Call of the Cailleach

Last week I worked on an article for the Cailleach that I’d promised to do.

I ended up with two versions, one for hopeful publication and one with much more personal information in it that will form the basis of a talk I will be doing at the Pagan Federation Scotland conference on Sat 25th April.

I felt urged to do this last week and I didn’t know why but I completed drafts on Friday.

This morning I heard that the grandmother of a friend died on Sunday. My thoughts are with him and his family in their time of loss.

I find myself wondering at the timing. It is often around death and grief that experiences of the Cailleach can be the most profound as I know from my own expereinces.

I felt moved to sing a gaelic chant that I sang for my grandfather when he died. The words mean “Seek the heavenly light”.

May the souls of the departed rest in peace.

Stand up for Autism – World Autism Awareness Day

Today has been designated World Autism Awareness Day by the UN. From an email I received from the National Autism Society about this:

“Stand up for Autism is the theme chosen for World Autism Awareness Day in the UK for this year. The theme is intended to unite people in their support of the cause and their pledge to make a stand.”

A few months ago a member of my family was diagnosed with Autism. It wasn’t a total surprise but it still came as a bit of a shock to hear the words. The advice I have received from the National Autism Society has been very helpful. I’ve also received some wonderful support from other family members and freinds and I am deeply grateful for that support.

People are learning more about Autistic Spectrum Disorders but more still needs to be done to raise awareness and get people the long term support they need.

Please help to raise awareness today if not any other day.

Gods

In various places and on various mailing lists and forums the question “what are the gods?” is raised. In some ways I find it easier to say what I think they are not than what I think they are.

I do not believe in an all powerful, all knowing deity. I believe in the existence of many beings referred to as gods. In other words I am a polytheist.

I do not believe in a perfect god. I believe that the gods are more knowledgeable than I am, more tuned in with natural energies and more powerful but not perfect in any way.

I do not believe in an always loving and gentle god of any kind. In my experience the gods are subject to moods similar to human ones, they have their own moral structures and these may not be similar to our human ones. If they feel that treating you harshly will teach you a lesson about something then I think they may well do that and you may not know it’s a lesson until sometime later.

I do not believe the gods stick to one appearance. Why should they when we don’t? I believe that appearance for the gods is a matter of choice. If they ever had a body like our human ones they don’t any more so why be tied down to one set of features.? They may have favourite features but that doesn’t mean they will always appear looking that way.

Currently I believe the gods have evolved into beings of energy that no longer need a physical form. I’m not at all sure what they may have evolved from or even if they have all evolved from the same root.

In short I believe the gods are complex, evolved beings that choose to share something of themselves with us for their own reasons and those reasons can vary from god to god.

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.

My beliefs – web of connection

I find it very difficult to explain in writing what I do believe but I am going to try.

Some years ago now I had what would best be called a vision while meditating to some music. In that vision I felt myself to be at the centre of all things with threads of golden light reaching out from me and flowing to me. Some of these threads moved in a straight line and others spiraled forming a web with me at the centre. At each point that the threads crossed each other was something like a flame and the more threads crossed at any point, the brighter the flame. This vision then changed in perspective and instead of being at the centre I was suddenly containing this web within me. I was both at it’s centre and holding it within me.

To me each of these threads symbolises an interaction with another life and each flame an individual being. The more I interact with a particular being the stronger that thread becomes and the more powerful an individual the stronger the light of the flame to my senses.

At a later date I had a follow on vision from this where I could, for want of a better term, zoom in and out with my perceptions of this web. As I normally see it you and I would be flames, more powerful spirits larger flames and gods would seem like a bonfire but a blade of grass or an insect would not really be visible excepts as a general background glow. When I altered my perception and zoomed in each blade of grass became a flame and you and I like bonfires with gods being like suns. Zooming out past my usual vision saw the gods as flames and us as the background glow.

In my normal vision of the web the gods are bonfires or even brighter, like stars. Just like people they can vary in strength of presence, just like us and every other species in this world, they are unique yet interconnected. How they come to be as bright as they are I’m not sure but part of it I think is the sheer number of threads flowing through that nexus point.

These vision experiences were both brief moments but for me incredibly profound. What has become more important to me are my interactions with that web, the threads of light connecting all things and yet allowing individuality and uniqueness within that web.

I see all existence as a web. I see individual beings as a point where threads meet and cross. I see interactions as the individual threads of the web.

First Principles

The words of another seeker encouraged me to look at what principles are the most important to me. I had to do some thinking to figure this out but essentially there are three things that have guided me for much if not all of my life. These are Love, Truth and Duty.

The most important one of these for me is Love. If I was to use one statement to illustrate what I mean by this I would turn to the new testament of the Bible and borrow the phrase “Love thy neighbour as thyself”.

Truth is something I seek and try to live by. I do not mean just telling the truth as I see it but walking my talk – or at least trying to – in all I do. To me Truth can be a multi faceted gem, we see maybe one or two faces of it clearly but some is obscured and some reflected. My truth is not necessarily the complete truth or the only truth but in seeking to walk in truth I hope to learn more of others and for others to learn more of me.

Duty is another difficult thing to explain. By duty I do not mean to do my duty as others see it but to do my duty as I see it. To serve to the best of my ability those that I have chosen to serve. To balance my duty to myself with the duties I have chosen to take on for others. Duty and service are closely entwined for me.

These are the principles that I believe have guided me all my life and are likely to continue to guide me in the future.