Exploring spirituality somewhere between the Emerald Isle and the Black Land....

Friday, June 29, 2012

Medb, Queen of Connacht (PBP)

Queen Medb is probably my favorite mythological character. She is a self-assured woman with so much attitude and pride, she leads her entire province to war so that she will not be shown up by her husband, Ailill. The ensuing events, known as the saga of the Táin Bó Cúailnge, is set off when Ailill remarks that she is much better of now than the day they married. Medb's response is both indignant and confident, painting a vivid picture of who she is as a character. It also happens so be my all-time favorite Medb moment:

"The High King of Erin himself was my father, Eocho Fedlech son of Finn, by name, who was son of Findoman, son of Finden, son of Findguin, son of Rogen Ruad, son of Rigen, son of Blathacht, son of Beothacht, son of Enna Agnech, son of Oengus Turbech. Of daughters, had he six: Derbriu, Ethne and Ele, Clothru, Mugain and Medb, myself, that was the noblest and seemliest of them.

"I was the goodliest of them in bounty and gift-giving, in riches and treasures. I was best of them in battle and strife and combat. I had fifteen hundred royal mercenaries, the sons of those exiled from their own land, and as many more of the sons of freemen of the land. And there were ten men with every one of these hirelings, and nine, and eight, and seven, and six, and five, and four, and three, and two, and one hireling with every hireling. These were as a standing household-guard; hence my father bestowed one of the five provinces of Erin upon me, even the province of Cruachan; wherefore 'Medb of Cruachan' am I called.

"Men came from Finn son of Ross Ruad, king of Leinster, to seek me for a wife, and I refused him; and from Carbre Niafer son of Ross Ruad, king of Temair, to woo me, and I refused him; and they came from Conchobar son of Fachtna Fathach, king of Ulster, and I refused him in like wise. They came from Eocho Bec, and I went not; for it is I that exacted a singular bride-gift, such as no woman before me had ever required of a man of the men of Erin, namely, a husband without avarice, without jealousy, without fear.

"For should he be mean, the man with whom I should live, we would be ill-matched together, inasmuch as I am great in grace and gift-giving, and it would be a disgrace if I should be more generous than he, while no disgrace would it be were one as great as the other. Were my husband a coward, it would be as unfit for us to be mated, for I by myself and alone break battles and fights and combats, and it would be a reproach for my husband should his wife be more full of life than himself, and no reproach our being equally bold. Should he be jealous, the husband with whom I should live, that too would not suit me, for there never was a time that I had not my paramour.

"Howbeit, such a husband have I found in you, Ailill son of Ross Ruad of Leinster. You are not churlish; you are not jealous; you are not a sluggard. When we wed, I gave a gift to you of clothing enough for twelve men, a chariot worth thrice seven bondmaids, the breadth of thy face of red gold, and the weight of thy left forearm of silvered bronze. Whoever brings shame and sorrow and madness upon you, it is to me the compensation belongs, for a kept man is what you are."

Pagan Blog Project

Monday, June 11, 2012

Kemetic Priesthood – a Response

A little while ago, I read this awesome blog post about Kemetic priesthood in antiquity as well as today. I enjoyed it so much that today I'm going to try to answer a couple of questions that Devo posed. (And if you must know why it took me almost two weeks to do so, the answer is simple: I'm lazy. Deal with it.) 

"What is your take on priesthood then..."

The Temple of Isis at Philae
I can't say that I am very familiar with the subject, but the most striking aspect of the priesthood of ancient Egypt are the rituals. They are fascinating in their intricacy, artistic even, and the level of commitment required to perform those rites every day for months on end is astonishing (not to mention intimidating). Yet that could only be accomplished because, as Devo pointed out, priesthood then was a job. The temples, as well as the culture itself, supported priests during their service, and that is certainly not the case today. It makes me wonder if those rituals could ever truly be revived as a part of a modern priest's daily practice. 

"...and now?"

With the exception of Kemetic Orthodoxy, Kemetic priesthood is largely fractured and undefined. Individual temples may have their own requirements for priesthood, but the subject becomes a bit confusing when we talk about independent practitioners. Someone who is devoted to learning about the religion as it was practiced, the myths, and the gods, and has made a serious commitment to serving them is as good as a priest to me. I suppose what we get then is a collection of unaffiliated practitioners, many of whom act as their own priest, whether or not they claim that title for themselves. 

"What do you think the modern Kemetic community needs from its priesthood, if anything?"

A few things. One is to be educated. For the priest in question to really know his or her stuff. Kemeticism is specific to a time and culture, and learning about that culture is key to understanding the religion and its rituals, and how to best adapt them for modern practices. A myth or ritual action might not make sense on the surface, but once you put it in the context of it's culture, a new understanding and appreciation can be gained. Egypt's ancient religion survived for thousands of years and left us no shortage of information to work with. (Some people might disagree with me on that point, but after studying Celtic religion, learning about the religion of a culture that actually wrote stuff down leaves a wealth of information by comparison.) I'm not saying that recon is the way to go for everyone, but knowing where the religion comes from and why it's practices were valid to its people are vital to creating viable religion that is meaningful to our own time.

Another important thing for our priesthood is to have a presence in Kemetic and Pagan communities. I don't mean to say that everyone who is a priest needs to constantly be available to give counsel and teach. That may be a focus for some people, and is an invaluable service, but for many, it would be enough to simply maintain a blog or peruse various Kemetic groups online or off. The knowledge and experience that priests gain is invaluable (especially considering the misconceptions that can be found), and needs to be shared with other Kemetics to ensure a richer, healthier religion and community. It also provides opportunities to be recognized by someone who may be looking for Kemeticism, and the chance to share any information they may need. And of course, there's the fact that getting out there and being seen ensures that we are understood by the Pagan community at large.

And then there's devotion, which in my opinion, is the most important part. The word for priest was hem-netjer, meaning "servant of god." The gods of Kemet were central to its religious practice, and this should be mirrored in the religion today. As I mentioned before, I doubt that the rituals could be practiced daily in the manner that they once were, given the state of modern Kemeticism. Many of us have jobs and family, or any number of other obligations, and I don't think any temples will be able to support full-time priesthood any time soon. But regular devotions can easily be practiced on a smaller scale, and should be done so by anyone wanting to call themselves a priest. Priesthood was about serving the gods, and that theme from antiquity remains as relevant today as it was then.