Patterns of Devotion

I have written in the past about my deepening devotional practices. Today I wish to share with you how my devotions have changed.

I used to honour my ancestors at the dark moon, Maponos on Sundays and, Brigantia, Epona Rigantona and An Cailleach around the full moon.

Then I joined a flame tending cill with Clann Bhride and began flame tending in honour of Brigantia every twenty days.

I can’t even remember exactly when after that point that other things began to change but at some stage I began to honour Epona Rigantona each week on a Friday. I chose a Friday because Epona is my beloved and Fridays in the past have been linked to deities of love (see Wikipedia Names of the days of the week if you are interested).

It felt good to be honouring Epona each Friday so I decided to start honoring An Cailleach on a Saturday. I was now honouring different deities on Friday, Saturday and Sunday plus every twenty days flame tending in honour of Brigantia.

Then Loki came into my life.

I used to consider myself to be solely a Brythonic Polytheist.

Then Loki came into my life!

That bit bears repeating.  Loki brought change with Him.  I wasn’t looking for Sleipnir’s Dam and I didn’t expect or invite Her (at least not to start with) but for some reason best known to the Bound One, He decided to bring Her changes to me.

One of those changes was that I started to include Loki in my weekly devotions.  At first I tried slotting Him in on Thursdays but that didn’t feel right. So I switched to Saturdays, prompted in part by something I had read that suggested Saturdays had been linked to Loki in the past.  I can’t remember exactly what that was now but I switched days and it felt much better.

But it didn’t feel right honouring An Cailleach on the same day so after a bit of thought I decided to move honouring Her to Mondays.  There are aspects in some of the lore which I believe indicate ties to the moon for An Cailleach so this seemed to fit well.

For a couple of moons I tried to keep the lunar links I had made as well but that became a bit confusing as I ended up trying to honour two different deities on one day.  For me that became confusing and I felt I wasn’t doing justice to my devotions to either deity when the days linked into full moon cycles.  I decided drop the full moon devotions in favour of the weekly ones for a moon or two to see how it felt and I’ve kept that change.

So now I honour different deities on four days of the week and another every twenty days. I’m also no longer solely honouring Brythonic deities.  At first I thought maybe Loki would be in my life for a set purpose and then maybe wander off but at the moment it feel much more like the Sky-treader is here to stay.  The current pattern feels good with one exception and that’s the ancestors.

In dropping the full moon devotions I found I began to lose touch with the lunar cycle and the pattern of honouring my ancestors at the dark moon began to slip as well.  I still have my ancestral shrine area and still think of varying ancestors at different times but the more ritualised devotions have fallen away.  I’m still not sure if I need to start on a weekly basis for honouring my ancestors or try and restore the dark moon practice.  I think maybe moving to a weekly based practice would work out best, if so I have my choice of Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday currently free of other devotions. Maybe Wednesday as that day has links to deities of communication.

My journey with devotional practices has not been a swift one but one that has gradually altered to a more frequent family of devotional practices.  And I know that I am still changing and that my practices will also continue to change.

What does it mean to be a brythonic polytheist?

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.

So what is a Brythonic polytheist?

This is my take on what a brythonic polytheist is and others may well disagree.

First a polytheist is someone who believes in the existence of many gods. In my experience they usually follow a small number of these gods and will acknowledge the existence of many others.

Brythonic – the free dictionary gives a definition of brythonic as an adjective of “Of or relating to the Brythons or their language or culture.” and as a noun of “the S group of Celtic languages, consisting of Welsh, Cornish, and Breton “. I think most dictionaries would give similar definitions.

It is the former defintion which applies the most to my interpretation of what a brythonic polytheist is. Historically the Brythons were the peoples that inhabited the mainland of Britian before the Romans came. It is known that the majority of these peoples spoke a range of p-celtic languages. The modern descendants of these languages are Welsh, Cornish and Breton. According to linguists Pictish is generally agreed to have been a p-celtic language.

Using the defintions of brythonic and polytheist given above I would currently describe a brythonic polytheist to be one who believes in the the gods of the peoples living in mainland Britian 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.

The tough part of that is finding out about those gods and developing relationships with them!

How to find a pagan path

Today I was asked how you find your pagan path. At first I recommended reading up on the basics of the main paths and gave the example of the Pagan Federation site and seeing what sparked interest. Further discussion led to me trying to give an overview of modern druidry from the point of view of one who once said she walked in that forest but has now left. I was also asked what my path was now to which I replied that at present if pushed I would describe it as a Brythonic polytheist path.

I later said that at one time I thought I knew what path I was on but I didn’t really know and that doesn’t bother me at all. It has become less about the labels and the destinations and more about the journey. What matters to me most are the connections I make alonog the way. Everything changes, deny that and you deny a basic fact of existence but the relationships you build, the moments of sweet connection – that is where you will find the magic. And in the magic of those connections you can find such joy, such wonder that your life can be transformed anew.

I don’t know where my journey will lead me and I don’t really care anymore. It is the journey itself that has become the most important and each of us must find our own way on that journey. For a while though we can walk side by side or sit awhile and share the view.