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

Sunday, November 25, 2012

On Being a Horse Warrior

I have written elsewhere that my thing is not about living in the past, whether it's the homesteading thing, the Gaelic Heathen thing or the warrior thing. There are elements of the past which I do wish to bring into what I would hope would be a more sustainable future, however.

 Centurion's idea of a Pictish horse warrior -my review
When it comes to the horse thing, especially when connected to the warrior thing, I do have to admit to loving certain romantic notions. But I'm also clear that I"m not likely to be charging off fighting others with sword and spear from the back of my might mare. I'm certainly not going to be fighting with a bow anymore than it was likely the Picts or Celts did, for all it's a popular Hollywood image; forested land makes the bow/horse combination problematic for all that both might exist there. It's far more useful to combine the two on open Steppes or plains, which tends to be where it is evident.

So I was recently inspired by a call for submissions to write an article on what the reality of the term is today. Now, I'm not one who usually considers activism to be a major part of the warrior path, if you've read this you know I do believe it's about being ready for physical fights first. However, "horse warrior" is a term that has been used in the anti-horse-slaughter world for at least two decades and I'm going to stick to it. It fits that animals whose ancestors who fought with us and for us for so long,and still some do in various ways, gets to have people fighting for their lives.

 As someone dedicated to a War Goddess who is also associated with horses, it's become an important part of what I do, both activism and taking care of them for Her. It's a major part of my spiritual practice, in fact, and at least in spirit is tied to the warrior part.  Sure, I have fantasies of what it might be like to ride a true war horse. Someday I might even do some sort of reenactment games with my mare just for the fun of it....although I might be more inclined to Mounted Cowboy Shooting than to the SCA sort of thing (although the SCA stuff is closer to home, I haven't found a sign of mounted shooting around here). But that's just play.

As I note in the article, if Saorsa, my mare, ever becomes a bit more sociable in dealing with strangers, we might see about getting into a more realistic role of Search and Rescue. Right now she's likely to want to eat anyone she fines, although she does love looking for us and I think that her curiosity would probably make her a potential for a scent horse rather than just a horse I ride while I search.

The publication didn't happen (this is a different anthology than the one I've mentioned before which I have submitted a much larger article to) and I was left with this article that combines my story with Macha calling me back to take care of horses so I decided to throw it up on Shadow of the Hooded Crow so please go to the link below:

Warriors for the Horse Goddess


 copyright © Saigh Kym Lambert

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Getting ready for the big Revenant Cataclysm

 Everyone's talking about the Zombie Apocalypse*. Okay, not everyone, a friend recently asked what was meant by that, but a lot of people are. Sometime between the release of The Night of the Living Dead in October of 1968 and Joss Whedon's recent reason some might want to vote for Romney, as in he'll finally bring the fun to us, this has been code for what is otherwise known as the Shit Hitting the Fan (SHTF) or The End Of The World As We Know It (TEOTWAWKI) among many preppers and just gory geekery among the geeks. As someone who falls into both catagories, yes a geeky prepper, I have often used the term, despite the fact both words are wrong. And the first is both inaccurate and culturally appropriative. 

The actual term, in my not so humble opinion, should be "Revenant Cataclysm."

First, let's get "apocalypse" out of the way. Until recently, and it is given as a definition now, it didn't mean a horrible event, it just means "revelation."  You know, like in the Biblical book Revelations. It means the revealing of the cataclysm, not the cataclysm itself. Okay, got that? That's easy.  We really could ditch the religiously-tied-in modern meaning and instead just say what we mean. "Cataclysm." 

"Zombie" was never used in Night of the Living Dead. No, not once. It appears, however, to come to the current usage through fans of the movie somewhere along the way. But it is a grossly inaccurate term and culturally insulting. I'd been trying to figure a way to really get into this, but felt it was beyond my scope. However, Amy Welintz broaches what a real zombie is, and reasons the term may be so prevalent, in "A Zombie Is a Slave Forever." I have yet, but there is also a collection of essays called Race, Oppression and the Zombie: Essays on Cross-Cultural Appropriations of the Caribbean Tradition edited by Christopher M. Moreman and Cory James Rushton for those interested in exploring the issues further. And I think it needs exploring.

"Revenant" which means "returned" is any of a number of types of animated corpses. In most European lore, these are solitary appearances and usually only visit loved ones. However, the term is actually broad enough I feel it fits better. You know, if you need something besides "undead" or "living dead" ...the original movie term.

Of course, I have failed in my attempts to get "Zombie Apocalypse" replaced with "Revenant Cataclysm."

And, so, here I have to admit I do hang with those who do use "zombie" on a regular basis. I have friends who do Zombie Kickball, who do Zombie Walks and Zombie Races. I am considering doing one of the races myself, because I like to run but competition bores me unless there is some fun added. I have even recommended a phone app for runners. I love a plethora of "zombie" movies....from the very good to the very, very bad. I also am friends with several fiction authors, almost all of whom have at least one zombie story of some length published or being shopped.  No one in this group is taking my suggestion of Revenant very seriously. *sigh*

As a prepper, I also admit to using it as a code for SHTF and to talk about preparedness. Of course, for the most part my homesteading blog is where the build of prepping comes up, like the food issues. Using the ZA or, rather RC, concept makes it sound more fun. You know, more shooting, guilt free shooting as your targets are already dead, that sort of thing. In the real world after SHTF it's likely to be far less fun in that way.
If you're    ready for a zombie apocalypse, then you're ready for any emergency.

Even the CDC's Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response jumped aboard the idea a couple of years ago, although they seemed to get nervous about it when we had some weird cannibalistic crimes earlier this year. But the general idea is that if you're prepared for the Zombie Apocalypse, you're prepared for anything. Of course, they don't get into the fact that in the RC you'll need weapons and in general seem to miss the fun parts of it. However, when I took a bit of a breather from writing this I happened upon a story today that the U.S Marines and Navy are using the Zombie Apocalypse scenario for training.  So there you go.

Of course, the CDS's advice is what most "prepping" looks like, at least the prepping done by the non-preppers. This is just everyday stuff you should have set if you do not identify as a prepper.  Preparing go-bags, preparing food, water, clothing and sanitation for hunkering in. Things like that. Things that you should already have had before Sandy hit this week, so that you were either ready to evacuate or stay put with the possibility of no electricity for awhile.

When it comes to the long term, preppers or survivalists, go rather beyond this all. Food storage, which can be anything from the "bunker-style" MRE collecting to the "homestead-style" production and traditional preserving (we're on this end) but for many there is the in between mode using canned and dry goods from warehouse stores being very common, is a key factor. Never mind getting through a week-long crisis, what if it's years? And, of course, weapons. Because if it is years how are you going to defend what you do have from those willing to take it by force? Weapons are not brought up in the short-term preparation because so much of it is about leaving the home and going to shelters...shelters which generally won't allow you to bring weapons. And for those hunkering in, instead, these are situations that most believe will not last long enough for looting and raiding.  But, of course, we know that they often do. I do, personally, recommend learning to defend your home, which means don't just go out and buy weapons but know how to use them and know how to secure your premises so that you are less likely to have to.

As the Revenant Cataclysm is actually not the most likely scenario, then what are we preparing for. This, of course, varies from prepper to prepper, often very widely. And, yeah, there may well be some that actually are preparing for the undead coming to eat their brains, but we won't discuss the nutritional value that those particular organs might have nor not have. Some are preparing for nuclear destruction, those are the folks with the hardcore bunkers, but some of us more homesteady types figure that's not really worth surviving because it would just be surviving. Not living. I want to survive something I can live in after. And nuclear war is bad for the horses, which don't fit in bunkers like dogs might, if there are no horses then I see little point. Which is also why, despite my serious (obsessive) fandom, I don't discuss Terminator Cataclysm.

There are those who expect some sort of cosmic cataclysm, such as was expected due to computer failure on Y2K and now most are waiting for the "Mayan Apocalypse" December 21, 2012. The problem with that is that the Mayans say it won't happen and, frankly, I'm going to believe them rather than the rather odd combinations of folks who are convinced it's the end of the world. Again, there's that cultural appropriation thing. 

There are certainly an awful lot of preppers, some proudly using the term "survivalist," which most of us find uncomfortable due to it's identity with such types, who are expecting the government to turn on us at any moment. This scenario went totally over the edge when Obama took office. You know he took all our guns away, right? Oh, wait. No, actually he has since signed two laws expanding concealed carry. It must be a trick, however, as these folks are still claiming that's what is in store for us if he wins again. However, I've never been that type (but that might change if Romney gets in, because I think Whedon is on to something even if he's using That Term *pointsbackuptovideo*).

A lot of us homesteading types, many of whom are far left of the "gov'ments gonna come take our guns" (ggctog) types actually figure The End Of The World As We Know it has come already. The economic systems we've had foisted upon us of global economy and factory food production is utterly failing, as is our dependence on unsustainable energy which also has led to Climate Change (which led to Superstorm Sandy and will to others). We're fighting back by eating locally and even growing our own food and looking for better sustainable ways of commerce when we do go outside our locals. We are working to fix our petroleum habits and, over all, lower our carbon footprints. This, again, isn't as exciting as fighting Revenants trying to eat our brains, and is far more for the homesteading blog. For the most part, these efforts are actually to try to make these transition into what follows less violent and less cataclysmic. Some folks don't even own guns. However, others of us see that there is likely to be some upheaval; if for no other reason that we know some of the ggctog types who make I wish for them not to have all the guns.

So, no, I'm not expecting the Revenant Cataclysm, but I do believe that being prepared, in all ways, for it does indeed mean being prepared for anything that will come. Except nuclear annihilation but that's why it's called "annihilation."  As it probably won't really be as fun as having walking dead people to shoot at, we can at least have fun with the preparations. But, seriously, I'm asking you, let's work on this term. Revenant Cataclysm really needs to replace Zombie Apocalypse. Go forth, prepare and fucking push this term! Alrighty!

Meanwhile, you probably don't want to get me on what Pop Culture has done to werewolves.

*yes, I know, Wikipedia is a lazy citation, but almost everything else does seem to be advertising someone's ZA product and I have a cold so I don't care. Also, WP does seem to do okay on Pop Culture stuff...being a Pop Culture medium that those heavily into Pop Culture seem to get serious about.

 copyright © Saigh Kym Lambert

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Dancing in chaos

Dancing in chaos is what it feels like right now when I try to organize my thoughts and try to write. So many things coming together and other things seeming to explode.

You may, or may not, have noticed that I changed the name of the blog to the same title I have for the online War Goddesses shrine. I'm not even sure right now what the point of having both is. But that page was, of course, going to house Musings on the Irish War Goddesses, which I intended to be publishing online by now. Probably earlier than now. However, that's on hold as it may be going in a devotional anthology (it was accepted, but I have yet to get the contract so it's difficult for me to as yet say it is going in). (EDIT: and indeed a realization about publishing has come up, so things are in flux right now) I do still intend to post in on the web, I do retain the rights, but it seems only fair to wait at least a few months after publication. Of course, I'll post about the anthology when I do have news to post.This summer I also put together another article for another anthology but I've not yet heard back about it. This all "got in the way" of blogging or figuring out how to "dress up" the online shrine better.

But I have some topics which will be coming up soon here, I hope. Still not sure about the shrine.

I still intend to keep the various warrior path material going here, but I may get more and more on the Gaelic culture and focused on Badb, Macha and the Morrígan. Hence the name change. But it might not change that much. Hard to say, I need to corral some of my thoughts for posts first so we can see.

I have been toying with the idea of doing workshops, which I haven't done for over a decade now. Being isolated geographically is an issue. Doing stuff that seems, well, scary and "violent" to some who might have venues I could do it at has always been a problem. That I don't offer fluffy fantasies and will tell people things like "no, going into the Otherworld with good intentions will not actually protect you from harm" (last time I was invited to that store to do a workshop and I didn't even say that "just going into the Otherworld probably indicates your intentions are questionable, anyway").   Shit like that. I'm considering online workshops but don't have the internet access that would allow it yet and when that changes, well, I really have no clue how to work in that way. But, it's stuff I'm looking into.

So, hopefully there will be new material here and on the other blogs soon.

 copyright © Saigh Kym Lambert

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Fat and the Pagan Community

The first real blog post I wrote here was The Abuse of Thin=Fat. Some readers may know I am again a Personal Fitness Trainer and I work from a Health At Every Size paradigm. My concern in fitness is about helping people find their strength, not reduce their size. This is in part because I don't like to lie to people and the idea of permanent weight loss is a total lie for 95% of all who lose weight. And this is when they are maintaining the actions that worked for them to lose weight, although everyone from fitness instructors to doctors love to make accusations of "cheating" or "being unable to comprehend how much they are eating." There is also, in fact, no actual evidence that being "obese" is itself a health hazard (there are just too many studies listed here for me to pick one). But another reason, coupled with these, is that I simply believe that being strong and powerful is more important than being tiny, and you really can not get smaller and not lose strength (without abusing dangerous drugs and totally screwing your health for life, so let's leave it at you can't do it).

This morning it came to my attention that much loved Pagan media personality (who I admit that I never heard of but there is a lot going on in Paganism I don't pay attention to and the whole podcast thing somehow I just don't get) David Grega died apparently from cardiac arrest at the young age of 27. Grega was also fat,* this prompted a blogger to write a post A Pagan Taboo, Obesity which gives a great deal of common misinformation regarding the correlation of fat and health. For every single one of his unsubstantiated claims at the end there are links disproving them at Truth Behind Fat: References.

This got a lot of other Pagans going, some of which is brought up in A Tragedy Creates Potential for a National Pagan Discussion on Health. This involves a lot more misinformation, a lot of "we should discuss other health matters but, of course, obesity is a major health issue" type of stuff. Well, no, not in the way they mean.

As is brought up at the beginning of Jane Raeburn's post Pagans Discover Fat Hate, she points out that we really do not know what caused Grega's heart failure. As far as I can tell we don't know. It is just assumed that it was because he was fat. However, the post on Patheos points out that Grega had started a group known as Pagans promoting Healthy Active Tendencies (PHAT) and there it appears that he had actually lost 100 lbs. It would be just as easy for me, as a HAES advocate, to say that his death was caused by that weight loss, by his dieting, by over exercising, by emotional distress from self-shaming. But I'm not actually saying that, because I don't know what caused his death and it would be just as wrong to assume that the weight loss had anything to do with it as it is for those claiming it was because he was fat. Either way, it's 1) victim blaming and 2) based on absolute ignorance of the facts.

Keep in mind that several years ago a guy only about 10 years older than Grega, which is still young for heart disease, who was a very physically active outdoorsman also died of cardiac arrest. This probably surprised everyone, due to the fact he wasn't fat. It turned out he had an undiagnosed heart defect. People of all sizes and all over the apparent health spectrum do, in fact, just drop dead from their heart stopping. A lot of things can stop the heart. It's consider shocking news when a marathon runner does so, although some will blame overexercising for that (the same overexercising the same might demand fat people do, btw), most are just shocked.

This is, like all victim blaming, in part because people want a magic formula to keep it from happening to them. "Well, she was just asking to be raped, look at that dress!" really means "I'll be safe, because I don't dress like that." "He died because he was fat" means "I won't die because I'm thin" or "I won't die because I"m going to lose the weight, I am."  It's not really an excuse for doing it, it's not the whole reason everyone does it, but it is a big part of why people think this way.

But it doesn't work. Remember one very important thing. We all die. And thin people get all the diseases that are considered "obesity related." I know this, I'm thin and I was pre-diabetic...and getting diagnosed was almost impossible. Lifestyle can affect health, but lifestyle does not always affect size. There are skinny people who eat crap and don't exercise, there are fat people who eat healthy food and exercise regularly. And even "lifestyle" related illnesses are not always linked to unhealthy lifestyles. Again, I ate what standard diet guidelines would claim was a healthy diet, but for my own needs it was too high in carbs and too low so it was spiking and dropping my blood sugar, I was not as active at the time this came up because of another illness which prevented me from exercising at the level I had been use to.

The truth is, we just never know. There are ways most of us can be healthy. However, this has to be separate from thoughts of weight.

Let me say that I do not believe anyone owes anyone to be healthy. If you do not want to eat a certain way or exercise or what ever, that's your right. You do not owe me, the Pagan community or society at large any commitment to change your health or fitness levels. And, as Jane said, the path to health is a personal choice. If you feel that involves dieting, then I'm probably not going to change your mind anyway, but it's also just your choice. Now, however, I'm going to talk as a HAES personal trainer. If you listen to me, it's your choice, but I am going to be opinionated here.

Fitness is not about size, it's about what you can do. We all differ in both size and capability, but except in extreme cases, most people can build their fitness levels up. They can become stronger, more flexible and gain more endurance than they had before exercising. They can improve their chances of getting certain diseases, through exercise and diet, although there are many illnesses that are not remotely affected. But all this comes regardless of weight loss.

In fact, striving to lose weight can be greatly detrimental to health for several reasons. Dieting can have adverse affects on health. Then there is simply the fact that self-hatred is just not healthy. And the weight-loss paradigm does not and cannot build self-esteem.

I believe in promoting health for those who want it. I want to see the Pagan community do more to promote real health. I do not want to see fat shaming and hatred and common lies to be a part of it. We should be healthy because, IMNSHO, it's funner to have our bodies at their best. Fitness should be fun , not punishment and not torture. And what is fun for one Pagan isn't going to be fun for another. The way I  train on the warrior path is likely going to seem horrible to someone who might be a priest/ess or a filidh. If health is the path we choose it should be a celebration without shame, without blame.

Here are some links for those interested in the HAES approach:
Health At Every Size Community
Dances with Fat so many great posts, you might want to start with 11 Reasons to Stop Focusing on Weight
The HAES Files
Big Liberty home of Truth Behind Fat: References

*note as a HAES trainer and Size Diversity advocate I use the preferred reclaiemd term "fat" rather than the misguided medical term "obese" or the common term "overweight" which falsely indicates that there is a particular weight one should be and to "over" that means something.

 copyright © Saigh Kym Lambert

Monday, July 9, 2012

Movie Review: Brave

While all around me went *squee* upon first hearing about this Pixar/Disney film set in Scotland with a feisty redheaded lead, I just sat back and waited. I try not to get my hopes up when it comes to movies with either strong female characters or set in Gaelic culture, let alone both. But all the hype had a certain charm.

There seem to be many feminists who take it to task for two things, often both. One the "why does the heroine have to be a princess?"  Of course, marketing is the answer, and culture programs the populace for certain marketing codes to work. And in our society "princess" is a strong marketing tool when aiming at young girls. Of course, Disney is largely responsible for the programming to begin with.

I have no problem with it though, largely because if you're going to subvert a concept you need to use the concept, and this does twist the concept quite impressively. In fact, even more than I had hoped. Certainly the concept of rebelling against social norms and gender expectations could be done in a story of a young peasant girl, these issues certainly bridged all classes, unfortunately. However, "princess" does sell and it allowed for certain story devices which would have been much different otherwise. We'll get to the peasant girls' stories at some point. (and I'm not talking the peasant girl who becomes a princess standard).  In fact, we have that this year as well in The Hunger Games.

This actually brings us to a second complaint I have seen made by other feminists: Why in order to be seen as strong must female characters have to just be rebelling against societal expectations of women?  To me this the answer is pretty self-evident ....because we do have to! Still, today.  So why should we have a story set in Medieval Scotland where it's not a problem. I've already discussed my belief that pretending that we had equality in the past that we, in fact, did not have such equality doesn't really do anything to move us forward.  I do believe that as girls growing up today are still getting horrible messages about their role in life, it helps for them to have heroines who actively fight such convention. This is not to say it doesn't also help to have role models who live in worlds where such conventions do not exist, but I do not believe we can set those in a past which, in fact, very much did. Again, this year we got another young archer (don't you wish you owned an archery shop right now?) who lived in such a world in The Hunger Games.

One of the things we need, in general, are more stories with strong young female warriors, that way all these issues can get covered. And stories with more strong female characters in them. But we can't complain when sometimes these things don't happen in all movies because we'll always find it falling short somewhere.

I think the important part is while we have a princess, she's not pining for her prince to come, in fact, that is exactly what she doesn't want to happen. When the princes to come-a-courting, none are anything to pine for (although one thinks he is and we'll come back to an issue with him and his father). But while the depiction adds humor, perhaps having one truly dashing who she still didn't want would have worked just a bit better for me. She wants her own freedom, she challenges for her own hand.

But the real story isn't about romance or denying romance, but rather on subversion of another Disney Princess story trope...the Mommy Issues. There is no Wicked Stepmother who must be thwarted here, there is a loving mother who is suffering in her own ways over the battle with her willful daughter. This isn't about a family torn asunder by the death of the loving parents, but rather by the issues at hand. And this is a story about healing those tears. With literal use of symbolism of it. I see this as a rather touching subversion.

And this too is another reason I see the rebelling against convention aspect important. Because this isn't just about giving a role model to girls but also I believe it speaks to parents. Because today many are still pushing unhealthy gender conventions. Conventions which are neither good for the future women girls are becoming but also often get in the way of them being the daughters they should be with the kind of parents they need. 

I have a couple of quibbles. Okay, there could probably be more, as any movie set in a culture I care about but really the ones that stuck out were the woad and the horse. I think I already say enough about The Question of the Woad already, but I have to say here, whether you believe it was ever used or not, it's just an annoying anachronistic Scottish trope now (thank you Mel Gibson).

Okay, so the horse, Angus, was cute. And I realize that Clydesdales are the most recognizable Scottish horse now. But it's a very modern breed, as Clydesdale originates only to the early 1800s. Yes, that source claims that they derived from knights' chargers, as this is a common myth that the film and so many others take to heart. The problem it, it's not remotely true.

"As for the large draft breeds. Most people who read this will know that the Belgians, Shires, Percherons and other really large draft breeds were bred as beasts of burden and not to be knight's great horses, but I'll repeat that fact anyway. The Great Horse of the middle ages was not a draft animal. Heavy draft horses are not intended to run fast, or carry big men in armor. They are bred to be steady and pull heavy objects such as a plow through thick clay to turn a field, or heavy dray wagons. They have a plodding gait and simply are not fast enough."  Medieval Horse Guild

The draft horse is derived from the Medieval rouncey type horse, the farm horse owned by farmers not nobles. A fine animal, smaller at that time (likely much like current draft ponies than the big guys) but not a charger. The charger was usually a clean legged horse, such as Andalusians, as can be seen in the art of the period. The exception is the feather-legged Friesian which is not a draft type at all despite the hairy feet. And there were a lot of different horses in Medieval Europe, including Scotland, most likely the type of horse ridden by Angus would have been different than he would have provided for Merida. Yes, Angus is cute. But so are Highland Ponies (which are, actually, probably also mostly from the rouncey) and the Icelandic which was possibly a very popular type throughout much of Europe before the gaited horse lost favor (and despite the link above, is actually the classic palfrey type). Or a fine charger if we wanted the horse to show her rebelling by riding one not deemed proper for a lady as a palfrey would have been (although "palfrey" does not mean "slow" or "unspirited").

So yeah, I went off on a tangent that most probably see as trivial because horses are kind of a big deal for me and I'm often annoyed. I managed to avoid going into it too much in the Centurion review because there was so many other things to complain about.

On the other hand, the hounds delighted me. I also loved seeing the Pictish stones this time around, as much as they annoyed me in Centurion. That is about anachronisms too, they wouldn't have existed in the time period of that movie, while some would have dotted the landscape in Merida's time (although others would already have been buried from sight). It just seemed touching to me.

The modern, but cute, draft horses and woaded MacIntoshes aside, I utterly loved this movie and if I had a daughter would be thrilled if she loved it. I think there's some reminders here for those who are raising daughters about control and conventions that still exist, as well. And it's fun, which is an important bit if it's going to convey all the lessons it strives to.

And, yeah, I really kinda wish I owned an archery shop right now. I hear there's a sales boom going on.

 copyright © Saigh Kym Lambert

Thursday, April 12, 2012

A new War Goddess project....

Virtual shrines have sort of been one of the things that both perplexed and intrigued me. I mean, given that until a few years ago I felt I wasn't supposed to really write much about the Goddesses I served, it seemed unlikely I'd do it. But given how isolated I am from the people who I share such involvement with Them, and being that I do feel compelled to talk and connect about the subject and given that I will be publishing this article at some point (no, really, the next stage is about to commence, I think I see a faint glow which might be the end of the tunnel...of course, after awhile you do imagine these things) it seemed like maybe something to do. It would be an entry for the article (which would be nice if I do decide, as I might, to put it up in PDF of the things left to work out), as well as offer related links without muddling up the page the article is on with it too much. Like this blog. And perhaps I'll even link to specific things here. I might post other things on the website instead of here or have a more "stable" home for them on the website (the blog format does seem to let older things get lost in the shuffle, I have already started this with things that were originally here or another blog for the Sarah Connor Charm School and will likely do it with the SCCS blog as there is more material there).

And, as I brought that project up...I guess I did sort of feel that if I could do all that for a fictional icon, I needed to do a bit more for the Goddesses I serve. You know, now that I feel I'm permitted.

In some ways I think Sarah Connor became a stand-in during the years where I felt reticent. Certainly she has also allowed for connection with women who are not Pagan but share many of the same goals that I feel are as inspired in me by my Goddesses as I do in such fictional figures. It's allowed me a broader view with things and while I don't believe in the whole "the Gods are just archetypes" thing, I do feel that They can often be reflected in icons in our culture ....speak to those of use looking for that through such characters. I suppose this is why my gym shrine features a Sarah Connor figure as well as An Morrígan. It flows for me.

But now it's time that I do this as well. Flying with the Hooded Crow, Running With Mad Hounds - A Virtual Shrine to the Gaelic War Goddesses  

As I said, it's only a start. I am open to suggestions. Meanwhile, I should be starting another stage with the article this weekend or early next soon will I have it published I can't say. But, really, I see a glow.

 copyright © Saigh Kym Lambert

A wee update on my dedication prayer

In the year or so since I first published this about what you might call my offerings of sweat, the prayer has altered for me. I realized I had left out two of the banfennidi, Síona and Cámha, connected to the Fionn tales. I also became uncomfortable including Bec and Lithben who are known only for their conversion, both into Christianity and away from being warriors and causing the conversion of their fathers' and their fathers' kingdoms, to Christianity. (The Lives of Saints from the Book of Lismore). I realize I have no problem with the fact that several are known primarily for dying, it is where many of our stories come from after all, at least the place names. I just realized I did feel uncomfortable including figures who really did exist in order to sell conversion. We'll see if this changes again for me but this is what I use now.

I serve the War Goddesses
Badb and Macha and An Morrigan, whose name is Anann
Fea and Nemain, Bé Néit

I follow in the footsteps of the banfénnidi
Macha Mongruadh
Ness ingen Echach Sálbuidi
Medb ingen Echach Feidlig
Scáthaig Buanand ingen Ardgeimme
Aifi ingen Ardgeimme
 Símha ingen Chorrluirgnig
Líath Lúachra
Luas Lurgann

Truth in our Hearts, Strength in our Arms, Fulfillment in our Tongues

Copyright © 2012 Saigh Kym Lambert

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Stalking and killing unarmed kids is not self-defense

If you've been to the blog before, you know I'm a gun owner and a proponent of armed-self-defense. I feel that as such, I want to make it very clear what stance I take and I believe the defensive-shooting community must take as sane, responsible gun owners and compassionate people. I am horrified to see that some who I had respected are not taking a stand supporting the family of Trayvon Martin and are instead holding out any consideration that Zimmerman, who stalked the unarmed teenager, might have acted in legitimate self-defense. We do have enough information to know better.

I was very saddened today to see GEORGE ZIMMERMAN AND TRAYVON MARTIN: WHAT WE DON’T KNOW from Massad Ayoob, where he alternately says we must "not jump to conclusions" and jumps as high as anyone does. He tried so hard to paint Trayvon Martin in a bad light that he finds the Facebook page of another kid with the same name and plastered his photos up (which will keep showing up on feeds for a long time....even if these photos were the same Trayvon Martin, they show a kid being a kid and nothing more is directly evident from the poses or Rap lyrics). And tries to make out that a truancy suspension trumps Zimmerman having been arrested for violent crimes in the past.

It saddens me because I had respected Ayoob until today. I had been looking forward to him being a voice of responsible gun-ownership in this. But that is not what he offers. He's looking for excuses to support Zimmerman. He jumps to the conclusion that because Zimmerman's Kel-Tec PF-9 (this is not the first time a very public crime has been committed with precisely one of the guns I own, this isn't even a particularly popular gun like Glocks are, but it is inexpensive and small) supposedly didn't cycle through, that Martin must have attacked him and had his hand on it. Well, yes, an obvious explanation for the gun not cycling would be someones hand on it and we do know they had a physical contact before the shooting, although the witnesses differ in how that went down as opposed to what Zimmerman and the police have said. But, consider this, which is actually more likely, that Martin might have grabbed the gun in a desperate attempt to defend himself or that he decided to attack someone holding a gun at him by grabbing the gun? Either way, Zimmerman had the gun out against an unarmed child who he outweighed by 100 lbs.*

We do have a lot of facts
. Including that Zimmerman, against the advice of the 911 operator, stalked this child and left his vehicle to do so. Stalking is not self-defense. It is not Stand Your Ground. It is stalking. It is a crime in itself, but especially when it leads to you shooting down the unarmed child you are stalking.

As responsible gun-owners we can not defend that. To do so seriously insults Trayvon Martin, his family and all victims of such crimes. On a purely selfish level, it makes us and the laws that protect us as gun owners targets and if we lose the rights we have it is our fucking fault for defending those who, in fact, are not protected by those laws but now you're making out that they are.

Let me give you my very personal take on this, which is shaped by my defensive-shooting training which was from trainers traiend by, yes, Massad Ayoob:

NH has "Castle Law." If I were to be attacked in my home and reasonably fear for my life, I can shoot in self-defense. But the fact is that what I expect from the police when they show is to have my weapon taken from me, to be taken in, to be questioned extensively, to feel I need a lawyer and, before today, I would have tried to get a message to Ayoob through my own trainer who trained with him. That would be even if the person lying on my floor, was armed to the teeth and a convicted murderer. I expect to be questioned and have all evidence looked into about whether or not I did have reasonable fear. I expect that if there is doubt about my reasonable fear that I might go to trial, I would hope that a jury would not convict.

I also expect to be vomiting, sobbing and freaking out over having taken someones life. I may believe in self-defense, I may choose to have firearms for self-defense but I pray I never need to use it. It's for the worst of the worst possibilities. I never want to have to take a life. On the other hand, I never want to stand by and let someone take other lives if I can do something about it. I don't want someone to get away with taking mine if I can stop it. I hope I never have to, I hope that if I do have to I do so only because I truly do have to. I accept what I might have to live with both in trauma and legal issues after. But I do expect there to be issues.

On the other hand, if someone came to my door and then left or where just walking by and "looked suspicious" and I followed them with my gun and shot them I would fully expect to be charged with murder. I'd expect to be convicted should a jury of my peers be sane. Or, as I have already noted, be committed for life as obviously given the above I would have gone insane to be able to do that. Again, that would be even if the person were an armed convicted murderer. Because I have no fucking right to stalk and kill someone. Ever. Not even a known criminal. And certainly not an unarmed child.

In fact, if I did this because I thought the person looked "suspicious" and the person in fact attacked me, I do not have a defensible leg to stand on. Because I followed them. I knowingly put myself in unreasonable danger. If I thought they were dangerous my duty would be to call the police and stay in my fucking house and perhaps to call my neighbor that they might be heading towards and warn them of my concern. It is not my job and it is illegal for me to chase after the person. I am not a cop. I am not Batman.

The self-defense community must condemn such vigilantism, especially in light of a unarmed child having been killed. Zimmerman had a long standing history of this sort of behavior, he was not a member of a registered Neighborhood Watch and if he had been he'd have violated the rules by carrying a gun and by stalking individuals. He followed this child, first in his vehicle then got out. If he were attacked, which I do not believe is reasonable to believe but if, then he put himself in harms way by taking the law in his own hands. That take it out of self-defense territory. He was not a cop, he did not have any rights to go after another citizen who was simply walking home.

The fact that the police claimed that they couldn't arrest him because it was "clearly self-defense" is actually bizarre. There is something seriously wrong there. And it must be fixed.

There was no self-defense here, even the Republican lawmakers who brought recent changes to the laws have said that. Even if Martin had been dangerous, there was no excuse for Zimmerman to stalk him. He should have been arrested, if he were not guilty that would be for a trial. He is a danger. Martin never was.

I say again, responsible gun owners and self-defense advocates must stand by Trayvon Martin's family and cry that justice be done. Not just because by defending his killer actually puts our legal right to defend ourselves in jeopardy, and it does, but because it's the right and decent and caring thing to do.

*ETA: There are, of course, other reasons why the gun might not have cycled through another round. One would be if it were in or got interfered with by clothing. One thing I have not seen is what actual shooting experience Zimmerman had. The PF-9 is a tiny gun, he may have jammed it up with a bad hold, while other injuries got mentioned later, I don't know if his hands were injured. He may also have limp-wristed it, which with a Kel-Tec can take away the energy causing the slide not to come back properly. That, of course, could also explain the broken nose. If we're going to jump to one conclusion on this, we might as well visit all of the possibilities.

ETA2: Just adding some more links that may be of interest: What Everyone Needs To Know About The Smear Campaign Against Trayvon Martin (1995-2012)
Dishonoring Trayvon Martin

ETA3: I also realized I was remiss in not including the petition calling for the arrest of Zimmerman in this shooting. Prosecute the killer of our son, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin

 copyright © Saigh Kym Lambert

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Movie Review: Centurion

I've avoided watching this movie for a year and a half, after nearly seeing in the theater with the director Neil Marshall and one of the actresses, his wife Axelle Carolyn. I did see their panel at the Chicago 2010 ComicCon the next day. I admit some bias against the film, which makes me sad as I like some of Marshall's work. Yes, I am actually a fan of the generally loathed film Doomsday, I very much like The Decent and Dog Soldiers is not the worse werewolf movie ever, although I'd have hoped for more from a werewolf movie set in Scotland. While I know not to expect much from werewolf movies, I have learned to expect far less from movies about the "Picts."

You'd think, of course, that a movie with painted up female Pictish warriors would be right up my alley, but this couldn't be more wrong in my book. Of course, while I do love the idea of women warriors among Celtic people and I do think that they can be done in fiction, I think much care needs to be used in how it is done. We need to balance out the foolish fantasies of it being a usual thing and look as to where and how such women might have been found.

There were other issues I could see before seeing this movie, and seeing it doesn't help. One is the woad thing, I stand by my belief that this is a fiction, but I also understand it's a long standing one and people won't give it up easily. This goes with the "limed hair" or at least with what that would mean. I do hope that some people out there realize that lime is extremely caustic and no one would use it to "gel" their hair, it would quickly remove the hair and tanners actually use lime precisely for that. The reference (para. 28) to the Gauls doing so seems to refer to the damage done just by using lime water, briefly, to wash the hair, much the same as lye soap can do. It certainly wouldn't have looked like a pile of bird poo on top of the unbleached hair. This movie takes the cake in the stupidest depiction of "limed hair." And ickiest.

And dreadlocks. Now, I'm going to say that the Carolyn and Olga Kurylenko look very cool, in a punk warrior woman sort of way, they might have looked great in, say, Doomsday, and Kurylenko especially seems to be a popular avatar on my FB flist. But it's hardly accurate of the "Picts." The Celtic people (and I do believe they were Celtic speaking, but of a P-Celtic not the modern Gaelic they are depicted as speaking in this movie) of what is now Scotland would have been contemporary to other Celtic people. Which would mean textiles, stunning metal work and all. In fact, we know they had quite a good bit of nice metal work. They probably were also extremely into good grooming, as it does seem to have been a big thing for the Celtic people overall, and likely never would have had dreadlocks. Later periods certainly showed such concerns in the stone work, just check out the curls on the first "king" here (yes, this is at least 9th century, but I just love the hair on this).

Speaking of time periods, put "Picts" in quotes because these would not likely been known as Picts because the event this story, if it happened which it didn't, would have happened in 117 ce (and therefore why do the call the governor Julius Agricola who died in 98 ce, having been recalled from Britain before that) and the term "Pict" was not recorded prior to 297 ce. Before that they probably were known by tribal names.

But "tribe" should not make one think "savage" as the depiction here shows, they were a sophisticated people. We have them shown as stereotypical savage and that's the role they're used for. They are politically correct "Savage Indians" apparently; after all, no one can really claim to be of a living Pictish culture (well, aside from Robbie, I suppose) to complain. That Marshall has actually admitted this much in mind boggling, but he seems quite proud of it. That an actor who played a "Pict" in the movie, one who loves all things Pictish too (which makes me question how he can defend this movie beyond "I needed a paycheck") , said to me on FB that the Picts were "just like your Native Americans" I suppose brings up it up on the "Noble Savage" angle, which is just as stereotypical and insulting an image for both Native Americans and the memory of the Picts. (and while I might hold out a bit for the Noble Savage myself, I see it in the Outlaw Warrior bands, not the society ...and I admit, nobility might have been rare)

Of course, as the "Picts" are the "bad Indians" here, the Roman main character (Michael Fassbender) is the "Good Cowboy." Like the old Westerns, I find it hard to cheer for said fucking cowboy. The Romans were invaders, perpetrators of genocide, I do not consider anything about their occupation of Britain as noble or good. If the 9th Legion had been slaughtered, which they weren't then I'd consider it a good thing. (Actually, this is thought never to have happened, instead they were transferred to Germany.) But we're supposed to be cheering for the Roman protagonist here. Really?

All this was stuff I could have written before seeing the movie. So, how was the movie?

Boring. I have to say just plain boring, other than how annoyingly stupid it was. I was surprised by this, I had expected a lot of action and to say "at least it was a usual Marshal romp of activity." But it wasn't. And I don't think it was just because I could not sympathize with the Romans, it was just horribly paced and lacked any real action. Even the usual Marshall Gorn wasn't there. Seriously, you had people hacking other people up, the mighty heroic Romans even having to look away at one point, and ...meh. Not remotely gory. Seriously? I don't think I was the only one who had trouble staying awake, I think everyone who made it must have slept through the film.

I'd be interested in seeing how someone involved in Roman interests would view the actions of the Romans. I thought they seemed outstandingly stupid. The entire chase was both boring and boggling as I wondered why the hell they weren't caught in the very beginning or just found frozen to death when the all sleep out in the wind. Supposedly Etain (Kurylenko) is this super badass tracker, the "Picts" are on horseback, the Romans acting like idiots yet they continue to stay ahead. Seriously, the movie shouldn't have lasted so long. *yawn*

Oh, speaking of "on horseback" do I even need to mention that the horse types were wrong, which at this point can almost be forgiven as they usually are, and the saddles are way wrong which really can't be forgiven. We know exactly what Roman saddles were like and what ever the "Picts" might have ridden in I can guarantee you did not have fucking stirrups. I am so sick of seeing anachronistic stirrups. And, as in most movies, few of the riders could actually ride, so it's good the horses were way over sized or they'd have been unhappy with all that bouncing about.

Just to add a bit more to seriously hate about this movie, we go into the Big Bad Wolf trope, where wolves are shown to be man-eaters. Which people with an IQ above a turnip should know they are not. This is, sadly making a comeback, I guess we should expect it to come with more "Savage Indian" examples in the future. It's all cool, irrational hate is apparently the in thing.

We of course also have the Helpful Indian Maiden (Imogen Poots) who is nearly a Magical Native American, or rather Pict, except she's only accused of practicing witchcraft. True to form, she and the Good Cowboy "have feelings."

So, what about those women warriors? Again, they looked sort of cool. In stills. Sadly, neither was convincing when the action came about, but they, and their stunt doubles, may just have been asleep. The fight scene with Kurylenko was just horrible and unrealistic even from my view point (remember, I liked Doomsday),because she just wasn't moving they way it seemed she was supposed to. Neither she nor Carolyn appeared comfortable in their bodies. Perhaps this is linked, at least for Carolyn, in her apparent belief that women and men are physically so different that they can't fight the same, a belief she expressed at the ComicCon panel. This was a sad set back from a director who gave us Rhona Mitra and Lee-Anne Liebenberg, both strong women who know how to move, in Doomsday. While I sometimes see potential for actresses to do better action roles when stuck in such a dismal movie, neither Carolyn nor Kurylenko would be names that would make me have much hope for a good warrior film. They seemed totally out of their element. The assumptions around them seemed to be that it was normal, there seemed to be a few other female "Picts" (hard to tell on my small screen).

Kurylenko's Etain had a Rape and Revenge backstory while Carolyn's Aeron seemed to "just be there" (in more ways than one, as, again, she just seemed to be sleep walking through the action). Mind you, I love the idea of multiple female warriors in a movie and I've been thinking about writing something on the need for varying reasons for a woman to become a warrior to be included in a single movie. The problem here, however, is that while it's a popular fantasy, there is no evidence that female warriors were considered normal in any early Celtic culture, including those of what is now Scotland. I believe they existed, I could happily watch a well done movie with them (please, someone make one!) but there would need to make some point of why they might exist in such a culture.

I should note, however, none of the male-on-male fight scenes were really any better than the women fighting. Considering the plot, there wasn't a lot of action in the action in the movie. Did I mention everyone seems to be only half there in this thing?

Of course, much of the dialogue may have been lost on me. Few of the actors could enunciate clearly when speaking "Latin" (English) and even if I could normally follow spoken Gaelic (I can read a little, slowly) I doubt that was spoken any better (I'd be interested in knowing what someone who can normally follow it thought...of course, Gaelic would not have been the form spoken, it would likely have been closer to Welsh as a modern variation). The subtitles were almost totally unreadable on my small screen, apparently no one cared if people might want to watch this at home. Perhaps they realized no one would really want to watch this.

Over all, this movie was bad. Not just for all the reasons I knew it wasn't going to be good, but really just bad. The few things that could have been good just were poorly done and the whole thing seems to just be an exercise in bringing back racist movie tropes in new packaging in hopes no one will complain. And one that seems to have been halfhearted considering that everyone seems to sleep walk through the whole thing.

ETA: I think I actually blocked this from my brain. The symbol stones they showed. Um, why did they look as worn down or even more worn down than many look today? Considering they don't date any earlier than the 5th century ce, and some consider that a romantically early dating (that's 4 hundred years later than the movie takes place). I'm sure if they had them then, they wouldn't have used them to chain up prisoners.

ETA2: I also forgot to bitch about the lack of fortifications in the Pictish settlement. This of course made it nice and easy for the Romans to sneak in, but, no never would have happened. There would have been walls and guards and all that stuff that people do when attacks could happen at any time.

Copyright © 2012 Kym Lambert