Excerpt from: The Hounds Betwixt and Between: Cú Chulainn and Finn as Liminal Heroes

Published in Air n-Aithesc,Volume  4, Issue 2 Lugnasadh 2017. An earlier version, titled The Hero Betwixt and Between, appeared in Keltria Journal #43,”Heroes & Heroines,” 2013. 


Cú Chulainn of the Ulster Cycle and Finn Mac Cumhail of the Fenian Cycle are the two early Irish warriors that are most familiar, who have the greatest number of stories told. Many other warriors in the literature boast heroic quests of their own, including the warrior-kings; however, these make up a smaller amount of known literature. There are other warriors known only for their relationships with Cú Chulainn or Finn, as fighting beside them or dying at their hands, while many warriors are only names in long lists. There are also many villains and semi-villains and a, sadly, small number of warrior-women, either protagonist or antagonist.[1]These two heroes have large bodies of material focused on them and what makes them such important heroes compared to the others is of interest. 
When they are brought up together, it is often to describe Cú Chulainn and Finn as very different, even opposites. This may have originated from Marie Louise Sjoestedt’s declaration that Cú Chulainn was a “Hero of the Tribe”[2]while Finn was a “Hero Outside the Tribe.”[3]The distinctions Sjoestedt noted may be useful in exploring each of these heroes individually,[4]  and they certainly are individuals; however, her designation of Cú Chulainn as a “tribal” insider and assertion that the two warriors’ stories were “irreconcilable” are questionable. [5]Both of these heroes were liminal and quite dangerous to the culture they defended, but were outsiders of. In the different times their tales were recorded, they represent views of those warriors who stood between society and the wilderness, being never fully part of either. 
It is difficult in a casual study such as this to sort out what might be similarities due to the nature of the tales and what might be influences of the earlier stories.  Cú Chulainn’s tales were written centuries before Finn’s. We do not have evidence that Cú Chulainn’s stories truly come from oral traditions or whether they were told orally after they were written. Both seem likely, at least to some extent. Finn’s stories continued in oral tradition, which gives us even more variations. While knowledge of Cú Chulainn’s stories may have influenced the tellers and writers of Finn’s, the latter are clearly not reproductions. This may be influences of the time, but also may be a hint that they were seen as warriors of a certain nature and place, similar but not identical. Therefore, I believe the comparisons where we find the similarities yet note the differences help us understand the archetype of the Outlaw Warrior in this literature, without losing sight of the individual nature of both Cú Chulainn and Finn.
To read more you can purchase a copy of Air n-Aithesc,Volume  4, Issue 2 Lugnasadh 2017 or a PDF from me via the website 


[1] I have written about some of these female warriors  in “‘By Force in the Battlefield’: Finding the Irish Female Hero,” Air n-Aithesc Volume 1 Issue 1 Imbolc 2014; “Muimmecha naFiann: Foster-mothers of the heroes,” Air n-Aithesc Volume 1 Issue 2 Lughnasadh 2014; “The War Goddess’s Bitch,” Air n-Aithesc Volume 3 Issue 1 Imbolc/Beltaine 2016;  “There Was Not Found a Man to Withstand Her,” Air n-Aithesc Volume 3 Issue 2 Lughnasadh/Samhain 2016.
[2]Marie-Louise Sjoestedt, Celtic Gods and Heroes, New York: Dover Publications, Inc., Mineola 2000, pg. 57-80.
[3]Sjoestedt, Celtic Gods and Heroes, pg. 81-91.
[4]As is noted by Joseph Falaky Nagy. The Wisdom of the Outlaw: The Boyhood Deeds of Finn in Gaelic Narrative Tradition,Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985, pg. 10.
[5]Kim McCone, “Werewolves, Cyclopes, Díberga and Fíanna: Juvenile Delinquency in Early Ireland” Cambridge Medieval Celtic Studies, issue 12, 1986, pg. 8.

Save a Celtic hound

**UPDATE: I realized I should update that we were unable to save our Gráinne. The lymphoma was just too aggressive, she went down hill very quickly and had some sort of episode involving either a lesion or a blood-clot to the brain. She regained her ability to walk after the first one, but the vet was clear that nothing could be done. We planned to take her for her last trip a few days later, but she had another similar episode and we took her to an emergency vet in the middle of the night. We probably do not have to mention that we are devastated as is Gleann. **

It been a hell of a year. We lost Sachairi just over a year ago, then found out both Gleann and Gráinne had serious health problems.  Gráinne was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) but her blood count numbers were real low, so during the summer it was a matter of just keeping track while we concentrated on saving Gleann who had a tumor in his parathyroid.  We were able to get surgery for Gleann thanks to fund raising, auctioning off some Sarah Connor related stuff, some eBay auctions, help from a dear friend and totally maxing out CareCredit.  And then Gráinne’s numbers got higher, not OMG start chemo NOW higher, but high enough we were starting to get her evaluated the first of this year.

And then two things happened. First she developed skin lesions, upping our worry even with the current blood counts.  And then my husband Aaron broke his leg. Oh, on top of that at New Years just 12 days before his accident, he had also had his status changed at work from covering stations to only being on-call for transfers, so no disability benefits at all. This leaves us with no real income at all, except for a bit here and there from eBay sales.

Just days before we finally got her to the oncologist for another examination and for more testing, her nose became hugely swollen. It turns out that as well as the CLL she has cutaneous lymphoma, which is the more aggressive of the two.

This means that the chemotherapy we were looking at, Prednisone and Leukeran, is not going to be effective. Instead we need a more expensive chemo, CCNU. She would get this every three weeks at $695 each time and require blood work at her regular vet in the weeks in between.  AND this needs to start immediately, before the very quick changing lymphoma has a chance to get to the point of no return!

We could see managing if Aaron were working and getting a lot of shifts….but not until then.  Which is April! And we have to stat this week!  We have raised not quite as much as we have spent in getting her tested and we are struggling to also feed her and the other animals, so we have almost nothing left to our names at all, let alone enough to start this! We really need help!

She could have years more with this, it is devastating that we may have to lose her just because Aaron broke his leg!

Gráinne is our sixth Greyhound, adopted from Greyhound Placement Services, NH as a special needs dog due to having epilepsy.  She is beautiful, as you can see, but also quirky and comical. She is not always the easiest hound to deal with, her previous owner has returned her due to her singing in her crate. Honestly, it really is singing, it’s like having a coywolf in your living room.  She can be very vocal at anytime she feels she’s not being understood. Not everyone appreciates that as much as we do.

She has had a stressful year, losing Sach was a blow to her, I know. She was stressed as we took care of Gleann’s situation. I feel like we had just gotten to the point where we could all relax and enjoy time together when she got really sick.  I don’t want this to have been her last year! I want her to get better, which she has a very good chance of if we start treatment this week, and have a couple of relatively happy years. She just turned 7, she needs more time!

And Gleann needs more time with her. He adores her, he’s lost so many packmates in his lifetime.

Please share the campaign and please help with what ever you can! 

My articles and workshop vouchers are available as perks.

The Celtic Hound reference is….because they are!

 

Saving Ritual Dog Gleann! and some stuff on future workshops

 In my last post I asked for help getting Gleann’s high calcium issue diagnosed. We got the diagnosis and it is primary hyperparathyroidism caused by a nodule in one of his parathyroid glands. So now we need to get the surgery as soon as we can! So we have another fundraiser to get his surgery. It was supposed to end this past weekend, we had hoped to be scheduling the surgery yesterday, aiming for the 14th.  But we are still far short of the $3,500 we need.

 

Just before heading out for Samhuinn 2015

Gleann is by far our Chief Ritual Dog. I have written about canines in ritual  and all our dogs have participated with us. The Greyhounds have been happy to do so, there is food after all, dear little Sachairi I think found it kind of odd as he came to live with us when hew as set in his ways from a probably more Zen background than our wild Heathen ways and he would often lie a little way from us …until the shortbread started being distributed.  But Gleann loves ritual!

He was just weeks old when he came to live with us, all teeth and growls and unruliness, and a few weeks later we did our Lùnasdal/Là Fhéill Mhacha.  Almost as soon as we got there Gleann started running as fast as his little legs could take him deiseal around the fire pit.  We would get him to stop, but as soon as let go he’d just start running again. Through the whole ritual. With a break for shortbread.

By Samhuinn that year he was a bit calmer, and he began to figure out his role. We go up to the site, he patrols the area for any problems. He then hangs nearby, and keeps a look out around. When we make our treaty offerings to those we do not worship, he goes out near the edge of the land with me (he did at first venture to the neighbors but we convinced him that was too much and he no longer does. When the ritual is done and the other dogs and stuff has been packed up and mostly taken home, he and I usually sit alone to vigil with the fire to be sure it is safely out.  He had always done this lying right against my back, but as we lost more of the pack and they are buried there he now divides his time lying by their graves and at my back.

I have written a lot about the importance of canines on my path; the history of dogs in Celtic, especially Gaelic, cultures and a growing body of work on fénnidecht and the connection between warriors and canines. This is also my life.  This is my pack. Those who have left their bodies are still in my life.

But I am not ready for Gleann to leave his and he shows no sign of being ready either.  With this surgery he will not develop the kidney damage that awaits him without it.  He can remain as bouncy as he is now for a few more years…..and many rituals.  He is supposed to have surgery later this month. If all goes well he should be able to happily resume his ritual duties by Samhuinn (which is about mid November for us).

And so, we fundraise and I’m auctioning off some Sarah Connor/Linda Hamilton items with the help of another fan. And we eBay and we apply to funds and we have maxed out CareCredit and we are trying to figure out how to put a business together with no real funds to do so and I have my fitness business on permanent hold due to what it would cost to get insurance again and to get my CEUs in time (which will mean it will cost much more to start all over again if I don’t manage after a very short period after my certification is up).

And the fénnidecht related workshops planned for this winter are on hold mostly due to my absolute lack of concentration..  The syllabi are only partially finished and I have done none of the more daunting work of figuring out how to present online, given that I live in a geographically isolated area and those interested are so spread out.

However, I intend to have these started by this time next year and therefore am offering vouchers for cost off of future workshops on the fundraiser.

These workshops are, after all, directly related to the sort of connections that my relationship with Gleann and my other dogs represent.  I have one that is very basic for those just starting out and that might be of interest to those not on the Outlaw warrior path to help understand where it can fit in modern Gaelic Reconstructionist Paganism and maybe open their own traditions to those on this one. I have varying degrees of exploration for those on the path, including a deeper look at being wolf. I also have a broader look at animals in the cultures that goes beyond the usual symbolic focus most resort to into where practicality, actually living and relying on these animals, led to the symbolism and how it can lead back to real relationships with living animals. And a fitness one (provided I am able to renew my certification in time).

So if you are interested in these worshops, please consider making a donation and taking a voucher!  And if you are not but just want to see a beautiful dog have a few more happy years, please just donate. And there are some pieces of jewelry and a bag for perks…and more things may be added.

 

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Excerpt from “The War Goddess’s Bitch”

This is from my article in Air n-Aithesc Vol III, Issue 1 currently available in hard-copy or e-copy from this link.  Unlike previous excerpts, this in not the beginning of it, as I began with a dream sequence that would be too long for a lead in and I don’t want to post only part of.  The article is a continuation of my exploration of the fénnidecht wolf-warrior path, specifically how I follow it as a devotion to the Morrígan and some material on female werewolves, weredogs and dog-heads.

The War Goddess’s Bitch

Wolf-warrior cults are usually attributed to male Gods. The Vedic Indra and Rudra, the Germanic Odin and the Greek Apollo Lykeios have all been associated with wolfish warrior bands.[i] Kershaw states that there are no known Celtic Gods associated with warbands, other than seeing a similarity between Finn and the Fíanna and Rudhra and the Maruts.[ii]Kershaw also mentions McCone’s pairing of Ódinn/Týr and Lug/Núada as teuta/koryos(civilization/warband or wild) God pairings.[iii]  Lug is certainly a candidate for such a warrior cults: His relationship to both Cú Chulainn and Finn, adds to this possibility.[iv]While I would not argue against Lug, Finn (as a God, although I tend to focus on his nature as a semi-divine hero) or other Gods as having had such cults, I believe that it is as likely that the Goddesses who fall under the title the Morrígan were also likely to have been the Divine leaders of such cults.
The Morrígan’s interest in Cú Chulainn, the Hound of the Smith, is evident throughout the TBC and related Ulster tales. Some see their relationship as confrontational, often confusing. Epstein has speculated that She may indeed be his patron Deity.[v]  Epstein noted that the seemingly adversarial nature of Her relationship with Cú Chulainn can be seen as an effort to strengthen his glory, as I have also explored.[vi] Epstein specifically brought up the similarities between his canine nature, which goes far deeper than just a name, and the Norse ulfheðnar (“wolf coats”) and berserkr (“bear coats”) who followed Odin. She speculated that this might hint at an ecstatic cult dedicated to an Morrígan.[vii]
This ecstatic, shape-shifting nature suggests such a cult as well as the obvious canine connection.  Cú Chulainn’s name connects him with canines: he is the Hound, actually acting as Culainn’s guard dog as a boy, to replace the dog he killed.[viii] Yet his form of shape-shifting, his ríastrad (warp spasm), is not decidedly canine. By killing the guard dog and then assuming the dog’s role, Cú Chulainn was transformed completely into a hound not only for his time of service to the Smith but for the rest of his life.[ix]He was always a hound. He was just wilder, more dangerous, rabid, when he transformed and he described himself as having canine fury in Tochmarc Emire.[x]His identity as the Hound was so significant that when St. Patrick conjured Cù Chulainn’s specter in order to convert Lóegaire, the king of Ireland, the specter’s canine nature convinced the king that the specter was truly Cú Chulainn.[xi] 
Cú Chulainn’s story gives no indication of him as part of a warband. This lack is likely related to animosity between the church and such warriors they called díberga (marauders, brigands).[xii]  It is notable that the ecstatic transformation and the connection to a Deity were revealed at all.  When the stories of warbands were finally set down, the Fíanna seem quite divorced from the earlier, negative, accounts of the díberga, that displayed little association with either shape-shifting or Deity.[xiii] The association with hounds is strong in the stories around Finn Mac Cumhail. There are many members of the Fíanna with canine names. However, the fénnidi’s own canine nature is only hinted at vaguely.  Finn did have the hood of Crothrainne, which allowed him to turn to hound or stag, yet there is little evidence of him using it.[xiv]In one alternative tale of the birth of Bran, Finn was his father by a woman enchanted into the form of a bitch.  One might choose to speculate that he used the hood at that time.[xv] 

Read more by purchasing AnA here

 


[i] Kris Kershaw, The One-eyed God: Odin and the (Indo-) Germanic Männerbünde, Journal of Indo-European Studies, Monograph No. 36., Washington D.C.: Institute for the Study of Man Inc., 2000, such Gods and Their cults are the subject of the entire study, however particular interest might rest in ch. 9 “Odin Analogues” pg. 182-200; Dorcas Brown and David Anthony, “Midwinter Dog Sacrifices at LBA Krasnosamarskoe, Russia And Traces of Initiations for Männerbünde” Paper presented, Conference: Tracing the Indo-European: Origin and migrations. Roots of Europe Research Center, University of Copenhagen, Denmark Dec 11–13, 2012.
[ii] Kershaw, The One-eyed God, pg. 186.
[iii] Kershaw, The One-eyed God, pg. 195.
[iv] C. Lee Vermeers discussed his relationship with Lú Ardáinmór as a lycanthropic God in a blog post http://faoladh.blogspot.com/2013/05/what-i-domy-own-gods-part-one-my-upg-so.html and has also talked about Apollo as a Wind-Wolf God, http://faoladh.blogspot.com/2011/05/gods-and-goddesses-of-werewolves-wind.html
[v]Epstein, “War Goddesses,” Ch. 2.
[vi]Epstein, “War Goddesses,” Ch. 2; Lambert, “Musings on the Irish War Goddesses;” also further explored in my blog post “The Morrígan and Cú Chulainn part 1: On Saying ‘No.’”
[vii]Epstein, “War Goddesses…,” Ch. 3.
[viii]TBC Rec 1 pg.  17-19,140-142; TBC:BOL pg. 23-25, 160-163.
[ix] McCone, “Aided Cheltchair Maic Uthechair: Hounds, Heroes and Hospitallers in Early Irish Myth and Story.” Ériu 35, 1984 pg. 8-11, I discuss this act as being linked to wolf-warrior initiations in “Going Into Wolf-shape.”
[x]Bernhardt-House, Werewolves, Magical Hounds, and Dog-headed Men, pg. 174, 343.
[xi]Joseph Falaky Nagy, Conversing with Angels and Ancient: Literary Myths of Medieval Ireland, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1997, pg. 274.
[xii] Kim McCone, “Werewolves, Cyclopes, Díberga and Fíanna: Juvenile Delinquency in Early Ireland” Cambridge Medieval Celtic Studies, issue 12, 1986, pg. 3-4; Sharpe, “Hiberno-Latin Laicus, Irish Láech and the Devil’s Men,” Ériu  30, 1979, pg. 80-87.
[xiii]Kim McCone, “Werewolves, Cyclopes, …”, pg. 3-4; I discuss other links between the díberga and the Fíanna and canine nature further in “Going Into Wolf-shape” as well.
[xiv]Kuno Meyer, ed. and trans., “The Finn episode from Gilla in Chomded húa Cormaic’s poem “A Rí richid, réidig damFianaigecht, 1910, Hodges, Figgis & Co., Dublin, Ireland, pg. 51. http://archive.org/details/fianaigechtbeing00meye
[xv]As we’ll discuss shortly, Bran and Sceolang are more commonly said to be the children of Finn’s aunt, however, this tale is noted by Bernhardt-House, Werewolves, Magical Hounds, and Dog-headed Men, pg. 196.

Copyright © 2016 Saigh Kym Lambert
Wolf Copyright © 2002 Aaron Miller, based on Newbigging Leslie stone

A Gun for the Morrígan: Offerings and Devotion

 When I first saw this topic, when I saw a link to Asa West’s Giving Bullets to the Morrigan, I thought, “Cool! Someone else doing it!”  “It” being a long held plan, which hasn’t happened yet for, uh, reasons, to create a “sacred shooting range.”  As soon as the guy and I decide on a location and get fill to the spot and create a berm we are going to have a shooting range on our property and there will be a shrine to the Morrígan over looking it.   I already dedicate my training to her, but this would be a formal spot to do so, much like my gym is a temple for that part of the training (and sometimes for trigger control practice with a laser “bullet” when I can’t get out for live fire….which I could more if I had a place on the property).

I’m sure there are other pics of me at this training,
I need to try to access them sometime.

But that’s not what it’s about but rather about giving bullets as offerings. So my first thought on that was, “huh, that would be a rather pathetic offering.”  You know, just a random bullet.  There’s not a lot that stands out between two bullets of the same make. Sure, I can see if I were to use my gun in defense of myself or another without firing a shot that the bullet in my chamber at the time might be a worthy offering.  But I wouldn’t give just any old bullet.

Of course, what this actually became about, the reason it was brought up, was whether it was okay for other people to do this. And it brought with it a lot of the standard anti- vs. pro-gun arguments, with some Pagan twists. The sort of things that make most leftist gun-owners, like myself, look at both sides and double face-palm as you watch each side feed the other.  This time with the added oddity of some claim that guns are just made for killing people but swords are not….except that that really is all swords were ever made for.  They do things like this and also this. But it is not uncommon to romanticize the violence of the past while vilifying the violence of the present, I am sure that as the Bronze Age gave way to the Iron Age there were those who spoke of the nobility of the bronze blade over the evils of the steel.  Even the guns of the past get this romantic treatment, as people wax nostalgic for the six-shooter of the Old West while expressing horror at a semi-automatic pistol.

 I could get into the whole primary focus on why anti-gun Pagans seem to be upset over bullets as offerings, which is a pet peeve of mine. That is “the Morrígan should not be reduced to a War Goddess, She is more than that” claim which always translates to “I want the Morrígan to not be a War Goddess at all, because I want Her to be what I want Her to be.”  Here’s the thing, to say that it reduces Her to be called, as she was in the text, a Goddess of Battle (bandee in catæ..in the Tochmarc Emire), is a bias based on you not understanding all that there was to such a Goddess in the context of early Irish culture. This is also true if you insist that her link with “battle” is about “internal conflict” or “fighting inner demons,” which may be your UPG (Unsubstantiated Personal Gnosis), and that’s fine, but does not define Her as She was known in the early Irish culture (or for many of us who certainly do not share that UPG). In fact, my own findings and UPG is far more about waking up those “inner demons” and letting them take over and shift you (this is exactly what my work is all about…see especially Wolf-shapes and Chase). ( Or to claim that Her link to sovereignty, which West brings up, is about the modern concept of individual autonomy, rather than actual about kingship (open only to one who had proven themselves a warrior) of a territory (likely won and kept by war). Again, it may well be valid UPG, but don’t claim it’s anything else. But I already wrote a whole article detailing how all those “other things” come back to Her being a War Goddess, because they all relate to warfare as the culture knew it.

Okay, back to bullets as offerings. It never, ever occurred to me to give bullets in the way that apparently is being discussed here.  In part is the sheer, well, regularity and number of them with which to choose if you were just doing a random “bullet offering.” Certainly they are not cheap these days, however there’s a volume of them one might go through which creates the expense. One, individual bullet is simply not that individual. Again, I could see offering one that stands out….the one in the chamber you didn’t have to fire to save yourself or another, perhaps one left over from a big win if you’re a competitive shooter or one left over because your first shot was the clean kill you had hoped for when hunting for food. There may be many reasons a particular bullet does warrant it for the person involved. Maybe once we start reloading, I’ll start thinking of them as more individual than I do now and it will be something I feel drawn to do.  But, of course, ymmv and I’m not going to say it’s wrong if someone else does feel that a random bullet from a brick is a worthy offering.  I would be more likely to offer a really nicely clustered paper target. ~;p  (I need to invest in some paper targets when I finally have a range….)

Of course, there is my personal semantics around offerings. For me an offering is only something broken or totally destroyed and hidden from this world, so that it is taken into the Otherworld. At least in the end. Some offerings sit on my shrine for a period of time, but in the end they are destroyed in some way in this world. Usually by fire….please, tell me I do not need to explain not to do this with live rounds.

An item that sits on my shrine (or altar if you prefer) is not an offering, unless it is to be so destroyed eventually. Instead I would call them dedicated or devotional objects. A slight difference between the two although in a way both are things that you might say I share possession of with the Being the shrine is for.

Devotional objects are those which are, indeed, only to stay on the shrine as symbolic of devotion, such as statues and, well, I actually have a lot of things that I felt drawn to maintain on the shrines.  Some are used in ritual at times, such as candle holders or a stone “well” which might hold water. Some targets might end up being both, now that I am thinking of it…some sent and destroyed, some hung by a shrine (and one or two maybe by the door way).  Images and symbols are among these things, which includes a Sarah Connor figure…holding a gun with the other slung across her back….to represent the modern female warrior or, even, a modern image of the War Goddess). These things are mostly Theirs, but I do get to look at them unlike full offerings.

Dedicated objects are items which I might use personally, even “mundanely” but which I associate with my worship and which are blessed.  I keep some of my jewelry on my personal shrine to the Morrígan when I am not wearing it, but I wear it anytime I might go out. These things are more mine.

I could see, should the Revenant Cataclysm hit, putting bricks of bullets on the shrines to ask for blessings on a regular basis…whether they are for killing revenants or hunting for food or both.  So, on the shrine, but not an offering exactly (heads, meat, depending would be more appropriate).

Some things, including weapons may be seen as somewhat in between these items. I may not use my swords on a regular basis (practice, when I do it, is with single-sticks…I fear this has been a neglected art of late).  My guns, however, do not reside on my shrines, although they are formally blessed and if I have my gun when I go into the gym and remove it (usually when stretching after a run it sits between the figure of the Morrígan and the Sarah Connor figure, because it is dedicated to them (and it’s a safe location while I’m there).  Even my weights and and other fitness equipment, as all my training is a dedicated act and I see my gym as a temple of worship.might be seen as dedicated devotional objects, although not formally blessed (hmmmm).

Which brings me back to my first thought on this subject.  If training is a dedicated act, then that does include my firearms training so, I suppose it can be seen as giving bullets to Her. This is true where ever I might practice, however, I do want a range here on our property and a shrine overlooking it. Where it will go is still being negotiated and we need to budget in the fill for the berm which we need no matter where, due the layout of our land, which also requires it being somewhere we can get a truck to.  Perhaps this summer it will happen.

Training is always the basis of my offering, for to be the best I can be is my service to Her. It is also a gift, for being able to train is often a struggle for me due to health issues.  So reciprocation, She helps me to be able to train, I train to thank Her for that. Whether this is staying fit or being able to hit a target and respond properly to danger.

I may never really feel drawn to giving a bullet. It just doesn’t sit right unless something does happen to make a particular one that important to me. But since this has been brought up, it has occurred to me that I do need to make a weapons offering in the way done since the Bronze Age.

Someday, I shall properly offer a gun to the Morrígan. It will be a fine gun, expensive, far more than would even be possible for me to acquire now. It will be utterly “killed” in this world to send it to the Otherworld and sunk deeply in a marsh. This here is my promise to Her for this, in hopes that She also might help me be able to be in a position to do so…for if I am, it will be right that I reciprocate.

Moving things around and more re-self-publishing

Air n-Aithesc logo

Some, maybe, have noticed that I have moved the website to http://dunsgathan.net/feannog/  the old folder will forward you there from old links.

At the same time, I have also created a page to house links (this link goes to said page) to PDFs of articles originally published in Air n-Aithesc (this link goes to the magazines page)   

At this time the page has “‘By Force in the Battlefield’: Finding the Irish Female Hero” and “Going into Wolf-Shape” up. Will get the other two I have ownership of up in the near future.

 

(Re) (Self) Publication Announcements

 Summer has been busy, mostly not with writing.  Mostly with horses.  (although both photos are old…guess not much photography is happening this summer either).  Also with allergies…. ~:p   And some editing has been happening.

Actually my article in the next Air n-Aithesc is an edited piece, some chunks very rewritten, actually.  I’ll be posting when the issue is out very soon!

Meanwhile, as it’s been over a year since “By Blood, Bone and  Blade: A Tribute to the Morrígan (Nicole Bonivusto, ed, Asheville, NC: Bibliotheca Alexandrina, 2014) came out, I decided it was now time for my essay in it, “Musings on the Irish War Goddesses” to “come home.”

I started “Musings” as a short piece for the web.  But, of course, “short” wasn’t possible. So it was going to be a long piece for the web, possibly as a PDF.  Then as I was finishing it up, the call for submissions for BBB&B showed up….and I figured I should submit it. Which I did…..and eventually the anthology came  out.

I have now replaced the actual shorter piece I later made for the page (which I had started to house this essay) with an intro to link the PDF of

Musings on the Irish War Goddesses

There are a few minor changes, mostly endnotes….um, mostly shamelessly noting other articles I have further explored some things I mention in it….and the CC related posts I have made here.
 I have also put up some reworkings of my Sarah Connor Charm School fitness pots on the site as well…they are only linked through the training page at this point and I hope to rework them further soon.  But you can find them here if you are interested.

Rebuilding Her (Their) Cult(s)

Recently Morpheus Ravenna, of Coru Cathubodua,* wrote that she is Not Rebuilding Her Cult in response to others who called for reviving ancient Deity cults and one mentioning that she was doing so for an Morrígan. I’m carrying on the blog cycle, for my first reaction to the title was “Well, I am!”

But that’s not really accurate, either.  I have no desire to build a cult and lead it, if that’s what that sounds like. It’s more I feel She or They are trying to rebuild it, that They are seeking people out to follow Them in a manner that is related to the old cult I believed existed. I wouldn’t mind helping to incite Her cult back into existence, however,and  to offer evidence of it and ways it might happen today. Although, of course, I may not always like what others do with the information I share, I have learned it’s better to live with that than be control freak (although I might have rants on it, of course). And I’m finding certain pressures to reveal my work despite any concerns that I might have.

The difference in my thinking might be explained in her second paragraph and my own take on the issues she brings up there. One being a different take on what the fact that there was no continuation and no documentation from practitioners of what such a cult was like means for rebuilding. We don’t even know if there ever was a cult to the War Goddesses. But that’s an overall problem with Pagan Gaelic traditions, we have to work with what we got, which is a combination of archaeology, Christian literature and law and some Classical observations (which were fewer for Gaelic cultures), as well as some cross-Indo-European speculations. Which is, of course, where Reconstructionist methodology comes in, we wouldn’t need to reconstruct if this problem wasn’t substantial.

Coming from this methodology also leads to a different take on what such a rebuilt, or reconstructed, cult might look like, today. Despite some “definitions” I’ve seen given that often makes it sound like we intend to practice exactly as our ancestors did (something which is impossible if we can never actually know and need to reconstruct to begin with, as well as living under different laws), “Reconstruction” means that we are using research of the past to reconstruct what such things might look like today, in a culturally related fashion. Neither recreating out of cultural context nor trying to live in a past that is gone. This means that even when we have evidence, not all things will be revived. Just as modern Druids, even Reconstructionist ones, manage to practice without human sacrifice,except symbolically, I believe we can reconstruct the war band cults without actually taking heads. At least until the Revenant Cataclysm finally comes.

Panel from Gundestrup Cauldron, likely showing a warrior initiation
Panel from Gundestrup cauldron

likely showing a warrior initiation

I do believe that such a cult or cults very likely existed, and I am focused on the war bands as evidence of them. I follow Epstein’s speculation that Cú Chulainn** is a representation of what the Christian scribes interpreted it might have been like.(Epstein, Ch 3). Following her thoughts that there would be similarities to the berserkr (“bear coats”) and ulfheðnar (“wolf coats”) practices of the likely very cultic Germanic warbands, I also extrapolate that we find hints in the stories of the Fíanna, despite actual Goddess connection lacking (although perhaps some hints to it with the female teachers, one named Bodbmall who Epstein notes may connect to the name Badb and she and Nagy have related to Buannan (Nagy, Wisdom of the Outlaw, pg. 102, Epstein, Ch. 2). From there, of course, to the díberga and their relationship to fáelad (wolfing). I find them interesting in their “unsavory” Paganism and withhold bias against them for the general brigand traits the clerics also attributed to them.(see Sharpe for díberga/Fíanna and McCone and West for that and the wolf speculations) I have also been doing a good bit of writing in regards to the canine aspects and how Cú Chulainn actually fits as more of an Outlaw than a tribal warrior, but these are not yet published. (I will, of course, be letting you know in this blog when they are available somewhere)

Although I want to point out that I’m not trying to create conflict between Ravenna’s vision and my own, only to note how we might be viewing particular’s differently as well as may have different focuses on thie history. Regarding the points Morpheus makes in her post. With location I am, as long time readers have likely figured out, focused on the War Goddesses in Gaelic culture only.  I do however look for relevant similarities found not only in the other Celtic cultures, but, also Germanic ones as there do seem to be many correlations between the war band cults of these cultures, although the Germanic are often to male Deities.  I do agree that the title an Morrígan may well have been held by many regional Goddesses, although I follow Stokes, Epstein and others regarding the title “Morrígan” as more common and older than “Mórrígan” and therefore means “Phantom Queen” rather than “Great (or Big) Queen” which is a later folk etymology  (Stokes, pg. 128, Epstein Ch. 1 “etymologies,” I also go into this a good bit in some upcoming work) and may not bear relation to the “Great Queens” of Brythonic cultures which. Therefore my focus is with working within a Gaelic framework, although I would hope to network with those who might revive war band cults from other cultures. It does, however, lead to a certain flexibility and understanding that more than one actual cult is likely, should any start up again or not.

As for seasons, there is a preponderance of focus on Samain† in the tales an Morrígan is strongly featured in. However, this does seem to have been a time relating to Otherworldly and special events. While wars in the tales often start at this time, we also have later Fenian tales that note that warfare ceased from Samain to Beltene,. Other accounts, and archaeology, does seem to point that warfare and raiding did seem to quiet, if not cease, at Samain, but raiding started up around Imbolc.(Patterson pg. 123, 132-133) Given the link with the warbands and wolves, as well as this return to raiding, I also link Imbolc, or the period between Imbolc and Beltene, with specific work on Awakening the Wolf. Lugnasad, a time of festivals involving horse racing, has been linked specifically to the sister War Goddess Macha. Therefore there is no specific season for me in regard, there may just be difference in focus, devotions of a modern cult might turn inwards more during the winter months, and outward during the summer, in keeping with the tales or might alter depending on seasonal changes in location. Modernizing this doesn’t seem to be a large issue for me.

Incidental or temporal worship already seems carried over by many us anyway, again, within the bounds of legality. Taking omens, making offerings (even if subtly) for specific reasons in specific places is not a large issue. It would, undoubtedly, be an issue for those professional warriors upon battlefields, but this is where we adapt to the situations we are in. And, after all, incidental worship is about adapting.

It is devotional practice is what gets to the meat of it. That which was done, that which we can do now based on the evidence. It might also be where difference in seeing a rebuilding or a new tradition might come in. I already noted, that if in general CRs have had to forgo human sacrifice or adopt symbolic practices (many of which are later folk practices such as the Bealtuinn “sacrifice”) I think we can manage to refrain from piling actual heads. A few modern Gaels I know are quite into the symbolism all the same. Of course, “war spoils” and other related votive offerings can be easily retranslated to modern context of what we find symbolic.

But as I noted, I relate the cult to the Outlaw war bands, what may well have been a Pagan subculture of the early Christian culture. (see McCone, Sharpe, West) Therefore my focus is on the practices which we can interpret about these bands, even in the face of the rather negative reputations the díberga might have, especially in some saint tales. Devotion to me may not be that far off from the non-battle things these warriors offered. Their bodies, their effort into training and preparing. Whether one becomes a full, literally blooded, warrior or not, the training part is there for all of us who do walk the warrior path.

But, again, as I noted above, I also see this as ecstatic practice “shape-shifting” …for me it’s canine, for others I’ve talked to there may be corvid. This may be about out-of-body travel or about an embodied fugue state, strengthening the trained body. (I will eventually have an announcement on something on this). While I am often focused, especially in this blog, on the practical, I feel it’s important to have the ecstatic aspect as well, at least for those so inclined. (No one said every member of a cult would necessarily do the exact same things)

So for me rebuilding Her/Their Cult/s is about the devotional practices, often very embodied ones. And in a modern context. These things would vary by whether one is a professional soldier or a, well, amateur walking the warrior path, of course, as well as on ability and talents. But it would involved fitness, practical martial arts training (which may not always be traditionally Gaelic and could include firearms training), culturally traditional Gaelic martial arts training (which may not always be practical), ecstatic shape-shifting, Seership, poetry and other arts. Not all in the cult might be warriors, we have in the Fenian material druids who helped train Finn in the Sight, after all. But it would be the key focus. I also see an importance on preparedness for a variety of situations, as well….after all, many of us amateur path walkers seem to be preppers. For some of us, hunting, foraging and deep wilderness exploration might connect  us to the Outlaw role as well. Again, we must adapt for hunting seasons are almost the opposite now as they were in early Irish law. (Patterson)

There is, of course, what a cult provides, both members and community, as I believe that service is a key role. The war bands may not have been in the society, but they did serve it.  This is not necessarily focused on our “religious” or cultural communities, but should probably include or physical neighbors of all cultural and religious backgrounds. The professional, soldier, LEO or related, serves a broad community in obvious ways. Others might volunteer for CERT (Community Emergency Response Team),  help organize the local community to deal with disaster and long-term preparedness, teach martial arts and/or self-defense, become victims’ advocates, do volunteer escort in dangerous areas (working with a proper community organization and within their guidelines). And, of course, providing appropriate rituals for those who do worship our Gods when they have need of the War Goddesses.

Needs for members would vary for the professional warrior who has seen combat and is returning to her family, but also for the rape survivor who is moving from victim to hero in her own story. Rituals can be developed for such transitions based on literary references. Makings sure cult members are served by the cult, creating a support system for each other, is a part of the reason to have such a cult, after all. Because it is true, this is not an easy worship, not even for those of us just on the path who might never be blooded as full warriors. For those who are blooded, it is often traumatic so support within a cult would be vital. Ritual, counseling, intervention, just having the right people to connect with and help each other connect to the Goddess we serve. ETA: Perhaps even a good hurling team can be a part of that healing. How long a cult member might be in the cult may vary individually and by need as well. A soldier may find her/himself drawn to service of a War Goddess, but wish cleansing and to move away from the cult when returning to civilian life while others may be, as Nagy put it, “chronic Outlaws.”

I feel that cults based on what we know of the culture, kept in cultural perspective but adapted for the laws we live under, is fully possible using Reconstructionist methodology. I also believe it’s something They want and I hope to see more cultic development in my lifetime. In fact, I’m smelling things on the wind which I think might become very interesting.

*ETA: I now need to note that I in no way associated with this group. I had only ever read the blog and for awhile some  members where in my FB War Goddess group. As I am a devotee to Macha who has vowed to fight for Her horses and to end horse slaughter,  I no longer have even that amount of contact due to the group eating horse meat in a misguided and loathsome attempt to somehow honor Her. Doing this is as close to sacrilege as I could even imagine. Therefore do not read this mention of the post, done before I knew about this, to be any sort of recommendation. Please see another blog I write for Heathens and Pagans for the Horses

**This relationship seems problematic as most see conflict and rejection between Cú Chulainn and the Morrígan. However, looked at from from the warrior path apparent antagonism begins to make sense that She challenges and goads him, he comes back with the arrogance She expects and he rejects the easy victory as he is also expected to do. No one said serving a War Goddess was simple, straightforward or painless.

†I am using the older spellings here, rather than the Scottish Gaelic ones which are my preference as this is relating literature and history.

Angelique Gulermovich Epstein, “War Goddess: the Morrígan and her Germano-Celtic Counterparts” dissertation for UCLA, 1998

Kim McCone, “Varia II” Ériu 36, 1985

Kim McCone “Werewolves, Cyclopes, Díberga and Fíanna: Juvenile Delinquency in Early Ireland” Cambridge Medieval Celtic Studies, issue 12, 1986

Joseph Falaky Nagy. The Wisdom of the Outlaw: The Boyhood Deeds of Finn in Gaelic Narrative Tradition, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985

Nerys Patterson. Cattle Lords & Clansmen: The Social Structure of Early Ireland, Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame, 1994

Richard Sharpe, “Laicus, Irish Láech and the Devil’s Men,” Ériu 30, 1979

Whitley Stokes, trans. “The Second Battle of Moytura” Revue Celtique 12

Máire West, “Aspects of díberg in the tale TogailBruidne Da Derga,”Zeitschrift für celtische Philologie (ZcP) , Volume 49-50, 1997

copyright © 2013 Saigh Kym Lambert