A Few Words about Authenticity

I don’t generally attend Neopagan festivals these days—been there, done that, used the T-shirt to mop up a variety of messes—but I made an exception a few months ago for ConVocation, a midsized event in the greater Detroit area. It was pleasant enough that I’m seriously considering going back, which is saying something given my general experience of the species. That said, just as every rose has its thorns and every blog its trolls, there was one decidedly awkward moment.

I hasten to say that the moment in question was not the fault of the event, or of the harried and genial crew of people who run it. Rather, it’s something that every public figure in my end of the alternative spirituality scene gets to deal with on a regular basis. As I think most of my readers know, I’m a Druid—specifically, an initiate of several of the traditions of the Druid Revival, the astonishing rebirth of Western nature spirituality that emerged among circles of eccentrics in 18th-century Britain and hasn’t slowed down yet—and for reasons we’ll get to presently, some members (though only some) of a more recently minted brand of Neopagan spirituality seem to find it necessary to throw hissy fits in public whenever the Druid Revival comes within shouting range.

Yes, that’s what happened this time. I was one of the guests of honor, and there was a meet-and-greet scheduled with me as the designated target.  To this event came a certain person who’s something of a big cheese in the Celtic Reconstructionist movement, the freshly manufactured brand of spirituality just mentioned—those of my readers who are familiar with Celtic Reconstructionism will know his name, but it could have been any of several dozen others, and those who don’t follow the vagaries of that particular sub-subset of the Neopagan scene have probably never heard of him, so we’ll leave him his anonymity here. Of course he had to launch into the standard canned rant about just how much more authentic than mine he thought his traditions were, and did so at sufficiently great and dreary length that most of the other attendees were looking around in evident embarrassment by the time he finally got off his hobby horse and let someone else talk.

Under other circumstances I’d simply have rolled my eyes and gone on to the next event.  As already noted, you can count on facing this sort of tirade on a routine basis if you’re into the Druid Revival traditions and show your face at Neopagan events. Still, reflecting on that overfamiliar experience over a pleasant glass of scotch later that evening, I realized that there are actually a couple of lessons worth learning from it all.

To get to those lessons, it’s going to be necessary to take a couple of backward glances, first across the history of American Neopaganism and then across the history of American culture itself. I apologize to any of my readers who find this uninteresting, but there it is; across the board, whether we’re talking about the gyrations of alternative religious subcultures or the great arcs by which civilizations rise and fall, you can’t understand the present without getting some sense of how we got here.

In the case of modern American Neopaganism, “how we got here” starts in the 1960s, when Wicca—the brand new “Old Religion” that Gerald Gardner patched together out of a grab-bag of modern occultism, mid-20th century pop culture, and remanufactured medieval lore—leapt across the Atlantic to provide a more fashionable alternative to the traditions of American occultism then in circulation. Central to the rhetoric of Wicca in its early missionary days was the claim that it really was the Old Religion, the original Neolithic goddess cult of Europe, driven underground by a series of patriarchal religions that culminated in Christianity but passed down intact over the centuries by an unbroken sequence of third-degree grannies. Those third-degree grannies really got around; for a good many years in the 1970s and 1980s, everyone who was anyone in the Neopagan scene had at least one.

The difficulty with these ebullient claims was that they didn’t happen to be true.  As Wicca matured, and a new generation of initiates started asking for hard evidence to back up the historical claims made by Gardner et al., it became increasingly clear that the evidence in question simply didn’t exist.  Most Wiccans responded sensibly enough by recognizing that a religion doesn’t have to be ancient to be true, and kept on worshipping their goddess anyway. Some, by contrast, clung to their traditional history in the teeth of the evidence, in much the same way as those fundamentalist Christians who keep insisting that Noah’s flood must have happened even though all the geological evidence says otherwise.

There was a third response, though. Some people in the Neopagan scene responded to the disproof of Wicca’s ancient origins by deciding that they were going to find the real Old Religion and practice that instead of Wicca. It was out of that reaction, by and large, that the Reconstructionist movement emerged over the last decades of the 20th century.

There was, it’s worth noting, nothing whatsoever wrong with such a response. Returning to ancient roots, real or imagined, is one of the most common themes in American popular religion, and it’s among the creative ironies of our cultural history that most of our really innovative movements got their start from some such attempt to go back to one primal source or another. Most of the communities that emerged out of the Reconstructionist movement, for that matter, found their feet relatively quickly and don’t count any more belligerent bullies among their members these days than any other alternative religious scene. Unfortunately for the Celtic Reconstructionists, they discovered that the notional territory they wanted to claim for their own was already occupied.

Yes, that’s where the Druid Revival comes into the picture. Back in the 18th century, when nobody but a few British eccentrics interested in nature spirituality had the least interest in what little was still known about the ancient Druids—the priests and scholars of the Celtic peoples of Ireland, Britain, and Gaul—those eccentrics borrowed the label and a handful of surviving traditions and ran with them. Now of course the founders of the Druid Revival knew even less about pre-Christian Celtic religions than scholars do nowadays; nor were they particularly fixated on authenticity. They were more interested in having something that worked.

Two other factors made this latter detail particularly objectionable to the Celtic Reconstructionists. The first was the legacy of that force of nature, Edward Williams aka Iolo Morganwg. It’s not going too far to call Iolo the Gerald Gardner of the Regency era. He claimed to have inherited authentic ancient Welsh bardic traditions passed down straight from the days of the ancient Druids, and his claims, like Gardner’s, were broadly accepted in the counterculture of his time. It’s worth noting, in the light of what came later, that Iolo was in fact a Welshman, not merely in the sense of having been born in Wales of Welsh parents (which he was) but also in the sense of growing up speaking Welsh from the cradle and being utterly fluent in traditional Welsh culture from earliest childhood (which he also was).

He also studied traditional Welsh poetry with several elderly poets who had as much right to the title of bard as anybody did in 18th-century Glamorganshire, and even those scholars who critique him most harshly admit that he knew medieval Welsh language and literature as well as anybody alive in his time. That was exactly the problem, because he used his extensive knowledge to pass off his own very good Welsh poetry as the work of important medieval Welsh poets such as Dafydd ap Gwilym. The 18th century was one of the great ages of literary forgery, and Iolo was right up there with the best.

In the 19th century, when Iolo’s legacy was incorporated into the burgeoning Druid Revival, none of this mattered in the least. The extent of Iolo’s forgeries had not yet even been guessed, and a great many people took his invented bardic traditions at face value, as part of the heritage of the ancient Druids. That was only a small part of why the Druid Revival adopted his work, though. To 19th century Druids, what mattered was that Iolo’s inventions worked—that they made great raw material for ceremonies, meditations, and spiritual practices that furthered the Revival’s goal of a living spirituality of nature. To a sizable subset of the Celtic Reconstructionists, though, none of this mattered; the Druid Revival was using material that they considered inadmissible, and that was that.

The second factor referenced above fed into that reaction. Until the late 20th century, it was pretty much de rigueur for any alternative spiritual tradition in the western world to claim some ancient and romantic origin. When Gerald Gardner backdated his newly coined religion of Wicca to the Neolithic, he was following a grand tradition; in those days everybody, but everybody, had some equivalent of Wicca’s third degree grannies to provide them with a backstory. Sometimes the granny-equivalents were taken literally by the founders and promoters of newly minted spiritual traditions, sometimes they were simply part of the PR, but you couldn’t do without them if you wanted to find an audience.

A personal reflection may be relevant here. When I became Grand Archdruid of the Ancient Order of Druids in America (AODA) in late 2003, one of the first things I urged on the other members of the Grand Grove—all of whom were much older than I was—was that we ‘fess up about the order’s real historical roots. They were horrified by the suggestion, not because they had any particular illusions about AODA’s origins, but because they believed that nobody would join it unless it had a putative ancient source. I got my way, and people joined anyway; times had changed—but I don’t think the older members were just shoveling smoke. As recently as the 1970s, they would have been right.

None of that mattered to a sizable subset of the Celtic Reconstructionists, though. As far as they were concerned, all  that mattered was that when they set out to revive ancient Celtic religious traditions, the territory was already occupied by a mob of horrible fake Druids, who had to be driven off or shouted down so that the Celtic Reconstructionists could take their place as the spokespersons for ancient Celtic spirituality. This a certain large fraction of them proceeded to do, or at least to attempt.

For a couple of decades, as a result, the sort of rant I observed in Detroit was something that pretty much everyone in the Druid Revival community had to put up with on a routine basis. Of course it was worst on the internet. When AODA launched its first-ever email list in 2004, we very quickly found that the mere fact of our online existence was enough to bring a steady stream of drive-by trolls, who wanted to join our list for the sole purpose of posting lengthy denunciations of us as horrible fake Druids. We ended up having to make our email list 100% moderated so that members of the order could carry on conversations about anything else. Elsewhere? A lot of people in the Druid Revival scene simply stayed off other Neopagan forums entirely because the bullying was so pervasive.

I’m glad to say that things have calmed down somewhat since then. Partly that’s because the Celtic Reconstructionist movement got over its early growing pains, and a fair number of its members seem to have realized that the mere existence of the Druid Revival doesn’t pose any threat to their adopted identity; partly, it’s because people began to notice that the campaign of denunciation had the effect such things usually do, and spurred a remarkable increase in membership among Druid Revival traditions; and partly, it’s because those Celtic Reconstructionists who chose to throw stones were doing so from within some remarkably fragile glass houses.

The awkward fact is that we know very, very little for certain about the religious beliefs and practices of the Celtic peoples before the arrival of Christianity. The ancient Druids themselves had a rule that none of their teachings were to be written down, and apparently kept it, since exactly nothing survives of their lore.  In terms of the broader popular traditions, what has survived is a very modest number of texts written down by Christians in the Middle Ages, some of which contain some material that may—scholars disagree about this—date back to pre-Christian times. Add to that the equivocal evidence of archeology and an assortment of folklore collected in various Celtic countries, and you’ve got the sum total of raw material the Celtic Reconstructionists had to work with.

Is that enough to build a valid spiritual path? You bet, and at least some of the Celtic Reconstructionists did so. The difficulty, though, is that they had to engage in a lot of creative interpretation, add their own personal experiences, and bring in material from other sources to do it. That’s not a problem if all you want is a meaningful spiritual path; it only becomes a problem if you also want to insist that your spiritual path is more authentic than someone else’s. That insistence became unavoidable, though, because of another factor over which neither the Celtic Reconstructionists nor anyone else had any control: the vagaries of a certain enduring theme in American pop culture—and this is where we leap from the history of American alternative spirituality to the history of American culture in general.

Beginning in colonial times, American culture has had a complex and problematic relationship with its more-or-less parent cultures in the Old World. Among intellectuals, that’s generally expressed itself in one of two ways. There have always been some intellectuals who focused on the unique elements of the American experience, and sought to distance themselves from the Old World, and others who went the other direction, and emphasized their participation in Old World cultures. Among the latter, it’s long been fashionable to take this to the extent of pretending not to be American, and adopting the manners and traditions of some older culture instead.

For a very long time—from colonial times, again, until the first years of the twentieth century—the usual target for such exercises among white American intellectuals was England. All through those years, you could find people in the United States who aped English cultural fashions, rhapsodized about Ye Olde Days when knights were allegedly bold, went to the Episcopal (that is, Anglican) Church, and put on their best imitation of an English accent whenever they thought they could get away with it. For a variety of reasons, though, Anglophilia lost its exclusive grip around the time of the First World War, and things got colorful from there, as an ever-expanding smorgasbord of faux identities became fashionable in the American intelligentsia.

Those of my readers who were around in the 1960s and 1970s will remember when the standard pose was Indian—at the time, this could mean either Hindu or Native American, take your pick. The avant-garde in those days produced a bumper crop of (mostly) young men in Nehru jackets who claimed to be mystics and brandished paperback copies of the Bhagavad-Gita and Autobiography of a Yogi, and another bumper crop of (mostly) young men who’d bought ersatz buckskins at the local Tandy Leather store and brandished paperback copies of Carlos Castaneda and Black Elk Speaks. I don’t happen to know what the Hindu-American community thought of all this, but I knew Native Americans then and thereafter who rolled their eyes in sour amusement and referred to the young men in question as registered members of the Wannabee tribe.

Cultural fashions change, though, and so do the targets for exercises of the sort just described. Over the last two decades, as a result, many American intellectuals who wanted to play at being something other than American chose the Celts instead. As a result, plenty of Irish people these days roll their eyes in sour amusement at the antics of what they call “plastic Paddies”—that is, Americans who didn’t grow up in Ireland, got any knowledge of the Irish language they may have out of books, and in most cases don’t have a single ancestor from Ireland, but ape the manners, customs, and culture of the Irish. The Scots and, to a lesser extent, the other Celtic nationalities have also had to put up with equivalent vagaries from our side of the pond. Again, the Celtic Reconstructionists weren’t responsible for any of this—but many of them were influenced by it, sometimes to an embarrassing degree.

That influence became as pervasive as it did for the same reason that the (mostly) young men just mentioned clutched copies of the books just mentioned:  the role of spirituality as a lifestyle accessory in modern American pop culture. The rise of the “plastic Paddies” was thus paralleled by the rise of “cardiac Celts,” people who “feel Celtic in their hearts,” and who adopted some version or other of Celtic spirituality in the mistaken notion that this somehow made them honorary Celts. Of course actual Celts—people who grew up in one of the six existing Celtic nations, participating in the cultures of their homelands and speaking a Celtic language—responded to this wholesale hijacking of their heritage with various degrees of annoyance and amusement. That’s where the fixation on authenticity came in; human nature being what it is, a good many of the “cardiac Celts” started giving themselves more-Celtic-than-thou airs as a way of shoring up their dubious claim to an assumed Celtic identity, and the Druid Revival was a comfortable and convenient target for such airs.

What all this made it hard for many people to grasp, at least for a while, is that authenticity doesn’t actually count for that much in a spiritual context. Every religion and every spiritual tradition changes significantly over time as the various currents of culture and history force it to respond to new conditions. Those Christians who like to sing “Give Me That Old Time Religion” would have a very rough time of it if they actually got their wish, and suddenly found themselves expected to follow the religious customs of Christians in the third century CE; in the same way, if the ancient Irish religion had survived to the present day—let’s say, as a result of the kind of forced political compromise that led to the survival of Shinto alongside Buddhism in Japan—the religion practiced in Dublin and Cork today would, to judge by historical equivalents, have next to nothing in common with the same religion as it was practiced at Tara in the second century CE.

As Richard De Mille pointed out some decades ago in a trenchant analysis, there’s an important difference between authenticity and validity. Authenticity is a matter of whether something has the source it claims to have; validity is a matter of whether it works. A spiritual tradition that fixates on authenticity at the expense of validity is usually slipping down the chute toward extinction, because people don’t generally practice a spiritual tradition because they want to feel more authentically (insert label here) than the next person; they practice it because they want results, and if they don’t get results, they’re normally going to head somewhere else in due time.

In a certain sense, Druidry—the spiritual tradition descended from the 18th-century Druid Revival—is a fine test case for De Mille’s assertion. Is it “authentic”? Depends on what you mean by that. It’s a wholly authentic example of early 21st century Western nature spirituality, and it descends—with a great many modifications, adaptations, and improvements, to be sure—from an equally authentic example of 18th century alternative religion. That’s all it is, and all it claims to be. You don’t become an honorary Celt by joining AODA, the Order of Bards Ovates and Druids (OBOD), or any of the other Druid Revival traditions active these days, but then I trust nobody in those orders thinks otherwise.

The point that needs making, I think, is that the Celtic Reconstructionists can’t actually claim anything else—well, except that they don’t have a continuous heritage of three centuries to draw on, as we do. You don’t become an honorary Celt by taking up a Celtic Reconstructionist path, either; you simply become a modern American, or whatever you happen to be, who draws spiritual sustenance from a recently minted modern spirituality that draws some of its raw material from the fragmentary legacies of ancient Celtic tradition, as interpreted by current academic opinion. That’s an entirely valid choice, and it’s unfortunate that some people who make that choice are sufficiently insecure about it that they feel they have to go around trying to bully people who’ve chosen otherwise.

All of this, however, raises some crucial points about the relationship between tradition and personal spiritual experience. We’ll open that can of worms next month.

*****************
In unrelated news, I’m delighted to report that my first two books on occultism, Paths of Wisdom and Circles of Power, have just been reprinted in new, elegant, and corrected editions by Aeon Books. These are manuals of classic Golden Dawn occult philosophy and ceremonial magic; Paths is a comprehensive guide to the Hermetic version of the Cabala, the foundation of Golden Dawn practice, and Circles is a hands-on manual of ceremonial magic. You can order those direct from the publisher, along with my other Aeon Press books, here.

113 Comments

  1. Oh, yes. If you want a good laugh on the subject and feel like plowing through Steve Stirling's umpteen Emberverse novels, check out his Wiccan character Lady Juniper's exasperation with the same sort of True Believers …. among her own followers. Not to mention the manufactured family histories of the great families in another, pseudo-Medieval, post-Change culture.

    It's interesting to note that the distinguished Norse History professor Dr. John Lindow, who was UNM's visiting scholar one of the years I took Viking Mythology, set himself to, apparently, tell the Asatruar some home truths out of their very lore. (I'm guessing about his motives, but if I'd been Asatru, I would have reacted like a flying saucer believer confronted with a learned astronomer.) He showed, frex, that Odin was a ratfink, among other things.

    Pat, Wiccan since 1990, who has been thoroughly trashed (or trolled) in Circle for pointing out that the PBS Burning Times video was scholarship on the level of conflating the reigns of Henry VII and Edward VIII and omitting everything in between. And ascribing the deeds of Charles I to Our Own Dear Crown Prince c. 2017. Etc. Historians howl with laughter between bouts of throwing up.

  2. Very interesting. There is a theme in US Evangelical Christian circles known as “The Early Church.” The idea being that, whatever The Early Church did, back in the era where a lot of the Apostles were still alive, and there were many people still alive who remembered meeting and hearing Jesus speak, was the right way to do things–And if only we could get back to what The Early Church did, all would be well. Celtic Reconstructionists sound like they are taking a play from this book.

    It might be possible to use Remote Viewing to get additional information on what the early pagans actually did; In his book “The Ultimate Time Machine…” Joseph McMoneagle describes remote viewing sessions in which he was able to observe the stone carving techniques of Egyptians who cut blocks for the pyramids. McMoneagle is retired now I believe, but used to do RV commercially. He might be able to refer to a reputable commercial remote viewer if anyone wants to pursue this angle–although the accuracy for verifiable remote viewing is only something like 30%.

    Here are some links;

    The book;
    https://www.amazon.com/Ultimate-Time-Machine-Perception-Predictions/dp/157174102X

    McMoneagle's website;
    http://www.mceagle.com/

    Even if someone could find more information about what they actually did back then, would it make a difference now? IMHO, probably no functional benefit to it.
    Sounds like serious practitioners are getting good results with what they are doing now. Given the limitations we all have on perception of the real realities of spiritual worlds, “It works for me” may be the best we can do. 🙂

  3. (Deborah Bender)

    To the best of my knowledge, the first American witchcraft tradition to be totally and proudly open about its modern origin was NROOGD, founded in 1967 in San Francisco. NROOGD never claimed witch ancestors or any direct precursors. An account written by one of the founding members was published a few years later in NROOGD's zine The Witches Trine under the title “How We Happened to Get the NROOGD Together.”

  4. Patricia, hmm! Most of the Asatruar I know of are entirely clear on the fact that Odin is not an exemplar of morality — it's almost entirely an Abrahamic thing, as far as I know, to insist that the gods must be moral, and even there Yahweh doesn't always play along with that. More generally, though, granted — there's a vast amount of nonsense in circulation about Pagan history, ranging from the absurd to the hilarious.

    Emmanuel, exactly. Nobody alive today is an ancient Celt; we have different cultures and different needs, and so of course we have different spiritualities.

    Deborah, that seems about right.

    Troy, oh, I wasn't going anywhere. The new blog site is rapidly approaching ready-to-roll status; stay tuned for announcements.

  5. @JMG
    Seeing all the changes the surviving ancient religions have been through, who knows what Ancient Celtic Druidry would be like today, had it too survived?

    This is all speculation of course, but… Perhaps it might not differ that much from the Druidry we practice today? After all, there is a reason the scraps of information that remained of the Ancient Druids were so eagerly taken up during the Druid Revival. If living spiritualities are shaped by the needs of their time, Ancient Druidry seems like a good candidate to have slowly become a more ecologically-focused religion…

    On that note, part of me feels that the Ancient druids never really disappeared, but were successfully assimilated in what later became Celtic Christianity.
    For the sake of argument, if Celtic Christianity is an acceptable (if partial) successor to Ancient Druidry, then the Druid Revival would have at least some claim of authenticity as well, having taken teachings from both the Anglican Church as well as Celtic Christianity.

    To me, that living lineage is more 'authentic' than any reconstruction of a static image of a religion in a singular point in time the ancient past.

    Eventually, 'authenticity' becomes such an arbitrary notion. Revival Druidry is a tradition going back hundreds of years. It is incredibly deep, varied, and alive and growing. It fulfills me spiritually, and that is all that matters to me.

  6. I wonder if the utter cultural poverty of late-20th century suburban life has anything to do with the flight from American identity. When I was much younger I became very interested in “Celtic” spirituality, most of my ancestors being Irish. I thought a out this recently, though, and I realized that in my youth I'd constructed a vision of an enchanted land of rolling green hills full of fairies and nature gods that I thought of as “Ireland,” but that all of that imagery really came from… my own home in western Pennsylvania. Sort of like Randolph Carter realizing that the city of his dreams that he thought lay beyond Unknown Kaddath was really his home town of Kingsport.

    I have noticed, though, that Europeans throw a lot of disdain at white Americans who identify with their Old World cultural roots that they would never think of in other cases. You won't find Europeans online abusing Asian-Americans for calling themselves Chinese or Japanese, for example, but you'll find plenty of examples of the same directed at Irish or Italians.

  7. Emmanuel:

    Even putting aside the fact that knowing what they did would do nobody any good today, using remote viewing (or any other technique) runs afoul of the entirely unjustified assumption that there is a single, real past. The rather weird teaching I'm affiliated with suggests that there are a large number of parallels, which split, merge, split, get tied in granny knots and similar. I have a dozen different channelings and remote viewings on Jesus, for example, and they agree on very little, especially when you remove the ones that seem to have stumbled into the Infancy Gospel of James or similar known texts. And these are by channels and remote viewers who have reasonably decent reputations for accuracy. Most of them say he was a magician and that he wasn't crucified, which at least is refreshingly different.

  8. I have something of a personal announcement which is somewhat relevant to parts of this essay. The debilitating chemical sensitivities that I mentioned on TADR have mostly gone away. Of course, I don't like exposure to toxic chemicals, but I have been finding (knock on wood) that I can mostly stride through it now.

    You mention the Wannabee tribe and “cardiac Celts”, as some of the identities that people who don't want to identify as Americans take on. For almost a decade I lived as a “woman” even though I'm biologically male. After leaving a thought policing SJW social milieu I almost immediately came to terms that I had been indoctrinated into something of a cult, that I am mostly and have always been a mostly gay man, and my self-deception was literally making me sick. Coming to terms with myself and my regrettable choices has been a source of immense healing.

    I've written more about my experiences on my blog: http://winterstrickster.blogspot.com/2017/04/notes-on-detransition.html

    After having met dozens if not hundreds of trans people I find myself doubting the validity of gender identity; what I've seen is people who are suffering from marked mental illness trying to scapegoat their problems and/or young people caught up in a fashionable identity. Of course there are huge debates and soul searching about authenticity, which leads credulous young folk such as myself to take dangerous cross-sex hormones and mutilate themselves. I don't believe that this is a healthy and balanced choice for anyone I've personally met, although I don't want to generalize too much from my own limited experiences. I've found my own participation in this zeitgeist to be profoundly harmful, and want to come clean to this community since it is something that I've discussed with approval here and on TADR before.

  9. Excellent post. The parts about people pretending to be part of other/older cultures/ethnicities made me think of this interview from a couple days ago with Rachel Dolezal (the white woman who gained notoriety a couple years ago resulting from her claiming to be black) – http://bit.ly/2oVdZeu
    I think the interview does an good job of pointing out the problematic nature of her claimed identity.

    I have a question about the new edition of Circles of Power: is there any difference between that and the edition that was put out by Salamander & Sons a couple years back?

  10. @ Brigyn

    I think you are correct about assimilation. My guess is that as the institutions that supported iron age Druids died out, many found a new home in the Celtic Christian church as monks. If one was inclined to a life of learning, monasteries were really the only place to go at the time. Support for some cultural continuity are the nature themed prayers and traditions of that brand of Christianity. It may not really be Druidry as such but more a continuation of a nature centred culture and worldview the old Druids inhabited and sustained. Just a guess though.

  11. Brigyn, good! To judge by examples of religions that have survived encounters with imported prophetic faiths — I'm thinking here especially of Shinto and the indigenous Tibetan religion Bon — it's tolerably likely that if the traditions of the ancient Druids had survived through the last two thousand years, they might well have ended up looking like the traditions of the Druid Revival. The one thing we can be sure of is that they would have changed a great deal.

    Rat, the thing is, the same flight from Americanity was going on full bore more than two centuries ago; your imaginary land of rolling green hills full of leprechauns had countless equivalents in the imaginary Englands of Anglophile American intellectuals in the colonial and Federal eras. Thus I don't think it's suburbia's doing — the phenomena was around long before suburbs.

    Violet, I'm glad you're doing better! As for the other — wow. Okay, fair enough; I know a certain number of trans people (my Aunt Becky used to be my Uncle Paul, for example) but, to be frank, not well enough to judge one way or the other, and as a moderate Burkean conservative my reaction has always been that the choices people make about personal issues aren't really my business anyway. That said, thanks for the insight!

    Charles, thank you. With regard to Circles of Power, the new edition has a few additional corrections but it's fairly similar to the second edition. Were you actually able to get a copy of the latter? Most people who ordered one never did.

  12. I totally understand how ridiculous and destructive these esoteric disputes between small groups can become. I'm going to call it OSODD for Obscure Small Order Discord Disorder. Oh sod!

    Is there a resource that you can recommend for assisting in picking out a Tarot card deck? As a textile and graphic designer I'm really attracted to that Rider-Waite-Smith deck. I'm a bit reluctant to decide to use it simply because I like to look at it, although that would be enough if it were any number of other items. Is there another good reason? I admit that it's the only one that I'm even a little familiar with.

    For the record, I have been known to choose vintage items for my home when a plainer one of recent manufacture one would have worked as well or better. But sometimes what beauty brings to the use of an item IS really important.

  13. @Violet,

    Thank you for your honesty.

    In Ontario, our medical insurance pays for sex change operations. It has concerned me that, though well intentioned, these operations were extreme procedures that might not really be addressing the root issue. It seemed particularly ill advised for the young given their sense of self is certainly not yet very fixed.

    But who would dare voice a contrary opinion? To do so invites strong criticism and accusations of bad intent. It is perceived as a personal attack versus part of just a search for truth.

    Not having the basis to have as informed opinion as you do, one just has to let it go and wish everyone the best. If you are correct, and I strongly suspect you are, studies years from now will bear it out. By that time enormous damage will be done.

    What I think is at the base of the medical response to this issue is a very poorly formed metaphysic (postmodernism specifically). Its amazing what harm bad philosophy can do.

    Please accept my best wishes for you. If you don't mind my saying, after my 56 years on the planet, I don't think I've seen many people get as far in their self reflection as you just demonstrated. It bodes very well for you.

  14. JMG,

    The questions that next comes to mind are, “What makes a religion valid?” and “What makes a religion yield good results?”

    I'd hazard a guess for an answer to the first question is that, “The religion helps create integrated, healthy, happy people.”

    The second question is tougher.

  15. John Roth–
    Wow! Multiple pasts that converge to a present-as-we-know-it? I never considered that as a possibility before. Does that theory have a name? It sounds interesting. I do think there is some evidence of feedback from what we perceive as “future” to what we perceive as “past.”
    I agree that accurate remote viewing of Jesus or other well-known historical figures is going to be very difficult. It's one thing to RV a foreign secret missile silo, for example–little bias, and what you see _could_ be verified sometime by a spy with a camera– But just about everyone has a notion about what Jesus or Mohamed, etc, should have been doing. Even if there are no multiple pasts, the data you get are likely to be colored by expectations.
    @Violet–wishing you well! May you find peace.

  16. (Deborah Bender)

    A Rat in the Walls, a friend of mine remarked that the woods and hills of the northeastern states that were settled by Europeans centuries ago have an old feel that is different from western states, in part because a lot of the fairies and land spirits came over the water with the settlers and inhabit those lands.

    If you had said that white *Americans* don't object to Asian Americans calling themselves Chinese, Japanese, Korean or what have you, I would have said that those white people are racists who don't believe people of Asian descent are real Americans even if they are third generation natives of this country. They will always really be Chinese, Japanese or whatever because of the shape of their eyes. Jeff Sessions who is the head of the Department of Justice expressed this sentiment in a veiled way today about Hawaiians. I don't know whether Europeans think that.

  17. Violet, there is a substantial sorrow upon me to hear that's how it went for you. I would never deny it happens sometimes and its a tragedy every time it happens.

    But I've witnessed the bitterness of male friends who feel female but don't even speculate about transition because they're not passable enough. I totally agree with them likely the cost of transition would be even higher than the cost of not transitioning.

    But their bitterness doesn't seem to be frustration at some implanted fantasy being impossible. I've seen how that sort of process play out with how people in the furry community end up “kinky by osmosis”. Then drift away from it whether they end up trying it out in a relationship, or never end up in relationship at all.

    It might take a decade or so but hopeless fantasies that come from peer pressure or fads don't last the way I've seen the bitterness from not being able to transition last.

    (Though, not every last person with those feelings remains hopelessly bitter. I know one exception, personally.n=20 or so)

    When I first started transition, I was very very concerned at the prospect of misattributing my distress. And this concern deepened after the first two psychs I saw said the same thing “We believe it's vastly more likely your autism means this is just an eccentric notion of yours that you must be prevented from taking irreversible steps regarding”.

    But its worth noting the reason one of those psychs changed her mind (and she's the head of the transgender service program in my province) is because of a recent book where someone interviewed the earliest transwomen.

    Every single one of them admitted they'd tailored the biographies they gave to the psychs to tell the psychs what they wanted to hear. So the psychs would advocate for hormones and surgery. So some of the main data that was the basis for the Standards of Care for gender dysphoria was absolutely inaccurate. Yet, those women had gone on to have successful careers and reasonably happy lives.

    The psych in my province along with a great many of her colleagues threw up her hands and admitted “Okay, since we don't know what causes this, but we do know that treating people in this fashion very reliably improves their lives, we'll just take it as proof transition is a good idea if someone's life doesn't get markedly worse because of living as the gender they're claiming. Its not a perfect safeguard but it seems to do more good than harm.”

    It would be ten years before this happened. So during those initial years, I was very nervous. Since I proceeded with transition despite poverty and the reaction from the first two psychs. I did think to myself frequently “I'm sitting in the Siege Perilous. If I'm lying to myself, I'm going to so regret this later.”

    But around the four year mark I started accepting “Well, if I'm wrong, I'm wrong. I'll pay the price when it comes due.”

    It helped that my mentor at the time was the head by acclaim at the gamer house I lived in. We were a fractious lot but there were two things we strongly agreed on: Buffy the Vampire Slayer was awesome. And Dwayne (my mentor) was the most all around talented and definitely the most socially deft and insightful person any of us had ever met.

    And this judgment was shared by his superiors at work as he steadily got promoted despite growing up on the wrong side of the tracks and having no connections. (And this was a government job: fighting forest fires during the summer season. He eventually got a full time position in the Forestry ministry.)

  18. His opinion was that I became a much happier person after transition. That particularly after taking hormones and blockers, everything from the way I laughed to my body language changed for the better.

    I had a job at a call center about that time and someone I met years before, pre transition who worked there said “I remember you. But I thought you were a lot shorter.” “I stand up a lot straighter these days, I'm told.”)

    And then almost eight years in, I discovered Judaism. And I wanted to convert to strict Orthodoxy. And it turned out the only way that could ever be possible was if I stopped transition and identified as male. Orthodox Judaism does not accept the validity of transgender and does not even have a theoretical theology to permit it to and remain Orthodox.

    All along I'd occasionally wondered if I was doing transition just to create the illusion of a meaningful, purposeful change in my life. There were few costs for me to pay because of my extreme alienation and personal factors.

    I'd wondered if I'd stick with it if the costs became emotionally dire or if something I wanted more raised the opportunity cost steeply.

    Here I was faced with that exact situation.

    And I decided tentatively “Maybe I am. God doesn't demand this, but the prospect of being closer to God by doing this means that much to me. Not because I will be punished if I don't, but because that closeness is a primal, core need. And I can't imagine any other way of getting closer except this.”

    So I decided to detransition. I remember feeling shaky and kind of nauseous. I went to the store to get some junk food to bury my unhappiness and let the choice settle

    Five minutes later I see my shadow on the ground as I'm walking through a park en route. The angle of the sun made my silhouette markedly more feminine looking than I am. And I just felt this spiritual (I don't use the word carelessly) conviction overwhelm me: “NO! This is me. God doesn't demand I give it up. I will be extremely sad if I give this up. I'm not doing this. I'll just have to accept that this is as close to God as I can get.”

    That was nine years ago. Since then, I've never regretted transition or had a doubt about it. Even when it turned out I had to stop testosterone blockers (and that I'd cut years off my life from wear and tear on my kidneys as a result.) (I have super high testosterone levels and the level of blockers I needed put too much diuretic pressure on my kidneys for too long.)

    (I'm on the wait list for castration and I'm so looking forward to it. I remember how my emotions didn't feel muffled while I was on blockers.)

    When I told Dwayne about this not long after, he had a very vehement opinion “Do not ever think of doing this again, please. I know you better than almost anyone.” (He was basically my second father despite being only a couple years older. He taught me so many social skills I so badly needed, very patiently.) “Trust me: I doubt you would survive detransitioning. Please trust your intuition more. I know it's hard for you, but do it anyway.”

    (And I've only had a handful of experiences I'd call “spiritual” to the degree that one was. Six in total. And that one was only the second. And none happened before I'd become mostly at peace with transition. I'd never had a hint of any spiritual experiences pre transition.)

  19. I'm sorry to go on at such length but this is relevant to the ultimate topic:
    being honest when the pressure is on and major changes are stressful and there's a huge temptation to get stuck in the sunk cost fallacy…always remember you could be wrong.

    Even at this late stage, if I had a series of spiritual experiences demonstrating I was wrong, I'd revisit my choice about transition. But it would take some epic experiences.

    I've received healing from native spirits despite the fact the tribe the medicine man I've gone to does not believe trans as modern culture does it is a real thing. They believe in something approximating “non binary” but it stresses the birth gender as foremost. (at least in this group of natives. Even though the historical evidence is ambiguous and they have no reliable lore before this generation because of almost dying out.)

    So I'd be really surprised to get late breaking data that reversed my judgment.

    But it might.

    I stopped believing in God a year after the Experience above. I've recently decided I don't care about the existence or non existence of God and started trying to do Judaism again as an idiosyncratic solitary path without conversion. I do what they do except where they do things specifically for “in tribe only”.

    Their Rabbis say the main concerns over non Jews saying their prayers was people pretending to be Jewish to get help from Jews or to spy on them. I'm doing neither, so I think my behaviour is acceptable.

    I regularly get sensations during prayer as if I'm being given acupuncture. And on points on the body exactly matching where needles would go, on points appropriate to the emotions during those words in the prayers.

    When I pray regularly, my physical and emotional health is better. I feel no guilt whenever I don't, because for me, Judaism has been the solution to Catholic guilt. But I am well aware as most Jews experience Judaism growing up, guilt is a huge thing.

    Like this post says, authenticity can become a prize, a status symbol and psychodrama divorced from its practical, tangible effects.

    This is related to how it is so tempting in general to buy into an opinion and then ignore all evidence to the contrary. That ego gets more invested in being right than in admitting how things are actually working out.

    I don't always meet the challenge. I think it's very uncommon anyone is extremely adept at hurdling this obstacle. But I've gotten over it on a couple of big things. And I wouldn't have done it if I'd accepted other peoples theories grounded in their experience as being automatically and totally predictive of mine.

    Which is why I'm not saying “oh, and so Violet's just an outlier. Disregard his opinion.” I'm just taking issue that we don't know what's what here. This is the professional consensus now and that's been my experience, too.

    Gender transition doesn't work out every time. Because it doesn't, everyone who undertakes it should be very cautious But it does work out some of the time. And a big part of doing this well is avoiding the temptation to regard the experience as a way to appropriate someone else authenticity to address a personal insecurity.

    (And becoming beguiled and lost in the effort to elaborate on and amplify that authenticity instead of actually doing things to address the real needs driving them.)

    There are times being trans is like being a “Cardiac Celt”, times its like discovering a hidden heritage, and times it's like being a Jewish fellow traveler like me. (And many other things too I'm sure.)

    As JMG says, the glass we're peering out through makes an image more characterized by dirt than light. We can't help seeking and using generalizations (including this one!) so being careful is always going to be an ultimately spiritual endeavor and learning to listen past our egos is an ongoing challenge.

  20. Hi JMG,

    If it means anything to you I sort of feel a bit sorry for those Celtic reconstructionist people and their brittle ways. I salute your stoicism at having to endure such a pointless tirade because to my mind the person in question would have been an embarrassment to everyone. An outburst like that is a form of self-defeating behaviour. But that does not make it a pleasant experience to have. If he felt so Celtic, in your place, I may well have decided on the spur of the moment to test his true Celtic-ness by seeing whether he could withstand a proper Glasgow kiss!

    On the other hand, it speaks volumes about your own power and status that the perpetrator felt that you were a worthy target for his own insecurities.

    People believe such strange things (take the beliefs about progress for example!) that it is little wonder that people feel the need to double down on their beliefs. It is always about them, even if it is directed at you (which is an unfortunate thing for you to experience). I once had someone vehemently spit at me: “We can't all live like you do!” And I always took that to mean that they knew that their own life choices were ruining the biosphere and yet they resented me for trying something different and less destructive because it brought their own decisions into question. Of course it doesn't help that they were right too in their assertion, because in a couple of centuries all that will be left will be the subsistence farmers – and I don't make that particular claim about my own life! ;-)!

    I'm Australian with all of the baggage that that brings and I don't claim to be anything else… It would be very strange if I did.

    I hope that you and Sara are enjoying your time out and away from the interweb, and I really hope people aren't bombarding you with emails…

    Cheers and warm regards,

    Chris

  21. Hi JMG,

    Forgot to mention that I listened to the recent CFPUP Summit which you attended and I enjoyed the discussion. You raised a point which was dismissed or largely ignored and I just wanted to say that I agree with your point. The point in question that you raised was that it is easier to live – for example – in the way that I do if you have access to resources. I was considering your thoughtful comment recently as I had to shell out $6k for a new wood heater. That is no small amount for me, but at this stage of things I can field the cost. I'm not necessarily sanguine that such an outcome is guaranteed in the future.

    Cheers

    Chris

  22. Once again I am disappointed to find another even-tempered, honest, and illuminating response where most people would have been itching for the opportunity to tell the heckler where to stick it. This begs the question if the brand of Magic Sky People you are selling has some valuable personal development potential in it after all?

    My failed attempts at humor aside, the phenomenon of Culture Vultures in America could probably be attributed to the fact that consumerism makes a lousy replacement for the traditional connections that our species craves. In a society that celebrates coming of age with a high school diploma and a car, kids seek to recreate ancient torture and self mutilation rituals that will grant them admission into something really worth belonging to. If any idiot with enough money can buy their way in, after all, then any benefits are purely transactional, temporary, and limited.

    If there's any consolation to the cultures targeted for extermination that managed to hold on to some of their roots up to this point, it's that they have access to the kind of wealth that becomes even more precious when money loses it's value. Sadly it looks like many of us Westerners will be following the example of the Greenland Vikings who spent too much time fighting the Inuit when they should have been taking notes.

  23. Exactly the reasons why I don't generally claim to be anything. If someone is interested I might tell them some or even a lot, and of the highly eclectic sources it all comes from. I'll even use some general descriptive terms and categories. Overall though, it works for me, and it doesn't appear to need a name.

    On a side note, we got to have the rare experience four weeks ago of being inside a tornado… the trees defended the house, so the house is fine (damage repaired within a fortnight), but the trees alas are not.

  24. “Authenticity is a matter of whether something has the source it claims to have; validity is a matter of whether it works.” ‘fess up about the order’s real historical roots’

    Real novelty seems to be rare. Very little new under the sun. Perhaps recognizing the actual historical sources of a practice or systematization might actually facilitate finding and applying things “that work”. This in a world where to a great extent each generation of wizards and mages have to reinvent the wheel for themselves, discovering what from the vast, mostly forgotten heritage “works” in this time and place – making it their own.

  25. I somehow did get a copy of the second edition; I guess I lucked out!
    I'll be ordering the Aeon Press version, along with Paths of Wisdom, for the public library I work for though.

  26. On phone, but: love & recommend Emberverse, especially later ones. (Female love interest in the first two cycles was awful, but there's nobody in G3 I want to slap! Yay!)

    Know trans folks for whom transitioning is the best way to live psychologically healthy lives, but nothing's for everyone, and if another way works better for you, great.

    Authenticity as a concept just gets on my nerves, whether it's the “Burning Times” idiots, the Guy Who Liked The Band Before It Was Cool, or the jerk who thinks etiquette and social standards are “fake” so asking how she's doing gets a half-hour ballad of woe.

    If something works for people, where it comes from is really just a matter of academic interest.

    (There was an obnoxious “oh Easter is a corruption of Ishtar you silly Christians” FB meme going around lately, and as a pagan I was like…stop making the rest of us feel bad, plus our religion as commonly practiced has as much to do with Victorians wanting naked ladies and BDSM fun times as historical whatever, so shut up and also shut up.)

  27. Whenever silliness and rage are putting in a team effort, the underlying pattern always appears to be some kind of herculean struggle to sustain an artificially created sense of identity…

  28. Roberta, I'd make two points about choosing a Tarot deck. The first is that it doesn't matter that much which one you choose — esthetics aside, a deck is a deck is a deck. The second is that if you like to look at a particular deck, that's probably a good one to choose, because you're going to spend a lot of time looking at it in the process of learning how to use it. Ergo, by all means pick up the deck you enjoy!

    Agent, good! Validity is always a judgment call, relevant to some specific set of values. To my mind, one of the reasons there are so many religions is that there's no one goal toward which every religious person is moving, or for that matter should be moving; nor is there just one set of practices or teachings that will get them there. The world is far more intricate than that.

    Cherokee, thank you. It didn't require any particular exercise of Stoicism, just boredom tempered by the realization that the incident would make a good blog post!

    Beetleswamp, funny. Actually, it's because we worship magic earth fairies rather than magic sky fairies, you know…

    Bill, glad you and your house made it through intact! As for the label, it kind of came with the tradition — and it's entertaining to watch people react to it.

    Brother G., certainly 'fessing up to the actual origins of a tradition makes it a lot easier to chase down misplaced material from that tradition — instead of barking up the long-dead stump of pre-Christian Celtic lore, I was able to focus on the cultural and intellectual milieu surrounding the Druid Revival of the 18th and 19th centuries, and find all kinds of interesting and useful things that hadn't gotten handed down to the present tradition.

    Charles, you're one of the few — congratulations. (And thank you.)

  29. @ JMG, you're welcome!

    @ Agent Provocateur, Thank you for your blessing. I think that postmodernism is key – I believe that I acted as something as a priestess of postmodernism while I was living as a trans woman. Nature is however notoriously conservative, and I think that radical medical interventions are much more likely to cause long term harm. Of course you're right that time will ultimately tell.

    @ Emmanuel Goldstein, thanks for the kind words.

    @ Judy, There are important questions of etiology that I believe are largely unexplored. I believe that my trans was planted by postmodernism, and grew in the fertile soil of disassociation, narcissism and self harm. My sense is that is the most common narrative, but I freely admit that I have a limited perspective and will inevitably get things wrong. That being said, my limited perspective stands and I believe that as a social movement transgenderism has destructive and cult like features, and my personal experience is that it is inherently harmful. Nonetheless, I'm glad that you are happy with your choices and wish you the best.

  30. As a European, this reminds me of something I've observed in the States. It was hard for me to believe at first, because it's so different from my own experience. But the evidence it's too obvious to ignore. This is it: The average North American has no idea about how to live in his/her own land. California is a poster child of this that makes a lot of sense to me, but I have reason to think it's the same everywhere. California has a Mediterranean climate. All the peoples living around the Mediterranean know a number of facts of life, relating to climate, droughts, etc. Clearly, the average Californian doesn't know them. I could give many examples.

    I suspect many North Americans are dimly aware of this, and some try to compensate by adopting some sort of “old” identity. Of course, it doesn't help in the least. Adopting some kind of “old” identity from some set of histories and myths won't help you to learn to live in your own land, unless your own land looks a lot like the old land you are adopting. And, let's face it, some areas of the States look similar to some areas of Europe, but some areas of the States are just something else that don't look a lot like any place in Europe. So adopting an old European identity is unlikely to help you. Adopting a Native American identity just might, if the tribe managed to hold on to enough knowledge… and from what I hear about Native American reservations, only a few tribes have managed that.

    This, of course, doesn't have much to do with following a spiritual path in the States, because spirituality in the States is mostly idealistic i.e. deals a lot with ideas and not too much with the facts of life in this particular corner of the world. Which is fine as things go. In Europe, spirituality is often a bit more intertwined with the particular history and facts of a particular country, but it isn't necessary to get very hung up on this. After all, the best bits of spirituality are the universal ones.

    Still, I do feel that North Americans simply lack a kind of wisdom that is taken for granted in Europe. If you live, say, in a big island next to continental Europe, you know, because you've been told since your earliest years at school, that certain things might happen here, and certain things might happen in continental Europe, and certain things simply never happen here. But if you live in the States, you just don't know what is possible in your country and what isn't. And that cannot be incorporated in any way in your spiritual path, because you simply don't know.

  31. One thing that I continue to appreciate about OBOD is that it takes something of a third option that neither the older Druid orders, nor the Celtic Reconstructionists took, in acknowledging and incorporating new information about the ancient Celts and Celtic mythology where it fit, without rejecting the order's roots, which means that the coursework makes way for reflections on archaeology, and incorporates the medieval myths and legends right alongside the Druid Revival lore. The older lore and occasional new discoveries that point towards how and where certain deities were honored, how certain rites of passage were treated, etcetera tends to be potent stuff that I don't think Druids necessarily have to ignore as part of a completely separate tradition since they are ultimately rooted in the same sources people like Morganwg were drawing from. If I recall, that was one of the tensions that led to the schism that created OBOD, with Nichols wanting to look to some of the wonderful Celtic mythology and lore that had been introduced to the public eye over the 19th and early 20th century and wanting to incorporate it into the way modern Druids operated in order to try to give it slightly deeper roots. I do think that there is some place for a balance between drawing on new information as it comes while still holding to tradition.

    The weird thing with ADF of course is that they aren't technically a reconstructionist organization, they're Neo-druid and constitute an offshoot of the branch of Druidry that originated with RDNA, and were trying to take that approach and work it into a proper Druid religion rooted in Indo-European myth with less of a college fraternity approach, though they sometimes get referred to as liberal reconstructionist in their approach. One of the really interesting things that's happening in ADF right now is that the scholarship they built much of their tradition and ritual from has now been sufficiently outdated that they’re having to treat certain books on the reading list as foundational to the tradition rather than factually accurate and are getting their own reconstructionist trolls since they’ve now got their own traditions they’re clinging to. I think Corrigan's thing is a bit more generational than organizational, and is more rooted in his own quirks of personality than anything. At this point, the main difference between ADF and the Druid Revival traditions is that the Druid Revival traditions have started to settle into a role of esotericism and occultism with ADF taking on a more exoteric hearth spirituality stance. And ADF as an organization at this point has grown up enough that the antics and ideas of various authors and former Archdruids such as Corrigan don't tend to have much sway over how everyone else functions.

    What's going to be really amusing is watching the latest batch of Celtic Reconstructionists facing an identity crisis in another decade or two once the things they base what they're currently doing on get left behind by the latest in academic fashion and a new batch is trolling them. It does seem though, that navigating the tension between the academy and the tradition is a part of the challenge of growing up as a spiritual movement that looks to the past for its inspiration in the modern world, some will grow roots and become vibrant established traditions in their own right, others, as you discussed above will die off. Even the ones that die off though, may wind up producing worthwhile material before they do. The one thing I respect even the most annoying of CRs for is a tendency to be able to produce good material for building hearth-based home devotional routines and incorporating Celtic spirituality into daily home and family life, and some of those ideas may wind up outlasting the movements that gave birth to them.

  32. @Violet

    I regard myself as mildly trans, for the simple reason that I don’t fit in with typical male culture. There was a time, long ago, when I had considered a sex change if I’d had the guts, but never did. If the name “Virginia Prince” and the campaign to remove laws against cross-dressing mean anything to you, that will tell you how long ago it was.

    I agree; the current trans movement and non-gender-binary movement is definitely a social cult. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t people who don’t fit into the standard male-female dichotomy, because there are: we have a number in our UU congregation as well as a number in our UU neo-pagan group. The “personal pronoun” thing and using “singular they” as an epicene pronoun is part of it. (“Singular they” itself has been standard English as far back as Chaucer, but it was never used as an epicene pronoun until recently.)

    Good luck and congratulations on getting back on your emotional feet.

    @Emmanuel Goldstein

    That’s an integral part of both the Seth Material and the Michael Teaching, although most students of either one that I’m aware of haven’t assimilated all the implications. (I’m not sure I have either.)

    One of the sayings in certain parts of the New Age scene is that “time does not exist.” That’s both an exaggeration and gross oversimplification, but I do know of people who are in communication with one of their “future” lifetimes, as well as lifetimes in different parallels.

    Most people, of course, would not touch this material with a barge-pole, and I don’t blame them a bit. The intention of living a lifetime here on the Physical Plane is to experience life here on the Physical Plane, and looking behind the screen to see the wizard isn’t part of it.

    As far as validating this? I’ve run across some healing modalities that seem to manipulate someone’s personal history. Not to mention the Mandela Effect. Of course, this can all be explained away be a sufficiently well-motivate hard-core materialist.

  33. JMG,

    Hope you and Sara are doing well.

    I have a question similar to Charles'. I own a first edition of Paths to Wisdom. While I have read it a few times, I am hoping to soon start actively pathworking and meditating through the tree of life son. Wondering how much the third edition differs from the first. I've already suggested that my library purchase the new version, but wondering if it would behoove me to do so as well.

    Thanks,

    Pierre

  34. John Michael: Good to see that the kind of post-plus-discussion for which I would visit TADR when it was active is still happening here. I look forward to your new manifestation when its ripe. Violet: Sympathy for, and solidarity with, your struggles. Keep sluggin' cousin! 🙂 Lwc dda i bawb yma! (Now how's that for authentic…:)

  35. As someone who has been involved in what has become known as “Celtic Reconstructionism” since the very early days of it, I'm always sad to hear of an incident like the one you recount here. It's going to be something that happens, because people who get involved are frequently searching for an authentic life, and they are frequently searching for an identity that is not as culpable in Empire and its horrors. On my end, I see it manifest more as an obsession with DNA tests and ancestry websites, something that I try to discourage because it serves as a distraction from, and frequently ends up as a replacement for, legitimate spirituality (not to mention the fact that, even if one were to accept that it has any spiritual value, as some wrongly claim, commercial DNA testing has a very poor accuracy rate; in some cases natural siblings have found themselves given drastically differing results from the same testing company). I wish that I could say that it was a minority in both cases, but I accept that there are a lot of them. In some part, I am personally culpable for the attitude you've encountered, in fact. Back in the early '90s, when we were starting to make our voices heard in the greater Pagan/polytheist/whatever conversation, it was difficult to have the pagan reconstructionist conversation at all, as any time (even in our own fora!) we would begin, people who were disinterested in those questions would hedge in and attempt to take over our conversations because they either thought that they already knew the answers to the questions we were asking despite the fact that no one other than a few of us at the time had any idea what questions we were asking, or else that the questions we were asking weren't interesting to them so they decided to change the conversation. It was a conundrum: we couldn't ask the questions because we didn't already have the answers so that we could politely shunt such people to the side, and we couldn't figure out the answers because we weren't able to ask the questions. Some of us, myself among them, chose therefore to stop being polite in our attempts to have those conversations, and to aggressively halt the disruptions (such as my series of replies to seven of those disruptive people that became known as the “Seven-part Shut The F— Up”). It worked in the sense that we were able to chase off people who were disinterested and disruptive (or, in a couple of cases, impress on them the project we were attempting), but it left a tone that has echoes today, when we no longer have any need for it. (cont.)

  36. That said, I'd say that from the responses you get here, several of your readers have developed a misapprehension of what, exactly, Celtic Reconstructionism (and, by extension, all of the other pagan/polytheist reconstructionisms) is. The idea of authenticity is not really a central part of it. It is merely the idea that an intellectual rigor, to some extent, is useful in reconstructing (that is, in the forensic sense of “reconstruction”) what was done in the past. It is not purely “scientific” in the sense that much of what we do would not necessarily be accepted by mainstream archaeologists or historians, as we admit evidence that would be dismissed out of hand by materialists, but it is scientific in the sense that we formulate hypotheses, check them against the available evidence, and constantly (at least, ideally) re-verify them. This makes what we do different from what, say, Druids are doing mainly in the fact that we don't stop at “there's only A, B, and C evidence available”, and we have consequently found quite a bit more useful than people who simply accept such statements at face value might think.

    As for the “why” of doing it, that answer varies from person to person. For myself, it's mainly because I think that there is much that we can learn from European polytheistic traditions outside of the Classical ones. I suspected that there were legitimate traces of them in the extant materials, and I think that we have justified that suspicion at this point, even taking anti-nativist arguments into account. But demonstrating that is a whole series of arguments that are largely irrelevant here.

  37. Cant help wondering if youve become a political target due to the wide ranging reverberations of the material discussed over several years in the ADR . At the very least “they” may want to repackage and re-present you in the occult circles in a format more amenable and acceptable and controllable to ” them”. Whoever is seen as the embodiment of these 'ancient celtic' motifs certainly wields a lot of power, in some circles !
    But i think youd know this already , given the fraught state of things . Hope you are well ,
    Cheerio

  38. I wonder if the need of so many N. Americans to adopt an identity is a result of so many of us having been so recently uprooted. Most of us have been here just a few generations and even then many people do not live where they grew up. I don't, though I liver closer to where my mother was born than to where I was. None of my 4 siblings live in our home town, nor did my parents and their 6 siblings. My son is half a continent away, I am delighted that sometimes my daughter spends her off season here.

    I expect there were always some wanderers among humans but perhaps N. America has an explosion. Between depopulation, repopulation, overshoot and a continuing fossil fuelled stirring of people around the continent, perhaps it's no wonder that so many grasp for some people to be of, some where to be from.

  39. Izzy, thank you for slapping the silly meme. It's inaccurate as well as silly — Easter comes from Old English, not ancient Babylonian, and there's a wee bit of difference between the two.

    Sven, nicely summarized!

    Violet, I notice that you've taken your blog post down — I hope you didn't field too much hate in response to it.

    Luna, nicely summarized, and of course you're quite correct. We're in the same position with regard to this country that the Anglo-Saxons were in, say, 800 CE, when they'd only been on the land for a couple of centuries and still had no clue how to live there. They learned, I note, only after the treatment they dished out to the former inhabitants got dished out to them in turn by the Danes and then the Normans. I suspect a similaly hard school waits for us.

    Eric, of course it's always an option to learn from the past — from any relevant corner of the past, in fact. The difficulty, to my mind, emerges when people become so fixated on the past that they lose track of the fact that they're living in the present.

    Pierre, the third edition of Paths of Wisdom has a few corrections, but not many — the first edition in that case is perfectly usable. That's less true of the first edition of Circles of Power, as the original publisher garbled the bejesus out of the Hebrew words.

    Rhisiart, of course! I expect to host equally lively discussions once the new blogging platform is entirely up and running.

    Faoladh, I certainly don't mean to imply that there's anything wrong with following a Reconstructionist path if that's what your heart tells you to do. I'd point out, though, that the whole business about authenticity isn't something I or my readers cooked up. It's something that people who proclaimed themselves to be Celtic Reconstructionists — and not just a few of them, either — ranted about as they bullied the rest of us, for years on end. If authenticity really isn't what the CR movement is about, I'm not sure how well you've communicated that to a large, loud, and rather authoritarian subset of the movement

    Pseudorandom, congratulations — it's quite a decent edition, and I'm just sorry that the publisher finked out so completely. As for the Sacred Geometry Oracle, it's been delayed a bit but I've just been reassured by the publisher that it should be out this coming summer.

    Barrabas, oh, I'm fine. If anybody in power got offended by my political comments, they don't seem to have gotten around to mentioning the fact to me!

  40. John Michael Greer: I definitely get that, and you were very careful to note your intent and how it was not to say that Pagan/polytheist reconstruction was in any way wrong. I didn't mean to imply in any way that I have any idea that it is a nonexistent problem, and tried to take pains to note that I am, and others are, aware of the issue, including how it manifests from my end. I intended to equally note that it was because of our failings that so many who are following along have fallen into such bad habits, and to apologize for that (I may not have been as express in that last as I hoped to be). I also wanted to give some historical perspective on how those attitudes came to be, especially for those of your readers who weren't there at the time.

    It doesn't help that we have no central authority, so it's mostly some of us who have been around for a long time trying to moderate these forces that we set in motion. That's not as easy as just saying it, but I think that we've made some strides in that direction. Occasionally (the last weekend most recently), I find myself overwhelmed by the issues and intransigence of the people who are the worst offenders, but we have a pretty strong network of people with similar ideas and ideals who offer support, and of course the gods give me reason to press on.

  41. Luna, in my opinion, your observation about Americans not being comfortable or familiar with where they live is at the core of much of what JMG has written about on his blogs as well as the best American literature. You can find that theme in immigrant literature, in Lovecraft, and in Philip K. Dick. It lies at the heart of the confusion in American politics, best expressed by the absurd claim of libertarians that if you don't like the laws in your particular region then “you can just move.”

    It would surprise me, therefore, if this observation did not resonate at a spiritual level as well. I like Deborah Bender's comment that the fairies and land spirits came with the early English settlers. Something definitely came with the Spanish settlers as well. You can feel a Quixotic energy in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and it creates a haven for irrational and frequently intense New Age syncretism, that feels like what would happen if someone tried to perform the magic realism of South American literature as actual ceremonial magic. That mystic intensity also resonates with the local traditional religious communities. Boston, by contrast, is full of people like me, seeking spiritual shelter but unable to accept phenomena we can't describe with scientific precision, and the traditional communities of Boston reflect that as well.

    I think to really get in rooted in a place, as Luna describes for the case of Europe, takes more than a couple of decades. It is more like several generations before you can speak with confidence about your place, and maybe hundreds of years before you can accurately articulate its spirit. And what of the place you left behind? Beowulf was still set in Scandinavia, and Shakespeare was still rooted in Denmark 1000 years after his ancestors came out of there. What is going to happen in America, after the age of plenty ends and we are released from the comforts of the virtual world, will be a chaos unlike anything else in history. I haven't read JMG's Weird of Hali series yet, but I am confident that Lovecraft foresaw this. But maybe 3000 years from now, when the ice caps are melted, the ocean is reduced to jellyfish, and the dust of wars is settled, we will finally get a proper ode about the great migration from the Old Countries.

  42. @ John Roth, thank you. The singular they as a pronoun is interesting and I wonder if it will catch on. My understanding is that personal pronouns are a closed linguistic category and thus not subject to change, and it would be profound if there was a shift.

    @ Rhisiart Gwilym, many thanks!

    @ JMG and others, I took my blog post down because a large platform published my piece on trans and the cult of gender and I fear the antics of SJWs and especially trans activists. I've done some meditating on the SJW/trans cult and I believe that there are many striking parallels to the slowly shifted myths of Artemis to Artemis of Epheseus to The Great Mother Cybele. As such I'm being perhaps overly cautiously as I don't feel quite ready to face the hounds.

    From D'Aulaires Book of Greek Myths (1962, p. 44):

    “Artemis, as a newborn goddess, went to her father, Zeus, and asked him to grant her a wish. She wanted to remain forever a wild young maiden hunting through the woods, and she asked him to promise never to make her marry. Zeus consented…

    When the moon's magic light shone over echoing hills and wooded valleys, Artemis hunted with the nymphs and her hounds. After a wild hunt, the goddess loved to bathe in a quiet pool. Woe to the mortal who happened to see her then!

    One night, quite by chance, a young hunter whose name was Actaeon came upon the pool in the woods where Artemis and her Nymphs were bathing. He should have taken to his heels and run for his life, but instead, he stood spellbound by the sight of the goddess. Artemis was furious! While the nymphs flung a tunic over her shoulders, the goddess dipped her hand into the pool and threw a handful of water at Actaeon. The moment the silvery drops touched his forehead, antlers sprouted, and rapidly all of Actaeon changed into a stag. His own hounds leaped at him, and, to his horror, he could not utter a human hound to call them off. They brought him down, never knowing that the deer was their own master.

    'No mortal shall live to boast that he has seen Artemis bathing,' said the goddess, and she picked up her bow and arrows and went on hunting with her nymphs. Artemis was a cold and pitiless goddess.”

    And so I am proceeding very, very (and perhaps overly) cautiously. Here is a link by a different author who elucidates many of the points I made sans my personal experience: https://rejecting-the-gender-cult.tumblr.com/the_cult_essay.

  43. @ Violet– Typing this on a phone so grammar may be weird. I have some experience of the trans movement, an a very great deal of experience with the larger radical community in which it is embedded. (I was an anarchist, involved in the primitivist wing of the movement, Occupy, and so forth. I lived in collective houses, wrote screeds for the internet… you know the type) And, like you, I have had the experience of apostatizing publicly, being purged and having to fear for my safety. I know two other people to go through the same experience. One is my partner; the other I met quite by chance when a letter she'd written was published by Rod Dreher at the American Conservative (as was one I wrote on the same subject). If you'd like someone to talk with about the de-radicalization experience, please get in touch with me. I will post my ordinary email address in a message here marked “Not For Posting”; if you do the same I am sure our gracious host can put us in touch.

  44. The need to validate authenticity through some past culture or figurehead is a feature of the many Asian religions that I research, especially Buddhism. The monastic ordination lineage has to be traced back to the Buddha himself, otherwise it isn't authentic, even though it is impossible that a “pure lineage” could have existed historically for long. Early Tantra, which was evidently new to Indian Buddhists in the late seventh century, had to be validated by saying it was taught to a certain monk named Dharmagupta by a powerful bodhisattva named Vajrapani, even when it is clearly a system pieced together from earlier Buddhist and pan-Indian (“Hindu”) practices (as well as the zodiac signs and seven-day week which curiously come from the Near East, not India!).

    I wonder if this need for validation isn't produced from the human desire to validate one's identity through pointing to parents and a broader tribe? “I do what my father and father's father have always done.” This seems to be a universal tendency among humans.

  45. @JMG: Also very much that! Linguistic evolution was like one of the five college courses I actually woke up for most sessions of (two of the others were taught by Robert Mathiesen, who also posts here) and I find it really interesting how sometimes you can trace a word's derivation through similarity to other words, but sometimes that similarity is just a weird coincidence.

    In re: ancestry and spiritual practice, my family mostly comes from Ireland and England, with a bit of German. I would have thought any gods-or-whatever* I ended up with would be either Celtic or maaaybe Norse–but when the time came, the images I got were of Hermes and Aphrodite. On the other hand, my mom taught Latin and Greco-Roman mythology for most of my life (one of the first board games I remember playing was By Jove), so hey. 🙂

    On transness: having a bunch of friends come out as trans has inspired a bunch of conversations about gender around here, and it's been interesting. I'm comfortably cis, myself–I think societal gender roles are BS, and fortunately I'm in a time and society that mostly recognizes that as well, so being a woman and doing what I do is no hardship–but if I was magically turned into a guy overnight, the only thing I'd be sad about is that most of the guys I'm into are straight. For me, my body is entirely functional–it doesn't feed into my identity at all, as far as I'm aware. If someone were to mistakenly call me sir, it wouldn't bug me except in situations where I'd worry consequently about the attractiveness of my figure.

    Obviously my trans friends felt differently, but what interested me was that so did a friend of mine who's also cisfemale: she really connects to Being a Woman in both a personal and spiritual sense. So maybe in addition to the Kinsey scale, social roles, and what gender you are, there's a bit of wiring-or-whatever for how strongly you feel about being one gender or another.

    Which to me sort of ties in to authenticity: a lot of the people I know who feel strongly about gender also really want to present their authentic selves whenever possible, want partners who “see who they really are,” etc. Others of us (me, for instance) are more comfortable with concealment, or with putting on various identities as suits the occasion and our mood, and so gender identity only matters insofar as it gets us where we want to be with society, work, people we want to bang, and so forth.

    Neither is a bad way of being, to my mind, though both have pitfalls. And it might be the same with spiritual practice or identity–if someone came up with a new religion that worked, I wouldn't care how they did it. (My objections to Scientology are different, and largely though not entirely that I could write a better origin myth after two bottles of vodka.)

    * I like to hedge my bets and never be certain about both sex and spirituality, as I know myself very capable of wishful thinking in both cases.

  46. Violet Cabra: Singular “they” has been a standard part of English since before Shakespeare. A few people with less than perfect command of the language have tried to prescribe “they” to a solely plural purpose, but such prescriptions are mere peeves, and have no bearing on the language as she is spoke. Also, on personal pronouns, ask yourself the last time you used “thou” or “thee” in regular conversation. Do you know the proper usage of “thine” as compared to “thy”? Probably not, because language changes, and personal pronouns change as well. While all of those examples are cases of losing pronouns, other pronouns have been changed to fill the missing categories, such as when the previously solely-plural pronoun “you” was pressed into service to replace “thou” – and “they” has never been solely used as a plural.

  47. Violet,

    Closed grammatical categories are not immutable; it's just that they change very, very slowly. The last change to the pronouns in Standard English was dropping thee and thou and shifting you into both singular and plural. That happened a few centuries ago.

    A few centuries ago a number of linguists decided that they, being a plural pronoun, couldn't have a singular antecedent, completely ignoring minor authors who used it, like Chaucer, Shakespeare and the authors of the King James Bible. It's coming back into use.

    Whether they is going to go into common usage as an epicine pronoun is debatable. It's being pushed hard by a lot of people, including a lot of academics. As far as I'm concerned, I've got my own epicine pronoun that I use when I need one, and if anyone objects, well, they can live with it. I'll use they when “they is” becomes standard.

  48. Faoladh, fair enough and thank you. As I see it, there are three major currents of more-or-less-Celtic-inspired spirituality in today's America — I foresee a classic Welsh triad coming out of this — which we can call, conveniently enough, the Revival, the Reform, and the Reconstruction. The first is the stuff I do, the second is the movement that came out of the Reformed Druids of North America and includes ADF and its offshoots; the third is the stuff you do. They aren't in any way, shape, or form the same thing, but I'd suggest there's ample room for all three; not only that, there are people who participate in both the Revival and the Reform — I'm a properly initiated Third Order priest of Dalon ap Landu in the RDNA, for example! — and I look forward to the time when all three get along comfortably, and people can participate in any or all of them as they see fit.

    Avery (if I may), Lovecraft was a classic example of the anglophile intellectual I discussed in my post, and his own vision of the future was typically xenophobic and bleak. The Weird of Hali is going in a rather different direction, not least because it seems unfair to me to end a sprawling Lovecraftian epic fantasy without Great Cthulhu rising from the sea… 😉

    Violet, fair enough — thanks for letting me know. (And thank you also for the offlist comment.)

    Jeffrey, it seems especially common among prophetic religions of the kind that trace their inspiration back to a single messianic figure, but yeah, it's pretty widespread.

    Izzy, if you could beat Scientology's origin myth after two bottles of vodka, you have a stronger liver than I do. After two bottles of vodka I'd be lying under the table babbling nonsense words like “Xenu.” 😉

  49. John Roth: Do you plan to stop using “you” in place of “thou” because “you is” is not seen as appropriate grammar? 😉 There is a complete functional equivalence between “you are” and “they are”, so there's no need for a conjugation “they is”.

  50. John Michael Greer: Absolutely. There are also some minor efforts in that direction to add to those three (Celtic shamanism, Celtic Wicca, etc), though most of those seem to me to be less interested in the “Celtic” part than the three major currents you mention. In addition, there is certainly quite a lot of cross-fertilization going on between those three currents. For instance, I know that quite a few ADF people are avid CR proponents, I am constantly pushing Cei Serith's Deep Ancestors as a functional framework in which to place the reconstructions, and I know that Philip Carr-Gomm, at least, was interested enough in what was going on in CR to travel all the way to the PNW for Erynn Laurie's CR retreat a couple of decades back (which is where I met that distinguished gentleman). Further, I am at this point pretty well convinced that not everything that Iolo published was forgery, with some of it clearly supporting information derived through other means (which is not to say that I accept his Enlightenment-era Deism or his idiosyncratic pantheon, so there still remains a difference in approach!)

  51. Dear Violet,
    I just read your first post and am feeling all protective of you. I too am a gay man but I was born in a woman's body and just dealt with it. It made sex with men considerably easier in any case. What I have learned from my own journey is that I am who I am and I have to appreciate my body as it is. I hope you will look in the mirror and tell yourself that you are a lovely and worthwhile person just as you are. I find that helps a lot.

    Hugs from Max Rogers

  52. JMG, your experience at ConVocation reminds me that I never reported back on Paganicon. I also caught a bit of Iolo-bashing, at the Sisterhood of Avalon panel. The presenter admitted that he'd done a bit of good work with the eisteddfod, but otherwise was a liar and a scoundrel, and we've now discarded all that unscholarly rubbish, hurrah!(perhaps I exaggerate a bit, but you get the gist). At least that panel helped me finally make up my mind to grab Magus Book's single copy of the Weiser “Barddas,” in spite of the price tag.

    I am sad to say that the gentleman who has been presenting panels rebutting the Long Descent scenario for lo these many years did not appear on the schedule this time. He did send me quite the glare when he noticed my AODA t-shirt! 😀

  53. On the subject of reconstructionists, I thought you may find a small excerpt from the first conversation I ever had with any other Druids back in 2007, shortly after I had finally joined OBOD for the first time and decided to check out the local scene in search of in person community in Lubbock Texas (At the time I didn’t know what a reconstructionist was and still naively thought a Druid was pretty much a Druid). For context, I had briefly introduced myself and my background, the nature of my interest in Celtic myth and spirituality and in Druidry, and so on and they had recommended a book which according to them “illustrates their core beliefs, if I disagreed with any of it, the group isn't for me.” (I later read the book and it turned out to be a rather dry archaeological survey of Iron Age Ireland), I had responded expressing some apprehension at the idea that agreeing or disagreeing with a set of teachings was something that they expected of people, having just left behind a fundamentalist religion that believed exactly that. Needless to say, I er… did not become involved in the group, and it was such an ugly first experience I nearly gave up on the whole Celtic Spirituality thing altogether, and to this day reconstructionists kind of give me the willies just because of that experience. Their response to my introduction and inquiry, (spelling and grammar errors included for your amusement). It's an e-mail I still pull out from time to time to chuckle at:

    ——————-

    “We are a recontructionalist/ traditionalist druid grove and look at more of who the Celts actually were than what the Enlightenment movement wanted them to be. I think you are better off staying with OBOD, which focuses much more on the celtic spirit and the elightenment view than on facts. It believes that one can be any religion adn be a druid. (though i find that to be blasphemy. My religion, though it has a philosophy, is so much more than that!) I find fault with the fact that last time i looked at the training from there, most of it came from a manuscript that was since been debunked as a fake. I prefer OBOD to ADF because ADF allows people to become members without even studying the lore and I think that that is totally wrong.

    We do not think that everyone belongs to our order, not do we believe that there are not other viable paths. We are polytheists and therefore there are many people who serve many gods. All are ok. However, you asked to join our group, and that is a different matter entirely. You are under the false preconvieved notion that we are an open and supportive learning community. We follow the celtic dogma ( and yes i meant dogma) that we feel is correct. It is not for everyone nor should it be. there are many sects of druidism and we are only one. There are other sects with their own beliefs that i do or do not believe in or agree with. But they are perfectly correct and right in their own belief structures.

    Personally i think that you really love the celtic philosophy so dictated by the movements in the past two centuries. Most of which is at best loosely based upon fanicful ideals, records from enemies of the celtic people and the fervor of the time. I do not fault them. I am mearly stating a fact.”

  54. JMG & all
    I am seeing a curious flurry of references to Ovid’s Metamorphoses, and not just online or in the media, or here. The first reference was in a 1930’s ‘historical’ story for children that my daughter gave me to read a few days ago that explored English Tudor times. Subsequently I read an academic discussion of the plentiful Shakespearean references to Ovid’s myths.

    I wonder, given this powerful legacy of pre-Christian imagination, whether this was one of the Renaissance strands that later morphed into the Enlightenment. I am thinking not least, for instance, of the Druid revival (smile) and the Romantic Movement and that curious juncture when Burkean conservatism and romantic idealism came together during the bid for independence and the writing of the Constitution of the USA. Given that Post Modernism according to Wikipedia (I had to look it up) suggests that PM was pretty much an inversion of Enlightenment thought, it seems not surprising that it has played havoc within the US, not just among academic philosophers. As usual as a Brit I value Americans bringing these matters to the fore for discussion.

    BTW can anybody recommend a good translation of Metamorphoses? I am not as well educated as Shakespeare who read these in the original.
    best
    Phil H

  55. Others have said the same thing, but Americans of European descent haven't been here long enough to feel the proper connection to our own land. I feel like it is starting to happen in New England and the South, but we westerners (Washington state, here) have some catching up to do. That said, I wonder if some Americans would be spiritually healthier if they just moved to the European nation with which they feel the most affinity and stayed there.

    I will add to the recommendation of Stirling's Emberverse series, though the “all religions are true, even when they contradict each other” theme makes my head hurt a little. With a connection to your other blog, the stories are set in a post-collapse society, albeit a collapse that was rather sudden and catastrophic.

    I love traditional Irish music, and the country itself is quite beautiful. I had the privilege of visiting it a few years back. However, I don't call myself Irish, unless it is in reference to a percentage of my ancestry (shared with quite a few other European nations). I think fake Irish pubs are rather silly, though the real thing is great. The American equivalent, for better or worse, is probably the dimly lit dive bar with the jukebox and pool tables.

    In regard to religion, one could argue about whether a Catholic (with his liturgy and Easter and Christmas and festivals and fasts) or a neopagan (with his liturgy and Solstice and Equinox and festivals and fasts) is the true heir of the ancient Celts. I think the honest answer is both are. God or the gods know who is more correct, and hopefully they are not too judgmental when it comes to those who get it wrong.

  56. One thing that became abundantly clear when I started doing research on Western occultism and esotericism back in the day is that back-dating and just making stuff up and then telling porkies about its origins was absolutely endemic. Gardner is simply a well-known example(*). OTOH, all traditions have to start somewhere. Joseph Smith, for example, was a frontier con-artist of a well-known sort who like power, money, dressing up in fancy uniforms and lots of women at his beck and call; but the Mormon church is as valid and sincere as any other and played a valuable role in American history.

    (*) the actual theology that came out of Gardner's movement is as much a Buddhist-Hindu mishmash with the serial numbers filed off as anything, which is reasonable enough given the amount of time Gardner actually spent in the east, and his links to groups originally part of the Theosophist stream.

    I think I pretty much nailed it when Juniper says there are two possible explanations for Gardner's liking for “skyclad” rituals: one, the Goddess told him so, and two, he liked to prance through the woods with nekkid ladies, but being a Victorian Englishman by birth, he had to come up with a religious justification…

    S.M. Stirling

  57. JMG & all
    We often read remarkable stories here, some from Bill Pulliam. I propose following his latest, a vote of thanks to the trees round his house. Some Grove!

    best
    Phil H

  58. Violet,
    be gentle on yourself. As JMG has said, repeatedly, us humans are just social primates with a few good extra tricks up our sleeves, and we're certainly prone to mass stupidities and mass hysteria. Heck, over half the American population smoked cigarettes in the mid-20th century! Take the time you need to heal, and, remember, you live in a very sick society. I've had my own experiences with totalist groups like the ones mentioned in your article. I lost 8 years of my life to AA after a particularly traumatic episode, and it's taken me 4 years to venture back out into society and trust myself around others. I'd discussed my experience there on comments on the ADR, so I won't repeat them here, but, needless to say, I found out I'm not an alcoholic, I don't have an obsession of the mind coupled with a phenomenon of craving, and my life is not unmanageable. While I've never gone as far down the trans path as you, I should relate that when I was living in a shelter in LA and going to AA meetings I was circulating with some trans folk and questioning my own gender identity. Friends referred me to the trans clinic for hormones, and I could have probably gotten on hormones just like that. I'm glad I paused and had second thoughts, but I DO know how easy it is for someone to go down the path you went down. Honestly, I don't have enough experience with the trans community to validate what you are saying, but I DO know that a lot of women who would have been “butch girls/dykes” 20 years ago are now FTM. I also know that trans is now all the rage amongst the liberal salary class now, and I'd imagine that that is all about the “rescue game” and avoiding the “hate that dare not speak its name”. Regardless of the truth of what you are saying about the trans community, there are certainly way more pressing issues to focus on right now that affect a lot more people. My guess is that the liberal salary class is using trans to avoid focusing on those pressing problems…

  59. If taking the time to converse with earth fairies helps strip away some of the confusing and contradictory social survival conditioning and lets a more authentic version of the self shine through then I'd say it's worth the investment. A tangible goal was the one key ingredient I was missing, so thanks for the reminder.

  60. Violet,
    it surprising just how many problems can clear up once you realize they're a result of “sick society syndrome”. I fully believe that the reason we have so many problems here in the US is that we're taught to take personal responsibility for things that we're not personally responsible for at all, and a lot of our social ills are the result of “sick society syndrome”

  61. Faoladh, delighted to hear it. Iolo was a *very* odd duck, but yes, there are some things in his mishmash that he could have invented only if he'd somehow known about modern Indo-European comparative mythology two centuries in advance — I discussed that in an article in the first issue of AODA's annual journal “Trilithon,” on the off chance anybody's interested. I'd also raise another question, though: Iolo was an inspired Celtic poet by any definition. Since when did the visions of inspired poets stop being relevant to Celtic spirituality?

    Sister Crow, on both counts, delighted to hear it!

    Eric, well, at least they admitted that there were other valid paths! That's almost refreshing, given some of the nonsense I've had to deal with from time to time. (There are good and sufficient reasons for the Frequently Thrown Tantrums page on the DOGD website…)

    Phil, true enough. The US is basically an invention of Enlightenment neoclassicism — look at our government architecture — and so, yeah, add Postmodernism and you get a festering mess pretty quickly.

    Christopher, I grew up in the south Seattle suburbs, and the sense of unrootedness that pervaded my childhood was really pointed up by my first visit to Europe. We've got a very long row to hoe before we actually become native to this land.

    S.M., true enough, but Juniper was apparently too polite to mention the other factor, which is — ahem — the “English vice.” Gardner liked to be flogged by underdressed young women, and enjoyed doing a little flogging in turn, which is why that's an element of trad Gardnerian rituals. Your broader point stands, though. I was astonished to discover, for example, that Juliet Ashley, the mid-20th century American occultist who's credited with writing the rituals of the Druid order I used to head, actually did exist — after a lot of digging, print references to her turned up. I'd more or less assumed that she was our Old Dorothy!

    Dammerung, sure. By the same logic, though, have you considered moving to one of those abandoned counties in Kansas? You won't get many people contesting your right to a house there, either… 😉

    Beetleswamp, it does seem to do the trick!

  62. Oh, and an off-topic note to S.M. Stirling, which I hope won't be out of place — did you get the copy of my novel Star's Reach I tried to send to you, and if so, what did you think about it? Several of our mutual fans thought you'd like it…

  63. @JMG: Hee! It's true that “Teegeeack” is reasonably good onomatopoeia for the sound I'd be making a lot. 😛 And the gods in said origin story might end up being very porcelain in composition. Still better than Hubbard, though, I bet.

    @S.M. Sterling: Indeed! And as an English major (well, nominally), I discovered that it's pretty easy to spin a plausible line about how Feature X means whatever-it-is is actually connected to Ancient Egypt, or Atlantis, or whatever. We're pattern-sensing creatures, and people who need historical stuff to feel legit will seize on any half-likely semblance thereof.

    Also, loved Prince of Outcasts! Orlaith is seriously the best, and I really enjoy the mysticism/horror elements of the series.

  64. @Faoladh

    That horse escaped the barn a long time ago. To make a long story as short as I can, when you (which was originally plural or polite) replaced thee and thou, there wasn’t another 2nd person singular pronoun, so it took its verb with it. There are three other 3rd person pronouns: he, she and it, so having they take its verb with it in the transition to being a real singular pronoun has additional difficulties in introducing yet another irregularity into English. Unless, of course, we decide that “he are”, “she are” and “it are” are now standard English. Or abolish he she and completely, which I see there are already some advocates for.

    Even though it is undoubtedly a lost cause, I am going to continue using a real epicene pronoun where I think it’s appropriate.

  65. John Michael Greer: I am interested in that article. I was going to ask where to find a copy, but Google is my friend. That is volume 1, yes? I presume that the article in question is “The Myth of Einigan”. The other two volumes also seem like they might have material of interest to me.

    As for your question about Iolo, that's obviously a matter for individual conscience, but my own rejection of a lot of his material lies, largely, in a distaste for Enlightenment-era Deist theology, but also because a lot of what he wrote simply doesn't ring true for me (or, to be pedantic, didn't ring true for me at the time that I read it). I know that, for a lot of people, the reverence for truth* evident in Irish, Welsh, and other Celtic spiritualities precludes accepting Iolo simply on the basis of his forgery. I'm not so sure that this is necessarily a violation of truth, myself, I simply report the opinions of others with whom I've discussed the Matter of Morganwg.

    * Fírinne in Irish, or Gwirionedd, I am told, in Welsh, which seems right. In any case, it is apparent from various sources that this was considered to be a cosmic ordering principle on the order of Wyrd in Germanic spiritualities or Ṛta in Indian ones. See, for instance, Irish coír “justice”, from proto-Celtic *ko-uero “in accordance with truth”. I am not certain about the cognate status of *Uero (and thus Fíor and Fírinne, as well as Welsh Gwir and Gwirionedd) compared with Wyrd and Ṛta, but it seems plausible on the surface. That Wyrd and Ṛta are cognate with each other is well-established, of course. The PIE root seems to be *H₂r-to- “properly joined, right, true”, which in Ceisiwr Serith's PIE gives Xártus (or Khártus for those of us who think that 'kh' makes a better orthography for the voiceless velar fricative).

  66. This is a very interesting discussion! Violet, thank you for your words, and I want to tell you that the “heart” of you that traverses the page and reaches the “heart” of me, from ever your first post, always centres around a sense of growing connectedness to plants and their healing spirits, to the land, and the care and attention to your own growing spirit of healing.

    I believe the experience of being “uncomfortable in our skins” is common (though it can take many forms and be more or less severe). To me it signals some disharmony, discord or lack of fit between ourselves and the social/cultural/world/”wearold” we seek to grow into, find our place in.

    Shane, I believe, is right in referring to an illness called sick society syndrome, and part
    of the nature of this illness, for me, is the Procrustean nature of all the permitted “cures”. We may not ask if the bed is the right size, we may only ask which part of ourselves we can bend, spindle or mutilate until we “fit”.

    Overweight? Diabetic? Metabolic syndrome? Don't wonder about a disconnect between soil, food and people, or about the loss of sacred food traditions, because it's you. You just have to implement personal austerity measures and lose weight!

    Depressed? Suicidal? Don't wonder about a disconnect between people, or about the loss of meaning, or of sacred traditions. It's you! So, just take yourself for a walk, or take a pill.

    How about a gastric band, some cosmetic surgery? You want to see the “new you” don't you?

    It seems to me you are right Shane, we are now profoundly disconnected, and so barricaded within our skins as to be unable to commune with the rest of the world – people, animals, trees, soil, water – and it sickens us.

    But, it turns out, none of solutions an individual can bootstrap for themselves “under their own skin” will fix what's gone wrong in the “wearold”…

    Violet, you've found that out.

    And in different ways, so have many others.

    There is a “wearold” to re-enchant, a communion to reestablish among us and between us and the rest of the living world, and the healing will not be bootstrapped, nor bought and sold.

    Be well, all.

  67. JMG: “We've got a very long row to hoe before we actually become native to this land.”

    I had my mind blown when I noticed here in the Netherlands that “spring colours” actually exist in spring: flowers with shades of lavender, pink and teal, which are still associated with spring and Easter in Euro-Canadian culture, despite the fact that spring in Canada is the colour of mud with a bit of early grass starting to show.

    Basically, the seasonal colour associations back home in Canada are still “stuck” in the Old World.

  68. Izzy, too funny — and too true!

    Faoladh, that's the one. Trilithon is shaping up to be a very solid magazine; the fourth issue is in process right now, and scheduled for publication in June, and the earlier issues are permanently in print. Those less adept at Google fu can find the details at http://aoda.org/publications/issues.html.

    With regard to Iolo and the concept of truth, that latter's frankly more complex than some modern writers have made it out to be. The same Irish who are supposed to revere truth so profoundly are the people who made famous the concepts of “blarney” and the “Irish bull”; the Welsh, similarly, were notorious in the Middle Ages as the worst liars in Europe — Geoffrey of Monmouth, who was as Welsh as they come, admitted as much in his book on Wales. (Granted, that's practically a restatement of the Cretan paradox: if a Welshman says that all Welshmen tell lies, is he telling the truth?) Or take the famous Irish story about the bad king who spoke three false words, and the buildings of Tara started sliding down the hill; somebody else spoke three true words, and they slid right back up into place, so the people made him king instead. Tell me this: in sober historical fact, do you believe that those events actually happened?

    The Welsh language is a useful guide here. You've quoted the word “gwirionedd,” which does indeed mean “truth, verity, actuality.” Some of its close relatives in Welsh are “gwirionyn”, which means “idiot,” and “gwiriondeb,” which can mean either “innocence” or “silliness.” That is to say, when a nation's traditions hammer over and over again on the importance of a given virtue, that doesn't necessarily mean that the nation in question is naturally overflowing with that virtue — quite the contrary, in fact…

    That said, if Iolo's symbolism and teachings don't appeal to you, then by all means go ye henceforth and do something else. I hope to heaven that Druidry never becomes stupid enough to insist that it's the One and Only True Way, or anything of the kind!

  69. Giving thought to authenticity, it seems that you are saying that people like their traditions, like a good story, to begin somewhere either “long ago” or “far away” – preferably both.

    If there were such things as archetypes of place, rather than person, perhaps there is something to be said about the kind of “long ago” or “far away” a particular person, or tradition, finds meaningful, or threatening, or whatever. And maybe these tradition-rooting “place-times” will always have that perennial mythic quality that makes their historical truth an irrelevance. A quality easily lost if they try too hard to establish historical verification.

    But each of us, as you point out, lives here in this place, and now in this time, and it seems to me that these can be even harder for us to connect to than any number of mythic far aways and long agos.

    For myself, in the coming times, I will watch, with interest, to see which new-minted or surviving traditions succeed best in linking people and land together in the here and the now, the only place-time available for our action, and in which actual healing can unfold.

  70. @Violet, thanks for your announcement. I read your article with interest, as I've been peripherally involved with similar radical social justice groups, but ended up drifting away because of similar doubts about core elements of the radical left worldview.

    As a so-called millennial in my late twenties, I think you are right on the mark in naming postmodernism as the source of a lot of our ills. A cloudy etiology, sure, but it carries a lot more truth than the shallow medical paradigm of 'mental illness' which I see more and more of my peers falling back on to explain their troubles.

    Your post a while back on hipsters and the decline of the West really brought this home for me. Our generation is actually being ravaged by a loss of identity, which leads to precarious inner turmoil and all kinds of scapegoating and/or suppression and/or escapism.

    I also have seen friends adopt genderqueer or non-normative sexual identities because it made them socially more acceptable. The saddest part is that those who may be experiencing a real need to come out of the closet or to transition (I'm still open to the possibility that this is real for some people) get drowned out by the noise of the inauthentic.

    Thinking further about authenticity, JMG's descriptions of alternative spiritual movements fit with what I observed while exploring local groups based in the Tom Brown tracker school movement: some very effective practices, a far-fetched origin story, and lots of scope for '(mostly) young men' who want to be anything but young white men.

    In the course of this exploration I was befriended by a very gentle man in his sixties who acted as an elder and mentor in the movement locally. When I finally got around to asking him directly about his ancestry, it came out that although he looked and talked as if he were native, his ancestry was entirely white European. He was one of those '(mostly) young men', forty years on, still trying to run away from the part of himself he had decided was tied up with the root of all evil.

    In my own life, the hunger for authenticity manifested as 'only JMG can save me!' The weekly ADR posts were a lifeline for me in a difficult time, and I began to believe that if only I could meet real mages, real druids, my most difficult problems would be solved. I sometimes wonder if authors like JMG ever consider employing secretaries to help fend off the spiritually famished. I would guess that such is the position of anyone these days who gives off the whiff of authenticity.

    Actually, I am still looking for real-life people with whom to talk about the Well of Galabes and related topics, but I no longer think those people could fix everything for me. And viewing our archdruidical friend as a human being rather than a supernatural saviour has made him a lot more interesting, since his accomplishments thereby come within the reach of other humans like myself.

    Only when the ADR ended did I realize how much I'd used it as a substitute for acting on my own life. In the last several weeks I've spent less time on the internet and more time outside. My peas and greens are planted, and I've plotted out my crops for the rest of the summer on the 10 x 10 square that is my green wizardry classroom.

    All this to say, hunger for authenticity is not going to go away soon. Yes, we've got a long row to hoe, but real sustenance we've grown ourselves will be so much more filling than identities bought or borrowed from others. Violet, thanks for your openness and self-searching. We are richer for it.

  71. John Roth: As you will, of course. All I am saying is that to object to it on grammatical grounds is a meaningless objection outside of grammatical prescriptivism (a proposition that has always lost its battles in the long run, though it has had some influence in a few cases, mostly in the areas of whatever peeved E.B. White), one that has been tried before (in the 17th century, prescriptive grammarians objected to singular “you” on the very same reasoning: that it was conjugated similarly to the plural), and one that has been rejected by the speakers of the language.

    John Michael Greer: I think that there's a 20th century fictional character whose actions are appropriately relevant here. In Star Trek: The Next Generation, the character Worf, half-Human and half-Klingon, attempted to hold onto his Klingon cultural roots. He grabbed onto the idea of “honor” as practiced among Klingons and tried his best to live it. When he finally had extended contact with actual Klingons, he learned that honor was more of an ideal, and one that the actual proponents sometimes – often! – failed to live up to. He found himself as an individual in the odd position of being more honorable than the people who professed the code as a group, perhaps in no small part because, as they were immersed in the culture, they didn't see the need to constantly expend energy pursuing the ideal to prove and re-prove that they deserved to be a part of the cultural stream.

    In a similar way, the ideal of truth among the various Celtic* peoples may have been less pursued than assumed as a vague goal. But, when we consider religious revelation as found through the agency of the Celtic poet, one of the measures of its authenticity (aha!) as religious revelation is found in its adherence to precepts of truth. Lacking that, it comes dangerously close to mere propaganda, one of the dangers of religious revelation. Though, again, I will point out that I am not entirely sure that Iolo strayed from truth, myself. It's a complicated question relative to a complicated incident, and one that I think deserves more consideration and discussion than it gets.

    Of course, none of this is to argue that the Celtic religious expressions are revealed religions, but rather that they have a component of revelation that is ongoing (in the CR movement, we often call this aisling “dream, vision” or iomas “intuition, intuited knowledge” – although I should point out that those English glosses hardly even begin to touch the depth of meaning in those two words). The poet, as magician, is necessarily a prophet. But some prophets are false just as some magicians are evil**, n'est-ce pas? Discernment is as important as any other spiritual component.

    * As an aside, when I use the term “Celtic”, it is always as a shorthand for “the various culture-groups built on linguistic foundations of Celtic languages, such as the Gaelic Irish, Scots, and Manx, the Brythonic Welsh, Cornish, and Breton, and other, extinct, cultural groups such as the various Gaulish peoples, the Celtiberian tribes, and so on”. That becomes cumbersome to type over and over, and so the shorter term finds a place. This may seem obvious to some or many, but there is a large readership here, and I like to try to be as clear as possible.

    ** Which is to say that a magician magnifies their character by virtue of their skills, and character flaws are similarly expanded into behavioral grotesques. Thus, the long process by which magicians were taught to minimize their character flaws, to whatever degree of success they might have achieved that in practice.

  72. The other thing I'm pondering is the issue of performance, art, and custom. I happen to live in Donegal, In Ireland, a place where any Druids, or Celtic Reconstructionists, if present, do not wear their beliefs/traditions outwardly. (As a proto-tending-to-be-Druid, I am all alone at present). So, when a conversation gets up between neighbours about the way someone's mother used to bring “may” flowers (not hawthorn, but a bright yellow flower found in wet, boggy ground around here) into the house on May eve, and place bunches in the window AND hanging from the door, everyone speculates. Because the fact is, she apparently did it, and “set store by it”, but never said why. Was she protecting the house from fairies during Beltaine because she knew and believed the old lore? Because her mother did it before her? How far back? Can people lose a custom like this, and be prompted by the place itself to enact them again, with little lore or knowledge? So it goes with many other customs. They happen, they are done, they mark something – but are little talked about and never explained.

    Another example- there are sile-na-gigs all over Ireland – female stone figures that feature two hands drawing two exaggerated vulval lips aside. What do they signify? Who did they represent? Much speculation, but no one knows. Their makers did not write down anything about them. It so happens that a man I know carved one – it's not old at all, but new-minted. Without saying much about it, he gave it to a family I know. They don't say much about it either, but placed it at the eastern edge of their fruit garden. The man in that family treats it with reverence – he can be seen stopping by, chatting, perhaps praying, and touching her for luck. None of the people touched by this figure – its maker, its carer, it's carer's family, and others who are asked to “come and see our sile” – have much to say on theology or myth or what her attributes mean, or anything else – and yet, without doubt, a presence has been evoked.

  73. Greetings!
    Long time reader, first time commenting… my immediate family has been in the US for [probably] over two hundred years, and does not have any meaningful connection to England from where we [again probably] came from. I consider us to be naturalized rather than native to this area. As much as I would love to have some kind of family traditions passed down from ‘Ye Olde Country’ what I do have is a Tupperware bowl and Mom’s recipe for ambrosia salad [the one with the miniature marshmallows and Cool Whip] passed down from church suppers in the 70’s. I have no ‘native’ blood that I am aware of, and while I respect the beliefs and traditions of first nation people they aren’t mine, and I wouldn’t consider trying to adopt them. So… caught between the old and the new and seemingly heir to nothing but a middle-class, Midwestern, and mild Methodist pietism… I can appreciate why people look to the past trying to find a little more substance than what we find in the present…’authentic’ or no…
    Kevin

  74. Jeffrey, oh, I know. Growing up in Seattle, I used to wonder about the whole seasonal business — evergreen forests and a mostly rainy climate mean that summer is “when the rain's not as cold as usual” and winter is “when there's snow mixed in with the rain sometimes.” The First Nations up that way divided the year into two seasons, not four: the season when you went out hunting, fishing, and gathering (late spring through the end of fall) and the season when you stayed put in the longhouse and focused on your ritual and religious life (winter and early spring). That made sense…

    Scotlyn, true enough. One of the problems we face nowadays is that too many people have lost track of the language of myth and legend, and keep trying to force history to fill in for them, with dubious results.

    Faoladh, interesting. I haven't watched Star Trek since the original series was in its first years of reruns, so all this is unfamiliar ground. I wonder, though, if Worf is really an equivalent, since the vast majority of the people I've met in the Celtic Reconstructionist scene aren't “half Celtic” (whatever that would mean) — they're Americans pure and simple, who might at most have a thin trickle of ancestry from one or another of the Celtic nations (and far more often than not don't even have that). It's rather as though a bunch of humans became enchanted with what they knew of the ancient traditions of the Klingons, and set out to reconstruct and live them according to their own understanding of them, to the bewilderment, amusement, and occasional annoyance of the actual Klingons themselves.

    As for false prophets and evil magicians, of course — but in both cases you've got an exceptionally complex value judgment masquerading as a simple statement of fact. Certainly prophets who predict things that don't happen, such as the world ending in 2012, are false by any definition you care to name. It's only incompetent prophets who engage in such stupidities, though. Your competent prophet knows that the only kind of prophecy worth uttering is the self-fulfilling kind — and that's exactly what Iolo did. He imagined a mostly fictional Welsh Bardic instutition, and did it so vividly and with such power that it stopped being fictional: go visit the next National Eisteddfod in Wales and you'll see Iolo's vision come to life.

    What's more, his vision became one of the major driving forces behind the Welsh cultural revival of the 19th and 20th centuries, and spilled over into Cornwall and Brittany as well. For one eccentric Welshman with barely a penny to his name, he had a colossal impact. Was his prophecy “authentic?” Doesn't matter a fart in an EF-5 tornado; it was valid. It had the power to make itself become true, and project itself into the past and future with such force that today, if you say the word “Druid” (or “Derwydd”) in a Welsh pub, the imagery that comes first to the other patrons' minds is indelibly tinged with Iolo's dreams — and that's even true if the pub's next to a university and the patrons all know better.

    (Note the implication here — if the Celtic Reconstructionists can manage the same trick, their imagined Celtic past could conceivably become the same sort of self-fulfilling prophecy. Of course that would require more attention to validity than to authenticity, but I suspect that will happen one way or the other…)

    Scotlyn, an excellent point. A thorough response would require at least an entire post; for now, I'd point out that it's only in the imaginations of intellectuals, and then only in the prophetic religions, that religion is a matter of things you understand. Elsewhere it's a matter of things you do and feel — such as putting fertility icons to the east of the fruit garden…

  75. John Michael Greer: Half-Klingon, half-“Celtic”, those are irrelevancies. Worf was written that way because the show creator was making a comment on racial politics in the US in the 1980s. The point is that, as people try to connect with a cultural tradition in which they were not raised, and whose language they do not natively speak, they tend to engage with it as everyone else outside of the tradition does, a stereotype. Over time that changes as the people involved find more nuance and depth of understanding, absorbing the motivations and patterns instead of imitating the surface appearances (learning the language helps in ways that are not always immediately obvious, which is one reason that Celtic reconstructionists have pushed the languages as a critical component of cultural engagement; my mention of the Irish words aisling and iomas above are a glimpse at that value). It's a continuum of learning that lasts a lifetime, even for those raised in the relevant cultural matrix! Which comes back to the way that those born to a culture do not always exemplify the ideals and virtues of that culture.

    (cont)

  76. On prophets generally and Iolo specifically, I am in the position of needing to both attempt to fairly present the views of my co-religionists and also my own more nuanced position. Thank you for giving me food for thought to bring back to others. I remain unconvinced by Enlightenment Deism, though I do accept that it is a part of a long tradition going back into prehistory (Gordon White, following E.J. Michael Witzel, calls it “Gondwana mythology”, as opposed to “Laurasia mythology”*; both are thought to develop from an even earlier “Pan-Gaean mythology” about which very little – but not nothing – can be said).

    * And therein lies the rub. The proto-Indo-European religions all develop from the Laurasian strand of mythology, having such decisive characteristics as a relatively coherent story of creation-to-apocalyptic-ending – and despite its burial in the Christian pseudo-historical epic, there remain signs of this in Irish and British texts, such as the series of “invasions” found in both traditions; the Irish even have a recorded story of the slaying of a giant named Bith “All”, and though the expected building of the world from his body parts is lost to us we do find most of the rest of the “Slaying the Cosmic Giant” story found across the Indo-European world (and other Irish texts point toward the idea that the parts of the world correspond in Gaelic Irish thought to body parts, such as the “Seven-part Adam” story found in London Additional MS. 4783, folio 7a, which expands the Biblical story so that Adam is not made from only dust/clay and breath, but from various parts of the natural world; you may also recognize parallels in several of the Barddas entries), and as well the British may have a similar reflection (or perhaps shadow) in the story of the defeat of a giant named Gogmagog – instead of a series of mostly-unconnected “just-so” stories and a sort of proto-Deism describing a distant high creator-god with more active messengers such as a rainbow (usually) serpent, which are distinguishing features of the Gondwanan mythologies. Some argue that the historical Druids are a pre-PIE group (and thus that they might have embodied the Gondwanan mythological strand), but that argument is based entirely on wishful thinking as there is exactly no evidence for it, and some persuasive evidence against it (such as the close parallels to other religious castes as far away as India).

    For reference, Gordon White presents his case for a new magical mythology derived from anthropology, archaeology, and a leavening of “alternative archaeology” in Star.Ships (despite the title, the only appearance of extraterrestrial aliens is in the explicit negative; the reference is to astronomical knowledge at end of the last Ice Age). The alternative archaeology is inevitable, as finds like Göbekli Tepe have entirely upended old mainstream theories about such fundamental things as the emergence – and function! – of organized religion in human societies (as Ian Hodder of Stanford notes, “All our theories were wrong.”) What makes White especially interesting from the magician's perspective is that his analysis of prehistory leaves little room for a purely materialist approach. His underlying, mostly-unstated argument, as I understand it, is that what we know about human development can only be explained by the presence of spirits. E.J. Michael Witzel's book on which White draws for its vision of prehistoric religion is The Origins of the World's Mythologies, from 2012.

    (cont)

  77. Finally, I also want to address the idea of Celtic reconstructionists wanting an “imagined Celtic past”. I feel that many people misunderstand the project and assume that people who use the pagan/polytheist reconstructionist methodology want to return to an imagined older age. I want to emphatically say that, while it may be true for a few, this is not the case for most! “Reconstruction” should be understood in forensic terms, as in “to reconstruct what has happened”. It is an act of necromancy, interrogating the dead for insights into how best to live now. We (most of us) understand that the dead are not infallible, either, but we think that refusing to learn from them simply because their message has been obscured for political reasons is a mistake. I realize that this will probably be lost yet again in the “common knowledge” of what pagan/polytheist reconstructionists must be like, as it always seems to, but I will try to keep pressing it as long as the misconceptions keep cropping up.

  78. @ Max, thank you for your kind words! I hope to get to that point as well, it's different though transitioning and detransitioning. From personal transitioning is the much more empowering narrative to be working with.

    @ Shane, thank you for your perspective. I'm taking my life one day at a time. Luckily I have a job on a vegetable farm, and get to hang out with really beautiful people all day making food grow. The sick society syndrome is an important concept.

    @ Scotlyn, While I generally agree with what you wrote, I want to clarify that the most salient feature of my choice to transition wasn't so much the culture at large but the smaller trans subculture I fell into. Becoming trans was structurally very similar to joining a cult, with the attendant darkness that occurs more generally when one steps off one's path. While of course the cult of trans grows from the medium of our larger culture, nonetheless what I'm processing isn't so much how Western society treats symptoms of larger issues using a reductionist model, but instead how my symptoms were created from a cultish milieu and what that implies about my own integrity. What I feel I learned is that I need to to be humble in the sense of Matthew 7:3; “Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?” While I may pride myself as a free thinker, a nonconformist, an holistic herbalist etc., the truth is I've proven to be enormously vulnerable, conformist, feeble minded, and have gone so far as to willfully mutilate my perfect and whole body because now admit I was wrong. If there is some scrap of dignity I may place over my narrative (and I am reluctant to do even this) I may say that it is clear that I have fallen very low in the course of my life. At some points I fell so low I believed that I could see the very bottom. With time and careful study of Carl Jung I've come to see that the lowest is also the deepest and to reckon with that is something worthwhile. It is worthwhile to contend with the true meaning of “mercy” and to face its terrifying implications, viz. that all human evil and sickness could be found somewhere in my depths, just like everyone else. Of course that being said I didn't need to go to the great lengths I did to learn this truth, the great lengths that you are right in saying are supported by the reductionist model our culture generally uses.

    @ Dylan, thank you so much for your personal note and for your kind words! Authenticity is apparently very difficult. In his Liber Novus Jung writes that “balance is godly.” Is authenticity some perfect balancing act on the fulcrum of truth? It is so enigmatic and so hard to define, perceptible perhaps only through physiognomic tact. The problem of authenticity is very profound; how can one “know thyself”? How can you know what is you and what isn't? If you find it inside does that make it you? If I claim to be something does that make it so? If I try to become something can I actually reach a state where I have changed into it?

    I don't think the answers to any of these questions are actually that clear cut, obvious or self explanatory which makes the entire conversation around authenticity very difficult. Not thinking about these serious issues seems to have equally mixed results as regular contemplation…and post modernism makes it that much harder!

  79. JMG,

    One of the things that made me take Druidry seriously was your honest discussion of the history of the Druidry Revival, Iolo and all, in your book “The Druidry Handbook.” The forgeries, recent “ancient traditions”, etc. you mentioned in your book and in your recent essay here made me think of other religious traditions.

    Imagine an apologist for Christianity stating flatly what is common knowledge among biblical scholars; that at least a quarter of the 27 books in the New Testament are forgeries or assigned false authorship. Perhaps she might use the technical term “pseudographia” to lighten the blow but “false writing” simply means deliberately false authorship. Now this does happen, but never in an introductory book intended as an invitation to the religion.

    I don't write this to bash Christianity. I have great sympathy with that religious tradition.

    The terma texts of Tibetan Buddhism also come to mind as well as much of the Mahayana Texts.

    This is not to suggest there is not an enormous amount that is of value in all these forgeries. I particularly enjoyed a point you make in “The Druidry Handbook” to the effect that someone has to make this stuff up sometime. (I hope you don't mind my paraphrase.)

    The point is there is a long tradition of long traditions that are not so long or authentic in authorship. Interestingly, this has little bearing on the value of the content; all the more so when the content is inspired. Who then is the author if one takes “inspiration” seriously?

    The proof or value/authorship is in the application.

  80. Kevin, oh, granted! It's always tempting to run off in search of an imaginary past, and as I noted in my post, there's a long American tradition among intellectuals of doing just that, and claiming other people's cultures as their own in order to distance themselves from American folk culture. It's considerably tougher to grapple with the reality of our erasure of our own past, to live with the resulting wound and let it heal in its own time — but to my mind, it's that tougher choice that leads to the places that matter.

    Faoladh, it's not an irrelevancy so long as those of us in the Druid Revival traditions keep on being denounced at top volume by Celtic Reconstructionists who insist on presenting themselves as authentic Celts with exclusive ownership of authentic Celtic spirituality. When that stops, I promise you, I'll be delighted to quit discussing it — but it hasn't stopped yet, as the experience recounted in this month's post demonstrates. As you've said, there's no central authority in the CR scene; one thing that means, though, is that your intelligent and nuanced understanding of Reconstructionism is only one of the options out there, and some of the others are pretty embarrassing.

    I haven't read Gordon White, so I'm by no means sure what exactly he means by “Laurasian” and “Gondwanan” mythologies; my own fairly extensive reading of mythology leaves me scratching my head at the generalizations you've mentioned here, as the only similar scheme I know of — Julius Evola's division between “Uranian” and “Demetrian” traditions — is a pastiche of fashionable notions from early 20th century pop culture. Still, I'll have to look at the sources you cite before passing judgment. As for the creation of the universe out of the pieces of a primal being, funny you should mention that; that's exactly the mythologem I found in Iolo, in his creation myth of Einigen the Giant, complete with a remarkably good collection of the traditional details. The name Einigen, btw, has been traced to a Celtic original *Oinogenos, “only-born,” and he has the necessary twin, Menw — the name may be a bit evocative…

    As for the imagined Celtic past, here again, that depends on which Celtic Reconstructionists you talk to — or get denounced by. I appreciate your nuanced approach, but I trust you're aware that it's far from universal; I've encountered way too many self-proclaimed Celtic Reconstructionists who have a really bad case of “Beam Me Back, Merlin” Syndrome, and rose-colored notions of what they'd encounter if that actually happened! If I may offer a bit of advice from a seasoned occultist, that's a pervasive problem with necromancy, as generations of Spiritualists have discovered to their discomfiture: it's very, very hard to be sure that you're actually getting the spirit you have in mind, rather than some random spook who will tell you whatever it thinks you want to hear.

    Patricia, and likewise.

    Agent, oh, granted. My ire is directed purely at those who brandish their own preferred invented past while denouncing everyone else as a bunch of fakes.

  81. John Michael Greer: I apologize, I only meant “irrelevancies” to refer to the specific identifiers “half-Klingon” and “half-'Celtic'”, not that the discussion was irrelevant. One could insert any personal identifier in place of those two terms and it wouldn't change the discussion is all that I meant. I fully agree that people abusing the “Celtic reconstructionist” identifier should be called on their bad behavior. Funny story: the person who coined that term to refer to what we were doing did so with the express intent that, being so cumbersome, others would be unlikely to co-opt it to their alternate purposes. That does not seem to have turned out quite as hoped.

    White is one of a few very exciting writers on and in the occult community to emerge in the last decade or so. His Rune Soup blog and podcast are well worth checking out. Also look into Jake Stratton-Kent, and perhaps Daniel Harms.

    The difficulties with necromancy are definitely something of which most of us are aware. However, the necessary reverence of “the ancestors” (which is a very nuanced term in itself!) demands that the attempt is made, even if it must be done with all due caution. Discernment is a thing that exists, though, and it is something that we expressly try to improve in ourselves, though I admit that it is more difficult without an allegedly-infallible text against which to compare.

  82. John Michael Greer: I forgot to mention, the first volume of the AODA journal arrived today and I skimmed your article. Seems solid, indeed. There's no reasonable scenario I can think of which would result in that specific person inventing that specific story. I think that the most likely fragments that are not forged in Barddas are those which exist in multiple versions, as I think it is less likely that Iolo would have created several different versions of his inventions.

  83. Faoladh, thank you. The inventor of the term “Celtic Reconstructionism” had a faith in human nature I admire, but don't share — I don't think there's any label in any human language that can't be put to embarrassing uses. I've recently been mulling over a theory that humanity is a hybrid species resulting from casual miscegenation between bonobos and swine — improbable as it sounds, there's a fair amount of evidence to support the notion — and you must admit, it would explain a few things about us.

    Of the people you name, I'm familiar with Daniel Harms, partly via research into the Cthulhu mythos — I have a series of fantasy novels in process that turns Lovecraft on his head, and Harms' Encyclopedia Cthuliana has been invaluable there — and partly via his very solid edition of The Long Lost Friend, which I'd recommend to any student of American folk magic. The other two — well, all in good time. I mostly read books by dead people these days.

    With regard to Iolo, you might want to glance through a copy of Barddas one of these days. Nearly everything in it appears in multiple versions, some more garbled than others, and the same sort of fragmentary myth-structures found in the myth of Einigan run through much of it. I suspect that if the CR community could get past their inherited dislike of the man and his era, they might be able to tease out some astonishing things from his work.

  84. @ JMG re “I've recently been mulling over a theory that humanity is a hybrid species resulting from casual miscegenation between bonobos and swine — improbable as it sounds, there's a fair amount of evidence to support the notion — and you must admit, it would explain a few things about us. “

    Except that the traits the author derives from swine are well accounted for by the Aquatic (or at least littoral) Ape theory. About which I note there are far more people throughout the ages willing to pay to immerse their bodies in water and swim, than would pay to run marathons across the savanna.

    Pat, who when heavier did indeed resemble the typical aquatic mammal.

  85. @violet – here are two separate acts of courage.
    1) willingness to “know thyself” even when that knowledge doesn't flatter.
    2) willingness to let go instead of double down after a sunk investment.
    Strength to your courage.

    I take your point about the intense workings of a subculture (have seen similar in action).

    Be well!

  86. JMG, Gordon White is not the man behind the “Laurasian” and “Gondwanan” terminology — it's Michael Witzel, a solid Indologist who applied the methods of comparative linguistics to mythology.

    I don't wish to speak ill of White, so I'll just say that he posts interesting things but I find that he doesn't critique his sources very thoroughly (he interviewed Scott Gosnell, who “translated” Giordano Bruno by going through a Latin dictionary and picking out words).

  87. @Violet, your questions are excellent and I agree that the answers are not clear cut.

    You mentioned 'physiognomic tact'. Yesterday I was re-reading chapter 3, vol. 1 in Decline of the West, where he really starts to get into the difference between intuition and cognition. If there does exist something we know as 'authenticity', I think it must be something sensed intuitively rather than delineated.

    When I glimpse a bird out my window, I know almost right away whether it's a sparrow or a finch. How? Both birds are small, round-headed, and stout-beaked, with buffy streaking. A field guide helps me to label the distinctive markings, but it's quite possible with practice to recognize a bird zipping by in full flight, without the chance to glimpse colour or markings. How do you label something like the shape and rhythm of a flap? How do I know what I know at a glance?

    The first time I read Spengler I rolled my eyes a lot at how repetitive his descriptions were. Reading him again after studying the history of early China this past winter, and confirming for myself the shape he traces through time, I have a greater appreciation for the difficulty involved in enunciating form. At the same time it's easier for me to recognize the basic forms he plays with and then to tune in to the much keener commentary he offers above and beyond historical theory.

    One of the phrases that stuck out to me this time was the necessity for the historian of having a 'knowledge of men'. That is, being able to intuitively understand and appraise a person or a group or the form-language of a culture (or subculture!)

    My eventual uneasiness with radical left culture stemmed from what I saw as a lack of self-knowledge in this regard. In its most extreme expressions, it tends to fixate on labels (whiteness, ableness, maleness) and to ignore form (hierarchically ranked of groups, only inverted in relation to the rankings of mainstream culture). Thus trans, disabled women of colour are accorded the highest reverence, while straight white men are marked with the original sin of privilege. JMG has made the same observation with regard to Satanism, Marxism, etc. as parodies of Christianity. My point here is that while the content or the labels are swapped in all these cases, the form remains the same, unarticulated but present nonetheless.

    My answer to your questions of authenticity begins with this: while the labels accorded to you, Violet, may include male or female or change from one to the other, the outline or form of you, Violet, though always changing, is nevertheless recognizable and distinct. (The physiognomic of you as a thing-becoming, not a thing-become). Otherwise why would so many strangers on the internet respond to you so enthusiastically?

    Sorry to see your blog is no longer active, but I do hope it's for the best. Perhaps you'll return to writing in some other shape or form 🙂

  88. Patricia, I'm familiar with the littoral ape theory, and it certainly deserves a fair examination, but no, it doesn't explain everything that the hybridization theory does. McCarthy's list of features that humans have in common with swine, but no other living primate shares with humans, is pretty impressive; you'll find them here, about a third of the way down (look for the green sidebar on the right), and many of them do not have anything to do with a putative aquatic habitat. Pigs, by the way, are very good swimmers and fond of water…

    Alvin, I've heard various people comment that the Gosnell translation, while it has some problems, is the only thing available in English — which is still true for now; my translation of On the Shadows of the Ideas is still in press. I could see doing an interview with the guy just on that basis!

  89. On the discussion of literary forgery, you've actually given me some of the keys to understanding a myth from my homeland – New Zealand. It's reasonably well-known that our indigenous people – the Maori – had standard polynesian polytheistic beliefs, but it's less well known that a select group of Maori had a belief in an underlying unity – Io Matua Kore (Io the Parentless One) over the top of the standard polytheistic religion.

    In the early 1990s a few surviving elders of one of the Io traditions found a European historian (it is standard for trusted European writers to undertake Maori history) by the name of Barry Brailsford to write down some of this mythology. The Song of the Waitaha (and related books) were the result. These were published to howls of official protest – both Maori and European – because the legends go back well beyond the start of official history in NZ, and include events that have no rational explanation. The books include a working account of the Io tradition, and probably, some of its occult rites and tradition.

    But, in light of discussions here about how the occult has use invented history as a tool, Brailsfords work and that aspect of Maori tradition makes complete sense now. The Song of the Waitaha can sit there on the shelf, be laughed at, demonised, ignored, but for those with the keys to understand the work they can pick it up and read it in a completely different light. That's powerful, and this has only clicked for me in the last week or so. I don't know who else it's clicked for.

    The real interesting thing is that I see strong overlaps with the druidry traditions, even though there are no historical connections. There may very well be a hybrid Maori/druidical golden dawn system that can be built, although such a system would require many more years of work and learning.

  90. Peter, that's fascinating — but to me, at least, not at all surprising. It's tolerably common for religions to have an inner, initiated teaching that differs in important ways from the outer, public teaching, and in polytheist faiths, a divine unity undergirding the divine plurality is tolerably often a part of that initiated teaching. It's also very common for such initiated teachings to use what Avery Morrow has usefully termed “parahistories” — alternative accounts of history meant, as Iolo Morganwg's reimagining of Welsh bardism was meant, to redefine the possibilities of the present and future by reframing the past.

    As for Druidry, both the Druid Revival and the Golden Dawn tradition acclimatized to New Zealand a long time ago, and there are thriving communities of practitioners of both these traditions there now, so you're probably right; whether a tradition will work in a given place has a lot to do with the subtle character of the land itself.

  91. Alvin Leong: That's fair to note that Gordon White is not always the most scrupulous in regard to his sources, but I'd say that White's wild and chaotic exuberance is exactly what makes him a worthwhile read, and precisely positions him to outline a new occult history that incorporates what we now know of archaeological and anthropological fact. Also, I'm not sure that it's a valid critique to simply note that a person has interviewed another person. Barbara Walters interviewed the Menendez brothers, but I don't think that casts any aspersions on her character or ability.

  92. OT, I'd like to read a John Michael Greer review of Susan Brind Morrow's The Dawning Moon of the Mind: Unlocking the Pyramid Texts. Possibly reprinted as The Silver Eye, or could be a different book.

  93. John Michael,

    I am wondering if some of your worldview may have been influenced by the book, Not In His Image by John Lash, which I am now reading and which is quite a book.

  94. I have to admit to getting a pretty big kick out of McCarthy's theory; it certainly adds a delicious layer to the “I'm not descended from a monkey” issue. But there has to be more to the story. It doesn't explain the human face or brain.

  95. Bruce, I'll put it on the list of things to take a look at.

    Onething, no, and in fact I haven't read it. Do you think I should? With regard to McCarthy's theory, one thing to keep in mind — as he points out in his website — is that when you get hybrids from species that aren't close relatives, the chromosomes can't pair up properly and it's a complete crapshoot which genes get mixed up with one another. It would be astonishing, given that, if the offspring of bonobos and swine didn't have weird features not found in either parent — and of course then you have natural selection and genetic drift acting on the progeny.

    More broadly, though, I also find McCarthy's theory delightful. It would explain so much about our species if we were descended from a series of one-night stands between apes and swine…

  96. Oh, and a note for all and sundry — expect an announcement regarding my new blogging platform later this month. It's mostly up and running; a little more tinkering and it'll be ready to roll. If current plans hold out, I should be blogging again regularly around the summer solstice. Stay tuned!

  97. Re apes & swine … giggle. giggle …yes. And if we're descended from the line which became bonobos rather than their common cousins, it would also explain why the matings took place at the ape stage without the usual females-in-season triggers. Homo Sapiens, it is well known (and proven by court records in places where such records are kept and people really care about such things – do a search on medieval bestiality trials) can and will mate with anything that moves and many things that don't.

    S/f writer Michael Flynn (no kin to a figure currently in the news) had a short story long ago, forget the name of it, in which a mating between apes and dolphins had produced men and women. -Come to think of it, dolphins seem to have some of the same characteristics as men in that department.

    But we tend to think of dolphins as nice, and swine as nasty.

  98. JMG: Oh boy, that's just the announcement I stopped by here tonight hoping to read! I hope the blogging hiatus has been good for you, and that your wife is well too. I look forward to the next chapter.
    –Heather in CA

  99. @ JMG,

    “It's considerably tougher to grapple with the reality of our erasure of our own past, to live with the resulting wound and let it heal in its own time — but to my mind, it's that tougher choice that leads to the places that matter. “

    Well said, so true on so many levels, and thank you…

  100. JM –

    “Onething, no, and in fact I haven't read it. Do you think I should? “

    Tell you what, I will let you know when I finish it or get further in. Some of the attitude and ideas seem very much like a post you did a while back, regarding a possible new religiosity and a new (old) relationship to nature.

    Regarding McCarthy's theory, what I seem to recall reading is that it is indeed an utter crapshoot how things combine, from having intermediate characteristics, to having them all jumbled up, to having the forebody of one species and the back half of the other. But I don't think it gives entirely new characteristics.

    I don't think his theory (I have not read the entire thing yet) really addresses the issues that intelligent design brings up, which are mostly much earlier in the game, but I sense he is onto something and he certainly knows his stuff. Also two of his antiDarwinian arguments I agree with – that there is evidence of saltation and that point mutations are not adequate to accomplish much evolving.

  101. Hi JMG,

    Quote: “the realization that the incident would make a good blog post!”

    Forgive my bad joke but, stories are literally (!) everywhere. ;-)!

    I look forward to the new blog! As a suggestion, I'm developing a blog code of conduct that applies to myself and the people that leave comments on the blog. I have recently been made aware that there are some practices that appear predatory on social media, and well… It looks like sharks may well patrol these waters. You are welcome to rip or adapt the code for your own use if you so desire but it is worth considering.

    Cheers

    Chris

  102. @Patricia Matthews

    You said: “And if we're descended from the line which became bonobos rather than their common cousins.

    The standard narrative is (and has been for quite a while) that the split between the human and chimpanzee lineage was six to eight million years ago, while the split between the chimpanzee and bonobo lineage was around two million years ago. This is based on DNA analysis, partly because there is essentially no fossil evidence of the chimpanzee lineage – and it's not for lack of looking. The jungle environment is simply not conducive to the preservation of fossils. (Fossil evidence in the human lineage before 4.5 to 5 million years ago is also very sparse.)

    The only thing that a credible paleoanthropologist will go on record about the last common ancestor is that it's not likely to have been very similar to a modern chimp. It was most likely arboreal and not a knuckle-walker. That latter statement is based on analysis of chimp and gorilla hands and wrists: they are quite different, and there is no plausible narrative for how the gorilla hand and wrist would have evolved into the chimpanzee hand and wrist.

    @JMG, etc.

    I'm always wary of being bitten by the Dunning-Kruger effect.

  103. I found McCarthy's hypothesis about human origins entertaining, creative, and thought-provoking, but it falls apart on the timing. All the fossil and genetic evidence indicates that the ancestor of humans and chimps plus bonobos diverged between eight and five million years ago. At that time, there is no evidence for members of the genus Sus in sub-Saharan Africa. In particular, Sus scrofa does not even show up in Europe until the Pleistocene. From The Evolution of Suidae:

    Of the three major episodes of species replacement that took place during the evolutionary history of Suidae, including (a) the disappearance of most non-Suinae (except Babyrousa) during the Miocene/Pliocene boundary, (b) the replacement of all non-Sus species in Eurasia during the Pliocene, and (c) the replacement of most Sus species by S. scrofa during the Pleistocene, the latter is the best documented. Over the course of 1–2 My, S. scrofa colonized the entirety of Eurasia and North Africa and replaced many local species.

    The particular species of swine he's calling on to be the other ancestor of humans was not available in Africa for hybridization until after Homo habilis appeared during the earliest Pleistocene, by which time humans are already bipedal tool-users, when several of the putative traits from hybridization have already appeared. That doesn't help his argument, although I suppose he could move up the event and change the primate parent to H. habilis with the cross producing H. erectus.

    I was wondering if McCarthy would allow hybridization with one of the sub-Saharan pigs for human ancestry. Instead, he hypothesizes that happening for the origin of the gorilla, which implies a river hog, forest hog, or warthog wouldn't be the other ancestor for humans. At least my objections to the swine-ape origins of humans don't apply to the hybrid origins of gorillas; more conventional ones would suffice. Finally, I was convinced about the case for chimp-gorilla hybrids happening during modern times. At least McCarthy can claim victory on that item.

  104. Fascinating! I’m assuming this is from Well of Galabes, which I’ve owed you a visit to for ages (several centuries now, I think). The conflicts you describe sound pretty normal for a group of non-absolutist religions that accept each other but with personal reservations. I have finally been admitted as a “kyoshi” (“teacher” but in this case, it seems to mean “member”) of the so-translated “Fuji cult.” It is a pan-syncretic religion (why, I even discovered a tiny white cross at the center of one of its two logos, and I believe it to have been deliberate, though the early leaders would have denied it when being interrogated for suspected Christianity) founded about 400 years ago by Hasegawa Kakugyo, who was an ascetic Shugendo practitioner in a cave a short walk from where I live.
    Am I claiming authenticity? By golly,yes! (I can even recite the names of the successive leaders and even know a story or two about some of them.) But the leaders intended that the religion evolve with the times, and it did. It always leaned more toward Shinto than Buddhism (accepting women as equal to men, for example), and in the officially enforced split during the Meiji era between Buddhism and Shinto, it chose to go with the latter, whereas most of the rugged pan-syncretic Shugendo mountain sects went with Buddhism. Fuji-kyo dropped use of sutras (though everyone still practices them on their own anyway), and added Amaterasu and the Jimmu (1st) and Meiji (then last) emperors to the liturgy. I see they have not updated that since then, and it is a point of contention whether to continue including them.
    There is still a government bureau in charge of determining what is authentically Shinto according to scholars, after centuries of mixing with Buddhism, and trying to keep it pure as a cultural tradition, but it is no longer against the law to practice both together. Also, the trend in the Meiji era ironically to destroy the last vestiges of ancient Shinto shamanesses through ridicule and suppression has ended, and female shamanism still practiced in Fuji-kyo.
    Never mind authenticity, officials and other folks will pick and choose which parts they think are okay under the current social circumstances.

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