Letting go of the need to know by Awen Clement

‘It izz wriiten!’ bellowed Beelzebub.
‘But it might be written differently somewhere else,’ said Crowley. ‘Where you can’t read it.’
‘In bigger letters,’ said Aziraphale.
‘Underlined,’ Crowley added.
‘Twice,’ suggested Aziraphale.

From Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

It’s pretty standard when we want to know about something new that we go looking for written information about it. Whether that be books or in these modern times on the internet. We want answers, we want good quality information, we want to do things right, especially when it comes to spiritual practice and the Gods.

However written information is only as good as its author and editor and unfortunately there is an awful lot of bad writing out there or worse stuff thats been made up, basically to sell more books. And of course you will find a lot of argument over what is good and what is bad amongst the people who have read them.

So then, maybe we look for the older stuff, the original writings, the lore that relates to our beliefs. Well, unfortunately the same problem still applies. Much of the lore about our pagan Gods was written in a very different time, often in a different language and usually by Christian monks, because they were the only people who knew how to write. And then they have been translated by yet another person, and that is not a fully accurate science either. Also we are modern people, living modern lives, so these older writings should be read with a degree of reservation and understanding of context.

So what do you do? Well, reading stuff isn’t a bad idea. Reading the lore isn’t a bad idea. But then after that, trust your instincts. Trust your connection to your Gods. And I think most importantly, be willing to NOT have to know. Be willing to not have all the answers on a plate. Part of the beauty and the magic of paganism is in its mystery and its lack of dogma. As soon as we rigidly hold on to the lore or anything written about our faith as being the whole story that must not be deviated from, we are creating dogma.

No matter how much reading you may have done, no matter how long you may have been a pagan, no matter your community status, none of us have all the answers. We are all on a journey, a living, breathing, connected journey that is our lives with our Gods. For isn’t that part of the point of having a spiritual belief and practice, that it is a part of us and a part of our lives.

And who knows what might be written down somewhere else, where we can’t read it.

(c) Awen Clement – October 2017

Awen is a priestess of the Morrigan, writer and ceremonialist who lives in the Midlands of the UK.  The rest of the time she is doing her best to help her four children grow up into interesting people and hanging out in her tiny temple shed at the bottom of her garden. www.awenclement.com

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Scraping the Bottom of the Barrel (How The Morrigan Claimed Me Part IV)

I found myself scraping the bottom of the barrel this Spring. Soul-wise, energy-wise, inspiration-wise. While Spring is generally associated with new beginnings and growth, I felt the exact opposite. Everything around me seemed to being going wrong, everything felt off. I felt wrong. Despite the outward appearance of all being well, nothing was well, not at all.

The Morrigan is known to be a hard teacher at times. Her lessons, while powerful, can be painful. This Spring, The Morrigan was on me “like a duck on a june bug”. I had to pay attention. I felt as though Macha Herself had ridden me down and trampled me. Badb was screaming at me. Anu, I felt, was just frustrated with me. I had to get quiet. I needed to shut up, sit down and listen to Her.

I took time off from writing and teaching. I stopped attending public events. I spent more time alone. I talked to The Morrigan. I listened to The Morrigan. I read a lot. I gardened. I binged-watched some shows.

With The Morrigan’s help, I came to realize I had made several errors in my life and I was not going to get any relief until I acknowledged and corrected those errors. If you have ever attended one of my workshops, I always say, “You are in control! You are in the driver’s seat! You are master of your destiny!” Blah…blah…blah..was about how I felt about that crap this Spring. It was time to walk the talk. I had to get honest with myself.

A recurring issue in my life has been personal boundaries. Actually, the lack of proper personal boundaries is the real issue. And it had come back to haunt me once again. Why?! Again and again, this issue was wrecking havoc in my life. Again my reluctance to establish healthy personal boundaries was causing intense suffering in my life.

I needed to take a step outside myself and examine what was really going on with me. I talked to a therapist to get an outside opinion. I asked myself the hard question: “Why was I reluctant to establish proper personal boundaries in my life?”

The answer was in two parts.

First, I was reluctant to establish healthy personal boundaries because I feared rejection. I feared appearing unfriendly, unavailable, of not appearing present. By living in this fear, I was not making good decisions about who I allowed into my personal life. I ignored the little instinctual warning bells tinkling in my ears. I ignored the warning because Fear and Ego took over. And by Spring, I was paying the price. Fear can be a tricky thing, not obvious, Ego-driven, tough to spot sometimes. But here it was right here in my face, grinning. Fear.

The second reason why I lacked in the boundary department was my “savior complex.” I had maintained an unhealthy relationship with a certain individual for years because I felt I could eventually make that person “see the light” and change their fundamental beliefs. I was wrong, wrong, wrong. It was some of my own beliefs that were almost sacrificed as a result. Another blow to Ego. Another circumstance of it blowing up in my face again.

Spring turned to Summer and Summer is now turning to Fall. I am continuing my inner work. I am continuing to tackle difficult issues in my life. But by doing so, I have gained relief from the suffering I was experiencing. The Morrigan is pleased I am back on track. I have acknowledged I am a work in progress. I always will be. I wouldn’t want to be anything less. It is a part of why I write. By owning my stories, my imperfections, I free myself from them.

I have shared in the past of how The Morrigan claimed me. It’s the title of this little series I have been writing for this blog. In truth, The Morrigan did not just claim me one time. She has claimed me again and again. If I wander off the path She has set before me, She comes thundering back into my life, claiming me again. It is an ongoing process for me. And I am ever grateful to Her for it. The Morrigan likes to keep Her tools sharp. She sharpens me on a regular basis. I feel blessed She does so.

(c) Morrigan Odin – Originally published at The Morrigan’s Nest

Other writing by Morrigan Odin can be found at Patheos

Photo by Mathew Schwartz on Unsplash 

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We Are One by Ryan Sutherland

The knowledge we are One is the most fundamental
keystone truths beyond anything I could ever express as a poet or a man.

All around me I see reflections of your beauty;
its in the eyes and smiles of every woman I meet,
Perfect crystalline wells of creation from which poetry springs.

All of infinity gazes back at me from a chance encounter,
or a simple cup of coffee.

I can taste their essence, for they truly are goddesses to me
but you shall ever by my Queen.

The purest expression of Divinity I shall every encounter in any Land
or any World.

Sometimes the weight of the world and its sorrows presses down upon me, and like Atlas I must maintain a Warriors Calm.

This may seem like a burden but it is not. Duty and honor to serve our people keep me steadfast.

Its when my head is bowed for a moment in reverent awe that I can best recapture those past memories of you.

An arched brow, your gentle eyes or honey’d taste of your lips.

It may only be a singular moment – a heartbeats worth of time – but its when I am closest to you.
The feeling of you surges to the forefront of my awareness.

I am the bedrock of the Mountains, the vast unending Sky and the quiet allure of the deep blue Sea.

The knowledge we are one is the most fundamental keystone truths beyond anything I could ever express as a Poet or Man.

-Ryan C. Sutherland

Ryan lives in Canada and says of himself – being called by The Morrigan has been a defining point in my life, and a true journey of growth and personal transformation. There are no words that will ever express the depth of my devotion and service to the Land, our people and Goddess.

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At the end of the fighting season

At the end of the fighting season…

The autumn is closing in rapidly around here, it is wet, getting colder and I get up for work and it’s still dark.  Samhain approaches and my Pagan friends are looking towards the turn of the year.  In the earlier times, that our modern paganism often looks back towards, this was the last gasp before the plunge into winter.  With the harvest almost gathered there was still time for the flurry of activity to prepare for the months ahead.  But what about warriors?  What would this time of year mean to them?  This is something I find myself reflecting on at this time of year.

Until fairly modern times, warfare was seasonal.  Because when winter came survival was a big enough task, fighting would tail off in time for the harvest to be got in.  If it didn’t there wasn’t much point to the fighting as you’d be starving by February.   In the aftermath of the Jacobite Rebellion in 1746 the harvest was not collected throughout the highlands and oats, wheat and barley spoiled in the fields.  The region had seen the passage of armies for over a year  who sustained themselves by foraging (which is a euphemism for stealing), so meat, ale and flour was in short supply. Shortages caused by the passage of armies through the highlands became famine.  Famine killed people regardless of their faith, politics or loyalties.

For the leaders this was a busy time and the longer view had to be considered.  What was the plan (or likely plan) for Spring? Could a peace be organised over Winter? Would it hold come the Spring or would fighting have to be resumed? How bad had things got? Would bitterness and honour drive winter raiding?  Who held the initiative?  All of this had to be sorted out before practical steps could be taken to stand the warriors down (or in more modern times to turn the army into winter quarters).  Many a late night council would be held and midnight oil burned, but this would have to fitted in around the mourning and recognition for the fallen, reports up the chain of command and the normal busy routines of society.

The first question would be how many warriors to retain under arms and how much manpower could be released to prepare for winter.  Where warriors were also farmers and some might be fighters you had ‘turned out’ (that is pressed into arms), they had probably already gone, the call of their land and harvest being too much.  It was possible to fight in a limited manner at this time of year, raiding and ambushing, so it was too early to let down your guard and stand all of your force down.  An aggressive war leader might work in a few raids and cattle drives to insulate against deprivation, but the risk had to be considered.  Losses would have to be made good and  the youth coming of age would be considered, who was in training, who had cut their teeth and needed recognising?  How many would need to start training now, not for next year but the year after?  Who would need to be invalided out? Egos soothed, pride allowed for, new jobs given to avoid feuding.  What about weaponry? What could be repaired or made new in house, what would require purchasing in?  Likewise armour and consumables like arrows, powder and shot.  Then there was the less sexy and glamourous things, boots, horse trappings, blankets, spoons.

A lord’s steward or seneschal might be keen to see the warband stood down, the cost for sustaining them physically and psychologically, transferred onto others.  Traditionally warriors (and soldiers in the modern era) were not billeted on a civilian population until the last possible time, as soon as this was done, problems started, which would occupy the leaders more and more until Spring.  So this was also the time of make work to keep the warriors out of trouble, patrols, hunting, guard duties, errands, exercise and training.

What can all this inform us as modern pagans who are drawn to warrior? It would be unrealistic to model our behaviour on this too closely.  In today’s modern times warfare and fighting does not cease with winter, modern armies train and fight in almost any conditions to horrific cost on civilian populations. Fascists still march (it is in fact the traditional fascist torch lit parade season through much of Europe).  In the west we are unused to seasonal shortages, cooperating and planning ahead to avoid famine.  I find I am drawn to make, to repair and audit my gear.  Make my domestic arrangements for winter (which increasingly here in the UK means lots and lots of rain).   I invariably think about training, the idea being to insulate myself against the worst effects of over-indulgence over the winter (definitely a first world problem).  I try to think about what skills I need to keep sharp and what new things I need to learn while I have the chance.  I take time to reacquaint with old comrades who might be involved with events in the year ahead.  Now I’m not immune to motivation crisis I feel the abuse I have subjected my body to over the years and I can afford to be complacent because I live in the UK in the 21st Century.  So reflecting on what this time of year meant for warriors in the past and what was at stake is a powerful motivator to get off my ass and be active.  For me this time of year is one of remembrance and there is an important social element.  I might get together with members of my old war band, where we share food and drink and reminisce.  To the outsider it may look like the telling of a lot of tall stories, but it’s difficult to talk to people about certain things, unless they already know the ground.  Within the tall tales, there is a lot of fear, tragedy and loss.  It is, I suppose a form of group therapy, an annual release.  A mechanism of regrouping and healing old wounds a little at a time.

My pagan practice then, forming a warrior cycle of the year, starts with a look back on the previous year and further back.  Reflecting and remembering events recent and ancient that exert their weight across any distance of time.  It also is a time for looking forwards, to orientate and plan for the future.  While being ready for action if your enemies (or life’s vicissitudes) attempt to surprise you now.  With events here in the ‘civilised’ west so tumultuous and scary I see people are battered by events.  Off balance and fearful of the future.  This now, at autumn, is the appropriate time to do as older generations of warriors and fighters would at the end of the war season and reorganise.  Look forward and plan for taking the initiative.  For the campaign ahead.  Think about who you want with you and tell them, make your appreciation and have some hope, because you survived another year to fight again and soon it will be spring.

(c) Rob Preece – October 2017

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