I had pulled Warriors for the Horse Goddess from the website several months ago to expand and submit to Air n-Aithesc where it was published in Vol. 2 Issue 2, Lughnasadh/Samhain 2015. The contract with AnA before rights return is for 3 months, however, I usually would wait for at least 6 months as I do feel it makes more sense to wait until the next issue is out. However, for this article I am making an exception and I have returned it, updated and in PDF form to the website.
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.
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
I’m still not feeling real bloggy so I thought I’d do another teaser for those who are not reading Air n-Aithesc yet. Which is where my writing lives these days…while we wait for the third issue to come out on Imbolc. This is one of two from the first issue which can be purchased here. Unfortunately, this one does start out a bit depressing, you really do have to buy the magazine to find the more positive spin. ~;p
“By Force in the Battlefield”: Finding the Irish Female Hero
When an Morrígan came into my life in the late ‘80s, She tasked me with two duties that it was clear I must work on. One was to reexamine my pacifist habits and begin walking the warrior path in very concrete ways, which included physical training I never would have previously considered. The other was to learn as much as I could about Her culture, to try to find practices that were as much in keeping with it as I could. I knew both challenges would be difficult, but at least I had many heroic female warriors from Celtic history and myth to inspire me.
Sadly, as I got more into the cultural studies, even changing my focus at college to concentrate on women in the Celtic cultures, I learned differently about all those warrior women. Having had only shallow exposure to Celtic history and literature before, mostly through the lens of the Pagan community I was involved in, it certainly seemed that there had been a lot of material that I was about to wade more deeply into. Yet, the truth is that I already had heard retellings, often exaggerated, of most of what was there. There were a few new names and short tales, sometimes only a sentence or two long, I had yet to discover, but very few. I also realized that most of the major names I already knew really had very little information behind them, other than Medb.
Previously I posted an excerpt from “Muimme naFiann: Foster-mother of heroes” which is in the second issue.
Copyright © 2014 Saigh Kym Lambert
After some mistakes were discovered By Blood, Bone and Blade: A Tribute to the Morrígan was pulled from publication while they were fixed. It is now back out and available again! Those who want to read my essay “Musings on the Irish Goddesses of War” this is where you find it!
The past couple of weeks I have been working to fix things up around here. By here I mean the website this blog is a part of….you know this blog is for a website now right? Or rather part of my website, a section, but part of what I have been doing is working to make the Shadow of the Hooded Crow section a bit more prominent in the way it is presented on the index. There are still other sections for Gaelic Heathenry in general, where our old group section was, but I have now moved the warrior stuff I had there onto Hooded Crow. And, of course, we still have our horse and dog sections. Homesteading has it’s own blog, but right now we’re not doing anything exciting enough there to post much. Right now I’m pretty focused on this
So, I had already moved info about workshops I am looking to give, which I may be doing privately soon, onto Hooded Crow, but now have moved my page about the warrior path, and expanded it a bit for some information on the Outlaw war bands. I might even split that up and do more on them, not sure yet.
I also finally put up a page about the War Goddesses the site is dedicated to. Imagine that! Of course, that’s sort of what I was doing when I ended up writing “Musings on the Irish War Goddesses”…you know, the one in By Blood, Bone and Blade (which is temporarily out of production, but should be available in a second edition soon). Being concise is not easy when talking about Them, but I tried.
I put one link to the main site here, but you can also go to the individual pages through the menu up top. I’m done sitting on my butt for awhile I have horses to see and dogs who want to go for a run. ~;)
The much awaited for anthology for an Morrígan, By Blood, Bone and Blade: A Tribute to the Morrígan edited by Nicole Bonvisuto, has just been released by Bibliotheca Alexandrina.I have an essay in this, “Musings on the Irish War Goddesses.” I have yet to get my copy, but I am anxious to see some of what else is in there, especially P. Sufenas Virius Lupus’s offerings…of course, I’m most intrigued to see his take on Her relationship with Cú Chulainn. ~;)
This comes while I’m trying to finish another article for Air n-Aithesc which is not unrelated…because everything I write pretty much is related these days. I can’t even begin to write anything not related. This is bringing up all the “OMGs, I would do that so differently, I know so much more now (it’s nearly 2 years since I finished that essay), what was I even thinking?….” This is not helping me feel qualified to finish what I’m writing now, either. ~:p
And that has been a big part of why I haven’t gotten much out. There is always so much more to learn! I’ve been doing this half my life, over a quarter of a century, I still am so far from feeling I know enough to write about it. I know this is a very common dilemma. I just hope that I can kick myself past it so I can finish what I’m working on and move on.
I hope what I have written and am writing is still useful to others, even as I continue to learn.
Those of us who follow an Morrígan are in an interesting position compared to many Gaelic Polytheists. We actually have an example of a patron/client relationship between a Deity and a human (albeit a human with divine paternity, sort of). It is, of course, through Christian eyes that we get it, so many dismiss this all together. This is particularly true as this warrior, Cú Chulainn, often offends the sensibilities of many who claim to be devoted to Her and on the warrior path.
There are many issues, really, but right now I want to concentrate on aspects of the relationship between CC and the Morrígan which I feel are widely misunderstood. The problem is that without looking at some of the issues from a warrior perspective, including by people who claim to be warriors, and with an understanding of certain elements of Irish culture, it can be read in a very different way from what it may have meant to early warriors who may have heard and orally shared the stories. Some of the scribes who wrote them down, also not being warriors, may well have considered them much as we do today, yet the actual stories seem to give a different read when taken from a warrior perspective.
The reading that many in the Pagan community, from the “fluffiest of fluffies” to the “hardest core Reconstructionists,” give the relationship is that CC is rude, arrogant and offensive to the Morrígan. And it can appear so. Even form the earliest encounters as a boy, when She mocks him as unable to fight a phantom, which he then does defeat.(TBC Rec I, pg. 16, 139) It seems there that She doesn’t like him much, but consider then what that means that CC actually orders his charioteer to mock him at a later point.(TBC Rec I, pg. 93, 207) At some point I hope to further explore gressacht, inciting by ridicule, something which is very difficult to understand in a culture where it would be mistaken for bullying which is meant to crush us.(MacCana)
The biggest confusion comes from his response to Her in Táin Bó Cúailnge Rec I, when she comes to him and offers him Sex in the middle of his standoff at the ford. This tale actually does not appear in all of the versions of the TBC and I hope to explore the events in the Táin Bó Regamna (Edit: and I did in Part 2) which also serves to set up the same events at a later time. (I have explored both somewhat already in, “Musings on the Irish War Goddesses” publication pending) Both of these do, after all, seem to get heavily misread.
The reading of this version is that he spurns Her offer of “love” and She, being female and therefore only able to resort to revenge when crushed in this way, punishes him by coming against him while he’s in battle. Some of these retellings of the meeting between CC and the Morrígan make Her out to be a truly pathetic woman we are supposed to feel sorry for while others point what a mistake it is to refuse such a powerful Goddess…some manage to take both these directions at once. It is used by several “warriors” to show why one does not refuse the demands of the Goddess, ever (in what appears to be an attempt to excuse their own recent actions).
This is a translation of the exchange in question:
Cú Chulainn saw coming towards him a young woman of surpassing beauty, clad in clothes of many colours. ‘Who are you?’ asked Cú Chulainn. ‘I am the daughter of Búan the king,’ said she. ‘I have come to you for I fell in love with you on hearing your fame, and I have brought with me my treasures and my cattle.’
‘It is not a good time at which you have come to us, that is, our condition is ill, we are starving (?). So it is not easy for me to meet a woman while I am in this strife.’ ‘I shall help you in it.’ ‘It is not for a woman’s body that I have come.’
‘It will be worse for you’, said she, ‘when I go against you as you are fighting your enemies. I shall go in the form of an eel under your feet in the ford so that you shall fall.’ ‘I prefer that to the king’s daughter,’ said he. ‘I shall seize you between my toes so that your ribs are crushed and you shall suffer that blemish until you get a judgment blessing.’ ‘I shall drive the cattle over the ford to you while I am in the form of a grey she-wolf.’ ‘I shall throw a stone at you from my sling so and smash your eye in your head, and you shall suffer from that blemish until you get a judgment blessing.’ ‘I shall come to you in the guise of a hornless red heifer in front of the cattle and they will rush upon you at many fords and pools yet you will not see me in front of you.’ ‘I shall cast a stone at you,’ said he, ‘so that your legs will break under you, and you shall suffer thus until you get a judgment blessing.’ Whereupon she left him (Cecile O’Rahilly, trans. Táin Bó Cúalnge, Recession 1 Dublin: Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, 1976 English pg. 177, Irish pg. 37)
At face value, taken as a modern story, the reading given does seem obvious. It appears She comes in disguise, however, even in doing so Her role is very clear. Epstein notes that She clearly reveals Herself as a Sovereignty/Victory Goddess when She offers help in his battle. (Epstein, sorry due to mangled formatting I have no page number) Yet there seems at least some hint in calling Herself the daughter of King Búan. A king’s daughter to make a king, Búan linked to “Búanann” a name related to Anann and therefore the Morrígan.(O’Donavan, pg. 17, Epstein) She does indeed say She loves him…for his fame. Which many others did as well, but given context, it could serve as a reminder that, indeed, the glory he has sought since childhood is why She is there.
Certainly, She does say, “It will be worse for you when I go against you as you are fighting your enemies.” So that must mean She’s angry and is going to retaliate. Right? Say “no” to this Goddess is a foolish thing. Because Cú Chulainn’s life was horrible and hard and we’d never want what he had. Wait? What?
No, let’s look at what is She really offering and what is he rejecting? She is saying She is offering love and, obviously, sex. Yet even those mistaking this for a story of scorn love realize that this is also about offering victory as She offered Dagda in the Cath Maige Tuired. (CMT, para. 84) Of course, many seem to think of that as a love story as well, rather than the powerful rite that it was. Dagda accepts and while the victory is not easy, it is had. Cú Chulainn refuses, the Morrígan is hurt and refuses him victory and he is destr…..oh, wait.
I realize this may be really hard for people to grasp. But Cú Chulainn does win. But it’s not easy. And She does make it harder. But was that punishment? Really?
Let’s compare what is different about CC and Dagda for a moment. Dagda is a God, an equal in all ways to the Morrígan. He is an established warrior among the Tuatha Dé Danann and has even been king. He has His own magic, again well established. Mostly, He has nothing to prove.
Cú Chulainn as a boy took up arms when he heard it was a good hour to do so to live a glorious life and die
|The boy Cú Chulainn
by Stephen Reid
young and famous. He had by this time proven himself many times yet was always challenged for his youth and strangeness. He was still a youth and this was, in fact, the story which would make that fame if he was to have it. While other exploits contributed, this was the story which marked him. He still had to fight it.
So let us think what the Morrígan was doing here, actually doing here.
Let’s think that all evidence we have. She does love him.. If we try to understand the gressacht for what it is and we realize that at his death She is distraught and is not Cailitín’s daughter who is also, confusingly, called Badb, who facilitates his death. Rather She tries, despite obviously knowing it’s futile to prevent it. (Van Hamel, pg. 69-133, O’Grady and Stokes in Hull, pg. 235-263) this becomes clear. And She does love him for his fame or rather his determination to have it. And that is important.
What she is offering, by offering him to lie with Sovereignty/Victory, is to lose that all. Think. Go beyond what you think is good or bad, is reward or punishment and think what he had wanted. And think what laying with Victory would give.
What she offered was an easy victory during the events which would mark his fame. He clearly knew who She was and what that would mean. He would have won easily, there would be no tale to tell, he would have been at best a side note but possibly totally forgotten. We’d have no stories today.
ETA: I should also note, that She’d have turned from him, as well. He’d be forgotten for he’d never do anything of note. He’d be no champion and his people would be left without.
This is called a test. She did not want him to say “yes.” If he had then he’d undoubtedly have been punished. He’d have won easily and been forgotten. The worse punishment there could have been for him.
The punishment you see, that She comes against him while he is in battle, serves to further his fame. A fight that is “worse” means winning is better. For he not only faced a warrior but the War Goddess in battle. Do you really believe that She is so weak he would have won against Her if that wasn’t the point? Then why worship such a weak Goddess?
That, btw, is something that boggles me. Especially, among those who then claim “well, She showed him not to say “no” to her!” Um, he won. Is this the extent of strength you see in your Goddess? That She’d try to fight him for real and failed? Then you claim you are afraid to say “no” to Her? What sort of wimp are you then?
Instead, I believe She acts to show Her chosen favorite is indeed mighty! Rather than an easy and easily forgotten victory, She gives him a harder one, one that let’s him rise above all! Because he knew to say “no” to Her test.
She then offers him milk, again in “disguise” which must clearly have been evident. A three teated cow in the presence of an old woman doesn’t add up to a Goddess of cattle? In this She gives him fame for the other side of war, that he also can heal, even a Goddess.
Think. What is punishment to a warrior who as a very small child declared he wanted to have a glorious, famous short life? Why, it would be to have forgotten long one.
And if one thinks a forgotten life is better if you live safely into old age, are you ready to walk the warrior path? None of us are Cú Chulainn, but if you choose a safe life and easy victories, if you choose to say “yes” when ever She tests you to see how much you want what you claim you want then you are far from following his way.
This is a lesson we must learn, that She will ask of us things that go against what we know deep down in our hearts is the right way. She will ask us to do things which She does not want us to do. To serve the Morrígan one needs to have the courage to say “no.” While there are many ways that Cú Chulainn might be a problematic role model, showing the importance of passing such tests is not one of them. He shows us well. Act in accordance to your heart when the Phantom Queen tests you and it will serve you well. Even if the weak can never understand.
I also discuss some of this, as well as expand on the nature of the Morrígan “Musings on the Irish War Goddesses” in By Blood, Bone and Blade: A Tribute to the Morrígan Nicole Bonivusto, ed, Ashville, NC: Bibliotheca Alexandrina, 2014
Angelique Gulermovich Epstein, “War Goddess: The Morrígan and her Germano-Celtic Counterparts” dissertation, University of California in Los Angeles, 1998
Eleanor Hull, ed., The Cuchullin Saga in Irish Literature: being a collection of stories relating to the Hero Cuchullin, London: David Nutt on the Strand, 1898 (Hayes O’Grady, trans., “The Great Defeat on the Plain of Muirthemne before Cuchullin’s Death” and Whitley Stokes, trans., “The Tragical Death of Cochulainn,)
Proinsias MacCana, “Láided, Gressacht ‘Formalized Incitement’” Érui vol. 43
John O’Donovan, ed. and trans. (with notes and translations from Whitley Stokes) Sanas Cormaic Calcutta: O. T. Cutter for the Irish Archeological and Celtic Society, 1868,
AG van Hamel Compert Con Culainn and Other Stories, Medieval and Modern Irish Series, Vol 3, Dublin: Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, 1933
Copyright © 2013 Saigh Kym Lambert
As I noted in An Morrígan and Sarah Connor: Pt. 1 Deities and Icons I had been planning before the blogosphere explosion to write a bit about how the Sarah Connor Charm School and Hooded Crow relate for me. About why I am doing both, where they meet and where they don’t. To do so was actually probably sparked when I was told that someone had proclaimed the Charm School as a Gaelic Heathen warrior group. As it was at a time I was trying to get more attention out about my Hooded Crow project, I think it was especially annoying. Of course, it would come as a big surprise to all those Christian women I work with in the Charm School, and probably Pagans of other cultural involvements.
So having reiterated that the SCCS is not a Pagan group, I shall now admit that it actually started out as a Pagan joke. And now may be responsible for this Pagan project. In fact, I’m starting to reconsider what I said that They never used Sarah Connor’s image, because I think They did quite a bit to kick me in the ass….even if none have ever copied her appearance. Because right when I needed it, there it was.
|It was probably this one|
Never having seen The Terminator, I didn’t pay much attention when a friend, a mentor on the warrior path, and his roommate were talking about the second movie about to come out. I seem to remember them focused on Arnie and machines. *yawn* Later that day, I was a bit surprised when I visited other friends (at the time) who were not, AFAIK, Arnie fans anymore than I was, to find that they were all excited about Terminator 2 as well. Then they showed me her photo in a magazine (remember those things? ah, yes, tell me the machines aren’t taking over, after all). Linda Hamilton, dressed in black and with all that muscle.
You know how you don’t know you were looking for something until you find it? Yeah, one of those moments. Or rather it built, I sought out the first movie, got to the new one the first chance I got. The first moment when Sarah is on the screen doing chin ups was probably when it really hit. This was something I was looking for, I just hadn’t known it.
There are people who probably do great without story and imagery to motivate and drive them. I’m not one of those people. I am very driven by story and image, I need to put things in my head to work towards. While I had found enough to get me into martial arts and physical training to be on this path I found myself on, much was rather anachronistic and much was unformed in many ways. Especially as a woman on the path, with a male mentor who had a world of images and stories through the ages he could go on but which tended to make those like me feel marginalized.
Yes, there were other strong women fictional roles before then, including Ripley of the Alien franchise. But Sarah was different, because there was a multitude of layers about here which were meaningful for me. Okay, maybe I wasn’t that paranoid about machines and I never had a kid, the latter being a strong connect for some of my friends, but pretty much everything else. Despite a fantastical story line, she was very real, very everyday. Just one of us.
The key thing was her character arch, which might be one of the best ever created in movies. Yeah, I might be bias. She was just like most of us have been at some point, directionless, working a dead end job we hated and felt inept at, not exactly winning at love. She wasn’t a warrior, she didn’t start out with knowledge of how to fight, she wasn’t granted super powers. In the first movie she is totally a Final Girl, with two notable exceptions. One is that she survived having sex, but then she does have to have this kid as it’s sort of the point. But the main one is that when the monster is finally dead, rather than sighing with relief and trying to return to a “normal life” despite the trauma, she heads south of the border pregnant, with a gun and a dog and looking for training. When she appears again she’s crazy, trained, physically strong. To the point that she, herself, may be more machine, but you can see her arch continue as her relationship with her son begins to heal in T2.
The combination of physical strength, fight training and preparedness were things I realized where intricate to making a civilian warrior. A bit of craziness might not hurt either. Because this was where I felt directionless at the time this movie came out. Obviously, I wasn’t going to be transported back to the Iron Age. I also had health issues which made being a professional warrior of any type, law enforcement, military or firefighter (which had at one time wished to do), impossible. Um, okay, I also have an issue with authority which might have gotten in the way. It helped to see the survivalist presented. And a woman at that.
Of course, there was the muscle. I was struggling with fitness, in part due to health issues (some of which got worse in the year or so before the movie came out) as well as being a scrawny hard-gainer. I was studying a martial art, which included some fitness (although probably shouldn’t…I have several issues with that now), was lifting, running. I was having problems with figuring out what to do and how to do it. I had long ditched the standard fitness advice to women, for it was (and is) about diminishing, getting smaller and weaker, not about strength. Therefore I was reading bodybuilding magazines and books, but that often left me frustrated, because of being a hard-gainer (but I did learn the term “hard-gainer”). Sarah offered more realistic physique than the bodybuilders did. Oh, still very different than I could and Linda Hamilton was not a hard-gainer, having obtained that look in a very short time. But still more real. At some point along the line I did decide to figure it out by become a personal trainer…which is it’s own twisted tale.
This was the practical side, which I don’t feel I was at all grounded in before. And which is vital to the warrior path. Which also needs to be grounded in the present day, even if the reasons we do it are in the future (and, no, probably not Skynet or Revenants, so it’s best to be ready for anything).
So I was pretty obsessed, using this story and imagery to motivate me as I continued with my growing physical training and with continuing research on Gaelic culture and religion. And now, back to how the Charm School started as a Pagan joke.
The same people who first showed me Linda/Sarah’s photo were working on a parody Pagan newsletter not long after the movie came out (or maybe even had started before, time slides). It was going to satirize various excesses of the Pagan community. I was at first trying to come up with something mocking some other folks I knew, but, well, sometimes it’s more fun to joke about yourself. And so, “Sarah Connor Charm School” and an “ad campaign” for this “warrior training program” bloomed. The parody ‘zine never happened, but the Sarah Connor Charm School remained a running joke. Which spread among many of my other friends from various circles.
As I got online, I kept referencing the joke with real life friends who already were in on it and it grew to those I “met” online. Indeed, many women had been inspired by the character in similar ways. We made up a batch of T-shirts, we discussed fitness, martial arts and self-defense, a bit of prepping..I started a LiveJournal page for it.
Meanwhile, I kept worshiping the War Goddesses, yet felt forbidden to speak Their names or talk or write much about Them, which often became uncomfortable (especially as others were not so forbidden and, well, some of the information spread was…well….). I worked within or Outside a variety of groups, started a warrior group within an organization which has fortunately written me out their history from what I understand and so will remain nameless here, tried to start up some other things which got too distracting and off my path….. I returned to the wilderness, with the internet my primary way of keeping involved in things Celtic Reconstructionist. I kept trying to build what that was, continuing my own studies and training.
In the mid-aughts, there was a big strive to get CR well defined and a group of people I was friendly with got together on that. Including the two people who first showed me “Sarah’s” photo. It was over all a stressful time in my life, my Mum died during it being at the center of my own chaos and hell. Within this group of people, there was a lot of ego clashing and underhanded ploys for control which I unfortunately got too caught up in. It was just a real clusterfuck. Then something happened among these people that was sort of “off-topic” but a major ethical and spiritual deal breaker for me, regarding oaths I had taken….and then was abused and mocked for taking a stand on. I was already sick of the ego plays, power grabs and fighting. I said “fuck it” and walked away.
Oh, some CR-types stuck with me as friends and were as disgusted as I was, of course, but I wasn’t all that active in “the movement” any longer. I even stopped at all using the term CR, although I, of course, continued to use that methodology. I kept doing my own thing, “labeled” for the syncretic tendencies of being Scottish focused and married to a Heathen, kept working with Badb, Macha and the Morrígan……but for online connections and networking I threw myself more into The Sarah Connor Charm School. It was, after all, a hell of a lot more fun than what I’d been dealing with. At a time when my life was continuing to be less fun. My Dad and several dogs and horses all died during this time period, too (all for natural causes related to age).
I started a website which I eventually got a domain for, started a Facebook page, met more and more people, especially women, who were inspired by her. Many who were not Pagan, who I probably wouldn’t have worked with on such things if I had done something Pagan focused…but also Pagans who are dedicated to other Gods or are not dedicated to particular Gods or are more ….well, there’s a lot of variety. And we talked more about fitness and training and prepping…and we developed the Honorary Degree thing where we celebrate real strong women and girls (and now boys with the John Connor Award and heroic
animals with Max’s First Line of Defense Heroes). I even took my ideas developed for a Pagan warrior group and removed the religious and cultural material, replacing it with basic charm school type liberal arts and with Sarah related languages (as she had trained in Central and/or South America) for the curriculum. The physical, prepping and even arts stuff was already in there. (and for all those mighty, mostly male, Pagan “warriors” who complained my ideas were too tough…we now have someone systematically using it, thank you very much!).
I also cracked down on some training I hadn’t gotten to yet, having a job where I could afford it and perhaps more time and energy due to less drama. You can, of course, read about some of that here, here and here. And wrote stuff *wavesingeneraldirectionatblog* I had already included research in pop culture female action heroes, physical feminism and related topics in my studies long ago, but I got a deep focus on that during this time.
And then it happened. Writing I had put on a back burner, or really the freezer, and didn’t know what to do with I took out, heated up and started working on. Making several changes, including writing about the War Goddesses. Suddenly, it was vital that I write and talk about Them. A lot. I then put that on the back burner, but only that far, because I felt the need to work on an extensive but shorter piece. Which, when finished I suddenly found a place to submit it to. Then more possible places and more things are out in editors’ hands. And all to one degree or another related to the War Goddesses. And then I realized I needed to make the “online shrine” and change the name of this blog to match. And, of course, a FaceBook page for it and two related groups Clann na Morrígna and Ban-gaiscedach na Morrígna (I fear LJ is becoming a thing of the past, but I have an older group there just called Hooded Crow which you need to message me to join and really isn’t used as much). And two related At some point I’ll probably put a page outlining the training program up, but if someone is already doing the cultural-religious stuff, then that’s already posted.
And in doing so, I have become more involved in doing things within the Pagan/Polytheist communities, but choosing where I hang out and who I do them with. Sometimes, now that I’ve been away from certain prejudices, with some association with folks I wouldn’t once have. Finding common ground where They want me to.
I think that stepping way from the drama and focusing on the Sarah Connor Charm School stuff helped clear away a lot of bullshit. It also led me to meet and learn from some really wonderful women who I might not have had the time and energy to get to know. It’s helped me move along my own path more than the work I had been doing trying to build a general CR focused “movement” which did often leave me with little energy for the warrior stuff.
So, this is exactly how these two things tie together for me. Of course, they are, I’m not big on separating parts of my life all that much. I figure Hooded Crow will always be smaller than the Charm School, given that the focus on CR methodology and one group of Goddesses combines for a less interest. Even though it’s less gender specific (SCCS has a lot of male supporters, but the “school” itself is for women…it should be realized, as I have said before, men have a lot more stories than we do already). Right now it’s mostly just my thing, anyway, while the Charm School has become a lot of women’s thing.
And if you missed it please see An Morrígan and Sarah Connor: Pt. 1 Deities and Icons part 3 is on it’s way (EDIT is now up Our Gods and Heroes in Pop Culture), I’ll be less focused on Sarah Connor (although Linda Hamilton will get a mention) and instead discuss Gaelic Gods and Heroes in pop culture, especially the Morrígan (although in general that should be “sort of”). (EDIT: also now have An Morrígan and SC: Pt. 4: Training)
copyright © Saigh Kym Lambert
A few weeks ago I was going to write a post about the relationship between my path following the War Goddesses and my pop culture interests and involvement in the Sarah Connor Charm School. I hadn’t gotten around to it, because it’s a busy time of year on the homestead and I was supposed to spend my writing time on an article which has a deadline (and I give myself an earlier one so I can get some feed back from a few trusted friends before sending it off). But it’s raining, and while I suppose I could be doing house work I’m not, and the article is in rough draft and I need a break before editing it so…here I am…
Meanwhile, during the time I wasn’t writing that I started to see links posted on FB about some explosion about Pop Culture Worship on the Pagan Blogsphere. It wasn’t happening in any blogs I read nor were any Pagans I know who are students of pop culture (yes, this is studied), in fact, none of them seem to have piped up on it yet. I suspect one is watching for a research paper at this point. ~;p So I didn’t pay much attention until it did land in a blog I do read. I discussed some there, although by the time it landed in another blog I read, my interest in chatting had faded. The first link has a lot of links to much of what was written before, although it seems to have continued going all over the place. I’ve only read a few, mostly just skimmed, most I haven’t.
And I’m not really going to get into the argument. There are too many things that came up that I could, but most seem to partially come from 1) perhaps caring a bit too much about what the fuck other people are doing. Yeah, I can go there, but I’m old and tired now, it doesn’t interest me much unless it affects my work in some way (like liars I have associated with and people who are claiming things about Gaelic culture that is insanely stupid). 2) Most of these opinions are expressed without a real understanding of certain aspects of pop culture studies that, well, I’m too old and tired to go into the entire background of here. It could take books, after all, then I’d have to come around to what has been said and where that fits or doesn’t. The overwhelming concern with pop cultures as “consumerist” is part of why I see no point really getting into it as that both over simplifies pop culture and also forgets the agendas of survival (in a different economic system) behind many of our old stories). There isn’t as much difference between modern pop culture and the popular cultures of the past as I think some people seem to think, just shortening the term doesn’t give it a different meaning. But I’m too old and tired to give 30 years of work in one blog post. 3) This idea is certainly nothing new. I’ve been around too many fucking Discordians and too many “Jungian Archetype” Pagans, often mixed, for far to fucking long to get my panties in a bunch about this. Where were you all talking about this 30 years ago? Really, you’re just discovering this?
So I’m mostly going to discuss this in regards to, well, me…this is my fucking blog after all. And, of course, this post, which was partially planned already, may seem a bit defensive. Oh, well.
Of course, only one of the those blogging might read my blog, maybe. Has links to here anyway. But others might see that this blog mixes pop culture and spirituality, read that I have a Sarah Connor action figure on my gym shrine and such and come away with the idea that I worship Sarah Connor. Sorry, that would be weird (especially as I’ve met Linda Hamilton and it would be all weirdly conflated and how weird is that for her? Hells, it seems to have taken time for her to come to terms with the whole icon thing as it is). So here’s the deal, some of us make personal spiritual connections with pop culture without worshiping them. Deal with it.
The Sarah Connor figure on my shrine doesn’t represent any Goddess, They are represented by a statue, a modern artist’s interpretation of an Morrígan. “Sarah” is there to be a modern representation of warrior woman, not just this one character but a general, well, archetype. Yes, while I am a hard polytheist about my Gods, I also see the power of archetypes. I don’t worship them either. She’s there to be, as the character is for me, something to strive towards. And it’s important to me to have modern representation, not just those out of the Iron Age. Because I don’t live in the Iron Age.
That, of course, goes with much of what else I do. My primary interest in training on the warrior path is modern, I might like sword training, but for me it’s not as practical as shooting. I try to do both, of course, because it allows me to honor the past and be ready in the present. Mind you, sword training can be practical, as my knees continue to age it might be more so for I might carry a cane as often as I do a gun. But in general, I’d just as soon have the gun too. I’m not role playing.
There seems to be some concept that if we focus on modern pop culture images that They might use it to connect with us. Well, yes. I just don’t see the same problem with that that others seem to have. And I also don’t think we can avoid it. See, I’m of the mind that it happens all the time already. Look at “alien abduction” and the similarities with Fairy encounters of the past. I’m personally not with the Whitley Strieber camp that that means the Folk, let alone the Gods, have been aliens all along. I believe instead the Folk show themselves to people in ways that those people might identify with, as it’s useful. It’s going to happen, we are products of our time. And They are timeless.
Back in the days when my head was sort of stuck in the past, I had two things happen to me. One was a meditation in a warrior path workshop where we were told to approach a mirror and see ourselves as the warriors we wish to become. I actually approached expecting to see myself as my imagining of an Iron Age warrior, but instead I was pretty much dressed much as I was dressed, not much unlike Sarah Connor actually but for colder camping conditions. Unlike as I was then, in MA and not having made peace with guns, I also had firearms. It was a clear reminder to me to stay in the present.
Shortly after that I met one of the War Goddesses. Before this They always appeared archaic. This time, She was wearing a black wool skirt just below the knee, black tights and sensible shoes, a black sweater, neatly tailored black leather jacket and a beret. Same face I knew but the tattooing only faintly showing, same tri-colored hair but shorter and Her braids not as noticeable; She could have been mistaken for a human if one didn’t look closely. I’d been doing research on the IRA at the time, so I recognized this. But I also got the message here, “I am of Ulster at heart, but of all time.” Mostly I still see Them in more archaic garb, but, again, it was a time when I think I could have fallen into too much romance of the distant past and I needed to be reminded not to.
No, She hasn’t appeared dressed as Sarah Connor, but if She did it wouldn’t be the same as me suddenly worshiping the character. After all, She’d have Her own face as I know it and tri-colored braids. It would be simply another form for the Shape-shifter, it would be up to me to reason why. After all this, it might even be a joke. I know better than to take everything seriously now.
Oh, wait, I’ve changed my mind
Yeah, I’m going to run off a few thoughts about the whole “pop culture is different from past popular cultures.” In order to avoid writing the book that this could take, I will probably get a bit disjointed. I also realize this is going to be at least two blog posts to get back to my original plan.
I do not know that there was ever a Goddess actually worshiped by the pre-Christian Irish titled the Morrígan. I don’t know for sure that there were Goddesses named Macha, Badb or Anand or if any would have born the title if They were. I don’t have one single myth. Anyone who calls the Irish literature “mythology” is mistaken. It’s not. You can wish it to be, but it’s not. It’s literature, written by Christian monks. And, at the core, that’s the only thing we really know about it.
We know it correlates to place names, but we don’t know what that means. So we know for some reason Emain Macha exists, but…we have multiple stories about why. (Meyer et al) Ronald Hutton’s take on this is that “It looks as if the authors knew nothing of her except her name, and were inventing stories to go with it.”(Hutton) Now, personally, I don’t believe that they created all these stories out of thin air, but the fact remains we don’t know. All these stories may well be complete fictions created with Biblical and Classical stories in mind, as the Monks certainly knew the latter as well as former,, or they may be older Irish stories with some Biblical and Classical elements added. That the Biblical elements have been included is indisputable, it’s just a matter of what they’re introduced to. The Classical can be debated, are these similarities from common Indo-Eureopean threads or directly lifted? This depends on if you follow natavist or anti-nativist thinking…or, like me, tend to be a bit in between. (Wooding)
The debate about the literature and it’s possible connection to pre-Christian ideas is going to go on. Most of us work around our doubts, find what we believe to be the voices of our Gods there, even when we have dismissed notions that any of these clerics purposely tried to keep Pagan ways alive. They had many different agendas, but I doubt that one. Yet, we still find power there because at least part of it is a continuation of the culture, even if the culture we get it from was decidedly Christian. Folklore still told by the people also changed, we have no idea what it was in the centuries before it was recorded even later than the literature. We hope, we pray, and it has meaning for us despite this.
For a lot of scholars, btw, it’s fiction. Interesting, telling of the time it was written, but fiction. I’ve seen Pagans get huffy about it, but that’s what it remains for many who have delved very deeply into it.
The simple truth is that all stories we have, no matter how old, no matter if they were through story telling or written down, have people with agendas behind them. Especially when they get written down. How different is it for a scribe 1000 years ago to keep himself alive by writing a fake history that pleases a king and a writer today who writes something marketable so she can try to make a living? I suppose some will find major differences, but I don’t.
When we read the warrior tales, we see some really repugnant behavior, much which goes against the values expressed in the contemporary legal systems, from the heroes of the tales. This includes Cú Chulainn and Conchobar, of the Ulster cycle (something which I’ve been focused on lately a bit). Does this mean it’s our own sensibilities that are offended? As I said, much would go against the early Christian laws. Or might we think that the scribes had little interest in showing these Pagan warriors in a good light. Is this any different from a screenwriter who believes women should not behave “like men” getting license for one of the very characters he once complained wasn’t his definition of appropriately feminine? There are always agendas behind stories.
But story is always more than the agenda of those who create or tell it. Every person makes it something different. In feminist critique there is the concept of coding (or filtering). Whether it’s ancient tales (this has been used greatly in studies of folk tales, or modern.(Radner) People code things, change the stories in their own heads, in accordance to their own experiences. It isn’t only a gender thing, although that’s where most of the study has been, but also class, culture, sexual orientation, religion….pretty much everything that makes us different from one another. Diana Dominguez uses this method in her study of Medb, looking at how women, as well as the men usually focused on, might have coded these stories.(Dominguez) I think over all studies of Irish literature could benefit from this form of critique, again not just the gender issues. What do people get from it based on their backgrounds is as important to consider as what the creators might have meant.
What I’m coming to, and there could be so much more here, is that the differences between old stories and new ones exist but perhaps not as greatly as some think. It’s just our distance from one as compared to the other that makes it seem so. Rather like how so many people are surprised by every little finding that shows people have always been people, we always seem to think those in the past were greatly different than us. Everyone is different, but that’s just one way we’ve always been the same. ~;)
I think we’re now way beyond any idea that I’m talking about worshiping Sarah Connor or any other pop culture character. Let’s get to what spiritual meaning might be found separate of worship. Because that’s a big deal for me.
As I said, I believe story is important. It shapes us since were children and, yes, our stories come through TV, movies and comics as much as through books and far, far more than oral telling or even live plays. Some people are geared to it more than others, some spend vast amounts of time role playing, cosplaying, writing fanfic, participating in fan clubs, going to cons. Some of us spend hours reading media critique and writing it. There are people who are not mindful of their media intake at all, perhaps the majority. But some of us know we are affected. We also know others are affected and we worry about it.
Yeah, some of that’s a “woman thing.” And I think that’s another issue that comes up for me. While men on a Gaelic warrior path have tons of old literature depicting their heroes as heroes, although I do hope they question some of the “heroic” acts described, you know such as rape, as I woman I’m not left with much. Despite the popular belief that there are lots of women warriors to be found, there really aren’t that many. And the one who has the most material about her is the villain of the piece, although I personally code her as more heroic than the Ulstermen she fights, all things considered and Dominguez”s study gives lots of reasons why. There are a couple of other women warriors who show heroism, one you’ll find in some links I’ve given already, but their tales are very short. One really is no more than a paragraph. This, btw, is the topic of the article I have been working on, I’ll let you know if it gets published.
So along with also looking for modern day role models, we sometimes just looking for role models. Any. And we’re not going to just be looking in the past. Are there real life ones we could be looking to instead, shit yeah! In fact, the Sarah Connor Charm School has developed a strong focus for honoring such women. But Sarah Connor sums up all of that in one fictional package. And, of course, it brings up that she isn’t completely fictional, because she’s all of us. In all of us. Yes, including the paranoid conspiracy theory parts, in at least some of us. *ahem* Again, there’s that archetype thing.
I feel I’m in pretty good company here. After all, while we are not a “Gaelic Heathen warrior group” as I’m told someone described us on a Pagan radio podcast, many CR women who walk the warrior path seem to be interested. The reality is that it a very mixed bag, with many of our most active members being Christian. On the academic side, Dominguez has also written about modern warrior female warrior icons, “It’s Not Easy Being a Cast Iron Bitch”: Sexual Difference and the Female Action Hero and Tough and Tender, Buff and Brainy: A New Breed of Female Television Action Hero Blurs the Boundaries of Gender. Because we need to explore what the warrior woman means to us and to the culture.
This is turning out long, I have already accidentally published it and those reading on feeds may well have too much insight to my strange habit of stealing my own FB posts as notes for a blog. ~;p I intend to actually get back to the original post I was going to make in a separate post (EDIT: which is now up: An Morrígan and Sarah Connor: Pt. 2 Warrior Cults and Charm Schools). I guess I got sucked into the way more than I thought I would, but I’m leaving the above, where I claim I won’t do that, where it is. (EDIT also Part 3: Our Gods and Heroes in Pop Culture takes a look at the reverse issue) (EDIT: also Part 4: Training)
Oh, another note, of all the posts on this blog, the Wonder Woman one is more popular than all the other combined, by many times. I do think that tells us something, too.
Geoffrey Keating (Seathrún Céitinn), Foras Feasa ar Éirinn: The History of Ireland Vol. 2, David Comyn, Patrick S. Dinneen, eds., London: David Nutt, for the Irish Texts Society, 1902–1914 English Irish Section 28
John O’Donovan ed. and trans., Annala Rioghachta Eireann: Annals of the kingdom of Ireland by the Four Masters, from the earliest period to the year 1616. Library of the Royal Irish Academy and of Trinity College Dublin Pt 1 English, Irish M4505-M4546
Ronald Hutton, The Pagan Religions of the Ancient British Isles: Their Nature and Legacy, Cambridge, MA: Blackwell Publishers, Inc., 1995 pg. 154
Jonathan M. Wooding’s “Reapproaching the Pagan Celtic Past – Anti-Nativism, Asterisk Reality and the Late-Antiquity Paradigm” Studia Celtica Fennica VI, Finnish Society for Celtic Studies, 2009 pg. 51-74
Joan Newlon Radner, ed., Feminist Messages: Coding in Women’s Folk Culture, Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1993
Diana Dominguez. Historical Residues in the Old Irish Legends of Queen Medb: An Expanded Interpretation of the Ulster Cycle, Lewiston, NY: The Edwin Mellen Press, 2010
copyright © Saigh Kym Lambert