In 2009 I wrote a short post “So what is a Brythonic Polytheist?” in which I gave my definition of what a brythonic polytheist is. Every now and again either myself or others I know get asked what it means to be a brythonic polytheist or what we do. The most obvious thing is to point them in the direction of the Brython website and that is what usually happens. I want to reflect a bit on what this path means to me though and it may be that doing so here will be of interest to some of those reading.
In my earlier definition I wrote:
“I would currently describe a brythonic polytheist to be one who believes in the the gods of the peoples living in mainland Britain before the Romans invaded. In my case I am particularly interested in the gods that may have been known and worshipped in what is now the South West of Scotland.”
I still feel this definition is a good one and I am still particularly interested in learning more of gods known of in South West Scotland.
The deities I have reasonably strong ongoing relationships with are Epona/Rigantona (for me they are the same being), Brigantia, Maponos and the Cailleach. I am fully aware that the title Cailleach is both Gaelic and more modern than a pre-roman deity would be but this is the title I have for a being I have come to know. In my experience this being is ancient and strongly connected to the land so to me she is brythonic even if the title I have for her isn’t. I also occasionally say a few words directed at Taranis but feel he is a more distant connection than the others. I’ve written other posts about these deities and I’m not going to go into further detail about what they mean to me here.
What I will say is that part of my full moon practices include offerings to Brigantia, Epona/Rigantona and the Cailleach. I used to have other devotions focused on Maponos but I haven’t done any of those for quite a while and as yet have not replaced them with anything else either.
I seem to have stronger relationships with beings perceived to be feminine and I suspect that this is partly due to the fact that I am female and partly due to my own past experiences. I think that my relationships with masculine deities are to some extent focused through the relationships I have with the men and boys, young and old, in my life. When all is said and done what it is to be male is a mystery I will never fully understand and masculine deities for me share that additional layer of mystery.
Oddly enough though throughout my life most of my closest friends have been men so I think I must find something inherently attractive in that masculine mystery that draws me in. Why this is not reflected in my relationships with deity I am not really sure, perhaps my spiritual relationships balance in some way my physical ones.
So having and developing relationships with brythonic deities is a core part of what my path means to me. Developing those relationships takes time and is of necessity a very personal aspect of my path. No-one else can have the same relationships as I do with my deities simply because they are not me. Each person on a brythonic path will need to develop their own relationships. I may be able to share information about things I have found to be important but that does not mean others will find the same things important in their relationships. We are unique individuals and our relationships are also going to be unique.
There is however, much more to my path than my relationships with deities. Other aspects that are very important to me and some of those I know on brythonic paths are the land and the ancestors.
There are two aspects of relationships with ancestors that are important to me.
The first is my relationships to those of my immediate family line, those I have known that have passed on. It is to these people that my dark moon observances are dedicated. None of these people shared my spiritual path but that isn’t important to me. What is important to me is the memories I have of them, the lessons learned, the family stories. These dark moon observances for me are about keeping their stories alive, my memories and the love I still have for them.
The other aspect of the ancestors that is important to me is that nebulous collective of those that lived and walked these lands in the past and the echos they have left upon the landscape. Go back far enough and some of these people may have shared some aspects of spirituality with me but I’d be a fool to believe that we would have much in common in our practices and probably not in our beliefs either. But again that’s not really important. Those of that nebulous past survived, and some would have prospered, on these lands. They worked through the cycles of the seasons, lived with the weather and they made changes to their environment as they did so, some small, some not so small. We who come after them are living in the world their lives have made, just as our distant descendants will live in the world we leave behind us. I don’t have a regular part of my practice that is focused on connecting with these ancestors but sometimes when I am visiting ancient sites I will feel a connection with them then. Most of the time the interaction is more of an acknowledgement of their presence than anything but sometimes there are energy exchanges. Sometimes those exchanges seem to carry messages with them but it is often hard for me to interpret this sort of interaction.
Closely linked to all of these beings is the Land. Some of my practices are based in my home or garden but I need more than my home environment in my spiritual path. I need to get out under the sky and walk on the land. Often I need to be somewhere where there is a significant presence of water too (although I’m not that fond of being out in the rain). It is being out in the land, particularly by rivers or the coast, that restores my sense of internal balance. Many of my most profound spiritual experiences have taken place while I have been out on the land in some way. It is hard for me to put this aspect of my spiritual relationships into words. It is not a particular area that I need for this connection, I don’t have a very strong tie to any particular place. There are some types of landscape that I connect with more strongly than others but I have come to realise that with a bit of effort I can find this balance anywhere. I have more difficulty in finding this sense of balance in cities but most cities have parks and rivers where I can recharge and connect. I relate better to more rural landscapes though and the longer I am in a particular area the easier to find and stronger the connections become in that area. Of those I know following a brythonic path I think my connections to the land are the weakest and yet even for me this is a vital aspect of my spiritual path.
This has become a rather long post so I’m going to leave it here. Interestingly in trying to explain some of this here things I had not put into words before have become clearer in my own mind so it’s been a useful exercise for me and I suspect one that will lead to further reflection.
2 thoughts on “What does it mean to be a brythonic polytheist?”
Excellent post. Illuminating.