The behaviour of online Pagans, and why I’m going ‘stealth’ online again

This post is about two close friends of mine who have found themselves in the cross hairs of unfounded accusations. I share this post not to send people rushing off in their defense (which has caused some more drama and I’ve been asked to try to keep more from happening) but to support my friends and point out a huge ton of issues in online spaces, Pagan spaces, and online Pagan spaces. It is distressingly easy for false accusations to spiral out of control and for mob mentality to take over and make harassment seem like a really cool idea.

Treasure in Barren Places

My name has been publicly associated with accusations against someone. If you must read about it, see this post – and most importantly the response below, by Aine, the person being accused. (Trigger warning: the post contains references to abuse, transmisogyny, and disturbing accusations with no forum for addressing them.) The original post contained my real name and links to my professional twitter. (The poster has since replaced these references with my online psuedonym, after I tracked them down and begged.)

For some reason I can’t directly reblog at tumblr the reply that Aine has written – possibly because I’m blocked by the original poster. So I’m posting here instead. In the link above makes she makes clear that she is treating this as libel and dealing with it via her attorney.

I do not know the original poster, nor anything about the situation in the post. I have already been sought out (by other strangers)…

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Finding Grace in Pain

I wrote these thoughts specifically about my own experiences with chronic pain, but they may also resonate around issues of emotional and mental pain, such as working through trauma, bereavement, or depression.

I don’t believe for a moment that Brighid causes us to suffer. I certainly don’t believe She does so to teach us life lessons or to make us stronger people. Religions have been grappling with the concept of human suffering since the dawn of spiritual and ritual life. I believe wholeheartedly that Brighid (and other deities) suffer /with/ us. When we mourn, when we ache, when we face oppression and injustice, our gods walk by our sides. 

I don’t believe Brighid “gave me” a congenital back disorder – I have genetics to blame for that – nor do I believe She takes any pleasure in my pain or struggles to access medical care. I /do/ believe that in the midst of pain I can look to Brighid and see Her presence in my life. She is a goddess of healing, and so intimately knows the reality of infection, inflammation, muscle cramps, and damaged nerves. As St. Brigit She is said to have suffered terrible blinding migraines which left Her debilitated for days on end. As the wife of the Formorian king Bres and the mother of Ruadan, She knows intimately the wracking pain of war unending and the unspeakable depths of sorrow that can only be spoken when cradling one’s dead child on the battlefield.

Grace is drawing near to the font of divinity, feeling the presence of our gods despite – perhaps even because of – the slings and arrows of human life. Grace is our attempt to give speech to the unspeakable, the ineffable, the divine. When I have to plan my day around how many times I can reasonably navigate stairs without too much pain, I am in grace. When I experience so much depression and executive dysfunction that I cannot even leave the house, I am in grace. I may not always be able to feel it and may not always be on the lookout for it, but Brighid constantly surrounds me with Her love and grace. She is there sharing my pain and struggles until it becomes Our pain and Our struggles.

NEW: Finding Brighid in the Ancient Lore

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Clann Bhride

Ever wondered what we know about the goddess Brighid? Curious about our Lady’s lore but not sure where to jump in? Want to read excerpts of myths, poetry, folklore, and legal texts with commentary from our very own Gilbride and Aster Breo?

Clann Bhride is proud to present Finding Brighid in the Ancient Lore, a substantial essay (10,000+ words!) that presents every direct and indirect reference to the pre-Christian goddesses and women called Brighid, Brig, Brid, or Bride in Irish and Scottish lore. We offer this as a starting point for the Children of Brighid to explore how past devotees saw and understood our goddess.

There have also been many other additions to the site as we slowly import content from our Book of Hours to the web. Check back often and don’t forget to visit us on Facebook to join the conversation and fellowship.

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Impressions from Imbolc Advent

My friend and fellow Brigidine flamekeeper Erin Lund Johnson has put together a lovely series of devotional articles creating an Advent season for Imbolc. I’ve been following them for the past few Sundays, with tonight being Imbolc itself, and tomorrow morning being the last of Erin’s celebrations of the return of Bride to the world, and the welcome of spring. At the end of each week’s prayers and ritual activities we are instructed to journal our experiences and impressions, and that’s what this blog post is – a collection of the images I’ve received and the feelings I’ve attempted to cultivate over the past month in preparation for Imbolc.

Each week I closed my eyes and listened to Gabhaim Molta Bríghde as I meditated. I did my best to let go and not strive for any particular experience; in the past I’ve disappointed myself for not getting “enough” feedback from my gods and have gotten upset over some perceived defects of my own. In my self-imposed vacation from solitary ritual I’ve done some growing and thinking. I try to take experiences as they are, with no judgments or comparisons. What I see and experience is not a reflection of my own self worth or Brighid’s love for me. It’s simply how I am in that moment, how my brain responds to ritual, and a million details that are outside my control.

The first week gave me a location for the weeks to come. I have “been” to this place before in meditation; I often have stock locations for exploring my inner world, like a particular meadow in a forest, or in this case, a homestead by the sea. There was an ancient Irish cottage set overlooking the plains leading up to seaside cliffs. A thunderstorm was in the distance and I could see a herd of horses racing across the plains. The cliffs themselves were black, and from my vantage point I could see a trail down from the cottage to the beach, toward a cave half-hidden by a large stone the same color as the cliffs. The cottage itself was homely and warm, with herbs growing on the windowsills and smoke coming up from the chimney.

My first thought upon seeing it, and knowing this was Brighid’s home, was, “Wow, this is way witchier than I thought it was going to be!” I distinctly remember in meditation trying to imagine Brighid as a stereotypical cottage witch, but the image morphed into my head of a scientist in a lab coat with protective goggles and hair pulled back out of her way. Throughout this meditation my perception of Brighid also shifted rapidly to show women of different ages, races, and time periods.

My second week’s meditation was stilted, thanks in part to the pain in my lower back. I’d moved my altar around a bit and unfortunately have no comfortable place to sit in my room. However, I did connect very strongly and swiftly to this pillar of energy and light, set in the same cliffside cottage scene. I remember there being wheeling seabirds and corvids around this pillar and feeling very close to Brighid.

The third week was interesting: instead of meditating while sitting and listening to music, I did a moving meditation where I went through my physical therapy exercises and yoga poses at the base of my altar. The theme was hospitality and I felt not chastised so much as patiently redirected. I realized that I could not focus on hospitality for others if I did not have it for myself. I am part of the greater community and I deserve safety, comfort, and love. Instead of focusing on hospitality as something focused to the outside of myself, I believe Brighid wanted me to redirect it first inward. Self-care is hospitality toward oneself, and I needed to take that duty as seriously as I did all the other work I undertake for my Lady.

The fourth week, tonight, gave me beautiful images of Brighid and myself. The first was a stained glass scene with Brighid above me, reaching down, and myself reaching back up toward Her. This flowed into an ancient, hand-illuminated manuscript in green and gold, inked on vellum and surrounded by flickering candlelight. I felt myself plunge into a racing river and then sink into an ocean, surrounded by seals. Brighid was there in the water with me: pale, young, hair and mantle haloed out around Her in the water. I was transported back to the cottage-by-the-sea where it had been snowing. A gull cried and wheeled above the ocean.

How can I best serve You? I’d asked Her.

Fill your cup, was the response.

Clann Bhride on Kiva

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Exciting stuff going on at Clann Bhride.:)

Clann Bhride

We at Clann Bhride believe that our Lady has called us to works of charity, justice, and compassion. Our Touchstones urge us to “offer generosity and hospitality to those in need, without judgment or expectation of reward” and  to “work for peace, freedom, and justice for all.” Our Nine Elements reference Brighid in Her manifestations as Brig Ambue, who advocated for the disenfranchised, and as Brig Briugu, who offered food and shelter to all in need. Because our goddess is generous and calls us to be generous in turn, we are taking the first steps to actively encourage generosity among our members by announcing the Clann Bhride team on Kiva.

What is Kiva?

Kiva is a non-profit organization whose primary mission is alleviating poverty through microfinance. Entrepreneurs around the world connect with local financial institutions, who vet their clients and establish a loan process. Members of Kiva then lend as little as $25…

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Imbolc Advent ~Second Sunday

Her Eternal Flame

Opening for Second Sunday ~

Begin this second Sunday by lighting your first candle which you lit last Sunday, and your second candle, going around sunwise.

Recite this Flame Lighting Prayer ~

“Brìde, Excellent, Exalted One,
Bright, golden, quickening flame ~
Shine Your blessings on us from the Otherworld,
You, Radiant Fire of the Sun.”

Inspirational Reading & Song ~

St. Briget of the Shores
From Where the Forest Murmurs by Fiona MacLeod

I have heard many names of St. Briget, most beloved of Gaelic saints, with whom the month of February is identified—the month of “Bride min, gentle St. Bride”—Brighid boitiheach Muime Chriosd, Bride the Beautiful, Christ’s Foster Mother . . . but there are three so less common that many even of my readers familiar with the Highland West may not know them. These are “the Fair Woman of February,” “St. Bride of the Kindly…

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