This blog is part of the Shadow of the Hooded Crow website dedicated to the War Goddessses, Badb, Macha and the Morrígan whose name is Anann. I 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), the wilderness....


Friday, April 18, 2014

Of Monsters and the Tyranny of Silence - TRIGGER WARNING

I nearly used "predators" in the title but I actually dislike the term "sexual predator" because while certainly it may be accurate, real predators serve a function in the cycle of life. Sexual monsters do not. They are something which should be eradicated, not accepted, certainly not protected. But the often are protected. Silence is a large part of that protection.

There has been a great deal blogged on this so you have likely seen much of what I might share here, but for various reasons I feel it's important for me to take a stand here. Mostly, because I believe it's important for us all to take a stand. There has already been some sense (and I am not linking to posts which I am criticizing for a couple  of reasons 1) I don't want to make an example of one post when there have been several others making the same statement as well as several comments in other posts, 2) many I do not want to give traffic to) that this is just a Wiccanate issue, that those of us in Reconstructionist religions and those who have rejected (I may do a not very nice post on that one day) the term "Pagan" are somehow immune. But we are not. There are many abusers, not all sexual and not all aimed at children, in the broadest spectrums of Pagan/Polytheistic identified community.  And it's time to take a stand against all abusers.

But when it comes to children, it's even more important to speak out.  It's decades past the time that this should have been  dealt with, in fact. I'm one of those who had heard "rumors" about Kenneth Klein 25 or more years ago. They only even resemble rumors because of my distance, I didn't know him. But I knew that attempts to report him had been made and that pressure was put on those who wanted him charged. "We must protect the community."

At that time I was also aware of rapists and others being protected by "big names" and gathering organizers in Paganism.  The late '80s actually saw a great deal of what turned out to be fruitless dialogue on abusers, rapists, child molesters and other monsters in our midst. Very little happened to these monsters. "It would look bad for all Pagans." 

This silencing happens because we do live in a rape culture, the Pagan community no less than any other. We live in a culture where those in power actively shame and terrorize victims from speaking out, to protect those who abuse under the misguided notion that admitting these things happen implicates us all. Of course, when the allegations of abuse by Catholic priests came out, some people I knew who told me this were outraged that the Catholic church had protected these priests.  We can see how what really implicates the whole is protecting the guilty only when it happens in another group, we lie to ourselves that it can't happen in our own and when it does we decide to hide it...while condemning others for doing the same.

This needs to stop.

When it comes to the silence of the victims, no one who didn't report because they were afraid either directly of him, of others who had power who may work to silence them, even of their own pain and past, is to blame. Those who took power to silence others, whether they were physical abusers or not, I do believe deserve blame. And I hope at least some come forward to be accountable as many of Klein's victims come forward, including his former wife and children. Allegations Emerge After Pagan Author Charged With Possessing Child Pornography

During the fall out of Klein's arrest, issues with other Pagans came up. I seemed to have missed that Gavin and Yvonne Frost resurfaced awhile back Apparently, they were to be at the Florida Pagan Gathering to the horror of many, with the organizers, as has so often happened in so many cases for decades, choosing to support the abusers rather than those who want an end to it. (Apparently, they will not be there)

In the 1970s and all subsequent editions the Frosts' Witches Bible included a ritual deflowering of pubescent children.  There are those who want to excuse this, to say they probably never did it, as if doing it would be objectionable for someone who wrote it, and, after all, who could imagine this elderly couple as child predators. But even if someone wants to believe they didn't once do this, they gave a damn manual to others who did. Because you know someone did. At the least, it's probably messed the heads of a lot of young people who read it. I remember it doing a bit of a number on me as a teen when I found it. I was fortunate it wasn't the first book I found and I think that finding Adler's Drawing Down the Moon and Starhawk's The Spiral Dance helped me not get more screwed in the head by it. (I might not agree with Starhawk on much today, but at least her feminist message offered something far more empowering than the idea that to be a Witch I should have been ritually raped by an adult at puberty)

It's also high time we keep nailing home some of the gross misinformation and misunderstanding that is being spouted now.

One of these is the idea that Klein isn't really a bad person because "all he did was download some photos, you can't hurt a child by that."  First, let's remember that his arrest has given voice to many he has physically abused. But the idea that child pornography is "just photos" and doesn't harm children is mind-bogglingly naive. Do you think these photos are some how magically made without the children being harmed? "Oh, well, yes," you say, "but it's only the fault of those who made them, let's go after them." Do not doubt that efforts are being made on that, they may well be arrests of those making it, we just don't recognize their names. But it is true that it sometimes hard to track down, there are multinational task-forces working on this constantly. It's a huge battle.

Some producers are small time, like a man selling videos of him raping his young niece. Tell me no child was harmed there. Some producers of child pornography are involved large underground corporations that traffic unimaginable numbers of children. (I do not normally use Wikipedia as a source, however, I felt like I was going crazy trying to find the most complete source for this).

And those who buy the products of these monsters are themselves directly responsible for the harm to those children. Demand runs supply. (consider this too, if you participate in adult pornography, know your sources for that...while some may be consensual on the part of all actors, not all is ...obviously there are no blurred lines when it comes to children, at all)  On the other side of things, while some pedophiles do actually simply use pornography, others find it inspiration and ideas to pursue their own physical attacks. Just like there have likely been "Witches" who followed the Frosts' instructions on raping children, anyone who shares, not only those who made it, child pornography may be inspiring another to rape.  

Another inventive excuse I have seen has also been that it "must just be photos of 'skyclad' children at festivals."  Well, he may have such photos, as well, but while this may seem "innocent" and not having harmed those children, why would anyone who wasn't a pedophile have such photos at all?  Who else takes photos of naked children and looks at them? As I noted, I had heard the "rumors" and have heard first hand parents who have said that they wouldn't have their children at festivals that this man (and several others) was at, let alone let them run naked in his presence.
 
Actually, the ease with nudity that the Pagan community is known for is one of the issues we've often have had with sexual monsters. Of course, this isn't only in regards to children. As an adult at Pagan gatherings I became increasingly uncomfortable being unclothed.  One of the first gatherings I was at we had a guy who would lurk and watch women, who no one seemed to know and who didn't participate in any of the events happening, who showed no real signs of being Pagan but just lurked around our campsite and made all the women in our camping area uncomfortable. We started noticing him the showers when women were in there (it was open group showers) and most of us started keeping our cloths on outside the shower and began showering with groups of men we knew were safe. This guy had no problem with being noticed watching women but was apparently terrified that he might be accused of watching men. Of course, we did this because our concerns about him

Even such voyeuristic activity is assault, not only because you do not know if it will become more but because it forces the victims of it to change our behavior.  And in recent years, I have become more aware of much worse that can be for children.  Children who are subjected to inappropriate sexual behavior towards them, even if they are untouched, and whether it's knowing they are being watched, having remarks made to or about them or others in their hearing or seeing activity which should not be flaunted in front of anyone who is not a wiling participant can have a damaging effect on a child. (sorry, this has been primarily from discussions, I do not have sources)

The other issue that comes up is the "innocent until proven guilty" one.  First, keep in mind that is about the courts.  Let's also remember that Klein admitted to having this pornography..  However, one of the things that came up in the wider world regarding Dylan Farrow coming forward about her abuse by Woody Allen is that" innocent until proven guilty" should truly be owed the victim of sexual assault, far more than the accused especially when the accused has so much more power even beyond the power they had over their victim.  Victims almost always feel that they are the ones on trial in public opinion if they come forward and, therefore, many do not.  I fear that the attacks which we saw on Dylan Farrow and her mother have not helped that situation in the wider world. This is rape culture.
 
Which brings ups back to silence and the silencing within our community that has gone on and is still going on.

There have been comments from Pagans regarding those coming forward that "how can we believe these people coming forward if they hide behind anonymity?" This shows a serious disconnect from the reality victims face. The right of a victim to not make themselves publicly known for further abuse is something we need to respect. Especially among Pagans who have often claimed many less serious reasons for taking pseudonyms. Consider that by making this remark you are already attacking the victim for speaking out, why would they want to make themselves an easier target?

Another defender of Klein has said that she doesn't want to hear "I knew about this all along."  Well, some of us did. And some of us wish deeply we had known more and could have done more. Some who did know more probably should be ashamed.....but as I said, that does not include the victims. It does include those the victims disclosed to in order to get help who refused to help them.

I have deep personal issues with being told to be silent, and it's largely why I am writing this. Unfortunately, I become so enraged by being told to shut up that I often cannot express myself verbally and that's largely why I'm writing this now instead of several weeks ago.  And this is the hard part for me.

I was molested when I was 10 years old by a teenage foster brother. I was lucky, I know that, that I did feel I could go to my mother with what he did. I was not silenced then. He was removed from our house within hours. I was truly fortunate. However....

After that I quickly learned that there must be silence. As far as my family was concerned this boy never lived with us. He was not to be mentioned, what happened to me was not to be mentioned.  At all. It never happened.

But, of course, it did. And because of  this silencing I never got the help I needed to deal with what was done with me. I also found out only a few years ago that nothing was done about him doing this at all, he was placed in a new home in another town with two girls who were younger than I was. I have no idea if he hurt them or not but he was with them until he graduated and a relative, who rolled her eyes and refused to acknowledge that I was molested by him (I'm sure she knew at the time, but was happy to pretend it didn't happen and apparently still is), proceeded to prattle on about "how well he did" there.

The silence I learned undoubtedly is part of what kept me from reporting being raped about 10 years later. The other issue was how confused by our rape culture I was at the time, because it took a long time for me to tell myself that I was raped. Even though I knew. I was flirting with the guy, I was quite drunk, I probably would have later slept with him if he hadn't raped me that night, he wasn't someone I really knew but he wasn't the "complete stranger jumping out of an alley with a knife." There was no knife. Even if at the time I knew how to fight back, and I didn't then, I probably wouldn't have been able to due to how drunk I was. I even passed out during it, so it shouldn't have been so bad, right?  That night when I got home, not having said anything to the friend I was with, I was terrified he'd followed me and that hurt me more. Yet in the light of day, I told myself it wasn't really rape. Because he was someone I had been attracted to and flirted with. It took years to define it. And, of course, it took even more years to tell anyone else at all.

And those four paragraphs were the hardest thing for me to write ever. Because that call for silence is so fucking hard to break. And why no one should ever be told to be silent about being a victim.  It's funny how much easier it was for me to overcome any physical fear I had, by the things I more often write about here, than it has been for me to over come the fucking silence.

A lot of people are looking at what to do about this. Or were. There is, of course, concern now that the blogosphere is quieting on this that we might start losing interest in doing anything. And that's a real concern, given that we've gotten so very good at not doing anything.  Previous attempts have failed largely for this reason as Brendan Myers discussed in Whatever happened to the Pagan Community Statement on Religious Sexual Abuse?   Psychotherapist Cat Chapin-Bishop has some concrete advice in Responding to Abuse in the Pagan Community.

Some of this might be overwhelming for many. So I'm going to give my only piece of advice as a first step. One that others have called for such as Yvonne Aburrow


Stop the silence! Stop it now!  Listen to the victims!  Give them a voice! Yes, take action from that and give the victims resources for help, get everyone resources to defend themselves as they can, but first give them a voice!


Two other links on this subject which I do not think I linked to previously:
On Outing Abusers


Predators in Paganism (Trigger Warning)





Thursday, February 13, 2014

Publication Announcement - Air n-Aithesc (Our Message)

http://ciannai2.wix.com/air-n-aithesc
As with many things, it starts with a bit of a bitch session.  After over a decade of only writing to self-publish online, I was looking for places to submit articles to. You know magazines or anthologies. Especially after the synchronicitic experience of having finished a long ass piece on the War Goddesses and finding out about an anthology for An Morrígan calling for submissions (which I should have announcement about soon).  Keltria Journal had some warrior path themes and I submitted a couple of pieces, the two issues became one so only one ran. Such themes and anthologies don't happen much and, well, it's what I write....which is why this blog is probably going to always be more active than Dùn Sgàthan Homestead blog. And most Pagan journals that are out there aren't always looking for Celtic Reconstructionist Pagan, endnote heavy, pieces...and if they are they tend to be looking for CRP 101 stuff or other material about CRP rather than topical material using Reconstructionist methodology.

So, the whole "there needs to be a CR magazine and it needs to be peer reviewed" thing came up. And Maya St.Clair responded with, "yeah, so let's do it." (paaraphrase) And Air n-Aithesc (Our Message) was conceived. We asked a bunch of others we knew to join us, some of them even accepted. Another will soon be added to that list. We decided to do it for Imbolg and given the time frame to get members of the review committee to write for the first issue. And some of us did. Hey, I had one article left over too, so I submitted two. Other contributors from our committee were Maya with her column offering basic information for those new to CR "An Seomra Staidéir: The Study" and  review of Early Christian Ireland by Kathleen Hughes, Finnchuill with a piece on "Brigit's Retinue in the Tuatha Dé Miscellany," Morgan Daimler who wrote about "Celebrating Imbolc with the Family", Ceffyl Aedui on "Finding Epona" (we are not a Gaelic only publication...even if it might lean heavily there) and Blackbird O'Connell with a review of the book Pot O'Gold by Kathleen Krull. 

My articles are "'By Force in the Battlefield': Finding the Irish Female Hero" and "Going into Wolf Shape." The first is explained by the subtitle. The second is part of an ongoing exploration of the wolf warrior cults, which I sometimes touch upon here.  I am already working on future articles, all of which will follow such themes.

The first issue came out on Tuesday and can be ordered either as digital or hard copy (with free digital) right here.

We are already looking for submissions for the second issue which will be out for Lùnasdal. We are not doing themed issues, as we feel that is too limiting, so we are open to any topic of interest to CRPs and which use CR methodology. We hope to have a wide variety of paths represented as we go along (we were going to have a list of possible paths, but realized it was on one hand getting very long and on the other we'd leave someone out and...it seemed best to skip it). We sort of have two different "options," articles which are research focused only or articles which discuss practice and experience using research to solidify things. These latter are most welcome, as this is the essence of CR methodology and we all feel there needs to be more that shows how we bring these elements into our actual practice. It is also, of course, often the hardest thing to write about for many of us.  All submissions will be reviewed by a quorum of the review committee. We also have a lovely pool of editors, some who are review committee members although not all (and not all of us on the review committee are editors) who will then work to prepare the accepted articles for publication. You can find submission info on our website.

We are also on the lookout for artwork, both for articles and we will feature an artist each. This issue our artist was Casey Bradley. If you are interested in submitting art, you can us through our website. Seriously, we need art work for articles too....don't make Maya grab photos of me again (honest, I may be vain enough to post them here all the time, but it was not my idea to have them there...too many "women warrior" pieces are problematic and others were well out of our non-existent budget.

No, we are not paying at this time and do not know if that is in the future. What little we take off the top of the cost will go to upgrading our website and promotional efforts (if we, say, go to a festival with a bunch of copies we have to buy those outright ourselves to do it).  Payment does mean advertising to cover it, which can create several hassles which I remember from "back in the day" ....we are hesitant to begin that, but have not closed the door either. At this point it's free digital copies and additions to your CV (if you include Pagan publications on your CV).

I hope you check this out, read this issue and, if you are so inclined, send us material.

Oh, you can also find us on Facebook and Twitter.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Dark Nights and Shadow Hounds

This is another "administrative" post, I suppose, a filler to keep this active. Some may have noticed a slight name change here. There are many reasons for this choice. It does keep a certain theme which runs in other things I do, such as our home's name. It also perhaps seems pretentious to claim we actually fly with Her/Them, instead we run in Their shadows, with the mad hounds. Which is another aspect which may not seem obvious to anyone but me...the canine theme in what I do seems to be coming through stronger as I go along. It's, again, the focus of what I've been (or was) writing about. It is a subject which I often feel uncomfortable talking about because I do not relate to most of the wolfy identity stuff that is popular. I'm not Otherkin, I don't identify by any of the "in the wrong body" stuff. And how that is different is often hard to explain. But it's, in part, what I've been trying to work on.

And so, I've been working on an article centered around this find. It's really only a part of the article, but it was a key prompt, if you will.   It was hard to deal with some of the ideas of dog sacrifice, even if kept in the past (to be clear I think it's not something that should be brought back and there is no evidence of it in the Irish material, except for the ever unique Cú Chulainn's killing of the hound he was named for which may echo this older, far away rite), as we had lost our male Greyhound, Cù Mór this summer. Yes, that often made it hard.
Òrlaith and I
just before last Lùnasdal ritual
Missing our Cù

Now our female Greyhound, our only Greyhound now, Òrlaith has bone cancer and will likely, indeed, die this winter. Due to her age, we've opted not to have the highly invasive surgery, the removal of her lower jaw and replacement with a prosthetic, and chemo. She'd likely have no chance of a full recovery to the point where she is completely out of pain and the effects of the chemo. We are trying, with the help of her new vets, multiple alternative treatments in hopes to slow it down. But we do not expect miracles. As long as she's comfortable, happy and eating we'll keep trying. All her remedies are disguised as treats so it also amounts to spoiling her.

This has made the writing even harder, although I poke at it slowly. After I post this I intend to  do more work on it. For the most part, right now, I am working on other aspects of possible initiation rites. But it also brings home my belief at what does make for the appropriate role of dogs and the death of dogs in how I practice. Caring for them, living with them, learning from them...and, when the time comes, giving them a meaningful send off.

Greyhounds are "primitive" in their social pack behavior. While I have always learned from the dogs in my life, I find this breed, so connected also with Gaelic culture, to have perhaps taught me the most on this aspect. The Border Collie crosses which are also part of our pack, have as well. Both breeds retain a lot of the wolf, but have modified it in different ways.  The Greyhounds are still pack hunters, the BCs use the same techniques to herd, stopping short of the kill. I watched the Greyhounds teach the BCs, Gleann and Sachairi, a bit more of the social aspects, and Òrlaith has definitely been the leader among the dogs. The boys, including Cù, have practically worshiped the ground she walks on. Meanwhile, she has taken her cues from us, the alphas. We learned from her, and Irony before her, how to be quiet, gentle alphas.  

In these past few weeks, she may be thinking herself a bit above us as we spoil her as much as possible. This is an act of worship for me, an honoring of the canine spirit which is a part of me and a connection to something bigger.  When she goes we will bury her with the other hounds, Cù, Scolaighe, Bran and Irony, the Shadow Pack....both our living and our dead are called that, but the ones on the other side grow in number. Someday I will be buried among them, at least if my wishes are honored (and such a burial is still legal in NH), along with the bones of my first dog Gabe, who is to be reinterred with me. With us. At our ritual site.

There will be howling for her, both humans and dogs, as we always do. Our funeral rituals are simple, but they are important. The dogs mourn hard, like us they have not fully recovered from losing Cù. When we do ritual we share with those gone on as well. Dogs are always part of our rites, even when they are not at the center of them. 

And so, I hope there will be an article finished soon and news about where it will end up. I needed a moment to share this. Because I realize I can't even describe what a vital part of my path my pack has been and is. That I'd not understand my wolf if I didn't learn from them. Perhaps others can do it other ways, but I would not be doing this without them.  I believe that they are central to my relationship with the War Goddesses, that being Their hound or wolf is far more key for my path than such human identity as "priest/ess."  And all time spent with them is a sort of rite in itself.  And so I shall go to be with her.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Update on not updating -- writing and stuff

Someday I may finish the next Cú Chulainn post, but it's set aside for the moment. Likewise, plans to post an outline and maybe some details regarding a theoretical training program is not likely to be posted for a bit. I've got a deadline looming for an article that I should be working on instead. But, you know, here I am posting here...but this is going to be quick, really! 
The late, great Cù, posted just because I miss him

My article "The Hero(es) Betwixt and Between" has been published in Keltria Journal #43. Yay! I have just submitted another article to an anthology and am waiting to hear on the fate some others tht are out there.  I see all of these as part of the over all "Hooded Crow" project. However, I am intending to spend the dark half of the year concentrating largely on getting the whole thing pulled together. Lots of wolfy, warrior Outlaw thoughts coming together. And, yeah, those other thing will eventually get up...as they are all a part of the whole as well.

We're still prepping for winter and will be celebrating Samhuinn around the full moon. I'll be putting a lot of intent toward a productive winter of writing.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

The Morrígan and Cú Chulainn pt. 2: Insult and Praise as Incitement

"Cuchullain and the
Battle-Goddess" by Willy Pogány in The Frenzied Prince
based on Táin Bó Regamna  
In my earlier post about an Morrígan appearing to Cú Chulainn and offering sex and victory as a test,  I noted that this is not featured in all versions of the Táin Bó Cúailnge. Instead, the Book of Leinster edition uses the remscéla (foretale) Táin Bó Regamna, to set up Her coming at him as a heifer, eel and wolf.(TBC pg. 54, 194)   The story is, again, read as if showing their hatred of each other and why CC needs to be "punished."  There are several other issues which come up with it, however, which again make no sense if you read it this way and also view the Morrígan as a powerful Goddess.

The Táin Bó Regamna is one of the stories which sets up the circumstances for the Táin Bó Cúailnge, in which the Morrígan essentially sets the entire stream which makes sure Cú Chulainn will play his role. She steals a cow to breed to the Donn Cúailnge, the bull Medb will raid for. Cú Chulainn tries to stop the theft, finding Her all in red in a chariot with a single red, one legged horse with the pole running through it and a man herding the cow. He is first angered that the "woman" answers rather than the man, he even leaps upon Her shoulders. She identifies Herself this time as a satirist, which should at least be a clue as to the words She then gives. The chariot, horse, man and semblance of a woman disappear and She takes the form of a black bird, revealing who She actually is. She seemingly predicts that he will die in a cattle raid when the calf the cow carries is a year old. This gets him angry and he boasts that he will not only survive the raid but will kill all who come against him and will find his fame in it.  She then makes the threat of coming against him as eel, wolf and heifer while he counters as to how he will wound Her. She disappears with the cow.

Now it's often said that in this She is speaking prophecy, yet if we believe She is a powerful Goddess with great prophetic powers, how can this be? She would be, after all, wrong for, as he proclaimed, he didn't die then.  Even a true satire, one meant to create magic which makes the words so, would mean he'd have to die in the TBC...or it means She has little power.  So again, we see that if this is taken as it usually is, that they are truly contentious, it shows Her as weak. Perhaps not a problem for some focused on him, but as a follower of Her it is problematic.

So, again, let's consider what else this might be. What I believe it is is gressacht. This is a form of incitment to battle, using mocking and insult to create rage in the fighter, related to the laíded which Mac Cana demonstrates is incitement through praise.(MacCana, pg 77-78)  He notes the War Goddess doing this in his Macgnímrada which is part of the TBC, and that it is obvious what She is doing there despite the term not being used. (MacCana pg. 80)  Therefore seeing this in the TBR as well as part of the exchange between them in the TBC which we have discussed, shows a pattern, one fitting the role of a warrior and the Goddess who would wish to incite him.

She is, of course, not the only one using this form of incitement on him nor is he the only one it's used on. In fact, in his battle with Lóch, when She also attacks him, this form of incitement is used on both of them. The women of Connacht and then Medb taunt Lóch to get him to fight Cú Chulainn. Seeing CC in trouble fighting both the eel-shaped Morrígan and Lóch, Fergus called upon one of the Ulstermen to incite him so that he can defeat them both and Bricriu steps up to the task. (MacCana, pg. 79). But perhaps the best known example is when Cú Chulainn must face his beloved Ferdiad and he asks his charioteer Láeg to incite him in this way. (MacCana, pg. 77-78) 

The response, to gressacht is expected to be "I'll show you!" But wordier then followed with the action. Again, we see exactly this in the paring of the TBR interaction between Cú Chulainn and an Morrígan and the events in the TBC.

The concept of the inciting the warrior into action by verbal insult is hardly unique to early Ireland. Most of us know of the verbal lashing associated with drill sergeants and coaches. The idea, especially in the military, had been to create soldiers who could take pressure. And resist being female, as it's commonly the featured insult (interestingly, MacCana noted that the Irish insults never use the accusation of being womanly to insult men, pg. 90-91 although I think we might want to look at how it was still used as in insult regarding Medb).  However, in light of awareness of bullying's devastating consequences these methods have been questioned and curbed, although some surely still practice them when possible. We have seen it seep into pop culture "fitness" thanks to Jillian Michaels.  In fact, some personal trainers call such abusive tactics "going Jillian Michaels on someone" and, yes, this is considered a very inappropriate way to treat a client.. Because the problem is that uch insulting usually is nothing more than verbal abuse. Bullying. Because for all some might claim it's for "their own good" it's really about control.  And it's done without regard for what baggage the person it's being said to already has.

If someone has grown up with verbal abuse, they have learned from the beginning to not respond positively. They have been taught that "I'll show you!" is not the sought after response. More of abuse just causes more pain and damage, even if the abuser expects and wants a "I'll show you!" response. And that's something we must always be aware of. I am not calling for us to use this as a method....unless the person on the receiving end requests it, like CC asked his charioteer. Not even among my, ahem, cult members, although I think this concept has a place as we'll get to.  In fact, MacCana notes that only certain people seem to have been allowed. Charioteers, women (and there is a heterosexual component with the recipients being male), satirists....Fergus cannot do it, so he calls up on those who can (MacCana pg. 86-89).  Obviously, Goddesses would be among those who can.

The fact that verbal insult can demoralize, psych out, rather than provoke, psych up, was also evident in the Irish literature and in sports today. MacCana notes the various times when screams, shouts, taunts and other noise is mentioned in the war literature, either from opposing forces or the War Goddesses.(MacCana, pg. 69-74)  This too is used in modern sports, especially seen in fighting sports (and taken to a crazier level in scripted "wrestling"). But we can often see that sometimes it does psych up rather than psych out, as taunts are thrown and countered with "I'll show you!" (sometimes both almost as poetic as in the literature).  Of course, a fighter might want to have their opponent visibly psyched up, it makes for a more glorious fight. We have hardly left the idea that we discussed earlier that a good fighter wants to be known for having a good fight, not an easy win.

As part of that, of course, we again have the laíded, the praise. Not just given by the supporters of the winner or the loser of the winner (part of "good sportsmanship" and "losing well" is to be sure that now everyone knows you lost to someone who was very good, that your skills will benefit from this and "I'll show you next time!") but often the winner of the loser. There is no glory in making out the opponent you beat as having no skill, the more skilled they are the more you must have been. We insult, then we praise.

How can we use this today? As I said I think with care, for harming those harmed already is useless. And some of my suggestions are not likely going to sit well with those who might have such backgrounds. I want to say that I think learning to be able to say "I'll show you!" is a good thing, but I also am well aware that my knowledge of the psychology of it all is far to limited to say how. I think it might be something some may wish to explore with professional help.  It's not something I'm familiar with because the forms of verbal abuse I can identify being an issue for me have been different...it's been the "friendly, helpful," sneaky, manipulative backhanded compliment type that "friends" taught me later in life.  The overt, insult stuff I learned to blow off as a kid. Not always a "I'll show you!" but more the belief my mother engendered that people who talked shit about you weren't people who mattered. 

Yet, even those who haven't been overwhelmed by others' abusing us sometimes do it to ourselves all the same. And maybe those backhanded compliments which slowly, subtly degrade our self-esteem at the hands of friends have their own way too. So even without the overt abuse, we feel we're not smart enough, not strong enough, not skilled enough..... And we tell ourselves this. 

So it's the self-talk we may need to first learn to say "I'll show you!" to. Say it with conviction and say it in poetic detail!  And take the action to prove those voices wrong.  Get creative with your response to the negative self-talk, hells, have fun with it! Because the way to deal with it from others is to first deal with it in yourself.

Again, this may well be a gross oversimplification for many, so if you're not do not let that strengthen the bad self-talk instead! Please!  There are also times to be gentle with yourself.

And to praise yourself!  Never forget that side of it! 

I do think there is room, for some, for doing this between two people.  There are even situations where some might seek it out. I have realized one for me, something which ...well...is a bit odd.

Although my father never insulted my ability with horses that I can remember, I developed at an early age a need to prove myself to him.  Perhaps this was actually a response to a sense of protectiveness that the feminist child I was resented?  In more recent years  I know my father was quite worried about, first, the crazy abuse survivor, Saoradh, I rescued and, later, my crazy filly, Saorsa, but I was determined to show him in both cases. I did with Saoradh who became calm, happy and no longer so violently reactive in his last years.  But when he died, I seemed to internalize the worry. I became afraid both of "ruining" her and of getting hurt. I became less self-confident with a horse than I have ever been and I ended up seeking a trainer to work with her. And despite that, I just wasn't getting ti back.  I was getting a great deal of encouragement from my mate and from the trainer...but I couldn't find it in me.

Then we had a farrier here who flat out told me she was too much horse for me, she'd make a great horse for someone who was confident and I should sell her.  And it was like a fucking light switch went off. After that I began working with her myself and progressed greatly.  Sadly, when he nearly crippled our other mare we had to find another trimmer and I no longer have his reminder to keep that up.  What I do have is a husband confused at why I get annoyed with my doubts come back and he tells me I can do it. Apparently horses are one area where I need someone who makes me say "I'll show you!" even if they're not actually taunting me.  (maybe someone will read this and take on the role LOL) 

Having identified this one place where I seem to need someone to prove myself to, I can see where that need can be used to strengthen myself. I could see a place for ritualized taunting among warriors. I can also feel that the War Goddesses do do this to us, even today. That perhaps "self talk" isn't...but then don't we believers often struggle with who might actually be speaking in our heads (and the accusations non-believers might have on that)? And that, really, it might work best as the taunter is on your side, as Bricriu, Láeg and, most assuredly, the Morrígan really were on Cú Chulainn's. That such interaction is not adversity but aid. That those taunting know, as does the recipient, that the taunts are lies. And that they'll be there to praise after. But, sometimes, you have to settle for a know it all asshole who can't even do his own job adequately.

I do know that there are times when a small murder of crows in a tree I'm going buy when I'm just not feeling into a run feels like more than just a group of wild birds squawking at each other, but are aiming gressacht their remarks at me. I know because it brings up the "I'll show you!" feeling in me. And I know the difference in the run before and after. And I know the feeling when I put a bit more effort in a run and a chorus of coywolves erupts just as it's coming to an end, that more than just a local pack calling for a hunt, it's laíded for my effort. Small moments, but we can find strength in the face of insult and we will feel rewarded. We just have to remember, sometimes the One who taunts will give the deepest praise once we show Her.


A. H. Leahy, ed. and trans, “Táin Bó Regamna,” Heroic Romances of Ireland, Volume II London: David Nutt, 1906 Irish English


Proinsias MacCana, “Láided, Gressacht ‘Formalized Incitement’” Érui vol. 43

Cecile O'Rahilly, trans., Táin Bó Cúalnge from Book of Leinster Dublin: Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, 1967 Irish  English

Cecile O'Rahilly, trans. Táin Bó Cúalnge, Recession 1 Dublin: Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, 1976 Irish English

Friday, September 13, 2013

An Morrígan and Sarah Connor: Pt. 4: Training

So, yeah, I had made some warning that there might be yet another installment on this theme and here it is.  Really, I'm using it mostly because this is somewhat a continuation of things touched upon in part 2 about how the Sarah Connor Charm School became an exercise in implementing some of my warrior path training ideas, with modifications. Since I'm finding my current focus on upping my own training and working on getting my business going again seems to be interfering with work on my second post about Cú Chulainn's relationship with the Morrígan, I figured maybe writing about training on this path might help me get on track in several ways. I have to stay that thoughts about the Tara High Kings Festival competition may also be prompting this (and there may be a post in that after we see what takes place)

One thing that has been coming up for me is the idea that I "broke training" for much of this summer.  In June and July we were caring for a very sick dog. For much of that there was a heat wave here. Neither of us got much sleep for those weeks, although my mate as an EMT really seldom does, nor did we eat very well. Everything was constant stress. After our Cù died, I had started to get back with it, but became very sick myself...as often happens when getting through tremendous stress and poor self-care and then, well, the body realizes that it doesn't have to get through anymore.

There is a lot of focus in the amateur fitness world that you work out through everything.  Illness, stress, business, what ever. As a fitness professional, I tell my clients to back off or take breaks when sick, because the body doesn't need extra stress when trying to heal. To take breaks on a regular basis, actually, as the body needs rest and adapts to constant exercise in a negative way. I'm good about taking scheduled rest breaks, but still self-flagellate about taking breaks when it's not "in the plan" so I get caught up in that thinking.

But, really, what are training for? For me it's different from what many think about, even while the industry sometimes gives lip service to the idea of fitness for life, it's largely about looks, usually about weight. So if your focus is on that, well, taking a break when things are going to shit might mean gaining weight (although this is largely a fallacy, weight isn't as easily controlled as such ideas make it out to be, which is part of why I am a Health At Every Size™ trainer) or losing muscle (you do, but muscle rebuilds faster than it built in the first place).  That's not what I'm training for. It's not what those I train train for. The truth is, I'm training for being as healthy as possible. And, really, I'm raining for crisis. And when there is one I'm in it, training for it just can take away from what I need to put into the crisis at hand.

Okay, it might not be as romantic and exciting as the idea that I'm training for the Zombie Apocalypse, er, Revenant Cataclysm, but in reality training for any crisis is training for any other. It's about making the body stronger so it better adapts to stress. What ever form that stress may take. So that the body doesn't break down, at least not completely.  A bad summer cold is nothing compared to other possible stress related health problems, after all. And even a crisis which might not seem overly physically taxing does still mean physical work needs to be done, especially when homesteading. Keeping up with things that needed done here like caring for our other animals often took a toll just due to the exhaustion. I hadn't been training before, I'd likely not have been able to do any of that at all.

It's true that certain stressful periods can be aided by exercise, it can alleviate anxiety. I won't say I didn't exercise at all while taking care of Cù, there were times when my husband was there to watch after him that I'd escape to the gym or the trail for awhile. But the work out was light, exhaustion catching up with me. And not as frequent.  Therefore not within my usual training perimeters. 

Of course, training on this path isn't just about fitness. But I do believe that it is the base of all the rest of training. This is obvious for martial arts training but for some it may not be for the less obviously physical. However, I find warrior trance to be very physically challenging, it is often movement based and even when not puts a great deal of stress on the body. When it comes to research, I also find I am more focused when I am engaging in regular physical training. All these things fell behind too during that time. The only thing that didn't, obviously, were the parts about connecting with my animals, especially my dogs, especially this one, and the Otherworld. Because those things were at the center of everything. And all these things are aspects of the path.

I have been playing with the outline for a training program, you know for this War Goddesss cult I'm not starting.  A look at what I feel is needed to serve Her/Them. As I noted before, I had started such an outline for organizations I was in but they never panned out. I was often told they were too much, yet I know someone doing the version I redid, changing out the cultural and mystical bits, for the Sarah Connor Charm School.  There's also endless modification...so...

I am hoping to be posting a new outline on the website soon. It will take some thought. I see as a three fold path, after all, warrior-seer-poet. Some of us ares strong in one of these than the others and that may change. I am weakest in the poetry, but as I age I might increase my focus and learn more to strengthen it. Never know.  This combination is based on what we see among the warriors of the Fianna as well as the Scáthach's training of Cú Chulainn and is coming up a lot in my writing.

But right at this moment, I'm focused on the fitness part of the physical training an starting to get back to the martial part, as well as working on Sight, research and writing. Well, this is somewhat a restart of the writing. LOL 

As I am so focused, I thought I'd leave you with links for posts I did for the Sarah Connor Charm School Blog. As, really, this is one element of the training programs which wouldn't change. We have no real concrete information on fitness training, other than there was lots of running, of the early Irish warriors, so we go with what we know works. Even if I had details, I'd modify it for reasons of science and, especially, safety. 
SCCS Fitness Training Intro: This Fitness Program will make you look just like Sarah Connor a Stronger You!
SCCS Fitness Training Part 1: The Activity Triad
SCCS Fitness Training Part 2: Flexibility
SCCS Fitness Training Part 3: Cardiovascular/Endurance/Aerobics
SCCS Fitness Training Part 4: Strength Training

Friday, August 16, 2013

The Morrígan and Cú Chulainn: On Saying "No"

Those of us who follow an Morrígan are in an interesting position compared to many Gaelic Polytheists. We actually have an example of a patron/client relationship between a Deity and a human (albeit a human with divine paternity, sort of).  It is, of course, through Christian eyes that we get it, so many dismiss this all together. This is particularly true as this warrior, Cú Chulainn, often offends the sensibilities of many who claim to be devoted to Her and on the warrior path.

There are many issues, really, but right now I want to concentrate on aspects of the relationship between CC and the Morrígan which I feel are widely misunderstood.  The problem is that without looking at some of the issues from a warrior perspective, including by people who claim to be warriors, and with an understanding of certain elements of Irish culture, it can be read in a very different way from what it may have meant to early warriors who may have heard and orally shared the stories. Some of the scribes who wrote them down, also not being warriors, may well have considered them much as we do today, yet the actual stories seem to give a different read when taken from a warrior perspective.

The reading that many in the Pagan community, from the "fluffiest of fluffies" to the "hardest core Reconstructionists," give the relationship is that CC is rude, arrogant and offensive to the Morrígan.  And it can appear so. Even form the earliest encounters as a boy, when She mocks him as unable to fight a phantom, which he then does defeat.(TBC Rec I, pg. 16, 139) It seems there that She doesn't like him much, but consider then what that means that CC actually orders his charioteer to mock him at a later point.(TBC Rec I, pg. 93, 207) At some point I hope to further explore gressacht, inciting by ridicule, something which is very difficult to understand in a culture where it would be mistaken for bullying which is meant to crush us.(MacCana)

The biggest confusion comes from his response to Her in Táin Bó Cúailnge Rec I, when she comes to him and offers him Sex in the middle of his standoff at the ford. This tale actually does not appear in all of the versions of the TBC and I hope to explore the events in the Táin Bó Regamna which also serves to set up the same events at a later time. (I have explored both somewhat already in, "Musings on the Irish War Goddesses" publication pending)  Both of these do, after all, seem to get heavily misread.

The reading of this version is that he spurns Her offer of "love" and She, being female and therefore only able to resort to revenge when crushed in this way, punishes him by coming against him while he's in battle. Some of these retellings of the meeting between CC and the Morrígan make Her out to be a truly pathetic woman we are supposed to feel sorry for while others point what a mistake it is to refuse such a powerful Goddess...some manage to take both these directions at once.  It is used by several "warriors" to show why one does not refuse the demands of the Goddess, ever (in what appears to be an attempt to excuse their own recent actions).

This is a translation of the exchange in question:
 Cú Chulainn saw coming towards him a young woman of surpassing beauty, clad in clothes of many colours. ‘Who are you?’ asked Cú Chulainn. ‘I am the daughter of Búan the king,’ said she. ‘I have come to you for I fell in love with you on hearing your fame, and I have brought with me my treasures and my cattle.’

‘It is not a good time at which you have come to us, that is, our condition is ill, we are starving (?). So it is not easy for me to meet a woman while I am in this strife.’ ‘I shall help you in it.’ ‘It is not for a woman's body that I have come.’

‘It will be worse for you’, said she, ‘when I go against you as you are fighting your enemies. I shall go in the form of an eel under your feet in the ford so that you shall fall.’ ‘I prefer that to the king's daughter,’ said he. ‘I shall seize you between my toes so that your ribs are crushed and you shall suffer that blemish until you get a judgment blessing.’ ‘I shall drive the cattle over the ford to you while I am in the form of a grey she-wolf.’ ‘I shall throw a stone at you from my sling so and smash your eye in your head, and you shall suffer from that blemish until you get a judgment blessing.’ ‘I shall come to you in the guise of a hornless red heifer in front of the cattle and they will rush upon you at many fords and pools yet you will not see me in front of you.’ ‘I shall cast a stone at you,’ said he, ‘so that your legs will break under you, and you shall suffer thus until you get a judgment blessing.’ Whereupon she left him (Cecile O'Rahilly, trans. Táin Bó Cúalnge, Recession 1 Dublin: Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, 1976 English pg. 177, Irish pg. 37) 

At face value, taken as a modern story, the reading given does seem obvious. It appears She comes in disguise, however, even in doing so Her role is very clear. Epstein notes that She clearly reveals Herself as a Sovereignty/Victory Goddess when She offers help in his battle. (Epstein, sorry due to mangled formatting I have no page number) Yet there seems at least some hint in calling Herself the daughter of King Búan.  A king's daughter to make a king, Búan linked to "Búanann" a name related to Anann and therefore the Morrígan.(O'Donavan, pg. 17, Epstein)  She does indeed say She loves him...for his fame. Which many others did as well, but given context, it could serve as a reminder that, indeed, the glory he has sought since childhood is why She is there.

Certainly, She does say,  "It will be worse for you when I go against you as you are fighting your enemies." So that must mean She's angry and is going to retaliate.  Right?  Say "no" to this Goddess is a foolish thing.  Because Cú Chulainn's life was horrible and hard and we'd never want what he had.  Wait? What?

No, let's look at what is She really offering and what is he rejecting?  She is saying She is offering love and, obviously, sex.  Yet even those mistaking this for a story of scorn love realize that this is also about offering victory as She offered Dagda in the Cath Maige Tuired. (CMT, para. 84) Of course, many seem to think of that as a love story as well, rather than the powerful rite that it was. Dagda accepts and while the victory is not easy, it is had.   Cú Chulainn refuses, the Morrígan is hurt and refuses him victory and he is destr.....oh, wait.

I realize this may be really hard for people to grasp. But Cú Chulainn does win. But it's not easy. And She does make it harder. But was that punishment?  Really?

Let's compare what is different about CC and Dagda for a moment.  Dagda is a God, an equal in all ways to the Morrígan. He is an established warrior among the Tuatha Dé Danann and has even been king. He has His own magic, again well established.  Mostly, He has nothing to prove.

Cú Chulainn as a boy took up arms when he heard it was a good hour to do so to live a glorious life and die
The boy Cú Chulainn
by Stephen Reid
1912
young and famous. He had by this time proven himself many times yet was always challenged for his youth and strangeness. He was still a youth and this was, in fact, the story which would make that fame if he was to have it. While other exploits contributed, this was the story which marked him.  He still had to fight it.

So let us think what the Morrígan was doing here, actually doing here.

Let's think that all evidence we have. She does love him.. If we try to understand the gressacht for what it is and we realize that at his death She is distraught and is not Cailitín's daughter who is also, confusingly, called Badb who facilitates his death instead. Rather She tries, despite obviously knowing it's futile to prevent it. (Van Hamel, pg. 69-133, O'Grady and Stokes in Hull, pg. 235-263) this becomes clear. And She does love him for his fame or rather his determination to have it. And that is important.

What she is offering, by offering him to lie with Sovereignty/Victory, is to lose that all.  Think. Go beyond what you think is good or bad, is reward or punishment and think what he had wanted. And think what laying with Victory would give.

What she offered was an easy victory during the events which would mark his fame. He clearly knew who She was and what that would mean.  He would have won easily, there would be no tale to tell, he would have been at best a side note but possibly totally forgotten. We'd have no stories today.

ETA: I should also note, that She'd have turned from him, as well.  He'd be forgotten for he'd never do anything of note. He'd be no champion and his people would be left without. 

This is called a test. She did not want him to say "yes." If he had then he'd undoubtedly have been punished.  He'd have won easily and been forgotten. The worse punishment there could have been for him.

The punishment you see, that She comes against him while he is in battle, serves to further his fame. A fight that is "worse" means winning is better.  For he not only faced a warrior but the War Goddess in battle.  Do you really believe that She is so weak he would have won against Her if that wasn't the point?  Then why worship such a weak Goddess?

That, btw, is something that boggles me.  Especially, among those who then claim "well, She showed him not to say "no" to her!" Um, he won. Is this the extent of strength you see in your Goddess?  That She'd try to fight him for real and failed?  Then you claim you are afraid to say "no" to Her?  What sort of wimp are you then?

Instead, I believe She acts to show Her chosen favorite is indeed mighty!  Rather than an easy and easily forgotten victory, She gives him a harder one, one that let's him rise above all! Because he knew to say "no" to Her test.

She then offers him milk, again in "disguise" which must clearly have been evident.  A three teated cow in the presence of an old woman doesn't add up to a Goddess of cattle?  In this She gives him fame for the other side of war, that he also can heal, even a Goddess.

Think.  What is punishment to a warrior who as a very small child declared he wanted to have a glorious, famous short life?  Why, it would be to have forgotten long one.

And if one thinks a forgotten life is better if you live safely into old age, are you ready to walk the warrior path?   None of us are Cú Chulainn, but if you choose a safe life and easy victories, if you choose to say "yes" when ever She tests you to see how much you want what you claim you want then you are far from following his way.

This is a lesson we must learn, that She will ask of us things that go against what we know deep down in our hearts is the right way.  She will ask us to do things which She does not want us to do. To serve the Morrígan one needs to have the courage to say "no."  While there are many ways that Cú Chulainn might be a problematic role model, showing the importance of passing such tests is not one of them.   He shows us well. Act in accordance to your heart when the Phantom Queen tests you and it will serve you well. Even if the weak can never understand.


Angelique Gulermovich Epstein, “War Goddess: The Morrígan and her Germano-Celtic Counterparts” dissertation, University of California in Los Angeles, 1998

Elizabeth Gray, trans. Cath Maige Tuired: The Second Battle of Mag Tuired  Dublin: Irish Text Society,  Irish English  

Eleanor Hull, ed., The Cuchullin Saga in Irish Literature: being a collection of stories relating to the Hero Cuchullin, London: David Nutt on the Strand, 1898 (Hayes O'Grady, trans., “The Great Defeat on the Plain of Muirthemne before Cuchullin’s Death” and Whitley Stokes, trans., “The Tragical Death of Cochulainn,)

Proinsias MacCana, “Láided, Gressacht ‘Formalized Incitement’” Érui vol. 43


Kuno Meyer, trans. ‘The Wooing of Emer’“Tochmarc Emire,” Archaeological Review 1, 1888, Irish English 

John O'Donovan, ed. and trans. (with notes and translations from Whitley Stokes) Sanas Cormaic Calcutta: O. T. Cutter for the Irish Archeological and Celtic Society, 1868,

Cecile O'Rahilly, trans. Táin Bó Cúalnge, Recession 1 Dublin: Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, 1976 Irish English

AG van Hamel Compert Con Culainn and Other Stories, Medieval and Modern Irish Series, Vol 3, Dublin: Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, 1933

Copyright © 2013 Saigh Kym Lambert

Thursday, June 13, 2013

An Morrígan and Sarah Connor: Pt.3 Our Gods and Heroes in Pop Culture

If we're going to talk about Pop Culture in Paganism, I think we should discuss the flip side, Paganism in Pop Culture. Given my own interests, I'm going to stick with the Gaelic Gods and heroes in movies, TV and related media. Novels would make  it such a huge undertaking that I can't even begin to think about it other than a couple of mentions. Really, I'm going to just skim the surface here, because there's a lot out there already. And all of it goes from sucking to really, really sucking.

Some are optimistic about Pop Culture depictions of the literature, Gorm Sionnach finds hope that greater positive interest might be gained by more modern exposure to the stories. On the Norse side of things, where there has been as Gorm Sionnach also noted much more exposure, Dr. Karl E. H. Seigfried expresses a positive opinion of the Marvel Thor comics, as well as discusses the continued popularity of Norse mythology in Pop Culture. Certainly the series Vikings has met with much positive reactions among Heathens, although I have seen snipes in various groups along with the praise. And there is no denying that the many decades of Tolkien's popularity has been a "gate-way drug" for many into Heathen ways.

Of course, one of the things I think I personally like about Tolkien's work is that he based his based his stories on the lore and cultures, yet the "names have been changed to protect the ancient." That sort of fictionalization I'm a bit more comfortable with. Do with it as you will, but skip the actual names.

Over the past few years there has been much talk of movies based on Cú Chulainn and the Táin Bó Cúailnge. One attempt, Hound by Breakthru Films, appears to have been "on hold" for about three years. It's unclear what the future is. Michael Fassbender was talking plans for a movie as well, last year, apparently with his 30something self playing the boy Cú Chulainn.  Depicting Cú Chulainn as an adult is likely going to be only part of the problem. I, of course, am just so looking forward to more misogyny thrown at Medb. (you really did catch the sarcasm there, right? At this point I don't want to be too subtle).  And that is, of course, as far as even scholars get to so I don't expect any film writer to do much better. (for an academic look that doesn't do this, see my review of Dominiguez's book and then see the book. I also discuss this a bit in '“By Force in the Battlefield”: Finding the Irish Female Hero' publication pending)

There have been, of course, several novelizations of the story, I'm just not going to try to round them all up. Morgan Llewellyn's perhaps the most famous. There is also a new graphic novel by Will Sliney, Celtic Warrior: The Legend of Cú Chulainn also with an oddly adult looking, but thankfully beardless, CC. Of course, Medb is a pencil with boobs in a painted on bodiced dress...so period.  Considering the rich descriptions given in the Táin itself, you'd think an artist would actually have some fun using those descriptions. I don't get it, this is just standard comic book art, at its most sexist at that.


This is not to say there aren't modern pop culture depictions I haven't enjoyed. I quite love the power and atmosphere that Horslips created in their album The Tain even if some points could be picked apart. This album just hits me in the feels real hard. However, I fear that when compared to such musical attempts that these movies will be more in line with the truly horrid The Tain album by The Decemberists complete with Andy Smetanka's equally horrid video...although at least CC looks like the boy not an adult man.Of course, my love for one and dislike of the other may also just show that I'm old. Well, okay, so there was one I liked.

There is also another movie, The Curse of Macha, which is supposed to come out sometime this year. It seems to have absolutely nothing to do with the story it's titled for, perhaps fortunately. I have also heard that a Finn Mac Cumhail movie and/or graphic novel is being made. It remains to be seen what any of these projects will become.

I suppose when it comes to a big reason why I doubt that a lot of Pop Culture exposure is going to have a positive resonation for Gaelic Paganism has to do with what's happened so far. We can, of course, look to the more "mainstream" Pagan, with it's Wiccan and Witchy focus, and the fun they've had with newbees coming in with their heads filled with The Craft and Charmed during the '90s (and probably still). But I can look closer to home.

While Gorm Sionnach is hopeful to see more of the Morrígan in the upcoming American Gods series, I am hoping that She is not going to be expanded. Of course, American Gods is one of the few novels featuring Gods which I rather love (and here's the first place I get to mention Linda Hamilton, as she mentioned it as one of her favorite novels of all time during the panel discussion at Chicago Comiccon 2010, making us co-fangirls!), as I think it raises some interesting questions, and I didn't utterly hate his depiction of Her although I'm glad it was brief just in case. That means I have issues with the HBO series because of a tendency to hate movies based on novels I love. But, no, She's rather been used and abused too much in pop culture, in my opinion.

"Morrigan" either as title or name and always mispronounced (although in the same way most Pagans also do) is actually real popular in pop culture. I've already ranted on, a good bit, about DC Comics Wonder Woman depiction in what is, sadly, my most popular post. In comics the title, along with some of the other Túatha Dé Danann have appeared in Marvel...apparently a bit more positively.

Morrigan Aensland in Darkstalkers
If you Google "Morrigan" the first links and images you will get do not relate to the Goddess at all, but to the green-haired, bat-winged succubus from the video game Darkstalkers. She was born in Scotland 300 years ago. I'm not sure anyone is at this point confusing her with the Goddess. But that may be coming.

In Dragon Age
It has happened with another popular game character with the name, a mortal shape-shifting witch in the game Dragon Age. Doesn't seem too confusing, does it?  A few days ago, while gathering material for this post I came across a very popular page for the Goddess, which along with a great deal of general Pagan fluff and misinformation about Her, had an entry about "Morrigan" the "daughter of Flemeth" and so forth. Presented, and shared I saw, as if it was information about the Goddess. Yes, no confusion there. Mind you, not that much more inaccurate that many other Pagan writings about Her but...

In Xena and Hercules
On TV we have had a "Morrigan" show up in Xena and Hercules. And here we again can look at another example. I think we might want to ask how much many Hellenic Reconstructionists loved these shows liberties with their Gods on a regular basis. Which means I suppose I shouldn't bitch too much about the inventiveness they took with the pan-Celtic mishmash they added later.  Yes, all in campy fun. But the truth is, I still meet up with people who confuse the shows' "mythology" withe actual Greek mythology, which has long been available. Again, not real hopeful that confusion isn't an issue.
In Sanctuary

More recently there was Sanctuary's depiction of three enslaved sisters used against King Arthur, that typical and mistaken conflation with Morgan. Also, Scottish rather than Irish, so perhaps Darkstalkers comprised some of their research too.


In Lost Girl
Also on the SyFy channels is a show I really would like to have liked. Lost Girl, after all, has one of the few bisexual main characters found in the mainstream media. Of course, she's a succubus, which brings it's own issues for me.  There is also the matter that (here we are again) Linda Hamilton appeared this past season and is scheduled to appear again. As a Valkyrie, apparently.  I really want to love anything she's in. And I did watch the episode and she was great in it and looked awesome....love leather jackets, so...  But the general liberties taken with a plethora of folk legends and lore are annoying even before coming to the fact that "the Morrigan" is the title given to the leader of the Dark Fae, one of the two groups trying to get Bo, the lead character, to take sides. *sigh* Really? 

Of course, I'm just a downer on this stuff, even when it's just the culture and not the Gods or legendary heroes. I have issues with anachronisms and out right inventions made out to be history or lore. I have already blasted the way the Picts are, well, depicted in CenturionI could do the same with other movies, such as King Arthur. I adore Brave, but largely despite it being placed in Scotland....it could have been placed in any place or time.

While more knowledge about the Gaelic cultures in our mainstream might be nice, I think that any story using our beloved literature or history will be muddied with what sells. While I know some are bothered by Pagans who use Pop Culture icons in their practice due to it being commercial property, I am far more worried about our culture and lore being made into commercial property.  Of course, in either case what will be will be. More people will still know "Morrigan Aensland" than will know the Daughters of Ernmas and some will confuse Them with the daughter of "Flemeth."  Perhaps at some point someone will do a really good rendition of one of our stories. But I fear, I remain pessimistic on that.

If you have missed them the first two installments were Part 1: Deities and Icons and Part 2: Warrior Cults and Charm Schools

 Text copyright © Saigh Kym Lambert 
Art from linked pages owned by the licensed owner and used here for critique purposes

Monday, June 3, 2013

An Morrígan and Sarah Connor: Pt. 2 Warrior Cults and Charm Schools

As I noted in An Morrígan and Sarah Connor: Pt. 1 Deities and Icons I had been planning before the blogosphere explosion to write a bit about how the Sarah Connor Charm School and Flying With the Hooded Crow relate for me. About why I am doing both, where they meet and where they don't. To do so was actually probably sparked when I was told that someone had proclaimed the Charm School as a Gaelic Heathen warrior group. As it was at a time I was trying to get more attention out about my Hooded Crow project, I think it was especially annoying. Of course, it would come as a big surprise to all those Christian women I work with in the Charm School, and probably Pagans of other cultural involvements.

So having reiterated that the SCCS is not a Pagan group, I shall now admit that it actually started out as a Pagan joke. And now may be responsible for this Pagan project. In fact, I'm starting to reconsider what I said that They never used Sarah Connor's image, because I think They did quite a bit to kick me in the ass....even if none have ever copied her appearance. Because right when I needed it, there it was.

It was probably this one
Never having seen The Terminator, I didn't pay much attention when a friend, a mentor on the warrior path, and his roommate were talking about the second movie about to come out. I seem to remember them focused on Arnie and machines. *yawn* Later that day, I was a bit surprised when I visited other friends (at the time) who were not, AFAIK, Arnie fans anymore than I was, to find that they were all excited about Terminator 2 as well. Then they showed me her photo in a magazine (remember those things? ah, yes, tell me the machines aren't taking over, after all). Linda Hamilton, dressed in black and with all that muscle.

You know how you don't know you were looking for something until you find it? Yeah, one of those moments. Or rather it built, I sought out the first movie, got to the new one the first chance I got. The first moment when Sarah is on the screen doing chin ups was probably when it really hit. This was something I was looking for, I just hadn't known it.

There are people who probably do great without story and imagery to motivate and drive them. I'm not one of those people. I am very driven by story and image, I need to put things in my head to work towards.  While I had found enough to get me into martial arts and physical training to be on this path I found myself on, much was rather anachronistic and much was unformed in many ways. Especially as a woman on the path, with a male mentor who had a world of images and stories through the ages he could go on but which tended to make those like me feel marginalized.

Yes, there were other strong women fictional roles before then, including Ripley of the Alien franchise. But Sarah was different, because there was a multitude of layers about here which were meaningful for me. Okay, maybe I wasn't that paranoid about machines and I never had a kid, the latter being a strong connect for some of my friends, but pretty much everything else. Despite a fantastical story line, she was very real, very everyday. Just one of us.

The key thing was her character arch, which might be one of the best ever created in movies. Yeah, I might be bias. She was just like most of us have been at some point, directionless, working a dead end job we hated and felt inept at, not exactly winning at love. She wasn't a warrior, she didn't start out with knowledge of how to fight, she wasn't granted super powers. In the first movie she is totally a Final Girl, with two notable exceptions. One is that she survived having sex, but then she does have to have this kid as it's sort of the point. But the main one is that when the monster is finally dead, rather than sighing with relief and trying to return to a "normal life" despite the trauma, she heads south of the border pregnant, with a gun and a dog and looking for training. When she appears again she's crazy, trained, physically strong. To the point that she, herself, may be more machine, but you can see her arch continue as her relationship with her son begins to heal in T2.

The combination of physical strength, fight training and preparedness were things I realized where intricate to making a civilian warrior. A bit of craziness might not hurt either. Because this was where I felt directionless at the time this movie came out. Obviously, I wasn't going to be transported back to the Iron Age. I also had health issues which made being a professional warrior of any type, law enforcement, military or firefighter (which  had at one time wished to do), impossible. Um, okay, I also have an issue with authority which might have gotten in the way. It helped to see the survivalist presented. And a woman at that.

Of course, there was the muscle. I was struggling with fitness, in part due to health issues (some of which got worse in the year or so before the movie came out) as well as being a scrawny hard-gainer. I was studying a martial art, which included some fitness (although probably shouldn't...I have several issues with that now), was lifting, running. I was having problems with figuring out what to do and how to do it. I had long ditched the standard fitness advice to women, for it was (and is) about diminishing, getting smaller and weaker, not about strength. Therefore I was reading bodybuilding magazines and books, but that often left me frustrated, because of being a hard-gainer (but I did learn the term "hard-gainer").  Sarah offered  more realistic physique than the bodybuilders did. Oh, still very different than I could and Linda Hamilton was not a hard-gainer, having obtained that look in a very short time. But still more real. At some point along the line I did decide to figure it out by become a personal trainer...which is it's own twisted tale.

This was the practical side, which I don't feel I was at all grounded in before. And which is vital to the warrior path. Which also needs to be grounded in the present day, even if the reasons we do it are in the future (and, no, probably not Skynet or Revenants, so it's best to be ready for anything). 

So I was pretty obsessed, using this story and imagery to motivate me as I continued with my growing physical training and with continuing research on Gaelic culture and religion. And now, back to how the Charm School started as a Pagan joke.

The same people who first showed me Linda/Sarah's photo were working on a parody Pagan newsletter not long after the movie came out (or maybe even had started before, time slides). It was going to satirize various excesses of the Pagan community. I was at first trying to come up with something mocking some other folks I knew, but, well, sometimes it's more fun to joke about yourself. And so, "Sarah Connor Charm School" and an "ad campaign" for this "warrior training program" bloomed. The parody 'zine never happened, but the Sarah Connor Charm School remained a running joke.  Which spread among many of my other friends from various circles.

As I got online, I kept referencing the joke with real life friends who already were in on it and it grew to those I "met" online. Indeed, many women had been inspired by the character in similar ways.  We made up a batch of T-shirts, we discussed fitness, martial arts and self-defense, a bit of prepping..I started a LiveJournal page for it.

Meanwhile, I kept worshiping the War Goddesses, yet felt forbidden to speak Their names or talk or write much about Them, which often became uncomfortable (especially as others were not so forbidden and, well, some of the information spread was...well....). I worked within or Outside a variety of groups, started a warrior group within an organization which has fortunately written me out their history from what I understand and so will remain nameless here, tried to start up some other things which got too distracting and off my path.....  I returned to the wilderness, with the internet my primary way of keeping involved in things Celtic Reconstructionist. I kept trying to build what that was, continuing my own studies and training.

In the mid-oughts, there was a big strive to get CR well defined and a group of people I was friendly with got together on that. Including the two people who first showed me "Sarah's" photo. It was over all a stressful time in my life, my Mum died during it being at the center of my own chaos and hell. Within this group of people, there was a lot of ego clashing and underhanded ploys for control which I unfortunately got too caught up in. It was just a real clusterfuck. Then something happened among these people that was sort of "off-topic" but a major ethical and spiritual deal breaker for me, regarding oaths I had taken....and then was abused and mocked for taking a stand on. I was already sick of the ego plays, power grabs and fighting. I said "fuck it" and walked away.

Oh, some CR-types stuck with me as friends and were as disgusted as I was, of course, but I wasn't all that active in "the movement" any longer. I even stopped at all using the term CR, although I, of course, continued to use that methodology. I kept doing my own thing, "labeled" for the syncretic tendencies of being Scottish focused and married to a Heathen, kept working with Badb, Macha and the Morrígan......but for online connections and networking I threw myself more into The Sarah Connor Charm School. It was, after all, a hell of a lot more fun than what I'd been dealing with. At a time when my life was continuing to be less fun. My Dad and several dogs and horses all died during this time period, too (all for natural causes related to age).

I started a website which I eventually got a domain for, started a Facebook page, met more and more people, especially women, who were inspired by her. Many who were not Pagan, who I probably wouldn't have worked with on such things if I had done something Pagan focused...but also Pagans who are dedicated to other Gods or are not dedicated to particular Gods or are more ....well, there's a lot of variety.  And we talked more about fitness and training and prepping...and we developed the Honorary Degree thing where we celebrate real strong women and girls (and now boys with the John Connor Award and heroic animals with Max's First Line of Defense Heroes). I even took my ideas developed for a Pagan warrior group and removed the religious and cultural material, replacing it with basic charm school type liberal arts and with Sarah related languages (as she had trained in Central and/or South America) for the curriculum. The physical, prepping and even arts stuff was already in there. (and for all those mighty, mostly male, Pagan "wariors" who complained my ideas were too tough...we now have someone systematically using it, thank you very much!).

And, of course, I got to go meet Linda Hamilton and give a token of all of our appreciation.

I also cracked down on some training I hadn't gotten to yet, having a job where I could afford it and perhaps more time and energy due to less drama. You can, of course, read about some of that here, here and here. And wrote stuff *wavesingeneraldirectionatblog*  I had already included research in pop culture female action heroes, physical feminism and related topics in my studies long ago, but I got a deep focus on that during this time.

And then it happened. Writing I had put on a back burner, or really the freezer, and didn't know what to do with I took out, heated up and started working on. Making several changes, including writing about the War Goddesses. Suddenly, it was vital that I write and talk about Them. A lot. I then put that on the back burner, but only that far, because I felt the need to work on an extensive but shorter piece. Which, when finished I suddenly found a place to submit it to. Then more possible places and more things are out in editors' hands. And all to one degree or another related to the War Goddesses. And then I realized I needed to make the "online shrine" and change the name of this blog to match.  And, of course, a FaceBook page for it and two related groups Clann na Morrígna and Ban-gaiscedach na Morrígna (I fear LJ is becoming a thing of the past, but I have an older group there just called Hooded Crow which you need to message me to join and really isn't used as much). And two related At some point I'll probably put a page outlining the training program up, but if someone is already doing the cultural-religious stuff, then that's already posted.

And in doing so, I have become more involved in doing things within the Pagan/Polytheist communities, but choosing where I hang out and who I do them with. Sometimes, now that I've been away from certain prejudices, with some association with folks I wouldn't once have. Finding common ground where They want me to.

I think that stepping way from the drama and focusing on the Sarah Connor Charm School stuff helped clear away a lot of bullshit. It also led me to meet and learn from some really wonderful women who I might not have had the time and energy to get to know. It's helped me move along my own path more than the work I had been doing trying to build a general CR focused "movement" which did often leave me with little energy for the warrior stuff.

So, this is exactly how these two things tie together for me. Of course, they are, I'm not big on separating parts of my life all that much.  I figure Hooded Crow will always be smaller than the Charm School, given that the focus on CR methodology and one group of Goddesses combines for a less interest. Even though it's less gender specific (SCCS has a lot of male supporters, but the "school" itself is for women...it should be realized, as I have said before, men have a lot more stories than we do already).  Right now it's mostly just my thing, anyway, while the Charm School has become a lot of women's thing.

And if you missed it please see  An Morrígan and Sarah Connor: Pt. 1 Deities and Icons part 3 is on it's way (EDIT is now up Our Gods and Heroes in Pop Culture), I'll be less focused on Sarah Connor (although Linda Hamilton will get a mention) and instead discuss Gaelic Gods and Heroes in pop culture, especially the Morrígan (although in general that should be "sort of").


copyright © Saigh Kym Lambert