Tuesday, May 28, 2013

[What I Do]My Own Gods, Part One - My "UPG", So Called

I am going to make a slight shift in emphasis on this blog. It is time to begin discussing what I, myself, do in a practical sense. I don't present this in a way that is intended as the One True Way to practice lycanthropic religion, but only as an illustration of one way to go about it among many. So, in this series, which will probably be occasional, I am going to discuss the exact gods that I devote myself to, with their names and epithets, and the specific ways in which I perform devotions to them. This is necessarily a bunch of what other people call "UPG", or "Unverified Personal Gnosis", and which I tend to think of as the product of iomas, to use an Irish word (the Old Irish spelling was imbas).

This is a fairly uncomfortable thing for me to do, actually. As I begin to write this, I have never discussed any of this with anyone else. I will probably talk about it with some people whose opinions I respect before I make it generally available (and as of this parenthetical edit, I have done so to some extent), but setting this down as I am writing it now is entirely without any discussion with others.

The first god that I will discuss will be the one who is most important to me. He is Lú (who may be more familiar in his older spelling, "Lugh"), and his epithet as I interact with him most is Ardáinmór, which means "Of The Great Height" or "Of The Great Platform/Stage". This is not an epithet that is attested in any literature of which I am aware, though it is the name of a mountain that is the subject of a short poem by Francis Ledwidge. You don't have to follow that link, though, because as it is short I am going to reproduce the poem here (the epithet is genitive, while the name of the mountain is the nominative form):

As I was climbing Ardan Mór
From the shore of Sheelin lake,
I met the herons coming down
Before the water’s wake.
And they were talking in their flight
Of dreamy ways the herons go
When all the hills are withered up
Nor any waters flow.

Now, Lú Ardáinmór is a particular theophany of Lú, whose mythology is very similar to that of the other theophanies of Lú that have been recorded in the extant lore, though as in all such things it is not identical. He is, for instance, more explicitly connected with wolves and other canines, and with lycanthropy. He partakes of elements of other "wind-wolf" gods, as well, in a somewhat syncretic fashion. Specifically, I know that parts of his stories resemble those of Oðinn, and some those of Apollo. I am not entirely sure of the provenance of other parts of his stories as he has seen fit to reveal them to me. I hope to present some of his specific stories here as time goes on. I know that the reference of his epithet is connected in some way with oracular practice, though he has not (yet?) seen fit to interact with me in that way, as such. I suspect, given the epithet, that such practice would resemble Seiðr in some manner.

I know that Ardáinmór is somewhat of a pun, as well. He has explained it to me as, "Ard-dán, the high poetry and high art and skill of the Three Gods of Skill, the Trí Déithe Dána. For it was through their poetry told on a platform that the Three Gods of Skill were able to tell what would happen in the coming days, to the end of the age."

When I say, "He has explained it to me," it is probably important that I explain what I mean by that. In this case, the discussion came to me in a dream I had, where Lú came to me and talked at length about matters of poetry. This short extract from that talk is the only part of it that I remember consciously, sadly. I think that he may have used the Irish word , which can mean either "moon" or "era", instead of the English word "age", but I'm not certain about that. Dream-language is occasionally difficult to render in natural language, I have found. That this description resembles the "high seat" oracular activities of Seiðr more than anything I have found in Irish story is something that I have found odd, but that may be part of Lú Ardáinmór's somewhat syncretic nature.

I should add here that, when I first was told the epithet and its meaning, I was not aware of the Irish word ardán, and thought that it had only to do with what I later came to understand was a pun, as described above. When I found that there was a word ardán, as well as the compound ard-dán, and that ardán was further referenced obliquely in the description given by Lú to me (with the talk of the high platform), I was naturally surprised. I have come to believe that it was a specific confirmation given that the experience was not of my own making. I was also unaware of the poem by Ledwidge, but I think that it is indicative of Lú Ardáinmór. The connection with herons, for instance, is well within my understanding of Lú Ardáinmór, as is the connection with a lake called Sheelin (sí linn "enchanted lake").

Next time, I will discuss what, exactly, I do in devotion to Lú Ardáinmór.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Definitions

Hi! I've been away from blogging on these subjects for a little while now, but yesterday's posting brought me back a little. To ease myself back in, I'll start with a few definitions.

Atheist - For the purposes of this blog, an atheist is a person who denies the gods of other people. This is a slightly different definition than the one used by many self-professed atheists. For one thing, it includes the sort of monotheists who have created so many problems in the world today by declaring that only their own god is worthy of worship (and therefore is the only god, as such). It does not include those people who think of themselves as "atheists" (or, more frequently, as "agnostics") who have no experience of the gods themselves, but remain open to the idea that such experiences might not necessarily be delusions.

God - An entity worthy of worship. This means that an entity who is a god to one person may not be so to another. See also Un-god.

Sacred - Something devoted to the benefit of the gods or un-gods rather than human society.

Sacrifice - To make something sacred.

Un-god - An entity whose interests are not naturally in line with humans', but who might be convinced to work on the behalf of humans.

Werewolf - The big definition. A werewolf is a participant in a "secret" society (it does not have to be secret in the mundane sense of the term; it only needs to be explicitly initiatory and exclusive of non-initiates) focused on the boundaries between life and death. These initiations can be formal or informal (one such ceremony recorded involved a werewolf breathing into a glass of beer, saying a few words, and the prospect drinking from the glass; at the other extreme, initiations can involve kidnapping and week-long ordeals), but are absolute. Not all such societies use the symbol of the wolf, but that is an extremely common symbol related to the societies in Europe (as well as parts of North America). Those werewolf societies that do use the symbol of the wolf, which again is the majority, will always identify with wolves in some sense, whether that is as literal wolves or as embodiments of the cultural image of the wolf (such as "outlawry" or "ravager"; more recently, this would include "in-group loyalty" and "subcultural outsider", rather than necessarily outlawry as such - the image of the "outlaw biker" is particularly powerful here!). They might express that identity through wolfish costume, hairstyle, or vocalizations such as battle cries that resemble wolfish howls. Even those societies that do not use the symbol of the wolf almost always identify with these same cultural associations. Most of the societies also make use of cannibalistic symbolism (and there is disputed evidence indicating that at times the symbols become literalized in some places). In many (but not all) cases, the societies also involve violent activities, whether as bandit-outlaws or as warriors of society - or, more frequently, as both!

Worship - Devotion and adoration. This is frequently expressed through sacred ritual and sacrificial giving, but tends to expand into other aspects of the worshiper's life.

Friday, May 24, 2013

My Gods Aren't Fictions

So, there's a conversation that is occurring out in the wider pagan/polytheist/occultist blogging world, about performing hero-cultus for or invoking fictional entities. I only have a little to say on the subject, but let me point out some of the posts on the subject first.

This round of the discussion began with a posting on Patheos Pagan's Agora blog, here.

Then Sannion made a metric shit-ton of posts about it. Uh, here's the first one, I think. Then here, here, here, here, herehere, here, here, here, here, and here. Somewhere in there, he found the time to announce that there will be an episode of Galina Krasskova's podcast dedicated to the subject, on May 29th. Along the way, he wrote a poem I really like, though it is not particularly connected to the discussion.

Speaking of Galina Krasskova, she had this to say on the subject.

A week after the whole thing got going, the Anomalous Thracian weighed in.

P. Sufenas Virius Lupus had a few words to write on this. Oh, who are we kidding, the good doctor wrote a novel. ;) There are two follow-ups so far there.

Traci at A Sense Of Place on Patheos had something to add.

Dver at A Forest Door wrote three excellent posts on the topic, here, here, and here.

Approaching all of this from a very different direction, Jack Faust at Dionysian Atavism had a few things to say, as well: here, here, here, here, and here.

That's a lot of electrons spilled over this topic, and I haven't even come close to exhausting the posts that have hit the series of tubes over the last week or so. You should be able to find most of them through links found in the above, though. For myself, I have little to say on the topic, actually. Here's what I wrote in PSVL's Aedicula Antinoi blog:

The people who write or otherwise create these pop-cultural entities do not, typically, share the specific values of pagan/polytheist people. Even when they do, they still have their own agendas to pursue, involving matters of commerce and so on, that are imposed on them by the system in which they do their work. These issues distort those characters and stories in ways that are not always beneficial from a religious/spiritual perspective. I think that’s why R.J. Stewart recommends against participating in pop culture when exploring magical techniques, as those techniques can enhance those images in ways that make the various incorporated unhealthy agendas particularly problematic.

So, put me down in the category of those who are not very interested in practicing hero-cultus with fictional creations. It might be possible, it might not, but from my point of view it is seriously undesirable. Those creations contain traps laid by people whose intentions do not necessarily match my own. They might not be traps to people who share those agendas, but how do you know?