The post below was written a year ago. I am recycling it for two reasons. Firstly, the topic engages the recent ‘fictional paganism’ discussion by way of exploring a story’s immediacy and connection to the lived world (and offers a glimpse into my own journey of pagan theology). Secondly, and most importantly, I injured my finger yesterday, so am forced to type one handed–which is not fun!
Reading my previous thoughts on a subject is challenging. I am often embarrassed at my inadequacy as a writer, or wish I had been more concise. In the retelling of this particular tale, I have to smile. It has been sunny here in County Cork for the past five days–a rare phenomena–and I’m reminded, once again, how easy it is to love Éire when the sun shines. But the test of true love, or at least the right to rule…. Well, here, let me hush and tell the story:
I am taking a very long way round in expressing my recent thinking on ‘pop-up gods’, to coin a bad phrase. There are certainly as many ways to experience and engage with one’s spirituality, or religion, as there are people. My own took a fateful turn when I invited the Ancestors to work intimately with me during initiation, and again when I moved to this green island of madmen and poets. You see, one winter I took a drive…
In far western Mayo, on a blustery gray winter day, I ventured to Achille Island. The bleak expanse of rock, jagged and forlorn, was desolate, cold, and mostly uninhabited. Standing on a remote pebble beach, a bracing wind in my face, I felt the mighty power of the Atlantic. I marveled at the hardy souls, human and other-than-human, who call that place home and love it with a fierce passion. The Cailleach reigns supreme in winter, and feeling the inhospitable landscape around me as an embodiment of her, I shivered. And then I remembered …. all the stories when the hero meets the hag.
The hero is often out on a great adventure, seeking kingship, when he encounters an old woman in need of help or requiring a favor. Occasionally the favor is sexual, and often explicitly so. For those who reject or spurn the old woman, disaster befalls, but for those who willingly and gladly give what she asks, they discover, to their amazement, a young and beautiful woman who bestows upon them the greatest gift a warrior hero could ask for: sovereignty.
Standing on Achille, in the fierceness of winter, I understood that for a King or Queen to rule justly and rightly they needed to love the land in ALL her aspects. If they wouldn’t lay down their body for the blighted winter, they did not deserve the lush spring and verdant summer. I scrambled then to search out folklorists who had studied the Cailleach, and Professor Gearóid Ó Crualaoich’s book, The Book of The Cailleach; Stories of the Wise-Woman healer, beats them all! In it, he discusses the role of Irish oral tradition, as both therapeutic and literary, and he exuberantly delves into the history, displacement, and reinterpretation of the Autonomous Female — the Land.
At this point, a part of my brain screeched to a halt. “Wait! That’s just anthropomorphizing a natural phenomena.” *Just*. Can you see my Western centric world view at play? I took a Great Power…the rich and luscious consciousness that my head rests upon, and denigrated Her to the position of *just* a natural phenomena. Oh, how I weep to remember it. How lost and human centric to imagine the complex Being I live upon is *just* a piece of dirt! I imagine somewhere in my body a liver cell, right now, is thinking the same thing about me.
It was at this point I began hungrily searching out other connections between myth (or folklore) and the bountiful, conscious non-human persons that populate the land around me. My first was Áine, Crom Dubh, and Eithne…which was fitting, because Lughnasadh is a special Gate for me. Even then, it took until this year, living as I do now by fields of barley, to hear for myself the wonderful story of Eithne, the grain. How beautiful that at some time, some one lovingly listened as this sacred non-human person shared her story. Her blowing yellow tresses have now been cut…she is deep within the earth with Crom, and a remnant of her sacred body rests on my altar.
Lest I neglect Áine (how could I), many of my dear friends have felt the touch of her kiss at Lough Gur and seen her gentle dancing feet. Her swelling belly embues the land of southern Limerick with a dance of dream, sexuality, and fertility. She is the autonomous female of that place, and she alone determines which persons, human and other-than, thrive and flourish upon her. I adore her, and she holds my heart close…. yet…… she is not here, on my ridge, where Mór Muman spreads her skirt wide. In this BlackWater valley Great Munster has a different face.
Oh…and back home in Austin…who could not love Quick Silver of the water, the great Power of Barton Springs. She is lively and laughing, a white flash with long silver hair. Her arms reach out to hold you and her youthful face is glowing.. Yet, she is not here. I reach my long arm of awareness toward her and the Great Lady Tejas, and I can…touch them. But why? Yes, I love them. Yes, I wish them well. Yes, I feel bound to them. Yet, why would I ask them to come here, to help me here?
There are some Great, Old Powers that are outside of earthen borders. They exist in a darkness so black, a space so cold, that their consciousness is as my pre-frontal cortex must seem to my big toenail. They are larger than one continent or another, one atmosphere or another, one galaxy or another. In all of these lesser spirits, is consciousness. My word…. what type of person is Mars, our neighbor??