Welcome back everyone for this month’s Roundtable! This month’s topic is one that is actually a little hard for me, for a variety of reasons – worship.
Which Gaelic Gods do you Worship? Do you worship your Ancestors or otherwise participate in Ancestor Veneration and related practices? What about the Gaelic Heroes? The Fae? How long have you Worshiped them? Who came first? Last? Second? How did you establish your relationships with them, and how important is that relationship to you? How integral is that relationship to your spirituality? Your religion? Your every day life?
This post has taken me all month to write. In fact, the first version of this was written on April 6th. Of all the things that I can talk about – at length – when it comes to my faith and my Gods, worship is one of the hardest for me. Worship was defined for me originally by the southern Baptist church and then by the eclectic, Wiccanite community I was part of in my late teens; and what I have now, the shape of my faith and my practice, looks nothing like those forms of worship.
But just because what I have now doesn’t look like what I always thought of as worship doesn’t mean that I don’t worship. Each time Brighid lights the spark of creativity and the words come spilling from me, it’s an act of devotion. When I have powerful experiences and I offer that to my Gods, it is the purest form of worship. But it doesn’t look like those forms and rituals that I had been taught. So if you’re reading this and struggling with the concept of worship or struggling with your practice and the shape it has taken – it’s okay. It’s okay that your practice doesn’t look like someone else’s. It’s okay that your path travels in a different way. It’s still valid.
So who do I worship? I worship Boann as Danu, the Dagda, Brighid, Manannán, and Lir. I open my home and my life to the fae and other spirits who need a place to rest. Some stay and others move on, but I give them the honor due them. I remember my ancestors, both recent and ancient, and lift them up so they aren’t forgotten. And I revere the heroes – the great heroes like Cú Chulainn and Fionn mac Cumhaill, and those who are heroes to me like Robin Williams and Amelia Earhart.
I worship the Gods and the Ungods.
Who came first were the fae. Long before I walked away from Christianity, they were there with me. Friends when I needed comfort, playmates when I was alone in the woods. They helped me believe in magic when all the magic had been stolen from my childhood. They have always been welcome in my home and in my life and they always will be. And it was my belief in the fair folk that helped tug me towards those early searches into Paganism. While I don’t always consider the fae and my relationship to them as part of my faith, it’s because I’m still learning that faith and worship and practice don’t have to be a separate thing from life.
Next came Danu and the Dagda, one step at a time. They nudged and prodded and led me along my path; drew me to start searching. I learned about ancestor veneration, but it was the experience of the death of my own grandparents that really drew me further along that path.
When my grandfather died, I knew it was coming. I was in Chicago at the time, unable to make the trip to see him one last time, and waiting for the call that I knew was coming. Sir Joshimus was working and I was home alone. And then I felt it. I don’t know how to explain it, but I knew without a shadow of a doubt that my grandfather had passed, even before the phone rang. Even before my Momma called to tell me he was gone. Though I didn’t begin venerating my ancestors that day, it definitely started me along the path.
Ancestor veneration came along the same time that I stopped fighting against becoming a true polytheist and let in Brighid, Manannán, and Lir. It began with my grandparents, but it has grown somewhat from there. I take the time to remember my grandparents and great-grandfather, as well as my husband’s grandparents that I knew in life. When my Yankee Ma passed, she was also added to the list of remembered and honored dead. I spent quite a while overwhelmed – learning my new Gods and building those first steps of our relationship. I still sometimes feel that I haven’t quite moved out of the “overwhelmed and completely confused” phase.
But at some point, things became easier, even if I didn’t – and sometimes still don’t – feel as if I am any further along my path than the day I finally said “okay” and stopped fighting. Things began to feel more comfortable and I finally joined the GaelPol community on Tumblr. I started to see that while there were still plenty of people who were more knowledgeable than I am, there were plenty of others still who were where I was, or even earlier on their paths. And I felt the first dawning desire to honor those heroes. It started with the Cú himself.
Not that I have any desire for the glorious life of the warrior, as he did. But the dedication to purpose and fierce pride are things that I not only respect, but to some extent would like to emulate within my own life. It seemed only natural from there that Fionn receive his recognition, as well. And in considering these things, why not the people and characters that have meant so much to me over the years? I don’t know if what I call hero veneration is quite what others practice, but it’s a practice that works for me.
And, honestly, I cannot say that the other Gods or Ungods won’t also find Their place within my path and practice, nor can I say what importance They will take in my life. I can’t even really qualify which ranks as more “important” to my life of those that are already here. Are the fae more important because I interact with them on nearly a daily basis? Are my Gods more important because of the nature of our relationship and the nature of Their very beings? Or are my ancestors more important because I have known them in physical form, held or been held by them, and because I know, at least in the case of some, that they have loved me without question? I won’t say that one group is greater than the other, and there is no way for me to quantify a single entity as greater than all others. Because what I’ve come to understand is that each has its place in my life and in my heart and I am made greater for each of them.
I hope y’all enjoyed your visit today and maybe this glimpse into the scattered world that I still don’t always fully comprehend will make you feel better about your own scattered (or not so scattered) practices. There is no right or wrong way of believing. There is no right or wrong way of practicing. There are only relationships to be built and maintained. And just like relationships with the people around you day-to-day, it’s okay that not all those relationships are the same.