Galatîs Sindiu

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.

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Mî Spâtlon (My Story)

I’ve done a few posts talking about my practices that I have started forming. Now some of you may feel that now that I’ve changed your life, and so you want to know about the revolutionary new Tegoslougos making waves in the Gaulish Polytheist world. Its mastermind: a trailblazer, a genius, a maverick. Okay… So no one has ever said anything like that about me. However, this being a blog, and I, the author, I would think that it’s pertinent to give some background on myself.

For starters, I came from a secular family in Ohio. Like many Americans, somewhat disconnected from their heritage, and given into the culture of individualism that was instilled in us from birth. To speak of the vices or virtues of that is beyond the scope of my interest here. (Though there are certainly both.) My foray into Paganism, like many others started with digestible Llewellyn books leading me into thinking I was Wiccan. I wasn’t. By anyone’s definition, no matter how encompassing.

Then came my finding of Polytheism. Trying to find my way was, and is still at times, rather difficult. After all, it is much more than religion that is involved. It is also the embrace of a culture, in some form or another. That both are involved has, since I’ve become committed to Polytheism, given me a heavy weight. A great fear of getting things wrong. This has followed me in every decision I have made in regards to it.

From Brythonic Polytheism, to Gaulish Polytheism, Anglo-Saxon Heathenship, to feeling utterly lost, and to find my way back. However, the struggle of individualism and collectivism is a part of that, along with the heavy weights of of trying to understand culture with no real bearing. In these cases, it made sense to listen to better, more capable minds on these matters. I am fully aware that there are much better and brighter minds than my own. Tempered with years more in both experience in Polytheism, and life.

However, when I looked at many of them, they too went through similar things. I had been charged with needlessly “reinventing myself”, or in other cases “flying by night”. I had received advice to “stay in my lane”, and basically what I should practice, and they all came from people smarter than me. So, I figured that they must be right. Sometimes I still wonder if they are.

If all of this sounds heavier than I usually get, it is because these stories aren’t always pretty. It isn’t to be a “downer” or to be self deprecating. It is to convey the point that sometimes these transformations come out of things other than great inspiration. Sometimes they come from a place of fear, anxiety, insecurity, and vulnerability. To be honest, that had always been the case for me.

It was those things that had made decisions for me. Especially in regards to practice. Those changes often came at times I felt the most vulnerable, least secure. Never have such changes been comfortable or easy for me. My online presence took a more organized form once I had adopted Heathenship, I do not regret my time spent in it because I met some really good people. So, doubtlessly some reading this remember that I was Heathen.

The fear and vulnerability with which I went into it is not a reflection of Heathendom itself in any way. After a stressful marriage, and the realization that divorce was the only option left me searching for structure that I hadn’t found before. It wasn’t that Gaulish Polytheism didn’t have it, or that great works weren’t being done, but that I wasn’t capable of looking for it. I went from a very experiential approach to a far stricter one. People who told me that the Gods didn’t have interest in people. Save for large groups of them. Their groups, of course. Always.

I remembered going into trances and feeling in some way the presence of Taranis to trying to fit the ball into a square peg of a smaller size. Foolishly I thought that as I was better off in a religion that prized English, that the Gods should have Old English names. It wasn’t meant to be an act of hubris, but of a transition that I was told that I basically should make. That maybe Taranis was Thunor, and that it wasn’t up to me anyway. That I was wrong to see this God of Thunder as Gaulish, because at that time, I’d never be able to afford the materials to learn the Gaulish language. So, I’d never be a “good” Gaulish Polytheist.

Not that it mattered, I figured, if the Gods don’t care, then they don’t care what I call them. They weren’t listening anyway, and my experiences were just my imagination. So, I learned how to be Heathen, and I learned much that I still carry with me. However, I seemed to have lost touch with how to commune with the Gods. Learning better ritual formats helped a lot, and there is much truth in proper worship methodology being of utmost importance. Again, it isn’t that both communities didn’t already have that, just what I was able to find. Or what appeared when I was receptive to that lesson. I already knew how to do rituals, but I hadn’t yet understood why proper ritual was important.

Of course, things changed, and influences in Heathendom changed. Better voices asserted themselves, and I underwent the process of unlearning. That the Gods were and are, in fact, reachable even to one lowly person. That experiences are okay, and that proper ritual helped build a rapport and guide one closer to the Gods and to piety.

However, with that knowledge, and the unlearning of other knowledge, I had begun to question whether or not I made the right choice after all. I had been involved im some small projects, yet folks didn’t seem to think that I fit in with those projects. At first, it saddened me, but I thought that maybe there was a reason I didn’t quite seem to belong. Though no one ever tried to make me feel unwelcome (in fact, they were awesome), I still felt like I didn’t fit in. I thought that by embracing obvious ties in my own culture and ancestry (a standard that I never held anyone but myself to, as you do not have to have ancestral ties to practice properly), as well as the language thereof, that I’d feel at home.

Yet time and time again, I wondered at my choices. I fell out completely. I slumped into a depression, my practice went into a stasis. I wondered if I was really a Polytheist, or could ever be a good Pagan. So many voices told people what they needed to do, who was worthy, and who was right and wrong.

At this nadir, I looked back to my days as a Gaulish Polytheist. Though I wasn’t that good at it, I felt more complete then. I had started to learn much of how to be a Polytheist, and I wondered if perhaps I gave up too soon. After all, the community was and is, like many other Pagan stripes, uplifting and supportive when one is earnest. That it had not failed me, but I failed it.

In my search for answers, a friend taught me fire scrying. I had long given up divination, and outside of structured rites had no communion with the Gods. A part of life that I had so dearly missed. I thought at that point that I had nothing to lose, so I tried it. That familiar presence was felt again, the first time in so long. I couldn’t hide any longer, was the implication. The presence was disappointed in me, but not unwilling to give me a chance. That presence was the same that spoke His name so very clearly. Taranis.

Around that time, I happened across the Toutâ Galation, I also looked at Dun Brython, because Brythonic influence always rounded out my Gaulish practice, and both were present for a long time. Though Gaulish practice dominated in the end both last time, and this time. I went through the Toutâ Galation program. Everything came back like it never left me. I earned the Cobrûnos rank, and I took a new name. I came home. I ripped up my old blog, and this is the result.

My household took a new name as well. The old and new merged, and I have emerged more complete. With both the love of my life, and a slowly re-emerging relationship with the Dêwoi as They truly are to me, I can only hope that this is a story that continues to unfold for a long long time to come.