Posts tagged ‘Kemeticism’

Celtic vs. Mediterranean Polytheisms

In pan-polytheistic online discourse I frequently see assumptions about polytheism from different cultural or philosophical types of polytheists. For better understanding of where I’m coming from as an Irish polytheist, a previous post compared Celtic & Germanic polytheism. This is an attempt to compare Irish polytheism and a little about continental Celtic polytheism with polytheistic religions bordering the Mediterranean, specifically I’m thinking of Greece, Rome and to a lesser degree, Egypt.  These are generalizations referring to several spectra of cultures that existed (and still exist just in different forms) across a long time period. Feedback, corrections and critique are welcome and I’ll make note of changes.

Differences

Theology– Our theolog(ies) are very much up to us as contemporary revivalists to discover and develop. Beings in our lore and literature are not easily categorized as gods, ancestors, heroes and spirits of place. There is much overlap between them. It’s debatable how much particular gods were euhemerized by monks or whether the Irish Dindsenchas- that explains the legendary origins of place name or the tales of Mythological Cycle are more authoritative.  Even the question of whether a particular being is friendly or not towards humans can vary by place or even specific person! For example, Balor is a monster thought to symbolize the dangers of the late summer sun being too hot and threatening the harvest. He was defeated by the god Lugh in battle, the young, many skilled god who brings the harvest. But in the folklore of the Tory Islands the two were reversed and it was Balor that was honored!  The Good People are for the most part avoided and propitiated but certain individuals do make treaty and develop a relationship with a spirit or group of spirits. Sometimes these people are called fairy-doctors and act as an intermediary between the spirit and a local community.

Departmental Deities– I often hear people in Irish/Gaelic/Celtic pagan or Druid groups explain to newcomers that “unlike the Greek or Roman pantheons we don’t pigeon-hole gods into departments like god of love/sun/thunder.” Fair enough, but that’s also not an accurate description of either Greek or Roman religion. It’s an oversimplification that might fit a specific cultus at a given time or for your classical mythology class, but not for all times, places and practices. This is also the case for Irish gods. There also isn’t a fixed, organized pantheon with a set hierarchy, no “chief god” and the family trees of the gods and other beings contradict each other in different sources. You know, like in Greek mythology!

Purity– there is a concept of ritual purity, but it doesn’t seem to be a emphasized as it is in Greek and Roman polytheism. Here is an essay discussing concepts of purity/impurity in Gaulish polytheism.

Hubris (or hybris  in the original Greek)- isn’t really a concept that exists in Celtic religions. There are certainly boundaries of respectful and disrespectful behavior in general and in ritual specifically, particularly related to hospitality and reciprocity. Threatening the gods or spirits, especially with weapons or use of iron in general (esp. towards the Good People) are all certainly ill-advised. Boasting, especially among warriors was as common as it was in ancient Scandinavia. The consequences for going too far with boasting were social and sometimes legal in nature, resulting in a loss of honor and possibly being publicly satirized.

Images– statues and images in continental Celtic territories seem to be mostly a later Roman influence and earlier images seem to be syncretized or influenced by Thracians and Scythians. I occasionally come across the assertion than the Celts had a taboo on divine images, but that is likely a projection from Abrahamic laws against idolatry. That said modern Celtic polytheists do typically use various images for the gods in worship.

Lack of primary sources from pre-Christian times- as with most Germanic & Slavic traditions, we don’t really have anything recorded directly by polytheistic Celtic peoples themselves, We have secondary sources from the Romans who were fighting or trading with them, and later ruling over them but of course these have some built-in biases.  Texts written by monks in Ireland recorded native literary traditions and combined them with classical and Biblical references. Christian era folklore & customs end up being really important in Gaelic & Brythonic traditions because they give us more of an idea of everyday spiritual practice of regular people, particularly towards local spirits and the dead. Reconstructing continental Celtic religion involves study of archaeology and comparative linguistics, religion and mythology.

Similarities with Kemetic religion (from my limited knowledge of it!)

-Strong belief in afterlife, alternate realm, though in Celtic cosmology typically there is an Otherworld existing parallel to our own that is partly afterlife realms, but many other realms belong to gods and the Good People.

-the concept of Ma’at -meaning roughly justice & order in a cosmic sense reminds me a lot of An Firinne- which means truth in Irish, cosmic order with a moral dimension

-The ritual role of kingship, relationship to people and the land. This does not necessarily mean a need for a contemporary king/queen, but the concept of kingship/queenship and sovereignty is key to cosmology. Were Celtic kings/queens deified after death, as with pharaohs or some Roman emperors? Not as a rule that I’m aware of, naturally they’d be important ancestors, founders of particular dynasties, kingdoms, chiefdoms, clans were historically viewed as family patrons, and this practice has been continued with the revival of polytheism with key ancestors.

There are a couple more common pan-polytheistic topics that I am unsure of. What do we know about expectations of piety in pre-Christian Celtic societies? In Ireland, which is the area I’m most familiar, our sources of information about ethics are Brehon law, a system which continued with some modifications long after Christianization, and advice for kings on good behavior. I will have to check them to see if anything is said about piety. But my general feeling is that a sense of piety would be pretty different than a Greek or Roman one. Celtic traditions overall strike me primarily as animistic in character and secondarily polytheistic, they are more primal and localized and tribal. Those elements are definitely in place in both Greece and Rome especially in earlier periods and even later on in certain aspects- the cult of Dionysus seems like something Celts would totally be down with. Whereas Greece and Rome seem more primarily polytheistic.

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October 13, 2018 at 8:40 am 7 comments

Favorite “M” Pagan Blog Project Posts

Catching up on some major backlog!

Holidays

Midsummer’s Light– Magickal Pen- lovely poem and reflection on the Solstice!

Deities/Spirits

Mara & Modesty– Book of Mirrors- one of things I enjoy about PBP is all the different perspectives- this person worships Mara, a goddess from the Skyrim video game universe. This may seem silly but if you read it, you can see the sincerity and devotion she feels. (Note: there’s also a Latvian goddess by that name, not sure if there’s a connection..)

Mother Nature– Blue Crow- comparative myth & commentary about earth mother figures- I liked this comment: “Note to all you people who called our earth Gaia: that’s the Greek pantheon. Why pick one name out of the air and use it to name our living world, yet give no consideration to the rest of the Greek deities?  You aren’t Greek, you aren’t in ancient times, you don’t follow those gods and goddesses, so why? New agers, pfft! It’s all very well having a varied path, finding pieces of many threads to weave your own path but come on! If you’re going to make things up, why not call Her Sheila or another name lol?  Or how about just Mum?”

Meretseger– Fluid Morality writes about a lesser known Egyptian cobra goddess

Multiple Gods with the Same Focus– Kylara’s Musings

Morning Glory Zell: America’s Priestess– Book of the Eucalypt- a beautiful tribute to an amazing woman!

Male Familiars in Disney Films– Hedged Paths- I suppose it’s debate-able how “pagan” this really is, but the Disney geek in me couldn’t resist!

Sacred Objects, Symbols etc.

Masks– Kylara’s Musings- nice little essay on the uses and meanings of masks, Broom with a View also writes about masks.

Moldavite– Super-Duper Space Witch- interesting info about a stone I’ve never heard of!

Traditions

What is a Mystery Religion? the Broom Closet explains

Masonry/Co-Masonry– Set-jataset Masonry actually reminds me a lot of UUism, though with more mysticism and ritual. So if you’re a UU looking for a mystery tradition, that’s one way to go. “On a personal level, members are encouraged to raise their personal value without dogma and as a whole, members are encouraged to unite together to converse about theosophy and spirituality whilst respecting each other’s personal differences.” Also founders of this particular order were involved in French women’s suffrage!

Practices

Moontime– In Librarius Venefica- While I’ve never been especially interested personally in the spiritual aspects of menstruation, I’m all for finding more positive ways of viewing/experiencing it!

Morning Ritual– Book of the Eucalypt I always find it interesting to see regional variations on the directions.

Mandrake & Bear– Love by the Moon- poetic writing about experiences with Mandrake ointment

Minimalism– Serpent’s Labyrinth- after painful experiences of losing many of his spiritual items, Nornoriel learns to make do with very little.

M is Not for Muggle, Experiential Pagan and Kitchen Witch Musings both write on this. Honestly I’ve used that term jokingly, and I’ve seen other folks do so as well, but I haven’t really seen people seriously use it. Technically I am a Muggle, not being a magic-user! Now, I could see using it for non-Harry Potter fans…

Motivation– Fluid Morality

August 1, 2014 at 10:01 pm 1 comment

Friendships Beyond Faiths

I attended Paganicon this weekend- a conference held by Twin Cities Pagan Pride– which is why this post is so late, but the experiences I had there inform the post.

I went to various workshops- which I’d be happy to further discuss, but my favorite part of Paganicon was having informal conversations with people, and making new friends and re-connecting with old ones- both local and from around the country (and Canada too) The interesting thing in retrospect, is that I don’t think I had any in-depth discussions with anyone who I would say really shared my tradition or spiritual focus. No, I’ll scratch that- I talked to several people briefly who shared a devotion to Brighid. All from different types of paganism.

I didn’t attend the workshop on Kemeticism, but still learned a lot about it from several people that I knew from the Cauldron Forum– about open statues, the misinterpretation of Set and the myth of Osiris and Isis by the Greeks and later Christians and modern Pagans. I learned about the Kami of Misfortune from a Shintoist. I witnessed a procession and installation of a golden calf idol of Ba’al.

I reconnected with old friends and acquaintances from the Wiccan Church of Minnesota (thanks to Neva & John for the rides!)  and Standing Stones Coven, and various other pagans I’ve known a long time from hanging out in the community. I hadn’t seen many of them for a long time- I mentioned to some of them that I’d fallen away from spiritual practice and was trying to re-connect and find my place. No one really seemed to judge me for that.

And all the online fighting about “Wiccanate privilege” and what “real” polytheism is, and all that jazz just seemed so stupid.  I’ve had my problems with pagans. But funny thing- most of the pagans I’ve had problems with- weren’t Wiccan. They were recons or polytheists or Druids of some kind. (Though I’m sure if I had been more involved with the Wiccan groups, I would’ve had other problems.)

Twin Cities Pagan Pride, for the most part does a pretty good job of including a variety of paganisms. Do their events still to tend to have more Wiccans and Wicca-based programming?  Somewhat, yes, but that’s based on numbers of people who show up and get involved. Yes, some of us are busy with building our religions, devotions to our gods and so forth. That’s fine. Some of us don’t feel we have much in common with other pagans, and don’t feel the need to identify as pagan. That’s fine. Yes, some polytheists have experienced social exclusion (not the same thing as discrimination) at supposedly pan-Pagan events. So have various other groups (racial minorities, trans people, gay people, etc) We need to believe others when they make these claims- or at least give them the benefit of the doubt, and address things accordingly. We probably can’t do an opening ritual that will make everyone happy. (Maybe we just shouldn’t have one!) But we can be more inclusive.

March 17, 2014 at 4:23 am 2 comments


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