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....


Saturday, July 5, 2014

Warrior path training and more website updates

Many.....MANY...years ago I put together ideas for a training program for a warrior group within a larger organization which shall remain unnamed. I knew a lot of my ideas wouldn't work out, discussions of them didn't go well.  I later took the ideas, put things back in I hadn't bothered with for a group I helped start after leaving the large organization.   Nothing really came of it, no one there really wanted to bother with it either..other than me (this was stuff I was doing or wanted to do, after all).  I later took the ideas and replaced some of the cultural stuff with general liberal arts stuff and used to to develop a theoretical Sarah Connor Charm School program. At least it was theoretical until someone actually decided to do it and is going strong with it.

Bolstered by her enthusiasm, I pulled the outline out again and reworked it back for what I wanted to do for a Gaelic Pagan warrior path and added things that have come up since then and so forth. And I have now  put it up on a warrior training page on the website. It will likely be tweaked on occasion as I realize I left Outlaw warriors on the older page.
things out, should have left things out, want to word things differently, add links and what not.  I did take some of the material from the bottom of the warrior path page to the beginning of the new page and also reworked some of the historical material on the

Meanwhile, I've done some poking at Teh Project along with some other writing. The second issue of Air nAithesc is scheduled for next month with my article "Muimme naFiann: Foster-mother of the heroes” among other yummy stuff from others.   And I am continuing to get my own ass in gear training wise and need to get ready to head out for a run, in fact.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Website Updates

The past couple of weeks I have been working to fix things up around here. By here I mean the website this blog is a part of....you know this blog is for a website now right? Or rather part of my website, a section, but part of what I have been doing is working to make the Shadow of the Hooded Crow section a bit more prominent in the way t is presented on the index. There are still other sections for Gaelic Heathenry in general, where our old group section was, but I have now moved the warrior stuff I had there onto Hooded Crow.  And, of course, we still have our horse and dog sections. Homesteading has it's own blog, but right now we're not doing anything exciting enough there to post much. Right now I'm pretty focused on this
subject, really.

http://dunsgathan.net/caithream/So, I had already moved info about workshops I am looking to give, which I may be doing privately soon, onto Hooded Crow, but now have moved my page about the warrior path, and expanded it a bit for some information on the Outlaw war bands. I might even split that up and do more on them, not sure yet.

I also finally put up a page about the War Goddesses the site is dedicated to.  Imagine that!  Of course, that's sort of what I was doing when I ended up writing "Musings on the Irish War Goddesses"...you know, the one in By Blood, Bone and Blade (which is temporarily out of production, but should be available in a second edition soon). Being concise is not easy when talking about Them, but I tried.

I put one link to the main site here, but you can also go to the individual pages through the menu up top. I'm done sitting on my butt for awhile I have horses to see and dogs who want to go for a run. ~;) 

Friday, May 2, 2014

Publication Announcement: By Blood, Bone and Blade: A Tribute to the Morrígan

The much awaited for anthology for an Morrígan, By Blood, Bone and Blade: A Tribute to the Morrígan edited by Nicole Bonvisuto, has just been released by Bibliotheca Alexandrina.I have an essay in this, "Musings on the Irish War Goddesses." I have yet to get my copy, but I am anxious to see some of what else is in there, especially P. Sufenas Virius Lupus's offerings...of course, I'm most intrigued to see his take on Her relationship with Cú Chulainn. ~;)
http://neosalexandria.org/bibliotheca-alexandrina/current-titles/by-blood-bone-and-blade-a-tribute-to-the-morrigan/

This comes while I'm trying to finish another article for Air n-Aithesc which is not unrelated...because everything I write pretty much is related these days. I can't even begin to write anything not related. This is bringing up all the "OMGs, I would do that so differently, I know so much more now (it's nearly 2 years since I finished that essay), what was I even thinking?...." This is not helping me feel qualified to finish what I'm writing now, either.  ~:p

And that has been a big part of why I haven't gotten much out. There is always so much more to learn! I've been doing this half my life, over a quarter of a century, I still am so far from feeling I know enough to write about it.  I know this is a very common dilemma.  I just hope that I can kick myself past it so I can finish what I'm working on and move on. 

I hope what I have written and am writing is still useful to others, even as I continue to learn.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Of Monsters and the Tyranny of Silence - TRIGGER WARNING

*Edited to add: If you think that downloading and sharing child pornography is somehow okay, somehow doesn't hurt anyone, somehow is victimless, and the story of the woman whose uncle distributed videos of him raping her as a child isn't moving enough, perhaps watching a fictionalized telling of such a story will wake you up. Downloaded Child was on Law & Order:SVU April 2, 2014. Obviously, trigger warnings for child sexual abuse, rape, domestic abuse....anyone who is familiar with the show knows it can be triggery but this one has a lot of triggers even for SVU. 

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