Notions of Devotion by Potia

Written for the Brython blog.

Dun Brython

Dictionary definitions of “Devotion” will say things like:

“strong attachment (to) or affection (for a cause, person, etc) marked by dedicated loyalty”

“religious zeal; piety”

“religious observance or prayers”

“profound dedication; consecration.”

(All from www.dictionary.com)

According to the source information on http://www.dictionary.com the origins of the word go back to the ancient Latin giving meanings of “act of consecrating by a vow,” also “loyalty, fealty, allegiance;” in Church Latin, “devotion to God, piety”.

So how do these ideas manifest in a modern polytheist today?

There isn’t a single answer to that question but a multitude of ways. In this post I’m going to talk about some of the ways in which ideas of devotions manifest in my own life.

I consider myself to be devoted to a number of deities, most of them fall within the Brythonic family of beings. Gradually over time I have built up personal practices…

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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!

 

 

The difference in a year

This time last year I was preparing for my wedding day.  Tomorrow will be our first anniversary so it feels apt to do a little reflecting on what changes this year has brought.

This time last year I was on fluoxetine, an anti-depressant, and had been for six months.  I remained on it for a further six months but I am currently off that medication.  It wasn’t the first time I had been prescribed fluoxetine and I have no idea if it will be the last.  Some people feel guilty for taking medication to aid their mental health.  I don’t. I needed the support at that time and it helped.  At present I am doing well without prescription medication to support my mental health.  This doesn’t mean that I am “cured”, it simply means I am in a better place and have some better strategies in my mental health tool box for helping me manage my mental health.

My biggest ongoing issue on the mental health front is social anxiety.  I still have anxiety attacks and I probably always will in some circumstances.  Where the anxiety flares up the most is when I am going somewhere I don’t know or to something with people I haven’t previously met or have had bad experiences with in the past.  I do my best to manage this without running away but I don’t always manage that.  When I do run away from situations I then feel ashamed of myself for giving in.  I shouldn’t feel that shame, I know that, but I do. I have discovered that I cope with things much better if I have a set task or role for the event or meeting.  It gives me something else to focus on and a job to do which help me feel useful.

This time last year I was waiting for counselling through the NHS.  I was extremely fortunate in having some cognitive behavioural hypnotherapy sessions with a hypnotherapist I know while I was waiting for NHS support.  These and my later counselling sessions helped me to work though some things and build some better strategies for coping in the future.

In July I started with a series of counselling sessions with a psychotherapist through the NHS.  I had eight sessions if I remember correctly and they were very helpful.  The therapy approach was a compassion based one, similar in some ways to cognitive behavioural therapy but with out the focus on changing thought patterns, more about accepting and trying to move forward.  It suited me.

One of the more stressful situations in my life last year was my employment.  I had been having problems with work related stress for a few years.  If I’d only had the work stress and no other areas of stress maybe I would have been able to manage better but I didn’t and when you get stress in too many areas something has to give.  I ended up going through the work capability process.  This is supposed to help support you back into work.  It is supposed to help but personally I found it a very stressful process to go through and not helpful in the slightest.  Part of that may well be down to personality conflicts, part down to my mental health, but I have to say that I still feel that part is due to the powers that be deciding that I wasn’t really worth supporting even after 19 years as an employee there.  I could feel very bitter about the whole thing but I don’t.  In July last year I was officially dismissed on capability grounds and it’s one of the best things that could have happened to me!

One of the immediate concerns on losing a job is how you are going to cope financially.  Well I had three months pay in lieu of notice to help with that transition.  As I had been off work on mental health grounds I decided to apply for ESA (Employment Support Allowance) which is a benefit for those not fit to work for whatever reason.  The forms are almost as horrid as the DLA and PIP ones (Disability Living Allowance and Personal Independence Payments) and I had to go to an assessment.  Needless to say I was deemed healthy enough to work.  While going this process for myself I also went through the process of applying for DLA for both of my children.  In their cases I was successful and that meant I could also apply for carer’s allowance.

The experience of going through the ESA process myself has been helpful in that I have a much better understanding of what others go though and can better support close friends and family going through the similar process of PIP forms, assessments and appeals.  It truly is a horrid and very stressful system!

In September last year I contacted the Riding for the Disabled Association Glasgow Group with a view to starting some voluntary work there.  My psychotherapist was very pleased with me at the time for taking this step without her suggesting I try and do something like this.  In October I had my induction and I haven’t looked back since.  I absolutely LOVE my voluntary work at the RDA stables.  I go there on Tuesday and Friday mornings during school term times and usually help with the classes that are on either leading or side walking, whatever is needed.  I’m now in the process of completing forms for my daughter to go on a waiting list for lessons there and to have lessons myself.  After about forty years or dreaming about learning to ride it looks like I’m finally going to be able to do it.  Most of the RDA lessons are designed for those with impairments of just about any type but they do also do a small amount of lessons for those without impairments.  If you want to know more please do visit their website, Riding for the Disabled Association Glasgow Group

In January I started taking my daughter along to dance classes with Indepen-dance. This is another fabulous organisation.  I’ve known of them for years as one of their staff gave music and movement sessions to my son several years ago now.  That wonderful person gave my son about a year of free sessions, enabled by another wonderful person who allowed us to use a suitable room in a place she owned and managed on a free basis.  So it’s lovely to be a formal part of the Indepen-dance family now with my daughter.  She absolutely LOVES her lessons with them!

The school year has progressed reasonably well for both kids.  There’s been glitches along the way but that’s life.  I am blessed in having two wonderful autistic kids.  I have been for an adult autism assessment myself but did not meet formal diagnostic criteria. I have however had a few lovely peer confirmations of my neurodivergent state.  I am proud to be a neurodivergent Druid.

In February I started a Counselling Skills course and I’ve recently received the official certificate for that.  I’ve written about my experiences and what I gained through that process elsewhere.

I’ve also had changes in my patterns of devotion over the last year.

So a year of marriage has seen me though all these things and more.  My wonderful husband Neil has been further developing his photography skills – do look at his site Awen Photos and have a look at some of the wonderful images he has taken.  I’ve also seen much more of Scotland with him than I did before as going out and finding new and interesting places to take photos is something he loves doing.

It’s been a year with many unexpected changes and generally I do not like unanticipated change. I tried to stay employed but that didn’t work out.  The results of that change have been much better than I could have imagined and Neil has supported me though it all.

Thank you Neil and happy anniversary my darling!

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A Prayer for LBGT Pride

My sacred Ladies, I come before you,
A woman grown in a lesbian home
And I pray for the well-being of women loving women.

My sacred Lords, I come before you
As you embrace and love across cultures
And I pray for the well-being of men loving men.

My sacred Loves, I come before you,
Child of a bisexual parent,
Parent of a bisexual child,
And I pray for the well-being of those loving more than a single gender.

Single gendered, I come before Sacred Ones of all genders and of none,
And I pray for the well-being of those who cross boundaries, who re-define what we are as human beings.

I come before all beings here.
I can not know your journeys,
I can not know your fears,
I can not know your pain,
I can not know your joys,
I am not as you.
But I stand beside you in love and respect,
I stand beside you in Pride!

rainbow rose

 

For Loki

I’ve written in an earlier post how Loki came into my life and I’ve also written a little about how my patterns of devotion have been changing.  Saturday has become the day I devote time and thought to Loki.  Last Saturday I received an email that led to me writing something for Loki.  This Saturday I feel I should post what I wrote on my own blog.  The photo is of the candle burning on my altar for Loki as I write this post.

Words from my heart

Loki, you came unlooked for, unasked for into my life.
Bound one, your challenge forced me to face my bindings.
Shifter of forms, you lead me to change.
I honor You!

Burning one, you scare me still!
I don’t know what you see in me,
Why I interest you,
But I know you come calling.

Calling in the darkness
Shining in the silence
Mystery and Mischief

I honor You! I praise you!
I’ve even come to love you.
You, the disreputable friend!

The one that speaks truths no-one else will face
The one bringing joy in the madness
The one whose pain we turn away from
The one who forces us to see
The one who scares us in the night
The one who holds us when we cry
The one who gives us the blade with which to cut our bindings
If…

If we have the courage to turn and take it
If we choose to try.

Uninvited, unexpected, uncomfortable,
Yet welcomed, honored, praised and loved!

 

Healing Needs

Over the years I’ve felt the need to do something of a healing nature.  There have also been times I’ve needed some healing support myself.  Most of the time what I have done has been as an individual. I’ve prayed; dedicated and lit candles; developed and carried out healing spells; chanted and sung; sent out distance healing using Reiki; visited people in hospital and given healing in the form of Reiki and similar types of spiritual healing; and I’ve asked for some of these for myself from people I know that also do forms of spiritual healing.

I have a whiteboard hung on the wall by my shrine to those deities I have special relationships with and on it are the names of people I know of that have asked for healing either directly or via a trusted loved one.

I’m not medically trained.  I’m not trained in one of the many and varied healing  and associated professions  and I’ve never been called to do that sort of vital work.  What I can offer, what I do, can not replace good medical care and expertise.  What I offer is something that can support the heart and soul, something that helps with feeling loved, feeling cared for and supported all of which aids physical healing.

Recently though, I have felt the need to do more.

One aspect of doing more is to take on the role of healthcare chaplaincy coordinator with the Scottish Pagan Federation.  The basics of this role is to ensure NHS trusts in Scotland know where to come to if they wish for Pagan information and support.  Another is to provide a visiting service to any Pagan who is in hospital and would like a Pagan visitor.  I can’t do all of this myself by any means but there are volunteers across the country who will do what they can to support Pagans who find themselves in hospital.

The reality of our current society is that much of the longer term healthcare takes place in the home and community.  Now many Pagans will have some form of Pagan community they can turn to for support at these times, that might be an online community or a moot they attend when well enough but there are many that for all sorts of reasons will not have that support.  Part of the role I have with the Scottish Pagan Federation is to try and provide some support for Pagans in Scotland that find themselves isolated and in need due to their health, physical or mental.  Being able to support people though does rely on someone letting the Scottish Pagan Federation (via their contact form) or myself know that there is someone in need support and that’s not always easy in itself as often we don’t like to ask for support for ourselves even when we need it.

But I felt I needed to do something more.  I felt pushed, prodded, urged to set up some form of virtual healing group.  I bounced my ideas of a few others, some of whom are, or have been, involved in other healing groups.  I wanted something which was open to those of any type of Pagan and Heathen path to join.  I wanted something that didn’t restrict how healing was done or sent, other than it would be virtual.  I wanted something that had a central hub that requests to join and requests for healing went through.  And I wanted something that had the potential to grow.

I think in the Pagan Healing Circle that I have set up, I have planted the seeds.  It’s young yet but already I have close to a dozen individuals who have joined me in this circle.  Healing is being sent out for a couple of individuals already and I hope that as word spreads others will ask for healing too.

Healing requests come to me on a dedicated email address.  I then send them out to the rest of the circle and make a note of what date they are sent round.  The plan is that requests stay active for a month unless we get follow-up requests or feedback of some kind asking us to keep sending.  A minimum of a first name and what the healing is for is asked for, I don’t circulate the whole email I receive, just the request itself.  This is to preserve as much privacy as possible while still providing support and healing.

If you want to know more about this healing circle, would like to join or wish to make a healing request please do email me on paganhealingcircle@gmail.com.

Oh and we’ll happily accept healing requests for beloved animal companions too.

Image thanks to Awen Photos

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.