Pagan Portals: The Morrigan

I really appreciate that this book was written by an Irish reconstructionist. There’s a certain level of academic adherence in the reconstructionists that puts me at ease. I don’t feel like I have to take everything with a grain of salt and question their research methods and wonder if they’re adding artistic license to their interpretations.

Celtic history and lore is tough. The simple fact is that we won’t ever know for sure what things were like, back then. Time and other cultures have done a lot to erase anything that might have survived from that era. And in some way, I have to think that’s okay. Maybe it’s up to the neopagans and reconstructionists to try to get to the heart of the beliefs and practices of that time period.

I’m obviously not a reconstructionist myself, so maybe this lack of historical record is far more frustrating for the actual recons. 🙂

Regardless, I really enjoyed this book. I feel like it gave a good overview of the historical references we are sure of when it comes to the Morrigan. It’s going to be tricky to nail down a shapeshifting sometimes-trickster goddess in the best of times. Of course there’s going to be ambiguity in a lot of the references to her.

I feel like I have a better understanding of her after reading this book, and I think that was the author’s goal. There’s also some nice personal anecdotes and interpretations in the book which are interesting and always clearly labeled. I appreciate seeing how others interact with and worship the Morrigan.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who is interested in learning more about the Morrigan or just curious about her historical references.

Advertisements

Why I’m Pagan

Sometimes the answer to why someone is religious is as simple as knowing what religion/culture they were raised in. The familiar is often comforting, and most large religions have enough to offer people nowadays that there wouldn’t necessarily be big reasons to look for something else.

I grew up in a Christian community, going to a Christian church that was unique in that it was influenced by very eastern ideas. The congregation believed in reincarnation, karma, astrology, etc. We learned all these things side by side with Bible stories. I remember when I was old enough to start going to the “young adult” services (the children were given a more participatory, separate service to keep their attention). The young adult service was the third tier, and the last one before you graduated to the adult services. There’s a particular one that sticks in my mind.

We were performing the normal meditations and prayers, lighting candles and speaking devotionals and so forth. I remember looking up into the corner of the room, near the ceiling. And I asked the Christian God in my head, not in a demanding way, just a curious way…are you there? It was, more specifically, an “Are you there for me?” type of question. And even though He didn’t answer, I could feel Him there. For many people, that’s enough. To know, or to believe, that He exists. Feeling a godly presence is something that can impact your emotions and psyche for a long time. It definitely creates ripples.

I don’t want to sound selfish or demanding, though you could probably interpret this as such. But a divine Presence wasn’t enough for me. I wanted more. I wanted an answer. I wanted attention and visibility and above all LOVE. I didn’t feel like the Christian God was all that interested in me, personally. He’s got better things to do, I guess, though I don’t understand how you can be omnipresent and omnipotent and not be able to divide your attention a billion ways to give each person individual time and love.

It occurs to me that I should probably also write about why I’m religious, which ties more into my writing. But this essay is specifically about why I’m Pagan, so I’ll keep running with that.

I wasn’t even aware I was searching for something else when I found a book at a weekly outing with my best friend. It was at a Borders (makes you feel old, huh? Remembering when they were still around…). The book was in the teen section, titled Where to Park Your Broomstick. It was the perfect intro to Paganism/Wicca. It stressed the religious beliefs, while still touching on the witchcraft and personal acts and rituals of worship. I stayed up most of that night reading it, and then by the next morning I was ready to devote myself to being Pagan. It wasn’t until a few months later that I did a meditation where I actually came into contact with the Goddess.

To give you a bit of background, my relationship with my mother hasn’t always been easy. To say it’s strained doesn’t even describe it well. It’s more like…it’s complicated. I wanted desperately to please her, when I was a kid. I noticed that if I did well, or didn’t upset her, that she’d be happy. And I wanted her to be happy. She invested a lot of time and effort in the care of myself and my sister. She loves children, and still views our young years as the best of her life. I think her identity as a mother is her favorite and predominant one. And as a little kid, I must have sensed that, and wanted to feed into it to make her happy. The problem that I think we had was a sense of imbalance. If I’m her life, and I’m trying so hard to make her happy–where is my life? I got all tangled up in my mom and my sister, until I wasn’t sure where I stopped and they started. Then as an independent, fiery Aries, age thirteen, I was trying to define myself. Except I didn’t have a self.

So I created one. I fought to find the beliefs and passions and motivations that would sustain me the rest of my life. I read some very influential books, the predominant ones being the His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman. Humanism, I could get behind. Organized religion? Sure, there’s a lot of potential for corruptness there. The best thing those books taught me was personal accountability, though. You can be a young kid, with no special powers, and the fate of all the worlds can rest on your shoulders and on the decisions you make in innocence and faith.

I want to change the world, of course. I want to make an impact. I think because I have so much gratitude for the people whose creative work, philosophical thinking, or lasting historical impacts gave me my sense of purpose. I think about the men who died recently on a Portland bus and I am heartbroken by it. It does help bolster my faith in humanity, though. There are good people out there. People who will stand up for others. In this situation they were cut down for doing so. That isn’t right, or good, or just. The intentions, though, the actions to protect others–there is a purity in that. A faith, and a decency, that I think everyone should aspire to embody.

So as someone who was largely invisible and had no sense of self as a kid, there I was thirteen years old, reading books that were teaching me how to look at the world, how to be a responsible world citizen. I had English teachers encouraging me to write–prose, poetry, anything at all. In my writing I found much of myself, as well. And then I was introduced to a religion where the God and Goddess were participatory. They were right there. You were allowed to talk directly to them, and they would answer back. All I needed was a faith in the fantastical, a belief in the inherent magic of the world. I had that in spades. I was raised to be religious, after all. Meditations were easy. You mean I just have to see things in my head? You mean that the voices that respond to my questions are actually my psyche’s connection to the divine, speaking through my mind?

It was the easiest thing in the world. To go from playing by myself (I didn’t have many friends as a young kid), creating stories and adventures for my stuffed animals and toys, to move up to meditations and astral travel and spiritual self-discovery. I’ve got imagination in spades, and if a spark of that is all that’s needed to contact the divine, I was more than eager to sign up.

That first meditation where I met the Lady was more influential than I could possibly describe. I had been starving. I had ideas about what a mother should be, and for some reason they didn’t jive with what my actual, biological mother provided for me. I experienced a lot of grief over that, constantly wondering if I just wasn’t good enough to merit her attention and love the way that I wanted to be attended to and loved. Then in steps the Goddess, and She is warm and soft and ever so strong. She is unwavering in her support of me. Her love is legendary and offers me everything I could ever hope for. Here were a Mother and Father who didn’t want me to fit some version of what they wanted me to be. They just wanted me to be who I am. That’s all. Be true to yourself, They said, and remember Us. So that’s what I did. That’s what I continue to do. That’s what I consider being a good Witch, and a good person.

So Paganism, for me, fills the void of feeling invisible and un-important, as well as unloved by a certain kind of Mother.

As far as the Nature aspect goes (since that is a big part of being Pagan, too), I have my grandpa to thank for that. He was in the field of sustainable agriculture, and he loved to teach. He used to take me puddle jumping every time it rained when I was growing up (which wasn’t often, since I grew up in Southern California). Then when he moved to Washington state he had me help him design his backyard garden, and build a pond and waterfall. He sent me across the street to a big pond (which has since been mostly built over) to catch frogs to set loose in the back yard, so he could hear their singing at night and they could bring life to his pond. He took me out to sites that were going to be cleared for new houses so that we could save saplings and replant them elsewhere. One that I picked out specially still grows by that house.

When you put it all together, it’s 0% surprising that I am Pagan. I’m glad I found it so young, of course, so that I could really absorb it and not have to try too hard to adjust my mental processes later on. I would have found it eventually no matter what, though.

If you have any questions about my beliefs or anything at all, you can reach me at annaimber@gmail.com. Blessed Be.

Where to Park Your Broomstick

This was my first ever book on Paganism. I ran into it during a weekly trip to Borders with my best friend, when we were 13 years old. Not only is it a perfectly fabulous intro for teenagers to the world of Wicca and Paganism in general, it’s also perfect for adults who are new to all this. The information is accessible and intelligently curated. You don’t get overwhelmed with information, but still get everything you need to get started. There’s also a healthy emphasis placed on the religious aspects of Paganism, which is something a lot of other books coming out around the same time geared toward teenagers missed out on. For example, you’re going to find a lot more practical approaches and spiritual emphasis in this book than in a Silver Ravenwolf book. For me, always more interested in the religion than the witchcraft, it was absolutely perfect.

I’ll always be thankful to Lauren Manoy for providing me with such an excellent introduction to the belief system that has become a part of every moment of my life. Blessed Be.

Spiritual Drought

I went years after I finished college without participating in any Pagan groups. Mostly it was location and time-availability restricting me. And it figures that just a few months before moving away from Central California, I found the ONLY other Pagan in the area starting work at my company.

The thing is—I’m built for group work. It’s fulfilling and wonderful. I was raised in a very involved church, where members went to services or events at least three days a week. After every service was an “agape” session that was a potluck for mingling and cementing bonds. I was so involved with the friends I had at the church that I had no idea how to make friends at school—and went a few years with only a single friend there.

In middle school after I found Wicca I started a coven with my best friend and some other close girlfriends. That coven was the closest, best relationship I’ve ever had with women. That it fell apart is to be expected—I’m the only devout Pagan of the bunch. Everyone else lapsed or converted to other religions over time. But it was a beautiful, soul-enriching thing for a long time.

When I went to college I had the luck of meeting a lifelong Pagan through a mutual friend, and he quickly brought me along to the Pagan group events at the local Unitarian Universalist church. Then a friend of a friend spear-headed the creation of a Pagan Alliance at our college, and we had those rituals and group events as well.

After I graduated, I moved to a more affordable area, closer to my then-boyfriend’s job. There went my Pagan groups. From there we moved all over the place, and I didn’t always have a car, or the money to spare on gas to get to events I knew were happening.

Then I spent two years in Paso Robles, a very nice area but predominantly Christian (with only one other aforementioned Pagan that I’d ever found). I had a nice Pagan wedding, but it’s different when the only people who are Pagan are the bride and the officiant.

Now we’ve moved to my home, a place that speaks to me, body and soul. And there are Pagans here. More than I thought existed in a single area anywhere. I went to one non-denominational, all-inclusive event. Then I had to miss the next one, since we had family in town. And I’m starving for it. For the sense of community. The peace that descends when you are among people who get it. It’s a different sort of vibe, knowing that you can fundamentally agree with people on that spiritual level. Pagans are as varied as they come, but being around them and worshipping with them recharges me in a way I didn’t realize I’d been missing.

I’ve been in a spiritual drought, and I finally got some water in late February, only for the land to dry up again right away. It was just a tease, and now I’m craving more.

Some day, I’ll have a coven of my own. A small group of people who meet near Sabbats and esbats. People who support each other in all areas, not just in religion and spirituality. In the meantime, I’ll go to big group events as often as I can. I’ll take what small steps I can, on my own. Tomorrow night, I’ll celebrate the full moon.