On being a priest

This evening I feel twitchy in a non-physical way.  I feel as if I have forgotten something or I’m supposed to be doing something but I can’t think of anything it could be. This non-physical twitchiness is something that I am starting recognise more easily as promptings from those I serve to do something in particular.  This time I believe this twitchy feeling means that I need to write and, in particular, to write about being a priest.

This isn’t the first time I have written about priesthood but the last time was ten years ago so it’s probably about time I revisited this topic here.

Others have written clearly and in depth on a range of questions around being a priest. Most notably John Beckett has written several posts on priesthood the most recent one being “15 Roles of a Pagan Priest – How Many Is Too Many?“.  Also of fairly recent note is a series of three posts by Morgan Daimler starting with “Priesthood in Service to the Other – Part 1: The wide view“. If you haven’t read these posts I recommend you do so if this is a topic that interests you.

My thoughts on priesthood are coloured to some extent by these authors and to some extent by my own experiences and observations. There are a few public individuals in the UK that I feel embody something of what it is to be a priest. Each of them do this in different ways and some may use other titles.  I’m going to name a few of them and try and give some reasons why I consider them to be priests.

The first is Cat Treadwell and you can find her online at The Catbox.  She is self employed as a Druid and Priest.  Much of her work involves celebrancy but she also runs workshops, presents talks, offers divination readings, writes books and blogs and supports people on a personal basis too. Cat serves her community in many ways and is a public voice for druidry and paganism generally.  She does all this from a place of personal challenges and struggles with depression which she speaks about openly. I have still not met her face to face but hers is a voice that speaks from the darkness.

The next is Nimue Brown who writes at Druid Life. Nimue is also an author of books and blogs and she has also been presenting more talks, I’m not sure of she’s been doing any workshops.  My perspective of Nimue is of a woman with a whimsical sense of humour that has worked to overcome a number of personal challenges to get where she is today. She’s a mother, a folk musician and a keen observer of her local environment.  She is a different sort of Druid to Cat and I’m not even sure that she would claim the title Priest for herself but in my mind she is both Druid and Priest.

What these women have in common is that they are both Druids and both pretty public figures. They also both speak from a place of deep experience with extremely difficult personal challenges.

My next example is Dr Jenny Blain. Jenny is a retired academic and a Heathen.  She is a polytheist and animist with strong ties to her local land spirits or landvættir. It is harder to put into words why I consider her a Priest or in Heathen terms a Gythia. One aspect is her ability to lead ritual, another is her ability to share her knowledge with others both through her books and via more direct teaching but there is more to it than that. She is a Seidr worker, that in itself is not a simple thing to put into words as there are many forms of seidr. A basic and probably incomplete description is that seidr is a method of entering an altered state of consciousness which can be used to work magic or journey for various purposes.

My final example is Lorna Smithers. Lorna is a an author, poet and mystic. She has a deep and personal connection to her patron deity, Gwyn ap Nudd. Her priesthood is one of personal dedication and part of her dedication is a call to communicate some of what she learns and experiences through her writing and talks. She is, in my opinion, a priest due to her very direct service to her patron.

I could go on. I have deliberately chosen to highlight a few female examples of priests here but there are a number of men I also consider to be priests such as Damh the Bard, Adam Sargant, Phillip Shallcrass, Geoff Boswell, Robin Herne, Mike Stygal and Rich Blackett. Most of these are Druid types as this is the community I have been part of the longest. I’m still getting to know individuals within the Heathen community.  The main things they have in common are that I know them either personally face to face or online and I respect their opinions.

All of this serves to give a few examples of the complexity of what it is to be a priest. More recently I have started to think of myself as priest as well as druid.  I am not an author beyond this blog as yet (who knows what they future might hold). Currently I don’t give talks or presentations although I have in the past.  I can write and lead group ritual although I don’t do a great deal of this now. I have acted as a celebrant in the past too. None of these things are why I am using the term priest more lately.  I am a priest because I serve a number of deities and because I am a shrine keeper.

I am sworn firstly to the Herd Mothers and to the Ancient Mother I know as An Cailleach. I feel they are still training me and gradually making me ready for further service.  I also serve within my limited abilities Maponnos, Gofannon, Mannanan, Brigantia, Loki, Ran, Aegir and the daughters of the oceans. Some of these I have served longer than others, some I am still learning about but I honour them and give them offerings. This is why I call myself a Priest and Druid.

 

 

Marked by Gofannon

In late January I took part in an online conference about Brighid. I will write more about that another time but during one of sessions there was a meditation that led to Brighid at a forge deep in the land. My experience during that meditation was a little different. I met two smiths in that forge and one was Gofannon. He didn’t tell me his name but then neither of them spoke to me much. He held me steady while Brighid pulled from me what was needed to be reworked. He was working at one area of the forge and She was at another but it was clear that this was a shared space for them.

The material Brighid pulled from me was reworked and then placed back inside me in three parts. One band for each of three cauldrons within me. Gofannon again held me steady while Brighid placed these bands within me.

While this forging was taking place though Gofannon placed a band round my upper right arm. It was about an inch wide and copper. I knew it was fairly simple in design but couldn’t make it out clearly. I felt it though. I felt it so very clearly and in the days since that experience I have felt it again and again. So this week I decided to try and find a physical version of this arm band.

I looked in a few places online but couldn’t find anything at the right sort of size that looked even close. Upper arm bands in copper that I found were either simple very narrow bands or elegant twists and spirals, not at all what I was seeking. The closest items were wrist bands and I needed something larger. One of the crafts people I looked at was RuneCastCopper and I’d seen their work in one of the Asatru UK Facebook group that I am a member of so I contacted them. I wanted to get something made by a fellow polytheist if I could manage it. Fortunately they are happy to make a piece for me and today, a Thursday which is the day I devote to Gofannon, I made the payment for this commission.

What was placed round my arm by Gofannon is being given a physical manifestation. Soon I will have a devotional item of jewellery for Gofannon to wear on Thursdays just as on other days I have items of jewellery dedicated to other deites.

 

 

My gods are calling…

First it was Epona nudging to write a blog post and I did. Since Then I’ve felt Her more strongly and been thinking about Her a lot as Eponalia (18 December) approaches.

Then it was the Divine Smith with a mention of Sucellus as a possible Smith for followed a few days later by a blog post on Sucellos that got me thinking and then this one on Sucellus and Smith gods which resonated strongly.

Around the same time there was a surge of activity online about Loki triggered by a Wild Hunt column (this one). There’s so many options I could link to for blog posts and articles that followed this original article but the Wild Hunt have published this one about the Lokean Community and this one so-called Loki and the Resistance.

I often see posts about Brigid because I’m in Facebook groups about Her and there’s not been any unusual activity there or elsewhere about Brigantia that I’ve seen but today an Cailleach made Her presence felt via an unexpected post about Her. Maponos has remained fairly quiet so far too.

It doesn’t surprise me that Loki should use technology to make His presence felt more strongly. That’s how He first pushed into my life. It doesn’t surprise me that Epona should provide judges through contacts with other people, She has always been subtle with me. The Divine Smith though, using both personal connections and technology, that did surprise me. I don’t do any form of smithcraft. My only attempt at regular craftwork is knitting. I’m not the fastest or best knitter by any means although I am confident enough to knit things for others. So I still find it a little surprising that Gofannon  has remained a presence in my life. Perhaps He wishes to remind me to keep persevering with various things in my life, perhaps He likes my respect for the craftspeople I know. g

Three of the gods I regularly make devotions to are making their presence felt more strongly. They are each calling to me, not with a specific message but to be more aware. They are challenging me to take up those tasks that I feel I struggle with and move onwards. And I believe they are each letting me know in their own ways that I am heard and that I am not alone.

Reflections on 2017

A new friend on Facebook recently asked what people were proud about from the past year and that got me thinking about the past year a bit more resulting in this post.

The first half of 2017 was quiet on this blog because I had signed up for a an online course in counselling skills.  I completed and passed that course and at the time I investigated the possibility of gaining further qualifications in counselling skills.  After much thought and investigation into options and costs I decided it is not the right time for me to commit to trying to gain further qualifications. I am however prud of having completed the course successfully and gaining new knowledge and confidence.

In the last year my devotional practices have continued to develop and deepen.  I’m now beginning to settle into a devotional practice where I am spending some time in prayer and contemplation on six days of the week.  In the last year as well as relaxing into my relationship with Loki I’ve also started developing a devotional relationship with Gofannon.  It’s almost two years since Loki started making his presence felt in my life so both of these deities are still relatively new to me. I also continue to be a flame tender with Clann Bhride, a practice I began on Imbolc 2015.

I’ve now been involved in volunteering with the Riding for the Disabled Glasgow group for just over a year. I’ve learnt so much since I started there and I’m still learning more including finally having riding lessons myself.  I’ve wanted to learn how to ride horses for as log as I can remember and this year I have been able to begin that journey and it’s just wonderful!  I literally cried tears of joy after my first couple of lessons, that’s how much it means to me.

This time last year I had completed counselling sessions to help me with managing my social anxiety and had also just come off medication for anxiety and depression.  I have remained off medication this year and have not had a relapse.  I still get the occasional anxiety attack with social situations and have had a couple of more severe panic attacks too this year but I am still improving.  I have managed social situations this year that I could not have done last year.  I am proud of my progress.

My daughter had been attending dance lessons with Indepen-dance for a full year now.  She’s absolutely loved these lessons so I know this will be continuing for the coming year.  My daughter has also joined her school choir this year and has experienced her first performance with the choir outside the school as part of a carol service.  She also had a solo to sing during that carol service.  I am extremely proud of how well she did, not only with her singing but also with her behaviour during the service.  Sitting quiet and still is not an easy thing for my sensory seeking, bouncy Aspigirl. So proud of my girl!

This year my son completed his Bronze Duke of Edinburgh Award. To complete this award he had to do some voluntary work, develop a new skill, do some physical activity and complete an overnight camping expedition with the group from his school taking part in the Duke of Edinburgh award activities.  His physical activity was hillwalking, his new skill was pyrography and the voluntary work was organised by the school and took place at an allotment.  I am incredibly proud of his achievement!

Last year (2016) I went through the assessment process for adult autism diagnosis.  I didn’t meet diagnostic criteria.  Perhaps part of the reason for this was that at the time I went through the process I was also suffering badly from stress and anxiety.  Needless to say I didn’t agree with their conclusions at the time and I still don’t agree.  It’s still something that irritates.  I have been peer recognised as autistic by a number of autistic adults as well as by my wonderful kids and that recognition means a great deal to me.  I am immensely proud of being neurodivergent and probably autistic. I still hesitate over calling myself autistic because I didn’t meet the diagnostic criteria during my assessment.  I know many within the autistic community are perfectly fine with self diagnosis and if I had never attended and failed the assessment I’d be happy with self diagnosis too. Failing the assessment makes me doubt myself and means I often don’t feel comfortable in saying I’m autistic without adding the story of not meeting diagnostic criteria.  Anyway, this year I have becoming more aware and more confident of myself as neurodivergent. If you are unfamiliar with neurodiversity as a concept here’s a good staring piece on the neurodiversity paradigm

My other area of achievement this year is still very much a work in progress.  I have begun writing a book about being a polytheist.  It will have a great deal in it about my own practices.  My tentative working title at the moment is “Life as a British Polytheist”.

To all my readers on this last day of 2017 I hope you take pride in your achievements whatever they may be and I wish you a very happy 2018!

 

 

Changes to my altar

In the last couple of weeks there have been changes to my altar.

Meet the Smith, for Gofannon.

The Smith
The Smith

Today arrived a wonderful, amazing gift.  A traditionally made Zuni Coyote fetish crafted by Aaron and Thelma Sheche. I am deeply honoured to have been entrusted with this fetish. It’s actually two coyotes carved from the same stone bundles with an arrow head and pieces of turquoise.

Coyotes fetish
Zuni Coyote Fetish

Both the Smith and the Zuni fetish are now on my altar, shown below.

Altar 6 September 2017

An introduction to Govannon

Sometimes a presence comes forward and makes itself known.  Sometimes there are odd coincidences, thoughts unrelated to other things that stick in your head, lead you to search, to look for a name, to try and find out more. Recently this has been happening to me again.  I have no idea why but the name, or at least one name, came fairly easily – Govannon, Divine Smith.

Many cultures have a divine smith in their pantheons, possibly one of the more widely known ones will be Hephaestus of the Greek pantheon.  Many of these smith gods are depicted as a mature male and some are physically impaired in some way.  Many are said to be difficult personalities, loners or aggressive. And many are patrons of much more than smithcraft. For example, the Voudon and Santeria Orisha Ogun, from my limited understanding, has strong links to various forms of technology and many skills connected with the use of blades including surgery. He’s also known as both a fierce warrior and a protective father.

Part of my searching over the last week has been around smith deities of other cultures to try and gain insights into who Govannon was in the past as so little is known of him.

Govannon is a modern varient of the Divine Smith title, and from what I can tell, not a very scholarly one at that.  Older names include the Welsh Gofannon, the Old Irish Goibniu and the Gaulish Gobannos.  I think the main reason I find myself so drawn to the name Govannon over other forms is that I live fairly close to Govan and I’ve wondered in the past if there could be links between that place name and the deity.

That tantalizing possibility of a link between modern Govan and the deity Govannon has led me to do some research on the history of Govan. I found a picture of Govan as it was in 1757, and it looks like a nice village.  I discovered that before the ship building days Govan was well known for weaving and that in 1756 the Govan Weaver’s Society was formed and that the Govan Fair has a long and sometimes colourful history.  I also learnt that Govan used to be called “Meikle Govan” which translates to great or large Govan. Govan has an old parish church which now houses some even older grave stones known as the Govan Stones, these include some very impressive examples of hogback stones.  It was while I was reading some of the information about this that I noted that around 870 AD the capital of the Kingdom of Strathclyde moved from Dumbarton Rock to around Govan owing to a slight problem with Vikings.  I’ve learnt many things but nothing that gives any evidence that the place name Govan might have an ancient link to Govannon but if there is ever a place which over time could be shown to imbue the essence of a god of craft and technology I’d think Govan would be it.  It is a place with a long history of craftmanship and technology. I’ve developed a great deal of respect for Govan with this journey into its history. Oh, and the motto of Govan, still evident today in Govan High School among other places, is Nihil Sine Labore, meaning “Nothing without Work”.

So where does all this leave me?

I am being led to get to know a deity who was probably once greatly revered by those that followed crafts but one about which very little has survived.  He almost certainly would have been the patron of smiths of all kinds.  It’s possible that, like Goibnui, he had something to do with feasting and hospitality. There are some inscriptions to Gobannos that survive, the best currently being the Berne zinc tablet with an inscription that reads “Dobnoredo Gobano Brenodor Nantaror” and translates as “to Gobannus, the world-traveller, dedicated by the people of Brennoduron in the Arura valley” according to the information on Wikepedia about the tablet. So there maybe an aspect of being a traveller in his long lost mythology too.

Broken threads forming a very patchy tapestry. Faded images, partially formed pictures of something mystical and magical. An opportunity to forge a new understanding, a new relationship with this old mysterious figure.

Hail Govannon!