The Nature of My Gods

This is my first participation in the Gaelic Roundtable, despite intentions to participate previously and participating in other iterations. I’m really hoping to make this somethin I continue monthly. But this month’s topic is Divinity in Gaelic Polytheism.

This is question I’ve struggled with since the first encountered it as an idea. My first into to the idea of polytheism was through Egyptology. Bein from Memphis, TN, there are a lot of cultural ties, at least in the mind of the city, to Egypt. We have the Pyramid downtown, once a museum and athletic space (and now tragically a Bass Pro – I have feels), that had large statues of Rameses II and was covered in hieroglyphics. We also have a permanent Egyptian exhibit in The Pink Palace, a children’s museum in a former mansion. While there are definitely aspects of permanent Egypt exhibits that warrant discussion, my viewing of it as a child ignited a love that’s never ceased. To be quite honest, if it hadn’t been for such a strong pull to the gods of the Gaels, I’d likely have been a Kemetic (or Hellenistic) Polytheist.

My next exposure was in reading Greek mythology. And I was fascinated. Just like Egyptian history and myths, I soaked it up, reading everything I could on it. Of course, I predate the Percy Jackson series, so that wasn’t on my list, but I can guarantee that I’d have snatched that up in a heartbeat. I thought about the Theoi all the time, constantly wondering what they were like and what other gods existed. Then I went through a “Cowboys and Indians” phase, but I recognize in retrospect that what I was really fascinated by were the religious practices of Native American and First Nations peoples. Stories of the Sky Father and Spider Woman absolutely fascinated me. And they felt real in a way that Christian narratives just never did.

All that is to say that, without me even realizing it, I already had a fairly solid worldview of polytheism even as a practicing Christian. I think  in some ways I even had a phase of subconscious henotheism. In my mind, the stories we have of na Dé are the stories our ancestors told to make sense of somethin they couldn’t quite wrap their heads around. Do I think it’s possible that there are apotheosized ancestors in the lore? Humans mixed into the stories for various reasons? Sure. It’s likely even. But I simply do not ascribe to the idea that the entirety of Irish lore is comprised of apotheosized characters. Even the Book if Invasions, which seems to be what so many people cite as an argument for pure apotheosis, doesn’t prove this to me because why would deities not be allowed movement? Especially as tied to the land as so many of na Dé are, if they chose to leave a previous land, they could and would. This, frankly, also factors into my ideas of how and why so many in the US connect with our divinities. So, in that way, I guess I largely do view the Irish deities as “traditional” or “classical” divinity. We are of them, they are of us, but there’s a distinction there more than when we inhabited this plane of existence.

As for other deities, spirits, or entities, I’d be hard-pressed to think of anyone who IDs as GP and doesn’t. In my opinion, na Aos Sidhe clearly bridge some kind of gap between this world, the Otherworld, and other worlds, and na Dé. There’s a reason we use the term “na Dé ocus Andé.” And when I say “clearly bridges a gap,” it’s somewhat tongue in cheek considering the amorphous and ephemeral boundaries of pretty well everything in Gaelic Polytheism, the idea simply being that there’s still some sense of “glue” between points on a spectrum. As someone that considers themselves a “hard polytheist” and then who also comes from a pluralistic society and culture, it would be both arrogant and asinine not to recognize the plethora of deities, spirits, energies, ghost, and ancestors that travel with and among us. We’re not only influenced by what we experience around around our individual selves,  we’re acted upon by unseen forces and I see no point in denying that.

 


Featured image: Empyrean Island by batkya

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Gaelic Polytheism 101

So, I know there are lots of guides out there, which is part of why I’m making this post, tbh. A good friend saw me posting in a Facebook group for witches and magical folk in Appalachia…and then several folks cosigned, lol. So, I decided to turn that private message into a resource guide of sorts. This will, in all likelihood, grow and shift over time, but here it is as of October 2017.

  1. First is a Guide to Gaelic Polytheism a friend of mine put/is putting together. For those of you that’ve followed me for any length of time, more than likely know @nicstoirm and have probably seen this, but given that this is a resource, I’m obviously including it. It’s not complete as far as I know, but has some good stuff to glance through. The whole blog is dedicated to explaining various aspects, though they haven’t been super active there lately.
  2. I’ll also include my own WordPress. There’s a lot of crossposting for folks that follow me here, but not always and sometimes I leave out certain details here because of the nature of the platform.
  3. I’m also gonna include both the Gaelic Polytheism tag on Tumblr (though with a caveat of skepticism for a certain someone who mentions Lovecraft in their bio. The trollishness is real, which makes it nigh impossible to take anything else they say seriously) and the Gaelic Polytheism tag on WordPress. Obviously these will update over time and it’s always a good idea to read from a variety of sources to see what directions you’re pulled in and what resonates most with you. Since there is no liturgical hierarchy, practices can look very different.
  4. I’m also gonna include this one cause there’s a TON of really GREAT information, but with a caveat. The people that wrote a lot of this are the people who run Gaol Naofa, a Gaelic Polytheism organization (and really probably the largest solely Gaelic Polytheism). They claim to be super inclusive, but a few years back, me and pretty well everyone under 30 at the time left the organization because some pretty significant transphobia popped up. Without too much detail, I think the original interaction was salvageable, but certain leadership stepped in and blew it all to hell. At this point, I’m glad to know, tbh. The scholarship in so much of their stuff really is excellent, but I always feel the need to put that out there up front, too for personal safety.

    There are also a lot of links there with really good info, too, but pretty well all of those (Save maybe Cailleach’s Herbarium) are run by the same folks, so I just avoid direct interaction. Take that as you will.

If anyone has anything they think makes sense in a beginner’s guide in terms of free online resources, please let me know! This was put together quickly and on the fly, so I’m in no way sayin it’s complete or comprehensive. I think a 102 guide would be somethin really cool to create, plus book lists and all kinds of other things if they don’t currently exist in a concrete form, so feel free to include that, too.

A Touch of the Divine

Admittedly, my daily routine has been pretty nonexistent lately. Between the absolute chaos of my summer, moving to a new state, and starting grad school, my life is literally still in some boxes. But I decided last week that I had to stop makin excuses and get back into it. I needed to. So I made some offerings in the outdoor space (that I showed y’all a while back) at the end of last week and have been meaning to start up my daily morning prayers again. Well, I also realized that mornings just don’t go well for me. I should know this by now, but I finally accepted it. So I’ve decided that I’m gonna commit to evening prayers for now because that seems like somethin I can truly commit to.
When prayin to Brighid, I usually add three drops of an oil that smells like “home” to me to scent the candle. I did that tonight, started my prayer, and next thing I know I’m not in my living room anymore. I don’t know that I was anywhere in particular, but had this absolutely overwhelming sense of “elsewhere” as well as calm and…love/acceptance/hospitality/not sure English has a word for the feeling tbh. But it was sooooo intense. And after a prolonged absence, it was also reassuring.
Once I snapped back to this reality, I felt a little drained and woozy, which happens pretty rarely for me like this. But it felt so real and I’m so thankful for that. It’s always nice to have that push, but this is also why I’ve never made any kind of long term, super specific oath: I’ve known I couldn’t reliably keep it. But this makes me hopeful that I can in the future.
Then, I walked toward the bathroom to take a shower and despite the fact that I’ve listened to pretty just podcasts lately, this was what pulled up.
You can even see that I’d already started writing this post and got super caught off guard there in the background, lol. Wild.
So, that’s a quick update from me. I hope y’all are all doin well! I’m finally settling into a pattern in grad school, so I’m hopin to be back around more again.