Publication Announcement – Air n-Aithesc (Our Message)

AnA Issue 1

As with many things, it starts with a bit of a bitch session.  After over a decade of only writing to self-publish online, I was looking for places to submit articles to. You know magazines or anthologies. Especially after the synchronicitic experience of having finished a long ass piece on the War Goddesses and finding out about an anthology for An Morrígan calling for submissions (which I should have announcement about soon).  Keltria Journal had some warrior path themes and I submitted a couple of pieces, the two issues became one so only one ran. Such themes and anthologies don’t happen much and, well, it’s what I write….which is why this blog is probably going to always be more active than Dùn Sgàthan Homestead blog. And most Pagan journals that are out there aren’t always looking for Celtic Reconstructionist Pagan, endnote heavy, pieces…and if they are they tend to be looking for CRP 101 stuff or other material about CRP rather than topical material using Reconstructionist methodology.

So, the whole “there needs to be a CR magazine and it needs to be peer reviewed” thing came up. And Maya St.Clair responded with, “yeah, so let’s do it.” (paaraphrase) And Air n-Aithesc (Our Message) was conceived. We asked a bunch of others we knew to join us, some of them even accepted. Another will soon be added to that list. We decided to do it for Imbolg and given the time frame to get members of the review committee to write for the first issue. And some of us did. Hey, I had one article left over too, so I submitted two. Other contributors from our committee were Maya with her column offering basic information for those new to CR “An Seomra Staidéir: The Study” and  review of Early Christian Ireland by Kathleen Hughes, Finnchuill with a piece on “Brigit’s Retinue in the Tuatha Dé Miscellany,” Morgan Daimler who wrote about “Celebrating Imbolc with the Family”, Ceffyl Aedui on “Finding Epona” (we are not a Gaelic only publication…even if it might lean heavily there) and Blackbird O’Connell with a review of the book Pot O’Gold by Kathleen Krull. 

My articles are “‘By Force in the Battlefield’: Finding the Irish Female Hero” and “Going into Wolf Shape.” The first is explained by the subtitle. The second is part of an ongoing exploration of the wolf warrior cults, which I sometimes touch upon here.  I am already working on future articles, all of which will follow such themes.

The first issue came out on Tuesday and can be ordered either as digital or hard copy (with free digital) right here.

We are already looking for submissions for the second issue which will be out for Lùnasdal. We are not doing themed issues, as we feel that is too limiting, so we are open to any topic of interest to CRPs and which use CR methodology. We hope to have a wide variety of paths represented as we go along (we were going to have a list of possible paths, but realized it was on one hand getting very long and on the other we’d leave someone out and…it seemed best to skip it). We sort of have two different “options,” articles which are research focused only or articles which discuss practice and experience using research to solidify things. These latter are most welcome, as this is the essence of CR methodology and we all feel there needs to be more that shows how we bring these elements into our actual practice. It is also, of course, often the hardest thing to write about for many of us.  All submissions will be reviewed by a quorum of the review committee. We also have a lovely pool of editors, some who are review committee members although not all (and not all of us on the review committee are editors) who will then work to prepare the accepted articles for publication. You can find submission info on our website.

We are also on the lookout for artwork, both for articles and we will feature an artist each. This issue our artist was Casey Bradley. If you are interested in submitting art, you can us through our website. Seriously, we need art work for articles too….don’t make Maya grab photos of me again (honest, I may be vain enough to post them here all the time, but it was not my idea to have them there…too many “women warrior” pieces are problematic and others were well out of our non-existent budget.

No, we are not paying at this time and do not know if that is in the future. What little we take off the top of the cost will go to upgrading our website and promotional efforts (if we, say, go to a festival with a bunch of copies we have to buy those outright ourselves to do it).  Payment does mean advertising to cover it, which can create several hassles which I remember from “back in the day” ….we are hesitant to begin that, but have not closed the door either. At this point it’s free digital copies and additions to your CV (if you include Pagan publications on your CV).

I hope you check this out, read this issue and, if you are so inclined, send us material.

Oh, you can also find us on Facebook and Twitter.

An Morrígan and Sarah Connor: Pt. 1 Deities and Icons

 A few weeks ago I was going to write a post about the relationship between my path following the War Goddesses and my pop culture interests and involvement in the Sarah Connor Charm School. I hadn’t gotten around to it, because it’s a busy time of year on the homestead and I was supposed to spend my writing time on an article which has a deadline (and I give myself an earlier one so I can get some feed back from a few trusted friends before sending it off). But it’s raining, and while I suppose I could be doing house work I’m not, and the article is in rough draft and I need a break before editing it so…here I am…

Meanwhile, during the time I wasn’t writing that I started to see links posted on  FB about some explosion about Pop Culture Worship on the Pagan Blogsphere. It wasn’t happening in any blogs I read nor were any Pagans I know who are students of pop culture (yes, this is studied), in fact, none of them seem to have piped up on it yet. I suspect one is watching for a research paper at this point. ~;p So I didn’t pay much attention until it did land in a blog I do read. I discussed some there, although by the time it landed in another blog I read, my interest in chatting had faded.  The first link has a lot of links to much of what was written before, although it seems to have continued going all over the place. I’ve only read a few, mostly just skimmed, most I haven’t.

And I’m not really going to get into the argument. There are too many things that came up that I could, but most seem to partially come from 1) perhaps caring a bit too much about what the fuck other people are doing. Yeah, I can go there, but I’m old and tired now, it doesn’t interest me much unless it affects my work in some way (like liars I have associated with and people who are claiming things about Gaelic culture that is insanely stupid). 2) Most of these opinions are expressed without a real understanding of certain aspects of pop culture studies that, well, I’m too old and tired to go into the entire background of here. It could take books, after all, then I’d have to come around to what has been said and where that fits or doesn’t. The overwhelming concern with pop cultures as “consumerist” is part of why I see no point really getting into it as that both over simplifies pop culture and also forgets the agendas of survival (in a different economic system) behind many of our old stories). There isn’t as much difference between modern pop culture and the popular cultures of the past as I think some people seem to think, just shortening the term doesn’t give it a different meaning. But I’m too old and tired to give 30 years of work in one blog post.  3) This idea is certainly nothing new. I’ve been around too many fucking Discordians and too many “Jungian Archetype” Pagans, often mixed, for far to fucking long to get my panties in a bunch about this. Where were you all talking about this 30 years ago?  Really, you’re just discovering this?

So I’m mostly going to discuss this in regards to, well, me…this is my fucking blog after all. And, of course, this post, which was partially planned already, may seem a bit defensive. Oh, well.

Of course, only one of the those blogging might read my blog, maybe. Has links to here anyway. But others might see that this blog mixes pop culture and spirituality, read that I have a Sarah Connor action figure on my gym shrine and such and come away with the idea that I worship Sarah Connor. Sorry, that would be weird (especially as I’ve met Linda Hamilton and it would be all weirdly conflated and how weird is that for her? Hells, it seems to have taken time for her to come to terms with the whole icon thing as it is). So here’s the deal, some of us make personal spiritual connections with pop culture without worshiping them. Deal with it.

The Sarah Connor figure on my shrine doesn’t represent any Goddess, They are represented by a statue, a modern artist’s interpretation of an Morrígan. “Sarah” is there to be a modern representation of warrior woman, not just this one character but a general, well, archetype. Yes, while I am a hard polytheist about my Gods, I also see the power of archetypes. I don’t worship them either. She’s there to be, as the character is for me, something to strive towards. And it’s important to me to have modern representation, not just those out of the Iron Age. Because I don’t live in the Iron Age.

Sarah Connor action figure and Dryad Design Morrigan statue

That, of course, goes with much of what else I do. My primary interest in training on the warrior path is modern, I might like sword training, but for me it’s not as practical as shooting. I try to do both, of course, because it allows me to honor the past and be ready in the present. Mind you, sword training can be practical, as my knees continue to age it might be more so for I might carry a cane as often as I do a gun. But in general, I’d just as soon have the gun too. I’m not role playing.

There seems to be some concept that if we focus on modern pop culture images that They might use it to connect with us. Well, yes. I just don’t see the same problem with that that others seem to have. And I also don’t think we can avoid it. See, I’m of the mind that it happens all the time already. Look at “alien abduction” and the similarities with Fairy encounters of the past. I’m personally not with the Whitley Strieber camp that that means the Folk, let alone the Gods, have been aliens all along. I believe instead the Folk show themselves to people in ways that those people might identify with, as it’s useful. It’s going to happen, we are products of our time.  And They are timeless.

Back in the days when my head was sort of stuck in the past, I had two things happen to me. One was a meditation in a warrior path workshop where we were told to approach a mirror and see ourselves as the warriors we wish to become. I actually approached expecting to see myself as my imagining of an Iron Age warrior, but instead I was pretty much dressed much as I was dressed, not much unlike Sarah Connor actually but for colder camping conditions. Unlike as I was then, in MA and not having made peace with guns, I also had firearms. It was a clear reminder to me to stay in the present.

Shortly after that I met one of the War Goddesses. Before this They always appeared archaic. This time, She was wearing a black wool skirt just below the knee, black tights and sensible shoes, a black sweater, neatly tailored black leather jacket and a beret. Same face I knew but the tattooing only faintly showing, same tri-colored hair but shorter and Her braids not as noticeable; She could have been mistaken for a human if one didn’t look closely. I’d been doing research on the IRA at the time, so I recognized this. But I also got the message here, “I am of Ulster at heart, but of all time.”  Mostly I still see Them in more archaic garb, but, again, it was a time when I think I could have fallen into too much romance of the distant past and I needed to be reminded not to.

No, She hasn’t appeared dressed as Sarah Connor, but if She did it wouldn’t be the same as me suddenly worshiping the character. After all, She’d have Her own face as I know it and tri-colored braids. It would be simply another form for the Shape-shifter, it would be up to me to reason why. After all this, it might even be a joke. I know better than to take everything seriously now.

 

Oh, wait, I’ve changed my mind

Yeah, I’m going to run off a few thoughts about the whole “pop culture is different from past popular cultures.” In order to avoid writing the book that this could take, I will probably get a bit disjointed. I also realize this is going to be at least two blog posts to get back to my original plan.

I do not know that there was ever a Goddess actually worshiped by the pre-Christian Irish titled the Morrígan. I don’t know for sure that there were Goddesses named Macha, Badb or Anand or if any would have born the title if They were. I don’t have one single myth. Anyone who calls the Irish literature “mythology” is mistaken. It’s not.  You can wish it to be, but it’s not.  It’s literature, written by Christian monks. And, at the core, that’s the only thing we really know about it.

We know it correlates to place names, but we don’t know what that means. So we know for some reason Emain Macha exists, but…we have multiple stories about why. (Meyer et al) Ronald Hutton’s take on this is that “It looks as if the authors knew nothing of her except her name, and were inventing stories to go with it.”(Hutton) Now, personally, I don’t believe that they created all these stories out of thin air, but the fact remains we don’t know. All these stories may well be complete fictions created with Biblical and Classical stories in mind, as the Monks certainly knew the latter as well as former,, or they may be older Irish stories with some Biblical and Classical elements added. That the Biblical elements have been included is indisputable, it’s just a matter of what they’re introduced to. The Classical can be debated, are these similarities from common Indo-European threads or directly lifted? This depends on if you follow nativist or anti-nativist thinking…or, like me, tend to be a bit in between. (Wooding)

The debate about the literature and it’s possible connection to pre-Christian ideas is going to go on. Most of us work around our doubts, find what we believe to be the voices of our Gods there, even when we have dismissed notions that any of these clerics purposely tried to keep Pagan ways alive. They had many different agendas, but I doubt that one. Yet, we still find power there because at least part of it is a continuation of the culture, even if the culture we get it from was decidedly Christian. Folklore still told by the people also changed, we have no idea what it was in the centuries before it was recorded even later than the literature. We hope, we pray, and it has meaning for us despite this.

For a lot of scholars, btw, it’s fiction. Interesting, telling of the time it was written, but fiction. I’ve seen Pagans get huffy about it, but that’s what it remains for many who have delved very deeply into it.

The simple truth is that all stories we have, no matter how old, no matter if they were through story telling or written down, have people with agendas behind them. Especially when they get written down. How different is it for a scribe 1000 years ago to keep himself alive by writing a fake history that pleases a king and a writer today who writes something marketable so she can try to make a living?  I suppose some will find major differences, but I don’t.

When we read the warrior tales, we see some really repugnant behavior, much which goes against the values expressed in the contemporary legal systems, from the heroes of the tales. This includes Cú Chulainn and Conchobar, of the Ulster cycle (something which I’ve been focused on lately a bit). Does this mean it’s our own sensibilities that are offended? As I said, much would go against the early Christian laws. Or might we think that the scribes had little interest in showing these Pagan warriors in a good light. Is this any different from a screenwriter who believes women should not behave “like men” getting license for one of the very characters he once complained wasn’t his definition of appropriately feminine? There are always agendas behind stories.

But story is always more than the agenda of those who create or tell it. Every person makes it something different. In feminist critique there is the concept of coding (or filtering). Whether it’s ancient tales (this has been used greatly in studies of folk tales, or modern.(Radner) People code things, change the stories in their own heads, in accordance to their own experiences. It isn’t only a gender thing, although that’s where most of the study has been, but also class, culture, sexual orientation, religion….pretty much everything that makes us different from one another. Diana Dominguez uses this method in her study of Medb, looking at how women, as well as the men usually focused on, might have coded these stories.(Dominguez)  I think over all studies of Irish literature could benefit from this form of  critique, again not just the gender issues. What do people get from it based on their backgrounds is as important to consider as what the creators might have meant.

What I’m coming to, and there could be so much more here, is that the differences between old stories and new ones exist but perhaps not as greatly as some think. It’s just our distance from one as compared to the other that makes it seem so. Rather like how so many people are surprised by every little finding that shows people have always been people, we always seem to think those in the past were greatly different than us. Everyone is different, but that’s just one way we’ve always been the same. ~;)

Seeking Inspiration

I think we’re now way beyond any idea that I’m talking about worshiping Sarah Connor or any other pop culture character. Let’s get to what spiritual meaning might be found separate of worship. Because that’s a big deal for me.

As I said, I believe story is important. It shapes us since were children and, yes, our stories come through TV, movies and comics as much as through books and far, far more than oral telling or even live plays.  Some people are geared to it more than others, some spend vast amounts of time role playing, cosplaying, writing fanfic, participating in fan clubs, going to cons. Some of us spend hours reading media critique and writing it. There are people who are not mindful of their media intake at all, perhaps the majority. But some of us know we are affected. We also know others are affected and we worry about it.

Yeah, some of that’s a “woman thing.” And I think that’s another issue that comes up for me. While men on a Gaelic warrior path have tons of old literature depicting their heroes as heroes, although I do hope they question some of the “heroic” acts described, you know such as rape, as I woman I’m not left with much. Despite the popular belief that there are lots of women warriors to be found, there really aren’t that many. And the one who has the most material about her is the villain of the piece, although I personally code her as more heroic than the Ulstermen she fights, all things considered and Dominguez”s study gives lots of reasons why. There are a couple of other women warriors who show heroism, one you’ll find in some links I’ve given already, but their tales are very short. One really is no more than a paragraph. This, btw, is the topic of the article I have been working on, I’ll let you know if it gets published.

So along with also looking for modern day role models, we sometimes just looking for role models. Any. And we’re not going to just be looking in the past. Are there real life ones we could be looking to instead, shit yeah! In fact, the Sarah Connor Charm School has developed a strong focus for honoring such women.  But Sarah Connor sums up all of that in one fictional package. And, of course, it brings up that she isn’t completely fictional, because she’s all of us. In all of us. Yes, including the paranoid conspiracy theory parts, in at least some of us. *ahem*   Again, there’s that archetype thing.

I feel I’m in pretty good company here. After all, while we are not a  “Gaelic Heathen warrior group” as I’m told someone described us on a Pagan radio podcast, many CR women who walk the warrior path seem to be interested. The reality is that it a very mixed bag, with many of our most active members being Christian. On the academic side, Dominguez has also written about modern warrior female warrior icons, “It’s Not Easy Being a Cast Iron Bitch”: Sexual Difference and the Female Action Hero and Tough and Tender, Buff and Brainy: A New Breed of Female Television Action Hero Blurs the Boundaries of Gender. Because we need to explore what the warrior woman means to us and to the culture.

This is turning out long, I have already accidentally published it and those reading on feeds may well have too much insight to my strange habit of stealing my own FB posts as notes for a blog. ~;p I intend to actually get back to the original post I was going to make in a separate post (EDIT: which is now up: An Morrígan and Sarah Connor: Pt. 2 Warrior Cults and Charm Schools).  I guess I got sucked into the way more than I thought I would, but I’m leaving the above, where I claim I won’t do that, where it is. (EDIT also Part 3: Our Gods and Heroes in Pop Culture takes a look at the reverse issue)  (EDIT: also Part 4: Training)

Oh, another note, of all the posts on this blog, the Wonder Woman one is more popular than all the other combined, by many times. I do think that tells us something, too.

———————
Kuno Meyer, trans. ‘The Wooing of Emer’“Tochmarc Emire,Archaeological Review 1, 1888, English Irish para. 30 pg. 151-152,

Geoffrey Keating (Seathrún Céitinn), Foras Feasa ar Éirinn: The History of Ireland Vol. 2, David Comyn, Patrick S. Dinneen, eds., London: David Nutt, for the Irish Texts Society, 1902–1914 English Irish Section 28

John O’Donovan ed. and trans., Annala Rioghachta Eireann: Annals of the kingdom of Ireland by the Four Masters, from the earliest period to the year 1616. Library of the Royal Irish Academy and of Trinity College Dublin Pt 1 English, Irish M4505-M4546

Edward Gwynn, ed. The Metrical Dindshenchas Vol. 4, Dublin: Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, 1991 (org. 1906) English Irish Poem 12

Ronald Hutton, The Pagan Religions of the Ancient British Isles: Their Nature and Legacy, Cambridge, MA: Blackwell Publishers, Inc., 1995 pg. 154

Jonathan M. Wooding’s “Reapproaching the Pagan Celtic Past – Anti-Nativism, Asterisk Reality and the Late-Antiquity Paradigm Studia Celtica Fennica VI, Finnish Society for Celtic Studies, 2009 pg. 51-74

Joan Newlon Radner, ed., Feminist Messages: Coding in Women’s Folk Culture, Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1993

Diana Dominguez. Historical Residues in the Old Irish Legends of Queen Medb: An Expanded Interpretation of the Ulster Cycle, Lewiston, NY: The Edwin Mellen Press, 2010

copyright © Saigh Kym Lambert

[I] cast [my] lot with the Fianna: to have rivers, wastes and wilds, and woods, and precipices, and estuaries

Blue Heron in flight The title comes from a passage in Standish Hayes O’Grady’s translation of The Colloquy of the Ancients, “Verily the younger son elected to cast in his lot with the Fianna: to have rivers, wastes and wilds, and woods, and precipices, and estuaries.” (it is on pg. 69, The Irish “Rue do roga in mac ba só . beith ré Féind, ní himargó, foithri, fássaigi, feda . aibhne is alia is indbera.” can be found Whitley Stokes ed., Acallamh na Senórach I,  Irische Texte vol 4, part 1, 1900  pg. 71)

The passage tells of brothers dividing Ireland, the elder’s share were the houses, domestic herds, riches and civilized men. After the elder’s murder, the younger avenged him and took all of Ireland back, giving the leadership of the Fianna to Morna, eventually to pass to Finn MacCumhail, of course. It’s a phrase that struck a cord for me, the indication is that the younger son preferred the wilderness, for he chose it, and that this was seen as an equable division. For the wilderness always seems preferable to me and I have come to see it as the best place to cast my own lot, while so many have turned their backs on it.

I have lived in urban areas, but at one point even then I identified as the Outlaw, one of the wilderness, acting as an Outsider in a couple of Druid groves to which I never actually belonged. One became a very formal role. However, when this arrangement ceased to be, mostly due to my acting on behalf of the members as I should and becoming scapegoated by them (which too may be fitting for for that role), I made the mistake of trying to go Inside. As many others do, I became interested in trying to create some sort of community, broadly based with many roles. A focus on culture. It burned me out. It wasn’t my place.

It seems that for most Gaelic Polytheists there is a strong focus on the civilized culture of the Gaels and finding ways to recreate it or even who claim that they live in some form of Gaelic community (I’m referring to those who are here in the US). Some are very focused on recreating what they see as Pre-Christian society, although most of our information is actually well into the Christian period. They are trying to reconstruct the concept of the túath, often complete with the class system. Others look to the later and modern Gàidhealtachd/Gaeltacht. In both cases there is often a lot of, rather necessary, adaptations which I found I am not comfortable with.

I don’t live in the Gàidhealtachd, I do not live anywhere where it once existed; I simply live where some from those lands, with those languages, immigrated. And gave up their language and culture to assimilate because that was the option they saw best at the time.  I can’t pretend that I am truly part of a living culture nor can I create a childhood of “Gaelic traditions” despite having both Scottish and Irish ancestry (along with French). There is a generation between myself and my last Gàidhlig speaking ancestor, two generations between myself and my last Gaeilge speaking one. Like my father who was Québécois they saw assimilation into “America culture” very important for survival and the survival of their children, especially in light of the discrimination that they experienced first hand.  I might see this as sadly short-sighted, but I can’t pretend it wasn’t what happened.

 This is not to dismiss the importance of the cultures, then or now. We must learn about them to understand them. We must support the living cultures so that they can grow and continue, including keeping the languages going. But this is different than claiming we are living in them, unless we are actually living in the Gàidhealtachd, something which is not an option for most of us.

But would I fit in these cultures if I were born to them? Outside of what we must now accept are Victorian fantasies of multitudes of women warriors fighting as equal to the men, um, not so much.  I’ve already noted that accounts of female warriors in the literature are predominantly Outlaws, aside from Medb and her sisters and Macha Mongruadh, who were instead Queens. Not common, everyday, in the community soldiers.

The more I read and reread the writings of McCone, Nagy and Sharp as well as sections of the literture, the more I am convinced that these warbands constituted more than just a way-station for young men between fosterage and gaining inheritance and adult status.The the Fianna/díberga were fully a counterculture, albeit one of the wild, to the more civilized culture that they protected. And a very Pagan one possibly well into the Christian period. I believe we must try to understand this wild culture too, as much as the civilized one we know more of. We might never be able to know enough about it, but this is the situation we have with all Pagan Gaelic culture…we have no direct information from those living it, our “myths” are not actually myths but Christian literature. This, as I keep noting, why we “Reconstruct,” because we do have to.

Uprooted tree in our swampThis also brings to mind the popular debate about whether Gaelic Paganism is a nature religion or not. Many other cultural Reconstructionists are much clearer that they are not, as some are very urban religions often in conflict with nature. There does seem to be some of that in the more Gaelic ways which are more mainstream and focused on the culture. The romanticism that all of Celtic religion is based in nature, rather than a defense from nature, is, well, romantic. But the Outlaws were of nature, so I can keep that romanticism all I want. Even while actually living with it, understanding why there is often a hostility to it from those who didn’t and don’t have the luxury of seeing it from afar while in their safe houses or apartments, eating food they picked up from a grocery they traveled paved roads to go to and really being separate from that nature they claim to love. Of course, some of us get very romantic about hardship even as we’re in it….some of us cal ourselves homesteaders.

This is the land I belong to now, although my people are late comers. I don’t own it, it owns me. I can’t tame it, it wilds me. It feeds me, it homes me, it both protects and challenges me and I care for it as best I can. I am of the rivers, well brooks anyway, “wastes” and wilds and woods, although the closest precipices are a bit of a hike and I’m rather far from any estuaries. But lots of fresh water swamp. We share it with the deer, the coyotes, the fox, the bear, the stouts, the squirrels, the beaver and countless birds. This is my religion and if not culture then it is my community.

copyright © Saigh Kym Lambert

A wee update on my dedication prayer

In the year or so since I first published this about what you might call my offerings of sweat, the prayer has altered for me. I realized I had left out two of the banfennidi, Síona and Cámha, connected to the Fionn tales. I also became uncomfortable including Bec and Lithben who are known only for their conversion, both into Christianity and away from being warriors and causing the conversion of their fathers’ and their fathers’ kingdoms, to Christianity. (The Lives of Saints from the Book of Lismore). I realize I have no problem with the fact that several are known primarily for dying, it is where many of our stories come from after all, at least the place names. I just realized I did feel uncomfortable including figures who really did exist in order to sell conversion. We’ll see if this changes again for me but this is what I use now.

I serve the War Goddesses
Badb and Macha and An Morrigan, whose name is Anann
Fea and Nemain, Bé Néit

I follow in the footsteps of the banfénnidi
Macha Mongruadh
Ness ingen Echach Sálbuidi
Medb ingen Echach Feidlig
Creidne
Scáthaig Buanand ingen Ardgeimme
Aifi ingen Ardgeimme
Étsine
Bréfne
 Símha ingen Chorrluirgnig
Bodbmall
Líath Lúachra
Luas Lurgann
Siona
Cámha
Truth in our Hearts, Strength in our Arms, Fulfillment in our Tongues

Copyright © 2012 Saigh Kym Lambert

Movie Review: Centurion

I’ve avoided watching this movie for a year and a half, after nearly seeing in the theater with the director Neil Marshall and one of the actresses, his wife Axelle Carolyn. I did see their panel at the Chicago 2010 ComicCon the next day. I admit some bias against the film, which makes me sad as I like some of Marshall’s work. Yes, I am actually a fan of the generally loathed film Doomsday, I very much like The Decent and Dog Soldiers is not the worse werewolf movie ever, although I’d have hoped for more from a werewolf movie set in Scotland. While I know not to expect much from werewolf movies, I have learned to expect far less from movies about the “Picts.”

You’d think, of course, that a movie with painted up female Pictish warriors would be right up my alley, but this couldn’t be more wrong in my book. Of course, while I do love the idea of women warriors among Celtic people and I do think that they can be done in fiction, I think much care needs to be used in how it is done. We need to balance out the foolish fantasies of it being a usual thing and look as to where and how such women might have been found.

There were other issues I could see before seeing this movie, and seeing it doesn’t help. One is the woad thing, I stand by my belief that this is a fiction, but I also understand it’s a long standing one and people won’t give it up easily. This goes with the “limed hair” or at least with what that would mean. I do hope that some people out there realize that lime is extremely caustic and no one would use it to “gel” their hair, it would quickly remove the hair and tanners actually use lime precisely for that. The reference (para. 28) to the Gauls doing so seems to refer to the damage done just by using lime water, briefly, to wash the hair, much the same as lye soap can do. It certainly wouldn’t have looked like a pile of bird poo on top of the unbleached hair. This movie takes the cake in the stupidest depiction of “limed hair.” And ickiest.

And dreadlocks. Now, I’m going to say that Carolyn and Olga Kurylenko look very cool, in a punk warrior woman sort of way, they might have looked great in, say, Doomsday, and Kurylenko especially seems to be a popular avatar on my FB flist. ButOlga Kurylenko it’s hardly accurate of the “Picts.” The Celtic people (and I do believe they were Celtic speaking, but of a P-Celtic not the modern Gaelic they are depicted as speaking in this movie) of what is now Scotland would have been contemporary to other Celtic people. Which would mean textiles, stunning metal work and all. In fact, we know they had quite a good bit of nice metal work. They probably were also extremely into good grooming, as it does seem to have been a big thing for the Celtic people overall, and likely never would have had dreadlocks. Later periods certainly showed such concerns in the stone work, just check out the curls on the first “king” here (yes, this is at least 9th century, but I just love the hair on this).

Speaking of time periods, put “Picts” in quotes because these would not likely been known as Picts because the event this story, if it happened which it didn’t, would have happened in 117 ce (and therefore why do the call the governor Julius Agricola who died in 98 ce, having been recalled from Britain before that) and the term “Pict” was not recorded prior to 297 ce. Before that they probably were known by tribal names.

But “tribe” should not make one think “savage” as the depiction here shows, they were a sophisticated people. We have them shown as stereotypical savage and that’s the role they’re used for. They are politically correct “Savage Indians” apparently; after all, no one can really claim to be of a living Pictish culture (well, aside from Robbie, I suppose) to complain. That Marshall has actually admitted this much in mind boggling, but he seems quite proud of it. That an actor who played a “Pict” in the movie, one who loves all things Pictish too (which makes me question how he can defend this movie beyond “I needed a paycheck”) , said to me on FB that the Picts were “just like your Native Americans” I suppose brings up it up on the “Noble Savage” angle, which is just as stereotypical and insulting an image for both Native Americans and the memory of the Picts. (and while I might hold out a bit for the Noble Savage myself, I see it in the Outlaw Warrior bands, not the society …and I admit, nobility might have been rare)

Of course, as the “Picts” are the “bad Indians” here, the Roman main character (Michael Fassbender) is the “Good Cowboy.” Like the old Westerns, I find it hard to cheer for said fucking cowboy. The Romans were invaders, perpetrators of genocide, I do not consider anything about their occupation of Britain as noble or good. If the 9th Legion had been slaughtered, which they weren’t then I’d consider it a good thing. (Actually, this is thought never to have happened, instead they were transferred to Germany.) But we’re supposed to be cheering for the Roman protagonist here. Really?

All this was stuff I could have written before seeing the movie. So, how was the movie?

Boring. I have to say just plain boring, other than how annoyingly stupid it was. I was surprised by this, I had expected a lot of action and to say “at least it was a usual Marshal romp of activity.” But it wasn’t. And I don’t think it was just because I could not sympathize with the Romans, it was just horribly paced and lacked any real action. Even the usual Marshall Gorn wasn’t there. Seriously, you had people hacking other people up, the mighty heroic Romans even having to look away at one point, and …meh. Not remotely gory. Seriously? I don’t think I was the only one who had trouble staying awake, I think everyone who made it must have slept through the film.

I’d be interAxelle Carolyn and a horse that had no choice about being in this movieested in seeing how someone involved in Roman interests would view the actions of the Romans. I thought they seemed outstandingly stupid. The entire chase was both boring and boggling as I wondered why the hell they weren’t caught in the very beginning or just found frozen to death when the all sleep out in the wind. Supposedly Etain (Kurylenko) is this super badass tracker, the “Picts” are on horseback, the Romans acting like idiots yet they continue to stay ahead. Seriously, the movie shouldn’t have lasted so long. *yawn*

Oh, speaking of “on horseback” do I even need to mention that the horse types were wrong, which at this point can almost be forgiven as they usually are, and the saddles are way wrong which really can’t be forgiven. We know exactly what Roman saddles were like and what ever the “Picts” might have ridden in I can guarantee you did not have fucking stirrups. I am so sick of seeing anachronistic stirrups. And, as in most movies, few of the riders could actually ride, so it’s good the horses were way over sized or they’d have been unhappy with all that bouncing about.

Just to add a bit more to seriously hate about this movie, we go into the Big Bad Wolf trope, where wolves are shown to be man-eaters. Which people with an IQ above a turnip should know they are not. This is, sadly making a comeback, I guess we should expect it to come with more “Savage Indian” examples in the future. It’s all cool, irrational hate is apparently the in thing.

We of course also have the Helpful Indian Maiden (Imogen Poots) who is nearly a Magical Native American, or rather Pict, except she’s only accused of practicing witchcraft. True to form, she and the Good Cowboy “have feelings.”

So, what about those women warriors? Again, they looked sort of cool. In stills. Sadly, neither was convincing when the action came about, but they, and their stunt doubles, may just have been asleep. The fight scene with Kurylenko was just horrible and unrealistic even from my view point (remember, I liked Doomsday),because she just wasn’t moving they way it seemed she was supposed to. Neither she nor Carolyn appeared comfortable in their bodies. Perhaps this is linked, at least for Carolyn, in her apparent belief that women and men are physically so different that they can’t fight the same, a belief she expressed at the ComicCon panel. This was a sad set back from a director who gave us Rhona Mitra and Lee-Anne Liebenberg, both strong women who know how to move, in Doomsday. While I sometimes see potential for actresses to do better action roles when stuck in such a dismal movie, neither Carolyn nor Kurylenko would be names that would make me have much hope for a good warrior film. They seemed totally out of their element. The assumptions around them seemed to be that it was normal, there seemed to be a few other female “Picts” (hard to tell on my small screen).

Kurylenko’s Etain had a Rape and Revenge backstory while Carolyn’s Aeron seemed to “just be there” (in more ways than one, as, again, she just seemed to be sleep walking through the action). Mind you, I love the idea of multiple female warriors in a movie and I’ve been thinking about writing something on the need for varying reasons for a woman to become a warrior to be included in a single movie. The problem here, however, is that while it’s a popular fantasy, there is no evidence that female warriors were considered normal in any early Celtic culture, including those of what is now Scotland. I believe they existed, I could happily watch a well done movie with them (please, someone make one!) but there would need to make some point of why they might exist in such a culture.

I should note, however, none of the male-on-male fight scenes were really any better than the women fighting. Considering the plot, there wasn’t a lot of action in the action in the movie. Did I mention everyone seems to be only half there in this thing?

Of course, much of the dialogue may have been lost on me. Few of the actors could enunciate clearly when speaking “Latin” (English) and even if I could normally follow spoken Gaelic (I can read a little, slowly) I doubt that was spoken any better (I’d be interested in knowing what someone who can normally follow it thought…of course, Gaelic would not have been the form spoken, it would likely have been closer to Welsh as a modern variation). The subtitles were almost totally unreadable on my small screen, apparently no one cared if people might want to watch this at home. Perhaps they realized no one would really want to watch this.

Over all, this movie was bad. Not just for all the reasons I knew it wasn’t going to be good, but really just bad. The few things that could have been good just were poorly done and the whole thing seems to just be an exercise in bringing back racist movie tropes in new packaging in hopes no one will complain. And one that seems to have been halfhearted considering that everyone seems to sleep walk through the whole thing.

ETA: I think I actually blocked this from my brain. The symbol stones they showed. Um, why did they look as worn down or even more worn down than many look today? Considering they don’t date any earlier than the 5th century ce, and some consider that a romantically early dating (that’s 4 hundred years later than the movie takes place). I’m sure if they had them then, they wouldn’t have used them to chain up prisoners.

ETA2: I also forgot to bitch about the lack of fortifications in the Pictish settlement. This of course made it nice and easy for the Romans to sneak in, but, no never would have happened. There would have been walls and guards and all that stuff that people do when attacks could happen at any time.

Copyright © 2012 Kym Lambert

Book Review: Historical Residues in the Old Irish Legends of Queen Medb: An Expanded Interpretation of the Ulster Cycle by Diana Dominguez

Book Review: Historical Residues in the Old Irish Legends of Queen Medb: An Expanded Interpretation of the Ulster Cycle by Diana Dominguez

Edwin Mellen Press, 2010

Sometimes resources find you just when you need them, this was the case for me when I was in early struggles of resuming work on Teh Project and I came across a dissertation by Diana Veronica Dominguez exploring Medb of Connacht ‘s story using the theories of gender parody/performance. This study has now been published as this book, and I feel it is a transformational study leading to a deeper understanding of Medb, and perhaps womeCover of Historical Residues in the Old Irish Legends of Queen Medbn in the literature as a whole.

Medb is the most featured of all female characters in the Irish matter, let alone the most featured woman warrior, yet she’s often treated merely as a footnote, either a misogynist joke or a humanized Goddess. A predominant theory is that she was nothing more than an example of how wrong it is for a woman to be sexually free and to attempt to take on male roles. For others, she is seen as a humanized Sovereignty Goddess, conflated with Medb Lethderg despite no real connection being made other than the name, “redeeming” her sexuality as appropriate and laying the blame for all her “failings” at the feet of the “unworthy kings” she weds. Neither makes for a very complex figure.

Dominguez doesn’t dismiss these prevalent theories, in fact, she explores the cultural lenses that created them, as she addresses the idea that story depends on the view of the audience and how they read intentional and unintentional coding. Along with showing how Medb can be seen to enact both stereotypical feminine and stereotypical masculine traits to meet her needs, she shows how differing views, by various contemporary and later audiences, bring to life a more complex, multifaceted literary figure. Neither the coding nor the gender performance need to have been intentionally meant by the transcribers or tellers of a story, the coding and how recognizable it might be varies in the audience, according to their own cultural or sub-group knowledge. Having an understanding of the culture can help us determine what coding might have been read at the time.
Dominguez’ exploration of the culture of Ireland at the time included looking at the knowledge base of those who would have transcribed these tales, of native, Biblical and Classical traditions and of history. She also explores the possibility for actual women warriors, without getting into the romantic notions so popular today (although I, personally, find the Cáin Adamnáin/Lex Innocentium a little less hopeful as I note here). She also discusses the real-life queens who lived at the time the stories were transcribed, who were clearly politically influential even if not titular, and that the Anglo-Saxon Queen Æthelflæd was well recorded in the Irish Annals. She notes that changes in Medb’s stories in later text may well have been influenced by these queens lives. She also reminds us of the potential for brother-less women to become temporary (as their inheritance would return to their father’s family) heirs; this may never have come up in regards to rule given “…there was never a shortage of males vying for ruling power…” but such a possibility may have been a consideration in the contemporary minds. This makes Medb and her sisters, with their brothers having been exiled for treason, more readable as exaggerated, but somewhat plausible, fictional rulers.
Whether such female leadership was acceptable as a reality to the original audience of the time, Dominguez reminds us that it certainly is accepted in some of the tales despite misogynist remarks in the TBC. Others come to her, not her huband(s), for counsel and even when Fergus goes to Aillil in Táin Aillil turns to Medb’s advice. In many of these cases her advice is labeled by scholars as flawed and malicious due to her gender, but the reality is that it is neither more nor less manipulative than counsel given by male characters and there are clear ends to be met, often to protect herself which protects her Connacht. Importantly, I feel, the idea that her reasons for going after the bull in TBC are often trivialized as “willfulness” and a “marital spat” is taken to task here. Dominguez points out that she had very real reasons for being at war with Conchobor who was not only her former husband but her rapist, killer of her son, the killer of one of her husbands, the man who humiliated her and her father. This was not about a frivolous seeking of fame or one-up-man-ship over her current husband. It was a very real political issue, about saving face which was a serious issue in Early Ireland and her motives are really no less appropriate than a man in this situation within this body of literature. In examining this, Dominguez also brings Aillil up from the typical reading of a weak cuckold, showing his reason for also wanting war with Ulster, the political implications for him in this situation and a reading that that, yes, there was a true partnership in this marriage.
Likewise, Dominguez makes a case for Medb as a a military leader, noting that many of “mistakes’ attributed to her “wrong-thinking” due to being female work as strategy. She shows that many of the decisions Medb makes that are written off by some scholars as “feminine whims” are actually very much in keeping with heroic male thought, while others are indeed performances of “feminine weakness” to get the men to take the action she wants and should responsibility for it. This also includes testing Fergus’s loyalty, and while Dominguez offers a more honorable reading of Aillil than many give, she shows Fergus was far more clearly duplicitous than often admitted to. Even Medb’s “humiliating” encounter with Cú Chulainn can be seen as performance and tactic, rather than a reversion to mythological state or depiction of her actually being a “weak and vile woman,” for the meeting buys time for her men to make off with the Brown.
In showing these various lenses, Dominguez shows us a multifaceted Medb, far from a saint, perhaps not everyone’s choice of role model (though I know a few who do claim her as such and will find this heartening), but a realistically portrayed literary figure who was likely understood differently by the original audience than by the Victorian critiques or ourselves today. She is not the first to do so, she has some good sources regarding seeing Medb a bit more complexly in the work of Ewa Sadowska, Doris Edel and Ann Dooley, but she certainly offers the most in depth look at Medb to be found to date. And this form of study leaves the door wide open for much further consideration.

On that, Dominguez wraps up by saying that she does not intend this to be the definitive exploration of Medb. She describes some of the many possible issues to still examine about this character who stands out in the Irish literature as a heavily featured woman. She comments that there are issues outside of the scope of this study that she only touched upon such as the relationship with Medb’s daughter Finnabair, the issues around the likely rather late, and very defaming, death tale Aided Meidbe. I hope that there are other scholars who will or are taking new lenses to her stories, taking up the challenge.

If this review seems uncharacteristically positive, keep in mind a couple of things. One, it’s hard to argue with someone pointing out that there are multiple ways to view something, because, well, there are just more views. But, full-disclosure, when I found the dissertation I looked Dr. Dominguez up and wrote her an email, because I am the sort of geek that writes fan mail to academics. I found this study to be not only informational, but very inspiring at a time when I was feeling out of sorts over my own project. I think that this study is a vital piece of the puzzle in understanding the place of women, especially women warriors, in the literature and it stands strong as part of what I think is a growing body of work on women of Early Gaelic culture, both literary and historical. So, yes, I highly recommend this book to every Celtophile out there who wants a deeper look at Medb, or women in general, in the culture. I would like to recommend it even more strongly to those who think they already have it all figured out.

The one real quibble I have with the book is something I suspect is in the publisher’s hands, which is that the index is clearly not as complete as it could be.
As an aside, I have to admit that I was also delighted to learn that Dr. Dominguez has not only concerned herself with this literary warrior woman of Early Ireland, but also has an interest in depictions in our own pop culture. Two essays she’s had published relating to this are “It’s Not Easy Being a Cast Iron Bitch”: Sexual Difference and the Female Action Hero and Tough and Tender, Buff and Brainy: A New Breed of Female Television Action Hero Blurs the Boundaries of Gender. It’s just nice to know that I’m not alone in combining these two interests.

Copyright © 2011 Kym Lambert

F- words and several W- words and some stuff that starts with other letters

Actually, it’s mostly “w” I’ll likely discuss here, but the letter “f” probably grabs more attention. ~;p

A recent “discussion” some friends of mine were in, which I won’t go into here brought to light that I don’t always use certain words publicly to describe myself. This has led some people who do not know me to outright say that I reject at least one of them. That would be “witch.” People who claim that are, to put it as politely as I’m able to (as I pointed one to said FB page and STILL haven’t received an apology), full of shit. I do. Note, I use the lower case…it’s not a religious title, it does not have the same meaning as Wiccans attribute to it. In no way would it refer to anything anyone would want to make acceptable to the mainstream society, but we’ll get to that in a moment. The word ties in totally with other words that I am and/or do, some of which also begin with “w.”

The claim of those who wanted me to not use this term because they’ve decided, in their own little minds, that Celtic Reconstructionist Pagans* never, ever, ever use it, is that it’s disrespectful to those in the living culture who do not want it applied to them. Well, I’m NOT applying it to anyone else. I’m applying it to me. I’m doing so for many reasons, some which are more personal than I usually go into. But I want a record, for those who next come across these people making this claim…I am a fucking witch.

Those Big Nose** CRs note that “witch” is used in Gaelic culture (in translation, of course) to refer to a malevolent magic user. This, of course, would fly in the face of those Wiccans and others who are trying to get it “reclaimed” as a nice word, something it never has been. And they are, actually, right, I totally agree. The difference is that while they also want to be acceptable to the mainstream, apparently, I do not. I think that anyone reading this knows I identify my path as that of the Outlaw Warrior Poets, the Fianna and here is our first f-word, being seen as “nice” or “safe” is not part of my agenda.

Now, I am not comfortable using the term “Fianna” for what I am involved in, outright. I would not, that is, I’d not say I belong to the Fianna because that means something particular in modern day Ireland which I’m not a part of (this is not to say whether or not I am supportive, I’ll not bring up such things here, simple to say they have a claim to it that I’m not going to bother challenging). I do describe myself as a ban-fhiannaidh on occasion but I think when I do it’s usually clear that I’ve got my tongue planted in my cheek a bit and, like I do with that w-word you’re all familiar with here, I feel I’m still and probably always will be in this life time just aspiring to it. Perhaps even more so, as I’ve never quite mastered the tests noted in the lore and am of an age where it’s not likely to happen. I might refer to my path as being of the fiannaiocht, the way of the Fianna, inspired by these tales. I tend to skirt around the term, due to the politics, as I noted.

There are other terms in Gaelic for warrior that relate to the outsiders. Díberg is one, which is a term considered far more odious, meaning a “brigand” for which it might be said that fian was Plaque of The Morrigan in chariot sort of a clean-up although that term was not considered particular seemly and properly Christian by the clerics either. (McCone, West) There is, of course, gaisgeach and it’s various forms, which also are found when describing female warriors such as Símha inghen Chorrluirgnig, who is referred to as “…badhb & ban-ghaisgedach do muinntir Ghuill í…” “…witch and warrior-woman in Goll’s retinue….” (Cath Maigh Léna, also Heijda “4.2 Witches”) Oh, there we go that other w-word again.

So, back to that, badb in lower case is found throughout the literature to describe somewhat different classes of beings, as opposed to also being the name of a Goddess who is in the sisterhood with An Morrígan and Macha, and sometimes conflated with the former in a complexity which I’ll get into in a very long article and a longer book someday, maybe. Heijda discusses all of the variant uses and findings of the word badb, including “witch” throughout her essay and especially in the section “4.2 Witches.” That there is this combination of badb probably meaning what we refer to as “witch” and “warrior woman” is, of course, of great interest to me.

We see this sort of combination in various ways, the magic or mystical combined with the warrior woman. Indeed, it’s a strong point of the War Goddesses, including Badb (and again, yeah, it’s coming someday if it doesn’t burst something in my brain first). Scáthach is shown to be a Seer as well as a trainer of warriors. And we have another f-word I use in my practice fàisneachd, prophecy or Sight.

There are other terms which come up for “war witch” that I find interesting but a bit taxing for my limited Old Irish. You see accounts of Goddesses in both the First and Second Battles of Magh Turedh using magic, with a similar but not quite identical term. The term used in the First Battle for Badb, Macha and an Morrígan was bantuathacha which is translated by Fraser as “sorceresses,”(Fraser, pg. 44, para 48) but which is translated by MacAlister LGÉ as “female farmer or landowner.” (MacAlister, pg. 122-123, 160-161 regarding Ernmas, see pg. 150-151, 180-181 and 230-231 regarding Be Chuille and Danann –the last is translated as the odd “farmeresses”) In the Second Battle, Be Chuille and Danann offer spells to Lugh’s question of what all can provide and are referred to as bantúathaid, which would be properly “sorceresses” or “witches” and specifically malevolent ones. (CMT, Gray’s translation para 116-117 , pg. 53-54 in Irish given)

For the actual translations of the words see eDIL for the masculine forms tuathach and túathaid and use the “fuzzy” option as it seems impossible to direct to a translation. While Kondratiev suggests this replacement was a “…misunderstanding of the original word…” (Kondratiev) I wonder if there might have been more to such a change. However, my language skills are not up to such an exploration at this point and right now I sort of just like the idea of witch and farmer being somewhat blurry distinctions. Being that farmer is another f-word I’m aspiring to.

I don’t talk about the witchy or mystical stuff much, in fact I actually started a blog post about my mystical practices several months ago. It ended up becoming a rant on why I don’t write about “woo” and started to feel pointless and so it was greatly truncated and only mentioned as a part of another post. The experiment of writing about magic, trance work, Seership and all that woo-woo witchy stuff remains worked on offline. I’m not really going into it here. I’m just talking about identity here.

And again, I’m a witch. And a would-be warrior. And a Seer.

Along with this those of you who have been paying attention would realize there is another w-word I use, but am often reluctant at using too much or loudly although I have here a few times now…. werewolf. Again, connected to the Fianna/Outlaw Warriors, usually with the Old Irish f-word fáelad or “wolfing.”(McCone, West) When it comes to female werewolves the legal tracks mention confail conrecta “a woman who likes to stray in wolf-shape” (Bitel, pg. 219-220, Carey, pg. 64-68) although whether she might stray with the warbands is not mentioned. But you never know, I mean, they were wandering about too. Wandering outside of society….hmmmmm…..

Just as my definition of “witch” has nothing to do with the way Wiccans or many others in the NeoPagan community use it, my sort of wolfiness has nothing to do with Otherkin or therianthropy communities either. There are many differences, one again being the angst over being “understood” or accepted or what ever which is often a central theme. Or angst in general. I’m not some lost soul born in the wrong body, I’m someone who seeks deeply into myself and the Otherworld to embrace a beast that I can be and I’m the only one who has to embrace it…or can. It’s again about seeking that wilderness, about becoming primal in my body and taking a particular form to travel “astrally” and not about seeking an online community. (I have noted before that A Wolf-Man, Not A Wolf In Man’s Clothing is the one blogger out there who I can relate to at all on this, although we do vary in many ways as well)

All these things I am were not considered favorable by the ancient Irish societal laws that we know, which were Christian. We have no way of knowing, truly, what the pre-Christians thought of them, but these things were, in fact, considered “other” and, yes, “pagan.” These were indeed seen as negative things, but I embrace them and rather than embrace the thinking that shunned them. I have no interest in bringing them out of the wild. In the Brehon laws, none of these things that I am were given honor price nor even sick maintenance. (Kellly, also Bitel, pg. 219-220, Carey, pg. 64-68 specific to female werewolves)

Being outside, being counter-culture, being subversive to a sick society was once embraced by many of us, but sometimes I feel alone. In the ’70s, and yes I’m old enough to remember, the word “witch” was adopted by many feminists to equate with a woman who was dangerous to the patriarchy and to the gender status quo. At the time there was even some contention between feminists who never heard of Wicca and the Wiccans who felt they alone owned the term (as some still do), but, of course, some of those women became Wiccan and even developed their own traditions. Many already felt that was giving into a mainstream. I like “witch” for some of the same reasons they did, as well.

There is a power to being outside that I think some forget. The “noble savage” might be a naive trope, but the reality of what that can mean in a real sense about morality is something we might want to consider. It is much like the issue of if we can be “good” if we do not believe in eternal punishment, can we be good if we reject a society’s notion of “good” and “evil?” Is what is outside malevolent and dangerous not because it’s truly evil, but because it doesn’t obey the cultural constricts of what “good” and “evil” mean? Is there not more honor in being good and just when there is no societal reward for it, when, in fact, society may not truly be good or just? Am I stuck in the past because I still believe in this? Fortunately, there are those Occupying the streets of many cities for several weeks now who also are questioning this. So, no maybe not.

I do not fully understand why some who I know embraced these ideas have become so fully invested in placating those who wish to restrain us. But I put this out there so that if anyone has any question as to whether I have changed my status with culture, it is here. I am a witch, I am a would-be Outlaw Warrior Poet, I am wolfish at times, I am a Seer and a mystic. Don’t fucking tell anyone any different.

(For more about warrior women in Irish Literature see Once Upon A Time…. and The Warrior who Knew No Art of Wounding for more on my trying to put this shit together see A place where things come together, Weighing things out and Ramblings about Serving the War Goddesses or…)

Bibliography

Lisa Bitel, Land of Women: Tales of Sex and Gender from Early Ireland, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1996

John Carey, “Werewolves in Medieval Ireland,” Cambrian Medieval Celtic Studies 44 (Winter 2002)

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

Cath Maigh Léna for the Irish, Kenneth H. Jackson, ed. Cath Maighe Léna Dublin: 1930 or E. Curry, ed & tr, Cath Mhuighe Léana or The Battle of Mag Léana together with Tochmarc Moméra or the Courtship of Moméra Dublin: 1855; J. Fraser “The First Battle of Moytura.” Ériu 8, 1915, English translation

Fergus Kelly. A Guide to Early Irish Law, Dublin: Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies (School of Celtic Studies), 2001

Alexie Kondratiev, “Danu and Bile: The Primordial Parents?”

 

RAS MacAlister, ed. and trans., Lebor Gabála Érenn: The Book of the Taking of Ireland Vol IV. Dublin:Irish Text Society, 1941

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

Máire West, “Aspects of Díberg in the Tale Togail Bruidne Da Derga,” Zeitschrift für celtische Philologie (ZcP), Volume 49-50

*They also do not like “Pagan” and all I’ll say to that is that yes, I DID initially use “Pagan” and that was the original term “Celtic Reconstructionist PAGAN” because otherwise what the fuck are we reconstructing? “Celtic?” No, we’re reconstructing Pagan paths based on the Celtic culture we’re called to/come from/whatever. Anything else is as big an insult to the living culture as I can think of. If they do not like the “Pagan” part why the fuck are they using my term at all? And, YES, I was the first…for several years before others who claim to have “founded” it ever used it and even longer before they actually stopped doing Wiccan ritual by their own fucking admission at the time.

“Big Nose Pagan” has long been a term used in place of “Big Name Pagans” especially for those who aren’t really that big of name but do like to stick their noses in other people’s business.

Copyright © 2011 Kym Lambert
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The Warrior who Knew No Art of Wounding

In a previous post I noted the idea of finding inspiration in the stories of ancient Gaelic ban-fhénnid and indeed you can find many tales online and in books retelling and extrapolating these stories to be more positive than they may have been. One issue, of course, is that not all of these retellings are labeled as such, this is especially true, it seems, within the NeoPagan community but a second source tends to be tourist literature. There are many out there who think they know more about Scáthach or Medb than is really in the texts, which if given the label Unsubstantiated Personal Gnosis is fine, but at least in the non-Pagan sources UPG certainly isn’t a factor. There is, btw, quite a great deal on Medb in the text that is not so widely shared, while Scáthach actually has far less material on her. (Diana Veronica Dominguez, Historical Residues in the Old Irish Legends of Queen Medb: An Expanded Interpretation of the Ulster Cycle, Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 2010 is an excellent study of Medb using tales often not bothered with, making her far more human and far less a joke than what is usually focused on)

I believe one of the keys to using these stories wisely, is to be very clear about the fact we are making changes to them. Again looking at Medb, especially as examined by Dominquez, we can retell her story through what we as women can imagine are her eyes, rather than of the male eye which may use the tale to mock a woman making war. We can also emphasize things that some scholars choose to ignore in retelling her story. In order to point out that her quest for the bull in the Táin Bó Cúalnge is the folly of a haughty woman, it’s often left out that she, in fact, also had a reasonable quest for revenge against her former husband Conchobar, who had raped her and killed her son . Medb’s story really has a lot to offer in retelling without actually changing much or adding anything. Yet in retelling it we must be clear that it’s a different perspective from the way the Ulster Tales came down to us, possibly a different perspective than it was viewed by anyone before.

Scáthach, and most of the other warrior women in the texts, we really don’t have much on. It’s in this that we see that while there may be many female warrior names banted about, their stories are very much peripheral to the stories of male warriors, saints or they died horribly in place-name tales. If we tell more of her story than what is in the texts, we likewise need to be clear. For many of us these tellings might be UPG,even SPG (Shared Personal Gnosis), but to those who don’t believe, or simply don’t believe your UPG, stories from such sources are merely modern fictions. I believe it’s okay to have them, we just must be clear that these are not from the source.

Even Macha Mong Ruadh, whose story as a warrior queen is short but quite detailed and positive for her, I believe (although, you know, everyone dies at some point in every tale), offer’s caution. When we tell the tale we might be clear that when she lures the brothers one-by-one into the forest she overtakes them by her own hand. But it’s not actually told what happens in those woods. Someone who does not see women as capable of overpowering men, oh what sheltered lives they must lead, might be thinking she used magic, the only power many think women can ever have, especially those who don’t believe in magic, or had warriors waiting even if this version notes that she bound them.

So, yes, we can retell, we can extrapolate, but we must be clear that’s what we’re doing. And I think we also must take care not to go too far. After all, if a story is of a woman who is clearly not a fighter, why make her so when there are those who are? If we’re going to totally create a new character, should we give her a name of one that is the opposite of what she is. And while we might do this in fiction, non-fiction commentary on literature and history should be way out.

The most stunning example of completely changing the story of a woman in the texts, and not revealing that it is a modern fiction and not what is in the texts, is not actualy from either NeoPagan or a tourism agency, it’s from academic and novelist Peter Berresford Ellis.

I think he was even stretching it to describe Erni (aka Erne for whom Aerial view of Lough Erne Lough Erne was named) as Medb’s warrior his “Peter Tremayne” novel Badger’s Moon (Sister Fidelma #13, NY: St. Martin’s Press, 2005), however, he lists her as such also in Celtic Women: Women in Celtic Society and Literature (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm.B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1996 pg. 73). This is now happily repeated by countless NeoPagan websites and by Jessica Amanda Salmonson in The Encyclopedia of Amazons: Women Warriors from Antiquity to the Modern Era (University of Michigan, Pagagon Press, 1991). Admittedly, her work is full of poorly substantiated entries, with fiction and historical women noted as equally valid, but in this case she might be forgiven, for scholar Ellis says Erni is a mighty warrior, so we should admire her great deeds. Mighty is Erni!

Um…..

Before recounting, with citation, Erni’s great deeds, I’m going to be perfectly honest, Ellis obviously has better resources than I do, so maybe there’s some lost tale about Erne (yeah, I keep changing the last letter, “e” seems more common, he uses “i” and we’re discussing his work so, I’m trying to use “i” when referring to his work) that indicates this, that is totally opposite the versions I could find. If so, I shall happily stand corrected and rejoice in the finding of another warrior woman. The problem is, Ellis doesn’t cite his sources (bad academic, no biscuit!).

Here are her deeds, the bold emphasis is mine, the italics are not but rather indicate a mistranslation noted on the website source, see note next to it:

13. The chaste Erne, who knew no art of wounding,
50] the daughter of loud-shouting Borg Bán
(the warrior was an overmatch for a powerful third)
the white-skinned son of Mainchin son of Mochu.

14. The noble Erne, devoid of martial spirit, (footnote here notes correct translation is ‘free from venom’)
was chief among the maidens
in Rath Cruachan, home of lightsome sports:
women not a few obeyed her will.

15. To her belonged, to judge of them,
the trinkets of Medb, famed for combats,
her comb, her casket unsurpassed,
60] with her fillet of red gold.

16. There came to thick-wooded Cruachu Olcai
with grim and dreadful fame,
and he shook his beard at the host,
the sullen and fiery savage.

17. 65] The young women and maidens
scattered throughout Cruach Cera
at the apparition of his grisly shape
and the roughness of his brawling voice.

18. Erne fled, with a troop of women,
70] under Loch Erne, that is never dull,
and over them poured its flood northward and
drowned them all together.
The Metrical Dindshenchas, English: The Irish

That the more accurate translation is “free from venom” is actually interesting, given this would say that she’s not only not a warrior, but also harmless “even for a woman.” Poison being commonly considered a “woman’s weapon” by those who have throughout history seen us incapable of actual confrontational violence.

For comparison, the The Edinburgh Dinnshenchas tells the same tale and includes:

Erne with pride, a pure union,
Daughter of good Borg the Bellowing,
She fled — no deed to boast of —
Under Lough Erne for exceeding fear.
The Edinburgh Dinnshenchas, Whitley Stokes, ed. and trans., Folklore 4 (1893) pg. 476, English The Irish pg. 476

The Dinnshenchas of Dubthar, from the Book of Lecan, offers other versions, again with much fleeing and concern with chastity the “insult to the honour of her noble father.” The Irish manuscript series, Vol. 1, Part 1, pg. 186-189

None of these show much warrior tendency, is there a version that does? If so, I’d love to see it and also know what period it is from. Are these the changes from an earlier warrior tale? Sadly, I’m very doubtful that any such tale exists.

Understand, that I see no shame in a woman who is not a warrior to run from a potential rapist. In fact, in most cases, I recommend running to non-professional warrior women, usually after disabling the guy in some way to increase your odds and make him easier for the authorities to catch. However, such mannerisms do not speak of a mighty warrior, a professional warrior according to Ellis, a warrior to a warrior queen. I do not understand why he’d claim she was. So maybe there’s a tale I can’t find?

I think as we tell ourselves stories from the past in ways that are more empowering to us than may have been intended by the original tellers, that we avoid going this far. And avoid making out that a woman in the story is something quite opposite of what she is. I don’t really understand what motivation Ellis might have had in calling Erne a warrior, I’m sure he’s seen all versions of this (and maybe another). But while we might want to find more warriors in the ancient stories, we need to look harder and not change the tales completely.

Text copyright © 2011 Kym Lambert
Photo of Lough Erne from Department of the Environment (DOE) Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) used under terms of Open Government License.

Wonder Woman—a rant from Goddesses to costumes to Goddesses

 If you are looking for something on the 2017 movie I have Wonder Woman Rant Redux – muscle, space and physical feminism I intend to do a review after I see the movie early in June. (but I never did)

It would be impossible that Wonder Woman has nothing at all to do with why I’m here writing this sort of WW cover for Vol. 1 -178 1968stuff. But the truth is, I can’t really remember how much of an influence she might have really been. It seems a lot, but I also realize some issues with those memories. Did I discover Greek Mythology or WW first?I don’t know. Did I gravitate to Greek polytheism when about 9 or 10 years old due to WW or was I drawn to her due to my devotion to Artemis? I don’t remember which came first.

But as the the new pilot, the recently revealed costume from it and all WW cover Vol. 1 - 201 1972the blather on the web about it, she’s been on my mind. Oh, and that blather several months ago about her new costume in the comic, which most people talking about the new TV movie one, mostly, don’t seem to know about. Frankly, the costume even before the recent discovery I made wasn’t the biggest deal. Stupid but not the biggest deal. But then, when I started reading her book (and it was always sporadic that I got them), she shortly there after wasn’t wearing the Iconic Strapless Bathing Suit anyway. The Amazons had left Earth to save their powers, but Diana Prince stayed behind, gave up her powers and the Wonder Woman moniker, took up karate and opened a boutique. In some of the issues at the time, she wore a white jumpsuit, with flat soled boots, no less! So get over “she’s in pants, ZOMG!” she’s worn them before.

Her first TV appearance was probably largely inspired by this “Mod” version and was also blond. I’m going to admit that I liked that part, being, you know blondCathy Lee Crosby in Wonder Woman (1974) (which is my real hair color, although I hennaed most of my adult life, I’m black to the blond now). And she wore a skirt, with dark tights and blue boots. And was played by Cathy Lee Crosby. I don’t really remember it much, but I remember being thrilled by the movie. I’m told it was actually very, very bad, but, hey, I was 12 and desperately looking for any good female character to watch. Even if it wasn’t a very good show…after all, TV was not particularly good back then, anyway. And I remember desperately wanting a blond Goddess worshiping, ass kicking role model. (yeah, I know, poor little ‘underrepreseneted” white girl, hey, I was a kid)Lynda Carter in The New Original Wonder Woman series

But no one else did so that didn’t make it, and when the next pilot came along it was Lynda Carter in the Iconic Strapless Bathing Suit, WWII style…sort of. Actually the style was a bit shorter legged than the original shorts version, which followed the original skirted.

Which sort of brings us to just how much and how often the costume changed. It changed quite a bit over the years and I can hardly catalog Lynda Carter in The New Adventures of Wonder Woman all of it here. That’s been done anyway by Carol A. Strickland at A Brief History of the Wondie Suit. She gives a great run down, but I mostly disagree with her opinion wise. See….I really sort of always hated the suit. Perhaps it was that I got some sense from the Diana Prince era of pants and sensible shoes, but fighting crime in a bathing suit just never made sense to me. Even when Carter’s WW moved into the ’70s with a higher cut leg.

While I won’t replicate the whole run down that Strickland does, here’s a look at some of the original sketches by Dr. William Moulton Marston, who created (with a bit of help from his wives) Wonder Woman under the pen name Charles Moulton. I do apologize, I have found this on so many sites and blogs that I cannot trace an original source.

Wonder Woman sketch by William Moulton MarstonThis is the original suit. Note, no red boots, although they were there in the beginning once she was actually in the comics. The strappy sandals, hmmm…just another nod, such as the lasso and cuffs, to Marston’s bondage lifestyle? Keep the straps in mind, now, we’ll come back to that later. (However rather than diverge into Marston’s lifestyle, including living with two women and believing that bondage would bring world piece, I will let SheWire.com speak in Wonder Woman Amazon Princess of Bondage and Submission? A Brief History)

Variations of WW costume pre-2011So here’s just a few examples of Wonder Woman costumes through the years. Again nothing compared to the Strickland run down linked above. It wasn’t always the Iconic Strapless Bathing Suit anyway, but even that changed a lot.

WW wasn’t always Diana, either, several others grabbed the title for awhile. Two redheads, one named Artemis, had short lived careers (that was when Diana wore that black bike short get Donna Troy as WW in WW Vol 3 (not sure of issue #) 2006up instead) and short lives once they donned the Iconic Strapless Bathing Suit. Hippolyta, Diana’s mother, took the role, her adopted sister Donna Troy who had become Wonder Girl took the Wonder Woman moniker in a somewhat more metallic costume.

Earth 1, Earth 2, New Earth, Pre-Crisis, Post-Crisis, Bronze Age, Silver Age…. The thing is, comics get deep into changes, alternate realities (including a cross-gendered world with the Manazons), more changes, total redactions and, yes, just plain clothing changes. So holding on to a really very silly Iconic Strapless Bathing Suit seems, well, really silly. But all those things did seem to cause a stir so, this costume thing has been an issue since they changed WW’s costume in the comics last year.
Wonder Woman circa 2010 jacket
The first look was fully jacketed and Athletic Woman blog did note this as an issue, as, SOMETIMES Wonder Woman was drawn quite muscular (once could probably do another 15 page index like Strickland’s just on the muscle, but the ’04 pics will do for now) and the jacket hides tWW circa 2010 no jackethe arms. However, the jacket comes off.
WW 2004
And the top has straps! It could stay on. Okay, it has a lot of straps, right down the arms. Which, if not stretchy would create some interference with muscles. But, seriously, this is a nod to WW’s bondage origins, no? Which is part of her history, after all.

Me, I like the new comic costume, mostly. I like the pants, but would really like them a bit less painted on. I like the lower heel on the boot and really do not give a fuck that they’re not red (because, who need red boots? why is that such a big fucking deal? Red is glaringly cheesy color for boots), but I’d like them a bit, clunkier, but then I’d have given her combat boots so…. And I like the darker look, although I know a lot out there hate it.

The darker look goes with the also very controversial greater violence that Wonder Woman has apparently been displaying. A lot of people are having a hard time with that too. Me, it almost brought me back into buying the book when I heard about it, but…well, we’ll get to that in a moment.Adrianne Palicki in original blue boot costume for failed WW pilot

The TV version, however, is trying to play it both ways. They have the pants and the blue boots, but are going with the baby blue and the higher boot. It’s just all to bright and shiny for me, I do like the dark urban look most people are hating on. But mostly, why would anyone want to go back to the strapless bustier thing…it’s always been the stupidest part of Wonder Woman’s costume. Seriously, do you want to be in a fight worrying if your top is going to fall off? You move around enough and no amount of boobage is going to keep that on. It’s just not.

Of course, the costume in the NBC movie/pilot is all we have to rant on, because it’s all we know at this point. I’d love to see way more muscle on a live action Wonder Woman today than Adrianne Palicki is packing in this photo (ETA: having now seen her as Mockingbird/Bobbi Morse in Agents of SHIELD, Palicki can buff up and she was excellent in that role and I’m sad that the spin off did not happen). I’m leery of her action acting chops, as the only thing I’ve seen her in has been as a rather vapid victim, but it’s unfair to say she doesn’t have those chops based on that. I hope she works out a bit more though. I wish Rhona Mitra got the role, dammit!

A big part of my plan here was to note, that pants, maybe even tight pants, are totally appropriate for an Amazon warrior despite the usual Greek toga image that most people think:

An Amazon in pants on Greek vase Amazon in pants training horse on Greek vase

But, over all, I wonder if I care anymore. Because while I needed to rant on the costume fervor, while checking this all out and considering starting to buy the book again after all these years, I discovered something. Remember, the first bit here, in some way the Goddess worshiping Amazon Princess Diana is part of my early memories of worshiping Goddesses myself, as well as probably inducing an early interest in the warrior path. I actually did worship Artemis and other Greek Goddesses early on, as They were the ones I had learned about, the ones I knew. And Artemis is such a perfect Goddess for adolescent girls. But She stayed with me for years after.
Wonder Woman at templeThen in a very powerful way, She turned me over to An Morrígan. It was actually a pretty traumatic experience for the pacifist I was and culturally mind boggling as I ended up finding myself having to explore Gaelic culture far more than anyone I knew at the time was.

And now….Wonder Woman is facing a new enemy, a Triple Goddess out to destroy the Amazons. Yup, that would be The Morrigan. This is just horrific to me."Bellona" one of the "Morrigan" in New Earth WW 2011

I’ve been trying to find pictures and more information, but so far it seems only two names and pictures exist or at least have made it to the internets. One is Bellona…um, wrong culture assholes! The other is Anann!!!! Damn! They got one right?! Most polytheist claiming to worship An Morrígan usually seem to miss Her!"Annan" one of the "Morrigan" in New Earth WW 2011 No clue as to the third, can’t find it anywhere. Nope, not going to give DC money to find out.
(ETA: Apparently the third is Enyo, who is a Greek Goddess of war. So apparently while they use the title The Morrigan, they are using only one Irish Goddess, and then the Roman Bellona and Greek Enyo…which is just more Whiskey Tango Foxtrot!)

So, the hells with the costume, to hells with who plays her in the most recent live action depiction. I’m offended! I’m done! I’ve had it!

The first Goddess worshiping role model is fighting my Goddess? Or a cockeyed, ignorant rendition of Her. Insulting! ahem

I don’t know what to think any more. Really, I just wanted to rant about the costume and my worries about the casting. I wanted to start reading the comic again, now that perhaps I an actually sort of kind of afford to do so. But instead…another little piece of my Pagan childhood has been destroyed. And not due to the loss of a fucking Iconic Strapless Bathing Suit.

ETA: Here’s The Daily Beast’s commentary on the script for the pilot with the eight cringiest moments…at least one would hope they’re the worse.

ETA April 2: photos from filming show Palicki in a somewhat modified costume, obviously Adrianne Palicki in running in red boot version of costume for failed WW pilotsome of the feed back out there got picked up. Red boots, why that was such a big deal is beyond me, but I do approve of the lower heel. Slightly darker, less shiny legging with stars, the last was another thing that really wasn’t a big deal to me. But the strapless top, waaay too low to be remotely reasonable, just is so bad. In the videos taken at the shooting, you can see her picking at the top and I think her posture over all suggests that she feels very uncomfortable and is focused on whether it’s staying up. Seriously, give the woman some straps!

Wonder Woman an all comic images are owned by DC Comics, the image of Palicki is from NBC and Warner Brothers, who can own that damn costume.

A place where things come together

My gym, with photo shopped wolf picture someone never did make me for itAs I wasn’t writing much about Gaelic spirituality at the time I started this blog, having started at a time of conflict, flux and burn out in the community and taking things more private for awhile, I have realized it might seem a sudden switch to some of my readers. While the intent of this was always to be about various aspects of the warrior path in my life and how they came together, the focus had been on fitness, self-defense and popular culture. That itself might seem quite a mix to some. But it really is in my interest in the warrior ways of ancient Ireland and Scotland that all those things come together, the physical training and the importance of story.

I’m not good at compartmentalizing. Somethings need to be, however, and therefore when I wanted a space to blog about homesteading and to share with my husband, I made another blog Dùn Sgàthan Notes, I also joined a blog for horse advocacy although between three of us we seem a bit too overwhelmed by it all to post much. Then, in order to share space for writing about things related to The Sarah Connor Charm School, I created a blog for the group. This last is the most likely to have cross-posting. (What am I saying? The only thing I’ve posted there so far has been reposts of things from here. I hope this doesn’t annoy those who might read both.)

But this blog is for all things related to women on the warrior path, however diverse that may be for me. It’s a place where things come together for me in my practice. Now I also have a real space location that brings things together, as well.

For years now I’ve had limited space for exercise equipment. Usually a small room, which usually means that things overflowed into the rest of the house.It lead to some bad habits, like making a stop by the computer in between sets, removing my focus.

When I was planning to build my own house, it was actually pretty much centered around the idea of having a gym. A gym/temple, really. But I never built my house. A decade ago we moved into the “in-law apartment” of my parents’ home. Since their deaths, we now own the house…and we still live in the apartment. I wasn’t ready to use the rest, the apartment is smaller and easier to care for and heat and it just doesn’t “flow” into the rest easily. But we decided to find ways to expand into the rest. And, it of course, started with a gym.

Moving the living room Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor doing chin-ups in Terminator 2furniture out of the way (come spring most of it will be moved completely out), we put down padded flooring, moved in the weights, benches, heavy bag. We added a pull-up and dip tower, as I have given up, for now, on finding the perfect bed frame to turn on it’s side. When things are moved out more we’ll have more open space, especially to work the bag, and probably get more equipment over time.

And in the far corner is a shrine. I may be the only Polytheist, especially the only HARD Polytheist, out there who has a shrine in her gym with a statue of An Morrígan and a figure of Sarah Connor. I hope these are joined by a figure or picture of Scáthach or other literary Irish warrior woman, or many, but I’m not finding the right one(s). I’m looking for well done and muscular, tattooed would be nice but muscle is more important. I have some great ideas in my head but a lifetime frustration of never being able to get such images out onto paper (my sister got that talent). I do have a list, a sort of prayer, instead:

I serve the War Goddesses
Badb and Macha and An Morrigan, whose name is Anand
Fea and Nemain, Bé Néit
I follow in the footsteps of the banfénnidi
Macha Mongruadh
Ness ingen Echach Sálbuidi
Medb ingen Echach Feidlig
Creidne
Scáthaig Buanand ingen Ardgeimme
Aifi ingen Ardgeimme
Bodbmall
Líath Lúachra
Luas Lurgann
Étsine
Bréfne
Símha ingen Chorrluirgnig
Bec ingen Conchoraig
Lithben ingen Aitreabhthaigh
Truth in our Hearts, Strength in our Arms, Fulfillment in our Tongues

(ETA April 2012: I have changed this over this time period, please read this post on why and how it reads now)

There are photos all around of Linda Hamilton as Sarah Connor. Some, now collected in a frame, are worn, faded, damaged, having gone from apartment to apartment with me for years, the first for 20 years this year, taped to the walls of various “workout rooms.” Likewise, there are similar pictures of Kathy Long. Later these were joined by Demi Moore doing one-armed push-ups as Lt. Jordan O’Neal in G.I. Jane (this also includes the statement “Failure Is Not An Option” at top and D.H. Lawrence’s poem “Self-Pity” at the bottom) and Sigourney Weaver as Ripley 8. But now I have more pristine photos of Linda, with autographs, including one of us together. I’ll be printing more from ComicCon to go up, too.

But while An Morrígan and Sarah Connor grace my shrine, it is not to say that the two images are the same. One is a representation of my Goddess, the other is a representation of a role model. As a hard Polytheist I do not believe that the Goddesses and Gods are archetypes. They are real and They are many. Even a Goddess I worship of the same name as a Goddess you worship might not even be the same Goddess. We are limited, They are not so much, we do not always know who They are, only Who They tell us and They may tell us to meet our always limited understanding.

And while I might be limited, I’m not completely simple either. I have no problem with both worshiping Goddesses I believe are very real and alive and being inspired by stories both ancient and modern. For me Sarah Connor and other modern role models are as potent as the ancient ones of Ness and Scáthach and other literary figures who I also do not believe are degraded* Goddesses but humans in the tales.

So this space, this very sacred space to me, is filled with images that represent the warrior path for me. It allows me to stay far more focused and mindful, more reverent than I have been for some time when working out with weights. I meditate, usually sitting on the balance ball, before the shrine between sets. I focus on what I am doing, what I am offering. Because working out is worship for me, a practice that deteriorated by bad habits, which now I am breaking.

There are no offering plates on this shrine as there are on my others. The offering is my blood, sweat and tears. If something else is demanded there, it will be given, but the focus here is on the work of the body. And where that meets the spirit.

 

*Yes, I know even some Celtic scholars these days use “euhermerized” but this word actually means the opposite; it actually means that the historical becomes mythological, that humans become Deities, not the other way around.

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Text and top photo copyright ©2011 Kym Lambert, wolf picture is currently photoshopped but a similar one will go there Drawing copyright © 2002 Aaron Miller
Photo of Linda Hamilton from Terminator 2 copyright © 1991 Carolco, currently owned by Pacificor LLC