physics!   "Oh, but she's super-powered."  Yeah, so is Superman and if there is any superhero who doesn't need size on his side it's Superman...yet he keeps getting bigger so....  STFU!  You're just espousing sexist sizism that dictates women must strive to be as small as possible with this sort of shit. (I'd also be interested in whether under the circumstances of Superman's superpowers, the yellow sun, which makes virtually nothing a real resistance for him, if such a creature would have much muscle mass at all. Anyone? ....and make it something more than an opinion because I don't care so much to give that time, thanks). 

    We know the Amazons trained. I expect muscle. It appears there will be in some of the Amazons, although I have yet to see boxer Anne Wolfe or MMA fighter Madeleine Vall in costume yet.
     
  8. A fucking weight loss product!

  9. Wonder Woman is certainly not about weight loss, she has instead, happily gained both height and weight. The Golden Age WW was, indeed, a rather tiny 122 lbs at 5'8".   The New 52 WW is 165 lbs at 6'0" -but honestly she often looks more muscular than that likely would.

  10.  So this movie, which should be about showing women are strong and powerful as superheroes, who can take on men, monsters and armies, is still giving us a message that this better be done while avoiding taking up too much space. Brought fully home by the fact that, they tied it into a fucking weight loss product!

  11. We have a legitimate expectation to see more varied feminine bodies on screen and that does include ones which are muscular especially when the character is already know to be and is supposed to be physically powerful! 

  12. We have a legitimate expectation to see women taking up space in movies! And everywhere!  We have a legitimate right to take up space!

  13. We don't want your fucking weight loss products!


Again, the take away is that this might annoy many of us ,but it is vital, especially if we want to see female superhero muscle to support this movie!  Which looks like it might be very good, despite this. Which is why I wanted this out of the way before I saw and reviewed it.  

But also success means more female-led superhero films, more female directed superhero films, hopefully more female produces superhero films. And other such action films, maybe too!  Because right now the myth that women's action movies do not bring in money, something which they seem to want to prove by not promoting WW as much as they already are Justice League. We have the promise of a Captain Marvel, which will be the first female-lead stand-alone Marvel offering in 2019.  Can we hope for others to follow? Only if we make this big! 

In fact, this doe not need to be the last Wonder Woman of our times. Superman and Batman have had too many actors to count (well, okay, I'm too lazy) playing them since Kirk Alyn (who preceded George Reeves) and  Lewis Wilson (who preceded Robert Lowery who preceded Adam West), respectively.  Meanwhile, actually making it to screen Gadot is only the third live action actress, following the well known Linda Carter TV series run in the 1970 and the Cathy Lee Crosby pilot movie that ran the year before Carter's series was picked up instead. There's a lot of room there for more women playing Wonder Woman. And TV is another option.

And as Supergirl is slated early for a third season on CW, which is picking up more DC titles and which has already been established is a different Earth than the DC movies with different actors playing the Flash, I think it is now the time for them to finally do a workable Wonder Woman with a different and buff actress playing her.  And without resorting to the dreck of the previous series attempt and remember that even bits that might work for raised-since-a-young-age-as-a-"regular-girl" Supergirl is not going to work with raised-to-be-a-warrior-since-birth Amazon  Oh, she might love sharing ice cream with her bestie but not to cry over her "lost love."  While we're at it, let's make sure her best friend is Etta Candy (or if they met way back, Etta's granddaughter or something) and make sure she is fat and athletic and a fucking badass as she should be and never actually the joke she could have been (and I'm waiting to see how the movie does with her)...and never, ever have her mention wanting to lose weight because Etta does not give a fuck about your fat-shaming standard!  Oh, yeah, Diana should be bi too, because finally what was really quite obvious has been officially acknowledged. And also she must fight Nazis. I'll discuss the taking her story back to WWI instead of WWII when I have actually seen the movie, but the original Wonder Woman came to the Man's World during the World War II to battle the threat of Nazis. She has had to battle Nazis cropping up at various times. We have a real Nazi problem right now, we need her fighting Nazis now! 

So we need to make this move HUGE and then voice our desires to see such a show come up soon.

Go to the movie, take friends, go lots of times if you can, take more friends! Post and promote, if they won't we have to!  Buy products, but not the fucking diet bars!  Let's remind them that women bring an audience!

ETA: I just had this go through my feed!  I guess they were just waiting to promote it (or something), so another way make this big and get more WW and more of other female superheroes is participate he shit out Wonder Woman Day


Wonder Woman, with muscle, punching Trump mural in Pilidelpha


Saturday, February 18, 2017

Save a Celtic hound

**UPDATE: I realized I should update that we were unable to save our Gráinne. The lymphoma was just too aggressive, she went down hill very quickly and had some sort of episode involving either a lesion or a blood-clot to the brain. She regained her ability to walk after the first one, but the vet was clear that nothing could be done. We planned to take her for her last trip a few days later, but she had another similar episode and we took her to an emergency vet in the middle of the night. We probably do not have to mention that we are devastated as is Gleann. **

It been a hell of a year. We lost Sachairi just over a year ago, then found out both Gleann and Gráinne had serious health problems.  Gráinne was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) but her blood count numbers were real low, so during the summer it was a matter of just keeping track while we concentrated on saving Gleann who had a tumor in his parathyroid.  We were able to get surgery for Gleann thanks to fund raising, auctioning off some Sarah Connor related stuff, some eBay auctions, help from a dear friend and totally maxing out CareCredit.  And then Gráinne's numbers got higher, not OMG start chemo NOW higher, but high enough we were starting to get her evaluated the first of this year.

And then two things happened. First she developed skin lesions, upping our worry even with the current blood counts.  And then my husband Aaron broke his leg. Oh, on top of that at New Years just 12 days before his accident, he had also had his status changed at work from covering stations to only being on-call for transfers, so no disability benefits at all. This leaves us with no real income at all, except for a bit here and there from eBay sales. 

Just days before we finally got her to the oncologist for another examination and for more testing, her nose became hugely swollen. It turns out that as well as the CLL she has cutaneous lymphoma, which is the more aggressive of the two.

 This means that the chemotherapy we were looking at, Prednisone and Leukeran, is not going to be effective. Instead we need a more expensive chemo, CCNU. She would get this every three weeks at $695 each time and require blood work at her regular vet in the weeks in between.  AND this needs to start immediately, before the very quick changing lymphoma has a chance to get to the point of no return!

We could see managing if Aaron were working and getting a lot of shifts....but not until then.  Which is April! And we have to stat this week!  We have raised not quite as much as we have spent in getting her tested and we are struggling to also feed her and the other animals, so we have almost nothing left to our names at all, let alone enough to start this! We really need help!

She could have years more with this, it is devastating that we may have to lose her just because Aaron broke his leg!


Gráinne is our sixth Greyhound, adopted from Greyhound Placement Services, NH as a special needs dog due to having epilepsy.  She is beautiful, as you can see, but also quirky and comical. She is not always the easiest hound to deal with, her previous owner has returned her due to her singing in her crate. Honestly, it really is singing, it's like having a coywolf in your living room.  She can be very vocal at anytime she feels she's not being understood. Not everyone appreciates that as much as we do.

She has had a stressful year, losing Sach was a blow to her, I know. She was stressed as we took care of Gleann's situation. I feel like we had just gotten to the point where we could all relax and enjoy time together when she got really sick.  I don't want this to have been her last year! I want her to get better, which she has a very good chance of if we start treatment this week, and have a couple of relatively happy years. She just turned 7, she needs more time!

And Gleann needs more time with her. He adores her, he's lost so many packmates in his lifetime. 

Please share the campaign and please help with what ever you can! 

My articles and workshop vouchers are available as perks.

The Celtic Hound reference is....because they are!


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Monday, October 3, 2016

Saving Ritual Dog Gleann! and some stuff on future workshops

 In my last post I asked for help getting Gleann's high calcium issue diagnosed. We got the diagnosis and it is primary hyperparathyroidism caused by a nodule in one of his parathyroid glands. So now we need to get the surgery as soon as we can! So we have another fundraiser to get his surgery. It was supposed to end this past weekend, we had hoped to be scheduling the surgery yesterday, aiming for the 14th.  But we are still far short of the $3,500 we need. 


Just before heading out for Samhuinn 2015
Gleann is by far our Chief Ritual Dog. I have written about canines in ritual  and all our dogs have participated with us. The Greyhounds have been happy to do so, there is food after all, dear little Sachairi I think found it kind of odd as he came to live with us when hew as set in his ways from a probably more Zen background than our wild Heathen ways and he would often lie a little way from us ...until the shortbread started being distributed.  But Gleann loves ritual!


He was just weeks old when he came to live with us, all teeth and growls and unruliness, and a few weeks later we did our Lùnasdal/Là Fhéill Mhacha.  Almost as soon as we got there Gleann started running as fast as his little legs could take him deiseal around the fire pit.  We would get him to stop, but as soon as let go he'd just start running again. Through the whole ritual. With a break for shortbread.

By Samhuinn that year he was a bit calmer, and he began to figure out his role. We go up to the site, he patrols the area for any problems. He then hangs nearby, and keeps a look out around. When we make our treaty offerings to those we do not worship, he goes out near the edge of the land with me (he did at first venture to the neighbors but we convinced him that was too much and he no longer does. When the ritual is done and the other dogs and stuff has been packed up and mostly taken home, he and I usually sit alone to vigil with the fire to be sure it is safely out.  He had always done this lying right against my back, but as we lost more of the pack and they are buried there he now divides his time lying by their graves and at my back. 

I have written a lot about the importance of canines on my path; the history of dogs in Celtic, especially Gaelic, cultures and a growing body of work on fénnidecht and the connection between warriors and canines. This is also my life.  This is my pack. Those who have left their bodies are still in my life.


But I am not ready for Gleann to leave his and he shows no sign of being ready either.  With this surgery he will not develop the kidney damage that awaits him without it.  He can remain as bouncy as he is now for a few more years.....and many rituals.  He is supposed to have surgery later this month. If all goes well he should be able to happily resume his ritual duties by Samhuinn (which is about mid November for us).

And so, we fundraise and I'm auctioning off some Sarah Connor/Linda Hamilton items with the help of another fan. And we eBay and we apply to funds and we have maxed out CareCredit and we are trying to figure out how to put a business together with no real funds to do so and I have my fitness business on permanent hold due to what it would cost to get insurance again and to get my CEUs in time (which will mean it will cost much more to start all over again if I don't manage after a very short period after my certification is up).

And the fénnidecht related workshops planned for this winter are on hold mostly due to my absolute lack of concentration..  The syllabi are only partially finished and I have done none of the more daunting work of figuring out how to present online, given that I live in a geographically isolated area and those interested are so spread out.

However, I intend to have these started by this time next year and therefore am offering vouchers for cost off of future workshops on the fundraiser

These workshops are, after all, directly related to the sort of connections that my relationship with Gleann and my other dogs represent.  I have one that is very basic for those just starting out and that might be of interest to those not on the Outlaw warrior path to help understand where it can fit in modern Gaelic Reconstructionist Paganism and maybe open their own traditions to those on this one. I have varying degrees of exploration for those on the path, including a deeper look at being wolf. I also have a broader look at animals in the cultures that goes beyond the usual symbolic focus most resort to into where practicality, actually living and relying on these animals, led to the symbolism and how it can lead back to real relationships with living animals. And a fitness one (provided I am able to renew my certification in time).

So if you are interested in these worshops, please consider making a donation and taking a voucher!  And if you are not but just want to see a beautiful dog have a few more happy years, please just donate. And there are some pieces of jewelry and a bag for perks...and more things may be added.


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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Trying to heal the pack

Crossposted in Dùn Sgàthan blog

So, I've not been blogging. I've not been writing much, although four days before deadline I decided to whip something together for Air n-Aithesc coming out next week. I've not done a lot of the things I hoped to do this summer, including writing and getting my business put back together. Mostly I have hung out with my dogs, either hiding from the heat inside or wandering around or running outside.Sure, I could write while I hide from the burning daystar, but what I'm also not doing is sleeping so concentration isn't there. It's been a tough year so far.

Sachairi
Last February we lost our 15 year-old boy Sachairi. We had a good two year stretch, after losing our hounds Cù and Òrlaith close together.  Sach had liver failure, we tried to stem it with meds but we were told there wasn't anything else we could do. As he lost interest in life, we let him go. Free of his body, he visits often but can also visit his beloved first human who now lives on an island where dogs cannot be brought in.  No body, no laws.  But it was a rough loss, even if we had adopted him as a senior knowing he would never be with us very long. He made himself very central to our lives, making sure we all were doing what was supposed to be done. He was the dog that when you were upset he'd come over and pat your shoulder and then go get a toy to shove at you to make you feel better. When I needed that this time, well.....

Just a few weeks later - with all of us, pup, human and, yes, the cat still devastated- we took our remaining dogs, Gleann and Gráinne for their yearly shots and checkups. The vet suggested a "wellness" blood work for Gleann as he was about to turn 12. And one for Gráinne as she had displayed symptoms months earlier that indicated a possible autoimmune issue.  And...

Me with Gleann and Gráinne heading to vet
Gleann has hypercalcemia, high blood calcium of unknown origin, possibly cancer somewhere, but even if not can cause kidney failure.  Gráinne has leukemia. Which seemed scarier at first, but really is less of an issue right now, as it is chronic lymphocytic leukemia and currently asymptomatic.   The regular vet put her right on Prednisone, which the oncologist (much to the regular vet's chagrin) had us wean her right off....for some reason our regular vet is insisting she was symptomatic when we brought her in although that had been months before...if she has no symptoms she should not be under treatment for levels she has. We'll be monitoring her lymphocyte levels monthly and watching her for symptoms.

With Gleann, the oncologist (we should have been referred to an intern, although it probably is cancer) also noted he has a neurological disorder (then the regular vet later taking blood and lymph node samples for test the oncologist ordered, as the regular vet was cheaper and closer for them, also insisted he did not have said eye symptom of it,while then admitting that his head muscles are atrophied from the same disorder.  At this, point we have no idea what is causing either of these conditions or how they may relate.

So, those tests were inconclusive, at least according to the regular vet. We need to do ultrasounds and x-rays the regular vet can't do at the referral vet and to get a consultation from someone there for both sets of tests.  We're broke. Especially after the vet bills for Sach and the horse ones added up last year (and we need to get a vet here for the horses soon too).  So we have been fundraising at the page hopefully linked at this widget. I am hoping readers might be willing to help as they can (lots of small donations do add up) and will share this around. If my work has had meaning to you, please consider that this is work and I do not get regular pay for it, so now might be a good time to compensate (an important factor in Gaelic culture, after all) a bit.  We need to get answers, we need to treat the cause of theses issues as we can. Chances are, with the possible causes, it is treatable...if we can figure it out in time, but time may be running out fast.

I am hoping that we can get these answers and get Gleann treated. I am hoping to be able to refocus on my writing and get back to taking fitness clients as well as get out to teach some workshops again.  (I will likely give a discount to anyone who donates should they wish to do a future workshop or hire me as a trainer...and I am looking at long-distance options).  Right now, I'm spending as much time as I can with my pups.  Looking forward to our next ritual, as Gleann is our star ritual dog, having participated since he was a couple of months old and absolutely loving it.



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Me with Gráinne, Gleann and Sach just before going out to the hill las Samhuinn

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Excerpt from "The War Goddess's Bitch"

This is from my article in Air n-Aithesc Vol III, Issue 1 currently available in hard-copy or e-copy from this link.  Unlike previous excerpts, this in not the beginning of it, as I began with a dream sequence that would be too long for a lead in and I don't want to post only part of.  The article is a continuation of my exploration of the fénnidecht wolf-warrior path, specifically how I follow it as a devotion to the Morrígan and some material on female werewolves, weredogs and dog-heads.

The War Goddess's Bitch

Wolf-warrior cults are usually attributed to male Gods. The Vedic Indra and Rudra, the Germanic Odin and the Greek Apollo Lykeios have all been associated with wolfish warrior bands.[i]  Kershaw states that there are no known Celtic Gods associated with warbands, other than seeing a similarity between Finn and the Fíanna and Rudhra and the Maruts.[ii] Kershaw also mentions McCone’s pairing of Ódinn/Týr and Lug/Núada as teuta/koryos (civilization/warband or wild) God pairings.[iii]  Lug is certainly a candidate for such a warrior cults: His relationship to both Cú Chulainn and Finn, adds to this possibility.[iv] While I would not argue against Lug, Finn (as a God, although I tend to focus on his nature as a semi-divine hero) or other Gods as having had such cults, I believe that it is as likely that the Goddesses who fall under the title the Morrígan were also likely to have been the Divine leaders of such cults.
The Morrígan’s interest in Cú Chulainn, the Hound of the Smith, is evident throughout the TBC and related Ulster tales. Some see their relationship as confrontational, often confusing. Epstein has speculated that She may indeed be his patron Deity.[v]  Epstein noted that the seemingly adversarial nature of Her relationship with Cú Chulainn can be seen as an effort to strengthen his glory, as I have also explored.[vi] Epstein specifically brought up the similarities between his canine nature, which goes far deeper than just a name, and the Norse ulfheðnar (“wolf coats”) and berserkr (“bear coats”) who followed Odin. She speculated that this might hint at an ecstatic cult dedicated to an Morrígan.[vii]
This ecstatic, shape-shifting nature suggests such a cult as well as the obvious canine connection.  Cú Chulainn’s name connects him with canines: he is the Hound, actually acting as Culainn’s guard dog as a boy, to replace the dog he killed.[viii]  Yet his form of shape-shifting, his ríastrad (warp spasm), is not decidedly canine. By killing the guard dog and then assuming the dog’s role, Cú Chulainn was transformed completely into a hound not only for his time of service to the Smith but for the rest of his life.[ix] He was always a hound. He was just wilder, more dangerous, rabid, when he transformed and he described himself as having canine fury in Tochmarc Emire.[x] His identity as the Hound was so significant that when St. Patrick conjured Cù Chulainn’s specter in order to convert Lóegaire, the king of Ireland, the specter’s canine nature convinced the king that the specter was truly Cú Chulainn.[xi] 
Cú Chulainn’s story gives no indication of him as part of a warband. This lack is likely related to animosity between the church and such warriors they called díberga (marauders, brigands).[xii]  It is notable that the ecstatic transformation and the connection to a Deity were revealed at all.  When the stories of warbands were finally set down, the Fíanna seem quite divorced from the earlier, negative, accounts of the díberga, that displayed little association with either shape-shifting or Deity.[xiii]  The association with hounds is strong in the stories around Finn Mac Cumhail. There are many members of the Fíanna with canine names. However, the fénnidi’s own canine nature is only hinted at vaguely.  Finn did have the hood of Crothrainne, which allowed him to turn to hound or stag, yet there is little evidence of him using it.[xiv] In one alternative tale of the birth of Bran, Finn was his father by a woman enchanted into the form of a bitch.  One might choose to speculate that he used the hood at that time.[xv] 
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[i] Kris Kershaw, The One-eyed God: Odin and the (Indo-) Germanic Männerbünde, Journal of Indo-European Studies, Monograph No. 36., Washington D.C.: Institute for the Study of Man Inc., 2000, such Gods and Their cults are the subject of the entire study, however particular interest might rest in ch. 9 “Odin Analogues” pg. 182-200; Dorcas Brown and David Anthony, “Midwinter Dog Sacrifices at LBA Krasnosamarskoe, Russia And Traces of Initiations for Männerbünde” Paper presented, Conference: Tracing the Indo-European: Origin and migrations. Roots of Europe Research Center, University of Copenhagen, Denmark Dec 11–13, 2012.
[ii] Kershaw, The One-eyed God, pg. 186.
[iii] Kershaw, The One-eyed God, pg. 195.
[iv] C. Lee Vermeers discussed his relationship with Lú Ardáinmór as a lycanthropic God in a blog post http://faoladh.blogspot.com/2013/05/what-i-domy-own-gods-part-one-my-upg-so.html and has also talked about Apollo as a Wind-Wolf God, http://faoladh.blogspot.com/2011/05/gods-and-goddesses-of-werewolves-wind.html
[v] Epstein, “War Goddesses,” Ch. 2.
[vi] Epstein, “War Goddesses,” Ch. 2; Lambert, “Musings on the Irish War Goddesses;” also further explored in my blog post “The Morrígan and Cú Chulainn part 1: On Saying ‘No.’”
[vii] Epstein, “War Goddesses…,” Ch. 3.
[viii] TBC Rec 1 pg.  17-19,140-142; TBC:BOL pg. 23-25, 160-163.
[ix] McCone, “Aided Cheltchair Maic Uthechair: Hounds, Heroes and Hospitallers in Early Irish Myth and Story.” Ériu 35, 1984 pg. 8-11, I discuss this act as being linked to wolf-warrior initiations in “Going Into Wolf-shape.”
[x] Bernhardt-House, Werewolves, Magical Hounds, and Dog-headed Men, pg. 174, 343.
[xi] Joseph Falaky Nagy, Conversing with Angels and Ancient: Literary Myths of Medieval Ireland, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1997, pg. 274.
[xii] Kim McCone, “Werewolves, Cyclopes, Díberga and Fíanna: Juvenile Delinquency in Early Ireland” Cambridge Medieval Celtic Studies, issue 12, 1986, pg. 3-4; Sharpe, “Hiberno-Latin Laicus, Irish Láech and the Devil's Men,” Ériu  30, 1979, pg. 80-87.
[xiii] Kim McCone, “Werewolves, Cyclopes, …”, pg. 3-4; I discuss other links between the díberga and the Fíanna and canine nature further in “Going Into Wolf-shape” as well.
[xiv]Kuno Meyer, ed. and trans., “The Finn episode from Gilla in Chomded húa Cormaic's poem "A Rí richid, réidig dam" Fianaigecht, 1910, Hodges, Figgis & Co., Dublin, Ireland, pg. 51. http://archive.org/details/fianaigechtbeing00meye
[xv] As we’ll discuss shortly, Bran and Sceolang are more commonly said to be the children of Finn’s aunt, however, this tale is noted by Bernhardt-House, Werewolves, Magical Hounds, and Dog-headed Men, pg. 196.

Copyright © 2016 Saigh Kym Lambert
Wolf Copyright © 2002 Aaron Miller, based on Newbigging Leslie stone

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

A Gun for the Morrígan: Offerings and Devotion

 When I first saw this topic, when I saw a link to Asa West's Giving Bullets to the Morrigan, I thought, "Cool! Someone else doing it!"  "It" being a long held plan, which hasn't happened yet for, uh, reasons, to create a "sacred shooting range."  As soon as the guy and I decide on a location and get fill to the spot and create a berm we are going to have a shooting range on our property and there will be a shrine to the Morrígan over looking it.   I already dedicate my training to her, but this would be a formal spot to do so, much like my gym is a temple for that part of the training (and sometimes for trigger control practice with a laser "bullet" when I can't get out for live fire....which I could more if I had a place on the property).
I'm sure there are other pics of me at this training,
 I need to try to access them sometime.

But that's not what it's about but rather about giving bullets as offerings. So my first thought on that was, "huh, that would be a rather pathetic offering."  You know, just a random bullet.  There's not a lot that stands out between two bullets of the same make. Sure, I can see if I were to use my gun in defense of myself or another without firing a shot that the bullet in my chamber at the time might be a worthy offering.  But I wouldn't give just any old bullet.

Of course, what this actually became about, the reason it was brought up, was whether it was okay for other people to do this. And it brought with it a lot of the standard anti- vs. pro-gun arguments, with some Pagan twists. The sort of things that make most leftist gun-owners, like myself, look at both sides and double face-palm as you watch each side feed the other.  This time with the added oddity of some claim that guns are just made for killing people but swords are not....except that that really is all swords were ever made for.  They do things like this and also this. But it is not uncommon to romanticize the violence of the past while vilifying the violence of the present, I am sure that as the Bronze Age gave way to the Iron Age there were those who spoke of the nobility of the bronze blade over the evils of the steel.  Even the guns of the past get this romantic treatment, as people wax nostalgic for the six-shooter of the Old West while expressing horror at a semi-automatic pistol.

 I could get into the whole primary focus on why anti-gun Pagans seem to be upset over bullets as offerings, which is a pet peeve of mine. That is "the Morrígan should not be reduced to a War Goddess, She is more than that" claim which always translates to "I want the Morrígan to not be a War Goddess at all, because I want Her to be what I want Her to be."  Here's the thing, to say that it reduces Her to be called, as she was in the text, a Goddess of Battle (bandee in catæ..in the Tochmarc Emire), is a bias based on you not understanding all that there was to such a Goddess in the context of early Irish culture. This is also true if you insist that her link with "battle" is about "internal conflict" or "fighting inner demons," which may be your UPG (Unsubstantiated Personal Gnosis), and that's fine, but does not define Her as She was known in the early Irish culture (or for many of us who certainly do not share that UPG). In fact, my own findings and UPG is far more about waking up those "inner demons" and letting them take over and shift you (this is exactly what my work is all about...see especially Wolf-shapes and Chase). ( Or to claim that Her link to sovereignty, which West brings up, is about the modern concept of individual autonomy, rather than actual about kingship (open only to one who had proven themselves a warrior) of a territory (likely won and kept by war). Again, it may well be valid UPG, but don't claim it's anything else. But I already wrote a whole article detailing how all those "other things" come back to Her being a War Goddess, because they all relate to warfare as the culture knew it.

Okay, back to bullets as offerings. It never, ever occurred to me to give bullets in the way that apparently is being discussed here.  In part is the sheer, well, regularity and number of them with which to choose if you were just doing a random "bullet offering." Certainly they are not cheap these days, however there's a volume of them one might go through which creates the expense. One, individual bullet is simply not that individual. Again, I could see offering one that stands out....the one in the chamber you didn't have to fire to save yourself or another, perhaps one left over from a big win if you're a competitive shooter or one left over because your first shot was the clean kill you had hoped for when hunting for food. There may be many reasons a particular bullet does warrant it for the person involved. Maybe once we start reloading, I'll start thinking of them as more individual than I do now and it will be something I feel drawn to do.  But, of course, ymmv and I'm not going to say it's wrong if someone else does feel that a random bullet from a brick is a worthy offering.  I would be more likely to offer a really nicely clustered paper target. ~;p  (I need to invest in some paper targets when I finally have a range....)

Of course, there is my personal semantics around offerings. For me an offering is only something broken or totally destroyed and hidden from this world, so that it is taken into the Otherworld. At least in the end. Some offerings sit on my shrine for a period of time, but in the end they are destroyed in some way in this world. Usually by fire....please, tell me I do not need to explain not to do this with live rounds.

An item that sits on my shrine (or altar if you prefer) is not an offering, unless it is to be so destroyed eventually. Instead I would call them dedicated or devotional objects. A slight difference between the two although in a way both are things that you might say I share possession of with the Being the shrine is for.

Devotional objects are those which are, indeed, only to stay on the shrine as symbolic of devotion, such as statues and, well, I actually have a lot of things that I felt drawn to maintain on the shrines.  Some are used in ritual at times, such as candle holders or a stone "well" which might hold water. Some targets might end up being both, now that I am thinking of it...some sent and destroyed, some hung by a shrine (and one or two maybe by the door way).  Images and symbols are among these things, which includes a Sarah Connor figure...holding a gun with the other slung across her back....to represent the modern female warrior or, even, a modern image of the War Goddess). These things are mostly Theirs, but I do get to look at them unlike full offerings.

Dedicated objects are items which I might use personally, even "mundanely" but which I associate with my worship and which are blessed.  I keep some of my jewelry on my personal shrine to the Morrígan when I am not wearing it, but I wear it anytime I might go out. These things are more mine.

I could see, should the Revenant Cataclysm hit, putting bricks of bullets on the shrines to ask for blessings on a regular basis...whether they are for killing revenants or hunting for food or both.  So, on the shrine, but not an offering exactly (heads, meat, depending would be more appropriate). 

Some things, including weapons may be seen as somewhat in between these items. I may not use my swords on a regular basis (practice, when I do it, is with single-sticks...I fear this has been a neglected art of late).  My guns, however, do not reside on my shrines, although they are formally blessed and if I have my gun when I go into the gym and remove it (usually when stretching after a run it sits between the figure of the Morrígan and the Sarah Connor figure, because it is dedicated to them (and it's a safe location while I'm there).  Even my weights and and other fitness equipment, as all my training is a dedicated act and I see my gym as a temple of worship.might be seen as dedicated devotional objects, although not formally blessed (hmmmm).

Which brings me back to my first thought on this subject.  If training is a dedicated act, then that does include my firearms training so, I suppose it can be seen as giving bullets to Her. This is true where ever I might practice, however, I do want a range here on our property and a shrine overlooking it. Where it will go is still being negotiated and we need to budget in the fill for the berm which we need no matter where, due the layout of our land, which also requires it being somewhere we can get a truck to.  Perhaps this summer it will happen.

Training is always the basis of my offering, for to be the best I can be is my service to Her. It is also a gift, for being able to train is often a struggle for me due to health issues.  So reciprocation, She helps me to be able to train, I train to thank Her for that. Whether this is staying fit or being able to hit a target and respond properly to danger.

I may never really feel drawn to giving a bullet. It just doesn't sit right unless something does happen to make a particular one that important to me. But since this has been brought up, it has occurred to me that I do need to make a weapons offering in the way done since the Bronze Age.

Someday, I shall properly offer a gun to the Morrígan. It will be a fine gun, expensive, far more than would even be possible for me to acquire now. It will be utterly "killed" in this world to send it to the Otherworld and sunk deeply in a marsh. This here is my promise to Her for this, in hopes that She also might help me be able to be in a position to do so...for if I am, it will be right that I reciprocate.