Re-publication re-announcement: By Blood, Bone and Blade: A Tribute to the Morrígan second edition

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!

Cover of By Blood, Bone and Blade

 

Publication Announcement: By Blood, Bone and Blade: A Tribute to the Morrígan

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. ~;)

Cover of By Blood, Bone and Blade

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.

Of Monsters and the Tyranny of Silence – TRIGGER WARNING

*Edited to add: If you think that downloading and sharing child pornography is somehow okay, somehow doesn’t hurt anyone, somehow is victimless, and the story of the woman whose uncle distributed videos of him raping her as a child isn’t moving enough, perhaps watching a fictionalized telling of such a story will wake you up. Downloaded Child was on Law & Order:SVU April 2, 2014. Obviously, trigger warnings for child sexual abuse, rape, domestic abuse….anyone who is familiar with the show knows it can be triggery but this one has a lot of triggers even for SVU. 

I nearly used “predators” in the title but I actually dislike the term “sexual predator” because while certainly it may be accurate, real predators serve a function in the cycle of life. Sexual monsters do not. They are something which should be eradicated, not accepted, certainly not protected. But the often are protected. Silence is a large part of that protection.

There has been a great deal blogged on this so you have likely seen much of what I might share here, but for various reasons I feel it’s important for me to take a stand here. Mostly, because I believe it’s important for us all to take a stand. There has already been some sense (and I am not linking to posts which I am criticizing for a couple  of reasons 1) I don’t want to make an example of one post when there have been several others making the same statement as well as several comments in other posts, 2) many I do not want to give traffic to) that this is just a Wiccanate issue, that those of us in Reconstructionist religions and those who have rejected (I may do a not very nice post on that one day) the term “Pagan” are somehow immune. But we are not. There are many abusers, not all sexual and not all aimed at children, in the broadest spectrums of Pagan/Polytheistic identified community.  And it’s time to take a stand against all abusers.

But when it comes to children, it’s even more important to speak out.  It’s decades past the time that this should have been  dealt with, in fact. I’m one of those who had heard “rumors” about Kenneth Klein 25 or more years ago. They only even resemble rumors because of my distance, I didn’t know him. But I knew that attempts to report him had been made and that pressure was put on those who wanted him charged. “We must protect the community.”

At that time I was also aware of rapists and others being protected by “big names” and gathering organizers in Paganism.  The late ’80s actually saw a great deal of what turned out to be fruitless dialogue on abusers, rapists, child molesters and other monsters in our midst. Very little happened to these monsters. “It would look bad for all Pagans.”

This silencing happens because we do live in a rape culture, the Pagan community no less than any other. We live in a culture where those in power actively shame and terrorize victims from speaking out, to protect those who abuse under the misguided notion that admitting these things happen implicates us all. Of course, when the allegations of abuse by Catholic priests came out, some people I knew who told me this were outraged that the Catholic church had protected these priests.  We can see how what really implicates the whole is protecting the guilty only when it happens in another group, we lie to ourselves that it can’t happen in our own and when it does we decide to hide it…while condemning others for doing the same.

This needs to stop.

When it comes to the silence of the victims, no one who didn’t report because they were afraid either directly of him, of others who had power who may work to silence them, even of their own pain and past, is to blame. Those who took power to silence others, whether they were physical abusers or not, I do believe deserve blame. And I hope at least some come forward to be accountable as many of Klein’s victims come forward, including his former wife and children. Allegations Emerge After Pagan Author Charged With Possessing Child Pornography

During the fall out of Klein’s arrest, issues with other Pagans came up. I seemed to have missed that Gavin and Yvonne Frost resurfaced awhile back Apparently, they were to be at the Florida Pagan Gathering to the horror of many, with the organizers, as has so often happened in so many cases for decades, choosing to support the abusers rather than those who want an end to it. (Apparently, they will not be there)

In the 1970s and all subsequent editions the Frosts’ Witches Bible included a ritual deflowering of pubescent children. There are those who want to excuse this, to say they probably never did it, as if doing it would be objectionable for someone who wrote it, and, after all, who could imagine this elderly couple as child predators. But even if someone wants to believe they didn’t once do this, they gave a damn manual to others who did. Because you know someone did. At the least, it’s probably messed the heads of a lot of young people who read it. I remember it doing a bit of a number on me as a teen when I found it. I was fortunate it wasn’t the first book I found and I think that finding Adler’s Drawing Down the Moon and Starhawk’s The Spiral Dance helped me not get more screwed in the head by it. (I might not agree with Starhawk on much today, but at least her feminist message offered something far more empowering than the idea that to be a Witch I should have been ritually raped by an adult at puberty)

It’s also high time we keep nailing home some of the gross misinformation and misunderstanding that is being spouted now.

One of these is the idea that Klein isn’t really a bad person because “all he did was download some photos, you can’t hurt a child by that.”  First, let’s remember that his arrest has given voice to many he has physically abused. But the idea that child pornography is “just photos” and doesn’t harm children is mind-bogglingly naive. Do you think these photos are some how magically made without the children being harmed? “Oh, well, yes,” you say, “but it’s only the fault of those who made them, let’s go after them.” Do not doubt that efforts are being made on that, they may well be arrests of those making it, we just don’t recognize their names. But it is true that it sometimes hard to track down, there are multinational task-forces working on this constantly. It’s a huge battle.

Some producers are small time, like a man selling videos of him raping his young niece. Tell me no child was harmed there. Some producers of child pornography are involved large underground corporations that traffic unimaginable numbers of children. (I do not normally use Wikipedia as a source, however, I felt like I was going crazy trying to find the most complete source for this).

And those who buy the products of these monsters are themselves directly responsible for the harm to those children. Demand runs supply. (consider this too, if you participate in adult pornography, know your sources for that…while some may be consensual on the part of all actors, not all is …obviously there are no blurred lines when it comes to children, at all)  On the other side of things, while some pedophiles do actually simply use pornography, others find it inspiration and ideas to pursue their own physical attacks. Just like there have likely been “Witches” who followed the Frosts’ instructions on raping children, anyone who shares, not only those who made it, child pornography may be inspiring another to rape.

Another inventive excuse I have seen has also been that it “must just be photos of ‘skyclad’ children at festivals.”  Well, he may have such photos, as well, but while this may seem “innocent” and not having harmed those children, why would anyone who wasn’t a pedophile have such photos at all?  Who else takes photos of naked children and looks at them? As I noted, I had heard the “rumors” and have heard first hand parents who have said that they wouldn’t have their children at festivals that this man (and several others) was at, let alone let them run naked in his presence.

Actually, the ease with nudity that the Pagan community is known for is one of the issues we’ve often have had with sexual monsters. Of course, this isn’t only in regards to children. As an adult at Pagan gatherings I became increasingly uncomfortable being unclothed.  One of the first gatherings I was at we had a guy who would lurk and watch women, who no one seemed to know and who didn’t participate in any of the events happening, who showed no real signs of being Pagan but just lurked around our campsite and made all the women in our camping area uncomfortable. We started noticing him the showers when women were in there (it was open group showers) and most of us started keeping our cloths on outside the shower and began showering with groups of men we knew were safe. This guy had no problem with being noticed watching women but was apparently terrified that he might be accused of watching men. Of course, we did this because our concerns about him

Even such voyeuristic activity is assault, not only because you do not know if it will become more but because it forces the victims of it to change our behavior.  And in recent years, I have become more aware of much worse that can be for children.  Children who are subjected to inappropriate sexual behavior towards them, even if they are untouched, and whether it’s knowing they are being watched, having remarks made to or about them or others in their hearing or seeing activity which should not be flaunted in front of anyone who is not a wiling participant can have a damaging effect on a child. (sorry, this has been primarily from discussions, I do not have sources)

The other issue that comes up is the “innocent until proven guilty” one.  First, keep in mind that is about the courts.  Let’s also remember that Klein admitted to having this pornography..  However, one of the things that came up in the wider world regarding Dylan Farrow coming forward about her abuse by Woody Allen is that” innocent until proven guilty” should truly be owed the victim of sexual assault, far more than the accused especially when the accused has so much more power even beyond the power they had over their victim.  Victims almost always feel that they are the ones on trial in public opinion if they come forward and, therefore, many do not.  I fear that the attacks which we saw on Dylan Farrow and her mother have not helped that situation in the wider world. This is rape culture.

Which brings ups back to silence and the silencing within our community that has gone on and is still going on.

There have been comments from Pagans regarding those coming forward that “how can we believe these people coming forward if they hide behind anonymity?” This shows a serious disconnect from the reality victims face. The right of a victim to not make themselves publicly known for further abuse is something we need to respect. Especially among Pagans who have often claimed many less serious reasons for taking pseudonyms. Consider that by making this remark you are already attacking the victim for speaking out, why would they want to make themselves an easier target?

Another defender of Klein has said that she doesn’t want to hear “I knew about this all along.”  Well, some of us did. And some of us wish deeply we had known more and could have done more. Some who did know more probably should be ashamed…..but as I said, that does not include the victims. It does include those the victims disclosed to in order to get help who refused to help them.

I have deep personal issues with being told to be silent, and it’s largely why I am writing this. Unfortunately, I become so enraged by being told to shut up that I often cannot express myself verbally and that’s largely why I’m writing this now instead of several weeks ago.  And this is the hard part for me.

I was molested when I was 10 years old by a teenage foster brother. I was lucky, I know that, that I did feel I could go to my mother with what he did. I was not silenced then. He was removed from our house within hours. I was truly fortunate. However….

After that I quickly learned that there must be silence. As far as my family was concerned this boy never lived with us. He was not to be mentioned, what happened to me was not to be mentioned.  At all. It never happened.

But, of course, it did. And because of  this silencing I never got the help I needed to deal with what was done with me. I also found out only a few years ago that nothing was done about him doing this at all, he was placed in a new home in another town with two girls who were younger than I was. I have no idea if he hurt them or not but he was with them until he graduated and a relative, who rolled her eyes and refused to acknowledge that I was molested by him (I’m sure she knew at the time, but was happy to pretend it didn’t happen and apparently still is), proceeded to prattle on about “how well he did” there.

The silence I learned undoubtedly is part of what kept me from reporting being raped about 10 years later. The other issue was how confused by our rape culture I was at the time, because it took a long time for me to tell myself that I was raped. Even though I knew. I was flirting with the guy, I was quite drunk, I probably would have later slept with him if he hadn’t raped me that night, he wasn’t someone I really knew but he wasn’t the “complete stranger jumping out of an alley with a knife.” There was no knife. Even if at the time I knew how to fight back, and I didn’t then, I probably wouldn’t have been able to due to how drunk I was. I even passed out during it, so it shouldn’t have been so bad, right?  That night when I got home, not having said anything to the friend I was with, I was terrified he’d followed me and that hurt me more. Yet in the light of day, I told myself it wasn’t really rape. Because he was someone I had been attracted to and flirted with. It took years to define it. And, of course, it took even more years to tell anyone else at all.

And those four paragraphs were the hardest thing for me to write ever. Because that call for silence is so fucking hard to break. And why no one should ever be told to be silent about being a victim.  It’s funny how much easier it was for me to overcome any physical fear I had, by the things I more often write about here, than it has been for me to over come the fucking silence.

A lot of people are looking at what to do about this. Or were. There is, of course, concern now that the blogosphere is quieting on this that we might start losing interest in doing anything. And that’s a real concern, given that we’ve gotten so very good at not doing anything.  Previous attempts have failed largely for this reason as Brendan Myers discussed in Whatever happened to the Pagan Community Statement on Religious Sexual Abuse?   Psychotherapist Cat Chapin-Bishop has some concrete advice in Responding to Abuse in the Pagan Community.

Some of this might be overwhelming for many. So I’m going to give my only piece of advice as a first step. One that others have called for such as Yvonne Aburrow

Stop the silence! Stop it now!  Listen to the victims!  Give them a voice! Yes, take action from that and give the victims resources for help, get everyone resources to defend themselves as they can, but first give them a voice!

Two other links on this subject which I do not think I linked to previously:

On Outing Abusers

Predators in Paganism (Trigger Warning)

Copyright © 2014 Saigh Kym Lambert

 

But what about Her/Them?

It has been pointed out to me that in my last post about rebuilding the Cult(s) I neglected to say what we’re doing for Her or Them in this. I mention what such cults might provide for members and the community, but I seem to neglect the Goddesses Themselves. I can see that it appears that way, but I I guess for me it’s so much all about Them that it didn’t really occur to me during the writing process to note it.

From the moment She grabbed me by the hair and said “you work for me!” it’s been about Her. Two things were made very clear at the beginning 1) I was to walk the warrior path, in a serious and physical way, despite health problems and despite my convictions of pacifism. 2) I was not to continue practicing Wicca, which I had just been initiated into. I was going to find ways that She wanted me to worship Her based on learning about the actual culture.  I might not be able to learn how She was worshiped in pre-Christian or by those who continued honoring Her when many others had become Christian, but I was going to figure out ways that She appreciated more. Not because She was unable to understand other ways, as some accuse Reconstructionists of saying, but because it’s what She wanted. For me to work to understand Her and Her culture. (and it’s more respectful to the culture)
Close up of Statue of Cu Chulainn by Oliver Sheppard

So, for Her, I changed my focus in college to Celtic studies, started training in a martial art, changed my fitness plans and left my coven. For Her, for Them, I have over the years given up comfort, relationships, friendships and even safety. Because They really are “like that.”  They don’t remove obstacles, They challenge us to show what we’ll do to go through the obstacles. They may even be the ones planting those obstacles in our path. None of us are Cú Chulainn, but most of us end up being thankful when we realize that at least what we get thrown into is still a cake walk in comparison.

So, yes, I talk about what the cults do to serve those who are part of them and the greater community. Because the warrior does serve the community, for some of us that’s part of the service we give the Deity we follow (but, obviously, not all follow any at all), and we sometimes need the support of each other. We don’t always get that, that’s often one of the obstacles, but part of the idea of developing an actual cult practice would be work try to fix that. But it all comes back to serving Them. Always.

copyright © Saigh Kym Lambert

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

Fat and the Pagan Community

The first real blog post I wrote here was The Abuse of Thin=Fat. Some readers may know I am again a Personal Fitness Trainer and I work from a Health At Every Size paradigm. My concern in fitness is about helping people find their strength, not reduce their size. This is in part because I don’t like to lie to people and the idea of permanent weight loss is a total lie for 95% of all who lose weight. And this is when they are maintaining the actions that worked for them to lose weight, although everyone from fitness instructors to doctors love to make accusations of “cheating” or “being unable to comprehend how much they are eating.” There is also, in fact, no actual evidence that being “obese” is itself a health hazard (there are just too many studies listed here for me to pick one). But another reason, coupled with these, is that I simply believe that being strong and powerful is more important than being tiny, and you really can not get smaller and not lose strength (without abusing dangerous drugs and totally screwing your health for life, so let’s leave it at you can’t do it).

This morning it came to my attention that much loved Pagan media personality (who I admit that I never heard of but there is a lot going on in Paganism I don’t pay attention to and the whole podcast thing somehow I just don’t get) David Grega died apparently from cardiac arrest at the young age of 27. Grega was also fat,* this prompted a blogger to write a post A Pagan Taboo, Obesity which gives a great deal of common misinformation regarding the correlation of fat and health. For every single one of his unsubstantiated claims at the end there are links disproving them at Truth Behind Fat: References.

This got a lot of other Pagans going, some of which is brought up in A Tragedy Creates Potential for a National Pagan Discussion on Health. This involves a lot more misinformation, a lot of “we should discuss other health matters but, of course, obesity is a major health issue” type of stuff. Well, no, not in the way they mean.

As is brought up at the beginning of Jane Raeburn’s post Pagans Discover Fat Hate, she points out that we really do not know what caused Grega’s heart failure. As far as I can tell we don’t know. It is just assumed that it was because he was fat. However, the post on Patheos points out that Grega had started a group known as Pagans promoting Healthy Active Tendencies (PHAT) and there it appears that he had actually lost 100 lbs. It would be just as easy for me, as a HAES advocate, to say that his death was caused by that weight loss, by his dieting, by over exercising, by emotional distress from self-shaming. But I’m not actually saying that, because I don’t know what caused his death and it would be just as wrong to assume that the weight loss had anything to do with it as it is for those claiming it was because he was fat. Either way, it’s 1) victim blaming and 2) based on absolute ignorance of the facts.

Keep in mind that several years ago a guy only about 10 years older than Grega, which is still young for heart disease, who was a very physically active outdoorsman also died of cardiac arrest. This probably surprised everyone, due to the fact he wasn’t fat. It turned out he had an undiagnosed heart defect. People of all sizes and all over the apparent health spectrum do, in fact, just drop dead from their heart stopping. A lot of things can stop the heart. It’s consider shocking news when a marathon runner does so, although some will blame overexercising for that (the same overexercising the same might demand fat people do, btw), most are just shocked.

This is, like all victim blaming, in part because people want a magic formula to keep it from happening to them. “Well, she was just asking to be raped, look at that dress!” really means “I’ll be safe, because I don’t dress like that.” “He died because he was fat” means “I won’t die because I’m thin” or “I won’t die because I”m going to lose the weight, I am.”  It’s not really an excuse for doing it, it’s not the whole reason everyone does it, but it is a big part of why people think this way.

But it doesn’t work. Remember one very important thing. We all die. And thin people get all the diseases that are considered “obesity related.” I know this, I’m thin and I was pre-diabetic…and getting diagnosed was almost impossible. Lifestyle can affect health, but lifestyle does not always affect size. There are skinny people who eat crap and don’t exercise, there are fat people who eat healthy food and exercise regularly. And even “lifestyle” related illnesses are not always linked to unhealthy lifestyles. Again, I ate what standard diet guidelines would claim was a healthy diet, but for my own needs it was too high in carbs and too low so it was spiking and dropping my blood sugar, I was not as active at the time this came up because of another illness which prevented me from exercising at the level I had been use to.

The truth is, we just never know. There are ways most of us can be healthy. However, this has to be separate from thoughts of weight.

Let me say that I do not believe anyone owes anyone to be healthy. If you do not want to eat a certain way or exercise or what ever, that’s your right. You do not owe me, the Pagan community or society at large any commitment to change your health or fitness levels. And, as Jane said, the path to health is a personal choice. If you feel that involves dieting, then I’m probably not going to change your mind anyway, but it’s also just your choice. Now, however, I’m going to talk as a HAES personal trainer. If you listen to me, it’s your choice, but I am going to be opinionated here.

Fitness is not about size, it’s about what you can do. We all differ in both size and capability, but except in extreme cases, most people can build their fitness levels up. They can become stronger, more flexible and gain more endurance than they had before exercising. They can improve their chances of getting certain diseases, through exercise and diet, although there are many illnesses that are not remotely affected. But all this comes regardless of weight loss.

In fact, striving to lose weight can be greatly detrimental to health for several reasons. Dieting can have adverse affects on health. Then there is simply the fact that self-hatred is just not healthy. And the weight-loss paradigm does not and cannot build self-esteem.

I believe in promoting health for those who want it. I want to see the Pagan community do more to promote real health. I do not want to see fat shaming and hatred and common lies to be a part of it. We should be healthy because, IMNSHO, it’s funner to have our bodies at their best. Fitness should be fun , not punishment and not torture. And what is fun for one Pagan isn’t going to be fun for another. The way I  train on the warrior path is likely going to seem horrible to someone who might be a priest/ess or a filidh. If health is the path we choose it should be a celebration without shame, without blame.

Here are some links for those interested in the HAES approach:
Health At Every Size Community
Dances with Fat so many great posts, you might want to start with 11 Reasons to Stop Focusing on Weight
The HAES Files
Big Liberty home of Truth Behind Fat: References

*note as a HAES trainer and Size Diversity advocate I use the preferred reclaiemd term “fat” rather than the misguided medical term “obese” or the common term “overweight” which falsely indicates that there is a particular weight one should be and to “over” that means something.

 copyright © Saigh Kym Lambert

20 Years Ago Among Cranes

It’s been 20 years since I last attending Twilight Covening, so I’m noting mentions of this one popping up on my flist. That was a powerful event for me in many ways, it was a big time of change for me anyway, a lot of what I feel defines me today started that year. The group I was in was a warrior group, Cranes; the leaders of it are still people I count as friends (at least on FB, it’s been awhile since I’ve seen either in person). I was sick as a dog….so was almost everyone. I had a powerful vision during the event which I think set my feet where they needed to be as opposed to the wandering I was doing.

It was also odd and jarring and made me realize I probably wouldn’t attend again. It as when I first realized I didn’t really fit in the Pagan community at all, by this time I was pretty much not practicing Wicca any longer, was already on the warrior path, but I hadn’t really thought about how different I had become. It was, of course, clearest at the group ritual although we ended up with fire and that worked out well. But I know I felt apart from the rest; I think all in our group did for that time, some of us appreciating it, others feeling at odds with it. Many were and remained active not only in the general Pagan community but in Earthspirit.

How much that event changed me and how much it just gave ritual to the changes I was going through is something I probably can never sort out. Some are obvious, I was already more serious about weight lifting and the martial arts by this time, having done both for a few years at that point. Then again, some of my perceptions on those things may have changed during the event. I do know that compared to any other such event, including the TC of the year before, it has made a lasting impression. There are other reasons for that feeling which I won’t go into here.

One impression is that, man, I really sort of thought I’d have gone a bit further along my work than I have. But things always get in the way. 10 years ago I had a stark reminder that at least I still have time, while there are others who what ever they did already was it for this lifetime. And, yet, other things still get in the way and I haven’t done that much since then. But I’m still here *knockswood* and so a bit more down the path I go.

I am hoping that that means finishing Teh Project soon and writing in this blog more…and blogging stuff other than this fucking navel gazing which I realize I’m doing again.

On Friday I get ink, a piece that is something I probably should have gotten 20 or at least 10 years ago. Which all relates to this. Putting things on my body helps me solidify what I’m doing. We’ll see what this one grounds in me.

I have always looked through the TC information each year, first the paper mailings I still got and then on the website. There is a part of me that still desires doing something like that. Of all the gatherings out there, the concept of Twilight Covening remains the most intriguing, I think most useful. It’s not a “social” focused gathering, with various rituals to pick and choose from and that participants can take down time from if they wish and just hang out. Each person signs up ahead of time for a working group, you stay with that group (some even require sleeping in the same location and eating all meals together), each group focuses on some aspect of work and they do it together.

There hasn’t been a group focus that has called to me, or if there has there has been something that has put me off to the actual group. Often it’s the utter vagueness of the descriptions sometimes it’s just knowing who the leaders are. Each year I feel more distant from what it’s about. I want that sort of focused working, but, well, yeah….on different things. Of course, there still isn’t enough interest at this point for a Reconstructionist focused event like this. Hopefully someday there will be, but there are a lot of steps to take before that works out, I think.

But as I see all these “I’m back from Twilight and wow…” posts on FB, I’m thinking again. Two decades. Fuck.