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


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Book Review: Historical Residues in the Old Irish Legends of Queen Medb: An Expanded Interpretation of the Ulster Cycle by Diana Dominguez

Book Review: Historical Residues in the Old Irish Legends of Queen Medb: An Expanded Interpretation of the Ulster Cycle by Diana Dominguez

Edwin Mellen Press, 2010
Sometimes resources find you just when you need them, this was the case for me when I was in early struggles of resuming work on Teh Project and I came across a dissertation by Diana Veronica Dominguez exploring Medb of Connacht 's story using the theories of gender parody/performance. This study has now been published as this book, and I feel it is a transformational study leading to a deeper understanding of Medb, and perhaps women in the literature as a whole.

Medb is the most featured of all female characters in the Irish matter, let alone the most featured woman warrior, yet she's often treated merely as a footnote, either a misogynist joke or a humanized Goddess. A predominant theory is that she was nothing more than an example of how wrong it is for a woman to be sexually free and to attempt to take on male roles. For others, she is seen as a humanized Sovereignty Goddess, conflated with Medb Lethderg despite no real connection being made other than the name, “redeeming” her sexuality as appropriate and laying the blame for all her “failings” at the feet of the “unworthy kings” she weds. Neither makes for a very complex figure.
Dominguez doesn't dismiss these prevalent theories, in fact, she explores the cultural lenses that created them, as she addresses the idea that story depends on the view of the audience and how they read intentional and unintentional coding. Along with showing how Medb can be seen to enact both stereotypical feminine and stereotypical masculine traits to meet her needs, she shows how differing views, by various contemporary and later audiences, bring to life a more complex, multifaceted literary figure. Neither the coding nor the gender performance need to have been intentionally meant by the transcribers or tellers of a story, the coding and how recognizable it might be varies in the audience, according to their own cultural or sub-group knowledge. Having an understanding of the culture can help us determine what coding might have been read at the time.
Dominguez' exploration of the culture of Ireland at the time included looking at the knowledge base of those who would have transcribed these tales, of native, Biblical and Classical traditions and of history. She also explores the possibility for actual women warriors, without getting into the romantic notions so popular today (although I, personally, find the Cáin Adamnáin/Lex Innocentium a little less hopeful as I note here). She also discusses the real-life queens who lived at the time the stories were transcribed, who were clearly politically influential even if not titular, and that the Anglo-Saxon Queen Æthelflæd was well recorded in the Irish Annals. She notes that changes in Medb's stories in later text may well have been influenced by these queens lives. She also reminds us of the potential for brother-less women to become temporary (as their inheritance would return to their father's family) heirs; this may never have come up in regards to rule given “...there was never a shortage of males vying for ruling power...” but such a possibility may have been a consideration in the contemporary minds. This makes Medb and her sisters, with their brothers having been exiled for treason, more readable as exaggerated, but somewhat plausible, fictional rulers.
Whether such female leadership was acceptable as a reality to the original audience of the time, Dominguez reminds us that it certainly is accepted in some of the tales despite misogynist remarks in the TBC. Others come to her, not her huband(s), for counsel and even when Fergus goes to Aillil in Táin Aillil turns to Medb's advice. In many of these cases her advice is labeled by scholars as flawed and malicious due to her gender, but the reality is that it is neither more nor less manipulative than counsel given by male characters and there are clear ends to be met, often to protect herself which protects her Connacht. Importantly, I feel, the idea that her reasons for going after the bull in TBC are often trivialized as “willfulness” and a “marital spat” is taken to task here. Dominguez points out that she had very real reasons for being at war with Conchobor who was not only her former husband but her rapist, killer of her son, the killer of one of her husbands, the man who humiliated her and her father. This was not about a frivolous seeking of fame or one-up-man-ship over her current husband. It was a very real political issue, about saving face which was a serious issue in Early Ireland and her motives are really no less appropriate than a man in this situation within this body of literature. In examining this, Dominguez also brings Aillil up from the typical reading of a weak cuckold, showing his reason for also wanting war with Ulster, the political implications for him in this situation and a reading that that, yes, there was a true partnership in this marriage.
Likewise, Dominguez makes a case for Medb as a a military leader, noting that many of “mistakes' attributed to her “wrong-thinking” due to being female work as strategy. She shows that many of the decisions Medb makes that are written off by some scholars as “feminine whims” are actually very much in keeping with heroic male thought, while others are indeed performances of “feminine weakness” to get the men to take the action she wants and should responsibility for it. This also includes testing Fergus's loyalty, and while Dominguez offers a more honorable reading of Aillil than many give, she shows Fergus was far more clearly duplicitous than often admitted to. Even Medb's “humiliating” encounter with Cú Chulainn can be seen as performance and tactic, rather than a reversion to mythological state or depiction of her actually being a “weak and vile woman,” for the meeting buys time for her men to make off with the Brown.
In showing these various lenses, Dominguez shows us a multifaceted Medb, far from a saint, perhaps not everyone’s choice of role model (though I know a few who do claim her as such and will find this heartening), but a realistically portrayed literary figure who was likely understood differently by the original audience than by the Victorian critiques or ourselves today. She is not the first to do so, she has some good sources regarding seeing Medb a bit more complexly in the work of Ewa Sadowska, Doris Edel and Ann Dooley, but she certainly offers the most in depth look at Medb to be found to date. And this form of study leaves the door wide open for much further consideration.
On that, Dominguez wraps up by saying that she does not intend this to be the definitive exploration of Medb. She describes some of the many possible issues to still examine about this character who stands out in the Irish literature as a heavily featured woman. She comments that there are issues outside of the scope of this study that she only touched upon such as the relationship with Medb's daughter Finnabair, the issues around the likely rather late, and very defaming, death tale Aided Meidbe. I hope that there are other scholars who will or are taking new lenses to her stories, taking up the challenge.

If this review seems uncharacteristically positive, keep in mind a couple of things. One, it's hard to argue with someone pointing out that there are multiple ways to view something, because, well, there are just more views. But, full-disclosure, when I found the dissertation I looked Dr. Dominguez up and wrote her an email, because I am the sort of geek that writes fan mail to academics. I found this study to be not only informational, but very inspiring at a time when I was feeling out of sorts over my own project. I think that this study is a vital piece of the puzzle in understanding the place of women, especially women warriors, in the literature and it stands strong as part of what I think is a growing body of work on women of Early Gaelic culture, both literary and historical. So, yes, I highly recommend this book to every Celtophile out there who wants a deeper look at Medb, or women in general, in the culture. I would like to recommend it even more strongly to those who think they already have it all figured out.
The one real quibble I have with the book is something I suspect is in the publisher's hands, which is that the index is clearly not as complete as it could be.
As an aside, I have to admit that I was also delighted to learn that Dr. Dominguez has not only concerned herself with this literary warrior woman of Early Ireland, but also has an interest in depictions in our own pop culture. Two essays she's had published relating to this are "It's Not Easy Being a Cast Iron Bitch": Sexual Difference and the Female Action Hero and Tough and Tender, Buff and Brainy: A New Breed of Female Television Action Hero Blurs the Boundaries of Gender. It's just nice to know that I'm not alone in combining these two interests.

Copyright © 2011 Kym Lambert

"...led by a mare..."

In a short time, possibly today, I will be posting a book review for Dr. Diana Dominguez' Historical Residues in the Old Irish Legends of Queen Medb: An Expanded Interpretation of the Ulster Cycle which explores Medb's story through the theories of gender performance and the reading of coding in literature. But I'm distracted, as I was when I first read this, by what had long been a pet peeve of mine that her concepts have allowed me to reconsider a bit. That is one line, just one line, in the Táin Bó Cuailnge, one that not only offended as a feminist, but I found just stupid as a horsewoman.
‘That is what usually happens,’ said Fergus, ‘to a herd of horses led by a mare. Their substance is taken and carried off and guarded as they follow a women who has misled them.’
copied here from Rec 1 pg. 237

Now, while it doesn't seem (frankly the OI is beyond me here) that he is actually saying that a herd of horses is better led by a stallion, that's an obvious implication. But here's the thing that bugs me. The Irish are fairly well considered good horse people. Therefore they should have known one basic little fact. Stallions do not lead herds. Mares do.

This is such common knowledge in the horse world, except for a few hard-headed idiots who might consider themselves horsemen but will never get anyway, that I'm loathed to bother to reference it. Pretty much go to anything on various wild or feral herds, anything on pasture breeding, any of the Natural Horsemanship type trainers and you'll find it. However, this crossed my FB page recently and so I don't have to hunt anything down and this demonstrates that some horses are so fundamentally dependent on mares they can't sleep without one to tell them it's okay.

Mares lead the herd, they do determine where to find water and safe passage. The single stallion of a herd is there for two or three reasons. To breed. To keep other stallions from separating off some of the mares from the rest of the herd which would make the herd too small and vulnerable. And, on occasion, to throw himself at predators being the most expendable and easily replaced member of the herd (something one might note Medb's story demonstrates as well). If the "substance" of a herd "is taken and carried off" it would actually be the stallion's fault, because that's his job, leadership isn't. A mare would be leading, as is her job.

So considering coding, this reads as, well, perhaps something more. Remember Medb has gotten what she wanted, humiliation of Ulster by successfully carrying of the Brown and the continuation of her rule by equaling her husband's bounty, once both the bulls are dead. It came with great destruction, of course. Fergus, btw, has never been a character I respected and Dominguez does demonstrate that the respect he seems to get from some, usually male, academics does not seem to match his obvious treacherous behavior.

Now, there is a chance that all the clerics who wrote this down didn't know a damn thing about horses and like some misogynist men today really do think that stallion is the boss. But you have to figure someone took it as a joke through all this time. Perhaps it even was meant to be, at least by one person copying it even if he didn't originate it. A joke by Fergus? A joke on Fergus? Perhaps more horse savvy listeners to the tales took it as a joke on the naive teller?

But whether it was ever read that way, to me, today, as a feminist and a horsewoman, I think it's damn funny. I'll always see it as that.


Copyright © 2011 Saigh Kym Lambert

Monday, October 31, 2011

F- words and several W- words and some stuff that starts with other letters

Actually, it's mostly "w" I'll likely discuss here, but the letter "f" probably grabs more attention. ~;p

A recent "discussion" some friends of mine were in, which I won't go into here brought to light that I don't always use certain words publicly to describe myself. This has led some people who do not know me to outright say that I reject at least one of them. That would be "witch." People who claim that are, to put it as politely as I'm able to (as I pointed one to said FB page and STILL haven't received an apology), full of shit. I do. Note, I use the lower case...it's not a religious title, it does not have the same meaning as Wiccans attribute to it. In no way would it refer to anything anyone would want to make acceptable to the mainstream society, but we'll get to that in a moment. The word ties in totally with other words that I am and/or do, some of which also begin with "w."

The claim of those who wanted me to not use this term because they've decided, in their own little minds, that Celtic Reconstructionist Pagans* never, ever, ever use it, is that it's disrespectful to those in the living culture who do not want it applied to them. Well, I'm NOT applying it to anyone else. I'm applying it to me. I'm doing so for many reasons, some which are more personal than I usually go into. But I want a record, for those who next come across these people making this claim...I am a fucking witch.

Those Big Nose** CRs note that "witch" is used in Gaelic culture (in translation, of course) to refer to a malevolent magic user. This, of course, would fly in the face of those Wiccans and others who are trying to get it "reclaimed" as a nice word, something it never has been. And they are, actually, right, I totally agree. The difference is that while they also want to be acceptable to the mainstream, apparently, I do not. I think that anyone reading this knows I identify my path as that of the Outlaw Warrior Poets, the Fianna and here is our first f-word, being seen as "nice" or "safe" is not part of my agenda.

Now, I am not comfortable using the term "Fianna" for what I am involved in, outright. I would not, that is, I'd not say I belong to the Fianna because that means something particular in modern day Ireland which I'm not a part of (this is not to say whether or not I am supportive, I'll not bring up such things here, simple to say they have a claim to it that I'm not going to bother challenging). I do describe myself as a ban-fhiannaidh on occasion but I think when I do it's usually clear that I've got my tongue planted in my cheek a bit and, like I do with that w-word you're all familiar with here, I feel I'm still and probably always will be in this life time just aspiring to it. Perhaps even more so, as I've never quite mastered the tests noted in the lore and am of an age where it's not likely to happen. I might refer to my path as being of the fiannaiocht, the way of the Fianna, inspired by these tales. I tend to skirt around the term, due to the politics, as I noted.

There are other terms in Gaelic for warrior that relate to the outsiders. Díberg is one, which is a term considered far more odious, meaning a "brigand" for which it might be said that fian was sort of a clean-up although that term was not considered particular seemly and properly Christian by the clerics either. (McCone, West) There is, of course, gaisgeach and it's various forms, which also are found when describing female warriors such as Símha inghen Chorrluirgnig, who is referred to as “…badhb & ban-ghaisgedach do muinntir Ghuill í…” “…witch and warrior-woman in Goll’s retinue….” (Cath Maigh Léna, also Heijda "4.2 Witches") Oh, there we go that other w-word again.

So, back to that, badb in lower case is found throughout the literature to describe somewhat different classes of beings, as opposed to also being the name of a Goddess who is in the sisterhood with An Morrígan and Macha, and sometimes conflated with the former in a complexity which I'll get into in a very long article and a longer book someday, maybe. Heijda discusses all of the variant uses and findings of the word badb, including "witch" throughout her essay and especially in the section "4.2 Witches." That there is this combination of badb probably meaning what we refer to as "witch" and "warrior woman" is, of course, of great interest to me.

We see this sort of combination in various ways, the magic or mystical combined with the warrior woman. Indeed, it's a strong point of the War Goddesses, including Badb (and again, yeah, it's coming someday if it doesn't burst something in my brain first). Scáthach is shown to be a Seer as well as a trainer of warriors. And we have another f-word I use in my practice fàisneachd, prophecy or Sight.

There are other terms which come up for "war witch" that I find interesting but a bit taxing for my limited Old Irish. You see accounts of Goddesses in both the First and Second Battles of Magh Turedh using magic, with a similar but not quite identical term. The term used in the First Battle for Badb, Macha and an Morrígan was bantuathacha which is translated by Fraser as “sorceresses,”(Fraser, pg. 44, para 48) but which is translated by MacAlister LGÉ as “female farmer or landowner." (MacAlister, pg. 122-123, 160-161 regarding Ernmas, see pg. 150-151, 180-181 and 230-231 regarding Be Chuille and Danann --the last is translated as the odd “farmeresses”) In the Second Battle, Be Chuille and Danann offer spells to Lugh's question of what all can provide and are referred to as bantúathaid, which would be properly "sorceresses" or "witches" and specifically malevolent ones. (CMT, Gray's translation para 116-117 , pg. 53-54 in Irish given)

For the actual translations of the words see eDIL for the masculine forms tuathach and túathaid and use the "fuzzy" option as it seems impossible to direct to a translation. While Kondratiev suggests this replacement was a “…misunderstanding of the original word…" (Kondratiev) I wonder if there might have been more to such a change. However, my language skills are not up to such an exploration at this point and right now I sort of just like the idea of witch and farmer being somewhat blurry distinctions. Being that farmer is another f-word I'm aspiring to.

I don't talk about the witchy or mystical stuff much, in fact I actually started a blog post about my mystical practices several months ago. It ended up becoming a rant on why I don't write about "woo" and started to feel pointless and so it was greatly truncated and only mentioned as a part of another post. The experiment of writing about magic, trance work, Seership and all that woo-woo witchy stuff remains worked on offline. I'm not really going into it here. I'm just talking about identity here.

And again, I'm a witch. And a would-be warrior. And a Seer.

Along with this those of you who have been paying attention would realize there is another w-word I use, but am often reluctant at using too much or loudly although I have here a few times now.... werewolf. Again, connected to the Fianna/Outlaw Warriors, usually with the Old Irish f-word fáelad or "wolfing."(McCone, West) When it comes to female werewolves the legal tracks mention confail conrecta "a woman who likes to stray in wolf-shape" (Bitel, pg. 219-220, Carey, pg. 64-68) although whether she might stray with the warbands is not mentioned. But you never know, I mean, they were wandering about too. Wandering outside of society....hmmmmm.....

Just as my definition of "witch" has nothing to do with the way Wiccans or many others in the NeoPagan community use it, my sort of wolfiness has nothing to do with Otherkin or therianthropy communities either. There are many differences, one again being the angst over being "understood" or accepted or what ever which is often a central theme. Or angst in general. I'm not some lost soul born in the wrong body, I'm someone who seeks deeply into myself and the Otherworld to embrace a beast that I can be and I'm the only one who has to embrace it...or can. It's again about seeking that wilderness, about becoming primal in my body and taking a particular form to travel "astrally" and not about seeking an online community. (I have noted before that A Wolf-Man, Not A Wolf In Man's Clothing is the one blogger out there who I can relate to at all on this, although we do vary in many ways as well)

All these things I am were not considered favorable by the ancient Irish societal laws that we know, which were Christian. We have no way of knowing, truly, what the pre-Christians thought of them, but these things were, in fact, considered "other" and, yes, "pagan." These were indeed seen as negative things, but I embrace them and rather than embrace the thinking that shunned them. I have no interest in bringing them out of the wild. In the Brehon laws, none of these things that I am were given honor price nor even sick maintenance. (Kellly, also Bitel, pg. 219-220, Carey, pg. 64-68 specific to female werewolves)

Being outside, being counter-culture, being subversive to a sick society was once embraced by many of us, but sometimes I feel alone. In the '70s, and yes I'm old enough to remember, the word "witch" was adopted by many feminists to equate with a woman who was dangerous to the patriarchy and to the gender status quo. At the time there was even some contention between feminists who never heard of Wicca and the Wiccans who felt they alone owned the term (as some still do), but, of course, some of those women became Wiccan and even developed their own traditions. Many already felt that was giving into a mainstream. I like "witch" for some of the same reasons they did, as well.

There is a power to being outside that I think some forget. The "noble savage" might be a naive trope, but the reality of what that can mean in a real sense about morality is something we might want to consider. It is much like the issue of if we can be "good" if we do not believe in eternal punishment, can we be good if we reject a society's notion of "good" and "evil?" Is what is outside malevolent and dangerous not because it's truly evil, but because it doesn't obey the cultural constricts of what "good" and "evil" mean? Is there not more honor in being good and just when there is no societal reward for it, when, in fact, society may not truly be good or just? Am I stuck in the past because I still believe in this? Fortunately, there are those Occupying the streets of many cities for several weeks now who also are questioning this. So, no maybe not.

I do not fully understand why some who I know embraced these ideas have become so fully invested in placating those who wish to restrain us. But I put this out there so that if anyone has any question as to whether I have changed my status with culture, it is here. I am a witch, I am a would-be Outlaw Warrior Poet, I am wolfish at times, I am a Seer and a mystic. Don't fucking tell anyone any different.

(For more about warrior women in Irish Literature see Once Upon A Time.... and The Warrior who Knew No Art of Wounding for more on my trying to put this shit together see A place where things come together, Weighing things out and Ramblings about Serving the War Goddesses or...)

Bibliography

Lisa Bitel, Land of Women: Tales of Sex and Gender from Early Ireland, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1996

John Carey, "Werewolves in Medieval Ireland," Cambrian Medieval Celtic Studies 44 (Winter 2002)
Cath Maige Tuired: The Second Battle of Mag Tuired in Irish Elizabeth Gray, trans. Dublin: Irish Text Society

Cath Maigh Léna
for the Irish
, Kenneth H. Jackson, ed. Cath Maighe Léna Dublin: 1930 or E. Curry, ed & tr, Cath Mhuighe Léana or The Battle of Mag Léana together with Tochmarc Moméra or the Courtship of Moméra Dublin: 1855; J. Fraser "The First Battle of Moytura." Ériu 8, 1915, English translation


Fergus Kelly. A Guide to Early Irish Law, Dublin: Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (School of Celtic Studies), 2001
Alexie Kondratiev, “Danu and Bile: The Primordial Parents?”


RAS MacAlister, ed. and trans., Lebor Gabála Érenn: The Book of the Taking of Ireland Vol IV. Dublin:Irish Text Society, 1941

Kim McCone, “Werewolves, Cyclopes, Díberga and Fíanna: Juvenile Delinquency in Early Ireland” Cambridge Medieval Celtic Studies, issue 12, 1986

Máire West, "Aspects of Díberg in the Tale Togail Bruidne Da Derga," Zeitschrift für celtische Philologie (ZcP), Volume 49-50


*They also do not like "Pagan" and all I'll say to that is that yes, I DID initially use "Pagan" and that was the original term "Celtic Reconstructionist PAGAN" because otherwise what the fuck are we reconstructing? "Celtic?" No, we're reconstructing Pagan paths based on the Celtic culture we're called to/come from/whatever. Anything else is as big an insult to the living culture as I can think of. If they do not like the "Pagan" part why the fuck are they using my term at all? And, YES, I was the first...for several years before others who claim to have "founded" it ever used it and even longer before they actually stopped doing Wiccan ritual by their own fucking admission at the time.

"Big Nose Pagan" has long been a term used in place of "Big Name Pagans" especially for those who aren't really that big of name but do like to stick their noses in other people's business.

Copyright © 2011 Kym Lambert
Graphic
Copyright © JBL Statues

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

20 Years Ago Among Cranes

It's been 20 years since I last attending Twilight Covening, so I'm noting mentions of this one popping up on my flist. That was a powerful event for me in many ways, it was a big time of change for me anyway, a lot of what I feel defines me today started that year. The group I was in was a warrior group, Cranes; the leaders of it are still people I count as friends (at least on FB, it's been awhile since I've seen either in person). I was sick as a dog....so was almost everyone. I had a powerful vision during the event which I think set my feet where they needed to be as opposed to the wandering I was doing.

It was also odd and jarring and made me realize I probably wouldn't attend again. It as when I first realized I didn't really fit in the Pagan community at all, by this time I was pretty much not practicing Wicca any longer, was already on the warrior path, but I hadn't really thought about how different I had become. It was, of course, clearest at the group ritual although we ended up with fire and that worked out well. But I know I felt apart from the rest; I think all in our group did for that time, some of us appreciating it, others feeling at odds with it. Many were and remained active not only in the general Pagan community but in Earthspirit.

How much that event changed me and how much it just gave ritual to the changes I was going through is something I probably can never sort out. Some are obvious, I was already more serious about weight lifting and the martial arts by this time, having done both for a few years at that point. Then again, some of my perceptions on those things may have changed during the event. I do know that compared to any other such event, including the TC of the year before, it has made a lasting impression. There are other reasons for that feeling which I won't go into here.

One impression is that, man, I really sort of thought I'd have gone a bit further along my work than I have. But things always get in the way. 10 years ago I had a stark reminder that at least I still have time, while there are others who what ever they did already was it for this lifetime. And, yet, other things still get in the way and I haven't done that much since then. But I'm still here *knockswood* and so a bit more down the path I go.

I am hoping that that means finishing Teh Project soon and writing in this blog more...and blogging stuff other than this fucking navel gazing which I realize I'm doing again.

On Friday I get ink, a piece that is something I probably should have gotten 20 or at least 10 years ago. Which all relates to this. Putting things on my body helps me solidify what I'm doing. We'll see what this one grounds in me.

I have always looked through the TC information each year, first the paper mailings I still got and then on the website. There is a part of me that still desires doing something like that. Of all the gatherings out there, the concept of Twilight Covening remains the most intriguing, I think most useful. It's not a "social" focused gathering, with various rituals to pick and choose from and that participants can take down time from if they wish and just hang out. Each person signs up ahead of time for a working group, you stay with that group (some even require sleeping in the same location and eating all meals together), each group focuses on some aspect of work and they do it together.

There hasn't been a group focus that has called to me, or if there has there has been something that has put me off to the actual group. Often it's the utter vagueness of the descriptions sometimes it's just knowing who the leaders are. Each year I feel more distant from what it's about. I want that sort of focused working, but, well, yeah....on different things. Of course, there still isn't enough interest at this point for a Reconstructionist focused event like this. Hopefully someday there will be, but there are a lot of steps to take before that works out, I think.

But as I see all these "I'm back from Twilight and wow..." posts on FB, I'm thinking again. Two decades. Fuck.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Changing jobs, deepening vocation

I left my job recently. This is a good thing, but it's left me thinking a lot about this path and how the job did, didn't and should have related. It wasn't a "warrior job" in the sense that those who claim all warriors must do "warrior jobs" such as serve in the military or be law enforcement officers. I was basically a baby sitter, although if you go by hourly pay I was less well paid than most are these days from what I hear, although I got full-time hours and, therefore, benefits. I was a night watch person at a camp for troubled youth. So I was a babysitter who walked around in the woods and kept fires going. But it fit for someone on the Outlaw warrior path.

I rather liked the job at first, although switching back to nights had been difficult for me. After most of a lifetime of being very nocturnal by nature, I seemed to switch suddenly when I moved back to the North Country about 11 years ago now. I thought I could switch back easily, but it was hard for me. Otherwise, it was great, I like wandering in the woods, liked time to myself. I liked that connection that I noted with my path.

See, the Outlaw Warrior bands, the Fianna, were made up of young men, possibly some women as I've discussed here before, who were basically seen as unfit for society to live until they were. That was, primarily when they were marriageable and could inherit.* Obviously, there are stark differences between camps such as this and the old war bands, for example, they're not taught fighting arts but rather to not fight (yet many might end up in the military in their future so....). Yet it's, well, reflective...reflective is a favorite word of mine if you've not noticed (consider the name of my home is "sgàthan").

In the context, I was even an outsider among outsiders, being there to guard at night only. The teaching fénnidi and banfénnidi there are the counselors. I remember being hit by this passage from The Wisdom of the Outlaw:

"("They gave Finn the task of keeping watch during the night, and he was told to wake up a fénnid if he heard anything calamitous"). We have already seen that one of the duties of Finn's fían is to protect human society and its borders. In the present episode, as part of his initiation ito a fían, Finn is to stand watch for his fellow fénnidi. Like the ideal gill described by Cormac, he is to listen carefully in the forest and be alert during his watch. Finn stands guard on the periphery of a peripheral group; in this stance his being a chronic outsider is all the more obvious." pg. 176

And to some extent during this time I was able to work out some new concepts and connections with my path. But due to the circumstances of the job, I was also limited, especially over time. Because working nights took a toll on my body, and the body is an important thing to a warrior. To anyone, but all fantasy aside, it's impossible to fight with out a functioning body.

While at one point I still trained hard in what I already was doing and even took some time to start firearms training, my body started to burn out. I started to sleep less, my fitness level was deteriorating despite working out, I was just fucking tired all the fucking time.

Somewhere along there I got back to work on Teh Project again, however, so that was a plus. But as my body began to show wear, so did my mind. My periods of concentration often were short, a real problem as some of this stuff is pretty mind boggling to begin with.

With concentration goes the ability to do the spiritual work involved, namely the trance work. And as my body was tired, going out into the woods and into a fugue state became more limited. Obviously, I couldn't go into altered states at work, even if I was in the woods.

Other things which I consider related, such as working with my young, spoiled horse and dealing with prepping/homesteading stuff also were a problem.

I realized to a large extent, I was not living the path to the extent I need to be. I also realized that the crappy pay and crap benefits were no longer worth it. And for the past few weeks I've been regaining my equilibrium, repairing my body, starting to build up on the amount of training I'm doing (although I have a long way to go) and getting some progress with my horse and prepping. Writing not so much yet, trance work not at all yet. I still need more recovery for those things. And winter is coming, it will be a time to focus on some of that harder when we're settled in for the season.

My mate is taking more shifts and will be developing himself more as an EMT. I will try to build something of a fitness business, but it's a rough location even in better times for that. I may also go for my EMT certification, maybe. We'll also see what else comes along that can help us survive.

What I am getting here is that I strive to find a way to learn and build from all things that I do, starting this job enriched my path, leaving it at this time does so too. Onward to what ever comes.

*See, for example, Joseph Falaky Nagy. The Wisdom of the Outlaw: The Boyhood Deeds of Finn in Gaelic Narrative Tradition and Kim McCone, “Werewolves, Cyclopes, Díberga and Fíanna: Juvenile Delinquency in Early Ireland” Cambridge Medieval Celtic Studies, issue 12, 1986


Copyright © 2011 Kym Lambert

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Ramblings about Serving the War Goddesses or...

....what the hells AM I doing here?

I'm working on some writing, the end of that article I've mentioned and a far larger bit in Teh Project, on serving An Morrígna. My only experience is in service on the warrior path and a bit as a seer. There may be other valid ways, serving as a king would have likely been one at one time but not so much today, but I certainly do not buy the whole "She/They are not really (a) War Goddess(es)" crap that is so popular today. And the "She/They aren't JUST (a) War Goddess(es)" falls into the whole denigration of warrior into some dumb killing machine. Fertility, cattle and sovereignty are in no way the opposite of warfare as practiced in Gaelic culture. But...yeah, the article is almost done...no really,...although what exactly "almost" means is another matter.

At the time I first started working on this section, to then find some material that drew me to work on something else, there seemed to be a spate of blog posts by those not on the path, people not soldiers or cops, either, claiming that only soldiers, and maybe cops, were warriors. One person seemed reasonable and worth chatting up so I did, I like the guy, I felt he listened to my take. We might not totally agree, probably not on anything, but do I need to point out that this is sort of par for course with me? I like his blog in general, now that I found it and I may or may not have found it if he hadn't written on the topic and I was looking at the time.

Most, however, wrote in such a manner to show that such an attempt was going to be a waste of time and energy, possibly even sanity. I realized in thinking why I didn't feel like bothering that these folk didn't live in the same world I did. They live in a world where violence is never going to happen to them and if it did the nice cops will come and rescue them and the courts would fix things. The soldiers will keep all enemies at bay in other countries and nothing like 911 will ever happen on our soil again. Katrina might have been bad and maybe there was chaos and bloodshed after, but it's all fixed now, right? And it's not going to happen again. Or here, anyway. And when it does these folk will be sure to vacate in time. And with the latter, they probably do have the resources.

We don't create our own realities, not really. I'm a firm believer in that. BUT sometimes we do, as long as nothing bad happens. And for many people, especially white, middle class types, it might not. Although, well, most aren't working or so middle class these days; a lot of folks who probably still consider themselves middle class, really, aren't in that income bracket. But I digress. Sort of.

At the other end, of course, are those bloggers who claim that being a Pagan warrior is all about the "inner battles" and has nothing to do with fighting at all. Martial arts might be an enjoyable way of recreating, but it's not what being a warrior is about. Certainly NO GUNS! Soldiers are not warriors, or might be, but not because they fight but only if they do proper ritual inner battles too. If they're doing it right they won't want to soldiers. And being a warrior means you're all noble and heroic and shit like that. But your only battles are within.

Um, yeah. And, again, different world where everything outside ones own head is apparently quite safe.

So, I'm in the middle again as it were. Or just feeling outside this whole thing all together. In a different world.

Now, mind you, things can be perfectly safe. I don't expect an armed intruder to burst through my door any moment. But, you know, ...I don't know that one won't so there are loaded weapons in the house that we can access. And I know how to use almost everything in this house as a weapon if that didn't work out. Something always COULD happen.

Here's my definitions: a "person on the warrior path" is someone who trains for possible deadly encounters. Whether a professional or not. For whom it is a focus (some might train but not put the priority in it or want to claim to be on the path and that's their prerogative).

A "warrior" is someone who is on the path but is also, as Ambrose Hollingworth Redmoon put it, is initiated by an other warrior, that is in a life or death fight. (in "No Peaceful Warriors!," Gnosis #21, Fall 1991, republished in Rick Fields, ed. The Awakened Warrior: Living with Courage, Compassion & Discipline, New York: Putnam Book 1994 and personal correspondence)

So, soldiers and cops are indeed more likely to be initiated. Not all of the rest of us will be. In some areas cops don't have all that much opportunity, either, but that doesn't mean they're not going to be prepared. There have been times when soldiers don't get as much chance for initiation either, but the past ten years have offered multiple chances to many. Again, but the job is to stay on the path, prepared.

A soldier may be a warrior, but not all warriors are soldiers. There are other aspects to being in the military that make it impossible for all who might feel called to be prepared. Likewise to be a law enforcement officer. A certain trust in systems, at least in yourself within such systems, that some of us don't have. That some of us don't have to a degree that might inspire us to some extent.

I admit that I use "a warrior" an awful lot when I mean "someone on the warrior path" simply because it really gets annoying to write the "someone on the warrior path" repeatedly. It might be lazy, but it's also less for you to read. I'm about to commit this wrongdoing many times in the rest of this post..any time I say "a warrior" I can mean someone who is initiated or not, unless the actual meaning is obvious.

A warrior does not have to be honorable, noble or heroic to be a warrior. These are great things for a warrior to be, I highly recommend them. But, honestly, I don't believe that it's part of the definition of "warrior" or "warrior path." There are some real scum out there who train hard, can fight well and have been initiated. They give those of us who do fancy ourselves more noble a cause. ~;)

A warrior does not need to be spiritual. And if s/he is, it can be any spirituality. It may or may not involve "fighting inner battles." Obviously, a Pagan warrior must be Pagan. Chances are s/he also serves a War Deity, but some might focus on others and many are Polytheistic to the point where they may serve no specific Ones. One of the statements I saw among the "only soldiers are warriors" postings was something along the line of there being a difference between being a warrior and worshiping a Warrior Deity. Well, yeah, there can be, as I said at the top here. There are probably other roles....but this is where I'm going with this, really, there's sort of a direction to this rant.

I've written about this before, of course, in the article this blog is titled after as well as references in this blog. When I was called by An Morrígan, I had been quite a pacifist, my world seemed safer even though I had been a victim once AND it was a far more dangerous time as far as crime rates than today. My world changed and I had to. Because whether others could serve Her/Them in other ways, I was expected to train. To walk the path if not ever be initiated. That's what She says and, guess what, She trumps some random blogger's opinion. Just the way it is.

This is the way the world became to me, dangerous. Yes, crime is down in the nearly 25 years since this happened, but there are factors in there which actually make the odds no different for me, living here. It doesn't change the fact that it still takes a considerable time, even longer than it does in an urban area (which is still always, always too long) for the police to arrive to a call. It doesn't change that I can't "date" protection which looking back I realized I often did. Or that doing that constantly puts women in danger from that "protection." Things might indeed be better statistically, but it doesn't mean any of us is exactly safe or can depend on the help of others.

And, here's where I remind you I'm a crazy survivalist, things are getting worse. Hey, there's seership here too, right? But one doesn't need that skill, really. The very Earth is telling us so, very loudly; while truly crazy people who could have the power to make positive changes are denying it. The economy is crashing and there's little real work being done to fix things in a sustainable way. Do you really wonder why many of us have turned to finding ways to do this ourselves, whether the "bunker" types or the homesteaders?

Truth is, of course, I have only met a few folks who feel called this way by Her/Them. Very few and most have ended up with some obvious reason for such a stance. So, I think I was Linkstruck recently by this post about feelings stirring after a ritual to An Morrígan, that appear to have been quite unexpected by the person writing. What exactly is it we're all feeling and why are we feeling this need to DO SOMETHING? (Check out the rest of the blog, as the statue project is interesting and I'm feeling pulled to do something like that too....but different, probably a more "primitive" style..problem is, I don't have much talent in those things...but I'm thinking looking over the shooting range)

Many of us joke with it, code it, as The Zombie Apocalypse or The War with the Machines but our training is not a joke. Even if we are sometimes unclear what we're training for. There's something. There's a feeling. I suppose the "sane" would say it's a paranoia.

And I'm not talking about "rising up against" anyone or forming militias, as much as, well, just being ready for what ever. What ever comes down the road. And if nothing comes, if things get better rather than worse, then that's all good. Better to be prepared for something that doesn't happen than not prepared for something that does.

------------------------------------------------------

An Morrígan/Badb's prophecy:

I shall not see a world that will be dear to me.
Summer without flowers,
Kine will be without milk,
Women without modesty,
Men without valour,
Captures without a king.

[gap: extent: approx. 6 words]

Woods without mast,
Sea without produce,

[gap: extent: approx. 40 words]

Wrong judgments of old men,
False precedents of brehons,
Every man a betrayer,
Every boy a reaver.
Son will enter his father's bed,
Father will enter his son's bed,
Everyone will be his brother's brother-in-law.

[gap: extent: 8 words]

An evil time!
Son will deceive his father,
Daughter will deceive her mother.
Cath Maige Tuired /The Second Battle of Moytura
Whitley Stokes translation

Copyright © 2011 Kym Lambert

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Weighing things out

It's been a long time since I blogged here, and I hate starting a post with what is essentially an apology for not blogging. So consider it just an acknowledgement. It's not that I've not been bloggin. I've got a series of fitness posts going up at The Sarah Connor Charm School Blog, some horse related political stuff at Our Stories are Written in the Language of Equus and a painful lament for our goat Randvér as well as the Old Clucker and some local political stuff at the homesteading blog Dùn Sgàthan Notes.

Things have been busy and a bit heavy, not just the loss of animals at the Dùn, but I've also recently got my AFAA Personal Fitness Trainer certification reinstated. This is a good step which does not come without some tribulations. There is a reason I left the fitness business several years ago and a reason why when I first went to get reinstated I lost interest.

I've always had a certain issue with the industry. My focus in fitness was about strength and health. A scrawny weak kid, I always wanted to be bigger and stronger. I sort of was aware that there was a stronger focus, for women, in the industry on thinness than I had, but it wasn't until I got the lovely mixed messages within the industry that how horrible it is really hit home. After all, I got training when I was first certified to recognize eating disorders with the message we were to try to counter them. But the reality when you start working in the industry is that the message is Weight Loss, Weight Loss, Weight Loss.

This not only doesn't interest me, it offends me. This is not what fitness is, it's an illusion of health and fitness put in place of real health and fitness. When you find that many training programs for women are designed to diminish the body, make it smaller. Not only in weight loss, but, especially with leg work, by over training muscle. All those multitudes of reps, that does not strengthen. It might build endurance, up until you start getting injuries, but only for those pointless moves not for, you know, running or walking. The message that "women can't get bulky, but you better do lots and lots of reps to make sure you don't" just is, well, aggravating.

The "weight loss" message might be a great selling point for some. I am finding difficult come up with language for my fitness website that informs that I don't want to focus on weight loss with clients that doesn't also drive people to those who promise weight loss. I know some will seek those promises out. I also know that some people feel abused by the constant focus on weight loss, as I wrote about in my first real post here. I have found a great community, Health At Every Size which is focused on this concept. In a better economy and a heavier populated area, I think such a focus can work out well...as it is, no matter what I promise, I'm probably not going to make a great living up here.

But my real purpose for getting certified again was for writing. There is a chapter in Teh Project about fitness training and I figured it would be good to have that certification again. Oh, and then as I mentioned, this now makes me "fitness director" or some shit at The Sarah Connor Charm School. ~;p However, there are more changes. So, while I might not have a lucrative business here, I might be in a position to soon take a few clients. Hence having started a website.

Yes, there are changes coming. Perhaps. We'll see. I'm waiting.

Meanwhile, I write off- and on-line. If not so much here at this blog lately. As I had been working to expand this blog, as much of it is about sort of practicing or thinking "out loud" on issues around Teh Project, I had been working on a post about some of my mystical practices. No, really, it all relates for me even if it seems a divergence to others; and that's sort of my point. I realized that with A Place Where Things Come Together it might seem that my spiritual practice is all about praying while working out or something, but while it all ties together, there is this whole mystical practice that includes, well, shapeshifting. Or at least consciousness shifting which manifests in a very physical way, although not in the true "turning into a wolf or something" sort of way. "Ríastrad" (warp spasm) or fáelad" (wolfing); which for me are about focus and transformation, of a sort. Yeah, even my ecstatic stuff is physical. What can I say. (There are other transformative practices in a Gaelic context, I recommend A Wolf-Man, Not A Wolf In Man's Clothing who does good research and is able to discuss various lycanthrophy practices in a Celtic and related cultures, for those wishing to explore these sorts of things more.)

While the attempt to write something for this blog has been tossed at this point, the exercise worked as far as breaking the block I had for Teh Project and That Article. Hopefully, rather soon, the latter will be shown to the first readers and then published online. It still won't have a lot of details, that will take longer. But it'll be a start in me sharing something that is very difficult for me to share.

It's not that I don't believe these things should be SOOPER SEKRET, really, I think they should be shared. In fact, in light of the issue that many think that warp spasm is just, well, losing ones temper, freaking out, going out of control while on the other hand being seen as a substitution for physical training, I think it's important to discuss this more. Because the practice is anything but these things. My problem is that it's something that I just have trouble putting into words, especially written words. But words are happening. They're just going to take a lot of work getting into an order that is sharable.

Now, of course, while I still plug at that, the fitness chapter is also a focal point. Because, you know, I got this shiny new certification. And if things work out, I might be getting a whole other one because, well, there are reason I might wish to affiliate with another organization as well as if not instead of. But that will require workshops which would require travel and until I'm out of the night watch gig, that's not really possible.

I admit that I hate night watch now with a passion. I liked it a lot at first. I liked how working a job like this at a camp for troubled boys correlated in a way to the whole Fianna thing. Trying to do all else I need to do on a nocturnal schedule, however, is not so good. Time to move to another stage.

And then I'll have more training stuff to write about here. More time to hit the range (or build one here...that isn't happening like I had hoped, but I guess I'll have to do that myself). Perhaps a chance to return to MA training which is out of the question on this schedule as the nearest place is too far away. That is, of course, if there is money to do so. It's all being weighed out. And it may weigh out on the side of me staying as night watch, that remains to be seen.

So, mostly this is me writing on why I'm not writing here. Again. But maybe I will be more.

Copyright © 2011 Kym Lambert

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Warrior who Knew No Art of Wounding

In a previous post I noted the idea of finding inspiration in the stories of ancient Gaelic ban-fhénnid and indeed you can find many tales online and in books retelling and extrapolating these stories to be more positive than they may have been. One issue, of course, is that not all of these retellings are labeled as such, this is especially true, it seems, within the NeoPagan community but a second source tends to be tourist literature. There are many out there who think they know more about Scáthach or Medb than is really in the texts, which if given the label Unsubstantiated Personal Gnosis is fine, but at least in the non-Pagan sources UPG certainly isn't a factor. There is, btw, quite a great deal on Medb in the text that is not so widely shared, while Scáthach actually has far less material on her. (Diana Veronica Dominguez, Historical Residues in the Old Irish Legends of Queen Medb: An Expanded Interpretation of the Ulster Cycle, Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 2010 is an excellent study of Medb using tales often not bothered with, making her far more human and far less a joke than what is usually focused on)

I believe one of the keys to using these stories wisely, is to be very clear about the fact we are making changes to them. Again looking at Medb, especially as examined by Dominquez, we can retell her story through what we as women can imagine are her eyes, rather than of the male eye which may use the tale to mock a woman making war. We can also emphasize things that some scholars choose to ignore in retelling her story. In order to point out that her quest for the bull in the Táin Bó Cúalnge is the folly of a haughty woman, it's often left out that she, in fact, also had a reasonable quest for revenge against her former husband Conchobar, who had raped her and killed her son . Medb's story really has a lot to offer in retelling without actually changing much or adding anything. Yet in retelling it we must be clear that it's a different perspective from the way the Ulster Tales came down to us, possibly a different perspective than it was viewed by anyone before.

Scáthach, and most of the other warrior women in the texts, we really don't have much on. It's in this that we see that while there may be many female warrior names banted about, their stories are very much peripheral to the stories of male warriors, saints or they died horribly in place-name tales. If we tell more of her story than what is in the texts, we likewise need to be clear. For many of us these tellings might be UPG,even SPG (Shared Personal Gnosis), but to those who don't believe, or simply don't believe your UPG, stories from such sources are merely modern fictions. I believe it's okay to have them, we just must be clear that these are not from the source.

Even Macha Mong Ruadh, whose story as a warrior queen is short but quite detailed and positive for her, I believe (although, you know, everyone dies at some point in every tale), offer's caution. When we tell the tale we might be clear that when she lures the brothers one-by-one into the forest she overtakes them by her own hand. But it's not actually told what happens in those woods. Someone who does not see women as capable of overpowering men, oh what sheltered lives they must lead, might be thinking she used magic, the only power many think women can ever have, especially those who don't believe in magic, or had warriors waiting even if this version notes that she bound them.

So, yes, we can retell, we can extrapolate, but we must be clear that's what we're doing. And I think we also must take care not to go too far. After all, if a story is of a woman who is clearly not a fighter, why make her so when there are those who are? If we're going to totally create a new character, should we give her a name of one that is the opposite of what she is. And while we might do this in fiction, non-fiction commentary on literature and history should be way out.

The most stunning example of completely changing the story of a woman in the texts, and not revealing that it is a modern fiction and not what is in the texts, is not actualy from either NeoPagan or a tourism agency, it's from academic and novelist Peter Berresford Ellis.

I think he was even stretching it to describe Erni (aka Erne for whom Loch nErne was named) as Medb's warrior his "Peter Tremayne" novel Badger's Moon (Sister Fidelma #13, NY: St. Martin's Press, 2005), however, he lists her as such also in Celtic Women: Women in Celtic Society and Literature (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm.B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1996 pg. 73). This is now happily repeated by countless NeoPagan websites and by Jessica Amanda Salmonson in The Encyclopedia of Amazons: Women Warriors from Antiquity to the Modern Era (University of Michigan, Pagagon Press, 1991). Admittedly, her work is full of poorly substantiated entries, with fiction and historical women noted as equally valid, but in this case she might be forgiven, for scholar Ellis says Erni is a mighty warrior, so we should admire her great deeds. Mighty is Erni!

Um.....

Before recounting, with citation, Erni's great deeds, I'm going to be perfectly honest, Ellis obviously has better resources than I do, so maybe there's some lost tale about Erne (yeah, I keep changing the last letter, "e" seems more common, he uses "i" and we're discussing his work so, I'm trying to use "i" when referring to his work) that indicates this, that is totally opposite the versions I could find. If so, I shall happily stand corrected and rejoice in the finding of another warrior woman. The problem is, Ellis doesn't cite his sources (bad academic, no biscuit!).

Here are her deeds, the bold emphasis is mine, the italics are not but rather indicate a mistranslation noted on the website source, see note next to it:

13. The chaste Erne, who knew no art of wounding,
50] the daughter of loud-shouting Borg Bán
(the warrior was an overmatch for a powerful third)
the white-skinned son of Mainchin son of Mochu.

14. The noble Erne, devoid of martial spirit, (footnote here notes correct translation is 'free from venom')
was chief among the maidens
in Rath Cruachan, home of lightsome sports:
women not a few obeyed her will.

15. To her belonged, to judge of them,
the trinkets of Medb, famed for combats,
her comb, her casket unsurpassed,
60] with her fillet of red gold.

16. There came to thick-wooded Cruachu Olcai
with grim and dreadful fame,
and he shook his beard at the host,
the sullen and fiery savage.

17. 65] The young women and maidens
scattered throughout Cruach Cera
at the apparition of his grisly shape
and the roughness of his brawling voice.

18. Erne fled, with a troop of women,
70] under Loch Erne, that is never dull,
and over them poured its flood northward and
drowned them all together.
The Metrical Dindshenchas, English: The Irish

That the more accurate translation is "free from venom" is actually interesting, given this would say that she's not only not a warrior, but also harmless "even for a woman." Poison being commonly considered a "woman's weapon" by those who have throughout history seen us incapable of actual confrontational violence.

For comparison, the The Edinburgh Dinnshenchas tells the same tale and includes:

Erne with pride, a pure union,
Daughter of good Borg the Bellowing,
She fled — no deed to boast of —
Under Lough Erne for exceeding fear.
The Edinburgh Dinnshenchas, Whitley Stokes, ed. and trans., Folklore 4 (1893) pg. 476, English The Irish pg. 476

The Dinnshenchas of Dubthar, from the Book of Lecan, offers other versions, again with much fleeing and concern with chastity the "insult to the honour of her noble father." The Irish manuscript series, Vol. 1, Part 1, pg. 186-189

None of these show much warrior tendency, is there a version that does? If so, I'd love to see it and also know what period it is from. Are these the changes from an earlier warrior tale? Sadly, I'm very doubtful that any such tale exists.

Understand, that I see no shame in a woman who is not a warrior to run from a potential rapist. In fact, in most cases, I recommend running to non-professional warrior women, usually after disabling the guy in some way to increase your odds and make him easier for the authorities to catch. However, such mannerisms do not speak of a mighty warrior, a professional warrior according to Ellis, a warrior to a warrior queen. I do not understand why he'd claim she was. So maybe there's a tale I can't find?

I think as we tell ourselves stories from the past in ways that are more empowering to us than may have been intended by the original tellers, that we avoid going this far. And avoid making out that a woman in the story is something quite opposite of what she is. I don't really understand what motivation Ellis might have had in calling Erne a warrior, I'm sure he's seen all versions of this (and maybe another). But while we might want to find more warriors in the ancient stories, we need to look harder and not change the tales completely.

Text copyright © 2011 Kym Lambert
Photo of Lough Erne from Department of the Environment (DOE) Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) used under terms of Open Government License.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Wonder Woman---a rant from Goddesses to costumes to Goddesses

 If you are looking for something on the 2017 movie I have Wonder Woman Rant Redux - muscle, space and physical feminism I intend to do a review after I see the movie early in June.

It would be impossible that Wonder Woman has nothing at all to do with why I'm here writing this sort of stuff. But the truth is, I can't really remember how much of an influence she might have really been. It seems a lot, but I also realize some issues with those memories. Did I discover Greek Mythology or WW first?I don't know. Did I gravitate to Greek polytheism when about 9 or 10 years old due to WW or was I drawn to her due to my devotion to Artemis? I don't remember which came first.

But as the the new pilot, the recently revealed costume from it and all the blather on the web about it, she's been on my mind. Oh, and that blather several months ago about her new costume in the comic, which most people talking about the new TV movie one, mostly, don't seem to know about. Frankly, the costume even before the recent discovery I made wasn't the biggest deal. Stupid but not the biggest deal. But then, when I started reading her book (and it was always sporadic that I got them), she shortly there after wasn't wearing the Iconic Strapless Bathing Suit anyway. The Amazons had left Earth to save their powers, but Diana Prince stayed behind, gave up her powers and the Wonder Woman moniker, took up karate and opened a boutique. In some of the issues at the time, she wore a white jumpsuit, with flat soled boots, no less! So get over "she's in pants, ZOMG!" she's worn them before.

Her first TV appearance was probably largely inspired by this "Mod" version and was also blond. I'm going to admit that I liked that part, being, you know blond (which is my real hair color, although I hennaed most of my adult life, I'm black to the blond now). And she wore a skirt, with dark tights and blue boots. And was played by Cathy Lee Crosby. I don't really remember it much, but I remember being thrilled by the movie. I'm told it was actually very, very bad, but, hey, I was 12 and desperately looking for any good female character to watch. Even if it wasn't a very good show...after all, TV was not particularly good back then, anyway. And I remember desperately wanting a blond Goddess worshiping, ass kicking role model. (yeah, I know, poor little 'underrepreseneted" white girl, hey, I was a kid)

But no one else did so that didn't make it, and when the next pilot came along it was Lynda Carter in the Iconic Strapless Bathing Suit, WWII style...sort of. Actually the style was a bit shorter legged than the original shorts version, which followed the original skirted.

Which sort of brings us to just how much and how often the costume changed. It changed quite a bit over the years and I can hardly catalog all of it here. That's been done anyway by Carol A. Strickland at A Brief History of the Wondie Suit. She gives a great run down, but I mostly disagree with her opinion wise. See....I really sort of always hated the suit. Perhaps it was that I got some sense from the Diana Prince era of pants and sensible shoes, but fighting crime in a bathing suit just never made sense to me. Even when Carter's WW moved into the '70s with a higher cut leg.

While I won't replicate the whole run down that Strickland does, here's a look at some of the original sketches by Dr. William Moulton Marston, who created (with a bit of help from his wives) Wonder Woman under the pen name Charles Moulton. I do apologize, I have found this on so many sites and blogs that I cannot trace an original source.

This is the original suit. Note, no red boots, although they were there in the beginning once she was actually in the comics. The strappy sandals, hmmm...just another nod, such as the lasso and cuffs, to Marston's bondage lifestyle? Keep the straps in mind, now, we'll come back to that later. (However rather than diverge into Marston's lifestyle, including living with two women and believing that bondage would bring world piece, I will let SheWire.com speak in Wonder Woman Amazon Princess of Bondage and Submission? A Brief History)


So here's just a few examples of Wonder Woman costumes through the years. Again nothing compared to the Strickland run down linked above. It wasn't always the Iconic Strapless Bathing Suit anyway, but even that changed a lot.

WW wasn't always Diana, either, several others grabbed the title for awhile. Two redheads, one named Artemis, had short lived careers (that was when Diana wore that black bike short get up instead) and short lives once they donned the Iconic Strapless Bathing Suit. Hippolyta, Diana's mother, took the role, her adopted sister Donna Troy who had become Wonder Girl took the Wonder Woman moniker in a somewhat more metallic costume.

Earth 1, Earth 2, New Earth, Pre-Crisis, Post-Crisis, Bronze Age, Silver Age.... The thing is, comics get deep into changes, alternate realities (including a cross-gendered world with the Manazons), more changes, total redactions and, yes, just plain clothing changes. So holding on to a really very silly Iconic Strapless Bathing Suit seems, well, really silly. But all those things did seem to cause a stir so, this costume thing has been an issue since they changed WW's costume in the comics last year.

The first look was fully jacketed and Athletic Woman blog did note this as an issue, as, SOMETIMES Wonder Woman was drawn quite muscular (once could probably do another 15 page index like Strickland's just on the muscle, but the '04 pics will do for now) and the jacket hides the arms. However, the jacket comes off.

And the top has straps! It could stay on. Okay, it has a lot of straps, right down the arms. Which, if not stretchy would create some interference with muscles. But, seriously, this is a nod to WW's bondage origins, no? Which is part of her history, after all.

Me, I like the new comic costume, mostly. I like the pants, but would really like them a bit less painted on. I like the lower heel on the boot and really do not give a fuck that they're not red (because, who need red boots? why is that such a big fucking deal? Red is glaringly cheesy color for boots), but I'd like them a bit, clunkier, but then I'd have given her combat boots so.... And I like the darker look, although I know a lot out there hate it.

The darker look goes with the also very controversial greater violence that Wonder Woman has apparently been displaying. A lot of people are having a hard time with that too. Me, it almost brought me back into buying the book when I heard about it, but...well, we'll get to that in a moment.

The TV version, however, is trying to play it both ways. They have the pants and the blue boots, but are going with the baby blue and the higher boot. It's just all to bright and shiny for me, I do like the dark urban look most people are hating on. But mostly, why would anyone want to go back to the strapless bustier thing...it's always been the stupidest part of Wonder Woman's costume. Seriously, do you want to be in a fight worrying if your top is going to fall off? You move around enough and no amount of boobage is going to keep that on. It's just not.

Of course, the costume in the NBC movie/pilot is all we have to rant on, because it's all we know at this point. I'd love to see way more muscle on a live action Wonder Woman today than Adrianne Palicki is packing in this photo. I'm leery of her action acting chops, as the only thing I've seen her in has been as a rather vapid victim, but it's unfair to say she doesn't have those chops based on that. I hope she works out a bit more though. I wish Rhona Mitra got the role, dammit!

A big part of my plan here was to note, that pants, maybe even tight pants, are totally appropriate for an Amazon warrior despite the usual Greek toga image that most people think:



But, over all, I wonder if I care anymore. Because while I needed to rant on the costume fervor, while checking this all out and considering starting to buy the book again after all these years, I discovered something. Remember, the first bit here, in some way the Goddess worshiping Amazon Princess Diana is part of my early memories of worshiping Goddesses myself, as well as probably inducing an early interest in the warrior path. I actually did worship Artemis and other Greek Goddesses early on, as They were the ones I had learned about, the ones I knew. And Artemis is such a perfect Goddess for adolescent girls. But She stayed with me for years after.
Then in a very powerful way, She turned me over to An Morrígan. It was actually a pretty traumatic experience for the pacifist I was and culturally mind boggling as I ended up finding myself having to explore Gaelic culture far more than anyone I knew at the time was.

And now....Wonder Woman is facing a new enemy, a Triple Goddess out to destroy the Amazons. Yup, that would be The Morrigan. This is just horrific to me.

I've been trying to find pictures and more information, but so far it seems only two names and pictures exist or at least have made it to the internets. One is Bellona...um, wrong culture assholes! The other is Anann!!!! Damn! They got one right?! Most polytheist claiming to worship An Morrígan usually seem to miss Her! No clue as to the third, can't find it anywhere. Nope, not going to give DC money to find out.
(ETA: Apparently the third is Enyo, who is a Greek Goddess of war. So apparently while they use the title The Morrigan, they are using only one Irish Goddess, and then the Roman Bellona and Greek Enyo...which is just more Whiskey Tango Foxtrot!)

So, the hells with the costume, to hells with who plays her in the most recent live action depiction. I'm offended! I'm done! I've had it!

The first Goddess worshiping role model is fighting my Goddess? Or a cockeyed, ignorant rendition of Her. Insulting! ahem

I don't know what to think any more. Really, I just wanted to rant about the costume and my worries about the casting. I wanted to start reading the comic again, now that perhaps I an actually sort of kind of afford to do so. But instead...another little piece of my Pagan childhood has been destroyed. And not due to the loss of a fucking Iconic Strapless Bathing Suit.

ETA: Here's The Daily Beast's commentary on the script for the pilot with the eight cringiest moments...at least one would hope they're the worse.

ETA April 2: photos from filming show Palicki in a somewhat modified costume, obviously some of the feed back out there got picked up. Red boots, why that was such a big deal is beyond me, but I do approve of the lower heel. Slightly darker, less shiny legging with stars, the last was another thing that really wasn't a big deal to me. But the strapless top, waaay too low to be remotely reasonable, just is so bad. In the videos taken at the shooting, you can see her picking at the top and I think her posture over all suggests that she feels very uncomfortable and is focused on whether it's staying up. Seriously, give the woman some straps!

Wonder Woman an all comic images are owned by DC Comics, the image of Palicki is from NBC and Warner Brothers, who can own that damn costume.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

A place where things come together

As I wasn't writing much about Gaelic spirituality at the time I started this blog, having started at a time of conflict, flux and burn out in the community and taking things more private for awhile, I have realized it might seem a sudden switch to some of my readers. While the intent of this was always to be about various aspects of the warrior path in my life and how they came together, the focus had been on fitness, self-defense and popular culture. That itself might seem quite a mix to some. But it really is in my interest in the warrior ways of ancient Ireland and Scotland that all those things come together, the physical training and the importance of story.

I'm not good at compartmentalizing. Somethings need to be, however, and therefore when I wanted a space to blog about homesteading and to share with my husband, I made another blog Dùn Sgàthan Notes, I also joined a blog for horse advocacy although between three of us we seem a bit too overwhelmed by it all to post much. Then, in order to share space for writing about things related to The Sarah Connor Charm School, I created a blog for the group. This last is the most likely to have cross-posting. (What am I saying? The only thing I've posted there so far has been reposts of things from here. I hope this doesn't annoy those who might read both.)

But this blog is for all things related to women on the warrior path, however diverse that may be for me. It's a place where things come together for me in my practice. Now I also have a real space location that brings things together, as well.

For years now I've had limited space for exercise equipment. Usually a small room, which usually means that things overflowed into the rest of the house.It lead to some bad habits, like making a stop by the computer in between sets, removing my focus.

When I was planning to build my own house, it was actually pretty much centered around the idea of having a gym. A gym/temple, really. But I never built my house. A decade ago we moved into the "in-law apartment" of my parents' home. Since their deaths, we now own the house...and we still live in the apartment. I wasn't ready to use the rest, the apartment is smaller and easier to care for and heat and it just doesn't "flow" into the rest easily. But we decided to find ways to expand into the rest. And, it of course, started with a gym.

Moving the living room fufurniture out of the way (come spring most of it will be moved completely out), we put down padded flooring, moved in the weights, benches, heavy bag. We added a pull-up and dip tower, as I have given up, for now, on finding the perfect bed frame to turn on it's side. When things are moved out more we'll have more open space, especially to work the bag, and probably get more equipment over time.

And in the far corner is a shrine. I may be the only Polytheist, especially the only HARD Polytheist, out there who has a shrine in her gym with a statue of An Morrígan and a figure of Sarah Connor. I hope these are joined by a figure or picture of Scáthach or other literary Irish warrior woman, or many, but I'm not finding the right one(s). I'm looking for well done and muscular, tattooed would be nice but muscle is more important. I have some great ideas in my head but a lifetime frustration of never being able to get such images out onto paper (my sister got that talent). I do have a list, a sort of prayer, instead:
I serve the War Goddesses
Badb and Macha and An Morrigan, whose name is Anand
Fea and Nemain, Bé Néit

I follow in the footsteps of the banfénnidi
Macha Mongruadh
Ness ingen Echach Sálbuidi
Medb ingen Echach Feidlig
Creidne
Scáthaig Buanand ingen Ardgeimme
Aifi ingen Ardgeimme
Bodbmall
Líath Lúachra
Luas Lurgann
Étsine
Bréfne
Símha ingen Chorrluirgnig
Bec ingen Conchoraig
Lithben ingen Aitreabhthaigh

Truth in our Hearts, Strength in our Arms, Fulfillment in our Tongues
(ETA April 2012: I have changed this over this time period, please read this post on why and how it reads now)

There are photos all around of Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor. Some, now collected in a frame, are worn, faded, damaged, having gone from apartment to apartment with me for years, the first for 20 years this year, taped to the walls of various "workout rooms." Likewise, there are similar pictures of Kathy Long. Later these were joined by Demi Moore doing one-armed push-ups as Lt. Jordan O'Neal in G.I. Jane (this also includes the statement "Failure Is Not An Option" at top and D.H. Lawrence's poem "Self-Pity" at the bottom) and Sigourney Weaver as Ripley 8. But now I have more pristine photos of Linda, with autographs, including one of us together. I'll be printing more from ComicCon to go up, too.

But while An Morrígan and Sarah Connor grace my shrine, it is not to say that the two images are the same. One is a representation of my Goddess, the other is a representation of a role model. As a hard Polytheist I do not believe that the Goddesses and Gods are archetypes. They are real and They are many. Even a Goddess I worship of the same name as a Goddess you worship might not even be the same Goddess. We are limited, They are not so much, we do not always know who They are, only Who They tell us and They may tell us to meet our always limited understanding.

And while I might be limited, I'm not completely simple either. I have no problem with both worshiping Goddesses I believe are very real and alive and being inspired by stories both ancient and modern. For me Sarah Connor and other modern role models are as potent as the ancient ones of Ness and Scáthach and other literary figures who I also do not believe are degraded* Goddesses but humans in the tales.

So this space, this very sacred space to me, is filled with images that represent the warrior path for me.c It allows me to stay far more foused and mindful, more reverent than I have been for some time when working out with weights. I meditate, usually sitting on the balance ball, before the shrine between sets. I focus on what I am doing, what I am offering. Because working out is worship for me, a practice that deteriorated by bad habits, which now I am breaking.

There are no offering plates on this shrine as there are on my others. The offering is my blood, sweat and tears. If something else is demanded there, it will be given, but the focus here is on the work of the body. And where that meets the spirit.


*Yes, I know even some Celtic scholars these days use "euhermerized" but this word actually means the opposite; it actually means that the historical becomes mythological, that humans become Deities, not the other way around.

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Text and top photo copyright ©2011 Kym Lambert, wolf picture is currently photoshopped but a similar one will go there Drawing copyright © 2002 Aaron Miller
Photo of Linda Hamilton from Terminator 2 copyright © 1991 Carolco, currently owned by Pacificor LLC