O is for… (a rambly post on) Origin Stories

Ní choman-se th’fhírinne ar thoil daíne.
Trans.: You should not trample your truth to please others.
– From the Serglige Con Culainn [1]

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One night this week, I had a very strange dream.

I was in the farmhouse in Co. Cork, Ireland where my grandfather grew up, where my mother spent a lot of time as a child, and where my cousins still live. It looked a bit different, as places often do in dreams, but I knew where I was. My grandmother was pointing out the outhouse to me, telling me that my grandfather’s old whiskey store was in there, and that she had left the contents of the outhouse untouched, in memory of him. Night fell, and thieves came – one desperate, determined stranger after another, running onto the property and trying to steal the whiskey from the outhouse. One by one, I tried to be hospitable, to ask them what they wanted, to invite them inside, but none of them would respond or acknowledge me. They didn’t want to come into the open, into the light – they wanted to sneak and skulk and steal. Eventually we gave up and called the police, who told us that a group of recovering alcoholics had escaped from the local rehab facility and, in desperation, were raiding houses looking for alcohol. Had I ever experienced this before? a kind policewoman asked me. Yes, I said, I have

I wrote a bit, not long ago, about how we create stories and shape our lives around them. I’ve recently been thinking about that a bit more. I particularly think that we have origin stories. I don’t mean myths of where the universe came from. That’s much less important, to each of us, than stories of where we came from. (Fortunately, mine does not include a woman in a refrigerator. Yet.) Concepts of initiatory trauma, of new beginnings, of being called, of choosing or of chance (or both simultaneously). For me, it’s important to be aware of this origin story, to know where I understand myself as coming from. It’s only then that I can know where I’m going. And I don’t need anyone else to validate this story of who I am – although it sometimes feels like I do.

There’s a lot that I’m questioning, that I’m no longer sure of, at this point in my spiritual journey. I’m not sure about the word ‘druidry’ anymore – but I’m equally not sure I’m a Gaelic reconstructionist in the traditional sense (even though that’s what my practice mostly consists of). In which case, I’m not really sure what I am. While I love those people who say “Why bother with labels?”, my neurological condition means that that’s exactly what I need, if I’m going to have any chance of understanding things. I put them in boxes. (…and they’re all made out of ticky-tacky…) To know where I’m going, I have to have at least some idea which path I’m choosing.

But there are also things I’m very sure of. I’m on a good path. It makes me happy. Everything I do in my practice, I do with discerning, conscious choice, and I try to do it all with integrity. (I’m sure I fail, but I try.)  I’m VERY keen to avoid cultural misappropriation… but I also believe that cultures change, that life changes, that society changes, and that not all the results of that change are bad. I don’t need to run and hide under the bed from modernity. (Even if post-modernity does have me briefly cowering behind the sofa, occasionally.)

There was a conversation on a forum that I post at recently, about what a druid ‘should’ be. There are certain models of neo-Pagan paths that are widely shared. They are often good, noble ideas of what a [insert path name here] should be like. Certain images of druids, or witches, or heathens, or Wiccan priests, that are widely held. But those images aren’t always shared by everyone – and I don’t necessarily want to be that kind of a ‘druid’ (or Gaelic polytheist, or folk magic practitioner). And yet, I can’t deny that the models are out there, and that I don’t think I’m ever going to fit the classic model of druidry. Doesn’t mean I’m going to give up calling my path that. Or perhaps it does. I haven’t decided yet. The most important thing, first of all, is to ask myself – like Cat Treadwell advises – “What am I doing?” And, really, why am I doing it?

I’m working on a story at the moment (inspired by the druidry work I’m doing with the aforementioned Cat). It’s a story about me. It will have an origin story in there somewhere. Which might lead to a journey story. And there will probably be various archetypes along the way – heroes and parents and monsters and jesters and priests. Maybe there will be dragons. There will definitely be faeries.

It feels like this is a time for decisions, for me. Paths are diverging. So far I’ve always been very good at balance, at walking the middle road, at pulling extremes together.

Chariot tarot card (Russian Tarot of St Petersburg)

But that isn’t necessarily the way I want to do things. And eventually, the only alternative to choosing a road is staying put, sitting down on a tree stump, folding my arms and refusing to go forward.

Four of Cups tarot card (Rider-Waite-Smith tarot)

And, while that’s not good for anyone, taking a road is risky.

But whatever choices I make, all these things are mine. No one can take my experiences from me – no one can separate me from my ancestors – no one can define the relationship between me and my gods.  My origin myth cannot be stolen from me by anyone. It’s mine.

 

[1] From the Serglige_Con_Culainn. One of the central ‘house posts’ of Gaol Naofa.

One thought on “O is for… (a rambly post on) Origin Stories

  1. I love this idea of a personal origin myth. I often think of my father’s family as having its own mythology – its own set of stories and version of their childhood and their origins that is passed down through the generations. I definitely think it’s important to root ourselves in where we come from, whether or not our biological family features heavily in that story or not.

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