John Michael Greer has an open thread post up on his blog this week. One of the topics, driven by recent tragic events, is violence – and, specifically, male violence. This overlaps with some of the themes of this blog, which spurs me to write something quickly – both to capture my thought processes, and to be able to put a link in a comment over there before his blog rolls over to a new week’s discussion. Since I’m writing quickly, I won’t be putting in as many links to supporting material as usual, and I want to emphasise that this is me thinking aloud and trying to form some understanding of the topic: it should not be read as my definitive views on the topic. My thinking begins with a famous broken femur.
As I’ve made clear, this blog is my process of exploring the writings of Iolo Morganwg in Barddas, the source of contemporary Revival Druidry, and trying to put it into modern terms as a system firmly rooted in the authentic Welsh cultural tradition.
That means going beyond Barddas itself: recognising that the Four Branches of the Mabinogi contain a pantheon of ancient Brythonic deities, for example. My experience is that they exist; they are real, and represent real powers. Barddas, however, comes from Iolo’s spiritual insights, rooted in a Christian background, and his writings are full of references to God. Can these things be reconciled? I believe that they can.
It’s New Year’s Day, and I haven’t written anything here for months. The key word there is “here”: I’ve been writing a lot elsewhere. I would like to say “I have been writing a book”, but that isn’t how it’s been working out. Rather, I can only say “A book has been using me to get itself written”.
As recent posts have suggested, I’ve been thinking about the topic of suffering – and how Druidry deals with suffering. It’s something we all need to be thinking about, to be honest. We’re entering a time of major change. We’ve known for decades that climate change, resource depletion, and debt posed catastrophic threats to our way of life, and we have completely failed to prepare. Life is already hard for too many people; the unpalatable truth is that it will soon get much worse.
‘Pareidolia’ is the trait humans have for seeing patterns which aren’t really there – such as seeing a rabbit on the moon, or Elvis in an oddly shaped carrot. In my case, it’s seeing the end of the world in a patch of damp plaster on the wall.
Still, one of the key tenets of Iolo Morganwg’s Bardism is “Y Gwir yn Erbyn y Byd” – The Truth Against the World. As Druids, we need to find out what is true – and we need to champion it even when it is unpopular or unpalatable.
A Celt and a Saxon would agree that of the colour of the sea, the colour of ivy leaves, and the colour of an Ovate’s robe, two belong together and one is different. They would, however, disagree on what the two are.
I’ve been following the writing of pagan writer Rhyd Wildermuth for a while, having originally seen his name mentioned by other bloggers. Of late, Rhyd seems to have been undergoing a shift in his thinking, and one of his recent posts – The Fires of Meaning – struck a chord, and helped me to clarify a train of thought about culture, faith, and why contemporary Druidry is seemingly so ineffective in responding to the catastrophe that is facing our society.
Since I expect pushback against some of the ideas I explore here, let’s be very clear from the outset: this is an exploration of how faith in general, and Druidry in particular, can help people cope during the collapse of Western society which is indicated by the scientific evidence available to us. If you believe that Western society is in fact likely to continue much as it is today, you don’t need to read this.
Iolo Morganwg was known in his own day as ‘The Bard of Liberty’. There were very good reasons for this, and I want to explore some of those reasons because they will help us to understand why he and his system are so important to us today.
I wrote this as a contribution to a discussion that’s ongoing in the members’ forums of the Druid Network. Those are private, so I thought I might post it here so that a broader audience can read it and contribute their thoughts.
Periodically, the OBOD forums I participate in see discussions arise about cultural appropriation.
I’ve already made my position clear on this: it annoys the heck out of me, and I get really angry at people who take elements of Welsh language and culture and casually try to redefine them turn them into something they are not – which most often seems to be a rebranded version of common pagan themes. For example, there are currently a number of people trying to treat Gwyn ap Nudd as a rebranded, touchy-feely, Cernunnos, when the extant body of myth clearly depicts him as quite different.