erynn: Gaelic merman image (Sunny Day)
We had one of the few warm, sunny days of the spring today. It was up to the mid-50s and gloriously bright out. On the way down to Seattle today, I could see Tahoma towering on the horizon. It wasn't quite clear enough to stand out from the clouds, but it was definitely visible in the haze.

I went down to Magus Books to pick up a copy of something I'd put on hold yesterday, which a few of my flist will be a little jealous of -- they had a copy of Wooster Proposes, Jeeves Disposes or Le Mot Juste by Kristin Thompson, which is an interesting lit-crit look at Wodehouse and the Jeeves and Wooster stories. It should be fun.

I hung out for a while at Cafe Allegro, having a cup of tea and taking a peek at the introductory chapter and poking around online, watching the westering light on the stone wall of the building across the alley, then went over to Pho Thy Thy on the Ave to catch a quick bit of dinner. I didn't want to head home just yet, given it was still early for the traffic to have settled, so I went for a walk on the UW campus. That way, I wouldn't have to deal with streets and traffic, though I did have to deal with rather a lot of people.

The apple and cherry trees were in bloom, some of them huge and ancient. I wandered around outside of my usual orbit of the Suzzallo-Allen/Red Square area, up behind the libraries toward the Music Library, then down and around the other side of the Allen toward the fountain. I got a grand view of the mountain between a row of buildings as I approached the water, and walked around the fountain before heading back down toward the Ave below the building housing Atmospheric Sciences.

Nostalgia, hiraeth, and bittersweet surroundings. )
erynn: Gaelic merman image (Default)
I finished up reading Working Emptiness: Toward a Third Reading of Emptiness in Buddhism and Postmodern Thought by Newman Robert Glass, Scholars Press, Atlanta 1995. [livejournal.com profile] alfrecht loaned it to me a few months ago when we were talking about nondualism, Marguerite Porete, and Zen. As so often happens, reading about Buddhist stuff gives me insights into all kinds of things, including CR practice, the Pagan community, and approaches to defining my own philosophies in regard to my personal CR practice and its interfaces with the larger movement.

Today's gem was this:

As noted in Chapter One, working with Chan/Zen texts is an activity that oscillates between "objectivity" and "imagination." Acceptable readings of a text might be seen to exist on a continuum within these two limits: in the narrowest (and perhaps most "objective") sense, a reading is acceptable only if it can be consistently supported through direct reference to the text; in the broadest (and most "imaginative") sense, a reading is acceptable, and can be very creative, as long as it does not in any way contradict the text. Within these limits all readings must meet certain standards of consistency, comprehensiveness, and explanatory power. (p. 83)

I see this as an expression of the tensions of the CR community. Some insist that we can't do anything that doesn't have a textual, archaeological, or folkloric precedent. Some insist that as long as the historical texts, archaeology, and folklore are not contradicted, innovation and creativity is necessary. I think that both of these points have their uses and that it is possible to walk a middle road that works within the knowable historical tradition and that looks to the future, growing from the seed of what has gone before. The key is that best practices in all camps "must meet certain standards of consistency, comprehensiveness, and explanatory power."

Without these things, we either have fragmented shards of historical practice, or a completely modern invented practice that bears no resemblance to any historical roots. Given that the majority of us are not living in the Gaeltacht or in areas with substantial speakers of Brythonic languages, we are, by our nature, "exiles" from that culture. At best, we can learn languages, understand histories, and create ourselves and our practices anew for the places in which we live. We must, perforce, pick and choose what we can and what we will renew, and what we will leave as history: slavery, human sacrifice, limiting gender roles, racism, sexism, isolationism; these are historical issues with which we must struggle and that we must transcend in order for CR to move forward as a viable spiritual tradition in this century and beyond.

There are many middle ways.
erynn: Gaelic merman image (Default)
A link from my flist about how animals exercise morals through play behavior. Reminds me a lot of the moment of butterfly altruism my mom witnessed a year or two ago in her garden. Very cool article. Certainly supports Kropotkin's arguments about evolution through mutual aid.

And now I'm going to bed. I have to get some sleep before my appointment tomorrow, after all.

Polypraxy

Aug. 16th, 2009 04:39 pm
erynn: Gaelic merman image (Default)
A lot of folks talk about Paganism in its varying manifestations as being not a religion of belief but one of practice. Generally speaking, I agree with this assessment. Belief is all well and good -- I believe in spirits and deities and that magic works -- but when the rubber hits the road, practice is where things really happen in spiritual and ethical communities. You can believe all kinds of wonderful things, but if you never act on them, you might as well not believe either.

In monotheistic religions we see manifestations of orthodoxy (unity of belief) and in many of them we see orthopraxy (unity of practice) as well. Calling various types of Paganism, including CR, religions of practice doesn't point to uniformity, though. In Celtic cultures, practices varied from village to village, so it's hard to claim an orthopraxy in any meaningful sense. In Gardnerian Wiccan circles, you can usually expect to get something that doesn't vary a whole lot from group to group. There is a certain orthopraxy beneath the varied personal practices. A Gardnerian can, generally, expect their initiation rituals to be the same from group to group in a particular line.

The same can't be said in reconstructionist religions for the simple reason that we don't usually have handed down texts of rituals to work from. We can all look at the same texts and come away with different interpretations and different ways of ritualizing the content of those texts. Individuals in a community may influence one another's interpretations and practices, but even within a small local community like the Seattle CR schmooze group we have different approaches, different interests, and different types of focus on the material. We have folks who are interested in Irish or Scottish materials and folks interested in Welsh materials. We experiment with different types of ritual based on the sources to see what happens and how it all works -- if it does at all.

And so what we see in the Pagan community at large, and within many reconstructionist communities as subgroups of the Pagan community, is what can really only be called polypraxy -- a multiplicity of practices based on variations in source materials, interpretations, and localized bioregional expressions.

Polypraxy happens in Ireland, where the festivals for Lá Fhéill Bríde (Imbolc) vary from one town to another in the same county. In CR approaches to the same holy day, localized manifestations are going to be a feature of the movement by the very nature of human spiritual experience and its interpretation. One group might focus on the weaving of Brigid's crosses and putting out the Brat Bríd, while another looks at ways to bring in aspects of the cross-dressing Biddy Boys traditions and public processional, and a third deals with Bríg Ambue and the purification of outsiders who are then welcomed into the community as full participants.

None of these approaches are incorrect, nor does any group have to have all of them to be a "real" CR group celebrating a culturally appropriate festival. It's possible to have a philosophy of polypraxy within a movement and be very much true to both the originating culture, the source texts, and the spiritual impetus of the individuals who make up the modern movement without any of it being inauthentic. Each of these rituals address different needs in the particular community where the rituals occur, all of them based on traditional literary sources or folk practices.

Ritual and actual practice is important. It's still uncommon to see discussion in the community of rituals and their results. While one can find rituals posted on the web here and there, there's no indication of whether many of these rituals have ever actually been performed as written and even less of what happened when they were done. This is part of the reason I post about things like my experiences with the warrior rituals, both as a participant and as a recipient of the rituals, and about my incubation chamber work and my wilderness vigil rituals. It's why I posted about my ritual work surrounding the making of my ogam set. It's why I post about what doesn't work as well as about what does. It's also why the local group held a panel discussion at PCon this year about the warrior ritual we performed last year and why we hope to do one this year for the warrior return ritual as well. I know that this discussion opens me to criticism, but that's okay; I hope that my own openness and the openness of our local community in these matters will encourage others to write about their own work, to share their own ritual experiences, and to enrich the community through their sharing.

Writing a ritual and posting it on the web doesn't mean it's been tested or that it works. There are no guarantees. Things can sound fantastic on paper but have really poor results for a variety of reasons ranging from impossible stage directions to lines that end up making everyone laugh in the wrong place. Until we talk about our experiences and share both our successes and failures -- and our modifications to our practices based on those experiences -- it's hard to develop a shared community of functional ritual experiences. Because so many CRs practice alone it can be difficult to develop community ritual, and reports of community ritual are few and far between, particularly those that include a discussion of the process and the results. People should absolutely post ritual scripts, even if they haven't been performed yet, but it's important to note in that case that the script is one that hasn't been done. Asking for feedback is good, too, and shows an openness to dialogue with the community. Posting the script for a ritual that has been performed can be greatly enhanced by including discussion of the logistics and the results, as well. It will benefit everyone, and that's a good thing.
erynn: Gaelic merman image (Default)
The heat that's been cooking the area the past few days has eased off and the sky is mostly overcast today. It's still warm, certainly. I have a window and the sliding door open into the living room. The house is scented with heavy, sweet sandalwood incense and the chicken broth I'm making, flavored with berberi paste.

I planted the shade garden today in the large pot I got for it. Most of the root/corm bits went in at a depth of 3 inches, the maidenhair ferns at two, and the hepatica just under the surface. I watered them thoroughly then took water out for the rest of the garden as well. I'm a bit worn out after even such a simple thing as hauling soil for one large planting pot. This is a little discouraging, but the garden itself makes me happy and is worth the effort.

The sprouts are all doing quite well. The tomatoes are blooming though it's early yet for them to start setting fruit. The jerusalem artichokes are growing taller. I'm looking forward to my first sprout thinning so that I can have tiny baby greens for a small salad with some kale leaves.

Gus's travel plans are changing by the minute, so he may be with me Monday night as well as Tuesday. If that's the case I'll see if he's interested in coming to the CR schmooze with us and joining us for dinner afterwards at Charlie's. I sent out the script for the midsummer ritual to the group with the caveat that we'll obviously want to change it somewhat for our smaller scale and shorter celebration.

Quite a few of my friends have been blogging sporadically for International Pagan Values blogging month. [livejournal.com profile] alfrecht has put up a couple of good ones in the past few days, as have [livejournal.com profile] sannion and [livejournal.com profile] lupabitch. I don't really have anything profound to say on the whole thing at the moment. I may do a formal entry over on Searching for Imbas later this month, as I believe the search for wisdom is a CR value in and of itself. It's a topic dear to my heart at any rate. I'm not feeling particularly eloquent today, though that's another CR value, at least by my lights.

It's a day when I wish I had more energy. Laundry, at least, should get hauled out of the bedroom and tossed in the washer. Gardening, cooking, laundry. That's all part of a Pagan life as much as any theological position or mystical vision. They're basic things in the world that we need to do to keep ourselves together as humans. There's value in the everyday things of life. They're as worthy of practice as honor, honesty, friendship, hospitality, courage, generosity, or compassion.

Gardening. Cooking. Laundry.

My Pagan life.
erynn: Gaelic merman image (Default)
In thinking about documenting a life in 24 frames (some of which, inevitably, will not turn out), I've been meditating on what I consider important in my life.

Some of my altars will obviously make it into the showing. My spiritual life is one of the most important things to me, and it shows in my environment. Not just altars but spiritual art that I've made -- jewelry and ritual objects and divination tools. A photo from the Shinto shrine. My Brigid altar alight for my flamekeeping shift.

Right up there with spirituality are books and music. Yet I can't parse books and music in the passive sense here any more than I parse my spirituality passively. I write books. I make music. Therefore, instruments, sheet music, and recordings of music I've performed. Open notebooks, my computer, and books and magazines I've written or contributed to.

Food and tea are two other things I take seriously and love dearly, so the kitchen with cooking in progress, a variety of ingredients displayed, tea brewing in a gaiwan on a tea tray with different varieties of dry tea around it in small containers.

There are people who are important to me, though handling that aspect of it will be very different than dealing with themes and places and things. A lot of my friends and the important people in my life aren't folks I see regularly. My family lives scattered around the globe. My friends are often oceans away. I'm not sure how to handle that one yet. It warrants a lot of thought.

My shrink was amused when I talked to her about the project and delighted that I had to think so hard to condense things into 24 frames. She said most of the people she talks to would be hard pressed to get two or three. And I have to wonder how circumscribed such lives must be. Even at my worst and most depressed I would have had more than that to consider.

The camera will be going with me on my trip to California later this month. Some of my life is down there, too. Travel, my sweetie, the ocean, camping, old family friends.

It's a pretty good life, all things considered.
erynn: Gaelic merman image (Default)
Today's spirituality group discussion dealt with a couple of readings on enlightenment of various sorts. Nattery bits here. )
erynn: Gaelic merman image (Whitman: not all who wander)
Over the next week or so I'll probably be doing a short series of posts about some of the things I did at PCon this year. I wanted to start with the Ekklesía Antínoou Lupercalia ritual. There were vasty numbers of people in attendance -- 60 or so, in contrast to the smaller numbers last time, and the tiny rituals we do here in Seattle with usually 10 or fewer people. Ave Antinoe! )
erynn: Gaelic merman image (writy medievalist)
Recent news in the Pagan blogosphere has had a lot of discussion about a couple of Pagan podcasters who have moved from Paganism into atheism after much thought and heart-searching. Opening discussions were on The Wild Hunt, [livejournal.com profile] mythworker's blog, here and here. [livejournal.com profile] northwestpass discussed his experiences as a university lecturer on philosophy and a Pagan at his own LJ here. More nattering below. )
erynn: Gaelic merman image (14 straif)
I've needed some time to think about the warrior rite, and about the discussion and my own reactions afterward. There was a lot for me to process, and I spent my entire hour in shrinkage this month talking about it with Tracy, given that being in the midst of it managed to be a trigger for all my military stuff. I'm not in any way saying I regret participating -- far from it. I just have to acknowledge that sometimes the things I do push me back into those uncomfortable spaces and that I have to deal with that. It wasn't exactly unexpected, though perhaps the intensity of it was, a bit. Ponderings and analysis. )
erynn: Gaelic merman image (crane)
Part of the ritual we did Friday night/Saturday morning was a recitation of relevant parts of Fionn's advice to Mac Lugach. In it are references to obeying one's lord and not complaining to a lord about his retinue. Modern politics aside, we discussed the implications of lordship in relation to warriors and whether one should consider such oaths as applying to "legitimate" lords or to anyone who has been set in authority above us.

Laws of the United States and the Uniform Code of Military Justice explicitly state that a member of the military may -- indeed, must -- refuse unlawful orders. In one sense, this would be disobedience to one's lord, however such a refusal could be considered a service to a higher power or to the people directly. Likewise, the constraint to not complain to a lord about his retinue could be argued as an abdication of responsibility in the face of rape and murder among the ranks which is so often swept under the rug these days "for the good of the unit." My feeling is that to report such acts and support the victims and survivors of them do not constitute "complaining to a lord about his retinue" in the sense most likely meant in the text.

These are difficult questions and, in all honesty, each warrior confronted with issues like these is going to have to make up his or her own mind regarding the most honorable and appropriate action to take and what constitutes personal and group honor in these situations. This is some of what we have to face as reconstructionists who are looking at deep traditions from many different warrior cultures -- there are reasons for injunctions to obey one's lord and not to complain to one's leader about others within the ranks. Yet as modern individuals we also have our own sense of individual honor and our own sense of social justice that complicate things.

The ideal of warrior service is a difficult one, particularly in the context of a modern military force. Tackling these issues is part of what each of us who are or have been in service must struggle with constantly. It is right that such things in the history of warrior traditions be acknowledged and understood. It is also right to understand that sometimes rules -- or traditions -- must be broken in order for justice to be done. This said, only wise debate and discussion will bring to light the facets we see of the truth and the most honorable way to act in light of the duties we swear to when we take our oaths of service.
erynn: Gaelic merman image (Default)
I have a couple of turkey drumsticks in the oven. They're on very low heat so that when the'yre done they'll be falling off the bone tender. [livejournal.com profile] yiaya and one of our other friends will be over in about two hours. There will be stuffing and mustard greens and home made biscuits, and other things that they will bring over for the foodage. I've got two merlots and a chianti to choose from for the wine, as well as the Talisker (whisky from Skye) that [livejournal.com profile] yiaya has expressed an interest in tasting.

I'm a bit headachy today )

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