Sunday, 6 March 2011

In search of the gods

And so finally, I can lay another series of articles to rest...(I think).

I've kind of gone about this arse backwards really, because this last article is all the usual introductory waffle that I think would be helpful to know when looking at the tales and so on, and probably should have come first, while the first bunch of articles I did should have come afterwards.

There are two reasons for not having done this, though: I think that those first articles are probably more interesting to the majority of readers who aren't so interested in wading through my waffle, and in a way if you've read those articles and then go on to this one, it might have a bit more context to it. Secondly, I had a hard time writing this - the other articles came about because I had to take a break from this one, but I wanted (felt I had to, in a way) do something.

Getting hold of some sources was a problem (of my own making, to be fair). Finding a source I initially thought was quite helpful, and then found out that it was written by a Celtic shameon-type who makes a living selling lies and sidelining in the occasional 'academic' article, which turned out to be quite shoddy when I found out and looked up some of the references...So that meant I had to have a rethink a little, and things have had a while to ferment. I have one person in particular to thank for setting me straight on both counts, and they know who they are, in case they want to remain nameless.

It's not an easy kind of thing to write either, because the gods aren't an easy thing to talk about in the sense of reducing them into paragraphs. In a way, it's also difficult to write about this kind of subject because it's something that focuses on a historical perspective, with my usual habit of referencing pretty much every sentence just in case somebody wonders where that came from...Reconstructionists get accused of being too stuffy and academic; too caught up in books and what people with degrees say, and I do talk a lot about both on here, and synthesise a lot of what I find into the articles I write. Sometimes, maybe that accusation is fair enough.

For some reason, though, I'm suddenly aware just how soulless all of this may seem, in a way, coming across as advocating a path of Citing Your Sources With Your Gods.

Oh Lug of lofty deeds,
Golden are the fields,
Heavy hang the fruits,
Ripeness of fame!

We feast on this colcannon and chicken in your honour at this sacred time of Lughnasa, and give to you of our feast and these bilberries because that's what Maire MacNeill says is traditional in The Festival of Lughnasa, first published in 1962 by Oxford University Press...

(Then you get a divine bitchslap - D-, must try harder - for not giving specific page numbers).


Kicking about the internet, as I do, it seems that this is what a lot of people think of as Celtic Reconstructionism. I've seen CR described as too 'backward looking' (on a druid forum, no less); too caught up in books; something that's just made up by Americans so they can play Celtic; CR's not about practising a path, it's more about arguing about every minute detail to prove the size of one's metaphorical penis...With References.

I try to avoid these things, although I guess I can't avoid being American (I'm just not, I'm on the wrong side of the Pond, for one thing). CR may have its origins there, but it's spread far and wide now (Germany, Portugal, France, Brazil, Australia, England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland...). I wouldn't say it's simply and only an American movement by any means, but these days it is a fractured one. But that's by the by.

I have to say, though, I'm unashamedly backward-looking, in a sense. Yes, I see reconstructionism as something that's here and now, but for me, part of the point of reconstructionism is trying to understand how people saw the gods in the times when they were worshipped, and so yes, I look back because that seems be a logical thing to do if that's what you're aiming for.

Books are not the be all and end all of reconstructionism, but it does require looking at the sources we have to hand to figure things out. And to do that, we have to look at sources that are often flawed, for one reason or another, so it means we have to be analytical. They don't answer every question we might have, necessarily, but they're a good start. So that involves getting involved, and that makes people opinionated, I guess, and there are quibbles over details. A lot of the times, this quibbling is pointless, but sometimes it's necessary. And yes, sometimes that can spill over into willy waggling on various email lists, but personally, I have no interest in the size of anyone's metaphorical penis...

So when I write, the beginning's pretty much where I tend to start when I can, and if I put it out there and somebody finds it helpful, then I'm glad. History is not the be all and end all, it's the beginning of understanding for me. Where else should I look? But looking is nothing without doing. Even though not many reconstructionists talk publicly about what they do, for various reasons, that doesn't mean that people aren't out there actually living their path. Sometimes, beneath all the books, the quibbling, the perceptions of this and that (rightly or wrongly), that gets lost.

In this case, then, in living and trying to find understanding, and trying to write about something that can only be understood very personally, in many ways, I find myself having written something from my own views as well as from the references I carefully copy out into a notebook before I start writing. In the end, the article is probably more opinionated than the more folkloric articles I've done in the past because this sort of thing has to be personal, I think. Writing always is. But sometimes moreso. And this makes me worry that I might not have articulated myself as well as I should have on some points. But oh well...

I'm also aware that some of it covers similar grounds to Alexei's article Danu and Bile: Primordial Parents, so I've tried to avoid looking at that as a source and do my own legwork. And so then I ended up banging on for so long that I couldn't fit the article onto one page (I tried, and kinda borked the website for a bit the other night). Kinda like how I've blethered on here, too. Soooooo...

The Gods - Part One
The Gods - Part Two