Those of us in the world today live in a world that is very different than that of the Iron Age in which the Gaulish peoples lived. Fifteen hundred years separate us from them. The loss of a language, a religion, and a culture. An identity. To speak of identity in times like these can be a tricky subject.
We’re living in an age where asserting one’s identity in the world has led to people who believe for whatever reason, that if theirs is not dominant, that it will cease to exist. That if they do not force people to think and act as they do, to believe as they believe, they themselves will be no more as they are. This is very dangerous thinking. It turns identity into a tool of oppression; a weapon. It turn into enemies many who may have otherwise been friends.
The first time that I was a Gaulish Polytheist, I truly did not understand identity. Though, I don’t completely understand it now either, I’ve come away with a better understanding of it now than I had a few years ago. Of something being so deeply ingrained into one’s being. I come from various peoples in recent history, that took that away from countless others, or at least tried. Thus, I was born into the Culture of the Self. Though, I’m not here to say that individualism is bad in all of its forms. Sometimes it is a very positive thing. It has also done great harm.
I didn’t directly, or knowingly, take part in the eradication, or attempts thereof, of other cultures. However, like many, though unintentional, I have benefitted from the actions of people who did. Having to work hard, study hard, and make changes to my own worldview is an infinitesimally small price to pay. Especially when compared to those that had to work under the yoke of oppressive institutions (all throughout the world) to either revive or preserve their customs. My privilege lies in the truth that only understanding stands in my way. Countless other people have had to contend with way more than that.
My Sîraxtâ (longing, though if like the Welsh ‘hiraeth’ means much more than just longing) isn’t comparable to many others, not even to any Gaulish ancestors I may have who, like many after them, had to contend with the loss of themselves at the hands of an oppressive power. Still, it exists, and perhaps with understanding of culture, not only could a gap that many in the Modern West feel be filled at least to some degree, but also instill or strengthen a sense of empathy for those who fight to keep their cultures alive. Not from imaginary fears put forth by fascists and their sympathizers, that fear those different from them themselves, and that the existence of other peoples and cultures amongst them somehow threatens current cultures (it doesn’t). No, instead from institutions that threaten other cultures simply for existing and asserting their rights.
Be it for a child to wear their hair the way it naturally is at school or an adult at work to do the same. Or the protection of sacred land from people who wish to destroy it for a quick profit. For one to wear whatever they choose around their head or anywhere else on their person, or any other cases in recent times. These things that don’t harm or threaten anyone, they are expressions of both who one is, and their culture, and their right to exist as they are.
I don’t know if there is a way to fully understand the struggles of the countless embroiled in that fight. Though the first recourse should always be to listen to their perspectives and concerns. Beyond that, to have a hope of understanding better, I believe it is important to also look at our own lives, and to try to remember that there is a part of us that is also yearning for a sense of who we are. A sense of yearning to reconnect with a deep, unshakeable identity. There are no easy answers to this.
It isn’t always as simple as genetics and ancestry, as some may lead us to believe. Having this or that blood quantity doesn’t instill language, custom, religious expression, song, dance, or much else other than a hair, eye, or skin color, secondary to medical history. Which is undoubtedly useful to know. Genes only really scratch the surface. As many deep relations were severed over centuries, it only makes sense that many people feel lost. It also puts up a barrier between the lost, and those who are not and often feel threatened by lost people looking to them, or oppressing them. It’s hard to give others answers when fighting for your own survival, and it is an unfair burden to place upon these peoples. So, for those of us with a sense of Sîraxtâ, it is on us to work together to find our answers.
So, what to do? That answer varies as well. Due to this, I can only offer up what I have done, and a few others who go a similar way. I looked back for that sense of connection. To the Pagan past. The primal, deep connection of remains that stirred in me the Sîraxtâ that I didn’t know that I had. For me, it led to the ancient Gauls. The many manifest Dêwoi that seemed to stretch a collective hand. Not because I’m anything special, but because they must have seen my hand reaching out as well. As I looked at the Cauldron of Gundestrup and saw its evocative images of a bearded figure holding a wheel. A figure in antlers, with a torc and serpent. A figure taking of men on foot into His cauldron, making them into mounted men anew.
I looked at another relief; a woman on horseback, sidesaddle, bearing the fruits of the earth. Another of the sacrificial bull, upon Him three cranes. I looked upon the great neck-rings in awe of the skill and dedication of their makers. Of those interconnected spirals, and saw a mystery within. I saw the words of a tongue I can barely grasp that reached out through the ages to my mind. Wondering how they sounded when that tongue of free peoples last came from the mouths of peasants and kings, seeresses and Druids. When I saw glimpses of timekeeping in a way I could barely recognize that sought to be understood again.
I walked away for a time, no doubt. It all seemed like too much, and sometimes it still feels that way. I sought comfort in a lineage I knew better and assumed I belonged. However, those mysteries beckoned me time and time again. You can only ignore a calling for so long. Though I say it again, I’m not special. There’s little remarkable about me. I’m just another factory drudge in a place coined the “Rust Belt”. I’ve even been reminded by a few that I’m “nothing but a peasant”. Well, what can I say? They’re right.
Be that as it may, it doesn’t stop me from reaching out. It doesn’t bring me a sense of shame. It didn’t stop hands from reaching back and pulling me closer to them. Nothing about any real or perceived shortcomings on my part stopped any of this. If you reach your hand out, maybe you will find that something grabs it. Maybe you’ll also be pulled closer to something that both is beyond the self, but also gives you a better sense of self.
I’ve been blessed with good friends, a great family, and the love of my life. That’s a big part of wholeness, something we all seek. Another part of that is that reaching out, and feeling a hand reach back. I don’t know what form that will take for you. I wouldn’t have guessed what form it would take for me. Perhaps my Sîraxtâ has a little further to go. After all, I still have much of that old tongue to learn. However, with all of these factors combined, I’m closer to that wholeness than ever. That Slanos. That Îaccos. Which may bring me closer to Noibos. (Wholeness and health, to be brought closer to the sacred.)
So, best of luck to you all in finding that. If it is the way of Galatîs, the Senobessus (Old Custom), let me know and I’ll try to help. Until then:
Immi Leitonellos Tarvogenos. Immi Galatis. Immi uiros rios toutîas rias.
Translation: I am Leitonellos Tarvogenos. I am (a) Gaul(ish Polytheist). I am a free man of a free people.