The Morrígan Calls Warriors 2: But I’m Not Cut Out To Be a Warrior

Yeah, me either, kid

When it comes to the perceptions of the warrior path and what it means to be on it, there are quite a few misconceptions due to modern uses of the word “warrior.” Some have come up, again, since my last post. One is that if we define “warrior” as someone who fights, including physically, it must require being a fully able-bodied, superior even, “soldier” type.

This sometimes leads people to think that I match such a description…something much easier to do via the internet than it is in person, although I have apparently confused a few in real life, too. So I have often heard things along the lines of, “I’m not cut out to be a warrior, like you are.” Usually some rumor is tagged onto this about my past. I’ve had people think I am ex-military. Had one woman spend a druid gathering telling everyone I had been convicted of a violent felony. I’ve certainly been accused of being athletic. And I’m really not. Which makes this all hard to write and is’ really pushing my imposter syndrome buttons. Even if I know that it shouldn’t, because it is a very modern and imperialistic concept of “warrior” that this idea is about. (again, I have page on the warrior path which also discusses such things, but a bit less personal).

The truth is that, while I was a outdoorsy “tomboy” growing up, I was actually a scrawny, clumsy, weak and sickly one. I loved running around in the woods and fields and riding horseback, but wasn’t good at any of it. Although that likely didn’t occur to me when I was little, I was just having fun. However, as I grew up I was made well aware of it.

From the beginning of school, gym class was a constant gauntlet of humiliation. I’m pretty sure the only purpose of the class was to give means for the “teacher,” who at that time was the head coach of all the junior high and high school teams, a way to sort out those who he wanted to prepare for those future teams. The rest of us were to be humiliated and abused, and to be honest, I was always at the bottom…I don’t think there was ever a time when I wasn’t the last picked for sides, unless another loser was also injured or something.  I had no coordination. I was weak. I ran slow and was easily out of breath (turns out my lungs are not fully developed, discovered that in my 40s!). I loved riding our horses, but it took a long time to really develop my “seat” and human instruction was no help…I just eventually learned from the horses and ponies (some of which were determined to make it a challenge). I was the last of my peers to learn to ride a bike. I could only really enjoy movement on my own or in the company of animals, around peers or adults it was always a humiliation.

I am sure I did dream of being strong and heroic as a kid, but figured out I’d need to gain superpowers from somewhere to do it. Obviously, a lot of time I wasn’t in the woods I was reading. Including comics. So, yes, perhaps there was a seed of a desire to be a warrior back then…just not a belief in the possibility. I mean, it might be part of the draw of witchcraft in the beginning, as I couldn’t gain physical power…but there were also “weird things” happening that drew me into that and into discovering, via Sybil Leek, that it had apparently had to do with Goddesses, or at least a Goddess, and I had been worshipping Goddess since I was 8 or 9, mostly Artemis as Greek myths were the ones I had access to and I did dwell mostly in the woods.

And I actually was an angry child. Of course I was, I felt constantly vulnerable to… everyone. That I was seen as violent meant that I was also taught that it was something to suppress, never, ever channel. It was viewed as if I had the tools for violence I would be an aggressor, rather than seeing that my tendency towards aggression was a response to feeling utterly helpless when everyone around me was stronger than I was… and that some made sure I knew it. It was the ’60s and while my parents were hardly hippie (being “Greatest Generation” and totally dedicated to being mainstream) the trends of pacifism and non-violence that grew out of the anti-war movement held some sway over the times in general. And I took to the whole hippie aesthetic and peacenik ways as a kid and held onto to them. Growing up different (autism and ADHD weren’t diagnosed in girls at all when I was a child, my learning disabilities were not obvious enough to be diagnosed as anything, which probably would have led less to getting help and more to being labeled and shunted aside, anyway) in a very conservative small town it was a way to define my difference in a way I saw as positive.

Anyway, our high school didn’t have gym class, so we losers were now free of that torturous requirement. Perhaps it was a desire to at least try to get stronger and build endurance, seeing no magical or scientific intervention was at hand, I did get into the ’70s fitness craze despite my gym-trauma. I had actually started yoga, sort of pushed a bit as a way of managing anger, through books, in junior high. But now I found that running (or “jogging” as it was called) was still fun, as long as I was alone with my dog. I tried aerobics, but found it boring. Weight lifting for women was sort of a joke at that point I got a set of 3.3 lb “Princess Smartbells?!” and, obviously, it did so little of anything that I kept losing interest.

My relationship with fitness remained an on-again/off-again thing. I did get a little instruction on weight training from a boyfriend and moved to 10 lb. dumbbells! Eventually I added a pair of 15 lb. But I never stuck with it, often found other things to do instead. I was a bit more consistent through the years with running and cycling, although sometime I just walked. Every so often, I’d try Yoga again. I took dance lessons for awhile, but my class got cancelled and I never found another teacher and just …drifted off.

I was a photographer, photojournalist, pretty much my focus since I was 15 or 16. It put me in an observer category in all things, but I think I thought I’d change the world with my pictures. I was working in the darkroom and stringing for a paper, but burned out suddenly at about 22 or 23 (what I now know was likely an autistic burn out….but I didn’t know I was autistic so…..). For years I couldn’t stand the idea of taking another photo. I became involved in political groups, something I couldn’t do as a photojournalist. Paganism/Witchcraft was a constant.

Oh, still totally into the hippie/Boho thing. While it wasn’t exactly popular, it was at least common in the political groups I was involved in, which did have some “appropriate age” hippies as well as we young wannabees. There were also others who were interested in Witchcraft and Goddess worship, a lot had problem with the word “Pagan” though. And few were overly serious. I was looking for Wiccan training at the time, but the super conservative Wiccans I was meeting…that wasn’t a fit. Drove around in my 1975 VW Bus, listening to music mostly from the ’70s, with my dog, Gabe, and various friends and lovers…for as long as the damn bus ran (with one engine replacement). yeah…I had a fucking Bus, even… seriously, living the best ’70s witchy life in the ‘mid-80s. ;p

Eventually, a friend who I met at the open house of a hokey “Witch school,” and was also not impressed by it, offered to introduce me to the coven he had since joined. Another friend of ours, met at the same event, likewise unimpressed, and fellow hippie wannabe, took me aside and warned me that the group was reputedly “dark” and “violent”… apparently, mostly because the HPS ran a “warrior” political group, as well. But I was seeking training and, actually, the coven was a British Traditional Wiccan off-shoot, the political group was hardly what I’d call “warrior” now and really in line with groups I was in already except being run by BTW Wiccans.

I joined both groups. And, well, this could get long so let’s just say things were going along, but not without the dramas that come with any group I suppose, and then the High Priestess died about 6 months after I joined. Both groups ended up in total chaos and…yeah…I tried staying with both…the political group had a major and hostile breakup and I was among those who left. The coven, now a grove with no 3rd degree woman to run it, went through several attempts to rebuild. I was supposed to be part of that….but….

Um, yeah, I was initiated about a year after her death, so six months later than originally planned, through our HPS’s HPS via our HPS’s HP consort, who was also my partner. I started training with this HPS for second degree. But I was grabbed by the hair by the Morrígan and told I was supposed to be one of Her warriors. (Okay, maybe Wildflower was on to something with her warning…ooops LOL)

This is post is already way too long and probably boring the shit out of you already. So I’m going to get into the spiritual training issues that came up sometime later…I’ll stick to the physical side for right now

So, yeah, it was clear She meant something very different from just political action. Or some “inner battle” stuff. Or “shadow work.” Or that She was there to protect me. Or any of that. It was fucking clear. Whether I liked it or not.

I think I was running at the time, maybe lifting a bit. My partner had an on-again/off-again relationship with exercise, as well. Honestly, I can’t say if I was on or off at the time. I do know that we were taking a Tai Chi class, the only sort of martial art I had ever done at that point, but I was also returning to college and moving back north (I was off-campus, but needed to save money) so that was even just ended or ending for me. So I was totally, “whoa! wrong woman here, I am not cut out for that.”

But She was insistent.  So…

This is when I got real serious about working out, no more on-again/off-again…except when physically I’d be forced off. I started to read what I could find about weight training, trying to sort out the bullshit fed to women to not train like men. Most of what I found was bodybuilding focused and I tended to follow training “designed for men”…. because so much “fitness” shit was about training women to be smaller and weaker. Okay, so much still is, but at least there is more that is refuting that. I got a barbell/dumbbell set, a bench. I ran. A lot. After moving back home, I found a dojo about an hour away. I trained. I trained hard. When I could. (just an aside as I mention it as a “obviously this shows I’m not a warrior” in regards to how I used to dress, I will note my aesthetic changed after this, especially as most of my favorite clothing got stolen from my car when I returned from a trip either just before or just after my initiation….but, really, you don’t need to change your look for the path, even if you dress like a hippie ;p )

This is also when I found what I think I had always been looking for in movement, but was too caught up in the “normal” (and often completely bogus and harmful) messages of what fitness was about. Oh, yeah, not so much an aside…fitness shouldn’t be about changing how you look, either! But that is the primary thing that fitness is packaged as, even though it usually doesn’t work and people become frustrated and are then are themselves blamed (by instructors, trainers, doctors, books, videos, family, friends, themselves) for not living up to the false promise they are sold. Even before I realized this, well, fraud, even when I still wanted to look like a bodybuilder (and then Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor…who I eventually decided I wanted to to want to be like, in some ways, instead) I realized that the key thing in fitness isn’t any goal, not even of becoming stronger, but of the joy of actually doing it. That’s what I knew as a kid, but was too caught up in society’s messages and, yeah, the trauma of from gym class to remember. Even though I started looking as a teenager.

In movement I found the connection I had instead been seeking through meditation, because all spiritual training I got was “sit and meditate,” “sit and journey,” ….sit. Now certainly some folks can both find a connection in movement and in sitting meditations, but I’m not really one. I can do some deep trance work lying down (never sitting) and still, but it only works if I am able to exercise at the time. If I’ve not moved recently, I can not be still. But the movement itself also became the meditation for me and also allowed me to find my, well, wolf self again. In running I find my canine nature again, which I eventually (something that is actually very evident but missed by many) was the very nature of the ancient warriors. In lifting I could feel my body forging strength to serve Her. In fight training, I danced the Morrígan’s dance. And even before I realized it, I think this is also why when I graduated I became a personal trainer, to share the joy not the awful messages that sometimes drove me out of the industry. Whether a fully realized spiritual path or just because it feels good.

Still, I’d love to say I got super strong, my lungs were fixed and I’m now all some seem to think I am despite starting in my late 20s. Uh, yeah. No. I mean, I am a hella lot stronger. My lungs are still limited but I take up oxygen really well considering. But it’s all compared to where I was, not something that would stand out as particularly athletic or strong. Certainly not fast. I will never be a really fast runner.

But fitness improvement is individual. That’s what the mainstream fitness industry doesn’t want you to know, because it thrives on you “failing” to meet a false promise it sells and then making you pay to try again. And it’s not always consistent, because it can’t be. Not for anyone, because things happen (a lot of people have learned this this year, especially as we learn more about the effects of Long-COVID).

I got strong, but then got sick again and had a long lay off. I got strong again then developed a shoulder injury, was misdiagnosed, tried to get strong but wasn’t getting there, initial issue caused two more secondary injuries, finally got diagnosed/operated on/PT, started getting strong again, got wrist issue on same arm and got set back….now finally starting to get strong (broken ankle at least did not set back this issue…and I’m me goofing off in my gym: I’m a gray (some purple and blue tones) haired middle-aged woman with tattoos wearing a “Training to Serve The Morrígan” tank toppretty much recovered from that now, too). I’m also questioning some things going on with the other shoulder, which I hope to get looked at before it gets as bad as the other…insurance companies don’t like that though, so we’ll see. I mean, I got sick a few times during the eight years it took to get my shoulder fixed, as well.

The facts are that I have chronic physical disabilities, some of which are getting worse as I age…some getting better due to getting treatment. I have extreme anxiety, currently overwhelming social anxiety, and severe bouts of situational depression. Much of this, including many of my physical issues, are due to autism. Although, many, of the mental disabilities, like the social anxiety, are probably far more related to how society treats autistic people, especially undiagnosed women, because we do communicate and respond differently… or, as we’re told our entire lives, “wrong.” Being fit doesn’t change that, sometimes this keeps me from being as fit as I might be. I do know that when I can workout I feel better when I do….and that sometimes the fact I can’t due to something “flaring” makes the issue worse. There are simply times when I just ….can’t…… And…right now I just can’t with talking about this more.

So, and I feel I am repeating myself here but I also feel like it just isn’t getting said enough. Yes, at the heart of the warrior path is the physical. Because harm is often caused physically in one way or another, harm must often be battled physically. By those who can. Sometime with the aid of those who can fight in other ways.

And fighting harm to others who can’t fight back is what a warrior does. This is ultimately a path of service. That’s why “inner battles,” “shadow work” and so forth are never enough if you are claiming the warrior path. They may be things that help you help others, but if they are only for your “personal spiritual development” then they are not about being a warrior. And, I’ve never known the Morrígan much concerned with helping me in such things. Our inner battles are our own, in my experience they are not what She is concerned with.

So physical training is not something I consider one can just choose to not do. That doesn’t mean everyone needs to “go all out” …for some the physical part might be limited, might be interspersed with periods of no physical training due to health reasons.  However, there are certainly people that cannot physically train at all, because their bodies just do not allow for it. That’s 100% legit. And that doesn’t mean that they are not on the path if their focus is on building a warrior community, on learning the mind set and the parts that they can do.

Because that’s what we need to build (oh, we can get into how my extreme introvert anti-social nature is not geared to community building, but not even sure I’ll do an upcoming post on that). Not a modern, imperial-style military, but a warband, which was a sub-culture community. This is why the Fíanna do serve well as an example. There is the idea of developing our strengths and overcoming each other‘s weaknesses.

The idea that Cú Chulainn was a big muscular man, rather than a small and rather femininely pretty boy is base on our modern perception of a strong hero, not how he was described (aside from his ríastrad) in the texts. Likewise, images of all the members of Fionn Mac Cumhaill’s fían looking like Conan the Barbarian (whether you are looking at the pulp novels or Arnold Schwarzenegger’s or Jason Momoa’s movies). While Cú Chulainn’s looks simply belied his actual exceptional strength and skills, the warbands consisted of people who excelled at varying skills (although Fionn often is noted as having all these and besting his best).

So CN: some ableist language ahead in noting critique of storytelling and “overcoming disability as a superpower” thing:
The following passage indicates that perhaps disabled warriors were part of Fionn’s Fíanna, but like storytelling tends to still to this day do,  it was spun to show that disabled  warriors were “wonders” who are the best at the things they are disabled as. This is often referred to by disabled commentators as “supercrip.” (I also want to note that not all of this is about disability, but includes what might be an attempted description of gender fluidity, which is also offering a related “wonder”).

[Finn is speaking: One of the wonders is] a deaf warrior (óclach)
who is in the fían-the poem or song has not been composed
that he has not learned well and committed to memory completely.
Another wonder that is in the fían: a man with a
wooden leg who surpasses all of the fían in running -dog,
horse, and man. Another wonder that is in it: a blind man
who never throws a missing cast day or night. Another wonder
that is in it: my own paramour, who is dead by night and
alive by day; no other paramour that I have ever had, has been
dearer to me. Another wonder that is in it: a warrior (óclach)
who is a woman one year and a man the next; he bears
children when he is a woman, and he sires children when he
is a man. Another wonder of the fían is my spear, the spear
of Fiacha mac Croinghind: if it is thrown with the butt end in
front, it wreaks hurt, injury, and destruction upon the person
or animal against which it is. thrown; when it is cast with the
point first, it does not damage or do destruction to the man
or animal against whom it is thrown. And so these are the
greatest wonders in my fían.
(Maud Joynt ed., Feis Tighe Chonain: Mediaeval and modern Irish series, v. 7,  Dublin: The Stationary Office, 1936, lines 449-469, pg. 14; trans. by Joseph Falaky Nagy, The Wisdom of the Outlaw: The Boyhood Deeds of Finn in Gaelic Narrative Tradition, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985, pg. 51)

While this is, as noted, problematic, it should be considered as a possible hint that disability (and gender fluidity!) did exist in the bands, just that those who wrote the tales, and those who told them in the first place, spun it to be wonderous because making the tales wonderous was kind of the point of the stories. This is still a huge part of story telling, common in comic books and science fiction, with this same spin. On the flip side, both early Irish and modern pop culture stories often use disability as a shortcut to say someone as evil. We can create better stories….and I mean that as we live our own stories as well as in story telling.

As I was starting to get to his point of his post, this article come across my feed and I think it’s a good analysis of way disabled warriors are featured in The Bad Batch (and somewhat in the Star Wars franchise, in general) which includes the idea that disability does disable us from some activities rather than make us “wonders,” but working together creates the over all strength. It truly explains, using this franchise as a model, what I am getting at here. That we don’t have to be “perfect soldiers” in order for us to have strong contributions that enhance what others contribute. Again, CN for ableist terminology, discussions of eugenics, gene manipulation, behavioral analysis, torture….and spoilers for the first season of The Bad Batch: Supercrips, Solidarity, and Crip Families in The Bad Batch Dr. Johnathan Flowers 

And that really fits what I’m trying to say here. That this path is built on a wide spectrum of needs and abilities. While the physical fighting part is going to be a thing, because violence is around us and that’s probably going to get worse, it is just a part of it. But the other parts are more than just “inner battles” and personal spiritual work. It has to be about coming together to fight. With various skills. Even when we have various weaknesses. Fighting on various fronts. And I don’t feel we’ve done this, which is the source of my frustration that. And of guilt, because perhaps I should have been doing more.

If we believe the Morrígan is calling us to do something why more people not training to do it? Why are we so not prepared? Because She’s not calling warriors because something is coming in some vaguely distant future…that something is already here!

 

(Part one of what looks like a series is The Morrígan Calls Warriors, Too….)

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The Morrígan Calls Warriors, Too….

….at least I think She does

I mean, there don’t seem to be many, not seriously focused, at least. So it has been a long running annoyance for me that I keep seeing so many “The Morrígan calls more than warriors” blogs and so many people stating “unlike most of Her followers I’m not a warrior.” Because, seriously, where are all of these “most followers” who are warriors that you speak of? Because they seem rather scarce to me. Oh, I know a few seriously walking a warrior pat, but very few. Some, of course, may  not be heavy social media users, but that still means there are very few if the ratio is the same for all. So, I hate to break it to you non-warriors, but you appear to be the actual majority not the exception. And I am not saying you have to be, but please stop talking about how many warriors there are because it’s making me feel extra lonely when I know otherwise. ;p

Of course, some fledgling warriors may have gotten lost on another path because everyone jumped up to tell them they didn’t have to be a warrior? Because it seems that that that response is common. That the first time anyone tells others they feel called, the first thing everyone says is “you don’t have to be a warrior.” Never, “well, let’s explore the options” and then include warrior as one. Even if someone asks what warrior might mean in Her service, they get a lot of “but you don’t have to be a warrior!” (DISCLAIMER: I Just some geese to break up the wall of textknow I have to stop here as someone is probably getting upset and note that I am not saying you have to be….I’m trying to remind folks it is an option. AND that if you are going to talk about the warrior path, maybe do learn something about the warrior path because otherwise you sound like a damn willfully ignorant fool, and, yes, go off and get steamed about that if you don’t want to maybe rethink anything, but I’m not going to spend time arguing about it)

Or they are told that they can only be a warrior by joining the military or becoming a cop, as if these modern imperial institutions remotely resemble the warrior bands who served Her in the past at any time. Some try to define “warrior” as only those who fight for what ever they consider a “good cause” when, well, there’d be nothing to fight for if that were the case and that is again a completely modern Western concept to begin with. Meanwhile others will immediately say that “there are different ways to be a warrior, it doesn’t mean fighting, it can mean anything you want it to”… which amounts to it having no meaning at all. Which then makes it mean nothing. So either the word “warrior” means one modern concept or another or it means nothing at all. But none of these responses is accurate… but I feel I covered that quite a lot on this page, so if you’ve not read it, please do (it’s sort of the crux of this whole project, along with this page) I might rehash some here in the future but probably not in this post.

I will have to say that the frequent phrasing of “She calls more than just warriors” or “She is more than just a Warrior Goddess” is especially insulting. Oh, I know, you’re going to say that you don’t mean it “that way,” you mean there are “more options of paths, that warrior isn’t the only one” or something like that. Except often the phrasing is often very precisely saying that warriors are “just” warriors and others paths are “more.” This is also usually marked with things like, “She not just a Warrior Goddesss She’s also a Goddess of prophecy, cattle, sovereignty, victory, protection, strategy….” Now those last two should really make anyone laugh, because who does not get that things like “victory,” “protection” and “strategy” are fucking part of warriorship?  Well, I can think of at least three or four people and, apparently, all their readers. I get “sovereignty” because they seem to think it’s about modern “personal sovereignty” rather than “kingship” which, btw, is questionable anyway. But I have, after all, already written an entire rather lengthy essay noting how everything “else” The Morrígan and Her Sisters are comes right back to them being War Goddesses. (that would be “Musings on the Irish War Goddesses” in  By Blood, Bone and  Blade: A Tribute to the Morrígan btw) There is more to being a warrior than fighting.

This relates to another phrase I find problematic, when someone notes that “as a warrior I make a good ____.”  But, because they are shunning the path, they are not making a great ____ as a warrior. They are maybe making a great _____ in and of itself, I couldn’t tell you, but they are not making a great warrior _____. They are useless to warriors, because they are not warriors, they do not understand or want to understand the path. They are  often demonstrating this by their lack of understanding what warriorship is (with their modern, narrow minded definitions) or understanding warrior stories by interpreting them without considering what warriorship meant or understanding.

So, I will say, as a warrior, I make a good researcher and, hopefully, at least an okay writer. I’m kind of a crappy personal trainer by industry standards, but that’s because I hate the industry standards and I want to be a trainer for those who also hate them. But my understanding of what I am researching and writing about has grown only because I have pursued a warrior path. The way I train myself, and others who are on this path, physically is also because of learning what it takes on this path (I do train others, but I need them to help me understand what they need). To say “as a warrior” here really has to mean you are a warrior and that that other thing is a part of being a warrior. Because it is. Especially when it comes to rebuilding the sort of warrior cultus that was part of Early Irish culture and, essentially, not part of the culture but a subculture in itself. If you’ve seen my outline for a training program, then you actually already knew there were many ways to be a warrior. No one is going to be great at all these things, no one is going to spend a lot of time on every one of them (although a taste of each is recommended). But warriors are a lot of things, it’s required to create a fían (I prefer to use cúanairt “pack” for a modern group, as it was less frequently used and has fewer alternate later definitions…and I like anything that brings us back to the wolfishness) that members would have different strengths and weaknesses. It’s not an army, it’s a pack.

Again, this isn’t saying anyone has to be a warrior. This is about trying to 1) address is the lack of warrior voices when it comes to modern service to the Morrígan. And 2) to try to counter the very negative, even if the negativity is unintentional, voices that may actually hamper someone feeling called to this path. And to try to correct the fact I’ve been rather silent myself for too long. I’ve enjoyed the quiet, but it always eventually leads to me being beaten about the head because quiet is not what I signed up with the Morrígan for.

So, yes, She may be calling more non-warriors than She is warriors, great do your thing. I just know that when I was called this was very specifically what I was to do. But, you know, nearly 35 years ago now, I certainly had no place to truly turn to find out what the fuck the warrior path was. I have stumbled a lot. I have gone down wrong paths (like many female and female-presenting undiagnosed autistic kids, I was raised to be a people pleaser, so I would often get into group situations where I felt expected to wear many hats, so many that the “warrior”… for that matter the “me” one…. often got buried, but I am getting better about that).  It’s taken me a long ass time to really get what this is about, really only through the past 10 or 15 years. But it’s funny, at nearly 60 I still feel like a fledgling and it’s hard to see me in the teacher role. But my onw issues with that role should not mean that those being called to be warriors no available guidance. I hope there will be more voices, though.

There is so much more I could put here. But I am hoping instead to use this as a jumping off point for future posts. I hope to “see” you soon.

 

See also: The Morrígan Calls Warriors 2: But I’m Not Cut Out To Be a Warrior

 

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Oh, No! This Blog Got all Dusty Again!

This past year has been….yeah, well, you all know. Hard things have often been harder. Good things are often not as visible. I’m tired. Everyone is tired.

I haven’t been writing as much as I’d like, I do have a more topical less housekeeping type post I want to get to. But I have been working on other stuff that is related (because all my obsessions end up kind of related, anyway, it’s how my brain works). I finished a new personal trainer certification (having decided after nearly 30 years that it was time to leave the organization that had already abandoned its personal trainers). I am hoping to start taking a couple online clients once I have more reliable internet which may be sometime mid-April. I was supposed to be sometime mid-March, so….

I may also be including more fitness stuff on social media and/or here again, related to this project. One of the two reasons I picked the organization I did is that they do have a tactical fitness specialty which looks like it might be relevant and might be my next CEUs. The other is that while it allows for CEUs from an “Autism Exercise” organization that uses ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis), it is not heavily invested in it with tons of blog posts about the “poor misunderstood children with the autism” stuff. ALL the others seem to be heavily invested and it’s …awful. And none are listening to autistic adults about what they are doing. If you want to understand the issue with ABA you can go to The Great Big ABA Opposition Resource List here.

For those who don’t know, I am undiagnosed but not only “self-realized” but also “community-recognized” autistic. Like many people raised as a girl (I am cis, but not all who are in this situations are), such a diagnosis was not even a thing. Getting diagnosed now is nearly impossible, I don’t have the resources. Adult diagnosis is a privilege, you need to have some way to fund the testing yourself, you need a good enough mental health infrastructure to get you qualified for testing. Depending on how things go as far as the pandemic, I might try. Largely because I feel that more autistic fitness professionals need to be advocates and being diagnosed will help me as it appears I may be becoming such an advocate.  There’s a lot to this story, I’m not going into it here, not now. But as we head into April, please note that I support #RedInstead and listening to #ActualyAutistic folks.

Cimarron and Iceman
Cimarron and Iceman -Là Fhéill Macha 2018

The major news at the homestead is the the deaths of our 32 year-old Mini horses. We knew it was going to be soon and were making plans for them.  But it happened unexpectedly soon and not at all as planned. In the very early morning of Jan. 22 Iceman died. Cimarron obviously panicked and managed to escape from the barn. He was hit by (or probably hit) a truck and was killed instantly.  We knew that after 30 years together they’d need to go together, but this wasn’t how we’d thought it would happen. Iceman was declining, but he didn’t seem to have declined that much. Or so we thought, but were wrong.

This has left poor Saorsa alone, which isn’t good for a horse. I try and will continue to try to occupy her time and attention. But we do need to see about finding another horse soon. Of course, it’s not an easy time for that for many reasons.

So, here we are, at the start of the second year of the pandemic, still trying to sort out what it means. We now have our first vaccines, scheduled for our second and ….I’m still not likely to leave my swamp all that much.

I hope all reading this are managing to stay well, as are your loved ones. And I extend wishes for healing for those who have not been able to in this awful time.

 

A Gun for the Morrígan: Offerings and Devotion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Re) (Self) Publication Announcements

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

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

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

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

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

Musings on the Irish War Goddesses

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

Excerpt from “Chase to Nowhere: Thoughts on Fénnidecht Rites of Passage”

 

As I had mentioned, I thought I’d actually post this excerpt with the issue freshly released. This is from the newest issue of Air n-Aithesc vol. II issue 1, which can be purchased in either hard copy or digital here.

Chase to Nowhere: Thoughts on Fénnidecht Rites of Passage

AnA Imbolc/Bealtaine 2015 coverThe tales of Finn Mac Cumhail’s Fíanna capture the imaginations of many following Gaelic ways, but only a few have really explored the possible realities behind them.  Many approaching the cultural material dismiss the tales as purely fictional or as retellings of stories of Gods made human for Christian audiences.  While Finn may have been originally a God of the   A few in the Pagan community have claimed these bands comparable to modern special forces while claiming the “tribal warriors” would have been “regular army.”[i]Perhaps this is due to how extreme some seem to feel the initiatory testing, which is below, to be. However, if we were to make a modern analogy, it would be far more accurate to compare the Fíanna with the Boy Scouts; violent Boy Scout troops which not every boy survived to become “tribal díberga,” which is usually translated as “brigands,” we are speaking of very violent Boy Scouts, often with vows of vengeance to carry out. [ii]  The modern Irish “díbheirg” means “wrath” or “vengeance,” which points to the importance of this aspect.[iii]

warriors.” That in other texts as well as legal tracts such warriors were also known as “

war bands, it is clear such warriors also existed.

 As I discussed in “Going into Wolf-Shape,” such adolescent bands were found throughout Indo-European cultures and, likely, far earlier. [iv] “Everyone is a fénnid until he takes up husbandry,” Cormac Mac Airt noted to his son, although it is clear that “everyone” really meant males, mostly noble, like themselves.[v]  Boys would go from fosterage to wilderness at 14, then those who received their inheritances would rejoin society about the age of 20.[vi]   It might be noted that this is the age period that modern neurobiology has recently shown is a time of extreme erratic risk taking, especially for boys. [vii]As one might expect when sending high impulse risk takers off to fight one another in the wilderness, not all of them survived, but there may well not have been sufficient inheritance for all. Some may have had to or even chosen to remain in the wilderness, just as we see Finn and others do in the literature. McCone has noted that early on some continental bands would move on from their overpopulated homelands to found new settlements.[viii]  Where and when this wasn’t possible, it seems some remained in the wilderness until they were likely killed in fighting or managed to die of old age.[ix]
We can only speculate whether any may have chosen to remain in what seems a Pagan lifestyle well into the Christian era, [x] out of preference. While I hope some of what I share may help develop training and path work for teenagers, my own interest is with the more chronic Outlaws, which are clearly the “norm” in heroes of the Fenian literature and likely also existed in reality.[xi] I believe that these Outlaw bands have much to offer for those of us who realize we cannot replicate early society itself; or who may realize that we fit better in the wilderness than we ever would have in early Christian or even pre-Christian, what little we know of it, society. 

 

The question becomes how we move into this liminal state.

Read the rest (now on the website)

 

 


[i] Such a conversation took place in a Facebook group I run, Clann na Morrígna, but I have heard or read it in many conversations over the past couple of decades.
[ii] Richard Sharpe, “Hiberno-Latin Laicus, Irish Láech and the Devil’s Men,” Ériu  30, 1979; Kim McCone, “Werewolves, Cyclopes, Díberga and Fíanna: Juvenile Delinquency in Early Ireland” Cambridge Medieval Celtic Studies, issue 12, 1986; one example is Whitley Stokes, ed. and trans., “The Destructionof Da Derga’s Hostel” (Togail Bruidne Da Derga), Revue Celtique. volume 22, (1901) pg. 7, 29-30; legal tracts are also noted in D. A. Binchy, “Bretha Crólige,” Ériu 12, 1938, pg. 41, Fergus Kelly. A Guide to Early Irish Law, Dublin: Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (School of Celtic Studies), 2001, pg. 10, 60
[iii] Dónall P. Ò Baoill, ed., Foclóir Póca , Dublin: An Gúm, 1992, pg 338; My thanks to C. Lee Vermeers for noting this in the review of this essay for Air n-Aithesc.
[iv] Saigh Kym Lambert “Going into Wolf-Shape,” Air n-Aithesc Volume 1 Issue 1 Imbolc 2014, pg. 29-50
[v] “fénnid cách co trebad” Kuno Meyer, The Instructions of Cormac mac Airt, RIA Todd Lecture 15, Dublin 1909, pg 46, 31-10, C.  Lee Vermeers, Teagasca: The Instructions of Cormac Mac Airt, Faoladh Books, 2014, including footnote 346, pg. 77-78
[vi] McCone, “Werewolves, Cyclopes…,” pg. 11-19; the specific age is noted by McCone, “The Celtic and Indo-European origins of the fían,” Sharon J. Arbuthnot and Geraldine Parsons, eds., The Gaelic Finn Tradition, Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2012, pg. 17-18; Joseph Falaky Nagy. The Wisdom of the Outlaw: The Boyhood Deeds of Finn in Gaelic Narrative Tradition,Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985, pg 20-21
[vii] B.J. Casey, B.E Kosofsky, PG. Bhide, eds., Teenage Brains: Think Different?, Switzerland: Kargar Publishers, 2014 (I admit to only reading portions and that it is quite over my head, but for those who are working with teens, I believe it may be a very important study)
[viii] McCone, “The Celtic and Indo-European origins of the fían,” pg. 23-27
[ix] McCone, “Werewolves, Cyclopes…,” pg. 11; McCone, “The Celtic and Indo-European origins of the fían,” pg. 17-18
[x]McCone, “Werewolves,….” pg. 2-3; Sharpe , “Hiberno-Latin Laicus, Irish Láech and the Devil’s Men,” pg.83-92, Katharine Sims, “Gaelic Warfare in the Middle Ages,” in Thomas Bartlett and Keith Jeffery eds., A Military History of Ireland,  New York:  Cambridge University Press, 1996, pg. 100-101
Joseph Falaky Nagy, “Fenian Heroes and Their Rites of Passage,” Béaloideas Iml. 54/55, 1986/1987, pg. 167-168; McCone, The Celtic and Indo-European origins of the fían,” pg. 17.

Copyright © 2015 Saigh Kym Lambert

Biannual Publication Announcement – Air n-Aithesc vol. II issue 1

AnA Imbolc/Bealtaine 2015 cover

The Imbolc/ Bealtaine 2015 issue of Air n-Aithesc is out now and you can order at the link!

The table of contents is below so see what all is offered. More poetry and prose from PSVL, two articles by Morgan Daimler, an article from Finchuill and book reviews and An Seomra Staidéir from Maya St.Clair.

My article this issue is “Chase to Nowhere: Thoughts on Fénnidecht Rites of Passage” which discusses ideas gleaned from the literature and other sources about the very non-linear rites which might have been associated with the Irish warbands and some ideas about modern incorporation.

AnA Imbolc/Bealtaine 2015 table of contents

Warrior path training and more website updates

Many…..MANY…years ago I put together ideas for a training program for a warrior group within a larger organization which shall remain unnamed. I knew a lot of my ideas wouldn’t work out, discussions of them didn’t go well.  I later took the ideas, put things back in I hadn’t bothered with for a group I helped start after leaving the large organization.   Nothing really came of it, no one there really wanted to bother with it either..other than me (this was stuff I was doing or wanted to do, after all).  I later took the ideas and replaced some of the cultural stuff with general liberal arts stuff and used to to develop a theoretical Sarah Connor Charm School program. At least it was theoretical until someone actually decided to do it and is going strong with it.

Bolstered by her enthusiasm, I pulled the outline out again and reworked it back for what I wanted to do for a Gaelic Pagan warrior path and added things that have come up since then and so forth. And I have now  put it up on a warrior training page on the website. It will likely be tweaked on occasion as I realize I left Outlaw warriors on the older page.

things out, should have left things out, want to word things differently, add links and what not.  I did take some of the material from the bottom of the warrior path page to the beginning of the new page and also reworked some of the historical material on the

Meanwhile, I’ve done some poking at Teh Project along with some other writing. The second issue of Air nAithesc is scheduled for next month with my article “Muimme naFiann: Foster-mother of the heroes” among other yummy stuff from others.  And I am continuing to get my own ass in gear training wise and need to get ready to head out for a run, in fact.

An Morrígan and Sarah Connor: Pt. 4: Training

me doing chin ups

So, yeah, I had made some warning that there might be yet another installment on this theme and here it is.  Really, I’m using it mostly because this is somewhat a continuation of things touched upon in part 2 about how the Sarah Connor Charm School became an exercise in implementing some of my warrior path training ideas, with modifications. Since I’m finding my current focus on upping my own training and working on getting my business going again seems to be interfering with work on my second post about Cú Chulainn’s relationship with the Morrígan, I figured maybe writing about training on this path might help me get on track in several ways. I have to stay that thoughts about the Tara High Kings Festival competition may also be prompting this (and there may be a post in that after we see what takes place)

One thing that has been coming up for me is the idea that I “broke training” for much of this summer.  In June and July we were caring for a very sick dog. For much of that there was a heat wave here. Neither of us got much sleep for those weeks, although my mate as an EMT really seldom does, nor did we eat very well. Everything was constant stress. After our Cù died, I had started to get back with it, but became very sick myself…as often happens when getting through tremendous stress and poor self-care and then, well, the body realizes that it doesn’t have to get through anymore.

There is a lot of focus in the amateur fitness world that you work out through everything.  Illness, stress, business, what ever. As a fitness professional, I tell my clients to back off or take breaks when sick, because the body doesn’t need extra stress when trying to heal. To take breaks on a regular basis, actually, as the body needs rest and adapts to constant exercise in a negative way. I’m good about taking scheduled rest breaks, but still self-flagellate about taking breaks when it’s not “in the plan” so I get caught up in that thinking.

But, really, what are training for? For me it’s different from what many think about, even while the industry sometimes gives lip service to the idea of fitness for life, it’s largely about looks, usually about weight. So if your focus is on that, well, taking a break when things are going to shit might mean gaining weight (although this is largely a fallacy, weight isn’t as easily controlled as such ideas make it out to be, which is part of why I am a Health At Every Size™ trainer) or losing muscle (you do, but muscle rebuilds faster than it built in the first place).  That’s not what I’m training for. It’s not what those I train train for. The truth is, I’m training for being as healthy as possible. And, really, I’m raining for crisis. And when there is one I’m in it, training for it just can take away from what I need to put into the crisis at hand.

Okay, it might not be as romantic and exciting as the idea that I’m training for the Zombie Apocalypse, er, Revenant Cataclysm, but in reality training for any crisis is training for any other. It’s about making the body stronger so it better adapts to stress. What ever form that stress may take. So that the body doesn’t break down, at least not completely.  A bad summer cold is nothing compared to other possible stress related health problems, after all. And even a crisis which might not seem overly physically taxing does still mean physical work needs to be done, especially when homesteading. Keeping up with things that needed done here like caring for our other animals often took a toll just due to the exhaustion. I hadn’t been training before, I’d likely not have been able to do any of that at all.

It’s true that certain stressful periods can be aided by exercise, it can alleviate anxiety. I won’t say I didn’t exercise at all while taking care of Cù, there were times when my husband was there to watch after him that I’d escape to the gym or the trail for awhile. But the work out was light, exhaustion catching up with me. And not as frequent.  Therefore not within my usual training perimeters.

Of course, training on this path isn’t just about fitness. But I do believe that it is the base of all the rest of training. This is obvious for martial arts training but for some it may not be for the less obviously physical. However, I find warrior trance to be very physically challenging, it is often movement based and even when not puts a great deal of stress on the body. When it comes to research, I also find I am more focused when I am engaging in regular physical training. All these things fell behind too during that time. The only thing that didn’t, obviously, were the parts about connecting with my animals, especially my dogs, especially this one, and the Otherworld. Because those things were at the center of everything. And all these things are aspects of the path.

I have been playing with the outline for a training program, you know for this War Goddesss cult I’m not starting.  A look at what I feel is needed to serve Her/Them. As I noted before, I had started such an outline for organizations I was in but they never panned out. I was often told they were too much, yet I know someone doing the version I redid, changing out the cultural and mystical bits, for the Sarah Connor Charm School.  There’s also endless modification…so…

I am hoping to be posting a new outline on the website soon. It will take some thought. I see as a three fold path, after all, warrior-seer-poet. Some of us ares strong in one of these than the others and that may change. I am weakest in the poetry, but as I age I might increase my focus and learn more to strengthen it. Never know.  This combination is based on what we see among the warriors of the Fianna as well as the Scáthach’s training of Cú Chulainn and is coming up a lot in my writing.

But right at this moment, I’m focused on the fitness part of the physical training an starting to get back to the martial part, as well as working on Sight, research and writing. Well, this is somewhat a restart of the writing. LOL

As I am so focused, I thought I’d leave you with links for posts I did for the Sarah Connor Charm School Blog. As, really, this is one element of the training programs which wouldn’t change. We have no real concrete information on fitness training, other than there was lots of running, of the early Irish warriors, so we go with what we know works. Even if I had details, I’d modify it for reasons of science and, especially, safety.

EDIT: I have revised this specifically for the Shadow of the Hooded Crow Fitness Files

SCCS Fitness Training Intro: This Fitness Program will make you look just like Sarah Connor a Stronger You!
SCCS Fitness Training Part 1: The Activity Triad
SCCS Fitness Training Part 2: Flexibility
SCCS Fitness Training Part 3: Cardiovascular/Endurance/Aerobics
SCCS Fitness Training Part 4: Strength Training

Copyright © 2013 Saigh Kym Lambert

The Morrígan and Cú Chulainn Part 1: On Saying “No”

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

Cú Chulainn by Stephen Reid 1912
The boy Cú Chulainn
by Stephen Reid
1912

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.

See also:
The Morrígan and Cú Chulainn pt. 2: Insult and Praise as Incitement

The Morrígan and Cú Chulainn pt. 3: Of death and dog meat

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

Bibliography

Angelique Gulermovich Epstein, “War Goddess: The Morrígan and her Germano-Celtic Counterparts” dissertation, University of California in Los Angeles, 1998

Elizabeth Gray, trans. Cath Maige Tuired: The Second Battle of Mag Tuired  Dublin: Irish Text Society,  Irish English

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

Kuno Meyer, trans. ‘The Wooing of Emer’“Tochmarc Emire,” Archaeological Review 1, 1888, Irish English 

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,

Cecile O’Rahilly, trans. Táin Bó Cúalnge, Recession 1 Dublin: Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, 1976 Irish English

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