Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Retreat #1

Today was my first retreat day that I have been able to do as part of my clergy training.  The instructions we are given are pretty vague.  The only thing I knew I had to do was morning devotionals, prayer at each meal, and a full druidic right.  There is nothing about how long a “day” is, or what to do when we are not doing any of the above.  As I was thinking about what I would do, it occurred to me that in a lot of ways every day for me right now is a retreat day.  I am on summer vacation and I am not currently working.  So I stay at home, do some chores each day and do work for my Clergy training.  I do morning devotionals each day, and often say prayer over meals (though not as consistently as I should).  I don’t do a full druidic rite each day however.  In the end I decided that I would cut myself off from all electronics for the day.  No phone and no computer.  I also decided I would keep myself to the room where we have our alters and which also functions as a guest room. 
                I started the day off with morning devotionals and meditation.  I got very deep and had a nice Spirit walk but nothing of great import was passed on to me.  It was more like a spiritual recharging and resting.  After that it was breakfast and prayers to the ancestors, offering a bit of the breakfast to them. I used the prayer suggested to us, but I didn’t really care for the way it was written.  I then set to organizing the alter room.  It was beginning to be used for storage which really it shouldn’t be.  I got rid of a lot of junk and made it much more comfortable.  I then set to reading and writing.  I rewrote the prayer to the ancestors to say over meals to be more to my liking.  I also wrote an invocation to Airmed for the upcoming summer solstice ritual.  I didn’t get one done for Miach just yet.  Not sure how to go about that considering in the tale he’s killed.  Well we offer and invoke our dead relatives, why not a god? 
                I did a lot of reading in Serith’s book “a book of pagan prayers”.  This helped me to write the invocation.  I also spent some time just doing some plain old thinking.  I started to get anxious as the day wore on however and found it difficult to sit.  At around 4 I did my full ritual of blessing.  During the divination phase I asked these questions; is the offering accepted, what is the nature of the blessing, and what do I need to be aware of?  To the first question I received Duir, to the second I received Emancholl, and the third I received Or.  My interpretation is that the offerings were accepted, that I will be challenged with an illness in some way, and that I need to be more aware of my money.  Not really what I was hoping for, as I was already challenged with illness this winter, and not looking forward to doing that again, then again, it could be an illness of someone else such as a friend or child.  Time will tell. 

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Snow White and the Huntsman through pagan eyes (warning spoilers)

             Last night, I and many members of the local pagan community got together to go to the release of “Snow white and the huntsman”.  Over all the consensus of was that the movie was so-so.  I am not here today to talk about the acting or the dialog.  No I am here to point out how incredibly pagan this move is.   Some of these elements are really obvious and only the most uninformed would miss the connection.  Other elements are more difficult to pick out if someone isn’t intimately familiar with the lore.  Let me start with the ecological changes.  The ancient Celts had the idea that when a man became King he was to be married to the sovereignty goddess of the local area.  The details of the ritual was likely different from tribe to tribe.  If the king’s rule was just and he was a “good” king then there was peace and prosperity for all.  The crops grew, natural disaster and famine stayed away.  Enemies would be defeated and life was good for all.  However, if the king was not an honorable man, if he broke his word and dishonored himself and his tribe, the goddess of the land to which he was married would desert him.  Famine and drought would come.  Enemies would come and the king’s forces would be defeated.  The goddess would betray the king and in the end he would be killed and a new king would take his place.  This concept is played out in the movie with slight variations, but the pattern is the same.  The movie starts with the king and queen and their daughter “Snow white” (who also comes by her name in a very pagan way, but I’ll address that later) and all is well in the land.  There is peace, the land is fertile and the people happy and healthy.  Then the queen grows ill one winter and dies.  The king is “inconsolable” and we begin to see the land fade a bit.  Still there is the hope and youth of Snow white and this helps to keep things going.  Much later the king takes a beautiful and mysterious woman as his bride, marrying her only twenty four hours after meeting her.  This new queen kills the king and sucks away his life on their wedding night, lets her army in the gates and takes over, locking Snow White in the north tower.  Her rule is so harsh that all the life of the land retreats and “nature turns upon itself”.  Thus our analogy is complete.

                Oh but we are just beginning to see the pagan roots of this movie.  This new “evil” queen and the permanent winter her rule bring ties us to yet another pagan myth, this one from Celtic Scotland.  The main conflict of this movie is the queen who is very old and stays young and beautiful by sucking the youth out of young woman, wants Snow white’s heart, for the queen is told that if she eats the heart she will stay young forever as Snow white is the embodiment of youth and purity, which is easily associated with spring and growing things.  Compare this with the tale from Scotland where the spirit of winter, a hag, called the Cialleach.  She brings winter, and she rules over the winter months.  She captures the young goddess Bridget and imprisons her, because Bridgit will take over and rule during spring and summer.  The Cilleach wants to rule all year, forever.  Yet a young god from the ever green isle (Ireland) comes and rescues Bridget and together they make their escape on Imbolc and the Cialeach sends the last storms of the season to try to recapture her.  In the end she fails and the Cialeach is turned to a standing stone until the next Samhain.  One can thus see the very obvious pagan heritage this story carries. 

                The more obvious pagan portions of the story is the time the heroes spend in an enchanted forest full of fairy and friendly animals, the secret last bastion of green and growing things.  This too harkens back to many an pagan story where the hero is taken to a magical otherworld.  What I found really astounding is the directory/storywriters inclusion of a magnificent with antlers seemingly made of birch saplings.  This white stag was only referred to as “him”.  It was plainly obvious to every pagan in the theater that this was the representative of Cernunnos.  The stag bends his head to Snow white giving her his “blessing” and thus making her the embodiment of a sovereignty goddess. I also feel I must point out how similar this stag was to a scene in the Gibli animated movie Mononoke.  

                There were many uses of magic through the movie and plenty of aspects that smack of the shamanic journey and working with nature spirits, not to mention the magic mirror.  This movie was so amazingly pagan to its core that the one very Christian head nod, the reciting of the lord’s prayer by Snow White while she is a captive, is jarring and completely out of place.  There is no other reference to Christianity in the film, not even at the end when Snow white is being coroneted by a priest!  I can’t help but think that the inclusion of the Lord’s Prayer was in fact added in by another party, perhaps the actress herself.

                Lastly I want to point out another reason why I feel this film has a strong pro-pagan message.  The road to success for our character was obviously helped by the Fey and dwarfs, and of course that magnificent white stag.  Never were our characters aided by angels, or the Christian God, or Jesus, nor were they opposed by devils or demons.    All in all as a pagan I really enjoyed the film and was pleasantly surprised at how pagan it was.