Lore, Lit and Canon

July’s Gaelic Roundtable topic is Lore. Before I tackle that, I need to figure out what the heck even to me counts as “lore”.

Folklore is stories, customs, shared among a group of people- rather than attributable to any one person. It is generally shared orally, but especially with the Internet there is now a lot of written and pictorial folklore, such as conspiracy theories and memes. There are several kinds of folklore that I see as relevant. One is folklore that is so old that it is intermixed with literature, the next category. Another is folklore collected into books or recorded. It’s important to considered selection bias on the part of which people were available and willing to be interviewed, what stories, sayings and songs were included by folklorists and archivists, and what has or hasn’t been changed. Sometimes there were social and political motivations for collecting the folklore and that impacts what is included. Some of this folklore is in the home countries themselves, others can be found in various parts of the Irish and Scottish diaspora.

Literature– many of the texts such as the Book of Invasions, the Book of Leinster and so forth, I think are more accurately described as medieval literature rather than folklore or mythology per se. However some of the texts draw on folklore as well as history and it is often hard to tell what is what. Other literature that we might not see as being religious per se, but has cultural importance and influence such as works by W.B. Yeats  can also be part of this category. Since our mythologies are very fragmented, finding inspiration in modern fantasy novels can serve as a sort of midrash.

Canon is the collection of texts considered authoritative by a religion- or a fandom! The primary example of course, being the Bible. Though Gaelic polytheism is not really a text-based religion, there are some texts that are seen by most as more valid than others. Some of us might include more Celtic Christian or Celtic Twilight era texts. And since we (quite rightly!) have no central authority there is no Irish, Scottish, Manx or pan-Gaelic canon. But I think an individual or group could have a personal canon. These distinctions could be useful in our discussions of comparative practices.

July 8, 2017 at 12:24 am 2 comments

Wanderings of a would-be Gael

Gaelic Roundtable for the March 2017 topic of Journeys (summer catch-up!)

I have been a Pagan of some sort for about 20 years now, which sounds more impressive than it actually is! I’ve had a tendency to be more of an armchair philosophical Pagan than much of an active practitioner, but I’d like to change that. I’d like to weave my spiritual practice into my everyday life, so it does not just feel like something walled off in a corner. I have primarily been focused on Irish culture, but am also branching into Scottish traditions as well. I am especially interested in learning more about how customs and cultures have evolved in both diasporas in Minnesota and other parts of North America and adapted to a modern urban working-class setting, rather than an pastoral aristocratic or peasant setting that tends to be the bias of medieval Irish literature and later folk customs.

During my college years I studied with two different Irish Reconstructionist groups- Tuath Choilraighe, led by Aedh Rua (who now goes by the name Segomaros Widugeni) and Temple of the River, led by Andrew Jacob (who now goes by the name Andre Solo) I have also been an on and off member of Ar nDraiocht Fein, and also studied and practiced with the Mists of Stone Forest, a druid grove that branched off of the Henge of Keltria, in turn a branch of ADF.

I am now a part of Northern Roots Grove, which is an independent syncretic Druid grove, with members of RDNA, ADF and OBOD involved. And of course, I’ve done lots of studies on my own, and gained a lot of knowledge along the way.  I have also been studying the Irish language with Gaeltacht Minnesota.  I am also a member of Clann Bhride, a gender-inclusive Brighidine online devotional group with a focus on social justice.

Druid ABC soup:

RDNA– Reformed Druids of North America

ADF– Ar nDraiocht Fein

OBOD– Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids

For a good comparison of these different druid groups see Susan Reed’s summaries here.

 

 

July 1, 2017 at 8:23 am 1 comment

Why Bi? (Organizing, Activism etc.)

So Bisexual Health Awareness Month is here again, the Bisexual Resource Center even has specific themes for each week and day. However I feel as if my friends, family and other followers will be less interested than if I just write from the heart so hear goes. Why this Bi stuff? folks ask me sometimes. It’s my third year of being on the Bisexual Organizing Project board. In my personal life, being openly bisexual hasn’t seemed like much of a big deal since I came out back at age 16 and I’m 35 now! For the most part I was pretty fortunate in having a supportive family and living in an accepting liberal metro area- the Twin Cities. So while I’ve gone on to mention it and there, it seemed to not really matter that much and I didn’t think about it much after being involved in groups in college.

Then a couple years ago I went to the Celebrate Bisexuality Day event held by BOP and learned about new research that had come out showing health disparities between bisexuals and gays and lesbians. Up til this point, bisexuals had simply been lumped in with lesbians and gay men, or heterosexuals, or every statistician’s least favorite category of “Other”. Now most people are bored to death by statistics but I’m a political science major so my ears perked up. We finally had data to show what many bisexual activists and scholars had long suspected- that there were hidden costs to being bisexual that were different from being exclusively gay or lesbian. These were for both women and men (more gender options not on the table at the time) both single, partnered or married to same or different genders. Especially disturbing were the rates of intimate partner violence, anxiety, depression, eating disorders and so forth.

So that is why I insist on That Pesky Unnecessary Label. If you have reached a beautiful social nirvana, in which you have no need of any labels, congratulations! We down on planet Earth still find them handy to find like-minded people and information.

 

March 3, 2017 at 5:51 am Leave a comment

What Norse doesn’t mean

One tendency I’ve noticed in ADF, and broader American-centric Paganism is a misuse, based on misunderstanding, or sometimes laziness of the term “Norse”. Especially with the older material on the ADF website, the rituals labeled “Norse” have phrases in German, with deity names in anglicized Icelandic. Also featuring the goddess Nerthus as Earth Mother, who was worshiped by continental Germanic peoples not “the Norse”.

Actual definition of Norse– of or relating to people who spoke Old Norse in Scandinavia, and traveled and/or settled in other areas of the world, their culture, traditions, literature etc.

Norse is not the same as

Norwegian– From Old Norse developed two branches, East Norse- Danish and Swedish and West Norse- Icelandic, Norwegian and Faroese.

Vikings– Norse people who farmed part-time, and went trading and raiding in the summer during the Viking Era. Most Norse people were not Vikings, but because of the popular image (we can especially thank Wagner’s operas)

Nordic countries vs. Scandinavia–  Just read this

Any Germanic culture or a Pan-Germanic mishmash– When we look at historical and literary sources for Germanic cultures, that spans everywhere from the Anglo-Saxons, the continental Germanic peoples (who often aren’t easily distinguished from the Celtic peoples- the Romans divided them with the Danube river) to Iceland and Scandinavian countries.

Other terms to sort out-

Teutonic– this is sometimes used, especially in older sources to refer to Germanic peoples inclusively or Germans specifically. Originally referred to the Teutons, a Germanic tribe mentioned by Greek and Roman writers. (More here)

German vs. Germanic– the Germanic language family, of or relating to people who speak Germanic languages and their cultures. German– citizen of modern Germany, or earlier historic chunks of land that later became Germany, sometimes used to refer to  German-speaking populations around Europe and other parts of planet Earth.

Northern Tradition– I see this used to refer vaguely to Germanic polytheistic/animistic traditions, usually with a Nordic slant, and sometimes with Saami stuff added in for good measure. (Which seems rather rude, considering the erm, prickly relationship between Saami folks and non-Saami Finns, Swedes and Norwegians.)

 

July 10, 2016 at 2:14 am Leave a comment

Stuff You Should Read…

General info:

5 Ways Powerful People Trick You Into Hating Protestors

 

How “politically correct” went from compliment to insult

How “social justice warrior” went from compliment to insult

Fight Oppressions, Not Oppressors

 

May 22, 2016 at 3:07 am Leave a comment

Shades of Yellow

May is Asian/Pacific Islander Heritage Month- wow- that is a lot of different cultures to pack into one month! But still, it seems a good time as any to learn about various APIA perspectives on feminism and social justice.

Last year, as a representative of the Bisexual Organizing Project, I went a SOY event- that stands for Shades of Yellow, which is a Hmong GLBTQ organization here in St. Paul. (Its the first and only such organization!) They are a very friendly and close-knit group and I was impressed to see the progress they had made in building connections and understanding in Hmong and other Asian communities in the area, and raising awareness of  queer HAPI (Hmong Asian Pacific Islander) people in the GLBTQ communities. They are also part of the Queer Southeast Asian Network- a coalition of organizations from around the country. St. Paul has the largest Hmong population in the country, as well as many Vietnamese, Koreans, Cambodians and Laotians. Chinese, Japanese and Indian-Americans in the Twin Cities tend to be more concentrated in the suburbs. Minnesota is also called the “Land of a Gazillion Adoptees” (a play on Land of 10,000 Lakes) the link is to a multimedia project/activist org by and for adoptees (many of whom are Korean, Vietnamese or Chinese adopted by white parents)

Growing up in St Paul (well at least during my teen years) surrounded by this wide variety of Asian cultures became my “normal”. Hearing other whites reduce my neighbors/friends/classmates  all to “Chinese people” or “Orientals” seemed bizarrely ignorant. (Even “Chinese culture” is really made up of many different cultures!) I’m old enough to remember Warner Bro.s cartoons that had racist carciatures of Blacks, American Indians and Asians, and while later the minstrelsy Black characters were removed, the Asian and American Indians remained. Why? That made no sense! I didn’t learn there was such thing as an Asian-American civil rights movement- or Asian involvement in Black civil rights and Black Power, until quite recently!

Big List o’ Asian-American Blogs

Reappropriate

Orgs-

NQAPIA- National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance

(This post is from last year, thought I’d release it into the wild!)

May 4, 2016 at 10:38 pm Leave a comment

Nothing to Fear But Fear Itself

A couple weeks ago I returned from Minicon, a local science fiction/fantasy convention to find yet another online Pagan/polytheist tempest brewing. Concerns of fascist infiltration and accusations were flying about. Interestingly, there is a similar issue going on with WorldCon and the Hugo Awards, with a particular faction pushing a political and ego-based agenda. People were a bit concerned, they were annoyed by these particular factions. But they were also laughing about it. Several long-time fans commented that not long into the future, this would become part of the history of fandom, and be just as ridiculous as the arguments between L. Ron Hubbard and Isaac Asimov. There’s a bunch going on, but at the root of it, are some people who are afraid of change in the overlapping fandom communities. Surely, the quality of science fiction must be going down if it’s not all stories starring straight white men who rescue alien princesses. Or something. And there’s other folks working for inclusion, but we don’t always agree how that inclusion or equity should work. Some people want more protection and safer space from opinions and people who they find threatening, while others worry about freedom of speech and behavior.

We have a lot of the same debates in Pagan and polytheist communities. And frankly, a lot of this is going on between a small percentage of people who participate in online discussions/flamewars and attend public events- both in regard to fans and Pagans. What is actually happening in your local community? If you don’t have much of a local fannish or Pagan community, well you have some other sort of community, pay attention to that, and even if you do have smaller specialized communities, pay attention to the broader community as well. You’re a part of that, too.

If we give into fear, whatever we feel threatened by wins. We become more isolated, we give up hope. What we’ve worked for falls apart.

What are you passionate about? What drives you to practice your religion, or your fandom? What do you value? Who around you shares those values, locally, regionally or from afar? How can you collaborate with them to make your project a reality? Whether it’s an anthology, a series of public shrines, a panel or workshop at a convention, or maybe you’re not an idea person, but someone else inspires you, how can you help them? Who is also passionate, but isn’t included as much in your community? Older, younger, disabled, rural, no/limited internet access & transportation. Who are we missing and how can we bring them in? Seriously, with all that on our plate, we don’t have time to worry about fascists!

April 15, 2016 at 7:38 am Leave a comment

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