Orthopsychy

Relationships are a cyclical thing. We might talk about relationships being in balance, but it is less the balance that comes from nothing happening and more the carefully achieved equilibrium of a skilled juggler managing several objects (possibly quite heavy, possibly quite dangerous) in the air at a time. Relationships too are like juggling: there are times when it simply will feel that we do more work and others when it feels relaxed and deceptively easy. There are times when we are close to our Beloved and times when They or we draw away, for whatever reason. The spiritual mountaintop experiences are paired with the fallow times, and so on and so forth.

What I have learned in this devotional relationship I’ve built over the years with Brighid is that we too are in a sort of juggling act. Both of us, after all, are extremely busy – we have our own worries, motivations, long term goals, likes and dislikes. Both of us care deeply about the world around us. Both of us want to make things better. Both of us grieve and celebrate, mourn and dance. It’s no wonder then that sometimes we pull closer to each other, and other times are off doing our own things, at our own pace, in our own time.

Some years ago I came across the term “orthopsychic” as a way to refer to a certain mindset or emotional state associated with religious practice. This word comes from the roots “ortho,” meaning correct, and “psyche,” meaning soul. It’s paired with the words “orthodoxic” (“correct belief”) and “orthopraxic” (“correct action”). All religions contain these three aspects to a certain extent and individual believers may place different focus on these qualities as they see fit. For example, I am not overly concerned with orthodoxy in my religion. I certainly have ideas about how the universe works, Who and what Brighid actually is, and what happens when we die, but those ideas are fluid and change according to my lived experiences (and, to be quite honest, how I’m feeling and what day of the week it is). I am more concerned with orthopraxy as far as lived ethics and values go. I’ve often felt that social justice itself was my religion and that my connection with Brighid is one based on living a life of truth, hospitality, and courage. There is a correct way to live my religion and ideally it comes from putting my time, money, and energy where my mouth is to address social inequality.

The last of this trio of “orthos” – orthopsychy, what Waincraft.org defines as “living the right life” – is one that has felt incredibly important to my spiritual journey, yet also incredibly elusive. I want to come into correct alignment with my chosen Beloved – whatever that means. I want to feel on a gut deep level that I have a place in the universe, and not just know this intellectually. It’s not so much the idea of fulfilling some divine plan that was the goal during my Baptist upbringing, as wanting to join the dance of the universe as a fellow co-creator of reality, as real and as important as Brighid or gravity or the moon or the scales of justice. I want to feel that my life is purposeful and that I myself am naming and claiming that purpose.

It is very, very easy to feel that things don’t matter in a nihilistic sense, particularly when living with depression. It’s another thing altogether to take a breath and dive beneath the surface, to see the chaos whirling around and inside me to make my own order.

However, unlike orthodoxy and orthopraxy which have clear causes, orthopsychy seems to be more of an effect. A dependent variable, if you will, and I’m not entirely clear on the independent variable in this experiment.  And so I am brought to metaphor of juggling, and to the idea of relationships having a natural waxing and waning cycle like the moon above. If I keep tending to the relationship between myself and my Beloved – if I keep listening to my intuition, trusting my instincts, and remain humble and open enough for outside guidance – then perhaps the feeling of a “correct soul” will manifest on its own.

So You Wanna Be A Priest

Here’s the thing:

I’ve felt for some time that Brighid’s been calling me to priest/esshood. It’s been an inkling at the back of my mind for many, many years and only grew when I helped found Clann Bhride. Earlier this summer after the Orlando Pulse massacre, the necessity and enormity of priest/esshood felt like it could suffocate me. How could I respond most authentically in the face of tragedy and injustice? Submit, seemed to be the answer, submit to your Lady, submit to your community.

I’ve had two tarot readings in the past month – one done by myself, and one from my fiancé – oh by the way blog I have a fiancé and I also moved to New York City and a million other things I have to catch y’all up on – and both of these readings seemed to be whacking me upside the head with a clue-by-four. This is the path and you know it! Stop hesitating and get your life right!

I don’t know… a lot of things, to be honest. I always thought about priest/esshood, both in the sense of dedicating myself to the worship of Brighid in a particular way, and in the sense of taking care of and ministering to others in my community, as something that would happen when I was ready. And one of the biggest indicators of being ready would be feeling ready.

I don’t feel ready.

For starters, I don’t even know exactly what I mean when I say “I want to be a priest and/or priestess of Brighid.”

I don’t know what makes Brigidine priesthood different than just being really really devoted to Brighid. I haven’t done an initiation or dedication or anything similar on my walk with Her. I forget my Flamekeeping shift more often than not and don’t have a regular prayer life at all.

I don’t have peer counseling or conflict resolution skills, or good executive functioning, or a body and brain that work right most days. I get overwhelmed easily and don’t know how to handle my emotions sometimes. I’m not as kind or patient as I think I should be, and I don’t have a clear map ahead of me.

Here’s what I do have.

I have a very, very, very big heart. It is (figuratively) misshapen, bleeds quite often, and doesn’t often know how to hold all the hurt in the world, but good Lord it’s gonna do its best.

I know who I need in my life right now, priestwise, as I struggle with issues of faith and justice and the sticky reality that is being human. I frequently mourn this individual as not currently existing in my life and thinking of all the advice and counsel I’m missing out on. I needed a priest after Orlando. I needed a priest when my Mom went in for cancer screening this week. So I have a clear idea of the person I want to become – at least, part of this person – which is maybe the first step to begin with.

I have an amazing community of fellow devotees in Clann Bhride, and other Pagan and polytheist friends on the internet who support and uplift me. I have a far-flung family who understands this kind of thing and can help me not reinvent the wheel.

I have a beautiful, strong, compassionate fiancé who loves me dearly and has shown me more grace and understanding when it comes to our religious differences (which aren’t really that great, in the long run) than I ever experienced with my Pagan ex. Etienne is the person who, when they walked into the room, caught my eye and made my soul exclaim softly, “That’s who I’ve been waiting for.”

I have a strong sense of justice and equality. And even though it doesn’t feel like it, the fact that I am disabled, and mentally ill, and neurodivergent, is itself a great boon and not a detraction. My priesthood will joyfully reflect all these parts of myself (and not-so-joyfully sometimes, I’m sure) rather than trying to refract light around the places I feel lacking.

And, finally, I have Brighid. If She hasn’t gotten tired of me now then I’m not sure I’m ever going to shake Her – and sometimes I feel like that feeling’s mutual.🙂

So, here we are, and here I am, publicly confessing these thoughts and questions that have flown through my mind. What happens next? I guess I’ll have to stay tuned to find out.

Prayer for Orlando

(Or, the litany of a sad queer Brigidine Pagan)

Shine light into the darkness to cast away our fears and blame.
Set aflame our hearts that we not succumb to inaction and apathy in the face of tragedy.
Warm our souls when we are weary from the crushing weight of living in this world.
Dry our tears when we cry out for salvation and deliverance from hatred.

Lady Brighid, I pray for the LGBTQ community of Orlando.
I pray for our queer siblings across the world.
I pray for the Latinx community whose celebrations were interrupted by gunfire.
I pray for our Muslim brethren who will be unjustly blamed for the actions of one man.
I pray that the Muslim children in my neighborhood are strong in the face of the hatred they will receive.
I pray for our queer Muslim neighbors who are torn between vicious, unjust rhetoric.
I pray that we are not swayed by calls to fascism and xenophobia in the wake of tragedy.
I pray for the victims, who have too soon entered the hallowed halls of our beloved dead.
I pray that we look apathy dead in the eye and kick it in the shins because the best prayers are done with our hands long after the dust from gunfire has settled.
I pray for those working toward an end to gun violence in the United States, because I am afraid every day I step out of my house.

I am scared and I am angry and I am lost, but I look to Your flame and Your light to guide me. As my candle lights the room, may Your candle light the universe.

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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