Friday, March 11, 2011

Enter Manannan: Walking Between Worlds

Whenever I first became Pagan, I went full-out from monotheist to polytheist. I honored Brigid, Fortuna, and gave an "honorable mention" to Manannan Mac Lir , Celtic god of the seas and storms. At that time, I did not give him much notice, I simply included him because of my affinity for beaches and all things aquatic. Around that time, I was living closer to mountains (and later, the urban/suburban Chicago areas), none of which were very close to a true beach/coastal area, so perhaps that also made it difficult for me to relate to that particular deity.

Whenever I discovered Gnosticism and felt the pull towards becoming a Gnostic, my energies became more focused in that direction, with its basically Judeo-Christian worldview and language. I began once again attending Christian churches, and said goodbye to any deities I followed, and hello to their Christianized counterparts as Saints or Angels, as well as a couple of Gnostic entities I follow - Sophia, Aeon of Wisdom, Abraxas, Aeon of balance, and Pleroma (in a nutshell, this is basically kind of the Gnostic terminology for "God"). I came to the conclusion that Druidry was my expression of nature spirituality, and Gnosticism my expression of Deity. And then, a few things happened.

One nudge came about, strangely enough, in Religious Education, basically the United Church of Christ's version of Sunday School. At the time, we were doing a series of discussions concerning varying viewpoints of who Jesus is. At one point during the discussion, one woman mentioned that earlier in life, she rarely gave Jesus much thought. Then, she went on to describe that she was a Reiki practitioner - an alternative/New Age health practice in which the practitioner balances the energies/chakras of a client by calling on varying spirits for aid. She went on to describe her surprise that Jesus was one of the spirits who came to assist during one of her sessions. Now, I'm undecided as to the validity of Reiki, personally, as I have never had any involvement in it, but I digress. My point is, that she presented with a very unorthodox view of Jesus, and it piqued my interest.

The next nudge came about, once again, through my church. This time through the Celtic spirituality group I am attempting to participate in, when schedule allows. One member, upon being asked about the well-being of another member who was not at the meeting, noted how said member had held a bonfire on Imbolc. This, once again, caught my attention. Up until that point, I had felt that I was probably the most "unorthodox" person in the church, which although very liberal, was still, after all, a Christian church. A mainstream Christian, celebrating Imbolc? It also surprised me to hear another member, basically the head of the Celtic spirituality group and very active in the church, comment "I don't consider myself Christian. I just like That Jesus Guy and think he had a lot of good things to say!"

The third, and most recent, nudge came about through the OBOD forums I frequent on occasion (see Links section). Whenever I went on the trip to Asheville and Cherokee back in December, I bought a handmade medicine bag, which currently contains in it the various gems and rocks that came with it. Recently, I finally got around to posting a topic on the forums asking for advice on items to put in it to wear or keep with me. A responding post stated that it sounded similar to Manannan Mac Lir's Crane Bag(kind of a Druid equivalent of a medicine bag) and redirected me to The Temple of Manannan Mac Lir (also added to Links section), a website dedicated to Manannan. Suddenly, I felt a call, as if he were showing up and yelling "Hi! Remember me?" Through readings from that website, and the wikipedia article previously linked to, I realize that there's more to him than just water associations. He is associated with oceans and the weather. He is also a "psychopomp", or one who guides souls to the afterlife. Additionally, he is a trickster god and known for his sense of humor. He is likewise affiliated with wisdom(I seem to keep getting drawn to Wisdom deities/spirits, without even knowing that's what they're associated with), as well as magical knowledge. His associations include the hawthorn plant, the crane, and horses(interestingly, in addition to being an aquatic-based person, I used to be extremely into horses - had over 100 figurines and statues at one point as a kid).

I'm beginning to realize that a lot of the struggle I've had these last few months with reconciling my Gnostic experiences with my previous Pagan experiences, and balancing out the somewhat Christian-oriented Gnostic viewpoint with the more nature-centric Druidic viewpoint, have been about labels. I'm still trying to, in a sense, fit a label. "If I'm going to be Pagan, I have to do this, this and this, and believe this, or that." "If I'm going to be Gnostic, I have to believe this, and do that." But I'm coming to realize that I have to let that go, and just be who I am. And what I am is an eclectic syncretization of the two. Gnostic and Pagan, not Gnostic or Pagan. I'm realizing that I'm what is known in Pagan circles as a "soft polytheist" - the belief in the existence of the many deities in the various world cultures, but believing that they are facets of expressions of the same Supreme Unknowable Being (what I as a Gnostic refer to as "Pleroma") , like different sides of a diamond. I believe that Christ is one incarnation of Pleroma. I have not gotten any sense from Pleroma that it is "wrong" for me to honor the Saints I honor(St. Patrick and St. Brigid[although I may now once again begin referring to her by her goddess associations rather than Saint, as I feel like I related more to that]), the Angels I honor(Gabriel), or the Aeons(similar to deities, I believe) I honor (Sophia and Abraxas), so why not Manannan as well, if I feel called to add him to my personal pantheon? I think I will speak with him a while, and see what comes of it.

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