Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Getting Antlers: Flidais and romance revisited

Flidais Painting by Tammy Mae Moon, for sale at Moon Spiral Art

Like most tarot practitioners, (and now beginning auger), I constantly deal with the question of relationships with my clients. Women and men are seeking better relationships: better communication, better sex, better commitments, healthier patterns. All Good Stuff. And as noted before, in my post on Maman Brigitte, I try to unravel romance/pornography myths and stereotypes for my clients, to help further those healthier relationships we all desire.

And I have found another Goddess/Deva/Angel/Spirit to offer in this quest: Flidais, from the Ulster Cycle of early Irish literature. Flidais pops up in the written record of early Ireland: sometimes she owns deer she milks like cattle, and is often depicted with antlers (take that Cernunnos!), and she is variously listed as mother to a host of multiple mythological heroes and heroines. She is famous in the Ulster cycle for her affair with King Fergus Mac Roich, who needed to bed 7 women at a time to find satisfaction unless he slept with Flidais, who alone could satisfy him herself.

Hop about the web and you will find modern Pagans and Celtic Reconstructionists listing her as a patron of animals (rather an Irish Artemis), a patron of love and sexuality, and a Goddess of the wild and forests. It is her depiction with antlers and her connection to deer that piqued my interest: a Celtic deer Goddess? I needed that! My own first exploration into my own totem animals left me with one I have worked to understand, and yes you guessed it, it is deer.

Loosely, in many traditions, deer is associated with gentleness (who, me?), innocence (what?), an openness and sensitivity to loving and kindness (eek!), and conversely deer can represent an ability to gently assert one's self against the unrealistic perceptions and expectations of others (ok. I'm down with that one.) In a tarot reading, beyond totemic associations, deer usually means a need to be open, loving, gentle, with others and oneself, and often a need to connect with children, wilderness, forests. (Ahh, again, getting to areas more comfortable to yours truly).

However, despite the wildfound deer jaw I keep on my desk, I have done very little with my own relationship with deer, never knowing how to take this supposed inner gentleness and loving. I have, also, tried most carefully to explain that barrier in myself when working with animal totems and clients.

Flidais, however, had me sit up and take notice like that dog side of myself. A deer Goddess with antlers, clearly sexual, connected to wildlife and mothering and forests. Yes! I can get this. Flidais has been a huge connector for me to relate to my own totem, and as I've shared my finding with clients all summer, I have seen a respective sense of kinship for them - women and men.

For clients who are dating, or in a rough patch of a relationship, the issue of open loving (sexual and otherwise), being gentle with others, holding one's innocence after so many hurts and struggles with either dating or a partner, all of these are challenging to do. I'm not gonna tell someone who is internet dating to just go out and be trusting and loving, nor would I say this to someone struggling with a relationship. Yet Flidais, deer Goddess with antlers, offers a new strategy, and I admit I find it fun and exciting.

Be a wild Goddess, loving, sexual, mothering, open, gentle, --and carry your antlers with you as well. Outside the romance realm I am finding this advise really helpful as I return to school in a science field, where I feel out of my depth and my sister and fellow students mostly come from the "hard sciences" fields I have spent a lifetime eschewing. Hmmm, maybe I should have embraced that deer totem sooner, because in this "hard science" (do they have to keep saying that?? I have to work hard not to giggle. . .) world I am now entering, I am coming across as this warm and nurturing and out of place woman, and really I have no intention of turning myself off to fit in. I just wear my Flidais antlers and realize I can be a scientist my own way, my way.

In the dating and relationship realm this can work as well. Most the women and men I know want to be gentle and loving, want to be open and caring, and at the same time don't want to be endlessly hurt in patriarchal cycles of romance and unhealthy relationship patterns. Well Flidais antlers work here as well. On a date, struggling with a partner, all these areas are places where antlers of protection can stand with loving and gentleness. Flidais is a lovely model of that old "assertive not aggressive" feminist, with a bigger layer of wild woods, wild Celts, and wild sexuality.

If Flidais works for you, invite an antlered hind into your world today. Light a green or brown candle, watch for deer along the roads, support the Nature Conservancy or an area wildlife center. Place some deer images around your home, or in your car or bag. Sit and be still, find your inner deer, and grow some antlers on her and yourself.

If you find yourself drawn to woods and forests, just remember, it is Flidais calling.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Action: Tell Chevron Clean Up the Amazon!!

This is an Amnesty International USA call to action though I hope those of you gentle readers in other countries can participate. Sign the Petition HERE.

Texaco/Chevron dumped over 19 billion gallons of toxic waste into the Amazon region of Ecuador, and the health impact has been far reaching for Indigenous communities. Now Chevron wants to limit its clean-up operations. We can't let that happen. Multinational corporations are bankrupting local and national governments to clean up the messes the corporations made.

This isn't just a Gulf of Mexico or Amazon problem. In my own neighborhood, the creek at our neighborhood playground is so polluted the stink can be overwhelming. A chemical corporation in the 1950's contaminated the creek; since gone bankrupt, my local strapped township can't afford to pay to clean the creek. US government clean up funds are available, but our playground is not a top priority. Instead generations of children have grown up with the toxic sludge yards away from their swing sets, and yards away from neighborhood homes.

Corporations are not counting the health and clean up costs of their pollution, instead preferring to pass on their costs to us, taxpayers, parents, children. If companies know they can pollute, drag in profits, and then declare bankruptcy while running abroad with our dollars and tax incentives, - while leaving their messes behind - now that is Taxation without Representation. Corporate greed and irresponsibility are enemies of democracy - and balanced budgets.

Please take action now! Chevron, BP. . . it's all the same thing.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Women take back the smithy! (and plans for a $20 forge!)

I'm just returned from that huge Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) campfest, Pennsic. A camping trip with 11,000 of your best friends, hundreds of craftspeople, hundreds of musicians, an endless street fair, plus a re-enactment war between real live kingdoms of the world and their royalty! A gobsmacking time was had by all.

I always seek out the smiths in the SCA. Depending on the period they re-enact, the SCA smiths can teach you Viking smithing, Roman smithing, Norman or Japanese or Middle Eastern smithcraft. It is a joy to meet so many crafty and historic-minded people. This year I went to a wonderful beginner's workshop on smithing, with a Viking re-enactor. Master Bovi ran a class for absolute beginners, and despite my own forge experience I loved the class. Master Bovi has built ground fire Viking forges, but for this class he showed off his $20 forge.

Wonderful for me, more women than men turned up to try a hand in the smithy. And did this change dynamics at the forge! With 11,000 people, obviously all the men and women at Pennsic may not themselves be feminist, however the organization itself is not only in its nondiscrimination clause opposed to sexism, it is in its deepest history (the SCA was founded for Marion Zimmer Bradley's birthday some 40+ years ago) a place for women to defy gender roles. (Watch women in full suits of armor on the battlefield, and you know that women can do whatever they want!) So women in the smithy make sense, and I was delighted to see more women come explore blacksmithing.

And the numbers made a difference. All the men who came were nice, but they lapsed into the usual discussion of what they want from women, sigh, and instead of needing to snap my tongs evocatively close to tender male bits (and I am still not accomplished enuf with tongs to do this as evocatively as I should want), the ladies and I present all made eye contact, rolled said eyes, and told the men "enough," while proceeding to discuss the use of crochet on garb (garb being the SCA name for your olde medieval recreated costumes)

The result: a blacksmithing experience with fairly mainstream men that did not become uncomfortable for me or any other woman present. Numbers make a difference gentle readers, so I again encourage and implore Bridget-identified women to get out and learn smithing! It is sacred to Bridget, and it is totally fun!

And Master Bovi's forge is worthy of exploration. Concerned you can't smith due to costs? Well see Master Bovi's forge above, made from scrap parts by his own hands. Don't have an old forge blower as shown? Get a hair dryer. Don't have an anvil? Try a granite rock, or old railroad ties. Don't have old bits of metal in your garage or shed? Well hit an old scrapyard.

The important parts of the above forge are the concrete over the 2 by 4 structure, made with quickcrete, the firebricks which are cheap at any building store, and the pipes for the blower. Ask if anyone needs more pics to build their own forge. I will happily oblige.

However with this set up, I hope to be forging for Bridget this fall. I need to scrap together some parts, but look forward to hitting the flea market world. (Once you start smithing, scrap metal becomes far more interesting!) Once my own forge is built, I will post its pics!

And in the meantime, ladies, please, try your hand at the fire!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Multiracial, anti-racism, and hermeneutics

Time for a long post on delicate topics. Sitting here on my blog is the wonderful button for Caorann, Celts Against Oppression, Racism and Neo-Nazism. A wonderful group they are, and I encourage all to explore any anti-racism group, no matter their religious orientation. Anti-racism work is for all.

At the same time, I live in a decidedly multiracial world, a world still unimagined in progressive Christian and Pagan circles. In my nuclear family, we have 3 of us with African American heritage, two with First Nation heritage, two with Polynesian ancestry, 5 with Celtic/Northern European ancestry, and one with Chinese ancestry. In my extended biological family, add relatives with Asian ancestry. In my lesbigay and adoptive family, add Indian and more First Nation and African American. I am with people of every color and multiple ancestries every day - not forgetting my own African American and First Nation ancestry as well.

The reality of multiracial life is complex. My darker kids face more daily prejudice than my lighter kids. I have dreads, but don't face the discrimination my darker dreadlocked friends face. It is fun shopping with my family and friends, and watching store clerks figure out which of us is the most dangerous and needs the most watching. In a lighter skinned group, storekeepers might follow me. Or they might follow my darker children. The majority of shoplifters in America don't have dreads and aren't dark skinned, but that doesn't stop many shops from being prejudiced.

On the other hand, my lighter kids have been asked to leave monoracial support groups, as their Asian ancestry was too mixed. A local Chinese American youth orchestra refused to give my daughter any music, for example. The administrative head of the orchestra, herself with a mixed race child, apologized and explained that most of the families there looked down on kids with multiple ancestries. My daughter's then advanced Mandarin skills weren't enough to cover her hair and skin color. (For a few years after this, said daughter used to tell me, "Mom, I'll just let people think I'm white." She has moved on from this, with lots of support.)

And back to Caorann. The group does a fantastic job addressing racism and theft in the Pagan community (not that the Christian community doesn't need to listen as well), and Caorann is especially active protesting the theft of First Nation beliefs. Since every pagan magazine across America has ads for "Native American shaman will teach you secret Lakota healing ritual" types, it is especially important to look at cultural exploitation and Paganism. Caorann lists fabulous links, go explore them.

One link I want to submit to some hermeneutical discussion, however. Caorann links to the Celtic Reconstructionist Paganism movement, including it's long FAQ. And in many ways the FAQ is a wonderful document. However, Celtic Reconstructionist Pagans, like so many other groups, have not addressed multiracial families.

I copy a section of the FAQ here:

Can I be CR and still worship non-Celtic deities?

Yes, but with caveats.

Worshipping non-Celtic Deities is regarded as outside the purview of CR, and should in no way be considered a part of CR practice. While it is acceptable for people involved in the CR community to have non-CR practices in their personal lives, it should be kept firmly in mind that they are just that — non-CR practices. The cultures and rites of non-Celtic Deities should be respected, just as we expect Celtic cultures and Deities to be respected, and these rites should be kept separate from your CR practice. If you worship Deities of other cultures, separate altars should be maintained for Them, and offerings and other rites should be undertaken in the ways of that Deity’s culture.

If you feel a particular pull to Kali, for example, it is highly recommended that you worship Her through a local Hindu temple, or at least in traditional Hindu ways, rather than attempting to bring Kali into your CR practice. She is not a Celtic Goddess and would probably resent being treated as such. She already has Her own formulated and traditional rites and practices, Her own preferred offerings, and Her own holy days. To ignore those things in an attempt to fit Her into a CR practice would be doing violence to both CR and Hinduism.

The only times when it might be acceptable to worship non-Celtic Deities in a CR format would be in the cases where long-standing, historical interactions betwen related cultures created a hybrid cultural environment that traditionally included these Deities. For instance, in the cases of some Highland Scotland and coastal Irish communities that adopted some of the Norse Deities and customs. If the cultures had enough similarity, and it is clearly evident that these two cultures did meet and mingle and create an historical tradition, it is often considered acceptable to continue to include these long-standing syncretisms as part of that tradition.

Well, if you've been reading this website for awhile, ya know I've been talking of Kali and Maman Brigitte, as well as Bridget and the Morrigan. The Celtic Reconstructionist Pagans are questioning this, rightly trying to address racism, and wrongly forgetting multiracial people, families and communities.

Why shouldn't someone with African American and Irish ancestry (hmmm, like my daughter) worship Maman Brigitte, Yemaya, and Bridget - all at the same time? Why shouldn't I write of Kali and Bridget, when my own LGBT family includes men and women from India? Why can't my Christian friend, African American and First Nation, hold a shrine to Buffalo Woman and Oya? This question goes back to one of the most fundamental of human questions about self and family. It also harkens to that endless question we bisexual people get about "choosing sides," as if human race or human sexuality is a question of opposing "teams."

I have brought my kids up knowing that it is a violence should anyone ask them to divide against themselves or against their own family. My dear moon sister, African American, womanist, First Nation, proud LGBT ally, mom of an autistic child herself, has run into this "opposing teams" concept her whole life. Activist Blacks will ask her if she is first a Womanist or first an African American. We laugh together about this question (what does she do? Cut out her vagina to be Black? Erase her skin to be Womanist?) It is a violence to ask anyone to ignore their sexual identity OR their racial identity.

Likwise it is a violence to tell multiracial people to choose a team. My kids can identify anyway they so choose: as multiracial, Black, African American, Native American, Polynesian American, Chinese American, Asian American, multiethnic. . . whatever they choose. After all, it is their lives and their bodies.

And no religious tradition should divide anyone from their racial identities either. My youngest has recently decided she wants to be Muslim, Jewish, Christian and also worship Bridget. Well, that is an unusual path, but it reflects her friends and our family. No one has a right to tell her this path is wrong. What the Celtic Reconstructionist Pagans are ignoring is that, well guess what, some of us are inherently syncretic. (By the way, one of my oldest multiracial family friends is a mom in Aberystwyth, Wales, who has African Caribbean and Welsh children. The Celtic world is becoming more multiracial, too. . .)

So by all means, let's as Pagans and Christians and Hindus and Muslims and Buddhists - let's all of address and confront racism. Stealing from cultures who specifically ask us not to is itself racism - whether it's Pagan "Native American cleansing ceremonies" or Christian churches using Dream Catchers to teach vacation Bible school. Some non-Aboriginal person teaching "Aboriginal secrets to dreamtime" is suspicious, as well as some non-native Hawaiian teaching "Hawaiian rune secrets."

But for multiracial people to explore the cultural customs of all our ancestries is a reality of multiracial life. You can't call it syncretic racism, because instead multiple ancestries are our bones, our families, our lives.

Saturday, August 14, 2010


Morgan's Tarot Time again. I finished a tough final exam this week, and here is the card I pulled: From Here On In It's Nothing But a Downhill Run! Another wonderful card, a great one in a reading. Here is Morgan's interpretation:

It is a total coast from here to enlightenment and total liberation. Cut the strain and flow into what is. Buddha will watch over the situation.

I find it really important to note to clients that this card isn't the universe creating a wonderful result; usually this card appears after someone has worked their butt off to reach a new place (job, relationship, school, new child, new home. . .) It is great to affirm the work your client (OR YOU!) put in to get to this wonderful place.

In a world of endless striving to be better - more enlightened, more spiritual, better paid, better educated, healthier. . . whatever the struggle, this card is a reminder to relax into the stream of life.


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Which Animal Totem Best Suits You? QUIZ!

Ok, gentle readers, I get so many hits when I post these quizzes, so they are obviously enjoyed.

Here is one on animal totems, a subject I run into a lot in private tarot readings. Connecting with animals came to me, surprisingly really, when my youngest became the family animal lover. For her sake - at first, anyway - I kept ferrets and hedgehogs and hamsters and fish and turtles and lizards. And I found myself loving the animals, enjoying the care of them, and feeling deeply connected to every one of them - ok, except some of the guppies.

I have used Jamie Sams' Animal Tarot deck for decades, but caring for my own little mini-menagerie helped me see animal totems as far more important than I had.

so anyway, for today's quiz: What Animal Totem Best Suits You?

My answers: Dog/Wolf/Dragon, which are not at all totems I think of for myself, but hey, can't completely disagree as I seem to collect wolf spirits and well, I do have four dogs here at my feet. . .

Wanna know more about totems? Ask me!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

StoryPeople and artist Brian Andreas

I found another artist, and as far as I know NOT a Bridget's Fire blog reader, sniff, while picking my daughter up from band camp. Another mom and I were wandering about upper New York State, and found a craft shop, and then found these amazing prints by artist/poet Brian Andreas. We were both mesmerized as we looked at every single print and sculpture by the artist in that store.

I came home determined to find the artist, and to keep an eye out for his work. And, thank heaven, I did find him, on line, at the StoryPeople website. The poem and print I most admire is now down at the bottom of my blog:

There is no one who comes here that does not know this is a true map of the world, with you there in the center, making home for us all.

That poem/print is going up on my kitchen wall, since I have been the mom-at-home for 16 years now. But I also love the print for Bridget, the center and source at her holy fires in Ireland, in our hearts, in our art and hand work. Home and hearth ring as true maps of many a world, from the smallest child at a kitchen table to the Goddess in unending fires. When I first saw the print in that Rochester store, I was amazed that such a simple image and poem could capture so much wisdom.

Bridget as hearth Goddess/Saint has received much attention in the Pagan/Christian world. Lighting candles to Bridget is one of the simplest ways to pray/spellcast/puja to Her, and one of the most common. Lighting the fire of inspiration, lighting an intention or prayer, lighting a new spark for creation, all are simple acts to sacred things. Cleaning your hearth before lighting a candle (or cleaning your stove - that most modern of hearths), are more simple acts with resonance back to our earliest ancestors gathered about firepits getting ready to share a meal. Clean a stove, and light a candle, and connect with eons of humans who created the magic of fire, hearth, meals, home. Clean a stove; make the world.

I believe Pagans, however, have been more intentional about the connection between a small home space - your stove or hearth - and the map of the world. Whatever apartment, trailer, house, tent, caravan, we call home, it is in its contained self a mini-world that shapes all about it. That home, that mini-world, is central to human life. Homeless is one of the worst things a person can be. A good home for any of us, is one of life's greatest blessings. Cleaning your stove and lighting a candle - small little actions - are great when they further the building of the world of home.

So, with one simple print, I felt deeply connected to Brian Andreas and his art.

And it turns out you can get mini-poems from him in your email box every day. At his website, you can sign up for a mini Story each day, delivered to you - no purchase necessary. (Huzzah for artists/poets finding a way to bring art and poetry to people everywhere!) Thus a little mini inspiration can find its way to you, every single day!

Inspiration, art, home. Good connections to build.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Newly Published Book by a modern Bridget Worshiper (and Bridget's Fire Blog Reader!!!)

OKAY!!!!!!! This is WAY COOL!!!

Ceri Norman, who incorporates Bridget into her spirituality AND who reads Bridget's Fire (ok, I am just too tickled pink with myself), has a NEWLY PUBLISHED book out, available from Amazon: Celtic Maidens

Here is Ceri's description of her book:

"A powerful and supernatural tale of love, lives and obsession set against the dramatic scenery of the Welsh Mountains.
Celtic Maidens tells the story of Siân Derwyn whose life holds few pleasures except for her friends, her interest in local folklore and the standing stones until the day that Ryan Ackley arrives in her remote Welsh village.
Siân and Ryan are reincarnations of Celtic lovers who were slaughtered long ago. They are unaware that obsessive love, power struggles and murder have followed them down through the ages. Thwarted in ancient times, a murderous spirit has followed them through time and now, with them all reunited in the 21st century,
he plans to fulfil his malevolent vendetta.. And yes, I have snuck a few references to Brighid into the book under her Welsh name of St. Ffraid."

Now how cool is this? I love books about Wales (having lived in Aberystwyth and Lampeter, plus many months doing research in Carmarthen, and of course ubiquitous trips to the LGBT shrine of Llangollen), and I love references to Ffraid, the Bridget so often forgotten. So gentle readers, check out Ceri's book - and let everyone know whatcha think!

The reincarnation theme also strikes home with me - again through my Welsh ancestry.

My first trip to Wales, paid for with a grant from the Unitarian Universalist Association to study Welsh Unitarian history - and yup, I can say that in Welsh! - took me to West Wales. My mom and aunt, eager to know more of their Jones' ancestry, mailed me pages of family documents all with orders to find my Jones family ancestral home.

I remember the TrawsCambria bus, my first ever excursion into the Welsh country, winding away from Carmarthen to Aber. In a gorgeous June evening, I looked about the countryside near Llandysul, feeling as if I'd never seen a land so beautiful and heartrending. I hung out the bus window soaking up this landscape, feeling pulled to the ground, the land, the road, the hedgerows, the fields, the trees. My heart flew from my body on the A487!

I ended up tracing my family to county offices in Cardigan, Carmarthen and the national library in Aber, and finally found - and visited - my great grandmother's birthplace, the farm Bwlch y Fadfa, near, you guessed it, Llandysul. Somehow, I think I had memories of that gentle farming land of Ceredigion, which is not typically the famous and gobsmacking landscape of the Brecons or north Wales. Yet the Teifi river valley remains more dear to my heart than any Snowdonia.

I have also studied immersion Welsh, in west Wales, first at the University of Aberystwyth (helo Llinos! are you reading me today??), and then at St. David's University. Now any immersion language experience can scramble your brains, but for me, Welsh - and speaking for an entire month of Welsh at a time - meant finding pieces of my soul that I buried in English.

A book on reincarnation in Wales reflects so much of what I have lived. I have the book on order, and will share when I have read more.

And THANK YOU/DIOLCH YN FAWR to Ceri, for sharing her publishing. Writing is sacred to Bridget! What an honour to share Ceri's success on this blog to Her!