*’The Way of Truth’.
“What’s UPG?” asked my friend, after a grove ritual a few weeks ago.
I’d been basking in the midsummer sun, dancing with the fae, honouring Aine of the Summer Sun in all her glory. The imbas was flowing.
“What’s UPG?” My answer was halting and not accurate. All at once I realised: I don’t really know, and I don’t really care.
Reconstructionists place a strong value on being able to distinguish ‘lore’ from ‘Unverified Personal Gnosis’. Lore was written by the ancients, or at least by medieval people, who were hopefully a little bit closer to ancient paganism than we are (though we really can’t be sure how much Irish myth was anything like what the pagans believed). UPG is any understanding of the gods, or of religion, that is not supported by ‘the lore’.
Imbas is not the same as UPG. It is ‘inspiration’ – it’s closer in meaning to ‘awen’ in the Welsh. However, UPG is not a term that I recognise anymore. I didn’t come up with it, nor did my community. It’s not Gaelic or Brythonic. It’s also a very American phrase – I’ve never heard a British Pagan use it. And also, I’m starting to doubt that our ancestors would have needed a term like that. I suspect they went where the inspiration flowed, rather than forcing themselves to live by ‘lore’. They were not fundamentalists.
Imbas, on the other hand, is a Gaelic term, rooted in the culture where I draw my practice from, and something that I’ve chosen to use. If I need to distinguish ‘lore’ from ‘personal realisation’ now, I’m going to use ‘imbas’ – not ‘UPG’. Accuracy of meaning be damned – it works for me.
I’m embracing change, and new ways of doing things. I got the sense, recently, that Bhearra and Duibhne were not happy with their shrine – they’re gods of action, not stasis, and they dwell in the land, not temples – so I’ve turned their shrine into a working altar. Gobnait, or the Bee Woman, now has a place on there too, and so do the spirits of my land. I’ll be adding other symbols of the land where I live and of the Beara Peninsula.
Follow the Way of Truth, of Imbas, she says. So I do. If it leads me out of reconstructionism, so be it. If it leads me into territory that others call ‘fluffy’, so be it. Who would choose not to go on an adventure with a goddess (and a Bee Woman, and a couple of Queens of the Land, and some local harvest-cycle deities, and a King of the Wanderers, and some Good Folk), just for the sake of the gossip of dull people? :D